A lapidary log.....

Diary dates

December 2008
Late September 2008
Fri 18th July 2008
May 2008
Thu 27th March 2008
Wed 27th February 2008
Sat 2nd/Thu 7th February 2008
Sat 12th/Thu 17th January 2008

Diary archive

DIARY 2008

Sat 12th/Thu 17th January 2008

Saturday 12th January: The Big Chill House, King's Cross, London

Thursday 17th January: The 333 Club, Shoreditch, London

You know me, antenna forever twitching, fishing for epiphany in all the unlikeliest places (and where could be unlikelier than a big old pub on the Pentonville Road or a grim stone cellar in Old Street, just yards from a dentist's where I once had two wisdom-teeth pulled and a mouthful of stitches?) but I couldn't claw much more than a bad dose of frustration from these two shows. For the Big Chill (another Arctic Circle do. Lenny's DJ set was pretty splendid) we'd put together a set relying mainly on stuff from the new record, just acoustic guitar, mandolin and accordion, a set even more hushed than we normally deliver, and, as it turned out, all the more defenceless in the face of audience chatter: we had us a great time but more in an alcoholic/social way than an artistic one. At the 333 gig (the place was packed, and cheers to all those who'd turned out to see us, I only wish it could've been less of a bumhole of a venue for you all) we: 1) hung around for two hours waiting for other bands to soundcheck (the time some of these guys take you'd swear they were planning to launch a fucking space shuttle rather than just play a show) 2) had to suffer someone from the club's management instructing us to 'stand behind the yellow line at all times during the performance' (like hell we did!) due to some 'health & safety' regulation! (Doesn't that lady know that 'health & safety' is just for arseholes!!??) 3) had to contend with a dodgy XLR lead (part of the house PA) that packed in twice during the opening moments of our first song. Again, we had a good time in the end, but that was due entirely to the audience and nothing else (but mwah mwah mwah to Jon & Cho for their efforts on the technical front; holding back Attila's hordes with a couple of peashooters would've been easier than the task they faced)..... So, happy New Year, etc., but to me 2008 already feels like I'm still marching in lockstep with all the same old bugaboos.

Songdog have a new record out on January 21st and if enough of you buy it, maybe I'll stop grousing (maybe, I said). The reviews have been generally good (still, fuck you, FT and Alternative Ulster) and by now you can read them right here on this website. We're also Download of the Week on HMV's website (if you'd all be so kind as to download it immediately I'm told it would be good for Songdog. I was asked a while back to submit a list of cool records I'd been listening to and that should appear on HMV's site very soon too).

robert hortonI recommend that Brad Pitt Jesse James film that came out before Xmas, it's long and beautiful and elegaic, and anyway, aren't Westerns what cinema was invented for? For Xmas I treated myself to an old Western annual I found in a Blaenavon second-hand bookshop, I'd been given a copy as a present when it originally appeared, a copy I'd long since lost, it had Robert Horton as Flint McCullough on the cover. As a kid I was mad on Westerns (Westerns and metaphysics --- metaphysics in the sense of standing out on the front yard after dark, gnawing on a hunk of dry bread and watching the stars, wondering where they'd come from, wondering what dying would be like; thus did God & Death squeeze right in there in my imagination alongside Bonanza, Wagon Train and Rawhide ..... Let's hear it for God & Death --- the thinking man's Morecambe & Wise).


Sat 2nd/Thu 7th February 2008

Saturday, February 2nd: The Chattery, Swansea

Thursday, February 7th: St Bonaventure's, Bristol

It says here that rock stars are supposed to purr up to venues in sleek, black limousines, but that's not remotely how it happened at our show at the Chattery: our car broke down on the M4 (just past the sign for Porthcawl) and we made the last twenty miles to songdog at the chatterySwansea roped to the back of a AA truck, but I felt good again as soon as I walked into the Chattery, it's my kind of place, and it stands in the same street my parents stayed in on their honeymoon in the mid-1940s, so it's kind of hallowed ground too --- Nigel and Alex, the proprietors, really do know their musical onions (I'm told you have to be able to name at least 10 Dylan albums before you get a slot here, and that's the best goddamn booking criterion I ever heard, so if you're a performer of an acoustic/rootsy bent and you're good and can handle the Dylan test and your music needs a discerning and attentive audience, I strongly recommend you try for a gig here). Keith S., a friend of mine from our first year at grammar school (who also played Paperback Writer-style bass in one of my bands long ago. I remember us trying to recreate "Punky's Dilemma" on an old tape-recorder I had. I also remember how struck we both were by Lennon's first solo album, and I recollect too a night we spent on the streets of Bristol after a Who show and I caught pleurisy afterwards because of how cold we'd got --- but hell, I should be saving this stuff for the biography they'll write one day after I'm dead) was in attendance, so the show HAD to go fucking right (he later professed himself impressed, though he had drunk rather a lot of Rioja by then....). Stephen Light did a lovely set before us (he grew up in Ebbw Vale and I was born there: they should put up a couple of blue plaques or something) and then we played 15 tunes over two sets and the audience was fantastic (and I don't praise audiences lightly, as you know: I go as far as advocating the death penalty for the noisiest ones). We got paid and fed and watered to a ridiculously generous degree and then Dave towed us back down the M4 to Blackwood at 29mph all the way and Corrinne going hysterical in the back of the crippled space wagon .... [The car turned out to be a write-off: for those of you with an interest in these things, something had 'spun off' a cog and sliced off the top of the distributor (that's exactly what I'd like to do to Universal, "Haiku"'s former distributor) but I really don't pay such shit any heed, all that matters to me is that we had a great gig, for cars can be replaced while great gigs are priceless].

So we had to hire a Transit for the Bristol trip. We did a pre-recorded interview for BBC Bristol during the afternoon (Laura songdog at st bonaventuresVeirs was next door, recording a session), then explored the city a bit and, pace Julie Burchill, we all deemed it a groovy place (though Dave and Jon, lechers par excellence, mostly loving it for the university girls). St Bonaventure's is a nice venue, an old-style social club, and the PA they hired in was particularly good. Blind River Scare sounded beautiful, and then we did a set (16 songs this time) to another great audience (two in a row just ain't natural. Twice inside a week is just plain spooky --- there must be some huge boulder of misfortune rolling down the future towards us, Raiders-Of-The-Lost-Ark-style, even as I type this .....). I'm told The Bristol Evening Post was there to review it, so if you see the write-up (and it's a good one!) send it via the website or MySpace or something, could you? (If it's a bummer let's all just move on ..... Incidentally, apologies for my mangled take on "Owls", the lights were in my eyes, I couldn't see the fretboard and the chord-shapes are bastards, it's been bothering me ever since, these things are so life-and-death to me ....).

We're playing the Roundhouse Studio, Chalk Farm, London on Thursday March 27th, a kind of belated album-launch gig, I think "Pilgrim Hill"'s coming out as a single round about then too, so come if you can.

Did you know Our Price stock Dory Previn under Easy Listening!!??! Let's abolish these meaningless categories, shall we? .....!

Don't you think Joe Brown was good on "Later ....."? Think I'll buy a ukelele.

Stop Press: We've got a new car. It's silvery-grey and the upholstery smells lovely.

Wed 27th February 2008

The Ruby Lounge, Manchester

We've never played to --- is rammed the word? --- houses in Manchester, but still, tonight, dotted here and there in the dark amid the rolling tumbleweed was assembled the elite of the city's music-aficionados (ie those few hip to Songdog's cosmic significance and all-round fabness), for whom we played an all-too-brief set. We certainly enjoyed ourselves and I think (hope) the audience did too. In the course of the evening we met some very nice people, did an interview in a bar near the gig, were made to feel really welcome and the whole trip turned out to be a real adventure (when we got home Pod said "I really enjoyed that", so it must've been a cool do. The Manchester Evening News was there too, so maybe there'll be a review?). Back at the hotel I couldn't sleep; at 4am, I was still at my sixth-floor window, watching Manchester aslumber.

