Category Archives: Music

X is for X-Ray Music (song with lyrics)

Xray Music was inspired by documentary, 'How The Beatles Rocked The Kremlin'
Xray Music was inspired by documentary, ‘How The Beatles Rocked The Kremlin’

This song was inspired by a BBC documentary I watched a few years ago called ‘How The Beatles Rocked The Kremlin‘. It told the story of how, despite being banned from the former Soviet Union, the Fab Four’s music still managed to find it’s way on to the turntables of the oppressed masses – causing a minor musical revolution in the process.

So desperate were the Soviet youth to hear pop music – in particular Rock and Roll and The Beatles – that they took huge risks to obtain recordings and continued to find more innovative ways to smuggle in the music. The method that most captured my imagination was using old X-ray film to make home-made vinyl. The flexible records were then sold by dealers who hid the X-rays, or ‘ribs’ as they became known, inside their coat sleeves. The penalties for being caught buying or selling the forbidden tunes were considerable – including public humiliation and in many cases prison.

It was a fascinating story and I’m considering using some of the history as the backdrop for a future novel or story. You can listen to The Wry Dogs recording of the song by clicking here.


X-Ray Music

Scratching records on Uncle Brezhnev’s ribs,

I’ve got to get my fix, got to get my disc.

Policemen try to stop me, they insist.

They say ‘what is this?’ they say ‘what is this?’

I want to scream ‘It’s Rock n Roll!’


X-Ray music saved my life, takes me far away and keeps me sane,

There is no shame,

X-Ray music loud and clear, X-Ray music helps me see my soul,

Yeah that’s my goal.


Lenin in my books but Lennon on my mind,

I’ve got to hide the truth

But search and ye will find.

Got to keep it locked up down inside,

But we can sense the change,

The turning of the tide

We make our own guitars and play!


CHORUS


They may think they own our thoughts, our hopes, our dreams

Our secret schemes

But come with me, cause there’s another way.

You and me and a turntable and a bag of music

We can go so far away, let’s go today


CHORUS


I think the Russian story is just one example of how music can be such a powerful force of change and inspire even the most oppressed individuals. How important is music to you? Do you believe it has the power to light the very darkest places and make a real difference to lives?

This was my 24th post for the A-Z Blog Challenge. Follow the blog during April for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and more songs with audio recordings. Next post – Y is for You’ll have to wait and see!

R is for Red, White and Blue – a song about War.

War Memorial, Bradgate Park by Wayne Kelly
War Memorial, Bradgate Park by Wayne Kelly

I wrote this song a few years ago, not long after Tony Blair left office as UK Prime Minister. At the time it was becoming increasingly clear that he may have greatly exaggerated the truth to ensure that the UK entered the war in Iraq. Like many people, I was angry and shocked at his dismissal of the whole incident and the way he simply swanned off in to the sunset to accept his job as (get this) Peace Envoy to The Middle East! As a rule, I’m not an overtly political person, but I think citizens have a right to know if we have been misled – especially when such a decision can lead to the deaths of many people, on both sides of the conflict.

Anyway, enough prattling on, here are the lyrics and you can listen to a recording of the song here.

Red, White and Blue

Red was the blood that was spilled in the name of peace,

White were the flags that were waved, now beneath your feet.

And Blue eyed boys keep on dying.

Blue eyed boys have died for you.

What would you do for the red, white and blue?

Liberate or maim, it’s all the same to you.

Red, white and blue.

Said were the words that you used to change our minds,

Slight-of-hand tricks, the odds were all fixed, we were blind.

And Blue eyed boys keep on dying.

Blue eyed boys have died for you.

CHORUS

And all the while, behind your smile, you hide.

You make the break, before the ink has dried.

You lied.

How many have died for you?

Do world events or issues influence your work? What emotion evokes your best writing or art?

This was my 18th post for the A-Z Blog Challenge. Follow the blog during April for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and more songs with audio recordings. Next post – S is for Satisfied and why you shouldn’t be.

P is for Pigeon-Hole! Stop trying to put me in a box!

So many genres, so little time by Wayne Kelly
So many genres, so little time by Wayne Kelly

I think we would all agree that the Internet has brought with it a plethora of benefits for both the consumer and the producer of products, music, books and art.

As a musician, I can record a song in my garage and 5 minutes later I can have it online ready to be enjoyed by my masses of adoring fans (ahem. Well maybe just my mum and some weird bloke called Gideon, that refuses to leave me alone and says he knows where I live). The point is, there is potentially a massive audience that I can now sell or promote to directly.

The same can be said of books – never has it been easier to self-publish your work and release it to the public, eager to consume your literary genius.

However, we all know you can’t just throw it out there, willy-nilly. No. First it needs to be categorised, labelled and put in to one of the now countless genres and sub genres that have sprung up to worship the god of Marketing. It used to be Romance, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Horror, Comedy, Crime and maybe Literary. Now, one look down the genre list of Amazon is enough to make you wince. And that’s before you get in to all of the cross-over and sub genres.

Don’t even get me started on music!

Being Typecast . . .

Don’t get me wrong – I love that there is such a diverse range of material to choose from – what I object to is having to get everything I produce to fit, very neatly, in to one of these little boxes. And once I shoehorn it in there . . . that’s it – I’m now typecast as the Horror Writer, the YA Author or the Indie Musician.

I’ve had some personal experience of this with songs I have written . . . being criticised for being too eclectic! We wouldn’t know how to market that, mate, they say. Shouldn’t variety in our output be a good thing? This is why many popular artists and albums of recent times stick very rigidly to one genre, one style, one sound to ensure continued success. Apart from some notable exceptions (David Bowie, Stephen King et al), our mastery of Marketing has been to the detriment of making interesting art.

From The Beatles to The BFG

Have a listen to Revolver by The Beatles, or take a look at the range of books by Roald Dahl – no two songs or novels are the same. They didn’t bother to hang around trying to categorise what they were doing – they just wanted to produce work that interested and inspired them and that’s why their music and stories still resonate today and will continue to do so for a very long time.

I know using genres and labeling your work is a necessary evil and now impossible to avoid – but don’t let it dictate what you produce for the rest of your career.

What are your thoughts on the rise of classification and the complexity of genre? Is it good for your audience and good for you? Am I whinging without good reason? I would love to hear your comments below.

This was my 16th post for the A-Z Blog Challenge. Follow the blog during April for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and more songs with audio recordings. Next post – Q – It’s always the Quiet Ones who are Writers.

N is for Night Time of The Soul

Hand of Time by Wayne Kelly
Hand of Time by Wayne Kelly

Ever have that ‘wake up in the middle of the night, searching-the-soul’ type moment? I’m sure you have – it’s part of the human condition. There’s just something about the dark and the quiet that can do that to a person.

It was during one such moment, when staying in London as part of my job,  that I awoke with a start to find myself alone in a hotel room, away from my family and mildly hung-over. I was experiencing my very own ‘Night Time of The Soul’. Despite feeling slightly depressed and more than slightly dehydrated, the first verse of this song appeared, fully formed in my head.

Click here to have a listen to a recording of it, as performed by our band, The Wry Dogs.

Here are the lyrics:

There’s a place in town I secretly frequent

When I’m feeling down and my joie de vivre’s been spent.

There’s no sign in the window but when the time is right,

You’ll still go to the place called The Night Time of The Soul.


Hats off to the gentleman at the bar

With his lack of style and grace, he’ll not get far.

So he drowns himself in lager, to forget that he’s a father.

In the place called The Night Time of The Soul.


Sweeping up is a girl I used to know,

She doesn’t have a brush but doesn’t seem to know.

So she shuffles round the tables, reciting Aesop’s Fables,

In the place called The Night Time of The Soul.


I hear a ticking clock inside my head (tick-tock, tick-tock)

‘A broken watch for a heart’ is what my doctor said.

So sing with me, while you’ve got the chance . . . .


It’s not a place you ever should ignore,

When your hopes and dreams are littered upon the floor.

So when you hear me scream and shout,

I suggest you do get out

Of the place called The Night Time of The Soul.


So have a listen and comment below – what is your idea of The Night Time of The Soul? What keeps you awake at night – apart from wondering about the next short story or chapter of your novel?

This was my 14th post for the A-Z Blog Challenge. Follow the blog during April for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and more songs with audio recordings. Next post – O is for On My On – why we all need time alone.

M is for Maybe I Don’t Need To Know (inspired by Dreams of a Life)

Documentary 'Dreams of a Life' was inspiration for this song.
Documentary ‘Dreams of a Life’ was inspiration for this song.

Another song written with George Odom, ‘Maybe I Don’t Need to Know’ was inspired by the haunting and desperately sad documentary, ‘Dreams of a Life’. You can listen to the song here.

If you are unfamiliar with ‘Dreams of a Life’, it deals with the discovery of the body of young woman, Joyce Vincent, in her tiny London bedsit, 3 years after she died, alone and surrounded by half-wrapped Christmas presents. Nobody noticed that she was missing and the only reason she was found at all was because of being in arrears with her rent. The film examines how this tragedy could have occurred, using interviews with the many friends of Joyce inter-weaved with dramatic reconstructions.

It’s a powerful film that raises as many questions as it answers, including how a vibrant, sociable person could simply disappear without being noticed. It couldn’t happen to you – or could it? I would highly recommend it.

I was inspired to write this song because of one particular character – an ex boyfriend – who is racked with guilt that he didn’t stay in touch with Joyce, believing that he was simply respecting the boundaries of a very private woman. It’s heart-breaking to see him trying to deal with his complicated feelings towards a woman he obviously still cares for.

The post is long enough, without adding the lyrics to the song, but please have a listen and try to seek out the documentary – if you are in the UK, it is still available on 4OD here.

Has a true story or documentary influenced your writing? Have you already seen Dreams of a Life? Share your thoughts below.

This was my 13th post for the A-Z Blog Challenge. Follow the blog during April for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and more songs with audio recordings. Next post – N is for Night Time of The Soul.

Learn to play an instrument – if I can ANYONE can!

Musical Myth Number 1: Being able to play an instrument is a unique, innate skill. You either have it, or you don’t.

I have to admit, this was a view I was forced to agree with during my formative years. This was partly due to the fact that many relatives would constantly remind me of this fact anytime I even thought about going near an instrument and also my early attempts didn’t really help to dispell the myth.

My first brush with musical destiny came in the form of that incredibly versatile ‘instrument’ – the Triangle. Hey – don’t mock. Those things are more difficult to master than you think. It was always going to be an ambitious undertaking – a primary school production of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Nutcracker Suite’. I was a precocious 7 year old with something to prove and a will to succeed. ‘Better to burn out than fade away’ I remember thinking, as I anxiously waited for my single note at the crescendo of the first movement. My eyes grew wide with expectancy and my little 7 year old heart quickened slightly as I heard the music rising majestically to it’s conclusion. Wait for it . . . wait for it . . . and . . . now!

However, the only sound I created in that performance was a dull thud, followed by a sharp intake of breath, as I missed the triangle and clobbered my thumb with the beater. My teacher was frantically ‘stage whispering’ for me to try again, but to no avail. My remaining energy was spent on holding back my tears of shame and embarassment.

“Don’t worry,” said my Dad, “you tried your best. Some people just aren’t musical.”

Two years on and you find me now as a slightly over confident nine year old. My self belief had certainly taken a battering from the ‘Triangle Incident’ (as it became known), but I still loved music and felt that it was only a matter of time before my virtuosity would make itself apparent. Finally it would appear that the time was at hand, when our teacher produced a small corduroy bag that contained a musical instrument that we could all learn. I could barely contain my excitement as she theatrically pulled out . . . the Recorder! Wow! ‘What is it?’ I thought. I just knew it was going to be my passport to musical greatness and couldn’t wait to hand over my mum’s hard cash for that little baby. I can still remember my disappointment when I finally got hold of one, along with the book of tunes that we could learn.

“Er, Miss? There seems to be a printing error in my music book. It only seems to contain variations of the same 3 pieces of music – London’s Burning, Frere Jacques and Three Blind Mice.”

Come on. When was a rendition of London’s Burning ever going to stoke the fires of musical creativity (no pun intended)?

“Yes, but we can all do different parts and do a ’round’!” the teacher cried enthusiastically.

Grow up.

It has to be said, I have since realised the Recorder does hold a certain charm – The Beatles, Fool On The Hill anyone? But, such things were a far from my mind as my frustration and lack of patience lead to me ‘accidentally’ losing the instrument a few months after starting my lessons.

