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Reading In Bed
I was poorly (AGANE) at the end of last week, so had a couple of days IN BED. The first of these was spent SNOOZING, being FEVERISH, and being looked after by The Nurse On My Ward, while the SECOND involved MORE being looked after by same but also more being Almost Normally Conscious, so I got to read some BOOKS.

The first was A Head Full Of Knives by Luke Smitherd, which is one of those Self-Published Amazon Bestsellers. I'd previously read The Stone Man by him, and both were CRACKING reads, despite me feeling A Bit Snobbish about them. The first time I felt thus was stupid enough - I know as much as ANYONE that The Gatekeepers Of Culture are FLAWED and that whether something is published or not (or released by a "proper" label or not) has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on its quality - but goodness knows why I retained this attitude the second time around when I had already READ one of his books and loved it. Anyway, mine own idiocy aside it was dead good, i recommend it!

Alongside this I read "Shamballa". a Judge Anderson collection from the Judge Dredd Mega Collection, a GRATE series of lovely books collecting together various stories from the history of Judge Dredd. My brother had got me a BUNCH of them for Christmas and I'd already got through "America", "Origins", "Mechanismo" and "The Apocalypse War" (the latter especially being AMAZING and BONKERS) but had put off reading the Judge Anderson one because I remember it being a bit BORING when I'd read it at the time. I think maybe it works better all collected together, because in this format it was GRATE! And the ART by Arthur Ranson: COR!

(SIDENOTE: halfway through reading the above book I watched a video podcast featuring Mr J Dredge talking about Look-in, including halfway through an appreciation of the artwork of... Arthur Ranson! "What a coincidence" I thought. Then my phone rang and it was... Mr J Dredge! RATHER SPOOKY! NB he was ringing with some VERY exciting news which I am not at liberty to reveal as of now, but WILL VERY MUCH DO SO when I am able!)

Reading books just for FUN is a bit of a treat at the moment, as I have been up to my ears in ACADEMIC TEXTS for the past couple of months. I mean, yes, they're academic texts about COMICS, but still, a lot of them are a bit heavy going. I was thus planning on reading another FICTION book next, but then my eye was caught by The Best There Is At What He Does by Jeff Powell. It's an "appreciation" of Chris Claremont's ENTIRE RUN on Uncanny X-Men, in which the author talks about every single issue one by one and it is RIVETING. It's pretty much EXACTLY like the (SEVERAL) Beatles books I have read when they go through every single song, or (BEST OF ALL) every single tape from the Get Back Sessions, and talk about them in EXTREME DETAIL. It is, in short, SO far up my alley it is round in my back yard knocking on the kitchen window. I don't AGREE with some of it - he does seem to think C Claremont is a POET, for instance - but it's a LOT of fun to read, especially now it's getting into the 1990s issues, a time during whcich I read almost no comics whatsoever.

And alongside THIS I read all of "Civil War 2", the recently completed Marvel Universe crossover series. "I wonder if it will make more sense and be all round better when read in one sitting?" I wondered. It didn't, and it wasn't!

posted 23/1/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Enormous Pop Volume 1
We're a couple of weeks into the year so SURELY it must be time for the first addition to The Discography, which comes today in the form of Alan's Midweek Madhouse Presents​.​.​.​Enormous Pop Vol 1 a rather FANTASTIC compilation put together by the show "Alan's Midweek Madhouse" to support Radio Saltire in Scotland.

Our track is Leaping Hare In Broadgate, which was track recorded during the sessions for Still Valid but not used. It was available over Christmas on the Joyzine Advent Calendar, but I am VERY happy that it now has a proper permanent home, as I rather like it!

The album also features our chums The Just Joans and The Thyme Machine plus a TONNE of other people doing mostly EXCLUSIVE tracks. The whole thing is only three quid and it goes to helping a proper community radio station, so I say GO ON, treat yourself to a copy!

posted 17/1/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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The Loss Of Loss
On Tuesday I received a message from Sorted Supremo Dave Dixey asking if I had any copies of The LollopaLeicester Mercury hidden away, leading me to have a sudden BRANE SURGE as my MIND went "Oh yeah The LollopaLeicester Mercury, I haven't thought about that THIS CENTURY!"

For LO! The LollopaLeicester Mercury was a sort of NEWSLETTER that went alongside the LollopaLeicester nights that Dave and I used to run at The Factory in Leicester (it's not there anymore) back in the twentieth century. These happened every month, generally with a Sorted and an Artists Against Success act, plus the HOUSE BAND, The Durham Ox Singers. I had completely forgotten that the newsletters existed, so was DELIGHTED to find that Dave has copies of nearly all of them and was only asking to see if I had the one he was missing.

For some MAD reason when I left Leicester I chucked away a TONNE of stuff, most of which was very sensible (e.g. a huge bin bag full of cassette tapes that I could no longer listen to) but SOME of which I have long regretted, including loads of gig posters and related paraphenalia that I wish I'd kept. I DID, however, have a back-up CD-R containing ALL the stuff I had ever done on my work computer, so dug that out to have a look see if there was anything there. In those long ago days I would occasionally DO personal stuff on my work computer, tho OF COURSE I would never do it now, OBVS.

I didn't find anything to do with LollopaLeicester, alas, but I DID find a couple of posters and more excitingly several SET LISTS! For the past ten years or so I've been recording my setlists on The Database Of ROCK, which means you see what I played at ALL my gigs for the past decade - something which comes in very handy when I go back somewhere and want to make sure i'm not COMPLETELY repeating myself. I'd LOVE to be able to do this going further back - when we recently brought You Will Be Hearing From My Solicitor back into the set I was AMAZED to find it had only apparently been played a couple of times, until Tim pointed out that it was played LOADS in our early days, but that that was before proper records were kept. As you can see for yourself, I have now been able to add SEVERAL more shows to its list, which is IMMENSELY satisfying.

I discussed this at home with The Songs In My Set and she pointed out that this was related to what The Artist Tom Smith had been saying in his talk last week about "the loss of loss" (NB this was what he was ACTUALLY talking about, rather than about how COOL his big brother is!). He was talking about how, these days, it's difficult to LOSE things as everything's backed up, or "in the cloud", or on a database somewhere. In OLDEN THYME you could easily lose touch with people, for instance, but now google can find pretty much everybody you ever went to school or worked with. In the world of ROCK it's PEASY to find out dates for every gig you've done this century, who played with you, and often there's pictures and even video. Before that though it's pretty much impossible - I know for a FACT there are LOADS of gigs that Voon did in the 1990s that I have NO idea where or when they were, let alone what we played or who we played with. To be fair, there are OTHER REASONS I have little memory of such things hem hem, but if they'd happened ten years it would be VERY different.

I guess some might say "aah but they were simpler times, do you see, and the lack of recordability made you appreciate things, do you see?" but I say "NO I want things written down and SEARCHABLE so I can do GRAPHS if I want to!" Imagine then my DELIGHT yesterday when, while MUSING about the above on the way to work, I suddenly realised that there were MORE records available. I hadn't thrown away ALL my cassette tapes, and had in fact KEPT all of the ones containing GIG recordings. Young People: back in pre-history bands used to take CASSETTE RECORDERS to gigs to TAPE themselves so that a) they could hear what they actually SOUNDED like and b) maybe use these recordings to give to PUBS in an attempt to get gigs. MAN, we were pretty much running round in bear skins trying to work out how to make FIRE weren't we?

