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Friday, December 31, 2004

The Indiscriminate Appetite Of The Black Dog

Well it’s the last day of 2004; traditionally the time when most people come out with well-worn sayings such as “Gosh hasn’t it flown by quick”, “Blimey that went over sharp enough” and of course, “Who knows where the time goes.”

For my part I’ve felt largely detached from the comings and goings of the year, a time spent watching the world around me filtered through a kind of emotional slo-mo. The effect has been to freeze-frame feelings and thoughts; blurring intentions, rendering action into something slow and laborious.

Then the frozen time thaws and things start speeding up. I lost most of the summer but by God the fall was a rollercoaster of action and activity. Even though some things didn’t work out the way I wanted them too (a piece of understatement if ever there was), it was wonderful to feel the juices flowing and rediscover the kind of capacity that I thought I’d lost a long time ago.

So much for looking back; this time is also about trying to see beyond the six inches in front of your face, as Al Pacino might say in a motivational speech. It’s an opportunity to set some goals. For me, I’m determined to not lose anymore time to the Black Dog’s indiscriminate appetite. As for the Black Dog – those interested in the origins of this apposite phrase could do a lot worse than check out this and scroll down to the entry for November 10th.

Catch you all in 2005!

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Collecting Clutter

Debbie and I talked today about attempting to break free of the clutter that surrounds our lives. In this case we’re talking about the physical junk that one accumulates the stuff that you think might well come in handy one of these days. It all represents the powerful habit of constantly deferring things until another time, and it’s one of my worst traits.

For example, in the downstairs guestroom we have boxes of old post war magazines which I’m loath to throw out because I might well use them in a collage or painting or some such.

Fact: I have not looked at these things for over a year.

A set of antiquated encyclopaedia arrived recently to occupy a place next to a similar set of mouldy old books. My reason for getting them was that they were a) cheap and b) “they might come in useful someday.”

You see, I told you it was bad.

If I can give up smoking (which I did in the 1980s) then I can turn over a new leaf. I realise of course that this is starting to sound like a New Year resolution but I do need to free myself of the mess and start doing more rather putting it off for another day.

Debbie has agreed to slap me about the face if the process of de-cluttering is not kept up over the next few days. Cruel but fair.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

A Borderline Case

Just a perfect day. . .Debbie and I headed up to a retail park about twenty minutes on the bus from Whitley Bay. We were there to visit the newly opened Borders. It feels like civilisation has only just reached these bleak wastelands, with the book chain finishing off the job the Romans started all those centuries ago.

If that seems a bit grand well consider the fact there’s never been a decent book shop in this neck of the woods ever! The UK branches aren’t ever quite as good as the ones I’ve visited in the USA. This one wasn’t too bad actually and yes, I am vain enough to check to see if they did have a book on a certain rock band that sprang to life in 1969. They did – right between The Kinks and Kiss.

Tonight we started to watch Space Cowboys –a Clint Eastwood movie which was so blindingly obvious in its plot and so dull in its performance I lost the will to live. We put it out of its misery. Debbie recalled she’d just received a dvd on Joni Mitchell from her sister as a Christmas gift, so we watched that instead. Ten out of ten!

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Sid Runs Down The Sploog

The celebrations for my birthday got off to a fine start with me managing to piss all over the back of my trousers as I sat on the bog this morning at around 6.30 a.m. When you think about how small the gap between the toilet seat and the rim of the ceramic bowl is, I think you’ll agree that this is no mean feat.

Now I realise this may be more detail than you’d like but in the interests of exposing (and I use the word carefully here) the diarist to ridicule, I offer this amazing, demystifying SidFact for your delectation.

Following a change of clothes, several photographs of Adrian running the Sploog down were added to the Vision section of the new DGM website – and very good they look too as you can see.

There are kerjillions of pics of various Crims going back to the dawn of time lurking in the DGM archive (aka as Hugh's drawers)and I've had me some real festive fun mixing and matching them to various bits of time and space. The Sound and Vision sections of the site are beginning to work very well with each other where we've been able to stitch things together.

This particular item came courtesy of Roman Sokal, sent to me following the appeal for goodies earlier in the year, and shows Adrian being very happy with what he’s happy with at the Warehouse in Toronto November 24, 2000.

If anyone has any more concert photographs, memorabilia and the like then don’t hesitate to send it to the email addy above. Right now, I’m heading off to the washing machine quickly followed by the bath for a long soak. That ol'wino aroma is a tad too lively for me. I must be getting sensitive in my old age.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Christmas Redux

A better day for me because not only did I have a good night’s sleep but Tom and Joe returned after their seasonal sojourn with their mother. And Doreen came too. All of which meant we got to have Christmas Day all over again!

