Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Asbo Derek Ulysses Twin Album Review

I’m waiting for the postman, because I’ve ordered a hat off the internet to keep dry when I go to Ullapool tomorrow, so let’s listen together (you mean you haven’t bought it yet?).

The tracks on this album are the perfect length- mostly less than two minutes, or ballad length (less that three). I'll pick out my faves although I've listened to the lot:
Investors in People: a song that ridicules workplace insincerity by reducing it to essential items of clothing. Work is quite literally, pants. Many people will feel this song deeply in their souls, but with a bit of blue sky thinking, we will get through it together, I'm sure.
‘My name is Lydia, and I am in media’ the first line of  Bus Passes (for the middle classes) starts the song as it means to go on. This is my favourite track; Alan and Fran in the samba band. Ouch! How to get rid of your smug friends in one fell swoop; it made me laugh out loud at 10.46 a.m. just as I did at 9.47 p.m. on Saturday when they played it live. Bus stop!
Lotus Birth: Oh, horrible! This song pinpoints the disgustingness of hippy childbirth. I have been to look for the placenta that they chucked off the pier bobbing about in the English Channel, but I couldn’t see it. It must have sunk. 
Latte: This one reveals a stark hatred of the ‘Can I get…’ culture, with as many offensive phrases as possible crammed into one song, none of which are as offensive as ‘Can I get a latte’, sung in a suitably irritated tone through gritted teeth. Brilliant.
Canary Wharf: ‘I’ll wear an Edinburgh Woollen Mills Scarf’; I wonder if they could flog this to the company as an advertising jingle? Possibly not, as so many potential customers are instructed to fuck off back to where they came from. Has Jem not heard of upward mobility? Essential listening on the DLR at maximum volume with a ghettoblaster, please.
Oh, yes.
Larry Hagman: ‘Didn’t speak on Sundays’, says the guitar, because Larry Hagman didn’t speak on Sundays. Sounds like a good idea to me.
Pickles: ‘Eric Pickles: what a twat’. Quite agree. Why has nobody said this before? And they take the Mickey out of Boris too (see what I did just there?). This should be sent to the Houses of Parliament immediately for their edification. Lester Square used to send all his songs to The Queen at Buckingham Palace (the female one), so why not?
Crook of the Elbow has an insouciant rhythm and homes in on that Beckham thing of, well, hanging the bag on the crook of the elbow. In London you can tell who reads Hello magazine because they walk through the most uncool streets with their fake Gucci bags hanging down, except in this song it’s a supermarket bag with a jar of onion gravy in it. Delish!
Shining Light: Aww, SuBo, aww.

The production is fab (if you notice things like that, and even if you don't, you do). I love the grumpy bass sound, rasping guitar sound (there is a particularly good guitar riff in Backstairs Billy), crisp drum sound, and of course the icing on the cake: Jem's powerful and authoritative voice singing complete nonsense.

Crimp it, baby!

Buy it here: https://asboderek.bandcamp.com/releases

(the postman never came)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Helen And the Horns, Katy Carr and Honey Birch At The Lexington Ist October

Here is the ticket link.

Blank It Out, The Asbo Derek Gig And More

Apologies for this review being a bit fragmented- I started it, added to it and then whizzed off to do something else. The video above was made by Tracey Holloway, of the first song that Vic and me did, Blank It Out. Lee McFadden is  playing acoustic guitar, because the song was originally performed by his band The Long Decline.

Our set list:
Blank It Out
Saturday Night With The London Set
Stamp Of A Vamp
Femme Fatale
Brother Can You Spare A Dime
Autumn Rendezvous
Back Street Luv

The next photo (below) is of Asbo Derek singing, with Vic on stage with them. I have been roaring with laughter describing their songs to Offsprog One: the song about the middle classes and their bus passes, a couple of songs too rude to mention, and the reason for the name of the album which is possibly too disgusting to mention, but which I may over-ride my sense of decorum to write about. Maybe. Their guitarist is brilliant. And their drummer is called SuBo because of his resemblance to Susan Boyle, I believe; it's a very chantable nickname. The inter-song bantz was hilarious, and although I had been led to believe that the audience would consist of fat old men (I had asked a neutral observer what to expect), there were a lot of very glamorous women there, across the age spectrum, and plenty of skinny young men. The one thing that everyone had in common was extremely loud voices and extreme determination to have fun. Hats off to Steve behind the sound desk, too. It's always a good gig when he's there and he deserves a medal for remaining good natured when challenged by extreme noise, fumbling musicians, and an eccentric approach to what a gig actually consists of.

First photo by Tonje Cecilie Tainsh. We're playing the first song Blank It Out, written by Lee McFadden,which is why he's there. Apparently I was playing the wrong chords. I blame Vic.
Second photo by Peter Tainsh.
Then Jane Barnes' photo of us tuning Lee's guitar (see guitar tuners posting a few days ago for a description of the general rigmarole around these annoying contraptions). Then one of Bongo Pete's photographs. I'm not sure what we were laughing at; possibly an act of extreme musical incompetence, possibly not.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Larfing at Dream Themes

I went into work to print out the work so far on the book that I am writing, so that I can have something to read on the long journey to Inverness next week, en route to Ullapool. For once, the printer at work was fully-functioning, which was absolutely extraordinary (I'd factored in frustration time). The machine hummed and the paper glided into a stack with a slightly facetious air of efficiency. So how come in times of maximum stress with ten minutes to go before a three hour lecture with 50 students, the machine says no?
Karina was in, and we got the train to Caledonian Road and walked down to Granary Square through the slightly muggy, slightly polluted London air, past all its multicultural and soon-to-be-gentrified splendour: shops selling this, shops selling that, the occasional 'artisanal coffee shop'. London can be a fabulous gem, under the grime.
I ordered a very expensive crisp sandwich, bits of which blew away in the urban breeze. We tried to locate Shanne, and then went to the supermarket to stock up on either tea, booze or baklava, depending on what we wanted and needed.
Members of Dream Themes were wandering around in their logo'd navy boiler suits; they drifted on to the stage and the bass player, the man with the slightly terrifying eyes and the Merrythought-Teddy hair, introduced their soundcheck. They charged into their first theme, charged into the second, third, fourth; themes came thick and fast. They patted themselves on the back in frequent announcements over the PA; 'Well done us!'. We witnessed Dickie's dance through the crowd (by this time they had stripped to red t-shirts and shorts), of which all I could see was the occasional pink arm and bearded head bobbing up and down. The Good Life sounded like a horse falling downstairs. Me and Karina hooted our way through Star Trek. The 'Winking or Blinking' quiz show promised a prize of tickets to their pantomime, only available at the end of the show, so the poor winner had to stay the course. Thunderbirds was oddly moving. Large sections of the audience revealed themselves to be watchers of children's TV shows (after all, Tellytubbies' main audience was students, I believe). Finally, after they had finished their set, they exhorted us to join in a dance with them as the DJ equipment was moved back on the the stage. They stood in a line, saluted-along-to-the-instructions, and gradually, one by one, we felt compelled to join in.
'Stick your arms out! Stick your arms out, thumbs up! Stick your arms out, thumbs up, shoulders up! Stick your arms out, thumbs up, shoulders up, head back! Stick your arms out, thumbs up, shoulders up, head back, tail out!'.
No, no, no, nothing was going to make me poke my bum out in Granary Square, but almost everybody else did.
I laughed so much I almost threw up; it was impossible to keep a straight face, even though a steady stream of po-faced bearded cyclists constantly pushed past trying to get to the Regents Canal towpath to mow down a few pedestrians.
Halfway through, Vic phoned to ask what the last chord of the second chorus of one of the songs we're doing tonight was. It was rather difficult to change gear mentally. I left the crowd briefly and twisted my fingers into a chord shape, but alas, my mind was still singing along to the sting from News At Ten, a track so short that it ends before the iTunes preview does. Thankfully, he guessed from my vague ramblings what it was. I think.
See you in Brighton, folks!
I got it a bit wrong, but do feel free to dance along if bored:

Friday, July 21, 2017

Going Into Reverse

I have been trying so hard to learn all of the lyrics and chords for tomorrow's gig with Vic Godard for the Asbo Derek launch of their album Ulysses Twin, that my brain has gone into reverse and not only can I not remember the new things I've learned this week, but I've also forgotten the things that I already knew, apart from when I'm just dropping off to sleep and the whole lot comes thundering into my brain at maximum volume.
How did I ever manage to pass exams at school?
Actually I can remember that. I used to sleep with my exercise book under the pillow the night before the exam.
I'll try that, with the written-out lyrics and chords.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

This Rough Magic by David Devant and his Spirit Wife

Gah. Guitar Tuners.

What's that rattling sound? That's the sound of my feet wading through hundreds of broken guitar tuners, scattered through the house like giant cockroaches, peering up at me through lit-up faces that make it seem as though they are working: but they're not.
You only have to look at them a bit funny and they stop; their dials freeze, their lights wink, they invent new tones that mankind has never heard before- the sounds of the Universe- and attune to those but completely ignore your guitar. They snap in half and pretend to be fixed, only to sulk as soon as you clip them on the the headstock of the guitar. They yearn for a new battery, weeping, crying, begging: you replace the battery. 'Hah hah! Fooled you!', they taunt. They were broken anyway.
They come in all colours, shapes and sizes. Inventors have invented the perfect tuner. It works perfectly until it doesn't work any more, just when you most need it to.
You might think 'tuning fork', and laugh at the poor grasp of music that us electric guitarists have. But have you ever tried to tune a guitar to a fork in noisy venue? Not only do you look like a complete prat but you can't hear the bloody thing anyway.
So off I go to the music shop, to try to find a brand that I haven't bought yet so I can hope that it won't break after being used three times. I'll bring the little Spork, Crunk, or Flibbetigibbet home with me, fumble it out of it's fiddly box that probably cost more than the tuner itself, and prepare to be disappointed yet again.
And you thought it was so easy being a musician.

Fleas4U Makes A Fleeting Appearance

What a humdinger of a storm. Offpsprog One went into the yard with her camera, and I hung out of the bedroom window to watch the lightning.
A furry, shadowy shape slithered along the top of the new fence and down into next door's garden. I head a 'meep' and the door opened. You lazy, greedy thing, Fleas4U. Can't be bothered with us because we don't feed him. It's only a little jump!

Saturday, July 15, 2017


A London Night Out

Last night I went to see the documentary Love Story at The Regent Street Cinema, which is part of the University of Westminster. The cinema had always been there, but has recently been refurbed and made into a niche screening venue.The film about The Dollymixture was screened there, and Mykaell Riley's British Black Music History research project was launched there too.
The documentary was touching, funny, irritating (it was a bit too long) but an authentic record of (parts of) being in a band in LA in the 1960s and 1970s. The big problem was that Arthur Lee wouldn't leave LA and tour, unlike the Doors, who worked their asses off touring the USA. But there was another problem: they were a mixed race band and a lot of Americans couldn't stand that concept, especially at that time. I would have liked to heard more about The Butterfield Blues Band, who as fellow label mates at Elektra, probably had the same problems; and, of course, Sly and the Family Stone.
Somehow though, the slightly claustrophobic nature of the doc worked, especially the parts where Arthur strode around the massive castle that he bought for the band, and professed amazement at the completely blingy makeover the castle had had. He described rollerskating through the enormous rooms. It was heartwarming to see him performing later in his career, with a new troupe of young musicians, still with that wonderful voice and obvious charisma.

After the screening, I left and walked into the magical half-light of the centre of the metropolis. In spite of its terrible dangers and horrible tragedies London can still sweep you off your feet, sometimes.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Want Some Boring News?

In-between-touring news?
The new garden fence is beyond Fleas4U's laziness horizon.
Although he is sweet and affectionate, he is also a flea-transporter and a back-end sprayer: a mixed blessing or a mixed curse, wherever your perspective takes you. I sort of miss him, and I know Offsprog One does; he can manage to get on to the shed roof next door so he could definitely scale the new fence if he tried.
I think he's just too darn lazy to jump in his big fur coat.

I have been playing 'art college' with Gina again today- it's brilliant, and doing the same at home with Offsprog One as well means that life is very arty. The house is draped with her hand-printed material with a women wrestler print, there's a sewing machine on the table, there's tracing paper floating about like flat clouds. There are pots of dried-up black paint on the side in the kitchen.
My bit is guitars, black felt pens and photocopies of posters and illustrations. I come back from Gina's with half-finished drawings, having had long conversations about lines and contrast and paint. Her paintings are looking very strong and powerful.

It's also about ten days until the gig with Vic Godard at the Asbo Derek Ulysses Twin album launch at The Prince Albert in Brighton. I discovered through a Facebook posting that we are called the Temperance Two (we are both teetotallers). So far, we have had mostly 'unplugged' rehearsals but we're going for a proper one on Monday, at which we might discover that we have been playing in utterly different keys from each other. We will be playing a mixture of cover versions and our own songs; we've had to dump a couple on the way, but unbelievably we have a set of 8 songs. This means an intensive lyric-learning weekend as far as I'm concerned; the music is always fine but the words take a long time to go in. It's nice to be playing with another guitarist again; Vic's style is very different to Martin's but it goes without saying that playing along with someone else is very different to playing solo. Maybe my next album should feature a different co-guitarist on every track....

And I think next week I'll start doing some more kitchen videos. I did an interim one a couple of days ago but it was a repeat of a song I'd already recorded. Over and over again, I failed to get a decent version of a new song and in the end decided to go for something easier. There are so many to do, and some new ones. It's a case of being in the right mood for the right song!

OK, time to knock some sense into this silly little house. It needs to be washed behind it's ears, so that's what I'm going to do. Toodle-pip.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Thatcher's Statue

A very perceptive article in the paper today pointed out that there's no need for a statue of Margaret Thatcher; such a statue already exists. It is the burnt-out shell of Grenfell Tower, a paean to deregulation, the power of the construction industry, contempt for poor people and people from ethnic minorities, corruption and penny-pinching by councils, the prioritising of money over human beings, and the complete disregard for the communities that make up our society.
It is a shocking sight to see in reality; I've driven past it a couple of times and it almost hurts physically to see it. God only knows the pain that the people who lived there must be feeling. They must not be forgotten by the media and they must not be forgotten by us.

Coming Up In August

Friday's Playlist

Popcorn Charlie: Charles Spurling
I Get The Sweetest Feeling: Jackie Wilson
Low Rider: War
Suspicion: The Originals
Launderette: Vivien Goldman
Sharkesville: Katy Carr
Gonna Get Along Without You Now: Viola Wills
Too Much Too Young: The Specials
Trouble Over The Weekend: Betty Everett
My Fair Lady: The Bird And The Bee
Please Don't Go: Yvonne Carroll
Fairytale At The Supermarket: The Raincoats
I Ain't Goin' Nowhere: Junior Walker
The Magic Number: De La Soul
Getting Mighty Crowded: Betty Everett
That Other Place: Wade Flemons
For The Love Of Mike: Patrice Holloway
Mind Your Own Business: Delta 5
Sweet Thing: The Spinners
Someone Else's Guy: Jocelyn Brown
So Tough: The Slits
Rudi's In Love: Locomotive
If It Feels Good: Della Reese
Papa's Got A Brand New Pigbag: Pigbag

.... all the best songs are short songs!

Sunday, July 09, 2017


An entomologist (or bugger, perhaps).

The Tame Fly At The Wedding

Some weddings have a Bad Fairy (or was that Christenings?). This one had a tame fly, which was apt in some ways, because this was an extraordinary wedding.
Congratulations to Donna and Paul; after thirteen years together they are now wife and man, or woman and husband perhaps. It was a friendly, funny day, facilitated by the two characters in top hats who ad-libbed their way through thick and thin. The speeches were hilarious and there were a lot of surreal moments, the main one being the tame fly that we all fell in love with at table six. As the fly was passed round, it exhibited a series of clever tricks.
Enthralled, we called it to the attention of the Best Man.
'It's just a fly', he told us sternly.
Later, the fly was spotted feet up on the tablecloth.
(neither me nor the chap sitting next to me handled the fly, both of us having read a story in that morning's newspaper about a poisonous ladybird).
There was much sartorial elegance in evidence, and it was an added bonus to see not just one but two members of Helen and the Horns in the wedding band.
Thank you for inviting me you two. It was a privilege to be there with you and your lovely friends.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

DJ-ing and Flat Tyres

I really enjoyed last night's DJ-ing stint, apart from when I put the CDs back in the wrong cases and lined up the wrong tune (only did that once then managed to restore the CDs to their rightful cases), and Delta 5's Mind Your Own Business skipping like an eight year old on E numbers, just when a bunch of Lads came in who were ready to mock a lady DJ. I managed to regain my composure and began to learn which tracks get people up and dancing, that I want to learn more about beat matching, and that I need to alternate vocal timbres and moods more. I've been invited to do another (thank you Neil, I'd love to). Unfortunately my car had a flat tyre and I had to get up early this morning to have it fixed, otherwise I think I would have made a night of it, although I did have a good old dance to Jimmy Mack before I left and negotiated Camden, that London town where every mad person in the universe congregates on a Friday night.
I'm off to a wedding today (not mine) and I'll leave you with the hit of the night; what a song!

Friday, July 07, 2017

A Bonkers Drama Queen Of A Track

Chuck Jackson and Yvonne Fair give it more than all they've got:

Martha and The Vandellas

Alas, not room in the CD bag for this one. But what lovely chord changes.

Iron-a-longa Northern Soul

It's so hot I can barely move. We need to have a rain dance tonight, I think.
Alas, the ironing has piled up and perhaps rather stupidly, I've got the ironing board out and the steam iron is puffing away like an old train.
The air pressure is building up; perhaps a thunderstorm is on the way to clear the oppressive atmosphere. The pavements are streaming with storm ants.
People are behaving like angry bulls; one of the people in the supermarket was so rude yesterday I practically bopped them on the nose. They had had air conditioning all day and I'd been slogging between campuses, five miles in the hot sun.
The research conference was incredible though- listening to psychologists who make interventions so the communities don't blow their tops. I realise just how important it is for people to know who to pass emergency situations on to (and when), and not to go it alone. There was much food for thought.

Tonight at the Fiddler's Elbow and Stuff About Writing

I have a late DJ-ing slot tonight at The Fiddler's Elbow in Camden. Most of the music will be Northern Soul, but there will be a fairly hefty sprinkling of indie and other music in there too.
I have got really behind with listening to new stuff; there's a whole pile of CDs on the kitchen table waiting to be listened to. I don't have so many gigs in the next couple of months because I will be writing book, so in between writing sessions I'll be listening. We will also be starting to work on the film again soon, after a health sabbatical.
The last article that I wrote got turned down, which was a big disappointment, but you have to take these things on the chin. There was an uncomfortable truth at the heart of it that eventually took over the whole thing, so next time, it will be the whole thing, and it will be there in the book. To start off with I will be completing the editing of six interviews (I did 30 altogether).
Before that, early last year, I spent three months writing a chapter for a book which is only just going for its final edit. I estimate that chapter (8000 words) took fifty hours to write; it's not a light profession, being an academic. That is why it is such a joy to have a life outside it; it can seem like a cult religion at times and definitely swallows you up if you work at it full time. Writing, recording and playing my songs saves my soul.
There is an interview with Gina and me in the latest Art and Music magazine, where we talk about being bass players and making our film. Many thanks to David Sheppard (of Ellis Island Sound) for inviting us to do the interview. Yes: 'Shards of broken glass in the ice-cream'.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Blast From The Past

Next Friday In Camden....

There are only two gigs in July- Brighton with Vic Godard on 22nd July and Ullapool with the choir Three Sheets to the Wind on 29th July. But I am DJ-ing in Camden next Friday night. I haven't done this for ten years, and I've only done it once with CDs rather than vinyl. I'll be playing a lot of Northern Soul and some indie stuff, and I've taken note of the time when I played a 40-minute Rockabilly set and neglected to realise that most Rockabilly songs come in at just under, or just over, two minutes long. I'd finished the whole playlist by 20 minutes in, and had to play the b-list as well.
A lot of Northern Soul songs are short, so I have a week of listening to do.
One compilation is 100% crap tracks and I've managed to discard that one, and also to get over the fact that although I'm over-familiar with some of the songs ('oh no, not this one again'), that's because they are really good, I've listened to them a lot, and other people might not know them.

Saturday, July 01, 2017


Oh, I love pelicans so much! These birds synchronised themselves and swam and upended themselves in unison.
And a black swan.

Scaledown Last Night

It was packed, hot, friendly, funny and nutty as always. Words later or tomorrow; today I'm struggling with a maxi dress trying to look elegant, but looking more like a woman about to trip over her hem.
Oh but... I did marry either a papier maché cowboy or his grandfather who played a cardboard piano. I'm not sure which, but I've got a cardboard ear on a string to prove it (one of a misheard thirteen years).

Friday, June 30, 2017

Thursday, June 29, 2017

More Mad Bicycle On Gideon Coe

This evening Gideon Coe has been playing cycling songs on BBC6 Music to celebrate the Tour De France, and he has played The Mad Bicycle Song. Someone asked me if it was an anti-cycling song but it definitely isn't.  except exercise bicycles, perhaps.
I will be singing the song at Scaledown tomorrow at The King and Queen in Cleveland Street, London, not far from Goodge Street toob station. It will be a funpacked night with lots of different artists on, including Fran Isherwood, experimental musicians, poets, Comedians and more, all presented by Shaun Hendry, Mark Braby and Jude Cowan. It starts early (and it's always worth getting there early) at 8 p.m. and goes on till 11 (I will be playing at 10.25 p.m.).

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Monday, June 26, 2017

Pix From Newcastle And The Surf Café

Photos show:
1. Vera hats on sale at the Quayside Market. Little known fact: Wilko Johnson can do a much better Geordie accent than Vera, because he lived in Newcastle for three years when he went to the University. He's absolutely brilliant at it.
2. View from the Millennium Bridge, Gateshead. There's a teeny drone in the middle of the photo but you might not be able to see it.
3. Quirky stuff at the Surf Cafe. Great sparkly drum stools.
4. Bored dog. Oh no: not more bloody music!
5. Laurie Shepherd sings a very poignant song about suffragettes.
6. Paul Allan and Antonio Moneva sing and play the Sunday night blues as only Novo Castrians can.
7. The Radio Set play rock glam to see the evening out.
8. Pauline Murray looking cool as ever with her nifty sports car. Thank you for the lift back to toon because...
9. Hauling the Green Goddess around became knackering. The last two photos are taken at Amen Corner, at the top of a very, very, very steep hill that I had just climbed. Perhaps this is a bit of a metaphor for what the last year has been like.
There is one more gig to go of this batch- Scaledown at the King and Queen in Cleveland Street on Friday. It starts early and just like many of the other gigs I've been playing, there are some really interesting people on the bill. I will be on later though- time tbc.
After that there are two gigs in July (Brighton and Ullapool), one in August (Brighton) and then a whole batch more in September.
I'm off to a rehearsal today. My guitar-carrying muscles are extraordinarily strong at the moment.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Gig At David's Music in Letchworth

I hope you don't mind me nicking your photograph Andy! Thank you for welcoming me back to Davids, which is thriving and has expanded to have its own café and is still stuffed to the gills with all sort of wonderful records and books.
This was the first time I've stopped a gig for being too loud (out of courtesy for someone ordering some Simon and Garfunkel CDs) and started again when the transaction was finished. What a thrill to be in the same category as heavy metal! I also liked the guy behind the till reading the lyrics from the lyric book along with the song I was singing at the time. All this and back home in time for lunch; perfect. If you don't already know about David's Music shop, and live within striking distance of Letchworth, I thoroughly recommend visiting not only the shop but Letchworth itself, which despite some modern trappings ( a Morrison's and a Wilko's) still has a slight hint of Ladybird Book about it, and a general air of relaxed friendliness and quirkiness in equal measure.

Friday, June 23, 2017

No Peanuts, No Sitting

The heat conducted me through town this afternoon, and I happened to pass through Oxford Circus.
Amplified music signalled a pause in the journey: there, a fabulous sight greeted my eyes.
We are all still sinners, but the 'No Peanuts, No Sitting' man has changed his modus operandi to an infinitely more dramatic and arresting trajectory.
I'm not sure whether we are sinning more, or whether his performance art hasn't been appreciated by Arts Council England (is he serious?) but he has upped the ante considerably.
No longer is he a soberly dressed man in a mac with a little dark blue nautical cap and steel-rimmed spectacles parading piously through the crowds of shoppers. Oh no!
Probably inspired by an illustration in a frayed plastic-covered 1960s library book, he has fashioned a kind of leprechaunish costume: a hat, bright emerald-green shorts, and glaring red braces. I'm not sure where the idea for the large Star of David on his chest came from, but it's there in the mélange. All of this is topped by the sandwich board, mounted on a device to hold it way up above his hat so we can see what it's all about.
The loud music that had pulled me to a stop was a sort of improvised Jimmy Shand hybrid whose accordions tumbled out a senseless rhythm and rambling Scottish-ish melody; no-peanuts-and-no-sitting-man was bouncing around in time to the music, revolving manically with a fixed grin on his tense jaw, feet twanging out horizontally in turn from his raised knees in a parody of an Irish Jig.

Oh London, your joys are ever bountiful!
If you don't believe me, go and see for yourself.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

New Poster, New Dates

Juts as I finished this poster I got another date offered to me, in Bristol in November with the Charlie Tipper Conspiracy. A good excuse to make another poster in a  couple of weeks' time.
So this weekend: lunchtime at David's Records in Letchworth (playing at 12.00) and then early evening at the Surf Café in Tynemouth (playing at 6.30).
Please do come along to say hello and listen too!
I will not be travelling by dog cart.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Hot Cross Bunnies

I am not going to email anyone else at work until the heatwave is over; the replies in scolding tones to quite innocuous communications are getting quite tedious!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Summer Days, Oh Sometimes They Get Too Warm!

Helen and the Horns Gig, 1st October at the Lexington

If you like(d) us, put the date in your diary while I sort out the ticket link (might take a week to do).
It will be a special gig and I'm looking forward to dusting off the old songs and giving them a blast, and I think The Horns are too.
We don't look like this any more, but we do sound like this:


My smartphone isn't that smart. It's decided that my fingertips aren't fingers and it no longer accepts instructions from them, unless I use the sides of them, which are covered in proper skin and not guitar-player's calluses.
In some way this feels like a triumph, but in some ways not.

Pigeons, 2017

'Stupid bugger, you steooopid bug-ger, you styoopid bugger...', chanted the wood pigeons from the bushes as I struggled up the hill in the heat with my guitar.
'Am I?', I wondered out loud, but I don't think they heard me.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Barnsley Festival

After playing what must have been the coldest day of 2017 for the Hoxton Radio broadcast at Spitalfields Market earlier this year, Saturday was the hottest day of the year so far (exceeded by today) and Barnsley town centre was thronging with people with a drink in one hand and various glowing areas of sunburn that I think were going to make their Sunday rather painful.
The Live in Barnsley Festival takes place in most of the central pubs in town, and music was flowing from what seemed like every single hostelry when I got there mid-afternoon, including plenty of punk covers; it was easy to tell what was close to this town's heart.
Barnsley is a lovely place, dominated by a Town Hall that looks as though it has been borrowed from Berlin, and a rusty iron pronged sculpture that local music expert Kevin Osborne, who invited me to play at the festival, described as The Nit Comb. Children were frolicking in the ornamental fountains and the streets were spotless: there was no litter anywhere and it was almost like walking into a film set.
The White Bear pub was where I was due to play; a band called the Magic Flute played before me and I really enjoyed their music- their sound was a sort of hearty, beefy heavy metal with a bit of Bellowhead thrown in to the mix, all delivered through proper songs, and obviously greatly enjoyed by the crowd.
Thankfully I have given up being fazed by following on from entirely different genres of music (or comedy, poetry, whatever) partly because of playing such diverse nights in London over the years. I could tell the sound engineer had good ears and that's all you need, really. The pub remained noisy but it was their afternoon out, and there were enough people down the front listening including a posse of lick-stealers who I caught in the act, some appreciative children and some very smiley people in general. I just thought there was a great atmosphere.
Thank you to Kevin for putting my name forward and for all his help, and for the photo. I think it's Heaven Avenue I'm playing.