It should be available RIGHT NOW from all the usual download sites, and there'll be not one but TWO rather lovely VIDEOS to go with it in about a week - i got SO many clips (thanks everybody!) that there's not enough SONG to fit them all into, HENCE doubling up!
EXCITING TIMES all round - and to make it even MORE so, now I'm off to Derby to record me some DINOSAUR SONGS!
Off in the HEAVING rain last night for distant BRIXTON, where I was due to play at the Maps Magazine Christmas Party. It's very EARLY, but that's because it was theoretically a LAUNCH do for their online Advent Calendar, which I'll be contributing to again this year. Last time it was a free download of I Got You What You Want For Christmas (which, by the way, is out TOMORROW as a free download - more showing off to follow in the week!), this time it's something EQUALLY if not MORE Christmassy!
I was due on at 7.35 pm so, ever CAUTIOUS, rolled up just after half past six to find things being set up pre-DOORS. I was KNACKERED, having been out and about pretty much non-stop for the past month and had resolved to try a Gig Night WITHOUT drinking. A CHALLENGE! I realised that a good way to achieve this might be to spend time NOT in a pub, so went to nearby Curry Paradise where i had a VERY nice Veg Balti. It was a bit odd to be sat at THE table in an otherwise take-away establishment, but the tastiness of the experience more than made up for it.
I got back with about fifteen minutes to go before my set and so got stuck into the first of several pints of DIET COKE. It was actually all right - beer in Gig Venues can sometimes be a bit rum and, lovely place tho it is, I've had a couple of Next Morning Tummie after previous evenings at The Windmill, so didn't mind too much. I was thus at full MENTAL CAPACITY when I did THIS:
I THOROUGHLY enjoyed myself I must say. It's a funny old place to play, The Windmill, as when it's not very bust the shape of the pub positively ENCOURAGES people to sit away from the stage. You can still HEAR what's happening wherever you are tho, and vica versa, so I was surprised by LOUD applause at the end of some songs when I thought only five people could hear me.
It felt GOOD tho and I was pleased/AMAZED to find that I remembered ALL the words to ALL the songs, including the three Christmas Songs which, by their very nature, I'd not sung for 11 months - or, in the case of I Got You What You Want For Christmas EVER in The Live Environment. Why, it's almost as if NOT drinking beer has some effect on my memory!
Next up was The White Witches, featuring David From The Royal Family. "That's David from The Royal Family, he met The Food On My Plate once, at an exhibition" I thought, while they were on. Later on he would come over and say "Hello Mark - I met your girlfriend once at an exhibition!" Obviously it was a very memorable meeting for all concerned!
After that it was time for The Maps Christmas Band, featuring an "all star" version of "Do They Know It's Christmas" which seems to be becoming a bit of a TRADITION at these sort of events. Possibly because it is SO VERY GRATE. Last year I was BONO at the Pop Art Christmas show, this time I was GEORGE MICHAEL and MY GOODNESS ME but I LOVED it - even without beer The Spirit Of Christmas was with me as I did my verse, it was BRILL!
I'd been talking to a few different people after my set, including a chap with glasses who was playing later and had ALSO planned to do "Winter Wonderland" as his Christmas song and a lady who'd come to see me (thank you!) and the act AFTER the house band, Pagan Wanderer Lu. Now, I've never seen Pagan Wanderer Lu but have been seeing the name on posters for AGES usually playing the day before or after me. I imagined him/her/them to be a small country-ish band with a long haired female singer, so I was PEERING at girls to try and work out who it might be (that's my story and I'm sticking to it). Pagan Wanderer Lu were due to sing the next line after mine in the song tho, so I was BOUND to find out - and imagine my surprise when it turned out to be the chap with glasses I'd been speaking to earlier!
I've listened to some of his stuff online today and I'm MOST disappointed to have missed his set, it was dead good, but LO! I had to get home at a reasonable time so had to set off into the night, striding as fast as I could in the POURING rain with buses all apparently trying to SPLASH as many people as possible as they went by. It felt VERY Christmassy!
After work on Friday i HIKED across Old London Town to Clerkenwell, where I was due to do some DISC JOCKEYING at Scared To Dance, in The Slaughtered Lamb pub. I'd read a bit about the pub before setting off and was slightly NERVOUS - all the reviews said it was slightly nasty with arsey bar staff and Trendy Clientele. The people who review PUBS online tend to be a bit GRUMPY, especially when faced with a BAR, but they did seem to have a point when I arrived as it was RAMMED with people Being A Bit Fashionable with THUMPINGLY LOUD music playing.
I SQUEEZED through the throng to find the stairs downstairs to the room the DISCO was in... where everything was MUCH more relaxed. Here I found Tom and Paul setting things up ready, cunningly playing KRAFTWERK while nobody was there in order to minimise changeover times. There was a bar with a perfectly pleasant person serving, which was a RELIEF as I didn't really want to face the SCRUM upstairs, and I was pleased to see that they were following the previously noted trend to supply A Bottled Ale for the more... MATURE gentleman who might occasionally stray into such places. They also followed the trend of charging A LOT for the pleasure, but I couldn't really complain in the circumstances.
A very very pleasant couple of hours followed during which i chatted to the organisers and then discovered that I was finally FORMALLY INTRODUCED to a chap called Ian, who I've met and spoken to on many occasions but whose name I didn't know. He's a really nice chap too, there should be more FORMAL INTRODUCTIONS made!
Following lengthy discussion of some of the many many many gigs we'd both been to it was time for ME to hit the DECKS... and this is what I played:
Art Brut - Good Weekend
Madness - My Girl
Elvis Presley - Tutti Frutti
The Beatles - Bad Boy
Oasis - Supersonic
Kenickie - Punka
Charlotte Hatherley - Bastardo
Huggy Bear - Her Jazz
Billy Bragg - Greetings To The New Brunette
The Smiths - This Charming Man
David Bowie - Queen Bitch
Stevie Wonder - For Once In My Life
Carole King - I Feel The Earth Move
Neil Diamond - Cracklin' Rosie
The Lemonheads - Rockin Stroll
Paul McCartney & Wings - Jet
DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince - Boom! Shake the Room
Camera Obscura - French Navy
Daphne & Celeste - Ooh Stick You
Some might call it "eclectic"... some might call it DESPERATE, for LO! about halfway through I started THINKING LIKE A DJ. The room had gradually filled up and I became OBSESSED with getting people dancing - I'd had a request for "Greetings To The New Brunette" and when that failed to get anyone up and about I thought "OK then. It is time to Drop The Bomb, as we Disc Jockeys say". Hence: THE SMITHS.
I'm pretty sure there has NEVER been an Indie Disco where people have failed to dance to The Smiths, and this was no exception. HOORAY! But what on earth was I going to do now? I'd burnt myself 8 CDs of songs, choosing Songs I Would Definitely Get Up And Dance To If I Heard Them At A Disco. HOWEVER in doing so I had been BIASED in my analysis, expecting this to be a Very Indie Crowd i.e. the sort of people who'd go to Indietracks. It WASN'T - it was the sort of people who like Vampire Weekend, in fact, as I found out when SEVERAL people came up and asked for it. They seemed AGHAST that I didn't have any, which was an Interesting Lesson For The Future for me. The only time I go disco dancing these days is when it's attached to a) a gig b) a wedding, so I'd no idea what goes on at ACTUAL disco nights, but clearly Vampire Weekend are CLEANING UP there.
But anyway, i thought LOGICALLY and went for Old Stuff Everyone Definitely Knows and REASONED that Slighty Kitsch would work well, HENCE the little run of SUCCESFUL DANCEFLOOR FILLERS that ended suddenly, and much to my surprise, when I put The Lemonheads on. The Lemonheads! Everyone loves The Lemonheads don't they?
There was no more dancing and soon my hour was up - Paul came on and, much to my GALL, IMMEDIATELY got pretty much the whole room jigging about with his DJ SKILLZ, leaving me to finish my beer and, suddenly seeing how LATE it was, get together with my coat and FLY off home.
I really enjoyed it, I must say, and it was GRATE getting people dancing, but it was also INTERESTING and SOBERING to be reminded that, actually, there's a bit more to being a DJ than meets the eye.
Only a LITTLE bit, mind you, but a bit none the less!
If things suddenly go quiet on here over the next week, don't worry - i shall just have COLLOPSED and DIED of WHAMMAZAM, for LO! It really really is ALL GO just at the moment.
And for once it's not ALL about The ROCK, WORK is busy too - indeed, yesterday afternoon I was relaxing over a Late Lunch, having done Something Quite Clever when the phone rang to remind me of a MEETING I was supposed to be in. I RAN round the corner and did an hour of so of More Quite Clever Things before my phone went AGANE to remind me of ANOTHER meeting I was supposed to be having.
All right, this was for a rather more DELIGHTFUL meeting with my friend and erstwhile ROCK colleague Mr C Lawson, but still, there was a LOT of running between meetings. We had a LOVELY couple of hours in the ALWAYS pleasant pub The Museum Tavern (it's directly opposite The British Museum so you'd expect it to be horrible and touristy, but it's actually dead food - last night there were SIX Guest Beers on, including one from WISBECH!) before it was time to dash off once again - he back to Leicester, me off to CROYDON.
