Friday, August 31, 2012

A Heady Posting

Large vegetable heads in the garden at Dulwich Picture Gallery this week; and Harry Hill's Heads, painted on coconuts, upstairs at 39 George Street, Edinburgh, last week and continuing.

Morse Code

Postings will be intermittent for the next ten days: songwriting and preparation for the new University term!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Voxpop Puella

Coming soon- pop electronica from 2001... watch the side panel for details of how to get hold of this limited edition digipack. I'll post the details there with information on how to order it as soon as it's ready (in about a month).
There are still some places left on The Premises songwriting course with a masterclass from the wonderful Green Gartside; click on the link below the CD cover for more information.
The course includes a session in the studio to record your song with a mystery session band (wink, wink), industry advice from Paulette, and of course, song writing workshops with yours truly. See link for more info:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Well, I'm glad I didn't cancel my subscription to Mojo (sulking cos they haven't reviewed The Chefs CD) because they have Crocodile Cryer on their CD this month. And the Nightingales, Billy Bragg and Blue Aeroplanes too.
About time they interviewed Mr Martin Stephenson, isn't it?

The Quiet Coach

Ah, coach 'B', the quiet coach on the train (second class).

My baby will be able to sleep peacefully in the quiet coach, once she's stopped screaming.

I'll be able to take and make those important business calls without being interrupted by others taking and making important business calls.

I'll be able to describe every single railway journey I've made in mt eighty years of travelling in a loud clear voice without interruption, to the passenger sitting next to me.

I'll be able to talk through my serious health issues with a stranger in a focused and direct way.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Daintees at Stirling Tollbooth

Stirling Tollbooth is a beautiful venue with raked seating and crystal clear sound. It was lovely to be together again, Willie the tour manager as well; first time we've all been together since the tour in April. The band was on top form; Kenny Brady the fiddle player joined them, and they put in a fine set that included the tracks California Star and Streets of San Sebastian from the latest album (being played by Tom Robinson and Bob Harris) which fitted seamlessly into the set alongside old favourites wether rockin' (Running Water) or mellow (Rain).
Jill Hepburn supported and was fresh-voiced and charming, playing her banjo with aplomb.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


The definition of stress... discovering that daughter is renting a property from the worst estate agent in Brighton (and having a conversation with the exceptionally rude and facetious manager this morning :(

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Barry Sisters

According to Wikipedia The Barry Sisters were Yiddish Jazz singers. Somehow in the wilds of Northumberland (the radio, I'm sure) they caught my attention when I was little, as did the Andrews Sisters and the Beverley Sisters (big heads, one blonde/blue eyed, one brunette/brown eyed, one red-haired/green eyed, although they didn't have to share a lazy scribbled dress like the Barry Sisters).
Girl groups were just about all I drew for a year, apart from 'Little Girl Crying Because She Doesn't Want Her Hair Cut'.

Tall Poppies and Acton Bell (and The Magnetic Mind) at Paper Dress Vintage

It was time to meet up with my Champagne Friend, who is a reporter for the Deptford Mercury and who therefore has been very busy with the Equestrian Sports in Greenwich Park. We were both tired, and missed the headline band but we did see their soundcheck, which I thought was wonderful: The Magnetic Mind are psychedelic in sound and have a magnicicently screaming Flying V guitar; I will definitely go to see them properly at some time and Magnetic Paul is going to play at Club Artyfartle in October (see future postings for details) alongside Acton Bell, myself and Lucie Sieger.
When she came round for tea'n'recording last Monday, Acton Bell said that she was playing at this rather fine vintage shop that Friday. So Champagne Friend and myself met early for ginger beer (having both outgrown even champagne) and watched as the staff rolled away the racks of clothes to reveal the Alice in Wonderland floor (as Acton Bell's friend Steve remarked), making way for an Alice in Wonderland evening.
It was still light when Acton Bell took to the stage, playing a solid bodied guitar (we've all gone Chrissie Hynde recently!) and singing  a combination of Gerry and the Pacemakers, Searchers, Beatles and original compositions. Her own songs fit in very well with her choice of covers and I have a feeling that if we have enough tea afternoons together there will soon be an album on its way.
She creates her own world, and the audience, at first baffled, started listening intently and were soon happily rolling along the Acton Bell Road. By not being cooler-than-thou, Acton Bell is cooler than anyone and she has a lovely high, clear voice and a refreshingly down to earth way of presenting herself. Three cheers for her originality!
Tall Poppies played next; the core of the band is two sisters from Perth, Australia who both play guitar and bass; they are augmented by a fiddle player and a female drummer. I thought their songs were so good I bought their album which I'm listening to now; I also like their sound, which reminds me a little of A Bird and a Bee, one of the best pop bands of the last few years. I think Greg Kurstin should take a listen! One of the things I liked best was their slightly shambolic (although oddly enough, they were extremely well-rehearsed) John Peel-ness. It is this that gets ironed out on the route to commercial success but it is also what makes watching live music so enjoyable at this level. I remember their songs from the gig as I listen- this is good music!
There is a debate ongoing at the moment about whether festivals have lost their authenticity.
Fie to your festivals! In most towns in the UK there are thriving music scenes across ages, genres, you name it. Friday night was absolutely magical. A gig in a dress shop! What a fabulous, camp, bonkers idea. We're going back soon for their monthly rockabilly night. And the clothes were fab too.

