All This Vegan Business
The other night The Dishes On My Menu and I DINED OUT. The new hotel down the road from us were offering a Vegan Set Menu for Veganuary, so we thought we'd give it a go. The aforementioned Food On My Plate booked us in at 7pm (as the set menu wasn't available much later than that) which was EARLY for us, so, as she said, it felt more like we'd gone out for TEA than a Posh Dinner, and it turned out to be DELICIOUS.
It always seems rude NOT to go and do this sort of thing, like you're letting the side down if you DON'T buy a Vegan Thing when an organisation who normally wouldn't do something like that DOES. This makes wandering round the food hall in Marks & Sparks a bit of a GUILT TRIP as they have TONNES of new vegan stuff, and we don't have a fridge big enough to fit it all in - see also The Vegan Fridge in Waitrose.
It is all a LONG way from how things were when I first went Vegetarian, approx 7 million years ago in 1991. Back then you could only buy Special Vegetarian Foods in health food shops, and that was nearly all POWDERED. I did used to like the packet burgers and LOVED "Sizzles", the bright red powdered "bacon substitute" that tasted nothing like bacon but when EXTREMELY well with a hangover, and though I do miss them a bit I am aware that they would probably not be quite so nice if I tried them again. I had a BEANFEAST a few years ago which proved this theory to be correct!
It also used to be a PAIN eating out, as often there would be NOWT suitable, even for a cheese-friendly veggie like me. I distinctly remember going to a conference in FRANCE in the mid-90s when I spent several days explaining that no, HAM wasn't vegetarian no matter how much you grated it up onto a lettuce, and ending up eating my own body weight in RAW BEETROOT. There were always Veggie Cafes, with their Cork Noticeboards advertising protest marches and yoga classes, bead curtains into the kitchen, and "ethnic hat"-wearing proprietors, but if you didn't like falafel and flapjack you were a bit stuck. I really DO like falafel and flapjack, however, and miss those cafes too!
Nowadays it's all very different, with special MENUS at most of the chain restaurants, Actual Properly Nice Veggie Restaurants too, and the question "So why did you go vegetarian?" is being asked less and less often. It's lovely, but slightly disconcerting in that it appears to have happened because of CAPITALISM. There is clearly a market for this sort of food, so THE MAN answers the demand by providing Delicious Tasty Vegan Grub, which makes a "plant-based diet" much easier to follow, so MORE people do it, so THE MAN provides more food, and so on. It feels a long way from cork boards and powdered breakfast products, but if it's stopping people killing and eating quite so many animals then it is, I reckon, a good thing.
Having said that, if anyone knows anyone who works in purchasing for M&S, could they see about getting SIZZLES brought back please?
On Thursday night myself and The Bulb In My Lamp went over to Canary Wharf to look at Winter Lights. I must admit I thought it was going to be a brisk stroll around a few underwhelming light thingies, but in actual fact it was GRATE, and ended up being nearly two hours of us walking around Canary Wharf going "OOH! Look at THAT!"
There were 26 different sculptures spread around the whole of Canary Wharf, linked by lots of Surprisingly Good Signage and an EXCELLENT (if slightly oddly numbered) map which took us round the whole lot with ease. There were lots of staff on hand giving these maps out, and LOADS of people using them. Again, I'd thought it'd be just us but there were HUNDREDS of people trekking round, all having a LOVELY time. It reminded us both of London Lumiere which we went to a couple of years ago, except with less MASSIVE things but the whole thing much more compact and easy to get round.
Amazingly for something like this there was nothing RUBBISH or annoying, and (incredibly for something relying so heavily on electircs) everything WORKED! Highlights included an incredible sculpture that broadcast words onto a moving fall of water which... actually, rather than me trying to say what it was, here's a video someone else made:
There was another one showing light on MIST called "Constellation" that looked AMAZING, a fab garden of light called "Squiggle" and what looked like a Christmas Tree forest, modelled here by your correspondent.
I think my favourite was an INSTALLATION called "Chromatic Play". We had to queue up to get in, and when we did it was just some rather underwhelming half-globes in the ground that looked a bit like slime monsters. They were meant to be sensory, so everyone vaguely waved at them but it didn't seem to do much... until one of the guides came in and explained EXACTLY how it worked, with them changing colour according to people standing near or far from their sensors and then with each other. She explained it all so clearly, getting us all to step backwards and forwards to make it work, that something that had seemed disappointing suddenly made SENSE. As The Words On My Description said, if ALL Installations had someone like this to explain them it would help REALLY A LOT. I concurred!
Crowd Sourcing A Crowd
As well as ROCKING OUT at Totally Acoustic on Thursday night, I also engaged in some GUERILLA recording, using my four-track to record various delightful people singing along to the end coda of People Are All Right (when they are given half a chance). It's going to be our next single, but whilst listening to the (AMAZING) initial MIXES provided by Mr FA Machine I felt that we needed a crowd singing along for the final section, and realised that I would have access that night to a bunch of people very used to singing along!
My initial plan was to get the whole ROOM singing along at once as part of my set, but I eventually accepted that this would actually be Rather Annoying. My bit at the start is meant to just be a quick warm-up to get everyone used to the idea that it's a gig (some people take a while to realise this without lights, stage or PA) rather than the GUEST ARTISTES having to do it, but if I tried to orchestrate a recording session it would quickly descend into ADMIN and RE-TAKES. Also, I couldn't think of way to do it that wouldn't involve being able to hear ME bellowing over the top, or going wildly out of time with the actual recording. THUS I chose instead to use the multi-tracking capabilities of my recording device, and grabbed people and/or GROUPS of to record it as a series of seperate tracks.
Much to my surprise it worked REALLY WELL, as at various points in the evening I GRABBED people, stood them on the pub landing just outside the loo, put headphones on one of them, and then got them to sing along. Some people went solo, others in groups (with one person using headphones and the others following along with them), but everyone seemed to get the hang of it. Surely ALL recording sessions should be this peasy?
Over the weekend we recorded one extra vocal from The Notes In My Harmony, and then I began putting it all together. Again, it was DEAD EASY - it turns out that if you mix together a crowd of people singing the same song they sound like... well, a crowd! The oddest thing to my ears was that you could also REMOVE people and not make much difference. I wanted to check that no one voice was dominant, and so MUTED indivual tracks as it played through, but each time I was surprised to find it didn't make much difference. Taking HALF the people out obviously DID, but when there's LOADS it doesn't seem to matter. It reminded me of mixing APPLAUSE, which I always find DISTINCTLY odd. You can pretty much SPLICE together ANY two bits of applause, so long as they're of roughly the same volume, without anyone ever noticing. I do this all the time when putting together the podcasts and always MARVEL at the fact that you can never hear the join.
Anyway, the crowd recording is DONE now and sent to Frankie. I am hopeful that he will find his own mixing experience as straightforward as what I did, and then we are one step closer to unleashing another HIT!
Po! and Panic Pocket
I was DELIVERING TRAINING at The London College Of Fashion on Thursday afternoon (if you want to take this to mean I was TEACHING FASHIONABILITY then I am powerless to stop you), which was extremely handy as it left me at the end of the day with a ten minute walk round the corner from Oxford Circus to The King & Queen, where Totally Acoustic was due to occur.
I was delighted, as ever, to discover Mr S Hewitt already in place, but then AMAZED to find BOTH of the evening's acts arriving shortly afterwards! All performers were in the building by 18:38 which is a definite record, although rather than reassuring me I was UNNERVED - surely this was AGAINST NATURE?!? My unnervedness continued when we went upstairs just after 19:00 to discover that the room was already set out, but in a Very Slightly Different way to how it usually is. It worked really well as it meant that the DRUMKIT (Drumkit!) could be put further away from the band and audience than usual, but it did feel odd (if only to me) to have the vast majority of the audience all in the same part of the room rather than, as usual, in two seperate ends of the "L".
My mind was taken off this issue by the arrival of MANY lovely people, notably almost ALL of the TA regulars (including Susan who had ONCE AGAIN brought a whole bag full of SNACKS for everybody) and Non-Performing Pop Stars all OVER the place. The room was pretty nicely filled up by the time I took to the stage and, after the traditional performance of the theme tune, did this:
I Think I Did OK is a NEW song what I wrote a few days previously, the morning after seeing The Just Joans, and it seemed to go down quite well. I was very happy to be able to involve Mr G Gilchrist in the final verse, citing him as evidence that I have NEVER been, as the song suggests, "better at drinking" than I am now, and this led me to do The Perfect Love Song as a song from the far off days - surely at least a few years ago now hem hem - when Voon were playing in the same places as Po!
