Tuesday, April 29, 2008


I was talking to my friend in Australia today about this.
When we were little kids, train travel to visit McScottish relatives took a long time. McMum piled us all into the train, including our Siamese cat, Pandy, who was in the Mum's Bag, a big black bag where the damp flannel, travel sickness sweets, spare socks and so on lived.
At lunchtime for a treat we went along to the restaurant car and sat there importantly, eating our dinner with heavy silver-coloured knives and forks. When we'd finished the waiter came along with the bill. McMum unzipped the bag, completely forgetting that it was full of indignant cat.
Pandy poked her head out, furiously.
'MEOW!!' she bellowed, her neck erect with affront, an angry spark in her eyes.
The waiter got such a shock he almost leapt out of his uniform!

Monday, April 28, 2008


Caroline and I were talking about Alannah Currie from the Thompson Twins; I had been trying to find her for the book but hadn't been able to. Alannah is really interesting- back in the day she had been making rap tracks based on Edith Sitwell's Dada poetry, and she got Debbie Harry to do one. Then she moved to the jungle in New Zealand, before moving back to England.
Anyway, there was an article about her and her roadkill upholstery in one of the Sunday papers, and we started to talk about stuffed animals. Caroline told me that when she was little she watched two Kingfishers having a huge fight outside the window. One of them won and drowned the other in the lake. Her uncle took it to a taxidermist and had it stuffed; recently she found out that it's really common for Kingfishers to fight- they are really aggressive.
I'd always thought of them as fairylike creatures, on a par with unicorns and frog princes, but I was obviously wrong.

On the Typical Girls web forum, people are talking about Joly and Better Badges.
I worked there when I was in The Chefs. Joly printed some of my weird comics back in the late 1970s and when I came to London he gave me part-time work. There were always lots of interesting visitors, giant dreads coming in to get their reggae bands' badges, skinny punks, and a big mail order business. I loved the artwork, repeat images of Josef K badges like miniature Warhols.
For some reason we once had a conversation about rabbits, and he told me that miniature rabbits are really vicious. I've never forgotten that, and wish I could, because I am sure it's taking up brainspace that could be more usefully deployed.

Monday's Mood

This was a much more laid-back day than yesterday. I took some Helen and the Horns vinyl albums down to Rough Trade, which was Jane's suggestion. I've tried phoning and writing to Near Shore but they don't reply, and I can't get hold of any more CDs, which is really frustrating, so the vinyl will have to do. The guys at Rough Trade say they will send me a link to put in this blog and on Myspace.
I had a little wander round Portobello Road, and saw a Dot Cotton lookalike outside a shop; they are everywhere in London, tiny and spry and smoking their fags like nobody's business. I thought of a name for Cotton-spotting: Spot the Dot.

The glass is a quarter full, which is better than being three-quarters empty. London is full of things to see and people to meet, and I met Caroline in a minute Portugese cafe where we ate massive plates of home-made food and drank coffee and talked all sorts of talk, from the personal to the political. We are both going to vote differently in the London Mayoral Election, but both going to put the Green Party second. She had seen Rhoda Dakar versus Toby Young on a late-night TV show, and was full of praise for Rhoda's articulate putting down of the smug Toby, who made much of the fact that he'd gone to the original Rock Against Racism event only for the music, and not for anything else.
Well, I know at least one eighteen year old who wasn't going to vote (for the first time) before attending Sunday's Love Music, Hate Racism festival, but who is now.
I read somewhere that it was The Daily Mail who invented the term suffragette to try to put the female vote campaigners down all those years ago.
Don't think they've changed much!

While I was in Rough Trade I heard some music that I liked and I bought a CD.
I could never be a proper reviewer because I can't remember what the band was called and I can't be bothered to get up and have a look, owing to the fact that I have sunk too deeply into this chair to ever get out of it again.
If I can persuade anyone to get the CD out and put it on then I will tell you all about it, but it's unlikely that will happen.
Sorry everybody.
Perhaps I could just invent a band and a fictional CD, and review non-existent tracks and give them four stars out of five.

