Tag Archives: Music

Ghost – Prequelle

Do you believe in Santa Claus? Of course you do.

The fans of Ghost certainly believed in Santa Claus. And Papa Emeritus. They kept the myth alive even when others attempted to defrock the fabled front man as Tobias Forge. It didn’t seem to matter, because ultimately, Forge was creating something theatrical which people enjoyed.

All this changed in 2017 when several members of the band were named in a lawsuit which challenged Forge for withholding monies owed. This has led to no less than 10 musicians, prominently all male Swedish male musicians, stating to have (at one point or another) been a member of Ghost from 2009 to 2016. It also defrocked Forge as the groups lead vocalist (a fact previously confirmed by the Swedish Record Industry) and left the band in a somewhat state of uncertainty.

Prequelle is the groups fourth album, which sees (presumably) newer members and also the addition of a second named member – Papa Nihil – return to reclaim their throne. Whether Forge and some of his former bandmates have settled their differences is relatively unclear, and how much work previous band mates gave to the overall project is obviously a question for debate, but this new line up is certainly something of a revival. 

Put simply, Prequelle is without question the album of 2018; it’s phenomenal music radiates from start to finish to produce an album of electricity. Previous favorite like ‘Ritual’ and ‘Elizabeth’ focused on choral choirs, thundering bass and Blue Oyster Cult inspired guitar work; whereas improved production and tuning now gives the band a more macabre Queen-esque 80’s sound. 

If ‘Opus Eponymous’ was the 1970s, then the 80’s have well and truly arrived.

Of course you could argue that Ghost are ripping off things they’ve heard decades ago. The problem you’d have there, is that they’re doing it better than the original composers. ‘Dance Macabre’ and ‘See The Light’ give tinged ballads and rock licks a run for their money while instrumentals like ‘Miasma’ confirm the talent isn’t just in the vocals. The saxophone work on the latter track reminds me of Axl Rose introducing the band during ‘Move to the City’

Just stop reading this and buy the album. Now. 

“Dance Macabre,” already with 15-million Spotify streams, is the second music video and radio single from the Grammy-winning rock/pop band’s most recent album Prequelle (6/1/18 (Loma Vista Recordings /Concord Records). Simultaneously apocalyptic with catchy, contagious hooks, the song tells of how some people coped with the devastation of 14th century Europe’s Black Plague that wiped out millions – by dancing and partying and seducing until they dropped. The music video puts its own twist on the celebration of the End of Days and beyond.

Twenty-eighteen has been a good year for Ghost. “Rats,” the first single from Prequelle, held the #1 spot at Rock Radio for a record-setting nine consecutive weeks. In North America alone, “Rats” has been streamed more than 14-million times, its companion music video has racked up more than 13-million YouTube views, and Prequelle has accumulated nearly 49-million streams. Ghost recently sold out the very prestigious Royal Albert Hall in London, and Metallica just announced the band will be Special Guest on its 25-date European stadium tour next summer. Ghost will headline its two-act “A Pale Tour Named Death” Fall North American tour that starts in Dallas on October 25. The North American trek includes two headline arena shows, The Forum in Los Angeles, and New York City’s Barclays Center.

Ghost will play Twickenham Stadium, London, on June 20th 2019 as special guests to Metallica.

Grave Formats

The other day I found myself in HMV while my parents visited in the run up to Christmas. As it was a festive occasion, my parents had suggested we purchase a gift, something they could enjoy wrapping and leaving under the tree for me before their return to France. Not being one to ever miss out on a present I gladly accepted and proceeded to rummage through a number of my mental ‘wish lists’ attempting to come up with something I’d like to physically obtain.

As I proceeded to leaf through the copious amount of Vinyl on offer I realised just how far HMV have evolved. December 2012 seems like a distant memory, but more tenured employees of HMV will remember the time well, as it spelt a certain end to the company. At the time, economists took great pride in appearing on news programs, telling us just how obsolete a store like HMV was in today’s marketplace. And yet, it remains. The store I was standing in, in Gateshead’s Metro Centre, had recently located to a more premier retail location and a new store, in Boston Lancashire, opens its doors in the very unit its predecessor was forced to close in March 2013.

In many respects, it’s hardly surprising that HMV has managed to remain, but commendable and worthy of praise all the same. It’s current business model meant that more high priced items like phones, electronics and games took a back seat; while shelves were recently filled with comics, collectables and even Vinyl. Having worked for the company briefly in 2009 and again in 2013, I defiantly experienced some of this change first hand. Vinyl itself presented something quite unique; as if we’d suddenly travelled back in time and embraced a format which should – by all rights – be extinct. Just as many analysts argue HMV should be.

Compact Disc has been a regular fixture in the marketplace since the late 80s, swiftly seeing off competition from Mini Disc, VHS and even Laserdisc; they even buried Vinyl considerably in an episode of Tomorrow’s World recorded around 1992. Whereas a lot of music fans have embraced the digital revolution a decade ago, retailers are limited in their selections, admitting that embracing MP3’s and Spotify subscriptions would leave them out of a job. So CD has found a bizarre and unchallenged equilibrium; until the return of Vinyl. Asides from their popularity with collectors, their physical appeal, their openness to customisation (who doesn’t love a good picture disc?) there’s also an exceptionally unique quality to Vinyl which makes it a more attractive proposition for retailers; it’s practically impossible to steal.

