Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Zoe Howe and Wilko Johnson at Rough Trade East

I'm an early riser and I rose early to go into work to do more marking. Just as you think you're finished, you find more to do: and the whole thing is greatly hindered by Microsoft's 'intelligent' Word program that re-numbers things in what it thinks is a logical order but in fact, creates chaos and disorder (see Tory party for clarification).
After an afternoon at Gina's I went home, made tea for Offsprog One, and bounced out again to Rough Trade East to Zoe Howe's book launch for her new Lee Brilleaux biography, Rock'n'Roll Gentleman.
Zoe, Wilko Johnson who was also there to speak, and Daryl Easlea (who wrote a brilliant book on disco, Everybody Dance: the politics of disco) all live on the Essex coast and there was something about this deep familiarity with the Thames Delta area that made the panel's discussions particularly evocative. A short clip from Julien Temple's film, Oil City Confidential, sealed the deal.
There were some charming moments: Wilko offering to be Zoe's mic stand as she read from the book, and Darryl's bonhomie.
Back home again late that night, I looked through more student work. Never ends.
I'm now waiting for the scrappage firm to come and take my car away. It's incredibly sad.
I think this might be one of the nicest photographs I've ever taken.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Pipettes at The Premises

Happy Birthday to The Premises Studios yesterday. This is The Pipettes performing at what was a very busy and bustling party with lots of great music- and great food! The Pipettes performed an arrangement of Anarchy in the UK, perhaps carrying on a trend after Glenn Matlock's forthcoming opera versions of Sex Pistols and other punk songs, which must surely have been created as part of a revenge package after being dumped by the band all those years ago. Hell hath no fury like a musician scorned.
The Pipettes were on form and called The Premises their second home; there is something about the place that makes you feel like that.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Cavern, Liverpool

Things boded well as soon as I got there; my hotel room overlooked the Mersey and it was such a gorgeously sunny day that I spent a lot of time glued to the window, watching for boats and gazing at the deep blue sky. Oh yes, and the city bike scheme belonged to the council and not to a greedy bank like they do in London, so that lifted my spirits, too; a Proper Place.
I went to The Cavern early to scout out the scene. Yes, there were tourists, and a very loud tribute-act bar, but there was an air of excitement about too. This whole event (IPO: International Pop Overthrow) is organised by David Bash, who puts one on in Los Angeles and in Stockholm as well. He had listened to Femme Fatale on Bandcamp and thought that we were a band called Helen McCookerybook and The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy, which I suppose we were for that single. Anyway, I wrote to explain that we were really two separate acts and asked if we could both play- so that's how come they drove up from Bristol, and I trained it up from London.

David has a phenomenal amount of energy and is  really on the ball. I tweeted that I didn't come from Bristol (as the poster on the left said) and by the time I got on stage, he introduced me as coming from Newcastle and for once in its life, Newcastle General Hospital (where I was born) wasn't weeping salty tears onto the River Tyne. The guy deserves an embroidered badge for that, Boy Scout-style.
The whole event was quirky. It's not the original Cavern but a fun facsimile; you go down loads of stairs and it would have been a claustrophobic experience but for the fact that it's huge down there- there are two stages and a bar, and room for a merch stall too. There were lots of people clearly having lots of fun: some tourists, some audience people and some bands sussing out the scene.
There was a family with three kids dancing about. Tiny Kid was the best dancer and made us laugh a lot- and was also a self-nappying baby. He got his nappy out and spread it flat ready for the Mum to change him. I was most impressed, and he was an ace dancer too.
A man walked past with an open Apple Powerbook, light gleaming in the gloaming, and appeared to go to the Gents. It was only later that I discovered that this was the way to the dressing room, too.
It added to the atmosphere. Mysterious.
I was also impressed by the guy on stage who, exhorting us to praise his harmonica player, urged us to 'Put our legs together for Mike on harmonica'. He changed it to 'hands' rapidly but by then the damage was done; I had embarked on peculiar imaginings that were impossible to reverse out of.
Everyone was clearly delighted to be playing at the Cavern, and so was I.
The sound guy was amazing, the air conditioning was powerful (my set list blew across the stage) and I loved it. The audience wandered from stage to stage; I thought it was like an American venue, but actually one of the Charlie Tippers said it was like a holiday camp, which might have been more accurate. David somehow managed to be on time to introduce everyone, and hats off to The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy for managing to sound check all seven of them in fifteen minutes. It was great to get to know their songs a bit better, and I sang Femme Fatale at the end of their set again.
I hope we sold some CDs for Refugee Action. David confessed to having a little weep during the song (I hope the emotion wasn't horror) and I could see people singing along in the audience. All praise to you Lou: you were a dude!
The merch chap was a hard worker and I sold some of my own CDs (ring-a-ding-ding!). There was just time to charge over to The Cavern Pub and see that dark horse John Murray and his glam punk band, the Gentle Scars. Well, John Murray, you kept that quiet! All those songwriting weekends playing your titchy little acoustic guitar and peering out from under the peak of your baseball cap, serenading us with songs about the conjuror who sawed your wife in half! I didn't know you were  a rock god, playing lead guitar riffs at max volume through a mega-amp with a bunch of pirates!
The band looked fabulous, camp swashbucklers with grey baker-boy hats (all apart from the drummer who had obviously agreed reluctantly to wear one, and then tossed it overboard as soon as the band turned their backs on him and started to play). But what entertainment! Brilliant songs, loudly played: the lead singer was a proper rock star with eyeliner on, and a foot atop the monitor.
And great lyrics: 'I want to go where the monsters go'.
So do I! So do I!
That was a perfect ending to the evening and I was so glad that I saw them. Big grin on my face, so wide that I couldn't get to sleep till about 4 a.m. and then the fire alarm went off at 6.30.
Oh Liverpool, I love you so much! I hope I get to do this again next year!
Big thanks to David for inviting us along, and the sound guy too who was amazing. And the bloke who videoed it and managed to reduce the cost by a tenner by the end of the set!

