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Bye Bye Blogger!
You join me this afternoon for a MOMENTOUS OCCASION: my FINAL blog on blogger!
All right, I know it might not seem particularly momentous, and you're probably not even READING it on the Blogger sysetm - I've been doing TRIPLE ENTRY blogging for the past couple of weeks and have , so most people will hopefully be reading it on the new webpage, an RSS feed running off it (like Facebook) or even on the myspace - but still, having used it for nearly eight years and had it CHANGE completely the way I run these webpages, it feels a bit sad to be saying goodbye to it.
The REASON for the change is Blogger's annoying decision to stop supporting FTP blogging. This is the admittedly pretty ARCHAIC format which they started with and which some of us stuck with, as it allowed us to create pages directly onto our own servers, independent of any future WHIMS of blogger's owners. Changing over to their new system would have meant me having to alter HUGE SWATHES of the webpages to accomodate it, so I went looking for a NEW way to do it.
After a lot of fruitless searching for something to suit ME I decided to write my OWN blog system - that is JUST THE KIND OF GUY I AM - and, as Tripod, my service providers since about 1996, have been SO UTTERLY CRAP every time I've wanted them to do anything (including wiping the entire site with no warning on a couple of occasions) i decided that, rather than page them a HUGE sum of money to allow me to do this, to use it as an opportunity to move somewhere else.
Which, of course, meant i'd have to change MUCH HUGER SWATHES of the webpage! I've pretty much nearly finished doing this now, and it's all looking rather swanky, but that does make it DOUBLY momentous for me, as I'm not only saying bye bye to blogger, but also taking the first big step in saying TA-TA to Tripod too! As I say, I've used them since I first started having a webpage (back in the days when everything seemed to need a TILDE) so it's been a big decision, but hopefully it'll mean that THE FUTURE of the website will be HECKLOADS easier for me to keep up to date with!
So yes, if anybody's visiting the tripod site (mjhibbett.tripod.com) do be aware that that's NOT going to be being updated any more, and will soon be gradually disappearing, and so please ZOOM over to the news site!
Everybody else, hold on to your hats, for LO! Slight Changes And Improvements are ALMOST IMMINENT! WHOO!
There is CHANGE in the air! And yes, OF COURSE, I am referring to my WEBPAGE. That's the only thing of note happening at the moment, right?
If all has gone according to plan then pretty much EVERY possible way of looking at this here blog will now be switching over to the new website. I've just switched www.mjhibbett.net and www.mjhibbett.com to point over there now, so the only way anybody should be able to see the old version if if they're deliberately looking at the Tripod hosted site. If you're doing that, please switch over to the new version, I'm going to stop updating it at the end of the week, and I wouldn't want you to miss out!
Hopefully everything will move over nice and smoothly, though I'm a little worried about anybody using the RSS field. I _think_ it'll all work OK, but if it doesn't please switch over to this one - http://www.mjhibbett.co.uk/atom.xml. It ought to LOOK exactly the same as the old version, even though (bashful smile) I have to admit (tries not to look pleased with self: FAILS) it is a wholly different HAND CRAFTER RSS feed what I made myself. Ooh, it took ages!
Anyway, hope we can all move through this Transitional Phase together nice and easily, and if anybody has any problems just bung a COMMENT below and I'll try and sort it out - thanks!
Here we go then, I've been working on this for WEEKS and i think it is FINALLY ready for public consumption. THUS I give you the ADVERTISEMENT for the Official Online Re-Release Of Regardez, Ecoutez Et Repetez on our bandcamp page:
It was HO! for Rural Camden for me last night, where the ripening crop of TWITS seems to be ready to yield a BUMPER HARVEST this year. Goodness me - in the many many Tat Shops on the way to the rehearsal room (for that was my business in the borough) i couldn't help but notice that amongst the many varieties of IDIOTIC HATS there seemed to be a new, and huge, supply of STOVE PIPE HATS!
STOVE PIPE HATS? Is THAT what it is coming too? Hopefully our forthcoming National Government For Change And Niceness will put THAT top of the list of Things To Sort Out. I mean - Stove Pipe Hats! COME ON!
Anyway, I arrived at the rehearsal room the find Mr S Hewitt waiting, and we moved into the same rehearsal room as last time to commence another round of LEARNING UP for Dinosaur Planet. Last time around I was a bit PANICKY, as we were intending to do our first Proper Performance at the start of JUNE, but now things have moved around a bit so we've got a couple of LOOSE Previews then, but the Actual Paying Performances will be a bit later on. I really didn't like the idea of us a) rushing so to get it together and b) not having a Proper Product to Present and so was AFEARED, but now I felt that everything was going to be FINE.
