With Just A Hint Of Mayhem

Music trivia, useless info, extra added random stuff and the odd rant from me

Mike Garson’s “A Bowie Celebration… Just For One Day” – Saturday January 9th 2021 January 19, 2021


I have watched a few streamed shows since this awful pandemic kicked in and like many of us I don’t believe that this type of show can ever replace real gigs. But for now this is all we have so let’s use it. As a huge Bowie fan for nearly 50 years I was obviously looking forward to this show. It was curated by the Dame’s long term piano man Mike Garson and included a wonderful range of Bowie alumni and a stack of special guests performing songs (around 40) from across the Starman’s career. It was an “as live” stream but incredibly well put together. The behind the scenes crew deserve a huge round of applause, they clearly did an amazing job, which in turn helped to provide us punters with three hours of classy Bowie themed entertainment.

First up was Duran Duran with their version of the ‘Ziggy Stardust’ album opener “Five Years”, I have never been a huge fan of Simon Le Bon’s voice, but this was a staggeringly good version of an iconic song. Duran Duran really pulled this off with aplomb. Lzzy Hale off of Halestorm was aided and abetted by Tony award winning actress and singer Lena Hall for a wonderfully theatrical cover of “Moonage Daydream”, very much a star performance from Lzzy and Lena. I have been a Smashing Pumpkins fan for many years, so I was looking forward to Billy Corgan’s piano led take on “Space Oddity”. But I felt it wasn’t a great performance, I am really not sure that Billy’s voice suited the song in this setting. Sorry Mr Corgan! Perry Farrell took on “The Man Who Sold The World” partnered by his wife Etty Lau Farrell and it was a perfect spine tingling take on one of Bowie’s finest tunes. Next there was a bluesy run through a somewhat deep cut, “Bring Me The Disco King” by Anna Calvi. This was originally a track released as a part of 2003’s ‘Reality’ album. Regular readers will know that I am not a fan of Take That’s Gary Barlow, so I cringed a little when I saw his name on the list. But to be very honest the boy did good. Barlow didn’t choose an easy option and went with 1975’s “Fame”. A real Five Star performance from Mr Barlow.

Living Colour’s Corey Glover was spot on with his gorgeous run through of “Young Americans”. This was followed by one of my favourite songs from that period, “Can You Hear Me” performed by the obscenely talented Gail Ann Dorsey who played in Bowie’s band for many years. “Sweet Thing/ Candidate/ Sweet Thing (Reprise)” is a tough song to cover but Bernard Fowler, highly regarded backing vocalist who has supplied backing vox to the Stones among many others didn’t just cover the song, he owned it and frankly, blew me away. Possibly my favourite performance of the whole event. Charlie Sexton, a man who has played with an incredible number of music luminaries appeared next with a funky work out of the 1983 classic “Let’s Dance” the first of four songs by him on the night. Judith Hill, a woman who has worked with Michael Jackson, Prince and John Legend to name just a few was next with a haunting rendition of “Lady Stardust” backed by some beautiful piano from Mike Garson. “Changes” as reimagined by Macy Gray was epic, where have you been Macy, the world needs you. Kevin Armstrong who worked with Bowie in the 80s played a rather excellent version of the Mick Ronson arrangement of Richard Rodgers’ “Slaughter On Tenth Avenue” which was dedicated by Mike Garson, to the memory of Ronson, Bowie and all Bowie alumni that have passed away.

Jazz Singer Catherine Russell sang an arrangement of “Conversation Piece” from the ‘Space Oddity’ album that was completely unrecognisable from the original and for me that made it a perfect cover version, I loved it! Next up was the return of Charlie Sexton with a Stones style take on Bowie’s Stones pastiche “Rebel Rebel”. This is one of my favourite songs from Bowie and Sexton did a great job with it. Def Leppard’s Joe Elliot was on board for two songs and I was a little surprised at his first one, “Win” from 1975’s ‘Young Americans’ album. Surprised but definitely not disappointed, Joe’s voice was immaculate and accompanied by the kind of piano heaven we have come to expect from Mike Garson. For the second song in his brace of Bowie Joe Elliott rocked hard through a powerful performance of “Ziggy Stardust”. Taylor Momsen frontwoman of the Pretty Reckless had a film to accompany her rendition of one of my favourite Bowie songs, especially lyrically, “Quicksand”. She really did the Dame proud it was quite moving at times and I love the subtle touches of her film, and to finish having written Bowie’s name in the sand was special indeed. Charlie Sexton returned for two more songs “DJ” and “Blue Jean”. Both of them fine performances and in fact the latter has moved me to reappraise my view of Bowie’s 80s output which is in my opinion mostly his low point artistically. But on this evidence, perhaps “Blue Jean” isn’t so bad after all. I saw Michael C Hall in the lead role of Thomas Jerome Newton in the Bowie musical ‘Lazarus’ in London in 2016, he was rather wonderful in that and his incredibly moving version of “Where Are We Now” here was wonderful too.

