I had a very CREATIVELY REWARDING day on Wednesday, all because I couldn't be bothered with going for a walk in the rain. Instead of having my Lunchtime Stroll I went to the shops, and on the way out was WAYLAID by somebody who decided the best place to stop for a chat was IN THE DOORWAY.
This sort of thing winds me RIGHT up - as human beings we have entire LIFETIMES worth of experience of What A Door Is For And How It Works, so why oh why oh why do some PILLOCKS think that they can also be used for Just Standing In, notably when other people (e.g. me) are trying to use them for their primary purpose i.e. MOVING THROUGH? It's even worse when, as happens OFTEN at my work what is an Art College, you get people thinking outside the box in an attempt to entirely reimagine the uses of doorways by SITTING IN THEM. I am pretty sure that there is not a court in the land that would convict me of anything more than General Good Citizenship if I went on a RAMPAGE when faced with this, but my general tendency is to remain calm and GLARE at the perpetrator.
Anyway, that happened and it made my BRANE go through all my usual THORTS on the matter, some of which are featured above. Usually that would be the end of the matter, but this time it combined with the fact that I am working on a SOLO album. It's going quite well at the moment - I'd got TEN (10) songs done to First Draft stage with another TWO (2) just started - and my mind had turned to what ELSE I could have a go at. These 12 were the original dozen I'd intended to record, but all the way through I've thought it'd be nice to have a couple of EXTRAS as I'm planning to do a couple of SINGLES (NB digital ones, OBVS) and it's always handy to have something for a b-side. THUS I thought to myself "Maybe I could write a song about it?"
By the time I got home I had pretty much worked out the entire structure and over the course of the afternoon I kept going back to it, FINESSING lines and rhymes and so on until I had the whole thing pretty much sorted out. After work I got out the ACOUSTIC AXE in order to do a KIND OF demo. My THORT was that I'd record something Quite Rough in The Acoustical Style and then pretend it was an old track what I had found to SAMPLE. I imagined myself crafting a BANGING HOUSE TUNE and gently laying this song o'er the top of it. It was a great plan, with the only flaw being that I have absolutely no idea whatsoever how to make a BANGING HOUSE TUNE, and also that I probably wouldn't enjoy it if I did.
This was all happily resolved by me ending up enjoying the "original" guitar-y version and deciding to stick with that, and so by 6.30pm I had recorded and MIXED the whole thing. As with all of the tracks I'm doing for this album, the current idea is to get THE LOT done to a certain standard, then go back and listen again to see how they sound once freed from PROXIMITY before doing any extra overdubs and remixes. I must say though, I think THIS one (which ended up being called "People Who Stand In The Door" for MAXIMUM clarity) is pretty much DONE, which means it was basically FOUR HOURS from first thought to final MEISTERWERK. I wish the others had been that easy, if they had I'd already be hassling you to buy the album!
Pals On The iPod
I haven't really bought a lot of new music over the past two years, as I've not been in record shops or especially GIGS much/at all, and so have ended up listening mostly to the RADIO, where they play it all for you. Also, I wear headphones most of the day for WORK, so going hunting for stuff online felt slightly OPPRESSIVE.
However, earlier in the year I happened to hear a couple of tracks by a new band who sounded dead good and made me want to BUY some stuff. The band were "Wet Leg" who you probably haven't heard of as hardly anybody else has ever mentioned them and .. all right, yes, it is pretty much OBLIGATORY to have listened to them just lately and you cannot move for Isle Of Wight-based bass lines, but I got the album a few weeks ago and thought "this is dead good!"
This coincided with me finishing listening to the MAMMOTH day-by-day series of "Get Back" podcasts from I Am The Eggpod. This was a WONDERFUL thing where they interviewed a different person for their thoughts on every single individual DAY shown in the "Get Back" movies, then released each episode on the anniversary of each day. It was GRATE but by the end of it EVEN I was a bit Beatled out. Usually I listen to Beatles podcasts while out on my daily Government Mandated Exercises, but I felt it was time to take a break.
THUS I went and got myself a new mp3 player to enable myself to listen to the aforesaid Wet Leg album (my phone is FULL!), and as I copied the files over I thought "Hang on, I'm sure I HAVE bought a FEW other records over that past several months haven't I?" I looked at the top of the pile of CDs and found that yes, I HAVE bought some other albums lately, especially if you define "lately" as "since about 2019", most of which I hadn't listened to very much at all. In addition to all of the above, I don't really have a functioning CD player (or other DEVICE) and so any listening gets done via headphones which AS DISCUSSED is not so great. Wandering around in The Olympic Park (have I mentioned I live there?) with an mp3 player, however, seemed like a much nicer way to get some music in my head, so I decided to develop a RULE: I would ONLY transfer music to my mp3 player that was NEW(ish), so I could get some NEW(ish) tunes into my BRANE.
This has proved to be an EXCELLENT plan, not least because it means I have found out what loads of my PALS have been up to. For LO! it turns out that MOST of the albums what I have bought has been by people I know or have at least MET, and often had on at Totally Acoustic. The only real exceptions to this have been the Wet Leg record mentioned and the new album from Peaness which I got last week and is ACE.
Three Exhibitions At The BM
Last Bank Holiday Monday myself and The Works In My Collection went to the British Museum to look at some of THE ART. The British Museum - or The BM, as all the cool kids call it - is much more known for its Historical Artefacts (even in The Marvel Universe, where it's somehow located in Trafalgar Square, it's All About The Egyptians) but it has a HUGE collection of ART, parts of which we have regularly been to see in the mighty Room 90.
Room 90 is a big room at the back of the museum towards the top of the building, so it feels like you are ASCENDING to rarefied heights when you eventually get there, after a LOT of stairs. It's about the same size as the Treasures Of The British Library exhibition at (guess where?) the British Library, which is the PERFECT size for an hour or so's Looking At STUFF. By the end you feel SATED but not yet completely KNACKERED.
We were there to see THREE (3) exhibitions, all of which fitted into this space and thus were all nice and short. The first one was called Drawing Attention: Emerging British Artists which, to be honest, wound me up no end because a) most of the artists weren't Emerging b) a large proportion weren't British c) a lot of the artwork wasn't drawing! The INTERESTING (to me) thing about it was that they'd done a REVERSO of the usual practice in Modern Galleries i.e. usually, whenever they show OLD STUFF, they feel compelled to stick something MODERN in too, in an effort, I assume, to appear RELEVANT. For this one they were showing lots of their recent modern ACQUISITIONS and had put them next to other OLD stuff that they had in their storecupboard. The Text In My Description pointed out that the effect of this was to say "You thought this was a new idea? Here is someone else doing it 300 years ago!"
The aforesaid Picture In My Frame enjoyed this one more than me - as I say, I allowed myself to get Annoyed by the title which put me off! CONVERSELY I enjoyed the next one more, which was called Printmaking in Prague: Art from the court of Rudolf II. This was MUCH more related to the title i.e. it was a bunch of PRINTS from Rudolf Junior's time in charge and also some other ones INFLUENCED by it. I had never heard of him or INDEED any of the artists involved but I enjoyed it very much indeed, despite the fact that the main artist, Aegidius II Sadeler (for some reason they put HIS number in the middle and Rudolf's at the end, I have no idea why) was completely incapable of drawing HORSES properly, despite having lots of practice. He was VERY good at drawing people and SCENES though, and especially MOUSTACHES and I liked it very much.
The final one was called Raphael and his school: Drawing connections and we BOTH loved it this time. As per the title, it was a collection of DRAWINGS done by Raphael and his pupils, and they were AMAZING. Just seeing the ACTUAL DRAWINGS and knowing that these were the very sketches made by their hands several hundred years ago was MIND BLOWING. Also, the fact that these were loose sketches made them feel much more IMMEDIATE and REAL than the actual finished paintings, which looked very stiff and FORMAL in comparison. It felt like these were REAL people which could have been drawn yesterday. Seeing for instance a sketch of JESUS being carried away from the cross was Quite Emotional in the pencil drawing, as you could see people struggling with the body and being UPSET, rather than the painting which looked quite STAGED. It was gorgeous!