ANYWAY I tended to write out the TRACKLISTINGS on these tapes which meant they were also SETLISTS! THUS last night I was not only able to add SETLISTS to some VERY old gigs, but also ADD some gigs previously unrecorded!! I was a) WELL CHUFFED but also b) astonished that I had never thought of this before. When I set up The Database Of ROCK to run this website I spent AGES trawling through old diaries to work out what gigs had been played, but it seems i never thought to go through the TAPE ARCHIVE.

THUS there is a whole HEAP more information available now should, for instance, anyone (me) wish to discover QUITE how long I've been playing The Perfect Love Song or indeed Boom Shake The Room. My only continuing regret is that there's still big GAPS in the DATA - otherwise it would DEFINITELY be GRAPH O'CLOCK!

posted 12/1/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Art And Terry's Tears
The first weekend of The Working Year is always a funny one - it's like a return to the GLORY DAYS of Not Going To Work that was Christmas, but sadly tainted with the realisation that it's only two days rather than a WEEK before it all begins again.

THUS it is vital to fill it with FUN STUFF, and that is exactly what went down chez MOI. It started off with some ART on Friday night when we watched a live stream from of a Mira Calix curated event at Warp Records. It was a succession of DJs and Artists and Performers doing their thing in... well, in the ladies' loos, as you can see here:

FULL DISCLOSURE: we were watching it mainly for The Artist Tom Smith (AKA my brother), who was ACE - he told a story about some ART wot he made which, as well as being dead good, also CLEARLY AND OPENLY stated that one of his brothers (i.e. ME) had MUCH COOLER MUSIC TASTE than his other brother (i.e. Mr J Hibbett, who was also watching elsewhere). This makes it, I think, worthy of a TURNER PRIZE. Also he quoted The Lesson Of The Smiths which was GRATE!

Saturday was a flurry of ACHIEVEMENTS, jobs TICKED and people VISITED which included a trip to the The Red Lion in Leytonstone (which is ACE) and ended with us watching "The Blues Brothers" which I hadn't seen for approx 30 years and which The Groove In My Moves had NEVER seen! I was very happy to find that it is still EXCELLENT and has even MORE fantastic musical interludes than I remembered. Also, as with ALL films from this time, I was amazed by how SLOWLY it all moved. There's huge SWATHES of time spent just LOOKING at things CALMLY, it was all rather relaxing.

And then Sunday was a day I had been looking forward to IMMENSELY, for LO! it was the day of Peterborough United's trip to Chelsea. Like a twit I had forgotten the day that tickets had gone on sale, so did not GET one, and was thus forced to search for STREAMS online. I eventually found one that was being compered by a Mildly Grumpy American, but half an hour into the game the stream STOPPED. PANIC ensued - I think Posh were down 2-0 at this point so, obviously, I COULD WELL have been missing several comeback goals (hem hem), but I soon got it back... in FRENCH! This made the whole thing feel DEAD sophisticated, and also meant I could tell when to pay special attention (as I was simultaneously doing the iRONING) by the rising intonation of the commentators. C'est bon!

The best bit tho - yes, even better than Posh's Actually Quite Good Goal - was when John Terry got sent off. I LARFED and LARFED and LARFED!

It was a marvelous, hilarious, end to a rather brilliant weekend. The only downside of it all, of course, was sitting around on Sunday evening with the GRIM REALISATION that I'd have go get up early for work next day. Oh well, only 51 weeks until Christmas!

posted 9/1/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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The ROCKING Year Begins
Last night found me back at The King & Queen for the first Totally Acoustic of the year. It is a LOVELY pub and it was GOOD to be back!

Mr S Hewitt was already there so we had a quick discussion about plans for 'Still Valid' before people started arriving - we have IDEAS for how it's going to work, which is good because it's only a few weeks before we have to go and DO it!

Over the next hour there was a gentle flow of ACTS arriving, but not a huge amount of AUDIENCE. This wasn't hugely surprising - it was COLD and DARK and, I thought, people were probably staying IN after going out all Christmas and/or New Year. HOWEVER there was a sudden SURGE of people just before kick-off time, including various chums, regulars and Mr P Buckley Hill (looking very well, especially considering how poorly he's been!) which meant that we were MORE than quorate when we began. Hoorah!

I started off with not one but TWO brand new songs - Come The Inevitable Apocalypse and Wallies, both of which seemed to go OK. I'd printed out the words and taken my lyrics stand with me but still made a bit of a mess of them, which isn't hugely surprising given that a) I'd only finished off Wallies five minutes beforehand and b) with the best will in the world I do tend to cock up songs even when I've been playing them for decades!

The first Proper Act was Mr T Eveleigh, who had brought a HARMONIUM with him, which was GRATE, especially when he combined it with getting most of the other guitarists in the room to play along with him. It sounded dead good, as in fact did his entire SET! Next up was Mr K Evans, who had been recommended (wisely, it turns out) by Mr C T-T. He was advertised as singing folk songs about maths and, unusually for such descriptions, that is exactly what he did. I especially liked it when he did a Dylan-esque FOLK SONG about HMV (nearly) closing while standing in front of a picture of Dylan himself in that very pub.

Finally, after more booze and chat and that, we had The Understudies, doing a batch of lovely songs which, apparently, they are mostly retiring in favour of some new stuff. It's a shame as they are SMASHING songs, but then I expect the new stuff will be too. The Understudies are one of those bands who, every time I see them, I think "This lot are ACE, I must get them on more often!" ALSO they seem to be acting as a LIFEBOAT for People Who Have Been In Other Indie Bands and are thus slowly morphing into a SUPERGROUP!

And that was about that - goodbyes were said and soon it was time to head back out into the aforementioned COLDNESS and DARK, which was VERY cold and dark. It was a BRILL way to kick off the new year of ROCK - if all gigs in 2017 are as delightful as this one was I shall be very happy!

posted 6/1/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Let's Do This Thing
Happy new year one and all, I hope 2017 is treating you well so far and you enjoyed a MARVELLOUS festive period. Round our way Christmas was knocked off course somewhat by ILLNESS as EVERYONE was poorly in at least 17 seperate ways. It was, in the words of my dear mother, "not quite what we planned"!

Despite all the coughing, headaches, sneezing, grumbling tummies and sundry other ailments there WAS some ROCK ACTION undertaken. Between Christmas and New Year I struggled BRAVELY to the pub to meet Mr S Hewitt, where we had a dramaturgical conversation concerning Still Valid, the SHOW what we are performing at this year's Leicester Comedy Festival. Steve came up with a GRATE framing idea from which GAGS flowed easily and we now have a rough plan of how it's going to WORK. All we need to do between now and SHOWTIME is have a GO at it to check it works!

