Sunday, 10 November 2019

A Life in Music: Jasper Carrott - a funny man never far away from musos


He used to walk on stage with a guitar....


If you think that all Jasper Carrott had to do with music was to wander on stage with a guitar before bringing an act on stage, think again. 

Jasper has been deeply involved in music all his life, and has some interesting views on the music business, artists' fees, the record industry, performance and audience reaction, gained from deep experience at his gigs and venues. 

I've talked several times with Jasper about his career. We do go back a bit, which is actually part of the point of the Lives in Music series. I was in radio at the old BRMB when Jasper had his hit. I wound up playing (rather badly) in charity football matches with him back in the day. But he seems to have had a very interesting ride. Music and musicians have been key, much more than you might think. He's even sharing a vocalist with Robert Plant's current band - there's a pub quiz question for you.

You can stream or download the podcast here, or if you can't wait, scroll down to the end of this post for the podcast player.


Links - music clips and artist websites


Music clips are mostly from the late 70s, John Martyn excepted.

Jasper Carrott - Magic Roundabout
Jasper Carrott - Funky Moped  (a vintage TOTP clip)
Simon and Garfunkel - The Sun Is Burning (Ian Campbell composition)
Al Stewart - Old Compton Street Blues
Johnny Coppin
Decameron - Journey's End
Harvey Andrews 
Mike Silver
Jake Thackray
Joe Brown
John Martin - Small Hours with some background details. I may have embroidered the story...



Links - present day and ancient history 


Jasper Carott's website
Jasper Carrott on wikipedia
The Boggery Folk Club
Ian Campbell on Birmingham Music Archive



The Podcast



Lives in Music


The Lives in Music series celebrates people who have spent a lifetime in music. They may be famous; they may be people who have spent their lives working in the background for the love of it. They all have stories.

The theme music for this series is by Big Q Fish. 'Boksburg Jive Toon' was written by Brian Neil, and recorded at the Jam House, Birmingham, in 2017.

Don't forget to subscribe!


Also published in Lives In Music  


1 - Ruby Turner on podcast, plus show notes here  
2 -  
Steve Ajao on podcast, plus show notes here
3 - 
The Men Who Make Mellotrons on podcast, plus show notes here
4 - Mike Hatton on podcast, plus show notes here
5 - Horace Panter on podcast, plus show notes here

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Sunday, 3 November 2019

A Life in Music: Horace Panter

Horace Panter and music. Where do you stop?



I really can't remember first chatting with Horace Panter, but it might well have been in 1978, when the Specials played at Birmingham University. 

They were at that fantastic phase in a new band's career, when the band has gelled, strings of gigs have knocked them into shape, and the whole point of the exercise seems to be coming together in an exciting way. I asked them if they would do a session for the old BRMB Radio that night.

If not then, it would have been at the now long-gone Outlaw Studios, when the band squeezed six songs out of that three hour session for BRMB. I went on air with those songs the next day. That probably makes me the first DJ to have played the Specials on radio, by the way. Jerry Dammers left the session in a grump once his vocals were down, but Horace was the soul of patience and courtesy. And it's been that way ever since.

Talking music with Horace is completely engrossing and serious fun. It was really, really enjoyable. And, d'oh, I learned something about basslines for Time is Tight and Rescue Me. Marvellous for my age, me. We veered off my initial Lives In Music track, and wound up gossiping about all sorts of things, as you'll hear. You can get the podcast hereor go to your favourite podcast supplier to grab it. Or skip down to the bottom of this page to stream from this blog page. 


Music Links


Lives in Music 


The Lives in Music series celebrates people who have spent a lifetime in music. They may be famous; they may be people who have spent their lives working in the background for the love of it. They all have stories. Lives in Music is a Radio To Go production.

Don't forget to subscribe!




The Podcast

 

Also published in Lives In Music  


1 - Ruby Turner on podcast, plus show notes here  
2 -  
Steve Ajao on podcast, plus show notes here
3 - 
The Men Who Make Mellotrons on podcast, plus show notes here
4 - Mike Hatton on podcast, plus show notes here

6 - Jasper Carott on podcast, plus show notes here 



The theme music for this series is by Big Q Fish. 'Boksburg Jive Toon' was written by Brian Neil, and recorded at the Jam House, Birmingham, in 2017.

