Back in 2018, as occasionally happens, I was feeling a little sorry for myself. Maybe it was after we’d driven 12 hours from Lyon to Liege through the snow and I had to go on stage with the sniffles. Or maybe a festival promoter had ignored an email which always feels a little like a punch in the stomach (luckily that happens less and less now!).
Or maybe I was thinking: “I’m really not very good at this and should just give up”. Ridiculous I know as any fool can see that’s not the case, but it does happen!
And then Dave Bundy, who claimed to edit the local paper in Lincoln, Nebraska, wherever the hell that is, dropped me an email to say:
Gotta tell you how much your music resonates with me. I can’t stop playing it. Tunes about growing up with regrets, tunes about growing up without regrets. Great characters. Love Not the Kind of Guy. All the rockers rock. Just Because You’re Paranoid was so funny I woke my wife up to listen to it, and she wasn’t even mad.
So here’s a little back story about why great music matters so much to me. Thirteen years ago, just as my twins were born, I beat Stage 4 colon cancer. Last fall I was diagnosed with a new, inoperable and rare cancer. Bile duct cancer. I’m being treated at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. So I do a ton of driving. And I listen to a ton of excellent power pop on the road. Your music is my cancer soundtrack. And either I beat it again or I die trying. And I won’t feel bad either way. I got 13 bonus years with my family. But when I’m not feeling as fearless or philosophical great music like yours lifts me up. I probably owe you as much as I’ve paid for three weeks of radiation and 18 chemo treatments. I’ve got great insurance, so that’s one less worry. But the music has its healing power, too. Thanks, Duncan.
I mean, what the hell was I doing feeling sorry for myself? And, crickey, here’s a guy with a fight on his hands telling me my music was keeping him going. That’s worth carrying on for.
That message was the start of a great friendship with someone I’ve never met. We’ve exchanged emails since on a regular basis. I’ve lived with Dave through more visits to the hospital in Minnesota, always with an air of trepidation in advance and thankfully so far with the beast of cancer kept in abbeyance, grumbling and complaining, but kept firmly in it’s place, as much by an indomnitable positive attitude as by medical science.
Dave’s back in that hospital at the moment and I’m very much looking forward to the next email which I hope will confirm that everything is as it has been.
In a virtual and vicarious way I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know his much loved family: a wife like mine who’s a wizard in the garden, a daughter who has overcome her own health hurdles to go to college, and teenage boys who are a danger if not quite to society then to Dave’s car, which is exactly what boys should be in Nebraska.
Now, I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth and here was a story worthy of a song. A man driving miles on a regular basis for his hospital tests, making the most of life each and every day, fortified by the music he listens to on the way. Epic stuff and what’s more, true.
I recorded a demo and sent it to Dave asking that he keep it to himelf. It’s fair to say he was excited and I have a suspicion that a good part of Lincoln, Nebraska may have heard it ,which is OK as it was a good demo.
When we came to the actual master recording though things were difficult. I wasn’t happy with the guitar sound and what I knew to be a really good song, a cross between E=MC2 by B.A.D:
and one of my favourite songs ever, Goldfrapp’s Happiness:
wasn’t sounding like a good song at all. In fact Sophie said at the time she thought it was the weakest one we had recorded for the album.
But things changed in an instant one afternoon during the mixing, when I was agonising over the state of play with co-producer Sean Genocky, trying to rescue the damn thing. We tried a really over the top, growling beast of a bass synthesiser to underpin the bass line in the second part of the verses and chorus when Boom!: Suddenly the song leapt out of the speakers with the power I knew it had been hiding and the bass notes of the synthesizer had an effect on the guitar which made it sound chiming as opposed to annoying.
Dave had arrived! And it was Dave Bundy I felt most happy for. The song would make the cut and I knew he’d be really pleased.
It wasn’t long before the proof of that pleasure arrived in the form of notoriety in Nebraska. Dave wrote a story for the Newspaper he edits which I reproduce here:
My interaction with the Bundy family has spread after I received a lovely email from 75 year old Daveda Bundy who thanked me for the song about her son. I received another from her with no message which she told me to ignore because she’s “old as dirt and often hits the wrong buttons”. Dave tells me it takes Daveda hours to go shopping because she is on first name terms with all the shopworkers and knows their children’s birthdays. A significant part of Nebraska has apparently now heard of the song written about her son even though the sum total of Daveda’s prior rock music knowledge consisted of thinking Pearl Jam were called Toe Jam.
So all that’s left is for me to ask you to have a listen to the song I wrote about the most positive, life affirming man I hope one day to meet, who picked me up when I was feeling down and is one of the gifts this extraordinary life continues to give me.
Here it is on YouTube:
Or Bandcamp here: