Music

Poem: iWish My Brain Was Like My iPod

iWish my brain was like my iPod,
Designed by Jonny Ive,
Everything stored in memory,
Keeping me alive,
iCould plug my brain in,
To sync with something new,
If it turned out not quite right,
I’d simply click Undo.
If my brain was like my iPod,
I could Pause and Play,
Skip to find the bits I like,
And let the rest just fade away.
If my brain was like my iPod,
All scuffed up and abused,
It surely is the off function,
That would be most often used.

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(WMB4X) Give Opinion a Chance

I like a good documentary as much, if not more than the next man. That’s one of the many reasons Netflix is so good lets be honest if you are perusing your local HMV a documentary blu-ray is hardly the most value for money. These are usually one watch affairs.

One documentary title available on Netflix is USA vs John Lennon. This documents the period where John Lennon and Yoko Ono staged a few bed-ins to promote the cause of world peace. Because of this activism the FBI held a file on Lennon as a “threat to National Security” they also tried to deport him. Of course in hindsight if they had been successful in that action he would have probably still been alive, as in 1980 when Lennon was shot dead gun culture in Liverpool was as rare as a parked car not up on bricks.

Watching this film got me thinking (as all good films should) Lennon was using his public persona to promote a cause which he believed in. He scared the authorities enough to use american tax payers cash to tap his phone and follow him. Although his personal exposure was raised by this action and record sales were not harmed, I believe this was not the primary purpose. It was always the cause that was forefront of Lennons mind.

Who have my generation got to speak out against the worlds wrongs? Well Bob Geldof yes. Bono?

Strange thing is about Bono. You never hear him going on about political causes when U2 don’t have a album out. As such everything he does has a rather self serving nature to it which de-values the charitable message.

Are they “my generation?” probably yes. But what of the current crop of starlets experiencing that space cadet glow. One Direction, Beiber et al. Nothing off message is aloud. Record company puppets not allowed so much as pube outta place let alone have a strong opinion about any cause. Non opinionated blandness sells. Look at Coldplay.

No opinion doesn’t offend any demographic so it maximises profit for the record company. Music since the beginning of our species has been an important tool of opinion and expression. This period in music is similar to the malaise that existed in the early 60’s America. Bland middle aged men singing songs written in a hit factory, about loving the girl next door and being polite to her Ma and Pa.

The Beatles and that man Lennon stepped off a plane and shook that all up, This generation needs a voice, someone to fill the vacuum. Someone to give a toss. Someone to give peace a chance.

 


Be sure to read the Resident Weebles WMB4X peace (geddit) today

Return of the Frantic Four: Status Quo, Wembley Arena 17/03/2013

As I mentioned in my previous post I was going to try and get tickets to see Status Quo, Reunion Tour. Boy am I glad I did.

I’ve been going to see Quo now for the best part of 15 years. This was my first time seeing the original line up. It was by far the best show I have seen. Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt seem to be energised by the return of the engine room of the band. Drums (John Coghlan) and Bass (Alan Lancaster)

Set List:

1. Junior’s Wailing
2. Backwater
3. Just Take Me
4. Is There a Better Way
5. In My Chair
6. Blue Eyed Lady
7. Little Lady
8. Most of the Time
9. (April), Spring, Summer and Wednesdays
10. Railroad
11. Oh Baby
12. Forty-Five Hundred Times
13. Rain
14. Big Fat Mama
15. Down Down
16. Roadhouse Blues

Encore:
17. Don’t Waste My Time
18. Bye Bye Johnny

If you know your Quo. That is an old school rip-snorting Rock set list, this was the original band. No keyboard distractions, no midsection of the gig where they play a few off the new album. This was a thank you to all those fans who have been following the band for even longer than I. No space for some of the more radio friendly songs here.

Quo “Oh yes, Rockin All Over the World, Right?”

Well yes, but this showed they are so much more. Musicianship, talent and a level of “good time” you don’t get anywhere else.

Quo_Rain

The support band for the evening do deserve a special mention. The Treatment, arrive to the stage accompanied by “Land of Hope and Glory” then proceed to announce every 80’s hair metal song in a mock American style. The lead singer seems to have chosen his stage persona by mixing David Lee Roth, 80’s Jon Bon Jovi, Sebastian Bach and Axl Rose up in a blender. Every song was preceded by a shrill “Come On!” as if he had his bollocks caught in the aforementioned kitchen device. Once you got over that, and accepted them for them. Not bad for support!

