‘Unappy Days: The Final Mick Box Column (No. 25)
So, it’s goodbye from him… this is the last of the weekly columns from Uriah Heep guitarist Mick Box. In his final scribblings, Mick talks about the latest Clint Eastwood movie, his own acting debut, the Pink Floyd vs. EMI court case, mobile phone prying, Cold Chisel, Spurs, the Kray twins and Cruft’s dog show!
This week I watched a DVD of Gran Torino, the new Clint Eastwood film. I have been a fan of his like most people from the Dirty Harry days, and this one does not disappoint. This is Eastwood’s fourth directorial feature in the span of two years, and he tells the story of a Korean War vet’s reluctant friendship with a Hmong teenage boy, and his immigrant family. Set in Detroit, it tackles the shifting cultural and economic landscape of not only the Motor City, but America as well.
Eastwood stars as Walt Kowalski, an unabashed bigot, who never heard a racial insult he didn’t love. Walt refuses to abandon the neighbourhood he’s lived in for decades, despite its changing demographics, as he clings desperately to a mindset long since out of step with the times. When his Hmong neighbour Thao tries to steal his prized car as part of a gang initiation, Walt is forced to grapple with the world around him.
There is nothing subtle about Walt’s bigotry, and Eastwood does a remarkable job of finding the humour in Walt’s equal opportunity racism. Walt offers all that he has to Thao and his family, namely wisdom and protection. When tragedy strikes the family, this eventually serves as Walt’s trigger, to play out his final act. It stars Clint Eastwood, Christopher Carley, Bee Vang and Ahney Her. There are some classic Eastwood lines in there, and it is very watchable. It’s difficult to think that he is 78 years old, and the energy he must have, not just on an acting level, but also on the director level, is nothing short of incredible and inspiring.
EMI have featured in my recent blogs fairly regularly over the last couple of weeks, and here we go again. Pink Floyd have just taken them to court, launching a legal action over payment of online royalties, and the marketing of their music. The band signed to EMI in 1967, and are disputing the way payments for their digital sales are calculated. Pink Floyd’s back catalogue is the most lucrative in pop music apart from that of the Beatles, and their lawyer, Robert Howe QC, told the court that the musicians wanted, “To know where they stand as a matter of contract”. Mr Howe said EMI contend that the sale of individual tracks from albums, “Only applies to the physical product and does not apply online”. He added that the practice, “Makes no commercial sense”, and contravenes agreements signed by both parties.
Well the very latest to follow on from the above is that there has been a high court ruling that Pink Floyd tracks have be removed from digital music services like iTunes. Their record deal, signed with EMI before legal downloads came along, said individual songs must not be sold without the band’s permission. They argued that the same rule should apply to digital sales as well as CDs. EMI disagreed but a judge has sided with Pink Floyd. The ruling is part of a long-running battle between the two sides over £10m in unpaid royalties. EMI has been ordered to pay £40,000 costs. The band were not present to hear the judgment at the High Court in London.
The issue of selling individual tracks online has been a thorny one for many artists, who want their albums to be seen as complete works. It is believed to be one reason why the Beatles, whose catalogue is also owned by EMI, have not appeared in download stores like iTunes. AC/DC are among others who have objected to their albums being split up. Pete Jenner, who managed Pink Floyd when they first signed with EMI in the 1960s, said releasing complete albums was important to the band. “Clearly in cases like the Floyd, there was a coherence in the content as an album,” he told BBC 6 Music. “Tracks were dropped because they didn’t fit in with the whole thing. I think that was quite common, especially in the ’70s and ’80s.” Mr. Jenner, now emeritus president of the International Music Managers’ Forum, predicted that the ruling would be significant. “I think it will give the artists some ammunition to get the record companies to be a bit fairer with the royalty treatment they give artists for digital work.” I guess this is the start of many shakes ups that will happen within the record industry with this internet explosion.
Uriah Heep’s ex-lead vocalist John Lawton has asked me to appear in a film he is acting in called Love.net! This is being filmed by Miramar films Bulgaria, and John kindly offered me a cameo role. The producer is Matey Konstantinov and the director is Ilian Djevelekov. There will be some musical, as well as acting, scenes together. I filmed some of my talking parts with John this week and I have another day of filming before we go to Tbilisi, Georgia for a concert next week.
Love.net is a movie which follows the parallel stories of a number of characters who are trying to change their lives via the internet , or are simply having fun online. There are also stories of several couples who mеet through dating sites. Love at first virtual glance! This is a lot of fun, coupled with a lot of hard work, and to be honest it is way out of my comfort zone, but thus far it has been an enjoyable experience. I now have an added respect for the acting world, that I did not have or even appreciate before. It has been good to work with John again!
