Tuesday, 28 August 2012

derbyshire rocks

"Ive had to change the venue to South Wingfield Social Club, 43 High Rd , South Wingfield , Derbyshire DE557LX , as there are a lot of people coming and the other venue , wasn't big enough , we have some local bands playing as well as my very good friends Harvey Bainbridge and Jerry Richards ex Hawkwind , will be there”.
The above was part of an email I received from Martin Needham prior to heading to Derbyshire for his birthday bash so you can understand that I thought this was going to be a bit different from some FDPFAFDW gigs. I would not be disappointed.

After a fairly relaxed journey to Nottingham I caught another train to Alfreton where I was picked up by Martin and his partner Sharon and delivered to the nearby Travel Lodge. I checked in, went to my room and unpacked my gear. I went to use the bathroom to find there was no light. Not a broken down fluorescent tube for me but no tube at all. I went back to the desk to report this and the insipid individual showed no surprise, in fact he knew already and asked me “Was this ok?” OK? I shouted. I asked how I was supposed to use the bathroom in the dark. He gave me the key to another room and I left. What an idiot! I didn’t think this was a portent of things to come for one minute and later, I was glad to find this to be true.

Onward and upwards and it was soon time to go to the gig. After a short drive in sunshine through leafy lanes, up hill and down dale, we arrived at The South Wingfield Social Club high on a hill. The venue used to be a Miners' Welfare hall built and run by the miners for the benefit of the community and their families. Almost all of these welfare schemes had their origins in the 1920's or 30's and were funded by weekly contributions deducted from the miners' wages, initially to build the schemes and subsequently to run them. Some of the schemes had the word "institute" in their title, probably an indication that they also had an educational as well as recreational purpose. Whatever their title, they all had one thing in common; they represented the hopes and aspirations of the men who worked in the mines, and their families. I walked into the hall and found it to be more or less what I had imagined.
 The music was in full flow with a kind of New Order Hybrid / Chapman Family style band playing some cool songs with the aid of a drum machine. The singer had a great and distinctive voice and I sat listening and expecting more of the same but this song and the style it was delivered in was a one off in terms of what followed. This was a very,very good band and very nearly a great band. I was fascinated for a while. I thought how fine the line is between some thing really great and something nearly so. As a performer it is sometimes very difficult to see the difference and most of us tend to hope the song we are currently working on will be the best. 
Soon more and more people arrived and soon the place was filling up. Outside a very well appointed fast food van was busy feeding the guests. Nearby a large field was in use as a camping area. The club occupies a large area and has it’s own bowling green which is in top condition and is an indication of the dedicated work that goes into maintaining a quality venue of any kind.The late afternoon session became the evening session and the music took on the distinctive flavour of the post Hawkwind movement with lots of gorgeous old analogue synth flavours and the obligatory, occasional narrative in the style of the electric poets and sci fi writers of the late 50’s through to the mid seventies. That is when it all first happened and here I was in the museum of a time that is loving maintained and perpetuated by some performers of that time and adored by a surprisingly large group of silver machined acolytes. Wonderful!

viking rituals in deepest derbyshire

By now I had met a good few folk I vaguely remembered from former years and some folk that I had not met but who knew me from the EBB. It was interesting to hear their stories and what life had dealt them. There were some sad stories but many more uplifting tales. Most people seemed to be doing ok and all were set on having a great night out at Martin’s birthday party.

martin - sharon and yours truly

The lighting and sound crew were really good. People had taken a great deal of time and trouble to put this together and there was a genuine feeling of community. I couldn’t help thinking that the venue management and staff were a shining example of what can be done to meet the needs of a local community and to move with the times in constructive and positive ways.

