2005 – a year in review

Good year? Bad year? not sure…

Musically, not a bad year – didn’t release any albums, but I guess that means that the last one is still doing OK, so didn’t feel any major pressure to get something new happening. Now I’m glad I waited due to all the new musical ideas offered up by the Looperlative.

Some great gigs – bassday, bassfest thing in Italy in July, Edinburgh festival (where staying with Jane and Gareth was also a year highlight – much fun). Gig with Ned Evett in Petersfield was much fun, as was recording with Ned. Finished an albums worth of material with Calamateur, AKA Andrew Howie, and there’s a lot of great stuff on there – I’m excited about what we might be able to do with that. Recycle Collective started – was v. small, but musically one of the best gigs I’ve been involved with.

Teaching’s been great – lots of very fine students, lots of beginners making progress, and meeting lots of lovely new people. also started a new column for Bass Guitar Magazine – good to be back writing again (which reminds me, I’ve got one to finish ASAP!)

Personally, it’s been a fairly good year – one big scare with the ginger fairly aged feline, who was given roughly two weeks to live, but with chemo got rid of a satsuma sized tumor IN A WEEK!!!! – we’re still amazed by that, and he’s going great. Life with both the fairly aged felines has been lots of fun (I really feel sorry for all those of you with cat allergies who have to lavish your attention on human offspring as a replacement…) seeing them both take over the house and garden and settle in.

another year of doing no work on the house… hmmm, maybe I should start by just TIDYING MY OFFICE!!! lazy bastard…

World events – both the best and worst things that happened this year were the same – the Make Poverty History campaign was such a monumental success at getting poverty reduction and the plight of people living in extreme poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America into the minds of every day people, it felt like there were really a chance to make a proper change. millions of people signing petitions, emailing MPs and congressmen, documentaries being made, and of course Live8 and the march in Edinburgh.

And then the worst thing – the gargantuan fuck-up that the G8 leaders made of the opportunity to do something for the world’s poor. Never before in the history of the world had there been such a wellspring of popular support for governments making decisions in favour of the poor, diverting cash and resources to help those in need, changing trade laws to balance things out. Millions upon millions of people around the world were calling for it, huge numbers of politicians were calling for it. Even mad right wing american jihadists like Pat Robertson were on-side (!!), but still those sad twisted old men of the G8 sat round the table in Gleneagles, in their opulence and grandeur and bollocksed the whole thing up. Their pledges fell woefully short, and then they even undid a lot of that. It was disgusting, sickening and saddening that such an opportunity had been wasted. Bono and Bob Geldof had done an amazing job of getting the campaign off the ground, from their involvement in the commission for Africa, and DATA, through to organising Live8, but they bottled it when the announcement was made, took the encouraging words one step too far and declared the Gleneagles bullshit to be a triumph. I’m guessing they aren’t too happy with where it’s gone. The follow up at the World Trade Talks in November was equally shit. A tragedy on a scale that all the terrorists in the world couldn’t hope to achieve.

The week of Live8 and the G8 was a busy one, given that it was also the week of two other disasters – firstly London getting the Olympics (another monumental waste of money which will leave the PPP funding bodies rubbing their grubby hands in glee), and then the London bombing. The bombing had begun to feel like an inevitability for a while – there was no way that the huge disquiet amongst the world’s muslim population about the Iraqi occupation and the continued support for Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land was going to go unmarked in the UK. And finally it did, four huge bombs, three on the underground, one on a bus, quite a few people dead (though not as many as lost their lives in Iraq that weekend… that didn’t make the world news). A tragedy, but one that the government still refuse to admit was linked to the situation in the middle east. Stupid stupid fools.

But at the end of the year, some great news, perhaps the first great news in british life for a long time – registered civil partnerships for Gay couples. Finally gay people can get married (no, I really don’t care if you don’t want to call it a marriage or a wedding – it is, and that’s great.)

And the media spectacle of the year was certainly George Galloway in front of the US senate committee, absolutely ripping them apart. The most damning indictment of the Bush administrations lies and coverup in Iraq, and right there in the heart of the beast. Genius! Galloway can be a bit of a bellend, and his campaign in the General Election (ah yes, we had one of those – what a non-event that was) was horrible and divisive, but on that one day in the Senate, he ruled the world.

oh, media event of the year joint first was Harold Pinter’s nobel prize acceptance speech – another damning destruction of the history of US foreign military intervention.

