The King is Dead – BB King RIP 1925 – 2015

I woke to the great sadness at the news that BB King died last night. For me as a guitarist his style of playing was instantly recognisable, built around purity and simplicity of the blues that goes straight to the heart. BB King would sometimes play an entire solo from more or less one note, using his unique ability to express himself with the minimalism that comes from genius, plus a sweet tone that became his trademark. This is a man playing from his heart, uncluttered, with perfect phrasing, pitch and poise and not a “speed king”. He also connected with his audiences through his voice, his humour and his authenticity.

I own a Gibson 335 partly as a result of BB King’s playing (King played a 355, but the 335 was the best I could do money wise at the time). There is nothing more to say except to share some of the great man’s work:

The Thrill is Gone – BB King 1925 – 2015

BB King

From Soft Machine to Nigel Kennedy – An interview with John Etheridge

John Etheridge with Stefane Grapelli

John Etheridge with Stefane Grappelli

I met the great John Etheridge recently, a virtuoso guitarist whose career includes performances with Stephane Grappelli, psychedelic rockers Soft Machine, Nigel Kennedy, John Williams, Hawkwind, Andy Summers and many more. Firstly a sample of his work with Stephane Grappelli and then what I learned from him:

On variation and originality

John pointed out that a great deal of the original playing styles that have emerged from the greats emanated from people who were not trained. In other words, the idiosyncrasies that made them great were due to not being taught to play properly in the first place!! Many young musicians have access to tremendous resources today, but it tends to turn out “template players”. There’s nothing wrong with this, but the aural equivalent of “painting by numbers” may not turn out people like Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix. For me there is a massive parallel in the world of business where standardisation of work practices reduces the possibility of creativity and innovation.

On improvisation and innovation

Contrary to popular belief, John Etheridge comes from the school of thinking that says that improvisation and innovation come from immersion in practice, or what is sometimes called the 10 000 hours effect. My original background was in Scientific Research and Development where we understood the importance of laying down significant hours of experimentation (practice) in order to gain new insights and be the best in our field. It is a habit that seems to be in decline in all but the very best companies. Here’s out interview with joined made in conjunction with ME1 TV:

On naivety versus training

Naivety and training are not opposites for Etheridge. Whilst he is a master of music, he allows time and space to behave as if he has never played an instrument before. Playfulness, both the mental and practical variety are extremely important for creativity and innovation in business. In John’s case, as well as playing his virtuoso jazz in his own performance, he joined Space Rockers Hawkwind for their show on the same night, saying that he just loves the raw energy and chaos of their music. Hardly a challenge for him musically, but giving him space to experiment within the confines of raw musical structures.

Al Fresco Jazz - on the pavement at Chalk Farm - how lucky are the residents - Black and White Photography by Christina Jansen Photography

Al Fresco Jazz – on the pavement at Chalk Farm – how lucky are the residents – Black and White Photography by Christina Jansen Photography

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics, offering better Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. He offers keynotes and longer masterclasses that blend World Class Leadership Thinking with parallel lessons from music via The Academy of Rock. Connect with us on our Linkedin Company Page and join our group The Music of Business where we discuss parallel lessons from Business and Music.

Death Cheaters – Wilko Johnson

Here’s the interview we did for ME1 TV with the legend that is Wilko Johnson. Pure delight:

Underwater, Underground, Underrated

John Peter Wilkinson was born on Canvey Island in 1947, more or less opposite me, separated by the river Thames. Canvey Island is below sea level, a fact which Wilko discovered in 1953 when the island flooded. Wilko was just 6 years old when Canvey was “twinned” with Muddy Waters and likes to think that it informed his life as a submariner subsequently.

A life on the ocean wave - The Canvey Island flood of 1953

A life on the ocean wave – The Canvey Island flood of 1953

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As the crow flies, Canvey Island is 10 miles from my home in Kent

Hippies, Teachers and Pirates 

Wilko’s early days were spent travelling in Goa, Afghanistan and Nepal on the late 1960’s / early 1970’s hippy trail. On his return his mum got him a job as an English teacher at a local school, a job which lasted a year before his interests took him elsewhere. He had bought a Fender Telecaster guitar for £90 in 1965 having been hugely influenced by the simultaneous rhythm and lead guitar style of Mick Green from Johnny Kidd and The Pirates, which he claims is at the root of his own unique style or “USP” as we say in business.