“Well, you’re not having another one if you don’t find it,” warned my mum.

Oh well. Never mind.

Which leads us to what, for many years, I considered to be my ‘strike 3’. I was progressing gently from a Triangle to the Recorder to . . .the Violin – of course! It was the next logical choice. Everybody knows the old ‘Triangle-Recorder-Violin’ method. And I just knew that it would be easy. It was just a little wooden thing with 4 strings that you played with an old piece of horse hair – how hard could it be?!

Fortunately, the school had agreed to lend pupils an instrument to get them started and see how we would get on with it. We got to take our own violins home the night before our first lesson. I couldn’t wait to get it out of the box and start playing. I lasted about 15 minutes before the cat had a seizure and my parents began inadvertently teaching me some new swear words. I wasn’t perturbed though. I knew I’d be fine after my first lesson. Just needed to know ‘what the notes were’.

With hindsight I think the violin teacher probably recognized it was a mistake to try to teach eight 10 year old boys at the same time. We didn’t even make it to the end of the first half an hour lesson before he ‘asked us to leave’. The problem arose even before we had put the bow to the strings. The teacher would start at one end of the line correcting our posture and instrument position and no sooner had he moved to the next pupil, the previous kid would slightly lower his elbow or arch his back slightly. After about 20 minutes he was a nervous wreck, running up and down the line moving an arm here or adjusting a hunched shoulder there. It looked like some strange Japanese game show. Obviously we found this completely hilarious and could not contain our amusement, meaning we moved out of position even more. We had our instruments immediately confiscated and were told to get out before we’d even had a chance to play a note.

Typical state school. They give up on you so easily.

After some consideration I was forced to admit, it had to be true: You can either do it or you can’t. So although I toyed with playing keyboard when I was 12 (I got one for Christmas and spent the next few weeks trying out all the different sounds and pretending to play along with the demo track) I pretty much ditched the idea of ever being able to play an instrument.

I joined a band as a singer when I was 16 and although I was mercilessly teased for not being able to play an instrument I still didn’t have the courage to try to learn to play anything. I found this really frustrating as even before I played an instrument I was always keen to write song melodies and lyrics – but you try communicating with a guitarist when you don’t even know what a chord is. Most of them will just mock you and then play a Blues lick really loud just to compound your ineptitude.

That was until a few years later, I met my friend and co song writer, George. Here was a guy that was a great player, but had loads of patience and actively encouraged me to suggest where the melody should go. After a while of playing and writing together, he finally convinced me to pick up the guitar and have a go myself. His view was, and still is, if you are prepared to put enough time and enthusiasm in to it, then anyone can learn. So I got my first guitar, George showed me some stuff and I started to learn simple songs. I cannot tell you the thrill I got when I first managed to play Peggy Sue. Not long after that I started writing my first simple songs and from then on I fell in love with the guitar.

That was now over ten years ago, and I have to admit my playing ability did pretty much peak quite a few years ago. I got to a level where I could play most simple songs and write my own little tunes and pretty much left it at that. Which is fine. Some people want to be able to play to the level of Rock God. Some, like me, just want to play, sing and write stuff. I let George do all the complicated stuff.

So don’t let your doubts, or those of other people, dissuade you from having a go. Learning to play an instrument is one of the best things you can do. It’s great for improving mental focus and dexterity not to mention being great fun. If I can do it, with my terrible musical history, then anyone can. I would love to hear how you get on.

The BBC have a site which is a great place for info on how to get started and why it’s a good idea. http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/playitagain/

If you are thinking about guitar lessons and are local to Leicestershire in the UK, I wholeheartedly suggest checking out the George’s Go Guitar Lessons Website.

Enjoy.

Please feel free to comment or get in touch with regards to this, or any other of my posts. Alternatively hit the Twithis button below or just ask your friends to check it out. Your feedback and support is appreciated.

Can an iPod Replace A Live Band?!

I have been performing live gigs with various bands, playing both original material and more recently covers, for well over a decade now and in that time I have noticed a worrying change in the expectations of live audiences. Particularly at weddings now, it seems that punters want all the entertainment and spontaneity of a live band, as well as expecting them to know every song ever recorded.

