Talent Borrows, Genius Steals

Talent borrows, genius steals.

Chatting to my good friend and fellow music journo, Ian Winwood, recently, the aforementioned phrase cropped up (widely attributed to long-gone-to-seed purveyor of embarrassing dross, Paul McCartney, if you’re interested).

If true, then Dutch symphonic gothsters Within Temptation are surely occupying the same cerebral plane as Stephen Hawking. Covered in Roses, from the current album Hydra, is little more than a cheeky reworking of a tune from their preceding album, entitled Faster. Which itself was a homage to Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game. Still with me? OK, but it gets better because said homage was actually inspired by HIM’s cover of Wicked Game. Confusing, I know, so allow me to sum up; what we have here is a band ripping-off their own song, which was a rip-off of a cover of someone else’s song. A rip-off of a rip-off of a cover. Cheeky, eh?

Personally, I don’t really care. Sharon den Adel has one of those voices that simply slays any objectivity to which I might aspire. Add in a canny and shamelessly commercial melody, a move-your-feet-now-muthafuckers rhythmic sensibility and a perfectly-judged tempo and your argument is invalid. As the kids say.



Politics & Current Affairs

Gaza: Resistance is Not Terrorism


Photo by Sue Paterson

Despite the avalanche of propaganda from Western media outlets, not least the disgraceful coverage by our own BBC, attempts to paint Palestinians on the Gaza strip as aggressors and terrorists are failing. Instead, growing revulsion at Israel’s continuing bombardment of the most densely-populated area on earth is almost palpable. Good and long overdue. However, an insidious and dangerous alternative philosophy is emerging, one that, in its own way, is just as damaging to the besieged and beleaguered Palestinians as the unashamed brutality and war crimes of the rogue terrorist state of Israel.

Liberal pacifists are the new enemy of Palestine. Those who, while opposing Israel’s state terror, are just as quick to apportion equal blame to the Palestinian cause. “Oh, both sides should stop the violence,” these worthies cry. On the hard left, too, there are those who say Hamas are terrorists and that socialists should have no truck with ‘clerical fascists.’

Such views are unacceptable and unwittingly or not, place the supporters of such sentiments firmly in the imperialist camp and render them apologists for continuing Zionist slaughter.

Violence does not exist in a vacuum. It is not an abstract, moral question. One should not allow pro-Israeli propaganda to neuter our critical faculties and turn us into political Quakers. The fact is that violence is neither objectively good nor bad; as with most things in life, context is everything. So let’s look at that context… [read more]




Matters of Life and Death

It’s been a while and I’m sorry about that, folks. Sorry, too, for the lack of reply to the emails, over the last few months. I will be replying to each and every one, over time.

I’ve been very busy since the book came out on March 1st, via Five Leaves Publications. I think I can speak for my publisher, Ross Bradshaw, as well as for myself, when I say we’ve been chuffed to bits with the response. The first edition was gone in a couple of weeks and the second took a battering, too, very quickly. I was overwhelmed at its reception. People really seem to love it and the dozens of emails from readers made worthwhile every single second of terror, self-doubt, excessive drinking, alienated family, unwanted weight-gain and sheer panic that comprised the writing of the bloody thing.

Reviews have been, without exception, excellent and it’s a buzz to have the critics as well as the readers respond so positively to my work. I can only say thank you; you’re all wonderful people.

The promo work was a great deal of exhausting fun. Talks, signings, lectures at literary festivals, trade union events, bookshops and appearances on TV and radio. One particularly mental scheduling clash sticks in  my mind; after speaking as a guest of North Ayrshire Unison, on a Friday night, I crawled from hotel bed at 3.00am to drive to Derbyshire to attend a very special event for a close friend.

I’ve also been very fortunate to receive outstanding support from people like Seumas Milne and Paul Mason. Seumas, with whom I had the honour of appearing at the excellent Five Leaves 30th anniversary strike celebrations, on my adopted home-turf of Nottingham, wrote a very generous endorsement-line for the front cover and Paul Mason, who is surely now one of the UK’s very best broadcast-journalists, wrote a moving afterword.

