Brad Spurgeon's Blog

A world of music, auto racing, travel, literature, chess, wining, dining and other crazy thoughts….

Gospel at the Highlander, a Warm Audience and Overseas Beckons

March 10, 2011

I debated with myself over the last hour if I should actually do a blog item even when I have nothing much to say. I’m against it in principle, and last night at the Highlander it was pretty much business as usual – except for two things, one of which leads to a third thing. So what the hell:

The first thing had to do with another fun performance of gospel by Haylen and band, this time joined on guitar by the Tom Waits of the Highlander and Tennessee….

The second thing was entirely personal about my own personal experience playing last night: Even though I had to wait until nearly 1 AM before I got to play – my fault as I arrived late – I was really, really happy with the reception for my performance. I mean, there were cheers, ovations, encores, all sorts of stuff. All right, everyone was flying on alcohol and whatever else they fly on by that point, and there were enough people to have that crowd power…. And I had befriended just enough people to have a fan club…. And I had noticed that big, popular well-known hits had been going over well – Hotel California, etc. – no matter how well they were sung. And I had met a Formula One fan and his girlfriend at the bar and she liked Cat Stevens…. Ergo, I decided to do “Father and Son” and then to continue on the hit path with “Space Oddity.” Both went over really well, with people singing along – as far it is possible to do with my interpretations of the songs – and then I did my own “Let Me Know.”

But those two subjects also bring me to the next subject, which is just a sudden realization that in a week and a half I will be heading of for Melbourne for the start of the Formula One season – and the beginning of my worldwide travels to the open mics and jam sessions. So that will mean that this blog will once again cease to become so Paris-centric as it has been for the last three months or so! Hallelujah!

A Day At Ferrari, the Complete Video

April 30, 2010

I’m a bit behind on my various adventures of the week. So I will try to update as quickly as possible. I wanted to put up this video of my day at Maranello, Italy, visiting the Ferrari factory. I will shortly also be putting it up on my F1 blog at the New York Times, so you can check it out there with a little story on a Ferrari tobacco sponsor controversy at the moment.

But for the moment, here it is here – also, it’s coming from my new YouTube channel, by the way – and I hope that even for people not interested in racing that it will be something of a bit of interest. In any case, I have several more musical adventures to post from the last couple of days, so stay tuned….

Wind Down at the Blarney Stone

April 19, 2010

The Formula One race ended, I wrote my race report, I went back to work figuring out how I would dodge the volcano dust and get out of China and back to Paris, and then, by 11 PM, I made it to the Blarney Stone. There was no way I would let the volcano do me out of a meal and a sing at the open mic.

So I arrived at the old Irish pub and felt like I was in Ireland, and truly, truly wished I was. Within I found some of the same spectators who had been at Bee Dees, notably a racer from Australia and the man who had told me the story about the Chinese suicide on the bridge. I also found several other people and a couple stranded, like me, because of the volcano – only they’d been here since last Thursday.

“We took an extra day,” said the downcast woman, “we were supposed to return to England last Wednesday. We would have been able to.”

Their airline paid only one night extra hotel for them.

That’s why I am getting out as fast as I can, and returning to Paris by first going to Toronto. A number of the British media people are also going back to England via the United States.

In any case, when I arrived at the Blarney Stone at 11, the first thing I did was speak to Allan Cowell, who was preparing to play. He said I could play when I wanted, just join in. Jam-like. Allan is a Scot and lives in Shanghai, and he has put out a CD of a lot of songs, and it was produced by … Paul Meredith. My friend from Oscar’s.

I will put up a little video I made of Allan, who sings in a strong voice that carries up and down the old rafters of the Blarney Stone as if in an ancient Celtic hall. This is an advantage, as there is no microphone at the Blarney Stone.

I ate a plate of cooked ham, potatoes, vegetables and a beer and then I went to join up with Allan. The first thing we played was some traditional tune. Then I jumped into “Crazy Love,” and they liked it and asked for more. So I did “I Shall Be Released” by Bob Dylan. And they liked it, and asked for more. Allan and I exchanged songs, and I threw in some traditional songs for the environment. I did “High Germany” and another.

Allan eventually left and joined a group at the bar to watch TV and the news of the volcano on the BBC. Where were we again? Shanghai?

Then the stranded couple asked me for more songs, and I went through close to a dozen for the whole night, I think, including a couple of my own. By the time I left the Blarney Stone at 1:30 AM I was fully recovered from the shock of the dread of the coming day’s travel. Let’s see how that unfolds.

