Saturday, March 31, 2012


"I Think That Went Quite Well..."

Theodore live at Helstock 2012. "How did you come up with the name?" We asked Wendell. "It was from an interview I heard with Dawes" he said. "They got asked the same question and said that 'Dawes' was their Grandfather's name. 'If he'd had a cool name like Theodore or something it would have been different...'". It was only afterwards that we started going up to each other and saying "...and I am Ted 'Theodore' Logan!"

Sunday, March 25, 2012

As Was

“It was twenty two years ago today…”

To Helstock, the official launch of the festival season and dedicated annually to the titular celebrant - The Fragrant and Charming Helen Mulley - upon the occasion of her birthday. Usually I get to reform at least one band for the occasion and this year I have also rosined up a new group – Theodore – and we open our set with a song called A Company of Strangers, which contains the couplet “What happened to those bright young things / Did we grow into the people we always wanted to be?” Afterward, co-curator Mr. Wendell pores over news clippings from the last century – actual pieces of paper marked with highlighter pen, imagine that - in which he, in his guise as rock and pop reporter for the local paper, discusses the prospects for the bright young things that Our Glorious Leader and I once were. In black and white pictures we are preserved, all big hair and billowing shirts earnestly looking to take on the world with our chorused guitars and our tasselled scarves. The past is a different country; even Cactus World News had a record deal back then.

As it happens, it also happens to be my actual birthday, which prompts me to recall that it is exactly twenty two years since the then bass player with As Is (and currently appearing at a punk festival near you with The Stupids) Ross Geraghty played his official last gig with the band at the end of a short tour we had organised ourselves and which climaxed with a show in a small cinema in South Wales. Singer James and I recall the highs and lows of the transitory life of the jobbing (i.e. broke) musician – sleeping six to a van on a lovingly-assembled pile of amplifiers and PA speakers beside the Manchester ship canal, where he was awoken both by condensation created by the band’s combined breath dripping from the van’s roof in a steady metronomic stream onto his face and the sound of something he felt only able to describe as ‘thwacking’ from outside. Having lustily thrown open the back doors of the van to greet the new morn (imagine that post-Judith scene with Graham Chapman in The Life of Brian) he recoiled slightly from the scene of an early morning fisherman beating his catch to death by repeatedly slamming it by the tail against the concrete canal wall.

“It wasn’t all bad though”, he reminds us. “There was that time in Leicester…” (the sadly lamented Princess Charlotte – along with The George Robey and The Powerhaus as much a fixture for the ascendant indie band as the Fillmore West was for a generation of peace and love-toting hippy bands from The Bay Area) “…where we were selling records on the pavement outside afterwards and that guy invited us back to his house, got us really stoned and then played the stereo version of Magical Mystery Tour while we looked through kaleidoscopes”. “You were leaning against the wardrobe”, I said. “That was the one that had the speaker with the bass mix on it” sighs James wistfully. “That really opened my eyes to what an amazing bass player Paul McCartney is” - this from a man who once performed a gig in a Dadaist prank billed as Thebeatles. “Then Ross got really paranoid and convinced everyone that the guy must be a serial killer and wouldn’t go into the kitchen” I recalled. As it happened, he took us all to the local greasy spoon the next morning and bought us breakfast, which was very kind considering he hadn’t even been to the gig.
We get up to perform a set comprised of songs from back in the day. When we get to the last number James prepares to open his throat to sing out the first line, which displays a remarkable prescience. “When this whole thing falls apart on us…” it runs “…looking back, it won’t seem real”.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Why The Long Face?

On a fortnightly basis, I go into the glowering neo-thirties edifice which houses Ipswich Community Radio and I speak on the air as nation unto nation - quite literally so in some cases, as through the joy of the internet we have received responses to the studio from America, Spain, and New Zealand - not all places that I have relatives in.

The two hour show is called "Why The Long Face?" and, as our trail proudly announces at the top of the hour (of ten o'clock at night) it involves two long-faced men talking about whatever strikes them as worthy of comment in that particular instance - imagine, if you will, a podcast which outstays welcome by (say) about an hour and a half. Sandwiched as we are in between Cosmic Jazz and Urban Beats, we don't really have a station demographic that stays with us for the evening, although Neil from CJ says he often listens to us from his hotel in China when he's away on business - he'll have especially enjoyed this week's programme, starting as it did with some jazz and then a fragment of dead air, as during the show handover his mate Derek had taken the wrong CD out of the player and nearly walked off with a copy of the new Dawes album.

We have a number of precepts regarding the subject matter of our discussions - Bond films, any update in the holder of the title of world's shortest man, car troubles - over time our listeners will know thus hath the candle singd the moath on a fairly regular basis. Here's a fairly typical edition of the show then, during which we discuss plans for a three hundred foot statue of Lee Brilleaux, congratulate Kiss on the opening of their new miniature golf course in Las Vegas, reflect on the changing nature of Disney cartoons ("I find it deeply ironic that a duck - Donald - should end up being tarred and feathered..."), wonder about the ingredients of Pope Benedict's aftershave, mourn the ear-less rabbit stepped on by a German cameraman, I take co-curator Neale through my weird dream set in a mall where eating the burgers makes the muzak sound better and which climaxes in a horrifying finale involving Andy Trill out of Picturehouse, there is a Van-based quiz, and we play Inside the Why The Long Face? Studio, wherein Neale takes the James Lipton role and begins by asking me what my favourite word is. You'll never guess what my ideal job would be...

The book of the series;

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Do Some Old!

It is nearly Helstock time again, and so The Artist Formerly Known as The Singer and I have been painstakingly putting together a hand-picked band to perform the best in early 70’s (1973, specifically) vintage-style rock, rework prior songwriting triumphs and to play covers of things that we think best exemplify the genre we’ve been inspired by. Or, to put it another way, we’ve phoned up a couple of mates to see if they can get their domestic pass stamped in order to allow them to come out on a week night and make a racket in a rehearsal studio with us.
Having recorded last week’s get together and listened back for A&R purposes, Mr. Wendell and I got together this week for a quick acoustic strum/executive brainstorming session and to fine tune a couple of the guitar solos so that they didn't sound quite so much like someone kicking a banjo down a fire escape. We also played through another old number of ours which marks among its pedigree the combined virtues of being quite short (there’s no middle eight) and having very few chords. We considered that if things went well during the next (and final) rehearsal session we might devote some time to seeing if we could nail this one too, thus enabling us to take our set triumphantly over the magic twenty minute mark. Sadly we haven’t been able to track down our original demo version in the archive*, but the version we did once have was recorded in the back room upstairs at a pub that closed in 1997 and is now a listed building, which gives you some idea of its epoch.
There was a space in the second verse where neither of us could for the life of us remember the missing couplet so we were forced to write a new one, much in the fashion of those guys who go back and remaster their old albums and take the opportunity to fix that bit they never really liked but were forced to include at the time because they’d run out of multitracks/money/bugle or had a tour to be getting on with. At one point we started messing about with a couple of chords that sounded nice together. “Hang on – I’ll record that” said Wendellsteve. He placed a mobile phone on the coffee table. “Off you go” he said.

*Big bag of cassettes under the bed in Steve’s spare room.