Saturday, April 29, 2017

Ho Ho Ho

Following last week's Friday night out, I decided that Friday-night-outs are a Good Idea, and headed down to Scaledown.
I was astonished to realise that the King and Queen in Cleveland Street was the same King and Queen that is in Foley Street, and that I had thought that they were two identical pubs in different streets with very similar upstairses. You could have knocked me down with a feather, and I felt the same burning embarrassment as I usually do when I 'get' an advertisement or quirky shop name ten years after looking at it off the top deck of the bus to work every single day. The only consolation is that the last time I was there, I had a conversation with someone else who thought the same thing.
You could say that perhaps I'm using my brain for other things, but perhaps not.
Anyway- the last thing I expected was to be spending the evening crying with laughter into the Flying Scotsman scarf that I bought last week from York Rail Museum, and that has a high proportion of acrylic fibres and so won't absorb tears.
As I walked in, Matthew Caley was treating the audience to his poetry. I think they had been forbidden to applaud and between poems there was a surge of energy as people didn't clap that was quite intriguing. Matthew is not afraid to be intellectual, which was refreshing, and thankfully we were allowed to applaud at the end.
Pete Evans followed, singing amongst other songs a frankly terrifying song about jelly that made me wobble with fear. He had a great guitar sound and technique and I wished I was sitting closer so that I could steal his licks (nothing to do with jelly- sorry!).
Maybe I shouldn't confess to that, but having once carried a chord sequence in my head all the way through a noisy gig in Brixton, on the tube home and finally into the living room where I could work it out on my guitar, I think I'm probably fairly typical of a self-taught guitarist.
So Pete's songs are safe. And he was extremely entertaining.
After the refreshment break, Jude Cowan and Charlotte Keeffe performed Charlotte and Jude Have Kittens on cheap speaker'n'samples and microphone, and trumpet respectively. Jude wound wool around tables and audience members, and used feedback and speech to evoke kitten-ness in a sharp challenge to social media-fication of fluffiness, although she did mention milk a couple of times.
Next, Sex Cells moved on to the stage area and absorbed themselves in keyboards and speakers; their songs drifted into existence and they performed with their backs to the audience and kneeling on the floor, which I really liked. It was like watching two children play with a train set, although of course it wasn't like listening to that. They did proper songs and I tapped my feet accordingly. I hope to hear them again.
There was another break. Sean Hendry told us all to f*ck right off, and Mark Braby told us to f*ck back on again in ten minutes. Somehow in that ten minutes, Mark managed to spill red wine down Sean's best shirt (although he might have been pretending it was his best shirt just for dramatic effect). He invited us to suck the wine from his shirt and perhaps unsurprisingly, nobody volunteered. He had already tried to examine Marks prostate gland in front of us all; add this to the song about jelly and you can see that this had not been an evening for the fainthearted.
Anyway, the tone of the evening quietened down as Mindlobster set up his stall and improvised some real foot-tapping music from a selection of samples that sounded like they had been recorded everywhere from a Pound Shop to an airport. I wanted to get up and dance like a loon but I'm an introvert, so just did that in my head.
Lastly, the Rants collected around a motley selection of instruments, and took us on the most stupidly hilarious journey you could possibly imagine, that included a holiday in the King and Queen that involved researching mattresses in local stores and setting the marketing bullshit to music. Oh I do love a properly researched performance with a local flavour! Their piece-de-resistance was a song called Karma Will Come Back To Bite You On The Arse. By this time I was weeping helplessly into my scarf and gasping for air. I could barely leave my seat and go home, I was so weakened by hilarity.
Anyway, I survived the evening and so did everyone else.
I am looking forward to playing there later this year, but until then I have to do the housework.
Pip pip!

