The Voice – update

Jordan Gray enters the semi-finals of The Voice tonight on BBC One. Check her stunning dramatic performance in the quarter-finals:

… and her beautiful interpretation of Kate Bush’s song “This Woman’s Work”. Although Jordan writes her own exceptional compositions, The Voice requires the performance of other artist’s work. Unusually, Jordan makes any other artist’s work her own:

Here’s how to VOTE JORDAN.

For completion, here are her other performances:

Bring the noise, bring the drama, bring the woman, bring THE VOICE.

Don’t delay, vote Jordan Gray !!

Paying your dues

There is much contention and gnashing of teeth over what is called The X-Factor Culture. Some people presume that it is enough to get on the TV with a backing track and be catapulted to stardom. In the vast majority of cases, this is untrue and people miss all the blood, sweat and tears that takes place on the way to lasting stardom.

Jordan Gray

This is never more true in the case of Jordan Gray, currently about to enter the quarter finals of The Voice tonight. Jordan has hardly revealed more than 10% of her talents on the shows to date in my humble opinion. Jordan is an extremely talented pianist and musicologist, a very capable songwriter with massive creativity in her compositions. She is also a very fluent singer with multiple voices which she calls on in her performances and a captivating performer in her own right. That’s such a rare combination of talents in my long experience. Just check out two of her own compositions that show more of her talent than can be showcased in 90 seconds on a TV programme.

 

I am privileged to have shared a stage with this massive talent – the REAL X-Factor.

 

 

Pestonomics – A tribute to Robert Peston

He’s a very hard act to follow so just who will replace Robert Peston at the BBC, now that he is off to ITV?  Will Auntie opt for the progressive style that he has pioneered to take the BBC into the 21st Century or opt for a more conservative choice, taking them to possible oblivion?

Who should replace Robert Peston at the BBC? – answers please

I took Robert and Dr Andrew Sentance to meet George Clinton, The Godfather of P-Funk, earlier in the year. It was a great opportunity to learn of his life and loves outside the BBC, and especially his love for music of many genres from David Bowie to Punk, P-Funk and beyond. I composed the song “Pestonomics” in his honour and it will form the basis our our charitable campaign for 2015, with all proceeds going to Cancer Research UK. Download the song by clicking the picture. With your help, perhaps it will be a Christmas No 1?

Peston Funk 1

With the Godfather of P-Funk – Mr George Clinton

I am extremely grateful to Kristine Wilkinson Hughes, singer/songwriter, My Girl The RiverWonderful Productions and The Frogs Chorus, who stepped in at the last minute to provide superb female vocals for the track and Rowena Morgan, The Musical Geisha, for connecting me to Kristine in the first place.  I crowdsourced ideas for the lyrics from social media and several people have already observed that the song has some of the most doubtful rhymes known to man or woman – quite a result I feel !! 🙂  Here are the words:

Who gets your vote to replace Robert Peston at the BBC?

Help Cancer Research UK here

The credits

Crowdsourced lyrical ideas from the following people:

Robert Lindsay
Mark Stratton
David Chislett
Dave Brooks
Claire Sparham
Damon Summers
Geoff Lee
Clive Leighton
Leigh Hunnable
Jim Keilt
Zee Fincham
Andy Wooler
John Threesixteen
Michael Butterworth
Andrew Bourke
Paul Titley
Stuart Gunthorpe
Gary Lee Connor
Matt Durrell

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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

The Voice

Never mind the television programme of the same name. The “Real Voice” passed away this week – Peter Donaldson, former news anchor at BBC Radio 4. I was privileged to meet Peter on a 15 minute tube journey on the Central Line nearly 10 years back en route to Radio 4 to give an interview for The Today Programme with Martyn Shankleman.

I was not sure which stop I should be getting off at and noticed his BBC pass, so asked if he knew the way as I was in danger of being late.  He was initially a little guarded as I had a guitar and I suspect he may have thought I was a busker. After I explained that I was going to an interview for the Today Programme, he piped up in his characteristic BBC voice “I’m Peter Donaldson, pleased to meet you”. I suspect he may have been out with some friends drinking wine at lunchtime 🙂 Listening to the tributes to him, my hunch may have been correct – red wine seems to have been one of his great pleasures according to my friend Fenella Fudge, a colleague of Peter’s and voice over specialist.

