Thursday, May 31, 2012

Masters Approved

It was a matter of some missing castanets... they are there now, and I am about to write the blurb for the CD cover.
Just sent off for some Barbaraville badges, featuring the llama. Think they'll look good.
Went to four meetings yesterday to catch up with it all... the best one was the last one, saying thank you to the interns who have worked so hard for us at Songlab UEL. We met for tea and cakes in the Patisserie Valerie in Old Compton Street and my friend Fred the Dance Tutor popped by to return two huge bags of his marking. I had a very gummy strawberry tart and did not need to eat for the rest of the evening! We have Songlab badges too and wore them while we revalidated our course and they brought us good luck.

I've been up since six this morning marking (and re-marking: sick people shouldn't try to work!) loads more work and I believe I may have almost finished.

Good: I can watch the documentary on Smithfield Market tonight. The one on Billingsgate last week was genius and restored my faith in not only television, but also Londoners (try living here if you don't already; we are suffocating with the Jubilee and then we have the Olympics with its crowds, crime and inevitable transport disasters).
Roll on later this year when we can get back to normal which come to think of it, is probably riots. Oh God...
Years ago, sick of work, I took the afternoon off, got a licence and photographed the butchers at Smithfield. I did an embroidery of the poor upside-down pigs, all pink flesh glowing through their little white vests, legs apart and sprouting up into the air. They looked so like Degas paintings of ballerinas at the barre with their legs akimbo, I found it poignant. Somewhere, buried in this blog, there's a photo of them.
Now perhaps... or maybe next week... plan a trip to the USA, to the birthplace of my wonderful Gran, in Vermont. First proper holiday in God only knows how long. We deserve it!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Going DIY

For my next trick... well, next release anyway, I'm going DIY again. Voxpop Puella is in the last stages of being mastered and will be off soon to be pressed up as a limited edition digipack, with a cover designed by Offsprog One and numbered one to a hundred. It's the songs that I toured in about 2001, seven songs and an instrumental, which accompanied films by seven women film makers I plan to have some fun with programming this summer although the kitchen, which is doubling up as an office and studio, will have to swing between being a studio and hosting Offsprog Two's soup parties. I'm sure the kitchen will cope.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I am working in Ayr today, and it's sunny and beautiful. In between reading through a pile of student work (so interesting to see how music students study in Scotland)and reading through more student work, I took a stroll down to the seafront, where a horse was being ridden through the sea, various dogs were being exercised, and weary, sunburnt people were collecting up their belongings at the end of a very hot day. Funny how the sea ona sunny day brings its own peace: big skies, flat horizon. Even among the crowds at West Wittering in Sussex (five people per square metre, all changing nappies and spilling tea on the sand), it's possible to tune into the calming soundscape of distant seagulls and the silent power beneath the waves. Roll on holiday time, if such a thing can happen this year!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Eurovision. Nein Danke!

This is the first year for ages that I am not watching Eurovision. In my imagination, the Russian grannies trump Jedward, and Engelbert comes somewhere comfortably in the middle. Azerbaijan has disgraced itself, allegedly mowing down people's homes to make way for the contest buildings (Sound familiar? Remember those allotments bulldozed out of the way for a chain Olympic Park?) and broken all sorts of human rights conventions. So it's yet another Scandinavian detective show tonight, watched with an aural backdrop of tweeting birds and 'you stupid bugger' pigeons. I still adore cheesy pop of the European variety and will no doubt watch some of it later, and enjoy reading the affronted articles about it all in the paper tomorrow. BTW thank you for the well-wishing. I think other people have had this virus: it knocks you out of action for two weeks just when you least expect it to. News soon of gigs, music and other nice things. Oh dear, also feeling really guilty that my siblings and myself ate all McMum's Rose and Violent Creams when we were up there the other weekend. Not only that: I nicked one of the ribbons that the box was tied with and McSis nicked the other! I think we probably owe her a year's supply. You eat a rose one and think, 'I wonder what the violent ones taste like?'. So you eat a violent one and think, 'Now is this nicer than the rose ones or are they nicer?'. So then of course, you have to eat another rose one....

