Posts Tagged 'music'

Stereo

“Oh listen to me,

I’m on the stereo.

Ster-e-o-o”

From “Stereo” by Pavement.

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This week a friend passed me a CD version of the only E.P. I ever recorded in a proper recording studio.  It’s been funny listening to it after all these years.  Fond memories of the sounds of a different period of my life.

In 1991 whilst at Uni, I met someone who has become like a brother to me ever since.  We were two long haired guys who shared a love of music (everything at that stage from All About Eve to Pop Will Eat Itself, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Wonder Stuff, NMA, The Mission, Nirvana, The Pixies, Mudhoney, etc) and who also shared a Christian faith.  We wanted to push the boundaries and harness that power of music and message and take it into the pubs and clubs.

It was a dream I have had since a very young age.  We played very loud music and tried to challenge preconceptions wherever we went between 1991 and 1994.  We recorded one EP and also have a couple of decent quality videos of us playing live.  The highlight was touring with Eden Burning on half of their UK tour in 1992.

It was such a laugh lugging our gear around the country, playing in student unions, music venues and churches, sleeping on floors and loving the music and the scene.  I have really fond memories of those days.  Our long hair, big boots, walls of feedback.

Here’s a review from Cross Rhythms magazine that someone emailed to me a few months back:

Tuesday 1st June 1993

  
STYLE: Rock
RATING 7 7 7 7 7 7 7
OUR PRODUCT CODE: 22107-
DISTRIBUTION: Independent
FORMAT:Cassette EP

This product is currently not available from Cross Rhythms Direct

Reviewed by Tony CummingsAn EP from an Aberdeen team who toured with Eden Burning on about half of their Vinegar And Brown Paper tour and despite the relative production crudity of this 4-song EP a band definitely to tip for the top. They possess in Kathy Garden a distinctive lead vocalist while the band show a nice line in ringing some changes out of all those recycled indie riffs. Not sure if the band have truly settled on a distinctive style yet both “Home”, a song about Kathy’s homeland of Orkney, and “The Search”, a song of righteous anger and conviction would be great with a big studio production. So the grassroots scene is still throwing up bags of talent. Encouraging, isn’t it? 
My wife was smiling to herself a while back in church when she thought about those times whilst myself and Missing Jane’s old guitarist lead the worship time.  The truth is, I used to always think playing in church and “worship” music was so second rate to gigging.  More recently I’ve found myself blessed enough to be in  a place where I can lead the music section of the service from behind my drums, share stories and thoughts and try to be relevant in a post-post-modern day.  To try to create time and space for people to reflect on life, God and how close or how far apart those things can seem at any given point in time.

I am so lucky, if that’s the right word, to have a fluid group of like minded folks around me.  Those who want to lose themselves in music and expression and who don’t want music to get in the way.  Those who don’t want to be on a stage or performing, but who want to make a glorious sound.  Those who don’t get hung up on quavers and semi-crochets.  Those who see something much bigger.  Rock ‘n’ roll and amazing grace…

Yet, despite all of that I am wondering if that particular season is coming to an end for me…

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Panic On

“Had a light one night in the dark.
It won’t show you too much of the future.
Let it go.
Let it fall behind.
I would never call on human nature.”

From “Panic On” by Madder Rose.

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I love my iPod.  I love the way the shuffle function often catches me by surprise and transports me instantly back in time to a period when a particular song came to mean something.  Sign posts, stepping stones and mile stones.  Memories and emotions are re-awoken in seconds.

Sometimes my shuffle function seems to have a mind of its own as if willing me to rediscover an album that has been gathering dust on my shelf for far too long.  This week I listened to the wonderful “Panic On” album by Madder Rose in its entirety for the first time in several years.  I remember discovering it back in 1994 through airplay by John Peel and the odd track appearing on a steady stream of compilation tapes my friend Craig B would send me.  The album still sounds every bit as fantastic today.

Had the iPod existed back in ’94, I guess most played would have included:  Sugar; Pixies; Dinosaur Jr; Teenage Fanclub; Red House Painters; Smashing Pumpkins; The Breeders; The Tinglies; home recorded demos of Craig B’s; and Grant Lee Buffalo. 

I’ve attached a You Tube clip below of a song that still means a lot to me.  A monument or testament I can look back to and see I have happily journeyed with even if I couldn’t have seen much of the future back then.

Suffer Little Children

“Oh Manchester, so much to answer for”

from “Suffer Little Children” by The Smiths

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When asked to associate music with Manchester, I suspect most people will make a connection in their minds with the “Madchester” scene of the late 80’s and early 90’s and the Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, et all.  Alternatively, they will think of Oasis. 

Mancurian bands on my iPod?  Joy Division, New Order, Badly Drawn Boy and The Smiths amongst others. 

I’ve only been to Manchester a handful of times.  The most significant trip was on 11th August 2001.  My sister had got two tickets to see U2 on the Elevation Tour.  I’d idolised U2 in my younger years and, had they been available, probably would have worn a wristband with W.W.B.D (What Would Bono Do?) on it. 

