Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Oh yes I am. BJ Cole just called and he has done my music and might send it tomorrow before he goes to Ireland.

Still tired but motor running again

Ah- turn on your radio, Gina Birch has just called and she's on Radio 4 Woman's Hour this morning talking about the punky time... I would love to talk to members of Delta 5 and the Au Pairs who played bass or guitar....
I've got a series of gigs coming up, and will post them tomorrow or later today when I've done a bit more transcribing of interviews.
I also did an interview myself a few days ago for No Class Fanzine
www.noclass.co.uk/fanzine.html which follows up the Chefs one I mentioned a few postings ago. They are going to review the Helen ans the Horns Etc CD soon as well.
What else? I am still waiting on tenterhooks to see if BJ Cole has finished my tracks- he's playing on two of them. I have posted a new one on Myspace, www.myspace.com/helenmccookerybook called Colour My Day which has Allan Bradbury from The Irrepressibles playing cello on it. He played on 3 tracks but this one's the only one that's mixed so far. I am pleased because Dubulah from Temple of Sound says he'd like to do some live stuff with me- we have done stuff in the past and that should be a larf as he's an ace guitarist. Guitars rule! (fickle ex-bass-player speaks). Final gossipy thing- Paul Laventhol, one of the guitarists from King Kurt, is coming to talk to the students at the University where I work on Thursday.
Make me a cup of tea, please!

Monday, February 27, 2006


I got up at 5.30 a.m on Saturday to go to Paris by Eurostar. Up the Sacre Coeur by funicular, photographing the graveyard with all its little stone houses with gardens for the remains of the dead, to the Louvre to see the Ingres exhibition, strawberry tarts and hot chocolate, buying socks in the Galeries Lafayette.. then yesterday, up the Eiffel Tower to the top where it was so scary- the lift was wobbly and you go up the pointiest point through this web of ironwork that DOES NOT LOOK STRONG AT ALL- I had to come straight back down again very quickly! Then an accidental sightseeing trip by boat (thought it was a riverbus) and then home again. I am SO TIRED and it was VERY COLD but it was GOOD FUN! But I hope I don't have to talk to anyone today.
To the comment-person from last posting- parts of the Ari interview will be in the book I'm writing, The Lost Women of Rock- I have to finish it by May this years so it can come out next year. I have also talked to:
Vi Subversa- Poison Girls, Poly Styrene- X-Ray Spex, Lora Logic- Essential Logic, Rachel and Hester-Dollymixtures, Enid Williams- Girlschool, Gaye Black- The Adverts, Tessa Pollitt- The Slits, Zillah Ashworth- Rubella Ballet, Lucy O'Brien- Catholic Girls, Gina Birch- Raincoats, Liz Naylor- Gay Animals
June Miles-Kingston- the Mo-Dettes, Steve Beresford, Attila the Stockbroker, Caroline Coon, John Peel
Geoff Travis, and lots of female instrumentalists who never got very famous, band managers, and so on.
Now I have to start writing it!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Yesterday evening I interviewed Ari in the 12 Bar. What a firework! She absolutely fizzes with energy and she got very angry with stuff that had gone on in the past with the Slits- and that made her really articulate and specific about it all- I can't wait to transcribe it- I was carrying the tape home like it was a consignment of diamonds or something! I keep forgetting how tough we all were, really tough, back then. It's impossible to explain what is was like to have everybody against you, a bit like being an outlaw I suppose but that's a far too romantic way of looking at it. It was so very violent as well as being completely exciting and inspiring, with nothing to lose and everything to gain. I wish I could remember how to scream, because I would do it, VERY LOUDLY INDEEED!!!!!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Recording etc

Well I was in the studio last night (cool baby, huh?) and finished mixing a track called Colour My Day which I'll upload on to Myspace instead of Hill of Fools. Also I recorded a new song- a miserable one- called Little England. I was thinking of starting a special Myspace for my boo-hoo songs called Helancholy McMelancholy but decided against it- would be better to have a Helen and the Horns one as there's some live stuff I could put on there. But tending these accounts.. I'm no music-shepherd! Also I digitised (get with the lingo, chick)
a track I did ages ago for a documentary on Millwall football club, using their chant 'No-one likes us, we don't care'. I had a copy of it and taped over it last Wednesday, like the idiot I am. Coincidentally I'd just been talking to someone about it and they said they wanted to hear it- bad karma! I'm just about to phone BJ Cole and ask him if he has played on the tracks I sent him, but I'm writing this instead because phoning people makes me nervous and writing blogs doesn't. Dubulah says he wants to do some music stuff with me too, and he's an ace guitarist.
Shouts to Joby! Congratulations on your forthcoming nuptials, sorry your email didn't get thru.
(If anyone else has emailed the yahoo address and I have not replied, it may be that I never received it- leave a comment and I will reply to that).
Going to interview Ari Upp this afternoon, so must stop this now and write questions!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Overheard at the Equestrian Centre

This joke will make a horse laugh, but nobody else. Try it!
Q: What do you call a pony's toenail?
A: A poenail!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Where me bones gone?

