Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008


Where did I get to in 2008, now that I look back to my final blog posting of 2007? Well, I'd have to say that in personal terms I had an enjoyable and successful year freed from the rigid structures of the 9 to 5. I did a marketing course a few weeks back where I was asked about a typical working day. Ha! The previous day I'd spent the morning working on some credit management stuff, driven to Devon in the afternoon to do a presentation to a prospective client on e-billing opportunities and been on the phone for an hour in the evening interviewing Steve Lake from anarcho-punk band Zounds. And that wasn't an untypical mix of jobs, so I can say that certainly 2008 was varied and interesting, if a little bit 'false' in the sense that I had one particular contract that provided the financial foundations for all the other stuff that I was free to do. And it was a year, as I anticipated, where I built financially for 2009. Not quite as well as I should perhaps have done but enough that I can start the year still not feeling the pressure of impending overdrafts.

The festivals book, Festivalized, has occupied a lot of writing time and still there are many potential contributors still to be interviews, and previous chats waiting to be transcribed, and it's clear that any and all spare time in January will be devoted to finishing this project to final manuscript stage, but I think both Bridget and I are very excited about the material that's been gathered and the extensive list of contributors assembled. The biography of Armand and Michaela Denis that I talked about at the end of last year, however, still remains just that... talk; it's very much the next item on the agenda and I'll be spending time in the first quarter of 2009 trying to get this one off the ground. There's two or three other possibilities as well, so I'll be pulling together a collection of proposals and once again revisiting the idea of acquiring an agent.

I continued to write for Record Collector and Rock N Reel, contributed to the Independent and other places, and felt I made some modest in roads into getting my name about. The sleeve notes for Freq and Cherry Red's two Hawkwind compilations were particularly pleasing jobs. The last quarter of the year was particularly intensive with a couple of projects that should see the light of day in 2009 all being well. And, as Bridget noted the other day, one of the great things about 2009 has been the wealth of great contacts with fascinating and eloquent people that we've had through the festivals book.

2009, I want to achieve another book sale, gain more freelance work with a wider range of magazines and newspapers, and expand my writing 'subjects' so that I'm not so dependent on writing about music. On the other hand, I've plenty of CDs waiting review for the Spacerock blog and there'll be a major overhaul of that over the coming week.

On the credit management front, this should prove a busy year if I market my self properly and I need to set-out from day one as I mean to continue, pitching for work, networking and generally getting myself noticed and contracted. One thing is for sure, in this awful business environment there is work out there for me and what I must do is chase it for all I'm worth.

I caught up with the guys from Space Ritual at Glastonbury Assembly Rooms a few weeks ago and enjoyed again chatting with Nik Turner and Jerry Richards. And at Falmouth Princess Pavilions in early December, enjoyed meeting up for the first time since the publication of the Waterboys book with Anto Thistlethwaite who now plays with the Saw Doctors. One of life's gentlemen. A couple of days later, and I was a Truro Hall for Cornwall, relishing the opportunity to interview Jeremy from the Levellers for the festival book and, knowing him to be a big Waterboys fan, pressing a copy of Strange Boat on him! Fascinating chat about his days on the travelling scene and a great gig as well.











Nik Turner, Ian Abrahams



Jerry Richards, Nik Turner, Bridget Wishart,
Ian Abrahams

Is this obvious?

Here’s my pet hate at the moment. Obviously. Is there a word that is so misused in current parlance that it’s practically taking on a new meaning that is diametrically opposed to its proper one? Example, the news bulletin a few nights back, credit crunch focused, as you’d expect. Poor chap on the brink of losing his job, much sympathy to him, we’ve all got a very challenging and tough 2009 to ‘look forward to’. “It’s a big worry for me,” he says, of his impending redundancy, “because obviously I have three children.” Who is this obvious to? Him and his wife perhaps, his mother as well, I assume. Hardly anyone else! Cold callers, “obviously our product is better / cheaper / more efficient [delete as appropriate].” It’s not obvious! It’s just not! Really gets me wound up. Obviously.

It’s a bit like that sign you so often see that starts, ‘Polite Notice’. Thank you. Write your notice politely and we’ll know it’s a ‘Polite Notice’!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hawkwind Compilations

Just received my copies of the new Atomhenge Hawkwind compilations, one three-CD set covering the years 1976-84, Spirit of the Age, and another set taking the story through to 1997, The Dream Goes On. Really lovely packaging on these boxed sets, lots of colour photographs in the extensive booklets on each, and detailed sleeve notes by you-know-who. Or, me, in other words!

