What a Wonderful Tune. I bet if you know it, you already love it…

Time for an absolute classic which I found in my parents’ collection of 45s we used to go through when I was a kid. This piece somehow stuck with me and was my “favourite” for many years, well into my teens and would still be on my top list today.

Something about the strings and horn parts make this swell and flow so majestically. And the actual melody and harmonies are so haunting.

No wonder this, an early hit for the Shadows, spent a record 8 weeks at No 1 in 1962 – no other act beat this in the 60s, pretty impressive considering they had Elvis and the Beatles to contend with!

If you know it , you already love it. So “Like” it and “Share” it so another generation can also enjoy it as I wouldn’t like to guess the last time this was played on any significant radio station!  If you don’t know it, well you are missing out so add it to your iPod now!

The eternal question looms, why is this a good piece of music that people like? If only we knew the magic formula. In my opinion it is a combination of things, melody and harmony play a part, orchestration – some may never like electric guitar sounds, or anything with drums in – but also the package as a whole. I have heard cover songs of various tracks over the years and they never sound quite as good, even though all the above elements are in place. There is something unique created in a studio and a time period which, like art, cannot be reproduced easily and it is also the unique sound of this recording which makes it special.

Interestingly, one of my other favourite artists, Mike Oldfield, also released a version of this in 1980. Clearly he had also enjoyed it as a kid and paid tribute to the Shadows by making his version. It is also a good version, quite different in sound but still references that horn part!

I tried tracking down a good quality version of the original on YouTube for this post but came across many newer mixes and the older ones weren’t great quality so I made my own clip, taken directly from my mum’s old 45 vinyl.

Do enjoy – maybe with a sense of nostalgia or maybe for the first time, one of the most succesful instrumental singles ever and a quite sublime piece of music –

Wonderful Land by Jerry Lordan

 

Advertisements

Mickey Mouse – a pair of safe hands?

mickey-mouse-dollarCome on, who doesn’t like a bit of Mickey? Disney is that happy place where everything is just fine. Isn’t it?

Well, actually there is a surprising amount of fear in many classic Disney movies, death is frequent though not often bloody and “scenes of peril” are practically essential before the hero to makes their move. But essentially good always wins through and you can rely on Disney to let you leave a movie with a smile and sense that all is well with the world.

Having been to Disneyland Paris many times now, I am always impressed at how everything is kept so perfect. neat and tidy. The rides and attractions seem to be just as they might have been on opening day (unlike our UK counterparts!) and you do feel like you are in another, better world. Our kids don’t even realise it is in France, not because they can understand all the announcements, but it doesn’t feel like any particular country, just Disneyland.

But what about the business end? Is this a company one should invest in?

Well obviously yes. Let’s face it, Disney is nowhere near closing its books, in fact with just the Star Wars franchise alone as well as all the other enduring assets they have – Frozen for one being a HUGE success and no sign of it slowing down – they are well set to enjoy many more years of financial success.

So what of the stock? Is this a time to buy?

Well this is what brought me to take this subject today. You see, one other area that we are less aware of in the UK is their US TV presence and what they broadcast. Now I don’t know the details, it doesn’t really matter, but I do know they have been getting disappointing figures here, I think over some sports fixtures (???) and as a result, the stock price has been dropping off since it peaked in 2015, this coupled with the general anxiety over stocks before the US Election results is, I believe, making a good buying opportunity for Disney Stock.

When it peaked in 2015 it got to around $120 per share, it is now down to around $92 per share. Though nothing is ever certain, I can’t see this stock going down into the low $80s again so anything around $90 is probably a sure long-term winner. It is very probable that by the end of the year it is back at least to $100 so even if you buy it now at $92.50 that would be roughly a 9% return, in three months….you won’t see that in the high st!

Even if though, things struggle for other reasons, you will be able to sleep at night knowing Mickey is looking after your money. I don’t want to try to be a “Stock picker” here but if you have money to invest, an opportunity like this is surely a safe one. Disney is not likely to go out of fashion, unlike other trends like say Nike for example. The Mouse has been around for 80 yrs and has no sign of dropping out of the race any time soon.

Take the plunge then, make that pension plan for your Grandchildren ‘cos in 40yrs time, those shares are going to be worth…….?

In 2006 they were $25.00. Let’s assume they end this year (as I like round numbers) at $100 again. That’s 400% return in 10 yrs (+ dividends) You can do the math…..s.

