A lapidary log.....

Diary dates

December 2011
November 2011
September 2011
May/June 2011
May 2011
January/February 2011

Diary archive

DIARY 2011

December 2011

Lyndon & his chopper2011’s been a pretty good year for us, looking back we seem to have squeezed an awful lot in --- and that’s just the stuff fit to print. Hart Crane remembered much forgetfulness, I just forget everything I meant to remember (it’s the amnesia of existence, life’s gift to us all), but anyway, there’s another record in the can (comes out in May 2012), we met Jasper Salmon, did a load of good gigs, my throat got better and there was a new Tom Waits album (good omen for 2012: there’s a new Leonard Cohen one coming –“Old Ideas”). Songdog at the Tabernacle (Wales Museum of Modern Art), MachynllethPaul Wellington & Pod

Andy Gatherar & Jasper SalmonWe’ve been mopping up the year in style, did four shows in West Wales at the start of the month, all damn good, we should’ve just carried on going --- we did the Parrot in Camarthen, the Cooper’s in Aberystwyth, the Tabernacle in Machynlleth and then a return to the Hafod in Devil’s Bridge: here’s a big thank-you to Jasper and Mavis for making it happen, much respect and a big hug to Andy Gatherar, soundman magnifique, who not only manned the sound-desk throughout but played a lovely set each night before we went on, and a big, wet smacker to Paul Wellington, an old friend of ours from a million years ago (he’d trekked across Europe with us one dark November/December in the mid-80s when we were opening for A-Ha …!) who travelled down from oop north and spent the final two days helping us roll up cables, hump gear and drink Guinness. Songdog at the Cooper's, Aberystwyth (2)

After the Hafod show guitars, mandolins, snare-drums and fiddles appeared from all over the county and there was a singalong till 3am --- I recollect “Bring It On Home To Me”, “I Shall Be Released”, “Helpless”, “Urban Spaceman” and “It’s All Over Now” --- I recall much red wine, I swear I’ll never forget Jed’s pneumatic-drill of a strumming arm…At a wholly different end of the experiential scale we spent a magical afternoon in a local church listening to a harpist and dulcimer-player/singer performing winter-songs and old hymns like Rosetti’s beautiful “In The Bleak Mid-Winter”, sang in Welsh; we stepped out into the churchyard afterwards, our souls refreshed, only Dave’s tatty, lustful and threadbare old thing still besmirched with sin …When the adventure was over and we had to travel home the heavens wept, torrentially, all the way back to London…

Songdog at the Cooper's, Aberystwyth (1)The landscape of New Cross, London SE14 may leave a lot to be desired in comparison with Devil’s Bridge, Cardiganshire, but there are still beauties to be beheld for those in-the-know, and one such was Alison Blackhall’s harp-playing (another is that harsh-grained photo of me aged 20 or something taken chiaroscuro one summer afternoon in the window of 18A Shardeloes Road, just up the road!) when she and I did a four-song set at the Amersham on Dec. 19th (it’s the pub whose Take Courage sign emblazoned across the front fortified us so much in those early years in London living in a damp, rat-infested shithole and as homesick as hell). Alison is a lovely lady and a superb musician and we intend to do some more stuff together in the New Year (there are a couple of clips up on YouTube, including a version of Shipwrecks, a song hailing back to the very first Songdog album).

I’ll just mention the passing of two men who mattered (and how hard is that, ever?) --- Vaclav Havel and Christopher Hitchens. Christopher HitchensVaclav HavelThey’ll be missed.

Nadolig Llawen, Devil's Bridge


OK, that’s it. On. Somehow on. Have a good one and let’s make a date for next year.






November 2011

At long, long last we’ve finished the album -- our sixth! -- fourteen more messages-in-a-bottle to saturate your imaginations in the coming days (it’ll be out next year and it’ll be called “Last Orders at Harry’s Bar”), fourteen more toe-tappers on the joys and terrors of the human condition! Here’s how it looks like shaping up (and it’s the first one we’ve done without any keyboards whatsoever):

1) A Thousand Roads to Hell - This is a song I wrote over Xmas last year, and on the morning of New Year’s Day we did a little video of me strumming the tune in St David’s Wood --- it’s on YouTube somewhere. Jasper Salmon’s on violin and Jimmy Forres plays a lovely guitar solo.

2) A Million Times - Just me on this one, I used the Martin in an open-G tuning. This was the very first track we recorded for the record, we did it at Nick’s place on Wednesday May 18th this year.

