The Haircut That Moves Between Worlds

Preparing to go out to two soirees: a birthday gathering at the Flask in Highgate, then onto the Phoenix in Cavendish Square to DJ at How Does It Feel To Be Loved. Always a pleasure to do the latter as it means I can indulge my lesser aired taste in 60s girl group pop alongside 80s jangly guitar indie.

Thursday last was DJ-ing at the Boogaloo for Beautiful & Damned, the warm up for our slot at next month’s Latitude Festival. We put on the silent movie Pandora’s Box by way of a backdrop. Louise Brooks’s iconic bob hairdo always looks more extreme than one expects: from some angles it’s nearly a butch crop. In one scene she wears a helmet-like black hat which actually looks exactly the same as her hair. When she takes the hat off, there’s no overall difference. It’s like someone wearing two pairs of glasses.

It dawns on me that the haircut also crosses over for both of my DJ-iing incarnations this week. How Does It Feel… runs a label for latterday indiepop groups, one of which, the Pocketbooks, has a girl singer whose hair is pure Ms Brooks – or indeed the singer from Swing Out Sister, echoing the 80s echoing the 60s echoing the 20s. Some music scenes are joined at the haircut.

But never mind my own dipping into different worlds – Fosca’s Tom Edwards, my brother, is now playing guitar for none other than Edwyn Collins. He replaces Roddy Frame, with his first gig being T In The Park. Quite a leap from playing with Fields of the Nephilim. Though not such a leap, of course, from playing with Fosca.

Tom tells me much of Mr Collins’s back catalogue is more muso-y and trickier to play than you might expect from the Godfather of Indie. Even though those early recordings with Orange Juice are often out of tune and vocally wavering (in all the right ways) the guitar lines are elaborate and downright fiddly to copy. With the notable exception of the break in ‘Rip It Up’, Orange Juice’s only bona fide chart hit. Amid all the polished funk-pop production, Edwyn sings ‘And my favourite song’s entitled… ‘Boredom” before going into a replication of that Buzzcocks song’s two-note guitar solo. How many Top Of The Pops viewers got the reference at the time, heaven knows. So very sly, so very arch, so very Edwyn.

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The Meaning of Companion

Yesterday – meet with Dad in town. We take a look round the London Transport Museum together, and I see the bits I didn’t see at the DJ event the other day. There’s a couple of horse-drawn vehicles on the top floor which are jaw-dropping objects of beauty in anyone’s book.

Then I take him for dinner at the Wolseley in Piccadilly. Something I couldn’t do for years while on the dole. Now I have a bit of cash, it’s the one of the most searingly rewarding things I can spend money on. As Michael Bywater points out in his book-sized rant on modern society, ‘Big Babies’, even the word companion means ‘with bread’. Friends are meant to eat together, not just ‘add’ each other online and eat alone. Parents, doubly so.

I used to hate being seen eating – equating it with being caught on the toilet. Nowadays I love cafes and restaurants, whether cheap or pricy, and hate being seen buying one-person food to take home.

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80s By Default

Last Sunday – to David B and Anna S’s flat in Archway to be filmed. It’s for another video for his band, the New Royal Family. Well, one of his bands. Much fun had. I am asked to ‘dress 1980s’. So I just get dressed.

The props for the video include some specially mocked-up covers of 80s pop and style magazines, with David and the other band members pasted in the place of Adam Ant and his ilk. Charley S points out one of the fake headlines is particularly spot-on: ‘INSIDE: STING – ALL ABOUT ME.’

Also knocking around are genuine publications from the era. I leaf through a copy of Smash Hits where Neil Tennant reviews a Grandmaster Flash single. He confidently predicts that rap music won’t last. It’s 1983.

Songwords for the issue – those glossily-presented singalong lyric sheets of that week’s hits – include Modern Romance’s ‘Best Years Of Our Lives’. Charley and I can sing it instantly, but it must baffle the younger participants at the video shoot (Alex S, Anna S, Miriam, Seaneen, Mel). It’s one of those hit songs that’s neither ‘cult’ nor ‘classic pop’ nor even ‘guilty pleasures’ style kitsch. Just a slightly ho-hum ditty that does its job at the time.

It must have some abiding worth in the well-crafted catchiness stakes, though, if I can instantly recall its entire verse and chorus melody 25 years later. And I definitely haven’t heard it since 1983. I find it worrying that I can remember every note of this song, yet I can barely remember what I did, say, the Tuesday before last. It’s Proust in a puffball skirt. And I guarantee you won’t read THAT phrase anywhere else today. No extra charge.

