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October 2010

PAUL MCCARTNEY - Live On Later... With Jools 29.10.10

Macca on Later 

Paul McCartney’s performance on BBC television’s Later... With Jools was quite astonishing. It was quite a show. Neil Diamond and Elvis Costello also guested but it was the mark of the man that McCartney blew them all away and had the other major hitters basking in awe. It wasn’t Neil and Elvis though that you sense old Macca was competing with. In the month when his old writing pal John had major media coverage to commemorate what would have been his 70th birthday Macca has decided to distract the spotlight and release another remastered version of his best post Beatles album Band On the Run. These performances were to compete with John and only John.

Two songs on Tuesday’s live show and then two more on Friday’s full blown programme was more than a treat for McCartney fans. I have said somewhere else recently that this is McCartney’s best band since Wings Over America in the mid seventies and it might actually be better. Rusty Anderson, Brian Ray, Abe Laboriel Jr., and Paul ‘Wix’ Wickens, have been a solid unit for nearly a decade now and Wickens for well over two, and they are well match fit. The intensity of their performance makes this no old man milking the old times. Jet is a rocker and Band On the Run rocks and rolls. Where I got most excited was a rare performance of 1985 with McCartney banging the keys like Leon Russell whose own legacy is being revisited with his new album with Elton John. It was mesmerising stuff, full on rock out in a TV studio. Let Me Roll It was sweet too with that delicious guitar motif shaper than a two edged sword. These guys rock and McCartney has to keep up.

He keeps up very well for a 68 year old. Yes there are a few moments when his voice maybe shows signs of aging. But McCartney’s voice had as much ability to rock as Lennon’s – think Birthday or Helter Skelter – and it still can fly. You can ask Robbie or Brandon or Bono and I’ll bet that they would dream to be this crucial as they near their three score years and ten. I have no idea whether I or anyone else needs another Remaster of Band On the Run but these performances remind us just how brilliant an album that was and makes you just a little bit more tempted. Paul McCartney generally gets a poor press for the softness of his later output but on these performances live on Britain’s flagship television rock show he needs our deepest respect.



Lyric For The Day 30.10.10 From Any Road by George Harrison (for John and Gillian)

Any Road 

“Bow to God call him sir

But if you don’t know where you’re going

Any road will take you there”

-      from Any Road by George Harrison

 Today my good friends, and ex students in Chaplaincy, John Martin and Gillian Campbell get married. I am honoured to speak at their wedding and as I was preparing the sermon I was uploading some George Harrison songs and this one kind of fitted rather well with what I am trying to say.

 John and Gillian’s wedding is not that liturgical rite of passage that is merely about dressing up, cutting cakes and getting the photos. For them this is another sacred moment on a lifetime of sacred moments as they seek to follow the road that Jesus has invited them to walk. Their readings from Psalm 139 and Romans 12 are a testimony to their faith, a willingness to be critiqued and made accountable and a declaration of their commitment to finding their place on the road God has for them, a place where they will make most impact as world formative Christians.

They could go through the motions of hymns and they could bow to God in some half hearted vow but instead John and Gillian are clearly following Jesus on a road with a purpose and destiny. Any other kind of wedding or life for that matter could end up anywhere!  

Lyric For The Day 29.10.10 from Pacing The Cage by Bruce Cockburn


“I never knew what you all wanted
So I gave you everything
All that I could pillage
All the spells that I could sing
It's as if the thing were written
In the constitution of the age
Sooner or later you'll wind up
Pacing the cage

Sometimes the best map will not guide you
You can't see what's round the bend
Sometimes the road leads through dark places
Sometimes the darkness is your friend
Today these eyes scan bleached-out land
For the coming of the outbound stage
Pacing the cage
Pacing the cage”

