The Old Grey Whistle Test

The best known music show is without a doubt Top of the Pops, and even though the show was cancelled in 2006, there are still weekly reruns on BBC 4.Most people were surprised that the BBC cancelled the show because i was and still is very popular, there have been speculations though that it may return again.

However this blog is about another iconic and legendary BBC music show,’ The Old Grey whistle test’ It was commissioned by none other then David Attenborough and aired on BBC2 from 1971 to 1988. Unlike Top of the Pops, the whistle test had some more edgier music and catered more for rock fans and focused more on albums then hit singles.

The show hosted many seminal acts of the era, including the first British TV performance of Bob Marley and the Wailers as well as then little-known acts of whom any early footage is now considered precious, such as Billy Joel, Judas Priest (with a long haired Rob Halford), Wishbone Ash, Judee Sill, Heart, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

The series was cancelled in the spring of 1987 by Janet Street-Porter, who had been appointed head of Youth Programmes at the BBC.[7] The series ended with a live New Year’s Eve special broadcast through to the early hours of New Year’s Day 1988; material included “Hotel California” by The Eagles, live from 1977, and “Bat Out of Hell” by Meat Loaf.

Many viewers think that the performances were always live but that was always the case, although for the vast majority they were.

On 23 February 2018, the BBC broadcast a special show, hosted by Bob Harris, to mark the 30 years since the legendary series was last broadcast. This live studio show featured music, special guests and rare archive footage. It featured performances from Peter Frampton, Richard Thompson, Albert Lee and others. Bob Harris chatted to Whistle Test alumni, including Dave Stewart, Joan Armatrading, Ian Anderson, Chris Difford and Kiki Dee, as well as fan Danny Baker.

BBC 4 regularly plays old episodes from the show and I am always amazed about the new things I learn. For example I never knew that Elkie Brooks and Robert Palmer were in a band together. The band was called ‘Vinegar Joe’

Whistle Test was also the British television debut of the American glam punk band New York Dolls. Their performance influenced the following punk rock scene such as the Sex Pistols and The Clash as well as alternative bands like R.E.M. and The Smiths and the glam metal scene of the 1980s.

David Johansen was the front man of this line up of the New York Dolls, David had some solo success later on under the name of Buster Pointdexter.

Brinsley Schwarz were a 1970s English pub rock band, named after their guitarist Brinsley Schwarz. They made an appearance on the Old Grey Whistle Test in 1973.

In case you are wondering who the singer and bass player is, it is Nick Lowe from such hits as “I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass” and “Cruel to be Kind”

By 1988 it was considered well past it’s sell by date however it was an influence on many music shows that came after such as Later With Jools Holland.

As mentioned earlier Bob Marley had his first appearance on the BBC on the Old Grey Whistle test. This was another thing I hadn’t realized, Peter Tosh was also a member of the Wailers.

It would be great to see a show like the Old Grey whistle Test again on TV, but I don’t think that the same caliber of performers are available nowadays

Sources

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006zbkl

https://pop-culture.fandom.com/wiki/The_Old_Grey_Whistle_Test

Some Eurovision Song contest rarities.

The highlight of the European Music world is upon us again, the annual ‘Eurovision Song Contest’ So what better time then to look back at some of the rarities of the festival’s history.

Starting off with Mister Eurovision himself, Johnny Logan, it is his birthday today so Happy birthday Johnny. That is not the rarity though. He won the contest 3 times, twice as a performer. In 1980 with “What’s another year” and in 1987 with “Hold me now”. In 1992 Linda Martin won with “Why me” which was written by Johnny Logan. What most people don’t know is that in 1984 Linda Martin finished 2nd place, also with a song written and composed by Johnny Logan. The song was called “Terminal 3” was the Irish entry in the Eurovision Song Contest 1984.

The first song contest was held in 1956 in Lugano, Switzerland, at the Teatro Kursaal on Thursday 24 May 1956. Seven countries participated in the first ever contest, each were represented with two songs. Two more countries, Austria and Denmark, were also expected to take part in the contest, but they missed the submission deadline and therefore could not take part.

Although there were 7 countries participating, the total number of performers were 11. Luxembourg and Switzerland used one performer for two songs. Luxembourg with Michèle Arnaud and Switzerland with Lys Assia. The winning song was “Refrain” performed by Lys Assia.

