By Gary P Jackson
Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, and having survived the 1980s, it’s hard not to be a fan of great music, particularly Rock and Roll. When I was a kid, and then a young adult, you kinda took great Rock and Roll for granted. You turned on the AM radio and were bombarded by non-stop kick ass music. FM was for the cats who wanted to listen to entire albums at a time, while the disc jockey chilled out with a big fat one!
Selective memory tells us there was no such thing as a bad song back in the day. [though obviously, there was] The thirst for decent new music has us remembering turning on the radio and never hearing anything bad. Today finding something an old Rock and Roller can relate to, something fresh and new, is as rare as finding a sane person at an Obama campaign rally!
Oh sure, there’s great new music being made. If you like blues, and man I love it, look no further than Austin’s Carolyn Wonderland. She may be one of the most talented all around musicians performing today, as her Judgement Day Blues and a live appearance last year on the Don Imus morning show, on Fox Business News, prove. She basically took over the show and played her heart out! She’s a favorite in the Live Music Capitol of the World [Austin] and everywhere else great blues is appreciated.
We’re also happy that Basia, who had multiple hits in the 1980s and 1990s is recording again and still has that great, smooth sound as shown in this live performance in Warsaw, Poland from 1994.
But where is the Rock we crave? When are we gonna Roll!?! I mean powerful, knock you socks off, make you wanna get off your ass and get down Rock and Roll!
Well I tell you where some of it is, it’s coming from Sidney, Austrailia, via Auckland, New Zealand. You’ve heard Gin Wigmore [born Virginia Claire Wigmore] before. It’s her voice and song [Don’t Stop] in this Lowes commercial urging customers to never stop renovating:
She also serenades James Bond in the latest Heineken commercial, a send up of the soon to be released Skyfall. Bond celebrates his 50th year on screen with Skyfall which Heineken honors by including a reconstituted Joseph Wiseman, Dr No, from the movie of the same name, the first of the series, as well as Daniel Craig, today’s Bond. Gin appears in the commercial and sings A Man Like That.
Gin Wigmore, A Man Like That:
Gin has an interesting story. The kind you might not expect. From the Max Foundation For New Zealand Women’s bio on her:
Gin Wigmore really gets it. She gets what it is to think you have it all, and lose what you loved the most. She gets what it feels like to be heartbroken, far from your family, in a self-imposed exile. The 26 year old singer-songwriter has taken her life’s ups and downs, held them up to the light, and crafted songs which speak to an almost universal experience of fear, hope, love and joy.
Gin, whose sound is something of a mash up of Neil Young, Blondie and Macy Gray, spent a reasonably carefree adolescence teaching herself the guitar and scribbling down notebooks full of lyrics. Growing up in the suburbs of Auckland, New Zealand, she raided her big sister’s wardrobe and kitted herself out in the most rock star threads she could scrounge up. Gin lived, slept, and breathed music. She knew who she wanted to be, just not yet how she wanted to sound.
When Gin’s sister returned home from London, a copy of David Gray’s White Ladder in tow, the pieces started to come together. Gin describes the experience of hearing the record: ”It was a revelation. I just suddenly saw that you could get your emotions and inner world across through your music and lyrics.”
Inspired, the then 14-year-old penned her first song, “Angelfire.” Before her 15th birthday, Gin had written an album’s worth of songs. She started playing small live gigs, landing a weekly residency at a local Auckland pub. She loved the interplay with the crowd, though she remembers being so nervous that she felt sick before every show. When she got onstage it all melted away: “I loved it – no one else I knew was playing live gigs; you got to get out of the house on a Wednesday and go try and be a big kid.”
Gin borrowed enough money to pay for only one hour at a local recording studio, so she just whacked 12 songs down, mistakes included. Everyone present was stunned by the uniqueness of her voice and the maturity of her songwriting.
Soon after this first recording session in 2002, the Wigmore family was dealt a tragic blow: Gin’s father, Peter, died of cancer. Gin stopped writing and playing altogether.