3) Those Straight-to-Video Kind of Days - I wrote the lyric in Wales over Christmas (most of the songs for this record were written in November and December last year) but the melody I’d had for decades, from the days when we were living in a gloomy little flat in New Cross just after moving to London. (The melody of Montparnasse off A Wretched Sinner’s Song dates from the same period). Another Jasper track. Dave’s on drums and castanets. This track was meant to fade but I rather like the way it just peters out, so we may just leave it like that. Inspired by a Banksy postcard I noticed on a stall on the Portobello Road.

4) Last Orders at Harry’s Bar - Ah, one of my favourites! A song about the dead grip of the past, about missed opportunity and been-forgotness. Pod and Jimmy Forres share guitar duties and it sounds like one beautiful part. All the characters in these songs are hunkered down in --- or headed for sooner or later --- Harry’s Bar, we all are ….. “Where did it all go? --- I mean, everything? The journey never ends, it’s just the travellers do …..”. You can hear this one on our Soundcloud page.

5) St Lucy’s Day - Alison Blackhall plays a lovely harp on this track, it’s a hot pick with all who’ve heard the record so far. (St Lucy’s the patron saint of the blind, a light-bringer; her feast day’s December 13th, it’s a mid-winter thing. They martyred her, of course, as they do all the best people in the end). (This one can be heard on Soundcloud too).

6) Bumpy Roads - Here’s me looking on the bright side, in a funny key (Jasper had to re-tune his fiddle for this one), it’s about all those little consolations that hold a life together (it’s not a long tune, obviously) --- I love the harmonica on this. On June 9th we spent an awful, awful day at a studio in Bromley, putting down most of the drum tracks --- we were short of time, there were technical problems, blazing rows, etc. I remember doing the guitar part to this in a murderous mood: all roads lead to Harry’s Bar, but sometimes you have to go via fucking Bromley!!!

7) The Kid in the Super-8 Film - I found an old birthday-card sent me long ago, a bunch of letters and a photograph with a message on the back …. There are twelve lines of vocal and then this big, big instrumental ending (Pod’s well chuffed with it!). Nick mixed it once and then he did it all over again ‘cos he wanted it even BIGGER, and he reached across for his bow and bass like John Wayne reaching for his rifle, i.e. like a man meaning business …. “ … still, they felt like the best of times, every blue moon turned golden ….” .

8) Monster of the Deep - I wrote this song in the afternoon and then recorded it the same evening, just the one take; I meant it as a demo but it sounds great just the way it is, voice and acoustic guitar.

9) Sex, Death & Country Music - We did this in G, maybe it should’ve been D, I don’t know. It’s kind of …jaunty? Not my favourite track, this, but when I suggested maybe holding it back as a B-side or something there was uproar, so it’s in. (Plus, if we’d left it off, the record would’ve been 13 tracks long, and we’d have risked alienating the triskaidekaphobics among the fanbase, am I right?).

10) Sunshine/Moonshine - Three violin parts on this one, a bodhran and a vaguely Celtic-sounding chorus.
Like The Kid in the Super-8 Film, this one originated in a cache of old love-letters I came across hidden in a pile of Melody Makers. Each verse starts with a ‘sunshine’ bit and ends with a ‘moonshine’ part, but in the final verse I invert them so that, technically, the song has a happy ending…

11) The Lies I Tell Valerie - This was the first song I wrote for the project, I came up with it while we were still recording A Life Eroding, but it was too late to include it on that record, though we always knew it’d be a key song on this new one. Joe Wilkes plays a wonderful ‘cantina’ acoustic guitar part. The drunken choir bellowing along behind me on the choruses was formed of Nick, Pod and Dave after a long evening on the Chateauneuf du Pape at the Hotel Hafod in Devil’s Bridge: very, very late that night we retreated to the Yellow Room where all the gear was set up and we did the BVs ---no-one expected them to make the final mix, but, er…they did…!

12) Swansong - This one I started writing in my hotel-room in Japan when we played there in September last year and we’ve done it live a few times recently. Because it’s about a singer we intended putting a doo-wop combo under me on the choruses but time ran out, money got tight, etc. Still, I like this track a lot.

13) Something For The Woman With Everything - “A werewolf’s claw, the Medusa’s gaze, and a flame from the bush on Mount Sinai” or “A mushroom cloud and a unicorn too”. And I’m greatly enjoying that nice major-seventh chord it ends on.

