Taking the long way home (a 20yr old guide)

It was the 20th May 2017 and after checking in to our hotel in Paddington after a long trip from the South West we had a freshen up and it was time to see Roger. This would have been the second year in a row seeing him, only this time we would be 6 rows from the front of the stage at the Royal Albert Hall!

We took a walk through Hyde Park on the way to the venue and it couldn’t have been more perfect. The sky was blue and there was enough sunshine to see the glory of the Albert memorial opposite. A sign outside with Roger on it confirmed tonight was the night!

Many people crowded at the entrance but then we realised we weren’t entering from Arena F, we needed to walk round to Arena A! The entrance was eerily quiet but we managed to go straight in, oh my gosh this was exciting.

We bought a quick drink and navigated to our seats. The stage was set. A large drum kit at the back accompanied by synths and in the middle a beautiful Yamaha Grand Piano. Rogers acoustic guitars all stood proudly in front of them alongside his keyboard. To the right side of the stage there was a table of numerous brass instruments and gadgets and gizmos. The stage was lit in a calming blue and green shrubbery had been brought in especially as if to create a relaxed feeling.

The Royal Albert Hall seated over 5000 people that night, and the atmosphere was wonderful. The excitement built until they all graced the stage kicking off with “Take the long way home”

All of my friends have no idea who Roger Hodgson is and I have to explain he is the mastermind behind the popular group ‘Supertramp’. Normally a few songs being played from the album ‘Breakfast in America’ confirms to them that they know the group! As much as people should know who Roger is we like the fact that we get it and others don’t. Being in our 20s makes the music more special and sentimental to us.

The night was full of staggering music and a quick glance round the room showed me that the audience was buzzing and having just as much fun as the group on stage. I believe that the group who play with Roger are just as incredible as the man himself and all deserve great admiration for their musical abilities. We found much amusement to learn that some of his Canadian colleagues tried hard to practice some of the lyrics which are required to be sung in a British accent.

I am 29 years old and my girlfriend who is 22 both love Roger and have adored all of his music (yes all! Every album back to back). We don’t just love him because of his music alone. When you see him live he confirms to you what a good hearted man he is. I don’t believe it is possible to create such heartfelt lyrics as Roger does without knowing how to connect with people and he does that with ease.

Roger played some great tracks from In the Eye of the Storm, Breakfast in America, Crime of the Century and an exquisite performance of Fools Overture from ‘Even in the Quietest Moments’ on Grand Piano. There were countless other tracks but he picked some lovely lesser known tracks, well, at least lesser known to most people.

By the moment ‘Dreamer’ kicked in we both immediately stood up from our seats and started clapping and dancing for Roger. The people around us weren’t as quick and for a moment Roger was in direct eye contact. Roger looked directly at us and delivered that wonderful smile and a wink. Having that briefest of connections with Roger was a wonderful moment.

The room was now anything but still. Everyone in the audience felt commanded to stand up and have a dance. Song after song it got better. The happiness was in the air around us and you could feel it right through your soul. Roger made us both intensely happy that night and he deserves great thanks.

A well deserved encore brought more fun including most of the audience taking out their umbrellas and dancing to “Its raining again”. I didn’t want it to end. The bittersweet thing about seeing Roger perform is that it feels very fleeting because he takes you on such a journey through his own life with his wonderful music.

I have learnt that Roger does take requests so if we are lucky enough to see him perform again next year I will request my favourite song “Poor Boy” from the album ‘Crisis what Crisis’. I can imagine his accompanying vocalist doing a superb job of those crazy sounds at the beginning.

The show was now over and we loved every second of it. We stepped outside of the Royal Albert Hall confirmed that Hyde Park was locked for the night. Being unable to find a taxi we decided to “take the long way home” which seemed fitting.

Thanks for the giving us young folks a wonderful night Roger, you move us with your music and for that we are all eternally grateful.

Am I the only one that likes Björk?

Björk is an acquired taste, and her music is very concept driven. I think that Björk has a perfect balance on how music is typically sold to us and how Art is presented to us. When you look at her album covers for example (which are a footnote compared to her overall achievements) every cover tells a story. Björk wanted her ‘debut album’ to personify her as a vulnerable girl coming into the dangerous industry of music, ‘Post’ was supposed to represent her break into fame with this girl being lost in the sea of fame where it is almost nauseating. Then you look at covers like ‘Homogenic’ where Björk no longer represents a person anymore but more a work of art herself almost as if to hint that her work and that fame she once craved is as John Updike once wrote “Like a mask that eats into the face”.

I was always aware of Björk when I was growing up but she was never a main focus for me because I was too young to be able to explore her art. Out of curiosity I bought her ‘Greatest hits’ which of course is actually more of a fan driven selection of must hear tracks. I was blown away by how much differing emotion there was! It was like an adventure not just of emotions, but the fun of trying to understand and deconstruct what Björk is trying to teach us. This album instantly inspired me to seek out the seperate albums which in their own right have so much to offer.

Björk is like no musician I have ever heard before, she has a style about her that has been widely borrowed from but has never been matched. You could make the assumption that Lady Gaga was inspired by Björk simply based on how she dresses up provocatively but musically the styles are very different. I also find Björk very unsettling and I think she played on this ideal at some points. 

Björk is not afraid to be sexual in her performances, she pokes fun at the concept in some works and lovingly uplifts it in others. Björk herself has a very childlike persona, Thom Yorke of radiohead loves Björk and when describimg her he said “her voice is very sexual but at the same time childish, she has a lot of power in her voice but you’re not afraid that it will do damage” her screeches are very much like a misbehaved child but she sometimes gets to points where she is just making noises and using her voice like an instrument, the sound she produces is beautiful.

Björk seems to be in control of her creative freedoms which is refreshing too. A notable point is that “Oh so quiet” has been one of her largest hits but this is a cover of a 50s song and the music video directed by Spike Jonze was a homage to old musicals. This song does stand out like a sore thumb on the album, but to me this feels like Björk showing us she can add something to any genre no matter how detached it is from her regular stomping grounds. Björk isn’t after fame, she is after creating something worthwhile, which is why this track felt more like an attention grabber!
Björk seems to breathe life into genres that she touches. Take the Sugarcubes for example, which were the band that she originally started in as a young adult, (if you don’t count when she was a child star producing traditional asian songs). The Sugarcubes were full of angst and punk style ‘fuck you’ lyrics. The band are very tongue in cheek and are great fun to explore but one song on that album “Birthday” became a gigantic hit in the UK when John Peel brought it to the radios as an imported track. Bjork shows off her incredibly vocal dynamics in this song and has impeccable accuracy when it comes to hitting ranges. Dance, electronica, hip hop, house, jazz, jungle, trip hop, they have all been inspired by her and she has dipped her toe into a variety of genres. Björk seems to forge new genres and blurs the lines between them, this is possibly down to the avant garte underground music in which she takes root. Björk is clearly not afraid to experiment, and this is what makes her music exciting.

Björk carries with her a great sense of humour and I particular love her appreciation of animator John K and particular 90s cartoon Ren and Stimpy. Björk had John K animate one of her music videos ‘I miss you’ which is very strange but great fun.

One of the rather sad things about Björk is that to date I have never met anyone who has listened to her music! I have tried to show her to people but they never have the urge to explore her music like I do. As much as it’s a shame it is a pleasure that I have had the chance to experience the beauty she brings to her work.
If you have any interesting points or would like to share favourite songs and what they mean to you please let me know.

Let music be your time machine

We are incredibly lucky to have at our disposal decades of music to explore. There are rocky cliff faces, gentle streams, hot desert sands and even frozen lakes of music. We can travel back in time hundreds of years before we were born, or go through history tuning into the music of many different generations. To say that older music isn’t important is just as stupid as saying that Classical literature isn’t important. Older music inspired new music, yes, it even inspired you lady gaga! I know you think you’re one of a kind but you were inspired too.

Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with liking new music, after all artists like Ed Sheeran and Calvin Harris for example have contributed a lot and many people love their music. But I would say it is healthy to put those on ice for a little bit and look back at some great lyricists from the past. When I was 16 my parents moved me out to the country and I was basically alone until I started college. I didn’t realise what I was doing at the time but I was self medicating through music. I started listening to artists I liked and then looking at who inspired them, and then who inspired them and kept going back. By doing this I have branched out and my CD collection is very large.

Music has a great way of tapping into your moods. You could listen to something upbeat such as “Build me up buttercup” by The Foundations when you’re upbeat, or listen to “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails when you’re feeling down. You could listen to “Hallowed Point” by Slayer when you’re feeling angry or listen to “Don’t be shy” by Cat Stevens when you’re feeling delicate. Whether you are willing to adapt to different genres is up to you. Music shouldn’t be written to impress you personally. The moment music has no artistic merit it stops being art and judt becomes a product to simply be bought. Don’t be tempted to make a snap judgements about a particular genre just based on one song either! You could listen to The Sex Pistols and say based on that band alone you don’t like punk. I totally get that I hate the Sex Pistols they seemed to be too much about angst and we’re incredibly lucky to be in the right place at the right time. Instead listen to later punk (90s Punk) such as The Offspring, Bad Religion, NOFX, Descendents, Blink 182. You might find an artist in the same genre you like but is much different.

You can enjoy music on many levels but for me I always feel as if I am hunting for that special lyric which resonates with me. A popular song to quote but in Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” one of the lyrics is the greatest thing about having nothing, is that you have nothing to lose. I always find this uplifting. Paul Simon wonderfully wrote the lyric my life seems unreal, my crime an illusion, a scene badly written in which I must play. Music of this kind blurs the lines between pop songs and poetry.
Not all music has to be focused on lyrics in fact most classical music has no lyrics. You are at the mercy of a musical ensemble. Much like the varying genes of popular contemporary music, classical has variety. I suggest if you are interested in Classical music you should read my other blog on the subject.

Every genre has something to offer you! Hip hop, Country, Acid, Folk, Rock, R&B. Why aren’t you exploring these? There might be a single track that helps answer  worry you’ve been struggling with for some time!

Some people make the mistake of only sticking to the past for music and make statements like “Music was so much better in the 60’s” well that’s not true! There was a lot of shit music in the 60’s too but we just don’t hear about it now because it wasn’t popular. Don’t stick to a certain era of music just because you have fallen in love with it. You owe it to yourself to branch out and try new things, you can always come back to the 60’s!

I have written up the below taster menu for you to try, but please comment your favourite songs and tell me what they mean to you!

  • Late in the evening – Paul Simon
  • Waiting on a friend – The Rolling Stones
  • Inside of me – Little Steven And The Disciples of soul
  • Calling it quits – Aimee Mann
  • Human Behaviour – Bjork
  • Totally nude – Talking Heads
  • Living on a thin line – The Kinks
  • Air Giant – Transglobal Underground
  • Miles from nowhere – Cat Stevens
  • 8 ball (Remix) – N.W.A
  • Juicy – Notorious BIG
  • Pity the dead – Bad Religion
  • Love letter – Nick Cave & The Bad seeds
  • High hopes – Pink Floyd

My search for “The lasting effect”

I have lots of personal goals in my life, but a lot of them follow the average textbook path of achievement… get a job I like, buy a house, settle down etc. Most of my goals however are important to me but will not have a lasting effect on the world. Let me explain what I mean by this:
As I grow older I realise that our lives are precious, and we will never be certain of how much time we have left to live. Impressing other people (no matter who they are) is not important, unless it truly matters to you.

When I was at primary school I was required for drama to go up on stage and to perform a play. This play was with my class in front of the whole school during assembley. I can remember being quite excited about it and I was so young I didn’t understand why I should have been nervous by something like this. I knew exactly what I had to do when I was on stage and couldn’t factor in the risks of what could happen. Part of my scene was that I was a king and I had to walk in to my Kingdom, say a few lines, all of the other servants would bow to me and then I would sit at my throne. I managed to hit all of the lines perfectly but when I went to sit at my throne which was a simple chair it had not been set up correctly and one of the chair legs was positioned off the back of the stage. The moment I sat down the chair swung back flying me off the stage and I hit the ground. The whole school burst into laughter. One of my best friends at the time ran down to me to make sure I was alright. I was so embarrassed, I remember being bright red having to go back and sit on the stage for the rest of the scene which felt like an eternity. A girl I had previously fancied in primary school came up to me after the play whilst I was still shaken up by the whole thing and laughingly said “Well done you idiot you ruined our play”. I was more than hurt my this event I was ruined. The love of my life had just stabbed me firmly in the heart at my most weakest.

This event in my life was upsetting but I have noticed how now it doesn’t effect me. How many years did it take for me to get over it? The beauty is that nobody at school remembered it and after a short time it became old news and society forgave me. Even something like that which effected me personally doesn’t have a lasting effect on the world.

This might be slightly nihilistic, but used appropriately this is a great coping mechanism. Every time someone hurts you personally you have to say to yourself in 100 years time we will all be dead and nobody will remember this moment, so is it worth worrying about? You also have to say, am I responsible for what happened? Is it my fault I fell off the stage, or was it the prop hands fault for not securing the chair on the set? The lesson at the time in my childish brain was that I’m useless and unloveable. The true lesson is that getting upset over something trivial is only useful if you can learn from that moment to improve yourself.

As a young man trying to understand the world I apply this logic to everything that I come across but it begs the question, what is worth doing? If I was to do something positive like give to charity, this act will also be forgotten in 100 years and I will just fall into a general population of charitable individuals. If I worked for a company and did a fantastic job, after 100 years that company might be out of business or even if they werent, they still wouldn’t have to hold my file on their records.

