Blinded By The Light

HI Bloggers,

Blinded by the Light, as recorded by English band Manfred Mann, is a rock work of art. I grew up with it on the radio. This song was originally recorded by Bruce Springsteen in 1973, but then re-recorded by Manfred Mann in 1977, and their version made it all the way to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Pretty amazing that its a song that I have no familiarity with from Springsteen, as I was not aware that it was his song until I did a web search on it.

So the video has got 21 million views, which is testament to its popularity, and rightly so. What’s special about this song? The guitar work is amazing, the drumming is just excellent, and the vocal lines have a kind of a pull, they just resonate, then of course there are the organ riffs. Its just ear candy.  

For me on a personal level, the song is special because I saw a live version done in Nashville, Tennessee. I was on a family vacation and I noticed that the city was putting on free concerts a few times a week in the summer. What I expected to find was a few hundred people in a amphitheatre or something. What we found when I got there was about 3000 people in a large inner city square. There was a big stage with video screens each side of the stage.

It was a warm summer night. Our kids were young so we really had to keep an eye on them with the crowds etc. We met a nice couple that were local – tip, just about all people from Nashville are exceedingly nice. They ran some sort of animal rescue or something, and they were passionate about music too.

At some point, the band that was on the stage played this song, and boy, they nailed it. I thought it was just awesome!

She got down, but she never got tight, she’s gonna make it through the night, she’s gonna make it through the night…

For the young kids out there reading, do me/yourself a favour. Ditch your Miley Cyrus tracks for a minute and INHALE the guitar solo in this song (its about 3:40 on this video).

Ah, yes, like a good coffee, or freshly baked muffins, there ain’t nothing like it!!!

 

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The most important rock album, of all time…. Appetite for Destruction

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Photo from Wikipedia

Hi Bloggers,

So back in the day – 1987 to be precise, a bunch of hard rocking, hard drinking, hard living mother fuckers released this album on the world. If you don’t know this band, or this album, it would make me think that you either come from an undeveloped part of the world, maybe without electricity, or you are under 25, or both, and in any case, there’s no excuses, you should just know this shit!

When it came out, I was in grade 10 high school. It was a big influence on me, and just about every other young soul on the planet. Thirty years later (hard to believe I know) this album still stacks up as a very high quality excursion into rock and rollI can put my earbuds in, and listen to these tracks today, and still really appreciate how well these songs were put together. Like a punch in the face. But a good one!

Tracks to watch out for:

Rocket Queen (oh, yeah !!! rocks and bops along. fuck yeah!)

My Michelle

Paradise City (obviously)

You’re Crazy

Fuck it, the album is all good, like really, its all just good. 

What’s interesting, as a comparison, is the apparent kind of misogyny in the themes of the song. It was flat out disrespectful to women, and, well pretty much everything else in society, but, it was also beautiful, in parts.

What else is interesting, is that these were different times. It made me reflect on the whole thing. It makes me wonder if today this was released, would it get a bunch of shit from the feminist brigade? These were the days before cell phones, before Instagram, before facebook, before everyone was so fucking caught up in being righteous and inclusive and politically correct. Before there was a platform such as social media for everyone with a half baked opinion to express it and rally a bunch of support and have a parade about it.

Please, don’t get me wrong, I’m not about disrespecting others, this is not a hate blog on anyone, just saying, the world has changed, and these guys rocked with attitude, unapologetically. As for the chicks, don’t worry, they were busy rocking out in their flannel shirts and stonewashed jeans, most likely without some bullshit agenda.

The indicator for any good rock album, is whether subsequent generations can appreciate this music as we did in our youth. In the city I live in, there is a tribute band called The Night Train, and, they rock! Really, I’ve seen their show, its awesome and they have the outfits and the attitude and everything. Poetry in motion, when a generation of early 20’s kids with guitars and stuff decide that this stuff was important enough, to celebrate all over again!

