Gigs Of The Past - Inventing Friday Night
Today we've got the final blast from the past in this brief series of recently unearthed historical documents what I found in a drawer... although not the end of Gigs Of The Past!
This time we've got the full-band Validators performance of My Exciting Life In ROCK where I told all the usual stories, at sometimes slightly unusual length, and then The Validators ROCKED it (acoustically) in a tent.
The tent involved was pitched at the Midlands Railway in Butterley, for LO! this all happened at the wonderful Indietracks Festival on Friday 25 July 2008, where it was filmed by Mr Michael Prince. Until this point the festival had happened on the Saturday and Sunday, but as people were generally turning up on the Friday night anyway they decided to have a go at putting something on the Friday night too, and asked us to INAUGRATE it for them. Since then all sorts of famous people have performed on the Friday, BUT WE WERE FIRST!
My memories of the evening were that a) it took some WORK to keep it all thing going, as we were only partly amplified and TENTS don't tend to be terrific for acoustics b) I very much enjoyed doing a gig barefoot, and also c) Miss E and Miss L Pattison basically upstaged me the whole way through. What I DIDN'T remember however was that, according to the original blog, this was the very first time we ever did THE TIGER'S ROAR! It was so NEW that we didn't even know that was it's name at the time, but over the years it has come to be a HIGHPOINT of our entire show!
I hope these old videos are of interest - I've really enjoyed looking at them, even if it's made me feel a bit knackered just THINKING about how many gigs we did back then, and if anybody has any other videos lying around, do let me know. As I say, this is the end of the gigs I've digitised from DVDs found in a drawer, but while uploading them I found a whole load of OTHER gigs that I uploaded years ago but never showed off, so we'll be carrying on with some of those next time!
Gigs Of The Past - The Red House
Today we're leaping forward three years to one of my busiest years in ROCK, when I did a LUDICROUS 72 gigs over the course of the year. Yes yes, I know, B Dylan, B Springsteen et al have probably done many more than that per year in the past, but B Dylan, B Springsteen et al didn't also have full-time jobs did they?
One of the reasons for the huge number of gigs during this and the following years was that, as well as TOURING THE NATION on a weekly basis, I was also doing the first of the Me And Steve Fringe shows - My Exciting Life In ROCK!
This was the show based on Steve's suggestion that I do "all of the good stories" and "all of the good songs", so that is basically what it was! Today's video was filmed on 7 July 2008 at The Red House, Sheffield by Mr Michael Prince, and it was meant to be a warm-up for our week-long run at the Edinburgh Fringe the following month. However, when I rolled up I found that it was actually a normal multi-band show and I only had a half hour slot, so did an ABBREVIATED version, as you can see here:
As it says on the original blog about it, I had a LOVELY evening as I so often do in Sheffield, with a whole heap of delightful pals, and that's probably why I staggered off into the night afterwards and got completely lost. I distinctly remember walking along dark streets thinking "Something familiar will crop up soon" and it never doing so, and being IMMENSELY relieved when I was able to flag down a taxi, especially when I realised I'd been going in entirely the opposite direction to where my actual hotel was!
There's just one more video to go in this short series, ALSO filmed by Michael, so do join me next time for a remembrance of the time we invented a whole NIGHT at a festival!
Gigs Of The Past - Malcfest
Today's gig nominally took place in Catford in September 2005, but in my heart it happened in Lewisham. For LO! this was Malcfest, an event run by Mr Malcolm Gayner who was a huge part of (what I always thought of as) The Kooba Scene, based around the pioneering internet radio station and gigs at The Fox & Firkin in Lewisham. There was a whole heap of wonderful bands who gigged there and got played on Kooba, and all SORTS of larks and hijinks emerged from it. It was a huge part of my life back then, and introduced me to a truckload of DELIGHTFUL people.
So, even though this took place in the back yard of Malcolm's house in Catford I always think of it as Lewisham - have a look and see what part of South London it strikes you as:
The first thing you might notice, apart from my hairiness and bright t-shirt, is that my voice sounds like it's being piped in from miles away. The reason for this is that Malcolm had a MASSIVE PA system which everythig was being played in from, and he took the audio recording from that. The PA system was in the front room of the house with all the doors shut, so you could vaguely hear it outside but not much. I think the idea was that some people were in the front room GROOVING (NB bands supplying GROOVE were playing later) but there was also some idea that by shutting the doors it made everything louder without upsetting the neighbours too much. I didn't understand it at the time and I don't really now! I do remember it being a fun afternoon though - I have always enjoyed a back yard gig, especially when there is Performers' Beer provided, and I think there was a barbecue too.
This gig was near the start of my decade of constant gigging, around the point when I'd developed an "Uberset" of songs which I knew I could play anywhere and usually get a good reaction from the extremely varied types of crowds I was playing to - nowadays we would call this a set of "Guaranteed Bangers". The only "problem" I had with this was that these songs came from all over the place within my OUVRE, so when people asked to buy a CD at the end of the show (as they sometimes did) it was difficult to recommend something, and the recorded versions of the songs would be very different to those they'd just seen me do solo.
Thinking back, this was a nice problem to have, and what I should have done was just give away extra CDs or something. What I DID do however was record the entire set on the appropriately titled The Uberset album. I originally intended to record it totally live at this gig, which is why I mention it, but as you can see from the video I very quickly made far too many mistakes, probably due to being nervous about recording it, so gave up on that idea and just had a nice time instead, returning a few weeks later to record the actual album.
