Friday, June 29, 2012

Song of the Week #201

After bombarding everyone with songs last week I’ll back off a bit. Well, I’ll try.

Thanks to everyone who sent kind words about me reaching the 200 milestone! Nice to be appreciated and not ridiculed too much!

I don’t think I should go near a record shop for quite a while. I’ve suddenly got a lot of new music to listen to. Thankfully school holidays start today so I can make a dent in the pile of CDs.

DJ DJ alerted me to the fact that Queensryche have fired their singer, Geoff Tate. That’s a huge call considering that he is the main creative influence behind the band and is a founding member. Queensryche have been rocking since 1981! They’re most famous for their concept album, “Operation Mindcrime” and the follow up “Empire”. If you like your rock with solid melody, tasty guitars and some social conscience thrown in then QR are for you.

I was in Sydney earlier in the week. You can read all about it on my blog at . While I was there (I flew in early) and after I finished being very lost in the CBD I went to see the movie “Rock of Ages”. It was a fairly successful musical production and is now, obviously, a film. I was very skeptical about the movie as I do NOT like Tom Cruise or Russell Brand particularly. They probably don’t think much of me either!! But, it was awesome – a great film definitely worth the price of admission. It’s a cheesy story with a fantastic soundtrack. I guess it’s a bit like Glee/High School Musical on steroids with a great rock soundtrack. And Tom and Russell are brilliant. I’ll be going again.

The only thing that slightly disappointed me about “Rock of Ages” was some obvious omissions in the soundtrack. Since we’re talking 80’s rock then bands like KISS, AC/DC and Van Halen would’ve fitted in perfectly. I guess not everyone can be in the film and also those bands are probably pretty cagey about handing out the rights to their songs.

I’m interrupting this week’s episode for an open letter to YouTube…

“Dear YouTube,
Seriously, how many adverts do we need on your website? I’m happy with the ones that appear up and down the side of the page but a 15s video ad for every track I load is getting a bit mus. STOP IT!
Yours sincerely,
DJ Rob”

This next tune is for DJ Al-ee-sun (light of my life!) – I picked up the album for her in Sydney and it seems I made a good choice.

If you’ve been reading some of the drivel I post on Facebook then you won’t be surprised at this next song selection. Paul Simon’s “Graceland” album is 25 years old. Of course there’s the now obligatory re-issue version (I’ll look into it). In 1986 I was in Year 10 at school and very much into heavy metal music. But I’d also been fascinated for quite a few years by the musical Ipi Ntombi (or Ipi Tombi depending who you ask). The Graceland album opened my ears to a wonderful mix of musical styles. There’s the particularly funky solo bass line in “You Can Call Me Al” and the great a capella into to “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes”. But this next song was my favourite – I hope you like it too.

Aw, shucks…why not…

Right then, I’ve got (supposedly) three weeks of school holidays to be getting on with. Plenty of books to read, CDs to listen to, miles to clock up in training and of course some motorcycle cruising in the midday sun. Not everyone will be hanging around Canberra though. Angus is heading to the snow (the dog will be VERY cross about this), DJ COJ is already somewhere in Europe sunning himself and DJ Boss is off to the UK I believe. Here’s a song for them and for everyone else taking a break. See you all before too long.

We’ll be back with more musical mayhem next week holidays or not. The juggernaut rolls on!

DJ Rob

Monday, June 25, 2012

Some random thoughts from Sin City

Friends, here I am stuck in a hotel room in Sydney. I don't like this city very much, in fact I don't really like any big cities. Too many people, all way too busy and too much noise and pollution.

I'm here for a conference about how to be an employer of choice and guess what? It's actually pretty good so far. A lot of it seems like common sense to me. Really, if you treat people with compassion, understanding and you're honest to them you can't go too wrong. But you do have to be prepared to make the hard decisions and have difficult conversations at times. It's how you handle yourself when the going gets tough that can make or break you as a boss or leader.

I learned a LOT about how not to treat people when I was in the Army. I was also lucky to have a couple of inspirational leaders there as well who moulded some of my thoughts and values. I've also been lucky to work under a range of leaders in my time as a teacher. Time spent observing others, thinking about how they do, or don't, achieve success is worthwhile.

