Tuesday, May 31, 2011


What a sight for sore eyes! The grey scuffed lino on my stairwell at the University of the East has been scooped up and replaced with this lovely sunshine yellow stuff, which brought a smile to my face every time I saw it!

Monday, May 30, 2011


If you live only for the moment, other people will make your future intolerable.

M-m-more M-m-marking

I wish I had some chocolate, might do a chocolate run.
Wilky, don't forget to report back on The Nightingales!
Two more pieces of work to do.
I imagine a huge bird with massive white wings taking off into outer space... me, at the end of term; brain free of edu-rules and bureaucracy, bags under eyes receding to normal proportion, hunched up stressed body unfurling as sitting-shape no longer constant, backs of hands free from emergency scribbles.
Bring it on!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Embroidered Slug

Rainy Day Radio

Just found a great radio station for dismal grey days like today!

Today's Task

To throw all toiletries in the bathroom away if they smell disgusting, even if they were a quite obviously expensive present.

When The Purse Snapped Shut

I made a spontaneous trip to Brighton to see Offsprog One yesterday, setting off at 7.30 in the morning.
We sat and drank tea together, and I told her how amazing it is to sit thirty years later almost in the same spot as you have before, only this time opposite a grown up daughter. I could never have believed that this would have happened in  my life and I do feel truly blessed!
We walked down to the sea, which was grey and thrashing about in fury; the wind destroyed our hairdos in seconds as we scrabbled across the greenish-yellow pebbles in unsuitable shoes.

Later, we browsed the shops. I spotted a row of lovely long pale-blue chambray dresses in an upmarket army surplus store and was about to try one on, mesmerised by the utility-button details, when the shop assistant commented: 'Perfect 1930s dresses, beautiful Nazi clothes'.
I almost threw up in  disgust- what a horrible USP! The purse snapped shut and we headed off.
How on earth has it been acceptable to praise something as being 'Nazi'? When did this happen?

I drove down to Rustington to see Joby and Valex afterwards to drink tea in Xurbia, as Joby calls it. They are the only people in their Brookside not to have concreted over their front garden to make parking space for a Mega-vehicle. Joby has a motorised Trike, a splendid one, and has recently stood for election as a Monster Raving Loony Party candidate, polling 83 votes. He continues to battle with the Police and rather horrible-sounding neighbours, who object when he looks at them funny!
It was lovely to see them, and I do rather admire their suburban neighbourhood; we had a discussion about the joys of Peckham and Tottenham, and they are definitely better off where they are.

I drove back through the backwoods of Surrey, land of Rich Nimbys with micro-manicured glass verges, and felt like a peasant in a clapped-out jalopy and huge shining motor-monsters shoved me out of the way to get to their more-important destinations.
Parts of England are indeed green, and indeed unpleasant.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Martin Stephenson's Songwriting Weekend

Only a few places left on this lovely weekend in Dumfriesshire on the banks of the River Nith.
It happens in the Friar's Carse Hotel, a little Scots-Baronial mansion with lovely grounds.
Tutors: Martin, Scott MacDonald and... me!
Sign up now, accommodation, food and workshops all included:

Park Road Pilot

I will be playing a set of mostly new songs at the Park Road Pilot on Saturday 4th June.
I am delighted to be playing there again: this night started off in Harlesden a couple of years ago in promoter Rebecca's large and beautifully funky front room. I played at a night where Ethiopian food was served, and a row of children sat on the stairs.
The event has grown and moved to Dalston Boys Club a couple of years ago, and now has yet another home.
This will be a special night, of the sort one doesn't normally come across in London.
In Rebecca's words:

As you enter the space, take your time to feast upon many a sculpture and installation – both material and living. Check out Romen Gouveia’s installation (and parallel universe) – where the worlds of perspex, paper, light, mirrors, architecture, nature, design, technology and photography live in harmony! Jeff O’Loughlin… Find artists Danielle Lee Williams & Alice Colley in ‘Rubbish Days’. Nagg and Nell from Beckett’s Endgame are to be found in tras bins. Join them in their tragic, farcical and comical attempts at contact and communication. Nag and Nell will be performing sometime ‘twixt 7.30 – 8.30pm, so be sure not to miss ‘em! Last but not least, seek out Jeff O’Loughlin’s sculpture and Naoko Tagai’s site-specific installation.
The performative evening will be introduced by Natali Castro Bass’s ‘Uvas para Baco’ – an absurd piece that pushes the boundaries of clowning and mime, creating a common space between performer and audience. We will then be treated to much in the way of ear, mind and soul tickling from various musicians – Singer songwriter Helen McCookerybook (who btw has the most extraordinary history – do check out her links!) will be playing us some of her new songs(www.reverbnation.com/helenmccookerybook/ www.mccookerybook.blogspot.com). Followed by Night & Fog - poised to launch their new album, The Stakes Have Never Been So Low. Combining the squalid grandeur of Why? and Arab Strap with the spectral songcraft of Lali Puna, this is electro-dreampop tinged with horror, like lullabies to a howling pederast in some blackened city(www.myspace.com/culturekampf). We then have guitarist/singer Stephano D'Silva (aka Full Hearts) and poet/percussionist Brother Niyi playing music from the heart and always from the start, with a mix of songs and poetry with deep hooks and beats.
Finally on the live music front, we have Widescreen – an epic Flamexicano, Latin, Eastern European and North African afrobeat fusion band! To keep your bodies grooving, DJ KAZUMBA will take you on a sonic journey across the continents with Tribal, African, Funk, Afrobeat, Roots, Balkan, Samba, Salsa rhythms and many more!
This month we will be raising funds for the Red Cross Tsunami appeal (www. www.redcross.org.uk/JapanTsunami). We’ll be charging the usual £5 at the door. As for food, we may have some Japanese finger food on offer for a reasonable suggested donation price! We love our contributors and want to keep them happy, therefore performances will follow a programme which will start at 8ish so feel free to get here any time from 7pm when doors open.

We will be at the Empowering Church – 1a Westgate st, E8 3RL. The nearest rail station is London Fields.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Cliff, interviewed by David Hamilton on a 1976 Top of the Pops show (BBC4)
"How many hits have you had so far Cliff?"
"We've made 64 entries"
Ooo-err, missus!!!!


After a quiet afternoon sheltering from the hail and nursing a hole between my surviving molars large enough to garage my spare car in (I haven't got one), I went out for a stroll around the grounds.
A massive orange slug, juicy, fat, ridged and with a decorative green and white medallion was gorging itself on a snail that I had accidentally trodden on the day before.
'Mmmm', it slurped at its greedy feast.
Bin day tomorrow: flipped it into the bin bag with he empty bottles and dust from the Dyson.
It will have a whole rubbish tip to eat tomorrow.



Guilty Garden

Strange feeling... when I looked into the yard this morning, I had a strong impression that I'd caught the World doing something it shouldn't; it seemed to have paused stock-still, tense and unmoving as if in a game of musical statues, in the hope that I wouldn't notice what it had been up to.
I wonder what it had been doing?
Switching from colour into black and white and back again?


Being both daughter and niece of medical people who worked in and believed in the NHS, here is a plea, if you have not done so already, to sign a petition to prevent it from being privatised.
The current Government plan is to privatise the lot within a generation; legislation is for a bit-by-bit break-up.
This started with Tony Blair and is being carried on by David Cameron, and the petition to save it crosses political boundaries

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Is It Just Me?

Is it just me, or does David Cameron like standing in gardens with another man in a suit, each behind a wooden stand with a speech on it, gripping with both hands?

Dearest One

I seem to be incredibly popular in Africa; I'm getting a massive amount of emails from there, calling me 'Dearest One'. I am lucky, because they have all found huge sums of money that belong to me, and I have sent all of them my bank details so that they can pay these vast sums into my account.
I will buy you a beer when they do so.

Somebody out there thinks I'm a bloke as well. Not sure where: somewhere where Helen is a man's name and not a woman's one. I have written to them all to thank them for their interest and goodwill, and requested that they send me breast enlargement emails instead of Viagra ones, which although I am not in need of them will at least be a more focused and appropriate form of spam.

Finally, I am having a lot of conversations with a very shy lady from Natwest, who phones me constantly at busy times. She is so nice, but either deaf or perhaps has the volume turned down on her handset. I usually chat for about half an hour (seems impolite not to), but I'm not sure whether our friendship will be a lasting one.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

L.A. Strings

This chap is a retired police officer who has become a musician. He is playing a custom-built guitar called the Art-Tone which was made at L.A. Strings in Whetstone, where I took two of my guitars this morning to be fixed. L.A. Strings is run by two luthiers who are a combination of guitar doctors and artist/craftsmen, and they designed and built this guitar from recycled parts, mainly of a piano. The neck is a piano leg and the top of the guitar is also recycled from the piano. Old wood- beautiful sound! It's great to play (I had a go) and has a huge range of sounds from a very mellow and woody bassy sound to a very live and punchy rock sound. It is a very special instrument, with a good feel to it, and extremely versatile. I also tried out an acoustic guitar that they had made, with a French-polished neck and a solid silver nut. Meanwhile, they were fixing up the Martin guitar, raising the action slightly, and the Gretsch is staying there overnight for a set-up.
Their website is lastrings.co.uk and they are a perfect antidote for people who don't want to battle through central London with a battered guitar case being sworn at by strangers. You can hear the birds singing from inside their workshop and have a relaxed chat about guitars, guitarists and music in general.
Suitably distracted, I returned home and I have now ploughed through five solid hours of marking. I have the same again to get through but I'm now taking a break to play some music and to be frightened about going to the dentist tomorrow, which I am sure you will agree, needs a little time to adjust to.

Dental Song
I will soon have a hole-ah
Where once was a molar.

Good Morning!

Todays prevarication begins with taking two of my guitars to the menders, somenthing I have been meaning to do for six months.
You an't seen nothing yet!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Instead-of-Marking List

1 Mile long walk in windy sunshine
2 Bought compost
3 Planted sunflowers
4 Elaborate lunch
5 Bit of marking
6 Lots of emails
7 Made complicated curry with all possible trimmings and ate it
8 Read newspaper, cover to cover, even ads
9 Had bath
10 Did washing
11 Just about to watch Rebus
12 Then will be tired, and have to go to bed

Score: 6/40

Forty Pieces of Work

Forty pieces of work to mark.
Ten green bottles
Pieces of eight
Any number of anything would be better.

Daniel and Sandra's jokes:
Feline medical practice : catupuncture
Angeroo: angry Kangaroo ( who has presumably become kangry)

The washing's in the machine....

What else can I do in order to prevaricate?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Saturday at The Keys in Huddersfield

On the way there, I spotted this hilarious seedy duo: tattoo parlour next to a laser removal clinic. Perfect twinning of activity!
We got to to the soundcheck  early, and Tina (one of the promoters) had made piles of sandwiches and biscuits with our names iced on to them- bless! Mike and June were there; they are Martin's greatest fans and do a great job selling Martins CDs (and mine). Happy birthday June for next week; 21 isn't that old, you know! The audience got pie'n'peas, and this pic shows Mike and June tucking in. The Keys in is a huge crypt, five times larger than the Eyre Chapel, but it was still packed out with people and buzzing with anticipation; they sat at tables on alpine-looking carved pine chairs, all dressed up in Saturday night finery.
Steph Stephenson played first: her family had all come along and they were sitting next to her cheering her on. She has a beautiful voice and turned in a great set.
Next up was Gary Stewart, a Scottish lad who had a distinctive vocal sound, a very powerful sound. He is a nifty guitar player and he debuted a song he had written for his new-born niece which was a truly lovely song. He is a gentleman, pointing out that Martin's guitar was sounding buzzy at the soundcheck and offering to lend me a tuner because mine had conked out. As chance would have it, Mike had brought one along and he gave it to me. I was on next and although I reckon people were hungry, I got a good reception and Martin joined me for Heaven Avenue and Loverman, before playing another really blazing set which he finished on the Green Goddess herself, because the yummy Takamine decided to got to bed and not play any more. Although I say so myself, the Gretsch sounds amazing (you see, I never hear myself play because I am playing) and I was pretty impressed by its sound. There were a lot of really friendly people there and it's not every day that you play to a man whose past activities include sawing people in half (it's absolutely true, believe me!). So it was a really good evening, and again a great promoter. Thanks to Andrew and Tina for being great hosts, and I want that biscuit recipe please.

Friday Evening at the Eyre Chapel

Such a change of environment! Martin picked my up in his Merc, delighted to be driving again, and we whooshed pat Chesterfield Cathedral's twisted spire to the Chinese take-away where we gorged on chips and curry sauce before going up to the chapel itself.
It is a sweet and charming little building, and the gig was promoted by the equally charming David Lelievre. The room was populated by smiling people nursing glasses of wine and bottles of beer. I went straight onstage, picked up the happy vibe and really enjoyed myself.
Martin was on hilarious form, playing a lovely Takamine Spanish guitar that brought out different sounds from his guitar parts. A couple of guys at the front were well in their cups and kept up a dialogue all the way through; at the end, I sang Sweet Saviour and The Airship Song with Martin before we retired to (apparently) Julian Cope's favourite Travelodge. I can understand why; as Martin says, Travelodges have started to look like the bailiffs have been in.
No chairs, no sofas, half a teabag between two and the smallest towels in the universe divided in half.
But this one not only had a sofa, it also had a chair and two towels. And enough teabags! Travelodge paradise!!!

Friday Morning

Friday's symposium was an interesting kettle of fish; I had asked to talk early because of the Chesterfield gig; I had to put a powerpoint presentation together rapidly beforehand due to the computer at home crashing and learned how to embed mp3s literally 15 minutes before it started, then cleverly crashed the projector... but I digress.
Barry Shank spoke first; I am a huge admirer of his book about the music scene in Austin, Texas, Dissonant Identities. His paper was heavily theoretical, and dealt with a lot of interesting issues. Both he and David Hesmondhalgh (who followed mine) discussed popular music from the perspective of its being embedded into culture for many years.
I had chosen to go back to two of my original interviewees, Gina Birch and Tessa Pollitt, and talk to them about the inspiration behind their bass playing, as well as briefly discussing cultural inspiration for one or two other punk women instrumentalists and singers. I feel that I am turning a clock back to zero; even now, very few women write scholarly books about the female experience in the music industry (and as far as I know, none about those working actually in the record labels themselves). I don't think I can analyse anything until I have defined exactly what it is I am analysing.
I will probably publish a more academic version what I talked about, eventually. I hope I did not downgrade what I had to say by being so direct, but I had to discuss the role of rape as a way of silencing women in the music industry and the way that this is covered up, mostly by the women themselves who do not want to be stigmatised. This is because since I wrote the book, I have heard that no less than five of the women that I either talked to or wrote about were raped by various different people. Five more, I mean.
Caroline Coon came to the symposium as she will be speaking at a similar event in September with David Hesmondhalgh; she was rather rudely silenced as she tried to ask a question.
The problem was that none of the people asking questions after the papers wanted to talk about that huge she-elephant that I had just introduced into the room....
I did have some interesting and positive discussions with people afterwards: some of them male, I am happy to report.
I managed to hear two more papers before I left to battle the forests of businessmen to catch the Chesterfield train.
Please excuse my guarded prose; if I knew exactly who reads my blog, I might be more forthcoming. Or then again,  I might not.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

In Huddersfield: intersting Symposium on Friday and great gig last night: details upon return

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thought for the Day...

... you can lead a thought to water, but you can't make it think.

Chesterfield Eyre Chapel tomorrow, Huddersfield Keys Restaurant on Saturday, bit supporting Martin- do come if you can! Link to your right, click for tickets.


Heavy upload!
I have just failed to send eleven photographs to the publisher and had to start again to do it in batches.
It's done, but not finished, if you know what I mean.
Tomorrow's paper is in the same state. I will get up at the crack of dawn to make a powerpoint version.
I need a walk.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Nuclear Power? Nein Danke.

Well And Truly Thwacked

That electronic Thatcher virtual handbag has thrashed the life out of my hard drive: it has gorn for good. Arnold is finding out if he can get a new one, otherwise the laptop will have become an expensive white-elephant doorstop.
Ironically, I was telling someone about this on the phone this evening, and a picture of the terrible woman herself appeared on the TV screen.

Margaret Thatcher Crashed My Computer

The beastly woman!
I downloaded a little sound segment from a 1975 speech to make a little mash-up of voices, and within the twinkling of a Tory eye, the computer had expired.
In between transcribing new interviews with Gina Birch and Tessa Pollitt, I am waiting for Arnold the Mac Man to give the laptop new life.
I am trying not to be stressed by this sinister development, honestly!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Calm Down Dear

I have decided to name Friday's paper after the David Cameron gaffe that revealed so much about his attitude to women. His homage to Michael Winner was unfortunate to say the least.
Halfway through this morning's writing I realised that I could actually have done the whole presentation in sound: perhaps next time!
It is amazing me how much material there is in those original recorded interviews. Because I had no idea what I might discover, I tried to discover everything. The stories are so interesting: Mavis Bayton's mad singing headmistress, Rachel Dolly Mixture's love for The Nolans that bestowed a blessing on John Walters' disparaging comment that their only Peel session sounded 'like the Nolans', and he wouldn't book them again!
On Friday I went to re-interview Gina; we interviewed each other on film for the documentaries she's making. She told me that I probably articulate a lot more than I think I do, and said that I have this in common with Vivien Goldman.
All I can say is that as time passes I become an ever more passionate advocate for the achievements of the women punk musicians, many of whom are coming to an age when they can celebrate those achievements and understand just exactly how important their experiences and creativity are.
Poly's album is on it's way, and I am very excited!

Monday, May 16, 2011


A woman called Amy at Martin's gig in Inverness on Saturday told me that she thinks daisies duck when they feel the vibrations of the lawnmower... yes, yes, she could be right! Then they pop up again when they know they are safe.

Saturday was the first time I have seen Martin and his Ross-shire musicians. All over the UK there are groups of people who can accompany Martin's songs; in Inverness, he was joined by Henry Fosbrooke on didgeridoo and drum, and Chippy on electric guitar.
I have met Henry before: he has built an octagonal studio in the forest, on log legs, called the logtagon.
As he was playing the didgeridoo on Saturday evening I suddenly understood the origins of techno music- all those chaps with floppy fringes and long shorts returning from a gap year and wanting to create their own romantic drama with those deep, deep sounds...
Chippy is a psychedelic guitarist, and between them they shone a different light on Martin's perennially catchy songs. there are a lot of good musicians in Ross-shire.
Ally Macleod and her partner Donald played some songs: it was lovely to hear her singing live. They had come straight from a wedding and had a sleek retro look that everyone thought was deliberate!
I sang a couple myself, and the evening finished with a very odd ex-commando taking to the stage and running us through the battle theatres he'd fought through, all backed by the band playing Jesus. He was a bit scary, a lot drunk and very dramatic all at the same time.
The Highlands is like the Wild West, with its own outlaws and mad logic.