space bastard

Among the various chats I had with people I remember a discussion about political participation. Many years a go, while on a family holiday in Cornwall, my son Luke, who was around 12 at the time, discreetly drew my attention to a man walking towards us. After he had passed Luke asked me “Why do older men start to wear bait (slang at the time for rubbish) clothes”? Though there was some amusement behind the question, it was a genuine question and I could see what he meant. The chap was around sixty and dressed in clothes that were pale shades of grey, green, beige and brown. It was a kind of uniform for the fading. If the monks of old wore sack cloth and ashes to atone for their gravest sins then this man looked like he was just saying “sorry”.
It is as though there is a voice inside that whispers to some of us – You are old and should look like it. Know your place and disappear. Become invisible slowly. 
By comparison some women often go the other way. For some a permanent wave / curled hairstyle becomes obligatory. This seems to go with garments covered in hugely loud, floral designs or great geometric nonsensical patterns that assail the eyes. Garish becomes the new black. Any way, my point was some thing similiar also happens to political participation and to people who used to be involved in agit prop politics. They give it up as though it is some thing for the young. As though it is unseemly to protest in a righteous cause at a certain age. I say if you can walk then march and if you can't then there is always 38 Degrees for most of us. 
If you can march then be there with the rest of us. I know these are the days when if we don’t act it might be our last chance to do so with any effect all. I might have slightly upset a couple of folk with my rap on people participation and references to what I call hush puppy and perm time but it’s my job.

Time passed pleasantly and soon it was time to perform. Within the whole of the assembled throng my people made their way to front of the room and the others headed for the bar where they could chat noisily through my entire set. I have become more able to shut myself off from the distractions and myself and my listeners had a nice time – thank you for asking.
People who listen get it. They know what I am saying and why. They understand that my songs are for them and of today with a small selection from yesteryear. I had a great time and only made a couple of tiny errors. My set was caught on video by two separate crews so some of it should be worth a look when I get the footage.
Below is a version of Speak Down the wires performed at the party. There will be a free signed copy of BY MYSELF for the first person to leave a comment here, identifying the non deliberate mistake in the song.


martin (dr hasbeen) on stage

OK top of the bill next. Martin Needham A.K.A. Dr Has been and the band took to the stage. Previously Martin told me they were “crap” but “it was his party and he would play if he wanted”. Quite right too! Any way, as it turned out, the crap comment was obviously an expression of huge self modesty because they were in fact very good and I really enjoyed their set.
More chatting and then back to the Hotel, sleep and home on the train. We drove back to the venue in the morning to finalise a few things and then I got a lift to the station where it was bye, bye Derbyshire. I had a really great time as I do at all of these gigs. I honestly think that I have gained more from almost two years of Fair Days Pay For A Fair Days Work gigs, than from any others in the past 30. Martin is a promoter so I hope we will work together in the future. Meanwhile my thanks to Martin and Sharon and to all at the gig for looking after me and making me so welcome.

Next stop Manchester for a FDPFAFDW gig on Saturday for Dave Owen and Nicola Taylor. This will be a good 'un! I just know it.


Wednesday, 15 August 2012

and the air is good

Inderøy coat of arms

Just before the flight to Amsterdam on my way to Trondheim in Norway, I was trying to think back to the last time I had flown alone. I was surprised when I realised I had never flown alone in my life. So another first. A new day and a new adventure.  I was setting out for Stig and Tina Leinan’s FDPFAFDW gig.
The weather was warm and bright as we took off from Heathrow London heading towards Schipol airport in Amsterdam. As we took off from Schipol the sun was going down in the west and the whole of the sky was crimson. It was very beautiful.  Some two hours later we landed in Trondheim. I collected my guitar from the rolling conveyor with considerable relief. It is always slightly anxious making, waiting for my instruments to appear.
As I walked through the green lane I immediately met Stig and the guys and soon we were on the last leg of the journey, a 100k drive past fabulous areas of bright water under a magical light. The glittering lights on opposite shores twinkled under the leaden sky and a fresh light drizzle fell almost constantly. We had not met before so most of the journey was the usual kind of induction we all undertake at the start of these gigs, getting to know each other and finding the common ground. It is always there.
We arrived at Inderoy and soon I was saying hello to Stig and Tina’s friends. Like so many of these gigs some invited people had not seen each other for many years. It feels very good to be part of the event that makes this happen.
It was late but Tina had made me a hot meal. I didn’t feel hungry but with in a few minutes I was tucking in. I soon felt the benefit. I realised the journey had been very taxing in a way and I needed energy. I soon got my second wind and found myself singing a song at the request of the assembled friends. I chose The Christmas song. It offered the chance for me to explain something about the way I am working and writing now and also why it is so.
After a dreamy sleep I awoke to find the plan was to cross the bridge to the centrum of a very small community. It was a good plan. There we walked around a small park that housed a wonderful collection of bronze and wooden statues by the sculptor  Nils Aas (21 April 1933 - 10 February 2004) .