Also of note was that the DESCRIPTIONS got better as we went through - the ones for the first one were full of what we in the world of Art Colleges (hem hem) call "ART BOLLOCKS", whereas the one for Raphael told us what it WAS and what it was MADE OF. For instance, rather than telling us that a picture had "intimacy tantalisingly out of reach" it pointed out that you could see tiny holes around the outlines of figures where pin pricks had been made so that DOTS could be put through onto ANOTHER sheet of paper as a way of transferring the image. I would LOVE to know more about this sort of MECHANICS - if anyone knows of an easily accessible DOCUMENTARY about this sort of thing I would love to know about it!
Thus we completed our ART VIEWING for the day, returning to the ground floor for a really really nice cup of coffee and a pretty bloody fabulous bit of vegan COCONUT CAKE. It was an EXCELLENT day for the SOUL, the BRANE, and also the STOMACH!
Divine Comedy at The Palladium
On Tuesday night I met Mr M Sutton for a night of FINE DRINKS and MUSIC. He had SCORED us some tickets to see The Divine Comedy at The Actual London Palladium, so we met up in the traditional meeting place for anyone arriving into Kings Cross Station i.e. The Parcel Yard. What ensued was a DELIGHTFUL evening of BEER and CHAT as we wandered into town to the King & Queen (which was ACE as ever) and thence for some GRUB. I was having such a lovely time that I must admit I was feeling slightly resentful towards Mr N Hannon who was forcing me to go to his gig!
I was somewhat mollified when we got to The Actual London Palladium, got a drink, and found our seats. We had AISLE SEATS! As anyone who regularly attends EVENTS into their late 30s (hem hem) and beyond will know, these are the PRIME POSITIONS, especially if you have just been in the pub, and they were also comfy and nicely SPACED too. Whatever happened, we were going to be COMFORTABLE!
In addition, it turned out, we were ROCKED, for LO! the gig was AMAZING. It's in support of the new GRATEST HITS album, so that is what they played "Just the ... 'hits'" as Mr Hannon put it, and crumbs there are a LOT of them. Gloriously, the set was split into two halves with an INTERMISSION, which is something I think ALL gigs should do - you often see reviews saying "Ooh, they did two hours without a break" but does anyone actually WANT that? Much better to have an ACTUAL break in the middle, instead of everyone shuffling off to the bar/loo during The Acoustic Section.
They started off with "Absent Friends", then "Indie Disco", and then... well, it just carried on like that, with HITS. My favourite in the first half was possibly "The Certainty Of Chance", which is not a song I have ever particularly loved but sounded INCREDIBLE done live, with HUGE backing vocals. In the second half I realised that "How Can You Leave Me On My Own" is possibly my NEW FAVOURITE, we all sang along to "Songs Of Love", they finished the main set with a GINORMOUS "National Express" and then came back for "Perfect Lovesong" and I decided to FORGIVE the TITLE PILFERING, as it was lovely. Again, this is one of those songs I've never really thought much of, possibly because it's on my least favourite of their albums, but here it was ACE. And then they did "Tonight We Fly" and MY GOODNESS ME it was BRILLO. I always remember hearing that for the first time, having got the TAPE out of Leicester Library and being blown away. Several thousand years later, I was again!
It was, in summary, a GRATE evening and a GRATE gig. Live music, it's dead good!
I had an epic journey to get to Walsall on Saturday, as various LINES were down. THUS I had to get my usual train to St Pancras, a tube to Baker Street, walk to Marylebone, get a train to Birmingham Moor Street, walk to New Street, and then get another train to Bescot Stadium. Incredibly, every leg went perfectly, and along the way I saw one of the GRATEST pieces of Public Information EVERm at Moor Street station:
That's exactly where it was! It must have been SO tempting to put "To facilitate access to services departing New Street passengers are advised to traverse..." (ETC ETC ETC) but just "ACROSS ROAD, THROUGH TUNNEL" totally did the job. Well done Chiltern Railways!
I was doing all of this travelling in order to perform Hey Hey 16K at the Spectrum 40 event, following on from my previous attendance at Spectrum 35 and Spectrum 30. This time it was being held in The Stadium Suite at Walsall football ground, which meant you got a great view of the pitch and also access to the stadium chippy stand and toilets! I arrived to find the event in full swing, with The Oliver Twins on stage talking about the "Dizzy" series of games. I must admit I was a bit hazy on this, as their games came out when I'd gone off to Poly and stopped buying new games, but after that we got a screening of Will Brooker's ZX Spectrum Experience film. It was GRATE - althougb for some reason the bits with ME in had been augmented using - I ASSUME- sophisticated CGI technology to enlarge my delicate nose into something quite NOTICEABLE. I'm not sure when or where the film is going to be officially released, but I would VERY much advise having a look when it is, and you can see a preview HERE:
By this point my avowed intent NOT to have a drink before going onstage had rather fallen by the wayside, and I was wandering about having a chat to various people, notably Ms E Pemberton who'd come along especially, and Mr L Fogarty, organiser and Person Who'd Booked Me. We'd agreed that I'd go on after the raffle (the BEST support act), but when it came to it there were two small problems: there wasn't a stand for the microphone, and there wasn't an easy way to plug my guitar into the PA. Luckiliy I HAD had a couple of pints by this point, so I just got the microphone, said "HELLO it is ME I am now going to SHOUT" and then just did Hey Hey 16K without PA. It seemed to work out OK, but I'm glad I didn't have to do more than one song, my throat is a bit out of practice these days! You can judge for yourself, HERE:
After that I spent the evening talking to various people and being MOVED by how LOVELY they all were. It was really nice to be able to mooch around a room full of people with a similar interest, but who also had LIVES and THORTS and were all-round DELIGHTFUL. An absolute highlight for me was talking to Sandy White of "3D Ant Attack" fame. I asked if I could have a picture with him, and to my surprise he said "I was just about to ask you the same thing". Sometimes you meet someone and thnk "But you're really nice, can we have a pint please?" (INDEED now that I think of it I have done written a whole song about it) and this was very much one of those occasions.
I must admit, earlier in the day, I'd been a bit WARY of the idea of spending approx FIVE HOURS to go somewhere to play ONE SONG, spend the evening in a hotel, and then travel all the way back for, but it was TOTALLY worth it. I suggested to Lee that they do "Spectrum 48" next, and hopefully I'll get invited back!
Strew the streets with bunting! Call out the Red Arrows! Give the local urchins 47p and a bag of crisps! For LO! today is that most wondrous day, long-awaited and much missed - it's NEWSLETTER DAY!.
This is a holy day what has been much in ABEYANCE as late, largely because I haven't really had much NEWS to share. Well, I personally have, OBVS, but I like to think that the newsletter contains only content relevant to the world of ROCK. THUS I haven't sent one since November last year, and before that not since June, because what with COVID and the PhD there hasn't been an awful lot going on in that direction.
To be honest there hasn't been THAT much going on THIS month either, but there ARE a couple of gigs coming up and I do have news of The Solo Album to share, so I thought I was justified in sending it out. I was also able to include some news about releases from other Validators too, which I would highly recommend you seek out.
I'm hopeful the newsletter will be coming out slightly more regularly again now. There's the aforesaid solo album to bang on about, and there's this OTHER THING that I've been working on for approx 17 MILLION YEARS which I'm hoping will come to fruition soon as well, and there may even be further GIGS too. I can't promise that this'll all have reached a point of Newsletter Unleashment by the NEXT Last Working Day of The Month, but I can promised that you'll be one of the first to find out if you simply join the mailing list!
Back To League One
Fans of SPORT, particularly PROPER SPORT, will be very much aware that Peterborough United were relegated this weekend from the Championship to League One i.e. from the second to the third tier of English football. When it was finally confirmed several people got in contact to commisserate, which was very much appreciated but thankfully unnecessary.
For LO! what I have witnessed of Championship football this season has not been to my liking. For one thing, it is MEAN-SPIRITED, in that these nasty bigger teams have deliberately and with malice aforethought been significantly BETTER than poor old Posh, even when they have known full well that we have only just arrived in their league. It would have been POLITE for them to take this new arrival under their wings, show them around the TIER, maybe give them a few free goals just to get them started, but OH NO. Apparently that is TOO MUCH BOTHER for these Fancy Dans.
