Monday, February 28, 2011

Edith Sitwell

I am delighted to see that there is a new book about Edith Sitwell. I have long based my hairstyles on those of the Uncrowned Queen of Dada, and I love her deconstruction of pompousness.
She inhabits the same world as Ivor Cutler, and you have to have been brought up in a world of senseless ritual to be truly able to understand their rickety rhythms and worlds of barmy logic.
Photo of Edith: Cecil Beaton
Photo of Me: Magic Fingers

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Pauline Pulls It Off: and the Others Done Good

The chances of four artists having an on-night at the same time are pretty slim but I think Friday's gig was a bit of a blinder.
After a five-hour drive from London we pulled into the world's worst Travelodge (makes the desert seem luxuriant), collected our assorted thoughts and drove on to the Central Bar, a slice of Georgian cake that looms out of the assorted buildings and roads just South of the Tyne, inches into Gateshead.
We had had a good journey; there was plenty to talk about including the very sad news that Poly has cancer (love to you Poly and I wish you hope and strength).

There was a small crowd of women bar staff having a fag at the foot of the stairs as we lumbered up with our gear. 'It's the girls!', they said and gave way so we could lumber up the stairs.
Martin had made us a film stars' dressing room with flowers, chocolate, fruit and copies of the local daily and evening papers fanned out for us to look at; both the Newcastle Journal and the Evening Chronicle had pieces about the gig.
Pauline arrived, nervous but composed, and we sound-checked. Viv filmed an interview, Martin set up the door and bought us all dinner.
The punters started arriving, and every single one of them seemed to be in a good mood.
Pauline played first; any nervousness she may have felt at playing her first ever solo gig disappeared by the second line of the first song. She was in great voice, she looked fantastic and the crowd absolutely loved her. She played two of her own compositions, hitting the guitar like a pro, and in a stroke of genius, played a cover of 'Can't Get You Out Of My Head', ending on a high that made her a tough act to follow. The audience gave her a tumultuous round of applause, and we all know that this is just the beginning of a whole new phase for Pauline as a performer.
Aha! I had new Chelsea Boots and The Green Goddess, having been out of favour for a few gigs as it needs to go to the Guitar Doctors, decided to be a good Goddess, and sounded absolutely immaculate. I didn't make the usual quota of mistakes (although I did cock up the new song but the audience didn't seem to mind) and I had a fantastic time. I sang my favourite songs and it was a right larf! What an honour to share the stage with three such brilliant women!
Gina was on next; she stood next to her retro screen (borrowed at the last minute from Amber Films because she'd forgotten to pack a sheet to project on in the rush to get ready at half term: thank you Amber!) and thrashed the hell out of her guitar.
This was the best performance I have ever seen from Gina. She was funny, emotional and at the top of her game. the audience changed gear effortlessly: this was so different from Pauline and myself, but they lapped it up and gave her a fantastic reception. Her piece de resistance was the final song, a collage of Phil Spector's Tonight You're Mine complete with gunshots and black and white shots (ha ha) of starlets in murder scenes.
Then Viv was ready to go; change of mood again, audience up for it again. She took to the stage with her telecaster, dressed in a striking psychedelic shirt, and gave it her all. She is a mistress of the fretboard and I wished I had been close enough to indulge in the ancient guitarists' practice of stealing licks.
She commands the stage with confidence, taking a metaphorical chainsaw to the lies of love and romance, while simultaneously playing every part of a whole band, just on one guitar through a Fender twin reverb. The audience travelled on the journey with her, rapt and full of appreciation, and demanded and encore at the end, even though by then the room was a hot and steaming as a sauna.
It was a night to remember- thanks to Martin for having the idea in the first place; Viv, Gina and Pauline for agreeing to play (and to Polestar/Pauline for the loan of the twin reverb) and jumping in wholeheartedly; to Ian, the sound guy and to the DJ; to Amber Films for the screen; and don't forget the audience, for showing their appreciation to all four of us and sticking with us all the way through. You can't buy that for any amount of money!

