Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Introducing ‘musodad’s Yuletide 24’ playlist – it’s like a rubbish version of ‘John Peel’s Festive 50’

This blog post is dedicated to one of my all time music heroes – John Peel.  John died seven years ago today and this day (quoting the blog Keeping it Peel) is ‘designated for bloggers, tweeters and facebookers, who tuned in to Radio 1 every night to hear John Peel’s dulcet tones…on this day – October 25th – we commemorate and celebrate the memory of one of the most influential DJ’s who ever was.  How we do that is by posting on Facebook or writing a blog, or tweeting a link (using the hashtag #keepingitpeel’).  I’ve already done the latter today so here is my blog post tribute to John.
I was about 14 years old when I discovered John Peel.  At the time I was listening to such bands as Then Jerico and the Thrashing Doves (yep, I can’t really remember them either!)  As I tweeted earlier, if it wasn’t for John, I’d probably still be listening to these kind of bands!
It was my older brother who introduced me to him, he was 4 years older so was slightly ‘cooler’ than I was.  At that time he was listening to such bands as The Smiths, New Order and The Fall.  I used to hear ‘True Faith’ pumping from his stereo so I turned ‘Big Area’ up louder – our mum was probably the first person to ever experience a New Order / Then Jerico Megamix.  Thankfully it didn’t last long.
I sometimes think that musical taste is a bit like beer.  When you’re young you hate the taste of beer / the sound of good music but as your tastebuds  / ears mature, you start to realise that it makes you feel bloody good!
So, I eventually gave in and started taking a keen interest in what my brother / John Peel were playing – I remember listening to ‘The Man Whose Head Expanded’ by The Fall for the first time, it was weird but brilliant.  I then started listening to John Peel on a regular basis in my bedroom at night.  Recording shows when my parents told me to go to sleep and then sneakily listening sometimes when they didn’t realise I was still awake. 
One of my fondest memories of the time, however, was ‘John Peel’s Festive 50’ – the rundown of John’s listeners’ favourite songs from that year.  I’ve just looked back at an archive (c/o Rocklistmusic.co.uk - Festive 50 Archive) of some of the artists I discovered over that period, because of John, and they bring back so many happy memories – from the 1989 - 1991 'Festive 50' archive : Ride, Sonic Youth, Happy Mondays, The Wedding Present, Teenage Fanclub, The Lemonheads, The Boo Radleys, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Lush, The Charlatans, Dinosaur Jr, The Pixies, The Inspiral Carpets, Slowdive, Chapterhouse, James, Cud, The Stone Roses, The Telescopes, The Senseless Things and The Family Cat.  I could go on but I think that’s enough now.
So, as you can see, he’s had a massive influence on me over my lifetime and he’s still influencing me to this very day. 
I would now like to introduce my next playlist to you that will start when my current one ’24 Sub-two minute Wonders’ finishes next week.  I wanted this to be similar to the ‘Festive 50’ to truly pay homage to the great man.
My first task was to come up with a name so I typed ‘festive’ into an online Thesaurus to see what it threw back at me.  If you are already familiar with my blog / playlists, you will know that I believe the optimum number of songs to put on a playlist is 24 (if you can be bothered to find out why, you can read about it here – What is the optimum number of songs to put on a playlist?).  So, as well as finding a word similar to ‘festive’, I also needed something that would sound catchy with the number 24.  I have therefore decided to call my next playlist ‘musodad’s Yuletide 24’ and it will showcase my 24 favourite songs of 2011.  ‘What’s that?!’ I hear you cry, ‘didn’t John’s listeners pick the songs by voting for their Top 3 songs of the year and then John collated them into the ‘Festive 50’?’  Yep, you’re right, however, I think, on average, only about 15 people read my blog after each post.  If only 10% of those respond I won’t even have two people voting!  Therefore, first of all I am going to reveal my 24 favourite songs of the year but, if you keep reading, you’ll soon see how you can get involved.
Anyway, before I do that, here is the smallprint for the ‘Yuletide 24’:
-          Each song will either have been released as a single in 2011 or appeared on an album released in 2011
-          Songs from Greatest Hits compilations, unless they are brand new this year, or songs from re-issued albums will not be permitted (how strict, am I?!)
-          Only one song allowed per artist
-          No song that has appeared on a previous musodad playlist may be considered.  The following excellent songs, which were all released this year, will therefore not be included in the ‘Yuletide 24’ and there are some corkers here : ‘Cruel’ by St. Vincent, ‘Money’ by The Drums, ‘Buy Nothing Day’ by The Go! Team, ‘Fake Blood’ by Squarehead, ‘Brittle Heart’ by Brett Anderson and ‘Jesus Fever’ by Kurt Vile.  If you want to listen to the first ‘musodad playlist’ you can do so here - The musodad playlist
-          The songs need to be on Spotify

