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The Tour Hits Leicester
I had the afternoon off work on Wednesday, in order to head to my old stomping ground of Leicester to perform once again at The Leicester Comedy Festival. This time I was doing a show with Mr M Tiller, as part of our 'No Headliner' tour, rather than the more usual Mr S Hewitt, but just like Steve Matt was at the station early, and our ensuing journey went off without a hitch. We got to Leicester about two hours earlier than we needed to be for the show, due to tickets pricing, so we went to a nearby cafe, where Matt spent the two hours doing some work on his modern laptop, and I spent the two hours on the phone to My Literary Agent. Crumbs, it was a LONG conversation - we had spoken for an HOUR the night before about the next batch of changes to THE BOOK and overnight I had had a Good Old Think and come up with some IDEAS what we talked through at some extreme length. He is DEAD excited about the whole thing, hence the LONG discussions which, hopefully, will make the finished MASTERPIECE even better than what it is already. HARD TO IMAGINE I KNOW.

While I was talking NOVELS and Matt was typing TV PITCHES two Comedians (including one Off The Telly) came in for a cuppa too. It was SO GLAMOROUS!

With our work done we headed over to the Globe for a VERY MUCH needed pint, pausing only for a Vegan Sausage Roll from Greggs on the way (my first, it was good!). We were soon joined in the pub by Mr C Fisher, Mr T McClure, Jan from the Plymouth Argyle Supports Club (London Branch) (AGANE!) and then various delightful audience members. The only thing we DIDN'T have was a representative of the Cookie Club who we were doing the gig for. It turned out that the person they'd arranged to do the door for us hadn't turned up, but they IMMEDIATELY sent someone else running round the corner to sort it all out, which was GRATE, and meant the show was able to go on!

Matt went first this time, with an ACTUAL FRENCH TEACHER (it turned out) doing 'Henri'! He also did his song about his family being Tories, which was a) GRATE but also b) meant I had to take MY song about people being Tories out of the setlist, and do THIS instead:

  • Clubbing In The Week
  • An Office Ballad
  • Cheer Up Love
  • I'm Doing The Ironing
  • Hibbett's Golden Rules Of Beer
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • Two Nights, One Pub
  • Easily Impressed
  • I also tried to do Chips And Cheese, Pint Of Wine but drew a complete BLANK on the words. Other than that it all went pretty well, and I was especially pleased to get all the way through Hibbett's Golden Rules Of Beer as I'm planning to do that at the Validators gig at the Derby Beer Festival tonight!

    We packed up, thanked the audience, and nipped downstairs for some more BOOZE, and I was once again reminded that the BEST thing about touring like this is that I get to see various PALS around the country. It was LOVELY, but all too soon it was time to head back to the station, where we saw the same two comedians ALSO waiting for their train back to That London. It's handy being able to do a gig like this without staying over, but it didn't half feel like a long journey home!

    And so ended the first section of TOUR - next is a string of gigs where I'll be staying OVERNIGHT in different cities! PREPARE FOR MAYHEM!

    posted 22/2/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Walthamstow Wetlands
    Over the weekend myself and The Ducks On My Pond went to Walthmstow Wetlands for a stomp around. It's what used to be (and partly still is) the reservoirs that you go through the middle of on the GOBLIN line after Blackhorse Road, but it's been spruced up with a visitor centre and signage to make it into A Thing You Can Go To rather than A Thing You Go Through. They've done a nice job of it too!

    Getting there was easy, on the secret train that goes twice an hour from Stratford to Tottenham Hale i.e. the same train I used to get when me and Steve used to practice at Bally. The short walk to the wetlands involves crossing the border into Waltham Forest, which was one of those ABRUPT changes where it stops being Tottenham and becomes almost LEAFY.

    The Wetlands itself is a bit like that too - there's trees and lakes and WATERFOWL so you could almost be in the countryside, but then if you look to the horizon you can see that it's surrounded by tower blocks and clumps of SKYSCRAPERS off in the distance. It also reminded me of The Olympic Park, where I live but don't like to go on about it, as a man-made place inching towards wildlife but with constant reminders that you were in a city. We were on the lookout for BIRDS - we didn't spot any Kingfishers or similar, but DID see a LOT of DUCKS. I like ducks, so this was fine with me!

    We may not have seen any rare plumage, but we did get to do a bit of CELEBRITY SPOTTING - I'm pretty sure we saw that bloke who was in 'Scrotal Recall'/'Lovesick' and also the start and end of 'Sex Education' (you would know him if you saw him). I did the traditional DOUBLE TAKE which he noticed, then we both did Polite Casual Pretending Not To Notice It Had Happened, which felt very sophisticated.

    It was a great visit, but crikey, we was KNACKERED when we got home, there is a LOT of reservoir to walk around!

    posted 19/2/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Taking The Tour To Camberwell
    On Sunday night I packed up my gig gear (guitar, MERCH, clean t-shirt) and headed out to CAMBERWELL, for the second night of the No Headliner Tour with Mr Matt Tiller.

    We were playing at The Joiner's Arms, one of those venues that I've HEARD about for years but never actually been in. It was dead nice! The front of the pub is A London Pub (i.e. it has one of those MASSIVE bar areas in the middle that London Pubs seem to love) and the back room is, well, a back room, with a stage area and a pool table. I knew we were in safe hands, venue-wise, when someone came out before the gig started and put a cover on the pool table so nobody could use it while the gig went on - sometimes in the past I've done gigs at pubs that almost seem to resent the fact it's happening, and determinedly maintain things like the pool table or juekbox, but the Joiner's very clearly LIKED having gigs on, and did it very well.

    Matt was already there when I arrived, and after some table shuffling and a brief, yet perfectly executed, soundcheck we were ready for people to arrive. Amazingly, LOADS of them did, including various Cresswells, Greens, Gilroys and Sarlls, and also my little brother! It was a GRATE turnout, full of friendly faces, and it almost felt like an imposition for me to go on and shout at them. ALAS that was what I was there for, so after a fulsome introduction from Matt I went on and did THIS:

  • The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • I Come From The Fens
  • Someone Else's Turn
  • The Saturday Lunchtime Wrestlers
  • An Office Ballad
  • I'm Doing The Ironing
  • You're A Tory Now
  • Do The Indie Kid
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • I REALLY enjoyed it. As previously stated I am setting out on this tour with the INTENT to do lots of different songs, so this time I did an almost entirely different set from what i did in Croydon last week. I've got a big list of ALL the songs I've been practicing, with ones I've already done marked, so in a way it does make it easier to PICK the setlist, though it feels a bit weird not to have access to all of the GUARANTEED BANGERS that I'd usually fall back on. The main thing is that it forces me to do more than just the old Uberset, and give some of the NEW songs more of a chance - as you can see from the above there were a LOT of them this time, including the world debut of An Office Ballad!

    There was a BEER interlude then it was my turn to go on and introduce Matt, who was of course FAB. I'm really enjoying playing with Matt on these gigs, I think our styles are COMPLIMENTARY yet Sufficiently Different to make for a Good Evening Out. I'm ESPECIALLY enjoying the 'Henri The Lorry Driver' song, which is a wonderfully different world of delight every time - last night he got a GENUINE (very drunk) FRENCHMAN to join him and it was HILARIOUS!