14) Red Orchids - This one’s barely three minutes long; at Devil’s Bridge Jasper came back the day after he’d finished his parts to add some violin to this one, and then a while later to Nick’s place in south London to add some more; Dave spent half a day in the Yellow Room splashing cymbals. At the end of the song the guy’s off to raise a glass to Bacchus in the company of a barmaid who’s seen and heard it all --- I’m guessing he’ll find her in the backroom at Harry’s Bar.

So there you are, then: one fine morning sometime next year the record will be sent out into the great big cruel world with a packed-lunch and a Travelcard to face the critical praetorian guard. Three cheers for David! Massed boos for Goliath!

We revisited the Hotel Hafod again in early October for a show with Mabon (it turned out that their guitarist and I attended the same grammar school and were in the same year, though we didn’t remember each other!) --- I had a cold and a ragged throat but the gig went well, and, afterwards, we drank red wine out under the stars to the distant boom of the waterfalls (I think it’s what they mean by ‘stealing a beautiful moment’). We’re back there again in early December, along with three other shows in the environs of Mid-Wales and the details will be up on the website and on Facebook and all the other usual places by now, so please go check. Otherwise, most of October was spent mixing the album (Nick fingered the faders, we peeked over his shoulder a lot) and I’ve been writing more songs in readiness for whatever may follow Last Orders at Harry’s Bar (in that connection, while I think of it, thanks to Maggy Burrowes for duetting with me on the Beauty & The Beast demo). All that’s spoiled what otherwise would’ve been a very nice autumn for me is this throat problem that I’ve had for well over two months --- prayer, Strepsils, and antibiotics have all proved useless, so I’m finally off to see a specialist next week (you don’t think it’s fucking throat-cancer, do you? Or maybe nodes or something …?). We had a nice meal in the West End with JJ (he’s making a video of A Life Eroding) and Michelle from One Little Indian, another with Kia (we dined in a restaurant opposite the Harold Pinter Theatre where Thandie Newton’s currently appearing in Death & The Maiden and I lived in constant hope Thandie’d pop out on a fag-break, that we’d lock eyes across Panton Street, that she’d burst into the restaurant and fling herself down in my lap, but alas, the hope proved forlorn).

On the afternoon of Hallowe’en we did a photo-session with Cathy Dupuy in the catacombs at West Norwood cemetery and there should be a picture from it somewhere hereabouts. What else have I enjoyed since last we spoke? --- In October I bought the DVD of Martin Scorsese’s documentary on George Harrison, Living in the Material World, lapped that right up, (hell, I even bought the photo-book!) and then, a fortnight later, there was Bad As Me, the outstanding new Tom Waits record. And I started on a diet and I’ve lost a little weight. And then there’s the second volume of Beckett’s letters just out, 1941-1956 ---- look, I’m concentrating on all the good things here, obviously, I could just as easily regale you with a litany of despair, but I won’t, I mustn’t. Or maybe I will next time, but…What else?

No, here’s something sad I do need to mention, the news of Jackie Leven’s death. My band once opened for Doll By Doll at Dingwalls, Jackie used up all our load-in time doing vocal exercises at the mic, right up to doors, so we had to go on without a soundcheck (oddly enough, Marsha Hunt did the very same thing to us at the very same venue?) and the ensuing Sounds review deemed us ‘cacaphonous’, therefore I was mildly peeved for years, until Songdog did a show with him in Amsterdam a long time afterwards and he was just lovely, a proper gentleman and a magnificent performer, I loved everything about him (OK, so maybe not his shapeless, distressed denim shorts). It ain’t right that the good ’uns keep dying (it’ll be Christopher Hitchens before long, I suppose) while the Evil Shit A-Listers (the X-Factor Fuhrer with the square chin and the smuggest grin or Tony Blair --- add the names of your choice here) just seem to thrive – or at least, get away with it (and even when they don’t, it can still feel wrong --- I mean, the manner of Gaddafi’s death was shameful)… Anyway, RIP Jackie Leven.

I wanted this diary entry to have a happy ending, so consider this: The Killing is back (I wanted to shout that from the rooftops in my opening line but I saved it for last!). I’ll say it again: The fucking Killing’s back!!!!!