I've also contributed my first 'Digging for Gold' collectable piece for Record Collector , a spoken-word release from the 1960s by Armand and Michaela Denis which is in the latest issue, on sale now (that would be the Christmas 2008 edition); I'm also holding forth there on the excellent BBC Sessions Magazine CD from EMI.

And I'm to be found in the latest edition of Credit Collections & Risk holding forth on a two pager on electronic debt reporting via SQL. Which is something of a change of pace, right?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

At the 100 Club!

No, stop it, the 100 Club is not the group that I now belong to having seen another birthday come around. I'm officially half way to 90 though. Or, as my old Gran would have described it, nearly 50. Or 45 to be exact. See how I did that? I made myself sound younger by reducing in stages the possible age that I've now reached. Clever eh?

Bits of news first then. The reissue of Robert Calvert's solo album Freq has now been released, containing my sleeve notes / essay. "Make 'em fun", said the label, of an album that's about the Miners' Strike of 1984. "Hmm", said I, went and looked up what Tony Benn was writing in his diary about the strike during the month Bob was recording the album and then wrote a serious essay instead. Actually, we all think the notes have come out ok! I've also just turned in the booklet notes for Cherry Red's two Hawkwind Compilations that the trade have asked for to kick start the Hawkwind back catalogue reissue - there's two three-CD sets coming, great selection of tracks and a package designed for the casual buyer to give them a flavour of things to come.



Amazon US now have pre-orders for next July's stateside release of Festivalized (there you go, you heard the title here first!), which is a survey of the free festival scene (music, politics and the alternative culture) by some old music hack by the name of Ian Abrahams and Bridget Wishart, former Hippy Slag, Demented Stoat and ex-Hawkwind singer of this parish. Don't know when the UK pre-orders start but you can bet that I'll be here straight away with an affiliated link. Don't miss a trick, me. US release can be ordered here.

Back to the 100 Club then! I was there a couple of fridays back to see Nik Turner's Space Ritual outfit play - a hugely enjoyable performance (as always). Get this, I was asked to sign two copies of the Hawkwind biography that some very fine fellows had brought along to get various band members to sign. How embarrassed was I? So embarrassed in fact that I dashed to Facebook asap to announce I'd been signing in the 100 Club. That's now embarrassed I was!

I was down at the Royal Albert Hall the following night to see (for Rock N Reel magazine) another group that have a strong claim to the title of 'The People's Band' - The Levellers. Second time I've seen them this year (ok, strictly accurate then, second time I've ever seen them!) and I get more impressed by them the more I see and hear them. And it's only taken me twenty years to really catch on!

Sunday morning was spent travelling down to Herne Bay from London Victoria. Ah, I'd worked it all out, had the journey plan nailed down, hour and half by train, all well and good. Time to get down there early, find a pub to watch the Grand Prix in and everything. Saturday morning, do the double check and find there's engineering works and the prospect of an hour extra in a hot and stuffy bus that, it turned out, looked as though it had been trashed at the Beanfield in 1985 and deteroriated ever since. But, at the end I get picked up from Faversham by my old Contico friend Denis, get whisked down to Herne Bay at *** miles per hour (I forgot to mention what an awful passenger I am), taken to his fantastic house, find his lovely wife has laid out food and has put the F1 race on the TV. How great is that!

This was for the Robert Calvert memorial gig featuring 'Nik Turner & Friends' who are former Hawks Steve Swindells, Harvey Bainbridge, Alan Davey, Martin Griffin, Ron Tree, Jerry Richards and Adrian Shaw. Great day down in the Kent sunshine talking to various Hawk Yahoo List friends and acquitances from previous Hawkwind gigs including Steve from Leeds, someone who I only know (sorry!) as Rob Dreamworker's mate Tommy, Chris Purdon, Trev Hughes, Dave Roberts and others! The show itself, just fantastic really. Totally unrehearsed apparently and somewhat curtailed due to an unexpected 10pm music curfew but played with reverence to Bob's memory and in celebration of his all too short life. It's hard to pick out specifics because it was all just fab but to highlight a few things, a real lump-in-the-throat watching Adrian Shaw playing on 'Damnation Alley', Nik's unexpected flute playing on 'Psi Power', Alan's usual huge stage presence, Steve's excellent keyboards, the usual cool poise of dancer Miss Angel... just for starters. I get a quick word after the show with Ron and tell him, truthfully, that his delivery of the lyrics to 'High Rise' was "Just fucking immense, man", get two hugs from Miss Angel (ok, ok, but then I got three from Alan) and, equally truthfully, tell Jerry that I thought him 'Man of the Match' for his guitar-playing and holding things together so well. But really, fantastic job everybody and Bob's memory was really done proud.



