High Fives 2020 (01) Neil Sheasby

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Our first High Five of 2020 comes from Neil Sheasby songwriter and bass player with Stone Foundation. It’s become a bit of a ritual now and this is Neil’s seventh consecutive contribution to this end of year celebration – and it’s always the first one to hit the inbox. Lockdown and Lockdown Lite have caused major problems for Stone Foundation; they’re a working live band and virtually everything apart from a weekend of socially-distanced gigs in the Midlands has been cancelled/postponed. The band has pushed on with the release of its 2020 Top 40 album “Is Love Enough?” and they’re now working on the next one, proving that this year doesn’t have to be defined by the negatives. Anyway, over to Neil:

2020 – A new decade, boundless opportunity, a fresh optimism prevailed. Even its digits seemed to herald in some futuristic promise of a new dawn. Wipe the slate clean of social media tribalism & recent divides over the political warfare of nationalism, Brexit and the lack of a clear, forward, progressive vision. 

2020 – The turning of a new page. Positive thinking. A restoration of respect. And then…

Do I need to go on? Rip it up & start again. It’s good to try and dig out a few simple pleasures here once again for the annual High Fives feature…

1) I’ll begin in the obvious place. Music. This year’s soundtrack. Thankfully music always has the ability to inspire and lift you; in the most testing of times, especially so. The real surprise package of the year came courtesy of the most unlikely of sources, an album called “Pleasure, Joy and Happiness” by Eddie Chacon.

Previously a name unknown to me (at least that’s what I presumed), I’d chanced upon this record whilst navigating my way around Spotify and it just immediately drew me in. It’s sparse, direct and soulful. Of course I naturally assumed it was a new artist, that’s the problem with platforms such as Spotify, you don’t get that much info about a release but I’ve never been shy of doing a bit of homework and it came as a great revelation that Eddie Chacon turned out to be Eddie as in one half of naff 90’s chart toppers Charles & Eddie who had a global smash with “Would I Lie to You” in 1992.

Eddie had abandoned the music industry in the intervening years and this was his humble return after 30 plus years away. I think his story made me love the album even more…

2) Due to the circumstances I’ve had even more time to read and have really enjoyed books such as “Yeah Yeah Yeah” – Bob Stanley’s epic journey through the story of modern pop music, I thought Pete Paphides’ book was a glorious reflection, Chris Frantz’s “Remain in Light” I enjoyed even if it veered off the beaten track factually somewhat, and more recently I tackled John Cooper Clarke’s biography which possibly gets my vote for book of the year (musically related at least) 

 

 

3) TV highlight – “The Queen’s Gambit”

What a refreshing series! Beautifully cast and filmed, stylish down to a tee. Great story, great script. Wonderful acting and even managed to make Chess seem hip. 

Highly recommended if you haven’t seen it.

 

 

4) An indulgence on my part I know but this was a major highlight in an otherwise uneventful 2020…the rise and return to top flight football of my beloved Leeds United. Obviously it had been a long time coming (16 years to be precise) and it took an Argentinian bespectacled genius who perches on a bucket to enable a path back to glory. 

It’s been a revelation watching football again under Bielsa and reignited my love for the game. I’m so happy for my kids too, they never wavered in their support for Leeds but I’m sure there were times when they must have thought “why do we support this lot Dad?” 

Hopefully Leeds Utd can remain in the top flight of English football now and continue the ascent. Promotion to the Prem was a big moment in our house. I really can’t wait for the Trans-Pennine skirmishes with Man Utd again. 

 

5) Recording. Although our touring schedule has been decimated it has meant more time and opportunity to create & write. Our last album “Is Love Enough?” was actually completed quite some time ago so since then we’ve been chipping away at writing the next one. Lockdown just probably accelerated the process so we have been able to begin the recording of what may well become another Stone Foundation record, it’s been good to fill the void with creativity and keep the wheels in motion in that respect.

Obviously we all sincerely hope that there’s a way back to gigging as we have always known it without compromise or restrictions, it’s important we don’t get sold down the river under the guise of a “new normal”, we are all social animals and we need that communal connection. 

It’s what SF events thrive upon. 

My son Lowell (who’s 17 now) is studying music production at college and he’s been working on his own music through lockdown so I’ve been helping out and collaborating on that too which for me has been like starting out again as a teenager, learning new & different ways to create and record, all done in his bedroom too. The spirit prevails and the baton gets passed on…I like that.