After me Panic Pocket played and they were GRATE. I asked them to play because I've really enjoyed listening to their songs on Bandcamp, and they did not disappoint in The Live Arena. There is a WIT and a WAY with their songs that I really like, like they're talking ABOUT stuff but do so in an ENGAGING and often quite funny way. There's lots of bands around that do the talking ABOUT stuff thing, but I must admit I usually find the actual execution a bit DULL, like they've found an ISSUE to say, say that it exists, and don't do anything else with the information. Panic Pocket have a bit more STYLE about them - I did say I'd been teaching at LCF earlier, so surely I should KNOW!. INTERESTINGLY* (*to me) their songs came out sounding more TRADITIONAL when done with Guitar and Battery-powered keyboard than they seem on mp3 - I am pretty sure this is both a) a good thing and b) a fascinating insight. They were GRATE!
After the break we got Po! on, who demonstrated that even a band who have been going since (as their BADGES stated) 1987 can STILL experiment with radical setlist methodologies. Ruth had prepared a SHEET like a PICTURE ROUND for a pub quiz, with each picture being a CLUE to one of their songs. There were a few of us who knew their songs who got SOME of them, but it quickly became a RANDOMISATION FUNCTION as people yelled out LETTERS and the band played whichever song it applied to - I don't think the rest of the band knew which songs were represented by which picture either, but luckily Ruth helped them out. There were UTTER CLASSICS of their earlier career, some new songs, and even a cover of The Ruts! It was BRILLO!
With all that done the evening took its usual course of YACKING followed by WHISKY downstairs. It was a whole lot of fun, as will hopefully be demonstrated soon when I get the podcast done!
Versions Of Watchmen
Ironically, since starting a PhD in COMICS, I have read a lot less COMICS than I used to. Well, for fun anyway - I'm still doing my Marvel Age Doom blog going through EVERY appearance of Doctor Doom from 1961 to 1987 (back this week with some EXCITING stories!), and that involves reading a LOT of comics, but they're not always hugely FUN, and that doesn't leave a whole heap of time for reading just for the sheer HECK of it.
That means that I've missed quite a few comics that I'd really like to have had a look at, one of which was Kieron Gillen's "Peter Cannon Thunderbolt" series. I must admit that in the past I've been a bit off and on with his stuff, as it often felt like I didn't know enough about what he was on about to fully appreciate the stories he was writing (e.g. I like Kenickie but don't really care about DJing, so lots of Phonogram passed me by), but this appealed to me because it was apparently about/an answer to/a sequel to WATCHMEN, which I have read approx 7,000 times. SO, when I saw that it was available on Comixology for 69p an issue over Christmas I LEAPT at the chance to read it.
COR! I was REALLY glad that I did! I spent half of boxing day reading through the whole thing, then RE-reading it, then reading his writer's commentary, then forcing myself to go to BED rather than read it all AGANE. It was GRATE!
It is INDEED an answer to/analysis of Watchmen, using analogue characters and EXTREMELY CHEEKY quotations, visual and textual, to make points not just about the original series but also the other (rarely mentioned) series that influenced it, the influences it has had itself and the responses to it since it came out, and also where comics might go next. It manages to do this whilst also being EXCITING and FUNNY, with regular chunks where I LARFED out loud at how VERY CLEVER it was being, and also somewhat NAUGHTY. There's a bit which directly quotes Watchmen Issue 1 page 6 (Rorschach climbing through the window) that is simultaneously a SIGHT GAG, a statement on what's happening in the story, and ALSO a commentary on how the original is not necessarily as FORMALIST as we think it is. I'm probably making it sound dead po-faced and annoying, but honest, it is GRATE.
A few days later I also BINGED the TV series "Watchmen", which was also dead good and Thought Provoking, but not in the same way. The first few episodes were AMAZING, partly because of the excellent job it did working out how the world might have moved on, but mostly because of the THEMES it was dealing with. I'm sorry to say I'd never even HEARD of The Black Wall Street Massacre, but the way it looked at race was something I certainly had not expected and thought was dead good. As with Peter Cannon, I also appreciated the constant NUDGES towards the original, with certain phrases repeating and images popping up, although it did get to the point that, when they went to a graveyard I was looking out for The Angel from the cover of issue 2, and cheered when I saw it.
As everybody else in the world has said, it did tail off a bit towards the end, and finding out that EVERYBODY was somehow related to everybody else and It Was All A Scheme was a bit much, but I did VERY MUCH appreciate the fact that having a final episode that goes VERY MUCH off the rails and drives FULL STEAM into LUDICROUSNESS was a clear and intentional tribute to the original, which did exactly the same thing.
What I think I'm saying is that if you've have read "Watchmen" and would like someone's idea of what might happen next, give the TV series a go. If you've read "Watchmen" a LOT and would like someone's idea of how it works, what it means for comics, and how it might be developed differently, but with jokes, read "Peter Cannon". And if you haven't read "Watchman" at all, give it a go, it's pretty good too!
The Just Joans
After work on Friday I met with Mr S Hewitt and chums in Fashionable Islington's Fashionable Craft Beer N1 in preparation for seeing The Just Joans later that evening. It's quite nice, Craft Beer N1, although for some reason the table we were sat at had rather high seats, so there was a lot of going "OOF!" whenever one needed to clamber down to go to the bar.
The pub featured a gentle stream of people coming and going to the same gig, and for this reaosn it was not until after 9pm that Steve and I wandered down the road to The Lexington and into a mini-Indietracks of delightful people. I bumped into Mr J Osborne (POET) and Mr J Jervis (LEGEND) almost immediately, and spent large parts of the rest of the evening seeing people I hadn't seen for AGES. The gig was part of the Winter Sprinter, a FOUR DAY series of gigs for which people had come from far and wide, which meant the room was PACKED with familiar faces. It was lovely!
The gig itself was BLOODY FANTASTIC. Steve and I watched from our usual position in the EXECUTIVE SUITE (i.e. the far end of the bar at the back) where you get a GRATE view, as can be seen below:
No, that picture wasn't nicked from a high quality music periodical, I took it myself, honest!
As has been noted on many previous occasions, the full-band live version of The Just Joans is a ROCKING PROPOSITION, and they have SO MANY HITS nowadays that they can do a whole set FULL of them and still have some to spare. They are also GRATE fun to watch - David is an EXCELLENT frontman, and many were the LARFS between songs. They are basically the last survivors of the Holy Indie Triumvate of Allo Darlin/Standard Fare/Just Joans (they are PULP to the others' Blur/Oasis) and so there was MUCH love in the room, especially when they did songs like "What Do We Do Now" which are ABOUT thinking nostalgically about friends and bands you used to know and now INDUCE exactly that.
The gig was a launch for their (excellent) new album The Private Memoirs And Confessions Of The Just Joans and happily the new songs what they played off it MORE than matched up to THE HITS. I bought a copy from Mr Jervis on the way out and would HEARTILY recommed!
It was a lovely night, but to be honest it was a bit disconcerting to be back at a GIG again with people I knew, doing something I used to do ALL the time but don't really much anymore. It didn't make me want to rush out and start GOING to loads of gigs again - not least because, to PARAPHRASE "What Do We Do Now", most of the bands that I loved back then ARE dead, and though the people I used to see at those gigs are still with us, they only go out to gigs about the same amount that I do i.e. a couple of times a year - but it was brilliant to dip my toe back in again for a bit. Maybe I WILL go to Indietracks this year and do it again!
If Only There Was A Pun About 2020 And Visions
Over the holidays I very much enjoyed reading the gradual countdown of Mr John Kell's Top 100 Albums Of The 2010s, partly because it is a thoughtful, entertainingly written, big list of some records I know and like and others I don't and might, and also partly because I MUST ADMIT I was wondering if we'd be in it.
I was thus GRATIFIED to find that we're in at Number 18 with Still Valid, in the same group as Frankie Machine and The Just Joans (who I was UTTERLY DELIGHTED to see John comparing to ME!). However, the thing that REALLY got me thinking was where he says that it had been "a hugely prolific decade for Hibbett".
