Friday, 27 February 2009

Gutterpressville, Arizona

Many years ago, in the dim and distant early '90s, there was a duo of south London lads named Fruitbat and Jim Bob who went by the collective name of Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine (nifty name, eh).

Before Blur and Oasis there was Carter. They were a breath of fresh air at the time with the driving guitar, the thick layers of sound and the intelligent and humorous lyrics. I liked that they sang about New Cross and Tulse Hill, slum landlords and army racism - there was a brain behind the words and that brain also devised incredible songs. I got the lads' double 'best of' in 2007 and spin it every now and then when I want some loudness.

I had '1992: The Love Album' on cassette back then and played it endlessly on my walkman on the way to and from work. It's on Amazon for £3.99 at the moment so I indulged and bought it. It sounds just as good today as it did back then. 'Suppose You Gave A Funeral And Nobody Came' is one of their classic songs that I've missed hearing over the intervening years. Good on ya!

And they're getting back together to play a couple of dates - all sold out I think (as usual). They're playing two albums at The Forum and two others at Brixton. Unfortunately, '1992' is being played at The Forum, one of my least favourite venues - if it had been at Brixton then I'd definitely have tried for tickets. Carter USM make me happy. Live, I'm sure I'd be extra happy! Have fun, lads!

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Big Red Bag

I did a silly thing today. I tried to get off the tube train this morning. Yup, that's a silly and a dangerous thing to do. A surprisingly busy Northern Line this morning meant more people than normal at the time I travel and some fool plonked his big, red holdall in just the right place to block the corridor, resulting in people having to step over it to get off the train. That's no big deal, really, but it is when your foot catches the loose straps and it threatens to trip you up. A stumble and a recovery is all it takes to remind me of my slipped disc. And it did.

Ouch. I felt it instantly from the sudden movement and, despite taking pain killers throughout the day, I can still feel it. I'm hoping that it's a one-day thing, an annoyance, and will be gone when I wake up tomorrow. I'm hoping I haven't done any damage. I'm also reminded that I need to be careful - anything can set it off again and I'd like to think that three operations for it are enough. I don't really want a fourth. Really.

Update 27 February: I'm still here... Phew.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

The Madness Of Lene Lovich

Over the weekend I re-discovered the madness of Lene Lovich in all her glory. I saw Lene play live 30 years ago on the Be Stiff Tour and bought her singles and first album 'Stateless' on picture vinyl. She was an alien from some Slavik hinterland (in reality, born in Detroit and grew up in Hull) with masses of hair and a shrieking, birdlike voice and pounded out some fabulous tunes just right for the post-punk new wave and the birth of goth. She had a few hits, released a few albums and then dropped from sight - or at least from my sight.

I've always had a soft spot for Lene and got her 'best of' when it was released on CD. I play it on my iPod when the mood falls on me and sing along to classics like 'Home' ('Home is where the heart is ... let's go to your place'), 'Say When', 'Lucky Number' and 'I Think We're Alone Now'.

Somehow I came across a reference to Lene during an aimless browse at the weekend and realised she'd released a new album after being quiet for a decade or so. I had to know more. It's not a new album, so much as her latest album - its from 2005 and seems to only be available from the lovely CD Baby. And from iTunes (Amazon, eat your heart out for now having Lene!).

'Shadows And Dust' has ten tracks of pounding electronica, densely packed with layers of sound and Lene's unique voice and words on top. The first song, 'Craze' opens with her almost sounding like a relaxed Siouxsie before she explodes in sound and the Lene of old is right there swooping up and down the scale again. Songs like 'Remember', 'Sanctuary', 'Gothica' and the mad 'The Wicked Witch' all have that old magic. Marvellous stuff!

It made me hunt out some other, older tracks, on iTunes and have a Lene download frenzy (all quickly burned to CD after last week's problems). I've now discovered some more gems to add to the collection.

I saw Lene in November 2006 and, in fact, walked within a few feet of her having no idea who she was (to my shame). She sang 'Delilah' with The Dresden Dolls at their Roundhouse show that was filmed for DVD.

Wouldn't it be fun to have a Lene celebration show to celebrate 30 years of 'Stateless'?