Consider for a moment walking into a store on a cold Christmas day and shoving a cassette tape into your pocket. Even a CD would fit snuggly into an inside pocket without much effort. Vinyl, on the other hand, presents twelve inches of self-resistance to petty theft; for both customers and staff alike, making it the perfect product. In 2017 HMV predicted its most successful year of Vinyl sales in almost 20, thanks in part to the efforts of mainstream artists like Ed Sheeran and Noel Gallagher embracing the format, with UK sales for that year topping four million.

In 2018 this trend continues, with the average purchase of Vinyl made by a consumer younger than those purchasing CDs, according to information from the website Kantar. According to their estimates, the overall value of the vinyl market in the UK for the latest quarter (in the 12 weeks to 1 July) was £25 million. 420,000 people bought a vinyl record in this period, up by 6.6% vs. Q1 (that is, the 12 weeks to 1 April). And this is despite the evident proof that not all collectors of Vinyl have the means to play them.

What might be even more remarkable is that this trend has led to a number of other ‘Grave Formats’ returning to the fold. Swedish band Ghost released their latest album ‘Prequelle’ as well as their live compilation ‘Ceremony and Devotion’ on Vinyl, but perhaps more surprising is their choice to release it on 8 Track Cassette. Although a limited release, initially available through the bands website and the result of Spotify giveaways, their operations are not unique to just cult bands – with Metallica remastering their classic ‘And Justice for All’ album and releasing a special cassette version; which is available to purchase through Amazon and was also stocked in HMV alongside a Nirvana cassette release earlier this year.

The introduction of the cassette tape by Philips in 1963 would lead to it becoming one of the most influential ways people consume music for over 30 years, and yet, it was somewhat ironically never intended never to rival the audio quality of the existing larger tape formats. Once Sony released a portable cassette player called the Walkman in 1979, such anti-taping arguments were more or less dismissed by the general public. Complete with portable headphones, the Walkman encouraged a generation of music fans to take their sounds with them wherever they went, and the advent of the boom box, which featured dual cassette decks, provided portability and seemingly encouraged music duplication through its design. By 1983 it was cassettes which outsold Vinyl.

And yet, as I made my selection that evening in HMV, my father looked on slightly baffled as to why – at 63 – it was his 33-year-old son who was purchasing albums on Vinyl, Cassette and 8 Track in 2018. Everything it would seem, has its place.

Plus Booking Fee…Goodbye Yellow Brick Road…

Plus Booking Fee…Goodbye Yellow Brick Road…
by Wayne Madden

On Wednesday July 2nd Elton John (and his band) is set to perform at Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena. The website quotes that he is “undeniably one of the most acclaimed and adored solo artists of all time” and you’ll get no argument from me. His career success parallels few artists of any genre and his recordings are, quite literally, embedded into popular culture.

Tickets for the event are listed at £55 and £75, a look beyond the home page and prices have now risen to £62.75 and £83.75 respectively with the click of a mouse. The rise in price equates to a booking fee of £8.75 for purchasing tickets online, with an optional “missed event insurance” of £3.75 and a further, mandatory, minimum mail or venue collection charge of £2.50 – none covered in the previous charges.

England, like most other first world countries, is a market economy. In a world where we’re more readily checking our pockets and bank balances it seems unusual to pay an additional £2.50 for sending a letter by first class post. Even more unusual when the £8.75 booking fee doesn’t, on its own, include any form of insurance and is more than what you’d be paid for doing an hour’s work on minimum wage.

With new rules introduced in April 2013 by the UK Government to cut down on credit card surcharges, Booking Fee’s for performances have remained unaffected, with Elton John’s performance at Nottingham Arena also demanding a £9.25 fee atop a £75 ticket price via Ticketline. This is far from a regional occurrence.

In 2013 Ticketmaster UK appointed Chris Edmonds as their new chairman. He’d spoken to the BBC about ticket pricing as managing director, in Dec 2012, saying that “there’s a misunderstanding about what the fee’s are for…in reality we wouldn’t see any share of the actual ticket price. That would be shared between the promoter, venues and the artist” and went on to say that “the actual per ticket fees that we charge to our consumer are our sole source of revenue…in some instances some of those may be shared with the actual event organiser”
By that logic, the Metro Arena has already been paid prior to Booking Fee; a quick survey of their website informs us that all online sales are powered by Eventim.co.uk – the English branch of CTS Eventim AG, a German registered company who purport to be the largest ticket seller in Europe and who reported a turnover of €520 million in 2012. What it doesn’t tell us is why £8.75 per ticket is being charged for simply clicking a few buttons. Do we blame the Arena, Eventim, MasterCard, Visa or Elton John?

