“Seeing a light, A face in the crowd”…

Cabaret – Bradford


So, my birthday week is at an end. I am now Forty and officially on my way to half a century walking this Earth. It’s been quite a week of celebrations, some unexpected and some requested.

I have been spoiled from those around me and it has been quite overwhelming in some ways. In others, I wonder why reaching this milestone has not really stirred me and had me shouting from the roof tops – it’s left me quite unmoved, but that’s a box left locked.

As is the box that had a quiet nod to the dearly departed. To acknowledge that side was to remember my year so far and a lot of it, I am trying hard to forget. That may sound harsh, but for me, it’s the only way.

Anyway, in the mix of gifts came signed memorabilia from Mr Finn – an amazing surprise and the much requested and desired hot air balloon ride, which I am so very much looking forward to.

I can now rest easy that it’s all over and begin to get back to real life – which should not be difficult. However, the week ended with a trip to see Will Young’s Cabaret in Bradford.

This was the same place I had a magical and fascinating night with Derran Brown in what seems such a long time ago now. In fact, so long ago, I can barely remember too much about the night, other than the ending.

The Alhambra is a fine theatre, yet it finds itself in Bradford, which would be the first to admit that it wasn’t the most salubrious of cities. The splendour inside the venue almost feels too out of place.

I had no idea of what to expect from this musical. I knew Will Young was getting rave reviews and I knew that there may be scantily clad women. Well, there was both and neither disappointed.

The back drop to the story was pre Nazi Germany and you were enticed into the KitKat club very gently at first, before being hit full in the face with a dazzling dancing ensemble.

The half-naked women in stockings, suspenders, high heels. The half-naked men in little more than leather shorts. The bright lights, the smell of sex and drugs, the lust that fuelled them. It was a club I would like to find.

Will Young played the sinister Emcee – with a white painted face and he played it remarkably well. So much so, that I would think any other part would be difficult for him to play now. Forget any preconceptions of Young the singer or Pop idol – this was a genius at work.

Young lit up the stage and memorised whenever in view. The way he played the part suggested it may have been written for him, but I have not seen the film, so that would be a guess. It was quite a fast paced show and the songs were really well sung.

I didn’t know too many, but even the ones I didn’t know were written well enough to captivate. There was a sub plot, and you can read it all here – there is no point me reproducing – however, it was the KitkKat club scenes that entranced.

Over the course of the show, the heavier side of the plot was uncomfortable at times. The undertones in how the Nazi party went about their business and began to ruin lives before coming into power was hard to watch.

The ending was even worse, depicting the Nazis in power, culminating with every actor naked (Inc Young) and depicting a gas chamber scene – it left the audience in total silence. This was not your normal feel good factor show, but it was quite brilliant and I am so glad to have witnessed it.

So, my Forty for Forty moves on to next week and a quite packed October. Jimmy Carr, Nina Conti, Phil Jupitus, Tom Odell and Nick Cave all await my presence. I will not have time to write them all up, so prepare for selected highlights!

To end this ramble, I couldn’t find anything suitable from the show, so I think you will have to find your own on youtube – and I would not normally infect your ears with Will Young’s music – however, I do like this track and actually wish I had written it – so forgive me. This is “Jealousy”.


The Music of my Life (ish)…

As with most people, music has always played a big part of my life. From walking round my parents house listening to my mum playing records as a kid, to finding and refining my own tastes as I have gone along. I was asked recently what songs would be included if a movie of my life was to be made and why would I include these tracks in the soundtrack? It’s an interesting one but not a unique premise – in some respects its quite clichéd…

We have seen host of people take this concept on and done very well with it – thinking of the likes of Nick Hornby – and am sure there are plenty more, plus a hundred thousand that no one reads about. Still, I didn’t dismiss the idea as I thought it may have been good fun to try. Yet the thought of it opens ones self up to many pitfalls and that’s before the music snobbery that people tend to have begins to kick in…

Besides, as someone who can’t sing or play any musical instrument, for me it has always been a case of appreciating others talent rather than pursuing anything musical myself. With that in mind, I do not claim to be an expert in song construction, in the BPM or the compression of tune. I do not claim to know what makes a hit single, what lyrics work or don’t work for the masses and frankly, sometimes I just can’t explain why a song appeals to me – it just does – it may just be a rift that catches my attention or a line that sticks. I can’t be the only one who works in this way…

Upon further reflection, I decided to cheat. I mean, where does one even begin to start – so many moments in life – so many songs to choose – surely it would be easier to simply make a list I said to myself! yeah right! – Even that was easier said than done! So after watering down the initial concept to the most weakest form, I decided to write a short list of a few songs that have both appealed and meant something to me during my life and a small synopsis.