Thursday, February 24, 2011


I have a gig tonight at the Zenith Bar; Gina's bringing some of her gear so I can start to pack the car ready for tomorrow's trek north to Gateshead.
I'm just about to empty out the boot, which has become a glorified dustbin. There are lots of large polythene bottles of diluted screen wash, a mike-stand, leads, CDs, a crumpled coat, and a bag of whatnots (that means I don't know what's in it!)
We have to fit three guitars, a bass, a projector, a screen, our bags and us into it.
It might be a squash!
I am optimistic, however, having taken the original incarnation of the Irrepressibles (three quarters of them anyway) to Brighton to play the Komedia with Helen and the Horns a couple of years ago.
That was three people, a huge keyboard, an accordion, a cello, a guitar and an amplifier, all in roasting hot temperatures. I liked it, especially being fed wine gums all the way home by Jamie, who was sitting in the front seat. Luxury!
So... tonight at the Zenith Bar (I am on at 9.45 and playing a 35 minute set and it's free to get in) and tomorrow at The Central Bar, Gateshead, which starts with Pauline Murray at about 8.45, then me, the Gina Birch and then Viv Albertine.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ivy Brightens Up A Rainy February Day

Animals and Other Things

The multi-talented musician Steve Beresford once told me that he knew a woman guitarist who named her chords after animals.
'So do I', I said.
Well, just two: B7 is obviously a camel because it's got a hump, and G a llama because it hasn't.
But then I investigated my mind and realised that all of them have symbols in my head apart from F which I don't tend to play very much as it's difficult, so F isn't anything.
D is a bucket and D7 is a hat; A is a table and C is a plank.
A minor and E are both airline seats.
And E minor is a pair of slippers.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

In Which Someone Attempts To Grow A Rainforest On The Second Floor Green Zone, East Building

A Story for the Students

I have written about this before many moons ago, but I bet there are very few people who have been reading this blog for that long!
It's about my dream gig: warm place, easy to get to. No problem with getting the gear in, the show's over in a trice and you're back home in seconds, satisfied and contented. Why on earth don't I do more gigs at this venue?
Where is it? My bed, literally in a dream.

Some of my students that are supposed to be finding industry placements are sitting there each week, waiting for a job to come floating past on the breeze... all they will need to do is gently stretch up and catch it.
If it's not appealing, they can just sit and wait for another to drift past.

One of Bruce Morton's rude stories has already entered the currency at the University of the East.


At work now, along with, I suspect, a considerable tranche (remember that word, o ye Thatcherites?) of the NHS, we have resorted to singing My Favourite Things. If it worked for the Von Trapp children, surely it will work for us?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Rothesay Music

Rothesay is a friendly island a mere ferry's throw from the splendid Wemyss Bay station, all pale green ironwork and large potted plants placed on the ferry walkway by some green-fingered soul.
Martin and I had bumped into Bruce Morton and his partner Alison at Glasgow Central, and bundled up against the cold southwesterly, we bounced onto the ferry with guitars and winter coats, ready for the fray.
A tiny little old lady in a pale green coat, wooly hat, shopping trolley and cream wellies struggled to get the lift door open, and we let her in, then we realised she wouldn't be able to get out at the top so we raced up to let her out.
Once we disembarked at Rothesay we checked in at our B&B, which was lovely (the Boat House and we hung out there until it was time to go to the gig. We went via an amazing curry house (I've got no idea what it's called but it's on the seafront and it's a deafening orange colour inside) and some nice warm taxis to the Bowling Club where the gig was. Roberto Cassani and his partner, and Kenny Brady the ace fiddle player (he used to play for the Fall) had joined us by now.
This was the first time I had seen the Three Wise Men in action and the energy kicked off at once: Bruce acted as compere and got the audience laughing within seconds. You think he's going to be dour but actually he's a very warm performer, carefully setting traps and weaving threads that lull the audience into laughing at some quite rude stuff! One of his stories made me laugh for a full ten minutes, that sort of laughing when you stop to listen to the next story but you keep going back to the last one and start laughing all over again. I have a feeling that you could see him do the same 'set' a few times but it would be different each night and I'm really looking forward to seeing his show again.
Roberto went on next, all clean and shiny and innocent-looking, full of scampish humour. The islanders loved his Put Good Knickers On and Go Into Town song; there was a lot of knowing laughter at that one. When he did The Man Flu, three or four women started heckling straight away, seemingly unaware that he's a satirist, not a male chauvinist pig; but of course, by doing so they became part of the show. They practically burst at the line where he says man-flu is worse than childbirth; but butter wouldn't melt in his mouth as he continued the song, halo trembling above his head!
Then it was Martin's turn, and Kenny joined him on stage for some cajun-flavoured old timey music. Martin is part-comedian as well as musician, and the night flowed on as he got people's feet tapping and riffed about the ceiling tiles (expanded polystyrene: we all had them in our kitchens and bathrooms in the 1970s- so modern!). Kenny is an exceptional fiddle player with the essential improviser's skill of knowing how to finish a line elegantly. It doesn't matter how good a soloist someone is, if you can't 'end' well, you unravel the song.
After the interval, Kenny did some songs and I sang a couple, then the trio came back on again. Martin did a lovely version of Rain, then the whole evening ended with a walkabout version of Will The Circle Be Unbroken. Thanks to the promoter Paul for organising such a rip-roarer of a night!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Kristin Hersh: Paradoxical Undressing

