Friday, March 30, 2018

Sandie Shaw

McDad used to buy the records in our house; he was a fan of everything from Leapy Lee to Melanie, by way of Herb Alpert, Gilbert O'Sullivan and the wonderful Sandie Shaw, who was a real fave- I've got quite a few of her singles for the fantastic jukebox I'm going to purchase when I live in an enormous house.

From The Album That The Chefs Never Released

Another Song From The Kitchen

Four and half hours' writing, and rewriting... it's time for a rest, and a song from the kitchen. Been listening to a lot of Northern Soul recently, and as my pals relate their heartbreak stories somehow they pour out of their heartstrings and on to my guitar strings. First kitchen song since the fractured elbow!


The church down the road is in good voice- they are roaring away, full throated congregational singing. It's beautiful.
Meanwhile, I've relocated and the writing carries on. It's sixty hours and counting... downstairs to pick up a potentially useful book, up again to realise it's not as useful as it pretended to be. Strangely, the whole disastrous thing has turned into a romp.

Thursday, March 29, 2018


I can't resist transcribing the latest producer interview, because she said something that was so relevant to the article. I don't seem to have stopped interviewing people and I suppose I might as well carry on until the well dries up. It's just so interesting to document people's stories, and because the editor of the book doesn't want the interviews published at the end, as was the original intention, he has suggested that I find another publisher just to publish the life stories in their through-written format.
How I wish I could type more quickly! I use to have an assistant who did a great job but she's now working full time so these clumsy fingers are stumbling through it all.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Roll On Summer

Doris Day On A Horse In Her Pyjamas

Ruth came round. I haven't written a word for two days; yesterday afternoon I fell asleep for ages, which is hardly surprising after six weeks of waking up for two hours every night and waiting for painkillers to kick in.
We talked about sound and music, and I told her about a new song that I'd written.
'What do you think about when you sing it?', she asked.
'Doris Day on a horse, wearing a pair of pyjamas'.
Ruth makes videos.

Ain't Going Nowhere

Dance wherever you are! Bishy bashy galloping drums and tinny production!

Paradise Lost

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Greeny by Pete Green

The first LP I bought was The World of Blues Power when I was about 13 years old because I could afford it. This was one of the tracks, and I love it.

'Here To Be Heard: The Story Of The Slits' at The Arthouse Cinema, Crouch End

This cinema is a lovely little gem on the road out to Tottenham from Crouch End. Last time I was there, it was the screening of Paul Sng's film about Sleaford Mods; this time Bill Badgley, the director, had invited me along to take part in a post-screening panel alongside him, Steve Beresford and Tessa Pollitt. Christine Robertson, one of their scores of managers, was there too.
I had seen the documentary online, but it's much better to watch it in a proper cinema. Using Tessa's ('the quiet one') scrapbook, of cuttings to create a narrative thread, the early years are revisited along with some amazing footage of the band's proper punky days, something I know that Ari wanted to have remembered; this was pre-Peel session, and they thrashed along like the punkiest of punk bands in films made by Don Letts in the early days.
I loved the clip of Ari simply taking her clothes off to wash them in the launderette; what guts she had! Like a tall, thin flower she stalks through the film, dreadlocks aloft, laughing, dancing, singing and shrieking. Viv Albertine has a growling-and-claws competition with a passer-by, who growls back, too. There is a lot of talk about them looking scary- but these were four exceptionally beautiful women throwing aside the desire to please, physical and mental cleanliness, and breaking the silence imposed on young women in the 1970s.
Later, Bill said he showed the film to his Mum. 'It's a film about freedom!', she said.
Steve described laughing until he wept at the first Slits gig he went to, and Tessa said she knew how funny they were. In the film, Palmolive describes the way they would sometimes discover that each of them was playing a different song. By some strange coincidence this morning on TV were was a little feature about the British Military Bands, and how they had had to centralise the music training college after a disastrous birthday parade for Queen Victoria where each band from around the country played a different arrangement of the same piece of music at the same time. Ho ho!
Rather bravely on all counts, Kate Korus appears to tell her story of being thrown out of the band. It always seemed to fall on Tessa to do the dirty work of sacking people, but she remained good-humoured throughout; the ways that she and Ari complemented each other's personalities was apparent all the way through. And Palmolive- what a raconteur- I know Ari really wanted to hear her Christian versions of Slits songs!
What come across very strongly is the sense of emptiness when it was all over for the original members of the band. Viv sits in the gloom of a book store signing a pile of her books; as she embarks on a new career you get a sense of how odd life continues to be for members of a ground-breaking punk and when all the 'noise' is over.
There is so much in this film, and so many people to please. Some people may only engage with the first punky part, whereas others will find the later years fascinating, when Holly, Dr No and Adele joined up and Ari mentored their song writing. It has been an amazing feat and a complete labour of love for Bill and Tessa to collect together such a diverse archive of material and present it as a whole like this. I am so glad they did, because this is a strong documentary that tells a truthful story of a bunch of young women's survival from dark and stimulating times right the way through to the 2000s when the world is a very different place.
I am still thinking about it all today, and I woke up this morning crying for Ari and her wonderful energy. What a character! She was a big fan of Patsy Cline, she told me; and she turned up with her son at my 50th birthday party in the north London suburbs, with a Dancehall CD as a present. She stayed the entire course of the party and had perfect manners, asking McSis for her recipe for rice and raisins, making no judgements about people (she was as happy to chat to completely straight-looking people as she was to converse with the weirdos), and believe it or not, blending in perfectly. She could do a middle aged birthday party just as well as a punky reggae party. God bless you Ari xxx

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Smoking Seal

There are moments of serenity amid the moments of insanity (I think that's going to be a song).
Drawing at Gina's house, while she paints her powerful new work, is one of the most peaceful gaps in the week. This is a seal with no whiskers yet and an unfinished tail.
That's life, isn't it? An unfinished tale.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Big Thanks Again to Gideon Coe

Gideon Coe, you are a gem for playing Women of the World again last night! Tucked in right next to Ivor Cutler's song of the same name, too, with Yo La Tengo hanging out a bit late on.
If you would like to support the documentary Stories from the She-Punks, here's the link to buy the tracks:

The Kitchen

Poor kitchen. It's a writing room, a recording studio, an office for Zoom meetings with postgraduate students, an art studio, and sometimes a place to sit and read. The amount of cooking that happens in here is next to zero, although the washing machine and the dishwasher occasionally get a look in.
I used to like cooking for the family, but then I think all the liking cooking got used up somehow. There always seem to be better things to do, although I do make hundreds of cups of tea, so I suppose that counts for something.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


I assume it's boring to read about a person writing. I put four hours of writing in today, and most days will be the same (apart from tomorrow and Friday, but I'll tell you about that tomorrow and Friday).
This evening I went to visit some students in their work placement. As usual I got lost, and Almost Cried (WHY do I always get lost? It's always a different reason; this time, the phone satnav got lost and then the entrance to the building was around the corner, and then....).
The students looked so happy! They are working for an internet radio station where they have their own shows, playing hip hop and drum'n'bass respectively. It's great to see them look so fulfilled doing something that they clearly love. Their mentor seems to be delighted with them too. It made my day. 😊

Recommended: Mark Dion at The Whitechapel Gallery

This is an excellent exhibition. It was a student outing with some MA students; they agreed they would love to have a tree-house. There are both specifically-created and curated comments on hunting, recycling, knowledge, spirituality and conservation. It was really inspiring, a series of Wunderkammers and Cabinets of Curiosities to investigate and pore over.
And look- finches! Not quite as cute as the bass-playing finches at The Barbican a few years ago, but still very sweet and busy. I told the students about Akiko Hada trying to hire a bumble bee for the Fall Of the Queen video, and being quoted £1000. Lester Square and me tried to make a sampled buzz-piano but neglected to realised that bees don't go round saying 'buzz'; when you slow them down their wings flap like a birds! So we ended up just bzzz-ing ourselves.

Fabricating A Serene World

Academics; we fabricate a serene world where the spite, jealousies and abuse that are normal practice in the music industry just don't rear their ugly heads.
As I'm trying to pick my way through the debris of what is real in order to enter the surreal world of putting it all into a scholarly context, I keep a file open next to the formal document where I dump the hair-raising experiences of not just me, but other women I've spoken to.
When I talk to them about the research I'm doing, there is always a story that is related back. Assumption of sexual favours, assault, bullying; it's more than #metoo.
What a humungous effort to put all this to one side and try to write an unbiased and unemotional account of studio practice.
I am absolutely certain that there are 'clean' spaces with 'clean' studio personnel working in them; in fact (does this remind you of anything?) some of my best friends are male producers, promoters and musicians who have the utmost respect for their female colleagues. I have know a lot of them for a long time, and I trust them.


Big congratulations to Paul Sng, whose film on the housing crisis and scandal in the UK is going to be shown on Channel 5 tonight at 10 p.m. in an edited form. Thank you Paul for lending the film so that the song writing students at the University of the East could use it as inspiration for their lovely songs.
This is a powerful, truthful and moving documentary that covers the cities of London, Nottingham and Glasgow in an exploration of what is going wrong and why. The strongest parts are the stories of the people who are being socially cleansed; they are articulate, dignified and respectable, completely unlike the faceless jargon-toting twats who are trying to brand council tenants as a troubled and troubling mob.
I wish I could force-feed this documentary to a chap on the train the other Sunday, who was talking about people from council estates as though they were vermin. It was tempting to give him an earful but the whole carriage was full of such people. Luckily, his girlfriend was completely ignoring him.


For the first time in the nine years that I've lived here, the bird-feeder has attracted little birds, who are tweetling and squabbling right now.
The yard is so dark most of the time, but I found a place where they can see it from the big tree in next door's garden where they hang out and sing all day. This is so exciting!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


I bought smelly cheese from the cheese shop down the road to support it, because it was empty of customers.
Now I'm frightened to open the fridge; the pong is awful.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

A Dickensian Gig

Farringdon; the snow fell and Jude sang a song about a sighting of the devil in the area more than hundred years ago that turned out to be a drunken woman with a candle up her bum.
Outside, the sodium lights lit up the feathery snow and the occasional siren whisked past (OK, not Dickensian).
Inside, the brave and loyal souls who had defied the weather sat at candle-lit tables; Kath, Jude and I sat in a row and sang three sets of songs, one person after the other. As a performer, this is a really lovely immersive experience. You get to sit next to a song being sung and experience the lyrics almost as a conversation rather than as an audience member. It helps if you love the music.
Thank you for coming out to the gig, you troupers, and thank you Jude and Kath for being excellent songwriters.

Photos by Tonje Tainsh and Rowen Bridler

Saturday, March 17, 2018


What a great song, and what great singing, even though the showbiz is silly.

Betsey Trotwood Tonight

Tonight's the Desperado Housewives night at The Betsey Trotwood- we will be upstairs in the acoustic room. It starts at 8.30, entry by donation. See you there!

Friday, March 16, 2018


Got signed off by the hospital today! Wonderful NHS; they used a new technique where they sewed the bones together instead of using pins. It was odd to be an experiment, but they seemed pleased with their handiwork. I just hope nobody embroidered their initials....
Straight into grafting; I am checking the transcription of the latest producer's interview. She packed so much information into 29 minutes, you can tell she is a good audio editor. She worked as a grime producer for more than ten years. I am going to try to do one more interview, but that's basically it. The publisher wants the interviews integrated into the text, so I have to basically rewrite the whole book. Hard work ahead.
We also spent a lot of time on Wednesday editing the documentary, and on Monday I'll be interviewing our production assistant. Busy times. And Paul Scott Bates, your track is being mixed as we speak.

Writing About the Present Versus Writing About The Past

A book has been recommended in relation to the article I'm writing; one chapter, supposedly about gender and singing, concentrates wholly on Phallocentrism. By halfway through the chapter, it seemed that the author believes completely that all women want is a willy. I had the hilarious impression that he thought that when we conversed together out of male earshot, that one desire was the sole focus of our conversations.
There are two problems about writing about the present; one is my own experiences and the way they make me feel, and the other is that everyone is so convinced that the music industry, and society as a whole, have changed. All I can see is powerful people very cleverly covering up their prejudices, but still feeling exactly the same way underneath.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Rethinking Difference

Although it's been tough working out how to rewrite the submission for an academic journal that I was moaning about the other day, I had an unexpected surprise this morning. The chapter in this book took a very long time to write, and took its toll on the relationship I was in at the time. Writing is not a sociable activity; the main reason I do it (this sort of writing isn't paid) is because it seems to be the best way of consolidating political change. Like lots of other people I march, sign things and rant occasionally on social media, but this type of writing is a slug-paced way of being a bulldozer and changing things in a different sphere of activity..

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Desperado Housewives at The Betsey Trotwood, Saturday

First gig post fractured elbow. Can it be done? I challenge you to come along to find out! With Kath Tait and Jude Cowan Montague, song circlin' and yakkin'.

Four Ay Em

So I woke very early, stressed by the multitude of changes I've been asked to make to an academic article that I've written.
'Just pull out of it; you're a shit writer!', said one voice in my head. 'You have had a traumatic accident and everything looks hard after something like that happens', said another.
I couldn't stand them arguing, so I got up to escape and set to work, not on the article itself, but on the many things that have to be cleared out of the way before my head is in the right place to start.
This is the first morning for five weeks where I've woken up feeling normal. At the weekend I took a mega-dose of Codeine and spoke in slurred speech all day on Saturday; a train journey on Sunday was so surreal I still can't work out how much of it was imagined, and how much real. I do know that a woman on the train deliberately flung her suitcase out of the rack on to what she thought was my broken arm; she had been being very aggressive to the woman sitting next to her during the journey. But she wasn't the weird one; it was the drunken toffs who over-shared details about their forthcoming grand wedding, guests, hen night, shooting arrangements and just about everything else very privileged people talk about. Oh yes, and they were homophobic, too.
The Codeine sent the pain away though, and the laundry is done and put away, newspaper articles sifted through, interviews three-quarters edited, and perhaps tomorrow the floors will be clean too.
And look at it out there- almost spring! The goldfinch has been tweeting since six, and outside the wagtail are waddling down the road. Two sets of soldiers in their uniforms on parade.
Almost time to go to Work Mk 2; no sabbatical there, but I'm not complaining. Not any more, anyway.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Wanting To Pass On News

Sometimes, you have an urge to phone a parent who is no longer around to tell them things. McDad would have loved to hear that Sandie Shaw MBE sent an email to say thank you for supporting her for the award of the honour. McDad loved Sandie and I still have the records of hers that he bought. I love her too. She also did a very short but very interesting interview for my research.

