Waking With Anita

I’ve written a piece in the New Escapologist, issue #8. It’s about Fun. The issue is available now: you can click here to buy it.

***

Christmas and New Year exploits: a lot of essay writing, or essay avoiding. But I still managed to do the following.

Christmas Day 2012: Fed the ducks in Waterlow Park once again (every year since 2001, I think). With Ms Silke once again too, though this year she’s moved. No longer in Highgate but Holloway, and she walked all the way to Highgate and back to do the duck feeding with me. We stood by the pond and drank mulled wine from a flask and ate chocolate reindeer, which looked suspiciously like Easter bunnies in a different foil wrapper. Ms S is still working at Archway Video, but it now looks likely that it’ll close for good sometime in 2013. Physical DVD libraries are struggling in the era of iPads, Netflix, TV catch-up services, iTunes and so on. A lot of Highgate customers have sensed this might be AV’s last Christmas, and have sent the shop a record number of Christmas cards this year. After we fed the ducks, Silke opened up the shop and showed me them all, including a card from Ray Davies of the Kinks. She lent me three DVDs: Cabin in the Woods (because I like Joss Whedon), Die Hard (because it’s apparently a good Christmas film), and Five Year Engagement (because I like Emily Blunt and romcoms).

Saw two of the three. Die Hard isn’t really my cup of tea, and isn’t that Christmassy really. But I’m glad I finally saw it, just in case I turned out to be an action movie fan on the sly. Alan Rickman steals the show, purring his way through the gunfire.

Cabin In The Woods: Loved its quips & sheer nerve. Much closer to Buffy (which I love). Pure Joss Whedon in tone, even though he only co-wrote it. Plays with the idea of cheating the audience out of the ending they think they want. Clever, cheeky, self-aware.

Boxing Day: Lavish meal and drinks in Crouch End courtesy Suzi Livingstone. Chatted to Anna Spivack and Suzi’s New Zealand friend Dianne. Discussion about NZ music: Headless Chickens, Chris Knox. Argument over whether Crowded House count as a New Zealand or an Australia band. ‘Well, the talented ones were from New Zealand…’

Thurs December 27th: To the Stapleton Tavern near Crouch Hill for Alex Sarll’s birthday. Dozens of people there. I ended up promising to attend the Joanne Joanne gig the next day, at least three of whom were at this gathering (Charley Stone the guitarist, Jo Bevan the singer, Other Jo whom I don’t know but who is an excellent bassist). Joanne Joanne is an all-female band who only play Duran Duran songs – but mainly their lesser known, more interesting songs. ‘Because the real Duran Duran are forced to do all the hits.’ I love that the name isn’t just a pun; there really are two Joannes in Joanne Joanne.

Friday 28th: Joanne Joanne at the Lexington: brilliant, particularly on ‘Hold  Back The Rain’, ‘The Chauffeur’ and ‘Planet Earth’. Chatted to Deb Googe of MBV, who says the new My Bloody Valentine album might really, actually, really, no honestly, come back, be released in 2013. Also spoke to Kirsten, Lea Andrews, Katharine Gifford, Kevin Reinhardt, many others. Hung around with Sophia Wyeth as she DJ’d downstairs till chucking out time. Drank  too much and probably annoyed people. Woke up the next day with the amnesia and paranoia of such indulgence. Realised I was sharing the bed with an old Anita Brookner novel, which I don’t remember acquiring.

Other people wake up after a drunken night out having somehow gained a traffic cone or a torn poster from a wall or indeed a person. I emerge with an old Anita Brookner novel.

It’s very good, though: Lewis Percy.

Sat 29th: DJ-d at the Coronet in the Elephant & Castle for the Last Tuesday Society. Was still very hungover from the night before, and didn’t stay long after finishing at midnight. Think they enjoyed my DJ-ing. Had a few drinks by way of hair of the dog, but resolved to take a break after this night.

Monday 31st: Met Laurence Hughes for tea at Forks, on the other side of Highgate hill. Very nice sofas, hand made mince pies, cheap pots of tea. Watched the Jools Hootenanny to see my brother Tom playing guitar with Adam Ant’s band: so very proud of him.

Tuesday 1st: Dinner with Ella Lucas in the Turkish bistro – Bistro Laz – on West Hill. Just what I needed: was going a bit mad with all the essay worry.

