Music

Music related stuff

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Boyhood – Create Your Own Beatles Black Album

I recently got around to watching Richard Linklater’s brilliant movie Boyhood which was shot over the course of 12 years and follows its protagonist, Mason Jr. (played by Ellar Coltrane), as he grows up.

On the characters 15th birthday he receives a mix CD from his father, Mason Sr., played by Ethan Hawke. Called The Black Album, it’s a compilation of the best of John, Paul, George, and Ringo’s solo work, post-Beatles.

Mason,

I wanted to give you something for your birthday that money couldn’t buy, something that only a father could give a son, like a family heirloom. This is the best I could do. Apologies in advance.

I present to you: THE BEATLES’ BLACK ALBUM.

The only work I’ve ever been a part of that I feel any sense of pride for involves something born in a spirit of collaboration — not my idea or his or her idea, but some unforeseeable magic that happens in creativity when energies collide.

This is the best of John, Paul, George, and Ringo’s solo work, post-BEATLES. Basically I’ve put the band back together for you. There’s this thing that happens when you listen to too much of the solo stuff separately — too much Lennon: suddenly there’s a little too much self-involvement in the room; too much Paul and it can become sentimental — let’s face it, borderline goofy; too much George: I mean, we all have our spiritual side but it’s only interesting for about six minutes, ya know? Ringo: He’s funny, irreverent, and cool, but he can’t sing — he had a bunch of hits in the ’70s (even more than Lennon) but you aren’t gonna go home and crank up a Ringo Starr album start to finish, you’re just not gonna do that. When you mix up their work, though, when you put them side by side and let them flow — they elevate each other, and you start to hear it: T H E B E A T L E S.

Just listen to the whole CD, OK?

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The Black Album you see on screen actually originated as a real gift from Hawke to his oldest daughter Maya when he split from Uma Thurman.

Hawke then slightly tweaked the notes whilst he was working on Boyhood and you cannot deny the power of the heart-wrenching reflection on how love does not last forever. (more…)

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Can Social Media and Live Music be the Perfect Mix?

I am often fascinated at music gigs by how many people watch the performance through a screen on their phone, rather than savouring every last minute of the band they have paid to see. We all know that by the time you get home, the photos will be blurred and the video barely audible but it doesn’t stop many in the audience doing their upmost to freeze this moment in time, which begs the question ‘Are we spending too long trying to record the moment than actually enjoying it?

Social media and music are the perfect cocktail as fans do their best to secure bragging rights and be the envy of their friends by posting selfies on Instagram, checking into Facebook at the venue. Social Media Is all about sharing and there isn’t many things more powerful than live music so it feels natural to want to share that special moment.

As we all attempt to make sense of this new digital world and how we can use Social Media to make live events interactive there are some that are leading the way such as Eddie Izzard who has Twitter screens displayed either side of the stage to interact with the audience where as some venues and bands are learning the benefits of using hashtags to track live events.

Despite some acts encouraging their fans to Tweet and take photographs during a performance as they understand the power of sharing on Social Media, there are some artists that seem frozen in the past at a time where their security could demand that all cameras are taken off their fans for them to collect after the show. The rise of the smartphone has thankfully left unreasonable behaviour like this in the past, or has it?

Anyone that had chance to see Prince this year will tell you surreal stories of the moment when one of the women of 3RDEYEGIRL come onto the stage to welcome the audience, and announce they were about to put on “the best show you’ve ever seen”, followed by a reminder about the no photo/video/cell phone policy.

The average Tweeter is somewhat of a rebellious breed and no singer is ever going to stop the masses snapping pics but the Prince management are not going to give up either so there were also extra staff on the floor prepared to eject anyone who violated this request, which seemed to consist of “delete it now or leave”.

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However in the defence of Prince, there is an argument that for him, the show is not about photos, selfies or tweeting, but about having his fans undivided attention. Enjoying a show without looking at your phone once and leaving without a single image to remind you of the night feels a little strange but is that a bad thing?

Prince who famously does not even own a mobile phone said at a show in California “Thank you to each and every one of you for leaving your cellphones in your pocket, I can’t see your face when you’ve got technology in front of it.”

Thankfully artists who charge their fans £130 a ticket and demand they do not take any photographs or Tweet are few and far between and the big bands of tomorrow are embracing start-ups like Rabbl, which asks, “Should this BAND play this TOWN during this WEEK, at this ticket PRICE?” The band also sets the GOAL, the number of tickets it needs to play the show.

For example Clap Your Hands Say Yeah who were all to familiar with the high risks involved in booking a small venue and making financial commitments in advance but without knowing if anyone would actually show up. Social booking site Rabbl enabled them were to approach a small venue with 92 reserved tickets for a show that wild never have been scheduled if it wasn’t for the this website.

Another interesting start-up called Living Indie for music fans tackles the issue of not being able to attend a gig due to it being sold out. What if you could go home, turn on your big smart TV and turn your couch into a Concert Hall so you could watch the gig without queuing at the bar or toilet?

Living Indie wants to become the Netflix of live concerts and gives you the ability to share the concert with friends, with the added bonus of being completely free at the moment too.

Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and Linkedin might be the first Social Networks that you can name but the future is pointing to a tidal wave of niche social networks that will lead the way and fill all of the holes left by the behemoth that is Facebook.

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Top 100 Songs Currently On Spotify Music Videos

I have spoken in previous posts about how the expensive yet traditional Cable or Satellite TV packages are rapidly becoming irrelevant and an unnecessary luxury. It’s not unheard of for a typical family to spend £100 a month on 200 channels of garbage, but with the rise of the smart TV or smart TV boxes, all most people need is a YouView recordable box and a good internet connection.

Sure you can dip in out of services like NetFlix and Sky’s Now TV but there is no need for one of those pesky contracts that have no place in the digital world.

As a Spotify user, you often take for granted being able to listen to whatever you want with a playlist for literally every mood or mindset, but I must confess to having lost touch with the world of Music videos and this is not helped by the endless music channels that consist of more adverts than music, which usually ends up with you flicking channels every few seconds, desperately trying to find something that you like.

However one Reddit user has come up with the genius idea of creating a You Tube playlist consisting of the music videos for the top 100 Songs currently on Spotify. So anyone that has access to You Tube on their TV can now just hit “Play All” with minimal fuss.

Even if you don’t have a Smart TV, games console or Apple TV box in your living room, there is no need to spend a huge amount of money, when a £30 purchase of Google Chromecast would bring you into the 21st century.

These kind of simple ideas are appearing everyday and changing the way in which we consume content and wonder just how long it will be before more and more people question their expensive TV subscription and how providers will adapt to the change in their customers lifestyles.

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Why Are London Grammar Not On Spotify?

London Grammar look set to be the soundtrack of everyone’s summer this year with their new single Sights about to be unleashed to the masses, but apart from their singles, much of the bands late night introspective pop charms have passed me by and this is due to one reason only, which is quite simply because you won’t find London Grammar on Spotify.

I live in a world where as a consumer, my £9.99 subscription to Spotify gives me instant access to any song that I can think of and this also allows me to create endless playlists to suit my mood or surroundings, so to be brutally honest, if a band are not on Spotify, I am more than guilty of hitting a big red buzzer and shouting the words NEXT….

So anyone looking for an answer to the big question, “Why are London Grammar not on Spotify” it’s simply because the trio are signed up to the Ministry of Sound label in the UK , who have a reputation of standing up to Spotify who they seem to regard as bully boys in the music industry.

A recent interview in Music Week entitled “London Grammar ‘teaching the music business important lessons’ with the co-founder of the band’s management company Big Life, Jazz Summers, said “As a user, Spotify’s great. It’s very user-friendly. But I’ve got a big problem with them advertising ‘free music’. You know, it’s like: let’s shoot ourselves in the head, shall we? Kids thinks music’s free anyway. They could be educated to pay money. Spotify should be saying ‘all this exceptional music just £10 a month’.”

Summers told Music Week he was broadly an advocate of ‘windowing’: the practice of introducing released music onto streaming services only after it’s been exclusively available to buy for a set period.

One answer is not to let Spotify have new music that’s just been released,” he said. “You see movies in the theatre before they’re on DVD or whatever else. If Spotify want to sell a download like iTunes for the first three months, fine. But they don’t. No- one really thinks this stuff through”

On that point, Steve Jobs took the music business to the cleaners. He decided: ‘Okay, everyone’s panicking about file-sharing. I’ll create something that sells billions of iPods.’

“He decided a dollar [per song] was the price [on iTunes] and instantly reduced the value of records overnight. He didn’t give a shit – he was in the business of selling iPods. And, unbelievably, all the record companies went along with it.”

So in a nutshell, this new approach consists of  iTunes and physical releases being the equivalent of a cinema release with Spotify as the eventual TV version, complete with annoying adverts.  Wild Beasts also adopted this same method with their Top ten album ‘Present Tense’.

The familiar all you can eat Spotify or Google Play style package was originally launched as an antidote to illegal downloading and bring the record industry into the 21st century and the only risk of more and more bands withholding their material is that the whole system could be in danger of collapse, which would only send us back to the 90’s where illegal downloads rule our personal digital airwaves.

For me personally, I can say that a Spotify subscription has opened my eyes and broadened my musical horizons to discover a whole world of acts that I would never have got to listen which has also increased how many gigs I have attended.

This has to be better than a guy called ‘Dodgy Dave’ approaching you at work saying “Do you want a copy of the new London Grammar album because it’s not available on Spotify” Right or wrong this is the reality of the modern way that people access their music and the ultimate reason this interesting experiment has failed.

As for the band themselves, their credibility suffered the worst knock to be inflicted on any band as David Cameron desperately trying to appeal to younger voters announced he was a big fan of the minimalist pop trio in a bid prove he is down with the kids.

The thought of David Cameron sat in his favourite armchair at number 10 playing Fruit Ninja on his iPad with London Grammar playing in the background is a much scarier thought than anything a music streaming service could ever do to the music industry.

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Songs About Technology And Staring At Screens!

Throughout history it seems that artists accurately recorded the mood of the time whilst also predicting what the future offered for the masses. Traditionally though, nobody ever listens to the crazy artist guy who has probably just been drinking too much Absinthe again and maybe much of this blame can be placed on the infamous Nostradamus who had the uncanny ability to predict events that only become crystal clear after the event has occurred.

The works of George Orwell are rightly debated by people in chunky sweaters in this world littered with CCTV and everybody knowing what you are doing in every minute of the day and who could forget the self-fulfilling prophecy of Buggles singing “Video Killed the Radio Star” for the MTV generation.

The zeitgeist of the modern digital world increasingly points to the fact that we have stopped talking to each other and we are all too busy staring at screens, the technology that was supposed to bring us all together is actually building a great divide as the increasingly hairy bohemians or hipsters will have us all believe. This in itself is somewhat ironic and makes me ponder at the thought of some sort of future split in society that consists of hairy cave dwellers and pristine digital natives dressed head to toe in Hollister.

However there seems to be a growing number of songs from our musical elders who seem more than a little annoyed that we are spending more time staring at screens than actually conversing with each other.

Word Starts Attack by Johnny Marr

Godlike genius and Johnny Marr whose guitar work in The Smiths, Modest Mouse & The Cribs to name but a few has seen a thing or two in his life and this song finds Johnny Marr stating how electronic media creates and kills relationships. He told NME: “I had this idea of how we get together and un-together in the digital age. People split up through text messages, meet up using pixels, fall out and confront each other with keyboards and touchpads. Screens are replacing faces and hearts. I’m not arguing for or against that, I’m just observing it.”

Wake Up the Nation by Paul Weller

The modfather does not suffer fools gladly and still has a little teen angst running through his veins despite his mature years and spits “Get your face off the Facebook and turn off your phone.”  He also famously told the Independent April 24, 2010 “It’s strange that people my age spend all evening on Facebook talking to their ‘friends’. Why not go down the pub? A guy once came up to me at a gig and asked me if I had MySpace. I said, ‘This is my space, and you’re invading it.‘”

Deep Blue by Arcade Fire

Way back in 1986 a chess playing super-computer called Deep Blue developed by IBM defeated grandmaster Garry Kasparov. This song is about the triumph of technology over humans and maybe hey who knows, maybe this Skynet really already has become self-aware.
The lyrics to Deep blue offer a quite unsubtle warning to mobile obsessed users.

“Put the cellphone down for a while
In the night there is something wild
Can you hear it breathing?
And hey
Put the laptop down for a while
In the night there is something wild
I feel it, it’s leaving me”

Kasparov losing to an IBM called Depp Blue in 1986

Grasp and Still Connect by Paul Weller

Paul Weller really could be the “John Connor” of our time, of course you not be permitted to look at the modfather, speak to the modfather or speak to him unless addressed by the modfather but he has a few wise words to share through the medium of song.

Weller explained on his website:It’s about how technology is meant to get us greater levels of communication, but I’m not convinced. Its silly things like not talking to a conductor when you get on the bus – you buy a ticket from a machine. We’re If forgetting how to talk to each other.”

I Want the Heartbeat by Johnny Marr 

Paul Weller is going to be our very own “John Connor” then the deputy leader of the resistance against technology then Godlike genius Marr is happy to oblige but he will do it with a little humour.

Johnny Marr sings here about a Lottery winner who ditches his wife for an ECG machine.

He told the UK redtop/comic and purveyor of boobies The Sun: “I know, it’s mad isn’t it? I was thinking about how technology rules our lives. ‘Have you got the new iPhone 5? Which laptop must I get?’ And I was thinking, ‘What’s the ultimate technology you’d buy if you did win millions?’ So I thought of a guy who gets rid of his wife for sexual kicks with the heart-rate machine.

Marr told NME: “As a musician, it’s hard to avoid technology. I don’t like that gadgets can be the boss of me for even one second, but they often drag me away for hours.”

Placebo by Too Many Friends

Brian Molko goes straight for the kill in the opening line of Too Many Friends singing “My computer thinks I’m gay. I threw that piece of junk away.” Although he openly admitted to Kerrang! Magazine, “What a ridiculous way to open a song, right. It’s such an ear-catching lyric, but it walks a fine line. I knew it was so out-there and ridiculous, people would love or hate it. That seemed to embody the spirit of Placebo really well, so it presented me with a conundrum: ‘Can I do this? Do I have the balls to do this?’ So I tried to be courageous and remain so.

However the chorus perfectly illustrates the problems of modern life and the constant demands of social media in the chorus

“I got too many friends too
Many people that I’ll never
Meet and I’ll never be there
For I’ll never be there for
Cause I’ll never be there.”

Aracade Fire by Refelktor

People are now busy collecting thousands of friends on Facebook but how many of these can be classed as close friends is the burning question. Win and Regine are quick to point out through the medium of song that actually connections that are made through technology are impersonal and we end up seeing more of ourselves than of the other person.

You have connected, but in reality you’re just looking into a mirror and tuning into your own opinions and actually trapped in our screens (a “prism of light”)

Anyone that remembers the beauty of truly connecting with someone only to now found yourself sat close together but miles apart inside staring into screens will appreciate the lyrics.

We’re still connected, but are we even friends?
We fell in love when I was nineteen
And now we’re staring at a screen

Damon Albarn by Everyday Robots

Ever since Damon unleashed the song Country House on the UK to win the hearts of the UK from Oasis during the Britpop years, he has desperately been trying to payback for his former sins by bringing more cerebral material to our attention. To be fair all debts were wiped out after Under the Westway but Damon is a very considerate and generous lover of music and the song Everyday Robots perfectly sums up anyone that suffers a daily commute to the office.

“We are everyday robots on our phones,
In the process of getting home.
Looking like standing stones,
Out there on our own”

Overall

The elder statesmen of music have spoken and sent out a clear warning message which basically consists of “stop staring at a screen and pay more attention to your fellow humans” Will we all listen? Of course not, this is the way it’s been since the dawn of time, we all ignore the generation before so maybe making out with our operating system like Joaquin Phoenix in the movie Her is where we are heading after all, which just might be another prediction coming to a reality near you very soon.

Johnny Marr Performing How Soon Is Now and Bigmouth Strikes Again on Jools Holland

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Johnny Marr appeared on  Jools Holland’s BBC 2 music show last week.

Johnny played some songs from his new album but also sang…yes I said sang ‘How Soon Is Now’ and ‘Big Mouth Strikes Again’ which proved a little overwhelming for some fans in the crowd.

Great to the legendary Marr playing Smiths songs again but must admit it felt a little strange hearing him singing and not Morrissey.

A great performance which left me wondering “What If the Smiths got back together?” but equally there is a side to me that hopes that they won’t and my memories of them don’t get spoilt.

All in all though, the only questionable decision to come out of the show was Johnny Marr’s choice of hair dye but apart from that it was great to see the classics being played once again by the guitar maestro himself.

Johnny Marr – How Soon Is Now

Johnny Marr – Bigmouth Strikes Again

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The Night Billy Bragg Sang Tank Park Salute For My Little Girl At Glastonbury

On the April 15th 2008 my 5 year old daughter lost her battle against a nasty childhood cancer called Neuroblastoma. Despite trying to remain positive until the end, I was now left with the realisation that I had lost my little girl forever and turned to music to help me deal with my grief.

A song called Tank Park Salute by Billy Bragg helped me through a difficult time more than I could ever express in this short post and when feeling low one night, I emailed the organisers of the Glastonbury Festival advising that it would mean the world to me if Billy Bragg could sing the song as a tribute to my little girl on Sunday night when he was performing in the Leftfield tent at the festival.

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I thought nothing more about this until the Sunday of the Festival several months later, when my phone rang early in the morning as I was eating my full English Breakfast which was lovingly prepared on our camping stove by my Kerry, as I answered the phone call, I was greeted with a familiar voice from Barking saying “Hi Neil, Its Billy Bragg here and wanted you to know that I will sing Tank Park Salute as a tribute to your little girl tonight if you fancy dropping by

Billy was incredibly nice and we chatted for a good 10 minutes like old friends with no hint of awkwardness at all, for me this encapsulated the very essence of the Glastonbury Festival. All too often people think of music festivals as being big corporate affairs with no heart or soul. However what Michael and Emily Eavis family have built is like nowhere on earth and there is a community of over 170,000 people who quite literally fit the demographic of new born babies to 70 year olds with a common love of music and making a difference.

That Sunday night, I went to see Billy Bragg and with minimum fuss he said this song is for those that have lost someone and subtly changed the lyric.

Some photographs of a summer’s day
A little GIRLS lifetime away
Is all I’ve left of everything we’ve done
Like a pale moon in a sunny sky
Death gazes down as I pass by.

Everyone has a Glastonbury story and being on the front row of the Leftfield tent in 2008 with tears streaming down my face whilst Billy Bragg sang Tank Park Salute is something that I will forever be grateful for and it helped me so much in dealing with the unthinkable, the loss of my little girl.

A few years later, I was waiting at Derby station and who should get out of a cab and walk towards me? It was Billy Bragg and I had the chance to thank him for what he did that night and shake his hand in what I thought was a poetic moment of closure. Imagine my surprise when 8 hours later I returned to Derby station to board a train to Birmingham when I bumped into Billy again. I assured him that I wasn’t stalking him but must admit I was a little spooked by the bizarre coincidence.

Life can be quite bizarre sometimes and I have always thought about posting my story, but I never actually got around to putting it down in writing.

My little girl would have been 10 years old today and my biggest battle is not forgetting her smile, her voice and all those little things that a parent takes for granted so as a thank you to the people that made a Sunday night in Glastonbury very special and as a tribute to my little Princess Samantha on her Birthday I have finally wrote it down.

A massive thank-you to the Eavis family and Billy Bragg for a truly special moment that I will never forget and a big Happy Birthday to my princess in heaven.

BAFTAS, Brits, Grammys, Oscars – All Award Ceremonies Are Stupid

Here we are in awards season, where there seems to be an award for anything and everything, as we watch an endless red carpet of desperate people wanting to be loved, accepted and respected in their chosen field. We all know that the real reason why there are so many of these award shows on our TV’s, is to simply boost the sales of entertainment media in a one big import/export global operation.

In a world where our lives are dominated by screens that will beam the latest must see acts everywhere you look, its quite interesting to see how we are all conditioned to buy what we are told and a quick look at post award sales shows that it works a treat.

However Jerry Seinfeld has a much better way of explaining exactly why all award ceremonies are stupid.

At least with the Oscars we have a respectable selection of the best critically acclaimed movies, but I struggle to understand the meaning behind our very own Brit Music Awards which just seems to be a celebration of everything that is bland to boost worldwide sales of music. Maybe I’m taking it all a little too seriously because we all know that all awards are stupid.

Best Albums of 2011 Lists…

Back in the times before the internet (yes I’m old), my December tradition would involve a costly trip to the newsagents to soak up the copious amount of best albums of the year lists in the various music magazines. Luckily though, I don’t have to wade through such publications infested with advertisements now and can simply cherry pick them by getting my guilty pleasure on-line. Sure there is an argument that this is contributing the death of print media, but my philosophy is that you got to evolve or die, however in the name of good karma, I thought I would share my findings with you all.

First up is the Uncut Magazine which always carries a free CD and a good read but is usually to expensive for my tastes but has an interesting top 50 albums of 2011

No Pink Floyd this month?

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Glastonbury 2011

After a scorcher in 2010, normal wet and muddy service was resumed for this years festival although it did begin to dry out on Sunday.

Morrissey was on miserable but fine form, the much anticipated visit from U2 saw them playing like millionaires instead of musicians and although many will find this hard to believe, Coldplay actually lifted everyone’s spirits and put on a cracking show.

Paul Simon announced”I’ve got a throat infection so if I’m not at the top of my game, that’s the reason but looked a little confused for most of the time. I made a decision to side step Beyonce and enjoy the substance over style with Queens of the Stones Age and I definitely made the right choice :)

Headliners

  • U2
  • Coldplay
  • Beyonce
  • Paul Simon (Sunday Afternoon Legend)

Here are a few images and videos of my experience.