The tradition in our house is that you can have the meal of your choice at lunchtime. Joe opted for chicken curry, Tom went Italian with a Calzone made from my wholemeal dough, whilst the rest of us had Carne Adovada and cheese enchilada. Yum. Later in the evening we all played a game of Cranium; lots of fun and laughter just the way it should be.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

A Blurry Little Christmas

The much prized white Christmas day hit large sections of the UK but not, it must be said, our neck of the woods. Not that it made any difference to me. Debbie and I had planned to go out for a long stroll up the beach and back but sadly I’ve been dozing for much of the day. Not, as you might assume the result of over-indulgence and wild partying. Would that it were so!

No, I’m afraid I woke at 4.00 a.m. with a coughing fit that lasted for ages and obviously woke Debbie. What’s worse than the coughing is the thought that you’re disturbing your partner as you toss and turn unable to get back to the shut-eye.

At 5.00 a.m. – one hour later, I submit and I rise, padding about in the dark and quiet house. Once upon a time this would have been to supervise Tom and Joe as they excitedly ripped open presents galore.

Now, being somewhat older though no less revved-up, I know they wont be up for another two hours, and when they do it won’t be here but at their mothers house. So today, I’m up at this hour because I can’t lie in bed any longer; wide awake and brain spinning like a top.

Consequently, my day has been somewhat blurred by a gnawing tiredness that has frequently had the better of me. Nevertheless, presents were exchanged and lovely food was cooked to perfection. Books have been read, music has been played and a snoozy afternoon embraced and accepted like an old friend unseen for many a long while.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Lost In A Book

Last night Debbie and I had planned to stay up late to watch a vintage television adaptation of an MR James ghost story. With a few hours to go we opted not to pig out on the available brain candy but read our respective books instead.

Debbie was in the yellow room listening to Joni Mitchell and I was in the bath. Both of us were so entranced by our crime-genre potboilers that neither realised the time to have our timbers well and truly shivered had long past. Could it really be that late? Well yes it could. Blimey; talk about lost time syndrome.

Today the air in Whitley Bay was nippy but bracing as we walked along the seafront via the upper promenade. Out at sea there were long streaks of bright blue laced with delicate pinks and oranges whilst inland the sky was a drab brooding grey.

From there we strolled into the small town centre which was naturally full of people doing the last minute shopping groove thang. We picked up some essential items (field mushrooms, a small jar of maraschino cherries, a packet of tissues) just to show willing and watched the world fly past in what might well have looked like insufferable smugness to the hasty observer.

Once the people-gazing had palled we headed back home to prepare lunch. We’d invited my mother to join us and spent an extremely pleasant afternoon putting the world to rights and trying a really sizzling apricot and amarreto cheese that she’d bought over for us to sample. And sample we did.

The DGM site now has several RF G31997 tour dates added to the database to match the diary entries I put there yesterday. These are accompanied by a whole bunch of fabbo pics. After this, the uploading of everyone’s favourite Sploogmeister went without a hitch.

Well that's me done for the day. Tonight we're off to Dave and Julie's for a pre-Xmas drink with the neighbours and other chums.

Have a happy holiday!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Joss Sticks & The Decline Of Western Civilisation

The room is drenched in a smog of thick incense; an early non-Xmas present from the beautiful Debra. Though we cough, splutter and rub sore eyes I’m thrilled to have a new bunch of smelly joss sticks.

As a nascent wannabe hippy growing up in Newcastle of the early seventies, joss sticks were seen as something very exotic; a combination of something esoteric and oddly intimate. A red light bulb was also considered a necessary part of the rig, as was a poster of Keith Emerson hoisting a Hammond aloft, a brain-bending MC Esher print or even a slightly risqué R. Crumb creation.

My mother used to complain mightily when the joss-vibe was going full tilt. For her they were indicative of the subversion of morals, clean living and the loss of Western values. I never lost the taste for them although a woman with whom I lived several years ago wouldn’t give them houseroom, preferring instead the anaemic, sanitised pot pouri-style offering with names like Summer Glade, and Mountain Pine. During this time the joss stick was a rare and even furtive event; akin to snagging a crafty fag in the bogs at school.

Happily when I met Debra I discovered that not only was she a Genesis fan from the days when they would have played Watford Tech, able to recite lyrics from Syd Barrett songs as well as hold her own in conversations about Leonard Cohen and Roy Harper, she was and remains a fan of the joss. Mind you, she was never able to get away with Crimso (famously falling asleep in a ProjeKct 2 gig in Birmingham) but you can’t have everything can you.