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Sprung into action

Wilko still uses his trademark Vox red curly guitar leads which propel him back and forth across the stage like some kind of whirling dervish on a spring. Just take a look at this great film with Roger Daltrey to see Mr Johnson spring loaded and dangerous.

Death Eaters

Wilko has carved out something of a niche for himself, in common with my friend Richard Strange. In Wilko’s case, he found his centre as a mute executioner in Game of Thrones. Richard’s niche seems to involve anything where he wears a hood, having been Kevin Costner’s executioner and ‘ate’ Harry Potter as a death eater!  Wilko comments on his acting career from Oil City Confidential to Ser Ilyn Payne:

“They wanted somebody really sinister who went around looking daggers at people before killing them. That made it easy. Looking daggers at people is what I do all the time, it’s like second nature to me”

Death Eaters - Wilko Johnson in Game of Thrones and Richard Strange in Harry Potter

Death Eaters – Wilko Johnson in Game of Thrones and Richard Strange in Harry Potter

Death Cheaters – Down to the Doctors

In 2013, Wilko was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and given just 9 months to live. He refused to take any treatment for his condition and embarked on a final tour. About a year later one of his fans who was also a cancer specialist heard a radio interview and thought that Wilko should indeed have been dead by this time. He got in touch with Wilko, suggesting that he may have a more treatable form of the cancer. Wilko agreed to undergo an operation with an uncertain outcome to remove the tumour which by then weighed 3 kilos and declared himself cancer free in October 2014. As a result Wilko is somewhat shell shocked by the news that he is not about to die and having to reconsider what he now does next. I recall a similar situation with a school friend who has also cheated death. One thing is sure – Wilko will be making some more music and hopefully putting in some appearances at The Railway Hotel in Southend where he is immortalised on the sign.

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Sign O’ The Times – The Sign of The Railway Hotel in Southend where Wilko occasionally performs.

Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey's recent album - click to view on Amazon

Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey’s recent album – click to buy on Amazon

I had the great privilege of performing with Wilko Johnson and Norman Watt Roy down in Kent some years ago. Also the more dubious honour of escorting him through French customs with John Otway, dressed as a nurse! My copy of “Stupidity” plays on the turntable as I write this. Long live Wilko Johnson!

He does it right - Wilko shares his secrets on my battered and slightly out of tune Hofner Futurama - my first guitar - £10 from the insurance man

He does it right – Wilko shares his secrets on my battered and slightly out of tune Hofner Futurama – my first guitar – £10 from the insurance man

“You take John Otway though customs and I’ll handle Wilko – after all I’m a nurse”

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Peter Cook offers keynotes and longer masterclasses that blend World Class Leadership Thinking with parallel lessons from music via The Academy of Rock  Come along to our next showcase event with Harry Potter’s “Death Eater”, Mr Richard Strange on Tuesday June 9th in Kent – Tickets are selling fast at Punk Rock Biz so pick yours up now

General Election – Vote P-Funk

I hear there’s an election coming up and I understand that many people don’t know how or whether to vote. It seems that the issues of trust and authenticity sit beneath this dilemma for many people.

If I had free will, I would vote for a different kind of Parliament, with George Clinton as the leader! :-) George has just finished his tour of the UK and heads back to the states with Parliament / Funkadelic shortly. I took the BBC Economics Editor Robert Peston to meet “President Clinton” the other week, having spotted his interest in George’s piece on the BBC Today programme on Twitter and having also conducted an interview with the Godfather of P-Funk.

I first spotted Robert's interest in P-Funk on Twitter

I first spotted Robert’s interest in P-Funk on Twitter

It was great to meet Robert with my friend Dr Andrew Sentance – as well as being a superb business, economics expect and journalist, Robert’s insights and interest in music made for an unforgettable evening which mashed funk, psychedelia, rap, rock and hip hop into a seamless whole. We spent several pleasant hours talking about David Bowie, Bill Nelson, Prince, Punk Rock and a host of other topics, washed down with a minor injection of business, economics and beer. I was bemused as Robert had to leave the concert momentarily to report on the General Election for the BBC 10 o’clock News, whilst standing outside the “New Houses of Parliament” at Koko’s in Camden! That’s devotion for you.

