Archive for the ‘Music’ Tag

1971 – The Year The Music Was Alive

The Day The Music Died

The Day The Music Died

Yesterday Christies in New York sold the manuscript and notes for Don McLean’s 1971 mega-hit ‘American Pie’ for $1.2M. It’s a view back from the perspective of 1971 over the 60s and 50s to an age of innocence represented by Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper. The lyrics have a reputation for being impenetrable and rich in sub-text, though it is easy to spot Dylan, The Stones, The Beatles, The Byrds, Janis Joplin et al as he takes us through from his 12 year old self mourning the loss of Buddy Holly and co. in a tragic plane crash in 1959 through to a jaded, nostalgic 24 year old surveying the wreckage of the Hippy era. When asked what it means McLean’s favourite answer is: “It means I never have to work again.”

I went back this evening to check whether the song is as irritating as I remember. It is. The description of “bubblegum Dylan” is not far off (I think the phrase is Alexis Petridis’s). But the song’s sale and the fact it is trying to capture the meaning of a particular point in music history makes it a good springboard for a project that’s been brewing up in me for quite some time.

Over a couple of years I kept noticing that a number of classic records were recorded in 1971. After a while it seemed more than just coincidence. And as the 1971 records gathered I noticed that in many ways they seemed to represent the essence of the 60s/Hippy era even though they were a couple of years late numerically. How come the 60s seemed to climax in 1971? What was special about that year?

I went back to look and picked out 10 records that seem crucial to that year, and then one track on each that gets to the heart of the record. I’m planning to do a post about each of them in the wake of this intro. So first up will be ‘Natural Woman’ by Carole King from ‘Tapestry’…

February 1971

The Year The Music Was Alive (February 1971)

Don’ t Stop The Music – first campaign success

Don't Stop the Music - Channel 4 Multiplatform

Don’t Stop the Music – Channel 4 Multiplatform

A message from

James Rhodes, pianist & campaigner for music education

19 Mar 2015

Dear Supporters,

Thank you.

We have had our first campaign success with Don’t Stop the Music – and it couldn’t have been done without your tireless campaigning.

Ofsted have agreed to include a ‘broad and balanced curriculum’ in their inspections of schools.

This is great news! It is the first step in helping ensure that children have access to a proper music education. It could not have been done without your support.

And on Tuesday night, I got to speak in parliament to members of the House of Lords and House of Commons about our concerns and what we need to do to protect music for future generations.

I had the opportunity to discuss our findings from the initial stages of Don’t Stop the Music; findings that gave me sleepless nights. Music education is in desperate need of support from the Government, and with May’s election fast approaching I need your help to make sure music education is not forgotten in the next Parliament.

We need consistent funding, not a post code lottery, opportunities for children to progress beyond their first musical experiences, more action from Ofsted, a trained teacher in every school, and school accountability measures (league tables and the like) which value music properly.

What I am asking your help with now, is making our voice as strong as possible.

If we have 100,000 people signed up to this campaign by the start of May, we will be able to make sure music education is not side-lined by a future Government.

So I am asking for your help, once again, to ensure more children have the opportunity to play musical instruments – please forward this message to your friends, put the petition link on Twitter and Facebook and get as many people as possible to sign up to the campaign

Thank you, thank you and thank you again.

Best wishes,

James

Sign the petition here (it takes literally a minute)

#DontStopTheMusic

Don’t Stop the Music

Here’s a brief video summary of the Channel 4 multiplatform / transmedia project- Don’t Stop the Music featuring concert pianist James Rhodes – whose nomination for an International Digital Emmy was announced this week in New York. It is one of 4 nominees in the Non-Fiction category, one of 12 nominees in total.

Here’s what the warehouse looked like where the 7,000 instruments were gathered in their journey from people’s attics to 150 primary schools across the UK. Entering this warehouse and seeing this sight was one of the highlights of my career.

Now That’s What I Call Christmas Music 54

Was talking Christmas music with Catalan Brian and The Luck Habit earlier this week in the wake of my moment on The Robert Elms show last weekend – see Radio Radio. In the good ol’ US of A of course it’s a genre in its own right, as reflected in the iTunes genres/CD metadata which includes Holidays Music or something like that. So we agreed to put together a selection of the best ‘Holidays’ tunes by way of party game cum useful list.

Frank Sinatra Christmas

1. Last Month of the Year – Blind Boys of Alabama

This is the one we kick off proceedings with every year in our house.

