Monday, August 31, 2009

Wooden Lady

My dear wooden lady. I took this photo to put her on eBay, but I can't let her go!


My fingernails are now a most attractive shade of oak, as I've been restoring the lustre f the Most Comfortable Chair in the World, which is rickety and made out of the Cheapest Wood in the World, but which had audibly thanked me for paying it a bit of attention.
I'm thinking of taking my hands to the Antique Roadshow to get them valued.

Side FX

Hurrah! A holiday! I would like to go to the Notting Hill Carnival but it gets so crowded.
I remember the last year I went: I went with Marek Kohn, who was then a journalist but is now a serious author.
We watched a float drift by that was manned by a DJ and a bunch of clubbers who were quite clearly off their faces on Ecstasy. They were beckoning to us in slow motion, dancing with their hips rotating and with mindless smiles and vacant eyes. It was so funny that I decided that Ecstasy had been invented as a comedy drug for the non-using viewer, and I imagined the experiments by its inventor, building elements into the drug that would make people look stupid!
It's funny how many drugs appear to have built-in properties like this; having known more than my fair share of heroin addicts in the 1980s when I worked in a music industry press office, I noticed heroin's evangelising effect on its users, who can not stop themselves from telling everyone what a fantastic experience it gives them, and everyone really must try it. Very clever for an addictive drug!
I was sitting chatting to the lead singer of a well-known band one day, who I assumed to be a rational and down to earth fellow.
'Have you notice how everybody who takes smack tells everyone else what a fantastic drug it is, and how they must try it?' I asked.
'Yes', he said. I don't take it myself. However, I tried it once. It's the most amazing experience: you can't describe it. Amazing. You really ought to try it, you know'.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

I'm a Hippocrittur!

What a hypocrite I am!
One post says I'm going to stop moaning and the next one's a mega-moan!!!!!

Into the Bin

I have passed through so many sorts of life:village child commuting to Newcastle to go to school* up to the age of 17; budding art student on Foundation at Sunderland Polytechnic; disappointed Undergraduate (well, they were all dating African princes and getting diamond necklaces for their 21st birthdays) at Brighton Art College before becoming a punk rocker and learning to play bass. Then I was a post-punk band member, in the Chefs and then Helen and the Horns. Then a music worker on estates in Sarf London, before getting married and having two daughters. We were perilously poor with nothing in the fridge and nothing in the bank, but a roof over our heads. So I went back to college and ended up a University Lecturer, and now I'm a musician again as well.
And now, after divorcing nearly two years ago, me and the Offsprogs are packing up our big airy Edwardian house and if we are lucky, moving into a railwayman's cottage, two up, two down, and all the rubbish in our loft must Go.
A lot of it doesn't seem like rubbish. The sociology notes from Sunderland Polytechnic (we had to do it as part of our general studies): the Declaration of Human Rights, the Declaration of Independence, lilac-coloured roneo'd notes on art and ethics: they brought back the memory of the sociology lecturer, bearded and with John Lennon glasses and a tweed jacket, too young to look so old and with an earnest whiff of the sixties about him.
Notes from working on the estates in Southwark- from a children's song sharing day where youth workers of all ages, genders and backgrounds sang songs to each other. And I remembered taking a little drum machine into a youth group and getting the kids to rap something about themselves over the beat. 'My daddy died yesterday', sang one little girl. Nobody had known. We stopped for a chat after that.
Notes from when I first started work as a lecturer, hating to leave my kids. Every morning they climbed into my bed for a cuddle, and with my eyes closed as I held them I thought: relaxed child=Offsprog One, tense child=Offsprog Two;
And every morning my then husband brought me a cup of tea, and every morning the tabby cat from Battersea head-butted my hand just as I was lifting the cup to take the first sip, and it spilt on her head. Every morning!
In the bin, in the bin, to be recycled and made into pulp....
Notes from Song Club, that I ran with Dan. I'm keeping a lot of the kids' pictures, but dumping a lot of the rest. We went to London Zoo and wrote songs about cleaning out the cages and what animal we would be. I would be a giraffe (someone else chose zebra, so giraffe was second best). We sang the songs at the zoo, with orange buckets from B & Q and brooms from Robert Dyas, making rhythms that the guy from Stomp showed us. It was a freeezing day in November but the kids LOVED it.
In the bin, in the bin, all the big sheets of paper we wrote the lyrics on together. Those kids are at secondary school now!
I felt very sad. But I do know, this part of the moving on process is the hard part, as you feel yourself winding down and closing doors before the next lot are fully open.

