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Edgar Allan Poe said “Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see.”
Jon Gomm playing acoustic guitar is the half you shouldn’t believe.
I’m rubbing my eyes. I’m even rubbing my ears.
You’ve seen how a guitar is played, right? Left hand on the neck fingering the frets, right hand plucking or strumming the strings. Jon Gomm’s approach to the acoustic guitar is as far from inventor Christian Frederick Martin’s (d. 1867) as Apollo was from Kitty Hawk.
If you to listen to ‘Passionflower’ without watching it, I’ll bet you’ll find it pleasing to the ear. And then when you watch it, your brain will short. Because that band you were listening to is a single acoustic guitarist without overdubs.
I could describe it in words. Why bother?
Jon Gomm (b. 1977) is based in Yorkshire, UK, and works outside the system, booking his appearances privately in venues like pubs in rural areas. In 2012, a video of him playing his song ‘Passionflower’ went viral, thrusting him into the limelight. He’s an advocate of neuro-diversity.
This song is about I plant a grew in my 10-feet-square backyard in the Leeds inner city. I put the seeds in a tiny tub, but it grew like a Roald Dahl story until it took over the whole yard, then one day the sun shone extra hard and 100 flowers all went “Pop!” It was amazing, so I wrote a song for it.
The first listening/viewing of this clip can be overwhelming. Jon’s phalangeal acrobatics might at first glance appear to be a gimmick. But I’ve listened to and watched it 25 times over the last 24 hours, and I can testify that it’s a beautiful, coherent, focused composition (lyrics below).
Here’s a new-look live version. And here you can witness his remarkable rapport with his fans as they sing along with with this complex music.
Sam Robson Detour
I found Jon Gomm through my old buddy, Sam Robson, who knocked out this a cappella version of ‘Passionflower’. I think it’s remarkably beautiful and technically ungraspable.
What do you call 2 mind-fucks emanating from the same piece of music? Please send in your answers.
I met Sam through my Brian Wilson a cappella tribute, one of the most rewarding projects I’ve ever undertaken. More recently Sam worked his magic for me on Laura Nyro’s ‘Eli’s Coming’. Check the man out.
More Jon Gomm
Jon recently released his first album after 7 years, “The Faintest Idea”. I don’t know what he was doing in the interim other than getting inked and cultivating a mohawk, but he has a bunch of new, mind-fucking videos.
Touring with bipolar disorder, every night is an adventure. When I’m feeling “a bit mental”, like last night, my darker, more intense songs become emotional endurance tests. I don’t know what it’s like for the audience to watch someone wrestling their demon onstage, but they sure seem to enjoy it. 😃 As for me, well I’m used to it. Sometimes it’s just who I am.
Deep Sea Fishes
I have many mental health diagnoses, worn like medals earned in a war against myself.
One is rapid cycling bipolar, which leaves me with frequent bouts of depression. When I’m depressed, I hide in worlds sheltered from human emotion. Like science, nature. And one time I was hunkered down watching a documentary about fish. This was new footage, of undiscovered creatures who live in the very deepest parts of the very deepest oceans. Down there it’s cold, bleak, and there’s almost no light, and almost no life. And these fish were hideous. Deformed beasts with terrifying fangs and luminescent lures.
And I thought about these tragic monsters living alone in this wasteland, and it left me pretty upset. For days. Until eventually I realised, they must come from somewhere. There must be a daddy hideous sea monster, and a mummy hideous sea monster, and despite the odds they must meet, and fall in love, and make little baby hideous sea monsters. And is that so very different from us? So I wrote this love song.
Jon is an ambassador for the Swan Song Project, a small private charity “which helps people who are facing the end of their life to write and record an original song.”
Clearly, Jon Gomm is a savant, one of the special ones.
Born in your tiny prison cell
A million times smaller than you are
One single drop, and you’re risen up
Afraid of the dark
You crack up through the pavement
In super, super slow motion
Though your back is gently breaking
You reach for the light
We can see everything
We can hear everything
We can see everything
We can hear everything
Weakness is not your weakness
You are what you grow into
You’re not what you were
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Well wow- Jon Gomm- he has harnessed his demons and channeled them through his art. Powerful and thought-provoking and beautiful. Thanks for posting.
words fail…..he is beyond amazing
Thanks for posting this, Jeff. He’s really something.
What an amazing talent!
Beautiful music. Like you wrote, if you just listen to the music, it sounds like a small band – maybe guitar, bass and percussion.
Thanks for turning me on to Jon Gomm.
And how did you like Sam Robson’s treatment?
Glad that the experience included more than shock, confusion or fear. But I second your thoughts about Jon Gomm‘s playing. And he creates beautiful music! Thanks for introducing me to him.