These photographs are completely in the wrong order but it's nightmare to rearrange them.
The Gentle Scars;a decorated pub near Lime street Station;  a stall selling Liverpool regalia on one side and Everton regalia on the other; the Radio City Tower which I didn't have time to go up, unforchly; David Bash introduces the band; me; me again; some graffiti from the Ladies bogs: poor Jo was grounded, so she didn't get to go out!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Song Marking Almost Done

Almost all the song marking is done: 33 songs listened to and fed back on.
At the University of the West I used to do 160 songs which took days. 'Poor Mummy', said the Offsprogs as they passed through the kitchen.
These songs have been great to listen to and I've been in a really good mood because of that.
Funny; I have a mood gear called 'neutral', which is quite enjoyable because it's grey space between mental meltdown (not pleasant at all) and wildly happy (exhausting).
Good mood is nice, too; a bit like cruising in a plane with no turbulence.
I have started to send the CD out to reviewers. This is a monumental task and will probably take a couple of weeks. I haven't got a clue who to send it to, so I've got to research that first.

I'm sorry if you are a person who has emailed me recently. I am very behind with communicating because of marking happening at the same time as finishing the CD. I don't even have time to watch TV any more but I don't think that I'm missing much and if I am, people describe what they've been watching and that's enough.

What else was I going to say?
This! Last Kitchen Video before Liverpool Cavern on Thursday, I'm on at 8 p.m. and The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy are on straight afterwards.

B-r-r-r-illy Stewart

Who B-r-r-r-d first? Billy or the Chairmen of the Board?
I don't know, but I'm practicing my own personal doorbell as we speak.

Sunday, May 14, 2017


Interesting! Everybody else did big wide arms embracing the world and its cornucopia of spangles and glitz, and Portugal did El Greco with begging hands and won. I wonder if Europe feels guilty about walking past homeless people who have to beg for money every morning on the way to work?
I thought it was a lovely song, but was utterly put off by the person's creepy delivery and was haunted by his facial expression in a nightmare last night.
However, it could have been so much worse...


This is Fleas4U, the neighbourhood cat who has made friends with us all in the hope that we will feed him, cuddle him and call him nicer names than that.
He shows up at the kitchen window on chilly days and says 'Meep' in a sad voice, but he blotted his copybook a few weeks ago by copiously spraying on the window-cleaner's waxed Barbour jacket.
Up until that point, we'd been wondering if he was a male or a female cat, but he found the most powerful way of telling us. Pity he aimed for the internal pocket, too.
The window cleaner was very reasonable about it, but hasn't been back.