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The CEO (Chief Economics Officer) meets the CFO (Chief Funk Officer) – with The BBC’s Robert Peston and George Clinton backstage at Koko’s in Camden – Big thanks to Lois Acton and Suki for their help

George has just released a boxed set of albums called “Chocolate City”, recorded live at Metropolis Studios in London. The original album title refers to the black domination of the inner city populations in the US in contrast to what was termed “white flight”, the large scale migrations of white populations to more racially homogeneous suburban or rural locations. Music puts topics like this on the political agenda much more potently than a pile of “white papers” in the Houses of Parliament.

The Chocolate City Box Set

The Chocolate City Box Set

Here’s the ME1 TV interview with George and a link to our full article with Dr Funkenstein.

So, if you feel you can no longer trust our career politicians, my suggestion for the election is to vote for a new kind of Parliament where soul, humility and authenticity inform our decisions about world problems !! :-)  Unfortunately Mr Clinton is not standing for the P-Funk Party.

George Clinton returns to UK in the summer where he performs at Glastonbury amongst other dates. Check George’s new book “Brothas Be, Yo Like George – Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You?” out on Amazon.

First you gotta shake the gates ... of Parliament - George Clinton presents his P-Funk Manifesto at Westminster photo by Kofi Allen

First you gotta shake the gates … of Parliament – George Clinton presents his P-Funk Manifesto at Westminster photo by Kofi Allen

Venus in Furs meets a Symbol

Ain’t no party like a P-Funk Party – Venus in Furs meets a Symbol …

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics, offering better Business and Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. He offers keynotes that blend World Class Leadership Thinking with parallel lessons from music via The Academy of Rock. Author of 9 and 3/4 books on Business Leadership, acclaimed by Tom Peters, Professors Charles Handy, Adrian Furnham and Harvey Goldsmith CBE.

Join our group The Music of Business where we discuss parallel lessons from Business and Music. Come on down to our special event with the Godfather of Punk, Mr Richard Strange on June 9th – tickets selling fast via Punk Rock HR.

A new book from a dirty old town

DIY

I’m delighted to have been asked to host the book launch event of “Do It Yourself – A History of Music in Medway” by Stephe Morris next Thursday April 23rd at The Barge in Gillingham, a well known music venue in the area.

Medway, Mersey and Mississippi share a river and mud but perhaps that’s where the comparisons must end, although the river Medway did produce Chicory Tip, Billy Childish, Judge Dread, Wreckless Eric, Tracy Emin, Zandra Rhodes, Charles Dickens and Kelly Brook. It also produced David Frost, who attended the same school as I did but who escaped the towns as quickly as possible to the more cultured Cambridge.

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They could not get Kelly Brook to host the launch so they got me instead – sincere apologies

Romanticism? Perhaps. Yet, as one reviewer points out there are little record shops in Texas that have a Medway section, and big ones in Hollywood that have one too, yet none have sections from the “twin rock towns” of Little Milton (Oxon), Milton Keynes and Horsted Keynes.

On the evening we’ll be receiving several readings from Stephe, I will be explaining how I replaced one of our drummers with a spin drier and there will be performances from several of the acts that feature in the book, including the great Nick Hughes, who fronted punk band Gash and who I performed with in glam pop art combo Cenét Rox. I will be performing a post punk sonic performance painting called “Beyond These Towns The Sweetest Dreams” in support of the book launch and selling copies of Punk Rock People Management and the new edition of The Music of Business if it is available. Robert Peston, the BBC’s Economics Editor is the latest person to receive a copy of Punk Rock HR last night when we took him to see The Godfather of Funk, Mr George Clinton.

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From Spin Driers, to The Cowpokers, Music and Business – with Nick Hughes

So, come on down to The Barge, Layfield Street, Gillingham ME7 2QY next Thursday 23rd April at 8 pm for a cabaret of spoken word, music and mayhem. Bring your spin drier. We finish with some post punk prattling from the Pogues:

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Our new book on Leadership, Innovation and Creativity is scheduled for 2016 release.

In the meantime, do order your copy of the NEW edition of “The Music of Business” – Parallel lessons on Business from Music.

Come to our next showcase event June 9th with The Godfather of Punk, Mr Richard Strange.

