Friday, May 31, 2013

Let's Start a Pussy Riot

Don't forget them- they are very brave and they are having a tough time. This book is coming out on 24th June; details below. It's being launched at Yoko Ono's Meltdown.

Storm in a Teacup are very excited to announce that “Lets Start a Pussy Riot” book will be launched at Yoko Ono’s Meltdown festival as part of the Activism weekend. The book has been created in collaboration with Pussy Riot, Emely Neu, Storm in a Teacup, Girls Get Busy and Not So Popular and will be available to buy on the 15th of June at Meltdown. The book is available now for Pre-order and will be available at Rough Trade shops on 24th of June. All profits go directly to Pussy Riot and their families.



Loud, controversial, fearless — Pussy Riot undoubtedly ushered in a new era of feminism and political freedom with their protest acts.

The dialogue so explosively ignited by Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich continues in the book Let’s Start A Pussy Riot. Exclusively created in collaboration with the band, this publication brings together artists, writers and poets to explore feminism, LGBT rights, the power of collaboration, the role art plays in activism, women’s rights, and freedom of speech through the personal voices of Judy Chicago, Yoko Ono, Antony Hegarty, Kim Gordon, and many more.


Antony Hegarty / Alice Bag / Anne Pundyk / Arvida Bystroem / Baby Dee / Battlekat / Bianca Casady / Billy Childish / Bobby Conn /Bo Ningen / Bruce LaBruce / Carolee Schneemann / Caroline Coon / Charlotte Richardson Andrews / Carolee Schneemann / Cornershop / CSS / Elias Koskimies /

Ellen Angus / Emil Schult / Fox / Franko B / Gaggle / Gera / Hannah Lew / Helen McCookery Book / Homoground / H PL ewis / Inga Muscio / Jeffrey Lewis / Jenny Holzer / Jon Gnarr / Judy Chicago / Kara Walker / Kembra Pfahler / Kerry McCarthy / Kids On Tv / Kim Gordon / The Knife / Koivo /

Laurie Penny / Lee Ranaldo / Lizzi Bougatsos / Lucky Dragons / Lucy O’Brien / Marissa Paternoster / Mary Beth Edelson / Meadham Kirchhoff / Molly Crabapple / Nastasia Alberti / No Bra / Nomi Ruiz / Olivier de Sagazan / Peaches / Peggy Seeger / Robyn / Rozhgar Mahmood Mustafa / Roz Kaveney / Sarah Lucas / Seth Bogart / Spartacus Chetwynd / Stephen Ira / Sunaura Taylor / Tamsyn Challenger / Tocotronic / Vaginal Davis / Victoria Lomasko / Vivian Goldman / Yoko Ono




Monday, May 27, 2013

Three Maple Men

Helen McCookerybook | Myspace Video
Three Maple Men

Helen McCookerybook | Myspace Video

Lad Mags

Shouts to UK Feminista for their campaign to ban Lad Mags from display. I have been shocked at one of the Universities that I work for (they all have Equality clauses in their constitutions) by what seems to be acceptable to them.
A rack of t-shirts featuring naked women printed on them for sale in the student market (Student Union reaction to my complaint 'We can't control what people sell').
Student Union shop- not on the top shelf but mingled in with the fashion and music titles (I was tempted to make a pile of spoof naked men mags and add them to the shelf as a protest installation).
Finally, there is a set of shelves in the main part of the University where piles of free magazines turn up from time to time- normally boring stuff but with the occasional pile of 'Wallpaper', and so on.
One day a pile of mags with a truly disgusting cover appeared. They made me feel like crying and after a five minute mope in the office I went down and kidnapped the whole pile and stuck them under a chair in my office. A month later I shoved the whole lot into the recycling bin.
The point is, part of my music teaching is about people respecting each other. That's what people have to do at University; the students come from diverse backgrounds and beliefs and we have to create an environment where they can re-think their approach to life and what is 'normal', or believing that What Sells Must Be Good (which is an ever-increasing concern).
Iceland is moving from a discussion about pornography into a possible ban. Some young people there are concerned about censorship and freedom of speech issues; it is worth remembering that the Paedophile Information Exchange between 1974 and 1984 cited these issues as some sort of justification for their profile and their activities.
There are many voices that clamour against the perceived censorship of images of naked women, whether in print media, film, or on the internet, regardless of what these women are doing.
In my working and teaching environment, I want all of the students to be able to concentrate on studying, to rise above the flood of derogatory images of women and the attitudes that travel alongside them, and to learn to respect each other free from the secret (or not so secret) 'other' that reaches into the gutter of sniggering exploitation that lad mags suck upon.
It's as simple as that.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Shredded Fingers

