Wednesday, January 30, 2019


All I ever really wanted to do was to marry Bert from Mary Poppins.

Leavin' You Baby

I'm having a rare slobbing-about morning before rehearsing for tonight's gig at the Amersham Arms in New Cross.
It's a late one, mid-week and sandwiched between work and finalising gig dates for 2019. The first lot are sorted; this doing-it-yerself malarkey is knackering, and I was fantasising last night with the Offsprogs about holidays.
Oh me oh my. Somewhere warm and somewhere lazy, with no computer and no internet connection for the phone either. Sea, sand, ice cream (vanilla please), warm sun and an occasional cool breeze, good company, a blue sky and beautiful sunsets.....
Out there it's splodgy snow, slush, and one poor snowdrop given to me by Adrian in a bag of plants from his allotment years ago. It is valiantly flowering (yes, I notice you snowdrop, every morning: thank you for trying!).
And the beautiful thing that has brightened the day is to see a little flock of Coal Tits drinking droplets of meltwater off the Weeping Mulberry, and helping themselves to peanuts from the bird-feeder that the squirrels haven't managed to destroy. The squirrels ate their way through two plastic ones to get at the nuts, scoffing them off the ground after the feeders collapsed. This one is made of metal and they have tried their hardest to get at it, to no avail.
The back yard is so dark for birds to dare to fly into, but at last they have braved the gloom.
What else?
On days like this, you are supposed to do housework, but bugger that. And the upstairs ceilings need to be painted, but bugger that too (weekend perhaps?).
I will do some research for the chapter on Oh Bondage! Up Yours, maybe collecting together the thoughts I've scribbled on packets of paracetamol, my phone notes and various other spontaneous places.
And I will listen to this song, which was a hoot to record. We did one version in Robin Scott's (Pop Music by M) studio in Wivelsfield, and then this final version in Alaska Studios in Waterloo with Gary Glitter's son engineering it; he was a really nice bloke, and an exceptional sound engineer. He had his husky dog with him in the studio. Simon Walker played fiddle, Nick 'Dubulah' Page played lots of instruments, I vocalised and programmed the drum machine and Mykaell Riley just happened to be passing by, and he played harmonica on it before leaping into his car and driving off int the Waterloo Sunset.
It was the first time I had been told in no uncertain terms that I HAD to be able to sing in the mornings, and all the claptrap about singers' voices only sounding good later afternoon and evening was a load of rubbish: Be Professional! (thank you for the talking-to Nick).
We waited till the engineer went to make the tea and pushed all the volumes right up on the mixing desk (sorry!) (not sorry!), drove the Bell sampler to its limits and then some, kept all the madness and generally had a great recording day.
There are more stories around this release too but I'm off to make a cup of coffee. Ta-ra!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

From Belfast With Love

Gina and me with Sean and Joe in Belfast a couple of weeks ago after the Stories from the She-Punks screening.

Amersham Arms Tomorrow

I have a gig tomorrow night at The Amersham Arms in New Cross. It is free to get in, and I'll be on late- 10.45- playing new songs and one or two oldsters too. Vinyl singles for sale. Singing as enthusiastically as this hippo!

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Poster in Progress


I think one of the best actors in Vera is the weather. Newcastle's not the rainiest city in the UK but it has it's moments: it's on it's best behaviour during this series.

Saturday, January 26, 2019


I hopped on the early train up to York to visit Mick, June, Laura and Danny; we fed the robin, the blue-tits and the squirrels in the park, sat at a round table and ate Italian food, had tea and cake in a tea shop and had a lovely time catching up and talking our heads off. It was great to see them. Here we are under the trees on the way back to the station.
Photo taken by Danny.
On the way home, King's Cross station was filled with a huge mass of singing football fans and their drum: what an amazing sound! I recorded it but can't post it here, sadly. The funniest thing was them all cramming tightly into the carriages of a southbound Northern Line train, the singing and drumming being muted as soon as the the doors slid closed, but the tube train actually bouncing up and down at the platform in time to the drum! Ha ha!


Funerals are not fun, but yesterday's was cathartic and full of love.

Friday, January 25, 2019

From The Rocksteady Last Night

Pic by Terry Tydesley: thanks for coming along and noticing that I was in the wrong place!
Quite a larf to have a good lung-blast on a freezing January night and play some new stuff.
More on Wednesday next week in New Cross.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Thursday 24th January

I will be playing some new songs at this song writer night in Dalston; I'm on at about 9.30 and it's free:

574 Kingsland Road LondonENG E8 4AP 020 7923 9518


I have terrific students at both Universities at the moment; they are creative, energetic, positive and just great to work with.
Dave Laing's funeral is happening later this week and the sadness of that is a great contrast to the buzz at work. It's at the same crematorium that Poly Styrene's was, which has a certain poetry to it because he was one of the best writers on punk that I've ever read, and his book One Chord Wonders was actually on the kitchen table when I heard the news because I'm writing an article about Oh Bondage! Up Yours.
Dave's writing was gleeful: you must read that book, because his observations about the Tartanry in Johnny Rottens's singing, and the comparisons to Harry Lauder and Andy Stewart, are hilarious. I laugh every time I read it. Imagine laughing at an academic book!
Good people like Dave seem like islands in a sea of confusion and madness. I must say that he was inspirational and I really miss him: I know a great many of his friends feel exactly the same way.

Sunday, January 20, 2019


It's so cold that when you go outside, your eyes squirt out water like waterpistols.
The clothes in the back yard got a reprieve from the chill, and the fluttering exercise band from Finchley Memorial Hospital Physiotherapy Department that's tied to the kitchen door-handle did too, after indicating that here was a Force Ten gale blowing through the back door. Sealed in by draught strip, it's back-to-back Vera from now until bedtime. Chow.


I have already broken my only New Year's Resolution of not working on Sundays.
Somehow the week's academic tasks just seem to overflow into the weekend, no matter what. Before the next load of unistuff, I've packed all my jumpers into a huge bin bag and they are out in the yard getting a bit of freezing, something I heard stops the moth eggs from hatching.
It did actually work a couple of years ago (I think it was that, anyway). I just have to remember to bring them in before the rats nest in them tonight to get out of the sub-zero temperatures!

Saturday, January 19, 2019

New York

Relaxing, 2003

On R Kelly

What an excellent article on R Kelly in the Guardian on Friday by Ben Beaumont-Thomas!
The writer perfectly defines the power of what is probably a psychopathic personality (could be Trump, even: it's that 'outsider' feeling that he's special, and normal rules don't apply to him).
'Fans don't want Kelly to be a paedophile or rapist because that would ruin the music'.
People don't want their heroes to have let them down. They would rather believe endless denials of wrongdoing, even when the truth is staring them in the face.
Here is a true story.
I'll never forget the con man in Brighton who tricked two of my housemates out of their money.
He was dressed as a monk and was Asian. As he sat there drinking tea with them after knocking on the door seemingly at random, he made them feel sorry for him: he had a wooden leg, he said, and was terribly poor and unfortunate. This was awful for a spiritual man like him. He just needed a bit of goodwill to help him get by
Hearts going out to him, they gave him all the money they had between them, and he went on his way expressing his heartfelt gratitude.
Later that week, there was an article in the Evening Argus about him. He was a plausible con man who had played this trick on scores of people.
The housemates felt stupid.
'You know, when he was telling me about his wooden leg I was looking at his legs, and both of them looked perfectly normal, but I still believed him'.
We think we are too clever to be tricked; the story, the music, the charm all break through our resistance and we let people exploit us and then run away without taking the rap for what they've done.
Well, I hope R Kelly, Trump and everyone else's chickens come home to roost in 2019!
Will it happen?
I don't think so.

Another Song From The Dusty Archive

Song From The Dusty Archive

January in Paris

This is from more than ten years ago; I've been listening to old stuff and some unreleased demos from back then. Lyrically, they seem wise. Why have I been such a fool?


A Day's Recording

It sure as hell feels good to start recording a new album. You hear the warts and all but then you start to feel inspired. Thanks to Ian Button for a good session.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Wot a Week!

Big thanks again to everyone in Belfast for being so brilliant, and special mention to Michael our driver, for the guided tour; the 'Peace Wall' with a million signatures, and gates that close at 10 p.m. to divide the Catholics from the Protestants was a revelation, and we'll sign it next time when it's not dark and scary. Thank you for making us home-made sandwiches, Michael: they were very welcome at 4.45 a.m. in the morning on Monday as we waited for the early plane to Gatwick with a hundred silver-topped businessmen. Now that's a geezer! Michael had lots of interesting stories about horrid famous people (Shhh!)
Thank you to Joe, Sean and Maggie too, and to the audience for dressing up to the nines, asking brilliant questions and giving us a standing ovation. we had a great chat afterwards: things like The Clash letting down a whole venue load of people, because they were too scared to come to Belfast, and the replica bands that did extremely well playing other bands' repertoires, like The Belfast Beatles. I liked that idea, local people making a load of dosh for themselves out of the fear of the proper pop stars!
It was great to see the students again for the first day of term later on Monday, even through a mist of tiredness: they are all ready to write more songs. And the MA students did just that on Tuesday, with Badu from Senegal adding some thrilling improvised lyrics to his verse.
On Wednesday I went to Cambridge to record a session and interview with Dave Hammond for The Smelly Flowerpot show. Dave is a great interviewer and a total music fan, and it was a right larf to catch up with him again. The show is going to be broadcast on 28th January so I'll post a link when it's up there.
Yesterday Ian Ballard from the label Damaged Goods came to talk to the students at the University of the East, and the boy done good- his talk was entertaining and informative, and he also gave me a copy of the cover version of Oh Bondage Up Yours! on pink vinyl that Shadtax have just released (Billy Childish's son's band). I'm writing a chapter on the X Ray Spex track for an anthology of favourite songs, so it's great to have the cover to write about too.
And today I went to record a session with Ian Button, musical/engineer/producer extraordinaire, as recommended by Kenji. We got five tracks done, several of which are definitely good enough to go on the CD I'm going to release later in the year.
What me gonna do this weekend? Sleeeeeeeep!!!!!!!

Monday, January 14, 2019

The She-Punks Film Goes To Belfast!

You lovely lot. Thank you for donning your finery and just being fabulous! More later in week but knackered after 4.15 start for plane home and just about to go to work. Here's some pix to be going on with.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Songs from the Kitchen: I Feel It

This song is from more than ten years ago, but I still enjoy singing and playing it.
When I moved into this house I never realised how useful the kitchen would be as a studio!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Bandful Artwork by Bambos

King's Cross Skyline

This track is by Shola Adewusi, whose songs I really like. She is an actor, and very busy so we don't get to work together much. It is really interesting to take on the producer's role and work with another artist when normally it's my own material that I produce.
Hats off to Shanne, Javier, Serhan and Charlie for leaping straight in at short notice and doing a great job- and to Shola for coming up with the goods in the first place!

Friday, January 11, 2019


I found these in a box at home.
Doodling helps me to concentrate at work meetings, and also helps with ideas.
Some of these are ancient.


We are bringing the She-Punks documentary to Belfast on Sunday, so see you there if you're coming along!

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Dave Laing

I heard today that Dave Laing passed away earlier this week. He was a great pal, and the greatest mentor. Just yesterday I was making a plan to email him for lunch, so he could catch up with another mutual friend. His book on punk, One Chord Wonders, is right there on the table- I've been using it as a source, yet again. He was editing my book on women sound engineers and producers, too.
It's almost impossible to describe what fun Dave was. He had an instinct for the devil's skeleton beneath harmless-looking skin and was never shocked by tales of skullduggery. He was the best disliker you could imagine (although he liked more people than you could imagine). If you described an act of wrongdoing, his lip would curl and he would look into the middle distance; his distaste was palpable. He loved a little bit of gossip (although he couldn't possibly comment). He was immensely kind and patient and honest. He was completely un-racist and un-sexist and trustworthy. He supervised my PhD and countless others, wrote and researched all sorts of music industry material, and provided invisible and unstinting support for a huge range of people who were involved in all sorts of different musical endeavours. He was modest, though, to a fault.
It was great to visit him and his partner in Hastings last year, at his airy house right on top of the cliffs that looked out over the downs and the sea. Hastings suited him: you could imagine him becoming quite Agatha Christie later on in his life.
Alas, he did not get there; I do know that he knew how much his friends and colleagues loved and respected him, because we all made sure that we saw him regularly to stock up on whatever it was he had: what I've described, I suppose. He was an absolute gem of a man. Goodbye, Dave X

Monday, January 07, 2019


Lily came from the cheap flower stall in Stratford Market last year, and thrived on the office windowsill for six months, until the summer holidays meant that a move to the back yard had to take place.
Now in a clay pot instead of a plastic one, Lily grew and flowered in late summer.
I brought the pine tree in from the yard to be a Christmas Tree and noticed that Lily was in flower, in late December; Lily now perches on the kitchen windowsill, and doesn't appear to have noticed the sub-zero temperatures this week. This is an inspiration and should be a model of resilience to all of us in 2019. If Lily can do it, we bloody well can!
(Stop Press: Barnet FC did it already! Good on yer!)

Friday, January 04, 2019

Tomorrow's Plan

.... is to buy as many flowers as I can afford, fill the room with them, and write a song about the summer. See you on Monday!

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Favourite Asbo Derek Track

Genius! Even tops their list of lost property at the Buddhist Centre song. This actually kept me awake all night a few days ago. Every time I was about to drop off, the riff faded up jangling from my unconscious mind and another drink came into my head....

A pint of Woodpecker: The Double Deckers
A Party Four: Jackanor (y)
Amontillado: El Dorado
A can of Tizer: The Equaliser
A pint of Stout: Beadle's About

They missed out 'Milk from the fridge: Mary Mungo and Midge', Mark's line, which was a terrible pity. I invaded the song, perhaps, with Harvey's Bristol Cream: Camberwick Green but I'm happy for that to be replaced with the milk one, which after all is a healthier option.
Film by Jane Barnes
Little known fact: 'Beadle's About' used to be known as 'Beadle's a B*stard' in our household. Can't think why.


How terribly ironic after a year of insomnia and exhaustion, to have mastered the act of not only going to sleep, but more importantly, oversleeping...  just at the point of returning to work!

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

London Sacred Harp at Café Oto

Streams of people with cold, cross, January faces were flooding off the tube this evening. By the time I'd got to Camden, I almost turned back and accepted a winter night's fate of TV and central heating (didn't have that till I was 38 years old, and I've never stopped appreciating it!).
There was a swarm of delivery mopeds at the back of Café Oto: it's a secret meeting place where Deliveroos can play Techno to each other and swoop about in small circles in their black shiny bike gear to emphasise their Bro conversations; a tiny secret community.

Round the corner, the caff was warm inside; people queued up at the bar politely.
Ginger beer spilled into my Christmas purse, and it's only January.
Without any fuss, the London Sacred Harp singers took to their chairs, four sides of a square. A bearded chap welcomed us and explained that they are a singing community, not a choir, so they are not used to singing to an audience. He asked us not to clap until the end of the first half.
Almost like a game of tag, a name was announced, and after that another name. Each time, a different member of the group got up, cited a number from the Sacred Harp hymnal, and a male group member sang the notes of the separate parts so that everyone could pitch. Every tune ran round once with a Fa-Sol-La-Mi version, followed by a couple of verses with words. Some people conducted with their arms, others concentrated hard on their books.

With close on forty people's voices, this was an incredible sound: loud, crisp, tightly within the beat (I got how they pitched, but how did they pulse?), harsh in places (that's the sound; untrained voices singing open throated at maximum volume), and so generous-spirited that the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. This is a multi-faith and no-faith group of people who sing their hearts out acapella, without any technology is sight; this is the music we will hear at the end of the world. I definitely never thought I'd hear it in Hackney: it originated in England in the 18th Century and made its way to brush arbor meetings in the Deep South of the USA, but apparently it's making a renaissance. Contemporary shape note singing is about singing for the sake of singing. It's a bit like an igloo: everything is targeted towards warming the middle, not outwards to the audience, although we didn't feel excluded in any way. Gradually, you could identify different singing voices in the mix, and you could see that some of the people leading some of the songs were extremely talented musicians.

After the break (and some very enthusiastic applause) we were given song sheets and told how to interpret the notes, and we too took part in the singing community.
What a lovely evening, and what a great way to start the year off.

This is from Youtube: it's another rare gig they did at the Union Chapel in 2017. You'll get an idea of the sound, which I've only heard on ancient recordings before:

Functioning Despite Malfunctions

Well, despite the fact that my car appears to be trying to kill me in a dramatic fashion and has attempted this at least twice, and my poncy watch has developed its own notions of timekeeping that don't match up with the rotation of the earth, and despite the looming doom-laden Brexit horror, I am not miserable. This is a complete mystery to me but I'm not complaining about it.
The Christmas leftovers have lasted until today (Brussels sprouts and Pannetone, a thrilling combination!), and for some reason I slept for nine hours yesterday, followed by a very pleasant two hour chat with Enid Williams from Girlschool on the house phone that normally only rings when the dentist's assistant dials the wrong number, and the digestion of the BBC documentary about Bros, After the Screaming Stops, which everyone seems to be talking about.
It's such a brilliant documentary: so tenderly filmed and so brave.
What  a miracle that Luke and Matt Goss survived intact, after the shafting they got from the music industry. Some people have been mocking them for saying silly things but they are just ordinary blokes in an extraordinary situation; some people have said they are damaged but they are not, particularly.
Their sibling rivalry is laid bare but anyone with a brother or sister or two would recognise the spats, the grimaces, the failed attempts at manipulation and the competition between siblings.
What was really touching was the sequence where they talked about sharing a dart between them; they had no dart board but just used to throw it up in the air, with obvious consequences.
Grandad mended the hole in Matt's ribs, and they went out and continued to play.
I remembered a dream from five years ago where I sang backing vocals for them at Wembley.
I was a mermaid in the dream, which is just as likely as singing backing vocals for Bros!

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Looking Back Before Moving Forward (6)

Looking Back Before Moving Forward (5)

Looking Back Before Moving Forward (4)

For McMum, who love this one.

Looking Back Before Moving Forward (3)

Looking Back Before Moving Forward (2)

Looking Back Before Moving Forward (1)

Happy 2019!