Thursday, November 30, 2006


I have found 2 boxes of unplayed vinyl Helen and the Horns albums- I've played one and the top-end of the sound is a little distorted (loft fatigue) but if anyone wants one, they can sent £12.00 to the address below (say what it's for!)
And I have a limited number of 'Women Out of Line' books (they are comic strip books with stories by woman artists including me!) which are also £12.00
And I have a very limited number of black vinyl Freight Train singles, which are £10.00
All these include p & p; if you send off for more than one, I'll use the excess postage to do a next-day delivery in the UK.
Don't forget if you order 'Suburban Pastoral' from my P.O. below for £10.99, first orders get a Chefs badge, till they run out.

Helen and the Horns
P.O. Box 3427

.... and if you live in or near Edinburgh, do come to see me play at the Cafe Royale on Saturday, I'm on at 9 p.m.
Would be nice to see you!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Hidden Treasures

I played in Brixton on Monday at Hidden Treasures. It was a real singers night- lots of lovely voices- Ilana Lorraine, Rachel Huggins (who organises the gig), Katie Leech. The harmonies were gorgeous and I've asked Rachel and another one of the vocalists to accompany me at the Christmas Offline, where I'll do some songs I've never played live before, just to be festive!
The pub where it happens, the Telegraph, is halfway through being converted into a zingy venue, and it was a bit like being on a film set, half one thing, half another, and it all added to the atmosphere, with raggedy comfortable sofas and dark corners, and lots of people eating chips from paper (they had closed the restaurant down during the renovations). I shared my banana with Rachel when I got there, and she had lots of mini-Twixes to share. Lots of people I hadn't seen for ages were there, the brothers came and one of the guitarists was so good I felt obliged to get my guitar out of it's case when he was soundchecking, and work out one of the chords he was playing. Nerdy, or what?
And Mike has redesigned the front page of my website, hasn't he, and doesn't it look good?

Monday, November 27, 2006


Just off to the Telegraph; I'm on at 9 p.m. and lookin' forward to it!


Odd one, last night- it was a bit like this Parisian wine bar I went to a couple of years ago, with a French jazz band in the corner; I suppose you'd call it a cabaret bar. I almost died with shock when I got a glass of red wine from the bar after I'd played and it cost £4.50.
On the way home, I saw something straight out of and Edward Hopper painting- in an upstairs room in a block of modern flats, the curled stalk of a double bass was waving about, held by a chap who was deeeeep in conversation with another man, who was seated at what must have been a piano, all in silhouette in a plain yellow rectangle of light. Beautiful.
I've just heard from a DJ in Thailand who has bought the CD!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Padded coat hanger

One Christmas, when I was a little girl, McMum was given a pink satin padded coathanger as a present. That was the point at which I decided I was never going to grow up.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Conditioner on toast

Boots henna and horsechestnut, yummy winter snack!
Humm, lyrics. I was trying to write a rockabilly track inspired by Claire's search for songs about jewellery and ended up writing a weird scary non-rockabilly song about my grandmother, who was my Special Person before she died. It frightens me when I sing it...
And I was thinking about the first time I ever wrote a song with my guitar. I told my music teacher at school, and she asked me to sing it and play it. It was totally cheesy- 'Haunted Castle', but it had good chords and melody. After I'd sung it she said 'YOU DIDN'T WRITE THAT SONG!' and slammed the piano lid down. Mrs Fitton, if you are reading this, I did write that song! And I did write more! And I encourage everybody I meet to write songs! SO THERE!

Gigs this weekend

Tomorrow I'm playimng at Viva Viva in Hornsey- I'll be doing a few there, apparently it's a little restaurant. Lots of people play there and I'm curious to know what it's like. Monday night it's the Telegraph on Brixton Hill, and I'm onstage at 9 p.m.
Might air some new material on one or both of those nights- 'pends how I feel....
Glad to say Allan Bradbury will be playing cello on the 20th December gig in Dalston, and Serafina's playing too. We're all gonna dress up posh for that one.
Back to stuffing envelopes with CDs; I'm sending out to radio shows today, inlcuding Steve Lamacq and, if I can find the address, the DJ guy in Argentina who wrote to me about a year ago.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

First Cd Orders

The first orders came in today; I found a little packet of original Chefs badges, so the first 25 orders will each get a free one. If you don't care, pass it on to someone who does!

Old People's Choir, young@heart

Did you see that programme last night? It was so wonderful, this choir of people who were really ancient, going off to sing rock cover versions to prisoners and making these hard guys weep with emotion. The high point was this little old lady and little old man singing 'I Feel Good' to a packed theatre. And they were enjoying themselves so much! Two of the old fellas died during the rehearsals, but the band carried on in their memory; there was one very poignant scene where the best friend of one of them sang a solo, his last ever with the choir, and you could hear his little air pump thing (he'd had a heart attack) whooshing gently in the background. It was brilliant, and their musical director was amazing; they were all a bit scared of him because he got so annoyed when they forgot the words. All the way through I was thinking, 'I WANT TO DO THAT!'. I'd always wanted to do songwriting with elders, and the closest I got was recording a demo with an old-people's singing group who wanted to get gigs in retirement homes; they had a mad Hindu priest accompanying them on electric piano, with a smiley smile that was so smiley it was scary, and I had to do a lot of takes because they kept booting the mike stands and rustling their sheet music mid-song. We got there in the end though; I still have the tapes somewhere!
It got me to thinking about what singing does for people, and I thought back to my frightening primary school, whose teachers beat us and shook us , and where our toilets were outside and housed the largest and slimiest snails you've ever seen. But every morning, before we went into our classrooms and shook with fear in case it was our turn, the school got together and sang a hymn. It was the most fantastic freedom, in spite of the fact that the rollickin' piano was being played by the nastiest teacher of all, Mrs Herdman (she had a 'female friend' called Mrs Oddie living in her loft, believe it or not!). But we, the schoolchildren, with our snotty noses, bad breath and dirty fingernails, became a sort of music mob and our voices escaped through the roof into outer space, even though we were physically imprisoned all day with all that violence. Sometimes I think that singing is manufactured out of anger, somehow converted from a destructive emotion, from something ugly into a free and lovely expression of self.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Hip Hop

A lot of rap music seems like jigsaws put together by arrogant young men living at home whose mums have bought them lots of jammy equipment out of their savings; every jigsaw has the same picture on the front.
(I heard a great track called The Booth the other day that was anything but that)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

As Played by London Cabbies

My friend told me last night that her partner, who drives a Black Cab, has taken Suburban Pastoral with him to play as he drives round London! Wahey!
She and I were once going to run a pirate radio station from the back of a clapped-out mini. I had written Voxpop Puella and the idea was we'd drive round the suburbs, interrupting Radio One or whatever mindless station the home-maker was listening to, with feminist pop! Ha ha! She volunteered to build and broadcast, as she'd been in the Signals Corps as grammar school; I had a book that Alistair, the guy who was accused of biting a policeman in the Poll Tax Riots with somebody else's teeth (another story, another time), gave me, called 'Radio is My Bomb'. It was supposed to tell you how to build a radio transmitter, but he told me recently the instructions didn't work. It would have been a laugh, though, wouldn't it, like playing a trick on a teacher at school. Perhaps I should be thinking of ways to become a millionaire instead of daydreaming anarchy!

Monday, November 20, 2006


Yes, that's what I found on the pavement a month ago. But I'd been having a horrendous run of bad luck and I decided I didn't want to be part of someone else's bad day (could have been someone's disability benefit or something) so I handed it in at the Police Station and immediately regretted it (£90 of parking fines...). However, no-one claimed it and today I went to pick it up; it had been sent away so I had to travel miles, and when I got there I waited 2 hours along with a bunch of people ( who were so dispirited they didn't even fidget), a broken 'It's your turn now' machine and a very, very stupid PC who took delight in doing everything immensely slowly on the other side of his glass panel. It was like watching the tropical fish bumble about their business: he even managed to blink slowly, and I know the clock on That Side Of The Glass was going at wind-up time, because on our side, we sure as heck were getting wound up. I almost gave up, but didn't want them to be spending someone's lost money, and my found money, on a Christmas bumper fun party they didn't deserve.
I was lucky; most people there were being kept waiting so they could report a theft. So I'm going to stop feeling miserable, dent my debts, and look forward to festivities to come. I think I will allow myself a huge bar of chocolate to celebrate!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Last call for Britannia Great

If you want to listen to, or download this track, hurry! I'm taking it off the Songbird site to replace it with new MP3s from artists performing at future nights.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A terrific night!

The weird ones are always the best! (remind me to tell you about those nights in Hampstead). Tonight I played a benefit for East Barnet Festival at the Bull Theatre. First on was the Yag Dag Spro Ba Band, who played Tibetan-flavoured music; they had a really good double bass player who I plan to steal when the rest of the band aren't lookin'. Then a belly dancer writhed about on stage, much the joy of the male audience members (you could try denying it, guys, but I was in the wings watching the audience watching, and I saw what I saw), and then I went on with my trusty Gretsch; the D.I. box was picking up FM radio and I did at least half of the set not being able to hear my guitar at all but being able to hear an inane radio DJ blabbing away in DJ-tones.. extraordinaire! And then all down to the bar to hear the BMJ band, a big-band collective of elders playing banjos, mandolins and guitars, all grey and serious, 'Those Were the Days My Friend' and 'Paris Skies' sans swing, but with gravitas a-go-go!! Three cheers for the local!!! I even got to draw the raffle tickets, but when I drew my own numbers I generously foregoed (forwent? foregoo?) the pale blue skinny candles 12-pack and they went to someone else...
And Diana came and so did you, Monty, and The BMJ Band are playing the next Songbird with their customised music stands and embroidered sashes. What-ho Bertie, life is fun in the most peculiar way, and in the most peculiar places! (and I sold some CDs to boot!)
Oh yes, and big up the MCs, younger and older,in bow ties and suits,and their jokes so extraordinarily corny!

Friday, November 17, 2006


My nephew, who is autistic, picked up an egg one day and said 'Birdbaby'. What beautiful poetry, all in one word.
At the dinner table, I asked him to please pass the tomato ketchup.
I can't remember who had hair on their chinny-chin-chin or which fairy tale it came from, but we almost choked on our chips!
Below is a link to Bobby Moore's article on The Slits- I'll try to html it later but sometimes the software on Blogger can't cope with more than one line, so it might just nbe better to paste it into your address bar if you want to have a look:

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Fossils, Fleas, and fpending money on shirts

Just got back from my one-woman distribution run; Rough Trade now has Suburban Pastoral mail order and also some more Helen and the Horns CDs. Before that I went round to see Gina for coffee; she was making seven sand-dance costumes for children at the kitchen table out of some very posh fabrics parents had donated to the school; at least one Liberty's silk scarf there, and possibly a wisp of Chanel... snip snip snip, all cut up for 5-year-olds to crash about in!
I told her about Joan as Policewoman and we listened; she gave me her spare Jarvis Cocker new CD (Gina makes pop videos for Rough Trade) and she told me off for not having paypal somewhere here to sell the CD. Oh, that will take me hours to sort out... I'll see if I can work out how to do it. And then on the way to Rough Trade I sneaked into the Oxfam Shop on Westbourne Grove and broke my spending embargo by buying a Western shirt to wear at the gig on Saturday night. Shame on me for my profligacy!!
Yesterday Dan came round and I helped him to write a song about fossils (no, nothing rhymes with fossils) for the Song Club massive. We are going to make huge cardboard magnifying glasses for them, which will look hilarious. I'm supposed to have stopped doing Song Club but it's too much fun to give up and a very good antidote to some of the aggressive adults I have to teach sometimes.
The cats have fleas. Excuse me, got to go and buy some of those neck-drops that kill the blighters on their way up the cats' bodies to park in their whisker-follicles.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Setting up a tour

That's what's going on..
Here are the dates so far:

Saturday 18th November: The Bull Theatre, 68 High Street Barnet. Benefit for East Barnet Festival. £7/£5. Headline gig with the Yang Dag Spro Ba Band and dancer Deborah Rosenberg. Call 0208 441 5010 for tickets
CSunday 26th November, Viva la Diva, at Viva Viva, 18 Hornsey High Street, London N8
Email me for tickets for reduced-price meal and drinks
Monday 27th November, Hidden Treasure at the Telegraph. Brixton Hill, £5
Saturday 2nd December, The Cafe Royal, Edinburgh
Thursday 14th December, The Clunie, Newcastle Upon Tyne, with the Daintees
Friday 25th December, The Clune, Newcastle Upon Tyne, with the Daintees
Wednesday 20th December, Songbird, Dalston
Thursday 21st December, Offline, Jamm, Brixton
Thursday 25th January, Buffalo Bar, Windsor Place, Cardiff
Also TBC Bristol, Canterbury and others.
More details of other gigs close to the time! Please come to the gig in Barnet if you can, It's for a good cause!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


You know those big posters you get free with daily newspapers? Last night me and a couple of pals spent the evening customising the sheep one: one sheep is a Sloane sheep with a tartan ribbon abd twinkly brooch round its neck; another has natty dreads; one has a fleece made of old buttons from old shirts. Lots of them have scary beady eyes made from.... beads (not scary until they are eyes). One has a cotton wool beard and a unicorn horn made of a shell, and one has the word heterosexu- on it's body, and -al on its head, made of alphabetti sequins. There are piggy rings through noses, earrings, and sequinned trotters, you name it, those sheep have it. Just the pastime for a damp dark autumn evening. When it's finished I'll put it on a the kitchen wall, and all the bits will fall off it and be really annoying.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Suburban Pastoral Virtual Launch

Well, here at last is Suburban Pastoral- the new CD; if you'd like your very own copy, just send a cheque/postal order/international money order for £10.99 made out to Helen and the Horns, to
Helen and the Horns
PO Box 3427

Allow a couple of weeks for delivery; I'm a one-person DIY girl!
Here's last night's playlist from the Albert in Brixton. It was fun and very friendly!
Hillbilly/Jump Jive listening:
Maddox Bros and Rose: Stop Whistling Wolf
Dessie Faulkner: I Dare You to Love Me
Wanda Jackson: I Gotta Know
Elvis Presley: Blue Moon (Sun session)
Pee Wee King: Chew Tobacco Rag
Ginnie Wright: I Love You, Yes
Louis Jordan: Chartreuse
Hank Spurling: Frog Pond Boogie
The Miller Sisters: Ten Cats Down
The SToltz Brothers: Rock'n'Roll Riot
Bobby Sykes: Diesel Smoke and Dangerous Curves
Barbie Gaye: My Boy Lollipop
Etta James: Good Rockin' Daddy
Patsy Cline: Gotta Lotta Rhythm in my Soul
Johnny Carroll: Wild Wild Women
Elvis Presley: Blue Moon of Kentucky

I know I played more than this- but these tracks are so short, you have to be lightnin' fast and I hadn't planned for that- every few tracks was a panic attrack- throw something on the turntable to keep it all going while you juggle sleeves, inner sleeves, vinyl, CDs, half a lager, a pair of glasses and a conversation in which you are trying to give the impression of being too cool for words. Oh boy, talk about adrenaline! I fell asleep on the train home.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Not doodling; playing

It was a strange day, seen through the mists of this odd virus I've picked up. I went to the first meeting ever that I haven't doodled pages of doodles at. I just sat and listened and talked when it was my turn; I thought something had gone wrong with my brain until I realised the reason: I hadn't brought any paper with me. So that was why.
Later, I'd been going to meet Jamie to eat chocolate cake in Deptford, and Chris to give him some CDs, but Jamie had to work and so did Chris, so instead I went and translated the money I got for my Viz comic into an old acoustic guitar, which obliged me by producing a new song out of it's f-holes as soon as I got it home. So if you'll excuse me, blog, my old chum-buddy-pal, I'll get on with that the noo.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Revisiting Song Club

The children's Song Club I used to run with my friend Dan has been to the Natural History Museum exhibition about dinosaurs, to get inspiration for song lyrics. Dan invited me along to help out with one of the songs and we did a great call-and-response song with dino-facts! The children are so energetic, it's like working with a box of explosions, they can't sit still at all and slither all over the floor, bounce up to the lyric sheets to point things out, stare at each other's faces, but still manage to sing at the tops of their voices. I miss it a lot but I've had to Get Serious about things in order to finish the CD; no haircuts, cosmetics, gigs, good times, or socialising (well a bit of that, if it's cheap!). On Friday, it's a social night out at the Albert in Brixton, where I'm DJing at Mike's 40s and 50s music night from 9 p.m. Out comes all that old dusty vinyl, Frog Pond Boogie, Stop Whistlin' Wolf and all those old hillbilly favourites. Best of all, Wanda Jackson's 'I Gotta Know'. Its gonna be fun! See

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Najma's journey

Yesterday Najma phoned and told me how she'd been on holiday in Islamabad when the earthquake hit Pakistan. Instead of coming home, she decided to stay there and help, and she spent seven months travelling round the mountains trying to do what she could, because the Pakistani mountain people are generally poor and not well-equipped to deal with disasters like this. She sent emails back to England and gradually people began to contribute towards the rehabilitation of the victims of the quake. I've always known Najma as a delicate, beautiful woman singer and harmonium player with a lovely voice and a very gentle personality. I can't believe how brave she has been, just to leave everything behind and enter such a rough and potentially dangerous situation. It's completely humbling.
If you have spare money, she says Oxfam is a good charity to give it to, as they are experienced and quick to get the money to where it's needed.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Ooh Aah Fireworks!

Floods of people swept up the hill to Blackheath last night to see the fireworks- it was satisfyingly cold and dark; our posse had my Champagne friend, her partner and seven teenage boys, whose energy propelled us through the steep streets (HURRY UP HURRY UP WE'LL MISS THEM!).
Bright yellow fur tails spiralling through the sky,sparkling lion's manes,fizzing dreadlocks, glitter pens, looking up inside a National Geographic Magazine photograph of a jellyfish with spines of light,sparkling umbrellas opening, just everything was there.. and bursting coloured circles of dots, red, blue, yellow, green: how did those ones work so we all saw circles? And some of them scribbled all over the sky with red smoke before they burst. How did they work out who lit which firework when? The must have practised for ages...And the sound! The explosions echoed off that wall round Greenwich Park, a fantastic slapback sound- boom...WHACK boom..WHACK. I tried to record it on my phone, I've been collecting echoes (the Brunel Bridge at Maidenhead, a steel pan band in Docklands etc) but I'm sure I couldn't capture the threedimensionalness (?) of the sound. Oh it was great!I love fireworks!!!

Saturday, November 04, 2006


I took at look at Claire's blog today,, full of horrid but truly fascinating facts. She is full of inspiration, and used to make hand-tinted photos of The Chefs; she's the person who took the picture for the original e.p. So take a look and see what she's posted today!
It reminded me: last week I bought full-arm semi-transparent sleeve things with tattoos all over them, which are great. I bought two packs, just in case one wears out. Rather like the time when I was making a horned fitted fake viking helmet, ("what on earth are you making that for?"), I have encountered puzzlement that I should want to wear such things. Well, I do, I do, I do, so THERE!
My last remaining Viz comic is on eBay- it's the very first issue. I hope to make enough to put towards an acoustic guitar to practise and write songs with, but it's not doing too well at the moment, and nobody wants my Bow Wow Wow flip-top cassette! Ebay's weird.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Clicks for Autumn!!!

That's what they'd say on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, anyway. That sniff in the air of frost and damp leaves...mmmm!
1000 CDs turned up yesterday- I'm really pleased with how they look and how they sound and all the things you should be pleased by.
I have a P.O. Box number starting on the 13th November so I'll put all the details up on the 11th, and that will be the release day. I will have a virtual party, with virtual champagne and virtual balloons, and invite you who read this, to join me in cyberspace, to meet the Queer guys from Queer Eye (virtual), all sorts of imaginary artists and musicians, Noggin the Nog and Graculus, all my dead friends (virtual) especially my fantastic Granny who me and Bruv thought was related to a sheep because she called us 'Lamby' and had snow-white hair and quite a baa-ing voice... please virtually invite whom you choose, and maybe leave a comment so I can toast them with invisible champagne!
I will post them out to the people who listened to tracks and helped to choose on that day, too.
I had three hours sleep last night, which is probably why I've been struck surreal. Or it could be that stack of exciting boxes in the back room!

Thursday, November 02, 2006


It was a very peculiar Songbird last night; there was a last-minute venue change due to Hackney Council's fire regs, so we all went to the Vision Banqueting Suite under an Oxfam shop in Dalston- low ceilings, vinyl floor, hatch bar, balloons left over from 3 weeks ago, low lighting, and more bouncers than candles on a 90-year-old's birthday cake (exaggerate? moi?) There wasn't a very large audience but in some ways that added to the ambience. The DJ played lots of old-skool dub reggae, and then there was a fantastic bloke who played a massive shiny sheet of buckled steel with a cello bow- it really was incredible; I've seen sawblade players in Wylam Folk Club in the last century, a surprisingly haunting sound, and this was similar- a very beautiful and emotive experience! At the end he rattled and boomed the steel and it sounded like a loud explosion- one of the bouncers came dashing in with a '999' expression on his face READY TO SORT IT OUT. He looked a little sheepish and slipped out of the door again; good job only I noticed, so I'm the only person that knows (!). Then came Bilkis, which was essentially Sophie with her lovely voice and picked Spanish guitar riffs, and a violin player, Wei Wei. I was trying to think last night what Sophie's songs reminded me of. When I was a little girl I used to sometimes see those pale blue willow pattern plates at people's houses and wonder what was behind the droopy trees and little bridges- some sort of imaginary magical land that was hidden in the misty background: and that was it. It's as though she can peep through a hole in reality and see something different, that only she can find. I liked the sound of the amplified Spanish guitar too; you just don't hear that sound very often.
By the way, Punkdaddy's been in touch to say this CD is a solo one; the next one will be a collaboration with Damage.
Well, I'm sitting here waiting for the CDs to arrive......

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Thank you Claire- for some reason those links don't work.
... now I think they work except the email. I'll try to get that one going. Thanks Lazy Lama!


Well... the Slits seem to be doing really well on their tour of the States- lots of people who subscribe to the typicalgirls website seem to have been enjoying it all- I have to say they are really my favourite live band at the moment.
What else? Punkdaddy's finished his DIY CD that also features 'good old' Damage from days of yore- you can email the Punkdaddy at to find out how to get hold of one. He's reviewed the Brighton gig at
Meanwhile I'm awaiting delivery of my own CDs- I've got a box number organised. I have to big up the fantastic Emerald who is such a brilliant illustrator/designer and who did the cover. Her site is and it's worth following up her links- she's a goldmine of interesting contacts and ideas.
What else? I'm DJing at Mike's 1940s and 1950s night at the Albert in Brixton on Friday 10th November- go to and there are more details there.
What else? I've just bought a Yo La Tengo CD, because I heard some of it in a guitar shop and liked it. I can't lsiten to it yet as I made up a new riff this morning and I'll forget it ti I don't go through it a few times.
The day begins. I must remember to buy a loaf of bread.