Friday, January 31, 2014

The Tock's Tickin'

I can't bear it!
I can't bear it!
I can't bear it!
Ten more minutes to go and if the Admin people don't send me a template, my weekend won't be ruined.
Holding my breath...

Pussy Riot and Topshopification

Seen any 8-year-old girls running around in coloured full-face masks? Me neither.
Seen any children with Pussy Riot slogans on their t-shirt? Thought not.
That's what proper subversion looks like; just too awkward and damn dangerous to be commercialised.
Back in the day when punk people were toying about with swastikas and sex-garb, it was not only too close for comfort, but also too close to what creepy people felt to be titillating anyway, wasn't it?
I got fed up of being groped by dirty old men and welcomed my boiler suit with open arms; I suddenly understood why Andy Pandy had been my hero and Barbie had not.
It seemed like nanoseconds after the first safety pin was noted on a King's Road punk that Miss Selfridge and Top Shop were displaying 'safety pin' ear-rings so young teenagers could play punk games.
Because music was so embedded in the subculture, as soon as the record labels saw audiences reaching critical mass, they popped up with wads of cash and bought as many bands as possible. In a recession, who can blame the bands for taking the money and running? The No Future slogan was for real for our generation.
I felt hugely heartened by the Pussy Riot collective, for so many reasons. The anonymity, the sheer bravery, the appeal to young people ('girls like us' rebelling, not crusty old grumpy artist-men). The fact that they have come out of jail all the more determined to campaign for justice and not crushed into submission. The fact that they were really scary to people who think girls are there for decoration, and they removed their faces from the picture show to disrupt that.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Aggressive Umbrella

Dear businessman with a huge stripy golf umbrella (!)
Please don't walk through the station with it held out in front of you, ferrule to the forefront.
You nearly impaled me this morning!

Homage to Pete Seeger

I will be re-learning Where Have All The Flowers Gone as a tribute to Pete Seeger for the gig on Monday evening, which I first played at the tender age of 14.
There is a great support that night- Scott McDonald.
See you there!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


I'm reading about the Important Person who is on trial for groping. They are apparently claiming that it's 'insane' to claim that they groped someone of Top of the Pops.
They did this to someone else, so insanity appears in this case to me to be remarkably sane.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Foakies, Edinburgh, Monday 3rd Feb

Mark Barnett is looking for local singer/songwriters and poets to do the support at this gig. It's unplugged and I will be on later.
You can contact him at

Saturday, January 25, 2014


Oh what a welcome respite from typing the little purple bobbly fellas are! I'm foraging through books: Zak Furness' Punkademics, Ian Glasper's The Day the Country Died, Jon Savage's England's Dreaming, Neil Nehring's Popular Music, Gender and Postmodernism, George McKay's Senseless Acts of Beauty, Dave Laing's One Chord Wonders.
Now for a cup of tea and a search through Mavis Bayton's Frock Rock for something I'm sure she said- although it could be Sheila Rowbotham and if it was her, I'm sunk, because I haven't got her book.


To a duetting soundtrack of next door's dog barking hysterically and the washing machine grumbling dutifully, I'm writing again this morning.
The pressure is on. I have a PHD resubmission to mark, External Examining materials to read and... oh yes, a social event to go to this avo!
I have found someone to help with transcriptions for the next bit of research in the pipeline, which I hope will become energised early this year as I have been working on it now since the end of 2010.
At 11.30, I'm stopping and picking up my guitar. My fingers and my heart will be most grateful for the respite!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Night-time Tale

I've been writing tonight, editing, including, substituting, thesauring.
I do want to tell you this before I clock off.
Martin's just phoned and he was chatting about Freddie 'Fingers' Lee, the Geordie piano player who died recently. Freddie invited Martin for an audience in his dressing-room at a gig in Houghton-le-Spring and asked him what he thought of The Cure.
'Cannat stand them', said Lee. He took a catapult out of his bag. 'Arrogant f*ckers!'
Apparently he'd supported them at a festival and they were really rude and dismissive of him, so when they got on stage afterwards he'd hidden behind the bass stack and pelted them with little ball-bearings to get his revenge. They didn't know what had hit them, quite literally.
The image of a grown man gleefully catapulting The Cure made me laugh out loud.

Today's Listening

Today's listening couldn't be more different: Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings.
But I'm still reading a book on anarcho-punk.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Crass, P*nis Envy

As part of writing, I'm also listening (it's always a good idea).
I was always put off by Crass a bit, back in the day- I can't even remember why.
But I've been listening to the album P*nis Envy, and thoroughly enjoying it. Yes, the vocals more than nod in the direction of Poly and Siouxsie, but that was the sound of the time and the genre and seen from this point in time, they are another take on the same sound that works very successfully especially with the bitter sometimes spoken-word lyrics.
The drumming's great: furious and fast; and what I really enjoyed was the psychedelic guitar sound, which is very unusual for punk records. I am going to listen to it again tomorrow, so long as it doesn't stop me from writing.

This afternoon I went to do a couple of hours' recording at work. There's an amazing valve interface that made my guitar sound wonderful and it was interesting playing about with harmonies. It's too busy there to do any serious recording though, and I have got a feeling that my kitchen studio is going to be where it's at!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Brighton Gig with The Nightingales and Ted Chippington

Facebook event here
I'm really looking forward to it- I love the Prince Albert, love the Nightingales.... it's gonna be a stunna!
And the song French Footsteps is there, to your right.... It never got released and it's a slightly different version to the one of the CD (which is coming out very soon!)
If you want more instant updates I've got a Twitter account. I am @mccookerybook and probably don't use it as much as this, but every so often I have a spontaneous burst of twittering and post twittersongs up there.
More stuff to come.
I've spent the afternoon writing about Feminism and Anarcho-Punk but the printer has let me down again so I've given up- I wanted to read what I'd written so far on paper instead of on a screen.
Frustrating. But there's nothing on telly tonight so I'm dusting off my pen... fingers... keyboard (?) to do a bit more before the candle gutters out.

Saturday, January 18, 2014


Next door bought a dog. These are tiny houses and not really pet friendly, but that's really their business.
What they don't realise is that whenever they go out (which they seem to do a lot) the dog barks, barks, barks and howls (multiple variations of the howl) for hours at a time. I work at home a lot and I am feeling very sorry for the dog, and sometimes pretty grumpy, especially when the dog in the house on the other side starts howling. The dog on one side is an alto and the dog on the other is a soprano.
The owners of the first dog will get rid of their dog soon, which is another reason why I feel sorry for it. I think they only got it because that's what people do.
The others? Well, it's a thicker wall, I think, or maybe the dog is smaller and older. There's a tremble to it's howl, a desolate wail at its heart rather than the assertive multi-timbral experimentations of the new doggie.
Now I am becoming an expert in howling and I shall shortly be writing an academic paper on the subject, mark my words.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Every Single One Of...

.... London's 8-million population was on my northbound Northern Line tube train this evening.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Every so often, I enjoy a romp through my spam folder. A while ago, I was talking to a gay male friend who got lots of offers of breast surgery. At the time, I was being bombarded with Viagra ads.
We decided that they'd got us mixed up.
At the moment, it's people masquerading as banks that I don't even use trying to con me out of my bank details. I don't use internet banking partly because when I worked for a spell in a Business Resource Centre, I read all the banking mags (yes, I was very bored) which were full of stories about the banks refusal to report the massive scale of fraud to the authorities, because they thought the public would lose confidence in their security systems. That was in a pre-internet era but I can only imagine that it's even worse now.
I am also being offered a lot of tax refunds and I appear to be the Dear Friend of rather a lot of African princesses.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Music and More

The see-saw of life keeps moving up, down...
Martin has recorded a song I wrote for a Theatre Group way back in the 1980s. It was for a version of The Beggar's Opera, (the original inspiration for Brecht and Weill's Threepenny Opera) a play originally written by John Gay that featured street songs with new lyrics. Brecht and Weill's songs have been recorded by all sorts of people- notably Louis Armstrong in this case, who recorded a swing version of Mack the Knife. But we started from scratch, using one or two of John Gay's streetwise lyrics but adding some new material of our own.
Dave Jago (the Helen and the Horns trombone player) and myself shared out the extra songs and we both wrote new songs for different characters in the play. This song was originally titled I'm in Love for the First Time and was sung by the actor who played Polly Peachum to the actor who played Mack the Knife, and played by our peculiar cobbled-together orchestra that featured some of the Horns, Dubula (from Dub Colossus) and Hammy Lee (from Transglobal Underground). No microphones either- just loud voices and lots of feeling!
The song came to life again in 1990 when I was unexpectedly invited to go to Berlin and given some free recording time and a gig at The Loft. I didn't have many new songs to record so I did an arrangement for this one, by converting the backing vocals that the Theatre Group sang into sax parts; later still, it made its first appearance on a CD, Helen and the Horns Etc, that was released on Near Shore Records. It bounces about a bit, I think; it bounced into Martin's ears and this is his lovely version!

Back to the Fray

It's been a busy sort of rest this Christmas with some great fun gigs, and some perspiration-inducing marking sessions with more to come. Being an academic reminds me of the way that caterpillars move: scrunched up to breaking point at regular intervals followed by a stretch and a spread. At the points where I'm up at six and marking by seven with a ten-hour session ahead, I feel like giving up; but then the sheer variety will kick in and I'm speeding ahead having a great time and feeling bloody useful too.
Everything constantly changes and seemingly momentous issues hang on a whisker.
Anyway, over and out for now.
(mis-written as over and pout; do you think I'm in for a glamorous 2014?)

