Is this the real life, or is this just fantasy?

A few months back, I casually went to a networking event, got talking to a chap who said that they worked in the music business as a recording engineer.  We chatted on for a while, eventually I asked:

“Oh, have you worked on any records that I’d know of?”

Well, the last record I worked on is a bit old now – 40 years in fact” he replied

“What was that then?” I enquired

Bohemian Rhapsody” he casually replied

I pinched myself and asked “Is this the real life, or is this just fantasy?”

Turns out that this guy also produced or engineered records for The Kinks, Rush, Deep Purple, Toyah, Yes, Jack Bruce, Hawkwind, Sooty and a very long list of great acts from the 1960’s and 70’s. We got talking about the gentle art of working with people, some of whom have very fixed ideas about how they wanted things done and who sometimes had less than ideal personalities or, at least, egos that were too big for the room. We shared a connection in terms of my friend Bill Nelson, who also worked with Roy Thomas Baker, Queen’s producer. The conversation flowed on and on …

I’ll be talking with Barry Ainsworth at the Virgin Money Lounge in London on FRIDAY February 26th from 3 – 4.30 pm. Book your place NOW via 0207 439 8802. Beyond that, book us for an in company masterclass.

Whether it's a night at the Opera or "we're going down the pub" we can offer you an unforgettable experience

Whether it’s a night at the Opera or “we’re going down the pub” we can offer you an unforgettable experience

Of course these skills are entirely transferrable to the world of “Brain Based Enterprises”, where intellect must be cultivated, facilitated, directed but not squashed. As a result of this, we’re now able to offer a joint masterclass where you will learn from a master of getting things done with volatile and sometimes precocious talents. Should you really wish to make the event unforgettable, we can combine this with a performance of Queen’s material with Patti Russo, long term singing partner of Meatloaf and songstress with Queen and Cher

What’s it like working with Mercurial people? Find out by booking us for a masterclass

The Show Must Go On - with Patti Russo

The Show Must Go On – with Patti Russo

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. Book him for your next interactive motivational keynote or longer masterclass on subjects such as Leadership, Creativity, Innovation and Change.

Books x 4

Loving the 1980’s

In this article, I’m talking with Sarah Lewis, Author of “Your Eighties“, a book which celebrates the 1980’s and pop culture. I’ll let her get straight on with it:

Click to find the book on Amazon

Click to find the book on Amazon

What major trends in music shaped an era which we call the 80’s?

If there’s one word that sums up music during the Eighties, it’s “diversity”. Unlike any decade before or since, the era produced a spectrum of sound ranging from the Seventies overspill of Disco and Punk, through to Hip Hop and early Rave as we approached the Nineties. At any point during the Eighties, but especially around 84/85, you only had to look at a section of the charts to appreciate how varied the music scene was then. There would be Synth Pop and High Energy nestled alongside Rock and Metal; A Flock of Seagulls, Hazell Dean, Billy Idol and Iron Maiden all within a few chart places of each other.

Some music genres ran throughout the decade, their prominence varying due to the fashions of the time as much as the style of music they offered. For example, rock bands such as Def Leppard and Bon Jovi reached the height of their popularity in 86/87, when the mass appeal of big, permed hair was also at its highest. Although there is no denying that these music types are evocative of a particular period in time, the era-shaping trends of the Eighties were those music genres that went on to become an entire movement, the foundation of music production through to present day. I believe there are five main Eighties trends that can lay claim to having done this.

Two-Tone and Ska: The cornerstone of British music as we transitioned from the Seventies into the Eighties. Emerging from an anti-racist ideology, the message of tolerance and inclusion was often delivered both lyrically and visually, in the multi-racial mix of the bands’ line-ups.

New Romantics: Part of the UK’s broader New Wave scene, New Romantic groups such as Visage, Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran brought to the fore the integration of music, image and fashion, epitomised by Blitz Kids Steve Strange, Boy George and Rusty Egan.

Post-Punk: A term that encompassed a wonderfully eclectic mix of artists from Bow Wow Wow and Adam & The Ants to Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Cure and Echo & The Bunnymen, all of whom were unashamedly innovative and distinctive in their music and appearance.

Synth Pop: For many, the sound of the synthesizer is the sound of the Eighties. Whether it was Gary Numan, Ultravox, OMD, Howard Jones or The Pet Shop Boys, the inimitable appeal of Synth Pop grew prolifically throughout the decade.

Hip Hop: Colourful, vibrant and relaxed, the ‘uniform’ worn by performers and followers echoed the Hip Hop sound. Although mainly associated with American acts of the late Eighties, such as De La Soul and Run-DMC, it had filtered into the UK charts during the first half of the decade, thanks to artists such as Grandmaster Flash and Rock Steady Crew. It reflected a growing interest and demand in all things American, as the UK and U.S.A. grew their ‘special relationship’.

Never mind the politics, it was all about the hair ...

Never mind the politics, it was all about the hair … and fashion

What did Independent music do for us?

One of the reasons we had such rich, diverse music in the Eighties was due to the rise of Independent labels like Mute (Depeche Mode), Factory (Joy Division & New Order) and Rough Trade (The Smiths) records. Simply being signed to an independent record label was a statement of refusal to toe the corporate line. What it meant in reality was artists’ creativity and productivity grew, free from the constraints of the industry’s profit-managed decisions. Perhaps the most infamous example of this lack of financial regard was Factory records release of New Order’s “Blue Monday”. The artwork for the record’s original sleeve had been so expensive that each single sold actually made a loss! Never a better example of putting artistry above accounting.

Note from the editor : This clip of Bill Nelson interviewed by Mariella Frostrup is testimony to the “Do It Yourself” indie movement. Bill started Cocteau Records way back before the main independent labels and is one of my five favourite artists of all time.

The music itself, and access to it, was something of a phenomenon too. The publication of the first Indie Chart in January 1980 provided a more comprehensive picture of what people wanted to listen to, rather than the fragmented snapshots of popularity previously available. The effect of this was threefold. Firstly, it allowed radio stations and record shops to effectively meet the demand for Indie music, meaning fans had better access to the music they wanted. This, in turn, led to a crossover into the mainstream charts for a number of acts who attained fan-bases on the scale of artists signed to major labels, without losing their credibility as independent artists. The money this brought in to the independent labels provided the means to sign more and more artists, so that Indie music flourished, becoming a huge part of the diversity we have come to associate with the decade.

Tell me one of your favourite stories from “Your Eighties”

Well, without giving too much away, it has to be a recollection from James Sheppard, an 80’s fan who contacted me through my website (www.my-eighties.co.uk). I had asked for people to get in touch with their memories of growing up in the Eighties, and he replied with the opening lines “The 80s started as a decade of hope. On the 16th December 1979 I turned 9, and on the 18th we moved into a new house after a Harrier jump jet had crashed on our old one.” How could I not follow that up? Further investigation saw James recalling a tragic accident, which had made headline news. It was a privilege to be entrusted with his personal perspective, which I hope I have suitably conveyed in the book.

Similarly, the racism faced by The Special Beat when they toured the former East Germany, was another tale that captivated me when I interviewed Ranking Roger for the book. His story of the “so- called Nazi Skinheads” they encountered is compelling, as is his recollection of the more lighthearted moment when Saxa had David Bowie running errands for him, when The Beat played his support in 1983!

I can honestly say that I enjoyed every interview I undertook for ‘Your Eighties’, and the stories they produced were often hilarious. Dr. & The Medics’ Clive Jackson’s description of his wardrobe malfunction was just one of the factors that made interviewing him and the band one of the most memorable, as was Buster Bloodvessel’s onstage injury, which led to him referring to a certain part of his anatomy throughout the interview. In capturing those moments, I feel the book not only provides an insight into the Eighties, but into some of its most recognisable personalities too.

The author - Sarah Lewis

The author – Sarah Lewis

To what extent did 80’s music reflect the political and social culture of its time?

Enormously. This is a question I posed to my interviewees for ‘Your Eighties’, all of whom confirmed my own belief that one of the reasons 80’s music has endured is because of its reflection of the time in which it was written. Whether it was industrial unrest, consumerism or nuclear war, no subject was considered too big or difficult to tackle for songwriters of the Eighties. It wasn’t only those acts who were overtly political or outspoken, like The Style Council, U2 or Billy Bragg, who featured the decade’s issues in their songs. Both Ultravox’s “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes” and Nik Kershaw’s “I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” were about nuclear war. As a generation, those who grew up during the Eighties could hardly fail to have some political and social awareness, simply because of the music we were listening to. From Kershaw’s pop ditty to protest songs like “Between The Wars”, and even band names (UB40 and The Beautiful South), we were never far away from politics or social comment. It caused us to think, question, have a conscience and believe we could change the world for the better. We were the ideal audience and supporters when Band Aid and Live Aid came to being in November ’84 and July ’85 respectively. In addition to the pure enjoyment at witnessing the collaboration between some of the biggest stars at the time, there was a tangible feeling that we were part of history in the making. We were right.

Who do you consider to be the most important music acts of the 80’s and why?

I think the importance of those acts most associated with the five main 80’s trends we discussed earlier are a given, although some are more notable than others. For me, Terry Hall is outstanding, not only in his role with The Specials, but also with Fun Boy Three, The Colourfield and his various collaborations as a solo artist. His continual re-invention and refusal to stick with the same, safe formula ensure his music extends way beyond the boundaries of the Eighties, which are also the reasons why I consider Paul Weller and Madonna to be important contributors.

Editor’s note : Madonna shaped much of my life in the 80’s :-) to the point of applying a beauty spot when performing 

I find it difficult to answer this question from a purely musical point of view because, as we’ve already seen, 80’s music was influenced by and influenced, so many other factors. George Michael’s song writing is 80’s pop at its best, but we also shouldn’t forget that Wham! were the first Western band to tour communist China in 1985, a ground-breaking event. There is no denying the influence, quality and popularity of Culture Club’s music, due in no small part to distinctive vocal talents of Boy George. What is contentious is how successful the band would have been without George’s much- imitated look. Making their chart debut a year after the launch of MTV, Culture Club’s visual presence was fundamental to their success, but that does not necessarily lessen their importance within 80’s music. To some extent, this is also true of one of my favourite 80’s acts, Adam & The Ants. Despite having built up a notable, loyal following since forming in 1977, it was the emergence of the music video, and the band’s full embrace of it as a promotional platform, which gave Adam & The Ants a turbo boost to the top of the charts.

What is the legacy of the 1980’s on modern popular culture? What should be forgotten and what should be resurrected?

Experimentation and change are the keywords when talking about the legacy the Eighties left on modern popular culture. Whether it was music, fashion, comedy or an opinion, individuality was encouraged and positively embraced. That is something sadly missing today. Not only is there a uniformity and blandness in contemporary music and fashion, it’s almost as if the twenty- somethings and younger flatten out their personalities too when they take to the hair straighteners. Whether the cause is due to information overload, or maybe even a fear of being labelled politically incorrect, there is a palpable apathy amongst what should be the movers and shakers of a generation. The pursuit of recognition and reward for creativity, talent and (dare I say it?) making a difference in the world have been replaced by the fast-fix desire for instant fame, and a general dumbing down, in favour of mass accessibility. Whilst reality shows and the likes of the X-Factor continue to thrive, it’s unlikely to happen soon, but I do live in hope of an 80’s renaissance that sees people once again unafraid of being different and having an informed point of view.

I don’t believe there is anything that should be forgotten from the Eighties, if only to avoid making the same mistake twice. However, just because we should remember certain things doesn’t mean they should be resurrected. There are a number of offenders that fall into this category, including puffball skirts, mullets, Orville the duck, and The Toy Dolls’ version of Nellie The Elephant!

You can find Sarah Lewis’ books “Your Eighties” and “My Eighties” at Amazon:

Sarah's first book - My Eighties - click to find her books on Amazon

Sarah’s first book – My Eighties – click to find her books on Amazon

Improvising into 2016

Improvisation and adaptiveness

My background as a scientist instilled curiosity and the understanding that most of life is a series of experiments. It has been very good for my life as a musician and even better now as a business owner in an age of disruptive change. In a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) business environment, life in a business requires perpetual change and experimentation to find new focal points. This is a subtle but important difference than a “random walk” which can leads to fad surfing and a lack of consolidation of your value. Improvisation and adaptation have been invaluable skillsets, through one of the deepest recessions for many decades. In the last year or so, some of the results are beginning to show from what I did when there was not much to do in terms of paid activity during those times.

Joining Dots

People tell me that much of my longevity as a business comes down to joining the dots between people, passions and purposes. After winning a prize from Sir Richard Branson for my work on leadership last year, this has flourished, through some deliberation and a bit of luck, into writing for Virgin, gaining an interview with Richard for my new book with Bloomsbury and, more recently running events, which blend business excellence with music in Branson’s Virgin Money Lounges, giving me the good fortune to work alongside Class A rock stars and discover their insights into business, life and the universe. I have also forged a partnership with the awesome Ted Coiné (awesome is not a word that I am drawn to as a sober Brit), but Ted does deserve this tag with his exclusive network Open for Business, which brings together 50 thought leaders around the globe as co-collaborators.

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Restarting the engines

This year has finally been one when a number of businesses have started again to use the services of external people after many years of simply treading water whilst people halted projects or suspended the use of outside people to contain costs. We’ve been fortunate to deliver a range of projects from business reviews, facilitated strategy summits to leadership and innovation conferences for companies as diverse as FujiFilm, MSD, University College London, Bentley and Roche in the UK, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Denmark, Germany and Poland. I was also surprised to receive requests for consultancy projects from The Welsh Assembly, Renault-Nissan and Alstom Transport during the year.

Private joys

I believe that we work best when we do what we love. In my case that means occasionally doing things that my colleagues tell me are dream jobs. Amongst the private joys I’ve had in 2015, I’d mention these:

1. Taking BBC Business correspondent Robert Peston to a P-Funk concert with George Clinton and subsequently writing him a song for his departure from the BBC in support of Cancer Research UK. Check “Pestonomics” out here:

2. Interviewing John Mayall, the Godfather of the Blues, Prince’s sax player, Marcus Anderson and Prince’s first lady, Sheila E, about flow, improvisation, music and a range of other topics. I was delighted to find that Sheila had previously seen my book “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll” – just an incredible result from delivering a copy of the book to Prince some 8 years ago and proof positive of the value of networking. Check Sheila’s interview out here:

3. Performing on stage at London’s Borderline with Bernie Tormé, Ozzy Osbourne and Ian Gillan’s guitarist. Bernie was extremely kind in crediting me for having contributed to the reinvention of his career alongside Arthur Brown and Ginger Wildheart, a great honour and a privilege for someone who takes no prisoners. Here’s the 3 minute rehearsal of his song “Party’s Over”:

4. A great joy was recording four songs as a tribute to my good friend Bill Nelson, who has inspired the likes of Kate Bush, David Bowie, Brian Eno, Brian May at al. Bill has been a constant source of inspiration and wisdom for over 40 years of my life and remains to this day a permanent flame when the lights go out from time to time. Check out the Be-Bop Deluxe song “Crying to the Sky”, which was itself an homage to Jimi Hendrix. Also one of my earliest musical influences from Bill’s band Be-Bop Deluxe “Adventures in a Yorkshire Landscape”, written about Bill’s home area. Recording these songs was not an idle musical adventure. Through my advert for musicians, the project introduced me to Robert Craven, Virgin author and business speaker, also a Bill Nelson nut. I had already known of Robert through his work at The Director’s Centre but we had not met. To misquote Be-Bop Deluxe, the meeting was “Made In Heaven” and Robert and I are planning some collaborations for 2016.

5. I was fortunate to have played a small part in helping Patti Russo reinvent her career in the PME (Post Meatloaf Era). I enjoyed her performances with Spike Edney and the SAS band immensely but the high point was seeing her perform solo at The Opera House at Buxton where she gave a spine tingling performance of her song “One Door Opens”.

Public disappointments

The VUCA environment of the last few years have seen more window shoppers than usual and turbulence has just more or less cancelled much of my work for 2016, due to a merger at Pfizer-Allergan, an internal reorganisation and a persistent timewaster, who shall go un-named at the moment, since I am presently trying to mediate over the matter. No matter how old I get, I have not yet invented a foolproof way to spot fools in advance of them fooling me into giving my time for free. Hey ho, I guess that the alternative is to develop greater resilience!

My biggest mistake in 2015 was when I was approached by a chap called Mike Waterton, who rolled up in a Bentley seeking advice on how to transform his career from the boss of a recruitment agency into a noted author and speaker. I saw no reason to doubt his credentials (My wife tells me I trust everyone!) A while later, he told me he was unable to pay for the services I had provided as his business had gone into liquidation. Later on, he was accused in a local newspaper of pimping out his 25 year old girlfriend at a hotel in Kent! I generally consider myself to be a good judge of character, but I guess you never can tell … ! The FBI (Foolish Businessman Indicator) would have come in handy! It’s the first bad debt I have had in 21 years of business and I cannot understand how I did not spot the alarm bells earlier. It turns out that Mike is the victim of the seductive argument that you can have everything you want in life, as suggested in the book “The Secret” and beautifully parodied in “Family Guy” when Brian the dog decides to turn himself into a personal development guru and writes a book called “Wish It, Want It, Do It“:

FG

Click on the picture to see an excerpt of this brilliant piece of satire on The Law of Attraction

As a result of becoming indoctrinated by “The Secret” Mike bought the Bentley without realising that he would bankrupt his business in the process. His wife then left him after he acquired a young girl that appeared to come with the car. Lots of other people lost their jobs and earnings as a result of his self-obsessed strategy, informed by one of his mantras – “Think only of Yourself”, which is morally bankrupt and which bankrupted him and others who his life connected with. It’s not what I advised him to do and I’m disappointed that (a) he was economical with the truth about his situation and (b) that I was not able to persuade him to take a different course of action. I’d cautioned him about his strategy, suggesting that he built on his strengths rather than attempting to build a business on someone else’s brand, where he had no authority platform to operate from. Unfortunately, my advice turned out to be correct, but he also took advice from his girlfriend, who encouraged him to reach for the stars. A clear case of what my Mancunian wife calls “Fur Coat, No Knickers”.

Clearly I had little to offer in terms of professional coaching when matched against sex ... one of life's professional disappointments

Clearly I had little to offer in terms of professional coaching when matched against sex … one of life’s professional disappointments

Hopes and fears

“I made it through the wilderness, yeah I made it through” – Madonna

Having come through the recession over 8 years, I come out of it having refined what I do, branded it, become much better networked and with a range of artefacts to show for my efforts, the most precious one of which is a major new book called “Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise” for Bloomsbury which I’m very excited about.

Of course, I am 8 years older into the bargain and this occasionally worries me as young things can see such people as irrelevant in a workplace that values apps over application and wisdom. To survive in business in an adaptive environment requires improvisation, curiosity and the willingness to learn new skills without becoming distracted by every shiny new thing that passes you by. As an improvising musician scientist and business owner I feel up for the challenge …

Wishing you a happy and prosperous 2016.

Peter

 

Making better decisions that stick

Introducing the wonderful Dawna Jones from Vancouver.  Dawna is CEO of From Insight to Action, a change management consultancy which helps individuals, teams and organisations escape from tramline thinking that can become embedded into business cultures. She is author of Decision Making for Dummies and writes for The Huffington Post.

DM

Click on the picture to view the book on Amazon

Dawna kindly interviewed me for as part of her online interview series “The Evolutionary Provocateur podcast”, hosted by Management Issues. Take a listen.

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Click the image to listen to the interview

She says of change management:

“Over a decade ago, I was facilitating an organizational change initiative which made a lurch forward only to settle back as incremental change. Instantly, I realized that business decision makers and underlying beliefs in the culture weren’t adapting fast enough to match the accelerating ecological, climate and social change. Ten years of research into the science and spirit of human performance (and complex systems) gave me greater insight into how to work with the unknown to create greater creativity and resilience in companies and leaders at every level. Brain science tells us that decisions fall into repetitive ruts unless you actively introduce diverse opinions, reflect to learn from assumptions or take other steps to see from many levels and broaden perspective.  Advanced skills to deepen personal and organizational awareness along with simple principles allow greater functionality in complexity. Providing the learning environment to deepen skills personally and collectively is a personal passion of mine.

Dawna

Click on the image to move from Insight to Action

I asked Dawna for some insights into her work:

Making Better Decisions

Peter : What are the hallmarks of companies that make great decisions?