The Professor and Chair of the Department of English at Central Connecticut State University wants to print the lyric to
"Cold Coffee & Ava Gardner" as part of a book he's publishing on the lady, consisting of writings about/inspired by her
(he did one on Sinatra a few years back, so I assume he's a devotee of all things Frankie).

Got name-called in Blackwood the other day, just like old times. Lifted my spirits no end! Two guys, lousy with that awful smugness you manifest when you feel too at home in life. I'd have yelled after them "Be in this world as if you were a stranger or a wayfarer," (Muhammad), " you cunts!" but they were already out of earshot.

Just finished a new song, "The Dance Of The Cuckold", the first one in a while.


Thu 27th March 2008

The Roundhouse FreeDM Studio, London

Shed a tear for me, won't you? Through most of March my health's been a shambles. I spent a week in Wales laid low with 'flu, then, the very evening I got back to London I was crawling round the floor with renal colic (a blocked kidney), puking and cursing God. I spent a week as a patient at Guy's Hospital (the good news is I was kept as a 'nil by mouth' a lot of the time, so I actually lost some weight!), but they couldn't remove the kidney-stone because an infection had set in, so as a temporary measure they've fitted this polyurethane tube inside me until I go back in a few weeks' time for more surgery (it runs between the kidney and the bladder --- I'll be putting it up for sale on eBay once it's removed, so if you'd like to put in an early bid just contact us here --- an x-ray image of a renal stentand it hurts, this foreign body in your guts, it really hurts --- boy does it hurt! --- Prometheus couldn't have felt less comfortable, you know? I mean, you get given stuff for pain- relief, but relief's only relative, right?). I won't offend the squeamish by going into the details of my torment but one thing's for sure, playing a gig's the last thing you feel like doing; still, we had the Roundhouse coming up, and a true trouper has no choice (I pushed the show heavily to all my nurses at Guy's in the hope one of them would show up and in the event of my collapse onstage there'd be someone there who'd know where to put the thermometer) ... So, come the night, there I am in the dressing-room, listening to Joe Wilkes's brilliant set being piped through from the stage, wondering if I'd even be able to stay upright for the requisite eighty minutes or so. It's a lovely venue, great PA and lighting-rig, we had Nick joining us on bass for the first time in over a year, and almost all of our set would comprise songs from the new record, I really didn't want to bugger all that up by collapsing publicly in a pool of blood, piss and pus, so at 9:10pm as we trooped out to the stage I was bricking it, but the audience was so warm and generous towards us, not only did I make it through, but the show ended up feeling like something of a triumph (despite a problem with a guitar that halted the music for a few minutes ---thanks for lending me your guitar, Joe! Since the gig I've had two different Denmark Street guitar-technicians look over my Gibson and they both declare the instrument to be fine, that it had to have been a lead or DI-box problem .....?). The audience really were just brilliant, and I'd have hugged them all individually except I've had so many X-rays lately I'm probably radioactive. We opened with "Owls" (I'd been wanting to do the song justice ever since I fucked it up at the Bristol gig), did "Pilgrim Hill" live for the first time (it's out as a download single on April 14th with "She Said I Kind Of Looked Like Strindberg" as the 'flipside'. Even if you don't buy downloads, lobby a DJ you like to play it, huh?) and did "Jezebel" as an encore (we tagged it directly onto the end of the set, if I'd had to walk back to the dressing-room first I'd never have made it back to the stage. I told the audience as much and they thought I was joking!). All the books we left for people to take were taken, every last one (they were all thrift-edition versions of titles I had rolled-up in my sleeping-bag when I set out from Wales to London all those years ago, it's a nostalgic nod to that time and to how big a deal books like those were to me). Jon did a magnificent job at the sound-desk and Cho was vital at the stage end (he was admitted for his own surgical procedure just forty-eight hours later, says he's OK now). We enjoyed the whole event so much we think we'll repeat it later in the year. Thank you to everyone who came.

In the meantime, I've still got this fucking stent inside me ....................

