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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Visions Of Angels

A day out with houseguest Kerry.
An angel from the south meets the Angel of the North



Friday, January 27, 2006

Making A Note

Houseguest Kerry arrives tonight and we’re having a slap up meal to celebrate the occasion. Kerry is a friend of Debbie’s back from when they used to live in Birmingham. Now Kerry lives in Southwark and has done for many years. When we’ve stayed at her house in the past I’ve always been impressed that a few minutes from her door you find yourself next to Tate Modern and the Thames.

I’ve had an email from Alex Mundy to tell me that Robert’s Broad Chalke performance is ready to switch on as soon as I have the show notes ready. Usually the way it works is that I’ve had access to the material for a little while and having listened to it once without any distractions, I go through it again making little notes here and there logging my impressions in real time. Then I run through the gig again and make more notes. It’s entirely subjective. I make no claims that my opinion about a gig carries any more weight than any other punter. I try to make myself receptive to the music on offer as best I can and take it from there.

After that, the gig plays as I write and hopefully come up with something that will guide the site visitor through the concert and help them decide if it’s something they want or not.

Tonight though, we have guests and I’m cooking up a huge meal so there won’t be time for me to listen to the gig which only went up on the server today.

All of which means either it won’t be turned on until tomorrow or Alex (or someone else on the team) will flick the switch and make it go live without the notes.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Telephone Bill

For the last week or so Bill Bruford and I have been leaving messages for each other on our respective answering machines. Today we finally got to talk real time.

Bill quipped I was elusive because of my playboy lifestyle. I assured him that whenever he called I was either engaged in shopping or preparing food for the troops - such is the extent of my glamorous writer’s existence. When replying to Bill’s calls I’d taken to leaving him details of the menu in Whitely Bay.

And then just as got talking the line went dead!

I rang him back. "What the hell happened there? Is this call jinxed or what?" laughed Bill.

We talked about the DGMLive website. Bill not only liked the content but approved of it as a possible business model, although he retains some uneasiness about the whole download experience.

I know what he means.

We both come from a generation that likes album covers, sleeve notes and tangible product in our fingers. However we both agreed that the economics of downloading are fairly hard to argue with. Another advantage is its potential immediacy and as we chat I cite the case of Robert putting out gigs only a couple of weeks after their performance, not too mention the hot tickles which might only be a couple of days old.

This would just not be possible if DGM were using traditional means of conveying music to its audience. Bill wondered if the download site spelled the end of the King Crimson Collectors Club. Not at all I told him, mentioning that there are several more KCCC releases scheduled for 2006 suggesting that for DGM it’s not about putting all the eggs into one basket.

Also in conversation were Bill’s record labels, Summerfold and Winterfold and his admiration for sax player Tim Garland, who makes such on impact on the Random Acts of Happiness album by Earthworks. I tell Bill that I recently discovered that Tim lives five minutes around the corner from our street. Small world and all that.

It was a good laugh chatting this afternoon as Bill can be very dry. When we talked about the recent mystery KC track his reaction was one of mock horror. “God! What a racket! Sorry to be hopeless, but I don't remember anything at all about writing it or playing it” adding pithily that he had only just managed to start blanking out that part of his life. “PLEASE don't loop it and put it out as the new King Crimson album...!”

Now, there’s an idea Bill!

Earlier in the day Jakko rang and subsequently sent me his version of Islands and When We Go Home (which Robert put guitar onto earlier this month). Both tracks are scheduled to appear on Jakko’s forthcoming double album, The Bruised Romantic Glee Club. Robert recently described JJ’s version of Islands as ‘stunning’ and I don’t think it had been dubbed by Mel Collins at that point.

I’ve been so used to hearing it with just Jakko singing and Dave Stewart (from Hatfields and Bruford fame) on acoustic piano, that it was quite a shock to hear Mel’s alto flute and soprano sax parts ooze up out of nowhere. Not too mention oboe, harp, Mellotron and Ian Wallace on the coda. Jakko tells me the mix has to be finalised and tweaked but its sounding fan-bloody-tastic to these ears.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A Grand Day Out

This morning I went up to Corbridge with Neil and Halina acting as navigator as we sought to bypass the gridlock of Newcastle’s traffic system. Using a variety of tried and tested rat runs I anticipated a leisurely run through the backwaters of Northumberland.

What I hadn’t anticipated was that a few new housing estates and reclaimed brownfield developments would markedly alter the layout of a key part of our route resulting in the man who rode shotgun blew his foot off and got everyone lost.

N&H were remarkably calm as for about ten minutes I had Neil backtrack here and there until I recognised an old road and got us back on course. The idea was to make it into Corbridge before 10.00 a.m. and we got there at 9.35 a.m. so everyone was happy. As N&H made their way off to Dilston Hall I headed over for the bus and Hexham rather than directly back to Newcastle.

The reason for this detour?

A perfect rainy Wednesday...

