Sunday, September 30, 2012

Roker and Stockport

Roker has a life of its own; of an evening, hordes of young parents with babes in pushchairs make for the seafront and walk along the promenade by the beach in the dark.
In the daytime with the wind whipping up, Martin, Lou and I walked out to the lighthouse.
It was a blustery day, with whole hay bales washed up on the beach from the storms last week, and heaps of grey branches piled on the shingle with wounds where they'd been torn from their trees by the wind. The sky was a clear blue; the clouds had gone to Manchester. The wind propelled us along the pier, then punched us in the face repeatedly with bitterly cold fists when we turned round to come back.
We struggled against it, and I almost got blown over when I stopped to take a photo.

Later, we went to Stockton and found the Georgian Theatre which was hiding from us amongst a pile of buildings. Fin was there waiting and the band set up to sound check. They played a fantastic set, really tight and well-paced. The sound in the venue was crystal clear and the audience was really good- they sang along and really appreciated the gig. Good promoter, too. And I played a few songs at the beginning and got some nice comments later on.
An extremely drunk woman was flopping about knocking things over but I gave her my chair so she didn't fall over and the security guard asked her daughter to make sure she sat down on pain of being ejected. She gradually sobered up as the evening went on and the daughter got drunker. Oh dear... Saturday night!

Three cheers for my little knackered car with a million miles on its clock that lets me bomb about all over the place. I'm taking it to the nice Hungarian valets next weekend for a bit of TLC.

This evening? Working, writing stuff... Tuesday evening, Brighton Green Door Store's John Peel night.
I wonder if he would like my new songs? We had just started writing to each other again, and then I found out that he had died. It was hard to believe. I wonder what sort of music he would be playing now?

Thursday, September 27, 2012


It's no good being an early bird: the crunch comes around four and I seem to have got home round the M25 without even noticing. I am trying not to drink so much coffee and eat so much chocolate this semester; this is helped by a decision to boycott the Students Union shop for putting soft porn magazines on display amongst its Time Outs and Dazed and Confuseds.
It's a bit naff living in a world in which heinous slugs think it's OK to throw handfuls of naked breasts all over the place and think it's censorship to cease to stock these rags.
I have arguments with some feminist friends who say that if men are fools enough to buy porn, then let women sell themselves.
Personally, I feel that it doesn't help to create an atmosphere of mutual respect in an organisation that is supposed to educate people: but then again, this is the Students Union shop and students will be students.
I suppose it's a beneficial moral stance if I retrieve my disappearing waistline as a result of the boycott. It might then be possible once more to see that I have... breasts.
Oh bother.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Brief Notes

If you want me to reserve a copy of the CD please write to me at
Numbers 1-10 not available but apart from that you can choose.
If you have already written- I have made a note so don't worry

And tickets for the Brighton gig on Tuesday are here
And look at this

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


It's back into the swing of educayshun; everyone's back this week and I met more new students today; yet more on Thursday and there are lengthy meetings and occasional doodlefests tomorrow.
I also have to write a lecture on authenticity; this will not be difficult but will take time.
Already I have been distracted by an article on Pidgin English in Nigeria!
The master copy of Voxpop Puella has gone to Ireland today to be manufactured. There will be only 100, signed and numbered, and there will be a panel at the side of the blog to tell people how to get hold of them when they turn up in a week or so.

Singing, Half Moon

Martin and the Jims Hornsby and Morrison turned in fine performances yesterday evening at the the Half Moon, Putney.
They had been to record a session for Bob Harris at the BBC and they reported that Whisperin' Bob was charming and very nice. While they were waiting, they made coffee for Jaws (the James Bond villain) and Britt Ekland who were waiting to be interviewed by Steve-Wright-in-the-afternoon.
They also did an impromptu gig in the University of Westminster cafe, I believe, which would have added a bit of froth to the collective cappucinos.
Unforchly, I had teaching duties but I met them later at the gig.
The venue has been done up and its fortunes have revived, and there was a warm and welcoming crowd there. I played a few songs before the guys went on (thanks Andrew Bailey for the photo!). The sound was crystal clear (good sound engineer) and Martin's set with the Jims was sublime. He played Steel Strings, which I have never heard live before, and also a beautiful and affecting version of Spirit Child. The Jims played sensitively and never bullied the songs off stage and it was nice to see them laughing at Martin's jokes, sometimes rather helplessly.
Martin is at the top of his game as a performer and is surrounded at the moment with some amazing musicians, whether with The Daintees or Jims (including Cole on banjo when he's around)
Long may it continue and it was lovely to hang out with everyone this weekend.
* Hats of to the Half Moon- nice staff, great food, fab sound and AMAZING TOILETS! Hear that 93 Feet East and the 12 Bar?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Music, Music, Music

Life is very interesting at the moment; sitting with a group of workshop participants on Saturday listening to Green Gartside talking though his song writing process was fascinating and the group were enthralled by his talk. Then yesterday, all seven of them recorded their songs, which in most cases hadn't even existed on Thursday.
Jim Hornsby passed by last night and Martin and Jim played See You In My Dreams together, perched on chairs as the wind and rain lashed about outside.
If you live near Putney, come to see Martin and Jim playing tonight. They are at BBC6 at the moment recording some of Martin's solo stuff for Bob Harris (it will be broadcast in about a month) and heading down to the Half Moon later.
I have been teaching today (nice students) but will be heading down there later to do a turn. I have just missed a funding deadline (well, it's Wednesday but there's no way I will make it) which is a bit of a disappointment but I have to work when I can. If only I could fill these things out in my sleep!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Evening After

Just finished leading another song writing course at The Premises; today was recording day and Kate, John and Martin from the Daintees came along as the session band, augmented by Barry Green, and we turned in some amazing tracks. The participants this time around were masters/mistresses of the chorus, and there were some interesting singing voices too. Their songs are going round and round in my head...
Martin did an interview with Tom Robinson live on Radio 6 last night; he played The Lilac Tree and Home live on air. The interview was relaxed and friendly; Tom Robinson is a nice person and a proper fan of the music he plays on air. Afterwards he played California Star on Martin's guitar.
The tweets were flurrying in like a blizzard.
Martin, Andy, Sonia and I went to the pub afterwards for a cup of tea and I fell asleep; I had been working with the song writers and I don't think I had any more fuel left in the tank that evening.
Tomorrow Martin is playing the Half Moon in Putney with Jim Hornsby accompanying him. I will also play some songs before they start.

Toodle pip!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Helen and the Horns Compilation

Coming out next Spring! Peel sessions and more...
Also Martin Stephenson is playing at the Half Moon in Putney on Monday evening, and I'll be supporting him.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tom Robinson

Martin Stephenson will be guesting on the Tom Robinson Show on Radio 6 this weekend, interview from about 9.15!


White PVA glue all over the kitchen while attempting to recycle a padded envelope to send the Voxpop Puella masters off to be pressed up. Sticky!

Soft and Hard, and the Roaring Maniac

Hayley Newman has requested dishcloths for her next project; a couple of years ago Gina Birch was collecting redundant brassieres.
The fact that Mikey Georgeson asked over the summer for old satellite dishes (unforchly I live too far away to have been able to donate/get rid of mine) made me wonder if men made recycled art out of technology and women out of textiles.
The I remembered a female student at the University of the West who was collecting used Sony Walkmans (Walkmen?) for her art project, so I was wrong.

NYYYYAAAAARGH!!!!... the souped up car undertook, overtook, swerved, made its presence felt; darting in and out and forcing cars to brake suddenly in the congested flow of traffic.
What exciting destination was he heading to with his rapier-sharp focus and his look-at-me vibe?
Gallions Reach shopping complex.

Revving Up

The Premises songwriting course begins tomorrow; I love working on it. From a roomful of people and nothing but air and ideas, songs are conjured up, rehearsed and recorded in four days. The masterclass is by Green Gartside this time around with a talk by Paulette Long, who is one of the top UK music publishing experts. Roll on tomorrow!

Monday, September 17, 2012


For any latecomers... there are still a couple of places left on this songwriting course run by The Premises, starting on Thursday and with  masterclass by the amazing Green Gartside of Scritti Politti:
And I am playing at the the Kate Bush Under the Influence night at the Boogaloo in Highgate this evening (£3.00 entry)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

