Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Wizzo bang bang hurray huzzahh!!

It worked! Eight people, standing back from the microphone in a smiling semicircle, man/woman/man/woman etc etc, all singing from the same songsheet (quite liderally), a little embarrassed at first, wondering what possessed them to turn up, then just going for it and sounding fabulous! Lollies all round, then Gareth played a little Rhodes and Tom slapped on the cheesey sleighbells ('Are you sure you want them this loud? They sound horrible!' 'Yes').
Thank you mad choir!
Now he's mixing the tracks, I am a very happy bunny for now, got a cup of tea and catching my breath before this evening.

Oh brother Tobias, thank you for your comment, I am now at peace.
I am sorry I haven't phoned Netty back but I did get the message.
Things a little hectic chez moi at the moment.


No, I haven't evolved into the Childcatcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (almost as scary as the Laughing Policeman- never could stay in a room with that record!), it's just that I bought a huge jar of them to take to the studio this morning. Oh do keep your fingers crossed! I hope everyone turns up!!! I've written the part for the choir. Can I manage the perfect blend of authority, fun and gratitude? Why do I want to do such silly things all the time?

This evening I'm doing a talk about the book and a little unplugged set at Housman's bookshop in Caledonian Road between 7 and 8 p.m.

The real thing is though... who recorded a song with the lyric 'Yeah this is the year to make your decision'? It's driving me mad, I can remember the melody and everything but the Internet is not helping me this morning and I WANT TO KNOW. Can anyone help?

Monday, October 29, 2007

A whole week ago.....

Well, I've been in Scotland, doing the mad Scottish Dancing thing and stuffing my face with food in Crieff with my entire family to celebrate McMum's birthday (which has a fantastic sweetie shop where I bought Floral Gums (ah! the aroma of clean disposable nappies!), sugared almonds, blackjacks, fruit salads, rose and violent creams, and more than I can metion of other things. I went quad biking and didn't fall off, although almost everybody else did; and I actually read a book (by Donna Leon, and it was a pile of poo but at least I read a book).
And I've been in Ireland too, in Dundalk, playing at the wonderful Number 32 Restaurant, unplugged, been driven around by cabdriver Hozein from Algeria with his stories about the Northern Irish Police and the Southern Irish police each saying that it's the others' responsibility when he and his Algerian cabdriver friends are being threatened by violent and drunken passengers, getting a 'flat wheel', learning English from Billy Connolly videos, and the deadly throat-grabbing wolves of Algeria (you have to climb a tree as fast as you can, otherwise they kill you. No trees, and you're a goner). And the poor Italian roadbuilders who made the mistake of killing a baby boar for lunch. only to be slaughtered by mummy boar when she found out what they'd done!
On the way to Stansted to catch the flight to Dublin, the traffic on the M25 drew to a standstill. I peered over the minicab driver's shoulder to see what was going on. An articulated lorry had stopped, and its driver was out on the road with a huge swan- I could see it's wings flapping. A girl got out of the car in front and got a blanket from the boot. Three lines of traffic had stopped for the swan, which had been hit as it tried to descend to the river below the bridge we'd been driving over; alas, we started up again after five minutes, for there was the swan, folded up at the side of the road, where it had died. It was strangely heartening that everybody had stopped to respect such a extraordinary and beautiful creature.

FInally... I have been organising the choir to sing on my Swedish Christmas track. I'm delighted that Lester Square is coming along to do it, and pehaps even Paul the Girl, and various other interesting people... Let's hope they all turn up for their lollipops!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Life's To Short to Stuff a Mushroom

Here I am at the computer, ready for a little rant- a rantlet.
It's about the sexyfying of firstly, Avril Lavine, and secondly, and most unbelievably, K T Tunstall.
Who took their heads off and filled them with silliness, and why and when did this happen?
Who snatched their bodies in the middle of the night and piped icing sugar all over them, turning them from feisty tomboys into Barbies?
Which men, or menwomen, shut them into rooms and blasted them with overpowering stereotype-bombs until they submitted and gave up all their power to the Record Industry and it's vile pigeonholes?
Who turned them into pigeons?
How could they!

That was quite a big rantlet, wasn't it.
And all from a woman who has just stuffed mushrooms for lunch, in spite of what Shirley Conran told us in the 1980s!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

To Kwire or Not To Kwire

I've sent an email to more than 90 people to see if I can get a choir together for one of my Christmas tracks. I wonder if anyone will be brave enough or silly enough to do it?
I also asked Steve Beresford to play on it but that kind of depends if I can get there in the evening after the bookshop gig.
Planz, planz, planz!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Someone was very quick...

... I put one of the Christmas tracks up on Myspace and somebody played it straight away.

Mellotron Demos and Other Audio Treasures

I have a lecture tape from a guy called Mark Cunningham (he wrote a fascinating book on the history of record production called Good Vibrations)and I've been playing it to the students this morning. I had the cassette converted to CD and unfortunately just before we got to the 10-minute out-takes fom the track Good Vibrations (all the mistakes, it's hilarious!) the CD stuck and refused to proceed any further. So we missed the Mellotron demo, even more hilarious, though not as funny as that EQ thing they used to play in studios about Nanawebbas or however you spell it.
The organ-player on Good Vibrations plays a take completely out of time, which I find hugely reassuring, as sometimes my studio sessions consist entirely of cock-ups.

I write on the back of my hand. Before I wash my hands, I either have to do the things written there, or transfer them to a diary. Currently, I have two door-codes for University studio doors; the word 'choir' to remind me to gather a choir from my friends; the word 'header' because I need to find out how much water should be in a central heating header tank, and put more in 'cos our heating is deafeningly noisy (does anyone know? Help!); the word 'amend' because I need to improve what I'm teaching next year by amending it now while I'm doing it; and, faded, the words 'consequences' and 'cover', which are little exercises I want the songwriters I'm working with to do- making songs line-by-line, and also doing instant cover versions of each others songs to see how catchy they are!
There are also faded words from a few days ago, underneath. I don't know what they say now, but they can't be that important, I hope.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Remedy for Joby

Joby's been on the blower; the council's confiscated all his music playing equipment because the neighbours have complained about the noise.
Well, here is the remedy, Joby.
Get an Admiral's megaphone, the sort made of bakelite with a battery in it, that whistles and squeals with uncontrollable feedback.
At six in the morning, open an upstairs window, and sing 'Morning Has Broken' in your sweetest tones, a capella, the Cat Stevens version complete with cheesey keychange.
Stand back and admire.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Christmas Songs

I was so tired yesterday I almost cancelled the studio but I'm bloody glad I didn't.
I asked Tom to call Spencer Brown, who played double bass on Hill of Fools on the Suburban Pastoral album, and ask him to come over and play on the Rockabilly Christmastime track. While he was getting out of bed (I start at eleven and rock'n'roll breakfast time's about twelve), I mixed the Christmas Drinking Song (or the Christmas drunkard song, actually) with a Beth Gibbons-type vocal sound, and sang backing vox on the Christmas Queen song (cheesey!!!) and re-sang the Devil's Christmas Stocking. Spencer arrived, started up his bass and did a fantastic job even if he held back a little when I said 'Make it sound like a turkey!'. He's an ace player, he really is, and the song was finished off nicely.
Oh, Christmas Choir, where are you? The last morning of October, Wednesday 31st, anyone who emails me is welcome to come and sing. I had volunteers a month ago but perhaps they all got cold feet!! The studio is near ALexandra Palace station; you don't have to be able to sing and I will buy you a lollipop.
Of course, I have a plan B in case the Choir doesn't come into existence. It's always good to have a plan B.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


If you live in the Lake District, go to this Knitting thing and tell me what it's like!

And this is interesting- after Ireland, I'm playing in a bookshop in King's Cross. They've got great things on!


Yes, been away in Scotland. I rose early on Saturday (4.30, with the larks) for a seven-hour journey to Glasgae (being a skinflint, doing it this way cost a mere 28 quid!) to support the Daintees at the ABC2. They were a four-piece, and much rockier especially since they had an absolutely ace drummer with them for the evening who was particularly good at Boat to Bolivia. They are lucky with their drummers because Kate is fab too. It's very interesting for a meganerd musician like me to see the same songs performed by different line-ups. This time there was more room for guitar solos, vocals and so on; what was missing in terms of a party feel was more than made up for in tightness and rockiness.

Then on Sunday I took the train to Edinburgh to see McMum and McDad; the piper stood at the end of Princes Street with his testosterone whine. I love being in Scotland; lots of Londoners are sour and pushy (not all, of course). But Scottish people have a mad illogical logic and a nutty air as though they have just been placed on Earth from a planet in a faraway galaxy, and told to find their way home with only a tattered map of the Congo from the 1930s.

I had a busy couple of days and now could sleep on a chicken's lip.

Friday, October 12, 2007


You know, I'm not sure if this band played at all. They were in Barnet Bandstand one Saturday morning; they seemed like a real band because they had musical instruments with them. But all they seemed to do was chat, for hours.
How lovely and peaceful, a gig where you almost play but don't, raising cheery anticipation in the Saturday shoppers without having to disappoint them with your choice of material or dodgy playing.


Well, the songwriters at the University of the East did themselves proud yesterday- they are writing songs about London and there's a budding Frank Sinatra in the pack, albeit one with his tongue in his cheek. And some very interesting trip hop and a mini-rock-band. Made my day- seven hours of lecturing that anyone could have collapsed under but not after laughing like a drain at those jellied-eel lyrics!
Then I went off to the gig at the Scolt Head in Islington; it was very low-key but that was perfect. It's a great room, with really good acoustics, and I think the psomoter Simon will do very well once he gets it off the ground. It reminded me of the venues in the US that I played at. All it needs is an identity!
Tomorrow I'm off to Glasgow to support the Daintees, which I am really looking forward to as they are a grand band.

Incidentally, yesterday about a mile of the North Circular disappeared, and today there was an extra bit. What the heck's going on?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I rushed and I rushed

They ought to rename the North Circular Road the North Circular Accident.
Everyone changes their minds- I saw a lady with a car full of children do a u-turn into oncoming traffic to get back to a roundabout; people zigzag back into traffic from exit lanes. Big lorries bully little lorries who bully cars who bully motorcycles.
Yet still I love it- those pylons traced out against the pale grey sky, like filigree lace carrying black cables into the distance; the gas storage tanks shrinking down from their skeletons, the spiny cranes and the big gloomy concrete buildings. Poetry from the car window with a soundtrack of Emma Bunton and Erykah Badu!
I was rushing to the studio- it took me two hours from Docklands to Wood Green, there were so many accidents. That gave me two hours to record the backing tracks for the Christmas songs before the next client, the rapper, came in to rap. The adrenaline focused everything and I got them done- I hope I still have a chance to put the choir on- please volunteer and I'll organise you!
Tom has a fantastic new vocal microphone and I almost sounded like Beth Gibbons on one of the songs, Doris Day on another. Perhaps it's full of the ghosts of singers past and it's not me singing at all really. Bit like the radio full of miniscule people I was telling you about a while ago. Poor sad McMum, with her stories about radio waves and receivers. Everybody knows there are millions of tiny people inside every radio, shouting at the tops of their voices!

Monday, October 08, 2007

I'm an eBay failure

Yes, I'm an eBay failure, but I've decided to celebrate the fact!
Yesterday I failed to sell my old Portastudio (perfect nick in it's box) and my old Casio CZ101 Syth with a broken key that still plays really well.
This must mean that I have a soundtrack commission in the pipeline somewhere!
I used the synth for all sorts of soundtracks in the 1980s and the portastudio to do one with the dawn chorus mutating into police sirens for a really good film-maker called Rachel Davies. So they have worked hards, mes equipements, and should be treated with respect.

In the middle of the night last night I had an idea for a song which I sang on to my phone. I haven't listened to it yet. Buried treasure or a pile of poo? How exciting, waiting to find out! I'll do that as soon as I've finished blogging.

This week... in the studio, Tom's back from New York, hooray! I'll be starting to record the Christmas songs. I don't know if I'll be able to sort out the choir part, I do hope so, but McMum has broken her leg and I am going to spend a bit of time in Scotland after playing with the Daintees on Saturday in Glasgow. This Thursday I'm playing at the Scolt Head in Culford Road in Stoke Newington. It's free and I'm on at 10 p.m. Come and cheer me on- I will have been teaching for seven hours beforehand and will need gallons of imaginary energy drinks and grammes of imaginary whizz in order to play.
I used to be a Girl Guide.
I am sure I will manage, because I know how to tie a reef knot and that will see me through.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

In which I imagine going to see The Band of Holy Joy

Here I am, stuck at home, not going to see The Band of Holy Joy at the Rhythm Factory; Katy will be there and so will lots of other people that I know, and so should I be too; instead I am welded to this chair with a large cup of tea, imprisoned in my home by circumstance. Bitter? Not I. Jaded? A trifle. Bored? You bet!
I imagine... walking to the tube station, listening to Destiny's Child on my iPod, whack the oyster card on to the reader, get on the tube, read the leftover Saturday papers, change to the District and Circle, get off at that station that isn't Whitechapel but should be (you know the one I mean, it's right next to the Whitechapel Art Gallery), along to the Rhythm Factory (further than I imagined), go into the venue, get one of those pale beers with a lime piece squeezed in the top, suss out the FQ (friend quotient), get excited, there's Johny, there's the other bloke I used to know from Geordieland who told me all about his sister using a sunbed (he did, honest). Listen to their songs (I've got lots of their stuff on vinyl), they are even better than they used to be in the old days, yay yay more more clap clap that was GOOD! Walk back to the tube station, whole thing in reverse, feet sticky from beer on floor, a bit deaf from loud music, lots of drunk people on the tube all laughing at each other because they think all the other people are drunker than they are. Usually, someone has thrown up on the floor by the time we get to East Finchley. (Once, that person was me, but it was gastro-enteritis not booze and a kind lady gave me a paper hanky).
Walk back home and write a review of the gig in my blog.....

Friday, October 05, 2007

Blueface at the piano

This man was playing piano at Songbird the other night when a poet was poeming

She's a Punk Rocker

I went to see Zillah's film on Wednesday in the West End and I was very pleasantly surprised. I think I'd been expecting something grey and hard-hitting, but instead she has made a colourful and celebratory documentary, which although it consists almost entirely of talking heads (with tantalising slices of archive footage, in particular of X Ray Spex and Poison Girls), is completely riveting all the way through. Although there are the expected people, Poly's bodyguard Mary is a real find and I was touched to see Vi Subversa, who was such a brilliant supporter of beginner-punk-rockers in Brighton and who got the Poison Girl's bass player to lend me her bass (ex-Buzzcoks!!) and who lent us her son, Danny, to play our first few gigs. It also features Michelle from Brigandage, Eve Libertine from Crass, and lots of others.
The film itself is full of acid-house colours and this really lifts it- it's a very positive film; nobody comes over as being cynical, everyone has just the right degree of madness, and everyone also looks fantastic and very stylish, in particular Poly and Gaye, who look downright beautiful. There's no wastage, no filling, but the whole thing is really well-edited so it's perfectly-paced.
I know nothing about film or film-making and I am very easily bored 'cos I don't like sitting still, but this was great.
Afterwards, we all went off to the pub for a bit; they are a very friendly crowd. I think Zillah and myself will try to get some sort of roadshow or event together sometime soon.

Later, I went to Songbird; Katy Carr was there, who I haven't seen for ages, and also Rob from Temposhark, who I didn't recognise at first as I wasn't expecting to see him! It was really buzzing, with assorted Utrophians and Judith the Mermaid too. The Cross Kings is a brilliant venue for Songbird, as it has a dogeared youthclubbish feel to it. I'm playing duets there with Martin Stephenson next month.

Incidentally, after searching for years, both Stella and Dawn from the Objeks (Brighton band) have been in touch separately, and Kate Korus too. All I need is the Au Pairs and Delta 5, and I will have to go for a re-write!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Curly Hardhairs

This is a big puzzle, because the species ought to have died out in the age of rock'n'roll pensioners, but I saw one again today and I can only think that there's some very clever irony going on.
You know the women I mean- aged about seventy with a neat pink powdered face with eyeliner and a beauty spot, red scary lipstick. A twinset, and tweedy skirt; beige nylons and neat little black patent shoes with kitten heels. Sometimes pearls, sometimes not; all crowned by a very pale grey, very solid-looking set of rococo curls with a feature at the front, a sort of tubular horned arrangement flourishing off to the left and the right that looks like one of those waves surfers dream of but never experience.
Tomorrow I'm off to see Zillah Ashworth's film, 'She's a Punk Rocker', at the Cinescene in Piccadilly, the Songbird later. I've just got back from slurping squash soup (no, not orange squash soup, silly, that pumpkin thing) with Diana in Highgate Woods. We were so busy yakking we got lost and her arthritic dog went on strike briefly until she lied: 'Breakfast time!'. He stumbled back to his feet and she hoisted him into the car.
Now, I have a lecture to write and the Christmas songs to finish! I've done four, a showtune, a rckabilly song, a waltz and a drinking song, and I can't wait to record them.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Vivien Goldman's Punk Professor Site

I give up. Sorry, Paleface!

Paleface the right way up?

Lets hope so.
Blogger has decided that I'm German, which is a bit of a puzzle but I guess I can cope.

While I think of it- did I tell you about our party conversation this summer about One-Big-Slipper injuries? I probably did. We just laughed like drains (unpleasant ones) for ages thinking about the elderly and vulnerable dashing for the doorbell and forgetting that both feel were tightly tucked into one giant sheepskin footnest.
O dear.
How idealogically abhorrent.
I must sack myself immediately from all responsible jobs, cease to imagine myself as a nice person, and start laughing at nasty Jimmy Carr's jokes.
Fact: I used to phone the BBC to complain about Mark Lamarr and his sexist racist TV show on Friday nights.
S'pose I can't do that sort of thing anymore now.

The Scottish Dancing Lady

You don't even have to have been raised Scottish to have suffered the Saturday morning trauma of Scottish dancing lessons.
Me and Bruv had to go to Jesmond to preserve our heritage. There were other embarrassed kids from our schools there, who also had parents able to force them to learn things on their official Day Off.
Our Scottish Dancing Lady had a ruddy face, luxuriant moustache, A-line tweed skirt and short-sleeved crimplene top in an alarming shade of turquoise. She had a dansette and a hooting voice to shout commands at us with. She also had No Sense of Humour so you couldn't fool around to make the time pass more quickly. She barked out instructions, and we moved to pre-assigned spots on the chilly lino floor, dreaming of Beano comics and banana toffee penny-arrows; it was hell.
Naturally, as soon as the lesson was over we forgot every single thing she taught us.