One Christmas, sometime in the 90’s, we bought my Dad a CD Walkman and a pile of CDs to go with it.
We all coveted it. I can still remember its pleasing, silver, roundness. The novelty of being able to select the exact song you wanted to hear rather than having to fast forward or rewind a tape. The enormous headphones that carried a rich orchestral sound to your ears, instead of the distant thin sound I was used to.
In a rare quiet moment, when my large, rowdy, family were miraculously elsewhere I curled into my Dad’s chair, put on the headphones and pressed play. I skipped through a few songs (because I could) before I came upon one that stopped me in my tracks.
It began with some quiet, rich piano chords that quickly grew into this grand swell of a chorus, full of optimism and hope. I wore the batteries down playing it on repeat.
The song was Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John. It’s still my favourite of his tracks but until this week I didn’t know what it was about – if you listen to the lyrics, it doesn’t really make sense. So I googled it.
“The Yellow Brick Road is an image taken from the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz. In the movie, Dorothy and her friends are instructed to follow the yellow brick road in search of the Wizard of Oz, only to find that they had what they were looking for all along.”
When I read the words “they had what they were looking for all along” I had one of those moments when you understand a truth, when your heart skips and life seems to make perfect sense.
I have been on that yellow brick road, in search of the Wizard of Oz, in search of the 'perfect life' that was somehow outside the one I was actually living.
As a kid I was OBSESSED with comics and doodling and writing but I didn’t think I was very good so I pursued other things. Things I liked, things that were sort of loosely connected, things like English, History, French…but I wasn’t actively writing or drawing. I was talking about other people’s writing or drawing.
At the BBC I started out in prop making and working on art shows. I was deliriously happy but for some weird reason I didn’t think it was a ‘real’ job AND I didn’t think I was good enough because I didn’t have an art degree. I tried going straight, working on shows that weren’t art related. I couldn’t understand why I was miserable because I didn’t see that the thing I had loved about the work was the art, the creating…
Then I decided TV wasn’t for me, that I needed a proper career. Off I went and got a marketing qualification. I was certain that once I became a marketer I would no longer feel like something was missing. I would climb the ladder and I would be the person I had always wanted to be.
Yeah. About that.
A couple of years into being a marketer and the novelty wore off. I felt that familiar niggling anxiety returning, the sense that I was somehow missing the point, that I wasn’t quite on the right path. The aspects of marketing that I truly love are working on design projects and writing…go figure.
All that time, I had what I was looking for all along but I couldn’t see it, or maybe I did and I just didn’t have the confidence to pursue those things. Perhaps I felt there was too much to lose…I don’t know…
I can’t remember why I started Crowblack when I did, why it was that precise moment and not another that I decided to take the leap. As soon as I published the first post I felt different, like something in my soul had fallen into place. Like I was finally on the right path.
The song Goodbye Yellow Brick road is about turning your back on an existence you thought would make you happy, that in reality did the opposite and going back to your original, simple passions.
My original passions were drawing and writing. Making comics is my version of hunting the horny back toad. It makes me buzz with excitement and energy and ideas.
Some days I feel frustrated that I didn’t get to it sooner, that I might have been more fulfilled if I had but I’m definitely a better late than never kind of person. At least I got past the quiet piano to the grand swell of the chorus in the end…
“So goodbye yellow brick road
Where the dogs of society howl
You can't plant me in your penthouse
I'm going back to my plough
Back to the howling old owl in the woods
Hunting the horny back toad
Oh I've finally decided my future lies
Beyond the yellow brick road”