Tiny feet, musical giant



Like virtually everyone else this week I was stunned when learning of the sudden death of Prince. I had been in the barbers when I vaguely caught the oft used phrases, “in breaking news”, “word is reaching us” and “unconfirmed reports”. I could only catch snippets of  the radio news bulletin over the sound of the guy beside me having his perm blow dried. It wasn’t till I checked twitter that I realized who had been the subject of those “unconfirmed reports”. Prince.

Its been the most unusual of years as far as celebrity deaths have been concerned. Obviously people die all the time,  I mean,  nobody is getting out alive, but the role call of familar faces that graced our tvs, radios and the silver screen that have passed away this year has been relentless it seems. From music and fashion icons like Bowie to the Saturday evening tv favourites of our youth like Paul Daniels,  to comedy legends like Ronnie Corbett all succumbing in quick succesion and we feel poorer for their loss.

Granted in Ronnie Corbett’s or Terry Wogan’s case, they both lived long full lives but in the case of Prince who passed away at only 57 our sense of loss is greatly heightened. Theres no doubting Prince lived a multiple of lives in his 57 years but so gifted and so creative was he,  you feel even if he’d lived to be 100 it still wouldnt have been sufficient time for him to fully exercise his creative muscles.

I remember seeing Prince in Dublin in concert in 1987. It was my cousin who brought me along. She, being 3 or 4 years older than I, had her finger on the pulse of what was worth following on the music front. He was,  even to a 12 year old a spectacular performer. Subsequently I educated myself more on his discography and followed him since then, with his most influential work, for me, being his 1991 album Diamonds and Pearls, an album which was easily one of the soundtracks of my misspent youth. I remember going to a pool hall on South William St called the Hideout, suitably named because you’d pass its unobtrusive entrance with ease and you needed to ring a bell to gain entry. Once inside it was like a different world,  a teenage underbelly of pool tables, a juke box and stacks and stacks of 20 pence pieces so that neither were idle.

That year I remember Prince’s Diamonds and Pearls album on repeat,  blaring from that juke box. Cream, Get off and the amazing title track Diamonds and Pearls were all seared into my brain due to hours in that grotto of a pool hall where we’d escape to even on the sunniest of days, no wonder we were so pale.

So it was instantly to that period that i was transported when I heard of Prince’s untimely death. Its only when you actively listen to those tracks and others like Raspberry Beret and Purple Rain that you realise just how brilliant a musician he was and how much we took his talent and eccentricity for granted.

As an entertainer he was up there with Sammy Davis Jnr,  Freddy Mercury and Michael Jackson, he was that good. In an age when it seems ridiculously easy to achieve ‘greatness’, all you have to do is look at any random Prince performance and you fully realise what true greatness is. Take Prince’s Superbowl performance arguably one of the greatest in history or his guitar solo when he shared a stage with Tom Petty and Steve Winwood at the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inauguration ceremony, a performance which put him on a par with Jimmy Hendrix.

Radio stations have been falling ovrr themselves to play his music in attempt to whet the appetite of a shocked public reeling from the loss of a musical genius whose music will live on like Bowie’s for decades and rightly so.

What i liked about Prince was he was his own man, diminutive but colossol at the same time, nevet compromising even with his own record label. Perhaps his lyrical obsession with sex and his eccentricities somewhat made it easier to dimiss him at times, but to do so was to miss the musical point and his creative genius in establishing his own sound, which in a world of music is no mean feat. Rest easy Purple Prince.





Livelihoods and lives on the line

In the last couple of days there has been much focus on the death of the UFC fighter Joao Carvalho after he was taken ill subsequent to losing a fight at an event in Dublin. Mixed Martial Arts or cage fighting has been around for about 20 years although most people would have been unaware of it until the UFC brought it to mainstream attention. I remember I first became aware of  MMA when I heard people talking in horrified tones about its wanton violence and sheer barbarity that put established combat sports like boxing in the halfpenny place. Many of those early grainy videos featuring MMA are still available on youtube and while I was horrified myself initially at the quantities of blood and brutality it is amazing how you become desensitized to it over time.

For its fighters, MMA seems to appeal to that innate masculine instinct to compete and defeat but in an arena beyond the norm. That gladiatorial element is clearly nothing new, its been around for a couple of thousand years as have the spectators baying for blood, the difference now is that its 2016 and we are supposed to be a civilized 21st century society. Sadly this doesn’t seem to be the case. There will always be young men and women who choose to enter the fray and there will it seems always be people to watch. More than this, there will always be money involved and when large amounts of money are involved things go awry.

MMA, because of its relatively new status as a ‘sport’ occupies a peculiar position in the pantheon of sport in general. In Ireland it isn’t even recognised as a sport which means paradoxically it doesn’t full under the remit of any regulatory body, so it can proliferate essentially unregulated and with impunity. Few people seem aware of this. Sadly the other night when that Portuguese fighter took to the cage for the very final time he was putting his faith in a system of self regulation, it proved to be a fatal mistake.

