Archive for the 'Music' Category

GARY MOORE

28 December 2012

[Black and white photo of Gary Moore with Les Paul Guitar]I AM SLOW ON THE UPTAKE SOMETIMES.

I just discovered that Gary Moore is dead. It’s nearly Christmas 2012, and he died at the beginning of 2011, and I  have just found out. Why is this stuff not in the news instead of the same old economy, politics and Islamic nonsense every day?

This stuff matters.

Did I know Gary?  No, but I have seen him live in concert, and I have met him a few times over the years in “interesting” circumstances. This does not constitute “knowing” him as such, but it’s better than nothing at all, and it’s all I have.

Gary was the generation one-up from mine. He was slightly older. I guess it started with the Thin Lizzy thing. A lad in the year above me at school joined Thin Lizzy because of Gary’s sudden departure one day. Yep. This actually happened. The Planets aligned, and Brian Robertson just out of Eastwood High was thrust into fame and (hopefully) fortune replacing Gary Moore in Thin Lizzy. Brian was on the radio and everything — he even started speaking with an American accent.

Brian was a smashing blues and rock guitarist. Typical lead guitar stuff; good at poncing about, good at poses, apparently guzzling a bottle of whisky and smoking cigarettes (which were lighted and then wedged into the guitar’s headstock between the strings and the machine heads).

But Gary Moore was exceptional.

Because of Brian, we listened to Thin Lizzy — and so heard (and appreciated) Gary’s work). It was all cool, and then one day in a record shop basement in Bournemouth in July 1977, I heard Colisseum II.

It was blasted through the shop’s loudspeakers. I hovered about until I’d heard the entire album (Electric Savage) – I bought it and was amazed to find that the guitar was Gary Moore!

This was not rock, nor blues. This was Jazzy fusion stuff – and live (more or less). This band elevated Gary Moore from the ranks of pretty-good guitar soloists, to a guitar star.

[Embedded Videoclip from Youtube of ColisseumII – Inquisition]

Gary had a great voice too, and was fast on the solos, but I have always had a soft spot for his licks, his timing, phrasing and inventiveness set him apart. His musicality lifted him to another level.

I have a few of his albums, and would certainly have made an effort to see him live again.  I am sad to hear of his death, but sadder for having the feeling that he had in him the capacity for more brilliant music. His death really does mean we’re missing out.

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WILLIAM S BURROUGHS

26 June 2012

Burroughs“People often ask me if I have any words of advice for young people.
Well here are a few simple admonitions for young and old.

Never interfere in a boy-and-girl fight.

Beware of whores who say they don’t want money.
The hell they don’t.
What they mean is they want more money. Much more.

If you’re doing business with a religious son-of-a-bitch,
Get it in writing.
His word isn’t worth shit.
Not with the good lord telling him how to fuck you on the deal.

Avoid fuck-ups.
We all know the type.
Anything they have anything to do with,
No matter how good it sounds,
Turns into a disaster.

Do not offer sympathy to the mentally ill.
Tell them firmly:
I am not paid to listen to this drivel.
You are a terminal boob.

Now some of you may encounter the Devil’s Bargain,
If you get that far.

Any old soul is worth saving,
At least to a priest,
But not every soul is worth buying.
So you can take the offer as a compliment.
He tries the easy ones first.
You know like money,
All the money there is.
But who wants to be the richest guy in some cemetary?
Money won’t buy.
Not much left to spend it on, eh gramps?

Getting too old to cut the mustard.
Well time hits the hardest blows.
Especially below the belt.
How’s a young body grab you?
Like three card monte, like pea under the shell,
Now you see it, now you don’t.
Haven’t you forgotten something, gramps?
In order to feel something,
You’ve got to be there.
You have to be eighteen.
You’re not eighteen.
You are seventy-eight.
Old fool sold his soul for a strap-on.

Well they always try the easiest ones first.
How about an honorable bargain?
You always wanted to be a doctor,
Well now’s your chance.
Why don’t you become a great healer
And benefit humanity?
What’s wrong with that?
Just about everything.