There are tomes and tomes of management and HR textbooks and journals devoted to topics like this. Most put me straight to sleep faster than watching golf. So, here's three dot points to consider if you're in a position that involves managing staff:
  • get to know them - face to face - speak to them, don't just be a keyboard commando (he said typing away furiously!)
  • be honest - if their work sucks let them know why and how to fix it. If it's good then let them know as well - I'm not talking prizes, bonuses and the like but a few words of praise goes a long way.
  • don't be late
I flew in on Sunday and had a bit of time to wander around the CBD. I got lost too. Pretty badly geographically embarrassed. Luckily I had my phone with me so I fired up Google Maps and was back on the right path. I guess I could've asked a police officer for directions but they were all busy looking serious at a rally to support refugees.

I finally found the record shop I had been looking for (it had moved, of course!) and picked up a couple of cool CDs. Chickenfoot's first album with a bonus DVD of something for me to watch when I get home - live stuff I hope, a CD for DJ Al-E-Sun which I cannot reveal at this stage, and one by Sufjan Stevens. PianoMan H turned me onto Sufjan and I hope the album is as good as the one track I've heard. We played it at the gig on Fri night and it's bloody haunting. Here's the original, our version is a lot more moody, slower and gets right into your head. I keep seeing Brian Denehy and that's pretty scary.

Sufjan Stevens - John Wayne Gacy Jr.

Right, I'm off for a couple of German lessons now. I'm using and it's very, very cool. I seem to remember a lot from school which is amusing since I last studied it in 1986!

DJ Rob

Friday, June 22, 2012

Song of the Week #200

Welcome to my bicentennial celebrations. We'll have no land rights arguments, no mullets and not even a commemorative coin. But there will be some good tunes and at least the standard amount of navel gazing.

When I started Song of the Week it was a quick email to a few friends and colleagues with an mp3 attached. Times have changed. Thanks to DJ KOT for encouraging me to put my musings on the web. While most people read via email, my blog audience is increasing slowly but surely.

I played a gig with H and Chief last Saturday night. A good crowd turned up and I thought we did a pretty good job of playing the tunes in time and all in the same key. And with gusto. It's taken me a number of years but I'm finally pretty happy with my guitar sound. There is a lot of tinkering and nonsense in getting an electric guitar to sound right. I'm amused at the final makeup of my rig but it sounds and feels pretty comfy to me.

For those that are interested, here's the signal from guitar through to speaker:

Guitar (Burns Steer) --> MXR Black Label Chorus Pedal --> old Yamaha reverb/delay unit --> crunch channel of Marshall JCM2000 50W head --> Marshall JCM 1936 speaker box. Fairly simple really but it affords me a wide range of sonic mayhem.

Here's the reason I got this guitar. It's the best I've ever played. And I started playing quite a while now. 1978 I think.

Billy Bragg – Levi Stubb's Tears -

My motorcycle escapades continue much to my own amusement! So far I have discovered that the bike won't go anywhere if it's in neutral and also that the fuel switch needs to be turned on.

Unfortunately my ribs are still sore. I seem to be able to run reasonably but swimming and riding are a bit painful to say the least. It's making me a bit cranky – I really miss all those training sessions even though the weather is so cold. A shout out goes to DJ JoJo who hurt her calf muscle when we were running this week – let's hope it heals quickly.

So, 200 episodes and what have I got to show for it? Well I still have an unhealthy interest in a wide range of music so that must count for something. I don't think I've offended anyone overly either and that's no mean feat these days.

Here are some tunes that I think have had a massive influence on me. Cutting it down to ten was quite a task; I could've had a top 100 quite easily. It was so hard that I've ended up with twenty. They aren't in any particular order. The only condition I placed on the list was that I could only play a band or artist once. Otherwise you might've got 20 AC/DC, Steve Earle or Billy Bragg songs!