I am reading Kristin Hersh's book, Paradoxical Undressing, at the moment.
The lifestyle she had will be recognisable to a lot of people who have lived life for their band and their music- you will put up with almost any sort of physical deprivation rather than stop the driving force that propels you forward.
I remember reading a popular psychologist's piece about the ego of the performer, and how there is something wrong with a person who wants to be looked at on a stage all the time. But it's not like that, popular psychologist! Most people who end up in bands or similar end up there because they can not fit in to the world that other people inhabit; it's not that they choose not to.
She was brought up by benignly hippyish parents, who seem to have been nurturers, but she suffered a terrible accident from a hit-and-run motorist that disrupted her life completely when a head injury compounded with her natural synaesthesia caused her to hear constant noise in her head.
Hersh describes vividly the pull her songs have on her while she's otherwise engaged talking to people, or driving: it is physical and tangible to her, in the same way hunger or thirst are to a person who is not an artist or musician. She describes the way she feels as like a scientist (she is rather scathing about artists and their painty jeans).
What is most interesting is the sense of how powerless she is in relation to her creativity: it drives her relentlessly onwards and she has little sense of herself. There is little calm at the centre of her storm; instead she is either observing dispassionately, noting when people are either kind or unkind, or suffering in a vortex of noise until she disengages from music by handing a song over to her band to share with her.
This is a very interesting book: within the world of the outcasts, there are many different personalities, with different motivation and different ways of expressing themselves.
On one level, I don't understand her at all, but on another level, I am really grateful to her for articulating her difference so clearly and with such engaging style!

Thursday, February 17, 2011


So Rocker Rod has just had his eighth child... hmmm.
Maybe he will come back in his next life as a woman and have eight children.
That would be a laugh! Not much rockin'and'rollin then, eh Rod?

Scented Fog

At 6.30 this morning, the mist outside my house smelled of bacon.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Early Morning Writing

I hope I can keep it going...
I rose at six and was on the road half an hour later with a flask of coffee; by ten past seven I was sitting at my computer and I managed to get two chapters done by 9.30.
It was exhausting but I think it's the only way I will get it finished! I am now on a mission to find good photos of the people I interviewed, playing their instruments or backstage.
It will be weird when I've finished, really weird. I will have to join a pottery class or something to use up not just the interview energy but also the worry time, which has consumed most of the last six months!

I Wondered...

