Archive for the ‘music’ Tag

My Life in Music: 1971

Throughout the 1970s, I was growing up in Lancashire in the north of England. My life experience was limited, and although I have memories here and there from quite early in life (the earliest one being riding in a little seat that was fixed on top of my baby sister’s pram, at which point I would have been about three years old), the memories are snippets, and a bit hazy after all these years.

Toddler Sara, in 1971

In the picture here I think I am about 18 months old. Clearly not yet toilet trained as the nappy is on full display. There were no disposal diapers in those days; they were all terry cloth, with plastic elasticated pants worn over the top. I remember a big yellow plastic bucket that my mother used to wash my little sister’s nappies in. It smelled of ammonia. I can still recall that smell.

I also don’t know where this particular picture was taken, but I always thought I look quite determined to make my own way down from wherever it was.

Anyway, for the next couple of entries in this series about music I am cheating a bit because I really don’t remember much about the music of the early 1970s. So instead I am picking a song that was released this year, but which meant a lot to me a bit later in life.

I was six when my parents divorced. I don’t have many memories of us all living together. What I do remember, though, is that after that point and before we moved to Canada, my sister and I spent weekends with my dad and we listened to a lot of country music because that was what he listened to. I grew to like it. I still have a liking for country music, however uncool it might be to admit it, and for the last couple of years I have attended the Country 2 Country Music Festival weekend at the O2 in Greenwich. I go with my dad because there’s nobody else in my life who likes country music enough to put up with a whole weekend of it.

Anyway, when we left England to move to Canada with my mother, my dad gave me a cassette of all of my favourite songs from his country collection. I was ten years old at the time, and moving thousands of miles away from my dad and from everything in my life that was comfortable and familiar was a big upheaval. I listened to the tape a lot, because it was the only link I had to my dad, and every time I did so I felt desperately homesick.

So the song for 1971 is by John Denver, and was released in this year, and it’s all about longing to be home. Although he’s singing about West Virginia being home, whenever I hear this song I think of my dad’s house in Ashton-under-Lyne, which had no TV and no central heating and was never actually my home, only a place I stayed on weekends; but still I hear this song and I think of it. And it takes me back to being a lonely, homesick ten-year-old.

I still cry every time I hear this song. So although the memories it holds for me are not from 1971, the song has such a powerful hold on me I had to include it in this series of posts.

Here, then is the song for 1971: “Take Me Home Country Roads” by John Denver.

My Life in Music: 1970

I really don’t remember much about the music of 1970. I was too busy eating, sleeping, pooping, and growing, the way babies tend to.

Baby Sara, 1970

I am not sure how old I am in the accompanying photo. Six months, maybe? So it was probably taken in the spring of 1970. Colour photography had been invented by then. But my grandfather, who took the picture, was a keen amateur photographer and had a black and white camera.

Anyway, back to the song. I’ve gone for a song that was a hit in 1970, and it’s an Elvis song. My mother is a big Elvis fan, and I grew up knowing rather a lot of Elvis songs, because she was always playing them.

I’ve picked this one, because I remember this song on the radio, though I very much doubt I remember it being played the year it was released. It was apparently Elvis’s most successful UK single, staying at #1 in the charts for six weeks in the summer of 1970.

Because this blog is all about the memories associated with music, I should also mention what I think about whenever I hear this song. I think about my mother, and the way she cried when she learned about Elvis’s death. But that was not until 1977. I also remember the flat we used to live in after my parents divorced, but we did not move there until 1976. My memories of the house I was living in in 1970 are rather vague, and aren’t really associated with any particular song, but I will explore this further as we move on in this series.

I always thought of this song as a ‘big song’. The sort of song you want to sing along to, even if you’re not a big fan of Elvis.

The video I’ve chosen for this song is not actually a video – it’s a collection of stills of Elvis. But he’s looking pretty good in most of them, and I think my mother might appreciate it. And the sound quality of this recording is a bit better than the other versions I could find on Youtube.

So may I present the song for 1970: ‘The Wonder of You’ by Elvis Presley.

