Editorial 3 February 2024
By Benny (the Ball) Benson
I am having one of those moments when I just noticed the end of the month is near and tomorrow’s editorial should be ready. In the world of music, there are new tours and music to get excited about, but the non-musical world is so sad at present that I am actively avoiding the news.
I was reading the most recent feature that Mark and Lorraine had written on the American band “Female President,” and, unusually for us, we asked a political question. This was justified because the band’s most recent single was an anti-war song. However, it is a dilemma we have faced on occasion. We felt compelled to show some solidarity with Iranian women after the government forces murdered 16-year-old Armita Geravand, who suffered an assault from the nation’s morality police for not donning a headscarf and went into a coma. She passed away. Since then, security forces have killed/executed at least 530 protesters. Almost 20,000 other protesters have reportedly been detained, including journalists, film stars and footballers. Events slip from the news, but the plight and misery for the Iranian people go on. The actions of the government do not equate to the actions of the people.
I note all of this because I was also listening to a podcast from The Spectator magazine about how the presidential candidates in the US are desperately trying to get the endorsement of Taylor Swift. As amazing as that woman is, why should her political views influence Americans? Guitarist Ace Frehley recently (ish) noted that politics and rock don’t mix, so he doesn’t talk politics, and then he went ahead and endorsed Trump. Equally, here in the UK, I had a wtf moment at the last election when Kerrang magazine placed Jeremy Corbyn of all people on its front cover. I don’t comment on other magazines usually, but they are a huge music publication compared to us, and they should stick to music. Would a political magazine have Linkin Park on its front cover? I doubt it.
That is not to say that songs must always be about “I love you,” “I hate you,” “I did my woman wrong,” or whatever. Anti-War songs have been around doing good for decades, and with the tragedy unfolding in the Middle East and Ukraine right now, coupled with Chinese oppression of Muslims and repression of free thinking in Hong Kong, ongoing misery for the Kurds, and tensions in Yemen, it really is awful. Music can make a difference. When Sting sang “Russians” or when Lennon (in the middle of his awful Yoko period) bashed out “Give Peace a Chance,” music showed it had a political voice. During Live Aid, it showed it has a conscience.
So I am not swayed in the slightest politically by whether Taylor Swift likes Biden. I am equally unimpressed by Trump walking into Madison Square, flanked by rapper Kid Rock. In the unlikely event that Taylor Swift recommended me the name of a decent plumber then I may take her advice. I can listen to her country music without caring that she was a Republican then; I can equally listen to her now without her Democratic sympathies bothering me at all.
And as for Trump, when I heard him the other day saying he would end the Ukraine war in a day, and bring peace (I note he didn’t say how), he seemed to care about the dying. When I heard him note that during his time as President it was often Israel that were the blockers of regional peace, then I took an interest. I’m interested in a better world, I’m disinterested in who is endorsed by who. I am bored of the court trials (establishment versus I think, sometimes the establishment really is out to get you), and I dislike the politics of hate.
Listen to more music and enjoy February dear readers!
Editorial 2: January 2024
This time it’s my turn to do the editorial, and I will go straight to wishing all of you a happy new year and welcoming you to 2024. I hope you have a great year, and I hope 2024 sees the world finding more peace than it has in 2023. As a Quaker, I have always supported peace, unless no alternative presents itself, and I can’t understand man’s inhumanity toward his fellow man.
Aside from that, my editorial is about the power of music and how it can help lift us out of depression. The role of music for mental health support is everything. This can be especially an issue in those winter months when we can all feel those post-festive downers and concerns over what is happening on the news or how to pay those bills. When I am down, I have music.
Thus, this editorial is going to supply my life with six songs, and these songs can take me away from any trouble into a different, happier world. And if you do like what we do in the magazine and you enjoy my piece today, please do buy me a new year’s drink by going to the donate button on any of these pages. We work hard for you and do appreciate acknowledgement.
My one proviso on these songs was that the memories were all positive. They were chosen for the song; it has nothing to do with the artist. I never set out to say that I must have a track by Queen, The Beatles or whoever. It was all about the song. These are not necessarily songs I play a lot; I am far more likely to have a Nina Simone album on than these, but they are special songs, and that makes a difference. They are my mental wellbeing songs.
- “Apache” by The Shadows is a song that is absolutely connected to my father. He loved Cliff Richard, and The Shadows were often on his playlist. My dad admired Bruce Welch and Hank Marvin’s guitar work, and whenever I hear The Shadows, I am at home. I’m happy, and the music playing tells me that my dad is in a good mood. He also loved to play the musical “Phantom of the Opera,” but “Apache” makes me smile more. My mum likes this too, but I associate her less with music; I know she liked Tom Jones and Trad. Jazz, but she would play music at home far less. But this is a childhood song.
2. Ozzy Osbourne, “Crazy Train.” This song represents school days when I was into Kiss and Queen. I can’t say I enjoyed school and could have just as easily picked Pink Floyd’s “We Don’t Need No Education.” However, I had a great last year in school (which I left while still aged 15), as I had made a couple of wonderful friends. One of my two best friends was a huge Ozzy fan, and so whenever I hear this, I am back in my mind chatting to him and having fun. People go and take their routes in life, but songs take us back to them. And as the song says, “Maybe, it’s not too late, to learn how to love and forget how to hate.”