... if I park my car, unlocked, in the same spot where it was when the Satnav and iPod were stolen from it a couple of months ago, would the thief put them back?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Exhibition: Capturing Colour

On Sunday I treated the Offsprogs to a mega-breakfast in the Mock Turtle in Brighton, and breezy seafront walk thwarted by drizzle, we went to the Brighton Museum and saw a fabulous exhibition about the history of film colour.
There was a series of films by Melies from the early 1900s; one of them, Tit For Tat, was a subject after my own heart; a team of flickering and flittering lady butterflies capture the butterfly collector and pin him to a giant cork to give him a taste of his own medicine all in pinks and greys. Another of his films featured the court of a Sultan, replete with geniis, maidens, slaves and lots of yellow smoke (he seems to have been rather partial to smoke).
In the most surreal, a little train puffs up a mountain and just carries on up into the sky,  up to the face of a moody moon who exhales clouds of magenta steam as the train disappears into its mouth. On the surface  of the moon, the passengers tumble out of the wreckage of the train, confused and relieved; they hug each other, making sure they don't miss anyone out. Sweeeet!
I liked Len Lye's film, A Colour Box, from 1935. He worked directly on to the film, painting, scratching and stencilling patterns that change in a linear kaleidoscope of brilliant hues to a soundtrack of Cuban and Hawaiian dance music. Eat yer heart out, pop video!
Then there were these little coats, waiting for children to put them on and wander round making zoetropes and things; there were crayons in pots and half -finished drawings left by kids in a hurry.
The Brighton Museum is a great place to visit at the best of times but double great with this exhibition- worth a day trip from Lunnon, definitely!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Gig at Central Bar, Ge-a-tesheed £8.00 (poster by Gina)

Revamped Art Website

Martin's revamped my art website
Thank you!

Sophisticated Lunch Break

Sardines on toast,  and the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.

Remembering McDad

Beyond Leap

It's a lovely sunny day, the sky is a blisteringly bright blue and some blue-tits have been investigating the bird nest that my friend Kim from Brighton gave me; they haven't moved in but they did look around. So the housing market is moving!
Rammed through my letterbox in an undignified way, a package awaited me.
It was Martin's new CD,Beyond Leap, which he has made a limited edition of and I have just been listening to it.
Of course I am wildly biased but this is a lovely CD both in spirit and in sound. Martin has broken with mass-production and done a genuine DIY recording, augmented by Jim Morrison on fiddle and Jimmy Cole on banjo. The sound is intimate and pensive, almost introverted: you can hear the fiddle being put down, murmured comments, the sounds of the space they were recording in.
Most importantly you can hear Martin's musicianship and his message. There is  no studio gloss and no producer mediating the songs. With simplicity like this, the emotion of songs like Spirit Child and The Crying is direct and strong. This is like sitting in a room with Martin playing beside you, Jim and Jimmy subtly playing along when the song requires them to.
The independent life can be tough and harsh; here is an artist in repose returning to the gentle source of creativity in his voice and the guitar, and reclaiming life and music from the torrent of people, cars, technology, capitalism, and noise, noise, noise that deafens us and threatens to overwhelm us.
My fave track at the moment is A Thing of It, a positive and uppy finale.
Hats off to the spirit of independence, to doing it yourself and to the fighting spirit, which sometimes fights through gentleness rather than aggression and is all the more powerful for doing so!

Check out Martin's site at

Sunday, February 13, 2011

O Jokes Floweth from the Fountain of McCookerybook's Imagination

What do the largest apes drink while they are on holiday in Majorca?

What do glum Swedish detectives use to drain their vegetables?
A Wallander.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


I planned a trip to Lewes in Sussex yesterday to interview Stella, who used to be in Brighton band The Objekts. Lewes is a very peculiar town, with a vibe that makes my hair stand on end: I used to work at a printers there, The Malling Press (I wonder if it's still there?) which was a deadly experience which I have written about in great detail in the past.
It is situated in a sort of bowl in the Sussex Downs, with almost perpendicular chalky cliffs around it, and its built on a steep hump of a hill. People in the street look as if they have never visited the outside world. There are a couple of beautiful old churches.