Not your average bookshop...

But a progressive bookshop that rocks!

Back down into the warm bookish glow...

My idea of a grand day out!









Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Sock It To Me Pop Pickers!

We have houseguests arriving within the hour. Neil and Halina are up from Birmingham and staying with us overnight before heading off to look at a college up in Corbridge tomorrow.

Long terms readers with lightning recall will know that last year we spent a lovely week in N&H’s company at their place down in Shaldon, Devon.

The college they are looking at caters for students with special needs, of which their son, Thomas, has more than his fair share. Not content with being Down’s, Thomas is also a Celiac and an insulin-dependent diabetic.

Selfishly, Debbie and I hope that they like the college in Corbridge because it means that we’ll see more of them. Aside from being an all-round good guy, Neil has a special place in my heart as the only man I know who saw Soft Machine circa 1969.

Good fun this morning was hearing Jakko on the phone counting the bars to Henry Cow’s Nirvana For Mice. To say there’s more to it than meets the ear is something of an understatement. I urged him to put it on his album – him counting along and then ballsing it up. We’ll it made me laugh.

This prompted me to play both copies of Legend by Henry Cow. The first copy I have is the Chris Cutler remix version. The other copy is the Original Mix edition which I picked up in a fabbo shop in Boulder when I was there with ProjeKct Four. For reasons best known to himself, Cutler remixed the HC albums drenching them in reverb and moving the audio goalposts so to speak. It's the original mix for me every time - even if the recording sounds like it was done with a large post-modern sock masking the microphones.

As spotted on Tom Coatesthis is good fun.

As spotted on Diary Of A Criminal Solicitorthis is frightening stuff

Over on Radio 7 (scroll down to the 18.30 slot) I heard the first part of I Am Legend – a last man on post-apocalyptic earth surrounded by vampires kind of story. I don’t normally go in for this stuff but I found myself genuinely spooked by the reading. Brrr.

Top Ten Downloads on DGMLive

  1. King Crimson - Jun. 28th, 1974
  2. Robert Fripp - Nov. 30th, 2000
  3. King Crimson - Mar. 20th, 1974
  4. King Crimson - Mar. 31st, 1974
  5. King Crimson - Nov. 14th, 2003
  6. Robert Fripp - Dec. 11th, 2005
  7. King Crimson - Apr. 12th, 1971
  8. ProjeKct One - Dec. 4th, 1997
  9. King Crimson - Apr. 13th, 1971
  10. ProjeKct Four - Oct. 23rd, 1998

Monday, January 23, 2006

Past, Present & Future of Folk

It’s official: folk music is the new rock n’ roll. The Observer carries a story extolling the virtues of the new breed of folk artists in the main body of the paper rather than the specialist columns of its music magazine.

According to Entsweb “There are over 350 folk festivals in England every year, hundreds of clubs and arts centres programming folk, roots and acoustic music and now virtually every county has its own folk development project. The last time the folk scene of England boomed in this way was in the 1960’s.”

Speaking of which, the cult of Nick Drake shows no signs of abating populating as it does TV retro drama series, Heartbeat, exposing his music to a few million punters in one go. The critical acclaim for an obscure singer-songwriter called Vashti Bunyan and the follow-up to her Joe Boyd produced debut, a mere 36 years later, suggests that folk’s stock rating climbs onward and upward.

BBC Four’s forthcoming Folk Britannia series, coinciding as it does with a major concert / film series at the Barbican in London, will offer a timely primer for those wanting to get aboard the bandwagon at the purist end of the market, whilst the pop appeal of David Gray, James Blunt, ensures the singer-songwriter is given a folky (ie acoustic) makeover every once in a while.

I hear songs by these performers and others far too insipid to mention courtesy of Alys who has her music on upstairs at max volume. Lots of songs about relationships; why baby has left or is coming back or won’t ever leave in the first place. There’s nothing wrong of course with expressing love and affection but the homogenous soft-rock/folky feel is a bit too off the shelf from track to track.

I contrast this with my recent playing of Al Stewart’s 1974 album, Past, Present & Future. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not about to launch into a tirade about how much better things were back in the good old days. Far from it. Although I liked it at the time, listening to the album now I find it rather thin and a tad overstretched.

In case you’re not familiar with it, after making several albums of painful sincerity, Al Stewart pulled out the conceptual stops and came up with 8 songs which lyrically offered a sweeping historical panorama, taking in some unlikely characters such as Admiral Sir John Fisher (Old Admirals), the 29th President of the USA (Warren Harding), Hitler’s putsch against fellow Nazi, Ernst Roehm (The Last Day Of June 1934) growing up in the UK after WW2 with cameos from several British PMs and various icons from culture (Post World War Two Blues) and the albums big set piece, Nostradamus, which as the title cunningly implies sets some of the lines from the 16th Century seer to music and shed loads of phasing.

