Sunday, 28 December 2008

Goodbye Harold

I was lucky enough to meet Harold Pinter once, at a talk he gave at the British Library about his screenwriting career. I asked some daft question about pauses and then vaguely insulted him by telling him (whilst sheepishly getting his autograph) that my favourite play of his was a sketch he wrote called Men for Sale (which has not gone down in history as, er, his greatest piece, and in fact he barely remembered it himself).

It's very sad to see him go. Before I tired of the drama scene, and started pursuing a career in an even sillier one (music), I directed some of his plays. Not entirely successfully I must add - particularly where Betrayal was concerned. The whole point of that play is that the story is told backwards, but in my production a cock-up backstage one night led to it being told the other way round (i.e., forwards!). Quite funny in retrospect, that, although my actors were rather non-plussed.

Anyway, there have been glowing tributes written about Pinter in the past few days. I'll leave the accolades about his work to the theatre critics, but there is something I'd like to point out about Pinter which nobody in the press really seems to have dwelled on in the obituaries: the man had an incredible fondness for (and knowledge of) London bus routes.

Now, bringing public transport into the arts is a lonely (and not altogether cool) task - and, with my last record Twisted City being 'set' on the Tube, I should know. It involved making a complete twit of myself at times, doing album launches on tube trains, gigs on buses and so on (much of that was fun; however, it involved lots of blushing and bad press headlines like 'Why Chris is bus-king' - see for some particularly embarrassing ITV footage of my antics).

But fortunately, thanks to Pinter, I wasn't alone in this odd combining of the arts and public transport. Pinter, it seems, had a very keen interest in London bus routes and frequently brought them (or general bus-related conversation) into his plays and novels. The Caretaker, The Dwarfs and Request Stop all show off Pinter's interest in London buses and their routes, and I'm very grateful that somebody else in the arts - particularly as great a writer as Pinter - wasn't afraid to bring this rather geeky interest into their work.

So goodbye Harold: master playwright, political activist...and public transport enthusiast. I'll miss you, but probably for slightly different reasons to everybody else.

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Thursday, 11 December 2008


I've always been a bit ambivalent about Oasis. One the one hand they bring back good memories. Memories of being in my late teens in the nineties...which entailed, as you might expect, stripey turtle-necks, being drunk, chasing girls, playing the guitar badly, Trainspotting (the film, honest), talking shite...and learning how to be a tree (I studied Drama at university). All to the musical backdrop of tracks like Wonderwall and Don't Look Back in Anger. Those songs always remind me of fun, innocent times - times when Oasis' Roll with it was up against Blur's Country House for the number one spot, there were no responsibilities to worry about, no fear about the future and no agonising about a career in music - or any other career for that matter. We were invincible and, so it seemed, were Oasis.

On the other hand, I've always been deeply unimpressed by them - for two reasons. One: the vast majority of their songs sound like a cover version of the Beatles' classic Rain (and in fact, that was Oasis' original name). Two (and a related reason this): their unrelenting obsession with the Beatles.

Now don't get me wrong: I love the Beatles. They inspired me to learn how to play the guitar and embark on an incredibly foolish musical journey. I have ripped them off mercilessly in my own music. But Oasis take their admiration to a level far beyond that of most admirers. Their haircuts, their lyrics, their guitars, their videos, their choice of recording studio...everything about them has always seemed to say less about their own identity than that of the Beatles. Although Oasis write their own material, they often seem to resemble a sort of weird Beatles tribute band.

Maybe that's highly intentional, and part of the marketing plan - after all, the Beatles are rock icons that are deeply loved. You can go a long way by trading on associations. But to believe that is to do Oasis a disservice: their love for the Fab Four has always come across as genuine, and has certainly been long-lasting.

I guess it's the 'long-lasting' aspect of this love which I find irritating. In the nineties, when the Beatles were doing their Anthology TV series, and we had the whole 'Britpop' thing going on, the Oasis-Beatles-60s revival stuff seemed novel and interesting - and in tune with the times. Thirteen years on, encountering Beatles-infused lyrics like "Love is...a magical mystery", Beatles-infused song titles like "Bag it up", or Beatles-infused videos that look like the Yellow Submarine film is not hugely inspiring. And a lot of the new material still sounds like Rain.

But I'm going to forgive Oasis all that. Because I love their new single, I'm Outta Time. I think it's a fantastic song, even if the lyrics make no sense at all and it's a complete Lennon rip-off (though I can't talk: I'm completely guilty of bad lyric writing and ripping Lennon off). I would go so far as to say, controversially, that it's the greatest track they've put out; the production is engaging (that irritating Day in the Life piano reference aside), the melody is a treat, and well, it's just a great song.

To my mind, Noel has written three or four very good songs - Don't Look Back in Anger, Wonderwall, Live Forever and Roll With It...and the rest sound like Rain. I think this new single is better than all of those songs (with the exception of Rain of course) - and it was written by Liam. I've got a sneaking feeling that Noel knows this.

Normally at this point in a blog I try to write something witty and come to some sort of conclusion. I'm afraid I can't here. Basically I sometimes like Oasis; sometimes I don't; I like their new single. Did you need to know this? Probably not.

I think all the above says something about blogging.

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Sunday, 7 December 2008

Music personality test...

So I've made a little viral - the 'music personality test'. It's a silly idea and probably not entirely cool, but I'm experimenting with it anyway to see if it is any use in getting my free album download out and about.

Basically, you answer a series of questions based on your taste in music and are told what your 'music personality' is (prepare to be insulted by the way).

Find out what it's all about here:

Obviously, since it's a viral, I'd appreciate it if you could forward it to people...

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