The talent for writing and crafting a song aren’t always innate, but with Lisa Ballew it was something that was instinctive. Raised on the west coast of California, she connected with a deep-rooted musical family tree and began writing her own music at the early age of 13.
At 20 she ventured to Nashville to grow her musical prowess and feed and perform in a creative community. She eventually returned to the West Coast to be near family and continued to develop her art. She has crafted hundreds of songs that are ready for an audience.
“I think there was a period where my songs were cathartic and more for me…an outlet to express how I felt and saw life during both beautiful and difficult times. I finally had a realization that I had been stowing away my songs, my gifts and talents. I felt a strong sense that it was time for me to put it all out there. I needed to move forward in my musical journey and share my songs.”
That journey lead to the creation and release of “Ready For The Ride.” It showcases a pop sensibility and Lisa’s ability and passion to create songs that are relevant and commercial. This is just a glimpse of a deep catalog of songs waiting to be heard. The ride is just beginning……
Queen’s mega-hit has been interpreted countless times. But who did it first?
Three years ago,we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Queen classic “Bohemian Rhapsody,” complete with a reissue of the single’s original artwork for Record Store Day’s Black Friday and a Queen-endorsed brew, aptly named “Bohemian Lager,” made in — where else? — the Bohemia region of the Czech Republic.
Over the years, the Freddie Mercury-penned song has evolved from a radio staple to competition showcase for melismatic singers everywhere to something akin to public domain. There’s countless parodies: “Bohemian Carsody,” a car-themed parody by the all-female comedian troupe SketchShe, has racked up almost 30 million hits. There’s also ascience-themed “Bohemian Gravity,” College Humor’s “Bro-hemian Rhapsody,” “Bohemian Momsody,” the Minecraft-themed “Bohemian Craftsody,” and “Nintendohian Rhapsody.” And that’s just scratching the surface.
Interpretations of “Bohemian Rhapsody” also abound. Ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro’s TED Talk cover from 2010 has nine million views and counting. American Idol’s Adam Lambert’s rendition of “Bo Rhap” led to a job playing Mercury himself in a biopic set to release this year. Kanye West, the supremely self-confident rap artist and provocateur, opened his headlining set at Glastonbury Music Festival with a “Mama” heard ‘round the world in a performance that could charitably be described as pitch-imperfect. Remember Robert Wilkison? Arrested for driving while intoxicated in Alberta, Canada, he proclaimed his innocence with a full-throated “Bohemian Rhapsody” from the back of a squad car. He racked up 11 million hits. They did not let him go.
But who made the very first “Bohemian Rhapsody” cover?
Or maybe the 1987 cover by Bad News, the comedy metal band?
Good guesses, but both are wrong.
The very first “Bohemian Rhapsody” cover was recorded for a Top of The Popscompilation volume and released in December 1975, three months after the original song was released on the airwaves. Not to be confused with the television show by the same name, the Top of The Pops series were budget-priced compilations that featured studio musicians and singers recreating chart-toppers, and usually featured a scantily clad model as the album art. We’re talking everyone from the Supremes to the Sex Pistols. Found on Top of The Pops #49, the “Bohemian Rhapsody” cover was recorded at De Lane Lea Studios, next to Wembley Stadium, where — it might be noted — Queen recorded early demos for tracks like “Keep Yourself Alive.”
Recently I tracked down Tony Rivers, one of the four Top of The Pops singers who recorded that first “Bohemian Rhapsody” cover. He was also the vocal arranger on the sessions, a thankless task for which he was well-prepared: Rivers’ long and varied career includes working on tracks from early 60s vocal groups Harmony Grass and the Castaways, recordings with Pink Floyd and INXS, and singing backup for Cliff Richard and Elton John — all of which he’s written about in his book, I’m Nearly Famous: The Tales of a Likely Lad.
Rivers was kind enough to let me pick his brain over email about the original “Bohemian Rhapsody” cover.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Everyone covers or parodies “Bohemian Rhapsody” these days — from the Muppets, Phish, Flaming Lips, William Shatner, Zac Brown Band, Kanye West — everyone climbs Bo Rhap Mountain, it seems.