"Has it?" I thought. My OUTPUTS over the past few years according to me, have mostly been to do with the PhD and My Writing Career, with You're A Tory Now the ONLY actual ROCK item we released in 2019. It seems, to me at least, that not much has gone on for AGES, but then John goes on to say that my "output in the 2010s has straddled scripts for stage, screen and radio, at least one novel, four Edinburgh fringe shows and, oh yes, two albums with the Vlads". Oh yeah. When you put it like that, I suppose I have been quite busy - and that doesn't include doing a whole MA course and all the Totally Acoustic podcasts either!
Still, I'm hoping that the 2020s are going to feature a bit more ACTUAL ROCK in them. As I keep saying to anyone who'll listen (notably in this interview with The Fountain) we have BIG PLANS to release THREE (3) brand new Validators singles in 2020, in a THRILLING new format, and I'm hoping that we might even get to sneak out a Christmas one at the end of the year too. Who knows, we might even do some GIGS to promote them!
There will hopefully be some more LITERARY output too. Since I self-released my NOVEL back in 2018 I have signed up with an LITERARY AGENT and spent much of the past twelve months doing RE-WRITES on it until it was basically a whole other book and a half, with a new name, new characters, and even a couple of new JOKES! I did write a SEQUEL to the original too, although the first book has changed so much I'm going to have do do a complete DO-OVER of that, and in the meantime I've just started work on a NOVELISATION of Dinosaur Planet!
And then at SOME point in the decade I will be FINISHING the PhD. Last time I saw my supervisory team we'd agreed on May 2021 as a hand-in date, and I am DETERMINED to try and get it done by then, if only so I'll have time to finally do OTHER other stuff - I'd like to do some solo gigs, for instance, and maybe even turn the frown of Mr S Hewitt upside down with a new SHOW at some point.
Most of all though, I'd rather like it if the FUTURISTIC SPACE HIBBETT of 2030 looks back to now and says "Poor foolish Medieval Hibbett of 2020! He had no idea that he would end up as Poet Laureate/President Of The Moon/Professor Of Doctor Doomology at Latveria University!" Let's see what happens!
A Meeting of Validators
Saturday saw me travelling to distant LOUGHBOROUGH, to attend that most hallowed of institutions - the Validators Christmas Curry And Band Meeting. Here is the Executive Summary: it was GRATE!
We gathered in The Organ Grinder, which turned out to be a LOVELY pub. There was much catching up to do and, as Mr FA Machine pointed out, we really should get together more often as there was almost TOO MUCH to talk about, not least because we had a full agenda - or VLADGENDA - to get through.
When I say agenda - or VLADGENDA -I do not mean a vague list of things to chat about, I mean a properly agreed, typed, printed out list of topics which we spent the next 90 minutes working through like the CRACK TEAM what we are. As usual I was struck with the idea that if we ever turned our attention to other matters - some form of business proposal perhaps, or world domination - we would be UNSTOPPABLE.
It began with a presentation of the Financial Report for the year. We have recently changed our funding model to bring in SUBS from each member, as well as putting the proceeds from gigs, publishing and online sales into a central pot, so this was the first time we needed a financial report of this nature. I was glad to have the FACTS verified by Mr T McClure (who'd checked the details on our shared Paypal account before coming out) and the whole report passed as VALID by the assemblage. We then discussed the "You're A Tory Now" campaign, with KEY LEARNING POINTS. It turns out that the old days of getting something all ready two months before release to meet PRINT deadlines are very much BACK, except that now it's Spotify and Bandcamp you need to send press releases too, not NME and Q.
All of this LEARNING was then utilised during the main discussion about what we're going to DO in 2020. We're going to release three EPs, and during the meeting we agreed what tracks we'd put out on each, with Mr T Pattison having a GRATE idea about putting some extra material on the (EXCITING) Bandcamp version. Mrs E Pattison was also persuaded to do some SPECIAL T-SHIRTS for it all!
With that complete we then moved on to Ryan's for CURRY. Alongside Intellectual Discourse and Musical Recommendations we also had a BLOODY DELICIOUS tea. When we went in it looked like it was going to be one of those Posh Indian Restaurants where you don't get to have a Balti, but in actuality it was an EXCELLENT also PROPER Indian Restaurant where you definitely COULD have a Balti AND they brought out complimentary mints and liqueurs at the end. It was BRILLO!
As we said our goodbyes afterwards I was filled with joy from a meeting well met, and also from the prospect of EXCITING ACTIONS to come in 2020. It is going to be AMAZING!
Festive Art Day TWO
The New Year began with us being DEAD SOPHISTICATED and heading out for EVEN MORE ART, as myself and The Hangings In MY Gallery went to the Tate Britain for a look around. We had a full itineray of THE ART planned, but got even more than we bargained for when we arrived to see that the front of the building was ALSO Art. It had been decorated by the Artist Anne Hardy to look POST APOCALYPTIC, with torn banners, lights falling off, and ice and snow on the steps. There were also sound effects like THUNDER and raging seas. It was dead good!
Once inside we headed into the William Blake exhibition, which was ALL RIGHT. It certainly gave you a broad picture of his life and what he DID, and it certainly generated a LOT of Intellectual Discussion between the pair of us (all right mostly The Lines Of My Drawing) about how MODERN it was, and how similar a lot of his thinking was to modern comics, but there was nothing in it that really made either of us go "WHOO!" Part of the problem was that there was just SO BLOODY MUCH of it. It took FOREVER to get through, with each room PACKED with STUFF, often in the form of Very Small Drawings with a lot of TEXT to tell you about them. We agreed that it would have been A LOT better if there had only been a THIRD of the content - I know it is a Blockbuster Exhibition that people PAY for, but come on curators! CURATE!
We then went to the cafe for a LOVELY cake, an all-right beer, and quite possibly the WORST cup of coffee ever created. It was like MUD that had been left to go off and then had vinegar added. UGH!
Things picked up after that, however, when we went to look at Year 3 by Steve McQueen. This is a HUGE Project where Steve McQueen invited EVERY Year 3 pupil in London to have their photograph taken, and it ended up containing SEVENTY SIX THOUSAND children in Class Photographs variously GRINNING, GURNING and everything in between.
It was COMPLETELY WONDERFUL and astonishingly MOVING. To start with we looked at the pictures one by one (or tried to, they go up to about 20 feet above the ground), then stepped back, then stepped in again to look more closely, and back and forth around the HUGE room with photographs EVERYWHERE. It felt like the entire FUTURE was in the room, all together, bunched up looking a) massively diverse but also b) just a bunch of kids with their teachers. Apparently, once the exhibition is over, all the pictures will be sent to the individual schools i.e. split up, just like the kids themselves one day will be. I teared up a bit when I thought about that. The Clothes In My Uniform made the Interesting Points that a) most of the male teachers looked like they should be in Indie Bands and b) almost all of the schools had some sort of UNIFORM, while I noted that c) approx 50% of London schools have exactly the same climbing apparatus on their wall.
It was, individually and en masse, UTTERLY BEAUTIFUL, also FUNNY and TOUCHING and HOPEFUL. Of all the things what we saw on our two ART DAYS this is the one I'd recommend most!
After all THAT we went to look at O' Magic Power Of Bleakness by Mark Leckey, which is a recreation of the underside of a motorway bridge, with FILMS playing and WEIRD EFFECTS and stuff. My favourite part was when we walked into what appeared to BE the underside of a motorway bridge where a medium-sized crowd had spread themselves out to watch stuff. It was Quite Good, but I did get slightly SPOOKED when it all turned a bit BLAIR WITCH with the videos.
With our gallery trip complete we then walked up to Parliament and saw the Christmas Tree there, to Trafalgar Square for ANOTHER (slightly less impressive) tree (plus German Market) and then to Covent Garden for ANOTHER Tree (best of the lot) and a GORGEOUS use of LIGHTS where they'd taken a whole street and basically outlined the whole thing with Fairy Lights. It was Somewhat Atmospheric!
We then stomped some more down to Leicester Square then took a SCENIC ROUTE (which was definitely not me getting us lost) to Regent Street and Carnaby Street for MORE lights. It was a) lovely b) super-Christmassy and c) KNACKERING!
It was an EXCELLENT way to end what had been a BLOODY GRATE Christmas break. The working week was going to be hard-pressed to match it!
Festive Art Day ONE
Christmas CHEZ NOUS wasn't all about watching telly, eating food, and holding on to the Washing Machine to stop it RATTLING TO BITS while we waited for someone to come and fix it. It was a LOT of all those things, but it also featured myself and The Notes In My Booklet being dead sophisticated and seeing lots of THE ART.
We first ventured out on New Year's Eve to see some SHOWS what The Descriptions In My Pamphlet had spotted. We met Mr T Eveleigh in TIBITS and then went into the Tate Modern where we first of all we went into Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life which was AMAZING. It was a series of INSTALLATIONS, including a room where everyone cast multi-coloured shadows, a MIND-BLOWING dark room where tiny flashes of light illuminated a fountain so it looked like it was still, and best of all a long corridor full of coloured FOG where everyone got completely disorientated. I'm not really explaining it very well, so below is a video which explains it slightly differently, if not necessarily very well either:
It was basically WONDERFUL. What I ESPECIALLY liked about it was that it felt FRIENDLY, as if the artist had made it specifically for PEOPLE to go and see e.g. most of the artworks were actually BETTER for having crowds of people there, rather than worse, and the Art Bollocks in the descriptions was kept to a minimum because you didn't really need to read anything to GET what was going on. All around us people were laughing with DELIGHT, kids were dashing around genuinely enjoying it, and we could all feel our BRANES expanding.
After some light refreshments and Intellectual Discussions the three of us went to look at the Nam June Paik retrospective which was... not nearly as much fun. There were lots of IDEAS and the room with TVs nestling amongst foliage was quite nice, but the Art Bollocks was back, and it felt as if this was someone trying to show us how much cleverer he was than we were (and not particularly succeeding). One thing, for example, was a PIECE that claimed to be a film response to John Cage's 4' 33", but was just a reel of film with nothing on it, rather than the WHOLE UNIVERSE that is in the original. Still, it did enable The Lens Of My Camera to take the RATHER EXCELLENT picture below:
We did have plans to go and look at even MORE Art, but by that point our BRANES were FULL so instead we walked across the Wobbly Bridge (which was FAB as usual) and then stomped to Liverpool Street station, where we had a pint in the Wetherspoons. As we sat there it gradually filled up with Young People who were VERY dressed up, getting some Pre-Drinks in before heading out to wherever they were going to celebrate New Year's Eve. We, however, said our farewells to Tim before heading home for some TEA and also BOOZE, for LO! There was more Art to come the next day, also the next year, also the next DECADE!
What I Did On My Holidays
Happy New Year one and all! I hope that 2020 is proving delightful for everyone so far - if nothing else, we are FINALLY back in an actual properly named decade AT LAST. There are people drawing salaries, driving cars and indeed eligible to VOTE who have never lived in one, so to them especially I say welcome to THE TWENTIES!
Keen observers of this blog will note that it has been exceptionally quiet over the past few weeks, and this was because I have been away on HOLIDAY for much of it. I finished work on Friday 13 December and, after the events of the election the night before, I was DELIGHTED to leave the country a couple of days later to spend a BLOODY BRILLIANT nine nights in Tenerife with The Lounger By My Pool. I can HIGHLY recommend a pre-Christmas holiday, especially if you go somewhere where it is basically A Lovely Summer's Day pretty much EVERY day. We got into a lovely routine of sitting by the POOL during the morning, with BEER commencing at noon, then wandering down into town to GAZE at the sea, drink coffee, and do our shopping before heading home for SHOWERS, a trip to the BAR, and then TEA. We did go on one trip, to La Orotava (where we saw EVEN MORE Nativiy Scenes than we did last year - they bloody love their Nativity Scenes do the Tinerfinos) but otherwise it was a glorious week and a bit of sunshine, books, relaxation, high level intellectual discussion, and BEER (though not necessarily in that order).
We did worry before we went whether nine nights would be too long, but it turned out to be EXCELLENT, not just because we got two more nights than normal, but because we KNEW about it in advance. My BRANE turn out to be naturally attuned to the standard seven day holiday, so every time I'd think e.g. "Oh no, we are nearly halfway through our holiday" I would have the DELIGHT of realising that NO WE WERE NOT!
We'd also wondered whether it would be a good idea to travel home on Christmas Eve, but it turned out that YES IT WAS. For one thing, the plane was not quite as full on the return trip, so The Window By My Windowseat was able to ASK one of the stewards if we could move, and we got a WHOLE ROW to ourselves all the way back. The flight out had felt like it had taken FOREVER (partly because of headwinds, partly because we were in a metal tube with approx. 19 million people, 33 million of whom were TODDLERS) but on the way back it felt like we were in the EXECUTIVE FIRST CLASS. For another thing, it meant that we flew straight back into CHRISTMAS, rather than into WORK!
Our first full day back in the UK was thus CHRISTMAS DAY ACTUAL, and saw us wandering to Leytonstone for CHURCH. I do like CHURCH on Christmas Day, especially at St Johns in E11 where they feature Extremely Serious Rituals like making the whole congregation shout "MERRY CHRISTMAS!" to make the Christmas tree lights come on. When we got home we had our diligently pre-planned Store Cupboard And Freezer Christmas Dinner which was GRATE because a) it was easy b) it was delicious c) it was diligently pre-planned and worked out PERFECTLY.
All in all, it was a GRATE Christmas - I very much hope we do the same again next year!
Christmas Time Is Here
One of the great institutions of INDIE CHRISTMAS is the Very Cherry Christmas Album, which is now, incredibly, in its FOURTEENTH year! It's an annual round-up of indie types doing Christmas songs which has featured myself and The Validators on MANY occasions, and this year contains a brand new song from John Dredge & The Plinths called "Christmas Time Is Here".
Close observers of the above video will note that I am not in it - this is because it was filmed a couple of weeks ago when I had to do WORK, so John and Andy had to get in not one but TWO people to do my parts. YES that is RIGHT, it takes TWO (2) people to reproduce the intricate melodic complexities of my AXE WORK!
As ever, the album is available directly from CherryAde, and features a TONNE of top tune by other delightful people. They also have a PREVIEW TEASER that features glimpses of ALL the tracks in just over five minutes, which is well worth a listen:
This is SUCH a brilliant idea I think I might NICK it for our next album!
E17 in E20
On Thursday night myself and The Tinsel On My Tree were joined by Ms H Arnold for a trip to the traditional turning on of the Christmas Lights in The Olympic Village (where I live, but don't like to go on about it). In previous years this has variously featured local choirs, snow machines, Street Artistes and light shows, but this year's one was focused on the fact that the lights were being turned on by EAST 17! All right, TWO of East 17 (not Tony or Brian) anyway, but it was still quite exciting, although when I heard the PA being soundchecked on my way home it sounded more like The Jesus & Mary Chain, such was the INTENSE VOLUME. It was LOUD!
We got to the event at 6.30pm, just in time to hear the MC say that East 17 would be onstage at 7.00pm, so we popped into our Mother Kelly's where it was warmer, quieter, and had BEER. When we emerged at 7.00pm we were just in time to hear the MC say that East 17 would be on at 7.30pm, so we had a wander round, listened to a GRATE steel drum band doing "Feliz Navidad", watched the lights get turned on (not by East 17) and managed to sneak into the lobby of a nearby building where it was warmer, quieter, but sadly had no BEER.
This time we waited until East 17 were actually announced before we came out, and got into the crowd just in time to see the group take to the stage. I wonder if Tony Mortimer had done the backing tape for them as a favour? It certainly sounded like the original, though it was a bit odd hearing it sung like someone from an X Factor audition rather than Brian Harvey, and also to have holiday camp band audience participation addded, like him singing "Oggie Oggie Oggie" and then holding out the microphone for us to go "Oi Oi Oi". I'm pretty sure that wasn't in the original version.
They started off with "House Of Love" and then did another one which caused most of the crowd to google "East 17 hits" on their phones to work out what it was. There were a few songs that weren't hugely familiary, though they did do "Its Alright" (NB MY REVIEW OF THE GIG) at (I think) the end. They definitely finished on something that wasn't "Stay Another Day", which led to the whole crowd standing around going. "Eh? What? That can't be it can it?" We expected an encore, but then the event MC then came on and - VERY STUPIDLY - pretended like that genuinely was the end, and started thanking people for coming. This was IDIOTIC as the atmosphere took a TURN and people started ACTIVELY BOOING, at which point he went "Oh, it sounds like we forgot something..." I guess he thought this would be HILARIOUS, but it very much was not!
East 17 came back on in WHITE PARKAS and did, of course, "Stay Another Day" with the SNOW MACHINE at full pelt and everything felt VERY FESTIVE. They THEN came back on to "say a few things" and I cannot have been the only person who wondered if it might be them taking a chance to slag off Tony Mortimer or something. Thankfully it was NOT that - what they wanted to say was that the non-original member was actually the bloke from ARTFUL DODGER and then launched into one of THEIR hits! It wasn't particularly Christmassy, and it was also COLD, so we decided to go somewhere WARM and with BEER again instead!
