Tuesday, December 31, 2019

On New Year's Eve

I can only share this one day a year; I had meant to do a new mix for 2019, but was too busy carousing this year. Plus the kitchen studio is still swathed in plastic to protect it from cooking injuries.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Pheasant Pluckers and Phighting Back

Greedily, and somewhat like the Queen, I stretched my birthday celebrations over several days this year, culminating in a visit to Brighton to take in a a night that simply couldn't be missed: Asbo Derek and The Band of Holy Joy at the Prince Albert.
Rather like Michael Clunkie in Newcastle, the mysteriously named Jane Barnes has a knack of putting together a good bill, and with Steve at the mixing desk (every band's extra member), things kicked off well from the start.
Asbo Derek's lead singer Jem genially filled the gaps between songs with merry innuendo, and the group ran through their hits, eliciting a yelp of delight from my mouth when they announced Buddhist Lost Property, and also later on by playing another one of my faves, Watch What You Drink, a song which is superb in its silliness. Yes, I love the grubby humour and rude repartee too, but nobody does f*ck-it-all pointlessness like Asbo Derek, and the sheer thrill of hearing a carefully arranged, rehearsed and delivered song that consists of lists of idiotic things received in an email, or dreamed up with a pint around a pub table, is utter bliss for a person with a cracker-joke mentality like me. 'Ha ha ha!!',I guffawed loudly and with total abandonment. And of course, that's why I love them so much! And all delivered over a rifftastic backing: Darcy was on fire. The band are able to hit you with solid political comment too, and I loved the new song Nails that tightened the thread between slave labour in Vietnamese nail bars and the recent tragedy of  container-load of people dying of suffocation. What the bloody hell is going on in the 21st century?
This led us perfectly into The Band of Holy Joy's angry and fierce set. No holds barred, Johny tore into Ian Duncan Smith and roared through the set. The band sounded on top form, with James riffing gloriously, a new bass player who put in a fine show, Daryl drumming with aplomb, Pete playing great keyboards that added a psychedelic flavour to it all, and a new powerful set of images from Inge, whose colours even looked angry as they melted into and out of the screen. In front of it all strode Johny, almost in the audience at times, making damn sure we got the idea behind it all. These are powerful songs: So Sad was a standout song of the night, but my favourite one is The Devil Has a Hold of the Land which is an absolute anthem for this horrible political maelstrom that we find ourselves in. This was a completely inspirational set, and they were joined by Vic Godard for the well-deserved encore (yes, all the stars were out two nights ago!). I am looking forward to working with Johny in 2020, which I reckon is going to be the year the artists and musicians fight back.
Yes, it is.
(p.s. Brian, I hope your thumb gets better soon)
Photos by me and a mysterious stranger.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Excavating Songs

I've spent the afternoon excavating old songs.
One, called Waltzing Away from Winter, I'm sure I recorded about ten years ago but I can't find the recording. I think I did it on Garageband, and the computer that I used died a long time ago. Frustratingly, I can remember the whole thing apart from little run down from the middle 8 to the last verse. The words were in the first place I looked, which is the first time that has happened, ever.
The little run may come back in a dream.
Another, Beachwalk, was recorded as a collaboration and somehow lost its words in the process, becoming an instrumental.
I found the words, but forgot the melody of the middle 8; a new one showed up straight away, and now I'm tinkering away with the words, like a mechanic does with a car, to make it singable.
There has been nothing better to do, and this has been the best thing to do.
Indigestion is knocking at the door, but a diet of cheese straws has kept it at bay. It's a homeopathic trick: eat the thing that gave you indigestion in the first place and it will either get better or worse. In this case, it's been the former, although I'm just about to go out with the Offsprogs and it might get worse again later.
Oh, and I spent the morning writing a new song. It's reached the tantalising stage that if I work on it too much, I'll ruin it. I'm waiting a bit for the best words to come, and a middle 8, I hope.
It sort of wrote itself today, which feels a bit like being given a fabulous present. I have no idea whether it's any good or not, but I will enjoy singing it anyway.

All this because I couldn't be bothered to go out and buy some more clementines from the shop across the road.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

A Poor Christmasser

I'm not a very good Christmasser this year- late or non-existent card-sending, poor present purchase and badly organised social life. Work seems to have ended very late this year,  and even on Friday I was writing a (thoroughly-deserved) reference for someone.
But today I made a loaf of bread. The Offsprogs have eaten half of it already, so it must be OK. I brought the little Christmas tree in from the back yard, and it's got lights on it.
I have lost about three miles of fairy lights somewhere in the house, but can't find them anywhere.
Have you nicked them, readers?
Last night I went with some pals (including my Champagne Friend) to the carol service at Southwark Cathedral, and we managed the 'you don't come to church, so here are some strange carols' part of the service perfectly adequately.
It's nut roast for Christmas dinner if any of us can be bothered to make it; vegetables and Yorkshire pudding if we can't.
We (mostly me) have eaten almost all of the After Eight's in their little record sleeves.
No matter how hard the Offsprogs pretend, I know there are more in there, all for me!
The only downer is the complete lack of Cheese Footballs, apparently on the entire planet.
Or have you got them, Northern Powerhouse?
Maybe Peek Freans (or whoever they are) thinks the Metropolitan Elite don't eat such things. We get Twiglets (pronounced 'Twiglahts') and olives, with hummus and other such slop, and we talk about Jeremy Corbyn in hushed tones while (we are told) the ex-miners celebrate Boris and the Tories.
Oh the joy of stereotypes!
100%!
(is that a Stormzy 100% or a Tory 100%?).
I dreamt that McDad died a second time last night: that's how awful things feel. Being the mother of two twenty-somethings who have directly suffered at the hands of the Tories, and lecturing in an institution where the hopelessness engendered by their selfish policies manifests itself in extreme anxiety in many of it's students, I'm not taking kindly to self-righteous editorials in papers that should know better (that's you, The Guardian), who will only be satisfied when actual Jesus takes over the Labour Party.
Don't you realise that the Tory press would slaughter him, too?
Many people that I know are at full pelt holding up the collapsing old building that is post-colonial Britain, a building shored up by narcissistic men (and Katie Hopkins) who are painting over it's guilty cracks with a disgusting shade of racism.
Oh deary me.
I'm exhausted.
Bring on lazy Christmas Day.
I suspect the nut loaf ingredients will still be piled on the side in the kitchen on Boxing Day.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Oh!

