Music for Health, Health for Music

You turn to me and say I shouldn`t hide, from strong emotions buried deep inside” (McCulloch,2018)

Hand on Heart

“I thought about it for a long, long time I never thought to spill my heart despite

Of all the funny little moments sharing them with you, I couldn`t see the upside no I couldn`t see the view

I serenade you at the end of day, some loving words can go a long long way

To spark the magical connections that would follow you around

To celebrate our feelings with a music so profound,

Get on up with hand on heart,there`s something missing but I know its a start

Get on up with hand on heart I sing for you and then I know its a start

You turn to me and say I shouldn`t hide from strong emotions buried deep inside

Don`t need a sunny disposition I got all the light I need

I`m smiling on the inside and I`m ready to be freed

Get on up with hand on heart,there`s something missing but I know its a start

Get on up with hand on heart I sing for you and then I know its a start”

P&C J McCulloch 2018

The recording of the music involved Graham Holley on Bass and programming, Rachel Jack on backing vocals and Megan Andrews on Flute. I thank them all and am so grateful for their selfless contributions. When I originally wrote the track I could hear Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons ripping through it all guns blazing (!), but as is the way of it, we ended up with a late-Summer Bossa Nova vibe which, you know, suits it down to a “T”.

Lyrically it grapples with my own very personal reflections on a prescient and emotive subject- how I “deal” with emotions both as a man and a creative artist.

“Emotional literacy is described as being aware of our own feelings in order to improve our personal power and life quality as well as people`s life quality around us” (Akbag, Küçüktepe and Özmercan, 2016)

They go on to cite Claude Steiner, a psychotherapist specialising in transactional analysis- who stated that emotional literacy meant “being aware of one`s own emotions, being able to empathise sincerely, knowing how to manage one`s own emotions, being able to restore emotional damage and being able to develop emotional interaction” (ibid).

One of my creative inspirations, Burt Bacharach, once wrote a song called “Something Big”. I`ve occasionally performed it to small (but appreciative) audiences. Hal David wrote the lyric “I want to be the man I’m not and have the things I really haven’t got“(Discogs, 2018). The Bacharach/David songwriting team were able to “create a symbiotic sense of balance: Bacharach`s fine melodic phrases often extending and contouring across several bar lines while David`s often strangely long and complex sentences worked note-for-syllable.”(Brocken, 2003)

The aspirational tone set in this song has stayed with me over the years. I`m a natural optimist and am drawn to songs that I can identify with. I sincerely believe that with help a person can strive to change their maladaptive mindset, no matter how fucked-up they feel inside. So what is a “maladaptive mindset”?

“While adaptive behavior is used to adjust to (sic) situation, the opposite of this is maladaptive behavior. The latter interferes with a person’s activities and life or his or her ability to adapt on different settings.”(, 2014)

My Pal Duglas

duglas and me
Two amigos, 1986.(Fitzgerald, 1986)

















For a long time now, my musical cohort Duglas Stewart has been dealing with mental health issues. We don`t talk about it as much as we should, but that reticence is perhaps down to me not wanting to pry too much. When we were writing the Bmx Bandits album “Bmx Bandits In Space”, I went around to his house in Bellshill regularly to work on songs. Eventually we reached critical mass and had enough material to start recording, but we never really talked about the deeper things as perhaps we should have. We were both writing the lyrics so there was an ebb and flow of ideas, but a lot was left unsaid.

In a recent interview with the Mental Health Foundation, Duglas states  “I have been living with mental health issues for many years now. These issues have threatened my life, affected my standard of life adversely and are related to my ongoing physical wellbeing. Being an artist, my mental health issues have also been a defining part of who I am and of my work.”(Mental Health Foundation, 2018)

According to the British Journal of Nursing, “it is extremely challenging to engage men in conversations that challenge stigma around mental health, normalise talking about distress, or change behaviours and attitudes” (Patrick and Robertson, 2016).

I strongly believe that music is a redemptive force for good, a pathway to the heart, where emotions can be expressed in song; that male “stigma” or perceived weakness of talking about one`s feelings can be challenged- and even celebrated– in words and music.

“Some try to fight, it’s hard on bended knees
With one hand tied it’s better to deceive
Yourself and I like everyone will be the unforgiven” (McCulloch and Stewart, 2015)

Music for Health,health for music-the live performance

“Organisations… that want to foster creativity need to recognise that creativity takes place as a result of problem-solving and conflict“(Jeffrey,2005)

Jim and Rachel
Rachel and I performing “Hand on Heart” (Andrews, 2018)






In conjunction with our Industries and Production colleagues, we were tasked to bring our music to life in the form of a collaborative and life-affirming concert. A songwriter`s circle with an over-arching theme of highlighting and promoting good mental health and well being in creative individuals.

As Mary Hilton observes-“By its very nature artistic production in all media questions and discusses the world. Work in the arts forms and is informed by these cerebral conversations, by the dialogues with the self and others that inhere within the creative process itself. Art requires reflective discussion to create and shape meaning”(Hilton, 2006)

Over a series of both formal and informal meetings, we managed to piece together a running order,(mostly) ironing out any logistical issues with regard to the songwriters technical requirements in good time for the day of the performance. These conversations were important in ensuring the event ran smoothly. All credit must go to the other disciplines for making this happen! Honestly, organising a bunch of songwriters can be like herding cats at times…

If I can paraphrase Pamela Burnard in closing –“The importance of live music provides a context wherein an audience has a sense of itself ,potentially, as a community”(Burnard, 2012)

I felt a real, tangible, sense of community throughout the process and especially on the day of the gig. It really was ALL about nurturing and supporting one another, and I think we did ourselves proud.


Akbag, M., Küçüktepe, S. and Özmercan, E. (2016). A Study On Emotional Scale Development. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Nov. 2018].

Brocken, M. (2003). Bacharach: Maestro! The Life Of A Pop Genius. 1st ed. New Malden: Chrome Dreams, p.105.

Burnard, P. (2012). Musical Creativities in Practice. [ebook] Oxford: Oxford Scholarship Online, p.13. Available at: [Accessed 12 Nov. 2018].

Discogs. (2018). Something Big. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Nov. 2018].

Fitzgerald, S. (1986). Two amigos, Bmx Bandits photo session 1986. [image]. (2014). Maladaptive Behavior Examples | Flow Psychology. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Nov. 2018].

Hilton, M. (2006). Reflective Practices In Art Education. [ebook] New York: Springer, p.49. Available at: [Accessed 30 Nov. 2018].

Jeffrey, G. (2005). The Creative College. 1st ed. Stoke on Trent: Trentham Books, p.6.

McCulloch, J. (2018). Hand On Heart. [online] GLASGOW. Available at: [Accessed 23 Nov. 2018].

McCulloch, J. and Stewart, D. (2015). BMX Bandits – The Unforgiven K-POP Lyrics Song. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Nov. 2018].

Mental Health Foundation. (2018). Duglas T Stewart of the BMX Bandits. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Nov. 2018].

Patrick, S. and Robertson, S. (2016). Mental health and wellbeing: focus on men’s health. [ebook] Mark Allen Publishing Ltd, p.2. Available at: [Accessed 23 Nov. 2018].

YouTube. (2018). Burt Bacharach – Something Big. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Nov. 2018].

YouTube.(2018) McCulloch, J. and Stewart, D. (2015). BMX BANDITS – The Unforgiven [Audio]. [online]  Available at: [Accessed 30 Nov. 2018].

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