I have been looking for her years and then discovered that she had been a Facebook friend for ages, with a different surname.
Well, of course, I had to mess it up.
I got a train that arrived half an hour after our meeting time and we hadn't exchanged mobile numbers, and we missed each other.
I emailed her in the hope that she might come back, and met Offsprog One for a browse in a really good bookshop and a bowl of spinach soup in a lovely caff called Laporte's. 
I bought a lovely illustrated childrens' book (it featured engravings of horses in bonnets, a sinister baby with a squashed looking face holding a kitten and an amorous milkmaid with a friendly cow) and a small Everyman edition of a Trollope novel I haven't read, The Vicar of Bullhampton. I was merrily working my way through Trollope's novels when I discovered that he was a fave of John Major's, so I stopped for a while, but the fact that everyone gets their just desserts after being thoroughly nasty is so satisfying, I had to start again!
The phone rang, and it was Stella: she came back, and we had a great chat about the old days and she did a very interesting interview about Brighton. She has thought about it all a lot, and just having that other perspective made it all worth while. I am hugely grateful to her for making the journey back again!
I have been writing again this morning, and having spent yesterdays train journeys reading through all the old interviews I've realised there's one missing and I'll have to climb up to get the spare hard drive from the top of the bookcase and find it. It's something about nuns I'm looking for.
Coffee time!

Friday, February 11, 2011


Yes, yes, British reggae and all that.....
What about the Mad Professor, what about Adrian Sherwood?
Were they out when you called, BBC4?


At last!
I have been through the book and weeded out errors....
I have transcribed nearly all of the new interviews...
I have worked out which sections are going to have new material inserted into them...
I have started writing! 30 very fruitful minutes this morning, more than that tomorrow and the next day and the next.
What a puzzle it had seemed, how to crack into a sealed book! But I know what to do now, and it's going to take me two weeks to finish it, I think, I hope.....

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Mexican Lunch

I met my original PHD supervisor, Dave Laing, today in a Mexican restaurant called Wahaca for lunch.
Dave is a genius, not just for writing one of the definitive books on British punk, but also because as a supervisor he was patient enough to sit still while I gabbled for hours and wrote pages of drivel until I settled down enough to be able to write and research properly.
He's probably the only person in the world able to make me throw away 20,000 words of writing and start again!
His book One Chord Wonders has been out of print for a while but it's being republished in 2012. I like it because he has such a good cultural overview of things. My favourite bit is his oblique comparison between Johnny Rotten and Harry Lauder, who share a singing affectation called 'tartanry', where the singer adds a sort of gasping 'ah' to the end of certain words: 'roaming-ah in the gloaming-ah' if you're Harry Lauder, or 'I am an anarchist-ah' if you're Johnny Rotten.
We talked about all sorts of things and I realised afterwards that the glass is half full and not half empty.
He is full of ideas about books that he is going to write, and as I chatted to him about the various half-finished projects I'm doing I realised that firstly, it's a blessing to have them in the pipeline, and secondly, I have to finish them.
So starting tomorrow morning, I'm going to do an hour's writing every day.

Meanwhile, I have been sending Chefs tracks by the bushel to Everett True in Australia. He has a very interesting music website called which I delved into a bit. I have more to send him but have to process them first.

And Martin has put a shop on the site, where it's cheaper to buy my CDs than here! If you visit please say hello in the message book, even if you don't buy a CD. I have put the rare Helen and the Horns one up there too. Thank you Martin!

Tomorrow, after a visit to Gina's to learn some of her songs for that magical gig on the 25th in Gateshead ( Viv Albertine, Gina Birch, yours truly and special guest Pauline Murray from Penetration playing solo for the first time ever) I will be heading down to Hither Green for a gig at The Station pub where I'm playing just after 10.

Sounds like a busy day....

When they brought the bill in Wahaca they gave us a little book of what looked like matches- but they were chilli seeds. First courtyard crop I will plant this year!


Take a look at Joan Ashworth's website. She is an animator extraordinaire and the little snippet of the girl swimming through a meadow is part of a truly beautiful little film that she has just completed; it is utterly magical and she is just putting the finishing touches to a DVD version of it.


Things are tough at work. 'It will get worse' said my friend, who is also an academic.
I can't imagine it being worse: I am travelling into the land beyond the imagination.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Hilarity at Rrrants

February may be dull and miserable, but for a few hours in litter-strewn Camden it was positively, well, Christmassy, if I may use that word to describe glowing bonhomie and warmth of spirit.
Donna, Ian and Paul of the Rrrants Collective have started streaming stuff for an internet radio station (I can't remember the URL but will post it later) and we had a debatelet (it was quite short but to the point) about censorship.
I talked about Thrush, as I have been trying to decide whether to put it on the CD or not but I have decided I will, and that's that. It's a proper angry song, written after a build-up of steam about the likes of Led Zeppelin and their squeeze-my-lemon song and general Rolling Stone-ness in the late 1970s, and was triggered by a bed-roaming boyfriend at the time.
The evening kicked off very soon afterwards with a conveyor belt of very funny and skilful poets, hosted with energy by Paul and Ian from the stage and facilitated with good humour and occasional apt heckling by Donna from the back of the room.

