Monday, October 16, 2017

Colm

I heard today that Colm O'Rourke, one of the longest serving sound engineers (and later recording studio manager) at the University of Westminster, has died.
This is terrible upsetting news. I remember when he first started his job; he had moved from being a virologist to being a sound engineer, and his team were affectionately known as 'Colm's Ladyboys'. Later, two students from the same cohort, Danny and Vince, died within a very short space of time; a couple of years further on we held a wake, and Colm's contribution was a moving performance of a song he had written, and words of such perception and affection that he managed to sum up with huge sensitivity the feelings of the 40 or so graduates who had come along.
It is so very upsetting to hear the news that he has gone too.
I saw that he has had a family and although they must be distraught,  I do feel glad that he had the good fortune to become a father. He had dreams of Ireland and he shared farmland with his brothers; he talked about it with such excitement and enthusiasm!
I can't describe how important Colm was. Life in academia can be stressful and maddening as well as extremely rewarding. I used to go down to the music basement every working day, just to say hello to Colm because he was always so nice to talk to.
He mastered The Chefs CD that we released on Damaged Goods because he had bloody good ears on him.
He's just one of those people that you can't believe isn't there any more. Oh, how terribly sad.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Dammittt!!!!

As I put the final flourish to a hard afternoon's slog of preparing lectures for next week, I knocked a mega cup of tea all over the computer keyboard. The mouse was literally floating about in a sea of tea.
Aargh! It's on the radiator drying out, now.
Why am I so clumsy?

On Wednesday with the Nightingales and Ted Chippington


Seven Miles Out and Fun Up The Junction

Never let it be said that life is devoid of adventures.
Last week was spent listening to vinyl that has been tucked away in boxes, all over the house. Many of the seven inch singles have tiny scratches from when they were kept in a basket, and a litter of kittens used to sit on them and tuck their little paws into the paper sleeves to keep them warm.
It was a week of good fun listening and a fair bit of dancing round in the kitchen; I'd set the turntable up on the side, with the ghetto-blaster attached with a couple of dodgy wires, so that the kitchen units acted as bass bins. This was a trick learned from the old house, although the cabinets there were less full, and therefore functioned better. Still, once I'd pinched the wires a couple of times to connect them properly, it was all systems go.
I packed the lot into a bag, and also packed the guitar because Kevin has asked me to do a short set. kevin Birchall and Linda Yarwood DJ all over the north west of England and had extended an invitation that couldn't be refused, to play a selection of post-punk records at a Venue called Seven Miles Out.
Into the car, and off! Roundabout halfway there, the battery light came on and wouldn't go off. By the time I'd got to the M6 toll road, a warning light was flashing and despite an attempt to get to the Services, the indicators failed and I had to pull over on to the hard shoulder: by that time the brakes had also failed and I had to what fro the car to roll to a stop.
From a grassy bank, I called the AA and had to resort to writing poetry about kingfishers at Hampstead Ladies' Bathing Pond in a little book, as a distraction from the heckling van drivers and horn-honking HGV drivers. How very useful of them! And how pretentious of moi! (it did work, though).
The AA man was tattooed, and an AC/CD enthusiast. He was thrilled that I'd taught Bill Bruford's son. We talked about Black Sabbath and Phantom of the Opera (his wife's fave) as he located an alternator at a supplier that was just about to close for the weekend, towed the car there and fitted it. What a stroke of luck! Thank you AA man: may your life ever revolve around Heavy Metal!
This was the first time a Friday the thirteenth had behaved like one; and on arrival at Stockport, I discovered that the internet booking site had published the wrong postcode for the hotel. I almost cried as I sat in a backstreet trying to be patient with Reception, who later said that it was impossible to get to the venue, Seven Miles Out, by car, so I rushed there on foot with my bag of records, and left the guitar behind because it was too heavy to carry all of it. Of course, he was wrong, and Linda very kindly drove me back to the car park to pick it up.
One of those days don't always turn into one of those nights, though. The venue owners John and Rosemary could not have been kinder, and Linda and Kevin could not have been more welcoming.
Seven Miles Out is a gem of a place: it is next to the old Market in Stockport and it's decorated inside with graffiti with a strong Frank Sidebottom influence (he wrote a song about the owner, John). Kevin and Linda DJ together, and were playing a lot of stuff out of my own collection (Delta 5, The Fire Engines) which was a good sign. There was a chap there with some Chefs vinyl that he wanted signing ( a rare occurrence- I think the last person who did that was Shippy about ten years ago).
I played a very short set of songs (including Let's Make Up) then did the turntable thing, playing a selection of songs from the following list:

The Monochrome Set The Monochrome Set (I Presume). Of course, this was the first track so it jumped!
The Associates Ice Cream Factory
The Dollymixture Been Teen
Carmel More More More
The Farmer's Boys Whatever Is He Like?
Depeche Mode Just Can't Get Enough and New Life
The Rezillos Flying Saucer Attack
The Passage XOYO
The Nightingales Paraffin Brain (I think it was that one but I took two)
The Band of Holy Joy The Aspidistra House
The Teardrop Explodes Reward
Joe Jackson Stepping Out
Animal Nightlife Love Is Just The Great Pretender
The B52s Rock Lobster
The Flying Lizards Money
Die Doraus Und Die Marinas Fred Vom Jupiter
Aztec Camera Walk Out To Winter (also jumped!)
Scritti Politti The Sweetest Girl

(I played more than this, and some are probably wrong).
Who made people leap on to the dance floor? Depeche Mode!
Claudine, at the PR company who worked for them, affectionately nicknamed them 'depressed mood', but boy did they write good music. On the way home today I was singing their records in my head, and every tiny synth motif is completely easy to recall; Vince Clarke is extremely clever.
Carmel was also a dance floor hit, and The Rezillos. It's impossible too remember much but the next day my sides were aching, and I realised that I had been dancing along at the same time as playing the records. I'd forgotten what a good track Love Is Just The Great Pretender was. They were in a rehearsal studio once and I was completely starstruck.

Afterwards I had a really nice chat with the owners, who are campaigning to stay there, so they can provide a home for the sometimes 50 ukulele players who turn up on a Monday to play Roxy Music covers, for Kevin and Linda's nights, for Graham Marsland's nights (Bitter Springs, you should send a copy of The Addison Brothers to him because I think he would like it; would have given him mine, which I intended to play, but I like the hand-painted legs on the B-side too much to part with it). Gentrification is rumbling towards them like a relentless juggernaut, and you can support them at www.stockportproducehall.co.uk so they get to have a little bit of control over their own destiny.
A million thank-yous to Kevin and Linda and to everyone who came along!

On Saturday, I drove over the beautiful moors to Goole, where I joined Mick, June, Laura and Danny Whitfield for an ice cream before getting lost again on the way to the next hotel (45 minutes to drive a five minute journey). This time, it was the satnav's fault. It had a major breakdown later on in the evening, where it displayed a series of fetching jittery red lines and arrows, before giving up the ghost completely, but Mick came to the rescue and we got to Junction Goole in time for the concert by Eduardo Niebla.
In the first part of the evening, Eduardo was joined by Matthew Robinson on Spanish guitar, Willemijn Steenbakkers on violin and Dharmesh Parmar on Indian tabla. We were sitting right at the front, and I think Finn McCardle would have loved what Dharmesh was playing. The music was gorgeous and it was difficult not to leap up and dance; the tabla complimented and echoed what was being played on the guitars and the violin soared over the top; it made me wish that I knew more about music so I could steal some of the chord sequences, but ignorance has kept me honest.
After the interval, Goole's School of Rock, the East Riding Theatre Choir, and the band that Laura plays in, Ukulele Junction, all crowded on the the stage and performed two of Eduardo's compositions, songs based on the poetry of Ian McMillan. They were lovely to listen to, beautifully arranged and played: it felt like an honour to be there. At the end, Eduardo gave every performer a pannetone, which he had stacked up on the stage in the interval.
Laura, you were great!
Thank you to Mick and June for getting a ticket for me.
And today? Up at the crack of dawn and a very smooth and uneventful drive home down the A1, my favourite road and probably the subject of the next song, if what I sang into the phone is any good. and this afternoon? Writing lectures.
Next thing? Supporting the Nightingales and Ted Chippington at the Sebright Arms on Wednesday. I'm on at 7.45 and then I get to watch two really excellent things afterwards. Namaste!











Bristol Show

Coming up soon! And will write about this weekend (and last weekend) l8r today: got to write a lecture for tomozz.
Advance tickets for this gig are available at www.bristolticketshop.co.uk




Friday, October 13, 2017

DJ-ing in Stockport Tonight

It will be great to see Kevin and Linda again tonight; I have been invited to play post-punk vinyl and do a short set at Recordsville Social, 20 Market Place, Stockport starting at 8 p.m. tonight. It's free to get in!


https://www.facebook.com/events/374806452937315/?acontext=%7B%22ref%22%3A%2222%22%2C%22feed_story_type%22%3A%2222%22%2C%22action_history%22%3A%22null%22%7D&pnref=story

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Kitmonsters Review of the Nasty Women Event

This is a great overview of a really busy and successful weekend by Terry Tyldesley:
http://kitmonsters.com/blog/nasty-women-uk

Helen and the Horns, Katy Carr, Honey Birch: Lexington Review.

So, Sunday night was brilliant.
We started off with a warm-hearted, humorous and powerful set from Honey Birch, who has done very few public gigs. I knew she could be trusted to play a great set after seeing her supporting The Raincoats and Angel Olsen at The Assembly Rooms in Islington, and she was even better on Sunday. Her voice is consistently strong without being overpowering, and she sings songs that reflect her life experience so far, but that still have a resonance for anyone regardless of where they are on life's journey. Every teenager swings between extreme angst and self-assurance, and Honey's art (which is elementary for more experienced performers than her, but rare in someone of her age) is to tap into the angst for the song writing part of her life, and into her self-assurance for the performance. Playing a pink and blue guitar, she defied gender stereotyping and won over not just her friends in the audience, but also those lucky enough to catch her set who had come to see Katy or Helen and the Horns. I was delighted to se her mailing list filling up!

Katy had broken the odds to get back from Poland, and her set was utterly different from Honey's, but just as engaging. On keyboards or ukulele, she brought different parts of Polish history to life without the audience realising just how much they were learning, because of course Katy is a consummate  musician, a multi-instrument playing songwriter whose pop and electronic sensibilities merge perfectly with Polish folk music influences to make a completely unique sound. Her soaring vocals pulled us into the emotional trauma of prisoners of war, and the bear who was a mascot and who drank and smoked along with the soldiers: so many characters populate her songs! Katy has been playing a lot to the Polish community recently, and this night was a chance for her to regain her audience of Londoners (and a couple of chaps from Leicester, but more of that later); in this she succeeded magnificently. Wow.

So our bit: slightly differently, this was a gig of nostalgic pleasure for us (although we played a couple of arrangements of songs from The Sea album in the set). The Horns are sounding really good and I just felt really, really happy to do this gig with them.
Right now, I'm definitely a solo artist; it's what I like best, but there's nothing like being submerged in the sound of this band as a treat from time to time. I could hear people singing along and the music all just flowed: it's funny to be able to remember everything all these years afterwards, and it does seem to be a pity that only alternative people like John Peel and our first record label 'got' what we were doing at the time because our music was so positive. I was really chuffed when Damaged Goods released the compilation a couple of years ago because I don't think there is a band in the world that sounds like us! Sorry to blow our own trumpet (ahem).

The whole idea of this night was to share our music not just between ourselves, but also with our different audiences, and I think this worked incredibly well. The audience was remarkably and unexpectedly star-studded (shouts to Gaye Black, Lester Square, Gina Birch, Ana Da Silva, Karen from the Gymslips, Shanne from the Nipple Erectors, Karina from Mike Flowers Pops, Andy Diagram, Eva Eden and more people who I can't remember, and who I hope won't be Bad Fairies at the Christening in future). And shouts to the two guys who drove down from Leicester and who spent the whole night smiling and loved Honey's and Katy's sets too. I hope you enjoyed your stay in That London and got back home safely. And shouts to everyone else in the audience, of course, and the poor people who got stuck on public transport, my student who came to sell the CDS, and the crew at the Lexington (what a place!) and especially to Delia, who is an amazing woman.

I missed the last train home, even after belting up Pentonville Road with the Green Goddess on my back, a bag of vinyl and my holdall. I caught a bus in the end and chatted to Roger from Forbes, and then on the next bus, to a homeless man called Trevor. I got home very late.

Thank you everybody,

Monday, October 02, 2017

Look Yes I Will

Yes I will write about it, it was great, and star studded and everyone had an amazing gig and went home smiling!
But I missed the last train home and by some miracle got the bus part of the way with Roger, then the rest of the way on a bus with homeless chap called Trevor who first of all tried to get money, then almost got thrown off the bus for drinking, then tried to chat me up to get a bed for the night.
Oh, I'm so tired. Four hours sleep then went to work today.
Review later in the week.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Helen and the Horns Tonight: The Lexington

I've given the Green Goddess a set of new strings, will iron the new dress (made by the extremely talented Wendy May) and I'm just about to memorise the words for Back Street Luv. Yes, Helen the Horns go psychedelic with a cover of the Curved Air hit! I learned it to play with Vic in Brighton a couple of months ago, and the challenge to do an arrangement for the band was too great to miss. I have also arranged Summer Days from the new solo album, plus we will be playing lots of the older stuff.


Honey Birch, Gina's daughter, will kick off the proceedings at 8.30, Katy Carr has flown back from Poland specially and will be on at 9.10, and then we will be playing at 10 p.m.
A great place to shelter from the rain, and a true one-off night!

Tickets here (and on the door of course): http://www.wegottickets.com/event/411451



Saturday, September 30, 2017

Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards at the Live Theatre Studio, Newcastle

One of the best things about doing this tour is seeing and hearing such a variety of different music.
The Studio up at the top of at Newcastle's Live Theatre has pin-drop perfect sound, and despite jet lag and rehearsing a new double bass player, this was a really good start to the tour for Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards. Their presentation was relaxed and informal but the arrangements of the songs, and their vocal harmonies, were intricate and exceptionally well-rehearsed.
Left to right, the Dance Cards are double bass, violin/banjo, violin and cello, and sonically they are a blend of sometimes classical sounding strings, and a hillbilly flavour. I made lots of notes: Pablo Casales meets Dolly Parton (there was some great almost-aggressive attacking of the cello with the bow); the Zombies (and in particular, Colin Blunstone's say You Don't Mind, one of my all-time favourite singles); and Peter Asher's vignettes on James Taylor's first album, little interludes between the songs that add so much to the atmosphere. And Debussy, of course!
They told us that the roots of the music were in Scottish Fiddle Camp, but together they have made something that far transcends what you would imagine that to be. The harmonies (even on the songs from the new album, which have an almost girl-group thing going on) are delicate and wispy, almost ethereal. You have to listen in to catch them; they float above the string arrangements like drifting clouds of sound, adding to the atmosphere of songs that are sometimes quite dark: for instance the murder ballad Brown Wrinkled Dress which was inspiring in its traditional and chilling lyrics. Sometimes the violins are played like fancy ukes; the instruments are actors in the dramas of the songs, and take on all sorts of different characters. In between, there's some warm-hearted anecdotes about manoeuvring their huge 9-seater van into the underground car park, and other tour talk: and a synchronised swimming film is being made in Oregon to the track Skipping Stones (which was one of the top songs of a really lovely set). Everything is held together by Laura's expressive voice, which never overpowers her band but which centres the music on the storytelling in each song, and is absolutely flawless.
That audience was massively appreciative and the group came back for an encore, which they played acoustically with the lights dimmed to zero, giving us a chance to hear their immaculate sound close-up.
And thank you audience, for giving me a good reception, and for Shippy and the Jumping' Hot Club for being such good hosts. Lovely too, to see friends there. Big luv to you x
I couldn't resist the night-time shot from the hotel window, and also one of the helicopter that took off at breakfast-time.
Now that's what I call a classy experience.