I also managed to find some time to do some SONGWRITING. I went through all the various NOTES what I have made over the course of this year for vague song IDEAS and then trawled through my PHONE for all the BITS I have recorded there (NB it's mostly me going "Duh nuh NUR! La la, biscuits" on the way to work), and came up with seven pages of WORDS and STUFF. So far I have got TWO (2) songs out of it, with high hopes of several more!

I got to see the new Star Wars too and here is my review: the first half an hour passed me by a bit (I was busy thinking "why are there so few people in the Star Wars Universe when there's SO MANY planets? And why does every planet only have one town on it - are the planets just really small and also close together?"), the next half hour was a bit boring, and then it was BRILLIANT and EXCITING until the end which was GRATE!

So that was 2016 finished off and 2017 BEGUN - Last year at this time I said "I hope it's going to be an interesting year and, who knows, I might even get to write the NEXT First Blog Of The Year NOT from an office again!" I don't think anybody would deny that 2016 was "interesting" and I guess I'm in a DIFFERENT office at least now, but let's hope 2017 turns out to be LESS "interesting" than last year, and who knows, hopefully FUN!

posted 3/1/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Out Of Office
For me today is the last working day of the month, which means it's time to send out the final newsletter of the year and to set this, my ROCK Out Of Office.

I'll be back again during the wonderful INTERIM between now and next year, not least to do my traditional PLUGGING of The Twenty Ninth Day Of December and maybe also do a look back on the year in ROCK, but until then may I just wish all regular readers of this here blog a VERY Merry Christmas. It's always LOVELY to discover that people READ all of this, even though it does lead to several HILARIOUS ANECDOTES being cut short by someone saying "I know, you wrote about it on your blog" (PRO TIP: this works as a way to shut me up even if I HAVEN'T - i don't actually READ it so have no idea what I've been on about!). Thanks very much for being with me for these THORTS, have a DELIGHTFUL festive season, and I'll seeee you on the other side!

posted 23/12/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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Paperback Writer
Yesterday I passed a mighty milestone: I finished my NOVEL!

"Eh? WOT Novel?" you may ask, as I don't think I've actually even MENTIONED it here - I am, after all, notoriously shy and LOATHE to publicise any such exploits hem hem. It's an adaptation of Storm House, the screenplay wot I wrote for my MA dissertation. When I sent the original script around agents, competitions and so forth SEVERAL people commented that it would never get made because it was FAR too expensive, and that maybe I should consider turning it into a BOOK instead.

This THORT rose to the top of my BRANE again in October 2015 when I was starting work at Imperial. I was looking for a new, easygoing, non-deadline-based, WRITING project to have a go at to ensure that I didn't DROP it all altogether, and this seemed like a good idea. You don't need special software to format a BOOK, you can proofread on the tube, and you can even do some of it during idle moments at work, should they occur (which, of course, in my case NEVER HAPPENED, honest).

I thus ploughed through various versions, first of getting all the SCRIPT into PROSE, then going through and properly ADAPTING it, then going through AGANE and making it WORK properly and make SENSE (several times), and eventually doing the draft that I finished yesterday, where it is actually GOOD FUN to sit and read. I reckon one more whizz through for speeling and grammar is will done it good and proper, then who knows, maybe I could let people READ it?!?

The current plan though is to "mature it in wood" i.e. not look at it at all for a couple of weeks, then in the new year have a bit of an old THINK about what to do with it next. The idea of self-publishing via Kindle etc is VERY appealing - no hoops to jump through, no rejection letters, and it's pretty much what I've always done anyway with The ROCK - but on the other hand I wouldn't IMMEDIATELY say "No" if Mr Big Publishing House offered me a million quid for paperback rights.

I'll see how I feel in the futuristic year of 2017 A.D. but for now I am quite pleased to have DONE a book! All the way to the end and EVERYTHING!

posted 22/12/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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Proper Poorly
You find me today BRAVELY carrying on having STAGGERED (bravely) into work and SLUMPED myself over my desk, giving off the occasional cough, sniff and/or splutter. For LO! I am Proper Poorly!

My MALAISE commenced on Tuesday, at which point The Lemsip In My Satchet advised me to not go in to work. I concurred and thus had a very pleasant day feeling mildly unwell but getting loads of ADMIN, also Christmas Wrapping, done. I also watched "X-Men: Apocalypse", which is RUBBISH.

This was precisely the level of poorliness that I like - enough to be respectable for having a sickie day, but not enough to stop you watching telly. However it then got WORSE the next day, and REMAINED at that level the next, when I had - FOOLISHLY - told people I'd be back at work. It was ROTTEN and I got home BEDRAGGLED, eventually going back to bed at 9:30pm rather than my usual 2:30pmn After Going Clubbing Nightly Like What I Do. I thus got about TEN HOURS kip, which was jolly nice except that it was full of FEVER DREAMS. I don't usually MIND these - Moon Horse started out as a FEVER DREAM ("this explains A LOT", says one and all) and one time I dreamt an ENTIRE EXTRA SEASON of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It was AMAZING!

THIS time however it was a lot about Sophie Countess Of Wessex negotiating with aliens about SQL to power their plumbing systems which involved small Fiat cars and EVERYTHING ELSE EVER. It was extremely dissatisfying, and when I woke up I STILL felt poorly!

Regular readers will know that I had a flu jab last month, so I was kind of expecting to be INVULNERABLE for the next six months. However, friends of a Scientific Bent inform me that that's just for INFLUENZE and cold viruses still have free rein. Curses! Thanks, "science", next winter I'm getting a DREAM CATCHER!

Anyway, the upshot of all this is that I've had to cancel my appearance at Scaledown tonight. I am EXTREMELY disappointed as these are ALWAYS good fun AND it's only FOUR minutes from my desk at work, but I fear if I turn up I will make a noise like Bob Dylan being put through a woodmill at high speed and INFECT all and sundry. It still looks like a dead good (possibly better now!) night, if you're in That London tonight I would HIGHLY recommend it!

I, however, will be sat at home with a Lemsip, hopefully watching some telly. BRAVELY!

posted 16/12/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
We're DELIGHTED to be unleashing our latest Christmas song on the world today: Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas!

It was recorded LIVE at Totally Acoustic at the start of the month with the aid of A Little Orchestra and it features mince pies being eaten, singing along, amazing orchestration and a whole HEAP of Christmassiness!

As is traditional it's been added to our ever-expanding Christmas Album Christmas Selection Box which now features a VERY respectable fourteen tracks - that's more than Phil Spector! HA! Still one song to go before we match the GRATEST Christmas Album EVER - Christmas In The Heart by Bob Dylan - but I already have ideas for NEXT year's Christmas song AND the year after's, so watch out Bob, we're coming for you!

posted 14/12/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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Paul McCartney Can Do What He Likes
You wait ages for a NEW me/Validators track to be released, and then suddenly THREE come along in the same month!

The first of these was of course Leaping Hare In Broadgate on the Joyzine Advent Calendar and the THIRD will be our version of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" due out TOMORROW. The MIDDLE of the three though is a song called Paul McCartney Can Do What He Likes, which is out NOW on Songs About Albums, a free compilation put out by The Album Wall.