    After the gig there was time for chat and also some MERCH SALES, which is something I very much enjoyed, before fond farewells and then a LENGTHY journey home featuring an entirely kaput Jubilee Line. Apart from that though it had been a BLOODY GRATE night - it turns out that touring is ACE, come and see us on the other dates and I'll prove it to you!

    posted 18/2/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Stage Times Furore
    Yesterday there was an article in one of the tawdry free tabloids saying that The 100 Club were going to stop publishing stage times. This caused an ONLINE FURORE with sensible people pointing out the 300,000,000 very good reasons why this was stupid, some Perfectly Nice People saying "It's to make you see the support band" and 17 wazzocks saying "It's about the music maaaan."

    The 100 Club claimed that the reason they were doing it was to force people to come early and see the support bands because, hey, they could be the next big band, yeah? Obviously this is a load of bollocks, as the only reason they want people there early (as casually mentioned in a follow-up on the BBC) is so that you're forced to spend more money at the bar while you wait. "If people come here and see another band we are going to make a bit more money but it's not going to pay the rent on Oxford Street," he says. No, I imagine you make that money from hiring out the venue, what with that being YOUR BUSINESS and everything. Also, if venues like The 100 Club were ACTUALLY PLEASANT places to be in, and sold beer that DIDN'T turn you inside out the next morning, then people WOULD spend more time in there, rather than going to one of the MANY much much nicer around Oxford Street (who I imagine also pay rent) before heading down to see the band they had ACTUALLY PAID FOR. As The Beer In My Glass remarked when we discussed this, if the venue did things like telling you ACCURATE times when you went there you'd have a much nicer time and so would be MORE likely to go AGANE and spend MORE money too!

    I'm all for going and seeing the support band, having been a support band for the VAST majority of my gigs, but if you are the ARTISTE you specifically DO NOT want an audience of people who explicitly DO NOT WANT TO BE THERE. These are the absolute WORST people to try and play for - they will refuse to listen and talk LOUDLY all through your set, spoiling it for anyone who actually DOES want to see you, and will on occasion get on stage and try to PHYSICALLY REMOVE you so that their mates can come on and, invariably, play an hour of "blues funk with an indie twist", generally while wearing HATS.

    What you need is a set-up like they used to have at the Bull & Gate, back in the 1890s when I used to play there. That had an ACTUAL PUB which you could sit in and chat, undisturbed by whatever dreadful nonsense you were sharing the bill with, a dedicated GIG ROOM without a bar or toilets which was JUST for seeing bands in, and between the two a sort of halfway house with a BAR and some seats where you could hear the bands and, if you were curious, pop in to see them. This meant that punters could CHOOSE to go and look at someone they'd not seen before, rather than be forced to SHOUT over them, and once they were in it was up to the BAND to try and KEEP them there.

    It all comes down, I reckon, to who you think that gigs are FOR. I have been a gig-goer, a promoter and, of course, an International Rock Star, and in all those guises it has been clear to me that a gig is for THE BLOODY AUDIENCE. They're the ones who've come out to be entertained and have often PAID for the privilege. It's the JOB of the promoter to persuade them to come (by doing things like TELLING THEM WHEN IT'S HAPPENING), and of the band to ENTERTAIN them when they get there to such an extent that they a) want to come again and b) buy your MERCH. Oh and, of course, c) GET THEIR MINDS BLOWN BY HOW AWESOME YOU ARE.

    Sadly, many many bands what I have experienced over the years think the gig is for THEM. These are the ones who have all the costumes and pre-worked BANTER who get upset if it doesn't go exactly how they imagined, or the ones who do not even LOOK at the audience, let alone speak, and then complain that they didn't clap enough. These sort of bands or acts would be MUCH happier if they stayed in the rehearsal room, and to be honest so would the rest of us!

    In conclusion, then, I would say that it IS worth going to see support bands - they're usually crap because ALL bands are usually crap, but occasionally one isn't - but GOOD LORD if you have bothered to turn up then, as long as you don't spoil it for other people by e.g. standing at the front and talking loudly all the bloody way through the gig, you are free to come and go as you PLEASE. Any band, or promoter, that thinks otherwise does not deserve an audience in the first place!

    posted 13/2/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Tour Begins!
    On Thursday night last week the 'No Headliner' tour began, as all major international ROCK tours should, in Croydon. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: it went pretty well!

    I took the exciting new(ish) Thameslink route there, which goes DIRECTLY from underneath St Pancras and is DEAD handy. It's also not hugely busy, partly because TfL seems to be keeping SCHTUM about it. When I tried routeplanner it told me all sorts of long ways round to get from where I work to East Croydon, but the national rail planner had no such problems. I wonder if that's on purpose, to stop to many people using it? I ended up coming back that way too, on a train that was going all the way to PETERBOROUGH! THRILLZ!!

    The gig was at the Urban XChange Bar, which I'd not been to before, so I diligently researched it and found that a) I had to leave through the SIDE entrance of East Croydon Station (i.e. on PURPOSE rather than ACCIDENTALLY as I have before) and then b) go through Croydon's Hotel District. I wasn't aware that Croydon HAD a Hotel District, but it does make a lot of sense, location-wise, and sure enough it turned out to be a district full of HOTELS. It was also a bit confusing, with me ending up back near the main entrance of the station before I eventually found my way back to the correct venue, wherein I found Mr M Tiller and Mr T Eveleigh, ready to get things going.

    The venue is part of a HOTEL (see above re. District) which meant I could order my TEA directly from the Hotel Restaurant next door, which felt quite fancy. I continued my experiments drinking BEER again rather than Lager too, which again worked dead well as, SCIENCE shows, I do not get quite as DOOLALLY drinking Session Ales as I do drinking LAGER BEER.

    Various delightful people rolled up, not least Mr B Parker who I'd not seen for AGES, and soon it was time for the SHOW to begin, with Big Tim doing the introductions and local ARTISTE Mr D Sears on first. Dave mentioned several times in his set that the audience was "quiet" during the songs, as if it was something he wasn't used to - he is one of them FOLK musicians, so maybe people at those sort of gigs CHAT throughout? I always remember being confused seeing folk music played in a pub with the singer apparently unbothered by people YACKING, so maybe that's how it works?

    Next up was Matt who OBVS was GRATE - he did some fab NEW songs including a dead good one about being CLUMSY, but my favourite bit of his set was when he did the French Lorry Driver one. This is where he gets someone on stage to "translate" his French story, and starts with him asking for someone who can speak French to come on stage. The first volunteer was eating a pizza, so couldn't spare the time, and nobody else wanted to do it until a chap at the back decided to help him out. He'd shouted things out a couple of times already and practically strutted on stage, so I wondered whether he was one of those people who want to mess things up and/or be difficult, but he was actually BRILLIANT! He read the whole thing out properly, except for one line which he DID A JOKE with, and was all round MARVELLOUS. I love it when that sort of thing happens, it was An Theatrical Moment!

    Then it was my turn to go on, and this is what I did:
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • You're A Tory Now
  • In The North Stand
  • Mental Judo
  • Two Nights, One Pub
  • Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • It seemed to go all right - it was a bit difficult to tell because the stage lights were quite bright, so the only people I could see were the members of The Plymouth Argyle Supporters Association (London Branch) who'd come to see Matt. They looked happy, so I took that as a good sign!

    I must admit I was a bit nervous as this was my first gig of the year, and my first actual full-length PUB-based solo gig since I last played in Croydon, nearly ten months ago! This meant there were a couple of ERRORS (notably getting the verses mixed up and occasionally re-written during Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid) and I think I rushed through the CHAT a bit (although nobody seemed to complain - just being polite, I expect), but otherwise if felt GOOD. I very much enjoyed singing Mental Judo, and was ESPECIALLY proud of myself for doing You're A Tory Now, which I had only actually finished writing the day before!

    It was a GRATE first date of the tour, and hopefully a sign to ME that doing new songs is FINE. I have a list of about 38 potential HITS to bring out over this string of dates, and hopefully I will try and DO most of them, rather than what I usually do i.e. chicken out and do the same UBERSET on every date! If you're in London, Leicester, Sheffield, Bristol, Manchester or ENVIRONS then do please come along to one of the tour dates and see how I get on!

    posted 11/2/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Confirmation
    As mentioned last time, I'm currently going through the process of 'Confirmation' for my PhD. This sort of thing apparently works differently at different universities, but at UAL it's basically the bit where I have to prove that what I'm doing is sensible, and that they should definitely let me do it as a PhD. This seems a bit over the top to me - is there anything MORE suitable for research than Doctor Doom between 1961 and 1987?!? - but I am HUMOURING them.

    As part of this process you have to present an ASPECT of your research in front of your PEERS, so on Monday this week I rolled up at an all day SYMPOSIUM to do exactly that. I'd taken the day off work to do it, so it felt a bit of a let down to still turn up AT work on my day off (NB I work at UAL too), at the same time I usually get in, and then just go to a different room. Also, I know the people who RUN these events, as they only sit a few desks back from me (and excitingly have Access Databases which I know how to fix)!

    Once it got going it was not entirely the same as my day job, as there were a lot more POWERPOINT presentations than in a usual day. There's a HUGE range of research topics being done at UAL, and so some of the talks were VERY interesting and some of them were Somewhat Less So (to me anyway), but I was constantly Mildly Distracted by the fact that I was on LAST, and so had to wait until the VERY END to do my bit.

    When it was eventually my turn I went up and did a version of the paper I gave last November at the Transitions Conference, all about Doctor Doom's appearances in 'Not Brand Echh', Marvel's rip-off of 'Mad'. I made a few changes, like explaining the idea of the PhD a bit at the start, and cutting out some of the more esoteric gags (I guess not everybody finds J Michael Straczynski's run on 'Amazing Spider-Man' INHERENTLY AMUSING), but otherwise it was pretty similar and, actually, good fun to be doing it again.

    Afterwards there was a panel discussion and, JUST like last time, everybody else got piercing questions about their research and MY first question was 'Who would win out of Magneto and Doctor Doom?' I don't know why, but pretty much EVERY time I do a comics presentation, no matter how HIGH FALUTIN' the event, people ask this sort of question. Luckily I knew the answer ("It's always Doom, except if he fights Squirrel Girl"), but the other questions were a bit trickier, notably when somebody asked me what the contribution to knowledge was and I went OFF ON ONE a bit about how studying comics is PRECISELY as viable as studying films or books.

    Everyone seemed to think it went well, although my supervisor did warn about being TOO FUNNY (a constant trial!) as it gave people from Other (SNOOTIER) Fields an excuse to dismiss Comics Studies as Not Serious and Not Important. My initial response, which I expressed at the time, was "Screw Those Guys", but I guess that doesn't really work if you're trying to get Art Historians to give you funding.

    Hang on a minute, is that what I never got funding for the PhD?!? WHY must I be so CONSTANTLY HILARIOUS?!? It's not fair!

    posted 7/2/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Pulse Pounding Publications
    Those of you who are regular readers of Marvel Age Doom, my ongoing blog where I read through every appearance of Doctor Doom in Marvel Comics between 1961 and 1987, will already be aware of the EXCITING NEWS that I have had my first comics studies academic paper published. Those of you who are not regular readers, give it a go - it's basically the same as this blog, except that the main character is from Latveria instead of Peterborough!

    The paper is called 'In Search of Doom: Tracking a Wandering Character Through Data' and it's in a journal called IMAGE: The Journal of Interdisciplinary Image Science which you can read for FREE online. It's all about how I used databases to put together the ENORMOUS list of comics I'm reading and will, I feel, be fairly interesting to anyone who reads this who is ALSO interested in comics AND/OR computing. I mean, I know that most of you are SPORTS STARS, SUPERMODELS and ASTRONAUTS, but I guess there might be somebody out there who falls into the former categories?

    I'm really chuffed to have got this out there. It's based on the paper I did when I went to Tuebingen last year, and it was HEAVILY helped along by Lukas Wilde, the chap who ran the conference. He was EXTREMELY concerned about it all being CORRECT, and as a result I reckon it has come out PRETTY GOOD, so much so that I'm going to be re-using the article as part of my PhD Confirmation process, which is currently ongoing. More on that, next time!

    posted 6/2/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Band Meeting
    It was CHRISTMAS in Leicester on Saturday night - I know this because when I checked into the Premier Inn that afternoon the receptionist said they'd got quite a lot of Christmas parties staying. She then asked what I was in town for.

    "A Christmas party!" I replied. For LO! It was time for that that most FESTIVE annual event, the Validators' Christmas Curry! Last year's was in Leicester and it was SO nice that we decided to have it there again, and so it was that I dropped off my bags, popped back to the station to collect Mr FA Machine, and then walked over to The Ale Waggon for pre-dinner BEERS, and also a BAND MEETING.

    It was, as ever, flipping LOVELY to get everyone together again, and also incredibly EFFICIENT. We discussed many issues pertaining to the year ahead, not least a decision have a go at recording a new EP. As Tim said, we can't be in the 2019 Dandelion Radio Festive 50 if we don't actually release anything!

    It was also a chance for me to experiment with drinking ACTUAL BEER again. For the past year or so I've been trying to reduce YEAST intake by drinking LAGER instead, but it doesn't seem to have achieved all that much, so I thought I'd trial a return to ALE. It was a trial I very much enjoyed taking part in!

    With all business concluded we strolled round to Kayal for our curry, which was ACE. At first I was a little disappointed that the portions actually fitted on our plates, but later on when I did NOT have eyes BULGING with food I was grateful. It was dead nice!

    We discussed the usual topics that all insane rock and roll bands do - writing wills, the works of JK Jerome, wellbeing practices etc etc - and had a flipping DELIGHTFUL time all round. Normally I'd come away from these events sad that we wouldn't be seeing each other again, but happily we're playing at the Derby Winter Beer Festival in a couple of weeks. We don't know what time we're playing or anything, but I'm pretty sure I'll have a chance to try ALE again!

    posted 5/2/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Culture In Camberwell
    Sometimes I think I should hire this blog out to Time Out or The Face or something, as it is basically a CULTURAL DIARY full of HIGHBROW ARTS. For instance, today's missive is all about an ART SHOW what I went to on Wednesday night, in distant Camberwell.

    I was there to see some Performance Art featuring The Artist Tom Smith (AKA my baby brother, leave him alone, he's only little), taking place at the South London Gallery, which happens to be right next door to the Camberwell College Of Art where I sometimes have to go with WORK. I thus knew how to get there and arrived a good half hour before showtime, which mean I had plenty of time to sit in the cafe and have a nice, but VERY expensive, cup of coffee, and a nice, but INCREDIBLY expensive Small Can Of Lager. 4.50 for a coke-sized can of lager?!? I've lived in London a long time, but even I had cause to raise an eyebrow!