I’d largely lost interest after “Rattle and Hum”‘s release in 1988 and had only really begun to listen to U2 again when “All You Can’t Leave Behind” was released in 2000.  I hadn’t seen them play live since the Joshua Tree tour in ’87 and was looking forward to the gig, but wasn’t over excited.

When we got to the Manchester Evening News Arena we were ushered down to a standing area right in front of the love heart shaped walkway that protruded from the stage.  We were merely a few feet away from one of the biggest groups in the world. 

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It was amazing to see them in an indoor venue and, after all the razzmatazz of the “Zoo TV” and “Pop Mart” tours, this was a group playing on the strength of their songs and performance.  It was like a stripped back U2 show, where Bono was trying to connect with the crowd every bit as much as he had done back in the early 1980s.

That gig was a revelation.  I realised that whilst I had shunned U2 in favour of more alternative or edgy bands, their back catalogue had been so much a part of the soundtrack of my life.  It dawned on me that their music had almost been omnipresent in my teenage years and into my twenties.  I recognised afresh how much faith, doubt and social justice permeated their lyrics.  I appreciated how honestly Bono often wrote and wrestled almost like the writers of the Psalms.  That resonated with me so much more than the trite cliches and bad theology we often sing in church.  That evening, I saw anew that Bono had often been the voice of one calling into my wilderness in the desert years where I had been attending church, but not walking as close to God as I could or should have been. 

It caused me to look above and beyond the stage and to recognise that there was a still small voice within the noise.  A voice that had guided me through the years and spoken to me and shaped me in the most unexpected ways.  If the church will not speak up, it seemed that God would speak through the rockstars.

As the band wrapped up “Walk On” they went into a refrain of just singing “Hallelujah” over and over again.  To hear 19,000 people singing along was a truely spiritual experience.  It really felt like worship – not of U2 – but, for me, a way of really saying “thank you” to a God who had watched over me when I was short of peers in those teenage years where you try to square confusion, hormones and God. 

 

I Was There When It Happened

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There’s a scene in the film “Walk The Line” where John R. Cash is trying to support his young wife and family by holding down a job as a door to door salesman. Whilst doing this he is distracted by the sounds he hears from a band recording at, the now legendary, Sun Studios. Eventually he manages to secure some time there and makes a plea to company owner Sam Philips to get a chance to audition for a record contract.  When asked to play something, Cash and the Tennessee Two play “I Was There When It Happened” which has the following lyrics,

“Yes, I know when Jesus saved me (yes, He saved my soul),
The very moment He forgave me (yes, He made me whole);
He took away my heavy burden (yes, He took my sin and),
And He gave me peace within (gave me peace within).
Satan can’t make me doubt it (he can’t make me doubt it),
It’s real and I’m gonna shout it (I’m gonna shout it);
‘Cause I was there when it happened (oh, my Lord),
and I guess I ought to know (yes, I ought to know)”.

Sam Philips cuts them off short and claims that he can’t sell gospel music and that everyone else has been trying that.  Johnny Cash gets really defensive, as if his own faith or right to grace is being dismissed. 

After a few heated moments, Sam Phillips looks Cash in the eye and says, “If you was hit by a truck and you were lying out in that gutter dying and you had time to sing one song, huh, one song before people would remember you’re dirt.  One song that would let God know how you felt about your time here on earth.  One song that would sum you up, you’re telling me that’s the song?  That same old Jimmy Davis tune we hear all day on the radio about your peace within, about how it’s real and you’re gonna shout it?  Or would you sing something different?  Something real?  Something you felt?  ‘Cause I’m tellin’ you right now, that’s the sort of song that people wanna hear.  That’s the sort of song that truly saves people.”

In the film Johnny Cash’s response was not some trite ditty about Jesus, love or happiness.

If there was only one song you could sing in that situation what would it be?  Feel free to click on the comments icon to leave some thoughts…

Casimir Pulaski Day

On my most recent post, I quoted extensively from an engaging interview with Sam Beam of Iron & Wine which appeared in Paste magazine.  You can link to that post here.  He commented that the three main topics which he believes will really affect someone as a human being are: love; God; and death. 

Are those the topics that really seperate “great” art (in whatever media i.e painting, sculpture, photography, literature, film, music, whatever) from “good” art?  For me, I think that notion certainly rings very true.  Faced with any one of those issues in isolation and, in our most quiet and honest moments, I reckon that we stop pretending.

I asked what these things would look or sound like?

For me, I think it might be something very much like the attached you tube clip.  This is a song that speaks more truth to me about these subjects than many others.  The video is something that has not been prepared by some high budget commission by the musician involved, but is simply someone having lovingly story-boarded the sentiment and imagery and story of the song.  The result gets me every time I watch and listen to it.  I know there can be a tendency to skip people’s video links on blogs, but I would encourage you to click the arrow below and watch this.

