Monday, 21 December 2009

Mumford and Sons

At last, a breath of fresh air for our UK airwaves. Mumford and Sons are a London-based folk band and, as you can see from their debut video below, they truly rock and are just what we need to dispell the homogeneity of our damned music charts.

Oh, and Rage got the Christmas number one. Maybe the tides are beginning to turn.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Rage Against The Hype

I hope today, on Sunday 20th December, when it is too late to contribute to the Christmas Number 1 in the UK, that people understand the importance of Rage Against The Machine getting the top spot, and beating X Factor winner Joe Mcelderry. It is not about getting one over on Simon Cowell, or a personal attack on the slightly-talented Joe. For the sake of the music industry in general, we cannot, for a fifth consecutive year, allow a manufactured, won't-be-here-next-year, has-all-his-songs-written-for-him, releasing-a-cover-song child, representing all that is bad about our music industry, win the battle to the top against one of the most important bands of this generation. The lyrics that RATM write were, and still are, important; they still mean something, they are still searching for answers. The music is just fantastic; Rage are an awesome bunch of musicians. There couldn't be a bigger middle finger to our X-Factor generation than a basically unheard of (in terms of the mass UK audience) 1992 American nu-metal political masterpiece reaching the top.

Music consumes us; think how many thousands of songs are released each week over the entire globe. Then think of how many choruses you could hum during their week of release, as the subliminal radio-drones creep into your system and another R'n B-tinged, over-produced, 118bpm, spineless, meaningless record has made its mark. We would certainly notice a world without music, but everything just blends into everything else, and as long as 'pleasant noise' gets up from Point A to Point B on our journeys, we don't really care that the soundtrack to our lives is actually just depressing.

To illustrate this point, I watched last week's UK chart top 10 countdown on a music channel yesterday. I had to turn it off when it hit number 6; without the ad breaks it could have been one 20-minute track with such slight changes no wonder everyone is brainwashed into buying the same drivel that leaks from our inexcusable music icons of today. What happened to the Bob Dylans, the Bruce Springsteens, the Frank Sinatras, the David Bowies and the Elton Johns, The Beatles' and The Stones', what happened to real music that actually meant something. Why does nobody write this stuff anymore, why are we stuck in a timewarp relying on these artists and songs that date back to the birth of recorded music to fulfill our guilty pleasures when feeling like we are raging against the machine because we've switched from BBC Radio 1 to BBC Radio 2. People say you can define the difference between these radio stations by age; I disagree. At least Radio 2 delve into the archives and put on some real classic songs.

For Rage to win the Christmas number 1 this year would really shake up the industry and its consumer; us. Maybe this would stir people into looking into different artists and styles of music, maybe this would bring our timeless and fantastic rock artists back into the limelight and urge our young musicians to write real hit songs that really do mean something to them and us. And maybe Simon Cowell will pull the plug on the X Factor, retire happily with his millions and we won't have to see his smug face in all his soulless X Factor winners again. Hey, I can dream, right?

Friday, 18 December 2009

Re: Frost Fayre Post

After having my previous post about the Frost Fayre being printed in this week's local paper, the Central Somerset Gazette, I was contacted by a colleague of the SYVN (Somerset Youth Volunteeing Network) who organised the bands part of the event. She had reason to be disappointed with what I'd written because the Editor of the paper cut off the final, and most pointful, paragraph, effectively changing the very point of my letter. Here is my second letter to the Editor, which I hope is printed next week:

With regards to my letter printed in last week's Gazette about the Frost Fayre gig cancellation, I felt that due to the final paragraph of my letter being cut, my words could have easily been perceived as if my anger was vented at SYVN. Had the entire letter been published, this could have been avoided. The final paragraph read: "The cliche is that young people attract bad press, but there are enough young people doing good to silence their 'critics' and who aren't dillusioned and angry ASBO-hunting stereotypical yobs. Don't get me wrong, Glastonbury has it's fair share of petty crime, but I'd like to see the powers that be who cancelled Saturday's celebration of young and local talent enforce their reign of unnecessarity in the more deprived cities of the Country; we should be grateful for the compliance and willingness of our young generation here, and encourage them to take part in more events that bring together the community, rather than re-open a road for a few drivers who can't take a short diversion whilst youngsters rule the streets of Glastonbury with guitars in their hands instead of knives."

By leaving this out, the whole point of the letter effectively changes, and looks like I'm venting anger at SYVN whereas the point was being angry at the council/carnival club for re-opening the road and meaning that our young people suffer. SYVN is the work of young people and relies on just volunteers to put on these events. They do a great job, and it was fantastic last year in Clarks Village, of which my band were also a part of, and was a completely celebrated event. I have worked with SYVN through my Learner Advocate position at Strode College and know that they do a lot of good for our young people. The incompetence does not lie at SYVN's door; it is down to those that opened the road, cancelling the event.

