Bob Marley

I had the rare pleasure of interviewing Aston “Family Man” Barrett, legendary bass player with Bob Marley and The Wailers just recently. Aston was pretty chilled out when we met at The Brooklyn Bowl – a superb venue in London which models the original venue in the USA. Perhaps his relaxed state is not so surprising. I learned after our interview that Aston has 52 children!! As well as that he also found some time to be the “heartbeat” of The Wailers since 1969, with his distinctive melodic bass playing style. For a reminder of his work with Bob Marley, check out “One Love” here:

We spoke of a wide variety of things connected with Bob Marley, Reggae music and so on. Here are some of the backstage highlights from our meeting:

Inspirations

The music of Bob Marley and The Wailers was inspired by a deep connection with God via the Rastafarian faith. This connection occurs frequently in the lyrics to his songs. It also came through loud and clear in the interview with Aston who credits The Lord God as his main influence in his life as a musician.

“Me don’t dip on nobody’s side. Me don’t dip on the black man’s side, not the white man’s side. Me dip on God’s side, the one who create me and cause me to come from black and white”

Chilled - with Aston "Family Man" Barrett

Chilled – with Aston “Family Man” Barrett

Politics

Bob Marley’s creative contribution was the notion that rebellion could be combined with dancing rather than street protest. Marley was not that concerned with politics per se, more the politics of love and salvation rather than the normal bi-polar debating style of traditional politics. It’s a position that we need more and more in a divided world.

“Me only have one ambition, y’know. I only have one thing I really like to see happen. I like to see mankind live together – black, white, Chinese, everyone – that’s all”

“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively”

Family Guy

Family Guy

Music

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain”

Reggae came from a synthesis of Ska and Rocksteady – I talked about synthesis recently in my interview with The CFO (Chief Funk Officer) George Clinton. Reggae relies crucially on the rhythm section – drums and bass especially. Aston’s key contribution was to play melodic lines on the bass. This was pivotal to The Wailers’ unique sound. You just have to listen to “Wait in Vain” to hear this quality.

And finally here’s the interview we recorded just as The Wailers were warming up to play:

With thanks to Kirsty Pearce-Perkins for her help in arranging things at The Brooklyn Bowl and Lee Phillips and Lena Andrews of ME1 TV for everything else. I’m feeling pretty chilled after meeting the Family Guy! 52 children is mind boggling – Aston is 68 years old and my dad was 67 when I was born, but, as far as I know, he only managed two children!

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics, offering better Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. He offers keynotes that blend World Class Leadership Thinking with the wisdom of the street via The Academy of Rock – where Business Meets Music. Author of seven books on Business Leadership, acclaimed by Tom Peters, Professor Charles Handy and Harvey Goldsmith CBE.

Search for a Star

Blondie

Call me to join the band 07725 927585

Today we have an update on the development of “Rock In The City” – a rock band I formed with Dr Andrew Sentence, former Monetary Policy Committee Member at The Bank of England and now Senior Economic Adviser for PwC. Here’s some clips of the band taken from our first performance at a garden party in summer:

Now we have got the basics right, our next goal is to develop the musical dynamics and performance capabilities of the band.  We are therefore looking for a female or male singer with gusto to add sparkle and glow to our performance. We are planning a number of corporate performances in the City of London and these will attract press attention. Is it you we’re looking for?

Give me a call and I’ll fill you in with the details.

In search of a Prince or Princess

In search of a Prince or Princess?

Rock in the City - Logo design by Simon Heath @SimonHeath1

Rock in the City – Logo design by Simon Heath @SimonHeath1

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via 07725 927585

Business Lessons from Music

Top of the Pops

Top of the Pops

I’m off to give a conference in Estonia today where I’ll be giving a run down of 10 top tips about business from the parallel universe of music.  To mark the occasion, here’s the first in a series of posts containing bite size tips about business from music.  I’ve reframed the song titles in a creative way, sometimes outrageously so, to suggest some enduring business tips taken from the world of music rather than the longer winded approach of the business school.  Take a look:

This is part of a book I’m releasing soon.  Drop me a line at peter@humdyn.co.uk for details.

