Wednesday, November 27, 2019

A Happy Sort of Knackered

It's funny what a good recording session can do for you. We have two really good bilingual songs in the bag, one of which ticks rather a lot of Northern Soul (!) boxes, and it was also a really stress-free day. More details when I have time, no doubt.
And then I got up this morning, and looked at my writing and I feel like I've got the keys to the door of it now: there's a book waiting at the library to be picked up but I've actually stopped today so I don't over-write it too much.
Believe it or not, I am going to teach some family members to knit Fair Isle patterns this avo.
In my cave of activity hidden away from politics, life is quite extraordinary.

By the way, I'm going to vote Labour. I can't even bear to write anything about the odious and aptly-named Johnson. I find the various rationales for voting for a party led by such a creep completely astonishing. Being the Mum of two twenty-something Offsprogs, and lecturing young people of roughly the same age, the hopelessness and despair they feel combined with the dismantling of the only thing worth anything at the moment in the UK, the National Health Service, the rise in racism and the huge amount of desperate homeless people facing winter on the streets.... words literally fail me.
I know I have no control over the idiots who want to perpetuate this complete destruction and decay. That's why I haven't blogged about it before.
I am far too angry.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Recording in English and German in Brixton

Photos by Ian Button and Robert Rotifer.

Trousers. A First World Problem.

A few weeks ago, I did the perfectly normal and equally perfectly annoying thing of leaving a tissue in my trousers pocket when I put them in the washing machine.
I swear I checked every pocket in advance, but a tissue managed to escape by hiding somewhere and only emerging when the water started squiring into the drum of the machine.
Four pairs of smart work trousers (that's all of them) covered in little white dots.
I had a moan on social media and someone recommended vinegar, so I did a vinegar rinse.
Alas, no difference; so I hung them all up and hoped the pesky white fluff would drop off.
Eventually last night I gave in, and with a combination of sellotape, lint rollers and an unusual (for me) amount of patience, I managed to make three pairs of trousers relatively presentable.
Alas, the fourth pair was impossible to clean.
I tried an old ruse of putting them in the drier, but they came out even worse, seemingly managing to retrieve two entire quarter-tissue shreds during the process, plus a provocatively even spread of even more white tissue dots.
I resorted to the hoover.
Flat on the floor, I sucked up one trouser leg after the other and managed to cover a smart pair of black trousers with streaks of grey dust to add to the little white dots of fluffy tissue that clung to their fibres with admirable persistence.
Now I have flung them over the back of a chair in disgrace.
Tomorrow, I'll wear them in understanding company as a gesture of defiance against smartness, having learned the lesson that it's Simply Not Worth It.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Rough Trade East Tonight

My students are writing protest songs about the climate emergency, so I went to this talk tonight. Words later in the week.

The Oxford Anthology of Punk

What I am writing is a chapter for the Oxford Anthology of Punk, covering women punk bands and violence and noise.
I don't think the violent environment of the 1970s is written about enough in relation to what it was like to be a young woman back then, and how violent some young punk women had to be in order to survive. So that's what it's about, alongside loudness and so on.
I'm not a musicologist, and nor am I au fait with every bit of feminist writing, so a lot of it concentrates on the way that male and female music critics wrote about it all. They were the bridge between the bands and an audience that often was not in the right place physically or financially to actually witness the music, and sometimes the journalists simply got it wrong.
I'm reading Nesrine Malik's book at the moment and it's making me very angry about myth-making and the ways the it demeans people. It's very good. It's not the sort of book that you should read if you are unable to look at your own views from a critical perspective and it's unleashing a fair bit of latent anger inside me, probably not before time.
Off to the library to pick up a book.
Writing this has been a moment of procrastination, but it's helped to calm me down too.
Something has made me furious today, and it's difficult to back out of it without ruffling my own feathers even more.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Catching Up Day

Rehearsing for Tuesday's recording session with Robert and Ian; almost-finishing in an academic article (I've lost a photocopy of an NME article I quoted from, and I'm going to have to lose a perfect citation); colouring the prototype stamp for the record sleeve.
Washing clothes.
You know. Sunday, day of not-rest!

Steamroller Choir, High Barnet

Probably singing Heavy Metal covers, I imagine.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The Arrival Of The Miniature Albums

Voila! Three boxes of miniature 7" albums, 33 1/3 albums in each box= 100 albums.
All ready to be hand-finished. Release date February 29th 2020, launch date 21st March at the Lexington, a very special gig with Vic, Johny and Simon. Will also be available on Bandcamp as a download.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Writing Again

There is something quite peaceful about writing again after a few very hectic weeks of teaching.
I have been working seven and eight hour days to settle the students into their new work, and it's taken it's toll in tiredness.
The blast at the weekend was a good way to change gear and I've spent most of today rewriting, reading and correcting a manuscript that was sent back to me several weeks ago and that I simply haven't had time to look at.
There are two main things to do now: dig out the original music press photocopies in (perhaps a vain) hope of finding full page and issue references, and then rewriting the final paragraph.
I have almost run out of brain (I can manage about three hours and then I'm done) and I've been trying to work out the chords for one of the songs that Robert and I wrote a few weeks back in the breaks from writing. I was certain I'd be able to remember, but I can't work it out.
After a lightbulb moment, I looked on my phone and there's photograph of one of them, but there are more mystery chords than just that one. All I remember is that the chords of that particular song weren't too hard to play, unlike the other one which trips me up every time.

I spent almost the whole night last night writing songs in my sleep.
This was really irritating. I was so tired and didn't want to get up and record them. Offsprog One was staying over and I would have felt like complete twat if she had heard me, but I did sing one into my phone under the bedclothes.
The rest will have to be re-dreamed another time, or forgotten.
The thing is, it's all very well having the melodies and rhythm, but it's a lot easier to write songs words first. At the moment, the words pop into my head on the way to work and melodies come to me in my sleep. Somehow, I have to merge the two things together. It's just a matter of time, I think.
Back to working out those chords, and then perhaps another half an hour of writing.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Records (3)

A hundred records in three boxes, miniature albums playing at thirty-three-and-a-third RPM.
Do you think there are thirty three and a third records in each box?

Sunday, November 17, 2019


Somehow, I ended up on a train to Glasgow on Friday to visit Kenji and Till, armed with a thick academic book to read and an article to correct.
Kenji met me at Glasgow Central and we went for a cup of tea and both tried out a fabulous guitar that begged to be bought but alas, neither of us was rich enough so we got on a train to Crossmyloof and ended up in Paisley.
We had got on the wrong train.
Back at Glasgow Central, we started again and had just got to his and Till's, when Kenji noticed that the Pearlfishers were playing at the Oran Mor. I know David Scott from years ago, love his songs and had never seen them live so of course we had to go.
Food? Pah!
Off we went, stood down the front and watched/listened to a really good gig played by great musicians. And a lot of witty repartee from Davey: 'Unbelievable: I walked in here tonight and our record were on sale just over there by the door!'
Once we'd climbed out of the speakers, I discovered that Kenji's friend Tita had messaged and invited us to a bar, so off we went again, drifting into a chip shop along the way to get the world's most delicious chips to wolf down on our way there.
And there was Tita, and her partner who plays trumpet for Belle and Sebastian, who was just off to DJ somewhere else. I spent the evening chatting to two members of Dragged Up, one of whom used to be a Trembing Bell. They were great.
At the end of the evening, they said 'We like you. Will you join our band?', and of course, I said yes.
What a night!
And somewhere along the line, a huge pearl of wisdom emerged from Kenji's idea store: that in a band, the imagination is an instrument in itself.
Yes, so very true.
Hall of Famous Quotes for you, Sir!

The three of us breakfasted the next day at Jodandy's and I shot off to look at Glasgow's TK Maxx (disappointing), but saw some fantastic samba buskers in kilts.
Oh such fun!
I'm exhausted.
I choked on my tea again at a posting in the TK Maxx Gallery of Horrors: the 'Ginger Tool'.
Oh deary me. Fetch me my slippers butler, life's rich and varied tapestry has been particularly rich and varied this weekend.
I need sleep.
Is it really only 7 p.m.?

Photos, in completely the wrong order: David Scott at play; samba band resting between numbaz; Kenji and Till; me, a Dragged Up and Tita (photo by Kenji); Kenji playing the swanky guitar.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019


In theory, I have my records.
They have been delivered a stone's throw from here to a shop in the shopping centre that I can't get to because I got back from work too late, and won't be able to get tomorrow for the same reason.
Say your prayers that I'll be able to pick em up on Friday before ten in the morning!
I'm consumed with curiosity, and I've been testing the stamps out to see how they will look.
Meanwhile, my neighbours appear to have gone away and I have a massive box belonging to them on the chest of drawers,
O Royal Mail, where art thou?

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Raincoats at EartH, Hackney on Sunday Night

It's almost impossible to describe the atmosphere at the gig on Saturday. The venue, which holds 1000 people, was packed with people of all ages, genders and cultures, all come out to support the anniversary of the first Raincoats album.
The venue looks like something from the set of Metropolis: cavernous, grey, with formal-looking animal panels on the ceiling, massive abstract wrought-iron panels on the walls at the back, a huge PA rig, and vast stylised lights that look like old-fashioned X-Ray machines.
Tiny Shirley appeared on the stage to introduce the gigs, and soon Gina, Ana, Anne and their guest drummer arrived on stage to play through the entire album as the first part of the evening. From where we were sitting the sound was drum and bass heavy (just like the Old Days, in fact), but the spirit was there and the songs came across beautifully.
There was a VIP area down the front where we could have sat, but up on the football terraces (wooden steps where cinema seats had once been) you got a good view and also got to sit next to Karina and Andy. I suppose I thought I would be able to catch up with people at the after party but that was not to be (more about that later). At one point the drum pedal broke but another materialised just in time for the next song.
There was lots of history there: Vicky Aspinall was in the audience and Lora Logic was invited on stage to play on Lola. Tall, elegant and note-perfect, she triggered quite an emotional response from the audience (including me: such a long tine since interviewing her for the book, when more people were alive and I suppose I thought there would be more of us around to celebrate this moment).
The first of the guests was Green from Scritti Politti, aided and abetted by Rhodri Marsden, the world's most session musician for the simple reason that he plays everything like he means it. Green's voice remains simply divine and this was a wonderful surprise, as was the next guest band, Big Joanie playing seated and semi-acoustic. The simplicity of their delivery came across really well; I'd never seen them live and I thought they were fantastic. They were well-rehearsed, they have great songs and a sense of humility that is really refreshing (they thanked The Raincoats for inspiration), in a world full of music-school arrogance. Brilliant.
The second Raincoats set was completely informal and released the audience from their tiered seating: there was a flood to the front of the theatre. Honey Birch joined the group for a new song called 57 Ways To Die, employed for her whistling skills; Ana took to the mini synthesiser, and Anne continued her multi tasking as guitarist, violin player and additional vocalist (what a complete asset to the group she is). Despite the audience's enthusiasm, the gig had run over time and there was no encore.
What a great atmosphere!
I missed the last train home, and have rediscovered the plethora of back streets in north London and Barnet on a freezing cold rattly little bus in the depths of the night: but it was all worth it!

Friday, November 08, 2019

All I Want Is The Sun To Shine For You


And I DJ-ed at the after party at Soho Radio!

Gina Birch: 'I'm Glad I'm me Today'

This is my favourite song that Gina has written. She was in excellent voice last weekend at the Doc'n'Roll screening of her films at the ICA. Lucy O'Brien did the Q &A, and was well-prepared as always to bring the best out of the conversations they had between films.
The films were shown in three sections, and the ones that I liked best were the New Order video that featured Jane Horrocks lugging an ever-growing suitcase, puffing and panting through rough landscapes, finally climbing into it when it got too large to carry any more; and the short film Jenny about a shoe-shop assistant's longing for fame and acclaim, and eventual fear of taking the opportunity when it arrived, which was particularly poignant given the context of Gina's life trajectory. There is such a thing as the wrong kind of fame, and Gina definitely has achieved the right kind. The final section showed some of her paintings, which deal uncompromisingly with rape and male power. The whole evening was intensely moving and greatly appreciated by the audience.
We loved it all, Gina.

Monday's Mood

More postings coming including Gina's film screening last Saturday.
I have been working like crazy at the University of the East this week....
I found this on my computer when I was testing some new (second hand, but utterly fabulous) headphones.
Good track for a Friday?

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

The Lovely Basement in Easton, Bristol

Somehow I'll catch up with what went on at the weekend...
Here's a little video of the Lovely Basement on Friday. Such songs! They played a particular beautiful new one about Lake Ontario where the twin guitars spoke to each other in a perfectly... well, lovely way. The bass player's ten year old daughter helped out on percussion (you might see her with her pineapple shaker in the shadows).
Thanks for coming along Rocker, Mark Wainwright and Tina from the Brighton punk scene (we haven't seen each other for 30 years) who looks about a year older than the last time we saw each other. And thank you to the couple who gave me a lift back into Bristol- I'd got lost on the way there after receiving directions from a woman who thought left was right, a man who thought a flat road was a hill, and a phone satnav that got even more lost than I was.
It was nice to play Big Brother Is Watching You as an encore, in response to The Lovely Basement's social media song. I haven't played that one for a while.
Big luv to The Lovely Basement for inviting me over!
The fairy lights around the microphone stands were perfect.

Friday, November 01, 2019


I discovered that my turntable plays too fast.
Big thanks to Richard for calibrating his, and testing the Pea Soup test pressing!
It's gone into production.
Stupidly, I bought a red ink pad for the rubber stamps, and will have to get another one.
Turntables... on the list to get a new one. My playing system is quirky to say the least.
Turntable line into old CD/cassette player, put on top of emptied kitchen cupboards to act as bass bins. The actual sound is great (so different to putting the player on top of the fridge) but the speed, not so great.
On the list.
Everything is kept in the chest of drawers until the need arises: socks, microphones, jumpers, leads, pop shield, interfaces, turntable, trousers.
I'm surprised the moths have managed to find anywhere to rest their dusty little silver heads, and indeed there are less and less of them as time passes.
Time passes: yes, just waiting to leave for Bristol. No spare arms for an umbrella, so it's going to be a wet journey.
Luckily, skin is a waterproof layer and my singing won't get wet.

S* L*ng Br*ns*n!

Getting his ideas off the ground again, this is dedicated to the eternal V*rgin and his team of spacetronauts. I will play it tonight!

Bristol Tonight!

Bristol's gig tonight is at the invitation of The Lovely Basement, songsmiths extraordinaire, upstairs at The Greenbank Pub, Easton. Hope to see all you Brissols there!