Photographing Princes

I met Nicole Nodland recently in the Virgin Lounge to discuss her part in the Worldwide Prince Photography Exhibition I am co-ordinating. Our close encounter provided an opportunity to discuss the art of a master photographer. Nicole has photographed a veritable treasure trove of artists including Pussy Riot, Mark Ronson, George Clinton, Anna Friel, Downton Abbey, Ed Sheeran etc. etc.

Nicole captured the heart and soul of Prince - click to view her galleries of music artist photographs

Nicole captured the heart and soul of Prince – click to view her galleries of music artist photographs

The manner of her meeting Prince was a great story of serendipity and a degree of drive on her part … Nicole had travelled to Europe and returned to LA to very little.  She moved back to Minneapolis with her mum for a bit.  Having done some photography for Warner Bros, someone suggested she get in touch with Prince.  Was this feasible?  Anyway, she did.  Some time later, one evening at 11 pm the phone rang and she was asked to go to Paisley Park.  What day? she thought.  The answer came “tonight”.  So she got ready and went.  Finding Prince in the complex was a problem but eventually a purple voice asked “Do you have polaroid?”  This was the start of her photography work with Prince lasting several years.

Do take a look at Nicole’s portfolio which spans video as well as still photography.  Here’s a few teaser pictures from her website.  Click the pictures to view the real thing. We are planning an event to cover Nicole’s work across the full range of her portfolio at Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Money Lounge in due course – watch this space.

La Roux, Mark Ronson and Sinead O'Connor

La Roux, Mark Ronson and Sinead O’Connor

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. Author of 7 1/2 books on Leadership, Innovation and Creativity. Read more on Amazon.

New Year’s Reflections – Princes, Princesses and Starmen

Part I – 2016 Reflections

I hate the passage of time, as I believe that every moment should count, but I’m willing to make an exception in the case of 2016, which took so many beautiful and creative talents from us. As if it could not get any worse, we lost George Michael on Christmas day (My wife and I were reflecting that I gave my son George Michael as middle names today). This followed the tragic losses of Prince, Bowie, Carrie Fisher and so many more people during the year. 2016 has been such a crap year in so many ways. I recorded my thoughts about 2016 overall in an Advent Blog for Kate Griffiths-Lambeth, so there is no need to repeat them here. Suffice to say, I have been blessed to interview Prince family members such as Ida Nielsen, Marcus Anderson, Sheila E and George Clinton in 2016 and before. In 2017 I am planning a Worldwide Prince Photographic Exhibition with Maverick Productions, currently touring The Rolling Stones “Exhibitionism” as another tribute to the genius of Prince.

Ida

Prince with Ida Nielsen – Musical Genius x 2

But all things must pass and I’m marking the end of 2016 by giving a LIVE performance of Purple Rain at Battersea Arts Centre from 12 midnight – 2 am, after a two hour Vinyl Prince DJ set – the story of how this came about is a great example of the power of networking. I met DJ Nick, driving a van on a busy street in the City of London. Nick called out to me from then van, recognising my Prince Symbol T-Shirt. After a brief exchange, I left a card and ran, since I was in danger of being run over by angry drivers as I stood in the middle of the road!! To my surprise, Nick e-mailed me to explain his evening job as a DJ and now we are collaborating on this venture. I’m hopeful it may lead to other things in my day job at The Academy of Rock delivering events around the world.

Prince on improvisation

Our Tribute Song 4 Prince may be found at http://www.academy-of-rock.bandcamp.com/

Battersea Arts Centre - Orpheus

Battersea Arts Centre – Orpheus

Battersea Arts Centre is also a fascinating venue. Partly destroyed by fire in 2015, the centre showcases some of the most amazing creative talents. It’s very much in the mould of my work on improvisation, by operating a “scratch” methodology as part of its “ladder of development” for new work. Performances are shown at various stages of development to an outside audience, whose input and criticism guides the further evolution of the work. Scratch has been adopted as far afield as Sydney and New York and Battersea Arts Centre has successfully sparked new approaches to creativity across the globe.

Paper Cinema's Odyssey at Battersea Arts Centre

Paper Cinema’s Odyssey at Battersea Arts Centre

What then does 2017 hold in store for us? I’m going to leave that part of this blog until Part II. For now, here’s the end piece of a performance I did in Italy to honour Prince, at an impromptu aftershow for 300 people after a keynote on improvisation in business. Admittedly, nothing compares with the real thing but I did my best …

Part II – Towards 2017

I have two global hopes for 2017 – Firstly, that our obsession with war will diminish. Aleppo stands as yet another monument to humanity’s inhumanity. Secondly that we will turn back from “mob rule” as characterised by the election of Donald Trump and our own Government’s Brexit. A sub-goal for me in terms of contribution to society is the SIX B’s :

“Break Brexit Before Brexit Breaks Britain”

In business terms, my plans for 2017 include:

  1. A new book for Routledge, focusing on how we will respond to a society where intelligence are the main ingredients of personal and business success.  Read more about it at Brain Based Enterprises.
  2. I’m hoping to deliver consultancy assignments in Greece, Italy, the USA and make a return to Mauritius.
  3. And the Prince Photography Exhibition will be a major legacy project, to honour his memory. One of the images from the current Exhibitionism project is shown below:
Get off of my cloud - not a reference to computing storage ...

Get off of my cloud – not a reference to computing storage …

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. Author of 7 1/2 books on Leadership, Innovation and Creativity. Find his current books on Amazon which include cameo articles and insights from Prince and other music giants.

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Brain Drain ?? Call for case studies for a new book

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I am looking for companies that wish to be featured in my eighth book for Routledge, which deals with the issue of what I call the “Brain Based Economy”, where ideas, intelligence and insight are the currencies of sustainable advantage. You and your company will find this of use if you:

  • Lead an enterprise that trades in the fields of knowledge sharing, creativity, intelligent design etc.
  • Are interested in finding better ways for “humanity” to interact with “machinery” i.e. computers, robotics, machines
  • Are interested in disruptive business strategy and change management

Your company gains from the publicity involved with being associated with the book and it’s global reach and also from the process of data collection itself.  We are already talking with global consultancy Arthur D. Little, Q-Bot – an innovative robotics company in London, Fujitsu and The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development about the consequences for humanity in a world where man, woman and machine have converged.

The book can perhaps be summarised by a paragraph from the beginning which describes the “Brain Based Enterprise” concept. I was recently asked what was the most significant innovation in the last twenty years in an interview. Apart from the fact that the question is almost impossible to answer I was drawn to mention The Human Genome project and Wikipedia. What characterises both of these innovations is that neither are physical products such as the steam engine. Instead they are based on information in an economy where intelligence, ideas and innovation are the currencies of progress in what I call The Brain Based Economy. We have always used our brains to solve problems but we have also thoughtlessly plundered the world’s natural resources in doing so. We’ll have to think much more cleverly and systemically to address some of the problems we have created as a result of this.

Please get in touch if you are interested to find out more.

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Brains – the currency of sustainable advantage

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. Author of 7 1/2 books on Leadership, Innovation and Creativity. Find his current books on Amazon.

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The times, they are a changing

I was completely blown away by the Bob Dylan painting and sculpture exhibition at The Halcyon Gallery which continues until December 11.  Blown away, because (a) I’m not a great Bob Dylan fan and (b) I had no idea that he was also a talented arc welder !!

The Beaten Path

The Beaten Path : Endless Highway 3, 2015–2016. Acrylic on canvas, 182.9 x 320 cm. Signed

“The Beaten Path” is an absolutely amazing collection and insight into the workings of Bob Dylan’s mind.  Sketches taken from his down time whilst gigging made into full size paintings reveal a United States of America that time has forgotten – the feel of the pieces very much reminded me of my good friend Bill Nelson who shares a love of outlandish American automobiles and the culture of the 1950’s – probably emanating from Jack Kerouac and The Beat Generation. It occurred to me that Dylan’s nostalgic paintings of a world of “Happy Days” cafes, suspension bridges, hot dog stands, art deco motels and a thriving industrial landscape perhaps explains the Trump triumph.  A pity Dylan did not run for President – he has better catchphrases than our Donald , if a little longer …

When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose” – Bob Dylan

Make America Great Again” – Donald Trump

I’m not really a big Dylan fan but started to take a much greater interest in his work when he started making Radio programmes. He has a deep ironic wit not seen since the time of John Peel. I was blown away by the socio-economic observations that Dylan makes in his painting, fuelled by his wit and a degree of irony. None more so in this painting of the Paradise Motel where Dylan wryly observes “Vacancy Sorry” in an early version of “Trip Advisor”:

Bob Dylan invented Trip Advisor !!

Bob Dylan invented Trip Advisor !! Florida Country, 2015–2016. Acrylic on canvas, 81.3 x 121.9 cm. Signed

I did not know that Dylan has an arc welding kit in his backyard (as of course we all do!! :-).  It turns out that he has an extremely rare and creative talent for fusing everyday tools into beautiful sculptures.  Dylan is seen working away at one of his pieces below:

dylan

Bob Dylan in the studio

The exhibition has something for everyone, from a glorious table top book of the artworks at £55 through to a flight case containing the same with individually produced “stickers” of the various places that Dylan stayed as a timepiece and other artefacts from the “Route 66” era.

The Boxed Set - a very special edition

The Boxed Set – Limited edition book comprising a unique limited edition graphic of Endless Highway, signed by Bob Dylan and a bespoke hand-finished flight case

Check out the exhibition which runs until December 11 at The Halcyon Gallery.

