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Monday 28 February 2011

Iron Maiden: Flight 666.

Today i watched, once again, the documentary  "Iron Maiden: Flight 666"  A film i first saw about a year ago.

On first viewing i have to say i was very impressed and watching a second time around has just re-inforced that feeling.

I am a big music fan and especially a fan of Rock music. So, a film about Iron Maiden, one of Rock musics biggest bands, was bound to attract me.

I must admit though that Iron Maiden are not my favourite band. I actually find a lot of their music quite samey and repetitive. But, i have always had a lot of respect for them, both as a band and as a group of musicians.
And this documentary shows exactly why that is.

Iron Maiden grew out of what was then called the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM). A movement that started towards the end of the 1970's and spawned bands such as Def Leppard, Saxon and Motorhead and also helped inspire later bands such as Metallica and Guns N Roses.

Yes, it was a re-emergence of Rock music, but the NWOBHM took a lot of its inspiration from the Punk Rock bands of the mid 1970's. These NWOBHM bands would probably never have come about without the Punk Rock movement that had gone before.
The Punk movement showed these young British Heavy Metal and Rock music fans that they too could go out and form their own bands, produce their own music and even start their own record labels.
It also furnished them with a different attitude to many heavy metal bands that had gone before them. An attitude and approach which helped enable these new bands to break through to bigger and better things. Something that might not have been possible in the past.

Iron Maiden probably exemplify this as well as any of those other bands i mentioned earlier and that still shines through today.
Somebody in the film states that Iron Maiden don't give a fuck what others think about them. They are not trying to impress anyone, they are just being thenselves and remaining true to themselves.
This is one of the reasons that Flight 666 is such a good watch.

What you see in the film are a band at the top of their game. A band that have the utmost respect for each other and for the people who work with and around them.
They are a team, almost a family and that makes a huge difference to how a band works.

I have watched many music documentaries and films over the years and there is usually at least a hint of inner tension within the band. It is very hard to hide. But, nothing like that shows up here, in fact quite the opposite and this line up of the band have been together for many years now, decades even.

This in turn, transfers itself to the audience, who are amongst the most loyal i have ever seen. Some of the crowd scenes and audience participation, during the live footage, is amazing.

Many fans shown in the film describe Heavy Metal as a kind of religion and it is pretty obvious that Iron Maiden are viewed as Gods by many of them.
A couple of scenes in particular stick in my mind, both from South America.

It is obvious that Iron Maiden are huge in South America and the reaction to them borders on the hysterical at times. A fact recognised by the band themselves.
Bruce Dickinson, the bands singer, says to the crowd in Mexico that "The further south we go, the hotter it gets" and by that he means the reaction of the audience, not the weather.
He is not exaggerating either.

Part of this, i think, comes from the fact that Iron Maiden were one of the first heavy metal bands to play in South America, way back in 1985.
The fans have not forgotten that.
Also, Iron Maiden were actually banned in countries like Chile in the past, due to religious concerns and so had not been able to play live there. Therefore, when they do come to town, it is a very special event.

One gig in Puerto Rico, their first ever in the country, becomes a virtual pilgrimage for many fans, some of whom have come across the border from neighbouring countries just to see their idols.
A fan interviewed in, i think, Columbia becomes very emotional just thinking about seeing his favourite band.
Another male fan is seen at the end of a gig, clutching a prized drum stick to his chest, crying. He is later seen hugging his tearful girlfriend.
It really means that much to them.

I have seen this kind of emotional response to a band, or act before, but very rarely in this modern era. And these are grown men crying too, not besotted teenage girls.

For me Flight 666 is worth seeing just for the live crowd scenes alone. You are drawn into the emotion of the occasion. And, if you like that kind of thing, the music is pretty damn good too.

But, this film also reminded me of several reasons why i have such great respect for Iron Maiden:

- They haven't lost their sense of humour, despite all that goes on around them.
- The bands Boeing 757 jet, flown by Iron Maiden's singer Bruce Dickinson by the way, is called "Ed Force One", after the bands mascot, Eddie.
- As the title of the film suggests, the 757's call sign was "Flight 666". The number of the beast and the title of one of the bands most famous songs.
- Iron Maiden are a great British export and are still proud of and retain their British roots. You only have to see the amount of Union Jacks, England football shirts and West Ham United items amongst the crowds worldwide to see what effect and influence that can have.
- The have achieved what they have without any real radio, tv, or press exposure. They have done it the hard way. They have done it their way.
- Their "Don't give a fuck" attitude. I may not be their greatest fan, but they do what they believe in and they do it very well.
- And last, but by no means lest, they bring a smile to my face and you can't say fairer than that can you?