Just about everything.
There are no honorable bargains
Involving exchange
Of qualitative merchandise
Like souls
For quantitative merchandise
Like time and money.

So piss off Satan
And don’t take me for dumber than I look.

An old junk pusher told me –
Watch whose money you pick up.”

— William S. Burroughs, Words of Advice for Young People

I enjoyed that the first time I read it way, way, back.  I had a friend who could quote Burroughs at length (which I admired), but who did so in a terrible mock-Burroughs accent (which I did not admire at all).

Graham (the friend in this matter), gave me a cassette tape of Burroughs’s. Actually, before he gave me the tape, he played the Mildred Pierce track and spoke over it, word-for-word, perfect inflection. I quite liked the jazzy stuff and took it anyway. Spare-Ass Annie and Other Tales has been a firm favourite ever since.

Yes, Burroughs is an acquired taste, Sardonic wit always is, but the effort is rewarding; he is different. That alone is something. He has his own mind, he speaks casually, yet it is clear that everything he says is considered, and much of his word choices are for shock or another effect to trigger a response, and reveal the reality of the situation.

In that Burroughs has been a BIG influence on me, unfortunately, however, I do not always get offered the same benefit of the doubt, and have often been accused of triteness and over-simplification — and even of being carelessly unfeeling. But then we live in a dumbed-down society, what can ya do?

I have found the lyrics to Mildred Pierce through the wonders of the search engine, here they are for your serious consideration, note the adjectives, the pace and rhythm, and the tone. I swear you can hear Burroughs’s voice even if you have never heard the track…

‘Mildred Pierce reporting:
I was there. I saw it. I saw women thrown down on Fifth Avenue and raped in their mink coats by blacks and whites and yellows while street urchins stripped the rings from their fingers. A young officer stood nearby. “Aren’t you going to do something?” I demanded.

He looked at me and yawned.

I found Colonel Bradshaw bivouacking at the Ritz. I told him bluntly what was going on. His eyes glinted shamelessly as he said, “Well, you have to take a broad general view of things.”

And that’s what I have been doing. Taking a broad general view of American troops raping and murdering helpless civilians while American officers stand around and yawn.

“Been at it a long time, lady. It’s the old army game from here to eternity.”

This license was dictated by considerations taken into account by prudent commanders throughout history. It pays to pay the boys off. Even the noble Brutus did it…

Points with his left hand in catatonic limestone.

“The town is yours soldiers brave.”

Tacitus describes a typical scene… “If a woman or a good looking boy fell into their hands they were torn to pieces in the struggle for possession and the survivors were left to cut each others’ throats.”

“Well, there’s no need to be that messy. Why waste a good-looking boy? Mother loving American Army run by old women, many of them religious, my God; hanging Amercian soldiers for raping and murdering civilians…”

Old Sarge bellows from here to eternity.

“WHAT THE BLOODY FUCKING HELL ARE CIVILIANS FOR?

SOLDIERS’ PAY.”‘

Burroughs is communicating beyond writing, and this is, to me, the perfect way to get it across.Both Mildred Pierce and Advice are on the Spare-Ass Annie and Other Tales album. Enjoy.

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QUEEN

21 January 2012

[Queen Logo designed by Freddie Mercury]You know, we are all subjected to revisionism in history and manipulation by the media, it’s part and parcel of this brave new world of 24 hour internet, TV and radio.

The odd thing about Queen is that they are never far away. I can honestly say that almost every day I will hear a Queen track somewhere, sometime — and yet this band is  never recognised properly.  It’s a puzzle actually.

It is impossible, for example to speak out against The Beatles (or any of their former members); they are considered sacrosanct.  It has become a religious truth that The Beatles are the best, most successful, most loved band ever in the history of everything. We are always hearing about how they have done everything, won everything and hold the record in everything. And yet I can go for months, if not years, without hearing a Beatles song on TV or radio.

It’s all very odd; by contrast, Queen are not held in the same reverence as The Beatles or [insert favourite  artiste here].  But why are they not revered? I say that they ought to be — and probably moreso than (dare I say it), The Beatles.

