“Spike heels make a hole in a life boat, drifting away when I’m talking and laughing as we float” – Advent day 16 December 16, 2013
It’s December 16th and therefore day 16 of the With Just A Hint Of Mayhem advent posts. I’m enjoying the music in these advent posts and I hope that you are too. So on to two songs with the number sixteen in their title.
The first song for today is from Ernest Jennings Ford who was better known as Tennessee Ernie Ford. The song is about working in a coal mine and it is called “Sixteen Tons” it reached number 1 in the US charts in 1955. The song has been recorded by many artists; including Stevie Wonder, the Redskins, Tom Jones, Johnny Cash, Bo Diddley, Robbie Williams, Dandy Warhols, Tom Morello and the Eels. Whilst Elvis Presley never recorded the song he did play it live when touring the US in 1955. The Clash had the Ford version of the song played just before they came on stage during their ‘Sixteen Tons’ US tour in 1980.
The second for today features an artist that appeared as part of one of his earlier bands on day 7 of my advent posts. It’s Jack White with a track taken from his first solo album, ‘Blunderbuss’ released in 2012. White says that the inspiration for the song came from his daughter. When Jack asked her what she would like as a snack she said sixteen saltine crackers, he said she could have three. The singles B Side was a cover of U2’s “Love Is Blindness“. The single was sadly largely ignored in the UK reaching only number 129 in the UK singles chart. The album went to number one in the UK though and also reached the top in Belgium, Canada, Switzerland and the USA.
Reading Festival 2013 – Day 1 – Friday 23rd August August 24, 2013
So here we are once again and Nick Horslen and I have arrived at the Reading Festival site for the umpteenth year. I think it’s more than 10 years for us as a team. As for me I have missed only two from the last 20 years. I attended my first ever Reading in 1976 and got in through a hole in the fence, which doesn’t seem so easy to do nowadays. Today turned out to be the hottest day at the Festival for a few years; for the weather at least!
Wytches (why is there a new wave of making your band’s name appear to be from ye olde English language?) were first up they sound a little Doorsy and their guitar wig-outs were like a harder edged garage band. Pretty good though.
King No-one from Leeds were on the BBC Introducing stage; fans of Vampire Weekend maybe? I like these dudes.
Night Engine are channeling the vocal ghost of Billy McKenzie and answering the questions can gingers rock and can they funk? The answer in my opinion is fuck yeah! Irish band Kodaline come on like the bastard love sprogs of Bono and Chris Martin but with more balls! This band deserves to be HUGE!
If you want top performance power pop look no further than the fabulous Parquet Courts. Top band! So what were New Found Glory like? As the sign said ‘Pop Punk’s Not Dead! Right on. They played the whole of the Sticks and Stones’ album.
Does what it says on the tin no. 1; Frank Turner – mightily awesome! Although perhaps not as awesome as I have known him to be in the past. His Mum introduced him, which was a nice touch. He also had a Cobain moment as he was pushed on to the stage in a wheelchair; his Mum explained that he had a bad back, however he stayed in the chair for about a minute! Interestingly he got the whole of the Main Stage crowd, including us, to sit down for one of the choruses of “Photosynthesis” to which we all sang along. Now that is a little ironic given that the chorus starts with the line ‘I won’t sit down’
We met 3 thirds of the Tuts and half of Colour Me Wednesday outside the Festival Republic Stage! I saw the Tuts earlier this year when they supported Kate Nash and I am looking forward to seeing Colour Me Wednesday later this week in Leeds. If you are reading this post and you haven’t heard the Tuts or Colour Me Wednesday then I order you to do something about that!
Has Marc Bolan been reincarnated? Nope it’s the Temples on the Festival Republic stage! Kate Nash is supremely talented and after her set I am now an even bigger fan than I was when I saw her in York earlier this year. It was great to see Nadia Tut make it onstage eventually too! A brief note to the festival organisers; what is wrong with a bit of a stage invasion instigated by Kate herself? It would have been fun and no harm would have been done. But at least three people made it up.
System of a Down on the Main Stage; loud, heavy, technically superb but would I ever listen to them outside the confines of a festival? I doubt it. Does what it says on the tin number 2; Green Day. They were very, very good and certainly had more energy than last years Friday headliners the Cure. But in a way it is kind of identikit pop punk. They played the whole of the ‘Dookie’ album, which will be 20 years old next year. I felt that apart from a few songs it hasn’t aged well. “Basket Case” will always be a classic though. The light show was superb and Billie Joe‘s stage presence is unquestionably great. The best part for me was the storming encore of “American Idiot” (I do believe I will never tire of that song) and “Jesus Of Suburbia“. Then just when we thought it was all over Mr Armstrong came back on for a solo acoustic rendition of “Time Of Your Life”. All in all a pretty good day. Now bring on Day 2!
