Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Mindless TV

After a three-hour lecture with the third years, I left work in a daze and headed home to rest my mind.  Then I got a text from Gina and realised that I should have been at the Horse Hospital to watch Kitty Finer. The head said Not, and so did the body.
How I wish I'd gone. Watching TV does absolutely nothing for the brain.
Did I tell you that the other day I went over to Gina's to sing harmonies over some of the tracks for her new album? There is some lovely music there; I am looking forward to hearing what it all sounds like when it's been through her mixer masher processors!
Soundscapes one day, Peter Seeger another.
Life is a rich tapestry punctuated by mindless TV that is very much a threadbare cushion cover.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Loose End

If you're at a loose end tomorrow evening, come down to the Boogaloo in Highgate where a motley crew of musicians will be playing tributes to Peter Seeger at one of Nat Loughran's wonderful 'Under The Influence' nights. It's three quid to get in and worth getting there for the kick-off at 8.30 because the acts go on in a random order. Everyone plays two of their own songs plus a Peter Seeger. I'm playing The Banks Are Made Of Marble which I think was actually a Weavers song; it's uncannily relevant today. I will also play a couple of the new skiffle songs but no albums just yet: I think they'll be arriving later in the week. I will bring some Helen and the Horns albums though.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Home Again

From Edinburgh I travelled to Ross-shire, which was all gloriously decked out in Spring yellow: wild gorse, semi-cultivated daffodils (thousands), and farmed rapeseed fields as far as the eye could see.
We watched a strange winged fish in Ullapool harbour dawdle in the oil-streaked waters, and bought fish and chips in Golspie to eat by the side of the Loch.
The air rang with birdsong. 'It's never winter here, oh no!'. they trilled, saturating the soundscape with a multitude of melodies.
We bought ice cream at the 1950s cafe in Strathpeffer, and sat on a bench to eat it, warmed by the Highlands sunshine.
I came home to a flood of emails, but I read the week's newspapers with the remaining relaxation lest it leave me too soon.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Lonnie Donnegan

After a tip from a group of professorial vinyl fans at the conference this weekend, I visited the wonderful Backbeat Records in Edinburgh and left with a Bear Family Lonnie Donnegan compilation to plonk on the turntable when I get back.
That, and a load of 12' disco records from the 1970s. And Champion Doug Veitch, and Girls by the Moments and Whatnauts to remind myself that gender-dodgy lyrics served up by amazing singers on a bed of delicious music is definitely a pre-21st century phenomenon!

Scottish Sky

On one side, an airbrushed, dark, purplish-grey leaked from the sky to the land that blurred the distinction between the two and foregrounded a dirty mist.
On the other, a merry blue sky twinkled with innocent joy; plumped-up clouds shone with a cheeky pinkish glow: 'It's SPRING!' they trilled.
From left to right, the battle of the seasons, the battle of the sky, was about to begin.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


The chap in Edinburgh's Backbeat Records told me that Lonnie Donnegan and The Moody Blues got stoned together at the Isle of Wight Festival, and Justin Heyward sold the copyright to Nights in White Satin to Lonnie. The Donnegan family recoup royalties for the song to this day.


A Finnish delegate asked me the time. Instinctively, I looked at my watch.
Unfortunately, I had a full cup of coffee in my left hand, which tipped out faster than I could correct it.
Fortunately, hooked on to my left wrist was my half-opened umbrella, which caught the coffee neatly and channelled it into a nylon-walled puddle ready to be mopped up by a paper napkin.
Note to self: learn gravitas.

Friday, April 11, 2014


A stiff East Coast breeze blows up my coat sleeves and chills my heart as usual; it peppers my eyes with tiny bits of grit and I weep grey Niddry Street tears.
For much of the last two days, I've been sitting in an intellectual stew: a very friendly and interesting one, thank goodness. Suddenly, I know about copyright in Senegalese Rap, and Finnish yoik.(autocorrect that, iPhone!)
I have presented my paper and imagined a virtual bookshelf of essential new texts, and been mildly scared by Robert Christgau. There are some old pals here and some writers whose books have become close companions, and I have met some stimulating new people.
Edinburgh is as bonkers as ever. High culture rubs shoulders with charity shops (three interesting albums, only faintly scratched, bought on the way there this morning). 
I escaped a looming pub crawl to look for fish and chips, but instead found a Lebanese Cafe full of what I took to be Lebanese people. It was the right decision to eat there, but I do smell of barbecued food and chips. Eau de caff!
On the way to the bus stop, my path was blocked as the pavement was spilling over with a hen party who were full of excitement, and bubbling over with pride in their idea. No pink bunny ears, micro-mini skirts and porn heels for them! They sported rollers in their hair (some hair dyed bright blue-grey), 50s frilly pinnies, slippers, thick foundation face make-up and coral lipstick. They knew how funny they were and they tumbled along like a clutch of puppies chasing butterflies.
It's so subversive not to be sexy!

Apologies for typos. The phone's slapping unmovable  'send feedback' messages all over the place. The feedback I want to send as a consequence of this is unprintable.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


Hoo-ha! Hoo ha! the printer sings a chain gang song.
I'm printing out interviews to read on the train to Edinburgh.
In a moment of genius, a transatlantic email interview has turned up and actually brought tears to my eyes and warmed my heart beyond words.
I've been trying to get funding for this research and not been able to, so it's all powered by goodwill and that has been delivered in spades; people from behind the scenes have given time and energy to something that I think will be a unique body of research.
Now, I have to edit it all (and one more interview to do) and write the most interesting academic essay I have ever done in my life. It needs to be watertight. The kitchen is piled with books and newspaper cuttings and in the intervals when the dog next door isn't barking hysterically, I'm going to engage my brain and get to it!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

No Adventures At Present

It's not that life is boring: just a little confusing at the moment.
Practicality barges in, of course; it is time to sell my trusty car, which has many a mile on it's clock but still a super engine and which has rarely ever failed an MOT.
In fact, I think the guys down at the depot may even shed a tear when I drive up with a different one.
I've had it for more than ten years so it's time for a change: a rusty banger, probably.

It's also time to sell guitars for the car fund and I'll deal with that next week. I've sold a vintage telephone today and a pair of shoes.

iTunes is feeding me Gospel at the moment. I'm listening to Mahalia Jackson right now and Mary Mary beforehand. It's almost as though Apple is arguing with Donna Leon, whose Venetian detective character has been tussling with his lack of religious faith in the last few paperbacks that I bought from the charity shop that files them in alphabetical order (irresistible for an academic like me!)

I've printed out a hot-off-the press interview transcript to read on the train to the Edinburgh conference later this week. Bless the transcriber's cotton socks, she's absolutely brilliant. Thank you Sarah!

I've been peer-reviewing some undergraduate submissions for a student's Independent Project, an undergraduate thesis website. It's a brilliant idea and she has managed to get eight submissions so far which is pretty good going.

Ah, here's Sister Rosetta, also singing Gospel! Really, I need to listen to some harmonies. Gina has asked me to sing on some of her new music (CD here and awaiting listening space). And also guitar: I have distortion and 50s echo at the ready as well as a little fingerpicking (I was listening to Merle Travis this morn). I have no digital Trio Bugarka or London Community Gospel Choir but somewhere I have that gorgeous Belgian band Zap Mama. I'm off to find them.