For the record, I bought the first Queen album early on.  I cannot claim to have fanatically bought all their albums, or even to have gone to see them in concert, so I’m not a fan per se.  However, I have to stand up and say that Queen are undervalued and under-rated — even by me. I ought to have gone to see them live, but I’ve well-and-truly missed that boat, and, believe me, I regret that a great deal.

OK, so what is the deal with Queen? Well, let’s look at this strange band.  Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon formed the band in the year that The Beatles disbanded, 1970.

Everyone knows that The Rolling Stones played songs by Jagger & Richard, and that The Beatles played Lennon & McCartney songs. Queen were different; they are the only group in which every member has composed more than one chart-topping single — all four members of Queen were inducted into The Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003.

[Famous Queen image - underlit group]Who hasn’t heard of Bohemian Rhapsody? What an impact that song has had!  The video for it, the length of the song, the musicality and scope — all unprecedented. The song has been parodied to death, but it remains so well loved. It is a classic moment in the movie Wayne’s World. This song was voted The UK’s favourite hit of all time in a poll conducted by The Guinness World Records British Hit Singles in 2002, and two years later it was inducted into The Grammy Hall of Fame.

Queen defined stadium rock —  live rock gigs on a huge scale — they didn’t just play at the audience, the audience played a special part — We Will Rock You, and Radio Ga Ga are inspirational in that respect.  A music industry poll ranked Queen’s performance at Live Aid in 1985 as The Best Live Act in History.

But it’s not just live that Queen excelled, there is a very real legacy in tv aderts, in movies, in background muzak, in all sorts of things and in all sorts of ways. For example, in sporting events, Queen are always present with hits like Another One Bites The Dust, We Are The Champions, Don’t Stop Me Now and We Will Rock You. I honestly cannot imagine any competition of any kind where Queen was not involved in some way — these songs capture the emotion perfectly. We Are The Champions was voted The World’s Favourite Song in a global music poll.

[Statue of Freddie Mercury overlooking Lake Geneva]We Are the Champions and We Will Rock You were inducted into The Grammy Hall of Fame. Queen have been inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and were awarded a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame and on the Rockwalk in LA.There are even statues to Freddie Mercury, most notably overlooking Lake Geneva in Montreux.

Queen have sold a shedload of records over the years as well. The Guinness Book of World Records, stated in 2005 that Queen albums have spent a total of 1322 weeks (twenty-six years) on the UK Album Charts — more time than any other, and since 2006, The Greatest Hits album was the All-Time Best-Selling Album in UK Chart history, with sales over 5.4 million copies. Not only that, but their Greatest Hits II album is the eighth best seller, with sales nearly 4 million!  Some estimates have Queen selling over 300 million records worldwide.

Queen have had a total of 18 number one albums, 18 number one singles, and 10 number one DVDs worldwide.

The are ranked highly in almost every possible list by viewers, listeners, music critics, television channels, polls. Not just the band, but each member individually is recognised as a songwriter or master of their instrument — and all are considered brilliant vocalists.

But it doesn’t stop there; there was a musical called We Will Rock You,  by Ben Elton, Brian May and Roger Taylor, which was produced by Robert De Niro, and has proved to be a record-breaking worldwide hit musical.  There’s even a ballet by Sean Bovim, and a computer game called Queen: The eYe, and they have regularly featured in Guitar Hero and Rockband games and even Karaoke software (Singstar).

The band did the soundtrack for the film, Flash! Featuring their hit, Who Wants To Live Forever?

Their songs are so well-know, yet so varied: Fat Bottomed Girls, The Show Must Go On, Who Wants to Live Forever?, A Kind of Magic, Princes of the Universe, Hammer to Fall, I Want to Break Free, Under Pressure (with David Bowie), Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Bicycle Race, Tie Your Mother Down, Somebody to Love, You’re my Best Friend, Love of My Life, The Prophet’s Song, Seven Seas of Rye, Killer Queen, Keep Yourself Alive, I Want It All, I’m Going Slightly Mad, One Vision, and dozens more.

