This One Goes To Eleven…

5 04 2012

There are music legends and there are legends in music.

They are different. But like a bacon sandwich without HP sauce, one can’t exist without the other. Apart, they are just two distinct flavors but together….they rock!

Today, the music world said goodbye to a man whose influence went beyond creating radio-friendly-unit-shifters or providing the lyrics for American Idol contestants.

You would never see Jim Marshall throwing shapes in an arena or destroying a guitar but if the world is stage, his name appeared all over it.

Jim was a sound businessman, he made everything louder. Fifty years ago in London, he founded a company called Marshall Amplification…you may have heard some of his products. You certainly will have seen them. Read the rest of this entry »

Remembering Whitney….

12 02 2012

As the 2012 Grammys get under way, the eyes of the world will be on those that have made 2011 another great year for music.

There will be winners and losers, there will be tears and laughter. There will be some artists that I haven’t heard of and some that I will never understand. It will be about rewards and recognition, it will probably help to shift some more units/downloads after the event.

That is why I love music. It’s all about personal taste.

But the Awards will be overshadowed by the death of Whitney Houston.

And there is no doubt that she was a talented girl who fell off the rails in spectacular fashion. There will be tributes to Whitney, some sort of musical number and a lot of people thanking her for the records she made and the inspiration she was.

I wasn’t a big fan but I know a man who was. Patrick Bateman.

There is an entire chapter dedicated to Ms Houston in American Psycho (although to be fair, there is also one about Genesis and Huey Lewis).

This is what Patrick thought about her self-titled LP…

The dance single ‘How Will I Know’ (my vote for best dance song of the 1980’s) is a joyous ode to a girl’s nervousness about whether a guy is interested in her. It’s got a great keyboard riff and it’s the only track on the album produced by wunderkind producer Narada Michael Walden. My own personal favorite ballad (aside from ‘The Greatest Love of All’ – her crowning achievement) is ‘All at Once’ which is how a young woman realizes all at once that her lover is fading away from her and it’s accompanied by a gorgeous string arrangement. Even though nothing on the album sounds like filler, the only track that might come close is ‘Take Good Care of My Heart’, another duet with Jermaine Jackson. The problem is that it strays away from the album’s jazz roots and seems too influenced by 1980’s dance music.

But Whitney’s talent is restored with the overwhelming “The Greatest Love of All’, one of the best, most powerful songs ever written about self-preservation and dignity. From the first line to the last it’s a state-of-the-art ballad about believing in yourself. It’s a powerful statement and one that Whitney approaches with a grandeur that approaches the sublime. It’s universal message crosses all boundaries and instills one with the hope that it’s not too late to better ourselves, to act kinder. Since it’s impossible in the world we live in to empathize with others, we can always empathize with ourselves. It’s an important message, crucial really, and it’s beautifully stated on this album.

I couldn’t have written this better, but then I am not a fan.

Live From New York, it’s Thursday night…

19 01 2012

I don’t drink coffee I take tea my dear, I like my toast done on one side,
And you can hear it in my accent when I talk,I’m an Englishman in New York

See me walking down Fifth Avenue, A walking cane here at my side,
I take it everywhere I walk, I’m an Englishman in New York

I’m an alien I’m a legal alien, I’m an Englishman in New York.
I’m an alien I’m a legal alien, I’m an Englishman in New York

Confession time. I have been dying to write these lyrics on this blog.

But I live just south of Boston, come to the Big Apple on an infrequent basis and, when I do, sitting down with the laptop is frowned upon by she-who-I-obey.

So this is the first time in over two years that I find myself sitting alone in the city that never sleeps with the chance to write about being an Englishman in New York.

I don’t have a walking cane, I have no real feelings about toast, am not intending to walk down Fifth Avenue and I drink more coffee than tea these days.

But I am a legal alien.

And that is enough of a connection for me to write this short post. Before I head into Brooklyn to see a punk band from Boston.

Thank you, New York, you’ve been great!

And, yes I know, that is Sting – that is kind of the point.

It’s Christmas Time…There Is No Need To Be Afraid

25 12 2011

Christmas time, Mistletoe and Wine
Children singing Christian rhyme
With logs on the fire and gifts on the tree
A time to rejoice in the good that we see

The USA had Elvis Presley, in the UK we had to make do with Cliff Richard.

A never-aging, God-bothering, tennis-playing singer/songwriter whose only redeeming feature was that he didn’t release that many songs in the later years of his career. Except at Christmas.

The lyrics above are from an especially irritating tune called Mistletoe & Wine.

According to Wikipedia it was “Cliff’s 99th single, it became his 12th UK number one single, spending four weeks at the top in December 1988 – selling 750,000 copies in the process. It was the best-selling single of 1988 in the UK.”

Which meant that every year since, it was played on a regular rotatation on the radio and gangs of well-meaning vocal groups would roam through neighbourhoods singing it at people until they were paid to go away.

This is not my “bah humbug” moment. I had that on Black Friday when the countdown to Christmas begun and the shops were filled with festive music.

I admit that I am not a big fan of December 25.

I like the getting together with family (I am currently with my extended one in Bermuda) and I enjoy sitting by a fire with a glass of mulled wine or champagne. I look forward to turkey with all the trimmings, the opening of gifts and I have been known to tune into the Queen’s Christmas Message – which normally is a nice reminder that just because you are extremely wealthy and own a lot of hats, it doesn’t mean that your Annus is any less Horribilis then everyone elses.

