Monday, July 27, 2020

Russia Today (My Own Show)

I love Russia, the Russians are cool
My best friends call me the Moscow Mule
I don't like vodka, it makes me sicklyA
Unless i drink it  very quickly
Have you ever seen their  marvellous dolls?
They're either  far away or they're extremely small

Russia! Dearest Russia, how I hold you dear!
I love you just as much as I love North Korea
And if all else fails I know I'll be OK
I'll have my own show on Russia Today

Oh, Russia, You're not my mother
But you would be, If I had another
Her name was Mary, I just wanted to please her
She came from Scotland, without a visa
She used to say that I was bound for hell
I found it in the Moscow Ritz Carlton Hotel

I've a Faberge egg my friend Vladimir gave
There's more to that company than aftershave
Voldemort  said it would be a pity
To end up  in Salisbury or Mexico City
I remember what Trotsky's girlfriend said
Life's better without an icepick in your head

And if all else fails I'll know where to go
I can do the traffic
On Sputnik Radio

Copyright Tom Morton, 2020

Note: That's a Selmer "222", a cheap starter guitar made in Britain under the Selmer name which cost 11 guineas in 1966, when mum and dad bought me it for my 11th birthday. It's been through a lot in 54 years. And still stays roughly in tune.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Person Woman Man Camera TV

At school they used to call me Mr Memory 
Person woman man camera TV
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with me
Person woman man camera TV

I hate journalists I hate the press 
They’re the ones whose lies got us into this mess
We’d all be fine except for that 5G
Chinese phones destroying our immunity
And we’re going to stop testing because if we don’t know
How many have got it, that’ll keep the figures low


Now forget for the moment about this disease
I’m having fun with my secret police
The only good protester’s one that’s been teargassed
Just shows how useless are those stupid masks 
I’m not just clever I’m sexy too
Lord Vladimir told me so it must be true


Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Four Seasons In One Day (Considering a Move to Shetland)

I wore a mask in Glasgow, and nobody said thanks
Just stood and stared like I was going to rob a bank 
I tried to get tested, nobody wanted to know
I remembered the nice nurses on that Island Medics show

I got on my Goldwing and drove to Aberdeen
Boarded the ferry, everything was nice and clean
I thought I’d be in Shetland soon and things would be all right
Then they told me it was fourteen hours and we’d sail overnight

Islands in the sun 
Islands in the rain
Islands in the snow
Still 23 hours to go
Don’t ask me why
It’s snowing in July 
Apparently it’s always been this way
Four seasons in one day

The voyage was so rough I was amazed we stayed afloat
They had to call a doctor just to get me off the boat
I rode to see some cliffs and then a seagull hit my head
If I hadn’t worn my helmet then I’m sure that I’d be dead

A killer whale attacked me as I walked along the beach
And ate a baby seal as  I scrambled out of reach
I had mutton soup and bannocks, drank 12 red tins of beer
And instantly decided I would like to move up here

Now I’m a Shetland crofter and I can’t believe my luck
I wear a Dickies boiler suit, I drive a pick up truck
I smoke the stuff I grow myself, I love to count my sheep
I’ve met a girl called Bo who says her second name is Peep

Copyright Tom Morton 2020. All rights reserved. Social media sharing encouraged.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

This is the end, beautiful friend. Has the music industry had its day?

Del Amitri, Florida, August 1986

The music ‘industry’ as we’ve known it is, and has been for a long time, a stuttering, crumbling, lumbering behemoth, a decaying piece of machinery monetising technical processes established at the start of the 20th century and earlier: live performance, songs printed and sold as sheet music, recorded discs, radio. Colossal, sometimes lunatic amounts of cash have been made by those involved at every level and in every aspect. And been lost. Or stolen.

Appalling behaviour has been tolerated and encouraged, because the sums being earned were so vast, often by people who, like footballers, combined wondrous artistry with the brains, morals and maturity of cockroaches. A recent read of Patti Boyd’s deeply upsetting autobiography reveals an Eric Clapton who would jealously store away cheques “to stop the bank from getting them”. If only that was the worst or stupidest  or most downright evil thing he did while one of the world’s biggest, richest, most addicted rock stars.

The past few years have seen the music industry flailing hopelessly against technology. Artists, apart from the few heritage and superstar acts still bitcoining it in, have railed and still do against the streaming services. Buy our vinyl, they plead, like desperate hucksters crouched in the street trying to sell CB radios to smartphone users, Fray Bentos pies to the queue at Paesano. Look, it’s a nice colour! I have signed it in felt tip! I have children and a Nissan Leaf to support! It’s in a COLOUR SLEEVE!