BETTER than fine, in fact - GRATE! For LO! as we zoomed through everything I couldn't help but feel EXCITED about how FAB it sounds. Doing it as a sort of double act seems to make the songs work MUCH better and, as I said last time, HIGHLIGHT the GOOD BITS. I knew there were SOME jokes in it, but i am only now coming to realise it is a LARF RIOT, and BLIMEY but it doesn't half get EXCITING towards the end. We did the bit where we both shout "LET'S GET 'EM!" quite a few times, and it got more THRILLING every time.
It was also TIRING, however, especially when we did several run throughs of For The Fate Of The Earth. There is a LOT that goes on in that song, and by the end of it I felt that my KNEES were going to go! If you ever wonder why rehearsal rooms REEK so of SWEAT it is because there have been years of people like ME in them, SWEATING.
Pleased with a job well done we retired ten minutes early, to the pub, to discuss diverse matters including How GRATE It Is Going To Be. For LO! I rather think it IS!
EAGLE EYED types may have noticed yesterday that the links I included to some of the SINGLES that will make up "Forest Moon Of Enderby" led away to a similiar, but ever so slightly DIFFERENT webpage.
For LO! It goes over to www.mjhibbett.co.uk, the current home for the NEW VERSION of the website, which I have been going on about of later. If you pop over for a look you'll see that is EERILY SIMILAR to the current version (the changes so far are in substance, not style hem hem) , though there are a couple of ADDITIONS already in place that I think are quite GROOVY. My favourite is the HUGE improvement to the individual song pages. If you look at Work's All Right (if it's a proper job), for instance, you'll see that not only are the notes AND lyrics held together in the same convenient location, but you can now see all the GIGS that this song was played at. COOL, huh?
You might also care to take a look at the Slight Different version of the individual blog pages, which should now be a bit easier to navigate around, and also have a EVER SO FUNKY "Crossword Clue" anti-spam METHOD to the comments page. I must confess I thought that that was TERRIBLY clever!
As I said the other day, there's LOADS of things I want to add to it, and there's also quite a lot of stuff I haven't finished off yet - the Discography, for instance, has some work left to do on it. However, i THINK it's pretty much SAFE for people to go and have a look at, so I'd be very grateful if people COULD, please.
I'd like to switch mjhibbett.com and mjhibbett.net over to this new version over the May Day Bank Holiday Weekend (largely because that's when BLOGGER will stop me doing these blogs in the old fashioned way!) so any thoughts or comments before then would be VERY welcome. If you find a broken link don't worry about telling me, I've got the server set up to ALERT me automatically, but if there's anything else you think could be better (or indeed that you think is DELIGHTFUL) do please let me know by leaving the aforesaid COMMENTS on the new version of this very blog.
People with an EXTENSIVE memory may recall me mentioning "The Forest Moon Of Enderby", the long-planned follow up to our FIRST "rarities" (hem hem) collection Warriors Of Nanpantan. We've had the title for about seven YEARS and have just been waiting for a chance to use it, and it looks like that time is NIGH.
The reasons behind this are MANY. First and foremost is the fact that we have ENOUGH songs to do it with - in fact, looking through all the compilations, sold out singles, web tracks and offcuts we've had since 2004, when Warriors Of Nanpantan was released, we've actually got enough for about THREE albums!
Quite a lot of these songs, however, are COVER VERSIONS, which I don't really want to put on an Actual CD because you have to fill in millions of FORMS. Others still are the b-sides to Milk & Baubles and Shed Anthems, which we'd been intending to add on to a DELUXE DOUBLE ALBUM re-release of This Is Not A Libary, leaving a single album featuring a wide MIX of Validators and my SOLO songs.
Email discussions this morning have come up with a whole OTHER plan, which links in to getting more stuff on the BANDCAMP site AND providing MAXIMUM value to those kind enough to purchase our stuff. Here IS that plan, broken down by MONTH!
Compilation of our various COVER VERSIONS added to the the bandcamp site, including some new ones to be recorded specially for it.
"The Forest Moon Of Enderby" released on bandcamp, on iTunes and as a limited (ish) edition ACTUAL CD, in time for Indietracks. This will be a complete FULL BAND album, and the songs are likely to be as follows:
Leave My Brother Alone
Never Going Back To Aldi's
The Other Rush Hour
Other Bands' Setlists
The Drummer's Lament
The Merchant Ivory Punks
Graffiti On The Cenotaph
Praise The Traffic Warden
Billy Jones Is Dead
The Primal Rhythms Of The Bolivian Nose Flautist
Let The Weird Band Win
Looks good doesn't it? But there's more! The MULTIMEDIA ASPECT on the CD will be something called "As Seen On The Interweb"...
"As Seen On The Interweb", yet ANOTHER compilation, this time of all my solo songs from compilations and THE INTERWEB released seperately on the bandcamp site. LOTS of stuff for this one!
And then in September we'll take a WELL EARNED REST before releasing our OTHER albums on bandcamp, probably on a monthly basis. We wouldn't want people to get overwhelmed would we?
So yes, there's the PUTATIVE PLAN which, of course, i reserve every right to forget about/get delayed/change about, but which i HOPE can be carried out more or less as formulated. We've been meaning to get round to this for AGES so it'll be GRATE to finally get done. The only problem is, once we've done this, what on earth are we going to call Volume Three?
I arrived at The Lamb last night full of TREPIDATION. Last time I'd been there Leigh The Manager had told me he was having the upstairs room refurbished, to be more MODERN. I crept upstairs thus full of FEAR, in case it turned out to be all BRUSHED STEEL and PASTEL SHADES (NB my idea of "modern" stalled in the late eighties) so was MIGHTILY RELIEVED to find that, actually, it was rather nice. It wasn't modern at ALL though, it was if anything slightly MORE old fashioned with more pictures on the wall and nice old fashioned tables, including a HUGE Boardroom-style one in the middle.
Ten minutes of re-arranging later I'd got the room NEARLY right - there is, i think, ONE too many tables up there - and went downstairs to find Mr Keith TOTP and his band already in situ, closely followed by Ben Superman Revenge Squad and his CELLIST. They were soon accompanied by PEOPLE and we gathered upstairs to start the evening off.
As ever I kicked off, and did THIS:
The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
Breaks In The Journey
(insert title here)
Theme From Dinosaur Planet
Hey Hey 16K
The Lesson Of The Smiths
I'd also practiced up my version of "Dreaming" by Allo Darlin' but as there was only one person there who KNEW the song (I asked) it seemed like a better idea to do some of my OWN songs. I always try and do a couple of UNUSUAL songs at Totally Acoustic, so as not to BORE the REGULARS, tho this time it was nearly all NEW people. New to Totally Acoustic, that is, including Mr D Green, Mr B Moor (CASING the joint for his appearance next time) and The Dave Green, so recently seen wandering the streets of Soho.
It all seemed to go off quite well, especially the "AH-OO" bit in Dinosaur Planet, which benefited from rather more detailed explanation than usual. After the SHORT BREAK it was time for Superman Revenge Squad who, as I said in my introduction, i RECOMMEND to any gig bookers who will listen, for LO! they are GRATE. This was the first time I'd seen Ben accompanied by the cello and GOSH but it made it all seem dead classy. He did a couple of new (to me) songs, including one called "Old Man Reading A Pornographic Magazine" which managed to be funny, thought provoking and MOVING all at the same time. Like all his songs really - honestly, if you happen to have a gig or festival in need of PERKING UP, I heartily urge you to book him!
After the Slightly Longer Break we were into the Keith Top Of The Pops and His Minor UK Indie Celebrity Allstar Backing Band EXPERIENCE. If you've not seen or heard of them before allow me to explain, in a way that will make you think, "That sounds TERRIBLE": it's Keith TOTP with a loosely assembled group of people from various London Indie bands playing songs which they have never rehearsed. Most of the band have played most of the songs before at previous gigs, but they've rarely played all at the same time before.
It sounds like one of those Typical Annoying London Whacky Ideas, except for one thing: the songs are really really really GOOD, and the fun and excitement of playing them is INFECTIOUS. The line-up was vocals, FIVE guitars and a SAW, which sounded LOVELY, and the music itself was brilliant. The fact that they pretty much HAVE to have simple chord sequences and not many changes made for DIRECT songs that don't fanny around with difficult bits, but put all the Extra Cleverness into the WORDS, which are ACE.
In the middle of it all I thought "But these songs are so GRATE, it's a shame he hides them behind the GIMMICK" but then QUESTIONED myself. Would I rather the songs were RUBBISH so that The Gimmick stood alone? And is it a BAD THING to HAVE such a "gimmick", when the gimmick is A Bunch Of People Actually Enjoying Playing Songs?
As I say, this enjoyment was VERY infectious, and it was a HAPPY room full of people who, at about 9.45pm, indulged themselves in CHAT and BEER. Another Totally Acoustic succesfully completed!
My OH SO SUBTLE desperate pleading for a gig yesterday seems to have paid off, and I have a gig booked for the day after my birthday - HOORAH! Now, have you noticed how I DON'T have a million quid in my back pocket?
