Saturday 31st May 2014. To the New Rose pub in Essex Road for Taylor and Sam’s birthday drinks. I chat to: Ella & Kosmos, Sarah Bee, Andrew Mueller, Suzanne, Seaneen & Robert, and Richard. The New Rose is something of a rock-fan compatible bar, with used festival wristbands dangling from the ceiling. It encourages festival goers to stop by on their way home from Glastonbury or wherever, and promises them a free drink in exchange for their wristbands.
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Sunday 1st June 2014. To a birthday picnic in Regent’s Park (or THE Regent’s Park as it’s officially called now), this time for Martin Wallace. Martin sends me an invite in the post – first class, too. I recognise the illustration he uses: Mia Farrow in Broadway Danny Rose. The weather is sunny, the park teeming with picnicking people, wandering toddlers, panting dogs. I’ve known Martin on and off since – and we work this out today – 1995. It was at Erol Alkan’s indie disco, ‘Going Underground’, at Plastic People in Oxford Street. Since then he fronted the band The Boyfriends, and more recently did the very same course at Birkbeck as me: BA English. He finished it just as I was starting. We bumped into each other in the student bar on the day he had his final exam. Since then we’ve stayed in touch, and he’s given me lots of invaluable study advice, which I in turn pass on to my classmates, ‘paying it forward’, as they say. Some things haven’t changed, though: we rave about the latest Morrissey record, ‘Istanbul’.
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Tuesday 3rd June 2014. To the ICA to see The Punk Singer, a film-length documentary. It’s about Kathleen Hanna, who fronted the Riot Grrrl band Bikini Kill in the 1990s, and then the electronic group Le Tigre after that. The topics discussed are deserving of a much wider audience than fans of Ms Hanna’s music. For instance, there’s the various issues of women in music, not just as artistes but as audience members. It reminds me of the clichéd media image of female fans at rock festivals – a girl sitting on a boy’s shoulders in the crowd. Every year, the press coverage of Glastonbury seems to include such an image. There’s rarely any asking of why it is a cliché. No addressing of how women might have a hard time getting a decent view of the band.
But Ms Hanna was known to stop her own gigs and demand that the men get out of the way and let the women move down to the front. The gigs are now over twenty years old, yet the idea is still provocative and relevant. Everyone with the slightest interest in rock and pop music should see this film.
Here’s a quote from Ms Hanna which stayed with me:
‘When a man tells the truth, it’s the truth. But as a woman, when I go to tell the truth, I feel like I have to negotiate how I’m perceived.’
I don’t think that feeling is limited to the world of indie bands.
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Wednesday 4th June 2014. I read The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller. It’s a guilty pleasure: a book about books which I read when I know I should be instead reading the very books he discusses (ie good novels). The idea behind this one is that it’s an account of finally tackling all the classics Mr Miller has lied about reading for so long: Anna Karenina, War and Peace, Middlemarch. Much of Mr Miller’s childhood and taste is close to mine: he includes his schoolboy Puffin Club bookplate, which gives me a Proustian shudder, and is a fellow admirer of Sondheim’s Sunday In The Park With George, though he goes on the defensive about liking musicals (no need; be proud!). I am even familiar with ‘I Start Counting’, a Basil Kirchin song from a Truck Records compilation, which Mr Miller uses to wake up to.
After conquering his self-prescribed list of books, he says it hasn’t necessarily made him a better person; all that’s changed is that he can say he’s read those books. And being well-read is certainly no protection against literary errors. ‘Reader, I married him’ is not a quote by Jane Austen. It’s from Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. Mr Miller has got his Janes in a twist.
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Thursday 5th June 2014. Something of an Edwards family day. In the morning I am a guest on my brother Tom’s music programme for Soho Radio, which broadcasts on the internet from a café on Great Windmill Street. Tom’s remit is mainstream rock, metal, goth and punk. I wear the Sebastian Horsley suit, partly because it plays up the Soho factor, but mainly because SH was more into that sort of music than me. So in tribute to him, I play three of his favourite songs, as listed in some editions of Dandy In The Underworld: ‘C’mon and Love Me’ by Kiss, ‘Double Talkin’ Jive’ by Guns N’ Roses, and ‘Personality Crisis’ by the New York Dolls.