Premises Songwriting Course with Green Gartside (and Self)

5-Day Songwriting and Recording Course with Helen Reddington, Green Gartside and Paulette Long

We’ve just received confirmation of a great Masterclass tutor for our next Songwriting and Recording Workshop, the wonderful GREEN GARTSIDE. Green is the founder member and songwriter of Scritti Politti and has worked with Miles Davis, Elvis Costello and Kylie Minogue and is regarded by many as “the Songwriter’s Songwriter”.  We’ll also be bringing in the Vice Chair of the PRS, Paulette Long, for a special session on “Making Money from your Song” – an important part of any songwriter’s knowledge.
The dates for the 4 day course are September 20th – 23rd 2012. As well as the masterclass sessions with Green Gartside and Paulette Long the course will be made up of 3 days of intensive tuition with Helen Reddington, one of the most experienced songwriting tutors in the UK today. On the 4th day you will haveindividual recording slots in Studio A with a top session band where you will record a track you’ve written during the course.
The cost is just £395 including the recording sessions. Places are limited to 10 and we expect this to sell out fast.
To book contact Julia Craik on 020  7729 7593 or
The Premises Studios, 209 Hackney Rd, London, E2 8JL.
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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Marvellous Trousers

An evening of serious song writing, I had thought. What came out was a one-minute ukulele song called Marvellous Trousers. Is that the best the muse can offer?

Helen and the Horns

We seem to be getting a few plays on Myspace, of all things...
Time to sort out the release of a compilation, perhaps?

Kate Bush Tribute Night, September

Is Feminism a Mortal Sin? No It Feminisn't!

I am pleased to see Pussy Riot getting some column inches. Yes, there are other political protests in Russia, but because of their youth and their colourful vitality, the voice they are adding to the anti-Putin movement is different because it articulates the feelings of young people who are engaged with popular culture and who might prefer to look the other way rather than involve themselves in any sort of politics.
They certainly got me off my back burner! The politics of punk meant a lot to me in the 1070s and endless TV documentaries about the lads and the music don't tell the exact story as I remember it; but then I am looking at it from a personal perspective, which is what I thought it was all about at the time. Instead, a subculture/music story is told and re-told until it becomes as turgid as any his-story of pop and rock.
What was heartening about the demonstration in support of Pussy Riot was the all-ages, all-genders-all-cultures nature of the people who went along. It's easy to forget, when looking at our own parliament (especially the cabinet) that there are people in Britain who are not billionaire white men in suits that have political opinions. When reading about what the legal system in Russia has done to the three women who were in court last week I wondered what would happen here as our rights are eroded away in front of our eyes. If you make a population desperately poor, you disempower them and their voices become ever weaker.
Let's not get distracted by Julian Assange, whose 'noble' expression masks a desire to escape the Swedish justice system. Can he have a fair trial after all this publicity? Perhaps not, and perhaps that was the general intention. I seriously doubt that Sweden will send him to the USA.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Society of the Spectacles: Pussy Riot, Kitten Riot and More

Caroline Coon and a pink lady; a gentleman supporter; an elegant Italian-style supporter; three kitten supporters; my mask; a pink-haired devil supporter; rabbit riot supporter; red dress supporter;  rent-a-riot or dial-a-demo?
There were lots of different people standing opposite the Russian Embassy yesterday showing support for Pussy Riot, a collective punk band who put the spirit of punk to work in a dangerous semi-dictatorship. They are brave girls, and I salute them.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Tomorrow.. of the PussyRiot demo in London, and a gig review of Acton Bell and The Tall Poppies. What a busy day, and what a muggy night!