It was a lovely, if rather busy, time, though I wish I hadn't been quite so enthusiastic about pressing copies of this album - I've still got bloody loads of copies left!
Gigs Of The Past - Live At The Bull And Gate
Today's gig of the past was a GRATE one at The Bull & Gate on 29 January 2005 which we, especially ME, enjoyed a LOT, as you can probably tell from the rather excitable blog what I wrote the day after. As I said last time, these videos come from the brief time when we were on the "up", getting radio play and doing gigs regularly enough to generate an ongoing AUDIENCE - this one comes from 2005, a year in which I did 47 gigs with and without the Validators, and was the start of a HECTIC decade or so when I did over 50 gigs every YEAR!
The main thing I remembered about this gig was the fact that we'd bought a DVD of it - I played The Bull & Gate loads of times, and had previously had the lighting guy tell me he could do us a proper live video for 85 quid, which seemed a LOT. However, for this one we had an audience large enough for us to actually get PAID (possibly the only time this ever happened for these sort of Bull & Gate gigs) so went for it, and I'm very glad we did! Maybe the audience size was due to the fact that we made a FLYER?
It was a wonderful night, and it's brilliant to have a recording of us playing live where it doesn't sound as Crash Bang Wallop as it usually does - we sound pretty good! There's another Validators gig to come later, but before then I'm afraid you'll have to put up with a couple of solo gigs that sound somewhat lo-fi!
Gigs Of The Past - Back To Hull
The other day I was having a look through one of my Drawers Of CDs And DVDs, specifically one of the ones where I keep stuff related to me and The Validators. These are relics of a fairly specific window in time when recording stopped being tapes, videos and DATS, but before it all went properly digital and online, so the stuff in there includes various rough mixes of things we recorded in the 2000s, our Actual Radio One Session (it's got the logo on it and everything!), and a few DVDs of gigs. I've often thought I should probably DO something with the latter and, inspired by the recent work of Sorted Supremo Dave Dixey in putting some of HIS mighty archive online, I thought I'd have a go myself.
THUS I dug out my USB CD/DVD drive, which thankfully still worked, and after various attempts finally worked out how to transfer the contents of a DVD to something you could upload to YouTube. It was really hard to get it working, but once I'd got it sorted it was PEASY so I did THE LOT! That means that over the next couple of weeks I'll be SHARING them with you. As I say, they're all from a fairly narrow window of time, between 2004 and 2008, but there's some fun stuff in there.
It was a FANTASTIC night - according to the original blog about it there were 150 people there to see us, which seems entirely unfeasible now, and was quite amazing then too. Rather wonderfully this era of DVDs also covers our very brief POMP when we were on the radio a bit, so there are audiences! We even got an ENCORE - it's not included on the video, which is probably for the best as it featured me forcing The Validators to play "I Can See Clearly Now" despite us never ever having playing it before. It still comes up in setlist conversations as An Act Never To Be Repeated!
Next time we've got a gig that we enjoyed SO MUCH that we paid ACTUAL MONEY for the video recording!
On Saturday Mr FA Machine and I were booked to present our paper The Swingin' Sound Of Sixties Marvel at the Transitions Conference. This is a GRATE comics studies conference that I have attended and indeed PRESENTED at several times over the years, which focuses on Emerging Researcher i.e. generally people doing MAs or PhDs. It's always interesting so it was a HUGE shame that last year's version got cancelled due to The Current Situation, and thus also a DELIGHT when it was rescheduled as an online version this year.
I must admit I was really NERVOUS before our bit. As with the Ramones gig from a few weeks ago this was slightly DAFT as, again, the whole thing had been pre-recorded, so I knew full well that the presentation itself would be fine. I was more worried about the fact that Frankie and I were sandwiched between two papers that looked MUCH more "serious" than ours (i.e. were about Issues and not mostly two people singing). I always RAIL against people who think that something can't be Inportant AND Enjoyable, but it is something that is contained within mine own PSYCHE, as even though I KNEW that our presentation was entirely Academically VALID I was still worried that it might seem LIGHTWEIGHT. I was also hugely on INTERNAL ALERT about us being two Standard Middle-Aged White Men at a conference featuring a DIVERSE group of almost entirely much younger researchers. Again, I look ASKANCE at people who complain about Political Correctness and Wokeness, but there was still a part of me AFEARED that one or both of us would be CANCELLED!
Obviously this turned out to be as daft as it sounds, as the other presentations AND presenters were GRATE and EXTREMELY welcoming to two old twits with their singing. Riziki Millanzi gave a talk on the 'Angry Black Woman' stereotype in DC's "Far Sector" and Dina AlAwadhi talked about the "Occidental gaze" in the MCU, which made me want to a) read "Far Sector" IMMEDIATELY and b) watch all those films again. Brilliantly, once we got into the Q&A session it turned out that all of the other presenters AND the chair were MASSIVE COMICS FANS, and LO! there was a gleeful combination of ACTUAL PROPER ACADEMIC THORT and Getting Excited About GRATE COMICS. It was ace - there is definitely an older generation of Comics Types who actively try to be avoid being seen as FANS in case it makea them look Less Serious, so it is always lovely to see The Younger Generation of Comics Studies people not being worried about this AT ALL.
In amongst all of this delight there were many Serious THORTS proposed, with the chair and us four presenters even managing to find some THEMES that linked all the papers. The only shame of it was that we WEREN'T in the same room together in real life, and so the traditional WINE RECEPTION/NATTER was not available. Hopefully next year!