On a more personal note, I recently became a grandfather after my eldest son, Adam, and his partner, Katy, blessed us with the arrival of Fae Iris Paterson. To say I’m smitten is understating the case by some considerable distance. Fae’s arrival also underscored what has been a year of births and deaths. Beginnings and endings. The joy of her arrival contrasted with the horror of so many Palestinian deaths, many of whom have also been children. 2014, so far, a bitter-sweet symphony and no mistake.

So, as you can see, with one thing and another, the last few months have been busy, eventful but very enjoyable. Thanks to everyone who stuck with me during that time and for the support of some of the best readers an author could possibly have.

Apart from the bread-and-butter day-job commissions of a musical nature, I’ve had most of the summer off before I start the next book in the autumn. I’ll be spending as much of the down-time as possible with my granddaughter and getting involved in the various pro-Gaza and pro-Palestine campaigns that have, sadly, become vitally necessary over the last few weeks and about which you’ll be reading much more on this blog.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, folks, and remember; use the hashtag #SupportGaza when you Tweet.


Joe Bonamassa: N.I.A. Birmingham

Part I: In The Beginning

Verily, I sayeth to you, that God did visit his earthly dominion and the people rejoiced.

God’s marketing people have been revamping the Old Man’s image and approach, of late. After the last few thousand millennia, all that stone tablet nonsense, burning bushes and whatnot are now deemed wholly outdated, inappropriate and oh-so BC.

The message has certainly suffered as result of the hopelessly old-fashioned medium and in a sense that medium has become the message. Not good. All that resulting confusion, conflict and war, with myriad pygmy sects all convinced they and they alone have a hotline to the Big Man.

Well now he’s back; revamped, refashioned and rebranded. A deity fit for the digital age. He’s ditched the stone tablets and parting of seas, along with the other retro trappings of yore, and now, armed with an array of both electric and acoustic guitars, God is taking it to the people direct.

Of course there might be still be some lingering confusion regarding His real identity, not least on the part of the Divine dude himself; after all being both your own son and Father with a sprinkling of Holy Ghost added to the mix would confuse even the most well-rounded of Supreme Beings. The smart money knows the score, though; Joe Bonamassa, The Artist Formerly Known As God, is here in the flesh and Birmingham is ready for The Rapture.

Part II: As It Is on Earth

Confidence isn’t something you affect. It’s an essence. Something that stems from a core of knowing you can break rules and still succeed. In turn, it springs from only two places; deluded arrogance or unearthly talent. Sauntering on stage, sitting down and kicking-off your show, unplugged style, with barely an acknowledgment that in front of you are 12,000 souls, might seem risky and arrogant. But no. By the time He’d seared through the opening quintet of Palm Trees, Seagull, Jelly Roll, Athens to Athens and Woke Up Dreaming Birmingham had already had its money’s worth. Yes, really. There are few artists who make watching one man and an acoustic guitar such a thrilling experience.

One could scribble for hours, seeking to adequately describe the talent that Bonamassa displays with such effortless class, but that talent has an equal; commitment. While many top-flight artists are content to charge top-dollar for short-changing displays of complacent laurel-resting and water-treading, He pours every fibre of his being into the infinite litany of licks and motifs that cascade from fingertips like tracer-fire from Heaven.

No gimmicky effects, no arty backdrops and no Spielbergian lightshow; just The Man locking and loading with three consummate musical artisans. Despite the presence of 12,000 punters, reduced to stunned, pin-dropping silence on several occasions, the effect was akin to catching the hotly tipped next-big-thing in a packed sweat-box club. One of those I-was-there-when gigs that go down in rock ‘n’ roll history.

Part III: Revelations

It’s actually quite unnerving to realise that He’s actually getting better, too. No vocal slouch to start with, the voice now has an authority, a seasoned maturity and an authentically bluesy ache, that breathes added delight into old standards and self-penned gems alike. Here, too, there is improvement; Driving Towards the Daylight is now it is offered up as the universal paean to the human condition we always knew it could be.

Slow Train, slow-burn but high-octane, ramped up the energy as thousands of feet stomped in approval. Mountain Time was God’s gift to the weekend and then came, “… for the umpteenth time Sloe’ freakin’ Gin.” If you were there, you’ll know.

Absence of objectivity in a critic is a bad thing but not telling the truth is even worse. Whether it offends the cynics or not, one can only report that Joe Bonamassa is one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll talents currently working.

Hell of a show and no mistake.