You Can’t Stop the Music

R-3690878-1340535756-5254.jpeg.jpgHave you noticed with some films, no matter how uninterested you are in the story or the characters, if it has the right music, and a good soundtrack, you will be humming the tune in the shower, pub, or, God forbid, at the local Karaoke pit-stop? Take for instance, The Wizard of Oz and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Officially, these two films were box office bombs and didn’t make money until well after they left the theatres. Yet ‘Over the Rainbow’ and the ‘Time-Warp’ have etched their way into the history of ‘classic’ songs.

Realising that I had to write something remotely interesting in this week’s blog, I thought the blending of the visual with the audio might do the trick.


It all started with the era of silent film.

While it would be a nice to think that in combining music with film, the early directors and producers in Tinsel Town were forward thinking with artistic endeavours, in fact music was used to drown-out the noise of the very loud projector and a talkative audience. However, the accompaniment of music began to play a larger role in the presentation and entertainment value of the film. Unlike today, there were no sounds affects, meaning the music had to be used to further a story’s plot, pace and energy (which is the function music continues to play in films). As a result, the music that accompanied a film could either make or break it, insomuch that it could either vastly improve the quality and enjoyability, or completely shipwreck it.

As the industry moved from the usage of a solitarily pianist pounding away on the black and white keys, to a full blown orchestra, and eventually, to recorded sound affects and music, the relationship between film and music was guaranteed, and moving images cemented its status as the most important audio-visual medium of our time.


The Jazz Singer, which marked the first time dialogue and music were synchronised, began the very quick decline of the silent film era.

What’s interesting, is the film was based on the play; the play was based on the legendary Al Jolson’s life; and the star of the movie was – wait for it – Al Jolson. Even more interesting was that the early Hollywood moguls at Warner Brothers chose a pseudo-musical as the first film to introduce synchronised sound to film. In doing so, they created a new need for music – sheet music. This new need led to movie studios buying music publishing companies, gaining both catalogues of music and experienced composers.

Not only did the music in films lead to an increase in the sales of sheet music, but with the introduction of the gramophone, songs used in films could also see a dramatic increase in sales. For example, “Sonny Boy” a song featured in the second Al Jolson movie, The Singing Fool, led to 2 million records being sold and 1.25 million sales of the sheet music for the song.


Even poorly constructed films, with bad acting and unbelievable story lines can use music to have the same affect.

Take the porn industry for instance –

I know you’re thinking, “how very dare you! I have not, nor will I ever watch anything so disgusting.” I beseech thee, do give me a couple minutes to make my point.

While I would never dream of insinuating that any of you fine, upstanding, worldly citizens would watch anything so unnatural, the porn industry does generate around $13+ billion in the USA alone; Hollywood generates $20+ billion. If we do the maths that means, while none of you are watching something so nasty and immoral, at least half the American population are. And those nasty, immoral degenerates are reaching deep in their wallets to get their … ummm… juices … flowing.

Have you ever tried getting ‘busy’ with your better half without making a sound? I mean NO sound. No sighs, no grunting, no shouting ‘you’re the daddy’ while daintingly swinging from the chandelier? It would be pretty boring. From what I have been told, the same is true for pornographic films. I wouldn’t know, but from what I have been told, sound and music play a major role in the cinematic enjoyment of pornographic films. While porn groove (term used to describe the music in porn), won’t make or break the film, it could change the aesthetics of the film (so I have been told).

When Talent Isn’t Enough


For the past week, I have been having several interesting conversations about creative artists with some friends who asked the question ‘is formal education needed to become a creative artist?’ While my initial, knee-jerk reaction was to say, absolutely not, I think it is important that a difference is made between formal education and training. There are many well known, and unknown, artists who have had no formal education. However, you would be hard pressed to name many artists who have not had any training whatsoever- be it with an independent teacher, on the job training or an apprenticeship. I readily admit that there are some artists that are so naturally talented, they did not require any formal education or training (Jean-Michel Basquiat, Ella Fitzgerald). However, these artists are the exception, and not the rule.

Igor Stravinsky said, ‘Lesser artists borrow, great artists steal.’ I believe this to be very true. An artist’s raison d’etre is to express themselves through their artistic output. Without the basic tools of their craft they will be limited in their self-expression. When you borrow something, it is, and will never be, yours. When you steal something, you make it yours. An artist receiving training is borrowing the techniques and rules. They will never be able to call these their own. Once an artist has had training, they are able to use those techniques and rules to create something in their own voice (that’s the stealing bit, just in case you didn’t realise). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t subscribe to the ‘one-size-fits-all brigade’ (although as an aside, I do subscribe to the ‘shut your face, you silly dumbarse brigade’ – they’re a fun group). I do think that one shouldn’t be a creative artist if one doesn’t have respect and a desire to learn the foundation of their craft.

