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R.I.P George Michael

RIP George Michael

Some of you may know I worked with George Michael and Wham! in the eighties.  He made such a difference to my professional life and I was devastated to hear of his death.  Even though it made me really sad, it was good to be able to pay tribute and share some memories on BBC Radio 2, in The Guardian and on ABC News….I thought I’d share some here too

Early eighties…oh the leg warmers!

It was 1981 and I was a session backing singer in my very first job working with Mari Wilson and the Wilsations.  When Wham’s first single was such a big hit they were suddenly wanted on the road for a tour, I heard that they were auditioning for backing singers but  the tour manager told me it was unlikely we would have a look in, as they were auditioning Kokomo (big time US vocal section)  I rang a friend Janet Mooney who was a singer and Gee Belo (from Light of the World) we had done some sessions together.  Nothing to lose we said so we rehearsed a few Wham harmonies and rocked up, the MD was Tommy Eyre, George heard us jamming with the band, and chose us for the gig, we were young, fresh and super ambitious, even then George knew exactly what he wanted!

janey-lee-grace-wham-in-china-georgeI had the most awesome few years touring with the band, it was literally like Beatlemania and they guys had to be ferried out of the gigs in Black Maria’s while the audience waited for the encore that never came, I remember we played Whitley Bay Ice Rink, and while we were sound checking the crew found a couple of literally frozen fans who had stowed themselves away from the night before to get close to the front!

This pic of me with George was taken backstage on one of the first tours,  I remember that amongst the merchandise were dolls of George and Andy, the guys would have a little competition at each gig to see whose doll sold the most, George used to get quite miffed if Andrew Ridgeley’s sold more!  The first trip to the US was amazing, we played the Apollo Harlem, (wow the history) and the Limelight club, just two years later we went back and did a stadium tour, I remember playing and open air stadium in Dallas Texas, on stage at about 11pm in blistering heat – we were supported by Chaka Kahn and The Pointer Sisters, I remember Elton John  came to that gig – I mean why wouldn’t you!

George was always a perfectionist, when we played China – we were the first Western band to go there, it was a bizarre experience, before any changes, tickets to the gig cost the equivalent of several months wages out there, we gave some freebies to the cleaners in the hotel.  Wham’s management were making a feature film and we had a huge film crew, after the first few scenes were shot, George and Andy looked at the rushes of the film and George was seriously unhappy with his hair, so he flew his sister out to sort it, (the lovely Melanie – a hairdresser)  he knew exactly how he wanted to look and how he wanted his music to sound   The feature film eventually came out on video Wham in China.  Check it out – great fun!

Factoid Even though my colleagues and I were the backing singers on all the live gigs and the live videos, he rarely used session singers in the studio ? why ? because he was SO brilliant he did all his own ‘BV’s – infuriating for us, but what a star!

Factoid  The awesome  ‘Wake me up before you go go’ came about because Andrew left a note on the door for his mum one morning, he wrote…’wake me up before you go go’…  and the rest is history…

Last Christmas..

One of my fave memories is doing a series of nights at Wembley arena when Last Christmas was a hit, – I thought it was magical, fake snow et al

In more recent years..

I was invited to his Cowboys and Angels birthday party,  (must have been 1998) we had to go in fancy dress, I was eight and half month pregnant so couldn’t really go as an angel,.(though there were some incredible wing-spans in sight that night!)  but managed a cowboy outfit,  it was all just after the ‘shannigans’ had gone on  (George being arrested in the public loos) …The invitations said…Please note there will be no public conveniences so please go before you come…he had a fabulous sense of humour, that’s why he was so beloved..

 George was very much a family guy, his dad ran a restaurant in North London and would often invite the whole band there (I remember being introduced to fried zucchini)  they were a close family and I’m not sure he ever got over the death of his mother, she was the most lovely woman, so proud of her son and we had several long discussions about the horror of losing someone to cancer so young.  (I had just lost my mother in law around the same age as George’s mum)

In recent years I’ve come across Family Constellations –read my article on it here http://www.familyconstellationsherts.co.uk/#!articles  and I can see how George’s experiences shaped who he was, I SO wish I could have taken him along to a session, he could have found some peace.  the last time I saw him was a few years ago when he came into Steve Wright in the Afternoon to be interviewed.  RIP George…. you were such a hugely important  part of my life

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The Obi-Wan Kenobi Game

‘There is no trying, there’s only do or do not’ Yoda

Quite harsh isn’t it? When most of us are gripped by procrastination and fear especially when it comes to getting our work out to a wider audience. I’ve always been very confident as an interviewer, presenter and journalist, but I have given myself a new challenge recently and written a novel, it’s completely different from any other written work I have ever done and I’m out of my comfort zone.

Until I was reminded of that timely quote, I realised I have been telling people for ages that I am ‘trying’ to find the time to complete the novel’ ‘trying to seek out an agent to represent me’. I was asking everyone I could think of what I should do, when and how. The truth is I have been procrastinating, playing for time, because of the fear of being judged, what if the novel is utter drivel? What if I can’t get a book deal? 

Of course I wouldn’t be the first, many successful authors have faced rejection before they found success but as I am always telling clients, Inertia won’t pull you to success…You don’t have to get it right, you DO have to get it going. The answer lies within you, that’s what we are always told, yet most of us doubt ourselves and look outside of ourselves for answers, advice, validation and assurance.