Lovely Bookshop in Inverness


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Meat Dresses....

... were NOT invented by Lady Gaga or her designer. I am reading yet another article that implies she was the first person to wear one.
As far as I know, this was Linder Sterling's idea, 30 years ago in Manchester.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Last Post of the Day (cue Last Post being played on solo trumpet)

Chuck Warner has sent the South Coast Messthetics CD, which I will listen to and write about next week.
There are tracks by various south coast UK bands, some from Brighton (yes, the Chefs are there) and Lucy O'Brien's band the Catholic Girls are there too.
I reckon it's a good 'un.
It has been a very busy time: 20 cleaners met this morning at 8 to view the film and we had a sing-song. We have gained a guitarist (I hope) or two, even.
Then I was at Gina's, interviewing her for next Friday's talk, and she interviewed me back for The Raincoats documentary; we were happy and chatty and we went for lunch.
The house is a mess, but I'm having a weekend off all the same!

Lost Comment

Hi Sandy, Blogger lost your comment but I did read it- yes, Better Badges was in a house on Portobello Road. I didn't work there at the same time as Kate Korris, I don't think- Sarah from the Tesco Bombers was there when I worked there.


Introducing my new invention, the iHand.
It requires no batteries and can be re-used, time and time again.
It causes no harm to the environment and is available in many different colours.
As you can see, I use mine as a notebook.
They can also be used to hang shopping bags from and when you insert a pen, for writing with.
With digits tightly pressed together, the iHand can be used for patting a cat or dog, and with a knife gripped between digits, a tomato can be sliced with minimum effort.
It is considerably cheaper than an iPad or Kindle, costing a mere £0.00


I went to Poly's funeral yesterday. I felt so sorry for her mother, small and frail and unutterably hurt by her daughter's early passing. Poly's daughter, who looks very like her Mum, sang an acapella version of You'll Never Walk Alone, for which the congregation joined her. She has a strong voice and she was very brave to do it.
I liked the priest, who didn't overpower anyone; he respected the fact that there were people there with a lot of different beliefs, all of whom loved Poly very much.
It was sunny and breezy, with an odd magic in the air.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Sex Pistols

I found these in a box: I used to work at Better Badges, and I think these were rejects from the Sex Pistols badges that they were manufacturing.
I think they look fantastic like this- eat yer heart out Andy Warhol!

Helen and the Horns Vinyl

I have just been to empty the storage unit for once and for all.
The living room is stacked with boxes of albums and a large box of baby clothes (ahhh!)
I have also retrieved the last 150 vinyl copies of the Helen and the Horns album.
£10 inc p & p if anyone wants one (that's mostly p & P BTW) email helen_mccookerybook@yahoo.co.uk or do a Paypal at that email address.
I was touched that a chap offered to help me pack my car (there are eleven quite heavy boxes here)
I am going to put a lot of my old albums on eBay shortly: I have some Ian Carr ones that I can live without, but I can't live without the reggae and the disco, which will soon be blasting out of my cobbled-together speakers when I bring my Technics turntable back from work.

Monday, May 09, 2011


Next week, I will have a tooth out.
Which one?
The one that I used to bite off beer-bottle caps when I was a rufty-tufty punk-rocker girl, that's which one.
Serves me jolly well right.
I suppose.

Tube Journey

And on the way home, I fell asleep on the tube.
When I woke up, a man who was sitting next to me asked me about playing the guitar, He said that I had been practising in my sleep: this reminded me of the sleeping Chinese old man with an instrument case that I had seen once, practicing a complex piece of music furiously as he slept.
The man who spoke to me was a council worker from Durham, who worked with Iranian refugees. He told me how difficult he found it to understand Geordies, and how they sound like Norwegians. Makes sense, since Geordieland is closer on the map to Norway that to many other parts of the UK.
The council worker loves Durham, though, and says it is a beautiful city. I told him about the time when Gina and myself were on tour doing Voxpop Puella/Headspace and we wandered into Durham Cathedral, straight into a choir rehearsal.
What beautiful music! Ethereal clouds of wispy sound, meringues of harmony, bursts of joy.
Verily, music is a wondrous thing.