I hope this sets the record straight.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Homecoming Gig

So, I came home a week earlier for Christmas to be able to play a local gig in Glastonbury for the Frost Fayre. They shut off the highstreet all day long and at the bottom of the street is a gazebo for local bands. We were the first full band to play, and there was a fair-sized crowd who had gathered. As soon as we started to play, it was evident we had taken a risk with the one-practice we'd had, not having played together for a good 6 months, but nobody made any shocking mistakes so we got away with it! The drum kit I was using was like something from school; there was one mic on the kick drum but that was all and the rest of it, or what could be heard, just sounded shocking. During our first song, there was a power cut to half of the stage. As we started our penultimate song, we were interrupted for someone to announce they were in fact now re-opening the road. So everybody watching had to crowd on the other side of the road and watch us through passing traffic. As we started our last song, we were again interrupted, this time asked to stop playing so they could move the entire stage and face it round the other way. I felt embarassed enough just sounding so rubbish playing such a cheap, unmiked kit; it sounds silly but a decent drum kit that was miked up would literally have transformed the entire sound. After we were stopped, with no intentions of carrying on anymore, the council apparently shut down the entire gig. There were many other bands waiting to play and lots of people waiting to hear them; disappointment and anger was rife. This is exactly the reason I hate doing gigs for people who don't know what they're doing; it's just embarassing for musicians who aspire to be professional, but get interrupted by hippies and power-hungry councillors. Anyway, I can't even be bothered to go into a whole thing about it now, I'm sure enough people will write to the local paper and nothing will be done. It's a shame, because it does give young and inexperienced bands a chance to showcase themselves to a decent crowd, as well as providing more local drive for some better-known bands, at a time where we should be encouraging and nurturing the talents of our youths and providing opportunities like this for them. The cliche is that young people attract bad press, but there are enough young people doing good to silence their 'critics' and who aren't dillusioned and angry ASBO-hunting stereotypical yobs. Don't get me wrong, Glastonbury has it's fair share of petty crime, but I'd like to see the powers that be who cancelled Saturday's celebration of young and local talent enforce their reign of unnecessarity in the more deprived cities of the Country; we should be grateful for the compliance and willingness of our young generation here, and encourage them to take part in more events that bring together the community, rather than re-open a road for a few drivers who can't take a short diversion whilst youngsters rule the streets of Glastonbury with guitars in their hands instead of knives.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Driving Home For Christmas

I love Christmas! It's been a busy final week at Uni but early tomorrow morning I'll be boarding the train, laden with bags and suitcases and presents and heading off back to Glastonbury :)

On Wednesday night we had our Uni-course gig at a cool venue in Southampton. It was our first real chance to check out all the other musicians properly in a live setting, and was certainly a lot of fun to play. It's been ages since I've gigged, and going from gigging regularly to literally nothing but a couple of open mics in the past 4/5 months hasn't been easy! The passion in my playing was a long time coming but it felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders as I walked offstage. Our band played 'Sweet Disposition' by The Temper Trap, 'Waiting on the World to Change' by John Mayer, 2 originals of which I wrote lyrics for one and finished with U2's 'With or Without You'. My request to do 'You Give Love a Bad Name' was of course shot down, but I hate naff Jovi covers anyway and I doubt we'd have got it close enough to the original!

Tomorrow I'm braving the elements and am playing a short set with my old band on Glastonbury highstreet as part of the annual Frost Fayre where they shut off the highstreet and have bands, jugglers, stalls, that kind of thing and it's a cold but fun day :) Then I'll spend the two weeks left leading up to Christmas catching up with old friends, visiting family and, of course, eating and drinking far too much. I'm very excited to be going home!

It's the calm before the storm in Jovi-land right now, all the plugging here in the UK is long done and I'm sure most have forgotten about the short-lived hype. The X Factor was I think a good appearance but shows like GMTV, This Morning and The National Lotto were a little old hat. Had they been on, for example, T4 Music, Jools Holland, etc they might have branched out to a younger, and more interested, audience but as I've said before, they can't be winning over as many new fans as they did back in 2000. At that time they were playing CD:UK and Top of the Pops, and it obviously worked well.

Anyway, it's another long one; I tend to write less often but with more words but that kinda works for me. I'll try and find time at home over Christmas to write if I so feel the desire; I tend to prefer writing when I've got some inspiration and a reason to rather than thinking I better had for the sake of it.

I can hear the sickly drones East 17's attempt at a Christmas song in the room next door. Apart from The Darkness' attempt a couple of years ago we don't really have any new Christmas songs coming through; it's the old ones that have stood the test of time and are pumped out year on year. Our 'Christmas songs' are those that are just happened to be released over the festive period and generally have nothing to do with Christmas, but it's nice I think to have Christmas-specific songs. Everyone likes Christmas songs and movies, especially new ones, and it's not like they're going to get old. Maybe they should make the X Factor winner prove their worth and their first release must be a self-penned Christmas number. That'd seperate the cheese from the downright awful. On that bombshell, I think I'll sign off.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Bon Jovi DVD

It's been a while and to be honest, I've been rather busy with uni work and visits home. I have, however, found the time to purchase and indulge in the new live Bon Jovi DVD. I know now that if you're a reader and see Bon Jovi in the title, you're likely to skim through the post at best, but it's kinda what this blog is based around so you'll have to bear with me!
The concert was filmed on the last night of last year's highest grossing concert; the Lost Highway tour, at Madison Square Garden in New York. It was weird seeing the guys playing inside and on such a small stage, and Jon looked like a caged animal making as many footprints as possible across all corners. The mixing of the concert continued on from the band's personal insights of late, and I really enjoyed the many close-ups and extended shots, particulary of the drummer, Tico Torres. He's a complete powerhouse and you can just see the passion with which he plays. His fills and movements and mannerisms are HUGE but he's always got one eye on Jon at the front; they are by far the tightest unit of that band. Having said that, the concert felt like it was all about guitarist Richie Sambora, who's awe-inspiring guitar solos never cease to amaze me. If you're not a fan, chances are you might not still be reading! But as I've said before, it's probably not for you although I'm sure people would be hard pushed to admit that they don't put on a good show.

