Sunday, September 30, 2018

Up With The Lark

I have another academic article to write and I was up with the lark this morning.
This one is for the Oxford Anthology of Punk, and is mostly about violence and music. It's still at the groundwork stage, and I'm plodding through books which are piled up in unruly heaps about the place, open at unspecified pages.
This is the only way that I can do this part of my job. Yesterday was spent on academic planning, with the sunshine thumbing it's nose at me through the window; normally Saturdays are rest days, with not even emails disturbing the blend of crappy crime novels, reading the paper and then watching Come Dine With Me.
A half written song is sitting on the settee, but it's designed itself so that it can be written on the train. It's called The Ginger Line, which is what we call the orange overground line that crosses London from left to right. It has an annoying melody that won't get out of my head, and the words write themselves on my way to work when I'm actually travelling, so I'm looking forward to the journey tomorrow.
Oh well: back to big thick books with my big thick head.....

Saturday, September 29, 2018

In Which Scaledown Sings Along

They were much more boisterous before filming happened! Filmed by Shaun Hendry last night, conducted by Mark Braby.

Saturday Afternoon Track

Featuring the fantastic guitar playing and samplery of Lester Square, backing vocals from Dan Whitehouse and cello from Natasha, recorded by Tom Greenwood all those years ago. Much water has flowed under the bridge since those days but I still play this song.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Hope and Social at the Borderline

I thought I'd made loads of notes at this gig but actually I spent most of the time simply enjoying the music- and isn't that exactly how it should be?
This was the ten year anniversary of Hope & Social, and The Borderline was packed with what seemed like half of Leeds (was Leeds empty on Thursday evening?). The crowd was excited, loyal, and delighted to sing along whenever they were invited to, and sometimes even when they weren't. There was a running joke about Steve Lamacq, who was there for the first band and who had played a track 19 years ago, inspiring Simon to tell his father that he was bound to get a major deal, and even as the words left his mouth he realised what an arsehole he sounded. Pecan cookies were shared around the audience, and the songs flowed out of the band, many of them punctuated by richly-arranged harmonies that made you realise that they'd work just as well without the instruments, and that's the sign of a really good song. They were augmented by Megan on the trombone, who fitted in perfectly with the trumpet and sax that they normally have; her imagined iPad instructions were to just move about a bit whenever she wasn't playing. There were cheesy jokes aplenty: the song about the end of the word was described as an apocalypso by Rich (audience groaned, I laughed). A new song was presented with characteristic self-deprecation ('it might alienate the fan'), and the entire audience was offered a travel-paid excursion to Leeds to see the band in March, because that made it cheaper than the band coming to London.
Halfway through, they left the stage; the bass player picked up a euphonium, Gary (who drums for them but who is also a talented singer songwriter in his own right) wore a portable kit and a bunch of ukuleles appeared as if by magic. They turned into a New Orleans marching band, occasionally offered a sip of beer or wine by audience members, and they sang and played in a crocodile through the delighted crowd.
They all appear to be multi-instrumentalists; you blink and one of them is playing something completely different apparently just as well as their first instrument.
Such energy! The audience were wildly enthusiastic, cheering all through the self-declared 'fake last song' for a well-deserved encore.
What a bunch of characters, and what a great evening. This is the second time I've seen them, and they have to be one of the most entertaining bands on the circuit.
They made me feel happy. Thank you.

Thursday, September 27, 2018


I suppose if your violet hair rinse only cost you 50 pence, it's not surprising that it doesn't work.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

First She-Punks Screening, November 10th in London!

Following in the Footsteps of the Coelocanth

On a nature programme on TV years ago, divers searched for the rare fish, the Coelocanth, in the Indian Ocean. Fishermen told them tales of spotting them very occasionally in their nets.
After a lot of searching, deep deep down in the murky waters, they finally found one, and filmed it with an underwater camera.
Surprised and frightened, the Coelocanth didn't know what to do, so it stood on it's head.

Over the past couple of weeks I have felt under attack for various reasons. Apart from being very wearing, it is also extremely stressful to be embroiled in situations where I am powerless to act, especially when previous bullying behaviour has reared its ugly head again. Scotland was a very welcome break from all of this, but I came back to worse.
So I bought some hideous pink, magenta and baby blue cowboy boots from T K Maxx, and some violet hair dye to match.
If I'm going to be a cowering wreck, let me be at least a colourful cowering wreck. Standing on my head to follow, inspired by the Coelocanth.

Photo: Ikan-Purba

Monday, September 24, 2018

Oh Deer

Home Again

It took 12 hours to get back yesterday, which was less that it was meant to. A train from Edinburgh was cancelled and the one before it left late; luckily I managed to rush on to it just before it left. Big squash, reading the world's worst crime novel, so bad that I read the whole book wondering if it was a pastiche of an awful crime novel before noticing that it was a Sunday Times Number One best-seller.

It feels as though I've been away for a million years.
Big thanks to Anne and her family, and to Sot for organising the gig. I really, really enjoyed it.
Back in the deep end today- and how! I am just reflecting on things.

We photographed each other. Thank you, Scotland, too. I miss you.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Friday, September 21, 2018


It's a morning in the library, starting work on an academic article. At the moment the writing feels like a plane with no wings, huffing along the tarmac not wanting to take off.
Before hitting the keyboard, the whole thing seemed impossible, but I'm used to that now.
You have to choose the right moment to feel motivated to start (fear of the deadline is not something that works for me). Sometimes it's a little gleam of an original take on the subject, others it's anger, and sometimes it's sheer practicality: nobody has said this yet in this way, and this will be the first time.
I've done a thousand words, which is a milestone on the way to six thousand. The plane has wings but  it's a long way from take-off.
The subject? Danger, Anger and Noise in Punk (women, of course). I'm glad to be writing about other things now because it's better when life moves forwards rather than backwards, but I can see that this collection of essays is going to be of interest to a great many people, just like our film.
News on the first screening of the final version will be coming very soon indeed!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Sidling Up To the Royal Train

Newcastle had positively sunbathing weather. Catching up with old friends, sometimes unexpectedly, made me leave the toon with a big grin on my face; likewise Glasgow, although yesterday morning came in with the lamb and went out with a pack of howling hyenas.
There were no trains going anywhere, so Kenji and Till came to the rescue and drove into town. So many people were stranded, including a poor woman with a toddler and a baby in a pram. 'Make other arrangements', they said. That's OK for rich people, but not everyone can afford a hotel room. I wonder how she managed?

The flat was leaking like a sieve, but Till made lovely food and we talked our heads off. This morning the lamb was back, and the train north passed the Royal Train at Blair Atholl.

This time last year we were scattering Mum's ashes at Tummelbridge, and wandering through the streets of Pitlochry marvelling at the Christmas decorations. It seems like a hundred years ago.

Taking Off In Storm Ali

Through storms so strong my guitar flew off but didn't take me with it: was hoping for a Mary Poppins moment. Ullapool on Saturday with the mighty Shrew!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

At The Alhambra

Recording at Tom's, 2007

Bitter Springs at the Water Rats

Great evening. I was very sorry to miss The Oldfield Youth Club, but enjoyed Idiot Son a lot (really good songs, and a trumpet melts my heart every time I hear one).
Bitter Springs were completely on form and played some songs from their new (tenth) album to a rapturous reception from the audience.
Vic tells me his new album is coming out soon, too.
Cheered up both me and Champagne Friend. We both needed it.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Punk Women Party

This photo was on an old hard drive, and was taken in 2007 at the launch party for The Lost Women of Rock Music. There must have been more photographs: I wonder who took them?

Lucy O'Brien, Jennie Bellestar, Rhoda Dakar, Caroline Coon, me.

Women of the World

Yes, that is us.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018


I have thousands of lyrics... no, that doesn't sound quite right.
How do you quantify lyrics?
Herds? Heards? Flocks? Shocks? Bushels? Buckets? Reams? Streams?
Half of them are funny, comedic lyrics and the others are about narcissists and psychopaths.
I don't want to write funny songs at the moment but nor to I want to write songs about narcissists and psychopaths, not even to unblock the things I do want to sing about.
So I am waiting.
Meanwhile if anyone wants any of my spare words, I am selling them at a fiver a ton.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Posting Catch-Up

This is Gina Birch, with her painting of the Pussy Riot gang; this is on exhibition in Tufnell Park at the moment ,alongside another of her large canvases. She is just about to start at art college, so there will be many more of these strong and powerful paintings to come. Oddly, even in forward thinking north London, this painting provoked some outraged comments at the private view!

What's Next: Ullapool

What Was: Bom Banes

I am now totally in love with Bom-Banes.
The rail replacement bus service does its best to ruin trips to Brighton at weekends, but after a calming plate of root vegetable curry and a lovely chat with Jane about music, art and our Offsprogs, everything felt okay and I went for a walk along the pebbles and gazed at the pale green sea, which for some reason last night was the colour of an Alpine stream.
A cormorant flew along the sunset skyline, the first one I've ever seen in Brighton.

People eat upstairs before climbing down the spiral staircase into a bijou room with a teensy bar at the end and car seats masquerading as sofas. It felt like playing at a house concert, but with a bit more fizzy excitement about it.
It takes quiet genius to think through a venue like this, to guide people gently downstairs after their dinner and get them seated on chairs with multi-coloured cushions, and to make everyone feel so effortlessly relaxed, including the person playing. Actually, I can't put into words how it felt last night. I really, really appreciated seeing friends from when we were nineteen, twenty; and also a couple of people who I had been worried about but who are OK, and that is such a relief. There were a lot of really good singers in the audience, some of whom like Pete and Lisa perform there too (and Jane and Eliza, of course).

The rail replacement bus on the way back was a red double decker that roared along the A23 at a terrifying speed, rocking from side to side alarmingly: but I was somewhere else in my head, with an unaccountable lump in my throat.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Friday, September 07, 2018

Billy Childish at Koko

Ian Damaged must be very proud: Koko was sold out last night and packed with pop stars old and new. I met up with Shanne and unfortunately we didn't see much of the first band but we did catch Johnny Moped's high-powered set. Funny, because punks looked so different from everyone else back in the day that when they get older they look just as normal (or abnormal) as ever.
Johnny's band were mega-energetic and whipped the crowd up into a party mood.
Next, Nurse Julie strode on to the stage and strapped on a big, bad, red Gretsch bass; the drummer settled himself at the kit and Billy appeared in his First Word War finery, enormous moustache trembling in the heat radiated from the massed crowds, many bussed in from Chatham to watch their Kentish comrade strut his stuff. They weren't disappointed and roared for an encore, which featured more false starts for a song that I've ever seen in my life. This was a really great gig for Billy, and of course for Damaged Goods: selling out Koko is a great endorsement for a little record label that has weathered all sorts of storms and still managed to survive.

Billy is a scorching guitar player. Years ago he came in to speak to the students at the University of the West and declared, 'I'm going to show you how to play guitar really badly, really well', which he then proceeded to do. I think some of the students had thought they were the clever ones before that; some of them didn't understand what he was about, but the rest of them were mesmerised for the rest of the session.
Last night however, there was no playing badly really well; there was only playing extremely well and it was extremely inspiring to see and hear a guitar being thrashed in such a spirited way.
So who was there? Gaye Black, Dec Hickey who ran a record label at the University of the West, Kevin Younger, Zoe Howe (somewhere in the crowd!), numerous musos from the past and present, and Robert from King Kurt who told me that they have re-formed and have been playing all round Europe. You could have knocked me down with a feather; it was nice to see him again after all these years and we had a good yak.
Today, the world is back to normal, or rock'n'roll normal anyway. Gina and me are going to meet Doc'n'Roll to discuss screening Stories from the She-Punks in November. Fingers crossed....

Thursday, September 06, 2018


Somehow at this point in life I seem to have become like a tree with lots of branches. On every branch a bird sits, just like in winter when the leaves have fallen and the trees look as though they are bearing bird-fruit. Sometimes the birds feel heavy, but simultaneously I like them, because each one is an idea that has finally come to fruition.

I think it's happened because I broke my elbow. It was so horrible sitting at home for two months, not able to do anything except watch the bruises change colour.
Going to work was a humungous effort, and simple things like washing my hair or putting on a pair of socks took an hour. I wore the same jumper for ten days because it was the only thing that I could put on with one hand and that would go over the bandages.
If I took the painkillers that I was prescribed, I was away with the fairies, and if I didn't I was awake all night in agony.
For three or four days I had to prop my arm up in the air because it my hand swelled up like a shiny purple boxing glove.
Ugh, sorry.
The silliest thing was getting a knife stuck in an onion.
You need two hands to get a knife out of an onion, I've discovered.
I tried wedging it in the cooker and yanking it but it was completely stuck.
Eventually, by flicking the knife sharply (sorry) in mid-air, the onion loosened enough for me to drag it along the side of the chopping board and dislodge it.

So all that frustration and fury came out in deciding to f*cking do stuff because not being physically or mentally able to do anything is absolute sh*t!