As a break from my more serious research work with Dr Defu on enzymes, earthworms and constructed wetlands here is something completely different:
Jake Bugg has said in many interviews that he fell in love with music after hearing Don McLean’s song Vincent on an episode of The Simpsons. Jake saw Don in concert in Sheffield in 2007 and first wrote to him as a 14 year old asking whether he thought song-writing would be a good move.
When I interviewed Don McLean last summer I asked him about Jake:
Alan: Back in June we received another fan letter written to you by a young man in Nottingham, England. By December 2012 he was the biggest music star of the moment in the UK, touring the US with Noel Gallagher and telling the world’s media that you were his hero. What do you make of Jake Bugg?
Don McLean: I really wish people wrote letters so I could have a real letter from him written by him. That’s what I don’t like about the Internet –what you have is some typed thing from somebody. It’s really kind of sad because it’s not personal. I’m just speaking now about technology in general, you know. I would love to have a letter that he wrote on paper that means something. This means something too but it’s not the same. And you notice I still write letters and fax them to you – that’s just the way I do things. I like to spell words like when I write “California” I don’t write CA, I write the word California because it’s a beautiful word. You know Mississippi is a beautiful word and I don’t like replacing them with these two letters or a number or something – that offends me. There’s a whole war against poetry in the world and words and it’s very important to exalt in the beauty of language, the beauty of words and not get in a rush or a hurry. They make us run around so much that we can’t write out California, you know.
Anyway, I’ve seen some Youtubes of Jake Bugg and I’ve listened to him and I like him and I like his music. I think he plays some nice guitars. He plays guitars which are similar to the ones I used to play and I wish him all the luck in the world. I think he’s very young to have a lot of success – I hope somebody’s managing his money for him and I hope he has a good lawyer who’ll explain to him in simple terms what it is he’s signing so he doesn’t wake up and find himself, you know, in court which is the beginning of turning the dream of show business into a nightmare and it happens to almost everybody.
AH: Do you see a young Don McLean in Jake?
DM: Yeah, I do, I see an enthusiasm and I see a dreamy quality to him. He sees something. I can tell from his letter that he’s quite bright and he’s able to push through imaginary walls and to get to something in a songwriting way that has to do with what he’s seeing. Time will only tell how long he will want to pursue that – you know whether he finds a way to pursue that and to grow in pursing that or whether he gets distracted. There are so many distractions you know – marriages, drugs, alcohol, all kinds of stuff – not to mention court cases – that drag a person down and take the fun out of what it is you’re doing so he has to be careful about those things. I think I was a more troubled person than he seems to be. Very few handled success as badly as I did. I think it’s because singing became an obligation for quite a while.
You know artists are very self-centred and we know we’re wonderful and we think everybody should think we’re wonderful but sometimes we wake up and realise other people have agendas, they have lives, they have plans for themselves, and they don’t include you, you know. It’s eye opening especially when you’re that self-centred and I certainly was and most artists that I know are and that’s the reason why you don’t pay attention because you assume everybody loves you and has your best interests at heart and they don’t.
AH: What would be one piece of advice that you’d give any young singer?
DM: Get a lawyer who can read whatever it is you sign and write you a simple letter telling you at your level of education what it means to sign this – what this paragraph means, what that paragraph means, etc. Because it’s in legalese and a high school graduate cannot understand what this means. A lawyer who can speak to a high school (or college) graduate, who has that ability, can tell you: ‘you are signing away this right forever, do you want to negotiate that? You are paying for this record, it’s going to come out of your royalties so the chances are unless you sell this number of records you’re never going to make a dime from this deal, do you still want to do it?’ You know a lot of things like that. Of course you do want to do it, it’s going to do very well but at least you know you know.
Well the record companies today want everything. If they sign you you’re going to pay for everything and they want your merchandise, they want a piece of your performing but I don’t know what his deal is and I don’t know who represents him so that’s between him and his representatives. But it is good to have an independent lawyer who even checks on your representatives because your managers are not always the people that have your best interests at heart. But if you have an independent individual who can read these things and let you know what they really say, for one thing you’ll scare the manager – the manager needs someone to scare him to make him realise that there’s someone else looking at this stuff, who knows how to read it and that he can’t tell you a bunch of junk about this and get away with it because someone else is going to read it and tell them what the truth is. That will scare the manager into doing the right thing and managers don’t do the right thing sometimes. Managers like to isolate artists and to control information.
Jake Bugg’s response was “Ahh wicked man, and if he likes his letters I will write one personally to him as I also think it’s better to have the real thing, thanks a lot Alan”
Jake’s 2007 review of Don’s Sheffield concert:
“I enjoyed the concert very much even though
he didnt play an encore or empty chairs
but it was a great atmosphere. I couldn’t
believe that it was don mclean i was seeing
it was amazing i wish i could see him again
i got his autograph after the concert
and i think i was the ONLY KID THERE!!!!!”
Jake has been talking about this and you can read about his resulting conversation with Don in the London Evening Standard.