Unable to deal with her grief at home, Gin found a way to escape by joining an exchange program to Argentina. She worked teaching 3-5 year-olds at a bilingual kindergarten. Gin loved the wealth of culture and history in Argentina, “and the sexy boys!” she laughs. In the evenings Gin took tango lessons, which had a fairytale quality, taught by a courtly 75-year old gentleman, on a city street, by lamplight.
Living and working in Argentina worked its magic on Gin, and her desire to communicate through her music returned. By the time she moved back home to Auckland, she was writing songs again. “I grew up a lot in Argentina – I got an outside perspective for the first time. I had also had time to grieve, so I could finally tell my stories again.”
Back in New Zealand, Gin wrote a tribute song to her father called “Hallelujah.” Her sister, on a whim, entered Gin’s song in the US-based International Songwriting Competition. She won both the Teen and Grand Prizes. Gin was stunned, “I wanted to sum up what Dad meant in my life, to say all the things I’d never been able to say to him. I never thought anyone outside my family would hear it.”
When she heard she had won she didn’t really know what to make of it all. “I’d never won anything, from a bloody lottery ticket to a scratchy. I just took it like the post – like anything else.”
The prestigious award, judged by music industry professionals and artists Sean Combs , Bo Diddley, Tom Waits and Branford Marsalis, had chosen “Hallelujah” over 11,000 other entries, from around the world, making Gin the youngest and only unsigned Grand Prize winner in the history of the competition.
As part of the ISC prize, Gin was awarded a trip to the US, and a semester of study at one of the world’s top music institutions, Berklee College of Music, in Boston, Massachusetts.
Once again the distinctiveness of Gin’s voice and her captivating songwriting (with influences now ranging from Neil Young, David Gray and Jeff Buckley through to Edith Piaf and de la Soul) won her new friends in both the USA and UK.
In 2007 Gin relocated to Sydney, Australia where she lives near the beach with her puppy, Duke. When she’s not writing and playing, she can be found indulging in her favourite pastimes of lying on the couch with a gossip mag and a glass of red wine or partying with her mates. Gin is managed by Vicky Blood, and is the first artist signed to Island Records Australia.
When you can win over greats like Bo Diddley, Tom Waits and Branford Marsalis, you’re the real deal! While in the United States Gin spent some time in the Deep South no doubt soaking up some of that Delta soul, something Gin gives us in this great song Oh My:
Oh My really shows off Gin’s strong vocals, and her powerful presence well. If that ain’t kick ass Rock and Roll I just don’t know what is! It too, is used as a theme song. Oh My is the theme for the New Zealand comedy-drama The Almighty Johnsons. An interesting show worth checking out.
Check out Gin’s website too. Lots of great music coming from this woman.
I have to say, whoever handles the marketing for Heineken knows music, and how to put together great visuals for their commercials. The last three seasons have brought us inventive ads with great bands. One in particular is from two campaigns ago  called The Entrance which features the Danish band Asteroids Galaxy Tour. Here’s the extended version which opens with lead singer Mette Lindberg and the song Golden Age:
Before you think I’m just here promoting Heineken, I have to say, I’m definitely not. Years back, in the Bahamas, our hosts, the Nissan Motor Corporation, supplied the beer: Heineken. I almost swore off beer after that. Too much of a thing, or not enough, you decide. Credit where credit’s due though, nowadays commercials are often more entertaining and clever than movies and TV shows, and Heineken’s people have a knack for finding great talent!
Golden Age is as much Pop as Rock, but has a good sound. Their new album ‘Out Of Frequency is a little more hard core, including this song, Major a cautionary tale for those who seek power and fame. Stunning visuals, the band was filmed at Nalepa Studios Berlin, the old broadcasting house of former East Germany:
Growing up when Rock and Roll was dominated by male acts, powerful lyrics, and hard charging beats, I find it interesting that this time around it’s the women who are bringing home the goods. Not sure what to make of it. It could be like in my sport of drag racing, where all the great racers had little girls instead of little boys, thus a generation of up and coming female racing stars, or it could be like Conservative politics, where it’s the women who have all the balls and are the most powerful leaders. I Really don’t know!
I do know is this, Rock and Roll ain’t dead, you just have to look for it!
If you have a great new band that you want to share with readers, please feel free to post it below!
Music feeds the soul, and in these turbulent times, we’re starving!