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Being 747: A Flight of Fancy?
Jim Johnson

After 74 years in existence the Melody Maker has closed: for so long it stood as the respected champion of independent guitar music. Select magazine has also been shut down. Once relevant and vital during the Britpop years but since then its readership has dwindled and gone elsewhere. Is this a sign that British guitar music is dying? Leaving us yearning for a not so distant past when people like Shaun Ryder, Ian Brown and Jarvis Cocker wrote songs and lyrics that moved a whole generation. Personally I love a lot of the house music, rap and R&B which - aside from manufactured pop aimed primarily at kids - now makes up a large proportion of the charts. But decent British guitar music seems to have dried up, becoming about as fashionable as going to church on Sunday. In which case, is there any room for another singer-songwriter solo artist? Does anyone care about people who can play instruments and write their own songs anymore? Being 747 thinks they do.

Being 747 is the project of ex-Landspeed Lounger Dave Cooke. Landspeed who? You might be forgiven for asking. But listeners to Steve Lamacq’s Evening Session, NME readers and regular gig goers; especially those in the Leeds area, will recognise the name. A gig reviewer for the NME once said that the Loungers might just be the band we’ve all been waiting for. Just last week their song ‘Paul’ was requested on Radio One, accompanied by a query as to the whereabouts of the band. Well they’re still going, but without their frontman Dave, who decided to call it a day.

“I basically left because I wanted to try something else, and have a new challenge. When you’re in a band, and making a serious go of it, the breaks come and go. One minute you can be thinking - This is it! We’re really going somewhere, and then a month later the interest has disappeared and everything becomes hard work again. We had five years of that, and I thought – right, it’s time to try something else. I had done a couple of acoustic gigs that year and really enjoyed them so I thought I’d set up an Internet site and put music on it. And then when I need to do a gig I’ll do it; just me and an acoustic guitar. Far more mature than jumping up and down on stage singing ‘Sweet like coriander’! I’ve been trying out lots of different things, recording onto a digital portastudio (Roland VS 840), with a drum machine (Alesis SR16). I wanted to record a real mix of different styles, with lo-fi dancey stuff and pure acoustic Neil Young, Nick Drake sort of stuff. I want to do some collaborations now and involve more people. I don’t really enjoy programming drum machines, but I’ve learnt a lot over the past year about the recording process”.

Check out the Being 747 website and you can listen to some of his songs. You’ll notice that his lyrics are important, part of what makes the songs interesting. They stand out because a majority of pop music at the moment doesn’t set out with the intention to impress us with clever lyrical content. “The abundance of banal lyrics only means that writers like me have the edge and will eventually conquer. The public are crying out for good lyrics, and when a song comes along with good lyrics it usually does well on the radio, with plenty of requests. There were some pretty good rap lyrics last year.”

Eminem you mean? But should we applaud a man who resorts to homophobia and misogyny to sell records?

“He still writes interesting lyrics, he’s just got some pretty un-pc views, but they’re probably not his own. He might well be writing from the point of view of some unsavory character that he’s met or invented, or just looking for notoriety. If pop music was always pc the there’d be less to write about!”
Eminem and his various alter egos have certainly caused a bit of a stir. The Marshall Mathers LP, however brilliant it may be, is not a comfortable record to listen to. He seems to take a great delight in his ability to shock. You feel that you shouldn’t really approve of what he’s doing, but it’s so refreshing to hear music that provokes a response. Negative or positive, everyone has an opinion when it comes to Eminem.

Are there other artists out there that interest Being 747? “They’re mostly American, like Elliot Smith, Grandaddy, Beastie Boys. One of my favourite bands is The Scaramanga Six, who are a local band still to break though to collective consciousness despite a cracking debut album ‘The liar the bitch and her wardrobe’. Their problem is that they don’t fit the current Radiohead/Verve mould that the majority of A&R are looking for. I’ve seen them perform a blinding gig to a room full of music industry people and you could see them enjoying it but thinking “I like it, but I wouldn’t know how to sell it!” None of them have got the money or job security to put their faith in what they like, and so they end up signing stuff that sounds like bands who are currently successful. I’m beginning to ramble now, but you know the worst thing is that bands then try to become that thing that the record companies are looking for, and you get into a spiral of mediocrity. Having said all that, I thought that the Badly Drawn Boy album was fantastic, and there has been some interesting rap and moogy dance stuff recently. Coldplay’s all very nice, but what does it mean?”

If lyrics are so important to you, how do you go about composing your own songs? “I used to work on the tune first and then write the lyrics. I now do them both simultaneously, and have what I want to say in my head and strum the guitar until I’ve got something that I’m happy with. It helps if you can get everything written when the inspiration hits you, because to go back and write from exactly where you were coming from is difficult. Sometimes I end up with holes in songs that can take me years to fill. I came back to ‘Born to Travel’ a year and a half after writing the first verse, and then being sidetracked.”

Was that song based on anyone in particular? “Yeah Steve! [Dave’s brother] No not really, only joking! I wrote the first half of it before Steve went away, shortly after listening to one of Steve’s friends chat up girls by presenting himself as the well travelled one. He had such stories of high drama that it became difficult to compete. I thought – right, all these ex-students who bugger off to India and Thailand “and act like Hemingway”, are all going into a sarky song, that’ll show ‘em, but really I’m just jealous.”

Former Factory boss Tony Wilson has a much-quoted theory about pop music. He maintains that there is a regular cycle that throws up a new exciting movement every 13 years. This is based on the idea that kids grow up listening to happy poppy tunes then when they reach a certain age they will want something different. The last cycle delivered in 1989, when the Mondays and Roses changed our lives and dance music started to take a hold of the nation. So on this basis, 2002 should unleash the next wave. Could we be seeing a return to guitar based rock? Is it starting to happen already? Look at Limp Bizkit’s rise to fame. And then there is imminent return of Radiohead and Oasis to look forward to.

“Guitar bands just haven’t been cool or sexy, and what sells is sex and style.” Dave points out. But maybe that’s about to change and if it does the record companies will be following close behind any such developments. In which case, Being 747 could well be clear for take-off.

Further Information

For MP3 downloads and general information about Being 747 go to

Being 747 plans to release in the near future an EP of his best material so far. He’ll also be doing some gigs to promote the CD, check the website for details.

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