Friday, September 29, 2017

Hello Goodbye Show with Dexter Bentley, Resonancefm

Tomorrow at 12 noon I'll be on Dexter Bentley's Resonancefm show with Johny Brown and more.
Link here to listen: https://hellogoodbyeshow.com
Review of Newcastle gig to follow, when time permits.


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Bunch of Fives in NARC Magazine

I will be supporting Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards in Newcastle tomorrow at the Little Live Theatre. I am really looking forward to seeing them. Look/listen:



Tickets here:
https://www.ents24.com/newcastle-upon-tyne-events/live-theatre/laura-cortese-and-the-dance-cards/5060479

Also did this 'Bunch of Fives' interview for NARC magazine:

http://narcmagazine.com/feature-helen-mccookerybook-bunch-of-fives/

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Nasty Women: End Violence Against Women


I would like to write a really long posting about this well-attended, buzzy and brilliant evening but the Universities are back and I'm immersed in preparing stuff for the next three days. The comedy section was really enjoyable, especially Harriet Braine who did the most hilariously awful impression of Kate Bush that I've ever heard and who could also play trumpet with her lips in a way that I've only heard the Scottish songwriter Scott MacDonald do before.
Deux Furieuses did a set without the drum kit (they are playing at the Water Rats on 10th November if you'd like to see them in full flow), but their music was still powerful and energetic. Feral Five did a superb cover of Germ Free Adolescence, and just get better and better. Kat did a great job of organisation as well, which must have made it all the more rewarding to get such a great reception. DJ-ing was provided by Ms Mohammed, and all in all it was a warm-hearted and very energising night at a fantastic venue- where else could you go out the back and see a family of swans puttering about in the canal, and where else can you see upside down flowerpots hanging from the ceiling?
The whole point of the evening was never far from people's focus, and the art exhibition with the scary Trump cake was fascinating to look around. The whole weekend was a success and the organisers should be bloody proud of it.
Thank you to everyone in the audience for your lusty backing vocals on The Sea, too.








Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Ramsgate Music Hall: Vic Godard, The Bitter Springs, Helen McCookerybook

It's getting a bit Septemberish this autumn, or perhaps the other way round. What better season and better reason than to drive down to Ramsgate in deepest Kent for a Friday night gig?
The Ramsgate Music Hall is an industrial building that has been converted into a neat and bijou music venue. The live area is small (but gets much larger when the huge mixing desk is restored to it rightful place at the back of the hall); it can hold more than a hundred people but feels pleasantly full at 50. Upstairs is a large bar area, and in the basement, a very welcoming band area with a fridge with real food in it, a proper coffee machine, and sofas that don't make you feel the you're going to catch whatever band infection is doing the rounds at the time. It's sufficiently rock'n'roll though; the drummer Neil Palmer was really excited about the traffic lights on the wall, and almost leapt into the air with joy when he realise that they did actually work. The amber light goes on when it's time to get ready, and the green one when it's time to go up the stairs and through the trapdoor to do your gig.
For bands, it's the ideal gig. There's a fantastic fish and chip shop round the corner (really fantastic: they even know which trawler caught your haddock) and Al the sound guy is really, really good at his job. Julian, the venue manager, is completely on the ball too, which made this one of the best gigs of the year so far. Ramsgate is indeed fortunate to have such a venue: it was well worth the journey behind 100 slow tractors with strange little green round things bouncing off their loads.
There was even an autograph hunter, just this side of scary.
It is so great to play a gig and be able to hear what you are doing on stage. Al made me loud, and also made the guitar sound bassy, so everything felt right. You guys in the audience, that was a rousing chorus to The Sea and bless your cotton socks Simon, I could hear you singing along to almost all of them!
The Springs sounded fab too; the music was was crystal clear and they managed their musician-morphing seamlessly before providing a scorching backup for Vic. It was a bit disappointing not to hear The Addison Brothers ( I was all ready to screech along, but will have to do that to the recording at home instead) but there is that to look forward to the next time.
Rumour had it that BobAndRobertaSmith was in attendance. I talked to a man in a hat at the bar; was that him? I'll never know. It was great to see Lee Edgington there (last seen at a Helen and the Horns gig in 1984) and all the jolly chaps and chapesses in the dressing room, smiling and band-chatting.
I had to leave a bit early to drive back because I didn't have a co-pilot and didn't want to fall asleep the wheel, but as I left Born To Be A Rebel was swirling across the car park in a joyous cloud of f*ck-everything Northern Soul noise. The happy feeling of the audience was pouring out of the door and into the street; there was something incredibly romantic about the night that summed up everything to do with getting up off our bums and going off to do gigs, despite the crap that life throws at you.
Thank you again to Mandy for doing the CDs. My next gig is Nasty Women this Saturday, then in Newcastle supporting Laura Cortese next Thursday at the Little Live Theatre.
I am happy!

