Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Steve, Street Cleaner, Newcastle upon Tyne

 

In between gigs in Newcastle and Glasgow, I stayed in a bloody freezing youth hostel in Newcastle. In a situation like that, you don't stay in your room and freeze: you get out and find any sort of warmth you can.  Before Blake's even opened for breakfast, I was walking down a frosty side street and I came across Steve, who was resplendent in his turquoise uniform, cheeks rosy from the cold. We had a good chat; he has been in the army, and done all sort of other jobs. I asked if I could take a photo so I could draw his portrait, and he was very happy to do so.

In 60 minutes, I couldn't really do justice to the colours in his uniform and I knew I'd not have time to draw his trolley. I wanted detail, after yesterday's drawing which was hard to do because of the lack of detail in the original photo. I'm still a little bit under the weather, but concentrating on Steve's face was therapeutic, as were the memories of our conversation. I hope he is well and still cleaning our streets. The people who do these jobs are the most important people in the world, much more so than bankers who puff about as though they own the world. The latter would not have the patience and drive to do a job like this. Anyone can be a greedy-guts, but not many people have the resilience to be out on the streets at the crack of dawn making everything beautiful for us all.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Megan Davies of The Applejacks

 

I almost didn't draw last night, but it's such a nice thing to do. On goes BBC Radio 6 at 9 p.m. and out come the crayons, and a spontaneous decision is made about what I draw. This is from a photo I took of the TV when The Applejacks were featured on a TV show about 1960s beat combos. Gideon Coe played an eclectic set of tracks including Buzzcocks, U-Roy and The Girls With The Replaceable Head.

Most drawings take and hour but this one took 50 minutes, hence the lack of detail. I ran out of steam!

Monday, May 20, 2024

Racing

This is what it is like in the land of independent record labels.

I took the test pressings down to James's house and we listened on his portable record player: tinny but true. It just wouldn't connect to his bluetooth speaker, but we were able to hear that sides two, three and four were fine, but side one had a distinctive crackle that ran through the whole side. 

I contacted Damaged Goods, and Ian had a listen and could hear it too. So that's a dodgy side of a test pressing to be sorted out. I kind of panicked about the actual sound of the whole thing and quickly texted Gina to ask if I could listen to just part of a track on Mike's Rega record player. I had to get there before five and raced all the way from Honor Oak Park to Tufnell Park, with all the train destinations going against me. Calm, calm, calm... I got there in the nick of time and managed to have a quick listen. It sounded fabulous. Lee at Yuba Studios has done a fine job of disentangling the sounds from the wash of reverb that we mistakenly polished everything with, and you can hear the individual instruments really clearly. How hard we worked to get our songs sounding good! I'd had misgivings about resurrecting this album, but I think it's going to be something to be really proud of.

Simultaneously, Ian was finishing off the cover, which looks great, and we have approved that too.

I may need to spend the day in bed tomorrow. 

Although I may not... Robert has agreed to play guitar on one of my solo album tracks, Lester Square turned in an amazing guitar part the other day, Terry Edwards will play trumpet, and Winston Blissett is going to play bass on one of them. I spent a lot of time editing last week; I was indisposed and sitting still and fiddling about with note lengths and positions was just right. I re-played one song entirely, and decided to float off from the click track and just let it fly.

The Logic program has started behaving oddly, so I'll be making safety copies tomorrow. I have my trusty acoustic guitar to try out a sound with, and then I may do some bass parts.

It's so odd: the songs start to crystallise out suddenly after giving the appearance that they are not going to work. It's often just one tiny little recalibration, and the whole thing falls into place.

Yesterday, I had a day off. It was the vintage car parade through town, which I missed because I forgot about it. However, the cars were on display on the rooftop car park of the shopping centre. I fell in love with an Austin Healey. I think I need to start doing the lottery again.



Friday, May 17, 2024

The Chefs Test Pressings Have Landed

What a labour of love! Here they are, the test pressings of our album! 

Ironically, I've just been at James's because I expected these yesterday and had arranged to go there to listen with him.

The cover is almost ready (it looks great), and I can't wait to hear these tracks!



French Horn Player, Regent's Park Bandstand

This brass band were playing on a sunny afternoon in late summer last year. They did a spectacular Earth, Wind and Fire medley at one point that was very cleverly arranged.

I know one of the faces is huge; I decided to leave it, because these drawings are done in a straight hour each and I want to learn from them.



Thursday, May 16, 2024

The Origin of She-Punk

After a lot of reflection, I've decided to be proud of coining the phrase 'She-Punks' rather than being annoyed with other people for claiming it as their own idea. Now, the concept seems to have entered the vernacular, so-to-speak.
Way back in 2015, me and Gina Birch went to see the late and wonderful Andy Linehan at The British Library with the idea for a film based on my book The Lost Women of Rock Music. We had no idea until we met him that the BL was planning a big punk exhibition for 2016 celebrating the anniversary of punk, which they dated as beginning in 1976. He offered us a night to ourselves, even if we only had ten finished minutes of our documentary.
He emailed me to confirm the booking, and asked for a title.
On the spur of the moment, I called it 'Stories from the She-Punks', and the name stuck.
We spent the next few months filming, editing, and generally putting together a DIY documentary that after its initial screening in June 2016 and attendant publicity (we did a screening at The Roundhouse too, shortly afterwards) took a while to finish properly due to lack of funding. I believe there was an informal screening in Philadelphia hosted by Jenn Pelly in August 2016 too. I think the women we interviewed were really behind what we were doing, putting them in their rightful place in music history.
Anyway, the finished film was later taken up by Doc'n'Roll and went on a UK tour in 2019 (thanks so much!) and is currently still shown sporadically, though we haven't 'monetised' it yet.
The name has since been used for a book, a recent fashion range, and also a compilation of music made by... she-punks.
I understand that you can't keep an idea to yourself with big pointing fingers in the clouds: "It was me! It was me!" and I've heard through a group that I'm a member of that things like this are commonplace.
But it WAS me!

Upcoming Gigs

 


Man With Trolley: Tinned Tomatoes, Bags Of Chips And Salad, Rebellion

 


Sunday, May 12, 2024

Margaux in the Woods

 


Van With The Chefs On The Side

 


Shooting the Breeze

Yesterday afternoon we went up to the woods and took Margaux. I was very worried in case she got dirty, because really she is reserved for another future project. However, it was such a lovely sunny day and it was so tempting to go out somewhere where there might be spring flowers and solitude. I loaded a bag with tools, scissors, string, Margaux and her new hat (which later caused continuity problems), got into my Ugly Painters Trousers (Who me? Or the trousers?) and off we went.

Everything was just as beautiful as you could imagine. There was even a cuckoo mournfully calling in the distance, and there was the occasional family lining up on the little bridge to be photographed under the wisteria. Everything smelled beautiful too, delicate scents only hitting you once you'd passed the little tree that they emanated from.
Margaux enjoyed it, apart from the times her skirt started to fall down, when the string detached from her head, and when she lost a finger. She was so brave about that, that I didn't even know until it was too late. She got to fly, rest on mossy logs amongst black, round toadstools called King Arthur's Cakes, pretend that I was making her out of wood (she was actually made from  £2 bag of air-drying modelling clay from Hobbycraft), and even got an admiring audience from time to time. At one point a delicate little dragonfly flew up close to her to take a look. 
I had my guitar, and mimed a few chords into the fallen trees. I hope the beetles appreciated that. Or should that be The Beatles? Even getting lost in the woods on the way back didn't seem to matter. They had revolved, and up was down and down was up: that always happens when you get lost in the woods. 
Later, a work in progress track about puppets from my new album has been edited to fit the footage. I made a separate special track, but it was too late by then, and that track might end up being a different song.
Back in her plastic bag, Margaux lies atop the printer, next to the radio. Her little blue felt hat has a few twigs on it. The orange beetle that stopped off on the saw blade to check out whether it was edible or not has gone. It was a good day with a sense of purpose, spent in a beautiful place that it's so easy to forget about. This is such a lovely time of year: the sycamore leaves are huge and velvety, plants that will be enormous are small and excited about their potential, and if only the blue tits would stop eating the clematis buds and the pigeons would stop lining up on the bathroom roof to flap down to the bird feeder every time I'm not looking (it's their guilty eyes that are so annoying, pre-guilt before they do the Bad Thing like with children), life would be perfect, at least in the tiny sphere of home.

The album is almost ready for guest musicians, and I've started asking people. I've had two yesses and one no, and meanwhile I'm revving up for singing the lead vocals... I think at last the hay fever is leaving my lungs and heading back to the fields.
Ideas keep arriving in the middle of the night, which is annoying (why don't they arrive in daytime?), but better then than never, I suppose. I've spent this afternoon in the gloom, editing a guitar part so one of my guests doesn't realise what a crap guitarist I am. Don't tell him please! It's done now, took a lot of concentration but it's made a massive difference.
Oh Margaux! Didn't see you sitting there! Sorry about your finger: I'll make you a new one, and also a pet hen if you're very silent and very good.

Thursday, May 09, 2024

The Chefs Played ICA Rock Week

I gave Vince Clarke a cough sweet because he had a sore throat.



Millwall Music Springs Back To Life

Through Twitter I received a really touching request from a chap who was preparing his 94-year-old Grandfather's funeral. It was for the music that I wrote with Lester Square for the Millwall documentary No One Likes Us, We Don't Care. What a poignant revival for something that was really an extraordinary and unexpected pleasure to be involved with!

Later, the person who runs the charity podcast for the team also got in touch to ask if he could use it for his next season's podcast, and after checking with the production company and doing a bit of due diligence on the podcast itself, it's going to find a new home there.

Here's the music, in case you've never heard it: https://soundcloud.com/mccookerybook/no-one-likes-us-we-dont-care

There were multiple variations of the track, but this was the best one.