Posts Tagged ‘book’

An audience with Paul McCartney live stream from Southbank Centre 5 November 2021

paul4 - Copy (2)Paul McCartney has recently written a wonderful book entitled The Lyrics, which is a beautifully presented, two-volume (in a presentation box) selection of 154 of his lyrics. The book was edited by the poet, Paul Muldoon, who  helped Paul choose the lyrics to be included. This live stream was from a question-and-answer/audience with event which saw the two Pauls interviewed by Samira Ahmed in the Southbank Centre, London. I would have loved to attend the actual event in London but, given my circumstances, it was more practical to settle for the live streaming. Having said that the live stream was excellently done, and I really enjoyed it. It was actually almost “like being there”!

“More often than I can count, I’ve been asked if I would write an autobiography, but the time has never been right. The one thing I’ve always managed to do, whether at home or on the road, is to write new songs. I know that some people, when they get to a certain age, like to go to a diary to recall day-to-day events from the past, but I have no such notebooks. What I do have are my songs, hundreds of them, which I’ve learned serve much the same purpose. And these songs span my entire life.” – Paul McCartney, The Lyrics

“In this extraordinary book, with unparalleled candour, Paul McCartney recounts his life and art through the prism of 154 songs from all stages of his career – from his earliest boyhood compositions through the legendary decade of The Beatles, to Wings and his solo albums to the present.” (From Paul McCartney website)

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I have just received my own copy of the book and haven’t had time to go through it properly yet. However I can confirm that it is a beautiful artefact, well presented, and provides fascinating insights into the lyrics of one of our true musical geniuses, and one of my heroes. I look forward to going through the book in more detail in the weeks to come.

Paul McCartney’s collaborator and editor in this venture comes with an incredible pedigree and background, which makes him an excellent choice for working on The Lyrics. Apparently the two Paul’s worked together for five years, carefully selecting which songs to include, spanning Paul McCartney’s entire career: “Paul Muldoon is an Irish poet. He has published more than thirty collections and won a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the T. S. Eliot Prize. At Princeton University he is currently both the Howard G. B. Clark ’21 University Professor in the Humanities and Founding Chair of the Lewis Center for the Arts. He held the post of Oxford Professor of Poetry from 1999 to 2004 and has also served as president of the Poetry Society (UK) and Poetry Editor at The New Yorker.” (From Wikipedia).

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Chair and chief questioner Samira also comes with impeccable credentials: “On TV I present Newswatch on BBC1 and the BBC News channel. I was named the British Broadcasting Press Guild Audio Presenter of the Year 2020. On radio I present Front Row on Radio 4 and the Intelligence Squared podcast How I Found My Voice.” (In her own words, from her website).

The event was fascinating and well presented. Samira did an excellent job, questioning the two Paul’s. It was very clear that Paul and Paul have built up a very close working relationship. Paul Muldoon clearly has a deep understanding of Paul McCartney’s lyrics and throughout the evening it became very clear the very careful and almost forensic way in which they had approached the selection of the lyrics. They felt that the final collection represents the entirety of Paul’s career and includes important lyrics each of which tell their own story. The lyrics are presented alphabetically, rather than chronologically (which is what I for some reason expected), as they explain: “Arranged alphabetically to provide a kaleidoscopic rather than chronological account, it establishes definitive texts of the songs’ lyrics for the first time and describes the circumstances in which they were written, the people and places that inspired them, and what he thinks of them now.” (From Paul McCartney website).

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The first thing that came over to me very clearly was just how natural Paul McCartney sounded and behaved. I don’t know what I was expecting, but what I saw was an ordinarily guy, without any big ego, chatting about his work and his life. It was a pleasure to see and hear him talk so naturally about songs which have become parts of all of our lives and which mean so much to many of us. There were many little snippets which came out and revealed aspects of the songs and their lyrics of which I was not aware. A few I remember, I will recount below.

“Ticket to Ride”. Paul revealed that there was a double meaning to this song. Apparently, he and John Lennon wrote the song during a trip to a family home on the Isle of Wight and “Ride” has a double meaning, referring to “Ryde”, the town on the Isle of Wight where they were heading.

“Eight Days a Week”. Paul was travelling in a taxi and he asked the driver what sort of week he had had. The taxidriver replied “It has been really busy. I have full on working eight days a week!” Paul rushed to see John and said “I have a great title for our next song!” The rest is history. I wonder if that taxidriver ever clicked on.

“Let It Be”. This iconic song came to Paul in a dream where his mother appeared to him and, as Paul appeared worried about something, she gave him a piece of advice. She simply said to Paul “Let It Be”. He said she seemed completely real in the dream. I think we all have such dreams which seem real to us. I often wonder if they do have a deeper meaning and represent some alternative reality.

