Observations: Drummers' stamina; David Tennant; bootleggers
Friday 01 August 2008
The view from the drum kit
When I read the news that a performing drummer is as fit as a premiership footballer, I thought about that age old cliché. It's a popular misconception that dealing with the rhythmic aspects of a song rather than the melody and harmony is a lot easier to get your head around.
Drumming incorporates the use of all four limbs, so for a start it makes it more demanding physically and intellectually. But you do get to sit back there and appreciate what's going on around you. Musically, it's the best seat in the house. You're playing a non-melodic instrument, and you're purely playing the rhythm, which doesn't get entangled with the harmony.
Probably every other drummer I know plays another instrument. Robert Wyatt was the main musical force behind Soft Machine. And a lot of jazz drummers such as Max Roach and Elvin Jones would write the musical scores. They are all hugely inspirational to me.
I co-wrote the previous two Babyshambles albums. Again, everyone thinks it's the lead singer who writes it. As drummers we've learnt you have to drop your ego because you're right at the back of the stage. You're in the engine room.
Half the people in the pop world are in a band only because they want to be on stage and be famous. They don't have that same musical integrity. As a drummer fundamentally you're the spine of the band. It's a very humbling position to be in.
Adam Ficek is the drummer with Babyshambles. His solo project, Roses Kings Castles, releases its debut album in September
Please sign here, Hamlet
Doctor Who fans will be out in force to see David Tennant as Hamlet with the Royal Shakespeare Company – and the RSC is bracing itself. Before the first preview, an email was sent to ticket holders, reminding them not to take photographs during the performance. There's also a ban on sci-fi memorabilia at the stage door. Neither Tennant nor his co-star Patrick Stewart, the former Star Trek star, will be allowed to sign merchandise linked to their sci-fi shows. As a Doctor Who fan, I'd like to think they were typecasting us, but apparently not. During rehearsals, autograph hunters were already turning up with their bags full of Doctor Who memorabilia.
Beat the bootleggers?
There is an apocryphal story about a Manchester record shop that made a mint selling bootlegs in the mid-Seventies. Apparently, teenagers used to shoplift there on a fairly regular basis, taking advantage of the fact that the staff couldn't call the police to charge someone with nicking copies of unauthorised releases such as Great White Wonder, the legendary Bob Dylan bootleg.
There used to be a frisson about getting hold of a bootleg in the Seventies, but that thrill is gone. Much of the material has subsequently appeared officially. His Bobness has certainly changed his tune and has been authorising archival albums – Live 1966: The 'Royal Albert Hall' (the "Judas!" heckle took place at the Manchester Free Trade Hall), Live 1975: The Rolling Thunder Revue, Live 1964: Concert at Philarmonic Hall – under the Bootleg Series umbrella with a regularity that would have put the Trade Mark of Quality Seventies bootleggers to shame.
However, Tell Tale Signs, the eighth instalment in that series, might be an official bootleg too far, scraping the barrel, even for Dylan obsessives. Billed as Rare And Unreleased 1989-2006, the double CD contains demos, alternate takes, live cuts and rare songs from film soundtracks, but the problem is, apart from the Daniel Lanois-produced Oh Mercy (1989) and Time Out Of Mind (1997), none of the Dylan albums in that time-frame exactly set the world alight. But the completists will no doubt be lured in by the limited editions and exclusive extras.
"I don't believe you," Bob famously quipped when heckled at the Manchester Free Trade Hall in 1966. The heckler who shouted "Judas" is now having the last laugh.
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