A lapidary log.....

Diary dates

October-December 2012
September 2012
May 2012

Diary archive

DIARY 2012

October-December 2012

I really regret the fact “Last Orders at Harry’s Bar” didn’t get released this year, but, that apart, 2012’s been good for us, we’ve had some laughs, burned quite a bit of petrol, including the odd drop of jet-fuel. In October, on a dark and bucketing-it-down Welsh evening we played the Vineyard Bar in Newport, and though very few souls ventured out to see us (maybe they were saving their shekels for the Who tribute band playing the Rugby Club in Blackwood anyday now: just now and again I’m forcibly reminded why I left the Land of my Fathers…) we played a blinder, Nick joining us for the first time in a while, his double-bass glueing it all together. The previous evening we’d spent an enchanting couple of hours on air just shooting the breeze with Darren Bean Greenslade (a gentleman and a big Handsome Family fan) on his Radio Flame show. He asked us to choose a track each to play, Pod opting for Neil Young’s Borrowed Tune, Dave Lucinda Williams’s Blessed and me picking two – the Zim’s Duquesne Whistle and Bobbie Gentry’s Ode To Billie Joe; it was such a very civilised way to spend an evening …

Nigel Stonier had kindly invited us to play the Nantwich Words & Music festival in Cheshire (it’s run by Nigel and his wife Thea Gilmore, the annual event’s five years old and it’s gaining momentum). Not only were we pleased to have been asked but it meant we got to see Mary Gauthier gratis, a genuine world-class act. We stayed with Paul and Helen in Crewe again --- (Paul’s taste in music is impeccable, he regularly sends us these ace compilation CDs crammed with wonderful Southern Gothic gems, and it was down to Paul and his CDs that I was alerted to my album of 2012 --- Kris Kristofferson’s Feeling Mortal. And again, it was at Paul’s prompting that I dug out the superb soundtrack album to Masked & Anonymous, which is full of great things, though I especially recommend Sophie Zelmani’s Most of the Time). We did the Costa Coffee show in the afternoon to a full house, and then another in the evening at some nearby pub (the White Horse, was it?) --- the two very different audiences both seemed to enjoy it a bundle but I confess we hold the pub gig in especial fond esteem --mostly because the numerous drunken lady patrons seemed to favour the kind of apparel you’d deem tight and scanty --- (no, I’m joking, we’re true artists and our heads can’t be turned by that kind of thing, honestly I …!). As a kind of belated postscript to a really great weekend I caught Thea and Nigel at the Union Chapel last week and the gig was particularly fine …

Mid-November we did two shows in Vienna (I’d crammed for it by a quick read of Stefan Zweig’s The World of Yesterday, but with Robert Musil’s A Man Without Qualities still foremost in my mind, a book that provided much-needed succour twenty long years ago when I was reeling all spring-long from fucking awful panic attacks …..). The promoter was Graham Robinson (or Free Spirit, to know him by his stage-name ….), a street-musician and Mike Scott aficionado: Graham put us up at his flat, just a few minutes’ walk from the venues, and opened for us at both shows, Pod joining him on mandolin each night (and both Pod and Jasper getting up with him at an open mic event at Café Concerto the night we arrived. (Curious fact: Graham doesn’t ‘allow’ the acts he books to sing any Beatles or Dylan songs, either in their sets or at soundchecks! Or even in the shower, for all I know …). We’d get back from the gig at some unearthly hour and Graham would be going straight back out DJ-ing or fly-posting for some upcoming promotion (or maybe scrapping with an irate neighbour) …. Me, I took a ride on the ferris-wheel where Harry Lime gives his cuckoo-clock speech in The Third Man. No, Vienna’s not just a cheesy song, it’s a great city and we met some lovely people out there. The first gig (Café Concerto) was a joy, the second (switched to the Weberknecht at very short notice) saw drifting tumbleweed where the audience should’ve been, but we all had a brilliant evening anyway, lining up the caramel vodka shots with Vanessa and Gabriel (in the course of a frank exchange of views between Vanessa and Graham on the ifs and buts of canny music promotion, he pulled out his dick -- summoning it to his aid, I suppose, like another man might so readily have evoked the name of the Lord God Almighty -- to which, unfazed by the unannounced appearance of his membrum virile and striking a decisive blow against bald-headed barbarians everywhere, she responded: “Oh, I’ve got a much bigger one than that” …! Vanessa has promoted Michael J. Sheehy in Austria and clearly knows her piccalilli from her pickle: we hope to return under her auspices ….).

