Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Little Yellow Friends

The post-it notes are proliferating, and their bullying nature is causing me to despair.
Yellow, sticky and covered in black scribbles, they nag me daily; I try to condense them, and fight back by drawing lines through tasks completed, obsolete or unnecessary, but just as fast as I crumple them and head for the bin, new notes materialise threefold to replace them.
The tasks listed are impossible. They pile up in scaly layers, note upon note, every surface covered in exhausting scrawled detail.
Clumps detach themselves from the main pile and fall to the floor to be kicked under the desk.
Bullies-in-waiting, they will cause panic on their discovery with their lists of missed meetings, dates and opportunities.
One day, I will seize the lot in a confident fist, and throw them away!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Bank Holiday Joke

What orchestra do the centipedes play in?
The Milliband.

You Saw It Here First: Set List Device

Lightbulb Moment

I was watching Don Letts' The Punk Rock Movie with my best pal the other day; there were baby versions of Johnny Rotten, the Slits, Vic Godard, Siouxsie... many more.
It was while listening to Siouxsie's first punky singing outings that I realised that Vic Reeves' inspiration for his Pub Singer spot on Shooting Stars is not actually a pub singer- it is actually Siouxsie, and if you listen to his impressions with punk-primed ears they are much more easy to guess.
You heard it here first.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Piers Merchant and the Cornflakes; Sunday Rant

Many years ago, back through the mists of time, the then Tory MP Piers Merchant (later disgraced) took it upon himself to shame the dole-scroungers by showing how he and his family could easily survive on state benefits. They moved into a council flat with media approval, and set to it.
At the end of his experiment, his then wife was furious.
Apparently the money had run out pretty quickly and the family had spent the week eking out their diet with bowls of cornflakes, rather than give up.
To give him his due, he was rather sheepish about it.
A few years later, the then Tory MP  Edwina Currie (later disgraced) took it upon herself to shame the dole-scroungers by showing how she could easily survive on state benefits.
After a diet of courgettes and and unhealthy amount (according to dieticians) of cheap and fattening cheddar cheese, she too had to grudgingly admit that it hadn't been a lot of fun.

I am mentioning this because a spate of right-wing journalists has been undertaking A Levels to prove that they must be getting much easier than they were in their day, because so many pupils seem to be doing exceedingly well.
Quietly, because they are journalists with an agenda, they later admit that the exams are just as hard, and in some cases, harder.
Could this be, scandal of scandals, that state school teachers are doing their job much better and state school educated children are working much harder?
That in fact British education is improving?
This would not fit with nasty critical and negative policies about the peasants, would it?
I think we should be told!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Note To Self

Don't gaze adoringly at the shapeless green charity shop hat on the passenger seat of the car while driving over the North Circular Flyover.

In Which the Baby Next Door Has A Bad Dream

I have a gig tonight at Tottenham Chances, on the High Road, which is a Survivors gig; their gigs are usually a very interesting mixture of performers and often have a surreal air to them.

I was kept awake last night by next door's baby who had a scary dream and cried for ages.
As he calmed down he started to explain his dream and how frightened he was, but he can not speak yet; his need to articulate his fear overpowered his inability to talk, and he rambled for about an hour in infant lingo until he fell asleep again.
I could understand what he meant, even though he said it without familiar words.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The people who lived here before me left loads of bottles of Cillit Bang, and I can confidently testify that it is useless.
It should be re-named 'Cillit Whimper'.

Pieces of Eight

We'd had a Desperado Housewives rehearsal in the afternoon, practising a Cowgirl set for a gig in October. We ate grapes and thought about harmonies and sad songs that warranted handkerchiefs.
Then later, the gig at the 12 Bar was a bit like one of those Kellogg's Variety Packs of little boxes of cereal: a tasty gem here, a tasty gem there.

Jude Cowan was well on form, and so was LA Salami with his Sarstedt/Dylan tinged music and dark and surreal lyrics, and David Studdert, whose big doomy voice challenged Johnny Cash's legacy from time to time.. While I played, a man lay on the floor, twitching his feet in time to the songs. I was pleased to see from the regular twitchings that I kept good time throughout. I cocked up Loverman (or thought I did).
'Cockabilly', quipped a chap from the little balcony.
'I haven't got the right equipment for that', I quipped back in a rare moment of quick wit; this was a huge relief as I have been feeling senility creeping up on me recently.

The alternative-to-the-alternative scenesters were out en masse, either performing or attending: Kath Tait, Katy Carr, Val Phoenix, Paul Eccentric, Lucy Boccino, CT, and the joint was buzzing and even, occasionally, jumping.