Photographs all in the wrong order: Vic and Ruth; Vic and The Bitter Springs; Ruth photographed me photographing Ruth; Kevin Younger under the traffic lights (should he be going up to the stage?); Kim Rivers upstairs stands next to Simon, who is downstairs.







Tuesday, September 19, 2017

New Song

Couldn't resist arranging a new tune for these three plastic fantastics at the airport on the way home from a weekend break.

video

Catching Up

Review of Ramsgate to come, and remember it's loads cheepers to buy your tickets in advance for the Helen and the Horns gig at the Lexington (with Katy Carr and Honey Birch) on Sunday 1st October!
Tickets: https://www.wegottickets.com/event/411451


Friday, September 15, 2017

Ramsgate Music Hall Tonight With Vic Godard and the Bitter Springs

Come out and join us in the amazing Ramsgate Music Hall tonight! Vic Godard with The Bitter Springs, and I'll be supporting. Three for the price of two, and lots of fun 4 U (that almost rhymes)
Tickets here, or on door:
http://www.ramsgatemusichall.com/events/event.php?s=2017-09-15-vic-godard

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

With Ruth Barnes on ResonanceFM Tomoz

Tomorrow afternoon at 3.30 I will be on Resonance FM talking about songs that have inspired my own song writing, and playing a couple of songs too. Tune in on https://www.resonancefm.com

Monday, September 11, 2017

Feather Stolen In Camden; An Exciting Story

I went to Katy's to do an interview this evening. I took her a big feather to put in her hat. To keep the feather clean and flat, I put it in a little clear plastic bag to carry it.
I walked through Camden tube station, and changed on to the Edgware line.
There was a peculiar looking man on the train. I tried not to stare.
'Anyway, I look peculiar too, because I am carrying a large brown feather in a plastic bag', I scolded myself.
I looked down at the plastic bag to admire the feather.
It had gone.
Someone had nicked it at Camden!

Two Gigs Coming Up....

September gigs- Ramsgate Music Hall supporting Vic Godard and the Bitter Springs this Friday
and
Newcastle Studio at Live Theatre supporting Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards next Thursday 28th September


Friday, September 08, 2017

The Musician, Leicester: with Vic Godard, and Bitter Springs

This was the first of two gigs I am playing with Vic and Bitter Springs (in fact they are playing tonight in Brighton with the fabulous Asbo Derek supporting them); the next one is at Ramsgate Music Hall next Friday.
I met Vic in February just as I started booking the tour; by September, I reckoned that touring on my own would become lonesome, and so I booked these gigs back then. Actually, touring has been the opposite of lonesome, but after recording and gigging with Vic and seeing Bitter Springs live a couple of times, this was bound to be fun. The Musician was a surprise; I thought I'd played there before with Martin Stephenson but actually, that was a pub called The Donkey (someone told me later).
The sound guy on Thursday, Malcolm, was incredible. He really knows the venue, and got the band sounding really good. Some good friends turned up and the general atmosphere was great from the outset. It was fun. Lolly turned up, having chucked her mobile with the e-ticket on it down the loo. It makes me laugh every time I think about it; the plaintive email! I really enjoyed playing in spite of Simon heckling for Thrush every five minutes. No way, hosepipe! I did play Let's Make Up for Lolly (there were some other Chefs fans there but I didn't realise till the end). And peeps sang the backing vocals for The Sea magnificently. Thanks to June for the vid:
video

Bitter Springs next; every time I hear their songs, I like them more and more. They were playing at the Lexington a couple of weeks ago, but have gained a guitarist and Kevin-the-keyboards since then. It is impossible to mentally map these bands. At Vic's retirement do, there seemed to be about a hundred drummers pacing up and down itching to get at the sticks. At this gig, Simon broke a multitude of strings, but they carried on and played a a storming set with Love Rat being a real stand-out.
After a short break, Vic and the band started up; soon, Vic was down to his vest (inside out, as a member of the audience shouted). The microphone was collapsing, lyric sheets were spread over the stage, anecdotes were spilling out of everyone (The Wizard used to be the fattest, but he left, and now Simon is the fattest, or possibly Paul, the drummer). Vic told us about writing a song called A Challenge For Robin Hood because he knows no-one's written a song with that title before (except me. I'm writing one tonight to beat him to it. He's gigging tonight. I'll get it finished by midnight!). The singalong songs came thick and fast: Born to be a Rebel, The Addison Brothers (sung with Simon, and with much ado about harmonicas).
I've just remembered Simon's impersonation of Vic answering the phone at the Royal Mail when he found out that Vic was also a postman! Pure Dot Cotton! Ha ha! It was so funny! And then the story of the club with the revolving stage with an awful covers band, and then the stage revolved and there was an even worse covers band. It was like being at one of their rehearsals, except it was a gig with proper songs going on. I think they felt that too. 'Someone fucking start!', shouted someone, and they fucking started the next song. They finished the set with Retirement Day; by this time Vic was showing us his dance moves (what a mover!) and Simon was sporting a very fetching Benny hat. They got a deserved encore; it was a really great night with such fantastic songsmithery from both bands. I am so looking forward to Ramsgate!
After we'd all had a good old yak with audience people, the band all packed up and drove home; I stayed in a hotel as I was worried about falling asleep at the wheel. There was an unfortunate acoustic effect caused by the hotel courtyard. I could hear every single bonking couple amplified to full volume- an orchestra of orgasms- followed by every Loud Bloke argument in the car park in the cigarette corner. Then after what seemed like five minutes sleep, a mega, mega, mega loud bin lorry started wheezing and clashing at maximum volume. I looked at my phone: 5.30 a.m. Nearly just got in my car and drove home, but finally nodded off. Not staying in Ramsgate under any circumstances!
Ticket link for Ramsgate Music Hall next Friday: https://www.ticketweb.uk/event/vic-godard-bitter-springs-ramsgate-music-hall-tickets/7473925?pl=ramsgatemusichall&edpPlParam=%3Fpl%3Dramsgatemusichall


Thursday, September 07, 2017

Leicester Musician, Tonight

In case you missed it, I'm heading to the Musician in Leicester tonight for a support gig with Vic Godard with the Bitter Springs. It will be a really good night, on of the first nights of Vic's autumn tour, some of which he is doing with the Bitter Springs and some with Subway Sect. He will be playing in Brighton on Saturday (with the hugely entertaining Asbo Derek) and Ramsgate a week on Friday (that's another one I'm doing).
A bientôt!

