Friday, September 30, 2022

Song Review from @Trustthedoc Blog

'I must admit to being pleasantly surprised to receive a track by Helen McCookerybook in my Fresh on the Net in-box. Helen was the bassist and singer with Brighton Post-Punk band The Chefs whose 24 Hours was a big favourite of mine in my teenage years. She then went on to front the unique Helen and the Horns (whose trombonist Dave Jago was later my trombonist in MSQ). I met Helen when she played a gig for my good friend Richard Sanderson’s Linear Obsessional gig at the Arts Cafe in Lewisham. She teaches these days. That afternoon she managed the unlikely feat of persuading the rather dignified and heavily academic crowd at Linear Ob to sing along with her song about a bathing pool, one of those memories that will stay with me forever. Anyway, her set that day was made up of lovingly crafted, slightly whimsical Acoustic Pop that sat somewhere between the minimalist charm of The Marine Girls and something more folky but jazz-inflected. So it is with Beach Walk. Picking guitar keeps the backdrop simple and organic but also skillfully executed while a three [or could be four] part harmony on the words ‘Beach Walk’ lift a catchy chorus and plant it firmly inside my head for the duration and aftermath of the song. Proof that, when you are an inherently talented songwriter with an engaging voice, you don’t need all the bells and whistles to produce a fine pop tune.'

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

With Robert

And today, a rehearsal with Robert for next Tuesday's gig supporting Hefner at The Ivy House, which we're doing as a duo rather than a full band. We did that in Vienna, and it seemed to work!

Tickets here:

With James

With my brother James yesterday. We will be playing at The Betsey Trotwood on Wednesday 16th November: a set from him, a set from me and the four songs by The Chefs together at the end of the evening.

Yar, Yar, Yar! Rat In The Restaurant

I went to a new evening class last night (last week's one was cancelled), and because I was so early I went to a local Vietnamese restaurant for a time-killing snack. As I was slurping the Jasmine tea, the restaurant began filling up with young chaps who through it was OK to be very rude to the waiter, possibly to 'impress' the woman they were with, but possibly just because they were rude.

Suddenly a rat shot across the floor at such speed you almost couldn't see it. It was bullet-fast. The waiter behind the bar leapt on to a chair, and the other waiter had a quick look around to see who had noticed.

'Was that a rat?' I asked. The waiter came over to the table and muttered 'Yes, we are dealing with them down in the kitchen', and withdrew rapidly. The Rudes had been completely oblivious to the drama; they were busy picking fault with the paint on the panelling in the restaurant. 

Was it worth making a fuss? London is teeming with rats, isn't it? Here in the 'burbs, the urban foxes crunch them up and keep the numbers down. They themselves are supposed to be pests, but I prefer them to rats.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Airplay on Gideon Coe Tonight!

Not only a session by The Chefs, but also a track from my new album- first airplay! 

Listen here:

The song Gideon Coe played this evening was Coffee and Hope, which I'm delighted about, because it's one of the songs with a bit of a dark twist. So I'll play it on Saturday night in Lewes! Here's the ticket link; I'm on first at about 8 p.m.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Caroline Coon at the Stephen Friedman Gallery

What a nice surprise to hear from Caroline, with an invitation to her private view in Mayfair on Thursday evening! I love Caroline's paintings, all the more so because when I first met her to interview her for The Lost Women of Rock Music probably in about 2005, she showed me the way that she paints: an under-layer of black, grey and white as a kind of skeleton for the colour and animation that covers that layer and brings the painting to life.

Caroline is honest and forthright, and so are her paintings. This series is a paean to west London, where she has lived for a long time, hymning the people as much as the landscape; what I used to call the 'peoplescape', that living carpet of activity that plain architecture and functionality can't capture. There's lots of humour here: the half-person marching out of the painting, and the crowds of naked men having been peeled of their business suits, presented in their birthday suits instead, without the power-play of their office uniforms. 

The way she paints water and shadows: that I found positively inspiring, to reduce realism to design, yet for the water and shadows still to look real. I'm still puzzling over that days later.