Since then, it’s been essay work, or feeling ill (third cold in two months, varicose vein pains), or putting off essay work then making myself even more ill when I realise how behind I am. Thankfully today was productive purely down to making myself a timetable with reasonable goals in each session, then sticking to that.

A wish for 2013? I’d like it to be the year when I finally feel like I’m ‘right’ in my life. (to which a friend said, ‘That’s how everyone feels!’) The college course is great, but it’s not meant to be my whole life. I need to do more – and I want to do more. The trick is to timetable it all. Like this: I wrote ‘9.30-10.30pm: diary catch-up’, and here it is. Seems so silly.

Have promised to lay off alcohol for a couple of months. Teetotal since December 31st and counting.

(Sorry that this is too long. Not sorry that I got it done…)


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
break

On Being An Academic Muse

Saturday May 21st: I manage to honour three invitations in one evening. First: Sam Carpenter’s birthday drinks at The Constitution pub in Camden (7.30pm-8.15pm), then Charley Stone’s birthday concert at the Silver Bullet venue in Finsbury Park (8.45-9.30pm), before heading to the Phoenix in the West End to be guest DJ at How Does It Feel To Be Loved, where I stay till it ends (10.15pm till 3am).

Afterwards: I walk all the way from Oxford Circus to Archway. Nearly 4 miles. Partly because I need the exercise, partly because I’m drunk, but also because I like to avoid night buses whenever possible. I feel utterly safe walking the streets of Central and North London in the dead of night. It’s night buses that can be an ordeal.

Ms Stone’s night  is ‘Charlapalooza’, featuring performances from the Keith TOTP All-Stars, the Deptford Beach Babes and the Abba Stripes, all of whom she plays guitar for.  Her present from David Barnett is a huge poster of her own Rock Family Tree, linking all the bands she’s played in over the years. Fosca is one of them.

Also at the gig are other London Rock Women of note: Charlotte Hatherley (Ash, Client, solo), Debbie Smith (Echobelly, Curve) Deb Googe  (My Bloody Valentine),and  Jen Denitto: once of Linus, now drumming for the Monochrome Set.  Jen D says I’m directly responsible for her being in the MS, via singer Bid’s other band, Scarlet’s Well.

I get a vicarious thrill hearing of friends’ gig-going and gig-playing, as if they’re carrying on with All That so that I don’t have to any more.  From the reports of the Suede shows this week, to news of my brother Tom, who’s currently touring as guitarist for Adam Ant.  I don’t envy his guitarist success (never feeling like a proper guitarist myself), but I do envy his earning a living from doing something he loves, and travelling too. Particularly Paris. The last time I was in Paris was a Fosca gig in 2001 – a marvellous floating venue in the Seine. I have a real urge to go again. Here’s hoping a reason to do so presents itself. Or better still, the money to go there presents itself.

Still not much luck in finding a regular source of income. Offers of work from kind friends keep falling through, from paid blogging to film reviews. I’ve pitched articles to the Guardian without even getting a reply, which makes me feel some random self-deluded lunatic. Maybe I am. But at least I’m a well-dressed random, self-deluded lunatic.

***

Last Wednesday I was invited to Treadwell’s Bookshop, now in a new location off Tottenham Court Road. The event was the reading of an academic paper by Dr Stephen Alexander, titled ‘Elements Of Gothic Queerness in The Picture of Dorian Gray.’ Stimulating stuff, reminding me just how rich Wilde’s novel is. You can link it to so much these days: the tragedy of a young man who doesn’t age pops up in Twilight and the new Doctor Who, for instance. Dr Alexander focussed on the theme of coveting yet resenting objects for their static nature: something that certainly connects with today’s obsession with worshipping the latest version of a must-have gadget. In fact, posters for the original iPad showed Dorian Gray as an example of an e-book to read on it. I’d love to know what made them choose it.

Not only was I delighted to be invited, but it turned out Dr Alexander – whom I didn’t know until now – actually dedicated his paper to me, after my appearance in Eliza Glick’s book Materializing Queer Desire.

I’ve never had an academic paper dedicated to me before. It’s so flattering. And it helps to remind me that I might not be the complete  waste of space the Job Centre insists I am.

Problem is, they’ll say, one can’t earn a living from being a muse.

Well, unless you’re in Muse.