    The show itself was GRATE, although it was a bit weird a) seeing things that Thomas had TALKED about in the pub for the past year appear before mine eyes and especially b) hearing him tell stories about his youth that I KNEW to be untrue. It was all I could do to restrain myself from jumping up and shouting "You never had a Lazer Disc player! NOTHING IS REAL!" There was also a dead good bit which he'd TOLD me about where (spoilers) everything seemed to go wrong, which was done SO convincingly that I thought it actually had!

    Anyway, it was dead good and it was called Messages From Friends and it was dead good and if you go be nice to him because HE IS ONLY SEVEN.

    After his bit there was a BREAK, during which I discovered that certain ROCK skills are very much transferable to ART i.e. as SOON as the lights go down for the interval you need to DASH to the bar otherwise there'll be a MASSIVE queue. How I chortled at the poor fools queuing up five minutes later, as I sipped another can of LUDICROUSLY priced lager!

    posted 1/2/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Good Grief, Charlie Brown
    On Saturday The Panels In My Strip went to see Good Grief, Charlie Brown, at Somerset House, an exhibition about Charles Schultz, 'Peanuts', and art inspired by it.

    It was DEAD GOOD.

    We'd been meaning to go for ages, and it was WELL worth the wait. It was set out over two LONG rooms over two floors, with double sided boards throughout the middle, almost all of which featured the original artwork for several strips. The best thing about THAT, obviously, was that there was a lot of 'Peanuts' to read, but there was all sorts of information along the sides packed with new (to us) FACTS. I grew up thinking of 'Peanuts' as just another cartoon in my Nan's newspaper, not much different to 'Garfield' with its cheesy gags, tonnes of merchandise, and sligthly sentimental cartoon shows. I never thought of it as anything more than that at the time, but seeing it in this context made me realise how funny it was, and how touching it could be too. Also, things like Schultz's support for feminism, and the introduction of Franklin, and his invention of the term 'security blanket' and... well, lots of things, were all EXTREMELY interesting.

    I was also surprised to see 'Peanuts' described as the longest ongoing work of art produced by one person. I'd just assumed that, like most daily newspaper strip cartoonists, he'd used a studio of some kind, especially when it all got famous, but apparently not. I suppose that is why you can see the style change as it goes along, especially in the first few years.

    In theory it was also an exhibition about the art that 'Peanuts' had inspired, but to be honest we didn't pay much attention to that, and I didn't see anybody else doing it much either. The central displays were much too interesting to be distracted by a big Charlie Brown jumper, although I DID really like Good Old Gregor Brown, an extremely clever version of Kafka's 'Metamorphosis' using the 'Peanuts' characters which was respectful to BOTH.

    The one thing they didn't seem to mention much was the commercialisation of the strip. There were LOTS of displays of actual Merchandise (including some copies of the Peanuts Books which I'm sure I wasn't the only person to SNIFF as they passed by) but not much discussion of what some people would say was an oversaturation, to the point where PILLOCKS like me only saw the Cuddly Toys and not the stories themselves. Other than that thought it was BRILLIANT - I would highly recommend it, and also a trip through the GIFT SHOP on the way out!

    Afterwards we headed up to Angel to attend the BIRTHDAY CELEBRATIONS of that most marvellous of humans, Mr J Jervis. We'd gone for the EARLY session, before the main evening DO at The Lexington, which meant we got to spend a lovely few hours chatting to him and Mr B Clancy before they had to go round the corner, while we got to go home for curry! It was the perfect end to a ruddy DELIGHTFUL day!

    posted 30/1/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Billy Bragg In Islington
    On Friday night last week I went to see Billy Bragg, an artiste whom I do not know much about, honest guv, who has had no influence wotever on my own stylings, no really, it is true.

    Oh all right yes, he is probably second only to John Otway in the great list of Acts I Have Ripped Off Been Influenced By. I hadn't seen him for AGES though, so when Mr S Hewitt suggested going I jumped at the chance. It was originally meant to be happening at ULU, but then got moved to Islington Assembly Hall. We got emails from the promoters apologising for the fact that our tickets had been designated in the balcony upstairs, where ALAS we would have to SIT DOWN for the duration. DISASTER!

    I met Steve beforehand in The Taproom just over the road from the venue. This was a Craft Beer Bar, in Islington, selling Vegan food and directly opposite a Billy Bragg gig, yet it was weirdly NOT full to the rafters with beards, radical bookshops or union convenors. What is the world coming to? It was still very nice though, and I had a LOVELY vegan pizza!

    Eventually we wobbled over the road, arriving just in time to get a beer in and catch the last 30 seconds of the support band. Some skills never leave you! After an appropriate interlude Billy himself came on, and was GRATE. He was talking about the fact that he now has a Senior Citizen's Railcard, which seemed incredible because a) Billy Bragg is 27, everyone knows that and b) however old he is, he looks very good on it. The actual set had a surprisingly large amount of material from what I think of as his "middle period", around "William Bloke" and "Don't Try This At Home", which I guess in reality is more like his "really really early period", and was FAB. It was also rather wonderful to be able to sit down. The Assembly Hall was dead good, especially as we got seats on the end of a row with easy access to the bar, the loo, and, for certain members of our party (NB not me) a space to stand up and punch the air.

    It was a lovely evening, I must learn more about this Bragg character!

    posted 29/1/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Hardest Job In The World
    I've spent a huge amount of my time this past week or so doing THE WRITING and I tell you what, it is surely The Hardest Job In The World.

    This batch of The Writing has been brought about by My Agent (ZANG!) who rang up last week for a lengthy conversation about what needs fixing with THE NOVEL. One of the GRATE things about My Agent is that he applies the full force of his mighty BRANE to these things, and had a metric TONNE of EXTREMELY good points to make. Long-term chums may recall a couple of years ago when I briefly had another agent, who suggested that THE NOVEL needed a few TWEAKS before it was ready to go off to publishers. She left that Agency before contracts got signed and I was dropped, which at the time was pretty upsetting, but now, like a California Wellness Guru, I realise that it was actually a Good Thing, as there was loads of stuff that needed sorting out that hadn't been picked up on, but which IS being picked up on now.

    The only trouble is that I now have to go through and DO the changes! This is the second time My Agent has rung up to highlight a bunch of issues that need addressing - the first lot got done just before Christmas, and involved some vast chunks of New Stuff which was a LOT of fun to write, but this batch is a) not as extensive but b) a lot more hard work, as I'm going through picking out things like "tone" and dialogue changes and Narrative Consistency that is important but not quite as much of a LARF to do. It feels like WORK!

    The most difficult bit is thinking up new JOKES. About once a day I get to a section that needs a new joke, and I usually end up having to go for a walk around the flat, mumbling to myself, to try and think it up. On the bright side, it does mean at least once a day I get to LARF at one of my own (brand new) jokes!

    Concurrent with all of this literary activity I am also gently gearing up for the No Headliner Tour with Mr M Tiller which begins next week. I'm trying to do around 20 minutes of SINGING a night to a) get my THROAT used to it and b) try and work out which songs I know. So far, to my surprise, both throat and BRANE have been functioning well, but my FINGERS are a mess of blisters. Oh how I suffer for ART!

    posted 24/1/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Two Nights At The Cinema
    It was a right cultural whirligig round our way last weekend, with THEATRE, LIVE FILMING, and then on Sunday evening the first of TWO trips to The Pictures!

    The Lights and Camera of my Action had suggested we go to see "Bohemian Rhapsody". the Queen film that came out a while ago. We'd meant to go and see it over Christmas but hadn't got around it it, and assumed it had long gone, but she discovered it was still showing at our local VUE. I confidently declared that we would probably be the only people there, as it had been on for so long, so was a little discombobulated when we arrived to discover that it was SOLD OUT!

    We would later discover that it was showing in one of the small rooms upstairs in the Vue, where they usually show The Art Films, and guessed that it had probably been put there to finish off its run, only to suddenly get attention again with The Golden Globes win the other week. We had got all dressed up to go out of the house and didn't want to just slink home so we had a look at what ELSE was showing, booked tickets for "Stand & Ollie" a little while later, and went for a DRINK!

    Having a DRINK was such good fun that we decided to have another during the FILM, which was a lovely idea except for the fact that OH MY WORD it takes a long time to buy anything in that cinema. Unless you go at approx 10am there is ALWAYS a huge queue, and we later debated whether this was a tactical decision. Maybe Vue think punters will initially queue up just for a ticket, but after spending TWENTY MINUTES waiting in line they eventually decide to make it worth their while and spend A MILLION POUNDS on a drink and popcorn as well. If this is the case, then they only have themselves to blame for people choosing to stay home instead - drinks and snacks are easily accessible and FREE there, and all you need to do to get That Real Cinema Experience is sit closer to the telly!

    EVENTUALLY we got in, and even managed to get an "upgrade" to the VIP seats by... er... going and sitting in them. I must say they were very comfy, and you get a GRATE view - take THAT, Vue Cinemas! Actually I spent the first ten minutes of the film terrified we would get Told Off, but luckily I was with an International Rebel who said, correctly, it would be FINE.

    We had differing views on the film itself. The Steps In My Dance Routine didn't like Steve Coogan in it, and thought he was basically doing Alan Partridge with a weird unconvincing accent, which is a criticism I can accept. I, however, flipping LOVED it. I don't know what it was about the story of MEN going on the road together and playing to small audiences, but something about it clicked with me. I especially loved the bit at the end where they're on stage and the camera goes back to just show their Iconic Silhouettes. It MOVED me!

    There were no such difference in opinions the NEXT night when we tried again to see "Bohemian Rhapsody" and this time succeeded. It was GRATE! I do LOVE a good Rock Biopic and this was a REALLY good one. There were Astounding Impersonations! Re-workings of Well Known Events! Clearly Shoe-Horned-In Moments Of Jeopardy! A MONTAGE within the first twenty minutes showing them going from rehearsal to sellout show! Several other "writing the song" MONTAGES going from "No, I don't want to play the hit song 'Under Pressure' I refuse" to it being a HIT! Several people saying "There is no way that this song will be re-released several times and become a major international anthem"!

    One of the few things it was missing was a series of PUNS based around song titles e.g. a clear opportunity was missed to show a magician at one of Freddie's parties and have John Deacon say "What do you think to the illusionist, Brian?" and Brian May reply "Well, It's A Kind Of Magic, I suppose... HANG ON!" or at ANY POINT Roger Taylor hurting himself and insisting that they do the gig because "The Show Must Go On guys... HANG ON!"

    What it did have in BULK was Historical Revisionism. Crumbs! When we left the cinema we were wondering why it had got such bad reviews, but then a look online later showed that a lot of it was due to people OUTRAGED by how much things had been changed around. I am not the sort of person to know the in-depth histories of bands (NB apart from The Beatles OBVS, but surely everybody knows exact dates for all events in their lives and has read The Big Mark Lewisohn Book?) so was Quite Surprised to find quite HOW MUCH they had changed things. As The Dates On My Calendar later remarked, it was less a biopic and more of a ROCK MUSICAL loosely based on The Story Of Queen.

    It was still dead good tho, and my only complaint about its Golden Globe success would be to say that The Bloke Who Played Brian May was ROBBED - and I say that as someone who has stood mere FEET away from the great man at a Badger Demo for SEVERAL minutes. He was AMAZING!

    posted 18/1/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Filmic Innovation
    I was back in the STUDIO on Sunday afternoon to commence filming new VIDEOS for the next PLINTHS release.

    Myself and Mr J Dredge gathered in Theatre Deli in Broadgate to do filming for TWO (2) films. We only really needed to do ONE (1), for the next single which should be out in March, but I knew that we are SO EFFICIENT that we usually only use the first hour of our two hour bookings, so we worked out something else to do if that became the case. SPOILERS: it did.

    The first video we did was for the song "Pancake Day". I've wanted to do a DANCING video for AGES, ever since The Knees In My Legs watched the video for What Is Life by G Harrison and LOVED it. John and I discussed what we could do, with the initial idea that we'd have John doing simple dance moves, and make it look like there were three of him doing them at the same time. However, once we got started I realised that a) this would be really difficult and b) it looked GRATE with just him doing it on his own. It may surprise you to find out that I am NOT a professionally trained DANCE director, but it turns out that watching several series of Strictly and going to CHARLESTON lessons about a decade ago is all the training I needed to stand there saying "PLACE your hand! STRAIGHTEN your leg! Marvellous darling!"

    It may also surprise those who know him to find out that John is NOT a professionally trained dancer, but once we got going he WENT for it, and looked GRATE. We did a whole bunch of different moves which we'll cut together, and I fuly expect "Pancaking" to take its place alongside "Dabbing" and "Flossing" at all of next season's high society balls.

    After that we did some stuff for a song called "Idiots Rule The World". The idea for this was to film John's face singing the song, so I could superimpose it over some ACTUAL idiots who rule the world. To enable this I had bought some sheets of green paper from the Art Shop at work, and we spent some very happy minutes cutting a hole out to fit John's FACE. This left a gap around the sides, so we stuck another sheet across the back, making a rather marvellous Personal Green Screen, as seen below.




    Watch out Andy Serkis, there are new Special Effects Experts in town! To make it work properly I ended up stood behind John, holding the side of the sheets with one hand and shining the torch from my phone down the back with the other, to try and keep it all the same shade of green, which I feel made John look like the SECOND daftest person in the room. I was very glad the the windows along the sides of the room were FROSTED!

    When I got home I had a quick check to make sure that this had actually WORKED, and was amazed and relieved to find that YES, it actually had! There will now follow several weeks of tinkering with both videos before we UNLEASH them on the public, but hopefully this blog will serve as a Behind The Scenes Documentary TEASER until then!

    posted 16/1/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Back To The Panto
    On Saturday afternoon myself and The Rising Of My Curtain went to the THEATRE in London's Fashionable Stratford area of London, there to see THE PANTO!

    We last went to the panto at the same venue a couple of years ago, but that time we had sat in the STALLS. THIS time we'd been invited by a chum who had splashed out (about four months ago when there were bargains) on a BOX. I've never been in A BOX at The Theatre before, and found the whole experience Quite Luxurious. It was right up by the stage, so you had to lean out sometimes to see what was going on, but it was dead nice being in your own private little ROOM. If I ever get to do something like that then I will investigate taking a PICNIC!