Well, not many could manage to put this together, least of all Kanye West!
But you were the first.
I have always assumed that [it was], mainly because harmony wasn’t many singers’ strong point at that time, and it was the most complicated arrangement to learn in a few days and record.
A few days? The original famously took three, four weeks.
There were very few around who could have done it that quickly. It was a bit easier for us four, all coming up with vocal group backgrounds. All four of us sang on “Bohemian Rhapsody.” We usually took a day to lay down lead and backing vocal tracks, and would be on our way home by 11pm. Not this time!
So it wasn’t easy to do, then.
No. With due modesty it was difficult for us because of the time restriction — maybe two or three days to live with it (once the committee had chosen it).
By “committee” you mean the people at Top of The Pops?
A small group of Hallmark employees, along with producer Bruce Baxter, would sit down prior to the planned sessions and choose the potential hits. That, of course, was the secret to the label’s success. I have no idea what their thoughts were in choosing “Bohemian Rhapsody” other than “what an amazing record!”
The cover is pretty much perfect, note-for-note. How did you pull that off?
As usual, I had the job of sorting out the vocal arrangement. I had to listen and memorize the parts. John Perry and Ken Gold were also listening and were both assigned lead lines that suited their voices, which they did brilliantly I think. Oh, and let’s not forget the late Stu Calver, who was the very high voice on the Roger Taylor parts — the “Gallileo”’s and so on.
Normally this wouldn’t be too big a deal, but with this song, I had to sit for hours at home listening, making notes, and memorizing vocal lines — apart from the other tracks we had to do that day!
The time-consuming job of layering track after track of vocals ’til we got the sound and the voicing right seemed to take forever. But in the end, it had been a great opportunity to find out how that song was put together.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around you doing all of this in a few days, to be honest.
The harmony parts were obviously part of the problem, but they are not difficult harmonies. The problem was lack of familiarity with the whole thing. We could copy sections, piece by piece. The other problem was the time needed to achieve a similar “sound.” That kind of mass tracking takes time, and wasn’t usually available in big lumps. This was something with many lumps!
We were helped greatly by the fact that all three of us had good range in our voices with JP and Stu blessed with fantastic falsetto range.
I believe we spent the early part and the rest of the day, singing whatever vocals or harmonies needed on the other songs that had been selected.
You worked on other songs at the same time?
Memory tells me at around 7pm we started on Bo Rhap, bit by bit, until each section sounded good, and added voices until it did. We finished and hit the A406 [a main London road] around 7 the next morning in a daze, in rush hour traffic, with “Gallileo”s running round our heads.
I have nothing but admiration for the man who created it: Freddie Mercury. What a record.
A bit different from something like [The Sweet’s] “Little Willie!”
The original version made a splash, of course, but the TOTP version made headlines as well. Kenny Everett, who famously played the test pressing of the original track, also played your cover.
Kenny Everett was a big name at that time , and decided to see if the listeners could tell which version had taken months and a fortune to record, and which was done in a few hours on a budget album! He played our version and Queen’s, cutting between the two, asking “Can you tell which one’s the ten-bob version, and which one cost six million quid to make?”
Did you ever hear from the Queen camp regarding your cover? I know you worked with Cliff Richard for quite some time, and Freddie Mercury and he were friends.
Ken Gold was introduced to Freddie whilst on an Elton John tour of the USA. Ken decided to ask Freddie what he thought about “that cover.” He looked pensive, then added, “Hmm, an interesting version!”
I did meet Brian May once. He said, “Hi, Tony! Roger and I used to go to see you live at Loughborough Uni/College, and you were a very big influence on our harmonies!” Not bad, eh?
Measuring just 12 miles by 5 and situated just off the coast of France, Jersey CI is absolutely bursting at the seams with musical talent. Sara Strudwick is one of the island’s most precious jewels. A singer songwriter and awesome performer, Sara, now based here in London is set to take the music scene by storm. You can see Sara performing live at the Spice of Life, Soho on 19th May.
Sara started singing at the age of 13, growing up as an artist on the island of Jersey.