- from Pacing The Cage by Bruce Cockburn

One of my favourite Cockburn lyrics is about finding yourself caught in a trap where your very identity is being pushed and pulled this way and that. Like all Cockburn’s lyrics there is spiritual dilemma and as in most there is a spiritual hope found even in the very heart of the darkness. One of Cockburn’s greatest gifts to us has been his ability to bring Christian hope into the world’s realism whether personal or political. Many of us find ourselves in many situations where we feel like we are indeed pacing the cage in the strictures of the constitution of the age. We should always keep an eye on the outbound stage!

many more Bruce Cockburn articles

Lyric For The Day `28.10.10 from Walk With Me by Neil Young

Le Noise 

“I feel your love
I feel your strong love
I feel the patience
Of unconditional love
I feel the strength
I feel your faith in me

I'll never let you down no matter what you do
If you just walk with me and let me walk with you
I'm on this journey I don't wanna walk alone

Walk with me
Walk with me”

- from Walk With Me by Neil Young

More spiritual musings from Neil Young’s most recent album Le Noise and we can hear Young laying out the deep soul needs of every human being. On this journey of life, that we come to perceive as more of a journey the older we become, we all need that “unconditional love” that Young might be looking for in a wife or a companion. Christianity gives the most powerful and poetic image of this unconditional love in the concept of “grace” found at its core; God loves us as we are. Jesus artistic story of the Prodigal Son reveals the unconditional love of God well. The old popular hymn Amazing Grace sets this unconditional love beautifully into the journeying metaphor –

“Through many dangers, toils and snares...
We have already come.
T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far...
and Grace will lead us home.”


JOHN LENNON & YOKO ONO - Sometime In New York City

(the fourth in my series of reviews of John Lennon albums...)

Sometime In New York City
When I started reviewing Sometime In New York City I wanted to slate it as Lennon’s worst album, dismiss it as a politically naive ramble that has aged so badly that it is the last record of the ex Beatle that you need to buy. And as I re read it I have to say that all of that introduction is true but...

It is the home of three of Lennon’s best rockers. New York City, perhaps Ballad Of John and Yoko Pt 2, on the record itself is just such a great rock out and I never get tired of remembering how good it is. On the extra disc there is a powerful eight minute live primal scream version of Cold Turkey and also Well (Baby Please Don’t Go) a little Lennon gem hidden away. Lennon is best when his voice hits full volume, something already rediscovered on this Remasters series in the Double Fantasy Stripped Remix.

Yes, some of the tunes are sloppy and nursery rhymish but there is also something endearing about the loose almost punk sound of the Elephants Memory Band. The guitar riffs are edgier and rawer than on any other Lennon solo release. It is musically interesting, intriguing and eccentric.

Yes, there is a sense of yesterday’s news about the whole thing BUT that is a part of its original purpose. Lennon and his collaborating wife had no intention of this record being about longevity. It needs to be remembered that for Lennon music had fused with politics and avant-garde performance art and Sometime In New York City was where those things mixed the most. This was a politically agitated couple making a statement about how the world was at that moment and time and giving their opinion. If Lennon had made it to his seventieth birthday he might well have been asking in that acerbic Scouse accent why on earth we were even discussing it. They were trying to make a record that sounded like a Newspaper. The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll it ain’t but if you are looking for a record of leftist New York politics in 1972 look no further!

So, I can understand why it was out of print for so long and why it might be the last of the Remasters that most people buy BUT I have learned to see it for what it and to appreciate it as such. Yoko Ono has remastered it in 2010 so discuss it we must. It is politically naive in most places. Woman Is The Nigger Of The World probably still has a point but is so politically incorrect that it is hardly making radio rotation in 2010. Most other issues were very much of the moment and most of them very poor judgements. Lennon was right, as has been proven in the recent with the 2010 publishing Bloody Sunday Inquiry, to react against the British Army’s actions on that January day in Derry in 1972. However, to take the IRA’s side in the debate was really not a smart move from a man who wanted to Give Peace A Chance! The other fascinating song is about the American military’s over reaction to a hostage siege at Attica State Prison and again the Ono Lennons lost a little perspective when they made an appearance at a benefit for the prisoners who had died. Eight years later John Lennon’s own murderer would be a prisoner in Attica State and Yoko Ono has had less sympathy for Attica State prisoners, at least that particular one in more recent times.