Some believe there is an argument that a creative artist can develop without being informed or constrained by the classic forms; that passion and talent is enough. I clearly don’t hold this view, and would demand that anyone with such base ideas be summarily shot at dawn (harsh, I know – that’s how much I care). Why? That kind of thinking doesn’t take into account that the foundation of the creative arts – be it film, street dance, hip-hop, etc – is built on the history (classic forms) that came before it. We wouldn’t dream of disregarding what we learned from the great masters and allow a skyscraper, no matter how passionate or talented the builders are, to be built without tried and tested building techniques being used, so why would we not accept the same for the creative arts?

So going back to the original question – ‘is formal education needed for those wishing to enter the creative arts?’ No, it’s not needed. But having it, along with passion, talent, and hard work, wouldn’t hurt.

What Would Debbie Allen Do?

5c810e9ebe8ffcd5ab1a0b350af11754.jpgEvery time I watched Fame and heard Debbie Allen encouragingly tell her pupils, week after week, “You want fame? Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying … in sweat.” My first thought was – mind your friggin’ business! a) I don’t want fame, and b) only the morbidly obese sweat.’

I know that in her heart, Debbie was trying her best to offer inspiration, guidance and a good kick up the arse for her United Colors of Benetton band of misfits. However, one thing Ms Debbie never did was to tell her students that they were crap (although in hindsight, someone should have laid down that truth on those songwriters – have you listened to ‘High Fidelity’ and ‘Mannequin’ lately)?. In this, Ms Debbie was living up to the age-old adage….


Never, ever critique someone’s work unless you are asked. If you start a sentence with, ‘if you want my opinion’, you are asking to loose friends, family members, or your job. If you are absolutely dying to critique something, or give advice, the best way to do this is to ask pertinent questions to allow the person on the receiving end of your meddling to find solutions for themselves. Doing it this way will also allow you to seem less patronising, giving the illusion that you don’t have all the answers (which of course you do).

You should frame the questions around the five Ws: what, when, why, who, and how (yes, I know, but ‘how’ ends in a w). Your W questions stand the best chance of being effective if they are specific. For example:

  • What the hell were you thinking when you wrote that?
  • When are you going to get a grip and learn how to write dialogue?
  • Why are you so stupid and why haven’t you listened to my advice I’ve given you? Or, Why do you think you write sh**ty dialogue like that?
  • Who in the hell do you think you are not listening to the advice I’ve given you?
  • How can I help you when you won’t help yourself and listen to the advice that I’ve given you?


The following is true story that I made up for this blog.

Back in 1980, when I was auditioning to get into New York School for Performing Arts, I met my current BFFs Doris, Coco, Bruno and Danny. Of course, I got into the school and from that point onwards, my high school experience was one big dance number. One minute we’d be eating our lunch in the canteen, and the next, from out of nowhere, a pianist would start banging out an unknown tune, to which Coco would start singing, flawlessly making up the words as she went along, while the rest of the school would join in with an unrehearsed, impromptu dance number.

In my senior year, I had been offered a spot in the Alvin Ailey dance company. In order for my acceptance to be final, I needed to graduate – which was not looking good as I had found out that Mrs Robinson, my English teacher had failed my final essay, ‘Spiderman: Fact or Fiction’ and I would not be graduating. Looking to confront Mrs Robinson, I miraculously found her at a local hospital where her husband’s was recovering from a heart attack. One thing led to another and several hours later, we found ourselves in my bed exhausted from our love-making (it was fortuitous that I had turned 18 two days beforehand). Falling into my arms Mrs Robinson, proclaimed, ‘That was out of this world! For that you get an A+, I looked lovingly into her eyes and replied, ‘But I didn’t think you even liked me’. Smiling, Mrs Robinson said, ‘I was talking about your performance during the shag. For that you get an A+….. outside that, I still think you’re a prick.’


I don’t want to be too harsh on Mrs Robinson. In her defence, she did what any good critiquer should do – she used positive language, started her critique on the strengths, and then addressed the weak and/or problems areas. But, looking back, I think that Mrs Robinson could have given a clearer indication on how on I could improve. Wouldn’t it have been better if Mrs Robinson gave me comments that didn’t leave me guessing on what she was trying to convey? Instead, I’m left with the fact that I don’t know the scale of her criticism.