My Life in Music: 1969

I’m introducing a new feature to the blog, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

Music has been important to human culture since the dawn of time. In all the travelling we’ve done across the world, I am always struck by how there is always music. No matter where you are in the world, when a crowd gathers, instruments will be played, there will be singing, and there will be dancing.

In addition to that I think music has a powerful influence on our senses. I can hear a song and be transported back in time to whatever I was doing, and whatever I was feeling, when that song first came into my life. No other medium has that impact.

So with that in mind I am presenting a new feature on this blog – My Life in Music. Each post will feature a year of my life and a song from that year that had a particular impact, and why. At least, that’s the idea. And since there are 47 years to account for (and counting), this one could keep me going for a while.

babysarahospital

Baby Sara heading home from the hospital, in those heady days before health & safety…

Anyway, I thought the best place to start is the beginning. I was born in the North of England in 1969 (in the middle of a thunderstorm, apparently). Of course, this is a bit of a cheat because I don’t remember the music of 1969. For most of it, I was a foetus. The world was a very different place. I am including here the first picture of me that was ever taken. The little bundle in the nurse’s arms is me, being handed to my mother in the car for the journey home. In the front seat. Never mind there was no car seat, seat belts were optional in those days as well. How times have changed.

And embarrassingly, this song was number 1 in the UK pop charts the week I was born. It’s something of a novelty song – performed by a group of fictional teenagers in the cartoon TV series The Archie Show. The song was written by Jeff Barry and Andy Kim, and recorded by a group of session musicians. And apparently it became a runaway hit. It was number 1 in the UK for eight weeks, and the most popular song in the world I was born into.

And so here it is. May I present the song for 1969, “Sugar Sugar” by the Archies. Let’s hope the music gets better from here on in…

Monday’s Friend: Richard Bush (2)

Today I am pleased to welcome author and blues man Ricky Bush back to the blog, to talk about his two favourite things – blues and writing. Take it away, Ricky!

Blues And Trouble
By Ricky Bush

Ricky B (2)Blues and trouble. Those three words basically sum up the three books in my series involving Mitty Andersen and Pete Bolden, my crime fighting bluesmen. Wish I could get away with supplying that as a synopsis when asked to produce such. When I sat down to write the first book, River Bottom Blues, there was no doubt in my mind that it would revolve around those three little words.

I began listening to blues music when I was in high school (a long, long time ago), began playing the blues a decade or so later (blues harmonica) and began writing articles about the musicians and reviewing their recordings for a few different publications. Taking the old adage to “write what you know” to heart, I developed the characters of Mitty and his sidekick, Pete, both harmonica musicians, and the germ of an idea that had been floating around in my head for quite some time. The jumping off point was the unsolved murders of two renowned blues harmonica stars way back in the late 40s and 60s. I gave my protagonists the task of tracking down the person who murdered one of their harmonica colleagues in the present day. Of course, blues and trouble followed.

Really, I had no intentions of venturing further down the road after that first book. A series certainly didn’t enter my mind. I had that one idea in me and I had to get out of my system. I had a lot of fun with Mitty and Pete, though, and began toying with the idea of creating more blues and trouble for them. Didn’t really know what until I read a magazine article about a number of churches being burned throughout the South. The Devil’s Blues was born from that germ of an idea. When a close friend of theirs is falsely accused of firebombing his church, killing the congregation, Mitty and Pete see it as their duty to prove his innocence and, once again, blues and trouble cross their paths.

510x765-Howling-275x413 (2)A trip to Belize with the family several years ago sparked the idea for Howling Mountain Blues. At the time, I was still looking for a suitable home for my first book and had begun the second, without a clue as to whether either would ever be published. So, the idea of setting a third book in a tropical setting was far from being even a germ of an idea. If it had been, I would have looked for the multiple ways I could have written the trip off as research.

Eventually, though, the first book found a publisher and they agreed to put out the second. I was now hooked on Mitty and Pete and needed to come up with more…that’s right, blues and trouble. So, I sent them down to Belize to headline a blues festival without them realizing what kind of evil lies in wait.