Another reason why the month has sucked so much (the Roundhouse gig excepted): Yang, one of Karl's cats, had to be put to sleep on March 19th, she was leukaemic and her bones so frail she slipped and broke her leg; she'd been part of the gang for 17 years. She was beautiful, and there's a photograph of her hereabouts.

A couple of albums I must recommend: "Keep Your Silver Shined" by Devon Sproule and most especially Ry Cooder's "My Name is Buddy" which is just as great as "Chavez Ravine". We are not worthy, Ry, we really, really are not worthy. I wish I'd thought of the animal parable thing first (what the hell, I may well nick it anyway!).

Leonard Cohen's playing London in the summer. Unfortunately, it's the O2 Arena, but I can't not go, can I? Wouldn't it be just great if he did the 12-Bar for a hundred nights or something?

I've just read all this stuff back (I usually don't!) and realise I've been babbling a bit. Best redo it, I thought, though as Terry Eagleton wrote recently: "Poets are those who have never relinquished the sensuous delight of babbling", so let it stand!

Hot tip of the day: never get kidney-stones.....


May 2008

Spent the Whitsun weekend in Wales, it rained and rained, it was beautiful: there was red wine, two very decent films ("In The Valley of Elah" and "Before The Devil Knows You're Dead") and, on one of those lightning-cock-cunt-and-thunder-type nights you get in the Valleys every now and then, a drive down that steep and hazardous track from Manmoel to Cwm with Wilco's "Sky Blue Sky" playing and sounding like the best record in the world on that particular evening. When I got back to London I pulled out my ukelele and played Ted the cat some of the new stuff I've been writing (he's often quite encouraging in his own impenetrably mysterious way, even though I know at heart he's really more of a "Be Bop A Lula" kind of guy. Tallulah though, his sister, will never sit tight through a whole tune, like she prefers Snoop Dogg to Songdog) and he seemed half-impressed. I played one of these songs ("It's Raining On The Old Cat's Grave". Ted wasn't so keen on this one) in a little solo set I did at Oliver's Jazz Bar in Greenwich (a lovely little venue, I think Songdog should do something there) on May 11th., it was a strong bill ---- Damien Renouf, Boo Scher, me and Joe Wilkes --- we may not be trendy, but we have the music.....

"Pilgrim Hill" didn't exactly soar up the charts in my little corner of the materialist dystopia --- did it in yours? (It couldn't have, I'd have heard). Anyway, there was an enquiry on our MySpace page regarding the verse we ended up not using, so here it is (and looking at it now, over a year later, I like most of it and wish we'd left it in. In the unlikely event anyone ever covers the tune I hope they'd use all three verses):

There's a man walking through the blizzard with no shirt on,
Like he knows only the crazy stand any chance at all,
Like it just don't seem enough that life just happens ....
I dropped some change in the beggar's cup,
He said "The Devil's just a patsy that God fitted up, OK?",
And flashed a peace sign, said "Have a nice day".
I took the lift up to the roof of the multi-storey carpark
To see if I threw a stone in the wind would it fly forever?
And the night came down like an empty glass on a bar-room table.
Maybe a miracle will come and it'll be alright,
Maybe I'll rent me a lover to see me through the night,
Have us the time of our lives.....

We intend to start recording another album before the year's out. (Hey, do you think "A Wretched Sinner's Song" will get us nominated for the Mercury? Why the hell not?!! I could really do with the attention, we'd all maim and kill for more profile, us arty-fucks, us rock-star wannabees, we love it more than oil --- and there's no way I'd let the fame go to my head, I swear).

There I was, zooming through Soho this afternoon, seething as usual with another acute dose of saeva indignatio, than who should I spot but John Hurt. He looked great, very Beckettian; in my book, he vies with Tom Waits for the Globe's Coolest-Looking Dude rosette. I'd have stopped him to pin it to his lapel, but his eyes read "Fuck off, I'm on my way somewhere, I've got things on my mind", so I didn't, I just stood and watched till he disappeared among the hot human herd.