Monday, 23 February 2009

CD Baby Messiness

I *love* CD Baby. It virtually orgasms every time you have the temerity to buy a CD from it. It sends you messages saying things like 'CD Baby Loves Owen' and, y'know, I *believe*.

I ordered two records from CD Baby today and received the following message:


Your CDs have been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.

A team of 50 employees inspected your CDs and polished them to make sure they were in the best possible condition before mailing.

Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CDs into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.

We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved "Bon Voyage!" to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, Sunday, February 22nd.

I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did. Your picture is on our wall as "Customer of the Year." We're all exhausted but can't wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!


CD Baby


Why don't Amazon love me like that? CD Baby can seduce me anytime!

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Did I Go Waaah?

I most certainly did not go waaah. I was brave and decided to soldier on in my own quiet way.

My iTunes library crashed for some strange reason the other night. One minute I had about 19500 songs and the next I had a mere 4000 and all my playlists and purchasing history had gone. After some harsh language and gnashing of teeth I searched for the files and imported them back into iTunes. Phew. It took an age but they were there. Or, at least, around 19000 were there.

So I hunted for other stashes of music files, downloaded from other sites and from music blogs and added another few hundred. A lot of these are duplicate files since, if I like the music, I buy the CD or the full download later. But, because I lost my playlists, I also lost the playlists that were waiting to be burned to CD, random songs I keep together for future burning. But I haven't burned anything since well before Christmas (even the sacred Poly Styrene Christmas single hasn't been burned yet). So this weekend I've been slowly going through loads of music files to decide whether I've already got hard copy or will need to burn them. It's a slow business.

This morning I burned another eight CDs worth of albums downloaded from iTunes or Amazon over the last few months. Then printed covers and track listing only to realise I've run out of cases. A trip to WH Smith sorted that, but why do empty CD cases cost £5.99 for 10 when a pack of 10 cases with blank CDs costs £4.99? I'm dumbfounded by the sales logic of this.

So. More burning is needed as I sort through files and decide which songs I don't have in hard copy. And then, I need to back up the whole library. I have an external hard drive but haven't backed it up since last summer. Silly me.

Hear my words of wisdom - back up now!

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Art Brut - 'Art Brut vs Satan'

A little slice of punky-pop, jump around happiness is due on 20 April in the round shape of the new Art Brut album. I found Art Brut and the charming madness of Eddie Argos when they supported Maximo Park at Shepherd's Bush a couple of years ago and have watched them with interest - and, of course, enjoyed their two previous albums. A new album is a good thing.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Alela Diane - 'To Be Still'

I finally got Alela's new album, 'To Be Still', and very good it is too. It's full of gentle, thoughtful songs, poetry woven into magic with Alela's lovely voice. About half of the songs have been around for a while in acoustic form but these have a fuller, mature sound, backed by her small band.

Alela's first album, 'The Pirate's Gospel' was acoustic and 'To Be Still' has the same qualities but with more instruments, mainly drums and slide guitar that fill the gaps inbetween Alela's lovely voice. When she sings, it's her voice and her words that I listen to.

One of my favourite tracks is 'White As Diamonds' and you can hear it in the video below. Give her a listen and then try some more tracks.

Who Killed Amanda Palmer Songbook

Amanda's songbook to accompany 'Who Killed Amanda Palmer' is now available. It includes the sheet music to all the songs along with photos and tales of the songs. I *want* one. It only seems to be available through at the moment but I don't mind waiting for it to be delivered from America - I didn't get any merch at Amanda's last gig so this will be my contribution to her war-chest.

The Niel Gaiman book with photos of Amanda dead all over the place will be published in May so watch this space for more juicy details or sign up for Amanda's blog.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Marianne Faithfull at St Lukes

Tonight was the concert by Marianne Faithfull that I won tickets for last week. It was at the former St Lukes church at Old Street, an old church decked out as a live studio for a BBC programme to be shown later in the year. We were encouraged to get there early to secure seats although the cynic in me assumes that was really just to ensure a full house at start time rather than having stragglers wandering in.

We got there at about 6.10pm with doors opening at 6.30pm, so we were near the front of the queue. 6.30pm came and went and there was no movement, then some BBC people started appearing asking who was on the guestlist - it seems like there were several different guestlists and others were ushered into a separate queue to be let in so slowly a snail would speed past. There were so many in the 'record company and press' guestlist queue that I began to wonder whether we'd even get in. Then suddenly, our queue started moving and we were ushered into the balcony, a mere 45 minutes after opening time. This was the most shambolic affair and the BBC should be ashamed of itself - if that's the best it can do to organise something away from its main studios then it should hand back the licence fee.

