Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"Led Zep without Robert Plant" - an oxymoron surely?

So I read in the papers today that Led Zep are to go on tour, but without Robert Plant. But without Robert Plant it's not Led Zep is it?

Which brings me onto another of my favourite pet hates - Queen and Paul Rogers. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Brian May, Roger Taylor and even Paul Rogers. But if you put the three of them together, you do not get "Queen plus" anything. You get Brian May, Roger Taylor and Paul Rogers.

I've heard Brian May say online many times that he's not really interested in touring for the money. That's cool. And that he enjoys playing the old Queen songs - that is also cool. But if both of those things are true, then why not tour as "Brian May, Roger Taylor with Paul Rogers". You can still play the songs, but may not sell quite as many tickets. But if money isn't the reason, then surely that wouldn't matter to them.

In a way, I'm disappointed. At first, the idea of getting Paul Rogers to sing the songs was a novelty. It was good to hear the songs live, and to give Brian May and Roger Taylor the chance to perform with a singer in front of them. But now they've gone on to record a new album (which I've not bought). I do wish someone would take them to one side and say "enough is enough - stop using the Queen name now, please"

I had this discussion with a couple of friends last Saturday night. Black Sabbath without Ozzy is not Black Sabbath. Iron Maiden without Bruce Dickinson is not Iron Maiden. And Queen without Freddie Mercury is absolutely, definitely not Queen!

It's not that in all of these cases, the frontman is the only key member of the band (even with Queen I could argue that's true) but a great band is the sum of the parts. If you take one of those parts away, you don't have the band anymore. A band is not a musical in which the cast may change, but the roles don't. I great band is the coming together of great musicians. And if you take one of those musicians away (and replace them, perhaps) then you may end up with another great band - but it simply won't be the original!

Of course, this leads us nicely onto Pink Floyd. And this is where my argument starts to fall down. A potted history in case you've been living in a cave and never heard of Pink Floyd. The band forms - Roger Waters, Syd Barrett, Rick Wright and Nick Mason. Syd loses the plot a bit (one of the great tragedies of music!) and is gradually replaced by David Gilmour. They go on to record some stunning music in the 1970s. Then in the eighties Roger Waters gets a bit of a God complex and they all fall out. It ends up in court, and the outcome is that David Gilmour wins the right to carry on using the Pink Floyd name without Roger Waters being involved.

Now, at Live8, the "classic Floyd line-up" of Gilmour, Waters, Wright and Mason got back together. It was magical. It was fantastic. It put everyone else that day to shame. But was it actually Pink Floyd. In my mind it was. In my mind, the classic Floyd line-up is the Dark Side of the Moon line-up, and so yes - these guys really could call themselves Pink Floyd. But if you take my arguments from above, then you couldn't actually call this line-up Pink Floyd because it didn't have Syd.

So maybe there is room in my mind for bands to morph through various incarnations. And maybe this latest Queen "thing" is simply another incarnation. Maybe Paul Rogers is to Queen what David Gilmour is to Pink Floyd. (Yeah Right!) Or maybe not.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ring Ring

I read today in the news that a train company here in the UK plans to coat the windows of trains in a special material which stops mobile signals being received inside the carriage.

I've never understood the fascination people have with describing mobile phones being used in public as "a nuisance". Why is someone talking into a phone any more annoying than two people talking to each other. If the problem were one of noise levels, I would think it should be only the half problem, surely?

I think the problem is more one of frustration at not hearing the other side of the conversation. I don't mean that flippantly; I actually mean it deadly seriously. I think the same thing happens when overhearing the conversation in a language we don't understand ourselves.

I'm not sure we necessarily get frustrated at not hearing the conversation; moreso I think we have an internal frustration that what we are hearing is "noise" rather than "human conversation".

The brain seems to have a natural desire to complete the conversation we can hear half of (or indeed to try translating the conversation in another language) so that we can rationalise what we are hearing. Next time you are sitting on a train and someone is on a mobile phone - try to stop yourself from attempting to piece together the conversation from the half of it you can hear; it's almost impossible!

Of course, there's no excuse for loud ringtones going off on trains. Especially when people seem to like to listen to the first chorus of whichever horrible pop song it is before they deign to answer the phone.'

Perhaps my strangest experience with a ring tone was in Beijing. Well just outside Beijing, actually, up the Great Wall of China at Jinshanling. I'd just walked up a seemingly enormous number of steps to the top of the mountain, and was enjoying the view of the world when I heard a tinny version of "That Don't Impress Me Much" drifting from the pocket of one of the Chinese schoolgirls also making the climb. It really wasn't what I expected to hear!

