Dad / daughter music maths

 

My musical career

Age: 45

Years playing gigs: 25

Gigs played: 100s

Disastrous gigs played: 100s

Gigs that ended in ignominy, in financial disaster, with chairs being thrown into ponds, with destruction or theft of equipment, with credible threats of physical violence or with severe chafing: too many to count

Most prestigious venues: Glasgow Barrowlands (opening for Mansun), T in the Park (unsigned stage)

Biggest crowd: Barrowlands, 1,000ish (probably a lot less)

My daughter’s musical career

Age: 10

Years playing gigs: <1

Gigs played: 2

Disastrous gigs played: 0

Gigs that ended in ignominy, in financial disaster, with chairs being thrown into ponds, with destruction or theft of equipment, with credible threats of physical violence or with severe chafing: 0

Most prestigious venues: Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow School of Art

Biggest crowd: Concert Hall, c. 2,475

I always knew she’d outshine me, but I didn’t think it’d happen quite so quickly.

Broadcast me a joyful noise

 

I was at the Royal Concert Hall tonight for my daughter’s latest on-stage adventure, this time being in the East Dunbartonshire Children’s Choir as part of the Glasgow schools’ Christmas concert.

As you’d expect, it was too long. There were too many people being thanked. The supposed finale was — surprise! — false hope, the calm before a medley that was longer than many wars. By the end many of the parents had gone feral, avoiding dehydration by making the smaller children cry and harvesting their tears.

And yet.

My daughter grinning when her choir’s first song ended in loud applause;

The extraordinary sound of human voices in harmony, of an orchestra ebbing and flowing, of many pipers piping;

Tearing up at tiny kids in kilts doing a very beautiful version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, a beautiful song made even more so by being sung in Gaelic, a very beautiful and musical language;

The joy of special needs kids doing a gloriously ramshackle version of I’m A Believer, every single cantankerous old bastard in the place (hello!) forgetting their cynicism and basking in the sheer happiness of those beaming faces as they lost themselves in the music, in the moment.

We forget sometimes, I think. We live in a world of “fake news” and vicious social media trolling and people trying to divide us, to isolate us from others, to amplify the tiny differences between us and to minimise the many things that we all share. And that sometimes makes us forget that we’re all people who are capable of songs and symphonies and anthems and laments, people who can be thousands of perfect strangers but be made fast friends through the power of violins and voices and woodwinds and whispers and pianos and pipes.

“I’m not a woman. I’m not a man. I am something that you’ll never understand”

Dig, if you will, the picture. It’s 1987. You’re fifteen, trans — although you don’t know that’s what it’s called yet — and you live in Scotland, home of anodyne pop singers such as Sheena Easton.

You turn on the TV, and there’s bona fide musical genius Prince. And there’s… Sheena Easton?

But it’s Sheena Easton as you’ve never seen her before. Her face was, as Prince put it, jammin’. Her body was, as he also put it, heck a-slammin’. Ever coy, Prince suggested they should get together for some, ahem, rammin’.

 

I’m scared to rewatch it in case time hasn’t been kind, but I remember it as one of the most astonishingly sexual pop videos to make it onto prime time TV. It sounded astonishingly sexual too, the grinding, stabbing synths and distorted guitar blending in a way I can’t describe without sounding like a pretentious arse.

Not only that, but there was role reversal too. Prince was going through his androgynous Camille phase, and in U Got The Look it was clear that he was (at least role-playing as) submissive with Easton very much in charge. And when Easton hit the ecstatic high note of “bay-behhhhhhhh!”…

Oh. My. God.

Feminine man with gorgeous woman? The bit of my brain responsible for identity and sexuality must have looked like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise when under alien attack.

I don’t know if Prince was trans, although he famously sang “I’m not a woman / I’m not a man / I am something that you’ll never understand” and wrote the astonishingly beautiful “If I was your girlfriend” — a song where he fantasises not about getting close to her for some “rammin’”,  but washing her hair and just hanging out. Obviously it’s Prince so he does end up naked by the end, but it doesn’t come across as predatory or macho. It’s sexy as hell.

Trans or not, Prince was an extraordinarily feminine man. As his own song put it, he was a sexy MF — and he was a sexy MF in a period where that was very weird indeed.

