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Under Pressure – rocking the Bank
posted 30th May 2013
I am looking forward to hearing Sir Mervyn King’s
“Desert Island Discs” this weekend (Sunday 2nd June): http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b02116z9.
It will be interesting to see if the outgoing Governor
borrows from the approach I took in my Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) leaving
speech at the Bank of England two years ago, when I used Desert Island Discs as
a theme to recognise the contribution of the people I had worked with and who
had supported me during my time on the Committee (2006-11).
to Larry Elliott in the Guardian (4 February 2013):
peppered the speech to mark his departure from the Bank with lyrics and song
titles from his beloved 1970s rock. It was a memorable exit, made all the more
entertaining by passing right over the heads of most of those assembled.”
So here is an edited version of my musical dedications on
that evening, and you can compare and contrast with Sir Mervyn’s selections on
(1) For the economists in Monetary Analysis, who support
the MPC through the economic analysis they provide, I dedicated Side 1, Track 1
of Led Zeppelin’s first album – “Good
Times, Bad Times” – though we seemed to have more “Bad Times” than
“Good Times” while I was on the Committee!
(2) I was very ably supported at the Bank of England by the
MPC Unit which supports the external members of the Committee - Jan Parry as my
PA and a series of extremely capable senior advisers and economists – Andrew
Holder, Michael Hume, Tomasz Wieladek, Ben Westwood, Abi
Hughes and Adrian Chiu. They always managed to keep the show on the road,
so to them I dedicate one of Freddie Mercury’s last recordings with Queen: “The
Show Must Go On”
(3) The media and the Bank press office make a vital
contribution to the MPC by ensuring that the public are not “Dazed and
Confused” because there has been a “Communication Breakdown”!
To them, I dedicate my third musical choice from the mid-1960s, by the
Animals: “Don’t Let me be
(4) Another key relationship for MPC members is with the
Bank’s Agents around the country,
and I was and remain a big supporter of their work. I made a total of 37
Regional Visits as a member of the MPC, but the Agents themselves spend a lot
more time on the road. So my music dedication to the Bank’s Agents and Deputy
Agents is “Back on the Road Again”
by REO Speedwagon.
(5) My fifth music choice was dedicated to friends outside
the Bank who supported me during my time on the Committee- from University days,
former colleagues from the CBI and British Airways, and people who have offered
encouragement and support while I was in a minority on the Committee voting for
higher interest rates. I would like to thank you all for helping me to get by “With
a Little Help from my Friends”.
(6) The Governor and my MPC colleagues put up with me
through 56 monthly meeting rounds and 19 Inflation Report forecasts. Through the
financial crisis, the Committee had to respond to unprecedented and unusual
events. What better piece of music to sum that up than “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie.
The pressures on the MPC and the challenges currently facing UK monetary
policy are not being resolved quickly.
(7) My family – Anne, Tim and Rebecca – were incredibly
supportive through my time on the MPC. You are “Simply the Best”, as Tina Turner put it. I could not have done
it without you.
(8) Finally, I know I am not the only fan of 1970s progressive rock in the economic and financial world, though it is not something people always own up to. And for many of us, there is “one band to rule them all” – Yes. A trip through some of their song and album titles describes my time on the MPC pretty well. We came “Close to the Edge” during the financial crisis, followed by a “Fragile” recovery. But the global deflation we experienced at the “Turn of the Century” has been replaced by global inflation, with the result that I was “Going for the One” – a rise in Bank Rate to one percent in my final months on the Committee. “Perpetual Change” has been a feature of my time on the MPC, and throughout my career
I'd be amazed if progressive rock features anywhere in Mervyn's musical selections on Sunday - but who knows? Tune in to find out!
"Without you" - remembering Pete Ham and Badfinger
posted 27th April 2013
Saturday 27th April 2013 was a special day in Swansea, when one of its most talented rock
musicians, Pete Ham, was remembered. A blue plaque was put up in his
honour in Ivey Place near the entrance to Swansea Railway Station. And a tribute
concert was held in Swansea Grand Theatre, featuring former members of
Pete’s bands – The Iveys and Badfinger.