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Paul also discussed how the fact that he is left-handed and John was right-handed helped them when writing songs together. Instead of the necks of their guitars getting in the way and hitting each other, they would point in opposite directions, enabling the two to watch each other as they played and sang. Paul said he could watch John’s guitar playing and this would help him complement it with his own guitar or bass playing. He also said it brought the two young men closer together which helped with their singing, harmonies and songwriting. A fascinating insight which, in some ways, is obvious yet reveals a lot.

The evening concluded with Samira selecting a small number of questions from the audience within the Southbank Centre and from those sent in online.

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A fascinating event, which complements a wonderful book, and gave some unique insights into the thought processes behind the lyrics and songs of one of our musical geniuses.

It is not often that we get an opportunity to gain intimate insights into the mind and thoughts of a musical genius. One thing I forgot. Paul also spoke lovingly of his education at school. He admitted that, although he did not realise it at the time, he learnt a lot from one particular teacher, who taught him English Literature. He said that he particularly enjoyed Chaucer and the Canterbury Tales (“very rude, filthy!”) He also admitted that all four Beatles gained a lot from school and that influenced their songwriting, perhaps without them realising.

John Lydon, I Could Be Wrong, I Could Be Right Durham Gala Theatre 18 October 2021

LYDON TIX“He’s a legend and an icon, a revolutionary and an immortal. John Lydon – aka Johnny Rotten – changed the face of music and sparked a cultural revolution. The frontman and lyricist of the Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd (PiL) caused a political earthquake and transformed music for good. To coincide with the publication of his new book, the brilliant, funny and insightful I Could Be Wrong, I Could Be Right, he is touring the UK. Lydon will talk about how he sees life, along with his unique and extraordinary career, and take audience questions during a pyrotechnic, one-off tour. Lydon will be sharing his thoughts with audiences. He Could Be Wrong. He Could Be Right.”(Tour announcement, 2019)

LYDON 5You couldn’t get much more of a contrast: Cliff Richard two days ago and then John Lydon! Two very different icons of popular music. But then, perhaps not as far apart as you might imagine: “Lydon, the uncompromising man of punk, explained his admiration for Cliff Richard: “My parents had a fantastic collection. It wasn’t just Irish folk tunes and accordion diddly-doos, there was early Beatles and lots of Cliff Richard too. The first record I would have ever wanted to buy was ‘Move It!’ by Cliff Richard. It was a really good song at the time and still is.” Richard may be a bit square now, but he influenced tonnes of acts form the sixties. “Early Cliff was a riotous assembly of sorts, and he had moves that left a good impression on a 5 year old.”” (Far Out)

I waited some time for this one. It was originally announced in 2019 and scheduled for 2020; then postponed until 2021. This is quite a lengthy tour, seeing Lydon visit venues up and down the country, promoting his latest book: I could be Wrong, I could be Right. I bought a copy of the book when it was initially issued; one of 5000 signed copies, each presented in a lovely box featuring one of John’s paintings on the cover (see images). Now I have seen John at a similar event a few years ago when he was promoting his last book, in Manchester, where I was lucky enough to meet the man himself and have him sign my book. I have already written about that encounter.

LYDON 1The stage was nicely set out with two red velvet chairs, one for John and one for his on tour interviewer. We weren’t allowed to take photographs, hence the image of the stage setup. The evening consisted of two segments separated by a short interval. The entire show lasted around two hours. The first segment was devoted to John telling us some memories of his life. The second and final segment took the form of a question-and-answer session. Attendees were allowed to write questions on special cards and post these in a box, placed at the front of the stage, during the interval.

John was on good form. He really doesn’t care what he says or who he may offend; but then, that’s just him, as he always was. The first segment started with John talking about his early years and being brought up by Irish Catholic parents: a father who finished every sentence with “you f**king c**t!” This phrase would reappear throughout the evening along with many other expletives. One thing I have learned about John, is that he is a mixture of 100% authentic, some exaggeration and speaks from the heart. Through all that he is very, very funny and there is a total honesty about the guy. I hope all that mix makes some sense, somehow. Anyway, that’s how he comes over to me. And so the story continues. We learn a lot about his childhood in a Catholic school run by nuns and priests who abused him in several LYDON 4ways. He talks a lot, and becomes quite emotional, about his wife Nora who has Alzheimers and for whom John is now primary carer. He has been with Nora since the 1970s and she is of German origin and the mother of the late Ari Up of the all girl punk band, The Slits. He clearly has a deep love for the lady and speaks with great affection about how best to deal with, in a very positive way, those who suffer from Alzheimers. He talks also about Jimmy Savile and how he outed Savile on the BBC in the 1970s, only to be banned by the Corporation from then on. He talks briefly about Sex Pistols and the recent court case, referring to his former bandmates in less than harmonious terms; involving more expletives. I guess I won’t be going to any Sex Pistols reunion gig for some time; if ever! “Speaking on the opening night of his extensive ‘I Could Be Wrong, I Could Be Right’ spoken-word tour this week, he ranted: “They’ve turned themselves into really greedy, selfish, nasty f****. But c’est la vie.” (Contactmusic) “JOHNNY Rotten shouted “liars, liars filthy liars!” on Good Morning Britain” (The Sun)