In addition to this, and sort of mentioned above, I’d like to announce something very exciting – Ladies and Gentleman, it’s time to get interactive!!
For my next blog post I am going to let you know how you can get involved in voting for / talking about your songs of the year.  Yep, shortly I am going to launch the ‘TOTMAP award for Song of the Year’.   TOTMAP stands for ‘Top of the Mums and Pops’ (can you see what I’ve done there?!) and it’s a chance for all bloggers to help build a 24 song Spotify playlist with me (if you don’t have Spotify, let me know your songs and I will see if they are on there.  If they’re not, you get to choose again) – working in the same way as voting for ‘John Peel’s Festive 50’ did.
By the way, I’d just like to add that this isn’t solely open to Parent Bloggers – the reason the award mentions mum and dads is because a majority, if not all, of my readers are parents.  If you’re not a parent though, please don’t let this stop you getting involved – it is open to music lovers from all life stages.  
Anyway, like I said, that’s for next time, for now I’d like to end this blog post by thanking John Peel for making me the ‘music anorak’ I am today – you will be sorely missed by a lot of people for years and years to come.  Without you I wouldn’t just be listening to Then Jerico now, but I’d probably be writing a blog about them as well, and I very much doubt any of you would be reading this…

Monday, 24 October 2011

Listography - musodad's Top 5 Christmas Toys of all time

Kate G's latest Listography - see the Kate Takes 5 blog - is all about the challenge at Christmas in finding toys that won't be discarded after 5 minutes of receiving them and never played with again.

She has asked all Parent Bloggers to provide their top five Christmas toys of all time and from this she will compile The Ultimate Top 10.  Never again will a dud present be bought - my dad and I still talk about the time I was bought an American Football game called 'Superbowl' and it truly was rubbish.  Those days are thankfully numbered.

So, without further ado, here is my list of Top Five Christmas toys of all time :

1.      ‘Crossbows and Catapults’

For every dud like ‘Superbowl’ there was a classic and, in the 80’s, this was ‘Crossbows and Catapults’.  I still believed in ‘you know who’ (no, not Lord Voldemort, the one with the beard.  No, not Hagrid – the one with the white beard.  No, not Dumbledore – for goodness sake – FATHER CHRISTMAS!) at the time and I had asked him for this for Christmas.  It got to Christmas Eve and – unbeknownst to me - my parents still hadn’t managed to find it as it was sold out everywhere.  My dad still talks about the panic of not getting me something I really wanted in case I stopped believing.  Luckily at about 4pm, at the now defunct Toy Kingdom in Brentwood, Essex (my hometown – you’d see how ‘TOWIE’ I was if you ever met me!) he found one and a little boy woke up very happy the next morning.  I think it’s still around so if you have kids aged 5-10 (or 36), get it, I guarantee they will love it!

2.      Vtech First Steps Baby Walker

This was O’s main present for her first Christmas – she was 9 months old - and C has recently inherited it.  I know it’s an obvious choice but every household with babies in ‘cruise mode’ should have one of these.  It even has a 5 note piano on it and I have so far perfected the start of both ‘Row Row Row your boat’ and ‘Happy Birthday’ to play to the kids.  For my next song I’m going to learn something more challenging – maybe ‘Supermassive Black Hole’ by Muse.  

3.      Tomy 2074 Forget Me Not Photo Album

These are brilliant.  We got ours from Amazon.  If you haven’t seen them, you put photos of you and your relatives in it and you all record a message for your child.  When the page is turned the recorded message is read out by the person in the picture – genius!

By the way, the picture below is not of my wife and one of my children, it came with the photo album.  Also, if you end up buying it, before you call Trading Standards, please be aware that at no point do love hearts fly out of it.