I’m not suggesting there is anything wrong with asking for help, seeking support and sharing with others, it’s critical in fact, but in recent years I’ve come to realise how important it is to trust your gut instinct, not just on the big things, but on the little things too and be willing to step out even if you feel a little afraid.

I love it when you read a book and a line pops out at you, it’s those lightbulb moments that make all the difference, recently I was reminded by Gabrielle Bernstein that ‘Energy flows where your attention goes’ and by Brendan Burchard that most of us are ‘driven by fear not freedom’. In ‘The Motivation Manifesto’ he talks about the ‘worriers’ – those members of your family, friends, teachers, peers, who mean well, they are thoughtful, loving and protective, but they are fearful and anxious so they don’t want us to tread anything other than the well-worn paths they have trodden.

Brendan says ‘We must protect ourselves from being limited by those who care for us, as much as by those who blatantly oppose us’. If you’re a parent you will know about the agonising fear when your toddler first scales the dizzy heights of the climbing frame, you want them to explore but one hand is ready to dial 999 or rush to casualty when they come a-toppling down, as a mum or dad I’m guessing you didn’t ever wave your child off saying…’Have a great day, take lots of risks!’.

On the Hay House writers workshop Julia Cameron gave the participants a fascinating exercise to do. She calls it the ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ or ‘Yoda’ exercise, (if you aren’t a Star Wars fan you can call it Glenda the Good Witch). You probably remember scenes in Star Wars with Obi-Wan and Anakin where he expresses dismay that his advice isn’t being heard…

Obi-Wan says to Anakin…’Why do I get the feeling you’re going to be the death of me?’

He replies ‘Don’t say that, master. You’re the closest thing I have to a father’

Obi-Wan says ‘Then why don’t you listen to me?’

The idea of the exercise is to ask questions of your older wiser self, and then – here’s the important bit – actually listen. Write down what comes to mind and you could be amazed at the wisdom and how pertinent it is to what’s going on in your life.

Ask ‘Older wiser self…what do I need to know?
What do I need to do?
What do I need to try?
What do I need to grieve / let go of ?
What do I need to celebrate?

Only give yourself 20 to 30 seconds to answer each question, that way you don’t have time to push away the thoughts and continue with the inner critic, just write down the first answer that pops into your head, the chances are that your older wiser self will know exactly what’s needed and you will find the answer within you. Then you will know that it only takes a small amount of courage to get going on whatever it is that has been holding you back.

I’m contacting agents, I have my first meeting soon, watch this space….May the force be with you!

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The Big Fat Lie About Time

I’m still banging on about the experience of working with Julia Cameron at The Hay House Writers workshop and I know she won’t mind if I share one of her ideas with you.

I’ve already written about how important daily writing is, Julia calls it writing morning pages and its imperative to get the creative juices flowing and writing uncensored, longhand for your eyes only.

SEE MY BLOG POST ABOUT IT HERE>>

But Julie dispelled another myth at the workshop and it was literally a light bulb moment for me.  I am so incredibly busy and trying to do an awful lot of things, present, look after kids, run a business and fit in the odd trip to the sea to restore my sense of well-being and charge my batteries, but I often come up against a sense of frustration that I don’t have enough time to write the way I want to. I get very little uninterrupted time, I’m lucky if I can complete a paragraph and then one of the kids needs my help with the homework. My husband who is also a writer gets even more frustrated and can go for months without writing because he just can’t focus and he’s determined he must take a vacation to be able to complete his work.

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I meet many clients who I encourage to blog, or write a book to promote their work, and get their message out to a wider audience and while they feel inspired the line I hear most often is…I don’t have time. Often they commit to writing their book but it’s …when the kids have gone to uni…when their current work project finishes…when they next go on a fortnights holiday…

Of course those ‘when’ days often don’t come… even if the day comes around when the kids have left for university, it’s common to find you are still busy and the minutia of life continues just with a different rhythm. There is still not the luxury of being able to take a week, or even maybe a weekend away to focus on writing, so the project remains unfinished, or in many cases not even started.

Julia believes that we do not need much time to write, it’s a myth.

She believes we don’t even need the plan, the important thing is to just write as it occurs. Of course you allow yourself to create rough drafts – and they are just that, rough drafts, for ‘listening’ to your ideas, not for editing, but – and here’s the big light-bulb moment… she suggests we become a ‘time grabber’.

If you have fifteen minutes on the bus and you think of one sentence, write that, if you are waiting for an appointment and a paragraph comes to mind write it down.

Always keep a notebook or a device to write with and remember that ‘Time can be grabbed’

It may be that you are busy, but you can ‘grab a sentence’.

Remember several sentences = a paragraph

Several paragraphs = a chapter

Several chapters = a book

Julia created her ‘morning pages’ tool when she met a guy she wanted to help ‘unblock’  (it worked – he went on to write hugely successful screenplays and movies) and she believes its okay to ‘set the bar low’. Grab your inspiration where it occurs, and if you just don’t feel like it, remember Julia’s other writing myth – mood is a luxury – if you have something to say as a writer, its non negotiable.

I’ve got exactly ten minutes before I need to pick the kids up, I’m going to ‘grab a sentence’.

Remember …You don’t have to get it right you do have to get it going…