The odd thing about Queen was that they managed to be heavy metal at the beginning — despite being called Queen and having an outrageously gay front man.  They were forgiven everything for being extremely talented — Freddie’s vocals were in no way run-of-the-mill, he even did a duet with an Opera Diva (Barcelona) — the man could sing. Deacon’s bass lines are just legendary, not merely the obvious ones like Under Pressure, Another One Bites The Dust, but pick a Queen song at random, and you will find a real treat.  Taylor’s extremely high vocal and jazz-class drumming have transformed every single song, and is signature for the band’s sound — along with Brian May’s unique guitar sound and virtuoso playing.

May was — for me– even more brilliant for the intrigue, the air of wonder that he played with an old British sixpenny piece, that his dad made his guitar, Red Special.  This was in no way a band that was cashing in or following any trends or jumping on any bandwagons.  This is probably why they were left alone by the Punks in the ’70s — they were authentic, they were nothing but themselves doing their own thing — and that is perhaps their greatest legacy — the inspiration to create without limitation by manifesto.

Annoyingly, they seemed to do all this effortlessly.  They were self-deprecating, they took the mickey out of themselves. This is so definitively British, that I would hazard to say that there is no more British a band as Queen.

Rhythms, tempo changes, key changes, riffs, melody, harmony, simplicity and complexity — Queen have it all. Originally they shunned synthesisers and sequencers, and relied on overdubbing and production techniques.  They evolved as a band, they grew, and they set the bar. High.

They have been a part of the soundtrack to all our lives since 1972, they have sold, won and done everything. I cannot think of a band that balanced just so — they were bad boys, drinkers and drug-takers, they partied hard, yet everyone loved them. They were respected by hardcore drummers and singers, bassists and guitarists, yet they dressed as women in their promos and Mercury was overtly over the top flamboyantly gay. Genius stuff.

On a personal note, one of the maddest nights I have had was in the Scottish Border town of Annan a decade or more ago, when all the local men in the town dressed up as Freddie Mercury in white vests and false moustaches, to a man carrying floor brooms as mic stands, striking Mercury poses and postures for a charity night at some pub or other.  I had to wipe the tears from my eyes from laughing so hard.

So thus ends my tribute to Queen, unique and mad and very, very, British. The biggest influence on popular music and production anyone could imagine!

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HINDI ZAHRA

21 December 2011

[Picture of Handmade Album cover art ]Handmade is the album I’ve been getting into lately. It’s by French-Moroccan singer, Hindi Zahra, and it’s really good.  Don’t fret; she sings in English most of the time. This album has sold very well in France, Belgium and Sweden, but it has not been marketed here in the UK for some reason.

I find that rather annoying; I really think she’d do well — and what a relief to have something else on the car radio for a change.

From the reviews I’ve read, she’s really good live.  She is a good song-writer and self-taught multi-instrumentalist. She lives in Paris, so she’s pretty cool all-round.

[Picture of Hindi Zahra]Last year it won the Prix Constantin for Best Album, and earlier this year it won the Victoires de la Musique award for the best World music album.

She sings in D major and its relative minor key, B minor as her default key.  Kiss & Thrills and Stand Up are in A minor, and Music (which reminds me of Blur’s Boys who like Girls who like Boys in terms of chord progression) is in G major.

Probably my favourite (apart from Music, is Set Me Free — which is a weird sort of Bluegrass thing. She could easily duet with Richard Hawley on Don’t Forget — or it could be covered by Norah or Corinne; it’s THAT laid-back!

The album works on levels — I have grown fond of the album as background to work or even dinner parties — but as soon as I put on headphones, I experienced all the little twists and nuances she’s put in.

It’s deeper than it at first seems — and she manages to blend Frenchness with Moroccanness, touches of reggae, funk, African, it’s hard to describe, but it is NOT hard to get into; at the end of the day it is pop. Only GOOD pop — not Eurovision and not the crap we’re told to buy here in the UK just now.

Links:

Why not check her out and maybe treat someone to the album for a Christmas gift this year? You can buy it Here.

[Embedded video from Youtube.com of Stand Up by Hindi Zahra]

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DURAN DURAN

25 July 2011

[Nagel's artwork for Duran Duran's Rio]Duran Duran are known as an ’80s band.  In fact, they are probably the first ’80s band — and the first band of the modern era.