Headphones clamped to my head, guitar clamped to my body, I have just played and played the same guitar riff over and over again to record a glitch-free version. It's there: well, the sound is there but the feel isn't! How frustrating.
I sang a vocal over the top of it that I know I will -re-record soon with a better microphone.
At the moment I am teaching myself to equalise the sounds that I record to make them sound the way I want them to sound. So not only do I have to play the song correctly (and sing it well) but then I have to work on it to make it sound as good as it can.
And that's after writing the song in the first place.
I can't imagine anything else I would rather be doing today actually even though its warm and sunny outside and the blackbird (I call him Bigbeak, which is the avian equivalent of Bigmouth) is tweetly-twurdling away at the top of next door's tree.
I was hugely inspired by reading about Yoko Ono in The Observer today. I think she's wonderful.
An Australian woman wrote a really nasty comment on a photograph someone took of me singing in Bristol and posted on Facebook, that cut me to the quick.
I wrote to her about it and someone took it down, but it had done its damage.
I started to feel that I should just stay in the house and not go out if I looked the way she said I did.
But Martin talked me out of the dumps :) and then I read Yoko's philosophy, and her feeling that her life is just beginning at 80. Long live Yoko, and I am so sorry that some of the Beatles tried so very hard to spoil her life; and so glad that she is still an artist, and such an articulate one!

Wreading and Riting

Although it is sunny, I've had my nose stuck into several books today following on from the re-revelation that re-reading a book a few years afterwards is the same as reading a brand new book.
This used to irritate me when, as a child for instance, I couldn't rediscover the magic of reading the Narnia books; however, I've been able to read Gerald Durrell's My Family and Other Animals loads of times and I've found it just as entrancing every time.
It happens with music too, doesn't it?  Suddenly the magical song becomes mundane and you have lost your grip on the thread of meaning that the song had; it no longer transports you away to a place of physical fantasy.
Digression aside, I am mining information anew from Dave Laing's One Chord Wonders (the best book about punk, ever, and just about to be re-published by Equinox, I believe), George Lipsitz's Dangerous Crossroads and Mavis Bayton's Frock Rock.
Academic books are simultaneously wrong and right and you stack up scales to balance what you believe to be true against what you believe to be nonsense, based on your own cultural position.
Unfortunately, your own cultural position is in a constant state of flux.

Bugger this, I'm going to do some recording instead.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


I am working on a paper for a conference in Leicester in June, developing the paper that I presented at the Riot Grrl Symposium at the University of Limerick and, I hope, making it suitable for publication.
While upping the academic content, what often happens is an increase in connections between one author, interviewee, political event, and another. This is happening a little bit- but more so between this paper and another, much longer piece of research that I am doing.
It is interesting delving into a book in depth. I have been re-reading Lucy Green's Music, Gender, Education, and it's like a different book because I am reading it for different reasons (I first read it 10 years ago for my PhD and referenced it a bit in The Lost Women of Rock Music).
Early morning brain is good for reading academic books and after reading parts yesterday and parts today, I have had to order two more books- by Paul Gilroy and Susan McClary- to make sure I look at things from every perspective possible.
Its one o'clock and I am drained by the morning's reading and writing: I would like to do some recording this afternoon and perhaps I need to go for a walk to revert to humanoid (or guitarmanaut) rather than academicoid form.
Yes, that's what I'll do.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Art Tour

This morning I met up with Caroline; we had planned to go to see the Rachel Whiteread show Detached at the Gagosian Gallery.
We met at St Pancras station, under Paul Day's Kiss statue. Caroline told me how the art establishment had turned their snooty noses up at it, because it is figurative; I thought it beautiful and I loved the small bronze tableaux underneath it, parts of which have been polished by being touched. I noticed the tiny dog first, which had been patted to a yellow gleam; the patina of the bronze had emerged from its dull finish. Caroline took me round to the other side to see the little hand of a child in a miniature scene, which at that very moment was being held by a little child. That too was shiny and yellow, polished by human contact.
The Gagosian Gallery is a stone's throw from Kings Cross station; we pushed the huge door open and came upon a beautiful poem about songs and sheds which I was allowed to photograph but not to put here on the blog. It reminded me of what I call the universal address, the reverse version of which I use to teach students the importance of homing in on a tiny seed to grow a thesis from:


My room
My house
My street
My town
My county
My country
My island/continent
My hemisphere
The world
The solar system
The universe.