Badfinger signed to Apple Records, the record label founded
by The Beatles, in 1969. They were the first non-Beatle recording artists signed
to the label and the first of many musicians whose careers were launched by
Apple in the late 60s and early 70s - including James Taylor, Mary Hopkin, Billy
Preston and Hot Chocolate.
(The picture below shows the band in 1970 - Left to Right: Mike Gibbins,
Joey Molland, Tom Evans and Pete Ham.)
(The picture below shows the band in 1970 - Left to Right: Mike Gibbins, Joey Molland, Tom Evans and Pete Ham.)
With the Beatles backing the band, it is not surprising
that Badfinger’s first hit was a Paul McCartney composition – “Come and
Get it”. It reached No.4 in the UK singles charts in 1969, and No.7 in the US.
This was followed by three more hits in the early 1970s written by Pete Ham –
“No Matter What” and “Day after Day” which both reached the Top 10 in
the US and the UK , and “Baby Blue” which reached No.14 in the US charts.
Pete Ham and bass-player Tom Evans were the main
songwriters for the band, though Joey Molland also contributed a number of songs
to their most successful albums: “Magic
Christian Music” “No Dice” and “Straight Up”. After the Beatles broke
up, the members of Badfinger continued their association with the ex-Beatles.
Pete Ham played “Here Comes the Sun” with George Harrison at the Concert for
Bangladesh in 1971.
But events took a wrong turn for Badfinger after their
early success. When touring the US in 1970, they met up with Stan Polley – who
became their manager. When Apple Records became embroiled in turmoil following
the break-up of the Beatles, Polley signed them to Warner Bros. Allegedly, he
told the band “You’re all millionaires”! But the contracts he negotiated
gave him first refusal on the income from the band and he became rich at their
expense. He probably became a millionaire himself. But as Badfinger’s musical
fortunes declined, the income for band members dried up.
In the meantime, another artist – Harry Nilsson – had
discovered a gem of a song buried at the end of side one of the Badfinger album
“No Dice”. It was called “Without You”, jointly written by Pete Ham and
Tom Evans. Pete had written the verse and Tom the chorus – reminiscent of the
Lennon/McCartney collaborations in the early Liverpool days. Nilsson’s
recording of “Without You” gave the song much more passion and emotion,
compared to the more laid back and restrained Badfinger version.
“Without You” went to Number 1 in the UK and US in
early 1972 and was subsequently taken to the top of the UK charts by Mariah
Carey in 1994. Very few records have had such success in the UK and US charts on
more than one occasion – particularly when they were not released as singles
by the original artist.
The success of “Without You” did not flow through
to Pete Hamm and Tom Evans, however. The turmoil at Apple and the dubious activities of
Stan Polley meant that Pete, Tom and other members of Badfinger saw little
revenue from their creative successes - “Without You” and other hits
Pete became so depressed about this that he took his own
life in 1975, just before his 28th birthday – one of many talented
rock musicians to die tragically at the age of 27, including Jimi Hendrix, Jim
Morrison, Janis Joplin and Amy Winehouse. Even more sadly, Tom Evans also
committed suicide in 1983, struggling with depression aggravated by the loss of
his close musical collaborator Pete Ham eight years before.
But on what should have been Pete Ham’s 66th
birthday, we should celebrate the contribution he, Tom and the other members of
Badfinger have made to popular music.
First, Badfinger were pioneers in translating the music of
the Beatles into a new genre – Power Pop. Many bands in the 1970s and 1980s
followed in their footsteps –producing punchy pop songs and occasionally
mixing with more reflective compositions: Eric Carmen/The Raspberries, Cheap
Trick, The Knack (My Sharona), Blondie, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, etc.
Second, Badfinger have created a legacy of great songs
which will be performed again and again. “Without You” is the best known –
and has apparently been recorded by 180 artists! My own band Revelation performs
“No Matter What” regularly at our gigs and I would commend it other bands.
Third, all the early pioneers of rock music were very vulnerable to exploitation. Even Elvis and the Beatles struggled to escape from the grip of opportunistic and manipulative entrepreneurs and badly drawn-up contracts. Let us hope that new generations of musicians have learned from these mistakes and they will not be repeated.
I couldn't be in Swansea this weekend to celebrate Pete Ham's musical legacy with his family, fans and former bandmates. But Revelation will continue to play one of Badfinger's finest songs "No Matter What". And when you hear "Without You" or another of their songs, raise a glass to the memory of a very talented bunch of musicians.
