Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Christmas party music

can you hear what I hear?

can you hear what I hear?

Yes, it is crap Christmas music being blasted at you in order to make you feel more christmassy and buy more. As you will no doubt have guessed, or if you have read anything else that I have written, Christmas music is not something I look forward to hearing. Forget for a moment the sickly sweet sentimentality, and the overt Christian message, and focus on the actual music.

Not even John Lennon could write a song that got away from it. It is a testament to just how rubbish the whole thing is that there isn't a good Christmas song. True there are some that are not as bad as others, but really, ever put a Christmas song on a mixtape / playlist that wasn't made especially for Christmas? I didn't think so.

At this point you are thinking, bah humbug, get some Christmas cheer little fella. That is not it. Sure I dislike any religious holiday and yes I think that we are all being sucked in to the great capitalist joke of thinking that we are showing the Christmas spirit by getting everyone gifts . . .but in reality, it is a great time to party. As you may know, I love to party. Who doesn't , I mean really. If you are in the Southern hemisphere, it is nice and warm, time for BBQs , being outdoors and chillin. If you are in the Northern hemisphere, it should be nice and cold, snowy (although not in Canada this year it seems). Time to get inside, warm up, have a few drinks by a fire if you are lucky and catch up, or have a dance. What's not to like?

In this spirit , I have been asked to do the music for a party on Saturday night. Christmas eve. Now the temptation would be to just do a Christmas playlist and leave it at that. I, however, would not be able to look at myself in the mirror on Christmas day if that were the case. So, I thought about the mood setting and thought I would start with some funk.  I love funk. I am not sure how or why I got into it, but I am into it. I think that it might have something to do with the imagined cool music track to my childhood. Whatever the reason, I am cooler than I was before I got into it.  here is the incomparable Fundadelic

The other benefit of Funk, other than it being a great way to set a cool party mood to start with, is that the tracks are very long, that is a cool 10 and half minutes of funkiness. Very good news for a party, as it means you don't have to change it that often.

So, the funk has set in and people, while not exactly getting down and shaking their funky stuff, (most of my friends are not that funky really, although it is simply amazing what Tequila can do) are having fun and getting into it. The laughs are happening and the mood is dare I say it, festive. So where now? how to get the party to the next gear? Well, party's are supposed to be fun and so fun music is in order. Now, this spot, this exact spot, is the hardest bit for us music geeks. What we would like to do is to introduce some obscure but brilliant music. Sit down and explain to people why it is so cool and why they really should have heard of it. Get into a very deep music discussion and then wonder what happened to the last 10 hours. However, my music geek friends, you have to bite your tongue, remember that everyone you have ever heard of sold out, otherwise you wouldn't have heard of them, and play the people what they want to hear.

They want to hear something like this

Actually, I really like that song. It is extremely catchy, in a good way. Not like this song, which for some reason I always feel a little dirty after listening to. That said I do love it, in that weird somewhat dark and warped way that it sometimes happens. Like that girl you can't stop fighting with and kissing.

So if it is not going now, your party is in trouble. The only known remedy to this is drinking games involving tequila. If it is a non drinking type of party, one really has to wonder why you are wasting your time when you could be at a drinking type of party having more fun and listening to great tunes. . . .Why, why aren't you at that type of party? ? wtf dude?

Anyway, now I am back and have calmed down, on my playlist I am going to the Beastie boys next. I realize that the party has just been built up to a crescendo, however I have a plan. I have been to a lot of concerts, raves and general music evenings and nights. Not enough I hasten to add, but quite a few. At all of the good ones, they start well, build up quickly and then take it down a notch or two. This is to let people refill their drinks. Take a moment. Work out what they want to do, before it kicks off again. Otherwise, well it is home in a taxi before midnight with a lot of memory loss and the need for an apology.

So, to the Beastie Boys it is , and perhaps their best album, Paul's Boutique (discuss) I am not going to play the whole album, but selected highlights,, such as this.