From the Kitchen: Tour Diary Number Nine, and Bird Talk

Friday, April 28, 2017

Lux Sings It Like It Is


Tomorrow I will be taking delivery of 300 lyrics books. I can not imagine how bulky they will be; thank you Maggie for offering to store them, but I've had an O Henry ironic moment (please don't change that word to ironing, autocorrect, that's sexist!).
I had been saving up for a new car, but instead spent the funds on making the CDs and lyrics books, which is a much better thing to do.
Yesterday while moving Offsprog Two's belongings to her new house, I got a hole in the exhaust and will be off the road until I get a new car which I hope to do before the end of May. I am going to Liverpool by train for the Cavern gig, but until then will be Public Transport Only because the car is making loud attention-seeking Wacky Races noises and seems to be in imminent danger of disintegrating.
There are just too many things wrong with it now to make it worth fixing up. It's only a lump of metal with some machinery inside, but I have loved this car dearly; it has been a faithful partner for more than fifteen years and I have repaid it's loyalty by always repairing and not replacing it.
It has cost practically nothing in petrol or repairs up until now, and has even been to Italy and back and moved almost every sort of musical instrument you can imagine, as well as the Offsprog's stuff up and down the country more times than I can remember, been to the north of Scotland, Wales and most importantly, been not only a practical freedom giver but a symbolic one.
I have often felt like a trapped person, but I have always had itchy feet. Once I got the car I became free; I feel like I'm flying when I'm heading down the motorway to a new destination. I am going to love this tour, and I am sure I can learn to love a new vehicle too.
I know it's bonkers getting sentimental about a car.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Brian Cant

Thank you to Jason Thompson for reminding me about the genius of Playaway. I was drawing in my poor sad flat for one in Brighton one afternoon, with the sound turned down on my little black and white TV and I looked up and saw this.
I couldn't stop laughing for an hour and fell in love with Brian Cant straight away, despite his fitted shirts and upflicked hair.
Alas, the heart is fickle. He was the second Brian I'd fallen for (Brian Rix was the first, with his enormous white underpants; saw him in a farce on stage when I was a mere tadpole). Then I had a brief crush on Brian Setzer of the Stray Cats, and even sat on his Harley Davidson in Kilburn one afternoon.
Brians have become a rarity nowadays, which is possibly a good thing.

So Very Oliver

Shanne asked me if I'd like to go to the unveiling of The Roxy's Blue Plaque (does that sound like a mouthwash?) in Neal Street yesterday, so of course I said 'Yes'.
The street was crowded and the speeches were inaudible, but it was very exciting and it was really, really good to see some people that I haven't seen for a long time: Pauline Murray and Rob Blamire (from Penetration), Gaye Black, Tessa Pollitt (with her daughter and very cute grand-daughter), Andy Linehan from The British Library (a national treasure), and lots more. I had a nice chat with Steve Mick, who I've heard reading his poetry at Toby Mott's Cultural Traffic events and whose book I coughed up a tenner for, and Zoe Howe (who has the same good taste in social events as I do 😀). Everyone was excited, even the security guys, which I thought was rather sweet. Gaye is going to have an exhibition in Newcastle, which will definitely be worth going to.
Andrew and Susan were running The Fridge by the time I moved to London; I wasn't part of The London Set but I'm used to being the most uncool person in the room; in fact, now I enjoy it.
I did get to meet Marco Pirroni and Dave Barbarossa from Adam and the Ants, and to admire the sartorial splendour of roomful of mature punks, who have aged rather gracefully, and to earwig in on a lot of interesting conversations.
Why the title of the posting? Well, I am listening to songs from the twelve days of music on this old computer in the kitchen and up came one of Lionel Bart's songs from Oliver!, which has got to be the best musical ever written. It was on our radar back then, wasn't it? And the Grammar School kids were doing Charles Dickens at school. The style and snarl of punk is hardly surprising, when you think about it; when it got all black-jackets and cidery it lost touch with it's literary roots, but they were definitely there at the beginning.
Anyway- I'm making a birthday cake for Offsprog Two, who I have just moved to Sarf London (four hours round trip). so time to get that out of the oven. Toodle-pip!
Pix: Veiled plaque; Pauline under the unveiled plaque; Gaye and Shanne.

