Merry Blogmas 2021

December 20, 2021

Hello.

It’s been a pretty horrible year, and some of the few bright spots in it have been connected with music, (which, l’ll be honest, for me is really about connecting with people)…

Seeing Witch Fever live in St Albans…I plucked up the courage to tell Alisha their guitarist how great she is. Here’s some pictures of her. She’s cool…

Taking my daughter to see Gwenifer Raymond live, the first time I’ve ever seen Gwenifer (her guitar was a vast, hypnotic, metallic drone)…

Making music with my good friend Simon Hopkins in Brighton in the summer…

Collaborating long distance with my good friend John Holmes…

Arguing with the family about what tracks should be on the family Best of the Year CD (I’d never heard the track below before – it’s good)

Right at the end of the year I’ve suddenly got into Broken Baby. Their album is great and this track is on repeat (“it’s better than the original” he said):

So if you’ve read this far, stay healthy, stay safe, stay well. While you’re staying safe, listen to some music.


“Nobody’s Talking” by The Sombre Reptiles

November 24, 2021

Great work from John on drums and lead guitar.

“I got so stressed I nearly spilt my beer…”


Reptile Rhapsody

November 24, 2021

when you’re near

all I hear

is a reptile rhapsody

i’m gonna break the chains on my reptile brain tonight

i lean out of my window

what’s that i hear

the birds in the trees

are singing for me

and they’re coming through loud and clear

i talk to the vultures

i talk to the snakes

if you’ve got wings then you can sing

and if you’ve got scales you can tell your tale

i ran into walt whitman

he’s going nothing on me

my song of myself includes everyone else

so he can get back in his tree

they made me sign an NDA

but it’s written in my DNA

i’m ripping it up and shouting it out

and i’m coming through loud and clear


Reptile Blues

September 20, 2021

My skin is scaly and I’m covered in slime

I stay close to the ground most of the time

I’ve got the reptile blues

Don’t step on my crocodile shoes

I’ve got great big teeth to bite you I bet

You can hear them clatter like castanets

I’ve got the reptile blues

Don’t step on my crocodile shoes

I don’t crawl I just slide

Maybe I’ll see you on the other side

I’ve got the reptile blues

Don’t step on my crocodile shoes


“Sunk” by The Sombre Reptiles

September 11, 2021

Great lead guitar and bass from John on this track.

“Get yourself some double action at the scene of the crime..”


“Conversation”

August 20, 2021

It’s Joni Mitchell… but not maybe as you know her… was it Simon who said “people who like music like Joni Mitchell, because she’s good at music”…?


“Somewhere/Anywhere”

August 11, 2021

Once again with the redoubtable talents of Mr Simon Hopkins. Some lovely guitar stuff here.

Could be a route to somewhere… or anywhere really…

An “Isolated Blues”

July 20, 2021

Featuring the superb guitar stylings of my good friend Simon Hopkins (otherwise know as @DGFMS).

Cool jazz for a hot day…

Isolated Blues Boy

The Price of a Song

March 17, 2021

Let me tell you the story of when I went back

Back for three hundred years

The earth it was barren, the people were grey

And they watered the ground with their tears

The people they wailed, they were chewing their tails

And they said these are the worst of times

They said we are vexed, we are so sore oppressed

With gangsters and all of their crimes

The world is in trouble, the well it is dry

And we may not live for very long

We’re in need of some comfort, some music, some joy

And we’d give our whole lives for a song

So I picked up my banjo and started to play

And the people they started to cheer

They sang and they danced

As I played on and on

They had not been so happy in years

And the banjo grew louder and louder to hear

And the earth and the waters did shake

And the singing grew louder, yes louder than hail

And the hills and the mountains did break

And the sky it went black and the earth it did crack

And it swallowed them up with a blink

And I stole all their money, and I stole all their gold

Without ever stopping to think

And now I am back in my place in the sun

Just me and all my machines

There is no one around and never a sound

And no one to tell where I’ve been

So I sit on the ground and I stare at the screens

And I know that the day will be long

So I count all my money, I count all my gold

For I know the price of a song


Review of “Wagnerism” by Alex Ross

February 19, 2021

“As an American ashamed of my country’s recent conduct on the international stage, I reflected that much devastation has been visited on the world since May 1945, and that very little of it has emanated from Germany. The endlessly relitigated case of Wagner makes wonder about the less fashionable question of how popular culture has participated in the politics and economics of American hegemony”