Woke up this morning and it seemed as though all the bones had left my body and gone on holiday without me. A body without bones is very comfortable, but not much use. Eventually they returned, and I remembered why I was tired- the Harrison gig last night. Horns, you played great, I really enjoyed the gig a lot and it was great to see some friends from way back (hello Treacle!) and,I hope,to have made new friends. I really liked Frank Bungay as well, and Sergeant Buzfuz has a way with lyrics. And the poet made me laugh so much I nearly choked on the banana I'd eaten for tea some hours earlier.
It was for me one of those nights when I play with someone else's fingers- or that's my excuse anyway. But singing, yee-ha! Wish I could do it for a living instead of talking and looking at pieces of paper with 'important' things on them all day! (important? call the fire brigade!)
Last Songbird at the Harrison, it's moving to Russian Clup Bomonti (not my spelling error!)
A duet with Johny Brown is in the offing, and BJ Cole is playing on some of my tracks, and his cotton socks must be blessed, for verily he told me I am a good guitarist! :)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Rehearsal, etc

Had a good rehearsal last night for our gig at the Harrison Bar tomorrow. Lots of blowing and yelling. We are doing Britannia Great, Temptation, Northbound Train, Lonesome Country Boy, Two Strings to Your Bow, Snakebite and Footsteps at my door- but not the version with French lyrics, as I haven't learned them yet (Ici naguerre s'etendait mon amant, idiots sans coeurs vous dormez ignorants). We have matching t-shirts (mysterious, huh?). I also have a solo gig booked at a pub called the Macbeth in Hoxton in March, but mostly, still just recording. BJ Cole (pedal steel supremo) has a couple of tracks to play on, one of which is my new-best-friend song, Dreaming of You (I really dreamed the whole song, just over a year ago).
Should be fun tomorrow night- poets etc, costs £3 and £4 to get in, 28 Harrison Street WC1 and we're on at 10.30. Might be interviewing Ari Up in the afternoon!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Interviewing people

It has been interesting. I am writing a book called The Lost Women of Rock, about female players of rock instruments in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Ages ago, I interviewed a whole bunch of people- Gina Birch (The Raincoats), Lora Logic (Essential Logic), Vi Subversa (Poison Girls), Enid Williams (Girlschool), Lucy O'Brien (Catholic Girls), members of Dollymixture and The Gymslips, Poly Styrene, and also John Peel and Geoff Travis. In the last couple of weeks I have caught up with some people I didn't talk to earlier- Tessa Pollitt from The Slits, June Miles-Kingston (Mo-Dettes, Funboy 3) and Gaye Black (The Adverts). What a responsibility, to put it all together. I hope I do them justice! A good side effect is that June is auditioning for The Slits, who are going to get back together; but now, I have to sit down and write. Problem is, the computer is in the same room as my guitar, which keeps flirting with me!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Corny jokes to make you laugh all weekend

What do you call a stampede of pigs?
A hampede.
What do you call a cat that kills loads of birds?
A burderer.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Helen and the Horns play Songbird, 18th February

We're playing a shortish set at Songbird, onstage at 10.30.
Coma along early to see some great poets and singers, in a really good venue!
Harrison Bar, 28 Harrison Street, King's Cross, London WC1

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Song Club

We are going to start Song Club again in March. Me and my songwriting friend Dan work with children in a tiny school in Barnet on Wednesday afternoons, running a Song Club where we write songs about all sorts of things with the children. Once, we went to London Zoo and looked at all the animals, wrote songs about them, and went back to sing them at the Zoo. Once we visited the Barnet Recycling Centre in the rain and wrote songs about recycling (and getting wet). The Mayor of Barnet came to assembly to see that one, and the children wore newspaper jackets and hats. This time we are going to work with Barnet Football Club. Giuliano Grazioli is going to come to talk to the children and they will ask him questions so they can write lyrics for their songs- and also they will go to a match. With any luck, they'll all be singing their songs on the pitch at half-time when we've finished them.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Yesterday I met Johny Brown who used to be in the Band of Holy Joy. He comes from the north-east too and we are going to write a duet about Wylam- he used to go and play down by the river there. Fact: the bridge in the opening credits of Byker Grove is at Wylam, and it was the village dare to climb over the top of it, over the arches, to cross the river. I was too frightened to do it.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Last night

