Zane, Zane, Zane – Ouvrez Le Chein

It is one year since David Bowie left planet earth and it is indeed blue in the cold of January.  Here are some links that mark Bowie’s extraordinary life:

My Eulogy to Bowie

The BBC documentary – The Last Five Years

Rolling Stone’s obituary

Blackstar

The London Boys by my friends Raf and O

CNN interview

Tony Visconti talks about the making of Heroes

 

bowie

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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 about David Bowie on Amazon.

TMOB NEW EDITION COVER

Click on the picture to check the book out

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

Metal Guru – Marc Bolan

You won’t fool the Children of the Revolution …

I’m meeting up with Lesley Ann-Jones soon, Freddie Mercury and Marc Bolan’s biographer.  This caused me to write some personal reflections on Marc Bolan, who influenced my life and music hugely.

Bolan arrived on the music scene for me at the impressionable age of 14.  In the midst of Slade, Bowie, Mud, Gary Glitter, Alice Cooper et al, he stood out as being a very gentle soul, although legend has it that he was a very determined character, having once knocked on the door of Simon Napier-Bell and said he was going to be a big star, which got him started on the road to his first big hit:

For someone with a big ego, Bolan was generous of spirit, collaborating with David Bowie, Jeff Lynne, Elton John and many others.  He also had an obsessive, relentless streak in him yet everybody he dealt with loved him.  He even turned his back on the mighty John Peel, who felt that Bolan had sold out when he went electric in order to win fame.  This is single-mindedness indeed, but Bolan was very progressive about his music, wanting to move on from the hippy sound that Tyrannosaurus Rex represented.  An object lesson in reinvention.  Sometimes you leave people behind when you change what you do.

In psychometric type terms, Marc Bolan is thought to share my own Myers Briggs type of ENTP.  Might that explain why I was so drawn to him?  Reckoned to be about 2.5% of the population (a rare breed as there are 16 types which would make the average around 6%), ENTP’s are described as clever, usually verbally as well as cerebrally quick, with a love of argument. They tend have a perverse sense of humour and tend towards innovative approaches.  ENTPs do not suffer fools gladly.  In general, however, they are genial, even charming, when not being harassed by life.  This seems to describe Bolan to a tee.  Sometime who was not trapped by the past although there are echoes of his heroes:  Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran and Chuck Berry in his music.

Bolan’s lyrics were always playful and a great source of fascination for me. Witness these taken from “Ballrooms of Mars” from the T.REX “Slider” album:

“You dance With your lizard leather boots on
And pull the strings That change the faces of men
You diamond browed hag You’re a gutter-gaunt gangster
John Lennon knows your name And I’ve seen his”

At one level of abstraction completely meaningless, yet along with the song, they establish a poetic connection with the listener.

What can we take away from Marc Bolan’s example?

  • Be focused, but gracious to those around you at the same time
  • If you want to innovate in a discipline, respect the past but do not become trapped by it
  • Play is essential if you are to be creative
  • If you change what you do, be prepared to lose some of your followers

And what would you add?  Post your thoughts on the blog.

Let’s finish with one of Marc’s great songs, Hot Love, which we gave a Country and Western makeover to last Saturday night:

Hot Glove – T.REX gets the Country and Western treatment

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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

This town ain’t big enough for the both of us – Strategy unplugged

Glam rock duo Sparks unwittingly stumbled upon a critical business strategy issue in their 1974 anthem ‘This town ain’t big enough for the both of us’.  Lest we forget:

Sustainable competitive advantage arises from:

1. Differences between firms, not similarities.  Thus, if you are in close proximity to a competitor in terms of products, services, geography and so on, one strategic option is to create a difference that creates space between you.  This may of course mean that you compete better. It may simply open up the market in ways that means everyone can gain share.

2. Foresight is better than hindsight.  In order to know before the competition is going to head you off at the pass, we need dynamic approaches to strategy, rather than static use of models, which tell you ‘what happened’, rather like driving a car using the rear view mirror.  One such approach is ‘Scenario modelling’ which we have used to help companies pre-empt decisions by competitors with impacts measured in millions.  Read more about how this can be done at Strategy.

3. What do you do when your competition is too close for comfort?  Well, you could collaborate – This can take many forms, from joint ventures, partnerships etc.  In extremis, buy your competitor if the market is big enough to sustain the result.

What else can music teach us about business strategy?  Share your thoughts here.  I’ll leave you with a little teaser in the form of Queen’s ‘One Vision, One Mission’ clearly a song about focus or, as Tom Peters puts it ‘Sticking to the knitting’: