With Just A Hint Of Mayhem

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

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.

 

“‘Svobodu Pussy Riot” August 3, 2012


I am sure that by now many of you are aware of the plight of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Mariya Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich from the Russian punk band Pussy Riot. The three women are now on trial in Russia on charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility. In effect what they did back in February this year was to perform an anti Putin song (a one minute punk prayer) in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour CathedralRussian Orthodox church. I suspect that the underlying charge is that they simply pissed off Vladimir Putin, who clearly has an ego the size of a small planet. His behaviour in my opinion makes it seem that glasnost never existed.

One of the many things I love about being a Brit is my right to exercise free speech, which is really all Pussy Riot were doing. Clearly free speech doesn’t exist for Putin, unless it’s him speaking! A group of western rock musicians have written to the Times this week to ask Putin to make sure that the three members of Pussy Riot get a fair trial. they could face up to seven years in jail for their ‘so called’ offence.

I would like to take this opportunity to applaud all the signatories of the letter who include; Jarvis Cocker, Pete Townshend, Martha Wainwright, Neil Tennant (off of the Pet Shop Boys) former Smith Johnny Marr, Kate Nash, Corinne Bailey Rae, Alex Kapronos (off of Franz Ferdinand), Cornershop and The Joy Formidable. I urge you to write to the press, your politicians and Putin himself to protest against this travesty of justice. Alternatively pop along to the nearest Russian Embassy and play your collection of  Sham 69, Angelic Upstarts and Bikini Kill tunes at maximum volume until they see sense. Why those three artists? well Pussy Riot have referred to them as some of their many influences.

In a Levada poll 43% of Russians said that they thought the potential punishments wer far too harsh whilst only 17% said that the punishments fit the crimes. I presume that means that 40% are either too stupid or too scared to have an opinion or they are related to Putin. How can you trust a man who clearly plays the system in any way he can to make sure he stays in charge indefinitely. On top of that he has allegedly had Botox injections to keep his ‘youthful’ appearance along with his unappealing habit of stripping to the waist to show how masculine he is! The old story of the Emperor’s New Clothes springs to mind here!

Maybe he needs to get Pussy Riot to record his entry music

In a rough translation of their one minute punk prayer Pussy Riot apparently said something like’ pray to the mother of god to chase Putin out’ . They also allegedly changed the words to a christian hymn from ‘holy, holy, holy, Lord God’ to ‘ shit, shit, shit of Lord God’ So I say to Mr Putin ‘Svobodu Pussy Riot’, embrace the modern world, promote freedom honestly, stop being a bully and do it now! Otherwise I believe you will be chased out, probably not by the mother of god but certainly by the majority of the Russian people!

Anthony Kiedis shows his support for Pussy Riot

 

“Little things I should’ve said and done, I never took the time” December 5, 2010


It’s already December 5th, just less than three weeks before the bearded weirdie arrives on his sleigh, and those little cardboards doors on my UK Christmas Number Ones Advent Calendar a falling like dominoes. Today brings you a veritable treat from the 80s and regular readers will know that’s a decade that is my least favourite in musical terms!

Chris and Neil make a blatant bid for a hit in Russia, either that or they were on the FIFA committee that just awarded the 2018 World Cup to them

Ladies and gentlemen and those gender or species uncertains amongst you I give you the Pet Shop Boys. Their cover of the classic “Always On My Mind” was number one at Christmas 1987 where it stayed for four weeks. Incidentally my daughter Lauren was born that year so that was her first Christmas and just like then she is always on my mind now, even though she may not think so.

Initially the Pet Shop Boys bricked it when asked to cover an Elvis song, but once they had 'Lego' of their anxieties they were fine!

The duo first played the song earlier in the year as part of a TV show to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley. It was so well liked that they decided to record it and release it as a single and the rest as they say, is history! Elvis recorded his version in 1972 shortly after the song had been released as an US single by Brenda Lee. She was one of my Dad’s all time favourite singers. It is believed that the song has been recorded by at least 300 different acts. In addition to Elvis, Brenda Lee and the Pet Shop Boys, my favourite version is probably that by Willie Nelson. His cover was released in 1982 and reached the top spot on the US Country Chart that year.

Th boys prepare, rather badly in fact, for their cover of "You Don't Bring Me Flowers"

The Pet Shop Boys version was the third of their four UK number ones, they only reached number one in the US chart once. That was with “West End Girls” which was their first UK number one. They did however reach the summit of the US Dance Charts some nine times between 1984 and 2009. Finally, for the record, the group’s name has absolutely nothing to do with hamsters, guinea pigs, cardboard tubes and insertion into bodily orifices. They were originally known as West End and Chris and Neil felt that the nickname of their two friends who worked in a pet shop would work better than that!

Enjoy the Pet Shop Boys video for the song from 1987 below

Here is the excellent Willie Nelson version

Followed by the former Little Miss Dynamite, Brenda Lee

And finally it’s Elvis Aaron Presley‘s version

 

Brits Special – “The future needs a big kiss” February 18, 2009


Here’s a one off Brits special for you live from Earls Court in London, well ok you’ve found me out, live in front of the telly in York! Compared to the usual posts this one will be mercifully brief…….. I promise!

The whole proceedings were opened by the magnificent U2 with their new single “Get On Your Boots” which took some while to grow on me, but now it has. The gorgeous Kylie was the hostess along with the two dudes from ‘Gavin and Stacey’

Duffy won 3 awards and the Kings Of Leon won two. Both sang live too, Kings of Leon were superb. Duffy was good but I reckon the lighting man was trashed, her face was in shadow for most of her song. Let’s not forget the debt that Duffy owes to the former Suede guitar maestro Bernard Butler, who produced her album.

Then of course there was Katy Perry, she won best international female and by gosh someone must have painted those leggings on!

Girls Aloud won the most viewers votes to claim the best British single prize, which they also performed earlier in the evening with dancers in white and loads of pink feathers. A bit like burlesque for the under 18s.

Coldplay didn’t win anything but did perform live, Mr Paltrow was on excellent form. But was that Brian Blessed on drums? We should be told!

Paul Weller won the best British male gong, I would have been gutted if he didn’t. He wasn’t there but his acceptance video with Adele was quite amusing.

David Hasselhoff presented the Best British group to Elbow and to be fair they certainly didn’t hassle the Hoff and to be even more fair he didn’t sing!

Take That put on an excellent performance, but Catwoman thinks they might have been miming. Their shirts were simply, well, wrong! As for the NHS glasses they all wore, were they sponsored by Specsavers? They looked like four Clark Kent clones when they were lowered onto the stage in their open topped UFO. Was the UFO a dig at Robbie perhaps? See it’s not only me that does that to him!

Florence and the Machine had already been announced as the winner of the Critics Choice award but what we’d like to know is why the audio was muted when she arrived on stage and also why was it just Florence, I wanted to see the machine!

Kanye West accepted his Best International Male award by video and seemed to be dressed like a black Richie Cunningham. He also seized the opportunity to ‘big up’ what a catch he would be to all the laydeez!

Estelle duetted with the Ting Tings in what was a pretty poor mash up of “Shut Up And Let Me Go” and “American Boy”. But were Estelle’s leggings done by the same painter that did Katy Perry’s?

Tom Jones looked incredibly orange when he presented Duffy with her third award of the night for best British Album.

The Pet Shop Boys as we already knew were awarded the Outstanding Contribution to Music award this year. The award was humbly presented by Brandon Flowers of the Killers. The boys also played the show out with an excellent 15 minute medley of their hits. Neil Tennant wearing a puffed up shiny overcoat, bowler hat and shades and Chris Lowe wearing jeans, puffer jacket, shades and a brilliant Andy Warhol style pink wig (That’s my style for my next mobile disco gig sorted then!)

They were ably supported by both Lady GaGa and Brandon Flowers for a few songs as well as a massive troupe of dancers. All in all for me the Pet Shop Boys were the best performance of the night. What was the worst? For me it was the hapless interviewers Nicola Appleton and Melanie Blatt off of All Saints, crap doesn’t do it justice

I also had great fun Twittering with Coldplays crew and Scott Mills team during the show.

What did you folks think of it all?

Check out the winners and news here – Brits Winners and also here in the Telegraph or the Sun

 

 
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