I had to email this morning to find out the names of the people I liked best- it was a busy night and I can't remember what order they came in but here are my faves, who really are very very good (the standard was very high and this is just a pick in no particular order of the best, who you must see if you can):

Vikki Laxton-Bass, their roadie and a novice poet: lovely refreshing honesty and the earnestness of the pain of being young and in unrequited love.
The Bard of Northampton (Joe Bunn): this guy was so funny I nearly got a hernia. His best thing was the gangsta rap contest between himself and himself (pre-recorded), both of whom human-beatboxed for the other and ended up talking about their nan. It was really, really clever and he's an absolute master of self-deprecation. I think he drew a perfect line under certain types of rap and I want him to become hugely famous so all those nasty misogynistic types shut up forever. Actually, I really do want him to become famous; he blended what could have been a gimmick with some serious wordsmanship and he meets the definition of a Proper Artist by doing so.
Trio: a well-spoken poet from Yorkshire who did a very funny skit on the elders of Whitby being afraid of the yearly Goth weekend and eventually joining them, and another about Indie Kids and their actual total lack of Indieness. Great stories!
Mark Thompson (Mr T): oddly, a South Londoner in an Arsenal shirt (whatever happened to Millwall?) who condensed the Sarf London experience into a nutshell from both a funny and a serious perspective, direct from his iPhone. I particularly enjoyed his anti-racist poem, because we need people to say these things loud and clear to stop the clock from turning backwards and taking us into miserable times of hatred again. Hear that, Cameron?
Sir Lobby Ludd: a perfectly chaotic performance on uke and kazoo, which was clamped into a pink plastic hand screwed on to the mikestand. You couldn't hear a word he said, which added to it, really. Apart from, midway through a panic-stricken story (where was he? Africa?) he called on the Embassy and called on the Consulate, only to remember they were only cigarette brands. Oh that made me laff!
Kev (the Bourgeois Buddha): Kev is a sort of hippyish singer and guitarist who sang a very sweet couple of songs about gravity, apples and thumb wars. His message is of peace, both serious and funny at the same time, and he's a very good guitarist. He had with him a selection of vegetables, as he'd just come from a project run at Passing Clouds in Dalston that collects food that supermarkets throw out, and feeds 100 homeless people every Sunday night. I like that idea, and I'm going to go one week and see what it's all about.

There were more, more, more, and of course I played too: the marvellous Rrrants band had learned three of my songs (All Systems Go!, Waltzing Away from Winter and Sing a Song of Barcelona) on double bass, washboard, vocals (mostly those actually) and trumpet. I can say with my hand on my heart that they were better rehearsed than me! It's such fun to do this! They are so brilliant!
And before that I did another three new songs on my own, including I Love You Still Stuart Morgan, the chorus of which they sang from the back of the room in 5.1 Surround Sound Congregation style. No rehearsal, and it worked!*

Well, that's it: an infinitely better experience than sitting at home and watching TV, (even though Wallander was on).
The night was energetic, affectionate, invigorating,  and fed the heart and soul with everything they needed on a dismal and windy night with the rozzers whisking past below the windows, blaring their sirens in a failed attempt to draw attention to themselves!

*One day I'm going to go and sing it outside his house, 33 Crampton Street, which ought to have a blue plaque because he was a very kind-hearted man who believed in lots of people's art and music when nobody else did. 
Offsprog One was six months old when she met him, and was absolutely delighted to meet an adult who, like her, had no hair at all on his head. He was delighted too: who wouldn't be flattered by the joy of a fat round baby recognising a kindred spirit and cooing in delight?