Friday 25 February 2011

Busy Means Busy?

Busy at work, busy at play?

Sunday 20 February 2011

Only The Technology Changes.

I was briefly listening to the radio this morning and heard about an article in todays Sunday Express. Not a newspaper i would normally go anywhere near, by the way.

In the article, they were worrying about the effect watching tv on the BBC iPlayer etc was having on the children of today. The fear being that children were turning up to school too tired to concentrate on their school work. Because they'd been sitting up in bed half the night watching tv programmes on their iPads, or smart phones.

And this is news?

I was doing exactly the same kind of thing about 40 years ago.
The only difference being that back then i was probably listening to Radio Luxembourg, or a pirate radio station, instead of watching tv.
Many other children at that time, were also hiding under the covers, but reading a book, or a magazine that they just couldn't put down, or it was something that they didn't want their parents to see them reading.

I'm sure we've all been in this situation at some time in our lives, especially as children?
The only difference today is that the technology has moved on in leaps and bounds. We've gone from books, magazines and medium wave radio to wireless Internet, iPads and smart phones.

I'm now a parent myself and i'd be very surprised if my children were not doing exactly as the Sunday Express "exposes".
Exactly what i did myself when i was a child, all those years ago.

People are just the same as they've always been. It's just the technology that changes.

And, rather ironically, Express Newspapers do have their very own iPad App should you want to download it.
So, you can read that article in the comfort of your own bed tonight.
Just don't tell your children!

Saturday 19 February 2011

All In This Together?

I happened to Tweet the following this morning, after reading todays newspaper.
"Thinking of contacting HMG and asking if i can pay less tax like Barclays. Well, i had a bad 2010 as well you know. No, thought not"

For those not in the know, this refers to the story that Barclays paid very little tax (2.4%) on their total profits of £4.6bn, in 2009. This is inspite of them apparently paying out £3.4bn in bonuses that same year.
Part of Barclays justification for paying so little tax was that they had a bad year in 2008. Didn't we all?
This information only came to light because of a Labour Party MP asking for it.

Well, that Tweet certainly provoked a response and all the comments were of a very similar nature. One of digust, both for Barclays and for any Government that allows this type of thing to happen. But, the comments were about the state of the nation and of politics today.
For me, this shows something that i have been detecting a lot recently. A real groundswell of public opinion about the current government and about politics and politicians in general.

Obviously, most of the bad feeling is directed towards the current coalition government in the UK. That's no great surprise seeing as they are in power at the moment.
The coalition government are currently in the process of wheeling out a whole raft of spending cuts and inflicting them onto the UK population.

Now, spending cuts are never going to be popular, but the reaction to these is starting to threaten to get particularly nasty. The general feeling is that these cuts are going to affect the lower paid and most vulnerable in society the most.

And those spending cuts are set against a background of British banks paying multi million pound bonuses to their employees. Banks that would not be in existence if it wasn't for the monetary bailouts and guarantees given to them by the then UK government, back in 2008/9.
Bailouts paid for by the British taxpayer. Yes, that means you and me.

Yes, i know that Barclays bank, unlike  Lloyds and RBS etc, were not given any money directly in the form of bailouts. But, like all the banks, they were effectively given a guarantee by the UK government that they would not be allowed to fail. Meaning that they and the other banks, could then do what they liked and indulge in some more monetary gambling. Just like the old days.
Effectively gambling with our money. A situation that got us into this whole sorry mess in the first place.

The bank bailouts, bonuses and tax revenue debates is set against a situation where we are constantly being told by politicians that "We are all in this together".
Well, if that's the case, i'd like my tax to be reduced for 2010, a la Barclays, because i had a particularly shit year too.
Like many other people in 2010, i lost my job and now have to live within my means. Something a bank has been told it doesn't have to do.
I get no bailout. In fact when i went to the Job Centre to claim Job Seekers Allowance, i was told i wasn't eligible. Despite paying National Insurance for very nearly 36 years!
So please don't tell me and many more like me that we're all in this together. Because it is plainly not true.
And if anyone is due a nice bonus, then surely it is the British people for giving the banks the money to keep them afloat in the first place? Without our money, they would never have made those fat profits.

