Listen: Ozzy Osbourne – Under The Graveyard

First things first, I’m a huge fan of Ozzy Osbourne. Have been since hearing Bark at the Moon on Radio 1’s Roundtable back in 1983. Since then every album has been purchased, many magazine articles have been read, too many videos of songs & interviews have been watched and although I’ve seen him with Black Sabbath, I’m still waiting for my first outing to a solo Ozzy gig. It was supposed to happen in February 2019, but didn’t due to him being ill. Then it was going to February 2020, but again, sadly because of ill health issues, that’s been put on hold until….well who knows!

While he’s been doing the Sabbath thing, his solo career has been put on hold, and he hasn’t released any new material since his 2010 album Scream. If I’m being honest, he hasn’t done a consistent album since 1995’s Ozzmosis, which is a very long time! You could make a good album out of the best tracks from Down to Earth (2001), Black Rain (2007) & Scream (2010).

There had been rumours that while recovering from his various ills, that he had been working on some new material. He lent his voice to the rather good Post Malone track Take What You Want and while doing that he met producer, songwriter and guitarist Andrew Watt. He suggested doing an album, which is going to be Ordinary Man next year. The first fruits of that session is the brilliant Under The Graveyard.

Featuring producer Andrew Watt on guitars, Duff McKagan (Guns N Roses) on bass and Chad Smith (Re Hot Chili Peppers) on drums, the track starts slowly and atmospheric before building around the chorus. The guitars sound amazing, in fact, it’s the best sounding Ozzy song for decades. Some of his stuff sounded muddy over his latter albums, but this is great.

Ozzy says that ‘this album was a gift from my higher power — it is proof to me that you should never give up’ and at nearly 71, he’s sounding good. Lets hope he get fit enough to do the long awaited gigs in the UK.

It was 20 years ago today….

It’s just after 6am on Saturday 16th October 1999. The news is just about to finish, and then………..I’m going to be in control. Of a whole radio station! For the first time! My first ‘proper’ radio show was just about to begin. I had finally made my childhood dreams come true. I was about to become a radio presenter! At last!

However, there is a whole, long love affair with radio and music to tell before we get to this point, so lots go back to where it all began…….

I have always been interested in radio. I listened to it a lot as a kid. One of my childhood memories is being off poorly from school – I was a sickly child, so I was off school a lot – either being at home listening to the radio on my Dad’s Hi-Fi or at my grandparents listening to the radio on their radiogram, which looked like a normal cabinet, but when you opened it up, it had a turntable, a tape deck and a radio! I loved it, being able to listen to shows that I wouldn’t normally hear like Gary Davies Bit in the Middle and the brilliant Steve Wright in the Afternoon.

I was already listening in the morning to the breakfast show, Mike Read was the first presenter I really remember doing the show. Oh and Tony Blackburn on Junior Choice at the weekend. And of course recording the Top 40 on a Sunday evening, like everyone else!

Imagine the excitement when I found out that Radio One was coming to my hometown for a summer roadshow! Except it wasn’t a roadshow, it was a boat show, on a canal boat! I was there nearly all day on the Sunday when they were setting up and of course I was there for the broadcast on the Monday! Amazing. Simon Bates and Janice Long were the presenters. I stepped in to a radio station for the first time a couple of years later, when Radio Leeds were holding an open day at Woodhouse Lane.

As well as listening to the radio, I used to do radio shows in my bedroom. Nothing technical, just a tape machine and a turntable. Then it progressed, when I bought a twin tape ghetto blaster with a microphone on it! (Remember this is the mid eighties!).

I did the shows for mates and eventually started playing them in art classes at school. A friend at school – JP – had a clever brother who was in to sound recording and he agreed to do some jingles. In the end he did one for me but it was an epic! With the help of two other school friends – Cathrine and Kathrine – who recorded their ‘vocals’ outside Biology if my memory is correct! It had rainfall, footsteps, a creaky door and the girls in unison saying my name! Thinking about it now, it sounds really corny, but it was ace at the time!

Around this time, it was decision time as far as what I wanted to do for a career. I went on work experience at the local newspaper. I really enjoyed it but, I have to be honest – I was too thick to get the qualifications that would be needed to be a journalist! No, I wanted to work on the radio! And that is what I told my careers adviser. She thought it was a brilliant idea. By the time I had got home, it wasn’t such a good idea. She had rung my parents, to tell them to talk me out of the silly idea. I needed a trade behind me, not this radio thing! So I decided that radio wasn’t for me, Graphic Design was! I’d always liked drawing!!!!! So yeah, if I could make a living out of it – why not! A local printing firm were looking for a graphic designer so I was dispatched for an interview. I didn’t get the job. However, I must have made an impression, because they created another position for me – a printer! They were buying a new machine (see picture below!) and wanted me to run it! OK, so I had never wanted to be a printer – does anyone? So I accepted the job. I worked there for 11 years. I wouldn’t say I hated it from day one, but I didn’t really like it. I made some great friends, earned a decent wage eventually but it wasn’t radio!

