A lapidary log.....

Diary dates

Christmas 2005
Wednesday 5th October 2005
Mid-September 2005
Saturday 27th August 2005
Friday 19th August 2005
Mid-July 2005
Friday 24th June/Saturday 25th June 2005
Monday 9th May/Saturday 14th May 2005
Saturday 16th April/Monday 18th April 2005
Late March 2005
Thursday 17th February 2005
New Year 2005

DIARY 2005


New Year 2005

A gob more spit on 2004’s grave --- pour comble de malheur Pod’s dad, Fred, died in early December. He’d always reminded me of Richard Widmark. I used to think that so long as Fred was making his daily pilgrimage down the 100 Steps to Blackwood and back all was probably well in the world. And then look what goes and happens …..

At the turn of the year I spent a few days in Paris (I love the place, and it’s where I want to live when I’m rich and famous).
Visited Beckett’s grave one dark Sunday afternoon. Cioran lay just yards away, grave unmarked. Nearby, in the other direction, was Serge Gainsbourg’s tomb, as resplendent as a carnival float. Nothing desolate about it, it was a grave with a hard-on. (I realise nothing can seem more desolate than a hard-on in certain contexts but not here today…..).

The new album will be out on One Little Indian in May. At last, eh? Get everyone you know to buy it so I can go live in Paris! Track listing: One Day When God Begs My Forgiveness/The Republic Of Howlin’ Wolf/Childhood Skies/Fairytale/Jinetera/Janie Jones/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 maybe a bonus track). It’s a bit of a concept album, takes ‘Hejira’ as a vague role model (Role models are important, right? My own would be some hybrid of Top Cat and Ivan the Terrible).

I’m not normally the kind of sadsack that likes relating his dreams but I thought I’d mention this one (so skip this paragraph if you like): a gang of us had been watching ‘The Seventh Seal’ on TV and when it was over we left to go looking round the shops, only I’d quietly transmogrified into Antonius Blok (in colour, presumably), Max van Sydow’s character in the film. It didn’t seem weird to us at all, no big deal, nobody even referred to it, everyone just accepted I was this knight, looking gaunt and handsome (which made a nice change) as we strolled round the shops. Nothing as remotely dramatic as playing chess with Death happened. Maybe drifting round a suburban town-centre feeling vaguely underwhelmed is in fact the degraded modern equivalent of roaming a medieval plague-torn landscape in a crisis of existential anguish, but I know that seems a bit pat …..

I just read that a guy in a psychiatric hospital submitted to a polygraph test. When asked if he was Napoleon he said no, but the polygraph showed he was lying ….. (My hero! And if he’s not apocryphal I’m sending him a free copy of our new LP).

I forgot to say last autumn how much I enjoyed Dylan’s ‘Chronicles’, so there you go.

I’m looking forward to a quiet evening in, just me, a Shusaku Endo novella and my Narcissus complex. (Some men flaunt their big dicks or their cars or deposit accounts. With me it’s my case of Arrested Development and I guard it like a stack of rubies. I like to think I’m right up there with Augustin Meaulnes).

Happy New Year.


Thursday 17th February 2005

THE MICK JAGGER CENTRE, DARTFORD: Supporting Giant Sand. My third gig at this (pretty classy) venue; apart from Pod playing a bit of harmonica and Corrinne joining me for 'Fairytale' I did this one alone. I hadn't been on the boards since the Spanish gig, and halfway through the opening number (and only then!) I realised I was a bit nervous. By the time I started to relax the set was almost over. But the audience was great and the gig went OK. Corrinne had come directly from a meeting at One Little Indian --- the new album will be out on May 30th, but available from the One Little Indian website as a pre-sale sometime before the release-date. (We had a peek at a promo sleeve and it's looking good.) Jon had recorded tonight's show and Corrinne sat in the dressing-room afterwards playing back (and admiring) her bit over and over …..

Saw Low at the Festival Hall the following evening. Wasn't really in the mood but they totally won me over. (One song reminded me of something half-remembered from 'Bark'.) The first of the two support bands had massed drummers and I suffered a bit of a 'Nam flashback to Adam and the fucking Ants, so I'd just like to thank the paramedic that resuscitated me in time for Low. (Pod'll be back at the Festival Hall next weekend for David Crosby and Graham Nash).

