Thursday, July 31, 2008

On Tour!! (well.... three gigs)

Well-o-well, I have had a busy few days. On Sunday, I played at the Sage in Gateshead. What an honour! Geordie girl from Wylam leaves north-east, has failed career in two bands, burns out, has kids, starts again, and gets to play the Sage!
Martin Stephenson was asked to put on a show alongside the film The Haint of the Budded Rose, which was about Charlie Poole, or at least, the making of a play about Charlie Poole. So Gary O'Dea, Steph Macleod and myself each played short sets, and then Martin, Jim Morrison on fiddle and Brian (he's got the guitar shop in Newcastle) got up to do a much longer set. Oh, the venue is beautiful! The room was light and airy, very high, with a polished wooden floor and strange matchstick-patterned wooden walls which made it acoustically perfect; the audience was totally silent, but very smiley, and the whole thing went off smoothly and goodnaturedly, with Martin's sometimes percussionist Fin McCardle picking us up, Shane Fonteyne doing a bit of washboarding for a couple of songs, and a lovely sunny day outside.
Next up was the Red Dragon in Kirkby Lonsdale, which was sort of an OK gig but one where you had to yell to be heard over a crowd of boozers. On the left side of the room, people were listening; on the right side, they were shouting. I was lucky to get my bit over with but I felt really sorry for Martin who had to do the work of a whole band.
Lastly, yesterday's gig was another very nice one. A whole bunch of acoustic artists have contributed to an album of cover versions of Martin's songs, organised by Pete Shields who runs Candlelit nights all over the Midlands and the Northwest. At the gig at DeBees in Winsford, five of those artists played their versions, which was really great. When the CD is out (it has been delayed) I'll tell you who all the contributors were- there are some really good performers on it. Rob Metcalfe started the evening off with a lovely version of Home and Steph Macleod did a fantastic version of Orange is the Colour of Joy last night, so I am looking forward to hearing the rest of it. One poor guy's plectrum kept leaping out of his fingers, four times, in spite of being replaced by picks belonging to audience members, and he gave up in the end, which was a shame.
DeBees has a very good PA and I played a set after them, which I really really enjoyed, and then Martin got up and played some lovely stuff I have not heard before. The place was full of guitarists and freinds- Stephen Foster-Pilkington and Katie were there, and Mike and june and Laura, so there was a very good atmosphere.
Somewhere amongst all the playing, I had a Mark Toney's ice cream in Newcastle, photographed a gypsy fortune teller in the BIgg Market in the toon (very weird), noticed that the clock in the Central Station now has hands, saw big thick chaps with bap-hands holding bacon baps in them, got to dislike Novo-Castrian bus drivers who whistled past me and my guitar at the bus stop, and went to Worm Hill, which the Lambton Worm curled round in between eating the peasants of County Durham.
Oh yes- and had lots of conversations with waiters in Bangladeshi restaurants!
I'm putting Autumn Love on Myspace now, for Nick and Sue who are getting married on Saturday. It is their song, I wrote it specially for them, and they certainly deserve to be sung about.
For future- my set list at De Bees- A Bad Day, Temptation, Love on the Wind, I Feel It, Memento Mori, Heaven Avenue

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Review

Here is the info Steve sent me:
London Improvisers Orchestra at Amadeus, Sunday July 20, 2008:

Adam Bohman - amplified objects
Tony Marsh - drum set
Caroline Kraabel - alto saxophone
Dominic Lash - contrabass
Torben Snekkestad - soprano saxophone and clarinet
Roland Ramanan - trumpet
Alexander Hawkins - keyboard and piano on A5
Rodrigo Montoya - shamisen
Sarah Robins - flute and piccolo
Ray Warleigh - alto saxophone and flute
Javier Carmona - percusssion
Ricardo Tejero - clarinet
Ute Kanngiesser - 'cello
Philipp Wachsmann - violin
John Rangecroft - clarinet
Lol Coxhill - soprano saxophone on B1
Ivor Kallin - viola
Steve Beresford - piano except on A5

1 conduction by Wachsmann
2 conduction by Ramanan
3 small group: Montoya, Snekkestad, Lash, Beresford
4 conduction by Kraabel
5 conduction by Beresford

And here is my wildly pretentious review!!!
Amadeus is a Subud meeting centre in Little Venice- set in strange streets with an ironed and starched feel and absolutely NO litter at all (can this be London?)