But the one thing I look forward to more than anything else is knowing that when January 1 arrives the radio will start playing proper music again and that we won’t have to endure “Feed The World”, “Last Christmas”, Slade’s “Merry Christmas Everybody” or having Bing bleating on about how he is dreaming of  a White Christmas.

Christmas music comes once a year, that is something to rejoice in. For the other eleven months, proper music is made by proper people.

And none of it mentions Santa or his overflowing sack.

Happy Holidays.

Forever Young & Never Crap; Death Protects The Icon

9 12 2011

I shout all my obscenities from steeples,
But please don’t label me a madman
I’m off to see the Bootleg Beatles
As the bootleg Mark Chapman

Taken from ‘When The Evening Sun Goes Down’ by Half Man Half Biscuit

Thirty-one years ago on December 8,  John Lennon died in New York.

This was very sad and although I have never been a big fan of The Beatles, I appreciate that they were partly responsible for dragging English music away from  copy-cat product of the 1950’s and being at the forefront of the British Invasion that was welcomed by American audiences. John and his mates produced  radio-friendly-unit-shifters that appealed to a broad base of fans and have lasted for longer than two members of the band.

In death, John Lennon has achieved a lasting fame and a legacy that (for many) is hard to criticize. But what would have happened if Chapman hadn’t gunned down the Scouse legend outside his apartment all those years ago?

Lennon would have been 71 this year. Read the rest of this entry »

This One Goes To Eleven.

11 11 2011

These hearts were woven of human joys and cares,
Washed marvellously with sorrow, swift to mirth.
The years had given them kindness. Dawn was theirs,
And sunset, and the colours of the earth.
These had seen movement, and heard music; known
Slumber and waking; loved; gone proudly friended;
Felt the quick stir of wonder; sat alone;
Touched flowers and furs and cheeks. All this is ended.

Rupert Brooke, 1914, Part IV; The Dead

Eleven. Exactly. One louder

Nigel Tufnel, Spinal Tap

Everyone in the world today will be able to experience a moment that only occurs once every one hundred years. A point in time when we will live through a perfect same-numbered palindrome. Blink and you will miss it.

At 11 minutes past 11 on the 11th day of the 11th month of 2011 , the time and date will be perfect, to the second. Six elevens…and it will last for slightly less time than Kim Kardashian’s last marriage.

Some of you will have already experienced it, I hope you enjoyed it and made the most of this second in your life. Read the rest of this entry »

Patriots Day; Local Celebrations that Don’t Rely on Chocolate

18 04 2011

The British are coming!

Today is Patriots Day.

A day for Americans to remember the first battles of the Revolutionary War against the British in 1775. A celebration of the determination shown by patriots such as Paul Revere and the sacrifices made at Lexington and Concord to ensure that the “shot heard around the world” was not an isolated incident.

We all know what happened after that. The British lost the war, slunk home, made themselves a nice cup of tea, invented cricket, started the Industrial Revolution and built an Empire on the other side of the world.

But this relatively important day is only observed in Massachusetts and Maine as a civic holiday, with schools getting the day off in Wisconsin. Reenactments will be taking place, there will be several Revere-related events and thousands of lunatics will be running 26 miles in Boston for no apparent reason.

I can only assume that, as we are now entering into a plethora of observant days, today is just another Monday in the rest of the country. Read the rest of this entry »

With The Beatles…A Royal Announcement

16 11 2010

Today was the moment that the world had been waiting for. For years the silence coming from one of the most famous institutions in the UK had been deafening.

We all wanted to know when it would happen, what was the delay and why it seemed to be taking so long. Millions of fans across the globe have been on tenterhooks, chewing their nails in frenzied appreciation.

This morning, the wait was finally over.

And then there were two...

The Beatles songs’ were available on iTunes. For those that didn’t want to  buy the re-released and repackaged catalog on the archaic format known as CD, they could now just download 200 songs in the comfort of their own home. The Fab Four have gone digital. Apple merged with Apple and the magical mystery tour was over.

Rock royalty, available (again) to the masses. Read the rest of this entry »

Falling in Love is not just Hard on the Knees

16 08 2010

There comes a time when you have to admit that individuals that you fell in love with are no longer making your heart beat faster. It’s even worse when you have actually given those individuals every chance to make things better.

I have experienced this loss on too many levels in my young(ish) life; my favorite football player being sacked as manager first of England and then my club, the misery of Star Wars:The Phantom Menace, ‘St.Anger by Metallica’, Jersey Girl, Alien Resurrection, Spiderman 3, John Lydon advertising butter/Iggy Pop endorsing car insurance, the England football team.

I could go on.

Every time that I look in the mirror......

But on Saturday night, one of the first rock bands that I listened to after my conversion from synth music, managed to firmly shut the door on any lingering hopes that I had.

Aerosmith @ Fenway Park, Boston. Read the rest of this entry »

Vinyl Love and the discovery of Lycra. A Musical Awakening.

29 03 2010

Spoiler Alert : Long Blog Ahead. Just give it a chance, its a subject that we should all think about. And its got Van Halen in it.

The ear favours no particular point of view. We are enveloped by sound. It forms a seamless web around us. We say music shall fill the air. We never say music shall fill a particular segment of the air.

Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is The Massage

It was Nietzsche who said that “without music, life would be an error” and in the twenty-first century our lives seem to be accompanied by a never ending soundtrack. If I think through significant moments in my life then music has been an intimate partner to the decisions I have made.

Granted there are many musical moments which, upon reflection, make me shudder rather than smile but generally when I hear music that has personal meaning, I am able to experience significant aural recall. Read the rest of this entry »