Foo Fighter’s drummer Taylor Hawkins, ably supported by Dave Navarro played a lively and rambunctious “Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide”. This segued into Corey Taylor doing “Hang On To Yourself” aided and abetted by Dave Navarro, Taylor Hawkins and Chris Chaney. But that segue included a nice little romp through “Little Fat Man” from Bowie’s appearance in Ricky Gervais’ ‘Extras’. Actor Gary Oldman was next accompanied by Mike Garson’s eloquent ivories for “I Can’t Read”. I liked that a lot! Jesse Malin’s “Jean Genie” really was top drawer, he aced it. The return of Gail Ann Dorsey brought with it a touchingly sublime take on “Srangers When We Meet”. The show then rocked out wildly with Peter Frampton on “Suffragette City” duties. This was followed by a brace of songs by a great friend and sometime collaborator of Bowie, Trent Reznor supported by Atticus Roos for “Fantastic Voyage” and “Fashion”. “Fantastic Voyage” which was never played often by Bowie was pretty darned good. Ian Astbury tackle “Lazarus”, he did well and put a lot of emotion into it, but I would also liked to have seen Ian tackle something more rock based, even a Tin Machine track maybe. YUNGBLUD poured his very essence into “Life On Mars” and it payed off in dividends, legendary keyboard player Rick Wakeman supported Mr BLUD. Long time Bowie fan Boy George was on top form for his medley of “Lady Grinning Soul”, “Time” and “Aladdin Sane (1913-1938-197?)”. Mr O’Dowd, great respect from me, you nailed it. I was particularly looking forward to Ian Hunter’s performance and I wasn’t disappointed. He kicked off with his Bowie tribute “Dandy” and finished, obviously, with my favourite Bowie song ever, “All The Young Dudes”. I have never been much of a fan of Adam Lambert but there is no denying that he really did “Starman” well, perhaps enough to make me an Adam Lambert fan, time will tell. Judith Hill returned to support Andra Day as they cranked up “Under Pressure” into something even more anthemic than Bowie and Queen managed originally. Bernard Fowler closed proceedings with a highly charged “Heroes” which included some rather excellent drumming from Nandi Bushell.

The credits rolled with a rather decent “Ashes To Ashes” instrumental. Let us not forget the great band members and Bowie alumni that performed throughout the event too, Mike Garson especially, thank you for putting this together Mr Garson. Other band members throughout the evening, that I haven’t already mentioned, were, I think, Guitar: Earl Slick, Gerry Leonard and Carlos Alomar Bass: Carmine Rojas, Mark Plati, Tony Visconti, Tony Levin, Emir Kasan, Erdal Kizcilcay Keyboards: Richard Cottle, Henry Hey; Drums: Alan Childs, Zach Alford, Sterling Campbell, Matt Chamberlain, Omar Hakim, Mark Guiliana, John Lousteau, Gregg Errico, Andy Newark; Backing vocals: Gaby Moreno, Everett Bradley, Robin Clark, Emm Gryner, Ava Cherry, Simon Westbrook; Percussion: Pablo Rosario; Sax: David Sanborn, Clare Hirst, Stan Harrison. I am sure I have missed some names, but thank you to one and all this was a very special event and Mr Bowie would have loved it!

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‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ January 21, 2019


have never been a fan of biographical faction style films of musicians and bands, some have had their good points, while many have been dire in my opinion. So I really wasn’t keen to see the Queen/ Freddie Mercury biopic ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, but I was torn as everyone I knew that has seen it said it was stunning. They all told me I might need tissues to dry my eyes at times too, more of that later, but I thought they were bluffing. Anyway these last ten days or so I have been on an extended business trip to the USA. On Sunday I found myself downtown when it started to rain, so I thought why not pop into the conveniently close cinema. As luck would have it the next film on was ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ so I thought what the hell, I’ll give it a go!

