A lapidary log.....

Diary dates

October-December 2013
Summer 2013
Spring 2013
February-March 2013

Diary archive

DIARY 2013

October-December 2013

St Lucy's DayApologies, chums, I’d have posted this earlier, but Francis D’Arcy loaned me a box-set of all five seasons of The Wire, and I’ve been utterly engrossed, it’s the best thing I’ve seen since Deadwood and really put a dent in my anhedonia night after night after night after night after night (so I guess my case can’t be a terminal one, right?). So, who’s up for lending me this Breaking Bad they’ve all been flashing the pollice verso over? (So long as it’s not a comedy, only, I don’t really do comedies).

OK, on to Songdog business: the “Last Orders at Harry’s Bar” launch gig in early October at Alleycat, Denmark Street was definitely a bit of a triumph and buoyed me up for days afterwards (which really takes some doing, I promise you). Jasper performed miracles getting the PA in and up-and-running on time, we played a stormer and the audience did us proud, so what was to quibble over? (And the great Michael J. Sheehy was in attendance, a very fine songwriter, in case you’re unfamiliar with his work …). (I admit I got a little stressed at soundcheck --I loathe and detest them at the best of times -- but Dave and Nick rushed me to the nearest hostelry to dowse my anguish with soothing draughts of alcohol and I returned to the venue come showtime, Buddha-like in my serenity). Afterwards, some of us repaired to the Pillars of Hercules, a wonderful night having been had by all.

The ‘music industry’ has never been as difficult to make headway in as it is now --- the manager of one well-respected act that I always think of as doing rather well told Corrinne they were jealous of our having landed a track on the Uncut CD again and moaned about the relentless slog involved just to maintain any kind of profile at all --- but it’s the same for anyone not in it just for the laughs and the album seems to be doing OK, we’ve had some really nice reviews (Rock n’ Reel –wow!), sporadic radio-play, etc. We’re even up there on the Borderline’s Wall of Fame! (So “getting known,” as Beckett’s Krapp would have it; there’s a journalist I rate highly who’s been lobbying his editors to write something substantial on us for quite a few years but just can’t land the go-ahead --- maybe he should try a nag’s blood-soaked head under the hacks’ duvets? …). What else should I mention --- that Mal’s bought a double-bass he hasn’t unveiled to us yet and Dave a shiny, new, black Bulgari accordion, five grand’s worth? … Songdog in the Devil's Cauldron

In early November, on a beautiful autumn morning so lovely it made even the Farringdon Road look like a suburb of Paradise (!!) I joined Zarina Holmes --- a very talented photographer, photo-editor and art-director --- in a deserted bar upstairs at the Betsey Trotwood where she filmed me strumming three of my tunes as part of her Meet the Storytellers series [one of the songs --- A Life Eroding (played a tone down!) --- is already up, with two more --- One Day When God Begs My Forgiveness and The Waitress from Yorkville, Toronto --- to come: the sunlight streamed in on us, it was all very peaceful and trance-like] …. November 9th saw us back at the Chattery in Swansea, the hippest gig in South Wales (and hey! we’re on their Wall of Fame too!); it was a dark, wet night with Wales playing fucking rugby on the telly (!!?) but we still had our usual great time at this venue and Nigel got up to the mic and said the kindest things --- hell, it was such a good night I even triggered a speed-camera on the M4 on my way home and the summons never arrived! ….Pod with Griffin