I see loads of crap on DVD but occasionally you come across a true gem, so in this regard I’d like to mention in dispatches William Friedkin’s Killer Joe (you’d love it, Paul), the most original film I’ve seen since Kill List. And if you’re planning on treating yourself to a Christmastide box-set you could do worse than Hatfields & McCoys: with Clint’s poncho and cheroot probably up on eBay somewhere and his range-riding days behind him it’s all down to Kevin Costner to keep the Colt 45 cocked, and he keeps on proving himself rather good at it. Then of course, The Killing’s back on, so rejoice, obviously. But did you know that Howard Barker’s Lot & His God saw its British premiere just a couple of weeks ago? No sooner had the curtain gone up than I needed to urinate (down to a seven-fucking-quid medium glass of Merlot in the pub opposite the theatre in Notting Hill!) but I’d sooner have pissed myself than missed a word …

I’ve been feeling a bit gloomy for the past week or so (so what’s new? Saturn’s always been my planet) ----- yep, you’ve guessed it, the old mutability-of-the-self, ‘feeling mortal’ double-whammy, same old shit (but then, as Carlos Fuentes had it, to want to live at any price is the curse of the vampire that lives within us ….). So if you hate the thought of me all mopey and tear-sodden and you’d like to gladden my heart, come and hearken to Songdog’s last bark of 2012 in the form of a 45-minute set at the Lantern Society’s night at the Betsey Trotwood on Farringdon Road on Thursday, December 13th (St Lucy’s Day!) --- we’re on at 9:10pm or thereabouts; it’s odds-on I’ll be delighted to see you …

Nadolig llawen

September 2012

(Pictures of Songdog onstage at Gooisch Podium are all copyright Chris Fraikin, MultiVisuals.)

Summer’s already gone and I hardly noticed it, I’ve been too busy writing new songs (a process akin to hearing distracting voices in your head): a few titles -- All Those Afternoons; Razor-Wire & Tinsel; Song in the Key of Heartbreak) -- and they’ll form the basis for whatever record we put out after “Last Orders at Harry’s Bar”, which is still awaiting release sometime early-ish next year (it’s all down to budgets and no-fun, grown-up poop like that). So I’m afraid I missed all that summer excitement gripping the UK -- your Jubilee and your Olympics --- but I hear y’all really had a ball and that it made you feel proud to be British and that the Who were great and that it’s a jolly good thing Pete didn’t die before he got old or he couldn’t have gladdened our hearts at the Olympics the way he did…But, hell, you know me, if you factor in my narcissism and lifelong inconsolability it’s really no wonder I get distracted (in this regard Bronwen Wrigley emailed me some lovely stuff on C S Lewis’s conception of Heaven).


We’ve just got back from the Netherlands, we did two shows at Die Harmonie in Edam and one at the Gooisch Podium in Hilversum and we had a whale of a time (well, I sure did). We called in at the legendary Palm Guitars in Amsterdam where I was extremely taken by a splendid vintage hand-made acoustic that felt and sounded like Orpheus’ own --- though I had to put it right back on the hook when I heard the price-tag (5,000 euros!!!). (See, if I didn’t have such a lack of flair for success I’d have been able to afford those kind of prices by now. I bet Tom Waits doesn’t walk away empty-handed; I had to make do with a nice pair of Persol sunglasses instead. When I saw our digs in Hilversum I was so dismayed I was driven to the roof for some long tokes of the soul-saving White Russian I’d been saving: "Respect that stuff," Jasper’d advised me, but, alas, like Life itself, drugs don’t always do what it says on the tin and this stuff failed to ameliorate a long, cold, noisy night on a stained mattress. Dave slept on a table with my overnight bag for a pillow. Still, the gigs themselves and the meals and the wine and the people we met were great, and I can only hope Chris is working on our return as I write. I stood outside Die Harmonie on the canal bridge on the second night, listening to the bells sound 11pm, sipping a lovely red, and the moment felt transcendent. (We did Owls again, first time in years, and in the spirit of revisiting the back catalogue we’re now working up In the Well of Lost Causes too).

Over the August bank-holiday we spent a few days at Jasper and Mavis’s place in Devil’s Bridge and re-recorded nine of the old tunes the way we play them now --- One Day When God Begs My Forgiveness, Barbarella, Ruben’s Tattoo, Lazarus in Flames, On Porthcawl Sands, A Life Eroding, The Devil Needs You for his Squeeze, Goodbye Isabel and An Old Man’s Love. We’ve pressed up a limited number of copies in a pretty sleeve, titled it “A Long Weekend at Devil’s Bridge (Old Songs Revisited)” and it’ll be available at gigs for a fiver or you can contact us via the website, Facebook or any other way you know of if you fancy a copy, postage is free; maybe we can do a volume two someday.