The atmosphere was superb once the Frantic Four hit the stage. Nuff and Spud (Lancaster and Coghlan) greeted like returning heroes, with the usually dominant vocals of Francis Rossi taking a back seat until In My Chair. Time flew by. This morning I ache, so it must have been good!!

Another special mention goes out to Barry, a guy who had travelled from Yorkshire to see the show. He was taken ill, shortly after the end of the gig. So we had to wait whilst he received treatment as he was in our row. This had a good outcome as Barry walked away and we were able to see the stage being taken down. Rockin and Techy. If you end up reading this Barry hope you are OK.

QUO_AfterShow

The gig I went to is available to purchase here as an Audio download and it will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray in September.

(28DW) Whatever You Want

Following on from The Resident Weebles great piece on musical preference I have a confession. Well I say that, but it shouldn’t be a confession. I should be proud, I am a fan of one of the most successful music acts in British history. However they are spoken of in hushed voices even in bone-fide music circles. This band have appeared more times on Top of the Pops (the once flagship BBC music show) than any other, they opened Live Aid in 1985, to a huge worldwide audience. They have had top ten UK singles and albums for the best part of 40 years. Their live shows are polished but have a uniquely raw quality. If they were American they would be held in high esteem, ala Aerosmith.

They are British. They are straight forward. They are Status Quo.

The frantic four, the original line up of the band, are touring this year for the first time in 30 years. I am waiting to hear back from Wembley box office to see if I have tickets. Fingers crossed. Francis Rossi, Rick Parfitt, Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan. Proprietors of unashamed foot to the floor blues based rock!

Now I like, Hendrix, Floyd and I have been even known to get the Led out. But I have a special place in my heart for Quo. They are my band, the first I saw live. Some may think that this devalues any musical opinion I hold. They are wrong. Francis Rossi once said “Our fans go and see other bands, AC/DC, Metallica, U2 but apparently they turn into wankers when they come to see us.” That is how Quo are viewed, rock lite.

Maybe this is because of the perceived simplicity of the songs the old joke that Quo only use three chords. A perception that Quo themselves parodied for the title of a recent album “In Search of the Fourth Chord” maybe it is also the band’s willingness not to take themselves too seriously that has led perception too. Yes there have been plenty of PR faux pas over the years, namely taking Radio 1 to court and the mid to late 1990’s cover album phase. 3 albums, (Don’t Stop, Riffs and Famous in the Last Century) all contained hardly any Quo penned songs.

All of Quo’s mid 70’s albums are classics. That should be spoken about in the same sentences as Led Zepellin vol 1 or even Pink Floyds Dark Side of the Moon. Instead they have become a guilty pleasure, mentioned along with cruise liner acts like Chesney Hawks. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the Quo are as musically intricate as Floyd, but like Floyd they are good at what they do, unlike Floyd they are still doing it.

Quo are the reason I have my hair long and my guitar (that I can’t play) is a Fender Tele (well the cheaper Mexican version.) Whilst they may frustrate me with the same set list tour after tour or the lack of willing to release acoustic material, maybe I am expecting too much. If you however want a band who you can go see and have a great time, with songs that even the most avid listener of 1xtra will know (almost by osmosis) Quo are your band. Hurry before they retire and leave space for another bland-o-band on their labels books.


Please check out the work of my 28DW Comrades at The Resident Weeble and A Piece of Pandemonium 

Trains, Delays and Ben Folds Plays: Bristol Academy 23/11/2012

Strange day. Strange decisions. If you have read my pieces about music before you will know I like to know details of the bands I like. I research musical influences, old stuff, new stuff, producers. I like Ben Folds. This like is strange for me because the interest was started by a Tim Minchin song lyric:

“He likes Ben Folds and the Jackson 5…” From Rock n Roll Nerd.

I got several albums. Liked those so when I heard he was touring small(ish) venues in England I thought it would be nice to see him. I knew of the Ben Folds Five, but had not researched in the slightest. In hindsight this was probably a bad idea, the first of many.