Another lyric is Wham’s ‘Young Guns Go For It’, with its unlikely refrain of ‘Death by matrimony!’ I believe Mr George Michael has indeed stood by that particularly credo, though possibly not in the way the song suggests. Or does it…? There’s also an interview with Wham! inside. Seems strange to read about a 19-year-old George M being introduced to the world.

I’m delighted the issue additionally contains the lyrics to Orange Juice’s ‘I Can’t Help Myself’. It’s their follow up to ‘Rip It Up’, and really should have been a hit. But no – that was it for Edwyn C and the Top 20 until ‘A Girl Like You’ ten years later. Excellent use of the word ‘trite’ in a jaunty pop tune:

‘Nothing worth finding
Is easily found
Try as we might
That was supposed to sound
Very profound
It probably sounds trite
Just like the Four Tops
I can’t help myself…’

Ah, and good old YouTube has the band playing the song live on The Old Grey Whistle Test. How can anyone watch this and NOT want to play guitar like Edwyn does here is beyond me. That scratchy chacka-chacka style, trying to sound like Chic and Talking Heads at once, but accidentally inventing cute indie pop:

Really, it’s so tempting to turn this diary into a study of 80s issues of Smash Hits for the rest of my life. But one must get on with the Now. Whatever that may be.

But how Now is Now? Biggest thing out there today – the movie of ‘Watchmen’. A film based on a 80s comic, and set in the 80s. Best years of our lives, at least for this weekend. Though I don’t think Modern Romance are on the soundtrack.

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Sequined Vodka Tales

A Fosca London gig announcement. Oh yes!

It’s the much-threatened Fosca Farewell show. Saturday December 13th at Feeling Gloomy, Bar Academy, Islington. Stage times to come.

The line-up will a five-piece, three-guitar and two synths (plus laptop) assault: Rachel S, Kate D, Tom E, Charley S and myself.


Two DJ gigs of mine, at somewhat shorter notice.

I’m DJ-ing on Sat Sept 20th, at a plush dress-up event called The Magic Theatre. This takes place in an Art Deco ballroom in Bloomsbury. Here’s what their website says about the dress code:

“Ladies: The perfect place for all you Cinderellas and Style Queens, Pink Princesses and Leggy Latex Babes… Audrey Hepburns and Barbarellas, TV’s, Saucy Secretaries and Rock Chicks…Whether you’re a Goth Girl, Dowager, French Maid or Precocious Teen Queen, Marie Antoinette, or Marilyn Monroe, the Magic Theatre is YOUR stage. Gentlemen: Retro Glamour, Uniforms, Lounge Lizards, Gentlemen of the Cloth, Fauns, B-Movie Stars, Prince Charmings, Pirates and Dandies of all kinds…Arise, Sir Galahad, kneel before Zod, come out, come out you Peter Pans, Dick Turpins and Darcys…”

I’ll be doing two DJ sets between 8.30pm and 11.30pm. Ticket details at


I’m also putting in a brief DJ appearance at The Beautiful & Damned on Thursday 18th, at The Boogaloo (near Highgate Tube). Martin White & The Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra will also be playing. The B&D isn’t ‘my’ club any more, as I’m forever correcting people, but it’s still going strong under the auspices of Miss Red and The Boogaloo team. They’ve reinvented it into a kind of cabaret / club night / music hall booth affair. It’s great to see unwitting Highgate pub goers wander in off the street, and wonder just what weird, time-hopping universe they’ve stepped into. Part Red Room in ‘Twin Peaks’, part Sapphire & Steel…

Back to the diary.

Wednesday evening: to Trash Palace in Wardour Street, for a club night called ‘Polari’. It includes Jamie McLeod’s exhibition of modern dandies, which in turn includes me. Always nice to swan into a club to see a large framed photograph of oneself on the wall. The club also supplies free quiche.

On this occasion, special guest Sebastian Horsley takes the mic, and prowls and provokes and reads from his book, to a packed and appreciative crowd. Including his mother. He’s in his red sequined suit and brandishes a matching sequined bottle of vodka. Well, a sequined bottle cosy.

