Sunday, 21 May 2017

2017 60s flashbacks

Something's happening here... 


Thanks to SMUQ on flickr
Lately, I've been thinking about protest songs. The ones we used to hear all the time back in the day. The ones I got to play on the radio. 

You don't hear protest songs on the radio now. So it was nice to hear the excellent Amit Dattani give an outing to Dylan's protest anthem 'The Hour When The Ship Comes In', at a gig this week. People were singing along, too, to a song recorded in 1964.

Earlier that week, on Facebook, a pal commented warily on fresh video cameras in his neighbourhood. So I put up a YouTube link to Buffalo Springfield's 'For What It's Worth', to be ironic, like you do. The verse I had in mind was this
Paranoia strikes deep
into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
Step out of line, the man come and take you away 
Hippy boomers will remember it. But It was only after I stuck the link up that I realised the song, a staple of my teenage years, was fifty years old. That set me thinking.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Surinder Sandhu and his funky Karma Machine

One of the most exciting albums I've heard in years. I don't say that very often these days.


I'm ancient. So I've heard a lot of stuff. I've seen the same ideas come round and round and round. And really, there's nothing wrong with that – pop music is always rewriting itself using what's been done before. For many people, including kids making music for the first time, that's a rush for them, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Nothing wrong with grabbing old ideas and giving them fresh interpretation either. Once in a while, the results are exceptional.

Step forward Surinder Sandhu. Surinder takes his time. His projects can take years. This one took at least five, but then he is a busy man. When I chatted with him, he was just heading off for a rehearsal at a local theatre, before finishing off a project for the CBSO, and setting up stuff for the next Mr Khan project.

There's a new album at last: Karma Machine. I see it as a hugely significant development in Birmingham's world of music.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Elections. Hustings. Culture. I'm so depressed.

It's election season. God help us.


I went to a hustings this week. A what? A hustings – that's where a bunch of people who want to be elected try to convince you that they know what they are talking about, and have an idea of a way to go forward.

Elections. Again, dammit. The reality is a parade of insincere individuals spouting robotic slogans to convince us that they really care, when for the past ten years (and more, going back to 1997 and Tony Blair) it's been painfully obvious that they really don't.

This hustings was for the West Midlands Mayoral election, and the specific area for discussion was Culture. You probably didn't know that this was going on. And if you did, you probably weren't that excited – after all, the hall (the small one in the Birmingham Rep/Birmingham Library complex) wasn't even full.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

A West Midlands YouTube Top 50 - August 2016.

The 8th bi-annual Radio To Go video survey


Late August. Time to check who is doing well on YouTube. There are interesting conclusions to be drawn:
  • The enduring appeal of some music genres
  • huge generational distance between different sets of fans
  • Maybe suspicious increases in numbers - you'll have to work that one out for yourself, but the numbers are there
  • changing of the guard near the top. 
We still have the same leader as in February, but the appeal of her format may be on the wane. Details after the jump...

Sunday, 7 August 2016

The four quid studio. There's a price to pay.

1996 - £4,000 (if you're lucky)
2006 - £400
2016 - £4


I'm a geek. I love kit and new tech. I love how cheap it's all become, how easy it is to get hold of, and what it lets you do, especially in radio production. 


I also love talent. I adore the work being done by local musicians. I idealistically try to spread the word about fabulous new talent by blogging right here. Of course my blog software, like any online tool, is hosted on massive server farms which are ecological nightmares. Ir's not a win-win. 

My radio stuff goes up to Mixcloud – another free to use (at least to start with) service. By the time you get to the thousand hours and more of current (Brum Radio) output, it costs a bit, but not much. So we're back to server farms. And that keeps the wheels of the monstrous engine turning over. 

We all keep the wheels turning. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, email. Even Pokemon Go loonies who seriously need to get a life. I worry about the downsides; we all should. But the upsides are breathtaking. 


Saturday, 16 July 2016

Brexit, the Brum Music Biz and three wise men called John.


I can't believe it's only been three weeks.