I left with Katy and was delighted to see Gary (otherwise known as Smeg, lead singer with King Kurt) sitting at the bar. At times, he has almost seemed like a brother to me and I have not seen him for a long time. I have known him since he was sixteen and when I was poorly after The Chefs split up he spent some of his dole money on a packet of fish fingers and cooked them for me in his dark mouse-infested bedsit in Kilburn. We gave each other a big hug.
Katy and I stopped off on the way home at a Lebanese tea house. I had violet tea and she had a spicy Russian tea, both of us sitting on a long cushioned bench beside a brass table.

This morning, our rockabilly music arrived. Martin had sent it Special Delivery and I listened to it at once, and it made me feel bouncy. I bounced down to Docklands for a rehearsal with my nephew Alex, who I am gradually teaching the Helen and the Horns trumpet parts to. We are learning how to communicate with each other. Two short rehearsals a week will do it, with a lot of listening. We have been slightly held up buy the fact that someone has been stealing their post and the CD and sheet music I sent to him never got there. Three songs down and four more to go!

After that I drove the Offsprogs to Stansted to catch a flight to France; I have a few days to myself, to catch up on work and do a bit of relaxing.
The Poly Styrene interview I did (I was delighted that she agreed to talk to me) is marred by shrieking feedback that must have happened as I held the dictaphone to my mobile phone. I can hear what she says, which is a bloody good job, but listening to the piercing noise gives me a headache and I can only transcribe a bit at a time. And I'm re-reading the Slits book and I have Don Letts' The Punk Rock Movie to watch this weekend as well; but no real writing yet, as the book has to be scanned and sent over.

Now where did I put those chocolates?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Rockabilly, and the Quest For A Name

Yesterday Martin played some of the music we recorded with the rockabilly line-up down the phone to me.
It is absolutely brilliant- it sounds like some really old vinyl recordings I have on a compilation called Bison Bop which I think is on that German label, Bear Records (all my vinyl is in storage at the moment but the turntable is revving up because as soon as the 'A' Levels are finished next year and the mountains of paper and books cascade into the past, the turntable is going to move into the kitchen and the kitchen is going to become a 3-D jukebox).
Joe Guillan recorded it all on his old Revox, some in Embleton Church Hall a couple of years ago and some in a house in Wallsend earlier this year.
The line-up  is Martin Stephenson (guitar, vocals and songs), Joe Guillan (guitar), John Cavener (double bass, vocals and song), Keith Shepherd (drums), myself (guitar, vocals and songs), and two of John's youngsters, John and Natalie, on sax and trumpet respectively, with their teacher on sax too, plus a keyboard player on some songs playing a scrunchy organ sound, and I believe Fin McCardle, the awesome percussionist, contributes as well.
What is so good about the recordings is the total exuberance in the performances. Joe is a truckdrivin' authentic rockabilly guitarist who scorches his way through his solos; John has a fantastic bouncing double bass style; Keith is an energetic and accurate drummer; the kids and their teacher have the essence of excitement in their playing; Martin has the best 'feel' of any guitarist I have ever heard and these are some of his best retro-style compositions; and I think you can hear how delighted I was to be playing with this bunch in the songs I sing on.
All we need is a name! We are not at the rock end of rockabilly: we are more hillbilly with a bit of ska added to the mix. we have got our thinking quiffs on right now, because as soon as we have a name we can start doing some gigs!

Saturday, August 21, 2010


This is a poster for Monday's gig at the 12 Bar. It's one of my fave venues to play and it's one of those nights where lots of really good people are playing- it's going to be an Event with a capital 'E'! It starts at 7.30 and the whole of the venue is going to be used- restaurant, pool room and stage room.
I'm on at 9.30, BTW!

Lions

Look at these adorable little lions! That secretive society, the Masons, obviously admit stuffed toys these days, but sadly for us ladies, we are still forbidden from joining them.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Cruise Ships and Cast Iron Crocodiles



Invergordon was full of ships: a gigantically huge cruise city (left) that had decanted Spaniards into the mural-decorated streets to take photographs of each other in the Highlands sunshine. There was a baby cruise ship too, and a monster of a work-ship that we thought looked like the Starship Enterprise. Next to that one was a decapitated oil-rig on its massive stumpy legs, being fixed. Seagulls yarped and begged, not understanding what dogs learned aeons ago: you have to be nice if you want that food!
We went to Dornoch beach and looked at the endless sands and the horizon full of nothing, and listened to the silence; the only sound was  the hissing waves against the sand. I wonder if the secrets of the universe are in their sound, just like the secrets of humans are held in their DNA. People would have laughed at that years ago, wouldn't they?
Under a Victorian water fountain, four cast iron crocodiles bore the disfigurement of years of re-painting in Standard Green.
In between wandering around, we made some recordings. Martin has become adept at using Garageband, and we recorded a song of mine called Steal You Away, and then a song of Martin's called Rockabilly Heaven. In fact we did another one of his but we worked so hard I can't remember which one it was! The next day we recorded a song called Give Me a Chance to Talk, which is one I wrote years ago, and a new one which I wrote partly at Luton Airport, Gaudi's Garden, which he put some lovely guitar on this afternoon. It's next door to this posting on my player if you want to have a listen. Martin has an autoharp, and we also made a little recording together, with Martin on guitar and me on autoharp, which I will post on Reverbnation one day if you are very, very good indeed.

Monday, August 16, 2010

I had to go to work today, but later on my nephew came along and we started running though Helen and the Horns songs.
We have a gig supporting The Daintees in September and our original trumpet player decided not to do it; my nephew is 21 and a good player but I will have to rehearse with him twice a week because it's hard work for a brass player: in H&H you are playing almost all the time and you need a lot of stamina!
I am going to Inverness tomorrow for a couple of days to help Martin with our next collaboration. It's going to be called The Cafe of Tiny Kindnesses and some of it is done already.
I have a song to finish before then but I am very tired and may have to use the waiting time at Luton Airport to do it!
The Lost Women of Rock Music is on ice till the weekend; it needs to be scanned so I can work on it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Blackberries: Supermarket: £2.00 punnet; Field: a Ton Free to Pick

The Rockin'est Rollin'est Day

The rockin'est rollin'est day. It's funny how the mundane blends into the rockin'est rollin'est sometimes.
I remember bumping into Tessa Pollitt in Notting Hill one day, and she was just off to buy some hay for a hamster she was looking after.
Offsprog 2 had been painting her room and she ran out of paint; the paint shop in Barnet has closed down so I got on the tube to head for a shop where I knew I could get some. 
I'd interviewed Poly by phone in the morning, and she'd passed on Paul Cook's wife's number and suggested that I text her to ask if Paul would talk to me.
The reason I wanted to talk to him was that so many of the women I interviewed who were making music in the London area cited him as being an enabler- whether it was turning up at their gigs, lending his kit or giving help with drumming, or just generally being steady and trustworthy in what was often a hostile environment. 
There were other young men who did this and I think it is important to discuss this a bit more in the new version of the book.
On the train, I decided to send that text, with details about the book, to see if he might be willing to talk some time this weekend. 
My phone buzzed. 'If you can call in the next five minutes he can talk to you. He doesn't normally do interviews'.
F*ck! The train drew in to West Finchley, and I got off to escape the train-noise and punched in the number.
B*gger! There is no signal at all at West Finchley! I raced on the the bridge over the track. No signal there either! Finally, out in the street, I got a weak signal and called.
I had no questions prepared, nothing to record with, and only a half-run-out pen to scribble on a scrap of paper with.
He is indeed a good guy, and was patient with the bletherings from West Finchley. 
How I wish I had taken some prepared questions with me! But I can add his voice to the book, which is a book of voices as much as a book of analysis, and I am grateful that he took the time to talk; it was a mega-short interview which seemed to surprise him a little but I did not want to waste anyone's time by being unfocused.
It's Saturday, and I have just done two hours of checking Bethan Peters' interview. This has been a hard-working week in terms of transcribing, but well worth it in terms of new discoveries.

Zoot- thank you for your comments- very funny! I decided to delete them, as I do not want to break the trust of the people I have talked to in any way at all. I even deleted this post yesterday but have re-posted it as it's harmless.
It's interesting to see that Paul Cook is playing with Edwyn Collins at the moment, which must have made Edwyn's day. I bet he never thought when he was a young pip in Orange Juice that he'd share the stage with a Sex Pistol!

Surrealism in Docklands: Hotel Medea

Many people would probably describe me as a complete philistine.
I very rarely go to the theatre; I have been twice this year, both times to see Oliver!, because I love the music so much. All I know about acting is that the person who played Nancy was the best actor in the whole thing, and that the first Oliver was great and the second one wasn't, which made me realise how important that central part is.
What comes next is of course wildly biased, because I know two of the people involved and I did the comic that appears in Act Two, but then again, anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I never review crap things unless they are mainstream and Should Know Better because I don't want to criticise nervous beginners or experimenters, as I have been there myself and will go there again.
But this night was absolutely amazing and I am so glad I went: it was utterly magical!

