Monday, June 30, 2008


Fortified by a Mr Whippy with the taste and texture of a jellyfish, I went to the animation screening at the Royal College of Art this evening. Joan Ashowrth is the head of animation there and we have been friends for more than 15 years, from when I lived in Camberwell a stone's throw (quite literally) from her, just through the estate (mind the hypodermics and the kestrel that rides the thermals from the high-rise flats, swooping on poor unsuspecting shrieking sparrows), under the smelly pigeon bridge (mind the plops on your head and the man having loud arguments with a disembodied voice on his mobile phone), and across a road (mind the cars).
I knew I couldn't stay for the whole lot but it is always good fun. The urbane Christopher Frayling makes a speechlet at the beginning; this year he mentioned that the students have been animating archive interviews from the Imperial War Museum. In passing, he talked about the stuffed donkey at the museum, which he claimed responsibility for. Apparently, they ordered a mule but the Government sent them a donkey instead. It was an ammunition donkey: make of that what you will.
The students there make a wide variety of films, and there are lots of good stories amongst them, not just clever animation (though there is that, too). It is a relief that they have not become totally besotted by digital technology. In a lot of the films, you can see good illustration at work, or good model-making.
After the screening, everyone climbs up hundreds of flights of stairs, to the Senior Common Room where the walls are dotted with paintings by extremely famous artists who have either studied or worked there. Very delicious wine is poured into your glass when you are not looking and you have to be careful, or you are sick when you come out of the tube station on the way home.
One year, I met John Hegley there. We used to share The Chefs' drummer with his band, the Popticians. When they got more famous than us, Russell left to be a full-time Poptician, and the Chefs went phut. We had needed his energy; but I think our time was up anyway.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

It's almost a month

It's almost a month till my next gig, but I'm going to do a bit of recording on Wednesday; Tom's moved back into his attic to escape a loud hip hop studio that moved into The Chocolate Factory and activated itself at irregular hours; his booth was soundproof, but the lovely wood-floored room picks up vibes from everything from the sculptors' drills to the trains in the distance, and it couldn't cope with hip hop too.
So it's back to braking buses and police sirens whooping in the background; I'll record The Song of the Old Man and a new rockabilly song I've been working on. I was hoping to finish more but they're all stalled in various stages on the conveyor belt at the moment.
He's moving to New York and has suggested that I go there to record. Wouldn't that be a larf?
Better get eBaying again, though alas there are no more Viz comics in hidden boxes under the bed.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Farmer's Wall and an Evening at Scaledown

It was such fun last night- I remember how much I enjoyed the Scaledown night I played at two years ago. This was different- Mark Braby has a new working partner, and he was playing great stuff before it all started, including Screaming Jay Hawkins. We had both been to the same gig at the Town and Country Club, when Screaming Jay was in his eighties, completely potty with a skull on a stick that he whacked from time to time.
I missed the first bit, but saw a chap who looped his vocals and guitars and made some really interesting soundscapes. He had an Epiphone guitar with a really good sound (gonna have to come back to you with names and some other things). It's such a nice venue, with red velvet chairs and an audience that has come to listen- a very rare thing in London these days. Somehow, Mark manages to control them, as he and they get gradually pissed; it's all very good natured and genial.
I went on with Martin, who has been playing some corporate gigs this week including one in the Gibson Showroom. We did a small selection of songs (Heaven Avenue, Love on the Wind and Loverman), finished with Souhbound (which I learned about 3 hours before we played) and then the crowd wanted more, and Martin played The Black Eyed Rose. He is so very funny and the crowd was roaring with laughter- both of us really enjoyed it. Afterwards, a trio of free-jazzers went on, double bass, trumpet and drums. the drummer was particularly nifty, sawing away at his snare with a file and chasing a small cymbal across the skin with his stick.
It's not often you get such a varied evening and get to play too. Money was collected in a hat and we made ten quid between us, which is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp drumstick. Everything at Scaledown is Scaled down- short sets, no frills, and I like that.
Oh yes- the farmer's wall! Jim was playing fiddle with Martin on Thursday and he said that he has a day job as an art driver. Oasis or Blur or somebody has commissioned Banksy to graffiti a wall as a backdrop for them at some festival in the countryside and the farmer had realised that the wall was probably quite valuable and had put it on a trailer and taken it to Jim's art warehouse. None of the forklift trucks were strong enough to get the wall off the trailer, so the both the wall and the trailer are now in the warehouse, waiting for someone with spondulicks to spare to cough up for the Banksy on the wall.
Mazing what you learn while idly yakking with musicians, innit?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Tonight, Central