I wrote the song specifically for the compilation - I couldn't decided WHICH album of his to write about, so I did THE LOT! I wrote and recorded it all quite quickly (it is full of thoughts I have been saving up for YEARS) so when I went back to listen to it the other day I'd forgotten what it sounded like. It's strange, it sounds a LOT like some of my earlier 4 track recordings for TAPES like What's So Bad About Being A Grown-Up which I now realise was done - YIKES - TWENTY years ago. Twenty years!! It's a bit hesitant, shaky and nervous - so not at ALL like the professional, competent, rocking and tight material what I am so known for these days - but I think it sums up my feelings on the matter adequately!

Maybe it sounds like that because it was the first song I'd written for AGES, and so had forgotten some of my usual HABITS. It seemed to give the old songwriting engine a bit of a KICK though - I've got ideas for LOADS more now, which is a) nice b) a bit scary. If only I had a week or so off work coming up when I could sit down and try and DO something about them all!

posted 13/12/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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Bye Bye Allo Darlin'
Last night was a BIG night for The Indie Community, for LO! it was the last EVER Allo Darlin' gig.

When the break-up was announced there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, but I was pretty SANGUINE about it. I mean, yes, they are my favourite band of the last decade, but we've had three GRATE albums out of them, as well as some AMAZING gigs and lovely memories, and THOSE will still be with us. Also, while I'm not a fan of the whole "burn out rather than fade away" idea (clearly!) there's something really nice about a band deciding that that's ENOUGH and packing up while they're all still friends with each other.

And then of course the fact that everyone KNOWS it's going to be the final gig WELL in advance means that everyone who wants to BE there can have a pretty good go of doing so, which meant that when I arrived in TOWN last night the pubs near The Scala were FULL of delightful people! I walked into The Water Rats and said hello to about 300 people in 10 seconds before Mr B Clancy stepped forward and passed on a message from Mr S Hewitt to say that he'd gone round the corner instead, as it was TOO FULL here! I squeezed out, saying hello to appox 7,000 more people as I did so, and found Steve, also Mr R Kirkham and Mr T Hopkins in The Queens Head. There was an actual proper Cockney Singalog happening on the OLD JOANNA as I entered, it was ACE!

We had some beers, picked up some more old chums, said hello to several others, and eventually wandered back round the corner to find a queue to get into the Scala consisting of roughly 2 million MORE pals. After a few minutes a security guy came along shouting that Ticketweb ticket holders could just go straight in, so we did and found yet MORE chums within, including of course Mr J Jervis at the merch stand. I wonder if Jerv has ever actually SEEN any Indie gigs? Maybe he doesn't really like it, so prefers to lurk around outside?

We went into the main auditorium for yet MORE saying hello to people, a very enjoyable set by Bill Botting And The Two Drink Minimums, and then Josie Long came on as middle support act. I did wonder how on earth this would work - having a stand-up comedian performing at a ROCK gig nearly ALWAYS ends in disaster - but she was ACE, even when someone (NB STEVE) accidentally HECKLED her and then had to HECKLE APOLOGISE!

And then it was time for Allo Darlin' themselves to start and for all of my SANGUITY to DISSOLVE into TEARS. Flipping heck but it was EMOTIONAL - I spent approx 50% of the entire set BLUBBING! When Belle & Sebastian came along and changed my life all those many years ago I never thought a band would MEAN so much again, but then this bunch came along and, well, DID. A few years ago when they and Standard Fare were gigging around there was an amazing feeling of Indiepop coming ALIVE - great gigs, proper busy audiences, exciting THINGS happening and a LOT of happiness - so now they've finished it really feels like the end of an era. Gigs will still happen and there'll be lovely people making great music still, but the next time they play an Allo Darlin' song at Indietracks it will be with the knowledge that the discography is finished, there won't be any more.

It was a beautiful way to go out though, in a room full of very happy, also sad, people, celebrating the joy that these four people brought to us all and enjoying the chance to let them know we appreciated it. Thanks Allo Darlin', you were brilliant!

posted 12/12/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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A Very Valid Christmas BOGOF
At this festive time of year one's thoughts turn to two things: firstly, what on earth are we buying for family members' presents and, secondly, what albums have come out this year that I can pretend to have listened to for some kind of spurious 'Best Of' list?

Luckily for you, gentle reader, I can answer BOTH those questions in one go with ADDED EXTRA free gifts for you yourself! "Don't be an INSANIANC Hibbett", I hear you splutter, "NO MAN can solve both these problems at once!"

To which I reply "That's a bit harsh, couldn't you at least read on to the next paragraph?" for LO! it is here that I reveal the reasoning behind my KRAZY CLAIMS. Our album, Still Valid may SEEM like a timeless classic but it was only actually released in July of this year and it ALSO makes the PERFECT Christmas gift for young or old! All right, maybe it makes a bit MORE of a perfect Christmas gift for people in their late, late, "late twenties" who will more likely appreciate some of the ADULT THEMES contained within, but still: I guarantee(*) that it will delight ANYONE who unwraps it on Christmas morning!

"But what of this free gift?" you may add, not having learnt lessons from the previous paragraph's advice to wait for further information. Fear not, my hasty friend, for there is an AMAZING SPECIAL OFFER where you can buy a copy of Still Valid and get a copy of ANY(**) of our other albums thrown in COMPLETELY FOR FREE! You can give THIS to your gift receiver as an extra present, hand it on to somebody else, or even KEEP IT as a reward for your own Yuletide Gift Management SKILLZ - the choice is yours!

However you decide to use this AMAZING SPECIAL OFFER I hope it brings festive JOY to you and all your family. If anybody takes advantage of it then it will certainly bring some to ME!

(*) "Guarantee" used here in the political sense i.e. not really a guarantee, more of a hope. Although it's definitely A LOT MORE of a guarantee than anything to do with Brexit.
(**) Any that I've still got copies left of anyway... which is most of them.

posted 6/12/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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Totally Acoustic RETURNS!
Last Thursday saw the glorious return of Totally Acoustic just in time for CHRISTMAS. It also saw the glorious return of me WALKING there from work, which has not happened for several YEARS. It only took me SIX minutes to get from my desk to the bar, it was FANTASTIC!

I arrived to find various members of A Little Orchestra also arriving so we went upstairs and started getting set up. With tables placed I went downstairs to find Mr FA Machine rolling in and then, almost immediately after him, Mr T "Tiger" McClure and Ms C Birkby. Here something STRANGE happened - Tom took his coat off and put his bags down. "Why don't we just take it all upstairs?" I said and he looked at me PERPLEXED, as if he had never even BEEN to The King & Queen before. I was astounded - I had assumed he had, but NO, apart from Frankie this was to be the first time ANY Validators had been there! KRAZY!

Upstairs Tom was invited to join A Little Orchestra for the evening as they were a couple of violinists down, and he did NOT take much persuading! Myself, Frankie and Christina went back downstairs for the next half an hour while he practice with them, and we were joined by a VARIETY of pals, including The Hewitts and, before too long, The Pattisons. Tim entered wearing his new CAJON drum on his BACK - EVERYONE had come on TRANES to the gig, another FIRST in YEARS of gigging. If we could do ALL gigs like this it would be AMAZING - think of the BEER we could get down us!

Soon we were all gathered, all except for Mr B Bailey, AKA The Boy In The Cupbaord. Ben lives in BRIGHTON, which means of course that it is IMPOSSIBLE for him to get trains due to Southern Rail being UTTERLY USELESS. He sent an apologetic message detailing his various THWARTED PLANS to get up to the big city, including a trip to HOVE. It was a right shame, but we'll get him back another time!

The night kicked off, as ever, with The Theme Song. I didn't notice at the time, but The Notes In My Melody later pointed out to me that the TUNE had subtly CHANGED. It was fine when I demonstrated it, but then when we did the practice run through some people sang a note differently towards the end which changed the whole final line. AMAZINGLY everyone else went along with it as it was happening, and then everyone repeated the changed tune when we did the "proper" version for recording! As she stated, it was FASCINATING the way that everybody ADAPTED as it was going along and (including me) just accepted that that's how it would be. MUSIC everybody!

After that it was my turn to do a couple of songs. I'd brought an actual MUSIC STAND so that i could do a NEW song -
  • Cheer Up Love - without panicking over the words. It seemed to go OK, so then I did a couple from The Back Catalogue: Red and White Sockets and Hey Hey 16K, neither of which I'd practiced AT ALL but seemed to get through pretty well. Maybe NO practicing is the way forward, or perhaps it is the simple PRESENCE of a Music Stand that makes me remember WURDZ better?

    After a short break A Little Orchestra introduced me introducing THEM and we were off for a GLORIOUS half hour of songs, featuring a tribute to Mr L Cohen, some jewish folk music, and the inevitable (at this time of year) CHRISTMAS SONGS. It was utterly utterly lovely - they always are, that's why I asked them to play the Christmas show!

    Their set concluded with the first of two collaborations with US i.e. The Validators. We did a version of "Merry Little Christmas Time" that was pretty darn MAGICAL. We'd worked out a whole STAGING of it which involved other Validators strolling in for the second verse and then handing out MINCE PIES. It all went really well except that you can hear quite a LOT of Mince Pie taking and eating through the middle of the song! As the aforementioned Pie In My Tin said later on, it felt and sounded a bit like a SCHOOL PLAY i.e. SUPER CHRISTMASSY. It'll be edited and released as this year's contribution to the Christmas Selection Box SOON!

    Finally it was time for The Validators to take to the stage - here's what we did:
  • One Last Party (with A Little Orchestra)
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • Can We Be Friends?
  • Mental Judo
  • In The North Stand
  • Easily Impressed
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • The Advent Calendar Of FACT
  • We Did It Anyway

  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • It went really well! There was singing along, there were a LOT of remarks and there was... PLAYING MUSIC! I'm sure you're thinking "But Mark, surely that's what happens at all Validators gigs?" and you would be correct, but this time, with everything at audible, correct levels and no pre-determined way of playing the songs it felt like we were all LISTENING to each other and reacting, like some kind of MUSICIANS. It was sort of beautiful!

    There was also a lengthy discussion of which 'Parks And Recreation' characters we would be, a break for STOLLEN (which I think was probably better for the band, who were eating stollen, than the audience, who were perplexed), and a GLORIOUS bass solo during In The North Stand. It WORKED, basically, it really WORKED and when it was all over we all agreed that we would have to do it this way again!

    The only thing even vaguely moving towards "wrong" during the evening was that there were almost TOO MANY lovely people there and I didn't get a chance to TALK properly to lots of them e.g. Mr R Kirkham had come and I hardly got to say ANYTHING to him!

    Other than that all was delightful, including WHISKY before heading home. It's really really good to have Totally Acoustic back, the next one's in January, the first Thursday in 2017 - you should come along!.

    posted 5/12/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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    It's Advent!
    Today is the first day of ADVENT which means that it is FINALLY Christmas! I know different people have different ideas about this, but I reckon that THIS year especially the planet Earth NEEDS some Christmassy cheering up. Chez Nous it has been a trial to wait THIS long, to be honest, but I sincerely believe that the day that the first door on the advent calendar is opened is the day that you can get out the Bob Dylan Christmas CD and GET CHRISTMASSY!

    Talking of Advent Calendars and ROCK, I'm very happy to report that the first door in the JoyZine Advent Calendar is not only OPEN but has behind it a BRAND NEW song by US - Leaping Hare In Broadgate!

    This was recorded for Still Valid but was never used, so has lain FALLOW until now. I'm very happy to see it finally out in the wild, as I think it is Quite Funky! It's accompanied today by a wonderful, and properly Christmassy, track from Piney Gir too - go and have a listen, it's FAB, and will be followed by LOADS more songs all the way up to the 24th.

    Now, if you will excuse me I have a whole HEAP of Mince Pies and STOLLEN to take to Totally Acoustic tonight. I cannot WAIT!

    posted 1/12/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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    On The World Tonight
    On Monday evening I was PUZZLED by a tweet from Mr J Grayson saying "Was that really a quick blast of @MJHibbett on Radio 4's The World Tonight just then?" Very occasionally people say things like this and, like UFOs, there is almost always a more reasonable explanation e.g. when a member of my family says "I've just heard you on the radio!" you can pretty much bet that they have heard Billy Bragg!

    THUS I turned to the BBC iPlayer and flicked through Monday night's edition of The World Tonight to see what could have been going on. "If it IS on there it'll be at the end, with the Light Hearted Items" I thought, and BLOW ME but I was RIGHT! The final item was all about people sharing washing machines and HOLY MOLY they played a BLAST of Another Man's Laundry (hanging on your line) (about 44 minutes in)! A whole verse and chorus of it!

    I was AMAZED, also PLEASED because it actually sounded DEAD GOOD. I guess it COULD be that there's someone working on the show who likes my/our stuff, but I think the more Scientifically Plausible answer is that they done a GOOGLE for "Washing Machine Songs" and found us. Whatever way they did it I am very much open to MORE uses of my WORKZ in Current Affairs - perhaps next time Morrissey says something, or G Barlow dodges a tax? Or maybe - SURELY - if they need to talk about ZX Spectrums?

    Whatever happens with this station the BEST part is that I am now one step closer to completing the full set of national BBC network plays. I've already had songs on Radios 1,2,3 (I think) and 6, with this addition I just need to get something onto 5 Live and the Asian Network and I've got THE LOT!

    posted 30/11/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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    Spare Ticket For The Pixies
    A week or so ago I sent my old chum Mr S Carter a "fancy a pint?" text and he replied with "fancy seeing The Pixies?" which, all things considered, is a fairly MIGHTY response. He had spare tickets for their gig in BRIXTON last night and, though I've never been a HUGE Pixies fan (although OBVS someone of my age, background and Musical Persuasion is pretty much a Pixies fan by DEFAULT) I thought it was likely to be fun. HE is always a DELIGHT to see, and also the OTHER Spare Ticket gigs I've been to this year (ELO and Wilko Johnson) have been pretty GRATE, surely this one would be no different?

    SPOILERS: It wasn't.