I have been listening to the incredible Friday Night In San Francisco, live CD featuring Al Di Meola/John McLaughlin. What fantastic, mind-boggling performances from them both; at times they almost sound telepathic. Every time I listen to this CD I am totally blown away, as the musicianship on guitar is of the highest order.
I have also had on my stereo an Australian band called Cold Chisel that had as their lead vocalist Jimmy Barnes. In Australia they were the biggest band around at one point, apart from INXS and Midnight Oil. By way of introduction, if you are interested in listening to them, I would get their Chisel: Best Of Cold Chisel CD. They are a bunch of talented musicians and have some really good songs. When I lived in Sydney they had broken up, but reformed and recorded a cool CD called The Last Wave Of Summer.
Funnily enough, Heep covered a song of theirs called When The War Is Over on our Raging Silence CD. This, however, had nothing to do with me, as it was suggested by our producer Richard Dodd. Cold Chisel do have some excellent well crafted songs and they are worth a listen. It is a shame they are not around anymore, as on their live shows, they had this really raw rock edge to them, mostly coming from the pipes of Barnes.
Well the overall winner of this year’s Cruft’s dog show here in the UK was a Hungarian Vizsla called Yogi! This is the first time a Vizsla has ever won this overall prize, and my only interest to be honest is the fact that my seven-and-half-month dog Elvis, is… a Hungarian Vizsla. They are beautiful dogs and very intelligent. Elvis has integrated into our family very well, and is a big part of what we do now. I have never walked so much in my life, but I love it.
Football: Spurs won against Blackburn Rovers 3-1 with Defoe scoring one and Pavlyuchenko scoring twice. This has strengthened our position in fourth place in the Premier League, but we have some hard games coming up against Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea. It will still be a fight to the end of the season for that coveted final Champions League spot.
Here we are in March 2010, but in March 1969 the Kray twins were found guilty of the murder of John McVitie. The Kray twins, Ronald and Reginald, ruled the East End of London with violence, along with their own code of ethics. The jury deliberated for six hours and 55 minutes before returning the unanimous guilty verdict for the murder. The Old Bailey trial was the longest and most expensive ever held in a London court. The Kray twins were both sentenced to life imprisonment, with a recommendation they should be detained for a minimum of 30 years, the longest sentences ever passed at the Old Bailey for murder.
After the verdicts, the judge turned to the jury and thanked them for the “Devoted and selfless attention” they had given to the evidence. He also added: “You set a standard with which I shall judge all juries in the future”. I remember well the stories of the Krays, as I was a young boy growing up in Walthamstow which was in the East End of London, and they were to be feared and revered. Reginald Kray died in October 2000, after 31 years in jail. Ronald had died in jail in 1995.
I cannot believe this, but researchers have produced a mobile phone that could be a boon for prying bosses wanting to keep tabs on the movements of their staff. Japanese phone giant KDDI Corporation has developed technology that tracks even the tiniest movement of the user and beams the information back to HQ. Activities such as walking, climbing stairs or even cleaning can be identified, the researchers say. The company plans to sell the service to clients such as managers, foremen and employment agencies. Surely there must be negative consequences, when applied to employee tracking or sales force optimisation. This is really Big Brother to the hilt.
They say that the aim of the new system, according to KDDI, is to enable employees to work more efficiently, and managers to easily evaluate their employees’ performance while away from the office. My thought on this is quite simple and that is, I really do think that new technology should be used to improve our lives, and not to spy on us. However I am sure this will see the light of day somewhere!
I read a book this week called Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. Schlosser visits the state-of-the-art labs, where scientists recreate the flavours and smells of everything from cooked chicken to fresh strawberries, and he speaks to workers at meat packing plants with some of the worst safety records in the world. He explores the links between Hollywood and the fast food trade, and the tactics used to target ever younger consumers, in a meticulously researched and powerfully argued account. This book reveals the full price of our appetite for instant gratification. It is a fantastic read, and it will make you think twice before you bite into that next hamburger. It still hasn’t stopped me, though!
Sadly this is the last column I will be writing for the Classic Rock website, as I was commissioned for 25 columns and this is number 25. It has been an interesting project to do, and it really has made me disciplined to reach the deadline each week. I thank all of you who have taken the time to read this, as it is much appreciated. I have had some really positive feedbacks, so that has spurred me on to continue to write these each week on my own website. If you would like to continue to read these columns then please click on www.mick-box.net, and they will be there each week. I would like to thank Geoff Barton and Malcolm Dome for their dilligent work in getting these posted up, and hopefully I will see you all next week on my website.
Classic Rock would like to thank Mick for his excellent series of columns over the past 25 weeks. It’s always been a fun read. Who takes over from him? Stay tuned…