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Got Offsprog Two some crumpets and a Magnum White Chocolate to console her. I remember how it felt when someone helped themselves to my vintage iPod and Satnav from my car when I was ill with 'flu two years ago. You can't help taking it personally but thefts are not personal, they are opportunist and often senseless.
The house smells of burnt raspberry cake, probably because I burned the raspberry cake. I wish Hampstead Swimming Pond was right next door because its really, really humid and it would be lovely to dive into some cool water and swim for a bit.
The writing is going OK; I need my books and I can't get them until Team America goes home!

Time for a Coffee Break

I have been writing since 9 a.m. trying to finish an academic article for a deadline. As I sit and read what I have written, I become ever more critical and have to re-write and re-write.
The neighbour next door is shouting at his wife, using a lot of swear words. When I meet him in the street, he is charm itself. What a horrible man; the worst thing is the silence when he has finished. I think he broke something and now he is blaming his wife.

The kettle has just boiled and I am going to have coffee. I'm sort of on a roll, although the ideas are good but the names aren't.
What was the name of that band that did the song the I can't remember the name of?

There are different levels of thought and sometimes a good dose of hoovering sorts it all out; but Offsprog Two is still asleep. She had her phone stolen last night (again) which meant that for both of us the night's sleep was disturbed considerably. That means the hoover has to remain silent; I remember years ago being woken by aggressive hoovering against my bedroom door early on Sunday mornings in Brighton when I was rising at 5.30 on weekdays to get to my job as a printer in a neighbouring town.
Bash, bash, bash against my bedroom door, r-o-a-rrrr, swoosh r-o-a-rrrrrrr!
I resolved never to do that to anyone in my lifetime.

I didn't mind doing all this writing when it was raining and before the Olympics started, but the sun is a luscious distraction and the excitement of the Olympics could penetrate even the thickest of sport-hating hides. But there is also something addictive about it, and I am set to write a documentary treatment when I've finished this.
At lunchtime, I'll take a lunch break and go out into the sunshine with my pale British legs to introduce them to that stranger, sunshine.

Friday, August 10, 2012


Listening to Zap Mama
Mika has come out as gay. What a surprise.
Coincidences... mentioned Runhild Gammelsaeter at a meeting this morning then was cold-called by Mojo (offering me a smorgasbord of male interest magazines what-a-surprise) but got into conversation with the call centre chap about Doom music (of which Runhild is an exponent) and then while deleting nearly 2,000 spam emails from an account I'm going to be using again, there was the name of a student who had done her thesis on Norwegian heavy metal...)
Read some interesting documentary treatments and a study on the position of women in the physical sciences (no, not fnurr, fnurr- it's a serious and very interesting document)
Threw away my dinner as it had gone off, but had already eaten half of it
Took my car to the MOT station at 7.45 after three hours sleep
Had enough of the Olympics
Did a bit of singing
Talked about academic things with a colleague
Decided I have to start from scratch with an academic paper that I'm writing
Now there's a TV programme about disco. I think I have discovered something new about punk, but that's not exactly inventing the wheel.


Adam Adamson at the Pussy Riot Demo

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Pussy Riot: Free Them

Tomorrow at 3 p.m. meet up and show your support:
The corner of Bayswater Road and Ossington Street, London W2 (across the road from The Russian Embassy, Kensington
 Palace Gardens)
Little film of the chords to chant to


I am struggling within finishing an academic paper; I have been getting up very early to write before the bustle of the day starts.
One of the hiccups is that I no longer have Word and I'm using an unfamiliar programme to write. I can't get to work to transfer it and type in familiar territory until Team America have gone home after the Olympics.
In some respects it's fun: the bulk of it is written and I'm into slash-and-burn (sorry, editing) mode.
All the stuff about Poly Styrene, which works as a beautiful audio joke, is going to live somewhere else; most of it centres on interviews with Tessa Pollitt and Gina Birch and a lot of it is about reggae.
Later I have to take my car for an MOT which is undoubtedly the most stressful day in a car's short and fruitful life. Please do cross your fingers for me; I have been dreading this day for two weeks!
Back to work.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Liz Fraser at The Queen Elizabeth Hall

