Do unto others…

Paul Kimmage is an Irish sports journalist who played a big part in the downfall of Lance Armstrong. He is known for his anti-doping stance which brings him his fair share of admirers and also detractors. Love him or hate him, you can’t deny his passion and the drive for the truth in his work.

The interviewer turned interviewee on the Second Captains Podcast recently. It was riveting. Kimmage readily, honestly and emotionally discussed topics from the death of his father to the realisation that a former colleague and friend had groomed and defiled an underage girl.

He didn’t hold back. He didn’t mince words. He answered all the interviewer’s questions and more. He knows what it’s like to be the interviewer, he knew what the interviewer wanted, and he delivered. He was a great interviewee.

As a musician, you need not only to think about how you want to play, but how the others in your group want you to play also. Put yourself in the drummer’s shoes – what does she want from you, what does the singer want?

It might just make you play better.

On plagiarism.

A confession – the ideas in these blogs aren’t all fully mine! Sometimes I take things that I have heard before and put my own twist on them.
Any honest songwriter will tell you something similar – we all have our influences, and these manifest themselves to varying degrees in our writing.

In law, sometimes this is acceptable and sometimes it isn’t, and the line is not always clear. Let’s look at a few examples.

One that was in the news in January…
Radiohead are suing Lana Del Rey for similarities between her song Get Free and their song Creep.
Del Rey offered Radiohead 40% of the royalties but Radiohead declined and are bringing her to court. Make your own mind up – listen to the first 1min 25 secs of Get Free and then the first 1min 20secs of Creep.

But…as it turns out the writers of The Hollies’ 1974 hit The Air That I Breathe already have credits on Creep due to a lawsuit they brought. I’m guessing this was due to similarities between 0:39-0:47 of Creep and 0:15-0:25 of The Air That I Breathe.

Here’s one that was never in court, but should have been (according to Quincy Jones)…have a listen to the opening synth riff of Donna Summer’s State of Independence…remind you of the bass riff that kicks in at 0:06 in Billie Jean anyone?

And one I discovered recently…the first line of the chorus of You Raise Me Up – ‘You raise me up so I can stand on mountains’ – vs the first line of the chorus or B section of Danny Boy – ‘But come ye back, when summer’s in the meadow’. Listen 0:50-1:20 here and see what you think…

It’s surprising to me that this doesn’t happen more often…after all there are only so many notes and so many ways to combine them, but proving plagiarism in a court of law is a different story.

Salah…Oh Mane Mane….

This went viral. Not just this particular video – which has almost 4m views, but the song in it has spawned two other videos which have now been seen 5m+ times each.

It is a song to the tune of ‘Sugar Sugar’ by the Archies with new words. Written by an Irish comedian called Richy Sheehy (in the guise of his character Kevin Murphy), it celebrates the great strikers Liverpool FC have got at the moment. It is now a staple among Liverppol fans, videos have surfaced of the players themselves singing it, and it is an example of something that circulated very quickly.

How? Why? Well in the great tradition of football chants, it is simple and to the point. It mentions the names of the players and little else. It’s catchy. It’s funny (love the shaker!). It’s easy for others to learn and sing along with. It’s a happy song.

Richy stated at the time of the release that he would love for the fans to sing it in Anfield. Now correct me if I’m wrong Liverpool fans, but I’m not sure if it ever really caught on in that regard. There is no doubting it’s popularity among fans in general, but music is about context, and a song that might be sung lustily in the pub or on the bus might fall flat in the stadium.

You find that out fairly quickly as a musician – some songs work in a church, some in a pub, some at a wedding, some in a theatre and some you might be still looking for the right venue for them. A song is only as good as how and where it’s performed.

It’s up to you to work out what works best where, and to create the right context for your music.

Leave it on the shelf.

Rufus Reid is in the very top echelon of jazz bassists in the world. He is 74 years old according to Wikipedia, which makes him 64 when he came to Sligo in 2007 and told a group of us to look at an imaginary shelf high up in the room in which we were.

‘See that shelf’, he said – ‘that shelf is where your ego should be left the minute you walk into this room and start playing music with others’.

According to the same source Theo Katzman is 32 and Joe Dart looks to be a similar age. Theo came to Dublin recently and Joe was in his band. They are heroes to young music students and many others throughout the world.

I was struck by how they both got up to play with the support act during her set, and also how they were the ones moving around microphones and amps between sets to make sure the stage was ready for Theo’s set. No sign of any ego from either of them.

It was said to me last night that ‘the really good guys have no ego. It’s the ones who aren’t quite there yet who you will often find have something to prove’.

Possibly true in some cases, but no reason why it should be. You don’t have to be really good in order to do the decent thing in life.

Leave it on the shelf.

Duets

The first time I can remember playing music with someone else was a classical piano duet at the age of 14 with Darragh Kelly. The piece of music was Anitra’s Dance from Grieg’s Peer Gynt suite, and although I hadn’t heard the piece of music before, and indeed haven’t heard it since it is still lodegd in my head over 20 years later because of the amount we practiced and played it.

Hotel California won a Grammy for Record of the Year in 1978, and the guitar solo was voted the greatest of all time by readers of the renowned Guitarist magazine in 1998.

It is a duet between Don Felder and Joe Walsh, written over three days by the two guitarists, and features first one, then the other and culminates in a twin guitar pattern repeated till fade, changed slightly each time to fit over the changing chords underneath.

A great duet must not only show off what each individual has to offer, but the chemistry between the two must be such that it brings the performance to a place to where neither one could have got on their own.

Of course, as well as instrumental duets, there are many famous vocal duets. Two that spring to mind immediately include Islands in the Stream (sung by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton) and Endless Love (Lionel Richie and Diana Ross), and as promised at the weekend I am very happy to announce that the theme for Theme Night 21 will be Duets.

It will be a nice open theme that will mean twice as many people as usual will get to perform as well as providing great variety throughout the night.

Note from Kieran – Hi everybody – I am aware that I initially promised that there would be no sales pitches in this blog. However a significant number of you have been in touch over the past week disappointed to have missed out on tickets for Theme Night #20 and said that you would love to hear in advance about events such as these theme nights.

So – in the spirit of thanking you all for signing up and continuing to read these emails, you are the first to know that tickets for Theme Night #21 (26&27 Sept in the Hawk’s Well Theatre, Sligo) will go on sale tomorrow morning (Tuesday 1 May) at 10am from the Hawk’s Well’s website or 071-9161518.

Comparison is the thief of joy.

I was asked to be a judge at a fundraiser recently. It was a dancing competition along the lines of Strictly Come Dancing or Dancing With the Stars in aid of Sligo Rugby Club. It was a really well organised night, great entertainment and huge effort had been put in the organising committee and by all 15 couples.

Everyone had a great time…I must have been the only person in the room that didn’t enjoy it.

Now don’t get me wrong – I loved the dancing, the craic, and pretty much everything else about the night itself – I just didn’t enjoy being a judge.

I had to give a mark out of 10 and some sort of entertaining/controversial comment to each couple. I was encouraged by the organisers to be ‘the Simon Cowell’ and I tried one or two half-critical comments but I couldn’t do it with any conviction.

We were only allowed give a 7, 8, 9 or 10. I gave one 7 towards the start of the night and I felt so bad afterwards that it was the only 7 of the night that I apologised to the couple involved.

Why? Well in my mind each of these people had given significantly of their time, tried something most of them had never done before, and gave it socks in front of 800 people. How could that deserve anything but a 10?!

But if it’s a competition you can’t give a 10 to everyone.

For me, playing music is the same. The minute you start comparing yourself to others is the minute the joy starts disappearing from it. And it should be joyful!!

A good friend and wonderful musician – Seamie O’Dowd – said it best when he said, regarding music – ‘It’s not how good you are at it, it’s how good it is for you’.

What to do with good ideas.

People are always looking for new ideas. The world would be a boring place without those people. Many are worth trying. Most won’t work. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try them.

Every so often one will really connect with people, and the results can be amazing, for everybody involved.

If you’re lucky enough to find one of these, mind it. Work at it. Look after it. Stay true to it. Respect it and everyone who believes in it.

Don’t stop looking for new ideas, but the really good ones don’t come around too often, so enjoy them when they do.