She became a teacher at her music school at the age of 16, while gaining experience in live performance and in the studio. Sara began her youtube channel in 2014 using her work in Dream Box Studios with the help of the producer Jack Helm. In 2014 her live performance of her first ever original brought her to the attention of UK talent scouts.
During her time in Jersey Sara had the opportunity to support some major artists such as James Arthur, Jess Glynne, The Vamps, Tom Jones and more.
Sara moved to London at the age of 17 to study music at university, and began working with producer Tim Arnold, opening for Blake Morgan where she was introduced as The Reservations ‘Emerging artist of 2017’ in London’s Soho. Sara has since gone on to play festivals such as Burtonfest, Burton on Trent and Septemberfest at Donnington Park.
Sara most recently took to the stage at the Half Moon Putney in October of 2017 with a completely new line up before stepping down from performing to begin writing an EP.
New York’s Blake Morgan – “Sara is already an artist who is truly original”
Managing director of VMGSounds, Adam Corns – “Go give Sara Strudwick a follow. I was really impressed with her whole set at #BurtonFest2017 in particular Sara’s flawless vocals. Awesome band and backing vocalists to. Certainly one to watch out for.”
Songwriters news UK – 23rd October 2017
“Sara Strudwick – Sara is gaining all kinds of accolades as her career progresses , she’s got the looks the talent and the support as she hits the stage with a full band and a massive vocal and two backing singers – check out Sara’s timeline and media – She’s played Donnington – A seriously BIG DEAL for a rising star !! and even tho she hinted on-stage that she was new to songwriting – we would argue differently – her material is strong , intense, upbeat and is gonna work well in any festival / live band / party venue with some AWESOME Guitar Rifts to seal the deal !!
Forgive Me It’s Not You – this is an awesome song – her material is strong and engagingly listenable and – along with the band , had the audience hooked!”
Kyle Davis just released a Dark Pop/EDM album with the international production team Vessbroz! It’s live on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube and all other stores.
As an artist, a powerful voice has the ability to capture an audience the moment they step on stage. Pair that soulful voice with gifted songwriting and what you have is not only a gift, but a rarity. Singer/Songwriter Kyle Davis is one of those rarities.
A natural storyteller with an inevitable creative talent for writing and singing, Kyle Davis knew from the start he was destined for a career in music. His life has revolved around the creation of
music and live performance, so much that it has become the very pulse of his existence. The Massachusetts-born Davis realized his love for singing at the age of 5. His writing abilities were also not long-hidden.
Everything about music breathes life into Davis, evoking any and all emotions. With lyrics designed to carry not just a tune into the mind of its listener, Davis’ music is created with the intention to give hope to its audience, offering a greater purpose in life. The piano-savvy artist remains nothing short of the music industry’s missing link.
By the time he began recording, Davis’ career in music remained inevitable, as his path of becoming a star was set into concrete. His outside-the-box musical blueprint blends an energy and sound that molds the essence of dark pop with R&B. His lyrics are personal, honest, and real. Drawing in a strong fan base with his filter-free style, Davis thrives off his open book mentality, allowing his fans to experience his blood, sweat, and heartbreak through carefully
concocted lyrics and powerful live performances.
The state of popular music in the United States is arguably determined by a diverse set of subgroups of individuals with similar backgrounds and life experience, to which that popular music holds appeal.
The very idea of popular music is inherently tied and determined by the tastes of groups within the population, so the evolution and characteristics of popular music are more intimately connected with the groups with which it is associated. On a broader scale, large political and cultural events relevant to one period of time also represent an axis upon which this set of tastes in the population might vary.
For instance, recalling the periods of historically popular music, it may be observed that some political or cultural trends inform the popularity of certain genres: the counter culture of the 1960s along with the advancements in civil rights liberties for minorities, the appearance of rock and roll in the 1970s and 1980s, and so forth. The temporal aspect of popular music often can be used to characterize the events and moments of that generation of individuals because of this influence of historical political events on popular music.
Though the music industry has largely desegregated today in light of changes in legal practices surrounding civil rights, the populations that listen and engender popular music in the United States are still similarly divided, as indicated by the drastically different forms and messages that appeal to different groups, some which document a history of marginalization.