Mostly the ambition of the album’s content is badly let down by an often bland soft-rock style which makes The Eagles sound like extreme death-metal in comparison. But for all its failings there are some inspired moments, the best of which is the epic (in every sense of the word) song The Roads To Moscow.

A poignant and moving portrait of the Nazi attack on Russia told from the point of view of a soviet foot soldier. The twist in the tale is that after valiantly defending the motherland the hapless trooper falls foul of Stalin’s purges and ends up being shipped off to the gulag. Moving convincingly from the breaking of the Nazi-Soviet pact, pausing for a dog-fight or two via a quick detour past the battle of Stalingrad en route for Siberia in just over eight minutes is no mean feat.

Listening to it today and the pop/folky tinged emanations from upstairs, it struck me that this track would never get written now. Moreover it would never be recorded were it being pitched for the first time.

Imagine the scene. Some young hopeful (you can call him Al) sits nervously with guitar in hand and plays his new song, The Roads To Moscow, to some market-savvy 'big 5' record exec.

Exec: (looking at his watch) So what's this song about???

Al: It's about the battles on the eastern front during the second world war and how Russia fought back against Germany against the odds.

Exec: Hmmm, not sure about that. We don't want to offend the European territories. What else is it about?

Al: Well it also deals with the Stalinst purges and it ends with the narrator of the song in a transit camp waiting to head out to the gulag or execution.

Exec: Aha! I get it now - he's writing home to his girl yeah? Can you have tell her that he loves her madly or something?

Al: Well..

Exec: I respect the integrity of the song but how about we change the emphasis just a little. Make all the war stuff backstory and have him missing his babe a bit more. Maybe he could tell her "You're beautiful!" a few times in the record eh?"

Al: Look, the point is that the narrator is really commenting on the ideologically driven attacks from both outside and within its borders…

Exec: Ideowhat??? Forget Russia. People don't want a song about a bunch of beetroot eating commies. They want letters home to a loved one. "You're beautiful!"

Al: No, I...

Exec: Then we can prepare the way for a Swing album, you know Sinatra style- got to look out for the crossover album haven't we?

Al: What?

Exec (walking singer to the door): OK Al, leave it with me. Remember I totally respect the integrity of the song here - it just needs a bit of polishing. I'll get the boys to re-work the backing and you can make the changes we’ve just agreed then we’ve got a winner!

Or something like that.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

News Of The Screws

A fairly dreary Saturday is enlivened by a good old fashioned political scandal. Just weeks after Charles Kennedy’s resignation because of his drink problem we now hear that the former LibDem leadership contender, Mark Oaten, has been outed by the News of The World for having an affair with a rent boy.

Whereas Kennedy’s difficulties had already impacted on his ability to do his job there’s nothing to suggest that Oaten’s private peccadilloes had compromised his public duties.

At least he had learned from Kennedy’s stumble out of office, that with the press pack about spread the muck his best chance to retain some semblance of dignity was come clean and stand down at the earliest opportunity.

There’s always a whiff of hypocrisy and double standards when political scandals break but in this instance at least Oaten wasn’t leading a LibDem campaign on the sanctity of marriage as a foundation for a decent society – unlike the Tory PM, John Major who, lest we forget, whilst banging on about family values was also banging Edwina Currie.

Oaten's recent pronouncements about the government's botched strategy to deal with prostitution was consistent with someone who uses such services.

Those a bit longer in the political tooth will no doubt recall the Norman Scott scandal which rocked the old Liberal party and its leader of the day, Jeremy Thorpe.

As the Tories recently found there’s nothing like a leadership contest to raise the profile of the party and get the policies at least in part on the agenda. Given the shaky start which Menzies Campbell and Simon Hughes both had at their first PMQs and now Oaten’s spectacular fall from grace, things can only get better.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Waiting For The Words To Come...Part 836

It’s been a frustrating day all things considered. The words didn’t want to come today and so I busied myself with some chores around the house. Every so often I’d return to the computer, do some email, process some guestbook entries for DGMLive and then open the documents I should be working on and …zilch.

I take a Tarot card. I throw an Oblique Strategy. I consult the I Ching and even open the book of answers at random but to no avail.

I watched Ruth Kelly’s statement in the House of Commons on television whilst having a lunchtime snack. In political terms, her performance will have got her off the hook but it still seems ludicrous that all these months after the Bichard Report, the basic headlines from the dispatch box today is that the government are going to ban sex offenders from working in schools!

Still no words…

Margie rings to chat and at exactly the same time a guy calls to pick up some work I’ve done which means I had to cut short the conversation. Briefly we were talking about how humour doesn’t always translate in email but due to my unexpected visitor, never got to the punchline.

Sometimes files don’t translate in emails either and later in the day Robert and I enter the long dark tea time of the soul as we go through a fruitless back and forth of exchanges that consume time but achieve little.