Father: Tell me when was Jesus born?
It was the last month of the year

Was it January?
Children: no [etc.]
February? no
March, April, May? no
June, July, August, September, October, November?
It was the 25th day of December
It was the last month of the year

What’s not to love?

2. Children Go Where I Send Thee – Nick Lowe

This was our 2013 acquisition – it was the year I got to really appreciate Nick Lowe. I saw him live at a recording of Songwriter’s Circle a couple of years ago for BBC4 and really started to rethink his music. I’ve always had a soft spot for Rockabilly, right back to when the local greengrocer’s delivery boy was in The Polecats.

3. Fairytale of New York – The Pogues and Kirsty McColl

I’ll get it out the way – at the risk of losing TLH from the discussion. I just love the slagging bit in the middle. And Matt Dillon (Rumblefish era) featuring in the vid. I spoke to Kirsty’s mum earlier this year while writing my book – Jean Newlove – an incredible 91 year old who looked after Dance and Movement for some of Joan Littlewood’s theatrical enterprises. Sinead O’Connor has also played this live with The Pogues in Kirsty’s absence.

4. Jingle Bells – Frank Sinatra

From Frank’s cracking Crimbo LP imaginatively entitled ‘The Christmas Album’. The voice – unbeatable.

5. Merry Christmas Everyone – Shakin’ Stevens

Christmas has nothing to do with good taste.

6. Let It Snow – Ella Fitzgerald

A voice as pure as driven white stuff.

7. Cool Yule – Louis Armstrong

The dude was cool as the white stuff.

8. Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt

Naughty but nice.

9. Silent Night – Sinead O’Connor

What Sinatra is to the male voice, Sinead is to the female voice i.e. as good as it gets. Seems like a good one for this centenary year of the outbreak of the First World War and that Christmas moment in No Man’s Land.

Sinead-O'Connor singer Irish

I’ll be adding more to these over the next few days. In the meantime Brian has got together a formidable list which I’ll post in the first comment. Feel free to add your faves…

Radio Radio

I listen to about 30 plus hours of radio a week. It’s a great medium. “Skull Cinema” is what a colleague at work called it the other day.

One of my favourites shows on the radio is the Robert Elms Show on BBC London 94.9 – the current unwieldy name for GLR. GLR, founded in 1988, burned brightly for just a few years like a flare in the night, lighting up the faces of Chris Evans, Chris Morris and Danny Baker; Mark Lamarr, Gideon Coe, Phill Jupitus and Gary Crowley; lightening the hearts of 20somethings across the capital, feeding telly for years to come. By 2000 it was no more – except in those hearts.

Robert Elms is into much of the same stuff as me – London, music, architecture, trivia, history and music. You said music twice…

Hedley Lamarr: Qualifications?
Applicant Outlaw: Rape, murder, arson, and rape.
Hedley Lamarr: You said rape twice.
Applicant Outlaw: I like rape.

He shares a birthday with my Other Half. That must mean something.

Anyway, this weekend I got a real kick getting a mention on the show. Robert asked for ideas for Christmas tunes to play over the next couple of weeks. I sent in these two.

This is the latest Christmas record in our household, acquired this time last year. Robert said he’d played it a couple of days ago. Good, we’re on the same wavelength. It’s got that Rockabilly heartbeat.

This one is our core Christmas record. It goes on first thing on the big day and means it’s finally here – the pressie-opening, the turkey, the film, the family, the fun&games. Robert said he hadn’t come across this one and would follow it up (he says he takes these suggestions from listeners very seriously – I believe him).

So I whack off a quick email upstairs and by the time I get down to the kitchen I hear my two proposals coming out of the old Roberts, a veritable honour.

The best show of the year is one he does on New Year’s Eve day where he collects the best of his live music sessions of the year from the small Radio London studio with the dodgy Joanna. Always a total treat. Last year I remember finding Cecile McLorin Salvant and Laura Mvula through it.

Don’t Stop the Music on Newsround

I loved Newsround as a kid. And now after all these years a bit of me gets on it – in the form of Don’t Stop the Music, the multiplatform project I’ve been working on all summer with pianist James Rhodes and Jamie Oliver’s production company, Fresh One.

Over 7,000 instruments were collected in the Don’t Stop the Music Instrument Amnesty thanks to the huge generosity of the British public and their care about music education. That makes it the biggest UK instrument amnesty ever.

Here’s the Newsround item which shows the last step in the journey as the instruments reach the kids…

Screen Shot BBC Newsround

Songlines #11: Sheena Is a Punk Rocker (Aidan Murtagh of Protex)

The Question:

What piece of music means the most to you?