My neighbour's left his empty cat-carrier out on the lawn in the rain, and I don't know why, but it just looks so sad, so forlorn, sat there on the grass, getting wet .... Talking of leaving things out in the rain, I heard Richard Harris's "MacArthur Park" again over the weekend, what a monstrously great record that was/is, one of the most achingly lovely things ever recorded, definitely in my Top 10 Best Singles Of All Time. All together now: "Spring was never waiting for us, girl, it ran one step ahead as we followed in the dance......".

Fri 18th July 2008


lyndon pretends to be Steed

Almost a week later and Ollie from Dollboy wonders if it was all just a dream --- I know what he means. This was my first time in Dublin, and I loved what I saw of the city, we had a fantastic time and met some really cool people. We went over under the Dave on St Stephens GreenArctic Circle aegis --- courtesy of the incomparable Ben Eshmade, gentleman and man of taste --- along with Dollboy and The Sleeping Years (Dale has a track on the current Word CD). The organisers bussed us from the airport to the hotel and we had a couple of hours to ourselves before it was time to head for the gig; they sent a bus to transport us there too but it turned out the venue was literally a two-minute walk from the hotel on Custom House Quay. Things were running ridiculously late on the stage we were due to play, but not so late we could leg it over to the main stage to see Lou Reed, Shane McGowan, Neil Hannon et al doing their Hal Willner sea-shanties thing, so it was back to the hotel bar for more Corona (they'd run out of lime). By the time us Arctic Circle acts took the stage it was pretty late and all three bands had to cut their sets short to meet the curfew; I enjoyed the time we spent up there but it felt like mere seconds --- if music be the food of love tonight was really songdog chill at Jurys Hoteljust a few nibbles.

The following afternoon we did a video shoot for Muzu at their premises in the heart of the city, two songs perched on a sofa in a room that looked wonderfully reminiscent of something out of The Avengers. For me this was the real highlight of the trip, Sinead and Marina made us feel so much at home, I enjoyed every minute of the three or four hours we were there (you'll see the results soon on this website when 'Songdog TV' gets its launch). Once the music was done they wickedly filmed us arguing 'Dylan vs Neil Young' (I spoke in Dylan's favour, Karl for the other bloke) --- I felt outnumbered, Marina was rooting for Karl, Shakey got her vote too. Anyway, thanks to all at Muzu for their impeccable hospitality --- I was so pleased at how it'd all gone, so downright giggly (hard to imagine, right? -- so don't try) that I bought a whole round of drinks at Grogan's, a nearby bar they'd recommended. Later that evening we wandered over to the main stage for a while --- the word was the Liars hadn't been up to much and we left again while they were still setting up Tortoise's rig, I just wasn't in a 'post-rock' kind of mood, the day had been too good. We flew out on the following evening and I really didn't want to leave, and as we headed back up the M4 into London again I could've just dumped my heart out the fucking car-window. Maybe Dublin really was just a dream? (Thanks again, Ben).Alex from Arctic Circle and Alan from Dollboy

jon by the LiffeyThe night before the Dublin trip we made a pilgrimage to the O2 for Leonard Cohen and boy was he majestic! Ridiculous as the truth usually is (Delmore Schwarz) I wouldn't lie to you over something/someone as important as Leonard Cohen, he was just utterly amazing, and his songbook is holier to me than any holy book. He and his exquisite band performed for close to three hours and it was all highlights. If I had to pick just one transcendent moment it might've been "Tower of Song", but I can imagine anyone else there (a total sell-out, 17,000 people, among the most successful shows they'd ever put on) saying as much for anything else that got played that evening, I doff my trilby to you, Leonard, I really do. (All that fuss over Jay-Z and Amy Winehouse at Glastonbury this year seemed so stupidly beside-the-point when all that really mattered was that Leonard Cohen would be there). Who's up for going again in November?

Dave showed me a nice article published in the Independent over the weekend, a hatchet-job on all those awful identikit indie bands NME and its like champion, such over-hyped, View of the Liffeymicro-marketed toss as the Hoosiers, the Fratellis, the Pigeon Detectives, etc. "Mortgage indie", the author dubbed it, "indie land-fill". Well said, that man. (Think of any one of those bands; and then think of Leonard Cohen ...!).

