Archive for January, 2009

JOHN MARTYN

30 January 2009

I know that some people just adore John Martyn‘s music.  He has a loyal fanbase indeed.  These fans would have been delighted that John just got awarded the honour of an OBE — but then everything is overshadowed by his death yesterday.

When I was growing up, John was just a neighbourhood character.  He was often seen out and about — at The Malletsheugh or Eglinton Arms Hotel. He had an absolutely dreadful reputation — but to be fair to the man he was, at the time, in the throes of a very messy divorce.  When I met him the most, he was not at his best!

For a start, I was not a fan of folk music back then, so I would never have bought any John & Beverley Martyn recordings.

But then I admired his strange guitar techniques — I mean to say,  this guy was deft with the special effects at the time — an acoustic through effects and a bizarre sort-of finger-plucking style to create a wall of trippy sound.  It was amazing to watch.  Yes, the man had talent.  I quite liked “One World” for that (although  I could not take the slurring vocal stylisations for long periods), but I also found that it was altogether too morose.  Martyn’s music was sad — and that is popular — through Pink Floyd down to the pop artists today — Radiohead and Coldplay and the like, sad stuff sells. Martyn’s pal, Nick Drake was also melancholy — and in fact died from an overdose of anti-depressants.  We are talking about seriously bleak and introspective music here!

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I remember that John Martyn had a cousin — called David Roy was a Marc Bolan look-alike, and he was pretty talented too — he played flute, guitar and sax in a middle-of-the-road lounge jazz band called  “The Arthur Trout Band”.  The twist was that it was “Gongy” — sort-of Steve Hillage meets Spyro Gyra. I think they played a couple of live gigs too — but let’s face it, there wasn’t much of a scene back then — very few places had live music. I think I remember them doing a gig at The Burn’s Howff as soon as it was legal (we all were fifth and sixth year school pupls).

The Trout’s bassist was a lovely chap called Neil Fairweather. Neil looked exactly like Neil from the Young Ones! At Eastwood High (which we all attended), there was an art teacher who made violins.

At that time, although there was a lot of DISCO and PUNK about, serious musicians were into Jaco Pastorius and his fretless bass playing with Joni Mitchell and Weather Report. Jaco had removed the frets using pliers.  The sound was new and wonderful — it even filtered down to pop music, such as Paul Young’s “Wherever I Hang My Hat” and Kate Bush’s “Babooshka”.  I think it was Brit John Giblin who played the fretless, sliding, bass lines for Kate Bush.

Anyway back at the art department at Eastwood High, the teacher, myself, and Neil Fairweather, carefully removed all the frets from Neil’s Gretsch semi-acoustic bass with great success.  Neil was an absolutely brilliant bass player — and could do all the Jaco style runs, slides and chords for The Arthur Trout Band. I think his brother had composed an Eurovision Song and was working as a composer/ arranger or session musician back then, so Neil was from good musical stock.

John Martyn actually used John Giblin (from Kate Bush) as bassist on “Grace and Danger“, and needed someone good enough to handle the fretless parts for a promotional tour.  He naturally thought of his nephew’s band and Neil Fairweather, and left a tape with David Roy.

As I remember it, the guitarist of their band, Alan Thomson (who was a brilliant lead guitarist/ shredder),  learned the bass part from the tape and was hired instead of Neil to begin a long career as a working musician. I thought it quite sad that Alan seemed to have dropped his “own” or “real” band — his friends, Tim Britten, Dave Roy, Neil Fairweather and Jim Prime.

But I think Neil got the better deal, for John Martyn was infamously difficult to work with at that time.  After years with Island Records, John Martyn was without a deal.  He said himself that this was the lowest period of his entire life!

Eventually, John signed with WEA and recorded “Glorious Fool” with young Alan Thomson, Phil Collins and Eric Clapton — I know this entirely because of gossip and chat, rather than through hearing any of the songs.