I Am Writing A Song

My eyes may glaze over at inappropriate moments and I might walk out into moving traffic.
Is this some sort of mental health issue? I have found a new rhythm and the guitar draws me to it like a magnet. I need more fingers than I've got on my hands!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Songs from the Kitchen: Temptation


Many thanks to Dexter Bentley for playing this track on his Resonance show yesterday. After 25 years in the suburban wilderness, I started writing songs again after Jamie McDermot (of the Irrepressibles, and one of the most talented students I've ever come across, plus one of the nicest people) encouraged me to start playing again. It was like floodgates opening- I wrote so many songs. Some of them ended up on the album Suburban Pastoral, which I released on my own just over ten years ago, and which is finally almost sold out.
Some of them didn't, and exploring the depths of the computer the other day I found this one. It was just a  bit too stark (and 5/4 time a bit of a stutter) to make it on to the album, whose track listing was chosen by a group of trusted friends.
The song harks back to childhood Sunday mornings spent in Jesmond Presbyterian Church, sitting in an uncomfortable wooden line with my family under the cavernous ceiling, and listening to the poetry of the Bible, where landscapes a million miles away from the grey bleakness of Newcastle (how the city has changed!) warmed my imagination.
I had never seen a bullrush, but I had seen pictures of them.
And the cruelty at the heart of the story: well, what has changed? All that has happened is that the cruelty inflicted by psycopathic rulers has become more sophisticated and more twisted. Gassing children! When the 'bible' of today's history is read by future humans, always supposing that we continue to exist as a life-form, nobody will believe it. I am so angry to have so little power to stop the cycle of arms sales and warfare, which is really just a demo-tape for the weapons industry.

And thank you Dexter, and I was thrilled to appear on the same bill as Poly Styrene singing Germ-Free Adolescents, which is my second favourite X-Ray Spex track after Oh Bondage, Up Yours!
Dexter's show is here:

Saturday, April 22, 2017

York Railway Museum

Maybe it was being brought up in Wylam, birthplace of George Stephenson (inventor of The Rocket), a tiny village with two stations (North and South), but I have loved trains since I was a bairn.
I'd seen York Railway Museum through the train window so many times but never visited, so before meeting the Whitfields for lunch I spent a couple of hours there completely absorbed by the wonderful trains and railway ephemera. There were so many beautiful locomotives they probably deserve a post of their own.
I loved the painted lettering, the practicality of everything, the kissing buffers, the enamelled signs, the samovars, the normal peculiarity. The only thing that I didn't like was the poor stuffed dog, who had been a charity dog in London and was rewarded by being taxidermied and put on display. What a terrible fate! I imagined charity ladies being treated in the same way, and it made my toes curl. I have taken billions of photographs of the insides of steam trains, copper pipes, steel pipes, rivets, signs, wheels and everything you could possibly imagine. Wow. And they knew that I lived in High Barnet!

Half Asleep

I fell half asleep on the train back from York. It would have been better to fall whole asleep, or not at all.
I realised that I needed milk.
In the shop the guy behind the counter looked rather absent-minded, I thought.
I focused on his air of ennui and fatigue.
Absent-mindedly, I left the milk in the shop.
(I think).

