Listen to the brilliant Andrew McMahon and then have a think about your own brilliant life!
- MUSIC FOCUS: Something Corporate, Jack’s Mannequin, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness.
- ACTIVITY FOCUS: Write a poem!
For lots of my generation, Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin (two bands with singer/songwriter/piano player Andrew McMahon at the helm) created a soundtrack that somehow made everything feel possible.
Way before Something Corporate even existed, though, I was imagining my own perfect future. I wanted to write for Kerrang! Not that I really believed I could actually do such a thing!
When I left uni, though, I thought I should at least try to find my way into the world of the bands inhabiting those pages of Kerrang! I got a job behind the bar at The Camden Falcon. I wasn’t the only one in that venue with a head full of dreams. While I served drinks, bands like Muse and Coldplay would be up on stage, doing their best to impress the music industry folk. You can see Chris Martin and co. at The Falcon in the clip below.
I applied for work at Kerrang! They politely rejected my advances. And, yes, I was disappointed, but I was by now enjoying writing for The Fly Magazine – and programmes like One Tree Hill kept me dreaming. If Peyton Sawyer could run her own club, then surely there was a hope that I could achieve a similar goal. It was particularly exciting when the fictional Peyton booked the very real Jack’s Mannequin to perform in her club, Tric.
The music that Andrew McMahon wrote filled me with the feeling that the world was a magical place. And that sense was only made even more concrete by the experience of watching him in concert. When he came to London in 2009, he made the King’s College venue feel like just like Tric.
At that very show, I met the girl who was about to become the editor of Kerrang! We talked about our love of Andrew McMahon’s music, she asked to see my writing, then offered me a job. A decade after starting The Falcon, I’d arrived!
In 2021, Andrew McMahon wrote a memoir.
And in the memoir, he explains his love of the piano. His poem (below) sums up the power of music so perfectly, but it also synthesises the experience of being in the English classroom – because, together, we write and read and we, too, break free of our earthly prison. Our unconscious rages and we learn to believe that we can – somehow, someday – get to where we’re going.
“Fingers on the keys Hammers hit the strings
Strings vibrate, creating tone
Soundboard amplifies the vibration
Melody meets words
The unconscious breaks free of its earthly prison”
Looking back on everything, McMahon wrote ‘Teenage Rockstars’. Listen closely to the lyrics.
Here’s my own attempt at capturing my past in poem form.
The cold wind at night
That teenage life
Shannon Hoon and Kurt Cobain
Jeff Buckley and Richey James
Reading Festival 94
Band t-shirts, power chords
Club UK and Bagleys
London in the nineties
Raves and sunrises
Glastonbury and No Surprises
Phone numbers off by heart
The romantic, prismatic dark
Camden Falcon’s back room
Yesterday Went Too Soon
Rachel Stamp, The Crocketts
Dawson and Joey, Britney Spears
Now, it’s your turn! Write a poem that – in some way or other – is about where you’ve been and/or where you’re going to. You could even write a poem reflecting on your imagined future! Think about yourself as an older person – like me or McMahon! – and summarise the life you’d had!
Now, have a go at our GCSE poetry class inspired by the astonishing Trophy Eyes.