Lyndon Morgans'

SONGDOG DIARY

Nothing I say is written in stone.....

Diary dates

Wednesday December 3rd 2003
Late November 2003
Monday November 3rd - Friday November 7th 2003
Thursday October 16th 2003
Monday September 22nd - Tuesday September 30th 2003
Late August-early September 2003
Sunday August 10th 2003
Tuesday July 29th 2003
Thursday July 24th 2003
Saturday July 19th 2003
Saturday July 5th and Sunday July 6th 2003
Saturday June 14th 2003
Friday May 23rd 2003
Saturday May 3rd 2003 - Sunday May 11th 2003
Saturday April 19th 2003
Thursday April 17th 2003
Sunday March 23rd 2003
Tuesday March 4th 2003
Thursday February 13th 2003
Early February 2003
Friday January 10th 2003

DIARY

Friday January 10th 2003

Went on Neil O'Brien's afternoon show on Mean Country, the digital radio station owned by the Mean Fiddler Organisation, broadcasting from Wembley. He played "The Girl On The Escalator…." off the upcoming album. A sort of 'Juke Box Jury' thing ---- Neil would play records and Chris Carr (publicist for Munich Records) and I would give our opinions. I'd been asked to bring in two tracks I'd like played, so I chose Johnny Cash's version of "In My Life" off his new album (the song was wonderful sung by the then 25-year old John Lennon; it has even more pathos sung by the almost 73-year old Johnny Cash) and Gillian Welch's "Elvis Presley Blues" off her masterpiece of a record "Time (The Revelator)". I really enjoyed it, and Chris bunged me about a dozen free CDs. (On the train back into London I got fined by one of those roving inspectors for not having a train ticket!)

(I've just finished reading Karen O'Brien's biography of Joni Mitchell, "Shadows and Light". Other than Leonard Cohen there was never anyone as good as Joni. And nobody better. Joni's such a genius it just demoralises me. NB Rhythm Records in Camden didn't have anything by Joni in stock in any format! Doesn't that disqualify them as calling themselves a record-shop? Shouldn't they now list themselves in Yellow Pages as purveyors of bric-a-brac or building-supplies or something? A record shop with no Joni Mitchell!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Early February 2003

The album's been out about 10 days and we've had some great reviews so far. MOJO and UNCUT (same number of stars as Ed Harcourt) praised it and WHAT'S ON IN LONDON called it the first essential record of the year (hello, Bonnie Prince Billy, Nick Cave!) and gave us five stars, which, a friend pointed out to me, was more than Kelly Osbourne and Robin Gibb put together……..! Q will be reviewing it in their next issue…..?

I'm doing a session on Neil O'Brien's show on Mean Country next Wednesday 12th(see last diary entry) and on Charlie Gillett's Radio London show on Saturday March 1st. We're playing at the Metro in Oxford Street on March 4th, directly opposite the Virgin Megastore, so you can buy the record on your way in to the gig, OK? Allan Jones at UNCUT asked for my top ten Bruce Springsteen songs as part of their upcoming Springsteen special. (He said they'll be using "Days Of Armageddon" off our album on their cover- mount CD with the May issue).

A quick paragraph about some pop stars: This trial-by-tabloid of Pete Townshend is morally fucking criminal. Some scumbags are slowing down outside his house to yell abuse so I just hope they die before they get old. I thought Martin Bashir's programme on Michael Jackson was a stitch-up. I'm on Jackson's side. The more 'whacko' and awful he seems to Mr. & Mrs Everybody the more I like him (not really his music, just him). Let's face it, if Jesus Christ were to pop up again now he'd be pilloried in the media for his deviant thought and practice. The straight majority'd crucify him all over again. ("This foreign commie hippie coming over here to preach property prices don't matter!"). Bashir's a self-seeking little prick. And how about that Wild Phil Spector? He's a genius, I know, but maybe his mental problems stem from the guilt he's bound to be feeling over what he did to "The Long And Winding Road" all those years ago? (Even "Death Of A Ladies' Man" couldn't make up for it). Maybe that actress's last words were something like: Gee, Phil, why'd you go fuck up that pretty Beatles tune?…. Still, they say the de-Spectorized "Let It Be" is to be released eventually, and I'm already saving up for it. But I wish Phil a happy ending.

I saw some films: "Cronenberg's "SPIDER", which is so, so excellent. Eminem's film is schlock, but enjoyably so, and way better than you'd expect an Eminem film to be. "GANGS OF NEW YORK" is just fucking spectacular! I loved it. Daniel Day-Lewis is awesome. (Karl and I once sat through a screening of "My Beautiful Laundrette" in Edinburgh with him: Hanif Kureishi had invited us to the screening and Dan Day-Lewis showed up too. He seemed a nice bloke). "ABOUT SCHMIDT"'s very good too. Tomorrow I'm off to see "IRRÉVERSIBLE".

This next bit will be boring to anyone unfamiliar with the music Karl and I have played in the past, but it's so true I have to mention it: Karl pointed out that the Songdog stuff is so similar in spirit, feel, etc. to the "18A tapes" (when we first moved up to London we rented a damp basement flat in New Cross --- 18A Shardeloes Road --- and three of us bought a Teac tape-deck and wrote and recorded some songs there. We couldn't call them "The Basement Tapes" because someone else had already thought of it, so they became the 18A Tapes). It's almost as if we instinctively tried to sound the way we really wanted to but at that time didn't have the requisite skills, etc. and then ended up playing music that in the end sounded jack-shit like the people that'd made us fall in love with music in the first place, only to finally wind back to where we started and this time get it right. Neat theory, huh? (Believe me, it's very convincing). Anyway, end of history lesson…………..

Dave went to see a friend play a gig in a pub in Balham the other night and swears the first act on was Rick Astley. That's right, Rick Astley! (Dave said he's very small. But Dave's very tall). Dave says his music is still cak. I read somewhere that he still sells a lot of records in Latvia or Bulgaria or suchlike. (That's the downside of liberation: the communists would've kept him out).