AC/DC – Rock 'n' Roll Ain't Noise Pollution. -

From the Back in Black record released in 1980. Apart from Hell's Bells I always thought that the B side of the album was the best. It started with Back In Black and finished with this tune. It's pretty much a variation on the standard blues riff. As a teenager the chorus resonated with me. It wasn't hip to be into rock and heavy metal when I was at school.

Steve Earle – My Old Friend The Blues -

I came late to Steve's music but I'm glad I took a chance on a Greatest Hits CD a few years ago. He writes such biting lyrics into angry, beautiful songs. That song was one that I sang a lot a few years ago and even recorded. It spoke to me then and it still does.

Billy Bragg – Walk Away Renee -

Billy is my "Desert Island Disc" guy. If I could only take one album with me it would be one of his. Again, more social and political commentary but it's the power of one man and guitar that hooked me in 1990.

Johnny Cash – Going To Memphis -

For a while it was very fab and groovy to be a Johnny Cash fan. He was a flawed man in so many ways but a man blessed with a magnificent voice and a song writing talent. Johnny struggled with so many demons and I've no doubt that's why his songs speak to so many people. I've got far too many Johnny Cash CDs and I'm sure I'll be getting some more.

Stevie Wright – Evie -

I remember DJ Broos teaching me to play this song. It's just such a fantastic riff. And it's written produced by Vanda & Young, the team responsible for the best AC/DC stuff.

The Proclaimers – Letter From America -

I've said it quite a number of times – there's more to this band than walking 500 miles. There's a musical based around some of their music called "Sunshine on Leith". It's about two Scottish soldiers coming back from Afghanistan and it's about to be made into a film. I reckon it'll be worth watching.

Tom Paxton – The Last Thing On My Mind -

My favourite player of acoustic guitars. A man with a light touch who makes his guitar absolutely sing. Very obviously my Dad's influence here but I wouldn't have kept listening to it if I didn't like it.

Dolly and Kenny – Islands In The Stream -

Well, was anyone expecting that? Written by the Bee Gees. Playing this song for a musical got me right out of the rock 'n'roll mode and made me think carefully about dialling down the overdrive pedal and expanding my playing. Thanks Chief for this one.

Stryper – Calling On You -

As a teenager I couldn't have cared less about this band's religious message. I loved their costumes, I loved their loud guitars and I loved the fact that they could sing. I have all their albums including one that took me ages to track down on vinyl (thank you eBay). They are still making great music.

Rollins Band – Tearing -

Raw, unadulterated aggression, jazz chords, distortion, volume, sweat, power, attitude. Seeing Henry Rollins play live in 1994 was the closest thing I've had to musical nirvana. I had no idea what to expect and I was just totally blown away.

KISS – Crazy Nights -

KISS were a mystery to me as a young boy. The makeup was fun but I didn't get the music. That was until they released the Crazy Nights album (long after the unmasking) and I just thought it rocked. Now they are back in makeup and it looks like they will be doing farewell tours forever.

Warumpi Band – Blackfella Whitefella -

This should be our national anthem. Or at least one of them. I think we need a national album. Different songs for different occasions.

Nick Barker – Time Bomb -

This is one of the few songs I've sung live to more than one audience. Probably because the vocal line has about three notes. One day I'll try it again, maybe.

Pink Floyd – Run Like Hell -

Going to see "The Wall" on the big screen at 18 was amazing. I'd seen it on video once before but it really hadn't made a lot of sense.

Queen – Fat Bottomed Girls -

When Queen rock hard they are a pretty hard act to top. That gritty guitar sound at the start of this track really made me love the band.

Ron Sexsmith – Hard Bargain -

I only have one album from Ron and this is the first track on it. It's so good that every time I have the album on I play this tune over and over. Mournful, beautiful, pop perfection.

Roxette – Lies -

Roxette do a great live show, they have a huge guitar sound and the pop writing sensibilities of Per Gessle are very clear. Listen without prejudice folks.

The Cult - Lil' Devil -

The riff for this song is so simple and so very effective. And while this is definitely more of a rock number than some other Cult tunes I love the swaggering feel. I had a couple of singles from the Electric album before I heard this tune. Best track on the album hands down.

