Finally… Phil Collins

February 6, 2010

The MiniBishes bought me, by proxy, two music DVDs for my birthday. I think VHS was king last time I bought such an article, but having had my amp repaired recently after a long period up the creek, I was ready for some aural stimulation. I said aural.

I’m sure it demonstrates what I dinosaur I am to admit that the discs were Pink Floyd’s Pulse and Phil Collins’s Finally… The First Farewell Tour.

It’s BishWife’s birthday today, and while she is enjoying a morning in town, the MiniBishes and I snuck in a few tracks of the Phil Collins stuff and I must say, with only a slight twinge of shame, that it really is tremendous. In fact, the end brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye, as the band left to “go home” one by one, knowing that they (probably) were (almost) really saying goodbye (sort of). Was that a moistness in the eye even of the stoical Leland Sklar?

So, I decided it was high time to add PC to my short but slowly growing list of Heroes, and lo! it is done. A man who followed his dream (assuming his dream wasn’t acting) and moved millions with his music. Including me.

I’m sure he’ll feel better for knowing that.

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Moving parts

March 4, 2007

Occasionally it’s good to be reminded of what it is that one really likes to do and takes pleasure in.

Last week the son of a friend of BishWife’s left his bike here as it had sustained a puncture on the way home from school. Consequently MiniBish1 and I attempted to fix the hole one evening. Unfortunately, due either to the ancient vintage of my puncture repair kit or the size of the hole, patching was not possible. It seemed that the youth had ridden up a kerb with the tyres somewhat underinflated and, despite it being a mountain-type bike, the tube had got pinched by the rims and cut very neatly in two places. Any patch I put on it just blew through when I inflated the tyre. Quite spectacular. The bike also had a missing pedal and was a pretty mucky, the chain was rusty and so on.

Anyway, my point is really that I enjoyed fixing it up, cleaning, oiling, mending; because at base I am a fixer of things. I don’t have a tremendous creative flair, but I do like finding solutions to problems and seeing things working smoothly and properly be it bicycles, computer programs, business processes or teams of people. Same with words: I’ve never had much success as a creative writer, but I enjoy tinkering with sentences until the meaning becomes clear and seems to have the correct expression. (Readers of this blog may disagree!)

I can imagine after I’m retired taking up one of those hobbies involving fixing things. You know, like those chaps who oil the engines in working museums, or mend old clocks, or run miniature steam railways. What is it with men and steam engines?

On a completely “nother” topic, I was quite moved by a TV documentary (probably a repeat) last night on the New York Dolls bassist Derek “Killer” Kane. I’m not especially familiar with the work of the Dolls, but I recognise that they were a seminal outfit which helped to bring in the New Wave in the late seventies. In a nutshell, it seems Kane spent thirty years in poverty, confusion and resentment following the acrimonious break-up of the group, was saved by Jesus via the Mormon church and found work in their family history library. Thirty years after the break-up, the remaining members of the group reunited and appeared in concert at a festival at the Royal Albert Hall. Hatchets were buried, the gig done good, and there was much talk backstage of more such outings, but Kane died of leukaemia just 22 days after returning home.

What did I take away from it?

  • How difficult it must be to be creative, in a group with other creative egos.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse wrecks lives.
  • Music is a fantastically powerful, mystical force and how great it must be to perform it to a responsive crowd.
  • Rock stars have no automatic right to be rich, but how sad they can be when they are not. Kane could barely afford the interest payments to keep his instruments in the pawn shop.
  • How wonderful that he had that last experience of gigging, recognition and reconciliation before he died. It’s almost like the plot of a novel where he was staying alive against the odds until he had had that chance.
  • How blimming lucky I am to be boring old Joe Average without all that grief.

Long live music and steam engines.

Finally the germ of an idea. While I was fixing up the bike I thought I’d quite like to change my ancient racer for something more in a touring style. What if I didn’t buy it with money from my job, but made myself earn it some other way? Writing or whatever? Just couple of hundred pounds. Yes, I wonder…

A night at the opera

May 28, 2006

Went to see an excellent gig on Friday night; part of the local arts festival fringe. Hazel O'Connor was performing with harpist Cormac de Barra and the Rainbow Chorus. My friend Steve sings with the chorus, but I'd never seen them perform so it was for that reason, rather than because I am a big Hazel O'Connor fan (or Hazel-nut, as I believe they are called, ha ha), that I went along. I managed to get the very last ticket! Always a good omen.

Actually I had a hard time remembering Hazel O'Connor at all, but I did eventually recognise some of her songs. To my shame I had thought she had disappeared after having a hit single or two and that film Breaking Glass, but she's obviously been working ever since and is still producing very listenable stuff, perhaps even more so now.

I've not knowingly seen a harp played live before, and I'm sorry now that I haven't because, played well, it's a beautiful instrument to listen to, and a wonderful accompaniment to someone with such distinctive and powerful vocals as Hazel. Her band was augmented later in the evening by piano, sax and percussion players too, which gave a pleasantly full but not overdone sound.

The Rainbow Chorus are an amateur (ugh, let's say non-professional instead, it has better connotations) collective who must have worked very hard to put together this programme. They did three "solo" numbers before being joined by Hazel to run through lots of her songs old and new. The crowd loved it, and so did I. And I don't think it was just because I was demob happy at having an evening out of the house!

Oh and watch out for Hazel's god-daughter who sang a few numbers with her (sorry, I forget the name). Far from being just a nepotistic backing singer she has an astonishingly good and powerful voice. If she wanted a career in music I imagine she wouldn't have too much trouble finding a market.

Congratulations to everyone involved.

Back to reality, and after having a drink with the "stars" afterwards, I had to run back to the station to catch a train at midnight-twenty, only to find the gaff locked up. Cursing slightly, I consulted the timetable again and it insisted there should be a train, so I decided to hang around. Sure enough one did arrive and a railway gentleman opened up a secret back door to let passengers out, whereupon I snuck in. Got home about one in the morning and felt very decadent. Now feel very tired.

Bank holiday tomorrow and back to the decorating, so off to bed with me!