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:

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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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Hollywood comes to … Wakefield

With the great Bill Nelson - continuously creative for more that 45 years

With the great Bill Nelson – continuously creative for more than 45 years

It was a rare privilege and a great pleasure to make a 12 hour round trip to Wakefield on Monday, to witness the artist, musician and friend Mr Bill Nelson receive a lifetime achievement award for his work in a ceremony that lasted less than 10 minutes.  The Wakefield Stars Scheme aims to acknowledge lifetime achievements of local people and the ambition is to pave the area all the way from the Bull Ring to The Hepworth Gallery with these Hollywood styled pavement plaques. Bill will be sitting amongst such stunning company as Henry Moore, the composer Noel Gay, John Godber the playwright, Barbara Hepworth, Sir Martin Frobisher, conservationist Charles Waterton and many others who made Wakefield’s mark on the world.

Bill has defied convention, setting his own path in a music world dominated by people who prefer to follow the latest fashion. Perhaps one of the first to start his own independent label Cocteau Records, Bill has always been at least two steps ahead of the world.  Admired by Sir Paul McCartney, Kate Bush, Brian May and many other greats.  An influence on people such as Prince, Big Country, Dave Grohl etc. and copied by post-modern acts such as My Chemical Romance and The Darkness.  You can read more on this aspect at Bill Nelson – integrity and creativity in a bottle.

Perhaps the most poignant moment of the ceremony was when Bill recalled that he had stood at the foot of the stage at around the age of four years old as his father Walter played the saxophone at a wedding. Bill had been given a toy saxophone to play along with his father! He has had some sadness in his life of late, as he is suffering from hearing loss. It was this news that compelled me to make the journey for what was less than an hour at the event, having connected deeply with Bill’s sense of frustration at the thought that he may not be able to make or hear music in quite the same way ever again. I also know that Bill will rise again as there are some wonderful things that can be done in this age to mitigate the symptoms that he is experiencing. It was also lovely to see Bill’s Mum who always looks fantastic, alongside Bill’s wife Emiko and the Nelson family – a proud moment for them.

I was reminded of scenes from “Dads Army” with the Town Clerk, as the Director of Culture and the Arts attempted to read his speech without any real knowledge of Bill’s work and his impact across the world! 🙂 Still, it was rather charming for all that and he made a really good effort despite his lack of knowledge of Wakefield’s finest. A little less time spent in strategic planning committees and more on the street is recommended 🙂 Bill pointed out that the last prize he won was a bar of chocolate for striking the triangle once in a performance when he was a boy! He has been hitting all the right notes ever since despite no formal musical education. Like myself, Bill claims he cannot read music, playing by ear and using intuition to guide him into new sonic territories. It’s a refreshing change to the ‘painting by numbers’ approach that turns out identikit musicians these days.

From Hollywood to Holyground ...

From Hollywood to Holyground …

In case you are unfamiliar with Bill’s work, here’s a sample of the huge diversity of his music. Check his website out at Bill Nelson and catch up with his output. This truly was an adventure in a Yorkshire landscape which was made in heaven … Sign your name with a star …

Here's hoping the Wakefield's Starman will rise again - Thank you for 40 years of continuous joy

Here’s hoping that Wakefield’s Starman will rise again – Thank you for 40 years of continuous joy. Stay Young

An audience with Marc Almond

It was an immense pleasure to attend an audience with Marc Almond hosted by Richard Strange, The Godfather of Punk, in the great company of Rowena Sian Morgan, Musical Geisha and cover girl from The Music of Business.  Marc Almond has been referred to as The Judy Garland of the Garbage Heap, The Acid House Aznavour and Marc Bolan and Juliette Greco’s love child.  Richard Strange helped launch Marc Almond’s career with Soft Cell, featuring him and his work at the wonderfully decadent Cabaret Futura in the 1980’s.  Since then Almond’s career has gone from Electro Pop through French Chansons to Russian Romantic Gypsy ballads and beyond …

Marc Almond with Richard Strange at the original Cabaret Futura

Marc Almond with Richard Strange at the original Cabaret Futura

Here’s some of the highlights of the evening with some transferable lessons for all:

Almond On Critics

The Yorkshire Evening Post reported on one of Soft Cell’s early pieces “This is one of the most nihilistic, depressing pieces I have ever heard”  Whereas most artists would have been destroyed by such feedback, Marc Almond was delighted.  It does not always pay to listen to critics … 

