Chain Reaction

So operation BeeGee is in full flow. Theme Night #25 is less than a week away and the performers are getting stuck into learning and preparing for the show. The more we all get into the stuff, the more we realise how sophisticated these guys were as songwriters. I thought I’d write today about a few things I have noticed… Odd meters: As their career moved on and their writing developed, they weren’t afraid to include bars with unusual number of beats. Their early stuff is almost all written in 4, but later songs written for others such as Guilty, Heartbreaker and Immortality to name a few are tricky to navigate with bars of 2, 3, 5 and 6 dotted throughout. Chord progressions: They are big fans of starting a verse with the 1 chord followed the 3minor chord. First of May, I Started a Joke, How Deep is Your Love, You Win Again, Too Much Heaven are all examples

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It’s awards season in the music and film industries. And indeed It’s always nice to receive an award. But some mean more than others Because sometimes the winners of awards pay for them, directly or indirectly. Sometimes they win them because they can convince the most people to go online and vote for them. And these awards should be taken for what they are. But sometimes the winners of awards win them because they deserve to win them. They have produced something or they are themselves better at doing something than anything or anyone else out there. But if you are, you know this already because your customers return. Or because you are getting hired for better gigs. Or because you get consistently good feedback. And an award may be the icing on the cake. If it’s a meaningful one. But it shouldn’t trump the day-to-day satisfaction of doing our job well.

Artistic differences…

…can cause bands to break up and friends to fall out. Because for many artists – personal identity is too closely connected to our art. And so when someone questions our artistic opinion or disagrees with our artistic view it can hurt, because it feels like they are telling us we are a bad person. And hence we can get upset. But we’re not. Or maybe some of us are (!), but if we are it has nothing to do with the art we produce. Artistic differences really don’t have to become personal. But they can and will, unless we as artists find some self-worth outside of our art.

Flops and failures…

Billy Joel prefaced his performance of The Entertainer last Saturday night with the statement that even though it wasn’t really a hit, it was the only song that in any way threatened to be a hit from his third album – Streetlife Serenade. Indeed on closer examination, only one song – Piano Man – from his first four albums – reached the Top 30 in the American Billboard charts. This didn’t stop him, however, from becoming the third-biggest selling solo artist in the US. Ever. In preparation for the upcoming Theme Night #25, I just finished Tragedy – an account by Jeff Apter of the life and career of the Bee Gees. And I discovered something very similar. In fact their early career was even less successful than Billy Joel’s. Flop after flop. Rejection after rejection. And then even after they achieved some success with the likes of Words, Massachussets, I Gotta Get a Message To You and To Love

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Weekly Challenge #3 – My Irish Molly-O

It’s weekly challenge day again on the blog – and this week’s challenge features an old Irish-American song that has surely stood the test of time, given perhaps its most recent outing by Maura O’Connell and De Danann. Again the challenge this week has a few nuances you won’t have seen in any of the previous challenges. The verse is in a minor key with the chorus moving to the relative major key so this will ask different questions of you and your ear. Here is the link to the 4 questions you must answer this week, along with a couple of hints…


August 31, 1997 – The night Princess Diana died. U2 played Landsdowne Road that evening too, and at the gig I met an older man from Australia. A huge fan – he had seen the band multiple times, but I could tell this one was special to him. Why? Well as he roared to me in a mid-gig fit of love for the band and the moment – it’s different when it’s their home town. And I guess that’s why I waited to see Billy Joel in Madison Square Garden. Cos he’s from only out the road in Long Island. And right from the get-go when he launched into Miami 2017 the New York influences were clear. And the crowd loved it. I knew the songs of course. And while it was special to hear 6 of the 7 amazing opening tracks from The Stranger live for the first time, what I was really waiting for was to see what

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‘It didn’t rain on me’!

The guy at the table beside me was there for a short while on his own. Two ladies (I’m guessing his wife and daughter) then joined him and he asked why they were late. The older lady said that it was raining and traffic was worse than usual. His triumphant (and quite loud) response? ‘It didn’t rain on me’! Which is great for him, but down to fortune, not any skill, talent or good judgement on his behalf. It’s like the card game Beggar My Neighbour. The result is pre-determined by the way the cards are dealt. Even Snap has more skill to it. So there’s absolutely no reason for the victor to be happy with themselves. Like the dude beside me. Triumphalism rarely serves anyone except the triumphant one. Especially when there’s nothing to be triumphant about.

The Manhattan Skyline

I travelled to New York for the first time at the age of 22. It was with the Sligo football team – we were drawn against New York that year in the Connacht Championship. We didn’t stay in the city, but I’ll never forget my first glimpse of the skyline on the road in from JFK airport. It was 8 months after the Twin Towers had fallen, and in an era when many looked to America for leadership and guidance. And so it was like a dream. I had been to cities like Sydney and London at this stage, but this was another level. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. I couldn’t believe I was actually there. Killing time before the game, we took a short ferry trip on the Hudson river, and had time for a quick stroll to Times Square when we got off. And wow. The amount of people, the steam coming out of

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‘Woke up this morning…

…got yourself a gun’. These lyrics were going through my head this morning as I travelled along the New Jersey Turnpike. The views were reminiscent of the opening credits of The Sopranos – where Tony drives from New York City back out towards his New Jersey home – all to the strains of the above Alabama 3 song… We got speaking to the driver, who was from Egypt. He said he loved America because there were great opportunities there for people to work hard and make a success out of themselves. And we wondered if this was actually true or if he had heard it so many times from people around him that he presumed it to be the case. But maybe it didn’t matter. He believed it, and so it was reality for him. And that’s it. If we want something to be the case, we have a better chance of it being so if we really believe it.

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Weekly Challenge #2 AND Theme night #25…

Ok…so operation BeeGees began in earnest today and during the course of the day I realized that I asked the Hawk’s Well to hold more tickets than I need…so some tickets WILL be coming available in the coming days. As always this blog will be the best place to hear when that will happen. Also today – as promised some answers to Weekly Challenge #2. No Frontiers is in the Key of C, in 4/4 time and is full of tasty chords. Click on the link below to undertake the challenge and to find out more about learning piano in this way. More here.