100 Years Of Solitude

“No solutions built to last
Just your petty scores to settle fast
The N.M.E meant nothing to you
And the Maker, well the maker of who?
Your walkman generation
In search of sweet sedation
While forests choke under a ‘lever sky
And the Exxon birds will never fly”

From “100 Years of Solitude” by The Levellers.

I came across this quote in the book I am presently reading. 

“Music carries immeasurable commercial clout and export potential, but for a more objective overview it’s clearer to treat it, as publishing houses do, as a special interest or hobby, no different from trout fishing, canary breeding or period homes.  As such, the NME and its subsequent glossy spin-offs, Smash Hits, Q, Mojo, Word,et al., are specialist publications, there not to serve record buyers, but record enthusiasts.

The fact that pop music provides a culture that permeates every corner of our lives and lifestyles, defines generations and soundtracks revolutions, should not distract from the fact that reading about rock is a big step on from listening to it.  You can like pop music; you can love pop music; and you can join the vast, paying consensus who send singles and albums up and down the charts every weekend, without once being moved to pick up and read a weekly music paper.  Those who do, and do so like addicts after a regular fix, are the anal retentives, the list-makers, the trainspotters, the chart-memorisers, the vinyl junkies, the fanclub-joiners, the catalogue completists, the record collectors, the indie saddoes…a publisher’s dream.  And there are an awful lot of them about.  Some of them form bands and become famous.  Some of them get jobs in record companies or at the publications themselves.  Others grow out of it.  But there is an elementary distinction that separates the Billys and the Wiggys from the rest of the population: you either listen to music, or else you read the sleeve while you’re listening to it”

Which are you?

Has it shaped your world view?

The Big Music

"I have heard the big music
And I'll never be the same
Something so pure
Hey!
Just called my name"

So I’ve been musing of late about music as a small part of worship.  If music creates time and space to retreat from our daily demands and to meet afresh with God, to hear Him and respond with openness and then to walk back out into our “everyday, ordinary life – our sleeping, eating, going-to-work and walking around life – and to place it before God as an offering” (Romans 12:1-2, The Message), then it has achieved its purpose.  Sometimes, I wonder if I can get caught up in  the music – a corporate sing song or knees up , if you like.

At other times I can just look around our congregation and see people responding in their own individual way.  I can see people praising God in spite and despite of some pretty difficult personal circumstances.  I can see people re-focusing their attention away from their own situation, hopes, doubts and fears.  I can see people refusing to stick their heads in the sand or in the clouds, but bringing all of their baggage and laying it down and trying to figure out how to walk back out into a new week.  When we sing together I hear affirmation of the building blocks of our faith.

“I have climbed the big tree

Touched the big sky

I just stuck my hand up in the air

And everything came into colour”

When people unaccustomed with our church traditions come to our events what do they make of what they see?  There are times that my only response to God can be to raise my hands in recognition of His hugeness and my, seemingly, insignificance.  There are times when I’ve found myself on my knees, aware of the bundle of contradictions that I am and in need of mercy.  There are times I simply know that I am stood on holy ground, my Birkenstocks discarded and barefoot like Moses before the burning bush. 

Does music provoke these responses?  I hope not.  I think my responses come from a connection of my mind and heart with what I understand of the God of the Bible and what I experience of Him at times.

Do I need a certain style of music to experience these things?  No, but I do find certain styles or songs more helpful than others.  Some of my most treasured memories involve less than note perfect musical arrangements, acoustic guitars, unassuming church halls, flats, or campfires under starry skies in the Carpathian mountains.  It’s just that for me, music can act like some kind of lightening conductor which I often find helpful.

Do I seek experience and is my attitude self-centred?  At times, yes – but hopefully, largely, no.

Is what we do at church really that different from the way people behave at their favourite band’s gig?  Surely there people are often abandoned and feeling some joy through music they can sing along to and own as part of their own life’s journey?  Could it be true that when Faithless sang, “God is a DJ and this is my church”, they were conveying the ideas of belonging, identity, community, self-expression, joy and release?

“Worship” sounds like such a redundant word in our post-post modern, post-church generation.  Yet, we worship the cult of personality, shopping, reality TV, materialism, career progression and a whole bunch of things that, whilst enticing, are merely a chasing after the wind.

I want to enjoy music, embrace the culture I find in the places God has placed me, stop my self-sanctimonious ways and be Christ-like wherever I am at any point during my week.  God knows I fall so far short at an alarming rate of frequency, but I hope and pray that we will strive for this together.

As I find it easy to be disillusioned with the church at large, and yet so grateful for the congregation I belong to, I am heartened by Rob Bell’s quote that “The word Christian is a better adjective than it is a noun”. 

Read. Think. Pray. Live.

“I have heard the big music

And I’ll never be the same
Something so pure
Hey!
Has called
My
Name!”

From “The Big Music” by The Waterboys


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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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