Saturday, June 24, 2017

Gig At David's Music in Letchworth

I hope you don't mind me nicking your photograph Andy! Thank you for welcoming me back to Davids, which is thriving and has expanded to have its own café and is still stuffed to the gills with all sort of wonderful records and books.
This was the first time I've stopped a gig for being too loud (out of courtesy for someone ordering some Simon and Garfunkel CDs) and started again when the transaction was finished. What a thrill to be in the same category as heavy metal! I also liked the guy behind the till reading the lyrics from the lyric book along with the song I was singing at the time. All this and back home in time for lunch; perfect. If you don't already know about David's Music shop, and live within striking distance of Letchworth, I thoroughly recommend visiting not only the shop but Letchworth itself, which despite some modern trappings ( a Morrison's and a Wilko's) still has a slight hint of Ladybird Book about it, and a general air of relaxed friendliness and quirkiness in equal measure.

Friday, June 23, 2017

No Peanuts, No Sitting

The heat conducted me through town this afternoon, and I happened to pass through Oxford Circus.
Amplified music signalled a pause in the journey: there, a fabulous sight greeted my eyes.
We are all still sinners, but the 'No Peanuts, No Sitting' man has changed his modus operandi to an infinitely more dramatic and arresting trajectory.
I'm not sure whether we are sinning more, or whether his performance art hasn't been appreciated by Arts Council England (is he serious?) but he has upped the ante considerably.
No longer is he a soberly dressed man in a mac with a little dark blue nautical cap and steel-rimmed spectacles parading piously through the crowds of shoppers. Oh no!
Probably inspired by an illustration in a frayed plastic-covered 1960s library book, he has fashioned a kind of leprechaunish costume: a hat, bright emerald-green shorts, and glaring red braces. I'm not sure where the idea for the large Star of David on his chest came from, but it's there in the mélange. All of this is topped by the sandwich board, mounted on a device to hold it way up above his hat so we can see what it's all about.
The loud music that had pulled me to a stop was a sort of improvised Jimmy Shand hybrid whose accordions tumbled out a senseless rhythm and rambling Scottish-ish melody; no-peanuts-and-no-sitting-man was bouncing around in time to the music, revolving manically with a fixed grin on his tense jaw, feet twanging out horizontally in turn from his raised knees in a parody of an Irish Jig.

Oh London, your joys are ever bountiful!
If you don't believe me, go and see for yourself.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

New Poster, New Dates

Juts as I finished this poster I got another date offered to me, in Bristol in November with the Charlie Tipper Conspiracy. A good excuse to make another poster in a  couple of weeks' time.
So this weekend: lunchtime at David's Records in Letchworth (playing at 12.00) and then early evening at the Surf Café in Tynemouth (playing at 6.30).
Please do come along to say hello and listen too!
I will not be travelling by dog cart.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Hot Cross Bunnies

I am not going to email anyone else at work until the heatwave is over; the replies in scolding tones to quite innocuous communications are getting quite tedious!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Summer Days, Oh Sometimes They Get Too Warm!

Helen and the Horns Gig, 1st October at the Lexington

If you like(d) us, put the date in your diary while I sort out the ticket link (might take a week to do).
It will be a special gig and I'm looking forward to dusting off the old songs and giving them a blast, and I think The Horns are too.
We don't look like this any more, but we do sound like this:


My smartphone isn't that smart. It's decided that my fingertips aren't fingers and it no longer accepts instructions from them, unless I use the sides of them, which are covered in proper skin and not guitar-player's calluses.
In some way this feels like a triumph, but in some ways not.

Pigeons, 2017

'Stupid bugger, you steooopid bug-ger, you styoopid bugger...', chanted the wood pigeons from the bushes as I struggled up the hill in the heat with my guitar.
'Am I?', I wondered out loud, but I don't think they heard me.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Barnsley Festival