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Lovely Loos






Rehearsal

We had a really good rehearsal last night; the guys are on top form and the arrangements for Summer Days and Back Street Luv seem to work. All that blowing and singing takes it out of you! We are talking about maybe recording an EP early next year with some of the new songs on it, but let's see which way the wind blows.
Or the horn blows!
Don't forget to come and see us at the Lexington, with Katy Carr and Honey Birch, on the 1st October. Rumour has it that we may be joined by a special guest on Back Street Luv.

Left to right: Dave Jago, Paul Davey and Steve Joy. We haven't played together since 2014, we discovered. As rare as hen's teeth.


Sunday, September 03, 2017

Weird Dreams With Sound Tracks

I have been having weird dreams with sound tracks.
One was about an annoying baby in a highchair. It wasn't my baby, which was a relief because it looked a bit like an old man, and may have been an impostor.
I woke up to get away from its annoyingness and I was singing the sound track to the dream, which was a reggae song (completely inappropriately).
By the time I thought to record it on to my phone, I could only remember the first line.
This keeps happening, and there are a few first lines there. I'm hoping to remember a whole song one of these mornings.

Accordions, Camden, Sunday

A chance meeting with Anja McCloskey at Katy Carr's on Tuesday led to an invitation to this very unusual concert at the newly-refurbished Diorama in Camden today.
Anja plays in an accordion orchestra, the London Accordion Orchestra, and this afternoon's concert also featured the Akkordeon-Landesjugendorchester Baden-Wurttenburg, who you may have guessed, are from Germany.
The sound of the two groups was really different; the Londoners sounded lyrical, and their arrangement of the Venus movement of Holst's Planets was exquisite. Delicate traces of sound fluttered between the players like lacy birds, and you could see that the players knew they were making beautiful music; they floated along on their sea of sound. Their final piece was written in four days by the director, Ian Watson, after the original composer was offered a Hollywood score and pulled out. They were joined by Eliza Marshall on flute. It was also a lovely piece of music.
After the interval, the young German players took their seats. This is their first visit to the UK although they have been to many other places in the world and by rights they should have been tired, after travelling from Ireland in a bus. But they were strong players, and their conductor, Fabian Dobler, was full of energy. They started with a Frtiz Dobler composition, Ballade. Dobler wrote especially for accordion, and I enjoyed this. However, the most exhilarating pieces were those by Astor Piazolla, which hit an emotional spot that almost brought me to tears. I started to think about awful Brexit, and how we might close our stupid little island off from all the wonderful culture, people, and even food that being part of Europe has brought us.
As soon as Douglas Yates, the all partially-sighted baritone who sings with them, got up to sing, everything felt better. He was humorous and it was intriguing to hear a classical Texan voice after meeting Chuck and Libby last week. He sang Britten's folk songs, and finished the afternoon off with a rousing version of Joshua by Mark Hayes, a song that I used to sing at school.
It was a really uplifting afternoon- what an unusual sound, and what great musicians, both the Londoners and the Baden-Wurttenburgers! Music can make you feel just great sometimes.
Who cares about the rain on the way home? Not me!
(it was lovely to see you Jacob)





Saturday, September 02, 2017

From The Kitchen: These Streets

Grayson Perry at the Serpentine Gallery

On the way there, a black squiggly shape in the distance on the water seemed incongruous. Not a cormorant, surely? But it spread its wings to dry in the early morning sunshine, and sure enough, the most peculiar of sea-birds had found its way into Hyde Park, probably to try to visit this exhibition.
It is a small, sweet exhibition that doesn't take long to go round. You're met by a piggy bank with different slots that allow you to self-define. You can be us, them, female, male, rural: there are various choices. I chose 'HOPE'.
There are some enormous woodcuts, with gorgeous design and contrast, and of course the familiar pots. The textiles are fantastic, and after seeing Dispossession, the Red Carpet seemed particularly appealing, with it's insincere-slogans-of-the-times and map of gentrification. The Durham banner was brilliant. Me and the Offsprogs love Trade Union banners; I felt like jumping up and down with excitement.
And the motorbike! Ah, bliss!
It's on till 10th September; it will inspire you. Go!