Oh! And I get my picture taken with Steve Swindells - the man who wrote 'Shot Down In The Night'! How cool is that! :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Standing at the Front, Looking Awkward

A few catch-up items to report!

I've written the sleeve notes for a reissue of the late, great, Hawkwind front-man Robert Calvert's solo album Freq, which is released on the Atomhenge label (through Cherry Red) on 29th September. There's a memorial gig for Robert, commerating twenty years since his untimely demise, down in Herne Bay on Sunday 28th September and I'll be heading down to that via Space Ritual's appearance at the 100 Club this Friday, and the Levellers show at the Albert Hall the following night.

Last week I spent a most enjoyable and interesting hour on the telephone with Tori Amos, talking principally about Image Comics' Comic Book Tattoo, a massive collection of sequential art (that's comics, ok?) inspired by her back catalogue. The finished interview should be turning up in Rock 'N' Reel towards the end of the year but in the meantime the book is highly recommended (look for my review of it in Record Collector soon.

There'll be an update on the festivals book on its myspace page really soon (definitely before I head off to London) but safe to say Bridget and I have been hectic on this project and its shaping up really well. More soon on that, honest!

And here's me (and my old mucker Joe Beer) at Rosie & The Goldbug's album launch at Truro HMV a couple of weeks back. Joe is, of course, upfront and doing the 'Lover' dance, and I'm to be spotted (about 1.30 in) loitering trying to look sensible and not doing said manouevre:



Jokes aside, I bought a copy of the new album (get this, "I bought a copy of the new album", me, rock journo extraordinaire (with tongue firmly in cheek, honest) and absolutely love its idiosyncratic Blondie-meets-indiepop sensibilities. Get it, it's wonderful.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Marillion You Tube Competition

My old mate Ian Atkins has an entry in the Marillion You Tube Competition, producing a video for their forthcoming single 'Whatever is Wrong with You'. Ian's really terrific and thought-provoking entry is here, and I'd really appreciate readers giving it a click! Thanks!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

All T & No G

How about this? I am available in translation! Me! Well, not to get too excited because it was something done specifically for a foreign-language magazine but I can at least say that my work has been translated into other languages. Or, Finnish at least. I have three pages for the cover feature of issue #34 of Colossus magazine from Finland – an interview with Don Falcone of Spirits Burning, done at the request of Don and the Italian Black Widow Records label. Black Widow kindly sent me a double-LP vinyl of their new Spirits Burning release Alien Injection in return – a lovely package on heavy vinyl, really high-quality stuff. As for the interview, God knows what bits they used (Don sent me his interpretation of the parts used, I’ve not even tried to work it out!) but it’s nice to be in print in Finland anyway!


Yesterday we departed en-family-mass for the all-day music festival at Lanhydrock, near Bodmin, a country estate maintained by the National Trust. This was the first time the boys had ever been to a music festival but they seemed keen to give it a try and we thought it would be a great experience for them. Anticipating rain we set out with some trepidation and plenty of waterproof clothes – to discover that (as someone put it from the stage) the power of positive thought had brought us sunshine instead. So I am now sunburned and sore, and frankly, pretty tired, but we’re all very happy at having such a great day.


The list of bands ranged from a Jazz orchestra, through a ten-piece Soul band (which the boys loved because they knew most of the numbers being covered) and onto indie-rock and world music. We particularly enjoyed The Hollies (I’m not going to say ‘surprisingly’ because I still think ‘The Air That I Breathe’ is a great song) and local heroes Rosie And The Goldbug. Here I’ll note that Morgan and Niall, determined to be at the front, did not enjoy one of the Goldbugs attempting to dance with them - though their Dad enjoyed the dancers immensely and not because their gold costumes left nothing to the imagine. Honest.

Though the boys flagged a bit towards the finish (fortunately not so badly that we couldn’t make it through to the wonderful firework display at the end), we really enjoyed, despite their sound problems, the headlining Dandy Warhols and especially liked the African-Blues-Rock fusion of Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara. We all watched this rather compelling set from the front of the stage and it really heartened me to see my guys getting into something different than simply guitar-based white rock music. Apparently, Adams (who plays guitar) and Camara (who is a noted player of the riti – a traditional Fulani one-stringed fiddle) recently won a ‘Crossing Cultures’ prize at the BBC World Music Awards; their blend of North and South African sounds with electric guitar rock was terrific. It’s interesting as well, because I recently interviewed Simon Williams from Earthdance (formerly Mandragora) who was telling me about the work he does in India and Africa on bring together fusions of different world music. What we saw on Saturday evening chimed with what Simon had been telling me about his work in this area.

