I want you to picture something for a second. Imagine being colour blind your entire life. The trees outside resemble a grey pencil sketch, the deep red brick face next door suddenly desaturates to beige. Everything is bland, uninteresting and pretty insignificant. Then one day, someone hands you these special glasses that allow you to see the true colours around you and how bright and beautiful the world really is. Everything around you now starts blooming with brightness and clarity. Colours become vivid and crystal clear and the world becomes a happier place. My name is Jean Morrison and whenever I’m not listening to or creating music, my mind, senses and emotions are completely colour blind and I desperately need to find those special glasses. Tastes, colours, smells and even my emotional state is monotonous without music. It’s an agonising love affair and addiction that has got me into a lot of trouble over the years. I have been living like this for thirty-seven years.
I was born in Port Shepstone, South Africa into a loving and hard working family who did the best they could for me even when they had very little. For the first few years of my life, my parents were so poor they could barely afford the basics like milk and bread. To make matters worse, at the age of five I was diagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) which would lead to a chain of events that would affect the course of my life. The year is 1989, no one really knew what this ADD thing was or if it even was a thing. So when I was just seven years old, I was heavily medicated with Ritalin, put on an old brown bus and sent off to a school for the ‘learning disabled’. The Ritalin helped me blend in with the other medicated kids just like how anti-psychotics would help you blend in to a mental asylum. (Ritalin is the common name for Methylphenidate, a Schedule II narcotic, the same classification as cocaine, morphine and amphetamines). Little did I know I would be cursed with the same routine for the next seven years: Wake up, take my daily dose of Ritalin, catch the hour long bus ride every morning at 5am, stare blankly at a teacher for eight hours learning nothing, then take the hour long bus ride back home. Needless to say, we all became docile little zombified automatons and this kid hated every ticking second of life, until..
After what felt like a lifetime, six years later around Spring of 1997, at the age of 13, I remember rocking up to primary school in a Bon Jovi t-shirt. Who remembers their first slow dance to ‘Bed of Roses’ or Guns & Roses’ ‘November Rain’? Aah you gotta love that nostalgic sound of the 90’s. Anyway, while I was walking to class, a friend of mine, Leighton, gave me a CD to take home to listen to. I hadn’t heard of this band before but I put it in my school bag, jumped on the shitty school bus and headed to my aunt’s place for the afternoon. Now, in South Africa we have this sweet syrupy donut-like dessert known as the koeksister. It’s frikken delicious! As I arrived at my aunts place I was treated with a scrumptious koeksister, or two :). While I was trying to multi-task pigging out and unpacking my school bag, I found the CD my friend gave me. I inserted the disc into the portable CD player, firmly pushed in that almighty right-facing triangle and as the first few bars started playing in that timeless moment, I stopped breathing and in a slow motion like manner, dropped the koeksister and had to take in every spectrum of color, sound and amplified sensation that was stabbing me from every direction. It was like I was being raised from the dead and injected with a thousand needles of pure energy. Everything came into focus, colour’s blossomed. It was like a light had finally been turned on inside me. It was beautiful! That was the most memorable and profound moment of my life. I was finally awake, after being put to sleep with Ritalin half my life.
In case you were wondering, the song on that historic day was “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by a little band called Nirvana. Leighton and I instantly became best friends from that day forward and we even started our first band together as a bunch of thirteen year olds, paying tribute to the band that had changed our lives forever. There we were, unknowingly sitting in the last true era of rocknroll with the world at our feet, Kurt Cobain posters on the wall and the hope of stardom glazing over our dilated little eyes. Tragically, my friend Leighton passed away in a car accident just six years later at only 19 years old but in a weird way, I felt even closer to the music after my best friend died. Almost as if the music took over where he had left off. That special bond we had through the music was a powerful thing and it has stuck with me ever since. I learnt how to deal with a low self-esteem. A self-esteem that most likely came from things like when a teacher would say to me “Jean, you will never leave this school because you will never get past grade ten” in front of our entire class. But even with these pitiful teachers on our backs, it was always the music that made us feel better about ourselves, cheered us up and ultimately made us feel like we had our own little space where we could just belong. It was our new drug and now we had a band to share it with. It still is my personal drug of choice and isn’t it just the best fucking fix ever? Whenever you feel things are not going your way or you feel isolated and no one understands you, Just ADD music. It may just become your new best friend.
I still recall in uncanny detail the smell in the room, the dust on the CD player, the sweat beneath my white school shirt and the hundreds of laughs we shared as a couple of teen angsty grunge heads, so much so that I can literally taste that syrupy flavour of that koeksister lingering on my tongue every single time I play that song, almost as if no time has passed. But time did pass, twenty-four years to be exact since that day but it was in these special moments that I realised what I had to do with the rest of my life. I had to find a way to share with the world (you) the monumental experience I had that day at my aunts place back in 1997. That became the mission. Not money, not fame, just music. I later discovered that I could achieve this through songwriting, live performances and studio recordings. I now strive to create music that’ll hit you from every angle in a sensory sugar high, from the inside out and on a deeper scale than ever before and this has been the goal behind every song I have written ever since.
Do you have a song like that? That the second you hear it brings you back to a simpler time? What is that song? And what was your experience?
If you’d like to experience a little taste of this, you can check out my debut EP “FAWE” by clicking here.