I voted Remain, for what it's worth. I'm still gobsmacked I had to vote at all. Still stunned at David Cameron's catastrophic unleashing of a political and economic sh*t-storm.

It's been three convulsive, compulsive weeks. The Tories have slaughtered one another spectacularly and dishonourably. Labour is doing much the same thing, just more slowly and messily. Labour doesn't do clean-cut, but they match the Tories for dirt. Tragically, no matter who comes out on top in the Labour leadership race, the party will probably now never be a real-world, viable, opposition again. I really, really hope I'm wrong, but I won't hold my breath. Just do the math. 

Sorry, I realise I'm venting, and this is a music and radio blog. I don't usually touch on politics, but this is massive. It impacts on all of us.

Brexit and Brum music? 
It's not good news. John #1 says so. John #2 is cautious at best; John #3 has already taken the hit.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

The connections game. Spot that muso!


Who's that guy on guitar? Didn't he use to be in...?


Seen those fingers on that fretboard, yep. But where? Duane Storey, Flickr
Like most people who care about creativity, inclusivity, positivity and the arts – especially, for me, music – Friday 24th was a bad, bad day. I spent most of it in a sleep-deprived haze, with too much time on social media, either commiserating with friends or raging at the toxic mix of stupidity, vanity and plain racism which has led my country to its present pass. 

Solitary rage and despair isn't healthy. So I headed to the Blue Piano to catch Fred Skidmore's trio doing 60s jazz from the Jimmy Smith/McGriff canon. A summer evening, beer in hand; a lovely garden with good friends and great, comforting, grooves. Just what the doctor ordered. 

The Blue Piano is always full of musos. Lots of veterans; some hot young guns. I reckon there's maybe a thousand years of live experience in the place on a good night. I started to play the connections game. It's fatal: once you start, you can't stop. 

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Payola? Still here. Methodology? Totally different


Some traditions never go away. They just morph 


I have a problem with hype. It's not new and it's not just with music. You see it with movies, gaming and more. The film industry does it best. They're brilliant - they sucker me every time. I wind up really wanting to catch a movie, and then, when I do, I often leave vaguely dissatisfied. Indie film makers with zero budgets must hate this. 

Hey, this is entertainment, where there's a need to recoup investments made sometimes on the back of risky emotive judgements. It gets vile and slimy when vast sums are laid out to manipulate public taste. In general, shamefully, the media know this. But they play along.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

The album, the artist, the audience. Are we going full circle?


Grudgingly, I find myself starting to agree with vinyl freaks. Weird. 


I posted a while back about the interesting origins of what we now call an album.  This was in the context of our new, brave MP3 world of digital downloads. After all, when you can cram an entire library onto a tiny piece of plastic, who needs those ancient concepts of singles, albums, EPs and CDs? Tech developments have moved so very fast. I'm not entirely sure that's all good.  

The vinyl revival was a surprise to me. It's really not a huge slice of the market. Vinyl gets more attention than it deserves because it's a retro vintage fashion thing. Personally, I find the obsession with vinyl as a style statement slightly ridiculous. 

But there's another reason for the continued survival of the album, over and above vinyl fetishes. And it's a lot more valid than a business proposition or a badge of identity.  

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Young Man Gone West

So what happened after City Boy, Steve? If you didn't know already, you'd never guess in a million years...


1978. I was conducting an interview on BRMB. It might well have been Bill Nelson from Bebop Deluxe, but I can't be sure. It was someone on the arty side of pop-rock, in any event. 

A call from security. Someone to see me: Steve Broughton, real name Steve Lunt. We were pals; I'd been championing his band, City Boy, for a couple of years. And they'd finally had a hit, '5705'. 

I hadn't seen him for some time. So, up he came... to hand me a silver disc for sales of their hit. I was chuffed, of course. It led to slightly awkward chat in the studio, in between records, with the three of us: me, my interview guest, who might have been excused for looking slightly askance at my visitor with his very pop hit. 

The following year, City Boy were in the States, a million-dollar contract with Atlantic records under their belts. That was the year they sacked Steve.