“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.” – Bertrand Russell
I doubted if I should post this or not! :-)
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.” – Bertrand Russell
I doubted if I should post this or not! :-)
I came across this article recently, written by Madisyn Taylor. As you can imagine, the title caught my eye.
Finding Peace Within
If we are to have true peace in the world, we must first find it within ourselves.
Most people agree that a more peaceful world would be an ideal situation for all living creatures. However, we often seem stumped as to how to bring this ideal situation into being. If we are to have true peace in this world, each one of us must find it in ourselves first. If we don't like ourselves, for example, we probably won't like those around us. If we are in a constant state of inner conflict, then we will probably manifest conflict in the world. If we have fighting within our families, there can be no peace in the world. We must shine the light of inquiry on our internal struggles, because this is the only place we can really create change.
When we initiate the process of looking inside ourselves for the meaning of peace, we will begin to understand why it has always been so difficult to come by. This in itself will enable us to be compassionate toward the many people in the world who find themselves caught up in conflicts both personal and universal. We may have an experience of peace that we can call up in ourselves to remind us of what we want to create, but if we are human we will also feel the pull in the opposite direction--the desire to defend ourselves, to keep what we feel belongs to us, to protect our loved ones and our cherished ideals, and the anger we feel when threatened. This awareness is important because we cannot truly know peace until we understand the many tendencies and passions that threaten our ability to find it. Peace necessarily includes, even as it transcends, all of our primal energy, much of which has been expressed in ways that contradict peace.
Being at peace with ourselves is not about denying or rejecting any part of ourselves. On the contrary, in order to be at peace we must be willing and able to hold ourselves, in all our complexity, in a full embrace that excludes nothing. This is perhaps the most difficult part for many of us, because we want so much to disown the negative aspects of our humanity. Ironically, though, true peace begins with a willingness to take responsibility for our humanity so that we might ultimately transform it in the light of our love.
As some of you may be aware, I'm still writing (just not songs these days). A while back, I had the following story published in "Ireland's Own" magazine. It was a thrill to have it accepted.
One, two, three o’clock, four o’clock rock...Five, six, seven o’clock, eight o’clock rock...
By the time we got to nine, ten, eleven o’clock, twelve o’clock rock, we usually had them on the dance floor. That ol’ Bill Haley & The Comets’ chestnut “Rock Around The Clock” may have been from my parents’ time but it still worked a charm with my generation.
As far back as I can remember I’ve always loved music. At first I just listened to the radio but later I learned to play myself and joined a band. It was so much fun - a dream come true.
We played all around our area and we were lucky enough to become popular. We were a dance band, pure and simple. Every band was back then. Oh, you may have had some groups in Dublin, Cork or Galway that you could sit down and listen to, but not in the country. In the country, people went out to dance.
I learned early on that the test was to get them on the dance floor... a skill that had to be learned. Try too hard, too fast and it backfired on you. Wait too long and you’d lose them. The end result of either of those two mistakes was that they’d sit and look at you for most of the night. So the secret was to play the right song at just the right moment. You’d play several songs as a warm-up; good enough to get their attention, get their feet tapping and build up that need in them to hit the dance floor. Those songs were good but they were throwaways in the bigger game. That’s how I learned to play “Rock Around The Clock” at just the right moment. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred it worked. You knew you had a hard crowd if it didn’t.
As disco became popular and took work away from live bands, that ability to read a crowd stood by me. I’d built up a collection of LP’s and cassettes at the time and one day one of my friends asked me if I’d do the music for his sister’s 21st birthday party. He said: “you can just play records or cassettes. It doesn’t really matter. They’re not a dancing crowd. It’s just to have some music in the background.” I agreed to help him out.
I had all the band equipment, so that part was sorted – speakers, amplifiers, a microphone, etc. I had no intention of wiring up two turntables and bringing all my good records so I transferred what I thought were suitable songs to a bunch of cassettes. I made up a ‘slow dance’ tape, a ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ tape and a couple with new and old chart hits.
