Seasick Steve

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I was blessed to witness a performance by Seasick Steve the other week at the Ramblin’ Man Fair in Maidstone. In case you are not aware, Steven Gene Wold is a 73 year old blues musician who left home at the age of 13 to avoid abuse by his stepfather, travelling as a hobo on freight trains for much of his early life. Having worked with people such as Joni Mitchell and been a studio engineer and producer, he made his breakthrough at the age of 62 after an appearance on “Later with Jools Holland”, thus proving that it’s never too late to start a new career in the music business.

Steve is living proof that less can equal more in life. Amongst the guitars he plays he has the one pictured above, made from car hubcaps and a broomstick. He also plays a one string guitar, a neat demonstration of the theory of constraints and his famous three string Trance Wonder, pictured below:

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Amongst the artists that we interviewed at the Ramblin’ Man Fair were Bernie Marsden, Marillion, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Bob Wayne, Jess and the Bandits, The Temperance Movement, Blue Oyster Cult, Aaron Keylock, The Quireboys, No Hot Ashes, The Rival Sons, narrowly missing Vic Reeves, Ian Anderson and Saxon. Check out our interviews with Music Giants at Interviews to see these in due course.

We finish with some of the great man’s work with one string, three stringed guitars etc.

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For more on Music and Business grab your copy of The Music of Business.

Check our offerings on the blues and motivation at Keynotes.

Click on the picture to check the book out

Click on the picture to check the book out

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

Poland Rocks

“When I want sax, I call Candy” – Photography by Michał Ozdoba http://www.facebook.com/michalozdobaphotographer

I visited Poland to give a Leadership and Music Masterclass just recently. I also attended an after party with some of Poland’s finest musicians, who gave me CD’s of their music. One of them even supported me in giving a cameo performance at very short notice. Featuring superb playing by the band members and the sax work of Karolina Malwina (Candy Dulfer) Dąbrowska. Here are some samples of all the bands’ work:

Hanza – A superb hard rock band that has been around for two years. They play songs that rock hard with haunting vocals and have just signed a contract, for their debut album being released on September 11th 2015.  Hanza played in a TV show “Świat się kręci” (“The world is spinning”) on national TV and played a show in the legendary SO36 club in Berlin, to incredible acclaim by both the crowd and the other bands.

Faith Healer – A band from the Netherlands – These guys rock hard. I watched some of the members perform some Whitesnake and Bon Jovi songs unplugged at the Pure Sky Club. Strangely I interviewed Bernie Marsden from Whitesnake just the other day. Faith Healer blend great vocal harmonies and metal hammerings in a melodic setting. Don’t call the doctor – just check their original material out:

Here I go again - With Whitesnake's Bernie Marsden

Here I go again – With Whitesnake’s Bernie Marsden

The Rookles‘ band name is based on a fusion of The Rutles and The Beatles. The band write classy pop songs in this style with beautiful 3 part harmonies. Great pop music that honours its influences from the Fab Four, Squeeze, Elvis Costello and many more. Check their album Open Space out.

PrimeTime – Great band, great musicians and great attitude, the band has a particularly unusual vocal style. Comparisons are invidious but I heard some influences from some great indie bands of the 90’s coming through including The Cult. Check their song out Into The Sun”

Slimmotion – The closest comparison I could make was the Red Hot Chilli Peppers – not a bad comparison at all. Hard and funky. Oh that guitar sound and the open hat – just right for a good bit of moshing.

Killing Silence – Haunting songs that combine great vocals with a superb rhythm section which drive the songs along. Great bass playing and an almost theatrical performance and a nod to Dave Grohl in their sound and performance.

Unity – A classic rock combo with a superbly produced album called Promised Land.  Love the song Godamn Bloody Kangaroo – a bit of a chilli pepper in this one as well. A bit of stadium rock in the song Lost Highway – David Coverdale meets Bon Jovi.