Mr Folds had decided to play in two viable venues for me. The Bristol O2 Academy or the Brixton Academy London. I’ve been to the latter before and hated it, so Bristol it was. Second bad idea. Around the time I booked the tickets I had been to the Bristol Hi-Fi show and travelled by train. So I thought it would be good to go by train for the gig. Third bad idea.

Due to a worrying waste of time meeting at work earlier in the week, the gig crept up on me. Train tickets not brought in advance, money! Floods in-between Reading and Bristol a concern. Also upon checking the timetables last train to Reading was due at 10:35pm meaning we would have to leave the gig early! Yet gig tickets were brought so we went for it. Half of our touring party wanted to visit Bristol Zoo so they left earlier than I.

Train from home to Bristol went fine. Was busy for a Friday afternoon but even managed to find a seat. The plan was to get the bus to the venue from the station. However I decided to use my Bus App which unhelpfully highlighted every Park and Ride only bus. So we walked, bewildered and slightly unsure of where we were headed, round in circles for the best part of 45 mins. My ankle shouting so many expletives at me even the local drunks off of Church Lane were embarrassed.

Halfway through our trek, losing hope of finding the venue. In the distance appeared a wondrous sight. My traveling companion and I thought it may have been a mirage. The glass fronted Brew Dog bar. My heart be still, my tired legs rejoice flavourful beer was in reach. We stepped inside the warm welcoming place, my glasses steaming up. We were guided through the choices of draft beers by knowledgeable and friendly staff. A good pint was had, I had very little time to realise that the place was filling up. This seemed like a good meeting point for our zoo visitor friends, so contact was made.

Upon our successful rendezvous we embarked on the second leg of the journey, to find the venue and collect tickets. Due to my sociable smoker friend, we had inside knowledge and found the venue in relative ease, tucked behind the Bristol Hippodrome. It looked like an industrial factory. Tickets collected we headed in with a few minutes to spare. The venue is standing only, so I had arranged seats (sounds silly that doesn’t it) up on a platform for our party. We we led through the bowels of the Academy to the platform. The security staff were again friendly. However this was my view of the stage.

Not good. The people in front of me were in wheelchairs, they had to kneel up in those chairs to see over the pictured metal bar. This had the offshoot of me only being able to see the bassist for 90% of the gig. As I am admirer of Ben Folds musical ability on the piano not being able to see this was a huge disappointment. The gig started slowly, with technical issues effecting the performance. My audiophile friend seemed to pick up that one of the speakers on the PA was blown, thus effecting the quality of the sound. That coupled with my lack of view and unfamiliarity with the work of the Ben Folds Five meant that this was not the best gig experience.

I have never been to a gig where I could hear so many people talking, for the first 5 or 6 songs there was a constant hum of conversation. Mid set the Five (surprised me that they are a 3 piece band) hit the speed and showed that they could indeed play, with loose form jams about toilets. However by this point my focus was on the clock.

I had it in my mind that I must leave at 9:50pm at the latest. To make sure we didn’t miss the poorly thought out last train home. Much to annoyance of my friends, we missed the encore. We found a taxi, and headed back to Bristol Temple Meads. Only to find out the train had been delayed. 22:35 became 22:50, 23:12, 23:20. We could have seen the 1st encore and the 2nd, 3rd and 4th. Damn it!

We sat in the cold. Discussing the merits of a Cheese and Chicken Tikka crepe. The train got later and later. My home town had never felt so welcoming. My bed seemed like the greatest place ever. As the expected arrival time of our train came closer we moved to the platform. Only for them to move it. At this point I was ready to kill anyone with even the vagest connection to the railway. Yes in my head I plotted to kill Thomas the Tank Engine. 23:40 train arrived. We boarded it and 10 mins later we were on the way home.

At some point in the journey, we were treated to a drunken American explaining the virtues of Mitt Romney to a follow passenger, at great volume and at great repetitive length. Also the train driver sounded on his announcements that he was either drunk or high!

Moral of the story. Never travel by train to see a band that you have very little clue about. Even if there is nice beer involved.

Poem: Obsession

My latest obsession,
Joining a long line,
Of not so many passing fads,
My obsessions tend to stick,
Merely lessen in intensity.
From Here (Obsession) to Eternity

She sings like a tainted Angel,
Fallen but not too far,
A delicate fragile power,
A real soul, backed but not manufactured,
In tune,
Not on autopilot.

Not a virtuoso,
But her public saxophone rings strong,
Girl and guitar minus whimsy,
Brings a bite to her melody,

She hangs in the charts,
Like a original masterpiece  in a gallery full of fakes,
A refreshing  beauty,
To warm the heart,
To truly embrace the song,
You must love the singer,
Is your love big enough?

Buy a modern musical masterpiece here

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday James Marshall Hendrix.
Anyone who is unaware of the work of Mr Hendrix please open up a new tab on your browser. Google or hell even Bing him. Go to You Tube educate yourself. If you like music, any music, from Rock to RnB, Soul to the long drawn out death rattle brought about by the terminal flatulence that is x-factor. All contemporary music will have in some way shape or form been influenced by him.

The “wild man” persona is what some people choose to see. Hard drugs and burning of guitars. Yet this Jimi himself didn’t like. He was a blues man, recording all that he could via a small tape recorder. He worked hard for a break, touring across America sometimes on a diet of day old donuts and left overs procured from local shop staff. LSD was present in jimi’s life, this was the 60’s he wasn’t Mr Clean. He did however play music from his heart. Experimenting with sounds, adapting equipment until it delivered the required acoustic quality. He had a love for the music.

Had he been alive today I can only surmise what he’d be doing. I would hope it wouldn’t be a ill advised concept album with Metallica. Some people have said he would have continued pushing our sonic boundaries. This is surely true but with the ever tighter grip of the music money men, I believe he would have grown weary of recording. Getting pleasure instead from jam nights in his soho blues club.

There is lots of hyperbole surrounding the artist deceased. It does nothing to detract from record sales. Take Jesus for example! No star is more deserving of this posthumous praise than Jimi, he changed the game. Sold more guitars for Fender than any amount of marketing could Happy Birthday from a world that produces banal uninteresting music, you are sadly missed.

Balls to iTunes

Last time I checked, quite a few folks owned iPod’s or devices that feature iPod functions, I am one of those folks. The very device I am using to write this bit enables me not only to listen to music but purchase it from iTunes should I so fancy. Over a million songs at my fingertips. Only thing stopping me is my bank balance.

iTunes is a very successful music store, just like HMV Amazon or Play.com. It is not a record label, it does not independently promote artists, albums or songs without record label say so. It is a shop, just as  Waterstones doesn’t pay authors directly for the sale of books iTunes or to be more correct Apple has no such requirement to pay the artists directly for the music it sells.

Thanks to iTunes more digital music now is being paid for than ever before. It along with the iPod was born out of a love for music. Napster the first music sharing application gave free music to the masses with artists and labels not seeing a bean. Steve Jobs and Apple struck a deal with the labels to ensure artists and labels got a fair deal from “new media” so why Pete Townsend once wanted to remove Steve Jobs’ testicles is unclear to me.

Pete Townshend guitarist from the The Who, who’s music is available via iTunes. Gave the inaugural John Peel lecture broadcast on BBC 6 Music. The full transcript of which is here. In it he seems as far as I can see to confuse the iTunes Store with a record company. He would like iTunes (as he calls it, rather than Apple, which again in my opinion is a display of his general ignorance) to do the following things:- (my opinions in green)

Item 1. Editorial guidance. A&R. Employ 20 A&R people from the dying record business. Have them respond to tracks sent in from new artists. If they feel the artists are bad, or aren’t ready, say so. But have them tell the truth, kindly and constructively. Guide them to other helpful resources, don’t just send them to the wolves of Blogland where it seems to me a lot of the vilest bile comes from people who could be drunk, or just nuts. A fledging musician at the start of a career is a delicate thing – even a rapper. (You’ll just have to take my word for that.) (Apple do already have back-room people assessing what’s hot, but they don’t have this kind of power. I’ll bet they’d love it. 20 John Peels inside Apple – imagine it).

Artists as far as I know do not submit music to iTunes. That would be the same as me turning up at my local HMV and asking them to stock it globally. Artists require a  intermediary such as a record label or at the very least a distributer such as CD Baby to provide the connection.

Oh I’m a blogger. I must be drunk.

Item 2. Financial support. Subsequently provide free computers with music software to 500 artists a year who the 20 A&R people feel merit it. Provide some basic training.

Basic Apple training is available for just £79 per year in store. This covers “projects” which would show people how to use Apple’s music products. Provide free computers? Musicians are not charity cases, why doesn’t Mr Townsend give free guitar lessons to 500 guitarists

Item 3. Creative Nurture. Follow the work of these 500 artists very carefully. Help where you can. Keep out of the way if necessary. 

Good idea, for the label, the producers.. the iTunes Store hmmm

Item 4. Manufacturing. (This should be called ‘posting’ today I suppose.) Provide a place on iTunes where these artists can share their music. It should be a like a local radio station. Yes Apple, give artists some streaming bandwidth. It will sting, but do it. You will get even more aluminum solid state LURVE for doing so.

Myspace have re-invented themselves doing this, the place where artists can share. As for streaming iTunes provides access to numerous internet radio stations. Some of which play unsigned bands.

Item 5. Publishing. Help artists protect their copyrights, don’t just exploit the loopholes of Grand Theft. This is a minefield today. The internet is destroying copyright as we know it. So they will lose the battle, but guide them to hang on to what they can. Otherwise they might only ever make one album.

iTunes as I stated has made legal digital music more common place than it ever was before. Since the abolition of DRM sales have sky rocketed benefiting the artists (and yes Apple)

Item 6. Marketing. Select a number of the artists on the free shared space local radio station and sell their work on iTunes with some helpful advertising within the Apple software machine. Show that you get behind them.

The music featured in iPod adverts has often gone on to be big hits. But the iTunes store is not a record label. It’s a shop!

Item 7. Distribution. Go further. License the best selling artists to other organisations (like record companies, bookshops and highstreet and Mall-based retailers for example) who are willing to make packages, goods you can hold in your hands and give for birthdays, Christmas and Diwali. Share revenue with Amazon. I’m not sure why that notion is so repellent to the Aluminums.

So Pete, and forgive me if I’m wrong. You want the biggest retailer of digital music in the world to sell CD’s? If you want CD’s you can go some place else, Apple won’t mind.

Item 8. Payment. Stop insisting on aggregators to deal with small artists (because you can’t be bothered with the expense of accounting for the numerous small amounts of money you’ve collected on their behalf) and pay direct. Why should an artist pay even more commission to an aggregator merely to get paid? (For the uninformed, an aggregator in the iTunes world is a company who stand between the artist and iTunes and thus prevent Apple having to deal with artists directly. Some of these aggregators provide some of the resources I’ve pleaded for above, but they are really just another form of punitive banking).

Pete, Apple is a company. They sell music, computers and electronic goods, they are not nor have they professed to be a music label or a talent scout. They do promote music with the iTunes festival but they are a place to buy music which has been signed.

Apparently if Apple do any one of these 8 things Mr Townshend will cut off a lovenut, whatever floats your boat Pete. Cutting one off will make a change from talking a load of them. But then I’m just a nutty drunk blogger.

Marketing Factor

Genius of Simon Cowell. Mogul behind and in front of the X-Factor, begins with the naming of the show.

The X factor, a factor which no-one can quantify. It’s just a little something extra (or X-tra, as Syco Productions would put it) So thousands of “hopefuls” every year queue for hours and hours to enter a competition which in theory has no criteria, as long as you have the X-factor you should go far. It’s predecessor in the UK “Pop Idol” has clearer aims from the outset, to create a pop idol. This premise will killed stone dead when Michelle McManus won, because she could sing, but a Pop Idol she was not.

,I hate to draw comparisons between Michelle McManus and Mama Cass, because Mama Cass had a much better voice and recording success but… both were larger ladies. Both could hold a tune. Both would not make it in todays pop chart because as Music Market men would say they have a “image problem” which is marketingspeak for “they are fat and ugly”

So with the fat and ugly tarnish on the “Idol” franchise in the UK, X factor was born. If the purpose of the competition is to find someone with the X-factor, this competition would be difficult if not impossible to judge. After all someone who can fart the national anthem has a certain X-factor but not one you could market and sell on iTunes. This problem is resolved because apparently you only can have the X-factor if you are singer, which sounds a lot more like the criteria for “Idol” hmmm.

