Friday, December 30, 2016


Just before Christmas there was a screening of the film about The Dollymixture, Take Three Girls plus the Arena documentary on X-Ray Spex, at The Regent Street Cinema.
I hadn't seen the Dollymixture film and Rachel invited me along. It's such a good film; it brought a lot back about how you can accidentally end up in a band, and then become completely serious about what you're doing. Then how much it hurts when you realise people are just looking at you and thinking about ways to exploit you.
They wrote really good songs together, and it was intriguing to hear that they had written songs for Lena Zavaroni. I loved the travel stories- the old banger they drove round in, their eventual van, their loyal roadie. It's all told by the three of them in turn; what's amazing is the amount of archive footage there is of them rehearsing and so on. Spots, stripes, guitars, cigarettes, mixing desks and the studio couch, that rare breed of furniture covered in smelly, sticky rough canvas in a putrid shade of griege.
Afterwards there was a Q & A and I was touched by the namecheck (and one for June Miles Kingston too), as being rare friendly female artists. I remember being so pleased whenever The Chefs got to gig with them, because they were girls and I was one as well. When we got offered a residency at the Moonlight Club in West Hampstead I asked for them to be our support band because I liked their songs and I liked them as people, too. Sometimes, we were their support band. No egos at play.
I think they were greatly underestimated not just musically but also because of their approach; they really knew what they wanted, but the infrastructure simply wasn't in place to get them there. The music industry was too old-fashioned to cope with such complex and talented women.
Both The Dollymixture and The Chefs did covers of the Velvet Underground's Femme Fatale, both very differently.
Which reminds me: have you  bought this fundraising track yet? It's not too late!

Afterwards the Arena documentary was shown, introduced by (I think) its producer who bigged up Alan Yentob as a person who elevated popular culture by drawing it to Arena's attention.
The documentary made me feel sad, partly because of the loss of Poly and her smile and her independence, but also because it doesn't portray the truth of what Falcon Stuart, her then manager/boyfriend, was doing or was about to do. I loved the scenes of her running through her song alongside the passive-aggressive communication between the sax player and the guitarist: one of those wars between 'the dots' and 'the feel' that are familiar to so many musicians.
It was an intensely moving but satisfying evening partly because of the sense of a whole bunch of us living parallel lives with such similar experiences; there were a lot of familiar faces there too, still alive and still kicking ass.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Highgate Cemetery

It's my birthday tomorrow and Offsprog One took me to Highgate Cemetery to celebrate.
We walked up from Highgate tube station, past the village and past a distant scrum of people and a TV crew. We realised that we were walking past George Michael's house and the mourners that had gathered to pay their respects.
The cemetery was beautiful; the winter sun illuminated the trees, the ivy and the gravestones.
On the way back, a young girl asked us the way to the tube station. 'I have come from Denmark to visit George Michael's house', she told us.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Light Flight by Pentangle

Christmas Queen

Funny to have put together a scratch choir recently (more news to come in the New Year) ten years after doing the same for this track, which was recorded when I was in a similar frame of mind. Choirs are good therapy.
Sometimes I think it would be fun to orchestrate this properly at some point. I have the Logic files on a hard drive somewhere.
That's enough technical drivel. Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Just About As Animal As It Gets In The West End

It was foggy when the train went underground, but sparkling sunshine when I arrived.
These pics were taken on the annual walk through the posh bits of London that never change, because rich people always have things the same, don't they?
I particularly liked the animated puffins, or Tommy Noddies as they are called in Northumberland. There were meerkats too but the photographs didn't come out very well.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Carols with Champagne Friend

Except we don't drink any more. What a lovely thing to do- at Lower Marsh near Waterloo there was a double decker bus parked up with a brass band on the top deck. On the street, there were assorted choirs- a small theatre choir and the London Transport Choir in red scarves, amongst others.
The MC, Harvey from Harvey and the Wallbangers, did a roll call from up top.
Tenors? A collective of tenors piped up 'Yes', in tenor voices.
Basses? 'Yes!' boomed the basses in unison.
Altos? 'Yes', warbled the altos.
Sopranos? 'Yes', chirruped the sopranos.
There were about 300 motley people stretched down the street in between the choirs, including a lot of children, Jenny Jones the Green politician, and the Vicar of St John's who was in fine voice.
We roared our way through a photocopied carol leaflet- the haunting Holly and the Ivy, a beautiful Once In Royal David's City, an anarchic wassail song that wasn't in the leaflet, the poetic In The Bleak Midwinter.
It was cold but really fun and we sang our hearts out. I've lost my voice.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Other Songs

If you've bought the Femme Fatale EP, some of the songs were missing- I'll be in touch this week so I can let you know how to get hold of them. Bandcamp problem!