So, yeah, blues and trouble pretty provide all the synopsis necessary when it comes to my crime fighting bluesmen.

Author Bio

Ricky Bush has been listening to, playing, and writing about the blues for most of his adult life. He has published articles about blues musicians and written reviews of their music for several different magazines and websites. After retiring from teaching, he began incorporating the music genre into his crime novels.

Find out more about Ricky and his writing from his website and his blog.

Buy his books here:

http://www.amazon.com/Ricky-Bush/e/B0073QET3S/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1431972106&sr=1-2-ent

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/ricky-bush?store=book&keyword=ricky+bush

Or from Barking Rain Press.

 

 

 

 

Burns Bass

WP_000171This is my Burns bass. It’s a 1962 Vista Sonic Sunburst. It used to belong to my dad, who played bass guitar in a band in the 1960s. He told me he bought it in Tin Pan Alley in London, one day when the neck of his previous bass broke and he needed to find a new one in a hurry because he and the band had a gig to play.

When he found out that I was learning to play bass, he gave it to me, as he hadn’t played it in years. For that reason, I will never sell it.

It’s a bass with attitude. It’s heavy, and it’s loud. I have yet to find a proper gig bag that it fits in, because it’s got a long neck and a big headstock. It’s older than me, and probably in better condition.

Note the sticker of the dude playing guitar. If you think he looks a bit 1970s, you’d be right. When I was about eight years old I had a book of stickers, for colouring in and sticking on things. I coloured in the guitar dude, and dad asked if he could have it. He stuck it on the Burns, and it’s been there for the last 35 years.

Whenever I take the bass out on open mic nights it always gets attention. Proper rockers know what it is, and that it’s rare.

So the bass is something special. I wish I could say the same about my playing.  But I’m still learning, and I’m learning right-handed in spite of being left-handed (as it happens you need both hands to play bass guitar, but I might tell that story some other time). I do open mic nights with Hubby, and our friend Julia, who does vocals.

I’m going to leave you with a video of an open mic performance from earlier this year, in which I do my stuff on the Burns. This is a rendition of Mudcrutch’s “Lover of the Bayou”. And on this one, Hubby does most of the vocals.

Yes, I know I look very serious. I was concentrating hard.

On A Roll

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

With two finished novels out on sub, it was time to begin in earnest a new project.

I’ve mentioned in passing a collaboration with Hubby. Who, it has to be said, is not a writer. However, after 30 years of running Dungeons & Dragons games, he’s become very good at plotting – especially with our group, who frequently decide to go off and do something that’s not actually in the module, which means he often has to do some spontaneous plotting to keep the game going.

The WIP is a crime thriller set in the late 1960s, and is about a young woman with aspirations to be a rock musician. The novel takes her from California and the Monterey pop festival in 1967 to the emerging and influential music scene in London. On the way she gets mixed up with gangland London, in a search for a friend who’s gone missing.

This project is in its early stages.  Hubby and I have been working together on the plot outline, and I’ve been doing the writing thus far. Though I am relying on his expertise on references to bands and songs of the late 60s, and what make of guitar bands of the time would be playing, as he knows a lot more about this than I do.

Thus far I’ve been struggling with the first draft. The first 20,000 words took months to write, and I was struggling to find the voice of the main character.

But suddenly, I’ve found the story and the character, and the novel has become much easier to write.  In the last two weeks I have written as many words as I did in September and October combined.

The project is in its early stages, and I am reluctant to say too much about it as anything can happen between now and the end of the book. But thus far it’s going well. I am on a roll.

Here’s hoping it continues.

WIP Update – March 2013

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

Time for an update on current Works in Progress.

I’ve got several things going on at the moment. The most progressed WIP is the horror novel. It’s been to beta readers, I’ve had feedback, and I have recently started work on Draft 4.

This novel, in summary, is about a group of live action roleplayers who unwittingly unleash a lich on the world during a game. Said lich wields powerful dark magic, and leaves death and destruction in its wake. And it sets about raising an army of zombies, as sort of a sub-plot. Anyway, on the whole the feedback was fairly positive. All my women beta readers love my main female character – she’s a crack shot with a shot gun, she’s ace with Resident Evil, she takes out many of the real-life zombies and she saves the boy.

