Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The Green Green Grass

They do say that the ‘grass is always greener on the other side’; mind you, people who make this kind of comment often say a lot of things, especially at times when you wish they would keep their particular self important brand of philosophy to themselves just once in a while.

However; at times sayings like these do contain a modicum of truth.

When I was in my teems I dreamt of being a ‘Rock God’, and I mean a proper one, not one that borrowed this moniker in way of ironic self effacement.

Like Jimmy Rabbit from the film The Commitments I would lie on my bed of an evening day dreaming of television interviews I would have with Michael Parkinson explaining why I was not like one of the typical brand of ego inflated rock casualties and that I intended to give so much more back to society and the world (thank the Lord, Bono beat me to that one and proved how irritating that kind of self righteous attitude can be despite the extremely honourable intentions).

Sadly my dreams of interview supremacy was not to pass, at least not with Parky anyway as he has now long retired from the chat show game, and I find myself reflecting more in these pages than I would have to an adoring national TV audience.

As much as it would have been fun to have been a giant in the world of men I think that perhaps I have done okay…at least to some extent.

The more I see and hear I come to realise that no matter how far we travel as troubadours we will never be satisfied with our lot.

The sight of Jon Bon Jovi moaning about how lonely and bored he sometimes gets all alone in his hotel room after a gig makes me feel like screaming “then buy a book or a pack of cards you ungrateful Muppet”.

However; in all seriousness the serious number of rock & roll casualties in terms of drink, drugs, relationships and mental health issues seems to suggest that the good ship fame and fortune is not all that its cracked up to be.

When you hear multi million selling record artists claiming that they tire of performing to hundreds of thousands in the worlds stadiums and would prefer to be reliving the intimacy of the pub/club circuit you are left feeling that it really is that tough at the top either that or they have very short memories, or, and this just a suggestion, they’re talking crap!

I would love to be there when some 80’s poodle perm turned musical colossus decides to truly relive that artistic intimacy of his early days and cart his own kit into the Frog & Hamstring (having dumped his van 3 miles away due to the lack of parking in the vicinity), set up in a space no bigger than a picnic table, having moved a rowdy crowd of inebriated office workers first, to perform to a totally indifferent crowd of chav teenagers and aging cider heads and then pack up the van in the rain. Oh, and barely cover the petrol back home for his troubles. Then perhaps they might be grateful for what they have got and trundle off to chat to the concierge or something instead of complaining at their lot in life.

All in all though, despite the lack of a road crew, despite the serious lack of cash that gets bandied about at the end of gigs and especially despite the hit and miss size and appreciation of audiences, it is still better to be performing in a rock & roll band that still has the ability to entertain than not. This is a cause for some kind of contentment.

Hey and at least I get to go home most evenings after the show to my large glass of post gig scotch and a pot noodle. I wouldn’t say that this is exactly living the dream, but it’s my home and it’s my Pot Noodle and generally at 1:30am in the morning I have ‘Mock The Week’ for company.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

A face for radio

Well we did it, we actually set foot into the bright sun light and had our photos taken.

Bottom line….I think we may have to go back out and do it again. A comment about me closely resembling American actor John Lithgow has seriously dented my rock & roll ego and has resulted in my hiding my head inside a paper bag ever since.

Aaron was so self conscious about this rock & roll photo lark that you could hear the tension creaking from every limb of his body. Every photo resulted in him standing stock still with a fixed grimace of embarrassment on his face. Mind you this was not helped by his sister the photographer biting his head off every time his hands went near his pockets, which is sad really as my hands never left my pockets.

Mind you we have learnt a couple of valuable lessons about back ground, colour and not rolling out in a t-shirt when it’s freezing cold, you tend to look it.

Out of about four hundred pics these are probably the least embarrassing and even then they have stretched my photo shop ability to its maximum.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Bruce Willis Vs The Oscars

I think I may have mused this one before, but if you compared what we do as musicians to Hollywood movie stars, who would I be?

It’s a pretty stupid thought I know, but when you are sat in a corner of a pub listening to the many fine musicians that come through Bristol as part of an acoustic showcase your mind does tend to wander into uncharted territory.

I think part of this thinking was born out of the look of sheer horror that accompanied the faces of those ‘serious’ musicians that had to follow us during one of these showcases.

It’s not a gripe, just an observation, but if you have a party, or a celebration or an event that is designed to raise money then The Mudheads or The Loaders are your boys. However; if the event is more ‘high brow’ and with the intention of impressing people then we are the last bunch that ever seems to get invited.

I think this was no more appropriately illustrated than when Aaron & I performed at a local competition (for the full story go here). My memory of the event was that we received the biggest and most enthusiastic applause of the evening and yet we weren’t even short listed. Could it be that as entertaining as we might be, we lacked that certain credibility that is required to be taken seriously by the music community. (Perhaps my Mr Blobby costume was an ill advised idea after all).

I have long compared the live music scene with the Oscars in what the general public find credible and what they do not.

You might for instance have an absolute blockbuster that everybody wants to see like Avatar or Pirates or even Harry Potter and you know full well that none of the cast are ever going to walk away with an academy award. And yet it is obvious by the box office receipts that these are the kind of films that the majority of people really want to go and watch.

