Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Boys were Back in Town

The boys were back in town last weekend for Dublin’s Phil Lynott exhibition and birthday commemoration. It was a terrific weekend; not too much whiskey in the jar, but a lot of Guinness in the glass! Dublin on a Saturday night can be Live and Dangerous, especially when packed out with visiting French Rugby fans, but thankfully it was a peaceful and respectful commemoration with little need of any Sunday Jailbreak!

Enough of the clich├ęs.

A good exhibition should keep the visitor both entertained and interested with the right balance of visual and audio presentations, and catch the eye with unique, preferably exclusive memorabilia. A visitor should leave with a feeling that they have learned more than they knew, and with a warm glow of affection for the subject. Get it right and the visitor should also leave with some merchandise tucked firmly under the arm, or at least a new tee-shirt. Dublin’s Lynott exhibition successfully fulfilled the above criteria.

Over 10 rooms or so, the exhibition traces Lynott’s story from Manchester birth, Dublin childhood and formative teens, through his glory years of Thin Lizzy success to the climax of his sad all-too-early end in London. Personal early photos and school reports were thankfully kept as a brief introduction to the man, with the bulk of the exhibition material concentrating on his musical career. Set lists, tour accounts, advertising posters, tour programmes, candid photos and personal letters home built up a picture of this complex man, following his rise from teenage band member to international headliner. DVD presentations of concert footage (including his Top of the Pops appearance), the reminisces of fellow-band members, and collections of his personal effects, put flesh on the man.

The ‘wow’ factor was provided by his Fender Precision bass, stage clothing and Manchester United jacket!

The pity is that it was a temporary exhibition as it would have been great addition to Dublin’s more permanent rock-heritage attractions. There was one well-known photo I half-expected to see; it’s of Lynott casually posing with Gary Moore and George Best in a local pub. It wasn’t there, but in a way that was as it should be. When the exhibition is over at least this bit of Dublin’s Lynott will still be there to discover for anyone taking a Guinness at O'Donohue's pub on Merrion Row.

And what did I learn? That Thin Lizzy's first London gig was upstairs at Ronnie Scotts Club; that Phil was a rampant Man Utd fan; that £40 was a considered quite a good fee at the begining of their career; that Tim Booth of Dr Strangely Strange (who I once met and can thank for turning me on to Paul Brady) designed the 'Thin Lizzy' type face; that the same money that bought you a Lizzy LP in 1976 buys you less than a third of a pint of Guinness in Dublin now; and that my mate Geoff, a normally fantastically talented photographer, forgets to activate his flash when over-awed by the presence of the famous! More of the last in my next post...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

London's Burning!

We've found ourselves playing some real classic songs as the soundtrack for our recent tours. It's amazing how appropriate lyrics written some 30 years ago are now. The Clash captured the disturbances and civil disobedience of the late 70s and early 80s on their first eponymous album; though the Nottinhghill area which saw the 70s violence was virtually unscathed this time as, thankfully, were all areas covered on our rock tours. Along with the descriptive 'London's Burning', Joe Strummer and his band cohorts also called for a 'White Riot, white riot, a riot of my own'. The classic 'Police and Thieves' (from the same album though originally written by Junior Murvin) contains the lines 'And all the crowd come in, day by day, no one stop it anyway' and this certainly described the early days of the disturbances when an over-whelmed and under-prepared police failed to meet the initial challenge. In truth, we could have done with a few more scenes such as grace the reverse picture from that Clash album; truncheon-weilding police, chasing rioters, ready and willing to dole out a bruising.

One tour client suggested the Stones 'Street Fighting Man' as an appropriate inclusion to our soundtrack. It's not; that was written in response to anti-Vietnam political riots and doesn't apply to the current looting mob. This was a cowardly lot who'd soon disappear if they were really faced with street fighting rather than the softly-softly and measured restraint approach shown by our London Met police.

The Jam's 'Town Called Malice' definitely makes the soundtrack cut though. As does Kaiser Chiefs 'I predict a riot'.

The Beatles inevitably have a comment; 'When the rain comes, they run and hide their heads'. Well, England's famed climate and 16,000 coppers on the streets seems to have dampened looter activity over the past few evenings.

Putting aside our flippancy, the real sadness is the damage and disruption caused, and the impact these events have and will have on so many innocent Londoners. And it could have a real impact on rock music. One event in the last few days was the burning down of Sony's Warehouse in the neighbourhood of Enfield. The fire reportedly destroyed the entire stock of CDs and vinyl of more than 100 small independent labels (including XL Recordings whose office we visit on our tours). Although some of the short-term problems of supplying product from the like of Artic Monkeys and Adele may be overcome, there's talk of the warehouse also having contained masters and and hard drives. If so, that may mean some recordings could be lost forever. It's also going to mean hard times for the indie labels themselves, along with their roster of artists and staff.

Whatever the causes of the misnamed 'riots' - social revolution, unemployed boredom, summertime blues, or simply mindless greed and hooliganism - most Londoners agreed with Lennon's sentiments, 'When you talk about destruction, don't you know you can just count me out'.