My DJ set at HDIF:

  1. Stereolab: Peng 33 (Peel session version
  2. Carole King: I Feel The Earth Move
  3. The Shangri-Las: Give Him A Great Big Kiss
  4. Chairmen Of The Board: Give Me Just A Little More Time
  5. The Wake: Carbrain
  6. The Chills: Heavenly Pop Hit
  7. The Siddeleys: You Get What You Deserve
  8. Dressy Bessy: If You Should Try To Kiss Her
  9. Camera Obscura: French Navy
  10. The Smiths: Ask
  11. Spearmint: Sweeping The Nation
  12. The Pastels: Coming Through
  13. Le Tigre: Hot Topic
  14. Prince: Raspberry Beret
  15. The Supremes:  Stoned Love
  16. Ride: Twisterella
  17. Stereolab: French Disko
  18. Blueboy: Imipramine
  19. Sister Sledge: Thinking Of You
  20. Nancy Sinatra: These Boots Are Made For Walking
  21. April March: Chick Habit
  22. Shirley Bassey: Spinning Wheel
  23. Gloria Jones: Tainted Love
  24. Mel Torme: Coming Home Baby
  25. Dexys: Plan B
  26. Orange Juice: Blueboy
  27. Blondie: Rapture (a tribute to the real Rapture in the news)
  28. Felt: Sunlight Bathed The Golden Glow
  29. The Cure: Boys Don’t Cry
  30. Style Council: Speak Like A Child
  31. Labelle: Lady Marmalade

Tags: , , , , , , ,
break

Quick Notice of A DJ Appearance

I’m guest DJ-ing tonight (Saturday May 21st) at How Does It Feel To Be Loved.

It will be at:

The Phoenix
37 Cavendish Square
London
W1G 0PP

Nearest tube: Oxford Circus.

Runs 9pm-3am. My set is 10.30pm to midnight.

Entry: £4 members, £6 non members. Membership is free if you register (quickly!) at

http://www.howdoesitfeel.co.uk/membership.html

I shall be playing 80s indiepop, 60s girl groups, and everything that vaguely fits. Including Blueboy, who were recently the subject of a rather good piece at the London Review Of Books blog here:

http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2011/05/10/stephen-burt/young-and-quite-pretty/


Tags: , , ,
break

Indiepop Longa, Vita Brevis

Saturday night just gone: I DJ at How Does It Feel To Be Loved, at the Phoenix in Cavendish Square. I chat to Charlie M and her friends, talk about Take That with the lovely Alice From Leeds on the door, and down too much white wine. Sunday is entirely spent recovering, I’m ashamed to admit.

The HDIF crowd is a mixture of young and old fans of the playlist – 60s soul and 80s indie. Ian W tells me about new bands that the club has helped to nurture, including one I like the sound of, ‘Allo Darlin’. I was at first baffled that there’s young fans of, say, McCarthy who were not even born when ‘Red Sleeping Beauty’ came out. Partly because the music seemed hermetically sealed to its era, but also because it forced me to admit to my own increasing age. It’s a form of solipsism too; the music that you once thought mapped a time of your history eventually maps you into history itself. That obscure 1989 EP track you thought only you gave meaning to, your little secret, will in fact outlive you. So get used to it. The music will get along just fine without you. Indiepop longa, vita brevis.*

Here’s my set list from the night.

1. The Style Council – Speak Like A Child
2. Lloyd Cole – Jennifer She Said
3. The Siddeleys – You Get What You Deserve
4. Felt – Sunlight Bathed The Golden Glow (the version with the jangly guitar intro)
5. McCarthy – I Worked Myself Up From Nothing
6. The Chills – Heavenly Pop Hit
7. Stereolab – Ping Pong
8. Camera Obscura – French Navy
9. Aztec Camera – Oblivious
10. Nancy Sinatra – These Boots Are Made For Walking
11. Carole King – I Feel The Earth Move
12. The Angels – My Boyfriend’s Back
13. Le Tigre – Hot Topic
14. The Pastels – Nothing To Be Done
15. Chairmen Of The Board – Give Me Just A Little More Time
16. Gloria Jones – Tainted Love
17. Shirley Bassey – Spinning Wheel
18. The Supremes – Stoned Love
19. Spearmint – Sweeping The Nation
20. The Smiths – Ask
21. The Shangri-Las – Give Him A Great Big Kiss
22. Beyonce – Single Ladies (Motown remix)
23. Labelle – Lady Marmalade
24. Dexys – Plan B
25. Chuck Wood – Seven Days Too Long
26. Orange Juice – Poor Old Soul
27. The Wake – Crush The Flowers
28. Strawberry Switchblade – Since Yesterday
29. Sister Sledge – Thinking Of You
30. Dressy Bessy – If You Should Try To Kiss Her

[*After Hippocrates's aphorism 'Ars longa, vita brevis': life is short, but art is forever.]