Of course openings need party people, and the loyalty of London punks knows no bounds. There was Gina, herself thrilled to have acquired agents and a forthcoming exhibition of her work in London, and Paul Simonon who has an exhibition of his work around the corner. Not being of London punk heritage, I frequently fail to recognise people, but they are usually magnanimous about it. Caroline looked beautiful as always, having recently, according to Gina, been modelling Pam Hogg's clothes at her fashion show.

Here's the exhibition, and some photographs that don't do the paintings justice. Perhaps you need to go!

Details here:

Saturday, September 24, 2022

CDs Arrived

What a week-  I'm going to write a separate post about Caroline Coon's painting show when I've taken a breath. 

The CDs have just arrived- out on 7th October!

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Dried Blackberries

There were so many unpicked blackberries last week, fat and juicy. I had to delay picking them for various reasons, and went back this morning with a big box to put them in. 

In the space of a week, they have all dried up completely. There is nothing there but little hardened black pebbles, and I returned home completely empty-handed.


I went for my exit interview yesterday afternoon. Beforehand I felt really ill, but I managed to do it. What I had to say was so damning that the HR person apologised. I apologised too, because it wasn't their personal fault, but I am also aware that by working in an organisation you represent their values. And that's why I left. The wrong things about the organisation I've been working for have been exhausting me for some time, and now I am free.

Afterwards when I go home I experienced a monstrous migraine. I slept for ten hours last night. 

I have an illustration commission in the pipeline, something it is easy to commit to because I believe in the  project. There is also another illustration possibility, a campaign that I've offered to add my skills to.

Meanwhile, I have gigs: an a CD release to come!

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

The Monochrome Set Play Eligible Bachelors At The Lexington

After such heavy gigging and travelling the weekend before (though it was hugely enjoyable!) it was a great thing to go out to be in the audience for this really special gig. There were so many people to say hello to on the way in that we missed part of The Wouldbegoods' set, which is a pity because guitar duos are particularly fascinating at the moment. True to the spirit of The Lexington, the venue was already full for them, which was wonderful to see. I took up a vantage point to watch the last two songs, which were really well-received, and within the twinkling of an eye, Bid and crew were on stage to play the first of their sets, sans Lester Square at first. I was going to say they were just Monochrome (without the 'Set'), but they were great, and played a song that I was furiously jealous of. I started filming it halfway through because I want to find out what its called and become more jealous still, which is really healthy for a song writer (having just completed an album, I need a stimulus to kickstart writing new songs again). Bid was in great voice: the grace-notes were utterly graceful and the deadpan was full-on. The crowd was rustling restlessly, and after another short break, on came the full crew. By this time I'd slipped down to the front, and managed to peer through the 'v' gap between two chap's heads. What fun! 

They roared through Eligible Bachelors and as always it was the little details of being at one of their live gigs that made it a special occasion, the banter especially. As one song was coming to a close, Bid turned round to drummer Mike, quite possibly to enquire about whether he knew how the song ended. Mike shook his head, no... and suddenly, the song ended absolutely perfectly.

A yearning voice called out from the back of the crowd: 'I love you, Andy Warren!'. Was Andy smiling, or was that a trick of the light? His bass thundered through the floor, whacking our hearts like a sledgehammer. There is no one else like him.

Lester Square, serious in spectacles, concentrated hard on his playing. I used to pretend to be him when I was nervous on stage, you know. It worked. Just him: I couldn't have managed the shoulder-revolving tic that is such an enigmatic feature of the way he plays.

'Turn Lester up!' shouted another aficionado. 'Turn that man down!' retorted Bid. 

In a moment of darkness at the encore, Lester read out a satanist prayer by Anton LaVay, which summed up the current state of play perfectly. Later, he offered the original Eligible Bachelors album artwork to anyone who could identify the hit record the producer of the album had sung on. 

'Gaudete!' responded a clever fellow, and he was right. 

Others in the audience decided to try it on. 'Can I have your guitar when you're finished, Lester?', asked one, plaintively; 'Or your trousers: I'm not fussed!'.

How could the audience of people literally wearing anoraks back in the day have grown up to be such wags? I'll never know. 

It all added to the sense of fun and madness. The music, of course, was wonderful: every member of the band worked full-on to make the album work live: it was exactly right. My photos are rubbish, but here's a song. Thanks for a great night, you absolute dudes; in the words of Bid (actually describing my first solo album, *blush*) it was 'classy!'