What else? A few noteable partings – we lost the great Ronnie Barker, one of the finest comic actors and writers Britain has ever produced; Mo Mowlam, one of the few politicians of conviction we still had; Rosa Parks, the unwitting god-mother of the civil rights movement in the US; Andrea Dworkin feminist writer and thinker.

And on a personal level, the death of Eric Roche was a terribly sad loss – a huge talent and dear friend who has featured in this blog more than almost anyone else. Playing at the tribute gig to him on what would have been his birthday was a huge honour.

Blogwise, it’s been my most bloggingest year ever – over 510 posts this year, over 450 visitors a day (??? I’m sure there’s a mistake there somewhere…) and the demise of being able to tell people what I’ve been up to – ‘so, steve, what have you been up to?’ ‘well, I had a gig th….’ ‘yeah I read about that’ ‘oh, well I went out to see a…’ ‘ah yes, that film, read your review of that’ ‘THEN WHY DID YOU ASK???’

Thanks for reading, for emailing for commenting on the blog, and particularly thanks if you’ve been buying CDs and t-shirts, coming to gigs, spreading the word, and generally helping me pay the bills this year. Love you lots! x

Soundtrack – The The, ’45 RPM – the singles’.

four things…

OK, end of year meme, nicked from sharklady’s blog

A. Four jobs you’ve had in your life
1. waiter
2. factory worker (stitching little ‘R’s into Russel Athletic sweatshirts!)
3. Market research observer for Philips
4. solo bassist

B. Four films you could watch over and over
1. the wedding singer
2. so I married an axe murderer
3. bugsy malone
4. muppet’s treasure island

C. Four cities you’ve lived in
1. London
2. Perth
3. Lincoln
4. Berwick on Tweed (er, cities?????)

D. Four Tele programs you love to watch
1. question time
2. never mind the buzzcocks
3. newsnight review
4. family guy

E. Four favourite places you’ve been on holiday
1. Krakow
2. Lake Garda, Italy
3. North Norfolk coast
4. Nashville

F. Four websites you visit daily
1. BassWorld
2. last.fm
3. MySpace
4. Jonatha Brooke forum

G. Four of your all-time favourite restaurants
1. Romna Gate, North London
2. Henderson’s, Edinburgh
3. Mia’s, just outside Reading (best curry I’ve had in years)
4. Ristorante Cascina Capuzza, Desenzano del Garda, Italy

H. Four of your favourite foods
1. just about any veg Curry, but Mia’s Veg balti is pretty remarkable.
2. Fajitas
3. Caprese Salad
4. fresh fruit salad.

I. Four places you’d rather be right now
1. North Norfolk
2. on the banks of Lake Garda
3. Mexico (I’ve never really been but I’d sure like to go… ;o)
4. driving across the US with TSP.

J. Four things you find yourself saying
1. ‘sorry, I forgot’
2. ‘imitate, assimilate, integrate, innovate’
3. ‘anecdotally’ (way of covering myself when presenting loosely observed trends amongst my friends as scientific data)
4. ‘OK, I’ll do it, when I’ve checked my email.’

(and sharklady, note anglicised questions – you’re from here, stop typing like you’re from there!)

sick-watch 2005

Feeling a bit better today – definitely not feeling nauseous. Sleep was long but feverish/sweaty/uncomfortable. Will hopefully get some work done today on the tax thingies and some of the much much overdue gig promo things that I really really need to get done ASAP!

SoundtrackBill Frisell, ‘Ghost Town’.

no sign of a recovery yet…

well, I still feel like shit, aching all over. I’ve slept for a fair chunk of the day, and that’s where I’m going back to now, in the hope that I’ll wake up feeling better tomorrow…

Happy 33rd, me!

Death of a legend

I don’t know too many of the details at the moment, but I’ve just read on another list that the great free improv pioneer Derek Bailey died on Christmas Day. I never met Derek, and the only gig of his I ever saw was a huge disappointment, but we have lots of friends in common, and his influence on the free improv world is hard to put into words. A phenomenal free thinking musician, who went from dance band side man to possibly the most abrasive sounding guitarist the world has ever seen. Uncompromising and hugely skilled, but willing to apply his notion of ‘ad-hoc musical experiences’ to his playing life even when he reached the point where his fame was so great that he recorded a record with Pat Metheny.

His book on Improvisation is a great read too – I learned a heck of a lot from that.

Rest in peace, Derek, you’ll be sorely missed.

not the best start to my birthday…

a little over five hours after I posted the last blog, I was hunched over the loo puking my guts up. TSP was ill at the beginning of last week, and we’re wondering if it might be the same thing. One of the fairly aged felines was also puking this morning, possibly just out of solidarity.

Damn, I’d forgotten how painful the acid burns in your throat can be! That really really hurt. TSP was fabulous, getting me drinks, holding my hair back etc. My very own Florence Nightingale.

Was sick about three times in quick succession, but no more spewing as yet… just feeling achy and fragile.

And the fact that it’s my birthday isn’t really of any consequence – what’s more important is that I need to get on with sorting out my tax this afternoon, and am feeling like crap.

Still TSP did buy me a couple of fabulous DVDs so I can convalesce with those – Team America and Jump London! Yay for the perfect small person!

A taxing day

Spent most of the day sorting out last year’s tax return – finally got round to doing it, and have definitely broken the back of it. Am going to try and get it up to date to now, rather than just last April, so I don’t have this mad panic come this April…

This evening we watched Mona Lisa Smile – a rather disappointing film, given that I’m a sucker for inspirational teacher films (I even found something to like in ‘Music Of The Heart’, which was a pretty awful film all told, but sucked me in nonetheless). This one was just poorly executed – nice idea, doing a female version of Dead Poets Society, and according to the extra features on the DVD, a lot of effort was made to make it accurate, but the relationship between the Julia Roberts Character and the turd that was shagging the students was wholly unrealistic – as if an emancipated woman in the 50s wouldn’t be scandalised by a male teacher sleeping with his students. Total bollocks, which spoiled the rest of the film. Nice idea, but C- must try harder.

Now, what time is it? Ah, 1am, then let me be the first to wish myself a very happy birthday! :o)

end of year top 10s and general out-of-touchness…

Here are two end of year top 10s. Neither of them are mine – the first is the chart of the charts – a compilation of the best of the end of year critics polls. The second is the biggest selling albums of the year –


1 The Arcade Fire: Funeral
2 Gorillaz: Demon Days
3 Kanye West: Late Registration
4 Sufjan Stevens: Illinoise
5 Elbow: Leaders of the Free World
6 Antony & The Johnsons: I Am a Bird Now
7 The White Stripes: Get Behind Me Satan
8 Franz Ferdinand: You Could Have It So Much Better
9 Kaiser Chiefs: Employment
10 MIA: Arular


1 James Blunt: Back to Bedlam
2 Coldplay: X & Y
3 Robbie Williams: Intensive Care
4 Kaiser Chiefs: Employment
5 Westlife: Face to Face
6 Gorillaz: Demon Days
7 KT Tunstall: Eye to the Telescope
8 Eminem: Curtain Call – The Hits
9 Kelly Clarkson: Breakaway
10 Katie Melua: Piece by Piece

So, out of both charts I own one of the albums – KT Tunstall’s ‘Eye To The Telescope’. Rather fabulous it is too. I haven’t even heard any of the others. I’ve heard the singles from a few of them – the Coldplay tracks I’ve heard sound nice, and I’m going to get the Gorillaz album, for sure. Will probably get round to listening to Sufjan Stevens, Arcade Fire and Anthony And The Johnsons at some point (I’ve heard a track from the Anthony… album and quite liked that.)

I’m feeling marvellously out of touch, despite actually having bought two out of the current top 3 UK singles in the last week! Back in the days when I subscribed to Q, I used to tot up at the end of the year how many of their top 50 from the year I had – normally somewhere between 7-10. This year, it’s probably one – KT Tunstall. I don’t think I own another album that’s charted.

My own top 5 of the year is –

Michael Manring – Soliloquy
King’s X – Ogre Tones
Lleuwen Steffan/Huw Warren/Mark Lockheart – God Only Knows
Bill Frisell – East/West
Juliet Turner – Live

Bruce Cockburn – Speechless would be in there but I had all but two of the songs on it before, so it’s not really a ‘new’ album.