Saturday, December 17, 2016


I went to do a bit of shopping this afternoon, and stopped off at Poppies Fish and Chip shop in the east end for a poor sad fish dinner for one.
Rufus Sewell walked in and I blushed so deeply that I fused all the lights in the building.
He walked out again and I don't blame him.
On a more practical note, I made a raspberry cake yesterday by scraping the ingredients off the pages of the cookery book and just adding raspberries. Nine-tenths of it has been eaten already.

A Flowery Few Days

Why flowery? It's a better way of saying varied than varied, I suppose...
On Thursday evening after work I hopped on a train to Nottingham to play at the Bras Not Bombs event that was being held upstairs at Rough Trade Nottingham. Caroline Kerr does a fantastic job- fashion firms donate surplus underwear, and the pieces that are not suitable for giving to refugees are sold on and the money raised used to purchase more appropriate underwear.
I'd heard about her work in Hereford from Richard Wild Hare, and the poet Kate Doody was going to be there too and I like her stuff. It was a really warm-hearted affair that could have done with a bit more public support- but punters did come along and buy things and there will be more- so I'll let you know were and when.
The following morning I was so knackered that I uploaded the Femme Fatale tracks from the comfort of my bed. Thank God for laptops! It is now on sale (see links in previous postings) and we have managed to sell a few already. I might even try to play it tomorrow at the Green Door Store in Brighton.
Yesterday evening, it was the Works Do at the University of the East and I headed down wearing my telecaster on my back like a tortoise wears a shell. There was a selection of performances from dance staff and students, and music from the music students. I loved the Persian music duo- what a wonderful couple of songs, one played on the dulcimer. And what singing!
Students drifted in and out; there were dance-offs and then a grime section with deep down booming tracks and rapid-fire spitting. Well, that was the act before me. As I set up my guitar, a student whipped across the room. 'How you gonna follow that?', he challenged.
'By following it', was the only thing I could think of to say. Thankfully the grime gang hung around and Jono got me a great sound. It must be be first time ever that I've been sung along to by rappers but it was an absolute hoot. Thank you guys for being such good sports and understanding that music is music, and when it's sung from the heart it doesn't matter what genre you're living in, it's the doing of it that is important. I think that counts as one of the year's most healing experiences and I went home with a great big grin on my face. Heaven Avenue to you too!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Link To Buy Femme Fatale

Video for Femme Fatale

Here's the video! I'm uploading the EP to Bandcamp right now and it will be available from 12.00 today.
All profits go to Refugee Action. Please buy one and support this essential charity- and listen to some great music at the same time!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Bras Not Bombs: Rough Trade Nottingham, Thursday

This event starts at 7.30 and it's free. Please bring unused underwear to donate to the charity Bras Not Bombs so that refugee people can have some dignity. If you're around, it's free to get in:

Christmas Single Release on Friday

Press release:
It's a collaboration with the wonderful Helen McCookerybook. Here's what the Breaking Down press office has to say about it:
"One of the first records that Tim Rippington, lead singer with The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy, bought back in 1982 was by a band called Skat. It was a cover version of Femme Fatale by the Velvet Underground and Tim fell in love with it immediately. In fact he’d never heard of the VU, and thought for several years after that the song was an original.
Fast forward to 2016 and Helen McCookerybook, former singer with said band Skat, and now a lecturer on all things relating to Women in Punk, set up her merchandise stall at the Indietracks festival in Derbyshire next to the Tippers. Tim and Helen got to meet for the first time and Tim explained how he had been a big fan ever since that Skat single.
Six month later and Tim was pondering a Christmas single with the Tippers when he hit upon the idea of re-recording Femme Fatale with Helen doing the lead vocal. Helen jumped at the chance and the recording was quickly arranged, along with a video shoot where the two artists re-created Andy Warhol’s Factory in the basement of a Vegetarian Café in Bristol.
Two mixes of Femme Fatale were put together, a “straight” version for radio and a more controversial version featuring voice-overs from some of 2016’s political big-hitters, spouting anti-immigration rhetoric, along with news broadcasts describing the ongoing refugee crisis facing the world. 
It is a subject that both artists feel strongly about and they agreed that any funds raised from the sale of the single will go to Refugee Action, the charity which works to re-settle refugees from war-torn areas in the UK.
Along with Femme Fatale, a B-side “Maybe Next Year” was also recorded, a commentary on the grim state of the world in 2016 but with a hint of hope for the future. Who knows, perhaps this will be the first of many collaborations?"