It might work!
Anyway, I've not put the gig up on the GIGS page just yet because I'm going to wait until the new webpage is finished and LIVE. If all goes to plan this should be next week some time - it has to be before May 1st at any rate, as that's when BLOGGER stop letting me FTP blogs directly to my own website, which is what has caused this whole palaver.
The new version of the webpage IS nearly finished, and it's looking rather good I must say. I must be WARY, like S Moffat or indeed N Clegg, not to build up RABID EXCITEMENT too much though, as it doesn't look THAT much different. Not yet, anyway. I'm trying first of all to make sure everything on the current version is carried over, before I start getting FANCY, but behind the scenes things are VERY different. For LO! It is all run on a database system, which will hopefully make future updates INCREDIBLY easy. For instance, the most recent innovation is an automatic SHOP which automatically updates the individual releases pages, shopping list, discography, itunes and amazons listing all with ONE bit of data entry. At the moment it takes me HOURS to go through ALL the different versions of these pages and change them, in the future it will be the work of but a MOMENT.
This is also the case with the GIGS pages (which will also hook up DIRECTLY to the Totally Acoustic and Dinosaur Planet pages, but more EXCITINGLY for the Casual Viewer the connectivity will extend to MOST aspects of the site, so that all KINDS of exciting things will be able to happen. My absolute FAVOURITE thing, which i HAVE enabled for the first stages, is the new version of the SONGS pages. As well as seeing the lyrics and annotations together you'll be able to link to an automatic list of every album or single that that songs been on and, EVEN MORE THRILLINGLY, see a list of ALL the gigs that it's been played at!
That bit looks GRATE, it really does, and it also links on to BLOG entries and ALL sorts. Best of all it makes the process of updating song and album details MUCH quicker, and I'm hope to WHISK through and update MANY MANY parts of the site. I'm going to take photographs of some of the RARER items and start adding lyrics to some of the more ANCIENT songs that pop up.
I may be getting OVEREXCITED due to the combination of ROCK and DATABASE DESIGN but then again, WHO WOULDN'T? Hopefully this'll be viewable as a BETA TEST early next week - stand by your Data Flow Diagrams for further news!
I find myself in an UNUSUAL POSITION today. I've been doing a bit of plugging for tomorrow's Totally Acoustic night (at The Lamb in That London, with Keith TOTP And His Minor UK Indie Celebrity All-Star Backing Band, Superman Revenge Squad and ME - here's the facebook page) and a Strange Thought occurred to me. After tomorrow night the ONLY Normal ROCK Gig i have booked AT ALL is Indietracks. Apart from that it's ALL Dinosaur Planet.
This feels a bit WEIRD, and slightly WORRYING. As I've said many times, this year I made an Positive Decision to do LESS gigs - doing 60-70 a year for the past few years has been FAR TOO MUCH - and the Various Validator Events of 2010 have made it nice and easy to step OFF the road a little and concentrate on Dinosaur Planet instead. I mean, it's not like I'm not going to be doing ANY gigs this year - there's 10 nights in Edinburgh, two in Camden and various warm-up shows being booked - but it feels a bit SCARY to suddenly realise that, if I wasn't doing these, I'd have pretty much NOTHING booked.
This did used to happen occasionally in the past, when I'd come to the end of a string of gigs with nothing booked ahead, and it didn't used to bother me as much. NOW though, when I'm used to having the next six months FULL of gigs, it's a bit alarming. In the past I've said YES to just about every gig that I've been able to do, AFEARED that, if I started saying NO then people would stop asking. THIS year, however, I've said NO THANK YOU to a whole PILE of gigs. I mean, most of these would have been at LEAST horribly difficult to do, and were generally places where the promoters wanted The Validators anyway, but still: I didn't LIKE having to reply in the negative for FEAR of what might be the result i.e. NO GIGS.
I know I am probably worrying needlessly - hey, I've gone around TELLING people I can't do gigs, so that's probably why they've stopped ASKING, right? And by CRIKEY having Actual Free Time at home is WONDERFUL, especially with a whole World Cup coming up AND most of Doctor Who still to go. There's just a small part of me thinking "Eek1 What if there's never no more gigs?"
If you see me in the next week or so, therefore, and I look like I'm NERVOUSLY EYEING the phone number for The Bull And Gate, do PLEASE intervene, won't you?