Thursday February 13th 2003

We've been looking for acts to join us at the Metro gig on March 4th and Jon, our soundman and head enchilada at Fuzzpop recommended a duo he'd come across twice and been impressed by --- Gamine. Nick Hasted gives their album a nice review in the current issue of UNCUT --- and Nick's a man of taste, as his review of "The Way Of The World" and his feature on us proved beyond doubt, non? Karl and I checked out their website and they seem a class act --- and devotees of the French chanson --- so they'll be appearing with us, with an opening act still to be confirmed (Lenny has someone in mind). I get to compile the mixtape we play on the night, so how the fuck can you not come?

Saw Calexico at Shepherd's Bush Empire on Tuesday. I was feeling dead tired but still found Calexico excellent, it's a pretty thrilling noise they make.

On Saturday I experienced ('saw' isn't exactly the word) "Irréversible" and boy is it harrowing. (The ideal antidote to say, Graham Norton's programme). I'd urge you to see it, if you can bear it. Even the last shot --- an expanse of sky --- really sticks it to you, pulsing in time to the techno on the soundtrack until the screen's a huge strobe for you to have a nice little seizure to as a souvenir of your visit. Even more of an ordeal than "Salo", but still a work of art.

Did you see the anonymous slag-off "Haiku" got on the Americana-UK website? What an anus! What a snotty cunt! Dig his prose style, readers! Roll over Greil Marcus! Still, everyone's entitled to their opinion (until I seize power).

After I staggered from the cinema on Saturday, my brain having been butt-fucked by Gaspar Noé's little effort, I went with Karl to collect the banjo from Andy's in Denmark Street (in to have a pick-up fitted) and spotted a Martin 12-string for sale and --- oh, foolish, fateful move! I put it down to the effects of all that Gallic nihilism!--- I had a go on it!… And then realised I had to have it!…. So I bought it and now have to flog an Ovation and a Les Paul to get my money back (Andy's are handling the sale for me)!… Maybe I'll use it on a few songs at the Metro…. Martins are just such fucking great guitars!……………

Did "Gigolo Moon" and "The Girl On The Escalator At HMV" on Neil O'Brien's show on Mean Country last night.

STOP PRESS! Lucinda Williams at Shepherd's Bush Empire on May 6! That's right, I said Lucinda Williams at Shepherd's Bush Empire on May 6!!!!!!

Tuesday March 4th 2003

THE METRO, LONDON

The audience was great and seemed to really enjoy it, but for us onstage it was a bit of an ordeal, the stage-sound was awful, too many little things were going wrong. None of this really matters if the audience liked it, but for me it wasn't our best. Still, the encores --- "Days Of Armageddon" and "In The Well of Lost Causes" --- were fine, I was proud of those versions. But I felt a bit mopey for a few days after the gig, I think we all did….. I didn't get to see Gamine or Selena Harrington's sets but I'm told they were both really good. (Can't say I'm crazy on the venue, either. And the 'dressing-room' was not only situated in the bowels, it stank like 'em). But cheers to everyone who came along to see us and thank you for the fuss you made of us.

We did two songs on Charlie Gillett's Radio London show a few days earlier, and that was great. Sevara Nazarkhan, a singer from Uzbekistan signed to Peter Gabriel's Real World label in this country, did a couple of songs too and sounded beautiful and unearthly and mysterious. Would we sound that exotic to a listener in Uzbekistan? … Oh, and Charlie Gillett really is as nice a guy as he sounds on the radio. On his programme the week before, he'd played our "Hat-Check Girl" to the Be-Good Tanyas and they loved it. Which is gratifying, because I love both their albums.

Most of my Springsteen Top 10 made it into Uncut's published list. We're on their cover-mount CD next month.

We've had some more good reviews since last I wrote. (See the Reviews bit).

Sunday March 23rd 2003

THE MUSICIAN, LEICESTER

We've played Leicester three times before, with Lift To Experience, the Handsome Family and Johnny Dowd, each time for promoter Ian Baker. And this was the best of the gigs since that first time at the International Arts Centre: the Musician's a nice, intimate venue, way better than the Barfly-like Charlotte. This was a nice gig, I think we redeemed ourselves a bit after what I'd felt was a disappointing Metro show. We put "Lazarus In Flames" back in and Dave tapped out "Jezebel" on the snare drum. Great sound onstage and the audience really listened. [According to a posting on our message-board from someone who was at the gig, a girl in the audience diagnosed a good shag as the cure for all my ills. Oh, Mama! If only a nice hard biffing really could soothe all that seething existential angst?..….So I tried it…. But nah …… (see lyric to "Jezebel"). Granted, my Muse is a total slut, God bless her kinky arse, but her tastes lie as far from your bog-standard shag as does the space-shuttle from a penny-farthing bicycle. (And here my more bookishly-minded readers might consult the writings of the 19th century German physician Richard von Krafft-Ebing, particularly his "Psychopathia Sexualis", handily translated into English in 1892…)]. The band on before us, Mister Lee, played with us the last time we were up here, they're pretty original. The guy onstage before them --- Bromide --- stopped the song he was playing as I entered the venue to remind me that we'd once shared a bill at Notting Hill Arts Centre, which was nice of him, though a simple nod-of-the-head would've done. On the way back down the M1 to London we kept bumping into him (no, not literally, but at service-stations, traffic-lights etc.), until our paths diverged at Islington. So he drives fast: I like that in a singer-songwriter………

We'll be back in Leicester in the autumn.