Almond On Developing a Unique Offering

At some point in the early development of Soft Cell, Marc decided that they wanted to be as outrageous as possible.  “This included smearing my naked body with cat food on stage” he said. Soft Cell’s songs were also unusual.  Almond mused

“Dave Ball mainly wrote about household products and the boredom of daily life”

Soft Cell’s name hinted at the core of their identity – both a bitter and sweet quality to the songs.  Soap powder crises and sofa dramas are unlikely topics to get record companies excited.  As a result, their first single “Mutant Moments” was financed by Dave Ball’s mum!   The lesson here is dare to be different!

Marc with Andy Warhol - the embodiment of 'different'

Marc with Andy Warhol – the embodiment of ‘different’

Here’s Almond singing “Tainted Love” to a video of some disk drives playing the piece electronically.  Marc spotted the video a while back and agreed to add a vocal line to the piece.  Quite different:

Almond On Diversity

Marc has continued to pursue an eclectic collection of influences, starting with “Torment and Torreros”, which brought in influences from South America, Turkey, through Jaques Brel to his infatuation with Russian Gypsy ballads:

“They like Russian songs in Russia, they just don’t want Russians singing them!”

Marc’s Russian obsession developed after The British Council adopted him to do a tour of Russia, Siberia and The Baltics.  It sounds such a strange idea that The British Council would do this and it gave me great hope for our “men in grey suits” that they would sponsor such a mission.  Indeed it’s entirely possible that Marc’s appearance in Siberia did more to reform the communist system than Ronnie Reagan and Margaret Thatcher combined!  Value requisite diversity.

The Stars We Are - Marc and Richard Strange at the House of St Barnabas

The Stars We Are – Marc and Richard Strange at the House of St Barnabas

Almond On The Soul Inside

Almond has always sought to get inside the heart of the singer when presenting other people’s material, such as his work with Charles Aznavour, Jacques Brel, Gene Pitney et al. Dig deep to find your soul.

I asked Marc whether his beautiful singing voice had received any training at all and he said that the major contributions to his vocal development were stopping chainsmoking and spending six weeks in Canterbury getting off ‘prescription drugs’.  He did also take some lessons in breathing and projection from two voice coaches later on, but without looking after the basics, this would have been fruitless.

Here’s some pieces that give witness to Almond’s ability to reach inside the artists heart and transmit that to his audiences.  Firstly a piece from his album “Jacques”, dedicated to Jacques Brel, then the Charles Aznavour number “Yesterday When I Was Young”, one of his Russian ballads from “Heart On Snow”, a new piece of electronica entitled “Worship Me Now”, featuring a low budget video inspired by David Bowie and finally a tribute to Don Black via the theme from Thunderball:

Huge thanks to Richard Strange for putting together such an amazing evening and to Rowena for her kindness and good company as always.  Catch us at Cabaret Futura soon.

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Mad about the girl – Rowena Sian Morgan – Music Networking Host extraordinaire and my co-conspirator for the evening – she helped Marc prepare to receive his Ivor Novello Award

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

Our bookshelf - On Amazon and available direct from the author by clicking on the picture

Our bookshelf – On Amazon and available direct from the author by clicking on the picture

SKETCHNOTE BLUE

Simon Heath’s work in corporate graphic illustration – an absolute joy. Contact him for your next conference at sjheath@live.co.uk, or for a full assault on your synapses, hire Simon and myself for some “Art, Business and Rock’n’Roll” at your next conference.  Our next booking is in New York with a Pharmaceutical Company for an innovation summit.

Murmuration

In my last post but one I said a little bit about what I now do for a living. This post expands on that by delving into the topic of sketchnoting.

Sketchnoting is a technique in which one uses imagery and diagrams in note-taking as a way of anchoring memory, concepts, context and themes. Done well, it helps bring content to life in a unique and compelling way. It provides an opportunity for warm humour and leaves a long-lasting impression. You’ll never want to throw your meeting or conference notes away again and I guarantee it’ll be much easier to recall what the hell was going on.

As a consulting artist with a corporate background I am uniquely placed to offer sketchnoting as one of my services. This might see me sitting alongside your senior management team on a strategy retreat, attending a sales meeting or capturing the Chairman’s town…

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