I'm too lazy even to do that, actually.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Love Music, Hate Racism: rambling rant review

The cold drizzle didn't put me off, and nor did the fact that Transport For London's Routeplanner had crashed and couldn't tell me how to get there. Get to Hackney and follow the crowds! I thought, and it worked.
The trick with parapluies on wet days is to notice when the rain stops and put your umbrella down, otherwise you look like a prat.
The first band on the big stage was awful- total tossers. 'They're telling us to get off the stage', said the singer at the end of their set ,'but we've got more songs to play so we're not going to. Do you want us to stay?'.
Wow! Anarchy in the UK! Selfish indie band wants audience to applaud their stage-hogging!
It's not about you, you arrogant band, it's about every performer sharing the stage to show they support anti-racism!
I went and stood in the middle between the two stages to recover. From there I heard a great voice and there was Adelaide Mackenzie on the small stage, just singing her heart out to a small crowd; no self-promotion there, just songs and bonhomie, the perfect cure for the perils of the awful indie band.
Afterwards, Stylo G took to the little stage and was the first of many to have the idea that the guy with the mike shouts "Love music' and the audience shouts back 'Hate racism'. They were OK actually, him and Little Rascal (I think that was the other one's name).
I wandered back to the big stage where a man was telling a moving story about his late father, a survivor of the concentration camps; there was a minute's silence, which everyone observed, and then another rapper took to the stage.
God it was awful- he started off with the marching bit of 'We Will Rock You' and then started hectoring us to raise one arm in the air, then got everyone yelling call and response stuff- honestly the similarity to one of Hitler's speeches was completely unnerving. the man on the stage with his arm up shouting, and the crowd, each person with one arm up, shouting as one in response. Totally, totally weird. And then he got the film crew to film the crowd. 'This is gonna be on Youtube' he said.
Yet another act had totally missed the point of what they were supposed to be there for. Yes, he had done the 'Love Music Hate Racism' bit, but the egotism was astonishing. I don't know who he was, and I don't want to know. It was just so weird- of course he was not a fascist, It was just that the way 'the group' and 'the leader' were interacting with each other was exactly the same as the way political dictators wind up the mob. And there is a bit of that in the way that all pop stars control their audiences.
So I went back over to the small stage where I just caught Jocelyn Brown singing a song- she has a fabulous voice and was giving it all she had. I would have liked to have heard more, but I think it was one song each. She left the stage and her keyboard player said '... and she has a New Single Out Next Week!!!!'. But by that point it was great to see a real old fashioned band with a trumpet and sax, playing really well.
After that, a guy with a flute and beats got up- I think he was Nathan 'Flutebox' Lee. His boo-boo was fantastic, and I really felt for the guy.
'LOVE RACISM!!' he shouted excitedly, and then realised what he'd done. Oh dear. Of course nobody took it seriously but I bet he has a sleepless night tonight!
Over to the main stage again, where Tony Benn made a respectful and dignified and mercifully short and non-self-promoting speech. 'Young people understand the world better than me', he said. 'This is the first generation that could wipe out the human race, and the first that has the ability to save it. Learn not to hate each other'. He didn't shout or sloganeer, which made a pleasant change.
Then the lead singer from Hard Fi started singing. He was good, and they are good, but I'd really had enough of Alpha Males by then, and I could swear I heard a backing track of crowd screams in between numbers, the same one I think they play at other festivals.

