Category Archives: Music

Duncan’s Ditty of the Day #13

A little bit out of sequence, but whatever….

There are many reasons to be glad to be alive. Here’s one of them. Arcade Fire.

Duncan’s Ditty of the Day #12

It’s time for a complete change.

I don’t listen to a great deal of classical music, and as every genre contains some degree of rubbish, at least to my mind, classical music is no exception. But there’s some great stuff too, and JS Bach, Paganini and especially Mozart fully deserve their reputations.

A few years ago by chance I went to the Albert Hall in London to see Swan Lake. I’d never seen any ballet before apart from a few minutes here and there on TV. I was a wonderful experience and sadly I’ve never been back.  I didn’t realise just how much of the music I was familiar with, and how good it was. Tchaikovsky deserves his reputation too.


Duncan’s Ditty of the Day #11

I’m not entirely sure why Led Zeppelin still have the stellar reputation they have. Certainly, by the early 1970’s there wasn’t anyone bigger. But to me, they haven’t aged that well. I didn’t think that way in 1975 when I queued all night in Sheffield on the announcement that they would perform three concerts in London that year. As it happened, while elsewhere in the country fans outnumbered available tickets several times to one, in Sheffield we were able to buy tickets for one day, go back to the end of the queue and get some more. We were joined at the end by someone who travelled 250 miles from Edinburgh, because he had no chance there, and got tickets in Sheffield.

Three concerts were initially planned, and I got tickets for two of them. Eventually another, earlier, couple of dates were added.

The Earls Court gigs have gone down in legend. Looking at them today, though, they haven’t worn as well as contemporary concerts by the Stones or Pink Floyd. Or maybe it’s just that they don’t transfer to video that well. Anyway, I’ve included this because…I was there!

I remember this well. It was the last of the five concerts. I had been to one a couple of days earlier, and as was the norm with these bands. the encores were just as planned as the rest of the set. We got them out again for something unrehearsed, which also explains the rudimentary light show.

Duncan’s Ditty of the Day #10

As promised, I’ll put in a few videos of the mega-bands of the 1970’s. And they don’t come any bigger than Pink Floyd. Indeed, a few years ago Q magazine rated them the biggest of the big. How they worked that out I don’t know, but they must be up there somewhere.

While the Syd Barrett era is important in some respects, the idea that Floyd lost out following his breakdown is unsustainable. Instead, it let loose some of the best writing and some of the best music that we could ever hope for – simply speaking, they are peerless. Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall still sound good today. Everybody loves Pink Floyd, and for good reason.

The video below is relatively recent, taken from the time after Roger Waters left. That wouldn’t denigrate it though, the song would be a classic whichever version of Floyd performed it. It also comes from the Pulse tour, one of the three best music videos ever for my money. (The others being The Last Waltz and Beside You in Time).

Note that some UK viewers have this content blocked. For me, it depends on the computer I’m using.

Duncan’s Ditty of the Day #9

Music is a funny thing. When I’m at home I just play music all day long. (God bless the ipod). But, although we accept that sometimes peace, quiet and solitude is sometimes appropriate, why would people like myself be like that. Music hits an emotional chord, it seems. It’s different for different people. Some people like choral music, for example, and gain inspiration from it. I know quite a few non-believers who will say much the same.

That’s not for me, though. I prefer my music to be visceral, and no-one does it better than Keith Richards. I remember some documentary about the Rolling Stones where someone that I don’t recall said something like “Mick should be pleased that Keith allowed him in his band”. I’m not usually an advocate of Platonic Forms, but Richards conjures some sort of essence of rock’n’roll, and he’s up there with Jefferson and Orwell. It’s something that I’ll never get close to understanding. Anyone who never saw the Stones at their peak is missing out.

Gimme Shelter is perhaps the ultimate rock’n’roll song. Lisa Fischer gets a note that shouldn’t be humanly possible at 3:15. This is one of my two favourite videos, and the next few ditties will feature the mega-bands of the 1970’s, the like of which we won’t see again.

Duncan’s Ditty of the Day #8

I would listen to much anything and have my likes and dislikes. But one form of music completely escaped me as an adolescent. Country music – known in the UK as country and western. It was plainly ridiculous, a joke. I did, when I was about fifteen, go to watch a movie about Johnny Cash just for the laugh. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Country music is the white man’s blues or the American man’s folk. As a genre, it shares a lot with those two as a vehicle for cultural expression, and it has a lot to say about that culture. It’s fair to say that country music took on board folk and blues influences, to develop its own style. And then it influenced others. Little Feat were a country band, as well as everything else, Pavement somehow merged country and grunge, and the Rolling Stones can count their greatest glories after discovering country.