I say hello to David Benson, Anne Pigalle, Jason Atomic and Ms Ruta, and meet Clayton Littlewood, author of the ‘Soho Stories’ column in the London Paper. The window by his writing desk (or rather,  laptop perch) looked out from the clothes shop he worked at, Dirty White Boy in Old Compton Street. A particularly good spot in London to watch people and gather (or imagine) stories: Soho media types, the famous, the homeless, the vicious queens, the prostitutes, the tourists, the tramps, the old survivors, the new blood. He’s put together a book version: ‘Dirty White Boy: Tales Of Soho’, which I’m rather looking foward to.

More details at his MySpace page, with excerpts, readings and so on:

After Polari, Mr Benson takes myself, Mr H, Mr L and his friend Ms Lois for dinner at one of the Chinese restaurants in Gerrard Street. Sebastian invites me to an orgy on Friday. I politely decline. I’ll be busy playing indiepop songs in Madrid. Many of which are about, well, not going to orgies.

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B&D earlier start

Just a note to say that this month’s Beautiful & Damned is now starting at the earlier time of 8pm. This is to cater for patrons who have to leave before the night really gets going, due to it being a School Night in Slightly-Out-Of-The-Way-Shire.

So, 8pm till late, then, Thursday 22nd.

And there’s the high possibility of some live performance this time, too.

Full club info at the DE News page.


DJ Life

I had to make it back from Tangier for Saturday evening as I had a DJ booking at a private party for a friend of a friend. They paid well, though Shane offered me the same money to stay with him and miss it. I couldn’t possibly renege on a gig booking, and Victoria Clarke turning up at the Minzah on Thursday made it easier to say goodbye and make my way home solo on Sat morning, leaving him in more tried and tested company. He grumbled but let me go. I think they’re still there now.

It did mean me getting my first ever plane by myself, and spending a dreary five hours in the dull departure area at Casablanca airport. Would love to have walked around Casablanca for a bit, but the way my passport was stamped meant I couldn’t even visit the outer section of the airport, the one with proper shops rather than duty frees.

Found myself waived through the customs at Heathrow like royalty, even though I was a slightly alternative-looking man coming back from a druggy country. I swanned past while sniffer dogs were set to work on the suitcases of families with small children. Perhaps I just have Harmless written all over my face. Still, I was hardly complaining, as I made it back to Highgate with barely 30 mins before the DJ gig.

Two more DJ dates this week. One is tonight, a late booking at ‘Loss: An Evening Of Exquisite Misery’. I am told I have to play the most miserable songs I know. Given the date, Nico’s My Funny Valentine is a must. The Carpenters, Smiths, Shangri-Las and Mr Cohen willl also be on the menu. I’ll put down the list here afterwards.

Then on Saturday I’m the guest DJ at 60s girl group / 80s indiepop club How Does It Feel To Be Loved, the first time time back since I started Beautiful & Damned. It’ll be hard to not punctuate the Smiths and Supremes with the likes of Ms Garland and selections from Bugsy Malone. I may not entirely succeed. We shall see.

How Does It Feel To Be Loved?
Saturday February 17th
The Phoenix, 37 Cavendish Square, London W1G 0PP,
three minutes walk from Oxford Circus tube station,
9pm-3am, £4 members, £6 non members.
Membership is free from


RIP Theatre Museum & Trash

An idle, aimless drifting around the clock governs my opening days of January, so I decide to impose a strict timetable. I force myself to be out of bed at 6am, into a sandblasting shower, strap myself into the uniform and start writing a diary entry by 6.30. The aim is to get a daily entry posted by 7am. I feel a diary should be written either last thing at night or first thing in the morning. I prefer the morning – the sense of being the first in the queue, as it were.

An announcement, first of all. The splendid Toronto singer-songriter Gentleman Reg, aka Reg Vermue, is coming to London to play a few gigs. He’ll be in town from the 10th to the 15th and tells me he’s looking for floors to sleep on for himself and his two bandmates. “I have the last few nights covered but not the first few. Let me know if you have friends with huge london apartments…”

I wouldn’t normally make such an appeal if I hadn’t got to know him in person the last time he visited. I can therefore vouch that Mr Vermue is as Gentlemanly as his recording name suggests, the very opposite of that rather uncouth young rock singer on Celebrity Big Brother. If you can help, Dear Reader, please contact Reg via his site at

He’s playing the 12th at the The Royal Vauxhall Tavern, and on the 14th at the Windmill in Brixton, and is well worth catching.