Friday, May 25, 2012

Horrible Vodaphone Vodamoan

I have been marking students' work literally from dawn to dusk today: I started at 6.30 this morning and will probably finish at about 8 tonight. I'm desperately trying to catch up on a week and a half's missed work.
A horrible virus attacked me a week ago on Saturday and I am still pathetically feeble, although I managed to go for a walk yesterday and today. The worst thing was that I accidentally threw up all over my Gretsch Chet Atkins Tennessean that as any guitarist does, I keep by my bed so I can play a few riffs before I get up. I didn't feel well enough to clean my room till Wednesday this week but it's all shipshape up there now.

I have lost a lot of weight. I don't know how much because I haven't got scales, but I can get into trousers that I thought were just a memory. I don't even fancy eating chocolate, can you believe that?

I am going to take Vodaphone to a Small Claims Court because I had no signal for 13 days and wasn't able to tell people that I was ill, and ended up so dehydrated that Martin had to fly down and take me to hospital, after being alarmed not to hear from  me.
They kept promising to fix it, but never phoned back when they said they would. I felt mean being angry with little female voices in India, and gave up.
So now they want to charge nearly £200 as an early termination charge. I consider them to have terminated the contract because they stopped providing a service, but I will have to pay it because they will put me on a debtors list if I don't.
So Vodaphone, I am going to claim that money back, and also the 100 quid it's cost me to buy a new handset from a new provider, and the cost of all the calls from the landline I had to make instead of getting  the free minutes I was paying for from you.
This blogger says: avoid Vodaphone like the plague. I had been a customer for around ten years, and they cared diddley-squat for that. Sorry to moan, regular readers; it's off the chest and into the ether now!

Have a lovely weekend everyone, enjoy the sun and eat as many strawberries as you can. You know it makes sense.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


I have just had an email to say that Punkademics is now out and ready to go.
About a year and a half ago I was invited by editor Zak Furness to contribute to the book, which is a collection of essays, articles and more by academics who used to be punk rockers!
I was in the middle of a work crisis (basically, working more than half as many hours again as I should have been because if staffing 'issues') but was loth to say no. So I submitted a two-page graphic story, La Lectrice Gourmande, which I hope illustrates the symbiotic (!) relationship between a lecturer anxious to remain up-to-the-minute, and her eager student.
More about the book here

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mouse Mat

What an exciting excursion! I went to buy a mouse mat. The mouse no longer clatters over the bumps in the old wood table: it glides silently like Keira Knightley in a perfume advertisement. This was the highlight of the day. How sad is that?

Mikey Georgeson has akskd for old satellite dishes. Hooray! The monstrosity may be leaving the side of my house where is blooms like an ugly fungus; I hope it's easy to unscrew.

Now for a dip in detective telly before returning to the marking backlog...
(feeling a bit better)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sorting Snail Eggs

Ah, the sunshine! In a strange state between being ill and well, my mind is alert but the body just says 'No!' to anything strenuous, beyond wandering to the bakers or the Post Office.
I can't be bothered to read and even the TV shows I normally watch (wall to wall blood and detectives) are utterly unappealing.
I found the ideal pastime for the recuperating patient: sitting on a bench in the yard, I sifted through the earth in the big pot that grew courgettes last summer with my fingers, picking out the little spherical bobbly orange snail eggs and lining them up to tempt next door's birds in to the garden.
One by one. I was too lazy even to count them: they clicked as they bounced on to the concrete, and when I got bored after half an hour or so, I stopped.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Gideon Coe Plays The Chefs!