Missing Christine McVie
posted 7th February 2013
Mac are back on the road, with 34 gigs planned for the US, followed by concerts
in Europe and possibly Australia and elsewhere. But one key person will be
missing from the band, as has been the case for more than a decade – Christine
McVie, who wrote some of the band’s most popular and successful songs.
Christine retired from Fleetwood Mac in 1998. She has reportedly been to see the
band on tours since then, but has not performed with them on stage. She did,
however, record a solo album in 2004 entitled “In the Meantime” (with nephew
The only time I have seen Fleetwood Mac perform live was on
the “Behind the Mask” tour in 1990. Then, I was struck by the contribution
that Christine McVie made to the band. On that tour, Fleetwood Mac were missing
guitarist and vocalist Lindsey Buckingham and Rick Vito and Billy Burnette did
an excellent job of filling in for him as guitarists. But Lindsey’s absence
put more weight on Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie as vocalists. Unlike Stevie,
who took centre stage with her theatrical performances, Christine was normally
hidden behind her keyboard. However, Lindsey Buckingham’s absence made her
contribution to the band more obvious and clearer.
Fleetwood Mac were a successful blues band in the late
1960s, but some of the key talents -
Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan – left in the early 1970s. At
that time Christine McVie (née Christine Perfect) – who had married bassist
John McVie in 1968 – joined the band. Fleetwood Mac went through a
transitional period in the early 1970s, with little commercial success, save for
a reissue of their instrumental hit Albatross which reached No.2 in the UK
singles charts in 1973.
By the mid-1970s, the core of the band – drummer Mick
Fleetwood, bassist John McVie and keyboard/vocalist Christine McVie - had
relocated to California which is where they linked up with guitar/singer duo
Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. The result was two staggeringly successful
albums – Fleetwood Mac and Rumours – which also led to success in the singles charts in the
Eight singles were released from the Fleetwood Mac and Rumours albums,
and five of them were written by Christine McVie: Warm Ways; Over My Head; Say You Love Me; Don’t Stop; and You Make
Loving Fun. Don’t Stop is
probably the band’s best known song, and Fleetwood Mac reunited to perform it
at Bill Clinton’s inauguration ceremony in 1993. In the meantime Christine had
contributed some of the more successful and popular songs to Fleetwood Mac’s
1980s and early 1990s catalogue, including Think
About Me (1980), Hold Me (1982), Little
Lies (1987), Everywhere (1988) and Save Me
We should respect Christine’s decision to retire in the
late 1990s – she now lives in the village of Wickhambreaux near Canterbury in
Kent. But Fleetwood Mac is surely a poorer band without her contribution. And
when the Fleetwood/McVie/Buckingham/Nicks roadshow gets underway later this year
under the banner of Fleetwood Mac, remember that some of their best and most
popular songs were written by someone who is not on stage – Christine McVie:
If you wake up and don't
want to smile,
2013 - The Diamond Jubilee of Rock Music?
posted 31st December 2012
After the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year and the Olympics in 2012, what should be the theme for celebrations in 2013? As rock and roll music started to make its mark in the early and mid-1950s, I propose we should celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of rock music.
The rock and roll era was clearly underway in the mid-1950s. Elvis Presley started his recording career in 1954 with “That’s All Right” and his career gathered momentum through 1955, with his first big hits – like “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Blue Suede Shoes” - coming in 1956. Chuck Berry recorded his first major record “Maybellene” in 1955 and “Roll Over Beethoven” in 1956. In 1954, Bill Haley and the Comets recorded “Shake, Rattle and Roll” and their best known song “Rock around the Clock” was popularised in the film “Blackboard Jungle” in 1955.
So when does it make sense to date the start of the rock music era? Some analysts look back to the late 1940s and very early 1950s to identify the origins of rock and roll. “That’s All Right” – which was Elvis Presley’s first single - was originally recorded by Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup in 1946. Other early candidates for “The First Rock n’ Roll Record” are “Good Rockin’ Tonight” by Wynonie Harris in 1948, “Rock this Joint” by Jimmy Preston and his Prestonians in 1949 and “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats in 1951. Rocket 88 was written by Ike Turner, of Ike and Tina Turner fame, and featured a distorted guitar sound produced by an amplifier with a damaged speaker! It was also performed by Bill Haley and his Comets in the early 1950s.
