Monday, 21 December 2009

Suffering for your art!!

Today is proof that miracles still happen at Christmas.

We have a new UK no 1 single, which due to sheer bullheaded promotion by the British public themselves isn’t a record from the X-Factor… joy is complete.

Add to this that my view from my office window is of a winter wonderland and it has to be said that I feeling slightly festive.

However; I didn’t feel quite so festive at the end of last week when we were called upon to perform our last gig of the year at Aaron’s local.

It’s a great place as they are always so friendly and enthusiastic towards us.

However, tonight there was a slight problem. My microphone kept on giving me electric shocks throughout the whole evening.

Despite swapping mics and leads throughout the set I maintained a steady stream of electrical jolts through my lips. Now not being one of those children that risked getting a stroke by licking the end of live batteries I have never been overly keen of getting electrical surges thrust unwillingly into my face.

My son and heir offered his usual hand of support and sensitivity to my painful plight and just rolled his eyes at his old mans obvious girl like behaviour in the face of unwelcome pain.

This gig was supposed to be a celebration in honour of the Christmas season; instead I was beginning to be in danger of looking like Beetlejuise at a Halloween party. Also, the prospect that one of these shocks could suddenly amp up the surprise a little and send me crashing back through the drum kit and CJ’s waiting embrace did not fill me with confidence. Remember people have died from being fried by their own Microphones (Suzie Quatro was rather dramatically electrocuted on an episode of Midsomer Murder…and yes, before you say it, I know that this particular scenario is ‘made up’). It was noted on several occasions that as I sang I was backing further and further away from my microphone with a look of uneasy concern written all across my face.

Anyway the result for me was that as opposed to rocking the night away full of Christmas vigour and rock & rill excitement I spent the night as the condemned prisoner on death row awaiting the throwing of the switch.

Talk about suffering for your art.

Friday, 11 December 2009

"So this is Christmas"

If I were a gambling man, which I’m not incidentally, I would lay good money on the fact that this years number one Christmas record will again come from the Simon Cowell, X-Factor school of music.

It wouldn’t be so much a gamble as a sound investment. However as the chance of said record reaching number one is a ‘dead cert’ then the odds would be pretty low and I would probably just get my money back with no interest.

I am not having another one of my monumental moans about X-Factor incidentally, I am just lamenting the disappearance of yet another British tradition of weeks of wonder culminating in everybody huddled around their transistor radios on the Sunday before Christmas to listen to the chart run down and to find who had made that hallowed spot that year.

When it’s already been set in stone by a 13 week promotional junket on national television and the press, it kind of loses its excitement.

I am in fact a big fan of Christmas music as well as Christmas itself and every year I hang on and fight the temptation to fling on a few Crimbo tracks before the end of November (this year I crashed and burned when feeling particularly stressed I stuck on a Christmas album by an American band called ‘Mercy Me’ about a week before December. Their rendition of ‘Rocking around the Christmas tree’ is second to none and it really cheers me up).

However, have you noticed that the majority of Christmas albums that are released every year are full of ‘Rat pack’ songs from the 50’s, with the 70’s as a stop gap and that is pretty much it (if you allow the timeless classic ‘A fairytale of New York, which came from the 80’s of course).

Is it that we have lost the vision for Christmas songs? That no matter how hard we sing ‘Let it snow, let snow’ it won’t. That the very mention of ‘A long time ago in Bethlehem’ will send councils across the nation into a state of sheer panic. That ‘Peace on earth, good will to men’ is but a fairy tale that we give to children and that most adults cynically no longer believe in. That ‘Last Christmas’ is likely to be as expensive as this one is turning out to be.

It is a sad fact that we do not seem to be producing the ‘Christmas Records’ that once we did (I know that I ought to mention the all time classic ‘A Millennium Prayer’ co written by our good friend and sparring partner Quick Sketch. However, as it is not strictly a Christmas record I will let that one slide…although it’s addition to any new Christmas compilation does help the Quick Sketch family eat during the dog days and long may it continue).

However, I refuse to give up on my favourite Christmas tunes no matter how cynical we become. The mere happening across a few notes of certain tunes can send me hammering back into the mists of time and memories of happier occasions.

‘So this is Christmas’ by John and Yoko never fails to transport me back to a school, disco in Hartcliffe school and the memory that all was well, and that these girl things, although not to be understood, were actually rather nice and that whenever I got close to one my heart rate would increase….strange that.