Next year I'm hoping we get "Naughty Christmas" by Fat Les with only Damien Hirst from the original line-up, joined by one of TrueSteppers on tambourine!
A Brief History Of ROCK Promotion (and a Call To Action)
This week I have been LEARNING about How To Do ROCK Promotion In The Twenty First Century and it has been MOST illuminating, and also CONFUSING.
I first learned about this sort of thing way back in the last century, thanks to Sean Fortuna Pop!. Back then promoting records involved posting ACTUAL RECORDS, the use of Fax machines, and paying plugging companies to get your songs onto local radio stations for you. It was all very exciting and fun, especially on a (I think) Friday when I'd get a pink FAX printout in my pigeonhole at work telling me that British Forces Broadcaasting had played my song, or that Bradford Community Radio wanted a session. I'm still in touch with some of the lovely people I got to know in those far off days, not least John The Publisher who used to work for Overground and now publishes our SHEET MUSIC via Wipeout Music!
Things soon changed when The Internet happened, and it all started to become about email lists and Social Media Presence, although you did still need to buy a whole heap of JIFFY BAGS for posting CDs out. Luckily Mr G Gargan of Damnably told me where The Secret BBC Window was (on a sidestreet near Broadcasting House), where you could hand in ALL your jiffy bags for BBC shows and save TONNES of money on postage. We started doing our own VIDEOS too, which was GRATE!
It all took a lot of KEEPING UP with though, which I have always found difficult. Around the time of Regardez, Ecoutez et Repetez I hired a PR COMPANY to do it for us, and they were UTTERLY DREADFUL, so I returned to self-promotion. This was all right when we did Dinosaur Planet because I could send it to lots of SCIENCE FICTION places that I was interested in, but after that I must admit I lost touch a bit, especially as we did LESS stuff.
SO when we put out our new single last week I was somewhat TREPIDATIOUS about what I was actually supposed to DO, especially as I knew that this time there was no point in sending it to UK radio stations, as they are BANNED from playing Political DYNAMITE during an election campaign. THUS I forced myself to dive into the world of SPOTIFY, which has turned out to be initially MYSTIFYING and then surprisingly FAMILIAR.
It was MYSTIFYING because I don't really USE it much myself, so all the talk about Artist Profiles and Playlists didn't make an awful lot of sense. HOWEVER, once Mr Ian Watson of How Does It Feel told me that I had to GET my Artist Profile on Spotify it started to become a little clearer. We do all our online stuff with Emubands (who are ACE), and it turns out that this means I was automatically RATIFIED for our Spotify Artists Profile. I read further and discovered that the way to get onto Official Playlists is simply to SUBMIT them - as it happens I am WAY too late to do it properly for this single, but it is PEASY and VERY do-able, so I will VERY DO it when we put out the next batch of singles in the new year. It turns out that all you need to do is log in and SUBMIT the new song, and then it automatically/algorithmically goes to ALL the relevant Spotify Playlist people. It's a virtual Secret BBC Window!
There also turn out to be loads of OTHER playlists you can send stuff to. I paid $10 (i.e. spare eBay ca$H) to have a go on a site that lets you SUBMIT to various playlists, which did no good whatsoever, but did introduce me to the fact that they EXIST, and led me to search out various others that didn't cost money to do it with. Yes, it was a virtual PR company wasting my money, and then a virtual ME googling for the email addresses of virtual Local Radio!
I've even watched some SPOTIFY VIDEOS about the whole thing, which were Surprisingly Pleasant although VERY MUCH targeted towards YOUNG GROOVERS and not GRIZELLED VETERANS like me. Still, one interesting point it made was that you need to do "CTAs" or Calls To Action i.e ASKING people to do stuff to help you, with one of the KEY ones being asking people to follow you on Spotify. This would BUMP us up the listings for playlists, apparently, so if you have a chance, please follow us!
It has all been VERY interesting - I just hope that it doesn't all change AGANE before next year!
You're A Tory Now, Out NOW
It's been a long old time since The Validators last released anything new, so today I am DELIGHTED to report that we have a BRAND NEW SINGLE out, and that it is called "You're A Tory Now"!
It's all about the sudden shock you experience when someone who shares your background turns to THE DARK SIDE, and the ensuing realisation that, actually, you can probably still be friends. I'm basically saying it's a much needed call for UNDERSTANDING in this Divided Nation and should therefore be played on national radio ALL DAY.
The original plan was to release it NEXT year, as part of a SLEW of singles what we have got lined up, but there was always a worry that, what with the inevitable socialist utopia heading our way, there might not BE any Tories by then. Thus, when Mr FA Machine suggested we RUSH RELEASE it in time for the election we all thought it was a Very Good Idea Indeed, and so DID!
Sadly, due to broadcasting restrictions during elections, it will NOT be played on the radio (and that is the only reason it won't), so any mentions, tweets, posts or purchases would be VERY much appreciated. You can see it in the video above, and it's also available on our bandcamp page plus iTunes, Spotify, and all streaming sites.
I GUARANTEE that if enough people hear this track then there will be a change in government within TWO WEEKS. GUARANTEED!
I had quite a Glamorous Gaddabout Weekend this weekend, going to not one but TWO Fancy Dos in different parts of That London. I fully expect to be KNACKERED for the whole rest of the week as a direct result!
The first DO was Mr T Eveleigh's 50th Birthday Bash in Croydon, back at The Spreadeagle where we have showed so many shows. Myself and The Dates On My Calendar went down and had a LOVELY time, and even felt a little bit ADVENTUROUS by Actually Going Out On A Saturday Night. As we walked the streets of South London I couldn't help wondering what so many people were doing OUT - don't they have sofas to sit on and telly to watch?
We got home LATE which became LATER as we were forced to catch up on our sofa sitting and telly watching (and also whisky drinking because we are ROCK), which in turn meant that I did not emerge into the light next day until GONE NOON. Back in my student days (which I estimated to be about 8 years ago? In the 90s?) this would have been the NORM, but here in the futuristic twenty first century it felt quite DECADENT. I had to drag myself back into consciousness because I had been invited to attend the first try-out for Mr Ben Moor's BRAND NEW SHOW "Who Here's Lost?" which I was VERY much looking forward to.
I had a bit of bother with trains so arrived at the pub a little hot and bothered, which made all my resolutions to Not Have A Beer go flying out of the window. If getting up in the afternoon feels DECADENT having beer BASICALLY FOR BREAKFAST feels like being Freddie Mercury on tour with NERO, but it was actually rather nice. I also met various CHUMS, including Mr D Greene, Mr B Wells and Mr T Crowley (who I'd not seen for AGES) before we headed downstairs for the show itself.
It was, as expected, GRATE. Ben's shows always are, due to the wealth of IDEAS and POETRY and EXCELLENT JOKES which occur throughout, and this was no exception. INDEED, when trying to come up with constructive criticism the only thing I could really think of with was that it is almost TOO RICH - whenever I watch his shows I worry that I'm MISSING things, and when there's a JOKE it feels WRONG to laugh as much as you'd like because there's still stuff going on. I love the way he hides HUGE IDEAS halfway through sentences - proper science fiction things that other people would spend a whole show on but which Ben just nudges you with before strolling pleasantly past a display of approx 17 completely OTHER jokes and ideas. He says he'll have a BOOK of this one before it goes to Edinburgh, which is relief to me as it means I'll be able to catch up with everything I missed!
After the show I was determined to head into college, but was waylaid for two halves by Interesting People and Delightful Conversation. It was all turning into a bit of a SOIREE, so I had to be strong and DRAG myself away to do some Important Reading (of Doctor Doom), which for some reason did not flow quite as easily as it ought to have done. It was probably all the HIGH CULTURE what had overloaded me, that must be it!
Live Plinths And Robberie
I returned to the King & Queen last night with some TREPIDATION, partly because we had LOST one of our acts for the night (PO! had had to cancel because Ruth has tonsilitis) and partly because we are getting quite close to CHRISTMAS, which sometimes leads to SPILLAGE of Amateur Drinkers into the rarified salon-like atmosphere of the upstairs.
