Bowie Prom – In a Season of a Crime?

“The Bowie Prom was well intentioned but was never going to please everybody. Here’s my take on the hits and misses of the night.

‘Warszawa’ from Low was a brave and sombre opener, which set the tone for the evening. Although I felt the orchestra were out of sync a few times during it, perhaps it was just a nervy start to the night?

Neil Hannon was particularly impressive on ‘Station to Station’ and really did it justice, I wished he’d be given a larger part to play throughout the concert.

Marc Almond, clearly a Bowie superfan, sadly didn’t do ‘Life on Mars’ any favours. I think the song is too big and iconic for him to carry successfully. He improved for ‘Starman’, but it made for uncomfortable viewing.

When I heard Laura Mvula was going to be signing ‘Fame’, I thought that was an inspired choice and vocally she was outstanding. It was disappointing that the arrangement was so light on bass, big brass rasps or even organ could’ve worked well.

Paul Buchanan of the Blue Nile’s standout performance was certainly ‘I Can’t Give Everything Away’ from Blackstar. He brought the right level of gravitas and emotion, while retaining his own unique style. It was pretty special.

Anna Calvi and Amanda Palmer were very strong and powerful in their delivery of the title track from Blackstar, it was so close to the original but was taken to another place and perspective simply by being performed by someone else.

The night lacked upbeat Bowie songs, so it was a relief when John Cale brought it up a level with ‘Sorrow’ and ‘Space Oddity’ as we’d never heard them before. I fear his set started too late though.

In the spirit of avant garde I would’ve liked to have seen something from Outside, quite possibly Bowie’s most avant garde album, would’ve been really exciting to see what an arranger could come up with from that album .

Station to Station – Bowie Prom

When adverts ruin good music

When advertising creatives are looking to make an impact in the competitive world of commercials, nothing can be more tantalising than being able to secure the rights to the perfect song. Not only will a well known song capture viewer attention, it may very well make the advert more memorable and persuade someone to buy their product.

What they may not consider that these famous songs may never be the same again.

Two recent examples flirt dangerously into “ruining the song” territory.

Christian Dior’s current campaign for their latest men’s fragrance features teen favourite Robert Pattinson and, incongruously, Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love. In the UK, Whole Lotta Love is inextricably linked with 1970’s era Top Of The Pops, for which it provided the theme tune for many years. Other markets and the younger generation in the UK are unlikely to get the connection, but should their first experience of Led Zeppelin really be through a Dior advert? Presumably, at some stage in the advert’s development Page, Plant, Jones and the estate of the late John Bonham agreed to it’s use in this context? As a fan, this disappoints me.

Repetitively playing currently on UK TV is the Toyota Auris advert, featuring a driver in a chaotic street singing along blissfully to America’s A Horse With No Name – a wonderful Californian anthem oft confused with Neil Young’s work of the same era. I don’t want to associate this song with this advert, I want it to evoke a drive up the Pacific Coast Highway. It is on TV with such regularity it’s impact is near destroyed.

Have any adverts completely ruined a song for you? Please add you thoughts in the comments.

Kasabian – Dundee, Caird Hall – 23rd May 2014

When a friend offered me a spare ticket to see Kasabian, a band I don’t follow, I thought, “why not?” I always see this as a good opportunity to observe as a concert goer, rather than as a devoted fan.


The Caird Hall is a great venue, large enough to create a buzz, yet small enough to feel intimate. Dundee should be proud of it. The venue management clearly care about it as they were operating a strictly ‘no drinks in the arena’ policy – more on that later!

We managed to position ourselves right down at the front, which came as a surprise. This was my first gig as part of a Dundee audience. Kasabian attracted a mixed crowd; large groups of young, over-exuberant lads pumped with too much beer, pairs of girls resembling the ‘Peru Two’, mothers accompanying their teenage sons as well as older, seasoned giggers.

Kasabian have been on the go since the late 90’s and the lads were pounding out hit after anthemic hit. They know their audience and know the buttons to press to get the place jumping. Sergio Pizzorno wanted to see the biggest mosh-pit ever and Tom Meighan wanted as many girls up on their boyfriends shoulders as possible.

It wasn’t entirely surprising that security staff were so high in numbers and that an alcohol ban was in force. Sometimes security can be over zealous at gigs, but given the balcony dive at Kilmarnock a few days earlier, I could see why. They looked after the crowd well.

After the gig, the square outside the Caird Hall was full of fans singing in unison. One got a bit carried away and ended up in the fountain in only his boxers, the police were right on it and he was hauled out to much heckling and chanting.

A fun night, but I don’t think I’ll ever be a fan!

Is music becoming a niche interest?


There seem to be fewer and fewer people around today with a genuine interest in music. I have a handful of old friends that share my passion for music, but I’ve met a lot of people recent years who seem bemused by my enthusiasm for albums, gigs and new music discoveries.