Thursday April 17th 2003

THE LOUISIANA, BRISTOL

It was on a Maundy Thursday Virgil led Dante on his tour of Hell. But on Maundy Thursday 2003 Hell took the form of long tailbacks on the M25 and M4, the kind of temperatures that Meursault must've killed his Arab in in Camus' "L'Étranger" and a car you could feel giving up the ghost, dying under us as the kilometers inched past. We said a few (choice) words over the corpse on a roundabout off the M32. So Pod didn't get to play, he had to oversee the transporting of the remains back to London while Dave and I went on and did the gig White Stripes-style, guitar and drums, only non-colour-coded. During the first song I had this pair of Ikea types right down the front chatting away like the mouth in Beckett's "Not I", only not so poetically. I shooed them up the back and thereafter you had the usual background drone of conversation you get at most gigs (Jacques Derrida says it's not us that do the talking but language talking through us, so maybe these sadsacks just can't help it?) but it couldn't spoil a fine gig, the majority of the audience were great and this one was my favourite of the three we've done so far this year. I hadn't sung "Blind Picasso" for a long time, I had to rehearse the lyrics in the dressing-room before we went on. Support act Steve Bush did a rousing punk version of "White Horses", the old Jacky hit from 1968. Inspired choice! The Louisiana's a very nice venue.

Last week I saw Laura Veirs live, great singer and band. The thought of Paul McCartney at Earl's Court just seemed too much of an ordeal (and packed with Ikea types, surely?) but Corrinne and Lenny went last night and said we really ought to go so Pod and I are off tonight (Saturday), they've fixed it for us. Review to follow……….

Saturday April 19th 2003

Sir Paul at Earl's Court

It's a remarkable gig; that's the soundtrack to one of my lives they're playing up there, and it's dizzyingly, dazzlingly good. Between songs he's an inveterate cheesemeistr, goofing and gurning like a comic turn at an OAP's day-care centre, but during the songs he's ineffably and unapproachably great, world-class and historic. What a life this man's lived! What songs he's written! (The only Beatles album he neglected was "Beatles For Sale", and, alas, no "Penny Lane". Corrinne said he did "For No-one" last night but not this evening). Even the Wings material sounded fantastic. The band were amazing, the renditions flawless. Particular highlights: "All My Loving" (vintage Beatlemania scenes on the screen behind him), "She's Leaving Home", "Hey Jude", "Getting Better", "Can't Buy Me Love", "I Saw Her Standing There", "Two Of Us", "Eleanor Rigby" and "Something" (performed on ukelele). They opened with "Hello Goodbye" and ended with the "Abbey Road" guitar battle and "The End". I'm tempted to go again, it was just so fucking great. (And he looked a lot better than most of his audience too). I take it that the music that accompanied the pre-gig pageant was Paul in his avant-garde guise, and that sounded wonderful too. He's a born musician. A genius. (And a militant vegetarian). How silly do the Strokes or the Vines look in comparison? How unnecessary Coldplay?

 

Saturday May 3rd 2003 - Sunday May 11th 2003

Saturday I saw “Intacto”. Excellent.

Sunday we rehearsed, working on “My Space-Rock Tape”.

Monday I went to see “Lilya 4 Ever”. ‘Enjoyed’ wouldn’t be the appropriate word here, but I recommend it very highly. (Don’t Rammstein sound fucking scary?).

Tuesday we were at Shepherd’s Bush Empire for Lucinda Williams, one of the best songwriters in the world and with three masterpieces in a row in a row under her belt (“Car Wheels On A Gravel Road”, “Essence” and “World Without Tears”: I take it you have all three?). Her and her band were totally and utterly magnificent, just as you’d expect. Beth Orton supported and I mostly think she’s really good too.

Wednesday we did three numbers on Resonance FM (“I Love My Angel’s Plastic Wings”, “Haiku” and “Gigolo Moon”) and had a spiffing time. Howard Monk didn’t know that the original presenter of “The Old Grey Whistle Test” wasn’t Bob Harris but one Richard Williams (now writes on – erk! sport!—for the Times) and he resigned in protest at the producer’s not booking the Mahavishnu Orchestra for the show. So we talked about that for a bit and I thus forget to mention Nicky Wire’s being about as intellectual as John Prescott’s bell-end.

Thursday there was a Wyndham Lewis thing on at the Calder bookshop and I went to that. Next week it’s on Alain Robbe-Grillet but I won’t be able to go, so you’ll have to tell me what it was like.

Friday I checked out the new London Review bookshop in Bury Place, Bloomsbury. Cool.

Saturday we played a set at the Buffalo Bar in Islington in between Good Time Pony and Lob. I always hate soundchecks, but this one was so chaotic and awful I abandoned it altogether, and yet the show was great and the sound lovely, onstage and out front.


Sunday we rehearsed at Studio A at Terminal, in Bermondsey. We worked out arrangements for “Alien Heart” and “One Day When God Begs My Forgiveness” (a new song triggered by Rilke’s stanza: “We’ve not, in all this sad perambulation/worn out the garden with the pain we brought/and hours surpassing all our expectation/grope after us and walk with our support.). Fifteen songs undergoing rehearsal for the next record, with one more to be added to the pile, another duet. We’ll debut a couple live at the Brighton, Swansea and ICA gigs in July. After rehearsal we went down to the beach at Joss Bay in Kent to have our pictures taken with Corrinne’s new digital camera. Came home feeling tired and dirty like I always did as a kid after a day at the seaside. Like I was feeling the first time I ever heard “The House Of The Rising Sun”, in Porthcawl.

Just one thing before I forget: Irvine Welsh says he always puts in a bit of animal cruelty in all his books (not that I fucking read them!) to piss off animal-lovers who prefer beasts to humans (e.g. me). So he’s not only not exactly James Joyce, he’s a baldy cunt who writes for the fucking Daily Telegraph and has some psycho-sexual ‘issues’ he needs to ‘work through’. If you see him on the street set your pit-bull on him. (And see Peter Singer’s article on 30 years of animal liberation in the current “New York Review”).


I try only to praise, but you know how it is………………..(So merci mille fois to the lady at the French Institute who let me up into her office to hear a recording of the Michel Houellebecq conférence I missed).