May the force be with you,

Chris K.

When composers move on & great music for Wind Band.

I recently read in one of my professional music journals of the death of a great British composer called Guy Woolfenden. Now this was not particularly remarkable and though he had an obituary in the papers he was not especially famous and in fact he passed away last April and I had not heard until September.

Just a brief round-up, he was mostly famous for his work with the Royal Shakespeare Company for whom he was the musical director and composer for 37 years. I first came across him/his music in 1985 when I joined my local Wind Band and this “new” piece was presented to the band called “Gallimaufry”. No, I didn’t know what it meant either (Def – a confused jumble or medley of things) but this piece of music was great. It was also quite newly published so we would have been one of the first bands to perform it. Well, the band at the time really enjoyed learning it and 12 yr old me got to play the Bass Drum and blow a solo whistle note!

But this piece was not just one of those “nice” pieces, it has travelled with me for the last 30 years. It stuck in my memory as an earworm at the time, and over the years, the same band (who I now work for) gets it out from time to time. The current youths don’t seem to appreciate its beauty as much as previous incarnations buy hey…

I also come across it regularly with an adult community band I often guest with and I am sure that many bands across the world have this as a staple concert item. I was also fortunate to have a recording to listen to of our first performance so it has been a piece I have got to know extremely well.

So why is it such a good piece of music? I have never seen the point in over analysing this sort of thing from a technical perspective, but for me it has good tunes, majestic harmonies, intricate lines, one of the most beautiful melodies ever written and fun percussion parts! What’s not to like? Of course, yet again we come back to personal memories and experiences but the fact that almost all players who come across this particular piece seem to love it as well speaks volumes about its clear musical value.

When researching for this blog, not only did I discover that Guy Woolfenden had studied at the Guildhall in London, where I had studied Percussion, but that he also went to the same senior school in Croydon! I had never had that knowledge – and there I had been, humming his tunes around the school grounds, oblivious to the fact he himself had been there!! Perhaps there was always meant to be a connection??

I also came across this gem of a video with a reasonably good performance of the work (there are some fine ones around!) but more importantly it was a part of a concert dedicated to Guy’s music, and seems to be a last public appearance of the great composer. Looking a little frail, he and his wife are in attendance to this glorious work. There is also a brief spoken introduction by the conductor which sums it all up perfectly.

Enjoy then, this most marvellous of works, for a fantastic type of ensemble, for a fitting tribute to a true British talent.

 

Love as ever,

Chris K.

Love Pizza? You could eat it every day if you had bought in.

Pizza

I love Pizza, particularly Domino’s. It is one of my guilty pleasures, usually when my wife is out, to order Pizza delivery as the boys love it as well. However, they are expensive. A large pepperoni is £18.00, and once I have got all the extras for the boys I don’t get much change from £30!

I could nip out to Tesco and get some Dr Oetker (also delicious) for a lot less, but I don’t, and neither do millions of us around the world.

Thing is, the guys who started this knew we would be happy to part with our cash for yummy food with no effort, and my sermon today is a retrospective “if only I had done that” story.

You see, sometimes a business comes along which, unexpectedly perhaps, grows and grows without anyone really noticing. I have know about Domino’s for years, can’t remember my first one but was probably at least 20+ years ago.

And if I had INVESTED in Domino’s as little as six and a half years ago, I would be in a much better financial position that I am right now. But I didn’t even know about investing then, let alone how well this particualr business might have done. Let’s look at the numbers shall we?

If I had bought just £1,000 worth of shares on the first trading day of 2010 (Jan 4th) and sold them yesterday (22nd August 2016) I would have made over 1620% return…..!

My £1,000 would now be a handsome £17,200. You can do the maths to work out if one had invested more….

Seriously, which bank (or other retail investment) would have given you a return like that! I had some money in an ISA at that point (2010) and was getting a measly 3%. It’s worse now. I still can’t believe that people think investing in stocks is a bad idea! Here’s the chart for the geeks to admire –

DPZ chart

I have no idea if this is the end even, it was a bit further up today but who knows?

The point I am making here is that if you can spot a business which seems to be getting it right, has potential to grow and is realively cheap to buy (it was around $10 a share in 2010) never mind being a Dragon in the Den, just invest yourself in one of these great business opportunities and literally sit back and let the money roll in. Add dividends to this and the score is even higher.