The gallery is a gracious space, lit from above with a silencing diffuse light. Three concrete sheds made of bluey-grey concrete stood in a line, inside-out and solid. There was something of the elephant about them. You could walk around them and they begged to be touched.... but be warned!

Nothing makes a security guard leap across a room faster than an attempt to touch a concrete shed!
In the next room, thick castings of doors and windows in pastel-coloured glass leaned casually against the wall. I think Rachel Whiteread's work is funny: things you might imagine in a fleeting moment, things that are so normal they appear to be insignificant, are made solid through a massive amount of effort, and become useless in their tribute form. As Caroline said, she 'materialises the idea'. We talked to a friendly security assistant called Andy and asked him what he thought of the artworks. I don't think he had a great connection with them but he told us about an exhibition called After the War at The Pace Gallery that he said was the best exhibition he had ever seen.
Next we went over to Cork Street, which sadly is due for demolition in perhaps the clearest example of philistinism one could possibly find. 'Yes! Let's destroy a community of art galleries and build flats instead' chirp the property developers (who have paintings on their corporate walls that they do not even see). And the government, from its position of weak economic mess riddled with networks of secret deals with property developers, rolls over and lets them scratch its tummy. Bless!
So what did we find? A brash and colourful exhibition by Richard Woods called D.I.Y. at the Alan Cristea Gallery; some truly lovely Rousseau  and Luigi Loir paintings at The Medici Gallery; and best of all, Elizabeth Frink at Beaux Arts, sketches, paintings and sculpture.

We finished at the Mayor Gallery, where Caroline had a meeting about an exhibition of women artists. 
Let's hope that Caroline herself will be invited to show her work in Cork Street before it vanishes- 
her narrative paintings would be a welcome addition to the variety and colour of the gallery offerings 
at this compact and fascinating location!

Royal Limp at Corsica Studios

Corsica Studios is tucked down behind the Elephant and Castle and as a venue/rehearsal studio has been there for 30 years without changing one iota. Inside, it has the feel of an evil circus tent, decked with black drapes in some places and scuffed and well-used in others. Almost cave-like, it forms a womb for all kinds of musical activities, but mostly those that involve guitars: the land of rock!
This part of London morphs constantly, so it was extraordinary to find the place so unchanged.
I dived into the crowd, who were a stylish mixture of men and women, partly perhaps because the headline act, Bleached, reputedly owe a lot to Riot Grrl.
Royal Limp took to the stage and buckled on their weapons: in this case a rather smart Fender Jaguar, a semi-acoustic guitar, bass drums and electronic keyboard, before crashing into their first number which was a Velvet Underground-inspired introduction to a set that often referenced that iconic band, alongside The Fall (they did a fantastic cover of Your Heart Out).
OOF-A-THWACKA OOF-A-THWACKA! the drums commanded us to dance, and by the fourth (as yet untitled) song they were well into their stride. Sometimes the bass was to the forefront, fuzz riffs bursting out of vintage speakers; the lead guitar wove and stabbed through the mix, echoing the best of Sterling Morrison. To one side, the keyboard player stood as cool as a cucumber providing a steady wall of chords to underpin the noise. Singer Andy commanded the microphone with aplomb and he provides a strong focal point above the clamouring of the band behind him.
All too soon, he announced the last song, which began with a punchy drum rhythm; the organ played a sinister motif snaking through the wall of guitar noise which attacked the song like a swarm of angry wasps.
Ears buzzing, I headed home to land of beige: this had been an inspiring gig! Roll on the next one.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Stock Just In- Helen and the Horns Etc Albums

The Peel sessions will be out later this year on Damaged Goods, but until then I have some more of these (which I couldn't get hold of for a while). Paypal only to helen_mccookerybook, £12.00 including p & p

In the Kitchen with McCookerybook

The kitchen has morphed from an intensive marking depot this morning into a recording studio this afternoon. A broom-handle is doubling as a pop-shield holder (got annoyed at the thought of putting up a mike-stand because I was annoyed at my guitar-playing) and I have just recorded an acoustic demo of an old song which started life as a sound-track for a feminist TV series right at the start of Channel 4 (it was called Pictures of Women). At the time I also wrote 14 acapella jingles, one of which went 'I'm Venus de Milo, a head and a torso, I'm sleeveless and armless and totally harmless....'
Anyway, I wrote lyrics for the instrumental and with Lester Square (Monochrome Set guitarist) and Mike Slocombe (he of added it to a set of songs called Herms which had a series of 24 massive projected drawings and which I did at the Umoja theatre in Camberwell and the Tristan Bates Theatre in the West End amongst other places.
So here it is today, on Spanish guitar, driving me mad because I can't get the 'feel' of the instrumental section right. I need another shot at it, but not today because I have got headphone ears.
But I have learned quite a lot about Logic plug-ins while messing about with it.
I also dreamed up a song for Miriam in the middle of the night last week. I am going to send her a version to see if she likes it; but it involves strumming which is not my strong point.
So for the rest of the afternoon it's strumfest time until beans-on-toast time, which is when the kitchen will finally be used for the purpose for which it was intended.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Not Intending To Write A Review Of The Borderline Gig

Sorry not to have reviewed Friday's Borderline gig but I am so knackered.
It was a fantastic night and it was interesting to see that Martin can pull such a large crowd even on his own without it officially being a Daintees gig (although John and Kate joined him and the Jims Hornsby and Morrison later on).
Jim Hornsby asked me what they sounded like- difficult to say! A bit like Bill Keith without the double bass and banjo, but with much better songs. Quite floaty, very string band-y.
The audience weren't nearly as noisy as they are when it's a full band and they did a lot of very tuneful singing along- to Little Red Bottle and Crocodile Cryer in particular. The Daves (Cowan, down from Ross-shire to promote his Martin-produced album, and he did a great set; and Sharp, from The Alarm, now a troubadour extraordinaire) joined everyone on stage for Will The Circle Be Unbroken.
I was CD monitor for the night (at my own suggestion) and had some nice chats with people (sorry for not saying goodbye Bev but I got swallowed up by dressing-room-itis) but I was invited up to sing The Airship Song in a tribute to Charlie Poole and it was nice that some people sang along to that as well.
And it was lovely to see Veronique there taking photos again. Soon it will be pelican time, Veronique.
There... I seem to have written a mini-review in spite of myself!

City Fun- Archive Chefs Review

Many thanks to Caz Blaise for this, which she came across while looking for female-edited punk and post-punk fanzines on the City Fun archive website here

In the process of doing, I came across this review of The Chef's '24 Hours/Lets Make
Up/Someone I  know' and thought you might like to see it. It was in number 17
of volume 2, which I think is 1981.

"Pleasant uptempo pop which could be played on national radio and not upset anyone,
yet would enrich the airwaves. But this record will probably never be heard.
This is unfortunate as it will mean the confining of the Chefs (including the gloriously named Helen McCookerybook) to John Peel and collectors of short, snappy tunes of an off beat nature"

If you can help Cazz, drop me a line

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Surreal Tube Driver Announcement, 12.30 Last Night

'Good evening everyone, we are now approaching High Barnet station.
On leaving the train, please make sure you have all your belongings with you.
Especially small objects like keys and mobile phones.
And if you have small children with you, make sure you have all their shoes, toys... and socks.
We're all very tired. Goodnight!'

As I walked up the hill, as small field-mouse was darting about in the dark, inspecting a huge pond of pink chunky vomit.

Monday, May 13, 2013


That's it!
I'm going out for a walk.
Had enough of marking.
My brain is custard.
Here is a snap I took of the Suburban Pastoral chewing gum album artwork painting in its current state: a true example of Green Artwork that returns to nature once it's finished!

And this is the original in all it's juicy glowing glory. The album itself is available through clicking the link below the picture if you want to hear the music that goes with the painting!
Thanks again to the wonderful painter Ben Wilson for his imagination and courage.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

24 Hours Lyrics

From 1979, I think. I was trying to sound like Donna Summer and didn't realise that Giorgio Moroder used machines to make his bass lines. this must have been the most knackering song in the universe to perform live and I don't think I ever did the singing justice when we played it at gigs. I must have had the biceps of Tom of Finland back then; now I have the arms of Swiss Tony and it's not good.
This song has been released by Damaged Goods as part of a compilation of tracks by The Chefs, available here:
Damaged Goods will also be releasing the Helen and the Horns Peel Sessions later this year.

Free Download

Just made iPhone recording of 'Big Brother is Watching You' into a free download

Saturday, May 11, 2013


Thought they were the shoes your Mum forced you to wear as a kid? Think again!


Back to marking: silence apart from the blackbird in a neighbour's garden.


Ken 'Snakehips' Johnson & His West Indian Dance Band, and lentils a-go-go bubbling on the cooker.
Nothing like a bit of 1930s British swing music to glam up a simple meal.
Swing, baby, swing!