“I have held the hand of a devil” July 18, 2013
Paul Hewson a.k.a. Bono Vox off of U2 has recently been awarded one of the highest cultural honours available in France. This was in recognition of his services to music and committment to humanitarian aid. he was given the honour; Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters by French Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti in Paris. He dedicated the award to his band, saying, ‘I’ve got the biggest mouth and the loudest voice but the music we make comes from each other’. The award was first presented in 1957 and has been awarded to other musicians including; Bob Dylan (1990), David Bowie (1999) and Patti Smith (2005). Two James Bond actors Sean Connery (1987) and Roger Moore (2008). Donald Sutherland, Bruce Willis, Clint Eastwood and Audrey Hepburn are also in that exclusive club along with writers T.S. Eliot and Julian Barnes.
While we are talking about awards it has been announced that the BMI, the music rights organisation, will present a special icon award for his contribution to music to one-time enfant terrible of the UK tabloids John Lydon formerly Johnny Rotten. Lydon will receive the award in October this year. Since those ‘The Filth And The Fury’ headlines from 1976 when Lydon was known as Rotten and fronted the Sex Pistols he has achieved bigger musical success albeit with a little less notoriety with Public Image Limited (PiL). perhaps in a step away from the rather typecast image that the British press have of him he has also appeared on the UK reality TV show ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’ on ITV in January 2004 and later fronted a few wildlife programmes. He is currently touring with PiL and recently took to the stage at Worthy Farm, Glastonbury with the band. So it now remains for me to congratulate Hewson and Lydon on their awards. For me the Lydon award is more appropriate and at least neither is some poxy award from our blood sucking UK royal family!
Some months ago when Elton John announced a UK tour of some places that never seem to get big rock stars performing the list included the Great Yorkshire Showground in Harrogate. So as I live just down the road and as Sir Elton is now 65 I thought I had to get tickets for me and my wonderful wife Catherine a.k.a Catwoman to regular readers. I love Elton’s music, especially the early stuff, but until today I had never seen him live. It was well worth the wait and the ticket price.
The support act was the amazing 2Cellos, which does exactly what it says on the tin. The act consists of two cellists from Croatia; Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser. If you had said to me before today that two guys playing cello could be really exciting and create an amazing rock sound I may well have laughed at you. But frankly these guys are outstanding. They played three covers; Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal”, U2’s “With Or Without You” and an electrifying version of “Purple Haze” the Jimi Hendrix classic.
Just as we all thought they were about to start another song Elton and his band took the stage and raced right into “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting“. 2Cellos remained with the band for that and many other songs during Elton’s incredible two and a half hour set. He seemed to show no sign whatsoever of his recent illness and really seemed to be enjoying himself. The band who included long time Elton stalwarts Nigel Olsson on drums and Davey Johnstone on guitar. These guys have played together for more than 40 years now and I think that trust and knowledge of each other really shows.
The backing vocalists could undoubtedly be an act in their own right including; Rose Stone a founding member of Sly and the Family Stone and the sister of Sly and Freddie Stone and also Tata Vega who produced some terrific albums for Motown in the 70s. Having started the set with a superb rocker the band followed up with “Bennie And The Jets” and “Levon”. I was really pleased with the eclectic set list Elton had chosen. It included many of his biggest hits along with some of those that are not heard as often. Those included two fantastic selections from the ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road‘ album; “Funeral For A Friend/ Love Lies Bleeding” and “Grey Seal” and the gorgeous “Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters” from ‘Madman Across The Water‘. I was disappointed to see so many people head for the bar and the toilets when Elton played “Hey Ahab” from his recent collaboration with the supremely talented Leon Russell.
Most of the crowd were out to have a good time and the rain didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirits. Although it was quite ironic to be listening to “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” when the weather had created the effect that the sun had never really come up! There was an element in the crowd that seemed to fit with the stereotypical breed of Harrogate snob. They seemed to be there more for the social occasion, to drink Pimms and most importantly to be seen. One bloke and his wife/ partner asked us to swap seats with him so that he could sit near his friends. We refused largely because they had been getting up and going in and out of the grandstand during the whole show (well the part they stayed for anyway). But it was interesting that five minutes after our refusal all his ‘friends’ left without telling him! I named him Mr Yo Yo Bollocks.