 

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Friday May 23rd 2003

TUESDAY MAY 20th: THE ARTS CAFÉ

We had a brilliant time, wedged in between an excellent opening band (whose name I didn’t catch) and Mute’s new tax-loss, the Mountaineers (currently on tour with Goldfrapp). We did 40 minutes to an audience that did us the great courtesy of listening and I thank each and every one of them. There wasn’t enough room up there to swing Irvine Welsh by the throat in, but it really didn’t matter, nor did the fact that we and the opening band weren’t allowed access to the swanky PA brought in for the headliner (we had to make do with a much smaller system, but Jon gave us a better sound than theirs anyway). The venue’s great (I hope to see M. Ward there on Saturday) and Howard -- the promoter – is a classy man who, as a bonus, knows his Alain Robbe-Grillets from his Nick Hornbys. (In the rock n’roll milieu it’s usually a case of “Sing if you’re glad to be dumb”). A friend of ours who was at the recent Neil Young acoustic gigs
in Hammersmith said there were signs up all over the place saying, in effect: ‘Talk during the performance and you’re fucking dead’. They’ll have such things at Songdog gigs one day! But, as I’ve said, tonight they wouldn’t have been needed.

If you’re coming to our ICA gig on July 29th book in advance, eh? (I’d love to be able to run one of those big fuck-off ads you see with “Sold Out” pasted across them!).

We’re on the Uncut stage at the Guildford festival on Sunday July 6th.
Onstage at midday. Be there, it’ll be better than church.

Saw the Dirty Three at the Barfly last Saturday. Well hot, huh?

There’s talk of a single to be culled from “Haiku”. Can’t decide which track yet. It’s primarily for the radio, so it has to be one without cussing.
“Gigolo Moon” maybe?

 


 

Saturday June 14th 2003

LATE MAY/EARLY JUNE 2003

A few nights after our gig at the Arts Café I went back there to see M. Ward play (Beth Orton was in the audience too) and he was superb. So many acts are just winging it, getting by on their connections or one decent tune or a good haircut -- or less -- but Matt Ward is the real thing, a genuinely fine singer/songwriter/musician. (Makes you wonder how the fuck he’s got anywhere.)

Recommended film: “Secretary”. Very sexy and funny. And “Trouble Every Day”. Very sexy and stylish and pretentious. As un-Tony Parsons-ish as you could get.

I saw John Cale do a short set at Border’s bookshop in Oxford Street.
Obviously John Cale is a Good Thing – a Great Thing --- but tonight he too was just winging it. Fakin’ it. Playing the seasoned iconoclast to the fawning crowd. There was an awful reading from an upcoming biography and an embarrassing Q & A session. Plus he’d written a song about Ezra Pound but didn’t seem too au fait with the facts of the poet’s life. (He must be proud of the song too because he did it on “Later….” a few days….er….later. It’s actually a nice song, but the remarks he made before it pissed me off, seemed a bit disappointingly philistine )

Saw the documentary on Morrissey. He likened meat-eating to paedophilia. Wonderful! To borrow a phrase from the enemy: “Go on my son!”. He (and Noel Gallagher) had some wise things to say about the record industry too. I wonder how those slags feel when they hear themselves dissed like that. Do they think: “Well, yeah, but he obviously doesn’t mean me!”?

Grandaddy were rehearsing in the studio next to us last weekend. I haven’t got their new album yet but I bet it’s great.

We’re playing the UNCUT stage at the Guildford Festival in July and the Leicester Summer Sundae in August (Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle and Chrissie Hynde are on).

I took a look at the Saatchi Museum at County Hall. High-profile stuff like Damien Hirst’s tiger-shark and Tracey Emin’s bed and Marcus Harvey’s Myra had that special aura that iconic stuff has when you first encounter it ‘in the flesh’ but pretty quickly shrunk to a slightly underwhelming scale (but then that’s just as true of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre). Britart was just as much a case of some prize chancers (or wankers) winging it and getting lucky as Britpop was, but there are some
good things came out of it --- Jenny Saville’s big ladies, Richard Billingham’s pictures of his family (scarey!). And Ron Mueck’s Dead Dad is spooky in the extreme. I had high hopes for Jake & Dinos Chapman’s genetically-mutated kids but they didn’t seem as powerful as they do in reproduction. The place is well worth a visit, and it’s near the majestic Tate Modern. And that whole river walk from County Hall to east of Tower Bridge is beautiful. (I still love the Welsh valleys but I couldn’t imagine living anywhere in the UK but London now).

Played “Haiku” on a dawn ride to Heathrow last week (my favourite time of day, all the grown-ups fast asleep). Sounded great, I’m still proud of it.

Bought your ticket(s) for the ICA show yet?

 

 

Saturday July 5th and Sunday July 6th 2003

SATURDAY : PRINCE ALBERT, BRIGHTON
SUNDAY: UNCUT STAGE AT GUILFEST

Mon Dieu, what a weekend! Two blinding gigs! Last time I played the Prince Albert I was strumming powerpop in a different sort of band and had a nice time, but nothing compared to this tonight, on a beautiful, sweltering Brighton evening to a great crowd that were so well into us (“Whoa man, you’re a god! Better than Neil Young!” enthused one discerning guy who’ll receive free cocaine and moist, willing rock chicks for life when I seize power). Chapeaux doffed too to the promoters -- The Gilded Palace of Sin – who looked after us royally and told me they don’t do this for the money, which in this age is tantamount to holiness. We played a 75-minute set that included three new songs – “Souvenir” (featuring Dave on a glockenspiel he bought in a shop only yards from this venue on a shopping-trip we made to Brighton a few weeks ago), “One Day When God Begs My Forgiveness” and “The Republic Of Howlin’ Wolf”, all of which seemed to go down a bomb. I didn’t catch the middle band at all but liked what I heard of The Lights so we’ve asked them open for us at Manchester in a few weeks’ time. It was hot and sweaty and cramped and we had us a real good time. The promoters issued us an open invitation to go back anytime, so we most definitely will (maybe a return to the Hanbury Ballroom next time?).

Later, Jon navigated us along winding, pitch-black country roads to the hotel somewhere outside Guildford, but I couldn’t sleep at all, still too much adrenalin coursing through me.