There are some plot holes, and some characterisation issues, and these I am working to fix in the current draft. But I’m feeling pretty confident about this one. This one will be finished before the end of this year. In fact, I’m aiming to have it out on sub before 2014 dawns.

In the meantime, there’s a second project – a collaboration with Hubby. Now, he’s not a writer. But after more than 25 years of running D&D games, he’s pretty good at plotting. And he’s a musician. This new project is a crime thriller featuring a young female bass player, against the backdrop of the music scene in the late 1960s. We start her off at the Monterey Festival in 1967, and then bring her to London. This project is at an early stage. We’ve been doing a lot of the plotting together. And I have started doing some of the writing. But there’s a long way to go yet, and since I’ve never collaborated with my life partner on a writing project before, it’s somewhat uncharted territory.

And what of Shara 2? Well, that one’s still languishing in a drawer. I got a bit discouraged after the crit session. Every time I get it out and review how much work there still is to do on it, I get depressed and put it away again. And DEATH SCENE has not exactly been flying off the cyber-shelves, so it’s not as if I have a long queue of fans impatiently waiting for the further adventures of Shara Summers.

Nevertheless, she has one or two fans. And I would rather like to get this one finished. So perhaps I’ll finish it for you. You know who you are.

This does make three WIPs on the go at once, however. And talking about them doesn’t make them any closer to being finished. It’s time to get back to the writing.

Monday’s Friend: Ricky Bush

Today I am pleased to welcome Ricky Bush to the blog, to talk about the influence of music on his writing technique.

Winging It
By Ricky Bush

Call me a “winger”. Yep, and it’s simply because I prefer it to the term “panster”, and because “winging it” describes my style best. As I self-taught myself to play blues harmonica, or blues harp as we like to say, I did so by listening to tons of blues harmonica recordings, but never learning music theory. My playing was by ear and feeling. Once I felt proficient enough to stand on a stage with other blues musicians, and did so, I found that I could hang with most any blues songs called out. I might not have known the song, but had played enough blues scales that “winging it” worked just fine.

As a teacher of journalism, English, and geography for almost three decades, I was required to turn in detailed lesson plans designed to meet certain goals each class period. I wrote them to satisfy the administration, but never followed them and “winging it” worked just fine. Of course, being intimate with the material was instrumental, like the blues scale, in getting the lesson of the day across.

After deciding to move into the realm of fiction, after writing about blues music and blues musicians, I began “winging it” once again. My general idea revolved around the deaths of John Lee Williamson, Little Walter Jacobs, and Henry “Pot” Strong, who were all famous blues harp musicians, and who were all murdered in Chicago in the fifties. I sat down with a legal pad, words flew, and I had no idea where the story would turn next. What I found remarkable, was that it really seemed as if I was reading a book and had no inkling as to what the next chapter held until my pencil began “winging it”.

I did have two blues harp playing protagonists set to investigate the murders of harmonica musicians sixty years later, particularly the death of their good friend, but it took me little longer to develop the “bad guys” in the story. The story winged along, though, and came at me when I least expected. Maybe on my morning walk, or while sitting in church, or listening to a blues recording.

There were plenty of starts, stops, scratch outs, and revisions. I did decide on fictionalizing the Chicago murder victims at some point. Plenty of times my internal GPS screamed, “RECALCULATING” at me because it didn’t exactly know where I was heading or which route to take, but at some point I did arrive at my destination, now called River Bottom Blues. The debut novel finally saw the light of day by being published by Barking Rain Press in January of this year. The second in the series featuring the blues playing crime fighting duo of Mitty Andersen and Pete Bolden, The Devil’s Blues, will sprout wings this November.

I may not always be a “winger”. My WIP keeps whispering, “C’mon man, at least jot down some plot points”, but I keep stubbornly resisting the urge.

Bio

Richard “Ricky” Bush has been listening to, playing, and writing about blues music for most of his adult life. His two novels, River Bottom Blues and The Devil’s Blues, meet at the dark crossroads where blues and murder mingle deep in the heart of Texas.