Inside, Steve Beresford drifts through the room like a Beta Pied Piper, and gradually the musicians flow towards the performing area where their chairs are set out ready...
(I had to get used to it so I can't review the first piece)
As they sit they show the same degree of concentration as athletes; the second conductor does a sort of noise meditation. The orchestra put their hands on their heads and hum ( I joined in too, actually) and one by one, instruments join and leave the noise.

The conductor was a sound controller- or thought he was until the piece ended itself and took him by surprise!
The third piece was a small group. Who decided who stayed and who left? I couldn't work it out.
Steve Beresford's piano notes twittered and dodged: I thought I detected a covert dislike of hymn-playing at school assembly there. His playing also had the distant spookiness of the accompanist to Albert and the Lion by Stanley Holloway. I loved the wooden timbre of the double bass and the shushing soprano sax- the room has excellent acoustics.
The fourth piece was conducted by a woman who had an idea in her head that did not include the sax player in the front row, who had two goes at playing a little motif, only to be steamrollered in mime twice. Eventually, the piece stopped and started again. It began as an air on mains hum before developing into rattlesnakes and havoc in a 1950s kitchen, getting wilder and wilder, making me imagine Eraserhead: she made slanting movements with her arms and the instruments made slanting sounds (how that?), before subsiding to mains hum again. During all this, she strode around the room, soaking up the sounds before giving more instructions.
I was fascinated by the chap with all the instruments laid out on a table playing an electronic spring with a violin bow and a lightbulb.
Last up in the first half, it was Steve's turn to conduct. He let the sax player have his moment, embedding him into the piece right from the start; with the baton clamped between his teeth, he created a dynamic, rumbling piece like a stew with lots of chunky bits in it, during which I discovered that if you play a wine glass half full (or half empty) with water with a violin bow, it sounds different if you play the side nearest to you or the side furthest away. Ah, the Duracell rabbits bouced down the stairs in my imagination, screaming intermittently. Steve introduced smiles into the music; what an exercise in diplomacy it must be to conduct an improvisers' orchestra! In the Horns I used to work it so that each person got a song with a solo in turn. This line-up must be hell and there must be lots of grumpy phone calls on a Sunday evening between those who feel cheated by the conductor's choices! Somehow, he managed to let each person express their personality; there was an achingly lovely flute solo, so beautiful, and then a guy blowing on to a timbale with pursed lips and making a trombone-like sound, a cross between a fart and an angry wasp.
What a way to spend a Sunday afternoon! Quiet and loud at the same time, another of London's many music worlds. I am a person not made to enjoy improvised music, I like a nice crunchy verse followed by a nice juicy chorus, but I did find it fascinating and perfect for a change of mood, concentrating on timbres and instrumental coonversations. I would love to see this lot do a gig in a tube carriage, spontaneously!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Art Exhibition

Steve Beresford's going to send me the people's names in the Improvising Orchestra so I will wait until then to do the review.
Yesterday me and Caroline Coon went to the Wilhelm Hammershoi exhibition at the Royal Academy. Caroline had seen a picture of his and was intrigued to see more and she suggested that we meet up and have a proper look.
His paintings are completely inspiring- if i wrote about them they would sound boring, because they are grey, or shades of grey, and often of the same room, with two or three year gaps between them, and different sunshine. When there are people in them, it's often the back of the person, and there is hardly any detail and the rooms are empty. They are sort of full of what you don't see.
You realise that a lot is hidden; the exhibition is called 'the poetry of silence', and they are indeed very still paintings. But they often have a little touch of humour, almost to see if you notice it: a tiny streak of yellow on a bedstead, or a box on a shelf that is so mysterious that you are dying to know what's inside it.
One painting has one or two leaves from a plant that you can't see just poking in the side of the painting. In some paintings, the grey is blue-grey, and in othesr, it is green-grey.
The light parts of the paintings are incredibly bright- lots of them feature windowpanes, or panelled doors reflecting light at an angle.
In many ways they resemble etchings in their use of dark darks and light lights.
You see, I have gone there again in my head.
Yes, I really did like the exhibition. It made me want to be an artist again.
Thank you Caroline for taking me.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Improvising Orchestra, improvising, and instruments at rest