Tags: , ,
break

The Librarian DJ

(Sorry it’s taken me so long to do this entry. I wanted to get the links and credits right. This one is all-singing and all-dancing…)

Quick alert: Today is Buy Nothing Day in the UK, which I’m observing. I love how it throws up all kinds of questions, and how it dares people to prove they can go without shopping on a Saturday close to Christmas but not too close. Wish I’d posted this with a bit more notice, but anyway.

***

Friday November 20th: I DJ at the British Library in St Pancras. At 6pm, the last readers are thrown out, the reading rooms are closed, and a conference-style stage rig with shiny new PA and lights, plus ultra-professional crew,  is set up along one side of the entrance hall. On the opposite wall are trestle tables with caterers manning a bar.

The event is called Victorian Values, arranged to coincide with the Library’s current exhibition on Victorian photography. It’s co-promoted by the Ministry of Burlesque and is billed as a 19th-century themed evening of music, tableaux vivant, skits, can-can dancers, and inspired burlesque disrobing – including an opium-induced vision of a Burlesque Britannia. The MC is Des O’Connor  and the acts include Vicky Butterfly (who brings her own wooden theatre booth, hand painted with figures by Lawrence Gullo), Joe Black, Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer, and Oompah Brass, who perform covers of latter-day pop hits in the vintage brass style (tuba, french horn, trombone, trumpets), while decked out in full lederhosen. It’s a lot of fun, frankly.

The oldest recording I play is ‘I’m Following In Father’s Footsteps’ by Vesta Tilley, one of the many male impersonators of the music hall era.


Vesta Tilley

It was released in 1906 on Edison Gold Moulded Records, the world’s first record label. I found it at this website, the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project, University of California.

I love how ‘Edison Records’ first meant wax cylinders; actual discs were still some years off. The song itself was also featured in the BBC TV adaptation of Ms Waters’s Tipping The Velvet.

The newest track I play is ‘What Have You Done To Your Face?’ by Marcella & The Forget-Me-Nots, from 2009. A track so new it has yet to be released in any downloadable or physical form. It’s currently available only as a streaming track at the band’s MySpace page, or via this striking video directed by Alex De Campi, which is the way I discovered it. I didn’t realise at first that the singer & songwriter was the same Marcella from the Puppini Sisters – it’s such a different musical style. Which I guess was the whole point of her starting a separate band. Consider me first in the queue for their debut album.

Just before heading to the Library, I read this story on the BBC news site about Linn Products becoming the first hi-fi company to cease manufacture of CD players, in favour of digital streaming and downloading. It’s a milestone in the history of recorded sound, and a firm step towards the end of the CD age.

So while DJing, I think about the various formats the tracks were originally created for: wax cylinder, vinyl disc, CD, celluloid, video, MP3, online streaming, and how I’m playing them together on the same format (specially made CDRs, compiled from MP3s), in a building built for the very act of archiving. It’s the DJ as librarian.

***

This event is packed out, with people lining not just the area in front of the stage but every staircase and balcony in the entrance hall. Rows of faces look down upon the stage (at the side of which are the DJ decks), like a crowd scene in some exotic city square. Emma Jackson is there, and remarks that the audience is noticeably mixed: alongside the young-ish cabaret and burlesque fans are lots of older Ladies Who Gallery. Good, I say.  A library is the place to mix worlds.

Judging by the roars of approval – particularly for Mr B – the event is a success. I have one Lady Who Galleries approaching me afterwards. She says she was ‘pleasantly surprised’ that the British Library would put on such an evening, and affirms she had a nice time. And who, she asks, did that  song I played about the ‘coin operated boy’, the one the younger ladies present seemed to know all the words to?

Well, here’s the playlist.

MUSIC HALL
I’m playing with time zones somewhat, as music hall songs were written as late as the 1940s, but it is all in the same style.

Ella Shields – Burlington Bertie From Bow
Frank H Fox – Drop Me In Piccadilly (as suggested by Kevin Pearce, taken from his excellent blog on London songs)
Hetty King – Piccadilly (thanks to Mr Pearce again)
Gus Elen – The ‘Ouses In Between
Florrie Forde – Down At The Old Bull And Bush
Marie Lloyd – A Little Of What You Fancy Does You Good
Mark Sheridan – I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside (thanks to Ms Crimson Skye)
Vesta Tilley – I’m Following In Father’s Footsteps
Stanley Holloway – Where Did You Get That Hat (thanks to Billy Reeves)
The Andrews Sisters – Beer Barrel Polka
The Beverley Sisters – Roll Out The Barrel
Shaun Parkes – The Man Who Broke The Bank At Monte Carlo. Taken from the film Marie Lloyd: Queen Of The Music Hall. Soundtrack unavailable, so I made an MP3 from the DVD.

GILBERT & SULLIVAN

Topsy-Turvy film cast – So please you sir with much regret (mp3 link). The piano rehearsal version which plays under the opening credits: just text on a black background, so the audience has to focus on the song. There is a soundtrack CD, but this track isn’t on it. Cue more DVD to MP3 recording. I love just how this song kicks off the rich, colourful world of Topsy-Turvy before we get to see any visuals. It’s just Sullivan saying, ‘One… two… TWO… two!’ then the song in its purest piano form, with impeccable harmonies by Shirley Henderson and co. Instantly we’re transported.

Topsy-Turvy soundtrack – Paris Galop from The Grand Duke (instrumental)

Linda Ronstadt – Poor Wandering One. From the 1983 film The Pirates Of Penzance. Not released on CD or DVD, so I had to teach myself how to make MP3s from YouTube. Just for this gig. I am the very model of a modern DJ.

Kevin Kline et al – With Catlike Tread. From the same film. YouTube again. Can’t beat a gang of sexy singing pirates.

The Hot Mikado stage cast – Three Little Maids. 1940s jazz style.

Frankie Howerd – The Flowers That Bloom In The Spring. From The Cool Mikado.
The Cool Mikado
soundtrack – The Sun’s Hooray (instrumental). The tune of ‘The Sun Whose Rays Are All Ablaze’ covered in a cha-cha-cha style.
The John Barry Seven – Tit Willow Twist (instrumental). Also from The Cool Mikado. Twangy guitar, Shadows style.

The Cool Mikado is a 1962 film by Michael Winner, which sets the G&S operetta in a swinging 60s pop world. It stars Frankie Howerd, Tommy Cooper, Stubby Kaye, Lionel Blair, Dennis Price, the John Barry Seven, and Mike and Bernie Winters (whose character names are ‘Mike & Bernie’). I’ve seen it on video… and it’s absolutely bloody awful. But the soundtrack, released on El Records, is a hoot.

OTHER CABARET-COMPATIBLE TUNES
Various Victorian Musical Box instrumentals – Funiculi Funicula, Behold The Lord High Executioner, Valse Des Fées. From Sublime Harmonie: recordings of rare Victorian cylinder and disc musical boxes from The Roy Mickleburgh Collection, Bristol.

Various Player Piano instrumentals – Burlington Bertie From Bow, Nellie Dean, Hold Your Hand Out Naughty Boy, The Man Who Broke The Bank At Monte Carlo. From Mechanical Music Hall: Street Penny & Player Pianos, Musical Boxes & Other Victorian Automata.

Wendy Carlos – William Tell Overture from A Clockwork Orange soundtrack.
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Can-Can (Offenbach).
Moulin Rouge film cast – Spectacular Spectacular, Sparking Diamonds
Michael Nyman – Angelfish Decay
Tipping The Velvet cast – It’s Only Human Nature After All. From the closing credits. Own MP3 recorded from DVD.
The Dresden Dolls – Coin Operated Boy
Momus – Sinister Themes (thanks to Michelle Mishka)
The Divine Comedy – The Booklovers
The Tiger Lillies – The Story Of The Man Who Went Out Shooting. From the Shock Headed Peter stage soundtrack.
Marcella & The Forget-Me-Nots – What Have You Done To Your Face? DJ promo MP3, as kindly provided by the artist.
Peggy Lee – Fever
Marilyn Monroe – Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend (Swing Cats Remix)

Also procured, but not played due to time:

Scarlet’s Well – Mr Mystery’s Mother
Electrelane – Eight Steps
Shockheaded Peters – I Bloodbrother Be
King of Luxembourg – Picture Of Dorian Gray (the TV Personalities’ song, also covered by The Futureheads. This is the most effete version.)
Ciceley Courtneidge – There’s Something About A Soldier
Jessie Wallace – When I Take My Morning Promenade. From the film Marie Lloyd: Queen of the Music Hall.


Jessie Wallace being the actress who plays Kat Slater in Eastenders. Was rather looking forward to playing her (rather good) version of this Marie Lloyd song, particularly alongside Momus et al. However, one of the stage acts covered the song on the night, so I thought it my duty as a Gentleman DJ to omit it. May as well upload it here:

Jessie Wallace – When I Take My Morning Promenade

I don’t think I’ve ever spent so long putting together a single DJ set. But I loved every minute of it.


Tags: , ,
break

A Yurt Of One’s Own

At Latitude, typing this in my rented mini-yurt. What bliss to have the space, the head room for standing up, and the hut-like sturdiness of the bamboo frame. Plus a perfectly comfortable fitted carpet; no need for an air bed. The ‘tent hotel’ field has extra security and the nicest showers I’ve seen to date.

Yurtpics:

latitude-012
latitude-010

latitude-008
Space to stand, to hang up one’s suits and shirts…

Note the little girls’ umbrella in the first pic. It was all the festival market had left in the way of rain protection, apart from thoseponcho things which are not really me. Walking about with a little girls’ brolly rather gives onlookers even more reason to point at giggle at me as I pass (or maybe call the police), but compared to being drenched in one of the sudden showers and lightning storms which have hit this year’s Latitude so far, it’s by far the lesser of two humiliations. Were I an enterprising sort, I’d rush to the nearest town, buy up all the cheap umbrellas I could find, and sell them at the festival for twice the price. Brolly and wellington boot stalls at Glastonbury must make an absolute fortune.

I had brought my own, thinking how prepared I was, only to leave it in the wings of the Film & Music Arena while I was DJ-ing. After we finished the set, the umbrella had vanished. I managed to get about 1 minute’s mileage out of it, walking from our dressing cabin to the stage during last night’s storm.

(Update: I’ve just found a different stall which sells proper man-sized brollies, and inexpensively too. It even matches my silk scarf. Third umbrella owned in two days.)

latitude-002
Miss Red outside our dressing room. Cigarettes ‘n’ alcohol ‘n’ ukelele.

So, last night: Miss Red and I DJ in the Film & Music Arena. Five sets throughout the evening, including an hour at the start (accompanying excerpts of ‘Pandora’s Box’ on screens to the side of the stage) and 90 minutes at the end, when we turn the place into a nightclub:

latitude-007
One happy dancing Film and Music Arena, Thursday night 1AM

We also play mini-sets in between the live acts: the ‘live silent movies’ show called ’1927′, Patti Plinko, Smoke Fairies and Camille O’Sullivan, just the kind of acts I’d go to see anyway.

I provide several bunches of chrisanthemums bought in Southwold market earlier that day – Red’s idea. They’re perfect for dancing with, throwing about, wheeling around one’s head (to ‘Panic’ by the Puppini Sisters), and triumphantly tossing into the crowd at the end of selected songs.

Bump into Edwyn Collins and Grace Maxwell in the backstage area just before we go on. Tom is playing guitar for him, so that’s my handy reason for going up and saying hello. Tom apparently told them, ‘You’ll definitely notice my brother when you see him.’ Although Mr Collins isn’t singing at Latitude, Ms Maxwell is appearing in the Literary Tent to talk about her book on his recovery, which bears the perfect title: Falling and Laughing.

Photo by Grace M:

latitude-005

Now it’s Friday afternoon, and as ever I’m missing lots of acts I’d wanted to see. Last nights exuberance, not to mention consumption of the generous rider the festival laid on, has rather left me wanting to do little but lie in this lovely, airy yurt and recover from my various aches and pains (tired feet, hangover, friction rash from lots of walking in hot weather – made worse by wearing a suit). I know I should investigate a few acts, but fun is such hard work.

I get the kid-in-a-sweet-shop feeling so often these days. Overwhelmed with so much choice, I find myself doing nothing at all. It happens in libraries and book shops, when deciding what to pick, unable to decide and leaving with nothing, or choosing something then wishing I’d gone for the other thing afterwards. But it’s so silly – all life is missing out. One thing at a time means nothing else at one time. I suppose I want someone to just tell me, ‘Do this today. Read this. Watch this act. It’ll definitely the best possible choice.’ I can sometimes get high on sheer indecision.

