Exclusive music news
Downing Street adviser gets into the groove for charity single
The Prime Minister’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings is to release a charity single featuring an update of Sly and the Family Stone’s 1971 hit Runnin’ Away.
Mr Cummings, who recorded the song with his band, Dom and the Whole Kin Cabinet, has revealed that he was known as ‘Sly’ at school due to his obsession with the San Francisco soul brothers and sisters and particularly their leader, Sylvester ‘Sly’ Stewart.
In an exclusive interview he said, “I was always singing Sly and the Family Stone songs in class, especially Everyday People because I liked its message that there was no room for prejudice in the world. I think its catchphrase of ‘different strokes for different folks’ has been an influence on my ability to get a message across in a short, pithy phrase.”
Mr Cummings went on to confirm that Sly Stone’s music played a major part in his teaming up with Boris Johnson.
“When I first met Boris, I sang I Want to Take You Higher to him and I think he saw this as my way of letting him know I could help him achieve his goals,” said Mr Cummings. “Of course, once we were in Downing Street together, Sly’s Dance to the Music became instrumental in guiding Boris in the right direction.”
Mr Cummings’ decision to make a record came last Friday as he ran from No 10 and felt that his body language suggested the rhythms of his hero. For the B-side he elected to pay homage to another favourite, Phil Spector, with Da Dude Dom Run Run, Da Dude Dom Run.
“We cut both songs in one take over the weekend,” he said. “I’m well connected in the music industry, as you’d imagine, and I was able to get the musicians we needed to record their parts while social distancing in their own home studios. We’re going to rush it out on April 1st and all profits will be going to my answer to the Me-Too movement, Me First.”
Rishi don't lose that number
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has countered a flood of comments online that he is tone deaf to the arts.
“I’ve always supported local venues as a paying customer and I take umbrage at the suggestion that I’m not sympathetic to the music industry,” he said, adding that he had once harboured ambitions of becoming a musician himself.
“It wasn’t easy growing up with a first name that’s Hindu for sage,” said Mr Sunak. “All through school I was teased for being a clever clogs and the Stevie Wonder fans always referred to me as Mistra Know It All.”
The only time he can remember being proud of his name was when he went on a school trip to Gateshead and it was suggested that the award-winning Sage Gateshead might be renamed Rishi Gateshead in his honour. It was soon apparent that this was a leg-pull though.
“It made a change from being called Stuffing, I suppose,” he says. “I hated my name back then. I remember when I made a bit of an idiot of myself with a girl in third year and everybody started calling me Rishi Valens and singing A Fool in Love to me at every opportunity. Then, a few weeks later, I happened to be seen holding my pal’s guitar while he tied his shoelaces at a bus stop and it was Rishi Blackmore they called me after that.”
Mr Sunak, who is all too aware of the anagrams of his name that have appeared on Twitter, such as Hair is Sunk (a reference to him closing down musicals), says his detractors should come along to the next Conservative Party karaoke night.
He is a regular at these occasions and once fell foul of the party whips through his singing of Gove Will Tear Us Apart. He is known not to be a fan of the current Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and these days favours a subtle adaption of the Beatles’ I’ve Just Seen a Face instead. Another of his favourites, Broken Nose by the 1970s rockers Family, has recently been jettisoned at the request of the Prime Minister.
“I do a mean impersonation of Family’s raucous-voiced singer, Roger Champman, even if I say so myself,” says Mr Sunak. “My true calling, however, was the drums. I never learned to play well enough to play with the great American band Little Feat but I loved their shuffle beats and polyrhythms and the one nickname I would have been chuffed to have is Rishi Hayward.”
Boris packs up and plays for Miles and Miles
Boris Johnson has sensationally withdrawn from the Conservative Party leadership contest and has announced that he is giving up politics for his first love, jazz.
In a move that has taken the music industry and even some close political colleagues completely by surprise, Johnson revealed that he played trumpet as a teenager and has always wanted to concentrate on a career in music.
“I was a Miles Davis nut at school,” Johnson told this website in an exclusive interview. “I used to sit in class and plot my album releases. Kind of Blue was my great inspiration, of course, but I had them all lined up, Seven Stops to Eltham, which was based on the bus journey to my music teacher’s house, and the rather amusing, I thought, Nevertitty, which I was going to dedicate to the flat-chested girl who had the nerve to stand me up on April 23, 1981. And then some friends suggested Dark Magus and You’re Under Arrest and I decided to keep my musical ambitions to myself after that.”
It's thought that following a row with his partner, who told him he was not fit to be Pram Minister and ordered him in no uncertain terms to leave her flat, the former editor of the Spectator became disoriented and asked concerned neighbours the coordinates for “some place called Fuck” so that he could enter it into his satnav.