The Beastie boys rock. that album was actually described as the Pet Sounds, or Dark side of the Moon for the Hip Hop generation. Which is a bit lazy as a description, but it does show just how good the album actually is. After a few tracks form this album, I am going to play some Jungle brothers, Eric B and Rakim, some N.E.R.D., maybe some Moloko and then I am heading straight into the 80s. I can hear the intake of breath from here. But you have to play to your audience. The audience on Sat night is an 80s crowd. Honestly, it has nothing to do with my secret love for 80s electronica. Really. I can barely stand this song.

ha ha, anyway, play to your audience.. So , I am going all 80s for a while, with some Frankie, ABC, Duran Duran and other things I would never actually admit to liking. Which reminds me, I have to write the next installment in the Pop series soon.

Then, if people are still standing from that onslaught. Well, it is time too have some fun. I like this song because it is fun , and it puts people in a good mood. Especially when they are already there . . .

You know, after that, generally what happens is that then you get requests and with the 80 gbs on the ipod, there is generally something that could be played. If nothing else, then there is the itunes radio function to give people the Rhianna and or Black Eyed Peas that they actually wanted to hear. . . Seems that they went to the wrong party!

Happy party season people. . . and remember, there is nothing wrong with being the loudest drunkest and most fun you know how to be. You just have to pick the right party .. . ..

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The black dog

Not a post about Led Zeppelin's classic from IV, but rather a look at how some people have been able to convey their depression into some of the most powerful music that we have. The title actually comes from Winston Churchill, who suffered from depression and when it descended on to him he described it as The Black Dog returning. I use it to show that even those most powerful and driven individuals can suffer from this most insidious illness. It sometimes drives them to create, strive, achieve things that the happy, balanced and together people in this world are not able to.

Music, and art in a more general sense, is littered with the people who are often on the edge of depression , sometimes on the happier side of the line, sometimes not. For those of us who did not put in the time to practise playing a musical instrument to a point where we would be able to use it to help us convey the feelings that we have during these times, there is their work which we can then identify with. Even if only slightly.

Depression takes on many forms and because of this it is incredibly hard to treat. This means that there are many different songs that will convey what is going on with a particular person when they were writing and as such it does not always mean that there is a song you should listen to that I could possibly recommend. Every one is different as is every person's circumstance.

Robert Smith from The Cure was able to get across some of the seeming endlessness nature of depression with the album Faith. Here is the title track:

To me . that song represents some of the lethargy and inability to see past the dark clouds that depression has. Robert Smith in an interview I heard 20 years ago said something along the lines that he listened to that album on his birthday every year because it represented exactly what he wanted to do with The Cure.

If you have read this blog before you may have come across this piece I wrote. In it I mentioned this song by Husker Du

I like this song because it articulates the isolation of it all. The feeling that everyone else is doing Ok and that why then am I not doing OK? In that song he is really not OK. I think that in there is that feeling that it would be easier to take his life than it is to be able recover. I am pleased to say that he did not take his life, but that he went on to create some equally powerful music.

Suicide is a topic that is touched upon in music. Sometimes it is done in ways that are at first quite surprising. This to almost everyone in the world is the theme tune from mash.

It is however a very beautiful song. The melody is something that appears to be sweet and almost comforting. the lyrics though. Wow.

'The game of life is hard to play
gonna lose it anyway'

Not so comforting really. Is that the most bitter sweet song there is? I watched M*A*S*H growing up, and never really bothered with the music of the titles until I was older and read somewhere about the song. Thanks to You Tube I was able to hear it and also this version:

Well ,to me, that takes away all of the sweetness and you are left with the bitter. For me though, that song is an impression of what depression is like. It is haunting and amazingly dark, and paints a picture of bleakness. However, it is not the singer speaking to me. I do not get the impression he is really at that spot where the dark clouds are overwhelming him. Not like the Husker Du song.

