Sunday, June 24, 2018

Talko

This weekend's work has been to start to write a talk for the KISMIF conference in Porto the week after next. It will be fun to do because it will be so centred on music, and today I've been looking for recordings of girls' playground chants from the 1950s. I've found some on the British Library website, complete with Iona Opie's cut glass voice, and some on the BBC website. I'm not sure if I'll use either of them but I know where they are if I need them.
I have also had to write a talk for the University of the East research conference on Thursday about the documentary- and I believe the work on the sound may have been completed, which is very exciting.
I wonder if I will go bonkers when all this work is finished? The work ethic in my family when we were kids was stupidly over-the-top and I seem to have inherited it, plus the stupid amount of energy it needs to service it all. McMum and McDad were always working, even in the evenings.
Maybe I will knit a scarf that reaches as far as the moon, or write an endless crime novel, or embroider a quasi Bayeaux Tapestry or write a 24-hour musical.
Or maybe become a bit more politically active; I described politics through writing academic articles and books as 'slug' politics to the Offsprogs yesterday. It's slow, almost imperceptible and it's collegiate; you are one slice of a much bigger pie (not a slug pie, thankfully: a metaphorical one) that you hope adds up to some sort of positive social change, and you hope your lecturing is adding to that too.
Sometimes I feel like getting on a noisy, galloping horse and screaming at the top of my voice through a megaphone. The problem with that is that quite often, the louder you shout, the less likely people are to want to listen. I learned this as a young child, just like everyone else did; only babies scream, and then a dummy gets plopped into their mouth.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Punk Rocka, 1978


Hours

Several hours of writing and editing today after meeting the series editor, and my former PhD supervisor, in Hastings on Wednesday. I did a first draft edit a couple of weeks ago and this is the second time around. It's very absorbing: now it is mostly to do with structure and style. The only time I stop working is when the computer runs out of juice and I have to recharge it.
Why not bring the charger upstairs? Probably because it's good to take  break from time to time.
Meanwhile, the sound for the documentary is being cleaned up by our intern, and we should get a  chance to listen to that next week.
I have never worked so hard before in my life- at least not since the Offsprogs were small and I had a full time job as well as being a Mum to two children under the age of five.
Blimey, I remember those days!
Having a sabbatical that runs out in July, and having an intern whose contract runs out at the end of next week, have concentrated matters greatly. I've still had loads of marking to do as well, and some teaching too. I think it would feel stressful, except for the fact that gigging keeps me sane, and also there is the feeling that I'll have a sense of achievement when all this has finished. The book started in 2011, and the documentary in 2015; it will be great if I/we can finish both this year and move on to new things. I have been invited to do more writing for academic publications; at the moment, running a hundred miles has more appeal, but it's an honour not to be taken lightly and things will feel different once this book is off the computer and on its way to the editor.
In anticipation of finishing all this off, I'm starting to book gigs for the autumn; by then I hope to have a box of vinyl singles in the living room. That will be very exciting.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Interview for Loud Women Gig, 14th July

It was lovely to meet Cassie, and Concrete Bones (thanks for taking this pic)- looking forward very much to the gig at the Hope and Anchor, headlined by Tokyo Taboo.
It was bloody hot down there in that basement yesterday: fringe curl alert!

Interruption, Mining and Bypassing

Every time my Smartphone updates it's operating system, it gets harder to take information from it (like photographs, notes and music) without engaging with the internet. And of course, every time a user engages with the internet, your content is intercepted, mined and stored without your consent.
I've dusted off my digital camera; I use a dictaphone to record interviews, and now I have started carrying a notebook again to write things down in.
I only want to share what I want to share, with people who I want to share it with, don't you?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Father's Day

More than ten years Dad, and I still want to phone you for a chat. I miss you.



The Song of the Landsman's Soul

Till the soil in the morning
Plant a seed in the sun
Dig your troubles into the earth 
To dissolve when the day is done
Start the day with a smile
Watch the future begin to unfurl
Till the soil in the morning
Sing of the Landsman’s soul.

Till the soil in the daytime
In the heat of the midday sun
Helping hand for the green shoots 
Whose journey has just begun
Start the day with a smile
Watch the future begin to unfurl
Till the soil in the daytime
Sing of the Landsman’s soul.

Seasons pass; a living painting is not meant to last
Here and now, the fragile beauty that blooms in a  flower, in a  flower.

Till the soil in the evening
Rose gold blush in the sky
Close your eyes in the sunset
At the end of a harvest day
Your started each day with a smile
You watched the future begin to unfurl
Till the soil in the evening
Sing of a Landsman’s soul.

Seasons pass; a living painting is not meant to last
Here and now, the fragile beauty that blooms in a  flower, in a  flower.

Till the soil in the evening

Sing of the Landsman’s soul.

Ugh

Just spent an hour cleaning the fridge. Hell on earth.

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Fiddler's Elbow: Northern Soul on a Friday Night

Linda Yarwood and Kevin Birchall, DJ-ing at The Fiddler's Elbow in Camden, and filling the dance floor. All vinyl, and all good stuff!


Grenfell Tower

It is so massively frustrating reading about the Conservatives fighting and posturing over leaving the EU, as though all that matters is their stupid political party. Meanwhile, it seems as though the entire United Kingdom is collapsing underneath them. They are supposed to be a government, not a group of teenagers squabbling in a boarding school common-room. They are supposed to represent all of us, not just themselves and their face-saving and money-grabbing behaviour.
Sorry, it's the Grenfell thing.
Normally I don't post my political opinions because reading other people's rants is boring; but the complete disrespect that has been shown to this group of residents of the capital city of England is completely impossible to comprehend.
I don't know if you have been past that building but it is the largest tombstone in the world- it is utterly desolate. It stands there and makes you want to scream with the horror of it all. It's a burned-out skeleton of a place that is a monument to everything that is wrong with the greed that wracks property development, and the profits that are made in large British urban areas by landlords who think money is just so much more important than human beings.
Oh, how dignified the survivors and relatives have been! They must be so very, very angry, mixed up with feelings of terrible bereavement and loss. Meanwhile, the rest of us feel completely impotent. And actually, ashamed: we can do better than this, surely?

Earrings

I can't find my newest earrings anywhere. I tried 'Find' on the laptop, but that didn't work.

In The Thunderbolt Garden

This is Rocker, who runs Dandelion Radio. We recorded some songs yesterday lunchtime (I think we did five) and Tim Rippington took this photo; he says it looks as though we're in a garden centre.
Rocker sports a t-shirt with the new name of the multiply-nomenclatured Charlie Tipper Band, many of who were in attendance last night and it was lovely to see them- I miss doing stuff with them. There were so many of them that band members seemed to appear and disappear every time you blinked.
Big thanks to Jane Barnes for putting the gig on- and choosing such excellent bands to play the night. Pearls had delicate, ethereal songs with lovely minimal drums and gentle interplay between the cello and the vocal; Bush and Fey's songs interrogated middle-aged manhood with ruthless humour and a surprising amount of tender perception.
Good audience too- up for a bit of singing along, even at the very end. Thank you.
I am knackered (that's why my hair is hanging round my face, so I can hide in it). Back home, I'm slumped in a chair but Kevin and Linda are down from Congleton doing Northern Soul, so I'm going to have a siesta. Best physical therapy for a body wracked with pain after carting a guitar around for miles- a bloody good dance!
A demain, tout le monde.
P.S.  I đź’• The Thunderbolt. 
Where else does the venue owner hoover the stage carpet before the gig starts? 


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Saturday Night With The London Set

Filmed at Oporto, Leeds by June Whitfield. Thanks to Gary Stewart for inviting me to play- I enjoyed your set; it was lovely to hear you again. Four Sessions were great too!

Decision Made

It's going to be 'Saturday Night with the London Set' and 'These Streets'.
Thank you for your help!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Proofreading, Leeds

Yes, I am. Here is proof (ahem).
There are lots of corrections to be made and some re-structuring; that's a job for Wednesday.
Bit more of this today before the gig.


Saturday, June 09, 2018

Hull'n'Leeds

Hull tonight with Sleeperman, Graham Beck and Doodlebugnuggets, Leeds on Monday with Paul Handyside.
Bag loaded with CDs and a draft of my book to read through and continue editing on Sunday.
Have never worked so hard: we did two days of editing the She-Punks film on Thursday and Friday and there is still more to do.
Being this busy is great though-all of the projects are really stimulating to work on.

Naturally, there are a lot of background stresses; life would not be normal if everything went smoothly. No point in going on about those.

Sometimes it is nice just to stare out into space for a while, and dream about the countryside and proper fresh air that you can breathe deep into yourself.
No computer (ah: the ball and chain in an aluminium shell!); no phone (nobody ever used to phone me, apart from the Offsprogs, and I didn't even notice how unnecessary I was: now it pings and beeps like a baby android wanting a feed).

Thank you to those who are listen-voting to the music on Soundcloud. It looks like there are front-runners already!


Friday, June 08, 2018

Daniel Coston's New York

Daniel is a talented music photographer and historian (and a fan of The Zombies), who mainly chronicles the lives and times of musicians in North Carolina.
He blogs too, here: http://danielcoston.blogspot.com and he has very kindly sent some photographs he took of New York.
It is truly a photogenic city.
You'll have to fly over to see The Zombies again, Daniel- and take some photographs of London to see if you can make it look as good as this!
I was hoping to go to see them in Bexhill, the only place left with any tickets, but too may early mornings frantically writing took their toll and I had to sleep!




A&R Choices

Please can you help me to choose what to put on the vinyl single? The  two tracks with the most plays before Tuesday are the ones that I'll use. Thank you!








Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Tracks

And the tracks have arrived from Tom. Four... and I can't decide which two to put on the single. Have the worse ones turned out better, and the better ones turned out worse?
You can't A&R yourself- it's impossible. Much harder than doing and album where you're making a jigsaw and aiming for a particular picture.
I think I might post all 4 on Soundcloud and see which gets played the most over the weekend....
Watch this space.

Stay Out Of The Zone

This morning we re-did the mix of Shola's song to re-balance the vocals. Working out how to bed vocals properly in a track is an interesting puzzle; the idea of is sounds so easy but in actual fact, it's not, and the recording has to sound good on phone speakers as well ask big bad brutes, and that's another puzzle.
When the song sounds right (ears rest, always, after a mix) and Shola has approved it, I'll ask if I can share it.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Mountainous Terrain

I want to review Sunday Shenanigans but I'm waiting to be sent a poem by one of the poets, Andrew, which is about how much he hates Outer Space. Send it, Andrew- it's great!

At the moment life seems to consist of mountains: like the bear who went over the mountain, as soon as one has been climbed, there's another one looming on the horizon.

The academic article got accepted yesterday; this is terrific news. It has been redrafted more times than you could possibly imagine but the editors seem pleased with it. What helped enormously was when Offsprog One read it. She was shocked at some of the stuff I'd found out but she suggested that the conclusion should be more simple, and she was right. Sometimes it is hard to state awkward facts without pussyfooting around them, and that word is used advisedly. Half of me, brought up by a strict Presbyterian McMother, doesn't want to state the obvious and rock the boat; the other half, a punk feminist, wants to tip it right over.

The marking is almost finished; the second year at University is a difficult one for students, sandwiched between the newbie first year experience, and the semi-excited, semi-terrified third year.
They have achieved loads this year, best one for songwriting so far, and Mike, Stuart and Bridgette really pulled out the stops with their lectures. Big thanks, you lot! And big thanks to David for the massive marking workload he did for the third years.

Next mountains? I got up at 6 this morning to start reading through the draft of the book, and to try to strip the sound off a version of the documentary. The first thing worked (up to the limits of my attention span: a few more days to go before re-writing it), the second didn't. Off to work this arvo, remixing Shola's track tomorrow, working on the doc on Thursday and maybe Friday, then gigs in Hull and Leeds.

These are not dull, boring and tedious mountains; they are exciting!

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Hull Next Weekend


From Glastonwick This Arvo

I honestly hadn't imagined this little festival to be such a peaceful and pastoral affair. In the back of my mind were images of rufty tufty old punks in ancient leather jackets wobbling about slopping beer all over the place. There was beer aplenty, but it was being dispensed by genial people with the seriousness of apothecaries and consumed by smiling picnickers in the Sussex sunshine. As I pulled up, Smiley and the Underclass were just finishing their reggae flavoured set. That's them in the first photo, trying to train their lazy eye to see a thrown tennis ball. That's what bands do after they have finished their set: did you know that? The guy on the right trained for the air force, I do believe.
Joe Solo went on next, leading the thronging crowds in a sing-song with his electric folk, followed by Barnstormer 1649, Attila the Stockbroker's band. He can play a multitude of instruments, many of them with a pint of beer in one hand (air force training again, perhaps?) and has a phenomenal amount of energy. He organises this festival every year, with Alex Hall, brewer extraordinaire, and is on-hand to introduce every band. The song dedicated to Robina, his wife, was incredibly touching. She is lovely.
Before I went on we had very rapid catch up. Attila's band Brighton Riot Squad and Joby and the Hooligans played together in The Vault in Brighton, thousands of years ago. He even remembered Joby's mum, Daphne, driving us around.
It's extraordinary to think of all those punk lives, those punk people spreading out all over the place (56 bands rehearsing in the Resource Centre alone), some still playing, some not, and some no longer here (Dick Damage, Big Dave, Dick Piranha to name but three). And of course, Smelly came. He had bumped into Nick from Nicky and the Dots (and later, Stomp!) who basically doesn't have to work because Stomp! have been so successful. Now why didn't I do that instead of this?As he stood there, someone came up and persuaded smelly to be carried aloft through the crowds on an inflatable mattress. despite claiming that his boots were too heavy, he agreed to do it. He is an amenable fellow.
One or two people had identified themselves as Chefs fans (hello Nick Linazasoro!) earlier on. And it was nice to see Simon Pickles from The Pop Guns, who had cycled over- they had played the day before. Afterwards, Combat Shock did a fast and furious set which was really enjoyable, especially the 58-second song about phone sex. And somehow, Attila had the energy to whizz though a one-minute Grime spit when I mentioned Grime music. I had a nice chat with Ese from Ese and the Voodoo People, who I'll see in London next time they are playing, and of course Nick and his pal. It was a very friendly affair.
To crown it all, the perfect shade-bed was growing in the shape of a bendy tree, and that's where I sat and chilled out, with a lovely view of the sky through a filter of leaves.





This photo by Nick Linazasoro, who has reviewed the whole festival.














Review of Saturday here: http://www.brightonandhovenews.org/2018/06/03/glastonwick-festival-is-in-full-flow-day-2/

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Working

Well what is the point of grumbling about working? I know how lucky it is to have stimulating and varied work; however, you occasionally get a week where everything happens at once and this week has been one of that sortuva week. Almost every part of the workscape has come to a head; marking student work, data inputting, the academic article on its fifth rewrite and still taking hours to make imperceptible progress. I've been up at dawn, writing in my pyjamas, hair awry, coffee getting cold, opening and closing files on my computer, forgetting to eat then eating too much...
We are still working on the documentary, which is demanding finer and finer tuning, as well.
Good things? A very positive response to Rendezvous D'Automne, especially by BBC6's Marc Riley, and two lovely gigs coming up this weekend: Glastonwick in Sussex, at the invitation of Attila the Stockbroker on Saturday afternoon, and The Mascara Bar on Sunday as part of The Stoke Newington Music Festival, at the invitation of Fran Isherwood.
In fact, I'm going to stop writing now and play my guitar instead. That's a Very Good Idea.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Out Now!

From here http://gnuinc.co.uk

Marking Time

I've kind of missed the Bank Holiday, as always, because of marking. Even putting the student numbers on the work (they were supposed to do it, but many didn't) takes what seem like centuries.
When the University moved from paper to paperless submissions, the registry threw away something like seven bin-bags of uncollected work which implied that the students only looked at their marks, and not at the painstaking feedback and feed-forward that had been given to them. You have to at least imagine that they look at this stuff or you'd go bonkers.
I have to stop now; the people in the next garden along are drunk and screeching with laughter. I do have ear protectors for when the local DIY gets out of hand, but it's hot and sticky and I've reached my limit for the day.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Transglobal Underground at Stamford Bridge

Transglobal Underground don't play much in the UK so I couldn't miss this gig. I've seen Dubulah's other bands- most of them- from The Simonics (a band made up entirely of Simons and Nicks, who recorded at Elephant Studios in Wapping where the engineers were called Simon and Nick), through the Red River Mountain Boys (an old timey band with stick-on moustaches), Temple of Sound (with Maori singers and dancers), and Dub Colossus (one time in Edinburgh with African musicians, another in Hackney with Mykaell Riley on vocals, a horn section, Winston Blissett and Dubulah both on bass and I can't remember what else, and another at Passing Clouds so late that I had to go home before they played), and of course the occasional gig with me (Lucie's Lounge). I've got at least two Temple of Sound albums, and the band Flavel Bambi Septet, made up of Tim Whelan, Hamid Mantu and God only know who else, came up to the Edinburgh fringe to be the house band for Dr Calamari's Music Hall of the Macabre, way back in the 1980, with Lester Square as the MC.
Too many names?
A bit Old Testament, I confess; maybe you have to be 'in the know', but you didn't need to be to appreciate the music at this gig, which was pure positive dancing energy all the way through. It was great to hear Natacha Atlas sing live, and hear Hamid play again; the percussionist Goldfinger was particularly bouncy, describing the music as 'multiclectic' and at one point, exasperated by the lack of bounce of some members of the audience, shouting 'I'm older than you!! Come on!!'
There, in the background was Dubulah, swopping between bass and guitar, quietly watching one of many teams of musicians he has created music with over the years. We are all survivors of what life throws at us, and we must celebrate the lives we live now: that's the message of this band, multicultural, positive and energising.
The show finished quite early, but early nights are the new late nights, I hear. It was nice to see Dave Jago in the crowd, up from Southend. We have a Helen and the Horns gig in Brighton in August. Yet more names: we all seem to have worked with at least one of us, at one time or another.
Or something.




Back

Back to piles of marking, internet glitches, portals f*cked, phone calls to IT people and booking.com (site down and multiple charges made to debit card for duplicate bookings); what a mess normal life is. Administrators have all been sacked to save money, and recorded voices offer options you don't want, IT professionals gaslight you with impunity, then have to actually apologise (horrors!) when the whole site collapses, and things that should have take half a day will now take the whole weekend.
I'm so glad I went away.
I am looking forward to hearing the recordings.
I met my friend Laura, whose whole family have been friends with my family for three generations and who I haven't seen since she was twelve and I was fourteen; we went to YWCA camp together and managed to survive the experience. We wandered around Boston and then went back to her lovely house in the New Hampshire countryside to talk, eat and catch up.
I went to visit Jane and her baby Emile and ate leek and potato soup in their apartment in Brooklyn, and I met up with Jenn Pelly, who has just completed the book on the Raincoats, for a coffee and a long chat.
Add to that the meandering (seven miles one day, eight miles another), the quirky museums (more to come on that after the marking mountain has been conquered), the park, the YMCA (a unique experience) and a seamless journey back after a struggle through the muggy rush hour Subway with a  suitcase that defied my 'poorly arm', and it has been bliss to be on a completely different planet for a few days.
No jetlag on the way back- how peculiar. Offsprog One reckons that maybe my body clock simply didn't adjust, which makes sense. And now also for the fifth attempt at re-writing the academic article that bounces back as regularly as a rubber ball. This time, though, I'm doing it for the sistaz and will publish myself if they don't do it!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Recording With Tom Again

Tom and Lisa live out at Queens, and I probably chose the longest route there that it was possible to choose. I got the Subway to Flushing, which is a fascinating Korean suburb, and then caught a slow local bus from there to the area where they live.
There was a minor hiccup: Tom had arranged to borrow a Spanish guitar and a solid-body from a local music shop, but there was no-one to be seen when we went to pick them up. We hovered and hoped and peered through the shuttered window, but in the end Tom had to try to find someone else who would hire instruments to us- you'd think that would be easy in New York but it's not. After a lot of searching, we managed to find somewhere and we were just setting off, when the original guy phoned and said he'd opened up and was waiting there for us.
The first solid body had gravelly pots and sticky strings but the second one had a nice strong sound- Seymour Duncan pickups- and we went back and made a start. I'd decided to do electric and acoustic versions of each song, but the songs soon dictated what they wanted and two were recorded on the Spanish guitar and two on the electric. Tom has become so swift at editing and although he now works mainly as a mix engineer, he had put together a really great recording set-up for this session. We recorded the four songs on guitar, and  then because my voice was rough at the bottom end and I had no head-room (jet lag), we stopped for the day and chatted to his wife Lisa and their lovely little baby who was all smiles and who is a ball of fun and energy.
Next day was vocal day and it didn't take long to put the vocals on the songs.
I had realised the day before that coming to Queens to record with Tom again was a really good decision. Time has passed- almost ten years- and we have both got better at what we are doing, but it was as easy as anything to slot right back into working together again. If you have recorded two and a half albums with the same engineer (plus a Christmas EP with a scratch choir on it, which Lisa says they still play every year), at the end of that process you will either be great friends or great enemies, and thankfully we became the first of those.
I can't wait to hear how they sound.
Afterwards we went to a Japanese restaurant and ate ourselves silly.
It is extremely tempting to go back and do next year's album there too; let's see how the next lot of songs develop...
It felt as though no time had passed at all; I was so pleased to see him- and Lisa, who managed to survive the Harrow household where they all lived; and of course, to meet their baby. How often do we get to meet babies? Never! Everyone should have at least one baby in their life just to keep their feet on the ground; this trip, I met two: but more of that in another posting.
I have such fiendish headweirdnessfuckery because of the time zone thing that I can only manage one posting at a time. Can you imagine a night flight, a red-eye, then having to do marking? A whole day of it tomoz, then the fifth rewrite of an article that I'm trying to get published.
Oh, but New York: what a city.



Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra

I couldn't get a ticket for the early show at eight but took the risk of the ten thirty.
It was a mistake to stop off in Times Square on the way there because I got seriously hustled and it was frightening. The idea of picking my way to and from Greenwich Village on my own suddenly lost its appeal.
However, food cures all ills and cures all fears too, apparently; although it took a while to locate the venue (going off in the wrong direction from the Subway didn't help), once I was there I joined the smug queue of people with tickets and clambered down the narrow stairs into the teensy club (no more than 123 people allowed in there, appaz) where the audience is so close to the band that they are practically in it.
What a band! Lots of greyhairs, a couple of nerdy whippersnappers, and a slick, breathing big band sound. They play as one: they are like a swarm of bees, leaning in one direction thn the other, rising and falling as they breathe together, reaching over to place microphones for the person doing a solo, the sax players putting their fingers in their ears in unison as the trombones blast behind them in a particularly loud section.
Tight, very New York tunes emanate from the cosy stage area; they explain life through music, looking blissful as they listen in between playing. One sax player even uses newsreaders 'explaining hands' during his solo. They are sure we understand their enthusiasm, and we do.
Sorry no photos- forbidden I'm afraid, although I may well try to draw them from memory at some point. They were fascinating.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

New York

New York is foggy tonight, and has been rainy all day. It was a nightmare getting here because the flight was delayed by more than four hours, and part of that time involved the Norwegian Airlines staff trying to reorganise all the seating for the whole enormous planeload so that we could fly in a jumbo jet run by a Spanish airline.
The good bit was that I got to sit in the lump on top, which was something I never in a million years imagined that I'd ever do. It was impossible to sleep though, partly because of turbulence- not enough to make you afraid but enough to wake you up if you nodded off, and partly because the huge seats had all sorts of mechanical gadgetry; you could slide them into a flat position bit by bit, lifting up the footrest and lowering the headrest, you had folding down little reading lights and a folding table in the arm rest, and so much legroom. But all night long the whirring of the mechanisms gently whined as people adjusted their positions; it was a unnerving as it was exciting.
Then at JFK (cheers, Norwegian), I ended up being the only person from the whole flight waiting for transport into town- at 11.30 at night. That was frightening, but the shuttle bus eventually turned up and lots of other late passengers crammed at another terminal.
So I got to the YMCA at 1.30 a.m. and checked into this Spartan room, which has a fabulous view across Central Park.
I can't upload photographs at the moment because this is an iPad and mostly doesn't work. It's horrible to type on too because your fingers feel like spider legs tippy tappying on it.
The recording part of the trip has been perfect. It was fantastic to work with Tom again, and meeting his little baby was amazing. We got four tracks down, and he's going to mix them.
Tomorrow, I have a long trip to visit Laura, who I haven't seen since she was twelve and I was fourteen. On the way, I'm going to get some work done: I printed out a very basic version of my book to read.
So this is a working visit, but at the same time I've walked the (Hi) Line, been to Williamsburg, visited the amazing Folk Museum and just generally wandered around using both my feet and the Metro Card.
Time for a shower- a competitive business because we share bathrooms at the YMCA, and there aren't enough to go around. I mistakenly allowed a soaking wet cyclist to go before me, this morning, which meant that I missed out on things. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Letter

Dear Gran

I am sorry not to be visiting your birthplace this time around, but I will come back another time.
I remember hanging out with you and your friends; you were so worried about what I would write about them in your diary that you tried to bribe me with a dollar, to show you what I'd written that day. But I hadn't written anything; I found them fascinating, just as you were.
You had so many adventures and there were so many layers to your personality. I understand how you always saw the good in everything and everybody and how important it was to you to do that, in order to keep the darkness away. You saw cruelty, and you experienced it too. But you were a fabulous grandmother and you never lost your ability to play or to understand the child in people, no matter how sophisticated they were. You also rather liked baddies because they were exciting, although you didn't want them around us, your grandchildren.
Whenever life kicks me in the teeth, I think about you and your survival strategy of always to be positive and always to be interested in other people and their stories.

Sending you love from Planet Earth,

Your granddaughter Helen xxx

Monday, May 14, 2018

Compass

Just bought a little compass- a metal adventure's compass- from the bookshop, so I can navigate around New York without getting my phone out, because it's a north/south/east/west city.
It says on the box that it's a metal adventurer's compass, so that must mean that I'm a metal adventurer.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Punks Wait For Their Guitars To Arrive

Alpacas from yesterday; more to come, after (another) graft day. Tina, their boss, is out of the picture. She has magnificent fluttery eyelashes, dark brown fur, and can spot a camera at a hundred yards.
These are therapeutic alpacas who belong to the organisation Animal Antiks, and they visit troubled children and autistic children who need something more than complicated human company to make them feel safe and comfortable.
Not only can these clever chaps play guitar, but they also spit at each other when they are annoyed like proper punk rockers. Llamas spit at humans more often, apparently, because they have nastier temperaments than alpacas; alpacas only have teeth on their lower jaw and have hard gums on the upper one.
You learn a lot at Literary Festivals.


