This isn’t a conventional music memoir. There are no hit records, no celebrity anecdotes and no tales of remorse after episodes of excess and debauchery. Instead there is a story about boy growing up in a small town on the Kent coast in the 1970s, who falls in love with music, learns to play the guitar and dreams of heading out onto the open road and singing out loud with a head full of songs. He likes deeply unfashionable music, is never cool and makes questionable fashion choices. But he writes songs that seem to express the complications and contradictions of life around him, though when the time comes to make choice he is not brave enough to try and do it for a living.
Time passes but the desire to explain the world through lyrics and music never goes away. And as the years go by it gets harder and harder to risk making a fool of himself, of doing the very thing he would most like to do, of actually being himself. Eventually, 35 years later, when it feels like time is running out, desire overcomes anxiety and he walks out onto a stage in front of 500 people and begins to sing again.
There follows an extraordinary journey of self-discovery as he performs in pubs, clubs, theatres and festivals and experiences what it really means to live the dream.
On The Road Not Taken is a love story about the transformational power of music, it is an account of a 1970s childhood, it tells of overcoming anxiety to experience the ecstasy of performance. If you have heard any of Paul Dodgson’s acclaimed memoir plays on BBC Radio 4 you will know how he amplifies small details from the past to shine a light on the present day. There will be all this and more in On The Road Not Taken.
I am sitting in the dark with 500 other people. Way below me on the stage of the Bristol Old Vic is a choir, filling this theatre with the most beautiful sound. I start to count them but when I get to 48 there is a tap on my shoulder. It is Jo who is responsible for artist liaison. I am an artist.
Paul. It’s time. Follow me. I'll take you round the back.
I stand up and do as I am told. We pass through narrow corridors and down winding staircases - and emerge in the wings. It is dark. I breathe in the backstage smell of woodyard, mingled with a distant bouquet of fresh paint.
All around are people dressed in black talking quietly into headsets. I can see sideways out on to the stage where there are a group of actors performing a sketch. They say something funny and there is a wave of laughter so loud it makes me step back into the darkness. Jo approaches again.
Ok Paul stand by.
I strap on my guitar and wipe sweaty palms on my trousers. You know those dreams where you are about to do something you feel completely unprepared for? Then you wake up and you’re in bed at home? Well it is like that, except I am really here.
Ladies and gentlemen. An announcer steps into the spotlight. Our next act is here to sing you some songs. He’s wanted to do this for a long time and from today he is out ‘ON THE ROAD NOT TAKEN’. Please give a substantial round of applause for Paul Dodgson.
I stand rooted to the spot and Jo gives me a little shove.
Paul. That’s your cue. Have a great one. Smash it!
Often, it feels selfish, in these dark days of Trump/Brexit/refugee crisis/Syria/famine in Africa, to be writing a book about Me. Then I look back over the messages received after On The Road Not Taken went out on Radio 4, and I see people who I don’t know, telling their own stories back to me. I hope that is what happens with the book. I tell one story, but there is space for the reader to relive…
And then the counter on the website showed that the book was 25% funded. So time for a wide ranging vlog of profound thanks.
Here is a blog I wrote last year about making a video to accompany the song Brislington Diamonds.
Nearly at 25% funding. I may have a special video party to celebrate the moment. Meanwhile I hope you enjoy this...
It is a sunny Saturday afternoon. I strap on my guitar on Bristol’s harbourside. My daughter and her partner fire up their cameras. I start singing along to a song that…
Here is a short extract from my work in progress memoir On The Road Not Taken. I am 13 years old and have saved up enough money to by a record. It is a big event having this much money and so stands out as a memory. Because there are two narratives in the book running concurrently, one from childhood and one set in the present, I am experimenting with writing the past story in the second…
Thank you very much for subscribing to my book. I am very grateful. Here in the shed I will be posting blogs and videos that only you can see and these will tell the story of the book writing process as I progress. I will share the highs and lows of the adventure as I head down the road towards the beautifully designed hard covers that are just over the horizon. So far I have been out on the road…
These people are helping to fund On The Road Not Taken.