*the poet Basil Bunting lived in Wylam and used to get the same train sometimes. He had a big cartoon moustache and a leather briefcase with 'B Bunting' stencilled in white on the sides. Was he vain, or was he worried about getting his briefcase mixed up with someone else's, I used to wonder?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Moan End

No more moaning! There are trillions of things to look forward to! Two Desperado Housewives gigs, a weekend that includes a gig in an allotment in Stockport, and the Helen and the Horns gig at the Borderline supporting the Daintees, a version that includes John Steele, who I first met when he was three, as I used to go to play with his sister, Alison.
It's going to be a rip-roaring Autumn for gigs, i think.
After moving house, it will be time to start recording again. I've got enough songs for another elpee.
And it's almost Autumn, best time of year by a long chalk and a crinkled leaf!


Offsprog 2 has done well in her exams: maybe now she will stop shouting at me!
Or maybe not.
Meanwhile, I've been to Docklands to collect the marking I have to do, the work students have resubmitted.
What a dry old task! On the way back in the car, I imagine Soft Play Day for lecturers. We are given a mug of hot chocolate on the way in, and offered a free reflexology session. Our marking is handed to us in specially-made wicker baskets, around the handles of which are entwined fragrant pale pink roses and strands of ivy.
Merrily we skip back to our jolly old bangers, which backfire cheekily as we pootle back home to our cosy nests to settle down for the evening with a Red Pen and a slice of chocolate cake, wearing expressions of benign tolerance and contentment.
Instead, the scripts come to us in specially-made shiny plastic pockets, polished to such a degree that it's impossible to carry more than two of them without them slipping out of your arms in opposite directions, normally waiting till you reach the car park with its gusty Docklands breeze that whips them all over the tarmac, so you have to frantically chase them and hope that one of them hasn't lodged forever under the mudgard of somebody's VW Golf.
Every door in the building has either a key, a keypad or a special device that you fruitlessly slide your ID card in praying that the door will open. The teetering scripts slither hither and thither, threatening to sabotage you at every micro-movement.
And the University of the East specialises in making coffee from a mixture of tar, water and sand, an interesting drinking experience if ever there was one.
Never Mind! It's fun to write about, if not to experience, and has actually brought an air of normality in its wake this week of mortgage charges, assertive estate agents and pathetic dribbles of eBay income.
Thank heavens for good and constant friends, for good family and for music! And of course, the poor cats, trying so desperately to be supportive by sitting on my computer keyboard and giving me encouraging looks.
Thank heavens for them too.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Desperado Housewives Are Go!

We have two gigs planned, on 6th and 14th October, a new member, Eliza P, and lots of excitement buzzing.. see us on and invite us to be your Myspace Friends if you are a Myspacee.
I'm a bit worried as my songs aren't strictly funny, but I'm content to be the Ernie Wise to the three Eric Morecambes- somebody's got to do it!
I will look funny anyway as I will be wearing the lilac chiffon dres MArtin brought back fro Australia for me- pure Mike Leigh. All I will need is a cocktail made from Blue Curacao (or a fake one as I don't drink) with an umbrella and a cherry on a cocktail stick, and I'll look the part. A knobbly hairdo as well perhaps. Mmm! Delish seventies chic! Pass me a slice of Black Forest Gateau!
I was eating gateau
In me bateau
Sailing down the Thames
A giant fish
Smashed the dish
And I haven't been the same

