I’ve kept diaries going way back to when I was a teenager and had to hide them from my mother, not that I’d recorded anything I’d done so terrible I couldn’t risk her reading them, but they contained my private thoughts and she was always on the hunt for information with which to regale me at some point. I still keep a diary mainly filled with mundane day to day things such as reminders to do this or that, to write an article/interview by such and such a day, or to send interview Q&A to a guest author (for my blog). Even my shopping list finds its way on to the page, such is the exciting life I lead these days.
When I (with my husband) was managing recording artists, song-writers, record producers and bands, diaries were vital. Every minute detail of every day had to be written down, such was the pace of life as we (husband, artists and entourage) toured the world – jumping on and off of flights as if they were a local bus service – booking into hotels (sometimes two in one day) and keeping details of performance and recording schedules. We had computers and mobile phones of course and pagers and so forth, but we didn’t have sophisticated electronic diaries as we might have had today, convenient and easy to carry. We had to carry a good old fashioned diary and filo-fax each.
I can open one of these old diaries in any year and on any page and instantly find out what I was doing on a certain day in a particular year. All those memories come flowing back as I read. Looking at my diary for this day in 1991 – for a new writing project – I discovered I was with a female artist recording in a small cliff top studio in the Hollywood Hills, working with a producer who frequently worked with Bobby Brown, Mariah Carey, and Michael Jackson to name a few. We were there for a month with him and over the following few months we worked with several other producers at various times: it was a fun but hectic time – as it always was. Every evening we were treated to Ringo Starr, his family and guests, whose house was on the opposite side of the canyon, having dinner and chatting loudly. Fascinating. We were in the studio one morning when the phone rang and the producer shouted for someone to answer it. I did, and it was Michael Jackson wanting to chat about a session he and our producer had booked. My artist was agog when MJ asked to chat to her, just to say hello and good luck at the end of his call to our producer.
Later on the same day we were in another studio, in another canyon, putting our young female artist through her paces with a famous choreographer. Our afternoons were booked with the choreographer so our artist could learn steps for her music video (of her next single) to be shot after recording finally ended. The link to Michael Jackson continued in that our choreographer was a choreographer on his ‘Captain EO’ tour, exciting enough but she was also a choreographer for Madonna on ‘Who’s That Girl’ tour, and so many other shows, and now I hear she is a movie director too. Reading the entries for this day back then I am struck with just how much we packed into each day and night with little sleep usually and it was what I’d call a quiet time.
It’s a good job I’ve kept most of my diaries over the years, especially when it came to writing Only One Woman with Christina Jones. I had to consult diaries going right back to the late 1960’s to rediscover what life was like back then. We think we can remember events, but reading my old diaries made it crystal clear that it is the minute details we forget, and often they are the most important. It helped me recall the food we were eating, the clothes and perfumes we were wearing, and which bands were in the UK charts, on Top of The Pops on a particular week, and of course the huge world events which made such an impact on us all, such as the Moon landings. I found myself transported back to 1968/69 in an instant, with all those teenage thoughts, worries, and day to day ‘happenings,’ and all those emotions suddenly resurfacing. Reading those diaries had quite an impact which I hope I managed to convey in the telling of Renza’s story. Although her story is fictional, my diaries helped me get inside a teenage girl’s head again so I could write about events from her point of view with confidence.
I don’t know if people keep dairies any more, I hope so, but I wonder if it is as exciting and as enjoyable to read an old diary on an electronic device, as it is to hold a dusty faded diary in your hands, pages covered in scribbles and doodles, with odd notes which leave one pondering their meaning. And then there is the smell – that ‘book’ smell, mixed with the feint fragrance of an old perfume or hand-cream or something which instantly reminds you of…something. I don’t think an electronic device will ever give you an emotional response like that – a vivid memory which transports you back in an inst