Walking along the corridors at Holborn Tube I hear some comforting clarinet/alto saxophone jazz sounds wafting along and bouncing off the walls. It sort of reminds me of being in London in the late 1980s, when there seemed to be more of that kind of music around. As I get closer to the source I am shocked to see that it’s the old man who lives on the end of our road, blowing on an alto sax. I walk past, feeling that I might have suddenly fallen asleep and be dreaming this.
The old man keeps a small front garden with all kinds of interesting small fruit bushes and vibrant flowers. Many times I have wanted to say how much I like his garden but he gives off a vibe of not really wanting to chat. I walk past him a lot on our road but he never catches my eye. I’ll have something to talk to him about now.
I did just over two and a half km on the treadmill in an attempt to recreate that excruciating jog to an appointment or interview on a hot day when you're late and the buses are not running properly. Ideally I should have been carrying a big art folder or at least a bag with lots of papers inside.
In front of me were three screens with no sound. On one screen was discussion of the budget with the BBC's Nick Robinson and a woman in a purple blouse. There were subtitles but because of my detached retina eye I couldn't really make out much – the odd word here and there, that's all. Then we saw shots of MPs in the Commons. A screen to the left showed a cookery programme about bread making and on the right was a period feature film. Could have been Gone with the Wind. On my Ipod was a new playlist called running music:
1. Autobahn 66 – Primal Sceam
2. Swastika Eyes – Primal Scream
3. Mr Blue Sky – ELO
4. School of Rock – School of Rock
I won't be using these again, apart from maybe the first one. 'Mr Blue Sky' made me want to change my running speed to stay in time to the music. School of Rock was too all over the place for running music.
I'm trying to remember the name of the singer who had that hit with Hot Gossip in 1978. 'I lost my heart to a starship trooper'. She was The Woman Out Of Hot Gossip. But there's a hole in my memory where her name used to be. I watched them on Top of the Pops when I was 13, so I know she existed, in fact she ended up marrying Andrew Lloyd Webber. Was it Elaine Page? Arlene Philips? Gloria Steinem? Maybe it was Anthea Turner. No, that doesn't feel right.
How are you supposed to remember stuff without resorting to looking it up? I've been concentrating really hard all day but it still won't come, just this bleached out area of nothing, with dancers cavorting about all around it. Why do I want to know anyway? It was just a sequence of thoughts and then it came to a stop with whatever-her-name-is. I refuse to look this up on Google. It's a matter of principle. I must get my memory working again.
Was it Susan Stranks?
It's Great To Be Back! are a supergroup made up of the more well-known members of the French late 90s country and western scene. Rejecting all chords except D7, in their first album Be. Be One Yourself IGTBB have stripped the music bare revealing the vanity of unrequited love in 1-chord steel guitar rhapsody. (translation from French by the band)
I’m at a time in my life right now in where I’m asking one of life’s important questions. What should I do with my Eros Les Paul Copy? I bought the guitar when I was 14 years old and it’s hard to imagine getting rid of it. But we’re about to move away for a year or so and I’ve been chucking out all kinds of stuff that I haven’t used for years – I’ve given away my Wem Copycat and Electro Harmonix drum machine and lent out the Korg MS-10. But I can’t face getting rid of the Eros Les Paul Copy.
The last time I used it was at a band practice in 1994. I’d just had it serviced at Fiddles and Sticks on All Saints Road and the bloke there had told me that it was probably a late 60s issue and worth a couple of hundred quid so I thought I’d try and get back into it again. By this time I was in a countryish band and the eros Les Paul Copy sound was just not mellow enough, being better suited for 1234 barre chord thrashes. I’d assumed the guitar was new when I bought it in 1979. I’d saved up for months to get it, and had convinced my parents that I could just plug it into the wall socket and play without any amplifiers.
DAD: Great. So it won’t be loud then.
ME: Ha ha. No. The sound gets diffused into the wires of the house and feeds back into the National Grid.
DAD: So it’s the mains socket, then. You definitely won’t be buying an amplifier.
ME: Won’t need one, dad. Got the mains plug.
I ended up taking my grandfather to a big music warehouse in Bingley, where he helped me choose a little practice amp with a tremelo feature.
DAD: What’s that? Is it an amplifier?
ME: Ha ha. No, Dad. It’s an early prototype of what’s called a ‘personal computer’.
DAD: Why is it making so much noise?
ME: That’s the computer’s memory.
DAD: Why is your guitar plugged into it?
The guitar saw me through the glory years of various bands – Heart Attack, Easy Listening, Boys at their Worst, The Brezhnev Brothers, The Gifted Children and the Fat and Lazy Jazz Experience. The high spot was supporting Eric Random and the Bedlamites at Nottingham’s Ad Lib Club. It was to be the culmination of lots of practice and hard work. Then Eric got ill and the gig was cancelled – we ended up playing a rubbishy Kazoo set for an 18th birthday party at Glentham Village Hall.
This morning I was sitting on the top deck of a no. 19 bus. Around Highbury Corner the conductor started to whistle the tune to Andrew Gold’s ‘Never Let Her Slip Away’. He whistled it from there all the way to where I got off near to the old Penny Black pub on Exmouth Market/Rosebery Avenue (can’t remember what it’s called now – something like Le Cafe Pretentious). I said to him “I haven’t heard Andrew Gold’s ‘Never Let Her Slip Away’ for about 20 years. Cheers for that.”
“Was it by Andrew Gold?” he said. “I just know the tune. I had no idea who it was by.”
“You should listen to it and learn to whistle the intro. It’s got these lovely off the beat organ chrods.”
“Thanks, I will,” he said.
There’s really only one way of making the sound of wind and that’s with a Korg MS-10. In fact, if you recorded the sound of real wind and played it after listening to the wind sound of the Korg MS-10, you would think the Korg was the real thing. But this fantastic old synthesizer is not just for making wind type effects (even though, as I’ve already stated, it is FANTASTIC at that) – it’s also great for doing a handclap sound if you can’t get hold of enough people in the studio to make good syncopated ‘real’ handclaps. What’s that? You need to duplicate the sound of a jet engine taking off but you’re miles from the nearest airport? No worries, the Korg MS-10 can do that too.
And if someone knocks on your door and says “Shite – I need to get a bass synth sound just like Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft used. Any ideas?” you simply smile and hand them your Korg MS-10. Just for a lend, of course.
More about the Korg MS-10 here
Seemingly out of the blue, my friend Lee asked me yesterday if I knew that The Clash had recorded the London Calling album in Highbury. It’s the kind of anal-retentive conversational nugget I usually love to hoard away for a rainy day but on this occasion I was out analretentived. Apparently it was at Wessex Studios, at the old church on Highbury New Park. Maybe it’s St. Augustines. When quizzed Lee admitted he’d seen an article about it in the Independent a few weeks ago. But I feel a trick was missed in The Groundwater Diaries in terms of local history and the punk influence on hidden London.
What Lee didn’t tell me, and which I had to find out myself at the University of The Clash’s history archive, was the mention of Blackstock Road’s bus in the song ‘Rudie Can’t Fail’:
“Sing, Michael, sing-on the route of the 19 Bus
Hear them sayin’
How you get a rude and a reckless?
Don’t you be so crude and a feckless
You been drinking brew for breakfast
Rudie can’t fail”
I’m trying to finish an outline for a new travel book, which might be about the Vikings in some way. This planning stage is the hardest thing about writing. Anyway, today I spent about 20 minutes messing about with the cut and paste function, then put on ‘Straight Outta Boone County’ (Cowboy Songs, Home Songs, Western Songs, Mountain Songs) and have so far spent the rest of my time attempting to recreate 1940s style vocal harmonies, every now and then popping downstairs to put on some more coffee. Pretending To Be A Country And Western Singer is a classic procrastination technique for a writer.
Due to my dodgy eye (detached retina) I’m having problems reading the type on screen. Full stops now appear as commas.
The sound of Aled Jones singing fills the streets of Highbury Vale. Perhaps a fan of squeaky chorister recordings has moved in to the area. Or it’s the Welsh songbird himself (possibly showing off to a new girlfriend in his bedsit). Either way, it’s bad news.