Syd Barrett for elevenses, cup of coffee and clean the cooker. You can hear him looking down occasionally to check his chord fingerings.


Yum, yum- Johnny Cash Folsom Prison for breakfast!
How delicious!
Marking moratorium till this avo; whole pile done but lost the marks which were on iPhone for organisational paperless office purposes. Could not retrieve even after downloading special software so had to go back through about ten of them again. Could weep, but not: Johnny Cash too energetic and positive plus reading The Constant Gardener by John Le Carre which is a brilliant book and although I  got it from the free bookshop in Barnet, it's staying on my shelves with me for re-reading.
I found the film not very memorable but the book is!
And can I recommend the film Mud, which is a riveting film. I have been so disappointed by films sometimes (Harry Brown- ugh, something about sisters- boring!) and can't stay the course. I don't mind Tom Cruise but there are so many continuity blips in the films he's in, and I liked Skyfall which was a proper adventure film...
Mud is just a good story, realised in perfect detail and without sentiment, which is odd because parts of the story are very sentimental.
Something quite exciting is happening for our students on Monday which I'll tell you about on Tuesday.

Boom chaka boom chaka boom chaka boom... Johnny's drummer's driving the morning along, his guitarist's chugging and twanging and his multi-layered voice (chocolate cake mixed with a JCB digger with a swarm of bees circling the pile) is bouncing through small-town horrors like there's no tomorrow!
You go boy, Johnny!

Thursday, May 09, 2013

I'm Sitting Here...

A few years ago when I taught songwriting at the University of the West, year after year students would start their first song with 'I'm sitting here...'
Being the firm and controlling module leader that I am, I forbade those words, banished them to a hole called 'cliche' and required the students to start again, please.
But I am sitting here today... Wednesday vanished without trace and now the mountain of marking needs to be tackled. I'm blending it with chores: it goes four pieces of work/wash jumpers/four pieces of work/wash socks/review marking so far/eat lunch and so on, and so on.
It is going to take me days, but the house will be very clean. I have double the number of students at the University of the East plus overspill marking from a member of staff who is leaving tomorrow (nuff said on that).
So 'I'm sitting here...' with broken spectacles balanced on my nose and biro in hand evaluating, measuring, comparing, cross-referencing and wondering whether to give myself a weekend on not.
Will I get it all done by the deadline?

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Columbia Road Market

McDad used to have a large collecsh of sempervivums and in a mood of missing him again, I looked online to see if it would be easy to buy a few to stick into the birch discs that had once held Christmas trees. It looked complicated and I decided to be a real person in the real world rather than a virtual person in a virtual one, and went to Columbia Road in the East End the other Sunday to see what I could see.
The first thing I saw was this delicate piece of miniature graffiti on someone's door. I think I might be rather please to wake up and find my door had been decorated like this.
The market itself was heaving- but very good-natured considering how clogged it was with people, pushchairs and even a mobility scooter being driven at a snail's pace and trapping a man in a tartan scarf in a cul-de-sac of stacked-up white polystyrene plant multipacks.
I don't think I've ever heard stall-holders shouting so loudly; they looked as though they were going to explode, some of them. Faces suffused with blood, necks outstretched and corded with vessels, eyes scrunched up, lips spitting: it was desperate! I expected showers of teeth to burst over people's heads, buttons to pop off shirts and the glass in the windows of the attendant White Vans to shatter in sympathy.

To pay for the sempervivums, I had to pick my way in an angular walk through trays of seedlings on the ground, feet at right-angles to each other, terrified of overbalancing and landing like a clumsy human bull in a frail green and tender china-shop.
I allowed the tide of people to throw me up at the edges of the market, where the scent of jasmine crept out from the back of the stalls and the racket was muffled by racks of galvanised steel containers stuffed with roses, lilies and sunflowers. Beyond them, the throngs of Sunday shoppers rustled with long brown paper cones of gypsophylla and bright blue plastic bags full of uncomfortably crushed geraniums.
Noise, noise, noise: somehow the noise of happy people in the sunshine on a gentle mission to buy plants and flowers, this noise is a kind of music.. the song of spring finally arrived.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Sempervivum Cat, Holloway Road

Oh, Beautiful

Oh nature, how innocently you present this sunshine and these cloudless skies!
The trees remind you of the cruel winter you put us through: some of them are on;y just coming into leaf.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

24 Hours

Just found the original lyrics to 24 Hours: will scan and post at the weekend.