Yesterday my friend Jane (who used to be a student at the University of the West and is now the A&R at 4AD who signed Bon Iver, and discovered and signed the tUne-yArDs, Grimes and watch-this space) texted me with the offer of a ticket to Antony Hegarty's Meltdown night that featured Liz Fraser.
Wow! What a brilliant thing to do! I have not seen Jane for ages which made it a double yes please.
The QEH was packed to the rafters with the odd pop star floating about (Romeo from the Magic Numbers, for instance) and an awful lot of chaps who were of the age to have dreamed unsavoury teenage dreams about poor Liz. I am not surprised she's not keen on doing gigs.
It means a lot to see artists (particularly female ones) who started up at the same time as me, and in particular people who John Peel championed, so this was a very special night.
She came on to the stage to an almost Olympian roar and I have to say, she looks amazing, Her hair is almost white and cropped elfin short, and she wore a fitted white jacket and a silver skirt that made her look like the frost queen from a children's fairy tale; and of course the way she looked totally matched that high and ethereal voice.
Much of the time she could give Minnie Riperton a run for her money; but I'm not sure that this was the band for her. At times it was like witnessing a fairy accompanied by elephants, which may well have been a mixing problem but during many of the songs the lower register of her voice was utterly swamped by the big, big bass drum sound and the harsh keyboard samples. Singing over grooves is all very well but Liz, you have earned the right to make your band submit to you!
And what is Rick Wakeman's baby brother doing with you, he of the "I-can-play-two-keyboards on-either-side-of-me-at-once" technique and the Krystle Carrington black twinkly jacket with mega-shoulderpads?
Steve Hillage joined her for one song, which made a welcome change from the thunder.
Once the Cocteau Twins and Massive Attack numbers were out of the way, we could listen to songs that were actually written around her voice, and these were spine-tinglingly beautiful. What did they remind me of? The Cocteau Twins? No, almost Michael Garrick: pastoral-sounding, magic-real and lovely.
Debbie Harry's first London gig in the 1970s and Carmel's gig in Edinburgh on a huge stage in the 1980s both presented the artists in this state of vulnerability, small women facing enormous audiences in cavernous venues that threatened to swamp them.
Thanks partly to a really fantastic light show, Liz managed to overcome this tininess and grow during the concert to fill the very large QEH.
The lights also deserve a mention partly because we were seated behind the lighting engineers and they were quite clearly really enjoying the music, which I found oddly touching, possibly because the sound engineers seemed to be mixing a heavy metal band rather than a woman with a strong but delicate voice who had to trust them to make her heard.
Two encores later, the band left the stage; Liz looked positively relieved. Antony had been grooving enthusiastically all the way through from his seat in front of us.
Verdict? She is a small but perfectly formed star with a lovely, lovely voice that I was completely awed by. If I was God, I'd make her ditch her past and flow into the future with those new songs where her voice is the core of the Universe and the band has to obey. And I would spend as much as I could on a sound engineer who understands that the vocals are the centre of a song especially when it's Liz Fraser singing them. In fact, I'd employ the lighting technicians from the QEH to do my sound.
It was actually a fantastic evening and I felt like I'd been hearing a legend sing. Finish the album Liz- I'll buy it! Your new songs are ace.

Thanks for the ticket Jane, it was a great evening with a good yak as well and I look forward to going to the football with you and Myles as soon as the season starts up again!

ARMCHAIR.... armchair

Gig Cancelled

The promoter of tonight's gig at the Water Rats has dumped me from the bill as he has booked more acts than he needed in order to 'stuff' the bill. This is very poor practice and I would advise any musicians reading this not to have any dealings with the promoter Danny Brewer.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Water Rats, Tuesday

I have a last minute gig at the Water Rats tomorrow (that's Tuesday 7th August) and I will be onstage at 9.00
Please contact me if you would like to go on the guest list (and get in free)

The venue address is
328 Gray's Inn Road  London, Greater London WC1X 8BZ
020 3589 5983

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Big Up Pussy Riot

How brave they are! It's amazing to see young women taking on the mighty Putin via music and making a mark on the political world across the globe. You have my support 100% Pussy Riot, and it is obvious to anyone watching that your trial is deeply, deeply unjust in the literal sense of the word.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Sticking and Reading

