A Note from John….

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Proximo is the title of a visual- arts collaboration between Laureana Toledo and myself. It can be seen at the Eastside gallery in Birmingham from now until 8th November and I would strongly recommend you make the effort to get out and to it!

Laureana came to me last summer with an idea she had for a project based around ‘bass players named John’. Okay, I thought, she’s clearly a screwball but an interesting screwball nonetheless. And I had been thinking about the visual arts a lot lately, that I would like to get involved in something that one could look at, in a gallery or space of some kind.

Laureana is a special one, no doubt. We talked a lot about what her project, soon to become OUR project could be, and what it might attempt to say on our behalf. I had a lot of time for the bass players named John, particularly myself and Entwistle, but thought something else was needed. We talked about geography and our life experience. Growing up in Birmingham, growing up in Mexico.

Not so different. In fact, the more we talked and learnt about each others experience the more obvious it became that the differences were cosmetic, almost. Sure, language; waaay different. climate; yes, a considerable difference. Traffic, food, forms of entertainment.. different but quite similar actually. And the more I thought about that the more I liked the idea that where it mattered- feelings and emotions, love and hate- we were identical.

Laureana was living in Birmingham when I met her, and her fondness for the city was clear. She had tapped into that deep sense of place that allowed her to relate on every level to a city that was so far removed from the city of her upbringing. She had tapped into the eternal city, if you wish, and happened to alight in Birmingham.

On tour with Duran Duran we had a three day stopover in Mexico City, and with Laureana as my guide who pulled back the curtain to reveal to me the eternal city that Mexico is, and all was good. Laureana had shown me fims she had made in Birmingham, then thrust a film camera into my hand in Mexico. I found my eye drawn to things so similar to the things Laureana’s eye had been drawn to on the other side of the globe, that it was here our project really defined itself. Proximo. Proximity. The relationship between countries, culture and space we came to realize as almost an illusion. I won’t go into the conspiracy theory of how governments will always want to emphasize the differences between us and our neighbours, BUT THEY DO!

Laureana asked me to contribute some music to the show, and in a recognition of the global appeal of pop music, and that my band and I have been fortunate over the years to perform in front of adoring, understanding audiences the world over, on every continent, there is a free-standing vintage Peavey amplifier, programmed to play itself, in a sense, by way of an I-pod attached to it’s rear input, a recent live performance of mine of which I was particularly proud. Laureana tells me it is ‘almost touching’, so I suppose it is.

There is another element. The Proximo magazine designed by Patty Palazzo based on rough ideas of Laureana’s and mine, printed on pale pink paper in the spirit and remembrance of the old Birmingham ‘Sports Argus’ (I’m a nostalgia freak by the way). It is beautiful and free meaning you leave with something. That is important to us.

I do hope you can make it. For details about opening times and directions how to get there, go to www.eastsideprojects.org