To us, the seventies were done, and the 1980s were about doing something with all this new stuff, the stuff that had burst forth during the ’70s. Duran Duran caught that wave.  They seemed to have grabbed handfuls of  ’70’s artistic creativity and moulded something unique for themselves.

They seemed happy to use the new synthesisers and sequencers, big drum sounds, guitar effects, fretless bass slides, and typical ’80s stereo noise effects — and in that respect they fitted right in with the period and the likes of Paul Young, Nik Kershaw, Grace Jones, Paul Simon, Robert Palmer, and loads more — however, they wrote some good songs that were big hits around the world and which still stand the test of time.

They got Patrick Nagel to do their album cover for “Rio”, this was a throw-back to progressive rock bands being associated with artists — for example, Woodroffe, Rick Griffin, Mouse and Roger Dean. The choice of Nagel was interesting also because Nagel was closely associated with Playboy Magazine – and Duran Duran were promoted into the USA through Playboy. Nice twist.

Their big intro was “Girls on Film” — that set the dangerous / sexy tone.  Madonna was Lesbo-dominatrix, Frankie Goes To Hollywood were gay, so Duran Duran were the heterosexual male balance. It tied in nicely with Playboy clubs and TV station, and got them the initial media scandal they needed to get on.

[Embedded video from Youtube of Girls of Film by Duran Duran]

Although they rode in on the UK New Romantic wave, that was quickly lost when they started to gear up for world domination. They changed to the epitome 1980’s male fashion statement — the suit and pastel colours.  This was generated by Miami Vice, and taken up by Playboy and the wave of new male magazines starting up (Maxim, and the refurbished GQ (Gentlesmen’s Quarterly), and revamped Esquire).

There was a mood for male grooming and male fashion that Duran Duran tapped into.

They were a real (some say the first) “Boy Band”, in that every one was a pin-up for young teen girls. There was a David Bowie style androgynous-ness  with the dyed hair, sharp cuts, jewellery and the use of make-up.

Their artistic credentials were sealed when they got approval from art legend, Andy Warhol. I remember thinking that Duran Duran were everywhere, doing everything with everybody – and (annoyingly) enjoying themselves.

At that time in the UK, ordinary people began buying shares (British Gas etc) as Thatcher sold off the socialist Nationalised industries.  There was a feeling in general of prosperity and selfishness — the personal computer, the personal number plate, the personal mobile phone and so forth.  On the new Channel Four,  Harry Enfield’s character “Loadsamoney” was seen each week boasting about his wealth. Duran Duran seemed to arrive already rich and successful!

The video for Rio had them larking about on a yacht.  This was Miami Vice, this was Wham, this was Playboy. This was aspirational marketing.

[Embedded video from Youtube of Rio by Duran Duran]

Duran Duran then clicked at just the right time with the music television take-off, MTV, and both went into the stratosphere.

To cap it all, the band were also closely associated with fashion designers, and the rise of the “supermodel”. They were on mark in the same way and at the same time as Basquiat and Haring, doing a lot of the same things as Madonna and Malcolm Mclaren. They were sharp, savvy, and not ashamed of it. Duran Duran were a luxury brand.

But they went further — they did a Bond film theme (A View to a Kill) — and it was massive (the only James Bond theme to go to number one in the USA)

The band was said to be the favourite band of Lady Di/ Princess Diana — the world’s most famous woman at that time, so they were in with serious royalty on top of everything else!

What Duran Duran did not do well was adapt and change; they were too closely defined despite their broad media range — it was all flashy, sexy, sunny, stuff — young, good-looks,  fame and fortune.  Just where does one go from there?

The nearest they came was when their singer, Simon LeBon participated in Live Aid.

In the end, Simon LeBon and Nick Rhodes went off on a project called Arcadia, while Andy Taylor and John Taylor joined up with Tony Thompson and Robert Palmer to form The Power Station. I have to say that I quite liked The  Power Station as well as Arcardia’s “Election Day”, and was disappointed when nothing came of these bands.