It returned to Saturday nights last week with another refresh. New judges Gary Barlow, Kelly Rowland and Tulisa from N-Dubz (I’m assuming “from N-Dubz” is her last name) joined Irelands favourite son Lois Walsh. Walsh also appeared recently on BBC’s Top Gear program. Jeremy Clarkson quizzed him on his musical taste. Walsh is apparently a huge Led Zeppelin fan. Which begs the question why does he inflict the world with the likes of Westlife? Jeremy Clarkson to his credit asked this. Walsh replied, “Because the kids buy it” There is a market for making money in other words.

Why do the kids buy it? Well, they like the sound.. that’s an unfortunate given. But if you thought you were trapped in a room with only wallpaper to eat for the next 20 years, you might end up liking the taste of the wallpaper. I’ve written before about the saturation of “pop music” on UK radio in Sophie Rocks, so I don’t wanna bang on about that here.

Pop music is marketed to kids everywhere in the media. Disney push their artists Selena Gomez, Jonas Brothers et al in between programmes on The Disney Channel, Nick do similar things with Big Time Rush. Breeding familiarity, this works in a similar way to the success of the X-Factor artists. X-factor runs from August until December and whoever wins is guaranteed a hit single due to the mass exposure of Saturday night prime time TV. This success has for the most part tailed off when they are not on TV.

When these x-factor style programmes started I thought it was good. Wow the music industry is finally trying to find un-tapped talent, give exposure to someone who could take the world by storm. However what it actually is, is that the music industry know what they want long before the competition starts, they just want a puppet who they can mould to fit the market. Talent has nothing to do with it. The market is king.

If you are in marketing. Kill yourself.

Sophie Rocks

We have all had one of those work conversations that turn into semi-rants. After all work throws people together who often have nothing in common with each other. People whom without the common desire for money you would never meet. Some of those people you wish, quite simply, they would fuck off and die. Others you get on well with in spite of or maybe in part, because of the differences and the banter that comes out of gentle conflict!
The following is an except from an email that was the result of one of those conflicts.

It began a little like this: “Rock people are hostile and defensive when it comes to music”

My reply follows:

The reason why rock folk are a trifle harsh on mass market music lovers is a lot to do with airplay in the UK.

Pop music is force fed to anyone who wants to listen to the radio, take Reading, England as a locality.

We have:
Heart FM (a non-local, local radio franchise) Output, Chart music (excluding metal, rock)
Reading 107 (Local radio) Output, Chart music (excluding metal, rock) and chart stuff from 90’s,80’s
Kiss 100FM (depending on where you are in Reading) Output (Urban, Garage R&B)
CapitalFM, Chart music (excluding metal, rock)
Radio1 (National) Chart music (excluding metal, rock unless you stay up until 1am on a Friday, when there is “The Rock Show”)
Radio2 Middle of the road stuff
Radio3 Classical
Absolute Radio: Celebrities play Coldplay.

I have evidence for the exclusion of rock/metal:

Metallica’s most recent studio album went to Number 1 in the UK album chart. Airplay.. virtually zip
Gaga latest goes to number one.. played to death
X factor, goes to number one.. terminal saturation!!

Where is the space for balls out rock? No-where
No space for blues, motown, folk, country, electronica, anything pre-1960.. no-where. (Digital radio has two rock radio stations)
Yet we have 5 chart based choices. This doesn’t breed varied choice in music, there are so many good things (of all genres) that never get heard because of this. You say you don’t like rock, well that’s ok but Pink Floyd for example is extremely different from Aerosmith, who are different from Black Sabbath etc etc

Sorry it’s gone a little blog like this hasn’t it. I told you not to get me started on music. This by the way is in no way trying to sway you, but a window into my world of being bombarded with something you hate every single day!

Rock on!

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At the time of writing Sophie still has misinformed musical tastes, it is an affliction that is widespread. Fellow sufferers of Cowells Disease and the irish counterpart Walshism, need help. Please give generously.