There are many more and you have already seen a few in my previous blogs, so I have not added them – It’s also worth pointing out at this junction that these are in no particular order and some of the reasons may not be strictly true, but if you read between the lines and all that. If you click the song title, then you should be taken to a youtube link – provided that has worked – enjoy…

ELO – Mr Blue Sky:  

“Hey you with the pretty face, Welcome to the human race…”

Perhaps this is a surprise choice of mine, simply because I do not normally gravitate towards upbeat and “happy” tunes. However, the reason for this choice is two fold. Firstly, for years and years, there was a small orchestral piece of music that I had heard at some point in time, but could never place it. Hard to explain, but it kicks in right at the end of this song and is quite possibly the best snippet of orchestral music I know – sad to admit that I am a total ignorant twerp when it comes to this music genre – but the string section is just heartbreaking…

I only tied up the fact that it belonged to this song after I downloaded said song from Itunes. In my excitement of actually working out where the snippet of music actually belonged, I made young Ollie listen to the whole song and that’s the second reason why its in here – Ollie loves it. Whenever he is messing around on my phone, you can bet that the song will appear and he will dance across the room – no matter how many times he does that, it’s still a joy to watch…

New Radicals – You get what you give:

“Don’t give up, You’ve got a reason to live…”

If like me, you are a football fan, then you are honour bound to be superstitious when it comes to your team. No matter the reality of the situation, if you don’t put your socks on the right way in a morning, walk the same route to the ground, eat at the same burger van, buy the match day magazine from the same seller, its always YOUR FAULT if the team loses! This song became our “lucky” song on match days. No matter where we were going, or who Leeds United were playing – if this song didn’t get played, the team would lose. Clearly, when we did play it and the team lost, it was due to not playing it at the right time, or the right place – such is life eh?

Elton John – Love Song

“Love is key we must turn, truth is the flame we must burn, freedom the lesson we must learn – Do you know what I mean – Have your eyes really seen…”

Did I mention that I like lyrics??  Stunning, simply stunning piece of writing by Elton. Wrapped up in an elegant melody, it just sits in the middle of the Tumbleweed Connection quietly waiting to be explored. Initially I had it on an old compilation tape given to me by an old friend. At the time, Elton was not “cool” – I mean was he ever? So in youthful naivety it was a tune I skipped a few times and it was much later before it began to catch my attention. Now I can admire if for what it is, a thing of beauty that will out live me…

*Edit – I later found out that Elton didn’t write this – it was Lesley Duncan!

Barry Manilow – Can’t Smile Without you:

“Who would have believed, That you were part of a dream, Now it all seems light years away…”

My mum would be the first to admit, she can’t hold a tune. it’s a gift that she passed on to me! However, her constant killing of this song would never take away from the fact that it just reminds me of younger, happy and I guess naive days. Sure it stinks of cheese and yeah, its chord change heaven, but if you think this song is pure crap, then think again. The arrangement, the lyrics and that voice just combine to make a perfect storm – Its also a double whammy as when Bazza is singing live, he will whisk up some lucky gal on stage and sing it to her – “PICK ME” I screamed from the top tier of the O2 arena in London the other year, but he didn’t hear me! As underrated and belittled as they come, Manilow’s music has a place in my heart and this tune tops the lot…

Del Amitri – Just Like A Man

“And I had something to tell you, but it doesn’t matter now, I’ll stick to small talk and leave the little bits of flattery to him…”

Summer 1992. Leeds United were Champions of England, it should have been the most perfect time – but nothing in life ever runs perfect. If you needed to write a summer break up song, then just pick up the phone and ring Justin Currie for help. The time, the place will remain quietly in a corner and the names will be changed or not mentioned to protect the innocent. However the song tells you all you want to know and perhaps too much more. Its written from the bottom of a deep dark hole and the words just go round and round and round in your head…

Gordon Lightfoot – If You Could Read My Mind:

“I don’t know where we went wrong, But the feelin’s gone, And I just can’t get it back…”

You may have never heard of Gordon – but you will have heard of this song. Its yet another haunting and beautiful tune, yet another example of understated song crafting at its best. Its one of those songs that you might hear on Steve Wrights Sunday Love songs and never hear again for years. It was another given to me on a compilation cd from an old friend, but this one instantly connected and became the track I went back to time and again. It was a strange time in my life when this song connected with me, for a number of different reasons, but the thoughts and memories make me smile…

Beatles – Girl:

“And she promises the earth to me and I believe her…”

I may be wrong and I am not a huge fan, but in amongst the classic tracks spewed out by the machine that was The Beatles appear a couple of tracks that seem to have slipped out of sight. That’s no bad thing and I guess it means that album tracks like this one from Rubber Soul are there for people to discover quietly rather than been rammed down your throat via commercial radio stations or “best of” cds. For me, this one is all about the delivery of the vocals, charged with a melancholy sexual lament and a dark undertone, its just really glorious…

U2 – One:

“Did I disappoint you, leave a bad taste in your mouth…”

Yeah yeah, its been played so many times, its on everyone’s break up cd and its possibly the most over played U2 “Ballard”. The opening rift is on the TV at every “sad or “tragic” opportunity,  so much so that you are bored of it and you think you know it inside out. So f*cking what, listen again, but with fresh ears. This has to be one of the most amazingly heart wrenching songs ever written. I am no Bono fan, infact, I am no U2 fan, but I bet he wished that he could be cemented in the place he must have been in when he wrote this – as nothing since has come close. Of course, my version has a girl and that seems a long time ago, but this tune has the capacity to transport me back in a heartbeat and thats not always a good thing…

Crowded House – Black and White Boy:

“And you put on a wonderful show, Do you really, really think I don’t know…”

Now come on – you didn’t think there would be a list and no Mr Finn in it ? I could honestly write something for just about every song he has ever written, but I am just throwing this one in there. People often complement me for my positive outlook, or they enjoy my company and the misguided comedy genius that sometimes takes over. However there is always another side that most people don’t see and I am sure that’s the same for anyone. I find that there are not many people in life who take the time to scratch the surface of people. Perhaps they are afraid of what lies beneath. Suffice to say, there is balance in life and Neil Finn hit the nail. There are different theories to who or what this song is about and I think Neil likes that. Make you own mind up…