Worse still, I fear that the Championship is rife with CHEATING. On a number of occasions I have noted play which has led me to suspect that many of these teams have been PRACTICING beforehand, sometimes even TOGETHER, working out what they are going to do with so-called "set pieces" well in advance of the game itself. I may be wrong, but I think there may even be SECRET SIGNALS used to indicate where a ball is going to be kicked, and sometimes I think they may even be moving in some kind of FORMATION.
This is, of course, very much against the TRUE SPIRIT of PROPER FOOTBALL which is to HOOF it as far as you can and then for everybody else to chase after it. In these darkened times we need this pure form of IMPROVISATIONAL SPORT and I must say I am very much looking forward to it being re-instated and - most importantly - RESPECTED next season. Then, and only then, will FOOTBALL itself be the winner!
The Ikon Gallery
Last week the Dates Of My Annual Leave and I went up to Birmingham to see some a) pals b) ART. Executive summary: all were GRATE!
Once we got to Brum we met aforesaid pals at the Ikon Gallery, an amazing SPACE that (according to The Internet) is a former school that has been re-done (according to our party) in a really lovely way. Within it there were THREE (3) exhibitions, all of which complied with my stated preferences for such things i.e. they were short and they were dead good.
The first was my favourite, "Shadows In The Sky", a collection of paintings by RENAISSANCE painter Carlo Crivelli. Whenever you go to a big gallery you see LOADS of religious paintings from back when they used to be hung up in churches, but these ones were AMAZING as he kept playing around with the 3D. I am vaguely aware that this was around the time they worked out how to do perspective, and there sure was a lot of that going on, but he also messed around with painting objects to look like they were in FRONT of the main picture e.g. a PICKLE lounging around over the top of the bottom of a picture of HEAVEN or a bunch of APPLES strung across the top of another one, casting a shadow on the sky (hence the exhibition title). It was HEADY STUFF, although as tends to be the way the Gallery Descriptions made it LESS easy to work this out, with phrases like "paradoxically unthink" etc etc.
There was also a small MODERN ART bit which was supposedly "interacting" with the other stuff. This seems to be Quite The Thing for art galleries these days, and always comes off (to connoisseurs like what I am) as A Bit Of A Stretch and Probably Just How You Get Funding. In this case there were some OBJECTS lying around, including a discarded sheet, leaning broom and old boilersuit that initially looked like just a bit of a mess. It was VERY What The Daily Mail Thinks Modern Art Is, although once you got up close and deciphered the description you COULD see a point to it, it just didn't seem to have any relation to anything else. MUCH better was a side room with two paintings by Audrey Flack that were "After Crivelli". They sort of were, but were also DIFFERENT, and also Quite Good.
There were only about 12 exhibits all together, so we were full of ART THIRST and ready to go to the NEXT exhibition, which was "Under The Vast Sky" (I've only just noticed the SKY THEME here), a retrospective of embroidered pieces by SÃ¡mi (Swedish) artist Britta Marakatt-Labba. It was DEAD GOOD. The basic idea was lots of long tapestries showing the indigeounous SÃ¡mi people of Sweden with scenes of LIFE in general. I thought it was going to be a bit Stern but it was all done in an DELIGHTFUL way, like one of those big centrefolds you used to get in the middle of a Beano Summer Special with hundreds of people dashing about getting up to different things. It wasn't in the STYLE of Leo Baxendale, but it certainly felt like it was in the spirit, with STORIES everywhere. I liked it!
Again, it wasn't really helped by the gallery guide, which seemed to have been written before the placing of the ITEMS were finalised, but again it was ALL GOOD and also BRIEF, so we still had energy left for the FINAL item, which was an "immersive classical experience" called "Lusitano Remixed". Someone had done a new version of a CHORAL PIECE by Vicente Lusitano, got together a choir, and then recorded it with a seperate microphone for each singer. Each recording was then played out of a seperate speaker, so as you walked around the room you heard each individual singer, as if you were in the middle of the group. Whether you'd WANT to be in the middle of a Classical Choir BELLOWING it out is a question for another time, but it was an AMAZING experience to wander around in, and this time the gallery notes (on a big sign on the wall) were DEAD INTERESTING and helpful. More like that please!
It was, in fact, a pretty flipping GRATE gallery experience with THE ART being fab. If you happen to be in The West Midlands I would HIGHLY recommend popping in!
City Sculpture Tour
On Easter Weekend myself and The Works In My Gallery went out to look at Sculpture In The City, a (usually) annual thing where the City Of London has loads of ARTWORKS scattered around it. We have done this several times and it's always lots of fun, and we were ESPECIALLY excited about it this time as there hadn't been one last year.
To be honest, my favourite aspect of it is following the MAPS and finding our way around The City, which is a MAD place where ginormous skyscrapers poke out from behind the remains of tiny ancient buildings, and hidden alleyways and miniature squares are never more than a couple of minutes away. It's a great excuse for EXPLORING round places you wouldn't normally go, although as we HAVE been there many times on previous sculpture trails it was ALSO like revisiting old HAUNTS, and many was the time we said "This is where (sculpture we remembered) was that other time!"
As ever, the sculptures themselves were a mixed bag. Some were FAB, some were INTERESTING, and some were HARD TO FIND. The one we both like most was near the start, Silent Agitator, a big CLOCK based on an Industrial Workers of the World union illustration (NB you can read about it on the link!). Others we liked included
Cosmos (dark metal slats that were multi-coloured when you went inside them), Orphans (lots of abandoned paintings facing in on each other so you could only see the backs), Symbols (a recreation of historical LGBTQ+ flags) and loads of others. It was great - each artwork was like a REWARD for finding your way around!
Weirdly, The City was DEAD BUSY. We popped into Fenchurch Street Station (a WEIRD station at the best of times - it's LIKE a mainline station but has no links to any tube lines and it's HIDDEN down an alley) for some CRISPS and there were loads of people going back and forth, and also all around everywhere else. The City is meant to be DESERTED at the weekend - the shops certainly seemed to think so as they were nearly all shut (hence going into the station for crisps) so what was everyone doing?
Anyway, it was GRATE to be back, foraging about for ART. More of this sort of thing please!
A couple of weeks ago I did something I have not done for YEARS - I bought a copy of a music magazine!
Decades ago, yea verily in the 1990s, I bought TONS of them - Select, Q, Vox and then the NME and Melody Maker and sometimes Record Collector if I'd read all of those - but I gave it all up when THE WORD closed down, as that was SO much fun to read that it made what was left of music magazines seem RUBBISH. I've occasionally flipped through one in Smiths while waiting for a train, and have very very occasionally bought a copy of Mojo when it's had so much Macca/Beatles that I couldn't resist, but otherwise they have fallen into the dark pit of Things I Used To Do In The 90s along with Setting The Video, Going To Nightclubs and of course Generalised Moping Around.
Inside there are features on HUNDREDS of bands that I have never ever heard of. I'm quite used to this being the case with The Young People's Modern Music, but even THEN I've got some idea of the most famous ones due to TELLY and listening to radio, but with Bands Of Yore I've always thought I've been fairly knowleadgeable. However, Shindig seems to be focused specifically on bands NOBODY has ever heard of. There are whole features on acts who basically recorded a couple of singles which were released only at 3 gigs and THAT'S THE LOT. It turns out there is a whole HOBBY of going looking for these incredibly obscure self-pressed records that were put out in the 60s and 70s (and later) by people nobody's ever heard of!
WELL. I'm sure you can picture my DELIGHT at discovering that this is A THING. Obscure releases by acts that hardly anybody's ever heard of? I wonder, how long is it until they get to the 1990s? I have a LOT of tapes, singles etc etc that are IMMENSELY obscure, and once the spotlight turns to the 2000s I have several metric TONNES of same! What I am basically saying here is that everybody should go and fill up in my online store RIGHT NOW before the "cratediggers" (technical term) turn up and everything starts to sell for A MILLION POUNDS on eBay. Treasure that copy of Say It With Words, it could pay off a MORTGAGE in a couple of years. In which case, I'll be buying a few HOUSING ESTATES!
As you may have detected, I recently completed my PhD and am now Officially Doctor Hibbett. I am by nature a humble soul rarely in search of the spotlight so I haven't really made a big thing about this, and so when people say to me things like "Have you changed your passport details yet?" I smild kindly and say that I haven't. Not least because it costs about SEVENTY FIVE QUID and requires new forms to be filled in and takes AGES. But mostly because I am so humble.
However, I did notice that my bank debit card was going to run out soon, so thought I might as well update THAT as they were going to give me a new card ANYWAY and not because it also meant that if anyone happened to see it I could say in a very casual way e.g. "Oh yes it DOES say Doctor Hibbett doesn't it shall I tell you about my thesis?" It would, I thought, be a simple process with no downsides.
This was INCORRECT. First of all it took AGES to get them to actually DO it, as you can't simply change your title on the bank app and have to go into an Actual Branch, then when you DO find a branch that is actually OPEN you have to a) negotiate BANK BOUNCERS who don't seem to want to let anybody in b) wait for AGES c) discover that the only person who can actually DO it is "out to lunch" at 4pm so d) you then have to try again the next day. This I did, and the second time it all went all right, at least once I'd talked my way in and waited twenty minutes until they'd remembered I was there. I'd been told that I needed to bring PROOF, but when I finally sat down to sort it out all they asked was "What sort of Doctor are you?" I stumbled a bit and said "Er... a doctor of philosophy? Not a medical doctor!" which seemed to be the right answer.
All, I thought, was well, and a few days later my card arrived with DR HIBBETT written on it which was all very exciting and fun... until I went out to USE it and the flipping thing DIDN'T WORK! I then spent AN ENTIRE HOUR going round and round on the bank's APP and PHONE LINES trying to speak to someone about it. I recited my date of birth and mother's maiden name to various ROBOTS so many times it became like an INCANTATION to summon up a Surprise Birthday Jumper. EVENTUALLY I got through to an actual HUMAN and began by saying "Just to let you know, I have spent an HOUR trying to get through and I know this isn't your fault, so sorry in advance if I am TERSE" (or words to those effect) which made me feel a lot better. It was weird talking to AN HUMAN after an hour of ROBOTS, so i had to remember not to Pronounce. Every. Word. Clearly. No, CLEARLY. CLEARLY! Right, date of birth is ... (and so on).
She worked out that my card was BROKEN so I had to have ANOTHER one ordered. I was a bit perturbed by this, as I needed to use it for spending MONEY (I live in Fancy East London where loads of places don't even CONSIDER taking CA$H) but she pointed out I could add the card to the APP on my phone, and could then be one of those people who casually wave their phones around in shops and GET stuff. This I did, and it has been... all right? It's nice when it works, but it's a MASSIVE pain in the wotsits when it forces you to LOG IN and then wait five minutes for the flipping APP to start work. Also, it doesn't say "DR HIBBETT" in big letters on my phone! Still, these I suppose are the REWARDS OF HUBRIS, and if nothing else makes me relieved that I DIDN'T try and change my passport!
I'm currently busily working on a SOLO ALBUM, gathering up a bunch of songs from the past few years that haven't been recorded due to a) THE WORLD b) me being busy with the PhD c) OTHER. I've so far got six in a Rough Mix state (which I'll probably go back to in a while and FIDDLE with), five others in various stages of DOING, one other that I need to sort some drums out for as a starting point, then a few others that I MIGHT have a go at if levels of Being Bothered rise slightly.
So far I'm having quite a lot of FUN, but it's taking quite a bit longer to DO than previous solo albums. There are various reasons for this, but the main one is that I am doing loads of it in MIDI. For instance, where previously I would get my bass guitar out and lay down some HOT LICKS on a track in about 10 minutes, this time around I'm doing it all on MIDI. This specific change is for several reasons, notably that my bass playing is a lot less EXACT than it used to be so doing it on the computer means I have a better chance of getting it in time! For other instruments, like KEYBOARDS or PIANO, I'm doing it this way because I don't actually OWN keyboards or pianos, and so I can THUS piddle about to my heart's content creating things without having to go into an Actual Studio.
Some stuff I'm still doing LIVE - guitars, ukelele and vocals mostly - but the upshot is that everything's taking a bit longer as I have to THINK about it a lot more. I used to be able to pick up an AXE and pretty much have a song worked out in a couple of goes, but with MIDI I'm spending HOURS staring at the piano keyboard graphic and trying to make imaginary chord shapes with my hands, thinking "What note is THAT meant to be?"
It is NOT EFFICIENT at all, but the nice thing is that not having a clue what I'm doing is leading to all SORT of new and (hopefully) INTERESTING sounds. Whenever I listen to some of my very early recordings, especially the VOON back catalogue, they're full of all sorts of SOUNDS and THINGS that I have no idea how they were made. OBVS this is partly because it wasn't just me doing them, but still, there are things there that have no right to be when they were made by two or three YOUTHS manhandling a four-track recorder and a drum machine. The NOISES I'm getting now from the MIDI thingy are not quite as RUM and UNUSUAL as those, sadly (very little is), but there's blips and bloops and all sorts that I wouldn't normally do.
Having said all that there is still a lot of SHOUTING and UKES and CLANGY GUITARS, so it is not an entirely New Direction or anything, and when it's mixed properly I imagine most of it will be noticeably different only to me. I've even found a way to make MIDI speed up as it goes along, so it will still have that aspect too!
As I say, I'm about half way through recording it now, so it'll be a while before we're looking at release dates or anything, but as soon as they're available I shall be letting you know!
Some Light Reading
Since finishing my PhD (did I mention that I'd... oh, I have?) I have treated myself to some READING. I do like a good old READ but for the past several years most of it has been EITHER academical works OR Other Research for the OTHER big project I've been doing for the past few years - a project what I hope to be able to REVEAL properly in a few months.
Anyway, that's all been a bit like homework, so since finishing up I have been going through and READING some of the books that I've added to my KINDLE over the years but never had time to read. This included "The Wheels Of Chance" which I got ages ago in the middle of my HG WELLS MANIA but never actually got round to reading - I'm glad i did, as it was Quite Jolly. To be honest it did feel like a tiny bit of a cash-in on "Three Men In A Boat", but I liked that also so didn't really mind.
The BIG book which has been sat on my Kindle for a while, however, was "The Silmarillion". I think I got it after I watched all the Hobbit films a couple of Christmases ago, and ever since it's been sat there LOOKING at me, DARING me to read it. I've never really had the time until recently, but once I'd handed in my OWN mighty tome (with it's own huge wodge of appendices) I thought I'd give JRR Tolkien's a go.
CRUMBS! To my utter amazement, I really really enjoyed it! It was a bit of a slog to start with, getting used to the Quasi-Biblical way everything is written, the huge list of NAMES all the time (which CHANGE too), and the first few chapters being all about a bunch of annoying GODS swanning around, but once you get into it it's surprisingly relaxing. I started to let the lists of names and places just wash over me after a while, and it turned into a very pleasant stroll through various woods, towns and dread domains, occasionally pausing for a BIG FITE. And I tell you what, JRR Tolkien doesn't half write an exciting FITE. I remember reading "The Hobbit" for the first time and being dead excited during the (SPOILERS) massive battle at the end when all the different armies pile on, and there are LOADS of these in "The Silmarillion". It's also quite good fun when places from THE FILMS get mentioned, and you get to feel Very Slightly More Clever for remembering them.
Best of all, it's one of those HUGE books where the last quarter of it is appendices and indexes that you don't actually need to read (I am not likely to start narrating an audiobook of it so don't really see the point in reading page after page of pronunciation guidance for a totally made up language) so when you get to 50% of the way through you know you're actually much further.
I finished it the other night and FLUSHED with success I thought "Right! Now I'm going to finally read the Lord Of The Rings Appendices too, and then - SOD IT - go back to the start of The Hobbit and do THE LOT!" I then DID read one of the appendices (the one about what a nice time the members of The Fellowship have with their lives when it's all over), and next morning rose with a clearer vision i.e. "No I won't be doing that just yet thanks. Maybe next time I go on holiday."
