It was 30 years ago today…

…actually, it was 30 years ago in February, but for some reason, someone over on the guardian music blog saw fit today to post a piece in defence of the wonder that is Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours – a pertinent post round here as Lo. thinks it’s a load of old balls, and I love it. Really love it. Dancing-around-on-the-tube-singing-along-even-though-people-think-I’m-a-mentalist love it. It’s an album fueled by extreme tensions within the band, but one possessed of a number of the most gorgeous tender love songs I’ve ever heard (‘You Make Loving Fun’ is in my all time top 20 or so songs).

As the Guardian bloggist says, ’77 is seen as the year of Punk. It was also the year of ‘Bat Out Of Hell’, ‘Saturday Night Fever’ and ‘Rumours’. The biggest bands of the late 70s weren’t the Clash or The Pistols, but the Mac, Queen, ELO, and in the US, the stadium behemoths of Journey, Boston, Foreigner etc… Of course punk was significant, it just didn’t wipe the slate clean in any way at all. It offered an alternative, but thank God it wasn’t the tsunami of disco-crushing, prog-destroying, MOR-trampling destruction that the tainted hindsight of most music journos would have you believe. I’d still rather listen to Chic than the Pistols any day. Sure, I like the Clash, but I’m still not averse to a quick listen through Mr Blue Sky either.

No, the late 70s was no more an artistic monoculture than any other time in music – it was as much about the creative tension-laden folky MOR-ness of the Mac as it was about the New York Dolls rip-off that was the Pistols (I still contest that – aside from The Clash – Americans did punk way way way better than the UK, from The Stooges, and the Dolls through The Minutemen, Blondie and Talking Heads, up to Big Black, Black Flag, Husker Du and on up to Green Day, Rancid and the fake-but-tuneladen pop punk of today.)

So, go and listen to Rumours. With pride. Revel in it, embrace the genius that is the Fleetwood/McVie rhythm section, bask in how Songbird is meant to sound when it’s not being overcooked by Eva Cassidy. Ditto Dreams and The Corrs. And remember that the middle bit out of The Chain is probably the most financially lucrative bit of bass playing in the history of the world, thanks to someone at the BBC’s Formula One production team. Dummmmmmmmm, De-De-Dum De-De-De-De-Dum Dummmmmmmmmmmmm.

Captive State II – the follow-up

George Monbiot’s 2001 book Captive State was a masterful work – a fantastic dissection of the fallacy of PFI – the ‘private finance initiative’ which this government copied from the last tory government as the way to fund public projects like hospitals and schools.

Even in 2001, Monbiot was able to show what an utter disaster the project has been in terms of the amount of government money squandered on projects that fail the end user and line the pockets of the directors of the corporations responsible for the projects – projects that were frequently late, over budget and woefully inadequate. The technical term for this in political and economic circles is a right royal fuckup. It’s been a disaster.

And how much of a disaster – in today’s Guardian, George posts this follow-up to the story of coventry hospital, or rather what was coventry hospitalS – plural – until the cost of refurbing them was deemed to low and the returns to slight to get any big money investors interested so they scrapped them both and built a new one out of town… initial budget – £174m. Cost of refurbing BOTH the existing hospitals? £30m. As George notes in his article – ” In March 2007, the Birmingham Post reported that the final cost was £410m.”

Go and read it, and be outraged. It’s sick. It’s even more sick that it’s a so-called labour government that did it. At a time when our American cousins are becoming increasingly aware of how having nationalised health care doesn’t mean you become Stalinist Russia, any more than not paying a policeman every time he arrests a crim on your behalf would, we’re letting the government dismantle public services on behalf of big business by not holding them to account for their false duality in presenting us with the options – we were told that we could either have old beaurocratic crumbling NHS (which wasn’t really all that crumbling after all) or new shiny PFI one run by shitheads in board-rooms. It’s a lie, of gargantuan proportions, when a proper publicly funded and transparently consulted and reported overhaul of the NHS would have been both cheaper AND better.

