Friday, May 31, 2019

Painting, Barnet Museum

Good speech from Keith West, the painter, with a nice little bit of left-wingery subtly slipped in amongst the heraldic jiggery pokery.
Fab painting, too and I liked your explanation about all the imagery.


Manchester and New York

Tomorrow me and Gina are going to Manchester to show the Stories from the She-Punks film; we will each be playing a song afterwards too and the event will be hosted by John Robb, of The Membranes.
Here is the link- it's on early at 6 p.m. so you have plenty of time to go out to wherever you were going afterwards: https://homemcr.org/film/stories-from-she-punks/

On Sunday, I'm flying to New York for a few days. The author Simon Reynolds and the academic Asif Siddiqi have teamed up to put on a day's seminar, with a group of academics who were asked to choose our favourite tracks to write a chapter on, and we are being flown over there and accommodated too. What luxury!
I finally got the chapter draft on Oh Bondage! Up Yours finished yesterday. But everything about Poly's life makes me want to cry at the moment. Going through the terrible press cuttings: oh how vicious you were, you reviewers! So many of them are cosy Guardian-type writers now, yet they hounded that lovely young person like a pack of hunters with baying hounds until they destroyed her band, and almost destroyed her too. I truly believe that they felt she had to be punished for not being weak; they wanted to break her spirit. No wonder we all like her so much now!
That was 1970s society for you: 'Get up, shut up! Girl you have no rights!' (sung to the Bob Marley tune).

I've really enjoyed reading Zoe Howe and Celeste Bell's book on Poly (Celeste is her daughter) because it manages to celebrate her without leaving out the dark bits. at the book launch I was much taken by what Celeste said about Poly loving fluorescent colours as an antidote to all the darkness she saw all around her. Punk was all very well, turning everything inside out as it did, but the hidden insides of everything was horrible: all that violence, racism and deviation laid out on display alongside the dying embers of British industrialisation. No wonder we all though the end of the world was nigh.

Now I'm restless! Will I forget how to play guitar before next Saturday? I get off the return flight at 7 a.m. then play a set at this gig in Northwich in the afternoon. This has been year of mad doings, and this is probably the maddest. But look at the bands on the bill! I guess I start drinking coffee at 8 a.m. and then just power though it all. I can't bear to miss any of it!


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

More Lexington

A Good Life with a Bad Apple filmed by Tracey Holloway. There are videos of all of the bands up now- take a look because everyone was really on form!

Graft

There has been no time for the Oh Bondage! article today.
I have had to do University work.
There is no brain left in my head, just a small dried up lump rather like a mouse dropping.
Nothing on the to-do list has been to-done, and nothing will be today.
It's only just after half past two: how do you navigate the rest of a day with so little fuel left in the tank?
Probably by dancing to disco music, I think.
Let you know later!

Monday, May 27, 2019

Poly Immersion

This, by Zoe Street Howe and Celeste Bell, is a very good book.
Despite the fact that it's a Bank Holiday I have spent the entire day immersed in Poly, from the 1979 BBC Arena documentary Who Is Poly Styrene? through Zilla Ashworth's film She's a Punk Rocker to actually writing and tidying up the chapter on Oh Bondage! Up Yours that is taking me to the Lincoln Centre to present at Fordham University a week on Thursday. The chapter has to be uploaded on Friday and I keep thinking it's almost there and then finding more to tidy up. The event is a day of talks on people's favourite tracks from academics in the US and the UK; everyone has written a chapter, and the whole thing has been organised by Simon Reynolds and Asif Siddiqui. Gradually I can put reference books away and fold up photocopied NME articles. Unless I escape, it's looking likely that the summer's going to be spent responding to editors comments on various bits of writing that I've done.
That and writing disco songs, of course.

Some Pics from Last Night

Dressing room shot by Neil Palmer: Johny Brown, me, Simon Rivers and Tim Rippington. I reckon there must have been about 200 people there last night and we have raised a tidy sum for Hope Not Hate. All down to Tim's hard work, faith in humanity and determination. Hats off to you, sir! Other photo by Beth Arzy. Thanks for coming along! And it was so lovely that Kenji, Till, Caryne and Dave made the journey. And Gina and Mike, Shanne, My Champagne Friend and her husband, both Offsprogs, Little Bruv, Ruth, Dave and Ruth's cousin, Johnny Brittain, Lee and Tracey, Vic and Mandy, Tim, Peter and Tonje, in fact the entire London Set were there. Indeed there were a few more stars in attendance: Richard Strange and his family, who are big BOHJ fans , were there. And Spike. And, and, and....
It was great to meet John Henderson at last: three cheers for making the dash from Spain with the BOHJ records when the couriers failed to deliver them on time.
I know Lee recorded the gig and I think there will be more photographs. Every band had some real memorable moments- Neil shadow-fencing with his drum sticks with Dave Morgan in a drummers standoff during the Oldfield Youth Club's set (I love the B-side of their single); the wonderful Arrest! Charlie Tipper with their Velvet Underground sound with added spiralling electronics and trumpet, who stopped the song about putting up shelves (not being able to) and started it again at proto-punk speed. But the night belonged to the BOHJ. The sight of Johny running into Inge's films, and leaping on top of amplifiers, with the band roaring away was unforgettable- and the SONGS! It was just perfect, just the best night and I feel so glad to have been able to play as well. Big luv to the audience for being completely silent and listening while I was playing. I have never used this word before, but that was awesome. Thank you X