I cook Debbie and Alys a feast made from leftovers; garlic, ginger, red onion, celery woked up with a chicken breast served with some noodles. They declared it fab whilst I opted for a poached egg.

Then some luck with the files from Robert after a third party intervention from Hugh, who basically sent the document without stuffit and hey presto, Robert is your father’s brother.

I was sorry to hear that the government have refused to reverse the decsion to downgrade cannabis to a class C drug. Too many people I know have had their lives blighted by having a "bit of weed." I thought Blake Morrison's article in The Grauniad last year had some interesting points in it.

But still no words for me and mine.

I trawl through some prog-rock message boards and websites outside the ambit of the usual KC-related ones. I’m planning a brief promotional tour of the boards to spread the word about DGMLive. I noticed on one Yes message board there are lots of women posting which strikes me as unique amongst the field.

On the blower tonight a welcome call from long time no see Johnny S and an in-depth call from Eric O regarding evil and retribution.

Top track from the Sid Smith jukebox: The Roads To Moscow by Al Stewart

And so to Question Time

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

You Know You're In Trouble When. . .1

You know you're in trouble when your youngest son, having been asked for the name of Scotland's capital city, answers "Norway!"

Listening To...
the Sid Smith jukebox
Top track Faith Healer by The Sensational Alex Harvey

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Between Good And Evil

There are arguably few things more cosily melancholic than a seaside town out of season. Out of season reminds me of out of sorts and, I suppose Whitley Bay could be described as both.

A light breeze came in off the sea as I walked along the front thinking evil thoughts.

I had tried thinking evil thoughts at my desk but there were too many distractions – chiefly KC71 at the Zoom Club (nights three and four) and John Cale’s Black Acetate.

I was intent of evil thoughts because I was trying to come up with some plausible villains for Eric O’s gangster/horror flick I mentioned the other day. In fiction the characters that are just plain bad through and through are flat and lifeless.

There are many examples where a person, capable of extreme acts of violence, dote upon their mothers and are kind to children and animals. How do they reconcile their opposing sides? How or why is their moral compass wired differently to the rest of us? To make your character a “monster” is to miss out on those dramatic transgressive impulses which occasionally pitch individuals into scary places they’ve not been before.

How they deal with all that dark stuff is the interesting bit of the deal for me.

Later I came across this truly scary clip courtesy of Tom Coates. Although it doesn't directly relate to the points above, it resonated with me. The woman in the clip is convinced she’s seen evil close up and personal.

The horrified look on the faces of her children tells us where the real evil lies.

On the subject of one-dimensional monsters, on the radio this morning with William Gibson, a teacher convicted of an offence and placed on the sex offenders register but allowed back into teaching.

Whilst the government is clearly in a mess over this and Ruth Kelly’s position looks decidedly slippery (she’s already had the dread black spot of “full support” from No10. which of course means she's done for in the expected re-shuffle), a thoughtful and insightful interview conducted by Jim Naughtie on the Today programme with Gibson himself managed to get behind the screaming headlines for a few minutes (scroll down to the 8.10 slot to hear it).

In the afternoon I took a phone call from Tom and Joseph’s mother who was clearly distressed. She works in the same building that houses the local immigration service. Though her department has nothing to do with that service they often get caught up in the tense and sometimes violent situations that occurs when dealings with applicants seeking asylum go wrong.

Today the police were called, quickly followed by the fire and emergency services. An individual facing deportation had threatened to set themselves on fire rather than be refused entry. Details were sketchy but those working in the building were told to remain in their offices whilst the situation was assessed.

Raised voices along the corridor could be heard; then screaming. Someone said they saw a flash. The asylum seeker had doused themselves in petrol and then set it alight.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Climate Of Hunter by Scott Walker





















The ghost in the machine...

Climate of Hunter
Scott Walker
Virgin

By the time Scott Walker released Climate Of Hunter in 1984 he’d been long fixed in public consciousness as a pouting balladeer as firmly as a prehistoric insect trapped in amber.

Jaded by his celebrity status and MOR pigeon-holing, Walker spurned the fame resulting from The Walker Brothers and the increasingly eclectic (and erratic) solo records sired toward the end of the 60s and the 70s.

Like a typecast actor, he would quite never escape the gravitational pull of those early self-titled albums and their cultish appeal. Hardly a month goes by without some earnest singer keen to establish their retro-chic credentials by citing Scott 1 – 4 as a key influence in their development.

A full decade separates his previous album the country tinged "We Had It All" and "Climate of Hunter." Recorded in the space of a month, it’s a piece of angsty experimental modernity that in 1984 had few, if any, competitors.

Excluding the anachronistic reading of "Blanket Roll Blues", complete with an acoustic cameo from Mark Knopfler, it condenses a dizzying blur of lush orchestrations; free-form sax squalls; trumpets tape-looped into a hazy sheen above ruminating funk bass; 4/4 beats punctuating ethereal string-synth atmospherics.