I should be writing, but I'm not.
On Thursday, I witnessed a racist attack in Barnet High Street (not for the first time, but this was the first violent one).
You could say 'unprovoked attack', but apparently for some people, simply belonging to a different culture is a provocation.
A Muslim man had been walking down the street with his son, and his daughter was just crossing the road to meet them.
A young white man punched him in the mouth in front of his children. The man who got punched was shocked and became very angry, and it looked as though it might became a serious fight, so I got out my phone and said I was going to contact the police unless the white man went away.
He walked away, but he carried on gesticulating insults as he walked down the road.
I was trying to describe his expression: it was supercilious.
The victim was really upset. He had blood all over his mouth, and he could not understand why he had been attacked for no reason. His children were shocked too.
I know people from any culture could feel that they can verbally or physically attack a person from another culture.
This is called racism.
No single culture seems to be either immune from being racist, or immune from experiencing racism.
If you experience it or witness it, this is where you report it: http://report-it.org.uk
If you are a racist, you are a coward and a disgrace to humanity.
I can't get this out of my mind.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Tuesday Night (tomorrow) in Tufnell Park

After this, I can get the most humungous cold.
Oh, not really!
I'll be singing the Christmas Queen song.

Music starts at 8 p.m.


Sunday, December 15, 2019

Catharsis

The Daylight Music 100th Birthday celebration at the Union Chapel was lovely on Saturday. It featured artists from the Lost Map record label, which is based on the Isle of Eigg in Scotland.
Calum Easter's accordion songs were marvellous, and Rozi Plain's impassioned speech at the start of her set was an emotionally cathartic moment. Here's to the next 100 gigs and big up Ben Eshmade for putting such a continuous stream of energy into the events. Stamina to be proud of- and the full house on Saturday is testament to the audience's faith in the quality of the music he puts on.
This afternoon was spent at the Betsey Trotwood watching the Dolly Mixture film Take Three Girls. Debsey and Rachel were there hosting the afternoon, which was a lovely relaxed way to spend Sunday. Even though I've seen it before, it still had the same strong emotional impact. It's lovely and should be shown on TV.
I should be working this evening but I'm too tired. It's impossible really to put into words how I feel and there are far too many people putting spontaneous and ill thought-out postings on social media and into the newspapers. The wrong people will always get blamed for what has happened.
I honestly never thought that political gaslighting would take hold to such an extent in Britain. It feels as though the school bullies have won, because nobody wants to admit that they have been cheated and bullied, because admitting to being duped undermines their belief in their own integrity.
Just read Jon Ronson's book The Psychopath Test, and there you will see the whole thing laid out in plain English. Psychopaths ridicule people who think ethics and empathy are important.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for psycopathic minds. Normal people are all weaklings, you see...




Number 35 in the Louder in War Albums of the Year Chart

Many thanks to Cazz Blase and Paul Scott-Bates for fantastic support, always!


Thursday, December 12, 2019

@BBC6MusicBotted


Saturday Night on Wednesday Night

Big thanks to Gideon Coe for playing my song again last night.
Bloody hell, I needed cheering up.
The world seems to have gone mad in the nastiest way possible.
What I really can't understand is people who vote Conservative yet who use, and have used, the National Health service to it's fullest extent for themselves and their children, all their lives.
Maybe it's just me, because (a) I don't believe in private medicine and (b) now, I definitely could not afford it.
But?

https://helenmccookerybook.bandcamp.com/track/saturday-night-with-the-london-set-2

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

I Vote Labour

Propaganda by the Tory press has been remarkably successful at this election.
Their cynicism disgusts me; the Daily Mail has a history of supporting fascists, notably in the Second World War, yet people still read it and believe what it says.
This is the first year that I have actually campaigned directly since I worked at the Labour Party Headquarters in the 1990s.

The driving force as been the deliberate dismantling of the NHS, who cared for my parents when they were sick and dying, who helped me to bring my daughters into the world and who have looked after the health of me and my loved ones for our entire lives this far.

The way they treated and mended my badly broken elbow last year was incredible, and the dignity that they afforded to every patient that first night in A&E was incredibly moving.

It didn't matter whether you were old, young, rich, poor, male, female, black, white, brown or whatever: the scruffiest young man, the most vulnerable baby, the poshest elderly lady, all got the same respect and gentleness from a team of staff who would utterly shame some of the rich and powerful people who strut about our planet as though it is they who own the place.

The kindest gesture was from the nurse who checked me in first of all; I was convinced that I'd only dislocated it, and got a horrible shock when I saw on the x-ray that the bone had almost completely sheared off. After he put the plaster on, I had to go for more x-rays and he said 'Come and say goodbye when you're finished here'. That was so sweet. I was on my own, and worried and frightened. And I did, and he smiled and wished me luck and a speedy recovery.

Actually, it could have been the theatre team, who were so reassuring when I was a scaredy cat just before the operation to fix it (they sewed it back on, a new procedure that meant I only had to have one operation instead of metal pins that had to be removed later).