The funny things is, after all this moaning, it was actually quite good. There was a nice atmosphere in spite of the rain; lots of people had dressed up, and I'm going to upload a picture of the tooting girls with their green plastic trumpets, who were hilarious. There were two older guys in paisley shirts showing off like nobody's business, some great t-shirts, some great hairstyles, and everyone there from Asian grannies and their grandchildren to Rastafarians- and of course, the Middle Class.
But it did make you realise- RAR totally changed for the better the way British people thought.
This is only half of it; I missed Jerry Dammers and Poly Styrene and The Good the Band and the Queen.
I'm sure they were all good and equally sure they were sensible enough to leave their ambition at home with their cats and the remains of their Sunday dinners!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Nude Magazine's 13th Issue Party

It would have been hard to imagine a better venue- the Horse Hospital behind Russell Square has to be one of the weirdest spaces in London. In 2000, I went there when I was foraging for venues for Voxpop Puella. It was interesting to see the same seedy dark red velvet sofa leaning against the wall, ageing like a good whine.
You walk up the horsy gantry with strips of wood nailed across it to stop the horses' hooves from slipping/trip up humans (delete that which does not apply), hanging on to a black tasselled handrail. There is an exhibition by Mark Pawson on at the moment- it's wonderful! At one point, when I was gazing at his collection of little plastic baby dollies i wondered if he was actually me, because we definitely have some duplicates, and swops too Mark, in the unlikely event of you ever reading this. He also collects something I'd completely forgotten about- those little wooden Vikings with white fluffy rabbit-fur beards and hair, made of different sorts of wood, with spears and shields. I remembered having a salt and pepper set in the Viking stylee when I was a teenager, completely useless to a teenager and totally unhygenic because of the hair. Those little vikings used to be everywhere and then completely disappeared. Now I know where they went to- Mark Pawson collected them all!
The party people were all stylish and buzzed like a hive of arty bees; I had been curious to see what sort of person reads Nude or contributes to it, and it was as though the pages had leapt to life and congregated for one night only in the perfect mad environment; there was a running projection of cool 60s films featuring slightly louche-looking stars and a very glamorous bigfoot truck (you know, there's a dancing bigfoot show that does the rounds of the Highland games in Scotland!), and bless me, the DJ played 'Is That All There Is?' by Cristina. I didn't know anyone else had that record. It was banned at the time. (Actually, I think the rock critic Simon Frith has a copy because he's a secret Cristina fan).
It was a swell do and I'm glad I went; Ian, who edits the magazine, was talking about doing a music night and asked if I would like to play.
Yes I would!
I went back home, passing through Russell Square Tube Station. There is something spooky about it, with its ghostly lifts. It probably disappears into the fog at dawn before the sun comes up.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Lucky Dip

It's been a funny sortofaday.
On the way to work, I bumped into Mark Ellingham on Camden Town platform.
He used to be one of the Camberwell crowd (which included Vic Reeves, King Kurt and Dirk from Tomato) and he started up the Rough Guides to everywhere. He says he has stopped doing that and has started a Green publishing house. We all used to go to the same parties and drink too much; I don't know how any of us managed to do anything else but we did. In my house, we couldn't work out how anything grew in the dark little garden out the back, until one day we woke up before 11 o'clock and realised the garden was full of bright sunlight and probably had been for hours. The problem was, the Prince William used to lock its doors, and because you kept thinking it was going to close for the night, you kept drinking your drink really fast... and then needing another one. I became a bloated horror.
Mark was with a viola player who was on his way to the Barbican to play a viola-heavy Finnish piece, that he said was rather gloomy.
It took me ages to get to Docklands as usual (on Tuesday a train simply conked out at Prince Regent and I had to get a bus through miles of estates to Canning Town before I could get anywhere), and then the two students who were supposed to come and see me didn't turn up, so Julia and me watched the ferrets on Youtube and also the man who couldn't impersonate Tony Blair or David Blunkett, because he just used his normal voice. Then I went to visit a student doing work experience at a disco equipment store in Deptford, and patiently listened to his boss telling me all about how DJaying has changed since the old days and now people use computers; on the tube back, I recognised the dreadlocks of another awol student from afar on the tube, and did a mobile tutorial between stops (it was really funny, I even had the paperwork he needed just by chance!)
Then I saw Poly Styrene browsing the racks in Top Shop but I was too preoccupied with some daily difficulties to say hello- I don't think she saw me. There was nothing exciting in Top Shop- it was one of their dull periods.
What a funny day, lots of bits and pieces. I'm tired now and wondering whether to go to the Nude Magazine party tonight or not. I think I might; I'll have a cup of coffee and see.

Leonardo Da Vinci

I've been thinking more about the culture debate, and also about this competitive thing for people to be talented and make 'Money For Britain' out of their skills.
Everybody forgets about experimenting- and more important, failure.
I am certain that Leonardo Da Vinci chucked all his crappy paintings on the fire each night when he was cooking his sausages for tea, only leaving the super-dooper ones for us to put in art galleries centuries later.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


On the way back from Scotland the other week, I saw the car in front of me swerve on the motorway approach. I couldn't work out why, until I saw a terrified fieldmouse zigzagging across the tarmac ahead.

The Culture Trip Debate

I had an interesting evening last night taking part in a panel of people talking about the Government's new commitment to providing 5 hours of culture in the school week.
I was the weakling on the high-powered panel, which consisted of Margaret Hodge and her Tory counterpart as well as the wonderful Estelle Morris (who said the most sensible thing of the evening when she remarked that some head teachers needed to be told that creativity was important for children, as they would prefer to ignore this fact and just aim for literacy and numeracy scores). There was the Tate Modern's Education officer, and a very nice chap, Peter, from Creative Partnerships. How I wish I'd told the awful Tory (who told us all twice that he'd attended an independent school, thus telling us that he had no relevant experience at all) that during the Thatcher/Major administration I started at least three music jobs for a few sessions which then lost their funding because of Tory cuts. The Tories don't give a stuff about culture for poor people, and never have. At that time, I felt as though they had abolished me, let alone the small but effective projects I was working on.
Unfortunately I was the only person on the panel without an agenda. I sat and listened to what was happening, and it reminded me of a time when, after organising our neighbourhood to lobby our local councillor to get rid of our rat invasion (they were coming into our flats through the toilet bowls), I'd toyed with entering politics. I went and worked at the Labour Party HQ in Walworth Road; I met a lot of interesting people, some surprisingly nice (Jack Straw) and some disappointingly ambitious (Margaret Hodge). I realised that politicians become automatons (but I do believe they do a necessary job- who wants to live in ZImbabwe?) and it was a world I could not possibly survive in. I got to take visiting politicians from Croatia and Slovakia to the leadership election that Tony Blair won- I got to see the press photographers trying to get him to do a 'Black Power' salute, the same one that Neil Kinnock had given at Live Aid and that appeared on the front pages to show us how scary Labour would be if they got into power.
So there they all were, in a line, with me in the middle, feeling like a cartoon version of an arts worker. There is nothing grand at all about any of the songwriting projects that I work on, but they are all brilliant in their little worlds and they make children (and me) happy.
I'd been invited, I think, to say something controversial, but there wasn't anything to say- we were talking about a hypothetical idea that had not been a success or a failure yet. The debate is something different, to do with the line to be drawn between cultural industries and art for art's sake. That's what academics get hot under the collar about, to the point of duels at dawn. Politicians talking about whether or not creativity is necessary in schools are generating hot air that will only become effective policy when tenacious lobbyists grab hold of it like terriers and worry it into reality.
Rant over.
Today, I met my Champagne Friend and we walked through Green Park in the rain with our umbrellas, down to Buck House where everyone else was standing with their umbrellas trying to catch a glimpse of the tootling marching band in their silly Busbies. We walked down the Mall in the drizzle, and up into Covent Garden for a cup of tea. It was nice. Our problems unrolled under our feet, leaving an invisible trail on the wet pavement; we stopped for a while at Trafalgar Square, where there were some bizarre food-based performing arts groups, one feeding vegetable marrows with a baby's bottle, one with a tray of plastic seafood with a squirting scallop that was seriously p*ssing people off; another troupe had a large shaking table and was performing a sketch about dinner, but being out-performed and upstaged by another performing artist in a bowler hat in the audience. There were food stalls and milling tourists. We talked about living in London, and imagined our futures, with less responsibilities.
The rain washed our cares away, and we went home.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The dancing ferrets

'Have you ever done this before?'
The music started..
The two women put the six ferrets down, and straight away they shot off to the back of the stage, the side of the stage, the front of the stage, with the two women panicking, trying to collect them up. a fluffy thing on a stick tucked into the back of their jeans, to wave at the ferrets and make them dance.