4.      Doodle On! - Christmas Doodles Book

Now, this one might be a bit controversial but I am going to justify why I have included it.  Before I go on, this is probably more suited to pre-Christmas than on the day – ‘but why?’ I hear you cry.  Well, it includes lists such as ‘what you are going to buy other people for Christmas’ or ‘what you want for Christmas yourself’.  So, what’s the point in this, surely it’s immediately out of date as soon as Christmas comes?  Yes, but firstly, O. uses it throughout the year to doodle in. Secondly, in the run up to this Christmas she will use it again to get very excited about the big day (I’d estimate she’s only doodled in about half the book). Thirdly, Kate G’s brief for this Listography stated that her biggest challenge is ‘finding toys that won’t be discarded to the scrap heap in the playroom to sit unloved for at least a year until my next pre-Christmas clear out’ (you can tell I work in advertising can’t you?! It is drummed into us daily that we should always answer / refer back to the brief in our recommendation!) – there is no way this book can be part of that clear out, it is all about the excitement of pre-Christmas and throughout that period and if it doesn’t get used much this year, come November / December 2012 I promise it will be used extensively.  This book lives and breathes Christmas, in fact, this book IS Christmas.  I rest my case.

5.      Magnetic words

I wasn’t going to take part in a Listography without a shameless plug for the new game I have recently invented – ‘musodad’s band name game’.  Without magnetic words this game wouldn’t be possible.  I’d just like to add that I don’t receive any commission from magnetic words companies for pushing this product and I don’t own a magnetic word production factory so will never make any money out of my game, however, if you fancy playing it then you need them, end of story.  Of course, it doesn’t end there, they are also good for reading, grammar, spelling etc but these are, of course, secondary to my game.  For the rules to ‘musodad’s band name game’ please go here - musodad's band name game  . Please do let me know what band names you and the kids come up with on Christmas Day.  Below are some of ours.

So, here endeth my Top 5. Join in by popping over to Kate’s blog – Kate Takes 5 – and adding your own.  Let’s get those magnetic words to No. 1!   

ShowOff Showcase

Saturday, 22 October 2011

What's in a band name? Find yours with 'musodad's band name game'

I used to be in a band called Pre-historic Wife (stop sniggering at the back, please!)  As rubbish band names go, this was the lowest of the low. 
Not sure how many of you remember The Garbage Pail Kids (it would have been the late 80s) – they were cards you got with bubble gum and there were loads of grotesque characters to collect (it was a piss take of the Cabbage Patch Kids).  Anyway, one of the characters was a Pre-historic husband called ‘Hairy Gary’ and he had a wife called erm…I’m not actually sure but she was his ‘Pre-historic Wife’ and that is where we got the name from.  The name Pre-historic Husband had too many syllables to be ‘grungy’ so this suggestion was poo-pooed.  I was 18 at the time and 18 years later I still wince when I hear someone mention the name. 
Anyway, on the subject of band names, you can tell how important it is to pick the right one and we were never going to make it with a name like that.  So many bands have changed their names in the past, either at their record company’s request (Seymour became Blur, Camouflage became Jesus Jones) or because their name isn’t catchy enough (Parva became Kaiser Chiefs, Mollie Blaylock became Pearl Jam).  Or maybe it was, like Pre-Historic Wife, because their name was just plain rubbish – On a Friday became Radiohead, The Tea Set became Pink Floyd.  Only post the name change did any of these bands enter Rock Stardom in a big way – which would have happened to us had we changed our name to The Second Hand Apron (from a Monty Python sketch) which was my suggestion.  I was outnumbered 3 to 1 though.
It’s unsurprising that we split up soon after due to ‘musical differences’ (not really, we all left home to go to Uni) – we’ve thought about reforming, just like the Stone Roses, but that would just be plain silly.
So, should it really be that hard to find the perfect band name?  I have a great name stored in my head that I’m going to use when I get my arse into gear and form another group (I’m not revealing it in case you steal it! And if you’re reading Ruthie Knighton, I’m sorry to say it’s not Musodad and his magic pants – but they’ll definitely be one of my spin off bands like what Damon Albarn / Jack White do).  However, what if I was the lead singer of ‘the next big thing’ and I didn’t have any ideas?  That’s why, my friends, I’ve invented ‘musodad’s Band name game’.  By Christmas 2012 it will be available in every good toy shop and will probably be THE game to play on Boxing Day throughout the UK.
If you can’t wait that long then if your child has got some magnetic words at home go and get them now and play along with us.
So here we are, sat around our little blue table in our lounge, a plethora (I love that word!) of magnetic words have been placed in a re-sealable sandwich bag and we (eldest daughter O. and I, youngest daughter C. just wants to eat the words) are ready to begin (this isn’t in real time, by the way, both O. and C. are in bed at this precise time).  Here we go :
So the rules, nearly forgot – pull out a magnetic word, one at a time, and see if you can make a band name out of them.  If you want to be likened to an early 90s shoegazing band (Ride, Lush, Moose etc) you might just want to pick out one word, up to you.  That’s the beauty of the game, you can bend the rules to choose the name that suits you / your band.  If after four words, you can’t make any potential band names, put them back in the bag and start again.
Anyway, here’s a list of 6 band names we pulled out, I’ve tried to add a back story for each – all good band names need a back story (in no particular order) :
1.       The Purple Twenty – I really like this one, it could have a really good back story – slightly too close to the band Matchbox Twenty mind, but no-one remembers them anyway.  Next step - check definitions of ‘purple’ on  Dictionary.com – ‘imperial, regal or princely’, I like it.  So, in the 60s there was a group of imperial, regal and princely people who went against their family’s wishes and ended up living like ‘common people’ (as in the Pulp song) and lived happily ever after.  They were an inspiration to all.  And there were 20 of them.  There you go…ahem…easy. 

