Bert Weedon, who has died aged 91, revolutionised guitar teaching. Neil McCormick wonders whether it is time to revive his methods.
20 Apr 2012
I never used Bert Weedon’s Play In A Day book, which perhaps explains why it took me 15 years to get to grips with the guitar, and why my playing remains so rudimentary. The list of rock stars who have declared Weedon’s guide gave them their first grasp of their instrument stands testimony to its practical genius. It is one of the sacred tomes of the birth of British rock.
The teenage John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison all started off with Play In A Day, so Weedon could certainly claim to be a key figure in the genesis of the Beatles, and the subsequent dominance of guitar based popular music in the Sixties. Keith Richards, Pete Townshend, Steve Hillage and Brian May were all acolytes.
“I wouldn’t have felt the urge to press on without the tips and encouragement Bert’s book gives you,” Eric Clapton has admitted. “I’ve never met a player of any consequence that doesn’t say the same thing.” It is a statement, however, that rather betrays his age. To later generations who could watch guitar heroes on video and freeze frame chord changes, Weedon’s once revolutionary approach to the instrument is already ancient history.
read more via Bert Weedon RIP – Telegraph.
04 Apr 2012
It’s The Prefab Four. The Mop Tots. Ladies and gentleman, give it up for Sean, James, Zak & Dhani.
It is the secret fantasy of every Beatle obsessive: what would you get if you put the scions of the greatest group ever in a recording studio together? It’s like a musical science experiment, mixing the creative DNA of John, Paul, George and Ringo to see how much is nature, how much nurture, and how much nepotism? What would a Next Generation Beatles sound like?
And, it turns out, the Beatle kids think about it too. Well, you would, wouldn’t you, if you grew up in the shadow of all that creativity and glory? Following in his father’s footsteps, 32-year-old James McCartney, son of Paul and Linda, played the Cavern in Liverpool last night, and admitted that he has fantasies about being “better than the Beatles”. He told the BBC that he has talked about forming a band with other sons of the Fabs. “I’d be up for it. Sean seemed to be into it, Dhani seemed to be into it.”
The Beatles can never reform, but perhaps they can continue as a family business: Beatles & Sons. They all look a bit like their musical parents, although you also have to factor in Yoko, Linda, Olivia and Maureen, which is possibly not quite such a compelling line up.
GMT 24 Feb 2012
What to make of the news that there are to be not one but two Olympic closing ceremony concerts? The announcement today of an all star symphonic event in the stadium itself featuring everything “from Adele to Elgar” seems like a bit of an insult to Blur, announced as headliners of an Olympic concert at Hyde Park earlier this week. When you hear the names being bandied about for a simultaneous mega event in the actual Olympic stadium, it starts to feel like the so called Best of British has been specially created to pen off potential protesters and party poopers, with the arch anti-patriotism of Blur, The Specials and New Order shunted into a corner to keep troublemakers occupied away from the cameras.
Meanwhile, the VIPs and global TV Broadcasters will be waving their flags for a superstars super bill featuring Adele, The Rolling Stones, Coldplay, Queen, Take That and all the rock and roll sirs, McCartney, Elton and Eric, accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra.
The Olympic Stadium closing ceremony concert has been rather dubiously described as a Great British mash up. Actually, Artistic Director Kim Gavin, a man best known for his work with Robbie Williams and Take That, described it an “elegant mash up”, which seems like a contradiction in terms, like a robust puree.
Snoop Dogg’s drug case is a bust
11 Jan 2012
The news that Snoop Dogg was arrested for marijuana possession came as a shock to the music community yesterday. Who’d have guessed that the composer of ‘Smoke Weed Every Day’, ‘The Weed Iz Mine’ and ‘Smokin Smokin Weed’ was a habitual drug user? When he prevailed upon listeners to “smoke til your eyes get cataracts”, I always thought it was an ironic comment on healthy living.
The relationship between law enforcement and pop music is interestingly fraught. Since the rebellious hey day of rock ‘n roll, there has been a strong outlaw, boundary breaking and libertarian strand to pop culture, which is emphasised by the way most song lyrics are delivered in the first person, and is imprinted (rightly or wrongly) with a strong sense of autobiographical experience.
In the late sixties, police forces briefly went into overdrive arresting household name pop stars who openly espoused drug use, staging raids on the homes of members of the Beatles and Rolling Stones, leading to William Rees Mogg’s “who breaks a butterfly on a wheel” Times editorial. Despite many subsequent drug busts and the hounding in the US of serial provocateurs like Jim Morrison, Marilyn Monroe and Eminem (usually for obscenity), you would have to say there has been a kind of stand-off between pop and the police ever since, with a blind eye turned to the openly challenging content of both songs and interviews
November 14th, 2011
During the acquisition of EMI by Universal, there has been much talk of the fantastic heritage of the label and its unsurpassed catalogue of world-beating artists which the new owners are keen to exploit. But it surely can’t have escaped anyone’s attention that the old owners have been exploiting this heritage quite remorselessly for much of the past twenty years.
I have already heard rumours of a huge campaign in 2012 for the 50th anniversary of The Beatles (who first signed to EMI in 1962). But what could there possibly be left to release from the most oversold back catalogue in history? For a group who broke up in 1969 insisting there was nothing left in the cupboard, The Beatles have subsequently put out quite a lot of “new” music, although very little of it is actually worth listening to more than once, mainly being dubious live recordings, demos and alternative takes. We’ve had the huge Anthology collection with every out-take that could be scraped from the bottom of Apple’s barrel, the BBC recordings of radio sessions, a hit singles compilation, an interesting remix album (Love) and a computer game featuring virtual mop tops. And it was only last year that the entire back catalogue was digitally remastered and finally released via iTunes which seemed to be predicated on the belief that everyone who already owned everything by the Beatles might be tempted to buy it all again so that it would sound better on their iPods.
What could EMI’s new owners possibly have in mind for the latest arbitrary anniversary?
October 3rd, 2011
Martin Scorsese has made a three-and-a-half-hour documentary about George Harrison, which will be in selected cinemas in the UK for one night only tomorrow (Tuesday 4th) before being released on DVD on Friday.
Being a Beatle obsessive, I absolutely loved it, though it might be hard going for the less partisan. I watched a preview a couple of weeks ago in a cinema, and I had some sympathy for the well-known radio DJ and his partner who slipped out about two hours in, after the Beatles broke up. This very long documentary is a bit like Harrison’s career. It all goes downhill after 1970.
Given that this is a lovingly crafted film about a major pop-cultural figure of our times by one of the great directors of modern cinema, it is hardly surprising that reviews have generally been good. However, the many critics who have commented to the effect that Scorsese’s achievement is to show that Harrison was the most interesting Beatle, the creative equal of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, are being overly kind, perhaps swept away by the warmth with which the film evokes Harrison’s winning personality. It’s a lovely, intimate portrait of a fascinating man of contradictions, caught between his higher spiritual aspirations and a more earthy side, between peace and love and sex and drugs.
It’s a good documentary about a man, but less so about the music, perhaps because there just isn’t enough of it to sustain three and a half hours.
Superheavy (from left): Damian Marley, Dave Stewart, Mick Jagger, AR Rahman, Joss Stone
16 Sep 2011
How many solo artists does it take to change a lightbulb? Well, none, obviously, because they’d just get someone from the backing band to do it.
It is hard to imagine what Mick Jagger, Joss Stone, Damian Marley, Dave Stewart and Indian superstar composer A R Rahman had in mind when they decided to join forces, but presumably it did not involve maintenance of lighting fixtures. Three lead vocalists and a couple of multi-instrumentalists, all distinctive and established singer-songwriters and stars in their own right across diverse musical genres: it sounds like a recipe for… well, not quite a disaster, perhaps, but certainly an overcooked broth of conflicting styles and egos. A supergroup, in other words.
As if to emphasise their own blockbuster billing, this starry quintet of rock, raga, reggae, soul and electronic pop legends have called themselves Superheavy. An album of the same name is released on Monday, and perhaps the most surprising thing about it is that it’s actually not a complete mess, enthusiastically mashing up global beats with pop melodies and zesty vocals.
The supergroup genre has not exactly covered itself in glory, being heavily weighted towards mercenary amalgamations of underemployed musicians from established bands whose motivation seems to be extending lucrative franchises after the original group members have all fallen out with each other.
In the Seventies, a supergroup would typically combine members of Free, Mott the Hoople and King Crimson (Bad Company); these days, they usually include at least one member of Guns N’ Roses with various grunge and heavy metal sidemen (Velvet Revolver, Neurotic Outsiders).
The very word supergroup is something of a misnomer. You could use a lot of adjectives to describe the Greedy Bastards, in which members of Thin Lizzy and The Sex Pistols briefly united in 1980 for a Christmas single and short tour to fuel their hard-drug habits, but I don’t think “super” would be among them.
13 Jul 2011
Strange stories have been circulating this week that The Beatles will reform for the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games.
You might have thought this difficult to achieve without necromancy but questioned on US TV, Paul McCartney dropped hints that he “might be involved” and, pressed on the Beatles question, added “I hear they’re planning this sort of music.” There have been further suggestions that his last surviving band mate, 70-year-old Ringo Starr will perform with 68-year-old McCartney, although I think we can dismiss as internet fantasy the rumour that John Lennon and George Harrison might be represented by their musical offspring, Sean and Dhani (although, come to think of it, maybe they could retire the old folks altogether, get James McCartney and Zak Starkey in, and run it as a family enterprise, Beatles & Sons).
If ever there was a band defined by its original members it is the Fab Four.
Somehow the Terrific Two just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
<< read more – Telegraph >>