Words into the ether

Yesterday I went to see the London Improviser's Orchestra playing in the afternoon. It was so good that they are going to get their own separate posting rather than just a mention- a Sunday Special, when I have a bit more time.
Afterwards I went over to Tom's attic and Paul came over to play a little clarinet on the song I've written for my cousin's wedding. He and his wife-to-be have had more tragedy than is humanly bearable and it is so lovely that they are marrying each other. I have written one of my best ever songs for them but I'm not putting it on Myspace till they've heard it. Paul tried the soprano sax first but it sounded a bit too harsh; when the clarinet met the track it fitted perfectly and sounded jaunty and thirties-ish and it iced the cake a dream.
I'm going to bloody miss Tom when he goes to New York. Often, people in studios are very patronising to woman musicians, even if they don't mean to be. They treat us as though we have a disability that means everything needs to be explained to us extremely slowly, and they think we want to know everything about them, all the very important things they have done, so we know just how unimportant we are in the greater scheme of things. When we ask them to change something in the track, they don't, because they think we are too stupid to notice they haven't, and they are delighted when we realise that our most important contribution in the studio is to make them a cup of tea. Two sugars, please.
But not Tom. He listens to what you want, learns your foibles, and gets the very best out of your performance, being tactful when you have a bad day, editing like lightning, and accepting wacky ideas like a trouper. You don't have to be an extrovert, you don't have to pretend you're thick and flutter your elderly eyelashes; you go there, take off your coat, unpack your guitar, and create.
He also likes the musicians I invite in to work with me (apart from one surly chap who p*ssed the lot of us off), which really matters, as any musician will tell you.
Anyway, that's enough of that.
I was going to tell you about Nigel Kennedy. Helen and the Horns met him when we did Pebble Mill at One. We had a horrible time as they were so nasty to us (later, the Flying Pickets said they were horrible to them too, and they vowed never to play it again but then they did when they were asked; they were horrible to them the second time as well).
Nigel was nice, though. He was still a gleeb with a pale blue buttoned-up shirt and a side parting: it was in his pre-punk days, still post-punk. But he came over to chat and told us he used to go to Dingwalls in Camden to see the bands. He was great, and it was tempting just to let him tag along with us and join in whatever we were doing next; it is so rare to find such an open and friendly person in the music industry. He was totally agenda-free, probably because he is so talented that he doesn't need to try to impress people and he must have worked out at a really young age that being straightforward and honest scares off the creeps and ne'er-do-wells at lightning speed; it sort of turns them inside out so the bad bits decorate their horrid surfaces instead of being hidden behind artful smiles.
I've been going on for ages, haven't I? I meant to do a neat little posting that would fit into a thimble but instead I've created a ten-course dinner for a giant. Au Revoir till tomorrow, dear ether.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

An orange balloon has just gone floating past the window.
Wonder where it's headin'?

Katy at the Linbury Theatre, and I missed Nadya

Me and Mandy went to see Katy Carr at the Linbury Studio Theatre, under the Royal Opera House, last night.
It's a weird venue- you walk down and down and down deep black stairs, into a bright cave. She'd already started when we got there and that added to the drama. Katy has become very stylish and has got a band- Anja on accordion (she played on Dreaming of You), two female backing vocalists, a tuba, guitar, bass and drums plus a three-piece suite of strings. She also has dancers, and a clutch of new songs that are totally Katy but also very good indeed. They were all in forties chic- tea dresses and landscaped hairdos for the ladies, with back-projected slides of planes and orchids. It was really entertaining- Katy always lives her vision but has never really concerned herself with visuals before and it was a real pleasure to see this, especially as the band looked so into what they were playing. I always watch the string players and they were moving along, dancing in their heads and that's always a sign that they are enjoying what they are playing. They dynanics of what was going on musically were great, and you couldn't keep your eyes off the stage; the only bit I didn't like was the retro song section at the end, which Katy dedicated to her grandmother; it was a personal thing because those old songs like Lili Marlene carry images of bombsites and sirens with them in my imagination and I find them spooky and scary.
Steve Beresford was there, and I haven't seen him for ages; and Mr Wearsthtrousers e-zine too; of course I said all the wrong things as usual. He asked me if I'd finished the album yet and I told him I'd been listening to it today and thought it sounded crap then realised one of the speakers had fallen down the end of the bed. Once I'd fished it out and propped it up again, everything was OK. But you know, I'm writing the next one now, and I need to 'promote myself' like a proper artist, with gravitas and chips. Sorry!
So.. off to see Nadya's band, The Home Office, at the Elevator Gallery in Hackney Wick. Only problem was that the AA Routefinder had crashed yesterday afternoon and I had to try to create my route myself. Disaster. I found myself lost in Homerton, a mere sniff away from where they were playing, but totally unable to find the gig. Blast. And on the way home, in spite of the fascinating drama of driving through Stamford Hill and seeing Orthodox Jewish men in massive cylindrical fur hats, corkscrew curls and white stockings materialising out of the orange urban gloom, I managed to drive through Tottenham twice and arrived home with tears of frustration in my eyes. They had gone on later specially, and I did so want to post a photo of Nadya in her tutu and barbed-wire necklace!

