Category Archives: Music

Leonard Cohen: The Man with the Hat.

A few years back, I started writing a story about a boy with anger management issues. He found himself involved in an adventure that would take him all around Europe, culminating in a big face-off with the bad guys, in Athens. The only things he really cared about was his girlfriend and the music of Leonard Cohen. As part of my research for this still unfinished story I downloaded Cohen’s greatest hits. The only thing I knew about him was his melancholic music, his downbeat lyrics, and a voice that matched both of these attributes. Listening to his songs changed few of my preconceptions; but they stayed with me long after I stopped working on my story.

Tonight I got to see Leonard Cohen perform live for the first time. A friend had seen him on each of the four previous occasions the Canadian visited Ireland. He spoke highly of him, and when a ticket became available he asked me along. Cohen was playing the second of four dates at Dublin’s Kilmainham Hospital, the grounds of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA). It was a cold but dry September evening. 10,000 adoring fans packed themselves into this excellent arena, waiting for The Man himself to appear on stage at exactly 7:15pm. I didn’t know what to expect.

Three and a half hours later, I realised I was in the presence of a beautiful mad man. At 77-years-old, Cohen led from the front, aided by a band of international musicians and singers that have been with him since he began touring again after an extended stay in a Buddhist monastery. (I did say mad, right? But in a good way.) Every song from his greatest hits – if they can be called that – got an airing. Personal favourites like “So Long Marianne”, “Suzanne”, “Tower of Song”, and “Dance Me To The End Of Love” had me in goosebumps. His performance of “Democracy” will go down, for me, as the highlight of the evening.

I can’t continue without mentioning Cohen’s backing singers, Sharon Robinson, co-writer of many of his well-known songs, and the fabulous Webb Sister, Hattie and Charlotte. Each of them got their own moment in the setting September sun, with Robinson’s rendition of “Alexandra Leaving” suitably spine-tingling.

What enamoured me about Cohen was his obvious respect for his musicians. Each time they had a solo to play, he would take off his hat (a Fedora or Trilby, I’m not sure which) and watch them play. He knows he wouldn’t be where he is without them. We know that, too. And we wouldn’t be where we were without Leonard.

I don’t care if he has to wheeled out in a chair the next time he visits – I just want to be there.

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 89. On Upgrades.

Following on from my post yesterday, I was left in the unfortunate position of having a blank slate of an iPhone. After upgrading to IOS 5, all my music and apps had gone the way of the dodo. What could I do?

With a little help from my friends, (thank you, Ben), I managed to find my back-up files and sync them to my phone. You would’ve thought Apple might have known this would happen and let its customers know. Instead, for ten panic-filled minutes, I was seriously considering becoming a Luddite.

Like it or not, we are slaves to technology.

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 88. On Updates.

So, yesterday evening, after receiving a prompt from my brother, I updated my iPhone 4 with Apple’s new upgrade, the iOS 5. I was promised the very best in 3G widgets and iCloud storage (whatever the hell that is). Great, I thought. Let’s do this.

I followed all the stages, which didn’t take as long as I thought it would, then voila, I had an upgraded phone – minus all the music and apps I had downloaded. Nothing. Gone. Empty.

I cried. At two in the morning I was a broken man, my phone a shadow of its former self. To be continued…

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 79. On Poetry.

The Waterboys: An Appointment with Mr Yeats

I’m not as well up on poetry as I should be. If I’m to be any sort of writer, I should appreciate all forms, right? Perhaps – but not always. When it comes to poetry, I do know what I like. Ireland is renowned for its poets: the most famous, in my mind at least, is William Butler (WB) Yeats.

When I heard that a favourite musical group of mine, The Waterboys, had recorded an album set to Yeats’ lyrics, I had to have it. So I downloaded it from iTunes and I have to tell you: it’s wonderful.

Get it.

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 75. On Life’s Soundtrack.

I like to think that somewhere in the world of music, there exists a composition that is us. I also believe that as our lives change, so does the soundtrack that follows us around. When I was in my teens, my theme tune of Paul McCartney and Wings’ Live And Let Die. To a certain extent, my reasons for having this song ‘sing’ for me haven’t changed. But now that I think about it, I find myself going back to Steely Dan.

So, for the time being and until my circumstances change one more, my Life Song is Do It Again.

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 70. On Musicals.

As part of my annual holiday, I’m taking a trip to London next weekend. It’s a beautiful city and one I’ve not seen since the late 80s (when I was too drunk to appreciate it). I was thinking of taking in a show.

I’ve only been to two musicals in my life: Jesus Christ Superstar and Jekyll and Hyde. But I’ve a number of soundtracks in my collection, most notably Wicked and Les Miserables.

Very few events can stir emotion better than a well-staged musical and I look forward to checking at least one out while I’m away. But which one?

 

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 41. On Expectations, Great or Otherwise.

The Great Mr Dickens

If I’ve learned anything over the last few years, it’s to not expect anything from the people around me. I don’t mean this to sound callous. It’s a fact of life for me. Nothing in this world is guaranteed, except our inevitable death and some form of taxation.

As a writer I expect to write. I don’t expect others to read what I write, nor do I expect other writers to write what I want to read. I feel that if I can at least match my own expectations, then I’m on the right (write?) road.

Here’s another Great Expectations:

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 34. On Lyrics.

Writing a new Scarecrow chapter for Dorothy: Locked and Loaded, I plugged in my headphones and brought up some early Genesis albums from my iTunes. The album that accompanied my writing was Foxtrot. It culminates with the orgiastic 23 minute long epic, Supper’s Ready.

As I was coming to the end of my 1000 word piece, I could feel Peter Gabriel’s voice and lyrics invade (in a nice way) my thinking. The lyrics make no sense at all, I thought. Is he having a laugh at our expense? 

So what if he was. Isn’t this what prog rock is supposed to be about?

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 2. I Love My iPhone4.

I love my iPhone4, I love the feel of it. What did I do before I got a hold of it? My life was pretty dull until I saw its face, but now I’m running ’round, shouting all o’er the place.

Oh how my life has changed, my world has rearranged. My old phones now, they all seem so strange. I turn my Facebook on, and I play Angry Birds. I’m peaceful in my heart.

Now I got Google+, with very little fuss, and I got iTunes stored and  now I’m never bored.

But every iPhone has an app that fails.

(With apologies to Chris Martin and the boys from Coldplay.)

The Tuesday Tune: “Freedom 90,” by George Michael

Irrespective of his Wham! days, it cannot be argued that George Michael is one hell of a singer/songwriter. It seems that once he was free of his “boy band” image, Michael came into his own.

His first solo single, “Careless Whisper” was released when he was still in the duo and sold about six million copies worldwide.

As a solo artist, he has sold over 100 million records worldwide as of 2010, encompassing 7 British #1 singles, 7 British #1 albums, 8 US #1 singles, and 1 US #1 album. His 1987 debut solo album, Faith has sold over 20 million copies worldwide and made several records and achievements in the United States. In 2004, Radio Academy named Michael as the most played artist on British radio between the period of 1984–2004.

The song chosen for today’s The Tuesday Tune, “Freedom 90,” comes from his second solo album, Listen Without Prejudice, Vol 1, and holds a special memory for me; a time when I was more carefree than I am now. I was working in a hotel and restaurant on the Algarve in Portugal, and this song reminds me of hanging from the roof of a car that was speeding down a beach in the early hours of the morning. The woman driving the car would become my lover for a couple of years.

It seems ironic that on the same day I celebrate Michael’s song, he receives an 8 week sentence for driving under the influence of cannabis. I didn’t say he was perfect, but I think his music is.

By the way, this video was directed by David (Fight Club) Fincher and features a whole host of supermodels, including Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista.