Monday, July 31, 2017

An Announcement From The Death Metal Zebra

Title courtesy Offsprog One, who has been talking in That Voice all night.

Disorientation

It's disorientating being home. I have drunk far too much tea, watched too much Columbo and washed too many clothes. The place is festooned with post-it notes, half of which are covered in scribbled-out instructions. Barnet is still weird. A Chap was wandering around yesterday, and so were two Japanese Buddhists who came to the door like Jehova's Witnesses and tried to invite me to become a Buddhist. The Post Office had to close this morning because the network computer broke down, and Fleas4U was in sitting on the sofa with Offsprog One a couple of days ago: while the cat's away, the cats will play.
A spell in the Highland mountains has put a whole lot of things into perspective: giant problems have turned into little shrivelled worms, and London itself seems like an overblown rose. I said 'tapadh liebh' to BBC Radio nan Gaidheal for playing Summer Days.
McDad tried and tried to learn Gaelic, but couldn't get his head around it. This is such a lovely song, which he had a recording of, and which was John Smith's favourite song (leader of the Labour Party in the 1990s). It is interesting to see that it originated in Ullapool; I didn't know that.

Hill of Fools From 2005

Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Bicycle after My Own Heart

Travels

Travel light, said McMum, and she was right. Who wants to be weaving in and out between wheelie suitcases of station platforms with bobbly bits on the concrete to stop people from slipping? Not I, said the fly, especially with the Green Goddess on my back.
Serendipitous timing meant that I was travelling to Inverness First Class, which was luxury apart from listening in to conversations between some seriously snobby people; I thought that I would sleep but the view from the window was so fabulous that there was no way that was going to happen.
The East Coast Line (can't bear to mention that horrible man's brand) takes in one view after the other, from the southern flatlands, through Yorkshire, past Durham City with its cathedral and castle and deep well of red brick terraces; crossing the Tyne over the bridge with the view of more bridges to dear old Newcastle Central Station (there used to be a recording booth on the concourse where you could record a vinyl flexi-disk for five shillings). Then the train glided up to Berwick, past Alnmouth and Holy Island in the distance, over the Tweed where you can spot swans as little specks of white, far down below. It is still a beautiful stone-built town clasping the cliffs and looking eastwards towards the North Sea and it twinkled in the afternoon sunshine. Suddenly, we stopped and the burnt smell of emergency brakes filled the carriage.
Four young ginger cows with blunt juicy noses watched us from their field. A train had broken down ahead, and we had to go backwards to a part of the rails where the points could be changed so we could overtake it. The cows watched, not even chewing; the train reversed, and then moved forwards again. The cows were entranced. Reality agri-TV had finally arrived in the borders, and they were the first to enjoy it.
We slid into Edinburgh Waverley and I remembered the many times we'd disembarked there with the Offsprogs, first as babbies, then as toddlers, then eventually teenagers, to visit McMum and McDad. It's so peculiar no longer to have that base in Scotland; at one point we all knew Edinburgh as well as we knew London. The train headed north, and further north, through Pitlochry where McMum and McDad used to come and pick us up (often sloshed), off the train with the empty Thermos that had been filled with Gluhwein. Up through the mountains, where the glaciers have carved the landscape into drama after drama, the sky providing the lights and the reflections in the lakes, the footlights; rainbows, half rainbows, tumbling, surly clouds. Spotlit mountain tops and dark valleys provided camouflage for deer and electricity pylons defiantly carried cables across the most hostile-looking landscapes (the fallen pylon is particularly evocative of some industrial metal animal skeleton that has been left to rot in nature's time).

The train was an hour late into Inverness but luckily the hostel was close by.
As I was getting ready to sleep, a young male French cyclist came into the room and I suddenly realised that I was sharing with three blokes! You see, I've never had the luxury of being a backpacker; I never had a job where you could save up for anything when I was younger, so punk rock had to do that stuff for me. I stopped breathing for an hour, especially when the last one in came in with his infra-red head-lamp and started shining it around the room. Suddenly the night turned into a horror movie as the red spotlight silently travelled across the walls and ceiling. Luckily I was sleeping with the Green Goddess and I held on to her neck tightly for protection.  Next morning though, we got chatting and they told me that they were terrified of midgies; one of the Offsprogs used to attract them like, well, flies: and on the Isle of Skye her ears filled up with them until we remembered McDad saying that Bog Myrtle would repel them. So I told the French cyclists. 'Boj Myrtle', one of them typed into his phone.
The bus journey from Inverness to Ullapool went through more gorgeous mountain terrain. I have driven that journey many times but you don't see as much with your eyes on the road. The sick bag detail on the bus was a comical touch.
In the main street, a little wispy Nordic-looking girl was busking with a fiddle. She looked as though she was going to be blown away by the wind and indeed she disappeared for a while, only to reappear in an alleyway somewhere else ten minutes later. A convoy of six brand-new tractors roared past, bound for the ferry terminal. Ullapool harbour is industrial-vehicle heaven.
Anne Wood had offered a room to stay, and later Sot Otter (who organised the gig), came by and we headed for the rehearsal of the choir she has set up, Three Sheets to the Wind. It's impossible to describe the wonderful feeling of listening to a choir rehearsal where everybody wants to be there, everyone wants to sing their best and everyone trusts the choir leader. Being immersed in that lovely sound of human voices interacting with each other, it's a luscious experience. It's a large group (yet not everyone was there) but they are also disciplined and so committed yet so relaxed at the same time. They are pitch-perfect and hold their harmonies simultaneously as solidly as rock, but as lightly as feathers. I think that experience has been one of the highlights of the year!

So we went round to the Argyll Hotel, and after a quick sound check, the choir sang their four numbers, finishing with a really rousing version of Oh Happy Day that gave the western winds a run for their money. They got a massive round of applause and I reckon they will have a bunch of new people joining them after that performance, including the barman!
Sot had taught them the backing vocals of Women of the World, and from their seats they sang the choruses (I'm sorry I played it a bit too fast!) and also the 'She's a Femme Fatale' bits of Femme Fatale which Karen led from the sofa after making a long journey, I hope the first of many adventures for her. They also joined in singing The Sea, and made it a very special night. Thank you so much to Sot, and to the choir who deserve to be heard far beyond the walls of the Argyll Hotel. What a complete privilege!

It was great to see Robbie there, where he's working on the campsite, and also great on the way back to catch up with a few people over coffee, here and there.
I reckon I've travelled around 3000 miles so far on this tour by car, bus and train and of course on foot. Big thanks to everyone who came to the gig, massive thanks to Sot, and I am happy to say that all the Femme Fatale CDs were sold, which means more money for Refugee Action. It can still be downloaded from here, or bought from either me or the Charlie Tipper Conspiracy at gigs:
https://helenmccookerybook.bandcamp.com/album/femme-fatale



Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Asbo Derek Ulysses Twin Album Review

I’m waiting for the postman, because I’ve ordered a hat off the internet to keep dry when I go to Ullapool tomorrow, so let’s listen together (you mean you haven’t bought it yet?).

The tracks on this album are the perfect length- mostly less than two minutes, or ballad length (less that three). I'll pick out my faves although I've listened to the lot:
Investors in People: a song that ridicules workplace insincerity by reducing it to essential items of clothing. Work is quite literally, pants. Many people will feel this song deeply in their souls, but with a bit of blue sky thinking, we will get through it together, I'm sure.
‘My name is Lydia, and I am in media’ the first line of  Bus Passes (for the middle classes) starts the song as it means to go on. This is my favourite track; Alan and Fran in the samba band. Ouch! How to get rid of your smug friends in one fell swoop; it made me laugh out loud at 10.46 a.m. just as I did at 9.47 p.m. on Saturday when they played it live. Bus stop!
Lotus Birth: Oh, horrible! This song pinpoints the disgustingness of hippy childbirth. I have been to look for the placenta that they chucked off the pier bobbing about in the English Channel, but I couldn’t see it. It must have sunk. 
Latte: This one reveals a stark hatred of the ‘Can I get…’ culture, with as many offensive phrases as possible crammed into one song, none of which are as offensive as ‘Can I get a latte’, sung in a suitably irritated tone through gritted teeth. Brilliant.
Canary Wharf: ‘I’ll wear an Edinburgh Woollen Mills Scarf’; I wonder if they could flog this to the company as an advertising jingle? Possibly not, as so many potential customers are instructed to fuck off back to where they came from. Has Jem not heard of upward mobility? Essential listening on the DLR at maximum volume with a ghettoblaster, please.
Oh, yes.
Larry Hagman: ‘Didn’t speak on Sundays’, says the guitar, because Larry Hagman didn’t speak on Sundays. Sounds like a good idea to me.
Pickles: ‘Eric Pickles: what a twat’. Quite agree. Why has nobody said this before? And they take the Mickey out of Boris too (see what I did just there?). This should be sent to the Houses of Parliament immediately for their edification. Lester Square used to send all his songs to The Queen at Buckingham Palace (the female one), so why not?
Crook of the Elbow has an insouciant rhythm and homes in on that Beckham thing of, well, hanging the bag on the crook of the elbow. In London you can tell who reads Hello magazine because they walk through the most uncool streets with their fake Gucci bags hanging down, except in this song it’s a supermarket bag with a jar of onion gravy in it. Delish!
Shining Light: Aww, SuBo, aww.

The production is fab (if you notice things like that, and even if you don't, you do). I love the grumpy bass sound, rasping guitar sound (there is a particularly good guitar riff in Backstairs Billy), crisp drum sound, and of course the icing on the cake: Jem's powerful and authoritative voice singing complete nonsense.


Crimp it, baby!


Buy it here: https://asboderek.bandcamp.com/releases

(the postman never came)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Helen And the Horns, Katy Carr and Honey Birch At The Lexington Ist October

Here is the ticket link.

Blank It Out, The Asbo Derek Gig And More


Apologies for this review being a bit fragmented- I started it, added to it and then whizzed off to do something else. The video above was made by Tracey Holloway, of the first song that Vic and me did, Blank It Out. Lee McFadden is  playing acoustic guitar, because the song was originally performed by his band The Long Decline.

Our set list:
Blank It Out
Saturday Night With The London Set
Stamp Of A Vamp
Femme Fatale
Temptation
Brother Can You Spare A Dime
Autumn Rendezvous
Back Street Luv

The next photo (below) is of Asbo Derek singing, with Vic on stage with them. I have been roaring with laughter describing their songs to Offsprog One: the song about the middle classes and their bus passes, a couple of songs too rude to mention, and the reason for the name of the album which is possibly too disgusting to mention, but which I may over-ride my sense of decorum to write about. Maybe. Their guitarist is brilliant. And their drummer is called SuBo because of his resemblance to Susan Boyle, I believe; it's a very chantable nickname. The inter-song bantz was hilarious, and although I had been led to believe that the audience would consist of fat old men (I had asked a neutral observer what to expect), there were a lot of very glamorous women there, across the age spectrum, and plenty of skinny young men. The one thing that everyone had in common was extremely loud voices and extreme determination to have fun. Hats off to Steve behind the sound desk, too. It's always a good gig when he's there and he deserves a medal for remaining good natured when challenged by extreme noise, fumbling musicians, and an eccentric approach to what a gig actually consists of.




First photo by Tonje Cecilie Tainsh. We're playing the first song Blank It Out, written by Lee McFadden,which is why he's there. Apparently I was playing the wrong chords. I blame Vic.
Second photo by Peter Tainsh.
Then Jane Barnes' photo of us tuning Lee's guitar (see guitar tuners posting a few days ago for a description of the general rigmarole around these annoying contraptions). Then one of Bongo Pete's photographs. I'm not sure what we were laughing at; possibly an act of extreme musical incompetence, possibly not.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Larfing at Dream Themes

I went into work to print out the work so far on the book that I am writing, so that I can have something to read on the long journey to Inverness next week, en route to Ullapool. For once, the printer at work was fully-functioning, which was absolutely extraordinary (I'd factored in frustration time). The machine hummed and the paper glided into a stack with a slightly facetious air of efficiency. So how come in times of maximum stress with ten minutes to go before a three hour lecture with 50 students, the machine says no?
Karina was in, and we got the train to Caledonian Road and walked down to Granary Square through the slightly muggy, slightly polluted London air, past all its multicultural and soon-to-be-gentrified splendour: shops selling this, shops selling that, the occasional 'artisanal coffee shop'. London can be a fabulous gem, under the grime.
I ordered a very expensive crisp sandwich, bits of which blew away in the urban breeze. We tried to locate Shanne, and then went to the supermarket to stock up on either tea, booze or baklava, depending on what we wanted and needed.
Members of Dream Themes were wandering around in their logo'd navy boiler suits; they drifted on to the stage and the bass player, the man with the slightly terrifying eyes and the Merrythought-Teddy hair, introduced their soundcheck. They charged into their first theme, charged into the second, third, fourth; themes came thick and fast. They patted themselves on the back in frequent announcements over the PA; 'Well done us!'. We witnessed Dickie's dance through the crowd (by this time they had stripped to red t-shirts and shorts), of which all I could see was the occasional pink arm and bearded head bobbing up and down. The Good Life sounded like a horse falling downstairs. Me and Karina hooted our way through Star Trek. The 'Winking or Blinking' quiz show promised a prize of tickets to their pantomime, only available at the end of the show, so the poor winner had to stay the course. Thunderbirds was oddly moving. Large sections of the audience revealed themselves to be watchers of children's TV shows (after all, Tellytubbies' main audience was students, I believe). Finally, after they had finished their set, they exhorted us to join in a dance with them as the DJ equipment was moved back on the the stage. They stood in a line, saluted-along-to-the-instructions, and gradually, one by one, we felt compelled to join in.
'Stick your arms out! Stick your arms out, thumbs up! Stick your arms out, thumbs up, shoulders up! Stick your arms out, thumbs up, shoulders up, head back! Stick your arms out, thumbs up, shoulders up, head back, tail out!'.
No, no, no, nothing was going to make me poke my bum out in Granary Square, but almost everybody else did.
I laughed so much I almost threw up; it was impossible to keep a straight face, even though a steady stream of po-faced bearded cyclists constantly pushed past trying to get to the Regents Canal towpath to mow down a few pedestrians.
Halfway through, Vic phoned to ask what the last chord of the second chorus of one of the songs we're doing tonight was. It was rather difficult to change gear mentally. I left the crowd briefly and twisted my fingers into a chord shape, but alas, my mind was still singing along to the sting from News At Ten, a track so short that it ends before the iTunes preview does. Thankfully, he guessed from my vague ramblings what it was. I think.
See you in Brighton, folks!
I got it a bit wrong, but do feel free to dance along if bored:

Friday, July 21, 2017

Going Into Reverse

I have been trying so hard to learn all of the lyrics and chords for tomorrow's gig with Vic Godard for the Asbo Derek launch of their album Ulysses Twin, that my brain has gone into reverse and not only can I not remember the new things I've learned this week, but I've also forgotten the things that I already knew, apart from when I'm just dropping off to sleep and the whole lot comes thundering into my brain at maximum volume.
How did I ever manage to pass exams at school?
Actually I can remember that. I used to sleep with my exercise book under the pillow the night before the exam.
I'll try that, with the written-out lyrics and chords.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

This Rough Magic by David Devant and his Spirit Wife

Gah. Guitar Tuners.