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Sunday, 27 October 2019

A Life in Music: Mike Hatton's bass motives

Bassic Fundamentals: get your Jazz chops right, and the groove will follow.


Mike Hatton, like many musicians, plays in more than one band - he can be found delivering smooth Jazz grooves, or a solid bedrock for powerhouse blues, or even harking back to 60s power rock. 

One of those bands - Steve Ajao's Blues Giants - has been going for well over 30 years, giving enormous pleasure to Midlands audiences and beyond. And all three members are very much eligible to take place in the Lives in Music series of podcasts. Two of them are in this series; I'm still chasing Washboard Pete

Mike fits right into this series because he is one hell of a dedicated craftsman, as you will hear on the podcast. Head to the podcast page, or to your favourite podcast supplier, to grab it. Or skip down to the bottom of this page to stream from this blog page. 

Mike Hatton crafts very considered and delicate works for solo bass. And he's being doing this for generations. Along with Mike's own music, a few of the many types of music and musicians that Mike references in this chat are gathered together in this post - see the Music Links section below.



The Album


We talked in early autumn, when Mike was putting the finishing touches to his new album. Bassic Salvation is out this week. It's just him on all the basses, plus drums, it's full of splendid music, and it reeks of craft and serious thought. You can hear excerpts in the podcast. Or, if you're in Birmingham on Friday 1st November... 



Go to the Album Launch Gig


Fletchers Bar is in King's Heath, Birmingham's muso central. The place will be wall to wall with fellow musicians, and that's when Mike is holding the launch gig. That's Friday 1st November


Music Links


Paperback Writer - The Beatles
Silvershine - Andy Hamilton
Start Everywhere - Steve Lawson
 



The podcast





Lives in Music


The Lives in Music podcast series celebrates people who have spent a lifetime in music. They may be famous; they may be people who have spent their lives working in the background for the love of it. They all have stories.

Also published in Lives In Music 


1 - Ruby Turner on podcast, plus show notes here  
2 -  
Steve Ajao on podcast, plus show notes here
3 - 
The Men Who Make Mellotrons on podcast, plus show notes here
5 - 
Horace Panter on podcast, plus show notes here
6 - Jasper Carott on podcast, plus show notes here 


The theme music for this series is by Mike's other local band, Big Q Fish. 'Boksburg Jive Toon' was written by Brian Neil, and recorded at the Jam House, Birmingham, in 2017.

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Sunday, 20 October 2019

A Life In Music: The Men Who Make Mellotrons

In a workshop not too far away from you, magic is being made (and recreated). 



John Bradley and Martin Smith have been involved with Mellotrons all their lives. 

What is a Mellotron? Well, please read on, and listen to the companion podcast. 

John is the pragmatic engineer who can look at a piece of kit and know exactly what to do. Martin was and is a superfan of 60s, 70s and 80s music with a decided taste for Progressive Rock. The Mellotron simply reeled him in. John's dad ran the original Streetly Electronics, based in a small building just to the north of Birmingham. They made Mellotrons. Musicians beat paths to their door. It was John and Martin who revived the current business. And now the musicians are calling on them. 

The Mellotron was key to 60s and 70s pop. Then it sort of fell out of fashion. But the sounds on countless Beatles, Genesis, Moody Blues and Barclay James Harvest tracks, and tons more are still in demand. So much so that John and Martin's order book is full for the next two years. And as for their stellar client list...

Be warned: there's one teeny little swear word; it's so funny, I couldn't bring myself to cut it out. I travelled to the workshop for the Lives in Music interview. Copious amounts of tea were consumed. Followed by copious amounts of editing. 

The podcast has now been published: go here to listen, subscribe and/or download... or go to the player at the bottom of this post. 


Background


If you are still not entirely sure what a Mellotron is, read the exhaustive details on Wikipedia here...


Some samples


Here's a YouTube link for Strawberry Fields Forever...
This is a Link to one of the earliest recorded uses of the Mellotron ...
or how about this Moody Blues cut?


Other Links


Streetly Electronics website
Streetly Electronics on Facebook


Listen to the podcast




Lives in Music 

Lives in Music celebrates people who have spent a lifetime in music. They may be famous; they may be people who have simply spent their lives working at their craft for the love of it. They all have stories. Lives in Music is a Radio To Go production.


