Friday, November 29, 2013


I'll be supporting Martin Stephenson and Jim Hornsby in Huddersfield tomorrow night. If I knew how to paste things on this bloody iPad I would paste a link in. But I don't!
If you fancy coming along there's a link on the Reverbnation Player next to this post. The hosts Andrew and Tina Roberts are fantastic. Gary Stewart is also supporting.
Over and out from the Typopad.

The Escaping Book

I bought a copy of the Day the Country Died, which is a book about anarchy punk by Ian Glasper, in the summer. I left it on the tube, along with my lyrics book, and never got it back in spite of harassing the Lost Property Office for months.
Eventually I realised that I would have to buy a new copy. I have been asked to contribute a chapter to a book on the subject and I need the book in order to get the details right.
Alas, when I got to work this morning I realised that I had lost the new copy.
I charged across town and luckily found it in the coffee shop!
For some reason, that book does not want to belong to me.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


I collected my surprise guitars from the luthiers today. One of them, a Framus, came from the North London Hospice shop. It was filthy and I almost scrubbed the little brass logo off the top; I found it tangled and scrumpled up on the floor. Now it has had a new set of strings fitted and it twinkles sound-wise; it's a bashful, friendly chap and I've enjoyed strumming today.
The other, a Hofner, came from a market stall in County Durham. As soon as I saw it I wanted to play it and as soon as I played it I wanted to play it forever. It still has its original guarantee, a little yellow card filled out in the 1960s. It has had new controls fitted and a new pickup and its an absolute delight to play.
Luckily, I resisted the £8 mini-guitar in Tiger the other day. I don't think it would have lived up to these guys. Both of them are very battered and scratched and have seen better days. But so have I, and that might be why I love them so much.

Monday, November 25, 2013

CDs Have Arrived

Yes, real live CDs have popped through the door!
I have put the live version of Two Strings to your Bow up on Soundcloud here:

Helen and the Horns, The Lexington 8th December

Just planning another rehearsal for the gig; Martin will be playing with Jim Hornsby and Jim-the-fiddle, the Antipoet will be playing and Offsprog One will be playing Northern Soul in between it all.
Ticket link here

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Ode to Technology

Since twice updating my iPhone to the new ugly design, it has become slower than ever, taking an age to load pages. It has stopped Face-timing people I don't know very well as the side of my face pressed the screen mid-call to friends. But all of the new features have added keystrokes and a counter-intuitive feel to the built-in applications. Perhaps they are designed to make things easier for designers rather than end users. It's much harder, for instance, to send a photograph direct, and don't even get me started on the audio recording function.
Perhaps reassuringly, it has retained its ability to lose an entire set of notes at whim, which disappear into the top right hand corner of the screen whenever they feel like it. Goodbye notes from conferences, and goodbye song lyrics!
Likewise, Google Chrome has become so clever that it sends you to pages you don't want, but it guesses that you need, before you have even decided yourself. Safari has ceased to work with some applications, Firefox is clunky and Internet Explorer can't find anything at all, Poor Victorian Wretch.
I am exasperated with technology and even more exasperated by everyone's insistence that we become ever more technologised.
While on the train yesterday, I rewrote a blog posting twice because Blogger insisted it couldn't publish it. Much to my horror, it had indeed published every draft, which I then hurriedly tried to delete. My phone remembered every keystroke that I made (it usually ignores everything until I stroke the screen the right way, the pervy little git).
So I lost the whole lot.
I'm so glad that I don't do Internet banking because I have ignored every urgent request to just click on this link that will allow mysterious overseas criminals to totally erase the hard disk on my computer. The Universities, however, are another matter. Stung by last year's student criticism that I was ignoring their emails, I contacted the IT Professor at one university, who cheerily informed me that I now had two email accounts, one of which I didn't know about, and that's the one the students had been writing to.
If this is intelligent management, I'm a flea's cough.
Wow- I'm in a thunderous mood this evening!


I asked Offsprog Two if she would like to go to the pantomime at Hackney Empire again this year.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Arrgh Moments

I've had a few this week, and I literally spat out the words 'For fxxx sake', at maximum volume in the bogs at work yesterday. I am normally such a polite person. It wasn't anything to do with work, and I'm in the realms of confidentiality here but  it was when someone nearly blew a chance big-time and sent me a text telling me so at one of my more vulnerable moments- you know, in the bogs at work.