Worries around the first item were allayed somewhat by the news that The King & Queen have now got their 2020 diary, so I can BOOK dates for future shows and then get PO! rescheduled. Worries around the second were ENHANCED by a) two extremely drunk women blocking the doorway INTO the pub b) another very drunk woman staggering in and singing at us then c) the original two drunk women coming back and almost falling over, looking for coatsm all before we'd even started. It was all FINE after that though - as ever, the office drinkers start to disperse around 7pm, leaving the bar a bit freer for the ROCK shift!
When I eventually managed to get through the downstairs THRONG and into the upstairs room I discovered that CJ, bar manager and all-round good guy, had set the room up for us already. I was then joined by Mr J Dredge, and we had a quick run through of the Plinths songs that we were going to do. This was all going well until we were interrupted by the very drunk person mentioned above. "I sing for a living!" she said. "What sort of thing?" I asked, and she started singing. "No, I meant in what way do you sing for a living?" "Play something I know and I'll probably know it," she said. "No, I meant, do you sing sessions or something?" She nodded wisely and then sang "Oooh, whooa-oh-oh." I VERY POLITELY thanked her and said we needed to get on with the practice, and she wobbled out again. It was most odd!
Shortly after that Robin Robberie arrived, then a whole heap of other delightful people, including Val and Nik also of Robberie, until we had quite a full room. I'd been a bit worried that the lack of PO! would harm attendance, so was very pleased to see the room at OPTIMUM audience levels. Steve could not attend, which was doubly sad because he couldn't do the "OOH" in the theme song and also because Susan had brought him some Red Leicester Mini-Cheddars as a present. Not only this, but she'd brought enough for everyone AND some Pringles AND some kitchen towel for use as napkins - my regulars are the BEST!
We kicked off with a rousing renditon of the theme tune (with Mr W Pilkington filling his regular role as Super-Sub by standing in for Steve) then I did the following:
It seemed to work pretty well - I was very happy to DEBUT Bad Back and came about as close as I'm ever likely to get to doing Have A Drink With Us (Drink Doch Eine Met) almost right - and it was nice to do three whole songs, expanding my set slightly to make up for the lack of PO! Then John came on for the Plinths section, which was also expanded from one song to three, THUS:
For me this was a bit of a PANIC, as I had to PROPERLY CONCENTRATE on playing the songs right, so spent most of the set SWEATING while staring at a piece of paper, but whenever I looked up I saw a lot of smiling faces, and John sounded GRATE. These aren't songs I've played very much, so it was lovely to hear them in a room full of people, and they sounded dead good!
Then, after the break we had Robberie who were, as ever EXCELLENT.
I love Robberie, they are ACE, and it was all I could do not to sing along all the way through. At one point Robin said "We're doing Mark's favourite song" and I said "Seven Hills?" which was not what they were expecting - they'd meant "This Dancefloor Needs Me" which is ALSO ace and ALSO my favourite, though I must say on this occasion I was moved even more by "Journeyman". What I'm trying to say is that all their songs are ACE!
We finished just after 9pm, which left a really good length of time to catch up with pals various, including Mr A Lawson who I'd not seen for a while, and sample some of the fine WHISKIES what they have behind the bar. It was a BRILLIANT night, and I can't wait to start booking next year's now!
Returning To The Saddle Of ROCK Admin
The snoozing behemoth that is Validators ADMIN has been very much roused these past few weeks, and is even now rubbing its eyes and wondering whether it can get a cup of coffee please, for LO! preparations for the rush-release of You're A Tory Now are VERY MUCH underway.
As discussed a few days ago there was some last minute re-recording to do, before we settled down to the final MIXES, which I can now confirm are DONE. I have simultaneously been working on a VIDEO which will take the form of one of those Political Virals you see nowadasy, which is ALSO pretty much finished and ready to go. Today I've started the process of getting the track onto Spotify, iTunes and all that, and then the next stage will be to start emailing press and radio types - although Frankie has pointed out that the song may actually be (really!) BANNED on the main radio stations due to Political Content!
It's all really rather exciting. It's been BLOODY AGES since we last released something NEW, and I'd almost forgotten how much FUN this part of the process is. I know it's ADMIN, but it's ADMIN in pursuit of JAPES and GOOD TIMES, and it's paving the way for the whole SLEW of new stuff we've got coming out next year. Watch out, THE MAN, The Validators are coming back!
Damp In Leeds
As mentioned yesterday, I spent the end of last week up in Leeds, where I was attending and PRESENTING at Comics Forum 2019. Flipping heck, it was WET in the North! According to the news there were whole MONTHS-worth of rain falling in a single day and there was FLOODING all over the shop. I was lucky to GET there, and even LUCKIER to get back, as trains were CANCELLED everywhere. I was not so lucky in my footwear, however, as I had foolishly NOT taken my Proper Shoes and thus had cold, wet trainers on for most of the first day.
The conference took place in Leeds Central Library, which was a GORGEOUS place with a whole Art Gallery attached. I saw lots of interesting talks, with my favourites being one where a librarian said "we need more librarians" (Librarians ALWAYS say this no matter WHAT they are talking about) and another which featured heavy use of SQL QUERIES. It was VERY exciting! My own presentation was about periodising The Marvel Age and I think it went OK, although I was EXTREMELY relieved when the Professor of Art History left the room mere MOMENTS before I started talking about Art History. I also got to wander around Leeds a little bit, notably on the Thursday evening when I blundered from Conference Drinks into the Leeds Christmas Lights turning-on ceremony, and met Santa Claus!
The only downside, apart from the WET FEET, was that I got my usual IMPOSTER SYNDROME during the day. I know it may appear that I am an INTERNATIONAL ROCK STAR who swaggers about blithely, but conferences always fill me with TERROR. I'm fine at the Listening To Presentations bits, and thoroughly enjoy my own Showing Off Sessions, but it's the bits in-between that always make me feel like I'm starting a new school again. I mean, it's not like I don't KNOW people or anything, especially at things like this, but it's often all I can do NOT to run away and HIDE during the coffee breaks. Actually, that is often what I DO do - and a library is a GRATE place to do that!
Other than that I had a lovely time, and would very much hope to go again next year - if I do though I'll definitely take some waterproof shoes!
As mentioned last week, we are planning to INTERVENE in the forthcoming General Election by releasing our song You're A Tory Now as a single, thus awakening the nation's latent Anti-Tory good sense and sending Labour/Lib Dems/Greens (delete as applicable to your own prefernces) surging into Parliament on a wave of delight and happiness. Nothing can go wrong!
OR CAN IT?!? Last Monday Mr FA Machine sent me the latest mix of the song, which sounded GRATE, and I thus played it that evening to The Sounds In My Tune, purely for her information and not at all as a way of SHOWING OFF. We were both happily bopping along to it until the final line, which says "But if you voted Brexit/You are dead to me."
This has always been FINE in the live environment, when shouted at a room full of people who basically KNEW me, and also were already on-side, and appreciated what the song was all about. HOWEVER, as the aforesaid Ink Of My Newspaper pointed out, somebody hearing outside of those circumstances, especially during a possibly FRAUGHT general election campaign, might think that I genuinely want all Brexit voters to be KILLED.
We discussed it again in the morning and I was gripped by DREAD. Quite apart from the above, I actually know, like, and indeed love SEVERAL people who for their own (admittedly somewhat KRAZY) reasons voted Brexit. ALSO, obviously, someone was actually MURDERED for their political beliefs in the last election, and I could see that that lyric could VERY EASILY be taken out of context. ALSO ALSO there was an argument that the lyric could even mean that I could happily forgive anybody for being a Tory, but could NEVER forgive ANYBODY for voting for Brexit, irrespective of their usual choices.
As I say: PANIC! I put forward these points to The Vlads and so began one of the DISCUSSIONS that make me PROUD of the way we operate, mulling over the points and then engaging in a LENGTHY discussion about what we could do instead. In general I would not RECOMMEND this as a way of writing song lyrics, as a group of people emailing each other with suggestions is NOT necessarily the most free or creative way to do it, but along the way I did learn many things, including the fact that "airing" is a Young People's Description of that thing when you send someone an instant message and they do not reply - leaving "air", in fact. That bit of lyrics came courtesy of Validators with children!
Eventually, after much TO and also FRO, I had about five variations on the closing couplet, which I recorded for Frankie to SPLICE into the track. I then discussed it further with our INTERNAL COMMS TEAM, whittled it down to TWO and then came up with ANOTHER one which I duly recorded and sent off to The Vlads for further thinking. These ideas were all NON-political, swerving the song towards the sort of gags which said "Yes, I can cope with your political views but will NOT abide you saying 'these data'", for instance.
