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…
Whether millennials or indigos or Gen X or Y, or Baby Boomers, we’re all in the same leaky boat that Simon Sinek is talking about in the excellent thought provoking video above. Somewhere along the way, our parenting skills along with our ability to keep our guard up, looked the other way and the bogey man called technology came along like the Pied Piper of Hamlyn and led us off the cliff.
Maybe deep down we wanted, or made available that trip downhill- that need to give one’s self up to something with no heart and soul called social media, which, ironically, has turned out to be everything that’s unsociable through utter boredom with the real world we’re living in, or, at least surviving, in a whirlpool of irony or fakery.
Saying 2016 has been a bad year for music- and this year ain’t over yet- is an understatement. So is saying it’s been a bad year for the world of entertainment and the world in general. Whatever’s in the water, it’s not helped that river of life to be smooth sailing.
No one lives forever, but to lose relatively young artists like Prince and George Michael along with the ageless space oddity that was David Bowie were bitter pills to swallow. Maybe we’re being selfish. Maybe they knew their time was up, or saw the future, and decided to leave for new pastures. We need them more than they needed us.
2017 will see others pack it in and leave. It’s like them telling us that their work here’s done. The question going through this head is, And now what? What about you and me? What’s the plan? Update Facebook profiles or whatever one does on Facebook, or any of these social media platforms? Most of the time, it seems like one big jungle inhabited by very angry people, or people living vicariously through the faked out life of pseudo celebrities. Is this healthy?
When I saw your Calendar cover today about George Michael, “the reluctant pop star,” my first reaction was he should thank the good Lord every morning when he wakes up to have all that he has. And that’ll make two of us thanking God every morning for all that we have.
I don’t understand a guy who lives “in hopes of reducing the strain of his celebrity status.” Here’s a kid who “wanted to be a pop star since I was about 7 years old.” And now that he’s a smash performer and songwriter at 27 he wants to quit doing what tons of gifted youngsters all over the world would shoot grandma for — just one crack at what he’s complaining about.
Come on, George. Loosen up. Swing, man, Dust off those gossamer wings and fly yourself to the moon of your choice and be grateful to carry the baggage we’ve all had to carry since those lean nights of sleeping on buses and helping the driver unload the instruments.