Saturday, May 12, 2018

Guitars Located!

I can't believe that next weekend I will be in New York recording with Tom Greenwood again. Tom recorded both Suburban Pastoral and Poetry and Rhyme, plus some of the tracks on Hamilton Square.
Norwegian Airlines don't carry fragile baggage and I've been worried about taking a guitar but Tom has found a friendly music shop to hire some at minimal rates.
This is so exciting!
The beginning of this year was terribly dark: a fog of painkillers, and the shock of realising how things can suddenly happen that make a huge impact on everything in your life.
Trying to edit an academic article with a curdled brain and an ability to type with only one finger.
Months of sleeplessness because of the relentless pain (never break an elbow- that funny bone feeling is with you constantly, 24/7 and painkillers wear off after a couple of hours).
Taking days to be able to bear to wear a guitar and stand up to play (they are heavy buggers).
An unbearable feeling, the feeling of being sorry for myself.
Sitting with my hand in the air for hours at a time to stop the swelling and bruising from becoming really frightening and dramatic.
Drawing a very painful, powerful drawing that summed up the feelings of being dumped two years ago which made a friend cry when they saw it.

What a wonderful NHS we have; they were proud of the work they did in fixing it up.
The surgeon smiled with delight at the mobility of the mended arm and relayed a message from the operating surgeon to ask if I'd managed to do my gigs (I only cancelled one, in the end).

Travelling light and light-hearted! What better thing is there in life?

The Bardaid Literary Festival

The Bardaid people continue their good work creating libraries in phone boxes and schools with this event today in Hertfordshire. I will be there as part of a panel in the afternoon at about 2 p.m. and will be selling copies of the Lost Women of Rock Music later on.


Friday, May 11, 2018

Gratitude

Up at eight for the builders, I started writing.
By eleven thirty, I was a spent force and they were finished.
The rest of the day has been occupied in answering University correspondence, shoving unfeasibly heavy furniture back into place, washing the floors, taking things upstairs, taking things downstairs, laundering dusty things and generally exhausting every muscle in my body.
Trying a siesta was fruitless; the goldfinch was trilling at maximum volume.
I looked for my black lyrics book.
Shit!
It wasn't in the Usual Places.
I remembered leaving a book full of lyrics on the tube once and never getting it back.
Had I thrown the black lyrics book away in a fit of cleanliness when I was clearing the house so the builders could smash the damp plaster off the walls?
Had it been recycled this morning when the bin men came?
Are the dustmen singing their way through my songs right this minute in their deep dusty voices, accompanied by a battered guitar that a disinterested child has thrown away?
No! Here it is, midway through an unlikely pile!

Relieved, I sing every single song as a prayer of gratitude.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

'Summer Days' Mixed By Stuart Moxham

Sixty

I've sent out more than 60 pieces of student work today. They have worked hard and done well and I feel proud of their achievements. Big thanks to David and Bridgette for helping out with the teaching and marking while I've been on sabbatical.
The book writing feels like a mountain to climb. All the information is there, but it's not in the right order yet. I have done so much research but the publisher wants integrated interviews, which has meant going back to the drawing-board. I'm not the world's most patient person: I just want people to be able to read it right now. Academic books don't work like that though, and I can't say I should have been a journalist, because I shouldn't have been. Being a writer happened as a different sort of accident and wasn't intentional.
After this, its strictly songs (and crime novels).

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Recording

In a deep hole excavated in the piled up furniture, the microphone met the interface and the interface met the computer.
We were doing BVs and a unison vocal for a Stuart Moxham song called The Hill, which is exceptionally catchy.
It was one of those subtraction jobs. A few weeks ago I slathered the poor song with vocals; most of this session was spent taking them away.
On Sunday I will climb over some furniture and retrieve the guitar to put a bit of jangle on to the song.
Tomozza and the next day, they are Writing Days with Robert Dyas Orange Ear Protectors, as the builders smash the damp plaster off the walls downstairs.

Unearthing

The damp in my house has finally got to the point where it needs to be sorted out; cue much moving of hefty furniture, piles of paper that can't be thrown away yet because they belong to the book project, clothes, guitars and general stuff (actually, General Stuff commands a Dustball Army).
There were lots of photographs buried in the heaps, including this one that Jacob took for Myspace back in the day. I quite miss Myspace; it had an innocence about it. When it started, somebody told me about it and said you could make lots of friends.
'What's the point of that?', I thought, 'I have got friends anyway'.
Yes.


Tuesday, May 08, 2018

The Washing Machine

The old washing machine became increasingly independent, rather like an adolescent.
You had to press buttons again and again, and it would decide on a whim whether it would do the things the button were telling it to do.
The washing machine repair man is very nice and very patient, but when he moved his toolbox in I decided I'd had enough.
Now, the new washing machine (very cheap and with rather a large scary eye) works like a dream. It is quiet, reliable, efficient and when it has finished it plays a jolly little tootly tune.
As soon as it's legal, I'm going to marry the new washing machine, for all the above reasons.
Ahhhh!

Monday, May 07, 2018

Lewes, Last Night

Big thanks to Foz for last night's gig supporting Rory McLeod.
Rory is a true troubadour, spending most fo his life travelling; his music shows the influences of all of the different countries that he has travelled to, picking up flavours that add to his skills in playing the spoons (makes me want to pick up the knuckle bones again from the Dom Flemons workshop), tapping and most importantly playing guitar and singing.
These guys, they play the guitar as though it is part of their bodies. The audience was enraptured and he played for two and three quarter hours, as he sang and joked his way through a balmy summer evening. Iraq-na-phobia? Almost as bad as one of mine!
Lovely to see family members, Kim and a lone Asbo Derek sporting a very fine Sleaford Mods t-shirt.



Lewes, This Morning

At 9.15 a.m. the café was full of clog dancing ladies dressed in puritan garb- long pastel-coloured linen dresses, long white aprons and white linen bonnets, drinking cappuccinos before their event.
At the station, a young squirrel was trying to pluck up courage to cross from one platform to the other across the rails.
Up to the edge, paws down over the edge.... nope.
A bit further up the platform, it tried again:
Up to the edge, paws down over the edge... nope.
It tried a few times and finally made it down.
Arriving at the rails, it ran up and down before it regained its sense of direction, and tried to cross.
BOING!!!!
The poor little thing had touched the live rail and it shot into the air by at least half a metre, flipping and landing back in between the rails again.
It nursed its sore paw for a couple of minutes and was obviously having a think; when its paw had recovered, it scurried back up to the platform it had left from and headed off in another direction entirely.







Saturday, May 05, 2018

Curious Robin

I'm standing at the window in the kitchen with an electric guitar slung over my shoulder, getting used to the weight before the gig tomorrow; I sing, and play with no amplifier (very quietly: pring, pring, pring).
There is a fluttery commotion at the back of the yard, where the peanuts slowly rot in a metal bird-feeder.
Suddenly, two robins appear on the dark concrete ground in front of the back door.
One springs up to the gutter just next to the window and peers in, curiously. It's beak is full, and eyeing the window to work out what is going on, it cocks its head from side to side.
The other bounces about measuring distances, and checking in on its pal from time to time.
The robin in the gutter starts to sing along out of the side of its beak, a worm hanging down incongruously.
Its shiny little eye is fixed on the strange coloured shadow on the other side of the glass that holds a long wooden device with six glittering strings emanating an odd pinging sound, with a calling human face above it.
I dare not stop playing until the robin has vanished back into next door's garden.

Friday, May 04, 2018

An Afternoon

What a lovely slow day.
Newly driving again, I drove slowly to St Albans and slowly got lost.
Normally when this happens I almost cry, but I didn't. I slowly fished the Satnav out from under the car seat, programmed in Ruth and Dave's address, drove to their house and slowly manoeuvred the car backwards and forwards on their hard drive (is that what it's called, the concrete bit outside the front of a house?) while an elderly man paused and slowly turned to watch.
I have missed going up there; the reggae, the coffee, the cat, and of course, Ruth and Dave.
While the coffee was brewing, I sang the verses of Rendezvous D'Automne with a more chilled approach (Cameron, moi?), had a relaxing chat, payed the electronic drum kit for ten minutes or so, drank some more coffee, sang a bit more, then sat on their back hard shoulder (patio?) admiring their stripy cat and eating a very nice lunch.
Vic and Mandy arrived on their way to Newmarket; Vic listened and I sang a line again. This is for an album that he will be releasing soon, and they played me another track, a mad electronica cover of an Asbo Derek song which is very rude (surprise surprise!) and very danceable.

The cat went down the garden and turned her back on us all.

Caroline Coon's Exhibition, Liverpool

Caroline has a solo exhibition at The Gallery, Liverpool that is well worth going to see if you can.
She has a distinctive style with something of the 1930s about it, although her subject matter is very much 21st Century.
Many of her paintings are erotic, twining the sexuality of flowers and plants together with the human body. Others are reflective of where she lives in Notting Hill- the real Notting Hill, not the film version once praised for its 'special effects' by Brinsley Forde of Aswad ("no black people at all"). As a painter, her attention to detail is incredible, and this close observation is what makes her commentary so powerful- and sometimes damning.
Caroline's independent voice is much to be appreciated in the current chaotic times, and so is her ability to place her intellect in equal placing with her appearance, which is a revolutionary act in itself.

Details: http://thegalleryliverpool.com/news/caroline-coon-the-great-offender/


Thursday, May 03, 2018

Oh And

Wash the kitchen floor.

Plans For the Day

Im off out to vote in a minute; living in Barnet, we have a very close call between the Tories and Labour, and it makes it seem particularly essential to vote.
The frantic eBAying is going to continue; it feels like an extra job, but although some things I expected to make a lot (a Cath Kidston tea dress sold for less than £20 which is really unusual), and some people don't seem to think they need to bother to pay for their stuff, I am more than mid way to paying for the accommodation in New York. Plus there is more space in the house, which can only be a good thing, because the builders are coming in next week to fix the damp around the doors and that's going to be a lot of mess, dust and upheaval.
Most of today is going to be spent marking; despite having a sabbatical, that only applies to one job and it's only a part sabbatical. It will have to be done in burst of concentration and focus, and rather meanly, I'm hoping for rain!
The documentary editing is going really well; it's bloody hard work, but the film is looking good. Mega, mega thanks to the wonderful women who have shared their stories with us over the last three years. What personalities, and what great experiences! As we look through the footage replacing bits and pieces, we can see what a pity it is to have to leave so much on the cutting room floor as sacrifices to the narrative; this is very similar to writing books and takes a lot of steely decision making.
About the book writing? Nothing has happened on that front this week. It has been good to have a few days away from it, and gather energy for the biggest task of all, which will be integrating the chapters with the interviews within the big academic section of the book.
I don't know what I am going to do with the sense of relief when these projects are finished; the book, since 2010 (eight bloody years!) and the documentary since 2015. Big journey to the centre of the Earth? Spiritual epiphany? Leave the country?
Later, I'll be doing bit of singing too; tomorrow we are re-recording Francoise Hardy's song Rendezvous D'Automne with Vic Godard, Saturday I'll be finishing the guitar and vocal overdubs on a song for Stuart Moxham and starting a singing session on another song for a chap in Sheffield, and Sunday it's this:



Monday, April 30, 2018

Sunday, April 29, 2018

From The Archive

Commander Lonely by The Chefs




Fold-On-Up-Ah!

Try folding up your clean laundry to this- it's perfect.

Hayfever Fog

Through the fog of hay fever (it's those lovely pretty pink cherry trees and their toxic blossom), I finally completed and submitted an article on gender ventriloquism in recording studios. I will publish it myself if they turn it down because I've sweated blood to write it.
Sometimes I feel that I am not clever enough for my clever job. I am going out for a walk, because you don't need to be clever to do that.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Walking On A Tightrope

This is the most difficult chapter of the book to put together; it describes the extraordinary lengths some blokes have gone to to stop female colleagues from being able to work in recording studios. Pranks are normal, I suspect, but this is making me feel like crying; part of it is in sympathy for what people have described and part of it is in recognition of things that have happened in my own life.
This is the strength of the #metoo movement because it reminds people that they are not alone in their experiences, and they don't deserve to be bullied and belittled. Looking sideways and recognising that there is a pattern of activity can be hugely helpful.
It's like with The Lost Women of Rock Music; you reach a cliff face and you can't jump. I'm not an investigative journalist and I have to respect people's careers. Books and presentations at academic conferences have to retain a level of politeness and formality that simply doesn't exist for you if you're a woman in the record industry. I know some men have experienced abuse too; there is a tremendous imbalance of power in the creative industries and it's possible for a person's career to be totally trashed by someone displeased by their unwillingness to be controlled.
Sometimes, I say to people that writing histories about forgotten or under-appreciated women acts as a sort of therapy, a slow unwinding of anger. This morning, however, I feel like going out and smashing something up; its almost impossible to sit quietly reading through these women's experiences and trying to make a narrative out of them. It hurts. Watch out world.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Tedium of eBay

Photograph, photograph, photograph.
Upload, upload, upload.
Answer questions, answer questions, answer questions.
Pack and post, pack and post, pack and post....
Nothing done today, though there's a lot of stuff up there already, all being sold to semi-finance the recording in New York.
Scary and exciting both at once; stop complaining about eBay!

Swedish Cinnamon Buns

It took the entire afternoon to make these ugly beauties. I ground up cardamom seeds with a pestle and mortar, then remembered that the Turkish shop across the road probably sold cardamom. It does.
Then I used ancient yeast powder left in the cupboard by an Offsprog and it didn't froth, so I had to go out to get some more, and throw away a bowlful of yeast, milk and sugar.
It took 20 minutes of backbreaking kneading to stop the dough from being sticky. 'Add flour' meant the kitchen was full of flour fog, and footprints in the fine white sand on the kitchen floor.
The first batch were too pale and tasteless, although they swirled in a very stylish fashion.
The second batch- yum yum! Half a ton of cinnamon and half a ton of sugar.
I have eaten so many that I feel sick.


Driving Again

After a flat battery and two flat tyres (bit like me in the past couple of months) I went out for a spin. Oh how I love driving! The silence and the sky, and the quiet gliding through traffic flow.
Peace, endorphins, and mobility. Yay!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Mad Moths and Peculiar People

I seem to be meeting a large number of new unpleasant people at the moment; liars, try-it-ons, and general fakes. Rather than letting this become upsetting, perhaps the best thing to do is to treat them as a specialist collection, and celebrate the fact that I have such an expanding collection of ne'er do wells. Mine is bigger than yours.
Same with moths. The house is full of them. They have been rebranded as a moth farm and zoo, and I'm putting some of them up for sale on eBay for people who want their clothes to have that genuine vintage look complete with holey areas and nibbled cuffs. You read it here first!
When visitors come, I'll wow them with room full of glittering, fluttering insects that disappear into a puff of dust at the clap of a hand. How jealous everyone will be.
There, that's life sorted out in a couple of paragraphs.
Next!

Editing

It's now nearly 12 and I've been editing since 8.30 this morning, first the writing until my head started buzzing, and now the documentary. I can hear the accordion player on the High Street. He has got more stamina than me!
The AA are coming to start my car up; I've not driven for four months and wanted to take it to get it's tyres checked out but it won't start, although I started it from time to time just to check that the battery was working.
Work, work, work, work, work.....

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Stalled

Graft has stalled; a student video is being uploaded and it's taking its time. An unfeasible amount of housework is getting done (it's a long time since I cleaned behind the cooker's ears: yuk), the blues is on constantly, and I've even repotted Lily, who is entering a second phase as a garden plant.
The scaffolders-out-front are taking a day's rest, but they have been replaced by drillers and bangers out back, orchestrated with Bee Vees (joke) from a herd, not as big as a swarm, of bees who are humming and buzzing out there, rendered dizzy by the aromas of sudden spring.
I have to dodge them as I vainly try to persuade dried twigs of former plants to come back to life; oddly, some grumpy buggers are thriving. The gentians, the oxalis and a clematis formerly known as 'not worth it' are positively joyous, and a clutch of pansies that seemed to be rotting in their polystyrene box (it was too cold to plant them out) are raising their little faces to the sun with glee.
The upload... grr... has gone from 55 minutes to two hours. I shouldn't have interrupted it by writing this!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Grafting Friday

We are hard at work, me and the scaffolders. The heat has rendered them less vocal this morning although they did some fantastic sonic work this morning; almost electronica-like burbling, echoes and reverbs swirled around the back yard when I went out for the morning constitutional.
I've done an hour's writing and have another hour to go before the scholarly muscle is exhausted; then it's time to watch the documentary and do a bit of restructuring all ready for next week's re-edit.
And then...
... the Herculean task of putting stuff up on eBay, mostly clothes but also one guitar which it will be a wrench to say goodbye to, but I don't play it. It gave me one lovely song, and has spent the rest of its ten years with me wrapped up in its case just waiting to be played, which is not what a guitar should experience. With any luck I will make enough money to pay for a week's accommodation in New York.
Scary and exciting both at once, but I'm so glad to have planned ahead, because my arm has almost entirely healed up. Things could have been so much worse; health is precious, worth more than any amount of money.
I have also stopped being frightened of falling over and doing it again, which is a good thing.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Go Sunshine!

Back Yard Slapback

There is a fantastic slapback effect on the yelling and crashing from the street outside front, in the back yard. Wow. Now doesn't that sound like song title?

Procrastination Break

Oddly, the noisy scaffolders across the road are quite good companions. 'Yah! Hur hur hur', they larf at little jokes, instruct each other in loud cockney voices, drill in harsh bursts; thump and clang.
'Clip, clop, clip, clop', they mock a lady in high heels walking past, oblivious to me mocking them from behind the net curtain.
Humans are snobs, aren't we?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Logging Vids

It's been an early start; I'm logging Trash's interview this morning. With a borrowed camera, lots of the film is shaky because I couldn't manage a tripod and a guitar on the trip to Edinburgh. I swapped over to the iPhone in the end, partly because the sound wasn't synching with the image, but apparently that's normal and it's something to do with buffering, and it's come out fine (apart from the wobbling).
I'm not a cameraperson, that's for sure.
Logging is incredibly tedious; it takes hours. For the earlier parts of the film, I used to sit working all day in Corbridge, glancing out at the great outdoors and wishing I'd chosen to be a gardener; but then the sense of pride when we showed the in-progress version of the film at last at The British Library made it all worthwhile.
Numbers, notes, beginnings, endings, numbers, notes, beginnings, endings....
Alas, it's a gorgeous day out there. The back door is open and the birds are tweetling away. There are what seems to be hundreds of bees buzzing around the yellow tree-that-I-don't-know-what-it-is. There are a few sad twiggy things in pots that were decimated by the double winter that happened last month- one of them looked as though it was going to survive but it was like a fight where someone gets punched in the face, decked, and then given a good kicking for good measure. It's in a sunny spot with lots of water just in case it wants to have another try, but I think it's well and truly kaput.
I can't do much out there yet because I'm not strong enough to lift heavy pots about the place, so it's probably good to have this task to do. And of course, I'm procrastinating. Every time I write a blog posting like this which is essentially about nothing, it's because I should be doing something else.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Saturday Night With The London Set

Filmed by Jane Barnes at The Cluny 2 Newcastle on Friday 13th April. Dedicated to the shared past of gig goers who simply won't give up!

Social

It's the social side of gigging that adds to the fun. Bid was thrilled that Pauline Murray and Rob from Penetration turned up on Friday, though he'd disappeared off for a fag when I took them backstage to meet him. Pauline is recording a new solo album which will be out in the autumn- that's great to hear.
It was fab to catch up with Mick, June and Laura and to go to the cat café with them and catch up on their news.
Lastly, I enjoyed the social interaction with a freshly baked cinnamon bun at the Swedish café Dala on Sunday morning; that was little short of bliss, and I'm going to learn how to make them, and get fat.

Monday, April 16, 2018

So Saturday....

Because I haven't driven for ten weeks (the second last thing to be reintroduced after cracking my elbow on the NHS march), I got the bus up to Newbiggin by the Sea to play The Argyle Rooms. Jason Thomson and Rebecca, his partner, host these monthly house concert in their living room, and they are convivial and warm-hearted hosts.
Beccy Owen was also playing and I had been intrigued to listen to her singing her songs; she runs pop-up choirs all over the north east and also writes songs for theatre groups. I was blown away by her voice, which is truly gorgeous. Her pitching is absolutely spot on and she has a sort of huskiness that lots of pop singers aspire to, but don't get anywhere near to. I have her album (we did a swap) and I'm really looking forward to hearing it. She is coming back into music after taking a break, and played some new material on Saturday which augurs well for her next gigs. I hope to get to see her again- especially if she forays down this way, which I have a feeling she might do in the not too distant future. Brilliant. And thank you Jason and Rebecca, and your lovely friends. The craic was a good as the music!


So Friday...

Start again.
Hello Cluny 2- I remember you!
The stage has moved to a better place and the Monochrome Set were checking when I got there.
Rupert and Phoebe from Big Pink Yacht were there already and it was really nice to see them again and yak with them in the dressing room.
Caryne and Dave had set up the merch stall; the Monochrome Set have a new album out, Maisieworld on the German label Tapete (home to Friedrich Sunlight and Louis Philippe, amongst others) and are touring to promote it.
Big Pink Yacht did a neat set of songs that somehow pulled in influences both from California and the Celtic world; they sing wonderful harmonies together. Their lead singer Imogen plays the fiddle and guitar, Rupert plays electric and acoustic, Phoebe plays bass and John plays drums.Their music is positive and joyful, and they opened the night with a set of catchy, well-arranged songs. I can't wait to hear their first album.
After regaining confidence at last night's gig, I was really looking forward to playing. The audience seemed to be in good spirits and I liked the heckled requests- I did play Let's Make Up, but I'm not ever going to play Thrush again, chaps! I felt very happy afterwards and played some new stuff. Thank you for the friendly reception, Newcastle Monochrome Set audience; it meant an awful lot to me to have a good gig in my home town.
The Monochrome Set took to the stage and roared through their set, mixing up older songs with brand new ones. They had leaping fans down the front who knew all the words and sang along with great dramatic gusto. I couldn't help singing along with The Monochrome Set (I have to, its automatic), and Love Goes Down The Drain sounded brilliant; Maisieworld sounded great too. Basically, Andy Warren is one of my all-time favourite bass players; I remember seeing them at The Moonlight Club in West Hampstead when I was in The Chefs and thinking 'When I grow up, I'm going to have an Ampeg bass stack like Andy Warren's'. I never did, but the bass playing is still up there with the gods. They have 'That bloke from the Blue Orchids' as Vic Godard calls him, on keyboards; he favours an organ sound and after Fay Fife's gig yesterday, what can I say? Organs are big this year.
Bid was in great voice in spite of having a cold (he refused a Fisherman's Friend) and they got a well-deserved encore.
The Monochrome Set gave Helen and the Horns one of our first gigs, at Kingston Polytechnic and Vanessa was there- hi Vanessa!- originally Mike their drummer was going to be in the band, and Lester Square too although rehearsing just with the horns ended up with playing just with the horns.
What an odd turnip for the books. I've just sung on Lester's album (another good 'un) and was sorry to miss the 40th anniversary gig at The Lexington when he returned to the band for the weekend.
Mega thanks to Michael Clunkie for inviting me to play on Friday. It was a really good night for everyone and I was so excited that I couldn't sleep a wink when I got back to the hotel in the armpit of the Tyne Bridge.



So Friday...

Friday night was Newcastle night. On the way from the station, the bumhole cab driver not only didn't put his meter on and double charged me, but he also subjected me to a rant riffing on the fact that "women shouldn't play the guitar" because of our small hands and bodies. I looked at my hands. they are big.
I mean.
In the morning I'd gone to buy some guitar strings in Edinburgh; I asked for a packet of Ernie Ball tens. ''For an electric guitar, yeah?'"
I mean.

So Thursday...

On Thursday afternoon, I had the opportunity to interview the fantastic Trash, of all-female Edinburgh punk band the Ettes. Trash had loads of great stories, and this gives Gina and me a chance to include her in the film.
Later we went on to The Depot in Leith for the Refugee Benefit organised by Liz Tainsh. Liz puts on these events every month and it was great to have the opportunity to support displaced people at a concert like this.
The headliners The Pitiful Few were sound checking when we got there; they play blues with a boogie-woogie feel, led by a keyboard player in a snazzy hat and sharp suit.
First on was Andy Gunn, playing solo (he normally plays with his band). He is a great solo artist too- his guitar playing is absolutely superb. He plays an acoustic guitar, and has a resonant and mellow voice that glides effortlessly through the blues scales in his self-penned songs, a lot of which came from his latest album. I think he will be playing there again with his full band some time in the near future.
I was on next and the audience was in good voice to sing along with The Sea. This was the first proper gig since the fractured elbow and I was actually shaking with relief when I finished. It was such a nice audience though- it couldn't have been a better place to return to it all.
Next was The Countess of Fife- that's Fay Fife to you and me. Boy, was she in good voice! She plays an keyboard with an organ sound and is accompanied by a guitarist who plays searing riffs on a Strat; the two instruments sound amazing together and Fay's 1960s-sounding voice fits into the sound perfectly. Her songs are dark and have a hint of The Cramps about them, all swampy swirls and snarly guitar.
The guitarist told me that his band had supported Helen and the Horns years ago in Dunfermline- yes! I remembered them: So You Think You're A Cowboy. They were really good, sort of rockabilly, and great fun too- they came over the Forth Bridge the next night to continue the festivities at the next gig we did at The Calton Centre;Muriel Gray came along and we drank many a vodka (that was in my drinking days).
I missed some of The Pitiful Few's set, but enjoyed what I saw. Liz is brilliant for organising these gigs and although it was absolutely miserable outside, enough loyal souls came out to make it a good night.
Boy was I glad that a taxi slid by when I left the venue- it was absolutely horrendous out there!