    I'd read up beforehand about the SUPPORT act, who were described as "making a name for themselves on the festival circuit supporting (terrible corporate indie act),(dreary Jools-approved indie act) and (I assume they're a Young People's Band)" so I was quite happy with MISSING them. We actually ended up being slightly TOO cool for school as our pre-gig CHIPS took longer than expected to arrive, so the Pixies were already ON when we got IN. The first thing I noticed was that they sounded a LOT like The Pixies. The second thing I noticed was that the audience looked EXACTLY as I expected i.e. like ME!

    The venue was the Brixton Academy, which is a FANTASTIC place. The crowd was rammed right up to the bar area, so for the first couple of songs we couldn't really see much (we could HEAR fine!). However, as the usual audience CHURN went on we found ourselves moving gently forward until, about THREE FEET from where we'd started, we suddenly had a perfect view. It is a GRATE venue!

    As I say, I've never been a huge Pixie's zealot and so was thinking there'd maybe be TWO songs I'd know - "Debaser" and "Monkey Gone To Heaven". However, it turns out they have approx THREE times as many hits as I'd remembered (i.e. 6), some of which were AMAZING. My favourite bit all night was "Here Comes Your Man" - MAN ALIVE but the MEMORIES were so LOUD in the room you could practically SMELL the Chips And Cheese at the Poly Bop!

    There was also the usual New Material but to be honest it all sounded like The Pixies to me, and that all sounded PRETTY DARN GOOD. It was in fact a DELIGHTFUL evening - I can HEARTILY recommend this Spare Ticket-based gig going, it's a LOT of fun!

    posted 29/11/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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    Back In The Orchestra Shed
    Yesterday I did something I used to do all the time but have not done for YEARS: I stayed at work late!

    Fear not, gentle reader, I was not SELLING OUT TO THE MAN by doing IMMATERIAL LABOUR (or "unpaid overtime" as we used to call it, PRE-INTERNET), I was just hanging around because it was easier than going home then heading out again. I used to do this A LOT when I worked at Birkbeck and had things to do in town, but didn't at Imperial because it was MILES away from anywhere!

    Anyway, my appointment was in TOTTENHAM, home of Ossie Ardiles et al, and it was to White Hart Lane station that I travelled. I was in that area to attend an REHEARSAL with A Little Orchestra, in preparation for Totally Acoustic next week, and I arrived at the address I'd been given to find them all down the end of the garden in a MUSIC SHED. Coo-er but it was a bit fancy, I was DEAD impressed. They were even doing some of The Classical Music when I entered, it was dead swanky, so I was SURPRISED by the discussion they had upon completion of the PIECE.

    "Let's talk about dynamics" said Mr M Walker, who seemed to be CHAIRING the meeting. Everyone nodded and looked serious, and I prepared myself to look as if I understood what was going on.

    "Let's do the first bit loud, then quiet, then loud and quiet again," he said.

    WOT?!? That is how WE do it - surely there must be more to it than that? Or - OR! - perhaps this means that The Validators are basically a SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA? Yes, that's probably it.

    With that sorted out we embarked upon the two songs I'd be singing with them. The FIRST is a song that The Validators always JOKE about putting in the setlist. When we discussed this issue the other week in Nottingham, for instance, it was brought up and I thought "Hang on, we COULD do that in London couldn't we?" as I sang it with A Little Orchestra LAST time they played Totally Acoustic. Unfortunately, that time, SOMEBODY (it doesn't matter who) got a bit a) over-excited b) drunk and forgot both the words AND the structure, so cocked it all up a bit. THIS time that person (whoever it may be) made some careful NOTES so hopefully that won't happen again, because when it works properly this version is INCREDIBLE!

    With that done we moved onto the CHRISTMAS song we're doing - as with above, I'm not saying what the song IS to retain some SURPRISE, but I can reveal that it IS taken from The Greatest Christmas Album Ever Made (yes, EVEN BETTER than OUR Christmas album) which is, coincidentally, also The Greatest Bob Dylan Album Ever Made. It's quite a slow song, so I found it difficult to sing at first due to my inability to hold NOTES for any length of time and also my inability to stick to MY bit of the tune whenever OTHER bits of tune are going on at the same time. The KEY to doing it right (or as near to right as I'm ever going to manage) was to lean NONCHALANTLY against something, like BING at the fireplace. I think I may take a PIPE with me to the gig!

    Once we'd finished I staggered back to the train station with a big silly grin all over my face. I am USED to making amazing noises with The Vlads, OBVS, but doing something SO different, delightful, and WAY out of what I'd ever have expected to do is something I've yet to get used to.

    I'd recorded everything so that The Validators can have a practice (we're ALL playing together for these two songs, I expect there to be more people on stage than in the audience at this point by a factor of approx five to one!), which meant that when I got home I was able to have a LISTEN all over again. It sounded even better than I remembered - this is going to be BRILLIANT!

    posted 22/11/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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    Closing Moka
    You wait nine years for a gig within walking distance then suddenly you get TWO in the same month!

    For LO! last night I was back at The Moka Cafe to play the FINAL gig there. Apparently the people who OWN the ViewTube, where its based, have put the rent up A LOT so the cafe, which has been there for four years, can no longer afford it. It's a real shame and has caused a lot of discontent, but when I arrived I found everyone in HIGH spirits. There was FOOD and BOOZE and MANY people who'd come to thank David The Cafe Owner for running such a GRATE place all this time.

    There were several people playing over the course of the evening, including Mr D Pilkington HOST), a MAGICIAN, some INSTRUMENTALISTS and a man playing JAZZ CLARINET. It was VARIETY! It was very much a PARTY atmosphere, rather than a GIG, so people did fairly short sets, meaning I found myself taking to the stage 30 minutes (and approx 2 beers!) earlier than I'd expected to do THIS:

  • The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • That Guy
  • I Come From The Fens
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths

  • People were more concerned with having FUN than listening to me, which I can FULLY understand, so I concentrated on a) SMILING at those nearby and b) playing the HECK out of the gig anyway, and I must admit that as a result I had a MARVELLOUS time. My only regrets were 1) I didn't go to the loo first (I wasn't expecting to go on yet!) 2) I didn't take my jumper off before starting (see above) and 3) I didn't have a go at the NEW song what I had written earlier in the day. Yes! A NEW SONG! It's the first I've written for AGES - possibly even YEARS - that was just for fun and not for anything else (e.g. a show, a webpage, something like that) so I am clearly out of the habit of PREMIERING them. Perhaps I shall try and learn the words ready for Scaledown next month!

    With my bit done I packed up, got a beer, and then enjoyed a GRATE performance of "Hallelujah" by Dave P with someone who'd worked at the cafe,and THE ENTIRE AUDIENCE. It was a right proper singalong, followed by a version of "Stand By Me" where everyone got to the second verse and thought "Ah! I only know the first verse" but then realised, en masse, that EVERYBODY knows ALL the words to that song. This ALWAYS happens when "Stand By Me" is played in public, it is like the lyrics are ENGRAINED in the BRANES of all humanity!

    It was a lovely way to finish the evening - I have ENDED several venues, usually unknowingly, but this was one of the happiest consciously final shows I've ever played!

    posted 21/11/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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    This Man, This Teacher
    On Tuesday afternoon I took a step towards fulfilling my MANIFEST DESTINY i.e. becoming some sort of TEACHER. My NAN was a teacher and all my life people have said "Have you ever thought about becoming a teacher?" I like to think this is because of my INNATE WISDOWM and COMMUNICATION SKILLZ, tho I must face the fact that it MAY be because I am basically incapable of existing in COMMERCE. Also, I do wear CORDOUROY rather well.

    Anyway, this first step was a TALK what I was giving to a bunch of undergraduates doing a module on "Graphic Narratives" (i.e. COMICS) at the London College Of Communication. The person running the course was getting VARIOUS of my fellow Comics Studies students in to talk about our PhD proposals as a way of showing The Kids different ways of approaching this kind of research. I was VERY happy to take part, not JUST because I am always happy to have an audience (especially one who are not allowed to leave halfway through), but also because I need to do something similar anyway. At my first Supervisory Meeting last month my Supervisors and I got a bit over-excited about the various ways I could DO The Bronze Age Of Marvel Comics as a research topic, even getting to the point where it could be nothing to DO with Marvel and became an "exploration of collaboration", so we agreed that for our next meeting I'd do a PRESENTATION on all the different ways i COULD do it, then try and work a PLAN out from there. THUS doing the LCC talk would hopefully be a GRATE way of getting my THORTS together and, who knows, even getting some NEW ideas from The Kidz?

    I arrived at LCC to find that, like at St Martins, modern ART students wear black, white or, if they're feeling KRAZY, GREY at all times. I know that my generation of students did pretty much the same, but that was because we washed everything at the same time so our clothes TURNED grey, this lot seem to be doing it on purpose!

    I met with my COLLEAGUE Tobias who was also doing a talk, and we were taken upstairs to a room full of YOUNG PEOPLE. Tobias went first, and his talk was PROPER Academic - examples, history, consideration, all that sort of thing. It made me a bit worried about how mine would go, as it was basically predicated on my LEAPING AROUND getting EXCITED.

    Luckily it went FINE, especially once I'd reminded myself that this WAS a lecture session, NOT a gig, so everyone was extremely sober and thus a RIPPLE OF GIGGLE was equivalent to a BIG LARF. It was dead good fun - I stampeded through an explanation of "Bronze Age", "Shared World" and "Transmedia", then presented a whole string of different METHODOLOGIES. I had to do this bit at high speed because, to be honest, I have only recently found out about most of them myself so could well have done it wrong if I'd had to go into any depth!

    The BEST bit was at the end when we had questions, and we entered into a long discussion of how I could AUTOETHNOGRAPHICALLY "BECOME" a superhero and experience the INHERENTLY PERFORMATIVE aspects thereof. It was GRATE! Also, unfortunately, for some reason I decided to tell everyone about Man Of Steel, Woman Of Kleenex so I fear that the MAIN thing everyone will remember from my bit is, as everyone gleefully shouted later, "SUPER SPERM!"

    At the end was a QUIZ, which was illuminating as one of the questions was "Which three comics did Mark particularly push as ones you should read?" I didn't have a clue - I hadn't really been listening - but it turns out these were "The Fantastic Four" (the John Byrne run, OBVS, as a Classic Of The Bronze Age), "Watchmen" (none of them had read it! MADNESS!) and "The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl" (because it is GRATE). Turns out I have GOOD TASTE!

    When all was done I had some time to spare so popped into the Imperial War Museum, where I watched a short film about the D-Day landings and felt SAD, then saw another about the rise of Hitler and felt REALLY sad. Still, it's a good job none of THAT could possibly happen again, right?

    Luckily for me there was cheering up on hand in the form of The Artist Tom Smith AKA my baby brother, who I had a meeting in the PUB with. We went to The Seven Stars, which is ACE, and had a LENGTHY discussion about a COLLABORATIVE TALK we could give together next year. Why, it's almost as if it is DESTINY calling once again!

    posted 18/11/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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    Licked By A Radioactive Badger
    Monday lunchtime found me in London's FITZROVIA district of London for a meeting with Mr J Dredge, where we covered SEVERAL different forms of our mutual output.

    First of all we recorded John doing some VOCALS for a song we're putting together for a THING: a cover of The Day We Fall In Love by The Monkees. I had never heard the song before we started doing this, and in a way I am sort of glad because it is BLOODY AWFUL. It's like somebody said "'What A Wonderful World' is a lovely song, let's try and do something almost exactly the same but without any of the wit, empathy, tune or POINT." I thought I liked EVERYTHING The Monkees had ever released, but clearly I was DELUDED!

    It's taken me AGES to record the backing track as it was really difficult to get a grip on the structure of the song - it's so RUBBISH and half-arsed that I couldn't work out which bit went where. Eventually I DID manage to work it out, record it, and stick it onto my 4 track so that John could do his vocals - when I put it all back together later that evening it actually sounded dead nice. The next step is to MUCK IT UP!

    Anwyay, with that bit of vocals done we went for some LUNCH (we are dead sophisticated) and discussed some other future possibilities. One of these was the idea of writing a SPEC SCRIPT - John had a chat with a Professional Writer the other day, who told him that the way to get WORK writing on TV shows was to write an original script A BIT LIKE the show you want to write for, then send it to the people who MAKE that show. This sounds pretty sensible to me - it's like in America where you write a spec based on an EXISTING show that is LIKE, but NOT, the show you want to write for - so we had a MARVELOUS half an hour coming up with ideas for a daft 10 minute cartoon show about someone who gets licked by a radioactive badger and then goes crime fighting with his Mum. I mean, COME ON - do we even need to WRITE the script? Surely THAT as a logline is enough to secure a film deal right NOW?

    Hollywood! Call me!

    posted 17/11/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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    Like Curry Through A Novice
    I was DELIGHTED yesterday to find that we had had another review for Still Valid (very much still available, ideal Christmas present etc etc) in that AUGUST journal The Morning Star. It is written by all-round good guy Mr J Walsh and features an EXTENDED, also MARVELLOUS, metaphor related to CURRY, surely the best of all possible metaphors!

    This comes at a time when I'm wondering what on earth to do NEXT to try and get people to listen to/BUY the album. As discussed previously, the PLAN this time around was to release a series of VIDEOS to promote it, but I am afraid I have to report that this has not been HUGELY successful. I mean, we have DONE a load of videos, and I'm really pleased with how they came out, but they have not exactly been a ROARING success in terms of DRIVING SALES e.g. I sold more CDs at the Nottingham gig than I have as a result of ALL the videos put together!

    I guess this is good news for LIVE MUSIC, but it does leave me wondering what else I can do to PLUG the album. It is a good record, i think it is probably our BEST, and lots of LOVELY people have purchased it, but we don't seem to have been able to do much in the way of OUTREACH this time. I'm not expecting to be on JOOLS or anything, but it would have been nice to inflict it on a few more NEW people this time around!

    Any ideas would thus, as ever, be EXTREMELY appreciated. I fear, however, that the only answer is a return to THE ROAD!

    posted 16/11/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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    Opening Night/Closing Night
    Last Friday night found me heading over to the Oxford House in Bethnal Green, where we of the Lost City Writers were putting on our play All In The Same Boat. I was quite excited because, as stated previously, the dress rehearsal had been BRILLO!

