‘Appy Days: The Mick Box Column (No. 23)
This week, Mick remembers the late David Byron and Keith Moon, expresses relief at Abbey Road Studios being saved, recalls meeting Kris Kristofferson, celebrates the Nordoff Robbins charity, listens to Coverdale Page and has something to say about the Number 25 bus route. Oh, and some football club called Spurs win a match!
It was nice to hear that music group EMI has said it is now not considering selling London’s Abbey Road studios. They released a statement saying that the studios should stay under its ownership. The firm added it had rejected an offer for the historic building last year, and was working with ‘third parties’ about funding a ‘revitalisation project’. This ends days of speculation, after it was reported that struggling EMI would sell Abbey Road to ease debts, as I reported in my last blog. EMI bought the property for £100,000 in 1929, and The Beatles used Abbey Road for 90% of their recordings, even naming an album after the studios in 1969. So this is good news, as many recording studios are going out of business in light of the digital revolution, in much the same way as a lot of record companies have disappeared or amalgamated.
I read an article in The Times newspaper under the heading of ’Floss regularly, and vote Silvioun’, which was placed under a picture of the stunning Nicole Minetti, who is an Italian dental hygienist. The former dancer will be contesting elections for Silvo Berlusconi’s party. She met the Italian Prime Minister when she was treating his two broken teeth. I loved the following comment: “If he’d been suffering from a groin strain, she’d be in the cabinet by now!” If you saw her picture, you would fully understand why!
Interesting to read that transport experts were puzzled by the large number of emergency call-outs to London’s number 25 bus service, which runs at night between Oxford Circus and Ilford, Essex. An investigation found the bus route is a favourite with homeless people, who get to sleep in the warm for the two-hour journey at a cost of £2.
I am very proud of my wife Sheila, as she is a Trustee at the Whitechapel Mission in the East End of London for the homeless. They do a wonderful service supplying them with shelter, food, blankets, clothes, a post box, days out, advice for benefits and housing, all with a smile and a welcome. The Mission is run by Tony and Sue Miller, the most wonderful couple who dedicate their lives to making the lives of those at the bottom of the rung in society a bit better. Now that’s what I call rock’n'roll.
Singing ‘rewires’ damaged brains. Apparently, patients who have strokes are being taught to sing to help them recover their speech. Scientists from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Diego say that by singing, patients use a different area of the brain from the area involved in speech. If a person’s ‘speech centre’ is damaged by a stroke, they can learn to use their ‘singing centre’ instead. It has been shown that the brain responds to this ‘melodic intonation therapy’. During the sessions, patients are taught to put their words to simple melodies. Music might be an alternative medium to engage parts of the brain that are otherwise not engaged. The power of music! How wonderful!
There have been many examples over the years where vocalists who have a stammer when talking, but sing perfectly well seemingly unaffected by the stammer that affects their speech. Thanks to charities like Nordoff Robbins, music can be used as a prescription to reach people whose lives are constrained by illness, disability, trauma or exclusion. So everyone really can make music. I feel so good when I hear about the music therapists who unlock creativity and expression in people who may have difficulty expressing and communicating, and so I make no apology for promoting the good works of Nordoff Robbins. It started as a collaboration between the American pianist and composer Paul Nordoff (1909-77) and British educationalist Clive Robbins (b.1927). Today, it is a national UK charity (no. 280960) with sister organisations in several other parts of the world.
I was first introduced to this charity by my UK agent for over 40 years, Neil Warnock of The Agency Group Of Companies. He has been a huge supporter, and I often get invites to attend many of the yearly functions in support of this worthy cause. It is so heart-warming to hear from the parents of kids who have been helped by this charity at these events – and I can assure you there is not a dry eye in the house.
It pains me to write this but on February 28, 1985, 25 years ago, my mate David Byron passed away. He was a supreme vocalist who inspired many people to start singing, including such diverse artists as Morten Harket of A-Ha and King Diamond. He had bucket loads of charisma, and then some to spare. He was also a good songwriter and contributor to all things Heep. I came up from the grassroots with David, and we achieved so very much together from the early days of bands like The Stalkers and Spice – and eventually making Uriah Heep a world-class band that travelled the world. He is sadly missed on all levels, but his music lives on.
David was one of the few vocalists that I can honestly say lived inside every lyric and melody that he sang. His vocal delivery was top class, believable and cut straight to the heart. Here is a website that you can visit to see just how much he was revered by rock fans all over the world: www.david-byron.com. I will have a quiet moment and reflect on all the wonderful times we shared together.
I had to smile when I read that a Nigerian had been arrested in Geneva Switzerland with – wait for it – 123 condoms stuffed with cocaine weighing 1.7kg (3.7lb) in his stomach. The man was one of six people in a French-registered car that went through a red light near Geneva. Four of the travelling party had swallowed drugs. The condoms are the equivalent of 5.5m (18ft) long. Now just how big was that man’s stomach? I don’t envy the job someone will be given of retrieving the evidence. You certainly wouldn’t want him to come into your restaurant, with an all you can eat for £4.95 sign on your door, would you! He will surely have red light fever for the rest of his life.
There’s a report that I was reading that consumers were confused by copyright laws that mean it is still illegal to copy a CD on to their computer. Consumer focus reports that the copyright law is outdated and millions were unaware they were breaking laws. A legal expert said that there was no danger of individual consumers being prosecuted for copying music and films for their own use, as commercial operations are the focus of law enforcement. The current state of the law means that it is illegal for somebody to copy a CD or DVD on to a computer or an iPod for their own use. This copying to a different device is known as format shifting.
In a poll of 2,026 people, some 73% said that they did not know what they could copy or record. Jill Johnstone of Consumer Focus called for the law to be updated, to take the advance of technology into account. “The world has moved on and reform of copyright law is inevitable, but it is not going to update itself,” she said. However, IT lawyer Nick Lockett, of DL Legal, said that nobody was being prosecuted for the technical breach in the law. Those who set up commercial operations were more at risk of prosecution, he added. He said a similar issue arose when video recorders allowed people to record a television show and watch it later in the day, which at the time was illegal. An amendment to copyright laws only came after video recorders had been on the market for some time.
One argument against allowing people to shift their music or films on to a different format was that the artists could claim that these works only had a limited lifespan, and so people should pay them again for having the work on a different format. Separate proposals to disconnect so-called peer-to-peer file sharers has caused concern among internet campaigners. This is when people share music or films, even though only one of them has bought the original. So the discussion goes on, and probably will for some time yet, but one thing is for sure: the law has definitely fallen behind new developments in technology. The shame is that with the explosion of the internet, record companies had the chance to reinvent the music industry, much like the movie industry reinvented itself with copyrights etc, but for some reason this did not happen.
One of my heroes, Cassius Clay, on this day (as I write), February 25, in 1964, was crowned the heavyweight boxing champion of the world. It was one of the biggest upsets in boxing history as he beat Sonny Liston. Liston had built his reputation on two first-round knockouts of Floyd Patterson, and in the boxing world he was thought to be invincible. Clay had come into the fight after suffering his greatest humiliation to date, being knocked down by UK’s own Henry Cooper, with a stunning left hook.
Clay was a 7-1 underdog in the betting stakes, and was seen as no match for Liston. Liston, known as The Dark Destroyer, said he couldn’t lose, but in round three he was forced to retreat with his left eye pouring with blood. Clay was announced the winner, after Liston retired at the end of the sixth round in Miami. When the bell rang for the start of the seventh round, Liston stayed on his stool in the corner of the ring, saying he did not want to continue. Shortly after the fight, Clay surprised the sports world by announcing that he had joined the Nation Of Islam, and had changed his name to Muhammad Ali. His boxing career lasted 20 years, during which he won 56 fights and scored 37 knock-outs. In December 1981, Ali decided to retire from the ring, and Parkinson’s disease was later diagnosed. Even with this disability, he is still involved in so much charitable work, and he continues to be, as he always said, The Greatest.
In the FA Cup Spurs beat Bolton on their return match 4-0. They now advance to the last eight teams in the cup. The score-line flatters Spurs, as there were two own goals from Bolton, but Roman Pavlyuchenko scored the other two goals, and is on fire at the moment.
This has to be the neighbour from hell: a bongo player in Brighton has racked up more than £5,000 in fines after ignoring court orders to stop. She has spent two years keeping neighbours awake with her nightly drumming. She is jobless, and her latest fine is for £2,000 for breaching her latest noise abatement order. She has also had her bongos, TV, stereo and CD collection confiscated.
Apparently neighbours were suffering from constant shouting, fighting, banging and loud music. Now if it’s noise she wants, she can be chained to my 100-watt Marshall Amplifier and Cabinet on stage, and get an earful of my wah-wah through a distortion pedal, if she likes!
On the subject of noise, I remember a story that involves that late great Who drummer, Keith Moon. Legend has it that he was in a hotel lobby in the USA, it was packed with people checking in, and Moon was walking around with a huge ghetto blaster on his shoulder at full volume. The hotel manager soon came over, and said that the noise was disturbing the customers, and could he please stop. Moon just said: “Follow me to my room and we will discuss it.”
The hotel manager, wanting some peace in his reception, obliged and followed him to his room. Moonie asked him to wait outside while he went in to get something from his room and closed the door. The next second he’d had blown the door off its hinges with explosives and calmly walked past the extremely shocked hotel manager in the corridor. He just said: “Now that’s noise!” They did not stay there that night! What a legend!
It was interesting to find out that Matt Goss, from the former pop band Bros (Bros were Matt and twin brother Luke, and bassist Craig Logan), is having success in Las Vegas as Frank Sinatra, in a Rat Pack-inspired show. He has a residency at the world famous Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino, after spending many a year in the doldrums after bad business deals and the band splitting up. Good luck to him!
Bros had Top 10 hit songs with songs like the cringeable When Will I Be Famous and I Owe You Nothing almost 20 years ago, and it would seem that bassist Logan came off best up to this point, as he was awarded £1 million in unpaid royalties. That is apart from once being engaged to Danni Minogue, dating Geri Halliwell and Cat Deeley. He also became a record company executive for Sony BMG before moving into music management and at one point looked after Pink. Luke, the other brother, lives in Los Angeles and is a movie star having main roles in Hellboy 11 and the forthcoming movie Tekken. He has also been nominated for two MTV movie awards. All’s well that ends well, then! It is nice to hear stories like this when fortunes have been turned around, when everything in your life goes pear shaped.
Played the Jimmy Page and David Coverdale CD titled Coverdale Page, which I have not listened to for quite a while – and I love it. From the first song Shake My Tree all the ingredients are there. Great guitar sounds and riffs and Coverdale’s signature breathy but powerful vocals. This is a really good rock CD and some of it was even recorded in the famous Abbey Road recording studios mentioned above. The main body of musicians apart from Page (guitar) and Coverdale (vocals) are Jorge Casas (bass guitar) and Denny Carmassi (drums), plus a few other added musicians on various songs.
It is all written by Page/Coverdale and the CD has real depth, with each song really strong. If I have one complaint, it would be that Jimmy does not play many solos, but apart from that he is in fine form and there are many wonderful guitar parts. Coverdale is singing up a storm on this one, and it is produced and mixed by Page, Coverdale and Mike Fraser who also engineered it. If you haven’t already got it, then it is worth adding to your collection.
Coverdale actually auditioned for Uriah Heep at one point. He came down to rehearsals with a bottle of brandy in his hand and we jammed all afternoon. It was really good and even then he had a powerful presence as well as a powerful voice. Shortly after that he had the opportunity to form Whitesnake and that was where the story ended.
We played a while back with Whitesnake in Klamm Castle in Austria and it was good to meet David again, as I had not seen him for many a year. His bass player is called Uriah Duffy (I guess his parents were Heep fans) and we met Uriah at the Klamm show for the first time. He is a nice guy and fits into the band well. Also on the bill in the afternoon was the Grammy-award-winning 73-year-old, Kris Kristofferson. I got on really well with him and just as he was going on stage I said to him: “Have a good one.” He looked at me and said in that low drawl of his: “Don’t tell me what kinda show to have, boy.” We all fell about laughing!
Kristofferson was also wearing the most fantastic, beaten-up, lived-in-all-your-life pair of cowboy boots that I had ever seen. He went down fantastically well and it was a joy to see him play, and sing, from the side of the stage. Earlier he said he liked what he heard from Heep’s soundcheck, and that he was a new convert. He stayed for most of our show and then had to leave, but before he left, he wrote a note that was given to me by my guitar technician Christos, as I came off the stage, that read: ‘Thanks – you have a new fan. I wish I could’ve stayed for the whole set. I loved what I heard. We got a long drive ahead, but I will be listening to your records. I’m afraid I’m not supposed to these days. Hope to see you down the road. Peace, Kris.’ What a star!
The note is proudly framed and hanging on my office wall. He has a new CD out now called Closer To The Bone and he has written such fantastic classic songs as Me And Bobby McGhee and Help Me Make It Through The Night. In the early days he was always trying to pitch his songs, and one day he managed to grab Johnny Cash’s attention, when he unexpectedly landed his helicopter (he worked as a commercial helicopter pilot at that time for a South Louisiana firm called Petroleum Helicopters International, based in Lafayette, Louisiana) in Cash’s yard, and gave him some tapes including the song Sunday Morning Coming Down, which Cash went on to record. The man has style. All that, and he is a movie star too! A true legend!
I have been playing a lot of Joe Satriani at home as I have most of everything that he has done. I do not think for me he will ever better the song Always With Me, Always With You from his first CD Surfing With The Alien, as this song has such a beautiful melody. He is an incredible player, and I first met him when he replaced Ritchie Blackmore in Deep Purple, and we did a German tour with them. He did a good job and brought smiles back on stage to the Purps. Some of his playing was phenomenal.
One day we had our dressing room next to his guitar warm-up room. Now in Germany you can speak through the plugs in the wall and it echoes into the next room. I am not going to tell you how we discovered this, for that you will have to wait for the book. One night when we came off stage pretty high-spirited after a great show, and we had a couple of celebratory drinks, we could hear Joe warming up next door. That was the cue to get down and yell through the plug socket: “If you don’t have it right now, Joe, you never will.” Then we heard the guitar playing stop and start up again. Once again in a big doomy type voice this was repeated, and the guitar stopped again. The next minute we heard Joe in the corridor telling the tour manager that he was hearing voices. At this point our dressing room was uncontrollable! He is a lovely guy and an amazing guitar player.
I will, however, never forgive him and G3 (Satriani, Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen) for ruining one of my favourite songs by Neil Young called Keep On Rocking In The Free World on their live CD of the same name. It is the biggest widdly fest ever (to put it politely), and ruins the song completely! Saying that, the live version of Always With Me, Always With You on this CD is superb and brings the house down.
Yipeee! Microsoft shuts down a global spam network. Microsoft has won court approval to shut down a global network of computers which it says is responsible for more than 1.5bn spam messages every day. A US judge granted the firm’s request to shut down 277 internet domains, which it said were used to ‘command and control’ the so-called Waledac botnet.
A botnet is a network of infected computers under the control of hackers. The firm said that closing the domains would mean that up to 90,000 PCs would stop receiving orders to send out spam. A recent analysis by the firm found that between December 3-21 last year ‘approximately 651 million spam e-mails attributable to Waledac were directed to Hotmail accounts alone’. It said it was one of the 10 largest botnets in the US. Machines in a botnet have usually been infected by a computer virus or worm. Typically, users do not know their machine has been hijacked. Microsoft said that although it had effectively shut down the network, thousands of computers would still be infected with malware, and advised people to run anti-virus software. It would appear that this is impossible to police fully, but it is nice that at least a small bit has been stopped.
This Saturday, while I was waiting for my son Romeo to have his snowboarding lesson, I sat and had a coffee and read the newspapers like you do! I was quite thrilled to read in one of the rags that The Kinks where set to reunite. Ray Davies and his brother Dave seem to have healed a long-standing rift. Ray, 65, and guitarist Dave, 63, last played together in 1996. They are now in talks about reuniting this year for concerts. It would be fantastic to hear those hits again like You Really Got Me, Waterloo Sunset, Sunny Afternoon, All Day And All Of The Night, Tired Of Waiting and Dedicated Follower Of Fashion.
The idea to re-form came when Ray and Mick Avory, the drummer, were listening to old tapes of their music. Ray is quoted as saying: “It’s in the works, but it’s all up to Dave.” We played with them once in Switzerland at a huge festival and after their show there were some arguments going on backstage, and they quickly disappeared in waiting limousines. The upside of this was that they left all of their rider in the dressing room (portable caravan) untouched. We were there all day and all of the night, to use one of Ray’s lyrics, so we helped ourselves. Well, it would have been rude not to!
Well, Carly Simon has finally come clean after a 38-year guessing-game on her song You’re So Vain and who it was about. It was rumoured that the catty lyrics were about ex-boyfriends such as Mick Jagger, Cat Stevens, Kris Kristofferson and Warren Beatty, but nobody really knew for sure. However it was actually written about David Geffen who was head of her record company, Elektra, at the time. She solved the riddle of this by whispering his name backwards in a reworked version of the song for her new album Never Been Gone.
Well, that’s it for another week and I hope to see you back here for next week’s instalment!
Tags: A-Ha, Bros, Carly Simon, Cat Deeley, Cat Stevens, Craig Logan, Danni Minogue, Dave Davies, David Byron, David Coverdale, David Geffen, Deep Purple, Denny Carmassi, Frank Sinatra, G3, Geri Halliwell, Jimmy Page, Joe Satriani, Johnny Cash, Jorge Casas, Keith Moon, King Diamond, Kris Kristofferson, Luke Goss, Matt Goss, Mick Avory, Mick Box, Mick jagger, Morten Harket, Neil Warnock, Pink, Ray Davies, Ritchie Blackmore, Spice, Stalkers, Steve Vai, The Kinks, The Who, Uriah Duffy, Uriah Heep, Warren Beatty, Whitesnake, Yngwie Malmsteen