Wilfully obscure, and one suspects intentionally “difficult”, there are times when the tortuous melodies seem to arise from the smoke made from arbitrary collisions of notes and chords, that is these melodic sequences are anything but obvious.

Through the ephemeral mist of it all, Walker’s lugubrious croon moves like a fleeting searchlight briefly illuminating the obtuse subject matter locked away inside these perversely angular songs.

Yet for all the experimental prickliness there’s an unfathomable grandeur to tracks such as "Rawhide" and "Three" which insinuates itself as sure as any pop-based hook. Though the ballad "Sleepwalkers Woman" treads familiar ground to the magical territory of "Boy Child" from Scott 4 its inclusion was too little too late for fans of the Scott of yore.

The vociferous rush of Seven is the closest thing to straight forward rock on the album, interspersed as it is, with guitar solos that seem to owe something to Stevie Vaughan Ray’s work on Bowie’s Let’s Dance.

Although the eight tracks on the album rarely stray beyond the four minute mark, there’s little else in the way of concession to popular taste. Inevitably it sank without a trace on release.

Determined to break with expectation and pursue his rarefied muse, Walker condemned himself to become a ghostly presence destined to occasionally haunt the cloisters of his own career.

Yet Climate Of Hunter and his 1995 album, Tilt, can be properly seen as artistic triumphs. It’s impossible to think of any other artist from the 60s that occupied the MOR as Walker once did who would wash up making music as genuinely ambitious and challenging as this.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Happy Returns

Today is the 37th anniversary of the formation of King Crimson a band I first properly heard in 1971 when I was 13 years old.


There are times when the 13 year old King Crimson fan that still resides within me shakes his long-haired head in gleeful surprise.

The recent discovery of the KC mystery track was one such occasion and today was another: emails from DC, JW, RF, RP-J, and a call on the blower from BB. If someone had told back in 1972 that in 2006…etc., etc.

Norman Lamont (the Edinburgh based comedian not the disgraced ex-chancellor) has started posting a series of reports from the Introduction To Guitar Craft course he’s been attending.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Keep Watching The Skies



Today began with another wonderful sky. Somehow the strange and wonderful is contained in the mundane and everyday.

Yesterday was spent chatting with Chris B. I couldn’t recall the last time we met but I think we settled on it being at least ten years ago.

Chris is currently waiting for surgery for a serious condition (see his blog for details) and this naturally took up some of our conversation. Another topic was the kind of music our respective partner’s cannot abide. His: King Crimson. Mine: Van der Graff Generator. It was good meeting up again and I hope we don't leave it another ten years until the next pot of Earl Grey.

Later in the day I wept with laughter at Ed Readon’s Week and busied myself writing press releases for various jobs that have come in as well as tending to some DGMLive issues.

Watched the finale of Lost on tele and feel liberated from its yolk. It's not over for them but it is for me.

Today I met up with Chris T and later with Eric O. Eric and I were discussing the character outlines for a film script; exciting stuff which we may create a blog for.

Listening To …Bellow Poetry by Maria Kalaniemi



Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Life On Mars











"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there."

Knocked down (and out for the count) in a car accident whilst on duty in 2006, DCI Sam Tyler (John Simm) wakes up to find himself back in 1973. A bold if inexplicable scenario that is intriguing.

How Tyler makes sense of his circumstances is the real detective story to be solved. Predictably perhaps, given its primetime slot, the producer’s bottle it.

Of course he’s not really in the past; he keeps hearing the disembodied voices of doctors and colleagues from 2006 echoing through the disorientating 70s - a bizarre state of the mind where young people wear wide flare pants, afghan coats, Noddy Holder’s in and out of the charts, racism is rife, the Middle East is in turmoil and Bruce Forsyth is watched on tele by millions of viewers on a Saturday night. Thank Christ it’s not like that now eh?

Whilst the premise has bags of potential sadly the seen-it-before plot, which in this post-modern, self-referential world may have been entirely intentional, was disappointing.

Of course, the BBC has prior form when it comes to playing about with time. Both Doctor Who and Adam Adamant have both dealt with people stranded from their appropriate time and place. Perhaps the best of these and closest to Life On Mars’ crime-solving action was Dennis Potter’s acclaimed six-parter, The Singing Detective. In his febrile state, hospitalised writer Philip Marlowe’s imagination runs riot and the viewer is taken back and forth through timelines at a rate so dizzying that it’s not just the lead character who has trouble deciding what’s fact and fiction. Life On Mars was a bit like that only without the watertight plotting, originality and terrifying talent.

What it did get right though was how bleak domestic life in the seventies was. In between what the Luftwaffe missed and the town planners hadn’t got round to, tiny enclaves of decaying Victorian housing hosted grotty bedsits exactly like the one in which Sam Tyler washes up in.

Accurate though it may be, no amount of zappy op-art wallpaper and its dismal veneer of fake modernity, could paper over the literal and metaphorical cracks in this first episode. Well-dressed sets of themselves do not make good drama.