But then on came Marianne and the world was all right again. She's looking very healthy and slimmer than the last time I saw her, in a smart trouser suit and bow tie, all blonde and lovely and, for some reason, quite nervous. She was backed by a band of eleven so there was a full sound but it ocassionally swamped Marianne's voice although I assume technical wizardry will correct this for the broadcast.

Marianne opened with 'Times Square' and then went on to showcase about six songs from her album due out in a few weeks time. She then played some old favourites interspersed with a few songs from the album. The new songs sound good, a nice mix of styles and all with Marianne's unmistakeable voice overlayed on top and adding texture.

Old favourites included 'Broken English' and a tender version of 'The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan', 'Crazy Love', 'Sister Morphine', 'As Tears Go By' and a raucous 'Why'd You Do It' with bile and jealousy spilling all over the stage. She was on top form! She came back on to re-record a couple of songs that hadn't gone quite right but I won't spoil the broadcast show by saying which songs. We stayed till the end, of course, when Marianne just walked across to hug and sit down with family at their tables, chatting and smiling and, at last, relaxing.

I'm not sure when the show will be broadcast, but I'd urge you to watch it. And buy the new album, of course, it sounds excellent.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Old, Infirm, Doddering and Bland

I failed to mention, Dear Reader, that I had last week off work. Why? Because I wanted to, of course. Other than two evening trips to the theatre, I did nothing. And I mean nothing. I didn't clean the flat, I didn't burn all the tracks in my iTunes library to CD, I didn't go shopping and I didn't even read my autobiography of Ray Davies. Going back to work today, I thought I'd just wasted the week and then I recall how tired and weary I was the week before - perhaps it just takes me longer to recover from being knackered than it used to?

So, other than that, what is my big news?

Alela Diane's new album, 'To Be Still' seems to be doing well since there were no copies of it for sale in the HMV shop at Victoria Station this evening. It's a very small shop and it probably only had a few copies but that's a good sign. So I'll traipse up to Oxford Street tomorrow to get it (it's available for download but I want hard copy, thank you).

No, that's not it, there was something else... what could it be? O yes, I'm OLD. It's official.

My annual travelcard expired last week. That's the magic card that allows me to use buses, tubes and overground trains anywhere around London, or at least in the inner three zones. I use it without thinking the year round and then, suddenly, it expires. I never forward-plan replacing it - it comes as a shock every year.

I dusted off my pay-as-you-go Oyster card so I could get to work this morning meaning to re-new by travelcard this evening - I even stayed late at work to avoid the queues at the ticket office at Victoria Station. When I presented my photocard to link my details with a new card the problems struck. I don't really look like the photo any more. I haven't done for years but whenever I've asked whether I need to replace it I've been told 'no'. Apparently some "new rules" were circulated last week about photocards so I can't get a new travelcard until I get a new photocard. O poo.

If I'm going to be carrying the new photocard around with me for the next however-many years then it needs to be an ok photo. I need new photos but my beard needs a trim first. And I don't particularly want to trim him at the moment - I'm enjoying twirling him and making small dreadlocks during boring meetings at work (and I have a number of those ahead of me). Decisions decisions.

Maybe I'll avoid trains and just stick to the tube and buses until I can be bothered to trim the hairy face and get some new photos...

But, don't you agree I looked pretty damn cute when I was 22? I wore that combat jacket *everywhere* (and it had lots of pockets) but I had such an unruly mop of hair - great in the punk wars a few years earlier but didn't quite work in the '80s. Those 'pilot' glasses were all the rage too. I was also so damn *thin* (I know you won't believe that today...).

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Morrissey and Buffy Sainte-Marie

Not only is Buffy on British telly for the first time in an age but she's also been played on Radio 2 this week - and I missed it. Morrissey was interviewed by Stuart Maconie on Wednesday and, at the end of the interview, Morrissey talks about Buffy and then they play 'Soldier Blue'.

You can hear the interview (but not the song) for another few days by clicking here and scrolling down and then go into the interview by about 17 minutes to hear them talk about the film, 'Soldier Blue'. Morrisey then talks about seeing Buffy on Top Of The Pops and how she was a powerful presence surrounded by the girly singers of the early '70s.

Of course, I already knew that Morrissey was a fan of Buffy. When I met Buffy in Belleville in Canada in 2005 she mentioned that Morrissey had invited her to perform at his Meltdown series of events at the Royal Festival Hall but she was too busy to attend. It's nice to know that he's a fan and happy to promote Buffy by getting her played on a significant show on Radio 2. I wonder if he knows about Buffy's new album, 'Running For The Drum'? I hope he does.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Buffy On The Beeb

For the first time in I don't know how many years, Buffy Sainte-Marie appeared on BBC4 tonight singing a minute or two of 'Cod'ine'. It wasn't the Buffy of now, it was the young Buffy of 40-odd years ago in the film 'Festival' about the Newport Folk Festival. The DVD of the film came out a few years ago (and naturally I bought it) but it's nice to see it on telly. And nice to see Buffy on telly as well, hair dancing in the breeze as she sings.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

'Entertaining Mr Sloane' at the Trafalgar Studios

Tonight was the turn of 'Entertaining Mr Sloane' at the Trafalgar Studios at the top of Whitehall, somewhere I've walked past hundreds of times but not been in. Mr Sloane is a creation of Joe Orton from the early '60s and it was his job to shock the audience with his hideously amoral but beautiful lead character, a precursor of the Me Generation where anything is fine so long as it's what he wants. The play is a four-hander and stars Imelda Staunton and Mathew Horne.

The story is straight-forward, a young man (Mathew Horne) in need of lodgings is offered a room in a house by a middle aged woman (Imelda Staunton) who lives with her father. Obviously, she has a past and so does the young man. She clearly wants to shag the youngster and, when her brother calls at the house, so does he. There are lots of twists and turns and the sex between the lad and the woman is obvious, but slightly more subtle (-ish) is the brother's almost puritanical lust although the play is laden with double-entendres that everyone understands without naming the lust that dare not speak it's name. The violent ending is signalled but I wasn't expecting the deal between brother and sister after the death of their father.

I'm not sure what to make of the play. It's obviously dated and the character of the middle aged woman is a bit of a stereotype but one that was prevalent throughout the '60s and '70s and personified by Yootha Joyce in '70s sitcoms. I thought Imelda Staunton was excellent as Kath, clearly living in her own world, fawning over Mr Sloane and referring to herself as his mum despite shagging him and falling pregnant. I was less impressed by Mathew Horne who didn't radiate the charisma the character needs and had a rather declamatory style of speaking which was really obvious in scenes with the other male actors.

Overall it's an enjoyable play and well played. The set reminded me a bit of my Grandma's living room. and the scene with Imelda in a see-through nightie will stay with me for a while. There were two disappointments: firstly, the downstairs bar staff were the slowest I've seen in quite a while (although we did get generous JDs) and, secondly, to find that the snow had stopped falling while we'd been in the theatre and had failed to lie on the ground. Sigh....

Amanda Palmer - 'Creep'

Amanda Palmer does a great version of Radiohead's 'Creep' on ukelele. I witnessed her performance on the song when she used it to open her gig at Bush Hall in 2007, dressed in a pink tutu and wandering through the crowd to the stage. Here's a version she's posted to her Vimeo channel:

Amanda Palmer "Creep" Live On Uke From Red Peters' ODDVILLE from Amanda Palmer on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

A Marianne Faithfull Concert

I *never* win anything. O no, not me. Until today.

Marianne Faithfull's new album will be released shortly and in advance of that, she's performing songs from the album for a BBC4 film about her. Her MySpace page tells us:

This exclusive concert will mark the first occasion Marianne has performed tracks from her critical and commercial success Easy Come, Easy Go. The band will replicate the expansive sound of the recording with strings, brass, accordion and cor anglais amongst other instruments.

The set list mixes the cream of the compositions on the new album with old favourites and one or two surprises.

The concert is being filmed and will be screened on BBC4 later in the spring, and is a unique chance for fans to experience Marianne in a truly intimate setting.

