The Spirit of America

I must say I’m not a fan of America these days – For me Donald Trump has contaminated the “brand” with his mean-spirited attitudes towards building a wall, threatening wars, rolling back progress on environmental stewardship and so on.  It is a perversion of the notion of MAGA (Making America Great Again) and the whole genre of fake news … but one must never generalise, and the magazine US of America supports and celebrates the values that make America a great nation. Contemporary yet nostalgic, presenting stories from across the cultural landscape of the USA. From Alabama to Wyoming, the magazine shine a light on every US state, showcasing the weird and wonderful of everyday American life.

The 2nd edition is just out. Here the editor in chief Nicole Nodland explains what’s in store:

Our cover star Dua Lipa discusses the importance of using your voice to affect change and break boundaries. Bruce Gilden captures the resilience of the people of Detroit, while Lucas Foglia presents an utopian-like image of the prisoners of Riker’s Island. From Larry Fink’s photos at the Women’s March to Alec Soth’s reflective series on the recent election, we capture the beauty of a collective spirit in times of uncertainty.

Minnesota is this issue’s special focus. Visit the land of 10,000 lakes with us as we look at the state’s lesser known stories and pay tribute to its most famous resident, Prince. It’s just over a year since Prince left Planet Earth and his loss to the world still leaves a huge vacuum. Featuring an exclusive interview with Mayte Garcia, a feature on Ida Neilsen, his bass anchor for 6 years and a piece on the musicology of a genius.

We go bicoastal to look at California cults and Brooklyn Biker gangs. And back in time with 70’s photos of Hollywood Boulevard and the NY subway system.

Catch up with Giancarlo Esposito, Mayte Garcia, Ida Nielsen, and Amber Mark to find out about their upcoming projects. And spend time in LA’s Inglewood neighbourhood with rising stars Ill Camille, Daniel Farris, Davion Farris, Tay Walker, Kenyon Dixon, and Jeff Bernat.

Grab your copy of Us of America now.  In the meantime, here is my tribute to Prince recorded just a year ago with Meatloaf’s singing partner from “I would do anything for love” Lorraine Crosby, recorded without practice or soundcheck, so there are a few ongoing adjustments to live guitar sound levels in the first few seconds.

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock.  Author of 7.5 Books.

Brighton Rock

I’m performing with Bernie Tormé , celebrated guitarist with Ozzy Osbourne, Ian Gillan, Dee Snider and GMT this Saturday 8 April in Brighton. It’s part of my “official birthday” celebrations so I hope to see you there !! 🙂  Tickets, just £13.25 available here.

Bernie will be playing songs from his triple box set album “Dublin Cowboy” plus a selection of old favourites. The album features a whole album of new rock songs, an acoustic album rooted in Bernie’s Irish and other traditions and a live album. My wife and I went round to Bernie’s for dinner the other week and there are some exciting developments in the pipeline … shhhhh …. 🙂

Click the image to order your copy NOW

So, I’m ready with my bucket, spade, shades and suedes to hit the town of Brighton, famed for its rock, cock and royalty … Come join me for an unforgettable afternoon and evening.

And the inspiration for the title of this post. The magnificent Brian May and Queen : Brighton Rock. One of my early inspirations was the guitar playing of Brian May, alongside Ritchie Blackmore and Jimi Hendrix and they taught me much of what I know now. Bernie Tormé‘s playing is out of this world, a fusion of psychedelia, hard rock and irish roots.  R U Experienced?

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Peter purges your inner business demons through music. Check his keynotes and longer masterclasses out at The Academy of Rock. For 1:1 mentoring and coaching on a worldwide basis contact him.

Axe Victims

Recently I organised an amazing project to bring 6 perfect strangers together from all over the UK to Bernie Torme’s Studio in the garden of England, with the sole ambition of honouring my friend Bill Nelson, leader of English pop art groups Be-Bop Deluxe and Red Noise. Bill has given us over 40 years of pleasure through his continuous creativity. United only by a shared purpose and passion for Bill’s music we set about recording three songs by Bill’s first group Be-Bop Deluxe, ending up in recording four in just under 6 hours. The background story as to how we managed to achieve so much from a cold start is worth exploring. In just 22 hours, the band formed, stormed, normed, performed and reformed from perfect strangers to permanent flames.

The Lazing Apostles L-R: Robert Craven, Tim Hands, Neil Turnbull (seated), Graham Burgess (seated), Bernie Torme, moi et Bryn Bardsley

This experience teaches us important transferable lessons about how to develop a high performance team in record time from an extremely unpromising start point.