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Wooden Bear, Singing, House

This is a carved wooden bear by the artist Drew Edwards. There's an exhibition of his work at High Barnet Tube station, which has suddenly developed a character at odds with the general air of controlled neutrality hereabouts. They squashed the chewing gum painter and stopped him, but someone else has sprung up to carry the baton of creativity, and the station garden is suddenly being cultivated, with stands of runner beans, merry pots of begonias and a children's toy railway running across a rooftop. Big Up whoever it is who has the jollity and character to make a stand against curtain-twitcher-land! I bet the nasty local paper will be full of complaints. The residents of this beige suburb don't know how lucky they are! Back in Camberwell the South London Press boasted a murder on every page!
It was a nice day yesterday, headed by a morning at the Song Circle. We'd all written songs about summer: Nadya's was a blues that showed of the strength of her voice really well. Katy's was a drifting song that made me imagine punting; mine was the Daisies song with an extra verse and they both seemed to think it was quite sinister. I suppose it is, being born out of a hysterical desire to Remain Cheerful At All Costs!
Katy's new album is out and its really good- she has taken the best out of her folktronica, gone back to her roots sort of but popped everything up. I will write a proper review later this week. It's got the most amazing artwork too.
The Desperado Housewives have two gigs coming up which i will confirm when I have more details.
The rest of today will be spent learning yet more about what you have to do when you are selling and buying a house. All I know is that a huge amount of money gets spent on the people who do it for you, leaving you with massively less left over to buy a house with. I can't wait for it all to be over.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Old Chefs Badges

I found a little stash of these. Anyone want one? Send a postal order or cheque for £1.25 made out to Helen and the Horns to my p.o. box (details at the side there-------->) saying whether you want the old design (left) or the new one (right)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Musical Variety Night at the Perseverance: Review

Acton Bell had paid for the flyer with Letts, and it had a Victorian look to it. She was there when I got there, as I'd agreed to do backing vocals again, and had asked her to learn Gotta Have a Heart. One of the songs she'd asked me to learn, Sh'boom, is an amazing song with the backing vocal 'Hello Hello again, hoping we will meet again'. It was so complex I hadn't been able to learn it, so I was relieved when she said we'd just do the Runaround Sue/Teenager in Love medley from last time.
It was a very different night from previous Perseverance nights, being largely Liverpudlian and with a corresponding dark feel to a lot of the music. Fist on was Stephen A Wood, who played a series of melancholy instrumentals and a couple of psychedelic-flavoured songs that bore a strong Syd Barrett influence. He was a distinctive fingerpickin' guitarist who used a different tuning: he told me later he'd tried to do DADGAD but accidentally had a 'B' in there and kept it.
Next on was Dominoes, an intense beatnik chap who sang over backing tapes. The problem was that his vocals were on the tapes too and although he sang over the top of them, any expression or dynamics were lost. I actually thought he had good songs, but they were difficult to appreciate the way he did them. They were particularly dark and Acton Bell got up to cheer everyone up afterwards, including at my request There's a Kind of Hush which is even more effective than the Hermit's version when it is sung in her Bolton accent! After that, Council Pop played a superb set of mysterious and emotional songs. She is a tall willowy girl who has just sacked her band of blokeish musicians to go it alone, and she had a tiny children's guitar that she'd bought for a tenner in a jumble sale. She was witty and perceptive, and at times quite nasty in a nice sort of way. Then it was my turn, and I was happy, and dedicated Heaven Avenue to Foolish Girl, who had motorbiked down from Stevenage and sat smiling at the back.
After that it was home time, and the welcome land of nod.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Once again, Talk Talk is Down Down and I'm in the library, after having walked past my new house (yes! they accepted my offer at 5.30 tonight!), small and imperfectly formed but solid enough to contain the fury that is Offsprog 2.
I will sleep soundly tonight!!!

I will have to review the Perseverance gig later this weekend as I can't remember all the names of the musicians. But I was thrilled that one of them said 'You are not a singer-songwriter. You play rock!'

Two things to be very happy about today!

In Which Scaffolders Exceed Previous Scaffolders' Ability To Swear And Shout

The scaffolders are at it again, erecting their poles down the road and across the way.
They have one size- extra large, and one volume-extra loud, and a sad little radio tinnily sings away in the background, hopelessly trying to compete. The scaffolders are dressed in matching t-shirts and hyper suntans.
'Oroight THAT"S IT!!!'

There seems to be one scaffolder per pole, which seems a trifle profligate in these times of recession.
In the yawning silence between expletives, the poles are dragged reluctantly hither and thither.
They are wondering if somebody's a lesbian now.
And now they are having a massive argument!
The volume and range of swearing sweeps down the street.
Pity the bin men have been. They could have tipped the lot of them into their smelly lorry and taken them away to the dump!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Perseverance Tonight