September 2011

Wasn’t life great once, when you were young and lived life just for shits and giggles? When for just ten bob and a green apple (existentially speaking) all the permanence of the firmament was yours for knowing? Didn’t you just love the slow advancement of the days? Life set the bar so high then that ensuing disappointment was inevitable, I suppose (one of my disappointments --- and I have a lot --- is that animals can’t listen to and enjoy my music). Certainty was easy --- when I was about sixteen I was certain I’d be married to Esther Ofarim eventually, that it was only a matter of time and my coming to her notice (sure, I felt bad about what it would do to Abi, him seeming such a nice guy and all, but, alas, love takes no prisoners …). For me, the death of the 60s and all its utopianism was catastrophic (now here I am, gruel for blood, tending my little circumscribed flake in the steaming manure heap of the ochlocracy and telling myself I should be content)…

Anyhow, I’ve been rummaging through the goodies and the guilty pleasures stacked up high in my rag-and-bone-yard-of-the-past, because I’m writing songs again (Gepetto in his workshop, crafting his little Pinocchios, eh!) and that’s my modus operandi, taking shards of memory and twisting and shifting them into new patterns for new songs, like in a kaleidoscope; I’ve just finished one called “You’re So Now, I’m So Never-Was”. Nick’s in his grotto mixing the fourteen tunes we recorded in Devil’s Bridge in June, he’s halfway through and should be finished … oh, soon (surely?!!) but these new songs are in addition to all that and intended for whatever project follows Last Orders At Harry’s Bar --- demos are being recorded as we speak. Jon, our soundman, at the desk at the Acoustica washout

In the meantime we’ve done a few gigs, all with Jasper Salmon onboard, fiddler extraordinaire and a major asset to the ongoing Songdog symphony: first we played the ‘Stute in Llanhilleth, Karl had particularly wanted to play here because it’s where Fred, his Dad, grew up, it was a kind of bringing-it-all-back-home thing for him, and we had a wonderful evening, playing to (and being entertained by in our turn) a devoted bunch of acoustic music devotees (but why isn’t the place descended on en masse by the musically-literate from all the neighbouring valleys, as it deserves to be? Was there rugby on TV or something?). Then we did another good show at Subterranean Holborn Blues at the Bowery, our second cracker there this year (and we risked a tentative version of “Swansong” off the upcoming record). Then we hiked down to Exeter for the Acoustica Festival, which should’ve been splendid but wasn’t: our stage was outdoors in a yard behind the theatre and it might’ve been gone wonderfully had it been a balmy summer evening (for many souls had turned up to see us) but as we took the stage the heavens opened and it rained and rained and rained (it was coming through the tarpaulin roof of the stage and dripping on me at the mic) and so the crowd had the option of standing there and getting soaked-to-the-medulla or going indoors to catch Richmond Fontaine in a nice warm and dry theatre with a very nice lighting rig (personally, I’d have stayed out in the rain ---- and a brave few did indeed just that! ---- but then I’m a freak). At the end of the fifth song there was an almighty bang, the stage was plunged into darkness and the show was over. Note to promoter (people of so many different levels of talent and ability flock to work in the ‘music industry’, I suppose it must be the perceived glamour!!): I rather think we were booked for the wrong stage, don’t you?). The very next evening we did thirty minutes at From Dusk Till Dawn up in Archway, North London, so at least Jasper managed to end on a good one (a mention in dispatches for Gabriel Moreno, I enjoyed his set and his whole approach to his material; I expect to share a bill with him again). And our next outing is (with Jasper again) at the Hwyl Hydref in Devil’s Bridge on October 8th (highly recommended not just for obvious musical reasons but also because autumn in that part of the world will be breathtaking).

It’s become a bit of a tradition that I extol some new record in these columns, and this time it’s Ry Cooder’s Pull Up Some Dust And Sit Down, a fourth masterpiece in a row from Ryland, after Chavez Ravine, My Name Is Buddy and I, Flathead. (Tom Waits also has a new LP out on Oct 24th and the reviewers are already rating it highly, but to plug it would be like plugging the sea and the sky).

That’s it, I’m pretty drunk now, and despite the ‘in vino veritas’ principle, I’d best call it a night: being a great animal lover with no time at all for that ‘two orders of creation’ crap, I’ll leave you with two quotations I came across:

Samuel Butler: The true test of the imagination is to name a cat.

Ken Campbell: If Jesus was as good as everyone said he was, he must’ve owned a dog.

