Chasing Fame or Cheating Fame?


Hello Good People who read this blog...

I am writing because I am about to work on some music projects and I do so reluctantly, due to the amount of work involved, but also because on a subconscious level I am troubled by concepts of “fame” and my relationship with it.

As a creative person, working on “creative projects” involves dealing with other people’s reaction to what I do,and if I ever needed to be successful enough to earn a living from music, a certain amount of compromise and chasing exposure would be required.

It seems that many young people I know are getting into acting, modelling, music, with “fame” as the eventual desired outcome and goal.  As a young person, I also daydreamed that from my music I might be accomplished enough to be famous and in my fantasy to have the respect,  power, and recognition that came with fame.

So I am writing this maybe to try to understand my relationship with fame. I don’t chase fame, I avoid it.

There have been many incidents in my life where it seemed like I was “cheating fame” in the same way people “cheat death”. Maybe I sound crazy but I think that the whole issue of fame and recognition by large numbers of people , is a worthy concept to examine, however clumsily I do this.

In our largely secular society, many seem to aspire to be famous when previously they might have wanted to go to heaven , or  might have wanted a good career and a respectable role within their social group, a happy marriage , a solid home.

It seems to me that chasing fame is a very ” conformist” thing to do, wanting to be accepted by the masses surely means having to “play the game” on some level, follow a passing fashion, please your media patrons. I feel deeply sorry for young people now who chase fame. I think this is a result of the media environment and social codes they grow up with, largely a modern phenomenon from the ever-growing forms of mass media, including my blog!

If you want to get to the truth it’s best to rely on real life experience  than theory, so sorry to bore you again with my life!

As a child I was lucky enough to grow up in Chelsea in the 1960s and 1970s surrounded by famous people. For instance,I remember seeing a Rolls Royce every day with the number plate “BOW 1”  with David or Angela Bowie and sometimes their son, being driven around.  A close relative of mine worked for Bowie and told me a few stories. What struck me the most, was that I was not allowed to know the address of where Bowie lived, he had to change his phone number at least once every six months and this number was also kept strictly secret. On the one hand you have this superstar parading around Chelsea in a Rolls Royce, and on the other you have someone desperately trying to get away from people,not the paparazzi but his fanatical fans.

I grew up in the age of Beatlemania, it was a new religion, there seemed to be a lot less famous people than now, their fame seemed greater and more enduring  because almost everything  in the sixties was groundbreaking.

An  exception to this sense of cultural revolution was the soap opera about a Midlands Motel called “Crossroads”. I think it was mostly acted and broadcast “live” which explains a lot.

I saw actors from Crossroads, my mother’s favourite TV programme, wandering about the King’s Road. I later found out that one of the scriptwriters  was staying in our guest house incognito, he would come and write there,  even his own family did not know where he was disappearing to.

In the supermarket I remember seeing my absolute heroine, Emma Peel, except of course it was the actress Diana Rigg an altogether different person. I so wanted to be “Emma Peel” when I grew up, witty and intelligent, free, and able to karate chop herself out of dangerous situations. As a child I assumed the actress was indeed that person, shopping in Sainsbury’s.

My concept of fame was pretty warped by these and many other events.As a young child, I found the idea of becoming famous exciting, like somehow my innate shyness and all my defects of character, all problems in life, would disappear just by being famous.It seemed entirely possible to become famous in London if you were in the right place, at the right time, doing something creative.

My parents hated the whole thing. My mother would complain that racing police cars had kept her up all night because the Rolling Stones had  another debauched party. My parents respected God, the upper classes,all authority figures, classical music and literature and aspired to be educated and posh. These new TV and music celebrities and the whole new culture with its shocking fashions seemed outrageous to them.

As an adult,I have had famous people around me , including my ex-partner who will read this, who like it or not, had a certain amount of fame, which was never intended.

As a musician “fame” is difficult for me, it is a barrier, it is not something to be aspired to. I aspire to use my creativity to heal my frame of mind, do the best I can, to be innovative, because I love being experimental at times, to express myself honestly, to create things from some compelling intuitive idea, derived from processing everything I hear or think about . I struggle to do anything creative which will eventually be exposed to others and must match certain technical standards, I am not naturally talented. I essentially create stuff for myself first and secondly to reach out to a few others and see if anyone is on my wavelength. However the idea of great success and fame is still there lurking in the background like a bad smell.

