Monday, March 31, 2003

Every day, I walk through the university campus as a short cut to my afternoon job. There's usually an assortment of protestors (at the moment anyhow), skaters and people handing out crap flyers for crap cheap drink student nights. The people handing them out usually avoid me, which I've always found sort of strange as a)I don't look that old and b) they will normally pry them into the hands of anything with two legs so they can get rid of their stock.

Anyhow, today a young girl handing out stuff actually came up to me, which took me by surprise. I was even more surprised when she chirped "Happy Easter!" and gave me an envelope with that same greeting handwritten on the front, plus a smiley face. Bless, I thought. It's a pack of cheerful students doing a "let's do something nice today for no reason" (Ah, I remember those days. Except I was about six the last time it happened, when I organised a slap-dash parade and begged my mother for candy to hand out to the local kids.) I smiled at her and waited until I got to my office to open it up.

Inside, there was a little chocolate easter egg...and a card that said "Happy Easter from the Christian Union. You are warmly invited to a talk today at 1 pm at Jabez Clegg" (I snarckled when I read that, as Jabby is normally a haven for alcopop fuelled students.) Today's topics are apparently: "Easter: Even better than Christmas?"and "Jesus' resurrection: History or hoax?"

Sneaky huh? I seem to recall seeing other recruits collaring people to tell them they'd get a free lunch in exchange for sitting through one of their talks too, but at least they were upfront about it that time.

Speaking of Jesus, may I present...The Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists! (thanks to the bf for the link.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

I don't do crowds

In honour of the bf's birthday, we went out for dinner and then went on to see Ladytron at the Hop & Grape (err, sorry...Academy 3). Guest list meant we could swan in just 20 minutes before they went on, but even that was too much sardine time for me. The 'Tron were excellent, but I got increasingly irritated by the various annoying students. Like the one who looked like Dennis Pennis and kept shouting "Shabba!" throughout the set. Or the pixie-haircutt'ed girl in a repro Moog t-shirt who treated all of us to her truly awful body poppin'/robot moves. Or the pair of tall w@nkers in denim and mullet combos who had no qualms about shoving in front of us towards the end of the set and yapped on about whatever Northern Barley crap is du jour. I also heard another posh male student telling a newbie girl "Oh, I've *been* to Moss Side..." in knowing voice while she looked at him with big saucer eyes. And did I mention the rash of cutsie pie Tatu-esque faux lesbianism going on?

I know I sound cranky, but I'm sorry, I just can't apologise for finding stuff like that infuriating.

Anyhow - Ladytron were very good indeed. Mira and Helen have really come out of their shell - gone is the ice queenly hiding behind synths, replaced with just the right amount of confident singing and eye contact that takes them up quite a few notches as performers. A live drummer and bassist gave their set more depth, and they sounded as smooth and polished as ever. The crowd were appreciative, for all their faults, and I'm sure the 'Tron were pleased to have to do two encores.

The aftershow was at Big Hands down the road, so we scooted there just in time to snag some seats before the bar got totally rammed. Danny turned up and told us all about their recent shows in North America. Apparently people in Montreal call Toronto "Moronto". How come I'd never heard that one? He also told me he'd turned down an interview on Much Music with Nardwuar the Human Serviette, and I told him he'd done the right thing.

Amusing observations: some truly diabolical 80s looks. One girl was wearing tweed culottes (culottes!!), stripey socks and white leather skimmers with a Hoxtafemullet 'do, of course. Another girl had green fishnets, a horrible frayed denim mini covered with self-penned slogans, Annabelle Bow Wow Wow hair and hot pink 80s stilettos. Oh, and one mulletted skinny fellow had his meticulously slashed jeans slung so low, you could almost see his you-know-whats. Although he probably had a brazilian...

Poor Mira was accosted by a group of very forward lesbian ladies who had been chucking bras at her on stage - I hadn't caught that! They just wouldn't take the hint that she wasn't interested and she kept trying to inch away.

Can you tell I am fascinated by people watching? Heh.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

And by the way...a very happy birthday to the bf. xxx

Sorry - I've been distracted by record fairs, handing in my notice and sinus pain. Not necessarily in that order.