Sunday, February 06, 2011


I was interviewing again yesterday- I do hope the recording is ok: no headphones till London. We sat on the studio floor where I inadvertently parked my bum on a gobbet of discarded chewing gum. Finn MCardle gave Martin and myself a lift to their gig at Blackhall Mill and I asked for a plastic bag to sit on so I didn't ruin Finn's car seats. Martin had bought him a Hawaiian shirt in Flip for his birthday and he offered that, so I took the shirt out and sat on it during the journey.
After we got to the gig we were saying hello and getting the gear in; we'd been there for about 20 minutes when I realised that the big plastic bag had followed me in, and was firmly stuck to my Harris, flapping silently behind me like a dutiful tail. How embarrassing!

Saturday, February 05, 2011


None at King's Cross, none at St Pancras. Note to self: design usherette style device based on theatre interval ice cream sales point to dispense said item at major rail interchanges.

24 Hours: intimately acoustic

Have just uploaded Martin's recording of the acoustic version of 24 Hours, no frills, mistakes'n'all, to Myspace
It's on Reverbnation too but I don't think it has processed properly during uploading:

Rrrants Tomorrow, Camden Eye

The trainsetter's off to Newcastle this afternoon, and then back tomorrow to play the Camden Eye, a Rrrants night which will be unique- once more they have learned some of my songs, and they will all be new songs as they are broadcasting it on their internet radio show.
See here for further details- and do come along if you can- they have great acts and a fantastic atmosphere:

Friday, February 04, 2011



Everett True

I have been trying to get in touch with Everett True, the former editor of Melody Maker, Chief Executive of PlanBmag and author of many books on rock celebs. I asked him a while ago if he'd do the sleeve notes for The Chefs CD and the answer was an enthusiastic 'yes'; he's in Australia now with his family, and I'm hoping he's all right, what with the floods and cyclones....
UOK Everett?


Martin has 'gone small', making short run limited editions of his CDs that he can sell over the internet to people who really want them, with no intermediary in the form of a record company.
Ain't that a good idea?


I read an alarming article in the Guardian the other day that articulated something that I have always felt about teaching on pop music courses at Universities. I can't remember who wrote it and if this was an academic piece of writing I wouldn't even comment on it without saying who the original author was- so sorry, original author! I will namecheck you if I can at some later date.
The gist of it was that the movement of an art-form that used to symbolise young people's dissent into an arena now called 'The Creative Industries' meant that rather than being a way of empowering working-class youth, the pop and rock world is now inhabited by public schoolboys (and girls).
They have learned how to rap, how to talk cockney, and with their connections they can network their way through the media and stand on the heads of those who paved the way with rougher, earlier, 'street' versions of the music they succeed from. They are good at processing and personalising information (they have learned this at school), and have effectively stolen whole slabs of musical inspiration from much less advantaged people.
I wonder as I'm writing this if this is something I am guilty of; being educationally backward, I was the one member of the family who attended a weird private school for a while (and boy, do I feel bad about that! Our family never went abroad on holiday apart from camping in France in the frosty early spring, because my school fees were cripplingly high). I was too stupid to win a scholarship, and as soon as I'd done my 'O' levels I went to the local comprehensive and ate spam fritters with everyone else.
So I've never had that network, and unemployment was a massive leveller in the 1970s. Could toffs get jobs back then? I don't know. I do remember that some of the revolutionaries in our midst were suspiciously unforthcoming about parts of their lives!

And there now in front of us is David Cameron, fan of The Smiths and The Jam...

I have been thinking a lot about all this.
McMum lent me Oliver Postgate's autobiography Seeing Things yesterday, which I read on my nine hour train journey. I was particularly taken by his furious objection to Universities 'trying to reconstitute art from intellectual data' (pp370-371) because that's exactly what I have had a problem with all my life, but it seems to be the way you get ahead in the world of University Research.
Here I am in a music department, believing in the power of art, believing that Art Is My Saviour and everyone else's too.
I don't recognise a place for myself in that world of Cultural Industries, which I see through a large, thick and very blurred plate glass window.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


I'm about to undertake a number of train journeys up and down the country.
Nerdy, perhaps.
Am I a jetsetter? I mused.
A trainsetter.