Duran Duran are loved and hated in equal measure. They could only possibly exist for a short period, they shone brightly while they did, and they absolutely defined an historical cultural period like no other group of people before or since.

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DEVINE

11 July 2011

[Picture of Jean-Paul Bataille playing acoustic guitar]I thought I would share this little guitar study with you.  I came across it simply because it is has my surname as a title, “devine”.

It is by Jean-Paul Bataille, and is a bouncy dropped-G tuning swing study Enjoy!

I cannot seem to embed the video, so the link is www.guitar-tube.com/watch/jean-paul-bataille-devine

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BASQUIAT STRINGS

22 May 2011

[Picture of Basquait Strings' album sleeve]This self-named album from Cellist Ben Davis is sublime.  Basquiat Strings came out in 2007, but its quite new to me, despite loving Seb Rochford‘s stuff (Polar Bear, etc), and seeing the Mercury Nomination performance back when.

The Basquiat Strings are an innovative hybrid of classical string quartet (two violins, viola and cello) and a jazz rhythm section (double bass and drums), and with composer Ben Davis, comprises Emma Smith, Vicky Fifield, Jennymay Logan, Richard Pryce and Seb Rochford.

[Picture of the band line up for basquiat Strings]I am struck at times with how King Crimson Starless & Bible Black it can be. Other times, I can get a Jean-Luc Ponty feel — which is forgiveable to the point of being a compliment.

Read reviews and listen to previews here at Amazon. Folk have mentioned Surfjan Stevens and even Sigur Rós!

It ranges from trippy to dreamy, to driving along apace with a light heart and a slight trance.  Wonderful stuff. Remarkable that it manages to sit so well into several seriously complicated genres. Expect pizzicato, but also expect very yiddish violin moods too.

The whole album is  a well conceived and constructed project worthy of any collection. It will expand your mind!

Ben Davis has a website — www.bendavis.info They’re on Myspace too.

I like it because it takes me back in memory to my prog rock days — King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd — and the other strands, such as Bruford, UK, and even Jethro Tull and Gentle Giant.  But then, I like odd time signatures, key changes, long instrumentals and the creation of a really cool aural environment — a mood, a different vibe.

[Embedded video of Double Dares by Basquiat Strings at Mercury Prize 2007 on YouTube]

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BON IVER

15 May 2011

[Picture of Justin Vernon, Bon Iver]I love harmonies, and I love originality and musicality in bands. BON IVER have all this and more.  In some ways they are complex, (arrangements, harmonies), in other ways they are simple (acoustic, voice, simple lyrics).  I would recommend them because they have made 2011 for me.

So let’s turn to the helpful links and things that all worked at the time of posting this here…

Once you have found out How to Pronounce Bon Iver, you can check out videos on YouTube.  I came across BON IVER through the excellent French program “A Take Away Show” doing a live and on-the-move version of  “For Emma, Forever Ago”. Here’s a link.

[Embedded Video clip from YouTube A Take Away Show Bon Iver’s For Emma]

If you watched that clip, you would have to admit that Justin is very talented indeed, I just cannot understand the reaction of the American tourists in Montmartre. Bizarre!

[Picture of Album cover of Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago]I read about the band on Wikipedia:  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bon_iver, and found out that the name means (have a) good winter in French. Although a “band”, BON IVER is really Justin Vernon and members of the audience helping fill out the harmonies he recorded!

For Emma, Forever Ago is from 2007, but it’s a new find for me.  I know BON IVER have a new album out this year — a self-titled one — and I fancy getting a hold of a copy even though it is supposed to be more “electric”, and has “members” playing saxophones and other unexpected instruments.  I’ll check it out when i can and keep you posted!

As you would reasonably expect, they have their own site: boniver.org/ and a myspace area too (myspace.com/boniver), if you want to check them out that way.

I prefer checking out customers’ reviews on sites like Amazon, check out the reviews for For Emma, Forever Ago, and listen to some of the tracks too.

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ARNOLD BAX

6 May 2011

[Pic of Arnold Bax on cover of book]Years and years ago, I went to see the White sands of Morar with a girl called Barbara. This short trip was actually a long weekend that became My Scottish Tour.