During the interval I chat with my carer Lisa and my sister-in-law Elaine, who has come along with us to the show as she is a fan of John and the Pistols. Now there is a story about this if you will bear with me for a minute. When I was going to see Sex Pistols at Scarborough Penthouse with my late wife, Marie and my friend Trevor, Elaine was a young teenager and cried for us to take her along to see the band. However, the Penthouse being an over 18 venue, we felt we could not risk it as she may not have been allowed entry. She was very upset, and has remained a fan since those days. Back to the show. I also partake in a nice cold pint of LYDON 3Guinness which goes down really well (even through one of those horrible paper straws).

The final segment of the show is the question-and-answer. This features questions about the recent legal case, and one which, most of all, both surprises and pleases me. John is asked who his favourite bands were before he joined Sex Pistols. His answer is, Roxy Music, The Kinks, and to my surprise: the Edgar Broughton Band, Pink Fairies and Status Quo. About the latter, he explains that Status Quo were a pretty great rock band in the early 70s; a sentiment which I fully agree with. He talks about putting his head into the bass bin at a Status Quo concert, something which I remember doing at a Motorhead gig. Very foolish. But Edgar Broughton! I was delighted to hear that he was a fellow fan. Indeed he went on to quote the main line of Edgar Broughton’s single “Gone Blue”: “I love that little hole in the back of her head”. I still don’t fully understand what Edgar was referring to there. Anyway, back to John. Another question asked if he believed Sid would still be alive if he had not met Nancy. John answered “No” and revealed that Sid’s mother was a heroin addict who gave Sid some heroin for his 14th birthday! He spoke quite emotionally and touchingly about his love of Sid and how he was his best mate. He also revealed a love of one of my own heroes: Alice Cooper, and talked about how he auditioned for Sex Pistols in Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s SEX shop in the Kings Road, by singing Alice’s “Eighteen” and “Schools Out” in front of a jukebox. The evening finished with John discussing his love of reggae music, how it influenced Public Image Ltd and leading us in a singalong similar to his single “Rise”.

LYDON 2Both Lisa and Elaine really enjoyed the show, as did I. A very entertaining evening with an icon of punk rock and popular culture. It doesn’t come much better than Cliff one night and John two nights later. A short taxi ride and we were back home where Lisa and Elaine hoisted me back into my bed with thoughts of John and Edgar Broughton swirling around in my head, no doubt aided by the pint of Guinness. A great night.

Francis Rossi I Talk Too Much Newcastle Tyne Theatre 2 August 2021

FRANCIS TIXWell it finally came. My first concert for almost 2 years. I was excited and, I must admit, a little nervous. My first outing was to see my old friend/hero Francis Rossi of Status Quo at Newcastle Tyne Theatre on a spoken word tour, promoting his autobiography I Talk Too Much. So off I went, with my friendly taxi driver and my carer Lisa, armed with my copy of the book (which I hoped to have signed by Francis) to the lovely old Tyne Theatre in Westgate Road, Newcastle.

FRANCIS 3“In this explosive new memoir, the famously indiscreet Rossi reveals the true-life stories behind his unbelievable career. Painfully honest at times, the book covers the glory years, the dark days, the ups and downs of his relationship with the late Rick Parfitt and the real stories behind the creation of some of the greatest rock music of all time” (I Talk Too Much — FRANCIS ROSSI)

We arrived just in time to take our seats for the prompt 7:30 PM start. The stage was set with two nice comfy chairs one soon-to-be taken by Francis and the other by his interviewer/compere Mick Wall, renowned Rock journalist and author. Mick opened the proceedings by warming us up with a vintage video, which we have all seen and love, of Status Quo, a young Francis and Rick, playing “Pictures of Mastic Men” on Top of the Pops. It took us all back to the start and was a great introduction to the star of the show, Francis Rossi who took to the stage with a bow, his usual cheeky grin and sat down opposite Mike. And so the evening, and the fun, began. We had a great view, three rows from the front to the left of the stage.