What would my life be like if  suddenly my phone was constantly ringing with people wanting to be my friend? What if I wanted to walk around London and be left alone?

This is a mainstream pop tune , but my intuition says it’s the right one for this post, plus I love the production on this track: Maybe Tomorrow by The Stereophonics (2003)

What if I were so successful that other people’s salaries depended on my producing  something that would sell to the greatest amount of people? What if  I got ill from the work schedule and stress? How much would I have to conform and compromise? What if I got bad publicity for something and people started to hate me? I don’t even like going on stage, I like to do a good gig but I don’t like to face a crowd of people.

So fame may be a result of hard work in the arts, of  being a perfectionist and successfully communicating something that needs to be expressed and that will contribute to the evolution of culture. But fame in itself is terrifying to me, even if you do enjoy it, once you are up there and dealing with the stresses, you either have to maintain it all, hopefully without resorting to overwhelming addictions, or choose to go back to obscurity ( if the media will allow it!).

The environment young people are growing up with now is so much crazier than mine.

Anyone can be famous,without even working at it too much, there are more opportunities to be famous than ever before and yet fame seems more transient than ever. What kind of warped morality are young people growing up with?

I don’t think it’s so bad to want to grow up and be a Beatle or Emma Peel, but what if you want to be one of the women on “4 Music” dancing round a pole?

I don’t like the mass media and I hate the music business, but in a recession even I may have to learn to deal with it, in the hope of  getting some kind of exposure to my music and getting paid for it. For me the whole process of writing, composing, lyric writing, recording and sound editing  is a very private and solitary occupation, occasionally involving others if they are on the same wavelength, but the land of mass media and fame is as alien to me as Planet Zog.

I have written so much about myself and my ego, but this was done with the purpose of opening  a dialogue about how fame personally affects us, how it affects those closest to those who  become famous, and how much it can control our choices in life, and the lives of generations to come.

Now I have thought a bit more about fame and my relationship with it , I realise that my true reason for doing music or anything creative has been for my own healing, and sometimes to bond with others, not for money or fame.

Love & Peace

Born2rant

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…to Solfest, not a review, but some thoughts…


Hello Good People who read this blog…

Although I will be writing about Solfest, this is not a review as I have done in the past two years. I spent most of my time at Solfest recovering from the Hawkwind party and evaluating other experiences I had from my crazy summer.

For me the Notting Hill Carnival or in recent years Solfest , mark the end of summer and announce the beginning of a period of reflection and times indoors. Hawkwind reminds me of the past and the power of rebellion. The music reflects the effects of both drugs and the power of large gatherings and in particular the extremes of creativity.Thus opening  the “Doors of Perception” to deeper consciousness where both heaven and hell  live cheek by jowl.

Solfest was an altogether more “grounding” experience and is an example of a “newer type of festival”, exemplifying changes in alternative culture. It bridges the spirit of free festivals, mainly started by travelling creative idealistic people being chased around the country by the police, with the present, to create an event that has learnt lessons from the past and does its own thing while still conforming to rules and regulations, although there is  much turning of a blind eye to activities that are not harming anyone.

At Solfest I found both the most anarchic creative influences present in the entertainment, fancy dress costumes, and various types of  artistic installation and also mainstream culture in some of the aspiring stars performing, still climbing that ladder, even though making obscene amounts of money out of music is mostly a thing of the past.

At Solfest, you can pretty much have the experience you want, whether you have small children,don’t have children, love acoustic music, want to go to various excesses of toxicity, want to be healthy and coherent and attend yoga workshops, want to rock, listen to live world music, chill out all night  in a psychedelic way or want to dance.

This is a clip from the dance tent although many of the older and youngest attendees completely avoid this place.

The Ashan Project in the Dance tent Solfest 2009

The only time I went into the dance tent was on Saturday night waiting for The Orb to come on and this was an experience in itself. Northerners and the Scots know how to get excited and to enjoy themselves with free abandon twenty times more than any uptight Londoner. The atmosphere was crazy. The tent was packed with people of all ages in strange costumes with hash pipes, cans of beer, laughing ,dancing and shouting and throwing themselves about and screaming in anticipation. After thirty minutes of  being pushed about in a friendly way by revellers, I left the dance tent feeling like I was being boring but also avoiding the odd bruise the next day.