I headed off to CAMDEN yesterday, to have a Proper Rehearsal of Dinosaur Planet. After having a couple of practices CHEZ MOI we thought it might be an idea to try doing it in a Proper Rehearsal Room, so that a) we could have a go with microphones [i] as we'll be using them in the show [ii] so that we could hear Steve's singing over my BELLOWING b) it'd make us Practice Properly - there's something about being in a Proper Rehearsal Room that makes things feel more OFFICAL, and you're more likely to GET ON WITH IT when there isn't a KETTLE or GRUB mere feet away.
I've never had need of a rehearsal room in That London before, so we canvassed opinion on which ones were nice - a couple were RULED OUT by Steve's Comedy Friends (NB friends from the world of Comedy, not... well, you see what I mean) as being "covered in graffiti and smelling of men". I thought ALL practice rooms HAD to be like that, by LAW, but apparently not. We eventually ended up booking one in the aforesaid CAMDEN, HENCE that is where i was wending my way just before 5pm yesterday.
CRIKEY. It is a LONG LONG TIME since I have had call to be in CAMDEN during daylight hours, and either I had FORGOTTEN what it was like or it has become MUCH MUCH worse. Everywhere you looked: WANKERS. Wankers dressed as Comedy Punks trying to sell tatoos. Wankers dressed as Pete Doherty, walking into each other. Wankers dolled up as Cartoon Goths, POSING near the many MANY cheap tat shops. Wankers of all shapes, sizes, colourse, genders and POSES. It was like DISNEY had decided to create a THEME PARK based on one drunken afternoon in 1998.
The rehearsal studio itself was FINE. I was, I must admit, a bit NERVOUS about being there with all these Trendy Young Things and had to be shown where the microphones were (in the microphone stands) as I was WHITTLING about it. We soon got sorted though and had a GRATE practice, a RIGHT PROPER one. We rang through MOST of the songs, practicing the intros, working out how to say the lines, changing bits around, and then doing it all over again until it was RIGHT. I've been worrying about whether we're going to be READY in time, but if we carry on like this I think it's going to be FINE, I was reassured immensely by our PROFESSIONALISM.
And also by the show itself - it actually appears to be FUNNY! There's something about the two of us doing the songs, rather than just me, which seems to highlight the GAGS, and even CREATE ones which I'd never noticed before. Nearly all the songs are now chopped up with lines spread between us, and blow me if it doesn't REALLY WORK. HOORAH!
Full of the joys of SHOWBUSINESS we went down to the rosd for a Celebratory Pint in the nearest PUB, which turned out to be The Hawley Arms, NOTORIOUS as the sort of pub that Famous Camden Types go to. It wasn't full of anyone famous, but there were a LOT of Types in there - EVERYONE seemed to think they were in a hugely over-written STAGE PLAY about Characters In Camden. No conversation could be simply had, EVERYTHING had to be a display of Krazy Character. Doors could not be opened without "witty" "interplay" about opening doors, nor could ordering drinks, sliding past someone, or EVEN GOING TO THE TOILET.
Yes, I know, I sound like a grumpy old sod, but BLIMEY. One WRY REMARK from a bearded behatted 22 year old is a DELIGHT. After about half an hour of EVERYONE doing it it gets a bit annoying!
ANYWAY, apart from that it was a GRATE success all round, and we're going to try and book us some MORE Proper Rehearsals, in order to make the show GRATE. But if you see either of us start to look longingly at TRILBYS then please, INTERVENE.
I had a bit of a COMICS SPLURGE the other day. I'd read an article in a magazine about Phonogram, a comics mini-series which has been CALLING to me for a long time now, with it's combination of a writer i KNOW i like and it being based upon a large CHUNK of my record collection. The article was a reproduction of the original PITCH for a series, which made me think "Yes, that definitely looks like the sort of thing I'd like." So I bought it.
And I did! So much so that it FINALLY persuaded me to go and buy the SECOND Kenickie album, which I had YEARS ago on Cassette but listened to about three times, became hugely disappointed with, and never went near again. This morning I downloaded it and have listened to it almost as many times again and found it to be GRATE. I don't understand -it's not THAT different from the first one and sounds ACE. Maybe I should give the second Charlotte Hatherley album another chance too?
Anyway, the comic itself was dead good. Funnily enough it wasn't THAT amazing as an actual STORY, but the memories it stirred up, the OPINIONS it expressed AND the opinions it reminded me of, and the MORAL that I took from it were all GRATE. I think we can all now retire our copies of "Watchmen" from LENDING duty, for LO! it surely is THE perfect Comic For People Who Have Never Read One Before But Would Like To Try It.
