Archive for February 2013

Celluloid can only fade, never age   Leave a comment

Last night had a bit of a retro television evening.  After a good day recording, finishing the vocals on two tracks I sat down after dinner only to see a reminder that Taxi was about to start (this reminder I set about three weeks ago but last night was the first time I actually caught it!).

Bob James’ theme and the footage of the taxi crossing the river in New York still manages to evoke strong memories for me.  It was an early episode, with Danny DeVito, Jeff Conaway, Tony Danza and Marilu Henner – no Christopher (Jim) Lloyd yet.  Nice episode, so sad about Jeff Conaway (best know for playing Kenickie in Grease; he passed in 2011 at a relatively young age).

Following Taxi was the pilot episode of Dallas, the original series.  We had literally been talking about it the night before; I was saying how the series developed and changed from the early episodes, which are actually quite bleak and more ‘gritty’.  I was struck by how young the actors all looked, Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, etc.,but this was 1978, thirty-five years ago! 

It has always been of interest to me; how film, celluloid, preserves age, it is like an elixir, it never ages.  I wrote a song about it years ago, Never Age.  With all the classic television stations and the reruns from years ago, new younger audiences are seeing these actors for the first time.

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A few weeks ago I caught an early episode of Carla Lane’s The Liver Girls, and was struck with just how pretty Nerys Hughes is in the programme, (and how short the skirts were!), but of course this was over forty years ago and Nerys is now in her seventies.

Celluloid can only fade, never age.

 

NEVER AGE

I watched a movie today

I’ve seen it before

Once or twice or …….

It was made many years ago

The picture had faded

The songs had aged

But they say it’s a classic

for its day

 

It’s strange to have your childhood

Saved for eternity

Recorded on celluloid

There’s no privacy

Anyone can see

I can read about myself

In the papers

See myself on tv

The star

who used to be me

 

The lines on my face

Don’t show on the movie screen

Lighting

Makeup

And time

Time has really been kind to me

Celluloid only fades

It can never age

 

Through my early youth

Through the years turning grey

I’ve tried to hide my age

But my youth wouldn’t stay

Now

At least I can recapture

My childhood days

Through reruns and video

 

I will live forever

Through those reruns

And stay the same

Never age

 

Celluloid only fades

It can never age

Posted February 12, 2013 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Horse meat, lasagna and restaurants   Leave a comment

The news about horse meat being found in food is disgraceful and criminal but what’s next? Food from other countries must be suspect. It is known that in certain countries they eat cats or dogs. Those sweet and sour chicken balls from Thailand could be ……

There have always been stories about local Chinese takeaways behind raided and a dog or a cat being found in the freezer hence the photo!

It reminds me of one of the very first short stories I wrote. It was called Binny’s, about a restaurant called L. A. Binnac. The restaurant, in a big city,was famous for its food, which it turns out is linked to the disappearance of homeless people – turn the name L A Binnac around and you’ve got – cannibal!

The end of Findus? Did they know? Time will tell.

A great case for buying local and fresh!

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Posted February 9, 2013 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Internet radio and the future   Leave a comment

I hate to admit it but I’m a bit of a gadget guy; perhaps it was The Man From Uncle as a kid or of course James Bond.

I love things that seem to contradict themselves.  I am sat in the sitting room of my home which was originally built we think in the late 1700’s.  The house has a well inside it, which was obviously outside at one time, and when the house was added on to years and years ago I guess someone in their wisdom decided to build the extension, the living room, around the well.  It is encased but you can see the clear water about twenty feet below.

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My new gadget is an internet radio.  You tune it into any online station, you don’t need a computer, just a wifi.  I listen to a couple of online stations, LA’s KCRW, Nashville’s WSM, NBRN FM, and I find it slightly wonderful if that’s the right word, to be sitting here in this old room with its beams and old fireplace, listening to a radio station from six thousand miles away through a portable wifi radio.

I really believe that internet radio is the future, especially for music.  The online stations are not restricted to tight playlists with a two hour rotation!  It is impossible for a new artist to really get airplay on local commercial over the air stations, which are now nearly all owned by large companies and programmed from London or LA or New York.  With only a few exceptions, the presenters have no say in what they play, they sit in front of a computer, and read from the monitor.

Personality or well known disc jockeys like Bob Harris are different of course but with everyone sending their latest release to him well unless the BBC give him his own twenty-four hour station, he could never get to play them all.

Small online stations are different though.  They welcome new material, new artists.  College radio in the States was always a great way to break a new act, and still can be.  R.E.M. are just one band who broke through college radio.

As wifi becomes more and more available in major cities then I can see car manufacturers installing internet radio into the car – many already have Sirius of course.  This means though that you can tune your car radio to your favourite online station and listen to it in the car.  This could mean the end of ‘local’ commercial stations.

