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Nick and Jack and Me

  11/08/10 01:02, by , Categories: BFMN Exclusive, Monday Morning Musical Musings, Paul Bourgeois , Tags: animation by paul bourgeois, bevan-john, halifax, music, musical musings, paul bourgeois
Paul Bourgeois

Before I came to Finland I did a couple animated music videos for a group called Jack MacDonald and the Hotel Faces. Jack was the lyricist/singer of the band and Nick Bevan-John was the musician. My take on Jack and the Hotel faces is extremely personal, because I knew them. Anybody else may have a different take on them. Jack was dynamic, real. It was special to know him and seeing him live affected the meaning of the music. Maybe that’s the way music should be experienced. I’m in Finland now and the band Jack and the Hotel Faces is no more, but Jack’s still around, and Nick is now Ceti Alpha.

Winston Churchhill

How did I meet Jack? I was walking up Spring Garden Road - there’s the library with Winston Churchill’s statue full of pigeon crap, the banks, some hopeful buskers, the National Film Board who funded my beginnings in the film industry and the coffee shops. This is where I grew up, but now the memory seems so long ago. We leave behind our histories to create new histories, and we had damn well write down our past before we forget it, before it turns into something we’d forgotten, before we turn into that old fellow on the side of the road begging for change. He had a life, that fictional man, a history and a family before in some small place once and then one day he found himself on the streets of the big city and all that was forever forgotten, and perhaps for the better. And then we move further and further into misery with no memory of who we were, are, or are becoming.

Jack macDonald

“Hey, Buddy, do you want to buy a poem for a buck?”

I turn and there is this big old guy on the corner - back street leading up past trendy restaurants and then the radio station that once bought a script from me - vague histories - and then the star shaped fortress on the hill - in a big old coat holding out poems and stories like some other fellow might be selling watches.

“Sure, yeah,” because I’m a decent type and see value in everybody, perhaps more value in the downtrodden, in those seasoned by life. It takes pressure to make a diamond. It takes pain to give a life value. And that was Jack, a man with more value and intelligence than I will ever see, and a touch of insanity so pure and joyful.

And over time I got to know Jack and I bought his poetry and one day even purchased his Music CD Funky on Up, by Jack MacDonald and the Hotel Faces, for five dollars. I’d talked him down from ten. I had no money either. He said he’d have to clear the price with Nick, but it was no problem.

Nick Bevan-John

Nick was a young man, and a musician. And he still is. Perhaps he was as young then as Jack was young once. And maybe we are all going where Jack was then, and maybe that was our fear. Nick was walking down Spring Garden Road. Nick lived just around the corner in a basement apartment next to the Engineering University. It was a university town. Youth and brains trying to gain an education before those brains were all squeezed out through the sieve of alcohol in various university bars and trendy places to local live music. Rather depressing when you think about it.

Spring Garden Road

Nick was going to give up, walking downtown from his apartment to sell his guitar, or so the story goes, when this ragged angel - and angels, the ones that count, are ragged and harsh and strong and sometimes dangerous - said to him-

“Hey, Buddy, do you want to buy a poem for a buck?”

Well, Nick did, and he read the poem right there on the street.

“Do you want to come back to my place and record some of this stuff?” Nick asked Jack and Nick and his guitar marched back the way Nick had come. So the angel saved Nick and his guitar and the angel saved music and maybe the angel even saved himself.

Jack MacDonald

Because Jack and The Hotel Faces put out, at least, eight albums. That’s a lot. That’s the music and words of two men together creating something new and unique together. I’m listening to them as I write. These are moments in time, these are Jack’s magical words and Nick’s guitar joined and transformed, and you can hear the joy and the pain and the words burn away the past and give hope for the future. Somewhere within those words, those written histories of someone who has moved from one place to another, and lost something and found something, there are forgotten questions and answers to be discovered. Even, if only, in the relationships between Jack and the Hotel Faces and what they became, if only for a small instance of history. Some people talk about secret saints in the world, unknown people with hidden sparks with the power to save the world…

Well, I think Jack saved Nick and Nick saved Jack, and listening to them now I think they have saved, or revived, a part of me. I don’t know who else they have touched, but isn’t that enough.

Nick and Jack

Because I remember going to one of their gigs. This was in the Kyber Cafe. They had an underground following of the University crowd, young men and women before the beer had squeezed out all their intellect and the harshness of life had turned them into something conservative. Jack was a sight, a huge man in a t-shirt screaming about life and drenched in sweat, the harshness of life etched deeply across his face. And he laughed and staggered at the end of that gig, and I hugged him at the end of that gig and he hugged me back. Music is more than just sound. It’s about emotion and sweat and the moment.  It is about people. That’s what I have gained from Jack and Nick, and constantly renew.


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