I took time out from it all yesterday, drew the picture below, sang some songs, went to look at another house (small but perfectly formed) and made an offer on it. It's so minute I'll have to put all my drawings and papers, some bits of furniture and a lot of books into storage for a couple of years until i move north, but its the only one I have seen that I could imagine my Offsprogs (who will have to share a room) and myself living in. If it is not to be mine, I am having a rest for a couple of weeks, catching up with work, knitting the letter 'H' I've been allocated for the giant knitted poem (we don't know what the poem is yet, we just knit the letters) and drawing- and doing another banner for Gina's project. I have in mind a jolly roger flag with the symbol for 'woman' above the crossed bones instead of a skull.
The embroidered bra is going to be worn by a big cardboard Venus de Milo coat hanger I made last night. I haven't tried it on her yet 'cos I drew it in thick sticky black ink which needed overnight to dry.
Tonight, it's Acton Bell's Variety Night at the Perseverance, my favourite venue at the moment. There are two bands from Liverpool, Council Pop and the Dominoes, a solo chappie, Acton Belle (I will sing some backing vocals) and me (Acton Bell will sing some backing vocals)
Roll on another day, sunny at last, sleepless still but in better spirits.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


I'm averaging 4 hours sleep per night at the moment, looking in my head all night for a place for me and my two Offsprogs to live. Should we squash into two up two down and keep our things in storage, or live miles from anywhere (by that I mean night buses) and be able to breathe?
I know every estate agent in the world now, good or evil, and I'm simultaneously balancing on quicksand and fighting off sharks.
Good news follows bad news follows good news and it's been a long time since I have felt so utterly controlled by other people and their agendas.
I make a mental note of things to sell or give away, in a descending order of not-minding and minding. At the moment, I am throwing away huge quantities of papers that seemed vitally important when there was room to keep them. I have to spend equal time talking to people I can't stand and people I love, trying to balance their effect on my mental state. There isn't time to play music, and if there was there wouldn't be the mental concentration there. I make tea, then make more tea and realise I've made myself some already. I know the contents of my bank account to the merest fraction of a potential penny and my guitars are all sucking up to me in case I sell them. The harmonium's going, but not the piano: if necessary I shall sleep on top of it. Luckily, the largest bits of furniture are not mine, but I seem to own three tables and no comfortable chairs. I have become addicted to halva and bananas. I went to work by accident today and just had to come home, sheepishly slinking into the house when the Offsprogs weren't looking. I'm piling up stuff to wishfully put on eBay, while accepting that it will all probably go to the Oxfam Shop because nobody wants it except me and the Oxfam harvesters. Which books can I do without? The thousand Rebus novels I know I will read again or the academic books that make me feel important? Will my boxes of Helen and the Horns albums melt in the storage place?
Will we be living somewhere else by Christmas?

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Perseverance, Thursday

I have another nice gig at The Perseverance this Thursday, with Acton Bell (I'll be singing backing vocals again) and a bunch of her pals including Council Pop from Liverpool and more twinkling stars from the odd little musical firmament that is London nightlife. I love that venue, with the fish'n'chip shop on the corner. It is a little oasis of oddity right in the middle of London.
If you are very good, I will play the Daisies song.

Photos from Last Week

Fishermens' boots on the wall outside the pub; on the beach at Dornoch; with Phoebe and Dale at the gig supporting The Daintees in Gosforth (Poshforth!) Civic Centre.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Dub Colossus at the St George's West Church, Edinburgh

This is my friend Nick Page's project (he is called Dubulah for musical purposes) and he's put together a charming and refreshing group of musicians- I believe their CD, A Town Called Addis, got to number one in the European World Music charts.
The line-up is two sax players, tenor and baritone, mostly, two singers (a famous Ethiopian pop star and a restaurant-owner both with beautiful voices) a traditional instrumentalist who plays a one-stringed instrument strung with horsehair, a drummer, a reggae/classical/jazz keyboard player from Ethiopia and Nick on bass and guitar sometimes (but not the night I was there).
Their music is a combination of traditional Ethiopian religious music from the religious season ( a particularly beautiful piece was played just on the one-stringed bowed instrument with a vocal that joined it in unison and then wound off on its own), and reggae, because of course all those Rastas went to Ethiopia in search of Haile Selassie, and many stayed there. One number featured the sax players and vocal ululation and seemed to encapsulate the sound of the African sun- it was beautiful and sent shivers down my spine. The sax players were at one with each other, both with eyes closed and unconsciously mimicking each other movements down to the tiniest almost imperceptible tilt of the shoulders. Another song featured Mimi, the restaurant owner, singing over Nick's reggae bass groove (much influenced by Winston Blissett but taken into a different sphere by Nick), with the baritone sax echoing the bass.
The show was full of humour and natural good feeling- one of the singers joked about the market in Addis Ababa, the biggest in Africa, where it is possible to buy one shoe and one sock! I watched the keyboard player's fingers skipping and springing, and the two singers came into the audience and got us all up dancing, even the most stuffy Edinburgh lot. The drummer was shit-hot, the arrangements were brilliant and it was a lovely evening that shone a light into the dark corners of my day. I even led the conga round the room....
You must go!
One thing bothered me. What were the bunk beds doing there?