While having the time of my life printing business cards, letterheads and labels for boxes of chocolates, radio still played a big part of my life – listening to it at work. Whether it be Radio 1 and playing along while at work to Bits and Pieces on the roadshow, or the test transmissions and the subsequent launch of Virgin Radio, the radio was nearly always on!

ITN reporting the opening of Virgin 2015

I continued to record shows for friends. Some of the shows went to the other side of the world to Australia when long time listener Gee went there! A whole new audience!!! His wife to be became a listener as well and she tells me he still has these tapes somewhere, I’m sure they are terrible! Thankfully, in this day and age of streaming services and the like, the need for a tape deck has disappeared – hopefully never to return. Even to this day, at the G’s gatherings, people still greet me as if they have known me for years because of them spreading the word of Bewes! Thanks guys!

We have now reached the late 1990s, 1997 to be precise, and there is big news. My home town is getting it’s own radio station!!!!! The station had been on air a year or two earlier for an RSL, but now it was coming back – full time! I needed to be involved! I arranged to go to Yorkshire Dales Radio and see somebody about being involved. Now this is where I made a really silly mistake! The guy I saw said that he would get back in touch, and I didn’t hear anything from him. I was a dick and didn’t follow it up myself. To this day I have no idea why not, but I didn’t.

Fast forward to February 1999 and I decided that I had been stupid and I got in touch again. This time I met Big Ron. He was the Station Manager. I went up on a Saturday afternoon for a chat and a look around. It was based in port-a-cabins next to where I used to go to school – where the jingle was recorded! This was meant to be! Anyway, I’ll be honest, I expected him to say come up at the weekends and make tea, help record a few bits etc, but no! He said there was a slot every weekday evening which was just music and a few adverts, between the end of the drivetime show and the start of networking from Harrogate with Stray FM. It was suggested I pop up whenever I could and he would train me on how all the studio equipment worked and how to ‘drive the desk’! This was better than I ever expected.

The following Monday, I was there at about 6.30 and started my training. Looking back it was brilliant not to have to worry about talking between the songs while not knowing what any of buttons did. I went up every evening for several months to work on a actual radio station. This was in the days before computer playouts, so everything was either on CD or Mini Disc (!). The adverts were on a cart machine on a computer and that was as high tech as we got. But in the summer of 1999, change was on the way. A new boss was on the way. A new name for the station was on the way – Fresh AM – and lots of presenters and shows were on their way…. out of the station! Including the slot I was doing!

Luckily I had built up a name for myself as being useful and free! So the new boss kept me involved with station. Admittedly, the extent of my involvement was going up to the station just before 7pm every evening to pull a fader down in studio 2 where the output was coming from for one area we covered while there was a live show going to another area which was coming from the main studio. But I was still involved and I was making use of the spare studio as much as I could by recording demo’s for the new boss to pass judgement on. I would go up on a Friday lunchtime for him to tell me where I was going wrong!

Then one of the new presenters made a silly mistake – he failed to turn up for his breakfast show one Saturday morning and eventually there was a parting of the ways. This meant I got my hour of playing music back, except now it was between 6 and 7pm, because we had travel news spots sponsored, so someone had to be there to bring them in on ISDN! And I was happy to!!!!

Now we find ourselves on Friday 15th October and I walk in to the building for my normal demo assessment. On my way in, I pass the Programme Manager Mike Long and he just winks at me and says ‘well done’! What’s up with him, I thought! In to the meeting I go and Mark, the boss, does his normal routine of telling me where I’m going wrong, but then says something else. ‘Look Mate, you can carry on demo’s forever, but we won’t know how you will cope in a live situation until you actually do a show. So how do you fancy doing the Breakfast show on a Saturday?’ Hang on, did he just say what I think he said? ‘Oh, OK, starting when?’ I mumbled. ‘Tomorrow at six mate’. Holy crap!!!!!!

So here we are, as the clock ticks round to me playing my first song as a radio presenter, the job I have somehow managed to make a living out of for the last 15 years. I must have done something right that morning because after a month doing Saturday breakfast show, I was given the Sunday breakfast show to do as well. For the next 6 months I was working at the printers during the week and then getting up at silly o’clock at the weekend to do the shows! I was knackered, but I loved it, so I didn’t care. In April 2000, I was offered a full time slot, doing the weekday evening show and Saturday breakfast, so it was time to say goodbye to printing and hello working on the radio!

It wasn’t plain sailing, there were lots of ups and downs, losing shows, gaining shows, new bosses with new ideas and timeslots for me (5am starts, really?), but I met some amazing people and had the time of my life. I eventually became Breakfast Show presenter, head of Music and Programme Controller at Fresh, before leaving in April 2006, to join the team at Teamtalk Broadcast/ Headland Media/ KVH Studios presenting shows on their in-store radio services and being Head of Music since 2009 – and it’s where I have been ever since.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Big Ron Nicholson who saw something in me back in 1999 and brought me on board at YDR, Trent Watson for missing that Breakfast show back in 1999 that lead to me being given a show and Mark Reason for giving me the show that started it all off. And of course all the other brilliant people that I have worked with on air over the years at Fresh, that have helped me have some of the best times ever. Mike Long, Tim Paul, Stuart Clarkson, Allan Hollings, Becky Hall, James Wilson, Larry Budd, Jeremy Gartland, Nick Babb, Matt Banks, Glenn Pinder and Steve Warren. And that is just on air, there’s loads more from behind the scenes.

And if were wondering, this was the first song I played 20 years ago.

Listen: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Black Star Dancing

This morning, I received this new single from Noel from 3 different PRs/pluggers, which is very unusual.

I think it’s far to say that this isn’t the best thing that Noel has ever released but it continues his pursuit of different sounds following his last album, which I have to say wasn’t an instant hit for me but has grown into one of my favourite albums that revisit plenty of times.

On the press release, in typical Noel fashion, he says “It manages to combine the influences of David Bowie, INXS, U2, Queen, Indeep AND ZZ Top FFS!,” “I might have been watching too much Top Of The Pops recently … anyway, it’s ‘dope’ … not my words, but the words of Nile Rodgers who literally danced in the studio when he heard it!”

This is the first, and title track, from a new EP, which features new songs ‘Rattling Rose’ and ‘Sail On’, alongside a 12″ mix of Black Star Dancing plus a remix by The Reflex.

Oh and by the way, I like it!

Listen: Black Keys – Lo/Hi

The simple fact about today is that the world is a slightly better place. Why? Because the Black Keys have released some new music and it’s rather good! To me it sounds like a continuation of the material from their El Camino album. Hopefully this means that a new album is on the way.

Watch: Mary Queen of Scots

We took our first visit to the cinema of 2019 at the weekend to see one of the big releases of the week, Mary Queen of Scots which stars Margot Robbie is Elizabeth I, while Mary Stuart is portrayed by Saoirse Ronan. We went to one of those Everyman cinemas, which I’ll come back later.

Lets look at the good bits first. The film is beautifully shot, the scenery is breathtaking, and both female leads are brilliant, with Margot, for me, shading it as giving the better performance. Don’t get me wrong Saoirse is good, very good, but there’s something about Margot’s performance that stuck with me. The film has received three nominations at this years BAFTAs, Best Supporting Actress (Robbie), Best Costume Design, and Best Makeup & Hair.

Now, I most confess that I aren’t much of a history buff so I’m not sure how much ‘artistic license’ is involved in the telling of this story. The screenplay was written by Beau Willimon, who helped develop the Netflix version of House of Cards, and was one of the reasons that I wanted to see the movie. However I know that scene near the end of the movie where the two meet didn’t happen. Sadly, it doesn’t add anything to the story and actually really outstays it’s welcome.

That’s leads me on to the negative stuff. Some of the supporting cast let’s the side down. James McArdle as the Earl of Moray, Mary’s brother. He looks like someone who was last seen in a Adam and the Ants video in the eighties. And then there’s David Tennant as John Knox, a Protestant cleric. He looks like Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid in the Harry Potter movies. And sadly his act was basically a 1500’s Twitter troll, stirring people up with lies.

I’ll be honest, Mrs Bewes seemed to get more from the film than I did and I very much doubt I would revisit it in the future. Which neatly leads to the Everyman cinema. I’d been before, but it was the first time for Mrs Bewes. I find it very odd that you go to see a film and order a full meal to eat while you are watching it. You do one then do the other, never should the two meet. It’s just wrong! And it costs about £3 or £4 more to see a film. Just to sit on a sofa, which wasn’t that comfy if I’m being honest! I don’t think we will be back anytime soon.

Watch: You (Netflix)

A couple of weeks ago, in the lull between Christmas & New Year we sat on the sofa and binge-watched the new series from Netflix ‘You’. If you haven’t seen it, you need to.

You follows the story of student Guinevere (nicknamed Beck), who meets Joe in the New York bookstore he works in and he becomes obsessed with her. And I mean OBSESSED. Not only does he use social media to find out more about her, he follows her home – where apparently she can’t afford curtains, so he sees EVERYTHING! Oh and then he breaks in to her apartment and steals stuff, he follows her when she meets her friends and

There are more than enough twists and turns in the series to keep you hooked for the duration of the ten episodes. And it’s main stars Penn Badgley (formerly Dan in Gossip Girl) as Joe and newcomer to me Elizabeth Lail as Beck are also both superb throughout the show.