Last night I went to the Resonance Benefit at the Conway Hall- there were some great DJs and I took the opportunity to dance myself stupid. Hammy was there- the drummer from Transglobal Underground who used to play drums in the 'house band' for the mad little theatre groups I used to write songs for. He could do things like setting off an alarm clock and switching it off while remaining in time- seemingly doing it in slow motion, during quite a fast song. If you've ever played in a band you-ll know what I mean. I am a bass player, or was, and the way things work with the drummer is always different- some of them just bully you along, some of them bounce, some of them do 'fiddling about with pots and pans', some of them leave lots of space for you to do stuff in. The last sort are best because you can play along almost in a reverie, and that's the sort Hammy is.
His band pre-Transglobal was the Flavel Bambi Septet- Natacha Atlas used to belly-dance and sing for them- and they came up to the Edinburgh Fringe to be our house band there. The show had about 30 people in it. I sang a song called 'She's a Girl that Likes to Have a Horse Between Her Legs', wearing a wooden horse with little legs that I could control with red ribbons, and tap-danced at the same time. We had a man who sawed people in half and found kidneys and apples inside them, Dada poetry, rude ladies who sat on the audiences' laps, a mini-play about marine biologists, and many more items. We also had dry ice. Now I work in an office that has a grey carpet, white walls and a computer, and a movement sesitive light that switches off all the time because nobody moves.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

About vans

The Chefs were driving back from a gig in Winchester, with Midnight and the Lemon Boys, in thick fog one night. Their drummer, Hoggins, started laughing helplessly. I asked him why. 'Look at Watto!', he laughed. Watto was driving at the time- fast asleep with his head snuggled up on the steering wheel. I never would sleep in a van after that, and always sat next to the driver to keep them awake, no matter how long the journey was.

Once your band has it's own van, you know you are a proper band. In The Chefs we had an old blue Ford gas van. Carl nicked an 'o' from another van, so it read 'Food' instead of Ford.

Jonathan, the Chefs' manager, ran himself over one night. We'd been doing a gig in a church hall in Willesden. My friends were down from Newcastle, and Graduate Records were just on the point of signing us. They had driven down from Dudley in their Posh New Top Of The Range BMW and gave me a lift back from the gig- everyone else piled into the van, with my friends packed in behind the drumkit and looking out of the back window. We got back to the house first and were parked outside: along came the van, and started reversing towards the BMW- problem was, it didn't stop and just carried on towards it, rather fast, with my friends' little white faces peering fearfully out of the back window. It stopped with millimetres to spare... and there was Jonathan, lying in the road groaning in agony. He had poked his head out of the drivers door, with it slid back, to see where he was going, fallen out, and the front wheel had gone over his chest. Russ had tried to catch him and fallen on the brake, just in time to save the posh car, but not in time to save Jonathan. But his chest just sprang back to its former shape before the night was out.

Ah- the Lucy story! When the Chefs split up, Carl and myself shared the van. I couldn't drive and had to ask Lucy to take my new band up to a rehearsal in Harlesden. At the end, we couldn't work out why she wasn't there. we went out to look for her and saw the van in the middle of the road, between two width restrictions with Lucy frantically gesticulating out of the back door, which had a padlock on it as the lock had broken ages ago. She had driven through the width restriction, smashed in the passenger sliding door, reversed back through, smashed in the other one, and been locked in for half an hour. She felt like a complete fool but it was incredibly funny, apart from having to replace the doors. Sorry Carl.

That's enough van stories for one day.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Chefs making a video

Carl Evans: guitar, Russell Greenwood: drums, Helen McCookerybook: bass, James McCallum: guitar

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Lesson learned at a young age

I was brought up in a village called Wylam, in the north-east of England. It was at the back end of the back end of beyond and there was nothing to do except Youth Club (which we all grew out of at 14) and the Wylam Folk Club, which happened every Friday in The Ship (rough pub). You had to be 18, and we all weren't, but we all went anyway and got told off every week and told not to come back next week, but we all came back next week... you get the picture.
There were two guys who could play the spoons and the saw blade (with a violin bow- scary sound!) and also young hopefuls who sang Dylan songs. One of them sat down one evening to play 'Knock, knock, knockin' on Heaven's Door' (ugh, I detest Dylan songs) and got to the end of the song without having thought about how he would deal with the fadeout section. The Lads from school had started joining in towards the end, and wouldn't let the poor guy finish- every time he tried to play a final flourish on the guitar, the Lads bellowed 'KNOCK, KNOCK< KNOCKIN' ON HEAVEN'S DOOR' and started the whole thing off again. Oh it was funny! It went on for about 15 minutes until the organisers stepped in to announce the next act!
Taught me to make sure I worked out how my songs were going to end, just in case the same thing happened to me one day.