The Pogues – If I Should Fall From Grace With God -

Punk rock meets Celtic music. The Pogues are probably the best exponents of this type of music and they've influenced a lot of bands. I like the energy of this track as well as the fact that they rock so hard with mandolins, pipes and an accordion. I'm also amazed that Shane MacGowan on vocals is still upright.

Armoured Angel – Castration -

Armoured Angel were a Canberra band. Funnily enough I saw them for the first time in Sydney (with DJ DJ). I'd never seen or heard anything quite like them and I may never again. In my opinion they had it all – fantastic hairy guitar riffs, great lyrics and a singing drummer! I saw them play quite a few times and they always put on a great show.

If anyone has made it to the end WELL DONE!

Thanks to all my readers and commenters as well as my many musical partners in crime.

I've got a gig to play so I'm off to do my hair and tune my guitar.

Have a great weekend,

DJ Rob

Friday, June 15, 2012

Song of the Week #199

I want to spend a few moments this week talking about motorcycles. I think I'll start with a disclaimer as well; I know absolutely nothing about them. I don't follow motorcycle racing in any form, I don't read motorbike magazines and until yesterday I'd never ridden one.
After Alison got her scooter I decided it would be useful if I at least had a license to ride it so I got that organised it. Since then I've racked up almost 7000km of riding, most of it commuting. The scooter is fun and very easy to ride but at some stage I started looking around at people riding motorcycles. And somehow I got the bug. To cut a long story short we took delivery of a Yamaha 650 cruiser yesterday. I stalled it twice in the lane behind the garage but after that I was fine. I rode to and from work today and although I was a bit nervous at traffic lights it was great. I'm amazed at how comfortable the bike is and just how stable it feels. And the gear changing thing is just coordination. Probably easier than learning to drive a car I think. But then I hated learning to drive. Just for a few moments on the way to work this morning (at 06:30am) I imagined I was in CHiPs (and yes, I know they didn't ride Yamaha bikes) – it was like being a kid again.
Having been involved in an accident on the scooter (where I wasn't at fault) that involved me sliding along a wet road I'm painfully aware that riding is dangerous. But life is for living up to a point. As well as a bike this week, Alison picked up a bus pass for me. That's for days when it rains.
The Cult, along with a few other bands, have perfected the swirly guitar sound that I've been searching for now for a while. I'm almost there with a combination of a new MXR Chorus pedal and an old Yamaha Reverb/Delay unit. Sonic bliss! Here's another band who get it right...
A few weeks ago I played a track by Swedish band Sabaton. I've had a couple of their albums on heavy rotation on the iPhone ever since. This next track caught my ear for a couple of reasons. Firstly I really like the tight guitar riff at the start, and secondly because the lyrics are pretty much all made up of lines from other bands' songs – pretty cool. This YouTube link has the lyrics and a listing of where they come from. This really is wearing your influences on your sleeve!!
DJ Duck has a birthday tomorrow – and it's a big one. Have a great day and here's a song for you....
I've agonised about whether or not to include this next song. It isn't full of bad language, offensive images or even Celine Dion but I'm still unsure about it. Can the singer's voice really sound quite that clich├ęd? The melody is nothing new, the production is slick (almost too slick) but there's something about it that has me hooked. I think I like the idea behind the song but maybe I'd like it to be a bit less commercial. Anyway, make up your won mind.
On Monday I had to rearrange the garage so that a certain Yamaha Cruiser would fit in. I knew it would take me a while so I took a couple of old cassettes out to listen to. I bought the one that this next track is from in about 1988 I think. It's Hendrix and it was the first time I heard someone really rip through this tune in a way that I really liked. I was talking with the guys in the band and we agreed that anyone who turns up to try out for a group should be able to play this in A.
Right then – don't forget that George, Chris and I have a gig at Beyond Q tomorrow night at 6pm. It's only for an hour or so – don't be late. This song isn't in the show but I have a feeling I might be able to talk them into trying it one day...
Have a great week is episode 200. I can guarantee it might be late!
DJ Rob