May/June 2011

Songwriting/music-making can be: A) a road to knowledge and freedom or: B) a hopeless attempt to distract oneself from the void at the centre of all experience --- which? Both?…Well, whichever it may be, we’ve been doing a lot of it lately. In May we finished the Martin Rossiter mini-tour with dates in Manchester and Glasgow (bumped into someone at the Deaf School I hadn’t seen in twenty-four years --- Cheers for the stuff you emailed Pod about the Songdog records, Paul!). And then my wizened Muse loomed up at me in a nightmare and decreed that it was time to start another album (“Last Orders at Harry’s Bar”), so we started with a few acoustic guitar/vocals things at Nick Kacal’s place in New Cross (including a demo of a song I’d written that same day, “Monster of the Deep” -- I might put it on the record just as it came out on that one take…Another of the tunes we ended up doing was one I wrote when I was 23; I didn’t know what to do with it then, but now it swings! ), then we did one really, reallly intense day’s work at a studio in Bromley, getting the main drum-tracks down, nine tracks in six hours.

Mid-June we decamped to the Hotel Hafod in Devil’s Bridge, Aberystwyth to do the bulk of the recording (we’d discovered the place when I did a gig there with Jason McNiff back in February). Martin, the proprietor, generously gave us the use of a big room on the first floor for a week, where Nick installed a portable rig --- all those madly expensive mics and pre-amps he specialises in. This time round we were joined by the very wonderful Jasper Salmon (he was mixing the sound at the gig we did in February, and I heard him play afterwards), a brilliant violinist who ended up playing on about eight of the tracks --- I hope Jasper will play some shows with us in time to come, I really can’t recommend his fiddle-playing highly enough. We had a great week (even though Nick and I fight a lot, we always do…), exhausting but fruitful, and the place grew to feel so much like home none of us wanted to leave. On the final evening we went into Aberystwyth to see Jasper’s outfit Whiskey Before Breakfast play a gig and Nicholas joined them for a set; another night we had supper up in Jasper and Mavis’s caravan where I heard King Crimson’s “Cadence & Cascade” for the first time in decades (man, that took me back!! I’d thought only I loved that song!). Undoubtedly, that week in Devil’s Bridge was the most fun I’ve ever had making a record. We listened back to the stuff the other night and it’s sounding very promising, so, with any luck, it’ll be mixed and finished by mid-August after Alison’s put a bit of harp on. And here I need to thank Mr Phil Pavling who sent a cheque in response to my tweet for more funds: this guy’s a genuine patron of the arts, ladies and gentlemen, a kind of 21st century Lorenzo Medici, he doesn’t just praise the bands he likes, he gives them money!!!....There was to have been a duet included on the record --- “Beauty & The Beast” --- but it didn’t get done this time, so I’ll sort it out for the next one (before too long I intend making a completely acoustic record, and I hope Jasper’ll play on that too)…Songdog trivia bit: this’ll be the first of our records to feature no keyboards at all.

By way of consolation for having to leave the beauties of mid-Wales Bob Meyer kindly invited us onto his radio show to do four songs (Bob’s Folk Show on Radio Wey) and we had a lovely evening. You must check out Bob’s show, he plays some amazing blues and folk stuff, all music he’s chosen himself and not the things the pluggers try and get him to play: you’ll often hear some brilliant stuff by people you’ve never heard of, so listen in, every Tuesday evening, 9pm.

There’s not much good comedy on TV at the moment, but there was the Glasto coverage. I chuckled like a Toby jug at Bono’s shenanigans, the tax-avoiding bastard (I asked myself: “This music? Cui bono? Certainly not the taxman!”), I hooted like an ocean-liner at these two BBC-types’ attempts to get Paul Simon to admit that his appearance on the Pyramid stage had been like the most amazing experience of his life (this is Paul Simon you’re talking to, you fuckwits!) and I guffawed myself sick at Coldsore’s antics (when Chris and the boys finally answered my prayers and fucked off we were treated to the Webb Sisters backstage in a tent performing a sublime version of “If It Be Your Will”. There’s really no justice in the world, is there?).

Like everybody else, I was sorry to hear Peter Falk and Clarence Clemons were gone, but the passing that really brought a sob to my throat was that of James Arness, Marshall Matt Dillon of Gunsmoke, he was a towering figure throughout my cowboy period, right up there with Cheyenne Bodie, Clint McCullough, Paladin and Rowdy Yates …I felt so, so sad for a while…but then I cheered up no end when I remembered Margaret Thatcher will soon be gone.