Home has shrunk immeasurably too; there are masses of boxes and more to come.
I said goodbye to the Duplo this week. I have been sentimentally attached to it ever since the girls were tiny. I remember looking at my nephew's Duplo before Offsprog One was born and thinking 'I want some of that'. I imagined life in the old people's home, sitting building coloured houses for baby tigers to live in out of big, chunky yellow and red plastic blocks. I was mourning the Duplo baby tigers on the tube home from work today.
Then I got  a grip. Offsprog One persuaded me that it would be better to give it to the hospital and I phoned the children's ward. She took the whole plastic sackful up there and said that they were delighted to receive it; so now we can think of poorly children making the tiger-houses and enjoying the Duplo just as much as we did.
I've still got the Lego though!

Meanwhile, the house is gently falling to bits. Nobody wants to come to repair little houses. All the workmen round here have grand fishes to fry. Draughts whistle round our ears and the house trembles when you sneeze. Almost.

In a few weeks those boxes will have been unpacked, edited (two bags of our stuff have already gone to charity shops and there is more to go), and we should, I hope, have settled into some sort of routine. Funny that we both go off to rehearsals (as I call them) or band practice (as she calls them).
Next gig is in Huddersfield supporting Martin: details on the Reverbnation page just up there. 
I hope to be doing some recording with him soon- as producer as well as guitarist.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Rehearsing with Helen and the Horns

We had a good Helen and the Horns rehearsal last night and we did manage to nail Happy Ending and Twice Brewed; and Secret Love, and it looks like we'll be playing Pioneer Town too. Stephen Joy is an excellent trumpet player and he brought along his new custom-made flugelhorn, which looks as though it's made of copper with brass fittings.
There's something very Thomas Heatherwick about it (I'm thinking Steampunk, not neo-Routemasters) and it closely resembles a Steampunk USB that I sent off for about a year ago, except it hasn't got a little flashing red light on it; or if it has, I didn't see it. And of course, it's much bigger.
The blend of the players, Paul Davey on sax and Dave Jago on trombone, both original Horns, was absolutely superb in the section parts. I wonder if we sounded this good back in the day?
We will be playing for a full hour at the Lexington on 8th December. I will have to do a lot of practising with The Green Goddess because she's so different to play from the Telecaster; the neck is skinnier and a bit shorter, the frets are more prominent and she's so very big. But she is still an amazing beast.
Thanks to the three guys for a really great (and tiring) evening.
From the Jazz Caff a couple of years ago, with Martin:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


I've spent part of the day transcribing lyrics and chords for Happy Ending and Twice Brewed for our rehearsal tonight. The Green Goddess is coming with me and she is stretching her wings as we speak.
This makes a change from writing lectures and editing sound clips, although I was proud of the lecture I did yesterday. I have some of Mark Cunningham's audio clips (he wrote the book Good Vibrations about the history of record production) from when I invited him to talk to students at the University of the West years ago, in the days when there were plentiful budgets for such invitations and plenty of people to fulfil them.
A producer who shall remain nameless sneeringly told me he didn't get out of bed for less than 400 quid when I tried to book him two years ago. What a greedy man.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Rutland Arms on Saturday Night