The film certainly feels like it captures what life was like for Queen in the early days and how their life changed as they became successful. The story is told largely as Farouk Bulsara a.k.a. Freddie Mercury’s life but the interaction with all the other main players; Brian May, John Deacon, Roger Taylor, John Reid, Mary Austin, Paul Prenter and Jim Beach to name just a few is well portrayed and is full of pathos, humour and love. There are far too many highlights to mention all of them, you should see the film yourself if you haven’t already. But for me the gestation and recording of “Bohemian Rhapsody” is thrillingly done. The ongoing joke about Roger Taylor’s “I’m In Love With My Car” is hilarious. The Live Aid element, not just the concert but the lead up to it is heartwarming and highly interesting to us music anoraks. Finally the way Freddie tells his band mates that he has AIDS is so emotionally moving that yes I did need the tissues.

I never spotted it at first but EMI Executive Ray Foster was played by Mile Myers and perhaps more amusingly for Queen historians the guy in the truck stop scene who seems to be giving Freddie the come on is none other than Adam Lambert! The script, the acting, the production, the casting and the soundtrack are all brilliant. However the best thing about it for me is Rami Malek who so many times during the film made me believe I was watching a documentary. He had the emotional highs and lows spot on, especially in the highs and lows of his relationship with his family and his band family. Also the confusion of his long time relationship with Mary Austin. I am so very glad that I got to see this film and just sorry that it took me so long.

 

London 2012 – The Olympics Closing Ceremony August 13, 2012


So the London 2012 Olympics is over, at least until the Paralympics anyway. I truly believe that this has been an amazing Olympics and for me usurps England winning the 1966 football world cup as our greatest sporting achievement. What do you think? OK I know the Scots won’t agree with that in the first place, but I would still like to hear your thoughts.

I realise that this post comes some 24 hours after the closing ceremony, but given the musical nature of that ceremony I felt I had to post something. The Olympic stadium was once again amazing; decked out to show a London skyline that included the London Eye, Big Ben and the Gherkin to name but a few. It all kicked off with the delicious voice of Emilie Sande accompanied only by a pianist, who was playing a piano covered in newspaper. After that the tempo really took off with forty members of the cast of Stomp dancing, drumming and percussing (is that a word?) on the recreated mini London Eye in the stadium. On top of all this there was a choir singing Beatles songs.

Next up was cellist and Churchill appearing out of the top of Big Ben and reciting words from Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ which was a great link back to the superb Opening ceremony. Obviously it wasn’t really Churchill, it was Timothy Spall. This was followed by newspaper clad crowds depicting the hubbub of London. The whole thing then slowed a little for the arrival of the VIPs; Jacques Rogge (President of the IOC) who seems to make even the dullest accountant I have ever met seem exciting and prince Harry representing the Royal family. Clearly he was never going to match his grandmother’s arrival at the opening ceremony! Obviously this was followed by our rather uninspiring, in my opinion, national anthem.

The whole show was a celebration of Britain and the next vignette was real class. It was the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 countdown by Michael Caine from the ‘Italian Job’ and then the iconic three-wheeled van of Trotter’s Independent Trading blew apart and out jumped, yes you guessed it, Del Boy and Rodney in their Batman and Robin costumes. A sublime moment and a nod to one of Britain’s greatest ever comedy shows; Only Fools And Horses.

The mood then turned very much to party as madness were driven around the arena playing “Our House” from the back of a truck. This tempo was kept up by the Massed Guards Bands with a wonderful rendition of Blur’s “Parklife”. Just when you thought it couldn’t get better the stadium was filled with cyclists wearing the most amazing geometric and fluorescent hats. Two of them on tricycles which had Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe as passengers. So we were treated to a fabulous version of “West Ends Girls” on bicycles and tricycles. Could this happen anywhere but the UK? I doubt it!

One Direction were next, like Madness they were on the back of a truck, which sadly wasn’t headed to the tip. OK I have to begrudgingly admit they were at least in tune, but I still don’t like them. Interestingly they were one of just a few acts whose name was flashed onto the screen when they appeared. After that it was back to another great number from the cast of Stomp. That percussion sounded like “Spice Up Your Life” to me. was that deliberate? Who knows? An incredibly talented dance troupe who I think were called Spelbound were next to take the stage. They performed a great routine to the Beatles Sergeant Pepper classic “A Day In The Life”

To keep up the 60s vibe Kinksmeister Ray Davies came on to sing his timeless and classic love song to London; “Waterloo Sunset”. eliciting some great ‘sha la la-ing’ from the audience in the process. Emilie Sande made a return next, minus the newspaper piano and sang over a film montage of some of London 2012’s most tearful moments. The three hundred or so flag bearers entered the arena after that, including super sailor Ben Ainslie fo Britain. Elbow soundtracked this whole piece with a great little set that included the beautiful “Open Arms”.  The athletes followed the arrival of the flag bearers and they were corralled into the sections of the union jack which formed the floor of the stadium. Apparently this version of the flag was designed by Damien Hirst. Indian drummers then accompanied the construction of a large structure made up of more than three hundred white boxes. One to represent each Olympic event. The backing track to this was Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill”. I had momentary butterflies while wishing and hoping that Kate might actually appear herself. But alas she didn’t.