Listen, vinyl is shit. It sounds terrible, deteriorates with every needle-gouging spin (not that anyone ever really plays these modern12-inches) and is unutterably and unsustainably filthy to produce. It’s a souvenir, a memento, an icon, a memory, an artefact, and yes, objects which evoke such emotions are important. But there are better, cleaner ways to support and memorialize your band, to be a fan. Surely.

And even as we speak, on the island of Eigg, Johnny Lynch and his pals at Lost Map Records are probably working on it, and making it out of sustainable sheeps wool, deer horn and bits of old fishing boat.

The plague has shut down venues and killed the cattlemarket events which have become - oh yes - the cash cows of the music industry. The reluctance to cancel gigs, tours and festivals, and the fear and anger of those forced to do so, was indicative: Make no mistake, this is the end for many of the big corporate horrorshow promoters and, alas, many of the freelances who depend on the trickledown from their events.  Refunds for cancelled gigs are slow or non-existent for a very good reason, the same reason airlines aren’t handing out the money for cancelled flights: If they did so, all at once, they’d go bust instantly.

As it is Live Nation’s (and parent Ticketmaster’s) share price crash saw the companies write off a colossal amount of their value, and  no return to proper touring and major, fully attended gigs is predicted until July 2021. It could mean the end for such corporate monstrosities or, as some financial analysts are predicting, an opportunity for them to retrench, reinvent and bounce back. Thinner, meaner, tougher, nastier. Rock’n’ roll. The hedge funds are already circling.

One  forthright friend, a music professional of decades standing has an apocalyptic vision of the immediate future:

“Anyone who thinks there’ll be large scale touring this year (or even next year) is delusional. It can’t happen until there’s a vaccine. Same goes for festivals. All the big commercially operated venues will go bust, if they haven’t already, and even if they don’t, there won’t be anyone to staff them.  All we’ll be left with are council run venues, because that’s where all the support money will go. Those with connections to Government will hoover up all the available money and use it line their own filthy pockets and produce nothing of value, so it’ll be business as usual. Freelancers won’t get a penny, so they will be gone, so even if touring does start up, there’ll be nobody to crew it. And there won’t be any service companies left to provide sound, lights, video, buses, trucking, catering etc. They’re going bust at an alarming rate right now. PA equipment suppliers are flogging gear as fast they can, and a lot is going abroad due to the weak Pound. If and when things restart, there will be a major shortage of equipment. Large scale touring is dead in the water and will be for a long time. The biggest players were in serious difficulty before all this happened.”

And yet and yet….

“I’ve actually got quite a positive view of the future for the music industry. I’m predicting a proper grass roots resurgence in small venues once it’s safe to do so. 

I believe there will be a huge opportunity to reinvent the music industry when the dust settles, and it won’t be the old dinosaurs that currently have a stranglehold on it doing the reinventing, so there’s hope yet.”

The announcement of  £2.2 million in Holyrood money to support “Grassroots Music Venues” in Scotland (now being acronymed as GMVs, which is a very bad sign) until October may provide a lifeline for the 74 members in Scotland of the Music Venue Trust (MVT? Oh, please...). Equally divided, that’s what?  About £30K each? The hows and the whys and the who gets what (decided by whom?) will be illuminating. It won’t save anyone long term unless they move and change fast.

Agile companies big and small, those with enough financial backing to keep going, are moving into streaming and ‘hybrid’ gigs (high-price, socially distanced live premium audience plus paid-for streaming). At least seven or eight of the big production companies now have fully equipped sound stages in the UK specifically for streaming, but monetising the online aspect is, as ever, a problem. The Plague phenomenon of Facebook Live and Zoom gigs with, Kofi,  Patreon and other embarrassing begging bowl or online busking options in place was interesting, but an emergency measure trading on sympathy. To make that work long term, you need to offer something else. 

Stuff. Lots of stuff. Good stuff. Quality. People want things. To express support, belonging, love.Swag. T-shirts, postcards, handwritten lyrics, backyard personal gigs, and even the horrific offerings on the Cameo site, where some big names will do you a phone message or a personal greeting for anything up to several hundred quid. Mike Scott from the Waterboys was one early adopter there. And may God have mercy on his soul.

Here’s a thing: Musicians are not going to stop making music because they’re not getting paid or paid enough for it. Those who don’t do it for love are not worth bothering about anyway, so their loss won’t be mourned by those who love music and want to support the musicians who make it. 

