Friday, March 30, 2012

First Review of The Chefs

Songwriting and Technical

Yesterday was an emotional day: the City and Hackney Carers screened the films that the carers' film project had made, alongside the carers' songwriting project ( done at the Premises Studios) that I was involved with. The films were very powerful, and it was lovely to see the songwriters again and to listen to their songs as we sat upstairs at the Hackney Picture House and all ate our lunch together. The cinema was pretty full, and it seems that both projects are going to not only help the carers to keep in touch with each other, but also raise their profile. They are remarkable people in a lot of ways.
And who should be there but Lucy Toothpaste, looking very glamorous! I forgot to tell her that the book is coming out next month.
This morning, I have been transferring the DAT audio of the backing tracks of the Voxpop Puella song-cycle to Garageband so that I can add some fresh lead vocals before sending them off to be mastered. The tracks are what is called 'hot': dynamically wild! I had to set the input volume at zero for one of them and I still think it was clipping. We shall see: I am going to trim them in a minute ready for the vocal recording tomorrow.
Later, I am off to work with Lucie Sieger:
And the washing machine is working overtime, as I realised that five of our tour dates are consecutive so I will have to take a lot of clothes with me!

Thursday, March 29, 2012


And they smelled delicious. I have never seen so many, not even here at Trent Park. The poor students are being moved out to Hendon. Not quite the same: a bit grey in comparison.
Daffodils always seem like curious nineteenth-century ladies pointing their bonnets in different directions- a whole load of nosy parkers minding everyone else's business. Just imagine the racket if this lot could talk!
Today's news is that The Cafe of Tiny Kindnesses has unexpectedly shown up- will have copies next week.

The Hulk

Aha! A fluorescent green Hulk has arrived to guard the doll collection that I keep at work in my office; every summer, someone steals from me and it's really upsetting.
The Hulk is so beautiful, I'm not sure I dare to take him there to take up his post as guard: what if he gets stolen too?
Thank you Sarah, for helping him into an envelope and paying for his ticket. He has arrived safely and is being admired as I write this post!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tickets for the Daintees Tour

I am being asked for ticket details for the tour: they are available from and by phone from 0844 811 0051

Monday, March 26, 2012


I learn more when I am teaching other people to do things that I do when other people are teaching me to do things.



June Miles KIngston was a pretty impressive drummer!


Absolutely the best I have ever heard Viv or Gina play; the audience was sparse as we were clashing with Jah Wobble and The Stranglers at other Manchester venues but those who came along (Cazz included) seemed mighty impressed. I have not seen Viv play since the Damned tour and she played with the angry commitment of.. well, a proper punk actually. The performance was obviously completely cathartic for her, but what also impressed me was her guitar playing skills, which are now second to none (all you rockstar guys with your copycat licks, watch out!) and probably for the first time, the lyrics were crystal clear thanks to Chris's sound engineering skills. Gina has also sharpened up her act immeasurably-very different music to Viv's because she is an experimenter: I loved her pop vocoder/autotune track and also her song inspired by the riots. Offsprog One did sterling work as a DJ playing Northern Soul between our sets, Martin MC'd with aplomb and Liz, bless her cotton socks, sold CDs for us. I don't think I have ever sold so many CDs at a gig before. Thank you to all who came along to support us, someone even making the journey from Leicester! It was much appreciated. Now, I am knackered and permanently in the shape of 'person-sitting-in-car-and-driving-long distance'!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Tomorrow, Hyde

... I shall be playing a Telecaster, or a Squier with Seymour Duncan Pickups.
Doors open 8.30, I will be on first, then Viv, then Gina...
... three very different women playing guitars...
be there or be Squier!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ha Ha Ha HA HA!

Studio One Soul 2 And Other Listening

In a vintage clothes shop in Newcastle I heard a track that was irresistible and I sent off for both of the Studio One soul albums. Number Two arrived today and I've been bopping away.
As a complete contrast I am now listening to Standard Planets
I have worn my fingers out rehearsing for Saturday's gig. I will be playing the Squier telecaster copy that Martin gave me, and feeling like a rocker. Shall I wear my leather jacket?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Lofty Thoughts