Take that one to heart, wowzer! (My Michelle)

The Acoustic Jam at Drift

Hey Bloggers, I’m back. I had a quick trip to Iowa this week. I am super excited to share some awesome pics that I took, but, fek! I left my camera in J’s handbag. Damn.

Not to worry, she’s gonna send the pics to me and I will download them for you all to see.

Meanwhile, I went and played the jam at Drift – in my man tights. Ok, why is that important? Well:

  1. I really like wearing them. They are comfy, athletic, allow freedom of movement, and are, well sexy as fk! 
  2. I like to jam, but, well, I don’t normally combine the man tights thing with jamming or whatever – its normally a jeans affair. I did rock the knee length bike shorts for one outdoor gig, but that was a ‘one-off’.

So how did this come about?  Well, T has always encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and wear tights, or what I like, and this time around J encouraged/dared/empowered me to give it a go. Maybe not a big deal to all of you, but for me a significant step in my uber-liberation movement for men-who-think-its-ok-to-wear-Lycra. I’m probably now in a very small sub-set of a society who actually perform music, in such apparel, and of course its not 1986 and I’m not in Motley Crue or whatever, so that makes it somewhat unique, and honestly, fun as fuck! If there are any others out there, please, give me a high five, but somehow I think maybe there’s more chance one of those radio antennae’s beaming beeps into space and listening for ET’s reply will get a better shot at a response than my call out. 

For a while, T and I were getting singing lessons, and I often wore a pair of long black man tights over to our tutor’s place. Our tutor saw me in them and said, ‘hey do you perform in those?  You probably should’. Actually, I have worn the long tights for a couple of band performances but I don’t do it a lot because honestly, its a bit of a freak out, but fun.

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Here’s me, acoustic guitar, and New Balance men’s running tight. Rocking it. 

But I don’t want you to be distracted by this diversion, this visual teaser on your collective imaginations, I’m a sort of serious singer/musician type. But I’m so enthusiastic about wearing my man tights, I didn’t know whether to be happier about that, or singing and playing the guitar, so I guess for me, I had reached a new level of self-realisation. I was just enjoying the moment!

Drift jam 27 apr 5
“No Woman, No Cry – sing along everyone…” 

So again, something wonderful happens when you take a chance, get out of your comfort zone, challenge yourself, and say ‘fuck it I’m going in’. And that is, nothing. What? No, I mean it, like what ever your fears may be – getting heckled, weird looks, disapproving tsk tsk’s, whatever, it just doesn’t happen. People either don’t care or they are just respectful enough to not really bother with nonsense.

So in this instance, I was out of the comfort zone for more than one reason, I fucking forgot my song book. So I pulled up at the venue, got out of the car, grabbed guitar, and oh-fuck, the song book is not here. What to do? Here I am – at the outer limit of my comfort zone in man tights about to go in and perform a few new songs that I didn’t even remember all the words to. I almost got back in the car to return home.

Normally, I don’t use a lyric sheet when I perform, because, well, I left all that behind when I was a total fucking amateur. But times have changed, and now I don’t normally read from a lyric and chord sheet – except when I take on new songs, knowing that I don’t know them that well, and need a little prompter for when I get that blank mind thing when you cant remember how the next verse starts…

But as the pictures serve as testament to my commitment to get out of the comfort zone, I got up, and played and sang my little heart out, after making an impromptu set list from some stuff I know well and some I don’t know so well. How did it go? Well, I think it went well. I met some new people and watched some fun performances. I had a coffee and a beer. All around, it was WAY better than hanging out on the couch watching TV!

Thanks for reading.

Drift jam 27 apr 1
The Set List

The Hunters and Collectors – Reminiscing about these Aussie Rock Icons.

Hi Bloggers,

I grew up in Australia. I am a ’75 model so that placed me well to hear a lot of good, what is now ‘classic’ Aussie rock. Of course in an international forum such as this, it is tempting to rattle off a roll call of great Aussie bands. There are plenty, but you will have to take my word for it, because, well, its true.