Friday, October 24, 2008


I really should spellcheck things before I put them online. Although, the typo I can spot in the first line of the previous post would not have been caught by a spellchecker anyway.

Maybe I should leave the mistakes in as a way of checking if anyone is copying my work. I know that the phone book in the UK used to have fake numbers and names in, and if those fake numbers and names appeared in another directory, then the publishers of the phone book would know that the other people had copied the list from the phone book.

The same thing is often true with sheet music. There are generally a couple of deliberate mistakes per song which don't affect the accuracy of the music in any significant way, but do allow the publishers to uniquely identify their work.

So maybe I should do the same thing with this blog. I should inject a few deliberate mistakes into it so that if any of my wonderful and witty words (should I ever write anyone) appear elsewhere, I shall able to sue and make millions. Of course, it also means that every future mistake I make, I can claim was deliberate and a device to prevent copying of my work. Fantastic!

I'm curious about what's happening to Tower Bridge in London at the moment. One quarter of the bridge seems to be shrink-wrapped in plastic with a huge machine blowing stuff into the shrink-wrapped area. I think it's something to do with the paint on the bridge, probably. At least they've not painted a picture of the bridge onto the plastic.

You may think that's a random thing to say - but it isn't. There is a disturbing habit in the construction industry at the moment that when wrapping a building in scaffolding, one must attach a large drawing of the building to the outside of the scaffolding. One such example can be seen at The Monument in London at the moment.

Now, I can understand the disappointment of tourists who turn up to see something only to find it is covered in metal and plastic. But I'm not sure whether having a huge picture of said something stuck to the outside of the scaffolding will actually make up any ground with the tourists, or whether actually it'll make the experience worse for them.

One could argue that scaffolding with a picture on is prettier than scaffolding without. This is undoubtedly true. But I'm sure there are plenty of young artists out there who'd love to have their work exhibited in a public place like this. So why not get some artists to decorate the scaffolding rather than trying to pretend it's not there.

A few years ago, Selfridges in London was wrapped in scaffolding, and Sam Taylor Wood was commissioned (is that how you spell it, or is that the first of my deliberate mistakes?) to produce a photograph to adorn the building. She did, and it was fantastic! More of that please!

Talking of photographs, I must remember to get tickets to the Annie Liebowitz (if it's wrong, it's deliberate, OK?) exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery before it closes. Some of her images are quite stunning, and if you've not seen the portraits she did of the Queen, then I can heartily recommend that you Google for them and then go to the exhibition!

Thursday, October 23, 2008


It's a funny old thing, blogging. Except it's not that told. Nor, generally, are blogs funny - especially those which are meant to be.

Anyway, in the past I've tried and failed to maintain a blog. Maybe some of you even read one of them. I doubt it. Noone did. But I guess that's the point with blogs isn't it? I'm not writing it for you to read, nor am I writing it for me to read. I'm writing it because I can.

So, as yet I have absolutely no idea what I shall put into my blog, but time will shape that, I'm sure.

On the internet, I think there's a choice to be made. You can either put a picture of yourself, some contact details and then write a blog. But if you choose to do this, you accept that anyone who knows you could potentially find your blog and read everything you've written. And "anyone" could include "grandmother" "family of your partner" or "the Queen" so one has to watch one's language, doesn't one?

Of course, the other option is to make up a false name, put up a photo you found of someone else claiming it to be yourself, then write anything you want, safe in the knowledge that noone will ever track you down. Of course they won't.

At this point, I feel I should acknowledge the fact that it's pefectly possible to do both of the above by having two online profiles. But the potential for typing into the wrong one is just too great to contemplate there, really.

Anyway, blogging, that's what I was talking about.

My life really isn't exciting. It's a pretty normal life which I lead mostly in London, but also fairly often outside London too. But I think even within a normal life, there are interesting things to be pulled out and looked at under the microscope of the blog. Whether of course I am adept enough at pulling out such things is an exercise for the reader, but I shall certainly try.

As you can see by now, I'm very much a "stream of consciousness" writer. That is a posh way of saying "I don't really have a plan, I just sit at the keyboard and type until I get bored". In the same way people who can't really paint can describe their work as "naïf" in the hope that people will think that the meaningless daub is actually the product of an artistic mind. Maybe if I describe this blog as "naïf" people will see it as art rather than twaddle. Maybe. Maybe not.


Here I go again. Once more, I'm going to try to sustain a blog... Let's see how it goes...