In other news, I went home for the first time since August this weekend just gone and it was so lovely and equally so weird being back in Glastonbury. Just walking into my local supermarket I instantly recognised a handful of faces; places really don't change. I'll be back in 2 weeks for Christmas though and look forward to a lengthy visit. I've got my uni gig next week, although I'm doing 2 sets; I'm having to learn a whole new set with just 2 more rehearsals left to go filling in for another drummer who has damaged his wrist! But the show must go on and I'm lucky really to be getting an extended amount of time onstage. It will be weird being in my most comfortable environment but playing to a room full of musicians who I feel will be stipulating my every move, although that will only really most likely be true for the drummers.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Seal/Imelda May/Sugarland

Abbey Road Studio Sessions

I'm currently watching the fantastic Abbey Road Studio sessions with three brilliant artists. Seal is the main performer, and I adore his incredibly soulful voice complete with fab band and large sting orchestra.

I'd never heard Imelda May but my foot was tapping right from the off to her eclectic blend of Irish folk/blues/jazz. I love the touch of the 50s-esque rock and roll guitar with the jazziness of the trumpet and upright bass; a real stomping performance.

For me though, the show was stolen by country duo Sugarland. I was first introduced to them back in 2006 when Jennifer Nettles did a country version of Bon Jovi's Who Says You Can't Go Home with the band, and it was thanks to her that made Bon Jovi the first rock band to top the Country charts in America and even win a CMA. She was today performing though with Sugarland and her voice grabs you tight and just does not let go; it's so Southern and just how you might imitate Dolly Parton et al. All three pieces were very much country ballads with mandolin and acoustic guitar but so very heartfelt and enjoyable; the feeling and passion is so raw and true and I totally urge you to check them out.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Bon Jovi on BBC Radio 2 LIVE!

Check out this exclusive video on the BBC Radio 2 site following Bon Jovi's show at the BBC Radio Theatre earlier this month here. Video is available in the UK only until 21/11/09.

Here's the set-list:

'We Weren't Born To Follow'
'Who Says You Can't Go Home'
'You Give Love A Bad Name'
'Work For The Working Man'
'Whole Lot Of Leaving'
'Livin' On A Prayer'
'When We Were Beautiful'
'It's My Life'
'Superman Tonight'
'Wanted Dead Or Alive'

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Learn To Love

These lyrics really stood out for some reason this afternoon so I thought I'd share them. Also, have a listen to Jace Everett: Greatest Story (Never Told) it's a fantastic song!

I have run from the truth
Since the days of my miss-spent youth
I was hungry for kindness
I was lost in life's blindness
When you're born without wings
All you dream of all you want
Is that feeling of flying
Of rising and climbing

Halle Halle
We're one breath away
Halle Halle
From our judgement day

You leave it all on the table
If you lose or you win
You've got to learn to love
The world you're living in

Always thought I’d die young
In these hands I help the gun
But it's too late for dying
Now there's nothing worth hiding
I've lost love lived with shame
I was humbled by my fall from grace
On the steps of decision
It's revenge or forgiveness

Halle Halle
And that's how it is
You've got to learn to love
The world you're living in

Sunday, 8 November 2009

the fiX factor

OK we all need to calm down, including me. In a fit of rage following the X Factor and Simon Cowell's stupid decision, I'm going to tell you exactly what is wrong with it. As a viewer, I find the X Factor mildly entertaining and enjoy debating what happens. As a musician, on a more serious note, I understand that actually, today's modern popstar has no other choice or avenue really within which they are able to break into the music industry without winning these silly talent shows. And even when they do, they're expected to compete with critically-acclaimed artists and make an impact with their very first album, when in fact most of the bands that have survived at least a good 20 years really needed, and were allowed the time given, in their first 2 albums the time to grow and develop, most often hitting it with their third shot.
So, John and bloody Edward. People say they're only 17, doesn't matter. People say they're entertaining, unimportant. It's a singing competition. And if this really is the only way that people can 'make it' these days, for pop artists at least, then surely this makes a mockery of the whole system and Jedward would have been better suited on Britain's Got Talent where it isn't purely about the singing.
I have taken part in many local Battle of the Bands, but have never won. You might think nothing of that statement, but usually these either rely on the popularity of the band in question and how many fans they bring along, or based on a very loose judging criteria by the butcher and the local paper's ents writer. I have stood in the wings and listened to an audience chant the name of my band as the judges read out someone else. I've also lost out to a band who were glued to the stage when mine had the energy of a Red Bull Factory, and the performance was based on stage presence. It's annoying at the time, sure, but you just shrug it off. It's no big deal, no big band has ever shot to fame after winning £500 at their local Salvation Army/Working Man's club/Leisure Centre. In short, there really is no difference between The X Factor and a local BOTB; it's a fix from the bottom to the top and there really is no hope for today's modern popstar if their only chance of breaking into this fickle business is through these stupid shows. My advice is this: if you are a club singer looking to hit the commerical music industry, 2 years ago I would have said get on The X Factor/Idol/Fame Academy whatever, because that's the way to go. As a band, it's all about the live experience you pick up and is as much as who you know as it is where you are at the time in what trend, playing what music, in what scene. So just get out there and play. Gone are the days when you might take your demo to a radio station in the hope that they'd like it enough to play it and that other stations would catch on and people might even request it. When I was in my first and most locally successful band, that was the biggest thing and I had no doubt that we'd go all the way, whatever that meant at the time. I applied for uni reluctantly as a Plan B. Had I not, what with the unforseen circumstances that soon followed, I'd be stuck at the bottom of the ladder again still playing the same little pubs in Somerset and looking for a job. Coming to uni was definitely the best thing I could have done, because I'm now afforded the 3 years of experience, education and advice that I hope will put me in really good stead to make a career in music, ideally with a band I get going with along the way. Nobody ever got a record deal just because they walked into a studio and produced their music degree, granted, but I know now this time for me is all about the experience I can gain and feel more positive about the future than ever. In the meantime, for GOD'S sake what is wrong with this Country; get those twins OUT!

