Sunday, 18 May 2008

Ask Elvis.....

So I go to play at my nieces naming ceremony, they asked me to play the piece I wrote and played at their wedding, this is my sisters and brother in laws.
I'm more than happy, there's a break in the ceremony "and now Nick will play...yada yada yada..... Sister in law cries, she always does when I play that piece, all is great.

The ceremony finished we all enjoy the food, drink and company for the next few hours.

We decide it's time to go and I get my guitar ready to pt back in it's case and go home.
"Oh no, please play us a tune before you go Nick" I refuse politely and continue to get my guitar ready to go. It may sound a little rude on my part but I've been here before. I'm not that kind of player. I've been playing for over 30 years, I am pretty good but I don't know a lot of cover songs and the one I do know, no one has heard of them. Jeff Buckley's "So Real" goes down great in a small music bar but at a party with wine filled guests it just annoys people. What they want is Beatles, Oasis songs they know.
However I make the decision to try and change this around. I get out my guitar, retune it and Play "That Woman". It's nice and loud and should be enough to please and get me the hell out. 
I should have known, I'm 4 seconds in and already people are talking over it. Ok, you say, it's a party you say, people talk at parties. BUT YOU ASKED ME TO PLAY!

I carry on after around a minute of intro and manage to get through the song. 
"Play that one I like" " You know the one" Oh fuck, here we go.....
I do my best honest, I play some of my tunes. They're not as loud as That Woman and I'm losing the crowd as they return to their chatting. I stopped when a woman walking past me thought it would be fun to strum her log nails across the strings as I was playing. 
Fuck it, I thought and that was it. I stopped. 
Moans and groans and me explaining that I don't know the songs they want to here. I was being as upbeat and polite as I could but for fucks sake!
Drunk strummy guitar woman had the fucking nerve to come up to me, telling me that she loved my voice and guitar playing and would I play "Love me do" by Elvis as her dad was dying and it was his favourite song. I did try to explain that it was The Beatles but the bitch wouldn't have it.
I've learned my lesson now, I just play at gigs.

I think she meant "Love me tender" but I can't play that either.....

Portsmouth Multi Cultural Festival...... Ole'

I did though. It was the Portsmouth Multi Cultural Festival.

I played it today at around 1pm.
I guessed it was a council run thing, it had that feel even before I got there.
It had no website, that was my first clue.
I was billed as "Nick Tam Spanish Guitarist" Not the best of starts. "It says that on your website" said Junior in his high visability vest. "I sent you a cd" said I "There wasn't any Spanish guitar on that". He obviously hadn't heard the cd or checked out my website that well. I do play Spanish guitar, it's a guitar made in Spain and I do strum some Flamencoesque type doodles but I'm no Paco Penia.
Anyhoo, I was told I would be on around 1.40 but in the end I went on at 1.00 and played for around 30 minutes. As per the sound on stage was great but out front I was told the guitar was to quiet. That's the thing with these non muso type events. I mean how hard is it? One vocal mic and a guitar with a pick up. Two faders, work it out.
I was quite popular with a small group of young mums, one of them kissed my hand later congratulating me on my wonderful voice, bless. Actually I did go down quite well despite my quiet guitar. 
As soon as I came off I was wisked away by the media, eXpress FM, Portsmouth's local radio station to be interviewed by the Country Music presenter. " I also run this website" he said as he thrust some bumf into my hand, something to do with relatives on-line? " I also run a English School in South America!" he enthused. Ok, I get it, this isn't all you do.
After a couple of obvious "What kind of music do you play?" type questions I was brushed away in favour of a lady dog trainer with her alsation to talk about training for your pouch. I left them a few cd's, although I should have kept one for the hand kisser.

Beggars Fair 2007

The Beggars Fair 2007

I have a day job, nothing very remarkable most of us have one.
I have a work persona, it's got aspects of me but it's mostly a developed "work" version of me.
When I get up in front of large groups of strangers and play songs that I've written, I have a "stage" persona. It's nothing special, it just helps me get through the gig without turning into a gibbering wreck and running of in floods of tears if people don't applaud until their hands bleed.
I have a husband person and a Dad persona (stay with me, there is a point to this).

So Dad Nick, husband Nick and singer - rock god Nick have to prepare themselves to play.

It's tough.

"Are you hungry?" "What time are we eating? " Can I have an Ice-cream?"

I bet Jeff Buckley never had this before he went on stage.

I know, I'm not Jeff Buckley 


To get into the Nick Tann singer-rock god persona (remember him?) I have to believe in some small way I am him.

It's different when you are a performer.

Wifie wants to see other bands and network and do all the great stuff that she does.

I couldn't care less who is playing, it's all about me ME YOU HEAR!

I want to get there, get on stage, play, and go home.