Alex Ross, page 658, “Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music”

Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” is a protest song. It’s an attack on war and imperialism from the point of view of one its’ victims: an ordinary joe shipped off to kill the oppressed and then thrown aside when he gets back home.

“Born in the USA” (the original recording) is also a fist pumping, chest beating, celebration that you can bawl your head off to in a huge room. It’s the “Star Spangled Banner” on steroids. What’s that exciting noise just before the fade? Gunfire? A rocket attack? A building collapsing?

So when Alex Ross asserts that Wagner’s Ring Cycle is an attack on lust for power and gold, I’ll take his word for it. But The Ring also gives its audience the opportunity to celebrate and vicariously experience that violence, lust and destruction. At a safe distance.

But Bruce Springsteen is a liberal, and a democrat with a small and a capital D. Wagner was a notorious anti-Semite, and an advocate of nationalism and revolution.

I don’t think we should judge the art of the past by the moral standards of the present. But Wagner’s racism and politics were well known, and condemned when he was alive.

Bruce is the boss. Your colleague, your co-worker, possibly even your friend.

Wagner is the Master. You can only be a slave to a master. Although there’s always a transgressive thrill in pretending to be a slave.

“Wagnerism” Alex Ross’s mammoth survey of Wagner’s influence on Western art and culture is, as you would expect from the author of the brilliant “The Rest is Noise”, rich with detail and accessible. It’s also disturbing and terrifying.

Like any decent human being would be, Ross is appalled by the many of the things he uncovers. But his ambiguous regard for Wagner’s music occasionally seems to blind him to some of the ironies in his own prose.

For example this quote on page 515:

“Many leading historians of the Third Reich are disinclined to take him (Hitler) at his word, and doubt that Wagner played a significant role in the dictator’s political development.”

Is followed on page 530 by this:

‘At the end of September 1923, Hitler arrived at Beyruth to speak at a “German Day” gathering. There… …he affirmed that the National Socialist Movement was “anchored in the works of Richard Wagner”‘

Clearly, Adolf Hitler is not a reliable expert on the Third Reich.

Similarly when at the very end of the book, Ross reports Donald Trump’s negative reaction to a performance of the Ring, it seems like he’s trying to get Wagner’s music off the hook. The point is not whether Trump likes Wagner, but whether Trump is like Wagner.

Let’s see what they have in common.

Good at building a personal brand – check.

Good at merchandising that brand – check

Trangressive – trashes norms of behaviour, breaks the rules, focuses on taboo subjects – check

Repeats the same things over and over (like a leitmotiv?) until his audience is transported – check

Human beings are very good at imagining their own destruction. How many Hollywood movies have you seen where you can enjoy the White House going up in flames? But humans also seem very bad at doing anything practical about avoiding that destruction.

This book provokes the thought that the destructive impulses captured in Wagner’s music are not just common in all humans, but are, at this point, out of control in both culture and politics.

Perhaps Wagner’s music marks the point where Western culture started to get too big, too large, too total, too global, too much. But in a period where the planet might go down in a flaming Gotterdammerung and an exTV presenter nearly brought down the US Government by encouraging an armed mob to riot, some of whom looked like extras from a bad opera, maybe we need to think harder about the consequences of our creative impulses and choices.

Before reading this book my attitude to Wagner’s music was one of hostile ignorance. Now I’m less ignorant. And a lot more hostile.