Anyway, who are/were the Hunters? This band came together when some Uni of Melbourne students started jamming or whatever in the late ’70’s. That would launch a career that kept them very active through to, well, the late ’90’s but they have apparently reformed for some one offs.

Image result for hunters and collectors

Ok, all that is by the wayside. If you grew up in Aus in the 80’s and 90’s you KNOW what I’m talking about. H&C were a mainstay of commercial radio and video hit shows (like Rage). Like Cold Chisel, INXS or AC/DC you could bet that any time you turned a radio on for many years you would hear them some time.

So I got to see H&C at the Mansfield Tavern in Brisbane. The year was probably about 1992 or ’93. The venue was packed. It was very exciting. I ended up watching the show from front right of stage – right in front of the speaker stacks. I have some hearing loss these days – and I’m sure that H&C contributed just a bit of that.

I went to the concert with my sister, my cousin, her fiancé, and his brother and some other random people. As an indicator, we came from a kind of broad range of lives but everyone was into them. They were just that good. Image result for hunters and collectors

So if you haven’t heard of them, by now you are probably drifting into a state of general disinterest. Why were they so good? Because their music reached into you with a kind of desperate drive that just kind of slapped you and made you groove and held you close at the same time. They combined heavy, heavy bass and groovy guitars with a brass section, and the lyrical content and singing delivery, is very powerful. Very powerful. 

I know this stuff is good, because I have a CD, called ‘Under One Roof.’ It’s their live album. So on my recent road trip to Regina, I put it on. Holy shit. It’s amazing how you can like something, leave it be for a few years, and come back to it and appreciate it all over again. If you are the inquisitive type, and are interested in checking this out, google these tracks: Throw Your Arms Around Me, Turn a Blind Eye, Holy Grail, When the River Runs Dry, Do You See What I See, etc. etc.

If you think I’m bullshitting, ask Eddy Vedder, from Pearl Jam, he covers Throw Your Arms Around Me, so does Neil Finn (of Crowded House) and Neil Young. That’s some big support right there! I don’t think you’re going to catch them live any time soon, but gee, its nice to remember them.

Image result for Hunters and Collectors

Doing what I do (best?) – The Drift Café

Drift cafe 20 apr 2017

Hi Bloggers. So here I was last night. I wasn’t bullshitting. That’s a guy we’ll call ‘shady’ banging away on the drum. This was fun. Simple, pure performance fun. No pressure. Dropping the odd word, mumbling through, having so much  fun I’m breaking into laughter, and (trying) to get the audience to sing along. A regular musical bull in a china shop!

So I gave the café my name and contact details, I told them that I would do a set ‘for tips’. They have a downstairs coffee area, and an upstairs bar area. Very nice venue, I guess we’ll see what happens. This is all part of my (evil?) self-realization plan.

Bloggers, go out there and have a really nice Friday. Hugs.

 

Performance Anxiety – Working Through the Stage Fright Phenomenon to Build Confidence as a Musician or Performer.

Hi bloggers, aside from my ‘day job’, I am a part time musician. I’ve done lots and lots of paid gigs. Some of them have been very exciting and interactive, some of them have been in small pokey venues with hardly enough room to fit a band on the stage, and some of them have been in the outdoors on the back of a stage with hundreds of people watching. Asides from paid gigs, I’ve done lots and lots of open stages, open mics, and jams. So I thought I might like to share some of the experience with you.

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So my first performances in front of people in a venue were back when I was a student at Uni. This was in about 2000. I had been dabbling in the guitar for years at that point, and one thing or another kept me from developing the networks and or skills to get up and put on a decent performance. So I put an ad up somewhere and met a guy named Ken who was an absolutely phenomenal guitarist. The thing about Ken was, although he had ‘studied’ guitar for an intensive period (like 6 years of 4-5 hours practice a day), he did not have live playing/band type experience. So, we teamed up.

