A series of essays wherein I explore the numerous musical identities of my favorite musician: from child prodigy to teen idol to guitar hero to singer/songwriter to award-winning in-demand film composer.

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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Spot the Poms, part two

While we continue to wait for word of the ARW live DVD release, I can note that Lee appears on a new live document: the Jeff Lynne's ELO concert Wembley or Bust released yesterday on DVD/Blu-ray and CD/vinyl.

This video which was posted to YouTube last month features a sound bite from our intrepid bassist - he's the only member of the backing band who does appear in the trailer as a behind-the-scenes commentator.
This video of "Turn to Stone" from the performance also features quite a bit of Lee.
Turn to Stone (Live at Wembley Stadium) (Live) by Jeff Lynne's ELO on VEVO.

Also, the band will be touring the US next year for the first time in over 30 years.  The 10-date arena tour will take place in August, with a European/UK leg to follow in September-October.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

This date in Yesstory: a producer among producers

On this day back in 2004 the Prince's Trust concert Produced by Trevor Horn was held at London's Wembley Arena as a salute to the esteemed Mr. Horn featuring a slate of artists he'd worked with over the years including Grace Jones, ABC, Seal, Pet Shop Boys and those ensembles he was personally involved with: The Buggles, Art of Noise, and Yes.

This event marked the first of the YesWest semi-reunions in that Trevor joined Alan and Chris along with Steve Howe and Geoff Downes to perform one of the biggest hits of Horn's production career, "Owner of a Lonely Heart" along with "Cinema" from 90125.

Trevor was famously attired in the black-and-green shirt but instead of wielding his signature Strat he was playing a candy apple red model, and he sang lead on "Owner," one of the handful of times he has ever done so.  A DVD of the event footage was released in 2005.  It's interesting to note - in light of the recent R&RHoF Induction Ceremony - that Trevor and Steve have shared the stage at one-off appearances more times than one would assume.

Monday, November 6, 2017

road warrior, part three

After three weeks to putter about at home, our intrepid bassist Mr. Poms is gearing up once more for the touring life, as Take That journeys below the equator on their first jaunt to Australia and New Zealand in over 20 years, and everyone is raring to go as evidenced by these glimpses from the rehearsals.
(Plus they played a wedding gig at Grosvenor House last night, and there's no better warm-up for a major tour than having to deal with a room full of boisterous family and friends.)
A post shared by Take That News (@takethat.news) on

A post shared by Take That News (@takethat.news) on

Friday, November 3, 2017

Media Watch: "five mad people"

Posted today on the Yes Source YouTube channel is a profile from 1987 by broadcaster Dan Neer (who conducted a great interview with Trevor in 1989) which journeys through the history of the band and current activities, with commentary from all the guys.

There is one comment from Trevor I find highly-amusing: when he characterizes record company A&R personnel from the 1970s as "drug addict hippies," meaning people from the counterculture had found their way into the structure of corporate distribution.

Although this is posted as two parts, it seems as though part one is an edited version - taking out the songs which were included - but part two is the unedited version.

Part one:

Part two:

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Speaking of celestial bodies...

Spotted on Twitter: you just never know who might be a Rabinite...like Phil Plait, for example, whom many count on to debunk faulty science via his website Bad Astronomy.
As to how this lyric reflects current events, well, I'll just leave that to everyone's personal interpretation - it could just be that he really likes "Hold On" as all people of good taste do!

Monday, October 30, 2017

measuring up

I came across a priceless shot of Ryan by photographer Anna Lee, from a promotional shoot for Captain Cuts earlier this year.  To provide a bit of context, the handprints of YesWest are immortalized as part of the Hollywood RockWalk, located at the Guitar Center superstore on Sunset Blvd. and the induction party was held on May 24, 1994 (as part of the promotion for Talk, one presumes).

So it seems Captain Cuts, who are signed with Epic Records, are ramping up their own recording career - with the recent releases of "Love Like We Used To" and "Cocaina" - and with Ryan taking time off from GROUPLOVE right now it may mean a debut album is in the works.
(It's just about a perfect fit, wouldn't you say?)

photo by Anna Lee

Thursday, October 26, 2017

SCORE review

As I've been reporting since Trevor's participation was announced back in 2015, SCORE: A Film Music Documentary is the first film focusing on this particular subject and was produced via campaigns on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo.  It features interview segments with over a dozen composers, as well as film industry executives, directors, journalists, and other scoring-related professionals.

I donated to the campaign and received my award (which I noted in a previous entry) and to my surprise it included a dual-pack DVD/Blu-ray, which I know is an industry standard these days, but one I wasn't expecting in this instance given that the awards seemed to be tied to specific expenditure tiers.  I believe the film is now available via all the usual streaming/purchasing outlets.  I had desired to attend a screening of the film during its' limited-release run but it wasn't booked in my area so I had to wait for my copy to arrive.  After all, those of us who contributed had been waiting quite a while, so what's another few months?

The film is a fascinating exploration not only regarding the role of score in a motion picture as emotional connective tissue, supporting the heart of the narrative and the motivations of the characters and action, but also the history of film scoring, the mechanics of creating and recording a film score, and the reactions to a film score as expressed by industry professionals of various disciplines.  It's wonderful to listen to composers express their admiration of the works of their forerunners and peers, to discuss and analyze why a theme or a cue in a particular score works so well, which is often accompanied by the applicable footage itself.

Trevor's first appearance in the film comes around the 8-minute mark, in the section regarding the spotting session, which allows the composer to meet with the director and assorted involved parties to screen a rough cut of a film and discuss ideas and concerns regarding the role of the score.  This is illustrated by a sequence with director Garry Marshall and composer John Debney at the spotting session for the film Mother's Day.

These are the points at which Trevor appears in the film:
spotting session: 7:58
goosebumps: 26:35
Remember the Titans: 29:20
billboards: 1:00:27
Armageddon clock: 1:01:37

         (I saw Trevor wearing these same jeans at Concert on the Bluffs last year.)

Of the segments from Trevor's interview included in the film, the most significant of these examines the appropriation of "Titans' Spirit" for Barack Obama's acceptance speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.  This was an event not only hugely demonstrative of the power of music to underscore a historical event, but also significant in terms of Trevor's cultural relevance as a composer.  Trevor's then-agent Richard Kraft makes a very salient point regarding how the music of Remember the Titans (and specifically its' main theme) was an embodiment of the kind of leader which Barack Obama wanted to be as the President of the United States.  And thus while Trevor is correct by stating it's a completely different context, it was a context which was meant to evoke the exact same emotion in those present.  Triumph over prejudice, unity in diversity.  And honestly, who wouldn't want to be a hero like Denzel Washington (or the man he was portraying - Herman Boone - in the film)?

During the segment, Trevor very deliberately breaks the fourth wall by briefly staring directly into the camera when discussing his feelings regarding the use of his music at the DNC event without consulting him, which appears to indicate that he wished to convey his sardonic displeasure to someone, either the licensing arm of Disney or those running Obama's campaign.

However, it strikes me that regardless of his viewpoint there are two important considerations:
-1- Trevor does not own the rights to "Titans' Spirit."  No one was required to seek his permission and he is well aware of that fact.
-2- That appropriation of "Titans' Spirit" is, outside of the popularity of "Owner of a Lonely Heart" during the 1980s, the single most culturally-relevant and popularly-acknowledged use of his music over the entirety of his career.
I can certainly understand the frustration of musicians when their music is being used for things they do not wish to be associated with.  But it seems a bit disingenuous for Trevor to grumble about what happened in hindsight, given the overall positive outcome and being very likely the actual reason he was asked to participate in this documentary - to provide a concrete example of the emotional resonance of film music when applied to other contexts.

The mid-point of SCORE is devoted to a lengthy appreciation of the 20th Century's most popular and acclaimed film composer, John Williams, who provided the soundtrack for an entire generation's cinematic obsession; including archival footage of Williams working with Steven Spielberg on E.T. as well as conducting the London Symphony Orchestra and the London Voices chorus on sessions for the first Star Wars trilogy.

Other icons of the profession are discussed in relation to the innovations and influence they brought to the field, such as Max Steiner, Alfred Newman, Alex North, John Barry, Ennio Morricone, Bernard Herrmann, and Jerry Goldsmith.  In a section of the film titled "The Modern Age," some composers considered modern masters of the form are spotlighted with examples of their work and praise from their peers: Danny Elfman (featuring, among other things, a clip from the collision of his two vocations: film scoring and fronting the band Oingo Boingo), Thomas Newman (one of the Newman dynasty, a family which contains eight individuals who were or are involved in film music by occupation), Hans Zimmer (fun fact: Zimmer appears in the video for The Buggles' "Video Killed The Radio Star" from 1979 which means - outside of their scoring world connection - that Zimmer can be linked to Trevor in two steps), and Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross.  But one particular artist I believe was deserving of an appreciation was Michael Kamen, who not only had a very interesting path to becoming a film scorer, but also continued to work in popular music and devoted time and resources to philanthropic efforts until his death in 2003.

One interesting aspect, to me, is in the sequence regarding the recording of scores; we first travel to England and visit two of the most well-known and historically-significant recording studios, Abbey Road and AIR.  It is then contrasted with the American mode of score recording, which is primarily conducted on film studio soundstages and thus is followed by scenes at Fox and Warner Bros. in Los Angeles.

As a 90-minute film there is only so much depth it can achieve as a documentary, but I believe the effort was well-done in that the major considerations of its' subject are explored in a cross-section of history, business, science, and artistry.  The visuals are crisp and engaging, with a nice balance between interviews, archival footage, film clips, and behind-the-scenes segments; the sound is mixed well with the emphasis placed upon the music; and the editing straddles the line between manipulation and neutrality.  But if you are interested in the in-depth full interviews conducted for the film then obtaining the companion book SCORE: The Interviews (which I reviewed in a previous entry) is a must, as it seems the bonus release of interview footage was strictly limited to those who donated to the Indiegogo campaign.

If one views it primarily as a fan of Trevor's scoring this is an interesting film in that he does serve as a specific reference point.  However, if you enjoy scoring, or if you desire to learn more about the field and the people who engage in it, I highly recommend SCORE as a window into a world we have all enjoyed the efforts of, but perhaps have never seriously considered how they were achieved.

And as someone who literally contributed to the making of this film, I'm very happy to be associated with it in my own small way.