In our short journey to White City, Peter was gloriously irreverent about BBC management – a true maverick. Within minutes it seemed as though I’d known him for years – the hallmark of someone who was obviously hugely talented at getting on with people of all persuasions. It seems from the various tributes that he touched everyone he met with his sense of fun, kindness and wisdom. Fenella’s eulogy below sums up the man that I met in a brief encounter on a tube train:

“Far too handsome for radio, bearded in winter and clean-shaven in summer, he was the twinkliest man you could ever wish to meet.

Warm, mischievous, kind and wise … but streaked with the idiocy running through real radio people … Peter Donaldson was my lovely boss for 8 years, and colleague for many years after … I can still hear his magnificent voice in my mind, bellowing “Fenellamoo!” at any chance meeting – I called him “Guv”.

His passing makes me ache for a world where public service broadcasting was a vocation, where quality trumped audience figures, and innovation and daring created extraordinary programmes … where hope, joy, talent and ambition mingled, as the BBC invested in mavericks, misfits and above all, fun.

Radio is all about imagination and passion, and there are brilliant pockets where programme makers still duck stifling edicts and pointless corporate demands to produce appointment listening … but the staff are increasingly cowed and creatively neutered.

Peter fought management stupidity with every fibre of his being, he championed those he recognised as fellow wireless warriors, and lampooned the poltroons and buffoons who tried to turn radio into a numbers game.

He is an unmistakeable voice in any radiophile’s pantheon, one of a dying breed of instinctive selfless broadcasters, always striking the right tone, whether with humour or gravitas.

Foremost in his mind was the listener, because radio should be a conversation, not a tannoy.

And conversations with Peter are what I’ll miss – really, really miss.”

Click on the picture to hear the BBC’s own tributes to Peter from his colleagues:

PD

Peter Donaldson R.I.P 1945 – 2015

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.

photo

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 …

GC

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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.

John Peel – 75 years of innovation

John Peel's record collection - Click on the picture to find out more

John Peel’s record collection – Click on the picture to find out more

John Peel would have been 75 years old this year. I was reflecting on his impact on me both musically and on my approach to life and here are five things about Mr Peel that stand out for me – what are yours? Write me a letter or make a comment here, or even send me a piece of new music to listen to ….

1. Stay Young and Keep in Touch – So many people only like music at a certain time of their lives – the 60’s, 70’s, 90’s etc. and they are prone to saying things like “All music is rubbish now” when they should simply say “I only listened to music between the ages of 14 and 23 and I’m a creature of habit so I’m on repeat from now on”. One of John’s teachers said of him:

“It’s possible that John can form some kind of nightmarish career out of his enthusiasm for unlistenable records and his delight in writing long and facetious essays…”

2. Refuse to be ruled by metrics – Peel refused to be influenced by ratings or playlists. Instead it was the “John Peel brand” that made the ratings. You never knew what you might hear on one of John’s shows and that in itself produced the listeners which he needed to satisfy BBC bosses.

3. Support innovators – John would break new acts that would otherwise not receive radio play. Amongst these he was responsible for bringing my friend Bill Nelson and Be-Bop Deluxe to the attention of music lovers. Some years later, Bill captured Peel’s Liverpudian tones in the introduction to his “Modern Music Suite” . Listen to the full piece, which features John Peel and Tony Hancock in the opening section of the suite:

Amongst a long list of artists and bands that owe their success wholly or in part to John Peel are: Pulp, The White Stripes, Mike Oldfield, Nirvana, The Strokes, Bauhaus, The Doctors of Madness, P.J. Harvey, The Smiths, Bernie Tormé, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, The Cocteau Twins, Bill Nelson, Marc Bolan and T.REX, The Slits, The Cure, The Undertones and Billy Bragg.