Schumacher’s First TV Talks

March 12, 2010

Sorry I’m a day late on this, but I had a few technical things to work out before I could get this little snippet of video up for you. The F1 television rights rules are so strict, the contracts with the series so expensive and the images so tightly controlled as a result, that print media journalists do not have the right to use video footage from within the paddock. So whenever I get a chance at events outside the paddock, I like to take a bit of video footage.

Yesterday morning the launch of the season for the Mercedes Grand Prix team took place at a local Bahraini Mercedes showroom, so it was within bounds for video footage. As it turns out, I didn’t have my video camera at the ready and charged up when I suddenly realized I could take a little video of Michael Schumacher being interviewed for the first time during the new season.

This video doesn’t exist

I managed to slot my iPhone in between a few shoulders of the television journalists and caught a few minutes of Schumi on camera and then afterwards as he made his way over to the area for the print media conference. So I’m providing you with this uncut, unedited video footage of Schumi on his first, fresh morning of the media bombardment of the 2010 season.

The F1-Linked Musical Journey

March 10, 2010

Last year for the first time I carried my guitar around to all the race venues I attended and I found an open mic or jam session to sing and play in publicly. I didn’t miss a single country, managing to find somewhere to sing each time. I kept a journal about the experience, writing down my adventure after each race. I am turning that one-year adventure journal into a book about the trip and about the open mic and jam phenomenon around the world. But while I wrote the first draft, I’m only around halfway through editing and refining the book – a task I spent the winter working on – and I’m already at the beginning of a new F1 season of travel.

Brad Singing

Me singing at an open mic. (Photo Credit: Olivier Rodriguez/

I enjoyed the experience so much that I did not want to stop it, and I have once again decided to bring my guitar with me to all the races around the world and to seek out places to play. But because the book was an encapsulated one-year voyage, I have decided that I will not add any chapters to the book with this year’s trip. If I did that, I’d find myself in the same sort of conundrum as Anais Nin with her never-ending diary. And that is not my goal or of interest to me.

So what I have decided to do is to continue my open mic trip and this year, to write about it on the blog as it happens. I will not go into nearly as much detail as I did with the book. This will be a “live” version of the journey, fed right into the blog. I will occasionally obviously, however, refer to my experiences last year as I revisit some of the original open mics. And when it seems appropriate, I will put up some excerpts from the book that refer to those venues. So in that way, the blog will be about today, and last year, and about my work in progress.

I’ll also be talking about life in the paddock when the subjects are ones that would not perhaps be considered appropriate to my other F1 blogs, at the or Here I’ll finally have a place to write very personal accounts of what happens to a journalist at a Formula One weekend – and of course what I see happening to others, drivers, team members, fans, etc.

I am really excited about this upcoming adventure and endeavor. I love my job, but it’s very important to me to have side projects to give a feeling of hope and progress and accomplishment outside the strict structure of a professional environment.

Having just arrived at my hotel from the airport and pasting in this blog item that I wrote in the airplane, I am really hyped up because the first thing I saw in the Bahrain airport at the luggage area was a British guy with a tall unicycle. He will be riding it around over the race weekend. So I’ll go check that out and report on it later….

Another Worldwide Adventure Begins

March 10, 2010

I am sitting on a Gulf Air flight on the way to Bahrain for the first Grand Prix of the 2010 season and I’m feeling suddenly blissful as I write my first blog post on my personal blog.

The decision to start my own blog was building in my mind for quite a while when suddenly last weekend a few things happened that made it all come together in my mind and I decided to do it, and start it with the new season. The main thing that came together was that I was sitting over dinner with Vanessa, and she said, “You should do your own blog. And make it everything you’re interested in. You can mix your music and Formula One and whatever else.”

I went crazy over the idea and thought, yes!!! I’d been having the idea since last fall that I must find some way to talk about my music and Formula One and literature, my musical adventures around the world, food, people, friends, life, reading….

So I then over the weekend decided that I HAD to get the blog going by the time I left for my first race of the Formula One season. There was no way I was going to let slip an opportunity like that. And so here it is, as I fly off to Bahrain. I’ll post from my hotel on my first night there.

The idea of the blog is that I’m going to talk, as I said above, about all my passions and my own personal adventures as a guitar carrying journalist following the Formula One series around the world to report on it. I already have another couple of blogs entirely devoted to F1, one at and the other at But I have no chance on those to talk about my personal adventures and interests that run parallel to my F1 travels and other projects. Here I will mix it all up – including the F1 adventure.

Blog at