We stayed at Fort William, travelled to Oban, and returned through Perth and Balmoral.  Apart from a wee run to the Electric Brae, that has been the sum total of my Scottish travels in my half-century.  Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against Scotland — nor England, for that matter (I know little of England too), but I will not get lost in Rome, London or Paris due to the weather, the food, the history, the museums and music and art…

Anyway.

Morar.

The reason I was talked into this Scottish Trip was because of Arnold Bax.

Arnold Bax was a composer I was studying at the time.  Not very well known even today, he was pretty famous once. In 1942, Bax was appointed Master of the King’s Musick, and he composed for the Queen’s coronation.

I was actually quite impressed with Morar, albeit on a blustery day, it had white sands, greeny blue sea, and palm trees, so our photographs (on my trusty Olympus OM10, with telephoto lens and filters) made it look like we were on a south sea tropical island!

Back to Bax. I have no problem with his Irishness, nor his romanticism; I think this is because he is always nostalgic for me.  Bax is my childhood, or at least that syrupy sweet, early television version of it.  There is something of the Whisky Galore, or Ealing Studio film about Bax that takes me to “that place”.

Through my study, I discovered that he was oddly in turmoil — receiving awards from the Queen (UK) pulled against his Irishness, and his music was being slated for being “old Fashioned” and melodic. He apparently never recovered from a relationship with a Ukranian lass, and he was influenced by quite a lot of disparate, but northern European, music, and I like that; I like that he was pretty conservative, and yet somehow he was the rebel. I like that Bax succeeded in his lifetime, but that it made little difference, other than to unsettle him.

In short, I had a lot of time for Arnold Bax.  I think he is all-too-quickly dismissed and forgotten.  Maybe one day Bax will be back, and we can hear his lush, large scale music more often.

The very least I owe Bax is that he made me do a lovely sunny mini tour of Scotland, during which I took a great many superb photographs! In fact, writing this has encouraged me to both dig out some Bax, and to consider visiting places nearer to home — maybe England, or Scotland again?  I’ve heard Yorkshire is lovely, as well as the Lake District, Devon and Cornwall. Hmm. We shall see…

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RADIOHEAD

22 April 2011

[Picture of the members of Radiohead]I heard Creep in the early 1990s and was more intrigued than hooked.  I saw Radiohead on Jooles Holland’s Later, and was struck by their prog rock sensibility.  I even remember saying “I bet these guys went to some posh public school” — not in a derogatory way, but simply because they reminded me of Genesis and the like. I was right.

So anyway, as one does, one moves on, and Radiohead keep releasing records.  These keep getting played, they provide a soundtrack to the passing times — and before you know it, you are a fan.

[Embedded video of Radiohead’s High and Dry on You Tube]

This realisation hit me after OK Computer.  I gave in, and went to the chops to buy it in CD format. It was only once I had got home that I realised I needed more.  So I went beck out and got The Bends!

Earworm central — if it wasn’t Karma Police or Anyone Can Play Guitar, it was Creep, No Surprises or Fake Plastic Trees.

This really is a band of songwriters.

[Embedded video on YouTube of Best of]

So what is it with these guys?  Why do folk group them with Yes and Genesis — or with Coldplay and Muse?  The only similarity they have to my mind with Coldplay is that they are sad-sounding, to Genesis and Yes, that they are not delivering simple pop or rock, and to Muse, they have falsetto vocals and anthemic moments.

Radiohead are themselves. Thom Yorke is as much of a natural frontman as anyone in Muse, Genesis or Yes.  They all prove Simon Cowell wrong about what is required to be a hit.

  • I admire Radiohead for trying to get to grips with copyright, digital rights, and so-called piracy.  In fact I just admire Radiohead fullstop.

Radiohead are Thom Yorke lead vocal plus  guitar and keyboards; Jonny Greenwood on guitar and keyboards;  Ed O’Brien playing guitar; Colin Greenwood on bass, and synth; and Phil Selway on drums. I like that they have not listened to marketing, to record company profiling.  I envy that they found themselves to be what they are, and that that was something distinct that sold.

They do things their own way, and thank goodness for that!

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