The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


If You Thought My Love Of Queen Was Waning …

I love Queen.

Or more specifically, I love early Queen.

I can just about stretch to 1984 – after that, I accept their choices and output became rather questionable.

OK, so I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing them with Adam Lambert leading the stage, but from a musical point of view, it’s fair to say their best days are definitely numbered, but then at 70+ years of age, who can blame them.

That said, Brian May is still someone very special to me.

He basically made me pick up the guitar.

He gave me the desire to learn, the hunger to keep practicing and the confidence to play in bands and gigs all around the World.

Since those early days, I have done a lot of playing.

And bought a lot of guitars.

Classics. Custom made. Cheap as chips.

And while the closest I ever got to his handmade Red Special was a pretty dodgy Gordon Smith back in 1984, I’ve always thought about getting a custom made one of his.

I never did it for a few reasons.

I always thought it was a bit sad to have a guitar so synonymous with someone so famous and – frankly, with the amount of guitars I own – I couldn’t justify it.

But a couple of weeks ago, I accepted owning one is not going to make me any sadder than I already am so while my chops are a fraction of what they were when it was my life and my job, I took the plunge and last week, all my Brian May fantasies came true once and for all.

It might not make me play like him.

It might not even make me sound like him.

But it makes me feel insanely happy and has me playing guitar more than I have in years.

Now all I need is a poodle perm. Oh, and some hair.

Thank you Mr May. Again.



Your Enemy Is My Friend …
May 15, 2019, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Audio Visual, Music

So recently, the lead singer of The Prodigy, Keith Flint, died.

This news was met with an outpouring of grief from all sides of the music industry

Uniformly, he was celebrated for his passion, talent and his humility – best celebrated by, of all people, James Blunt.

But there was one person who – for me – captured the essence of why Flint was so special.

Kathy Burke – an actor. not a musician – sums up his brilliance as well as the state of the music industry in just 19 words.

That’s not just about her brilliance with words, its her ability to get to the essence of what bands mean to us.

Especially when we’re young.

Where the music we like isn’t just about cultural currency or even generational inclusivity … but to actively demonstrate our independence from our parents choices and preferences.

A thing for us, not them.

Something that speaks to us but shouts at them.

If only planners had such insight …




Craft Is Not A Cost …

The picture above is a ‘behind the scenes’ photo of Queen preparing for a photoshoot.

Not just any photoshoot … but one that define their immortality.

Now looking at the state of them, you’d not thing that was possible.

John Deacon is wearing a Queen t-shirt for christsake.

But in the hands of the brilliant photographer Mick Rock, he turned these 4 lads into genuine music icons with an image that will outlive the band and define an album, a song and a video for decades ahead.

At a time where more and more people are trying to devalue the value of craft, I hope people see this and remember it’s not a cost, but an investment that pays for itself many times over.



We All Need To Be More Like Yoyoka …
August 17, 2018, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Creativity, Music

Yoyoka Soma is 8 years old.

She’s a fierce-as-fuck drummer.

Not in a ‘cute kid plays drums’ sort-of way … but in a she’s a ‘great drummer sort-ofway.

Frankly, if the World felt as much joy as she does when she hits those drums – especially when she’s playing the rhythm with the hi-hat – everything would be perfect.

She – like her fellow Japanese musician, Hiromi – is my hero.

Hope you have a weekend that will make you smile as much as this …



Queen Know Music Is Still A Business …

Yes, this is about my favourite band, Queen.

Yes, I know they aren’t really a band anymore and – to be honest – some of the stuff they’ve done in the last 15 years has made me cringe a little bit, but that aside, their music from Queen to Hot Space [I don’t have as much of an issue with it as most Queen fans do] are still albums I hold dear to my heart.

Anyway, as many of you may know, they’re producing a film about the life of Freddie up until the Live Aid concert.

I get why they decided that was the cut off date, because apart from it being arguably their pinnacle moment, he apparently had not yet discovered he was HIV positive so it allows the film to focus on his glory, not his pain.

Anyway, recently they released the teaser trailer for the movie and I have to say, it’s epic.

Not just because of how good Rami Malik looks in the role of Freddie.

Nor because of the bizarrely accurate voice of Brian May.

And not even because of the spectacular stage sets and fashions.

No … it’s because of the fantastic sound design.

Just like when they performed at Live Aid, the band know the best way to get people interested in the movie beyond sad fucks like me, is to remind them how many songs of Queen they know and like.

By mixing some of their biggest hits seamlessly together, they have increased the odds of making a movie about a man who died 27 years ago interesting to people who were born 27 years ago.

That’s pretty impressive, especially for a band that is almost 50 years old.

A band where the guitarist will be 71 years old in a week and the drummer 69 years old in about a fortnight.