Spaceheads, Rucksack Cinema and Howie Last Night

I'm so glad I peeled my lazy butt off the sofa last night. I was going to stay in and be disappointed by the TV schedule again, but instead I went to a forested area in deepest Lambeth to Club Integral, and enjoyed an evening of music and visuals that was unexpectedly invigorating.
I left with my head buzzing with inspiration, feeling that I'd been let in on a great secret.
Howie Reeve plays an acoustic bass and sings. There is no band, apart from a plastic pig-player whose pigs sounded more like frogs:they said ribbit, not oink (I know pigs don't say oink but they definitely don't ribbit).
Bass and vocal is a great combo- Gail Ann Dorsey does it, but Howie couldn't have been more different. He sings wry lyrics, setting his life to music and alternately thrashing and plucking the bass, sounding sometimes medieval and at others, plain evil or rather, dark, as he would prefer. The songs were evocative of urban life, trees struggling to breathe in traffic fumes, litter, living above all the noise and confusion. I thought about the Spanish guitar videos that I've been making and felt that I needed to up my game.
Spaceheads were altogether different. The former pig-player, Richard Harrison, morphed into an ace drummer who skidded and skedaddled across the kit, blending timbale sounds with maracas and all sorts of other drummer stuff. Andy Diagram built textures, spiky, creamy, sometimes howling into the trumpet microphone, bending the sounds with electronics and playing with sounds of space and claustrophobia, all the time accompanied by the shifting images of Jaime Rory Lucy's projections. Such beautiful colours, and very Russian, very Metropolis and very 2017 at the same time.
I will see this again and it will be completely different next time, but just as enjoyable.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Lyrics Books

The test proofs for the lyrics books turned up in the post today. I almost cried, because I think they look beautiful. I stood at the bus stop trying to photograph them (I had to collect them from the sorting office because I was out at Katy's doing Song Circle) but it was fruitless.
The fruitlessness continued for much of the afternoon. I tried seven times to film Glasgow Train and got to almost the end of the best one, before collapsing in laughter for no real reason. Then I got the perfect take and uploaded it before realising that the iPad had run out on memory and only saved 6 seconds of it. So I had to work out how to delete the deleted videos, and got so knackered that I had to rest for half an hour. The knackered-ness is partly because I have chosen possibly the most knackering evening class anyone could do. I was so glad to go back though- there were new people, and I wasn't the worst person any more.
It was also brilliant at Katy's this morning, playing our songs and drinking tea. Katy does fantastic impressions of her relatives, who by all accounts thoroughly deserve to be done impressions of. I'm not sure if her stories are confidential so I might tell you some of them further down the line without letting on who they are about. They are impressively awful.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Breathing Space And The Street Racist

Off round to Gina's this morning (put the kettle on!) to have a break from marking and administration before this afternoon. I marked more than 30 Professional Practice websites yesterday and went out for a walk.
When I got back there was a hullaballoo in the street; a very aggressive man was charging down the road screaming racist abuse. I stood behind the curtain with my camera and he stopped right outside the house (he couldn't see me) and flung the recycling bin right into the middle of the road before charging off again. I went out to get a good photo and he had a scream at me before crossing the road to tell the new pharmacist and his mum, who were walking done the street, that they were 'F***ing Pakis'. I thought he was going to hit one of them so I phoned the police.
One of the neighbours filmed the whole thing; we managed to clear up the rubbish (thank you, new pharmacist and neighbour) dodging a few nasty cars in the process.
Strange thing to have happened, especially on a day when I was out doing my own direct action against racist newspapers.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Strange Goings-On

Suddenly in the middle of the night, a loud song sung by an enthusiastic man blasted into the quiet darkness. There was a rustling then it stopped. I patrolled the house with my jaw set in an aggressive thrust. Nobody there; it was the record player starting up all by itself.
A few nights later the smoke alarm went off at about 5 o'clock in the morning. I was convinced that Offsrog One had come in from a party, made some casual toast and burned it. But no, it was the smoke alarm going off on a whim.
And the bathroom extractor has started intermittently screaming like a panicking fox (we have those, too, in the garden).
We think that there are electrical surges that set all these things off; many years ago when the Offsprogs were mere sproglings, we had a strange blue octahedron-shaped toy that played electronic versions of things like Incy Wincy Spider and Humpty Dumpty. It would run through an electronic chromatic scale, settle on a note, and then a bored sounding woman's voice would sing the nursery rhyme deadpan, before the scale ran up or down again and the voice said 'Bye-bye'.
You'd hear it set off on its spooky journey in the wee small hours, a non-existent voice singing to a non-existent child, set off by the fridge switching on its internal refrigeration unit. Permanently insomniac, I would listen in a state of tension from the bedroom downstairs (it was an upside-down house), only relaxing when it said goodbye for the night.
Either that, or we have a ghost. I hope it's a friendly one.

Bad Day, from the Kitchen

Relentless Restlessness

Zip, zap. Fighting the virus so I can be relentlessly restless again; the audio files have been uploaded and sent to the CD manufacturer and the lyric book is on its way here after I gave the printer the wrong phone number last week (got out of bed to take it down there, perhaps unwisely).
I am making a tour diary of sorts, most of which is going to be on Facebook, but some of which I will put here too if I have time. It's those 52 websites which I have to mark and haven't started yet. You really do need your brain for that and mine is left behind last week somewhere.
The Offsprogs have
Gone to
and I miss them already although they have left their Easter chocolates (sadly, just ghosts of Easter chocolates now) and a light spreading of clothing draped on radiators, chairs, and of course, the floor. It would be cruel to leave the floor out, wouldn't it?
There are so many things that I wanted to do today but haven't done because my legs still feel like jelly. I am doing one thing really, really well: sitting down. I think I should have one of those rosettes for that, the ones you get for making nice jam in tent in Miss Marple programmes, and that actually used to be real when I was a nipper in Northumberland.
This were the days: School Nurse Terror, Mr Hazen with his cane and his mad, popping eyes, and Mrs Herdman with her vicious grasp and smacky hands scaring the living daylights out of classes with 40 children in them.
And look what we grew up to be!

In Support of Planned Parenthood

I have contributed a track to this fab album in support of Planned Parenthood.
One of the things Trump has done to disempower poorer people, in this case women, is the removal support from organisations that offer contraception and abortion services to those who need them.
It will happen here too if we allow the Conservatives free reign to do what they want.
Here it is:

Monday, April 17, 2017

Lovely Rusty Car In Brighton

Good Monday

That was an early start. An hour before the alarm went off, I woke up and decided to head over to Hackney Wick to move Offsprog Two's stuff. The poor sad car didn't want to start but I bullied it into emission and with it's wing mirror precariously taped on with gaffa tape, off we went.
At Hackney Wick an impressive amount of EU-funded bigfoot hardware was rumbling about, with lots of men in hi-vis jackets and hard hats waving their arms about in instructive semaphore.

Once we had crammed the car to the gunwales, we headed back with a few wrong turns (thanks, satnav), unloaded, had a second breakfast and I've just washed the car.
I am so glad nobody quipped 'You can wash mine after that!' like they did the last time, because they would have been drenched in nice cold bucket of soapy water. Later on, I'm going to visit a student at their work placement. I hope they are bloody there. It's Good Monday and they may have forgotten that everything is closed for Easter, apart from the men in the hi-visjackets and me, the Mumfather.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Tour Diary Parts One and Two

Big Brother Is Watching You, From Indietracks

Last Night's Gig in Brighton

How did I manage to completely walk past Regency Square and end up at Palmeira Square in Hove? Not paying attention, that's how. I was photographing peculiar cars, graffiti and the old house I used to live in at 9 Lansdowne Place, which still looked totally scruffy. Oh, the memories!
Finally back at The Pelirocco, DJ Gremlin aka David McLean, was there already and the PA had been set up (phew- that was a worry). We had a good chat about old times; David was 15 when he first went to the Resource Centre crypt to se bands playing and remembered seeing Joby and the Hooligans, Poison Girls and all the rest.
I played to a selection of hotel guests and gig-goers, including Pete and Lisa, and Tracy from the Smartees who I'd tried to persuade to sing Let's Make Up with me. It was a gig on a par with the Country Soul Sessions gig last year- just really warm hearted and lovely. I hadn't learned to play the solo from Femme Fatale in time but I will in time for the next one.
It took a long time to get home- I got in at 2.30 and woke at 7, annoyingly. So I have been lazing in bed most of today and fighting off the remains of the virus which I suspect is hay fever because I felt better in the blasting cold wind off the Brighton seafront, which once blew the top layer of bread and the cheese out of my cheese sandwich just as I was about to take the first bite.
I might have some pics soon; Tracy's friend took some.

Friday, April 14, 2017


Eating warmed up macaroni cheese, I listen to the mixes of the new album on the best speakers I have at home (pretty crap. The clumsy electrician accidentally hurled the Harman Kardon ones out of the loft, smashed them and didn't confess, and I only found out when I tried to give them away two weeks ago to someone with no speakers at all).
What a peculiar 12 months, and what a peculiar set of circumstances to be writing and recording!
I almost left off the two heartbreak songs, but ironically they are amongst the best ones. And two of the songs that I think have come out as the weakest as recordings have the strongest messages. There are three songs that I meant to put on this album that I didn't, and three that I didn't mean to put on it that I have, so I suppose that means that I should start to record another one straight away.
I have grown tired of listening to these now, although I will always love playing them. My voice seems to polarise people's opinions; some people like it when I croon, but that's when I feel most vulnerable and I'm not taking that out on the road with me. I wish I had a big bad belty voice to roar at the world with, but I don't; the world will just have to hear politely held opinions, politely sung. Jono, the engineer, thinks one of the songs sounds like Mary Poppins and I thought this was an enormous compliment. He said that it was meant that way. I have had a couple of strokes of inspiration about other mixers of songs but I have to ask them first. Keep fingers crossed plz; that would be a nice 4-track EP later in the year.
I'm off to Brighton this afternoon to play at the Hotel Pelirocco with my Telecaster and a genuine shirt that I wore in The Chefs for good karma.
Please excuse spelling mistakes in this posting, my dormant dyslexia is patrolling my words due to the stress of trying to get all this together while appearing outwardly totally calm. I left all the contact details for the printers on their desk on Wednesday and it's now the Bank Holiday.
Will they do what they said and print a test copy?
Will Offsprog One finish the CD sleeve design before she goes away for a week?
Will I be able to work the PA at the Hotel Pelirocco this evening?
Will anyone turn up or will the just stay on the beach throwing stones into the English Channel?
Will they, won't they?
Count to ten slowly, making sure you mention all the numbers and don't do a shortcut to get to the end before I do. Thanks.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Jarvis Cocker and Chilly Gonzales

I have been listening to Room 29 this afternoon as I catch up on stuff that has been left behind in the swirl of hay fever, housework and marking.
It is an album based on one room at the Chateau Marmont Hotel in Hollywood, and the various characters who have stayed in the room over the years, and it is just lovely. Jarvis sings along with a perfect piano played by Chilly Gonzales as though he is at one with the instrument. There are so many albums that this one puts to shame I can't even be bothered to mention them.
You very rarely hear a piano that sounds as good as this, recorded as well as this, and you rarely hear such smart lyrics sung with such a lack of artifice, or with such gentleness.
I have been completely inspired and will go back to the human being drawing board immediately.

Hotel Pelirocco Tomorrow with DJ Gremlin

If you live in Brighton please come along to the Hotel Pelirocco tomorrow evening, it's free to get in and the DJ Gremlin will be spinning some spins, and I will be playing some songs including a couple of solo Chefs songs (yes, it can be done) and Femme Fatale, if I can manage it. I've got three copies of that CD left at the moment, to sell for Refugee Action. I will have some copies of other CDs which I need to dig out from underneath the chest of drawers later on.
This is a completely DIY tour which might be why I've spent a large part of this week in bed!
The book of lyrics and illustrations is at the printers and the CD cover is just being finished. All the music is done. Stuart Moxham is doing a mix of one of the songs, and so is a young production team who say they will have their ready by the end of this week; I might release the mixes separately.
I am listening to The Young Fathers to give my ears a rest from my own stuff.
Here is the final version of the cover of the book.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Protesting Against Barnet Council

Extreme hay-fever knocked me out for a couple of days. I got up to do some singing in the kitchen, and also to write and post a letter to Barnet Council, who have made a very odd decision to close down the parking on one side of the High Street, and put loading bays in the tiny street where I live, and Salisbury Road which is also very narrow in places; all the extra cars would have to disperse... wherever.
You'd think if they were going to send vast quantities of heavy traffic down little residential streets like ours that they would tell the residents.
Many of our houses have front doors that open directly on to the pavement, where overtaking 4x4s often mount in order to overtake bin lorries and each other. It's so dangerous and dirty, and this is going to make it worse.
We worked out that it would be impossible for a fire engine to get down the street, for instance.
Quietly, the council changed a plan to make dropped pavements and extra parking in the High Street, into one where there are trees in pots (too many services under the pavement to plant them properly), bins, and extra benches so people can sit and look at the closed down shops that won't be able to survive because people won't come to them if they can't park anywhere near them.
They didn't tell any of us who would be affected and we found out purely by chance.
The petition against this plan signed by well over 1000 people, and letters of protest (I posted mine today) might not make any difference.
They are a terrible council who seem to do what they want, drastically cutting services that help people in need and spending stupid amounts of money on architects plans (three so far) for modifications to a perfectly adequate High Street. Their parking policy drives people to purple steaming distraction, and the traffic warden must get through at least 30 biros a week.
I would much rather that they spent the money they have wasted on drawing up complicated and divisive plans on social care and libraries, and I collected a lot of signatures on the petition on Friday, including one from the vicar.
Barnet Council, be ashamed!

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Hold Back The Night

The Drain

Offsprog One was walking down the High Street yesterday when she witnessed a man undress himself down to his underpants, hand his toddler over to the care of two passers by, and slither into a street drain to recover his mobile phone.
You thought it all happened down your way, didn't you?

To You Guys....

... and Gina, Sot, Anne, Jono and Kirsten: thank you for a lovely afternoon in December. Your singing sounds fabulous!

Friday, April 07, 2017

Technical Wizardry

That's really annoying. I've spent about three hours recording and editing what I hope is the definitive lead vocal for Women of the World, which I put onto a 16 gigabyte USB drive to take to the studio tomorrow.
It's tiny and I've already lost it through a hole in my trousers pocket. I thought of putting it on a chain round my neck but then it would get wet in the bath.
I was pondering what to do when I dropped it into my cup of tea.
It's now in a jar of rice drying out, and I'm going out to buy a bar of chocolate.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Darnce Damn You!



Recording Again

In St Albans yesterday, playing Spanish guitar on Francoise Hardy's song Rendezvous D'Automne, as sung very beautifully by Vic Godard. Thank you Dave and Ruth for your hospitality.
At work today, drinking coffee and waiting for students to pester me, Mark Bolan singing Hot Love on colleague's headphones.
Unplugged gig tonight at The King and Queen in Foley Street, W1. No door charge but stick a million quid in the pot at the end, plz.
Starts 7.30, ends 9.45, MJ Hibbet's night.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Go HomeTo Your War Zone

Watching Time Fly

Yesterday I recorded the vocal for a song on Lester Square's forthcoming album of political instrumentals (all apart from the song wot I sung, of course).
Lester gave me a preview and I really enjoyed the Trump elevator song in particular, which had a definite Willy Wonka feel to it (morally as well as sonically), and another track which I could only describe as a load of other songs all put into a cement mixer, which was a compliment and I hope was taken as one.
He's just sent me a mix of the song and it's sounding really good. I have been flanged and double tracked, but have survived to tell the tale of landscapes and humans passing through time.
In my head part of it harks back to doing a primary school children's songwriting project where we were meant to be writing glorious military songs inspired by the RAF Museum at Hendon, but the children were fascinated by the idea of being up in the air and looking down on tiny people and whole mountains and marvelling at them, rather than bombing them.
I felt so proud of them for being natural pacifists.