Big thanks to Gideon for playing Records and Tea last week!
I missed it as I had to take a short trip to hospital, and even bigger thanks to Martin for flying down to take me there. What an angel with Easyjet wings!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Donna Summer

What a pity Donna Summer has died. I wrote a few weeks ago about how 24 Hours had been a punk-times band's attempt to sound like her (we all listened to different music + The Velvet Underground in The Chefs and she was my fave). Carl even gave me her album as a present.
It was something about those minor melodies, as though she was weaving an escape rope in the most odd way she could in order to climb out of the machines she was stuck inside, big and loud and throbby and bloopy. A little lady in a space ship, being pursued by clanky robots!
As for Love to Love You Baby, what can I say? Didn't bear any resemblance to any sort of physical relationship I was having, nor, probably, anyone else; but what a magnificent meringue of sugary fake lust. You could just imagine the bass-player staring out of the studio window and taking an occasional drag at a joint, looking at his watch every so often as he waited for the bloody track to finish.
Roll on the decks, standing on the fridge in wait for all that Donna to parade out of the box under the kitchen table for Autumn's disco kitchen experience!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

From The Age of 5...

Dub Colossus at the New Empowering Church

Aha! the New Empowering Church! Those illuminated orange palm trees are familiar: it was about a year ago that I played here at one of the Park Road Pilot shows. What a wonderful venue- still warehousey in a gentrified London Fields, and tonight the gathering-place for Dub Colossus' multicultural audience.
As I walk in, Mykaell Riley, Dubulah and the journalist Robin Denselow are chatting.
Robin's book, Now the Music's Over, has been on the prescription list of Dr Reddington for many a year and it was heartening to see his support of this collective of musicians.
You know, I have known these people for 30 years. Mykaell made us laugh as he told us about telling a young un' about supporting Bob Marley, and having to backtrack as he saw the look of horror on the young un's face as he made his age calculations.
He, Dubulah and gentleman bass-player Winston Blissett (more on that particular genius later) were in a band called Bumble and the Beez, whose single Fools is one of my all-time favourite tracks. The Beez featured Mykaell on vocals, cowbell and bass drum, Winston on bass, Dubulah and a guitarist called Dan on guitars, and the wonderful Simon Walker on fiddle (he later did a stint with Dexy's Midnight Runners and played the occasional gig with Herbie Flowers). Actually, time has treated the trio rather well: Mykaell and Dubulah look exactly the same as they ever did, and Winston is now sporting a very neat goatee.
From the position of this strange line-up, Mykaell once told me, 'You must have a lot of guts to get up on stage with just a guitar and a horn section'. Ha ha!
There is still an audible thread of that band today, largely due to Winston's extraordinary bass lines. He is completely distinctive as a bass player, living as he does in Winston World: in Winston World the ground shakes as though a herd of massive elephants is marching across the savannah, while a groove hits your chest and send endorphins flooding into your system. At one point during Stop in the Name of Dub I went for a comfort break and the entire ceiling of the Ladies was rattling along to the subterranean rumble; I laughed out loud! He stands back, serenely aware (as all bass player are) that he is actually in charge although there is a whole band in front of him. Next to him, his twin soul-brother Dubulah stands, serenely aware that he is actually in charge although there is a whole band in front of him.
This has always been a very funny phenomenon with these two. There is not a hint of aggression; they are just each sure that they are the boss: it's just that nobody else realises.
Tonight, at clutch of horn players in pith helmets (watch that trombone slide, Mykaell!) stand to one side, shuffling their sheet music between songs as horn players do. Mykaell introduces them, gleefully: 'The lovely... I don't know what they call them'. He's on form as he checks his microphone: 'Checking... chicken...', he muses.
There is a drummer, a percussionist and a keyboard player, and a beautiful woman co-singer whose voice blends magnificently with Mykaell's. At times, I hear shades of Black Uhuru, and at others, such as the poppy Crazy in Dub, you can imagine daytime radio play. And all the while, the drums and bass drive the songs forward leaving space for the delicious fillings that the others spread across the sound field.
From the food stall, the smell of curry goat wafts over and I turn round to see the staff dancing along energetically. If the cooks like it, it must be good!
A camera man with a gigantic camera on a skinny tripod perches precariously on a tall box, looking like one of the examples of what not to do that they showed us at work at the Risk-Assessment Training we had last week. I decide not to look.
Suddenly, I think I hear Hank Marvin on guitar. It's Dubulah, with a cheeky smile, throwing the sixties into the mix to see if we notice. Then it's Duane Eddy...
'I BEG YOUR PARDON', chorus the horns, bossily, and the groove grooves on.
The audience is gleeful and boppy, responding with responses when the call goes out from the stage. This is Not a Dub Song starts up, and as one we dance along to the rhythm: sugar shaker, sugar shaker, sugar shaker THWACK! I want to learn how to play all these instruments and play them all at once! Soaring sax and guitar in unison chop the rhythm into pieces before the trumpet blasts the song into the stratosphere.
The festival vibe hit chilly London Fields last night; the band were in their element as they came on stage for the encore, a scorching version of The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum that features some ultra-low parps on the trombone that would challenge an ocean-liner's hooter for assertive power.
Unfortunately I left before the last song had finished, having parked my car in the one remaining dodgy street in London Fields; but I bought their CD Dub Me Tender