I felt they might not take me serious if they could see that I only had a cassette player with me, so I made up a big sign to place in front of it. I painted it in all the colours of the rainbow and wrote UFO in big letters. When asked what it meant, I answered – Ultimate Freak Out! Yeah, I was on my way as a DJ!
The evening was a big success... and I got them dancing. It was that ability to read a crowd and know how to pace them by choosing the right records at the right time. By the end of the night they were shouting for more... and I gave it to them. One comment I received repeatedly after it was over was: “Most of the DJ’s just stand there and play record after record but you spoke to us and made it personal.” I thanked them for their comments but little did they know – I had to talk all the time because I needed to cover myself as I took out one cassette and put in another. I’d have lost them if I left them standing on the dance floor in silence. While one song was playing, I’d use my walkman and line up the next song... and that was the UFO disco in all its splendour and glory!
Word of mouth ensured that I was kept busy doing parties everywhere. I could play AC/DC at a 50th wedding anniversary or Frank Sinatra at a 21st and it was all the same – I’d have them sweating it out on the dance floor for most of the night.
One time I was invited to a private party in Dublin; I had mentioned that I had a bit of equipment and brought it on the night. Of course I ended up doing my full disco show and it was such a success that I did it for several years.
When live music came back in vogue, I moved abroad to play music fulltime with my band. Later I heard that the party where I had DJ’d had decided to hire a professional but it didn’t work out at all. Seemingly, he just stood there and played record after record. I guess he didn’t know how to read a crowd... or when to play “Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley & The Comets!!
America - Original Album Series (a 5-CD package): you probably all remember songs such as 'Horse With No Name" and "Ventura Highway" but the group America was more than just those two songs.Some of their latter albums were produced by George Martin. Here is a track off their "Holiday" album (produced by George) called Lonely People.
Kris & Rita - Full Moon: the Kris & Rita in this case being Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge. I've always liked the sound of their voices together. I think they worked real well as a duo. Here's a track off it called Loving Arms.
Everly Brothers - Sing Great Country Hits & Gone, Gone, Gone: this is two albums on one CD. The first one is self-explanatory. It's the boys singing old country songs such as "Oh Lonesome Me" and "Send Me The Pillow". "Gone, Gone, Gone" is an album that was released in 1965 and here's the title track.
Chase - Chase (on vinyl): was an American jazz-rock band. Their sound compared somewhat to Blood, Sweat & Tears and early Chicago. They had a hit single Get It On in 1971.
Top Of The Pops - 1970-1974: I have great memories of a lot of music from that era (early seventies), so getting a whole bunch of tracks together in a 3-CD package seemed like a good idea/deal. Here's Sweet playing Ballroom Blitz.
Françoise Hardy- The Vogue Years: a French artist who enjoyed a lot of success on the Vogue label between 1962 and 1967. It's what you would expect from the swinging sixties and with a French accent to top it all off. Here's a track off it called Dans Le Monde Entier.
Gregory Alan Isakov - This Empty Northern Hemisphere: a singer-songwriter who was born in South Africa but grew up in the US. Beautiful atmospheric music for when you're in that mood. Worth checking out. Here's a track off it called Dandelion Wine.
Andy Williams - The Real Andy Williams (a 3-CD package): I grew up listening to Andy via his TV show, which was broadcast by the BBC for years and years. A wonderful voice and this is a nice collection of his work (including some Christmas songs). Here's the classic Moon River.
Gordon Lightfoot - Sundown (on vinyl): Gordon has written some wonderful songs over the years and this is a very strong album. I loved the title track Sundown and in fact I used to play on my acoustic guitar when I first starting playing in public.
Chris Norman & Band - Live: this is a recent live recording (in Hamburg, Germany). It's a 2-CD and 1 DVD set... and very reasonably priced. It's a mixture of Smokie hits, solo hits and well-known covers. I've loved Chris' voice since I first heard it via Smokie in 1975. Here's Wild Angels from the DVD.