The consensus that evening (and by the way, NOTE the SPEED with which the mighty Validators machine works in these instances!) was that these were all Jolly Amusing, but lacked the power and point of the original. More suggestions weere made, and further discussion was had on-sofa, which led to a FINAL couplet which now leaves the last verse as this:
Of course we are both adults
Friends can disagree
But please God, do not tell me
You admire the ERG
I was very happy with this and, PRAISE BE, so were ALL of the STAKEHOLDERS, and thus on Thursday I recorded it in my HOTEL ROOM - I was up in Leeds for a conference (more of which to come) so had to take my mini four-track with me to get it done. I wish I'd taken my GTR with me too, then I could have recorded a whole album about Being On The Road!
The new line has now been successfully inserted and we're moving towards a final mix, which means that we're nearly ready for the next stage: sending it out to people!
A few weeks ago myself and The Artefacts In My Exhibition went on a day trip to The British Museum with my cousins The Ritchies, who were over from America to basically ZOOM around the entire country on bikes being SUPER DYNAMIC about everything. We had a BRILLIANT time with them, largely because they are entirely brilliant people, seeing a whole heap of items in the British Museum what we had never seen before, notably the Assyrian Lion Hunting Relief which was AMAAAZING.
However, there was one exhibition that we wanted to see that we couldn't get ino, because it was closed that day - Currency In Crisis, about German "Emergency Money" during and just after the First World War. We decided that this must be RECTIFIED, and on Sunday just gone we headed into Central London to do just that.
COR! I am really glad we did because it is RUDDY FASCINATING! I do remember doing German hyper-inflation when I did my O Levels (young people, these were like GCSEs but definitely much more difficult and also cool at the same time), and have a vague picture in my head of someone pushing a wheelbarrow full of banknotes to buy some bread, but there was TONNES more in this exhibition. Towards the end of the war the German government couldn't keep up with the need for currency, so allowed towns to issue their own. The towns used the notes to advertise themselves as tourist destinations (as that was a New Thing at the time) and the notes became collectors items, with FOUR magazines about the hobby going at one point, and specially Notgeld albums produced too. THEN when the economy collapsed they became used as actual currency again, with BILLION mark notes being produced!
My favourite thing was the fact that sometimes towns preferred people to just COLLECT the notes rather than SPEND them and so, in one of the MOST GERMAN things ever, they issued them in Inconvenient Denominations! THUS there were things like 45 pfennig notes, which were Just Not Very Convenient, so they were less likely to be spent.
Afterwards we went to see MORE STUFF, with a gently diminishing rate of return. We first looked at Sir Stamford Raffles: collecting in Southeast Asia, which was a Quite Interesting look at colonial attitudes to collecting and other cultures in Victorian Times. Unfortunately, like a lot of things at the British Museum, this raised some awkward questions about whether they should even HAVE all this stuff, as it is CLEARLY NICKED. This was even more the case when we popped in to look at Admonitions of the Instructress to the Court Ladies, a 1,000 year old scroll which is only available to view for six weeks a year because it is so DELICATE. We didn't get a close look because there were a LOT of people looking at it, almost all whom appeared to be Chinese, but I did see the an info board about how it ended up in the BM - apparently they bought it from "a sailor", but didn't know where HE'd got it from. I think you can have a good guess, British Museum - he NICKED it!
We also had a look at Pushing Paper, which was supposed to be an exhibition of drawings since 1970 but had a LOT of material that clearly Was Not Drawings, plus some work by KĂ¤the Kollwitz. They were both ALL RIGHT bit it did seem a bit pointless - as The Graphite In My Pencil pointed out, London has LOADS of Art Galleries, so why does the British Museum need to collect this stuff? My theory is that it is an insurance policy against the time in the future when they have to give back all the STOLEN PROPERTY - at least this stuff comes with a reciept!
On Saturday I went to The Cartoon Museum for a special event called "Comics Jam", all about preserving the legacy of British Comics. It was PRETTY AMAZING.
As anyone LUCKY enough to have read this blog for a while will know, I have been to a LOT of comics-based events over the past few years, but those have almost all been ACADEMIC conferences, seminars etc etc. There WERE academics at this one, but it also featured several CREATORS and was led by COLLECTORS, who are a whole other bunch of people all together, with complementary but different priorities. THUS instead of talking about the form of comics or Wot It All Means there was a much bigger focus on the actual physical comics themselves.
The point of the event was to draw attention to the Peter Hansen Collection, a COLOSSAL collection of original comics art and related materials, and the various attempts being made to make this available to THE NATION. Peter Hansen himself was there to talk about it, as well as people like Rob Power from Rebellion (who own 2000AD and a HUGE catalogue of old British comics), who spoke about their attempts to get the original artwork back to the company who now owned the copyright, and who could take care of it.
As I sat there in a small room in the middle of these fans, who were also collectors, many of whom were also creators, I did rather feel like I had SNUCK INTO a secret gathering, where they were plotting what to do with a huge slice of British history. I was sat near to David Roach, a long-term 2000AD creator who happily, like so many comics creators, looks like he had been drawn by himself, and when I came into the room I had to squeeze past DAVE GIBBONS to get in! Later on I even asked a question of Actual Dave Gibbons and managed NOT to squeak with excitement when I did so!
There were some amazing stories of how little original artwork was valued - apparently original Frank Hampson artwork for The Eagle was used as a floor covering to stop the carpet getting mucky, and the only piece of art from MISTY to have survived did so because it happened to be used as a cutting board - and it was GRATE hearing veteran creators talk about the fact that they often didn't WANT their original artwork back, as it was too much bother to store it! Later on Posy Simmonds from out of The Guardian spoke, and then Jonathon Ross did a SKYPE chat, and it all felt like a COMICS ILLUMINATI convention that I had stumbled into!
The REALLY good thing about the day though was that it was housed within the Cartoon Museum, so when there were BREAKS I could go and have a wander round the gallery there, which is AMAZING. I've been before when it was based in Bloomsbury, but its new home is a LOVELY space - airy, open and brightly lit, with lots of space for exhibits, notably a current one showcasing COMICS art (i.e. as opposed to political cartoons). About half of the art there had been donated by the aforesaid Peter Hansen, and it included plenty of work by people who were actually in the room, so it did not diminish my slight giddiness at being there, but it is always exciting to be so up close to artwork that I've known all my life. There was an especially gorgous page from "V For Vendetta", for instance, which prompted me to start re-reading it when I got home. I had forgotten how ACE it was!
It was, overall, a pretty mind-blowing day. I just wish I had a couple of million quid spare to fund a museum!
Be Afeared, Cummings!
It's been very quiet here on this blog just lately, not because nothing has been going on, but because the things that HAVE been going on (me going to the football some more, me writing up my PhD, me and The Episodes In My Series watching "Ugly Betty") are all ongoing items which, while FASCINATING TO ALL, I do not necessarily need to go on about ALL the time.
One thing that has NOT been going on much lately, however, has been ROCK, as gigs have not been forthcoming and releases have not been released. This, however, is about to change!
Over the past few months The Validators and I have been recording a whole heap of new material which we were planning to release in 2020. A couple of weeks ago Tom and Emma went into the studio to record their last bits on 5 of the 8 songs, and this week Frankie has begun the work of MIXING them. All is sounding lovely and we're gently doing our ROCK STRETCHES to get ready for it all to kick off next year.
Or, at least, that was the plan until THIS VERY MORNING when there was a message to The Validators' WhatIsApp group (yes, we are VERY modern and with it) with a GRATE idea to RUSH RELEASE one particular song THIS year i.e. before the General Election happens. The song is You're A Tory Now and, as he pointed out, it's vital we release it SOON before the Tories DISAPPEAR FOREVER FROM THIS EARTH (which is definitely what is going to happen).
This, I think, is a BRILLIANT IDEA. It was only suggested about two hours ago at time of writing, but so far I haven't seen any down sides - there's time to mix it, stick it on iTunes, and maybe even do a video. And hey, if it ends up DESTROYING TORIES FOREVER then surely that can only be a bonus?
This weekend myself and The Hills In My Wolds went for a sophisticated mini-break in LINCOLN. It was ACE!
The idea for the trip came about a few years ago when we were in Belfast - we were having such a lovely time there that we thought we'd look up other places that we could get to fairly easily which had Interesting Stuff in them. LINCOLN turned out to have everything we were looking for i.e. a Cathedral, a Castle, a Premier Inn, some kind of museum and a rail link to London, and so it was that last Thursday night we boarded the train NORTH. Our original plan was to get an open ticket, but when we looked at it a few nights before the aforesaid Price Of My Bargain pointed out that we could go FIRST for only about 5p more if we advance booked, so we DID. Brilliantly, as we were travelling on a weekday, we got FREE BOOZE, which meant that we arrived in Lincoln in high spirits! Hoorah!
I don't know what they do at Premier Inns that make them this way, but almost invariably they seem to be staffed by Nice People who are Happy In Their Jobs, and this was very much the case at the Lincoln establishment. On the Friday morning we missed breakfast but arrived downstairs to discover that it was CAKE FRIDAY, where Bev (one of the staff) makes CAKE, and she let us have a bit. It was GRATE! It was an excellent start to what turned out to be a brilliant day, featuring a look at the CASTLE and the CATHEDRAL. Crikey O Riley - this place has an ACTUAL CASTLE in it, just a few feet away via an MEDIEVAL TOWN CENTRE from a GINORMOUS CATHEDRAL, and yet nobody I know (including until recently US) seems to have ever thought about visiting. Everyone goes on about YORK, but Lincoln is, in my opinion, SLIGHTLY NICER, also nearer!
The castle is HUGE and has a complete wall all the way around, which we WALKED round, and also a Victorian Prison with (apparently) the only surviving Isolation-based prison chapel, where there were BOOTHS for each prisoner to stand in so they could only see the Priest. The whole place was ACE, with a whole prison to wander round and a display about the Magna Carta also. The only slight downside was the Walking Tour which was led by (CLEARLY) a former Primary School Teacher who talked AT SOME LENGTH so that, after half an hour's talk with very little walking but a LOT of descriptions of HANGING, we had to make our excuses and leave. We were the THIRD sub-group to do this - "I'm used to people leaving my tours!" she said happily.
The Cathedral was EXTREMELY impressive, not least because they had taken all the PEWS out so you could see how GIGANTIC it all was, like an indoor TOWN. It took us a while to work out where The Lincoln Imp was and when we did... er... we had seen it. We also went to a PUB, and then later on went for TEA in a Prezzo that had previously been a Car Showroom.
We discovered this fact the next day on the OPEN TOP BUS TOUR which was a ZOOM around the outside of the city, re-learning things we'd learned the day before. We followed this up with a trip the The Museum Of Lincolnshire Life, where we received the latest in a long line of Very Friendly Greetings. Speaking as Someone (Technically) From Lincolnshire (born in Stamford) I can say that people fron Lincolnshire are LOVELY. They are proper East Midlanders - not OVER friendly but very nice indeed, and also they TALK PROPER. The narrations in the museum made me feel like I was sat in a pub in Market Deeping, and lots of the exhibits made me feel as if I'd wandered into my Grandad's garage circa 1978, keeping a safe distance from the TOOLS and IMPLEMENTS which had had hanging from the roof! I also learned how BRICKS are laid - I always thought that the half bricks you see in a pattern were exactly that, and was STUNNED to realise that they were actually normal bricks side on, as part of a double-thickness of bricks that make up a wall. I could feel my BRANE churning as this new knowledge was input!
Both our BRANES were pretty much full at this point, but we still managed to have a quick zoom around The Usher Collection (it was Quite Good) before going back for our bags and then nipping to the shops for some PICNIC TEA before catching our train home. The first leg of the journey back was in a little chugger train, which heavily featured a KRAZY GIRL who pretended her ticket was on her phone but it was out of juice (and then rang someone up to ask for ticket money) then forced various people in the carriage to put her make-up on for her, but otherwise it was a DELIGHTFUL journey, although sadly lacking in FREE BOOZE.
It was, all told, a GRATE trip and a LOVELY place to visit - honestly, I would highly recommend it to anyone who likes castles, cathedrals, museums, pubs and Premier Inns, although possibly not anyone allergic to Really Steep Hills. Our only question remaining now is where to go next?
A Brush With Philosophy
The other day I went to a PHILOSOPHY SEMINAR. Or did I? How can we really say?!? Aaaah! Do you see?
The reason for my attendance was that for the past three years of my PhD I've heard academics ENDLESSLY banging on about Foucault, Deleuze, Derrida and various other French blokes who appear to have had a LOT to say about pretty much everything. However, try as I might I have never managed to find out WHAT they are saying (apart from "Aaaah! Do you see?"), particularly when it comes to my particular topic area. At least Umberto Eco wrote an actual paper about SUPERMAN (which everyone goes on about EVEN MORE) that you can read and see what he was on about, this lot don't even seem to have bothered with that.
I've found it all a bit annoying, to be honest, and when I have tried to ENGAGE with Philosophy it gets even worse, as Philosophy basically seems to involve acting like a teenager who has had their first cigarette, boring other people in the kitchen of a house party by saying "Yes, but what if none of this is real eh? aaaah! Do you see?" It also seems to involve making big pronouncement about entire other fields that you don't actually understand, getting it completely wrong, and then claiming it's an INSIGHT. Whenever I've seen people Do Philosophy around comics, for instance, they invariably say things like "Stan Lee invented Captain America" or similar, after which I have FRANKLY no time for anything else they say.
HOWEVER, I always think it is a good idea to get INVOLVED with such things and at least have a GO, just to see if your suspicions are correct rather than simply harrumphing round dismissing things. In that spirit I have gone to the Homeopathic Hospital, for instance, or taken a course in Stand-Up Comedy, or indeed done ACUPUNCTURE. In this way I have learnt that a) a homeopathic hospital is run by people who don't know really how hospitals work but are trying to pretend to be one like off the telly b) stand-up comedy is a lot of work for something that doesn't have an awful lot of SOUL to it c) Acupuncture definitely does SOMETHING but I have no idea how.
THUS I went to an Introduction To Philosophy Seminar in that hope that EITHER my preconceptions would be blown apart and I would gain an understanding of thought through the ages OR my preconceptions would be ratified and I could stop worrying about it. Friends, I got NEITHER of these things, but also... aaah, do you see? BOTH!
Pretty much all of my preconceptions turned out to be true. Within 5 minutes of the seminar starting it was clear that the bloke running it was the sort of teacher who asks blindingly obvious questions, asks for someone to give the blindingly obvious answer, and then calls them an idiot for saying something so blindingly obvious, so that very soon you get LONG SILENCES until someone is forced to be the patsy. Thus when he said "1,2,3,4 - wot is next eh?" it took AGES for some brave soul to eventually say "5?" and he then said "BUT WHY?!?" "Because you're adding one each time?" someone else (correctly) said and then there was much verbal strutting about before he said "No, it's because we're counting in Base 10!"
WHAT THE?!? Reader, I could not help myself. "No it isn't," I said. "It would be the same in Base 6,7,8 etc etc, and the sequence is nothing to do with the base." He waved away my CORRECT POINT and said "Oh well I could have gone on and done a longer sequence", which was not the point AT ALL, and left me ANNOYED for the rest of the session.
HOWEVER, the actual PHILOSOPHY bits were Quite Interesting. I do like Greek Philosophers and their MAD THEORIES, although again these were made ANNOYING. e.g. he told us Zeno's Paradox about ARROWS (i.e. before you go anywhere you have to go halfway there first, but before you can go halfway you have to go half of that etc etc so you can never go anywhere) which is all good BRANE FUN if you are FIFTEEN AND DRUNK but it is not QUITE as MIND BLOWING as it was made out to be. There were lots of good bits about how Philosophy developed and The Enlightenment and all that, but as it went on I thought "Hang on, you said it's all about finding things out for yourself and fearlessly investigating, but this appears to be a long list of dead men who said all this CENTURIES ago."
Also, and it pains me to say this, it all happened in a room full of PhD students who, with the best will in the world, are very APT to taking any opportunity to make everything about their own thesis and go into lengthy, unnecessary, detail about it, much like Doctor Doom does when he reveals a cunning plan (HEM HEM). It all got A BIT ANNOYING!
However, it also left me wanting to know some more FACTS about it all, and on the way home I had the SHUDDERING REALISATION that I could just watch a TELLY programme about it! Apart from comics, TELLY is pretty much the main source of all my knowledge, and so I was DELIGHTED to discover that there are MANY series on the YouTube which not only do all the Fun Stories about Philosophers, but also illustrate it with stock Open University footage of actors wearing bedsheets. THIS is the sort of learning I want please!