Tuesday, 25 August 2015

A Mighty Tribute (Act)

In an ideal world, were I of a mind to do so, I would create a tribute act for Talking Heads.

We would be called Stop Making Sense, or possibly Found A Job if that were already taken (Third option: Houses In Motion - all now (c) 2015 as band names until I hear otherwise!) and we would tour - doing all five hits and doing occasional fan-shows where we just play all the way through the set of the seminal concert film Stop Making Sense (made by Jonathan "Silence Of The Lambs" Demme)

But back in the real world I suspect that there is probably not a great deal of desire for a Talking Heads tribute act and that once we'd played Road To Nowhere, Once In A Lifetime and maybe And She Was our audience would largely stare at us in apathy wondering when they were going to hear a song they knew.

Possibly then there might be, as a second option, space in the world for a Joy Division tribute act.  Despite the early death of singer Ian Curtis and being almost entirely ignored by everyone other than a cult following for many years they seem to be experiencing a posthumous level of attention that they could never have expected to achieve at the time.

I say the above because my saxophone teacher is currently in a band.  A proper actually gigging, writing their own material, band that might actually become a big thing in their own right - only one of their members is very publicly against tribute acts and has decried the ones he had to endure on his recent holiday...and I can't for the life of me understand why.

OK yes - going out and creating your own thing is a noble achievement and worthy of attention: but it's very hard to make a living from and besides there are various problems with that:

Take for instance the average cruise ship, casino or, if you will, ceremony of nuptials.  You don't want Sonic Death Monkey turning up and scaring your guests away - no indeed.  There's a reason why Come On Eileen by Dexys Midnight Runners is a cliche of the DJ at the British Wedding - it's because it always gets people up and dancing (though if I never hear it again...)

There's a reason why Dancing Queen by ABBA always gets played around 1am in the sort of disco that still has UV lighting and a semi-permanent pool of beer by the toilets - because Girls Of A Certain Age are genetically built to scream "wooooh-hooo" when they hear the opening chords and throw themselves on the dancefloor - destroying anything foolish enough to stand in their way

New music is great - but at an average pooling of a random group of people, only brought together by family ties, inebriation or both you need something that they know.  Any new band will tell you how hard it is to get a gig because of this - but if they're good enough then a following will start to happen

Also - as you may have noticed - there is a certain point in your career as a New Inspiring Voice where you inevitably become your own tribute act.  Too much success and ten years down the line no one wants to hear the new songs played, they want to hear the classics that made them like the band in the first place.

Finally, of course, new bands need somewhere to play - and those places need to attract punters in order to keep their doors open.  Bands with a name, or a known repertoire, are an easy sell - and who knows they may have a support slot.

And let's face it - going to see The Rolling Stones is very expensive.  These days you need a second mortgage to buy concert tickets - so why not see The Counterfeit Stones for £10 instead of £80

And some of these bands have very inventive names (although the majority are just "The INSERT COUNTRY OF ORIGIN Pink Floyd" or else named after songs) - my favourite of which include The Joshua Trio (U2) and the all-female punk band Sex Pissed Dolls

But at the end of the day the reason I feel these bands should be championed rather than ridiculed is that ultimately anyone getting up and learning an instrument and putting music into the world - even by someone else - is doing a good thing.

On a final note though I just want to contradict myself entirely: increasingly many years ago now I went on a creative writing course at a local college - on which was a man who was determined to write and have a Mills & Boon (hack romance) novel published.  This chap had analysed their books down to the Nth degree and knew what should be happening on Page x, paragraph y.

At the time I was rather saddened by this idea and wondered why anyone would want to subvert their creative juices to achieve such a thing...but really, isn't he doing the same as a tribute act only without a guitar?

Answers on a postcard please.  Meanwhile: here's Sonic Death Monkey:

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Not Nece-Cecil-ry A Good Thing

I have to say I have my doubts about this current trend of naming and shaming through social media

Not, I hasten to clarify, that I'm in favour of dentists who go shooting furry animals for fun - honestly, at this stage in our evolution I can't help but feel that when the robots finally rise up and overpower us we will, if we have decimated the planet for fun and profit, somehow deserve it.

But what are we trying to achieve here?  I mean, Cecil won't be any less dead will he?

And of course Cecil is merely the tip of a much bigger iceberg.  About a year ago now, on her honeymoon, a friend of mine went to a zoo in Thailand where she and her husband were invited to stroke and cuddle with some "tame" lions - sounds innocent enough so far, but after the event I looked into this and found out that lions and other animals are specifically bred and treated this way in some zoos so that they will approach the nice hunters when they get too old to be cute.

Even despite the game reserves, zoos and preservation attempts we are losing the battle because there is always a quick buck to be made by a local trying to put food on their family's plate, not worrying that their trade will be gone once the species has failed.

And again: I want to make it clear that I think shooting and killing something for fun is shameful and wrong and should be consigned to the history books - but I question the value of naming and shaming.

Firstly - if these people were happy to be photographed with their dead prey is it really likely that a few hundred people sharing their photo is going to change their minds or make it any less socially acceptable?  Right now in the UK a very strong Conservative party is motioning to relax some of the rules and regulations around Fox Hunting - something that surely no one was calling for.  We all understand the need to control vermin and pests to livestock - the problem we have is dressing in red outfits, yelling Tally Ho and making a day of it.

And yet it persists - does the tide of public opinion against people going fox hunting stop even a single hunt?  Somehow I doubt it.

Secondly - have we thought about the ramifications.  OK so you and your immediate friends might be level headed individuals ready to yell "shame", but sooner or later that post is going to reach someone willing to take the law into their own hands.  Sure: what this dentist did was not very nice, but the guy may well lose his business, has had death and arson threats and is probably at threat of having his friends and family reproached by association.

A few years ago there was a famous case in the UK of a farm that was breeding animals for fur - there was an almighty clash as animal rights protesters blockaded the house, throwing firebombs at the buildings.  Whilst I respect the feelings of these people that unnecessary cruelty to animals is a bad thing, I cannot condone actions to stop it that bring us to the level of animals ourselves.

Is that really what we want?  What problem would that solve exactly?  Surely responding in this way makes us as bad as the killer with the gun in his hand.

By all means protest, sign petitions, contact your local politician and continue to work for a world where this sort of thing no longer happens - but don't endanger someone's life in the process