Read George’s article about the balls-up in Coventry, then multiply that up by the number of hospitals, schools, bridges, road-schemes, that have been funded, scale it up over the next 30 years of GUARANTEED revenue, and then throw in British Rail and the BBC as more projects that were sold off under the same false assumption that the options were business-as-usual or sell it off… the cost, both in financial terms and the degradation of public services is astronomical… ‘ever feel like you’ve been cheated?’

wednesday night's gig recommended in Time Out

Just found this entry on the time out website – a very nice write up for our gig on Wednesday – all the more reason for you to be there!

here’s what it says –

Steve Lawson/Lobelia + Monk AKA Ric Hordinski
Wed Aug 22 , Chilli Fried at Darbucka, 182 St John Street, EC1V 4JZ

Ambient folk-ish jazz from bassist and loop/electronics master Lawson and American singer-songwriter Lobelia, playing a set of bittersweet and melancholic music. Support comes in the form of a solo set of hauntingly powerful ambient/soundscapes from singer-songwriter and guitarist Hordinski.

not sure how ambeint Ric’s set will be, and it’s not a Chilli Fried event, but those are some lovely things to write… :o)

The end of the hippie dream

Altamont – just the name carries so much resonance. The place where the dreams of flower power and the 60s summer of love, woodstock and hippies all went to shit because The Rolling Stones didn’t realise that – unlike in England where ‘Hell’s Angel’ just meant ‘biker with a beard and a personal hygiene problem’ – American Hell’s Angels were largely racist outlaws, who took great delight in stabbing a black dude to death at the gig.

Anyway, that was a completely different Altamont, given that it was in California, and we’re in Illinois. However, there must be some sort of spiritual link between the two, as the shitty motel we’re in definitely feels like the kind of place where a nasty murder could take place…

Still, cheer yourself up by watching this YouTube vid of me playing at the house concert we did in Dallas – Brian who organised the gig owns a Rick Turner Model 1 bass, which I HAD to play… the improv in question is a variation on the ii-V funk guitar thing that I used for the loop demo vid on YouTube, with a bit of the melody from Chameleon by Herbie Hancock in the middle of it, and lots of gratuitous shredding, but it’s a great sounding bass!

…did you just call me Pardner???

We’re here in Texas. Plano, just outside Dallas to be precise. It seems like a rather lovely place – still strip-mall-based, like so many american cities, but definitely a better class of strip mall than most (and a huge Whole Foods market to be explored…)

We’s here for a house concert tonight – the house is gorgeous, and the concert is going to be marvellous.

Now where did I blog from last? Ah, yes, Nashville – well the Nashville house concert at Sarah and David’s was a whole lot of fun – we set up on their front porch, blankets were laid out in the yard, and we played for lots of lovely friends, surrounded by fairy lights, candles and the sounds of crickets between songs. A most enjoyable evening was had by all, and the duo stuff between the lovely L and I just gets better and better. Her ability to ‘learn’ a loop after one listen is uncanny, and to stack harmonies on something that seems pretty random… She also bought a gorgeous new guitar – a nylon-strung takamine that sounds incredible. Really relaly lovely, and got for a fantastic bargain at Nashville Used Music, or whatever that big shop out on Nolansville road is called.

So favourite things about Nashville? the people, Fido’s, Baja Burrito, the gig, TOGH being there, The Belcourt (Sheriff ElRon and I went to see Rock The Bells – a film about delusional people putting on the last ever gig by all the members of the Wu Tang Clan (though even with ODB being dead, I’m sure they could just get Shane McGowan to fill in, and people would just think Dirty was looking a little pasty…)… Nashville is a town full of good things (and rubbish, it is the home of CCM too, and therefor plays host to much of the most mediocre nonsense ever produced in the name of popular music, as well as the occasional gem…) and certainly somewhere both L and I could live if pushed…

From there we embarked on what i think is the longest drive of my life (yup, I just checked, this was the previous winner) – 700 and something miles from Nashville to Lake Charles Louisiana. Which was, to be honest, a pretty easy drive. Freeways here are much much clearer in general than motorways in the UK, (if you’re not in or around NYC, LA, Chicago or San Francisco), so we never seem to hit much traffic, and just drive from one place to another at 70 mph all the way. In our extensive research, we’ve discovered that IHOP and Denny’s do the best options for vegetarians on the highways of the US. TGI Fridays is shit, Waffle House isn’t actually food, and the burger places are all horrible, with indie places being either non-existent, or really risky in their quality… so we’re happy for IHOP and Denny’s.

