Poem of the Month for March – “On The One”, from my new chapbook of music poems, “Big Hair Was Everywhere”

If not for that ship I’d have been Rod Temperton.
If not for emigration I’d have remained
In Cleethorpes, where I was born,
Worked in Grimsby for Ross Frozen Foods,
Played in dance bands in my spare time.


Learned to write songs. Joined Heatwave,
A funk band formed by a Vietnam War vet.
Written “Boogie Nights”, that impossibly
Inescapable hit of 1976. Watch that vid
And you’d see me off in the corner,
Playing keyboards and adding harmonies,
Immortalised in a scoop-neck ‘70s vest, singing
“Got to keep on dancing, keep on dancing…”


Been recruited by Quincy Jones, a man
With good ears, to write songs for Michael Jackson.
“Rock with You”, some other hits, and then
The big one: “Thriller”. Everything: words, music,
Even that cheesy spoken-word bit that Vincent Price
Perfected on just his second take.


I’d have coasted along after that,
Staying cheerfully obscure, the unknown
Local boy made good in Hollywood
Till the cosmic actuary’s dice came up snake eyes.


I could have been you, Rod, if we hadn’t left,
If I’d had the slightest glimmering of musical ability.
Could have worked in that fish factory till it went bust,
ironed my funky vests, played in a covers band
And waited for that big break to come:
A ghost Tim, strutting the streets of Grimsby,

Suit sharp, still funky, always on the one.


Credit note: “On the One” appears in my new poetry chapbook Big Hair Was Everywhere: music poems, Number 34 in the ESAW mini series, published by Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop (Paekarariki, 2019), ISBN 978-1-86942-163-0. It is previously unpublished, and was written for inclusion in the chapbook. Tim says: Music was important to my parents, and it’s important to me – many different genres of music, despite the fact I can’t play a note other than Middle C. My new chapbook Big Hair Was Everywhere brings together my recent poems about music into one neat little A6 package – available from me for $5! Chase me up for a copy at forthcoming poetry readings.

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