Apparently one of the traditions of the closing ceremony is that it contains the last medal presentation. It is for the Mens Marathon which took place earlier in the day and was won by Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda.  This was followed by a thank you and recognition for all the volunteers, or Games makers as they were known from all the athletes. This was followed by a spectacular light show to the unmistakable sound of Queen’s mighty “Bohemian Rhapsody” followed by a children’s signing choir singing John Lennon’s “Imagine”. This segued into a film clip of Lennon singing the song himself. Apparently Yoko Ono commissioned a special remaster of the song for the ceremony. At the same time a 3D image of John Lennon’s face was built on stage. This was a prelude to the main musical events.

George Michael took to the stage for his first live performance since his life threatening illness he sang “Freedom 90”  his new single “White Light” which is in fact all about his brush with death. He seemed fit and well and on really good form. I’m not sure I like the new facial hair style though, perhaps it will grow on me! Ricky off of the Kaiser Chiefs was driven to the stage as a scooter pillion passenger singing “Pinball Wizard”. I have gone off the Kaisers of late, by I must admit they did a storming version of the Who’s classic. The next part had me positively tingling with anticipation; A series of short film and audio clips of David Bowie. Would he actually appear? Surely not? And surely he didn’t. But his 1980 hit “Fashion” was used as a backdrop to a showcase of British fashion which included a weird march around the stadium from a series of models including Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss.

George couldn’t master Mo Farah’s Mobot so he invented the Georgebot

A huge skeleton of what might have been a viking boat was pulled on stage and the hidden figurehead was none other than Annie Lennox. She performed “Little Bird” which was used on the soundtrack of Coppola’s film version of Bram Stoker’s classic story Dracula. The much rumoured Pink Floyd appearance turned out to be nothing more than Ed Sheerhan, Nick Mason and Mike Rutherford doing the Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” accompanied by a tightrope walker who recreated the Floyd album cover with the flaming man.

Russell Brand arrived on stage in what looked like the Scooby Doo van and he was singing, he’s not a bad singer either. He got out of the van to perform the Beatles’ “I Am The Walrus”. The van begat a giant inflatable octopus from which Fatboy Slim did a brief DJ set featuring his own hits “Right Here Right Now” and “Rockerfeller Skank”. Jessie J then sang “Price Tag” in an open top car she was joined by Tinie Tempah then Taio Cruz with “Dynamite”. All in open top cars. Then all three of them took the stage for a creditable performance of the Bee Gees disco classic “You Should Be Dancing”. As they were performing in front of a drum kit marked up with the name of Beady Eye it was obvious who was going to be on later!

A group of London Black cabs entered stadium and performed a kind of synchronised dance. Then five of them moved to the centre of the arena and were lit up with some spectacular lighting arrays. This wasn’t the best kept secret of the show, but guess who the passengers in these five cabs were? Yes it was Scary, Sporty, Baby, Ginger and Pouty…. oops sorry I mean Posh. It was the return of the Spice Girl. They kicked off with possibly one of the greatest pop singles of the 90s (OK that doesn’t mean you have to like it); “Wannabe”. They followed this with the samba rhythmed “Spice Up Your Life” which they performed while being driven around the stadium atop the cabs that brought them in. As expected after seeing their drum kit earlier Beady Eye were next. Thankfully they didn’t play any of their own stuff, just a cover of “Wonderwall” which seemed to go down really well as a sing along with the crowd. Liam seemed quite nervous to me and is his voice a little rough these days?

ELO’s “Mr Blue Sky” was played as a backdrop for a section pioneering flight. This included flying bikes and a failed human cannonball who just happened to be Monty Python star Eric Idle who led the audience in a marvellous sing-alonga-python version of “Always look On The Bright Side Of Life”. he even made a great comedic attempt to join in with some Bollywood style dancing. This whole piece was perhaps the equivalent of the Mr Bean set in the opening ceremony. It ended with the real and successful firing of a human cannonball.