The manner of John getting to know Bragg was rather unconventional. Bragg heard John say he was hungry on air and rushed in with a Mushroom Biryani and a copy of “Life’s a Riot with Spy vs Spy”. Peel went on to play a track from the album but at the wrong speed (Bragg’s albums were recorded loud and short to play at 45 RPM).

Mushroom Biryani - The Choice of Influencers

Mushroom Biryani – The influencing choice of champions

4. An anti-establishment member of the establishment – John Peel’s biography states that Peel was anti-establishment because he knew how the establishment worked – he’d been part of it and he didn’t like it. He attended public school in Shropshire, but was shy and quiet and he was frequently bullied for not fitting in. Instead of playing rugby, John rebelled with a choice selection of rare vinyl. It’s a feeling that resonates at my core. I went to a grammar school, hated rugby and suffered a degree of bullying for not fitting in, preferring to listen to music and obsessing about science – something of a geek by today’s standards 🙂 A great life lesson for innovators is to know the system you are trying to influence. John Peel knew what he had to do to keep the BBC just on the right side.

5. A Witty Life Long Learner

Towards the end of his life Peel had embraced hip hop, drum and bass and a number of other musical genres, never getting stuck in a musical paradigm. Eventually the BBC succumbed to ratings and Radio 1 decided to cut an hour of his show in favour of a Drum and Bass programme. Peel responded with his usual wit – read the full letter here and his parting shot to Matthew Bannister:

“Think of my programmes as your research department. Noisy, smelly but occasionally coming up with the formulae which you can subsequently market”

Peel’s attitude to most things was filled with a totally original wry sense of humour and irony – none more than with his views on his eventual death:

“I’ve always imagined I’d die by driving into the back of a truck while trying to read the name on a cassette, and people would say, ‘he would have wanted to go that way.’ Well, I want them to know that I wouldn’t”

Finally, an acrostic poem written in 2004 by my friend Dave Brooks and some video content of a few of the artists that John Peel broke including archive footage from Sir Richard Branson discussing John’s contribution to Virgin.

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics, offering better Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. He offers keynotes that blend World Class Leadership Thinking with the wisdom of the street via The Academy of Rock – where Business Meets Music. Author of seven books on Business Leadership, acclaimed by Tom Peters, Professors Charles Handy, Adrian Furnham and Harvey Goldsmith CBE.

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine

Last week, the BBC reported on how ‘complacent’ British universities that fail to respond to the rise of online universities will be swept away by global competition.  Even Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia agreed – see Jimmy Wales.  I have to agree that the BBC, Wales and REM were right:  “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine”.

Why so?  I worked for the Open University Business School for 18 years on their MBA programmes and certainly would not be where I am today without the superb learning that I gained from taking and teaching their programmes over an extended period.  I am eternally grateful to people such as David Mayle, John Martin, Norman Maxfield, Don Cooper and Jane Henry – modern day geniuses in their field.

However, despite my love of the institution, I must say that the university has been slow to respond to the changing expectations of the current generation of students.  From the white heat of technology in the 1960’s The Open University and many other traditional universities have turned into slow followers of change in the education sector.  I wish I could say otherwise.  Sir Michael Barber agreed: “There are too many universities doing the same thing.”  There are already big US networks of universities offering courses to students anywhere in the world, with two consortiums having already signed up almost four million students.

For my part, I was approached by Californian Online Learning Provider Udemy, who asked me to develop an MBA level online learning programme on Leadership, Strategy, Creativity, Innovation and Change.  The programme, entitled “The Music of Business” offers a contrast to traditional university courses:

  • The programme can be taken at the learner’s pace and their own time, as it is available for life, during which time it continues to be updated.
  • MBA level learning at non-MBA prices.
  • For individuals, the programme is available for direct purchase at $169.
  • Individuals can also join an affiliate scheme to gain an income from referrals.
  • For companies, the programme can be customised, licensed, branded and embedded on corporate online learning platforms.

Take a look at the syllabus:

Will Universities go the way of HMV?  The early warning signs are there.  Post your thoughts on the likely fate of our Universities here.   p.s. It’s got absolutely nothing to do with the post, but I enjoyed the REM track so much that I thought it was time to post another one: