Sunday, December 31, 2006

Meanderings


I was wandering round town yesterday and I came upon a little-old-man jazz band who were actually really good. I stood and listened to them for ages, until the Accordion Busker Who Can Only Play One Tune turned up and unpacked his accordion, proceding to play his one tune, without any swing at all, so it didn't mean a thing (jazz in-joke). It got me to thinking about my fruitless search for a song called the London Derriere, which I thought must be a bawdy old music-hall song, for a bagpiper friend. Eventually, I realised its real name was the Londonderry Air, and hoped nobody realised what a fool I was. It's the sort of thing that makes you blush with shame at the memory...
Christmas Joke, a long time a-comin':
What do you call a festive rodent?
Christmouse.
Urgh. Where's the Champagne?

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Z

I slept for eleven hours last night, so there are no thoughts in my head this morning to blog with. Sorry!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Gallimaufry

Roll on next year!! I had a humdinger of a party yesterday, better than I used to have when I was a child. Even though I'd made stripey jelly and we forgot to eat it, the conversation rhubarbed, a Hungarian guest managed to fix 3 sets of broken fairy lights in 5 minutes using aluminium foil, the wine and beer flowed, the veggie chili got gobbled up, and many faces from the past popped up on the doorstep with guitars, trumpets, flowers (thank you Treacle!), small children in suits, and as usual, I found an oven full of forgotten jacket potatoes this morning. McSis and Big and Little Bruvs had clubbed together to purchase a pink fluffy sporran for me, a most extraordinary gift of terrifying accuracy. Who came? the McFamily Massive full of roaring good cheer, Mike and Em full of merry energy, Little Claire's lovely mum, a brace of Sarf London youths, Lucy O'Brien, looking very well mid-way through her book on Madonna, and her partner; half the contents of our old house in Camberwell Grove, Ari, her son and niece, Nadya of the fascinating PHD, Rowen looking very stylish, and some other very special friends; it helps to live en route to and from everybody's relatives Up North and in the Black Country! We had music- two ginger-tops duetted on guitar, I played a song with Paul (who used to play sax in Helen and the Horns), my nephew sang Away in a Manger, two ex-members of King Kurt gave a rendition of Lonesome Train and the 3-hour iTunes party playlist played through three times before I noticed and iTuned out. The floor was satisfyingly sticky after everyone had gone, my sporran was full of telephone numbers of long-lost friends, there was a half-eaten mince pie tucked behind the radio and a lipgloss had been posted into a full beer bottle. Anyone lost a gold-coloured kilt pin or found Kate's pink scarf?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Kirk Brandon's Ears

Just been down the sales- got a western shirt and some guitar earrings to replace some that got nicked from the dressing room in Preston 20 years ago! They matched a bootlace tie with a little gold guitar on it that someone gave me at a gig- the tie got nicked at ULU at another gig. It was probably the devil, and he's wearing the lot as we speak. Bastard.
I saw loads of people I knew- Mr Smith, ex-head of the primary school where we do Song Club. Mykaell botching a 3-point turn in Soho, in his jeep: weird, 'cos I was just about to send him an MP3 of the Young@heart guy singing, only this morning. And then Paul Morley on the platform at Euston (he got off at Archway, in case you're interested- no North London Suborebs for him!). Ages ago, I met Paul down a groovy club and told him off for writing a review of Theatre of Hate that consisted entirely of a detailed description of Kirk Brandon's ears. My point was this- if you lived in the Outer Hebrides and relied entirely on journalists in the NME to keep you abreast of the faraway London music scene, what use is a review like that to you?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Sooty and Sweep

Sooty was one of the gruesome Lads in the 6th form at Walbottle Comprehensive School. He was called Sooty because when he was 10, him and his friend both got Sooty and Sweep Magic Sets for Christmas. His friend got called Sweep, but wasn't around any more. The lads had various talents; Tony would burp a bacon-and-egg flavoured burp in your face first thing in the morning; the Gleebs, who studied scientific subjects, gathered in a flock by the lads' lockers and smelled of unwashed adolescent male; Andy wrestled me to the ground, sat on me and stuffed grass in my mouth in front of the lad I had a crush on; most of them pencilled 'double darts' into their timetables at free-study time, and forged 'PD's signature into the timetable space when they were supposed to be in the library (I never did find out what the teacher who used such a forgeable signature was actually called); all of them were good at lifting the table-football machine and turning it upside down so they could shake the ball out of it, and not have to pay.
Sooty's particular talent was awesomely revolting: he could gob a greeny up in the air, and casually pull open the top pocket of his blazer to catch it in.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Fake New Years Party

My friend Marek Kohn worked for Channel 4 sometimes and one Christmas he was asked to do a party for New Year, which had to be filmed in advance. He arranged some filming with MPs in the House of Commons, in front of a Christmas tree, and it was edited in later. The party was great- it was in what is now The Fridge in Brixton, and all sorts of people went- Vi Subversa and her daughter, David Rappaport (RIP) who fancied my friend Ruth, David Grant, who was really friendly and chatted to me and Little Claire, Boy George being unfriendly, Alana Pellay with his/her CV printed out to make sure that he/she could capitalise on the occasion. David Grant was quite famous back then for his band Lynx. We all drank loads cos it was free, and had slurred conversations with each other. When it was broadcast, I realised I'd made fangs out of Twiglets and was talking to people through them as though it was a perfectly normal thing to do.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Goner and the tinsel

When I was 22 I went to Chicago to spend Christmas with a friend who was staying at the house of a veterinary nurse. She had a dog called Goner, because if you let it out of the door it ran away as fast as it possibly could. I took it for a walk one evening ; it was minus 27 and it was so icy I fell over as soon as I walked out of the door and couldn't stand up to go back inside again. Goner was so excited he pulled me over every time I tried to stand up and I ended up just lying there laughing until I managed to inch my way towards the door to get inside. We all went out on Christmas eve to the Grandma and Grandpa's, and when we got back, all of the decorations were missing from the Christmas tree- not only the stripy peppermint candy-canes, but all the baubles, everything. There was a massive dog poo in the middle of the figure-of-8 electric train track, and just one strand of tinsel hanging from Goner's bum.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Waiting for Frank Sidebottom to take off his head

Just as I was leaving Offline last night, Emerald was arriving fresh from an Actionettes gig supporting Frank Sidebottom, and I remembered a rock'n'roll conversation in which the person I was speaking to waited ages for Frank Sidebottom to take off his head, and eventually, thirst got the better of him and there he was, in the bar, with his head beside him on the chair... or was it really him?
Emerald looked utterly beautiful- she had a black feather in her hair, which was done in a very glamourous style, and she had a very becoming dark green dress. Wow!
It was a typical Offline night- noisy, friendly, with Mike rushing around organising everybody, and lots of good stuff to see and hear. I got there in time for Tom Robinson's soundcheck- it's easy to forget how many good songs he had. He has a mega-powerful voice and that knack of looking like a star! Vic had some good acts- first, Spinmaster Plantpot, who I have decided is an urban blues singer. I always imagine music behind his declamations. I just love raw stuff like this. Bang! Power! Then a very odd fake punk who didn't charm at all, till he put a sock on his hand and did a demonstration of his 'school-suitable' workshop. The sock was a heroin-addicted creature who manage to trick him, by pretending he was going for a job interview, into tying a tie round it's neck (his wrist) and tighten it, steadily... Yes, it was funny by the end, especially as it was done so badly! Then there was a more serious woman poet with a feisty line in put-downs, which I preferred to her poetry- more spontaneous. And then, the Naked Poet. Oh dear! Sort of reminded me of talking with my many gay friends in Brighton, only with no clothes on. Certainly filled the room up as he removed his clothing, bit by bit, and Allan Cello said, 'Just don't ask me to do that!'. Oh Dear.
After we'd played, which was OK but not as good as the night before, we watched the Hightown Crows, who I thought were great; their stuff is rockabilly/skiffle, and it was an added bonus to see the kit (bass drum is a suitcase, crash cymbal a tin tray) gently collapse during one of the songs, eventually being held together by the drummer's knees. Amazing double bass playing (O to be a double bass player!) and a great guitar sound- some sort of toyshop guitar with a pickup and a bit of nifty playing, a totally unique guitar sound. I like what people do with guitars- I remember Belt Motel and his Spanish guitar with steel strings. The Hightown Crows are good; they have style- go to see them if you can. By then I was tired, and had to miss the rest. Moreton Valance did an interesting soundcheck, played a song that sounded like an electro verion of Roadrunner by Jonathan Richman, but they were taking a long time to set up and I've done five gigs in seven days: howzat!!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A dead rat and a good gig

Poor Ratso. The radiator in the hallway wasn't working and I noticed a nasty smell when I went to switch it on. There was a pile of clothes there and I hung a jacket on the stairs to air and heard a gentle 'plop' on the carpet. He's been dead up the sleeve for several days. Ahhh. I miss him.
Songbird was great last night- I hadn't been to the new venue, Passing Clouds, but it's a bit like an alchemist's parlour- lots of things lying around; a small warehouse space with a really good atmosphere. Allan came along to play cello and we dressed formally for the occasion. The sound was really good, thanks to James, and it was just one of those gigs, for me... sometimes you don't know whether you're singing the audience's feelings or the audience is feeling your singing. Those gigs are worth all the horrors of the ones when you play to two people and one of them is so drunk they wouldn't notice if you exploded in front of them. Last night, the audience was totally silent and it meant I could listen to what Allan played and listen to what I was singing, and feel that I was finding feelings that I had never felt before in the songs. Other things happen when it's like that- one song, Colour My Day, I have never really felt the audience liked as much as me, and I was on the verge of abandoning it forever: but last night it was unnerving because I could tell people liked it and I got flustered and forgot the chords of one bit. And Allan's written a really good part to Memento Mori. I'd uploaded it to Myspace so he could see if he wanted to write his own part (normally I do it), and it was brilliant!
Of course, anything to do with Diana has its elements of madness. Her new friend, Merlin, was languishing on the landing as he'd had lot of injections to go to a faraway country. By mid-evening, he'd become a sort of feature, a stopping off point for various lustful people walking past; a very camp gentleman tousled his black curly head and snuggled up to him for a while before instructing me to kiss him! Oh yes, and Serafina was great as always; her songs are so poetic and the harp sounds like a million instruments instead of just one; I'll never tire of listening to her. We swapped my CD for her vinyl single which has the most beautifuly-drawn cover of the year and I'm looking forward to listening to it, on listening day tomorrow. The best thing is, there is room in the world for all of us, and we can inspire each other and drive each other on to better things. Mikhail Karikis sang some abstract songs in his very beautiful voice- and I felt as I always feel when people sing backing tracks- you want more of the real and the now, especially when it's as powerful as that: do an acoustic or acapella set Mikhail!!! And then I spilled half a bottle of beer into my bag- I had it clasped in my hand, and tried to open my bag with the same hand to put my purse away. So now my bag smells of gigs. How rock'n'roll is that? It's the best sort of evening, when you get to see and hear really great music and you get to play too!
DJay Buddha has asked for a couple of tracks for his podcast and I'm dead pleased about that. Roll on tonight, Offline at Jamm, more good music, Allan will be there again, might even try another new song. Looking forward to seeing Mike and Em, and big up to them both for being quality designers of 2007!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Conkers and peaches

I have the same birthday as Sienna Miller you know. I thought all Capricorns were conkers like me, but Sienna's definitely a peach. Funny, that.
In January I'm going to rename this blog blarg, in honour of my American granny. I would rename the dog Blargger, but he wouldn't notice. Do you know, he would rather go to anyone calling any dog's name in the park, than come to me when I call out his name? I thought it was such a good doggy name, a bit like Roger in My Family and Other Animals, wich is one of my favourite books.
Anyway, I'm off to meet my Champagne Friend down Canary Wharf to buy socks for an aunt. I've got Champagne Friend a painted wooden Christmas decoration from Russia that unscrews to reveal a teensy wooden person, that could be Santa Claus or it could be Hairy Neddy; I know not which.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Couscous, sparkly red paper and The Clash

Last night I went out with Chris, Kienda, Steve and Mykaell for my old-work-goodbye dinner. They are all very funny and it was a great night. I was touched by the fact they gave me a Rock the Casbah picture disc which will have pride of place on the kitchen wall (that's the room where I write my songs). And it was wrapped in sparkly red paper which Mykaell took a real shine to (ha ha!). I made him a hat out of it and took a pic on my phone which he thought wouldn't come out, but it did, Mykaell, and it's very funny. He went home with the paper as a trophy, his clothes and face covered in red glitter. Mykaell used to play percussion and sing in Steel Pulse, very cool, so it was rather sweet to see him enjoying a couple of sheets of wrapping paper so much! Could have been something to do with the rough Lebanese wine, I think, or maybe he just got the festive bug. I also have a bottle of posh champagne which I'm gonna save for a rainy day.
Just got back buzzing from Viva Viva, which was packed out. Helena and Kate from new work came along, and so did Monty; it was nice to see them. It was a foggy drive back but I think fog is wildly exciting, I love the way it drifts about like cold smoke and diffuses the streetlights. Every little townlet on the way back had different sorts of Christmas lights twinkling though the grey and even though I knew where I was, I felt lost, and I liked that too. Tomorrow, it's Songbird, with Allan playing cello and he's coming to Jamm too. Rachel and the others can't make it so I'll do a gig with harmony singers some time in the New Year; but if I'm feeling brave I'll do a new song. My tea's getting cold.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Bagpiper

Tonight I'm off out with the people from Old Work; they are fun and I'm really looking forward to it as I miss them a lot. I think they have bought me a Hairy Scottish Bagpiper as a leaving present and I just haven't the heart to tell them I don't want one. I thought at first I could plant him in the garden in a sheltered spot and just bring him in next Christmas, but now I think I'll pop him in at the Oxfam shop after a tactful length of time. I'm sure a Silver Swan could have a little fun peering up the kilt. I don't need to, you see, having a Scottish father. I know what's there already, and will tell anyone who will donate a fiver to War on Want!
Thinking about past Christmases.. once there were 18 people for Christmas at McMum and McDad's, sleeping all over the place, bumping into each other like rush-hour at dishwashing time, all permanently on the move- who do you talk to, and how much, what do you say? And an African doctor, Shima, lived with us for a year and went out for a walk one Christmas day in his Tiv robes with McDad in his kilt, and the donkey McDad had bought to eat the grass on our smallholding (it's illegal to let the grass grow over a certain height and he worked out that after the initial £30 outlay, all a donkey would cost would be £10 a year in hay and a bit for having it's toenails shaved by the vet, whereas a lawnmower would be very much more expensive). Jack used to get icicles on his ears, this time of year.
Anyway, I'm going to dress Ratso up in a Santa suit and little white beard to surprise everyone on Christmas day. Perhaps I can get him to serve cocktails.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Lots of little brothers

It was funny, you know- about 15 blokes in the sudience looked like my little brother Andy- short hair or shaved heads, cute little noses, intense expressions, sitting back in their chair holding a pint on the table, thinking. I kept seeing them out of the corner of my eye and thinking 'I thought Andy couldn't come!'.
Maybe there were lots of Mes there too and I just didn't notice.
Been listening to the songs that Martin recorded a couple of months ago, that I did some singing on. BJ Cole played on some of them too; they are just the thing for a Sunday, pensive and gentle. (but some nifty digs at horrors like Cilla. I mimicked her voice once when I wrote some music for a children's film about the revenge of redheaded people on those who mocked them)
Suddenly, part of me is feeling really optimistic again. I know good musical adventures are going to happen next year!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Daintees; two best days of 2006 and 22 pens

I've just got back from Newcastle.
Oh, I've had such a good time! I drove up the A1
(LittleChefLittleChefLittleCheflotsofroundaboutsmoreLittleChefs and you're there)
on Thursday. Martin came to meet me at the hotel and we went to the Cluny; the Daintees have got to be the friendliest band in the Universe, and it turned out that John Steele, one of the guitarists, is the brother of a little girl who I used to go to play with when I was a child. I think I last saw him when he was 3! The crowd was really warm (altho' talking while I played; was their night out, innit?) but I still enjoyed it, there was a really good atmosphere. The I got to watch the Daintees, who I'd never seen. They were just the best band I have seen for ages- they radiated bonhomie from the stage. When you've been in bands you check out the way that the people in the band feel about each other, and this lot REALLY like being in a band together. They had a different drummer from their original one, called Kate, who drummed like Johnny Cash's drummer. I felt really embarrassed afterwards to tell her how good she is- you always feel like you are saying 'Very good for a female' in a patronising cheesey way, but bloody hell, she is a good drummer, full stop. And Martin is hilariously funny, lots of audience banter-'How much do you like the changes that's happened on the quayside then?'
'39%'
'You don't get that response in Hamburg'.
'This song's for all the girlfriends on the planet who've had to put up with singer/songwriter boyfriends'.
What an amazing band; the second night I realised that they reminded me of an African band in the way they get on with each other onstage- they have this feeling of all being equal to each other in some way. First night, I even got off my high horse and danced to 'Boat to Bolivia', after chatting to a friendly chap from Corbridge. Second night, I enjoyed playing again; my friend Carol turned up, we caught up with each other and then watched the Daintees set together. Martin's a very good fingerpickerer and I had to listen to try to figure it all out- he's gonna email me the chords of the Round Robin. It was just such fun, the whole thing, being home (where the heart is), yakking away to everybody, people in the audience came up and said they liked my songs, the promoter Shippy's a Chefs fan of old (there were lots of 'em there) and I signed a couple of vintage Chefs singles, talking to Martin about All Things, making new friends, watching mad Newcastle buskers, sleeping in the lovely comfortable Shaftesbury Hotel, giving the Daintees' perccussionist ancient midget gems from the bottom of my bag, watching a great band two nights running.... definitely the two best days of miserable 2006. Talk about feeling good! Big up Martin, Shippy and the Daintees for being the best hosts in town!
Oh yes... the pens. Well, on Friday morning I got the Metro up the toon to do a bit of Christmas shopping, but before I left, I decided to empty out my bag because it was a little bit heavy. There were 22 pens in there, two lipsticks and a Swiss Army Knife. After I'd taken them out, the bag was as light as a feather and I floated through Fenwicks like a puff of thistledown.

More tomorrow, perhaps.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

New tracks



Very rough demos, but I had to be brief, as recording 'It was a Bad Day' made me cry. But I've put the very rough demo of 'Memento Mori' to which I owe Claire the title, up on Myspace, www.myspace.com/helenmccookerybook
Because it's a very rough demo there's a funny glitch in the middle. It will have a cello on it eventually, and I'll play it with Allan Bradbury on cello at Songbird on Wednesday next week: the poster is here.
Tomorrow, I'm off up to Byker to play with the Daintees!

Rubbish joke and other thorts

Here goes:
Knock knock
Who's there?
Little old lady
Little old lady who?
I didn't know you could yodel!
I know, I know, you've heard it before, but it doesn't do any harm to be reminded, does it?
I'm chuffed today cos a DJ from Thailand, DJ Sonny, sent off for the CD and he mailed to say he really likes it and might review it for Esquire (which I've never read but it sounds good anyway). I'm going over to the studio this morning to record a couple of new songs, the one about Granny's snake bracelet that isn't a rockabilly song, and the tango, which is called 'It was a bad day'.
After a few conversations recently, I've realised that it's my downfall to be driven by curiosity rather than ambition. It means that you feel very unthreatened by competitive people and their tricks and attempts to manipulate you, but it also means (unfortunately) that you are forever doomed to be an outsider. Somewhere along the line I thought I would find a slot that fitted, but if it hasn't happened by now it never will. I suppose there's a lot of freedom in that thought.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Ferrets

It's that rat... can't stop thinking about small animals. Have you ever been to a ferret race? It's so funny- they squirm down plastic tubes in a 'race' that you bet 4 pence on. Of course, they are not at all interested in racing; the race I watched, the one that got most quickly to the end of the tube, that everybody thought was going to win, paused just short of the exit and then backed all the way out of it again, faster than it had gone forward! Another one got halfway down and just sat there; it was at a join in the tubes and its fur was poking out all round it in a sort of ginger ruff. The one that finally won emerged looking a little bit dazed, and not at all interested in its victory; if anything it looked disappointed that it hadn't arrived anywhere interesting after its journey. 'Oh, it's bloody Trent Park at THIS end of the plastic tube, too'.
By the way, the rat is still there, scrabbling away at night.
I think I've fallen in love with it.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Edith Sitwell

About twelve years ago, I drew a picture of the Dada poet Edith Sitwell (what style! Helen-and-the-Horns-era hairdo inspired by her!) crunching her way through several handfuls of canaries, for an exhibition called 'Famous Women Eating Breakfast'. 'Woman's Hour' did a feature on the exhibition, and the interviewer mentioned sevral drawings, one of which was the Sitwell one. I was contacted by Alannah Curry of the Thompson Twins, because she was also a mad Edith fan. She'd made some backing tracks and had got rappers to recite Sitwell's poetry over them- and she had one by Debbie Harry, too! It was completely brilliant. She asked me to do one, but asking me to rap is like asking a turkey to ice-skate: I was a dismal failure at it. But I did get to go to a fantastic party at their house with Duggie Fields there and all that.
The reason I said this is that I was sure I had a copy of the Debbie Harry/Edith Sitwell rap poem, but I can't find it. I have to do a talk tomorrow about Dada and I thought it would be perfect. I've tried to seek Alannah out on the internet but can't find her;I knew she'd gone to New Zealand, and I even managed to find her school, but not her! One thing I have got, though, is Akiko Hada's 'Art Moderna Cha Cha Cha', which I think is just about the funniest musical short I've ever seen. Actually it IS the funniest; it's such a slow build, and there sits Steve Beresford all po-faced with a very fancy guitar... It's one of those things that can make you burst out laughing in the street just thinking about it, like my cousin Rod's letter about sitting on a hyacinth at my party, or P G Wodehouse's story about the dog barking at the purple dressing gown with yellow frogs on it. I was reading that one on the tube and had to close the book, it was making me laugh so loudly! It got to the point where I couldn't even look down at the book on my lap without exploding, and when I got home I collapsed in hysterics and had to gasp for air.
Oh and CONGRATULATIONS to Pete and Lisa on their everlasting bonding experience in New York, two stylish and very sweet people! XXX

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Unfriendly Thoughts about New Romantics

I was walking past Stephen Jones's hat shop this afternoon and I suddenly realised why I'd never been a New Romantic in spite of Mrs Graduate Records' attempts to take me shopping to buy velvet knee britches and so on. Apart from the fact that being in a punk band was anything but a fashion for me, so moving on to a new fad was out of the question, it was the fact that New Romantics, male and female, reminded me on Large Mums. You know, big and wide, huge frills over ample bosoms, stumping along, and those red, red lips with thick matte lipstick, smiling like the Blue Meanies in Yellow Submarine. All it would have taken would have been a change in fabrics from Evans the Outsize, swapping beige crimplene for black silk, and the fashions were identical; the music was gruesome, too, a thick grey aural plod.
Bunch of Pantomum Dames, the lotovem.

Scissors (R?)

I don't know if this is a repeat but all the stations are up to it, this time of year; sorry if it is, but I was thinking about it just now. When we were little, McMum and McDad went away on holiday for two weeks leaving us with Granny. For some reason, they gave us each a little pair of scissors, with strict instructions that we weren't to cut each others hair. We had to promise. Imagine our cat's delight when we pruned off not only both sets of magnificent whiskers, but also random lumps of fur from her pelt!
Granny was not so pleased.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Magic Numbers at Pebble Mill

How's this for a dream? I was watching the Magic Numbers film a performance at the Pebble Mill Studios in Birmingham. They were on a tiny stage, made all the more tiny by the fact that they had dancers in Snow White costumes (except in orange and green nylon, not white and blue) crushed up there with them, trying to go through their moves. Some of the dancers were men,; one had a beard like the Magic Numbers man. One woman had a super-suntan-orange face and looked a bit like Zoe Wanamaker, but not quite her. Every time I looked, there were more dancers,and the poor Magic Numbers bassplayer girl was having trouble finding a space. Their song was really good; I don't really like their stuff much, but this one was great. When I woke up I sang it into my Mobile but I haven't listened yet because I'm afraid I'll be disappointed!
I wonder if it's because when I went to buy that acoustic guitar a couple of weeks ago, the man in the shop told me that the Magic Numbers' bass player had been in the other day to buy a Hofner semi-acoustic bass?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Martin's record

Martin Stephenson texted me today, and he's been mixing the songs he recorded that he asked me to do vocals on. I'm really looking forward to hearing them: so much has happened since then, what with finishing the CD, trouble at work (don't even ask!) and old Ratso upstairs, I can hardly remember the tunes. I just remember having a really nice afternoon in a studio in Crouch Hill, so high up you could look over at Alexandra Palace. Martin had a Geordie mate who was putting some extra guitar on them, and Jim who used to play fiddle for the Blubbery Hellbellies. I wonder what happened to Arthur? Big Bad Baldy Billy who played bass used to come to my parties. Once, children were scribbling on his bald head, and he just sat there patiently. I asked him if he liked it, and he said 'No', so I went out and got the children some chips and they stopped.
I've been writing a song which I think is a tango rhythm called 'It Was a Bad Day'. I thought it was really catchy and was feeling dead smug about it, then there was a horrible dance track on TV that out-catchied it- I was walking down the road to get an inhumane rat trap, and the dance theme thundered through my head with its nasty keyboard line the same as the vocal, and wouldn't go away. I only wish I could attach Ratso to the catchy dance theme and send them both off packing to a desert island where they wouldn't bother anyone except backpackers with a credit card; Ratso could dance himself into tiny pieces, and the dance track could play away to itself with nobody listening at all, after the backpackers had gone home.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Lost Women of Rock Music

I got a leaflet from Ashgate Press, the publishers of the forthcoming book, the other day. It will be out in June next year although I still haven't had the proofs to read. It will be too expensive to buy- I think they are aiming it at libraries. I didn't realise it would be so pricey (£55). I know Ashgate make paperbacks too and they charge about £16 for those, but I suppose they estimate the demand and have decided it's not worth doing a paperback just now. Sometimes I wish I'd just gone for the coffee-table option but then I wouldn't have been able to diss Thatcher at great length, which I do, or talk about the aftermath of punk, which I do, or include such feisty non-stereotyped quotations (which I do). Or perhaps even include massive chunks of verbatim John Peel and Geoff Travis quotations, either. But there aren't any pictures except for the one on the cover which was very kindly donated by Caroline Coon, who is my Girl Of The Moment. So maybe it's for purists anyway!
Kate Korris, if you read this again, I'd like your contact details, could you email me helen_mccookerybook@yahoo.co.uk
(by the way, I still haven't caught the rat)

Rat

When I lived in Camberwell, rats used to be regular visitors, entering the house via the toilet and sometimes sitting in the airlock on the U-bend, with their tails visible in the pan.
At the moment, there is a rat in the bedroom, here in middle clas suburban Barnet. I can't find it anywhere; I went to B&Q yesterday and bought a humane trap which I've baited with fudge (they say Galaxy chocolate is best so I'll try that if the fudge doesn't work). It's been there for two days; every so often I can hear it rustling. the cats and the dog are not interested; so long as food is in their bowls and they have a radiator to snore next to, they're not bothered. I chased it round the kitchen two days ago trying to catch it in a bowl, but it's a bit unnerving. A rat bit me on the finger once when I was rescuing it from a cat, and I had to go to get a tetanus jab. The bite bloody hurt, and I've got a few gigs coming up and guitarists don't need gnawed fingers.
I'm going out this morning, it's horrible being indoors fighting a battle of wills with a tiny and unhygienic rodent.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Silence

When I was in the 6th form at school, they all assumed that I was a French exchange student, because I never spoke.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Edinburgh


It's a great city, and was at its best on Saturday. There was a German market in full swing under a ferris wheel, with the Scott Monument lit up with tacky deep red floodlights, and the castle looming as magnificent as ever in the background. I'd been to the Cafe Royale a few years ago with the cast from the horror-panto version of Titus Andronicus (it was actually a musical and a Chinese nun was in the audience one night, but that's another story). Back then, it was posh, as befits its name; this time around the glory had faded and gents had to use the ladies, as all the lavatories were out of order, and everything was sticky. But the little venue upstairs had a great sound and the sound person was very good. I can't remember the names of the other bands (sorry) but they played that sort of melodic Scottish pop, influenced by the Byrds and the Beach Boys with a bit of country thrown in. The band straight after me was a bit too Monkees-ish, but very good musicians. They were all very gentlemanly and watched my set; McMum and McDad came too, but left as soon as the drums started! I then got chatting to the mum of a guitarist in the second band on and she told me about a festival in Inverness which sounds like fun so I'm going to check it out. I gave her a CD to listen to. I was pleased cos I managed to play quite well-a couple of times recently I have been disappointed by either not singing as well as I wanted to or not playing as well as I wanted to; this time, all bits worked. I photographed the gorgeous stained glass windows at the venue to put here but instead, I'll put an exciting mystery photograph up which essentially explains why Scottish people are all mad (I'm allowed to say that because I am one).
By the way- on the train there and the way back, there were groups of Geordie women (not quite as fat as the Fat Slags) utterly pissed on Cava, all done up to the nines, hilariously funny and VERY LOUD, going away for girly weekends. Scary.
Also last week I was sent a book called The Guerilla Guide to Music Business; they interviewed me, and it is in there along with lots more.