The films that do win the awards and receive plenty of in-house back slapping and kudos the majority of your cinema loving public have never heard of.

I know it’s a bit of a generalisation, but I wonder how many of you out there got to see Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart? because he got the best actor award this year. Sam Worthington was the lead in the most successful film of all time and he got nada, zip, diddly squat. That would be Avatar in case you were wondering and most of you did see it and perhaps more than once.

And I think this kind of attitude does tend to translate into the music world.

You have only got to listen to a room full of academics or bored musos talk about their music tastes and what you get is an apparent fondness for hard to reach indie, world or art house music that is as inaccessible as a French film noir.

They might make some reference to early Cold Play or some Leonard Cohan but apart from that it’s generally some tortured genius from 1968 who “blew his mind” in a frenzy of psychedelic self pleasuring.

I admit that we all like to be a little ‘snobbish’ when it comes to our record collections and I suspect that majority of us would rather die than let an acquaintance have a good rummage through our old vinyl, tapes and CD’s, only to rise holding aloft a hidden gem with the words “bloody hell, the Wombles” on their lips.

So perhaps we all claim a sensitive, well considered and academic leaning to our music taste when we are in company and yet air guitar to our hearts content when “Cum on Feel the Noise” by Slade comes onto the radio.

I have to confess to this artistic hypocrisy as much as the next person when somebody wanders into my office at work and are amazed at how fast my I tunes can be flicked from Hits of the 70’s to Nick Cave or Norah Jones.

However; to my original point, if what I do could translate into Hollywood, who would I be?

I suppose if I am honest I would be a bit of a Bruce Willis, and I don’t mean the lack of hair connotation either.

Old Bruce just keeps going and going and yes, going. Nobody EVER admits to liking him or rating him as an actor, but we will all sit down of a late evening with a can of something and a big bag of crisps and enjoy Die Hard for the umpteenth time. It’s just like admitting you had a bit of a soft spot for Duran Duran after all.

I suppose that if I had to be anybody though I would prefer to be Clint Eastwood, he just keeps on getting better and better and more and more popular the older he gets. And where as it used to be a bit of an embarrassment for the elite to admit that they watched Clint Eastwood films, now the guy wins Oscars.

Maybe rock & roll will once again become ‘cool’ and even Robbie Williams despite being a complete prat at times can claim his place as a good all round musical entertainer. I mean come on, 30 years ago, who would have predicted that Tom Jones would headline at a festival like Glastonbury and be seen as the coolest of the cool.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Every Picture Tells a Story

I HATE having my photograph taken, I really do, which as you might imagine being an earnest rock god eager for public attention can create quite a dilemma.

The problem is purely and without apology ego and nothing much else.

I look in the mirror of a morning and wince. The older I get the bigger the groan as I peer half heartedly at my own reflection and ask for the billionth time why I don’t possess the rugged good looks of some Hollywood heart throb or rock superstar.

As the lines on my face begin to resemble a google map and my hair recedes faster than the tide at sunset I reluctantly contemplate that I possess a face and physique for radio.

Over the years I of course have had to endure said photo shoots for the sake of publicity and generally I have got away with it. At least I think I have.

My first proper and serious photo session in a studio was for the cover of the first album I was ever involved with. I was all green flight suit, long blond hair and sultry 19 year old glare and I think I managed to pull it off. Besides, my friend and comrade took all eyes off me by sitting on a piano stool. By the time the photo had been processed the moody shadow that framed us made it look like that he was only four foot tall. He was NOT happy.

Over the years I have had to endure the indignity of having a camera thrust in my face in order to get THAT shot that would sum up the rocker that was within.

This was all very well and good until I hit the dreaded 40’s and my waist line began to indicate that this particular rock star was going the way of Elvis and enjoying perhaps one too many beefburgers.

The last serious shoot I had to face was for the cover of the Mudheads Monkey album, Shout!!

The trouble with this album photography session was that it was actually a freezing cold day and the photo that we used turned out to be one of the very last shot. My gormless expression has rather more to do with my chops being frozen stiff than actually an endeavour to project any particular kind of mood.

I was also beginning to show the tale tale signs of middle age and several of my closest friends took great delight in pointing this out as the CD was sent all over the globe.

I kind of lost my confidence after that and have avoided the camera like the plague ever since.

With my current incarnation in The Mudheads I have managed to avoid this particular humiliation for the past seven years. That was until the current depression in live music in the south west has forced our hand to repackage ourselves as a serious bet and put together a highly polished highly professional promotion pack.

My excuses have finally run out especially as my daughter is a photography degree student, and as a band we are going to be getting out and about during the next weekend and trying to get just one decent shot of the band.

You’ll know me, I’ll will be the one hiding behind the younger and slimmer guitarist.

Emma has promised me that she is a whiz with photoshop; however even then it will be such a huge piece of software manipulation that should she pull it off she will be able to submit it as part of her course work…..she ought to be able to get a first out of this.

If you are interested, I have marked out some of my photo history on Face book. I will be adding new photos when we have done them.