I had arranged to meet Jorge at Trinity Buoy Wharf, after my previous jettisoning of the idea of seeing the show due to drunken rowdiness at Stratford. So I got to meet the cast and was charmed by their friendliness and also to be introduced to them at a point when they must have wanted to just psych themselves up and be alone, together.
A lovely woman who I later discovered was Nwando Ebizie, the composer of part of the electronic soundtrack (DJ Dolores also contributed), gave us a lift to the tube station and we headed over to North Greenwich where a crowd was gathering ready to catch the boat over to the show. Jorge immediately got into character and I found some friends to sit with. The air was, as they say, buzzing with anticipation, and we embarked, crossed the dark and silently menacing Thames, and were led off by mysterious helpers in long coats and with torches, grouped together, and went from helper to helper, learning a simple dance, some chants (which I immediately forgot, double philistinely), the art of moving quickly from place to place, and then a rhyme game.
We entered the huge space and were offered coffee; gently persuasive gentlemen gently persuaded us to have our photographs taken, wearing Medea eye masks with disconcertingly tiny eye-holes.

I have long prided myself on not being a joiner-inner, hating workshops where people touch each other and trust each other: my theory has always been that London is a crowded place full of compulsory squashing-up on Tubes and buses, so why do any more touching than is necessary?
But this was not like that: the situation was so magical and unfamiliar that I found it easy to just go along with everything, and soon found myself chatting to complete strangers in the audience.
Gigantic doors opened, and in spun men dressed in many-coloured beribboned carnival booths, which were propped on their waists, and which towered above their heads. We were encouraged by the mysterious helpers to circulate, and enter the booths, where the men tried to persuade us to buy things we weren't supposed to buy- manufactured from the Golden Fleece. The mysterious helpers checked up on them with their torches, market inspectors, and the market traders protested their innocence with all the sincerity of Del-boy and his ilk.
Just as suddenly as they had appeared, they drifted out on the blow of a whistle, and the doors banged open at the other end of the warehouse.
In trotted six nasty little argonauts in their sinister black strappy garb, machine guns in hand; their horrid little dance was perfectly synchronised, and they formed a military line at the back of the hall; a car swept in and a tall man got out and opened the passenger door, and there was Jason, in his motorcycle helmet and holding his big black truncheon erect between his legs, swearing like a trouper and just generally being a thug.
We had already met Medea, and her helpers: gradually the proceedings erupted into a hilarious football match, ended at the point where Medea's helpers all fell to the ground with fake injuries, closely followed by the argonauts. You could literally see the light-bulbs above their respective heads as they hit on the plan to cheat their way out of conflict.
So much, so much... Nwando Ebizie was up there, playing the decks as we dressed Medea for her wedding; a real tear rolled down Medea's face as the women in the audience bathed her and sprinkled rose petals upon her head. Jason was being similarly prepared by the men behind a large drape, and finally they confronted each other and we celebrated their wedding by making rhyming couplets, helped and encouraged by the mysterious helpers. When we forgot things (oh, all right then, when I forgot things, having three left feet, although only two feet), a helper would come and tactfully demonstrate it just in front of you before floating off somewhere else. Medea was warned by her maid of the destruction to come...
The dancing was huge fun; I never thought I would enjoy joining in as much as this! In the dark, we shouted and sang and, blindfolded, Medea and Jason tried to find each other to consummate their marriage.
I remembered many years of attending the Perth Pantomime, where you were allowed to shout and join in and generally feel that you were part of things. This felt like that! You started to like the mysterious helpers and depend on them a bit; as it got later, the whole experience became more and more surreal, until you found yourself laughing at a pile of men that Medea had kissed with her sorceress's kiss; they died spectacular, noisy and frantic deaths and lay with blood seeping from their mouths, as Jason and Medea escaped with the Fleece in a battered suitcase.
'That is the end', declared the master of ceremonies, who had been directing us all subtly by blowing a whistle.

So those who had arranged to just see the first part took the minibus off the Stratford to catch the night bus; many people begged to stay on and see the rest, and I abandoned my intention to leave early and decided to stay for part of the second half, although my body was begging me to take it to the land of nod.
As the audience sat and finished their coffee, scary nursemaids dressed in white glided in silently, and took chains of bewildered people off through a door. Some looked understandably nervous. Others were lined up in a queue by men in black with cameras, and they too filed through the door.
'You have been chosen', the rest of us were told, and we were taught how to shake hands with Jason: not too much pressure, not too little, look into his eyes and smile; we walked through a room in a diagonal line, and he swept in behind us in a clamour of self-importance.
We were instructed to shake hands and then pose in groups, looking happy, or triumphant, or impressed, according to the orders were were given. Jason matched our amateurish expressions with a triumph of insincerity for the camera every time. The flashbulbs popped, the groups of audience members were ushered away and his facial expression fell back to naked ambition. Next we went into a room where we put on headphones and watched a bank of TVs, where Jason's election campaign was being broadcast...