Get Great Raw Materials

The “Lazing Apostles” (a spoof on one of Bill’s songs entitled Blazing Apostles) were selected using the internet after I placed an online “advert” for band members on Facebook. There were no auditions, interviews or psychometric tests. Nobody knew each other before we met with the exception of the drummer, who I worked with during my time at The Wellcome Foundation. It seemed that everyone intuitively understood the “job spec” and the level of capabilities required. All I did prior to meeting face to face was to arrange a brief meeting on Skype for an initial social chat.

The facebook advert and job spec

The band we ended up with were a motley crew:

  1. Tim Hands – Lead Vocals – Acoustic Guitar – Tim works on film productions for Handsome Sound Ltd – Lives in Market Harborough
  2. Neil Turnbull – Drums and Percussion – Neil is a worldwide pharmaceutical troubleshooter for Pfizer – also a drummer with heavy metal band Sacrilege. A resident of Whitstable in Kent
  3. Robert Craven – Electric rhythm guitar – Robert is an author of 10 books on marketing and small business leadership. MD at The Directors’ Centre – Based in Bristol
  4. Bryn Bardsley – Bass supremo – Bryn is a professional musician having worked in corporate life for many years – Lives in the frozen north and works as an odd job man
  5. Graham Burgess – Keyboards – Graham performs in a number of Progressive Rock bands – I know little else about him – From Hastings – is a senior member of the local council
  6. Moi – Lead guitar and backing vocals – enough said – A man of Kent

Two management consultants, a film producer, an odd job man, a council officer, a druggist – not quite the usual rock’n’roll credentials!!

Bill Nelson with one of his early heroes, Duane Eddy. Check Bill’s latest work out at Bill Nelson.com

Combine Passion with Purpose

We had agreed to attempt three songs on the day, possibly two if things went less well. I converged our song choices to three using a Delphi type process using a secret ballot on a list of songs chosen by the group. This meant there was a razor sharp focus to deliver these songs on the day and no divergence to try other songs. This is essential under limited time conditions. We also agreed the structures of each song through e-mails and sharing definitive template versions of the songs from Youtube. Each member then set about learning their parts individually – there were no joint practices and fairly little discussion prior to meeting in person.

Getting the Chemistry right

Given our complete lack of playing together, we sensibly agreed to meet at Bernie’s studio the night before, with the ambition of running through the songs once or twice and having a few beers to develop the essential “psychological contract”. We needed just over an hour of physical practice before we retired to the pub to let our work incubate over night …

Chemistry matters – gelling diverse talents and drinking chemicals (beer)

Rules of engagement

Without the use of a flip chart or holding hands in a circle, everyone in the band got the rules of engagement.  In hindsight, I think they were:

  1. Take no prisoners – We delegated authority over musical direction to Bernie Torme who simply told us when we had done enough etc.
  2. No pussyfooting – at various times we needed to substitute someone in the band to play a part. For example I simply wasn’t “feeling the love” when playing acoustic guitar on Crying To The Sky. Unlike some bands, this was done without fuss or damaging egos.
  3. Playfulness – although we were under some time pressure, it was a true joy to play with the other band members and we all enjoyed various mistakes we made, supporting each other etc.

The real boss - Bernie Torme - click to find his tour dates and studio

The real boss – Bernie Torme – click the image to check his tour dates out

Start with the end in mind

Given the huge geographical separation of the band members (I estimate we travelled some 1500 miles between us to attend the recording session), the most important thing we did was to lock in the recording date at the beginning. Creativity and genius counts for nothing if you are not all in the same room at the same time!

80 percent of success is showing up”

Woody Allen

Here are the four songs we produced on the day, plus the ‘re-enactment’ of the cover of “Sunburst Finish” shown above, sans nudity and perspex cage, otherwise completely accurate in all respects! 🙂 We are planning a return project at some point.

 

“Sign your name with a star”

Bill Nelson at the awards ceremony for his “Wakefield Star” award

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Peter Cook offers keynotes that blend World Class Thinking with parallel lessons from music via The Academy of Rock and better Business and Organisation Development via Human Dynamics.

Read more about Bill Nelson in the book “The Music of Business

Business Leadership Rocks Warsaw

I was delighted to travel to Warsaw to deliver a Leadership Programme in partnership with The Pure Sky Club, Bentley, Lafarge, Businessman Today, Legimi, AntyRadio and Quadrilion Art Gallery. Our agenda was:

The Music of Business – exploring parallel lessons between music and business.

Far from the madding crowd

Far from the madding crowd – with Paul Cowen, Agnieszka Kupczynski, Filip Sobiecki and Brian McBride

Personal Transformation – delivered by Federico Tonetti, Director General, Lafarge. Lafarge is well known as a manufacturer of cement products but even its business model has been rocked to the foundations by disruptive forces. Federico presented a compelling vision of transformation and explained how it could be translated into a corporate context.

In my Madonna hed gear - at the Pure Sky Club - photos by Piotr Myzskowski

In my Madonna head gear – at the Pure Sky Club – photos by Piotr Myzskowski

The Mathematics of Trust – delivered by Sebastian Kotow, Quadrilion Art Gallery. Sebastian is a business psychologist with specific interests in management decision making and bias.

Punk Rock People Management – a look at the strategic and practical management of people through the medium of punk rock – shorter, simpler and more authentic business and HR.

The madding crowd at the aftershow at Pure Sky Club

The madding crowd at the aftershow at Pure Sky Club

The Virgin Way – a look at the Culture and Leadership practices of the Virgin group, informed by the work I’ve done for Virgin in the last year or so.

Plus an exclusive gala dinner at The Pure Sky Club hosted by Paul Cowen, a panel session hosted by Brian Allan and an after party featuring the best Polish rock bands in the capital.

Here’s one of the slide decks from the event and a video from the warm up event at Quadrilion:

I’m most grateful to Brian Allan, Malgorzata Krukowska, Filp Sobieki, Sebastian Kotow and Paul Cowen for arranging everything.

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. Author of eight books on leadership and creativity as it applies to business. His latest offerings “Punk Rock People Management” – 2nd Edition and a NEW edition of “The Music of Business” may be ordered now.

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.

Hospice appeal 2014

Today marks the release of my tribute to Prince for Demelza House Hospice.  Please download the track from Bandcamp, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon etc. Set in a Funk groove “What U C Is What U Get” tells a fictional story of a strange relationship between Prince and someone from another galaxy … Warning – the song contains an explicit lyric – I have produced a ‘bleeped’ version for more sensitive ears!  It has been well received by the Prince fanbase with a full feature in The bizzniz. I’m pretty sure some will love it and others will hate it due to the various nods and winks towards the master himself. We shall see.

.. it's all right, it's for a worthy cause ...

.. it’s all right, it’s for a worthy cause … Click to donate

 

Below are the various links to purchase. The Bandcamp option is especially interesting, as it includes our exclusive “BUY IT DEARER” option – No Amazon or iTunes fees and we’re donating a full £2.49 per copy to the Hospice, so if you are feeling generous, click on the picture to buy now.

BUY IT DEARER ON BANDCAMP and give more to the Hospice - no Amazon or iTunes fees

CLICK logo to BUY IT DEARER on BANDCAMP and give more to the Hospice – no Amazon or iTunes fees !!

Click to buy on Amazon

Click logo to buy on Amazon

Click icon to buy on Google Play Music

Click icon to buy on Google Play Music

Click on the icon to buy on iTunes

As I mentioned, I also produced a ‘bleeped version’ of the song for those who prefer not to hear the expletive in the chorus!!  So, you can BUY IT CLEAN OR DIRTY ! 🙂  Can I count on your support?  Please share this blog and the links to the various places to buy.  It’s for a very good cause and we may just have a hit on our hands.  Do something remarkable for a great cause which gets no support from Government.

Censored version - Click to buy

Censored version – Click logo to buy bleeped version on Bandcamp

Artwork by Simon Heath - Twitter @SimonHeath1

Artwork by Simon Heath – Twitter @SimonHeath1

To help you decide which versions to buy, here’s the lyrics from the song and an audio sample of the track from our first Radio play on the the Thirst 4 Funk show:

And a radio interview with Salford City Radio:

UPDATE – One person donated £25 to the Hospice via the Bandcamp option – thank you so much.  As I write this update, the song has hit #3000 on Amazon – will it reach #1?  Yes, with your help via purchases, shares, reviews and so on.  Everything helps!!

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Amazon chart score – Buy it now

Jamming in New York City

Here’s a link to a Radio interview we did with Dr Jackie Modeste and Dr Wesley J Watkins on Trading Fours on the theme of improvisation and innovation.  Just click the picture to listen in.

Click to listen to the radio show

Click to listen to the radio show

Here’s what Dr Modeste had to say about the interview highlights via Twitter:

  • Musicians understand the value of continuous practice to master their art.  In business we are often satisfied with one day’s CPD (Continuous Professional Development) per year.
  • Disruptive innovation can come from the marketplace in a wired world, with customers setting challenges for businesses that get stuck in a rut.
  • Failure to spot disruptive innovation can be life limiting for businesses.  Witness the examples of Sony and Kodak in the interview.
  • Musicians are often great storytellers.  In business we need to get better at getting everyone to put themselves into the company’s story, rather than trying to impose our own fairy tale on staff.

Thanks to Jackie and Wes for an engaging dialogue, which was unplanned and therefore more surprising and enjoyable for that.

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About the Blogger:  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 out our online Leadership programme for FREE via The Music of Business Online.

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Sweet Talkin’ Guy – Doug Morris, CEO Sony Music on Leadership

I was privileged to meet Doug Morris, CEO of Sony Music the other week at The University of Oxford Said Business School, thanks to Steve Mostyn who contributed the Led Zeppelin case study to the book “The Music of Business“.  Doug Morris is widely regarded as the most influential music executive in the industry. Throughout his career, he has worked in many different capacities with some of the most popular and influential artists of the past four decades, including The Rolling Stones, Phil Collins, Pete Townsend, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Nicks, Bette Midler, Tori Amos, INXS, Mariah Carey, Jay-Z, Stevie Wonder and U2, among many others.  Morris wrote “Sweet Talkin’ Guy” for The Chiffons, produced “Smokin’ In The Boys Room” for Brownsville Station and was behind “You Sexy Thing” for Hot Chocolate.  He became President of Atlantic Records in 1980, working alongside Ahmet Ertegun.  Later on, he renamed MCA records as Universal Music, to erase the well-known view of MCA as Music Cemetry of America.  He gave a superb talk and I was delighted when Doug accepted copies of “The Music of Business” and “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll“.

Doug Morris

He’s a Sweet Talkin’ Guy – Meeting Doug Morris at Oxford University Said Business School

Here’s Oxford University’s own report on the evening – Oxford University.  From my own point of view, here are some parallel lessons about music and business:

Doug Morris on Personal Development

Focus – Morris started life with an economics degree and started life as a songwriter after a brief spell in the army.  Although its clear from the opening song in this blog that Morris has a fine ear for writing hit songs, he realised that he was better at sales than writing songs and changed direction.  Perhaps that’s the first important parallel, finding what you are really good at.

Passion – He came from a family of lawyers and doctors and his parents were horrified when he said he wanted to be a songwriter.  Turned out that he was right to take this career direction, pursuing his passion.

Sony

Oxford University Said Business School – The Premier location for Business Excellence

Doug Morris on Business

Simplicity – Doug pointed out that some of the most successful records on the planet came out of the first, fourth and fifth chord progression.  It’s the sequence that “La Bamba”, “Twist and Shout” and many many more songs are based on for the non-musicians.  Businesses and musicians forget this point when they invent complex things which nobody ‘gets’.

Love – Morris described his relationship with Ahmet Ertegun as one of a great friendship, recalling that they would listen to what each other was playing in their adjoining offices.  “If I heard something I loved, I would bang on the wall and if Ahmet heard a sound that grabbed him he would do the same”.  At the end of each day there would always be laughter and hugs.  Doug applied the lessons of “Sweet Talkin’ Guy” to his dealings with artists he wanted to sign, often telling the musician’s wives or girlfriends how good their partners were, and then sit back and watch the artists decide to sign with Atlantic Records.  Testimony for Morris’ power of attraction comes from people like Jay-Z who has mentioned him in several of his songs.  I must say that I found Doug magnetic, warm, focused and charming.  I would also hazard a guess that he does not suffer fools gladly.  All qualities of great leaders.

Talent management – Morris was asked “what makes a successful record” and he pointed out that there’s no answer.  However he went on to say that he has always relied on people who could ‘see round corners’.  The quality of foresight is just as relevant to leaders in business as it is in the music business and I would say from Doug’s answer that this is still largely an intuitive rather than an analytical process.  Doug told a wonderful story of how he missed the chance to sign Bob Seger because Ahmet Ertegun passed up on it, rather than going with his own judgement.  He reflected “If you believe in something, don’t pass on it”.  We discussed how intuition is undervalued in business in the post ‘Basic Instinct‘.

The Future – For the first time in over a decade, profits in the music business have begun to grow.  Morris believes that this is the beginning of a turnaround for the music industry as it is pulled up by approaches to monetisation by related industries.

The title of Doug Morris’ talk was The A – Z of Music – From Adele to Zeppelin – let’s finish with examples from both artists:

To get your copy of The Music of Business and / or Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll, get in touch direct by e-mail peter@humdyn.co.uk and I will deliver at at an author discount.  Here’s an updated preview of the new book:

Postscript:  Here is the lecture in it’s entirety:

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About the Blogger:  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