sound sculpture - fish - by Nils Aas

some of my new friends

There is strong and vibrant artistic culture here. The small community contains several art galleries and there is a strong community of musicians. 
wall art

At least one of the galleries houses a space where school children can sculpt and get down and dirty with clay at a potters wheel.
Later some of us drove to see friends of Stig and Tina who had prepared a wonderful lunch for 
us all. The salad, salmon and the reindeer was sublime and to top it off this was followed by a boat trip on the fiord.

captain eric at the wheel

Oh for one little rod and reel! One day I will return here just to fish. The fishing here is legendary. 
 I was offered the chance to go fishing on the day of my return journey home but I knew that I wouldn’t want to get up early enough for that, nor let people down by not turning up. It will keep. Next time I am going to make sure I have time to fish what ever happens.
The day rolled by and soon it was time to head off up the hill to the gig. The venue was a restaurant on a high hill overlooking the fiord. The place was built Viking style with a turf roof and with part of the structure built into the hill.
By now people were arriving from all over and I was getting very switched on by the whole atmosphere.
the edgar leinan band

I was to use a Baggs acoustic amplifier for the evening. What a beauty! I had never been near one before. This was a treat for me so thank you Odd Harald for supplying it.
Soon it was time to begin and I did so with Arabesque. I haven’t played it for a while so it was nice to get the fingers going while I settled into the atmosphere of the room. I couldn’t have asked for a more attentive and appreciative audience. I ran through the set list and when I came to Almost Dancing I was astounded when some people, including Stig, joined in on the chorus and they can sing. It was lovely and brought a lump to my throat. This happened again on Green Lights and so it went on.
Occasionally I saw people wiping a tear or two away, especially through The Christmas Song. One of Stig’s favourites is Ice on fire and I was so pleased I had put some effort into running through it before setting out. You could have heard a pin drop. The song is a journey for me and there I was with a room full of people on the same journey though I know the thoughts and feeling the song evokes are different for every one. Transmission ended – more tears - we were joined.
august by the fiord

When I came to Evening over rooftops I had a full blown choir in the room and we sang it with great joy and volume. What a night! I had a fabulous time. I love meeting and speaking with the people after it all and people were so nice to me. I really felt at home there.
So back to Stig and Tina’s house where the party continued until the early hours. Some of the guys sang some of my songs and like many an EBB rehearsal it was evident that I can only remember the songs I am currently performing. This was met with the usual surprise and  I get it – I wrote this stuff so how come I can’t remember it?
The answer is simple. I have to work hard to remember the endless streams of words that I produce and that are components of the songs I want to sing today.
Later Stig sang some of his own songs he had written years before. I got the message that these lyrics were political / socialistic and meant a lot to him and to his comrades who joined in singing with him.
I went to bed at around three and rose at 12 midday. A quick shower, coffee, hugs and kisses all around and it was time to leave by car for Trondheim. Some days I am blessed more than on others and this time was as good as it gets. I was a little sad to leave but I know I will return soon to that beautiful water filled landscape, where my heart sings and the air is good.

sunny at last

On the way back, flying over Holland I made a few notes about the landscape there. Flat and filled with dykes and ditches, canals and huge inland seas it suggested the promise of another water filled paradise. As I scribbled little maps in the plane and wrote a few annotations, I decided to try to match these up with Google Earth satellite maps. The first stages of a massive  fishing expedition in the flat lands including a  trip first to Amsterdam for some provisions? We shall see.
I landed at Heathrow and I was knackered but very happy. I wandered over to the KLM desk to ask where my guitar would arrive. The very polite KLM rep  asked me my name and I guessed by her expression that for some reason the guitar would not be joining me. Any way it did arrive on the following morning by courier so just a small glitch.
The sun is shining today here in England as it was when I left my new Norwegian friends. I had a great time. It reminded me of the wonderful time last year with Jarle and Kirsten and all. I hope there will be other FDPFAFDW gigs in Norway.

Here is a very kind email from one of the guests last Saturday. This is what makes it all worthwhile for me.


 Just want to thank you fore that you have understand it, and can give it to us in sutch a beautiful way.

It’s a long time since I’have lissen to music like this. I used to lisend a lot to ‘songs of love and hate’ by Leonard Choen.
I love sad songs, they have given me hope again. Like a frech gently breez from the sea....
With love from

Next stop Derbyshire on Saturday for a fun filled FDPFAFDW gig for Martin Needham. I have the distinct feeling this is going to be special and different again.