Or the chap who was patrolling the recovery room sitting down next to us all, one by one, and reminding us to breathe!

Or perhaps, when they finally signed me off three months later, the message from the surgeon:
'Did she get to her gig?' (I had been raving and ranting: 'I'm a guitarist! I'm a guitarist! I'm a GUITARIST!').

So even if it wasn't the heartbreaking sight of homeless people in tent cities in the bitterly cold wind, food banks (FOOD BANKS!!) in this country in peacetime, or the horrible racism of the Prime Minister, or the deliberately divisive tactics of his government, the NHS alone is enough to have got me out on the streets with leaflets and persuasion.
And my Offsprogs too (I am so proud of them), and so many of my friends.



Lies and Liars

Monday, December 09, 2019

Re-learning Christmas Queen



I have to re-learn this song for next Tuesday's last minute gig at the Aces and Eights in Tufnell Park.
Ding dong!


Friday Night at The Cumberland Arms with The Noise and the Naive, GG Allan Partridge, Vic Godard and Subway Sect (and Me)

It was a sell-out gig, stuffed to the gills right from the start.
All the best gigs have bands that you don't want to miss even when you are playing too, and this one was no exception.
The Noise and the Naive are emigrating to Canada (lucky them!) and this was their last gig before leaving. In a similar way to the Deux Furieuses (but sounding notably different) their line up consists of two women, one playing guitar and one playing drums. Deux Furieuses sound angry and energetic, but Noise and Naive sound full of enjoyment and vitality. Their songs sound like they were fun to make up: they are playful as well as being played with great expertise and tight musicianship. The two voices shout-sing in tandem and in harmony, almost taking the piss out of their own format at times. They are brave enough to use a kazoo; they are rifftastic, drumtastic and they really know know their way around their instruments. I particularly liked Hawaiian Blues (or was that Howway-an Blues?) and Canada's gain is definitely Britain's loss.
Good luck- you bloody deserve it!
This was a brilliant start to the evening.



(more coming)
(back again)
GG Allan Partridge are a power surge of punk music that features screaming, tribal drumming, references to TV  themes, early French electronica, and all sorts of other influences, topped by a skeletal electric violin (legacy of Darryl Way?) and vocals that sound like crushed cellophane: alternately delicate, spooky, shouty and assertive. There was a darkness about their sound that was compounded by their cover of a Pellethead song (Oh how I love that band!) and they left the audience energised, roaring and bloody sweaty! I couldn't get close enough to film them, or even photograph them because the room was packed with people, which is testament to the following they have in Newcastle.
Following two such dynamic bands was really difficult. I had to tell myself that as musicians we all say things in different voices, and I was lucky (and relieved) to play to a listening room! Thank you and big luv to Pauline and Rob for coming along to give moral support!
The headline band was, of course, Vic Godard and Subway Sect (by way of the JoBoxers and back again), with Johnny Britton on guitar. They were really well-rehearsed, completely on form, and with the Northern Soul part of the punky beaty mix very much to the forefront, particularly in the backing vocals, which added a whole new layer to the songs. Vic is an exceptionally accomplished song writer, made all the better by the humour in the delivery. The cover version of Orange Juice's Falling and Laughing was really touching. There was so much to listen to in the sound: some fabulous guitar playing from both Vic and Johnny, some great fuzzy bass and a jolly good thwack on the skins (kindly lent by the drummer from the Noise and the Naive).
Between the acts, Johny Brown played some great tunes, one of which I was desperate to find out the name of, but there wasn't room to get across the room to ask him. And thanks to Ian Evans for excellent live sound services!
Phew.
That's it folks, apart from the fact I still haven't recovered from eating the most gigantic jacket potato in the world lunch on Friday, that would have fed 15 horses.
(I know horses don't eat jacket potatoes, but I needed to exaggerate).
And of course to say hats off to Michael Clunkie, who put the night together with confidence that it would all work. Thank you Michael, it was an honour to play the night!



Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Ironing On The Patch

After a bit of writing and a bit of lunch and a bit of a walk I did this, all ready for Friday's gig.
It's not going to be 2019 for much longer, but I am always a little bit behind the times.
Time for a 2020 patch, probably, but other things are in the pipeline before that.
It might just get done in a year's time! Big thanks to Ian Button for design assistance.


The Key

I woke up too early, but in my hand I had the key to making the writing work.
I think the editor is right, but I'm soliciting a second opinion from a writing friend.
I'll print out the constipated chapters tomorrow and read them on the train to Newcastle as well, to see what I can edit out myself.
Actually, I'm beginning to be quite excited. I have been writing this book for ten years; it takes a long time to write a book anyway, but being a Mum, a lecturer in up to three different Universities at a time, and a practicing musician has meant  a lot of squeezing of time, getting up ridiculously early and forfeiting of other things (mostly watching TV actually).
I have also spent much of the past ten years rather hard up.
It's amazing what you can do when you have to make your own entertainment (that's a joke, BTW!).

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Stuck

I am stuck with my writing. There is a part of the book that is mimicking the blocked sink drain that has taken all morning to sort out. I need mental soda crystals to clear a way through the thicket of words. Three chapters are interfering with each other and I want all the information to be there in the book but I can't work out how to disentangle it all and make a clear pathway through it all.
I've only done an hour's work on it today and already I have come to a halt. Boo.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Out

How exhausting!
Thursday was the Evening Class night, Friday ATV at The Dublin Castle with Ruth Tidmarsh and Cos Chapman cutting their teeth as co-members Mark Perry's band, possibly temporarily while the previous incumbents have a sabbatical, but who knows?
Last night was the Wheelandcomeagain singalong reggae night at the Shaw Theatre with the Reggae Choir. Hats off once more to Fola Philip- that was a really good night!

Of course, I have videos of each night, but I'll have to wait to upload those until next week.
Alas, I don't think I have the energy for Sarah Vista at the Country Soul Sessions tonight, and I'd dearly love to go, firstly because they are one of the best live bands on the circuit at the moment, and secondly because I love that night in general. Drew Morrison and his wife Alex are amazing hosts and it's always worth going down even if you don't know the acts who are playing- there is always a nice surprise in store. So in my head, in my head.... my imagination will have to do!

I'm sung out and wrung out (yes, I got the high note in Silly Games and so did everyone else in the audience) but have to finish the punk article this avo, because the producers and engineers book has come back from it's second edit, and I have to start on that next.
And then there's the gig next Friday at the Cumberland Arms, more on that later too, but I really must rehearse dahling!
Pip pip!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

A Happy Sort of Knackered

It's funny what a good recording session can do for you. We have two really good bilingual songs in the bag, one of which ticks rather a lot of Northern Soul (!) boxes, and it was also a really stress-free day. More details when I have time, no doubt.
And then I got up this morning, and looked at my writing and I feel like I've got the keys to the door of it now: there's a book waiting at the library to be picked up but I've actually stopped today so I don't over-write it too much.
Believe it or not, I am going to teach some family members to knit Fair Isle patterns this avo.
In my cave of activity hidden away from politics, life is quite extraordinary.

By the way, I'm going to vote Labour. I can't even bear to write anything about the odious and aptly-named Johnson. I find the various rationales for voting for a party led by such a creep completely astonishing. Being the Mum of two twenty-something Offsprogs, and lecturing young people of roughly the same age, the hopelessness and despair they feel combined with the dismantling of the only thing worth anything at the moment in the UK, the National Health Service, the rise in racism and the huge amount of desperate homeless people facing winter on the streets.... words literally fail me.
I know I have no control over the idiots who want to perpetuate this complete destruction and decay. That's why I haven't blogged about it before.
I am far too angry.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Recording in English and German in Brixton

Photos by Ian Button and Robert Rotifer.


Trousers. A First World Problem.

A few weeks ago, I did the perfectly normal and equally perfectly annoying thing of leaving a tissue in my trousers pocket when I put them in the washing machine.
I swear I checked every pocket in advance, but a tissue managed to escape by hiding somewhere and only emerging when the water started squiring into the drum of the machine.
Result?
Four pairs of smart work trousers (that's all of them) covered in little white dots.
I had a moan on social media and someone recommended vinegar, so I did a vinegar rinse.
Alas, no difference; so I hung them all up and hoped the pesky white fluff would drop off.
Eventually last night I gave in, and with a combination of sellotape, lint rollers and an unusual (for me) amount of patience, I managed to make three pairs of trousers relatively presentable.
Alas, the fourth pair was impossible to clean.
I tried an old ruse of putting them in the drier, but they came out even worse, seemingly managing to retrieve two entire quarter-tissue shreds during the process, plus a provocatively even spread of even more white tissue dots.
I resorted to the hoover.
Flat on the floor, I sucked up one trouser leg after the other and managed to cover a smart pair of black trousers with streaks of grey dust to add to the little white dots of fluffy tissue that clung to their fibres with admirable persistence.
Now I have flung them over the back of a chair in disgrace.
Tomorrow, I'll wear them in understanding company as a gesture of defiance against smartness, having learned the lesson that it's Simply Not Worth It.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Rough Trade East Tonight

My students are writing protest songs about the climate emergency, so I went to this talk tonight. Words later in the week.


The Oxford Anthology of Punk

What I am writing is a chapter for the Oxford Anthology of Punk, covering women punk bands and violence and noise.
I don't think the violent environment of the 1970s is written about enough in relation to what it was like to be a young woman back then, and how violent some young punk women had to be in order to survive. So that's what it's about, alongside loudness and so on.
I'm not a musicologist, and nor am I au fait with every bit of feminist writing, so a lot of it concentrates on the way that male and female music critics wrote about it all. They were the bridge between the bands and an audience that often was not in the right place physically or financially to actually witness the music, and sometimes the journalists simply got it wrong.
I'm reading Nesrine Malik's book at the moment and it's making me very angry about myth-making and the ways the it demeans people. It's very good. It's not the sort of book that you should read if you are unable to look at your own views from a critical perspective and it's unleashing a fair bit of latent anger inside me, probably not before time.
Off to the library to pick up a book.
Writing this has been a moment of procrastination, but it's helped to calm me down too.
Something has made me furious today, and it's difficult to back out of it without ruffling my own feathers even more.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Catching Up Day

Rehearsing for Tuesday's recording session with Robert and Ian; almost-finishing in an academic article (I've lost a photocopy of an NME article I quoted from, and I'm going to have to lose a perfect citation); colouring the prototype stamp for the record sleeve.
Washing clothes.
You know. Sunday, day of not-rest!


Steamroller Choir, High Barnet

Probably singing Heavy Metal covers, I imagine.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The Arrival Of The Miniature Albums

Voila! Three boxes of miniature 7" albums, 33 1/3 albums in each box= 100 albums.
All ready to be hand-finished. Release date February 29th 2020, launch date 21st March at the Lexington, a very special gig with Vic, Johny and Simon. Will also be available on Bandcamp as a download.
https://www.wegottickets.com/event/486262


Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Writing Again

There is something quite peaceful about writing again after a few very hectic weeks of teaching.
I have been working seven and eight hour days to settle the students into their new work, and it's taken it's toll in tiredness.
The blast at the weekend was a good way to change gear and I've spent most of today rewriting, reading and correcting a manuscript that was sent back to me several weeks ago and that I simply haven't had time to look at.
There are two main things to do now: dig out the original music press photocopies in (perhaps a vain) hope of finding full page and issue references, and then rewriting the final paragraph.
I have almost run out of brain (I can manage about three hours and then I'm done) and I've been trying to work out the chords for one of the songs that Robert and I wrote a few weeks back in the breaks from writing. I was certain I'd be able to remember, but I can't work it out.
After a lightbulb moment, I looked on my phone and there's photograph of one of them, but there are more mystery chords than just that one. All I remember is that the chords of that particular song weren't too hard to play, unlike the other one which trips me up every time.

