A lapidary log.....
|Tuesday 20th November 2007|
|Thursday 20th September 2007|
|Saturday 28th July 2007|
|Saturday 7th July 2007|
|Saturday 2nd June 2007|
|Thursday 22nd February 2007|
|New Year 2007|
New Year 2007
Happy New Year I guess (due allowance being made for that sorrow found deep down at the heart of all things, of course). Christmas seems a long time ago already, but everything that ever happens always seems a long time ago already once it's happened, it's a sensation I've been dogged by since I was about twelve, and here are a few lines from a poem by Alan Brownjohn that sum up the feeling perfectly:
Somehow I sense I shall never regain the sun That shone on my breakfast things, back in that room Five minutes ago.
Right, let's push on. Was your Christmas groovy? Mine was. Come the Queen's Speech I was out tramping the lanes, squelching through the woods, looking for the land to endorse my feelings of the hour, to find a rhyme for them. (I've always had a thing about psychogeography, long, long before I found out it had a name). But if that's not your bag, Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour (on Radio 2 daily all over the holiday and now BBC 6 Music) must be, surely? Who'd have guessed that as well as being among the world's greatest singer/songwriters, joint-coolest guy on the planet, cultural icon (and the globe's finest harmonica-player says Pod) he'd be the best DJ too? What a show, huh? A genuine marvel. All that old music sounds so great. He played a song by Mary Gauthier so sublimely wonderful I had to rush out and get it the next day (I already had all her other records but I'd somehow overlooked her latest one: the album's called Mercy Now and the song is I Drink). A Dylan link to a record is a marvellous thing to behold too, each one the Gettysburg Address of DJ patter. The show resumes at 9 o'clock every Friday evening from Jan.12th on BBC 6 Music.
I usually bound into the New Year like an athlete, zooming over the revellers' heads like a rocket-launched putto, but by the time the year is already just new-ish and you just know it's going to be no fucking different to any other year, I'm straggling, so my resolution this time round is: Kapow! No Straggling! Get those knees up! Let's get those fucking demos done! Let's get a new record made! Let's do something Bob'll want to feature on his Theme Time Radio Hour!
Spillers in Cardiff, apparently the oldest record shop in the land, is in danger of closing, a victim of men in suits (wouldn't you have just guessed it. A business suit is today's equivalent of the SS uniform. My advice to children everywhere: DON'T EVER WEAR ONE!)('Banker drag' was William Burroughs's term for them). It shouldn't be allowed to happen, there's a campaign of protest and it's backed by the Manics. When I was a lad it was Spillers I had to trek to on the 303 bus to get the records by the bands I'd read about in NME. Half the time I'd end up wishing I hadn't bothered, but that's not Spillers's fault ......
So a happy new year to you all once again, except to Alex James of Blur who was a vegetarian for 17 years but has now gone and bought a farm and eats his 'livestock', and to all those (you know who you are) that resent me and my band and wish us all the worst (paranoid, moi? I think of you all as baldies desperate to see Samson get the trim he's got coming). But if you're not among that ignominious number I hope 2007 brings you things you didn't even dare to wish for yourselves.
Thursday 22nd February 2007
BETHNAL GREEN WORKING MEN'S CLUB
I don't frequent trendy circles so I didn't know this place's reputation, that Jarvis DJs here sometimes, the hoopla in the Guardian, etc, but wow! what a lovely venue it is, a veritable palace of formica, like time had just suddenly stopped in the mid-70s (oh that it had!), it reminded me of all those venues I'd play when I first started out; I hunkered down over the urinal and pretended I was back in Llanbradach. I doubt there even are any 'working men' anymore, but this is still the kind of place where the ghosts of patrons past would've rotated erect middle-fingers at the likes of this forthcoming ban on smoking in public places (one more example of those self-righteous middle-class straights calling all the shots again. Oh these shameful, conformist times!). Anyway, we went on first and played a bloody good set (I'm not being immodest, I'm just telling it like it actually was), we gave "Days Of Armageddon" a rare airing and debuted "A Wretched Sinner's Song". The audience was great. I caught Paul The Girl's set but missed Last Man Standing and Thomas Truax (I had to leave for Wales at the crack of dawn the following morning) though Corrinne and Lenny stayed and said that the music remained utterly fab all the way to curfew; not sharing my chorophobia, Corrinne said she danced and danced.
Ben, my father, died on February 3rd, the night after his 83rd birthday, he just dropped down dead in the kitchen and lay there all night long: this is more of a bummer than I could possibly ever, ever say. The day of his funeral it snowed heavily, the hearse couldn't get up the lane. My friend Tyni drove up from Portsmouth, he had to trek the final mile; I walked into the room and there he was, silhouetted in the doorway in a fedora, stomping snow from his wellingtons, like a superhero come, if not to save the day, certainly to make it more bearable. Later, as the curtains closed round the coffin Ben's brother called out "Tarrah, Ray" like it was just the two of them alone in the chapel and that just did me in.
View from the window early on the morning of the funeral
I've been playing Lucinda Williams's "West" to death, it's her fourth masterpiece in a row, after "Car Wheels On A Gravel Road", "Essence" and "World Without Tears". I haven't found the heart to read a music magazine in a while (the reason being --- to paraphrase Patrick White --- that the constant exaltation of the average just makes me panic) but I'm told some of the reviews of "West" have been a bit sniffy. Just goes to show what they know, huh, readers? Her voice and songs --- and the guitar-playing! And the drumming! --- are without peer. Go get it right now or you'll just look like an idiot .....(And in a different playpen of the arts altogether, could I also recommend the Anselm Kiefer exhibition at the White Cube in Mason's Yard off Piccadilly?).
2007 is still young, I know, but I think I've already spotted Cunt of the Year, it's a fashion designer called Julian McDonald, uses all that fur in his 'creations'. I'm ashamed to say the bastard's Welsh. If you see him, feel free to cause him pain, maybe drop a little radioactive something in his skinny latte. Tell him it's from me.
Here's something I heard the other day that sort of ..... disheartened me. I know we live in an ersatz world, I realise nothing is real (and nothing to get hung about), I'm hip to the bit about authenticity being the biggest pose of all, etc., but when even the wilder shores of porn are just a put-on it's all just a lie too far, am I right? So get this: I'm told that a lot of those scat sites use chocolate mousse or suchlike instead of bona-fide shit. Chocolate mousse! (Or am I the only one who didn't know? It wouldn't surprise me). It all just makes me feel ..... degraded ....
At the owl sanctuary in Waunlwyd I've 'adopted' a griffon vulture, just like the ones in the cartoons. He's got big,beautiful, yellow eyes, and if I die first he's welcome to my carcass.
Saturday 2nd June 2007
UNION CHAPEL, ISLINGTON
This was a free lunchtime show, an Arctic Circle event, with the Woodcraft Folk and the excellent Dollboy. It's a beautiful venue and I enjoyed the day a lot but I can't pretend it was a great gig for us; although a lot of quality acts perform here the chapel's acoustics just aren't designed for it, the room's natural reverb is absolutely immense and my vocals sounded like I was singing from the bottom of a deep, deep well. (Plus I kept on forgetting the lyrics to new songs like "A Wretched Sinner's Song", "On Porthcawl Sands" and "The Time For Miracles Is Past". I'd run through them the previous evening and had them down word-perfect, but not, alas, on the day! People still had a lot of kind things to say about the show but I just felt a bit of a dickhead really ......). After the gig, good working-class lads that we are, we forwent all the trendy bistros chi-chi Islington could offer for a slap-up nosh in a Wimpy in Dartford.
Our album is with One Little Indian, awaiting mastering; we spent a month recording and mixing it at Tin Pan Alley in Denmark Street and we're dead pleased with it. Nick Kašal did the production honours: "Get the hell out your comfort zone! Raise your fucking game!" was his ethos and I guess it paid off, though boy did the sparks fly at times, especially during that final week! I think we brought poor Nick close to breakdown, but he did a great job under huge pressure. One of the songs we recorded --- "Montparnasse" --- was a tune I'd written when I was just 24 years old, my old outfit had kicked it around without getting anywhere near nailing it and this time we finally did the song justice, all these years later; it felt so fucking good! As far as I'm concerned the record will comprise 18 songs (and still be a minute or two shorter than " .... Summer Lightning" ) and be called " A Wretched Sinner's Song", but I don't know the record label's view on these matters yet .....
