British punk and experimental rock group The Clash’s landmark double-album LONDON CALLING, was released in the winter of 1979. To mark the 40th Anniversary, the British Film Institute screened Don Lett’s Grammy Award-winning doco, THE CLASH: WESTWAY TO THE WORLD, forty years to the day on 14 December 2019 with the band’s original members Mick Jones and Paul Simonon in attendance.
The apocalyptic, politically charged title track, written by the late Joe Strummer and Mick was influenced by the BBC World Service call signal and the panic that resulted in the Three Mile Island nuclear scare. The era-defining record is regarded as one of the greatest rock albums ever recorded. It was voted the Best Album of the 1980’s a decade later by Rolling Stone ranking it number 8 of all time and, in 2004 The Clash were ranked at number 28 on it’s Top 100 Greatest Artists of All Time list.
The iconic cover design by Ray Lowry was based on Elvis Presley’s self-titled 1956 debut LP. It features the classic photo by Pennie Smith of the band’s bass guitarist Paul Simonon smashing his Fender Precision guitar in frustration at the bouncers stopping audience members from standing up out of their seats on the Palladium’s stage in New York on 20 December 1979. Pennie thought the image was too far out of focus and didn’t want it used, but Joe and Ray thought otherwise. In 2001 Q magazine called it the best ever rock ‘n roll photo, commenting, “it captured the ultimate rock and roll moment – total loss of control”. It also selected it the 9th best album cover design of all time.
I drew this montage sketch of Paul, including his immortalised instrument demolition, but my attempts to get it signed at the BFI event was thwarted by the large gathering of fans with similar ambitions, so I sent it to his home and he kindly signed and returned it.
The Museum of London also hosted an exclusive exhibition, LONDON CALLING:40 YEARS OF THE CLASH featuring over 100 personal items including Paul’s broken fender, which I visited last November.
I had the good fortune to meet one of the great contemporary composers and lyricists last night at the West End opening for his new musical THE PRINCE OF EGYPT at London’s Dominion Theatre. Winner of three Academy Awards, three Grammys, and nominated for six Tony Awards and an Olivier, Stephen Schwartz added ten new songs to the original five he wrote for the original 1998 DreamWorks Animation feature for the stage adaption, which is directed by his son Scott. He won the Best Original Song Oscar for ‘When We Believe’.
Stephen made his name with GODSPELL in 1971, his hippy-era, communal-clownish presentation of Christ’s parables and now returns to the Good Book with the story of Moses as a once prince of Egypt who leads the children of Israel out of Egypt. It debuted at Mountain View Centre for the Performing Arts in Silicon Valley, California in October 2017 and had its international premiere at The Fredericia Theatre in Denmark in April 2018, followed by a summer season at the Royal Danish Theatre in Copenhagen last year.
Stephen’s stage hits include PIPPIN (1972) and WICKED (2003) and his film successes GODSPELL (1973), POCAHONTAS (1995), THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1996) He won a Golden Globe, a Grammy and two Oscars for Original Score and Original Song (‘Colours of the Wind’) for POCAHONTAS.
In 2015 he was the recipient of the Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award.
Luckily I caught Stephen after he did his press interviews at the Dominion Theatre, where he was happy to sign my portrait sketch.
The world’s best-selling soprano Sarah Brightman returned to London’s Royal Albert Hall last November, where she last headlined 20 years ago, for one night only as part of her HYMN: SARAH BRIGHTMAN IN CONCERT World Tour. After appearing in a number of productions following her West End musical theatre debut as Jemima in the inaugural London cast of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s CATS in 1981, she originated the role of Christine Daae in his musical adaptation of Gaston Leroux French Novel THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, the tale of a beautiful songstress who becomes the obsession of a mysterious, disfigured musical genius (played by Michael Crawford), living in a subterranean labyrinth beneath the Paris Opera House.
It opened at Her Majesty’s Theatre in October 1986, where it is still running, becoming the second longest London musical behind LES MISERABLES, winning the Olivier for Best Musical. Both Sarah and Michael reprised their roles on Broadway, opening in January 1988 at the Majestic Theatre, where it is also still running, becoming the longest running musical on Broadway and winning the Tony Award. After Sarah retired from the stage she has become largely responsible for the popularity of the ‘classical crossover’ genre, selling over 35 million albums and two million DVD’s worldwide, becoming the world’s best-selling soprano. Her fifth album, ‘Timeless/ Time to Say Goodbye’ with the London Symphony Orchestra became her best seller in 1997, going gold, platinum or multi-platinum in 21 countries.
Her duet with Andrea Bocelli performing ‘Time to Say Goodbye’ became one of the highest selling singles of all time. She has won over 200 gold and platinum records in 38 countries.
Sarah kindly signed and returned my drawing, which I left at the Royal Albert Hall prior to her 11 November concert.
American singer, songwriter Michael Bolton celebrated 50 years in the entertainment business last year with the release of a Greatest Hits collection and recording a ‘Symphony of Hits’ for BBC Radio 2’s long running series FRIDAY NIGHT IF MUSIC NIGHT with the BBC Concert Orchestra at the London Palladium in March.
After starting out in the heavy metal and hard rock genre with solo work and as frontman for ‘Blackjack’ during the mid 1970s-’80s, Michael changed styles and became known for his pop rock ballads in the late 1980s and through the 1990s, selling over 75 million records, with eight top ten albums and two No.1 singles on the Billboard charts. His hits include ‘Said I Loved You But I Lied’, ‘Time, Love and Tenderness’, ‘How Am I Supposed To Live Without You’ and the cover version of ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’, the last two winning Grammy Awards for Best Male Vocal Performance after four nominations. He has also collected six American Music Awards.
Michael is due to return to London to play the Royal Albert Hall this October. He kindly signed my drawing at the Palladium after the concert.
I was introduced to the Welsh alt-rock trio, The Joy Formidable, a couple of years ago when they were playing an intimate venue in north London, by a friend, who offered me a free ticket and a warning that the ‘formidable’ part referred to their music and magnified sound level. He was right. They formed in 2007, when school-day pals, lead vocalist and guitarist Rhiannon ‘Ritzy’ Bryan and bassist Rhydian Dafydd Davies were joined by drummer Justin Stanley, who was replaced by ‘sticksman supreme’ Matt Thomas two years later. Described as ‘titans’ of the indie, alternative music scene The Joy Formidable have also been labelled ‘shoegazing’ or dream pop, a sub genre, which is a mixture of obscured vocals, guitar distortion and overwhelming volume. They have released four studio albums, with most songs written by Ritzy and Rhydian, starting with ‘The Big Roar’ in 2011 and their latest ‘AAARTH’ in September 2018, before supporting the Foo Fighters on a short tour.
They returned to north London for one night only at the Islington Assembly Hall last November, before crossing the Atlantic to do a few pre-Christmas Stateside gigs. I past by the venue a few hours before liftoff, hoping to catch them in person, but they were in the middle of an intensive sound check, which I heard (and felt) behind the heavily bricked and mortared walls of the refurbished 1930 Art Deco Grade II building. Their sound technician came out to get something from the van, parked at the stage door, and kindly promised to get my drawing signed for me, which he obviously did, because it was returned a few days later.
One of Ireland’s most compelling musicians, folk singer and songwriter Christy Moore has released over 25 solo albums in a career spanning five decades. He was one of the founding members of the hugely popular and influential band Planxty and Moving Hearts.
In 2007 Christy was named Ireland’s Greatest Living Musician in RTE’S People of the Year Awards. His political and social commentary reflects a left-wing, Irish republican perspective, supporting the unity and independence of Ireland. His songs have covered a wide range of subjects, including the Maze Prison H-Block protests and hunger striker Bobby Sands, to the Irish socialist volunteers who fought in the Spanish Civil War against Franco and the 1972 ‘Bloody Sunday’ Bogside massacres in Derry.
Some songs have been banned, such as ‘They Never Came Home’, about the Stardust nightclub fire in Dublin in 1981 where 48 people died, which the judge ruled was prejudicial to the court case determining compensation with lyrics such as “hundreds of children are injured and maimed, and all just because the fire exits were chained”, or ‘The Time Has Come” about the last meeting of a hunger striker and his mother, considered subversive. In October 2004 he was detained at the Welsh port of Holyhead by Special Branch Officers and interrogated for two hours about lyrics of his songs.
A regular performer at London’s Royal Festival Hall, Christy returned in May this year, where he signed my sketch for me.
Gloria Maria Milagrosa Fajardo Garcia was born in Havana, Cuba sixty-two years ago and became the lead singer and headliner for the Miami Latin Boys-later to become the Miami Sound Machine, established by her future husband Emilio Estefan in 1975. She achieved international recognition with her signature song ‘Conga’ in 1985. The winner of many accolades, including three Grammy Awards, Gloria and the Miami Sound Machine scored their first No.1 hit on Billboard’s Hot 100 with ‘Anything for You’, which she wrote, in 1988, followed by a string of singles success with ‘Rhythm is Gonna Get You’, ‘1-2-3’, ‘Bad Boy’, and ‘Get On Your Feet’.