2.       September Ball – hmmm, not sure about this one.  Sounds like something out of High School Musical, or a boy / girl act on X-Factor – what were their names again?! #bubblegumpop

3.       Over Liked – now this IS good.  It’s over confident, like a new band should be.  Beady Eye should have been called Over Liked – that would have showed Noel they really meant business.

4.       Thursday Counted – not bad.  So what happened on Thursday and why would someone count it? Think, man, think! Erm…right - lead singer gives up smoking and whilst down the pub with his band members, one Thursday night, has a drag on one of their cigarettes.  The week after they are having Sunday lunch round the lead singer’s parents when the mum asks ‘Mick, have you still given up smoking?’, Mick replies ‘yes mum’.  Then Keef, sorry Keith, the guitarist, pipes up and says ‘no you haven’t, you had a drag on one of my ciggies last Thursday down the pub’.  Mick replies ‘it was only one drag down the pub on Thursday, that doesn’t count’.  To which Keith says ‘No, Mick, no - Thursday counted’ and a band name is born…Phew, that was tough!

5.       Will Likes Yellow – who is Will?! Could be anyone – Prince William, Will Smith, could be the bloke next door, y’see, and I should have mentioned this earlier – you don’t have to give a reason why you’re called a certain name.  Yes, you SHOULD have a back story but even so, keep the NME guessing as to what the back story is and you’ll be a mystery to them - and probably get a lot more column inches in the long run.  However, I’m going to start what I’ve finished – checks Dictionary.com again, one definition of ‘yellow’ is the ‘yolk of an egg’.  I bet Prince William likes eggs and he’s probably mentioned this before in an interview somewhere.  The band saw this interview and job done. There you have it, a back story.  Genius.

6.       These Were Three – grammatically incorrect perhaps but perfect if you’re a trio and one of your band members leave.  If only Bros had renamed themselves this when Craig (my wife informs me Smash Hits used to call him ‘Ken’) Logan left and gone experimental then they could have been one of the biggest bands in the World today.
I just want to quickly add one more to the list – there were two blank magnets in the bag and I told my daughter she could choose two words to write on them.  At first she said ‘bum’ (she’s obsessed with this word at the moment!) but on asking her to reconsider, she wanted the first one to be ‘groovy’ and the second one to be ‘conker’.  Groovy Conker – now that is a great band name!  In fifteen years time, if she decides to go down a music career route, I’ll remind her of this day and see what happens…  
So, there you go, hope you’ve enjoyed experiencing the birth of a new game with me.  If you ever get a chance to play the game, which is highly unlikely I know (don’t worry I won’t take it personally) then please do let me know what band names you came up with (back story optional – don’t worry, I won’t tell the music press if you reveal it).
Ps I’ve just remembered - they were called Same Difference!  