There is a perverse irony in this MMA death taking place in Ireland at this moment in time because the ‘sport’ has never been more popular with fighting events being staged the length and breadth of the country every month. This explosion in popularity has been due in no little measure to the meteoric rise of Dublin’s Conor Mac Gregor. One of our own has gone from the dole queue to adorning the cover of Sports Illustrated in a few short years. Conor has become the poster boy for the MMA brand that is the UFC making millions in the blink of an eye, as a result of his fists but mainly due to his marketing ability, his mouth. The Irish have always been good fighters in the ring but rarely has an Irishman displayed such contempt for the term underdog. Conor’s greatest achievement to date has been to convince the man in the street that winning isn’t just possible its an entitlement. This is so very un-Irish. The Irish have always doubted themselves, it has been our great Achilles heal. Conor seems to view things differently and isnt afraid to vocalize it. This has rubbed many of his countrymen up the wrong way. Personally I think that while Conor has huge amounts of self belief. Quite often when pontificating, he is playing to the crowd much the same way Ali did in the 60’s, its a case of psychology and marketing intertwined. The greater the amount of hype, the more interest in the fight and the more the take home pay. It makes sense.

The problem occurs when you dig a little deeper. During a press conference before his fight against Jose Aldo, Conor announced to the cheering crowds in portuguese that Aldo was going to die. It didn’t sit well with a lot of people at the time and rings very hollow now considering Conor was at the fight in Dublin the other night when Portuguese fighter Joao Carvalho was beaten and subsequently died in hospital.

If you dig a little further you realise just how unregulated the MMA is, not just in Ireland but all around the world. Boxing has decades of regulation to show by comparison but even it has never been able to completely escape its nefarious underbelly of underworld connections, thrown fights, PEDs, gambling rackets and deaths in and out of the ring. Boxing’s greatest exponent, Ali, is boxing’s greatest victim. Punching someone in the head, even with a padded glove on will do that to you. Ali’s fight today is with himself and Parkinson’s.

MMA doesn’t yet have the same regulations boxing ‘enjoys’, but imagine it did. Boxing today, is essentially combat sport best practice, yet even last week Chris Eubank Jnr’s defeated opponent Nick Blackwell was put into an induced coma after losing in the ring. Such were the injuries his brain had endured doctors actually put him into a coma. The fact that the fight should have been stopped earlier is also very worrying. So when boxing itself has a dark history and an equally dark present in the presence of governing bodies and regulation, then what hope for an unregulated self-regulating ‘sport’ like MMA?

Mixed Martial Arts at its core appeals to the adrenaline and testosterone within. As spectators we live vicariously through the bloodied fighters at a safe distance and we indulge our own bloodlust, but fighters put their livelihoods and lives on the line. Brain



Adverts in October ?


Greetings, you will have to excuse my absence in recent days as I have been busy doing voice overs. Voice overs artists, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the concept, are people who voice adverts that you hear everyday on radio, TV or online. It’s something that I have been doing for years, yet despite all the adverts I have voiced I really never quite get used to the absurdity of it.

The way it works is this. A radio station for example will contact me with a script and ask me to record the script and send it back to them via email. The script, is essentially the 20 seconds of dialogue that you hear in the finalised advert. The absurdity comes with the context. Think about it. You’re standing there in a recording booth with a script in hand animatedly attempting to enthuse said script with enough energy and passion that the target market of cattle farmers on hearing your advert will be equally excited about buying that specific brand of liver fluke medication. That’s the idea anyway.

It’s only when you actively listen to adverts on radio that you realise how ingenious yet surreal they are and its really only when you are voicing adverts yourself that you realise its much more difficult than it sounds. Businesses spend a lot of money on advertising their product so there’s a lot riding on that 20 second advert voiced by you, so no pressure. It is surprising how intricate you need to be to sell a 20 second long message with just your voice. Needless to say it never happens the first time, in fact it could take you 30 maybe 40 attempts to get it right, by which I mean, the pacing, the energy, the intonation and the clarity of your delivery. Even when, as far as you are concerned you have fulfilled your brief and have voiced a cracking advert the client may still want you to tweak it here or there which means more attempts in front of the mic to get it just right.

The irony is that most of us when listening to the radio do so passively, especially when it comes to the adverts. In fact many people mentally switch off during the ads. So next time you’re nodding off on your commute home and the adverts come on the radio spare a thought for me, gesticulating and enthusing frantically about the merits of “booking your Caribbean cruise with Foleys Travel Agents of Clontarf”, because that was probably my 57th time saying that line that afternoon.

Speaking of holidays. its like the middle of winter out there right now! It was snowing yesterday, its supposed to be April not October ! Must mean we’re in for a good summer, no ?