The same could not be said for the OTHER longstanding comics series that I finally got round to reading this week, which was PLANETARY. I never got into it because it STARTED many EONS ago before I got back into reading comics and came out extremely erratically, but i FELT like I'd read large bits of it before, probably because it is VERY MUCH in The Warren Ellis Style i.e. all the characters talk in the same Arch Manner, someone tells them a Very Clever And Interesting story which they don't really take part in, and it's all over in about five minutes.
Honestly, I read the first 18 issues of it in just over and hour and a half - it was really interesting and funny but BLIMEY I'm glad I didn't have to wait MONTHS between issues. Mind you, i suppose if it's that long between issues you'd re-read each one a few times, rather than flicking through each one so quickly.
It WAS, as I say, really good in its own way - the re-interpretations of the MYTHS of comics and popular culture and the way he ties them all together was brilliant - but I'm glad that Comics In General have moved on from the simultaneously SLOW MOVING and FAST READING nature of The Decompression Movement of which this is a KEY EXAMPLE.
So there you go - if you've not read comics before and would like to, I'd say read "Phonogram"... but then somebody else has probably already THRUST it upon you. And if you HAVE read loads of comics before and are used to How They Work then read "Planetary"... but then I think I'm probably the last Comics Reader on EARTH to have done so.
A little while ago I mentioned my LONDON WALKING CIRCLE idea i.e. to walk EVERY street within a roughly 20 minute radius of my work. I'm still AT it, and have been out four times a week nearly every week this yet, and it's turning out to be BRILLIANT. Almost every day I see a New Thing, or see somebody Off The Telly, or find myself in Hidden London or something. Yesterday's excitement was strolling through the park in the square of Lincoln's Inn Fields (it's LOVELY), and today's was bumping into a PAL.
There I was, strolling around the back streets of SOHO when I saw someone emerging from a court yard, STRIDING forward, looking very happy with the world and his place in it. "THERE'S a cheery fellow!" I thought. "Hang on, is that The Dave Green?"
For LO! It was! Thus the erstwhile Need To Know Editor and all round Computery Things Expert and I had a chat and a stroll through the Sun Dappled Streets Of Old London Town, during which I think we agreed that I'd release a Science Fiction ROCK OPERA for him. Yes, ANOTHER one.
We said our farewells and I turned towards home, immediately seeing The Post Office Tower LOOMING ahead of me. And appreciation of the MAGNIFICENCE of The Post Office Tower has, I think, been one of the main things I've got from all this stomping around. There's loads of landmarks round here that you can see from all over, but The Post Office Tower is somehow more friendly than all the others, and also more impressive. It LOOMS round buildings all over the place like a gigantic SCI-FI MONOLITH, but one that always seems to be looking down in a KINDLY rather than MALEVOLENT fashion. I really like it, really a lot!
I was a bit NERVOUS on Saturday morning, for it was the day of The Dinosaur Planet Dialogue Recording Session. This had been arranged for quite a while as an opportunity to get most of those ACTING on the Concept Album together in one place to record their dialogue and singing, and I was a bit worried about it. Would people turn up? Would we get it all done? Would it be any good?
SPOILERS: I need not have worried. It was an AMAAAZING day.
The first AMAZING thing was the studio itself. AGES ago Mr Keith TOTP had offered the use of his studio and I'd GLEEFULLY accepted. However, I expected it to be The Usual Sort Of Thing - a bit damp and ramshackle, in somebody's basement, with a rough collection of mismatched and sticky taped together equipment.
It WAS in a basement, but other than that... well, go and have a look at their website! It was INCREDIBLE, like something off the TELLY! PLUSH? "Plush" is a word I would use to denigrste it entirely, it was GORGEOUS. Huge rooms, fantastic GEAR (A Harpsichord! A Hammond! A LESLIE SPEAKER!), HUGE decks of modern equipment, a large PROPER KITCHEN and a whole shop's worth of MASSIVE SOFAS for people to recline upon. It was, to be honest, a bit OVERWHELMING.
Everything was so well organised that I found out I'd actually left TOO LONG to get sorted out, and I ended up chatting to Keith and Rory The Engineer while we waited for people to turn up at their Alloted Times.
Soon people started filtering in - Mr Tim Eveleigh (T-REX) and Ms Jenny Lockyer (WPC JENNY) got there first, but we needed other people around to make their bits work, so when The Internationally Renowned Singer Songwriter Mr Chris T-T arrived shortly afterwards he was frogmarched into the recording room to begin RECORDING.
Chris is playing the part of GRANDAD and, when he asked for DIRECTION I said "Like a narrowly rejected Doctor Who, between Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker". That's EXACTLY what he did - so much so that NUMEROUS people later said "It's like Doctor Who!" despite the fact he sounded nothing like any ACTUAL actor who played him. He had TWO songs to sing and did so BRILLIANTLY - it's always weird hearing someone else sing your songs (and, in my case, RARE) and it's difficult NOT to leap forward shouting "NO! That's not how I sing it at ALL!" when what they're doing is BETTER. I felt immensely proud and MOVED to hear the way he, basically, IMPROVED it all, especially when he provided HARMONIES on "Literature Search." It was FAB.
Nearly everyone else had arrived around now - Mr Johnny Yeah (THE NARRATOR), Mr S Hewitt (PC DARREN), Mrs M Hewitt (DINOSAUR), Mr J Kell (DINOSAUR), Mr C Flowers (DINOSAUR) and The Preserved Bones Of My Dinosaur Skeleten (REPORTER) - with only Mrs Claire Gibb (THE GENERAL) missing. It turned out she'd got her days mixed up and, once informed, handed over her INFANT CHILD to Mr Stuart Gibb and RAN to the studio. In the meantime, however, I got Steve and Jenny in to do the first scene, and SINGING, and then Johnny and Steve sorted out The Main Title Theme.
Tim was dragged in next to do some HORN SWAGGLING with his vocals - which was a LOT of fun and involved MUCH gesticulation. I did a bit of CONDUCTING for this, and then ended up doing it A LOT MORE when we got The Dinosaur Chorus in. Apparently I hadn't actually TOLD them that they were going to be SINGING, which meant that we had to do quite a bit of PRACTICING. This, for me, was HUGE fun, and by the time we'd got a final take everyone was LEAPING AROUND the room, DANCING and generally acting like PIRATICAL DINOSAURS. This also saw one of my favourite parts of the day - watching Mr C Flowers POGOING around - and the BEST line on the whole album, which I didn't even write. The line is "my apologies", which isn't particularly funny on its own, but where it's said and HOW it's said... it is HILARIOUS.
Keith and Rory had, perhaps foolishly, given me FULL REIN on the recording desk i.e. they told me which was the INTERCOM BUTTON so I was having HUGE fun sitting at The Desk pressing The Button after every take and say "Marvellous darling, but perhaps once more with a smidgen of regret?" and I gave it FULL REIN when Claire arrived and did HER singing. She'd been a bit nervous about it, not having sung much in this way before, but did it GRATE.
It was during this part of the day that I realised what a LOVELY group of people I'd got together - not only was everyone being HUGELY supportive of each other, giving encouragement and applause to each other, but they were also just sitting around CHATTING. There was obviously a LOT of waiting around, and everyone time i STOMPED into The Waiting Room to collect someone I'd find this hugely varied and LOVELY bunch of people from different sections of My Life In ROCK sat around LARFING together. It was lovely.
Also ODD: One time I came back and someone said "Gaz Top was just in!" "Of course he was", I said. "You lot and your Studio Japes!" Ten minutes later I came back and nearly walked straight into Gaz Top! FROM THE TELLY! "He seemed quite keen to be part of it" everyone kept saying. I wish I'd asked him now!
With the singing sorted out The Liquid In My Beer and I headed to the Supermarket to buy a PILE OF BOOZE and then we launched into recording the dialoge. MAN ALIVE but this was FUN - we were now ROCKING and did nearly everything in a couple of takes, usually with a run through to get us going, but not always. Special mention MUST be made here of the input of Mr Johnny Yeah who, as The Narrator, was in pretty much every scene. He sounds FANTASTIC, making EVERYTHING sound PROPER. I did feel a bit bad because he was the main person I kept asking for re-takes, but this was because he was doing SO MUCH and every time he DID something it got better and better. When the record is finally finished I expect him to become the voice of EVERYTHING.
The day's work finished with recording "For The Fate Of The Earth", the BIG FINISH. It took a little while to get right, but when it WAS made right... COR! It sounded AMAAAAAAZING! I know I keep saying "AMAZING" but that's because it WAS. I've read, re-read and acted out that song MANY MANY MANY times but even _I_ felt my pulse RACE with the excitement of it all. And "oh how's she's riding" has, I feel, NEVER sounded so RACY.
With the job done we said our farewells to those who had to leave (including Mr Chris T-T who, unbenownst to me, had suffered Rail Replacement Buses to be there), had a group photograph taken outside, and then headed to the pub, their to HALLOO our achievement and have a couple of VERY well deserved BEERS.
It was, as I hope I have explained, an AMAAAAAAZING day. I couldn't believe how well it's gone, how much fun it had been, how ACE everyone involved was, and how INCREDIBLE it's going to sound. Even without Gaz Top!
I'm always a bit LOATH to make comment here on The Blogosphere when famous people die because, to be honest, I doubt that anyone really gives a toss what I think about it.
YES ALL RIGHT I know that that argument, taken to its logical conclusion, would be a FATAL DEATH BLOW to the whole enterprise, for me and pretty much everyone else, but STILL. I am almost always BEMUSED when people get all publicly worked up about people they have never met and feel DUTY BOUND to go on about it.
HOWEVER, I am now going to get pubicly worked up and GO ON about Malcolm McClaren because he had a HUGE effect on my life and, without him, I would not be here hassling you with all this now.
"Oh right", you are doubtless thinking "Because he invented punk, right?" NO. Malcolm McClaren DID NOT INVENT PUNK. It was invented by Various Humans In Punk Bands, but unfortunately Journalists and the man himself seem to have made the classic Fashion Industry mistake of confusing "Actually Inventing Something New" with "Seeing Other People Doing Something, Copying It, Selling It, And Persuading Similar Idiots To Do The Same." It happens ALL the time.
No, the reason Malcolm McClaren SHAPED MY LIFE is that I read an interview with him where he said, basically, "Nobody wants the truth when the truth is boring. If you haven't got something interesting to tell people, make it up, and the more ludicrous the better." On reading these [massively paraphrased] words a whole FLOODLIGHT SYSTEM went on in my BRANE. "Of course!" I thought, "THAT is the answer!" and so began a whole series of ADVENTURES with the band VOON where I set to concocting an increasingly ridiculous set of stories about us to feed to other bands, local newspapers and magazines.
The CLASSIC of the GENRE is of course the time that Simon couldn't do a couple of gigs because he had to revise for his exams, and believing, correctly, that this was TOO DULL I instead told everybody he was IN PRISON. Certain people (who may or may not be drumming now in The Validators) believed this for YEARS. There was also the story of us BLOWING UP the stage at a gig in Peterborough, using a drum machine as tribute to a dead percussionist, and of course nipping over to Australia FOR THE WEEKEND to record a single, on the behest of our AUSTRALIAN TRIBUTE BAND.
ALL of these stories were lapped up not necessarily because they were believable but because they were ENJOYABLE. I don't, OF COURSE, do that sort of thing these days (not hardly ever anyway) because I actually have some TRUE Ludicrous Stories to tell people, but I'm always massively disappointed when I see people in other bands EITHER peddling The Dull Truth ("We are a professional, competent band of 16-18 year olds who met at school") OR making up the same TIRESOMELY UNINTERESTING fake biographies ("On keyboards, Rama-Zul, the reincarnation of an Hawaiian Wizard who "... OH PISS OFF!) OR, worst of all, making up DREARY and OBVIOUS untruths that everyone goes along with because they can't even be bothered to challenge them.
Funnily enough, I saw Sandi Thom trying to relaunch her career this morning. You remember Sandi Thom - she'd supposedly been discovered doing "secret webcasts" from her video but even the TINIEST bit of digging showed that she'd been signed to a massive corporation before they were supposed to start and the videos hadn't even been in her house. Yet still this gets trotted out and she happily agrees with it.
It's PATHETIC - couldn't they have at least TRIED to make it interesting? Would it have hurt anybody to involve an ALLIGATOR at some point, or make it happen on a pirate ship, or involve a GRISLY MURDER along the way? The music would still have been rubbish, it might all have fallen apart within seconds, but at least it would have been a bit FUN.
And that, then, is the reason I am very very sad indeed to find out that Malcolm McClaren has died. He was wrong about lots of things, he promoted tons of old rubbish, but he created extra FUN in the world, and that is a precious thing to do.
Happy Easter everybody, hope you've been having a DELIGHTFUL break. Mine has featured a day out in Market Harborough (which is EVEN LOVELIER than I dared hope) and a trip to Peterborough where myself, Mr P Myland, and Mr T Pattison (returned briefly from MAURITIUS) so Peterborough United go down FIGHTING to Newcastle United. It felt like a HEROIC EFFORT in A Cup Clash versus a far superior team from several divisions above us... sadly it was the same league and pretty much how the whole season's gone, but STILL: the curry afterwards was WELL EARNED.
But I've ALSO been busy on the ROCK FRONT, and you can see the results for yourself over on the Indietracks Blog, where I have done a cover version of "Dreaming" by My Current Favourite Band, Allo Darlin'. In a SPECIAL way.
I meant to say in the video, but FORGOT in all the excitement, that I think it'd be a GRATE idea for LOADS of bands playing Indietracks to cover songs by OTHER bands playing the festival. I think this would be DELIGHTFUL, also FUN - i certainly had a MEGA BRILL time doing mine!