What's that rattling sound? That's the sound of my feet wading through hundreds of broken guitar tuners, scattered through the house like giant cockroaches, peering up at me through lit-up faces that make it seem as though they are working: but they're not.
You only have to look at them a bit funny and they stop; their dials freeze, their lights wink, they invent new tones that mankind has never heard before- the sounds of the Universe- and attune to those but completely ignore your guitar. They snap in half and pretend to be fixed, only to sulk as soon as you clip them on the the headstock of the guitar. They yearn for a new battery, weeping, crying, begging: you replace the battery. 'Hah hah! Fooled you!', they taunt. They were broken anyway.
They come in all colours, shapes and sizes. Inventors have invented the perfect tuner. It works perfectly until it doesn't work any more, just when you most need it to.
You might think 'tuning fork', and laugh at the poor grasp of music that us electric guitarists have. But have you ever tried to tune a guitar to a fork in noisy venue? Not only do you look like a complete prat but you can't hear the bloody thing anyway.
So off I go to the music shop, to try to find a brand that I haven't bought yet so I can hope that it won't break after being used three times. I'll bring the little Spork, Crunk, or Flibbetigibbet home with me, fumble it out of it's fiddly box that probably cost more than the tuner itself, and prepare to be disappointed yet again.
And you thought it was so easy being a musician.

Fleas4U Makes A Fleeting Appearance

What a humdinger of a storm. Offpsprog One went into the yard with her camera, and I hung out of the bedroom window to watch the lightning.
A furry, shadowy shape slithered along the top of the new fence and down into next door's garden. I head a 'meep' and the door opened. You lazy, greedy thing, Fleas4U. Can't be bothered with us because we don't feed him. It's only a little jump!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Bristol


A London Night Out

Last night I went to see the documentary Love Story at The Regent Street Cinema, which is part of the University of Westminster. The cinema had always been there, but has recently been refurbed and made into a niche screening venue.The film about The Dollymixture was screened there, and Mykaell Riley's British Black Music History research project was launched there too.
The documentary was touching, funny, irritating (it was a bit too long) but an authentic record of (parts of) being in a band in LA in the 1960s and 1970s. The big problem was that Arthur Lee wouldn't leave LA and tour, unlike the Doors, who worked their asses off touring the USA. But there was another problem: they were a mixed race band and a lot of Americans couldn't stand that concept, especially at that time. I would have liked to heard more about The Butterfield Blues Band, who as fellow label mates at Elektra, probably had the same problems; and, of course, Sly and the Family Stone.
Somehow though, the slightly claustrophobic nature of the doc worked, especially the parts where Arthur strode around the massive castle that he bought for the band, and professed amazement at the completely blingy makeover the castle had had. He described rollerskating through the enormous rooms. It was heartwarming to see him performing later in his career, with a new troupe of young musicians, still with that wonderful voice and obvious charisma.

After the screening, I left and walked into the magical half-light of the centre of the metropolis. In spite of its terrible dangers and horrible tragedies London can still sweep you off your feet, sometimes.



Friday, July 14, 2017

Want Some Boring News?

In-between-touring news?
Hmm.
Well.
The new garden fence is beyond Fleas4U's laziness horizon.
Although he is sweet and affectionate, he is also a flea-transporter and a back-end sprayer: a mixed blessing or a mixed curse, wherever your perspective takes you. I sort of miss him, and I know Offsprog One does; he can manage to get on to the shed roof next door so he could definitely scale the new fence if he tried.
I think he's just too darn lazy to jump in his big fur coat.

I have been playing 'art college' with Gina again today- it's brilliant, and doing the same at home with Offsprog One as well means that life is very arty. The house is draped with her hand-printed material with a women wrestler print, there's a sewing machine on the table, there's tracing paper floating about like flat clouds. There are pots of dried-up black paint on the side in the kitchen.
My bit is guitars, black felt pens and photocopies of posters and illustrations. I come back from Gina's with half-finished drawings, having had long conversations about lines and contrast and paint. Her paintings are looking very strong and powerful.

It's also about ten days until the gig with Vic Godard at the Asbo Derek Ulysses Twin album launch at The Prince Albert in Brighton. I discovered through a Facebook posting that we are called the Temperance Two (we are both teetotallers). So far, we have had mostly 'unplugged' rehearsals but we're going for a proper one on Monday, at which we might discover that we have been playing in utterly different keys from each other. We will be playing a mixture of cover versions and our own songs; we've had to dump a couple on the way, but unbelievably we have a set of 8 songs. This means an intensive lyric-learning weekend as far as I'm concerned; the music is always fine but the words take a long time to go in. It's nice to be playing with another guitarist again; Vic's style is very different to Martin's but it goes without saying that playing along with someone else is very different to playing solo. Maybe my next album should feature a different co-guitarist on every track....