At this point, Jorge took me to see what was happening to the others. They were in a massive but cosy room that was suffused with a pinkish glow, floor strewn with hundreds of teddies, lying tucked up in bunk beds and comforted by the scary nursemaids who all had red knitting, which they stopped doing from time to time to fussily adjust the blankets on their charges. They had had the comic read to them just beforehand. It actually looked as though one or two people had really gone to sleep ( it was probably about 2 a.m. by now)
In the middle of the room, Jason was bedding Medea, except his multiple mobiles kept going off in a disjointed cacophony of ugly ringtones; she gave up and started singing a lullaby to the people in the bunk beds, who represented her children; the scary nursemaids joined in, in harmony.....

Oh, I was so tired! I had to go home! But this was such a fantastic experience and I am so glad I went. It was a completely colourful, bizarre and entrancing performance but it had its own inner logic and meaning, and it gave me so much food for thought that although I got home at three, I lay awake till five thinking about it all: the links between fascism and sexual perversion, the persuadability of groups of people; and also, of course, the multiple skills and stamina of the fantastic cast; the powerful performance of Persis Jade Maravala as Medea, the way the actor who played Jason (I will tell you his name) morphed his character from thug to sleazy and ambitious politician, Jorge's genial and humorous hosting; the supporting cast who never lost concentration or attention to detail throughout, the fantastic music, the volunteers who made us coffee or took as through the twinkling dark of the Docklands night to the loo....

One final surreal thing happened, just as I came off the motorway on the way home. A car had stopped next to mine at the traffic lights, in the middle lane, and a guffawing young man got out and relieved himself into the fast lane oblivious to the alarmed hootings from passing cars that were missing him by a hair's breadth as they sped past when the lights changed.
Was he part of it all?

Chit Chat

I have taken out a posting I made; I may re-post it at a later date.
Watch this space for a very appreciative review of Hotel Medea later today.
Got to bed at 3... got to sleep at 5... woke up 9.30... aaargh!!!!

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Story In Pictures

This is probably a personal record, but there was an atmosphere at the gallery and outside it in the street I can't describe in words.
Pic show Gaye Advert who organised the exhibition, which is a roaring success; Zillah Ashworth, member of Rubelle Ballet and film-maker (her film She's a Punk Rocker is available from www.voiceprint.co.uk); Naz (a photographer), Poly Styrene and Terri (on of the few female sound engineers in the UK); Spizz. all lit up (I remember him from the Moonlight Club in West Hampstead: he looks a hell of a lot punkier now. I loved his single, Where's Captain Kirk, and I've still got it); the after-show club, a rococo delight, with its feathered lampshades, sweets, teddies, gold statues, grand piano and cocktails; and a self portrait taken in the mirror, in front of a chair shose seat is made of deflated balloons.
I have just done a phone interview with Poly for the book. She has a new CD coming out in February, which features Viv Albertine on guitar on one track. It was produced by Youth from Killing Joke.
The exhibition? It was packed out, and I couldn't see the pictures, so I'll go back another day!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I Went To This Tonight

After five solid hours of listening and writing, I went to the opening of this exhibition tonight. It was so crammed with people you could hardly see the pictures so I'm going back. I took some photos which I'll post tomorrow.

View

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Song of the Unsung Heroine

Gina Birch filmed this at Vintage and Rare Guitars in Denmark Street (thanks guys for letting us film there).
It was funny and appropriate to the subject matter of the song that some of the customers practically literally walked over us silly fillies in their territory. Ho ho!
It was really fun to do, and we did meet a really nice blues band from Middlesborough.
It wasn't the musician chaps who were a pain, it was the Pinstripes with big bucks to spend on luscious unattainable guitars.
The staff in the shop were very tolerant and must have hated the song by the time we'd finished!
Thanks to Gina of course. I love her stuff.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aknGC-da0F4

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Stage Invasion

Last night at Phibbers, a big punky lady spotted me from downstairs and came up to join in. She sat at the back, singing along loudly as soon as she'd picked up the gist. 'Can I jam with you?' she yelled over.
She made her way over to the stage area and joined me there. 'Can I jam with you?', she shouted again, lager glass in hand.
The promoter very gently coaxed her away and took her downstairs again.
I could hear her all the way through the rest of the set, bellowing away in the distance, still singing along at the top of her voice.

Transcribing Again

I have been driven close to tears, hearing how a musician's boyfriend made her leave her successful band through his jealousy, and then undermined her playing so much that she gave up altogether.
The worst thing anyone has told me so far is a partner's attempt to break her fingers so she couldn't play guitar any more.
Yet the party line is that girls just aren't interested in playing in rock bands, it's a Boy Thing.
A Bullying and Intimidation Thing, actually.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Bard-Aid in Camden