I spent almost the whole night last night writing songs in my sleep.
This was really irritating. I was so tired and didn't want to get up and record them. Offsprog One was staying over and I would have felt like complete twat if she had heard me, but I did sing one into my phone under the bedclothes.
The rest will have to be re-dreamed another time, or forgotten.
The thing is, it's all very well having the melodies and rhythm, but it's a lot easier to write songs words first. At the moment, the words pop into my head on the way to work and melodies come to me in my sleep. Somehow, I have to merge the two things together. It's just a matter of time, I think.
Back to working out those chords, and then perhaps another half an hour of writing.
Bad-a-boom!

Monday, November 18, 2019

Records (3)

A hundred records in three boxes, miniature albums playing at thirty-three-and-a-third RPM.
Do you think there are thirty three and a third records in each box?

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Somehow...

Somehow, I ended up on a train to Glasgow on Friday to visit Kenji and Till, armed with a thick academic book to read and an article to correct.
Kenji met me at Glasgow Central and we went for a cup of tea and both tried out a fabulous guitar that begged to be bought but alas, neither of us was rich enough so we got on a train to Crossmyloof and ended up in Paisley.
We had got on the wrong train.
Back at Glasgow Central, we started again and had just got to his and Till's, when Kenji noticed that the Pearlfishers were playing at the Oran Mor. I know David Scott from years ago, love his songs and had never seen them live so of course we had to go.
Food? Pah!
Off we went, stood down the front and watched/listened to a really good gig played by great musicians. And a lot of witty repartee from Davey: 'Unbelievable: I walked in here tonight and our record were on sale just over there by the door!'
Once we'd climbed out of the speakers, I discovered that Kenji's friend Tita had messaged and invited us to a bar, so off we went again, drifting into a chip shop along the way to get the world's most delicious chips to wolf down on our way there.
And there was Tita, and her partner who plays trumpet for Belle and Sebastian, who was just off to DJ somewhere else. I spent the evening chatting to two members of Dragged Up, one of whom used to be a Trembing Bell. They were great.
At the end of the evening, they said 'We like you. Will you join our band?', and of course, I said yes.
What a night!
And somewhere along the line, a huge pearl of wisdom emerged from Kenji's idea store: that in a band, the imagination is an instrument in itself.
Yes, so very true.
Hall of Famous Quotes for you, Sir!

The three of us breakfasted the next day at Jodandy's and I shot off to look at Glasgow's TK Maxx (disappointing), but saw some fantastic samba buskers in kilts.
Oh such fun!
I'm exhausted.
I choked on my tea again at a posting in the TK Maxx Gallery of Horrors: the 'Ginger Tool'.
Oh deary me. Fetch me my slippers butler, life's rich and varied tapestry has been particularly rich and varied this weekend.
I need sleep.
Is it really only 7 p.m.?

Photos, in completely the wrong order: David Scott at play; samba band resting between numbaz; Kenji and Till; me, a Dragged Up and Tita (photo by Kenji); Kenji playing the swanky guitar.







Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Records!

In theory, I have my records.
They have been delivered a stone's throw from here to a shop in the shopping centre that I can't get to because I got back from work too late, and won't be able to get tomorrow for the same reason.
Say your prayers that I'll be able to pick em up on Friday before ten in the morning!
I'm consumed with curiosity, and I've been testing the stamps out to see how they will look.
Meanwhile, my neighbours appear to have gone away and I have a massive box belonging to them on the chest of drawers,
O Royal Mail, where art thou?

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Raincoats at EartH, Hackney on Sunday Night

It's almost impossible to describe the atmosphere at the gig on Saturday. The venue, which holds 1000 people, was packed with people of all ages, genders and cultures, all come out to support the anniversary of the first Raincoats album.
The venue looks like something from the set of Metropolis: cavernous, grey, with formal-looking animal panels on the ceiling, massive abstract wrought-iron panels on the walls at the back, a huge PA rig, and vast stylised lights that look like old-fashioned X-Ray machines.
Tiny Shirley appeared on the stage to introduce the gigs, and soon Gina, Ana, Anne and their guest drummer arrived on stage to play through the entire album as the first part of the evening. From where we were sitting the sound was drum and bass heavy (just like the Old Days, in fact), but the spirit was there and the songs came across beautifully.
There was a VIP area down the front where we could have sat, but up on the football terraces (wooden steps where cinema seats had once been) you got a good view and also got to sit next to Karina and Andy. I suppose I thought I would be able to catch up with people at the after party but that was not to be (more about that later). At one point the drum pedal broke but another materialised just in time for the next song.
There was lots of history there: Vicky Aspinall was in the audience and Lora Logic was invited on stage to play on Lola. Tall, elegant and note-perfect, she triggered quite an emotional response from the audience (including me: such a long tine since interviewing her for the book, when more people were alive and I suppose I thought there would be more of us around to celebrate this moment).
The first of the guests was Green from Scritti Politti, aided and abetted by Rhodri Marsden, the world's most session musician for the simple reason that he plays everything like he means it. Green's voice remains simply divine and this was a wonderful surprise, as was the next guest band, Big Joanie playing seated and semi-acoustic. The simplicity of their delivery came across really well; I'd never seen them live and I thought they were fantastic. They were well-rehearsed, they have great songs and a sense of humility that is really refreshing (they thanked The Raincoats for inspiration), in a world full of music-school arrogance. Brilliant.
The second Raincoats set was completely informal and released the audience from their tiered seating: there was a flood to the front of the theatre. Honey Birch joined the group for a new song called 57 Ways To Die, employed for her whistling skills; Ana took to the mini synthesiser, and Anne continued her multi tasking as guitarist, violin player and additional vocalist (what a complete asset to the group she is). Despite the audience's enthusiasm, the gig had run over time and there was no encore.
What a great atmosphere!
I missed the last train home, and have rediscovered the plethora of back streets in north London and Barnet on a freezing cold rattly little bus in the depths of the night: but it was all worth it!

