Monday, July 31, 2006

River Thames, August Songbird

Went boating down the Thames today with a bunch of people in a little orange craft as light as lego and as powerful as a wet flannel. What a lovely day; we rescued an anxious chap whose engine had died, saw lots of dragonflies, herons, a kingfisher and an otter, and me and Joan went under the Sounding Arch of the Brunel railway bridge and clapped and yarped until all the fishermen in fluorescent jackets folded up their aluminium chairs, picked up their tins of maggots and left (although they only went as far as their tents and mimicked us in a frightened sort of way). I'd meant to take my DAT recorder and record Moses using that super-natural-reverb but forgot; somehow at 8 a.m. packing the mini-poppadums seemed more important and I did scoff the whole megapacket without sharing, as usual. There was an exciting rainstorm and I ate a thousand Turkish cherries.
I'm very pleased, as I sold some Viz comics on ebay at the weekend and have made enough money to finish my CD.
Stop press:
1. Akiko heard the broadcast in Berlin- three cheers for internet radio!
2. McMum's friend, visiting Scotland from America, has just broken his toe; McMum phoned tonight for tips about which of the toes next to it was the best one to strap it to while it mended.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Umbrellas and fans

It's the season of foldy things; on Thursday I took my umbrella that folds up as small as a credit card out with me. I couldn't fold it back up again and was suspecting that it was a trick single-use umbrella until I hit it, and it miraculously telescoped back in again. Yesterday was a fan day and I freaked out a woman fanning herself with a turquoise fan on the tube platform by sitting next to her and fanning myself with my fan in a different rhythm. I thought my fanpace was more efficient and certainly more elegant than her flustered flapping, but without a neutral judge, I suppose I can't say.
The Resonance broadcast was fun- boiling hot up there but I pretended I was in the Deep South and it was pretty relaxing for a live broadcast. Thank you to the Scaledown chaps for inviting me; I played Dreaming of You and Fly Away live, and they played a live recording of Temptation from the gig and also Two Strings to Your Bow from the Helen and the Horns CD. I was dead chuffed to hear from Treacle, Claire and Rowen that they listened in- all worthwhile to heave my guitar down there and crunch along on my broken toe! Actually it's almost better and it's amazing how many people have broken their toes this month- Akiko sent a list of people in Berlin (how surreal is that?) and Treacle's sister has too. I actually think we have a fashion statement here, guys- the new black, costume jewellery for the noughties, 'Injury-chic'!

Friday, July 28, 2006


Went to Offline last night- it was really good. Rob Newman was very funny. He did a version of Rock Around the Clock in Arabic on a ukelele and did a thing about the history of the world backwards which I'm still thinking my way round this morning. Very good ideas. I missed 'It Hugs Back' because I had to leave early to catch the tube but perhaps will do a gig with them myself sometime. Nice to catch up with Matthew and he has recommended music to me (Polar Bear); speaking of which, another Matthew has an indie night at the Canterbury Arms this Saturday in Brixton. I cannae go (that means 'can't go' in Scottish) but if you can, let me know what it's like!
I was speaking abpout scaffolders: you learn something new every day, don't you! What I learned one day in Scotland was that scaffolding is not the simple brute art I'd thought it was, oh no indeed not. Those poles are more akin to those twisty metal puzzle things you get in Christmas crackers that only Grandpa can do. Assembling scaffolding is complex and involves a difficult-to-learn ritual a bit like The Knowledge that cabbies do. You have to shout a series of mantras- URFF! HAAAR! WOOAAAA!!! AAARRK!! in order to scold the poles into submission; finally, at the point of juncture ('completion' as we academics call it), you emit a violent expulsion of air and gas from that human orifice that can produce the loudest report and foulest aroma, in order to signal to those around you that your work is the finest example of the manual trade in the universe, and that all women from puberty to dowagerhood should acknowledge this with a grateful and alluring smile as you communicate your ripe manhood with a two-pronged mating whistle.
Looking forward to Resonance this afternoon; doesn't seem like I've played for ages.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

This Week

This Week I'm going to Scotland to visit my McParents, McMum (female) and McDad (male) and may not have the opportunity to dress in my Blog-persona (bit like wearing drag). So here's my week-at-a-glance with Monday and Tuesday missing, because they are for recovering from the weekend, aren't they!
Wednesday: at the London College of Printing, Elephant and Castle, 'Handing Down the Memory Cloth', an activity day, based on fanzines. I have contributed a page to this project, which is about handing down knowledge about crafts.
Thursday: Offline, at Jamm. 'It Hugs Back'are playing. I haven't seen them yet, but it's my friend Matt Sims' band and he's a brilliant musician. Go and see- it's free!Details at and click on Offline
Friday: pour out the Pimms and listen to Sideband, and Me!! on Scaledown, broadcast on Resonance, at 4.30. Streamed live on or broadcast on 104.4 fm
Details at

Friday, July 21, 2006


Had to cancel last night's recording session, it's not good to get people to play stuff when they aren't well and there are lots of summer viruses snaking their way around.
I noticed a funny thing- I play guitar and sing much better when it's too hot. I can't work out why, whether it forces me to be more relaxed. But in some of those really posh air-conditioned studios you feel dried up and boring. Up at Tom's, there are always old sleeping bags festering in corners, old equipment piled on shelves awaiting investigation, the house shakes when a bus goes past, he has to shut the windows because of the police sirens, and it's boiling because it's in the attic. You just feel in the mood for playing; maybe you mentally link up with the idea of the Delta bluesmen or something pretentious like that! But you sort of get into a trance and just go with the flow man. I was talking to Gina about this CD being delayed because of re-doing the vocals, and she said that a recording lasts for ever. I'd feel bad releasing something that was not the absolute best I could possibly do at this moment. And I don't have to worry about time not being on my side! I'm ancient anyway, tra-la, tra-lee! Nobody's going to want to sign me to a major, get me to wear trowel-loads of makeup, sack my band, do interviews with every crap publication in the universe and exhaust myself with pointless meetings in swanky buildings to 'meet the MD'. So I'll just fold those wrinkles into my t-shirt and enjoy SINGING and PLAYING and DO-IT-MYSELFING!!!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Recommended listening...

... in this weather, this is what you could perspire along to- it's all cheesey film music...
Sexy Voices (~original soundtracks)
Blowup Presents Exclusive Blend Volume 3
Schwabing Affairs (delicate tunes from Munich Movies of the 1960s and 70s)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Cooling service

I bet no other blog writer is doing this- providing a cooling service for those who read it.
I'm going to talk about ice- those big ice hotels in Sweden, where you lie on ice beds in ice rooms, while it snows outside, the cold wind whistling across the freezing landscape. Fridges, misting with cold air, full of chilled beer and vanilla ice cream (the sort with the little black bits in). A big jug of cold water with icecubes chinking in the top, all for you!!!
More cooling in a minute... just done a page for a comic book thing that's going to happen at the Elephant and Castle (twinned with Haut-Barnet) and I'll have to post the details tomorrow- I lost my site for a couple of days as I hadn't paid the bill (oops) and I'm disorientated. Lost my gig in Edinburgh on 8th September as the promoter has lost his venue (whole lotta losin' goin' on) but possibly gained a gig at the 12-Bar. Been in the studio today- it was so hot (oops) I played it cool (phew) and couldn't get stressed about playing guitar and did some good stuff and recorded a new song although I didn't mean to. Gina's coming to play bass on Thursday.
Hoping to tour in the autumn, when its...COLD!!!
Sorry, but I'm not a hippy. If I was, I'd say 'Chill'.

Friday, July 14, 2006

A magic flying kettle broke my toe

You think I'm lying, don't you?
Yesterday a kettle jumped off the windowsill and bounced off my foot, breaking my toe. It's been taped to another toe 'cos that's all they can do. I was x-rayed by two identical twin radiographers, which was even more surreal than the flying kettle.
I'm going to Bruges tomorrow and will have to sit on a chair with a bier, drawing, while everybody else wanders round the mediaeval city. Bosh!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Resonance date etc

Well.. looks like the Resonance broadcast date has changed again; it will be on Friday 28th July from 5.30 p.m. see for details.
In the studio this Thursday to start finishing the CD. Now people are telling me not to learn to scream: isn't life confusing? At least, I will re-do the vocals for some of the songs. I have had to work very quickly for financial reasons, but since I haven't really released a current CD for 20 years, this one better be as good as I can make it! Gina's going to play bass on one of the tracks, and I'm starting to work on the notes for the booklet and phoning round to get prices for manufacturing and so on. I've dug out all my ancient copies of Viz, my Drumatix, everything I think I can sell on eBay to finance it, old bits of equipment (but not, of course, guitars apart from an Epiphone acoustic that troubles my fingers), a sporran made of sealskin that's totally unsound ideologically, unfortunately no Capo di Monte china.
I have handed in my notice at the University of Westminster and will be moving to the University of East London, west to east. I am talking to promoters about gigs in the autumn, talking to the moon about the tides, I can't believe so many things are changing and it's me that's doing it.
Wasn't T in the Park good? It was good last year too, and I think it's probably the best festival. How I wish I could go to see Erikah Badu this Friday at Somerset House.

Saturday, July 08, 2006


My brother's girlfriend was intrigued by the idea of a website called MouseFace with lots of different bands on it....
Songbird was really really good last night- best ever. Bela Emerson has an electronic cello and improvises over sounds she builds up with pedals; Ninki V wins a prize for being the most glamorous woman I have seen this year, in a sparkly black dress and cheeky smile, gracefully conjuring sounds out of a couple of theremins (therema?) with her arms and playing a toy piano over beats from cheesy machines. From my perch in the DJ box it was very funny to see the crowds of young men surrounding her afterwards, bearing gifts of CDs of their bands, and sheepish smiles. The Society of Imaginary friends blended operatic singing with accordion and violin- worth seeing twice, I thought, and best of all were Geordie hip-hop band, Dialect (must look them up on MouseFace) who got the joint rockin'. Jamie did the door and it was nice peering thru the gloom and seeing him there. And I did the DJ-ing, hampered by a deck that only 50% worked but nobody seemed to mind the gap between tracks. Someone even came up and tried to buy one of the CDs from me! Wanna know my playlist? Here goes! (Some missing as I only thought to note what I was playing after I'd started). Not in order of playing; forgot that:
Janet Kay- Silly Games
The Crystals- Up On the Bridge
Lord Kitchener- London is the Place for Me
Jocelyn Brown- Someone Else's Guy
Toots and the Maytals- Funky Kingston
Can't Remember- Rudi's In Town
Doctor Buzzard's Original Savannah Band- I'll Play the Fool
Curved Air- Back Street Luv, and Bright Summer's Day
Detroit Spinners- It's a Shame
James Brown- Talkin' Out Loud (and Sayin' Nothing)
Sly and the Family Stone- If You Want Me To Stay, and Family Affair
Wanda Jackson- I Gotta Know
Carroll Thompson- Yesterday
French Film Music (un Homme Et Une Femme)
Plus some quite obscure Lover's Rock from the 1960s and a track I bought the other day that has Tipper Irie on it (distinctively nice speaking voice)
Lots more, but I can't remember. I don't normally go to bed at 2 a.m. Most times I turn into a pumpkin at midnight.
I've got a new job; isn't that funny?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Thundery head

It's the humid weather, but the paracetamol worked and I spent a couple of hours yesterday listening to tracks for tonight. I'm going to have to put the CDs in a bucket to take them, there are so many and I can't decide what to play! I also went on Amazon and ordered some more music- Louis Jordan, Melanie, Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, Ruth Brown, for a summer soundtrack.
I dug out my old Viz comics. Life is changing a lot at the moment and it's time to clear out the cupboards, activate eBay, and get on with it!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Weather and Music

I'm trying to choose music to play tomorrow. I went to Brixton to try to find the record shop they keep mentioning on Roots fm but couldn't find it.. do you think they made it up? Anyway, I found some quite good stuff in Red Records. Now I'm listening to other tracks I already have.. if it is hot I want to play Bo Diddley but I don't have any. So I have Sly and the Family Stone, The Cramps, lots of early lovers rock, bit of French music.. hot weather is weather for harmonies and reverbs and big bass sounds. If it's raining and has cooled down, it's Wanda Jackson, Patsy Kline, and some big voices like Billy Stewart and Della Reese.Meanwhile, I have to take a spanner to this migraine. I can't decide whether to bash it on the head with red wine (kill or cure) or whether to take a cocktail of paracetamol and other things. Maybe I should just go with it and 'enjoy' a painful trip to Mars with my auras, feeling fortunate that I don't need mind-expanding drugs to get there!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


This weather continues, I'm gonna have to get that banjo down from the shelf, sit on the back porch and play me some bluegrass!
Scaledown broadcast will now be on the 14th July; I'll put the Resonance details up closer to the time. I've just done a proposal to Resonance to interview Martin Stephenson for a Clear Spot. Hope they say yes, cos he's very entertaining.
How I wish I lived in Barnet-on-sea. When I lived in Camberwell I used to dream that the sea was just over the back wall. It was such a disappointment to wake up and realise the sea was many hot hours away, and over the back wall was just more and more houses and people and cars and litter and dog poo. Camberwell had more d-p-h (dogs per hectare) than anywhere else in the universe, and that's a fact. There was a competition to see who could get the largest number of gigantic vicious dogs into the tiniest flat with the least garden space, and then get sickest of them and abandon them to Battersea Dogs Home fastest. Honest.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Memorial jewellery

Well hello blog old chumbuddypal.
Today I'm going to meet Little Claire. We have known each other since Joby and the Hooligans- her mum made me some really great clothes at one time. Claire's doing a PHD on Memorial Jewellery and I have a bracelet made of half my Grandpappy's watch chain. My sister had the other half but it got stolen by some baddies a while ago. But I'm going to talk to Claire for her research and have a cup of coffee with her. Also, where she works there is a strange domed ceiling that distorts sound and I thought it might be good to go and record under it one day. I thought it would go well with recording Moses under the echoing Brunel bridge at Maidenhead... was going to put it on the CD but it hasn't been chosen... maybe should do an EP of strange field recordings. I have to be careful because I am beginning to run out of money- I have a car and it has a lot of ailments at the moment!
And I want to launch Suburban Pastoral at the Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garrett...
Was wondering if Elton John would cough up some spondulicks for the Song Club....
Wonder wonder wonder. Too hot for plans. Bye for now, blog.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Songbird, Friday 7th July

Her'es the flyer for Songbird this Friday- I'm deejaying and I hope to get to Brixton this week to try to get some more reggae. Everything I've got is on vinyl and they have a CD player at Bomonti so unless I can find my rare grooves on a compilation I'll be taking pot luck- sometimes fun!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Ladyfest, Cardiff

I had a day in Cardiff yesterday- went to the Ladyfest there. Cardiff is an interesting place- I thought I was in the main street then I walked through a market and came out the other side into what seemed to be the main street then I went round a corner and found what seemed to be.. the main street. A bit like the Tardis, I thought. It has it's own Sinnerwinner man and ladies with clipboards going 'Exkyoooze me' and also a big Rasta who was playing on a bin with drumsticks, a bit like George Coleman (Bongo Joe). I couldn't find the sea, although I knew it was there because there were lots of seagulls.
The event I was at was in a white-painted room in a big house, and I talked and played tracks and sang some songs- very informal and friendly, I liked it- perfect for a hot afternoon. I had to come back but there were lots of other things happening that evening too. I played some rare Chefs stuff. And of you're visiting this blog, thank you for coming along yesterday afternoon, there was a really good atmosphere. Thank you to Debi for inviting me! I don't have music on this site yet but I have some at and I change it regularly as I write more songs!

The train back got delayed and I missed Rowen's and Jamie's gig at the Harrison which was a big disappointment because I know it must have been a good one.