Sunday con't

It seems kind of late to go on about my studio session now, so I'll keep it brief. It went really well, although I felt sure that my exhaustion was keeping me from performing very well at the start. My throat seemed to have dried up. I also had too many versions of one song in my head which also gave me trouble, but eventually I relaxed and things went much better from then on. We finished one song in English (Brian Hyland "Let me belong to you"), one song in English and Japanese (Ronettes/Shangri Las/Shonen Knife "Paradise"), and one song in French (Francoise Hardy "Pourtant tu m'aimes"). So if the last session had a winter theme, this one turned out to be multilingual.

I haven't heard the final mixes yet as we decided against burning the candle at both ends, but it was pretty clear that the big star of the day turned out to be the Francoise song. I think the layers and layers of backing vocals and harmonies that Phil somehow coaxed out of me was what clinched it. Coaxed is the operative word, as some of the lower notes seemed out of my range. But Phil insisted, and I found that if I, err, squatted a bit, caveman style...I could just manage it. Now isn't *that* a lovely girly image for you! At least I provided the big laugh of the afternoon when I came out and confessed what I'd had to do.

There was just time for a lovely Nepalese curry before catching the last train back to Upper Norwood and a quick chat with Pam & Mike before getting some much needed sleep before my interview the next day. And thankfully, no UB40 coming from upstairs.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Sunday

8:30 am. I wake up. I do not feel good. Not hungover exactly, but tired and dehydrated. And what is that I hear from the neighbours upstairs? Why, it's the sweet sweet strains of "I can't help falling in love" by UB40 blaring through the ceiling. Followed by the Beautiful South, "Higher Love" by Steve Winwood and bloody eeeevil Fairground Attraction. Sadists! I grab the duvet and try to get back to sleep in the living room, but you can hear it in there too. So I resign myself to my exhaustion and make some coffee to try and wake up for the studio session.

More later...

Saturday

My plan is to do some quality charity shop haulage with Pam before heading out to Kings Cross later on, so we make tracks for Lower Norwood as I noticed a plethora of dusty old shops on the bus the night before. It's heaven! The only torture is having to say no to things that would be too scary to try and get back to Manchester by train. At the first shop, Pam scores some fab atomic 50s plant holders and I settle for a motley of 50s cutlery and kitchen tools. We amble down the road and come across a Salvation Army having a kind of yard sale, but with the added bonus of religious music being blared out while you shop. Ace! I snap up a 60s dress and a vanity case from a little old lady for next to nothing, while Pam finds some more crockery.

After exhausting all the charity shops in the area, we head back to Upper Norwood to drop off our finds and get fish and chips from their wonderful local chippy/restaurant Tales of the Sea on Westow Road. It's won awards, and no surprise - the fish is amazingly fresh, the batter crisp and ungreasy. They even give you a big glass of ice for your diet coke!

Replenished, we head across the road to the Haynes Lane antique market for all your collectable, but obviously pricier, finds. (you can see Pam talking about her finds from there, and other places here - scroll down about halfway...) I score a 50s Norwegian photo album and a major lot of 60s jewellery from a lovely guy upstairs (see the lighting-shaped earrings in the pics below!) but before I know it, it's 5 pm and I am late, late late!

So I rush off to Kings Cross (note: strange yuppie bloke meditating on my train!) and by some miracle, take the right exit for Grays Inn Road so I find the Water Rats without a problem. Luckily everyone's still decorating and setting up the PA when I arrive. I spend a very agreeable few hours, as always when I am with the Actionettes, getting ready, soundchecking and tucking into backstage nibbles and cava, all generating that 60s girly atmosphere I so rarely get up north. One of the 'Nettes has brought two cans of glitter hairspray, which is sprayed with abandon and ends up in everyone's bags, drinks, food and lungs. Still, we look gorgeous so it's worth it.