Bard-Aid is an organisation that raises money to provide poetry books for secondary schools, and last night's gig was organised by Paul Eccentric, a member of the Rrrants Collective.
The gig lasted all day, and was held upstairs at the Camden Eye, a pub that is negotiated by pushing a channel through the sea of pissed young people that swarm around Camden Tube station at weekends.
Up the steep stairs that are hemmed in by nattily-tiled walls, the Kissing Lounge hosted a warm and friendly crowd who lounged on an assortment of odd chairs, jumbled together in a peaceful end-of-Saturday bonhomie.
I found a corner to slot myself into and listened to the quirky jazz of Paul's band, which sounded like a cross between ABC (except Paul has a much nicer voice than the frightening warbling of whats-his-name) and Michael Garrick's band (he was a 1970s oddball English jazz bandleader whose vinyl recordings currently command phenomenal sums on eBay). I liked their music; I am very fond of the alternative universe and this band would not have been out of place in the bar in the original Star Wars film (above).
It was my turn next, and the head-turning Green Gretsch turned heads; I loved the audience, who were a perfect mix of ages, styles and smiles. One group was noshing their way through their tea (chicken and chips  out of polystyrene containers). Other supped pints of lager or drank cans of Red Stripe. It was hot and sweaty, not good singing weather, but I abandoned my miserable songs and sang the uppy songs instead. People tapped legs, fingers, and I was told, bums along to Loverman.
This was probably my favourite gig in terms of atmosphere and audience this year. Maybe apart from the WIld Hare Club with JCC and Don Letts...
I also have invented a new way with set lists- a paper luggage label tied to a machine-head of the guitar.
It does the trick brilliantly! You don't need to bend down to peer at the floor, it's there at the end of you guitar neck ready for you to refer to or ignore as the mood takes you. You could have a selection, with different set lists on them....
Lovely gig, and thanks to Paul for inviting me. It is nice to feel appreciated at a gig!
LA Salami had a good night too and I am looking forward to being on the bill with him at the 12 Bar on the 23rd August.
I had wanted him to play at one of my nights of new songs, which I had to abandon because people got cross when I didn't invite them to play (it was one night, and I was planning more, and the cross people were going to be invited to play, but I got put off).
The other Rrrants events look good: I will certainly be going along to another.
Their website is www.rrrants.com

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Gig Tonight, 7th August

It's right next to Camden Tube, 2 Kentish Town Road: The Camden Eye
It's organised by the Rrrants Collective and has already started
It costs £5.00 for an all-day ticket
... and I am on at 8 p.m.

Customising Old Age Prospects

From time to time, like most people, I contemplate Being Old.
A few weeks ago, I spotted the Perfect Old Lady.
She was driving an vintage Morris Traveller in cream with a red leather interior. Its woodwork and bodywork were immaculate.
She sat smiling and serene inside, a vision of cloudy white hair and scarlet lipstick: every wrinkle in place, neat little hands clasping the wheel, feminine and sweet.
In the rear seats of her car were two stylish tartan rugs and in the very back, a turntable.
'I want to be her!' I exclaimed inwardly, 'Yes, please, that's me in the future!'
I was delighted with my choice and carried on with the journey.

A while later that day while I was waiting at a bus stop, an Old Gentleman came up to me.
'I'm eighty-six', he told me while invading my personal space.
"Here's a joke forya. Woman goes into the doctor. "Flu", says the doctor. "No, I walked", said the woman. Ha, ha, ha! Here's another one forya!....' and so on, and so on, until the bus arrived and rescued me.
Ruefully, I realised that given my penchant for crap jokes, it is much more likely that I will grow old boring people with my sense of humour like the Old Gentleman, rather than impressing younger people with my style like the Perfect Old Lady.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Lifemusic

Faintly, through the wall, I hear next door's dogs howling, a perfect glissando: up.... and back down again... pause... up... and back down again....
Two doors down, the wind chimes tinkle vaguely, irritating as I try to identify a tune.
A distant bus wheezes, whines and sighs, not quite powerful enough to do its job.
Someone somewhere is building something with a buzz-saw: it snarls and grinds.
Cars whoosh quietly down the street and snatches of women's voices float through the window, their disconnected practical poetry a lyric of passing nonsense.
Planes groan through the air, distant... overhead...distant; two of them, going in different directions, everyone aboard looking for paradise.
'Youuu stuuupid bugger, youuu stuuupid bugger', says a lone pigeon.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Houses Huge and Houses Holy