A brief conversation with Jakko this morning; Amanda is doing well and we hope to have a pic of Amber in the very near future.

Later in the day as I was readying a bunch of vintage RF diaries (circa 1997) for upload to the new DGM website, my sister telephoned. It was good to have talked; I felt a real sense of connection and empathy as we traded tales of woe and happiness that comes of sharing blood and having families of our own. Very defiantly a real gift at Christmas time.

It compensated in part for the loss I feel when Tom and Joe headed out today to spend a portion of Christmas with their mother. One part of me understands why it’s important they do this whilst the other part wants to keep them here. Ho hum. This means Boxing Day (when they return) will be Christmas Day as far as I’m concerned.

Elsewhere, John S rings to tell me that The Ideas Mine has an appointment with a Government agency in January; it seems they are interested to discuss some of our bright ideas. As with the Building Bridges project that was recently rejected, this might well involve a shed load of work with the prospect of little or nothing in return but what do you do?

Back to the DGM website where the diary entries I have uploaded are failing to appear in the correct font. Why this should is beyond me but I shall tinker away in the backend until it’s corrected. From there, I’ve also been attempting to edit some photographs from the DGM photo archive. Slowly but sure this site is starting to sing!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

It's A Green Light For Amber

Good wishes and congratulations to Jakko and Amanda Jakszyk on the birth of their daughter, Amber, who entered this world on Monday evening at 22.12 p.m. and weighed in at 5lbs and 8oz.

Mother and daughter are both doing well, as is the bassist’s bassist, Danny Thompson, who stepped into the breach to look after the laddo Django when Jakko had to skip home and head to the hospital. Well done that man!

Hopefully, I can persuade the proud Dad to slip me a photograph of Amber to display on these very pages in the not too distant future. I can’t wait to see the peach for myself when I go to London to see Van Der Graaf Generator in the New Year.

Hop on over to the Schizoid Band website and leave your messages of seasonal goodwill, support and manly congratulations.

If you go there right now, I think you'll find that Jakko is handing out the big cigars even as we speak. And while you’re there, take the time to download their superb version of Schizoid Man; definitely one of the hot hits of the year for me. You’d be mad not to.

This is what I said about the track on September 10th this year

"Sometimes when you know a song really well it’s hard to be surprised by it. Although I’ve never actually counted them up I must have dozens of versions of 21st Century Schizoid Man sitting on the shelves here in the yellow room. Something of a signature song for the group, repeated listening has probably taken the shine off it a little bit for me. Put it this way, if I want a blast of KC, it’s not usually the first track I reach for.

Just when I think I can’t be surprised by the song, a version turns up in the e-post courtesy of Jakko. Taken from the Schizzie’s second set at B.B.Kings in Time Square N.Y at the end of April earlier this year, this is a frankly astonishing rendition; their best to date and certainly better than a lot of versions by Crim themselves over the years.

JJ’s voice sounds like it’s at the top of the game; his fire-fuelled solo likewise. It’s good. Very good; the building tension is remarkable as the sax break draws near. Suddenly the band turn on a sixpence and launch into a strange place; cymbal work, Wallace fanning flames with wafting, skittering cymbal work; this is edgy stuff – not what was expected yet more than can be hoped for. I swear I just heard Tony Williams walk in.

Mel C peppers the glistening metal with hot notes as he takes the A Train – quite literally. This is the group confidently scooping out the insides of the tune, tossing it about, relaxed and loose. They’ve got the grasp and reach to go wherever it might take them. Giles stokes up on the dark stuff, grinding those notes into thick wedges that groan simultaneously of menace and promise.

By the time Ian McDonald comes in, they swing a left; scraping the atonal splinters off the thing. You can hear they’re enjoying themselves. You can hear the smiles. When it goes back into the tight unison section it sounds like this is how it should have always been played. The running lines belonging to be-bop more than rock. If you want to think about what jazz rock could have sounded like then this is a good a primer as you’d get. By the time it howls to a stop, I’m almost relieved. I’ve worked up a bit of a sweat just listening to it. Lord knows what it must been like playing the damn thing."

Elsewhere Debbie and I have been shopping for our staples; 300 bog rolls, industrial quantities of pasta and more black placcy binbags than you could shake a stick at. The Christmas rush is anything but. It’s more of a logjam than anything else as trolleys bump and shove into each as they wilt under the groaning cargo of glut and indulgence. As you can tell, I’m green with envy.