TOTP

TOTP

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585.

The “F” Word – Leadership Lessons from Failure

This Saturday September 06 I am presenting at The Institute for Contemporary Music Performance on the subject of failure. It’s a word that managers fear, yet any successful leader or entrepreneur will usually have failed a few times if they are talking honestly about success. The lecture offers practical lessons about entrepreneurship, strategy, creativity, project planning, team leadership and execution of your strategy for people trying to do new things, via the medium of a case study. Before you ask, NOOO, it’s not your usual dull business case study!!  Read on and check out the full conference at ICMP

Failure and Success - The truth

Failure and Success – The truth

Some years ago, I sponsored an audacious plan to circumnavigate the world on a rock’n’roll tour, performing at the greatest venues on the planet and taking your audience with you. I invested nearly £50 000 of my life savings in order to help my friend John Otway to advance the enterprise forward. Alas, my involvement came too late and despite achieving a temporary turnaround in fortunes, it was not enough to recover the situation and I most the money and about 6 months effort in an attempt to help John realise his dream. I dubbed the project, “The Real Spinal Tap Tour”.  Take a look at the promo video for the tour to get a flavour of the ambition:

Like most business enterprises, the John Otway World Tour was a GREAT idea, poorly EXECUTED.  It is never enough to have a great idea in business. Meticulous execution skills are needed to bring the idea into existence and I will explore the successes, near misses and downright catastrophes that led to the eventual meltdown of the project.  To whet your appetite, here are a few stunning facts about the tour:

A comedy of errors...

A comedy of errors…

Our presentation is available in your company with parallel lessons for businesses. We are also available to help you avoid similar flights of fancy or to turn difficult corners in your own projects. For the moment, here is the magical moment that started John Otway’s career, when he fell off an amplifier on The Old Grey Whistle Test, injuring vital parts. This is a stunt which Otway has developed in his career ever since, including our performance at Pfizer:

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics, offering better Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. He offers keynotes that blend World Class Leadership Thinking with the wisdom of the street via The Academy of Rock – where Business Meets Music. Author of seven books on Business Leadership, acclaimed by Tom Peters, Professors Charles Handy, Adrian Furnham and Harvey Goldsmith CBE.

Funk’n’Soul – An exclusive interview with George Clinton

The Godfather of Psychedelic Funk jamming it out at Kentish Town

The Godfather of Psychedelic Funk jamming it out at Kentish Town

I had the extraordinary pleasure of conducting a film interview with George Clinton at The Forum in London recently. Check out the film further down this article. In case you are not familiar with the legend that is George Clinton, here is a brief bio below: George Clinton was the principal architect of the genre of music that has come to be known as P-Funk, via his ensembles Parliament and Funkadelic. He is cited as one of a triad of most influential innovators in funk music alongside James Brown and Sly Stone. His music fused diverse genres such as Motown, The Beatles, Soul, Psychedelia, Classical and many more. Clinton has influenced several generations of musicians since such as The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Prince, Primal Scream, LL Cool J, Digital Underground and Primus. He is widely cited as a major influence on the development of hip hop music. He ranks 2nd on the list of most widely sampled artists. What then can innovators in other fields learn from the CFO (Chief Funk Officer)?

Clinton on synthesis

Clinton is a synthesiser of musical genres, bending, breaking and sometimes smashing musical conventions as to what fits in to a particular genre of music. He loved The Beatles Sargent Pepper and could not see why this could not be fitted into soul and funk music. He loved Jimi Hendrix’s wild guitar playing and could not see why this should not be included into his music and so on. Unlike so many musicians that sit inside a genre, Clinton has been a fearless boundary crosser. This quality is a hallmark of great innovators, as much innovation comes from combination and synthesis of things which others do not see as fitting together. To do this requires not just a tolerance of mistakes but a positive passion for them.