I could no more sit and listen to Garth Brooks than I could sit and read Hello! magazine. But Brooks and his ilk produce no more than a caricature. The earlier subject of my mockery, Johnny Cash, is indeed country music’s greatest ambassador. I love this song, even if the subject is Hell and Judgement.

Duncan’s Ditty of the Day # 7

I was never a huge aficionado of English folk music. There just never seemed the time. But Led Zeppelin on IV included a track featuring the wonderfully-talented English songstress Sandy Denny. Denny was the vocalist for Fairport Convention, so I took a listen to the second and third albums, What We Did on Our Holidays and Unhalfbricking. They were superb by any standard. Fairport also featured guitarist and vocalist Richard Thompson, who later left to record first with his wife and later as a solo artist.

If I had to select just one representative of modern English folk music it would be Thompson. A guitar virtuoso and outstanding songwriter, he has a fine back catalogue going back many years. Perhaps his best-known song is Beeswing.

Duncan’s Ditty of the Day #6

Another shameless filler. As I mentioned in the last ditty, I think that the most influential musician since the 1960’s is Lou Reed. I can see Reed’s influence all over indie, industrial and even 80’s stuff. So it’s only right to include some Lou Reed now. This from his ageless 1989 album, New York.

Duncan’s Ditty of the Day # 5

Yes I changed my name – see the “About” page.

But HBOG’s Ditty of the Day wouldn’t have any decent ring about it. So Duncan will live on to some extent. I have no idea what Big Dunc’s musical tastes are, probably not “laid-back”. Not Lieutenant Pigeon, either.

I digress. The last ditty recalled the early days of punk, and how the likes of the Sex Pistols were a sorely-needed antidote to both the clown-like excesses of the glam-rockers and the terminally dull ramblings of the prog-rockers.

In an America dominated by AM radio things on the surface carried on as usual, but they had their own new wave (as punk transmogrified into), and in my humble opinion it was even better.

They had an advantage. They already had the Velvet Underground. Lou Reed gets my vote for most influential musical personality over the last fifty years, and the Velvets’ influence was to be clearly seen in New York, centred around the CBGB’s club in the Bowery. Many well-known names started there and then, including Talking Heads, the Ramones, Patti Smith, Television and, not least, Blondie.

This was the time when I first met my future wife. Good times (still) and good music in the background. I could pick from several but one track in particular represents pure pop with an edge.

Duncan’s Ditty of the Day # 4

The 1970s were a strange time. No-one up until then had got used to the pessimism. They were a time of industrial unrest and a general feeling that things were out of control. Only in the 1970s could this person, or his jacket that he was never seen without, have commanded any national attention.

Derek “Red Robbo” Robinson

The early 1970s was also a time when bad taste reigned supreme. Every period has its fashion disasters but the 1970s had nothing else. Musically, things were the same. Although David Bowie produced the peerless Ziggy Stardust album and much more good stuff besides, his bad-taste imitators were legion. This was the time of the not-missed, not-lamented glam rock. For a brief period – not brief enough – the charts were dominated by Gary Glitter, the Sweet and the Bay City Rollers.

On the other hand, those who took their music more seriously (but weren’t listening to Little Feat), could constructively engage with “progressive rock”. At least Gary Glitter only took three minutes of your life away, the prog-rockers couldn’t stop at that. Nowadays there is for some reason some nostalgia for that time and that music, but at the time you couldn’t help wondering what the world was coming to. Unrelenting, turgid and pretentious music it was, the worst offenders being for my money Emerson, Lake and Palmer, who I had the misfortune to see, as an afterthought, at Wembley Arena in 1974. Yes, King Crimson and Genesis get (dis)honourable mentions.

It wasn’t all bad, of course. This was the era of Dark Side of the Moon, Exile on Main Street and Innervisions, as well as the aforementioned Ziggy Stardust. Nevertheless by 1976 it was well beyond time to blow the glam-rockers and the prog-rockers away.

So, punk rock. Music at its best is rich in emotion, and although most of the punks were carefree in admitting that they couldn’t play, a great time was had. For me, I wasn’t a massive fan at the time, and continued to listen to blues and jazz. But I think I missed out on the times and didn’t at the time appreciate the message. Not all of them were good – the Clash, I’d say, were particularly overrated. But the most notorious band still sound good today. Never mind the bollocks, here’s the Sex Pistols.