Oh, if only we had known. But, now I do know about these things. No, it’s not easy to spot the winners every time, and you can’t predict the future, but with a proper strategy in place, this has to be a great way to get free Pizza doesn’t it?

Off for a healthy dinner now….

Love as ever,

 

Chris K

Is music only good by association?

Today’s theme asks that difficult question, when a particular piece of music is also related to another event, image, media, memory etc, is the music alone good or the association of the music with the other ingredient which makes the music good?

I can think of many many pieces of music that I can associate with happy memories. I can literally plot a soundtrack to my life, particularly my teenage years. It is something I enjoy and am perhaps obsessed with. I love time lines. But what if I were to live a parallel life without these pieces of music and then hear them when I am in my forties? Would I still like them? Would they mean anything to me? What made them good in the first place?

I often see on Facebook, or when chatting to friends, “oh, this is a great piece of music, you’ll love it!” and though I might nod along encouragingly if listening to a track, it is unusual to instantly go “wow, that’s amazing, I love it” which is not perhaps surprising, as everyone’s musical tastes are different – and indeed I am doing the very same by introducing readers here to my particular stand out tracks. It might inspire me to listen again to a particular artist or song but the first listen is not often an instant hit in music.

So how do we test this?

I often have a captive audience in my car that I can spray with my musical choices to see what sticks. I am of course talking about my children.

From an early age (oldest is now 9, younger is 6) I have been putting my iPod on “Shuffle” and judging any reaction from them. In fact, it is now a little game we often play where they get to shout out if they want me to skip to the next track. I am always intrigued by their reactions and comments. Sometimes they just let it run, sometimes they recognise it from before somewhere and sometimes they like it so much they ask to stop the shuffle and switch to the entire album.

I make mental notes of the sort of things they are attracted to. I am generally happy with our progress in this field. Skipping over the issue of discovering their “own” music, which they will inevitably do, I feel I am giving them an opportunity to hear music they would otherwise not be presented with as well as the opportunity to discuss why they like or dislike particular tracks. They will quite happily listen to the entire “War of the Worlds” album as well as “Gummi Bear” or “Crazy Frog”. But to them, they are forming their own memories of some of these tracks. My first memories of the Jeff Wayne classic was some time soon after it was released, one particular teacher at junior school would frequently use the opening track (or maybe a single version) as our “play in” music to school assemblies. “The chances of anything coming to earth, are a million to one, but still they come….” are not perhaps best thoughts for small children first thing in the morning, but hey, at my junior school? Martians were the least of our worries….

But my boys may well remember this Album as the one they listened to on our way back from holiday one year….or whatever.

So I was very excited when, without any prompting, my oldest proclaimed a love for a particular track which I also had adored since I was about the same age. It does however come with a clear attachment. It is a theme to a TV show, perhaps the best TV show ever made, certainly my favourite (and you can quote me) and we are talking about…

The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy.

I’m not going to extol the TV show’s comedic virtues here but the opening music, and indeed the music used throughout, had a dramatic impact on me at the time, and this was picked up some 30 years later by my son. I loved the theme tune so much that I couldn’t wait for the BBC to repeat the show so that I could stuff my tape recorder under the TV speaker to get my own recording that I could listen to over and over. Which I did. My son loves it as well. When he first watched the TV series, he also spent ages singing it around the place. The difference now is that he can choose to listen to it over and over again via the Internet!

So is it a lovely bit of music or is it the association with the great TV show that has made it good? I don’t know. I remember liking it straight away, but time blurs this and my association with liking it in the early 80s gives it a warm fuzzy glow as well.

When thinking about this blog, I did a little research and learned a little bit more about the piece. Here’s the Wiki entry:

The theme tune used for the radio, television, LP and film versions is “Journey of the Sorcerer“, an instrumental piece composed by Bernie Leadon and recorded by The Eagles on their album One of These Nights. Only the transmitted radio series used the original recording; a sound-alike cover by Tim Souster was used for the LP and TV series, another arrangement by Joby Talbot was used for the 2005 film, and still another arrangement, this time by Philip Pope, was recorded to be released with the CDs of the last three radio series. Apparently, Adams chose this song for its futuristic-sounding nature, but also for the fact that it had a banjo in it, which, as Geoffrey Perkins recalls, Adams said would give an “on the road, hitch-hiking feel” to it.

So I have now discovered a glorious 6 minute version exist of the original!