Dawna : They tap into both their intuitive intelligence and their collective intelligence. Transparency and trust are central to providing a growth oriented decision making environment where customers and employees contribute to providing the multiple feedback input required to stay alert to changing developments.

They take time out from being busy to reflect and gain perspective. Without that there is limited to no capacity for foresight – to see what’s coming ahead.

They flex their thinking to fit the situation rather than applying analytical thinking for every situation.

They are highly networked, consequently can keep pace with emerging change.

Peter : I love the idea of using their own intelligence and that of others. This triangulates a complex decision, leading to the best possible outcome rather than the lowest common denominator if done with skill. In a busy world, reflection becomes even more important if there is to be foresight.

Making decisions stick

Peter : As we know, it’s one thing making good decisions, quite another to take other people with you. How do you ensure that people follow their decisions? Why is an outsider essential?

Dawna : A decision not followed is a decision not inspired by a shared common goal. When a decision is forced from the top down, and it has a negative impact on those implementing it, it stands to reason that it won’t inspire the energy required for action. An outsider brings in an objective take on the underlying dynamics so the invisible factors, like cultural beliefs in conflict with the direction, can be identified and reviewed rather than dealing with the undertow created when you’re trying to do something different and it conflicts with what’s always been done before. Most often, this kind of conflict surfaces in behaviour and the temptation is to fix the behaviour. It’s a much deeper dynamic going on that someone not immersed in the environment can detect quickly using intuitive insight.

The importance of reflection and incubation

The importance of reflection and incubation – extract from Decision Making for Dummies – click on the picture to find the book on Amazon

Peter : The concept of undertow resonates strongly with me, reminding me of the lyrics to the song by Suzanne Vega, although clearly the song places a different meaning on the word undertow …. but do we really need an excuse to play a Suzanne Vega song!? :-) However, it made me think that the more leaders push, sometimes this produces an equal and opposite reaction from those being ‘pushed’. Leaders must learn to engage and develop collaboration if they want to ‘pull’ instead of ‘push’. There are only a few circumstances when push is of value such as turnarounds and crises. Even then, smart leaders understand that great decisions may come from those closest to the action. You remind me that the outsider sees things that others don’t see and much earlier, allowing an enterprise to correct its decision before it has happened.

Music and the mind

Peter : We talked a lot in the interview you kindly did about music and the mind. Share some of your thinking on the role which music can play in shaping our lives.

Dawna : To me, music is the song of the soul celebrating life in its many emotions. With respect to business, it can serve as a metaphor as you do so well in your work and it can also serve to bring calm to a stressed high pressure environment. Mark Romero’s music, for instance, has the effect of calming and bringing your body into physical coherence meaning you’re able to access your alpha (creativity) state and also gain harmony between the mind and the heart. Certain classical music is used by more enlightened education systems to help students remember their work without needing to exercise recall – That helps those of us have the ability to recall or memorise. None of this has to be set at high volume to work. Low volume works just fine. Music gives us the chance to enrich our creativity (same part of the brain) and stimulate expression.

Work with Dawna and myself on learning at the speed of sound

Work with Dawna and myself on learning at the speed of sound

Peter : I can certainly attest to the memory value of music, having used it over many years to help people excel across a range of circumstances from passing exams to locking in important thoughts into long term memory. I have never visited a country yet where people cannot more or less recite the words to Bohemian Rhapsody, now 40 years old. A pity they don’t always know so much about their company’s mission statements!! :-) Having just watched a Queen documentary on television last night it reminded me of attending Hyde Park to see them in 1976 – one truly amazing concert.

Contact Dawna via From Insight to Action if you are interested in making better business decisions. Dawna and I are available for joint projects into 2016 around the world, combining thoughtful Organisation Development with masterclass inputs that blend business ideas with music for maximum engagement and application.

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About the Blogger

Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. Check out our books on Amazon which make excellent seasonal gifts. We are currently booking launch events for Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise, a major new book for 2016 with Bloomsbury, featuring exclusive interviews with Sir Richard Branson and Sir James Dyson.

Books x 4

The death of the 3 minute pop song?