Here’s the other songs I play, comprising my own favourite noisy records:
– My Bloody Valentine – When You Sleep (their concerts can damage the ears, yet their records can soothe and even heal; a friend used them to recover from a mental breakdown. She could only listen to MBV. The comfort of white noise.)
– Dressy Bessy – Girl You Shout! (love the muttered ‘sorry!’ at the 2.55 mark. More records should apologise for themselves.)
– Xiu Xiu – I Luv The Valley OH! (the volume of the screamed ‘OH!’ still impresses)
– Nirvana – Sliver (my idea of heavy metal; love how the guitar noise at the beginning always comes in at the moment you least expect)
– Pale Saints – She Rides The Waves (femme sweetness in butch noise)
– David Bowie – Queen Bitch (how an influential artist is himself a praise singerÂ of his own influences – Velvets in this case)
– Dinosaur Jr – Just Like Heaven (the most irritating ending in rock)
– Bikini Kill – Rebel Girl (which opens The Punk Singer)
– Dresden Dolls – Girl Anachronism (my idea of a favourite ‘goth’ song, I suppose)
– Pixies – Gigantic (by coincidence, Tom was going to play this anyway. We are Pixies-brothers!)
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In the evening: to Carlyle’s House in Chelsea for a talk by my mother. It’s on the story of quilts and the art of quilt-making. The evening isÂ a marriage of two worlds for me, as the event is organised by Suzette Field of the Last Tuesday Society, who have booked me as a DJ on countless occasions for the last fewÂ years. A third world is present too, in fact, as I am still wearing Sebastian Horsley’s suit.
I’ve been reading about ‘female only spaces’ on Twitter, and Mum’s event reminds me that the issue is not new in the slightest. Women have used quilt-making as a way of securing time away from menÂ for centuries. The only men in the audience are myself and Russell Taylor, Suzette’s partner. Mum is an engaging and eloquent public speaker – indeed, she’s done this sort of thing all over the world for years. I don’t know if TED Talks have quilt makers, but if they do, they need to book my mother.
Carlyle’s House is a painstakingly preserved Victorian home, once domain to Thomas Carlyle, he of the London Library. Who to compare him to today – a public intellectual who had the great and the good to tea? A more party-giving Will Self? Clive James? Melvyn Bragg? Certainly if Carlyle were alive today, he’dÂ definitelyÂ have his own TV chat show. It’s a reminder that a house has a third use these days, after a machine for living in and a machine for making money (at the expense of those who just want somewhere to live). It canÂ alsoÂ be a vital machine for teaching, in this case about the way we used to live.
At the talk, the National Trust custodians serve wine. But they only allow white wine, not red, and you can’t take drinks into the upstairs rooms. So I have yet to visit the upstairs rooms.
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Friday 6th June 2014.
To Ronnie Scott’s for a lunchtime event about Soho and songwriting, part of the ‘Soho Create’ festival. David Hepworth interviews Gary Kemp, the songwriter of Spandau Ballet, and Tim Arnold, once of the 90s band Jocasta, and now a devoted songwriter about Soho per se. Â Mr Kemp says that he was the lead actor in a Children’s Film Foundation film, long before he was a pop star. I look this up afterwards – the film in question was Hide And Seek (1972).
A quoteÂ from Gary Kemp at this event: ‘I remember when I started mixing with middle class boys. It was when I saw my first wok.’
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I receive two further marks from the Â BA English course, both of which finish off their respective modules. For my piece on Jane Austen and William Beckford, I get 77. This makesÂ an overall grade of 76 for the ‘Romantic Age’ half-module: a First. For my essay on Rana Dasgupta’s Tokyo Cancelled and the film Inception I get an 80, making my overall grade for the ’21st Century’ module also an 80. So a First there too.
I just have the last ‘Fin De SiÃ¨cle’ essay to come back and that will be the whole third year graded. I know I shouldn’t judge the year until I get that last mark. But I’m very, very, very pleased about it so far.
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Tags: andy miller, birkbeck, carlyle's house, gary kemp, lynne edwards, martin wallace, new rose, Sebastian Horsley, soho, soho radio, suzette field, taylor parkes, tim arnold, Tom Edwards, year of reading dangerously