She has sold an estimated 115 million records worldwide, 31.5 million in the US alone. In 2015 Gloria and Emilio received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honour for their contribution to American music.
Gloria and Emilio wrote the Tony-nominated jukebox musical ON YOUR FEET! THE LIFE OF EMILO AND GLORIA ESTEFAN, which premiered at Chicago’s Oriental Theatre in 2015, before moving to the Marquis Theatre on Broadway. It transferred to the UK earlier this year with an initial run at The Curve in Leicester then to a limited two-month residency at the London Coliseum, followed by a national tour.
Gloria signed my sketch at Wogan House after appearing on Graham Norton’s BBC Radio 2 show in early June this year.
The legendary composer, producer, arranger and guitarist Nile Rodgers was the curator of this years MELTDOWN Festival at London’s Southbank Centre. It’s been 40 plus years since he and his prized ’59 Fender Stratocaster, aka ‘the Hitmaker’, first started filling dance floors across the world. The multi-Grammy winning NewYorker co-founded CHIC, the slick disco pioneers with the late Bernard Andrews in 1976. They launched a string of hit songs, including ‘I Want Your Love’, ‘Le Freak’ ( the largest selling single in the history of Atlantic Records) and ‘Good Times’, which sparked the advent of Hip-Hop.
Niles work the CHIC Organisation and the production for artists such as David Bowie, Diana Ross and Madonna have sold over 500 million albums and 75 million singles worldwide. His innovative, trendsetting collaborations with the likes of Daft Punk, Disclosure and Sam Smith reflect the vanguard of contemporary music. In its press release announcing Nile as the MELTDOWN curator, the Southbank Centre said, “He is constantly traversing new musical terrain and successfully expanding the boundaries of popular music.”
Last year he released a new album with CHIC, the Top Ten ranked ‘It’s About Time’ featuring Elton John, Emeli Sande and Lady Gaga amongst others.
Nile signed my sketch for me at the Royal Festival Hall after he and CHIC kick-started the nine-day MELTDOWN festival in early August.
Popular British jazz musician Jamie Cullum paid for the production of his first album, ‘Heard It All Before’ with £480 out of his own pocket in 1999. His second album ‘Pointless Nostalgic’ became a best-seller. It’s success grabbed the attention of the mainstream broadcasters, including Michael Parkinson, who invited him to make his first television appearance. As a result, Universal beat Sony in a bidding war, offering him a £1million, three album contract.
His first CD album under their label, ‘Twentysomething’ (2003), a mixture of standards, originals and adaptions sold over 2 million units. While primarily a jazz musician, the mostly self-taught 40 year-old is often regarded as a ‘crossover’ artist, incorporating a wide range of styles and his jazz compositions are heavily influenced by contemporary popular music. He has played at all the major festivals, including Montreal, Montreal, New Orleans and Glastonbury, winning numerous awards Including the British Jazz Rising Star accolade and collecting the Artist of the Year at both the BBC Jazz and Jazz FM Awards. He has also been nominated for three Brit Awards, a Grammy for ‘Twentysomething’ and a Best Original Song Golden Globe Award for Clint Eastwood’s 2008 film GRAN TORINO.
Since 2010 Jamie has presented a weekly evening jazz show on BBC 2 Radio, which is broadcast from its studios in Wogan House, where he signed my sketch for me last year.
Peruvian opera superstar Juan Diego Florez is considered by those who consider such things as the best tenor on the planet and certainly the most sort after at the world’s finest venues since making his international breakthrough in 1996 at the age of 23 at the Rossini Festival in the Italian city of Pesaro (Rossini’s birthplace) as the leading tenor in MATILDE DI SHABRAN. He made his Covent Garden debut a year later as Count Potoski in the Royal Opera’s world premiere concert of Donizetti’s ELISABETTA.
Standing ovations are the norm when he performs. The Telegraph’s opera reviewer Rupert Christiansen calls him the “Roger Federer of Opera… an exceptional virtuoso with an immaculate technique, who has enjoyed an exemplary career, free of scandal or disaster and marked by sound decisions, vocal consistency and a serious commitment to a charitable foundation back home.”
Coincidentally he said Roger, a fellow Rolex Ambassador, inspired him along with Pavarotti and incidentally he also likes to play a bit of tennis. Juan Diego has just finished his latest Covent Garden engagement, performing the title role of the Royal Opera’s third revival of Massenet’s WERTHER, described by The Guardian’s Tim Ashley as “hugely moving as the obsessive romantic.” He kindly signed and dedicated my sketch at the Royal Opera House.