Friday, June 8, 2012

Song of the Week #198

Bonjour and welcome to episode 198. Welcome home to DJ DJ.
A precautionary tale before I start. I went mountain biking on Monday night (yes, yes, in the dark). It's something I do quite often. I've got a good set of lights and I don't ride tracks that I don't know. However, recent rain had caused some serious rutting in some tracks. Unfortunately I didn't see a rut and my front wheel got jammed in it! My bike stopped and I didn't. Now I've got very sore ribs after they had an altercation with the handlebars. Oops. For years now other riders have been telling me that I need a light on the handlebars as well as the helmet mounted one. Apparently helmet light only plays havoc with your depth perception and ability to see holes...I can now confirm that theory. I'll get another light.
I've been playing some tunes with H and Chief...and we've got a gig coming up on 16th June, 6pm at Beyond Q in Curtin. Come along for a set (just one) that will have something for everyone. Thankfully the calluses on my fingers are finally hardening up. I won't give much away but here is one of the tunes we'll do in what is a fairly wide ranging show!
There's a theme this week; it's only rock 'n' roll but I like it. Whilst I'll happily listen to almost any kind of music it's no secret that the simplicity of drums, guitar, bass and vocals is my favourite. So, if you're looking for new releases, kooky obscure bands or hip-hop then you'd better log off now!
Rock 'n' roll is the bastard son of the blues. Let's start there.
There's a fantastic version of Little Richard playing Leadbelly's "Rock Island Line" on a Folkways compilation album I have. Seek it out folks, the album is great. It also features U2, Springsteen, Dylan and Mellencamp. Of course, Creedence Clearwater Revival did a pretty good job of "Midnight Special" as well.
Of course, Elvis is the king. I've got a pretty good double LP that trumps anything released on CD that I've seen. I'm a big fan of "Burning Love" but lets go back to 1957...
Johnny Cash was a rock star. It's just that he was also a Country & Western star and probably a Gospel star as well. He blurred the lines. I heard this song for the first time in the early 90's (I was a late blooming Cash fanatic) and it's probably my favourite live track. Funny and tragic at the same time.
Rockers like cowboys as well. There's plenty of songs about them. Here's one of the best played by one of the best...
Thin Lizzy have such a 'swagger' in their songs – it always gets my feet tapping and my head nodding along. There's probably a cheesy grin on my face as I'm typing. Hopefully Angus is too wrapped up in watching the football to notice!
Some songs are overplayed into oblivion by commercial radio. This next song is one of them. Since I haven't listened to commercial radio for a very, very long time I think it's time to crank this one up. The live version is a lot more fun than the original. I've got both on vinyl and yes, they do sound better.
The next tune was released in 1988. At the time AC/DC had released their "Blow Up Your Video" album which was a monumental disappointment. I remember seeing the clip for this song on MTV and thinking it was great. The band were Australian as well. Their album was great too. Simple rock and roll – good time.
We'll go a bit left field for the next tune. Certainly not your average pub rock 'n' roll but more than worthy of a listen. Spy vs Spy were an Australian band with some great songs. What attracted me to them, and still does, is the guitar sound and the honest vocal delivery. I was in a band that played one of their songs – it was a treat!
Almost at the end now, you can do it...keep reading, keep listening. Send me a comment!
I'm not a Foo Fighters fan. They annoy me no matter how much I try to like them. That's OK though, they have legions of people buying their stuff. I saw this next song on late night TV a long time ago now and it is almost the perfect rock song (and video). Very definitely their high point in my humble opinion.
If I had to choose one artist or band who epitomise all that rock 'n' roll is about then I'd find it hard not to pick Tom Petty. DJ CurryManGarry is off to see him live in London very soon. Lucky so and so!
I'll be back next week with ribs that have healed I hope and a more eclectic range of tunes!
DJ Rob

