Tag Archives: karaoke

Living In The Future

JethroTullTheRockOpera (1)

Jethro Tull: The Rock Opera – Anvil, Basingstoke

I make it a rule to avoid karaoke like the plague. You know the scene – a dingy bar offering inebriates the chance to belt out their favourite song to a professional backing track. Of course, the nearest they will get to the Voice is if they broke wind and four people turned round.

For an artist with an extensive back catalogue and, alas, waning vocal powers but a yen to continue touring the dilemma is how to carry it off. Bob Dylan, of course, constantly reinvents his songs and the audience never quite know what they are going to get. Other artists employ backing singers to amplify aka drown out their failing vocal chords.

Veteran prog-rocker Ian Anderson has come up with a novel approach judging by this concert TOWT and I attended in the cultural centre that is Basingstoke. Firstly, he has woven some of his best-loved songs supplemented with a few new numbers into a narrative which tells the story of the historical figure, Jethro Tull, re-imagined as if in the near future.

There has always been a high rural, pastoral, folky content to Tull’s repertoire and it works quite well. The central conceit is that Jethro Tull was a pioneering developer of farm machinery enabling the British agricultural revolution to take off. So in a modern/futuristic context he might have devoted his time to genetic modification of crops, allowing Anderson to pontificate on the perils of GM and the impact of aggressive farming techniques on the countryside and the climate.

Anderson’s solution to the fading powers issue is more intriguing. He has developed what can only be described as reverse karaoke without the alcohol. The band – featuring the excellent Florian Opahle on guitar, John O’Hara on keyboards, bassist Greig Robinson and drummer Scott Hammond and, of course, Ian Anderson on flute and acoustic guitar – play live while most of the vocals are pre-recorded on a backing track with accompanying videos by Icelandic chanteuse and violinist Unnar Birna, Dave Goodier and Ryan O’Donnel with Anderson adding some vocals live.

Technically it is some feat to pull it off over a two-hour concert – a masterpiece of technological robustness and consummate timing. It could so easily go wrong. What it does mean is that the event is so choreographed that there is no opportunity for ad libs or impromptu repartee, something the seasoned Tull fan – and by golly the audience was well-seasoned, I felt positively youthful – would miss.

All the old faves were there – a coruscating version of Locomotive Breath, always guaranteed to bring the house down – Living in the Past – including a game effort on the part of Anderson to recapture his youth by playing the flute whilst standing on one leg, no mean feat for a 68-year-old – and a slightly under-cooked Aqualung. There were some welcome reprises of songs I had not heard live for many a year including Witches’ Promise, a New Day Yesterday with Anderson on blues harmonica and Jack in the Green. The new stuff paled in comparison but carried the show along.

Two final comments – the first half of what was the tour opener was a bit rusty and Anderson was not on top form, struggling with his vocals and forgetting to switch his flute mic on at one stage and secondly, there was a touch of wistful longing and melancholy towards the end making me wonder whether he knows his touring days are numbered. We will see.

There Ain’t ‘Alf Some Clever Bastards – Part Fifteen



Daisuke Inoue

Sometimes there are people who are so clever or so unworldly that they do not recognise the importance or potential of what they have done. Daisuke is one of those people and for this reason is a worthy inductee into our Hall of Fame.

Personally, I hate karaoke and will run a country mile from any establishment that is advertising a karaoke session. The prospect of being in the same enclosed space as some inebriated people who cannot miss the opportunity to belt out out of key and out of time some hit song fills me with dread. But there is no denying that it is a popular phenomenon and it is all down to Daisuke.

Our hero was born in Osaka on May 10th 1940 and started playing the drums at school because it seemed the easiest instrument to play – cue old joke, what do you call someone who hangs around musicians? A drummer. He wasn’t very proficient but got gigs in bars in Kobe accompanying businessmen who wanted to sing to a crowd. Because he couldn’t read music, Inoue had to follow the singers and so his off-beat drumming style proved popular – with them at least.

In 1971 he was asked to accompany a businessman on tour but couldn’t make it but gave the man a tape of his playing as accompaniment. And so the idea of karaoke was born.

Inoue developed eleven karaoke boxes – karaoke means empty orchestra – which contained 8 backing tracks for would-be singers. He rented them out to bars in Kobe and they proved to be phenomenally successful.

However, exhibiting the characteristically flawed genius of our inductees, Daisuke made one catastrophic mistake. He forgot to patent his invention, thinking that he hadn’t really invented anything, merely assembling stuff that already existed. Naturally, the absence of patents meant that big Japanese corporations stepped in to exploit the opportunity and it is calculated that our inventor lost out on around $110 million in royalties. Some oversight!

Daisuke did profit marginally from the karaoke boom that he created. He invented a pesticide that repelled cockroaches and rats and other vermin that, showing good taste, in my view, attacked the electrical wiring in the machines. He also got some gratuitous recognition by being named one of the most influential Asians of the century by Time Magazine in 1999 and having a Japanese film called Karaoke made about him in 2005.

The moral of his story is never under-estimate what you have done. For being an unworldly genius, Daisuke Inoue is a worthy inductee.


If you enjoyed this, why not try Fifty Clever Bastards by Martin Fone which is now available on Amazon in Kindle format and paperback. For details follow the link https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=fifty+clever+bastards