There are 20 countries who have never won the song contest:

Malta, Cyprus, Iceland, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, F.Y.R Macedonia, Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Moldova, Armenia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Montenegro, San Marino and Australia. This disperses the Eastern European block voting, because if that was the case it clearly isn’t working.

Australia made its debut at the 2015 Contest with the song “Tonight Again” a song written and performed by Guy Sebastian. It was supposed to be a one off event, but since 2015 Australia has been a contender in the Eurovision Song contest.

In 1969 there wasn’t one winner but 4, Spain, United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands.

The voting systems used in the Contest have changed throughout the years. The modern system has been in place since 1975. Voters award a set of points from 1 to 8, then 10 and finally 12 to songs from other countries — with the favourite being awarded the now famous douze points. Historically, a country’s set of votes was decided by an internal jury, but in 1997 five countries experimented with televoting, giving members of the public in those countries the opportunity to vote en masse for their favourite songs. The experiment was a success and from 1998 all countries were encouraged to use televoting wherever possible. But sometimes the voting did not go as foreseen.

Norway could be found at the bottom of the scoreboard as many as eleven times. The unfortunates came last in 1963, 1969, 1974, 1976, 1978, 1981, 1990, 1997, 2001, 2004 and in the Grand Final of 2012. Nevertheless, they also won 3 times, in 1985, 1995 and 2009.

Sometimes it becomes clear how important tape can be. Javine was the UK entry in 2005, with her song Touch my Fire. During the 2005 UK final (selection) for the Eurovision Song Contest, she had a bit of a wardrobe malfunction.

I could do a blog on Eurovision Song Contest without mentioning the ‘bearded lady’.

Thomas Neuwirth is an Austrian singer, recording artist, and drag queen who is known for his stage persona Conchita Wurst.Neuwirth came to international attention after winning the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 as Austria’s entrant with the song “Rise Like a Phoenix”. Regardless what you think about Thomas/Conchita, the song was great and it surprises me that no one in the James Bond franchise has asked Conchita to do a James Bond song.

The first scandal in Eurovision history occurred in 1957 where the Danish singers Birthe Wilke and Gustav Winckler kissed for 11 seconds in the end of the song. Generating a furious reaction.

Morocco has participated in Eurovision Song Contest. But only once. It was in 1980, the performer Samira Said ended second-last. Morocco only received 7 points from Italy.

In 2020 the contest was cancelled due to Covid 19 restrictions.

The 2021 Eurovision Song Contest will be held in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The 2 semi finals will be held on May 18 and May 20. The grand final will be on May 22.

This was the last winner.

Happy Birthday Stevie Wonder

When people ask me what my top 10 favourite albums are , I find it impossible to give a definitive answers, because over the years that has changed. However there are a few albums that will always be in that top 10, ‘Songs in the Key of life’ by Stevie Wonder is one of them.

Stevie Wonder was born Stevland Hardaway Judkins on May 13, 1950, in Saginaw, Michigan. He was born six weeks early with retinopathy of prematurity, an eye disorder which was exacerbated when he received too much oxygen in an incubator, leading to blindness.

When Stevie Wonder was four, his mother divorced his father and moved with her (at the time) three children to Detroit, Michigan, where Wonder sang as a child in a choir at the Whitestone Baptist Church.

He lost his sight as a newborn when he came into the world six weeks early with retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), an eye disorder caused by abnormal blood vessels throughout the retina. Receiving too much oxygen in the incubator likely worsened the condition for the tiny baby, leaving him blind.

Despite growing up in poverty and blind, this didn’t stop Stevie to live a full life and fulfill his dreams. He grew up to become one of the most recognized musicians of the 20th century and he is still active today.

He showed an early gift for music, first with a church choir in Detroit, Michigan, and later with a range of instruments, including the harmonica, piano and drums, all of which he taught himself before age 10.

In 1961, when aged 11, Wonder sang his own composition, “Lonely Boy”, to Ronnie White of the Miracles. White then took Wonder and his mother to an audition at Motown, where CEO Berry Gordy signed Wonder to Motown’s label. Before signing, producer Clarence Paul gave him the name Little Stevie Wonder.

He made his recording debut at age 11, with the album “The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie” including the single “Fingertips” written and composed by Clarence Paul and Henry Cosby.

Lifelong blindness isn’t the only health issue that Wonder has battled. In 1973, he was in a near-death car crash when the sedan he was in collided with a truck. Wonder suffered a head injury and was in a coma for four days.

He has been married three times. First he was married to Motown singer-songwriter and frequent collaborator Syreeta Wright from 1970 until their amicable divorce in 1972. From 2001 until 2012 he was married to fashion designer Kai Millard. In October 2009, Wonder and Millard divorced in August 2012. In 2017 he married Tomeeka Bracy.

Romantically he has been a busy man. He has nine children by five different women. The mother of Wonder’s first child is Yolanda Simmons, whom Wonder met when she applied for a job as secretary for his publishing company. Simmons gave birth to Wonder’s daughter Aisha Morris on February 2, 1975.] After Aisha was born, Wonder said “she was the one thing that I needed in my life and in my music for a long time”.Aisha was the inspiration for Wonder’s hit single “Isn’t She Lovely?”

She is now a singer who has toured with her father and accompanied him on recordings, including his 2005 album A Time to Love. Wonder and Simmons also had a son, Keita, in 1977.

Stevie Wonder has been given a range of awards, both for his music and for his civil rights work, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Civil Rights Museum, being named one of the United Nations Messengers of Peace, and earning a Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2014.

In December 2016, the City of Detroit recognized Wonder’s legacy by renaming a portion of his childhood street, Milwaukee Avenue West, between Woodward Avenue and Brush Street, as “Stevie Wonder Avenue”. He was also awarded an honorary key to the city, presented by Mayor Mike Duggan.

He has won 25 Grammy Awards, as well as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996. He is one of only two artists and groups who have won the Grammy for Album of the Year three times as the main credited artist, along with Frank Sinatra. Wonder is the only artist to have won the award with three consecutive album releases.

Stevie Wonder has always been an inspiration to me especially in more recent times. In 2011 I lost my right eye and in 2015 I nearly lost my left eye too, luckily they were able to safe it , but for about 6 months I was blind.

Finishing up with one of my favourite tracks of the aforementioned album ‘Songs in the Key of Life” “Sir Duke”.

“Music is a world within itself
With a language we all understand
With an equal opportunity
For all to sing, dance and clap their hands”

Happy Birthday Stevie

sources

https://www.biography.com/musician/stevie-wonder

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2012/aug/30/stevie-wonder-blind-black-disadvantage

Donation

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Bob Marley

What can one say about Bob Marley? So much and also very little. So much can be said about the legend that is Bob Marley but on the other hand so little I can say that will add value to the story of Robert Nesta Marley.

I will just quote the great man himself on the 40th anniversary of his death. Rest in Peace.

“In this great future, you can’t forget your past”

“Better to die fighting for freedom than be a prisoner all the days of your life.”

“Don’t trust people whose feelings change with time. Trust people whose feelings remain the same, even when the time changes.”

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain”

“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.”

“I don’t stand for the black man’s side, I don’ t stand for the white man’s side. I stand for God’s side.”

“If something can corrupt you, you’re corrupted already.”

“You not supposed to feel down over whatever happen to you. I mean, you’re supposed to use whatever happen to you as some type of upper, not a downer.”

“Free speech carries with some freedom to listen”

“If you’re white and you’re wrong, then you’re wrong; if you’re black and you’re wrong, you’re wrong. People are people. Black, blue, pink, green – God make no rules about color; only society make rules where my people suffer, and that why we must have redemption and redemption now.”

The Billy Joel connections

Today is Billy Joel’s birthday and I was going to do a blog on his musical history, going back to the times when he joined a band called “Echoes”, aged 16, to the times when he joined the bands “the Hassles” and “Atilla”. But that I came across a story which connects Billy Joel with WWII , the Holocaust and a large German retail and travel company, and indirectly to 4 Olympic games and I thought that would make a much more interesting story.

Billy Joel was born William Martin Joel on may 9,1949 in the Bronx, New York, and grew up in Long Island. Billy’s father, Howard (born Helmut) Joel , a classical pianist and businessman, was born in Nuremberg, Germany, to a Jewish family, the son of merchant and manufacturer Karl Amson Joel.

Karl Amson Joel, started a business in household linens in 1927. The business was so profitable that he, his wife and their young son, Helmut, were able to move into an affluent area of Nuremberg. As Karl Joel’s business rose in prominence and the Nazis rose in power, the Nazis put their sights on eliminating the Joel’s and all other Jewish businesses.

After the rise to power of Nazism in 1933, Karl Amson Joel was increasingly discriminated against by the regional Nazi Party leaders, especially Julius Streicher, the founder and publisher of the virulently antisemitic newspaper Der Stürmer.

In May 1933, Der Stürmer ran a front-page article calling Karl a “Yid” and accusing him of underpaying and sexually harassing his workers. Billy Joel’s dad Helmut aka Howard was one of four Jews in his Nuremberg classroom; they were directed to sit apart from their classmates.

Karl Amson Joel moved his company to Berlin in 1934, where he rented a factory site in Wedding and installed new packing machines. The stitching department, however, had to remain in Nuremberg. As persecution increased (e.g. deliveries had to be marked with a “J” for Jude, or Jew), and Jewish firms became Aryanized (the forced expulsion of Jews from business life in Nazi Germany, Axis-aligned states, and their occupied territories. It entailed the transfer of Jewish property into “Aryan”hands), Joel was forced to sell his company in 1938 to Josef Neckermann.

For fear of further persecutions Karl Amson Joel moved to Switzerland in July 1938 and later to the USA, via Cuba.

Neckermann made his fortune as the owner of one of Europe’s largest department stores. His business made him director of a very successful mail-order company under the slogan Neckermann macht’s möglich (Neckermann makes it possible) and also a travel company.

Shortly after World War II, Neckermann was sentenced to one year in a military prison.

In 1949, Karl Amson Joel successfully sued Neckermann for compensation in a Nuremberg court. After eight years, the parties settled and the files were closed.

In 1957,Karl Amson Joel got a compensation of 2 million West German marks for his former company from Neckermann who at that time ran the most successful German mail order selling company.

As I said earlier on in this blog there is also a connection to 4 Olympic games, albeit indirect . Josef Neckermann was also a German equestrian and Olympic champion . He was one of the richest private citizens to have ever competed at the Olympic Games, and he did quite well, winning six medals in the dressage. Neckermann’s Olympics medals were as follows: 1960 – individual bronze, 1964 – team gold (both for the mixed German team), 1968 – team gold and individual silver, 1972 – team silver and individual bronze, all for West Germany.

Other members of Billy Joel’s family were killed during the Holocaust.

I could not finish this blog without at least including one of his many songs. This is my favourite Billy Joel song.

sources

https://www.sarahlawrence.edu/magazine/then-now/campus/outback.html

https://jewishweek.timesofisrael.com/stranger-no-more/

https://www.olympedia.org/athletes/12487

Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

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The language of Music

John Miles once sang “Music was my first love and it will be my last”. The beauty with music is that you don’t need words to understand what it says. It evokes emotions so strong that you cannot really describe the effects they have on you.

Music has its own language, it is universal and it is understood by everyone, regardless with language they speak.

I could choose so many beautiful instrumental pieces because there are millions of them, but I will only be posting a few of my favourites.

Sit back, relax and enjoy.

Happy Birthday Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson is probably the last ,together with Kris Kristofferson, great Country and Western performers. At least one of the last who has the same caliber as Johnny Cash, Jim Reeves, and Freddy Fender.

Nelson was born in Abbott, Texas, on April 29, 1933,the son of Myrle Marie (née Greenhaw) and Ira Doyle Nelson.His birth was incorrectly recorded by Dr. F. D. Sims as April 30.He was named Willie by his cousin Mildred, who also chose Hugh as his middle name, in honor of her recently deceased younger brother.

There are so many songs I could post but I will only stick to some of my favourite Willie Nelson songs.

It’s all about the Bass

What is a band without a Bass player?

Not much really when you think of it. Yet bass players are nearly always underrated. Most people will be able to name a list of singers, guitarists, drummers and even keyboard players when asked, but they will struggle with listing bass players.

The bass is real the base of music, it is the foundation together with the drums. The vocals, guitars and keyboard are the rest of a song., the melody that makes a song recognizable. But without a solid foundation the melody would collapse. The bass is the most important part of that foundation.

I could mention 1000s of bass players but I will limit it to a few of my favourites.

Robbie Shakespeare-Sly & Robbie

Mark King- Level 42

John Deacon-Queen

Lemmy -Motorhead(performing with Metallica)

Peter Hook-Joy Division and New Order

Tina Weymouth-Talking Heads

Suzi Quatro

Chuck Wright-Quiet Riot

John Entwistle-The Who

James Jamerson was an American bass player. He was the uncredited bassist on most of the Motown Records hits in the 1960s and early 1970s (Motown did not list session musician credits on their releases until 1971), and is now regarded as one of the most influential bass players in modern music history.

The Living Years- The song I can’t sing along to.

I love to sing and I don’t care where I am or what I am doing, if I feel the urge to sing I just do it.

However there is one song I can never sing along to, It is not that I don’t like the song, the opposite is true it is one of my all time favourites. It is because it so close to a reality I faced.

As you can guess the song is “The Living Years” by Mike and the Mechanics. The song was released just after Christmas in 1988. At first I thought it was a great tune, I like the guitar riff in it, and Paul Carrack’s powerful voice.

But then I started to listen to the lyrics a bit more. Initially the words didn’t bother me but after a few years. I got into a solid relationship, the meaning of the song started to change for me.

It was a cocktail of the song and the movie Mrs Doubtfire that opened up old wounds. At least I thought they were old wounds, in fact they were wounds I never addressed properly.

I hadn’t seen my Father in more then 16 years at that stage . I mean there was no contact whatsoever as if he wasn’t there at all, this created a void in my life. A void which was hard to fill because I felt abandoned by the man who was supposed to unconditionally love me.

It was after watching Mrs Doubtfire in the cinema I realized that I had to address this void, rather then laughing at this hilarious movie, I cried, I felt a piercing pain. Then when I got home, I turned on the radio and “the Living year” sounded through the speakers. At that stage I thought someone ripped out my heart.

I knew then I couldn’t go on like that, my fiancé (now my wife) deserved an emotionally strong partner. I analyzed why both movie and song had such an impact, and especially the song because I had listened to it for years.

The movie was about a Father who desperately tried everything to be close to his kids, something my dad didn’t do.

The song was about a son who didn’t get all the things he had to say to his father ,before his dad passed away.

That was it. I had to reach out to my Father to get the answers I felt I deserved, before it was too late. If I didn’t I would become a bitter man. I didn’t want to go through the remainder of my life with a big “What if?” hanging around my neck.

The moment came via an unexpected event, out of the blue my dad called me on January 9, 1996,at that stage 18 years had passed, he asked if I would attend his mother’s funeral. I didn’t say yes nor did I say no, but I had a chat with my 3 older siblings and my wife, and we decided we would go to the funeral.

I recognized my dad who was sitting near to the altar, we sat at the back of the church, he looked like a man in pain. I could not help but feel sorry for him. After the funeral we exchanged a few words but no further plans were made. Another unexpected event expedited the plans, 17 days after my Grandmother’s death my own mother suddenly died. On top of that I had injured my back and needed to get a surgery. Through these events my dad and I had the chance to talk. The first thing he asked me “Can you forgive me for all the mistakes I made?” I paused for a second, I thought I can tell him to f*ck off or I accept that this a brave thing he did there, asking his son for forgiveness not knowing the outcome. I went for the latter.

Ever since that day or relationship developed, not so much as a traditional Father/Son relationship but more as two good friends, which probably might even be better. My dad passed away in 2015 and ever since that day every time I try to sing along to “the Living years” I get to the point of:

“So we open up a quarrel
Between the present and the past
We only sacrifice the future
It’s the bitterness that lasts”

Then a lump comes into my throat and the memories and tears start to flow. I have no resigned myself to the fact to only listen to the song and not to sing along with it.

I know this was very personal story but it just illustrates how powerful the emotions can be when a song is played at a certain moment in time and then changes the whole perspective of life.

I am forever grateful to B. A. Robertson and Mike Rutherford for writing the song, because it made me face a very difficult decision I had to take, A decision that changed my life forever . I got to tell all the things I had to say.

Sometimes it snows in April.

This is going to be a short blog. There really isn’t that much I can say about the musical genius that was Prince.

The picture at the top is a ticket of Prince’s first performance with his band in January 1979. The title of the blog is from the ballad “Sometimes it Snows in April” from the 1986 album ‘Parade’

The song was written by Prince along with Wendy & Lisa, this introspective acoustic ballad finds the Purple musician recounting memories of Christopher Tracy, the gigolo character he portrayed in Under the Cherry Moon. During the third verse he sings of his hope of rejoining Tracy in heaven. The song was recorded on April 21, 1985, exactly 31 years before the date of Prince’s death.