Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Still Love And Mercy

Sunday, November 13th, 2016

Leonard Cohen in 2008Donald Trump August 19, 2015 (cropped).jpgLeon Russell-1980.jpg

They say that Quentin  Tarantino is directing 2016, but even he surely couldn’t script the absurdity of a year which makes you believe anything is possible, and then kills off so many more realistic dreams. When 1 in 5000 outsiders Leicester won the English Premier League, we believed even the most impossible dreams could become realities -when the Chicago Cubs broke a down 108 year drought, we believed that anything could change -when Bob Dylan won the Nobel Literature Prize, we saw one of the 60s greatest voices move from popular culture to highbrow acceptance.

And yet, as our heroes pass away in quantities that may be actuarially plausible but feel like the worst of Tarantino’s gorefests, the baby boomer generation that defined the 60s counter-culture may still be anti-establishment, but now seem to be voting for walls and division, rather than peace and love. Every major vote this year seems to be for pulling the world further apart, even when conventional wisdom and the reality of the internet age suggest  a world that has to be evermore connected.

This week we mourn the passing of Leonard Cohen and Leon Russell, but that wasn’t anywhere close to the biggest news. A man who seemed to stand for division, for disconnecting America with the world, for inflaming old and new hatreds got the most powerful job in the world. A woman who seemed qualified for the job, and breaking a hoodoo that seemed far easier than the Cubs, just missed out on the job.  Division seems to beat togetherness, irrational emotion trumped rational thinking -and the world, and at least half of America felt more uncertain.

It doesn’t feel like a time for easy answers or false hope. The generation that was supposed to change the world seems to want to change it back to around 1850. A new millennial generation, exposed from their youth to international contact and the notion that people are fundamentally the same are likely to eventually reverse the drift we seem to have from each other. I also understand that those who love Brian Wilson are a broad church and many Brian fans may well have voted Trump and see him as a saviour. So I end by going back to the message that is core of Brian’s shows, the same message that is core of the Gospels of Christ, the message of love and mercy. If we all practice that, surely we can get through these crazy times and move forward.


Half Year Full, Half Year Empty

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

Trios Halfway through 2016, it’s easy to see the glass half  empty – and the litany of entertainers we have lost in this period was increased by the passing of Rob Wasserman -best known to Brian Wilson fans for Fantasy Is Reality/Bells Of Madness. The world seems a bit angrier, less kind and crazier than six months ago.

But there some water in the wilderness -from Colombia to the fantastic new music from the Explorers Club, and of course, Brian Wilson touring his greatest work 50 years on. We trust and hope the glass will get fuller in the second half of the year.


More Light In The Darkness

Sunday, June 12th, 2016

On the day of an unspeakable tragedy in Florida, it’s worth reminding readers about some more light in the darkness…the upcoming album Together from the Explorer’s Club, and the fantastic already released single, California’ Callin’ Ya. Have a look at the video, to remind you of the sunshine and good side of America. And buy the single, to support a fantastic band (and get a nifty B-side which would have fitted well on Friends. )

Love And Mercy To Belgium Tonight

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

Remembering George And Nancy

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

The march of the Grim Reaper through 2016 continues unabated, and if it is some consolation that both George Martin and Nancy Reagan lived long and full lives, it also serves to remind us of our own mortality and the passage of time.

Both had an impact on the Beach Boys -Nancy Reagan mostly in saving their fourth of July show, and George Martin in effectively being a competitor to Brian in the production stakes and helping to drive Brian to some of his greatest work. Those who have seen the Beautiful Dreamer movie on SMiLE will know how appreciative George Martin was of Brian’s works.

However, the most striking thing about George Martin is how much he was appreciated by those he worked with, and the simple niceness of a person in terms of interactions with different people, including some personal anecdotes from friends on Facebook. Of course, he was a groundbreaking producer , and not just with the Beatles, as Bob Stanley from Saint Etienne points out in his tribute here.

Feels More Like An End…

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

A new year should be new beginnings, but this year feels like so many endings already. David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey are probably the best known, but it feels like every day I wake up and Facebook is mourning someone. As an actuary, I could probably do the stats and say this is not completely unexpected (especially as January is month with the most deaths in the Northern Hemisphere), but it still feels like far more is ending than beginning.

Pluto, Better Than Disney

Friday, July 17th, 2015

Pluto by LORRI and Ralph, 13 July 2015.jpg Pluto is too far to see-ee-ee

So sang Brian Wilson on his heavenly exploration song, Solar System. It is certainly too far to see with the naked eye, or even a pretty decent telescope. But now the mysteries of this distant world are being revealed by the space probe, New Horizons, downloading pictures slower than an old dial-up modem, but already revealing a fascinating world.

It may not be an official planet any more, but Pluto certainly shows there are many wonders remaining to be found in the Solar System, especially if there are over 200 dwarf planets orbiting the sun.

The Real Bellagio

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

I’m on holiday – but couldn’t resist visiting a beautiful place with a Brian Wilson connection- Bellagio in Italy. With No Pier Pressure  as soundtrack, it’s been a great time to celebrate Brian even so far from home or California.

Revisiting The Solar System

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

PIA18920-Ceres-DwarfPlanet-20150219.jpg Brian Wilson’s knowledge of astronomy may be somewhat simplified and not fully scientific in his 1977 opus Solar System, but it certainly shows a fascination in the distant worlds and the wider universe of which we are a very small part.

And though space is very, very big, this is actually the year of the dwarfs in space. Two worlds, both previously thought of as planets but now categorized as “dwarf planets” will be visited by spacecraft this year. One of the worlds is Pluto, famous for its demotion from a planet, which many haven’t accepted it. The other is Ceres, lesser known as it has long been demoted and simply known as the largest of the asteroids. In fact, it’s “dwarf planet” status was something of a promotion. And with Ceres already being orbited by the Dawn spacecraft, that small world is now getting it’s place in the news, especially with the mysterious white spots in the picture.

Ceres is a dwarf planet, but it remains the largest of the asteroids, of which there are many millions. However, only a few are named after popular musicians, and it is pleasing to Brian is one of those immortalised in the sky. The solar system has come full circle.

Fire..And Healing

Friday, March 13th, 2015

IOL pic mar5 cape fire chapmans The big local news in my city, Cape Town, has been fires. Massive fires that have swept away acres of vegetation, destroyed houses and threatened many more. The bravery of the firefighters has been notable, and there has human and other tragedy.

Yet fire is also part of the cycle of this part of the world -the local vegetation relies on periodic fires and rebirths. Being a Brian Wilson fan, one’s mind immediately goes to the latter part of SMiLE and the sinister “fire” music, Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow.

Behind the odd title, showy firehats and fire whistles on the music, I always felt this was the heaviest bit of music related to Brian and the Beach Boys. Whereas their other music relied on harmony and melody, this piece has always been about power, dissonance, heaviness. It’s always scared me a bit – and been music I have respected more than loved.

But just as Cape Town does need it’s fire, I realise that SMiLE needed this as well – to burn away all that’s past, and be healed by the cool, cool water of In Blue Hawaii and to allow the Good Vibrations to flow. SMiLE is about healing in many ways -hear the brilliant way a broken heart is mended in Workshop, but we need the pain, the flames.  And although Fire may have burned away the chances of SMiLE coming out in 1967,  it led to the ultimate healing of Brian,