I also finally got to meet Emma Wilkinson (pictured in the post below) who some people know best as the winner of Stars in Their Eyes (Dusty Springfield, if you hadn't guessed!) although she has now released an album of her own material as well as 60s covers. We're both singing tonight, as well as Katherine Actionette. Emma is the complete opposite to me, vocally - all soul smokey growl, and perfect for her Dusty songs of course! A slender brunette pixie in real life, it's amazing how different she looks in the wig.

At 9 pm the doors open, and as usual we take over the dance floor to start to the party while the arrivals watch. I always find this part of the evening funny for some reason - people literally stand and watch all of us dance for about an hour before a few souls finally start trickling down to the dance floor to join in. As I can sometimes be a bit shy, I find this all immensely liberating.

The sets are at 10:45 and 12:15. I do three songs - "That's how it goes" (Breakaways) as the opener of the first set, and "Trapeze" (Lou Christie) and "The bubble broke" (Lesley Gore) in the second set. The crowd goes crazy the whole night, and the atmosphere is amazing - it's incredible what a change of venue can do. I can't help but get happily drunk - even though I'm in the studio the next day. Apparently I meet some important people (in the music business) and some of my friends laugh when I say I had no idea who they were. I make a point of not really paying attention to that kind of thing, you see. I suppose I could try to promote myself further by courting certain people, but a) I don't feel comfortable doing that and b) I'm perfectly happy with things the way they are, and to let things happen naturally.

At around 1:45 I realise I should really think about getting some sleep, so a flurry of kisses, hugs and gifts later, I somehow manage to get to the N63 bus stop in my stilettos. It's glamour on a budget, y'see. God knows what a taxi from Kings Cross to Upper Norwood would cost! We get in at about 3 am and immediately crash.

And now, my weekend in writing as well.

Friday

The journey down to Euston is fairly painless, except for the welts on my shoulders from my bags. And that was after I tried to take the bare essentials, too! I meet the bf who, out of force of habit, leads me onto the northern line instead of heading to Brixton as part of our route to Upper Norwood. It's only when we notice we're at Camden that we curse and scramble off. I am exhausted and a bit cranky, and by the time we've got to Brixton, slogged onto a crowded bus which winds its way slowly to Upper Norwood, I can barely see straight. (This, people, is why I can never, ever live in London, much as I love to visit!)

Knowing that our hosts Pam and Mike will have a warm, cozy flat no doubt stocked with nibbles and beer helps me get through the journey though, and once we've arrived there's conversation and Comic Relief (loved Peter Serafinowicz as Wogan!) until we go to bed.

Sophisticated Boom! Boom!

The Water Rats, Kings Cross - 15.03.03




Me & Emma Wilkinson



Singing "The bubble broke" (Lesley Gore) with the Actionettes...



"The bubble broke" again (those spots in the photos are bubbles, btw...)



I think this is Emma singing "River deep, mountain high"...

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

I got the job!

I'm so exhausted from the last few days that I'm sure my writing is pish, but I thought some people might like to know.

But yes, I'm thrilled it went well. Despite my annoyance at paying loads extra for an "earlier" train that arrived 50 minutes late and got me totally stressed as well as a lack of sleep and general tiredness from scooting around London all weekend, the interview was fabulous - one of those surreal moments where you know exactly what your answer will be as they ask you questions, even complicated ones. Where they laugh at all your little jokes and nod vigorously at your comments. Where they accidentally say "you" instead of "the suitable candidate" when they're describing the job.

I felt totally happy and emotional when I left, but I promised myself I wouldn't count my chickens. I needn't have worried though - at around 7 pm last night, I got a phone call to say they'd loved me and are desperate for me to start as soon as possible. Wow!

Today comes the unpleasant task of handing in my notice. I sent an email to my manager to raise the subject early this morning so he could digest the news before I started work, but when I got in I discovered he's away on business and might not have checked his account. Should I call his mobile? If he's in meetings it seems inappropriate. Sigh.

But only a very small glitch on otherwise brilliant news. The relief is too fantastic!

And my weekend was fab, of course. I've got some photos and I'll post those tomorrow...