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

What is the optimum number of songs to put on a playlist?

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this in my Blog before (forgive me if I have, I really can’t be bothered to read back through all the posts – they are a bit rubbish after all!) but I believe that the optimum (or optidad, even - ha ha! Ahem…) number of songs you should put on a playlist (in my case, a Spotify one) is 24.  My justification for this dates back to the old TDK D90 cassette tapes (D60s were too short and D120s were too long / expensive – nearly £2, I think!) when you could fit roughly 12 songs on each side.  12 x 2 = 24 – there you go.
As most albums around that time (early 90s for me) were 12 songs long, you could fit approx. 2 albums on one tape to play in your parents’ car for a one and a half hour journey (and annoy the hell out of them in the process!). Side A – ‘Hup’ by The Wonder Stuff, Side B – ‘Pablo Honey’ by Radiohead.  Or alternatively you could make a compilation of a variety of songs by your favourite bands. 
Now, I’ve always had a theory about what kind of songs should go where on a compilation tape (or ‘playlist’ / ‘mixtape’ as they are now referred to) - the first song should be fast paced to really kick the album off.  It’s like the first song at a gig to get everyone in the mood – the one to start everyone ‘moshing’.  The second song should either be medium or slow paced, the third song should always be slow (preferably a ballad).  This means that the second song should probably be more medium than slow placed or even medium / slow paced (maybe slow in the verses with a medium paced chorus) – you don’t want to bore the listener with two slow paced songs after a fast start and the second song should never be a ballad, if the third song is going to be. 
It’s the same with albums, unless you’re The Beatles and something like erm…‘Something’ appears second and ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ is third (as on ‘Abbey Road’) – trust them to rip the rule book up!  But who am I to argue with some of the greatest musicians that ever lived?  And to be honest, my rules for the optimum playlist only really came into practice in 1975 (the year I was born) – a good 6 years after ‘Abbey Road’ was released.
Are you still with me?!
After the third song you can pretty much have whatever order you want (try not to put 3 slow songs in a row though – if it was a gig, people would leave) until song 12 which should again be slow. 
Song 13 (or Side B, song 1 on the old D90 tapes) should be fast (like Side A, song 1) and the remaining songs on side 2 (songs 14-24) can pretty much mirror the first side (songs 2-12) or you can be really daring and mix the middle bit of side 2 (songs 16-23) up!  Song 24 should again be slow and this is where the optimum playlist ends.
It is for this reason that I have stopped adding to the musodad playlist at 24 songs – no more no less.  If you want to listen to it, and write down the speed of each of the songs in order, you can click on the Spotify link over to the right somewhere (on double checking I just realised that I used the ‘Abbey Road’ formula in the second half of the playlist – Bernard Butler, slow song # 14 and The Vaccines, medium paced song #15 – but every ‘Playlister’ is allowed to experiment once in a while).
So what happens now that it’s over?  Well, a ‘music blog’ (if you want to call it that – some may question whether The X Factor is classed as ‘music’) needs a constantly updated playlist or, in this case, playlists to engage and interact with the reader / listener and to help them discover new, and re-discover old, music without them having to leave the comfort of their own sofa (which makes up about 5 minutes of a parents’ day allowing them to listen to approx. 1 and a half songs).  How would you like that to be extended to at least 2 and a half songs?!
Without teasing you too much, future playlists I have in mind are, for example, ’24 songs by bands that should be bigger than they are’ (title needs work) and ’24 songs both you and the kids will love’ – notice how I’ve shoe horned the number 24 in?!
For now, however, the new playlist (for the next 24 days – one song added per day) will be ’24 sub two minute wonders’ – those great songs which probably didn’t take long to write, and even less time to record, but will enable you to listen to more for erm…less.
I was amazed to find out recently – even though I’ve heard the song about a million (slight exaggeration) times – that ‘And your bird can sing’ by The Beatles (what a great song!) was less than 2 minutes long.  Have a listen, there are so many ideas within it, it takes a genius (which of course they were) to stick within that timeframe.
Unfortunately The Beatles version isn’t on Spotify but a version by another band will probably appear on the playlist at some point.  To start tomorrow’s new playlist, however, a fast paced song will be Song of the day (announced on Twitter daily!) and so on and so on until the golden 24 number is reached.
Happy listening…

