Thank you to everyone who came along to the Old Bank Of England pub on Fleet Street last night for the second of our Concept Album Talks events. It was a huge amount of fun to put together and our speakers all did a tremendous job working within the strict constraints that we set them.
The idea of the Concept Album Talks is that we pick an album and then use the track-listing from that album as a running order for a night of talks. We find people who are experts in their field and give them a song title from that album and ask them to write a talk based on that title. They’re not allowed to talk about the song, the album or the band, and the duration of their talk must match the duration of the corresponding song.
Last night we did Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys. Thirteen tracks, the longest of which is just 3mins 12secs – meaning our speakers had a real challenge to condense what they wanted to say into their allotted time, and yet somehow they all managed it:
TRACK ONE – WOULDN’T IT BE NICE (2:25)
Rhodri Marsden is a writer and musician who performs with Scritti Politti and is one quarter of London’s leading pub rock TV theme tune cover bands, Dream Themes. He regularly writes about Interesting Objects and other subjects for the Independent. He gave us an insight into the many and varied things that turn up on Twitter when you search for the phrase “Wouldn’t it be nice…”
TRACK TWO – YOU STILL BELIEVE IN ME (2:31)
Sid Rodrigues works at Conway Hall, but spent most of his life as a magician, scientist and nerd. He’s one of the founders of “Skeptics in the Pub” which meets in over 100 cities and towns around the world to talk about weird things. He spoke about the belief he has in one of his idols, Harry Houdini, and the strange beliefs that captivated the people around him.
TRACK THREE – THAT’S NOT ME (2:28)
As one of the co-creators of the Concept Album Talks, along with our very own Hamish Thompson, I decided to tackle one of the tracks and picked this one to talk about the time I (unsuccessfully) tried to change my name to my own name.
TRACK FOUR – DON’T TALK (PUT YOUR HEAD ON MY SHOULDER) (2:53)
Adam Larter is the head of Weirdos Comedy who more than live up to their name. In the past, Weirdos have performed a full-length re-enactment of the film Hook, have produced a pantomime based on the life of Colonel Sanders and this year will be trying to get the Christmas number one. Without saying a word, Adam guided us through a rendition of “Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes for 2:53.
TRACK FIVE – I’M WAITING FOR THE DAY (3:05)
Greg Stekelman is a writer and illustrator. He is the author of two books – A Year In The Life Of The Man Who Fell Asleep and London Tales. He ran us through a list of films beginning with the words “The Day…” including The Day Of The Dolphin, about a man who “unwittingly” trains a dolphin to kill the president.
TRACK SIX – LET’S GO AWAY FOR AWHILE (2:18)
Juliet Kinsman is founding editor of the Mr & Mrs Smith travel guide and has also written about travel for the Observer and the Sunday Times magazine. She talked us through the nuanced differences between “awhile” and “a while”, as well as teaching us how to speak hip. All in 2:18.
TRACK SEVEN – SLOOP JOHN B (2:58)
James Davey is Curator of Naval History at the National Maritime Museum and a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Greenwich and was recently elected to the Council of the Society for Nautical Research. He gave us a potted history of navel sloops in under three minutes.
TRACK ONE – GOD ONLY KNOWS (2:51)
The Reverend Charlotte Bradley is Chaplain and Interfaith Advisor at University College London. Despite having less than three minutes, Charlotte tackled some pretty big subjects including the the concept of time, the omniscience of god, and the implications that has on the existence of free will.
TRACK TWO – I KNOW THERE’S AN ANSWER (3:09)
Matt Parker is a stand-up mathematician and is Fellow of Public Engagement in Mathematics at Queen Mary University of London. He is one third of the team behind the Festival Of The Spoken Nerd, alongside Steve Mould and Helen Arney and is the author of Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension. He talked us through how one of the things that he loves about mathematics is that you can know that there is an answer, without necessarily having to know what that answer is.
TRACK THREE – HERE TODAY (2:54)
Dr Brenna Hassett is a Post-Doctoral Research Assisitant at the Natural History Museum and one of the founders of Trowel Blazers, which celebrates pioneering women in archaeology, palaeontology and geology. She ran us through the entire history of human evolution and how, despite the odds, we got here today.
TRACK FOUR – I JUST WASN’T MADE FOR THESE TIMES (3:12)
Lucy Inglis is a historian and novelist. She is the creator of the Georgian London blog – the largest free body of work on the eighteenth century city online and the author of the book Georgian London: Into The Streets. She talked about the difficulty of imagining a time before we all walked around with computers in our pockets.
TRACK FIVE – PET SOUNDS (2:22)
TRACK SIX – CAROLINE, NO (2:51)
Caroline Mabey has been performing comedy since 2005 and this year took her fourth hour long show, Chaos Is A Friend Of Mine, to Edinburgh. She gave us an insight to her internal monologue and how she had decided to ignore it when it said “Caroline, no! Don’t speak at the Concept Album Talks!”
The BBC arts correspondent Colin Paterson also came along and recorded a short piece about the event for the Today programme, featuring a few clips from some of the talks, as well as interviews with some of the speakers. You can hear it here, by skipping to about 1hr 41mins, we’re sandwiched in between Paddy Ashdown and Thought For The Day.
We’re already flicking through our record collections to choose the album for the next event.