I started laughing, and laughing, and laughing, and laughing until my back ached and I had to mop up the tears with a paper hanky.

The next day, I started thinking about it on the bus, and had to stop because I started quaking with laughter and I didn't want the other passengers to become alarmed.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


There was a woman on The Gong Show who could whistle tunes through one of her nostrils.

Oh Go On Then!

It was the endless housework that did it...
I've put the Megane Mix of The Word Is Goodbye up on Myspace.
You're supposed to listen to it while doing the heavy stuff- polishing a floor, perhaps, or fruitlessly attempting to scrub the silt from the bath. Or, like me, hefting the entire hoover up and down the stairs to do the carpet, because the hose is irretrievably blocked.
Grrrr...oompah, oompah, oompah!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Glasgow Train

Just got back from Tom's via the car repairer's that I got the wrong bus to, and had to walk for ages with my guitar upon my back. My car is so happy though, it was worth it. It's out the front now, grinning all over its radiator. Bless!
The CD master is compiled, and I recorded two songs as well; I've put one of them on Myspace and I'm saving the other for later- I think I'll get Paul to put some soprano sax on it.
Tom was encouraging me to play piano so perhaps that could be my summer project. Along with learning the accordion (my summer project that doesn't happen, any summer)
I've been offered a space to run an acoustic night in Dalston which I'd love to do but I have some loose ends to tie up first.
I have also been doing a bit of selfadmiring (sort of) listening to Megane's mix of The Word is Goodbye
It's so good- I always wished I was a Disco Diva and it took a Japanese imagination to do it!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Jackie's Book

I have three foster cousins, and one of them, Jackie Walker, has just published a book called 'Pilgrim State' about her life with her mum in Deptford. There were articles about her book in the Guardian and in the Observer, and her story made me want to cry.
They are the most incredible family- talented and resourceful and very wise. The oldest boy was a total inspiration to me and Big Bruv when we were kids, cos not only could he balance a chair on one finger, but he also told us how to do it! He loved the Beatles and hated those black vocal groups that dressed in identical frilly clothes and did formation dancing. When we went to Tynemouth Ice Rink, he leapt on to the ice and was skating on one leg in seconds, although he'd never skated before in his life.
Jackie was also really exciting- a couple of years older than me, glamorous and from London, the Big City. It was a real thrill that she would sit and chat to me about her life- I was a total hicklet back in them thar days, and she was quite hippyish and very sophisticated.
There were three siblings in the UK and Jackie and her little brother spent time in childrens homes after their mum moved to London from Jamaica; their older brother travelled miles to see them each week until eventually my uncle and auntie fostered the whole family (my uncle was the Head at the older brother's school).
Every so often we have a gigantic family party, usually for Little Bruv's birthday, in Greenwich Park, and we all bring food and tubs of hummus for wasps to drown in. The foster cousins usually come, but not Jackie for a while- probably because she has been writing.
I hope she comes along this year.

I have been writing to Tony Hepworth, who was trumpet player with the Helen and the Horns on our last tour and who played on the studio side of the Helen and the Horns Etc album. We think we might get together to do a gig. I suppose it's a case of finding somewhere to play and someone who wants to put us on! I hadn't heard from him for ages and its amazing to be in touch again.
I have also written to Peterjon Skelt of Near Shore Records because Rough Trade has run out of the Helen and the Horns Etc CD and I haven't got any left- last time I saw him he had some boxes stacked in his hallway. I hope he hasn't sold them for drinks coasters or something, because Rough Trade does a good turnover of them, and I am hoping he will not only re-stock their supplies but also collect the money they owe him!
I do have some boxes of the vinyl version in the loft which I might ask them if they want- I hope to be moving house soon and it would be good to offload them.
I have also written to Carl about the Chefs CD (ain't I a busy bee?)
... and finally. I'm going to collect the master of the new one from Tom tomorrow morning!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Plastic Bag Trees

I don't know why we are worrying about global warming; some plants are doing very well in the current climate: in particular, plastic bag trees. Rather like the urban fox, they are flourishing in built up areas, no matter how desolate; their branches are festooned with bumper crops of billowing plastic bags, while beneath them the ground is strewn with their fruits, a truly miraculous harvest.

My friend took a nice photo in Newcastle

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


I have just had an email from Maverick MAgazine, a country music mag, to say they have done a half-page article on my music in the February Issue. I haven't read it yet (I'm gonna send off for one) but I'm hoping it says nice things. Their URL is
www.maverick-country.com which I will html properly after the dinner's cooked
(it doesn't work, I don't know why. Just copy and paste if you're interested, because it's the right www address)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Guitars in Dumfries

I spent the weekend at the Friar's Carse Hotel in Dumfries, at the guitar weekend.
I went last year and really enjoyed it but this year was even better!
It took me 8 hours to get there- hampered by a two-inch snowfall in Barnet on the way that meant it took an hour to drive 45 miles- and then more snow, a humungous jam on the A1, a cross country experience to escape that and straight into another on the M!
But I got there, and had a whale of a time; there were about 20 of us, all with our acoustic guitars, learning blues scales and strumming country chords. In the evening, Gary, Brian and Martin kicked off a lovely little acoustic night, performing in the huge hotel fireplace that did wonders for vocalists (some strange acoustic thing). People sang their own songs, weird covers, and played instrumentals. What a bunch of characters!
Next day, we all sat in a circle and played our favourite chords in sequence, and Trois Gymnopedies by Erik Satie, and the Bond theme (well, we just played the last chord- the teachers played the complicated bits), before bombing back to our nerdy homes and trying to remember what we'd learned.
I'm going to do a workshop at the next thing Andrew is organising- a songwriter's weekend in the Lake District.
And hello to Ragtime Steve! I enjoyed your rags, don't know how you manage to remember how to play them!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Breakfast Meeting

I met Rob Ayling this morning at 8.30 in the Columbia Hotel, and talked about the CD. It will come out in September and will have a proper booklet (yay!) with lyrics and all, good, that's what I want. And I am going to try to find a really good location for a launch party and arrange a little tour to go with it. It means that it will be available in HMV and from Amazon (instead of review copies that dastardly journalists put up there second-hand!)
I'm a happy bunny and will spend the drive up to the guitar weekend in Dumfries thinking about photo locations and other thinsg for the CD cover.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Well that last posting sure as heck was a moan! Issues, issues- somebody got burned by the music business in their youth!
I just always seemed to be a square peg when the holes were round and a round peg when they were square.
Well, now I've got a tartan terror-dress, and that will sort 'em all out!
So if you hear howls of angst and screams of shock
And your knees begin to knock
And your heart begins to leap
And your mouth begins to cheep
And your legs begin to tremble
And your guts begin to rumble
And your hands begin to shake
And the earth begins to quake
And your teeth begin to chatter
And your brain turns into butter
And your hair stands right on end
And you start to fear your friend.....

It's only me!
In my suburban tartanry
In the gloamin'-ah
On the bonny banks of Lloyds TSB
Three cheers for bad taste!

The Brit Network

Estelle was talking in a newspaper last week about the British record industry, and how she was dropped after having a hit, and had to travel to the US to be taken seriously, while meanwhile lots of white girls with 'black' voices enjoyed maximarketing and consequent chart success in the UK, claiming Aretha's legacy to boot.
Years ago when I started working at the University of the West, the idea was that graduates not only became performers, but also entered record labels as gatekeepers, opening the gates to- guess what? Performers from the University of the West!
The Brit school put this into practice much better, mainly because its students are so much younger and haven't reached their rock'n'roll deathbeds (the age of 23 for girls) by the time they graduate.

A taxi-driver friend benefited from the seventies concept of meritocracy by gaining a place at the National Film School and making films that people like him, a taxi driver, might want to watch. Now he says all the film-makers are called Damien and have rich daddies in the Shires.

Dangitall, the music biz always has been able to block out the oiks, until the oiks get their revenge by reinventing irritating noise that's much more appealing to the likes of them than custardy old Adele or Kate Nash, and tips the lot over. The 'Industry" (meat pie manufacturers to you and me) has an iron grip that squeezes the life out of hope and freshness and chucks disillusioned husks of people on to a pile of rejects. Avoid at all costs! Be an outsider musician unless you possess the noise and energy to frighten the life out of the cosy twats who filter what we listen to!


I've just got back from Edinburgh, where I marched up and down Salisbury Crags with all the other weirdos and bought an amazing red and green tartan dress from Armstrongs, the vintage clothiers. It's so disgusting, it's totally camp and should be worn as a weapon only.
Now I'm clearing up loose ends before a breakfast meeting with Rob about the CD and then a drive up to Dumfries for the Guitar Weeknd that Martin runs with Gary from the Daintees and another tutor, Brian, who runs a guitar shop in Newcastle.
Then there's a gap... hardly any gigs, no recording planned although I have lots of new songs.
I'd love to play a festival this year but I don't know whether that will be on the cards. I'm crap at networking, I know I am.
I will turn into a spider and start spinning a web, right now.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mr Slocombe!

A Day In The Life Of A Superstar

Practically crying as I tried to negotiate the trillionth roadworks, I comforted myself with the thought that all superstars Go Through This.
We all wonder why Watford Gap is called Watford Gap when it's nowhere near Watford.
We all buy wine gums and then try to find only the black ones and the red ones while keeping our eyes on the road.
We all watch flirting buzzards, oblivious to the frantically rushing traffic beside them, and ducks doing sexy things in the sky
We all curse the bit of Yorkshire where there is fuel promised but a swathe of closed-down petrol-stations
We all, yet again, buy disgusting coffee (coffee?) from Welcome Break at 1 a.m. even though we did that last time. Will we never all learn?
We all wonder if we could pretend to be a motorcycle instead of a car on the M6 toll road, thereby paying much less
We all wish high-top white vans and multiple-wheelbased articulated lorries were forbidden from overtaking, particularly uphill
We all wonder why iPod shuffle thinks we want to hear the same track four times on a two-hour journey

Oh yes, and Superstars do gigs. And get lost on the way, and even the lovely shipbuilding cranes of the northwest coastline do not compensate.
A five hundred mile round trip!
They were panicking at 9.30 at the Cafe Matisse; it was raining ( I think it does in Southport) and nobody had arrived yet. Then suddenly, people started turning up. I had asked to go on first because of driving back. It was one of those gigs that's a kids-night-out gig, so there was a big bunch of people at the back yakking like there was no tomorrow. But some people came specially to see me (thank you, if you read this!) and there was a group of girls down the front who were really into it. One had plaits, so it could have been coiffure-bonding, but they were listening and they laughed at the funny bits. And the guys from another band, Chrik, were there scrutinising my fingers. I heard their soundcheck and thought they were brill so I was dead flattered.
It was a nightmare getting there and worse getting back (I discovered that if I had come the proper way instead of getting lost I would have ended up having to turn round and go back the lost way anyway because an entire huge road was closed) but hats off to the guys at RockPaperScissors for organising it- I can imagine Southport is a bit of a desert for live music that alternative crowds will enjoy, and they are really dedicated to their nights. I enjoyed playing even though I was knackered, and I have a fantastic photo of some plastic whistling policemen from a Southport shop window to upload just to prove I did it!
I've had a banana in the car for more than a week now and still not eaten it.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