All that said though I am pleased that this record has a place on my John Lennon shelf. It’s an important side of Lennon no matter how unimportant some of the songs sound today. In a world of early seventies acoustic introspective singer songwriters it kept the protest side of rock alive. It is as flawed as Lennon was himself but still has enough to commend it.

Imagine review

John Lennon Plastic Ono Band review

Double Fantasy Stripped Down review

The Beatles Remastered

Yoko Ono - Between My Head and The Sky reviewed

Lyric For The Day 26.10.10 from Magdalena by Brandon Flowers

“Prodigal sons and wayward daughters
Carry mandalas that they might
Be delivered from the depths of darkness
And born again by candlelight
And born again my candlelight”

          From Magdalena by Brandon Flowers

On his debut solo album Flamingo, The Killers’ main man Brandon Flowers comes across as a young Bruce Springsteen in his lyrical characters and their flights from where they are to somewhere better. Flowers has something extra going for him than Springsteen had. With many of us excited at the 21 unreleased tracks coming from Bruce in The Promise, due soon, it is a good time to compare and contrast him with the young upstart from Vegas. Springsteen’s alienated young men and women were certainly seeking a Promised Land but weren’t sure where. As Springsteen said himself, at a later more mature date, he realised he had gotten all these people into cars and needed to figure out somewhere to take them.

Flowers comes to the play with a Mormon faith that gives him somewhere to take them; his belief in redemption, salvation and rebirth. As a Christian I have debated many times with door to door Mormon missionaries quite fundamental differences in how we see humanity, Jesus and the way to this salvation, that Flowers sings about, but I rarely hear a theological concept in Flowers’ lyrics that I could have too much debate with. This lyric is a simple declaration of the Christian Gospel; prodigals all have a tangible hope of deliverance and a brand new shot at life.   

Flamingo by Brandon Flowers reviewed



When you have two young daughters of 10 and 12 you can find yourself watching movies, and listening to tunes, that you wouldn’t normally be round. So, on this first day of the Halloween holidays, a minister’s day off and trying to shake a cold, I find myself watching Hannah Montana, The Movie. There are moments of fun, and yes some moments of teen mush, but the finale has a fascinating profundity, if not just for all of us, most particularly for the artist.

Last night in Fitzroy I was “In Conversation with...” a husband and wife artistic collective Melanie Clark Pullen and Simon Maxwell. Simon sang some songs, one an absolute beauty from his own award winning short film and I spoke at length to Melanie about her time in Eastenders and then the making of her Award Winning short movie, Marion agus an Banphrionsa, that we also showed. The great thing about Simon and Melanie is that they are both artists seeking to follow vocation, believed to have something to do with God, in the real world of marriage, bills and babies; a Facebook profile of Melanie’s recently put their lives well when she said something like “left Baby and Toddler to share the set with an ex Bond girl.” Their art is real life.

So how do I get from there to Hannah Montana. Well, I imagine most won’t know so let me give some background. Hannah Montana is really a very ordinary teenage girl called Miley and the fun is her inter changing, at times with great speed, of both personas. Hence, in the movie she has lost her boyfriend and her widowed dad’s new girlfriend through the deceit of her double life. On the stage at the end she can’t live the lie anymore and after one great song pulls off her wig, gives away her secret and goes to leave the stage forever. The crowd, in her dad’s “Nowheresville” hometown try to convince her otherwise and one shouts out, “Hannah’s a part of you, don’t let her go.”

