Posts Tagged ‘Music’

A country-wide peek at Culture Night…

25 September 2009

By Lisa-Marie Griffith

Recomendations for Culture Night Pue's OccurrencesTonight is Culture Night 2009 and this year even more cities and towns than ever will take part in the event. BelfastCork, Dublin, Galway, Letterkenny, Limerick, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo, Tralee, Waterford and Wexford so I have taken a quick look at whats going on around the country to make some recommendations on what to see.  Belfast is participating in Culture night for the first year and most of the events will take place in the Cathedral quarter which ‘will be totally transformed for the evening as public areas and streets are turned into performance spaces. Read more

‘Something’ for the weekend

12 September 2009

The Beatles in Rolling Stone MagazineBy Kevin O’Sullivan

They’re clogging up the charts with the re-mastered versions of their thirteen albums, you can’t escape them on the radio, you can be them on Rockband. Thirty-nine years after they split for good, the Beatles are still the reference by which all popular culture for an entire generation is defined. As the Financial Times puts it today: ‘As all philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato, all modern popular music is a riff on the Beatles.’

But you don’t need me to prattle on about the band and its significance. Instead, head over to Rolling Stone and check out their ‘Essential Beatles’ guide, with fascinating photographs and audio interview with John Lennon from 1970. Or, better still, get your hands on the 3 September hard copy edition of the magazine (in the shops on this side of the Atlantic right about now) and read Mikal Gilmore’s fascinating lengthy investigation into the long break-up of the group: the creative tensions, the shock of manager Brian Epstein’s death, the arrival of Yoko Ono, the torturous recording of Let It Be, and the divisive battle over the appointment of New York accountant Allen Klein as business manager (McCartney: ‘I said, “Look John, I’m right.” And he said, “You fucking would be, wouldn’t you? You’re always right, aren’t you?”‘). Even if you’re not particularly into the Beatles, this is one of the best pieces of music journalism/history I’ve read in ages.

Everywhere there was song and celebration

31 August 2009

By Kevin O’Sullivan
Woodstock_redmond_hairIt’s forty years since Joni Mitchell went on down to Yasgur’s farm to join in a rock’n’roll band, camp out on the land and try and get her soul free. The same has passed since Abbey Road, Let It Bleed, The Band, Liege and Lief, Tommy, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Dusty in Memphis, Songs from a Room, Five Leaves Left and Led Zeppelin II first hit our shelves. It’s been fifty years since the first Newport Folk Festival. Next month the Beatles release the digital remasters of all their studio albums. Neil Young calls his re-release programme ‘The Archives’. The record industry is dead? Long live the music.

It’s everywhere now: on the train, in the shops, in the bath, on your television, on your phone, in the lift, in the swimming pool (I kid you not). Everyone’s a collector, everyone’s got their favourites on shuffle. Everyone, it seems, has released their own version of ‘Hallelujah’.

But amidst the saturation, it is easy to lose sight of the important role played by popular music in the social and cultural history of Western and, increasingly, global society over the past fifty or so years. There are plenty of treatises out there on music, culture and history, from journal articles to broader texts like Arthur Marwick’s The Sixties: Cultural Transformation in Britain, France, Italy and the United States, 1958-74 (1998), Mark Kurlansky’s 1968: The Year that Rocked the World (2005) and Eric Harvey’s interesting recent social history of the mp3 for the online magazine, Pitchfork. But by its very nature, the medium itself – the music – demands an altogether different approach. Read More

Harry Patch (1898-2009)

7 August 2009

By Kevin O’Sullivan

Morning_a_Passchendaele._Frank_HurleyInteresting when two worlds collide. This morning the funeral took place of Harry Patch, the last surviving Briton to have fought in the trenches of World War I. He was 111 years old. There have been plenty of words written on Patch’s life, how he refused to speak of his experiences to anyone until approached by BBC documentary-makers in 1998, his views on the futility of war, and what he symbolised to the modern world.

But perhaps the most compelling words were those uttered by Patch himself. One of the most intriguing reactions to his death has been the release by British band Radiohead of a song titled ‘Harry Patch (In Memory Of)’, with lyrics adapted from Patch’s own recollections:

‘I am the only one that got through
The others died where ever they fell
It was an ambush
They came up from all sides Read More

It was thirty years ago today

6 July 2009

By Kevin O’Sullivan

Sony Walkman LogoThere are two ways to write about the thirtieth anniversary of the Walkman. The first is the survey history: examining its cultural significance, from its birth as an escape from the aural and visual assault of modern Japanese society and wholehearted adoption in the West, to its numerous imitations, reincarnations and digitisations, from Walkman to Discman to Minidiscman to mp3 player to iPod. That history would lead to an examination of its broader impact, revolutionising the nature of social interaction in modern society, with a side look – or room for another weighty tome – on how it has changed an art form, transforming recorded music from a solitary experience (often in dark teenage bedrooms soundtracked by the wisdom of a Billy Corgan or Kurt Cobain) to the inescapable (and increasingly banal?) background noise of contemporary living and concurrent rise of the loud=good effect to the detriment of nuance and the annoyance of commuters worldwide.

But that might seem a little bit boring, a little academic, a little lifeless, so here’s the second option: the micro-history, using personal experience to analyse broader patterns of change. I remember my first Walkman, a Christmas present at the age of ten, accompanied by Now 23 (the good: Tasmin Archer, Arrested Development; the bad: INXS, Freddie Mercury; the ugly: Billy Ray Cyrus, The Shamen, East 17). Read More

Michael Jackson

26 June 2009

By Kevin O’Sullivan

Michael Jackson - HistorySo in the midst of all of the talk, what can we say about Michael Jackson? Well, how about asking how future generations will remember a man who, we should not forget, among his all-too-apparent faults, had a keen sense of how to model his own legacy before it slipped away through his fingers – career retrospective called HIStory: Past, Present and Future coupled with a giant statue of yourself floating down the Thames through central London or planned fifty-night run at London’s O2 arena anyone?

Which Michael Jackson will we remember? A man held up as a symptom of an age of celebrity excess, the victim of the spread of global media, remembered more for the accusations and scandal that haunted him throughout his life? How about an example of a new age of media corruption and the destruction of a childhood played and re-played in front of a worldwide audience? Or will he – the inane posturing of ‘It don’t matter if you’re black or white’ aside – be viewed as someone who transcended racial boundaries on his way to becoming a superstar, a case study of changing cultural stereotypes, as one of the first true embracers and torch-carriers of the MTV generation and at the cutting edge of a new cultural movement, one of the last icons of an industry that died along with him? 

Anything, I’m willing to bet, but the simple fact that among all the posturing, all the hubris, all the overblown nonsense (I’m pointing in your direction, ‘Earth Song’) and all of the mistakes, the man (heavily aided by Quincy Jones and Rod Temperton, it has to be said) did make some of the best pop music of his generation.