So, how can you save money? Phones4U Arena in Manchester is just one venue who informs consumers – through its website – that all tickets purchased from the venue box office, and with cash, will not be charged a booking fee. It might seem like small consolation but if you live near the venue and don’t believe the gig will sell out within moments of tickets going on sale then the advice is clear, visit your venue and purchase tickets in person. Organise a pooling system with friends or relatives.

There is also hope for the future on excessive booking and admission prices as the EU plans to crack down on credit card surcharges and online fee’s, calling for them to be more representative of the services offered, though it’s unclear just what changes it will have for companies like Ticketmaster and Eventim who often register business roots outside EU market zones and avoid such laws.

As part of this article I attempted to contact the Metro Radio Arena and speak to someone about the Elton John example, but nobody was available for comment.

Little Caesar – Eighth

Little Caesar
Eight (Album) – Golden Robot Records

Rock and roll survivors and proud of their scars, Little Caesar may seem familiar, but it’s doubtful you’ve heard this band before. Their AOR blues inspired rock helped singer Ron Young found the band in 1987 and got them signed to Geffen records for their self titled debut in 1990, but fate would swing the pendulum to Pearl Jam and Nirvana before Caesar would get this chance to rule again. Beware the ides of March.

Eight is the bands first studio album in six years and comes from a man no stranger to suffering for his art, just ask Arnold Schwarzenegger – who once threw Young out of a window – as the latter was filming a scene in Terminator 2. Lead single ‘Time Enough for That’ is a ballad that would make Axl Rose weep, drawing inspiration from the British rock gods of the past and encouraging people to pass around the lighter (or even their phones) in respectful illumination of the darkness.

Paying tribute to classic sounds like Free and Bad Company this album feels like it’s been around for a while, and in the best possible way, as the sound fits like a well worn glove. Bassist Pharoah Barrett and Drummer Tom Morris (also a co-founder of the group) add a tight rhythm section. ’Mama Tried’ and ‘Crushed Velvet’ were personal favorites’ of this reviewer, proving that a mixed bag of music is a great selling point in itself, offering a full repertoire of the bands abilities.

Fully self financed and completely independent, this record will be available at a live show near you soon, as the bands rigorous touring schedule and attention to detail mean you’d be a fool to miss them. A pleasure for the senses. Rock on

Score 4/5

I’m In Love With My Car; The Love Affair

I’m In Love with My Car – Sunderland One
Wayne Madden

A retiree celebrated his everlasting love for car sales in Sunderland this week, presented with recognition of service from his long standing employer at a special ceremony. John Watchman, 65, has spent 38 years in the motor retail industry and all of that time with just one employer – Bristol Street Motors Vauxhall Sunderland.

John, who was the guitarist for R&B band Love Affair in the 1960s prior to joining the firm as a sales executive, worked hard to obtain the position of Car Sales Manager. Love Affairs biggest hit, a cover of Robert Knight’s ‘Everlasting Love’, could sum up perfectly the admiration which John has for his employer.

The grandfather, who was presented with a special plaque by general manager Jass Singh, was humbled by the turnout of colleagues and well-wishers including Bristol Street Motors CEO Robert Forrester. “I’ve had a wonderful 38 years with Bristol Street Motors Vauxhall Sunderland. Bristol Street Motors is one off, if not the best in the motor retail industry and I’ve loved working for them.”

When asked what he was likely to do in his retirement John responded “I’ll spend more of my evenings playing guitar with my friends in local bands. I’m also looking forward to spending a lot more time at my second home in Spain and helping my children and grandchildren out with their young ones.”

Jass, all too aware of John’s talent and experience, said: “John’s presence around the dealership will be greatly missed. He has a wealth of experience and that shines through in the way he deals with customers and colleagues. Nothing is ever too much trouble and he is always prepared to lend a helping hand or answer any questions.”

Love Affair formed in London in 1966. Their first single, ‘She Smiled Sweetly’, was written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, released on Decca Records. By 1968 the band had moved to CBS Records and recruited John Watchman in April 1971 for the single ‘Help Me Get Some Help’. They attracted controversy by later admitting that most of their singles did not feature Love Affair band members playing the instruments, but instead session musicians, who recorded the music while the band was on the road.

Love Affair disbanded in the 1970s, with some of the bands former members forming a partnership with Tim Staffel, the vocalist in pre-Queen band Smile who would be replaced by Freddie Mercury. John, who still plays in a number of local bands, gave an online interview in 2007 about the bands collapse and his subsequent musical endeavors’.

“I was offered a chance of a job with Roxy Music in Feb 72 after working in a previous band with Paul Thompson but decided to go to Sweden with Love Affair…I started working in Sunderland Locarno in the house band from spring 73 to late 75 when the band transferred to Tiffany’s Wimbledon then on again to Tiffany’s Newcastle until September 1977. I then recorded two albums with Tommy Morrison on Real Records, the first being co-produced by Paul Rodgers. The second, never released at the time, was produced by Ed Stasium. I then recorded with Paul Rodgers but the material was all demos.”