Brief History of Mark Gresty
I have been a musician since I was 11 (piano lessons) – more occasionally than continuously. At 16 I learnt bass guitar and occasional guitar (not the other way around as is more usual) & started playing in bands. In the 70s, I joined a new wave band that looked like it might go some of the distance but after a promising start it folded. I don’t know why. At that time, the music business looked like an uncertain way to earn a living and a pretty sure way of starving. So I trained as a teacher, worked in Greece, Oman and Saudi Arabia etc. I kept playing whenever possible, sometimes to supplement income, mostly for the love of it. I got pissed off with having to rely on others to make music – as a bassist mostly has to – so I changed tack and took up guitar more seriously. I became self-sufficient: me, guitar and beat box. Having played jazz standards for 10 years, I adapted other songs to a jazz treatment and found a guitar technique which allowed me to adapt my bass technique to guitar chord playing. As an indifferent soloist, on songs which often consist of only verse and chorus, I had two options: a lot of repetition or write more words. I had always written songs & poetry so it wasn’t hard to start adding verses and sometimes bridges to well-known songs. My partner calls this ‘filling in the gaps’ and criticized my mental laziness in wasting my time on other people’s songs when I could be writing my own. In January 2010 the message went home and I wrote my first original song for 28 years. Having started, I couldn’t stop. This is my first collection of songs.
I started writing songs during the new wave period though I had always had ideas for music and lyrics. Songs I wrote in the late 70s/early 80s were mostly amateur social criticism – as were everyone else’s. Some time in the 80s I ran out of steam & stopped writing. I figured ideas had dried up. Hence my return to being a ‘covers’, journeyman musician. It was a complete surprise when ‘Evening Wine’ wrote itself. I thought it was a fluke until ‘Romantic Warrior’ (written as an ironic comment on a friend’s – the director of the song’s video – romantic woes) came along. Suddenly I can’t stop the flow and they come quite fast. They are pretty much reflections of all the musical influences I have absorbed. I find that, for the first time, I am writing ruminations on love & relationships. I guess you have to experience it to know it. My first songs about love were all pretty cynical. Now they come in all shapes and sizes with a preference for the miserable end of the spectrum – more potential for story telling there. The ‘love etc’ category would cover most of the songs here.
A few comments: I’d like to thank David Hajdu whose excellent book on Billy Strayhorn was a source and also, obliquely, Sting, though he will have no awareness of it, for ‘Palm Trees’ (a long story). ‘Every Night’ started as a commission for lyrics and took on a life of its own. ‘The Silent Gap’ is the oldest song (vintage 1982), here at Chamath’s insistence. Every Shade of Blue and But I’ll Miss You More came to me after I thought I had decided on the content of the cd. An attempt at writing a psychedelic bossa nova resulted in ‘Under The Mushroom’ – it morphs into an advert for Buddhism.
Inevitably, all the songs contain elements of autobiography and often arise out of my experience but they are extrapolations or flights of fancy based on observations. None of them is about me. I wish I were that interesting!
10 Cents Above A Beggar – Mark Gresty’s Poppadum Songs. The first part I found in Colin Grant’s exhaustive book on Marcus Garvey. It seemed apt even if I am not a black Harlemite. The second part, originally intended as the whole title until I came across the quote in Grant’s book, came from Chamath’s jocular description of my songs (i.e. something made quick and disposable, not intended as more than a quick snack with no food value). Listeners can decide how nutritious they are!