Two Contrasting Books

I've never been able to work out whether being involved in making music has saved my life or ruined it. You certainly see the underbelly the longer you hang around.
I have been reading John Seabrook's The Song Machine: inside the hit factory because I run a song writing part of the music courses at the University of the East. What a depressing book. Fordism has hit (sic) the music industry big time, and song writing has become even more fragmented than it was in the Motown years, when a song would be started in Detroit and finished in Los Angeles with the session musicians never knowing who would be singing on the end product. The ghost vocalists have always been there (the older women with stronger voices who dub the tracks for the starlets to mime to), but every tiny morsel of song is now worked on by an expert in that sort of morsel. The process has been deconstructed and reconstructed to maximise revenue and control, with hip hop tracks débuted in strip bars and quality measured in millions of dollars.
On the other side of the world is Everett True's The Electrical Storm: grunge, my part in its downfall. Exquisitely illustrated, this is a book that can be read from the beginning, the middle or the end, and which documents a journey from the edges into the middle of grunge and back out again. Successful bands are here, behaving badly, just like the unsuccessful ones. Everett travels through their lives, sharing their ups and downs and creating his own pathway through the mess at the margins of the music industry. It's a downbeat, yet fascinating book to read. I read it cover to cover in one sitting. Beginning, middle end? A spiral.
I haven't been able to finish the other one.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Amy's Lounge, Monday

Amy's Last Lounge Christmas Special is at The Water Rats on Monday from 7.30.
I'll be playing and singing some songs and also doing backing vocals for Amy; the Antipoet will be on and so will Jude Cowan, and more.


It's dreich outside. Cinnamon toast is the only option; later I'm taking a carload of furniture to Hackney for Offsprog Two.

The Golinski Brothers

Friday, December 09, 2016

My Teenage Crush: Yum Yum!

fRoots January Podcast

The track Pioneer Town from my Anarchy Skiffle album is included in Ian Anderson's January podcast for fRoots magazine here:
I've only got four CD copies left, but it's available to download here as an individual track or an album- and I'll get some more CDs made too.

Supporting The Golinski Brothers at The Prince Albert Tomorrow

I'm supporting the Golinski Brothers at The Prince Albert tomorrow, on stage 9 p.m. approximately.
Also at The Water Rats for Amy's Lounge on Monday night (Amy and Jude Cowan also playing), Nottingham Rough Trade for Bras not Bombs on Thursday, and Brighton again on Sunday 17th with Matt Finucane supporting I, Ludicrous.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Mike Flowers Pops At The 100 Club

It's always great to see a band when you know someone playing in it, and Karina Townsend plays sax with this super big band and so I had to go- especially since Lorraine Bowen was one of the support acts.
I missed Count Indigo because I had to change gear after work, but got there in time for Lorraine, whose songs are exquisitely crafted and funny in equal measure. I particularly like the skiing song that features members of the audience holding up a revolving backdrop made of sheets that was just slightly too small for comfort, which I'm almost sure was deliberate. And we had the Apple Crumble song that so taxed Simon Cowell. Lorraine was sparkly and very much clad in polyester, and was sung along with by the audience with great gusto.
MC for the night was Lenny Beige, also sparkly and with his side-parted unfeasibly black wig.
Excitedly, he introduced us to Mike's band, and finally Mike himself, wearing a suit and tie in Cadbury's Milk Tray colours and a giant sized Playmobil wig, stiff and unwielding and a very odd shade of porridge. This was the revenge of the nerds, a world of fixed smiles to compete with those of synchronised swimmers.
The audience was cool too: lots of nattily dressed chaps in titfers and accompanying ladies in slightly rockabillyish garb. I spotted Duggie Fields in the gloaming, too, but nobody had their nose in the air- it was an exceptionally friendly crowd.
At Aalborg we'd been saying 'Who would ever dare to do a cover of Say a Little Prayer'?' Well: Mike Flowers did, and Do You Know the Way to San José, during which one of the guitar strings had to be deftly twirled into tune, in time. 'Kurt Cobain often trashed that kind of guitar,' observed Mike, drily.
I would not like to be a guitar on the wrong side of Mike Flowers.
A David Bowie medley followed: Ashes to Ashes, Rebel Rebel and even Let's Spend the Night Together all morphed into each other, with not an insincere tear shed for their source. The cover of All Tomorrow's Parties was the primmest I've ever heard, probably best appreciated on a stereogram in a semi in Neasden. And of course Light My Fire was always an easy listening song, and listened even more easily with Mike's immaculately slick arrangements and the tight and yet swingsome playing of  the wonderful band. Everyone was great, and I was particularly taken by the Carmen-Roller-tunnels hairstyle of one of the women singers.
So we came to Candy Man. Aww..... By this time I was dancing like a loon. It must be five years since I've danced, and it was so great to dance with abandon, without care: arms, legs, head, bum, feet, all over the place just like everyone else. By the time we got to Candy Man, the whole experience had become oddly moving. No-one had any inhibitions left; yet this is innocent fun, despite the sophistication of the music.
'That was a feel good song', said Mike, 'And this is a feel even better song!'.
Beautiful Balloon! Arms aloft we all floated up into the sky like the Nimble balloon, into a nostalgic neverland while the Christmas decorations twinkled and the warmth of the venue charmed us into a world without cares and horror just for a tiny fragment of time.
What an amazing evening- such a nice surprise to be so charmed by cheese, and so lovely to listen to Karina play is such a gorgeously lush context.

Photos: Lorraine Bowen; Jono from work who was taking photos and who has been engineering my album; compere Lenny Beige; Mike Flowers; last but not least, the brass section.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

A Morning At The University Of the West

And this morning I did a songwriting workshop at the University of the West. Although we wrote a song, it seemed that we worked on the idea of creativity itself, and on not stopping yourself from having ideas by making up rules about what you are allowed to do and what you aren't.
Songs aren't statues that are chipped painstakingly from marble over weeks and weeks; they are in the air, and can be changed endlessly every time you revisit them. We watched and listened to ourselves making decisions, rolling back on them, adapting and shaping, drumming on a box to change rhythms and papering the floor with ideas.
That was good way to spend a morning.

Monday, December 05, 2016

An Afternoon At The University Of The East

It was cold outside. It was cold inside. We couldn't switch off the air conditioning, but our hearts were warmed by our visitor this afternoon.
Katy Carr told us about Polish resistance fighters, about the escape from Auschwitz in The Kommandant's Car, about Polish slaves in Siberia, about the Mexicans welcoming Polish refugees with flowers and cheers after their experience in US transit camps, and sang lovely songs with the uke, including the Polish Boy Scout's song that they sang quietly whenever it was safe in the forest where they were hiding. We listened to tracks from her albums; it was an afternoon of storytelling and songs and an emotional connection with other people seeking asylum in another era. We lost the walls around out feelings, and we shared yesterday's sorrow alongside today's music and lyrics.
What a year you've been, 2016.
I don't like you one bit and I am looking forward to you going away.

Edward Hopper In Copenhagen Train Station

Saturday, December 03, 2016

The 7.47 From Aalborg

I watch the flat land turn towards the dawn,
Pickled in grey frost.
Black bird shapes write frantic messages across the sky,
And skeletons of trees reach out their fingers for help.

Struggling and screaming
A new day is born.

Thursday, December 01, 2016


I've arrived but I couldn't work out the tap arrangement in the bathroom cubicle thing. I've just accidentally showered myself with my clothes on. I tried to stop it, but it squirted out even more water; the problem is that you turn the shower on with the sink taps. I'm sure it seemed like a great idea at the time to the architect.
I also feel really embarrassed because I realised that I only tipped the taxi driver 50 pence. I don't know the money here yet, and I was so busy apologising for the British invasion of Somalia that I didn't think it through. I will try to find him tomorrow (his taxi is more like a van so I might be able to) and give him more of a tip.
Not much of a travel adventure diary is it?
Aalborg does have beautiful Christmas lights though- just really, really simple but really, really twinkly.

Travelling Girl

I have been travelling since 8.15 this morning: walk, bus, train, bus, plane, walk, train, train....
In an hour and a half I will be in Aalborg in Denmark (I hope) ready for tomorrow's Art of Record Production Conference.
In the morning there will be a panel, with Katia Isakoff, Susan Schmidt Horning, Paula Woolf and me. In my bit I'll be showing a short and early version of Stories from the She-Punks and talking about recording and the women punk bands of the 1970s. In the afternoon, I will be presenting a paper on entrepreneurship and female producers, and listening to some very interesting people talking about their enthusiasms in great depth.
I'm not going to be at the whole conference and I'll miss Valgeir Sigurosson's keynote (he worked with Bjork), and also some other really interesting papers. I'd arranged to come home early to play a gig which I'm not playing now, but even part of the ARP conference is better than none at all and I'm bloody pleased to be going there. Thanks to the University of the East for paying for part of it, and to me for paying for the rest of it, and to my colleague Steve for covering my lecture today.
For now, I'm sitting in a good-natured scrum of noisy older Danish ladies who seem to have been shopping in Copenhagen, some rushing girls with plaits who hurry up and down the train carriage at regular intervals, and some serious gentlemen with all manner of trendy-looking backpacks.
Why am I blogging? Because I am too tired to do the work-on-the-train that I meant to do (how do people manage to do that?); I've read today's paper from cover to cover, read too much of the new Ian Rankin book (nearly 15 quid! I bought the giant version by accident); read the free copy of the Independent that I got at the airport; eaten a big fat cinnamon bun and drunk a cup of coffee; and I'm too afraid to go to sleep in case I  end up back in Copenhagen again after a four hour train journey in the other direction.
Danish people don't sound quite so like Geordies as Norwegians do, but they still have that twang.

Just got the fright of my life- the train is going back in the direction we came in, but the Danish ladies have explained that it goes in a circle. That doesn't quite make sense but I'm going to have to go with the flow- what else can I do?

Waiting For A Plane

I am at our airport, and you know how I feel.