Thursday, 28 August 2014

'Trevor' the Tractor

My first word was 'Tractor'
Unsure as to why
Now whenever I see one
Just want to cry, cry and cry

If my first word was 'fog'
Well that would be better
Not a workingman's clog
To hobble and fetter

That first word's a factor
I wish to deny
It's what I am not
I'm no practical guy

Unspecific and vague
My perfect report
Try bottling that
In a winsome retort

I've only one gear
And it leads to an easel
I'm all crutches, not clutches
Work on whisky, not diesel

And why am I writing
These words not so clever?
I've been gifted a picture
Of a Tractor named 'Trevor'

William Carlos Williams wrote this:

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

With regard to the inspiration for the poem, Williams wrote: 
"The Red Wheelbarrow" sprang from affection for an old Negro named Marshall. He had been a fisherman. He used to tell me how he had to work in the cold in freezing weather, standing ankle deep in cracked ice packing down the fish. He said he didn’t feel cold. He never felt cold in his life until just recently. I liked that man, and his son Milton almost as much. In his back yard I saw the red wheelbarrow surrounded by the white chickens. I suppose my affection for the old man somehow got into the writing."

Unsure as to why I'm writing this other than that I've been reading about 'enjambment' and 'objective representation'. 
It's a slow day and... I love WCW's poem.
Unsure as to why.
Maybe because it's meditative, and vaguely specific... if that makes sense...
Oh, and perhaps because someone just sent me a picture of a tractor... named 'Trevor'.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Lovesong: Joe Henry: 'Sign' & 'Slide'

Reading Joe Henry's birthday eulogy for Elvis Costello yesterday got me reaching, tellingly, not for EC records, but for Joe's latest; the exquisite 'Invisible Hour'.
If you haven't yet had the pleasure you really should check it out.
Excuse this regurgitation but... upon release, I was so moved by it that I blogged and wrote an Amazon review.
It went something like this:

"I take all this to be holy
If futile, uncertain and dire
Our union of fracture, our dread everlasting
This beautiful, desperate desire"
This morning I read a piece by Andy Miller in The Guardian about how we are losing the ability to read.
I wasn't actually rustling a broadsheet but prodding at the online version… a case in point I guess.

"Although we love to argue about books, acquire them, express strong opinions about them, etc, etc, more than ever we seem to be losing the knack of reading them."

It seems to Miller that we are faking cultural literacy; consuming 'Art' has become more about ticking boxes and basking in culture's reflected glory rather than in its actual glow.
He quotes the writer Eleanor Catton's perception:

"Consumerism," she writes, "requiring its products to be both endlessly desirable and endlessly disposable, cannot make sense of art, which is neither."

Could we add that we are also losing the art of listening?
Particularly listening to music.
Is your iPod and Spotify on 'Shuffle' folks?
Do you rely on suggested Playlists for your musical ennui?
I know that I do; and I rally against such thoughtless behaviour.
We all do it and deny ourselves the pleasure of a progressive listen.
I believe that artists still ponder long and hard on segues.
I know that I do...
Come on.
What was the last album you listened to top to tail?
Be honest now.
Please list them below; I need some inspiration.
This morning I listened straight to the new Joe Henry album 'Invisible Hour'.

"It wasn't peace I wanted and it wasn't peace I found..."
These are his first words and I'm totally connected.
"… and our very blood tastes like honey now".

And then, before I knew it… the album finishes.
I'd been lost; an invisible hour indeed.
I hit replay and… it's even better 2nd time.
I'm currently on my 4th rotation and… not one cup of coffee needed.

"What matters to us, awash in petabytes of data, is not necessarily having actually consumed content first-hand but simply knowing that it exists."

Please, and you'll thank me for this, find your new favorite 'album' today.
I recommend Joe Henry's new 'Invisible Hour' but Roddy Frame's 'Seven Dials', Cherry Ghost's 'Herd Runners' and John Smith's 'Great Lakes' are up there too.
I know that I'm probably preaching to the choir but… it's great to rediscover a lost pleasure.
It made me remember my first listening of Springsteen's 'Darkness on the Edge of Town'.
I was quivering like a s***ting dog; at the end of side two I was singing like a tuning fork.
I know, it's bleeding obvious advice, like 'don't drink too much' or 'floss', but some times we all need to be reminded of the bleeding obvious.
Turn off the TV, lose your phone, let the laptop battery go flat.
Source (or even buy) 'Invisible Hour' and for 50 minutes, sit back and reevaluate your losses.
Then make those losses beloved!
Here endeth..

Here's a sure 'Sign' of the man's greatness:

And another beauty; 'Slide':

Monday, 25 August 2014

The Purbeck Festival

I've just got home from a fairly challenging weekend at The Purbeck Folk Festival. 
It's set on a splendid little peninsular in Dorset, just up from the Jurassic Coast.

Four days surrounded by other people's noisy children, dressed in onesies (them, not us) and seemingly training for future life in a circus. We resided in a yurt and could be found permanently balancing our bums atop that now infamous 'long drop' before taking gloriously cold showers whilst standing in other peoples drippings... I think that they should introduce the practice as a replacement for the much maligned idea of National Service for toughening up the young or feeble minded. Four days of that prepares you for anything.
Di and Lou (our neighbor) had arrived early and were keen for our company. Di welcomed me with 'They're all into Bread', which I took to be a sure sign of middle age and quality control; whisper it, but I like a bit of David Gates myself. I said as much and the girls looked at me strangely until I realized that Di was making a disparaging remark about the bloodline of some of our camping neighbors... Aaah... 'They're all interbred...' I've got to admit that there was a high count of overbites and wandering Adam's apples. We tried not to make eye contact. And these weren't the cheap seats; this was the posh 'glamping' area; cordoned off with red tape and everything...

The music on offer was a real mixed bag, it seemed that most of the musicians were struggling with the austerity and stink too. Chris Wood was grey, grizzled and gloriously grumpy, poking at our comfort and conscience; breaking our hearts with his social commentaries and domestic dramas. 
'My Darling's Downsized' was just exquisite.

Emily Barker (resplendent in a 'C*untry' Ain't a Dirty Word T shirt) and the Red Clay Halo were pretty damned fine too; their new album 'Dear River' is cracking and received a full airing.  
This particular song kept the bottom lip wobbling after Wood...

In contrast, Eddie Reader was a joyful bundle of newly wed bliss. Boo Hewerdine was there too, to keep an eye on proceedings, and did a sterling job.
The live highlight was a surprise. I've got all Turin Brakes' albums; liked but never loved. 
Live they were just awesome; a tight four piece; two guitars, bass and drums. It was a good old fashioned show. Exhilarating in fact. This clip is from elsewhere but gives you a taste of the dynamic...

Lloyd Cole played solo and also seemed to be suffering 'The Long Drop' blues. There sure seemed to be a bad smell under his nose. He didn't have much to say but when he did chat it was mumbled, acidic and arch. He wore a velvet jacket and slippers and played a fine set, re-imaginings of a fine back catalogue; brutally edited; I think that 'Rattlesnakes' was barely 2 minutes long. He encored with 'Forest Fire' which of course lacked that awesome guitar solo but was still fairly incendiary. 

We drove home this morning in horizontal rain to upright loos with soft toilet paper and warm baths.
And then I opened up my laptop and the first email awaiting me was this from Toronto Tim. 
Strange serendipity...


I just stumbled across this video of a recent Lloyd Cole show. 
You know how I've been moaning about how LC seems to be terminally glum, and getting a little long in the tooth to "rock"? 
Well the bugger has proven me wrong. 
Seems that he's having a ball here performing a blazing version of "Forest Fire" with a stellar band of Glasgow mates he's assembled, calling themselves The Leopards. Mick Slaven (Deacon Blue), Dougie MacIntyre (Love & Money), Campbell Owens (Aztec Camera), Jim Gash (Pearlfishers/Ricky Ross) & one of my favorite organists of all time (along with Federici & Tench) - longtime LC cohort Blair Cowan. 
A fan spliced together this video with uploads of 4 other fans at the concert and did a pretty nice job. Low budget but fantastic!

Old Lloyd or Young Lloyd... Which do you prefer?

FOREST FIRE (live 1985 - Munich):  Lloyd Cole and The Commotions - Forest Fire (Live HQ)

Sunday, 17 August 2014

The Hat Club: Boo Hewerdine: September 27th

Barry Cross is a very clever man.
He designs the CD covers for Miracle Mile and my solo stuff.
He's also doing the posters for our music venue The Hat Club, which is hosted in the bar of my local Squash Club in Beaconsfield. 

As you can see we have the stupendous Boo Hewerdine playing on September 27th. 
If you'd like to come and see Boo in an intimate setting, please get your name on the club clipboard asap.
£10 will reserve you a place.
If you are a non member and are reading this, please just email me for details at

Boo is rightfully regarded by those in the know as one of this county's finest singer song-writers.
I've been following his career since I first saw him as a spotty youth (me, not him), playing with his band The Bible. 
One of his songs in particular is probably responsible for me wanting to be in a band.
Yes, he's is to blame for my wasted youth... thanks Boo!
That song was 'Graceland'.

Boo has since gone on to develop a successful solo career and as a songwriter for other artists, notably Eddie Reader, for whom he wrote the gorgeous 'Patience of Angels'. 
Here's his take:

For more info on Boo Hewerdine please have a look at his website here.
It's going to be a cracking night.
Don't miss out...

Please also take note of other future Hat Club presentations:
October 18th: David Bridie
November 8th: Peter Bruntnell
December 13th: Raevennan Husbandes

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Lovesong: Gramercy Arms: Beautiful Disguise

I'm loving this.

Gramercy Arms are a Supergroup, a collaborative that's masterminded by songwriter/producer Dave Derby (left).
Their 2nd album is 'The Seasons of Love' and features a magnificently motley crew; the likes of Lloyd Cole, Joan Wasser (Joan As Police Woman), Tanya Donelly (Belly, Throwing Muses), Matthew Caws (Nada Surf), Kendall Meade (Sparklehorse), Claudia Gonson (Magnetic Fields), Doug Gillard (Guided By Voices), Erin Moran (A Girl Called Eddy), Renee LoBue (Elk City), Kay Hanley (Letters To Cleo) and others.
The new single from the album 'Beautiful Disguise' features Lloyd Cole and Joan Wasser, and comes with a gem of a video, replete with sonorous shadows and moody menace.
The album will be the soundtrack to my weekend.

Sunday, 3 August 2014


Here's where I hand the page over to the enthusiasms of Toronto's very own Tim Patrick:

A couple of sweet pieces of ear candy by Jenny Lewis. Reminds me of Fleetwood Mac, circa Tango In The Night. She has a new release called "The Voyager" produced by Ryan Adams, who does a fine job providing an accessible west-coast 70/80's style pop sheen to the entire album. Fittingly, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter of Steely Dan/Doobies fame lays down some tasty guitar work on my favorite track, "She's Not Me".  Benmont Tench of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers lends his always excellent keyboard talents & Beck Hansen also makes a nice cameo on "One Of The Guys".

I must say that I've never been a fan of the quirky brand of indie-rock Lewis or her band Rilo Kiley produced. She always seemed to be in self-loathing, angsty chic mode & wallowing in the sleazy LA cesspool of kinky sex and dope. Except for a couple of references to blow-jobs, coke and a menage a trois she's managed to tone down the tawdriness this time. And whilst the lyrical focus is on confessional middle-aged gal angst, the ever-catchy variety of pop-songwriting musical styles she adopts has won me over. 
Slick pop music from a decidedly female POV - a guilty pleasure for sure, but it's summertime and I'm liking it anyway


Saturday, 2 August 2014

Palestine: Discuss

"To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society." 
Theodore Roosevelt

Mmm. I seem to be getting tied into rants, raves and discussions regarding events in Palestine.
In London we are physically distant, dispassionate, disinterested, displaced but… I truly want to understand so that I can have an informed opinion and therefore make some kind of informed comment. This surely is how things will change. Once we have the tools to dissect the dissimulations, the misinformation, the rhetoric, the pious propaganda from both sides, once we can get beyond the spite that loss provokes… then maybe we, the dispassionate and disinterested, can start making informed demands on our own government. Britain was hugely influential in the partitioning of Palestine; it was the UN who offered up Palestine (then a British colony) as a refuge to a persecuted Jewish people, but in a place where others already lived. The indigenous Palestinians were bound to be ruffled; their unwelcome guests became the home owners, the home owners became the unwanted guests. After the partitioning (which involved confiscation of land, effectively erasing hundreds of Palestinian towns and communities) and creation of Israel in 1947, by 1949 Israel controlled 78% of Palestine. The new State then excluded or made beholden the folk that originally called Palestine 'home'. By giving Jewish refugees a home the UN effectively created a new set of refugees and a new set of resentments.
And, ok… whilst it does seem obvious that currently Hamas are keen to create a wave of nausea against Israel by parading the bodies of Palestinian woman and children, and seem to be cynically creating those moments by throwing stones at Israel so that they throw rockets back, producing propaganda possibilities etc… Israel is too efficient, too well funded, too indignant…
Having 'the right' doesn't necessarily make things 'right'.
The trouble is that it is such a complicated story (or is presented as such); tangled misinformation, webs of lies FROM BOTH SIDES that sometimes it needs demystifying.
Too many fatalities suggest that these are wounds that will take generations to heal; raw revenge and resentments run deep, fester, last lifetimes… It's apparent that Israel currently has the right to defend its moral high ground; it's their invasive action and the previous actions of the UN that permitted the partitioning, and all that that preceded that… that's what I'm interested in. I want to understand the history of the troubles. It's a fascinating microcosm of human behavior as well as a heartbreaking indictment of the lengths that people will go to, and the depths that they'd stoop to, to create or protect the simplest of human rights: a place to call 'home'.
Maybe it's time for us all to dumb down and get naive… so, excuse me for this but…

- All folk have a right to a place to call home.

- War bad.

- Peace good.

- Let's have peace talks that aren't orchestrated or manipulated by Super Powers.

- Jew kiss Arab.

- Arab kiss Jew.

- Forget.

- Forgive.

- Be kind.

- Be kind.

- Be kind.

I'm reading a book review over on a Seamus Duggan's Vapour Trails blog on 'The Sound of Things Falling' by Juan Gabriel Vásquez. A couple of quotes resonate:

"Then I realized no one wants to hear heroic stories, but everyone likes to be told about someone else's misery… Adulthood brings with it the pernicious illusion of control. Disillusion comes sooner or later, but it always comes, it doesn't miss an appointment, it never has."

"I was also surprised by the alacrity and dedication we devote to the damaging exercise of remembering, which after all brings nothing good and serves only to hinder our normal functioning, like those bags of sand athletes tie around their calves for training."

Might I add my own quote:
"Your head bone's connected to your… heart bone.
Ain't that the word of The Lord?"

And that Lord, in whose name so many horrors and acts of terrorism have been committed and excused, He who seems to make righteous all wrongs, He isn't yours, or mine; He is ours; our creation. He doesn't just forgive our sins; he seems to absolve them. Shame on us all then, I guess…

This post is simplistic, contradictory and ill informed; I know that.
Ironic that the writer of a piece about partitioning is effectively sitting on the fence.
I'm aware that the story didn't start in 1947; my 'virtual' mate Phil Hogarth has taught me that…
At least it gives a solid/simplistic platform to either stand on or kick over…
I need to know, to understand.
Please help me to understand.
I'm all ears...