(PS I'm not sure if we're MEANT to UNLEASH our papers, but for now you can find ours on Vimeo!)
Twitching With Dredge
Yesterday evening I took part in an very jolly edition of The John Dredge Lo-Fi Show. This is a half hour of almost daily CHAT that John does over on Twitch, and he'd asked me on to have a CHAT and also to do a Fantastic Four quiz. I was DELIGHTED to do so, and had a lovely half an hour yacking away to him while gently forgetting that there might actually be people listening.
The QUIZ questions what I did were as follows:
1. Which one of these characters has never been a member of The Fantastic Four?
2. What BBC TV show was homaged in Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's classic "The Power And The Pride" storyline?
The Likely Lads
3. There have been four Fantastic Four movies, none of which have been fantastic. Which actor more famous now as another superhero played the Human Torch in two of them?
Michael Crawford - Condorman
Chris Evans - Captain America
Nicholas Hammond - Spider-man
Tobey Maguire - Spider-man
Chris Hemsworth - Thor
Graeme Garden - Bananaman
I realise now that I should have done FOUR questions and had FOUR possible answers for each one, but I was having too much fun coming up with the possibilities to stop. You can find out the answers by listening to John's show, where you'll also hear a TANTALISTING TEASE of me discussing a brand new song I've been writing about the AGILE Management Methodology. THRILLZ!!
I'd actually like to write a few more things like this, especially now that The PhD is reaching its final stages, with the current plan being to submit it in September. I'm especially conscious of the fact that there's a Fantastic Four film coming in a few years, and that in all likelihood Doctor Doom will be popping up somewhere before then, so I'd like my name to be there when MEDIA TYPES google "Doctor Doom expert" when they want someone to come on telly/the internet/whatever to explain it. I've been meaning to write some PITCHES for ages, but haven't quite got round to it yet, so if anybody happens to spot any of the aforesaid MEDIA TYPES stumbling around saying "But is Latveria a real country or not?" do please point them in my direction won't you?
One PRESTIGE MEDIA VENUE that I WILL be involving myself in is The Young Person's TWITCH thing, as I will be appearing on it later today as guest on John Dredge Lo-Fi Show. I have prepared a FANTASTIC FOUR QUIZ especially for the occasion, so fingers crossed WALT DISNEY is listening in!
Last month I was surprised and delighted to be told that volume one of the Sorted "Anthology"series had been UNLEASHED on an unsuspecting world via the wonders of digital music. I was even more surprised and delighted a couple of days ago to find that the "volume one" bit was NOT a joke, as volume TWO was similarly UNLEASHED on Spotify, Amazon and all other digital purveyors.
This one's called Cardboard Cutout Sundown and includes a bunch of yet MORE bands what I was involved with during the heady days of the mid-90s, including The K-Stars. This was an EXCELLENT band to be in for me as, for a change, I was Just The Bass Player, so all I had to do was turn up for gigs and practices while Mr M Jones organised everything. The K-Stars were very much a band of two halfs, being a bit rubbish to start with but then going into Archway Studios one day and, while I'd popped out for some chips, suddenly becoming GRATE!
There's also more from Voon, with the nearest we ever got to An Actual Single, a song by The Fabians that I don't think I play on, and then a whole bunch of other EXCELLENT stuff. I would particularly highlight the final track, the FPV version of "Shark Fishing In America" which was done by Dr N Brown, also of Voon. Neil's stuff is ALL OVER both of these albums, in LOADS of the bands, but I think this is the only one that is just HIM, and it is AMAZING!
It's lovely to have these tracks in the world again, and I hope there's going to be more. Whilst adding all of this info to the The Database Of ROCK I looked at what I'd written LONG ago about Every Pillow Is Tethered Like A Rock, a cassette companion to the Ashtray Heart CD which was only available by going into the Durham Ox and buying 10 different malt whiskies (there were cards that you got stamped!). According to my NOTES, the old Sorted website from 1997 said "The tape consists of 14 exclusive tracks, none of which will be re-issued until the Sorted Records 8CD "Hits and rarities" box set planned for the year 2010." Back then this seemed like a suitably ludicrous future date when something as unthinkable as a "hits and rarities" box set might be released - little did we know it would actually happen one day, but take eleven years longer than predicted!
The Swingin' Sound Of Sixties Marvel
Today I am ruddy DELIGHTED to announce the release of a new EP by myself and Mr FA Machine entitled "The Swingin' Sound Of Sixties Marvel". Look, here it is now!
As mentioned last time, this is a bunch of cover versions of supehero theme tunes which Frankie and I recorded for a presentation we're giving next week at the Transitions Conference. We'll be talking about how these songs encapsulate the way that Marvel comics worked back at the very start of The Marvel Age, including a couple of comparisons with other superhero theme tunes.
Songs For Superheroes
This Friday Mr FA Machine and I are releasing a brand new EP called "The Swingin' Sound Of Sixties Marvel"! It features eight cover versions of superhero theme tunes, mostly for Marvel superheroes but also a couple of others what we are using for COMPARISON, for LO! it is all part of ACADEMIC RESEARCH!
The story of the EP is THUS: way back in 2018 Frankie and I did a presentation in Brighton where we discussed a bunch of superhero theme tunes at the Graphic Brighton conference, illustrating our Excellent Points and Incisive remarks by performing the songs too. It was GRATE fun, and we discussed recording them at some point, but didn't get around to thinking about it again until a couple of years later when I saw the Call For Papers for the 2020 Transitions conference. As discussed previously, I have done presentations solo at this in the past, and thought it might be a good excuse for us to do the show again. Frankie said yes, the organisers said yes, and then... well, you know what happened then, EVERYTHING got cancelled!
However, several months later the conference organisers got in touch to say that they were RESCHEDULING, and that they'd be doing the conference ONLINE with pre-recorded presentations. This gave us the IDEAL excuse to finally record the songs, and so we spent several weeks sending WAVs between us, with Frankie providing pretty much all the music while I made everything more JAZZ with my daring re-interpretations of tune and harmony (hem hem).
Alongside the WAVs were also DOCs as we shaped the presentation itself, until one evening we sat down together on a ZOOM chat and recorded the whole thing. There then followed several more weeks of VIDOE EDITING as I got a little bit over-excited and made a HUGE EXTRAVAGANZA of video effects, bringing together the talk, the songs, and all manner of illustrations.
You can watch the talk for yourself when it's shown as part of the conference next week - registration is FREE if you fancy it and, as you can see from the Conference Programme, there is a TONNE of interesting Comics Studies-type stuff going on.
The accompanying EP is out THIS week to coincide with Bandcamp Fees Free Friday, so prepare yourself for an onslaught of Me Going On About It, for LO! I think it is RATHER GOOD!
I did a gig last night! Sort of!
The gig was "A Tribute To Joey Ramone" for his 70th Birthday, organised by Spoook in aid of OCD and Lymphoma charities. Mr J McMahon contacted me about it a few weeks ago, asking if I fancied doing a cover of a Ramones song for this gig he was putting on, and I agreed thinking it would be a small-scale affair, and then became increasingly ALARMED as more and more Proper Names were added to the list. It was TERRIFYING - there were a LOT of people I had HEARD of doing it, and also me!
Adding to my fear were the twin totems of terror 1) this would be a show with an AUDIENCE who had come to see some of the aforesaid Well Known Peoples and 2) it would involve cover versions. Proper Gigs and Cover Versions are two arenas in which I have an UNENVIABLE track record for Disastrously Misinterpreting The Situation. MANY times over the years when faced with one or other of these I have thought "AHA! I have a GRATE idea about how I can do something AMAZING for this which everyone will LOVE" only to realise, generally within 0.2 seconds of starting the show OR sending off the cover version that this is not going to be the case.
Of course, the realisation of all of this only came to me AFTER I had spent two weeks practicing my song, recorded it, and sent it off (SENSIBLY it was being done as a series of pre-recorded segments, not LIVE). As soon as I did so I thought "Hang on, if this is a show for people who like the Ramones, maybe they WON'T appreciate the un-Ramones-ish way I have done it, and possibly also will not be keen on my doing it as a MEDLEY with the also un-Ramones-ish song that inspired it. OH DEAR."
Happily James The Organiser said he was into it, which was a relief, but still THE FEAR rose in me, such that when it came to about four hours before SHOWTIME yesterday afternoon I was filled with the kind of DREAD that I only usually get before one of those Proper Gigs I mentioned earlier. It was WEIRD. I was very much in my own kitchen making a cup of tea, but I FELT like I was standing next to 17 stand-up comedians and a member of Carter stage-side at The Bloomsbury Theatre (or nearest equivalent) desperately trying to remember the words to "Hey Hey 16K".
The gig started and, of course, it was LOVELY. Loads of GRATE people (including some PALS) doing GRATE versions of these songs, pouring love and care into it for a good cause. It was an amazing thing to watch, and an incredible feat of organisation - there were TONNES of people involved, 90 minutes of ROCK all together, all doing one song each, and a very high proportion of them made me go "COR! It's THEM!" In fact, why don't you have a look for yourself?
My bit came and went without DISASTER, and in fact featured some further lovely people saying nice things, which was a HUGE relief. It was, all in all, a rather WONDERFUL thing to be part of, which also raised some proper actual CA$H - indeed, if you do watch the above please do consider donating to one of the charities mentioned in the YouTube notes. I was hugely grateful to be involved, and even though it was SCARY it was also EXCITING to get that ACTUAL GIG feeling again. GIGS! They are ACE!
Aches And Pains Aftermath
After posting my blog about getting the JAB last week something lovely happened. Not in terms of general health - if anything I felt grottier throughout the day - but in terms of COMMUNICATIONS, for LO! loads of people started TALKING to me about THEIR experience and symptoms. It was really, really, really nice, not just because of the ensuing sympathy but also because it felt like we were going through something together.
It was especially nice because a huge amount of the CHAT was with gentleman from within my own AGE COHORT, as it was our turn to get DONE. On Whatsapp, on twitter, on Facebook and on ye olde emails I found myself discussing health issues with hordes of PALS in a way entirely unfamiliar to me. Men of my generation grew up as NEW MEN and all that, but we're still not particularly open with each other in the way perhaps we should be, so it was most unusual to have this sudden outpouring of SHARING and, dare I say, CARING for each other in this way. It was a beautiful and genuinely MOVING thing!
It ALSO presented itself as a HARBINGER of what Facebook (or the Futuristic BRANE Hologram equivalent thereof) will be like in about 30 years, when the aforesaid cohort are very much in the throes of Aches And Pains, at which point I'm sure this will be a daily experience!
I got a text on Tuesday evening from my GP surgery, offering me my COVID jab. I was VERY excited that it was my turn, and wondered when I might be able to go along. I assumed it would be WEEKS away, but when I went into the app it said the next available appointment was in about an hour! I wasn't quite ready for that, so instead I booked myself an appointment for the following lunchtime.
I had a work meeting in the morning, featuring several people discussing the side effects they'd had - I hadn't heard much about this previously, but suddenly Facebook was full of it as my whole AGE COHORT started to go through the system. I was thus slightly trepidatious when I set off, but was then WHISKED along in a delightful cavalcade of Things Working. When I got to the surgey there was a volunteer outside pointing out the side door to go in, and once inside there were signs EVERYWHERE telling you where to go. When I reached the main clinic area there were more very jolly volunteers, more signs, and arrows and markings on the floor made of coloured tape - somebody had obviously gotten really INTO doing this, as it was everywhere!
I registered, got my card (Astro Zeneca) then joined a short, socially distanced queue that was extravagantly marked out with tape. While in this queue I got a message on The Validators' Whatsapp group from Tim saying that people our age could now just book online without waiting for an appointment, so I was able to gleefully respond with a picture of my ticket!
The queue lasted about five minutes and then I was sat with a very nice GP who kept trying to explain things and stop me from taking off my jumper too soon. Once we'd cleared all the formalities she stuck the needle in my arm. "Relax!" she said, as the POINTY METAL entered THE TEMPLE OF MY BODY, but I did my best and after a while it was DONE. My jumper was back on and I was heading out.
As I left I felt a SURGE of emotion - pleased to have got it done, PROUD that the NHS was clearly doing such a good job, and also weirdly PATRIOTIC in a way that I'd not been since, well, The Olympics I think. I think it was due to looking around at all the different people who were working there, or queueing up politely to get done. There was no fuss or bother, just British people of all shapes and sizes RUBBING ALONG in a collective effort. It was brilliant!
Ten hours later I was feeling quite pleased with myself, as the much discussed SIDE EFFECTS had not arrived. I went to bed but sadly I was chuffed TOO SOON, as I woke up at just before 4am with a POUNDING headache, ACHES, and EXTREME heat. It was like having a BIT of flu, but not all of it - it felt like a really bad FEVER, with the BRANE THROBBING that goes with it, but WITHOUT any shakes or sudden lurches into being horribly cold. Similarly, my throat and nose were completely fine. It was MOST ODD, also MOST ANNOYING as I lay there until about 7am feeling ROTTEN. Eventually I DID go back to sleep, but only for a little bit, and thus feel WASHED OUT to the MAX today.
I think what I am basically saying here is that a) I done my civic duty b) I suffered for it and am therefore c) a RUDDY HERO. I would ask for a medal, but they gave me a STICKER in the clinic (I had to ASK for one but it still counts) so I think that'll have to do!
Hey Ho Let's Go (and do a GIG)
I've got a GIG! It's the first one I'll have done for about TEN MONTHS (not including my unexpected CAMEO at Gav's Brighton gig in September) and I am Quite Excited.
It's a ZOOM gig featuring a whole host of different people doing Ramones songs, in aid of OCD and Lymphoma reseaarch charities, and when it was first offered to me I thought "That sounds like a lovely idea," and set to sorting out a song to do. A couple of days later i saw a poster advertising who else was doing it and ... crikey!
CRUMBS! That is a LOT of people who I have heard of! This made me Quite Nervous, not least because there is ALSO a Tim's Twitter Listening Party leading up to it. Having not done a gig for AGES this feels quite a big step back into The Fray, so I have redoubled my Daily Practice Sessions in the hope that by the end of the month I'll be able to get through it in one go without forgetting too much. You can find out how I get on by buying a ticket, which will also entitle you to see the multitude of OTHER people probably making a much better job of it!
The Sorted Scene
I spent a happy half hour yesterday doing some updates to The Database Of ROCK which runs this whole here website, updating a gig from over A QUARTER OF A CENTURY ago, as well as adding a compilation album that came out this week.
The gig was one that The Council played at The Physio & Firkin back in 1996, and I found out about it because a POSTER appeared on Twitter. When I first set up this website I tried to get as much Historical Data as I could from old diaries and what few old posters I have left, but this was a poster I hadn't seen since I left my flat in Leicester and chucked loads of them away, so it was lovely to be able to fill that gap in.
The poster was posted as part of the reaction to the ALBUM what I mentioned earlier, for LO! Sorted Supremo Dave Dixey has just UNLEASED Tarotplane Kandy Korn: The Sorted Records Anthology, Vol. 1, a collection of twenty top tracks from the halcyon days of what nobody is calling (though they should) THE SORTED SCENE of the mid-90s in Leicester. I've been listening to it on Spotify and it has been a DELIGHT to hear some of these songs again, not having heard some of them since they were last played in The Durham Ox. It includes THREE tracks involving me, "Last Notes on a Late Story" by The Fabians (Jimmy from the Bobby McGee's band before that one), "Pilchards of Death" by Voon and Mind The Death by The Council. It's notable that ALL of those three songs have someone who isn't me doing the lead vocals, and I must say this was a WISE DECISION. They all sound pretty amazing, especially "Mind The Death" which sounded just as exciting to me NOW as it did when I first got the TAPE of it from the studio and lay in bed listening to it on my headphones.
My pleasure at the lack of my singing was based on my other nostalgic experience this week, watching some of the VIDEOS that Dave has been uploading to the Sorted Records YouTube account. I pop up in a few of them, and it is DEEPLY WEIRD to see me in my 20s, gawking around looking entirely uncomfortable in myself, especially during gigs when I am CLEARLY trying to EITHER copy Neil (who, in direct contrast, is INCREDIBLY COOL in ALL the videos) OR some vague idea of what I thought Punk Rock might be, and coming across as a RIGHT WALLY. The worst culprit is the version of me performing in The Council, where I not only put on an "Angry Punk Rock" voice, but also play OPEN STRINGS as much as possible because I Thought It Looked Cool. Reader, it did not.
It's great fun to SEE all this stuff though, and I have high hopes of Dave adding some more. There must be something in the AIR, as an article about The Durham Ox Singers (written by me, but still) also appeared in the most recent issue of The Teatles Book. All it needs is one more thing and we can call it a MOVEMENT. Come on, The Melody Maker, stick The Non-Writters on the cover!
Every time I write a blog these days I feel I have to start it off by saying how LONG it's been since I last did one! As ever, the reason for that is not that nothing's been happening, but rather nothing's happened that would necessarily be of interest to you, dear reader. As you may be aware, I have a FABULOUSLY low threshold for what people might finf interesting about ME, so you may judge this as you wish!
However, I DO have something to tell you today, and that is that there is a NEW ALBUM out with some material by ME in it. It's called Blank Canvas, and it's been released as a fund-raised for The Retro Computing Museum, which has been struggling due to having to stay closed for all this time. My contribution is two brand new ACOUSTCIAL versions of relevant songs i.e. Hey Hey 16K and Programming Is A Poetry For Our Time what I recorded especially for this, and there's a whole heap of other people, including our pals The British IBM and Chris Abbott. There's three whole CDs of stuff, i fact, and if you're into the Retro Computing scene it is a right Glittering Array of big names!
That's the news for today, but there is - honest! - other stuff on the way. Myself and Frankie Machine have been working on a project that should be seeing the light of day soon, Jane And John have things in the pipeline, and you never know, I might one day have something to tell you about my endevours in the world of LITERATURE!
Write The Theme Tune
Last month I got a lovely message from Mr N Hutchings of Velvet Sheep, asking about Jane and John and informing me that he was starting a new radio show on The Neon Hospice. Velvet Sheep started off as a fanzine but I first knew of it as a GIG NIGHT what I played at, at the Whitechapel Gallery many moons ago, but since then I've done a few articles for his "Song For Ewe" feature, recommending tracks by other artistes that I thought were GRATE.
He wasn't offering gigs this time, obviously, nor asking for recommendations, but he WAS asking for a JINGLE for his radio show. I put this proposal to The Brief For My Campaign and she very rapidly came up with a TUNE and WORDS which we then crafted into the RATHER EXCELLENT theme tune that you can hear right at the start of the first episode, HERE:
It sounds DEAD GOOD if I do say so meself as shouldn't, and there's a whole HEAP of good stuff in the rest of the show, including but not limited to Our Year. Have a listen!
Family Wedding 2021
I would like to begin today with a formal apology to all of those who turned on "The Jools Holland New Year Hootenanny Programme" (or whatever it's called) at the end of 2020 expecting to see me performing on it. If you then turned over to BBC1 on the understanding that I must have been commissioned to do one of those concerts from Broadcasting house and were further disappointed, or indeed looked on any of the other channels to see whatever it is they do on New Year's Eve and been dismayed at the complete lack of Hibbett or Hibbet-adjacent music, I can only say that the situation was as bemusing to me as it surely was to you.
For LO! like Prince with "1999" and Pulp with "Disco 2000" I have a song from many years ago which has THIS year in the title, and so I was under the impression that it is THE LAW that such things should be played all over radio and telly as soon as it BECOMES that year? Admittedly, Family Wedding 2021 is not as much of a DISCO BANGER as those two songs, but then one might argue that this particular year requires a bit more INTROSPECTION instead. Have a listen for yourself and see what you think.
The song was originally written in 1997 (nearly TWENTY FOUR years ago!!) for my cassette A Church Hall Of Sound, re-recorded in the Space-Year 2000 for the EP A Church Hall Of Sound (revisited), and finally plonked onto the compilation Warriors Of Nanpantan in 2005. According to The Database Of ROCK I haven't ever played it at a gig, at least not since the database itself was inaugrated (although I know I DID when the EP came out), but there have been various PLANS to over the years. The first time we played in DRESDEN someone requested it, so we resolved to LEARN it for when we returned but... um... forgot, and it's always on my Big List when I think "what old songs should I have another go at?" If we ever get to do gigs again this year I solemnly pledge to do it!
The LYRICS are about me imagining what life would be like in the futuristic era of 2021, and now that we're actually IN that space-time zone I thought I'd have a look and see how my predictive skills worked out. There's nothing about current affairs or world politics - which was a wise choice as I doubt ANYBODY would have been able to predict The Current Situation in all its myriad forms of nonsense back then - instead it focuses on the NIGHTMARE SCENARIO of things remaining pretty much the same for me. I'm glad to say that pretty much NOTHING of it worked out!
Sadly this means that, though I AM, I would suggest, a CUDDLY FUN-PACKED UNCLE (please check with any nephews or nieces of mine you have to hand) there do not appear to be any family weddings booked this year at which I can dance to late eighties hits. That is not really mine or my family's fault though, there are not currently many family weddings at ALL going on!