I am very lucky to have contributed a song to this unique album of 100 songs which are just 30 seconds long. The album 100×30 is the brainchild of Marc Christopher Lee and was featured in The Independent just recently:

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Click on the logo to read the article

Marc was interviewed on ITV News in London on Friday 11 December with the story. The concept reminded me of the work of Bill Nelson who produced several albums of simple musical illustrations, each one unfinished and recorded pretty much as is, without further refinement and so on, to preserve the musical ideas as they were conceived of at birth.

Click on the image to view ITV News

Will it be a Christmas Number One?  Buy a copy to help

Here’s some of the tracks from 100×30 – you have got time to play them all as they are 30 seconds each!! No wasted space :-)

I interviewed Marc Christopher Lee at The Virgin Lounge last week on the ideas behind the album. I’ve discussed the importance of the theory of constraints for creativity and it is clear that the constraint of less time can produce creativity in music as much as the opposite. Find out more and download the album at 100×30, which features Mungo Jerry and Owen Paul amongst many others. Has the 3 minute pop song just died? Did brevity kill the prog rock star? Perhaps not, as David Bowie contemplates a 10 minute song for his new album, but the 30 second song is ripe for an age when only 50% of people can get all the way to the end of a song on their smart phone.

 

Click to download the album

Click the picture to download the album at http://www.100×30.com

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About the Writer:  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. Check our new book out for Bloomsbury “Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise“.

SAS Band UK Tour with Patti Russo and a cast of stars

I had the great pleasure of seeing Patti Russo in Tunbridge Wells and then again in Guildford, as part of her UK Tour, with The SAS Band. SAS (Spike’s All Stars) is the brainchild of Spike Edney, who plays keyboards and is Musical Director for Queen. On Sunday’s bill are Graham Gouldman (10CC), who wrote a string of hits including “Bus Stop” for The Hollies, Mel C of the Spice Girls, Cheryl Baker (Bucks Fizz) and Madeline Bell (Blue Mink). Last night in Guildford we were blessed with Kiki Dee, Chris Thompson (Manfred Mann’s Earth Band) and Queen’s Roger Taylor. With a band of professionals to die for, The SAS Band must be seen on tour this week in the UK. They rarely play public gigs so check the dates below and don’t miss out.

THIS Tuesday 8th December – Portsmouth Guildhall

Saturday 12th December – Pavillion Hall, Buxton – Patti Russo solo

Patti Rocks

Patti Rocks – Photography Albert van de Werfhorst

Jamie Moses

With Jamie Moses at the after party at Guildford’s G Live – a smashing venue where you can actually see a band perform for a change

I first met Spike perhaps 10 years ago at the ancient village of Chiddingfold in Surrey, after my sister Sheila invited me to the gig. It turned out that Sheila’s sister in law used to do Spike’s book-keeping and I went along not really knowing this. I remember meeting him afterwards backstage and having no idea who he was! :-) oops ! Spike organises a complex and extremely professional show, having brought together a great list of talents over the years from Cozy Powell, Brian May, Leona Lewis, Jeff Beck, Toyah Wilcox, Fish, Annie Lennox – the list goes on and on. Perhaps this is not that surprising as he is Queen’s Musical Director and his skill at bringing explosive talents together is unrivalled. A rare skill.

Mel C - smashed it

Mel C – smashed it with One Vision  – Photograph Nicole Falter

Everyone is on top form. Madeline Bell was simply fabulous at 73 years young, doing a sublime version of “I heard it on the Grapevine” alongside other classics. We met at both aftershows and I must say what a great bundle of joy she is. The surprise of the night at Tunbridge Wells was Cheryl Baker who performed a superb version of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi”. Graham Gouldman of 10CC delivered with ease some of the many hits he wrote “For Your Love”, “Dreadlock Holiday”, “Rubber Bullets” etc. Mel C surprised with a great version of “One Vision” alongside the Spice Girls classic “Too Much” – it’s rare to write a Christmas hit that is not cheesy and this is one of the few. Spike led one of their legendary mashups of 29 classic riffs, beautifully arranged into one seamless whole with guitar supremo Jamie Moses and the band.