Today, I am nursing a case of deep bass thrombosis and looking forward to the next gig by this pioneering band who stretch dub to its outer limits and beyond.

Friday, May 11, 2012


I am awaiting the mastered versions of the Voxpop Puella songs, which should with any luck arrive tomorrow morning. It is going to be a mini-project of 100 signed albums, out some time at the end of June, and I will be disguised as a robot on the cover, of course.
There are two more such projects- the songs from Herms (my version of hymns) and also some electronic soundtracks that I did in the early 2000s, one of which ended up on TV as part of an animation in which red-haired people strike back at those who mock them. I had to imitate Cilla as part of that job, very poorly, I must confess.
Then it will be time to find someone to release the Helen and the Horns Peel sessions.

I have been to Hackney this afternoon to interview Barney Green, who dreamed up the Hackney Carers' Songwriting Project. I'm doing a presentation about it at work next Friday and what he said was very interesting and thoughtful. He is going to put their songs up on Soundcloud soon so people can hear them. I still listen to them a lot: there was something very special about those songs. It is lovely working with songwriters at the best of times, but to find such gems hidden in people that never expected to be able to do it, well, that's amazing!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sweet Rain, I Embrace Thee!

There is nothing like a humungous pile of marking to send a striking academic out of the house in search of... well, anything really. I abandoned the slippery pile of work in its celluloid covers, and headed off to Oxford Circus to look for... well, anything really.
Staying in makes me stir-crazy!
I looked at clothes I had no intention of buying (ugh- they are so horrible! What has happened to British high-street fashion?) and spent a long time browsing in my fave shop of the moment, Anthropologie, mainly because they were playing such brilliant music. I had no signal, so Shazzam wouldn't work, but I do know one of the tracks I liked was by Komeda, but I haven't managed to find it on Amazon yet (there's a lot of their stuff there but not the track I heard).
One of the best things that happened was a rain shower that drenched the streets with cloud-vomit. People shrieked, put up umbrellas, sulked, splashed, stood under canopies; but I decided to go for it, get wet, look silly (it makes my ironed fringe curl up like a nest of writhing vipers) and I soaked up the wet like a human sponge and DID NOT CARE!
Today, it felt like freedom and it was fun not to care what I looked like, and to read a sodden Evening Standard on the tube on the way home.
Many years ago, in the last recession, I made it a New Year's Resolution never to buy it (so depressing!) and I have been avoiding it due to its relentless promotion of horrible Boris. Today, I had a respite, but it's still pretty useless: it assumes all its readers are petty-minded stockbrokers. Which reminds me: there was an interesting comment by one of the Rothermeres yesterday at the Leveson Enquiry, all about integrity. It reminded me rather of Jonathan Aitken's 'sword of truth'.
When I was writing the original PHD that became The Lost Women of Rock Music, I wrote to almost two hundred local papers asking for women to come forward to be interviewed. I also decided to write to some broadsheets.
I don't read the Daily Mail, because I bought it once and that was enough. However, it has long prided itself on being a paper for women readers and I wrote to them asking if they would be prepared to mention my search for ex-punk rock musicians, as I could imagine that as many of us became Daily Mail readers as Guardian, Independent or anything else readers.
A woman journalist phoned (I think she was called Juliet Domiguez, but it was a long time ago), and asked me all about the study and who I'd spoken to; we spoke for about half an hour.
'So you have one child', she said, 'What does your husband do?'. I was shocked, because I could not see that this was any of her business. She had picked up on the fact that I was a mum and I didn't correct her because that was none of her business either.
In the end she told me that they would not print the interview unless I told her what my then husband did for a living, and sure enough, when it came out, there was no mention of my name, just the fact that a researcher at the University of Westminster was doing this work, and then several pages of interviews with women that I had told her about. I felt used, cheated and disrespected!
So, Mr (or Sir, Viscount, etc etc strike out that which does not apply) 'good journalism is ethical journalism' Rothermere, I don't think much of your ethics and I wouldn't even use your paper to line the bottom of my budgie cage!.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Another Chefs Review: Guess Who's Been Doing Vanity Searches!