Prince exemplifies the attitude behind synthesis:

“One time, George sends me a tape and says: You pee on it and send it back to me, and I’ll pee on it and we’ll see what we got”

Find out more in the film:

Clinton on dyads

There is a long history of creativity coming from the basic unit of two, or a dyad. In the music world good examples of diverse dyads are Lennon / Mc Cartney, Goffin / King, Simon and Garfunkel etc. In other walks of life we see the same, with James Watson / Francis Crick, who uncovered the structure of DNA; and Socrates / Plato. Often the dyad is successful because individual personality styles are different enough to induce what author and thinker Peter Senge calls “creative tension”. Bootsy Collins provided the essential element of difference / creative tension in George Clinton’s case although his ensembles also contained “engines of difference” by design.

Creativity can become more problematical when we get into large groups due to the complexities of communication that exists in such groups … but not with Mr Clinton …

Clinton on creativity and structure

George also breaks conventional rules of the rock / soul ensemble, which rarely consists of more than seven members, with Clinton sometimes having up to 40 people on stage. Paradoxically, such levels of freedom require an equivalent amount of musical structure / discipline, with musical leadership passing round the band and everyone paying extremely good attention to everyone else in order to deliver a seamless performance. The parallel at work is that you can work effectively in large teams if everyone is ‘in the groove’ and if all have excellent communication skills. It’s what George nonchalantly calls “Tag Team”. If only it were so easy to organise this for everyone else!

Clinton on business

George recently started a project called Flashlight 2013, to highlight the need for musicians, artists and songwriters to own the copyright on their music. This springs from a long history of artists being ripped off by the music business. George Clinton has long thought that musicians need to be more astute in business and finance and the Flashlight project aims to shine the light on some of the things that need to be put right in this area. I must agree, having noticed that artists can be their own worst enemies in this respect. They either dismiss business skills as unimportant or are not able or willing to do the basics in business. They simultaneously whinge about being ripped off by unscrupulous music industry managers. These elements are related of course, although some of my artist friends don’t see the connections, preferring to take the “victim” position …  Check out the Flashlight Page.

Click on the fist to stop exploitation

Click on the fist to stop exploitation

I was delighted to present George with a copy of my book “The Music of Business“, which draws out relevant parallels in business and music. I also passed him a copy of my song for Prince, which is raising money for a Children’s Hospice at the moment. I hope he likes it’s funky tones and cheeky words! To read more on close encounters with George and the mothership, read One Night Alone … with George Clinton and Prince. The Academy Awards video is also well worth a look:

Clinton on the future

George has a book and a new album “First You Gotta Shake The Gate” out in October. Check the website for more details of these as they emerge. If you have never seen the Godfather of P-Funk, then check this performance out at Montreux:

Special thanks to Lois Action of Urban Unlimited for making all the arrangements. To Lee Philips and his team for making the film and Linda Vanterpool for valuable assistance on the night to ensure that our Director did not expire due to his chest condition ! :-)

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk 07725 927585

Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution

Going way back in time to the point when I first started doing talks about business and music, here is my deeply ironic translation of the lyrics from The Beatles’ song “Revolution”, reset in the context of the management of change.  It is a great tale of the difference between vision and action.  I’ve set out the original lyrics first and my translations in bold italics!  Admittedly the new lyrics do not scan and that perhaps accounts for why Lennon did not use them …  In case you don’t know the song you young people, here’s a video clip:

VERSE 1

Say you wanna revolution, well, you know

So, you are an advocate of Business Process Re-engineering and radical change

We all wanna change the world

Yeh, that’s what the workers want – creative leadership

You tell me that it’s evolution, well you know

But then you come on with benchmarking and TQM, man

We all wanna change the world

Yeh, we need to reform the bureaucratic paradigm, man

But when you talk about destruction

But when you say we have to drop our existing products

Don’t you know you can count me out 

I’m not sure I wanna be on the project team 

Talkin' 'bout a Revolution

Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution

VERSE 2

You say you’ve got a real solution, well you know

You’ve seen Ricardo Semler and have swiped his vision

 We’d all love to see the plan

Intuition’s fine but I’m not a bloody mind reader 

You ask me for a contribution, well you know

Then you ask me to ‘buy in’ to something I can’t even see

We’re all doin’ what we can

Well, I’m trying but can’t you give me some clear goals? 