I have always felt sorry for Alan Thomson, it can’t have been a very nice experience for such a young guy. Martyn was “Old School” — heck, even though he was around the 30 year mark, my Dad was one of his drinking buddies — and you cannot get more old school than that!  Heavy drinking, drugs, bad diet, years on the B roads, struggling to make it famous.  I only know that I couldn’t do it.

In fact, when I was faced with signing up with a record label, I ran a mile in the opposite direction, and it was almost entirely down to what I saw happen to Alan with John Martyn.

But that was a great many years ago.

I saw part of an interview on TV with John Martyn a couple of years ago, and he seemed a lot nicer — wiser too.  He didn’t exactly look a picture of health, but hey, he’d had his leg amputated and was still doing pub gigs from a wheelchair! But, somehow,  I could relate to his outlook, sure he was still a “character” in the old-school grumpy cantankerous style, but had somehow mellowed into a lovable colourful auld rogue.

It has been at least a decade since I bumped into Alan Thomson. He had moved back to East Renfrewshire — Giffnock, I think — and was renovating antiques between jobs as a bass player.  He had married and spoke of his wee girl.  He seemed happy and had matured a lot.

It was just a brief chat in the queue at a filling station, but as I drove away, I felt good.  Meeting Alan had cheered me up no-end.  I had lost so many friends around that time (quite a few to drugs), so I was elated that he was OK, that it worked out for him, that he was not-just-alive — but that he had married and had his own wee family. He at least made it through to the other side!

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JUSTIN CURRIE

21 January 2009

I used to bump into Justin and the rest of Del Amitri from time to time over the years; that’s Glasgow for ye.  I have to say though that I do not know them really well, nor have I played with them either, but that is not going to stop me from stating that they are a superb band full of superbly talented and nice guys!

It’s mainly down to the vocals and song writing ability of Justin Currie — here he is in the back room his flat on Byres Road in the West End:

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Isn’t that just sublime? That is just quality. Pure quality.

He did that song in the Abbey Road Session thing for TV — it’s also on Youtube.

Del Amitri songs are so good because they can be played on a battered old acoustic at beer-soaked Hogmanay parties or on hot summer nights by the beach.  People sing along — they are catchy, memorable, and get all mixed up in memories and interwoven into the threads of life.

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Justin is one of those singers that makes people want to sing.  Yeah, sure, he has a terrible reputation (although I have always found him fair and square, personally), and there are always rumours about friction with the other members of the band — but I have to say that I have seen worse, and that it actually adds a chemistry that can (if managed properly)  create wonderful music!

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MASH UP LOVE

14 January 2009

Yes. I think mash-ups are funny. Especially the weirdest mixes — such as The Ting Tings and Austin Powers! LOL!

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Isn’t THAT just mental!  — I laughed for ages.  Superb.

A good site for mash up music is mashup-charts.com – check them out! Obviously the best ones would be where the songs are in the same key and same beats-per-minute.

I came across Jaydiohead’s (Fresh Minty Beats) mashups of Radiohead and Jay-Z and was really impressed — this is what mash ups are really about — seeing the relationships and creating something entirely new from the finished work of others.  This rocks. Truly. Go to their website and download the whole album , for example from thepiratebay — or else listen at Myspace or Facebook. The links are all there.

OK, it is probably illegal or infringing some firm’s digital rights or copyright or something, but it need supported!

Look at this one — I mean, who thought up mashing Russian lesbo Rock Chicks, Tatu, with US Punkers, Greenday?  That’s almost genius… checkout:

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Then there are those ones, like Katy Perry’s “I kissed a girl” mash up with Kylie’s “In My Arms”.

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This is real, this is fun, this is art – dammit!LOL.

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KEITH JARRETT

6 January 2009

Keith Jarrett played a concert in Koln on 24 January 1975.  It was just him and a piano, and he just made it all up on the spot.

Fortunately, this concert was recorded and released.

I have always adored this album.  It’s just a piano, but it’s far more, man.

For a start, he makes mistakes.  Then he makes all sorts of bizarre noises as he plays.  I guess that is why some people don’t like it.  But to anyone who play music — especially to people who improvise live — this is a landmark work of art!

It is astounding, then beautiful, then addictive — the soundtrack to autumn, or winter, or summer picnics, or study or commuting to work, or backpacking, or…

I was reminded of this album, long after I stopped playing LPs on turntables, by my pal, Big Mike.  Big Mike copied his CD for me twice.  I think he wanted to make sure I got it!

I turned it into an MP3, and it has been copied to my phone and MP3 player etc.

My wife got into it too.

One evening last year, we thought we’d look Keith up on youtube — and it seems that the man is also weird physically — that it’s not just noises he makes, but he strikes serious poses and attitudes while playing!  This is superb!  What expression — here is Keith Jarrett playing Londonderry Air (the tune behind the most popular version of Danny Boy):

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Isn’t that just superb?

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THE WONDER GIRLS

4 January 2009

You have to check this out! It’s Pop — BUT it’s got Rap… BUT  the rap is in Korean… BUT the rappers are young girls… BUT it’s a girl band… BUT it’s not bad!

Here’s what happened… I kept coming across “hawt posts” and stats stuff about some chick called HyunA who was making a “comeback” as part of a new girl group this February. This was creating a great stir and fuss, such that I couldn’t avoid it, so I had to have a peek…

OK so here’s the deal: As you may well have sussed, business is business the world over, and in South Korea, Cube Entertainment (a subsidiary company of JYP Entertainment) are BIG BUSINESS — major Asian acts such as “Mario”, “2AM” and “The Wonder Girls” are signed to Cube/ JYP.  Pay attention, because if you look at the youtube clips you will spot adverts and references.

So far we know that Hyuna was in a massive girl band called “The Wonder Girls” (Sunye, Ye-eun, Sunmi, Sohee, and Hyuna — aged from 15 to 18), but their work schedule was too hectic, and she got sick and was replaced by a girl called Yubin… but as we all now know, Hyuna’s coming back with a new girl band.

Well, to start you off on “The Wonder Girls” phenomenon, here’s a rather cheeky wee track I like called “So Hot“:

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Cute song, and credit where credit is due — they are a good girl band; they are all singers and dancers, and good-lookers too, but the twist is that they manage to sing and rap in two languages while dancing about.

It turns out their début track was “Irony” (back in Feb 2007), and there is some fuss involved because the recording has the original rap by Hyuna, but the TV shows and live performances have Yubin’s rap instead. This single was a massive hit and reached number one in Korean charts.

A second fuss is that the wee dance routine created for the song “Tell me” became like a dance virus!  Fans began doing it, and it’s even in computer games and youtube responses (check it out!). Since then, all of their dance routines have been heavily imitated — they must be very addictive!

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By the way, “Tell Me” has the rap by Yubin, but here’s  the band singing “Irony” live with Hyuna rapping on the bridge:

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The actual promotional video for this is:

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Apart from playing some gigs in other countries (including even the USA), “The Wonder Girls” are just about to launch their own make-up line, consisting of 6 different “Wonder” products, and a reality show called “Wonder Bakery”, in which the girls will pair up with aspiring chefs competing to win a cash prize. Seriously. It was also revealed that “The Wonder Girls” have already made 6.23 Million quid as a group!

Yes.  There is a whole big wide world out there! Goodness!

OK, so what am I doing watching very young Korean girls prancing about — amd I having a mid-life crisis or something??? (Ha; too late for that!).

The thing is that I am a daddy; I have a wee girl myself, and I like to encourage her by showing her girls (of all ages) singing, dancing, running, playing music, being good, being successful — role models if you like.

I have no problem showing her “The Wonder Girls” — after a LOT of very embarrassing incidents with Beyoncé, Girls Aloud, Christina — and especially Britney! Gawd, have you seen the video for “Toxic” or “Womanizer”? This material is far too old/ lewd.

At least there’s still the old stuff — Spice Girls, S Club 7, and maybe the Sugababes, but O what a gap in the UK market.  The Koreans know how to serve that sector and make everybody happy.

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