Also published in Lives In Music 


1 - Ruby Turner podcast, plus show notes here  
2 -  
Steve Ajao podcast, plus show notes here
4 - 
Mike Hatton podcast, plus show notes here 
5 - Horace Panter podcast, plus show notes here
6 - Jasper Carott on podcast, plus show notes here 




The theme music for this series is by local band Big Q Fish. 'Boksburg Jive Toon' was written by Brian Neil, and recorded at the Jam House, Birmingham, in 2017.

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Sunday, 13 October 2019

A Life in Music: Steve Ajao. The deeeeepest voice in Brum.

A proper Renaissance Man, is Steve

A stalwart of the Birmingham music scene, Steve has been laying down greasy guitar blues and elegant cerebral Jazz sax in equal quantities, for generations. Oh, and he builds guitars, beautifully... and he's completely self-taught. And he's got the deepest voice in all Birmingham. His Blues trio can be found playing live in all the best joints in the Midlands and beyond. They are astonishingly relaxed and extremely tight - something that comes from decades of playing together. 

On top of this, Steve Ajao's facebook feed carries all sorts of other titbits, such as recipes for homemade Sauerkraut, gardening tips, and more. He's into loads of stuff :-) Gourmet, gardener, guitar restorer, blues shouter, cool saxman. I'm sure there's more.

We talked for ages at Steve's place for the Lives in Music interview. 
The podcast has just been published: go here to listen, subscribe and/or download... or go to the player at the bottom of this post. 



Music 

The theme music for this series comes from Big Q Fish, a seriously uncompromising Birmingham band that I suggest you check out. The song is 'Boksburg Jive Toon', written by guitarist Brian Neil. There's plenty more to listen to if you follow the link. They're also on YouTube.

On top of this, you'll hear Steve play an improvisation on Steel Guitar in the podcast itself, as part of the interview.


Links

Steve Ajao's Blues Giants website
Steve Ajao's Blues Giants on Facebook
Steve's Club Bebop on Facebook: currently a weekly Wednesday residency at Fletchers Bar in Kings Heath, Birmingham.


And there's a ton of stuff to check out on YouTube, both Jazz and Blues.

Podcast Player



Also published in Lives In Music

1 - Ruby Turner podcast, plus show notes here 
3
 - The Men who make Mellotrons podcast, plus 
show notes here
4 - 
Mike Hatton podcast, with show notes here
5 - 
Horace Panter podcast, with show notes here
6 - Jasper Carott on podcast, plus show notes here 


Lives in Music celebrates people who have spent a lifetime in music. They may be famous; they may be people who have spent their lives working in the background for the love of it. They all have stories. Lives in Music is a Radio To Go production.

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Monday, 7 October 2019

A life in Music: Ruby Turner

She's only been knocking the ball out of the park for four decades


This is a companion blog post to accompany the first episode of my new podcast series: Lives in Music

The podcast has just been published: go here to listen and/or download or go to the player at the bottom of this post. 

The plan is for the series to appear everywhere podcasts are to found, but it’s early days.That link should get you started. 


Romantic notions? Pah.


I had a theory that there must have been some sort of genius music teacher in Handsworth back in the seventies. Because for three years straight, that mixed and punchy Brum inner city suburb delivered an act each year that went on to shake the foundations worldwide: Steel Pulse, Apache Indian, and Ruby herself. 

And, face it, kids like Robin Campbell of UB40 and Ranking Roger of the Beat were hanging out at the shebeens, soaking it all up. Handsworth did a lot for popular music back in the day.

I put that notion to Ruby during our Lives in Music chat. She, as you'll hear, slapped it right down as my being romantic and fanciful.

There's not a lot of music in this podcast: copyright regulations prevent that. Any music has to be podcast-friendly. So no copyright infringements, and anything used must have the agreement of the performer. So there are no clips of Ruby to listen to, apart from when she bursts into song in mid conversation. That's a shame, because the stuff she does with Jools Holland and with her own band is bloody marvellous. But skip down to the links list, and you can explore to your heart's content.   


Links and credits

Download (and share) the podcast here: Lives in Music: Ruby Turner 

Or stream here:



Ruby Turner's website
Jools Holland's website
Find out about Fado music
Handsworth Evolution: a documentary I made in 2010.
Ruby Turner on YouTube


The Lives in Music Podcast Series


There are ten episodes in this first series of Lives in Music. They will appear weekly from October until early December 2019. I'm now working on Series 2. The central thrust is to honour and highlight those people who have, literally, spent their lives in music, whether it's making music or empowering those who do. 


Now published:  

In addition to Ruby Turner: 

2 - Steve Ajao podcast, with show notes here
3
 - The Men who make Mellotrons podcast, with 
show notes here
4 - Mike Hatton podcast, with show notes here
5 - Horace Panter podcast, with show notes here
6Jasper Carott on podcast, with show notes here 


The theme music for this series is by local band Big Q Fish. 'Boksburg Jive Toon' was written by Brian Neil, and recorded at the Jam House, Birmingham, in 2017.


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Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Lives in Music: a new Radio To Go Podcast series

When you've played for ever, you've got stories to tell


    I'm launching Lives in Music, a podcast series. The first episode dropped this Sunday, October 6th

    You can get all the published podcast episodes on Spotify, iTunes and all good podcast directories. Series 1 episodes are currently arriving weekly.

    I've been working on this for some time; I've thought about this for even longer. The series will feature musicians and music workers from our patch who have put in some serious time. These are people who have literally spent their lives making, or supporting the making of, music. Some are very well known; others less so. But they're all pretty damn fabulous and/or interesting. After hundreds of gigs - maybe even a thousand or more - which have brought me great pleasure, I want to try to give back just a bit. Hence this series of interviews. It's a tip of the hat. And the stories I'm hearing are amazing.



    So many people, so little time. 


    I have a list as long as your arm of people to talk to. I've recorded quite a few, aiming to complete an episode a week. That doesn't mean I'll be able to drop a podcast every week. There's editing, polishing, illustrating, and all the podcast gubbins to do. That takes time. So Lives in Music Series 1, kicking off this Sunday, will be a ten-parter, with an episode dropping each week. Lives in Music Series 2 will kick off after Christmas, all being well.

    Nailing some people down can be a challenge, too: after all, some of our outstanding musos are out playing five or six nights a week with different outfits, making money – at last - through their versatility. You can't begrudge them that when some were barely scraping a living forty years ago. 



    Free your mind and your music chops will follow


    I've long felt that musos can go in one of two ways in terms of creativity and craft as they get older. They can stick with what they know, playing the steady, the safe and the familiar; there's a market for that, and good luck to them. 

    Or - and this is where it gets interesting and wondrous - they expand and blossom as they grow older, embracing more styles and experience, for the love and the exhilaration of it all.  Often you find those guys tearing it up with huge smiles on their faces, in tiny places. Those guys interest me, and they're the ones I want to feature.  



    Not forgetting the enablers


    But there's also a host of people who work in and around the industry, who love the business of making music: promoters, instrument makers, managers. They also help to make all this possible. I'm talking with several for the series; several more have agreed to chat. 



    The joy of small venues where the magic happens


    These days, I spend more gig time in small venues, close up to the artist, than ever I did in enormodomes back in the day. The attraction? Well, apart from cheaper drinks and free parking, it's the music and the musicians, naturally. Especially the sheer craft of people who have been playing forty years or more. 

    I get more out of it, whether it's places like the Hare and Hounds in  Birmingham, or the Kitchen Garden Cafe across the road for Jazz and Folk, or any of the venues where the peerless Lisa Travis has been in charge, including her newest perch, the Prince Of Wales. There's plenty more - space prevents me listing everywhere. But I should mention, and give a tip of the hat to, the wonderful Paul Murphy. Paul ran his second Songwriter's Cafe for several years from his treehouse venue; I did online continuity for him. He was one of the people who showed me just how powerful great music, crafted from deep experience, could be in a tiny intimate venue. He was in no small way responsible for my thinking in this area, especially since he passed on.  



    So... who's on the menu?


    Ah, that would be telling. Series 1 will be an interesting mix. I'll have a fresh blog post, with all the relevant details, to go with each podcast episode. You'll be able to keep across who's in the series by following the Lives in Music podcast once the first episode drops. On top of that there'll be the usual Facebook and Tweetage. 

    But there is one stalwart, who I recorded with, who won't be going up as a podcast. Sadly, the audio quality just wasn't good enough. But not all is lost; I will transcribe, and it will be worth it. Steve Gibbons and I talked for two hours straight about growing up in Brum, where his first gigs were, who looked after him, and how he got started. He was meticulous. So that episode will see the light of day as a Radio To Go blog post... and I will be spending a lot of time researching pictures of the locations. It's making for brilliant Birmingham rock history. 