3. Lutricia McNeal “Ain’t that just the way?” This song always takes me to that certain time in the late nineties when I was just having a good time. A close friend first introduced me to the song, and it will always remind me of that time, person and place. Although, in a way, it is a song about lost opportunity, it also tells us to cherish the times we have.
4. Lindisfarne, “Coming Home, Newcastle.” Newcastle-Upon-Tyne has always been a part of my world. I used to go and watch football and theatre there (my great-grandmother supported Newcastle United in the 1920’s!), I was married there, and my son was born there, so he is a Geordie. Whenever I play or hear that song, I am with my wife and son, and it is a really positive song about a place that will always be a part of me.
5. Sigrid, Justice League, “Everybody Knows.” This song I never get tired of. It entered my life recently (ish) and it speaks volumes about how I feel. It also provides me with strength, and regardless of how loaded those dice are, no-one can defeat you. You don’t quit.
“Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed…” (songwriters Cohen and Robinson).
- The Pretty Reckless “You Make Me Wanna Die.” I had to have a song for me now, today, at the end of 2023. Now, I have really had to fight back in life over the last few years, and music has certainly helped. I play my favourites from The Beatles, Kiss, Britney, Six the Musical (my tastes are eclectic), The Bombpops and so forth; but when I discovered The Pretty Reckless I gained a new lease of life. Right now, here at this moment, this song is close to how I feel, and everything does look better sometimes when the sun goes down.
So that ends my editorial. Benny will take over and do the one for February. We may have some guests do the odd editorial too in 2024, so that may be something to watch out for! Take Care everybody.
Mark C. Chambers
Editorial One: December 2023
This is a new departure. We have decided to do an occasional editorial piece, with Mark and I swapping turns. It gives an occasional chance to step outside reporting on artists and instead give our thoughts and perspectives as things come up that we want to say!
A little bit of news on the magazine: we are so pleased to have lifted daily readers to nearly 1,000 a day now, and, for us, that is something we are very proud of as a little group of music fans. Considering we were on zero when we started, we must thank you all for looking in. It has been so positive, apart from collecting an uninvited stalker that we could have done without! Looking forward, we are going to get into posting news on bands, so you will see a news page in January. We have also got a couple of new writers who are going to cover live shows and the London scene.
The editorial today, however, coincides with Kiss playing their last shows on their End of the Road Tour (it’s been a long road). I know Mark and his family all went to see them in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and said they were as good as ever. Kiss represents the passing of an era; it is, of course, age. Ozzy Osbourne, Queen, all the greats of the last era simply haven’t got the years left now to do full shows for ever. Studio recording is another matter. Ozzy and the Rolling Stones will continue to do new music till they drop, but sadly, Paul Stanley seems disinterested in taking Kiss back into the studio.
I salute the old guard; they formed so many of the reasons why this magazine exists, but there must be some new bands to take up the mantle and drive music forward in the age of the download and streaming systems. In the magazine, we like to report on the older bands still doing it out there, but we are especially proud of the new artists we have helped promote and support. For the record, we cover rock, country, jazz, and blues. The umbrella is wide, but it does have a line. I have been asked why we never reviewed the new Rolling Stones album “Hackney Diamonds.” Personally, I really liked it. I thought the Stones delivered on every front and were at their classic best. But the Stones don’t need a little magazine like us; their album is reviewed in the nationals and in the biggest publications. But with two reviewers who are stretched as it is, Doctor Lincoln, Olivia Lynn, Anita Bonsu and so forth do need us to review their work as they are, which is not yet going to be in The Times music section.
On a global level, we think The Pretty Reckless, formed in 2009, are as good as you found at any time in the past. They have consistently delivered classy commercial rock for over a decade now.
On a smaller scale, Emma Wilson is a huge talent with a great blues voice, or listen to Sunjay! When Rivers Meet, Brave Rival, Black Roze, Rogue Awakening are all out there in the rock world. Some of these bands may still be playing cellars and small venues, but Kiss played their first show at the Coventry in New York to an audience of 3. Check out Eva Schubert in the jazz field, and country music is having a huge revival. Our piece on Taynee Lord, for example, points toward an artist heading up, like Robyn Red – Laura Evans, so many exciting new names. You just must listen to them!
Above picture: When Rivers Meet.
Returning to Kiss, I wish they had spent a bit more time in the studio over the last decade (like any time in the studio), as the creation of music shouldn’t just stop, even if the initial desire for creativity ends. Kiss will be seen as one of the great American bands, drawing on a tradition pulled from the British invasion of bands like The Beatles, Cream and Slade. I finish my first editorial acknowledging their contribution to rock music and performance, as well as delivering rock marketing and image in spades. I’m sad to see their generation or rockers calling it a day, but doing this magazine has made me ever more hopeful for the future. So, when you next stream The Stranglers, check out The Bombpops too. When you stream Dolly Parton, play some Olivia Lynn, and if you love those old blues men and listen to BB King, why not listen to a bit of Wily Bo Walker too? My editorial says, Love the old but embrace the new! Look through the magazine; if we are covering an artist, it is because we believe in them. On reviews, we won’t waste time doing a review on something we don’t like; life’s too short!
As a last word, we work hard for you here. Please do appreciate what we do by buying us a coffee on the donation page and checking out the rest of the site.
Take care and all the Best in this winter season. Benny (the ball) Benson.