Those are words that anyone who has an artistic vocation within them need to hold dear. Last night, after Melanie and Simon, I spoke to two young artists who are teetering on the edge of giving up the art dream for the seemingly ordinary life. A sensible job seems... sensible... especially when family and friends are suspicious or dismissive and you are worried about unemployment. Is Hannah (the art) a part of you is the fundamental question to ask? I overheard Melanie sharing with one would be artist how she has at times paid the bills by doing other things but when she is on the stage she knows that this is what she was made for. My old Buechner mantra again – “vocation is where your deepest gladness meets the world’s deepest need” – becomes flesh in Melanie’s life.

Melanie had the fame and the wealth for a fleeting time during her few years in Eastenders. Today she is a family woman seeking to be faithful to her loved ones, her faith and her gifts. It is an example to every artist. Some, though very few, will make it to the top of the artform. When you don’t you have got to ask yourself what you are going to do with that part of you that dreams, imagines and creates. As I once said to another friend Juliet Turner you have to deal with your gift. You can’t just hide it under a bushel! I have also watched some try to throw their gifting out damage their souls in the process. Everyone so gifted needs to ask how much that art will a play in their lives but if Hannah is in you don’t let her go. She is a part of you and needs to be nurtured into her rightful place.

Lyric For The Day 24.10.10 from Running Away From Me by Meat Loaf

Hang Cool 

“I swallowed the end of the world with my problems
Thought maybe a girl could solve 'em
Don't let anyone in
I'm stuck with these sins
I'm hoping maybe time can absolve 'em
I said I needed room to breathe
I said I needed to run free
Well that's all through
Thought I was runnin' from you
Turns out I was runnin' from me
La, La, La La, La, La
Runnin' away from me
La, La, La La, La, La
Runnin' from me”

          From Running Away From Me by Meat Loaf/John Foreman


On a weekend when X Factor were singing Guilty Pleasures (yes I am watching - it is a family thing!) I wondered about doing a Lyric For The Day on one of my Guilty Pleasures. In 1977 I was blown away by Meat Loaf’s UK TV debut on the Old Grey Whistle Test. I got my hands on the album Bat Out Hell and played little else for about two years. Since those days Meat’s overindulgence has made him a little bit of a guilty pleasure. Yet, though I have listened  sparingly since Deadringer in 1982 I have still eventually bought all his albums, and Jim Steinman his writing partner’s too!

So yes, I even bought his recent Hang Cool Teddy Bear album and was thrilled to see a Jon Foreman song on there. Foreman is the main man with American band Switchfoot and has written some great theology in song over the past ten years. He in some ways baptised Meat Loaf for me; it gave me a reason to justify it! How sad am I!

And that is exactly the kind of sadness that is going on in this Lyric For The Day. The character in Running Away From Me is trying to put the blame on to someone or something else, a human trait that has been part of all of our DNA since Adam brushed it on to Eve back in the Garden. As he hopes to solve his dilemmas by running away from people and situations he suddenly realises that the dilemma goes with him. In the end he realises that he is the problem and knows that it will do no good to run away thinking he can escape from his sins. The sins are running with him; he is the one who needs redeemed.

And who’d have thought? Spiritual truth on a Meat Loaf album!


Wayne and Alex 

Now that the Wayne Rooney farce is all settled and he and Sir Alex Ferguson are hugging each other again, we should stop and reflect on what exactly happened this week; who bullied who and what is the greatest fear at the heart of it all. Wayne, who is not exactly in the kind of form that would attract Armagh City just now, has been accused of bullying a legendary manager and a big club. Really? I wonder if we got it the wrong way round. And how much at the core of this seemingly sad soccer scandal do we find the increasing shadow of Manchester City looming over the old Empire.

Let us first look at the events of the week. On Tuesday Rooney injures an ankle in training putting him out of the Champions League game the next day. It is at this stage that the staging of the media scrum kicks off. Good timing perhaps! Rooney has apparently stated way back in August that he is not keen to sign a new contract. He has challenged the club’s hierarchy with what we all know; this is not as good a United squad as we have seen over the past twenty years. This is a team that used to be 2 down against weaker teams and win, not be 2 up and draw as they did at home to West Brom last Saturday. The supporters can’t argue there. As some fans have said on Facebook Rooney was right! However, all has been kept quiet since August so why now?

