I guess it was fairly inevitable that this should end up on here at some point this year. It’s a massive rock classic, an iconic track. The bass intro alone (you can ignore Slash doing his guitar stuff, the true melody is in that bass line – but maybe I’m biased!) makes it worthy of inclusion.
The reason I’ve shared it this week is quite fun I think. The band I’m in were auditioning a new singer this week, and she’d prepared some songs, which we played and all was good. We then started talking about other numbers and she mentioned that she liked singing this one, so we said “OK, let’s give it a go”.
What I hadn’t appreciated was that it’s been around 2 years since the band last played it. What the band hadn’t appreciated was it’s probably twice that since I played it last. I’ve only ever played it twice in gigs, about 5 years apart, and only rehearsed it with any band a handful of times.
To cut a long story short, I skipped the intro because I couldn’t remember it, but what ensued was a fantastic jam. We all got really into it, played it pretty well considering, and our potential new recruit did it real justice as its not an easy song to sing well.
I mentioned earlier this year that I love the vocals on songs by the B52s, and this is a brilliant example of them. It’s not just the harmonies, but also the lyrics themselves that I like. The words and topics on their songs always seem to me to be “out there”, not quite what you’d call “normal”. In this example, who would have thought to use an umbrella to protect themselves from space dust falling from the sky? And where’s my umbrella anyway?
Their big breakthrough number the UK was Rock Lobster, and I pretty much got on board with their music then. Songs like Strobe Light and June Bug are just a load of fun, and of course Love Shack is now a classic. I’m glad to include something a little less well known here.
I was recently fortunate enough to present to a room full of fellow professionals at an event in Europe. I’d known for several months that I’d be doing so, and for me it was a big deal. It was the first time I’d had the opportunity, and there was the potential to be presenting to well over 100 people – but I wouldn’t know the real figure till I got started.
I was determined that I wasn’t going to blow it.
I’m guessing that most of you have, like me, sat through your fair share of presentations. I’m also guessing that many of those have been dire, where the presenter spent most of the time droning on in a monotone, reading verbatim from every slide, and every slide was covered in dense text with occasional bullet points.
I’m guessing that the number of presentations which has given you a lightbulb moment, an “aha” moment, some kind of inspiration and which have left you feeling energised and enthusiastic is few and far between.
For my talk, I was determined that I wasn’t going to produce a dire presentation, and that I would do my best to be inspirational and have the attendees enthused by my presentation. I was also aware that the topic – retraining existing staff to work in cyber security – had the potential to be very dull indeed.
Regular readers of my blog will know that I really like TED talks, that I watch or listen to a lot of them, so I thought I’d try to produce my own version. I therefore did a lot of background reading, with emphasis on how to prepare and deliver TED-worthy presentations (yes, there are a lot of books out there which cover that topic).
I learned that even before starting on my slides, I should work out what messages I wanted to convey, what the key points were. I should work on having a killer opening, one which engaged and intrigued the audience from the outset, one which grabbed their attention.
I also learned that when it comes to slides, words = bad, pictures or images = good. After all, you want people to be focussed on what you’re saying, not on reading what’s on the slide. If you’re reading off the slide, why are you there? The attendees could simply be sent the slide deck and read that for themselves. Slides are an aide memoire, nothing more.
And I learned that your body gives a lot away when you’re talking. Moving around, shuffling from one foot to the next, fidgeting with your hands, jingling keys, says “so” or “um” a lot, all those sort of things detract from the message you’re hoping to convey, and reduce the perception that you’re an expert in the topic.
I practiced what I was going to say – many times. I wrote out my introduction and honed that, many times. I recorded clips of me presenting so I could see what bad habits I had – and tried not to do them. I ran through the slides over and over, reducing them to no more than 5 or 6 words on each. All of this helped boost my confidence and reduce my nerves. Unfortunately for Dee she also had to hear it several times, and her feedback was invaluable.
Did it work? Yes, I think it did. Of the 60 or so people who came along, less than half left feedback, but on the whole the presentation was well received. For my first attempt at a big event like that, I was really pleased with the feedback.
Will I take the same approach in future? Absolutely, if time permits. I think the attendees benefited and I think I benefited from the process.
The days of wordy slides and boring presenters should be at an end. Make sure you’re not stuck in the past with them.
Simple Minds are another one of those bands that I didn’t like, then I liked for a while, then I didn’t like them again. Now I can listen to a couple of their songs at a time, but I wouldn’t necessarily want to hear a whole album, and I doubt I’d try to see them in conert again. I went once, but was at the very back of the SECC in Glasgow and couldn’t really see them. And it took longer to get out of the car park than the gig had gone on for!
Anyhow, I chose this track because it shows that bass lines don’t have to be complicated to be effective, and I don’t think you can get much simpler than playing one note over and over!
I hope you enjoy this blast from the past: it doesn’t seem to get played on the radio as often as some of their other tracks but is very worthy. This is the only one of their singles I bought (on 12″) and I don’t think I’ve any of their albums on vinyl.
It’s hard to believe that this song is 17 years old! It appears on Linkin Park’s first album, Hybrid Theory, and is a classic of the NuMetal genre, which appears to fuse heavy rock riffs with synth sounds and rap. Linkin Park are probably my favourites from that genre, because their lyrics and musicianship come together beautifully to produce eloquent and melodic songs, some with a real cutting edge. I loved the video for this too. Incredible imagination to come up with flying things that look like whales and ancient statues. Enjoy!
I’ve been very fortunate this week to visit Prague as part of a business trip. Business was concluded early so I’ve had a bit of time to kill while waiting for my flight home. I came here last year with Dee and we both fell in love with the place. It’s not been the same without her, not quite as good, but it’s an enchanting city all the same.
I’ve walked up to the castle, around the various buildings there and then back into the Old Town via the Charles Bridge. The views from the castle were superb, as were the sights while there. I’m now sitting in one of the main squares sipping iced tea, watching the world go by, and a number of things have struck me about this visit.
There seem to be fewer people begging this year. They kneel, elbows and head on the ground, with cups or hats outstretched, and don’t make a sound. Most of the streets are cobbled and it can’t be comfortable. Whether this is to encourage them to feel shame, to punish them for begging, or to prevent too many people doing it, you can’t help but feel for these people.
It’s impossible to know their story, but trying to imagine how bad things must be got them to force them to beg in such a way is enough to make you weep. I wonder if there are less of them around because the authorities are cracking down hard on begging, whether they’ve been moved out of the tourist areas, or whether there are genuinely fewer people that need to beg here.
While at the castle, I took the opportunity to visit the cathedral there. It is simply stunning on the inside. Upon reflection, there were visitors from all over the world inside that Roman Catholic building, and I’d be willing to bet that there were more non-Catholics in there than Catholics. It was apparent that all inside were marvelling at what they saw, from stained glass windows to the towering ceiling, and many were taking advantage of being in such a sacred space to commune with their god or their thoughts.
Walking the streets of this lively and lovely city, walking round the castle, and sitting as I am now having tea, I’ve been stuck by the plethora of languages spoken, at the number of visitors and at the number of nationalities represented. I can hear at least five languages at the moment – and none of them are English!
I’m sitting here wondering at how everyone seems to get along. I’ve not heard an angry voice while I’ve been in the city. Staff everywhere are unfailingly polite. Is it simply the good weather that means all these faiths and creeds are enjoying the sights, sounds and tastes of Prague, or is there something else? Wouldn’t it be great if the rest of the world could learn how to do this too?