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Song of the Week #197

I was meant to be out riding my bike this morning (Saturday) but it's raining and I'm soft. I didn't finish this week's episode yesterday for a number of reasons but at least I have no excuse now. That and I've finished the book that I was reading.
Neil Young has a new album coming out on June the 5th. It's called "Americana" and features a whole lot of songs that you probably sang at primary school. Songs like "She'll Be Coming 'Round The Mountain", "Clementine", "This Land Is Your Land" and "Oh Susannah". Well, they're songs I sang at school and at home. Along with his sometimes musical partners Crazy Horse it sounds like a great reinvention of these songs. But then there's the last track..."God Save The Queen". No, not the Sex Pistols classic, the National Anthem of the United Kingdom. You can make up your own mind. Young is Canadian remember and they still have the Queen on their money...
Don Walker is an Australian icon even if lots of people don't realise it. As a member of Cold Chisel he wrote songs like "Khe Sanh", "Choirgirl" and "Flame Trees". It's criminal that there's hardly any of his solo work on YouTube for us to listen to. DJ Will first turned me on to Don's music and just recently PianoMan H did the same. Here's the best track I could find to share with's cool.
I'll play this next one too – especially for my overseas listeners. Essential is how I'd describe it.
A few years ago, maybe in about 2005, I spent some time listening to Elvis Costello. Apart from the odd hit like "Oliver's Army" I hadn't paid much attention to him. Since then he's appeared regularly in my listening fare. There's something about his voice and the rhythm of his vocal delivery that draws me in and makes me tap my foot in unadulterated joy. I've been playing a few songs with H and Chief lately and there's a couple of newish tunes that sound like they were tailor made for Elvis!  This isn't one of his songs but it's magic all the same. Keep an eye out on the right of screen for the US Marine playing the piccolo trumpet – just great!
I recently heard US metal band Godsmack cover this next tune and they did a pretty good job. I've chosen the original this week because it has some great slide guitar in it courtesy of Joe Walsh. You might remember Joe from The Eagles!
And that song leads me to this one...but this is the cover Poison...get over it, they do a great job of this classic by Grand Funk Railroad. This must be a great fun song to play live even if you're not American.
Let's just stay with the theme of that one for another song then I'll change it up I promise. "We're An American Band" and "Rocky Mountain Way" are great songs for in the car. This next one is all that and more. Rob Zombie is definitely channelling Deep Purple's "Space Truckin'" in my opinion but it chugs along nicely. And Amarillo is such a great word to use in a lyric.
Facebook and some news feeds are keeping me up to date with authorities in the USA seeking to tax soft drinks. While the point has been made that there are other things worse than a soda isn't it a shame that in today's society we need the government to remind us about healthy living. Education is the key here folks as well as community outreach. Fast food and cigarettes are killing people and it's totally avoidable. Don't stop drinking soft drink – just don't drink it all the time. Taxing the hell out of these kind of things is a tax on those who can't afford it. Educate, inform, empower.
I had a bit of a diabolical experience at the Rugby League recently that involved Angus, DJ Hammertime and myself coming home covered in beer and the police being involved. It really did cement my opinion about the calibre of a great many League fans and that was disappointing as I quite like the game itself. After a few discussions with a number of football fans from a variety of codes I reflected on my favourite kind of football...Australian Football. It's fast, it's tough and it's great to watch. There's very little downtime during the game and it's very skilful. And apart from a small area at ehe end of each ground, it seems as if the supporters are mixed in together and enjoy it. DJ Bloo was telling me about watching his team play. He was in the crowd surrounded by the opposition supporters. Throughout the game there was good natured banter but at the end they were all in one piece and talking to each other at the game. Maybe the Canberra Raiders and Cronulla supporters should go along sometime. I love football but, even at the professional level, you should support your team and leave it at that. Fighting between supporters is almost as moronic as the schoolkid brawls behind the stands at the rugby last week (and most weeks). Get a life.
I'll finish with a true philosopher reflecting on football violence. It's well worth a listen.
On second thoughts I should finish with a song. We've had this before but it doesn't matter. Play it over and over and over.
Good bye – I've got 1500 words to write for my Uni assignment, guitars to play, essays to mark, bikes to ride, books to read and music to review so I better get on with it!
DJ Rob
(oh, so you want to unsubscribe? Fair enough. Send me a review of Joey Ramone's new stuff and I'll think about it – if no one does I'll be forced to do it myself for episode #198)