Dusty up there: but I emerged with lots of lost DAT tapes of old music, and a clutch of Chefs and Helen and the Horns vinyl that I will bring along on Saturday to the gig at Hyde. And that's where all the MIDI leads went to.
I need a three week lock-in to sort all this stuff out. So much I had forgotten! Old school's songwriting projects, the song cycle called Herms that I did before Voxpop Puella, slides of gigantic drawings in pen on graph paper.
The City and Hackney Carers' songwriting CD arrived this morning. It is lovely: of course if we had had more time we might have been able to polish it more, but would we have had the stamina and the patience? Probably not, although I have resolved to get hold of an electronic metronome for rehearsals next time!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Guitar Weekend

It was a lovely weekend, illuminated by Western-Scotland sunshine and soundtracked by a flock of eccentric guinea-fowl that wandered in an anxious huddle across the grass on incomprehensible birdy missions from time to time.
Tutors Martin Stephenson, Jim Hornsby and Brian Younger treated us to an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime (and unfilmed) improvised version of The Entertainer on two guitars and banjo that left us all breathless. For the first time, I came away being able to remember some of what I learned (including the chords for Sunny). There was a great combo of people- two younger people and some bubbly personalities; a Johnny Cash voice to die for and as always, a lot of humorous banter.
The first year the profiteroles didn't have cream on the turn too!
The hotel staff seemed as relaxed as we were this time round (they set the dining tables up in a guitar-shape, bless 'em) and we gave them a round of applause; as always it was difficult to tear myself away and head back to reality. Here's to the Songwriting Weekend in June!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Helen and the Hen

This is Kerstin Rodgers' photo, taken at Vauxhall City Farm and published in the Record Mirror in 1982.
About four years later I went back with a group of kids (I was working as a youth worker at the time) and picked up another hen. City kids- they refused to sit next to me, or anywhere near me, on the bus on the way back, because they thought it was so disgusting to touch a hen.
The horse clearly thought that she was the star of the show.
Kerstin has a food blog at

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Signs of autumn past, and spring to arrive.

Lost Dog, Cockfosters Road

I saw your dog this afternoon, big old guy, heading towards Hadley Wood Road along Cockfosters Road. I couldn't find your house to tell you.
Hope you find him.

Pussy Riot: Feminist Sunday Breakfast Posting

Hats off to Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot for actively challenging Putin- how brave they are! I know there is a strong belief in Russia that the elections were rigged but it's a scary place to say so, and two of the band have been jailed (for hooliganism, I think). They have broken into churches, the Kremlin, you name it, and performed in the name of protest; and now the Church has come out in favour of them.
This is what punk was for (and don't forget the original women punks, Laura Barton (below)!
And this level of political action is as important as the Suffragettes were to the rights of women in the 20th Century, something that we should never forget.
Along those lines, listen to the conversation between Krissi Murison, Lucy O'Brien and Caroline Coon here:

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Complimentary Insult

I didn't understand that the famous German producer Giorgio Moroder made those chugging disco bass grooves on a sequencing machine, and when I wrote 24 Hours I was trying to mimic a bass line like the one on  I Feel Love by Donna Summer. It was knackering to play live and I only just made it to the end of the recording. It was about as close as The Chefs could get to sounding groovy.
I took a copy along to the Moonlight Club in West Hampstead; we had a residency there and because we could get in free, I practically lived there in the evenings because it was warmer and more friendly than my sad little bedsit.
The DJ there, who was quite a hippyish chap, was very keen on The Chefs and I thought he would play the single; he took it from me that night, played it, and handed it back with an air of disappointment.
'Ugh! That sounds just like Donna Summer!', he declared.
Naturally, I was thrilled to bits.
(Actually, it grew on him and he did play it quite a lot in the end).

Guitar Weekend

Four places left, next weekend in Dumfries and Galloway!

The New Religion: Saturday Morning Rant

For a long time now, I have felt that the internet has replaced the role of God; worshippers ask questions of it and sheep-like, they follow the Guidance, regardless of how silly it is. Now we put our trust in Cloud technology; up in the 'sky', the Cloud will take care of everything; don't worry!
How sweet that we materialise a deity in this way! And there are so many different religions... the Alpha Applers, whose places of worship are white and shiny and ultra-designed to reflect just how clever and smart they (we!) are, with the Jesus figure of the late Steve Jobs benignly designing our lives so that we can smugly pat ourselves on the back every time we buy a new product.
PC World: the jolly, orange, pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap warehouses, churches of cheaper-ness, big Catholic gathering places that accept everyone so long as they agree to the Terms and Conditions, even the Applers when they sneak in for a bit of comfort and colour.
Of course, hissing away insidiously underneath it all, often invisible but always feared, is the devil himself: internet pornography, keeping the whole thing going with its masked and sinister presence and tempting hideousness.
The human race has constructed a massive technological mirror of faith and belief; its hymns are three-minute-forty-five technology-dependent pop songs with the machinery of faith embedded into them, its evangelists are the enthusiasts who tell us we must have this and we must have that... without realising it, we are swept away on a sea of fervent commitment that we laugh at in other cultures but fail to see in ourselves.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Chinese Cream Crackers