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Review of Dub Colossus performing at the Edinburgh Fringe- will write it tomorrow- go see them, they're brilliant!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Here in Ross-shire, it is quietly beautiful, with tourists whooshing past in cars but not clogging up the arteries.
I have been up North Souter and looked at South Souter (they are giant's slippers!) crossed the Firth on a tiny ferry to Cromarty and sat on the harbour steps, next to local children jumping into the sea, a man washing lobster pots and some optimistic fishermen, and peered through the window of a closed antique shop at a giant moose's head.
I have eaten fish and chips from a shop run by a man who wears blue latex gloves because he's allergic to fish, and seen a tree whose bare upper branches were studded with huge black crows, about 50 of them, looking like a ripe crop ready to be harvested.
I have been to beautiful Dornoch beach with its miles of buttery sand, bearing the imprint of trainers, dogs and recent rainfall at the entrance, before it sweeps away cleanly into the distance and meets the deep blue hues of the evening sky.
I have sat on silly blue plastic chairs from Lidls, and seen an osprey wobbling down the Cromarty Firth, silently laughing at the bird watchers laden with binocular and camera gear, brand new green waterproof clothing and worry-free faces who had crammed themselves into the bird observation hut on the other side of the Firth desperately trying to see him.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

The Saturday Post

What a lovely morning! And it was lovely at five too, when I woke up.
Try as I might, I couldn't get back to sleep: I am contemplating the seven hour drive to Edinburgh with Offsprogs One and Two, and then on tomorrow to Inverness.
These very few days will be the sum total of my summer holiday this year and I intend to savour them with all my might (for I am the mighty savourer) although it is extremely doubtful that I will return home with any sort of tan.
I bought a pair of Timberland boots to drive up in, from the British Heart Foundation shop; they are marginally less knackered than the pink ones I inherited from Offsprog Two.
By the way- and this blog now becomes a fashion tipster!- those dowdy shoe manufacturers Clarks have come up with the most brilliant shoes ever- desert boots for all the decades since the Sixties- floral ones, Union Jack ones (brilliant), tweed ones (even brillianter), absolutely amazing. I saw them in Oxford Street when I went to get more embroidery thread to finish the embroidered bra, which is now finished and hanging from a door knob looking sinister.
I hope you like my Daisies song, tucked away at the bottom of my Myspace player. It is very rough'n'ready as I only had ten minutes to record it in. I wrote it to cheer people up who are contemplating daisies, whoever and wherever they might be!

Friday, August 07, 2009


Not having the internet has given me a stiff neck.

It's back (all I had to do was unplug the router and plug it back in again) but still moody.
I've still got a stiff neck though. Should I call Talk Talk and ask them to sort that out too?

Talk Talk is Silent Silent

It may be Cheap Cheap but the bloody thing has been crashed for two days AGAIN in our locality. I just hope it doesn't take seven hours of phone calls to set it up again like it did the last time! Here I am in the library, trying to work.
On a better note, I hit upon the idea of searching my computer for the lost tracks, and I found nearly all of them and shoved them back into iTunes!
I am not going to moan about technology because there are lots of good things about it, and verily, guitars and pianos are technology too.
The best way to deal with it when it's annoying is to surf a calm stratosphere of patience and admire the green grass (seriously! Isn't it beautiful?).
Everything man invents seems to be white, grey or black and hard and shiny. Give me the niff and visual delights of nature, and I'm happy.
There are no keys to press, although it can have deadlines if you're a gardener.
Anyway, enough cod philosophy. I'm off for a bowl of cereal.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


I've still got the original Garageband versions of some of them, but not 3 Maple Men... I will have to back everything up tomorrow.
It's too much information! I became greedy, and filled up my iPod with lots of stuff for those long car journeys, and my clumsiness has edited it out of my life for me!
In future, I'll just teach my cats to sing my songs and press their noses to play them!