It was dead good thoigh and, after spending 6 years in the enormous complicated storyworld of the Marvel Universe it was quite fun to dip into the enormous complicated storyworld of Middle Earth. Something a bit lighter next though - I'm thinking MIDDLEMARCH!
posted 11/4/2022 by MJ Hibbett (click here for permanent link) (1) comments
Sorting Out My Corpus
So, last time I was on about how I chose Doctor Doom to be the focus for my PhD (what I have, by the way, now finished) and then worked out what "The Marvel Age" was in order to set some criteria for the CORPUS that I'd look at.
"Corpus" is an excellent word which basically means "a collection of books and stuff" where, in my case, the "stuff" bit was mostly comics, cartoons, radio shows and games. In order to put it together all I needed to do was find every single appearance by Doctor Doom in any of these texts between the dates I'd settled on. PEASY right?
IT WAS NOT PEASY. The first thing I had to do was search The Grand Comics Database for every comic Doom appeared in during this time. Well, actually, the FIRST thing was to look at the various different databases and realise that GCD (as the cool kids call it) was the best one, THEN download it onto my own server, THEN work out how all the table fit together, and THEN search it for the aforesaid appearances.
Doing that showed me that the GCD is not necessarily entirely reliable or consistent. It's a wonderful resource put together by hundreds of different people over many years, which is all very excellent but unfortunately means the quality of the data varies HUGELY, as does the decision making processes. For example, generally speaking the people entering the data DON'T add in information about every single advert or the contents of letters pages, but some DO, which meant that I had to go through checking every single result to make sure it actually WAS a story featuring Doctor Doom, rather than an advert of an image in a letters column. Such things ARE valid items about Doctor Doom (and the source of some FASCINATING ARTICLES hem hem) but weren't what I was after here.
Another problem was that not every appearance by Doctor Doom was recorded, at least not as Doctor Doom. One HUGE example of this was his appearances in Not Brand Echh, a "humour" series (i.e. ripping off "Mad Magazine") using Marvel characters published in the 1960s. Doom appeared in LOADS of issues of this, but was "hilariously" referred to as "Doctor Bloom" in most cases (I have no idea why) so did not come up in my searches, despite appearing on the COVER for some of these. I only realised this when I was reading through the corpus and noticed a single issue that HAD been logged as "Doctor Doom", so had to go back and check through THE LOT to find more. On the plus side, this led to a FASCINATING PRESENTATION about how it all worked!
None of this was PEASY as I say, but it was a flipping DODDLE compared to what came next. As far as I know there isn't a database of cartoons, books, radio shows etc etc which allows you to search by character names (iMDB does some of this but by NO MEANS all, and it's expensive!) so I had to just GO LOOKING for them. This involved a WHOLE HEAP of Googling and LOTS of going back and forth over the course of the PhD as new things kept on popping up. Some of these turned up too late to be included - most HEINOUSLY I missed an actual NOVEL starring Doctor Doom called (inevitably) DOOMSDAY - but in the end I got myself a PhD Corpus of 266 texts, of which three were newspaper strips, six were radio shows or similar audio-only recordings, six were games, 15 were cartoons and all the rest comics. You can see a big list of them - along with all the other items I collected which were didn't make it into the final corpus - over on the MARVEL AGE DOOM site.
This was a LOT of comics, games, books etc etc to get through, and I soon realised that it was WAY too much, so I used A Stratified Random Sampling methodology (which - FEAR NOT - I shall not go into here) to narrow this down to a representative of 69 (nice) texts. I then set out to EXAMINE them!
How I did THAT is a whole other story which I shall save for a whole other time, as I think that's probably about ENOUGH for now. Basically it was DEAD CLEVER but also QUITE HARD and took FLIPPING AGES. Further details can be supplied on application!
Last time I was discussing - IN FASCINATING DETAIL (NB there is a lot more detail which is slightly less fascinating) - what I meant by "Character Components" for my PhD. This time, as nobody has actually begged me to stop yet, I thought I'd explain how I chose the CHARACTER what I looked at and the TEXTS what they appeared in.
As many will be aware the character I chose to look at was DOCTOR DOOM. I was looking for a character who travelled widely throughout the Marvel universe but did NOT usually have his own series, so that what I'd get from looking at their stories was a cross section of all sorts of DIFFERENT texts with different creators, rather than just focussing on lots of comics/cartoons/other stuff by the same people in the same format. Doctor Doom sprang to mind because a) he totally does that and b) he is in a lot of stories that I love, notably from the John Byrne run on "Fantastic Four" and especially in stories like This Land Is Mine! and Interlude.
I had a look into this idea and it turned out to be a GRATE one, as Doom appears all OVER the place, and though he does get his own series a few times (usually shared with another character) these very rarely had a consistent creative team and never lasted long, so I knew I'd get a good variety. ALSO he popped up in a surprisingly wide range of other formats apart from comics.
I knew the bulk of my CORPUS (i.e. the list of comics etc that I was going to be looking at) was going to be IN comics, and so I'd looked at various databases that I could use to generate a starting list - as I would later discover, there are several comics which Doom appears in where he's not listed in these databases, and there are all the OTHER media where he appears that don't tend to list character names, so this would always be a starting point rather than a definitive list. I knew I could search these databases for comics with Doom in, the only problems were that a) there were flipping LOADS of them and b) there were more and more all the time. I was going to need some sort of CUT-OFF point for the texts I'd look at!
One way to do this would be to arbitrarily say "THIS date and no more!" but that's not hugely satisfactory for a PhD thesis where ever tiny flipping thing has to be justified. What I needed was a DATE RANGE and the obvious answer was to try using THE AGES system. This is the process whereby comics are split into AGES, so "The Golden Age" starts with the first appearance of SUPERMAN in Action Comics #1, for instance, and then "The Silver Age" takes over with the first apperance of the updated version of The Flash in DC Comics Showcase #4. This is all widely agreed and PEASY... until you get to "The Bronze Age" which starts...um... somewhere around 1970-1972, unless it doesn't (some people say there's no such thing, others that it should be something else) and then that ends... er... at another point, when it's replaced by the Dark Age. Or the Modern Age. Or Iron, Heroic, Platinum, Rust, Steel etc etc etc - basically there are as many proposals for what comes next as there are people vociferously arguing about it in comic shops/pubs/basements/online discussion forums.
None of this was much use to me, as I needed ACTUAL DATES, so I went looking for something else and found "The Marvel Age". This is a period which, like the "Silver" and "Golden" ages ALSO has a comic as its definitive starting point - Fantastic Four #1 - but then ends somewhere vaguely around the end of the 1980s. I did a lot of research into this and found that NOBODY had ever tried to formally define what "The Marvel Age" actual MEANS, even though hundreds of articles, books and wotnot had USED the term. Actually defining it sounded very much like a UNIQUE CONTRIBUTION TO KNOWLEDGE so that is what I set out to do.
I won't go into TOO much detail about how I did this as a) even I have to admit it is not TOTALLY fascinating and b) I've got a paper coming out (hopefully) later this year which explains it and I do not want to give SPOILERS. The short version is that I used something called "The Production Of Culture Approach" to define it using COVER DATES for comics with specific Editors-in-Chief, so that it started with "Fantastic Four" #1 (cover date November 1961, edited by Stan Lee) and ended with all Marvel comics with cover dates of October 1987 (the final month where Jim Shooter was credited in all Marvel comics as "Editor-In-Chief"). Using editors meant I could ALSO use this process to define three SUB-PERIODS of "Creation" and "Chaos" and "Consolidation", and using COVER DATES meant I could clearly and easily say whether ANY comic should be up for inclusion in my corpus, and then place it within a sub-period.
That is a VERY short version of how it all worked - I am always ALMOST TOO EAGER to explain further, and indeed DID do that last year at Factually Inaccurate Stand-Up. The upshot is that it gave me a GRATE way to select comics and a NEARLY AS GRATE way to select other texts (which don't have cover dates, but still have SOME sort of date) as well.
Next time I'll try and talk as briefly as I can about the CORPUS what I selected and what I actually DID with it. And then I might just go and have a little lie down!
Today I am continuing the entirely UNASKED FOR explanation of What My PhD was about - last time I was on about CHARACTER COHERENCE (what makes a character the character they are and how much that changes over time and media types) so THIS time I'm going to try and BRIEFLY explain how this can be measured.