River Bottom Blues is available at all the usual online suspects, his website/blog, and Barking Rain Press. The Devil’s Blues is due out in November.

http://www.richardbushbooks.com
http://www.bushdogblues.blogspot.com
http://www.barkingrainpress.org

Monday’s Friend: Lee Mather

Today I am pleased to welcome Lee Mather to my blog. I connected with Lee through social media some while ago, before he joined the Lyrical Press family. The writing world can be very small sometimes.

The Music Of First Kiss, Last Breath
By Lee Mather

I’m not the sort of person who gets bored easily. I read a lot. I watch too much film and television if I’m honest, and I have a passion for a whole host of music. I’ve been the same since I was a kid, both fascinated and inspired by such creative works.

I think it started out as escapism, when I discovered the unbridled joy you could get in losing yourself in a good book, or being swept away by a pulsating film, or ‘feeling’ a great song for the first time. Books, and film and music became important to me as I grew up.

As I aged, I realised that these interests and the worth I placed on them could be both creative and destructive forces in my life. I became aware that these influences could bring people together but they could also drive people apart.

I remember one occasion when my class at primary school were asked to vote on our favourite songs. To a person, the other children voted for The Key, The Secret, by Urban Cookie Collective which was riding high in the charts at the time (a nice bit of UK Old Skool nostalgia as it happens!). Brought up on a diet of Motown and being a stubborn little chap, I stood my ground and voted for Tracks Of My Tears, by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. I recall the episode ending with fisticuffs in the playground after an afternoon of jibes.

Having said that, I think, more often than not, I’ve been drawn to people with similar interests. Some of my closest relationships have been based, certainly in their infancy, on a love of some collective passion. It’s a great feeling being able to share your thoughts and opinions on the things you love.

College and university were times in my life when I relied on my interests to meet new people. I was in an environment when I didn’t know anyone and I was forced to make new friends. Moreover, I was immersed in an entirely new culture. I could go to concerts, get served alcohol, go out to clubs. I was no longer confined to the suburbs of Stockport. The world was my oyster and many a burgeoning relationship was formed on the back of a “Are you a fan of the Stone Roses?” or something along those lines.

It found it amazing how people from a variety of different backgrounds – geography, class, ethnicity, sexuality – could be brought together by a special song, or a good book, or a great film.

It’s not surprising that my influences spill over into my writing. There are glimpses of me in most things I write – whether this is stylistic, or the way I develop plots, or even pieces of the story itself. Some of this, as you would expect, is driven by the authors that have inspired me most, but music and film also creep into my writing on many an occasion.

This isn’t a new thing. How many of your favourite writers reference a musical artist or a film director in their writing? For example, John Avijde Lindqvist is a big fan of The Smiths, something reflected in the title and central theme of his bestselling vampire book, Let The Right One In (a title taken from Morrisey’s song Let The Right One Slip In) and Joe Hill’s love of cinema is clearly apparent in his excellent collection of shorts, Twentieth Century Ghosts. The title story features Stephen Spielberg, and there is another short, Bobby Conroy Comes Back From The Dead, based on the set of what we are led to believe is George Romero’s “Dawn Of The Dead”.

October sees the release of my novella, FIRST KISS, LAST BREATH from Lyrical Press and some of my musical influences have sneaked in there.

Set in 1996, FIRST KISS, LAST BREATH is an urban fantasy about a teenage artist who believes he may have brought a demon into the world through his painting. At the heart of the plot is the relationship between the lead character, Andy, and a girl he meets, Nor. One of the things they bond over is music.

There was a certain nostalgia in writing a coming of age story and I purposely set it in a period when I was a teenager. I wanted to tap into the uncertainties of forming new relationships at that age. I wanted to show the thrill and the fear of chasing a kiss from that girl. I wanted my description of the concert in the story to match the feelings of euphoria I experienced, huddled in the dark with a few thousand people, singing and dancing together with a beer in our hands.

So in this blog, I wanted to divulge the musical influences that feature in FIRST KISS, LAST BREATH and also explain myself a little.