Don’t get me wrong, throughout the years I’ve had many strange song requests (bear in mind we are a 4 piece, all male band with no keyboard) including: Chicquita by Abba, Superman by Black Lace, White Riot by The Clash and Ape Man by The Kinks – a number of which are good songs, but not really suitable for a 60th birthday or little David’s Christening. I always knew it was probably a mistake to play an NWA track  for the first dance – still, you live and learn.
Anyway, I accept that you’re always going to get some mentally unbalanced member of the audience shouting at the top of their lungs, “Do Talking Heads, Psycho Killer!” but these days it isn’t just the odd request that bothers me. The word ‘request’ isn’t really accurate. Now it’s more like a demand, followed by gasps of incredulity when you have to politely inform the groom that you don’t play some obscure Soundgarden B-side from 1987.
“You don’t play that? You’re joking right? It’s dead easy, just goes . . .”
He then attempts to hum the tune into my ear whilst the rest of the band ‘tuts’ and tells me to ignore him. To be fair, the rest of the band spend most of their time ‘tutting’ disapprovingly at me anyway – I’m the singer, so I’m used to regular abuse and taunts. Although, I don’t complain too much when members of the audience are dishing out the compliments after the gig – seemingly oblivious to the fact that there are 4 of us in the band. Which kind of emphasizes my next point.
I honestly believe that the average person thinks that the actual music – the playing of the instruments etc – just somehow ‘happens’ and that it’s as straightforward as selecting a track on their iPod. I hate to shatter any illusions, but it doesn’t just ‘happen’.
Although their have been many occasions when, like most experienced musicians, we have been able to bluff our way through stuff with only a moment’s notice, most songs require some kind of rehearsal. We don’t just turn up at the gig and hope for the best. We learn new stuff all of the time and try to make sure we have plenty of stuff for differing tastes and occasions. Between us we know dozens of songs but sometimes it’s never enough. We recently finished playing at a charity gig, having played 2 encores and having a fantastic response, only to be accosted by some miserable sod on the way out:
“You were quite good tonight, but really can’t believe you didn’t play ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. You’d have had them eating out of your hand if you’d played that. Very disappointing.”
Before you ask, it wasn’t a room full of Liverpool football club supporters, so don’t know why he thought we should play that. Wouldn’t mind, but he didn’t even bother to request it when we were playing!
The latest trend I’ve noticed is for the client to ask if we can send them our repertoire so that they can ‘choose the songs and the order’ etc. I always politely refuse. Would you ask a plumber if you could check out all of the tools and parts he’s going to use for a job so that you could tell him how to do it properly? Not unless you had a burning desire to know what it feels like to remove a monkey wrench from your bottom. By the way, that isn’t the metaphor I use with a client.
The fact of the matter is, even a great DJ can’t quite grab an audience like a great live band can. A band usually has a much better grasp of what an audience wants – and can also change gears, knowing when to really push them and when to back off a bit. We can drop the volume and repeat a chorus a few times to get the whole room singing with us. Because that’s the real attraction of live entertainment – it’s a two way thing and when done right it should be charged with energy and spontaneity.
It’s a conversation and as such we actively seek feedback and we want interaction. We don’t mind receiving requests either. As long as that is what it is – a request. Not a command. If we don’t know the specific track they’ve asked for, we play another song by that artist or something in the same vain. It’s a bit like the Genius function on iTunes, except that our method actually works. We also ask the client, beforehand, if there is a particular track they would like us to learn for their event and make sure we put in the extra time to learn it.
So whilst we may not know every top 100 hit of the last 60 years, we can play a pretty diverse range of stuff from a 50’s Rock n Roll track, through to Motown, Glamrock, 80’s Pop and Modern Indie. And, unlike an iPod, our battery won’t die half way through the night (as long as the drummer gets his fair share of the buffet).
We have instruments and we’re not afraid to use them. So, just for a night, ditch the iPod attitude and go and find some live music.
You never know. You might just like it.
If you enjoyed this, or any of my other posts, please feel free to comment, retweet, subscribe, follow or just tell a friend.
For more information about my cover band (available for pubs, clubs and private functions) check out http://www.thekicksband.co.uk