Later in the day I meet up telephonically with Robert who has declared himself pleased with our efforts so far on the DGM website. I think we’re getting the right feel of the thing now but we’ll only know that when the site goes live.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Down In The Mouth

The sore feet were suitably recovered enough to get me to the top of the street to the dentist this morning. Some good news. The X-ray of the previous week suggests that all is not lost for the Sid Smith molars and their calcium-based chums.

Previous thinking indicated that the advanced gum disease might well necessitate their premature removal. Now it seems that this may not be inevitable. Hard work and a bit of conscientious application may yet save the day.

Needless to say I’ve bought some SteriDent just to be on the safe side.

Elsewhere though, there are disappointments. We receive official word that the Building Bridges project has not gone through to the next stage. That means that nearly three months of hard work by Bill Fontana, John S and myself has come to the end of the road. Bill phoned from San Francisco to suggest that he might revise the proposal. We agree to talk about what we might do with such a scheme in the New Year.

Meanwhile work continues on the DGM website. Some more show notes have been added and at 22.29 I finish the sleeve notes for a future KCCC release.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Flux, Fuck & Flummox

After the slouchy state of yesterday, today was all flux, fuck and flummox. Yep, Christmas shopping in Newcastle. Money being what it is (that is, it isn’t) this year, Debbie and I agreed not to buy anything for each other. That still leaves the kids though and so we donned the body armour and pitched it low, deep and dirty in the scrum. Six hours later I am exhausted. With sore feet and knees that are radiating so much warmth that you could fry an egg on them. Hmmm. With that image resonating, I think it best I sign off and get to bed.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Bleary & Slothful

09.30 a.m.
There are huge waves breaking over the lower promenade this morning and it’s very cold indeed. However, we are blessed with a bright winter sun which compensates somewhat. You can forgive most things when there’s a blue sky above you.

Last night Debbie and I went over to Dave and Julie’s house to help inaugurate their new kitchen. Very nice indeed. We were joined by Jed and Lesley and for a while, John from next door. The conversation often revolves around children and life in Victoria Avenue. There’s something comforting about the fact that other families are experiencing the same tensions and unexpected flare-ups that having teenagers about the place will bring.

20.37 p.m.
Despite being circumspect about the amount of drink I imbibed (ie two pints of beer and three average cans of lager over a seven hour period) I feel bleary and slothful today. A day when not much is done other than relaxing on the sofa, doing a spot of reading and watching a couple of movies on the box with Debbie.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

The End Of The Year List

Well it’s that time of year again…

21 Grams by Alejandro González Iñárritu
American Splendour by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini
Amores Perros by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Any Given Sunday by Oliver Stone
Gerry dir by Gus Van Sant
Goodbye Lenin by Wolfgang Becker
House of Sand and Fog by Vadim Perelman
Lost in Translation by Sofia Coppola
Matchstick Men by Ridley Scott
Narc by Joe Carnahan
Pieces of April by Peter Hedges
The Station Agent by Thomas McCarthy

Edward Hopper: Tate Modern
Cy Twombly: Serpentine Gallery

Decay Music by Michael Nyman
Disgraceful / Make It Better by Dubstar
Earth to Ether by Theo Travis
In Memoriam and viola concerto by Schnittke
Live in Philadelphia, PA , July 30, 1982 by King Crimson
Son of Nuts by George Melly
Symphony No.10 by Edward Rubbra
The Dowland Project: Care-charming Sleep by John Potter
The Equatorial Stars by Fripp and Eno
Tilt by Scott Walker
USA II by King Crimson

American Beauty screenplay by Alan Ball
Bloggs 19 The Story of the Essex Range Rover Triple Murders by Tony Thompson.
Easy Riders, Raging Bulls by Peter Biskind
Good Will Hunting screenplay by Ben Afleck and Matt Damon
Hooked by Pauline Kael
Newcastle Upon Tyne; A modern History edited by Robert Colls and Bill Lancaster
Snowshoes Across The Clouds by Rupert Loydell and Robert Garlitz
The Godfather Book by Peter Cowie
The Spanish Civil War by Anthony Beevor
The Thrill Of It All: The Story of Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music by David Buckley.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Derailed & Detoured

The wonderful world of computers. . .following an XP service pack 2 update I can no longer access my in-house, pop-up Oxford dictionary. No amount of uninstalls and reinstalls will make it work.

Very frustrating.

Then when I’m trying to off-load a load of photographs onto a CD, the damn thing tells me that the E drive is inaccessible. A moment later however I am happily playing Unorthodox Behaviour by Brand X on the same drive. Bloody annoying. Then when I tried to go back to a pre-XPSP2 restore point I discover to my chagrin I can’t.

As the great Catweazle was often heard to say “Nuthing works Touchwood.”