I have always wondered how American towns and cities can support so many local radio and television stations and yet in the UK it’s thought that in most areas, outside the bigger cities, one commercial station is sufficient?  In Kent we have Heart, owned and run by Heart in London.  There’s KMFM, (owned by the local newspaper group), which was supposed to be for small towns but have now joined together to make one big station, and finally there’s BBC Radio Kent.  Have I missed one?  I don’t think so.

I hope that online radio stations signify a resurgence in new music being heard, an outlet for new acts, like pirate radio did in the sixties.

Posted February 6, 2013 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

The Bluebird, In The Round and songwriting   Leave a comment

Gifted and acclaimed singer songwriter Benny Gallagher posted a picture on Facebook the other day promoting a concert by four accomplished songwriters from Nashville’s famous Bluebird Café.  They are taking their show, In The Round, on the road.

Not only is Benny a genuinely lovely guy, he is a hugely talented songwriter; his songs include When I’m Dead and Gone, A Heart in New York and Breakaway, and with his musical partner Graham Lyle, Gallagher and Lyle tremendous success with Heart on My Sleeve and I Wanna Stay With You.  Benny and Graham were actually signed by no less than the Beatles as songwriters for Apple’s artists including Mary Hopkin!  Breakaway and Love on the Airways are outstanding albums but my favourite is actually an early one, Willie and the Lapdog, followed closely by The Last Cowboy.  I first briefly met Benny at the old Post House hotel in Cardiff in the 70’s after their show at the Capital, when AFL took me to meet up with them afterwards, (he was on the same label, A & M).  

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Anyway, I digress; Benny was remembering writing with one of the four songwriters, J Fred Knobloch and what struck me was the calibre of the four writers individually.

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The Bluebird Café is famous for where Garth Brooks got discovered, and apparently someone called Taylor Swift…., plus others.  It’s a very small intimate venue, capacity around a hundred and most shows are ‘In The Round’, where the three or four songwriters sit in a circle and take it in turns to play one of their songs.  In the Bluebird’s case, these are often million selling songs.  The In The Round format has often been copied, in Nashville and indeed around the world but it only ever really works if you have great songwriters who have interesting tales to tell, stories behind the hit songs.  The songwriters don’t even have to be the best singers, often they’re not, but they can tell you why they wrote that particular song that features in the soundtrack of your life; they know why they wrote it.

A few years ago I talked with the owner of the Bluebird, Amy Kurkland, about bringing over some songwriters to the UK, using the In The Round format.  She liked the idea, and was very agreeable to it.  The songwriters I met with at that time included Chas Sandford (Missing You), Jamie Houston (High School Musical, Santana, Disney), James Dean Hicks, Jamie Kyle (who wrote one of my all times favourite songs, Heart’s Stranded) and Kim Carnes and her husband, Dave Ellingson.  Kim is of course best known for Bette Davis Eyes, but ironically she didn’t write that.  Her own songs though for me are much better, my favourite being The Best of You.

Recession though hit and the plans were shelved.  Also of interest though is that Amy told me that the Bluebird recorded every single show since it first opened, twenty something years ago.  Given the calibre of the songwriters who have played there, and especially the special guests, well, that is quite some library of shows and I hope one day someone takes the time, as she asked me to do, and go through the tapes and releases the best of them.  It will be some undertaking.

Many songwriters in Nashville have a way of writing.  It’s like a formula – certain chord progressions, play on word lyrics, but it obviously works, country is the most successful genre of music in the US.

After one breakfast meeting we’d arrange at Fido’s (great Huevos Rancheros) with Jamie, Chas and James, Jamie was off to record Billy Ray Cyrus but the other two had arranged a song-writing session and that’s how most songs in Nashville are written.  Two or three writers will arrange to meet up, in someone’s house, or a rehearsal studio, sit down and just start playing, in the hope that a song emerges.  Often one of them might have a line or two and start from there. 

I have to admit I can’t write this way.  I can’t force myself to write.  Months have gone by and I haven’t written but I’ve never worried.  They’ll come when they’re ready. 

So, if you’re ever in Nashville try to catch an In The Round show at The Bluebird, (which is now run by the Nashville Songwriter’s Association International  – the other night they had Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson perform!), or perhaps catch one of their shows on the road.  Another show in a similar vein to watch out for is the Wine, Women and Song trio of Gretchen Peters, Matraca Berg and Suzy Bogguss, again, all outstanding, successful and accomplished writers.

Apart from continuously playing live, Benny also runs songwriting workshops, incredibly valuable for any songwriter. http://www.bennygallagher.com.

Posted February 2, 2013 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized