Walking The Talk

Getting dressed for our date she found herself choosing the outfit that she thought I’d like, rather than the outfit she’d like. That was a deal breaker for her. Even though she liked both outfits there was one she FELT like wearing that night and the one she imagined I’d prefer. Chelsea Girl back in the 90s. She phoned me to tell me it was over. And it was.

I didn’t understand it at the time but I understand it now.

I’ve been posting these JUST A DRUMMER stories on LinkedIn as well as Facebook. On Friday Chris V. the President and CEO of Solution 105 (Making Sense of Energy) posted this message, for all the world to see, on the LinkedIn Timeline.

“If you’re not following Tom Morley you may want to check him out. Two of the gems I’ve found so far? His latest post (“There’s no ‘i’ in TEAM but there is in TRIBE, and it’s right in the middle”) includes four lessons he’s learned in the music business and offers a great commentary about self and leadership.

Another post, about cancer, a fundraiser, and his inclusion on stage of the teenagers he was raising money for, plus how to look relaxed when you’re meeting The Queen, is very touching.

It’s amazing what came out of the British punk rock scene.”

As you know, while creating the jigsaw pieces of JUST A DRUMMER I’ve been doing it without a box lid, not knowing what the final picture will look like, and not wanting to know in case it interrupts the flow from my subconscious. I’m really enjoying that flow and I’m being greatly encouraged by your generous feedback which is helping shape the book and define the final jigsaw box picture.

But the moment has come. We all need to earn a living. 

Shall I wear this Facebook outfit, the one I feel like wearing, and continue going with the flow? Or shall I wear the one that will show up well on LinkedIn, the one that I imagine they want to see? The one that will get me onstage as a speaker?

I’m sure we all have our own version of this dilemma. Maybe for you it’s when picking the kids up from the school gate. Which, now you come to mention it…

I once went to collect my niece when she was nine in primary school in Lewes, East Sussex. It was the 80s and I went on my roller skates, as is required of anyone who willingly adopts the ‘mad uncle’ role in any family. Arriving early, dressed in black leather, mirror shades and sporting the latest Sony Walkman, I fulfilled a childhood fantasy of skating around the playground as fast as I could pretending I was wearing a superhero cloak, spurred on by Stevie Wonder’s ‘Living For The City’. Hey, come on! We all had this fantasy, right?

Anyway, the headmistress comes out and, very charmingly, says, “Oh, I see, another Morley. That makes sense. Well, no one’s getting any work done inside because they’re all watching you. Would you mind waiting over there with the other parents please?” 

So, Facebook or LinkedIn? Skate around the playground or stand over there with the parents. Before we decide let’s look at the same ‘content’ presented in two different ways.


It’s 1980 and we’ve just played our first number. There’s two hundred people here looking super-engaged. I’m on stage at the Electric Ballroom in Camden Town. While the crowd is applauding I look down at the set list taped to the floor by my drum kit. Someone shouts out, “Make one up!”.

He’s in the front row with his black hair spiked up and his eyes shining with the passion of someone who knows he’s plugged into the revolution. Right here, right now, we’re changing the world. And it feels good!

Scritti Politti, in our early days, make up half of our set on stage. We do a song people know from our records then we make one up. We don’t call it ‘improvising’. That’s what jazz musicians do, playing with a song or a theme that already exists. This ‘making one up’ is something no rock band has ever done before as far as we can see. We take it in turns to begin and the other two just have to fall in. So Green might start with a scratchy guitar riff and, once I’ve got the shape of it, I’ll bring in a beat to fit. Niall joins in too, maybe with a loping Jamaican bass line and we may suddenly pivot the song into a scratch reggae anthem. Who knows?

We rotate. When it’s my turn to begin I look through the dazzle of stage lights at my gleaming kit and just start hitting things till a pattern emerges. Then I repeat it, not so much by sound but by watching my arms and legs dance while the others bring some melody in. That locks it down and gives it some sense, it’s quite scary until that moment, to be honest. But our band values are Imagination, Justice and Connection. If we stick to them I figure we’ll be alright. 

Some made up songs are spectacular, sounding like studio numbers, and some falter a bit. However, the ‘not quite there’ ones get as much applause as the more ‘accomplished’ ones. Why? We’re not being assessed on musical merit, that’s taken as a given because The Electric Ballroom have put us on stage, we’re being applauded for our courage and our promotion of DIY music. We’re walking the talk.


PowerPoint. The clicker’s working fine, the screen behind me is a high-resolution-state-of-the-art thing of beauty and there’s two hundred people looking super-engaged. I’m fifteen minutes into my conference keynote and it’s going well. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

And then it does. 

Disaster. My slides suddenly disappear and the screen goes blue. Except for two words in the centre, “No signal”. 

Has this ever happened to you?

There’s a vibe in the room isn’t there? It’s palpable.

I have to hold the crowd’s attention before they reach for their phones and start checking their messages or, worse, Tweeting about how this year’s keynote has gone flat.

“Well, no PowerPoint. Looks like I’m on my own now” I say, “Or am I? Watch as I zoom into this blue background. There appears to be a texture, there are some words there, light blue on dark blue. It’s like the weave of a shimmering silk sari. If I zoom in again and magnify those words we can read what they say. What can you see?”

“Imagination!”, shouts someone in the front row. I zoom in even further. “Connection” from the back row of this suddenly re-engaged audience.

“Indeed,” I say. “Blue on blue. When PowerPoint crashes and I have no signal outside I needn’t worry too much because my inner PowerPoint kicks in. My ‘content’ is stored in my mind, and my backup hard drive is my heart. My values are always there, they run through me like they would if I was a stick of Blackpool rock. Look I have two examples. I’ll hold these pink sticks up so you can see them at the back. IMAGINATION runs through one, CONNECTION runs through the other. And listen, even though the sound on my outer PowerPoint deck has died, if I play this snare drum guided by my inner PowerPoint with with these ‘value sticks’ I can get  a groove going. And even if I play so passionately I break them, I can still play with the broken halves and the groove is exactly the same. Just tighter and more focussed. 

“I’m told by leadership consultants there’s a business message here” I say to the two hundred. “A leadership ‘take away’. But I’m from the music business. The only take aways I know are midnight pizzas and dawn champagne backstage. Do let me know if you’ve discovered anything in this ‘disaster’ in the Q&A. As you’ll see in the speaker biographies, I’m just a drummer.

But, hey, before we get to the questions let me take you back to the 80’s. You’ll also see in the speaker notes I was the original drummer in the band Scritti Politti. We used to make songs up on stage, from scratch. That’s where I learned that, when everything is taken away, if we stick to our values of Imagination, Justice and Connection then we’ll be OK. Some songs we made up were spectacular, sounding like studio numbers and some faltered a bit, but the ‘not quite there’ ones got as much applause as the more ‘accomplished’ ones. Why? We weren’t being assessed on musical merit, that was taken as a given, we’re being applauded for our courage and our promotion of DIY music. We were walking the talk.

So look, let’s not use any more slides except this one. “Q&A”. You ask me a question and I’ll make up an answer and a beat to go with it. Let’s co-create something. Let’s walk the talk.

To return to my ‘no show’ girlfriend and my Facebook and LinkedIn dilemma. My subconscious has just delivered this poem I learned at school. It’s by W. B. Yeats. Maybe he had the answer all along and was waiting for me to ask the question.

A Coat

I made my song a coat

Covered with embroideries

Out of old mythologies

From heal to throat;

But the fools caught it

Wore it in the world’s eyes

As though they’d wrought it.

Song, let them take it

For there’s more enterprise

In walking naked.

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