A Nuisance

Into my car I shall hop and whizz up the M6 to Southport, the Cafe Matisse, for tomorrow night's gig.
I am on at about ten to ten, I think, and then back dahn sarf again.
I'm looking forward to playing!
and then
and then
and then
only one more gig before no gigs!
It's because I am a bit lazy and sit under the gig tree with my apron spread out, waiting for a ripe gig to plop down from the branches into my lap.
I must become proactive, leaving hassling messages on everybody's Myspaces, demanding support gigs and telling them how wonderful my music is.
I must turn up at gigs at soundcheck time with my guitar and a yearning face.
I must pretend to be another, more famous artist, and trick promoters into booking me.
I must, if need be, busk.
I must be a nuisance!

Ah Brother Tobias

Ah Brother Tobias, as a neo-Novo Castrian, you were lucky to observe the peccadilloes of the city as a visitor.
For those of us brought up in the straitjacket of the Ouija-fearing minister of Jesmond Presbyterian Church, Newcastle held few joys.
City Hall- oh dear, a dreadful concert by Yes with a duff PA that reduced all their pomp to a whisper, the fibreglass pod wobbling on its plinth, and horrible stretchalot Rick Wakeman with his four-square keyboards and his smug grin.. those of us who dwelt in the outlying hamlets had to make a mad dash for the last train (10.30) and missed the last half hour of everything. We were too fresh-faced for lots of things anyway and our lives were burdened by the Saturday job at Littlewoods (lunch entitlement for Saturdays one and a half fish fingers and a half portion of chips) where the lady spat on the knife to clean it before slicing the meat and where the loose bread rolls that fell on the scuffy floor were picked up and re-stacked on the pile.
The most exciting thing that happened was me and Kathleen being chased through the streets by two drunk youths who were riding a massive wobbly fake phallus they'd made by unravelling a long cardboard tube.
We were very pleased to see you, Brother Tobias, because you were the most interesting person in our lives at that point!

Actually, one thing about Newcastle at that time was really brilliant- the Hoppings on the Town Moor. The Hoppings was a congregation of all the travelling fairs in the North, and stretched for a quarter of a mile. You could find everything from bearded ladies and candyfloss stalls to daredevil motorbike stunts and the Rotor (which i never dared to go on).
Standing by the dive-bombers, I remember wondering whether everyone who had vomited had eaten diced carrots, or whether diced carrots made you vomit.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Northumbrian Children

Just returned from two days in the north-east, finishing off the childrens' songwriting project.
I feel as though my head has been emptied and stuffed with grey felt.
Actually, today was great- all four schools congregated at Ovingham Primary School and each took to the stage in turn to share their songs with each other. They were all great- even boistrous Ovingham who had been a huge sea of energy threatening to become a gigantic tidal wave at any moment- they all forgot the words in fright and had to go for it again!
They were great kids though- very different from the Song Club children I work with normally that do not come from such comfortable backgrounds. Big up the teachers, too, who took the ball and ran with it, doing all the cross bossy stuff so we didn't have to sergeant-major and spoil our creative vibe.
I liked being in Newcastle, drinking coffee at the Baltic Gallery, whizzing up in the lift to look at the view, and wandering round the streets and across the eyelid bridge. I can not believe how much it has changed since the 1970s when it was all grimy stone and grey moods, little sinister streets and cheap shops. Some of it's still there, the poverty hidden by chainstores, but the general impression is of a lively and prosperous city, with, wait for it, art. Where was that when I was there? It was a cultural desert except for the Theatre Royal, where we went to see Lenny the Lion in pantomime every year, except for the year Terry Scott was a fairy in a pink tutu that kept slipping down to reveal his luxuriantly hairy chest. I was very little and thought it was an accident, and was scandalised.