What will or should those transactions be?

Streaming is like radio, and no musician makes a living wage from MCPS payments, or very few. Forget all this moaning about Spotify and (slightly more lucrative) Tidal. It’s advertising. If you’re good, I’ll want to own something you've made. Make me an offer, Show me some of your good stuff, your knitwear, your art, your shirts, your dishtowels. Come to my garden and do a gig. You can stay in that specially cleaned caravan. We’ll feed you through the catflap. Show us your art.

Forget the mansion in Kent, the Caribbean yacht, the no-black-Smarties rider. The 360 deal, the free Adidas, sync, the dreams of being in Spinal Tap, the VIP lounge, the reunion tour to top up the pension fund. It’s over. You’re entitled to nothing.

But you’re an artist. Use your imagination. Be inspired. Inspire me.

Maybe you’re worth some of the cash I don’t actually have at the moment. Maybe not. Prove it.

Copyright Tom Morton, 2020. No reproduction without written permission. Sharing on Facebook and Twitter fine.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

I'm Going to Stay at Home (No Half-Price Takeaways)

I don't want to drink in a pub full of plague
Have dinner half price in a shed
I've got my Brewdog subscription
I'll eat Kentucky Fried in bed
I  don't want to stand in some sweaty club
Nursing  Tennents in a plastic glass
When I can watch Glastonbury on TV
For as long as I need it to last

I'm going to stay at home I have no doubt
It's nice in here, there's no need to go out
I've got Uber Eats and Deliveroo
And I don't have to talk to the likes of you
I like being alone
I'm just going to stay at home

Some old singer said he and the band
Just want to have a little fun
They recorded an album in lockdown
They need to top up their pension funds
And all of those actors with their acting stuff
Darlings,  theatre's had its day
I need fast forward and I need live pause
If I'm going to watch a play

 I'm sorry for those backstage dealers
With their Es and hash and speed
But I have my sourdough starter
And it's all I'll ever need

I won't commute to an office
I don't care what anybody thinks
Won't stand for hours on a train that smells
Of Costa, sweat and Lynx
I can run this helpline from bed
Telling people how to use 5G
And if idiots want to keep blowing up masts
Well that's all the more work for me

Copyright Tom Morton 2020.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Following the Science (Pint of Stella and a Packet of Quavers)

Following the science
That's OK
But the science seems to change
From day to day
You used to be a fool if you wore a mask
Now it's one of the main things the Government asks

Nicola's the mistress of communication
She’s got empathy,  good explanations
We don't believe a thing the fools in London may say
But we end up following their rules anyway

Following the science

We're doing what we can
We're doing what we should
We're trying to understand
We wish we could
A prime minister who thinks he's funny 
Forget the disease, we need the money

We love our beer and we love our sport
I've played golf pished on a tennis court
But do our great leaders really think
I'd kill my grandmother just for a drink?

Following the science

And you have to admit it's a real disgrace
When somebody says they won't cover their face
And they tell you they heard some scientist say
That if they didn't they would be OK

Tourists are coming, we told them no
But they found another cottage where they could  go
They want to research their local ancestors
They say they'll find a way to sneak out of Leicester

Following the science

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Come to our Gigs (Let the Music Play)

Come to our Gigs (Let the Music Play)

We've got  hand sanitizer made  with love
Security will all be wearing organic rubber gloves
Go ahead and organise your baby sitters
We got luxury portable shitters
And they'll be disinfected after every shite
We guarantee you'll have a wonderful night

We've got bills that we need to pay
Important ideas to communicate
We've got egos we deserve to nourish
Creativity that has to flourish
Our priority's obviously your health
And the creation of a little wealth

Come to our gigs
Get your tickets, get your money spent
Come to our gigs
Nothing beats the live experience
Come to our gigs
No social distancing will save your soul
Take a little risk for the sake of rock'n'roll

Cancelling the tour never had my vote
We've got an album we need to promote
All that merch that we commissioned
We've taken advice and we have permission
You should see the t shirts we've had produced
You can wear our special masks - they've been reduced

And don't worry about the perspex screen
Between you and the stage, we can still be seen
And the PA's guaranteed to be really loud
Though nothing can beat the sound of a crowd
That sense of community is just the best
And all payments will be contactless

So come to our gigs
Even millionaires still need to play
Come to our gigs
We've got dealers and ex-wives to pay
Come to our gigs
Our industry is on its knees
Percentage-wise, those are tiny booking fees...