Tonight

What an absolutely fantastic gig. Amazing turnout, thank you friends and family for coming and to the audience who appreciated every band that played. Johny was completely brilliant, lots of encores. In fact everyone was. Great work on the sound, Sergei, and hats off to The Lexington for being perfect hosts.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Melancholia

It's funny how listening to music can trigger nostalgia to such a deep extent. I'm listening to Phoenix, a group whose music I first heard in Urban Outfitters (great music in there, and in New Look too).
Long time ago, and such a dreadful time in my life; but listening to music from another continent was a transcendent experience like a living dream or a self-administered drug, a powerful distraction and the trigger for a sense of hope.
I used to clutch at music to stop me from drowning, firstly music made by other artists and later, the songs that I wrote myself, that I didn't even realise where telling me things about my life that I was completely in denial of.
Almost everything in my life has been mapped by music, even the years of no-music when crying babies threw into relief the beauty of silence!
There is so much catching up to do, still; I missed most of the 1990s, and feel like I'm walking about with a radar helmet trying to detect what's going on all the time. And for the last three years, music has held me even more in its spell, pulling my entire soul into its world in a way that it used to when I went out dancing every night in my teenage years and twenties.
It's sound: it's adjustments in sound waves, pulses travelling through the air. Yet it's so much more than this... a relentless puzzle.
Maybe I've been doing too much reading. I am trying to shape the article on Oh Bondage! Up Yours, finding myself in s really different world to the reviewers back then who seem to absolutely detest music, relentlessly trying to slay it like St George killing the dragon.
Someone should have told them that the dragon always wins.

Songs from the Kitchen: Swifts

And of Course I Will Be Playing This Song.

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


The Lexington, Sunday Night

Oldfield Youth Club! Arrest! Charlie Tipper! Me! The Band of Holy Joy!
All playing for Pop! Not Hate!
And of course I will be taking the song Saturday Night with The London Set home to where it was first dreamed up, at a gig at the Lexington on a Saturday night several moons ago.
So come on, all you puntaz, all you party animals with conscience buried somewhere in that hangover, all you bored-on-Sunday-nighters, you ruffty-tuffy leather jacketeers, you nerdy vinyl tooters, you shall-I/shan't-Is, and please some girl power (lots of men have bought tickets: please can I see some smiley female faces down the front, like in Newcastle?)
We will have records, CDs, badges, t-shirts and luv!

Here is the ticket link: https://www.wegottickets.com/event/459915

And here is the poster:


Friday, May 24, 2019

Politix

I despair. I feel powerless until I write a song that explains things to myself, as much as to anyone else.
This is a year of benefit gigs; it feels like the only way to do things at the moment (but of course, I vote, sign things and march too. And I'm a lecturer, so everything that I teach is informed by what I believe pitted against what other people believe that I don't believe in, for balance, you understand).

Big Hair

During the course of today, I have developed Big Hair.
I wonder if it will last till tomorrow?
I look like Bobby Gentry, except with my tired old tour face poking out from between the curtains.
I have poor eyesight, so of course this perception may be entirely wrong, and it may be the actual curtains that I can see in the mirror.
The illusion is extremely enjoyable, anyway.

Time

Yum yum! This delicious thing called time! I can wash the dishes (or not).
(who guessed that I would spend so much of it sleeping? Still in tour recovery mode, and gearing up for the next thing....)

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Monday, May 20, 2019

At the Bathing Pond

Just for a few days... here is a preview, because there's a TV documentary about the Hampstead Bathing Ponds on this evening.