There's a lot more I could say but I've drunk rather a lot of red wine .................................
Saturday 7th July 2007
SUTTON WITH SHOPLAND FESTIVAL '07
Even though I recycle we still didn't get invited to do the Live Earth beano, but we did get asked to do the Sutton with Shopland Festival, so who's complaining? " 2 days, 5 stages of music, dance, media & culture" in Rochford, near Southend, and I've never known a better-organised do or one where we were treated so well --- we were whisked back to a hospitality tent so quickly I didn't have time to sulk properly over having got lost on the way there, and in the meantime, Cho (he'd make a world-class tour manager) was organising the load-in. Thanks to the Acoustic Stage managers Toby Duffin and Mike Wells, and to the sound crew for all their efforts and close attention. I think we played a spirited set --- at least I remembered all the words this time --- and people seemed to like it. Karl wore his 'fashion jeans' and thus showed his arse to the audience a lot, but he was only being careless, not symbolic. Anyway, we all really enjoyed the day, and Corrinne got to bring her dog, Betsy (the last gig Betsy attended was a Damien Rice show, years ago, before he was famous). I'll also bet the SWS Festival's carbon footprint was dainty in comparison with the Wembley thing.
Two bits of bad news over the weekend: first I learned of George Melly's death --- and I always did like George --- then I read that Bob Dylan has a golf handicap of --- oh, I forget what ---- but it wasn't the handicap that struck me, just the distressing news that he played golf! (In fact, I'd already read that he did, but I'd successfully repressed the memory). I kind of liked the fact that he boxed but golf's something else, it really is. One day I'll talk to him about it ...... But RIP George.
I'm still pleased with the new album and it'll be released when there's a press person and plugger sorted out. (The music industry being what it is, these people are vital if the world's to notice even that you have a record out at all, let alone buy it in significant numbers).
For those that live in London and don't get headaches and come over all envious and resentful at intelligent conversation and the odd polysyllabic word, John Gray's at the ICA on July 19th discussing "Is Atheism Religion for a Godless Age?". Top man, Mr. Gray.
I'm really enjoying the 'unseasonal' weather; as I type, it's raining on the flat-roofed garage next door and it's beautiful. (We're owed this, summer lasted about ten months last year, remember?).
Someone called Richard Witts has written a book about what a good song lyric should consist in, and I agree (if I remember rightly his book was about the Velvet Underground. The VU were exceptional, it's true, but Lou Reed's "Berlin" --- as you won't need me to tell you --- was one of the greatest records of the 1970s):
1) observe and describe characters in situations;
2) use simple words to convey rich thoughts;
3) deal frankly with those people otherwise dispossessed of song;
4) carry a hint of the subconscious at play, of shrewd implications about personal identity and social anxieties;
5) possess a dry humour, finely balanced between satire and cynicism.
I'm in a fine mood this evening, but that doesn't mean I won't quote George Mackay Brown:
To drudge in furrows til you drop
Is to be born,
Saturday 28th July 2007
MOTH Festival, Watlington
Another festival we were invited to play, so I did a solo set for this one. It's a lovely one-day beano on a hill farm at Christmas Common, Watlington, with a beautiful view out over Oxfordshire ---that's the good bit, the bad bit was that the acoustic stage was pitched directly opposite the Second Stage (amped-up indie bands, etc.) and though the performances were meant to be synchronised so they didn't clash with each other, inevitably things run late on one stage and the whole system's down the drain, so the guy on before me --- Iain Wilkinson --- ended up having to abandon his set once it all kicked off on the other stage and so did I about an hour later when a horn louder than the one that brought down Jericho's walls just carpet-bombed "Blind Picasso" round about the first chorus. Highlight of the set --- I got about three tunes out before they struck up on the other stage --- was "Lazarus In Flames", a song off the first album I hadn't done for years but will definitely be playing more often in future. So there you are, death by saxophone (man, I hate that horn-player, and I'm a really good hater) --- the indignities of life, eh? The excellent Joe Wilkes went on after me and ran off with the day's trophy, delivering a fine set (the other stages having fallen mysteriously silent for the duration of his performance). I'd like to have seen Parkbench but couldn't stay.