But, enough bank bashing. After all, we all expect the banks to behave in this way and we should not be surprised that they do so. Especially when our elected representatives are seemingly unwilling to rein them in, or control them in any way. Despite claims to the contrary.

We do though expect a little bit more, or at least we should do, from our elected political representatives themselves.

But, as we learned during the MPs expenses scandal, many MPs just don't seem to be living on the same planet as the rest of us. They are certainly living in a different economic environment to the vast majority of the population. The population that they represent.

This situtation is not helped by the fact that the leaders of all three main political parties are Oxbridge, or publically educated men. Men with very little to worry about when it comes to money.
In my humble opinion, millionaires are not the best people to be telling me that we are all in this together. Certainly not in times of austerity, like now.

So, the general consensus amongst the UK population is that our politicians are totally out of touch with reality. They live in a world, like The Queen, where they think that everything smells of fresh paint and where everything works. That is not always their fault, of course. They live in a world full of sycophants and "yes' people who are afraid to tell them of the reality of the situation.

How often have you seen, or heard about, that situation in the workplace? Where the head of a company has no idea what goes on on the shopfloor, because the underlings are too scared to tell them.
That's no way to run a country, or a business for that matter.

We have seen many examples of current politicians being out of touch and one happened just this week.

I'm sure we all know about the governments, now abandoned, proposals to sell off much of our public woodlands and forests.
Now, this is a classic case of a government being totally out of touch with the electorate. A government that, by the way, said they were going to be the greenest in history.

For a start, they seemed to fail to realise that these forests and woodlands were not really theirs to sell in the first place. They belong to the people.
But, they also didn't anticipate the huge adverse reaction that these proposals would generate. A reaction which, in the end, forced the government to apologise for their actions and to have to admit that they had "got it wrong".

So, what we had from government this week was yet another U-Turn. Although they'd never call it that, of course.

Now, it's one thing to admit that you are going to change your mind due to popular opinion. But, it is quite another to promise one thing in your election manifesto and then to do something completely different when you are elected. But, that is precisely what this government has done.

If you can't relate to those whom you represent, have little understanding of what they actually want and have to lie to get yourself elected, it doesn't exactly fill you with a lot of confidence in them does it?

Is it any wonder then that so many people these days have little, or no, respect for politicians and don't bother to vote?

I mentioned earlier about the various comments that i had on that original Tweet.
Well, here is another,  "Time to do an Egypt?"

Now, i'm sure that was meant, at least, partly in jest. But, it does get you thinking doesn't it?

Amongst those thoughts is probably something along the lines of, what did the people of Tunisia and Egypt say about their previous rulers? What was it that started them onto the road to rebellion and revolution?

Well, it could probably best be summed up by saying, amongst other things, "They (the rulers) don't relate to those whom they represent. They have little understanding of what the people actually want and they have lied to get themselves elected".

Sound familiar?

(I have a funny feeling i may well be returning to this topic, as i've not mentioned everything i intended to)

Friday 18 February 2011

AudioBoo - Baking Bread.


Today, i had my frist ever try at baking bread.
Btw, my bread got the seal of approval from my wife.

Thursday 17 February 2011

2 Songs.

The rpomised follow up to my recent "The Songs That Changed The World" Video.

Let me know what yours are.

Wednesday 16 February 2011

Going Underground.

I recently wrote a blog post about the demise of another local live music venue 'The Crypt'.
Sadly, it has now been confirmed that it's closure is permament.

Whilst thinking about this closure and about The Crypt in general, it struck me that in many ways The Crypt was the Hastings answer to The Cavern Club in Liverpool. Probably one of the most famous music venues ever?
Ok, so Hastings has never produced a band as world famous and as influential as The Beatles, but at least The Crypt gave the town the opportunity to do so.