Another Mercury Prize shortlist Songdog aren't on: a pattern's forming, wouldn't you say? (I'm told some people find my lyrics off-putting --- critics can be so biddyish, so old-maid like, don't you find?). I think I've asked you this before, but do you think I'll ever be trendy? ....

I FlatheadSince I can't return to Dublin just yet I'm off to Wales for a few weeks, and while I'm there we'll shoot some stuff for the 'Songdog TV' thing that's coming, I could strum "A Prayer to Old Idols" at Keeper's Pond, "Blind Picasso" at Hayes Island or St Mary's Street, take you into Remo's where I was sat at a window-seat drinking espresso when I saw those angels, maybe? (Except Remo's is an estate-agent's now -- says just about everything, doesn't it, about these times we live in?). While I'm away, why not buy Ry Cooder's new LP "I, Flathead"?--- it's the final part of his outstanding trilogy about old California--- "Chavez Ravine" and "My Name is Buddy" are the other two records and all three are brilliant. Us, Leonard Cohen and Ry Cooder really are all anyone could ever need to see them through the summer: old geezers are where it's at, pop-pickers).

Late September 2008

Unless we're talking the global warming catastrophe, internal weather matters a lot more to me than the stuff we bask in or wade through out there in the 'real' world, but I still rather enjoyed the rainy summer we've just lived through. I'd be greatly enjoying the global financial meltdown too if only there were more bankers and hedge-fund managers jumping off high buildings, like they say used to happen daily in 1929. Walpole said life is a comedy to those that think and a tragedy to those that feel; but what is it to those that simply like to acquire? In bundles?...My own fanatic heart tells me: Fuck the market, it ain't the Holy Ghost.

The CapitolWe're rehearsing a new bunch of songs, ready to record another album; we're about five or six songs in, and when we reach maybe thirteen we'll start casting about for a producer, studio, etc. (Or should we investing in one of those cor-what! AppleMac laptop thingies and get with the modern world? Even if the modern world so clearly sucks a bit? Well, a lot!). However it goes, on the next record we want all the electric guitars to sound like they did on those records they'd play at the Capitol in Hall Street back in the Age of Aquarius as you'd stare at the lowered curtain waiting for the film to start -- that's the only guideline we've set ourselves. (Speaking of things cinematic, I went to see "Righteous Kill" despite the unanimously awful reviews, working on the assumption that something's bound to be untrue the bigger the number of souls asserting it isn't --- but alas, in this case the critical consensus was spot-on and the film is quite a clunker, though I could still watch Pacino/De Niro doing just about anything, rather like I could listen to Bob Dylan sing just about anything, even -- OK, maybe I go too far! --- a Paul Weller song). Some of the tunes we're working on include "Obediah's Waltz", "3:30am", "It's Raining On The Old Cat's Grave" and "A Few Corny Lines" [I always thought the great Macca's "Silly Love Songs" was an ace title. (And always dug the slack-stringed bass part)]. As for production duties, there's a chap in a band named after a painter that I may try. Will the next record make us famous? [Or will it be one more episode in my (not so) secret compact with failure?].

Isn't it a pity that Paul Newman's dead? And that David Foster Wallace hung himself? And yet Russell Brand and Graham Norton thrive?

Someone who cares about and logs these things tells us that with the evils of unregulated capitalism currently laid bare for all to see there's been an increase in the downloading of 'miserable' music (the Smiths are one of the examples they cite. What's so miserable about the Smiths?) with a concomitant downturn in the demand for 'happy' stuff. (Of all the dumb ways they carve up music, doesn't 'happy' and 'miserable' have to be the very dumbest?). There's a theory that hard times are a catalyst for great music (and here punk and so on is routinely mentioned) whereas boom times like Thatcher's eighties produced all that big-snare-sound crap for which the decade is rightly execrated; likewise, in Tony's Cool Britannia heyday, conservative Britpop, or, in the prosperous (till now) Noughties, ten new indistinguishable indie bands a week). But back in the Winter of Discontent the big, big record was "YMCA" (not in my fucking house it wasn't, but you know what I mean) and in the never-had-it-so-good years of the mid-to-late Sixties the greatest pop music there ever could be was produced, so I wouldn't stake my new Gucci shoes on the theory (in belt-tightening times I always overspend, it's a form of protest), but it's something to think about to distract yourselves from worrying about falling house-prices (ha! Just joking, readers, I know you're all way too hip and groovy to give a shit about house-prices!).

Saw Allan Jones at Uncut's Pete Molinari promotion at Borders in Oxford Street. I was very chuffed to hear Allan tell me he loved the version of "MacArthur Park" we'd put up on YouTube, for I regard him as a Leviathan of good taste (and like me, he's always worshipped the Richard Harris version). He was raving about the upcoming Dylan record and said he'd recently spent an evening in the company of the Zim's manager ... I loved Pete Molinari's hat (he donned it as he came off; I guess his hair's too good to hide under a titfer when the spotlight's on him). I quite like his music too, should I buy his album? (Lenny and Corrinne play it in the car).

One of the new-fangled BBC channels recently ran an episode of "Monitor" originally transmitted in 1964, John Philip LarkinBetjeman in conversation with Philip Larkin, with footage of the Librarian pedalling about in bicycle-clips and looking rangier and more handsome than he does in still photographs. Sixties' Britain looked so beautiful in that old black-and-white footage! It's my favourite period, that moment in the '60s when Swinging London co-existed cheek-by-jowl with the old, austere, post-war Britain --- "Don't Look Back" captures it perfectly too (Man, I wish things were as cool now -- now that everybody's 'cool, even sportsmen -- as they were back then when hardly anybody was). And of course the voiced-over poetry was redolent of so much: Larkin talked of some people feeling the need to 'be more serious'; the fact that the programme ran against "Strictly Come Dancing" spoke volumes. And what it spoke made me want to head-butt the wall. (On the very same channel there's a programme coming soon on the Beeching Report, I fancy that'll capture some of what I mean too).

Pod tells me he got recognised in Waterloo station this morning. Getting known, as Krapp said!

I did a short solo set at one of Joe Wilkes's shows back in August, enjoyed it a lot. I'm doing another one in November.

Today's a lovely autumn day and what I'd love best would be to take a walk through St David's (aka Martin's) Wood in Cwmpenmaen but, alas, I'm queueing for beer in a supermarket by Tower Bridge instead. Some American painter -- I forget his name --- once said "Everything's just so -- oh, I don't know!" and that perfectly captures how I feel today ....

December 2008

Slade, Wham, Roy Wood's Wizzard and all those guys must be quaking in their Santa-boots --- Songdog have a Christmas single out ("I'm Still Waiting To Start Hurting", download only, available now from iTunes).
I don't think it's really a Xmas song, it's a long-distance trailer for the next LP (which we intend to begin recording from around the middle of January or thereabouts), but the lyric does ring up a whole bunch of circumstantial evidence in the form of various Yuletide associations, so I suppose the record might qualify (I always thought of "Haiku" as a Christmas song, but this one doesn't feature any stanley-knives or open veins, so maybe it'll stand more of a chance with the nation's wireless demographic....?). Anyway, download it by the cartload, lobby your local DJs, pester your MPs, help Songdog achieve the breakthrough they so richly deserve (and to show I can play more than just the one tune on my own trumpet, here are a few toots for some other folks that were it not for the bottomless abyss of human stupidity would be much more famous than they are: let's hear it for Joe Wilkes, Vinny Peculiar and Michael J. Sheehy).

Cheers to Allan Jones at Uncut for mentioning "A Wretched Sinner's Song" in an 'among the best music of 2008' context in their end-of-year issue: ditto the estimable Mr. Soos at Eartaster. You see, we're making this music for the ages: I know that groovy people across the globe are going to discover us in a big way when I'm dead and gone --- and that comforts me, it really does ---- but it's still nice to be appreciated while we're able to enjoy it, you know? (And speaking of dead and gone, I find myself plagued with these ferocious headaches lately; I also have high cholesterol and liver-enzyme issues. When the moment comes I don't expect flowers, just promise me you'll miss me ....). My own Best Album Of 2008 is Bob Dylan's "Tell Tale Signs" by an easy mile, with Lucinda Williams's "Little Honey" as runner-up .... Other personal highlights of the last twelve months: the release of our album in January, the trip to Dublin in July, Leonard Cohen's summer show at O2 and the beautiful autumn we've just lived through. Lowlights --- well, there are always so many. Yang's demise, kidney-stones. And lots more. To be honest, neither of the last two years have been exactly vintage ones for me, so I can only live in hope for 2009 (though on the ever-thorny question of hope, I'd like to bring the following to your attention:

1) When Max Brod asked Franz Kafka if there was any hope outside the world as we know it, Kafka replied: Bob Hope No hope "Plenty, but not for us."

2) According to a friend of Dave's there are only two kinds of hope -- no hope and Bob Hope.

On Tuesday night I went to check out Nick Kaçal's jazz combo Guerillasound at a nice Brazilian bar in Old Street (Nick plays bass with us, produced our last album and is impelled by the same masochistic impulses we are) --- boy, those guys hit notes to make your eyes water (their take on Led Zep's "Black Dog" is outrageous)! The audience came and went, seemingly to a large extent unmoved, some even sought refuge from the band round dark corners. Funny how there are so many people wearing headphones these days and yet relatively few seem to genuinely care all that much for music .....

How the Beatles might've signalled 'Go buy the Songdog single' We find ourselves label-mates of Paul McCartney (his latest Fireman project record is out on One Little Indian)!!! When I was a lad hassling my gran for the 32/6d to buy the "Help!" LP and then rushing home with it, tripping round the corner past the Mason's Arms, thrilled from my bootlaces to my fringe just to have the sleeve in my mits, who'd have thought I'd end up sharing label-space with one of those four moptopped gods mucking about in the Alpine snow (they're apparently not semaphoring the word 'help') .... Hey, do you think Sir Paul will attend the label's Christmas do?

I went into a cafe in the West End yesterday to kill an hour before an appointment, Gary Bushell was inside, deep in conversation with a very big man (from what I could gather Bushell's ghosting this guy's --some boxer's --biography). Gaz, on the payroll at Sounds at the time, was the first journalist ever to write about my music --- and what he wrote wasn't exactly complimentary (one time we passed on the stairs at Sounds and he deliberately bumped me in the shoulder as he went by, the Oi-championing bully!). I sat there stealing peeks at this big, old, grizzled hack and as I sipped my coffee I had me one of those overwhelming Proustian moments of involuntary memory and the decades just suddenly peeled back and I was in the London of the late 1970s all over again, incredibly intensely so....

I've just been out on a shopping-spree to celebrate the credit-crunch, I've bought t-shirts, hats, a John Rocha jacket, some Neil Young LPs, a 2009 diary, and all for me! I almost bought the Beyoncé video (how I resisted the impulse I'll never know) --- the one about if you wanted it you shoulda put a ring on it --- I swear those three or four minutes cause me extreme turbulence at a chromosomal level, all my sub-atomic particles are brutally re-ordered, Dante's adoration of Beatrice doesn't come into it. My pal Jake stood in the wings watching her perform at the World Music Awards in Monaco; when he described it the sheer wonder in his voice was unmissable....Even her music starts to appeal to me: I hum "If I Was A Boy" constantly, godammit!

I love these short, dark, early-winter days, always have, I'm more than sceptical of that syndrome they've christened SAD. Call that an ailment? You should try the one that afflicts me --- CAD! Compulsive Anti-Authority Disorder --- and there ain't no cure! ..... (I know, I'm just prattling now, and, truth be told, rapidly growing tired of the sound of my own voice ...).

I'm off to Wales soon for a couple of weeks, so we'll resume the remorseless struggle in January; until then, I wish you all a calm and pain-free Noel (and let's try not to think of all those animals they'll be slaughtering in readiness for the festive pig-out).


PS Don't forget our new single, pop it on your wish-list for Santa.