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Meeting your music heroes

Last night, in a pub in Hertford, I met one of my music heroes.
He’s not the first music hero of mine that I’ve met.  In the last 20 years I’ve met about 8.  I also met Katie Price (aka Jordan) once and she has released an album before, however, I cannot class her as a musician and she is definitely not one of my heroes (if it was Peter Andre on the other hand...)  So I therefore average about one music hero encounter every two years.
My first 6 – between the ages of about 17 and 23 - were members of early 90’s indie bands (Mega City Four, Senseless Things and Ludicrous Lollipops – all of whom I bloody loved).  The Megas (as they were known to their fans) and Lollipops encounters were at various gigs / festivals but the Senseless Things encounters (Mark Keds – lead singer and Morgan Nicholls – bassist) were totally unplanned. 
I’d started working at an Advertising Agency on leaving University and I found out that our Receptionist (Felicity) was going out with Morgan! I couldn’t believe it – I’d seen them numerous times and I’d even done my first ever stage dive at one of their gigs.  It was to be my last ever stage dive as well as no-one caught me and I really hurt my back! Anyway, one day I bumped into Felicity and Morgan (who are now married with kids) outside of work and the encounter was complete.  He’s gone on to do rather well for himself – playing with Gorillaz, The Streets and Muse.  Then some time later I popped down to reception and Mark was sat there! Felicity saw that I was itching to speak to him so introduced me – music hero encounter number 6 was in the bag!  
I then had to wait about another three years for the next one.  I lived in Australia for a year when I was 26 and one day in Sydney, Moby was doing a signing.  I took along something ‘signable’ – it was an umbrella, I didn’t need it much in Oz so thought it wouldn’t matter if it was de-faced.  So, we got to the front of the queue, he signed it, congratulated us on ‘Britain’s win in the soccer World Cup’ (England had beaten Argentina the night before), and then we went our separate ways.
My final music hero encounter, before last night, was Bernard Butler of Suede.  A friend’s God Son’s band were playing at the 100 Club in London and their album had been produced by Bernard.  Bernard came over to say ‘hello’ to the God Son, who we were chatting to, we got introduced, there were handshakes all round and that was about it.
There was a further encounter with the drummer of the Magic Numbers in a pub in Finsbury Park.  However, my wife doesn’t think I technically met him, and I was too drunk to remember if I did or not so I can’t really count that one.
Talking of my wife – her music hero efforts trump all of the above.  She used to work in a ‘New Age’ shop in Rathbone Place.  One day Patsy Kensit (an ex-pop star herself from the band 8th Wonder) and Liam Gallagher (from Oasis, of course) came into the shop as they were looking to buy a Ouija Board.  My wife actually ended up telling Liam off as he tried to go down some stairs which were out of bounds to non-employees.  She put him in his place that day, I can tell you!  Patsy was ‘very nice’ though.
Anyway, since the encounter with Bernard, things have dried up a bit until last night. 
I was a HUGE Inspiral Carpets fan in the late 80s / early 90s.  When I was 15 they played the Brixton Academy but I was too young / my mum wouldn’t let me go.  My brother (who was 19 at the time) went with his friend – I was gutted.  I eventually saw them at the Glastonbury Festival in 2003 and then last night I saw their ex-lead singer, Tom Hingley, play a local pub in Hertford.
We didn’t know about the gig until last week, my wife walked past The Ram pub, about 15 minutes walk from our house, and there was a sign outside saying ‘Tom Hingley, ex-Inspiral Carpets frontman playing Saturday’.  She texted me straight away with the unbelievable news that the gig was also free (!) and there was no doubt (unless the babysitters fell through – thanks again mum - I think she still feels bad about not letting me go to that gig - and dad for looking after the girls) that we would miss this opportunity.
So at about 9pm last night the gig started.  Crimson, the first support band were good – the female singer had an amazing voice – then Rob Clydesdale, the second support act came on.  He was brilliant – he did things with his guitar that I didn’t even know could be done!  Check out his song ‘Open’ on YouTube – fantastic!  No matter how good he was though, he was never going to upstage Tom.     
By now, via mutual friends, we had met Tom, and my music hero tally has now nearly reached double figures. 
Tom played a storming acoustic set – he played some Inspiral Carpets classics (‘Saturn 5’, ‘Dragging me Down’, ‘This is how it feels’, ‘Move’ and ‘Sackville’) intertwined with some of his excellent solo material (we bought his album ‘Thames Valley Delta Blues’ afterwards and it’s brilliant) and some great cover versions including Ben E King’s ‘Stand by me’ and ‘Sit Down’ by James.
He played for ages, and could probably have gone on for even longer – it must have been about 12.30pm when he finished and then my wife and I chatted to him for about an hour and a half!  He is a very funny, smart and all round top bloke - who absolutely adores his kids - and, by seeing him in such an intimate venue, and having a bloody good chinwag with him afterwards, I finally felt that the pain of me missing that Brixton Academy gig all those years ago was put to bed.
So, which music heroes have you met? You’ll have to go a long way to meet someone as nice as Tom…

Friday, 7 October 2011

X Factor Anonymous - one dad's unhealthy addiction to a prime time TV show

‘My name is Simon and I’m an X Factor addict’.  There you go, I’ve finally said it.  It’s out there. 
So, now you all know my real name.  What?  The X Factor addict bit?!  Oh, I don’t care about that!
Everyone’s entitled to their ‘guilty pleasures’ and I’m sure I’m not the only dad who loves this programme.  So what if I put ‘The Circus’ by Take That on in the car the other day whilst I was on my own?!  So what if I have a soft spot for the band Keane?!  So what if I find ‘California Gurls’ by Katy Perry bloody catchy?! “I am allowed!”, he added, rather defensively.
So anyway, I digress, where was I? Oh yeah, The X Factor.
So, tomorrow night, 16 of the UK’s ‘Biggest vocal talents’ (!) will once again be going head to head to see who will get the Number 1 spot in the UK Music Charts at Christmas.
Not that anyone cares about that accolade anymore – how many of us actually know what’s in the charts nowadays?  (I haven’t surveyed any 11-14 year olds for this Blog post and their answer could well be ‘lots’ but I’m sure amongst those people reading right now, the answer is probably ‘none’).  It’s not like you have Top of the Pops anymore or the suspense of the chart rundown on a Sunday afternoon when you’d record all of the best songs on your tape deck and find out whether Wham had gone straight into the Top 10.  And they’re not even guaranteed the Number 1 spot nowadays anyway.  I’m wondering which song it will be this year, like Rage Against the Machine’s classic ‘Killing in the Name’ a couple of years back, which will try and spoil the party.
Also you’ve probably got more chance of making it big now if you don’t win – Joe McWho?  Olly Murs (who came 2nd that year) is doing okay for himself (sort of).  JLS are doing even better and they came 2nd the year before.  Matt Cardle?! Erm…Cher Lloyd’s doing rather well for herself (and she didn’t even finish in the Top 3) and I’m sure One Direction will outsell the lot of them once they release their ‘masterpiece’ (I’m on tenterhooks!)
You’ve probably guessed by now that I don’t really like some of the contestants (I like all the judges though, Louis can be a bit of a wally on the show but he's harmless - and fair play that he hasn't kicked off for being given the worst category for the 27th year running), or the music (I like the originals but not some of the ‘murdered’ versions on the show) on X Factor - so why do I still bother watching it?!  I just love that it’s a good talking point amongst friends, colleagues, family, fellow Twitter and Facebook users and the bloke behind you in the queue at Tesco etc and there is something ‘feel good’ about it that I can’t quite put my finger on.  I do genuinely get excited before it's on - I am that sad! We’ve even done an X Factor sweepstake in our office to give the show an extra competitive element - £5 in each, winner takes all.  I picked Cardle out of the hat last year so am the reigning champion.  This year I’ve got The Risk (the riskiest £5 I’ve ever invested, if you ask me!)  They won’t win – but do you want to know who will?!  Well, I can’t tell you for sure, of course, and there are bound to be loads of twists and turns, and the odd bit of laryngitis caught by the contestants along the way.  But from what I know, at this moment in time, here is my prediction for this year from 16th (first out – never heard of again) to 1st (winner – stand-in for a West End show within 2 years). 
I have also factored in the following :
1.       Kitty (the one no-one likes) will be in the bottom two most weeks but will survive until she comes up against someone the judges can’t get rid of e.g. too good a singer or Frankie.  She will be the main talking point this year (as Katie Waissel and Wagner were last year) so they’ll have to keep her in for as long as possible for PR purposes (and so people like me can talk about her to other people – see the list above).
2.       Frankie will also stay in until there are only good singers left for the same reason, and because he has tattoos on his bum cheeks.
3.       Louis’ unpredictable / twatty voting.
4.       ‘The X-Factor Twist’ – 4 people are going home this weekend, one from each category.  Or so I’ve heard anyway.  If it’s not true then my prediction is void straight away!
So here goes :
The four leaving in ‘the Twist’ – Jonjo Kerr, 2 Shoes, Sophie Habibis, Craig Colton
12th – Johnny Robinson, 11th – Rhythmix, 10th – Nu Vibe, 9th – Sami Brookes,
8th – Misha Bryan, 7th – The Risk, 6th – Kitty Brucknell, 5th – Frankie Cocozza,
4th – Janet Devlin, 3rd – Marcus Collins, 2nd – James Michael, 1st – Amelia Lily
So there you have it.  If you watch it, it would be great to know your predictions too.  If you don’t then any weaning tips would be much appreciated…