Saturday, 7 November 2009

The Circle

Bon Jovi's new single We Weren't Born To Follow has been doing the rounds on UK tv and radio this past week. It's a great thing for the fans to catch a mimed (with live vocal) performance on shows like the X Factor and the National Lottery but I think everyone who could have taken notice would have done by now; I don't think they'll be picking up many more new fans with the publicity. And that's fine by me, as a diehard fan, because I know they've found that new sound since Crush in 2000 with It's My Life and, since then, have stuck at that tried and tested recipe that they know works. I've had a week with their new album, The Circle, and have of course had it on repeat and feel I can pass opinion on it now it's had a real good listen out of it. My first observations relate to my previous comments about the song-writing recipe; I don't know if it's because of the fact that they've found the real sound that works for them or simply because after 25 years there's only so many chord progressions you can play without completely changing your style of music. But when I listened to the album for the first time there were many tracks that I thought 'that sounds like it could have been on Bounce' (2003) and 'that sounded like it should have been on Have a Nice Day' (2005) and even 'that could have come straight from [Jon's solo effort] Destination Anywhere' (1997). You pick out the familiar drum breaks, guitar solos and lyrical phrases a little too easy which I guess could be seen as a bad thing, but it's probably just what I and many others will seek comfort in hearing. The longevity of Bon Jovi's career is owed to just that; not jumping on the band wagon of what is popular at the time and simply sticking to what they know and do best, and that is why their fanbase is so loyal (OK there might be a few membership cancellations with the o2 ticket prices but that's a whole other argument).
In short, this is certainly an easy review for the critics to write about. They'll all use the same 'intimate verses and fist-pumping choruses' jargon and maybe namedrop 'Sambora solos' and relate something somehow to Tommy and Gina in Prayer and finish up by telling you to 'dust off your leather jacket and fluff up your hair' before giving it a measly 3 out of 10, but in the words of David Bryan, "We've never been the critic's darling". Personally, I certainly love what I've heard so far, and all the tracks sound strong standing up on their own; there doesn't seem to be any fillers for the sake of the dynamic journey of the album, all of the songs really are strong in their own rights. And having said that they're not really pushing the song-writing boat out, they are just enough for us to find a rare gem in When We Were Beautiful and some really nice little bursts of talkbox that still sound fresh. Overall, as a real fan I love it. If you're not a fan, it [robably won't stand out to you but you had your chance to be lured into the circle a long time ago now when It's My Life brought about a whole new generation of fans (including this one) and since Crush, the records have only ever been for the fans. It's a little too early to pitch it for 'best album' against These Days but it certainly isn't ruled out as a contender.
Talking of publicity, I did really enjoy the 2-song set they did for the Radio 1 Live Lounge, check out the videos on Youtube of We Weren't Born To Follow and Prayer acoustic.
The picture above is of my Bon Jovi tattoo that I wanted to share :)

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Jace Everett/Green Day

Just wanted to share a new artist I've discovered this week. If you are a fan of True Blood (USA/UK) then you might remember the ultra cool theme music to the show. Well the artist is Nashville sensation Jace Everett and he sounds fantastic. It's a real dark and dingy rock/blues kinda thing, think Nashville after dark, and just what you'd expect to be fronting an American show about sexy vampires. But musically it's wicked and I was very pleased to discover some other tracks of his!

In other music news, I went to Birmingham to see Green Day this week. I don't own any of their albums personally, although found myself up against the barrier as Billie Joe stormed onto the stage and, for the preceeding two and a half hours, was crushed and mashed and squashed along with thousands of others but actually really enjoyed it. They played a good handful of songs I could at least singalong to the choruses of and put on a great, fun rock show. Tonight, Bon Jovi are performing live on the UK's X Factor (ITV, 8pm) for which I am very excited and the new album is out tomorrow! I'm sure I'll have a review up soon :)

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Everything new about Bon Jovi right now!

Well it has been an INCREDIBLY exciting week for me and everything going on in Bon Jovi land. It all started with a special live event at Bon Jovi which featured some scenes from their documentary When We Were Beautiful. And then, a live stream, again online, as they announced the start of their new tour from the parking lot of the new Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey before performing a secret gig. And THEN as part of that tour, the band announced their ONLY European dates; a 5-night residency at the o2 Arena in June in London (see picture above)!

The new album, The Circle, is out here before anywhere else, on Monday 2nd November, but I learned ALSO tonight that the band will be performing their new single We Weren't Born To Follow on the X Factor next weekend! On Tuesday 3rd November, they'll be recording a live session for BBC Radio 2 and the book to partner the documentary is out this day too.

It is one very special time to be such a huge Bon Jovi fan right now, and I have tickets for their final show at the o2 on the 13th June 2010!

In other news: Uni is going great and I'm keeping on top of the work well, I had a full on intensive training weekend ahead of becoming a mentor for school kids in the Isle of Whight, and am going to see Green Day in Birmingham on Wednesday next week!

Hope you're all well in bloggy land :)

Saturday, 17 October 2009

All at Sea

Jools Holland has restored my faith in Popular Music. I think there must be some kind of criteria for performing on his show, something along the lines of 'no regurgitated junk'. But when I had almost lost faith in our current chart-ranking wannabes and the music movement of today, Jools came along with a cracking line-up on his weekly show; a show I've always dreamed of one day performing on.
Tonight's show featured such an eclectic mix of musicians, each with totally differing backgrounds and styles but each with the same levels of appreciation for one another's perception on music today. Paloma Faith for example, is a breath of fresh air for the female vocal market. She sounds like an American songstress, a showgirl from the 40s with an image to match, and even talked about regularly playing music through the decades at her shows, starting in the 1920s and working her way up. Her brand of motown-pop is catchy yet inspiring, displaying a great awareness of writing a modern song whilst capturing the sparkle of age-old magic. The riff-tastic Wolfmother also played, not a band I'm aware of much but certainly worthy of their spot on the show; they have a great sound with bags of energy and a greatly unique sounding front-man. But the real saviour tonight was living legend Seasick Steve. He manages to strip music down to its very core, the very genuine foundations on which popular music is built on, yet with all the passion and feeling of now. His simple soapbox songs are probably note-perfect to those he used to sing around the fire when travelling in his Gypsy caravan, of which he still lives in, and I love that this, let's face it, old man has been given this shot so late on in life. The very fact that he has sold so many records and is performing at all kinds of events, from Glastonbury Festival to Later... prove that there is hope for anyone with any dash of creativity and any glimmer of hope. I can only imagine the culture-shock he gets when thinking back to how different life used to be as he sips champagne at award ceremonies, but he tips his cap to anyone with a dream, living proof that you don't need to 'know the right people' or, more accurately, 'line the right people's pockets with Daddy's money' to get somewhere in this fickle business. As an aspiring musician still in education, I love what I do and know that one day I WILL make a living making music, whatever form that might take, but I also know that this is the hardest thing to get into and it's going to take nothing but hard graft, a topic all too familiar in Seasick Steve's songs. The man is fantastic, a real awe-inspiring performer with so much originality and awareness of timbre and texture in his delicate yet foot-stomping songs. If I had a hat likes yours Steve, I'd be tipping it.

Friday, 2 October 2009

New Bon Jovi Album Art

Well this is something that I just have to share. There is literally nothing better than when your favourite band has a new album coming out and, with the months leading up to it, the tiniest little hints at its greatness leak out one by one. I steer clear of anything that isn't on the official website, but a few weeks back the tracklisting for The Circle was released. Imagine my sitting down at a computer routinely checking when I see suddenly it has been redesigned and, after no hints at all, a new single is waiting for me to hear. And of course, I was in an internet cafe, when I first moved to Southampton, and had no way of listening to it without headphones, which I did not have on me. That was excruciating!
Anyway, tonight, the album art has officially been shared and its looks FANTASTIC! What do you think?! The tour dates can't be far behind! Unfortunately I cannot share the image directly here as it does not show up when I save it from the source, but you can see it officially HERE!

Thursday, 1 October 2009

What MORE Bob Dylan?!

Today at uni we had our first real music workshop. We have these once a week and they are seperate from the other stuff I was telling you about before (John Mayer and James Morrison) although we are playing in the same bands. These are workshops where we're given a song each week and we have 2 hours to listen to it, work it out, perfect it, and then perform it to the other 7 bands on the course. It's all good fun, and today we started with Positively 4th Street by Bob Dylan. Now, I'm not the biggest Bob Dylan fan in that I don't own any of his records, but I can totally appreciate his song-writing and the depth of his career. It's just that we spent a very many months performing Bob Dylan songs at College thanks to an avid-Dylan fan who also served as our teacher!
Anyway it was the first chance we had to really see and hear each other play, although it's such a simple song that there's not much room for embellishment. But we nailed it pretty quickly and all went well. Next week is Come As You Are by Beverley Knight which I've just had to Youtube!
So that's uni over with today, as the week goes on my timetable becomes more and more sparse. Next week we are given our assignment briefs so I'll have a real feel of what I'll be doing for the next month or so.
Well the flat needs a clean because the Estate Agents are coming round tomorrow, so I've got an hour of hoovering and polishing with Dylan going round in circles in my head. Not literally of course, that would be mental. Imagine that, on a bike and everything.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Uni Life

Well I'm ashamed to say I have left it almost a month since my last post...but everything has been a bit mental recently what with settling into a new city and starting uni this week. Anyway, I'll hopefully get back into it all properly soon and have some more meaningful posts to talk about. It was Freshers Week last week which was lots of fun, and I am now suffering with the inevitable post-party illness; Fresher's Flu. Tonight is the big grand Freshers Ball with celeb DJs etc which promises to be lots of fun, assuming I can ignore the elephant sat on my chest. I'm not much of a club-music person but have certainly enjoyed the dancing since moving to a city; the gigs I go to are less about 'dancing' and more about tapping your feet, nodding your head, maybe swaying a little but it's great to be on a dance floor with loads of students, beer (or now exotic cocktail) in hand and properly going for it! You probably look stupid, but everyone does and as long as it feels right, that's all that matters!
Anyway I start uni properly this week and attended my first lectures today. I'm quite pedantic and enjoy writing essays so aim to do well on this side of the degree, and the playing part I can't wait to start; we were divided into 8 bands (there are 60 of us on the course) and have been set a gig date of 9th December. In the rehearsals leading up to this, we have to produce a 20 minute set consisting of covers and originals, so today our band decided to take on James Morrison's 'Broken Strings' and John Mayer's 'Waiting on the World to Change'. We will obviously consider lots more but decided on these as a start, and the prospect of playing with new people is exciting. In fact, any playing at all is exciting as it's been far too long since I've been able to sit down at a kit and play!
Anyway, enough of my uni life, this is basically the reason I've been a bit rubbish and not blogging much but once everything settles down and I establish a routine I'll get back to this properly. So stick with me and I'll let you know how it's all going soon :)

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Live Review: Arctic Monkeys/Reading

I need to start this 'live review' with a footnote to say that I wasn't actually at the Reading Festival, my review is taken from the live footage of the Monkeys performing, but I think on this occasion, this will prove to be more honest. Taking myself from the crowd itself takes me from any created atmosphere that only an anticpiated festival-headline slot can bring, and I need to remove myself from any atmospheres in order to concentrate on the performance as a whole. And as another footnote, I'm not a Monkeys hater, I am in fact a big fan; I've seen them live and have BOUGHT (not a downloader) their first two albums and thoroughly enjoyed them. So here goes.
I'm afraid that our once dubbed saviours of popular music have jumped on the bandwagon of what it is to be 'cool'. These guys used to be so original; a cheeky four-piece with short hair and witty lyrics. Onstage they were fresh and exciting, and their music was just that. Their melodies were completely original, something that is now so difficult to produce in order to stand out from the crowd. They started the 'accent-singing' for this generation, the drums were outlandish and dared to be different, the entire package of the band was such a breath of much-needed fresh air.
But then I watched the band perform at Reading Festival, and I am scared. I am worried we've lost something that could have been great. Where once stood the short-haired, tight, energetic scamps reaking havoc with witty, dancy pop-rock songs now stood a gormless looking front-man, barely able to see through his mop of hair, strumming his guitar so slowly and painfully like it hurt everytime he moved. Alex Turner was fronting a band of zombies. The new songs were all so slow and depressing, where are the exciting rhythms?! It's not like they've never written a slow song but these guys aren't a ballad band, it's all about the energy and it's all been lost. I'd read reviews of the new album saying the same kind of comments, that the band's once-loved originality had been lost on Alex writing slow songs for his dear Alexa Chung and it seems to be the case. I respect the band for trying something new, but I actually had to turn the television off after fifteen minutes; the set was that slow and gormless and boring. So much for the birth of the saviours of popular music, I guess it's still down to me...

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Housework and Hangovers

So, I can't iron. It sounds stupid but it's true. Ironing is what Kirsty does, but she went out this afternoon and a part of me was bored whilst the other part realised that the flat could do with a good clean. I actually quite enjoy sticking on some good music nice and loud and really cleaning properly, although apparently you could hear the music and my accompanying singing down the street. Whoops. I then decided to attack the growing pile of ironing and, although coped well enough with the easy clothes, soon struggled with various pleated and layered dresses which will probably have to be done again...sorry Kirsty!
Anyway the result now is at least a very clean flat; all dusted, hoovered, wiped, sprayed and everything else -ed which fills me with a sense of achievement.

We had friends come to stay on Thursday night; I've missed friends and the silly sense of humour we share. Anyway it was great to go out, drink lots, find all sorts of funky bars and clubs and just generally have a good time. Until I spilt a table full of drinks. Then it was time to leave... but watching then curl up uncomfortably on the floor as I got into bed was quite funny. Alas I am still counting the days until I start uni; 20 to go in fact! When I get hold of the photos from Thursday I'll get some on here because it was definitely an eventful evening and certainly a lifestyle I can't wait to get used to. Besides, the hangover wasn't that bad...I guess I need to try harder next time.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

New Music Review: Bon Jovi

We Weren't Born To Follow is taken from Bon Jovi's latest album The Circle due for release in early November. The band had barely been off the road from performing their Lost Highway Tour before they began writing again for this new record, which is promised to be more rockier and edgier than it's Nashville-influnced country-tinged predecossor. And in a nut case, it is simply Bon Jovi sticking to what they are good at; the formula they are comfortable with and know will do well amongst their loyal followers. That is not to say though that this is a bad thing, because the band have certainly got a kick ass rock song in this. Jon's sneering vocals hide his true age (now nearing fifty) as the track sounds like it might have been taken from their 2005 release Have A Nice Day with it's big chorus and light-rock-big-stadium feel. I think all that the track is missing is a signature Sambora solo, but that's to not to say it's any less of a great song; what Sambora does perform fits perfectly. The guitar work in the choruses is progressive and melodic; with its shimmering and gleaming post-production touches, whilst it sits back strumming ghostly chords just once every four beats in the verses. Tico Torres is living up to his 'hit-man' alter ego as he pounds his way with a precision only experience can bring, settling for an almost tribal feel throughout the verses whilst opening up in the choruses. Said choruses of course are bound to be a hit with the New Jersey quintet's fanbase in their promised stadium tour throughout 2010 but I can't see it taking over the charts much here in the UK. The guys know who their fans are and don't have anything new to prove to anybody anymore; they're doing what they're doing for the love of it and they know how the fans will respond.
Bon Jovi have never been the critic's favourite band, and I think the left-turn apparent in their previous album will be over-looked as critics will probably favour the critical 'they've have taken it easy' approach which the band have recently adopted every other album. Philanthropist and charity worker Jon Bon Jovi cannot help but be affected with what he donates his hard-earned millions to, and this is ever-more apparent in his lyric writing as he finds his politcal pen and gives the working man a song to sing that he can believe in.
Radio friendly; yes. Stadium friendly; yes. A great move and a great song. In short, it sounds great; another classic Bon Jovi anthem with cool lyrics and a real fist-clenching chorus that will be rising above the rooves of stadiums in the UK come the summer next year with the classic remedy of 'let me hear ya say yeah yeah yeah' and I for one can't wait.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