The Day After

Every so often I have such a brilliant time that I forget all the convolutions and upsets that have happened in my life and feel like the luckiest person alive.
The Bristol musician Tim Rippington started up Pop! Not Hate several months ago and has put a massive amount of energy into organising gigs all over the place; there are different combinations of bands playing these gigs in different parts of England (there's even one coming up in Wales, but due to the size of Arrest! Charlie Tipper, not Scotland yet: finding places of seven people to sleep is not easy).
Johny Brown, the force behind The Band of Holy Joy, more or less donated his gig at The Star and Shadow in Newcastle, to Pop! Not Hate, and Saturday's gig had collection buckets which I gather were pretty full by the end of the evening.
The Oldfield Youth Club travelled up from London and so did I; the opening band was Hector Gannett, a group of predominantly guitarists who played slow and moving songs over hurdy-gurdy like sounds, accompanied by black and white archive footage of 1950s and 1960s shipbuilders, fish smokers and other dead industries that had previously thrived in the northeast. The show was a riveting storytelling experience that pulled you into the magical world of the past. The fact that we were experiencing this in a new co-op arts centre literally built by its users, underlined the survival of the human spirit against those who wish to control and destroy people's autonomy. It was an intense start to the evening but everyone was completely pulled in by the experience.
Next up were Oldfield Youth Club. They play tight, energetic and upbeat songs with a good deal of positive energy. It's great to see a female bass player up there (go Kim!!!) and they soon created  mood of celebration and a really good Saturday night vibe.
Bit difficult for a solo artists to follow that but big up the girls in the crowd- they came to the front and started dancing and made my job easy, Actually it was a real blast to have to rise to the challenge! We sang happy birthday to Margi who was waltzing with her mates down in the (dare I say it) mosh pit and it was REALLY GOOD FUN!
And of course the main attraction, Band of Holy Joy, were on fire. This was a homecoming gig for Johny, and you could feel the love in the room. There have been different versions of the band over the years: I went to some of their very early gigs, but always at the centre of it all is Johny and his vision: committed, spiritual, songs evolving out of deep emotional thought. Accompanied by Inge's visuals, this was a rowdy, boisterous, cathartic climax to the night with terrific songs. Johny is in fine voice and commands the room with authority: he holds the audience in the palm of his hands and they got two encores from their delighted fans.
It was just such a good night, it really was. It could not have been better. Huge thanks to the Star and Shadow for making us all dinner too; after the travelling, sitting and eating together, well that was lovely social experience.
And Pauline and Rob from Penetration came too!
The next day BOHJ picked me up from Newcastle Central Station and we drove to Leicester's The Musician. It couldn't have been more different, but oddly it was just as good. The sound at The Musician is as clear as a bell, and Andy, who drives the band around, made some recordings. This night was promoted by the musician Kevin Hewick, whose songs are acoustic and verging on the 'outsider' in their subject matter. One is about a racehorse with a skin condition that necessitated it wearing a cover at all times; this was hard to visualise. The horse could have been Jesus, Kevin said. They were good songs, with some very intricate guitar picking. Later, after my set, he came over and said to me 'You know all the secret chords!' I had felt the same about him, so that was rather flattering! I enjoyed the BOHJ's set even more on Sunday than I had the day before- I felt like I really knew the songs and I could work out how they fitted together (nerdy musician stuff) and the clarity of the sound made it like watching a CD come to life, or listening to a CD come to life, whichever and whatever.
Part of it all was the van bantz and listening to mellow songs on the radio on the way there and the way back. I had no idea I knew all the words to Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines! We listened to Doris Day, and Carol King's version of You've Got a Friend (another song I didn't realise I knew all the words to) which resonated with me very strongly, and all sort of other stuff.
I so appreciate all this, all this musical life, these people, and friendships from way back; three years ago, I felt like the most lonely and dejected person on the planet and I am hugely grateful to the people who helped me back then, and to the people that share their musical journey with each other. We are all so different from each other, but we share the desire to create and make social connections through that. What a lovely thing.
(I wonder whether I'll delete this post tomorrow on the grounds of post-tour emotional over-wroughtness!)

Doors open 7:00pm
Oldfield Youth Club 7:40pm - 8:10pm
Arrest! Charlie Tipper 8:25pm - 8:55pm
Helen McCookerybook 9:05pm - 9:35pm
Band of Holy Joy 9:50pm - 10:30pm
Get there early to appreciate all 4 great bands, donating their time to raise much needed funds to fight racism and hatred in the UK.

Photos

Oldfield Youth Club: Simon Rivers, Neil Palmer, Kim Rivers.
After gig.
The Band of Holy Joy sporting the 'Hawaii the Lads' look.
Hector Gannett.
Dinner with most of BOHJ in Leicester last night.