Went to the second of Bella Union's 10th anniversary nights at the RFH, caught Midlake but found nothing really at stake in the songwriting (so therefore don't really count it as songwriting at all). Then Paul Weller came on, so I scrammed. (Paul Morley MCd. Many moons ago Paul came to see my old band play at a posh club in Jermyn Street and then wrote me a letter. Ah, the whoosh of history!) ....
Tomorrow I'm off to Wales for a few weeks, scene of my overwhelming childhood. (I long for those years back, but then I long for many things and if I had nothing to long for I suppose I'd long for longing itself. Anyhow, I look forward to a fortnight of evanescence in every moment).
Until later then,
Thursday 20th September 2007
Whitechapel Art Gallery
Hi, it's been a while. Did you think we'd disbanded or something? No way! I just figured that with the wet summer we've been having you didn't need me raining on your rain (plus I've been busy, tilting at windmills, as ever) but it's become a bit of a tradition that I write up the gigs we do, and since we did one last night, here I am breaking radio silence after all these months, whatever the weather ...... So, how was the gig, you ask? Wonderful actually! --- easily the best since the Queen Elizabeth Hall show last autumn. It was one of a series of events organised by Penned In The Margins and Salt Publishing, poetry readings plus music. Eleanor Rees and Chris McCabe performed before us (I missed Melanie Challenger) and I found Chris's stuff in particular vivid and powerful (he was reading from his collection "The Hutton Inquiry"). Then we did a seven-song set and the audience seemed to hang on every note and really grasp what we were doing. A great evening, I'd do it again tonight if I could. Praise be to God for literate audiences and to Tom Chivers for inviting us (incidentally, the bummer of the summer wasn't really the rain, it was the great Lee Hazelwood's passing).
We have a new album coming out round about the second week of January, it's called "A Wretched Sinner's Song" and it'll be on One Little Indian Records. Here's a track-by-track rundown:
The first song we started working up for the record .....Time was when tattoos were the identifying mark of the outsider -- say, Conradian seamen, Foreign Legionnaires, cutthroats. You know, to-the-death kind of people. Now everyone has them, we're all so democratically glamorous, and that's just how the world (ie a world worth living in) will end, every last acre of outsider territory will be invaded and colonised by the massed forces of the kindergarchy---- alright, it could be I'm just making a fuss about nothing (and I have been drinking ...), but I don't think so: tattooed policemen look to me like one more stop on our uncoordinated hand-cart ride to Hell ..... Anyway, in my song the tattoo's a mermaid, longing for the sea. Ruben's a good guy, a freak of nature.
Crown Of Thorns
It's a tune I've had for a decade, I kept the title and two lines of lyric and re-did the rest. A guy loses his girlfriend to Jesus and his disciples resurrected as a slash n' burn garage band. Probably happens nightly in venues all over the world. (Religion being the new rock n' roll, if Christ and the boys were to reform they'd be bigger than the Beatles).
Since I was a teenager I've prayed for the Devil to come make me the offer he supposedly made Robert Johnson or Faust (that's Goethe's seeker, not the Krautrock band, music-obsessives) --- OK, so time's getting short, but I still hang on to the hope that one night I'll wake in the small hours to find Mephistopheles crouched on my window-sill, the contract in his hairy paw, and I'll get the whole package -- Mercury nominations, a top-of-the range Mercedes sedan-chair hauled by four major-label CEOs to get me to and from shows, Beyoncé and Naomi pawing avidly at my genitals--- and all in return for one lousy soul. In this song Satan falls in love with a human, the way the Greek gods used to. And it's set in the Welsh valleys.