After playing what must have been the coldest day of 2017 for the Hoxton Radio broadcast at Spitalfields Market earlier this year, Saturday was the hottest day of the year so far (exceeded by today) and Barnsley town centre was thronging with people with a drink in one hand and various glowing areas of sunburn that I think were going to make their Sunday rather painful.
The Live in Barnsley Festival takes place in most of the central pubs in town, and music was flowing from what seemed like every single hostelry when I got there mid-afternoon, including plenty of punk covers; it was easy to tell what was close to this town's heart.
Barnsley is a lovely place, dominated by a Town Hall that looks as though it has been borrowed from Berlin, and a rusty iron pronged sculpture that local music expert Kevin Osborne, who invited me to play at the festival, described as The Nit Comb. Children were frolicking in the ornamental fountains and the streets were spotless: there was no litter anywhere and it was almost like walking into a film set.
The White Bear pub was where I was due to play; a band called the Magic Flute played before me and I really enjoyed their music- their sound was a sort of hearty, beefy heavy metal with a bit of Bellowhead thrown in to the mix, all delivered through proper songs, and obviously greatly enjoyed by the crowd.
Thankfully I have given up being fazed by following on from entirely different genres of music (or comedy, poetry, whatever) partly because of playing such diverse nights in London over the years. I could tell the sound engineer had good ears and that's all you need, really. The pub remained noisy but it was their afternoon out, and there were enough people down the front listening including a posse of lick-stealers who I caught in the act, some appreciative children and some very smiley people in general. I just thought there was a great atmosphere.
Thank you to Kevin for putting my name forward and for all his help, and for the photo. I think it's Heaven Avenue I'm playing.

Lagging Behind

I'm not doing that well on keeping this updated, am I? It's not only busy at the University of the East but I'm rehearsing for the Asbo Derek launch (mostly unfamiliar songs) and trying to keep abreast with gigs stuff too. Later I'll post some photos that Kevin Osborne sent me, of the gig in Barnsley but for now I am an office body sitting waiting to do some tutorials and with a reference or two to write.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Dusk In The High Street

Live In Barnsley

I am delighted to have been invited to play the Live in Barnsley festival tomorrow. I will be playing at The White Bear pub at 5.30 p.m. and I'm looking forward to it very much!
Here is a link- there is loads of music happening and it's all free:


I read a review of the film that really made me want to go; then I saw the people in West London helping each other with food, clothing, accommodation, friendship and love and I thought, 'We don't need fantasy wonderpeople because they are around us anyway'.
This is the absolute antithesis of Tory self-reliance. Who is going to rescue you, who is going to cure your illnesses, who is going to educate you, if you have no money?
On the news broadcasts, we are seeing resistance through kindness, and through example, ways of being that are beyond description in mere words and far, far beyond political policy.
This is deeply moving.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Photos: Sunday

So on Sunday, I drove down from Newcastle to Congleton, through some beautiful countryside. I arrived just in time for the Catenary Wires, Amelia Fletcher's duo with her partner, Rob. Through the airy atmosphere of the marquee and through sunshine and heavy showers, they performed a charming set of memorable songs; my favourite was the new one (sorry, I don't know the title) which had chords to die for, and despite Amelia saying it was difficult to play, was absolutely exquisite. It was great to see Amelia's melodica centre-stage in the performance. It's much-underused instrument and hasn't appeared with such prominence in much music lately although it was very much a feature of reggae bands in the 1980s.
Next were Wendy and Simon Pickles, from the Popguns, whose duo is called the Perfect English Weather. The weather provided percussion and breezy harmonies; Wendy provided a beautifully flowing vocal style supported by Simon's chordsmithery. Again centred on songs, this was an absorbing performance perfectly suited to Sunday afternoon.
I plugged the Green Goddess in, and set off on my own musical journey. I thought how nice it might have been to be a duo, but that's not how things have panned out for me and a songwriter; having supportive audience really helps and again, everyone sang along to 'The Sea' and the massed backing vocals felt like a big wide band. Apart from a motorcycle convention roaring past during Feathers (sent by the bullies that the song is about, perhaps?), there was something lovely about singing outside as the British summer weather went through its paces: akin to singing in the middle of a cl
Finally, M J Hibbett and the Validators took us out smiling; my fave song was My Boss Was In An Indie Band but this was a whole set of gently humorous and self-deprecating songs that had the audience fist-pumping (rather limply in my case because I'm a novice). Michael is funny and charming, and the afternoon ended on a high; wandering dogs and cycling children wound down, the marquee was dismantled, yet somehow songs still floated around in the wind even as people started to go home.
It was lovely to catch up with The Sunbathers: maybe some gigs together when the album is ready?
Kevin Birchall and Linda Yarwood have been organising these Going Up The Country events for five years, and this was the last one. They were inspired to support Sarcoma UK after the work by Carey Lander of the Scottish band Camera Obscura who died from osteosarcoma, and who campaigned tirelessly towards the end of her life for funding for the charity. Thank you both of you for inviting me to be part of such an inspiring line-up and to support such a vital charity. I know we'll meet again (shared love of Northern Soul) and I hope you carry this on in some other way in the future.
Going Up The Country: The Catenary Wires, The Perfect English Weather, M J Hibbett and the Validators.

