Letters From Hamburg: Road Trip Feeling

by Kevin Burton

   Some of my best memories are of road trips as a child, headed to track and wrestling meets. This was at the Ohio State School for the Blind.

   Those trips were a lifting of the ordinary into something special. My friends were there. We were sewing life fragments into a crazy quilt that warms me to this day.

   My metaphorical trip to Hamburg is beginning to take on aspects of that feeling. It’s not the same as the old days, but it’s not entirely different either.

   Hamburg is the city where The Beatles played marathon, sometimes nine-hour music sets, greatly accelerating the momentum that took them to being the best rock and roll band ever.

   My music sessions are not marathons, but two hours each and every day for five weeks has made a big difference in how I sound and how I feel playing keyboard. It is a great start anyway.

   Thus I say these letters are from Hamburg, though my musical quest so far has not taken me beyond my basement.

    In the bells of Hamburg I am hearing the echoes of my entire life.  But it isn’t poetry that got me here, it is good old-fashioned discipline.

   Go figure.

   There are two weeks now until my scheduled studio visit. God willing, I’ll be presenting my original music to an industry professional.  Who knows what will happen. But I anticipate that this visit will send me onto an appropriate musical journey.

   It could be that my material proves pedestrian at best, the sounds not rising in quality or volume above the other noises from the other basements of the world.

   It could be there are useful gems that are marketable either in the songs, or my voice, or my songwriting skills. 

   It’s fun to speculate, even moreso because I know it is all in God’s hands. I haven’t achieved too much in music thus far, but I am sure God has kept me from several brands of heartaches along the way. All you have to do is read the books written by music insiders to know how rough that business can be.

   The Hamburg exercise has reminded me of how these songs came to be. These are not just words on a page. These are chunks of life that were breathed into being by an ordinary guy, me.

   And for that I will be grateful no matter what comes from all this.

   Being lifted from the ordinary to something special is extra special in these quarantine times.

   The keyboard is the vehicle transporting me through time. The scenes flash by. It’s like looking out a car window at the big green highway signs and coolest Stuckey’s ever.  Visions of “people and things that went before,” to borrow a line from John Lennon.  

   I can’t see myself ever passing this way again.  It’s therefore imperative that I “get the getting’ while the getting’ is right” to borrow a line from Loggins and Messina.  

   “Get yourself out there,” I’ve heard people say.  That’s what artists do. 

   In Hamburg the bar owners yelled “mach show” at the Beatles when their performance was lack luster. It means “make show.”  That’s what I say to myself if my energy wanes.

  Now what I really need to say, in German, is “mach verkauf” or “make sale,” sell the goods.  Put some life, love and energy into the music and see what happens.

   If I got the German wrong, blame Google.

   I think of myself as a rock and roller but I don’t really know what that means any more. Whatever pop music is, it’s supposed to be fun, rewarding in some way. 

   So if an artist has doubts he can’t wear them on his or her sleeve.  Listeners aren’t interested in that. They have their own problems, their own experiences to deal with, and maybe they have trouble articulating them. 

   If reality consigns my musical being to my basement I’ll go there changed in some small way at least.  And, at minimum, I’m hoping to get a good recorded version of my better songs for whatever friends and family might want them. 

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