Taking The Last Train To Hamburg

by Kevin Burton

   Well this is it, me climbing on board.

   In my Beatles discussion yesterday I made reference to the band’s time in Hamburg, Germany where they played marathon sets and honed their craft (“Beatles Are Template For All That Followed,” March 12).

   So this is me making a last-ditch effort to make something of my music. I’m evoking Hamburg, challenging myself to put the work in, get the word out, pray and see what happens. 

   With my “last train” headline I made reference to a Monkees song.  We should also mention a song by Elvis, “It’s Now or Never.”

   I’m not getting any younger.

   So many times I have thought something was getting off the ground musically for me.  I’ll spare you the fits and starts. Bottom line, I have next to nothing to show for any of it.  If nothing ever happens it will be my own fault for not being good enough, not persevering.

   It’s a common tale.

   My boyhood friend Todd is a better keyboard player than I am. He has some original instrumentals. I asked if he wanted me to take a shot at writing lyrics for them, but he passed. He says he is content with the joy of playing and having created those songs.  He’s not looking for anything more.

   Maybe I will have to ease my mind into that mode. Maybe I should have already. But for now I’m headed to Hamburg.

   I came up with two hours a day as a reasonable starting point. That’s not exactly a marathon. It’s embarrassing really. The Beatles played nine-hour shows in Hamburg. But two hours is much more than I’ve been doing. Have to start somewhere.

   The two hours must be singing and playing. Songwriting and working on Garage band will be extra. 

    Day one of renewed discipline was Monday. I said if I couldn’t get through at least five days in a row then this is not a serious effort.  I was careful not to overtax the voice on day one. 

   I ended up working on 13 originals that first day.  I purposely left out what have emerged as my five favorite songs, the ones I usually play in my occasional practices. I figured the other ones needed more attention.

   Day two I worked on 14 originals including the big five. That includes one song with music too good to abandon but that needs a major overhaul of lyrics. 

   Tuesday I remembered that I used to have fun playing and creating, imagine that. My Tuesday list included the doo-wop song I wrote in the shower one day.

   With some relief on Wednesday I got a lot more out of my voice, reaching the notes I am supposed to be able to reach, though my playing was pretty awful and my concentration was off. 

   Day four was the first real test. Had an interview the day before that didn’t go well and I woke up still in a foul mood.

   Didn’t feel like playing.  Uh-oh.

   But play I did and finally a remembered the remedy. I have an I’ll-show-you song called “MVP.” It’s chicken soup for the rebel soul and it got me back to rocking. 

   Friday was weird because there was a Wichita State basketball game parked in the time slot I had been using for music. So I had to crank it up a little early. 

   I am already thinking of increasing my daily minimum to three hours. 

   Getting re-acquainted with my originals is fun and gave me some adrenaline. The emotion behind these songs came flooding through in some cases.

   The one thing I have been doing before this is reading talking books about bands and musicians.  There is almost always friction within bands. Nevertheless I am still open to working with other musicians, if not in a band that stays together, definitely on a project-by-project basis. 

   Atlanta Rhythm Section named their third album “Third Annual Pipe Dream.” How many pipe dreams has it been now for me?  Not sure.  But if it is a pipe dream, it’s the last one. 

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