Saturday, April 29, 2017

Ho Ho Ho

Following last week's Friday night out, I decided that Friday-night-outs are a Good Idea, and headed down to Scaledown.
I was astonished to realise that the King and Queen in Cleveland Street was the same King and Queen that is in Foley Street, and that I had thought that they were two identical pubs in different streets with very similar upstairses. You could have knocked me down with a feather, and I felt the same burning embarrassment as I usually do when I 'get' an advertisement or quirky shop name ten years after looking at it off the top deck of the bus to work every single day. The only consolation is that the last time I was there, I had a conversation with someone else who thought the same thing.
You could say that perhaps I'm using my brain for other things, but perhaps not.
Anyway- the last thing I expected was to be spending the evening crying with laughter into the Flying Scotsman scarf that I bought last week from York Rail Museum, and that has a high proportion of acrylic fibres and so won't absorb tears.
As I walked in, Matthew Caley was treating the audience to his poetry. I think they had been forbidden to applaud and between poems there was a surge of energy as people didn't clap that was quite intriguing. Matthew is not afraid to be intellectual, which was refreshing, and thankfully we were allowed to applaud at the end.
Pete Evans followed, singing amongst other songs a frankly terrifying song about jelly that made me wobble with fear. He had a great guitar sound and technique and I wished I was sitting closer so that I could steal his licks (nothing to do with jelly- sorry!).
Maybe I shouldn't confess to that, but having once carried a chord sequence in my head all the way through a noisy gig in Brixton, on the tube home and finally into the living room where I could work it out on my guitar, I think I'm probably fairly typical of a self-taught guitarist.
So Pete's songs are safe. And he was extremely entertaining.
After the refreshment break, Jude Cowan and Charlotte Keeffe performed Charlotte and Jude Have Kittens on cheap speaker'n'samples and microphone, and trumpet respectively. Jude wound wool around tables and audience members, and used feedback and speech to evoke kitten-ness in a sharp challenge to social media-fication of fluffiness, although she did mention milk a couple of times.
Next, Sex Cells moved on to the stage area and absorbed themselves in keyboards and speakers; their songs drifted into existence and they performed with their backs to the audience and kneeling on the floor, which I really liked. It was like watching two children play with a train set, although of course it wasn't like listening to that. They did proper songs and I tapped my feet accordingly. I hope to hear them again.
There was another break. Sean Hendry told us all to f*ck right off, and Mark Braby told us to f*ck back on again in ten minutes. Somehow in that ten minutes, Mark managed to spill red wine down Sean's best shirt (although he might have been pretending it was his best shirt just for dramatic effect). He invited us to suck the wine from his shirt and perhaps unsurprisingly, nobody volunteered. He had already tried to examine Marks prostate gland in front of us all; add this to the song about jelly and you can see that this had not been an evening for the fainthearted.
Anyway, the tone of the evening quietened down as Mindlobster set up his stall and improvised some real foot-tapping music from a selection of samples that sounded like they had been recorded everywhere from a Pound Shop to an airport. I wanted to get up and dance like a loon but I'm an introvert, so just did that in my head.
Lastly, the Rants collected around a motley selection of instruments, and took us on the most stupidly hilarious journey you could possibly imagine, that included a holiday in the King and Queen that involved researching mattresses in local stores and setting the marketing bullshit to music. Oh I do love a properly researched performance with a local flavour! Their piece-de-resistance was a song called Karma Will Come Back To Bite You On The Arse. By this time I was weeping helplessly into my scarf and gasping for air. I could barely leave my seat and go home, I was so weakened by hilarity.
Anyway, I survived the evening and so did everyone else.
I am looking forward to playing there later this year, but until then I have to do the housework.
Pip pip!

From the Kitchen: Tour Diary Number Nine, and Bird Talk

Friday, April 28, 2017

Lux Sings It Like It Is


Tomorrow I will be taking delivery of 300 lyrics books. I can not imagine how bulky they will be; thank you Maggie for offering to store them, but I've had an O Henry ironic moment (please don't change that word to ironing, autocorrect, that's sexist!).
I had been saving up for a new car, but instead spent the funds on making the CDs and lyrics books, which is a much better thing to do.
Yesterday while moving Offsprog Two's belongings to her new house, I got a hole in the exhaust and will be off the road until I get a new car which I hope to do before the end of May. I am going to Liverpool by train for the Cavern gig, but until then will be Public Transport Only because the car is making loud attention-seeking Wacky Races noises and seems to be in imminent danger of disintegrating.
There are just too many things wrong with it now to make it worth fixing up. It's only a lump of metal with some machinery inside, but I have loved this car dearly; it has been a faithful partner for more than fifteen years and I have repaid it's loyalty by always repairing and not replacing it.
It has cost practically nothing in petrol or repairs up until now, and has even been to Italy and back and moved almost every sort of musical instrument you can imagine, as well as the Offsprog's stuff up and down the country more times than I can remember, been to the north of Scotland, Wales and most importantly, been not only a practical freedom giver but a symbolic one.
I have often felt like a trapped person, but I have always had itchy feet. Once I got the car I became free; I feel like I'm flying when I'm heading down the motorway to a new destination. I am going to love this tour, and I am sure I can learn to love a new vehicle too.
I know it's bonkers getting sentimental about a car.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Brian Cant