On site by 10am. On this stage I felt as agoraphobic as I’d felt cramped last night! Jon was perched behind a sound-desk in a marquee miles away, just a disembodied voice coming through the foldback. During the line-check someone asked Jon if it was Marianne Faithfull’s voice they could hear emanating from the stage…..? Today we were restricted to a 50-minute set and I was having such a fantastic time up there I was genuinely pissed off when it was all over and we had to give up the stage to the next act. I could see Uncut’s Nick Hasted sat in the crowd out front. He came back afterwards and spent most of the afternoon with us, popping off now and again to watch the other acts he had to cover for the magazine. The backstage facilities were good, the toilets even had gilt taps (I mean, does Bono get fucking gilt taps?!!) and the rider was so generous we couldn’t get through it and ended up taking most of it home (In fact, we were still using Brighton’s rider from the night before. Jon and Dave were a bit disappointed though that today’s rider didn’t include a free shag from the Atomic Kitten ladies). Dave bought a didgeridoo but I don’t know if he can actually get a note out of it yet…..? (Pod could’ve used his new Gretsch today but he’s saving it until he’s played it in a bit). By early evening I think the sheer exhaustion of the weekend just suddenly hit everybody all at once, so Corrinne did all her various long goodbyes and we left the site about 6pm, with the Oysterband bashing it out on the Uncut stage (and God only knows what shite on the Radio 2 stage).

Really, it was some weekend, we’ve all had a hard time coming down from it….

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I went and had a look at the sculpture of Jolyon Dupuy at his home and studio in Brockley. He creates his pieces from the flotsam and jetsam he collects on his travels and his stuff is witty and playful and has the same kind of energy and robustness Picasso’s junkshop creations of the late 1920s/early 1930s did.


Last night I went to a reading of Dylan Thomas’s poetry, read so superbly I was moved to tears a couple of times. I kept thinking: Surely, after Nicky Wire he must be Wales’s greatest poet, eh?……………

 

 



Saturday July 19th 2003

THE CHATTERY, SWANSEA

I remember the Handsome Family telling us that Swansea was a tough audience, but the crowd here tonight treated us fantastically, we had a brilliant time. It’s a lovely little venue with a loyal audience of devout
music fans; they play albums by the various acts upcoming live as trailers (Oh Susannah’s next). And the owner and staff really know how to look after their artists! There was a guy at the front howling along to the choruses of “Your New Best Friend” so loudly I think he might’ve been pissing some people off! We played about 90 minutes plus an encore of “So The Lord Sent Chantal”. At soundcheck we played a tune we’d only finished the arrangement for at rehearsals the night before – “Fairytale”, a duet -- and it got such a big round of applause we put it straight in the set. I was talking afterwards to some guys that’d travelled from Cardiff for the gig and they were praising us in the same kind of terms -- and for the same reasons – we ourselves use for the people we’re most into. It does you good to hear that kind of stuff, justifies everything. And it’s very refreshing after all the mind-games and resentment and jealousies you get from a lot of people you know on a more personal basis. (I realise that even that kind of reaction’s ultimately a compliment, but in the “How To Form A Band And Make It In The Music Industry” manuals they flog you they never mention how a lot of the people you see day-to-day will hate your guts for every step forward you make! Like it’s your fault their lives are shit!). I took a walk round before the gig, under those lovely churning Welsh skies (it even rained a bit -- that’s how perfect this evening was!) and it felt like Saturday evenings did when I was a teenager in Blackwood. A great way to unwind before a gig, just like the drive back via the Heads-of-the-Valleys road and over Tredegar Mountain was a sublime way to unfold after a gig. (Dave and Jon headed back to London afterwards, Pod, Corrinne and I spent what was left of the night in Blackwood). I also heard someone -- who I just know really doesn’t know! -- refer to Dylan Thomas tonight as a “so-called Welsh poet”. That too was just how perfect this evening was!… I found out later that my parents had honeymooned in a house just yards away from tonight’s venue. That too was just how ----

Anyway, we’ll definitely be back at the Chattery.

Lenny proposed to Corrinne live on Zoe Ball’s XFM show the other night. He’d tricked her to the studio by making her think she was attending a live Nick Cave recording, the cad! Zoe Ball had champagne ready and cried.

Did a phone interview on Friday with a journalist from the Manchester edition of the “Metro” newspaper. He said Tmesis is a very classy venue, so we’re really looking forward to it. The promoter says he’s had excellent press response to the show so far.

Allan Jones at Uncut has asked for my Top 10 Clash tracks for an upcoming special on them.

 

Thursday July 24th 2003

TMESIS, MANCHESTER

Tmesis is a nice little venue, and an art gallery too. My regular readers will know how tumescent that little 'A' word gets me, huh? As it happens, I’m about to buy a “Fuck Art, Let’s Dance” t-shirt but I’ll be wearing it strictly ironically, for the only dance moves I know are the ones I cribbed off Zarathustra --- ie frugging on the feet of chance. (I know you could say that even to breathe is to pogo madly on the brink of the abyss but I didn’t come here to fuck about, I came to praise the people that came to see us at Tmesis, a nice little venue and an art gallery too). (That last bit’s a nod to Zarathustra’s theory of eternal recurrence).
We had a great gig, the audience was fantastic. We’d had some excellent press in advance too, including a very nice preview in City Life. I missed the Lights’s opening set but Vinny Peculiar was excellent. A woman in the audience requested “Blind Picasso”, so we did that as an encore, hadn’t played it in ages. (I still like that first album a lot and was pleased to see us selling and signing as many copies of that at the end as “Haiku”). Again, the best bit of all is talking to people afterwards and hearing how intensely they seem to relate to the songs. Both in Swansea and here tonight we were urged to keep going at all costs. (And we will!
The very fact we’re doing this at all winds some people up right royally and that’s motivation enough in itself). Jon stayed on in Manchester with some friends and so Dave travelled back alone. We passed him just before Watford Gap service station, driving solo through the stormy night (is there a better symbol for Man’s essential loneliness, blah, blah blah?). Someone should write a book on the psychology of being in a band, the tough stuff, the constant whirligig of elations and crushing disappointments, the packing-up of the gear and the hunt through the town-centre mazes for signs to the motorway, all the stuff that goes through your head on the long drives home, etc. Maybe I should, after I’ve finished my little opuscule on “Justin Timberlake’s Existential Imperative”, eh?