Monday, April 03, 2017

A Letter To My Hands

Dear Hands

I first became aware of you (rather than just experiencing your usefulness) when at the age of eleven, I spotted a pair of hands resting on the Formica dining table in the school dinner hall, and realised that they were attached to my arms, and that they were mine;

Sometimes I have drawn on your thumb nails and made them into the faces of the nuns from The Sound of Music;

You have carried fragments of food spat out on to my knuckles by my piano teacher every Wednesday, after her supper when she tried to teach me to read music, and failed;

I have desiccated you by swishing you about in weak nitric acid very day when I was an etcher at art college, then covering you in sticky black ink and cleaning you with a mixture of white spirit and Swarfega;

You have knitted children's jumpers to the point of getting cramp, fingers tangling up in wool and knitting needles;

You have held those children's hands, as they evolved from tiny gripping baby clamps, through fat, sticky, podgy toddlerhood to self-assured childhood, to 'don't hold my hand any more'.

You have stumbled across guitar strings, learning muscle-memory shapes, forgetting them and then learning them again;

You have held pencils and pens, channelling drawings on to paper, coaxing them out of the blankness to the surface so other people can see them apart from myself.

You have clapped: at so many gigs, and also to kill moths, over and over again;

You have been scratched while picking blackberries, and borne the stains of the juice, and suffered the weals caused by the hidden nettles that stood guard over the blackberry bushes;

I have written on you constantly- ideas, ideas, ideas (I am so sorry about defacing you every day like this);

You have worn gloves, as I tried to protect you;

You have massaged my father's feet as he lay fading from life, and mopped my mother's brow as she started to drift into the summer wind on her final journey.

Thank you hands: I salute you.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Eggs and Swan

They are frying eggs in the kitchen. You know how I feel about this.
I am revisiting old songs. I will to be able to play this one live because it needs the backing vocal (to my ear anyway).
It is made of jumbled up memories: almost drowning as a chid in shallow water in a swimming pool as a child (I remember the feeling of the wet ribbons in my plaits, which I held on to afterwards for safety); Scouse John telling us everything that Mufti said, in the art college refectory in the sunshine; and the story a friend told me about tripping while rowing down the river in Sussex and being followed by swans who seemed terrifying, almost motorised, in pursuit of him and his friend, who were rowing frantically to get away from them.
But also other things. All the frightening things in the world for a child and young adult.
Maybe I shouldn't have told you all this. It's just that I have 50 student websites to look at today and I needed a big prevarication.

Saturday, April 01, 2017


Hardboiled Eggs

It's time we sat down and had a discussion about hardboiled eggs: in fact any sort of egg that presents the white and yolk as separate entities and textures for the mouth to negotiate.
It's not just the congealed sliminess of the white or the dried up powdery clagginess of the yolk; it's the aroma of sulphurous fish that wisps about in the surrounding atmosphere, and the assumption that we all want to chomp on birdbabies (copyright nephew), so these monstrosities can be sneakily added to anything (hold your hands up, Pret-a-manger!) and the public won't mind.
Oh deary me.
I have spent my life terrorised by these things. I have nothing against the beautiful shape of the shell, nor the gorgeous colour of the yolk (my favourite shade of deep yellow). It's the assertion that these things are edible that gets to me.
I met a fellow citizen on the abolitionist route when I worked at the Labour Party HQ in the 1990s. Standing at the lift with his double-decker trolley of sandwiches waiting to go up to the second floor, he launched into an effortless riff on the horrors of sharing a kitchen with the hardboiled-egg sandwich makers.
"Ar carn't stand the smiw", he grimaced, face demonstrating a visible urge to retch. He looked into the distance, reliving the terrible routine that he was subjected to every morning as the hardboiled eggs were shelled and sliced.
My heart warmed to a kindred spirit. I was not alone.
Fact: the Offsprogs lived in an almost egg-free environment when they were young. Now, my house resounds to the smiw of fried eggs whenever they are around. They are making up for lost time. I hold my breath and count to eleven; their company is worth a million hardboiled eggs.
Such is parenthood.