I used to buy every nice tin that I saw, and the poor Offsprogs used to eat all sorts of odd biscuity things. I resisted this because it is huge and there was no way I was going to eat my way through them all before they went soft and stale. I threw away most of the printed tins I had collected over the years when I moved house although the odd one managed to escape when I wasn't looking.
This is the first night off I've had for ages. Normally when I'm in I am writing lectures. I am listening to the album Poetry and Rhyme to see if I can remember the lyrics for the tour in April. I have found lots of songs that I have never released, and I probably have another album if I tweak some of the lyrics a bit and work out what the weirdo chords are.
There are three humungously high piles of books on the floor; I've been raiding Amazon for second hand copies of all the academic books I needed (all my lectures have been ten years out of date- no, not really!). Now what do I do with them? I have read so much since January that words are literally spilling out of my ears and I have to collect them and stuff them back into the books they have crept out of. Little black caterpillars, wriggling around disobediently.
The house is alive with sneaking tins, scattered words, empty teacups, lounging guitars and Thompson and Morgan flower catalogues (they seem to be sending one a day at the moment, all full of Titchmarsh's choices. Once I recorded an entire Gardener's World, which I was going to orchestrate and make into a musical. I still have it one day and yes... I'll do it!).
There is no chocolate, however.


I don't know if you can see this clearly but the man sitting down in the cafe looks as though he has materialised out of the painting on the left- a man with a shiny head and a white shirt seen from above.
When I looked away, he had gone, absorbed back into the painting he had materialised from in order to have a cuppa.

Girls and Gangsta Rap

Well, this is how I understand the seemingly incomprehensible ability of some women to listen to Gansta Rap and get beyond its lyrics and aggression.
On the way back from the Critical Beats symposium yesterday, I realised that I know the lyrics of Girls by the Moments and Whatnauts completely off by heart. I sang it to the darkened traffic on the M25:
' Girls, I like them fat, I like them thin, some skinny, some tall, I'd like to get to know them all...
Oh the ones that ain't so goodlookin' they're the ones that do the best cookin'...'
Insidious, innit? Music can deliver all sorts of messages to us and slip them in through the back door. I mentioned this in a posting a while ago and it's really helping me to understand the appeal of rap, which I hear as 'shouting'. Having divorced recently as well as rearing two teenagers, this timbre is not what I want to hear at all.
Back to Girls for another listen before I continue writing the lecture on reception theory.....

Wednesday, March 07, 2012


To celebrate the third edition of Lucy O'Brien's brilliantly comprehensive book She-Bop, an exhibition of photographs of female musicians taken by 50 women photographers launched last night at The Strand Gallery, 32 John Adam Street, London WC2N 6BP.
The exhibition is selling prints in aid of Breakthrough Breast Cancer Charity; entry is free and it is open from 11 a.m. till 7,  seven days a week (6 p.m. Sundays).
Carline Coon's wonderful picture of a tousled Ari is there, and some other amazing work (a superb one of Cilla Black looking gamine and gangly while drinking a cup of tea on a sofa, Sade next to Billie Holliday, Adele... so many of them are there!)
Caroline invited me, and we had a good catch-up over a pizza afterwards. Lucy was busy and glowing with excitement; Kerstin Rodgers, once a photographer and now a pop-up dinner party organiser, was there too. I haven't seen her for years and she told me she had submitted a photo she took of me holding a chicken at Vauxhall City Farm in the 1980s; it wasn't accepted but I remember the day very well- we went for a drink at the Vauxhall Tavern afterwards, much to the surprise of several quizzical clones who drifted past at night-club breakfast-time (probably about 3.30 p.m.) dressed in white vests and humungous moustaches.
The picture was published in one of those colourful mags that prints lyrics to songs. Kerstin took some really glamorous ones in her mum's house, too. Rob Diament was there: he used to be a student at the University of the West, and is now running a gallery in Hoxton. It was nice to see him again; he said that some of the songs he's written while at the University had been of TV programmes, and he is thinkingof starting to write songs again. I spoke to a very nice woman who is thinking of writing a book on Playboy magazine. It was a busy and buzzing evening!
Over our pizza, we debriefed. What an honour for Caroline to be part of this exhibition: it is a very unusual and powerful concept that includes both staged and spontaneous photography. Caroline not only documented the people she photographed, but also the spirit of the age, and I am delighted that she has agreed the use of her photograph of Tessa again on the cover of the paperback book.
Go, go, go, give money to the charity by buying the catalogue for a fiver, or if you are rich, but a print for 200 quid!