RIP today to two favourite London institutions: the Theatre Museum in Covent Garden and the Monday night club Trash. The former saw many a pleasant visit from my teen years to one of the rare attempts to use my college training as a Stage Manager in 1992. This was when some fellow Bristol Old Vic Theatre School graduates mounted a production of Mr Godber’s “Bouncers” in the Museum’s performance space. Still Bristol-based at the time, I stayed in Lambeth with a kindly gay gentleman who worked at the Drill Hall. His huge record collection consisted solely of classical and opera, with the exception of one pop album: “Behaviour” by the Pet Shop Boys. While I was staying there, I bought the latest Unrest album from Rough Trade (“Imperial” – still a favourite) and tried it out on his hi-fi. The stylus must have recoiled in horror.

I was last at the Theatre Museum a year or so ago, when it hosted some panel debate on circus arts versus burlesque or some such. The museum itself was always gorgeous and magical, and it’s a genuine shame it couldn’t keep going. Exhibits which spring to mind include the sinister skeletal horse costumes from the original National Theatre production of ‘Equus’.

Last time I was at Club Trash, I felt my age all too keenly: the clientèle always tended to be under 25, if a fashionably dressed under 25. In fact, I’m pretty sure some young acquaintances said “Aren’t you a bit old for this, Dickon?”. I’d been going since it opened in 1997 and was once featured as a ‘Face’ of the club in an Evening Standard feature circa 2000. In fact, I’d started going to Erol Alkan’s previous club Going Underground in 1995, recalling him spinning Pulp’s ‘Common People’ before it was released. Trash was more of the same, but gradually morphed from just another indie disco popular with students, NME readers and tourists into Britpop, and into something unique. Entirely down to Mr Erol’s infectious spirit, I think. For me, he’s always been one of the few London well-connected types who manages to buck the cliche of being stand-offish and unfriendly. He was serious and ambitious about the club, yet retained an amiable and open attitude. It’s impressive that he never missed a single Monday night for ten years, and that he kept the door price far below what he could have gotten away with given then club’s international reputation in its latter years. Again, bucking that London cliche of charging what you think you can get, and then adding more, just because it’s London.

I was a regular for about seven of its ten years, and Trash provided many happy memories. I’m sad it’s closing, but I’m sure Mr Erol will be okay. He’s passionate about what he does, always walking about with a bag full of records and a pair of headphones. The proper DJ all-enclosing sort, not those ubiquitous little white iPod bugs.


Club: Big Pink Cake: April 8th

At an arty event in a Kings Cross sex shop basement the other day, I noticed someone was handing round flyers for a one-off club night that plays Talulah Gosh, McCarthy and 1000 Violins.

BIG PINK CAKE: “A celebration of C86 with its befores and afters.”
Saturday April 8th, 8pm to 1am.
Free entry.
Venue: The Royal George, Goslett Yard, off Charing Cross Rd. Tottenham Ct Rd tube.


Recommendations: Clubs: Airport

Here’s another London club I can happily endorse. Fun and friendly, they even have a quiz once a month.

every monday, 10 TIL 3
Tottenham Court Rd tube. 0207 636 1598
£1 before10:30 , then after 10:30 £3 with a Flyer or NUS, £5 w/o

“alicat, clare, and val (AKA 3 Bad sisters) + Adam playing their (un)usual mix of:cool indie, electropop, brit-pop, new wave, post punk, art rock, lo-fi, northern soul, alt-80’s and the odd disco toon….”

Plus POP QUIZ every 1st monday of the month before the club starts.
8 till 10pm. £1 to take part in the quiz (per person) and you’ll be able to stay for the club


DE’s New Club night

This is my own little soiree.

Next Date: Thur 18th MAY
Times: 9pm to 1am.
Club title: “The Beautiful and Damned”
Venue: The Boogaloo, 312 Archway Road, London N6 5AT. 020 8340 2928.
Tube: Highgate (Northern Line). Buses: 43, 134, 263.
“A new decadent disco curated by dysfunctional dandy DJ Dickon Edwards, with Miss Red. Patrons are encouraged to dress up in their own take on 1920s and 30s glamour, though anything more stylish than the ubiquitous Old Street fashions is welcome. Cigarillos, braces, tweeds, beads, silk scarves, unforgiving teddy bears… Drink, dance, and ponder the night’s tenderness to an eclectic but discerning mix of Sinatra, Strauss waltzes, soundtracks, musicals, El Records, deviant disco, shadowy soul, parvenu pop and insouciant indie. Free entry. Free cocktails for the best dressed of the night.