FRANCIS 1Those of you who have ever seen Status Quo live will know that Francis is, by nature, a cheeky, chatty chap. He started by going back to his early life, reminiscing about his Italian, ice cream shop and van, roots in London and how his father would sing to him in Italian and how he soon learned to play the trumpet and then the guitar. The story moved on to forming a band with old friend and ex-Status Quo bass player, Alan Lancaster, how they went on to play at Butlins and met a flashy young face called Rick Parfitt. Soon they were together as Status Quo and Francis told us of how he wrote “Pictures of Matchstick Men”, basing it roughly on Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe”. Francis picked up a guitar, playing and singing to demonstrate how he wrote their first hit record.

There was a box at the front the stage where you could post written questions in the first half of the show. Mick Wall then collected the box during the interval and selected some questions to ask Francis. I didn’t ask a question but one thing I should have asked is “When and why did Mike become Francis?” As I recall, in the late 60s and early 70s, he was always known as Mike Rossi and then somewhere along the line during the 70s he became Francis Rossi. I always wondered why, and still do. Maybe one day I may get the chance to ask him. The first half of the evening finished with the story moving on to the emergence of Status Quo the triumphant rock and boogie band that we all know and love, illustrated by some great video footage of the band at the height of their fame playing “Down Down”, “Rocking All Over the World” and “Whatever You Want”.

FRANCIS 4During the interval I treated myself to a glass of red wine, sat back in my chair and waited for Francis to return. Soon the show resumed and we moved on to tales of how they opened Live Aid, which I was lucky enough to attend in Wembley Stadium, Francis explaining that nobody really wanted the opening slot but they realised how important the concert, the event would be and how being the opening act would be a great place to be on the bill. Then there were tales of the breakup of the band, the re-emergence with Francis and Rick leading a new version of Status Quo and being back in the charts with “In the Army Now”. All of this was delivered with Francis’ usual cheeky Cockney charm. Then he moved through the years talking quite emotionally about the sad passing of Rick and the latest Francis led version of Status Quo. I must admit I always had my doubts about Francis continuing after Rick’s passing but I guess it is in his blood and to him it obviously seemed the natural thing to do.

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And so a new era of Status Quo has begun. We then moved on to Mick Wall asking a few selected questions to Francis. One question concerned two blondes in the back of a Rolls-Royce as Francis and Rick drove into Manchester Belle Vue in the 70s. Francis quickly swerved the question of who the blondes were, changing the topic to the fact that the Bay City Rollers had played the venue the evening before, resulting in all the seats being smashed up! Cleverly done Francis. Somewhere along the way we also got an amusing tale of how he tried, and failed, to evacuate Cardiff Capitol Theatre during a bomb scare, on the orders of the police. The evening closed with Francis singing “Caroline”. Lisa and I quickly nipped out the back hoping to be first in the queue to get my book signed, only to learn that the book signing was not going to happen, I guess, and quite understandably, due to Covid.

And then it was off back in our taxi, on our journey home, picking up Chris on the way to help put me back to bed. I was soon back in my bed at around 10:45 PM. Quite a civilised evening for my first venture out. Well I did it. More to come in the future. Thanks to Francis for a lovely, friendly evening and a gentle start to my return to concert going.

The Shining Levels the Old Cinema Launderette Durham 11th October 2019

shining levels tix durThis was my second Shining Levels experience. This one was a bit special because it was part of the Durham book Festival, and based around the Gallows Pole book by local author Benjamin Myers. The author was in attendance at the event, signing copies of the book (see my signed copy below).

gallows pole cover“Benjamin Myers was born in Durham, UK, in 1976. He is an author and journalist, translated into several languages. Published in May 2017 and now in its 9th print run, The Gallows Pole won the Walter Scott Prize – the world’s biggest award for historical fiction – was recipient of a Roger Deakin Award and longlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize. It has been optioned for film/TV by Element Pictures and also available on Audible.”(Benjamin Myers site)gallows pole signed

The Old Cinema Launderette is a wonderful, quirky little venue which is an actual launderette by day and (sometimes) a music venue by night. It is a lovely venue to see artists in an intimate setting and regularly features legendary names such as, for example, the late and sadly missed Julie Felix who I recently had the privilege of seeing there, not long before her passing (review to follow very shortly). The acts perform in front of the washing machines and the audience are in seats very close to the stage. You have to turn up early to get a good spot, so Jackie, my carer and I arrived just before the 7 p.m. opening time to ensure a place near the front.