In the song's APOCALYPTIC VISION the future version of me buys me of 1997 a drink (which I would happily do - also some more clothes, a functioning washing machine, and instructions on how to use it) and tells him to stop messing around with time travel and generally BE NICER so he doesn't end up a lonely old git. 1997-me then has a bit of an old dance before returning to his own time to... well, have a bit of an old dance again. UNUSUALLY for my songs it's not clear what THE MORAL of the story is, but looking back now I think I kind of DID try to be a bit nicer after the song was written. I certainly extended my RANGE of SOCIABILITY anyway, getting out and about meeting DELIGHTFUL people rather than sitting in the same pubs moaning about it with the small group of LOVELY PALS I did have back then. Getting out and about led to me having all SORTS of adventures with all manner of GRATE people, and within a few years it led to the glamorous lifestyle in That London what I have now. So maybe, in a SPOOKY kind of way, there really was a bit of FUTURE ME in the song, advising that drunken twit in his 20s to get out and about and MEET people a bit more. It is THE POWER OF ROCK!
The only problem now is, do I write a song about 2045? I think maybe I'll wait a bit to see how the present day pans out before launching into that one!
Words To Lose In 2021
Sometime around the end of the year we usually find out that The Dictionary People have added some special new words for their next editions to reflect the way the language has developed. I'm not quite sure why this is always such big news - adding new words is pretty much the entire point of a dictionary, and it's not like there's a big news story every year saying that a MAP has added some new streets - so I thought I'd instead suggest some words we can start getting RID of next year.
The first of these words is "TRUMP" as in "DONALD". GOOD LORD how I long for January 20th when he STOPS being President and we can finally all know the blessed relief of NOT waking up every morning wondering what world-endangering idiocy he's dreamt up to get our attention that day. I mean, I know there doubtless still WILL be idiocy every day from him, for LO! such is the way of idiots, but at least it won't be gently nudging us towards the APOCALYPSE quite so much.
Similary I very much look forward to the word "BREXIT" not being in the vocabulary so much. I found myself surprisingly RELIEVED on Christmas Eve when the "deal" finally got agreed - not because it is a GOOD deal, as it manifestly is NOT, especially compared to the ACTUAL deal we had as part of the EU and not even compared to the lies that our own idiocracy are trying to put around, but it did at least mean I could stop worrying about the entire country grinding to a miserable lettuce-free halt quite so quickly. In the couple of weeks or so since then I have found myself MUSING upon STOCKPILING and thinking "Oh hang on, we don't need to do that now", which has been LOVELY.
"Stockpiling" is another one - not that I have ever stockpiled of course, I have MADE PREPARATIONS. Other people have stockpiled, and we've all done it because of those idiots PANIC BUYING. These are three ENTIRELY different things, and hopefully we won't need to worry about them QUITE so much in 2021.
We don't seem to be losing the words "LOCKDOWN" or "COVID" just yet, but OH MY LORD I hope we do by the end of the year - sorry, I mean by mid-February, or Easter, or whenever it's supposed to be now (I haven't checked the news in half an hour so it's probably changed). With any luck we'll all be saying "VACCINE" a lot more, but if that works (and the aforementioned idiots don't mess up the rollout process - possibly a forlorn hope) then we can start getting back to... well, not "normal", I sincerely hope we get some CHANGE out of all of this, so let's instead say we can get back to THE PUB.
And finally, I hope we lose the words "BORIS" and "JOHNSON" this year, and that The Tories do the one and only thing they're actually good for i.e. getting rid of Tory Prime Ministers. I'm sure the next idiot to come along will be just as bad, but it will at least mean we'll have less torturously stupid bloody METAPPHORS to wade through. I flipping LOVE metaphors, but the way he manhandles them makes me want to stick to plain English.
In summary then, I'm sure that the coming year will be full of wobbles, weirdness and problems so far unforseen, but I do hope that most of the ABOVE will come to be a thing of the past by this time next year. If it turns out that Donald Trump is STILL President in 2022, and we're all stockpiling because Covid meant we had to DE-and then RE-Brexit under Prime Minister for Life Johnson, then I will take it all back!
From A European Viewpoint
A few months ago Mr Marcel Plaum contacted me on behalf of the Cologne PopFest to ask if I'd be able to contribute some sort of PRIZE for their fundraising raffle, to cover costs incurred by it not being able to go ahead this year. I had a bit of a THORT and considered the usual options (i.e. any number of CDs from the Unsold CD Mountain in my cupboard) and realised that anybody who would LIKE one of our CDs probably already HAS them by now. Thus I came up with a plan to offer something UNIQUE: me writing a new song!
I realise that a) me writing a new song isn't really UNIQUE and, more importantly, b) that this is possibly even LESS likely to be something that most people would actually WANT to happen to them, but if nothing else it would at least save everyone the trouble of navigating the postal system. With all that in mind I was DELIGHTED when, a few weeks ago, I got an email from the WINNER, Mr S Dietrich, who was actually PLEASED to have won it. PHEW! What are the chances?
We had an email discussion around what the song could be about, and he suggested that I could write a song about the UK leaving the EU which he could use for an upcoming edition of his radio show Emma's Housemates on Indie Lounge Radio. This sounded like a VERY good idea, with the only difficulty for me being that he wanted a "non-bitter" tune from the European point of view. I'm happy to write from the European point of view because as far as I'm concerned I AM European, but being non-bitter about Brexit is a bit harder!
