My biggest guitar influences: Brian May

Brian May was the second guitarist along with Alex Lifeson that were my first discoveries.

And there is no one who sounds quite like Brian May. Is it the fact that his signature red special guitar was originally built from scratch by his Father, or the six pince he used as a pick, or the AC30 stack? Undeniably these all contributed to his sound, but I think it’s in his fingers more than anything else.

And besides the soaring quality of May’s soloing, it’s his ear for melody which really blows me away. His partnership with the one and only Freddie Mercury is definitive, and May’s guitar passages were a perfect answer to Mercury’s theatrical and anthemic writing and vocal performance.

There is an extraordinary amount of sophisticated and melodic writing in Queen’s music and you just don’t see that level of writing anymore, at least in the mainstream.

My top Brian May tracks

Brighton Rock

Now I’m here

Bohemian Rhapsody

Don’t stop me now

Hammer to Fall

A kind of Magic

The Miracle

I want it all

Innuendo

These are the days of our lives

My biggest guitar influences: Alex Lifeson

When I started playing guitar, I started really getting into listening to music heavily as well. This was at the turn of the millennium when MP3 players and IPods didn’t quite exist yet, so I had one of those cheap portable CD players.

My mum is a huge Rush fan, she grew up during the 70s and 80s listening to the early fantasy orientated albums, such as A Farewell to Kings and Hemispheres.

She used the CD player as an opportunity to revisit the band and the first we played was Presto.

Now this album is considered one of their weakest in songwriting and production but the impact it had on me back then makes me love the record. The Pass is undeniably one of their best works.

Neil Peart and Geddy Lee get a lot of plaudits in the bass guitar world and understandably so, and some see Alex Lifeson has perhaps overshadowed by that and the 80s synths but I definitely don’t see it that way. His playing, writing and tone makes him an indispensable part of the trio and an enormously influential player in the guitar world in general.

He pioneered open chord voicings, super ambitious in his writing and versatile in his stylistic choices. There is technically astounding work in the catalogue but there’s also wonderfully tasteful music. His live tone from the noughties onwards was utterly sensational and I’ll never forget the first time seeing the band live, when he opened with ‘Limelight’. It shook me to my core.

As far as writing a series goes, I had to start with Lifeson, his playing is very much in my DNA and I’ve no problem with that. I also greatly admire him as a person, his outlandish humour, and the graceful, thoughtful way he handles himself in interviews.

I look forward to sharing more of my top guitarists with you over the coming days.

My top Alex Lifeson guitar tracks:

Xanadu

La Villa Strangiato

Freewill

YYZ

Limelight

Analog Kid

Between the Wheels

Middletown Dreams

The Pass

Caravan

Lifting up or putting down

Every single thing you say, every interaction you have with everyone around you has the potential to have this impact.

And we all want to feel the former.

Nothing drags like an interaction with someone who conducts their interaction with you in a way that is condescending or aloof, it’s a lot of the time, completely unnecessary.

How many people work with a boss or manager, and just because they’ve got that title, think they can use that status as a means to put themselves on a pedestal by looking down on those who work for them?

What we say has huge ripples in the atmosphere of our environments and those who have a atmosphere that handles mistakes, failure and accountability in a way that is considered and empathetic, balanced with celebrating success, acknowledging good work and displaying gratitude are much more likely to want to stick around.

Otherwise, you have people leave or showing up miserable because they can’t leave.

We can nurture the environments we are part of. What do you want to bring to everyone each day?

Speaking truth to power

The 60s era fascinated me. I never lived through it but I live and breathe the music and adore the history.

And amongst all the chaos, evolution and cultural shifts of that decade, one of the things that fascinates me through to the 70s is how musicians drove the culture, and you need look no further than their response to the Vietnam War.

What’s going on?

Artists such as Marvin Gaye were willing to speak truth to power and that’s what made their music great.

I wonder where that kind of voice is in music these days, it’s practically non existent in the mainstream.

One area of society where it seems to have started happening is football and the English players converting a penalty was the least important thing for them to have achieved as far as dignity and victories in the wider world are concerned.

Rashford fought the government to feed children in poverty and succeeded.

Henderson raised funds for the NHS.

Sterling was a scapegoat for a toxic and amoral media and rose above.

And they all took the knee in opposition of racism despite the criticism. A gesture that is necessary so long as it provokes uproar from the racists or otherwise, ignorant. Spare me the empty arguments about Marxism. The economics of football say otherwise.

And the politicians predictably lapped upon England’s success in reaching a final and considered themselves entitled to that praise.

So I can’t express how satisfying it was to see Tyrone Mings burst Patel’s bubble and call her out as a hypocrite.

The abuse hurled at Rashord, Saka and Sancho was completely unacceptable but they’ve risen above.

But our leaders have a lot to answer for. Racism needs to be tackled on headlong. In education, on social media platforms who remain woefully complicit and in a collective effort to hold people accountable.

Racism is an unfathomable, special kind of stupid and those who use it to look down on others ultimately loses out in failing to know that our diversity in cultures and skin colours makes our world all the more enriching.

There’s good in this world, it’s worth fighting for.

The Euro 2020 final

This is going to be a really interesting one.

Italy are unbeaten in 30 plus games. Their central defenders are veterans that still possess a relentless and pure desire for success. Their midfield and attack have also been super impressive and they have a tactical master in their manager Mancini. They also sway the ref with their operatics.

England are at home. Southgate has built a team spirit unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a three lions squad and they have an abundance of quality all over the pitch and on the bench.

So I can honestly see it going to extra time and beyond.

And despite being Welsh, I would like to see England do well, because the if the team do win this evening, they would have deserved it. (Sue me.)

It’s worth remembering that football is a wonderful irrelevance.

I love the tactics, the battles, the stats and the passion and discussion it creates. Worth mentioning that the Tifo podcast has been tremendous.

I dislike the tribalism, false sense of superiority and some portions of fan bases driving some deluded ideal of nationalism with football. (This is not just exclusive to one country).

So booing national anthems is not just disrespectful, it’s also pathetic.

Need anything more be said about the idiot pointing a laser at Kasper Schmeichel’s eyes during the penalty.

Football as much as anything else is about mutual respect.

It’s why the England players still decide to take the knee, not because their Marxists, but because they are done with all the moronic racism that still runs amok.

I look forward to the match tonight, and whatever the outcome, both teams have done themselves proud, and I hope the positives of the game are more elevated than the negatives.

Let’s hope it’s not a super spreader event either.

Weighing up your options

Surprising opportunities come our way sometimes.

You may get noticed for who you are, what you do and what skills you offer.

You may get asked to come on board with something that could have a hugely life altering impact, financially or personally.

When these options come to the table, it really is a good idea to give yourself a window, be it 24 hours or however long you need to think through the consequences of saying yes or no to an opportunity.

Weighing up your options, and creating a table of clear pros and cons can help you steer towards the decision that is ultimately right for you.

Team spirit

Great leadership turns everyone into someone who believes in what they do.

Leadership is about making key decisions, but knowing you don’t make those decisions exclusively, you listen to those around you, you rely on the expertise of others, you allow your notions to be challenged before considering your choices moving forward.

Leadership is inclusive and when everyone is working towards the same collective goal, with the same approach, conviction and selflessness, kindness, generosity. Great leadership doesn’t allow for ego to get in the way.

Great leadership fosters a positive team spirit. Tangible systems are put in place to create intangible feelings, such as confidence.

Everyone, everywhere benefits from having a team that can work in a manner that elevates everyone.

And we can all do our best to try and play our part to make things better. Onwards.