Photos: Friday and Saturday

I was so worried about the drive after last week's tyre blowout. I spent the week trying not to think about what might go wrong. In actual fact the drive up the A1 was perfect. I love driving and I've got fave Services to stop off at, in this case Peterborough. I checked in to the hotel and went to the venue, where the promoter Andy Richardson was waiting with a highly competent sound crew (used to work for Kanye West, no less) and Barney the DJ- and Graham Beck, who was also playing.
Mick, June and Laura came and so did Rich Cundill with an enthusiastic posse who stood at the back and gave off good vibes the whole way through.
Graham was great- a sort of lateral thinking showbiz madman who sang about a clog tree (that was my favourite song), dressed as a fig roll (with a matching fig roll headpiece for his toy monkey), and also as a urinal for a song about, well, urinals.
There was a very happy atmosphere- Furley and Co. is a funky wine bar with an upstairs where the gig was; a breeze from the open windows took the edge off the muggy night and cool light filtered in through the blinds. Barney played all sorts of music in the interval and complemented the eclectic night. Andy had done a great job of promotion because the room was full, and everyone was up for everything; there was a great audience chorus of 'The Sea' during the song, and afterwards I sold not only plenty of my own CDs and lyrics books but also six copies of Femme Fatale, the most ever at a gig so far (I've almost sold out). I think there was a lot of post-election joy there, and I was really moved by the fact that so many people are thinking beyond the weird politics going on in the UK at the moment, and caring about the plight of displaced people. I met a woman who worked with refugees on a dance project in Calais, and had some other great conversations afterwards.
The one odd thing that happened was my guitar stopping working when I tried to play Freight Train for an encore. But Sound Guy 2 held a microphone to the guitar, and I sang the song unplugged, accompanied enthusiastically by Rich's friend at the back who knew all the words! It was such a laugh! Big thank you to Rich for suggesting the contact, and supporting the gig in invisible ways, as well visible ones. Free entry to Helen and the Horns if you come down in October.
On Saturday I got to Newcastle early and went to Brian's shop to see if he could fix my guitar. Brian was away on holiday, so I was sent to Guitar Guitar where Neil took a look and said that the problem was that the metal part of the jack lead was a non-standard size and it simply wasn't long enough to sustain the connection inside the socket. So I bought a new lead, and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing.
Jason's Argyle Rooms in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea was an entirely different gig; he has set up a quirky stage in his living room, gently patrolled by his cats and featuring a selection of groovy guitars, a piano and a small jazz drum kit. I really enjoyed Jack Common's songs: he has a unique voice, flexible and moving through many different timbres and pitches. Lots of Northern Soul chords in there too. In an intimate setting, I sang a slightly different set to a group of friends and neighbours, and again had some great conversations afterwards. It was a lovely evening, and thank you Jason for putting me on; you were one the first people to give me a gig on this tour and I really appreciate your confidence and support.
Graham Beck dressed as a fig roll; texting ghoul, Grainger Street, Newcastle; Millennium Bridge; gull eggshell at The Baltic; puffins at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea; Jason Thompson at the Argyll Rooms, filming Jack Common.

Back Street Luv

Learning this:


After an 800-mile round trip adventure, I am home. The plants in the pots in the back yard drank 8 watering cans of water just now, but it's a beautiful miniature jungle and there's a sweet soundtrack from the goldfinch who lives in the neighbour's tree, over the back of the fence.
Proper tour posting later (or tomorrow).
I am so glad I'm doing it!

Friday, June 09, 2017

Thank You, 'Young People Nowadays'.

A Tory MP this morning talked of groups of young people at the polling station in his constituency. Groups, that is: not gangs.
We have a fantastic, wise and caring younger generation that we disrespect at our peril; we hear so much negative rubbish about them that simply does not represent their intelligence and wisdom.
I hope they build on their power and build on their dreams of a fairer future.

Heading North!

Suddenly small symbols have become very important.
Buddie, my paternal grandmother, was a talented concert pianist; as the eldest of gazillion children, she was never able to fulfil her potential and lost her sight just at the point where she could have blossomed in later life.
I wish I had her feather-light touch and her instinct for making those little dots on the page into beautiful, airy music. I haven't- but I have the chance to travel and play music with a sense of freedom far beyond that of the women of her generation.
I am wearing her wedding ring on a chain round my neck. I'm taking her with me this weekend: to Hull, to Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, and to Congleton. She will come to Barnsley, Brighton, Tynemouth, Leicester, Ramsgate and beyond. I hope even to Glasgow, eventually, where she was born.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Gideon Coe Again

And something by me!