Talking of “Cadence & Cascade” and being transported back into another life, I recently came across a pile of old love-letters sent to me a long, long time ago, I’d hidden them in a pile of old copies of Rolling Stone magazine, and as I dipped into them again all the pain and distress I’d felt when she left me came flooding back across the decades! After all those years!…

I know you’ll all already have bought Gillian Welch’s “The Harrow & The Harvest”, but isn’t it magnificent?

I hope we’ll play some gigs again soon, just have to get this pesky album mixed first …But for now I shall pour another glass, lay me down in peace and take my rest.


May 2011

I’ve been fine-tuning the songs that’ll form the next album and I’ve got way more than I really need but
we’ll record them all anyway. The record will definitely be called “Last Orders at Harry’s Bar” (Harry’s being the bar at the end of the road, last stop before annihilation, Armageddon or wherever, the songs will be performed by Harry’s house-band --- “so hot they make lullabies sound like calls-to-arms” --- and the stories the songs tell those of the bar’s patrons). I hope we’ll start it maybe next week here in London, though the plan is to do a lot of it with a mobile rig in ---- no, I’d best say nothing till all the details have been worked out. No string-quartets this time, but a lot of fiddle (courtesy of Mr Jasper Salmon). [Beatles-bore-bit: I’m thinking of this as our “Let It Be” --- but only in the sense of there not being too much overdubbing!].

Hafod HotelA few months back Jason McNiff invited me to join him for two gigs in West Wales, we did it as a kind of songwriter’s roundtable, a song of his, then one of mine, and so on, and we’ve done it twice more back in London, most recently as part of the Camden Crawl at the end of April. Apart from Pod, Jason and myself being mistaken for the Bay City Rollers by a gang of women in a bar in Blackwood (the Rollers were playing the ‘Stute that very evening, apparently), we had a great time. The first show was at a beautiful old hotel (the Hafod) by Devil’s Bridge in Cardiganshire (it’s where we first met Jasper), we stayed overnight afterwards, had this big old place all to ourselves, all very redolent of “The Shining” (the following evening we played a cellar bar in Cardigan itself). Our host for the two shows was Harry Rogers, a lifelong socialist of the old school and a poet -- back in the late 70s he’d had his own “Harry’s Bar” in Greenwich, and managed a few new-wave bands, we must’ve rubbed shoulders with him in the Albany in Deptford many a time back in the day, stalking the same hunting-grounds as we all did (we rehearsed nearby. Kate Bush was there, preparing for that one tour she did, we’d bump into her in the kitchen, brewing up for her band; Squeeze and Dire Straits were bashing it out in adjacent rooms too. In another studio we used, we once witnessed Queen and Public Image’s roadies team up to kick the shit out of a gang of skins causing some bother on the pavement outside --- isn’t the past so unpredictable! Ah, such were the times! The invisible barrier between me and the world didn’t seem quite so insurmountable then). Anyway, after the Cardigan show we sat in Harry’s kitchen till dawn, talking politics and London circa 1978-80, laughing like Smash martians. (Talking of politics --- that photograph of Obama’s war cabinet watching Bin Laden’s execution unfold ---- wasn’t there such a blast of sulphur coming from those fuckers? I mean, they kill people too ---- lots of them! --- but only to keep the world safe for neo-liberal economics --- or for priapic capitalism, as it’s also known --- so there’s obviously no moral equivalence whatsoever. Jason told me he finds ‘straight’ people scary, and I say they run the world and so a deluge of stupidity will overwhelm the earth in the end). Back in London we did a few songs at Joe Wilkes’s birthday bash and he tried to join us for “3:30am” but couldn’t find a lead that worked: there may be a photo hereabouts.

Last week we opened for the splendid Mr Martin Rossiter at the Bloomsbury Theatre and we’ll be doing it again this weekend in Manchester (Deaf Institute, 13th) and Glasgow (King Tuts, 14th): for your money you get ninety minutes’ worth of Martin and his lovely songs ---- oh, and about half-an-hour of us, of course! It’s bound to be the best thing happening in those cities on those respective evenings and a sanctuary from the vexations of the hour, so do come if you’re able.