Even at 7.30 it was pretty packed- there were Mike and June and Laura and their neighbour from down the street; it was a lovely surprise to see them. And there was Peter Knight and his folks- probably about 8 years since I've seen him!
Some of us sloped off for a quiet bite to eat and inadvertently missed Seven Tors- who apparently were brilliant. When we got back, it was standing-outside-the-door-room only but I did catch the lovely songs and harmonies of Robberie, and also clocked the perfectly silent audience which was a good sign. Mark from MyLittle Owl was welcoming, and said his partner Vinnie was ill and could not be there. He did a good job of hosting though, and we sat down in the seats June had baggsied for us to watch MJ Hibbett, who was very, very funny. Mike and June's neighbour was guffawing (or maybe neighing, come to think of it, given the fact that he's a neighbour). MJ had a lot of singalong songs and everyone clearly knew the choruses. While laughing, my heart started sinking as I imagined playing to only two people because everyone had come to see him and was going to head home after he'd played. It wasn't like that though- he himself sat in the front row and everyone stayed. My voice didn't run out for an hour and Martin joined me for the latter half of the set. I started off with Temptation, which I haven't played for about a year, and then mingled new and old: 24 Hours, the folky acoustic version; Let's Make Up, in which I simultaneously pretend to be twenty-two and also a whole band; Heaven Avenue complete with pre-apology; Freight Train and a whole lot more. I loved it, it was so friendly and the misgivings I'd had about singing without a microphone vanished pretty quickly. Afterwards, there was a lot of chatting; one of the promoter's friends was starting up a vinyl record store and he bought lots of 7" singles. Peter's Mum bought him some CDs to cheer him up because he's been ill; a couple of people (including Mark the promoter) bought albums. Martin did a great job of accompanying the set and we did an encore of Loverman at high speed (it was the relief, I think!).
And something I found utterly charming: the DJ had vinyl decks which consisted of two Dansettes next to each other on the little bar. He played Jonathan Richman and all sorts of things. I took a picture but it's a bit fuzzy. I just thought it was such a great idea!
And now I've been writing tomorrow's lecture on the history of record production, which has involved editing the original Mellotron demos and some out-takes from Good Vibrations. It took ages and I'm very tired but fingers crossed it will all have worked- I've got some other ace stuff like Youtube footage of Les Paul demonstrating overdubbing.
It has been a lovely weekend.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


I used to draw the Beverly Sisters a lot when I was about six, and I also drew triplets a lot too. There were usually three of what I drew; I don't know why.
McMum also had a picture I did titled 'Little Girl Crying Because She Doesn't Want Her Hair Cut', which says a lot really.
I was telling the girls yesterday that I used to want to be a Coal Man because then I thought I would be allowed to have a dirty face all the time and I'd never have to wash it. That, to me, was the epitome of bliss.
And the noise the coal made when he tipped it into the coal-hole! Magnificent.


BTW, not a lot of long postings at the moment- I'm exhausted and surviving on mainly chocolate and coffee with the occasional banana thrown in. Looking forward to hooking up with Martin, and the Rutland Arms in Sheffield on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the little living room is bursting with Offsprog One's belongings. Just off to try to clear a bit of space upstairs...


Hah! I was in an infernal telephone queue listening to infernal telephone queue music and I decided to fire up my own, which makes a passable substitute although I say so myself:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Brighton Bounce

What a beautiful sunny day! I clambered into crapsy-car and shot round the M25 to Brighton to pick Offsprog One and her belongings up.
Woe. The indicators stopped working and I had to pray for no right turns as I got lost not only in Brighton's heinous one-way system, but also in two lots of closed-road diversions signalled by infuriatingly cheerful yellow signs.
On my fifteenth circuit, I stopped and fired up the iPhone satnav which decided to work for once in a miracle.
Unforchly, my car was pointing in the wrong direction and I was looking at circuit number 16. So I did a 3-point turn which would have been OK if I had not stopped at point one to face a scowling harridan of a cyclist dressed in cutie-pie Brighton chic.
Terrified, I backed into the parking ticket machine and smashed my back tail light covers. The customers in the cafe behind me had their hands over their mouths, eyes popping with horror.
Wimps. I drove off proudly.
Indicators now miraculously working (could it have been the near-death experience?), I managed to pull up outside her house and we loaded up to the gunn'l's.
We met Offsprog Two for lunch in a pub, bouncing off near-argument subjects like steel balls in a pinball machine.
And now we are back here in north London.
The kitchen floor is covered in boxes and we are planning a book case in an unfeasible place. I sold a roll of carpet at a snip on eBay to make space; there is more stuff to go as we shrink to fit into a small space. Luckily both of us will be quite busy at work and so on. We just have to make sure that there is always milk and that the bath is always clean.
That's all.