It seems to me that Rooney found himself in the whirlwind of the clever old bullying of Sir Alex. It was Sir Alex, against all his past strategies of keeping these sort of things in house, who outed the issue. Why? Well he wanted to put Rooney in a corner, turn the fans and make the young man look even more ridiculous than normal. Let us face it, history tells us that you don’t mess with Sir Alex and stay! So whatever happened here Rooney wasn’t calling the shots. I say it very rarely but well done Sir Alex for getting a young brainless millionaire and his greedy agent to stand down and come home with their tails between their legs. Now Rooney has to win back team mates and fans which should focus his attention and perhaps get him back to scoring goals the way he used to. However, maybe Rooney needs heard too. He has proved he can score in the right team playing well. At present his lack of goals might say more about the other ten players than it does about him.

The other fascinating new player in the equation is Manchester City. The fear that he was going there, the very suggestion that it was the only place an ambitious young player could go, says a lot about the changing horizon of world football. Sir Alex might just have been glad of the new noisy neighbours this week because the fear or threat of him heading there has been stirring up the pressure of fans who two years ago would have laughed at the idea. Of course it is unlikely that City would have been interested. Teves is twice the player that Rooney will ever be, Rooney’s only advantage in the press being that he is English which for some reason, certainly not World Cup stats, inflates the country’s opinion of his abilities.

All in all though in a week where hundreds of thousands of people might lose their jobs due to Public Sector cuts it is very sad that the News Channels were concentrating on a millionaire becoming even richer while many vulnerable families will become a whole lot poorer. Ian Holloway should be listened to when he says there is something seriously wrong with football; “The world has to change!”

Lyric For The Day 22.10.10 from Please Sir by Martyn Joseph


“...Meanwhile little David takes his books off to school
And learns of the times gone past
And when it comes to questions he puts up his and
There's something that he just wants to ask
Please sir can you give me and answer
Please sir you know it doesn't seem fair
Last night as I walked through the door
I thought I saw my father crying sat in his chair

Please sir can you give me and answer
Please sir you know I just can't see
Please sir when you make these decisions
Do you have a vision of what happens to me.”

-      From Please Sir by Martyn Joseph

 Last Friday night (October 15, 2010) I was hosting an Evening With Martyn Joseph. During our conversation we spoke about the Chilean miners who we’d just watched that week being rescued after 10 weeks underground. I quickly turned to Martyn’s songs about miners in his own Welsh homeland and asked him to sing a miner’s song. He sang Please Sir. It is a powerful song filled with an Old Testament rage about the loss of more than people’s livelihoods. It is about the damage to a father’s soul that impinges on his son’s psychological health. It does what Christians should always be about doing, it rattles the foundations of power with a critique that cuts to the core of the issue; the core that God is most interested in.

Just a few days later the words seem vibrantly apt for the new Public Sector cuts of the UK’s Conservative government. These cuts in Public Service will cost many people their jobs and most commentators have stressed how families with children will be the worst hit. Anyone who has had even a scan across the Scriptures and particularly the Old Testament will know how much this is an anathema to God; children and the poor are God’s two most important groupings when it comes to any decision making. The prophets rage against the wealthy and their ivory furniture in big homes while the poor suffer. Yes, we are up the financial creak without a paddle but, in the sorting of it, we should not be thinking about sorting the balance sheets at the cost of the children like little David in Martyn’s song. It seems even more obscene in a week that a brainless (and goalless!) footballer can hold his employers to ransom for a ridiculous wage. Who can afford higher taxes or cuts? I reckon there will be more David’s living in damaged homes, that God is angry and Martyn’s song is sadly the most pertinent that he sang last Friday!

more Martyn Joseph