    The show itself was Quite Good, but much like last time I found myself taking NOTES throughout. It was the penultimate show of the run (with the last one that evening) so I thought it would be full of LARKING ABOUT and also EXTRA BUSINESS but it was actually played Very Straight Indeed. Almost TOO straight in places - the whole show stuck very firmly to The Story, so there wasn't much in the way of topical gags, and the Jokes That Only Grown-Ups Will Understand came thick and fast for the first ten minutes, and then petered out in favour of Getting Children To Dance, which, to be fair, was FAB. Is "flossing" on The National Curriculum, or are The Young People just very mobile these days?

    The cast were GRATE throughout, though there were bits where, if I had been DIRECTING, I would have said "No, that line is a JOKE, try saying it as such." It's WEIRD - on the rare occasions I have encountered Actual Actors they never seem to notice JOKES and have to have them pointed out, but then try and do OTHER lines as jokes that AREN'T. Do they not teach GAGS at RADA, or is it Advanced Flossing instead?

    One thing they definitely DID do properly though was Mention Local Places e.g. when they had to go into the forest it was EPPING FOREST, the shops were Westfield, the palace was in Stratford etc etc. It is always weirdly exciting to hear Somewhere You Live mentioned like this, I must remember to add it to my Things Everyone Likes list, along with Seeing Two Or More People Moving In Unison and Finishing On A Song.

    In fact, I must remember to send that list round Theatres next year. Come on, PANTO BOOKERS, call me!

    posted 15/1/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Collaborative Curries
    The Validators are world-renowned for their rock and roll excesses, crazy lifestyles, and "don't give a flip" attitude, but, beneath that surface layer of sheer 100% punk rock, it may surprise you to learn that we can also on occasion be Quite Organised.

    This was evidenced a few days ago when everyone received an email from Mr FA Machine with SIX agenda items for discussion regarding our activities in 2019. Along with items about GIGS and RECORDING he also made the very VALID point that we had not yet arranged our Christmas Curry. This is an hallowed tradition, undertaken almost every year, generally just AFTER Christmas when we... well, have a curry. We also take the opportunity to have a Band Meeting too, and after Frankie's email several more items were brought up for the agenda, not least a BOOK SWAP which, I am sure you will agree, is about as flipping rock and ruddy roll as it is possible to get. Watch out, William Idol, there are some new crazy rebels in town!

    We will thus be convening in early February to dine and discuss. Coincidentally this will take place only a couple of days after ANOTHER grand tradition with Artistic Collaborators i.e. a CAMDEN curry with Mr & Mrs Hewitt. Two curries in one week? No wonder Him Out Of The Libertines is looking worried!

    posted 11/1/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Back On The Road (in a bit)
    Over the Christmas period, as well as watching films and going to CHURCH and so forth, I also engaged in some ROCK PREP. For LO! Starting in February Mr Matt Tiller and I are going on TOUR!

    I believe I have spoken about this before, but now it is all sorted with seven (SEVEN!) dates around the country and, indeed, London. Here is the full list as it currently stands:

    Thursday 7 February:Urban Xchange Bar, London
    Sunday 17 February:The Joiners Arms, London
    Wednesday 20 February:The Globe, Leicester
    Thursday 28 February:The Green Room, Sheffield
    Thursday 7 March:Gullivers, Manchester
    Friday 15 March:New Bristol Brewery, Bristol
    Thursday 21 March:The King & Queen, London


    That's nearly as many gigs as I have done in the WHOLE of 2019! I am right looking forward to it, though it's been a bit weird getting back in the hang of this sort of thing, especially as I'll be doing them all SOLO. For most of the past few years I've done gigs EITHER with The Validators OR with Steve, but this time it'll be just ME! I mean, OBVS I'll be playing with Matt at each of them, and doing a lot of the travelling together too, but the gigs will be ALL HIBBETT!

    It's been a remarkably smooth process getting it booked, as Mr Tiller has been an EXCELLENT tour-booking colleague. We have had MEETINGS and everything! We've also got a proper POSTER to use, which looks like THIS:



    I currently have HIGH IDEALS of doing a vast range of different songs every night... though I have a sneaking suspicion that this will get boiled down to a core UBERSET as usual. There'll definitely be some NEW songs in the mix, though I can't necessarily guarantee any new GAGS. Do come along if there's one near to you though, we will both be VERY glad of the support!

    posted 9/1/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Christmas Films
    I watched a LOT of telly over Christmas, which I believe is what The Baby Jesus would have wanted. For LO!, when the Shepherds watched their flocks by night, all watching BBC, did not the Angel of The Lord come down and switch to ITV?

    The BEST thing I watched was That Bros Documentary Everyone Was Going On About - honestly, if you have not watched it yet it really IS as brilliant as everyone keeps saying it is, it's called 'When The Screaming Stops' and it's on the iplayer. Go and have a look!

    A lot of the talk online was about how funny it is, which it definitely is (I'm still laughing at the bit about conkers even now), but it's also surprisingly moving - they're very open about their emotions throughout, but when they struggle to get it across to each other you just want to go and give them both a big hug. I also really liked the BAND bits - when Matt tries to tell Luke how an introductory DRUM FILL should sound, BEFORE they've even started playing the song, it reminded me of all the times that I... I mean, somebody very insensitive who isn't me... have done that sort of thing, and how AWFUL it is for all concerened.

    Anyway, whether you've been in a band or not, liked Bros or not, or indeed had a sibling or not, it is BLOODY GRATE and you will kick yourself if it drops off the iPlayer before you get a chance to see it!

    I did not, however, spend the ENTIRE Christmas period sat on my arse in front of the telly. Perish the thought! I also managed to drag myself out to sit on my arse in front of a cinema screen, when I went to see "Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse" and it was AMAZING! As with the Bros film I had read a LOT of reviews telling me how brilliant it was and, once again, they were CORRECT. BLIMEY! It was the most comics-y superhero film I have ever seen and, not coincidentally, also THE BEST. EVER! I loved the way it did all the really FUN stuff from comics, all the imagination and excitement and DAFTNESS, without feeling it had to get tied up in explaining every single aspect. I loved the fact that it ACKNOWLEDGED how many times we've seen the Origin Story and then did each separate Spider-Person's story in a very All Star Superman way i.e. cut to the absolute essentials. I also loved the way it put Actual Comics in, like Kirby Dots or the Bill Sienkiewicz version of The Kingpin, and most of all the way it took an existing story and MANGLED it to make it BETTER for film but also using the MADDEST ideas, and wrapped the whole thing up with LOADS of a) actual proper jokes b) actual proper action and c) actual proper EMOTION. Goodness me, I believe I cried AT LEAST 3 times during the film!

    Go and see it! It is GRATE!

    posted 7/1/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Holy Christmas
    Either side of our HOLIDAY this year The Routes On My Network and I did a LOT of bouncing around visiting relatives, which meant that by Christmas Day itself we had done EVERYONE and thus had the whole day to ourselves, so we could do whatever we wanted. It turns out that what we wanted was to go to CHURCH!

    Our reasoning was thus: for the past several years we've always gone to St John's in Leytonstone (where we used to live) for the Christmas Carol service, but missed it this time due to the aforementioned holiday, so thought we'd give it a go on Christmas Day itself instead. This turned out to be unexpectedly BRILLIANT.

