Did you know that today it is fifty years since “The Music Died”? Yep, it’s fifty years to the day that the plane went down over Iowa taking Buddy Holley, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper with it. There was a piece on it this morning on the radio. Naturally, they were talking up Buddy and asking just how big and how influential he was, and could have been had he not died.
But on interviewee questioned Buddy’s importance, stating that he found his song writing to be ‘straightforward’ and ‘lacking emotional depth’. Which, to be honest, is a bloody stupid thing to say as he was only twenty-one when he died. How many twenty-one year olds do you know that have ‘emotional depth’? I know when I was that age I had the emotional depth of a half-filled paddling pool.
He then went on to compare Buddy’s songs with songs by other writers such as Elvis and Lennon/McCartney. But he quoted songs written when those artists were much older than twenty-one, pretty much proving my point.
The response of the other interviewees was the same as mine. Song writers grow as song writers as they get older. You see it all the time. Look, for a contemporary example, at Gary Barlow of Take That. The early Take That songs are great pop tunes, but recent work such as Patience and The Greatest Day are, frankly, superb songs. You could even see the extra maturity in his sings emerging before Take That split up with songs like Back for Good.
Naturally, this led me to look at myself and what I do. Do writers grow and develop ‘emotional depth” or should that be “emotional maturity” as they get older?
Certainly, I look at my own work and see a great difference in the pieces I wrote as a young man in 1998, and the pieces I am writing now as a middle-aged man. (I was 24 in ‘98 and I’m 34 now)
The very first stories I wrote, the Two Birds and a Bloke series, are not even featured on my website, such is my lack of enthusiasm for them right now. They are available on SOL, but I tend not to shout about that. They are crass, poorly written and show that, at the time, I was more concerned in making sure my ‘hero’ deposited as many loads of ‘cum’ in as many orifices as possible. There is a distinct lack of character development – in fact all three main characters are stereotypes – and very little actual plot beyond manoeuvring the players into a situation where they can fuck.
Skip ahead to, say, Heaven in Leather or Memorable Holiday and we begin to see some level of maturity emerging. Just a little mind you as these stories are still fuck & suck stories. But at least the ‘hero’ – actually, in both cases here, the narrator – is questioning his own immature attitudes and behaviour.
Then look at the likes of Claire and Sophie. Stories about relationships rather than just about sex. Reunion is the culmination of this emotional growth. It’s a complex story which explores the characters as much as I was able to when I wrote it four years ago. As a reader, you’re never really sure about Kelly for a good portion of the story.
And so we come to the present day. In Charlotte’s Secret and Lost & Found we have complex characters, complex interactions between them, and real emotional growth, not just of the characters, but in the way I’ve written them books. Every main character in both books is changed by the events of the books. Their lives are affected in substantial ways.
So yes, I believe that writers, or at the very least me as a writer, can grow and write stories that are not only ‘technically’ more proficient – after all, that’s just an improvement of the ‘craft’ of writing – but can also write stories with more emotional depth.
The radio interview finished by asking just how good the songs that Buddy Holley never got to write might have been had he be able to achieve some emotional growth. And you know what, I’m asking myself just what the stories I will write in the future will be like as I continue to travel on this journey we call life and learn from it each and every day. For as Buddy Holley said (even though he was emotionally immature)…
“Everyday, seems a little longer,
Everyday, loves a little stronger…”