I interviewed Simon as part of the Free Festivals book - a progress up-date on the book’s myspace page is long overdue, and having been out and about a bit recently on this project I’ll write that up sometime this week. I spent a day down and around Brighton a few weeks back, meeting up with Michael Dog (of Club Dog fame), Simon, and Gary from 2000DS, who still lives a full-on life parked up on a scrapyard with his bus and various motors and, on the day I visited, awaiting eviction. All three are articulate guys, passionate about the legacy of the Free Festival movement and are excellent interviewees that have all brought something valuable to the book with their commentary.


Oh! T & No G! Right! Went down on Friday night to the Falmouth Princess Pavilion to see Suzanne Vega – the first time I’ve seen her perform since a gig at the old St Austell Cornwall Coliseum about seventeen or eighteen years ago. Courtesy of my review of her latest album in Record Collector in 2007, I’d been on the guest list for her gig at the Queen Elizabeth Hall last year, but couldn’t make it due to business commitments. Friday’s show was just wonderful, Vega has this ability to project to each and every audience member as though he or she is the only person in the room and is enjoying a one-to-one conversation about her life. Anyway, it was just fantastic to go to this show with my old mates Joe and Raymond (anyone remember Sunday nights downstairs at the Penventon in Redruth? Those were the days!) but I was just so tired when I got back that I figured I’d have a G&T wind-down with and then go to bed. I carefully poured out a measure of Gin, went to the fridge and got out the tonic, poured it into the glass, added an ice-cube and settled down to watch a repeat of Coupling for ten minutes or so whilst I drank my G&T.


Turns out, what I drank was T and no G; the Gin was still sitting there in the measure come the morning.

Monday, May 26, 2008

To Do Lists and Radio Stuff

What I need, really need, to do right now is to make a list. A ‘to do list’. Only it’ll be a ‘to do list’ from my current ‘to do list’ … a ‘list of lists’ as it were! You know, they say that if you want something doing, you need to ask a busy man. I’m not sure about that, I can see there are woods and trees but I’m really not sure which is which at the moment! And yes, it’s a nice problem to have!

Years ago, when I worked for my father, one of the Monday morning tasks was to drive up to one of our bases of operation to collect invoicing data, clock cards, petty cash and stuff like that. Which I always enjoyed because it gave me the chance to stick on the radio and listen to Radio 4’s Start the Week. I’d dropped out of the habit of catching that until recently when the freelance lifestyle made things a bit more flexible, and the arrival of ‘Listen Again’ and torrent sites on the Internet made catching-up with radio stuff so much easier. And the other great thing about Start the Week is that nearly always there’s one or two books discussed that sound really fascinating – so my Amazon Wish-List looks incredibly impressive! I am truly an intelligent, educated, culture-vulture. Or at least appear to be…

Other radio stuff recently on my MP3 player on long train journeys (aside from the three or four editions of Just A Minute that I always load-up on if I’m travelling for any length of time):

A documentary on the Telly Savalas narrated city profiles that used to run in the cinemas in the early 80s as support to the Hollywood blockbusters of the day. “Birmingham, it’s my kinda town” says old Kojak himself, totally sincerely without ever setting foot there in his life.

Biographical overview of John Cooper Clarke’s punk-poet career. I remember seeing Clarke doing a spot at the St Ives Festival one year and him going into his ‘Japanese Kamikaze pilots – why did they wear crash helmets?’ gag – a week after 9/11 and the audience sitting stone-faced whilst Clarke has a horrible realisation on his face. Enjoyed this documentary but it skirted rather over his three poetry-set-to-music albums, which have always been favourites of mine. And oddly, it claimed that despite all his vinyl output he remained an unpublished poet. So why do I still regret e-baying, in a financial crisis, my copy of his Ten Years in an Open-Necked Shirt volume? Apparently it never existed in the first place?

Another career overview, this time of Mel Blanc – the voice of Bugs Bunny and others. Apparently to imitate the sound of Bugs eating carrots, Blanc ate carrots and did this because no other vegetable sounds like a carrot. Why not just use carrots in the first place? Strange…

Which reminds me, loads of good James Bond related stuff on Radio Four in the last few days (and again today), including a dramatisation of Dr No and interesting looking things on the life of Ian Fleming. Will be seeking all of those out.