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. Author of 7 books on business leadership, creativity and innovation acclaimed by Tom Peters, Professors Charles Handy, Adrian Furnham and Harvey Goldsmith CBE. His latest book can be found at Bloomsbury.com

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Dublin Cowboy

Following the success of his two recent crowd-funded albums, 2014’s Flowers & Dirt and 2015’s Blackheart, former Gillan and Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Bernie Tormé has announced plans for a new album. ‘Dublin Cowboy’ will be a triple album comprising a studio CD, an acoustic CD and a live CD. The album is scheduled for release in March 2017 and, again, fans are being asked to support the production and release of the album via a crowdfunding appeal.

“I’m so psyched to be doing my third crowd-funded album on Pledgemusic, and in celebration of number three it’s also a triple album. Triple offender! Titled ‘Dublin Cowboy’ – because that’s what I am, its going to be a studio album, acoustic album, and a live album altogether in a dinky little slip-box. It’s a totally new experience for me, and that’s the best thing about it! It’ll be released in March 2017, and we’ll be rocking it live throughout the UK in April 2017.”

Jamming with da man - at the Hilton Hotel

Jamming with ‘da man – at the Hilton Hotel – To be sure, to be sure

The success of his two recent solo albums heralded the start of a real career renaissance for Bernie Tormé. He even claimed that I was part of it when all I did was buy the beer!! Seriously I’m also seriously geeked to have played a small part in Bernie’s renaissance alongside Arthur Brown, Ginger Wildheart et al. I’ve also performed on stage twice with Bernie and the band at London’s Borderline which is a kind of baptism by fire …

Bernie Torme Quote

Both albums were assisted by highly successful crowdfunding campaigns that helped reconnect Bernie with long-standing fans as well as bringing new ones. ‘Dublin Cowboy’ continues that renaissance.

Full details of Bernie’s Pledgemusic appeal can be found at Dublin Cowboy. Here’s some highlights:

  • £25 buys you a copy of the ‘Dublin Cowboy’ triple CD (and the first 100 physical CD orders will also get a free Bernie Tormé ‘Stratocaster Gypsy’ DVD
  • £36 buys you a signed copy of ‘Dublin Cowboy’ (together with a free DVD for the first 100 physical CD orders)
  • £200 buys you a Guitar Masterclass with Bernie
  • £350 buys you a day’s recording at Barnroom Studios in Kent with Bernie producing
  • £500 buys you Bernie’s vintage pirate coat, as worn on stage by Bernie during the Gillan era
"Pirates of Temple Bar" - Bernie's "piratic coat of many colours" - SOLD

“Pirates of Temple Bar” – Bernie’s “piratic coat of many colours” – SOLD

To tie in with the release of the album a new 2017 UK Tour has also been announced:

1st April SOUTH SHIELDS The Unionist Club

2nd April GLASGOW Nice n Sleazy

3rd April EDINBURGH Bannermans

4th April GRIMSBY Yardbirds

5th April MANCHESTER FAC25

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6th April WOLVERHAMPTON The Robin

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7th April LONDON The Borderline

8th April BRIGHTON The Prince Albert

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Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock, blending business with music. Read his book “The Music of Business” which includes an interview with Bernie Tormé.

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Leadership Lessons from Two Virgins

I was approached by David Tait OBE recently to form a speaking partnership. David was with Virgin Atlantic from the very beginning and is acknowledged by Sir Richard Branson as having played a pivotal role in the development of Virgin, marking its progress from an underground office to a global luxury brand.David wrote British Atlantic Airways first business plan, a company that would eventually become Virgin Atlantic. In 1984, Tait became the fledgling airline’s first US employee, reporting directly to Sir Richard Branson. He built and led all the airline’s North American operations including sales, marketing, operations, customer service, finance, IT and HR. He was awarded an OBE in 2001 by Queen Elizabeth II for “services to British aviation in the United States”. Since that time he has worked as a consultant to the airline and travel industry and is a founding partner in the online luxury hotel booking site “Discover Luxury”. David has a veritable treasure trove of stories that offer insights into the ingenious and disruptive strategies of a serial entrepreneur and the Virgin brand. Here are just a few of the stories we share in our work together.

I want to break free … frustration and innovation


In the same way that Sir James Dyson’s breakthrough Dual Cyclone vacuum cleaner was inspired by his frustration with his existing vacuum cleaner, Branson’s decision to start Virgin Atlantic was inspired by a sense of frustration with existing customer service:

“As the head of Virgin Records, Richard Branson was a frequent flier between London and New York. Frustrated by consistently high fares and bad service he was convinced there had to be a better way and so, never one to be hindered by conventional wisdom, decided he would look at starting his own transatlantic airline. He’d learned from his success in the music business that what doesn’t work in theory can sometimes work in practice. But this was different – in a business ruled by Goliaths, starting another airline was a major leap of faith!