Writing in Fusion magazine, director Dodai Stewart writes⁠1:

The year is 1980. Many states still have sodomy laws. The radio is playing feel-good ear candy like Captain and Tennille and KC and the Sunshine Band. TV hits include the sunny, toothy blond shows Three’s Company and Happy Days. There’s no real word for “gender non-conforming.” But here’s what you see: A man. Clearly a man. Hairy, mostly naked body, cock bulging beneath a satiny bikini bottom. But those eyes. Rimmed in black, like a fantasy belly dancer. The full, pouty lips of a pin-up girl. Long hair. A tiny, svelte thing. Ethnically ambiguous, radiating lust. What is this? A man. Clearly a man. No. Not just a man. A Prince.

[On MTV] A man. Clearly a man. A black man. Slight of stature, narrow of hip. Rising to global popularity in the 1980s, at the same time as another major American export: Hip-hop. A genre in which many black male artists releasing music on shelves alongside Prince’s albums—Run-DMC, LL Cool J, Ice Cube—projected an urban toughness. Leather jackets thick as armor, heavy gold chains, bold aggression. But Prince was a flirtatious, peacock pastiche made of diamonds and pearls, a dandy in paisley and lace. Some rappers’ personas aligned with the age-old oversexed, “primitive,” mandingo stereotype invented by white slaveowners. Prince defied stereotypes, period.

…Black men don’t wear makeup. Straight black men don’t wear makeup. And women aren’t attracted to a straight black man in makeup. But he did. They were.

Oh, Prince. You sexy motherfucker.

 

Some of Prince’s femininity was for shock value — the trenchcoat, stockings and heels of his early career were primarily about pissing off the prudes, something Prince took great delight in doing: his “Darling Nikki”, in which he described the eponymous Nikki as a “sex fiend… in a hotel lobby, masturbating with a magazine”, prompted the wife of a US Senator to create the Parents Music Resource Center, whose “Parental Advisory” stickers would appear on records until people no longer made records; more importantly, it’s a hilarious, cheeky, sexy and wonderful piece of perfect pop music — and his heels were handy for a man who was famously petite.

 

Nevertheless, Prince blurred gender roles, preached sexual freedom (let’s skip over the opposition to gay marriage after he became a Jehovah’s Witness) and nurtured the careers of many extraordinarily talented women. All that and writing Nothing Compares 2 U for Sinead O’Connor.

I never saw him live — bastard touts robbed me of that opportunity when he played Glasgow in 2014 — and regret that deeply.

When he died aged just 57, it felt like the universe had lost a colour.

Guys? Be more like Prince.

1 https://splinternews.com/on-prince-blackness-and-sexuality-1793856349

New free music from DMGM

It’s taken ages, I know, but David and I have finished some more songs:  they’re tracks 7, 8 and 9 on our ever-expanding second album, Battle Bruised and Broken Hearted. They are:

One Brick

Musically this one’s where my love of REM shows through – I wanted a World Leader Pretend kind of vibe, but we don’t know anyone with a pedal steel so we used synths to get the slide guitar effect.

Lyrically it comes from an article about the building of The Shard, a skyscraper in London; someone who lived nearby was interviewed and described how the building had taken away his view of the moon. With so much expensive property owned by outright villains, the idea that someone with stolen money would go on to steal the sky was too good not to use. The “sheets of glass” is from news reports of another London skyscraper whose glass frontage reflected sunlight onto the street and melted cars. It’s a little revenge fantasy, one of the darkest lyrics I’ve written, I think.

Magic Pill

This is our Everybody Hurts, a song about keeping on when you feel that everything’s falling apart around you. The song basically appeared fully formed in David’s head, but it took forever to get the vocal right. The one here is actually a guide vocal, because while I could probably sing it technically better I haven’t been able to recapture the feel of the vocal we’ve used here. That sounds wanky, I know.

Battle Bruised and Broken Hearted

We tend to pinball between guitar rock and electronic pop in DMGM, and this is one of the former: there’s a bit of Faith No More in there and a lot of ridiculously loud guitars. We don’t own any leather trousers, but if we did we’d be wearing them for this song.

As ever, the songs are free to stream and free to download. If you like them, we’d really appreciate it if you could tell somebody else about them. Thanks.

#leaveoutthetout

Fascinating and appalling statistic in this article about Adele’s anti-tout plans:

approximately 1.9% of the ‘first wave’ of Adele tickets ended up on secondary ticketing sites – with some today being sold for prices in excess of £1,000.

1.9%. It’s a percentage that’s much lower than the touts would have liked to have achieved, with experts telling us the average arena gig sees closer to 20%.

I knew it was a lot, but nearly 20%? That’s an astonishing amount of tickets, a huge pile of money and a bloody scandal.