For me, when my dark clouds came over for any length of time I wentto this song:

Before that came out , it was The Cure , The Smiths , Husker Du. When I asked for advice on how to be a better blog writer, a person whose blog is published in a couple of national newspapers told me to try to keep it personal because it would connect better with people. Depression is a difficult topic to write about however. I think the fear sourrounding it is similar to that of a recovered junkie. If you start to delve into it again then there is the possibility it will take you over again - like being in the same space as the drug you have recovered from.

I haven't suffered from depression for more than a day or two for a long time now. Years in fact. Which in itself is something to be very thankful for. If I was able to pinpoint anythng that changed  it would be that I was able to channel my anger at things a little better. I was able to see that I was using part of my self loathing as a force aimed at myself and that it was eating me from the inside out. Changing it, slowly, day by day to then start to achieve some goals helped. It became a virtuous circle.

The music helped a lot. During the period when the Black Dog returned it helped me to not feel quite so isolated and I think by trying to appreciate what the artist was trying to sayhelped to stop the relentless introspection.

Because at the end of the day you know:

I would say that if you are having a hard time, put on some great music. Wallow in it but only for a while. Put a plan in place when you are healthier and use it when it happens. Most of all, talk to someone about it. A lot of people know more about it than you might think.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

The Stupid 27 club - revisited

When I first heard about the Death of Amy Winehouse I wrote this piece

This generated a lot of angry comments. Everything from a very dedicated Alan Wilson fan politely asking me to read more on him. To people pointing out that my blog was full of opinion.

Well, dealing with the extremes. To Rebecca Davis Winters , the writer of the very good book 'Blind Owl Blues', and indeed to all of the Alan Wilson fans who took the time to comment. I apologise for adding his name to a post that also had the word Stupid in the title. It seems that this is unfair , and as was suggested, the issue of self medication is something that needs to be considered. I would say in my defence, I did not actually pass comment on Alan in my post. I did put his name in the opening paragraph, which listed the famous musicians who did not make it past the age of 27. Anyway, here is a piece of Alan's work that everyone should listen to

I like this music. the blues, bluegrass feel to it is very infectious.

To the people who got angry because I put my opinion into the piece and I had the temerity to question the genius of established classic rock acts. Well, guys, this is a blog. The point of the blog is my thoughts on music. The things around it. I try to vary the topics I write on. Posts are about as wide range of music as I know. Although I am yet to get that heavily into the Electronic or classical side of my tastes. If you come to my blog and are looking for a completely factual source , then you are in the wrong spot. Also a bit naive. This blog is about raising a topic and having a discussion about if it is possible.

So, some time has passed and low and behold there is a new Amy Winehouse album. It is a good album. It is of course horribly inconsistent, but that is always to be expected. So, we get three albums from Amy. She went one better than Jeff Buckley at least. Here is a track from the new album . .

That is a cool song, and she does have a great voice for that style.

The Coroner recorded a Death by Misadventure verdict on her death. It appears to have been caused by a huge level of alcohol in her body. Her body could not deal with it and as such it gave up. So , I need to retract the death by overdose of different drugs comment I made. Although , drinking yourself to death is a death by overdose, but I acknowledge not the one I meant when I originally wrote it.

How do I feel about Amy's death now? Well my opinion on it all is a little mixed. I can see the sense of loss when listening to her music. Putting on one of her albums on a day such as today , it is a grey damp and cold day in London, is a pleasurable experience. We have three albums to do it with and maybe that will be enough. I will still stand by my sentiment that she had perhaps reached a peak, the continued substance abuse would have destroyed her voice.

I am not sad at all to no longer see headlines about her being too out of it to perform , or pictures of her in the press doing something they didn't like, or thought would sell papers.

I see today that they have found 4 songs by Jimi Hendrix that were previously undiscovered. So I imagine they will be repackaged into an album with outtakes and other similar things. I hope the same treatment doesn' t happen any further with Amy's music. There is a reason a lot of unreleased stuff wasn't released and the Hendrix foundation would do well to remember this.

Anyway, rest in peace Amy. Thanks for the music