Keith Ames

Writer and lyricist

Category: News & events (page 1 of 44)

Out and about

Early on Thursday evening I drove over from the MU HQ in Oval to meet long-term friend and producer James Reynolds at the Duke on the Green, in the New King’s Road. After a delicious cod and chips we walked over the Green to his studio, where we spent an enjoyable hour listening to new recordings by a number of rising artists.

The following morning I met up with David Cohen, Communications and PR Manager for PPL, at Hideaway coffee house in Smith’s Court, Soho. We discussed the latest work in communications by our respective music industry organisations.

I then had some time before my appointment with producer Greg Fitzgerald for lunch at The Booking Office, St Pancras.  So I walked through Soho and into Fitzrovia, an area where I lived from the autumn of 1977 through to the spring of 1978.  I took a special look around Fitzroy Square where I had been a resident at the hostel Toc H at No.15 on the north side.  (I recall being told at the time that No. 29 was the home of George Bernard Shaw from 1887 until 1898 and home for Virginia Woolf from 1907 to 1911).

I then continued my walk along Euston Road where I unexpectedly came across an RMT demo.  The rail union was holding a protest to mark three years since the start of industrial action over driver-only operation on Southern Rail.  The RMT continues to campaign against the changes, which made drivers responsible for the opening and closing of train doors, with guards taking on the role of on-board supervisor.  The ASLEF union, which represents drivers, joined the RMT in taking industrial action but eventually accepted a deal from Southern operator Govia Thameslink.

The demo was taking place outside Govia’s London headquarters and as I passed a series of speeches was underway.  I was then recognised by a TUC colleague and asked if I would like to say a few words.  An opportunity I rarely turn down!  I followed Len McCluskey, the leader of Unite, and a stirring speech by an activist on how the changes were impacting upon the rights of disabled passengers.  I was introduced,  took the microphone, and spoke about how musicians were often travelling at night, returning from gig venues and theatres carrying expensive instruments, and how security for both themselves and their kit remains a key issue.  I then wished everyone well, stated my personal solidarity with their stance, and walked towards St Pancras.

I met Greg at the bar/restaurant and we passed a very pleasant hour planning the recording sessions for my new songs in the summer at his Canterbury studio.

I then walked back through the streets south of St Pancras, via Russell Square and Holborn, towards the heart of the West End.  I always enjoy a stroll along Denmark St – London’s ‘Tin Pan’ Alley – and dropped into a number of the shops.

At the end of the street I went down the steps into the basement of Chris Bryant’s shop on the corner of Charing Cross Road, where a visitor was trying out a banjo.  I had an interesting conversation with him about the history of the instrument and how it had its roots in Mesopotamia.  (There will be a feature on this in a future issue of The Musician this year). 

My final stop was at Macari’s, in Charing Cross Road, where I tried out a superb Gibson 339 in sunset burst finish.  I told the assistant the story of how Diz Disley had sold a guitar for £20 to Vic Flick on the street outside the shop in the early 1960s, an instrument which can be heard playing – to my mind – the most famous guitar riff of all time, the James Bond theme as recorded by the John Barry Seven.  I believe the guitar was a Clifford Essex Paragon De Luxe and is – or certainly was until recently – an exhibit at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, USA.

(Monty Norman was contracted to compose the first Bond film, Dr. No.  Three weeks before the film release date, the main theme of James Bond remained uncompleted.  Film producer, Cubby Broccoli, contacted Barry and commissioned him to complete a suitable final score.  With the aid of Flick’s skilled guitar playing, they finished the score in time, and the piece has become movie history).

My final assignation for this 24 hour period was to be with my best man Ian McConnell at the Slug & Lettuce in Croydon and so I caught a train to East Croydon from Victoria.  (We were originally introduced to each other in 1983 over a drink in The Globe, Moorgate, by Ian’s girlfriend at the time, Fiona Campbell).  A few gins and beers later as we made plans for our trip to Lisbon in May with Jonathan Stewart and Oli Morris, we parted and I took the tram back to Beckenham Junction.  It had been an entertaining day.

Go karting Sunday

I was kindly given a present for my 60th by my work colleagues at the MU of 50 laps for a friend and myself at the multi-level 400m Go-Kart Track in Mitcham, south London, and so Mark Batchelor and I drove over to the site early this morning. We joined the group of 6 other drivers for the pre-race briefing, before putting on the driving suit, helmet and gloves, and heading out on the track in the superb petrol-engine karts.

It took a few laps to settle into the environment, the feel of the vehicles and how to handle the tight corners, but it was not long before we were throwing ourselves around and on occasion overtaking our race rivals. I am happy to report I did not crash the kart at any stage (unlike some others) and although neither Mark nor I finished winners, we enjoyed the drive and would recommend the experience to all-comers.  We returned to Beckenham High Street and a fine lunch at Em’s, opposite St George’s Church.  More good news arrived from Petts Wood FC, as Ben’s team The Warren had notched up another victory, winning by the impressive margin of 5-1.  It’s been some weekend, what with Bournemouth also winning 5-0 at Brighton yesterday!

Record Store Day

I was kindly asked this afternoon for my contribution to UK Music’s page marking Record Store Day, set to take place across the UK tomorrow, and to recall either my first record purchase or my memories of record stores in days gone by.  I jumped at the chance!  You can read my words here on the UK Music site.