Offsprog 2 and her friend were bored transcribing.
I could hear them searching the songs the interviewees were talking about: first, Mind Your Own Business by the Delta 5, and then Morning Train (9 to 5) by Sheena Easton. I think they are finding it interesting, although one of the interviewees whispers when she's saying something she shouldn't and Offsprog 2 is finding it difficult to work out what she's saying.
I have finished re-reading the book but will have to read through the transcripts (I've got two more to do myself) before deciding what to add and where.
I had to go for a really long walk today to rinse my brain; I walked through Hadley Wood, footballer land, where the houses are massive with forbidding electronic gates and thick net curtains.
Huge and gleaming cars are parked on the brick driveways and the lawns are kept green and every-ready for the occasional visit from the homeowners, who naturally are hopping from one unfeasibly large pile of bricks to another.
Recession? Pah! Not for this lot!
There is an overall air of nastiness about the manicured gardens and mock-tudor gables. The architecture could be described as 'eff-off'; mean little security cameras peek from the eaves, and notices pinned on the gates warn of patrols and guard dogs.
Who wants to live in a prison of their own creation? Not I.
I returned via a tiny churchyard at Monken Hadley that had unusual wooden gravestones (gravewoods?) with painted inscriptions. Brambles had been allowed to grow over them and I hooked the brambles behind the wood so I could read the writing. Cream teas will be served in the Church House this Sunday, said a notice on the notice-board with a photograph of a scone upon it.
Overlapping worlds never cease to fascinate me.

Pop Star (ha ha) at Hereford Wild Hare Club

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Puffin Guarding its Nest on the Farne Isles

video
This might be too small to see, but it's a very funny puffin marching around on the lookout for baddies. I would love a puffin in the kitchen to keep me company but I know it would get lonely when I go away.
I will have to make do with the toad that lives in the yard and the snails that I have to leave alone now there's a toad there to eat them.
Did you see that TV item about the fact that snails have a homing instinct? They are trying to persuade people to mark their shells with coloured nail varnish and swap them with their neighbours to see if they can make their way home.
Somehow, I think the frosty fellows in my street might think I was barmy if I turned up on their doorsteps with a handful of varnished snails.
I could be wrong, I suppose.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/features/so-you-want-to-be-a-scientist/experiments/homing-snails/snail-swap/

Reading

I am halfway through reading the Lost Women of Rock Music, to see where the new interview material will fit in. It will be hard, as I spent so much time getting the 'flow' right in the first place; but one thing I know now, to be sparing in what I use and to find the most perfect quotations from each person because it is not a 'fan' book but a history book. I suppose at a later date I could publish the transcripts separately. They are very interesting in themselves, particularly as they involve conversations with extremely strong and interesting personalities. Some of the women became quite angry and animated as I spoke to them.
What I would never publish however is the stories of sexual violence, which were quite horrific.
I warned the Offsprogs to be careful at Glastonbury, and they laughed.
 Of course they did! Everyone thinks they are invincible when they are young, and I am sure the two young women who got raped at the Latitude Festival felt like this too.
An endless flow of tales of stabbings, shooting and bullying by and of young men stings us as though we are walking, vulnerable, through fields of nettles and thorns; but if this is happening to teenage men, what is happening to girls?
None of the rapes I was told of were reported to the police. the police were not seen as friendly or helpful, or the young women concerned were terrified of losing their teenage freedom, of being put under house-arrest for someone else's crime.
Many human males are primitive creatures under their suits and uniforms. Females who are concerned about the behaviour of some sections of male society are frequently laughed at and marginalised.
Get a credit card! Buy a dress! Pour another gin and tonic!
Make a smokescreen and you won't remember it, you won't see it, and we can all carry on as we were before.
The problem is, as any woman who has been raped will tell you, life for her will never, ever be the same again.
It is a wound that never heals, a silent scream that will never be heard.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Factory

There is a mini-factory of teenage girls in the next door room, transcribing interviews for me. It's an experiment: they are bored and skint and I have a backlog to get through. There was a bit of shouting earlier on but I'm hoping for at least two hours of graft before they gravitate down to the pizza in the kitchen. I can hear through the paper tissue walls that they have been invited to a picnic on Hampstead heath but I hope they are turning it down.
When I've stopped prevaricating by writing this, I am going to go through Matthew Bannister's book again; it describes the male indie mindset exceedingly and depressingly well and I am sure there is something there that I can bounce ideas off.
Gina called first thing this morning and she is going to put a version of the video we made of The Song of the Unsung Heroine up on Youtube later today.
It's all go here in matchbox house: Offsprog One is living here at the moment but she's doing work experience and just returning home knackered for food and sleep.
There are clean and dirty clothes draped over every chair, bedpost, and table.
Shoes lie ready for feet to be stuffed into them at various strategic places on each floor.
Library books stick to the kitchen worktop and drifts of cherry stones clog the corners of the living room. Empty cups wait forlornly to be cleared away.
A small toy, a yellow rubber man, has been lying on the kitchen floor for three days; every so often he sticks to someone's foot and relocates. Who does he belong to? We are all grown up here, or at least we think we are.
In between it all, I remember 'Walk tall, walk straight and look the world right in the eye', the lyric from the good old Val Doonican song.
It always struck me as quite good advice from the cosy knitted gentleman.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Transcribing for The Lost Women of Rock Music

