When I was a kid every Monday the comics would come out – Scorcher and Score and Whizzer and Chips from the UK and Marvel super hero comics from the US. As I entered my teens it was New Musical Express and Rolling Stone but always on a Monday – a great way to take the edge off the start to another week.
I’d been on Facebook for about six months and was still getting my head around it really, just posting up photos of my art and sharing on some of the music I love. Through my work in various artistic pursuits, I’d built up an interesting group of friends and among them was Simon Sweetman. I’ve always been drawn to writers and journalists and he knew something of my work and asked me to write a guest blog about five albums that shaped me.
It’s fair to say that I did a pretty poor job of it – there was too much to say and less is more in an internet world but I got the taste.
One day he posted something about Bruno Lawrence and I commented that I had a story about the time I met him. Simon told me to write it up and he would post it on his blog page. Before he’d even seen it, he and I decided it would be a weekly thing and I would try and come up with something every Monday to find out if there was an audience for it.
I knew I had the stories to tell and needed an outlet. Simon somehow sensed this and provided the platform – he said he wouldn’t edit or mess with them in any way.
It was organic in the way it developed into a series of episodes in an autobiography – little by little it found its own form. I decided early on there would be time-shifts and it would jump around week to week and that would keep it interesting and vibrant, to me at least.
I took the title from one of my favourite Bob Dylan lines – The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face from Visions of Johanna. It seemed to sum up the energy and the intangibility of the muse I was always chasing and also my near invisible place in New Zealand art and music.
A few months back Simon gave it a very positive review in one of his blogs that probably describes it better than I can here. One thing he didn’t mention was the visual aspect to it in which he plays a part. I send him a bunch of pictures each week to illustrate the story and he lays them out through the text like a magazine. I’m really happy with the format and the way it looks and reads and grateful to him for his support and hands off approach – it gives me a real freedom.
I set up a The Ghost of Electricity Facebook page to collect and promote the stories and also so I can gauge how many people are reading them via my wall. The numbers are steadily growing and I know people really look forward to them on a Monday. Consistency is key and I’ve never missed a deadline in well over a year and not run out of stories to tell yet either.
So every week I write my song. I beat myself up over some of them – all the shame and pride and comedy of a life squeezed down into a page. People have told me that I’ve spread myself too thin over too many artistic endeavours and while that may be true, in terms of popular success, it really works in my favour in the varying subjects of these Ghost stories. On any given Sunday I could be writing about playing a support gig for the Violent Femmes or treading the boards at Downstage or falling to my death in the Bay of Plenty. It’s all exciting to me to tell and recall and the process of writing is something I will always love. Thank you all so much for reading.
In the words of Don Juan –
You never knew where the rabbit was going to pop up next.
The Ghost of Electricity – War Stories by Jon McLeary is a new initiative at Off The
Tracks, a series of stories and reflections from painter, writer and musician Jon McLeary