We practiced/jammed a few times at my place, and after a very short time, we headed out to an open mic in the city that we lived in, and put on our first set. To be honest, I don’t recall the exact first set we did. I know we played a few times in that venue. I was super nervous, like hands shaking, lacking confidence, mortified at the prospect of messing up. My singing experience was very limited. I was more comfortable with the guitar really, but rest assured, you get up in front of a pub full of people, and your skills can dry up like a puddle in the Gibson desert. Such is the effect of nerves.

Acoustic headstock

So several performances followed that first one, and I was able to gain some inkling of the feeling of performing, and being on stage, and getting things mostly right. It was a total buzz, I loved it. We got some good feedback, some people said they couldn’t believe we’d been jamming for only a few weeks, because we sounded so cohesive.

So there’s the first lesson, folks. Working with competent people, and rehearsing your material many times over makes for a good performance. Notice there are two points there:

  1. Competent musicians will make for a decent performance. There is no substitute for a good skillset IF you want to perform well. You don’t have to be SRV, you do need to be fluid with chord changes and the general mechanics of YOUR performance. Notice that I’m not saying be technical and fancy, I’m saying be competent with the material that YOU are presenting. My philosophy – a simple performance done well is way better than a technical performance done badly.
  2. Rehearsal makes ALL the difference. I actually found that getting on stage, I could shift my mind to think well, this is just like practice in the lounge room, no big deal, right?

So this story is far from over. I continued to write my quirky songs and find any opportunity to get up on stage. I moved around a bit, and found other people to jam and practice with. I did some open mic things on stage on my own. One of the most special opportunities I had was to be invited to perform at the Scone (NSW, Australia) rugby clubhouse in the Hunter Valley, where I was living at a time. This venue was an old clubhouse, and the local school served a kind of dinner, and various performers from the community played. It was fun, supportive, but certainly intense for a performer. Imagine a room full of people, having dinner, and all eyes are on you. You have an acoustic guitar, the PA is projecting your guitar sounds and voice to a packed room. It was exciting and scary.

I think I did maybe two of these events. How did it go? Well, at one point I remember clearly, I fucked up doing a song by Australian Crawl (Reckless). Its a beautiful song and translates very well to the acoustic guitar. At some point, I lost it, and had to humbly apologise and say I’m going to leave that one right there. Guess what? I didn’t get crucified, nobody threw stones at me. In fact, one guy I talked to actually said he did a little ‘yes’ with a fist pump under table, why? because he realised that it made me appear vulnerable, and subject to making mistakes, and he felt that allowed him to feel better about the whole performance thing. It was really meant as a supportive gesture so it was cool.

So there’s the second lesson: you will make mistakes. Accept that. If you take yourself too seriously, you will ruin the experience for yourself and maybe for others. I took myself too seriously. Maybe a little too perfectionistic. I’ve done dozens and dozens and dozens (100’s?) of live performances, and while some have gone very well, some have been shit, and none have been perfect. If you can laugh off a mistake and look like you are enjoying the performance, people will be ok with it. Easier said then done.

Fender Tele

 So fast forward, new town, new job. When I moved I was on a mission to join a band. An absolute burning desire have to get it done no matter what kind of deal. So I teamed up with a bass player and a drummer. Turns out the bass player, although good, was a musical Nazi. He was just an abusive bully with a big mouth. I jammed with them for maybe 6 months, and it was a formative period for me in both playing electric guitar in a band, and a steep learning curve. We didn’t get out of the farm shed but that was ok because it was all a learning. At some point I made a decision to leave that arrangement because I’m not up for taking a bunch of shit – this is supposed to be fun.

There’s the third lesson: some people are arseholes. Some are not motivated. Some are not dedicated, and there is everything in between. Like any human relationship, if the people are not respectful, committed etc, it’s not going to work. This is normal, and it takes time to cultivate these arrangements.

