The day started in a very sweet way.
At 7.30 on the tube as I headed to Brighton the train was almost deserted. A chap got on and started chatting to me, asking if I was travelling back from a late gig. I explained that I was travelling to a gig, and he talked about his sister, who is a singer songwriter in Northern Ireland. He had fallen asleep on the way to work and missed his stop. We were both weary and a bit disorientated, but somehow it was a great way to start the day.
Dave's book launch (or re-launch) had a similar gentle vibe. Academic communities are national and indeed global subcultures; we read each other's work, we examine each other's students, and then we meet at conferences and smile at each other in the distance. Our world of concentrated investigation of the details of in this case musical phenomenae, audiences, and everything in and around pop, is deeply fascinating.
Dave told us about the genesis and development of his book One Chord Wonders in a witty and self-deprecating way that succeeded in being both informative and entertaining. In fact later, Simon Frith identified the fact that Dave's writing is entertaining as well as being rigorously watertight academically, as being a marked feature of his work.
I would say that this applied to everyone who spoke yesterday, actually- most of whom had been mentored or influenced by Dave in some significant way. Others had served on boards of some quite peculiar magazines that, for instance, blended the study of Marxism and culture in an optimistic projection of a utopian future.
We all spoke about different aspects of punk, that ever-giving subject, and naturally there was much side-discussion apart from the formal papers; the questions after the papers were challenging and led to some excitingly lively discussion. Simon Frith, Sarah Hill, Nick Crossly, Barbara Bradby (a 3-minute presentation on the dynamics in a Louvin Brothers song) all presented papers and the day was rounded off by a very moving tribute from Sara Cohen.
Barbara Bradby, whose work I greatly admire, gave me a couple of tips which I am eternally grateful for. People's minds are treasure-houses of information which is why these events are so stimulating. And one of the nicest thing that happened was Dave's wife Sally giving me a pot of jam made with berries from their allotment. I was so overcome I almost cried.
Hats off to Martin Cloonan for organising the day with efficiency and grace.
This was the first proper outing I'd had since I became ill and I did get very tired towards the end. Bearing in mind the fact that I had a gig later on, I didn't repair to the pub which is a shame because there was so much more to talk about and listen to.
After a contemplative cup of tea, I headed up to the Green Door Store where the Piranhas Four were sound checking. Afterwards I had a really nice chat with the band, and gave Bob some photos from the days of the Vault when the Piranhas all used to dress in identical police uniforms. People started showing up: Steph, the Saturday Girl from the Gallery 57 picture shop where we used to work in the 1970s; Sara, one of the very first women I saw in an all-woman band called No Man's Band (with the exception of guitarist Ian, who had long hair and a beard and who wore a mini-dress, many years before Conchita Wurst); my brother James and his wife Jenny; Peter Chrisp (I think the most loyal Chefs fan ever) and his illustrator partner Lisa; Sue Bradley from The Reward System and Pookiesnackenburger; Offsprog One with an ET shirt that I wore on stage; Jerry Thackray, who had also been at the conference and who co-horned with me (in other words, we shared The Horns: he was The Legend And His Horns); Johnny Piranha; and a substantial number of other people who had come to Chefs and Helen and the Horns gigs many years ago.
I was so knackered that I could barely stand up on stage but there was such a great atmosphere that I couldn't not give it 150%. Something about feeling so ill, maybe, meant that I felt every song to my bones; it was like talking to a friend about different aspects of life rather than singing from a stage to an audience. The Rickenbacker helped me out by being easy to play and sounding great. I played 24 Hours and Let's Make Up (someone knew the words and was singing along) from The Chefs repertoire (mmm fancy!) and Snakebite and Freight Train from Helen and the Horns.
I had to leave almost straight away to get the train home.
I almost made it before I threw up big time on Kentish Town station platform (yes it was me! Sorry, sorry!), and all over my brothelcreepers.
But it was bloody worth it.
That was the best day I've had for a long time, reconnecting with family and old friends, meeting new ones, talking, listening, singing. For the first time for three weeks I felt glad to be alive.
Finally, here is Jerry's review of the evening. It was great to see you again Jerry. Times change and life throws a lot of stuff at us but there's a lot to be said for being a survivor.
Note to self: must get hold of Marcus O'Dair's book on Robert Wyatt....