So there you have it, a selection of the various sounds I've listened to throughout 2018. If you have the time to click on the links and check the artists out then I hope you'll like what you hear. Over the years I've always enjoyed looking through people's record collections. You can tell a lot about a person from their record collection! :-)
Awards and winning often go hand-in-hand... and winning (or losing) often goes hand-in-hand with competition... and I'm just not that into competing. Hence you'll seldom see my name in competitions or up for an award.
They say - whoever 'they' are - that as an artist you will run into two "C's" throughout your career and that you should be busier with the "C" of creativity rather than the "C" of competition... and I agree wholeheartedly with that sentiment.
From time to time my music has shown up in various places and I've picked up some awards and that's alright with me. If someone else thinks it's worthy in some way and would like to honour it then I can live with that.
The Just Plain Folks organisation is a wonderful organisation. They work closely with CD Baby (the online record distributor founded by Derek Sivers) and both of these companies feel like family. They are very devoted to helping independent musicians, so an award ceremony by Just Plain Folks is more like a night out than a competition as far as I'm concerned.
I'm extremely grateful that they've gone to the bother of listening to all those songs (and watching the videos) and that they deem "The Peace Within" as a song, and "Troubadour" as a video, worthy of a nomination.
So thank you JPF for all the great work you do on our behalf. We're all winners by having the spotlight put on what we do.
Recently I had the opportunity to do something new musically. Together with Ralph - you know him from the "Troubadour" CD/DVD - we composed and recorded the complete soundtrack for a documentary.
It was fun to do... and like I said a new experience. It was something that had been in the back of my mind for a while, so it was satisfying to finally get it done.
Writing music for a film, or a documentary, is something quite different than writing songs for an album. For starters, you're aiming for a different end result. It's something to be used as a support - to support the film or documentary - as opposed to being the main event itself - like a song is.
We recorded it in Ralph's home studio and the atmosphere was very relaxed. I must say I found it very easy to work with him. We're usually on the same page as regards what needs to be done, so no mucking about or endless conversations to complicate things or slow things down. In fact, it went so well that we recorded most of it in one day!
We had some ideas beforehand about what we wanted and the rest was done, or came to us, as we watched the images unfold. I think the end result is a nice mixture of sounds that complement the images.
I'm not sure when the documentary will be finished and available for public viewing but I'm sure we'll post something on the website as soon as we find out.
So, one more thing marked off the "to do" list. Right, what's next! :-)
I remember receiving an e-mail one day, out of the blue, asking if it was possible to use my music in a film. I thought about it for a really long time (about five seconds) and decided that would be cool.
The e-mail came from a guy called Greg Corcoran. It seems he was busy directing a short film he'd co-written with Colin Corrigan. He already knew what he wanted, so obviously he'd done his homework before contacting me. That was reassuring. Obviously we were dealing with someone who knew his stuff. Always a plus!
At one stage he asked if they could get access to the 'master tapes', which these days are actually digital files. What did that mean, I wondered. He replied that it was quite normal and the reason was that they might want to 'tweak' things here and there. Now, I wasn't too keen on the idea of someone 'tweaking' my songs but he explained it was for the better and I could listen to the results before they did anything official with it. That sealed the deal.
I have to say - I was very pleasantly surprised by the end results. His music supervisor, Steve Lynch, did a great job of highlighting various pieces within the song - pulling up a bass line here and there, etc. - and even sprinkling a little gold dust of his own over the songs (adding some keyboard parts). The end result being music that you'd think was written specifically for the film.
I won't say which songs were used, just watch the film yourselves.
I had the pleasure of being at the premiere during the Galway Film Festival. The audience laughed at all the right spots and seemed to really like it, so well done Greg (and everyone involved in making the film of course). You can view it on YouTube here or Vimeo here.
I'd like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Happy New Year. It's that time of the year when people attempt to write new habits into their lifestyle. Some of those habits hold and some of them slip away. It's not the end of the world if they do. The best thing to do if you fall off the horse is to get back on again. Be easy on yourself!
... which leads me to this year's guide word - tolerance. Let see what the dictionary has to say about it.
noun: tolerance; plural noun: tolerances
1. the ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behaviour that one dislikes or disagrees with.