It was a challenge but I think what we eventally came up - Goodbye To Great Britain - turned out pretty well, and I recorded a version of it featuring my new found MAD MIDI SKILLZ. Stephan suggested that I put it on BANDCAMP ready for when his show went out, and so I DID!
The cover image is (I think) Charles Fox departing somewhere or other, from an eighteenth century political cartoon what I found on the (EXCELLENT) Open Access At The Met site. These Open Access sites are GRATE!.
Stephan played it on last night's show (which should be available on his Mixcloud soon) so I think that means I'm now free to show off about it. I'm really happy with how this all worked out - it was a GRATE bonus bit of songwriting to finish off the year of ROCK with, so I hope you like it!
Let the bells peal and the children sing, for LO! today is that most joyous day in the ROCK and/or POP calendar: RELEASE DAY!
The release in question is the debut single by Jane and John i.e. the band what The Keys On My Keyboard and I formed during LOCKDOWN. It's called 'Our Year' and it's available on our bandcamp page, on Spotify, and indeed ALL major streaming services. There's also a rather natty VIDEO too which you can see below:
We wrote the song during the first lockdown, so it's VERY exciting for it to be actually out in the world at last. I personally am ESPECIALLY keen on people FINALY getting to see the video, as it took me flipping AGES to make and I think it is Quite Good. I hope you agree!
Is It Too Soon For Christmas?
I am absolutely flipping DELIGHTED to say that A Very Cherry Christmas EP 2020 is out RIGHT NOW on bandcamp for you to stream and, hopefully, PURCHASE. Look, here is is!
As hinted a couple of weeks ago, this features a song by Jane and John, the new band that I joined during lockdown. It's called Is It Too Soon For Christmas? and, as you will hear above, the overall sound is SOMEWHAT DIFFERENT to things I've previously been involved in, but I do believe that it has one common element: it is GRATE!
All proceeds are going go to the Music Venue Trust to help struggling grass roots live music venues, and today is BANDCAMP FRIDAT which means that if you buy it today then ALL the money will go directly to MVT without the usual fees. I have just been listening to the full EP and can confirm it is RIGHT CHRISTMASSY and also ACE, so I would recommend you do so IMMEDIATELY!
The Advent Of Advent
In previous years it's seemed mildly controversial to say that Christmas Actual begins on the first of December. You always get someone who'll claim (incorrectly) that this is somehow WRONG and the "right" way to celebrate Christmas is to spend as little time doing it as you can, and that it is also ALL RIGHT to criticise people who would like to get as much Christmas in as possible.
THIS year, however, these voices appear to have been QUELLED as an exhausted nation says, almost as one, "SOD IT. IT IS CHRISTMAS" and I for one join in the chorus of Christmas, for LO! IT IS CHRISTMAS AT LAST! HOORAH!
With this in mind there are certain traditions that need to be observed, such as putting on The Bob Dylan Christmas Album and, most pertinently today, following the progress of The Joyzine Advent Calendar. This is a MARVELLOUS institution which we have been a part of in one way or another MANY times over the years, and this year is no exception - INDEED you can download a brand new song by ME on it TODAY!
The song is called At Least It's Christmas and it was written WAY back in July (which is why a couple of the references are out of date!) with the idea that The Validators would be able to get together at some point to record it. ALAS, for obvious reasons, that didn't happen, so I ended up doing it all by myself. As you'll hear, a by-product of this was that there is now a definitive answer to the question "What did you do during Lockdown Mark?" It is this: "I finally learned how to use MIDI!"
It's also the start of a last minute RUSH of 2020 music coming from round here, with TWO songs from Jane and John and another solo song heading your way before the year is out. Stand by for more details as they become available, but in the meantime please allow me to say, from the very depths of my heart, MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Yesterday we DROPPED (it means "released for public consumption" - get with it, Grandad) the cover for the Jane and John single "Our Year" which, as I previously mentioned, will be out on Monday 14 December. It looks like THIS:
I flipping LOVE this image, which was found on Smithsonian Open Access, a rather wonderful repository of royalty free art which the museum recently DROPPED (see above). It is FULL of images from their collection that they've made available for any purpose, which is rather nice of them. I do like The Smithsonian, especially their magazine, as pretty much every day they tweet a story about something FASCINATING. It's sort of like National Geographic, but not boring.
We had a couple of goes at the artwork for the single before we settled on this image. The Canvas In My Frame had lots of ideas about how it could look, and we tried various ways to CAPTURE these THORTS without getting it quite right - it's always difficult putting ARTWORK together when a) you're not just using a photograph of yourselves and b) you can't really draw something from scratch, so I was DELIGHTED to discover that Smithsonian were running this service, and when I found the original painting that our image was taken from I was ENAMOURED straight away.
I copied the painting, cropped it, stuck it underneath the text which The Paint In My Pot had already suggested, and showed it to aforesaid who was similarly ENAMOURED. There's something about the pair of them that makes you think they look like fun. They appear to actually like each other, and I can imagine sitting opposite them at a boring WORK DO or something, and ending up nipping out to another pub with them for the rest of the night.
According to The Smithsonian's information nobody knows who painted the picture, or who the couple are. They know they're American and it's from between 1865 and 1885, but that's about it. In some ways this is a relief - without any other info to go on, I'm free to just imagine them being a lovely couple to go out for a curry with.
In fact, the only problem is that I've no way of finding out if there were ever any other pictures of them - if there were they'd be prime candidates for the next single!