Monday, October 16, 2017

Colm

I heard today that Colm O'Rourke, one of the longest serving sound engineers (and later recording studio manager) at the University of Westminster, has died.
This is terrible upsetting news. I remember when he first started his job; he had moved from being a virologist to being a sound engineer, and his team were affectionately known as 'Colm's Ladyboys'. Later, two students from the same cohort, Danny and Vince, died within a very short space of time; a couple of years further on we held a wake, and Colm's contribution was a moving performance of a song he had written, and words of such perception and affection that he managed to sum up with huge sensitivity the feelings of the 40 or so graduates who had come along.
It is so very upsetting to hear the news that he has gone too.
I saw that he has had a family and although they must be distraught,  I do feel glad that he had the good fortune to become a father. He had dreams of Ireland and he shared farmland with his brothers; he talked about it with such excitement and enthusiasm!
I can't describe how important Colm was. Life in academia can be stressful and maddening as well as extremely rewarding. I used to go down to the music basement every working day, just to say hello to Colm because he was always so nice to talk to.
He mastered The Chefs CD that we released on Damaged Goods because he had bloody good ears on him.
He's just one of those people that you can't believe isn't there any more. Oh, how terribly sad.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Dammittt!!!!

As I put the final flourish to a hard afternoon's slog of preparing lectures for next week, I knocked a mega cup of tea all over the computer keyboard. The mouse was literally floating about in a sea of tea.
Aargh! It's on the radiator drying out, now.
Why am I so clumsy?

On Wednesday with the Nightingales and Ted Chippington


Seven Miles Out and Fun Up The Junction

Never let it be said that life is devoid of adventures.
Last week was spent listening to vinyl that has been tucked away in boxes, all over the house. Many of the seven inch singles have tiny scratches from when they were kept in a basket, and a litter of kittens used to sit on them and tuck their little paws into the paper sleeves to keep them warm.
It was a week of good fun listening and a fair bit of dancing round in the kitchen; I'd set the turntable up on the side, with the ghetto-blaster attached with a couple of dodgy wires, so that the kitchen units acted as bass bins. This was a trick learned from the old house, although the cabinets there were less full, and therefore functioned better. Still, once I'd pinched the wires a couple of times to connect them properly, it was all systems go.
I packed the lot into a bag, and also packed the guitar because Kevin has asked me to do a short set. kevin Birchall and Linda Yarwood DJ all over the north west of England and had extended an invitation that couldn't be refused, to play a selection of post-punk records at a Venue called Seven Miles Out.
Into the car, and off! Roundabout halfway there, the battery light came on and wouldn't go off. By the time I'd got to the M6 toll road, a warning light was flashing and despite an attempt to get to the Services, the indicators failed and I had to pull over on to the hard shoulder: by that time the brakes had also failed and I had to what fro the car to roll to a stop.
From a grassy bank, I called the AA and had to resort to writing poetry about kingfishers at Hampstead Ladies' Bathing Pond in a little book, as a distraction from the heckling van drivers and horn-honking HGV drivers. How very useful of them! And how pretentious of moi! (it did work, though).
The AA man was tattooed, and an AC/CD enthusiast. He was thrilled that I'd taught Bill Bruford's son. We talked about Black Sabbath and Phantom of the Opera (his wife's fave) as he located an alternator at a supplier that was just about to close for the weekend, towed the car there and fitted it. What a stroke of luck! Thank you AA man: may your life ever revolve around Heavy Metal!
This was the first time a Friday the thirteenth had behaved like one; and on arrival at Stockport, I discovered that the internet booking site had published the wrong postcode for the hotel. I almost cried as I sat in a backstreet trying to be patient with Reception, who later said that it was impossible to get to the venue, Seven Miles Out, by car, so I rushed there on foot with my bag of records, and left the guitar behind because it was too heavy to carry all of it. Of course, he was wrong, and Linda very kindly drove me back to the car park to pick it up.
One of those days don't always turn into one of those nights, though. The venue owners John and Rosemary could not have been kinder, and Linda and Kevin could not have been more welcoming.
Seven Miles Out is a gem of a place: it is next to the old Market in Stockport and it's decorated inside with graffiti with a strong Frank Sidebottom influence (he wrote a song about the owner, John). Kevin and Linda DJ together, and were playing a lot of stuff out of my own collection (Delta 5, The Fire Engines) which was a good sign. There was a chap there with some Chefs vinyl that he wanted signing ( a rare occurrence- I think the last person who did that was Shippy about ten years ago).
I played a very short set of songs (including Let's Make Up) then did the turntable thing, playing a selection of songs from the following list:

The Monochrome Set The Monochrome Set (I Presume). Of course, this was the first track so it jumped!
The Associates Ice Cream Factory
The Dollymixture Been Teen
Carmel More More More
The Farmer's Boys Whatever Is He Like?
Depeche Mode Just Can't Get Enough and New Life
The Rezillos Flying Saucer Attack
The Passage XOYO
The Nightingales Paraffin Brain (I think it was that one but I took two)
The Band of Holy Joy The Aspidistra House
The Teardrop Explodes Reward
Joe Jackson Stepping Out
Animal Nightlife Love Is Just The Great Pretender
The B52s Rock Lobster
The Flying Lizards Money
Die Doraus Und Die Marinas Fred Vom Jupiter
Aztec Camera Walk Out To Winter (also jumped!)
Scritti Politti The Sweetest Girl

(I played more than this, and some are probably wrong).
Who made people leap on to the dance floor? Depeche Mode!
Claudine, at the PR company who worked for them, affectionately nicknamed them 'depressed mood', but boy did they write good music. On the way home today I was singing their records in my head, and every tiny synth motif is completely easy to recall; Vince Clarke is extremely clever.
Carmel was also a dance floor hit, and The Rezillos. It's impossible too remember much but the next day my sides were aching, and I realised that I had been dancing along at the same time as playing the records. I'd forgotten what a good track Love Is Just The Great Pretender was. They were in a rehearsal studio once and I was completely starstruck.

Afterwards I had a really nice chat with the owners, who are campaigning to stay there, so they can provide a home for the sometimes 50 ukulele players who turn up on a Monday to play Roxy Music covers, for Kevin and Linda's nights, for Graham Marsland's nights (Bitter Springs, you should send a copy of The Addison Brothers to him because I think he would like it; would have given him mine, which I intended to play, but I like the hand-painted legs on the B-side too much to part with it). Gentrification is rumbling towards them like a relentless juggernaut, and you can support them at www.stockportproducehall.co.uk so they get to have a little bit of control over their own destiny.
A million thank-yous to Kevin and Linda and to everyone who came along!

On Saturday, I drove over the beautiful moors to Goole, where I joined Mick, June, Laura and Danny Whitfield for an ice cream before getting lost again on the way to the next hotel (45 minutes to drive a five minute journey). This time, it was the satnav's fault. It had a major breakdown later on in the evening, where it displayed a series of fetching jittery red lines and arrows, before giving up the ghost completely, but Mick came to the rescue and we got to Junction Goole in time for the concert by Eduardo Niebla.
In the first part of the evening, Eduardo was joined by Matthew Robinson on Spanish guitar, Willemijn Steenbakkers on violin and Dharmesh Parmar on Indian tabla. We were sitting right at the front, and I think Finn McCardle would have loved what Dharmesh was playing. The music was gorgeous and it was difficult not to leap up and dance; the tabla complimented and echoed what was being played on the guitars and the violin soared over the top; it made me wish that I knew more about music so I could steal some of the chord sequences, but ignorance has kept me honest.
After the interval, Goole's School of Rock, the East Riding Theatre Choir, and the band that Laura plays in, Ukulele Junction, all crowded on the the stage and performed two of Eduardo's compositions, songs based on the poetry of Ian McMillan. They were lovely to listen to, beautifully arranged and played: it felt like an honour to be there. At the end, Eduardo gave every performer a pannetone, which he had stacked up on the stage in the interval.
Laura, you were great!
Thank you to Mick and June for getting a ticket for me.
And today? Up at the crack of dawn and a very smooth and uneventful drive home down the A1, my favourite road and probably the subject of the next song, if what I sang into the phone is any good. and this afternoon? Writing lectures.
Next thing? Supporting the Nightingales and Ted Chippington at the Sebright Arms on Wednesday. I'm on at 7.45 and then I get to watch two really excellent things afterwards. Namaste!











Bristol Show

Coming up soon! And will write about this weekend (and last weekend) l8r today: got to write a lecture for tomozz.
Advance tickets for this gig are available at www.bristolticketshop.co.uk




Friday, October 13, 2017

DJ-ing in Stockport Tonight

It will be great to see Kevin and Linda again tonight; I have been invited to play post-punk vinyl and do a short set at Recordsville Social, 20 Market Place, Stockport starting at 8 p.m. tonight. It's free to get in!


https://www.facebook.com/events/374806452937315/?acontext=%7B%22ref%22%3A%2222%22%2C%22feed_story_type%22%3A%2222%22%2C%22action_history%22%3A%22null%22%7D&pnref=story

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Kitmonsters Review of the Nasty Women Event

This is a great overview of a really busy and successful weekend by Terry Tyldesley:
http://kitmonsters.com/blog/nasty-women-uk

Helen and the Horns, Katy Carr, Honey Birch: Lexington Review.

So, Sunday night was brilliant.
We started off with a warm-hearted, humorous and powerful set from Honey Birch, who has done very few public gigs. I knew she could be trusted to play a great set after seeing her supporting The Raincoats and Angel Olsen at The Assembly Rooms in Islington, and she was even better on Sunday. Her voice is consistently strong without being overpowering, and she sings songs that reflect her life experience so far, but that still have a resonance for anyone regardless of where they are on life's journey. Every teenager swings between extreme angst and self-assurance, and Honey's art (which is elementary for more experienced performers than her, but rare in someone of her age) is to tap into the angst for the song writing part of her life, and into her self-assurance for the performance. Playing a pink and blue guitar, she defied gender stereotyping and won over not just her friends in the audience, but also those lucky enough to catch her set who had come to see Katy or Helen and the Horns. I was delighted to se her mailing list filling up!

Katy had broken the odds to get back from Poland, and her set was utterly different from Honey's, but just as engaging. On keyboards or ukulele, she brought different parts of Polish history to life without the audience realising just how much they were learning, because of course Katy is a consummate  musician, a multi-instrument playing songwriter whose pop and electronic sensibilities merge perfectly with Polish folk music influences to make a completely unique sound. Her soaring vocals pulled us into the emotional trauma of prisoners of war, and the bear who was a mascot and who drank and smoked along with the soldiers: so many characters populate her songs! Katy has been playing a lot to the Polish community recently, and this night was a chance for her to regain her audience of Londoners (and a couple of chaps from Leicester, but more of that later); in this she succeeded magnificently. Wow.

So our bit: slightly differently, this was a gig of nostalgic pleasure for us (although we played a couple of arrangements of songs from The Sea album in the set). The Horns are sounding really good and I just felt really, really happy to do this gig with them.
Right now, I'm definitely a solo artist; it's what I like best, but there's nothing like being submerged in the sound of this band as a treat from time to time. I could hear people singing along and the music all just flowed: it's funny to be able to remember everything all these years afterwards, and it does seem to be a pity that only alternative people like John Peel and our first record label 'got' what we were doing at the time because our music was so positive. I was really chuffed when Damaged Goods released the compilation a couple of years ago because I don't think there is a band in the world that sounds like us! Sorry to blow our own trumpet (ahem).

The whole idea of this night was to share our music not just between ourselves, but also with our different audiences, and I think this worked incredibly well. The audience was remarkably and unexpectedly star-studded (shouts to Gaye Black, Lester Square, Gina Birch, Ana Da Silva, Karen from the Gymslips, Shanne from the Nipple Erectors, Karina from Mike Flowers Pops, Andy Diagram, Eva Eden and more people who I can't remember, and who I hope won't be Bad Fairies at the Christening in future). And shouts to the two guys who drove down from Leicester and who spent the whole night smiling and loved Honey's and Katy's sets too. I hope you enjoyed your stay in That London and got back home safely. And shouts to everyone else in the audience, of course, and the poor people who got stuck on public transport, my student who came to sell the CDS, and the crew at the Lexington (what a place!) and especially to Delia, who is an amazing woman.

I missed the last train home, even after belting up Pentonville Road with the Green Goddess on my back, a bag of vinyl and my holdall. I caught a bus in the end and chatted to Roger from Forbes, and then on the next bus, to a homeless man called Trevor. I got home very late.

Thank you everybody,

Monday, October 02, 2017

Look Yes I Will

Yes I will write about it, it was great, and star studded and everyone had an amazing gig and went home smiling!
But I missed the last train home and by some miracle got the bus part of the way with Roger, then the rest of the way on a bus with homeless chap called Trevor who first of all tried to get money, then almost got thrown off the bus for drinking, then tried to chat me up to get a bed for the night.
Oh, I'm so tired. Four hours sleep then went to work today.
Review later in the week.