This piece came out in The Independent last summer but, given that it’s the start of July, it bears re-visiting. Lovely recollections of summer childhood soundtracks, as doubtless originally experienced whilst stuck to hot vinyl seats in the back of dun coloured cars.
Ease of air travel over the last half century or so has obviously had a pretty major impact on the kind of careers that musicians enjoy. In April 1949 the first commercial jet airliner, de Havilland’s Comet 1, made its maiden flight and three years later Boeing’s B-52, the first airline capable of a global reach, took to the sky. Over time developments such as these facilitated global tours and allowed ever more musicians to enjoy success and fame in multiple countries. But although flight has been crucial in binding together an international musical economy the skies have not been a place for musical performance. Until now, with Richard Branson’s announcing last week that musicians will be giving concerts on certain flights run by Little Red, Virgin Atlantic’s new domestic airline.
Naturally, musicians performing on modes of transport is nothing new, with ships being the most obvious historic location for them. Indeed, the trans-Atlantic liners provided the first major career break for artists such as the British jazz saxophonists, John Dankworth and Ronnie Scott, and cruise companies still hire considerable numbers of musicians to perform on the ships, whilst cult artists such as Weezer and Bare Naked Ladies have recently begun undertaking residencies on ships.
The same idea has also been applied to trains. Last year, Mumford and Sons and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros undertook their Railroad Revival Tour in the US. http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/big-easy-express-captures-mumford-sons-edward-sharpe-on-railroad-revival-tour-20120625 Whilst in September 2011, scheduled train services on the London Overground became part of a music festival, ‘Sound Tracks’. The intention was to encourage people to hear music at 3 different venues besides stations along the new line, and on the trains themselves, all part of a strategy of informally branding the then new route joining East and South East London as the ‘Culture line’. http://www.soundtracksfestival.co.uk/
Given that the musicians on a train experiment has not been repeated one has to wonder at its success. A disadvantage of Overground trains in this instance is that there are no doors between carriages and hence no possibility of escape if you don’t like the music. A feeling of entrapment likely to be compounded still further when sat in an aeroplane cabin 30,000 feet above the ground and a bass solo begins…