SO to measure how a character changes we first need to know what we're measuring, and this basically boils down to their CHARACTER COMPONENTS. This is an idea put about by all sorts of people, so a big chunk of the thesis was me doing a LITERATURE REVIEW (which involved, of course, a Literature Search with a range of keywords) of current thinking, from which I got four basic categories as follows:
CHARACTER-SPECIFIC - what they look like, how they speak and what they're called.
STORYWORLD-SPECIFIC - the world around them, including other characters, previous events, and common objects. NOTE that some characters carry these around with them from world to world, such as Sherlock Holmes usually having a Watson with him, or Superman usually having the explosion of Krypton in his origin. BEHAVIOURAL - how the character interacts with the storyworld, what their motivations are for behaving that way, and how other characters see them. This one was particularly KNOTTY to work out, as most other SCHOLARS who had looked at this just went "How they behave is... um... how they behave" and didn't explain what that actually meant.
AUTHORIAL - finally, it turns out that it matters who "authored" the character, both in terms of the ACTUAL creators (so in comics that's writers, artists, letterers, editors etc) and who we're TOLD are the creatores (whether that's corporate entities like Marvel or Disney, or pretending that, for instance, Mary Shelley had anything to do with the film Mary Shelley's Frankenstein).
These broad categories all had SUB categories as mentioned above which I called DIMENSIONS, and put together this gave me a THIRTEEN DIMENSIONAL MODEL (yes I know it is very cool) of Character Components. With all that sorted out I then devised a way to EMPIRICALLY MEASURE these i.e. a way for ME to measure them which give the same results as if someone ELSE did it, rather than relying on personal opinion. For some aspects this was pretty peasy - for instance, for "Other Characters" I just listed all the characters who appeared in a particular text - but for others it was a bit trickier, such as finding a SURVEY I could use to measure "Personality Traits". I don't want to go into all this in too much detail as a) it is QUITE COMPLICATED and b) I'm hoping to publish this bit as a Proper Book!
Anyway, once that was sorted out I developed a method for entering data on each component, set up a data entry system to do so, and then set about finding myself a CORPUS. In other words, I needed to work out which TEXTS (comics, cartoons, TV shows etc etc) I was going to look at. This turned out to ALSO be quite tricky but also - IF YOU ARE ME AT LEAST - dead interesting, so I'll save that for NEXT time!
What's The PhD About Then?
Since finishing my PhD (which, by the way, I have) many lovely people have congratulated me, some even willingly without me hanging around saying "I HAVE FINISHED MY PHD" in a casual way until they did. Very few (to be precise: 0) people however have asked me what it is ABOUT. I take this to be a delightful indication of everyone being POLITE - "he's probably had enough of talking about it after all this time" they assume, "so let's not bother him about it, despite us all desperately wanting to know because it is almost certainly incredibly interestimg."
For this kindness, much thanks, and in my gratitude over the next few blogs I'll try and do a VERY QUICK (honest) explanation. The title of the thesis was "Doctor Doom In The Marvel Age: An Empirical Approach To Transmedia Character Coherence", which is a) clearly the coolest PhD Title EVER but b) a bit much to get your head around in one go, so the best bet is to split it up into PARTS. For this reason, I'll just do the "Transmedia Character Coherence" bit today - it's the last bit in the title, but it helps to explain everything else!
So, "Transmedia" relates to stories that are told across different media types e.g. "Star Wars" is a classic transmedia storyworld ("storyworld" means the world the story happens in) because characters who appear in the main films also appear in the TV shows and the cartoons, and it's the same versions of the characters throughout. I say "classic" because when Henry Jenkins coined the term "transmedia storyworlds" he was explicitly talking about single storyworlds e.g. the world of Sherlock Holmes is not really transmedia in this way because the TV shows, cartoons and movies are BASED on the original novels, or more often the characters IN them, but do not interact with them or each other and INDEED tend to contradict each other.
HOWEVER! Plenty of people (including me) think this doesn't really work, as under the original definition transmedia storytelling doesn't really exist e.g. the old Star Wars novels USED to be part of the transmedia storyworld but then were REMOVED from it and shunted into their own seperate storyworld. The storyworld of the MOVIES still contains all the planets and people and idiotic Jedi idiots, as well as the ability for light sabers and hyperspace to exist but also the HISTORY of the stories that are deemed to be part of it, whereas the old books contain very similar things, but the HISTORY is different, and so some of the people, planets etc might be too. The Jedi are still idiots though, that is a CONSTANT.
Similarly "Doctor Who" is SORT OF Transmedia, but the books and games don't always necessarily exist in the same storyworld as the TV shows. Going further, there are some characters who clearly ARE Transmedia, in that they hop about all over the place and are clearly meant to BE the same character, but don't appear in the same storyworld. Lara Croft is a good example of this, as she is always Lara Croft except that her HISTORY may change in different games, books or movies, or the way she LOOKS, or what her motivation is etc.
This gives us what Jan Noel Thon calls a "Global Transmedia Character Network", in this case consisting of ALL the various Lara Crofts in one network of LARA CROFTNESS (THAT IS WHAT IT IS CALLED). They all relate to one another, and changes in one version may then influence the other e.g. if Lara Croft develops a new bit of backstory in a movie then that might get integrated into a future game.
A GRATE example of this is Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen, who originated in the Superman radio show (which was NOT in the same storyworld as the comics) and proved so popular he made his way over to the comics storyworld too. More recently, Harley Quinn first appeared in a Batman cartoon show, but then was SO VERY POPULAR, especially for CosPlayers (I have been to a Comic Convention and can confirm this!), that she soon started appearing in comics and, eventually, ALL THE FILMS.
All of these different versions of characters can be different to each other in all sorts of ways, but there must be something that makes each of them THAT character. For instance, the Benedict Cumberbatch version of Sherlock Holmes is clearly NOT meant to be the same character as the one played by Basil Rathbone - they look different, behave differently, and exist in different time periods - but they are still definitely Sherlock Holmes because they share traits like other characters (Watson, Moriarty etc), motivations, past adventures and so on. The degree to which they are the same character is, broadly speaking, what I mean in the title by "Character Coherence" - how much they are the SAME from one version to another, or INDEED within the SAME version over time. The Marvel comics 616 universe version of Peter Parker, for example, IS meant to be the same character, but over the past 70 years or so he has varied considerably over time, in different series and at the hands of different creators.
SO - how do you work out HOW MUCH the character changes? That's the NEXT thing!
Doing a PhD for the past five or so years (which I have passed by the way, did I mention?) means that I haven't had a huge amount of time to do ROCK. This hasn't been quite as much of a problem as it might have been for GIGS due to the twin facts that a) there haven't been many gigs for anyone for the past two years and b) it's not like people have been ASKING us to do them!
Similarly, RECORDING with The Vlads has been off the table - hard as it might be to believe from the available evidence, but we do usually (not always!) like to at least TRY to practice songs before recording them, and that's not really been an option. Then when we HAVE been able to get together it's been for a GIG, a practice for a gig (we like to do these at LEAST every four years whether we need to or not), or BEST OF ALL just for a curry.
I've still be WRITING songs mind you, and thus a bit of a BACKLOG has built up. The trouble with THIS is that some of the songs are about Pertinent Modern Issues which may not BE Pertinent or Modern by the time we eventually get round to doing them. Recording an album generally takes at LEAST three years for us, unless we really knuckle down and try to do it quicker in which case it takes FOUR.
SO, when I finished the PhD (I did mention that didn't I?) I thought "Hang on, why don't I just do a SOLO album then?" After all, I have the EQUIPMENT to do so, and I have learnt a LOT about MIDI through being in Jane and John, so I could apply that to some of my solo songs too. It would also, I thought, be FUN to do something where I was in full control myself, after all these years of doing the PhD where I was constantly either writing something agreed with other people, waiting for their approval or filling in FORMS to let me move to the next stage.
THUS I consulted with The Validators who bravely gave their ASSENT to the plan, and since then I've been pottering about programming drums, struggling with How Notes Work On A Pretend Piano, and generally messing around with an album which, I think, is going to be called "Back In The Office", for LO! its subject matter is very work-based. I think MAYBE it'll be out in the summer, but I shall provide more information about it ANON!