Here are some links to the songs, and why they are in there:

Somewhere Beyond The Sea – Frank Sinatra. I love this song, one of my favourites from the rat pack era. I felt it was a perfect fit for the music collection of Andy’s grandfather.

Octopus’s Garden – The Beatles. I got into The Beatles at University. Mum was always a fan. There was an old record shop in Broomhill in Sheffield that stank of musk and was crammed with students every day. I bought the Red and Blue albums there.

Made of Stone – The Stone Roses. My uncle bought me the eponymous first album when I was fifteen. I remember lying on my bed, revising for my GCSEs, with the album playing in the background. It barely registered until the final song, but when the revolving drumbeat of “I Am the Resurrection” kicked in I stopped working immediately and listened to the song again and again on repeat. This was the beginning of my love affair with “Indie” music that is still going strong today.

Supersonic, Live Forever and The Masterplan by Oasis. The band was massive in the UK when I was at college. I made sure I possessed every song they released back then. I even had bootleg copies of rare radio interviews Oasis gave. The concert at Maine Road that is referenced in First Kiss, Last Breath was one of the highlights of my final year at college.

Rebel, Rebel by David Bowie. David Bowie had to feature. Enough said.

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Find out more about Lee and his writing at www.leemather.org.uk

Or follow Lee on Twitter, where he yaps about the things he loves.

First Kiss, Last Breath” is available from October 8th from Lyrical Press.

Bloody Parchment“, featuring Lee’s story, “Masks”, is available now from Amazon.

Fading Light“, featuring Lee’s story, “Wrath”, is available now from Angelic Knight Press.

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Lee Mather is a 34 year old writer from Manchester, England. His short, “The Green Man” was published as a standalone in December 2010 by Damnation Books, and he has stories featuring in the anthologies, “Corrupts Absolutely?”, “Fading Light” and “Bloody Parchment: Hidden Things, Lost Things”.  Lee is a member of the Horror Writer’s Association.

Rock Chick in Training

I took on a new hobby last year. I started taking bass guitar lessons.

I’ve had secret ambitions to be a rock chick for years. I think it started with Suzie Quatro, in the 1970s. She was a Cool Chick who played bass. She looked like a woman who knew what she wanted, in spite of being so small the bass guitar she played was practically as big as she was.

At my 40th birthday party – with the 80s theme – I indulged in my fantasy and turned up dressed as Joan Jett. Complete with 80s rock star wig. See attached pic for the evidence…

I can’t play the guitar I’m holding in this picture. A few years ago we got a bass guitar for me, I got myself a book of lessons, and attempted to learn, but I found it all rather tedious and not being very disciplined about these things, soon gave up and the bass guitar sat amongst all of hubby’s electric guitars, untouched, for years.

Last year I decided to pick it up again. This time I booked weekly lessons. This I thought would make me more inclined to stick with it. Unfortunately, there are no more hours in the day than there were before, and trying to fit in practise time, amongst everything else in my life, is sometimes tricky. I quite often go to my lesson and my tutor says, “how’s practise been going this week?”. And I have to say, “er, it hasn’t….”. Fortunately he doesn’t get too cross when I admit I haven’t picked up the bass between lessons. I just have to accept that progress will be slow when I don’t practise.

Hubby has been encouraging me to play some fairly basic bass lines so I can accompany him on his Open Mic nights. But he’s been playing for over 30 years and I’ve been playing about 9 months, and sometimes I have to remind him of that.

He bought me a shiny new shoulder strap for the bass. It’s hard to make out clearly in the attached picture, but it’s a bright yellow strap with “crime scene – do not cross” written all over it. I thought it was highly appropriate, and it makes me happy to have it on my bass.

I can now play three songs that I am happy to get up and accompany Chris on when he does them at Open Mic nights. The attached video is the first (and so far only) filmic evidence that I play bass in public. I’m not in the opening shots, but the guy behind the camera, Gerry, did a pretty good job of making sure I got my fair share of camera time.

So this is me, Chris and Julia doing Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page” at Bar XLR in Epsom.