I am using youtube in a lazy way today but I think this little clip highlights pretty much what it is like wandering around this festival and why I love it. You have the organised entertainment but the majority of the time you have people just entertaining themselves, everyone participates and creates the atmosphere( watch about 1 minute in for little sound system scene with live singer, random saxophonist and “The Urban Gypsies” dancing along).

If you like your rock music truly raw and raucous (plus beer) then the Bar Stage is often the place to be. I didn’t see this band but I quite like them(you get to see them on stage 30 seconds into this clip).

This is “Vice Squad” originally formed in 1979 as a punk rock band featuring “Beki Bondage” on vocals.

There seems to be less footage of Solfest this year up online than last time.

One of the reasons may have been the mud and the rain. By Sunday,the mud was almost as bad as Glastonbury 1997. My tent is cosy but not very high and you have to crawl into it from outside. Due to last minute packing ,I had only one pair of jeans and no torch, since coming home I have washed my jeans three times on the maximum cycle to get rid of the mud and had to machine wash the tent too, plus my boots have shrunk . You get the picture! Travelling home on public transport one had to adopt a ” I don’t care if people stare at me strangely” attitude.

Also walking around the festival started to get a bit grim by Sunday night. I went to watch Kula Shaker then The Charlatans with my son and his friends. I didn’t much like Kula Shaker, sometimes I felt like I was listening to The Doors, sometimes The Who, sometimes early Deep Purple, or even The Kinks. It was like listening to a puzzle , lots of pieces of different bands copied and assembled into songs but no continuity or individual style. The performance was faultless and excellently executed, but then to me,that’s not creative. I like music that has mistakes, it’s the mistakes and the improvisation that generates something new.

In the break between the two bands my son and I discussed various things, we like talking about music and culture together. We were saying how everyone is a “covers band” these days. The new bands copy the styles of the old bands and the old bands keep touring doing their old stuff, that nothing new has really happened for twenty years in terms of live (non-dance) music. I pointed out that in the 60s and 70s everyone was intent on finding their own unique style and not just trying to fit into a marketable music category that wouldn’t offend anyone.

My son wanted to know a detailed account of the Hawkwind party. Then he told me about a conversation he had heard in the Dogs in Space tent with this bloke who had been a HUGE Hawkwind fan. The ex-Hawkwind fan described how he used to have every single Hawkwind album on vinyl, first pressings only. When asked if he had sold them since,he said in all seriousness(something like) :”No, I gave up drugs and as part of  the process, I had to give away all my Hawkwind albums, it was a big step!”

I know we were cruel, but we laughed about it and imagined a twelve step programme for giving up drugs .

STEP ONE: Get rid of all your Hawkwind memorabilia and never listen to them again!

( end of my brief comment on Solfest, still my favourite festival)

Love and Peace

Born2rant

p.s. I just found out that the “Urban Gypsies” were on “Britain’s Got Talent” 2008 , they have just blown their urban gypsy credibility.


Our shallow superficial culture and talented people


Hello Good people who read this blog…

Some anti-tv vitriol….

I am changing the tone today just for a brief comment on our culture.

I have been watching a bit of TV this week and heard about some exceptionally talented singer on some reality TV programme. I thought I would check out what all the fuss is about. I cannot  post a nauseous clip as the music biz has made sure their protégé cannot be embedded….they’re selling her as an old maid, spinster, too ugly to ( I am modifying my swearing here) “kiss” virgin in need of our approval. What a load of ****ing ******s ( I don’t think I put enough stars on this to replace the letters but I’m sure you can fill in the blanks and realise how much this annoys me!) .

Don’t get me wrong I wish Susan Boyle all the best of luck and hope her career spans longer than a couple of months. But it’s the way the programme is made. Mr. Loo brush head with his dyed fake teeth, hair and skin is trying to portray himself as altruistic putting a talented ugly middle-aged  woman on the stage and prove he isn’t that shallow ( AND SO BOOST RATINGS ) .