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The best dressing room in the world – with Kiki Dee, Patti Russo, Susie Webb, Zoe Nicholas and Madeline Bell – photo by Susie Webb

At Guildford, Kiki Dee does a superb duet on “Don’t go breaking my heart” and “I got the music in me” and a new Queen song, showing artists half her age how it’s done. I was smitten the first time I heard “Amoureuse” as a pale youth of 15 years old and still have the records to this day. Queen’s Roger Taylor smashed it with “Radio Gaga” and a brilliant “Voodoo Chile” amongst other pieces.

A soul legend - Madeline Bell - more than ever we need a great big melting pot now

A soul legend – Madeline Bell – more than ever we need a great big melting pot now and I’m voting Madeline for Queen

Of course I particularly enjoyed Patti Russo’s performances, having had the honour of working with Patti a couple of times myself. She performed her new release “When it Comes to Love” amongst many other favourites and a jaw dropping version of “Uptown Funk”, which puts Mark Ronson in the shade. Last night’s show finished with a superb version of “Imagine” – a song with a timeless message for our age.

Contact us at The Academy of Rock to discuss corporate events with Patti, from New York to London to Milan and anywhere besides.

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Load up, load up with Rubber Bullets – with Graham Gouldman, Mick Wilson and Jamie Moses – photo by Nicole Falter

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Riffology – Frankenstein Lives – with Spike Edney and Jamie Moses – Photography Albert van de Werfhorst

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Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock and Human Dynamics. Check our books “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll”, “Punk Rock HR” and The Music of Business” out on Amazon. Great Christmas gifts!! His new book “Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise” is available to order at Bloomsbury.

Books x 4

Do It Yourself – Disrupting the Music Industry

Come join us at The Virgin Lounge in Eagle Place, London on Friday December 04 at 3 pm where I will be talking with Mark Christopher Lee, leader of cult indie band “the pocket gods”. Mark was discovered by the late John Peel who liked his song written about his local curry house – “Ballad Of The Peshwari Naan” and was called a “wilful maverick” by Tom Robinson. Mark has just released an album called 100 x 30. Mark explains the concept:

“I wanted to do something to help musicians gain fairer royalties from the music industry/streaming giants with an album of 100 songs all 30 seconds long – For example Spotfiy pays out a tiny royalty of 0.007p per track over 30 seconds. This gave me the idea of recording an album of 100 songs that were 30 seconds long each. Why write songs that are any longer? All the songs were recorded on laptops in garages from just a few takes in a lo-fi style – the album is all about ideas and creativity as opposed to perfectionism and over production – technology allows people to record great quality music at low cost at home which is very punk and empowering”.

In my business life, I’ve written about the theory of constraints on a number of occasions and this project is a classic exercise in using constraints as a spur to creativity. See Constraints and Creativity for more information.

100 x 30 - Click to view the website

100 x 30 – Click to view the website

Mark has written and recorded 72 albums since 1998. As well as an indie legend, having previously played bass in Jesus and The Mary Chain, he also runs his own indie label which is now home to 20 or so aspiring new artists, many of whom are favourites on BBC 6 music as well as home to more established acts such as the legendary songwriter Larry Weiss, who wrote million sellers Rhinestone Cowboy, Bend Me Shape Me and Hi Ho Silver Lining. 

100 x 30 features Mungo Jerry, Owen Paul (My favourite waste of time), Tom Greene of The Orb et moi – I contributed a 1984 inspired track under the name “The Pigs of Freedom” called “Anaesthesia Politica”, which sports 3 verses, 3 chords, a 3 second guitar solo and comes in at 33 seconds long – just 3 seconds over Spotify’s budget to qualify as a song :-) I am looking forward to my 0.007 pence royalties from them!!

City AM picked up the story recently, comparing us with Taylor Swift – I’m not sure the comparisons are valid, but take a look for yourself:

The first time we have been linked to Taylor Swift - Click to access City AM article

The first time we have been linked to Taylor Swift – Click to access City AM article

Please contact the London Eagle Place Lounge on 0207 439 8802 to register your place. It’s absolutely FREE!!  All event details here.

Here’s “Anaesthesia Politica” – I described it as a 1984 inspired Psychedelic Political Punk Poem!  An entirely new genre of music I think :-)

and the slightly longer “Pestonomics“, released last week in support of Cancer Research UK:

Click to buy the track for Cancer Research UK

Click to buy the track for Cancer Research UK

… and two  of the album tracks:

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About the Writer:  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