Friday, November 08, 2019

All I Want Is The Sun To Shine For You

DJ

And I DJ-ed at the after party at Soho Radio!


Gina Birch: 'I'm Glad I'm me Today'

This is my favourite song that Gina has written. She was in excellent voice last weekend at the Doc'n'Roll screening of her films at the ICA. Lucy O'Brien did the Q &A, and was well-prepared as always to bring the best out of the conversations they had between films.
The films were shown in three sections, and the ones that I liked best were the New Order video that featured Jane Horrocks lugging an ever-growing suitcase, puffing and panting through rough landscapes, finally climbing into it when it got too large to carry any more; and the short film Jenny about a shoe-shop assistant's longing for fame and acclaim, and eventual fear of taking the opportunity when it arrived, which was particularly poignant given the context of Gina's life trajectory. There is such a thing as the wrong kind of fame, and Gina definitely has achieved the right kind. The final section showed some of her paintings, which deal uncompromisingly with rape and male power. The whole evening was intensely moving and greatly appreciated by the audience.
We loved it all, Gina.

Monday's Mood

More postings coming including Gina's film screening last Saturday.
I have been working like crazy at the University of the East this week....
I found this on my computer when I was testing some new (second hand, but utterly fabulous) headphones.
Good track for a Friday?

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

The Lovely Basement in Easton, Bristol

Somehow I'll catch up with what went on at the weekend...
Here's a little video of the Lovely Basement on Friday. Such songs! They played a particular beautiful new one about Lake Ontario where the twin guitars spoke to each other in a perfectly... well, lovely way. The bass player's ten year old daughter helped out on percussion (you might see her with her pineapple shaker in the shadows).
Thanks for coming along Rocker, Mark Wainwright and Tina from the Brighton punk scene (we haven't seen each other for 30 years) who looks about a year older than the last time we saw each other. And thank you to the couple who gave me a lift back into Bristol- I'd got lost on the way there after receiving directions from a woman who thought left was right, a man who thought a flat road was a hill, and a phone satnav that got even more lost than I was.
It was nice to play Big Brother Is Watching You as an encore, in response to The Lovely Basement's social media song. I haven't played that one for a while.
Big luv to The Lovely Basement for inviting me over!
The fairy lights around the microphone stands were perfect.






Friday, November 01, 2019

Speedtable

I discovered that my turntable plays too fast.
Big thanks to Richard for calibrating his, and testing the Pea Soup test pressing!
It's gone into production.
Stupidly, I bought a red ink pad for the rubber stamps, and will have to get another one.
Doh!
Turntables... on the list to get a new one. My playing system is quirky to say the least.
Turntable line into old CD/cassette player, put on top of emptied kitchen cupboards to act as bass bins. The actual sound is great (so different to putting the player on top of the fridge) but the speed, not so great.
On the list.
Everything is kept in the chest of drawers until the need arises: socks, microphones, jumpers, leads, pop shield, interfaces, turntable, trousers.
I'm surprised the moths have managed to find anywhere to rest their dusty little silver heads, and indeed there are less and less of them as time passes.
Time passes: yes, just waiting to leave for Bristol. No spare arms for an umbrella, so it's going to be a wet journey.
Luckily, skin is a waterproof layer and my singing won't get wet.

S* L*ng Br*ns*n!

Getting his ideas off the ground again, this is dedicated to the eternal V*rgin and his team of spacetronauts. I will play it tonight!

Bristol Tonight!

Bristol's gig tonight is at the invitation of The Lovely Basement, songsmiths extraordinaire, upstairs at The Greenbank Pub, Easton. Hope to see all you Brissols there!


Thursday, October 31, 2019

Happy

Actually, I'm very happy because so many of the students I'm teaching have found work placements.
Yes, extremely happy!đŸ˜€

Earring

I'm trying to convince myself (again) that losing one earring doesn't matter.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Song

There's a new song on the way, to begin new sets with next year.
I had a great idea for the chorus- then realised I'd used that melody already.
Ha ha!
It's all the more fun to dodge around that and find something different.
What am I doing at the bottom of a well though?
That's where the lyrics have gone.
I'll listen to the echoes for the answer.

Friday at The Greenbank, Easton, Bristol

I will be playing in Bristol this Friday with The Lovely Basement at The Greenbank Pub in Bristol.
They are a great band and I might even play some new songs. Upstairs, from 8 p.m.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Dave

I scheduled a tutorial for Dave yesterday.
I asked and asked, but he never piped up.
It turned out that there is no Dave in the class.
I must have misread the class list, but I like the idea of an invisible student and I will continue to teach him for the rest of the year.
Every University needs a Dave!