Upon reflection of the types of popular music present in contemporary times, one often imagines the upbeat, idealistic tunes of popular music or popular music related to social trends. Such types of popular music today may represent a degree of escapism in society, but they are more often indicative of the current feelings of a specific group. Notably, the relative peace of the 21st century has allowed for music commenting on inconsequential social idiosyncrasies to emerge and become popular.
However, this feeling of peace that has manifested for majority groups in the United States often shuns more serious and pressing social issues also present in the nation, and in this way, a population’s indulgence in peace may be considered a sort of escapism from the harsher social realities of marginalized groups. For instance, consider the set of popular songs such as “#SEFLIE” by the Chainsmokers, “How Deep Is Your Love?” by Calvin Harris, “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift, or “What Do You Mean?” by Justin Bieber.
These songs either mock current social trends or behaviors, or they expound on a certain set of feelings, often related to the transience of romance. The appearance of popular music that satirizes a specific set of popular social behaviors should indicate the presence of a sort of flippancy or superficiality in that social paradigm. This call to attention to such flippant behaviors (taking a superfluous amount of selfies at social events) is enhanced when the actual behavior is constituted by conspicuous and repeated performative acts made with an attention-seeking goal.
Moreover, the other songs listed above all demonstrate the existence of such a superficial social paradigm in relation to romance. Calvin Harris’ video for “How Deep Is Your Love?” consists of a repetitive set of party scenes that include a multitude of time skips, to illustrate the briefness of these social and romantic encounters.
The question that is repeated in the video itself “How deep is you love?” almost seeks to escape from this endless cycle of brief and meaningless encounters, longing for profundity and depth in relationships.
Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” more explicitly refers to this idea of brief romantic encounters that are torn apart by their unstable foundation and beginnings. Consider how: “I can make the bad guys good for a weekend”, one of the verses of “Blank Space”, illustrates this dynamic relationship between male commitment and female sexuality that stands as the motivation for the briefness of romance in modern contexts.
“What Do You Mean?” by Justin Bieber once again describes a similar model of romance, referring to the insecurities and uncertainties of young love. Though love songs have always persisted in popular music in some form, popular music today documents a very real degeneration germane to romance.
The songs that receive hundreds of millions of views and the songs that are at the forefront of the public consciousness deal with the collective inability of individuals to reconcile romantic desire, sexual interest, and long-term commitment.
Music, in this case, presents a cathartic quality to all the individuals who find themselves in the unpredictable and unreliable landscape of romance today, and the popularity of such music represents a collective acknowledgment of these issues.
The cathartic quality offers individuals a sort of escape from their own dissatisfaction with failed romantic endeavors (i.e. Taylor Swift and Jake Gyllenhaal resulting in the “I Knew You Were Trouble” single). However, the popularity of such musical forms also detracts from the more darker aspects of society ignored by the majority as they engaged in their self-absorbed escapist fantasies through the performativity of music.
What are these darker aspects of society, spurned and ostensibly shoved under the rug by the majority in favor of this escapist romantic narrative? The very continuation of social inequality and abuse of the civil rights of minorities is documented in music.
The American music industry may have formally desegregated, but its population is still very much unequal and cordoned off into groups, roughly by race and socioeconomic class. Consider Kendrick Lamar’s recent single “Alright”, where he deals with the moral considerations and consequences of rampant materialism, as well as the struggle of the African American people in a society with power structures that continue to marginalize them.
In regard to materialism, Lamar reflects on his own experiences subsequent to his fame: “Painkillers only put me in the twilight / Where pretty pussy and Benjamin is the highlight”. Here, Lamar describes how opiates and similar classes of drugs only temporarily absolved him of life’s hardships by allowing him to indulgence in material pleasures and women.
Throughout the song, he also makes frequent reference to the troubled history of African Americans in the United States and their current struggles: “When you know, we been hurt, been down before, nigga / When my pride was low, lookin’ at the world like, ‘where do we go, nigga?’ / And we hate Popo, wanna kill us dead in the street for sure, nigga / I’m at the preacher’s door/ My knees gettin’ weak…” Lamar paints a vivid narrative of a beaten down and broken race of individuals struggling to survive in spite of the continual frustrations and dangers that beleaguer them.
