Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Has Billy Joel appointed his successor?

Nice story here about Michael DelGuidice, a musician who went from being in a Billy Joel tribute band to being hired by Joel to play in his band and help him out with the vocals.

The best tribute bands are better than the bands they're based on because they work harder at it and as soon as one member can't do the job they replace him.

The best backing singers are better than the singers they back because they're younger.

A few years back I saw the bus carrying "The Glenn Miller Orchestra". Obviously none of the original musicians and clearly no Glenn. They're licensed by Glenn Miller Productions. They keep the sound alive and cater for the audience that wants to hear that sound.

Maybe Billy Joel Productions will be doing the same thing in the future.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

"Hillbilly Elegy" is a reminder just how foreign a lot of America is

Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how J.D. Vance made it from a very unpromising background - born into family of suspicious hillbilly folk transplanted from Kentucky to post-industrial Ohio, growing up amid domestic chaos with an addict mother and a succession of father figures - to an entirely new life as a successful lawyer and writer. It's been cited as a useful guide to what's persuading many Americans that Trump's the solution to what ails them.

He serves as an officer in the U.S. Marines, which helps pay for him to go to university and he gets into the law school at Yale, by which time you'd assume that he would have seen enough of the world outside Middletown, Ohio to be able to handle most social situations. It almost comes apart when at a dinner thrown by one of the big law firms who come to recruit at Yale he tastes sparkling water for the first time and is so unused to the taste that he spits it out in disgust.

No nation has a monopoly of insularity but one of the things about growing up in the UK is you're aware that there is a world out there bigger than the world of home. For a start there's the the other world you see every time you switch on the TV, which is usually America. You quickly learn the world is full of unfamiliar things, some of which you might encounter at some point, and you tend to be ready for them.

Monday, October 10, 2016

You couldn't make up the Jeremy Thorpe affair

Maybe A Very English Scandal is as good as it is is because John Preston couldn't publish it until Jeremy Thorpe died in 2014.

I like to think he used that time polishing his account of the Norman Scott affair until it gleams like a truly superior airport novel.

It couldn't be an actual airport novel. The story it tells is too tawdry. Instead of a climax it has a misfire. It's a misfire that fits perfectly with all the bungling that led to it. The two main protagonists both act as though the world owes them a living. Everybody else in the story is just used.

It's a story replete with English types no airport novelist would dare invent: Thorpe's cigar-smoking, monocle-wearing mother who lived on boiled eggs; the eccentric peer of the realm who played a saintly role in homosexual law reform and had badgers roaming free in his home; the chancer Peter Bessell who had to atone for his role as Thorpe's consigliere by living out his days in a one-room shack on a California beach; the extraordinary George Carman QC who could be mortally drunk at two in the morning and then rise in the morning to twist a jury round his little finger; the almost inevitable appearance in the narrative of Jimmy Saville.

I read it in a couple of sittings. It would make a great film. That'll never happen because no American could possibly begin to understand how weird England can be. Shame.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Farewell to the rock reference book

Before the internet I had to have rock reference books to do my job. If I wanted to know what year a record came out I had to look it up in a book. Ditto the spelling of the surname of a producer or the age some star was claiming to be. There was nowhere else you could go.

Some of these books, like Nick Logan and Bob Woffinden's "Encyclopaedia Of Rock", and the "Rolling Stone Record Guide", lived at the office because I needed them all the time. And in those days the market for rock books was quite small and so they had a habit of going out of print for years. If you lost one it was the devil's own job to replace it.

Today I put all my music books in one room so that at least I know where they are. I don't want to be searching for hours for a book about Black Sabbath, like I did yesterday. At first I was giving pride of place to the reference books in my sort but now I realise they're the ones I no longer need to have to hand. I literally never open them. Wonder if we'll ever see a rock reference book again.