    Our journey commenced with a 40 minute HIKE back to our old hood, arriving just in time for some milling about before the service itself began. I'd been to church a few times on Christmas day when I was little, and vaguely remembered it as taking AGES with everyone dressed up and being Quite Serious and STERN. St John's was NOT like that at ALL - if anything it reminded me of an INDIE GIG. Nobody seemed entirely sure what was meant to be happening, the main act was NERVOUS (it turns out that his DAD was in the audience, so maybe that was why), there were GUITARS, and the whole audience got to sing along. This latter was because there was no CHOIR to do the singing for us, which led to the congregation going for it with some GUSTO, even on the songs that most of us didn't know. Highlights included the vicar stopping the first song a verse early and the congregation all going "There's another VERSE!", him and his Dad having to have three goes getting the lights on the tree to come on when we all shouted "Let there be LIGHT!" (which I'm pretty sure is in the bible), the curate not being able to work the Powerpoint presentation that had all the song lyrics on, a crew of children with SHAKERS putting off the vicar and his pal on guitar and piano, and an extended metaphor about JESUS being one of the Mr Men.

    We also got some CHOCOLATES halfway through (again, that's definitely in the BIBLE), said hello to each other at some length, and I had my usual Christmas Sniffle during "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" (NB reminds me of my NAN). I tell you what, if they put THAT sort of service on Telly Religion (rather than the TERRIFYING Midnight Mass of LATIN and INCENSE and TERROR that I'd seen 5 seconds of on BBC1 the night before) I reckon it would turn Church Attendance right round. I know it's made ME want to go more - to Christmas Carols AND Christmas Day!

    posted 4/1/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Feliz Navidad!
    Myself and The Baubles On My Tree went off for some SUMMER SUN just before Christmas, and let me tell you this: it was GRATE!

    We went to sunny TENERIFE, where it was weirdly like SUMMER but also CHRISTMASSY. It was most odd to be wandering round in shorts and sandles while Shakin' Stevens sang in the background, but being strong-willed and determined we somehow managed to get by. The people of Tenerife have some particular tastes in Christmas decorations - they like Poinsettia, Reindeer made from fairy lights, gigantic wireframe presents you can walk inside, and especially nativity scenes. Man ALIVE but there were a lot of nativity scenes - our hotel alone had TWO, and we saw an INCREDIBLE one when we went on our (one and only) day trip to La Laguna. The Tourist Information centre there had an entire ROOM full of a model village version of Bethlehem which told the entire bible story as you walked around it. It was brilliant, also quite surprising as I found myself squealing "Ooh, it's Herod!" There was also a life-size scene in the courtyard of the building, which had The Baby Jesus missing. It wasn't Christmas yet though, so maybe he would be there for his birthday?

    Another thing they like in Tenerife is FOOD LABELLING, which was extremely helpful, and also VEGANISM. There were LOADS of places to eat, though we spent the majority of our lunchtimes popping to a place called Malaika, a totally vegan cafe in Puerto de la Cruz, and then going to a healthfood shop on the way back to the bar... sorry, apartment... which sold Violife CREAM CHEESE, which I'd not seen before. I'm not quite sure WHY there was so much Ethical Eating going on, but we were very glad for it. We also, very ethically, drank as much LOCAL BEER as we could. We were ethical every day, sometimes several times over!

    One of the other highlights of the week was the Lago Martianez, an enormous LIDO down by the seaside, where we spent a very ethical afternoon eating locally sourced foods ("chips", I think they call them) and LOLLING ABOUT on sunbeds. There was an EXTREMELY cold saltwater pool which The Salt In My Brine spent about 20 minutes longer in than me (so about 22 minutes), and I had a PROPER KIP in the sunshine. It was ACE!

    Towards the end of the holiday news started to drip through about the drones at Gatwick, where we were due to fly back to. We hoped it would all be sorted out by the time it was our turn to go, but amazingly, given that Chris Grayling was exerting all his mental powers on solving the problem, the airport was still closed the night before we were due to set off. The Times On My Timetable spent a lot of time texting and emailing people to try and find out what was going on, and rather brilliantly got our check-out time delayed so we had more time to pack. In the end our bus pick-up was put back from about 1pm to 6.30pm, giving us an extra afternoon to be ETHICAL in the cafe and the poolside bar.

    Then it took AGES to get to the airport via a traffic jam, during which the mostly British passengers told each other what we'd heard, followed by a SCARE at the check-in desk, where we went to get a much needed PINT and returned 20 minutes later to find that the desk had CLOSED! Luckily for us the chap from Norwegian Airways, the ONLY person in the check-in lounge, sorted us out, but it was a bit scary!

    The rest of the journey was FINE, and we ended up getting home just after 6am, which meant it was the first time in about a DECADE that I'd stayed awake for 24 hours. We was KNACKERED, but very happy with a BRILLO holiday. I would heartily recommend a bit of WINTER SUN!

    posted 2/1/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Totally Acoustic Returns!
    I had an EXTREMELY busy day on Thursday, featuring a training course (with me giving the training), an ART exhibition and a Christmas DO, all before 5pm! By the time I got to The King & Queen I was ready for some ROCK, and luckily that was available in plentiful supply.

    For LO! I was there for the Christmas edition of Totally Acoustic! We hadn't done one of these for over a year so I was RIGHT looking forward to it. On the way to the pub I bumped into The Popinjays, who'd already been in, SOUNDCHECKED, and were now off to get some GRUB, and then once upstairs I found Mr D Green practicing his 80's singalong, so all the acts were ALREADY there, which is always a GRATE relief to me. I was thus able to concentrate on setting up the seating, saying hello to people, and having a much needed PINT.

    By just after 7.30pm not only were all the acts in place but most of the AUDIENCE was too. It was delightful to see pretty much ALL of our regulars there (with Mr S Hewitt and Mr T Eveleigh arriving just as we began and making us COMPLETE) and also a good bunch of new people, including Mr T Parsons who had been on my mailing list for YEARS but had never actually seen me before!

    I thus took to the stage area and, after a rousing choral rendition of the theme tune, did THIS:
  • Last Christmas (in the EU)
  • Cheer Up Love
  • Have A Drink With Us (Drink Doch Eine Met)
  • It Only Works Because You're here


  • It all seeemed to go pretty well - it's been AGES since I last did a gig so I'd wondered if I remembered how, but it seems to be like riding a bike i.e. smelling faintly of oil and with a good chance of falling over. Dave then came straight on for his SYNTH-led singalong, which was BRILLIANT. Dave could well do a gig without ANY music or other forms of entertainment, just TALKING, but here he had three AMAZING tunes and also SONGSHEETS, so the whole room sang along. More people should do this sort of thing! It climaxed in an Actually Rather Moving version of "Only You" which will be available for further enjoyment on the podcast!

    After the traditional short break The Popinjays came on. The Validators and I had played with them in Cologne and found them to be a) GRATE b) DELIGHTFUL people, and that assessment was found to stand up in an acoustic setting. It was a bit weird actually - when I asked them to do it they said they'd NEVER really done anything remotely acoustical before and seemed to genuinely be a bit nervous about it, but they took to it INSTANTLY as if it's what they'd been doing all their ROCKING LIVES. It was fantastic, I really hope they do it some more!