Hey, it's snowing! (I love snow).



Late March 2005

Good evening reader(s). I was going to begin with a bit of a rant about either

a) Laika, the first dog in space
b) the incremental catastrophe of passing time

but both subjects depress the hell out of me if I dwell there for more than a nanosecond, so I’ll just press on, shall I?

First off, the record will definitely be out on Monday June 6th, (that’s a week later than I said last time) on One Little Indian. And there’ll be a couple of singles out eventually, too.

Second off, gig news (at last): We’re doing five dates supporting The Go-Betweens in Brighton, Liverpool, Glasgow, Birmingham and London in mid-May, starting at the Concorde on May 9th and finishing at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire on May 14th or 15th. (I forget which: check the Live page for dates and venues). We’re likely to do our own show at the Spitz on either May 26th or June 2nd (maybe hire a bass-player for that one?) and we’re doing a short, stripped-down thing at Fierce Panda’s night at the Heavenly Social on May 4th.

Films: “The Machinist” isn’t quite as great as the trailer makes it look, but it’s still a diverting entertainment. Not as good as “Head On” but fucking Olympian in comparison to “9 Songs” , a dire piece of shite you not only shouldn’t go and see (not even for the bona-fide shagging, etc.) but shouldn’t even inadvertently pass a cinema where it’s showing. (On certain days watching bands and fucking might not seem an unreasonable way to eke out an existence, but presented on screen with not even a quick, cursory coat of transfiguring art applied whatsoever, it just reeks). I wanted to get up and walk out, honest, but mortal coward that I am I was afraid people would think I couldn’t handle the graphic sex!). At the end someone remembers it’s supposed to be an art-efact so they splice in a few shots of Antarctica and it’s meant to be a big ole METAPHOR, but by then you’re just sneering and cat-calling and hissing, etc. A total frump of a film. Whereas “Ma Mère” is maybe the ‘Blonde On Blonde’ of pretentious Gallic filth, so let’s hear 40 cheers for it – hip hip! A foxy lady of a film, hokum though it may be. And Isabelle Huppert’s in it! (Isabelle and I are doing a remake of ‘9 Songs’ just as soon as her work commitments allow).

Gigs: Saw Low recently (8 ¾ out of 10) and Mercury Rev (9) and David Crosby/Graham Nash (songs will always win!). Crosby apologized for George Bush, Nash did a Hollies tune he dedicated to Tony Hicks (sat in the audience), and they did “Almost Cut My Hair”, a song so fucking significant I blushed and nearly stood up to salute it. (There’s a song on our next album called “The Republic Of Howlin’ Wolf”: the way I pronounce the word ‘police’ in the lyric is in direct homage to the way Crosby delivers it here. Fact). A song to check your soul against. From the only era when rock music managed to genuinely put the wind up the Bad Guys for a while. (And in America! Where it counts!). I hope your particular symbolic freak-flag’s still flying, gentle reader? (Crosby literally hasn’t cut his hair! He looks about as un-MTV as it’s possible to get. The world being what it is, if you happen to know that he in fact plays golf or something, don’t e-mail me to put me right, OK? Just let me dream.) I didn’t even intend going (nor did I Low or Mercury Rev, actually) but I’m so glad I did. Even the muzak-interludes and long stretches of soft-rock faffing didn’t hurt as much as I’d expected, and the gig helped shake off those ‘oh-fuck-the Gang-of-Four-are-back’ post-punk blues. (Frumpy again. The real vice anglais).

Plays: Last night I went to see a production of Sartre’s “Les Mouches”. ‘I fell in love with Jupiter (that’s Zeus in English), he was playing a part that I could understand’.

Books: I’m reading a good book on Lucia Joyce, “To Dance In The Wake” (8 ½ out of 10), a very moving tale.

Now let’s all spare a nanosecond for Laika and her ilk. As time piles up in our out-trays.



Saturday 16th April/Monday 18th April 2005

Back at Escapade to record a new arrangement of “Childhood Skies” for release as a single on June 20th. (Jacob Shirley plays cello, Ellie Loaring violin and Gary Brady bass). The ‘B-side’ will be “Tarot” on the CD version and “Filipino Girls (Lip-Synching Dusty Springfield Songs)” on vinyl.

If we hadn’t been in the studio I’d have been at the Antony and the Johnsons gig but I did see Rufus Wainwright at Shepherd’s Bush Empire the night before and he was very, very, very good indeed. He did his encores in a jock-strap, pink stilettos and fairy-wings. (Takes guts!). Brought a smile to the face of even a petulant depressive like me.

Bruno Ganz is magnificent as Hitler in “Downfall”. Brilliant film. And I recommend “The Assassination of Richard Nixon” too.

See you at the Whitechapel’s Robert Crumb exhibition?



Monday 9th May/Saturday 14th May 2005

(Venues: Brighton Concorde 2, Liverpool Academy 2, Glasgow Renfrew Ferry, Birmingham Academy 2, London Shepherd’s Bush Empire).

Tour supporting the Go Betweens, and a fucking brilliant time was had by all. Given the chance I’d do a Bob Dylan and just tour forever. After just a day or so you slip anchor and a lovely kind of dreaminess takes over, a condition somewhere between exhaustion and delirium, and it’s this trance-like state that hooks you. You get to eat a lot of crap motorway food but the real shitty bit’s the tour coming to an end and you being dumped back into the ‘real’ world again. When I think of the tour now I think of “Devils & Dust” and “Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter” playing on the bus, and being in small rooms and going out into big halls and then back into little rooms. (And Corrinne growing more and more eccentric by the instant).The audience in Brighton was great. My guitar in the foldback sounded like a motorbike revving, and from the stage I could see the sea through a crack in the curtains. Liverpool was one of the highlights of the week, a particularly good one. I’d never been to the city before and would’ve loved to have had a look around but all I got to see outside of the venue was Lime St Station…. The Glasgow gig took place on a ship moored on the Clyde and it should’ve been great (it was the only gig of the tour where we got our full allotted soundcheck time, the Go Betweens tending to rehearse up there) but the audience was just so noisy and you know how much that pisses me off, right? (Though it was nice meeting Ian again, and some of his friends). Thursday was a day off so we drove from some Travelodge in Scotland to another one outside Birmingham. By then I had a cold coming so I stayed in all evening, licking my wounds, popping capsules and powders, honey and lemon. (I dimly recollect a bluebell wood outside my window and Laurie Anderson on TV, but mostly the evening was about delirium and catarrh). But come Friday I’m like Lazarus back from the dead, and the Birmingham gig proves to be another highlight, a great show. Saturday’s the cherry-on-the-cake day, the London show at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. We were able to add a song to the set so we put in “The Sky Was So Blue It Was Scary” (for the rest of the tour the setlist comprised “I Love My Angel’s Plastic Wings”, “One Day When God …..”, “ …. Howlin’ Wolf”, “Fairytale”, “Janie Jones” and “Childhood Skies”) and Nick Kaçal joined us on double-bass for a couple of songs. It was a brilliant end to a great week, and after the show I got to meet Derek and Michelle from One Little Indian for the first time. Big thanks yous to all the promoters involved for looking after us so well, to Mark Blagden the tour manager, to Jon for the brilliant job he did on the sound and to Cho for stepping in as onstage tech and band nanny.

Come Sunday I was already missing the bus and the little rooms for I was starting to wake up and the sky seemed too big.



Friday 24th June/Saturday 25th June 2005

Back at Escapade in Greenwich recording a couple of songs as 'B-sides' for the second single 'Janie Jones' (to be released 12th September). One of the songs --- 'Fairylights' --- I wrote about five years ago but we didn't get around to recording at the time, and the other tune --- 'Cold Coffee and Ava Gardner' is a (radical) reworking of a song we issued on the first record to bear Songdog's name --- an EP we put out before 'The Way Of The World'. Gary Brady produced the songs and Nick Kaηal played double-bass on 'Fairylights'.