Monday, October 21, 2019

Vauxhall City Farm, Now And Then

From Record Mirror, in 1984. Kerstin Rogers took this photo, then we went to the Vauxhall Tavern for a drink. Those earrings got nicked from a gig at a London University shortly afterwards. The hat, which I paid for with £25 I found on a bus, got completely eaten by moths a couple of years ago. I've still got the green belt.
About ten years later, when I was a youth worker in Peckham, I took some young people to Vauxhall City Farm and they refused to sit next to me on the bus back, because I'd picked up a hen on that visit too!
The goats and the pig are new friends that I made on Sunday, and the vulture perches on top of a nearby house next to some allotments. Thanks to the Offsprogs, whose idea it was to go there.
McCookerybook, the animal's friend.





Sunday, October 20, 2019

An Afternoon with Asbo Derek and The Astronauts

It was sunny in Brighton yesterday afternoon, but with a nasty little nip in the air if you weren't careful. Thankfully, a warm welcome awaited those fortunate enough to know about the special matinée at The Prince Albert, the famous Brighton music pub a gnat's cough away from the station. Brian, well-thumped (more of that later) drummer of Asbo Derek was there already, but the pub wasn't open yet: luckily, Joe Davin, top session musician of the day, was walking up the road with his Dad and we went for coffee and a chewy sourdough sandwich while The Astronauts did their soundcheck. Joe was overcome by the amount of stylophones he had been offered; and not only was he playing stylophone for me, but he was also playing keyboards for The Astronauts. Almost as soon as we got back to the Prince Albert, so did the audience.
It was obvious that this was going to be a great afternoon.
Brian started the proceedings with a story that rambled along amiably with such finesse that I was always two beats behind with laughing at the funny bits. In a nutshell (yes, I'm going to spill the beans, or nuts if you like, because then he'll have to write more stories) when Brian was on holiday in Greece, an Albanian misunderstood him when he said he had been a social worker working with children, as being a 'sexual worker' working with children. The entire hotel turned against him and two of the guests wanted to thump him until the matter was resolved, and he spent the rest of the holiday dining out on the story.
Drinking out on the story.
Up I leapt for my bit, a selection of hits from my repertoire finished off neatly with The Band That Time Forgot, during which I hoped like hell that I wouldn't forget any of it, and knew that once Joe arrived with his stylophone the song was nearly over. Readers it was worth it, if only for the collective wince when the Stylophone solo began! And also for the lusty choral audience singing for the chorus of At The Bathing Pond, which was remarkably strong and tuneful for a Saturday afternoon when everybody's hangovers still probably hadn't worn off.
Then dear Asbo Derek clambered on to the stage: how I have missed them! Their good-natured bad temper ('Get on wi' it!'), their thrashing chords, their pure punk silliness, Brian getting cramp, Jem stomping about the stage waving his arms madly and digging about in his brain for yet more innuendo, Darcy and Mark looking at each other as if they are desperately imagining themselves to be in a different band. I loved the new song Pheasant Attack so much that I almost didn't sulk because they didn't play The Buddhist Lost Property.
Almost, but not quite.
Steve's live mix was so good that entirely new lyrical meanings emerged and new layers of grubbiness materialised. I could hear my friends, who'd been Asbo Derek virgins until now, roaring with laughter beside me.
Oh the joy!
I want Asbo Derek for Christmas please, Santa!
More stories from Brian, then Lee McFadden's dream of Lou Read singing Send in the Clowns was brought to life in front of our very ears. It was a hit!
Finally, The Astronauts landed on the stage and treated the packed venue to a feast of tightly-rehearsed progressive rock, sometimes sounding like early Pink Floyd, and at others like Soft Machine's third album. Their drummer is amazing: in fact all of the musicianship is amazing. Touchingly they were joined by Hawkwind's flute and sax player, Nik Turner, who happened to be in Brighton because The Hawklords were playing at The Dome last night, and Helen Robertson sang with them too.
It was fun, friendly, musical, warm-hearted and beat my normal poor sad Saturday afternoon occupation of watching the Come Dine with Me omnibus with a bag of Doritos hands-down.
What a great idea, matinée gigs! Big slice of pheasant pie for Asbo Derek!




Weird London Life

Chance found me in company in Vauxhall Gardens this morning, walking across the muddy wormcasts that had burst through the scrubby grey-green surface in the night.
A child-sized car (lurid blue) was whizzing about on the grass with a blond infant inside wobbling about unsteadily. On closer inspection, we saw that the car was controlled by distant Father, with a remote control box with an antenna in his hands; the infant was completely at Father's mercy, reversing and turning at daddy's whim. Backwards, forwards, on to the path and back on to the grass. A nearby family was in fits of laughter, watching the helpless baby darting about; they called across to Father and asked how it all worked.

'Don't take photographs!', ordered the Offsprogs.
I did, but mostly just with my eyes.
As we strolled into Vauxhall City Farm, a large carthorse had noticed the commotion and it ambled over to the wooden fence, hanging it's head over the wooden bars in curiosity.
We left it watching the baby intently, and went to visit the goats, whose visitors were screaming in terror as the animals nibbled goatfeed from their outstretched palms.

Ah, Sunday morning in London. Nowt like it!

Saturday, October 19, 2019

A Surfeit of Stylophones

What a lot of R*lf Harris conversations were conducted this afternoon!
Joe Davin, bless his musical cotton socks, sourced a stylophone (potentially an entire herd of them, in fact) from Steve Drennan, so he could play the stylophone solo in The Band That Time Forgot.
Apparently Brian Blaney instructed him to make all the mistakes that I made in my recorded version (recorded in haste and with a keyring stylophone with a broken connection in it's stylo).
Joe made his own deliberate mistakes, after coping with the fact that Steve's Stylophone was a tone higher than mine is.
Apparently Shend had offered him one too, and we wondered about a Stylophone Orchestra, but people were not keen on the idea for some unfathomable reason.
Thank you Joe, for stepping in so late in the day (and before playing keyboards for the Astronauts too!).
Steve offered Joe the Stylophone after the gig, but he politely declined.

