It’s all art — music, writing and my quest for atonement

Mark Hodgetts
6 min readDec 14, 2020

Right from the start, I’ve had a deep seated urge to create something. By nature, a dreamer I was attracted to art in all its forms. Music, literature, painting and sculpture all captured my imagination but some of these things I showed zero aptitude for. I am one of the few people who has the distinction of failing visual art as a subject in junior secondary. I didn’t just fail — I failed miserably with a score in the high twenties that was generously rounded up to thirty.

Ultimately, I found writing as easy as falling off a log. That felt a little weird. It was not something that I felt comfortable with. None of my mates were writers. I suspect most of them weren’t readers either. It was a talent that I kept hidden. I was embarrassed by how easy it was and I tended to understate essay marks and pretend that writing was just another thing that I tolerated. The truth is that writing set me free in ways that I’ve never completely understood. I would just put pen to paper and the words would flow in a virtual torrent. Most of the time, it was one take. I didn’t even bother to proof read.

It just came out.

I don’t know how. I don’t know where from.

Some of my teachers saw it and tried to encourage it. They were flogging a dead horse. I did not want to be a writer or a journalist. It seemed so boring, so conformist and I’m afraid to admit that I thought it sounded weak. I was a fool.

The urge to create though was still there within me. I wrote stories in my spare time and hid them away, afraid of what it said about me. Then, I discovered the guitar and my horizons broadened. I’m an OK guitar player, but its always been hard work. It’s a technical exercise — nothing flows. It doesn’t matter how many scales I practice, or rhythm patterns that I master, the intangible spark that makes the creative practice both natural and joyous has never been there.

But it seemed so much easier to call myself a musician than a writer.

A series of garage bands followed — some good, some terrible. None had any real direction. Invariably we made our own compositions and I wrote the lyrics. If I bothered to go searching through my sheet music and assorted junk, I could find some of those scribbled gems, rotting away in dark obscurity. Lyric writing was natural. Maybe it could have justified my place in a band as a rhythm player or as a bassist, but in my heart of hearts I knew that the prospects of that happening were pretty close to zilch.

As I drifted into “adulthood” I stopped writing except for the very occasional hand written letter. I persisted with the guitar, but was becoming painfully aware of the yawning talent chasm between me and the people whom I idolised. I wrote some songs but kept them tucked away in my bulging drawer of shattered dreams.

The more that I struggled the more I grew to love music

To work so hard at something and understand that you just aren’t good enough in a strange way is a gift. It helps you to appreciate true talent when you see and hear it. I sought out good musicians in all genres and soaked up their amazing talents. I was in awe of Jeff Beck, Jethro Tull, Triumph, Eddie Van Halen, Dire Straits, Rory Gallagher, The Eagles, Joe Walsh, Fleetwood Mac and a host of others. But there was one group of musicians that held a special place in my heart. They were what could be called the Deep Purple family tree.

At that time there had been four versions of Deep Purple (there are now eight) The various musicians in the band had spawned a mass of offshoots and side projects that always delivered quality. The main players were Rainbow, Whitesnake, Gillan and Dio, but there were many other offshoots that offered journeys down musical roads less traveled.

Deep Purple spoke to me. They still do. The music is everything, the words are almost an afterthought. There are no compromises. The various offshoots are testimony to that. Everyone sought their own path. They could all play and when they were truly on, like they were on the Made In Japan album, they were simply magical.

There are songs that became my personal armor as I descended into years of self doubt. Gillan’s On the Rocks reflected my cold-hearted cynicism, Perfect Strangers, Soldier of Fortune and Whitesnake’s Ain’t Gonna Cry No More seemed to reflect the depths of my soul, while a song like Message in a Bottle carried innate warnings about the grip alcohol was beginning to have upon me.

My love for that band has never waned

But life moves on. Reality bites. It took a while for me to figure out that I was never going to be a rock star. I was trying to squeeze my square shaped creativity into a circular shaped hole.

The dreams of my teenage years were not going to happen. Creativity within me died. I moved away. Got married, had kids and tried to be responsible. Music still grabbed me but I told myself that that was all behind me. I still didn’t write anything.

Then, as the stark miserable reality of my employment really started to hit home, I began to write.

Longhand at first. Aimless and largely stream of conscious flows of God knows what, but the process had started. Pretty soon, I was getting up at 5.00 am every day, writing stories and submitting them for publication. I had little wins and received small cheques of between $5 and $50. Those payments meant much more to me than the money I was earning in my day job. It was validation for a skill that I’d left lie dormant for far too long.

The next step was obvious

But it wasn’t easy. I stumbled several times. Ideas dried up. I got lazy and tried to take shortcuts. At one point I was almost down for the count.

When I eventually managed to get back on my feet, I no longer had an interest in writing fiction. My writing got angrier and edgier. In among the three of four political/social commentary pieces that I was writing per week, I found time to pen some personal reflections. They were at various times confronting and eye opening.

Ultimately, it was cleansing.

Through all the articles and unpublished drafts there has been a thread of music being a constant in my life — sometimes it appears in a song title, other times a rehashed lyric. These things aren’t done consciously, they just come out — they are part of my DNA.

Over the past six months I’ve been collating some of my most personal work with the idea of publishing a book. When everything was assembled, I could see a common thread linking them all — that thread was the music of Deep Purple. Accordingly, I’ve managed to give each piece a short intro relating it to a particular Deep Purple piece. These are not necessarily my favorite tracks (although Child in Time is featured and will always have that title). They are tracks that can be related to the pieces written.

I don’t expect this book to make a fortune nor do I expect it to win a Pulitzer Prize, but its mine and it reflects who I was and who I am. It’s been an interesting journey. I reckon it’s pretty good.

If you would like to buy a copy, please visit



Mark Hodgetts

Freelance writer, musician, non — aligned political junkie, all round pain in the arse