I am getting down to working on the book.
First of all, I had to finish transcribing the interview I did with Viv Albertine, and I sat for two hours, painstakingly making sure every word was there so it is authentically her.
Then I lost everything I had done, all in one go!
I let the computer cool down (and myself) and started again.
I have just about done it, but have to go over it again tomorrow to check that it's accurate; there are ten pages so far and I expect it to be more, but tomorrow I will start at 8.30 as I meant to this morning.
I need to get into a groove because there are four more interviews to transcribe.
There are possibly two more interviews to record, but possibly not; I am going to be working very hard throughout August to get the book finished in time.
There are post-it notes stuck all over the desk with scribbled instructions. Every so often, I throw them all away. They are the material equivalent of stretching my arms and yawning, and I go to the back door and inhale outside-air to revitalise myself instead.
I am not a natural sitter-downer-and-writer and this feels like hard work, although it is incredibly interesting and I really value the information that comes out of these interviews.
I am also glad that no-one I have interviewed has become a grumpy old woman; instead, they gaze on their past with awe and dig up memories that surprise them.
I hope that by talking to me and to other people who also value the female contribution to British pop culture, that they in turn value themselves and their past as much as we do.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Rude Britannia and an Alien Artist

Friday was quite busy: it wasn't just the day the car spectacularly failed it's MOT, but it was also the day I met Caroline Coon and went to see the Rude Britannia exhibition at Tate Britain.
There is lots of it: drawings by Cruickshank, Gillray, Donald  McGill, Jake and Dinos Chapman, paintings by Beryl Cook and Hogarth, a 'wanker' hand on a spring by Sarah Lucas, cartoons by Gerald Scarfe and Ralph Steadman and much, much more.
There was too much Viz, and a lot of the conceptual stuff didn't carry on the threads of the earlier stuff. There was no Oz, no Jamie Reid and I don't think there was any Ronald Searle.
There was no Caroline Coon either!
I couldn't understand why some of the 3D stuff was there and so much 2D stuff wasn't. It seemed like an exhibition curated by a committee who didn't agree with each other about what satire is; but in some ways, it was the more enjoyable for its slightly jumble sale effect, and I definitely felt it was worth more than one visit. Some of the drawing was just so incredibly beautiful that both Caroline and I felt positively inspired.
Definitely my favourite drawings were by Aubrey Beardsley.
I am sure they fit into the category of erotic art but they were actually rather obscene because of their caricature nature, but the way they were drawn was so absolutely brilliant that they were breathtaking.
A lot of people are good at art and good at drawing; they have good ideas and can make entertaining marks on paper or canvas. However, Aubrey Beardsley possessed something extra, something magical. His little black-and-white characters live in a different world where everyone has elegant ankles and titchy well-shod feet, and the lines with which their faces are picked out render even the ugly beautiful; their clothing is exquisite and they are arranged on the page like wild flowers growing on an undisturbed plot.
Some people seem to be plonked on this Earth from a different planet or an alternative universe, and he is one of them.
Out of this world.
http://www.tate.org.uk/britain/exhibitions/britishcomicart/default.shtm

In Which I Fail To See Hotel Medea

A couple of months ago I drew a comic to be used in Hotel Medea, an overnight theatrical production devised by and featuring Persis-Jade Maravala, a colleague at the University of the East. It was a chance meeting: I had gone along to talk about my music at a get-together about research, and had taken my drawings to accompany me and make me feel more confident.
She had been looking for an artist to make a comic that described Medea's exile, and I spent about ten days drawing non-stop to get the comic ready for the production's visit to Brazil (some of the drawings are posted here, a few pages back).
The boat trip carrying the audience to the production left from the O2 in North Greenwich, travelling to Stratford, so I decided to leave my car at Stratford, travel by tube to North Greenwich, and pick up my car at 2 a.m. when the first part of the Trilogy finished (unused to theatre, I though that Part One would be enough even though the comic appears in Part Two when the audience is put to bed in pyjamas with hot chocolate and the comic).
It was fun getting ready and exciting to have an event like this to go to.
The problem was that after I had parked in Stratford, I then had to negotiate several huge groups of drunk young men (one group of more than ten) who were shouting, standing in the road, and hovering in a way that surely did not feel menacing to them but that certainly made me feel afraid.
I got halfway to the station before the thought of meeting the same guys four times as drunk on the way back to my car in the wee small hours entered my head.
I couldn't do it. I don't know whether it's Offsprog Two's mugging a few weeks ago, or the effect of being away from the ferocious urban buzz of night-time London for a week, but I actually felt frightened.
Back to the car, and back home I went.
I do wish I had been able to see it; I know it sold out and so maybe there will be another chance, when I will be able to collar one of my pals (they are all out of London on holiday) to come with me.