I was due to COMPERE at Freedom Of Expression as Mr T Eveleigh, the usual host, was celebrating his 40th Birthday by PLAYING for a change. I really really wanted to get there early but EVENTS conspired - you know when you go on a journey with multiple trains/tubes/buses and everything just WORKS? When your connection pulls in at the opposite platform JUST as you alight and you never actually stop moving? It WASN'T like that - I had to wait 7 minutes for EACH tube journey, the corridors were long and CRAMPED, and London Bridge Station put up a DARN GOOD FIGHT to be recognised as Most Unpleasant Railway Station (Southern England) by having ticket machines HIDDEN and FAR AWAY, grotty platforms, confusing signs and screens and, in a title winning display of FLAIR, always having a HINT OF VIOLENCE not far away.
I thus FINALLY got to Croydon LATE and struggled MANFULLY through a HOWLING GALE to get to The Green Dragon, where I nearly FELL OVER. I felt AWFUL when I did get in as Tim had gone round and sorted out all the Open Mic slot people, one of the BIG JOBS that I was supposed to be doing, and I felt a bit of a LOUSE for leaving him to sort it out on his BIRTHDAY.
Looking at said list i was a bit worried by the amount of people DOING the Open Mic - there were SEVEN of them, and Tim said that everybody'd be doing THREE songs. I've BEEN to lots of Open Mic nights and I know that that usually means everybody will do their LONGEST three songs, but this wasn't the case this time - INDEED it all rather flew by. I even enjoyed doing the compereing bit - usually i don't like it AT ALL, but I think the key this time was that I was JUST hosting, not doing any songs in between or anything so it was just a case of coming on, saying "Give A Big Hand for (X)! Next we have (Y), but could (Z) get ready as they're after them. Now, here's (Y)!!!" and then dashing off again. PEASY.
My favourite bit tho was introducing TIM in the second half, when he was doing his full set, as it mean i got to ask HIM the traditional Three Questions - Do you have a website? Do you have a CD to sell? Do you have a Fascinating Fact about yourself to tell everyone? AMAZINGLY his Fascinating Fact was that it was his BIRTHDAY, which i think everyone had guessed from all the SAYING it, the SINGING of "Happy Birthday" (twice) and the CAKE which Jenny bought, and it was all the LOVELIER because of it.
His set was FAB too - he can really sing, can Tim, and he was AUGMENTED by BASS this time around, good BOINGY bass too, the kind i like MOST. After him was a chap called Mississipi McDonald - when he came on I must admit I thought "HMM! An young English bloke doing The Blues? I am SUSPICIOUS!" but he was DEAD good, especially the guitar playing, and it made me think how AMAZING it is that these songs, made up by someone to get them through the working day, which just so happened to be recorded one evening, could still be being sung a hundred years later and thousands of miles away by someone with a life so utterly different.
We discussed this a bit on the way home, as once I'd HUGGED my goodbyes, ran to the station and HOPPED on a train I found myself sat with the aforesaid Mississipe McDonald, who turned out to be a really nice chap with THORTFUL THORTS on the above. Our journey back (to Victoria this time) was a relaxing way to end a very NOT relaxing day, a day of ZOOMING ABOUT!
I emerged from the train at Derby last night full of EXPECTATION and EXCITEMENT - not only were we due to continue work on some songs for Dinosaur Planet, I was going to get have a CHIPPY TEA!
Imagine my shock and disappointment, then, when I came out of the station to find that the chip shop was CLOSED! DOOM! A lesser ARTISTE would, I am sure, have STORMED back to the platforms and got on the train back to London but I, BRAVELY, had a BAGUETTE (a new "mexican" one which was actually quite nice - SANDWICH REVIEWS!) and then went and consoled myself with a DELICOUS pint in The Brunswick. I was soon joined by Mr F A Machine and his wife MRS J Machine, who gave us a link to the practice rooms.
Here we were joined by Mr T Pattison, hot foot from Farnborough, then Mrs E Pattison and Mr T "The Tiger" McClure and, once the latter two had finished their chips (yes, THEIR CHIPS) we settled in for a GRATE practice.
Things were helped along, I think, by us ALL sitting down. I almost always stand up for practices and there's usually one or two others doing the same, for ROCKING OUT purposes, but last night we all sat down (in my case so i could more easily see THE WORDS) and it not only made things more RELAXED, but also allowed us to more easily debate what we were doing.
Not that there was much discussion required for our first song, Here Come The Dinosaurs which all came together VERY easily. The Pattisons had bought their camera with them to record sound AND vision for posterity - mostly so that we wouldn't forget everything before we record it next week, but ALSO for future CD-R extras - and so there was LARKING ABOUT waving at the camera. If we do ever use it for anything I think we'll probably have to re-record the song, as everything was A BIT LOUD for its tiny microphone, but if we ever need to know how we're supposed to LOOK while recording the music it will be INVALUABLE.
After a brief skip through that song's REPRISE, We Are The Dinosaurs we moved on to a song which I don't think The Validators had ever heard before, Please Don't Eat Us. I'd given them a copy of the bootleg of the show (which is available on the extras for My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once, if you fancy a listen) but this song isn't on there. I'd written it to replace It Isn't Nice To Eat Your Friends, which I'd always quite liked but which had DIED ON ITS ARSE every single time I ever played it. The new song was initially greeted with some suspicion as it seemed everyone had quite liked its predecessor, but these worries were soon forgotten as it came out GRATE. We were ROCKING along with it - there's a bit in the chorus where (STAND BY FOR MUSICAL AWESOMENESS) the timing CHANGES SLIGHTLY (i TOLD you!) and once we'd got it worked out it sounded BRILLIANT. We played this one SEVERAL times, so that it now features not only a VIOLIN SOLO (something which we do surprisingly rarely) but also MASSED RANKS OF WRENS, not heard from since One Last Party nearly seven years ago.
As I say, the fact that we were sitting down made the THORT PROCESSES flow much more naturally, and these came into play again for the next song, The Battle Of Peterborough. GOSH-A-MIGHTY but this one sounded good - the verses are SORT OF (KIND OF) [A BIT] in what I think of as a MEXICAN rhythm (NB note "what I think of") which is something I don't think we've ever done before. It goes DANG DA DANG DANG, DA DA DA anyway, but then smooths out when you get to the choruses. It sounds LUSH - one of the really nice things about recording these songs is that it's MEANT to be a bit outside what we'd usually play, and we all feel a bit FREER to experiment a bit with the kind of sounds that we usually might feel a bit DAFT playing.
This was NONE MORE TRUE than for our final song, Dinosaurs Talk Like Pirates. If you've seen the show you'll know that this is, at best, a bit of FRIPPERY used ALMOST ENTIRELY as an excuse for a) two Dad Jokes b) DINOSAUR DANCING, but in the hands of The Validators it came out as a MONSTER of a tune. The main song went through several minor changes until it was HONED to perfection but LUMME, the final HORNPIPE section was subject to some of the most INTENSE THORT we've ever applied to a song, and the end results... well, I'll tell you this, if anyone ever needs a CELIDH BAND (who can only play one specific song, for about two minutes) then let us know, for WE ARE THERE!
Pleased with our progress we had a semi-skirt through "Strangely Attractive", mostly to prove that i HAD, as promised, written a LOVE THEME. I'd originally planned to record it solo, but when everyone LIGHTLY joined in it sounded LOVELY, so if there's time next week we might do THAT one as well. We then went back over EVERYTHING we'd done already, with Emma TAPING proceedings, this time on her mobile phone (we are SO MODERN) before it was time for an early packing up and then a SWIFT PINT. EXCELLENT!
It was all rather exciting - the PLAN is to go into the studio next Monday to record bass and drums for what we'd learnt last night. If I can find a free weekend day I'm then going to go back up next month to do proper vocals and guitars for them all, and then in January we can start OVERDUBBING in EARNEST. My DREAM is to have, by February, all songs BEGUN and some maybe even FINISHED so that we can then record the VOICE ACTING (with Exciting Special Celebrity Guests - oh yes!) and maybe - JUST MAYBE - be ready by May to start putting it all together.
Yes, I know, I ALWAYS think our albums are going to take about 25% as long to record as they actually DO, but a man can DREAM can't he? And when these dreams involve a ROCK OPERA about DINOSAURS and ROBOTS, who wouldn't want to join in?
It seems impossible - it surely IS impossible - but TEN YEARS AGO we released the first Frankie Machine EP. It was DECADE ago that we looked upon it's bright orange loveliness - i can scarce believe it!
Off to Herne Hill last night, an area of London I'd not been to before, so I looked at the railway station on Google Street View to work my way out to the station. This is a DEAD GOOD bit of living in The Future, although it has to be said that Street View CAN be a little misleading. It told me Herne Hill was a sunny place full of people BREEZING around nonchalantly, but actually it was dark, rainy, and RAMMED with junkies begging and Very Very Nervous Lady Drivers. Honestly, everywhere I looked there were LOADS of them - Slightly Posh Ladies in HUGE cars shunting onto pedestrian crossings, screeching to halts, and doing U-Turns in busy streets. Maybe they'd just come out of a MEETING and were SCARED?
Anyway, I got to The Half Moon which as a dead nice, PROPER, Gig Pub. Instead of an A5 listings flyer there was a free FANZINE, The Stool Pigeon was available and the back room LOOKED like the sort of place where they did lots of gigs but weren't trying to show off about it - you know how some venues go "This is a VENUE! We are keeping MUSIC ALIVE! We do MOSHING and EVERYTHING!" like they've read about it in a Sunday Supplement? NOT like that, like a PROPER gig pub.
There was even a hairy soundman, who I had a chat with - he'd just got back from going on tour in Germany with Sad Day For Puppets. "Oh, me too" i said. "We played The Bang Bang Club." "So did we!" he said. EVERYBODY, it seems, plays The Bang Bang Club.
I set my guitar up but didn't do a linecheck - it seemed to be working and everybody was busy setting up - so just LURKED AROUND a bit, briefly speaking to a huge Rasta guy who introduced himself as General ... something. I could only understand about half of what he was saying, but that was fine as he could only understand about a quarter of my FENLAND BURR. In the end we worked out that he was looking for Texas Bob, and that I didn't know who he was.
I was due on at 8pm but Marcio (a lovely chap - we had our picture taken together later because apparently his brother is my "biggest fan in Brazil"! COOL!) said to wait a bit for some more people, so it was at quarter past that I went on and did THIS:
I REALLY enjoyed myself - to be honest I was in a slight grump, largely due to missing The Vlads (this ALWAYS happens at my first solo gig after a tour), but I got RIGHT into it, helped along by the sound being GRATE. The Gay Train is NOT the best song to start with when you need a linecheck (no guitar at ALL to start with then varying volumes throughout) but the sound guy (who was a totally different one to the one I'd spoken to earlier, for some reason) got it sorted out easily and, from my end at least, it felt BRILLIANT. HOORAH!
I changed my shirt and went for a wee, and whilst in there a young Spanish gentleman came in (stop it) and said "You have a great voice." "No I don't", i thought, but said "Thank you!" His band were on next and sounded, as Mr N Grunshaw later pointed, a LOT like Orange Juice. His assessment is better than mine - I thought it was like a Spanish Guitar Group (like you see busking) doing Los Libertines, but with VIM and EXCITEMENT. It was all so ENTHUSIASTIC and JUMPING ABOUT and CONFIDENT and also STRANGE - WHY were these super Spanish Guitarists trying to be ... well, INDIE?
There was more Indie to follow, with the lovely Kabeedies who I've played with, and enjoyed watching, before. Again tho it seemed a bit strange - in my head I still expect The Indie Bands to be a bit shambolic, a bit ramshackle and unsure, but they were EFFICIENT and TIGHT and HONED, with proper DANCE MOVES. It was all very good and exciting and the many PALS they had brought with them really enjoyed it - there were loads of them down the front singing along and DANCING!
It did, however, make me think how much i miss seeing old-fashioned indie bands - it used to be that it was the funk bands, the rock bands, the Local Bands With A Coachload Of Friends who'd be COMPETENT and CHOREOGRAPHED and full of confidence, while the indie bands were people who were a bit hopeless but did it because they ABSOLUTELY HAD TO. Now everybody seems to be doing it properly!
Well, nearly everybody, for LO! Next came The Television Personalities. Whilst in Germany I'd heard all sorts of reports about what it'd be like, with claims that they'd start songs halfway through and finish them in the middle of verses, and that is INDEED what happened. Mr Treacy came on, shouted "We're all going to die, let's get on with it!" and launched into a wobbly version of "The Kids Are All Right" - tho it took a little while for the audience to realise it. The band hadn't finished getting set up and they DASHED to plug things in, joining in three quarters of the way through. It sort of went on like that - a song would suddenly finish and Mr Treacy would start playing something else. The band would work out what it was, where in the song he'd begun, and LEAP straight in. They were AMAZING - they've obviously played like this before and it was incredible to watch.
The gig itself, however, made me feel a bit uneasy - he seemed very fragile and a bit unwell and though, as I say, the band sounded GRATE it didn't seem entirely right to me, and so after half an hour I cleared off to get my train home. Apparently after I left the aforesaid General (who, it now appears, is Best Pals with Mr P Doherty) got up and - possibly unasked - did some TOASTING over one of the songs!
I went to get my train, found I'd just missed it, so went back to the venue for a pre-train WEE. On the way back into the pub I upset some Spanish Teenagers who'd arranged loads of empty Pint Glasses... on the floor, in the dark, in front of the entrance. They seemed AGHAST that I hadn't seen and kicked one over! A bit perplexed I next went in search of a FLAPJACK, and eventually found a deserted supermarket - ENTIRELY deserted. I walked up and down the aisles looking for members of staff, called out several times, but all to no avail, so wandered out again. WEIRD.
It was ll, in fact, VERY STRANGE INDEED! It felt a BIT like when I used to play the multi-band gigs at The Bull & Gate where you'd get a huge variety of different sorts of acts, but never as VARIED as this night had been. I got home PERPLEXED!
Our final gig was meant to be a SOLO GIG by me at Kim's Bar, which had been making me feel uncomfortable. The night before in Dresden I'd got into full-on TOUR MODE, leaving notes to myself throughout the set thinking "Hmm, tomorrow night we should make this one a bit faster" or "I'll get Frankie to join in with that bit" (YES i am nothing if not a CONSUMATE SHOWMAN) before realising, glumly, that I'd be all on my own.
On the way back to Berlin Martin had turned round to the others in the back and asked "So, are you sad not to be playing tonight?" and to my delight and slight surprise they both said "YEAH!" Beautifully Martin set to RECTIFYING the situation, and we got to Kim's on Saturday to find a mini DRUM KIT and a tiny AMP waiting for us! We were in ROCKING BUSINESS!
We did some re-arranging, had a quick soundcheck, and got going on the tradiotional German Delicacy, FREE BEER, while we entered into a "debate" about the setlist. Pretty much the ONLY time we EVER have a Big Row in The Validators is about setlists - there were nearly TEARS in Dresden about it - but we managed to work it out fairly easily this time, with me due to do eight songs and then us all doing eight. I ended up dropping quite a few though, as a) my voice was going and b) there was another DO due to start at about eleven o'clock. As it was that didn't seem to matter, but still, THIS is what we did:
The first five songs were done on my own and, in all honesty, I didn't really enjoy it that much. As I say, my voice was really going and my normal 6 note range was reduced to TWO. There were a couple of people stood right in front of me who seemed (to my PARANOID BRANE at least) to be SCOFFING at me and, most of all, I'd gotten used to playing in a BAND!
Things therefore picked up hugely in the second section, when Frankie and Tim came on, the people scoffing left, and OTHER people came to the fore to DANCE and, once again, SING ALONG. It was LOVELY!
We packed up and returned to the BEER - Tim was official Beer Monitor so it was his job to say "DREI BEER!" and, whenever a new member of bar staff appeared, to reassure them "No, we don't have to pay for beer." We wondered if we could get away with this GLOBALLY? We fell into discussion of many diverse subjects at this time (I don't think i've EVER laughed as much as at Frankie's suggestion that the BIG HIT for Tim's school band had been "Don't Drop Litter In The Playground (it just isn't on)". I am LARFING about it now, tho perhaps you just had to be there?
Our main topic of conversation, however, was just what a FANTASTIC time we'd had. My dears, things got a bit EMOTIONAL, there was HUGGING. There was also MUCH more beer drank until we decided, SENSIBLY, at about 1am to say our goodbyes and go, for we had planes to catch and, more urgently, an APPOINTMENT to keep.
We thanked Matti, who ran the bar and had spread the WORD all those years ago, and GRAPPLED Martin in many MANY hugs of thanks. I still can't quite understand why he did it - it was SUCH a lovely thing of him to do, to book us the gigs, organise the gear, and then drive us ALL the way to Dresden and back. SIR! If you read this: thank you VERY VERY VERY much indeed, you made three gentlemen EXTREMELY happy!
So yes, we had an appointment: with a KEBABERY! On the way down we'd passed Maximillian's kebab house. Maximillian HIMSELF had seen us and WAVED, which meant that our intent to go back their after the gig (Frankie and i had had to PROMISE Tim that we would go, sit down and have a BEER) was SEALED. So that's what we did - they had kebabs, I had falafel, we all got Complimentary Cheese Straws (apparently we don't have to pay for THOSE either) and we toasted our IMMENSE JOY with BEERS!
Back at the flat we forced down a final beer to try and finish the holiday shopping, and then went to bed. The next morning it was three very tired, but very very very happy chappies who got up and got the tube to Alexanderplatz. We said our farewells in the station (just outside the toilets, for some reason) and went our seperate ways. I had a long, very tired, rather lonely journey back home - it had been an absolutely bloody fantastic weekend. I wouldn't want to do it EVERY weekend (now seven days later I am STILL knackered) but good LORD - if there's something that can BEAT travelling around with such GRATE people playing songs and drinking free beer for sheer GOODTIME ROCK AND ROLL FUN, I would very much like to know about it!