And I think next week I'll start doing some more kitchen videos. I did an interim one a couple of days ago but it was a repeat of a song I'd already recorded. Over and over again, I failed to get a decent version of a new song and in the end decided to go for something easier. There are so many to do, and some new ones. It's a case of being in the right mood for the right song!

OK, time to knock some sense into this silly little house. It needs to be washed behind it's ears, so that's what I'm going to do. Toodle-pip.


Monday, July 10, 2017

Thatcher's Statue

A very perceptive article in the paper today pointed out that there's no need for a statue of Margaret Thatcher; such a statue already exists. It is the burnt-out shell of Grenfell Tower, a paean to deregulation, the power of the construction industry, contempt for poor people and people from ethnic minorities, corruption and penny-pinching by councils, the prioritising of money over human beings, and the complete disregard for the communities that make up our society.
It is a shocking sight to see in reality; I've driven past it a couple of times and it almost hurts physically to see it. God only knows the pain that the people who lived there must be feeling. They must not be forgotten by the media and they must not be forgotten by us.

Coming Up In August


Friday's Playlist

Popcorn Charlie: Charles Spurling
I Get The Sweetest Feeling: Jackie Wilson
Low Rider: War
Suspicion: The Originals
Launderette: Vivien Goldman
Sharkesville: Katy Carr
Gonna Get Along Without You Now: Viola Wills
Too Much Too Young: The Specials
Trouble Over The Weekend: Betty Everett
My Fair Lady: The Bird And The Bee
Please Don't Go: Yvonne Carroll
Fairytale At The Supermarket: The Raincoats
I Ain't Goin' Nowhere: Junior Walker
The Magic Number: De La Soul
Getting Mighty Crowded: Betty Everett
That Other Place: Wade Flemons
For The Love Of Mike: Patrice Holloway
Mind Your Own Business: Delta 5
Sweet Thing: The Spinners
Someone Else's Guy: Jocelyn Brown
So Tough: The Slits
Rudi's In Love: Locomotive
If It Feels Good: Della Reese
Papa's Got A Brand New Pigbag: Pigbag

.... all the best songs are short songs!

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Scientist

An entomologist (or bugger, perhaps).

The Tame Fly At The Wedding

Some weddings have a Bad Fairy (or was that Christenings?). This one had a tame fly, which was apt in some ways, because this was an extraordinary wedding.
Congratulations to Donna and Paul; after thirteen years together they are now wife and man, or woman and husband perhaps. It was a friendly, funny day, facilitated by the two characters in top hats who ad-libbed their way through thick and thin. The speeches were hilarious and there were a lot of surreal moments, the main one being the tame fly that we all fell in love with at table six. As the fly was passed round, it exhibited a series of clever tricks.
Enthralled, we called it to the attention of the Best Man.
'It's just a fly', he told us sternly.
Later, the fly was spotted feet up on the tablecloth.
(neither me nor the chap sitting next to me handled the fly, both of us having read a story in that morning's newspaper about a poisonous ladybird).
There was much sartorial elegance in evidence, and it was an added bonus to see not just one but two members of Helen and the Horns in the wedding band.
Thank you for inviting me you two. It was a privilege to be there with you and your lovely friends.






Saturday, July 08, 2017

DJ-ing and Flat Tyres

I really enjoyed last night's DJ-ing stint, apart from when I put the CDs back in the wrong cases and lined up the wrong tune (only did that once then managed to restore the CDs to their rightful cases), and Delta 5's Mind Your Own Business skipping like an eight year old on E numbers, just when a bunch of Lads came in who were ready to mock a lady DJ. I managed to regain my composure and began to learn which tracks get people up and dancing, that I want to learn more about beat matching, and that I need to alternate vocal timbres and moods more. I've been invited to do another (thank you Neil, I'd love to). Unfortunately my car had a flat tyre and I had to get up early this morning to have it fixed, otherwise I think I would have made a night of it, although I did have a good old dance to Jimmy Mack before I left and negotiated Camden, that London town where every mad person in the universe congregates on a Friday night.
I'm off to a wedding today (not mine) and I'll leave you with the hit of the night; what a song!




Friday, July 07, 2017

A Bonkers Drama Queen Of A Track

Chuck Jackson and Yvonne Fair give it more than all they've got:

Martha and The Vandellas

Alas, not room in the CD bag for this one. But what lovely chord changes.

Iron-a-longa Northern Soul

It's so hot I can barely move. We need to have a rain dance tonight, I think.
Alas, the ironing has piled up and perhaps rather stupidly, I've got the ironing board out and the steam iron is puffing away like an old train.
The air pressure is building up; perhaps a thunderstorm is on the way to clear the oppressive atmosphere. The pavements are streaming with storm ants.
People are behaving like angry bulls; one of the people in the supermarket was so rude yesterday I practically bopped them on the nose. They had had air conditioning all day and I'd been slogging between campuses, five miles in the hot sun.
The research conference was incredible though- listening to psychologists who make interventions so the communities don't blow their tops. I realise just how important it is for people to know who to pass emergency situations on to (and when), and not to go it alone. There was much food for thought.


Tonight at the Fiddler's Elbow and Stuff About Writing

I have a late DJ-ing slot tonight at The Fiddler's Elbow in Camden. Most of the music will be Northern Soul, but there will be a fairly hefty sprinkling of indie and other music in there too.
I have got really behind with listening to new stuff; there's a whole pile of CDs on the kitchen table waiting to be listened to. I don't have so many gigs in the next couple of months because I will be writing book, so in between writing sessions I'll be listening. We will also be starting to work on the film again soon, after a health sabbatical.
The last article that I wrote got turned down, which was a big disappointment, but you have to take these things on the chin. There was an uncomfortable truth at the heart of it that eventually took over the whole thing, so next time, it will be the whole thing, and it will be there in the book. To start off with I will be completing the editing of six interviews (I did 30 altogether).
Before that, early last year, I spent three months writing a chapter for a book which is only just going for its final edit. I estimate that chapter (8000 words) took fifty hours to write; it's not a light profession, being an academic. That is why it is such a joy to have a life outside it; it can seem like a cult religion at times and definitely swallows you up if you work at it full time. Writing, recording and playing my songs saves my soul.
There is an interview with Gina and me in the latest Art and Music magazine, where we talk about being bass players and making our film. Many thanks to David Sheppard (of Ellis Island Sound) for inviting us to do the interview. Yes: 'Shards of broken glass in the ice-cream'.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Blast From The Past

Next Friday In Camden....

There are only two gigs in July- Brighton with Vic Godard on 22nd July and Ullapool with the choir Three Sheets to the Wind on 29th July. But I am DJ-ing in Camden next Friday night. I haven't done this for ten years, and I've only done it once with CDs rather than vinyl. I'll be playing a lot of Northern Soul and some indie stuff, and I've taken note of the time when I played a 40-minute Rockabilly set and neglected to realise that most Rockabilly songs come in at just under, or just over, two minutes long. I'd finished the whole playlist by 20 minutes in, and had to play the b-list as well.
A lot of Northern Soul songs are short, so I have a week of listening to do.
One compilation is 100% crap tracks and I've managed to discard that one, and also to get over the fact that although I'm over-familiar with some of the songs ('oh no, not this one again'), that's because they are really good, I've listened to them a lot, and other people might not know them.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Pelicans

Oh, I love pelicans so much! These birds synchronised themselves and swam and upended themselves in unison.
And a black swan.


Scaledown Last Night

It was packed, hot, friendly, funny and nutty as always. Words later or tomorrow; today I'm struggling with a maxi dress trying to look elegant, but looking more like a woman about to trip over her hem.
Oh but... I did marry either a papier maché cowboy or his grandfather who played a cardboard piano. I'm not sure which, but I've got a cardboard ear on a string to prove it (one of a misheard thirteen years).