I emailed in to get onto the 10-person guest list and, surprise, I've been given two tickets. I don't know where the rest of the audience will come from since it doesn't seem to be advertised anywhere, but I'll be there. Apparently the BBC will send me details over the next week. Excited? O yes.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band - 'Live At The BBC'

The new album from SAHB was released yesterday, the double 'Live At The BBC'.

The CD brings together all of their live sessions for the BBC. The first disc covers two Radio 1 'In Concert' performances from 1972 and1973 and the second disc collects their Old Grey Whistle Test appearances between 1973-1977 and a live 'Boston Tea Party' on Top Of The Pops from 1976. Alex isn't actually on the last two tracks from 1977 - 'Pick It Up And Kick It' and 'Smouldering' - and I assume that Zal took lead vocal duties.

The sound quality is excellent and it's great to have all these tracks added to the SAHB collection. This is hard rock as it should be played. The stand out track for me is 'Dance To The Music' which, as far as I know, isn't available anywhere else. I remember SAHB playing it back in 1973 when I saw them live, so that's a treat and a half.

The only disappointment is the absence of any photographs in the short booklet - it would've been nice to have some new ones. I got the CD from Amazon for £5.98 and it's also available to download from Amazon for the same price. iTunes is charging £12.99 to download it. I know where I'd buy it from. Go on, buy it.

Monday, 9 February 2009

'The Pitmen Painters' at The National Theatre

As a special treat Chris took me to see 'The Pitmen Painters' at the National Theatre tonight. It's a new play by Lee Hall about the Ashington Group of painters from Ashington Colliery in Northumberland between 1934-1947. The play was first performed in Newcastle in 2007 and this is a co-production with Live Theatre who originally produced it. I found it strangely powerful.

It's the tale of a group of miners who commission an art appreciation course through the local branch of the Workers Education Association and begin painting as a way of understanding the basics of art. Through this they become celebrities of the art world in the '30s and '40s with exhibitions in London, Newcastle and Edinburgh (and later around the word) while still working as miners. It's quite a simple tale in that sense, but with serious undercurrents.

I found it particularly powerful since I recognised so much of the play. I grew up in a former pit village in the North East - although the pits were long closed when I came on the scene, the history was there, the pride was there and the people were there. The importance of learning, the importance of bettering yourself and passing that on to the next generation, the long memories and the spirit. Right from the start, that's something that took me into the heart of the play - the miners knew nothing about art and had no access to books about art but they recognised that there was something about art that they should understand if they were to progress and learn. Risking their lives in the mines during the day, they wanted art in the evening, even if only for one night a week. And they started painting on hardboard with left-over emulsion paint.

The play ably portrayed this spirit and yearning, particularly through the character of Oliver Kilbourn, excellently played by Christopher Connel. Oliver entered the mines at the age of 10 and when offered a way out refused because he couldn't possibly be an artist despite wanting to be one, he just couldn't see that life for himself. There was a moving scene early on where you can feel his frustrations at not having the vocabulary to express himself properly despite seeing and feeling the art in his soul, and Christopher Connel took us into that abyss of loss and ambitions that Oliver couldn't even understand.

The play started with miners who painted and closed with miners who were artists and spoke as artists. They were still miners but were no longer unable or afraid to express themselves and have views on art and life. The nationalisation of the pits and the birth of the health service are celebrated in the last scene, along with a rendition of the miners' hymn with brass band accompaniment and a pit banner on stage, something I remember from the '70s on the news for the annual Durham Miners Gala with marches and ornate banners and a grand festival. I never attended a Gala and will never have the chance again since the pit closures of the '80s.

To most people in the audience tonight it was probably distant history, something that happened far away and a long time ago. But not to me. My uncle, my godfather, started working in the pits in the late '40s and for all I know could have worked alongside some of the Ashington painters. He went on to a management programme and left the mines for the safety of the colliery offices and management, but he served his time. I'll have to ask him if he ever worked at Ashington. The coal-fields of the North East, Yorkshire and South Wales powered the industrial revolution and Empire and that's no small thing.

The miners all spoke with a Geordie accent (or the Northumbrian version) and it was quite fun at the half time hearing people say they couldn't understand it all - poor southerners! The down side is that I sometimes felt people were laughing at the accent and the misunderstandings when the posh people were on stage rather than the words (but that might be me being over-sensitive). I'm probably portraying it as being too serious but there are lots of laughs in the play as well. There's something there for everyone.

To complement the play there's a small exhibition of paintings outside, maybe 50 or so, so it's well worth getting there early to view the paintings and a few small sculptures. Go and see it, it's good stuff.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Amanda Palmer at The Electric Ballroom

On Wednesday night I saw the marvellous Amanda Palmer at The Electric Ballroom in Camden on her latest tour of Europe before heading down under. The gig was, of course, sold out, and the freezing streets of Camden were forgotten in the subterranean Ballroom with it's surprisingly friendly bar staff.

The Danger Ensemble came out to do some kind of dramatic dance in the middle of the crowd in front of the stage - I couldn't really see what they doing even though we'd found a good perch in the balcony with a good view of the stage. And then on she walked in a mist of dry ice, Miss Palmer, standing in front of her keyboard and bowing to the assembled masses. No fancy frock this time, Amanda said she wasn't sure about touring the same show since she'd just been to London a few months ago, so we were in for something a bit more free-form and less elaborate.

She played a mix of old, new, borrowed and blue and ending with her marriage to Katy Perry, (no, really) via an art auction, a gay wedding and a photo shoot. It was a packed two hours that seemed to fly by too quickly. Amanda raided The Dresden Dolls vaults for 'Backstabber' and 'Coin Operated Boy', a new song I didn't catch the name of, her version of 'My Favourite Things', and a deeply sad and blue version of 'Oasis'.

Amanda told us her tale of 'Oasis' being banned for making light of date rape and abortion and how BBC6 played it but no-one else would, and wondered whether if she'd played it downbeat rather than poppy then it might have been played since an introspective, sad version might have been acceptable. Amongst a ripples of giggles through the crowd she put her head to one side and began playing a slow, angst-ridden version until she got half-way through the chorus and exploded into the proper full-on poptastic, bouncy version with the whole audience joinign in with the Beach Boys stylee chorus. It works better that way!

'Guitar Hero' and 'Astronaut' from the album and a great version of 'Leeds United' with an impromptu four-piece brass band joining her on stage. She didn't play 'Ampersand' which was a surprise, but she did marry Katy Perry. On flounced Tora from the Danger Ensemble in a dark wig miming to 'I Kissed A Girl' only to be pounced on and snogged by Miss Palmer before the wedding dresses came out and they were married. Be careful what you wish for is, I think, the message there. At another point in the show, two men were invited up to the stage by Stephen from the Ensemble and one proposed to the other on bended knee before having a group snog and hug. Aww, how cute. We also had a fashion photo-shoot on the stage with the Ensemble and Amanda taking turns striking poses while the lights flashed and the hat went round for contributions to pay the Ensemble.

I did, of course, take photos but they're not too good. Skip on over to Flickr to see much better ones, but mine are here anyway.

And then it was all over, far too quickly. The merch stand was packed with people and Amanda had said she'd be there to sign things after the show. Standing in the crush of bodies wasn't a good feeling and I was making noises about leaving when suddenly Amanda was at one side of the merch stand and everyone moved her way. Then security appeared and Amanda was ushered to the other side of the Ballroom where some tables had been set up and lo and behold, I was at the front of the queue as they sorted out the tables... a miracle! Shouting at everyone to form a queue I just stood there as everyone lined up behind me, Amanda squeezed past and took her seat right in front of me. I asked for the hug she'd promised and she got up, leaned across the tables and gave me the biggest, warmest hug you could ask for. Cor! Then she signed the photo of me and her from Bush Hall a couple of years ago and I thanked her for a great show, to which she replied, looking me right in the eye, 'no, thank you, I mean it, thank *you*'. I then moved away in a glow of pleasure so Chris could get his hug too and out into the freezing streets of Camden Town. I was still warm from The Hug though.

Come back soon, Amanda.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Folk America - but no Buffy?

I watched the final part of the 'Folk America' series this evening on BBC4. It finally reached the 60s and what most people probably think of as the folk revival.