Matt Bellamy and the boys from Muse were the next to appear and they performed their song “Survival” which was commissioned for the Olympics. It’s good and their performance was excellent as usual but this is a long way from being my favourite Muse song. Interestingly, as some have likened Muse to Queen they were followed by a film clip of Freddie Mercury performing some improv jazz scat and despite being dead for more than twenty years the audience were enraptured and joined in the whole Freddie call and response thing. This proved to be the overture to Brian May’s appearance and it’s fair to say that he’s quite a good guitarist isn’t he? 😉 As the unmistakable riff to “We Will Rock You” began and Brian was joined by Roger Taylor I was briefly worried that Adam Lambert or someone similar might step onto the stage. Thankfully it was Jessie J, and inspired choice in my opinion. She did a great vocal on the song which never tried to emulate the late, great Mr Mercury.

It was then time to return to the formal activities which meant the Greek national anthem followed by a Welsh Male Choir version of the Olympic Anthem. This was sealed with the Brazilian national anthem and a formal handing over of the Olympic flag from London’s Mayor Boris Johnson to the Mayor of Rio De Janeiro via Jacques Rogge. The Brazilians then put on a samba fuelled show to let the world know what to expect in 2016. This culminated in an appearance by one of their greatest sports ambassadors; Pele. Then we had more formal stuff with speeches from Seb Coe and Jacques Rogge. Seb was quite inspiring Jacque was once again the definition of dull in my opinion. The remaining action was the extinguishing of the flame. This began with Take That (thankfully without Robbie) performing the appropriate “Rule The World”. It continued with Darcy Bussell flying in as a Phoenix to join two hundred other ballet dances for an exciting modern ballet.

The petals of the cauldron where the Olympic flame burned were then lowered and were slowly extinguished and at this point I thought that was the end. However there was more to come in the shape of the Who. They were on top form and for a pensioner Roger Daltrey’s vocal power is still damned good. They closed with a rousing version of “My Generation” accompanied by yet another magnificent firework display.

I fell a little deflated after such a brilliant two weeks but so very proud to be British. I truly believe that we really showed the world what we are capable of as a country. Not just in the Olympic events but by how we put on such a brilliant event in itself. In spite of the little hiccups before the start (G4S etc) we really delivered this in style and won a whole treasure box of medals too. So let me take this opportunity to congratulate and thank everyone in Team GB, the organisers, all the other competitors, the BBC, the volunteers/  Games Makers and anyone else who was involved in this remarkable event.

Was this the best Olympics ever? I believe it as. Rio follow that!

Most of the film clips from the ceremony are IOC copyright and therefore difficult to show. So here are two songs that sum things up in a simple way.

 

“I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take” December 4, 2010


After the success of his version of Mad World Gary planned to get a star tattoo for each finger

Are you waiting to open the door for the 4th December on my UK Christmas number ones advent calendar? I hope so. Apologies for being a little tardy with this one, let’s blame the weather shall we? Anyway as you open that cardboard flap very carefully you will be releasing “Mad World” by  Gary Jules and Michael Andrews. The song was originally a hit for Tears For Fears back in 1982 when it reached number 3 in the UK chart. The song was the third single from the band and was written by Roland Orzabal.It was originally the B Side of the band’s second single “Pale Shelter (You Don’t Give Me Love)

Surely Curt's hairstyle was never cool, not even in the 80's. Was it?

The Gary Jules and Michael Andrews version is slowed down and in my opinion almost menacing at times. It was taken from the soundtrack from one of my favourite films, ‘Donnie Darko‘. It was number one in the UK during Christmas 2003 and held the pole position for three weeks. It also reached number one in Canada and Portugal. It has been covered by quite a diverse group of acts including Adam Lambert and Die Toten Hosen. TV shows have used it to great effect on many occasions too including CSI, Smallville and the Vicar Of Dibley.

Success didn't really go to Gary's head, but he was turning into the Incredible Hulk or maybe the Jolly Green Giant (OK that was really corny wasn't it?)

Michael Andrews is well-known for his film scores, including Donnie Darko (obviously), My Suicidal Sweetheart and Funny People. Gary Jules is attributed with what in my opinion is a truly wonderful quote. “I found out that people through the ages are exactly the same as now, they had the same issues, the same desires. One thing that’s clear when you read old literature is that there are some great universal truths – things like fart jokes, guys screwing other people’s wives and the hunger for power.” I have to agree on the fart jokes comment.

Enjoy the Gary Jules and Michael Andrews version below

Here are Tears For Fears performing the original song on Top Of The Pops in 1982

And finally experience Die Toten Hosen playing (or maybe murdering) the song live.

 

 
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