When we compare this narrative, which has received only a five million views, to the hundred of millions of views given to the romantic troubles of Taylor Swift, it should inform our perspective regarding the disproportionate representation of social issues in the United States.
Ultimately, though peace has predominated in the 21st century and though segregation is outlawed, civil inequality is still incredibly blatant. The trends in popular music pertaining to superficial romances illustrate a collective ignorance and solipsism to more serious and pressing social issues in the United States.
When one observes the music most popular and relevant to different groups in the United States, one begins to realize the alarming nature of “popular music” in relation to the culture and society of this time, where the public prioritizes and gives more notice to casual sex and romance over the plight of an entire race.
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Poet. Writer. | Poetry editor @MuzzleMagazine | Author of The Crown Ain’t Worth Much & They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us. | Ohioan
Much like last year, I have decided on a somewhat random number of albums. I do appreciate how the list format can be equal parts exciting and somewhat exhausting during this time of year. But for me, it’s a good place to mention a lot of albums that I loved but didn’t always get to write about or talk about a lot this year. In 2017, I went from (arguably) writing too much about music to not having nearly as much time to write about music as I wanted to. I hope to strike a balance in 2018. In the meantime, here are my 39 favorite albums of the year. Like last year, if there was good writing on the artist or album, I’ll link that as well.
If anything, though, the BPI is actually underplaying the success of streaming, as it relies on data from the Official Charts Company, which does not currently count music played on YouTube towards its figures.
It has been estimated that if YouTube was included, the number of streams accessed by music fans in the UK would double.
Most-streamed artists of 2017
1) Ed Sheeran
3) Little Mix
5) The Weeknd
6) Calvin Harris
8) Kendrick Lamar
10) Post Malone
Overall, sales of music generated £1.2 billion for the UK economy last year, according to the Entertainment Retailers Association.
At the opposite end of the technological scale, sales of vinyl continued to grow, with 4.1 million LPs purchased in 2017.
Again, Ed Sheeran was the most popular artist on the format – closely followed by Liam Gallagher and Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black, which featured in the top five vinyl albums for the third year in a row.
CD sales down
However, vinyl only accounts for 3% of the overall music market, and its success is in stark contrast to the decline in CDs and downloads.
CD sales, which peaked at 162.4 million in 2004, now languish at 41.6 million.
Digital downloads are also on the way out, with just 13.8 million albums bought on stores like iTunes and Amazon last year, a drop of 23%.
Overall, music consumption was up by 8.7% – the fastest rise since 1998.
Sales and streams contributed £1.2 billion to the UK economy, according to the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA).
Apart from Sheeran, the UK’s biggest artists included Rag N Bone Man, whose album Human shifted more than 885,000 copies by the end of the year.
Little Mix’s Glory Days continued to sell well, while Pink and Drake were the best-selling international artists.
It was also a better year for new artists after a dismal 2016, where only one British debut album (Bradley Walsh’s Chasing Dreams) went gold.
2017 saw the likes of Dua Lipa, Stormzy, Harry Styles and J Hus achieve the 100,000 sales milestone.
Top 10 albums of 2017 (combined sales and streams)
Embracing a broad range of pop music that encompassed British Invasion rock, garage rock, disco, reggae, Latin rhythms, and hip-hop, Blondie was the most commercially successful band to emerge from the New York punk/new wave community of the late ’70s. The group was formed in New York City in August 1974 by singer Deborah Harry (b. July 1, 1945, Miami, Florida), formerly of the folk-pop group Wind in the Willows, and guitarist Chris Stein (b. January 5, 1950, Brooklyn, New York) out of the remnants of Harry‘s previous group, the Stilettos. The lineup fluctuated over the next year; drummer Clement Burke (b. November 24, 1955, New York) joined in May 1975, and bassist Gary Valentine signed on in August, while keyboard player James Destri (b. April 13, 1954) came on board in October, completing the initial permanent lineup. One of the first bands on the CBGB scene to score a record deal, Blondie released their first album, Blondie, on Private Stock Records in December 1976. In July 1977, Valentine was replaced by Frank Infante.