To this day, I still don’t whether am I a big prick, or a little prick? I guess only time will tell.

How Grindr Changed My Life

1f66abf941d9b024628471168c9bc4ae.jpgFACEBOOK (verb and noun): Facebooking (present), Facebooked (past), Facebooker (noun)

TWITTER (verb and noun): Tweeting (present), Tweeted (past), Twatter (noun)

As most of you well know, I’m a huge fan (some would say obsessed) of Facebook and Twitter. These sites allow me to keep in touch with both my disparate group of friends in London, and those farther afield. Gone are the old skool days where I would have to send out a group email or text my friends and family to let them know of the good news going on in my life (I just pooped) ; the bad news (I didn’t poop) ; the important news (I pooped again) and the not so important news (I hope to poop today) – this would be tedious for all involved. With Facebook and Twitter I can, within in minutes, update the world on my movements (bowel or otherwise) with the click of a button. In addition, these sites allow me to keep updated with the friends that I grew up with – who’s gotten fat, divorced or is in prison (no, I’m not bitter that I didn’t go to my high school prom), and rekindle relationships with people I have not seen in a very long time.

That said, while the social networking sites continue to hold my favour, the dating website have left me frustrated and exhausted.


You spend hours, upon hours setting up a profile, trying to write something that will illicit a response from your future ex-partner. If you’re a straight male, the idea is to be witty, but not too witty as to come across as gay. And if you’re gay, the idea is to be witty, but not too witty as to come across as uber gay. Men want to give the impression that they are macho, but not too macho; confident, but not cocky; desperate, but not too desperate, rich, and well, rich. Women need to come across as being sexy without being trampy; girlie, but not needy; understand the offside rule; and most important of all, have major boobage (a profile pic showing-off her major boobage would help immensely).

To give you a taster, here are some real profiles that my in-depth, ‘journalistic’ research uncovered:

  • ‘Fat, flatulent, over 40, cigar-smoking redneck seeks sexy woman with big hair to cook, clean, and pick up unemployment checks.’
  • ‘I am a single 5’9 plumber looking for my soul mate and any jobs in the neighbourhood. I have my own car and will take care of emergencies; dating, plumbing or otherwise’
  • ‘Are you looking for a fun loving, beautiful woman with her act together? Well, good luck!’
  • ‘I am an independent woman and don’t need a man to support me, although the ability to do so would be nice.’
  • ‘Yes, I have nice breasts.’


The next task that will take you hours is choosing a good profile pic. Trawling through hundreds upon hundreds of profiles, I noticed a couple of things:

# 1 – Unless you’re Tyson Beckford, do not include a picture of yourself without your shirt on. I mean look at that loser below, all that flab hanging about. I wouldn’t give him the time of day. Geez dude, put your shirt back on and try hitting the gym.


# 2 – Never trust anyone that smiles in their profile pic. It means they’re either up to no good, or psychotic – or both. And defintely never trust anyone that smiles with their shirt off.


# 3 – If you’re a straight male and you don’t want to look gay, put up a pic with you wearing sunglasses. This trick will help put the ‘cho’ back into your macho.



# 4 – Ladies, there is no such thing as too much make up. When in doubt, put more on.



Now that your profile is complete and you’ve sent out some messages to potentials, all you need to do is sit back and wait for all that love interest to come flooding back. So you wait… And you wait… And you wait some more… Some advice – if you’re going to do internet dating, you will need to be thick-skinned. Rejection is going to be your new drinking buddy. You may have the perfect profile, but that doesn’t mean the responses will come rolling in. In fact, most of your messages won’t be responded to. And with those that do respond, you will have to weed out the ones that want to chat forever and never meet you; the ones that want to know what you’re into (and they don’t mean your hobbies), or how big you are (and they don’t mean your personality); the ones that want to ‘swap pics’; the married ones; the ones who want to know if you believe that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Saviour and died for our sins (at least let’s have a shag before asking that question).


Grindr didn’t change my life, I did. Last week I took the bull-by-the-horns and decided to leave the virtual dating world and close all my dating accounts. One by one, with a glass of wine at the ready, summoning all the inner force I could, on each account I clicked ‘delete account’ ending years and years of addictive behaviour. With seven profiles closed and one last one to go, I get a message from a 33 year hottie, living very far away, saying, ‘very sexy’. I sat back, looked at the message and thought for a while. Knowing I had no choice, I replied, ‘Blush’. And like any addict I told myself, ‘tomorrow is the day you quit for sure.’