There were two ladies who spent most of the show dancing around and trying to get everyone else up, including the security guards. They were draped in a ‘we love Elton’ Union Jack and seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely, but I suspect that their hangovers may be huge. It took “I’m Still Standing” to get everyone up, most of whom stayed up for the rest of the show. When Elton and the band left the stage it was hard to figure out what the encore would be as they had played some many classics, but of course it was the beautiful “Your Song”. Preceded by Elton signing a whole bunch of autographs for those at the front.
Elton John is a talented musician, a gifted songwriter, a real showman and a consummate performer. There are not many people around that can match him I believe. It is nearly 39 years since I saw my first ever gig (Jackson 5 at the Wembley Empire Pool in 1973 if you’re interested!) and todays show is easily in my top 5 ever. If you are going to one of the shows on this tour I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. If you’re not then do whatever it takes to get a ticket; sell your grannie, send your kits out to clean chimneys or get your dog to wine ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ (OK probably too late on the last one). And finally thank you for a great gig Elton!
I have no film from tonights show (I was enjoying myself too much to get my phone out) so here is a clip of Elton playing “Your Song” from a couple of years back, followed by 2Cellos with their version of “Smooth Criminal”
“They say a secret is something you tell one other person” January 5, 2012
Despite all its false starts, technical problems and the death of Producer Tony Adams it seems that the Spiderman Musical may actually achieve big success on Broadway and beyond. The full title of the show is ‘Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark’ and it was written by Bono and The Edge off of U2.
It grossed $2.9m from 9 shows in its first week which beats the previous record of $2.2m taken by ‘Wicked’ from 8 shows in it’s first week in January 2011. Takings for ‘Wicked’ during Spiderman’s first week were $2.7m. Whilst this is a great start for Spiderman it should be balanced against the fact that it is the most expensive show ever put together for Broadway at $75m.
I thought I’d finish this post with a classic and appropriate U2 song which you can watch below on the web! (geddit?)
“With your bonuses and expenses you shovelled down your throat. Now you bit the hand that fed you Dear God I hope you choke” January 3, 2012
I’d like to thank my friend Stuart O’Hara for suggesting the theme of this post. Edwyn Collins once said ‘too many protest singers, not enough protest songs’. Strangely that was a lyric from his 90s hit “A Girl Like You” which doesn’t seem to be a protest song itself. That dear reader is the thrust of this blog post; where are all the protest singers and protest songs? The world economy is collapsing, riot and revolution is rife, wars and indiscriminate bombings are commonplace and UK politics is at best inept and the USA is trillions of dollars in debt and dancing with the idea of electing an idiotic republican candidate far more stupid than even Dubya was. So where are all the protests from the music world?
Aside from the fact that a legitimate protest song would probably not get played on mainstream radio and would need to ‘go viral’ on-line, where the hell are they? Where are this generation’s Woody Guthries, Pete Seegers, Bob Dylans and Billy Braggs? OK I know there have been a few good attempts since the Specials summed up Britain in song in 1981 with “Ghost Town”. Notably “Killing In The Name Of” from Rage Against The Machine and perhaps “American Idiot” from Green Day. But what happened to the establishment/ ‘the man’ being scared of rock music? It’s all become too corporate and bland.
U2 and Coldplay have tried to use their muscle to protest against various wrongs in the world, but frankly are their hearts really in it? Radiohead have supported the free Tibet campaign amongst others, but could they do more? Dylan is getting too old, Bragg doesn’t have the fanbase size required (but is still flying the flag), Springsteen and Weller have been quiet of late on the protest front and Marvin Gaye, Marley, Lennon and Strummer are sadly no longer with us.
The environment must be right for a new movement to shake up the old order just like punk did in the 70s and rave and grunge did in the 80s and 90s. The charts are stuffed full of manipulated, impresario created pop muppets; Little Mix, Matt Cardle, Olly Murs etc. It is time to stand up and be counted good people of the blogosphere. We need some strong protest songs to unite all those fighting for freedom and change. Let’s shake up that complacent bunch of career politicians in Westminster and political ivory towers across the world. Frank Turner, Show Of Hands, Neil Young you can do this we need you now! Will somebody please step forward?
In the meantime here are some classic protest songs. I would love to hear your opinions of protest songs and singers;