‘Appy Days: The Mick Box Column (No. 17)
This week, Mick freezes in Cornwall, gets into Them Crooked Vultures, reminisces about The Sex Pistols, does his tax return to the soundtrack of Neil Young, pleads for a Classic Rock radio station, looks at a plan to mummify someone live on TV, applauds those trying to prevent war breaking out again in the Sudan, lauds Rory Gallagher and gets excited about 3D TV…
Our family celebrated the first long weekend of the year with a trip to Cornwall in the South West of England. The trip was made despite the warnings of not leaving your home due to the awful snow and icy weather conditions. We left full of the old British Bulldog spirit, with the feeling that nothing would stop us getting there, and nothing would stop us having a good time.
The drive took six hours with one long stop, and I did all of the driving. We had a fantastic time walking Elvis (our dog) up and down the beaches, even though it was freezing cold. It was an unusual sight to see – sand, snow and the sea – but the freezing cold did not put off the surfers, who were still out there enjoying the waves. They had thick wetsuits, gloves, head gear and footwear, but I am not sure I could give that a go, not in this lifetime anyway. They say that one way for the surfers to keep warm is to pee inside their wetsuits, which is another reason not to try in my book.
It was a wonderful way to kick-start the New Year, and we all came back refreshed and ready to see what 2010 brings us. On the drive down to Cornwall, we had the radio on the whole way switching from station to station. It really was a hard job to find any music worth listening to, as there was so much dross on, and if I had heard that yodel vocal effect on one more song, I would have thrown the radio out of the window. I was thinking that wouldn’t it be great if Classic Rock had its own radio station, and it reflected each month’s magazine, playing all the great music they have written about. What a blast that would be. Hey – Heep might even get some new music played!
On my walks in Cornwall, I played on my iPod the new Them Crooked Vultures CD (Dave Grohl on drums, Josh Homme on guitar and vocals and John Paul Jones on bass). I have to admit I am a bit of a Dave Grohl fan; I just love his drumming style. It seems that he has the Midas touch, as everything he gets involved in sounds great. It is interesting that this CD was recorded and mixed by Alan Moulder, who is also credited with producing and mixing the Cosmic Egg CD from Wolfmother, which is another of my latest buys to listen to. It (Them Crooked Vultures) is an invigorating CD with some really cool moments on it, which you would expect from that calibre of musician. There are some good riffs on it too, but a few of the songs need to grow on you, and it is nice to see John Paul Jones, ex-Led Zeppelin, back in the rock saddle.
Wolfmother, however, with singer and guitarist Andrew Stockdale at the helm, definitely lean towards the 1970s. It is undeniable that Stockdale wears the 70s tag proudly on his sleeve, and over the 12 tracks on Cosmic Egg this becomes extremely contagious and enjoyable. It is definitely a step up from their debut CD, and this latest one has touches that remind you of Black Sabbath, Mountain and the like, but it is really good. I can see a lot of these songs working really well live. Both the above CDs are well worth a listen in my ‘umble view.
Well, there is not a lot in the news that makes my jaw drop in disbelief, but this is incredible. Channel 4 on English TV are looking for a terminally ill patient to be embalmed on air. Yes, they want a terminally ill patient to donate their body, so that it can be mummified on TV. They say that the programme will explore the mysteries of ancient Egyptian embalming, which was believed would help people reach the afterlife. Channel 4 said: “If the scientists are able to find a donor, we would be willing to follow the process.” This would really just be a follow-on programme to the one made in 2002 by Channel 4, which was the first public autopsy in the UK for 170 years. The autopsy was performed by the Bodyworlds exhibition creator, Professor Gunther von Hagens, and unbelievably this has been shortlisted for a Royal Television Society award, despite receiving 150 complaints from viewers. To be honest, as far as TV gross-outs go, I find it disturbing that you can be watching a show in your own living room, and the next minute there is a hospital scene where someone is being operated on, and they are pulling and cutting bits out of the body (dead or alive), with blood and guts (literally) all over the place. I am not the slightest bit squeamish, but that is far too much information in my book! Especially in your own home!
I would like to thank Barbara Schulze from Germany, who kindly made a donation to my Cancer Charity fund (Shirt Off My Back), details of which you can find on www.mick-box.net, and also to Matthias Grunewald who made the first successful bid of 2010, on the auction of one of my stage shirts. I really do appreciate everyone who helps raise money for this worthy cause, and a big thanks goes to those who participate. There are a lot of really cool auctions coming up, so I hope I will be able to hand over a healthy cheque to the charity somewhere down the line this year.