And then, as so often happens, everywhere i turned i was seeing and reading items related to this topic.
First in line was the 50th anniversary of The Beatles first of 292 appearances at The Cavern. I then read this blog post by the Daily Telegraphs music critic, Neil McCormick.
This was swiftly followed by the good news that The 100 Club, in Londons Oxford Street, had been saved from closure.

So, what do all these items have in common? Well, they are all about small venues and underground venues too. I'm sure there are many other similar venues dotted around too.

All bands have to start somewhere and that is more often than not, in a small venue, as Neil McCormick pointed out. But, there also seems to be something just a little different about those small venues being situated below ground.

I have been lucky enough to see bands at both The Crypt and the 100 Club. By another coincidence, the only band i've ever seen at the 100 Club was from Hastings, The Dharmas and very good they were too.

As you may already have guessed, i never got to The Cavern before it closed, but in the mid to late 1970's i did spend some time in Liverpool and visited a club called "Erics" many times.
Erics was situated opposite where The Cavern used to be (the site was at that time a car park!) and was, by all accounts, of a very similar design to The Cavern. A design that would be familiar to anyone who has ever been to The Crypt. It had that cave like feeling, complete with arches and hidden corners.

In my opinion underground venues are just made for rock n roll. They are what rock n roll is all about. They are dark, hot, sweaty, smelly and have an atmosphere all of their own. There is just nothing quite like them.
Underground venues are almost a metaphor for rock n roll itself.

So, apart from losing some unique underground venues, due to closure. We are also losing a unique rock n roll experience. An experience that could probably never be replicated anywhere else.

Rock n roll is already becoming a little too squeaky clean and sanitised for many peoples tastes and the loss of underground venues like The Crypt is, maybe, another example of that.
After all, losing venues such as this may mean that we just might miss out on the next Beatles and what a great musical tragedy that would.
We are also losing irreplacable parts of our musical heritage.

Here's hoping that the saving of the 100 Club is a move in the right direction and a recognition that we can ill afford to lose venues such as that.

I look forward to going underground, once again, at some time in the future.

Tuesday 15 February 2011

The Song That Changed The World?

Can you guess what it is?

A follow up video will be forthcoming, telling you about 2 songs that changed me.
Why not let me know what yours are?

AudioBoo - 101 Not Out.


My 101st AudioBoo. Thinking and talking about why i do this.

Friday 11 February 2011

The Revolution Has Been Televised.

Just spouting off on the big topic of the day.
I don't often talk about Politics, but i just couldn't resist this one.

Sometimes, it's good to talk.

Normans Bay Walk.

I went out for another walk today & thought i'd take you all along for part of it.

Unfortunately, the big flock of geese i described aren't very visible in this video. Doh!

I actually ended up managing to walk the whole way on the beach & sand.

What did the Normans ever do for us eh?

A beach vlog.

Sunday 6 February 2011

AudioBoo: Gary Moore 1952-2011.


A personal tribute to a great guitarist.

To Talk Or Not To Talk...

...that is the question.

So, what am i on about now?

Well, i saw something online earlier which got my mind thinking, as some posts are prone to do. Then, whilst in the shower, i pondered the topic more and wondered whether to record an AudioBoo, or a vlog for YouTube.
It was only after formulating in my mind what it was that i wanted to say about the topic, that it struck me that posting anything might not actually be that good an idea after all.

Well, the topic was one of those that would be bound to divide the opinions of those who read, watched, or listened to it. And although my own take on the topic would have been aimed at trying to see both sides of the "argument", which indeed i can. I know it would only have been a potential recipe for disaster tackling it in the public forum of the Internet.

No matter how carefully you try to put your own point of view across, there are always those who will see it differently.
Now this in itself is not a problem, as people are quite obviously entitled to their own opinion on any topic of conversation. But, we all know that in these days of Internet anonymity and indeed out there in the "real world", there are those who will only see, or hear what they want to hear.
There are also those who have such entrenched opinions, that they can never see any other perfectly valid points of view. I'm sure we've all seen examples of such behaviour as we go about our daily lives.

In some ways i can see an argument of "why does this matter?". After all, i am just a vlogger/blogger with a very limited appeal and reach. Especially when compared to many other media outlets. My audience is hardly going to have those media outlets quaking in their boots is it?