Friday, July 18, 2008


I'm a mood processor. I process bad moods, sad moods and mad moods and turn them into merry songs with sarcastic lyrics, unless they are just happy songs.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


I left Brighton Art College with a degree in Fine Art Printmaking, licence to be on the dole. The first job I managed to get was at a printers in Lewes who were attached to a veterinary supplies company ( I know I may have told you this before but here it comes again)
I learned how to be a typesetter, setting minute slivers of lead into a form which held them tightly into place so that thousands of addresses on little tablet envelopes could be printed from a massive wheezing, thumping letterpress. All the little lead letters and punctuation and spacers were kept in huge flat drawers in cabinets down the side of the room. I learned how to use a manual press for short runs, and how to melt grains of resin on to freshly-printed paper to make raised lettering for posh writing paper. I learned how to hold huge piles of A4 paper and knock them into shape so that they would fit into the press, and how to package blocks of printed paper neatly and quickly in brown wrapping paper, ready for delivery.
I had to work alone with a horrible man who chain smoked and wore loud checked polyester trousers. He used to tell me about his conquests and his activities in the back of a mini car, and how he used to print pornography in London until the printers there got busted. He was immensely proud of the fact that he belonged to the local National Front in Mayfield, and he had their logo in one of the drawers, but he never asked me to print it, thankfully. He constantly asked me to make him cups of tea and snuggled up to me with his faggy breath as I was working and I had to leap off the stool to get away from him. Ugh. Once, he asked me to draw a JCB for a friend of his who was selling them, and offered me 50 quid. It took me ages to draw and when I'd finished he took it off and refused to pay me. I told the punks in the Windor Tavern about him and they offered to beat him up him for me, but I said no thank you.
One day, a bottle of something called Euthanol turned up by the tea things. I convinced myself that it was for killing animals (as in euthanasia), and it was going to make its way into my coffee, and I took fright. I handed in my notice, requesting that the creep be told not to speak to me again until I left, and went off to be a glorious shop assistant instead.
True fact: remember that song 'Love Don't Live Here Any More'? That poom-poom-pa-pa-poom drum sound was the only thing you could hear on Radio One through the whack-whack of the press when it was on a run of printing, and reminds me eternally of the horror-job.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Helen and the Horns CDs in Brighton

A record shop in Brighton has just been in touch to say they have some CDs that they want me to collect. I wish I'd known, because Rough Trade ran out and I haven't been able to get any more from Near Shore, who don't respond to my emails, and who have some left. So I took some original vinyls down to Rough Trade instead.
I'll either have to go down to Brighton and get them (which seems like a nice idea, more I think of it) or persuade a friend in Brighton to get them for me, as the shop wants to throw away all their unsold stock.
O the trials of rock'n'roll!
Unsold stock
Unsold sock
Unsold clock
Unsold Wok
Unsold Croc
Unsold Glock(enspiel)
and Roll
Back to the beginning again.


As I was walking up the road this morning I realised that I have spent 30 years worrying about a lyric by Curved Air, the prog rock band I loved when I was in the Sixth Form.
'On a bright summer's day
In the middle of May...'
sings Sonja Kristina.
But May's not in the summer! It's in the spring! Or have they moved summer and I didn't notice? This has confused me for years and years, until this morning when it finally dawned on me that they were just rhyming May with day, and not shifting the seasons about after all.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Christina's Bird: a true story.

Christina bought a bird at the pet shop and took it home to her flat.
'Hurray hurray!', sang the bird, 'I have been bought and taken to a home, lucky me, lucky me, at last I belong to someone and I am singing a happy song. Just listen! Tra-la, tra-la! Just look at this house! It has windows and curtains and a carpet, and a television to keep me company, and exciting noises coming from the kitchen! Tweetly-deetly, what a glorious day! A lifetime of love and care, and Trill bird seed in my little yellow plastic feeder attached to the bars! No cats! No cats! the telephone rings, trill-a-dee, trill-a-da! She sits there reading, what a beautiful girl, readily-deedly, turn the pages, turn the pages! The sun is shining, the sky is blue! Trilladoo!'.
'Bloody bird never shuts up!', grumped Christina, and took it back to the pet shop.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Musing by the Serpentine

I had a nice afternoon yesterday sitting at the Serpentine cafe, with Gina Birch and friends. She is making a DVD of the Raincoats and has been interviewing some really interesting people, including Robert Wyatt (yay!) and Jane Mo-Dette (yay!).
It was spattering with rain so we put our brollies up, the two of us, while another pal went to get the coffees. A waitress came to the table and Gina asked her if she could find us a big umbrella to put up to shelter the table; she said she'd go in and ask.
She popped out and called 'No umbrellas!' across to us.
When the other pal came back to the table, he said,'That's not very nice. I asked if you just had to get wet then, and she said Yes'.
He'd thought she was telling Gina and me to put our umbrellas down and just get wet, and he wondered why umbrellas were not allowed.
Anyway, we did a circuit of the Princess Diana water-features, observed an interesting grafted tree, and rather cruelly mocked a uniformed chappie on a golf-cart who was pootling along when his umbrella suddenly flipped inside-out over his face, causing him to swerve and become a menace to all the doggies out on walkies.
It's all go for the ladies who lunch!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


I hereby invent an invention, a small device that fits into mobile phones, mp3 players and so on, recharging them automatically from the static electricity generated by the user as they walk over carpets, through tube stations, brush past people in crowds, slide into their cars, and stand under trees in thunderstorms.

The Piranhas

The Brighton band most likely to succeed back then was the Piranhas. Joby and the Hooligans had a close friendship with them at the beginning- we did a lot of gigs together. Johnny Piranha had a transparent perspex guitar which looked as though it was made out of Fox's Glacier Mint. They were a really interesting bunch of blokes- I inherited Dick the drummer's awful printing job in Lewes, with the National Front man working there: Dick went on to work at Lewes railway station. Reg, the bass player, became chief sparks at the Cafe Royale in Regent Street, after being lumbered with the tax bill for all of them because he was the only one with a proper job. Madness used to attend their early London gigs, begging for a support slot. If you listen to the Piranhas and then Madness, you'll see why- the same bouncy reggae poppy vibe is there in both of them.
They had a hole in the floor of their van to wee out of when they were driving long distances.
Anyway, I digress.
They had great songs, and one song which bordered on extreme cheesiness called Saxophone. It was written when they acquired a sax player, Zoot, in order to show off his skills. I think Zoot came from the University of Sussex or something- he was definitely a Proper Musician.
Joby and the Hooligans created a dance (pretentious, moi?) from the film Metropolis, which had been screened in full on BBC 2. You know the bit when the workers trudge along in single file with heads bowed, each one with an arm on the shoulder of the person in front, with an air of abject misery? Well, that was us; we trudged this way and that, across the front of the Buccaneer, from one side of the little stage to the other, changing direction dramatically as we got to each end, all the way through the songs.
Boy, we must have been irritating!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Psycho Buildings at the Hayward Gallery

Kim came up from Brighton, and we met at London Bridge. On the way out of the tube station, I noticed a wreath with the London transport logo, commemorating '52 Customers'. How awful that Thatcherspeak still lives on all these years later, and those poor passengers are described in commercial terms rather than in human terms, in death as in life!
I found this really upsetting, like being force-fed something really disgusting at an emotional and truthful moment.
I respect my fellow humans killed by terrorists a year ago.

We decided to walk from London Bridge to the Hayward Gallery, in spite of the gloomy sky and chilly air. It's a great walk, past Southwark Cathedral, the ancient ship, the brand new Globe, various buskers (vibraphone today) the Tate Modern, all street-arted up, skateboarders, a jogger with a very wobbly bottom, and a second-hand book sale.
The exhibition was a real mixed bag of stuff- we'd gone to see Rachel Whiteread's dolls houses (they were great, charming and exciting and inspiring); we were not very impressed by a tissue-paper house that reminded us both of school art projects, nor a fake-exploded house (yawn) but we loved the red net stairs and banisters made by Do Ho Suh that floated above us in the air. It made you want to be a red net person and walk upstairs past the red net light switches on to the red net floor above. It was perfectly-made, with the dowelling of the banisters beautifully detailed.
Best of all, however, were the boats. They have an exceedingly pretentious title which I am sure is meant to be funny, but they were boats- on the roof! You could get in, grab hold of two silly yellow plastic oars, and scull about in shallow water several floors up, with views of the Wheel and the Thames and little buses and the big blue sky- it was huge fun, especially as the oars (or we) were so completely inefficient. When you'd had enough, they hauled you in with umbrellas and you climbed out on to a wobbly yellow waterlogged carpet.
Pic: strangers on a rooflake

Monday, July 07, 2008

Lawrence Corner

Do you remember Lawrence Corner? I could never decide if it was called Lawrence, on the corner, or whether there was actually a man called Mr Lawrence Corner.
Anyway that's where you got military cast-offs, quirky colonial hats, and funny things like sailor-suits. You could almost predict London's next fashion trend by going along there and seeing what they'd just got into stock. I bought a khaki skirt there once that I gave straight away that night to Cedric Porter, who wrote for the South London Press (shouldv'e been called Cedric Re-porter, shouldn't he?). King Kurt had a King Skirt gig and would only admit people in skirts. So Cedric struggled the skirt over his bony hips, almost busting the zip in the process, and was allowed to attend the gig.
I never asked for it back.
Anyway, one thing they had which I really liked was reject scientific equipment, especially test tubes, glass flasks and so on. I used to imagine myself, famous, in my rock kitchen, cooking up little somethings in test tubes instead of normal pots and pans. I couldn't possibly imagine living in a normal house with carpets on the floors and a hoover that worked.
What made me remember all this? I have an annoying handbag that is so dark inside I can't find anything, ever. I've been trying without any luck to find a better one. I remembered that I used to buy those green canvas plumber's bags, which were incredibly useful and just the right size. My manager, Claudine, who loved animals (she once kept a bat in her bathroom that escaped into the bidet) used to call them the Crocodiles.
That's what made me remember.

Singers and Other Musicians

Funny- we have a micro-sensitivity to ourselves; no wonder we are so self-absorbed!
Think about all that listening to our own voices in headphones, with every nuance amplified into our own ears and every emotion bigged up giant-size on a billboard inside our vain brains.
In the studio, even our breathing has a potential commercial significance. We are More Important Breathers than people who don't go into recording studios. Our breathing isn't just for keeping ourselves alive- it's for Being Significant.
As for our singing- we can be genuine until we learn how to be artificial, and then we spend the rest of our days striving to sound genuine again!

Sunday, July 06, 2008


OK, I admit it- I've been watching Big Brother.
It was worth it for Kat's invention of the word 'matchdatingmakerlove' when she was talking about Jen and Dale.
I found Jen chilling, as she is a perfect replica of the nasty Geordie beauties who used to bully me at school years ago.

Rock Baby

I get sent all sorts of catalogues, from Stena Stair lifts and walk-in baths to twee catalogues with toys for posh toddlers. This one was from a death metal catalogue. I would love to see my details at the mass marketing database!