    And then it was time to settle in for the usual BEERS, WHISKY, and CHAT that traditionally follow at Totally Acoustic, which was as lovely as ever. It felt simultaneously like AGES since we'd last done one of these and also no time at all, and it reminded me, and I think all the other regulars, how much FUN it was and what a FLIPPING ACE pub The King & Queen is. Myself and The Dates In My Diary discussed the matter when we got home and agreed that perhaps some time COULD be found to do it a bit more regularly again, so look out next year for Totally Acoustic's RETURN, not monthly but perhaps on a QUARTERLY basis!

    posted 10/12/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Last Christmas (in the EU) UNLEASHED!
    Man the barricades and deck the halls, for LO! today we unleash our epochal combination of POLITICAL SONGWRITING and CHRISTMAS HIT in the shape of our brand new Christmas song, Last Christmas (in the EU)!

    As with all of our previous Christmas singles it's been added to our Christmas Selection Box, which this year is not only available via Bandcamp but also (in most countries anyway) on iTunes, Spotify, and pretty much ALL streaming and download sites. At long last you will be able to add our MIGHTY FESTIVE CATALOGUE to your Playlists!

    We are very PROUD of this one, as we think it is ACE, and hope you think so too!

    posted 3/12/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Christmas Video Completed
    This morning I finally completed a project what myself, The Validators, and The Items On My List have been working on for LITERALLY MONTHS: this year's Christmas VIDEO!

    As regular readers will be aware, work on this began WAY back in September when The Validators exhibited symptoms of Not Exactly Enthusiasm for the song I'd originally written to be this year's Christmas single. The aforementioned Tinsel On My Tree pointed out that she'd already told me a MUCH better idea, for a song about this being out last Christmas in the EU, and upon review it turned out that she was, as ever, CORRECT.

    A song was thus written to these new guidelines, a demo version was provided to the Validators, approval was granted, and then the following month we commenced recording sessions. The usual procedures then applied to THIS activity (when you have been in a band together for TWENTY YEARS you do tend to find that your procedures are both DEFINED and COMPREHENSIVE) until the track was HONED to perfection, at which pointed I applied my BRANE to the video.

    The story was agreed quite early, following contributions from all stakeholders (I know I always say it, but The Validators really are JOLLY GOOD at this sort of thing - if we ever turn our skills to WORLD DOMINATION then all would fall before us) and the general format, which i can only describe as A MODERN EPISTOLARY NOVEL hem hem, was agreed quite early on, but it took AGES to do the actual IMAGERY. I had originally intended to star in it myself as SANTA, but that just looked RUBBISH. Luckily myself and The Partners In My Partnership found a NEW STAR during a trip to our local department story who suddenly CRYSTALIZED the entire CONCEPT. When you see the video you'll understand what I mean!

    Next there was a PHOTOSHOOT, conducted this time by The Pictures In My Album, and then about a FORTNIGHT of putting the whole thing together. For reasons of EASE I ended up assembling the various images in POWERPOINT (again, when you see the video you'll see why I did it that way), which turned out to be a dead good idea, but did involve a LOT of copying, pasting, sizing, text formatting and so on. It took AGES to do but, rather wonderfully, utilising this method meant that EDITING the final video was a piece of CAKE. I even learnt how to force Powerpoint to export slides as high-definition PNG files in the process - I bet Godley and Cream never had to edit THEIR computer's registry when making a video! THEIR LOSS!

    There was then a final round of discussion with stakeholders which, again, garnered excellent results. The Validators are pretty much THE BEATLES of ROCK ADMIN - who needs Brit Awards when you can conduct a full virtual team meeting by email and have action points ACTIONED by 7.30am the following day?

    The upshot of ALL of this is that the video is now DONE and is ready to be UNLEASHED on Monday morning, alongside the song and indeed the entirety of the revamped Christmas Selection Box album on iTunes, Spotify, and ALL of that sort of thing (unless you're in certain parts of the world, for reasons explained elsewhere, in which case you'll need to get it on bandcamp). It is, I think, going to be QUITE the Thing - not only a lovely Christmas song with a FAB video, but also pretty much GUARANTEED to bring down the government and end Brexit!

    posted 30/11/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Pre-tour Photo Shoot
    For the past couple of weeks Mr M Tiller and I have been endeavouring to make a mutually agreeable appointment to discuss some of the finer aspects of our TOUR next year, including doing some PICTURES and VIDEOS for promotional purposes. He suggested I go over to his place in Camberwell on Wednesday of this week (aka YESTERDAY at time of writing) so I checked in my diary and saw that I was somewhere with work for most of that afternoon. On further investigation I realised that I was going to be at Camberwell College of Art! PERFECT!

    Thus I spent a very happy afternoon at Camberwell College a) finding the room I was Giving Training in b) working out where the projector was and how it worked c) GIVING the Training what I was there to Give, and then d) heading off to chez Tiller. Upon arrival Matt made me a VERY posh cup of coffee (he ground the beans himself! I saw him do it!) and then we went into his front room to do some short VIDEOS. Matt works in TELLY and so has gathered together various bits and bobs of KIT over the years, and so we had Actual Lighting for this session. It looked very nice when we watched it back, photographically at least, even though the content was mostly the two of us LARFING at each other and forgetting the tour dates.

    Shortly after that Matt's cousin-in-law arrived to take PHOTOGRAPHS. She is a Professional Photographer so there was some more time spent with LIGHTING and DEPTH OF FIELD and PHOTOGRAPHER THINGS, but then the SHOOT began and it was ENORMOUS fun. "I don't even have to direct you!" she said as the pair of us titted about, pulling silly faces while variously hiding behind a sofa, pretending to be superheroes, and almost falling over.

    It was a very pleasant end to a working day which will hopefully lead to some quality Promotional Materials. I shall ALERT you as soon as they are available to VIEW!

    posted 29/11/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Very Cherry 13
    I had a lovely facebook message from Mr G Jones yesterday, telling me that there had been a REVIEW of A Very Cherry Christmas volume 13 which mentioned how much they liked my contribution, The Christmas Robot.

    This pleased me NO END. It's always nice to get a good review of course - whatever GRUMPS say - and it's such a long old time since we actually RELEASED anything that COULD get reviewed that I'd sort of forgotten how nice it actually is! I was also pleased that the review gets EXACTLY what I was going for in the song.

    Most of all it was a nice reminder to ME that this stuff is actually meant to get out into the WORLD. For the past couple of months we've been hard at work prepping Christmas Selection Box for OFFICIAL RELEASE, by which I mean not just adding a couple of songs as we usually do but unleashing it upon iTunes, Spotify and all that sort of thing. We're adding a whole bunch of new songs to it, including this year's CHRISTMAS HIT which will not only celebrate Christmas but will also DEFINITELY bring down the government, along with a couple of extra HITS - more on THESE when release day comes around on the 3rd of December.

    This process has been helped along a GRATE deal by those lovely people at Emubands, who sort out our digital distribution for us. I filled in all the forms and uploaded all the relevant tracks, and they very kindly, and quickly, got in touch to tell me what I had done WRONG. The main error was that I'd included a bunch of cover versions and then clicked "Worldwide Distribution", which meant that I'd have to go round getting CLEARANCES for several territories. They offered various ways to deal with this, the easiest of which was simply not bothering with the difficult ones, so I'm afraid that people living in the USA, India, Pakistan and (I think) Japan will just have to stick to Bandcamp. Sorry!

    However you choose to enjoy it, the whole SHEBANG will be released in a couple of weeks. In the meantime I say let's get Christmassy NOW - we've had to sit through Brexit all year, we deserve a bit of festive cheer!

    posted 21/11/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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