Ah, the R*lf Harris conversations! Jem told me that The Court of King Caractacus was his favourite song. There was general agreement that an even worse revival of the wobble board should be avoided.
Somehow we got on to Chesty Morgan, and I discovered that I know a lot about Chesty Morgan (but I don't know how).
Jem was offered the loan of two Chesty Morgan videos.
Did this really happen this afternoon?
And we discovered that there's a p*rn video called 'Nine Elvises'.
Oh deary me!
Lovely to see Jon, Jill, Simon, Kim, Steve, Lee (who played a song he dreamed the other night, Lou Reed playing Stephen Sondheim), and a great big crowd on a Saturday afternoon.
I'll write more tomorrow.
And Steve on sound! Hooray!




I WILL Write About It, I WILL (but just not tonight!)



Friday, October 18, 2019

Tomorrow Afternoon (Saturday) at The Prince Albert, Brighton

Free McCookerybook will be playing a short set at 1.30 and then hanging around to spoil the afternoon after that. After all, I'm free!
I have eaten too many crisps today and I lost my voice from teaching long days this week, but I am sure everything will go swimmingly well tomorrow afternoon, even though there is 100% chance that I'll forget the words of my special tribute to Absolute Ferret or whatever they are called.


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Lexington, March Next Year

This was Neil Palmer's initiative, promoted by Bizarro Promotions.
It's going to be a unique evening with each of us performing with a guest musician, I think.


Not-ify on Spotify

Nobody ever asks me if I'm on Spotify or not because I'm not important enough.
But if they did, I'd tell them it's because of their homeopathic approach to royalty payments: wafting a hint of money in the direction of the artists who release their music on there, and expecting that to do.
Under the radar is better at present.
If I suddenly develop the need to be megafamous, you'll be the first to know.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Miniature Vinyl Album Next Year

I've just picked up these test pressings, fresh from Germany, of a miniature album which will be released next year.
It's a 33 1/3 7" vinyl record with five tracks on each side, the shorter of which is 30 seconds and the longest of which is two minutes.
The sleeves will be hand-stamped with illustrations, and hand coloured and numbered- there are only going to be 100 of these in vinyl although I'll do a digital release too on Bandcamp.
I've got a box of custom made rubber stamps, a vintage John Bull printing set, and itchy fingers to get started, but it's going to take ages to do them all (hence next year release).
But I need to make sure it sounds good first!


Monday, October 14, 2019

Friday, October 11, 2019

The No Idea Bath

Yes, definitely poorly. Normally I have to get out of the bath in the morning to write down a storm of ideas. Nothing there today: blank grey felt in my head.
Urgh.

Extreme Cough

I have got a cough that could rattle the bars of hell.
The regular inhalation of my morning cup of tea at the antics of Sweary Bercow on Twitter probably doesn't help, but it's also probably to do with the volume of students and their combined viruses as the beginning of the new term.
Normally I can escape this by regular and frantic hand-washing, but a germ seems to have slipped through the net and taken up residence in my chest.
This morning I was going to record some guitar playing, which is OK because I don't need a voice to do that, but you do need energy and I haven't got that. I missed my evening class last night too, which is completely unheard of. Sometimes I wake up in my seat to the voice of the instructor saying 'Helen's fallen asleep' (Thursday's a busy day at work) but I always normally get there.
Looks like it's out to the chemist for some medicine, and a day in front of the TV watching Bargain Hunt and various cosy programmes that would drive me bonkers if I was feeling healthy.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Extinction Rebellion at Westfield Stratford

This was a really effective living statue today- she caused quite a stir just outside the temple of greed. A policeman looked on in puzzlement, maybe wondering if it's illegal to stand on top of a bin for ages or not.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

O Rest Ye Your Weary Buttock!

For a weary child?
A small person with a tiny B.T.M.?
Or a very, very tired person content to just rest half of their bum?
We'll never know unless I knock on their door and ask them.
Shall I?

I Remember

I remember what it's like to sit and yak with friends.
It's nice.
Sometimes, work takes over and pretends that's what life is all about.
It's not.
Yakking and laughing is the best!
A cloud flew overhead last week; while it was passing, a small thought flew through my head in the opposite direction.
'I don't believe in you!', said my thought.
It was a big help, that little thought.
The cloud flew away.
Tonight, I remembered the trick of pretending that a tough situation was a soap opera, with a cast of characters acting true to type and true to script.
Instead of being intimidated, I looked forward to the next episode where everyone behaved appallingly badly, just as the writers intended, leaving each episode with terrible cliffhanger.
It's an amazing way to cope with difficult situations: try it!

Monday, October 07, 2019

Z, Z and more Z

Well, that's one ticket to An Evening With Gary Crowley not used, much to my regret.
Somehow I have managed to teach for six solid hours today, and I was on the way to The Cockpit Theatre having used every trick in the book to stay awake (drinking water, eating food, forcing my eyelids apart with matchsticks) when I dropped off on the tube and decided that I should come home to save the potential embarrassment of being the audience member who falls asleep and snores due to complete wipeoutery.
This is a shame because I booked the ticket yonks ago, and was really looking forward to it. Gary has played my music a lot, he is really entertaining, and I wanted to return the support. I know it's sold out, anyway, so he will have a brilliant night.
Sadly, at 7.55 I am home and heading to bed.
This is desperately un-rock'n'roll I know, but I have been getting to know this year's song writing students, playing Northern Soul tracks to them, listening to their significant songs, and setting them a project for the first half of the year.
Energy gone. Good night!