Is it creepy? Yes. Is it wrong that you sometimes feel sorry for the person who is so obviously very disturbed? Yes. Is it a great series to watch in one sitting? Hell Yes.

Bring on series 2!

Watch: Friendly Fires – Heaven Let Me In

I’m so pleased Friendly Fires are back producing new music. They disappeared from the face of the Earth a few years ago. Their second album was released in 2011 and there wasn’t any new music from the band until the summer of this year with the anthem Love Like Waves. Now, they have teamed up with the brilliant Disclosure for this new track that sounds so fresh. A month after releasing the track, the video is now here! A new album is in the works apparently. About time too!

Listen: Rival Sons – Do Your Worst

There are several bands around at the moment who are young in years but have a sound that comes from way before they were born. Greta Van Fleet and DeWolff being prime examples. Another are Rival Sons. They have been around a bit longer the the other two, but still sound like they are from the 1970s classic rock era. Their sixth album is due in the new year, and it was apparently recorded in RCA Studio A in Nashville, and at the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama. In the meantime, the band have released a new video, and it only adds to their canon of brilliant tunes. Vocalist Jay Buchanan and Scott Holiday on guitar once again shine, but the whole band are on form. I love it.

I saw the band live a few years ago and they are brilliant. Looking forward to hearing the new material.

Watch: Wicked Strife

I’m not one for heading to the theatre on a regular basis to see plays or musicals. I’m more a comedy show kind of person, which for those who know me, that won’t come as much of a surprise. However, stand by your beds. This weekend I’ve been to the theatre twice! The plays couldn’t be more different however.

On Friday night as a birthday surprise for my other half, we visited the Leeds Grand Theatre to see Wicked – acclaimed as “the ultimate Broadway experience for theatre audiences all over the UK” (Northern Echo) so says the Grand website. Another thing that won’t come as a surprise to those that know me, I’m not a fan of musicals! Whether that screen or on stage! Musicals have just never been to my taste. However, when you see something this good, you can’t be anything but impressed.

From the staging, to the dancers (obviously I’m an expert, not) to the amazing voices of the cast, this stage show is very good. Especially the two leads. Helen Woolf as Glinda and Amy Ross as Elphaba were outstanding performers. Ross in particular is amazing in the finale of Act 1.

I knew nothing about the story beforehand other than it’s something to do with the Wizard of Oz, so I was surprised at how funny it was. Woolf delivering some very funny lines in particular, as does Kim Ismay as Madame Morrible. The Wizard is played by Steven Pinder, who, for me, will always be Max Farnham in Brookside.

Many positives from the show, but also a few negatives. The seats for one. Rather narrow, and not very comfortable. I know many theatres are grand old buildings, and you can’t do much within the structures, but sat on the balcony at the Grand wasn’t a comfortable experience. Especially when you compare these seats with what you get at the cinema nowadays.

Speaking of uncomfortable seats. On Saturday night, we took ourselves off for another but completely different night at the theatre. This time to Bradford Playhouse @Studio for Strife in a Northern Town. The seats in the @Studio are basic and basically bum numbing! Thankfully the performance tonight wasn’t that long!

The play is described as ‘a high-energy thrill ride with quick switches, laughter, mayhem and maybe even a tear or two, too’. And it certainly was high energy. Just two actors, Tracy Gabbitas and Jennifer Banks play the multiple characters, including Donna and Tracey who work at the local supermarket. And it’s these two that greet us when we walk in to the tiny @Studio. One sat on the floor, one stood up, giving the audience funny looks as we walk in, sit down, clean glasses, get sweets out. And you can imagine, how in this intimate surroundings, the late comers get particular strange looks from the pair!

As the play progresses, with each character change, from the supermarket girls to receptionists Pepsi and Lulu and so on, the actors change wigs and props, moving chairs and tables to create the setting for each section. As I said earlier, you couldn’t get much different from Friday night’s grandiose to this simplicity. For me some characters are more welcome than others. I wasn’t a particular fan of Kay who has a dog phobia and an allergy to cheese and was very annoying! Sadly, she is one of the more frequent characters in the play and kept reappearing!

The Playhouse itself is an interesting building. Having looked at it’s history, it’s always seemed to struggle to stay open. It certainly is a poor relation to the other theatres in Bradford, The Alhambra & St Georges Hall, the latter being closed at the moment for renovation, which is something that wouldn’t go amiss at the Playhouse.

Strife had it’s funny moments but of the two, Wicked wins hands down. And it’s a musical! I don’t like musicals!