All of which means my day has been derailed and detoured in ways I definitely didn’t want. There are some days when one feels empowered, in control, far-sighted and generally on the ball. This isn’t one of them. It has however the last day of school for the kids and thus tonight I will be presenting the assembled throng with a fabulous feast. No doubt the cooker will require updating or something equally annoying.

Listening To...KC in Washington June 27 1974 and Heidelberg March 29 1974. Starless from Washington is VERY good.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

The Drive To Central Park

The DGM website is feeling very good to use as the data is assembled and entered. What was once a bare shell has stopped being echoey and cold and now feels lived in. It’s a nice place to ruminate and poke about in.

It’s been very interesting sifting through the clutch of gigs at the back end of June 1974 that I’ve taken to calling the Drive to Central Park. Given the state of politics and tensions within the band, it’s impressive that they were able to put all that aside and give performances that weren’t merely credible and professional but were often veering off toward the remarkable.

Can you have too much of a good thing? Well, after playing several gigs back to back I needed to cleanse the aural palate. Frank Sinatra, Charles Trenet and a somewhat maudlin smattering of Anne Briggs did the trick.

Empathy on the new gum-gap whizzes through the ether all the way from Austin Texas. “Guess it’s official: we're a getting to be frikken old” says Pat Mastelotto. Toothless and slightly slack indeed.

Elsewhere, my computer is full to the brim with about three years worth of digital photos. I need to dump them onto disc but hear (and have experienced) horror stories about folks attempting to retrieve data at a stage. Yet I need to free up the space. Anyway, it’ll give Debbie and I good reason to sit down together at the machine and whittle down the ones we want to keep and the ones we can ditch without so much as a by-your-leave.

This just in from Markus Reuter: “I can live with bad reviews, but I can't live with bad music.”

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Live From The Wrongfest

This morning the yellow room thrums and vibrates to eleven minutes and forty-one seconds of that classic Crim improv, Asbury Park.

I first heard the unedited version of this sonic leviathan in the company of R. Chris Murphy who was driving the pair of us down the West Coast of America as part of the P4 tour.

Like everyone else on the planet I’m used to hearing the abrupt cut-off. My memory from that one listening was that the track did a stop-start dribble of an ending. Wrong.

It’s really caught me on the hop hearing what happened next and also a lesson in how cursory my memory was; the revved up solo from RF had somehow skipped my recall.

More seismic excitements continue as the unexpurgated version of Easy Money unfurls before me. It’s fascinating hearing the way these musicians pushed and shoved each other about during improvisations; not quite open competition but not too far from it.

I have to also admit to being totally wrong about the way this track resolves after its fade-out point on USA. When asked I would usually tell folks that it built back up into the usual Wetton outro. Nope. Not even close. It's way, way better than that and, I think, highly significant.

No doubt there will be a bunch of fans decrying Fripp and those nasty people at DGM for making these items available for download (“Jeez, that guy Fripp is ripping us off by making us buy a concert that we almost already have most of – insert your smiley of choice here”).

However the power of this gig is tangible. The fervent audience reaction after Starless alone is astonishing and to be able to hear everything complete and in context makes for compelling listening.

As for being wrong, it seems I was merely limbering up. The wrongfest continues unabated. This just in from David Johnston-Smith:

Interesting diaries as always Sid.

However you clearly need a history lesson - using the Kremlin as an example of a concrete jungle couldn't be more wrong.

Its an architectural jewel that dates back nearly 900 years in parts! Read this and repent ;-) Funny, its an association that often gets made - interesting to see how ignorant Cold War propoganda has outlived the Cold War!

With the red mist descending, DJS moves in for a final cruel thrust when he adds

Lastly, following on from your Hatfield and the North piece, its well worth pointing out the fearsome foursome are playing at the Mean Fiddler in London (with Pip and Richard's solo projects as support) on the 18th of March. I for one shall be there....

What with VDGG and now HATN, I may well have to sell a kidney or something else to try and get down to the Smoke in the new year.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Sniffing, Shopping & Synchronicity

A frustrating evening and morning spent trying to get online without the machine crashing every couple of minutes. I think the problem has been remedied. At least I hope so.

I was about to leave the house on my way to meet my mother in Newcastle when I noticed my Colorado bag was a bit on rancid side, smellwise that is, pard’ner. Bugger me, if a cat hadn’t gone and sprayed the thing. It stunk to high heaven. The thing is our terrible trio of feline felons had their spraying capacity removed many moons ago. I had to throw the Colorado bag in the washing machine and hope it does the trick.

These last minute ablutions made me slightly late to meet my mother. I was there to give her a hand with some of her Christmas shopping. Since her fall earlier this year she isn’t as sprightly as she used to be although I note she can still outgun me when it comes to the Shanks’ Pony stakes. After a bout of compare and contrast (rather than simply buy the item under scrutiny) we retired to a café in the last remaining part of Newcastle’s original Eldon Square.

From our vantage point overlooking the square we can see the war memorial with its ‘Memory Lingers Here’ valediction. The remaining three sides of solid and stately Victorian architecture were cleared away as part of the plan to modernise the city. They were replaced by concrete façade that make the Kremlin look rather stylish and a bit too swish for its own good.

As we talk we both try to recall some of the shops and firms that used to surround the old place with mixed and patchy results. We both observe how frighteningly quickly change comes about and how soon we forget the way things were before they were “improved.”

Back in the café we note that cigarette smoke blatantly ignores the large NO SMOKING AREA signs that hang in the open-plan space.

Elsewhere…a moment of synchronicity

I get home to open the email for the day. World Leader Symes writes telling me that for some unaccountable reason Brian Inglis had occupied his thoughts as he wandered through the streets of Tring. At home he discovers that I’ve been invoking the Inglis name. Spooky says David.

Here’s the really spooky thing.

Just before opening up the mail I slipped on Green by REM. Yep, you’re way ahead of me. The dulcet tones of World Leader Pretend tripped from the speakers as I began reading the various posts. Double spooky.

Monday, December 13, 2004

X-Rayted Head

Another visit to the dentist today. A slight infection in the gap left by the old molar grumbles about in the gum. She asks if it’s painful. Not at all. My head is then X-rayed and because they enjoyed it so much they would like me to come back and do it some more next week. Ho hum.

Lots of activity on the DGM website front which is both exciting and instructive; always a good thing if it can be managed. The website is suddenly starting to feel substantial although I’m finding out that sometimes a sense of humour doesn’t always translate to the electronic page.

The only music my ears want me to play today is Bodywork by Marshall, Travis Wood. This is a corker and may well make the seasonal fave raves that I nearly always fail to post at this time of year.

Last night…
I saw a television programme that featured world war two in colour. Apart from the naff title it was something of a revelation to me. It was startling to see moving colour footage. I’m so conditioned to the Brian Inglis / All Our Yesterdays brand of black and white WW2.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

What's Actually Going On

The final work on the Building Bridges proposal is all over bar the shouting and the gnashing of teeth. John is chipper and sanguine. I feel cautiously optimistic. Sometimes. And then I feel despondent and forlorn. That’s one of my traits. It often leads me to misread what’s actually going on.

In my previous life as a local government officer, an item being discussed would come to me for comment. My boss would often preface my intervention with a quip along the lines of “Well, so much for the good news. Sid, what’s the damage here?” As the depressive (not to say depressing) cleaning lady in Tommy Handley’s old radio show used to say with heavy irony: “It's being so cheerful wot keeps me going.” Dear reader, I am that cleaning lady.


The DGM website has been subjected to a make-over courtesy of the team. It’s looking very good and even an internet dunce such as myself can find his way around without bumping into things and bruising my knees.

Right now my ears are dancing to a wonderful album called Bodywork featuring the delicious talents of John Marshall on drums, Mark Wood on guitar and Theo Travis on saxes and flute. This is a powerful and evocative collection of what they call “spontaneous compositions.” What’s it like? Well, I’ll post a review once I’ve had time to acclimatise to both Mark and Theo’s playing.

What does strike me most immediately is that there are several sections where I’ve not heard John Marshall play in this way; a genuine ear-opener. Outstanding tracks so far include Gonzo and Sand Dance.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Hatfield And The Archive

Tim Bowness sent me this press release the other day. Certainly got my pulse quickening.

Hatwise Choice - Archive Recordings 1973-1975, Volume 1

During their brief life span Hatfield And The North recorded two highly acclaimed albums (Hatfield And The North and The Rotters' Club), played numerous live gigs and recorded four BBC radio shows. Apart from the 1980 compilation Afters (now deleted), no retrospective album has ever been released - until now.

Hatfield And The North are pleased to announce the release of Hatwise Choice, the first volume of their archive CD series. This is the first album in thirty years to be entirely performed by the classic Hatfield line-up of Phil Miller, Pip Pyle, Richard Sinclair and Dave Stewart. The CD will be released on January 31st 2005, and you can order your copy from the Hatfield online shop.

Hatwise Choice is the band's own selection of unreleased material culled from their large tape archive. It consists of a 50/50 mixture of live concert tapes and BBC radio recordings, the latter taken from the band's four John Peel sessions and mastered from first generation sources. The gig tapes show aspects of Hatfield's music never before heard on record - on stage, the tight control of the group's studio work is replaced by a looser,improvisational approach. Flashes of humour give way to frightening electronic landscapes, interspersed with extended arrangements of the band's compositions and occasional moments of utter musical madness.

In keeping with the band's reputation, this is a carefully researched, lovingly compiled package featuring rare tunes, musical surprises, photos, press cuttings, period artwork and an extensive history written by the four players. The booklet also contains additional text by Jonathan Coe, who named his best-selling novel The Rotters' Club after the group's legendary 1975 album.

Head over to Burning Shed if you know what's good for you!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Highly Mobile & Not So Intelligent

My work on the DGM website was halted today as I strolled up to the dentist at the top of our street. Tragically this wasn’t a social call but business. For about the last three weeks I’ve been ignoring a tooth that had gone wrong. What with one thing and another I’d just never got round to getting an appointment.

However, the thing had reached critical mass and was, in the words of Helen my dentist for the day, “highly mobile” and thus highly suspect. So out it came. No more tooth and no more toothache.

This procedure took a little over thirty minutes and at least enabled me to read a goodly portion of the highly entertaining screenplay from The Usual Suspects. The worst bit about all of this is that I’m not allowed to drink any hot liquid for a period of 24 hours. I normally consume oceans of tea per day so this one is going to be tough.

Elsewhere, I taught Alys the chords to Leonard Cohen’s anthem, Hallelujah. Rather I taught her the root notes and the structure; she figured out the chords all by herself. I played her two versions of the song by LC, one by John Cale,another by Bono and lastly Jeff Buckley. She prefers the Buckley and I have to admit that she might well be right.

The new Cohen album, Dear Heather, percolates gently as I write. I’m not sure what to make of it yet. I love the voice of course, and some of the songs interrogate that darkened rapture that he has made all his own.

However, the main problem I’m having, and it’s the one I had with the last couple of albums, is the use of a cheapo sounding, all-purpose keyboard.

It just sounds so bargain-basement cheesefesty i.e. a bit stinky. This being Len though, I will persevere and go through the pain barrier.

In the post today…a new album from Steve Lawson which I will be road testing at the week-end.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

It’s bitterly cold once again today although tempered by a hazy sun. As I walked into Whitley Bay this morning there was a very light mist coating the place in a soft-focus gauze.

Part of this morning has been spent listening to the double duo wowing the crowd at Offenbach. I’d dipped into the gig a couple of days ago but wanted to return and try to get a feel for what was going on.

Some of this concert was made available through the Heavy ConstruKction set but was necessarily edited down. Hearing the thing in context is quite instructive. Robert was a bit sniffy about this gig. Trey reckoned it was a goodie. I’m with Trey on this one.

Later, John S called round to discuss some issues arising following Bill Fontana’s visit. There are many, ahem, bridges to cross but we’re feeling very positive about our progress to date.

Meanwhile, the yellow room has been taken over by Joe, Alys and Tom aka the Whitley Bay Guitar Trio aka as the Trinity of Terror!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Monday, December 06, 2004

Bill Fontana Comes To Town

American sound artist Bill Fontana came up to North as part of The Ideas Mine’s bid to foist an international sound art project on the unsuspecting people of Newcastle and Sydney.

No sooner than we had dumped his bags in his hotel, Bill set out to start recording the bridges of Newcastle. He does with a device called an accelerometer which attaches a pick-up device to the object by means of a magnet. Once in contact the whole superstructure reveals a hidden soundworld, a world of pops and clicks, of ominous booms and rumbles, drones and undulating pitches, of percussive detonations, compact events, long languorous tones, screeches, sing-song melodies and the like - utterly amazing.

a bridge over...oh well, never mind!

Thereafter we met with the great and good of Newcastle’s cultural establishment who discussed the notions and ideas around Bill’s work. The meeting was very successful and we’ve been invited to submit a proposal for research and development. I do believe the winning post is in sight!

Saturday, December 04, 2004


Just got to grips with the FLACaTTaK on the DGM website and as a result am listening to the Double Duo rattling the doorframes of Munich, Bonn and Offenbach circa June 2000. How much better TCOL sounds after being played in.

A murderous version of FraKctured presses me flat into the back of my nice new blue chair such is the force of the playing. Elsewhere the improvs provide interesting clues as to where people are coming from and perhaps, where they want to go.

In Offenbach it’s Pat who’s dragging the other slouches along in his self-referential wake. Blimey – make way for Mastelotto or be crushed. It is big, it is clever and he knows where you live!

