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David Bruce: 250 Music Anecdotes — Education, Fame


• Steve Baker taught English and drama from 1997 to 2002 to Alex Turner, who became the lead singer of the Arctic Monkeys. After Mr. Baker discovered that Alex had a band, he went to the band’s website and wrote, “Well done, lads. I always thought you’d do something creative.” Mr. Turner wrote back, beginning his message with “Hello, sir.” Mr. Baker says, “Six weeks later, Alex got voted Coolest Man on the Planet by the NME[New Musical Express, a magazine about music], so ever since, I’ve started all my training sessions with the words, ‘The coolest man on the planet calls me sir.’”

• At age 84, the jazz saxophonist and flutist James Moody was still learning, the necessity of which he had learned early in his career and life. Part of the learning comes from practice, and part comes from books and advice. About practice, he says, “People would be improvising and I’d say, ‘Boy, how did they know to do that?’ Well, they practiced it.’” About other forms of learning, he remembers, “One day when I was with the Dizzy Gillespie Quintet, I looked at Dizzy and I said, ‘Diz, I wish I would have studied music.’ He looked at me and said, ‘Moody, you ain’t dead.’”

• Conductor Pierre Monteux taught at a school for conductors, where a student conducted the prelude from Tristan and Isoldewith very little feeling. Mr. Monteux stopped the romantic music and asked the student, “Tell me, young man, were you ever on the Grand Canal in Venice, on a beautiful moonlight night, with a beautiful young lady, with a beautiful décolleté, lying in your arms?” The student replied, “No,” and Mr. Monteux said, “Too bad! Continue!”

• Enrico Caruso once took up the flute. After he had taken a few lessons, a man asked him to play into the horn of a phonograph, and he made a recording of Mr. Caruso and then played the recording for him. Mr. Caruso asked, “Is that how I sound?” The man replied, “Yes. Can I sell you the record?” Mr. Caruso replied, “No. But I’ll sell you the flute.”


• Fame can be a big negative. Courtney Love wrote the song “Teenage Whore” for her Pretty on the Insidealbum. The song contained the line “I’d give good money not to be ignored,” but she soon started singing live the line “I’d give good money just to be ignored.” Ms. Love sometimes has done things that cause her not to be ignored. Someone once said to her, “I remember you. You were on that plane ride from San Francisco to LA, and you were giving pills out to everyone with cool hair!” Ms. Love admits, “I couldn’t remember it, but I knew it was true.” She pursued Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, whom she eventually married, through the press. Whenever she did an interview, she asked if the interviewer was interviewing Nirvana the following week. If the answer was yes, she would give the interviewer a message to pass along: “Will you tell that Kurt Cobain that I have a hugecrush on him?” Of course, the interviewer would think that she was crazy — sometimes she would add, “And tell him that I’m pregnant … and my Daddy’s mad about it.”

• Flutist Donald Peck stopped by a bar, where he saw Leonard Bernstein and some of his friends. Obviously, other people had noticed him — and sent over drinks — because in front of him were 10 drinks. A friend of Mr. Peck was in Mr. Bernstein’s group and offered to introduce him to Mr. Bernstein, but after speaking to Mr. Bernstein, the friend became embarrassed and then explained to Mr. Peck that Mr. Bernstein did not want the bar patrons to know his identity and therefore he could not be introduced to him. This amused Mr. Peck, who writes, “Now, really — did he think the customers in the bar had sent those ten drinks to him as a complete stranger?”

• Scottish singer Paolo Nutini says, “It’s surprising what you find out about yourself when you become famous.” For example, when he was walking into a bar he heard a woman call his name, but he thought, “I’m not turning round.” She called his name again, but he thought, “Nope, I’m going to keep walking.” He then heard the woman say to a friend of hers, “It’s not him anyway — he’s not got that big an arse.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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