Anyway, I present to you the somehow enchanting version I originally knew that was from the TV series, arranged by Tim Souster. Is it good? Have you heard it before? Do you like it? I would be intrigued to hear opinions from anyone who does NOT know the TV show but finds the music appealing…

 

Love as ever,

 

Chris K

A disappointing day, is that really a problem?

stock-trading1Having recently seen markets at all time highs, there is always going to be room for downward movement. This is just the way of things. My own account reached a recent new high on Monday as well so taking a decline here should also not be unexpected.

But it’s always disappointing when your profits go down. Of course it is, that’s natural. But do I care?

Oh dear, it’s that yes and no answer again.

Thing is, trading IS emotional as the desire for gains is the reason to trade, and losing profits hurts. But, you have only to look at ANY chart and see that even on a good run, there will be down (red) days. You CAN’T expect trading to be all “green” days.

One way of administering pain relief on these days is to look at many stocks across the market to see how your own holdings play against others. And, if all your positions end in the red, you want to see many other markets also in the red. That makes you feel better. It isn’t just you who’s losing out, everyone is. Group therapy.

So when do you know if your recent “HIGH” really was the top and you should be pulling out of a position? Answer: You don’t. You can’t. So you have to just ride the rollercoaster and see where it takes you. You can of course use Technical indicators to choose your exit points, this takes the emotion out of your decision-making.

So, is a disappointing day a problem?

Absolutely not. If it is, you are missing the point! Every day is different and also unpredictable. It’s just nicer when it all goes in the direction you need. Those trades that consistently move against you should, if you are trading correctly, stop out. Only by letting the good ones run, despite disappointing days, will you gain over time. Nine out of my twelve current Spread Betting positions are profitable right now, one of the losing ones is only off by 18p!!

Disappointing is easy – it’s the disastrous days I don’t like…

Love as ever,

Chris K

When sport meets music – the result?…

Five circles2

In my world, Sport and Music don’t mix. 

In schools, sports fixtures are the eternal pain up the everything for a music department. I still cannot work out quite why sport is considered “more important” than music but it is. In all schools as far as I can see. Except maybe choir schools…or specialist schools…you know what I mean.

If a student was to get a letter from school saying they had been “selected” for the XXXX team, and that they would now be required to attend training three times a week before/after school, they would I imagine feel honoured, privileged, and delighted at being chosen. The family would rally around so they could attend all the practices and missing any or heaven forbid a MATCH would be considered unthinkable.

But swing this around to music  –

Dear Mr & Mrs Bloggs,

Your son has been chosen to sing in the school choir and will now be required to attend practice three times a week and attend all school concerts and competitions as required. These may also be at weekends.

Yours,

Mr F Sharp

Well, I will all allow a few exceptions but I would expect in most schools that a rude letter from the parents might be sent in.

However, putting my personal gripes about education aside, when we mix the two, many wonderful things have happened. And I am talking about “Sports Themes”.

Think of all the great BBC sporting themes we have alone, The Cricket Theme, Wimbledon, Ski Sunday, theat really groovy one they used to use for the Snooker (Dragnet) and even Match of the Day is a classic. All fine miniature works of musical art. And there are many more.

Now we are in Olympics season, of course there is only one theme that covers this, you know what it is, Danny Boyle knew as well….

Chariots Of Fire.

Hardly a TV or Film shot of people running goes by (well, in any kind of spoof) without the iconic music being played, unless its involves horses, then it’s Black Beauty…

And it is a wonderful piece of music, the original that is. Don’t go for any copy or cover, that’s like drinking Virgin Cola. No, the Original track, called “Titles” by Greek composer Vangelis is a thing of beauty. Listen to it carefully to hear all the details and it is joyous.

Like my last music post, this takes me back to younger days. I was nine when the film came out and the music kind of drifted into my subconscious. I kind of knew it but not well enough. I did end up borrowing a tape of it off a friend once and made a copy (nothing changes) which I listened to to death. I only copied this main track though and it wasn’t until I was fourteen that I bought the album, on vinyl.

And what a real treat this is. The main theme is sublime but the other tracks are equally attractive. The big V just has a way with electronics that makes it so expressive, which most electronic music, certainly of the time, was almost the complete opposite of.

The track I want to treat you to today is the second on the album called “Five Circles” and it is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I know. There are no acoustic instruments in it at all, not even piano, and yet it is so expressive.

Pleased be moved by this work of art, perhaps while watching some amazing Olympic achievement.

 

 

Love as ever,

Chris K