Drake Yolanda Award

I could be found tonight at the excellent Under the Bridge venue, Stamford Bridge, Chelsea, for the inaugural Drake Yolanda Award event. A very enjoyable evening, which benefited from live performances by the 10 winners of the 2019 prize who were selected from over 200 entries by a panel of industry judges including Gareth Malone OBE, Roisin O’Connor, X Factor winner Matt Cardle, Ben Earle from UK country band The Shires and chair Yolanda Brown.  A total sum of £30,000 was awarded to the emerging artists from across music a range of genres including hip hop, funk, folk, rock, country and jazz, with each of the worthy winners receiving £3,000 each.  Great to meet on the night Karolina Wielocha, photographer; MU member and cover star from a recent issue of The Musician, Cherise Adams-Burnett; plus The Worry Dolls and dynamic host, Yolanda.

Ivors Academy

The Ivors Academy was launched this week, following the renaming and rebranding of BASCA, the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.  The launch event took place at The Ministry of Sound in London SE1 this evening and attracted many well-known faces from across the industry.  I attended on behalf of the MU and caught up with Peter Leathem (PPL CEO), Paul Scaife (Record of the Day), plus songwriters Anna Neale and Jona Lewie amongst many others.

The Ivors Academy aims to support, protect and celebrate music creators in the UK.  It is the independent professional association representing songwriters and composers in all genres, whether they create song, symphony or syncs.  The Academy can trace its history back over 70 years and as champions of music creators, has three main activities – campaigning, cultivating and celebrating.

Songwriter and Chair of The Ivors Academy, Crispin Hunt said, ‘The future needs a powerful collective voice for music writers.  The Ivors Academy of Music Creators is the future-facing, fit-for-purpose evolution of BASCA’s great legacy.  Our mission is to innovate, inspire, inform, empower and celebrate musical creativity: connecting a global membership towards a flourishing musical future for every genre and every future genre.’

As the event drew to a close, I left with Sybil Bell and Chloe ‘Colin’ Ward of Independent Venue Week, and we set off towards London Bridge.  We immediately run into sax ace Dave O’Higgins and bassist Jonny Gee outside and its was great to hear about their latest projects.  Sybil, Chloe and I moved onto Chutney Jane in Borough High Street where we enjoyed a welcome curry and shared a series of highly-entertaining music-related stories from down the years.


The Strad magazine in partnership with John & Arthur Beare Violins hosted the first ever StradFest at the Royal Institution, Albemarle St, Mayfair today.  The event consisted of a series of workshops, presentations, seminars and exhibition stands across two floors, with the MU stand positioned outside the entrance to the main theatre.

Several hundred enthusiastic delegates were in attendance, who joined representatives from British and overseas violin companies in making for a focused inaugural show.  The seminars included: ‘The power of stage presence’; ‘What record companies are looking for’; ‘Joining an orchestra’; ‘Creating a digital portfolio’; ‘The importance of social media’; and ‘How to get the best from your instrument.’

I joined Tara Persaud (Chair), Segun Akinola, Charlotte Gardner, Radio 3’s Brian Jackson, and Kathleen Ross in ‘Alternative careers for musicians’ in the Library.  My thanks go to musician/MU fixer Kathleen for recommending that prospective professionals speak to me for informed advice about careers in the industry.

I was delighted to meet GB Olympian Marcus Adam during lunch.  Marcus represented Britain at three Olympics, both as a sprinter and as part of our bobsleigh team.

Stradfest climaxed with a performance of works by Mozart, Rautavaara and Ravel by Anne Akiko Meyers and pianist Gordon Back, featuring the Vieuxtemps Guarneri violin. This amazing instrument is in pristine condition, crack free, and has never been repaired or patched. The instrument, crafted by renowned Italian artisan Guiseppe Guarneri in 1741, has been used by Yehudi Menuhin, Itzhak Perlman, and Pinchas Zukerman. The Vieuxtemps’ current anonymous owner, who purchased the violin in 2012 for a figure approaching $20 million, has provided lifetime use to Anne, one of the world’s top-selling classical performers.

My thanks to event organisers Kirsten Lloyd and Riza Jones for the invitation to be involved.  After the event drew to a close, I crossed the road to Isabel’s and enjoyed a fine dinner before making my way home via Charing Cross.

BBC Introducing Live

It has been a busy but compelling three days at Tobacco Dock in east London representing the MU at ‘BBC Introducing Live.’  The event – now in its second year following its launch in 2017 as ‘Amplify’ – is hosted and administered by Get On Music Media, who I understand have licensed the BBC name for up to five years.  The show was a marked step-up from the inaugural show and the historic venue proved ideal for the numerous scheduled seminars, workshops and performances.

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Variety is the Spice

I began an interesting working day at the MU’s HQ in Clapham Road, alongside my colleague Maddy Radcliff, presenting to the Union’s Executive Committee video snapshots of the PR coverage we had secured in partnership with our agency Kindred in the last 24 hours.  These included excerpts from Sky News and Channel 5 featuring composer David Arnold and General Secretary Horace Trubridge.

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Music in education

In partnership with the team at PR agency Kindred, the MU launched a campaign today to bring attention to the decline in music tuition in recent years, especially for those families on lower incomes who cannot afford private tuition.

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Martyn Joseph

I drove down to St Edith’s Hall in Kemsing near Sevenoaks this evening at the invitation of the superb singer/writer/guitarist Martin Joseph as he kicked-off his 33 date tour of the UK.  I had arranged for photographer Jonathan Stewart to be on hand too, so that we could capture shots for use in future MU comms and to share with Martyn.

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