It’s got me thinking that maybe music as an interest, is becoming far more niche than it used to be.

I’ve come across quite a number of people at higher profile gigs who are there to tick off the experience in their bucket list rather than being genuine fans of the band. They’d be unlikely to own their Greatest Hits let alone name their seminal album!

Access to music should be easier these days due to the internet, but perhaps there is too much out there for the casual listener to begin their music education? Record shops are closing by the day, so cities and towns are losing their music focal point and with that accessibility, particularly to enthusiasts, who can guide someone new to a genre or artist towards their next purchase.

Music on television in the UK is slipping from mainstream schedules. Top of the Pops was buried years ago, Later with Jools Holland seems to get later and later, while although BBC4 has music Friday’s, the programming is aimed at older demographics.

I find it quite unusual now to meet people in my everyday life who ‘get’ music, which saddens me, as someone who has been brought up with great music from my first days on the planet. And, without my virtual Twitter music friends, I’d have no-one to discuss music with regularly.

Is it just me who feels this way, or is this the way it’s going now?

BBC Playlister – Nice idea, shame about the ethos

The BBC are busy launching their new Playlister across their portfolio of radio stations. The idea is simple – collect songs you like while listening online to listen again later or build your own personal playlist. It’s the ethos of the Playlister that bothers me.

BBC Playlister

I’m a huge fan of music and have been for as long as I can remember and discovering music has always played a big role in my life. I’ve made mixtapes and scribbled down track names when I’ve heard something on the radio that intrigues me – not exactly unusual in a music obsessive!

My radio station of choice is BBC Radio 6Music, they play an eclectic mix of music which nicely fits with the kind of music I’m interested in. Many of the presenters on 6Music come from a long tradition of rifling through records at their local independent record store (sadly becoming harder to find as each day goes by) to discover and stumble upon little gems that make it all worthwhile. ¬†With all that in mind, I struggle to see how Playlister fits into the 6Music ethos?

Pushing listeners towards Spotify and away from record stores is not going to help the artists or the music industry as a whole. Musicians need to make a living just like the rest of us, if they can’t make any money from their talents fewer talents will break through.

BBC 6Music have supported Record Store Day, which creates a flurry of interest in limited edition vinyl once a year but fails to provide enough footfall annually for the average independent record store.  That aside, what will the impact of Playlister be on this relationship?

I’d love to know how many of the 6Music DJ’s feel about Playlister, but I don’t believe it will sit well with too many of them?



Losing our record shops – what next?

Aberdeen is set to lose it’s last remaining independent record shop One Up on the 31st January, with HMV’s fate to be sealed in the coming weeks and months. The music-buying public in Aberdeen and the surrounding area will be without any proper record shop leaving only the supermarkets who only sell chart CD’s. Aberdeen won’t be the only city in this position, so what is the serious music buyer, who likes a tangible product, to do next?

The fate of One Up has forced me to think hard about how I’m to continue to get my music fix.

I don’t like Amazon – they don’t pay full UK tax and are at the root of the problems faced by existing records shops

I like a tangible CD or vinyl, I like to be able to read the album covers and a CD lasts as long as I look after it!

I will never go fully digital

So what can I do? I will have to save up my music browsing for cities that still have record shops and I will be looking into ordering online via independent record shops. Options are limited now and I have to admit it scares me and fills me with dread. Some of my most interesting purchases have been made while browsing or getting recommendations at the One Up counter.

I hope someone entrepreneurial may take a risk and open a record shop in Aberdeen in the future, but I fear I may be over optimistic.

This is a bleak time to be a music fan!

Five Reasons to Support Your Local Record Shop

Local independent record shops are so much more than just a place to buy music – here’s why you should support your nearest:

1. Supporting the Local Music Scene

New bands can take a chance, upload their music to a variety of websites: MySpace, Soundcloud, Spotify, Facebook etc, etc.. but nothing beats a nice “local music” rack, their tracks being played in-store and ticket sales for gigs around town.

2. Recommendations

Amazon may offer a list of recommendations, but they can never provide you with an interesting chat at the counter, background information on the artist and the passion of someone who has listened to it. They might even play it in the shop for you.

One Up, Aberdeen

3. Second-hand Music

You are far more likely to find a gem or two by riffling through the second-hand racks at your local independent record shop than browsing through eBay. Beats auto-generated recommendations any day!

4. They directly contribute to the local and UK economy

The closure of Brighton’s Rounder Records brings into focus the VAT avoidance of the likes of Amazon who do not pay tax in the UK because their European arm is based in Luxembourg, thereby avoiding UK tax. Rounder Records blamed their closure as a result of Amazon’s business practice.

5. Use It or Lose It!

In seven years the number of independent record stores in the UK has fallen from 900 to around 300, at this rate there will be none left!

Please shamelessly plug your local independent record shop in the comments!