It Rained

It was constantly raining in Edinburgh at the weekend; ideal for going to multiple art galleries and eating enormous quantities of food (although the deep-fried Creme Egg was easy to resist, for some reason).
Surrealism is more than surreal sometimes. Could Tanguy have designed the ProTools colours?
Outside, a poor gentleman had got so wet that he'd sunk into the ground, and he was even going rusty. I tried to help.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

But Sometimes The End Of The Day Is Sweet

Thank you Gideon Coe, very much indeed.

Flying A Plane Near You, Sometime Soon


Ah blog. I have had to abandon my journey to the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall to see the film Play Your Gender. It was impossible to cope with the sheer ferocity of central London commuters and I had to turn round and come home. I do hope that I can get to see it some other time.

Happy International Women's Day!

Remixed, remastered and finally released- the full version of Women of the World with Zoe Howe, Ruth Tidmarsh, Jono Bell, Katy Bingham, Gina Birch, Shanne Bradley, Eva Eden, Kirsten Taylor
Guy Harries, Stephen Foster Pilkington, Sot Otter,Denise Stanley, Karina Townsend, Terry Tyldesley, Anne Wood, Karen Yarnell, Helen McCookerybook

Also as part of the same album, to raise funds for music copyrights for our Stories from the She Punks DIY documentary- I Play The Bass Loud by Gina Birch, featuring a myriad of bass players- that's there too- take  listen to both tracks and buy/donate if you like!
What a labour of love. Thank you so much to the musicians who have contributed to these songs.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018


Today Shola's coming in to do her vocals, and we may even have Karina Townsend on tenor sax.
Then we have to complete our She-Punks Bandcamp site and upload the fundraising tracks. Jane has put her bass line on Gina's song. All to be uploaded on International Women's Day, and Gideon Coe has an exclusive preview on Thursday on BBC6 Radio.
Later: we did it! Sounds great, lots of Yoruba call and response bits and now just waiting for tenor sax and maybe a bit of real live King's Cross ambience. And Gina has mixed her track so we're all ready to go tomorrow morning. Now it's tea time.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

What We Were Up To

We did Mum-Dancing around the kitchen while Gina cooked dinner. We ate Maltesers. Both Shanne Bradley and I have contributed bass lines to Gina's I Play The Bass song, and I think Jane Woodgate is there today doing one as well.
That, and Women of the World with the all-star cast (currently being remixed by Ruth Tidmarsh), should be going up on Bandcamp on International Women's Day so we can raise funds to buy music copyrights for Stories from the She-Punks. I've applied for funds for a student intern to help with the sound, and I've sorted out two replacement lecturers at work (big thanks to the University of East London for the mini-sabbatical).
It's always worth shoving the boulder up the hill, even with one hand (still). We will get this documentary finished despite the physical setbacks we have had. F*ck the Universe and it's shenanigans. Everything doesn't happen for a reason, karma doesn't exist, and shut up inner critic!

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Being Cross

It's unexpectedly good fun being constantly cross due to lack of sleep. I'm writing some furious songs, being mega-efficient and focused in getting stuff that I want, and generally just mentally stamping my little footy in a way that has hitherto been completely unfamiliar.
As Johnny Rotten said, anger is an energy. We will get our She-Punks songs up online on International Women's Day (bass playing on Gina's song today), Shola's vocal will go on to her song on Wednesday, Paul Scott Bates's project is booked in with two female engineers and me within the next two weeks and at the end of next week, I'll do the backing vocals and guitar on a song that Stuart Moxham sent over. Sleep? Pah! I don't give a monkey's auntie.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Recording Shola's Song

The studio somehow managed to superheat itself, which is odd given the sub zero temperature outside. Shanne came in on a last minute call to play bass; Serhan had volunteered for Rhodes keyboard duties and Javier just happened to be finishing his own project in the studio, so one of the best drummers on the course sat in and played some great buzzes and rolls. Michael, Course Leader for Music Tech, was on hand, Charlie from the first year drove the desk, and I played Spanish guitar and sang the guide vocals.
After three hours of setting up mics, running through and getting a good feel, we recorded a pretty good version of the song for Shola to sing over next week. Fuelled by Polos and jokes, the atmosphere was fun and I even managed to sing in Yoruba, which I've never done before. The track went off late last night to Shola by email, and she's happy. Phew!