I was bereft when “The Killing” finished, I was beyond lovesick, but I have to admit Caroline Proust of “Spiral” helped me over the worst of it …Music-wise, apart from Josh Pearson’s superb new album I haven’t bought anything in a while, and all I have to say is that there’s an awful lot of light entertainment out there masquerading as something more…

I hope that by the next time I write we’ll have got to grips with this new record. We’re a whole grand below the budget I really want and I tweeted to invite contributions from any potential benefactors, but, alas, to no avail so far. Come on, cough up, you’d swear there was a recession on!

I need something cute to sign off with --- ah, this might do! --- remember, folks, all the greatest truths are intuitive ones (and are strictly resistant to statistical analysis) …OK, it’s not that cute, but it’s true …Or this from Philip Larkin: If you’re not two-thirds of the way there it’s not worth starting.

Boom boom.

Postscript: As I said in my last diary we've been involved in a video collaboration with Prof JJ Aucouturier and his class of media students at Temple University, Tokyo - they decided to make a video for 'A Life Eroding (So Much Sorrow)', as a crowdsourced augment reality project. Shortly after, when they had only just uploaded the first call for participation, the terrible earthquake and tsunami hit Japan. We kept in touch with JJ and his students, getting updates on how they were, but pretty much thought the project would be abandoned, given they were struggling to keep normal life going and had bigger worries on their minds than a video. Some had even left Japan, so we were amazed and moved when JJ emailed to say that the class was regrouping, on or offline depending on where they were, and wanted to finish the video. The students felt they obviously couldn't ignore what had just happened but neither did they want to feel as if they were exploiting it, so they decided that the best way was to refer to the events in a statement on their site and let the video be what it would be, depending on what people submitted. They've all put a lot of effort into this project over the past few months, in spite of the events, so please go and have a look at the work-in-progress if you haven't already, maybe even upload something yourself, and look out for the final video....


January/February 2011

Lyndon on Dexter Bentleys Hello Goodbye show. Copyright Hello Goodbye ShowBelated New Year greetings, then…It seems a long time since I last wrote, must’ve been well before Christmas (Christmas 2010 will be forever evoked for me by C.W. Stoneking’s sublime Jungle Blues; and getting up in the middle of the night to do a live phone interview with a US radio show, Acoustic Roundtable), I spent most of December finishing off the songs we’ll record for the next Songdog record (and I’m still ‘finishing’, 18 songs done but one or two more still to be coaxed up from the murkiest depths, I think). The New Year started well, first thing January 1st we went up to St David’s Wood and I did the version of A Thousand Roads To Hell that’s up on YouTube (I’ve always loved playing in the woods): a week or so later we spent a lovely afternoon with Marianne Hyatt and Gavin Martin, strumming a few tunes on their show on Reel Rebels Radio, Talking Up Yer Country Musical Revolutions. I had as much fun as my heart could bear in those few hours but then we got ‘lost’ on our way home and the Devil made me swear and kick the dashboard…Some days later we played a set at a Lantern Society showcase at the Betsey Trotwood (I really can’t recommend the Lantern scene highly enough, it’s run by Ben Folke Thomas and Jack Day and the gigs usually take place at the Betsey every other Thursday: it’s the nearest you’ll get now to how the vibe might’ve been in the Greenwich Village folk clubs circa 1961. I’m telling you, if you like acoustic music it can get pretty exciting in that little room), we had a fantastic gig --- and Jack Day and Jason McNiff and the Magic Numbers were on too …Then came a lull, an interlude, time out spent living, boring stuff --- but then it’s a sunny Saturday afternoon at the Borough and we’re putting in a second appearance on Dexter Bentley’s Hello Goodbye show on Resonance 104.4FM, had a great time (I knew Dexter reminded me of someone and it’s just come to me: Wayne Coyne!), met some nice people and then it’s over before you know it and you’re back on a train or in Waitrose or somewhere…

I was in Wales for a couple of days, attended a funeral, met an old friend --- we talked about market idolatry and Truth having no syllables and wasn’t sheet-music way more rewarding before TAB when you really had to work at it to extract just a few notes you could recognise from the record, the kids just get it all on a plate these days and so forth…