Let's see if we can find something else.
noun. 1. a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, beliefs, practices, racial or ethnic origins, etc., differ from one's own; freedom from bigotry. 2. a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions, beliefs, and practices that differ from one's own.
Imagine what could happen if people decided to put thoughts like those at the forefront of their minds. That's the wonderful thing about the mind - we can decide what thoughts to place there.
What if we were to put tolerant ones in there for 2017 and see how that works out.
• Sweet Bells - Kate Rusby: Kate is a Yorkshire lass and sings lots of old mining songs from that area. "Sweet Bells" is a Christmas album, hence my playing it a lot these days.
• Elton John (the black album) - Elton John: I finally got it for my collection. I've loved it since it came out. I've been picking up all those early Elton albums lately. Gems, all of them.
• Songbook - David Gates: What a great songwriter he was... and what a sweet voice. This collection is a nice mix of his Bread hits, solo hits and a couple of new songs thrown in for good measure.
• Watertown - Frank Sinatra: I've become a big fan of Frank's over the last while... especially his Capitol recordings. This album however was released on his own Reprise label and it didn't do well at all when it was released. It gained some traction in the years that followed and slowly but surely people warmed to it. Now it's considered a masterpiece. Sorry about that, Frank!
• Best of... Smokie: I've always loved Chris Norman's voice. Still do. In fact, I'm going to see him live in Budapest, Hungary next April. He's doing a special show with an orchestra. Sounds interesting. I wonder which songs he'll do. He's had lots of hits in Europe as a solo artist as well.
• Already Free - The Derek Trucks Band: What a wonderful greasy, funky sound they make. Soul-blues based. Derek is an amazing slide player but the whole band is excellent. Check ‘em out, you won't be disappointed.
• Can I Have My Money Back - Gerry Rafferty: Released in 1971 it may not be as well known as some of his latter releases, which is a real shame because it's a really, really strong album. There are shades of The Beatles/Paul McCartney in the sound but it's also all Gerry. What a wonderful voice he had.
• Xmas! The Beatmas - Rubber Band: What a Beatles Christmas album might have sounded like. It's really clever how they put this together. They're from Denmark. They've taken classic Christmas songs and put them in a Beatles jacket. Hard to describe. Check it out if you can. Delightful stuff.
• "A" - Agnetha Fältskog: This album was recorded in 2013, so long after her ABBA days. It's not what I'd usually listen to. I came across it on YouTube and found it instantly likeable/listenable. Several repeat plays prompted me to buy it. I'm happy I did as it's give me many hours of listening pleasure since. She's still in fine voice... and what a beautiful voice she has.
• Late For The Sky - Jackson Browne: If there is one album I play over and over and never tire of, it's this one. It's so good, so strong. I have it on vinyl and also on CD. The CD is usually in the car and the CD player is set on repeat. Sometimes it starts to play again and before I can get to it to eject it, I hear those first few notes and I'm sold all over again and just let it play. The cover is a tip of the hat to René Magritte, a Belgian surrealist painter. It's based on René's L'Empire des Lumières series of paintings.
So there you have it, some sounds that have been keeping me company throughout 2016. I'm hoping Christmas will bring some additions to my collection. You can never have enough good music, right?
Of course I also hope that Christmas will bring you all lots of what you wish for and that you get some peace time with your friends and family.
"Ireland's Own" - as they say themselves "the week wouldn't be the same without it". I'm sure that rings true for many a household. I know I've seen it around for as long as I can remember.
Imagine the changes that have taken place in the world since it was first published in 1902... and yet, by sticking to their guns they have managed to outlast many a fad. You've got to hand it to them for consistency and knowing what their readers want. I have no idea if they're waiting on a story from me but the good folks who run "Ireland's Own" obviously thought my little story was suitable enough to run it in their summer special and I'm very grateful to them for that.
It's difficult to explain exactly what my wee story is about. It's from the early days of my music career and I suppose it's about a lesson I learned quite early on. It's a funny story, so if you do feel so inclined to check it out you can pick up a copy at your local newsagent or via their website and see what you think. It's issue no. 5554. Happy reading and have a great summer.