I Weep

Oh, I weep! I seem to have accidentally deleted all my playlists in iTunes, and also lost 11 new tracks I'd recorded to be the heart of my next album! I got a little message on my computer that I was importing files and stopped it, and then found that all the playlists had gone! I've lost three days of music too- I won't know what that was until I try to find something and discover that it's gone.
I wonder if i hook up my iPod that some of those tracks will transfer back? I don't think any of my new songs were on there.
Oh weep weep! Hw could this have happened?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

A Desperado Housewife

Sheet Music

Martin has made proper sheet music for Heaven Avenue with the guitar picking tablature, the lyrics, melody and chords. It's amazing to see the song in that form.
It's almost like a comic strip with all the coded instructions to proper musicians following one after the other: dots, tails, bars, tie-lines. When it is finished I might put it for sale here, perhaps.

Viv Albertine at Boat Ting

Yesterday was a busy day too. Morning was the song circle with Katy Carr, Rowen Bridler and Nadya Ostroff. We have been meeting every two weeks or so and discussing song writing and other things, then deciding on a theme and each writing a song based on something to do with that theme. We started in February and all stumbled a bit at first: yesterday's meeting was time to consolidate three songs and sing them to the group.
It's amazing what a confidence-booster it's been. We do a blog ( and have ongoing talks about lots of things. It's made me write in a really different way, much more loosely I suppose you could say. And because I am older than the others, and although I was defensive about this at first, the sort of lyrics I write are affected by that, because I feel as though I am writing some sort of musical letter to them each time. And I can also see quite clearly in my head the visual stimuli for the songs and if I lose my emotional connection when I'm singing I take myself there in my head and get back there again. Song writing is always therapeutic, but this is a different sort from before, but still the only way I feel I can express these particular ideas.
That probably seemed like a load of navel-gazing crap! It might make sense to someone reading this, anyway...

So on to Boat Ting last night. I met up with Diana and her French friend Gail and we tubed it down to Temple, where Boat Ting has relocated to a shabbier, darker boat with a different atmosphere entirely. The Sybilline Sisters were in full flow as we arrived and it was very funny to see the guys in the audience being alternately terrified and turned on by her poetry. Then there was a duo who made music so scary the room turned into a small pervy club in the small hours. The boat seemed like a dimly lit dungeon and everyone seemed threatening. The vocalist, jerking and gesticulating, made extraordinary noises that were processed and sent out to the audience alongside odd keyboard sounds. The result was the sound of gasping, dying animals, sometimes in space and sometimes underwater. Unnerving!
The posh Notting Hill crowd arrived and started Organising. They had all arrived on bicycles. The men had bicycle hair and the women had a sheen of perspiration instead of foundation. 'How many people could we sit along here?' they asked the space beside me where Diana'd been sitting, in confident and assertive tones. In my head, I pretended that it was me that was French and they went away and sat somewhere else.
We had come to see Viv Albertine play, and there she suddenly was, tall and serene and wearing the best pair of red and black statement boots I've seen in centuries. She had a floral Fender.
"I'm going to tell you something about myself first', she said, and started telling us about herself in song.
Viv has a very confident and deceptively simple guitar style, and it was intriguing to hear her song writing style because all these years later you can still identify what it was she brought to the Slits. At times, and in [particular when Zoe Street Howe joined her on organ, there was a bit of a Young Marble Giants feel, but Viv's lyrics are much more cynical and her delivery is more engaged and pointed than Alison's. 'I Should Have Been a Boy', she sang (I would have been a bad one, she told us). The set really kicked in when she did a song called 'Summer Fairytale', which was a horror story familiar to many women, wrapped in Sesame-street xylophone and organ SFX. Then Zoe swapped to drums, and Viv sang a song about drugs: 'Needles, needles, broken needles, friendly needles, happy needles', fighting her guitar to get chords out of it, having taken us to an entirely different place in her past to where we started.
She was confident, yet delicate and sharp (!) at the same time, and her lyrics articulate feelings that will strike a chord with a lot of women: in 'Confessions of a Milf' she sang ' I chose being an artist over being a wife, now I'm going to lead a very lonely/lovely life'.
I hadn't known what to expect and so I went to this gig with an open mind. Boat Ting was a great place to see Viv, off the normal singer-songwriter circuit. It's a gig people make their own, and it suited Viv's honesty perfectly.
Here's the muso bit! I was really interested in the way she played guitar and had been wondering how this would work solo. She has got a completely unique style, playing little runs in unison and in harmony with her vocal lines and then splashing colour behind parts of the songs that need to have more power. I really liked the deceptive simplicity of this, and could see how much rehearsal had gone in to getting everything exactly right. I am looking forward to hearing more of her music recorded (I'm off to Myspace now!).
Listening to Viv is like eating something really unusual and delicious- you can savour her songs and take the memory of them away with you to think about later. I will definitely go to see her again.

