I was reading MIddleAgedCred’s blog about Christmas and it made me realise how different this time of year is for different people. When I was working (until 7 years ago) I never got time off at Christmas or New Year; as a professional musician it’s the time when the pay day bell rings long and loud and you have to be a fool to sit it out. It was funny to listen to radio DJ’s telling people to give a thought for all those working at Christmas, then spewing out the usual suspects – police, nurses, firemen – and yet I never heard a DJ add musicians to that list, even thought they spend their whole year playing records!
Musicians are the ones staying sober at your Christmas Eve/Day/ New Year party, the ones taking all your drunken abuse and smiling, the ones entertaining your kids, grannies or anybody in between, and you will expect them to work through midnight and into the new year, you won’t ever think about them, offer them a drink (which they can’t accept anyway) or get out of the way when they are trying to load their van quickly so they can get home to see their kids. In short you will expect them to be fabulous, funny, original, dance worthy and then disappear into the night sober while you stagger for a taxi.
And that’s what I miss................
Now I don’t have to do it anymore and I have the opportunity to relax, enjoy my family, wrap presents and put them under the tree, be with loved ones on these special days, I miss it horribly. How perverse is that?
You see the feeling you get from working at Christmas and New Year is different to the rest of the year. Somehow it’s better, bigger, brighter. And when you’re not there anymore Christmas and New Year seem dull and a little dingy.
I guess it’s because Christmas and New Year are manufactured periods of euphoria – you HAVE to be happy, you HAVE to laugh and raise your glass, no matter how shit you feel. If you are lucky you have the money to buy useless gifts for people you don’t really like, you can drink mulled wine, play carols on your iPod, watch reruns of Morecambe and Wise. In fact you can do as much as is necessary so that your pretence of festive joviality is maintained. Cynical moi?
When you work you look out at people enacting this ritual. You are sober (I would drink tea for my voice and water for the smokiness), you are rational and you are doing a job – hopefully to the best of your abilities – you smile and laugh, you make eye contact, you might occasionally let some drunken skunk up onto the stage to show his drunken friends what a talent he is. Performing is a thankless profession but at the festive season the thanklessness is magnified. You rehearse so that it looks easy, you perform through gritted teeth (sometimes) you accept the big money and have your celebrations later, in calmer times, with civility and no false friendships or platitudes.
The musician works for his supper, he celebrates his Christmas at a quieter time, with real friends, with real happiness. Nothing foolish, nothing forced and without any feeling that mirth is ‘required’.
So when you look back on this years round of parties, think about the musicians, the invisible people in your selfish festive parade.
For me, I hate Christmas and New Year now, it’s so tacky from this side, so cheap and false, it lacks any sincerity and it just seems to be about draining the life (and the cash) out of otherwise decent people.
Roll on January 3rd.