Well, the Cleaners' Voice project has progressed rapidly over the weekend; once we realised that because of the shift-work that most of the choir have to do it will be difficult to get them all together for an evening, we decided that the best thing to do would be to make a film the main product- at least for now.
Ana brought it to the rehearsal this morning; one of the cleaners turned up in tears, because a horrible student had barged into the toilet she was cleaning and told her to get out because 'she is only a cleaner' and the student should be allowed to use the loo before she's finished cleaning it.
She said that sometimes students even use the loo in front of her, which is completely offensive.
So seeing Ana's beautiful little film (it's less than four minutes long) was a real boost, especially as this is the same woman who was beginning to question whether the choir project was going to make any difference.
The film shows them working, devising a chant with Luis, talking about their jobs and then singing part of the final song, all with subtitles. It will go up on Youtube tomorrow sometime, and I urge you to watch it and support the cleaners!
Two of them will be performing the song at Stratford Circus on Wednesday evening at about 7 p.m. and the film will be shown then as well- free to get in, if you live East of Old Smokey*
After a meeting with the Unison rep and some other staff to talk about the best ways we can use the film to help the cleaners get better conditions, I went by tube from the University of the East to the University of the West to collect the master CDs of The Chefs compilation, which has been mastered by Colm O'Rourke.
Lucy O'Brien was heading up the hill with a huge wheelie-suitcase full of marked Thesis work and we had a quick catch up chat; her copy of the Messthetics CD of South Coast English punk  turned up this morning and I hope mine arrives soon- it has the Catholic Girls (Lucy's band) and The Chefs and lots more.
I have The Chefs masters here but will have to wait till the raging toothache calms down- I have an emergency dental appointment this afternoon. I am just waiting for the sleeve notes to be sent from Australia (Everett True, former editor of Melody Maker and PlanBmag is doing them) and then I can get on with sorting out the booklet design.
Until then, here is a very entertaining video made by a student of mine from the University of the West:
*Linda Lewis, Old Smokey

Sunday, May 08, 2011


I hadn't intended to work today but I started mining through the interviews that I have done over the years to look for material to include in the paper that I'm doing at the symposium on the 20th.
Ten years ago, when I first started, the people I spoke to were not seasoned interviewees and they spoke about a lot of things that they have since learned to temper in order to present a particular slant on their past.
None of this is untruthful: it becomes expedient to emphasise some aspects of your past and to play down others.
It was lucky to have met them when their conversation was raw and unrehearsed, and I often feel that my being a musician helped. I have mislaid some of the transcripts and if there's time I will go back to the original DAT recordings to find out what the tantalising 'more here...' bits mean.
You can say: 'But look at all the female instrumentalists these days', but what was extraordinary about those women in the punk times was the lack of artifice, which several of them identify as re-entering the sphere with Madonna.
Basically, the record companies lost control of the artists who were creating the music; the industry depended/depends on people being willing to do anything in order to be rich and famous, and could/can therefore manipulate the 'product' accordingly.
Back then The Clash were seen to be 'selling out', tumbling into the arms of CBS in 1977, whereas the Sex Pistols were seen to be aggressively oppositional in their fleecing of the record labels they signed to (although it got them and Malcom McLaren fantastic publicity); Siouxsie and the Banshees signed to Polydor too.
But most of the oddball lot I have documented were signed to little labels with either no business sense or an alternative business sense (in the case of Rough Trade) and could develop their unusual styles and fusions of music without having to succumb to a genre label, even the new one, 'punk'.
So I am going to talk about the origins of their sounds, and the fierce attempts to terminate their endeavours.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Eva Eden at Ship of Fools

This event happens on a boat just next to Temple tube and actually I am a week late in reviewing it; the week has been a cacophony of car repairs, boiler repairs, selling stuff on eBay, lectures, tutorials, the Cleaners' Choir and teenager minding, so here it is.

I have been listening to Eva's music for a few years; she has carved out a unique place for herself with her twisted fairy tales and was supported by a following of motley Bank Holiday bohemians, who stood at the bar in deep concentration nursing beer bottles as the boat rocked gently in the wind.
Eva has a deep, uncompromising voice (a bit like Nico's) and her lyrics darkly explore the story of Hansel and Gretel, or Sea Monkeys (remember them, in American comics?). She plays guitar and was augmented on this night by drums, bass, sax, accordion and Paul Davey on clarinet (he of Helen and the Horns and Daniel Takes a Train). The combo was the perfect foil for her songs: Insect Suicide reminded me of Inside Your Heart (the Velvet Underground song) with its grooving bass-line and skittering drums. Whoever Brought Me Here Has To Take Me Home is an exercise in catchy paranoia, and this song signalled a move into up-tempo songs that she finished the set with.
Eva is a one-off but there are better places to see her than the boat, whose PA system faces the bar. It must be very difficult to sing with your audience mainly to the left and to the right of you and only a line of barflies to perform to directly in front of you. The boat is charming and odd (the squeaky door in the Ladies that whined as the boat tipped from side to side was so spectacular that I recorded it!) but I think the stage should be at one end or the other so the performers can actually see the audience and build up a proper rapport. Eva is so charming that she managed to carry it off, but it must have been difficult.
If you would like to hear her music go to www.myspace.com/evaeden



A Night at The Watershed

I had been expecting Newport Pagnell to be a grim concrete monstrosity built on a modernist grid system with concrete cattle and grey-faced inhabitants- that shows the prejudice an MK postcode can inspire!