Hello again! It's been a LONG time since I last did one of these here blogs, and part of the reason for that is that I have been spending loads of time getting to the end of my PhD. I actually handed it in WAY back in October, but since then it has been a lengthy process of STEPS, REVISIONS and ADMIN.
Once it was handed in I had to wait until mid-December before I could do my actual VIVA - this is basically an interview where two or (in my case) three academics QUIZ you about what you've written. I was looking forward to it being them saying "So Mark, tell us at great length how very clever this all is" but it was NOT like that. It was more "Tell us, one by one, why your thesis is NOT about the following list of things instead". It was, to use the proper parlance "combative" but we got through it and at the end I was given a pass but with Amendments.
This meant that after Christmas I got a REPORT which told me what the required amendments were. Some of these were FINE and HELPFUL, some of them were more "Why is it not about this OTHER thing instead?" so I then spent about a month doing all THAT, then had a bit of back and forth with my Supervisors, and then finally handed it in properly about a fortnight ago.
After all THAT however things moved at high speed. A week later, last thing on the Friday, I got an unoffical email to let me know that my internal examiner had PASSED it. There was MUCH relief and subsequent HALLOOING, and then on Monday I got an OFFICIAL email saying the same.
This, however, was not the end of it, as you're not allowed to swan around calling yourself "Doctor" until you've had an Official Letter from The Vice Chancellor. Funnily enough, on Tuesday I went to an EVENT with the aforesaid VC which he left fairly early on. "He's off to sign my letter" I QUIPPED, and lo and behold that is exactly what he WAS doing (probably) as the next morning the letter (in PDF form) arrived and THAT was very much THAT. I am now officially DOCTOR HIBBETT, DOCTOR OF DOCTOR DOOM!
It has been a LONG old process - it makes the above description seem SHORT - but I am IMMENSELY relieved it is over, not least because it means I can get back to OTHER stuff - other stuff which I shall tell you ALL about NEXT time!!
On Saturday afternoon I travelled to Rainham in Kent to do a GIG! An ACTUAL GIG!
It had been set up by the fine people of Careful Now Promotions, who had arranged a bill featuring two musical acts (including me) and four poets. I must admit I was expecting it to get cancelled, especially with Everything Going On, and especially especially when they emailed to say they had "lost three poets overnight". It felt like one of those Saturday afternoon war films, with the pilot desperately trying to fly the plane when it keeps losing engines. "We're down to our last poet Captain, the gig can't make it!" "DAMMIT man, the gig HAS to make it!"
It DID make it, and (SPOILERS) I was very glad that it did! I have been excited about this gig for AGES, not just because, as stated previously, it was an ACTUAL GIG, but also because it meant that I would FINALLY be able to go to a gig DIRECTLY on the HIGH SPEED line from St Pancras to Kent. I don't like to talk about it much, but I do live in THE OLYMPICS and thus my local station is Stratford International on that line, so I have LONGED for an opportunity for ROCK and was DELIGHTED to finally have the chance so to do. It was dead quick, but also felt WEIRD waiting for a train on the southbound, "wrong", platform!
I had booked myself into the local Premier Inn - not to be confused, as I was several times, with the Premier Inn in Rainham ESSEX, which is a totally different one - which was LOVELY as ever, and thus it was a CLEAN and refreshed Hibbett who strolled down to The Oast House to find the Careful Now team eating some CHIPS. They smelt lovely (the chips - I did not sniff the promoters but I am sure they also smelt lovely), so once I'd done my soundcheck I headed over to Greg's Plaice across the road (PROPER name for a chippy) and had perhaps the LARGEST portion of chips I have ever had in my life. They just kept shovelling chips into the bag! They were DELICIOUS, but I had to LEAVE half of them, it was deeply upsetting!!
Back at the venue a small but delightful audience arrived and reclined on SOFAs as the evening kicked off with the first poet - I must admit I'm not sure which of the four listed she was but she was very good, and even did some LIMERICKS which I feel should very much be encouraged amongst ALL poets. Next it was Bob Collins who did a string of excellently FOOTNOTED songs from various Medway bands he'd been in, accompanied by a LOVELY 12-string guitar. It felt like an Illustrated Talk! He finished his set with a cover which he introduced as "A Christmas song that isn't about Christmas, from 1983." "HANG ON", I thought, I'm pretty sure this was the answer to a CHRISTMAS QUIZ question the other day". "It doesn't feature guitars at all," he said. "BLIMEY!" I continued inwardly, "He's going to do it! He's doing Grandma we love you!!"
It was "Only You" obviously, but still, I think "Grandma We Love You" is there for reappraisal. Anyway, then it was me and I did THIS:
It all seemed to go OK - I was a bit nervous, so made lots of mistakes, and felt weird using a microphone, but I REALLY enjoyed the talking in between bits. I can sing songs at home, but I can't MAKE HILARIOUS COMMENTS to an audience, and that's my favourite bit! As you can see, there were a couple of songs I've never done live before, which I managed NOT to chicken out of doing, although I did rehearse a few more Christmas songs that I DID step back from. I also intended to do "Hey Hey 16K" but, examining the audience, I wasn't sure whether anyone would really be bothered with it. It's a GRATE song to do if people ARE invested in the subject matter, but if they've never heard it and/or aren't really interested in home computers from 40 years ago then it tends to be nearly 4 minutes of me shouting at Visibly Perplexed People. However, rather than GUESS whether it would work I decided to ASK, which worked very well indeed (and I'll have a chance to do it next year anyway when I play at the JUST ANNOUNCED Spectrum 40 event).
By the end I was having a WHALE of a time, and wished I'd practiced a few more songs so I could have felt confident in carrying on, especially some of the QUIETER ones which seem to work best in these settings. It was probably best to end when I did though - everybody seemed happy with how it had gone, and hopefully I'll be able to go back next year with The Validators.
Basically, I had a lovely time showing off to some lovely people, and so after another drink and a bit of a chat it was a very happy Hibbett who staggered off into the night, still full of chips. Gigs are GRATE aren't they?
Last night I met with Mr S Carter to go and see "Eternals". I have seen the vast majority of the Marvel films with Steve and was quite excited to be doing so again, despite having read some fairly mediocre reviews of it. Lots of these claimed that "The Marvel bubble has finally burst!" which is pretty much what traditional film reviewers have been saying since "Iron Man 2", so I went in with an Open and also a Hopeful mind.
I got the first inkling that something might be amiss when we got to the MASSIVE Leicester Square Odeon and had to walk through a maze of corridors to get to screen number five. I didn't realise there WERE other screens, and this one turned out to be basically someone's living room with a big telly and a few (LUXURIOUS) chairs. Surely a Marvel movie would usually still be on a big screen a couple of weeks after it came out?
We settled in and the film began... and then kept on beginning for about 90 minutes. Flipping heck, I understand that "Getting The Band Back Together" is a THING, but it doesn't usually take up the vast majority of the film and it's also meant to make you somehow give a toss about the actual band. The whole thing was weirdly BORING, with lots and lots of very bland characters standing around impassively explaining things to each other, and then occassionally all getting in a line for no apparent reason to stand still and Be Looked At. To be fair, The Eternals being a bunch of pretty dull characters who say Important Sounding Things over and over to each other is VERY faithful to the source material, but it didn't half get dull quickly. It was highly noticeable that little lights kept flashing on around the tiny cinema as everyone kept checking their phones to see how much longer it had to go!
To be clear, I'm not complaining about the film Trying Something Different (which is A Good Thing) or attempting to deal with Characters rather than Constant Action, it's just that they made such a dreary mess of it all. There was SO MANY scenes of characters sitting around Telling Each Other Things, and so very little of any of them Actually Being Interesting. This made the traditional Marvel Scenes, like when they're sitting around drinking beer and bickering, feel totally out of place. Apart from Kingo and his "valet" I didn't really care enough about any of them enough (or at all) to enjoy it.