I have just narrowly avoided supergluing two of my fingers together while gluing som draught excluding stuff to the bottom of the door. Offsprog Two and myself have been painting and decorating and I have also spectacularly failed in an attempt at making a raspberry cake.
There's a huge pile of books on the floor, some academic (we haven't had access to the campus during the Olympics so half of my books are here) and some not. As usual I have been plundering local charity shops for crime novels. One, by Lynda La Plante, was so racist that I read it till the end, expecting some sort of ironic twist that never materialised. I read a jolly dark book by Ruth Rendell.. I'm halfway through Max 'battle of' Hastings' autobiography; I got a bit stuck in the bit where he indulges himself in a lot of war stories as told by his relatives. I am also halfway through Women and Madness by Phyllis Chesler,which is an unnerving read for any woman born in the middle of the 20th century; when husbands tired of their wives even in the early part of that century and before, it was common practice to declare them mad and have them committed to an asylum. Having earned this label a mere five years ago, I count myself very lucky to have been born when I was. The book is informative and frightening in equal parts, although the references to the classical stories of gods and goddesses don't add anything to its discourse. It is an essential read and was given to me by Caroline Coon, who was given one in turn by Yoko Ono.
On the academic front, Allan Moore's book Song Means is at the top of the pile; high time someone did it and I'm glad it was he. There is a book called Beautiful Trouble  so I can learn to be politically active, The Great Animal Orchestra by Bernie Krause, a collection of writing called White Riot and also a book, still in my car, that I bought second hand in a quirky pub in Brighton: Dave Haslam's book about Manchester. And I have just finished The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson, a very useful book as it makes you realise just what a waste of time it is trying to reason with psychopaths, who are readily recognisable from a series of traits that psychologists have identified- and who are disturbingly common in powerful business environments like banking, politics and the like.
All these books... it's the rain! I have a lot of writing to do as well, and sometimes reading the opposite of what I should be writing seems to help.
However, The Great St Trinians Train Robbery is chugging away on the screen, George Cole at his finest bossing fake schoolgirls about, and that's fun. So toodle pip for now!

Removal Man

I am a removal man.
I have done two journeys to and from Leeds this summer, and the same to and from Brighton.
Yesterday was swelteringly humid, but after a humungously stressful day both girls have found places to live.
My car has almost died after being crammed to the roof with various boxes of books, pans and clothing. The seats are torn, the chassis grumbles and the brake discs creak (so do my joints: I am getting too old for regular climbs to the loft balancing boxes on my head).
Sorry to any Brighton friends, mostly when I am there I am troubleshooting (apart from the graduation of course!) so I am not a relaxed visitor stopping by for a cup of tea.
One day....

Olympic Rant

Thank goodness the horrible Boris Johnson has faded out of the limelight and into the sewer with Rupert Murdoch, where he really belongs.
After scaring people out of London with his silly chummy Olympic message, broadcast on every tube platform on the network, he pursued more 'antics' (getting stuck on a zipwire) before the media finally appeared to realise that the Olympic Games is about sporting success and not about bumbling, publicity seeking middle aged men in ill-fitting suits.
What a relief it is to watch young people excelling at sports, and how good it feels that in the UK we have teams that reflect the many different cultures who have made their home here.
I am not into sports at all but you'd have to be an idiot not to see what it means to a lot of people, and not to appreciate what a great supporting crowd there is at every Olympic venue.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Watching Paint Dry

Quite liderally, I'm watching paint dry waiting for second-coat time.
And I have also painted over the cracks if you want another corny catchphrase.
This avo, the plumber is coming to fix the leak in the kitchen sink while I get on the phone to try to get some research funding, and try to knock an academic paper into shape (yet again; it's a very wobbly amoeba). Yet another working summer... a few days off later this month perhaps, early next month perhaps...

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Girlfriend in a Comma

Fran Isherwood is a charming and funny poet, and that's what tempted me to go down to the funky little cafe-bar Full Stop in Brick Lane last night. Writing songs, sometimes words literally fail me and it's great to take a tonic in the form of listening to wordsmiths at work and play. I had forgotten how enjoyable poetry nights can be. Last night, I was happily in audience mode although I did take a guitar just in case; sometimes, though, it's good practice to be able to be 'audience' and I often do this at Martin's gigs. Well occasionally, anyway! It was muggy: 100% humidity, I believe. This gave the excursion an atmosphere of being in foreign, which makes the general London summer staycation all the more bearable.
I walked in on a very wry poem about internet- and speed-dating, and soon the evening pulled me into its flow. I can't write about everyone as I didn't catch all the names but... Alan English writes poetry about sport (apt, you may say) and gets hugely excited as he reaches the finishing post (memo to self: climax not an appropriate word here). His poem about Steve Davis being beaten by Dennis Whatsisname (insert correct surname at later date) was very funny (and exciting). Fran Locke's poetry was sourly humorous, looking at the world through a dark glass-half-empty(50 shades of sh*ite); Fran Isherwood treated us to some short, sharp shocks of humour, and Anthony Fairweather, after delivering a poem about not being able to write anything for tonight, put politics into rapid rhythm, warning us about call centres manned (and womanned) by 'some satan or some sataness' and keeping us hanging on a premium-rate line for an eternity. Ever-helpful, he included theSay No To 0870 website as part of the lyric.

I met a woman that I haven't seen for thirty years, as well.
And yes, I did play, Feathers and Daisies about halfway through the evening; regrettably, I left early as travelling on public transport is scary if you leave it too late.
This evening happens last Tuesday of every month; details below so you can put it into your diary!

202, Brick LaneE1 6SA London, United Kingdom