But a quick wiggle of the music-fairy’s wand and a cascade of multicoloured stars and it’s early February and we’re in a studio up near Turnpike Lane with the splendid Mr. Les Mommsen on the faders and we get 17 songs done in two days of tracking, with Nick Kacal on bass and Joe Wilkes joining us on guitar for 3:30am (Small Talk). I don’t know exactly what we’ll do with the tracks once they’re mixed --- we may give some to One Little Indian as free bonus downloads or something, or print up a limited number of CDs people can get by e-mailing us, we don’t know yet. (Among some of the old songs we re-did were Shipwrecks, Blind Picasso, Childhood Skies --- always loved the latter, tried it twice back in the day and never felt we’d nailed it but now we most definitely have). It’ll soon be time to start demo-ing the new songs in preparation for the next LP (I need a fiddler for about half the tunes, but I want to rehearse the material in advance with said violinist, not just get them in to overdub parts once the tracks are down: if you’re a proper Scarlet Rivera and prepared to work intensively and cheap, CALL ME!!). I said to Les that should we end up doing the stuff with him would he promise to make the record sound old and distressed, like Jungle Fever and he said did I mean fucked-up and I said yes, and he replied sure, I love fucked-up, so I’ll take that as a promise…

The next evening we stayed up all night to do a Skype conference-call with JJ and some of his students at the Temple University in Tokyo, they’re working on a video to one of our songs: if you Tweet you can find out more about it --- search #8songs or follow me on @_Songdog; there’ll be a website coming soon explaining the project (it’s for the song A Life Eroding (So Much Sorrow)) and asking for participation from anyone interested, they need bits of footage of anything redolent of loss or sadness, etc., whether it be shot on your phone or looks like a David Lean outtake, you get my drift?....

So it’s late on a wine-sodden Sunday evening, and what’s next? Lemme think…OK, we’re playing two gigs this week, at the Easycome (Old Nuns Head, 15 Nunhead Green, SE15 3QQ) on Feb. 16th and then Thur 17 Feb at Acoustic Suicide (The Gladstone, 64 Lant St, SE1 1QN) and they’ll be two different sets should you fancy attending both evenings, you noble, intrepid, deep-souled artoholoic, you…Alison Blackhall (she played the harp on Gene Autry’s Ghost on our last album) asked if I’d like to sing a few of my songs to her harp arrangements, and yes, I’d love to, so we must see the idea through to fruition, Alison, OK?…From Feb 24th I’m doing some gigs in Wales with Jason McNiff – it’s a songwriter’s roundtable thing, so he’ll do a song, then I’ll do one and so on and details will be up on Facebook anon. Then Songdog are playing at the Bowery in New Oxford Street on March 9th --- it’s a Subterranean Holborn Blues promotion and it’s also my birthday so y’all can come and make a fuss of me if you wanna (if you’re thinking of bringing me a gift, I’m really into red wine and checked cowboy-shirts; or there’s that new novel that’s composed entirely of questions, you know the one I mean. Or hell, just bring yourselves!…) --- and Marianne Hyatt’s Country Dirt’s on too, and so is Rosie Sleightholme, so all that should clinch it for any right-thinking little metropolitan hipster, am I right?

Have you been following that Danish thriller on BBC4, The Killing? I’m hooked on it, and it’s not only because I’m infatuated with the actress playing Lund (any of our Scandinavian fans able to introduce me to the lady, though?), it’s a very classy piece of work. And I’m expecting big things too from the new Coen brothers film, True Grit, Jeff Bridges will be magnificent as Rooster Cogburn, I know he will (and anyway, I love westerns, I grew up loving them and I always will, even the crap ones. Remember The Gold of the Seven Saints? Clint Walker (you know, Cheyenne Bodie!)? Er, Roger Moore …(no, forget Moonraker! He’s into animal rights, so let’s hear it for Rog!)? Graham and I saw it at the Capitol the year it came out; just gazing on the fucking poster thrilled me to smithereens … I should’ve lived in the Wild West in those times, I’d have been in the Wild Bunch, I’d have died gloriously, slumped across the trigger of the Gatling gun or I should’ve been killed at the Alamo. I should’ve lived in Cinemascope! Two Rode Together, aww man, that’s just fucking poetry, can’t you hear it? The Comancheros!!!! I wouldn’t have had to be John Wayne or Clint, I’d have settled for Jack Elam! Fuck, I’d have settled for Chill Wills! …. And the Sons of the Pioneers (buffalo dung on their boots, prairie-dust in their throats) were not just up there with the other Immortals (the Inkspots, the Jordanaires, etc.) but had a special throne-room all of their own in Vocal Group Valhalla, testament to their imperishable greatness …But, no, stop dreaming, Morgans, you live in these times, godammit! --- this piss-and-wind age of bureaucrats and Thought Nazis …Maybe I did something really awful in some other life …?

God, it’s late!