The only way to be truly immortal is to create a legacy and leave something behind. When people realise this they follow the easist way to leave a legacy which is to have a baby. I have nothing against having children, but I dont see this as achieving my personal dreams, and I dont want to have a child and use it as an excuse as to why I didn’t enjoy my life. If a father told people “well I couldn’t achieve my dreams because I chose to be a father and that is the most noble thing to do, I gave up my life so someone else could have a life”. This parent would privately resent their child if that was true. The desire for that child to succeed is then heightened and the weight of needing to do something with their life is put on the childs shoulders instead of their own. Of course there are many parents who responsibly achieve their dreams before having children and love their children very much, but psychologists will tell you that the latter does still exist.

Who then does have a lasting effect? Galileo is remembered hundreds of years after his death but we can’t all just go to the supermarket for a marvellous discovery. Elvis Presley is remembered for years after his death but he was fortunate to have been involved with some talented writers and for being painted up as the heart throb that he was! Dont confuse the lasting effect with being famous, as that doesn’t make you necessarily worth remembering. Charles Manson is a famous murderer but we dont see him as a contributor to the goodness of the world.

I believe we all need to pursue our dreams and search for a way to leave something memorable behind. Dont be afraid of failure because those who fail are actually better than those who never try. If you are doing the best you possibly can internally then all of the external stuff you can’t control doesnt matter. You have to say to yourself, am I doing the best I can? As long as you are, stop worrying. One of my dreams is to write and publish a book, becase this is leaving something behind. Shakespere is always going to be on a book shelf and by contributing positive thoughts through the medium of literature, I personally see this as one of the most exciting forms of lasting effect there is. Art in any form is eternal, the problem people have is that not anyone can do art.

Modern Art: and why people hate it

Modern Art has always been a point of contention for many people. In the past Art was often dedicated to try and represent reality and painters would produced very detailed art that didn’t necessary hold any particular subtext. For example in 1400 during the Renaissance period in Italy the people requesting art were incredibly wealthy and normally of a Christian persuasion, which is why we have such a wealth of pieces depicting religious accounts such as the crucifixion or the Virgin birth. It wasn’t until 1814 when Joseph Niepce invented the first working camera that changed the landscape of Art forever. As soon as cameras became commonplace a photograph could capture real life easily and this would be a lot cheaper than hiring an artist. As history went on artists could no longer just create literal interpretations of nature or history, instead they had to try and create art which expressed feelings that couldn’t always be expressed through a simple picture.

The period of modern art is supposed to have begun during the middle of the 19th century when artists approached art in a different way. It is not to say that they stopped depicting real life, but they experimented in holding a message behind their work, something which lends itself to the viewer as a message that also came with that moment in history. No longer were artists restricted by the conventional ways of working and instead they were able to experiment. If you take work such as Vincent Van Gogh, this isn’t necessarily set out to perplex the viewer but instead presents reality in a different way using different brush stroke techniques and styles. In my view this period of Art history is one of the most exciting and shows a rebellion to the fusty old ways of producing art.

Kandinsky 1910 (above)

By the end of the 19th century Abstract art came along and artists were using this medium to express art which wouldn’t always hold any particular meaning. Art no longer needed a strict meaning but could be open to interpretation by different people. As history went on even further the subjects became intensely complex and often no explanation would be given to the work at all. Sometimes when it was explained the viewer would be left with the complications of working out how an artist can associate such a simple image with such a large moment in history.

Why Modern Art upsets people

I have heard many people say that they dislike modern art but often think of the word ‘Modern’ to mean this very moment or within the last ten years. Modern art of course is actually quite old now and so I imagine they probably dislike certain types of modern art such as Cubism, Abstract, Surrealism etc. Certain types of people like their life to be simple in ever single way. Complex Modern art doesn’t lend tself to that type of person.

I was at a party and I overheard a group of individuals saying they were shocked that Tracy Emin’s work titled “My bed” was sold in auction for 2.5 million. The work of art is such a commonly given example of something that upsets people. Emin herself has always tested the boundaries through taboo in her work. The party continued by saying “How is a ‘bed’ art?, anyone could have done that” the person then pointed at a table and chairs at the party and said “I might as well call that art” I then said in return “Okay then, explain to me what that represents?” The person was flummoxed, unable to think of what to say. That moment proved a point that art isn’t just about what we see but is instead about what we feel. If something is created to provide a reaction then that is art.

Another conversation I had was with someone getting furious about a musical composition titled “4’33 – John Cage 1952” where the whole length of the work is heard in complete silence. There is an orhestra that all sit down together as if to perform but all the sheet music shows is a rest for the entire performance. Part of me wonders if this was inspired by Samuel Barbers 1936 piece adagio for strings which contains a haunting silence in parts of the sheet music. The issue again is not with the piece itself but with how we Interpret the piece. My friend was not wrong in disliking this piece, but how you react to art describes the lense at which you view your own experiences.

Unfortunately for my friend, artists know that this bothers people and some work is intended at making people furious. A great example is Artists Shit – Piero Manzoni 1961 where an artist supposedly canned 90 containers said to be containing 30g of the artists own feces. Each container was sold by the artist. The tins each were labelled saying that the feces belonged to the artist and that the intention of the work was for his feces to eventually be worth more than the price of gold. Historically this feat was achieved. In 2016 a single tin sold for €275,000. This of course outraged some people, but we will never know whether the artist actually did as he told us. To engage in this thought process is to capture the nature of questioning that comes with modern art.
I don’t enjoy all modern art, but then I do find some of the work challenging, and this is not a bad thing. To get furious that you do not understand the intentions of the artist is hilarious to me. We mustn’t fall into the trap of saying that if art is complex and we do not understand it, then it must be rubbish. I believe that not wanting to have to invest in something to understand it is reflective of a persons philosophy of the world. Often life doesn’t make sense and we have to try and make sense of it to ourselves.

Why you lied about David Bowie

bowie_on_tourWhat a surprise, another ‘Icon’ dies and in comes the floods of comments on social media about how this person made their life complete and that now he has died there is no more happiness left in the world and we should all just bloody kill ourselves. Come on, you know what you are doing! Bowie is exactly where he has always been (in your music collection) and anyone who says that he could have accomplished so much more if he had lived on, is kidding themselves. David Bowie has a wealth of work behind him and is a respectable person in music history, and he doesn’t need lousy comments from some 16 year old girl who only owns the greatest hits of Bowie, andsearches the internet for some scrap of Bowie lyrics, trying to pass themselves off as a mega-fan. In my personal opinion the only people who can truly mourn David Bowie are those people who have met him personally, spent lots of personal time with the man and who were able to see behind the façade that is fame. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that people shouldn’t be allowed to feel upset that an artist has past away, but do not cheapen the moment by trying to win the competition of who was the biggest fan. Every time I see a status by someone who is showing their Bowie Vinyl collection or writing comments like “RIP Bowie – So glad I saw you live” I want them to be banned from ever using the internet again. Who is so rushed to pass on their condolences that they need to write “RIP” instead of “Rest In Peace”. Perhaps this need for speed comes from the very fabric of this current generation, who never truly appreciate the magic of music until the artist has died. I am quite comfortable with the fact that David Bowie is gone, as well as Kurt Cobain and even Michael Jackson because they have already spoken to me through their art, and that feeling will never go away. I do not understand the need to plaster your facebook wall with ramblings about David Bowie unless you are craving attention yourself, almost as if you want to be seen on some high pedestal as the only person who truly understood the man behind the work. When statuses are written like “RIP David, thank you for all the great tunes, is there life on mars?” It makes me wish that David Bowie could respond, and that his Status would read something like this:

“Sorry I am not sure who you are, but I am curious that now I am deceased you see fit to thank me? Where was my thanks over the course of my entire career? Also, If you thought I was dead did you really think I would be logging on to some sort of ‘afterlife twitter’, where I can massage my ego reading about your nonsense. I once wrote a song called “Life on Mars” which was released in 1970 as part of my Hunky Dory album, but I am not sure why you have tagged on the title of that song to the end of your status? Surely if you wanted even the illusion of profundity you would have used a lyric from ‘Changes’ as that would be more fitting?”

In most cases I do not think people intend on sending the wrong message about Bowie, but when you see people writing such awful statuses you realise how hard it is to use any sort of medium to express how we are feeling inside. Art has always been an outlet for people to express their inwards feelings (outwardly) even if those concepts are hard to stomach. The great Bertrand Russell wrote in his book the Conquest Of Happiness (1930) that “When the public cannot understand a picture or a poem they conclude that it is a bad picture or a bad poem. When they cannot understand the theory of relativity they conclude (rightly) that their education has been insufficient. Consequently Einstein is honoured whilst the best painters are (or at least were) left to starve in garrets, and Einstein is happy while the painters are unhappy”. Doesn’t this statement just sum up the inconsistency of how we appreciate achievement and the true values of great art. Hopefully in the future our culture will open our minds properly and show as much respect for many different types of complex art not just so we can use it as a shield, but so we can use it as a medicine.