But these early records do not necessarily mark the “birth” of rock music or rock n’roll. The time interval between some of these early releases and the explosion of rock n’ roll in the mid-50s is too long. They should be considered as important influences rather than the start of something more substantial.
1953 is a much better candidate for the birth year of rock music, coming just before this rock explosion in 1954-1956. Here are ten reasons which support this view, and hence the idea that we should celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of rock music in 2013:
1) In 1953, Elvis Presley first came to the attention of Sam Phillips and his Sun Records label based in Memphis when he recorded two songs on an acetate disc for $4 to give to his mother.
2) Bill Haley and the Comets had their first major commercial success with “Crazy Man Crazy”, recorded in April 1953.
3) “Rock around the Clock” was first performed by Bill Haley and the Comets in 1953 and the song was recorded by Sonny Dae and his Knights, either in 1953 or early 1954.
4) “Hound Dog”, which became a massive hit for Elvis, was first released by Big Mama Thornton in 1953.
5) “Mystery Train”, another early Elvis song, was released by Junior Parker’s band “Little Junior’s Blue Flames” in 1953.
6) Guitar Slim’s “The Things That I Used To Do”, released in 1953, featured one of the earliest recorded distorted electric guitar solos – a key innovation for rock music.
7) “Mess Around” by Ray Charles – his first recording which reflected rock n’ roll influences - was recorded and released in May 1953. “Mess Around” was jointly written by Ahmet Ertegun, whose Altlantic record label launched many notable rock musicians, including Led Zeppelin and Yes.
8) During 1953, Alan Freed was busy popularising rock music to radio audiences in the mid-west of the United States. The year before – in 1952 - Freed had held what has become known as the first rock and roll concert – “The Moondog Coronation Ball” in Cleveland. By 1954, Freed had moved to New York and was taking the sounds of rock n’ roll to the affluent East Coast radio audiences.
9) 1953 is the first date mentioned in a rock song – “Cell Block No.9” by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, best known in the UK for the version by Dr Feelgood. As well as “Cell Block No.9” Leiber and Stoller wrote “Hound Dog”, “Jailhouse Rock”, “Kansas City”, “Poison Ivy”, “Stand by Me” and many other classic rock songs. They also formed their record label Spark Records in 1953.
10) National Musical Express (NME) started the first UK chart of record sales in late 1952, and 1953 was its first complete year in which the top record sales in the UK recorded. Previous charts had been focussed on sales of sheet music. Charts of record sales were crucial to measuring the popularity and success of rock music.
We cannot pinpoint the precise date when rock music was born. But 1953 looks as good a date as any to mark its birth, which means we should celebrate the “Diamond Jubilee of Rock” this year. Even if you don’t agree with me on that, 2013 is the Golden Anniversary of the Beatles bursting onto the music scene in 1963 and the 40th Anniversary of one of the most iconic rock albums, “Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd, released in 1973.
So as we approach 2013, raise a glass with me to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of the music which has shaped the culture and lifestyles of two generations. And in the words of Pink Floyd, “Shine on, you crazy Diamond”!
posted 26th March 2012
When I look back to my favourite rock albums and songs, many were recorded in the era I would describe as the Golden Age of Rock Music, which spans the late 1960s and early 1970s.
More specifically, I think you can date the Golden Age to the period 1967-1973. 1967 saw the release of the Beatles album, Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Jimi Hendrix burst onto the scene and bands like Cream started to expand the boundaries of creativity and musicianship in rock music.
1973 saw the release of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, the crowning glory of their recorded output, and an iconic classic rock album. Genesis reached their creative peak with Selling England by the Pound in November. The end of the year also saw the release of Yes's Tales of Topographic Oceans. Though there are some interesting musical ideas and some excellent musical performances on this album, it was a signal that classic/progressive rock was starting to degenerate into self-indulgence. Though many excellent rock albums and songs were recorded after 1973, it marked the close of the truly Golden Age.