It was left to a few gags about being a stranger in a strange land to carry the show. Although there was a genuine frisson of jaw-dropping disbelief at the blatant misogyny and other cultural anachronisms there was a plodding inevitability about the confrontation between the whiskey-swilling throwback, DCI Hunt (well played by Philip Glenister) and Tyler. Last night we got the conventional “hate at first sight” set-up. No doubt that the “grudging respect” payoff can’t be far behind. More than a touch of déjà vu.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Moonlighting & Big Brother

I was interested to see that Respect MP George Galloway was languishing on the sofas and soft furnishings of the Big Brother house instead of the green leather benches of the House of Commons.

I take a fairly old-fashion view on moonlighting MPs from whatever party or political persuasion: they are elected to represent their constituents in Parliament and that’s what they should be doing.

Forget about the lucrative City directorships, or the public speaking engagements, the consultancies and the PR firms. Get out of the Westminster village and engage on the street with the voters directly.

Galloway is too seasoned a pro to think that Channel Four’s broadcasting guidelines will allow him to use the show as an anti-Blair/Bush soapbox or talking to the audience about issues such as “racism, bigotry, poverty, the plight of Tower Hamlets, the poorest place in England sandwiched between the twin towers of wealth and privilege in Canary Wharf and the spires of the City” as he justifies himself on the Respect website.

Though his Bethnel Green and Bow’s constituents will no doubt be attended by Galloway’s staff in his absence why should the tax payer be footing the bill for George’s appearance on the box?

Will the scrupulous Galloway be donating his parliamentary wage for the period he is hobnobbing with Barrymore, Burns and the rest?

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Lost In TV Watching

Another day on which I don’t get up till after 9.00 a.m.

I’m worried that this may become habit forming. I’ve tried to recall what life used to be like before having children and I can’t. I assume I used to wander into town for intense lunches with artistic friends and colleagues prior to a visiting a local art gallery. This is probably unlikely as they would have all been shut.

Even as recently as the 80s, Sunday in a small provincial city like Newcastle was an empty space in which ghosts of the previous week echoed around deserted streets, as the city took a breather.

Most likely I used to sit around all day reading all the Sunday newspapers. I used to buy all the broadsheets and scour them. Over the years I’ve reduced the number down to just one and they necessarily occupy less of my time in the years since having children. Sometimes they go unread for weeks at a time but we have continued to buy them mostly for the business, sport and driving sections. These supplements are essential if you live in a house with children as they are ideal for spillages.

Today though, I tried The Observer in its new Berliner format. Though the area of its blotting potential is reduced I like the new look.

One new item they’re doing is serialising a new novel by novel by Ronnan Bennett. Serialisations and newspapers are of course nothing new. The novelty factor here is Bennett will be providing one chapter per week until the novel is finished. I haven’t read any of his work before but I like the idea of dipping into this thriller once a week. Check out Zugzwang

Elsewhere in the pages of the review section is an article on artist Grayson Perry. Is it just me or does anyone else think that the acres of coverage about Perry stems from his transvestism rather than the brilliance of his art?

Robert Fripp and his work for the Vista team has attracted the attention of squillions of bloggers in the last few days. I had thought of running a “what the bloggers are saying” as part of the news page on the DGM Live site but it’s going to take me a while to wade through this lot.

Worrying thought number 265: I’m watching too much television. I’ve become a de facto Lost watcher. Last week we watched Ken Stott play Rebus, tomorrow night a new series begins called Life On Mars and tonight I’m going to watch a new television series called Invasion.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Sock It To Me Baby Yeah!

Last night we had another Christmas day. My mother returned from her stay at my sister’s house in Milton Keynes.
Doreen was in good spirits and had enjoyed spending the time with the folks down MK way as she rarely gets to see the grandchildren from that neck of the woods.

After playing catch up on the news we rummaged about for presents. We’d decided that we wouldn’t open our respective gifts until she returned. I had thought Joseph was going to explode with anticipation. At several points during the holiday he kept staring forlornly at the small pile of gift-wrapped goodies and asking “When’s Granny coming back?”

The funniest comment that had us all cracked up was when Sam opened up a package from Doreen and exclaimed “Socks! Great – just what I need.” As we all fell about laughing thinking he was being ironic, Sam explained that he was on the verge of having to buy new ones so this was indeed a timely and much-needed gift.

I’d cooked red pepper risotto served with pork steaks, mushroom and olives in my special secret sauce – hardly traditional Xmas dinner but just as good (actually better in my opinion but let’s not go there) and we finished off the last of the Christmas wine. All in all, a lovely evening.

Today, I’ve spent most of the day working with Joe on his geography assignment using the utterly fabbo Google Earth as means of graphically illustrating the demise of Cullercoats’ fishing industry. When it comes down to it Joe just wants to finish off the project as quickly as possible with the least amount of effort.