Friday, March 14, 2003

Sometimes I really think someone is testing me. This morning was my last chance to get everything packed and the house ready for a weekend away in London. I'd been slowly preparing for about 3 days now, and had crammed everything I need for my show on Saturday, recording on Sunday and the job interview on Monday into two bags. (I should get a prize for that one!)

The worst part was that because I had to work this afternoon, I had to lug everything in to the office by bus and on foot. I struggled down to the stop by my house and caught an 84 into town. Not ideal, because it goes into town via Deansgate and passes where I work. So I'd have to get off in town and catch another quick bus. However, I didn't want to wait any longer so I got on.

At Portland Street and Oxford Road, we got stuck. Why? A *pro* war demonstration! Well, more anti-Saddam-do-something-about it. A group of about 500 Kurds (although there may also have been some Iraqis based on the signs I saw) had been walking up Oxford Road, and turned onto Portland Street. Which is where my bus needed to go. So I had to get off and struggle again down Oxford Road until I got to the BBC, where I had to catch a bus rammed with students.

Now I am at the office. My shoulders ache, I'm knackered already and I don't feel like doing any work. Bring on 5 pm!

But before I go, just a reminder to any London readers about the Actionettes show tomorrow night. You can see the flyer here, but it's at the Water Rats in Kings Cross (328 Grays Inn Road), 9 pm - late, £4 entry. There are two sets plus loads of 60s DJing in between and I think it's going to be fab!

Also, for anyone who didn't pick up on it, I linked a Pitman song in the title below. It's a radio edit so the naughty words are bleeped out, but it was all I had handy on the computer so it will have to do! Enjoy.

I'll post again when I get back! Have a good weekend and DON'T vote for Ruby Wax tonight on Fame Academy! I do like her, but she destroyed a wonderful Shangri Las song last night by turning it into kitsch hell, which is something that really irritates me. Will may be Blackpool/Pontins/cruise ship, but when he cried last night I decided he was ok. Bless.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Why...

...did someone leave the tap running full blast in the ladies here at work, for the third time this week?

...hasn't the Metric album been released yet?

...does the only vending machine in this god-forsaken technology park accept pennies (plus) but only sell diet pepsi? (minus)

...is it that every bus I get on at the moment has someone smoking upstairs, or even downstairs in full view of the driver?

I'm not in a bad mood, by the way. These are just things that are on my mind this afternoon.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Pitman at Friends & Family. The Roadhouse 08.03.2003



Can't seem to...see...Pitman...mullet in...the way...



"It's getting hot in here, so turn the heating off - I don't want to get a big gas bill..."


It was so dark in the Roadhouse that I'm amazed my photos turned out at all. First of all, it was completely rammed. When Pitman started, I was about 2/3 of the way back. But by playing the stealthy "someone leaves the room, sneak forward" game, eventually I managed to get right by the front, with just a few mullets between me and the Pit. Cameras were twinkling away all around me, and I doubt that any of them turned out much better - the only light in the room seemed to be a light for the decks and you could barely see his face. Lucky for me, Pitman's miner helmet acted as a shining beacon. And check out his reflective strips!

He did his whole repertoire, which is about 5 or 6 songs including "Witness the pitness"and "It takes tea". At the end, he did a new song a capella which included a line about Tony Blair being David Hasselhoff. The crowd hooted appreciatively.

Monday, March 10, 2003

Darn. I took some photos at Pitman, so this morning I re-sized them and saved them to my ftp folder before work...but then forgot to upload them to my server! I should have had that second cappuccino. I am so groggy today!

In the meantime, do you love Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry? Chances are you know many of their songs as performed by The Crystals, The Ronettes, The Chiffons, The Dixie Cups, The Shangri-Las, The Exciters, Darlene Love and Lesley Gore as well as the Monkees and "Sugar Sugar" by the Archies...to name just a few! And if you think, like me, that it's outrageous that they haven't been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, then go here to sign an online petition.

For all the online info and links on Jeff and Ellie you could ever want, check out their page at Spectropop.

Friday, March 07, 2003

Eu-ro-veee-sion!

If you weren't watching A Song for Europe contest on Sunday, you might have missed that our representatives this year are a duo called Jemini (and formerly called Tricity). Lovely Chig has some lovely pictures from the day here.

"Cry Baby" is a good little song - my favourite from the initial eight, it sailed through to the top 4 after the Radio 2 vote and just managed to beat Emily Reed's "Help me" when they snapped up the first place votes from northern England and Scotland.

And what I never got around to mentioning here is that I had an extra reason to be plugging Jemini. At my old telly job, one of my co-workers had told me that every year, her friends write a song and enter the Song for Europe contest but had never managed to make the top 8 to reach the public vote. This year, I'd already decided on "Cry baby" as my favourite when I found out that the writer was none other than my co-worker's friend - Martin Isherwood! It's just all so six degrees of separation. And lovely that they finally got through after years of toughing it out. Excuse me for being all Nicky Chapman, but well done!

Eurovision links:

doteurovision ** British Academy of Composers and Songwriters (to apply for next year!) ** Eurovision 2003 Official Site

Thursday, March 06, 2003

Oh. My. GOD!!!! I HAVE AN INTERVIEW!

They just called me on my mobile. (Thank god I was alone here at the office!) I was the first person she called (a good sign?), so I had my pick of interview times. And wouldn't you know it, they're interviewing on the day I come back from London. I just had this feeling she was going to tell me it was that day, too. Ha!

La la la la possible FREEDOM!

I think I need a drink...

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Clearly something is wrong with me. I'm posting for the third time today!

I just wanted to say how much I love the new Bent album, Jar of Pickled Eyes, err, I mean The Everlasting Blink. I wasn't overly keen on the Go Kommando Ep that came out in October, but obviously I just had to get over the fact that the vocals on "Beautiful otherness" were done by the guy from the Beloved. Coming back to it now, it's absolutely fantastic - all sexy shuffling beats and cool tones. Overall, the cd has all the intelligent and thoughtful qualities I'd come to expect from them, but with a slightly more polished sound. I've played it at least 20 times since we got it on Saturday!

You'll see there is a Bent interview on the left side there, from last year. I must confess I was a bit miffed when I never heard from Simon again afterwards (did I say something wrong?) but I haven't let that sway me. Oh, and if you go here, you can get the details of a clinic they're running all next week in London. If I have time while I'm down there, I'll definitely have to check it out.

Incidentally, I knew one of the album tracks straight away, but I couldn't figure out why. Then I realised it's from the new Family Tax Credit ads that have been on telly. (Is it me, or is it a bit strange for a song to be used before the album comes out?)

OK, I've clearly been living somewhere ELSE for the past year, because today is the first time I've read Kitchentable. Not only is it totally ace, the owner is in Manchester too. I dunno, it's just really nice to read about someone's night out and realise you were in another club just around the corner.

Speaking of new blogs, it's high time I did a spring clean on the left hand side there. There are lots of blogs I want to add as well as records, in case you were worried I've been listening to the same handful of songs for the past 4 months.

The other day, I finally started reading The Bell Jar. (I know, I must be the only 20 something who hasn't yet. The bf laughed and said I should have read it when I was on Catcher in the Rye at age 13.) And you know what? It's excellent. But it has this way of making you feel kind of crazy as she goes further round the bend. Yikes!

So. Things are still quite up and down at my (paid) work. I sent a long email in protest of all the cold calling to my manager and asked him to call me this morning. And there I was, reading The Bell Jar in bed and feeling kind of jittery when my mobile went. The conversation went just about nowhere and I have to confess I was in tears afterwards. I mean, what do you say when you're told that they're sorry I don't like cold calling, and they're sorry that it wasn't made clear at the time of the job interview and description, but that it's an integral part of the job. Brick wall anyone? I've complained to the agency, and they haven't responded yet either.

Oh well. At least we're going to see Pitman at Friends & Family this Saturday...although I think it's at the Music Box, not the Roadhouse. I'm looking forward to it, even if the Music Box has warm beer and a smattering of broken chairs. Not that the Roadhouse is much better...