New Music Review: Taking Dawn

Skimming through the 'music issue' of my favoured glossy yesterday, I came across a section entitled 'The only ones to watch'. The article selected six different artists from as many genres, picking those who are about ready to hit the big time and if you were to start name-dropping now, you'd look pretty cool come winter. I've selected the metal entry, Taking Dawn, to write a short review about their track, 'Endlessly.' The guys hail from Las Vegas and are busy recording their debut album, having signed recently to Roadrunner Records (Nickelback, Slipknot, Trivium) whilst being dubbed '80s hard rockers for the Myspace generation'. You heard them here first (hopefully).

Something fresh, something different; certainly what our current music industry is in dire need of. The new wave of 80s-inspired dance/pop acts taking over our airwaves this summer has been a sure fire hit on the popular festival circuit, but we are in need of a slightly different 80s revival. And this is where Taking Dawn step up. Endlessly smacks of a forgotten 80s metal scene, these kids grew up listening to their forefathers of rock; Skid Row, Guns n Roses, Bon Jovi and the like, and have certainly put a fresh spin on the genre nearly 30 years on. The often-wailing guitars of front-man Chris Babbitt and his aide Mikey Cross sit perfectly atop the riff-heavy verses and the many layered, harmoniuos vocal lines of the whole band throughout really give it that 80s pinch. Alan Doucette's drums are simple; sitting nicely at the back of the mix like they should be; none of this fancy over-the-top stuff that's all too apparent in the young metal scene. He provides the back beat and nothing more. Lead singer Babbitt's vocals compliment the band's sound brilliantly with their raunchy, gutty rock edge reminiscent not just of modern metal saviours such as Hinder, but also tipping their cap to a hint of Axl Rose. Defintely worth a listen if you're in need of something fresh with that retro edge. Endlessly is taken from their debut album, the 'Taking Dawn Digital EP', due for release in November this year and you can access a free download of Endlessly here.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Techno Dreams, Or So It May Seem.

I didn't think it would feel weird to have the clutches of my laptop back within reach but, after just three weeks without internet access, the small, compact keys beneath my fingertips feel almost alien to me. Strange, for someone who has used a computer almost every single day for the past six years. Alas, we now have a phone line and an internet connection in the flat. And I haven't really missed tracking everything and everyone's actions as much as I thought I might do. The novelty is wearing off slightly, I feel I won't be as addicted as before. It is though one of the safer addictions to fall victim of.

What this post is really saying is that I'm back in touch with the technological world and will continue now to maintain this blog. Glastonbury really does feel like an age away. I've always been a Country boy and the mere though of living in a City was a reality I'd rather ignore however, contrary to my previous fears, Southampton already feels like home. Moving day was swift (would have been far swifter had it not been for the too-large sofa which would not squeeze into the too-small door frame. Cue a dismantling operation followed by a trip to B&Q followed by a reinvention) and everything had a home after just two days. It hasn't taken long to find my way around and I feel accepted here already. I'm too excited for words ahead of the thought of starting uni, and am willing the final few weeks away eagerly. I have friends visiting on Thursday and I can't wait to show them around my new home town. That's not to say I've forgotten all about Glastonbury, I'm just a little glad to be somewhere that I don't see the same face twice. Small towns are perfect for young children and the older generation, but I've got some living to do and a city is the only place to be.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

What do we miss in music?

I've found time to share with you before the move a rather profound story about music, and how the setting, and our preconceived ideas, can affect our judgement and our perceptions. I found the story originally on a 'synthgear' music blog and really just want to spread this story:

Washington DC, Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007: He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approximately 2 thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.

4 minutes later:

the violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the till and, without stopping, continued to walk.

6 minutes:

A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

10 minutes:

A 3 year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly, as the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced them to move on.

45 minutes:

The musician played. Only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace.

He collected $32.

1 hour:

He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities. The questions raised: in a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments, then what else are we missing?

So Long

As I said in my first post, this was probably not the best time to start a blog! On Friday night we are packing the van, ready to leave nice and early on Saturday morning bound for Southampton. It's an exciting yet slightly scary time, but setting up the phone line and internet connection is going to take a while, which is realistically going to see me without the internet for about three weeks. This is NOT cool but can't be helped! I don't feel like I've settled in yet though, so I'll be back soon with hopefully lots of good news and interesting moving stories! See you on the other side :)

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Think Big, Dream Bigger.