The Devil Needs You For His Squeeze
A cousin to "Owls": the Devil's a bit of a recurring theme on this record, he crops up in the artwork too. He's definitely at work in the world, and most effectively in the guise of God. I know the hot new thing is songs about snogging outside kebab shops and tiffs on the bus sung in the flattest possible vowels, so, just to be contrary, I do clearly-enunciated stuff about God and the Devil (I'm nothing if not anti-scene). The deities in my songs aren't pious, though; my Devil would probably be quite partial to songs about snogging outside kebab-shops and tiffs on the bus. He'd also see causing offence as a holy calling, hate the shabby compromises, the defeated making-do of the adult world and insist that it's never too late for a happy childhood.
Like Kim Novak
An old altar-boy turns serial killer. Buries his victims out in Strawberry Valley (Cwmsyfiog) just over the mountain from where I grew up, I played in a band there as a teenager (talking of which, thanks for those photos you mailed me, Kenyon!). We didn't actually bury any bodies, just the odd good song ("Lola" springs to mind). The guy beating a punch-bag to a hip-hop tune lives in the flats behind my house in South London, I watch him sometimes.... Oliver Cherer plays a lovely saw part on this one.
A Prayer To Old Idols
A song about wishing I could be young again. There's a photograph of Keeper's Pond on the back of the lyric-book --- it's the pond she swims like a mermaid round in the song. I was thinking of Jacques Brel when I was playing around with this. There really was one idyllic afternoon on a mountain, me and J***** (I used to walk like a pedlar in those days). An uncle of mine drove past and blew his horn as if to signify 'hello' or 'oh, so you have a girlfriend, huh? I'll tell your Dad when I see him' and it felt like such a brutal intrusion upon my perfect day. (It doesn't any more; he's long dead, and now it just adds to the memory's charm).
I Bought A Rose From The Guy At The Traffic-Lights
It's a pretty miserable lyric, but a heartfelt one: I have always " lived like I'm in mourning, though for what I couldn't say", I just always did, you know? I was a pretty melancholic young man, ask anyone (I'm even worse now). I never dance (I'm a chorophobe) and I see loss or pain in everything, what else can I say? Some pound-shop Freudians suspect unhappiness is just my comfort-zone: I think it has more to do with "Reality, looked at steadily, is unbearable" (C.S. Lewis), but there you go ..... On all the other tunes on the record Jerome Davies devised the string parts around top lines we'd written as keyboard parts, but on this one we gave him his head. Nice arrangement.
The Likes Of You And Me
The last song written for the album. I spend a lot of time reading on park-benches hoping no-one'll join me. And when I see skyscrapers with lights dimmed for the dark hours, I often wonder how it'd be to drift round them once all the workers have gone home, read the stuff on their pin-boards and post-it pads, fondle the soft toys and keepsakes they decorate their desks and computers with, check out the views from those corporate heights. I suppose the song came from all that.
Instrumental. Very short. Features a bit of melody that used to be part of an old song of mine called "Big Boy, Small World".
The Devil crops up again (I hereby dedicate the record to him) plus things I love/have loved: dusk, snow, glam-rock, NME in its '70s heyday, second-hand bookstores, pigeons, "Like A Rolling Stone". I wrote an extra verse for this that we ended up not using. I wanted a song called "She Said I Kind Of Looked Like Strindberg" on instead of this one but I got outvoted.
A Wretched Sinner's Song
For the title-song of each of our albums I've always picked one that I think really worked out in terms of capturing the feel I was after when I wrote it but that won't necessarily be an obvious favourite on just a couple of listens ("The Way Of The World", "Haiku", "The Time Of Summer Lightning") and I suppose that's the case with this song too. It's my way of shoving the underdog forward into the spotlight. And again, there really was such a day. (I don't know about you, but for me, autumn's the "Sgt Pepper" of the seasons).
She Lets Me In By The Back Door
Ah, maybe my favourite! I take the piss out of myself a bit in the lyric, (so make the most of it, it won't happen again). Everyone thinks the title refers to anal sex (e.g. 'Back Door Man', etc.) but I SWEAR it does not, I didn't even know the phrase meant that until it was pointed out to me long after I'd finished the song, I genuinely do only mean she lets me in by the back door of the house....! I suppose I could change the title, but nothing else seems to fit as well ....