The token pretty woman in the middle of the panel ( can’t even be bothered to find out her name) is poised and primed to cry ( I think you can get these glycerine drops for actors to cry, she must have just put them in her eyes at the start and they were beginning to dissolve), that Piers Earnest-Smug-Face person, who also can attribute a new career to fake tan and pretending to be nice , is looking on also near to tears as SHOCK HORROR the UGLY WOMAN HAS TALENT.

The audience has obviously been told to sneer at her and make fun of her when she first goes on the stage ( unless they are really just the average ageist, sexist,looks-obsessed advertising fashion trained public – which unfortunately maybe they are) . then they have obviously been told to cheer lots when she starts to sing. Because SHOCK HORROR someone average looking can sing well.

Why do people assume you have to be beautiful to have talent???? because of the TV and magazines and our very shallow idiotic culture.We’re turning into the stupidest of the stupid Americans! Do you really want that to happen? ( p.s. I have some really nice American friends so I feel a bit bad for writing that…but I guess I am referring to the mainstream American tv culture and ideas rather than individual people)

This next item is totally unrelated to Susan Boyle but is about talent.

There is so much unrecognised musical talent about …I guess only a very small minority of talented musicians will enjoy fame and fortune because the logistics of how many human beings there are on the planet and how few manoeuvre themselves into the media or are thrown into the limelight .I don’t think many people become famous without seriously trying very hard .  The thing is for singer-songwriters, that unless you are famous you can’t earn a living that way. I guess it’s the same in many of the arts but the amount of gigging musicians who are unpaid or pay to play never seems to diminish in London Town.

Here’s one of the many talented songwriters from the London acoustic scene: Benjamin Thomas ( a Bob Dylan fan but I prefer Ben’s music)

This next track is a bit unfortunately named for an oldy like me but I forgive him!

“Growing old is just an easy way of dying”

“The stains on my heart are solitude”

http://www.myspace.com/benjaminthomas1

Love and peace

Born2rant

p.s. Question if they removed all the smug or shallow people off the TV would there be many programmes left?

( sorry there is no Marmite in this entry I was just being silly, but there was a meerkat later edited, plus vampires)

Christmas TV….My nightmare!( a personal rant with nothing much to do with hippiecounterculture)


Hello good people who read this blog

I will be bringing you more of the Dave Russell interview on the Arts and Community Centre in Notting Hill sometime soon. At the moment it is proving to be impossible due to the very bad internet connection I have with TalkTalk if it doesn’t get better soon I’ll be changing my connection.

As well as the usual Christmas nonsense, all the stress, shoppers in Central London pushing everyone out of their way with a look of hatred in their eyes and post Christmas party puke on the pavements, there is of course British Christmas TV.

Christmas, Christmas, Christmas , bloody hell it’s Christmas! The most over used phrase on TV is ” let us take the nightmare out of Christmas” then they tell you of some expensive useless present or recipe or chaos or essential wardrobe accessory you never even anticipated and make you worried that you just can’t do enough to get the perfect Christmas.

So here are a few moments emblazoned in my brain of Christmas TV.

I saw an episode of a programme where an Indian woman with a strong Scottish accent went into the home of a Jewish family in the role of a traditional matchmaker to arrange a marriage for 42 year old woman .

In Jewish culture they already have a matchmaker tradition so why bring in a Scottish woman to do it the traditional Indian way? She wanted to find a husband so they were getting the parents and grandmother to find one for her.

Now call me picky or unpolitically correct but would you really trust your parents to pick your perfect husband? NO! I scream NO!

If you really want a nightmare at Christmas imagine your parents introducing you to some totally inappropriate person who is just like your parents and telling you this is the person you will have children with and are stuck with forever. To some this may seem like a very good idea in which case do it but for me and I hope I am not alone ,I’d rather be unmarried forever than have my parents chose my friends let alone my husband!

The nice Indian woman kept telling the “spinster” that she was getting old now and that she was too picky and had to be more flexible. Great. That would boost my self-esteem. “Hey , you’re old now so just go for whatever we dredge up for you or you’ll be a lonely old haggard spinster and no one will ever love you. ”

I also watched a programme called “the mixdown” reviewing music from 2007 . On it they had 2 of the women from “Girls Aloud ” reading through “Hello” and “Heat” magazine to comment about the photos of celebrities and whether they looked good or not. Well of course that’s what musicians do isn’t it? I mean it could have been Beethoven and Mozart sitting there flicking through ” Nuts” and ” Zoo” magazine to compare the size of women’s breasts or something.

What the hell has happened to music? “Girls Aloud” seem to be on all the channels this Christmas partly because Robbie Williams is unavailable this year and partly because they are in this new film “St Trinians”. At a time when there is even an outcry from the government to stop sexualising young girls in the media and portraying children as sexually available in childrens TV programmes, on all channels they are promoting this film . “St Trinians” is a girl’s school where it seems that most of them are wearing suspenders , stockings, high heels, caked in make-up and basically tarts!! The band “Girls Aloud” who are in their mid-twenties also play schoolgirls in sexy school uniforms playing in a rock band. Maybe they can get an arranged marriage at the same time? They sing a song claiming to be the”Defenders of Anarchy”. I’m sorry but unless you’ve been beaten up by police for protesting against Global Warming you don’t qualify!

I also have unfortunately seen this new competition with bands being judged by a panel of experts called “Unsigned”. If people want to compete in ballroom dancing that’s one thing but band competitions? No!!!! I have actually been in two competitions without even wanting to and I nearly went on the X-factor ( yes I know, but I was going to do it in a rebellious way and was going to play the guitar and be myself)

The last time I was asked to come along to this thing at “Cargo” in London and to bring a CD of my songs. It was really grim but I smile when I think of it as I was myself and it confused the hell out of the panel. There were all these young guys in bands with their image sales talk honed. Everyone had submitted press packages and one had a publicity pack that filled an entire box file. Everyone had biographies and photos and had recorded their demos with professionals. As for me ,I was an old hippie in my hippie dress and I’d recorded something very experimental that afternoon called ” Pixies” using lots of samples of myself and tons of effects and although maybe it was like me, a bit untidy, I liked it!

When they played all the demos the “Panel of Music Biz Experts” all listened seriously and the young hopefuls were so nervous I thought some would pass out. They had perfectly produced tracks in immaculately copied genres or sub-genres of music. Then they were on trial and the judges criticised the lyrics or said the production wasn’t good enough or told them their image was wrong.

Then they played mine. I was laughing in the audience as they played it. It made Stockhausen sound like pop. It had no lyrics although there were vocals, lots of strange sounds and pretty awful production and I had scrawled my name on the CD. The panel looked annoyed.( but I still think it’s OK for an experimental track and it has a melody and proper guitar playing and I sing harmonies!) Three of them refused to make any comment saying it was a waste of their time and a guy I think the editor of DJ magazine actually liked it…well no he didn’t like it he just didn’t hate it as much as the others did. Then they asked the band responsible to stand up and there was me in my forties in my hippie dress facing the scum of the music biz and trying not to laugh. They said I knew how to use effects well but really not to bother.

I was so glad they didn’t like it and was even gladder when a month later I got one of my experimental tracks played on the Rob da Bank show on Radio One.

All those young guys in bands so nervous and wanting to please and spending a fortune , I’ve never seen or heard of them again and I was the one who got played on Radio One . There is some irony there.

So today as I watched on the TV the Empress Jo Whiley passing judgement on some band who was trying very hard to both look and sound original and to please a panel , I just thought of Hendrix and Lemmy and the 1970s version of Ozzie …I don’t think they would have appeared there and if they did they would have had to write music according to The Music Biz Bible ( I’m sure someone wanting to earn a buck has written one somewhere).

My God what has music come to? Whatever happened to the concept of rebellion in Music?

After watching more of that sad programme “The Mixdown” I realised it’s all like The Emperor’s New Clothes. The media tell you some band are fantastic and great and they become famous for a while but any trained musician can hear that what they are playing on their instruments is very simple , any poet can tell you their lyrics are either cliched or trying too hard to sound deep without any message. It’s all hype and even the musicians seem to believe it.

I also saw Top of The Pops 2 with a collection of awful Christmas singles, more nightmares of Christmas. Including this one. It’s Status Quo in costumes with a Paul McCartney song (well not really but it could be)

Merry Bloody Christmas! This song is growing on me..let’s revive The Wombles!

P.S. I just found out the band who won the “unsigned” competition are called “Revenue” it says it all really , you couldn’t have made it up!

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