I'm doing a set at Scaledown tonight, a last minute slot
It's a great little club with red velvet chairs and very interesting music, not yer usual suspects
It's a money-in-the-hat gig (or a bucket!!)
It will be recorded for broadcast on Resonance FM
And Martin Stephenson is in town and will be guesting with me
Upstairs at the King & Queen, 1 Foley St (corner of Cleveland St), London W1

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Small idea

Guess what. I had this idea of knocking on everybody's door in our street and finding out what instruments they could play or almost play, or if they could sing, and then having a street band. Or street orchestra, depending.
I thought it would be fun.


It took me two hours to get to Clapton yesterday, hampered by some young guys in a car in front who stopped in the middle of Holloway Road in a traffic jam to nip to the newsagents (the red bus reported them and police screeched up ten minutes later) and the Balls Pond Road diversion (doesn't that sound like a 60s band name- could it be the association with Clapton?)
Biddle Brothers had it's usual atmosphere of a junk shop crossed with a funky New York bar, and Neville was there, the Tom Waits of East London (except his songs have an unmistakable Liverpudlian catchiness to them). There was a pianist accompanying him this time.
On the doorstep, a bored Scottie dog lay, its nose resting on its paws, waiting for Lower Clapton Road to turn into a wild Northumbrian shore, replete with gulls to chase, sea water to splash in, and exciting lady dogs a mere scamper away.
I asked to go on early as I had only 3 hours sleep last night, and that coupled with the drive almost finished me off- I did enjoy it though, and told them about my proposed F*** Sh** P** song, an idea I had after a review of one of my live gigs that said my music sounded like cocktail bar music! I'd missed out my livelier and more sarcastic songs that particular night due to a more than average percentage of old ladies in the audience, but still, I found myself stung, as a former (and everlasting) punk. So the plan is to write a gentle song with a nice bland bossa rhythm, and a totally swearing lyric.
Watch this space, watch this space.
I liked it last night because the barman stopped working and came to listen. Soundmen and barmen- if they like your stuff, you've had a good night. Just think how much music they listen through.
There was a very good girl singer on after me called Sarah something from Northampton. I'll find out her name and tell you.

I'm waiting for the Dusty in Memphis CD to turn up from Amazon; there's something that I feel WIndmills of my Mind can offer me at this time, and I'm not sure what until I hear it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A gig tonight, on a sunny eve

At Biddle Brothers, 88 Lower Clapton Road, London E5, I am playing and so are others
It's free and stars at 8
Funky baby!

Living things

I rose at dawn; Blogger and the cats were there, slavering, and I braved the ghastly whiff of tinned animal meat with gritted teeth.
The blackbird was in the garden, pottering about on the grass haphazardly. I noticed it was very old- its wing feathers were going grey.
I started to worry that Charlie might fancy a crunchy squirming bird for dessert so I opened the door and chased the blackbird into the bushes.
There's not a lot to do at dawn, so I woke the computer and started emailing.
Guess what!
A tiny, tiny spider lives in my laptop, in the warm bit near the hinges!
Isn't that sweet?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Freight Train

Ian from Scotland has very kindly sent me an mp3 of a shortened version of Freight Train, which I've put on the Helen and the Horns Myspace site at
I've been wandering round Southgate this morning, into every charity shop; one was all aflutter with moths, another was brimful of ideologically unsound fur coats and a cashmere jumper with a mink collar. The same gentleman was following me round each one, trying out perfume for his girlfriend. Eventually you could smell which ones he'd been in, although in one shop the perfume was so old it didn't smell of anything; he and the shop assistant were spraying it in the air to see what it was like, and it was like nothing.
There is also a fantastic toy and fancy dress shop in Southgate that sells glittery false eyelashes as well as old-lady wool. I could have spent hours in there, satisfying the child, the glamorous kitsch woman and the pensioner in me, all at once, but I didn't. I went to Alexandra Park instead and watched a young man having an acid trip interacting with the ducklings.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Seven Orange Spaniels

It was Little Bruv's birthday this week and to celebrate, today was Picnic in Greenwich Park Day.
It was pouring with rain in High Barnet but Little Bruv swore the sun was imminent in Greenwich, so we motored round the North Circular, whooshed under the Thames at Blackwall and hove-to on a single yellow line on Maze Hill, with a carrier bag full of strawberries and crisps.
We were almost the first there (we are usually last) and we peered through the green gloom, looking for family members. Ah! There was Little Bruv, with Round-the-world Anthony and Martin-in-a-band!
We flung down a yellow plastic sheet (free when you join the Automobile Association), folded our feet in posh shoes under us to avoid the sopping grass, and cracked open the Dip.
Gradually, others from the McCookerybook clan appeared on the horizon; it was convivial, with Sharing and a very exciting trip to the Greenwich Park lavvies, where a woman who was having a very dramatic argument with the Lavatory Assistant in the doorway, flung out her arm to emphasise a point just as I was ducking past her to get by without having to join in. Scary: she almost whacked me across the face, but I was too fast for her.
Later, a greyish green slug took a liking to my coat and had a little explore (they leave trails, you see), before someone noticed it and screamed in horror. I tried to take a photo of it before I wrapped it in a leaf and removed it, but I couldn't get the camera to focus. 'Aren't you scared?' asked someone. 'Are you a Buddhist?' asked someone else. I was neither, but someone else was trying to get Nephew to look, who is a slugophobic, so I hid it in the grass under a plastic chair.
What did we talk about? I hear you ask. Private family things, of course, and I am so mysterious I can't possibly tell you. I did have a little joke with Round-the-world Anthony about that time at the quiet Folk Club when the Northumbrian Piper piped up and he said in an extremely loud voice, 'Oh No! I Can't Stand This Racket! I'm Going Upstairs!'. Apparently him and Little Bruv had been walking to the tube station slagging the piper off again in very loud voices and the man in front of them turned round to ask the time, and verily, it was the same piper!

In the distance, seven orange spaniels were flopping around under the trees, having a whale of a time. One of them, probably having been told that he wasn't allowed to eat the picnic his owners were having, had the bright idea of galloping over to ours and looking for sausages. 'Gurrrr' whimpered Netty's frightened little wispy doggy. trembling with affront. The spaniel flopped off back to its friends, and I accidentally folded a mini-tomato into the picnic rug and went home.

Friday, June 20, 2008


I've just got back from Newcastle, where I've spent a couple of days with Tom (who doesn't look like Robson Green) and Martin Stephenson, working on Tom's songs; we have been mentoring him for a couple of months, Martin from Scotland and myself from England, and this was a chance for the three of us to meet up and see what would happen if we sat in a room for a few hours with guitars and biscuits.
Tom's got a well of song bits that he's been emailing to each of us, and we grew some of them into a couple of songs on the first day; one was a song about a bird of prey and a butterfly, which Martin particularly liked, and one was about Ivy, which I particularly liked, although we reckoned we cuold have picked on almost any of Tom's ideas, because he's got a really good sense of melody and lyrics. It was really fun, actually, and incredibly exciting to work on someone else's songs. By the end of that first day, Tom's voice was about 50% louder and more confident than it had been at the beginning, and we made some recordings on to DAT tape which were beautifully clear and strong, very simple recordings with the natural room reverb. And the songs came out great when they were finished.
Today, we started almost from scratch with a new one, Paperman, which was poppier than yesterday's (they both had a kind of bluesish feel although they weren't blues songs), and we managed to get that one finished enough to record too.
This was a blissful project, because it was direct and honest and very productive. I couldn't have imagined a better way to spend time, and for a person like me who has never had a hit as a songwriter, I am glad because if I was in that higher stratosphere of Songwritingland, I might never have had the chance to be involved in Tom's project. So thank you Tom!

I was knackered on the drive home but my spirits were high and were buoyed up further by frequent sightings of car-transporters, which I absolutely love. I used to secretly play with Bruv's Matchbox car transporter, which was very scruffy but worked a treat, and if I ever become a millionaire, I shall buy not only a full-size car-transporter, but also a dumper truck, because I love those too.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Morning scribblings (typings)

It's a lovely sunny day, and this morning I'm going to play a little gig in a mental health centre, organised by Monty, who used to be a Chefs fan many years ago.
I'm looking forward to it.
Later, I'm gonna visit No, who plays guitar sometimes for The Slits. She has just completed her PHD on the influence of inter-war Berlin cabaret music on pop and rock music, and she's come out blinking into daylight, ready to start life again (how well I know that feeling!). We haven't had a cup of tea together for ages- last time she came round we bought bubble mixture from the one pound shop and blew bubbles on the breeze for a while.
And Em has finished the CD cover, which is totally beautiful, and I am very happy indeed!

Monday, June 16, 2008

More about disco (sort of)

Lester Square and me were writing some music for 'The Fall of the Queen', a video opera by Akiko Hada. He knew of a little community studio at the bottom of his road and we decided to record it there. Toby Robinson, the engineer, was a real character who took regular swigs from a supply of liquid cough-mixture, and who was benign and funny at the same time. During one session he told me that he and another audio engineer had been responsible for all the sexy sounds on Donna Summer's 'Love To Love You Baby'. Not that they'd made the sounds themselves, of course, but that while he was working at Hamsa studios in Germany, Giorgio Moroder had finished the track, got Donna Summer to do a load of moaning, and then passed the tapes on to Toby and his mates and said, 'Stick those on to it, willya?' or words to that effect, in German. So the two of them sat there and placed all those gasps and murmerings on to the end of the track, trying to make it sound as realistic as possible.
You read it here first!

Sunday, June 15, 2008


A funny thing happened. I have been ordering some books second-hand from Amazon about record production. I ordered one by Tim Lawrence, who is a colleague, about New York disco. I've read another author, Daryl Easlea, as well and I wanted to read a bit more. The person who sent me the book also send me a CD with 'The Loft' written on it, which I thought must have come with the book, but I think it's one they made up themselves. I've been listening to it- there are some great tracks but I've no idea what they are, and I'm going to have to play them and Shazzam them to find out. When I know I'll put the tracklisting here.

I wish somebody could tell me what tracks they used to play at the Brighton Art College basement in the late 1970s (before Addison Cresswell took over) and the Concorde on the Brighton seafront. The DJs were fabulous-the music was much more than just simple disco, there was some of the more up-tempo Philly soul but all sorts of other stuff too, Manu Dibango. The African students from Plumpton Agricultural College used to go there, as well as us squatters, art students, and some very trendy looking people in beige who worked in the fashion shops in Brighton.
I still have some brilliant 12" disco singles which I put on the turntable from time to time and have a real nostalge-fest.
Number One Deejay- anyone remember that? I think I must be the only person in the Universe with a copy of that record. I was convinced for a while that it was the first ever 12" single but I read somewhere that something else was. Charles Earland's 'Let The Music Play', 'Take That To The Bank' by Shalimar- I bought that one in Chicago actually, when I went to visit my then boyfriend one Christmas.
There was a bloke called Johnny who worked in a record shop diagonally opposite from Attrix in Sydney Street in Brighton and he would recommend tracks to you. I bought a really good single by the Emotions there once. Later he went on to work in Johnson's on the King's Road and you could get pop stars discount from him. Unforchly, I couldn't afford their clothes even with the discount but the idea was nice; I used to go to Flip instead and buy threadbare tartan shirts and swop the sleeves with other shirts so they didn't match. What an effort- I must have been mad.
Anyway, mystery person who sent me the music, thank you!

Rockabillies on bicycles

I went to Little Alison's party last night in the Star in Tufnell Park. It's a really nice pub- I've played a couple of times where her party was, upstairs. There is a dog there that tries to persuade punters to throw its frisbee for it.
Alison used to be an actress and singer- she did one of those music hall shows at the Edinburgh Fringe I mentioned a few blogettes ago, dressed as Carmen Miranda with fruit in her hair ( She sang in the He-mails and She-mails choir in the Christmas EP too).
Later, she became a seamstress, and now she's a fully-fledged designer and she was wearing a very beautiful pleated black satin dress that she had made for the occasion. She's a rockin' chick and has two sons, tall (Frankie) and small (Johnnie) and her party was full of real characters of all sexual persuasions, all ages, all professions; everywhere you looked there were red lipsticky smiles and cool haircuts!
I didn't stay long because I have not got used to not drinking yet, but I did stay long enough to see and hear the band, the Congo Faith Healers, whose music was much more interesting than just normal rockin' stuff. They have a trumpet player, double bass, drums and two guitars, and there is something very French-sounding, something Louisiana-swamp, about their songs even though the subject matter seems to be trains (alas, I too am guilty of over- trainism), death, love and other rockin' subjects. they are seasoned performers with no attitude whatsoever, which is a very refreshing change- they all tap and jig along to the music, all of the front guys sing, they all wear hats, they smile and they entertain. Perfect for a party on a Saturday night!

As I left, two perfectly dressed and coiffed rockabillies, a girl and a boy, turned up on their bicycles.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Jolly Jack Tar

Sometime, somewhere today my little gold skull and crossbones earring migrated from my ear. I've worn it constantly since I bought it to celebrate finishing my PHD; sad.

Anyway, the lady next door came round to say she's taken in a parcel for me. It was a JV1080, absolutely the best sound module a nerd could ever want. Some time ago I sold every bit of my music equipment on eBay, but because during my sleeping years I wrote rather a lot of music on the computer using Logic and a JV1080 at work, I have always hankered after one. Even though I can't use it yet because the computer I used before has died and sits looking beautiful and useless in the corner, and I sold the midi keyboard that would control it (how like an O. Henry story this is!), I can sit and imagine all those sounds and atmospheres as I gaze at the controls and pat it's black metal casing. Fetishist? Moi?

Emerald is finishing the cover design for 'Poetry and Rhyme' this weekend. I love what she's done so far. It's scary bringing out a CD because people will have Opinions about it and people will Review It. All those songs, months of love and music, will be out there to fend for themselves.
I am a sitting duck in some ways, because I am not Hard (especially now I've lost my earring!) and therefore no young guy reviewer is going to want to align themselves with me, as I am not going to represent their funky anger for them (there were some rather mysogynist comments made about 'Suburban Pastoral' by some reviewers). I'm slightly too inside to be an Outsider; I am a feminist who falls out of and in to love with men, and whose anger seethes rather than explodes. Songs that end up being released are songs that I like to sing and play- some are too bloody painful, either physically or emotionally. But I do have a very strong drive to communicate and a constant supply of ideas to test; I'll have to weather whatever comes.
I did, after all, used to be a fiendish punk rocker and as such I have earned the right to say what I want to say and sing what I want to sing in exactly the way I want to.

Friday, June 13, 2008

City Living

Have I told you this before? Here it comes again.
Me and Bruv were travelling on the bus from Camberwell to Lewisham, on our way to meet Little Bruv in Greenwich for his birthday drink.
There was a commotion as we stopped at Deptford; the driver and a teenage girl were having an argument. She had been part of a group of girls that the driver had thrown off the bus for arguing, but she was refusing to get off. 'Those girls at the bus stop have got a knife and they're going to stab me' she shouted. 'I don't care,' shouted the driver back,'Get off my bus!'.
During this, the other passengers on the bus had started rustling and murmuring uncomfortably.
There was a man in a mac sitting not far from the driver.
"Don't worry everybody!', he declared, a note of authority in his voice,'I am in the Territorial Army and I have a gun in my pocket'.

'Shall we get off and walk?', asked Bruv.
So we did.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

3 Feminists

Gina Birch is making a film about The Raincoats and another about feminism. The idea was that we'd wallow in the swimming pool in her garden (it's blue plastic but it's warm) in the sunshine. But the sky was gloomy and threatening, so instead we ate the passion fruit tarts that Caroline Coon brought, the cherries that I brought, and drank the coffee that Gina brewed, and filmed and discussed all morning and into the afternoon.
There are so many ways of being a feminist, and I don't think any of the three of us fits the stereotype at all; very few punk rock women wanted to say that's what they were at the time, and we talked about why that was, and all sorts of other things that you will see when she finishes the film! She has also talked to Lucy O'Brien and a few other people as well (not just female ones, of course, ha ha)
This is Caroline's photo of the three of us.

Domestic sis

The son rises
And the daughter sets
The table.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Not gonna mope!

Comiserations to Daniel Takes a Train! I did my voting from between mountains in the Lake District, holding up the phone to get a signal, but to no avail, or to near-miss avail at any rate. I hope they will carry on playing gigs though, because it was great fun the other night and they quite clearly still have a very loyal following including, I believe, Prince Harry.
Reminds me of when Lester Square and I used to do those Music Halls- mad cabaret nights with anyone and everyone, a man who sawed people in half amongst other things. We were offered a smutty Punch and Judy show, a woman who sang Whipcrackaway with pistols, and a person who made an omelette on stage. And Eddie Tenpole!
I wrote to Prince Edward to ask if he'd like to join i,n and received a very nice letter from his Equerry (yes, that's what I wondered, too) saying that he was delighted to be asked but that he would not be able to participate. I've still got it somewhere.
I don't know what would have happened if he'd said yes, because I have always been a republican, and was only copying Lester Square, who always used to send Monochrome Set LPs to the queen.
I've had a heavy day today, the highlight of which was flinging a huge cup of coffee all down my new cream-coloured jodphurs. I have managed to wash them. There are other things I could mope about but I'm not gonna, so there!

Rhino City

As I woke this morning, I tuned in to The Blackbird who is always singing out the back, perched high in the neighbour's tree.
'Rhino City, Rhino City', it chorused, with different verses in between.
Gradually, its song plan became apparent, and I could anticipate when it was going to sing the chorus again, even when it changed the melody, length or words of the verses.
Isn't that weird?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


This is Carol's photo, she took it at the Mon Fio gig.
I tried to upload it fruitlessly ages ago and only tried again because I'm bored tonight. And it worked, although it didn't the last time. Emerald is doing the CD cover and she's shown me some ideas, which I really like. She's an art-genius of the first order.
I'll tell you Martin's story, since I'm here.
He did a gig the other weekend on Arran, and was joking about lookalikes in the audience. There was one woman who was the spitting image of Eddi Reader that night, and he picked her out from the crowd, along with some other lookalikes.
Later, he was walking round playing, and he went up to her and complimented her on her extreme resemblance to the Eighties pop star.
He found out the next day that it had been the real Eddi Reader, after all.

A wasp nearly came in my window. It seemed quite determined, but it's buzzed off now. Nobody's having a barbecue tonight, although they do usually. What else?

Songwriting Weekend

What a lovely way to spend a weekend! We were all there in a hotel by the side of Lake Coniston, with a mountain out the back window, and the lake down the bottom of the garden, eighteen potential songwriters and three tutors (Scott Macdonald, Martin Stephenson and myself), sitting on wooden chairs in the sunshine and green-green-green, with words, music, and singing all flying out of us all over the place. Saturday was spent inventing, workshopping, passing ideas around, talking, joking and eating; on Saturday evening in the bar there was a lovely unplugged concert, featuring songs from the three different groups. Ours was best, 'Sparks Will Fly', because we had the best harmonies, though for some unfathomable reason, Martin's group won the Conistonvision contest with 'Too Taboo For Us To Do'.
Stars of the evening were Maria, who bravely kicked the show off with her beautiful song, Mike with his first ever song, Andrew with his hot-off-the-press work in progress, and Robson, who showed us all the value of the guitarless song and brought the house down. Oh yes! And Tim, who actually knew most of the words of 'Freight Train', so we sang that together. But everybody was really good, not just as performers but as audience members too: they had so much respect for each other.
It was a combination of exciting (hearing all the new songs) and relaxing (it felt like it had worked!), very satisfying and good-humoured. On Sunday, everybody got up late and we sat in the wooden chairs again, playing some group songs and talking until it was time to go home.
It was a completely unique experience; a psychologist would have found it fascinating to hear how everyone articulated themselves in words and music.
I'm so glad I am not one!
From time to time, you could wander down to the jetty and look at the little dark fish in the water and the sailboats in the distance, and listen to the total silence.
SIlence and music- the perfect weekend!
Above: Woodhenge

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Horses and Rock'n'Roll

I tried to have a quiet night just sitting in a chair last night, but firstly the verses for a song called 'I'm Gonna Steal You Away' flooded into my head, then the 'Shut up I'm Singing' song, and then the One-Note Rock'n'Roll, which is a reply to the One-Note Samba:

The One-note Samba hits the spot but this is Rock'n'Roll
The sound of Jazz is hot man, hot, and Classical is cold
I tried to find a Reggae groove, I tried to find my Soul
But the only kind of sound I found
Was the One-Note Rock'n'Roll

Now I have to learn how to play a fiddly guitar bit for a solo.
That's my task this week.
I am also going to email the Vintage Clothing people and ask if I can play at their event in Barnet in October!

As I walked down the road to get my umbrella (the one that's already been left in Notting Hill and Caroline Coon returned it with umbrella-ella-ella on the envelope), I heard Virgin Radio blaring from the building site, talking about their Daniel Takes a Train competition. I slept through the last vote because I forgot to set my alarm but I'll make sure I do it this Friday so Paul Davey can get on stage with Eric Clapton.
I don't like Eric Clapton much because of his Enoch phase back in the 1970s, but we can thank him and David Bowie for Rock Against Racism and I suppose he did alert everyone to 'I Shot the Sheriff' and from that, to Bob Marley and the Wailers. I remember the first time I heard them on John Peel: I was knocked out by the fantastic ghostly sound, the pain in the melody and the strength of the rhythm section. They were a fantastic band, absolutely fantastic.

Here's Paul Davey's Eric joke, to round the posting off nicely.

A White Horse walks into a bar and orders a whiskey.
'That's funny', says the barman, 'We've got a whiskey named after you'.
'What- Eric?', asks the horse.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


One a ponce a time, I shared a house with a girl who had a very naughty dog.
When he was particularly naughty, she used to ask him, 'D'you wanna slap?'
I thought that was funny. What if he'd answered her, in a very posh voice, 'No thank you actually. I would rather have a mutton chop, followed by half a pound of liver in a rich meaty gravy, with one and a half Bonios and a can of Pedigree Chum, all served on a silver platter'.
That would have surprised her, wouldn't it?

Right, that's it! Helen Gets Tuff.

After reading Mark Hibbett's blog about Offline last Friday, and how even he, with his rufty-tufty man's vocal chords and indie music vibe got talked over by the baying crowds, I have embarked on a song called 'Shut Up! I'm Singing', which I shall craft as a blunt instrument and whack out whenever necessary to shut people up. It will contain ugly noises and witty words.
Tempted to talk loudly on purpose just to get me to sing the new song?
I shall knee you in the goolies immediately.

The other day, I lost my guitar lead at the gig and couldn't think where it was. Aha! It was still there when I went back, colied neatly on the coat peg on the back of the toilet door.
Meanwhile, Ingrid Andrew kindly posted me back my watch, and I left my umbrella at the hairdresser's.
It's all these extra things. I bet Adam and Eve didn't have this problem.

Sunday, June 01, 2008


The Troubadour

What a funny few days it's been. On Friday I got a text from Tom halfway through the evening asking to borrow the Melodica. I left it in the front garden for him to pick up at midnight, just like an MI5 drop; very exciting.
So Saturday.. well, the Troubadour hosted The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan in the olden days, and here we were, revisiting the 1980s in 2008!
It was friendly from the start; Daniel Takes a Train (pic) were sound-checking when I got there, very excited at what's happening for them. I did a line check amd then the other support act, Jack and Luke from St Albans, did theirs, charmingly enough with their capos on different frets of their guitars! They were on first and sang catchy songs in unison. They did a couple of covers, which I didn't like so much; their own songs suit their onstage characters and they just need to write a couple more and they're there.
My bit was fine, apart from a very rude woman who shrieked with laughter at her friend's conversation all the way through until McSis got up and told her to shut up and go somewhere else. She was so relentless that one guy actually picked up his stool and positioned himself in front of her next to the stage so he could listen. Otherwise though the crowd were great- Ian and Sue came all the way from Maidenhead (hello!) and it was nice to see them; and some of the crowd were clapping along to Poetry and Rhyme. So I was a happy bunny about that and could relax and really enjoy the set by Daniel Takes a Train. I hadn't realised or remembered how much Paul Davey featured in their songs- he's a central part of what they do and he played really well. At one point, Paul Baker, the driving force behind the band, gloated about nickng him form Helen and the Horns, looking at me with a sparkle in his eye. Paul Baker's funny- he introduced the backing singer as 'Emma Smith from 'ammersmith', and made a wry comment about their song 'You Can Never Win' and what might happen to them in the competition.
It was time-warp pop, but very good nonetheless- their songs are memorable, sometimes sounding a bit Duranish but actually much more tender and less bombastic. I particularly liked 'The Honeymoon's Over' with its nod in the direction of 'It's Not Unusual'; I was very impressed by the songwriting skills actually. 'Change' was another really good one. It's the sort of music you'd hear in a slick cop film or something- very well rehearsed with a jazz flavour but not so much you lose track of the pop. The atmosphere was totally infectious; the dedicated fans stood on the benches and danced along, forgetting their beer-bellies, absolutely blissed out with enjoyment. Everyone in the audience just had a fantastic time; it was odd, but very special too, and the excitement of the band was palpable.
On my way out, a woman said something to me that more than made up for the shoutinglady who almost wrecked my set. 'That was beautiful, Helen'. Thank you, whoever you are, may you receive a free Snickers every day for the rest of your life.
Knackered, I left to go to West Brompton Tube Station, only to find that the District and Circle Line was totally constipated by the anti-Boris revellers and their boozefest. I RAN to Earl's Court and grabbed a Piccadilly Line to get home, accompanied on my way by a few sad revellers who had not managed to be trapped by the police on the District and Circle and who wandered around, lost, like the little boy left behind when the Pied Piper stole all the children of Hamelin and took them into his mountain den.

Sunday Morning

I've just had an unexpectedly nice Sunday morning. I'll write about last night later today (confused?) but Boring Old Barnet transformed itself today and was actually fun! I went to the supermarket and in the shopping centre there were loads of charity stalls, plus one or two others. I was taken by the honey stall, where they had those teddies full of honey like they have on Friends, and beeswax candles. Jan, who runs the stall, said the bees are kept at Friern Barnet, next suburb down but one, and they have been there for years; the original swarm was taken down to Devon by her grandfather and they were replaced by her dad; apparently you need very little land to make a lot of honey. I didn't know that. Their number is 0208 445 3639 if anyone wants honey, candles, or even amber jewellery.
Next, I remembered there was a vintage clothing fair in the church hall in Wood Street. I was expecting it to be loads of smelly old ex-charity shop stuff, but this was serious vintage- I've never seen so much good stuff under one roof. The stall holders were a real mixture- the rockabilly crowd, some of whom were too snooty for words and wouldn't enter into a conversation with me because I was dressed 'Sunday Morning In Barnet' and not up-to-the-nines, but others were really friendly. I didn't buy from the snoots, but I did guiltily purchase a pair of fancy cowboy boots from the friendly ones and took some flyers for their clubs. There was an older chap and his wife who were selling of their collection of costumes- they were really nice too. What a discovery! The land of plenty under my very nose. I am so excited I could burp!