Monday, November 11, 2013


Sometimes I get asked to peer-review book proposals and also academic paper proposals. It is interesting because then I get the chance to look at breaking research- the books of the future.
Sometimes, it's like internships- you don't get paid; but then people peer-review your own stuff, so it's a gentlewoman's agreement in a sense.
Today, however, I have booty- I have been paid in books!
A parcel arrived containing The Sound of Tomorrow: how electronic music was smuggled into the mainstream, by Mark Brend; Understanding Records: a field guide to recording practice by Jay Hodgson; and Undercurrents: the hidden wiring of modern music, by the Wire magazine.
These will lie alongside the trashy detective novels from the British Heart Foundation shop (currently Val McDairmid) and the half-consumed Trollopes, half-read Private Eyes and copious press cuttings until I have completely digested everything and become

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Little Ship Club, Maldon

Maldon is a lovely little town clustered around the coast in Essex; it's a bit like a mini-Whitstable, except slightly more wiggly in terms of main street.
We were late, having tried to avoid rush hour traffic with an app that sent us in the wrong direction up the M11 and then abandoned us for a while. But Stephen Foster Pilkington is genial and greeted us with a grin.
What a sweet little place it was: shades of scout hut but a bit more glamorous upstairs than downstairs- black beams stretched across the eaves and embroidered flags hung from the ceiling, probably saying something earnest in boat language. Katy was doing the door, looking splendid in a red dress.
Red chairs stood in lines watching us as we sound checked. Soon, they were full of people and we were ready to begin. I'd had a long hard day at work and Martin had had a long hard day travelling, but Stephen cured that as soon as he hit the stage. Within seconds we were all doing his singing exercises with him and listening to his punky cover version of 'Ive Been Everywhere (Man)'.
Katy joined him for one song from the back of the room; she is a trained opera singer with an incredible soprano voice. What a treat!
After I'd played, Martin got up and did a lovely set that blended old and new songs and some virtuoso playing. Stephen joined him on fiddle for some oldtiminess, scraping away with aplomb, then Marin invited me up to play Freight Train.
Afterwards, a woman told me she'd been in tears when Martin played 'Home'. It was one of those nights that was hilarious fun one minute and emotional the next and it had a cathartic effect. No more work issues buzzing around in my head, just a bar if chocolate on the way home in the car on a traffic-free motorway.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Maldon Little Ship Club

It's here
Stephen Foster Pilkington is a very funny and talented musician; and the wonderful Martin Stephenson will be playing. And me.
Friday 8th November
Tickets here
I was making the students laugh today telling them about when I left the University of the West and I was told by one of the technicians that I was famous for my dyslexic emails. I hadn't realised.
The reason I'm saying this is that I occasionally notice the ridiculous spellings that I put into my blog posts and correct them. the rest of the time I don't even notice.
I also earn considerably less than most of the graduates that I've taught. In fact, I would probably be rather a disappointment to myself if, I wasn't fundamentally happy.
Perhaps knowing one's limitations is quite a good thing.


I'm at work early this morning, wearing a groove into my chair before I start lecturing.
I have been asked to donate a track. Monday's Mood, to a CD in support of mental health charities; more news to come about that shortly. I am just about to write and say 'yes'.
Later, I'll head to Docklands and pick up my mail (3 hour lecture to do first) and then head home to write tomorrow's lecture; the history of recording, from a technological determinist perspective.
It is as they say, all go.
Tomorrow evening I will be supporting Martin and Stephen Foster-Pilkington at Maldon  Boat Club (at least I think that's what it's called- I must check- details here
And I'm looking forward to it!

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Dr McCookerybook

She is working very hard at the moment. The University of the East has moved and everything is being refreshed and revisited and it's taking a lot of time and effort.
Her back is aching this afternoon. She is alos making space in Offsprog Two's bedroom so Offsprog One can move in, and everything keeps falling over and landing on her toes. Ouch.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013


I've just taken two guitars to the guitar hospital. One came from a market stall in Durham and the other from the North London Hospice shop in Barnet.
Both are looking old and tired but with a little TLC they might be rejuvenated. There is a dull bloom on the varnish of both that won't come off with lemon oil, and lots of dings, but I don't mind those. I have rather a lot of those myself, actually.

Monday, November 04, 2013

I'm Sitting Here.....

Yes I was, waiting for a student who didn't turn up for their tutorial. Hour-and-a-half to get there, hour-and-a-half to get back. And now I have been sitting at home marking and feeling quite cheerful, as the students whose work I'm looking at have worked hard on their assessment work.
Now to organise some rehearsal for the helen and the Horns launch. the CD has gone off to be manufactured. It's actually happening!