Something else we did since I last wrote: as part of Dutch Van Spall’s Folk On The Water Festival we did a set at the Folly in Napton (along with the excellent Issy Ferris) back on 30th June. As we tuned up in the garden a ruddy-faced Falstaffian figure (let’s call him the Pricker Man) squealed with delight to see us unpacking an accordion, a fiddle, a mandolin and banjo, clearly anticipating a ceilidh band: by the fourth or fifth dirge in our set he could be seen drunkenly shaking his head and intoning morosely “This isn’t music!”. If I see the old dunderhead again I’ll buy him a pint of – what? scrumpy? – for helping make this old punk feel so proud!

Two marvellous new albums out by tried-and-trusted great names: Ry Cooder’s Election Special and Bob Dylan’s Tempest (they were playing both on heavy rotation while we were at Die Harmonie in Edam). I’ve also been listening to a lot of Renaissance choral music --- Tallis, Palestrina, Lassus and so on --- Bronwen Wrigley tells me she regards Songdog’s work as the modern, secular equivalent of that music, driven by a similar impulse but suitably modified for a radically different, fallen world (now that’s the calibre of critic I’m after, not the likes of the fucking Pricker Man!).

RIP Robert Hughes, the most important art critic since Clement Greenberg; I never came across an opinion of his I didn't agree with, and what a prose style! Scott McKenzie's gone too -- I remember, one perfect summer's day in 1967, coming down the back steps at Sycamore House, Scott's big hit playing on the transistor radio glued to my ear and me still believing all was well with the world and everything in it (Ah, I was still such a simple soul then and didn't yet know that pain that lies at the heart of all things ...).

I’ve been reading so many animal cruelty horror stories --- live dogs and cats used as shark-bait, live lobsters on sale in Japanese vending-machines, etc. Jesus wept! I judge the quality of a human being by their attitude to animals (remember Ken Campbell’s “If Jesus was as good as everyone says he was he must’ve owned a dog”!), if I don’t sense that kinship in a person, they'll never say anything about anything that'll ever mean a thing to me.

We're playing the Ivyacoustic Night at the Vineyard Wine Bar, Newport on Thursday 11 October if you fancy it.

I’ll try and write again before Xmas.

May 2012

First diary of 2012, I guess it’s too late to bid you all a Happy New Year? For about twenty minutes my personal New Year was up and strutting, luxuriating in its own sense of youthful promise, but then it kind of … stepped in something… Since then, life’s been remorseless. If it’s not some walloping great crisis of discouragement it’s the dislocating effects of memory and ageing or that old bugbear the fear of mortality --- and if it’s none of those then it’s a creeping, sickening sense of frustrated ambition. Or it’s the shit you hear on the news, all the usual stuff, ecological catastrophe, low-growth austerity, all the schlock and trash in the world, the march of folly that is human progress. You have days, months and years like this too, I know you do. We’re all in this mess together, despair’s a badge of reason and it’s people you’re really up against in life … (When I think about it I can see that this is the outlook that landed us the Morten Harket tour: more about that later …!).

But the next album, a word about that: our contract with One Little Indian’s run its course – they’ll keep “The Time of Summer Lightning”, “A Wretched Sinner’s Song” and “A Life Eroding” on their books but the next record will appear on a different label. Over the last month or more we’ve been in discussion with someone who tells us he very much wants to do it but it’s still too early for me to name names and cite dates, etc. because nothing’s in writing yet. It’s very frustrating, this waiting …I’ve already written most of another record and we can’t get “Last Orders at Harry’s Bar” out yet …