A fortnight ago we did a press-show/album launch at a venue in the West End --- all the food and drink paid for by the record label plus six songs from us, how could it have been anything other than heavenly, I ask you? The whole evening had a bridal theme (we went on to Nancy Sinatra's version of 'Bang Bang', the 'Kill Bill' theme song --- c'mon dopey! Uma Thurman? The Bride? Geddit? …!!). I couldn't save you any cake but there should be a picture of it somewhere hereabouts. A night when everything went right (for once) …….

I hate this fucking heatwave we've been having. Melanoma a-go-go. Sends me all 'Lord of the Flies'.



Mid-July 2005

Surprisingly, Saint Bob never asked us to do that chicken-in-a-basket-gig-writ-large thing in Hyde Park earlier in the month. So thank God for the Who and (and I never thought I'd ever say it!) Pink Floyd .…..

July 12th : Had another day at Escapade to record a cover of the other (real) Saint Bob's "Desolation Row" that Uncut commissioned.

July 16th: Guilfest, the Uncut stage. Just as we reached the site I got a call to say Jonathan Ross was playing "Childhood Skies" on his radio: I took that to be a good omen, and indeed it was, for the show was a corker (as they'd have said in the comics I read as a youth). Theodore was there, we hadn't seen him since St Petersburg. One of the stallholders hailed me: he'd remembered selling me a T-shirt in Camden a year ago and even recollected the slogan (Stop The War, My Parents Are Middle-Class). I hungrily located the catering tent but all the nosh was just too Time Out. We left mid-evening, before there could be any danger of Paul Weller's stuff drifting over from the Radio 2 stage …..Later that night (I'll spare you the details) I liberated a few dozen helium balloons: as they rose eerily into the night sky over south-east London they seemed like a metaphor for something but I couldn't quite figure out exactly what.

July 18th: "Childhood Skies" released as a single today. Nice blue vinyl.

July 19th: The Spitz, London. Magnificent gig! It was great to play a full set for once, and the audience was amazing. Played "Jerusalem Road" live for the first time. It was hotter up there than I can describe, and three songs from the end I could feel myself …. er, going! I clung on and avoided the embarrassment of actually fainting onstage but just as I made it to a balcony outside, a minute after we finished, I crumpled.

PS Thank you to the people at XFM playing our records.

PPS Just heard that the makers of "Emmerdale" have asked One Little Indian for permission to use "Childhood Skies" in the background on one of the episodes. (Not-very-interesting-trivia- titbit: Liz, the lady that plays a barmaid in that show once played a prostitute in a play of mine called "Water Music").



Friday 19th August 2005


Everyone knows I love rain more than Dante loved his Beatrice, but so much of it had hammered down on Cambridgeshire all day long that by the time we reached the festival site things were muddier than the Passchendaele trenches. It was a beautiful place though: there was even a lake behind the stage, with swans gliding on it in the dusk. (I wondered what they made of the bacchanal taking place on the banks). The crowd was pissed-up and rowdy but so good-natured that even though I’d started the first song wishing it was already the last (and Thor’s own hammer beat four-to-the-bar from the dance tent over the hill) I quickly dumped the grumps and just started enjoying myself. (Think Van Morrison on Celebrity Stars In Their Eyes: “Tonight Cat I’m going to be Leo Sayer”). Echoes of Glastonbury ’97: godawful monitor sound, gear caked in so much goo that leads and plugs just buzzed, crackled and died. Ah, festivals! (There was a coven of Santas sat cross-legged halfway back – so that’s where he goes when he’s not delivering presents to little boys and girls, children, he’s chilling with his posse at music beanos).
But really, I swear I had a great time and thank you to Phil Taylor for inviting us.

Driving home we passed through Huntingdon, home of that place where sadistic cunts go about their lawful business torturing animals to death. Tried not to think of those creatures huddled in their cages and wished catastrophe and heartbreak on their oppressors.

And it cost £40 to get the mud off/out of the car!!!!