It is good to see that drummers from bands like Pink Floyd, Radiohead, The Police and Snow Patrol, alongside musicians from the Sudan and other countries, including Japan and Australia, have made a film warning that Sudan could return to the civil war which killed millions of people. The Beat For Peace film is part of the broader Sudan365 campaign, as campaigners now fear the country could slide back into all-out war, unless world leaders do more to try to bolster the fragile peace agreement. Five years ago a peace deal was signed ending Sudan’s 22-year-long civil war, but violence flared again in 2009, with more than 2,000 people killed and 350,000 displaced in south Sudan. Campaigners have kept up a drum-beat opposite No. 10 Downing Street to urge the government to do more to prevent bloodshed in Sudan. Gordon Brown, the UK Prime Minister, has pledged to “step up” the UK’s role in peacekeeping and development in that country.
On the opening day of the Consumer Electronics Show, CES, in Las Vegas USA, all the big names (Sony, Panasonic, LG, etc) unveiled 3D TVs. They are ever hopeful that 3.4 million 3D sets will be sold in the USA alone this year. The Discovery Channel said that it is forming a joint venture company with Sony and IMAX to deliver 3D TV channels, and UK satellite operator BSkyB said it is also planning to launch a 3D service later this year. ESPN said it will show at least 85 sports events this year on its new ESPN 3D channel. However, Panasonic revealed a tie-up with top US satellite provider DirecTV to launch three high-definition 3D TV channels by June, to try and jump-start demand for 3D TVs and content. Whatever happens it is an exciting time for TV, and it will be interesting to watch the developments. They are predicting that by 2013 a quarter of all sets sold will be 3D. Having seen the movie Avatar in 3D on the big screen, I am intrigued how 3D will transform to TV. Wearing the 3D glasses for a whole night watching TV is not something I think I would enjoy. I wear glasses already, so it will just be face furniture on top of face furniture.
I read in The Times this week that TV addicts are at 80 per cent higher risk of having a heart attack. This applies to couch potatoes who watch more than four hours of TV per day. According to research carried out in Australia, every hour in a day spent engaged in watching TV can increase the risk of having a heart attack or stroke by almost a fifth. I guess this will also apply to sitting at the computer or at an office desk. They say that this link appears to hold regardless of other risk factors like smoking, unhealthy diet and lack of exercise. Blimey, that is a frightening statistic. Still, I am lucky if I sit down to watch TV an hour a night, but I cannot avoid the desk and computer part, as I spend more than that just typing this. Luckily though I do get some exercise with Elvis our dog, as I take him on a two-hour walk most days, and that surely must help a bit in staving off having the big one.
I am writing this paragraph on Wednesday, January 6, but on the same day in 1977, EMI ended its contract with The Sex Pistols. This was due to the fact that they felt they could not promote the group’s records in view of the adverse publicity generated over their last few months. The move followed the group’s appearance on ITV’s Today programme six weeks before, in which they used strong language. Reports that they had sworn at Heathrow Airport staff and spat at each other while waiting to board a plane for the Netherlands the day before proved to be the final straw. EMI broke the news to Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren by telephone, but he denied the contract had been ended by mutual agreement. The Pistols – Johnny Rotten, Steve Jones, Paul Cook and Sid Vicious – had only served three months of the two-year contract, worth £40,000, and released one single, Anarchy in the UK. In March 1977 the Sex Pistols signed up with A&M Records but were sacked soon afterwards, but by June they had joined Virgin and sold 150,000 copies of God Save the Queen in just one day. The single officially reached number two despite a Radio One ban, and several high street chains refused to stock it.
On October 12, 1978 Sid Vicious was charged with murdering his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, and that same year the group disbanded. Vicious died of a drug overdose on February 2, 1979 while out on bail. In 1986, the Sex Pistols won substantial damages against their ex-manager Malcolm McLaren and 10 years later, in 1996, the band re-formed for their ‘final’ worldwide tour and live album. The Filthy Lucre tour lasted six months. The band reformed again in 2002 and re-released God Save the Queen in response to the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations which caused a national outrage. They came together again in August 2003 for a short USA tour. We met them a few times at London Heathrow airport when they re-formed for these tours, and we always had a nice chat, especially with Steve Jones. Way back in the early formation of The Sex Pistols we rehearsed in a place called Ezee Hire in London. At the bar one night, a party was thrown and we had a full on drinking session with Johnny Rotten. He was good company, and we had a good laugh, until we were thrown out, as the last men standing.
It was interesting to read that Lenny Kravitz confirmed that a new song Another Day had leaked out on to the internet, and is an unreleased collaboration between himself and Michael Jackson. This version of the song is unmixed and incomplete, but can be currently heard online. Kravitz himself has posted up a video clip to set the record straight, that his version had been locked up in a vault since recording it. He says that he does not know how they obtained it, and that the person who released it had nothing to do with the track. However he says that recording the track was an amazing experience, and confirmed that he had written the song, produced it and played all of the instruments, with Jackson contributing the vocals of course. Regarding an official release of the track Kravitz confirmed: “I’d like to see this thing straightened out as soon as possible, because I’d like for you the fans – the people who love Michael – to be able to hear it in its entirety, the way it was meant to it. The way Michael and I intended it to be.” I have since heard it, and it is a typical Jackson song with all of his trademark vocals. It is very good, but will definitely benefit from a proper mix – which I am sure you will agree, should you decide to check it out.
