Wednesday, March 25, 2015

'Newsnight presenter's furious attack on "bloated" BBC management of "time-servers" and "biddable people"' (The New Statesman, November 2012).

There have been rumours circulating for a couple of years, but it was confirmed today that the BBC would not be sponsoring a stage at this year's Ipswich Music Day. This is a shame, because "I'll see you by the BBC stage" had become, over the years, as much a mantra for music-goers as "Meet me by Sir Alf" is for fans of the local soccerball side. The consistent quality of the output has been maintained over the years by the careful curation of local DJ, writer, promoter, presenter, compere and simply enthusiast Stephen Foster, who has had the rug badly pulled from under him by his managers (I won't say 'superiors', as that would be prevaricative).

If I'm to 'fess up my own interests then, yes, I've had my share of benefits thrown my way - a spot on the Songwriter's Showcase (all original material, and I think I even MC'd one year), a live broadcast by The Star Club (later repeated on Bank Holiday Monday with the inadvertent cuss bomb skillfully edited out by long term OB van-dweller and on-the-hoof recording engineer extraordinaire Dave Butcher), the jukebox theatre of The Perfectly Good Guitars, a storming covers set by The Picturehouse Big Band and a pre-Cornbury warm up with Songs from The Blue House. Didn't get paid a bean for any of 'em. What makes it all the more disappointing then, is that a corporate behemoth that can afford to hire a helicopter - not a car, a real, whirlybird helicopter - to get Jeremy Clarkson from his filming location back to his hotel in time for for dinner and then keep it hanging around for two hours while he finishes his pint won't spin out a few thou' to carry on with a flagship stage at the largest one day free music event in the UK, an event which has been thriving for just shy of quarter of a century.

Shame on you BBC Radio Suffolk. Shame on you.    

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Tenor Lady.

And so to Arlington’s – former museum, dancehall, and now thriving brasserie (the breakfasts are a thing of wonder) and on this occasion venue for an open mic night hosted by one Charlie Law, a thoroughly good egg* who also runs a night in Woodbridge, and curated by the good people of Unity in Music who are recording and filming the event for posterity. TJS has secured us a mid-evening spot wherein we, The Chancers – on this occasion TJS, myself and Tiny Diva - will perform lovely new song Nashville State of Mind, and Run until We Drop off’ve the album.
The room is packed – admittedly it’s quite a small room – and there are a multiplicity of cameras, lights and expensive-looking microphones dotted around the place. There are also attractive young people of every stripe, many of whom bear horn-rimmed glasses, artfully-teased beards and inked arms. I feel like Michael Caine with the hordes bearing down on him. “Hipsters!” I mutter “Faarrrsands of ‘em…”. As with all of these occasions the quantity and quality of the performances vary. With our wizened old song writing heads on Shev and I subtly critique the material. Our consensus is that most people could probably afford to lose a verse and that Ed Sheeran’s got a lot to answer for. A few years ago it was all prom dresses, pianos and faux-cockney confessionals, this week it would appear that parlour guitars are in. They come, they go, but the art school dance goes on forever.

I have taken the bus into town and so am pleased to be offered a lift home by my employer** and so while composing ourselves in the lobby I am able to eavesdrop on a monologue being delivered by a gentleman who appears to have lived a life both well and full. Lemmy is mentioned, and Paul Kossoff. At one point he pauses for breath and I am able to intervene by requesting a picture of the young lady, who bears a striking resemblance in terms of style and bearing to one Judy Dyble in her pomp (see above).  “Who’s she?” enquires the rock Zelig. “Is she famous?”

Our exeunt sadly precludes watching Fern Teather, who I have recognised simply by dint of the red dress she was wearing at the last songwriter’s showcase I saw her at - which if nothing else proves the value of good branding. I apologise for having to leave but ask if she could assume that I’d watched her set, enjoyed it enormously and congratulated her afterward, since this is what had happened every other time I’d seen her. She said that she thought this was a good idea and would certainly save a lot of time in social interaction if we simply adopted it as a default position in future. “Did you play earlier?” she asked. I confirmed that I had, indeed already performed. “I’m sorry I missed it” she said. “You were great, by the way”.    

* "The X factor are coming down to take over one night soon, they asked me to mention it. Quite rudely actually. I won't be here..." he said at one point, and also "Does anyone know any jokes?", rather more frequently. 

**I am later relieved at the timing as a round of a (can of) Guinness, a Peroni and an orange juice and lemonade sets me back over a tenner, and I only brought twenty quid out with me.