    I arrived to find the stage pretty much set up, including an ACTUAL BOAT which had been built especially for the show - it looked GRATE! There was much dashing around, moving things, checking things, and the sort of general pre-show FAFF which I really enjoy. I know how all this sort of thing WORKS, it's EXCITING!

    Our official opening time was 7pm, but people started drifted in before then so I sat myself down as part of the DOOR TEAM. I ALSO really enjoy Doing The Door - it's an excuse to be ludicrously DELIGHTFUL with people you don't know, and also to BOSS them around. I like it so much, in fact, that I volunteered to sit outside the door and miss the first half of the show, in case there were latecomers.

    I thus only got to see the second half, but COR what a second half it was - everything WORKED, often in ways we, the writers, had not thought of, and I got swept along with the stories. The best bit was actually just after it had finished, when the lights came up and I opened the doors to let people out. I could see everyone SMILING (it was a pretty good sized crowd) and talking about how much they'd enjoyed it. It made me VERY happy!

    Next day I was back again for the second, also the CLOSING, night, this time accompanied by The Days Of My Run. We arrived at 7pm to find that I didn't actually need to DO anything - everything was completely under control and ready for action, which I found a bit disconcerting. I stood near the entrance trying to helpfully point people in the direction of the theatre, but felt a bit SPARE!

    This did however mean that I saw the whole show this time, helped along by some REFRESHMENT. The cafe and bar at the venue were both CLOSED, so The Measures Of My Optics had suggested that we take along our own BEER! This was an EXCELLENT idea, although I could FEEL half the audience's ears prick up when we opened our bottles, and SENSE their collective MINDS thinking "Where did THEY get drinks from?"

    The show was FAB again, different from the night before with different audience reactions, and still a beautiful thing which I was IMMENSELY proud to be part of. My favourite part of the play itself was right at the end, when we reveal What Is Actually Going On. I could feel a ripple of EXCITEMENT go round the audience when everyone realised what was happening, it was lovely!

    And then that was that - all done... for now at least. The two previous shows Lost City Writers have put on ended after their first runs, but this one feels like it shouldn't. I think the big difference this time is that it's a single play - the others were PORTMANTEAUS, seperate short plays on the same theme, but this is a single story that we've written together, so it feels like it could EASILY be taken on and done by someone else. We're going to get together sometime soon to talk about what to do - we could send it off to theatre companies, enter it in competitions, or even try to put it on again with the same cast and director. I hope SOMETHING happens anyway, it feels too good to have it's first and last ever performances on the same weekend!

    posted 15/11/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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    I went to the PICTURES the other day, to see the film 'Arrival'. I had read lots of interesting things about it, but the main SPUR to go and actually SEE it was a slew of twitter comments from sci-fi websites saying "Here's what we think of the AMAZING ending to 'Arrival' - SPOILERS!"

    THUS I thought I'd better go before I found out what happened, and OH BOY was I ever glad I did, as it is FANTASTIC. It's slowly paced, like the PLATONIC IDEAL of a late 60s/early 70s sci-fi such as '2001' or 'Silent Running' but with excellent modern day special effects. There's not a huge amount of EXPLOSIONS or ACTION but there is a LOT of drama - it's about ALIENS arriving, and it's EXTREMELY satisfying to see how very ALIEN the aliens are. The only time I've seen anything like them was in that "Torchwood: Children Of Earth", which this film is otherwise pretty much nothing like.

    The STORY is about trying to communicate with these aliens, which is something that never seems to cause much trouble in regular sci-fi, but here is the whole point. I won't go into any detail about what happens... except to say that I have seen an AWFUL LOT of sci-fi films and READ about a hundred thousand million of them, but I have NEVER seen or read a story like this before. It features an actual real-life bona fide NEW IDEA! I could hardly believe it!

    So yes - 'Arrival' is DEAD GOOD, I heartily recommend seeing it before someone tells you properly what it's about!

    posted 14/11/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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    Dress Rehearsal
    Thursday night found me heading out to Canary Wharf AKA "Toytown" (according to The Words In My Sentence) AKA "TORCHWOOD" (according to Doctor Who) AKA "Unsignposted NIGHTMARE" (according to me), where I arrived to find NO appropriate signage or MAPS and got hopelessly lost! Lots of nice people stopped to give me directions, but it all looks very very similar, especially in the dark, so it took me AGES to get to where I was going.

    (SIDEBAR: it actually reminded me very strongly of PARIS, specifically of the suburbs of Paris one night in 1989 when me and two pals did a Sponsored Jail Break from School, and got a) ridiculously far b) HOPELESSLY LOST. It was an experience that lasted less than 24 hours but is clearly INDELIBLY engraved in my BRANE!)

    Anyway, eventually I DID get to where I was going, which was the new home of 'Theatre Delicatessen'. These are the rehearsal rooms that used to be based in the old Guardian Building in Farringdon, where Mr S Hewitt and I rehearsed a lot of Hey Hey 16K and where Mr J Dredge and I filmed a lot of our videos. It's now based in a DIFFERENT set of unused offices, which seems to me to be a very sensible use of empty premises!

    I found my way upstairs to discover the CAST of the new Lost City Writers play All In The Same Boat. For LO! That was what I was there for - the DRESS REHEARSAL of the show which is, at time of writing, on TONIGHT!

    I hadn't actually met anybody before, but I HAD spent several hours with their FACES when I was putting together the programme, which is always a bit of an odd feeling. When I did my MA I was told that when attending rehearsals it is best for The Writer to sit quietly in the corner and let everybody else get on with it, so that is exactly what I did. I sat in the WRONG corner to start with - the stage set-up is at 90 degrees to how i'd imagined it, which turns out to be BETTER - so shuffled over and then found myself basically sitting at the FEET of the actors for large portions of the performance. It's almost as if I don't have much practice of sitting quietly in corners.

    The show itself was FANTASTIC. It's WEIRD when you see something you've written being done by other people, especially when you've had no input in the rehearsal process. At first I noticed all the bits done differently to how I'd expected, but very very quickly I forgot all that and just enjoyed it - I LARFED several times and shed a couple of manly tears too, even though I had read the whole thing loads of times and TALKED about it for months. This, I feel, is a very very good sign.

    At the end, when Natalie The Director gave NOTES, I must admit I struggled with the whole Keeping Quiet thing, as I was DESPERATE to go "OH MY LAWKS THAT WAS BRILLIANT!" I managed to hold it in though, only once saying "OH BLIMEY!" out loud when they talked about the remains of the parrot, and then at the end saying "THAT WAS ACE YOU GUYS!" as I left.

    I then pretty much SKIPPED home - like most of the planet I'd had an attack of the GLUMS since the US Election, but this had cheered me RIGHT up. I mean, I know that our play about refugees throughout history may NOT put right everything that's happened this week, but it didn't half make me happy. If you're about in That London this weekend I would HIGHLY recommend coming - it's on at The Oxford House in Bethnal Green on Friday 11 and Saturday 12 November, and you can find full details and tickets here.

    Come! It'll be GRATE!

    posted 11/11/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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