I spent the day preparing my tax return, so I was in need of some peaceful music. That came in the shape of Neil Young. I played his live CD in Canada, at the Massy Hall 1971, which I picked up last week in that fabulous vinyl shop Rough Trade East in Brick Lane, London (mentioned in last week’s column). Coupled with this and a few lit joss sticks, I calmly got on with doing my tax return. This CD is fantastic, and has so many of his good songs on it, that were freshly written at the time. There are some lovely Neil Young type ramblings on it, in-between songs. He even has a go at people taking pictures while he is playing, as he says the clicks are out of time, but this is said in a really charming laid-back way, as only Neil can. He also tells everyone that he now lives on a ranch where he wrote Old Man. He said that an old man came with the ranch when he bought it, and he was about 70 years old. What a brilliant song. He says, “I am going to sing mostly all new songs tonight, as I have written so many new ones, and I couldn’t think of anything else to do with them.”
He had been on tour for two weeks when he recorded this. There is a lot of tuning between songs while he is talking, and at one point he even drops his guitar pick. It really is a brilliant live CD that makes you feel like you are there. I remember playing the Massy Hall back in the 70s, and if the mist of time serves me right, it was with the late great Rory Gallagher. I really love Rory and his playing, and here we were with all of our Marshall stacks and a mountain of gear, and he comes along with a little AC30 Vox combo which he plugs his prized battered Fender Stratocaster into, and just blows us all away. He was the first guy I saw doing pinched harmonics (way before Eddie Van Halen) which at the time was a new technique, but he played a whole solo on them. What a fantastic player he was, and his musical legacy will live on forever. Check out his live Irish Tour CD, recorded in 1974 at Belfast’s Ulster Hall, Dublin’s Carlton Cinema and Cork’s City Hall. Then you can sample his passion, energy and powerful guitar playing, and you will understand what I mean. With Rory on stage are Gerry McAvoy (bass) Lou Martin (keyboards) and Rod de’Ath (drums). I was lucky enough to see Rory with his band Taste at The Marquee club in London, and I always came away totally impressed.
My son Romeo gets each week the award-winning First News newspaper for young minds. This newspaper is fantastic with interesting stories from all over the world, plus some really cool puzzles, crosswords and Sudoku. It is highly recommended. However, when I was reading this week’s issue with Romeo, there was an article on musical illusion with drummers. It is about scientists who have been studying the effect that a percussionist’s down-swing has on what the audience hears. It goes on to say that researchers at McMaster University in the USA studied Michael Burritt, one of the world’s leading percussionists. (Burritt has performed on four continents and nearly 40 states, and is one of the world’s leading percussion soloists. He is in frequent demand performing concert tours and masterclasses throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, Australia). They found that, although the length of his swing did not affect the length of the notes, it affected what the audience heard. If a long swing was used to play a note, viewers would hear a longer note, and vice-versa. Researcher Michael Schutz says that many professional musicians think that their movement actually changes the sounds that they make. This means that musicians are tricking themselves as well as their audience. However, since everyone is tricked, it means, that the musicians’ movements do achieve the right result. “Sound becomes music, only within the mind of the listener,” says Schultz, “so gestures that change the sound, within the mind, have effectively changed the music.” Taking all that on board, and looking at it from a guitarist’s perspective, if Pete Townsend of The Who does his trademark windmill arm movement, and comes crushing down on to a power chord, then… nah, I am not going there! That is too much mumbo jumbo for me, folks!
I did smile at the four Thames Valley Police officers who were filmed using their riot shields as sledges, and enjoying the snow in Boars Hill Oxford; this ended up on YouTube. The video shows one of the officers clambering on to his shield, before his colleagues push him down the hill, advising him to hold on to the straps. Their boss, Superintendent Andrew Murray, was not impressed and has reprimanded them about their behaviour. He said that tobogganing on duty, on police equipment and at the tax payer’s expense is a very bad idea, should they wish to progress under his command. When the police officers were asked if they could be filmed doing the tobogganing, their reply was: “We’re only human.” Now Only Human is the first track on our 40th Anniversary CD, Celebration, and ‘We’re only human’ is the chorus line, so perhaps someone can add the music of our song to the sledging footage being shown on YouTube?!
I hope you had a great week, and I hope to see you next week for another instalment of my ramblings!
Tags: Alan Moulder, Andrew Stockdale, Black Sababth, Dave Grohl, Eddie Van Halen, Gerry EcAvoy, John Paul Jones, Johnny Rotten, Josh Homme, Led Zeppelin, Lenny Kravitz, Lou Martin, Michael Burritt, Michael jackson, Mick Box, Mountain, Nancy Spungen, Neil Young, Paul Cook, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Rod de'Ath, Rory Gallagher, Sid Vicious, Snow Patrol, Steve Jnes, Taste, The police, Them Crooked Vultures, Uriah Heep, Wolfmother