Strange as it might seem, there was a time when I would sing at work, or whistle. It seems odd to me now, these years later, but at the time it seemed a natural thing, and no-one ever complained. In fact I recall people smiling as I did so, and occasionally encouraging me.
Once, working after hours on a part-time cleaning job, the manager working alone in the office stopped to tell me how much it pleased him to hear me sing as I worked, to hear someone so expressively enjoying himself. That was at BMW Melbourne, where I worked 2 nights a week for a year to earn some extra cash. He was a lovely man, and I think saw in me someone a little different to what he expected.
I might be Clint Eastwood now, but back then I was someone different. If I wasn’t singing I was wise-cracking. I reckon I spoke double what I do now, or more. It gave me pleasure. There were words in me, opinions, witticisms, and they just spilled out of me. In one job I had followers who would sit and listen and laugh and tell me I should be on radio, or have my own show. I modestly accepted that as my due.
That was the thing though: it was pleasure. I didn’t do it for the audience or to please other people, but because I had it and must let it out.
Over the years I matured and changed, as you do. I became more laconic, which was really my natural state. I might occasionally run-off my tongue, expounding on some notion, and I never stopped the witty asides, but they came from the side of my mouth.
As for the singing? Well I still sing around the house sometimes. As was revealed in that quiz last week my mum was a singer and I grew up listening to her. That was a pleasure for me. I learned all the old standards that way, and my love for music in general. When I sang aloud it was mostly the same old standards that mum had sung, word perfect after years of listening.
Cry Me a River was a favourite. The Julie London version primo. “Now you say you’re sorry…” I can hear mum singing it now. Then later I did to. It Had To Be You, What’ll I Do, Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off, I’m a Fool to Want You… At one job I went through a Nat King Cole Stage – When I Fall in Love, Pretend, even Mona Lisa, a song I’m not particularly fond of. There was Sinatra too, always Sinatra – My Way and New York, New York. I mentioned Sam Cooke the other day – well I’d sing Cupid, and Wonderful World with relish. I sang Alfie after Dionne Warwick, It’s Not For Me To Say with an authentic Johnny Mathis quaver in my voice, and I would croon like Ray Charles singing Georgia, in the shower at home, and at work.
And I whistled. I couldn’t whistle a cab these days, but back then I had a strong and sure whistle, clear and melodic. I’d mop the floors or clean out the toilets whistling as I went.
These days I will sing occasionally, when I’m cooking or doing housework. Different times though too. I’m older, and besides there is so many more opportunities to listen to music now than there were then – no iPods, no iPhones back in the day. I don’t do Karaoke much, but if I do my go to songs are My Way and Solitary Man. I still love it all though.