The guitarist/vocalist from pioneering Belfast punk band Protex picks a short sharp blast of punk-pop not a million miles away from Don’t Ring Me Up and other Protex 2-minuters.

The Song: Sheena Is a Punk Rocker by The Ramones

Here’s how that inspiration played out:

And here’s the inspiration itself: (2 mins 39 V 2 mins 51 – what’s 12 seconds between friends?)

Songlines #10:

Bach to the Future (James Rhodes)

Known Pleasures (Day 54)

Known Pleasures (Day 44)

I’m starting the Music chapter now and I’m very excited – this is my heart-beat on a reversed-out ECG

Time travel (Day 27)

keith-jarrett

I used to write these posts in the last 15 minutes of every writing day but I’ve shifted to writing them first thing next morning as they work well to get the juices flowing. I’m not really a morning person so sitting down at 9 of the clock and diving into writing goes a bit against the grain. I’ll think of this as the literary equivalent of the thoroughly thought through exercises Joan Littlewood devised for her actors to get them in the zone. I pinned down an interview date with one of the Theatre Workshop acting company today (which is yesterday aka Day 27) which I’m really looking forward to doing. He charmingly gave me a choice of Coffee or Tea slots which means late morning or 3.30pm (half an hour out if you go by Asterix in Britain).

I tried out some of the Writing Music suggested by people yesterday. The natural sounds of sea etc. were rhythmically tranquil but lacked that little charge of energy music can bring to boost you into the flow. I’m sure if I give it more of a go it could bring me somewhere interesting. The Nils Frahm piano music had promise. It’s along the lines of Keith Jarrett and ECM stuff I sometimes listen to when working, airier sort of jazz. Listening to it on Spotify may not be a fair test as the ads are so loud and irritating, and I don’t feel like subscribing because I don’t agree with the price point (same with digital books – given there’s no production or distribution costs how expensive are they!?)

I had a good, productive afternoon’s writing on the Paul Arden chapter. I want to start each chapter with an emblematic scene which captures the essence of the chapter’s protagonist. The Ginsberg chapter I knew from long off how it would start, which scene to springboard from. The Arden one I figured out today (which is yesterday aka Day 27) – I’d already written it so it was a case of shifting things around and revising it to sit more as a self-contained story, which actually made it read much better any way. I’m meeting the main character in that story (besides Paul) Monday week.

Tomorrow (which is today aka Day 28 or Friday 11th October) I am seeing a grand fromage from a London university for lunch to see if I can carve out an academic dimension to this project as its an institution I respect massively.

I’ll work out what tense I’m in for next week…

Multiplatform Swop Shop

Neil ArmstrongA convo with Tim Wright and others inspired two new hashtags today:

#bestswop What was the best swop you ever did in your life?

#worstswop What was the worst swop you ever did in your life?

I was reflecting on my photo of Neil Armstrong yesterday, it being the 40th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11:

“Looking at my signed photo of Neil Armstrong on this resonant day – got it by swopping for a signed Damned single with editor Mark Reynolds” about 22 hours ago from web (Mark and I were making a film about Helen Sharman, the first British astronaut)

richpayne88 mentioned “he also very rarely signs autographs – sounds like an amazing swap. I’ll trade you for these five magic beans” The irony is Mark’s aunt didn’t believe the autograph was real when it arrived at her young nephew’s home in Leeds. She explained to him ‘they just print them’, licked her finger, wiped it across the signature – and the smudge is still there.

So here’s the best best and best worst swops to have emerged today…

Best:

I swapped houses! Only for three weeks mind you. I got their fabulous home in Melbourne complete with pool and tennis courts etc and they got my terraced house in Hackney. Happy days…

finance for technology

St.Albans for London

[ A signed Damned single (late one, not great) for a signed photo of Neil Armstrong (he stood on the frigging moon! – first) ]

Worst:

My ZX Spectrum for an Amstrad. Doh.

[ childhood for adulthood ]

manhood 4 parenthood

I swapped my last Rolo for a kiss, the Rolo would have been more satisfying and tastier.

a pride of lions for a hope of rain.

i swapped an inflatable hammer for a bean encrusted pan at leeds fest

I swapped £4000 for new posh carpet in my flat…and I’ll be reminded of it until I move…i hate myself…”shoes off!”

Feel free to add more using #bestswop #worstswop on Twitter or using the Comments below

You should follow me on Twitter here

(Why?)

Shame this will never trend – our American cousins, I believe, spell ‘swop’ S W A P

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