Saturday 27th August 2005


The gig was situated in a huge old goods yard near King’s Cross station: acres of wonderful old Victorian brickwork and a hip-looking crowd. Remember the swans at the Secret Garden do? This time it was ducks on the canal running behind the artists’ parking area. (These birds help ground me, give me something to relate to so I feel less of a freak, less outnumbered. I can’t help it, that’s how it feels). Goldfrapp’s trailer was parked backstage, curtains drawn, a marquee full of her stage costumes pitched next to it. I peeked in and saw two glittering horses’ heads ….. Opening on a festival main stage is a tough job -- ask any band --- but I feel we pulled it off and then some. XFM’s John Kennedy caught the set and afterwards offered us an acoustic session on his show. Three songs into the set there was a power-failure: the outfront sound came back within a minute or so and we re-started the song, but we had no foldback till the closing bars. Scary… (When we came off the Swedish band Dungen told us how much they’d enjoyed it, so I waited to catch some of their set and the powercut struck again just as they were being introduced). A wonderful night, surfers. We loaded out at the same time as the Magic Numbers and in the scrum of two bands and all their gear in a smelly stairwell someone mistook Corrinne for Romeo’s sister and started ushering her towards the wrong vehicle. I didn’t notice her resisting either…. Thanks to Al for handling the sound (Jon’s in Prague) and to Cho for stage-tech-ing and to Nick for double-bass duties. (He’s been playing at Ronnie Scott’s all week: Kevin Spacey sat in with them last night and did some of his Bobby Darin stuff). Nell had such a great night (well, there was free vodka) she still hasn’t taken off her wristband yet.





Mid-September 2005

“Laughter: a momentary anaesthesia of the heart,” (Bergson). Eh bien, Henri, we had two parts anaesthetic then, mixed with eight parts towering rage and a smidgin of stunt-driving negotiating our way in and out of town centres (Manchester’s Dry Bar on Sept. 14th, The Vine in Leeds on Sept. 16th and the Magnet in Liverpool on Sept 17th ) and one-way systems to and from gigs and Travelodges in our ‘mini-tour’ of the North. But you know how much I love touring --- if we had the audience to support it I’d be off an a never-ending one like St. Bob. So geographically maybe we were minging but musically we were totally on the money --- oh, you should’ve heard the encore versions of “Jezebel” in Leeds and Liverpool!! (I almost stopped playing just to stand back and listen!). On our day off in Manchester we were driven into town by a surly little troglodyte with no neck (and Corrinne still tipped the germ) and I bought a Bob Dylan badge and a Leon Trotsky t-shirt.

En route to Leeds we stopped off at BCB Radio in Bradford and taped four songs and an interview for the splendid Mr. John Gill who’s been playing our stuff since the very beginning, a broadcasting maestro if you want my opinion ….. (Before the gig I did an interview with two journalists, both called Ross. Coincidence, no?). We were parked up in Menlove Avenue in Liverpool, looking for John Lennon’s house when Jonathan Ross played our “Janie Jones” on the radio again (it’s out as a single on Oct. 3rd). (Skip the next bit if you’re not a Beatles bore): we’d been invited to a private tour of Aunt Mimi’s lovely old gaff by Colin Hall who lives on site and looks after the place for the National Trust. He gave “Haiku” a fantastic review a few years back and told us he’d love to show us round when we were next in Liverpool. We had tea and biscuits in the room where McCartney was ushered when he first called on John after the Woolton fête and stood in John’s bedroom where he wrote the likes of “I Call Your Name”, “I’ll Get You” and “Please Please Me”. (We had a pee in John’s toilet too). There was a lone nutter outside with a placard denouncing Lennon for his IRA sympathies: a patriot he called himself. Strawberry Fields is nearby and we would’ve gone but we were running late for load-in at the gig so we had to forgo it. As we pulled away, just yards from where John’s mother Julia was knocked down and killed I drove over Karl’s John Lennon glasses. (They survived intact and Colin brought them along to the gig later. Spooky Beatle magic stuff? OK, no.). Anyway, Colin’s another guy I’d like to mention in despatches, a lovely man.

Each night the promoter would give us crates of lager. We’d ask the support acts to help themselves but no-one ever really did and we ended up with ridiculous amounts of the stuff (just nun’s piss to me but without the sexual charge). Still, it should see Lenny through to the New Year, and I thank the promoter for it anyway, though next time could we just have crack and dirty floozies instead?

When we got back I had one of my usual depressions. But the next day I drove up to Coventry to meet my half-sister for the first time and next week I’ll be up there again to get introduced to my mother.

Thursday, Sept. 22nd at the 100 Club, opening for Clem Snide, a band I rate a lot in my capacity as art evangelist. Nice gig (and Clem Snide are nice people too) but the 100 Club really is a bit of a dump, don’t you think? A legendary dump, maybe, but still a dump……

PS The gig we were booked to play in Stoke Newington next week has been postponed (along with all the other shows planned in the season) until a new venue is found. So see you at the ICA.






Wednesday 5th October 2005

Felt like a bit of a triumph, this one. Great audience. We had Al project ‘videos’ over us as we played, two that Karl and I came up with and five Corrinne designed. Last time we played this venue we did it as a seated show but I think it worked even better tonight as a standing gig. This was an Uncut show and a One Little Indian showcase: I didn’t catch HK119 (though I saw her dancers practising their moves backstage, decked out at wrist and ankle in outsized Ubu Roi-style ‘jewellery’), but I liked what I saw of Daniel Agust. Nice to see Nick Hasted and Chris Carr backstage (they’d come directly from an apparently godawful Donovan show), we hadn’t seen them in ages. We heard from the label on the afternoon of the gig that ‘Janie Jones’ had crept in towards the bottom of the singles chart ….?

The night before, we played a couple of songs live on John Kennedy’s XFM show. He played two off the record too, so I gave him my Dylan badge.




Christmas 2005

Compliments of the season, gentlefolk. I hope Life hasn’t been too merciless these past twelve months? Time’s bear-hug not too oppressive? The definite highlight of my year was my finally tracking down Audrey. Now she’s on my mind even more than when she was just a phantom I was hunting.

If I have to have a record-of-the-year I’ll pick Kate Bush’s. And Antony and the Johnsons and Bruce Springsteen’s. But the records that really most moved me were Joni’s “Hejira” again (played it over and over and over and over and over and over and over on a trip to Coventry and back last week) and that old Paul Simon tune “Still Crazy After All These Years”. I bought John-and-Yoko’s “Sometime In New York City” again just because I knew it would evoke autumn 1972 so well, and it did. (Outrageously daft record, same as it ever was: the worst album Lennon ever made, apart from “Double Fantasy”).

2005 was a good year for Songdog (excepting the photograph Uncut ran with their review of the ICA show. Not long afterwards I saw dainty and diminutive Dylan in Brixton, so now I’m having to run miles and miles and miles a day). Our plugger, working on ‘Janie Jones’, reported back that a lot of radio producers and programmers were of the 1977 Year-Zero vintage and found our version of the Clash tune verging-on-sacrilegious and so weren’t prepared to play it. Wait till they get a load of our Wreckless Eric cover (I’m serious!). ‘Épatons les nouveaux mandarins,’ sez I! …. “The Time Of Summer Lightning” gets a new push in the New Year. I’ve got no resolutions except that (much as I don’t really like the world being anything to do with me) I’m thinking of going ‘online’ sometime soon.

Here’s a motto for your Xmas-cracker and it’s true. It’s from Adorno: “ What one does in life is little more than the attempt to recover one’s childhood in a transformed way”. I know I’ll be playing with my toys come Christmas morning …..

My prediction for 2006 is that Death, Dispossession & The Sublime will be all the rage (I was going to add ‘the new Franz Ferdinand’, but then some people would think Death, etc. was a band…..).

My hopes for 2006 are: 1) Songdog win the Mercury Prize (I know, I know…..!) 2) Tony Blair and John Prescott are ousted (violently) to be replaced by Noddy Holder and Andy Partridge. (Never set a limit on your dreams, people). Join me too in hoping that the return (like indigestion) of all that spiky, jerky post-punk poo-poo becomes a thing of the past (again) in 2006. (I was less sad to see Tony Christie back. At least that was funny).

So, happy holidays then to all Songdog people everywhere, to all those who get the point, to all those who enjoy the game, to all those who can take a hint, to all those (to be continued…….).

PS Why aren’t Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne speaking? (No, I’m serious. Why aren’t they?……).

PPS I’m trying to renounce foul language. You’ll note there’s not a single expletive in this Xmas message.

PPPS Why have I become a man of such easy tears? ………

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