Sunday, 2 October 2011

What do you want to be when you grow up? Dreams of Rock Stardom and choosing the background music for Waterloo Road

I asked my 4 year old daughter yesterday what she wanted to be when she grew up.  She thought about it for a bit and then replied ‘I don’t know’.  I admit I threw her (not literally, before you pick up the phone to Social Services) with that question but totally relate to her answer – I’m 32 years her senior and I still don’t know!
I am a Media Planner at a Media Agency in London.  My mum still thinks I make the ads on the telly, in the newspaper etc (bless her!) but I just plan where the ads go (it’s slightly more complicated than that but that’s sort of it ‘in a nutshell’).  What I’d really like to be though is a Rock Star, failing that, I wouldn’t mind choosing what music is used in TV programmes.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, I’m quite into music so this probably doesn’t come as a surprise.  Unless my ukulele playing goes amazingly well, and I become the new uke playing equivalent of Jimi Hendrix (at least there’s a niche in the market!), I think my Rock Star days are numbered.  As for the ‘choosing what music is used in TV programmes’ part – there’s still a chance!
It’s really sad but I always listen out for the music whilst watching TV.  The programme Waterloo Road is a prime example.  I’m not a big fan of the programme (but will watch it if there’s nothing else on) but you always hear the odd Drums or Libertines song on there and also some less known bands such as Broken Bells (Danger Mouse collaboration with the lead singer of The Shins which is very good).  Match of the Day as well has always been fruitful – ‘Is this music?’ by Teenage Fanclub on ‘Goal of the month’ is one of my fondest memories of that programme (other than the 2004 season when Arsenal were Invincible).  Soccer AM have always championed new bands as well – ‘Men’s Needs’ by The Cribs has been one of my favourite ‘Goals of the Week’ soundtracks in recent times.  The beauty of ‘Soccer AM’ as well is that the name of the track and band pops up in the bottom corner so you don’t have to Shazam the song or anything to find out what it is.
So, to finish today’s blog, I’m going to recommend some songs that I believe should be used in some of today’s TV programmes and why – you never know when someone at a TV station might be reading :
Spooks – imagine a car chase scene, the theme from Mission Impossible would be perfect, but I doubt they’d be allowed to use that.  We need something equally as pounding.  ‘Pounding’ by Doves? Too obvious.  ‘The Number Song’ by DJ Shadow? Yes!  I wonder if they have meetings at the BBC just like this.
Downton Abbey – needs something orchestral, not too modern sounding, something beautiful.  Something by Adele? I can’t commit to a song just yet but if I get the gig, I’ll make a decision then.
Countryfile – I must admit I cheated on this one tonight and watched a bit of Countryfile to get the ‘vibe’.  They like acoustic numbers – I’m going for ‘Scattered Black and Whites’ by Elbow.
Dragons’ Den – Needs some really slow funky tune for when the Dragons’ are thinking about investing the money.  Needs to be something relevant too – ‘The Boss’ by James Brown? Perfect.
Embarrassing Bodies – ‘Beautiful’ by Christina Aguilera – too easy!
I do apologise if any of these have been used before in that particular programme but surely that must prove I’m qualified for the job!
Oh and don’t even get me started on songs used in TV adverts…