But just ‘another airline’ wasn’t what Branson had in mind. With the help of a few former Laker executives and some entertainment industry flair, Virgin crafted a radically different model. Branded Virgin Atlantic Airways – by conservative airline standards a risqué move – the product it offered would be equally disruptive.”

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An obsession with Customer Service – Virgin Upper Class

Being frustrated is insufficient to innovate.  You must go on and do something about it. Some 5127 prototypes later James Dyson produced his first commercially viable Dual Cyclone cleaner. Branson also went past frustration and disrupted the market in a monopoly industry. Find out more about Dyson and Branson in our exclusive interviews with both at “Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise

Screw it, Let’s do it


David recalls the “Screw it, Let’s do it” days of Virgin Atlantic’s maiden flights to New York. One of Richard Branson’s secrets is that he is a master of delegation and that sometimes means he does not always “do the detail”. It turned out that Richard had managed to forget his passport for the first Virgin Atlantic flight to the USA, which technically made him an illegal immigrant! David had to skilfully navigate his way out of the problem …

Brand-son


David also shares insights on how to change the customer experience via the early days of Virgin Atlantic with a fellow alumni of my secondary school, Sir David Frost:

“Those on the inbound trip were party to a flight that could well have made the Guinness World Records book for the most champagne consumed on a single Atlantic crossing.

A smiling David Frost, who was almost a weekly commuter across the Atlantic at the time, told me that it was the first time he’d ever made the entire seven-hour trip standing up with a drink in his hand”.

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Sir David Frost R.I.P.

As well as some great storytelling, together David and I offer deep insights and takeaway concepts presented in ways that last forever. My experience of teaching MBA’s over 20 years has shown that we are missing out on the heart and soul of leadership by just teaching dry concepts. The mnemonic MBA should really stand for Much Bigger Amplifiers rather than More Blooming Analysis! We cover subjects such as

  • Disruptive thinking about your business strategy and practices
  • Converting ideas into sustainable innovations
  • Building and rethinking your brand to face a VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous)
  • The “anatomy” of Sir Richard Branson : Why he leads the way he does
  • How does Virgin organise its affairs? – Culturally, structurally and in terms of day to day people management
  • Customer Centricity without Customer OCD
  • Leadership for good : Balancing Passion, Purpose and Profit

We finish with the hilarious story of Richard’s entrée into the world of Cola, which resulted in failure:

Cola Wars


“When trying to promote anything in the US one really has to “Go big or go home” – well, we went big! … I drove a vintage Sherman tank down Broadway … heroically smashing through a giant wall of Coke and Pepsi cans.”

Sir Richard Branson

On this occasion Richard’s underlying modus operandi of “playing David to Goliath” did not succeed. Coca Cola engaged their massive distribution machine to ensure there was no room on the shelves for Virgin’s product, Coke was discounted massively and Virgin retired injured. The key point here is the idea that success recipes work for a set of reasons and therefore transplanting a recipe (the David and Goliath approach in this case) does not always work in a new set of circumstances.

Contact me via peter@humdyn.co.uk to book David and myself for that very special event.

With Sir Richard Branson at The Virgin Money Lounge

With Sir Richard Branson at The Virgin Money Lounge

Engineering Bohemian Rhapsody

Here is our 1:1 interview with Barry Ainsworth, the man who engineered Bohemian Rhapsody as well as records for people as diverse as Otis Redding, Dusty Springfield, The Kinks, Rush, Deep Purple, Toyah, Yes, Jack Bruce, Hawkwind, Sooty !! and a very long list of music acts from the 1960’s and 70’s. Filmed and produced by Rory Gill, freelance film maker. Barry and I are available to give talks on aspects of working with precocious talents and extracting their genius with transferrable lessons for businesses who are interested in innovation and creativity.

Some of the artists Barry has produced

Just some of the artists Barry has produced … from Otis Redding “Dock of the Bay” to Deep Purple, Nancy Sinatra, The Beach Boys, Petula Clark etc.

To whet your appetite, in this film you will learn about:

  • Working in Liverpool’s Cavern – birthplace of The Beatles
  • Working with Frank and Nancy Sinatra
  • Dealing with Monsters of Rock – Deep Purple, Cream
  • Working with incendiary people – Lemmy, Punk Rock
  • Innovation in music recording and production
  • Working with Queen and dealing with perfectionists

So, please view the film, comment and share it widely.

Barry Ainsworth and Rory Gill at The Virgin Lounge

Barry Ainsworth and Rory Gill at The Virgin Money Lounge in London

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Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock and Human Dynamics. Check his books out on Amazon:

Click to view books on Amazon

Click to view books on Amazon

If you enjoyed this article, try some of our other work:

On Creativity and Playfulness

Prince and Innovation

Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise

Hendrix and Clapton compared – Innovation style