With The Daintees at the Keys in Huddersfield

Andy and Tina, who promote the gigs at The Keys, are the perfect hosts. The table is set with sandwiches and cakes (coffee and walnut, chocolate and a vanilla sponge) and the concert goers have a pie and pea supper.
Everyone had been caught in traffic on the way to the gig and it was a stressful beginning, but the pine tables were thronging and the Gary Stewart band started the evening with a well- rehearsed set (they are playing the Bedford in Balham tonight). I'd been intending to play some new songs but had a stressful journey although I did play an old one, Memento Mori, which I wrote in honour of my grandmother. Martin joined me for a feisty finish on Heaven Avenue and Loverman. And every time I play Feathers it seems to strike a chord (ahem) with a couple of people in the audience. There are a lot of bullies around so I'm glad I've written a song in defiance of them!
After the pie and peas had been put away in the assembled tummies, the audience sat back for a good old Daintees treatment. The band are in fine fettle; Kate's drumming is lyrical, Lou is relaxed ad
and clearly enjoying every minute of it and John's guitar playing perfectly complements Martin's (and he plays a mean harmonica too). Both Lou and John do great backing vocals too, always bang on cue. The set was full of favourites: Long Forgotten, Louis Cafe, Crocodile Cryer, Nancy, Little Red Bottle... and a lovely surprise, after Nutella have used Morning Time on the ad in Australia: somehow after about fifteen years Martin remembered how to play it and did an absolutely brilliant spontaneous version with lots of ad libbing and improvisation. He has got to be one of the best finger pickets around today, not just with style but with a feel that I have never heard anyone else come near. Shouts out to the red haired rockabilly girls at the front who smiled all the way through!
After the gig we sat outside the hotel drinking tea and coffee and winding down with the hubbub of Huddersfield's Saturday night audible in the cool night air amongst the geraniums. The hotel man is a rockabilly fan so the evening's anecdotes were mostly rockabilly ones. At our age (over 200 years between us) we have rock'n'roll stories about almost every genre of music!

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Daintees at the Keys

Tomorrow-Saturday- pie and pease and The Daintees at The Keys in Huddersfield! Support from the Gary Stewart Band and yours truly.

Guitar Etc

I'm sitting in bed playing my guitar getting ready for the Huddersfield Keys gig tomorrow. It's an amazing place and Andy and Tina are fantastic promoters who radiate goodwill. I might play a new song and also some that I haven't played for a while.

I got an email from Hollie Cook today (she is a really good singer who used to sing with the Slits). Joly, who used to run Better Badges on Portobello Road, heard one of my songs and wrote to me to say that I should send it to Hollie because she's recording an album. So I did, because I want to write songs for other people to sing. Although she has already decided which songs she wants to use, she was gracious enough to write back and say thank you. Old fashioned good manners like that make the sun come out! I will, of course, get hold of her new album and review it in due course.

Put the date 28th October in your diaries, you London readers. On that Sunday afternoon the rare Club Artyfartle will be raising its beautiful head and Acton Bell and I will be joined by singers Lucinda Sieger and Magnetic Paul to showcase an all-new songfest. Time: 2.30 p.m. Place: The Lexington. We will be joined by Joan Ashworth who will be talking about her pinhole photography project. There may well be a procession. It will be free to get in but we'll be passing round a Tip Hat in case you want to show your appreciation!

Kate Bush and Writing

Writing... writing... working with Gina, amidst drinking coffee and talking: it's always invigorating!
And I was trying to learn the words of Babooshka to fly free of paper at the Under the Influence Kate Bush night on Monday (The Boogaloo, Highgate). I've given up, but I think I understand now why I find it so difficult to learn the lyrics of some songs (even my own when I am using particular vocabulary). If the words are not in your own groove, your own familiar lingo, it's as difficult as learning them in French or German.
Offsprog Two's Bestival cold is crashing around in my throat like a jackdaw caught down a chimney. Begone! I have to sing in Huddersfield tomorrow and I've already lost Primary Fingernail One as a casualty of poor summer diet....

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

From the Punkbrighton Website

This is a hilarious letter about the late Dick Damage, whom we all adored. It is the best description about the way punk worked that I've read for a long time!

Hi, just been pointed at the website - brings back so many memories, can't wait to get hold of a Dick Damage t-shirt. Like most musicians in Brighton in those days, I played with him once. I was under a car I was helping a friend fix when I saw a pair of DMs attached to those yellow and black striped jeans he used to wear. The voice said "You got a keyboard? Fancy doing a gig tonight at The Richmond?"
This was Dick Damage's D-Vision - voice, guitar, bass, two drum machines (not synched together in any way) and, for one night only, me on keys - basically just noise, really, as there'd been no rehearsal and the guitar player was shouting the chords at me, but it was hard to hear because he was wearing a dog mask. At one point Damage poured Swarfega over his head. Then in the second set he tried to crowd-surf, but the audience parted like the Red Sea - and the Richmond stage was pretty high up!