Following a conversation with Teresa May, however, Johnson decided that it might not be too late to head instead to 52nd Street, figuratively speaking at least.
“Theresa’s all right, she’s actually quite cool, although I didn’t appreciate her idea that I record In A Silent Way,” said the man often referred to as the man with the horn and who now expects to sign a record deal worth £350 million a week.
Other leading Conservatives have quickly chipped in with parting gifts. Ken Clarke, whose enthusiasm for jazz is no secret, has presented Johnson with a trumpet mute, after years of trying to get him to understand the meaning of piano, and Amber Rudd is thought to have given Johnson a Back Seat Betty t-shirt. This could be a reference to Johnson’s favourite track from Miles Davis’s We Want Miles album or it might be that Amber Rudd has further inside knowledge.
“Everyone will have their own comments and quips,” said Johnson, “but I’m just looking forward to getting into the studio with my band, who have been kicking their heels since I became side-tracked with mayoral duties and all sorts of other things. We have enough material for a double album and I can exclusively reveal that it will not be called “Boris Runs the Voodoo Down (and gets twelve points on his licence)” or “Jack-off Johnson” as some twerps have claimed. My music is like me and the album title will tell it like it is: Sketches of Spin.”
True-blue Tory Osborne gets his mojo working
Former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne launches a new career today with the release of his first single, a remake of Blind Alfred Reed’s 1929 classic How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?
The move comes nine months after Osborne was named as the editor of the London Evening Standard and announced that he would be keeping on his other jobs, as MP for Tatton in Cheshire and as an adviser to US fund manager BlackRock.
As with his appointment to a senior post in journalism, Osborne’s musical endeavours scratch an old itch. When he left school his twin ambitions were to become a journalist or a musician. However he became side-tracked by politics and was so quickly immersed in the Conservative Party that he had to give up his role as the singer and harmonica-playing frontman with Blue George and the Tantrums, a rhythm and blues combo whose members were and still are very upset by Osborne’s departure.
“We were just beginning to attract the interest of record companies and George was writing some really strong material when he told us he was – in his own words - quitting, leaving and giving up,” says Frank A’Cord, the Tantrums’ guitarist. “We thought he was mad to be turning his back on wealth and fame, especially when he sang with such passion on the last gig he played with us. I mean, to hear George really go for it on his big number, F*** F*** I Love You but You Think I’m a C*** - a classic unrequited love song - was quite an experience.”
The band’s road manager, Ludwig van Hirer, agrees and says he never imagined Osborne becoming a success at anything other than music.
“He was a natural and incredibly driven,” says Mr Van Hirer. “He could listen to one note and tell you it was a B. We used to tell him he was wrong, it was a wasp and he would go off his nut. He’d be like, Be serious, this is the most important thing in my life – ever - and then he went off and found an alternative most important thing in his life – ever – and the next thing you know, he’s ruining, sorry, running the country.”
If A’Cord and Van Hirer are correct and Osborne can reproduce the form he was in when he left the band, the former Chancellor could be onto a winner in the music industry.
Avril Une, a spokeswoman for Osborne’s Paris-based record company, Amant les Blues, declined to comment on the advance the company had paid Osborne or the budget it was committing to promote his first release. She did confirm, however, that the company is fully committed to Osborne’s music and will be making every effort to achieve the success his talent deserves.
Gnome Secretary aims for a big hit
Home Secretary Priti Patel has revealed that her period of public silence during lockdown was spent making a big noise in a recording studio.
Patel, who has come in for criticism for her less than apologetic style of apologising in press conferences, has achieved a lifetime ambition by recording an album of her favourite numbers.
“People might be surprised to learn that I’m actually a very, very good singer,” she says. “I’ve always sung and I decided it was about time that I shared this talent with the public, who will be pleased – I’m sure – to invest their hard-earned cash in my CD.”
Tracks featured on the album include Patel’s version of the Wilson Pickett soul and R&B classic 6345-789, taken, she emphasises, at a careful tempo, and her all-time favourite, 1-2-3, which was a hit in 1965 for American singer Len Barry. The Manfred Mann hit 5-4-3-2-1, the signature song from the 1957 musical, The Music Man, 76 Trombones and a confident reading of Bob Dylan’s Positively 4th, 8th and 110th Street also feature.
“There was quite a lot of hilarity when I appeared to stumble over some statistics during one of the daily press briefings in Downing Street,” says Patel. “And I’m sorry if people felt that I hadn’t performed as well as I actually did. But I like to think I have a sense of humour. When I was nicknamed ‘the Gnome Secretary’ for needing a small dais to help me reach the microphone during a media briefing, I laughed out loud, or LOLed, as the kids say these days. When I was referred to as Priti Vacant, I laughed like a drain, well, not a drain exactly, more the robust and entirely capable politician that I have proved myself to be.”
Patel has a fund of stories about teaching her band to follow her lead as they worked on songs together. Tom Robinson’s 2-4-6-8 Motorway was, she says, a skoosh but the musicians struggled to keep up with Patel’s excited rendition of 99 Red Balloons – listed on the studio sheet as ’90, 52 and a half Balloons’ and they couldn’t quite get the meter she wanted on Paul Simon’s 50-or-so Ways to Leave Your Lover.
“I had to slap the drummer for suggesting that ‘In the Year 2525’ might be my destiny song and I was surprised that they thought my stuttered delivery on Paul Hardcastle’s 19 was due to nerves,” she says. “I also passed on a couple of suggestions they made – I mean 24 Whores from Kelso, what’s that all about? - and Sixteen Tons had a line about being deeper in debt that I couldn’t entirely relate to. But in the end my sheer chutzpah got us through and the results are excellent.”
Health Secretary gets into the swing
With his newly-released CD, Don’t Get A Round Much Anymore, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has become the latest member of the Cabinet to achieve a long-held musical ambition.
Featuring a selection of swing-era classics, the album was inspired by a suggestion from the-then senior Conservative Party MP, Ken Clarke, that the Duke Ellington-composed title track should be Hancock’s contribution to a karaoke night in a Westminster hostelry.
“I’ve always been a jazz fan,” says Hancock, who earned the nickname Herbie at school, although classmates say that this was more to do with his resemblance to Herbie the sentient Volkswagen Beetle in the television series The Love Bug than his ability to impersonate Herbie Hancock, the musician.
“As well as Conservative values, my parents instilled in me a love for music from the swing era,” the Health Secretary added, citing as examples Ellington, Benny Goodman, the Dorsey brothers and Artie Shaw, whose Any Old Time, written for Billie Holiday, also features on Hancock’s album. Rumours emanating from the recording studio that Any Old Time was the term used by his session musicians to describe Hancock’s idiosyncratic adherence to tempo have been firmly denied by his press officers.
The Secretary, who became the MP for West Suffolk in 2010, has also disclosed that he once harboured thoughts of combining music with comedy as a career.
“At university I was regularly referred to as Tony, for obvious reasons, and a highlight of the week, it’s been said, was the stand-up routine to which I used to treat the refectory on a Friday,” said the secretary. This was, he adds, known as Hancock’s Half Hour, although contemporaries from his spell at Cambridge have said that this particular Hancock’s Half Hour was coined in honour of the secretary’s commandeering of a toilet cubicle every lunchtime.
“We all remember things differently,” says Mr Hancock, “and while I haven’t read them all, I’d point to my appearances in Private Eye as proof of my sense of humour. I’d venture to say that I’m also well-known in my social circle for my sensitivity, which is why I’m holding back, until the COVID-19 crisis is over, the publication of the first volume of my memoirs. Even I know that if I put out a book called Health & Happiness right now, I’d be toast.”
Burns find hailed as "priceless"
A previously undiscovered collection of songs written by Robert Burns during his stay in Edinburgh in 1787 has been found in an outbuilding of one of the poet’s favourite howffs.
The manuscripts were found in a saddle, used by Burns when he was on his rounds as an exciseman, which was unearthed by workmen cleaning out a property adjacent to the Globe Tavern in Dumfries where Burns met Ann Park, the mother of his daughter Elizabeth.
All of the songs, says Burns expert Dr May Eyes, of Jackson Browne University, California, relate to an adventure the bard had with a group of Eastern European sailors he befriended in an Edinburgh tavern and several of them deal with the sailors’ homesickness, a state of affairs Burns could relate to as a ploughman trying to make his mark in refined Edinburgh society.
“These are priceless gems,” said Dr Eyes, who has had the manuscripts authenticated by fellow Burns expert Emma Mauchline-Tartt. “It had been previously known that Burns met these sailors and shared a few evenings with them, helping them to forget their troubles with pints of wine and merry muses, but no-one suspected he had written songs in their honour. The Slav’s Lament is particularly poignant but although some of them, such as Gloomy Dimitriyev and Flow Gently Sweet Vltava, show an element of sadness, others are more celebratory. I’m sure, for example, folk bands will be quick to pick up the Reel of Stupino and Tae Dubrovnic Gin Ye Go, and Tibbie Fowler of Gdansk is a great example of Burns’ ability to capture characters in song even when they are hundreds, if not thousands of miles from home.”
Dr Eyes is planning to record all of the songs – there are, handily, twelve in total – for a CD featuring some of the leading Burns interpreters of today and a release date has been set for April 1.