When I was a boy I'd take a picture of Dan Dare with me to the barber's and ask him to cut my like hair like Dan's. Although you never actually saw Dan's hair (because he always wore his hat) it was obvious to me what his coiffeur would look like if you could see it, but the barber lacked the necessary imagination and so I always came out looking more like the Mekon. It's a song about how I've always empathised with losers. (John Peel played a record of mine called "My Kind of Loser" a couple of times. He said once at the end of it "Mmm, mine too". Then he followed it with something that sounded more like rocks-falling-on-landfill than music). The Hallelujah lamp-post's for real, but Kinky Al's place is just a name I nicked from a t-shirt, so I apologise to Al (if he exists) for the picture I paint of him and his premises, it's not meant as any kind of commentary on his actual place of business, it's just my warped imagination ......
Just Another Night In Limbo
The whole lyric came to me in just three or four hours, it felt like a free gift from somewhere and it hardly ever happens like that; I figured maybe it's a lucky song, so it's the one we opened the recording-sessions with. There's a staccato part that we'd refer to as 'the jazzy bit' and that always made Nick (the album's producer and bassist) laugh --- or was it a grimace? I was never sure --- because Nick plays proper jazz, for real, and does it rather well. (In fact, it was while watching him play jazz one evening that I discovered Rioja. Now my doctor tells me I drink too much of it ....).
We recorded a version of this song for our first album but it never made the cut: this is a different arrangement. It's about some of the same things "Jerusalem Road" from the last album was (the two songs have a line in common). Smiler's a guy I knew a long time ago, kept birds and always used to covet my mustard-coloured Frank Zappa t-shirt.
This melody (and the whole last verse of lyric) was among the very first handful of songs I ever wrote, and I've made various attempts at recording it over the years, never too successfully: still, all those years later and we finally nail it. Sean Hargreaves did a wonderful job on the piano arrangement. (I love Montparnasse; I always thought I'd end up living there, me and a Juliette Greco-lookalike to sweat me through those hot, passionate, existentialist nights. Life twists every which way but the right one, eh?.... Back in the mid-80s we used to stake out Samuel Beckett's apartment-building in the Rue St Jacques, but never ever saw him).
On Porthcawl Sands
A song about first love: I took the first two lines (or as close as I could remember them) from a poem I came across in a magazine, and they kick-started the lyric. I have an old black-and-white photo of me taken in swimming-trunks at the water's edge there, aged 11, all chattering teeth and quivering limbs; I relate to that (lost)(left-wing) frumpier, Larkinesque world way more than I do post-modernity's (empty)(right-wing) dazzling hall-of-mirrors and I'd still take Porthcawl over St Tropez anyday (or anywhere else for that matter. Not that I'm big on the sea anyway, I don't swim and it's full of monsters ......).
The Time For Miracles Is Past
I wrote this as a bit of light relief in between 'proper' songs, thought of it as a bit of a throwaway, but everyone liked it so it made the record. I was thinking of an old hit called "Ruby Don't Take Your Love To Town" (the Kenny Rogers version), it was all over the airwaves one bad Christmas, the Christmas I made myself all kinds of promises I didn't keep.
I usually bang on about ghosts on windswept Welsh hillsides and such stuff, so just for a change I thought I'd focus this time on London, so here's a report live from the stinking pavements of the metropolis on the last few weeks' itinerary:
To mark the release of Dylan's latest record, Sony commissioned (they were bunged a free Sony digital camera each, worth £500 a pop!) some 'celebrities' (e.g. Tracey Emin, Peaches Geldof, Sadie Frost --- no smirking at the back!) to take some photos inspired by his Bobness (hence Peaches gets herself photographed naked with a big Gibson like the one Bobby wields on the cover of "Nashville Skyline") and the resulting 'artworks' were displayed at a launch-party at Covent Garden's posh private-members' club The Hospital. Apart from the free red wine served all evening and some of the dazzling women present (none of them celebrities), all that struck me were the big, blown-up reproductions of the Zim at various stages of his career (the best of the 'works' was a pamphlet by Bill Drummond explaining why he'd 'refused' the commission). The paparazzi were out in force at the entrance,but they didn't expend a single goddamn flash-bulb on me! Will I never make Hello magazine? ...
Last night of the Spitz: we've had some wonderful nights at this venue over the years and it's a genuine shame to see the place close (it's to be replaced by a fucking champagne-bar!). Each act played a ten-minute set --- Beth Orton was good but for me the real highlights were Joe Wilkes (see my diary for July) and one Babar Luck, a Muslim singer-songwriter. Take it from me, readers, he ain't nothing like Cat Stevens! (Free red wine again!).
More art (so-called): a Free Art Fair party at some galleries in Mayfair. Yet more free wine, but strictly white this time, so I stuck to bottled beer. If you liked any of the 'artworks' you could pop your name in an envelope and at the end of the run maybe you'd get lucky and walk away with the masterpiece of your choice for free: except that to have anything in this exhibition foisted on you (even for free. Even if you'd specifically asked for it) would constitute a breach of your human rights. (There was an unfinished platter of seafood resting on a plinth; this was the kind of show where you honestly couldn't be sure if it was an exhibit or just someone's interrupted lunch). I suppose these people think that going to art school automatically makes them artists, just like every musician you ever meet thinks him/herself a 'songwriter'. Aren't we all just so talented, every last one of us ....!
When we first came to London we settled for a year or so in New Cross, SE14; we had rats, no hot water and no money (to make tea we first had to steal the milk from door-steps) and we'd be permanently on the verge of heading back to Wales, but we'd always take heart from the motto "TAKE COURAGE' emblazoned across the front of the Amersham Arms, a pub overlooking New Cross station, it was like God was trying to tell us something, using the brewery as his vessel. The sign's still there but the pub is under new management, with people like Kevin Rowland and Rob Da Bank booked, so we went along to the launch night. The Rakes played, (and played and played) but I couldn't hear one single original idea coming off that stage; I don't think the soundman could either, so he kept pushing the volume up and up as if to compensate (and this band can fill Brixton Academy, I'm told!). I kept slipping outside for a quick peek up at the sign ..... A few evenings later we went to see Robert Wyatt in conversation at the Purcell Room and that was much more the thing, he was funny and intelligent (no wine, but a very nice badge). Then Tunng at 229 Great Portland Street and I enjoyed them a lot, I think there was something to commend in every song they played. When we played Liverpool in the autumn of 2005 (two years ago already! Tempus fugit, huh?!!) Colin Hall gave us a private tour of Aunt Mimi's house and told me he was managing a guy called Sam Genders --- the same Sam Genders that now pops up in Tunng.
I've saved the best for last: the British premiere of Philip Glass's collaboration with Leonard Cohen, "Book Of Longing", at the Barbican. Before the recital Cohen and Glass took the stage to answer questions from a guy from the Guardian. Leonard is such an elegant and beautiful man, it was thrilling to see him up close. He recited three or four verses from "A Thousand Kisses Deep" and said he'd be touring next summer. Someone in the audience asked him which mattered more to him, longing or fulfilment, to which he smiled, shrugged and answered: "What's fulfilment got to offer?" (right answer, beautifully put). Jesus, the guy is such a class act!I (I hope the Rakes crept in at the back and then just went home and disbanded). Leonard Cohen utterly justifies --- merits --- his place in the world, and how many can really say as much? (And, pace "Tower Of Song", he really does have a golden voice!). He sat in the audience throughout the concert (I loved it) and then got back up onstage to take the applause. Outside in the grubby world it was (Jesus wept!) Rugby World Cup Final night, but in here for a just a few hours it was all Leonard Cohen's world.
There you are, then, no ghosts, no Welsh mountains (tomorrow I'm off to see Eef Barzelay at Water Rats and on Friday I'm promised an introduction to Iain Sinclair). Let me just recommend a few records before I go: Joni's "Shine", Mary Gauthier's "Between Daylight And Dark" and Tunng's "Good Arrows".
Pod's hardly got over the thrill of seeing Leonard Cohen and he only goes and spots David Lynch on Cambridge Circus! David Lynch, I said! Another proper artist! (Pod hasn't been this excited since he saw Francis Bacon coming out of a bank in South Kensington all those years ago!)
Tuesday 20th November 2007
We opened for Duke
Special: Peter's one of the nicest guys I've met in this game, and the most
(ah, the egos I've played support to in my time! Marsha Hunt!!). He'd rung me the week before and suggested
maybe we could do Songdog's take on "Janie Jones" together at the show, so we ran it at soundcheck and then
did it as his first encore, and it was great. During our own set, Oliver Cherer joined us onstage to play the saw
on "The Likes Of You And Me", and I hope he'll do us the honour again in the future whenever he's able (he plays
on two of the tracks on the upcoming album). I really enjoyed the show but felt we didn't really hit our stride until
maybe halfway through, and then it was all over so soon.
The following evening I went to a screening-room in Soho for the launch of a Ronnie Wood DVD, a concert from 1974 featuring Ronnie, Keef, Rod Stewart (in his glorious prime), Ian McLagan, Willie Weeks and Andy Newmark. Back then I wouldn't have bothered with a gig like this, too much guitar-playing, way too much rhythm-section, altogether too many notes, but in comparison with so much of the sewage they've tried to sell us in the decades since, this was Heaven's own houseband, so I just sat back and wallowed in the splendour of it all and pretended it was still 1974. I met Michael Bonner of Uncut (talking of Uncut, a track of ours from Haiku, "Days Of Armageddon" opens the covermount CD on the latest issue) and then Ronnie Wood tapped out a little paradiddle on my sternum, which, I must admit, is a major deal to me, OK!? (He was with Glen Matlock and the Edge: if you regard these three guys as representatives of their respective bands, it sort of indicates that downward trajectory mainstream rock's been on since the mid-70s, hey, pop-sociologists? Nowadays the really important stuff only ever happens at the margins.).
This morning I was reading a review of some new book detailing the evolution
of the idea of human rights. The author
kept referring (the reviewer nodding along in sage agreement) to the notion of human rights as "axiomatic", or
"self-evident", but it seems to me that although human-rights are to be deemed a good thing, there's sweet FA axiomatic
or self-evident about them, they're more like a gift we chose to bestow upon ourselves (and might not have), a token
of our self-regard, they can't logically be said to automatically 'come with the territory', can they? (And in our own time
they seem too bound up with that sense of sheer fucking entitlement we display like we might sizeable, perfectly-formed
gonads). Anyway, that was this morning: this afternoon I'm reading all about vivisection, about some sadistic, misguided cunt
by the name of Aziz experimenting on apes' brains in Oxford, or one Moshe Solomonow at the University of Colorado attaching
weights to the spines of unanaesthetised cats, or about animals in slaughterhouses still fully conscious while their throats are slit or their limbs hacked off and human-rights don't seem so groovy anymore, they seem maybe just a bit unearned, a teensy bit unmerited, wouldn't you say....? Maybe we should just shut the fuck up about them for a while until we evolve a bit more? .... I get grumpy over stuff like this, I really do lose sleep over it, and I wanted to include here some photographs of some of the atrocities I've been reading about, but I'm advised that's off-limits, so hey, let's talk about the football (only joking! I'd never do that to you, no matter how bad a mood I was in!). Now I'm struggling to give this bad mood the slip: one moment it's this lobotomised moggie locked into in a head-clamp I see in my head, then it's Ronnie Wood's immaculate barnet and him prodding me playfully in the chest, then it's back to the killing-floor ..........
I need to lighten up, I know, or you'll just go off and buy someone else's
records, whereas I badly need you to purchase mine:
it's out on Jan. 21st on One Little Indian and called " A Wretched Sinner's Song", if you didn't already know. [In the meantime, with Christmas looming you might care to invest in one (or indeed all) of our three previous albums, all most efficacious as little end-of-another-difficult-year pick-me-ups for those more-discerning of your family members/friends/lovers?].
Thanks again to Duke Special. If I don't post again before Christmas, have yourselves a merry one (within the obvious limits).