In the absence of any legislation, the only way to stop this is to #leaveoutthetout (hashtag courtesy of Chvrches, who retweet fans’ last-minute ticket availability): if you’ve got spares or need them, there are ethical ticket exchanges such as Scarlet Mist and Twickets. The big-name resale sites are despicable, as are the people that sell on them.

Prince is right about ticket touts

Tickets for Prince’s UK shows were supposed to go on sale today, but he pulled the sales before they started. The reason? Listings were already appearing on secondary ticketing sites such as GetMeIn.

There’s something seriously wrong with the way UK ticket sites and touts operate: tickets for Jeff Lynne’s ELO went on sale at 9am this morning, and by 9.20am there were 4,264 tickets listed for resale on GetMeIn alone.

The government is currently consulting on the ticket resale market in the UK. If you think it needs reform or regulation, you’ve got until next Friday to make a submission. 

You’re so Venn

Bands are musical Venn diagrams: each member has their own tastes in music, and the music the band makes is located where those individual tastes overlap (in most cases, anyway: it’s different if the dynamic is more like Oasis, where one strong personality basically bosses everybody else about).

That means bands tend to be fairly consistent, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – for example if one of Chvrches wanted to do a death metal song or Angus Young decided to embrace jazz-funk, you’d hope the others would veto it – but it does narrow your musical horizons a little bit.

If you’re making music, is that a good thing?

I haven’t played in a band for a long time – ten years or so, I think, maybe more – but of course I’ve continued to write and record music with my brother and partner in musical crimes, David. And because there’s just two of us, and because we often write separately, and because we don’t have the issue of wondering how we’d play something live, we don’t have the consensus or compromise that you’d get in a larger group. The songs we’re working on at the moment include straight-ahead rock, grinding EDM, very delicate acoustic stuff, shimmery pop and at least one track that sounds like Donna Summer.

The thing is, though, while that’s an accurate reflection of the kinds of music we like, it isn’t a reflection of individual bands we like: each of them does a fairly specific thing. For example, Faith No More will do the odd bit of mexicana or a Commodores cover, but 99% of what they do is what you’d expect Faith No More to do. Eels are so consistent they often record the same song with different words. Chvrches aren’t going to start doing ska.

The only bands I can think of that don’t stick to a single recognisable sound or genre, who’ll flit from genre to genre without a care, are parodists. And that worries me, because I don’t really want to be part of a club that includes Weird Al Yankovic and the crap songs on comedy sketch shows. I’m not using arpeggiators and drum machines because I want to parody dance music, or big guitars because I’m taking the piss out of metal bands; I’m doing these things because they’re what the songs demand. The Donna Summer-esque song needs that Moroder chug. The shimmery pop needs those synths. The declaration of intent needs to sound like an invading army. And so on.

And yet I feel that I’m doing something wrong.

Am I?

Stadium crock

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I went to see AC/DC this weekend in Hampden Park, Glasgow – seeing them is on my bucket list and I doubt they’ll be touring for much longer, so I overcame my hatred of Hampden (whose motto should be “Where sound goes to die”) on the grounds that it can’t be that hard to amplify two guitars, a bass and a drum kit.

It is in Hampden, it seems. Hampden is the wrong shape for gigs, I’m told, too low and too prone to the wind whooshing the sound away. So AC/DC joins my list of bands I’ve seen but not heard at Hampden, a list that includes Eminem (couldn’t hear the raps), Bruce Springsteen (couldn’t hear The Boss) and U2 (couldn’t hear The Edge).

It’s not the sound engineers’ fault, I know, but when you’ve got 50,000 people paying really big money for a gig and the only ones hearing it properly are the hardcore fans at the very front, you’re really taking money under false pretences. If you’re not the push-to-the-front type, it’s one of the worst places to hear music I’ve ever visited. And I’ve been to gigs at the SECC.

A new tune: Never Lonely Again

Here’s another song with an unnaturally long gestation period: it started off as a sci-fi riff in the SoundPrism app, took a detour into PIL-style punk metal, and now we’re claiming there’s always been a G-Funk element to our music. It’s about online friends, who we suspect are all bots.

It’s been a while. Here’s some new music

The trouble with doing music in your spare time is that it can take ages to get anything finished. That was definitely the case with this song, The Sun Is Going To Shine Today: it’s been in half-finished form for months. We finally knuckled down and finished the track, and we hope you like it. We won’t keep you waiting quite so long for the next one.