The evening began with a short video telling the story of Benjamin Myers, how he grew up locally and how his writings draw from his north-east roots. There was then a short interval, at which point a bar magically appeared in the corner of the launderette, before the Shining Levels took the stage. The Shining Levels are Davy J (vocals, guitar and piano), DW (Dan) Coggins (vocals and guitar), Laura Smith (vocals and loop pedals), Christina Cuthbertson (vocals and flute) and Jenny Clewes (vocals and violin). I have written earlier about the Shining Levels and their haunting, swirling mix of sounds. The eclectic combination of folk music, book readings and mix of flute, violin, a female trio of vocals and male vocals has to be experienced to understand just how beautiful, yet at the same shining levels 2 durtime dark and powerful, their sounds can be.

Their set takes us through the novel, the Gallows Pole , starting with the ladies taking the lead and introducing the story with the beautiful, drifting “Moonless Nights” and then over to the guys who become the “Valley Boys”, climaxing with a joyous, yet dark, “Death of the King”. The set is interspersed with readings from the book by Dan. The band receive a rapturous ovation from the crowd who hang around to speak to the musicians, buy copies of the album, have their books signed by Ben before slowly venturing out into the cold, dark streets of Gilesgate.

Setlist: Stag Dance; Moonless Nights; Tipping Of The Scale; Broken On A Wheel; Valley Boys; Progress!; Deighton; Men Of Straw; Veil of the Vale; Death of the King

The Shining Levels Darlington Library 22nd November 2019

From the original blurb on the excellent site Tracks Darlington

HARK! The sound of stories. An evening of music inspired by tales from times past. Historical. Mythological. Folkological. Fill your ears and your souls with songs of stagmen, golden apples, coiners, diamond rings and murder for love. History is darker than you think.

THE SHINING LEVELS: Presenting music inspired by the award winning novel The Gallows Pole by Ben Myers. Haunting harmonies and beautiful folk fusion, interspersed with readings from the book. Written on the edge of the Northern English moors and using rural folk musicians, loops and electronics, their debut album is a heady brew of gritty landscape hymns, ethereal acid-folk, borderlands ballads, 70s folk horror atmospherics, moor-top drones and much, much more.”

hark tixA taxi from Sunderland to Darlington (return) is expensive. But, what the hell, my lovely daughter Laura was singing in the band The Shining Levels at Darlington Library. Well I had to go, didn’t I? So my kindly Station Taxis driver drove me, along with my carer Jackie, waited for me, and then drove me back home afterwards.

“The Shining Levels are a brand new music collective based in Durham and Northumberland, who record on the edge of the Northern English Moors and seek inspiration from books. Their new album, Music Inspired By The Novel The Gallows Pole (a novel written by Durham-born author Benjamin Myers) uses rural folk musicians, loops and electronics, takes influence from the likes of Pentangle, Sandy Denny, Tom Waits alongside a love of ambient music, hip-hop production and musical obscurities. The result is music that is as exquisite as it is interesting.” Narc The Shining Levels are Davy J (vocals, guitar and piano), DW Coggins (vocals and guitar), Laura Smith (vocals and loop pedals), Christina Cuthbertson (vocals and flute) and Jenny Clewes (vocals and violin).laura shinning levels

Jackie and I arrived at Darlington library, entered a lift which took us from the street into the library itself, where the performance took place surrounded by shelves of books; quite a strange and unique, yet very appropriate, setting for an evening of book readings and folk roots world music, some of which was inspired by a book (namely the Gallows Pole).

We were seated at the side of stage with a great view of the performance. The evening started with some book readings, followed by the exquisite Storm Chorus, a duo from the edge of the North Yorks moors whose music is a haunting mix of folk and Goth. Then the Shining Levels took the stage and delivered a set of songs, written by Davy and Dan, which draw from the book the Gallows Pole, laura black n whiteand transfixed the audience in their haunting, swirling mix of sounds. The eclectic combination of folk music, book readings and mix of flute, violin, a female trio of vocals and male vocals has to be experienced to understand just how beautiful, yet at the same time dark and powerful, their sounds can be. Live in London Of course I am biased, being the very proud father of Laura, but the review above also demonstrates just how haunting a combination it is. Jackie and I are both getting to know the songs and the music and each time we experience it we notice new nuances and textures. The performance was over far too soon and then we were off downstairs in the lift, after a quick word to congratulate Laura and the others, and into our waiting taxi. Soon we were back home, having picked up Chris, who helped me back into my bed, the music still swirling around in my head.