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


Love Works In Strange Ways …

So good news, this might be the last post for 2 weeks.

TWO.

Though don’t get too excited because it might only be one.

Either way, you have lucked in as it’s definitely the last post of the week because today I’m in Paris and then on Wednesday, I’m off to Lisbon so I can speak at a conference.

Hahahahahahahaha.

I must admit, I still find it hysterical that people want to hear me talk about anything. Especially given all my ‘material’ is available for absolutely nothing on this blog.

Well, if ‘loss of brain cells’ is absolutely nothing.

And yet I do enjoy talking at conferences …

I like the process of trying to think of something interesting to talk about for the audience.

Working out the best way to get the message across without falling into the deadly presentation paralysis.

Then adding the stories that will either make the audience semi-like me, think I’m a cheeky bastard or just plain hate me.

I say all this but I bet the only reason I do get invited is to be the court jester to the audience – and given the wonderful Mr Weigel will also be at the same conference – I’m even more sure of this fact.

But what it means is I’m away till Monday so with that I want to leave you with a delightful story I’ve just heard about.

In the early 80’s, Queen worked with a German producer called Mack.

He was quite revolutionary for the band – helping change their sound and way of recording – which meant they were one of the few artists who went into the 80’s stronger than when they were in the 70’s, culminating in some of their biggest ever hits.

Another One Bites The Dust.

Crazy Little Thing Called Love.

Under Pressure.

Radio Gaga.

I Want To Break Free.

Unsurprisingly, Mack got very close to the band and asked Freddie Mercury to be his eldest sons godfather. And it’s to this background I read this story from Mack about what happened on his sons birthday.

Have a read, see you Monday and here’s a link to the video being talked about below.



Best Of The Best Or The Least Bad?

Today I’m judging the Effies.

Oh awards …

I’ve written so, so much about them in the past.

Like here. And here. And here. And here.

I must admit, I am intrigued to see what they are going to be like in the UK.

Will they be a celebration of insightful efficiency or will they be like I experienced too many times in Asia, a stream of consciousness that just rumbles along till they think they have explained how they got to their idea and how they have proved it worked.

I guess we shall see later today.

I really, really hope they are good.

Not just because the Effies have always had a standard they’ve lived up to, but because it will give me faith the industry still has fight in it to do things right.

In my time in the UK, I’ve read a bunch of planning documents/portfolios/resumes that have been more about packaging.

Repeating a client brief in a way that has been ‘sexed up’.

Superficial.

Executional.

Literal.

There are a bunch of reasons for this.

Part of it is the lack of training agencies give their strategiests.

[Hence why we started the School of Strategic Arts]

Part of it is the huge amount of freelance planners out there who are doing exactly what they are asked because they are fighting for their livelihood.

And part of it is because of the client/agency remuneration deals which means planners are giving too little time to explore the best outcome to the problem they face.

Planning has a valuable role to play in effectiveness.

Planning has a valuable role to play in creativity.

But it needs to be allowed to do it to make it happen … so here’s hoping we see the best of what it can do today, because the Effies is not just important for the people who win, but for what the industry needs to get back to being.



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.



Growing Old Stupidly …

When I was in my late teens, I would go to Rock City, every Friday night.

Rock City was a mecca for heavy rock music fans.

From 9 till 2am, it would play none-stop tunes at eardrum-busting volume.

There would be the classic songs by the classic bands – Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Queen, Whitesnake – but the best bit was when they would play something that was just breaking over in the US.

It was at Rock City I first heard Guns n’ Roses, Cinderella, Love/Hate, Badlands and countless others.

Eventually, Rock City gained an international reputation and so bands would not only send them copies of their new album before they were released, but they would ensure they visited and played at the venue as part of their World Tour.

I went to that smelly, sweaty, cramped and pulsating venue for absolute years.

Starting at the Tap and Tumbler pub round the corner before queuing up for entry in the sort of clothes a stripper would balk at before hanging around the edges of the club to say hello to the friends and acquaintances you knew before finally working your way through the heaving, throbbing masses to get into the middle of the dance floor so you could be swept up and pushed around by the intense energy of hundreds of people all loving the same thing at the exact same moment.

They were, quite frankly, some of the best times of my life.

I made friends.

It forged and influenced my love of music.

I discovered what being part of a community was really like.

It pushed me to experience and experiment with things I may never have done.

Which is all my way of justifying why – when I heard they were changing the floor after
40 years and were selling the old one off in pieces – I happily paid them £40 so I could own a piece of my history forever. [See pic at the top of this post]

Yes, it’s tragic.

Yes, it’s pathetic.

But as mid-life crises go, it’s less expensive than a Porsche.

Or an affair.



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.



Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You …

So this post is about Queen.

The band, not her royal highness.

Do I need to call the Samaritans for you now?

Anyway, as many of you know I’m doing a weird, long-term, creative project with a famous Rock band.

As part of that, their management connect me to all manner of weird and wonderful people and recently, they arranged for me to talk to someone who knew Freddie Mercury.

I should point out, him knowing Freddie was not the reason they connected us up, but it soon became the reason for me.

I couldn’t let such an opportunity pass and so after our chat about the task in hand, I told him I was a huge Queen fan and that I’d heard he was a long-time friend of Mr Mercury.

I was over-the-moon when he started telling me some personal anecdotes about Freddie, but there was one thing he mentioned that particularly grabbed my attention.

According to him, part of Freddie’s brilliance was that he was a ‘high class problem’.

He used those exact words.

What he meant by that was Freddie would never allow his issues or ideas to be ignored or fobbed off – by band, management or record company – because they knew if he had a problem, he would not let it pass until it was discussed or dealt with.

The reason I found this fascinating is that we now live in a time where more and more companies value ‘colleague complicity’ above all else. Where anyone who has a different opinion – especially a different opinion to management – is seen as the enemy, even tough in many cases, the motivation behind the challenge is simply a desire to have a better understanding of the viewpoint or wish to help the company achieve at a higher level.

With that in mind, I think it should be the goal of everyone to be a high class problem. It might be hard, it might be met with resistance – but if you are doing it for the right reasons, it’s the right thing to do however, as Mr Mercury’s friend told me, you better have earned the right to be that way or you end up simply being a “dickhead diva“.



Here We Go …

So here we are, the last month of 2018, and what a year it has been for me.

Started out in the sunny life that is Los Angeles and end it in the rainy life that is London.

From Deutsch to R/GA.

From Audi’s to the Tube.

From LA Din Tai Fung to the new London Din Tai Fung.

[Let’s be honest, I’d never of come if they weren’t here]

But I’m happy – very happy.

Sure, there’s a bunch of things I miss, but apart from the fact many of them will remain in my life for ever, the rest I can look back on as experiences I am fortunate to have had so I’m grateful I got to have them rather than sad I’ve lost them.

I know, who am I?

But all that is for a an even more boring post sometime in the next few weeks, so I’ll end this far-too-positive post with one of my new favorite songs, ‘Love Can Only Heal’, by Altered Bridge and the Slash band, Myles Kennedy.

I know you will think it’s bollocks – but apart from the fact that means you’re all a bunch of musical heathens who can’t appreciate the brilliance of a melancholy melody that’s orchestrated with a slowly building pulse of drama – you’re forgetting the alternative would be suggesting you listen to Queen.

Suddenly not so bad it is?

And it gets better … because for reasons that make no sense whatsoever, I’m going to be on my way to the US again by the time you read this. Which means you’re free from my blog rubbish till Thursday and given the following week is the final week of blog posts from me for 2018, you are exactly 7 posts away from ending the year on a positive.

If that doesn’t make you enjoy today, then nothing will.

Happy Monday.