So not a particularly hip top 5, but a vibrant one for sure – Michael’s album is his first solo album for 7-8 years, and his first all-solo CD, the finest all solo bass CD ever released by anyone, if you ask me. Kings X’s album is a major return to form, their best for almost a decade. Lleuwen Steffan’s album was a real revelation – I heard it at the vortex being played before a gig, and bought it there and then, and love it to bits. Frisell’s album is him back doing what he does best – playing live with a trio. and Juliet’s live album is long overdue and captures much of the magic of seeing the the lovely Ms Turner live. 5 great albums, for sure, and all of them way better than some load of hackneyed old bollocks by Franz Ferdinand/White Stripes/Kanye West etc. etc. etc. – piss off you dull bastards, come back when you stop making records by comittee/have had drum lessons/write some tunes, respectively. (and no, The Cheat, claiming that you really dig the Kanye West album doesn’t make you seem cool and hip to the laydeez, so stop pretending that was your musical highlight, when really it was hanging out with Randy Stonehill).

Christmas films

no, not the films on the TV – TSP and I always rent a pile of DVDs over Christmas, to catch up on some of the films we’d wanted to see in the year but never got round to going to – I think the last thing we saw at the Cinema was the third Harry Potter film, last christmas!

Anyway, the three films we’ve watched so far are Festival, Wedding Crashers and The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

Festival was one I’d wanted to see when I first heard about it – a film set at the Edinburgh festival, so one I thought I’d recognise lots in. Then it won best comedy film at the Comedy Awards last month, so we got it on DVD. It’s a good film. Pretty bleak in places, and the picture in paints of the comedy world at the festival is a grim one – I certainly didn’t encounter anyone who was quite that competitive, obsessed or insane… maybe it’s that the kinds of acts that get booked into the C-Venues venues are a bit closer to the artsy/lovies crowd that are represented in the film by the girl doing the one woman show and the Canadian drama company – their edinburgh certainly looked a little more familiar. Still, it was an enjoyable film.

Wedding Crashers – the plot held no attraction at all, but I do like Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson so assumed it’d be good. And it is! Morally reprehensible, but lots of fun, a fantastic web of deceit and some slapstick moments. Owen Wilson was fab as always. Hollywood nonsense, yes, but very entertaining hollywood nonsense.

And the Hitchhiker’s Guide – the TV series is one of my all-time favourite TV series, perfectly acted and scripted, and all the visualisations have become so iconic for anyone who watched it, that it was going to be tough to see it a) reinterpreted, and b) compressed into the length of the film. That said, it was really well done – the casting was excellent, and the references to the original were really nicely done – the original Marvin appearing in the queue on Vogsphere, the original Arthur Dent giving the ‘away message’ on Magrathia. All in all, a very enjoyable film. And all three make it into my list of favourite films of the year, just by virtue of me having seen so few new films this year!

Christmas thoughts

Christmas eve was lovely – midnight mass at St Luke’s. Church is v. important round here at Christmas. Mainly because, underneath all the debt, divorce, drink driving and mindless consumerism, Christmas is a celebration of God becoming human (well, at least it has been since we hijacked it from the pagans…) – the idea of the incarnation, the unknowable God making herself known, being born in a shed and spending his first few years alive as an asylum seeking refugee, is the pivotal point of the Christian story, the point at which an impersonal transcendent God became immanent, lived on the planet and demonstrated a radical alternative to human self-centred destructive living. It all began with ‘peace on earth, goodwill to all men’, and continued when Jesus started his ‘ministry’ by claiming the words of Isaiah as his own ‘I’ve come to bring good news for poor people, fix the broken hearted, give sight to the blind and tell you that God’s on your side today’.

Jesus’ birth contradicted everything that people thought about the idea of the coming messiah. It was weak, he was exiled, he wasn’t royal he was a tradesman and the son of a tradesman. If he’d been born in London now he’d be a refugee, a builder from Albania or Iraq. He didn’t come to set up an army, but to demonstrate that love conquers all. That God is love, and when we are motivated by that love, good things happen – the meek inherit the earth, the kingdom of God is there for the poor, peacemakers and prisoners of conscience are blessed, even in the midst of that persecution. It’s a crazy vision of ‘the kingdom’ and one that has sadly got lost in favour of ‘blessed are the mad power-crazed PNAC jihadists, for theirs shall be the White House’.

Which is why I celebrate Christmas – a reminder that Jesus turned all that on its head, said the last shall be first and the first, last. Said that God was bodily present in the homeless and if you help them, you help God, and if you don’t, please don’t try and tell her how holy you are. It’s a story about changed priorities, a story about Jubliee, about God being on the side of the downtrodden.

For the poor, Christmas is about hope. For Christians, it ought to be a wake-up call, a challenge and an inspiration. It is for me.

Soundtrack – Kate Bush, ‘Aerial’ (I bought this for TSP for Christmas, and it’s magic)