I do have a grim grey music story from the 1980s that involves our trumpet player accidentally driving into a serious chap with a grey mackintosh from a synthesiser band at a bunker-type venue in Milton Keynes, and I believe I have told that story already somewhere way back on this blog. It was rather awful and doomy and I think it may have spray-painted my perceptions a rather foggy shade of taupe.
Au contraire, Newport Pagnell is a sweet two-and-a-half horse town with a haunted bridge, according to Andy, the promoter of The Watershed. There is greenery galore and old and new red brick houses and shops; it reminded me a little bit of a mini-Market Harborough.
The venue is situated at the end of a hidden arcade ( I think it was the address 'Unit 5' that made me think of navy-blue New York gloom and multi-tiered car parks!) that looks as though it has magically appeared straight out of a Miss Marple film. A series of little shops painted in eau-de-nil lead the way to The Watershed, which is a really funky bar, with lots of retro video games at one end of it, and a place to sit and yak, and a small outside bit too.
A pair of clogs stood on the floor, for sale.
Upstairs there is a smallish stage, with musical instruments leaning against the wall, cushions to sit on and an atmosphere that I can only describe as 'smiling'. I had driven Acton Bell and myself up from Barnet with four plates of leftover cake from Offsprog Two's birthday, and I put those on the tables before we sound checked; the Anti Poet arrived dressed in identical newly purchased black canvas kilts (well skirts, actually, but there was a smidgin of tartan on them under a pocket, so possibly that topples them into the definition of kilts!).
As a venue, it is perfect; Andy does his work as a promoter and the crowd was young but open-minded and positive, giving all of us a fair listen (though they were in their cups by the time I played, but what the heck, Friday night is Friday night!). He looked after us really well, making sure we were fed and watered, and the relaxed and positive feel of the venue made us all feel welcome; by God, some of the London venues should learn from this!
Acton Bell started the night. She has started to introduce some of her own songs into her set and they hold up very well in her mixture of 1960s songs (her favourite band begins with a 'P'; 'The Searchers', she told me). The sound guy is very very good- that is so important when you come to a venue that you have never played before. Acton Bell's voice sounded lovely and she kicked the evening off to a really good start.
After a short break, Ian and Paul of the Anti Poet came on. Their first piece was called the Gentlemen Duellers and was very funny. I misheard it as The Gentlemen Jewellers because I am massively thick and I spent the poem listening for references to emeralds and rubies, until I saw the words on a card on the floor afterwards and realised my mistake.
They had been a bit nervous because they normally play to a crowd that knows their stuff, but the audience loved them and gave them a really good reception. The double bass sounded thunderously powerful and Paul was gleefully on form, laughing at his own jokes and teasing the audience with impish glee.
Then it was my turn and I really enjoyed playing; I played a song called Three of Us which I haven't played for five years, and Ian and Paul joined me at the end for Loverman. Wilky was there (hi Wilky) and he requested 24 Hours at the end, and I think we managed a passable version! It's funny to thing that even a year ago I was not confident enough to do something like that; even ancient artists like me are capable of progressing! I am not quite in Marple territory yet, age-wise....
Afterwards there was a jam downstairs, it felt almost like being in someone's house.
We all had a good gig and have been invited back as a combination, which I know we would all love to do.
Three cheers for a great venue, a great promoter, a great sound engineer and the friendliest bar manager and staff in the Universe, and roll on next gig there!
If you live in the Milton Keynes area, they have Sunday music sessions with compilations of the videos they make of the artists who play there, and I believe that they are going to expand and have more music and also food. Five stars, Andy!

Friday, May 06, 2011


Tonight, I'm playing at The Watershed in Milton Keynes
Entry is a piddling £3.00 so you got to come if you live nearby!
The support acts are the Anti-Poet and Acton Bell and there may well be free cake!
Unit 5 Tickford Arcade 
Newport Pagnell 
Milton Keynes 
MK16 8HY


An election in which a man who has the appearance of a man defending a deity he doesn't believe in is trounced; and we are still stuck with a local council here in Barnet that has an undercurrent of nastiness in all its dealings.
Barnet Council is led by the horrid Brian Coleman. Our street parking charges are more than doubling to £100 a year, so we are subsidising those rich people who can afford a garage (or six) or off-street parking.
Parking Charges Complaints Choir anyone?