Please feel free to leave comments below

Monday, 6 August 2012

peddling ideas

the head of john hayes - photo by Ludo

I admit that sartorial awareness has never been a very strong feature of mine but I felt quite comfortable in the garb of the executioner pictured above. I think that is a bit of a disturbing thought but there you go. One has to try to get ahead ( aaaargh! SORRY )The pic is not a still from the film – The Head of John Hayes,  but is an off set photo.

Back when the 2012 Olympics was in its infancy Stella McCartney was pilloried by some for her Team GB strip designs. Actually I like the resulting uniform and its variations. Surely any one who didn’t like our Stella’s design loves it now after seeing the Russian strip. They do have the knack of making a vomit provoking pigs ear out of a silk purse don’t they?

The wonderful GB Cycling Team has reached its peak with performances that none of us who have followed cycling all our lives could have expected in this Olympics. I recently tweeted the question – Is Cycling now the new national sport? The logical answer is yes though I guess football fans everywhere will shake their heads in disagreement. The Team GB footballers should remain silent in the debate though. Their performance was awful. The extremely inarticulate Stuart Pearce should hang his head in shame. (" Until the games get underway we can't realise the magnitude of how its going to be") Lets not bother to enter a team next time if that is the best they can do.
Great English football is slowly becoming a thing of the past and is being strangled by the big money on offer to foreign players. Surely most of us think the fees for modern day footballers have got way out of line. Of course in a free market every one wants to get what they can. This applies to any one who generates money in this busted system.  For example any artiste/band wants a fair share of the gate, the record sales and merchandise. It doesn’t matter how ridiculously astronomical the amount is, most folk would want their share. How ever there is usually a simple arithmetic that this follows. Logically the share is based on the profit made but a footballer who is past his sell by date can still command silly money for doing nothing much at all at a club where there is no profit only debt. It is amazing that more clubs have not gone to the wall in the past season and it will not be surprising if more go next season. The money is not there. Even with TV money and overpriced merchandise most clubs in the Premier League are skint. If they were a small Engineering works in the north of England they would have already had their last meeting with their bank manager and their first with the liquidators.
So I suggest that when a club goes bust they should not be able to worm their way out of the reality of their situation by devious means that would not be tolerated anywhere else.
Perhaps we should turn those failing clubs into Velodromes so that the cycling renaissance can continue to flourish. Bikes are green so get on one and see what you have been missing. You don’t have to race or even go quickly. Getting from A to B by your own efforts is reward enough.
There has been a big debate about whether or not helmets should be compulsory for a long time. I’m with Bradley Wiggins on this one and think they should be a legal requirement for all cyclists. People say that people who wear helmets often take risks because they feel safe. I disagree. Any one that rides a bike in this country will be constantly reminded that they are not safe at all, even with a helmet, because many motorists take the view that we should not be on the roads at all. One has to learn to ride defensively especially in the urban environment. Are we in the way?
Mostly half assed attempts to build cycling networks has resulted in cycle paths that disappear frequently and make it necessary for a rider to join busy roads in the most extraordinary places. I am convinced that part of the plan was to create a way to force cyclists off the roads so I won’t ride on them. Fortunately the failure of the cycle path is such that I don’t have to ride off road ever. I have seen a motorist dumping the broken remnants of a front light from his car onto the cycle path adjacent to the road he was stationary on. When I pointed out that this was a hazard to cyclists and could cause punctures severe enough to leave a cyclist stranded his answer was “ Well it’s done now”.
I have also seen appalling riding by cyclists. No lights, dark clothes and no helmet often marks out the cyclist who always rides through a red light. So have a test for cyclists by all means and tax us like any other road user. Perhaps then the total disregard shown to cyclist by some motorists would abate. The cycling renaissance will bring about a better awareness for all road users and we cyclists will be safer and might be seen as making a necessary contribution to the Green movement instead of simply being in the way. After all it is the petrol fuelled combustion engine and those manufacturers with a vested interest in its continued use, that have stood in the way of progress to greener forms of propulsion not us.
Get pedalling folks. Cars are unnecessary for a lot of journeys and you don’t want to be left out of an important phase of THE NEW REALITY, do you?