A couple of weeks later we ventured north for some shows: we’d opted for Harry’s Bar in Wakefield just for the venue’s name and arrived in the heaviest rainstorm I’d ever seen, playing to a roomful of dedicated, real-ale-drinking Yorkshiremen, so I feared our run of good gigs would finally peter out into the sand and that we’d die the proverbial death there, that night, but no, Euterpe --- high-kicking goodtime gal/sensitive and beautiful Pre-Raphaelite soul that she is --- must’ve been rooting for us, for we kicked up a bit of a storm, seeming to please the assembled throng no end. Then it was back to Barnsley to stay the night at Liz and Craig and Richard and Griffin and Topsy’s place, and then a show the following evening at the Riverside in Sheffield. Despite the knob of a soundman (he was mentally absent throughout soundcheck but disappeared altogether before showtime!) and a sparse crowd, we played a good ‘un ---for any experienced musician will tell you, a great gig isn’t just about how big the audience is --- and met some nice people. Me, I had a ball onstage …. A gig planned at an art gallery in Oswestry got pulled, alas, but the show at Aberystwyth Arts Centre opening for the Blockheads on Nov. 30th went ahead and brought the year’s gigs to a glorious close: their soundman was fucking ace --- no, better than ace! --- skillfully getting us through a soundcheck with ‘doors’ only minutes away (when you’re famous, y’see, you don’t have to give a shit about keeping to schedules and so on. Listen, I know I go on about soundchecks and soundmen, but I can’t help it, soundchecks are an ordeal ---- always! --- and good soundguys rarer than intelligence, but this guy was a prince!) and I loved every second of our forty-minute set. While we were holed up for the weekend at Devil’s Bridge we shot some film in Jasper’s caravan and at the Hafod and the indomitable Jim Curry wielded a camera throughout the evening at the gig in Aberystwyth, so I hope we’ll be able to find some stuff to stick up on Facebook over the coming weeks (there’s a 30-second clip of Pod searching for the chords of a new song of mine --- Love Dies Petal-by-Petal --- on the Hafod’s joanna already up; there was a good run-through too of Obediah’s Waltz and Raise Your Glass in Praise, Ye Brethren in the dressing-room just before the show, and if that footage looks OK we’ll put that up as well, I just haven’t had time to check it all yet).

BerlinNotwithstanding Madiba’s passing (there was a mountain of blooms piled up outside the South African Embassy all week in the very spot where we used to demonstrate in the 80s: I remember you could see them filming us then from the upper-floor windows …) the death with the most personal significance for me was Lewis Allan Reed’s. Lou was a true rock n’roll master, (if you don’t get Lou, rock n’roll’s probably not really your thing), a genius, an immortal, and Berlin among the most glorious masterpieces of a decade rife with them; he also turned in one of the greatest live sets I’ve ever seen (opening for the Who at the Valley, Charlton in 1974). I bet God was keenly waiting for this man. I remember a day in Newport in very late 1972, I’m carrying my just-purchased copy of Transformer, standing at a urinal in the bus-station toilets when a guy in blue overalls next to me leans over, whispers in my ear and asks if he can suck my dick: I’m so fucking shocked (and scared!!!) that I piss down my leg and vamoose out of there! On the bus home even I couldn’t help but see the mismatch between my reaction to the guy’s overtures and Lou’s whole Walk on the Wild Side ethos contained within the grooves of the long-player I was carrying. I felt so fucking stupid, such a phoney: maybe I should’ve just let him suck it? Isn’t that what Lou would’ve done? I also always loved the way he wouldn’t ever tolerate fools, whereas I do, incessantly …

AutobiographyBack in Newport again, but just last month, I bought a book purely to piss off a really lazy, dopey, complacent-looking saleslady behind the counter in Waterstones --- it could’ve been almost any book, but, as it was, it turned out to be Morrissey’s autobiography. To my own surprise, I ended up reading it all the way through and it proved to be the best ‘entertainer’s’ tome I’d come across since Chronicles: I’m no fan of the guy’s music but I totally relate to his persona and his view of the world --- most especially the animal rights thing (he had a McDonald’s closed down at one venue he played, stormed off at another gig because he could smell the stench of cooking meat from a fast-food outlet close-by; he’s another Chrissie Hynde in this respect, and I cheer him – them --- on for it at the top of my voice. I really do just seem to see eye-to-eye with the man; maybe we were separated at birth, as Nell says). The book contains a lot of good things, full of lovely one-liners both funny and true, contains a great deal about the dumb-as-fuck music business and ends with: Take it as it is. I am no more unhappy than anyone else, and most humans are wretched creatures --- cursed by the sadness of being. The world created me and I am here …. Amen, Steven, amen.