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Gig Alert

Rrrants at The Camden Head tomorrow night- starts 7.30.
Martin will be joining me for some songs- and the other acts are always fabulous!

Some Music Reviews

I have been meaning to review these CDs for some time but I haven't had a gap to properly listen; today is a catch-up day and in between bouts of moving rubbish from one side of the house to the other ('tidying up'), I have been listening intently.

Snezhina Duevska heads the band No Frames, three women and a man who make powerful, sometimes punky, sometimes rocky and at other times surprisingly delicate music. I have heard Snezhina performing some of these tracks live and it's testament to her songwriting that the songs work just as well as solo performances as they do fully realised with a band. This CD, Positive Manipulation,   demonstrates a very wide dynamic range of moods, all held together by her extremely powerful and dramatic voice. there is nothing false about Snezhina's singing style; forget the Britney sub-gospel purring or faux-naif girly-voices. She gives it all she's got and this album blew the dust out of crevices in my mind that I didn't even realise were there. Best tracks are Trannie and Waterfall, which are both good to hear live as well, and the opening track, A Dreamer in Tuscany.

Next is the preview copy that Zillah gave me of Rubella Ballet's forthcoming album, Planet Punk. This is a fast and furious album that thunders angrily out of the speakers, articulating anger and disappointment in equal measures through layers of speech, guitars, samples (including football crowds), and both Zillah and Sid singing and chanting. It is the sort of album that warrants multiple listening to really get into the sounds and the messages and sonically it takes the language of the earliest of punk and updates it with the contemporary feel of 'now', almost a diary of the concerns and issues of people who still have that apparently rarest of attributes, a conscience.
I allowed myself to be carried along by the songs, which are well-crafted and refreshingly direct. The sound crystallised out and the sense of the whole album became remarkably effective; I realised that I haven't listened to music like this for a long time. So what were the stand out tracks? My copy has no track listing, so I'm guessing theses titles: Information Terrorist, Estimated Lifespan and Such a Wonderful Life had a strong impact on first and second listening, but the album is best taken as a whole.

Friday, January 03, 2014

From the Summer. Martin Stephenson & The Daintees - The Airship Song - Songs From The Shed

Urban Walking

On New Year's Eve, I braved the gloomy rainscape to walk from Waterloo to Euston. Originally the intention had been to walk along the South Bank, but for some reason I changed tack and crossed the footbridge, peering over the edge at the skateboard graveyard that clutters one of the plinths, complete with a pair of Converse saucily draped by its laces over a support-wire.
From ther, I strolled up through Covent Garden and admired the topiary Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer with its lit-up lightbulb nose and scores of families photographing each other in front of it; up through Neal Street and its ever-changing shops, through Denmark Street for a gaze at the juicy and tempting guitars, and thence to Foyles where I bought a trashy novel and sat for a while in the cafe being glared at by young middle-class laptopsters who wanted my seat. Funny how snobbishness has come back into fashion, disguised as 'cool'. When I'm the target, I remain unmoved in the certain knowledge that a large proportion of them would not have dared to have the sort of life that I've had, and would probably run a million miles from real live and proper punk.
Oops...  perilously close to a rant there! I've asked Martin to be on rant alert and warn me whenever I start to blast away on one on the phone, because recently I have noticed that ranting becomes more common the older one gets. I can't not get old, but I can decide not to become a pub bore (a non-pub pub bore who rarely goes to pubs).
So, after the caff, I walked up Tottenham Court Road, which was completely deserted for the time of year, and detoured into Paperchase, which has disappointingly lost its quirky department on the top floor that looked like an art college store. There had been stacks of peculiar fabric and all kinds of odd things but it's gone ordinary. Gone suburban.... gone coalition.
On to Euston, by now thronging with young people with suitcases and bedding rolls who must have been heading to see the New Year in with friends or relatives, and who were obviously very excited. 'Just wait till tomorrow morning', I thought nastily, remembering many hangovers in the past.

On New Year's Day, I spent ten hours marking. This wasn't the original intention, but it just took a very long time. I started at 9 and ended at 8.30 with a few short breaks, and I spent much of yesterday marking too. So today I am going to brave this afternoon's impending storm and take another urban stroll. It's a wonderful hobby, because you see so much that you don't see when you are focused on a destination rather than the experience of the walk itself. There are layers of experience to unravel: the number of times you may have passed down a certain street as a different person at a different time of your life. You realise just how temporary everything is, and that the moment belongs to you and you alone. You get a perspective on history and buildings and the way people regard themselves as important because they own things; the concept of dynasty becomes ridiculous and the quantity of rubbish, appalling.
You also get rosy cheeks.