It was good to see Pete Seeger still happily playing at the age of 90, a couple of clips of Odetta and Mary from Peter, Paul and Mary and a short clip of Richie Havens. Lots of Joan Baez reminiscing and performing and lots of Bob Dylan performing back in the day (but not interviewed). An emphasis on the civil rights movement and the role of folk singers keeping southern music alive and performing it. Quite a few clips of Martin Luther King. It skipped from the Greenwch Village scene to Newport to the West Coast and the new folk sound of the Mamas and the Papas, Roger McGuin and the Byrds, a few clips of Robbie Robertson and even someone from Jefferson Airplane as it touched on the hippy stuff coming out of folk. But no Buffy Sainte-Marie.

Why no Buffy? I know you can't feature everyone in a one hour documentary but it's not like she was a non-entity in folk terms. She was blacklisted in America for singing her own songs and protesting against Vietnam. She's still a force to be reckoned with, releasing her latest album last year, she's an artist and an active campaigner. I hope this doesn't mean she's being written out of '60s folk history.

Here's the photo of Buffy and Richie Havens from the Vogue photo shoot last year.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Amanda in 'The Telegraph'

There's a good article on 'The Telegraph' website about Amanda Palmer's show at The Electric Ballroom last night (yes, I fainted too) and the problems she's facing with 'Oasis' being, effectively, banned. I never thought I'd say this, but good on ya, the Telegraph! And good on ya, Neil McCormick! Read it here.

I haven't done my review of the gig yet and it's all Amanda's fault. She gave me the biggest, warmest hug I've had so far this year and I can't possibly concentrate on anything else. Normal service will be resumed once I recover....

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Amanda Palmer BANNED!

If it's not one thing it's another for Miss Amanda Palmer. Fat belly one day and banned song and video the next. It seems that 'Oasis', which was going to be the next single from the 'Who Killed Amanda Palmer' album is being banned because it deals with date rape, abortion and refers to fundamentalist Christians.


I don't understand. It's ok for a song to be made up almost entirely of singing about 'my bumps, my lady bumps' and videos can clearly exploit women and depict them solely as sex objects but a song which, in part, depicts the results of objectifying women doesn't get played, then I remain confused. Amanda ponders whether if she'd sung in more slowly, in a mournful, thoughtful way then it would be ok, because clearly she'd be regretting her actions. But she sings it in a lively poppy way and is happy because she has a signed photo from Oasis so it's clearly wrong. I didn't realise we were such a prudish nation. I suspect we're not, really.

I do wonder about Roadrunner Records handling of this as well. They commented that NME tv and Q tv won't play it - I didn't know they existed. I don't know anything about music telly, but are they really that influential? The song was played on BBC6 the other day in advance of a great interview with Amanda at the weekend (I've never listened to BBC6 before so what do I know?).

Anyway, I'm seeing the marvellous Miss Palmer tonight at the Electric Ballroom and I'll join in the Beach Boy harmonies in the chorus when she plays this song. After all, punk cabaret is freedom...

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Snowy Morning II

I half expected the snow to have vanished this morning like it usually does, but I was pleased to see it was still lying. It was a nice sunny morning with a glorious blue sky and the odd flurry of snow every now and then.

This is today:
This was yesterday:Looking out of the window now, the white stuff is obviously melting, leaving behind grey slush and some shiny ice. It'll be wet sloshing through all that. It was nice while it lasted...

Monday, 2 February 2009

Snow Day

Whenever we have any mildly snowy weather the news always refers back to the winters of 1947 and 1963 - I was only a wee'un for the latter and don't remember any of it.

The best (or worst?) snowfall I recall is January 1982 when I lived in Cardiff. I vividly remember walking along packed snow on the pavements that was higher than the bonnets of cars and not far from the roofs. I recall a snowdrift that went from the ground to the eaves of the third floor on the front of my university building and someone had carefully cut a tunnel to the front door. I lived off satsumas and ryvita for a couple of days since most of the shops were shut, oh, and hospitality at the pub at the end of my road. Cardiff was snowed in for a couple of days and it was a very odd experience.

The snow we've had today is supposed to be the worst (or best?) for 18 years in London and it's certainly more than I remember. It was around 6"-8" outside my house and when I finally wandered rather gingerly up to the High Road I found that there was a nice layer of ice under the snow, and ice and slush the closer I got to well trodden pavements. If it freezes tonight it'll be treacherous tomorrow morning.

The absence of traffic has been most odd today - no buses at all and very few cars. Drivers were noticeably going faster this afternoon as roads cleared but some were still skidding since they're not used to driving in these conditions - take it slow and careful, people, it's not just your lives at stake. I went in fear of slipping and landing on my back but my boots from Toronto held me up.

I wish I'd had the nerve to explore the snowy landscape with my camera but I didn't. Here's one of the few photos I took, one of the landmarks of Streatham, St Leonards Church which has been there in one form or another for 1,000 years or so and has certainly seen more snow than today.

Snowy Morning

Dont you love the unpredictability of the British weather? Snow! Like everyone else, I'm blogging about snow and bunging in a photo. It's started snowing last night and seems to have snowed on and off all night - and it's snowing again now.

The roads are quiet - hearing the silence was very strange last night and this morning, just a sort of background muffled hum in the distance, most odd. There are a few people out there including a bloke with an umbrella - what's the point of a brolly in this?

Now, due to my bad planning i might have to go out into all this snow and get some basic provisions, like milk. Well, actually, I'd go out in it anyway even if I didn't need milk. Yay! Snow!

Here's the view from my living room just before 8am this morning:

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Alex Harvey

This week sees the anniversary of the birth and death of Alex Harvey - born on 5 February 1935 and died on 4 February 1982.

Two 'new' Sensational Alex Harvey Band albums are being released over the next few weeks - 'Live at the BBC' on 9 February and 'Hot City - The 1974 Unreleased Album' on 30 March.

I saw SAHB with Alex play live only once, way back in 1973, but the memory lingers. Over the last few years I've been slowly collecting Alex's work from the early 60s onwards and the one thing that comes across loud and strong in all his music is his seering originality and consistent vision about himself and his role in music.

One of my favourite songs is 'Last Of The Teenage Idols', a semi-autobiographical song Alex wrote about being the Scottish Tommy Steele back in the '50s but not really making it until the 70s. 'Anthem' always brings a tear to my eye, a mournful song played at his funeral that is forever bound up in hope and pain and greatness.

If you remember Alex then play one of his songs this week and raise a glass - he'd do the same for you, y'know.

The Buzzcocks at Shepherds Bush

The Buzzcocks are on their 'Another Bites' tour at the moment, playing their first two albums ('Another Music In A Different Kitchen' and 'Love Bites'), a gig I couldn't possibly miss. So, on Friday night after the traditional omelette and chips in the Polish restaurant at the top of Shepherds Bush Green, over the road we went to the faded glory of Shepherds Bush Empire, sensibly having tickets for upstairs to avoid the sticky floor and lack of sight lines downstairs.

After getting badges at the merch stand (a necessity) we went in to give The Lurkers the once over and headed for the bar. I've never been taken with The Lurkers and wasn't on Friday either. Once they'd left the stage we found seats and waited. And then there they were - the Buzzcocks! Only Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle from the original band, but the bassist and drummer fit right in creating a tight sound.

They kicked off by playing 'Fast Cars' from 'Another Music' and we were off and running, playing every song in order. Simple things keep me happy and I revelled in songs being introduced solely by, '1, 2, 3...' or Pete simply saying the title before those guitars went into overdrive again or the drums started thumping. That's how it *should* be at a punk gig. Before we knew it we were into 'Love Bites', classic three minute pop songs flying past at a fast pace and all too soon the echoing drumbeats of 'Late For The Train' closed the set and off they went. Only to reappear a minute or two later to give us a greatest hits session before departing again to much adulation and shaking hands with the front rows of the crowd that had pogoed themselves silly to every song.

It was great to see them play all those great songs live, with Pete's distinctive voice and the fast guitar thrash in every song. Pete has written some really great pop songs about teenage love and angst and growing up and I bought all the singles in their picture sleeves back in the day and played both sides endlessly. From the sublime 'Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)' to the simple repetition of 'Noise Annoys', Pete says it all one way or another. A particular highlight for me was 'Promises' and when Pete sang 'Why did you ever let me down?' I couldn't help but think that he hasn't let us down, making all those songs live again. I couldn't help a grin when they played 'Nostalgia' - 'nostalgia for an age yet to come' and here we all were. But the songs aren't dusty old things, they still sparkle 30 years later. It was a delight to see so many young people there - the songs still have the power to speak to teenagers. And to ex-teenagers.

If you get the chance, go and see 'em.