A Love Bizarre – Interviewing Sheila E

Sheila E

A Love Bizarre – Some days at work just don’t get any better

Can the end of a week in business get any better than this?  We just interviewed Sheila E. Sheila Escovedo is a world-class drummer and percussionist whose credits read like chapters in a music history book: Ringo Starr. Marvin Gaye, Prince, Beyoncé, Herbie Hancock, Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, Gloria Estefan and George Duke.

It was quite clear to me that rhythm is genetically imprinted into Sheila’s DNA and her family who performed with Carlos Santana amongst others. It was a pure delight to talk with Sheila. Amongst the many things we discussed were:

  • The central part that the musicians at the back of the stage play in making sure the music reaches everyone and the people at the front of the stage look even better.
  • The role of a musical director in bringing balance to a musical ensemble. Sheila acted as Musical Director for Prince – that’s no mean feat!
  • How creativity works in music and how to get better at what you do through embracing the rich diversity of your chosen artform.
  • Sheila’s collaborations with her father, George Duke and many others.
  • Sheila’s book The Beat of my own Drum, her recent album Icon and her new club, The E Spot
  • Sheila’s work in schools, bringing the joy of music to underprivileged children and her community project Elevate Oakland.
  • The importance of incubation for creativity, sometimes over long timescales.

Take a look at the full report and the exclusive film interview over at our Linkedin Page.

Who said girls can't play the drums?

Who said girls can’t play the drums? Click on the picture for the book

The concert at The Brooklyn Bowl was superb and it was a great pleasure to get past the ‘facebook pages’ and actually meet the organiser of the Purple Army group Pippa Roberts and the woman that has given them so much assistance Debbie Poli.

Some of Sheila' supporters from The Purple Army

Some of Sheila’s supporters from The Purple Army – photo credit Marcus Docherty

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Sheila E and Eddie M burning down the house – Photo Credit Leena Khanna

Sex Cymbal - at the Brooklyn Bowl

Sex Cymbal – at the Brooklyn Bowl

For now, just take a look at some of Sheila’s video output:

And for some more on the importance of rhythm in music, business and life, see our interview with Chris Slade of AC DC.  I was delighted to present Sheila with a copy of my book “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll”, even more delighted when she said she had seen and heard of it before!  Next week, I’m taking the BBC’s Robert Peston for a meeting with Mr George Clinton, so I’m expecting another masterclass in creativity from the Godfather of Funk.

The Leader of the Band - It was pure pleasure and a private joy to talk with Ms Escovedo

The Leader of the Band – It was pure pleasure and a private joy to talk with Ms Escovedo

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Our new book on Leadership, Innovation and Creativity is scheduled for 2016 release.

In the meantime, do order your copy of the NEW edition of “The Music of Business” – Parallel lessons on Business from Music.

Come to our showcase event June 9th, featuring The Godfather of Punk, Richard Strange.

Anarchy in the UK

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 13.53.39I’m delighted to announce a groundbreaking once in a lifetime event that examines Punk Rock as a “disruptive innovation” and crosses this over to the world of work.

Come to our special event on Tuesday June 9th evening in Kent, where I will be speaking on punk rock and disruption and working alongside The Godfather of Punk, Mr Richard Strange.  Richard has worked with Jack Nicholson, The Sex Pistols, Martin Scorsese, The Damned, Spandau Ballet, Sophia Loren, Tom Waits, Marianne Faithful, Jarvis Cocker and Damon Albarn, as well as appearing in Harry Potter, Batman, Mona Lisa, Men Behaving Badly, Robin Hood and Gangs of New York.  The event will feature keynotes, interviews, film and a cameo music performance of Richard’s work across 38 years from The Doctors of Madness and beyond.

I will be launching the 2nd edition of Punk Rock People Management – my anti-establishment book about the establishment at the event.  Expect some irreverent and possibly irrelevant ramblings about the crazy world of work, punctuated by a few punk rock riffs. I will perform some ambient music soundscapes from my basement and may also accompany Richard on a few numbers from his canon of work with The Doctors of Madness.

Tickets are just £10 and strictly limited in numbers via Punk Rock.  Get yourself a copy of the ludicrously short but succinct book Punk Rock People Management – A manifesto for faster and better humane relations via The Cultured Llama.

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