Thank you to Jason Thompson for reminding me about the genius of Playaway. I was drawing in my poor sad flat for one in Brighton one afternoon, with the sound turned down on my little black and white TV and I looked up and saw this.
I couldn't stop laughing for an hour and fell in love with Brian Cant straight away, despite his fitted shirts and upflicked hair.
Alas, the heart is fickle. He was the second Brian I'd fallen for (Brian Rix was the first, with his enormous white underpants; saw him in a farce on stage when I was a mere tadpole). Then I had a brief crush on Brian Setzer of the Stray Cats, and even sat on his Harley Davidson in Kilburn one afternoon.
Brians have become a rarity nowadays, which is possibly a good thing.

So Very Oliver

Shanne asked me if I'd like to go to the unveiling of The Roxy's Blue Plaque (does that sound like a mouthwash?) in Neal Street yesterday, so of course I said 'Yes'.
The street was crowded and the speeches were inaudible, but it was very exciting and it was really, really good to see some people that I haven't seen for a long time: Pauline Murray and Rob Blamire (from Penetration), Gaye Black, Tessa Pollitt (with her daughter and very cute grand-daughter), Andy Linehan from The British Library (a national treasure), and lots more. I had a nice chat with Steve Mick, who I've heard reading his poetry at Toby Mott's Cultural Traffic events and whose book I coughed up a tenner for, and Zoe Howe (who has the same good taste in social events as I do 😀). Everyone was excited, even the security guys, which I thought was rather sweet. Gaye is going to have an exhibition in Newcastle, which will definitely be worth going to.
Andrew and Susan were running The Fridge by the time I moved to London; I wasn't part of The London Set but I'm used to being the most uncool person in the room; in fact, now I enjoy it.
I did get to meet Marco Pirroni and Dave Barbarossa from Adam and the Ants, and to admire the sartorial splendour of roomful of mature punks, who have aged rather gracefully, and to earwig in on a lot of interesting conversations.
Why the title of the posting? Well, I am listening to songs from the twelve days of music on this old computer in the kitchen and up came one of Lionel Bart's songs from Oliver!, which has got to be the best musical ever written. It was on our radar back then, wasn't it? And the Grammar School kids were doing Charles Dickens at school. The style and snarl of punk is hardly surprising, when you think about it; when it got all black-jackets and cidery it lost touch with it's literary roots, but they were definitely there at the beginning.
Anyway- I'm making a birthday cake for Offsprog Two, who I have just moved to Sarf London (four hours round trip). so time to get that out of the oven. Toodle-pip!
Pix: Veiled plaque; Pauline under the unveiled plaque; Gaye and Shanne.

I Am Writing A Song

My eyes may glaze over at inappropriate moments and I might walk out into moving traffic.
Is this some sort of mental health issue? I have found a new rhythm and the guitar draws me to it like a magnet. I need more fingers than I've got on my hands!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Songs from the Kitchen: Temptation


Many thanks to Dexter Bentley for playing this track on his Resonance show yesterday. After 25 years in the suburban wilderness, I started writing songs again after Jamie McDermot (of the Irrepressibles, and one of the most talented students I've ever come across, plus one of the nicest people) encouraged me to start playing again. It was like floodgates opening- I wrote so many songs. Some of them ended up on the album Suburban Pastoral, which I released on my own just over ten years ago, and which is finally almost sold out.
Some of them didn't, and exploring the depths of the computer the other day I found this one. It was just a  bit too stark (and 5/4 time a bit of a stutter) to make it on to the album, whose track listing was chosen by a group of trusted friends.
The song harks back to childhood Sunday mornings spent in Jesmond Presbyterian Church, sitting in an uncomfortable wooden line with my family under the cavernous ceiling, and listening to the poetry of the Bible, where landscapes a million miles away from the grey bleakness of Newcastle (how the city has changed!) warmed my imagination.
I had never seen a bullrush, but I had seen pictures of them.
And the cruelty at the heart of the story: well, what has changed? All that has happened is that the cruelty inflicted by psycopathic rulers has become more sophisticated and more twisted. Gassing children! When the 'bible' of today's history is read by future humans, always supposing that we continue to exist as a life-form, nobody will believe it. I am so angry to have so little power to stop the cycle of arms sales and warfare, which is really just a demo-tape for the weapons industry.

And thank you Dexter, and I was thrilled to appear on the same bill as Poly Styrene singing Germ-Free Adolescents, which is my second favourite X-Ray Spex track after Oh Bondage, Up Yours!
Dexter's show is here:

Saturday, April 22, 2017

York Railway Museum

Maybe it was being brought up in Wylam, birthplace of George Stephenson (inventor of The Rocket), a tiny village with two stations (North and South), but I have loved trains since I was a bairn.
I'd seen York Railway Museum through the train window so many times but never visited, so before meeting the Whitfields for lunch I spent a couple of hours there completely absorbed by the wonderful trains and railway ephemera. There were so many beautiful locomotives they probably deserve a post of their own.
I loved the painted lettering, the practicality of everything, the kissing buffers, the enamelled signs, the samovars, the normal peculiarity. The only thing that I didn't like was the poor stuffed dog, who had been a charity dog in London and was rewarded by being taxidermied and put on display. What a terrible fate! I imagined charity ladies being treated in the same way, and it made my toes curl. I have taken billions of photographs of the insides of steam trains, copper pipes, steel pipes, rivets, signs, wheels and everything you could possibly imagine. Wow. And they knew that I lived in High Barnet!

Half Asleep

I fell half asleep on the train back from York. It would have been better to fall whole asleep, or not at all.
I realised that I needed milk.
In the shop the guy behind the counter looked rather absent-minded, I thought.
I focused on his air of ennui and fatigue.
Absent-mindedly, I left the milk in the shop.
(I think).

Spaceheads, Rucksack Cinema and Howie Last Night

I'm so glad I peeled my lazy butt off the sofa last night. I was going to stay in and be disappointed by the TV schedule again, but instead I went to a forested area in deepest Lambeth to Club Integral, and enjoyed an evening of music and visuals that was unexpectedly invigorating.
I left with my head buzzing with inspiration, feeling that I'd been let in on a great secret.
Howie Reeve plays an acoustic bass and sings. There is no band, apart from a plastic pig-player whose pigs sounded more like frogs:they said ribbit, not oink (I know pigs don't say oink but they definitely don't ribbit).
Bass and vocal is a great combo- Gail Ann Dorsey does it, but Howie couldn't have been more different. He sings wry lyrics, setting his life to music and alternately thrashing and plucking the bass, sounding sometimes medieval and at others, plain evil or rather, dark, as he would prefer. The songs were evocative of urban life, trees struggling to breathe in traffic fumes, litter, living above all the noise and confusion. I thought about the Spanish guitar videos that I've been making and felt that I needed to up my game.
Spaceheads were altogether different. The former pig-player, Richard Harrison, morphed into an ace drummer who skidded and skedaddled across the kit, blending timbale sounds with maracas and all sorts of other drummer stuff. Andy Diagram built textures, spiky, creamy, sometimes howling into the trumpet microphone, bending the sounds with electronics and playing with sounds of space and claustrophobia, all the time accompanied by the shifting images of Jaime Rory Lucy's projections. Such beautiful colours, and very Russian, very Metropolis and very 2017 at the same time.
I will see this again and it will be completely different next time, but just as enjoyable.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Lyrics Books

The test proofs for the lyrics books turned up in the post today. I almost cried, because I think they look beautiful. I stood at the bus stop trying to photograph them (I had to collect them from the sorting office because I was out at Katy's doing Song Circle) but it was fruitless.
The fruitlessness continued for much of the afternoon. I tried seven times to film Glasgow Train and got to almost the end of the best one, before collapsing in laughter for no real reason. Then I got the perfect take and uploaded it before realising that the iPad had run out on memory and only saved 6 seconds of it. So I had to work out how to delete the deleted videos, and got so knackered that I had to rest for half an hour. The knackered-ness is partly because I have chosen possibly the most knackering evening class anyone could do. I was so glad to go back though- there were new people, and I wasn't the worst person any more.
It was also brilliant at Katy's this morning, playing our songs and drinking tea. Katy does fantastic impressions of her relatives, who by all accounts thoroughly deserve to be done impressions of. I'm not sure if her stories are confidential so I might tell you some of them further down the line without letting on who they are about. They are impressively awful.