From the Kitchen: Gotta Have a Heart

Saturday, May 13, 2017

At Jamboree Last Night

Neil Jones runs a night called Des Was A Bowie Fan at Jamboree in Cable Street; I've mentioned what an amazing venue it is in earlier postings (just like Baron Munchausen, which I've just watched again this avo with Offsprog One).
I arrived at the same time as The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy who had driven up from Bristol, and the man behind the bar very kindly made us a row of cups of tea, lined up on the bar like cowboys' whisky.
The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy have been friends with each other for a long time and are a great advertisement for being in a band. They have hilarious bantz and an elegantly choreographed way of setting up their gear that morphed into a sound check with seemingly no effort at all.
There was a high family turnout in the audience (thanks everybodee) and after getting used to my fingers, I really enjoyed playing songs from the new album mixed in with some older songs (actually, there's something wrong with my guitar neck, as I discovered when I played the other electric guitar today, so I'm taking that one to Liverpool on Thursday instead).
I saw the band at the Indietracks  Festival last year but there was so much to listen to there, that this felt like the first time I'd seen them. They are a songs band (absolutely the best sort of band) and they have a really positive vibe although not all of their songs are nicey-nicey. There are a lot of personnel in the band (six, although their cornet player wasn't there last night) and they make full use of harmonies and two guitars, backed up by keyboards and a grooving rhythm section. How to describe their music? Maybe Jefferson Airplane without the hippy sh*t? Me and my fam thought they were great, that's all! I'm so looking forward to seeing them next Thursday when we're playing at The Cavern in Liverpool.
At the end I got up to sing Femme Fatale with them; it's the first time we've done it live, and it was such a great feeling to sing with a band again.
Afterwards Neil took to the decks and plied to room with a series of smashing tracks.
It was no good... for the first time in five years I leapt on to the dance floor with Offsprog One and danced my feet off. The music was a mix of Northern Soul (that's what got me up), Thirties tracks, The Cure, you name it: if you could dance to it, it was there. Then I recognised a drum intro, and Neil was playing Sweetie by The Chefs.
What a strange thing to see a roomful of people dancing to a track we recorded in 1979!
If you'd told me back then that I'd be sitting in a room having just played a gig, next to one of two grown-up daughters, I would not have believed you.
The dance floor was incredible friendly. There was a mix of ages, genders, everything and a lot of smiling and chatting during the dancing. What a great atmosphere!
I bounced home like Tigger. My legs ache today but I don't care. All the worry lines (I've had a lot to worry about) have gone from my face temporarily. I had such a nice time and I think everyone else did too.
Here's another Chefs track you might like too Neil (I was trying to sound like Donna Summer and Ennio Morricone)

And here's some pics: waiting for the venue to open, the band setting up and the band playing. Plus a little puppet hanging out with no particular place to go.

Friday, May 12, 2017

More from The Kitchen

Stage times tonight at Jamboree, Limehouse: I'm on at 9, the Charlie Tipper Conspiracy are on at 10, and I'll join them for Femme Fatale later on. They are a great band and it's going to be a fab evening.
I will have copies of the new CD and the lyrics book and we will also be selling the Femme Fatale EP in aid of Refugee Action. But you don't have to buy anything, just come along and clap!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


Buddie: a grandmother package
Hands dancing on the piano keys; 
A tiny electric shock each time her fingers met the ivory
With little smile dancing a duet across her lips.
All the dreams that never came true...
Sandy hair and distant-looking eyes 
With sight only pinhole-sharp;
Magnificent Scottish bust encased in heathery tones,
The scent of discreet soap,
All balanced on teensy Caledonian feet 
Tied up tight with beige laces.

Tour So Far

Helen McCookerybook DIY 2017 Tour.
Contact helen_mccookerybook@yahoo.co.uk

Helen’s new album ‘The Sea’ is just out now on Bandcamp: https://helenmccookerybook.bandcamp.com

Friday 12th May: Des Was a Bowie Fan, Jamboree, Cable Street, with The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy. Tickets: http://www.wegottickets.com/event/399205

Thursday 18th May: Cavern Club, Matthew Street, Liverpool, with The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy

Wednesday May 31st: The Whitaker Museum, Rossendale, Lancashire (free entry)

Friday June 9th: Furley and Co., Hull, Tickets: https://www.hullboxoffice.com/events/helen-mccookerybook

Saturday June 10th: the Argyle Rooms, Newbiggin by the Sea, Northumberland.

Sunday June 11th: Going Up the Country, Congleton, Church House Inn

Saturday June 17th Live in Barnsley Festival, The White Bear pub

Sunday June 25th Surf Cafe, Tynemouth

Friday 30th June, Scaledown, The King and Queen, Cleveland Street, London

Thursday 7th September The Musician, Leicester with Vic Godard with Bitter Springs. Tickets: http://www.wegottickets.com/event/399979

Friday 15th September Little Theatre, Ramsgate with Vic Godard with Bitter Springs. Tickets TBC