Gideon Coe

Gideon Coe is playing The Chefs later tonight!
Listen here:

Getting Ready

Hotels booked, routes not planned yet. Shirts ironed. Songs being rehearsed. Car smiling and promising not to explode a tyre this time, because I'm not heading up the lumpy western motorways, but the smoooth eastern ones.
Thoughts thunk.
I am so glad that I am doing this; I thought that I had disappeared, but I haven't. I am singing my way around the country, swimming through songs, learning so much about everything and everybody.
The dialogue is fantastic.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Review in Louder Than War

Thank you Paul for this amazing review!

Good things are happening in the middle of an exhausting adminstorm at work (100 emails sent out yesterday morning with student feedback, 30 sent out this afternoon).
Largely I suspect due to the persuasive tactics of The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy not only will I be singing Femme Fatale with them at The Wedding Present's Edge of the Sea festival in Brighton on the 19th of August, but also playing a set of my own.
I'm taking a big deep breath before the mega-drivings of the upcoming weekend, and hoping for no more tyre blowouts. I had a cup of coffee catch up with Gina this morning, who has filmed an interlude for our documentary in which she appears as a convincing skinhead (but she doesn't scare me with them red braces and bovver boots!), and a rehearsal yesterday afternoon for the Asbo Derek LP launch. Stuart Moxham has done sterling work on the mix of Summer Days. A Helen and the Horns gig is afoot for later in the year too.
However, right now I'm having a cup of tea and some Doritos.

Sunday, June 04, 2017


During a period of insomnia last night, my brain started riffing about loo handles.

When I was little we lived in part of a converted Victorian pub and we had a very old toilet with a pull-chain handle. It was utterly terrifying, but you had several seconds to escape after yanking the wooden chain-pull. Ear-splitting mechanical wrenchings started up, metal screeching against metal, a few seconds of watery-sounding thought, and then a deafening cascade of water would crash into the toilet-bowl, splashing like Niagara Falls and making you think that the dam was going to burst and the house would flood.
While all this was going on, you had the opportunity to race back to bed with your heart thumping like the clappers, get under the covers and lie there puffing and panting while the whole frightening auditory experience completed itself.

So: young toilets nowadays.
Gone are the simple grip handles that you pressed down; now we have a confusing array of mechanisms that are difficult to understand.
What about those big-button, small-button ones?
Does the big button mean 'more water' and the small one, 'less water'? Or does the big one mean 'I'm big, please press me for more common use', and the small one mean 'Don't use me often, I'm small?'.
Even worse, the divided ones. Press both at once? Only one? Which one for which function? My fingers are too fat for the skinny little one on its own. Do I commit the heinous crime of wasting water because of this physical shortcoming?
An anyway, the button press things often don't operate properly, activating only a sad dribble of water for all that effort. Fail.

By far the worst ones are the automatic ones in stations and airports. If you're not careful and you lean back, you activate them accidentally and get showered with cold water which can be a terrible shock and can spoil your day. The facility appears to have made a decision on your behalf, which is deeply worrying. A toilet with a mind of its own is the stuff of waking nightmares.

Thank goodness I fell back to sleep.

Just For the Record

I will be voting Labour.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Wednesday's Gig At The Whitaker Museum

On the M62 an ominous thwack sounded the alarm; a massive pothole in the narrow 50 MPH lane had flattened one of the front tyres of the car-both of which were new ones fitted by the garage on Friday.
I had to pull off the motorway and sit in a Brookside-type crescent just outside Warrington while first the AA and then a tyre replacement chap came. Bang went my relaxing afternoon in the hotel before the gig.
And then, of course, the Satnav proudly announced that I had reached my destination. My destination was over there, beyond those trees and behind a fifteen foot high concrete wall with no slip road.
But I didn't Almost Cry. I found my way there, had a quick cup of tea and drove on to the Whitaker Museum,where Paul Hiapop was waiting, and Mick and June too.
Everything was set up so I went with Mick to buy a dried up sandwich from the garage and bumped into Amy, who had taken three buses from Bolton and was just wandering up the road.
Back at the venue, the room was filling up. Ian Gosden was there, proudly bearing a box of four melted orange-juice ice lollies. Trystan and his partner had driven down from Lancaster, and there was a good sprinkling of Helen and the Horns and Chefs fans which was a lovely surprise. I even signed a grey vinyl copy of Freight Train that someone had found that afternoon.
The museum is an old Victorian building run by volunteers that has music, comedy, film shows and other events as well as a permanent display of stuffed animals which is not to everyone's taste, but Amy disappeared in there in a state of great excitement.
I sang with a background view, through tall old painted shutters, of a bright green hill covered with growing wild stuff. I could see night fall as I played, which was incredibly romantic. People sang along with The Sea and chatted with me for ages afterwards which meant the burst tyre stress flew out of the window, over the hills and far away to the space dustbin where all the useless stuff is thrown away.
It was a lovely evening and I hope I sang my best for them and made it worth coming out. The Green Goddess sounded very beautiful, and I gave her a couple of biscuits when I got back to the hotel.
I particularly appreciated the effort people made to come along to see the gig.
Thank you Paul for inviting me to play, I loved it.
The drive home was uneventful; I stopped off in Sheffield see Bambos and Jane and collapsed into bed at about 9 p.m. to snore through till this morning. Work today, but I came home to be greeted by the unusual song of a goldfinch that was perched on the highest branch of next door's tree, tweetling away and flying off every time I sneaked to the window with the binoculars to see what sort of bird it was. Eventually I hid behind the curtains and managed to identify him. I think its the same one that used to fly into the garden last summer and nick the coconut fibres from the hanging basket for it's nest.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Whitaker Museum, Rossendale

I'm heading up to Rossendale today and hoping that the car I bought on Friday can get me there and back.
(Yesterday can only be described as gruelling; I started data-inputting at 9.30 and finished at 3.30 with only a break to fetch a cup of tea to drink my desk. Then I did an hour's work with a talented song writer I'm working with, then back home for more marking and data inputting which I finally finished at 8 p.m.)
It will be a delight to get into the car and head north to sing, and I am so looking forward to meeting up with some old friends there, too. The gig is free to get in and starts at 8 p.m.
I will have copies of the new CD and also the colouring book version of the illustrated lyrics book, which is printed on recycled paper.
Tally ho!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Bank Holiday

Oh yes, Bank Holidays are when academics do their work. Three hours of preparing work for External Examiners this morning, and tomorrow I shall be up at the call of the cockerel to spend a day data-inputting.
Oh, I remember in Italy!
You could hear the first cockerel wake up and crow in the valley; one by one, the others woke up and followed it.
That woke up the first dog, who barked; and then one by one, the others woke and barked.
The dogs woke the church bells and first one, and then all of them, started chiming.
It was a perfect place to be an insomniac, because you witnessed the glorious sounds of dawn, spaced out across the landscape so that you almost draw a map of where everything was.
I used to lie there and try to work out if the order of awakening was the same every morning.
Was it the same cockerel who started each day, or did they take it in turns?
This afternoon, after the grafting part of the day, I cut a melon in half and went out to sit in the rain, eating it with a spoon straight from the shell. I pretended that I lived in a tropical country- Borneo, or somewhere like that, where a bit of rain simply didn't matter. It was warm, and because it's damp out there, my Celtic hair thought I was in Scotland and fluffed out to a huge Celtfro which makes me look like I'm wearing a wig.
Now, it's the evening and I'm all out of energy for grafting.
It's tea and toast and listening to the clock I bought for upstairs ticking in the kitchen.
It kept me awake one night; I bought it so it would help me to sleep (concentrating on the ticking sometimes helps). But no; I started fixating on the different ticks and wondering whether the hands made different sounds on the way down between twelve and six than they did on the way up, between six and twelve.
Insomnia is full of tricks, and most of the time I just go with it. The worst thing is when you finally get to sleep at 4 a.m. then wake up with such a brilliant idea at six, that you have to wake up and write it down in case you forget it.
However, I feel like an ideas millionaire, and that's loads better than being a money one.

Summer Days

For those summer days in your life. Dedicated to my Gran and also to Ingrid and Cam, who both did such a lot to support marginal musicians in London and who are all sadly missed.

Saturday, May 27, 2017


Photo by Ruth Tidmarsh


It's been a week of chaos. Scrap a car, wandering round Wembley in searing heat deciding not to buy an old banger, still marking student work (I've just found yet another unmarked bit of work but there are 104 pieces of marking for that Module so it's not surprising), trying to work out how to do a proper mail-out, managing to get another car, tax it, insure it, and sort out a parking permit for it yesterday. The salesman bought me a bunch of flowers, but I'm worried that's because the car is only going to work for six weeks. Or not even that.
On Thursday Ruth Tidmarsh came round to take some photos. It is taking all day to download them, so unfortunately I've had to spend much of the time marking and organising stuff for the External Examiners, instead of pratting about about pretending to be a pop star, which is much more fun.
Ruth is a seriously good photographer and I don't look at all like the sweaty little squirt that I've been feeling like all week (too many baking hot concrete car lots, and too much worrying about getting something wrong- it's 17 years since I last bought a car).
Some time later tonight maybe I'll be able to post one up here. Here is the latest poster, although I have demoted Asbo Derek's release to a single rather than an album. I am so sorry. It is an album, it is an album, it is an album!

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Disgrace Of Fleas4U

It's no good, Fleas4U. You're trying not to meet my eye because you went upstairs and shed fleas all over everything up there, and then the door blew shut and you were stuck with your guilt.
Trying to sneak off, aren't you.
Cats tricks: not allowed upstairs and not allowed to jump on the side in the kitchen: the two things he wants to do most because he's not allowed to.
Fleas4U, you need to mind your manners round mine.

New Poster Design

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Mad Bicycle Song On Gideon Coe Tonight!

Car packed up suddenly and I had to sell it for scrap.
Had spent the car savings on making the CD.
Went to look at crappy cheap car yesterday that was so dodgy I didn't buy it, even though I walked five miles to an industrial estate in the middle of nowhere to look at it.
Went to look at another car today and crossed my fingers...
Gideon Coe played The Mad Bicycle Song tonight on BBC Radio 6!
I am so happy!
Have been grafting at this ever since last summer, and I haven't got a record label and I haven't got a plugger or any of those things and I have had to start again with everything. It has been a real DIY everything project. What an amazing thing to happen!
Next gig on Wednesday at The Whitaker Museum, Rossendale. I hope I will have a car by then...

The Odd Glove And The Even Glove

I threw away the odd glove that had been hanging out in my car for years, when I cleared it out yesterday morning before the scrap merchant towed it away.
I threw it in the council bin.
I found the even glove in a drawer this afternoon.

Fleas4U Shadebathing

Tough for a very fluffy cat who can't take his fur coat off.
I could splash him with cold water, but he might not like that.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Zoe Howe and Wilko Johnson at Rough Trade East

I'm an early riser and I rose early to go into work to do more marking. Just as you think you're finished, you find more to do: and the whole thing is greatly hindered by Microsoft's 'intelligent' Word program that re-numbers things in what it thinks is a logical order but in fact, creates chaos and disorder (see Tory party for clarification).
After an afternoon at Gina's I went home, made tea for Offsprog One, and bounced out again to Rough Trade East to Zoe Howe's book launch for her new Lee Brilleaux biography, Rock'n'Roll Gentleman.
Zoe, Wilko Johnson who was also there to speak, and Daryl Easlea (who wrote a brilliant book on disco, Everybody Dance: the politics of disco) all live on the Essex coast and there was something about this deep familiarity with the Thames Delta area that made the panel's discussions particularly evocative. A short clip from Julien Temple's film, Oil City Confidential, sealed the deal.
There were some charming moments: Wilko offering to be Zoe's mic stand as she read from the book, and Darryl's bonhomie.
Back home again late that night, I looked through more student work. Never ends.
I'm now waiting for the scrappage firm to come and take my car away. It's incredibly sad.
I think this might be one of the nicest photographs I've ever taken.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Pipettes at The Premises

Happy Birthday to The Premises Studios yesterday. This is The Pipettes performing at what was a very busy and bustling party with lots of great music- and great food! The Pipettes performed an arrangement of Anarchy in the UK, perhaps carrying on a trend after Glenn Matlock's forthcoming opera versions of Sex Pistols and other punk songs, which must surely have been created as part of a revenge package after being dumped by the band all those years ago. Hell hath no fury like a musician scorned.
The Pipettes were on form and called The Premises their second home; there is something about the place that makes you feel like that.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Cavern, Liverpool

Things boded well as soon as I got there; my hotel room overlooked the Mersey and it was such a gorgeously sunny day that I spent a lot of time glued to the window, watching for boats and gazing at the deep blue sky. Oh yes, and the city bike scheme belonged to the council and not to a greedy bank like they do in London, so that lifted my spirits, too; a Proper Place.
I went to The Cavern early to scout out the scene. Yes, there were tourists, and a very loud tribute-act bar, but there was an air of excitement about too. This whole event (IPO: International Pop Overthrow) is organised by David Bash, who puts one on in Los Angeles and in Stockholm as well. He had listened to Femme Fatale on Bandcamp and thought that we were a band called Helen McCookerybook and The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy, which I suppose we were for that single. Anyway, I wrote to explain that we were really two separate acts and asked if we could both play- so that's how come they drove up from Bristol, and I trained it up from London.

David has a phenomenal amount of energy and is  really on the ball. I tweeted that I didn't come from Bristol (as the poster on the left said) and by the time I got on stage, he introduced me as coming from Newcastle and for once in its life, Newcastle General Hospital (where I was born) wasn't weeping salty tears onto the River Tyne. The guy deserves an embroidered badge for that, Boy Scout-style.
The whole event was quirky. It's not the original Cavern but a fun facsimile; you go down loads of stairs and it would have been a claustrophobic experience but for the fact that it's huge down there- there are two stages and a bar, and room for a merch stall too. There were lots of people clearly having lots of fun: some tourists, some audience people and some bands sussing out the scene.
There was a family with three kids dancing about. Tiny Kid was the best dancer and made us laugh a lot- and was also a self-nappying baby. He got his nappy out and spread it flat ready for the Mum to change him. I was most impressed.
A man walked past with an open Apple Powerbook, light gleaming in the gloaming, and appeared to go to the Gents. It was only later that I discovered that this was the way to the dressing room, too.
It added to the atmosphere. Mysterious.
I was also impressed by the guy on stage who, exhorting us to praise his harmonica player, urged us to 'Put our legs together for Mike on harmonica'. He changed it to 'hands' rapidly but by then the damage was done; I had embarked on peculiar imaginings that were impossible to reverse out of.
Everyone was clearly delighted to be playing at the Cavern, and so was I.
The sound guy was amazing, the air conditioning was powerful (my set list blew across the stage) and I loved it. The audience wandered from stage to stage; I thought it was like an American venue, but actually one of the Charlie Tippers said it was like a holiday camp, which might have been more accurate. David somehow managed to be on time to introduce everyone, and hats off to The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy for managing to sound check all seven of them in fifteen minutes. It was great to get to know their songs a bit better, and I sang Femme Fatale at the end of their set again.
I hope we sold some CDs for Refugee Action. David confessed to having a little weep during the song (I hope the emotion wasn't horror) and I could see people singing along in the audience. All praise to you Lou: you were a dude!
The merch chap was a hard worker and I sold some of my own CDs (ring-a-ding-ding!). There was just time to charge over to The Cavern Pub and see that dark horse John Murray and his glam punk band, the Gentle Scars. Well, John Murray, you kept that quiet! All those songwriting weekends playing your titchy little acoustic guitar and peering out from under the peak of your baseball cap, serenading us with songs about the conjuror who sawed your wife in half! I didn't know you were  a rock god, playing lead guitar riffs at max volume through a mega-amp with a bunch of pirates!
The band looked fabulous, camp swashbucklers with grey baker-boy hats (all apart from the drummer who had obviously agreed reluctantly to wear one, and then tossed it overboard as soon as the band turned their backs on him and started to play). But what entertainment! Brilliant songs, loudly played: the lead singer was a proper rock star with eyeliner on, and a foot atop the monitor.
And great lyrics: 'I want to go where the monsters go'.
So do I! So do I!
That was a perfect ending to the evening and I was so glad that I saw them. Big grin on my face, so wide that I couldn't get to sleep till about 4 a.m. and then the fire alarm went off at 6.30.
Oh Liverpool, I love you so much! I hope I get to do this again next year!
Big thanks to David for inviting us along, and the sound guy too who was amazing. And the bloke who videoed it and managed to reduce the cost by a tenner by the end of the set!

These photographs are completely in the wrong order but it's nightmare to rearrange them.
The Gentle Scars;a decorated pub near Lime Street Station;  a stall selling Liverpool regalia on one side and Everton regalia on the other; the Radio City Tower which I didn't have time to go up, unforchly; David Bash introduces the band; me; me again; some graffiti from the Ladies bogs: poor Jo was grounded, so she didn't get to go out!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Song Marking Almost Done

Almost all the song marking is done: 33 songs listened to and fed back on.
At the University of the West I used to do 160 songs which took days. 'Poor Mummy', said the Offsprogs as they passed through the kitchen.
These songs have been great to listen to and I've been in a really good mood because of that.
Funny; I have a mood gear called 'neutral', which is quite enjoyable because it's grey space between mental meltdown (not pleasant at all) and wildly happy (exhausting).
Good mood is nice, too; a bit like cruising in a plane with no turbulence.
I have started to send the CD out to reviewers. This is a monumental task and will probably take a couple of weeks. I haven't got a clue who to send it to, so I've got to research that first.

I'm sorry if you are a person who has emailed me recently. I am very behind with communicating because of marking happening at the same time as finishing the CD. I don't even have time to watch TV any more but I don't think that I'm missing much and if I am, people describe what they've been watching and that's enough.

What else was I going to say?
This! Last Kitchen Video before Liverpool Cavern on Thursday, I'm on at 8 p.m. and The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy are on straight afterwards.

B-r-r-r-illy Stewart

Who B-r-r-r-d first? Billy or the Chairmen of the Board?
I don't know, but I'm practicing my own personal doorbell as we speak.

Sunday, May 14, 2017


Interesting! Everybody else did big wide arms embracing the world and its cornucopia of spangles and glitz, and Portugal did El Greco with begging hands and won. I wonder if Europe feels guilty about walking past homeless people who have to beg for money every morning on the way to work?
I thought it was a lovely song, but was utterly put off by the person's creepy delivery and was haunted by his facial expression in a nightmare last night.
However, it could have been so much worse...


This is Fleas4U, the neighbourhood cat who has made friends with us all in the hope that we will feed him, cuddle him and call him nicer names than that.
He shows up at the kitchen window on chilly days and says 'Meep' in a sad voice, but he blotted his copybook a few weeks ago by copiously spraying on the window-cleaner's waxed Barbour jacket.
Up until that point, we'd been wondering if he was a male or a female cat, but he found the most powerful way of telling us. Pity he aimed for the internal pocket, too.
The window cleaner was very reasonable about it, but hasn't been back.

From the Kitchen: Gotta Have a Heart

Saturday, May 13, 2017

At Jamboree Last Night

Neil Jones runs a night called Des Was A Bowie Fan at Jamboree in Cable Street; I've mentioned what an amazing venue it is in earlier postings (just like Baron Munchausen, which I've just watched again this avo with Offsprog One).
I arrived at the same time as The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy who had driven up from Bristol, and the man behind the bar very kindly made us a row of cups of tea, lined up on the bar like cowboys' whisky.
The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy have been friends with each other for a long time and are a great advertisement for being in a band. They have hilarious bantz and an elegantly choreographed way of setting up their gear that morphed into a sound check with seemingly no effort at all.
There was a high family turnout in the audience (thanks everybodee) and after getting used to my fingers, I really enjoyed playing songs from the new album mixed in with some older songs (actually, there's something wrong with my guitar neck, as I discovered when I played the other electric guitar today, so I'm taking that one to Liverpool on Thursday instead).
I saw the band at the Indietracks  Festival last year but there was so much to listen to there, that this felt like the first time I'd seen them. They are a songs band (absolutely the best sort of band) and they have a really positive vibe although not all of their songs are nicey-nicey. There are a lot of personnel in the band (six, although their cornet player wasn't there last night) and they make full use of harmonies and two guitars, backed up by keyboards and a grooving rhythm section. How to describe their music? Maybe Jefferson Airplane without the hippy sh*t? Me and my fam thought they were great, that's all! I'm so looking forward to seeing them next Thursday when we're playing at The Cavern in Liverpool.
At the end I got up to sing Femme Fatale with them; it's the first time we've done it live, and it was such a great feeling to sing with a band again.
Afterwards Neil took to the decks and plied to room with a series of smashing tracks.
It was no good... for the first time in five years I leapt on to the dance floor with Offsprog One and danced my feet off. The music was a mix of Northern Soul (that's what got me up), Thirties tracks, The Cure, you name it: if you could dance to it, it was there. Then I recognised a drum intro, and Neil was playing Sweetie by The Chefs.
What a strange thing to see a roomful of people dancing to a track we recorded in 1979!
If you'd told me back then that I'd be sitting in a room having just played a gig, next to one of two grown-up daughters, I would not have believed you.
The dance floor was incredible friendly. There was a mix of ages, genders, everything and a lot of smiling and chatting during the dancing. What a great atmosphere!
I bounced home like Tigger. My legs ache today but I don't care. All the worry lines (I've had a lot to worry about) have gone from my face temporarily. I had such a nice time and I think everyone else did too.
Here's another Chefs track you might like too Neil (I was trying to sound like Donna Summer and Ennio Morricone)

And here's some pics: waiting for the venue to open, the band setting up and the band playing. Plus a little puppet hanging out with no particular place to go.