So Time’s portcullis drops on another year, pop-pickers, quite a good one for Songdog, really, with Last Orders at Harry’s Bar finally out (and a download-only single, St Lucy’s Day, released just last Friday, backed with a Song For A 5-String Guitar: check out Corrinne’s video for the A-side on YouTube). I’ll convene with Nick Kaçal in January to record demos of another fifteen or so songs and the whole wheel will, in due course, roll round again: I couldn’t conceive of life any other way. So, if you’re not a chicken, turkey, duck, goose or some such other godforsaken victim of cruel and complacent humankind’s overwhelming sense of entitlement I wish you a merry Xmas, yes?

Nadolig llawen.

Summer 2013

Hello again, it’s been a while … So, what’s been trending down your way, then? Read anything good on your Kindle? How’re you all bearing-up in these hyper-commodified, information-saturated, hypersonic, performance-driven conditions of late capitalism we all know and loathe? Well, summer’s over at last and I’ve all my favourite months to look forward to: scorching days and endless daylight just make me tetchy, miserable, I get neon and sodium cold turkey, I sweat, I’m assailed by ‘the existence of the terrible in every particle of air’ (Rilke). And then in any weather I’m picking at psychological scabs or pondering terrible things --- the fugacity of human affairs, the ship-of-fools news media, the celebrity-sausage-machine, filthy, venal politics, bullshit-and-hype saturated contemporary art, vacuous post-modern thought and the brainless addiction to the data-stream --- all these horrors make me as grumpy as hell and all I can love then are animals, some music and lemon drizzle cake, but I know, I have to snap out of it, I’ve got a new album out next week --- Last Orders at Harry’s Bar --- forty-two thousand years in the making and available from October 7th --- I’ll need to be smiley and chummy and approachable --- and hey, have you pre-ordered it yet? (St Lucy’s Day is on the Uncut CD, in the company of other good stuff by the likes of Okkervil River and Tony Joe White and we’re doing an album launch on Thursday Oct 10th at Alleycat, 4 Denmark Street, admission free, we’re playing for about 45 minutes starting around 7:30pm. If you’re not there --- you know what I’m like ---- I’m gonna take you for a nincompoop …).

A big thank-you to all who’ve reviewed it and to those who still intend to and a big go-fuck-yourself to all those who haven’t and won’t (I’m told my music ‘polarises’ people. Good, I take that to mean it sorts the good guys from the dunderheads and philistines, and that’s a kind of public service ….). When the record’s finally out --- just a few more days! --- we’ll start rehearsing the songs for the next one.

Things I remember from the summer past: another gig at the Betsy in June, on an impulse we busked “Obediah’s Waltz” and now it’s a set staple; a show in August at Spiro’s in Cardiff, more sound-guy issues --- as Jasper muttered: “There’s muppetry afoot …”. It was a decent show but, for some reason, my spirits took a steep, steep plunge afterwards and, back in Blackwood I stood out on the yard half the night with a bottle of Merlot and it still didn’t do the trick; I saw a Manic in a Cardiff restaurant, the rapist’s mask long gone, he now looks like an academic; a lovely evening on Jasper’s mountain in early July, sat around a bonfire, having our pictures taken, watching the sun go down (and his cat’s really an angel …); Nick Kaçal trudging uphill in the Blaenavon drizzle, ‘feeling like a unicorn in the knacker’s yard’; one August day in Blackwood High Street chatting to a lady who’d seen the Beatles and Roy Orbison at Cardiff’s Capitol in 1963 --- “We didn’t know it was important then …”; discovering Terminal Studios in Bermondsey is now a demolition site, (London changes so quickly, Ferrari-fast …) we’d rehearsed there hundreds of times over the years --- it was there one Sunday morning in early 2007, while we were working on Pilgrim Hill that I got the call to say my father’d died.

Mal Phillips has joined us on bass, he’ll do as many shows with us as he’s able: he’s served with us in the trenches twice before, in two previous bands, he’s an ace musician (that’s why I asked him) and a fast learner, having mastered all the songs in about a week. He was blooded on a three-date trip to Holland in late September, and a wonderful jaunt it was, too. First off we did the Axis festival in Assen (the night before, while looking for a stable for the night, we inadvertently checked into a nudist/health spa place: when the receptionist had mentioned going down naked for dinner I’d assumed it was a just a translation glitch … All I can say is we were famished and all our gear was already piled up in Reception … There were hours to go till morning and no other place to eat in for miles …! Look, we resisted for ages, OK!! … The waitress --- a Nicole Kidman lookalike --- took a photo you’ll never see, we look like a posse of Mafia dons sinking a few cognacs in readiness for some post-prandial debauch …..).

The Axis thing was an outdoor show, we took the stage just as the sun was sinking, lovely! Assens’s a cool place, we slept in a big barn a few miles outside town (Mal and Dave braved the outdoor shower! At separate times, obviously ….) and the next day we headed for Haarlem and a gig I’d really been looking forward to, at De Waag, a venue I’d had recommended to me when we played the city in February: back in the day Simon and Garfunkel played there twice and Pete Seeger did it only recently: it was a fantastic show and I most definitely want to do it again. The show was over by mid-evening so we drove directly to Edam for another set at De Harmonie in return for some rooms for the night. This place is starting to feel like home, a great venue serving a Belgian beer some of the Songdog fellows took to with gusto --- it’s made by Trappist monks, but makes you behave like anything but, eh, Mal? …

I’ve gone back to vinyl and I’ve been spending headphones time with Pokey Lafarge and Duke Ellington, the Andrews Sisters, Hank Williams and Bob Dylan, but I’d like to praise too the brilliant new record by Sting (!!), “The Last Ship”. Don’t sneer, just check it out, it’s quality stuff from start to finish, I promise you. What a musician (I’ve no time now for people who aren’t but still make records ….)! What a songwriter (and I never thought he was! It’s a whole different level from that old Police chunder, honestly) …

There’s enough going on/coming up to keep me diverted, so I’ll try not to think about all that bad stuff I cited in my opening paragraph and then maybe I’ll enjoy the autumn. In the meantime, buy the album, ye gentle souls. Come to the launch, ye groovy, cosmopolitan movers and shakers …

Spring 2013

The Amazing TedMy cat --- Ted, a little deity in blue fur --- died last week, he hurled himself from room to room trying to outrun a heart-attack until he just dropped, and I miss him enormously, so forgive me if I’m a bit grouchy, ever since that morning I’ve been given to slandering all God’s creation, hourly. Yes, I know some will say I’ve been grouchy all my life, and it’s true that since way back when I was just a puppy, long before I first launched my foredoomed and lonely insurrection against the world the way fools seemed to like it, something always stopped me from feeling at home here. First off, I looked around me, wondered if I should just ape what I saw for a while, see how it went, sign up for the old rigmarole that seemed to work for so many, dive in head-first like all this was just my god-given birthright, but I couldn’t, I swear I couldn’t … Eventually I sought guidance in books and music and if I’d been born middle-class I’d no doubt have sought it (on a stipend from Mum and Dad) in saffron robes in a leafy retreat somewhere over a bowl of bean-shoots, but after all these years I just accept it --- there is no cure. And so as I age I grow more immature, a psychological alien: adult life’s just an anticlimax, you know it is. But tonight, couldn’t I just have my cat back?.....

I still daren’t give you a precise release-date, but “Last Orders at Harry’s Bar” will definitely be released at the end of September on Junkyard Songs through Shellshock. It’s two years since we recorded it! Two years! June 2011! Anyway, buy lots of copies, laud it to all your friends, play it in your headphones when you’re out jogging or on a train reading (lab tests prove that when it comes to self-medicating, high-octane song-writing can be just as efficacious as any amount of Muse or Jake Bugg), help make us famous, see if it helps cheer me up, and, in return, we pledge you backstage passes to all our sold-out stadium shows. (When the album comes out I’m informed there’ll be a new website too and, what’s more, it’ll be ‘interactive’[!!], though the last time we tried something like that we had to close down the board in the end because it rapidly degenerated into a scrap on a par with a rough Friday night at a goldrush-era Klondyke hooch-parlour).

Speaking of shows, we’ve done a few since last I wrote: first there was the Betsey Trotwood in Farringdon, always a lovely gig for us (we’re back there on June 13th, in the cellar this time, like we were in December) with great supporting sets from Gabriel Moreno and Felix Holt & The Radicals. Then we did the Kama Lounge in Newport (I’m not necessarily getting these in correct date-order), another nice one with a good young band called The Tundra on first; then we opened for Clive Carroll (a nifty guitarist, there’s no denying, but I think he figured he was being paid by the note) at the Hotel Hafod, Devil’s Bridge, my favourite of all the ones we’ve ever done there (plus we took possession of the latest two in Paul Wellington’s wonderful series of compilation CDs). Then we played to a gathering of PhDs at the Ballroom in Canterbury (and I really oughtn’t to bang on at length about the inept sound-guy, a mouth-breathing geek in tragic trousers and with a low attention-span, though I’m inclined to …). But then it was May and time for the Thunderbolt in Bristol, another great one (well, I thought so, though some of the other guys in the band felt the onstage mix left them a bit adrift?), a venue I recommend (I see John Dowd’s there soon) and it was nice to see Caryne again, and Danny Gmaj too, a friend I hadn’t seen since one night when a play of mine --- a Verity Bargate award-winner I’ll have you know! --- was running at the Soho Theatre back in the mid-90s, though Danny harks as far back as certain riotous post-punk times we enjoyed as Sad Among Strangers at the Two Brewers in Clapham High Street at the dawn of the 80s (I refer you to verse four of “1979” from “A Life Eroding”) --- he’d have been just fourteen then and shouldn’t even have been allowed in!

The Handsome Family - WildernessThen, just a few nights ago, I performed “Life on Mars” at Gavin Martin’s David Bowie night at the Charterhouse in Farringdon, a celebration in honour of the Immortal Dame… Look, I’ll come clean, I fell off my stool while I was setting up (beer and red wine), but if it turns up online I’ll sue. Jeff Dexter told me it was OK as there was a noble precedent, the venerable Tim Hardin having once done the very same thing at the Albert Hall (though in his case it’d been the smack). Charles Shaar Murray talked about Mick Ronson (did I ever tell you I once met Ronno myself? In the mid-80s, at my then-manager’s house where he was dossing while he produced an album for One the Juggler, another act on that manager’s roster?). It was quite a night, though I missed the grand finale -- all the evening’s performers back onstage for a rousing rendition of “Starman”.

Who’s been on Happy-go-lucky Morgans’s big chunky headphones recently, I hear you asking? Well, mostly Ella Fitzgerald, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Jimmie Rodgers, Memphis Minnie and the Handsome Family. As regards the latter, I’ve on already been on Facebook pointing out that Brett and Rennie form one of the classiest acts in the world (even Greil Marcus thinks so), so all that remains is to remind you to buy their new record, Wilderness, because a) it’s great and b) they could do with the money.

Pod’s been devouring a Leonard Cohen biog wherein the Great Man’s band talks about how hard it is to play slow and quiet, in order to best serve the song -- a holy calling for any real musician, surely? --- without the safety-net of distortion and fast tempos that let you get away with murder, and Fucking Amen to all that, says I! You want to find out how good you really are? Try playing real slow on acoustic instruments ….

See you at the Betsey, June 13th!

February-March 2013

I’m late again, aren’t I? Sorry….. It sounds lame, I know, but I don’t even get the time to breathe properly!

2012, a very decent year for Songdog, ended on St Lucy’s Day with a gig in the cellar at the Betsey Trotwood, Farringdon Road -- a particularly great one too, one of my favourite shows of the year, with Joe Wilkes and Lorraine Wood on the bill, both of whom were superb. We’re back there again on March 22nd, but upstairs this time: turn up early because Gabriel Moreno’s doing a set before us and you’ll like his music, I know you will (his poetry too).

Chez Songdog at Landal DunimarIn February we did a little tour of the Netherlands (the night before we took the ferry we did a set (through the world’s worst PA) at a venue in Colchester, and it would’ve been nice to have been brilliant, seeing as how it’s where Jasper grew up and had friends down, but we were, alas, rustier than Dumpy’s Nuts and I crept back to my hotel afterwards for fear of being recognised, maybe lynched…Holland was great, though, we rented a chalet somewhere unpronounceable but only a 90-minute drive from any of the gigs and we were able to rehearse there during the day and stay up late after the shows like proper grown-ups (three cheers for Mavis and all the meals she prepared!). First we played La Pien Noir in Haarlem, the PA pumped out Beatles records all evening, some of the city’s raciest minxes and best groovers turned out for us and I felt we made up for the poor Colchester showing.

Lyndon in the dressing room at De Flierefluiter ApeldoornThe second night was even better, musically (De Flierefluiter in Apeldoorn) and we were treated very well, including a lovely meal in a nearby Turkish restaurant, but I really could’ve lived without the expert advice proffered me after the set by one of the ladies running the venue: ‘why don’t you give more solos to the musicians behind you?’, as if we were some fucking bar-band! Imagine Leonard Cohen taking that kind of nonsense --- “Hey, Lenny, I realise your songs are sublime and have introduced a whole hitherto-unheard-of poetic and literary heft to pop’s vernacular but couldn’t we please have a few more drum-solos, ‘cos people do love a good paradiddle, it gets them jiving?”…. I don’t think she quite ‘got’ Songdog, do you? Anyway, I’m so polite I just smiled and nodded while resolving never to return.

Snow falling on De Harmonie in EdamThe next day, though, saw us back at De Harmonie in Edam and this one was the highlight of the mini-tour, we played a storming two sets to a great, clued-up audience: in the small hours I watched the venue’s owner get up with his band and deliver a whole set’s-worth of noble and deftly-executed Telecastering, all nice chord-changes and thin, thin notes, not an effects-pedal in sight. To this venue I will return (again)! Jasper mocked my splendid Dandy in Aspic suit, but I say dressing-up --- dandyism! --- is surely right up there with the urge for artistic expression, the desire to never grow up and the quest for as much sadomasochistic sex as you can muster as reasons for joining a band in the first place, no? Would Ziggy Stardust have sounded as lovely and have made as much impact if he’d played guitar, jamming good with Weird and Gilly but dressed like a cab-driver? No, he would not! Anyway, there’s a nice photo of me in my suit* somewhere hereabouts, so you can judge for yourselves!…The less said about the final night (in Utrecht) the better, I wasn’t really there, it didn’t really happen, it wasn’t really me: I should’ve memorised the Dutch for ‘fuckwits’ before I went on, because the word didn’t really seem to bestir them in English…Anyway, a grand trip, and thanks to Chris for organising it, it sure beat not doing it.Lyndon Morgans - Songdog at De Harmonie, Edam

So, 2013’s well underway and “Last Orders at Harry’s Bar” will appear this summer, I promise: plus I have bundles of new songs ready for the record after it. It’s been quite a year already, though I won’t go into it all here, but I can say we did a short set at Joe Wilkes’s birthday do at a pub in Bethnal Green a few weeks ago, with Jimmy Forres joining us on guitar and we did a new arrangement of “Shipwrecks” --- took it a bit fast, maybe, but it was still ace! Thanks for asking us, Joe…

Wasn’t season 4 of “Spiral” magnificent? Didn’t it totally own the airwaves for the six weeks it ran? I really enjoyed the BBC4 film on Graham Parker too --- an object lesson in what ‘the music industry’ has become now. I loved the bit where they described the great Jack Nitzsche sitting the Rumour down and telling them they played too much ----- here’s a tip for musos at all times and in all ages: just trust the song to do the heavy-lifting, OK?…(Jack could never have played De Flierefluiter, though!). Jack Nitzsche

Some days I could just walk into Pen-y-fan pond, you know? (I never did learn to swim…).

Still, on, somehow on……

* Photograph of Lyndon at De Harmonie C) 2013 Chris Fraikin - MultiVisuals;