‘Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ takes me to a party at the Railway Club at Templemeads Station in Bristol, where myself and good friend Bassbin had weekend jobs when were kids (we sold newspapers and the like on the platform…..ah, heady days). I remember bobbing my backside off at the party….and believe you me, this boy don’t dance (normally)

And I am not ashamed to admit that listening to Country Christmas songs by John Denver will always put me immediately into a very good Christmas mood indeed. You see my father was, and is, a huge John Denver fan and so Christmas in our house was not only a happy affair but had that county festive stuff as it’s sound track.

As I type this my Itunes on my PC is playing yet another version of ‘White Christmas’. I mean, it’s been covered more times than a hospital bed during a Norvo virus outbreak, but hey, this is nice gentle version by some Celtic women and so I am feeling relaxed and festive.

Long may it reign.

I wonder for those that are reading this, what Christmas songs ring a certain note with you and would you be brave enough to share it.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Wild Horses

I was traversing the terrors that are the early morning rush hour on the way to work a few weeks back, relieving my growing stress levels by partaking of some breakfast radio when Sir Terry (that’s Wogan for those of you not in the know) played a song that was beautiful.

The song was originally written and sung by the Rolling Stones and was called ‘Wild Horses’. This time the song was stripped back and simply sung by what I assumed was some young Celtic princess from the school of Enya or Clannad.

To be honest it was so moving that it almost brought a tear to my eye. I certainly had a lump in my throat that’s for sure.

I nearly crashed the car when Sir Tel sited that this was the new single from Susan Boyle.

If you have been living in a cave for the past twelve months, on either side of the great Atlantic pond, then you would be forgiven for not knowing who Susan Boyle is.

However for the rest of she has become somewhat of a legend and has been entered for ever into the hall of fame for the greatest televisual moments.

The show was another one of those awful talent shows, Britain’s Got Talent, where the unsuspecting, pre-prepped wannabies are wheeled onto the national stage in order to make utter fools of themselves for the nations delight.

Susan Boyle was a wannabie that guaranteed to bring the television nation to its knees in a fit of collective hilarity.

She certainly had the look of somebody that had been ‘cared for’ for most of her life.

Nobody had told her that you are supposed to have two eye brows and not one. They had also failed to mention that white shoes definitely do not go with light grey dresses and black tights.

I spend 10 months working in a community care home. I had several clients who would have been dead ringers for Susan. And yet some friend of humanity thought it would be highly entertaining to present this vulnerable lady in front of a blood thirsty Simon Cowell for our pleasure and out she came.

The audience and judges in unison collapsed in mirth.

Simon politely, yet patronisingly asked what she would like to achieve from being on the show. She replied that she wanted to be a professional singer. By now, people were wetting themselves and were visibly having difficulty breathing.

She had opted to sing a song from Les Miserable’s. The nation thanked the Lord that she was not going to murder ‘Feelings’ or there could be a couple of fatalities in the audience.

Then she opened her mouth and sang.

I was sent the clip on Youtube, which was where I first saw it, and my reaction was pretty much the same as everybody else. Mouth wide open and staring in wonder.

This ‘special case’ had the voice of an Angel.

Immediately the laughter ceased and was replaced by a gentle sobbing. Many moved by the beauty of this ladies voice. Other’s moved to tears by the weight of their own guilt. They, like us all had judged this book by its cover and now we all felt collectively ashamed.

She didn’t go on to win the competition. Then again, it was almost guaranteed that she wouldn’t with the way these things work.

However, she has become stellar in her fame, especially in America.

Her debut album is the fasting selling d├ębut album of ALL time. She is now a house hold name.

Surprisingly the album is made up of mainly hymns and gospel classics including ‘How Great Thou Art’ made by famous by Evangelist’s Billy Graham's resident singer, George Beverly Shea. Not the sort of thing that the great British public would normally rush out to buy.

I wonder, could it be true as sited by comedian Russell Howard that everybody has rushed out to buy the album to ease their guilt and that every mother in the land will discover it in their Christmas stocking this year. I suppose the second album will prove or disproof this theory.

All I can say is ‘fair play’. Susan Boyle took the nations love of humiliating the under dog and she rammed it down their throats.

I don’t know what the future holds for her. The media alone would love nothing more than for her to have a massive meltdown, and if they can help make it happen they will.

I don’t know if she really is nothing more than a novelty act. I hope not.

Either way, her version of ‘Wild Horses’ is testament to substance over style and I for one salute her for it.