In August 1977, Chrysalis Records bought Blondie‘s contract from Private Stock and in October released their second album, Plastic Letters. (Chrysalis also reissued the debut LP.) Blondie expanded to a sextet in November with the addition of bassist Nigel Harrison (born in Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire, England), as Infante switched to guitar. Blondie broke commercially in the U.K. in March 1978, when their cover of Randy & the Rainbows‘ 1963 hit “Denise,” renamed “Denis,” became a Top Ten hit, as did Plastic Letters, followed by a second U.K. Top Ten, “(I’m Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear.” Blondie turned to U.K. producer/songwriter Mike Chapman for their third album, Parallel Lines, which was released in September 1978 and eventually broke them worldwide. “Picture This” became a U.K. Top 40 hit, and “Hanging on the Telephone” made the U.K. Top Ten, but it was the album’s third single, the disco-influenced “Heart of Glass,” that took Blondie to number one in both the U.K. and the U.S. “Sunday Girl” hit number one in the U.K. in May, and “One Way or Another” hit the U.S. Top 40 in August. Blondiefollowed with their fourth album, Eat to the Beat, in October. Its first single, “Dreaming,” went Top Ten in the U.K., Top 40 in the U.S. The second U.K. single, “Union City Blue,” went Top 40. In March 1980, the third U.K. single from Eat to the Beat, “Atomic,” became the group’s third British number one. (It later made the U.S. Top 40.)
Meanwhile, Harry was collaborating with German disco producer Giorgio Moroder on “Call Me,” the theme from the movie American Gigolo. It became Blondie‘s second transatlantic chart-topper. Blondie‘s fifth album, Autoamerican, was released in November 1980, and its first single was the reggae-ish tune “The Tide Is High,” which went to number one in the U.S. and U.K. The second single was the rap-oriented “Rapture,” which topped the U.S. pop charts and went Top Ten in the U.K. But the band’s eclectic style reflected a diminished participation by its members: Infante sued, charging that he wasn’t being used on the records, though he settled and stayed in the lineup. In 1981, the members of Blondie worked on individual projects, notably Harry‘s gold-selling solo album, KooKoo. The Best of Blondie was released in the fall of the year. The Hunter, Blondie‘s sixth album, was released in May 1982, preceded by the single “Island of Lost Souls,” a Top 40 hit in the U.S. and U.K. “War Child” also became a Top 40 hit in the U.K., but The Hunter was a commercial disappointment, as was the concert tour that followed.
By the time The Hunter was completed, Stein became seriously ill with the genetic disease pemphigus. As a result, Blondie quietly broke up in October 1982, with Debbie Harrylaunching a part-time solo career while caring for Stein, who eventually recovered. In 1998, a new Blondie lineup anchored by Harry, Stein, Destri, and Burke united to tour Europe, their first series of dates in 16 years; a new LP, No Exit, followed early the next year. After more touring, another studio set, The Curse of Blondie, followed in 2003, and a DVD of the Live by Request program from A&E was released in 2004. In 2006, Blondie celebrated their 30th anniversary with their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the release of Greatest Hits: Sound & Vision, a best-of collection that contained all their classic videos as well. Blondie got back to work on original material in October 2009, decamping to upstate New York to start recording a new studio album. Additional sessions were held in Hoboken, and the resulting Panic of Girls was released in July 2011. In 2013, Blondie set out on a concert tour with another iconic female-fronted band, X, and returned to the recording studio to work on a new studio set, which was released in 2014 as Ghosts of Download. Three years later, Blondie teamed with producer John Congleton for Pollinator, which featured songs and cameos from the likes of Charli XCX, Nick Valensi of the Strokes, Sia Fuller, Blood Orange, Dave Sitek, and Johnny Marr.
At FFM, we want to highlight new and aspiring musical talent wherever we find it and where better than the many Music Colleges, Universities and Schools around the world. Our new feature ‘Spotlight on a Music Student’ is an opportunity for you or someone you know to step into the spotlight and share your talent, dreams and ambitions with the musical world.
All you have to do is send us your information, pictures, videos, sound clips and links and we will compile your feature.
email direct to email@example.com
Much love and happy music making,
The FFM team
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