Three themes underpinned the Golden Age - innovation, creativity and musicianship. Innovation took place at two levels - musically and technically. Rock music moved beyond the standard 3-minute pop song with lyrics about boy/girl relationships and there was widespread experimentation with longer and more complex pieces. At the technical level, electronic music arrived, with the extensive use of synthesisers and other electronic devices to modify the sounds of voices, instruments and guitars. Even Bob Dylan went electric!
A second theme was creativity. Concept albums were developed, with one song merging into another. Song lyrics became more imaginative, chord sequences more varied and bands experimented with drum solos, exotic keyboard and guitar sounds. Even Ringo Starr gets a drum solo on the final track of Abbey Road - "The End". Song structures also became more complex, with the simple verse-chorus-verse structure becoming the exception rather than the norm.
The third theme was musicianship. Some excellent musicians came to prominence in the late 1960s and early 1970s - many of whom are still plying their trade today. Rick Wakeman, Eric Clapton, Dave Gilmour, Jimmy Page, Ritchie Blackmore, Carlos Santana, David Bowie and Elton John. At the same time, established bands from the early 60s - like the Beatles, the Who, the Byrds, the Rolling Stones and the Zombies, raised their game and recorded and performed some of their best music around the same time. Crosby, Stills and Nash, the Eagles and Neil Young set the direction for a new style of acoustic/electric rock music influenced by country and folk, based on the West Coast of the US.
The drive to innovate, be more creative and explore new musical directions caused band memberships to change and shift constantly. Pink Floyd ditched their founder member and chief songwriter, Syd Barrett, but this did not prevent them recording one of the best rock albums of all time - Dark Side of the Moon. The Beatles split in 1970, but recorded some of their best songs in the late 1960s. Lennon, McCartney and Harrison went on to have successful post-Beatles careers and the final year of the Golden Age saw the release of McCartney's finest post-Beatles album, Band on the Run. Rick Wakeman shifted effortlessly from playing in the Strawbs and as a session musician for David Bowie and Cat Stevens to becoming the keyboard supremo of the progressive rock band Yes.
Sadly, there were casualties too - including Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison of the Doors and Gram Parsons. Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys suffered a mental breakdown because he felt he could not keep up with the pace of creative change, even though he wrote some excellent songs in the mid-1960s (eg God Only Knows, Good Vibrations). The drug culture claimed other victims, including Peter Green the virtuoso guitarist with Fleetwood Mac.
In a single blog posting, it is impossible to note all the momentous rock music which emerged in this Golden Age. The four classic Led Zeppelin albums were recorded. Deep Purple were in their pomp - recording the greatest live album of all time, Made in Japan. Yes recorded their three best albums - The Yes Album, Fragile and Close to the Edge. The Who also recorded a trio of great albums - Tommy, Who's Next and Quadrophenia. The Beatles recorded some of their best music in the late 1960s and the individual members subsequently recorded impressive solo work, including George Harrison's All Things Must Pass. There were some momentous guitar solos - such as Jimmy Page's contribution to Stairway to Heaven and Lynyrd Skynyrd's Free Bird.
Below the radar, there is some lesser known classic music from this period. The Zombies are one of my favourite 1960s bands. Their 1968 album Odyssey and Oracle featured the whimsical "Time of the Season". Rod Argent, a key musical influence behind the band went on to form his own band with Russ Ballard, recording "God Gave Rock and Roll to You" in 1973. Not a bad way to mark the end of the Golden Era of Rock! And Ballard went on to write Since You've Been Gone - a great rock anthem which was a 1979 hit for Rainbow (featuring Ritchie Blackmore ex-Deep purple).
Marmalade, best known for re-recording the Beatles' "Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da" contributed Reflections of My Life written by Junior Campbell and Dean Ford. Campbell contributes a haunting backwards guitar solo on the track.
Badfinger were signed to the Apple record label established by the Beatles in 1968. They wrote and recorded some excellent tracks - "No Matter What", "Come and Get it" (a McCartney song) and "Without You", which was a big hit for Nilsson in 1971 and Mariah Carey in 1994. Sadly, both the creative influences behind the band committed suicide - Pete Ham in 1975 and Tom Evans in 1983.
In subsequent blog entries, I will try share more of my enthusiasm for the Golden Age of Rock Music, and hope to convert you to the cause.