The Pure Sky Club ROCKS - Photography by Michał Ozdoba http://www.facebook.com/michalozdobaphotographer

The Pure Sky Club ROCKS – Photography by Michał Ozdoba http://www.facebook.com/michalozdobaphotographer

A is for Attitude

A is for Attitude – Photography by Michał Ozdoba http://www.facebook.com/michalozdobaphotographer

Some of the madding crowd - Photography by Michał Ozdoba http://www.facebook.com/michalozdobaphotographer

Some of the madding crowd – Photography by Michał Ozdoba http://www.facebook.com/michalozdobaphotographer

The Master of Ceremonies - Mr Brian Allan - Photograph Michał Ozdoba - http://www.facebook.com/michalozdobaphotographer

The Master of Ceremonies – Mr Brian Allan – Photograph Michał Ozdoba – http://www.facebook.com/michalozdobaphotographer

Far from the madding crowd  - Photography by Michał Ozdoba http://www.facebook.com/michalozdobaphotographer

Far from the madding crowd – Photography by Michał Ozdoba http://www.facebook.com/michalozdobaphotographer

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Order your copy of the NEW edition of “The Music of Business” – Parallel lessons on Business and Music. Or grab a copy of Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll in Polish!  Peter’s new book comes out in February 2016 with Bloomsbury – the home of Harry Potter.

Check our music and business events out at The Academy of Rock.

Release date 25.02.16

Release date 25.02.16

Leadership in Poland

We are delighted to be heading to Warsaw on June 23/24 to lead a masterclass event on business leadership mixed with parallel lessons from music.  We are also delivering the keynote address and co-hosting a rock music after party following an exclusive dinner on June 23 at the prestigious Pure Sky Club – Warsaw’s premier business club. Head over to the event website to find all the details.

The event, masterminded by Brian Allan, Malgorzata Krukowska, Filip Sobiecki and Paul Cowen, is to include keynotes, workshops, panel sessions and live music sessions to engage minds, bodies and souls. The dinner reception on the previous evening is an exclusive affair. You are strongly advised to book now if you wish to gain a seat at the Captain’s Table, to network with some of Poland’s greatest business leaders. Sponsorship opportunities are also available at the website.

Purple is my favourite colour and it features strongly at the Pure Sky Club – Pictured Brian, Malgorzata and Paul, owner of the business venue

The Polish Economy is one of the fastest growing in Europe, predicted to grow at between 3-4% over the next few years. Speaking personally I love Poland and the Polish people, having visited several times. I was also blessed to have worked with one of the greatest marketing people on the planet from Poland a few years back, in the form of Magdalena Rotsztejn.

Book now for the exclusive dinner and networking event and the masterclass itself at Leadership in Poland. I’m also available for 1:1 coaching sessions or just for informal discussions on Friday 25th June before I return to UK.

Pure Sky – Pure Leadership – Pure Rock’n’Roll

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Order your copy of the NEW edition of “The Music of Business” – Parallel lessons on Business and Music. Or grab a copy of Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll in Polish!

Death Eaters

June 9th AOR

I have the extraordinary pleasure of bringing Richard Strange to Kent on Tuesday June 9th to present an evening of film, music and spoken word at the Sun Pier Arts Centre.  Tickets available at Death Eaters. Here is the former “Doctor of Madness” with “Doctor Who” aka Peter Capaldi and Sarah Jane Morris of The Communards fame and much more. And a rare clip of The Doctors of Madness performing.

Richard Strange, Death Eater, Writer, Musician and Kevin Costner's Executioner

Richard Strange, Death Eater, Writer, Musician and Kevin Costner’s Executioner

My personal memories of Richard’s wonderful work include regularly missing the last train home and having to sleep on the stairs of Charing Cross Station after Doctors of Madness gigs at The Marquee. At one gig I was hosed down with a fire extinguisher by Captain Sensible of The Damned. An amazing solo gig at Hastings Caves and bizarre evenings at Richard’s Avant Garde Club Cabaret Futura, with Soft Cell, Keith Allen, Blancmange, all guarded by an 11 foot long python which coiled itself at the door to the club.

The Marquee in Wardour Street, breeding ground for the underground

The Marquee in Wardour Street, breeding ground for the underground

What Do I Get?

For just £10 you will be getting:

  • A mildly hilarious set of observations on the parallels between punk rock and business, punctuated by some punk rock riffs and storytelling
  • A rare performance of some of my solo material set in the “retro-futuristic punk ambient” style
  • An interview with Richard Strange plus Q&A opportunities
  • Richard Strange’s one man show, which includes film, music and spoken word
  • A possible appearance by Sarah Jane Morris, solo artist and performer with The Communards
  • An opportunity to meet a Death Eater

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Peter Cook launches “Punk Rock People Management” and a brand new version of “The Music of Business” at the event with Richard Strange.   Get your ticket for Punk Rock Biz.

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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

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.