The stories from former and current staff at many of the offices about the politics and mismanagement of one of the major music companies in the region is not only a pity, it’s a bloody disgrace, especially having worked for the company when it was the leading music company in the region when PolyGram and Goliath, and then when taken over by Edgar Bronfman Jr’s music company and being reduced to David.
It’s still probably the “biggest music company in the world”, but what does this even mean anymore? Size matters? Why? It’s as pointless as saying that MTV is still a music channel. Nothing is what it is anymore, and here’s another music company that was a con in the Asia Pacific region when there actually was a music industry by all manner of corruption, shenanigans and creative accounting by those in the good books of those at Head Office, who were way too trusting of those in charge of the region, especially the Greater China region, and believing that Mainland China was “potentially the biggest music market in the world”. Please.
Their music has been the soundtrack to many of our lives. We grew up with them. Their songs made us smile, sad, think, forgive, forget, fall in love, fall out of love, stay in love.
They gave us answers when there were none. They inspired us when we needed to be picked up when having been put down. Because of them, some of us picked up guitars and tried to write songs and be musicians. At least we tried.
We talk too much. We don’t listen enough. Our priorities are often upside down and back to front. We sleep so much, we lose touch with reality. We have minds, but rarely think. We’re happy to be led. We’re nowhere and everywhere. But think we’re somewhere. Or getting somewhere by doing nothing.
We lose ourselves in this place called social media. Here, we also often lose that human connection. We rarely talk. But we say we’re constantly exchanging and inter-acting and communicating. We’re each different, but we’re all starting to sound the same. We’re lost and confused and want the world to stop because we want to get off.
A friend in music was trying to find “solace” in the recent cases of Alanis Morrisette being duped by her former manager for millions, and Sir Paul fighting with ATV/Sony Publishing to buy back his and John Lennon’s early catalogue of songs.
Call me naive, but how did we ever get to the point where what someone wrote, and which, let’s say, became huge hits, belongs to someone who had absolutely nothing to do with creating these songs?
My friend’s point is that if these two artists, one far more successful than the other, are fighting uphill battles, then us mere fiddlers on the roof shouldn’t feel bad if things don’t go according to plan as we are all in the same boat. Misery loves company, but I can’t subscribe to this school of thought. Methinks Sir Paul is slightly more successful than I will ever be.
For those who don’t follow horse racing, it was something most wouldn’t have even read about: Rapper Dragon winning the Group 1 Hong Kong Classic Mile at Shatin racecourse on Sunday. To racing fans, however, here was something to celebrate, something to discuss, share, go through the history books and play trivial pursuit to see what this achievement meant so they could own bragging rights. It was one of those all-too-rare Feel Good moments in a sport too often allowed to meander along with little or no creativity and leadership. But Rapper Dragon led from the front and stayed there.
Racing fans talking about Rapper Dragon with other fans is no different to having, let’s say, a new artist coming out with a recording of “Purple Rain”, turning the classic by Prince on its head, and seeing the track suddenly start trending. Okay, that might be a stretch, but this is surely the time when the world should come together, start to really understand each other and embrace the differences.
There’s also the need to switch on that inquisitive mind. In the world of horse racing, the On switch has been off for too long, which means not even trying to make those with a passing interest in the sport understand the significance of that win by Rapper Dragon, the training effort by John Moore, and the ride of the mercurial Joao Moreira, a poor kid from São Paulo, who couldn’t afford to own a saddle until in his teens, fought all kinds of adversity, and is now known as The Magic Man- one of the two best jockeys in the world. If anyone can help bring horse racing into the mainstream consciousness, it’s the very marketable Brazilian. This athlete is the total package- charismatic, likeable, a fiercely competitive rider, hugely talented, successful and beguilingly media savvy. The man is no fool.
Word is that James Taylor is performing in Hong Kong next month and that drummer Steve Gadd will be part of his backup band. Guess so.
Musician friends are looking forward to the gig and have taken it for granted that I’ll be there. But I’m not too sure I will as I’ve cancelled out on seeing so many of my musical heroes recently. Sometimes, it’s had to do with scheduling, and other times it’s had to do with just not caring enough to make the trek to the venue and come away feeling both sad and disappointed. Most times, you’d rather listen to what they have to say. We don’t seem to listen too much these days. There’s way too much oneupmanship which I blame on all the clutter on social media where too many intellectual midgets are given a voice.
Having been born in what was then Ceylon- a rabid cricketing nation now known as Sri Lanka- played school cricket while looking up to two elder cousins playing cricket for various clubs in Hong Kong, one captaining Hong Kong, and growing up around the sport, cricket has not only played a role in my life, the sport was once part of a city trying to find its way through trial and error by being an important meeting and melting pot of nationalities.
My eldest cousin- Carl Myatt, pictured below at the centre of the photograph, was Editor of The Sunday Morning Post and later, the TV Times, but was far better known for his bowling and captaincy of local cricket clubs like the Indian Recreation Club, the Craigengower Cricket Club, and later captaining the Hong Kong cricket team.
Whereas his younger brother Tony, below, with and without hair, was always said to have more talent- a lethal pace bowler who could make a ball turn faster than Linda Blair’s head did in “The Exorcist”- he didn’t have the determination and discipline of Carl.
He knew when he bought it that this was no ordinary Christmas tree. After all, what made a grown man who had never ever celebrated Christmas nor had even received a Christmas present from his parents- they thought it was a waste of time- decide to buy a Christmas tree in August? But that’s just what he had done.
There was just something about that tree. It almost had a life of its own. And when carrying it home and deciding to turn back and return it, the old man who had a small shop from where he had bought it- it was the only thing that was for sale- couldn’t be found. He asked passers by if they knew where the old man and shop were, but no one remembered ever seeing either, especially a shop selling a Christmas tree in August.
The track “Graceland” came floating out of a racing radio station in Perth today. Where it was coming from added to what is a pretty eclectic record from a musician with a very wry sense of humour, and who, way too often is passed over when discussing those who have changed the course of music. Paul Simon changed the course of music in 1986 when the world was introduced to this extraordinary record.
“Graceland” broke with tradition, and from reading up on it, was an extremely complicated record to make as it brought politics into play with many of the recordings taking place in Johannesburg and apartheid South Africa. To add to the politics, Paul Simon was criticised by some for “stealing” the country’s “township jive music”, not an unusual occurrence when wealthy western pop stars record in poverty stricken countries, and are basically held to ransom. McCartney went through something similar when deciding to record Band On The Run in Lagos. As for Paul Simon and the journey that led to Graceland, there was everything that went into him and producer Roy Halee painstakingly making all the pieces fit- changing, erasing and completing sound bites into fully fleshed out songs that featured a cast of thousands- Los Lobos, Lady Blacksmith Mombasa, and to these ears, the very unique guitar playing of South African musician Ray Pihri. It’s a sound, it’s a style that gives each track on the record a special identity and that inexplicable something which takes the music to another part of the world.
Graceland reinvented Paul Simon, or, more accurately, it was the singer-songwriter taking “world music” where it had never gone before by combining Simon’s always clever and seemingly effortless lyricism and infectious melodies with the joyous music of township jive.
There was an article I was reading recently about what could be described as being the “Panda-ering of Hollywood”, where there’s a very obvious strategy in place to appeal to Chinese film fans, yes, but, especially, attract more and more investors on the Mainland desperate to hitch a ride on the gravy train that started gathering steam almost a decade ago where the country’s movers and shakers are hell bent on buying its way into making Shanghai the movie capital of the world.
The article mentioned how certain blockbuster films are edited purely for the China market with scripts now looking at ways to make Shanghai the city where it all happens, and rather blatant attempts to “go Chinese” when it comes to product placement- like substituting soya milk for milk, and casting a model like Fan Bingbing to make token appearances in a movie like Iron Man 3. If only Donald Trump knew the kowtowing going on in Hollywood for those Chinese cheque books to open…