Musings on Music: September – December 2016


Gary Friel, university  teacher and lifelong music fan (and musician), muses on music in an occasional column.
Gary also has an excellent youtube channel with the aim of allowing teachers to drill basic grammar in interesting and realistic ways. 



31 December 2016

In Memorium 2016. Thank you for the music.

18 December 2016

Desert Island Discs is a radio programme broadcast on BBC Radio 4. It was first broadcast on 29th of January 1942 and more than 3,000 episodes have been recorded. It’s currently presented by Kirsty Young.

Each week a guest, called a ‘castaway’ during the programme, is asked to choose eight recordings (usually, but not always, music), a book and a luxury item that they would take if they were to be cast away on a desert island, whilst discussing their lives and the reasons for their choices.

On today’s episode the castaway is Bruce Springsteen

1 December 2016

40 years ago today, on 1st December 1976, Queen were due to go on the English television programme the Today show, but cancelled their appearance at the last minute. They were replaced by the Sex Pistols and their friends, including Siouxsie Sioux and Steven Severin of Siouxsie & the Banshees. The show was broadcast live and uncensored at 18:00, a time when spoken obscenities were forbidden. The band, provoked by the interviewer Bill Grundy, used several swear words, causing national outrage. The next day the tabloid newspapers all reported the interview on their front pages (the headline of the Daily Mirror on 2nd December was THE FILTH AND THE FURY), making the Sex Pistols famous.

30 November 2016

On 30th November 1979, English rock group Pink Floyd released The Wall, Roger Waters‘ hugely ambitious album, film and stage project examining the factors that contributed to his sense of isolation from both his audience and from society. Now, 37 years later, the album has been used to soundtrack images of President Elect Donald Trump. The album’s music and lyrical themes of ego-driven insanity, fascist contempt for others, and narcissistic alienation, suit the images of Trump very well!

27 November 2016

Londoner Jacob Collier is an extraordinarily talented young multi-instrumentalist who combines musical genius with cutting edge technology to create a completely unique and spectacular stage show. Currently on tour to promote his first album, called In My Room, Quincy Jones has said of him “I have never in my life seen a talent like this.” KD Lang describes him as “the most talented kid on Earth today.” While David Crosby limits himself to the more prosaic “f***ing amazing!”. Other fans include Stevie Wonder, Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, Jamie Cullum and Steve Vai.

If you get the chance to see him live, don’t miss it.

25 November 2016

Only Women Bleed is a song written by Alice Cooper in 1975. It is a ballad about a women who are the victims of violent husbands. It has been covered by many great female artists, such as Tina Turner, Etta James, Carmen McRae, Elkie Brooks, Ruby Turner, Lita Ford and Tori Amos. It was a big UK hit for Julie Covington in 1977 (a year after she reached number 1 in the charts with the first recorded version of Don’t Cry For Me Argentina from the musical Evita – a big hit for Madonna twenty years later). It seems an appropriate choice for today, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

15 October 2016

The song Summertime was written by George Gershwin in 1934 for the opera Porgy and Bess (The lyrics are by DuBose Heyward, the author of the novel Porgy on which the opera was based). Since then, over 25,000 versions of the song have been recorded, including versions by Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Nina Simone, Sam Cooke, Al Green, Janis Joplin, The Doors, The Zombies, and Scarlett Johansson.
On 15 October 1960, The Beatles
(minus Pete Best) and two members of Rory Storm’s Hurricanes (Ringo Starr and Lou Walters) recorded a version of George Gershwin’s Summertime in a Hamburg recording studio. It was the first time that John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo recorded together.
In 1988 McCartney recorded another version of the song on his solo album Снова в СССР.

10 October 2016

The first weekend of Desert Trip has received mostly positive reviews. Lots of videos have appeared on youtube, including an interesting version of The Beatles’ Come Together by their one-time rivals, The Rolling Stones. Paul McCartney of course performs a few Beatles’ songs, including A Day In The Life with Neil Young. Search for “desert trip” on youtube to find many more highlights, including sets by Roger Waters, Bob Dylan and The Who.

29 September 2016

A few famous artists have sung Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb alongside David Gilmour, including David Bowie, Bob Geldof, Kate Bush and Robert Wyatt. Yesterday it was the turn of actor Benedict Cumberbatch to sing Roger Waters’ part at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

24 September 2016

English musician Graham Nash first became famous in the early 60s with his band The Hollies. In 1966 the band toured America where Nash met David Crosby. Nash left the Hollies to form a new group with Crosby and Stephen Stills. A trio at first, Crosby, Stills & Nash later became a quartet with Neil Young: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (CSNY).

With both configurations, Nash went on to even greater worldwide success, writing many of their most commercial hit singles such as Marrakesh Express, Our House and Teach Your Children.

Nash and Crosby recently sang on David Gilmour’s solo albums and tour, but now it seems that after 50 years their friendship and collaboration has come to a very acrimonious end.

15 September 2016

Van Morrison has a new album coming out. Keep Me Singing, Morrison’s 36th studio record, will be released on 30th September. To promote its release he was interviewed by the author Ian Rankin (best known for his Inspector Rebus novels).

In the interview Morrison says “Some people need to keep evolving, others wanna just repeat the same thing. I’m more prone to evolve”.

The video shows clips of Morrison performing some of his new songs (Keep Me Singing, Every Time I See A River, Too Late) which sound great, but essentially no different to anything he’s produced over the last few decades. He is also shown performing Baby Please Don’t Go, “one of the most played, arranged, and rearranged pieces in blues history”, which he first recorded in 1964. He also talks about how much better things were in the past and his preference for analogue recording techniques.

“Prone to evolve”?


13 September 2016

What’s In My Bag?‘ is an interesting Youtube channel. It features videos of famous customers (mostly musicians) shopping at one of the Amoeba Music record stores. Amoeba Music is the world’s largest independent record store and they have three branches, on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, Haight Street in San Francisco and Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley.
Artists such as Duran Duran, The Supremes, Giorgio Moroder, Joss Stone, Eliot Sumner, Clem Burke (of Blondie), Mike Scott (of The Waterboys), Savages, Flea (of Red Hot Chilli Peppers), Johnny Mathis, Bootsy Collins, My Morning Jacket, John Cooper Clarke, Death Cab For Cutie, The Zombies, Macy Gray, Common, Moby, Lana Del Ray, War On Drugs, Peter Murphy (of Bauhaus), Krist Novoselic (of Nirvana), Dave Grohl (of Nirvana and Foo Fighters), Noel Gallagher, The Swell Season, Robyn, Jovanotti and many, many others talk about the records they have decided to buy at the store. There are also lots of great in-store performances and really interesting interviews on the channel.

Musings on Music: April – August 2016

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