I fear my attempts to engage him in the finer points about how towns work and are effected over long periods by things such as transportation, built environment and social factors are lost on him. Instead he wants to dash upstairs where Tom and Sam have set up three linked computers and are gaming.

From the whooping and hollering that seems to be continuously cascading down the stairs they are saving the universe by the power of their vocal chords rather than some futuristic laser.

Once Joe had taken flight upstairs I went downstairs to prepare the evening meal. The radio tells me that Charles Kennedy has now resigned as leader and will not be putting himself forward in the leadership contest.

Politicians who say they will “fight on” always end up regretting it and always end up having to resign at some stage in the game often with their credibility, like their careers, in tatters.

The post this morning brought a bunch of CDs for review but they’re going to have to wait as my attention is occupied by various KC soundboards at the moment.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Where Were You The Day Charles Kennedy Was Shot In The Foot?

Anyone unfortunate enough to have either first-hand or indirect experience with alcoholism will know how debilitating and difficult a battle it is to win.

Admitting that there’s a problem in the first place is just the first step in a very long, tortuous and often treacherous road to recovery.

It’s a very brave person who acknowledges it in public but it’s a fool who thinks they can carry on leading a political party. Over this coming weekend the pressure from the press, parliamentary colleagues and public opinion will be immense for him to step down.

Had he done so during his public statement on Thursday then the way could have been cleared for their patrician deputy leader and foreign affairs spokesperson, Sir Menzies Campbell, to become a caretaker leader until after the next local elections in May. Then a leadership contest could then have been properly debated and discussed amongst the membership in good grace without the pall of political and personal scandal obscuring the process.

Anyone who saw Jeremy Paxman’s clinical dissection of the man and his policies before the last general election will know that Kennedy’s grasp on the leadership of his party has been slippery for some time. Political reputations take years to build and only minutes to destroy. In holding on to the bitter end Kennedy not only inflicts damage on his party but more importantly, his dignity.

Whatever he may have achieved for his party in increasing electoral gains, principled opposition to the Iraq adventure or any number of equally worthy acts, he risks being remembered only for his hubris and the day he shot himself in the foot.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Forgotten But Not Gone

The last couple of days have been fairly exciting. Just when you think you know the repertoire of a particular group, a new song that you’ve never heard before turns up out of the blue (as mentioned in my previous entry).

It started when a fan sent me a description of the track and asked me to identify it. I assumed it to be Doctor D which was a new addition to the set back in March 1974 (the period under discussion).

Then he sent me a snippet and I knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore. Identifying the song wasn’t easy given the sound quality made the Trees piece by the 69 line-up sound sound like pristine hi-fidelity in comparison. Intrigued and frankly excited, at my request he sent me the full track.

After picking my jaw up off the floor I gave the track another listen. And then another. And another after that. My ears gradually acclimatised to the sonic murk and out of the crackles and gurgling something that was KC ’74 manifested itself. In the hours of interviews I did for the KC book this song was never mentioned.

Beginning with a chunky funk line it explodes into a descending riff (similar to Doctor D). Then over an interlocking weaving line, Wetton sings lyrics in a verse / chorus structure. After the second verse there’s a very fast running line played by guitar and violin which takes us back into a third verse.

After that, the introductory descending theme is replayed followed by searing Fripp lines which are echoed by Cross on violin. From here we go into a violin solo over the chord changes. The main theme is repeated once again after which Fripp briefly revs it up ala Sailors Tale. Then it's all over bar the final verse and a blisteringly fast running unison line at the end of which everyone stops dead.

It seemed we were looking at an entirely new KC track which had emerged from the same writing sessions that yielded Starless following the end of the 1973 tour in November. According to the setlists from the time had been performed once at this gig and then promptly dropped.

Checking the excellent KC Live site I discovered that a bootleg of the gig on 19th March Udine did exist and in the tracklist there was something called “unknown”.

I sent it to the team at DGM finding my opinion veering from certainty to doubt and all the way back again. Opinion was divided. Was it KC or not? Perhaps it was UK?

Robert got in touch to say he had no memory of it at all. John Wetton however was able to confirm it as Crimson.

Via email he told me “It sounds more "Starless" period, and there are burgeoning ideas from that era, plus a vocal/bass idea which surfaced in UK (Caesar's Palace Blues). The linear Fratt / Crisp solo passage is unmistakable, as are the bass/drums/vocal. The song structure is wedged firmly between Starless and Red, and the venue sounds like a hangar. The band at this stage tended to wear its rock hat in sports arenas, where it could hold its own with any of the heavyweights, using Occam ’s razor to slash through protocol, and kill at will, but given a velveteen concert-hall, we'd be Mahler before you could drop that aforesaid hat.”

Then it was a case of checking the DGM archive. It seemed that there was a ¼” master for this gig on the list. “Crack that tape open now!” I urged the folks at HQ., my fingers trembling at the keyboard in anticipation of a pristine recording of this new song.