Also, the flipping plot made approximately ZERO sense. What on earth were The Deviants all about? And why did they team up with (A CHARACTER) later on? Were we meant to care about them, or were they just baddies? Why were THE MASSIVE SPACE GODS so very boring? And how many times did Previously Unmentioned Cosmic Powers really need to appear out of nowhere? And most importantly, why were school children having a lesson in the Natural History Museum?
In discussion afterwards Steve made an EXCELLENT comparison to "Guardians Of The Galaxy". That was ALSO a deep dive into Marvel characters that nobody outside of comics really knew beforehand. It ALSO spent time bringing a large group of characters together, and it ALSO was a pretty big swerve from what Marvel films had been before. The big difference with THAT film however is that the characters were Actually Interesting and Different From Each Other, so the bits with them just hanging around together were ENJOYABLE and you CARED about what happened to them. I AUDIBLY GROANED when the bit at the end came up with "Eternals Will Return..."
Happily, with this and "The Inhumans" I think that's IT for adaptations of Ponderous Super-Powered Families Drawn By Jack Kirby (for Marvel anyway, we've still got the threat of New Gods). Hopefully with that out of the way they can finally give us the "Devil Dinosaur" movie we all deserve!
It was really sad news, but it wasn't a huge surprise. Getting our Indietracks application in has been part of The ROCK Year for The Validators ever since the festival started, closely followed by the months of waiting to see if we'd get in and then dismay/jubiliation according to the results. I've spent the past few weeks checking their site every couple of days to see if they'd put the call out yet, and was beginning to suspect that something might be different this time.
I can fully understand why the Indietracks Team would see this as a time to bring it to a close, especially after two years off. It must have been an ENORMOUS amount of work and it's been an incredible run of festivals so it's good to go out while you're ahead, but CRIKEY it's sad to think that we'll never get to go there again. Indietracks was the one and only festival where we felt like ROCK STARS - it was the one place where pretty much everybody who gave a monkey's about MJ Hibbett & The Validators would all be in the same place together, and we could play a proper big stage show like what you see on telly. It was the centre of The Validators' ROCK year - the argument about what our walk-on music could be for next time started pretty much as soon as we'd come off-stage!
It was also the only place where I felt like we truly fitted in as a band. We were never part of any scene when we started, and have been around so long that we've out-lived most of the bands we've played with, but when Indietracks came along, and especially when it included bands like Allo' Darlin', Standard Fare, The Smittens, The Just Joans, The Pete Green Corporate Juggernaut and all the others, it felt like a group we could be part of. To me that scene will always be "Indietracks Bands" because that's where I got to see them, on stage but especially in-person before and afterwards, and it was wonderful to feel accepted, like we were a part of it all rather than our usual position of That Band Who Were On Before The Band We Came To See.
Best of all though, for me personally, was in 2011 when I played in The Merch Tent. I was really nervous beforehand, and was even more so when I arrived to find that the tent was packed out with people. Gigs in The Merch Tent are Totally Acoustic, and there's all sorts of noise going on from the festival around it, so I had no idea how I was going to make myself heard in what I assumed was a crowded tent full of people chatting and buying records. I was feeling a bit sorry for myself, especially when it proved to be difficult to get in due to the mass of people, as I prepared myself for a miserable set, shouting in a corner to people who didn't want to hear - I've done this many times in my illustrious career, but it didn't seem fair to be doing it at Indietracks!
As I pushed my way through I said to somebody "It's very busy!". "Yes," he said, "It's rammed because MJ Hibbett's going to play."
I could have cried then and it still makes me well up now. That was Indietracks - a place where a band like us, and people like us, and people not like us at all, could all come together and actually BE the International Rock Stars we are in our heads, if only for a weekend. It's sad that it's gone, but it's wonderful that it was ever there at all. Thanks Indietracks, you were the best!
Is It Too Soon For Christmas?
As promised last week, today we have some Jane and John news, and it is this: today we're releasing Is It Too Soon For Christmas? as a single!
The song originally came out last year on A Very Cherry Christmas Eâ.âP. 2020, but due to Covid it was only released on Bandcamp. We still love the song, and feel that the question it asks remains relevant, so - with Cherryade Records' permission - we decided to release it ourselves on streaming services for this year. You can get it on Spotify, Amazon, or pretty much anywhere that does that sort of thing!
We've also got a Teaser Video (i.e. it's just a BIT of the song, not the whole thing!) which you can see BELOW:
As ever, likes, mentions, retweets and so forth are all very much appreciated, whether you think the answer is "Yes" or, correctly, "No it is definitely not too soon, bring me a mince pie immediately"!
The End Of Doom
Cor, it's quiet round here isn't it? Apologies for the lack of updates lately, this has mostly been because there hasn't been anything new, ROCK-WISE, to report, although this will change next week as there's a Jane and John release heading your way!
Other than that though, as stated last time I have mostly been working on TWO (2) projects, one of which remains Annoyingly Secret (in that it's annoying because I can't show off about it yet). The other is of course my PhD, which has very much entered its final furlong. Last month I submitted the FINAL draft, which means that it's now with the examiners ready for my VIVA on December 10th, when they will question me about it to see if it really is a Unique Contribution To Knowledge. The outcome of that will either be that they accept it straight away (which is apparently unlikely), request amendments (minor or major, which take 1-6 months depending) or just tell me not to be so silly. Hopefully it'll be somewhere in the middle!
Alongside that my Marvel Age Doom blog is ALSO coming to an end. A couple of months ago I posted a blog about the last comic in my long list of Doctor Doom comics, and since then I've been hoovering up stuff I missed along the way, such as the Doctor Doom novel, and finally doing some Lessons Learnt. The very last one of these is coming out tomorrow, and then that's pretty much IT! After FOUR YEARS I will have officially read and cogitated upon every official Doctor Doom appearance in narrative texts with cover dates between November 1961 and October 1987 - and if you think THAT sentence has a lot of caveats, you should read the PhD!
At the moment this is all Quite Exciting. I started this process over six years ago, and since then there has been a LOT of work, so I'm really really looking forward to it all being over so I can do some other things, but I know I'll also miss it. Since stopping Tutorials I've often found myself thinking "That's interesting, wait until I tell Roger and Ian about ... oh." I'm sure there'll be a lot more of that to come, but my great hope is that by Christmas it'll all be either DONE or very nearly done.
After that I'm hoping to get a few PUBLICATIONS out of it, and there will of course be the traditional process of telling people that off course they don't have to call me Doctor Hibbett and hoping that they do. For now though, plain old Mr Hibbett has quite a lot of revision to get on with!
The Beginning Of The End
I had a bit of an Emotional Milestone yesterday, as one of my Big Two Projects* moved ever closer to its glorious end.
For LO! I had what turned out to be my VERY LAST EVER Phd Supervisory Meeting. This is where I get together with my two PhD supervisors to talk through where the thesis is at, get feedback, and plan what to do next. Yesterday's meeting was the 38th one we've had over the past five years, but by the end of it we agreed that we would meet NO MORE, for LO! (again) the thesis had got to the point where I only needed to make a few adjustments and could the SUBMIT it. Crikey!
This is not the end of the whole thing, just yet, but it is certainly the BEGINNING of the end. Once I've made the changes and submitted it we have to give the examiners about six weeks to READ the whole thing (it's currently around 100,000 words long and some of the words themselves are also very long) before we have a VIVA. Some people see this as a terrifying ordeal in which World Experts QUIZ you, trying to catch you out on MISTAKES, but personally I'm really looking forward to it, as I am envisaging it as three people who HAVE to listen to me DRONING ON about Doctor Doom and Transmedia for AT LEAST an hour without asking me to stop! Even better, we are having a MOCK Viva before then, when a whole other three people have to listen to me go on about it - what could possibly be more fun?
The VIVA decides whether I get a PhD or not (or whether I do, but have to make yet more changes first), but if they say YES one way or the other all I need to do is hand in a final version and I can ponce around saying "DOCTOR Hibbett actually, not that I like to go on about it" etc etc for the rest of my born days. I'm looking forward to it, OBVS, but I'm also going to miss the sesssions with my DELIGHTFUL supervisors. It really has been an awful lot of fun!
(* the other Big Project is a Secret Thing which I REALLY hope I can also start showing off about by the end of the year. Be assured, as soon as I CAN, I very much WILL!)