The German Tour: part six - more sightseeing, more spinach
We awoke in Dresden, as promised, to the sound of DRUMMING. Now, nobody takes MORE delight in the sound of drum soundchecks than me, and even i TIRE of it after 0.2 picoseconds, but I do quite enjoy the fact that it is the same WHEREVER you go and WHATEVER kind of drumming you hear. This was a PUNK drummer but he STILL ran through the repertoire of Drum Patterns, it's like listening to a drum machine firing up. You KNOW he's never EVER going to need "The Baggy Beat" or "Jazz 1" or "The Introduction To Live Forever", he's JUST going to being playing "Ska 3" all day, but he's LEARNED them and he's going to PLAY them!
After discussing this we roused ourselves from slumber and went about our ABLUTIONS. I've tried not to mention this too much, even though it was a LARGE part of our trip, but in Germany the lavatories are somewhat different to in the UK. They have an "inspection shelf". I'm all for this, I like to know how I'm feeling, day by day, and according to the Inspection Shelf I was in RUDE HEALTH. MASSIVELY so. Imagine my horror, then, when I realised that the toilet (which, as stated previously) was the Pub Toilet, wasn't WORKING. HORRIFIC FUTURES flashed through my mind of us being pursued by an ENRAGED MOB and banned from Bavaria FOREVER. Perhaps I could just burn the pub down? Eventually I MANFULLY wrestled with the stop cock (now then!) and fixed it, but the matches were a pretty close second option.
We packed up, idiot checked, and set off into town. Before leaving I'd promised The Fruit In My Fruitcake that I'd bring back some LEBKUCHEN (German biscuits, a bit like Jaffa Cakes but nicer) and STOLLEN (heavy heavy Christmas Cake) and was becoming a bit OBSESSED with finding them, as I'd not seen any yet. We popped over the road to a bakery/cafe to get a coffee and you could hardly MOVE for Stollen! PHEW!
With Coffee on the go we strolled through Dresden, which is a lovely place. It was massively bombed during the war, despite the fact it had no strategic military importance, and has since become twinned with Coventry, which suffered the same fate. It's all rather lovely and touching that two cities which were WIPED OUT so horrendously by each other's sides were able to join together in the spirit of reconciliation, and every now and then you see symbols of this in the city.
I knew all about this before we went, so was expecting Dresden to LOOK like Coventry. GOODNESS ME NO. With all the good will, tact and diplomacy on earth I don't think ANYBODY would say that Coventry is a beautiful city. Or even nice. Or indeed not bloody horrible to look at. Dresden, however, is GORGEOUS. Where the burghers of Coventry decided to rebuild completely from scratch, using a selection of MONSTROSITIES, HIDEOUS PLANNING, and CONCRETE, in Dresden they've painstakingly rebuilt the entire Old Town. It looks amazing - in all the buildings you can see which bits are from the old buildings and which bits are new (in the new rebuildings at least) just by the colour of the stones, and it makes you aware of what an incredible feat it was just to do, and also how worthwhile it was when the end result is such a beautiful city.
We left the Old Town suitably AWED and headed into the student area, via a Christmas Shop where I bought some Stollen, to get some breakfast... which by now had become Lunch. Despite protestations that Germans HONESTLY don't eat SPINACH there seemed to be an awful lot of it on my plate, I reckon they must LOVE it. I also had some Emmenthal and Gherkins, which - call me a philistine if you will - gave me a huge RUSH of taste memory. "The day the McDonalds opened in Peterborough!" my brain SANG to me!
Duly fed and watered (SHOCKINGLY neither Frankie NOR Tim chose to have a beer for lunch - we'll get drummed out of the Touring Band Union if they're not careful!) we wandered back to the car and headed homewards. The return journey was SIGNIFICANTLY less eventful than the outward journey, and we got home just in time to settle in to watch the FOOTBALL...
... which was BORING so we went to the SHOP instead. My fears that I might get home without Lebkuchen were very quickly laid to bed, and Tim and Frankie bought pretty much the entire product range of HARIBO to take home with them too. There is, i think, a SONG to be written about trips to The Holiday Supermarket, where normal shopping items are dispensed with and BEER and SWEETS take over, but this was not the time to write it for LO! We had one last appointment with ROCK!
Safe at last in Dresden we unloaded the car and strode into the venue, Ostpol. Inside was LOVELY - they'd just redecorated but it looked like it was unchanged since the early 1970s. This was, apparently, because they'd taken all the decor FROM houses last decorated in the early 1970s. It looked very nice anyway, and we spent several minutes saying "ooh, we used to have those curtains."
We slipped into the back room which had also recently been re-done (previously bands had played in the main pub), this time to look like a Church Hall. We set up, whilst drinking EVEN MORE of the Free Beer which Germany appeared to be FULL of, soundchecked, and then stepped off stage ready to go and look at The Artists Apartment which we'd heard so much about. I was WAYLAID briefly by a young man called Sven who was ANOTHER person who'd had Matti's tape ages ago, and who was busily requesting "Post Jazz Prog-Rock Virgin." It was all very odd. That wasn't his first choice, however - what he REALLY wanted to hear was Family Wedding 2021, which I don't think I've played for about 10 years. I apologised profusely for the fact that I wouldn't be able to play it, as I didn't know the words, but he was so insistent that it was his favourite song that we ended up singing a DUET of it, with him starting each line and me saying "AHA! Of course!" and finishing it off. There is FILM of this occurring which will be part of the DOCUMENTARY we started talking about later that night... as you do.
While all this was going on I noticed Frankie and Tim EDGING towards the door. I KNEW what they were up to, they were trying to sneak off to the apartment to BAGSIE beds, DESPITE our agreement that, as I was on the foldout sofa in Berlin, i'd get first choice in Dresden! The rotters!
On the way there we'd been asking about The Apartment - Martin hadn't seen it as it'd been part of the refurbishments, but he assured us it was "new". I pictured something like the IBIS, but that wasn't quite accurate. I went upstairs to find what looked like, and WAS, a set of rehearsal rooms. Rehearsal rooms ALWAYS look the same, and there was the usual smell of surreptitious smoking, beer and SWEAT as well as piles of half broken amps and beer cans. We went into a room which looked like a rehearsal room but with the drum kit taken out, and a couple of chairs put in its place. This, apparently, was The Apartment.
How could this be? It was a really small room - maybe it was just the lobby? There were a couple of doors, both of which led to cupboards, one of which contained an unassembled, unplumbed shower unit tho little else. What was going on? Where were we sleeping?
Then we noticed a step ladder, looked up, and realised there was a second "floor" that had been put in. We went up the ladder and saw three mattresses - one double, two single - which filled the entire MEZZANINE, apart from a GAPING HOLE in one end. THIS was the Artists Apartment!
We decided the best bet was to get drunk. Luckily this was easy, as the Free Beer continued to flow! We also got FED - a strange sort of BROTH which came in two flavours, Normal (spinach, potato, spinach, carrot, spinach and sausage) and Vegan (no sausage). It was quite nice, especially with bread to dip into it (they also provided three different sorts of Worcester Sauce, i don't know why) but a group of girls sat on the next table seemed to find it HILARIOUS. They kept pointing and laughing at the bowls in front of us until, once Frankie had asked what was going on, they admitted that they were amused to think we'd believe this was German food.
They protested, but it's worth noting that, once Martin had sat down and WOLFED down his share, we gave the rest to them and they ate THE LOT. Germans, they LOVE Spinach!
Over the next couple of hours the room got fuller and fuller - LOADS of people turned up, although we weren't sure how many would be coming from the pub into the gig room. We were quite SANGUINE about it - there was plenty of Free Beer to see to this and we'd begun to slip into TOUR MOOD anyway, so it was getting on for eleven o'clock when we FINALLY took to the stage and did THIS:
It was GRATE! Martin had told us on the way that the people of Dresden were DEAD enthusiastic and CRIKEY he wasn't wrong - there was DANCING! there was JOINING IN! there was even MORE of the KNOWING THE WORDS! It was a strange experience - i find it hard to believe at the best of times that people would know all the words to our songs, let alone in GERMANY. As with the night before I was conscious THROUGHOUT just how PAROCHIAL some of my subject matter is. I always think I'm writing about what i know, and what matters to me, but when I'm singing outside the UK (well, outside ENGLAND really) I become painfully aware of how LOCAL some of the references are.
Still, everyone seemed to DIG it and we had a FAB time - even my many and various REMARKS seemed to go over well, and the three of us sounded (NB to me anyway) like a TIGHT ROCKING OUTFIT. At the end Tim even threw his TOWEL into the crowd! Somebody picked it up and put it back on the stage for him, but still, it's the ROCK GESTURE that counts.
Afterwards there was more MINGLING and BEER before we settled in for the evening. We'd wondered where the toilets for The Apartment were and had been told there WERE none - once "the party" had ended ("the party" seems to mean "the opening hours" in Germany) they'd give us the keys to the whole pub, so we could get downstairs from the rehearsal rooms to have a wee. We also discovered at this point that a hardcore punk band were coming in to do some recording next day in the room next to ours. The drummer was arriving at 9am!
Anyway, we reckoned it'd all be over by 2am, 3am once all the stragglers were sorted, and it was suggested that, as we had the keys, we could probably sleep on the sofas in the pub itself. Sorted! Drink?
We got chatting to a few people, including one girl who said "I've always wondered what Martin Petersdorf looked like, I've listened to his radio shows for years". We realised at this point that Martin wasn't just a really nice bloke who'd decided to book us some gigs, he was actually a sort of East German Steve Lamacq who'd had various shows for nearly 20 years! AHA! THAT'S why his name was on all the posters as Special Guest DJ then!
We had a DELIGHTFUL time, including a Wonderful Announcement (details to follow another time) and LO! there was much hugging and laughter and MORE FREE BEER. This was all around half past three, at which point we slowly began to give up hope of sleeping downstairs. At last, at 4.45am with the pub emptying but nowhere NEAR empty, we decided to go to bed.
Or, rather, go to THE bed. Martin, quite reasonably, decided to set up a duvet and some cushions on the Lower Level on the apartment, so that it was me, Frankie and Tim who clambered up the wooden steps to our SINGLE BUNK BED and snuggled up together... i mean, lay down making HUMOROUS REMARKS about the Life On The Road Situation. "It's nearly 5am" said Tim, so we waited as he counted down to our ROCK BEDTIME - we're not too old YET to want to say "We didn't go to sleep unto FIVE O'CLOCK!!". The hour passed and within 10 seconds we were snoring.
An hour or so later either Frankie woke me or I woke him by getting up. We both needed the loo so decided to set off together, for SAFETY. Downstairs we found two bloked - one of whom was probably the proprietor - sat at the bar, rather surprised to find two men strolling by in their PANTS. "Ah! Piss, Ja?" said one of them. "JA!" we replied, as we went towards our business.
Three hours later we were woken by the THUMP THUMP CRASH, THUMP THUMP CRASH that is the International Sound Of Drums Being Soundchecked. None of us had fallen down the massive hole at the end of the bed, and another day had dawned. A day ON THE ROAD.
The German Tour: part four - fahr'n fahr'n fahr'n auf der Autobahn
As we got into the car with Martin we were delighted to find he'd left a BEER on each of our seats! What a nice chap - we'd bought one of our six packs of ALDI BEER with us, but this was MUCH nicer.
Off we set for The Road, with the journey through Berlin becoming a bit of a GUIDED TOUR - Martin, it turned out, is a born and bred EAST Berliner who'd basically lived there all his life, including when the wall had come down. It was FASCINATING to hear him tell us all about it, especially coming from the Actual East Berlin viewpoint that, for some reason, we don't seem to hear very often. Everyone always says how much better things are since the city was reunited, but it was interesting to hear about some of the changes that HADN'T been for the best, and to find out how it was for the ordinary person actually living there. We were AGOG!
Tim FLEW by and after a couple of hours travelling we were about 50km from Dresden and well on schedule. All was going well... until Martin said "Shit! That police car in front is flagging us down!"
HOLY CRAPOLA. We'd all heard stories of Bands On The Road being BUSTED by THE COPS, and we PANICKED - it wasn't as if we'd got any DRUGS on us, and we were all a LONG LONG WAY from under-age, but we DID have lots of beer in the car. INDEED Martin had also had a sip or two from a bottle, which he handed to me in the general PANIC. I thought "If I'm sat here with two bottles, one of which has been EMPTIED [by me] then that Don't Look Good" so NECKED it. Martin meanwhile was demanding CRISPS. He WOLFED them down - none of us were sure why. He'd not hardly had ANY beer, but surely any he HAD had wouldn't be compensated for by CRISPS?
We followed the police car onto the car park of a service station. The police who emerged from the car could not have been BETTER for storytelling purposes - one was a big jolly moustachioed Doughtnut Fancying Good Cop who started smoking and joking almost straightaway, the other was a crop headed blonde STERN-FACED Bad Cop who looked like the STASI BADDY in a very cheap Spy Film.
He shone his torch round the car saying "PAPERS! PASSPORT!" MORE PANIC - me and Frankie had left our passports in Berlin, not thinking we'd ever need them, and we shook our heads saying "No! Berlin! Berlin!" while Tim produced his papers and was horrified to see them disappear with the police and Martin to the police car.
Next followed about half an hour of waiting around, which we later learned was all because our car had been reported to the police by a lorry drive for DRIVING TOO SLOWLY. That's DRIVING TOO SLOWLY. The speed limit is 130km/hr and we'd been doing about 100, which is "as fast as it is safe to drive" Martin later insisted in an EERIE ECHO of my MUM'S steadfast opinion, but the lorry driver didn't like it so here we were.
They had to breathalyse Martin but the BATTERIES had died in the machine. Good Cop said "He's clearly fine, let's let him go" (we got the FULL REPORT later, we were in the car being SCARED for most of it) but Bad Cop INSISTED, not least because he'd already radioed ahead to get another car to bring some batteries. He then STORMED OFF into the service station to buy some batteries with his Police Credit Card... which didn't work in their machine. There then followed a Slightly Camp Argument between the police about who should pay their own money for replacements, before Bad Cop lost and went and got some MORE.
Needless to say it all turned out well - Martin barely registered on the breathalyser, we got all our papers back, and he was told to a) get some coffee to speed HIM up and b) to always drive as fast as legally possible! - but it was FRIGHTENING for a while. It always seems so JOLLY when it happens in films, but it was much less so in real life!
The rest of the drive was done at high speed and we arrived at Ostpol for the night's show RELIEVED to have got there at all. We'd had a VERY late night, XTREME SPORTS, and a brush with THE LAW, surely the rest of the evening would be quiet in comparison?
Little did we know, it would end up in a THREE IN A BED ROMP...
Friday morning started up at a leisurely pace, and it was well past noon when we wandered our way into town to have a look at Berlin itself. Berlin, as I may have mentioned (and will be mentioning again) is a) GRATE b) AWESOME - and i mean "awesome" in the correct AND incorrect manner. Everywhere you go there is MASSIVE amounts of HISTORY.
For instance, as soon as we got out of the tube at Potsdamer Platz we were aware of all the HISTORY that had happened there. In fact we got so excited that we incorrectly identified A Large Grass Mound as THE WALL, and so got rather confused when we eventually found Hansa Studio, having taken guidance from a POSTMAN. We knew it was "in the shadow of the wall" but it appeared to be in the EAST. It wasn't until we got back to Potsdamer Platz that we realised it was, but we'd worked it out wrong.
ALSO in Potsdamer Platz was a HUGE Ski Slope, with real snow and small children HURTLING down it on Rubber Rings. "Let's DO IT!" said "We're on HOLIDAY!" Frankie very kindly offered to film it, rather than HURTLE TO HIS DOOM so, after much persuasion, I managed to get Tim to have a go too. It was BRILL - i GENEROUSLY allowed Tim to go first and was surprised to see a) the Fairground Professional pushed him off the ledge backwards b) while spinning him around and c) the look of SHEER TERROR on Tim's face as he clung for dear life to the ring. I thought "Well, Tim got to the end in one piece, and I'm sure they wouldn't have let us up here if it'd KILL us" so concentrated instead on going "WHEEEEEEE!"
Rather LESS jollity was head as we looked at the Berlin Wall exhibit nearby and then moved down to have a walk through The Holocaust Memorial, which was very impressive. They'd only started building it last time I'd been, and it looked amazing and felt suitably sombre once inside.
Next was The Brandenburg Gate - when I first came to Berlin a few years ago with The Stone In My Statue I'd been overwhelmed with memories of watching this place on telly and felt exactly the same again, although perhaps DAFTLY I couldn't shift the idea from my head that it'd all been done in LEGO. The week after the wall came down (TWENTY FIVE YEARS AGO!!) there'd been a Lego advert in The Independent showing Lego East Berliners swarming happily through a Lego Berlin Wall with a Lego Brandenburg Gate behind it. I'd had it pinned to my wall as it was such a beautiful thing, but now whenever I think of The Fall Of Communism I think of it in terms of little plastic bricks!
More wandering around led us to queuing to get into The Reichstag, but the length of the queue combined with the MIME going on next to us meant we were soon in THE PUB. It was an ACTUAL PUB too, the first I'd seen in the city centre, where we drank Berliner Beer.
Soon though it was time to head home, where we found Martin ready and waiting for us. We needed a bit more time to get packed so he popped off to get an acoustic guitar and we re-gathered twenty minutes later, ready to hit The Autobahn.
We were a bit worried about how these gigs were going to go - I'd never met Martin, who'd booked it all for us and had no idea if he'd be Actually All Right, what sort of places we'd be playing in (well, a little bit, but we weren't personally familiar with the venues) or whether it really WOULD be OK to turn up with no instruments at all.
Our fears were put to one side tho for some more ON TOUR HILARITY: once we'd bought our tickets on the u-bahn (the three of us gathered round the ticket machine shouting our advice to each other, like it was a QUIZZER) we had to validate them. YES WE TOOK PHOTOGRAPHS!