Another point might be, "why does my opinion matter anyway?", or "what gives me the right to start spouting off about anything that i feel like anyway?".
But, why shouldn't i say what i feel? We all have opinions and we now have a way of expressing that opinion to the world, via the Internet.
There are many out there, usually professional media commentators, who would rather that we didn't have the means to vlog and blog at will. But, the genie is now well and truly out of the bottle and there is no turning back now. And, as we've seen already, many new commentators have come from the world of blogging.
The cult of the amateur is amongst us, whether some people like it, or not. I, for one, like it. But, you probably knew that already, didn't you?

But, back to the point of why i decided not to post something in the first place.

I guess that, ultimately, it all comes down to wanting a quiet life?
I have vlogged and blogged about many topics during my time on the Internet, but i have always tried to avoid those really contentious issues and topics.

I have been known to tackle political topics and will continue to do so as the fancy takes me. In fact i recorded a vlog about the potential sale of public forests, only the other day.
But, there are always, in my opinion anyway, topics that should be left well alone and for exactly the reasons that i mentioned earlier. I shall leave those for others to tackle.
Now all you need to do is guess which topics they are.

Another reason for not posting would be that i have seen, through my own Internet experience, what can happen when those contentious topics are talked about. Things can get nasty and hurtful.
People hide behind their anonymity on the Internet and say things that they'd never say to a persons face. Who needs that hassle? I certainly don't.

Yes, i'm a small fish in a very big pond, but we've probably all seen examples of how even the little people can gain worldwide attention. And, it is quite often the case that the one thing that a person gains that attention for, is not the thing that they'd like to be known for.

As my wife has often told me, i seem to have an opinion on anything and everything. But, sometimes, things are just better left unsaid.

Some may view that as cowardice, or even a symptom of the potential loss of free speech?
But, as i said earlier, at least the Internet has given me an avenue to post what i like, when i like. That can only be a good thing.
And, if nothing else, this whole issue did give me the idea for this blog post. A blog post that i'm more than happy to share with the world.

Royal Military Canal Walk.

A walk along, part of, the Royal Military Canal in Kent.


Thursday 3 February 2011

This Land Is Our Land.

Save our forests.

Sorry about the picture quality on this video. Not surer what went wrong there. But, the message is far more important than seeing my face.


Tuesday 1 February 2011

Another Nail In The Coffin?

It appears that Hastings has lost yet another part of its musical heritage.

I heard via Twitter (once again) that both The Crypt and The Street has closed their doors for business yesterday, 31st January 2011.
Coming as this does only a few months after a fire destroyed the Pier Ballroom on Hastings Pier and hot on the heels of the confusion surrounding Venuu in George Street, this is another bad day for live music in the Hastings area.

The Crypt has played host to so many young bands in its time. Bands such as Coldplay and Snow Patrol played there on their way to global success. The venue was a part of the established live circuit for up and coming UK bands and many of them have passed through its doors on their way to bigger things.
The Crypt also attracted more established acts like Gil Scott Heron and Ash to play on that tiny stage, next to that sticky floor!
It should also be remembered that The Crypt played host to some great DJ's and helped spread the word about the Dance Music revolution of the 1990's.

Like the loss of the Pier Ballroom, the closure of The Crypt has robbed Hastings of so many musical memories. The combined musical history of both The Crypt and Hastings Pier takes in pretty much the whole of popular music since the 1960's.
When the heyday of Hastings Pier faded, The Crypt was ready to step into the breach and provide a venue for touring bands to play in.

As with Hastings Pier, so many local and not so local people will have their own happy memories of evenings and nights spent in The Crypt, including my entire family.

But, it is not just those memories that have been lost. This is also the loss of yet another live music venue in the town. Apart from, obviously, not now being able to attract some of those new up and coming bands to Hastings. This will also hamper the emergence of any new local bands and musicians.

One thing The Crypt was always good at was helping to provide a live venue for new local bands. I've seen many there myself.
Any town of this size needs venues where young bands can play on a real stage, with a proper sound system. This is where they learn their "trade" and the experience of playing on a stage where so many of their own musical heroes may well have played is always a good thing.

So, is this yet another nail in the coffin of live music in Hastings?
Initial thoughts would suggest so, after all we have had more than our fair share of bad news recently. But, i  certainly hope not.
Maybe, the reports of The Crypt's demise are exaggerated.
We can but hope.