The bad news was that only a portion of the gig was on the ¼ “and, as our bad luck would have it, the wrong portion.

On the upside, DGM have an audience recording of the gig which may be of better quality and will be given the rites of necromancy. This combined with what officially exists on the ¼ “ (Exiles, Fracture and LTIA) may be available as a download.

Currently I’m wondering if anyone can recall what this track might have been called. Exciting? You bet.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Lead Me To The Drawing Pin

Well, the transfer from laptop to desktop went over without any loss of data as far as I can tell. I’ve a niggling suspicion that there’ll be some cock-up along the way; a file not opening and the like.

I’ve now begun the tiresome but necessary task of organising all those documents but would frankly rather sit on a drawing pin than be spending my time doing this kind of admin.

Spent a surprising amount of time on the blower with friends and family in the last day or so. Jakko and I exchange Xmas tales of terror, my sister and exchange personal aims, Chris T and I exchange views on the recent biog of Soft Machine and in the post a five page letter from Eric O who has a proposal for a film project.

It’s almost a novelty to get a letter through the post these days. One is so geared up for email and instant communication. Writing and sending a letter takes the pace out of the collaborative process but it lends it a more reflective quality. I will try and respond to Eric’s letter in kind rather than cheating and ringing him and inviting him over for a chin-wag.

There’s some intriguing fun in bootleg land at the moment trying to assess the provenance of a piece of music. Since DGM Live went, er, live it’s been quite amazing what’s been turning up in the in-tray.

On Radio 4 today – a great little programme about gamelan music and the composer Colin McPhee. A Club Of Small Men also has a contribution from Philip Glass. The link is only good for seven days so move it buster!

Monday, January 02, 2006

Be Still My Beating Heart

I’m feeling rather nervous today – pacing up and down like an expectant father as the data from my creaky old laptop is transferred to a new desk top PC purchased in the recent post-Xmas sales.

Despite being reassured that this is a routine procedure I remain convinced that a couple of novels, several screenplays, one or two putative biographies and four years of digital snaps will go up the swanny.

Listening to…the sound of my heart beating rather too quickly as data moves from one space to another

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Getting In Touch With The New Year

The start of the New Year began for me at the uncommonly late hour of 10.30 a.m. Having been up at my usual time of 6.00 a.m. to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war (aka having a slash and feeding the cats), I decided to go straight back to bed and the oblivion of sweet dreams.

You might suppose that my lack of get-up-and-go was due to the excesses of the previous evening (it being New Years eve) but the most excessive thing we did was watch a classic Miss Marple movie on dvd, Murder Most Foul with the wonderfully batty Margaret Rutherford and a modest glass of advocaat.

After getting up in something of a fug, the best I could manage was to watch a bit of tele and veg out to the max until four or five in the afternoon when we popped next door to see John and Jude. The usual suspects were there;Thomas and Leonnie, Dave and Julie and latterly we were joined by Paul and Carol. They are new neighbours who bought Jed and Lesley’s house after they moved to Spain.

It was the first time I’d met Paul and Carol but we quickly discovered it’s something of a small world; Paul was until recently a member of the reformed punk band Penetration. I wrote about Penetration last year when I was busy with the Northstars book and did indeed name check Paul in its pages.

Paul, I discovered, is not only a painter (and part of the Stuckist group) but the possessor of several vintage instruments including a fender Rhodes piano and a WEM copycat echo unit. As John makes arrangements to pop around to Paul’s house for a gander at the instruments, I can’t help but shamelessly gatecrash on the arrangement.

The Fender Rhodes holds a special place in my heart. Not only is it a quintessential ‘time and place’ sound for me, I also carry a physical reminder of its weighty properties. My first back injury occurred whilst carrying Keith Morris’ Fender Rhodes up and down the staircase of the Physics Building at Newcastle University back in the 70s. It took four of us to carry the damn thing but it did sound sweet – particularly when coupled with an MXR phase pedal. Paul and I agree that the DX7 Rhodes sound was a poor substitute albeit a tad more portable.

The author gets in touch with his inner seasonal punk...


Jude gets in touch with the spatula of lurve...


Debbie and Paul get in touch with the mirth



Elsewhere in the day I was saddened though not at all surprised to learn that the recently reformed Van der Graaf Generator are no more. I count myself lucky to have seen the band perform at the Royal Festival Hall in May last year.

The foundations of fault lines run deep in any group and if not properly addressed and handled are bound to cause problems. Given this I always felt that the VdGG reunion was a band reborn on borrowed time. In a way it’s good that this particular incarnation went out on such a high point; the double album Present and the RFH gig were far better than anyone had a right to expect.

Listening To. . .
Shepherds Bush 07-12-2005 by Robert Fripp
Sutton Parish Church 12-12-2005 by Robert Fripp

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