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Early Morning London

There is something romantic about a big city early in the morning.
I travelled by tube and DLR to the University of the East with my guitar on my back, sharing the experience with some tired businessmen and all sorts of support staff, from security men heading off the ExCel to cleaners heading home and school-kids heading off to school.
The idea had been to set up in the corridor outside the cleaners office, play the song and recruit more members for the choir. The corridors are industrial-chic gloomy concrete and although they look spectacularly ugly, they have a fine and crisp reverb.
But although Ana was there, and Alessia, a student who is filming, there were very few cleaners around.
I unpacked the guitar and played a bit of the riff and some heads popped out of the office. Although they were reluctant heads, they were curious heads and I think we might be able to persuade one of the supervisors and another one of the cleaners, who told me in Spanish that he was a percussionist, to join us at a later date.
Meanwhile, the cleaners who normally sing appeared; they had been waiting in the Lecture Theatre where we normally rehearse, so we went back there to carry on. It was difficult rehearsing without Luis (he had to take his children to school today), but it meant that the choir had to try to understand me, and I had to try to understand them, without a translator. In some ways this was good!
We added a bit to the song; each person now has a tiny cameo and can do what they want with it before we all join in again...
This means that their personalities come to the forefront, and it also means that other people can quite easily participate at any point.
I stood at the back of the lecture hall (which is huge) to listen.
They were in fine voice. I leapt ecstatically off the wooden shelf I'd been sitting on and fell over into a dramatic heap of tangled arms, legs and guitar.
Luckily, they couldn't see me. I am a proud cat and don't like to broadcast my disasters, so I stumbled to my feet behind the partition at the back of the lecture theatre and bounced back down to join them.
Three cheers for The Cleaners' Voice Complaints Choir!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011


Here is a link to the Music, Politics and Agency seminar I will be speaking at on 20th May. It is open to the academically-minded public!
And here is a link to Vivien Goldman's piece in the Village Voice about the beautiful Poly.
Thank you to Vivien for mentioning the book and to Caroline Coon for sending me this link.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011


It was a serene day; two hours in a traffic jam on the North Circular didn't bother me: it was lovely and sunny and I had a flask of Coffee, and Luis was stuck too so although we missed the Cleaners Choir, at least we both did.
I was in time for the lecture to the Advertising students and their lecturer was happy with what I did. I found it really interesting to hear her talking about hyper-males in films before I did my bit.
I went for tea with Acton Bell. She made ginger and fig parkin, which was delicious.
But now, I have toothache.
I have just eaten too much cake over the past few days, and my gnashers are very cross indeed.
That's why I'm writing in short sentences.

Monday, May 02, 2011

I make these jokes up, you know. That is why they are so awful; but they make me laugh when I make them up.
Martin told my cat joke in Bristol on Friday and everyone groaned, so he blamed me!
Cat joke: What do cats use to mow the grass? A Lawnmeower.
Ha ha!

May Bank Holiday Joke

What do Geordie surfers shout?
Hawaii the lads!

London Citizens

There is a London Citizens event today that we were hoping to get the Cleaners' Voice song ready for.
Basically, London Citizens campaigns for a higher living wage for Londoners, because the cost of living here is so high. The minimum wage that is paid across the country doesn't cover the expense of living here, and the trade union Unison is raising awareness about, for instance, large banking firms and supermarkets such as Tesco who pay their cleaning staff as little as they can get away with in spite of their high profile and profit margins.
It is so easy to forget the importance of cleaners in our hygienic and relatively clean country. If you think of the volume of people passing through shops, museums, factories, educational establishments, transport hubs and so on, and the quantities of germs we carry with us on our feet, hands, bags, luggage and foodstuffs; yet we disrespect those who clean up after us as though it was them who were unclean!
I have been reading about the way cleaning teams are managed; often the cleaners are treated like work units, completely dehumanised (Madeleine Bunting, The Guardian, 2/5/11).
I must say that the group that Luis and myself have been working with are an amazing group of individuals: they are funny, supportive and conscientious. They know that they do a valuable and essential job but they also have aspirations.
None of them was born with a mop in their mouth and rocked in a cradle labelled 'cleaner'. If a better job in terms of pay and activity was offered to them, they would jump at the chance, but they have families to support and this is how they earn money to do that.
Rock on, cleaners, and anyone else who has a job that is not respected by society!

Sunday, May 01, 2011


There is a huge pile of ironing to be done and I hit on a fabulous idea- ironing in the yard in the sunshine!
Alas, all the extension leads are knitted into the rooms they service, twisted round furniture and Behind Things.
So it's an afternoon of writing instead, with the breeze whistling down the chimney, percussion provided by the banging of the back door, and vocals provided by the yelps of passing children in the street and the stentorian admonishments of their parents. Percussion solo: ladder next door scraping on the concrete as they try to fix their satellite dish.