Anyway, a big thank you to Nick Georgiou at Popart vs Industry promotions. See you next time!

PS The night before, I'd gone to Water Rats for Philip Kane's set. He has a record out (Songs for Swinging Lovers) that you might want to investigate. (I bought it on the strength of Chris Roberts's Uncut review.) Great songs, singer and band --- he even won over the teenyboppers down the front. He did a nice Chet Baker cover and has a new album out in January. He closed with an excellent song from it, a kind of ode to Kenny Rogers.

 

Tuesday July 29th 2003

ICA, LONDON

Yo, greetings from Blackwood!

The ICA: Pod and Dave both struggled with wayward monitor mixes but I had a wonderful gig, it was a sell-out show with a great audience, and the new songs seemed to go down really well, so I have to be happy. The Duke Spirit had some technical hitch at the start of their set, so the ICA's stage-manager allowed them some extra time and we overran the 11pm curfew, so it was strictly 12 songs and no encore. Question: why the fuck weren't my guitars plugged in when I walked out onstage? Anyone out there want a job helping us out with gear, stage-management, etc? (The only qualification you need is the lack of any possessive/demanding boy- or girlfriend and the intelligence to highly rate Songdog.) I suppose the expanse of empty space between us and the audience was a wee bit off-putting, and Jon had to run up and down the central aisle because the sound varied so radically in different parts of the hall, but hey, fuck, these sound like quibbles, and it's only rock n'roll, not rocket-science, so let's just say GREAT GIG, OK?

(Thanks to Spike for handling the merchandising for us and thanks to whoever was responsible for the tasty lighting).


 

Sunday August 10th 2003

SUMMER SUNDAE, LEICESTER

Just for a while this fucking heatwave that’s been asphyxiating my life relented, and as we started our set the heavens opened and the God of Thunder joined in on percussion (a critic might’ve said in an overblown, show-offy, Wagner-ish sort of way) and man it was fantastic! I felt.... good! It just felt completely liberating bashing out “The Republic of Howlin’ Wolf” to all these people in this storm: it was really such a spectacular end to a brilliant run of gigs, starting back in Brighton on July 5th. We overran our time and had to cut a song to make way for Aqualung, but “Fairytale” sounded like a pretty convincing closer anyway. “You are such a class act!” one discerning chap told us. (“And you are such a discerning listener!” I might’ve shouted back, but, of course, didn’t, for that would’ve been immodest, huh?....). The two guys managing the stage did a magnificent job, pulling off feats way more difficult than plugging a couple of guitars in. (See my ICA gig entry). And in a torrential downpour! ... Saw a bit of Laura Veirs’ set on the De Montfort Hall stage.... In the catering tent I tried out a ratatouille, even though I wouldn’t usually eat anything I can’t spell (I just looked it up before I typed it). And mmm, it was nice, in a way.... Durutti Column’s Vini Reilly reminded me of someone I know and pity and I noticed Bob Harris drives the same car as us. (Am I boring you? Who can help the shit that runs through one’s mind?). When we left the site Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Joan Baez, Billy Bragg and Chrissie Hynde were up onstage, sat side-by-side like at the pictures, four Living Legends and a bloke from Essex. (Sort of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young and Humperdinck). The three ladies looked so elegant and charismatic -- and sang like angels. (And Steve Earle’s lost a ton of weight.) And I thought: Cripes! One of those ladies had carnal relations with Bob Dylan! And another with Gram Parsons! And another with Ray Davies!!.... But hey, fashion-fans, check this out! -- I wore the new pinstriped jeans I’d bought at Robert Barker’s shop in Cardiff last week: he told me he’d had them made up from genuine 1970s denim. I think I sing better in retro jeans.... (Isn’t it wonderful that you can now dress exactly as you could in 1975?).

In Blackwood last week, Remo filled me on the whereabouts of some of the old faces. Some are dead and some are living (and one is working in a music-shop in Cardiff).

But I digress. All that really matters is: Are you gonna be at the Borderline on October 16th or are you a loser?

 

 

 

Late August-early September 2003

On August 21st we went in and recorded a version of “Janie Jones” for an upcoming Uncut Clash tribute CD. Very pleased with it indeed. Sounds a lot more like Songdog than it does the Clash, of course. (For our next trick maybe we’ll do Motorhead’s “Ace Of Spades” on dulcimer, jew’s-harp and finger-cymbals?). And for another unlikely pairing of song and artist check out Gillian Welch’s version of Hendrix’s “Manic Depression” at Shepherd’s Bush Empire the other night!

Saw the Stones at Twickenham and Wembley (Lenny and Corrinne caught them at the Astoria too). They’re beyond criticism, they are just the coolest fuckers on the planet. To slag these people off would be like dissing lightning or sneering at oxygen. “Gimme Shelter” was transcendent. Old guys my arse! Jagger must be all of 21! How many old guys you know look and move like this, for Christ’s sake! (Average waist-measurement 28 inches). The ticket-prices are apparently astronomical but probably still cheap for what you get. I watched a beautiful young steward stand rapt in awe as the band cranked out “Satisfaction”, she was holding her breath with excitement, it was that magical. The Stones felt pretty much like the whole point of creation. (We were lucky enough to have missed Starsailor’s set at Twickenham but not so lucky with Feeder’s at Wembley).

And Gillian Welch and David Rawlings at Shepherd’s Bush were brilliant too. Sooner or later everybody’s going to find themselves at the Pearly Gates, trying to barter and argue their way in --- and the wisest ones will have a full set of Gillian Welch albums to offer. (So if all you’ve got on you is a bit of ‘classic’ Oasis you’ll be fucked, won’t you!)

Just finished Ian MacDonald’s excellent book “The People’s Music”. In a piece on Laura Nyro he bemoans the absence of rubato in modern music, a quality not much heard since the Sixties, he says. Well, Ian, check out Songdog, my old son, ’cos we’re bursting at the seams with it! We hang chains of garlic all round the doors and windows of the studio to make sure no pesky sequencer penetrates. We drive stakes through click-tracks’ hearts. We ebb and flow like the passions of the human heart. Or the waves on Porthcawl’s sands. Or --- alright, alright! (On the subject of books, I just finished Alexander Trocchi’s “Young Adam”: first class novel).

Watched a South Bank Show programme on Nick Cave, a documentary on the Stones and one on ‘Cool Britannia’ --- didn’t Damon Albarn come over as a right pillock? Made Noel seem like Sartre. (I liked Noel. But Liam’s a wind-up, I presume? A clever piece of satire by Chris Morris or someone?).

We start recording again on Sept. 22nd , but we still had lots of time left after we’d finished “Janie Jones” so we started on “The Republic Of Howlin’ Wolf” and got just about all of it down that afternoon and evening. Which leaves 17 others left to do, way more songs than we need for the next record, so I’m all for collecting the material that doesn’t make it, adding the tune that didn’t get on “Haiku” (a new, definitive version of “Cold Coffee And Ava Gardner”) and pressing up a mini-album available only through the website. At least, I hope that’s what happens…

You coming to the Borderline on October 16th? You are? Cool! So book up in advance and have a laugh at the balls-up they’ve made of the band’s name on the tickets. It wouldn’t happen to the Beetles, would it?

 

Monday September 22nd - Tuesday September 30th 2003

We’ve been back at ‘the shed’ --- Escapade Studios in Greenwich --- recording songs for our next album, with Gary Brady producing again. The songs we’ve recorded are “The Time Of Summer Lightning”, “Tarot”, “Jerusalem Road”, “Alien Heart”, “Souvenir”, “Fairytale”, “One Day When God Begs My Forgiveness”, “The Republic Of Howlin’ Wolf”, “Gallows And A Hanging Man”, “Childhood Skies”, “My Space-Rock Tape”, “The Sky Was So Blue It was Scary”, “Jinetera”, “The Waitress From Yorkville, Toronto” and “Filipino Girls (Lip-Synching Dusty Springfield Songs)”. We had three more ready to do but it was just getting crazy keeping tabs on so much material so we’ve stopped at the 15 songs and we’ll put the record together from those. Some of them are 7and 8-minute epics. We’ll live with the rough mixes for a month and then go back in for a week from November 3rd to finish it off. We’re very chuffed with it so far and we’ve had a lot of fun doing it. Gary’s done a dazzling job, playing bass, piano, keyboards, cello and bouzouki --- (and he gave me a book from the shelf, a 1958 “Circus Boy” annual, the TV series that made Micky Dolenz famous before he was a Monkee. (Trivia titbit: Dolenz and I share a birthday. Another trivial fact: 14 out of the last 17 American presidents have been fucking golfers!). (Gary was telling us he’d played bass on an Edwyn Collins track a few months back and at their first meeting pretended he’d gone along thinking it was a Phil Collins session. Said Edwyn took it in good humour.). Gary’s magnificent dog Buster was present most of the time --- he’s one hip pooch is Buster, and the presiding spirit over this particular set of recordings, the executive producer if you like. (There should be a photograph of him around here somewhere). Colin --- a guy from Wisconsin, over here writing a thesis on the music industry --- called in every afternoon to listen in, says he’ll see us at the Borderline on October 16th. One morning at the studio as we were taping “Jinetera” I got a call to say we’d been pipped at the post by Richard Hawley for the support slot to Tindersticks at the Carling Apollo. BUMMER!!! (We’d already been offered the support slot on their five Spanish dates but had to decline as they’d have clashed with the Borderline gig)…. I don’t know when this next record will eventually be released but I know it’ll be our best one so far…. We’ve had to do two mixes of “Filipino Girls”, one with a bit of Carole King’s “Goin’ Back” on the intro and one without in case Screen Gems/EMI refuse us permission to use it (as I suspect they might when they hear the context we’re using it in) or charge us the earth for the privilege…. At rehearsal the day before recording started I bumped into Liam from Cousteau, he said they’re doing their next album too. The evening recording finished, I went straight on to an Antonin Artaud book-launch at the French Institute to unwind after all those long, intense hours spent working on the record… Funny how anti- climactically it all ends, dubbing a tiny bit of bass and piano and some bar-noise Pod’d recorded a few weeks ago on to “Gallows And A Hanging Man” …… Looking forward to the mixing sessions.Buster

Saw “Young Adam”. Excellent, and very faithful to the book.

 

 

 

 


Thursday October 16th 2003

The Borderline

Look, it was a great gig really, but there was a handful of philistines at the bar that just talked and talked and talked throughout the whole gig. A number of people asked them to shut the fuck up but did these cocksuckers oblige? Did they fuck! If anyone in the audience had walked up and bottled the loudest of the bunch (it wouldn’t count as violence, glassing a squawking prat like that) I’d have mailed them a copy of Dylan’s “The Bootleg Series:Volumes 1-3” as a reward. (I accidentally bought it again recently by mistake!). The offer still stands if anyone can get to her and cut through her brake-cable or spike her drink ---- and there’s a bonus if she dies slowly, and screaming. (I’ll need a Polaroid of the mangled corpse or a tape of her death rattle, obviously). I heard someone threw up near the stage too, but I was unaware of it at the time. The prattlers seem to have been connected with the support band, a competent and totally forgettable little combo whose name escaped me (and weren’t they on the wrong bill? I’m all for those 60s-style package tours where you might get Hendrix, The Walker Brothers, Cat Stevens and Englebert Humperdinck all on the same bill, but this was ridiculous! I think we’d better make a point of choosing our own support-bands in future) and who I overheard before the gig talking about a woman in the audience who knew absolutely everyone on the LA music scene and thought they were the best thing she’d ever seen, etc. Poor little things, I felt like buying them a Lottery ticket…. The Evangeline people came backstage but I heard they only turned up about four songs from the end, which at least meant they caught the live debut of “Janie Jones” (John Kennedy’d given it its radio debut on XFM the night before). Cho’d answered my call for a stage tec (see the diary for the ICA gig) and did a grand job. (In the past he’s fought campaigns all over Europe with Pod and I, it felt reassuring to have him on board. And thanks to Debbie for doing the merchandising). Colin came back (see last diary). So did Sig (he played most of the keyboards on the first album). And I met a guy who’d come down from Glasgow for the gig. Went down to Wales afterwards, spent a couple of beautiful autumnal days down there. Watched the “Woman Of Heart And Mind” DVD. Joni is soooooooo Good it’s fucking scary.


If we hadn’t been at the Borderline we’d have been with Tindersticks in Spain. (Ironically, they were rehearsing in the studio next door to us before they went). I enjoyed the gig a lot, but as those arseholes at the bar prattled on through yet another song I occasionally found myself wishing we’d just cancelled and gone off to Spain. But a big thank you to all those who came for us.


PS Don’t forget my offer. You don’t have to bury her, just leave her for the crows.

 


Monday November 3rd - Friday November 7th 2003

Back at Escapade to mix the 15 songs we recorded there last month. I suppose we’ll have to pick 3 that won’t make it on the record – trouble is, everyone’ll have different ideas as to the stuff that ‘must’ go on, (Gary did a “Brady’s Controversial Cuts” version as his contribution to the debate) so it’ll give us something to fight over in the coming weeks. But we’re very chuffed with the way the songs came out. In the meantime any spare pies, pasties, cakes, flans, biscuits, sweets, sandwiches or curries, etc should be addressed to Buster at Escapade.

“Janie Jones” is out now on the current UNCUT Clash CD --- second track on Volume One. One guy was discussing the CD on one of the Clash websites, citing us, Thea Gilmore and Marc Carroll as the ones to listen out for. Nice one, mister! Everybody else – go buy!

There’s always stuff I’d like to say about people in ‘the music industry’, but Corrinne won’t let me. Still, I just have to get this out of my system ---- (aww, shit, she’s encoded it!) ---- *”%%” is a ~#+`.

Just finished André Gide’s “L’Immoraliste” and found it a most …. mysterious book. Anyone else out there read it? (I’ll bet *”%%” hasn’t, the ~#+`…..).

And finally, what’s Prince Charles alleged to have done? I feel like I’m the only one who isn’t au courant. Is it really, really kinky, like he’s a closet Coldplay fan or something? Tell me.

 

.

Late November 2003

I never really get bored, yet this afternoon I find I am, so I’m writing this just for recreation. (I can hear “Creeque Alley” by the Mamas and The Papas playing in the flat upstairs. Always loved that song).

First off, what kind of a dumb-ass world is it when Randy Newman’s record-sales are dwarfed by (insert here the name of whomsoever you fancy in the way of big unit-shifters). I caught a short TV documentary on the great man: the truth is he’s just too intelligent for the game he’s in. I guess he should’ve been born Bono or something. What a songwriter though!

I take it all you hipsters have been grooving to that remarkable new Beatles album, “Let It Be” the way it was always intended to have sounded? As Paul du Noyer says in his article in Word magazine: This really is music with a unique and enduring hold on the human heart.
(I never had a problem with the 1970 version but now we can see exactly what riled McCartney so much for all those years).

At short-notice we’ve been offered the support-slot to Hamell On Trial at the Scala on December 3rd. It was supporting him at his Garage gig last year (year before?) that brought us to the attention of Evangeline. I’m looking forward to it. And on the subject of gigs, we have a booking agent now --- Neil O’Brien at the Agency. So hey, Neil, when do we get to do Carnegie Hall?


Our next record’ll be called “The Time Of Summer Lightning”. The track listing is: One Day When God Begs My Forgiveness/The Republic Of Howlin’ Wolf/Childhood Skies/Fairytale/Jinetera/Ganguro Girls/My Space-Rock Tape/Jerusalem Road/The Waitress From Yorkville, Toronto/The Time Of Summer Lightning/The Sky Was So Blue It Was Scary/Souvenir. (And we may add a bonus track). We’re waiting to see whether or not Screen Gems/EMI will allow us to use a bit of “Goin’ Back” on “Ganguro Girls”….. We don’t know when the record will be released yet.

I have to go, we’re rehearsing in an hour or so.

Now The Who’s “Happy Jack” is playing upstairs: I always loved that song too.

Wednesday December 3rd 2003

THE SCALA, LONDON Opening for Ed Hamell with a 35-minute set, so the time onstage just flew by but I enjoyed it more than any of the other London shows we've done this year and it felt like a triumphant end to a very good year. No tirades against noisy audiences this time, tonight's crowd was fantastic. (Very nice venue too). Neil, our agent, had come directly from a Sony Records Cyndi Lauper showcase at the Jazz Café, said our show was way better. (I'm glad he was so happy with it because he'd never seen a live show of ours before and I'd been thinking 'Just supposing our own agent is.... like.....under-whelmed with what he sees? Would be a bit embarrassing, am I right?....'). Ed Hamell tried out some new patter on us but dropped the idea when it transpired it was all based around an American TV show that hasn't run here yet. (He was on storming form, as usual). The manager of the venue was really keen to get hold of "Fairytale" so the next album is sure to shift at least one copy.

Dave wants a squeeze-box and I'm tempted by a sitar. If you'd all like to club together and buy us these for Christmas, that'd be cool. (Doesn't have to be top-of-the-range stuff or nothing).

Happy Krassmas!


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