But then, the one thing I was most excited about doing Latitude this year was renting A Yurt Of One’s Own. So it  isn’t really such a waste. I’m enjoying the private space, somewhere to go which isn’t just somewhere to sleep (which was the only thing I could do in the little tent last year).

I find myself scanning the Latitude programme photos and going by unfair rules. I say no to watching any rock act in checked shirts, or any photos of four gruff blokes in coats on a windswept beach looking into the middle distance (which is meant to say ‘hey, we’re a broadsheet compatible rock band’), or any comedian who pulls that wide-eyed, eyebrows aloft, mugging expression (indicating ‘hey, I’m a comedian’).

Ah well, off into the festival, to miss things I wanted to catch, but hopefully catch things I didn’t know I’d like.

Walking through the woods between the Guest Area and the lake, my white suit gets a comment from two passing young men (that eternal formula):

‘Excuse me, are you Jesus?’

An ant has just crawled inside the keys of this laptop.


Tags: , ,
break

Just A Buffet

I’m DJ-ing at a new club called Decline and Fall this Friday 10th. It’s hosted by the elegant burlesque artiste Vicky Butterfly and takes place at the Albert & Pearl in Upper Street, which I’m told is a suitably opulent venue:

http://www.timeout.com/london/cabaret/event/152346/decline-and-fall.html

***

So. I’ve left the news clippings night shift job in order to concentrate on writing jobs like the ‘Forever England’ book. On my last night at the office, many colleagues who normally dressed down gave me a surprise send-off. They came to work wearing suits, or shirts and ties, or evening dresses and high heels. On top of which I was given a lovely leaving card, boxes of Fortnum & Mason fudge and shortbread, a notebook and a luxury ballpoint engraved with my name. I was so touched.

The secret Dress Up for Dickon Day was the chief delight. If that’s what people think of me – that I like to be surrounded by the dressed-up – well, they’re absolutely right. Just as well I am me, really.

***

Now. There’s been an awful amount of Silly Tosh written about Mr Jackson since his untimely death, and frankly I don’t see why I should be any different.

His music has been ubiquitous in London’s coffee shops, cafes and bars ever since, which actually I don’t mind too much. I didn’t realise until now that I do slightly like the Eddie Van Halen guitar solo which occurs halfway through  ‘Beat It’. And then there’s those rather startling lyrics to ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Something’, which straddle the awful-brilliant axis:

You’re a vegetable (you’re a vegetable)
You’re just a buffet (you’re a vegetable)

Indeed. Just, as the man said, a buffet. And people have been helping themselves to that particular buffet even since he departed to that great Moonwalk dancefloor in the sky. Which I guess means… the Moon. (Shall I stop this now? I’m so sorry, I have to tickle myself back to the diary after a fallow period. Silliness is as good a way as any).

I’ll never forget where I was when I heard the news. I was reading the news. No, I really was. Thursday June 25th was my last night at the news clippings job. It was fun watching the BBC site hold onto those get-out-of-jail-free quotation marks in its main headline for as long as possible. They went from ‘Michael Jackson “rushed to hospital”‘ to ‘Michael Jackson ‘is dead’”, the sub heading carefully adding ‘according to reports’. By which they meant, ‘Some news sources are saying Michael Jackson is dead, but frankly they’re all American ones, or Sky, and we’re the BBC, damn it! We won’t take the quote marks away until Jeremy Paxman has personally walked into the hospital and checked his pulse.’

The news broke too late for most of the morning newspapers, which led with the story of BBC executives’ expenses. One morning paper with a late enough press time took advantage and splashed the Jackson story all over its cover. That it was City AM, the London-only financial daily which normally wouldn’t touch showbiz stories with a hedge fund bargepole, didn’t stop it one iota.

The days of news media saying ‘that’s enough, let’s move on to other events’ are long gone. The phrase ‘And in other news’ is still used – but only just, and never soon enough. The proliferation – 24 hour channels in particular -  should in theory mean more diversity in news. It would have been nice to see a little of all that extra time used for more coverage of, say, the passing of Sky Saxon and Steven Wells. Just because they’re less well-known shouldn’t mean they receive less coverage; on the contrary, because they’re lesser known they should get more attention. I suppose I naively want a kind of Robin Hood approach to media attention. Or just a little less reheating of the one buffet.