David's Record Store, Letchworth

On Friday 20th April I will be at David's Record Store in Letchworth from 7.30 p.m. t play some music and talk about the book. There will be copies of The Chefs CD available (I think) and also copes of the new version of The Lost Women of Rock Music.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Memory Dual Carriageway

Haven't been posting much: I have been tired and life has been busy and probably quite boring in terms of blogging.
I have just been watching the BBC 4 programme on disco. I had read reviews of it and took to iPlayer to watch but I didn't think it was that good and I have turned it off. Well- it got to the BeeGees, that set of hairstyles atop squeaky voices, and my ears said 'No!'.
It triggered loads of memories of working at Sherry's nightclub in Brighton- must have been 1976 or early 1977, I think, just before punk flooded down from London. I'd gone to ask for a job; they were convinced that I was under 18 but they let me work in the burger section serving up slabs of ghastly meat on disintegrating buns with a sniff of chips at the side- I think that allowed them to have a particular sort of drinks license. I used to go home smelling of hot fat with a couple of 50 pence pieces jingling in my pocket because I got sent out to collect glasses every half an hour and if you looked on the floor by the bar you found all the loose change that had fallen out of the pockets of the eager drinkers.
Harry the doorman with high, black crinkled hair, dead eyes and a smart black suit used to break up the regular handbag fights at closing time and he sort of looked out for me.
I ended up checking in the coats, listening in to migrant workers selling girls to each other (if a girl fancied one of them and he didn't fancy her, he's sell her to his friend). They told horrific stories about the factories they worked in, in Shoreham along the coast: bits flying off machines and knocking limbs off, that sort of thing.
The music was pre-disco, much poppier than the music played by the brilliant DJ in the Art College Basement (wonder what happened to him? This was pre-Cresswell) or the amazing sounds (Manu Dibango and Philly soul) played at the Concorde on the seafront.
There were go-go dancers, and there was a great atmosphere all night, from the relative quiet at the beginning to the thronging crowd dancing themselves stupid under the red lights, the clumsily-painted plaster statues sprouting out of the walls with fags in their gobs, and the final bit of exhausted quiet after everyone left and we waited for the taxis to take us home in the cavernous and litter-strewn aftermath.
These 'simple' jobs (like working in clubs and pubs or shops) have a great dynamic, a beginning, middle and end. Professional jobs don't have that: they take up every waking moment if you let them, and drive you to an early grave (if you let them). Bits of them drip from one day to the next; you are never 'finished'; there is always something to be tweaked, improved, communicated. Anxiety runs like blood through the corridors  and email upon email builds up, stack upon stack, heading towards the last straw on the camel's back.
I used to love working in a shop too: early morning, no punters, have a cup of tea and get everything ready. Then the routine of people in ones and twos, building up to a busy crowd, till the end of the day when you lock the door and cash up. I like to see the street cleaners just after dawn, the people with hidden lives that you don't see. At that time of day the world belongs to whoever wants it; buildings tell you that they are going to outlive their owners and snigger at the ridiculousness of it all. Birds mingle with cats, and night mingles with day as the latest revellers stagger home on the same pavements as the earliest workers.
I cleaned guesthouses (condoms poked down the back of the dressing tables); washed up in a French restaurant (garlic butter up my arms: it floated on top of the water); served breakfasts in the Bedford Hotel on the seafront (pervy businessman trying to get me to feel his leg). I worked in a little antique shop called Quiet Chuckle some Saturdays (bit too quiet: I don't think we sold anything much). I worked on the door at The Alhambra whenever I could (you got to see the bands free).
And then of course, I joined a punk band, and went home every night covered in beer that people threw over us. Never spit: I think that came a couple of years later, thank goodness.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Fave Sorta Plant

It's an iris Katharine Hodgkin, or an umbrella, or a flower that someone has scribbled on, or a mini-triffid.....

Caroline Coon's Amazing Painting

Look at this fantastic painting by Caroline Coon, entitled Fight for Democracy. The filming is by Gina Birch.