Saga Noren, The BridgeBut 2012’s had its nice moments too (because Life matters less than the moments of being alive, right?): there were those transcendent five minutes of Jack Bruce performing We’re Going Wrong on some Scottish TV thing early in the year, for one. And then BBC 4’s enthralling ten-part drama The Bridge for two (I was in love with Saga by part three). I was even pretty damn impressed with three songs Kevin Rowland did on “Later …” the other night (not “Come On Eileen” though, I’ve seen too many pissed old uncles lumbering round the dance-floor to it at awful parties to be able to stomach that song ever again). There’s been the Carolina Chocolate Drops and the Punch Brothers and Pokey LaFarge …And that day-long rehearsal we had at the house in Blackwood ……… But the very best bit of the year so far was the five dates opening for Morten Harket (bet you didn’t see that one coming, eh? Neither did we! But you know us, we’ll play anytime, anywhere: anyone in Helmand province looking for a band?) that we’ve just finished. Oh yes, these were exceptional jollies (the tour’s over a week behind us and still none of us have managed to readjust yet)! Six of us plus the Sat Nav Girl set off in Jasper’s bus (though “It’s not a bus, it’s a bloody car!” Jasper insisted to the jobsworth at the M6 toll road ‘plaza’ a few days later ….) to Brussels for the first show at L'Ancienne Belgique on May 8th. Here we chowed down on the best backstage catering I’ve ever experienced --- and the show was pretty brilliant too (the audiences were so good to us throughout, with special extra-glittery gold stars for those at the Paris and Manchester shows; naturally there were those who’d come utterly unprepared by their lives so far for our ‘depressing, throat-slitting’ vibe and they’d stand up the back playing with their phones and cuddling their teddy-bears till we were done, but that’s OK, I forgive them, even those tots at the Indigo O2 who cheered when I announced our last song). Memo to Jon and Dave’s girlfriends: their men shared a bed together tonight…

The next morning we tailed Morten’s limousine out of the city centre (Morten’s 54, a gym-toned Adonis in aviator-shades; he has two keen blades for cheek-bones, a powerful falsetto and an even more powerful handshake. And he’s a very nice man; as he left the stage at the Birmingham gig he made a detour to our dressing-room to say goodbye, wish us well, etc.), and took a slow mosey to Paris where the show at La Cigale was one of the highlights (in the dressing-room we’d thrown Dave a severe curveball, rehearsing up “Sex, Death and Country Music”, off the new album, for that night’s set, and keeping it in for the rest of the tour). The next day we meandered back to Calais, sorry to leave France behind (… there were geezers on the ferry, I noted dismally…). Manchester, though, was the other real highlight, a seated audience in the spectacular Bridgewater Hall, I enjoyed this show best of all from a performance point-of-view. Paul and Helen put the whole gang of us up at their place in Crewe for the night and the next morning Paul gave us a look round his studio, at his excellent Songdog portraits in progress, Beckett and Giacometti tacked to the wall as presiding deities (Paul knows a thing or two about presiding deities, we had Tom Waits on the phonogram over supper). He gave us another couple of his high-quality compilations to absorb in the coming weeks …The London show was the Indigo O2, just a fifteen-minute drive from my place: it was a wild night, though the venue --- all black and chrome --- reminded me slightly of the Hippodrome in the West End (aaarghhhh!). Last of all, the Birmingham Symphony Hall, an awe-inducing venue, but as is often the case with us, the last night turned out to be the most underwhelming, we just didn’t seem as ‘on it’ as we should’ve been. Still, we had a magical time, Jon did a superlative job on the sound under often trying circumstances, Mavis was utterly indispensable as the merchandise queen and the whole Morten team did us proud. One question, though: who put the gnome on Jasper’s case onstage? And what’s his significance? If you’d like him back, Pod’s got him……

My cat, Tallulah, died a few days ago, death must’ve knocked, she recognised him and let the fucker in: I loved that cat so much. I drove her to Blackwood to bury her in the garden she used to play in.

Tallulah, Lyndon's cat who died on 22 May 2012

Lyndon in Paris before soundcheck

View of Brussels from the hotel balcony

Dave straining to remember the arrangement to "Sex, Death & Country Music" in Paris

A Beckettian tree outside our hotel in Brussels

Pod soundchecking at the Indigo O2

"It's not a bus, it's a bloody car!"

Pod backstage at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

Corrinne at the Indigo O2

Dave at the Indigo O2

Songdog dressing-room at La Cigale in Paris

Lunch in Abbeville

Lyndon in the garden in Blackwood

Lyndon at home in Blackwood


Jon on the ferry at Dover

Some of Paul Wellington's Songdog paintings

Mavis on the ferry

Jasper on the balcony of our hotel in Brussels

More of Paul Wellington's Songdog paintings (plus one of Samuel Barclay Beckett)

Jasper outside Paul Wellington's studio in Crewe

Jasper & Jon on the balcony at our hotel in Brussels

Jasper & Dave at the Indigo O2

Lyndon on the old Hafodrynys-Pontypool Road

Jasper at the Indigo O2

Lyndon on the old Hafodrynys-Pontypool Road

Lyndon at the Indigo O2

The way backstage to Indigo O2


The O2

Pod at the Indigo O2

Pod at the Indigo O2

Songdog at the Indigo O2

Paul & Helen

Un moulin situe dans le paysage francais

Onstage photos at the Indigo O2 copyright Cath Dupuy