All posts by Big Erik

Week 11 – TBT 2017 – Johnny Was

Tomorrow night, St Patrick’s Day, I’ll be in Glasgow watching Stiff Little Fingers (SLF) play their 26th consecutive year at the same venue on the same night. I was there last year for their 25th, and am making the journey again this year as it’s part of their 40th Anniversary tour. It stands to reason that this week’s choice should be the first of their songs I ever heard, from the first album of theirs I ever heard: the band was 3 years old by then, and have been my favourite ever since. 

Johnny Was is actually a Bob Marley track, and this version comes from the live album Hanx! To my mind, this is probably still the best live album, by any band, ever. At the time I listened to it, I wanted to be a drummer. This track was the first on Side 2 of the cassette (remember them?), which I’d borrowed from a classmate as I was going to see this band at only my second ever gig. Turn the volume up, dim the lights, and see if you can figure out why a wannabe drummer would love this, and why a fully fledged bass player would still rank this as one of his favourite tracks ever. 

Johnny Was – Stiff Little Fingers

Is it a good time to call?

Back in the days before mobiles, texts and such like, nearly as far back as 2 channels and black and white TV, I was raised to believe that phoning someone after say 9pm or before about 8am was intrusive and rude. Worse, it typically signified bad news: the death of or critical injury to someone close.

I know that if I get a call out of those “normal” hours, I get quite anxious, fearing the worst.  It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does it feels quite stressful until I answer the call.  

When staying in hotels, I’m always surprised when I hear phones going off in other rooms at all hours of the night. Does it mean that the participants are on different sides of the world? Or insomniacs? Or just need very little sleep?  The fact that I hear the phone ringing is enough to wake me and disturb my sleep, which is rude enough.

Whenever I’m away from home Dee and I talk regularly, but are very cognisant of the time difference. We speak and message just after we’re both awake, and just before we go to sleep, as well as at other times when we know we’re both awake. We have two clocks in the house, one showing UK time and one for the time zone wherever I am.  That way we can maintain as normal a conversation and dialogue as possible, without disrupting sleep.  It’s one way that we stay connected, that we maintain our close relationship, that we stay together.  Services like Skype and FaceTime also help with staying close, which has to be a good thing, right?  

Just because the world is an increasingly connected place, does that mean people should call whenever they feel like it, irrespective of time? Isn’t some down time, away from technology, a good thing, a desirable thing? If there was some way of setting your phone to not receive or make calls between certain hours, would that be a useful feature? 

I’m guilty of spending too much time with technology too sometimes, sitting with a really good book in one hand but distracted by the glowing screen of my phone in the other. I need to physically say to myself “put the phone down and read your book” but the temptations and distractions are huge. 

Maybe I’m getting older, and losing touch with how these barriers have shifted. If that’s the case, I don’t think you’ll ever be able to convince me that removing the social norm around phone calls is a good thing.  

Week 10 – TBT 2017 – Burn It To The Ground

This will be the first TBT post that I’ve published this year where Dee and I are apart on the day, so I thought I’d let her know I’m thinking of her by posting one of the songs we listened to a lot when we first got together. Rather strangely, neither of us are massive Nickelback fans, but this track just seemed to click with us.  

So, Dee, listen to this and know that I’m thinking of you and missing you. I love you x

Burn It To The Ground – Nickelback

Week 9 – TBT 2017 – Mahna Mahna

Do you ever have a moment when you just want to sit back and listen something silly? When I do, this is one of the songs I reach for. I’m always amazed when people come up with classics like this. I mean, where do ideas like this come from? I may have a slightly odd sense of humour sometimes but this is just brilliant. Stadtler and Waldorf just finish it off nicely at the end…

Mahna Mahna – The Muppets

How thought provoking do you want your films?

The other night Dee and I sat down to watch a DVD. It was the film Eye In The Sky, and we’d bought it on the strength of Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman being in it: it’s generally difficult to go wrong with either of them. We didn’t even read the synopsis on the back.

**** SPOILER ALERT! *** I’m going to talk about the film in a little detail now, so if you don’t want to know what happens, best stop reading now!  

The basic premise of the film is that the UK and US governments have been following known terrorists for some time and finally have them in their sights in a house in Nairobi, Kenya, and a Kenyan army force is on standby to try to capture them.  There is an armed drone in the skies above, and it is relaying images back to teams in the UK and US. 

The suspects then move to another part of Nairobi which is effectively a no go area for the authorities. Further surveillance reveals two men putting on explosive vests and preparing to move out into the population.  It is only possible to follow one target with the drone, so if the bombers move out there’s a choice to be made of who to follow. The drone targets the premises they’re in, and a calculation of likely collateral damage gives acceptable figures.  

Then, a young girl appears and sets up shop selling bread her mother has made, right outside part of the target building. The collateral damage calculation shows she is likely to die.  

And here’s the crux of the film, one which they draw out very well, looking for approval from various government departments, the military and all interested parties.  The question is: do you take the opportunity to kill known high level terrorists you’ve been chasing for 6 years along with two imminent suicide bombers who are likely to kill 10s if not 100s of people, but it also means an innocent young girl will almost certainly die? Or do you hold back, and save her life at the expense of unknown numbers of others.  

The film presents good arguments for both decisions, as there is merit in both. There are also arguments to be made against both. Things like – if they let the bombers walk, when they detonate their vests they will be blamed, but if the US and UK kill an innocent girl then they are likely to stir up anti-Western feeling. And where does the law sit on this, with two nations launching a lethal attack on the home soil of a third, friendly, country?

I wouldn’t necessarily rush to watch the film again, but it certainly provided a lot of food for thought.  What would you do? What choices would you make?

Week 8 – TBT 2017 – I Wish

Yet another fabulous bassline which mangles my hands when I try to play it! This is a really bouncy, happy song, which I hadn’t heard until a couple of years ago. Stevie Wonder has never really been on my radar in terms of musicians I should listen to, even though I play Master Blaster for the band I’m with now, but this song appeared in a list of Top 50 basslines in a music magazine and it’s grown on me over the years.

I Wish – Stevie Wonder

Hope you enjoy it as much as I do. And the bassist in the video makes it look so easy! 

Harland and Wolff’s Finest

Do any of you know what this is a picture of?  If you look very closely, etched into the ground on the left and the right is the outline of two ships, and in both there are circles marked where their four funnels were.  The ship on the right is less well known: it was christened the Olympic. Its sister ship on the left was Titanic.

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate to have some spare time during a visit to Belfast, so I visited the Titanic Museum on the banks of the Lagan. It’s built at the head of the two slipways for these giant vessels, and was a really interesting tour.  Unfortunately my time was limited so I wasn’t able to read as much or linger as long as I’d have liked, but standing there looking out at those two outlines was quite something.  It was another of those moments when your hair stands on end, when there’s a palpable something in the air.  

The museum itself sheds light on the history of Belfast, on the importance of the linen trade and then shipbuilding.  There’s a short ride which gives some insight into life in the shipyards, and the cramped conditions the riveters had to work in.  The sheer scale of the endeavour is really brought home to you – those ships were massive. Seeing what the cabins would have looked like for the different classes of passengers, and taking a virtual tour up through the numerous decks was a real eye opener.  

I’d have liked to spend more time on the portion which talked about the discovery of the wreckage, and to have watched more of the eerie footage which has been shot there.  I have read that James Cameron, when pitching his idea for the film starring Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslett, had outlined his plans to have footage from the actual vessel as part of the opening scene, in part because he’d always wanted to go down to see the wreck for himself. I don’t know how true that is, but it’s some story if it is factual.

I mentioned the funnels earlier.  One thing I found out on the tour was that only three of them were “real”: the fourth was used for ventilation and to provide a more aesthetic look.  Is that a visual “alternative fact” perhaps?  It was hard to believe that under full steam the ship used 600 tons of coal a day.  I can’t really picture what that looks like, but I guess it gives some idea as to how big and heavy Titanic must have been when fully laden.  

Next time I’m in Belfast, I hope to have the opportunity to visit the site again.  There was so much more to see, and so much more to feel.