Ari told me that Madonna used to sit in the front row at all the Slits gigs in New York, and yet has never acknowledged her admiration for them and debt to them. And you can see in the early Madonna videos how much she owes to Viv in particular in terms of style.
I have always found Madonna excruciating, and listening to Viv last night, I thought how much more subtly and intelligently she has 'grown up' in comparison to the awful howling, clumping Madge.
I felt proud of our generation, and I felt even prouder of our regeneration.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Recording with Jude and Kath

I've just spent the afternoon with Jude Cowan and Kath Tait recording some songs, two each, to make a little CD out of for our planned 'Desperado Housewife' gig sometime soon at a venue near you. They are very good company, and although I'm knackered, it was time well spent and I'm looking forward to the gig when it happens!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Will it go on till Saturday 02 August?
Last week there was a live band.... 'She's a Black Magic Woooommmmern......'
Now it's the Michael Jackson medley


This neck of the suburbs, there have been a series of very late, very noisy 40- and 50-year-old birthday parties.
From these I have discovered that Sister Sledge are
Lost in music
Caught in a trap.

Fruitless Day

Posh chairs in Kensington, graced by millionaires' situpons

How odd that a morning spent buying masses of fruit from the market (cherries, mangoes, melons, bananas and nectarines) should be followed by a fruitless afternoon!
I wandered... there in Covent Garden was the Singing Handyman in his vintage vehicle, apparently with his own documentary film-maker riding at his side. Bubbles poured out of the front of his little truck, and Sinatra-type crooning poured out of his mouth and into a handily placed microphone; sound poured out of speakers attached, and he whisked off before I had time to photograph him (I did a while ago though but I can't remember if I posted it)
I went to Stanfords to buy a map of the UK to encourage me to feel positive about my next song writing project after a member of staff at work with a subtle grudge against academics 'helped' me just a little too slowly to spend my research bursary, so I missed the deadline. Hoots, it's par for the course, and my map will renew my energy!
Then down to the tube again- there was Billy Childish! I see him coming up the escalator in the tube more often than not it seems, and this has led me to wonder if he spends all day Saturday tubing it around the capital, looking mysterious. I saw my old friend Denise Stanley with her dog Ben in Charing Cross Road. She'd just been to buy a Spanish guitar for 50 quid in a shop having a closing down sale. We arranged to have coffee soon as we haven't seen each other in years. Everyone stopped to pat Ben, one of those mixture dogs that everyone loves.
I got to Notting Hill Gate, worn out by the crowds and muggy heat; I waled past shabby shops with towers of square pizza slices the size of carpet tiles, and similarly patterned.
I remembered having some fantastic photos taken by a guy called Antoine in Nico's flat along there somewhere, an airy bohemian basement with large cool yellowish-grey tiles on the floor, a low dark indian table, oriental rugs and lots of French hangers-on preparing plates of parma ham that terrified me (I hid mine in rolls under my knife and fork. Raw meat? Not me!) Nico was away somewhere and it was thrilling to be in her flat being elegantly danced around by a French photographer, peering out nervously through my eyelashes with half a ton of mascara on them.
I was trying to see Haunted Stereo at the Notting Hill Arts Club, a special Rough Trade afternoon gig. It was supposed to start at 4 and a crowd was hovering around the doors. In the end at five past, I gave up and came home, crushed by the volume of people and the mugginess of town. They texted to say they weren't on till 7 anyway. Another day, another day.
Back home, I'm thinking of the man I saw getting off a sardine-crushed tube train, holding aloft a huge tarantula made of black, red and white bendy balloons. Wonder if he managed to get it home without a pop?