Bruce Lacey at Camden Arts Centre

Hopped on an 82 bus to Finchley Road to catch this wonderful exhibition, which I've been wanting to go to all summer- especially on a Sunday when the robots are automated. One of them did a little dance even on a cold sunny Tuesday as I stood in front of it, its battered pink leg rising elegantly to one side and back.
The exhibition is only on until September the 16th and it's free to get in.
I loved the pillarbox dress with a self-coloured red embroidered crown on it! People of all shapes and sizes are made out of rubbish, and there are dressing up clothes galore, and stories about researching and inventing rituals; sometimes the robots are sinister, sometimes funny, and sometimes sad. Bruce Lacey worked with Spike Milligan, Ivor Cutler and myriad other sane madmen.
On the way back I did something else I'd been meaning to do for ages: this is a photograph of the Olympic Garden in High Barnet Tube Station car park. It's a trifle overgrown now but still beautiful, especially in its glorious green-fingered conception.
There is something pure and invigorating in an Art Day that blows life's bullies away into insignificance.
Art rules!!!

Monday, September 10, 2012


I have just embarked on some new research, which is going to be hugely energising. I interviewed a really interesting person this morning and have just bumped into another potential interviewee in the local supermarket, of all places.
During the summer, I plundered the University library's giveaway outdated books bin and found some really interesting books about different industries which will be useful (and a nice hardback copy of Hornblower).
My Amazon purchases are going astray more often than not, and I'm thinking of giving up on them. they are good about refunds but it's starting to feel like a waste of time. Is there a big library of stolen books somewhere?
Offsprog Two is due back from Bestival today. Food is in the oven and I have bought some new clothes washing liquid as the mode of the day is not to wash during the festival. The toothpaste is sulking and the soap has gone off in a huff, but I've told them that they will be loved again, later today.
TTFN, friends and anonymonitors!

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Motorbikes and Windmills

Offsprog One has had her prints on display at the Old Windmill in Rottingdean; funny, after living in Brighton for five years I never once went there.

I think I imagined leaf mould and rotting tree stumps. Instead, there was sunshine, friendly people, butterflies, chalk downs, a little stony beach and delectable honeycomb ice cream. It was a hot day; I was a proud mum.
On the way back, the bus into Brighton was diverted around thousands of motorbikers and their bikes. It was just like the glut of ladybirds there in about 1977, when the aqua-painted railings along the seafront were encrusted with tiny red and black spotted shields in search of greenstuff to eat. The pavements, the traffic islands: everywhere you looked there were bikes of every description. They roared along the roads, and bikers changed into beach gear flaunting their Tescos underpants shamelessly.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Lost Women of Rock Music Discount

I don't have any copies of the book to sell but the publisher sent me some of these: feel free to download and use!

The Donkey

Once upon a time there was an old woman who kept a donkey, which she used to pull her cart to town.
She was very poor, and gradually worked out that if she fed her donkey a bit less it still survived, so this she did.
Over the next few weeks, she discovered that she could feed the donkey less and less with no noticeable effect.
So she decided to feed it nothing.
The donkey died.

In the last week during which I have made no postings, more people seem to have read my blog that when I do make postings.
Is there some message here?

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Martin Stephenson and Scott MacDonald at The Braes, Dunoon

After a ferry trip that was more like a bad acid trip (why is that man staring at me? Why is that woman staring at me? Why is everybody staring at me?), we disembarked at Dunoon and walked up the hill to The Braes, a brand new venue and restaurant with lovely polished wood floors that bided well for the acoustics of the show. Scott was already there setting up the PA and Martin arrived a few minutes later.
Scott' s set showed off his fine rhythm guitar playing. As a songwriter he's the master of the chorus and he is an energetic and endearing performer.
He played several tracks from his new album, that surely warrants a listen.
Martin turned in an amazing set; he played a lot of his Merle Travis inspired material to start off with (he has invisible extra fingers) with his own unique feel, laid back and yet sharp at the same time. Later, a good-natured heckler started calling out the names of Daintees songs and we were grated to a lovely rendition of  'Slow Loving' and then some of the more energetic songs: 'Little Red Bottle' and 'Running Water'. He manages to doing like a whole band all by himself. Which reminds me of his ace joke from the other night. He was playing Tony Iommi added to Robin Campbell from UB40. 'Iommi Campbell', he quipped.
I choked on my coke.