So I got a call one day – from the drummer that I was jamming with before. He had a band that he wanted me to play lead guitar in. They had a gig – new years eve, and that was tomorrow night. ‘WTF? You want me to do a gig tomorrow night, and I don’t know any of your stuff. No way, I’ll come over and jam but there is no way I’m going to get up on stage and do that!’

So I went over there. We jammed for a bit, and I played along to some chords I was reading off some printed sheets. We got it done – I went out with them the next night to a country pub and we played on an outdoor stage. We were shit, but guess what? We got $400 that I couldn’t believe we actually got paid for this, but it felt great having my share – $100 of Australian currency in notes, pressed into the palm of my hand.

So here’s lesson four: these guys, had played live before, and thought it was quite normal to find/get a gig and perform. The point – its a mindset shift. You just need to decide that ‘this is what I/we do’ and then you make it happen.

So over the next two years, we put a LOT of practice in – like many full Saturdays from about 9 to 5 pm. We played a LOT of shows. Various locations, pubs, taverns, back of truck flatbed trailers, rodeos, ag. shows, etc. On average, we were out there every second weekend or so for one or two gigs. We did one weekend where we did a Friday night, a Saturday night, and a Sunday afternoon – all in different regional cities. Man, that was exhausting. So this band taught me a lot about performing, singing, playing in front of crowds, etc.

We played one place at a rodeo, and there were maybe 300 people there, and they were rowdy, drunk, etc. I was so nervous. So was our main singer, she was shaking. I thought if we fuck up here, they are going to throw bottles at us. There had just been a fight between two guys and the cops who were hand to hand combatting these guys until reinforcements came and they locked them up. I digress but the point was that it was intense. So the good news is, that from the opening riff of ‘Let me be There’ (Linda Ronstadt?) the party got started, and my nerves settled somewhat.

Acoustic bridge

Stick with me, I’m going to wrap this up!

So years later, I have been in a few bands, and done lots more performances. I played at one of the jams in the city I live in, and it was a very intense scene too. Venue was always fully packed, with people who played music – a peer crowd. Just the kind of place that will test your wits as a musician, because naturally you want to impress. Some of these performances were the most intense, but after doing like, dozens of these events, I got more used to it, even excited about playing there. In fact, the band I am in has hosted the jam in that venue several times as the ‘house band’. Now THAT is something, because when I walked in there a few years ago, I almost crapped my pants because the scene was so intimidating – we ended up owning that stage for a few performances, and I had the feeling we lifted the roof off a few times. Of course there were some forgettable numbers we did too.

Lesson five: at a point, your nerves will subside somewhat. You should feel a kind of excited apprehension, maybe even a little nervous when you go on stage – that’s normal. It gets fun when you can become fully confident. This is the point approaching arrogant rock star. Fully confident varies, I’ve had it, it can be fleeting, and sometimes, can’t explain why, you will get up and you will be a bundle of nerves, even though this is your 256th live performance. I don’t know why. Typically, I would allow the first set – and I mean like an hour of playing, to let my nerves settle, but really, this normally happens in the first couple of songs.

I played a festival in BC (Canada), sharing the stage with some very notable musicians. We were the local band in the town that had been invited to play. Let me tell you, I was so nervous before the performance that I felt like I forgot how to play the guitar. I’m sure that sounds kind of odd, but the point is I was so nervous that I couldn’t think about words, or chord changes, or lead breaks or anything. The good news is that we got up and did a solid performance. One young guy from one of the other bands came up to me and said ‘yes, yes, you know what I’m talking about.’ He didn’t even have to articulate it – he was saying we did a great performance and he really appreciated it.

So if you got this far, thanks for sticking with me. Performing is a buzz. Singing is food for the soul, and I can attest that you can reach into peoples hearts and minds with a good performance and that is a profound experience. If you’re thinking about it, just do it, get off your arse, and get up, be ready to prepare, be ready to be nervous, and be ready to make mistakes. Forgive yourself, its just music!