    The Lives In Music podcast is on Spotify, iTunes and all good podcast directories. Series 1 episodes currently arriving weekly!



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    Thursday, 19 September 2019

    RTE Lyric FM: a genius radio station under threat?


    Well hello there... my, it's been a long, long time.
    How'm I doing? Well, I guess I'm doing fine.

    Willie Nelson wrote that song, Funny How Time Slips Away. There are dozens of fine versions. It's a simple, truthful song of enormous quality. Songs like that get better with age. So do some radio stations, when they get the chance to grow into themselves. And so do some people, who blossom over the years. I'll come back to that. I'm working up a podcast series; I'll go into great detail in the next post.

    I've used that couplet because I have been quiet of late on this blog. I've been not so much under the weather as comprehensively flattened. It's taken me a while to wrestle myself back upright. So, my apologies if you've been missing any, er, shining thoughts. Now, to the meat of this post...


      Classical Music and the arts on the Radio. Under threat. Again.


    Photo: Peter Hopper http://tinyurl.com/y2xupyjo
    I wrapped up a six month consult gig in April this year. The job was to set up the initial library and scheduling database for Bauer Media's new Classical music station, Scala Radio. It was enormous fun; it's work I love to do. What you heard at launch date was pretty much what I had been beavering away on since September 2018.

    I would not have got that gig without experience gained twenty years ago with the team at RTE Lyric FM. I worked with them, on and off, for five years from 1998. Now, Scala's project was top secret when I joined. So that made me a good fit, being the only person they could find in the UK with Classical programming chops who wasn't at Radio 3 or Classic FM. I had also worked in New York on the RCS gSelector scheduling engine, and that came in useful too. I wrote the online help there. Since then, of course, it's been much expanded to go with the program's development. And it was a strange thing to look afresh at the work I did in 2009.


    Lyric FM 

    Of course I didn't know it back in 1998, but the Lyric work opened the Scala door for me. Lyric was the most fun place I ever worked for. There were, and I'm sure there still are, some brilliant, articulate, eloquent broadcasters. The Irish can put their English colleagues to shame with their use of language when so minded. Lyric was bursting with talent and enthusiasm. It's the only music station I worked at where the majority of the staff actually made music. Over its twenty years, Lyric has been garlanded with awards at home and abroad. They run on a shoestring budget. Lyric's funding to awards ratio must be one the most respectable in Europe. But now for the bad news.

    A casual remark on an RTE TV show last week suggests that RTE are considering 'cutting' Lyric FM. It's all about costs: RTE are in even deeper financial difficulties than the BBC.

    It must have been sickening to learn this information at third hand. There's a part of me that wonders if the mooted decision to 'cut' Lyric FM was helped by geography. Lyric is based in Limerick; Most of RTE in based in Dublin. I know, to my cost, how capital city workers frequently regard work done outside the capital with contempt. In the UK, it happened at Pebble Mill in Birmingham time and time again. In fact, this week, In the Radio Times, John Sergeant bemoaned the fact that sometimes he was forced to travel outside London to do his BBC work. The poor lamb. It must have been frightful. The provinces! I shudder for him.


    Time for action?

    Be that as it may, the bald fact is that Lyric is under threat. And I encourage you, wherever you are, to sign petitions, tweet and email your support.

    Lyric is bold and adventurous. It is also a nursery slope, a training ground and a solid platform for broadcast talent that is out of the ordinary. Lyric champions a wonderful range of music. It is the home for much of RTE's Arts coverage. And it is astonishingly good value. If you haven't done so yet, take a listen here

    Here are some links to follow and addresses to contact: both the basic facts and the people who make the decisions. They need to hear from you if you care about adventurous radio.

    This link takes you to the facts as reported


    CONTACTS
    Dee Forbes (Director General, RTE) Dee.Forbes@rte.ie
    Richard Bruton (Minister for Communications) richard.bruton@oireachtas.ie 

    SOCIAL MEDIA
    On Twitter there is a group voicing their opinion: g
    o to @RTÉlyricfm 
    And use the hashtags: #lyricfmpublicservicebroadcasting #savelyricfm

    CAMPAIGNING
    And sign this petition 



    See more radio and broadcasting posts on Radio To Go

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