We got a bit lost when we emerged at the other end, but we had the first of MANY examples of why travelling with The Validators is so ACE. In other groups of people I might expect piss-taking or recriminations or arguments, but with The Validators we just got on with working out where we were and GOT THERE. It might sound a bit daft to some, but I do find that in many Activity Based Social Groupings (ESPECIALLY all-male versions) there's often LOTS of competition/low level aggression, as if you've never left SCHOOL. Not with The Validators - there is obviously a SOUPCON of inter-group MICKEY TAKING, but never anything unpleasant and you always feel you can TRUST each other. It's brilliant!
ANYWAY we got to the venue and found our way in... to discover NO GEAR AT ALL and no Martin. I spoke to the soundlady who after a couple of minutes said "Don't I know you from somewhere?" I NEARLY said "Why, perhaps my YouTube appearances" but instead, only SLIGHTLY less dickheadedly, said "There's a big poster of me on the door, maybe from that?" "No", she said, "Didn't you play at The Bowling Alley the other week?"
For LO! It was Jasmina Machina, who also did the SOUND at the John Peel all-dayer. AHA! Everywhere you go there is someone who knows George (who'd booked her and got her to do the sound too), and i'd foolishly not realised this.
After a few minutes there was a knock on the door and there was MARTIN! With a car FULL of musical equipment! HOORAH! I was EXTREMELY relieved, and between us we LUGGED the whole lot onto the stage. Martin is a drummer so he and Tim got it set up together, tho not before he brought us over the first of MANY MANY MANY free beers. My favourite kind of beer!
We finished, drank some beer, soundchecked, and then FREAKED OUT because people were smoking. INSIDE! We heard many versions of the rules in Germany, but basically it appears you're not meant to smoke, but if you want to you can. It wasn't like being in a pub in OLDEN TYMES when half the clientele were at it, but there was still quite a bit going on, and it never ceased to seem WEIRD.
We had a beer to calm down.
Then we popped out for tea, decided to have SAN PELLEGRINO with our meal as it seemed foolish to PAY for beer. Back at the venue we had MORE beer, occasionally glancing at out watches. We'd been due on at 10.30pm but by that time the first band, Michael Knight had only just gone on. I was a bit worried but was assured everything would be FINE, and I relaxed enough to rather enjoy their big, a bit early Divine Comedy, sound. There were a LOT of people playing a LOT of different instruments on stage!
And then, just after eleven o'clock, it was time for US to go on, and we did THIS:
I broke a string in the FIRST SONG! Luckily Martin's pal Christopher was on hand to go and borrow another guitar on my behalf and mend the broken one - thanks chap! I always have trouble with telecasters... anyway, we took a little while to get ourselves going but once we'd WOKEN UP a bit we had a GRATE time. The sound with just the three of us sounded TAUT and in my mind we had become a MOD band of some sort. I am sad to report I did quite a lot of DANCING.
I wasn't the only one doing so tho - there were others jiggling daintily and also SINGING ALONG! Yes, SINGING ALONG! Years ago a chap called Matti (who came to the gig too) had put out a cassette called, i think, "Recoute Mark Hibbett" - it's not included on the Discography (this will change!!) because, to be honest, it seemed so unlikely that I'd assumed he'd just done three copies and sent two to me, but NO! I met SEVERAL people over the course of the weekend who'd had a copy, and TWO of them said "Are you going to play 'Post-Jazz Prog-Rock Virgin' tonight?" Nobody has EVER asked that before!!
There was going to be an "electro-pop" party afterwards so we packed up our gear and... er... lurked around for a bit drinking our favourite kind of beer. Eventually we set off, with Martin taking the gear home and the rest of us following Christopher on a slightly tiddly Guided Tour of East Berlin on the way to Kim's Bar, where we'd be playing on Saturday.
It was Matti's bar and, lovely chap that he is, he gave us MORE free beer. Martin arrived and we settled down for the CHAT and the BEER and the general good times - it turned out we needn't have worried at all, he was the magical combination of LOVELY and also ORGANISED!
We left the bar shortly after 2am, with Tim VERY excited about getting the Kebab he'd been waiting for all night. We'd earmarked a place on the way into town, Maximillian's, and so popped in to find the food was served NOT in pitta but in TIM'S BREAD! Other people may know it as Turkish Pid (sp.) but in our house it's known as TIM'S BREAD because he introduced it to us when The Validators stayed out our house on tour. I can't vouch for its suitability for Kebab Meat, but for Felafel it is DELICIOUS!
Being a ROCK MONSTER Tim got all excited about the fact that they sold BEER in the shop, but Frankie and I managed to RESTRAIN him, pointing out we had LOADS of beer back in the flat, which we could have when we got back.
When we got back it was 2.45am. We went straight to bed! It had been a BRILLIANT evening, but we were KNACKERED!
It was very very VERY early on Thursday morning when i trudged along Leytonstone High Road in The Other Rush Hour. It was cold, dark, and i was feeling Not At My Best at that time of day, and I couldn't quite persuade myself that I was actually going to be TOURING GERMANY.
Worse was to come when I eventually got to Heathrow - I was at Terminal 5, which is MISERABLE. It seems designed to put everyone in a bad mood, especially one woman in Security who was obviously missing her calling as The Horrible Headmistress of a Primary School. "Ladies and Gentlemen" she BELLOWED at a huge crowd shuffling through security, "In case it has escaped your notice this is a METAL detector. Take ALL metal objects out of your pockets please". She might have added "I can stay here all morning. I HAVE MARKING TO DO".
My own bad mood slowly disappeared... to be replaced by PANIC. I dash around England easily enough on my own, but it's a LONG LONG TIME since I've travelled that way internationally, and I really don't like it. I've got used to having The Features On My Map with me, and not having someone there to CHECK things with (or indeed to get a Much-Needed-HUG from) made me feel extremely paranoid.
And then when we got on the plane things got EVEN MORE ANNOYING, as I was sat behind an ENORMOUS FAT MAN. They'd given him two seats, as he was so big he'd've squashed someone next to him, but that was no help to me at all. You know when someone puts there seat back as far as it'll go, and you feel a bit squashed? He'd done that but because he was so massive it was shoved RIGHT into my face, so that it was impossible to get the table down and I had to abandon reading my magazine and get out a smaller BOOK instead.
At one point I thought i was being MEAN, as an attendant came down the aisle with an extra seatbelt for him. "Hibbett!" i thought, "He's got a CHILD with him - THAT is why he's got two seats and he's probably heavy because it's sitting on his lap", but no, it was an EXTENSION so he could fit it round him. He was asked to put his seat forward for take-off, did so, but then 30 seconds later put it ALL THE WAY BACK. I tell you this - he got a HECKLOAD of BAD VIBES directed at the back of his neck, especially when we started taking off and he went back EVEN FURTHER. I thought I was going to be HIBBETT PUREE!
Final Moan: the meal was a salmon sandwich, no vegetarian alternative (and no option to ask for one beforehand) and no booze. RUBBISH!
When we arrived we trooped over the gangway and STRAIGHT into passport control. On the other side of that was a mini-carousel - it was weird, like they'd built 20 mini-airports round a central car park, but worked extremely well and soon I was out, buying a ticket, and hopping aboard a bus... where PANIC returned. Had I got on the right bus? Would I know where to get off? My FEAR was such that I ended up getting off a stop early (i later realised), and having a big walk to Alexanderplatz.
For LO! This is where we'd agreed to meet. "We're having a currywurst in front of the television tower" Tim had texted - the TV Tower is VERY difficult to miss, so I strode towards it. I walked through Alexanderplatz station and thought "I wonder where they ... oh, there's Tim, waving!"
The Validators: REUNITED! After a quick conflab (during which we TUSSLED MENTALLY: we all knew whoever took the lead walking off would be in charge of MAPS for the duration) TIM led us off in the direction of our flat. We couldn't get in until 4pm so took a tiny detour to look at The Bang Bang Club, where we were due to play that evening. In the window was a lovely poster based on THIS picture. "What sort of audience is THAT going to attract?" The Validators asked. "A SEXY audience!" I replied and, as if to prove my point, at that moment three GURLS walked by and looked at the poster, SQUEALING with delight.
All right, they were waving through the window at someone, but STILL.
We STRODE off in search of a PUB... and couldn't find one! Everywhere that served beer seemed to be a Cafe and it took us AGES until we found a Russian Themed pub where we FINALLY enjoyed our first beer of the trip. Also our second.
More walking and we at LAST reached our flat, just as the owner arrived to let us in. It was up three flights of stairs and was actually really nice, if a bit, well, Eastern Block. It was actually JUST in West Berlin (the wall had been visible from the window and was only 50 feet from our front door!) but the PLUMBING, like having one tap for sink AND shower AND bath, made it feel extremely old fashioned.
Still, we were IN and one trip to Aldi later (yes, we DID do a "humourous" picture of me looking shifty, having previously declared I'd be Never Going Back To Aldi's) we were settled and ready to start The Tour Proper.
We made up our beds - hey, we may be monsters of ROCK, but we might have been staying up past MIDNIGHT, this was MUCH more sensible - packed our bags and set off to see what Berlin had in store for us. The Tour had BEGUN!
I've been a LIST TICKING MACHINE today as I prepare for The MJ Hibbett & The Validators German Tour 2009. The SPEED at which I have been operating is probably helped by the MILD PANIC i am feeling about it. We're travelling THERE seperately as Frankie and Tim are flying from East Midlands, while I'm going from Heathrow all on my own. It's the first time I've been that far without The Wings On My Plane for AGES and, frankly, i am SCARED. It's all i can do NOT to head off now, to make sure I'm at the airport at LEAST 12 hours before flight time.
I'm nearly sorted now though, so all that's left to do is set the Out Of Office here - I'm not taking a laptop or anything so won't be blogging again until next week, but i WILL be twittering away so if you'd like to know how it goes AS it goes then you can follow me there, otherwise I'll see you back here on Monday!
Ooh, it was EVER so exciting watching all the news reports about the anniversary of The Berlin Wall falling down yesterday. "I had a big poster on my wall of Lego people breaking down a Lego Berlin Wall!" i told The Studs On My Brick... for the nine millionth time. I managed NOT to tell the story of myself and Dr Brown officiating on a three-legged pub crawl the next night (we met a couple dressed AS The Berlin Wall who had been bought drinks everywhere they went and were reducing people to TEARS OF JOY) as i have possibly OVER-TOLD that one... tho I feel I may be wheeling it out again next week.
Because YES! Part of the reason for the excitement was that we will BE in Berlin on Thursday, ROCKING IT UP! Who could have guessed, five or six years ago when Communism held sway (and SHAME on the BBC for saying it was twenty years ago: IMPOSSIBLE!) that one day a Unified Germany could host The Validators? It would have been beyond anybody's WILDEST dreams!
Anyway, before the preparations go into OVERDRIVE here's a few ITEMS:
ITEM! I've recently added LOADS more gigs to the GIGS PAGE, not least a Prestigious Support Slot with The Television Personalities next week (Thursday 19, The Half Moon in Herne Hill) and a whole SLEW of Christmas gigs.
ITEM! I've already had a PILE of Videos for the Christmas single. Thanks very much everybody, do please keep them coming, it's going to be GRATE!
And here it is: I'd like EVERYONE who reads this to send me a short video clip of you holding up a sheet of A4 paper, upon which you've written (in large legible letters) what you'd like for Christmas. PEASY isn't it? I'll then put them all together into one 2 minute (ish) video which will DELIGHT the world!
Full details of where to send the video, along with an EXAMPLE of what I mean, are now on this page here. I put the video on YouTube last night and I've ALREADY had a couple of (BRILLIANT) submissions, i think it's going to be FANTASTIC.
So yes, if you've got the time to record a clip PLEASE do so, I think it'll be LOVELY and Christmassy. I'd like to get started putting it together next week if possible, though my tentative deadline is the start of December, but the sooner you can get it to me the more EXCITED i can get about it! CHRISTMAS!!
posted by MJ Hibbett, 9.11.09 (click here for permanent link)
Strange events last night, as I went home after work, had my tea, and then, just when I'd normally be watching "Have I Got News For You", i WENT OUT AGAIN!
Now, this might not sound strange to most people but for me it is KRAZY MENTAL. Living, as I do, in the Essex Borders BADLANDS of Far East London I usually go out straight from work in "town", so having me tea at home first is like a distant folk memory of Things I Used To Do In Leicester.
ANYWAY that's what I did and 45 minutes later I found myself approaching The Queen Of Hoxton in... er... Hoxton. A few weeks ago Dom PopArt emailed and asked if I fancied doing a couple of Bruce Springsteen songs with a band he was putting together for a night called Cover To Cover. I said "Why YES, that would be DELIGHTFUL!" and prepared myself... not realising until a couple of days before that we'd be going onstage at 11.30pm!! That's nearly MIDNIGHT!
HENCE I didn't need to be there until much later than a normal gig, and also HENCE the pre-gig tea. I was a little worried about the evening as, well, it's in HOXTON which is reknowned as being full of wankers. As I approached the pub my worst fears seemed to be confirmed, as it looked like a NARKY CLUB, with bouncers and queues etc etc but once I got inside it was FINE. All right, it was a bit NOISIER than most pubs I frequent these days, but everyone inside seemed all right. It was a club/pub on a Friday night, full of people getting happily LATHERED, without need or the "irony", haircuts, trousers or big glasses that I'd been expecting. PHEW.
What it DIDN'T seem to contain was any sign of a BAND and I eventually had to ASK where they'd be. I went downstairs to an empty room with a stage and soundman, who got me to soundcheck my ukelele before leading me to The Dressing Room. DRESSING ROOM! Here I found Dom, Phoenix Phil, and a group of PALS they'd recruited for the band. We passed a very pleasant 90 minutes sat around chatting and drinking BEER, including a HUGE ROW about who's better: DC or Marvel? I mean, REALLY - clearly SPIDER-MAN is about a MILLION times better than SUPERMAN isn't he? It stands to reason!
Soon it was time to hit the stage, and my nervousness increased MASSIVELY. I was due to do TWO songs, "Born In The USA" first then "Glory Days". I was FINE with the latter, but the former filled me with FEAR as it was going to be mostly just me singing it (which i couldn't do very well) and Dom playing the ukelele.
My fears INCREASED when the band kicked off with a ROCKING version of "Born To Run", which got everybody WHOOPING, as did the next two songs. I really REALLY didn't want to bring the mood down, so an IDEA started to form.
We'd already agreed to swap my two songs around, so I very happily took to the stage and did my English Translation version of "Glory Days", the one that'd been BANNED by The Boss's Lawyers. It was LOTS of fun and they'd learned our version up REAL GOOD, up to and including the "All right"? bits at the end. It was LOTS OF FUN and I was even MORE certain that i did not want to follow it with a stripped down version of a song about an army veteran being deserted by his own country.
So I said "Shall we do 'Boom Shake The Room' instead?" Dom looked at me surprised and said "Er... yes, you should definitely do that", meaning "One day. Somewhere." I replied "GRATE! You can all join in then - chaps, it's G and C!" and LAUNCHED into an introduction trying to persuade people it WAS a Bruce Springsteen song. I don't think the audience was bothered either way, I hadn't seen anything SAYING it was meant to be all Springsteen.
It was, i think, a GOOD IDEA, and the band, bless them, GAMELY joined in with my slight naughtiness, even down to STOPPING in the right places. The audience joined in with most of the joining in bit and we got to the end safely, at which point i LEAPT off to avoid any question of doing THE SONG I FEARED, and they finished off with two more slices of ROCK. PHEW!
Job done I realised it was now SUPER LATE, so I said my goodbyes and hastened off into the London night, managing to get the pre-penultimate train to Leytonstone and then home. I got back in RELIEVED that we'd carried it off, although I have to confess STILL feeling slightly guilty about CHANGING the song so. Sorry chaps!
On further investigation I think I've FINALLY worked out how to do titles in blogger itself... ZANG!
I must admit it felt MASSIVELY WRONG to be relying on MySpace (MySpace!) for... well, for anything really, so hopefully this'll work for the main page, Facebook, Google Reader and BRANE HOLOGRAMS or whatever other was it's being looked at. If it doesn't, do let me know won't you?
And in my defence RE: all this, i AM going OUT to play a gig at NEARLY MIDNIGHT tonight, honest!
posted by MJ Hibbett, 6.11.09 (click here for permanent link)
The other day in Croydon Mr T Eveleigh said to me "There's never any titles on your blog posts." This CONFUSED me MIGHTILY - i ALWAYS put them in, but then I realised he must be talking about the FEEEED that goes to the MJ Hibbett & The Validators Facebook page. To be honest I set this up AGES ago and completely forgot about it, so today (having been NUDGED by seeing it mentioned on someone else's pages) I went to have a look at it and saw that Tim was CORRECT, there were no titles appearing.
The reason for this is that i take the BLOG FEED for that page from the main webpage, where I just plonk the title in bold at the top. I also, HOWEVER, manually put it onto our MYSPACE blog, copying and pasting the main text and title into seperate bits. In a FLASH of BRANE-WHAM I realised that if I linked to THAT feed instead then the Facebook version would get titles too.
So i did! And it does! I think!
The only slight disadvantage to this is that there's now some DOUBLE ENTRY on the Facebook page, with the last week or so's posts appearing twice but this should sort itself out as time goes by - i don't want to DELETE any spare ones, because there seem to be comments on some of them and it would, i think, be More Trouble Than It's Worth.
The upshot of all this TERRIBLY FASCINATING INFORMATION is that I'm suddenly aware of a couple of hundred people who are reading this via Facebook! JINKIES! Hello everyone on Facebook! Sorry if you've left a comment which I never replied to, I will try to do better in future and please enjoy the new titled version!
ALSO Zombie-flavoured is the video for L.O.V.E. by The Bobby McGees, which is out as a single from Twee As Fuck. It's a ONE SHOT Zombie Film, which looks DEAD clever... or should that be - AHA! - UNDEAD Clever?!?
Or is that Vampires?
ANYWAY, moving on to NON-GHOULISH matters, we find another video for another new single, this time by all-round good guy Mr Phil Wilson. It's acoustic version of Just The Same, which is ALSO out as a single, but not until next year. It sounds LOVELY, and apparently there'll also be some of his NEW stuff on the single as well: EXCITEMENT!br>
And finally, here's the video for The Bike Song by The Grave Architects, who i played with last week. This is the ABRIDGED or SINGLE version, which you can also download for FREE but I want the FULL STRENGTH version! There's a whole bit about his second bike that isn't on there, come on!
And that's the VIDEO ROUND-UP for today - coming soon, FACT on how to be in OUR next video! WHOO!
I headed SOUTH last night to Distant Croydon, via a bit of a STRIDE through Central London as the Underground seemed to be going a bit wonky. This Calorie Use made me HUNGRY and I had to use all the willpower I could muster to prevent myself buying a PASTIE at Charring Cross, for LO! I was getting FED once I got to The Green Dragon.
Once I'd got there, soundchecked and said my various helloes I trotted downstairs to get a DELICIOUS pint of Workie Tick (which Mr T Eveleigh had HEARTILY recommended, it was LOVELY) and to get something to eat. Imagine my surprise when I found that the ONLY thing on a very big menu that i COULD vegemetarianistically eat was a Veggie Lasagne! Eh? Every other time I've been there there's been SEVERAL things available, not least The Traditional Ye Older Pubbe Veggie Burger, but it looked like Gordon R*msay or someone had got into the kitchen. I asked the Young Man at the bar and we SCOURED it together to no avail, so Lasagne it was.
NEWS UPDATE: It was actually quite nice.
As indeed was the rest of the evening - just before me it was Jenny Lockyer whose virtues I have hailed here MANY times. She was just GRATE - every time I see her I think "Why isn't she on the telly?" because it seems so RIGHT that she should be. All the songs were BRILL as ever - including a BRAND NEW ONE which had a HOOK "What have they done to Blue Peter?" which made i LARF - and the way she performs is so WARM it always makes me think she should be the new Ralph McTell, doubly up folk clubs with A Highly Succesful Children's Television Series.
Anyway, after all that EXCELLENCE it was time for me to go on. Jenny had been talking about a recent trip to New Zealand so, after Tim's usual question "Have you a fascinating FACT to tell us about yourself?" I launched into a LENGTHY discussion about New Zealand which meandered into an extended RANT about how HORRID American Border Control Officials are i.e. VERY. And then I did THIS:
It was all very enjoyable with not one but TWO songs I've never done SOLO before. I've just been relearning my ENGLISH TRANSLATION version of "Glory Days" (as BANNED by The Boss's Lawyers) in order to play it at Cover To Cover on Friday, and as it's always a friendly crowd there I thought I'd have a go at "Rather Spooky" too. It was GOOD FUN tho I'm not sure I'd want to LAUNCH into it at a gig which wasn't quite so relaxed!
After it was all done I had a quick chat to Jenny and Tim, finished my delicious beer, and then stomped off into The Croydon Night for a speedy voyage home. Gigs are GRATE, aren't they?
All I Want For Christmas Is A Webpage Update
I had rather an EXCITING email on Friday from Mr D Bayliss saying basically "I know this is a ludicrous long shot, but do you happen to have a Christmas Song that could be used on a single? Which you could email me today?"
AHA! As IMMENSE GOOD FORTUNE would have it i DID have such a thing, and sent it off to him full of GLEE. A Christmas Single! HOOPLA!
I then got a much less JOYFUL email on Monday telling me that there'd been an ERROR along the way and it'd got pressed WITHOUT my song on it. Now, yes yes, I am sure there are some NODDING WRYLY, perhaps even SMIRKING, but from the amount of WOE, APOLOGIES and WAILING that has gone on since I am sure that really IS what happened, to the upset of all concerned. A 7" vinyl single that i DIDN'T pay for and DON'T have in massive piles in my spare room! IMAGINE!
Still, it's not all DOOM as they're still going to use it on the DOWNLOAD version and promo CDs, and so i can STILL go ahead with my plan to do a VIDEO of it. OH! And WHAT a plan that is - thinking about it this morning on the way to work I was visited by perhaps THE GRATEST IDEA: EVER of how I could DO such a video. It's BRILL - I won't go into here, now, as I'll probably be doing a mid-month MAILOUT about it, as the idea involves getting loads and loads of other people to do stuff for it. Stand by your inboxes for details in a week or so!
I wandered very slightly Northwards after work on Friday to Highbury & Islington, where I was due to play the inaugral Pic'n'Mixx night. It was a KRAZY GOOD bill, and I got in to find one of my favourite bands in the world, The School, setting up their gear to soundcheck. The thing I like most about The School is that they've got this huge supply of ENORMOUS TUNES, and as they gradually soundchecked i kept hearing SNIPPETS and thinking "Oh! That's my favourite one. No, hang, THAT'S my favourite one".
The Lovely Eggs arrived just as they were finishing, HOT FOOT from a long car journey and did a SUPER QUICK soundcheck while I had a chat to Natalie, who was organising things. It was, as I say, the first night she'd done there but GOODNESS ME she'd put a lot of effort into with regular diverse mailings and a Mix CD Swapathon organised with various Indie Types contributing. If nobody came, I thought, after all THAT and with THIS bill, we might as well all pack in even trying.
I also got introduced to a number of the other acts, who'd diligently arrived well ahead of their scheduled soundcheck time, including members of The Grave Architects, who I felt I really should have met before. "We really should have met before" said Matt from them, and I was unable to disagree.
The Lovely Eggs finished in double quick time and I did my soundcheck in TREBLE quick time then nipped out to find something to EAT. I fancied something sitting down but the best bet looked like Weatherspoons. I had a nice pint and an APPALLINGLY DULL curry - my own fault for having it, really, when there were Standard Issue Veggie Burgers available, but I expected it to taste of SOMETHING more than Vague Yoghurt. The WORST part tho were the poppadoms - you know those really really really cheap ones you buy in as dusty corner of the corner shop that you put in the oven and forget about and slightly burn, which taste of plastic? It was THOSE, slightly burnt and tasting of plastic, with a SEALED plastic mini-tub of "MangO" Chutney on the side. RUBBISH!
I got back to The Buffalo Bar just in time for The Peryls, who LOOKED very different to how they sounded. They sounded like a harmony rich country band (a bit like The Smith Garrett band, in fact) but LOOKED like Grey Goths, with top hats and waistcoats. Although maybe that was because it was halloween? Anyway, it was all very good, especially when they did the HARMONIES.
Large numbers of people were coming in by this point and we all gathered round to watch The Grave Architects who were BLOODY AMAZING. I'd never seen or heard them before Friday night and was BLOWN AWAY by how GRATE they were. They're one of those bands where every song has loads and loads of different BITS to them, but rather than doing so PONDEROUSLY, like most of those do, they did it with IMMENSE JOY. They had a Dancing Drummer too, which made it even better (you know what I mean - if he wasn't sitting down behind a drumkit he'd have JIGGED all the way to the Emirates Stadium) and the sense of FUN and GOOD TIMES was contagious. The BEST THING they did was during The Bike Song, which was performed in it's (at least ten minutes) entirety. Towards the end it became clear that there were drum problems, so, with the song still going on, they asked for someone to bring a drum key to the stage. WHen this arrived they did a break down while it was fixed, and slowly but surely the ENTIRE ROOM was joining in, BELLOWING the song along with them as it built and built... "if this works it'll be amazing" said the drummer as he frantically repaired his kick pedal... before coming back in at EXACTLY the right moment.
It was, as stated, BLOODY AMAZING, and they left me with a HUGE grin for the rest of the evening. I will be going to see them AGANE!
And then it was my turn. I got ready QUICK and then paused, chatting to the DJ Guy, to ensure that I would go on BANG on time and do THIS:
It was LOTS of fun - The Buffalo Bar's one of those places where the sound of even ONE person WHISPERING right in the other corner gets MASSIVELY AMPLIFIED, so that even if you can SEE everyone watching you can HEAR what sounds like a thousand people talking/ignoring, but i KNEW this in advance from previous occasions so just got on with ENJOYING myself instead. As you can see from the listing I decided to JUMP on the JOINING IN BANDWAGON that had been so succesfully wheeled out by The Grave Architects and did a LOT of it, mostly succesfully although The Music Of The Future became more call and response and less FREESTYLE than usual.
It was brilliant fun though, and I settled into the HUGE CROWD afterwards for BEERS and more chat, predominantly for the next hour or so to Mr Keith TOTP, who I've met on a number of occasions but never talked to for long. I am happy to report that he is a DELIGHTFUL chap and many BEERS were consumed during the MAGNIFICENT set by The School and ROCKALICIOUSNESS from The Lovely Eggs.
Suddenly it was HALF PAST MIDNIGHT! LATE!! I was PROUD of myself for managing to stay until the very end and see ALL the GRATE bands, but knew that if I didn't get going soon I would turn into a pumpkin or something, so strode happily out to catch a Black Cab, where we enjoyed the traditional game of Racist Taxi Driver Conversation: Contestant A ("The Driver") tries to steer any conversation around to the topic of BEING RACIST, whilst Contestant B ("The Passenger") tries to steer it back towards cheery delightfulness. I won!
So yes, it was a GRATE night - people, including me, doubted that you could PUT five bands on succesfully in a single night like that, but we were WRONG. Roll on the next one!