Tinnitis Symphony

Most of the time I don't even notice it; my mind is either racing or asleep.
But sometimes, the noise crashes through everything.
Low roar, I have had since childhood.
Jingling and ringing, probably a punishment for all those gigs at which I stood with my head adjacent to the speaker... and all those rehearsals in the wet basement of the house in Kingsgate Road, West Hampstead, where the Chefs rehearsed all day, every day, apart from weekends.
Last night, two new voices joined the cacophony: a whistle, which turns up from time to time and discreetly pipes away before vanishing off to soundland; and most strangely (for I have never heard this one before) a crunching noise a bit like somebody crumpling up a crisp paper bag.
I lay in the quiet darkness listening to this strange music played by my perceptions, entertained by the oddness of the tinnitis symphony.

Monday, May 07, 2012

The Urban Hares of York

It was the strangest of coincidences. On the train up the East Coast with Offsprog One, I was sewing up the jumper I had knitted for Offsprog Two (left), that features a boxing hare with a go-go-gadget arm.
Offsprog One was gazing out of the window as we glided into York.
"A hare!", she exclaimed... "and another one....and another one!".
In all, she saw six and I saw three of them, sitting on the big black stones next to the rails with their backs grumpily turned towards the passing train, with the wind from its wake riffling their long, greyish brown fur. They sat like offended cats, some looking back askance as though waiting for an apology for the disturbance; some were almost upright, erect and ready to bound off.
I have never ever even imagined hares in a town before; they were patently not rabbits. Their ears were long and elegant, their backs curved and bony and they were very big. They didn't look like babies, but I suppose they must have been, or at least teenagers. A misplaced colony of very wild animals right next to a busy stretch of railway.
Has anyone else ever seen them?

Thursday, May 03, 2012

New Wikipedia Entry

Bongo Pete has posted this new Wikipedia entry for The Chefs: the closest anyone has got to a truthful history. Thanks Pete! Long may your bongos bong!

Songlab East

Last night's Songlab had the dreamy quality of a 60s happening: illustration students drifted around with huge sheets of paper, there to draw the sound but sometimes in a world of their own.
We performed a shambolic version of Barbie Girl on ukelele and tin whistle (I have the blistered thumb to prove it!); Sarah Leo provided some delightful trip hop-inspired music (lovely musicians, especially the aloof grumpy female drummer who played expertly on a snare drum and a severely cracked cymbal); star of the night though was undoubtedly Mr Solo, accompanied by Mr Wolf on  a large and very shiny French Horn.
It turns out that in another life, Mr Solo is David Devant and His Spirit Wife. He had a suitable blend of surrealism, children's entertainer and David Bowie that wowed the biggest crowd we've had yet at one of these events- and wowed me too.
I would say onwards and upwards, but a very famous and rich musician who should be ashamed of himself said that when he realised we couldn't afford to pay his huge fee for a visit to talk to the students, so he refused to come.
Backwards and downwards? I don't think so... let's just say, here's to the future! The way to beat our cruel and miserable masters is to fight them with optimism, creativity and imagination- so there!
Off to vote (and not for evil Boris!)