But if you want money from people with minds that hate

So if you want the ‘late majority’ to come on board 

All I can tell you brother is you’ll have to wait

You’ll have to do better than a mission statement! 

Beautiful Boy

Beautiful Boy

 VERSE 3

You say you’ve changed the constitution, well you know

You’ve rewritten the KPI’s and the reward strategy

We all wanna change your head

We all wanna change our jobs

You tell me it’s the institution, well you know 

You tell me now that it’s the ‘culture’ and IT systems

You’d better free your mind instead 

You’d better start modelling some change yourself!

But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao 

If you keep bringing in iconic examples of success

You ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow 

Chaos theory predicts that we’ll build in further resistance to the change programme

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585.

Scrapyard Improvisation Challenge

How do you take a bunch of business people who have already done a full days work, enthuse them and, in just two hours, get them to write and perform some original songs followed by engaging them in a live open mic jam session? Well, some of that is “our little secret” at The Academy of Rock. But this post let’s you take a peek inside our approach to team development with music, which was judged as outstanding by one of our clients just recently.

The other week, I took the superb band Masterclass to London for an evening of music composition and fun with a market analysis agency whose HR Director prefers to give their staff ‘memorable experiences’ rather than training to engage, retain and motivate them. Alongside a diet of giving them a chance to actually play with the band, we also provided a ‘Scrapyard Challenge’, whereby we provided participants with a range of naive instruments that I got from a car scrapyard. This helps people escape from notions of what a musical instrument is and who is qualified to play one ….

Some of the scrapyard items we used

From the scrapyard to the stage

In the event, the scrapyard was barely needed. Instead we found an enormously talented bunch of people at the company.  A superb female bass player, several female drummers and singers.  Oh yes, and a few guys that got into the groove! So, how did we do this in such a short time from a standing start is perhaps a good question. Here’s our operating principles for doing amazing things in a short time:

Principles for Spontaneous Combustion

Install positive hallucinations – I learned many years ago through teaching MBA’s for the Open University that the first lesson one needs to teach people is to install the idea that success is possible. Many of my OU students would arrive having failed at school and it was necessary to ‘overwrite’ those assumptions before we could get on with the work.

Lead people to the water, but don’t make them drink – A lot of people think I make people do this or force people to participate. In fact I’ve seen people try to emulate what we do and fail miserably. No-one is made to do anything they don’t want to at our events, which is one of the secrets. This sounds like a really simple idea but it works, suitably led and facilitated and with suitable safeguards installed at the outset.

Choice, Choice, Choice - We always bring much more equipment than is really needed. But this provides choice for people and allows them to engage at a level of their own choosing.

Work inside the client / customer’s wish list – During the ‘aftershow jam session’ we took requests from the floor and then worked the songs up with the people. This is only possible if you have an enormous repertoire and was the main reason I chose Masterclass for this event. Involvement and participation breeds engagement. In the event, we ended up playing a whole hour longer than our agreed time with the company, after which time they still wanted more.

Girls Are Loud - Musical Talent emerges

Girls Are Loud – Musical Talent emerges if you let it happen …

The Masterclass boys

The Masterclass boys

A master of improvisation - We can also bring celebrities to events if required

A master of improvisation – We can also bring celebrities to events if required

We’ve done similar things for a wide range of companies and organisations. To arrange your next staff engagement or conference event with a big difference, please get in touch. Watch out for an exclusive interview with a master of improvisation and creativity – Mr George Clinton, pictured above – coming soon.

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk 07725 927585