So last night, I had my leaving drinks. As I was stood at the bar, I looked through to the 'band room' where I have played many times, and stood and watched other local bands do their thing. It looked surprisingly different in the dark, with tables and chairs and just two weird looking middle-aged woman and a small dog. It's normally brimming with excitement and energy and sparsely populated on the floor with a young band eager to impress. It made me think, in an unintended cliche, that dreams can start here. I've certainly watched two bands play here a few times who are now heading onwards and out of the pub circuit and into the world of music videos, professional recordings and iTunes.
I feel blessed with the talent I've been given, and am more than excited ahead of starting my music course at uni. I just see it as my stepping stone, because four years ago I was adament that my 'then' band would settle for nothing less than everything and it wouldn't be a problem getting there. I grew up, people fell out, and reality hit with a bang. I was just glad for my pedantic side which signed up for uni as a 'Plan B' route. But it's fine now, because uni can only provide me with the necassary contacts and experience and, most importantly, new people to discover and play with to 'make it', however this might be. And I take my dreams with a pinch of salt these days (but only a tiny one) and, who wouldn't want the whole fame package, but I'm not lying when I say that I'd settle for any kind of living that sees me making music and money. I'd be truly grateful for that, and I know also that it will happen, it's just a matter of time.
It was a long chain of thought as I was propped up at the bar, waiting for another drink that I didn't really need, as I peered at the dark shadows looming in the next room and wondered when it would next come to life. How different one room can be. Quite the disguise it was wearing. There is, however, an exception to the dream. If I'm 40, and still playing in that room, I'm out. I can't help but feel bad for the blues guys that are doing it still; who knows if they're just doing it for fun or kidding themselves that it might still happen. I mean, if they are enjoying themselves, then good on them, but when I peer in from the same position that I was in last night and all three of the crowd are tapping their feet, I can't help but think they're feeling a little cheated. Maybe they're touring, so it's OK 'cause they are having fun, but what if they're local. What if they never really got out of this little town in the middle of nowhere. Which had a big influence on my reconsidering of my chosen uni. I decided that now was the time to go a bit further away, to somewhere bigger and more thriving, somewhere I'd feel out of place but somewhere that I could try and touch more people that wasn't still within range of the local weather forecast on the local news channel that I was watching in the same region of the country. OK, so it's not a million miles away, but it's enough. And I can't fucking wait. Top 40, here I come.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

The Big Wide World

In just over a week, I shall be embarking on the next big phase of my life; University. My room is beginning to feel more and more empty by the day, with all my possessions slowly finding their way inside the growing mountain of boxes stacked up ambitiously in the corner of my room. It is a week of memories and reminiscence, which began last night as I spent the evening with two very close friends of mine, with whom I spent many many years playing music with in my very first band. It was a great night in which we sunk bottles of wine and chatted and laughed and just had fun. We talked about the band and flicked amorously through a scrap book that I'm so glad I started back in 2003. Posters, setlists, photos, it had everything and was great to look back on and smile. Although short-lived, it was a fantastic legacy to leave, which was proved at our come-back gig a few weeks ago as hoards of ardent old fans relived their spent youths singing along to our Glastonbury anthems. I have never played a more special and enjoyable gig. And I cannot put into words the feeling of the energy and appreciation of the crowd as we burst into our final number, a political masterpiece titled Break Free.
Tomorrow night I'm having leaving drinks with friends at The Riflemans pub in Glastonbury, where I look forward to further exploring old memories and being with the people I love.
I've been in Glastonbury for about ten years now, the longest I've ever lived anywhere and it was a strange feeling walking up the high street yesterday, thinking it might be the last time for a long time. I've done all of my growing up here and so this town holds all of my fondest memories. I will miss it, there's something special about this place, but I can't tell you how excited I am to be moving out, moving up, moving on. But I'm still coming down from the hugest laughing fit in Jake's garden that has ever existed. Guess what we were laughing at, guess what was so funny...yup, absolutely nothing. I love life!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Death of an Icon

Today I bought a newspaper, and I'm getting quite used to seeing Michael Jackson's face splashed across the front page. And then many more inside. Normally when celebrities die, they die two deaths; their actual death, and then their media death. Their media death lives on for a long time past their actual death, and this is the time where they fall victim to a complete overkill of new stories, secrets, illicit love affairs, spiralling debts, alcohol addiction and pretty much everything inbetween.

I feel prompted to write a short piece tonight on the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson. Now everybody has got their own opinion on the guy. So here's mine. I have always thought that the guy was just a misunderstood, naive 10 year old living inside a 50 year old man's body, because he was never allowed the childhood that everyone else his age was. He was too busy in gruelling rehearsals and being beaten by his father. The child molestation allegations made against him were unfair and wrong; the guy was simply living out the childhood he never had. It might have been different if he'd admitted luring children into his dingy flat, but the fact that the guy had his own theme park equipped with everything a 10 year old boy could want surely proves this. He just wanted to play, like he never got to when he should have been. I hate it when people are quick to judge without much of an opinion, other than that of the media's; 'oh he was just a peado' but this is so ignorant. I think the phrase is ignorance is bliss. The reality is, the man was an absolute genius. The word legend is banded around all too easy these days, but MJ was one of the original legends, and his legacy will live on forever.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Blog Lovin

Follow my blog with bloglovin


I am a music enthusiast and love nothing more than discussing, playing, appreciating, performing, recording, writing and everything else -ing to do with music. So I've decided to join the blogging ranks and talk about my musical musings. I haven't really thought this one through yet...maybe nobody will follow it. Maybe I'll talk about music I like or describe songs I've written or get excited about Bon Jovi's new album or review drum kits, I guess I'll just see what happens as I go along, it's probably best.

So, a bit about me. Well the title of the blog is a Bon Jovi link, so get used to that, I'm a HUGE fan. I'm a drummer living right now in Glastonbury, UK but moving to Southampton in under 2 weeks (maybe not the best time to start a blog!) where I'll be studying Popular Music Performance at the Solent Uni. I've written songs for years and also sing and play a little guitar, I've loads of gigging and recording experience. OK now it's starting to sound like a CV, I guess you'll learn more as I go for now that's that. I hope you enjoy reading!