Sunday Sundries

Whatumagonado today?
It's a rainy summer Sunday, I'm gona walk up the road to the shops and buy something for lunch...
Then spend a while putting half the 1980s mags (remember 'New Sounds. New Styles'?) on eBay.
The others are in the loft- that mag 'Debut' that had a free LP with it. It's the scanning that takes ages, so I'll do it in bits.
I have to decide whether to keep Song Club going. I love doing it but it takes a lot of time to manage it; but the funder, a local charity, really loves it and so do the school children. Hmmm.
I have to write a press release for 'Poetry and Rhyme'; you need to feel on top of the world for such things and I'd rather toppled of my world this week but I'm scraping back up again so it's probably worth a first attempt. I have a nice quote from Julian Lewry who puts on Guilfest to start it off with, so maybe I can bounce up from there.
Encouraging things happen sometimesto pick you up; Rowen Bridler has asked me to play some guitar on some of her tracks (she's a really good songwriter- check out her Myspace), someone wrote from the States telling me how much she likes my tracks and that she downloads them straight away and plays them in her car. And the Boothill Foottappers have a Myspace, which is great: they were around at the same time as Helen and the Horns and they had a proper hit with 'Get Your Feet Out Of My Shoes'. We were all a gang of checky shirts and tomboyism. I used to like the Shillelagh Sisters too and once played washboard with them at The Fridge in Brixton- the old Fridge with the beautiful sparkly blue-white walls and the dreadful sound, even though they had stuffed a sock in Lambeth Council's compulsory noise monitor.
That was where my Champagne Friend took mischievous delight in discovering that our muscle-man designer friend, who went on to become thoroughly famous, was born in the year of the Bore, sorry, Boar. He wasn't boring at all, but he got so cross it only spurred her on and I think it ruined the poor chap's evening!
Helen and the Horns had a residency there and we also played a couple of gay nights too. It was there that we, or rather I, got a thoroughly cruel review from a journalist called Antonella Gambotto who was going out with the Editor of one of the music mags at the time. He liked me, or the band, so she didn't, and she called me 'cow-eyed, no-thighed'.
Later, I met Rita Ray from the Darts and talked to her about it; she told me that reviewers were constantly writing about her body and not her voice, and that you just had to get used to it.
That journalist went on to call Cliff Richard a Nazi in a later article, about Sun City I think. His people took her to court and she had to stop working the the UK for a while. She had not realised that he is Anglo-Indian.
I used to like playing there- it was to Helen and the Horns what the Moonlight Club was to The Chefs- a sort of musical home where you could play a series of gigs and experience a venue differently every time. At the Fridge, we were a regular outing for a whole community of short-life housing artists and musicians and film-makers. Vic Reeves used to turn up from time to time, before he was famous, and various Feminist media friends with exciting plans. It was good.

Saturday, July 05, 2008


Every so often, I pop in to see my friends at their blogs- mostly Brother Tobias, Goldtop and themummysbracelet. Joby has an e-blog.
Blogs are funny things- there is something of the medical scanner about them- you know, those machines that capture x-ray photographs of slices of brain one cell thick, to allow the radiologists to see if the patient has a tumour or some other abnormality in their head.
You get a thin slice of a person's life, the part they care to show you: a blogpersona, with a lot of parts missing. The obvious missing part is the physical presence of the blogger, but there is always much more hidden than that. It's not like Big Brother!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Man Nearly Falls Off Roof

I was sitting watching Gok Wan on TV with my pal Fonotz.
'A man is falling off the roof', observed Fonotz.
Across the road, a man was falling off a roof.
He was holding on with his fingertips, with his arms and legs at crazy angles
I shot into my scruffy pink Timberlands and belted across the road.
A little girl stood at the foot of the ladder, trying to be In Charge.
Together, we hoisted the heavy ladder, which had slipped into the shrubbery, over the tiles, one at a time, so it was straight again and within reach.
'Can you reach it?', I asked
'No', said the man.
He gingerly edged towards it, stopping every so often because the roof was covered with green algae.
Finally he caught hold of the top of the ladder with one hand, and eventually managed to get his feet on to the top rung.
I stood on the bottom rung to try to stop it from slipping again.
'Thanks', he said when he got to the bottom.
I went back home and finished watching Gok.
Ruffty-tuffty, ain't I?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Rockin' Girl

New track uploaded on to Myspace, and emailed to Martin Stephenson for a rockin' solo!

The Strawberry Jam Factory

In between Sunderland Polytechnic (Foundation) and Brighton Polytechnic (Fine Art Printmaking), me and Kathy Gilbert went to Norfolk to pick strawberries.
We slept in shacks that reminded me of the hen house we had at home when I was a little girl. Food was basic- breakfast was a toppling pile of sliced bread and extremely greasy margarine, slathered on both sides, and a cup of brown stuff that I couldn't work out whether it was tea or coffee, but it tasted better with sugar, whatever it was. A French traveller made us rice'n'onions for an evening meal.
We discovered that you made most money working night shifts at the factory on the conveyor belt.
There had been a glut of strawberries that year and a lot of them had gone rotten on the plants; the ones we had to sort through were also semi-rotten, and you were supposed to pick the baddies off the conveyor belt and throw them in bins behind you. The only problem was that they were so rotten that your finger went straight through them in one grisly splodge, so off they went into the giant churns at the end of the conveyor, along with the masses of earwigs that nobody wanted to touch.
When the churn was full, they opened the door at the end of the factory and dragged it out, where men in white suits and face masks sprayed a chemical into the churns that smelled so strong you couldn't breathe and you were left gasping.
The French boys fell asleep as they stood there on the production line, and the foreman bawled them out.
'Get out of my faaarktry!!', he bellowed into the huge neon-lit cavern.
When me and Cathy went to the toilet at half-time, we noticed our noses had turned into strawberries.

Odd Fact: we made friends with the French traveller, who had very few teeth, but was fun. He told us he travelled round Europe, picking fruit, and was going to Scotland next for the raspberries. So we invited him to stay, as we lived on the way.
I got a call one night from a young man in Sunderland, asking for Kathy's number on behalf of the French traveller (I later discovered that this was my friend Richard doing the guy a favour: what a coincidence!). I gave him her number and directions to her house. Of course, to get her revenge, she sent him on to my house, where the McParents took it al in their stride, apart from when he refused to help McMum do the washing up, as men don't do that sort of thing. He slept on the couch downstairs and at five in the morning he left, never to be seen again.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


After a quick whiz round the supermarket to stock up on blueberry muffins and buy a strong coffee (getting about 4 hours sleep a night at the moment), I rolled up at Tom's house. It was funny to see that a second Indian sweet shop has opened and gone bust downstairs since the last time I was there! The hallway was still packed with PA speakers (Tom also plays in a covers band and they are always busy with weddings at this time of year) and there were still lots of letters on the floor.
All the studio gear was crammed into the attic, a satisfyingly messy tangle of leads on the floor and keyboards, black metal units and more cables on every living surface. the computers were up and running, the mic was set up, and it was ready to go.
I did The Song of the Old Man first, to get the cramp-inducing chords out of the way. I may have to re-record it using an acoustic guitar like the MArtin acoustic, but the vocal was OK especially for a morning vocal. I can't ponce about with ideas like not singing before rock'n'roll breakfast time (that's 12 midday to you!) because I've always had to record before work which starts at 2, but most singers do say they sing best in the evenings. Then I did a rockabilly song called Rockin' Girl, which I have just written. There is a gap for a guitar solo and it gave me an idea. The next rockin' track I do, I'll put on Myspace with an invitation to download it and add a rockin' solo to anyone who wants to, and then release the best one!
Next up was Baby, a song I'm distance-writing with Martin Stephenson. I am not sure if I got the chords right on his bit (I wrote a verse and some chords, and he wrote the next verse and the melody and words for the bridge) but I'll email it to him and see.
Finally, I did a backing vocal on the She Will Fly song that I'm going to animate.
All that in less than three hours, and I then came home and houseworked like mad because someone's coming to look round the house tomorrow to see if they want to buy it.
So now I am sitting like a complete zomboid lump but feeling that today has not been a bad day at all.

Mugabe and Music

An academic called Winston Mano, who is Zimbabwean, has done some fascinating research on Zimbabwean music.
Because the exiled Thomas Mapfumo has so much popular power in Zimbabwe, Mugabe and his followers decided to fight back with music of their own. They reclaimed field songs and folk music, using it in TV ads to show that Mugabe reflected traditional Zimbabwean values, untainted by Westernisation (bit like Hitler in a way, encouraging folk music in Nazi Germany). several MPs even brought out their own albums, in support of Mugabe. The weirdest thing that Winston had was a cassette featuring a pop song about hatred of the UK, and in particular, Tony Blair, whose name appeared regularly throughout the song, which was sung in the Zimbabwean language.
As for those suits Mugabe wears- what beatiful kitsch horror! They must have cost a fortune, with those portraits of him printed on them. He has at least two- a green one and a red one, which both resemble banknotes in their detail and colouring. Dictators seem to have a sense of style that reinforces their invincibility- be wary of Superman, you never know what he's up to when you're not looking!