Tags: , , , , ,
break

The All Pincushion Flouncing Match

Whenever I see an advert for a spectacles company, with a cheekboney lady in a power suit, hair up, and looking happy with her choice of eyewear to the point of madness, I now think of Sarah Palin. So that’s how pernicious the UK coverage of the US elections has become. Goodness knows what it must be like for Americans, if the British media alone is this saturated with comment and debate on Mr Obama, Mr McCain and their ‘running mates’, families, pets, and favourite choice of hunting rifle. Ignorance and lack of US nationality is no hindrance to comment, of course. And here I am joining in. Bait taken.

It seems odd to obsess so much over another country’s politics, even the US, when there’s more than enough to focus on over here. I just wish they’d concentrate more on, say, Caroline Lucas, who was recently elected Green Party leader. At least British newspaper readers can actually vote for her.

The general switch of focus from Mr O to Ms P seems less about ability to govern and more about appealing to people’s lust for a good story, with interesting characters. Ms Palin is a Good Character in this distant soap opera, so everyone perks up. On Radio 4′s News Quiz, mention of her name is given a sound effects burst from the Hallelujah Chorus, such is her gift to overseas satirists. If Mr O loses to Mr McC, or rather to Ms P, perhaps it’s because he’s just not funny enough, intentionally or otherwise. See also Boris Johnson.

***

Sunday last: afternoon tea at High Tea in Highgate, with Ms Crimson Skye, whom I first met in the Cabaret Tent at the Latitude Festival. High Tea is a new local haunt: homemade cakes, Doris Day and Cole Porter playing on the stereo, friendly young staff with a taste for old things. Right up my street in every sense. It’s popular today: there’s the sense it’s the Last Sunny Sunday of the year, so everyone is out in the cafes and parks. All the Sunday Couples, or in my case, the Couples Of Singles.

Then a drink in St John’s Tavern, Archway, now a trendy but pleasant restaurant & bar with chunky oak tables and a selection of broadsheet supplements by the beer pumps. A world away from the dingy pub in 1993 where Orlando played their early gigs.

And then to Ms Andrei’s flat in Upper Holloway for dinner and a movie. The Magic Toyshop: a rare 80s TV film of the Angela Carter novel. Adapted by the author, so it’s full of deliciously surreal, dream-like moments which a normal TV screenwriter would have cut for fear of confusing the audience. Has a creepy puppet swan and a creepier Tom Bell.

***
A Thursday past: the Boogaloo for Beautiful & Damned, with me DJ-ing there for the first time since I’d left the club night in Miss Red’s hands. Martin White and his Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra play a fantastic set (with Kate Dornan on tuba), and the bar is decked out in a Victorian Circus theme, complete with straw, bunting, an Unhelpful Fortune Teller booth, and lots of people in stick-on moustaches.

One lady is dressed up as a half-man, half-woman, with one gender on each side. I half chat her up, half-heartedly. My old neighbour and room decorator Liz also comes along and has such a nice time that she leaves a thank-you present outside my door: a little bejewelled make-up mirror, wrapped in ribbon and paper.

***

A recent Friday eve – outing to an art show with various Boogaloo associates (Nat, Red, Julia, Ms Annie S, Mr Russell, The General). Venue is a dusty Victorian house in the Kings Cross Road, formerly the shop Hats Plus. The old awning is still in place, still advertising the hat shop’s now-defunct website. Even website addresses can gather dust these days. I teach the word ‘awning’ to two Swedish women.

That Saturday eve – I Dj at the Magic Theatre event, at the Art Deco Bloomsbury Ballroom. Venue is outrageously plush and ornate, and I enjoy Ms Crimson Skye’s burlesque turn on the stage. She sings the Patsy Cline song ‘Crazy’ in a Texan drawl, while stripping from a Hannibal Lecter grill mask and straitjacket, her arms tied behind her back.  There’s also a Dexy’s-esque band with a full brass section, who cover the 80s song ‘Hey You, The Rocksteady Crew’.

Late in the evening, with much wine consumed, two men dressed as what looks like giant pincushions take part in an impromptu Flouncing Competition, on the dance floor. They each spin on their plimsolls and storm off in a camp huff to the nearest exit, their huge costumes bobbing around them. I am definitely enjoying myself.


Tags: , , , , , , , ,
break

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 www.magic-theatre.co.uk.

***

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: www.myspace.com/dwbsoho

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.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
break