[Not forgetting Mr John Deacon, who will be a young 67 in August. And looks it]

Now I know the trailer doesn’t really say anything and – I am still petrified it’s going to end up feeling more like a ‘Lifetime Movie’ than a Hollywood blockbuster [especially with all the issues the production has faced] – but I have to admit I have watched it so many times and been in awe every time … especially the bit between 11 and 16 seconds, where you see the different ‘looks’ of Freddie in concert, because I remember some of them from when I saw the band live.

Oh god, I’m even more pathetic than I thought.



Beyonce Makes Everything Better …
March 30, 2018, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Comment, Creativity, Culture, Music

So one of the things I love watching is artists performing other artists songs.

Even better, watching artists performing other artists songs in front of those artists.

It’s a big deal to do that.

A song is so much more than just music and words, it’s about connecting to the story behind the song – often a personal situation the writer experienced or faced – so to just ‘play the notes’ does everyone a disservice.

A while back, I wrote about how the band Heart played ‘Stairway To Heaven’ infant of Page, Plant and Jones and how it obviously deeply affected them because they didn’t just capture the magic of the song, but elevated the drama of it all.

In the post I asked, what must be going through their heads while watching it.

Was it the amazement that a song they wrote in early ’70, was still being played – and loved by people of all generations?

Was it that the shock that a song they wrote in early ’70, could still have so much energy?

Or was it that a song they wrote back in early ’70, was being played for the President of the United States?

The emotion of knowing it literally couldn’t get ‘bigger than this’ or the simple realisation his impact on World history was assured?

Well I recently saw another video of an artist performing another artists song in front of them and this had a totally different energy to the Heart/Led Zep one.

This was pure extravaganza.

A mixture of energy, entertainment and sheer-bloody-power.

Unsurprisingly, it features two of the World’s most incredible performers … Beyonce and Tina Turner.

To be honest, while I’ve always admired Beyonce., I probably haven’t recognized just how great she is.

That changed with this performance.

Don’t get me wrong, I always knew she was an amazing talent, but it’s the way she delivers her performance that really got me.

Somehow, she has managed to recreate the force of Tina Turner.

It smacks you in the eyes.

You feel it inside your bones.

Part of it is because it feels the music is always about to run faster than the lyrics … the other is the backing singers routine is short, sharp and precise, keeping the energy of the music alive visually as well as sonically.

For me, Beyonce’s performance of Tina Turner’s classic ‘Proud Mary’ is a revelation and by the look on Tina’s face, it’s both a recognition of the impact she has made on culture and the realisation that the door she opened – at great personal sacrifice – was worth it.

Watch it, it guarantees you will enter the weekend with a huge smile on your face.



History Repeats Itself …

So a while back I went to see Queen with Adam Lambert.

The last time I saw them, Queen were made up of the original four.

It was also the last time the original 4 would ever play live together.

Of course at the time, I didn’t know that was going to be the case – though rumor says Freddie did, even if the rest of the band weren’t yet aware – however despite only 50% of the band being on stage, it was still exhilarating to watch.

It was also a bit weird … because rather than see them in Europe, it was in China.

And rather than see them with my best mate Paul … it was with my wife [and a bunch of Wieden folk]

That might not seem that strange to you, but it was mental for me because the situation was the absolute opposite of that mad summer in 1986 where my parents, reluctantly, let me follow them on their tour.

I must admit, when I walked into the venue, I was nervous for the band.

This was the first time they had ever played China and the venue – an 18,000 seater – was only 10% full.

Of course I knew people would come in as the lights went down and if they really hadn’t sold many tickets, they’d have cancelled the show … but I felt some kind of responsibility given I was a fan from England living in China and wanting their first impression of this amazing country to be a good one.

Of course I shouldn’t have worried because as the lights went down, the stadium was packed – to the seats high, high, high in the rafters – and that made the whole night even more wonderful and emotional for me.

The band was brilliant.

The sound was brilliant.

The lights were brilliant.

And Mr Lambert was brilliant.

Sure, he is no Freddie, but he is an amazing singer with perfect levels of campness that did the songs, the show and Freddie … incredible justice.

But the real reason it was emotional was because the moment they hit the stage, they momentarily transported me back to being 16 … where I was on the cusp of entering a life full of adventure and possibilities.

Of course I hope I still have a lot more adventures and possibilities to come [more of that in a few months] but that doesn’t change the fact these concerts represent significant bookends of my life.

One where I was about to start my journey. One where I am its midpoint.

And I don’t mind admitting that when they came on stage, I found myself crying.

I know, it’s pathetic, but it was less about seeing a band that I love with all my heart [though it has a bit to do with that] and more a reminder that despite all the wonderful and sad things that have happened in my life over the past 30+ years, they were still there.

My friends.

My confidents.

My escape.

To paraphrase the great Bill Shankly, some say music isn’t a matter of life or death.

They’re right, it’s way more important than that.