Saturday, May 18, 2019

Weekend's Gigs

Went to see Wreckless Eric last night; very good songs, great performance. Ian Button who has recently recorded my songs was playing bass/drums, and Amy Rigby got up and sang too. Life is hectic: no proper reviews at the minute- sorry!
Nice to see Gina and Mike, nice to see Robert; Pete Astor was in the distance. It was very full.
Tonight: Pop! Not Hate at the Star and Shadow, Newcastle with Oldfield Youth Club and Hector Gannett, all supporting the amazing Band of Holy Joy.
Tomorrow, Leicester Musicians with Band of Holy Joy.
Marking almost finished apart from stragglers; moderation halfway there.
Then the dreaded data inputting.
I am training up the squirrel in the back yard to do that.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Songs

At the beginning of the week, I started to listen to this year's student songs. At this point, I feel like the luckiest person alive. I would make a uselesss A&R person, because the best thing is always the imagination, the ideas. Add musicians who elevate those ideas with spirituality and emotion, and you have magic.
At times, I was moved to tears. It's all knitted in with the idea of clumps of people across the UK who seem to be determined to demonise young people, and trash their futures. The students I am lucky enough to encounter are from many different cultures. Yes, they clash, but not because of that: they clash because ideas make people fizz with energy, and that can happen in many different ways. It can make some people competitive, others anxious, some destructive, until they find their route and their role.
But that energy also creates beauty, emotional honesty, and a sense of communication that far overrides any other form.
The treasure they uncover is not always fully formed, but it always sparkles.
I can't tell you just how crap some parts of my life have been, but this bit of it is amazing.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Three Cheers....

.... for Andy Holdcroft, complete champion of all things musical in Leamington Spa and Coventry. Thank you for an excellent weekend, Andy: for suggesting The Tin, for arranging the screening in Leamington and for these great reviews of both events, which have been appreciated by one and all!
http://hotmusiclive.co.uk

Mad Bicycle Song


Filmed by June Whitfield at Andy Richardson's house concert in Hull on Saturday, where Graham Beck and Doodlebugnuggets also were also on the bill. Lovely night!

Doris Day

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRPnNO2D3_g

I was always fascinated by her. And what a voice she had.

Friday, May 10, 2019

A Weekend of Gigs and Film

This week I marked more than 100, 000 words.
Next, 30-40 songs to give feedback on....
However, tonight it's the gig at The Tin in Coventry with the fabulous Sunbathers and Peter Hall; prepare for a night of songsmithery!
At 2 p.m. on Saturday I'll be at Temperance, Leamington Spa, showing the film Stories from the She-Punks and doing a Q and A; then in the evening I'll be in Hull with the hilarious Graham Beck and DJ Doodlebugnuggets.
Will I be tired on Sunday? You bet.
Oh yes-and Gina will be in Nottingham showing the film and singing some songs on Friday evening!
By, we're working this film!

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

External Procrastination

Is there such a thing as external procrastination?
I was so tired yesterday after work (which was hilarious, by the way: watching formerly dignified students crash, yell and cheat their way through a game of Racing Demon was one of the best moments of the year), but had a lovely conversation on the doorstep with a neighbour on the way home, who it transpires is also a musician.
I put my keys in my pocket instead of my bag, though, and went out this morning to pay the deposit for Friday's venue wearing a different coat.
Locked out.
It costs 90 quid to get a locksmith out, and a bent coat-hanger was no good, so I took the tube to Soho and met Offsprog Two to collect her key.
Thankfully, I am the world's greatest over-producer of endorphins.
The trip into town was handy because I needed to buy a hard drive for Saturday's screening in Leamington, and to get to the Apple shop I had to walk through the cinnamon bun shop.
You see what I mean?
I'm about three hours behind with the marking now.
Still though, I'm not concentrating.
I started writing a song about swallows, swifts and dodos last night and I can't resist playing it to see if I can finish it by next week.
And I'm trying to decide whether to go to see the Roberts Forster and Rotifer at the Union Chapel next week, but I think probably not because the state of my bank balance is rather woeful after buying a car a couple of weeks ago.
But (endorphins again!) that meant I could go to visit Ruth and do a bit of work on the video for A Good Life with a Bad Apple which was fun: ever sprayed fake graffiti on a railway arch, and then found the powder spray doesn't wash off like it's suppose to do?
Oh, I'm so sodding urban it hurts!
Or perhaps sub-urban (which probably has something in common with subhuman).

I'm walking and in hand with poltergeists at the moment who phone my friends from my bag, which probably means that I'm not as calm as I think I am.
The stress-dyslexia is flying full throttle so I guess I'll go out for a walk in the rain, and leave the next lot of marking until I can actually write.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Alboom


Marking

If you wake at seven on a Sunday worrying about the amount of marking you have to do- then you just have to get up and make a start.
I've got 40 essays, and will have 30 songs, to give feedback on over the next two weeks.
Life is not all sparkly shoes and glittery costumes, alas. If I want to carry on making recordings, the money has to come from somewhere, and I have to have a job. Or jobs.
At one point I had three jobs at three different universities, and that was just to pay the mortgage: very London.
A student was asking about time management; you have to plan every day to mix in the difficult and challenging things with the easy and pleasurable ones.
I know if I spend today and tomorrow working flat out, then next weekend's gigs will be more relaxed and more fun. At the moment, the computer is charging before the marathon marking session.
I'm listening to Electro Swing (Wax Tailor) because it's the exact opposite of being scholarly!