In the past I would descend into a Sex drugs and Rock and Roll pit.
Ok I might smoke a little pot……

I was great though, I know when I'm not. I'm getting to the point where I'm able to sing as well as I do when I'm on my own.

The songs are flowing well, I'm relaxed, my voice is amazing even me and people are starting to get it. 

About bloody time!!

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Shit Shit Shit

This week I have 2 gigs.

I haven’t gigged since sometime last summer.

Last week, about Thursday I realised I was scared.

I ran through a few tunes and came to the terrible realisation that I couldn’t sing, my guitar playing was shit and all my songs were dull and derivative.

This is a bit of a drawback for someone who is aiming to make music their profession.

I wandered around the house wondering how I was going to break this to my lovely wife, the wife that has supported me, built me a website, created the artwork for my last album and believe in me.

I decided I’d leave it for a while and join her on the sofa and watch TV for a bit, Jonathan Ross was on.

I quite like Mr Ross, I also like his taste in music, normally.
This week he had a band called Vampire Weekend to finish of the show.
I sat watching, listening. They were dreadful. Now I’m not one of these middle age men that moan on about “music today blah blah blah” (or maybe I am!). But they were dreadful.

I then turned over to watch Jools on BBC2. Yes, I know you can guess so I won’t go into detail but …. Fratellis = Stereophonics with a great drummer despite the grey tee-shirt, Alison Kraus and Robert Plant – Plant is a god therefore nothing can taint him, Spiritualized-out of tune, Chris Gifford-just embarrassing, Emmylou Harris-ZZzzzz.

I then started to feel better.

There is a mindset (yes I hate that phrase too) amongst us creative types, that we are shit and should go and work down a mine and stop thinking that we can do anything that people will find entertaining.

I get it, I think the simple term for it is self doubt, but I think I’m a creative person so fuck off!

On Sunday we finally got round to watching “Tony & Joan”, the drama doc about Tony Hancock.
There are scenes with him (Tony) having great bouts of self doubt “You’re shit, shit, shit” he says to himself in the mirror.

The penny dropped, rolled around then flew up and smacked me in the face.

Later on Sunday I burned some tunes (from iTunes) on to a cd so that I could do the thing that I love best, sing in the car. I chose all the tunes that I love and know well. So this week I have been singing at the top of my voice on my way home and now feel that I am ready both mentally AND physically for this week.
I just hope that next time, next time…….

See? Look a happy ending!

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Shame, shame on you

A few weeks ago I was listening to a radio interview with Eric Clapton.

I must admit I have never been a fan although I am quiet impressed with some of the stuff he has done with Cream. However, in the course of this interview (drugs, drink, women etc, you know the score) he stated that throughout his career he had never sold out or compromised. He had stayed true to his “I’ll do what I want/Stick it to the man” approach.


As the interview came to a close, he explained that his new album was just as exciting and vibrant as all his other work and then a track from it was then played.


I was expecting some cutting edge kick ass blues but no, it was a lazy, Travelling Wilburys/Dire Straits piece of pappy lift music.


What happens to these people? He’s not the only one. There are plenty of once great writers and performers that, in later life, just gave in.


Off the top of my head Elton John, The Stranglers, Genesis, Black Eye Peas, Van Morrison, Stevie Wonder. Yes Stevie fucking Wonder! Possibly one of the funkiest, coolest singers of all time. Superstition, Living for The City, Sir Duke, Ribbon in the Sky I could go on.

In fact I will! I wish, Master Blaster, Happy Birthday, Love’s in need of Love Today possible some of the best tunes of all time. What happened? Ebony and ivory and I just called to say I love you. It breaks your heart. Well it breaks mine.

He did redeem himself a while back and did some great shows of all the old stuff. I have the Abbey Road stuff, it’s great. No Ebony and Ivory.



Have you heard the new Oasis single? Again I’ve never been a big fan but it has that air of a comfy armchair and a pair of slippers, then sit down and watch Top Gear.

In short it’s shit.


It doesn’t happen to them all thank Christ.

Prince, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Rufus Wainwright and the glorious Radiohead to name but some. They keep the faith.


But I wonder for how long. How long will they keep the pap at bay?

The others couldn’t manage it, surrounded by “yes men” and “unit shifters” they gave in to the fate of the others.


That brings me to the latest casualty. Away for a couple of years and exposed to the full glare of the media they trumpet their return by releasing one of the most dire, uninspired pieces of dross. Ladies and Gentlemen I give you Coldplay. Shame, shame on you…

I am just about post this when I think that you, dear reader, may want to ask "Nick, why are you so pissed off at this?"  "Why should it bother you?" 

Well, the reason that it sticks in my claw is that whilst these so - called "greats" are pumping out some sad old pap, there are thousand of independent artists that are coming out with stuff that is far superior. If you read my other yap you will see that I don't mean me, well maybe me a bit but that's not the point. 

But perhaps it is........