Friday, December 03, 2004

Five Year Stretch

On this day five years ago. . .

Friday 3rd. December, 1999

The King & I….
You know it was the cover that got to me first. Long before any note of music had been heard the thing that got to me was that cover. Staring balefully out at me from long since demolished record shops, its bulging eyes transfixed me; “Look out “ it seemed to say “something’s coming to get you !”

In 1971, I connected with the music on that album and it gripped me with a strange, indefinable power that has rarely since released its hold.

So why in 1999 would I want to write a book about Crimson’s music? I’m not a gifted writer, able to evoke the music either by my musical knowledge or poetic powers of description.

I’m not really certain what the answer is to this one is.

Except, that after I started the writing, I quickly realised that in writing this track by track guide (cunningly entitled King Crimson: Track By Track 69 – 99), I was actually describing a relationship which so far has lasted 27 years. Much of this music has been with me for so long it’s hard to be objective about it. In any event, why should my opinion have any more weight than that of any other KC enthusiast?

After all, there are people out there who know more about KC than I ever will. This includes those who will recite without any prompting whatsoever, the serial numbers of the deleted versions the first six KC albums released in Corfu. Of course, my opinion doesn’t carry any extra weight at all. Nor does it carry any kind of official endorsement from that blokey with the big diary further up the list.

It’s just my ear view and take on what’s been going on for the last 30 years. No more, no less. For those who are interested, you can expect to see much pondering, agonising and more than a bit of prevarication. You can also expect to see the odd extract from the book inviting comment and criticism. Blimey, critical reviews before it is even finished!

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Entering The Zone

The weather here is bitterly cold but sunny. I went up the corner shop for a pint of milk without my (new) old checkie on and regretted it.

The Ideas Mine creative team were hard it from early morning. Insights and intuition combined with practical experience make for a highly efficient and productive meeting. Apart from a final meeting tomorrow we’re entering into that period where all the planning and preparation is done. All we can do is await the outcome of Sunday’s big meeting.

A storm of a different nature assails my ears this morning; Boz-era KC on their first couple of dates at the Zoom Club. This isn’t a rock band that’s playing although some of what they play is undoubtedly rock music. They’re so animated; clearly they’re pleased to be released from the confines of a rehearsal room and enjoying the liberation of being onstage immensely.

Altogether it sounds incredibly fresh and in some respects although they tightened up the arrangements and refined the compositions later, I don't think they captured this kind of freedom in subsequent gigs. The other interesting element for me was even at this early stage how Larks' Tongues wasn't so much whispering in the guitarist's ear as bellowing!

New policy on cold calling; tell the cold caller all my personal problems and ask them if they can help me. Four out of the six today offered to ring back at a more convenient time and hung up on me. The other two suggested a new mortgage/double glazing would cheer me up!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Aural Deliverance

This morning ProjeKct Two wobbles the glass in its very window frame; Live Groove and Live in Northampton. I’ve been playing these albums for about a week now. Not round the clock you understand but as I wander over to the shelf for some aural deliverance I seem to be coming back with these two goodies.

I mentioned this to the guitarist of the band when he phoned up last week. “But you didn’t like ProjeKct 2 at the time” came the reminder in a Dorset burr. He also reminded me I didn’t like the Discipline album either. My weedy defence is that I’ve always been slow on the uptake.

Whilst I loved the original Space Groove outing, in concert P2 failed to grab my ears in the way the other ProjeKcts did. For me the London show had some energy, whilst the gig in Birmingham a couple of days later seemed lacklustre and flat. So I went from being a lover to an admirer of P2 in the space of a couple of days.

I’ve liked and indeed played the two albums mentioned above plenty of times in the past but at the moment it’s a different kind of connection; I’m hearing something else in the music although I can’t articulate what that might be. This must happen to other people. Any ideas / experience you’d like to share?

Elsewhere. . .Bill Fontana rang up last night all the way San Francisco. We were just dotting I’s and crossing T’s for Bill’s impending visit to Newcastle this coming weekend. The meeting we are having with the great and good of the cultural establishment of Newcastle and Gateshead will make or break the Building Bridges project.

Three months hard work have gotten us this far. Let’s hope its all been worth it. If not then I’ll be filling in my application for a job at Blockbusters.

Elsewhere again…A very useful conversation with Sean Hewitt on the blower straight after Bill, prompts a line of enquiry that makes me reconsider some doors that previously appeared to be shut tight.

If that sounds cryptic that’s because it is. But blow me down if those doors aren’t standing ajar this morning. Thank you Mr. Hewitt.


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