The trip to Louisiana was for a house concert at Trip Wamsley’s house – Trip, as y’all know, is one of my most favouritest solo bassists in the world, and fun to hang out with too… it was nice to witness him in his natural habitat, for sure.

The gig was really lovely – Trip played first, and played really well, as always, then L and I got to do our thing, and had much fun, sold a load of CDs, and all was good.

On Sunday, i put down a load of bass tracks for a track on Trip’s new album, and realised just what a HUGE improvement putting this ART tube preamp in the FX loop on my Lexicon has made. It sounded incredible. I can’t wait to hear what Trip does with it. The evening was spent watching Ross Noble DVDs, and hanging out. Much fun at the Trip-house with Trip, Mrs Trip and lil’ Bubba Trip.

And so on into Texas, heading from Chez Trip to Plano TX, from where I’m writing this, trying to decide whether to walk or drive to Whole Foods – how far was it again??

Oh, and the title? We stopped in a auto-mart or some such place, to get directions, and the dude behind the counter actually called me ‘Pardner’ (as in Partner with a silly accent, for all you Englishes) – indeed. He sadly didn’t say ‘you ain’t from around here are you boy?’, but there’s still time for that…

Blog's back!!! HURRAH!!!!

Finally!! The blog is back!! It’s been down for almost two months, with the server that it’s hosted on being knackered, but it’s back now, and I’ve got lots to catch up on.

If you want to read the stuff that I’ve been blogging about over the last couple of months, you can head over to my MySpace blog and have a read.

LOADS to catch up on here, but suffice to say, I’m in Ohio at the moment, about to do a load of American dates – see the gigs page for more on that!

It’s great to be back…


OK, first up, I’m in Geneva, so I have an excuse. However, for those of you in the UK, why the hell weren’t you voting for Tim Vine last night on Comic Relief does Fame Academy?????? How could he be evicted??? It’s a tragedy, fo’ sho’… Equally bizarre was Sundance Head being evicted on American Idol, but that’s another story.

secondly, how old does it make you feel that The Joshua Tree came out 20 years ago this week??

and thirdly, thanks to the lovely Rev. Gareth, I give you the weirdest thing on the entire internet.

House concerts – how it works…

Thursday night’s gig in Petersfield was fun, though to a tiny audience. Playing to little groups of people is always fun, though in a setting where more are expected, it’s not usually all that financially viable. So there’s the trade-off – fun gig, but no way to make a living. Which is where house concerts (like the one pictured) come in.

House concerts are a way for musicians to play to little groups of lovely listeners, in comfortable surroundings with lovely food and drink and make it pay. it’s a chance for people with moderately large houses to present their favourite music to their friends (unless your favourite music happens to be Beyonce, Elvis, The Polyphonic Spree or Cannibal Corpse – too expensive, too dead, too large and too loud, respectively).

How does it work? Well, I come to your house and play to your friends – either you can pay me to do it as a gift to them, or you can get them all to make a donation to make it happen… if you’re going the donation route, I’d need some kind of guarantee (which is going to vary depending on how far I have to travel to get there, and how many people are going to be there – the more people, the better the opportunities for selling CDs…)

I can bring my little PA with me, if you don’t have anything for me to plug into, so all i need is a little bit of space and a plug socket. It’s great fun, and it doesn’t take a massive amount of space – it’s doable even with 15-20 people in a moderate sized lounge.

So, if you’re interested, email me, and check out these links to a couple of american sites on how to put on a house concert – link 1 and link 2.
And this UK one from Acoustic Routes magazine – which looks pretty comprehensive.

Go on, you know you want to… i’m booking them now for the UK in april/may, and for the US in May/June…

A new american dawn? not yet, but it's a start…

Well, looks like the Dems to the House AND the Senate, eventually. Not really a shock given the opinion polls on Bush’s approval rating, agreement over Iraq and the economy, but still lefties and centrists the world over breathed a sigh of relief.

It remains to be seen if the ‘progressive agenda’ proposed by the Democrats gets pushed forward. Let’s hope so. But I’m not holding my breath. The inexorable drift to the right in all political parties is as pernicious in the US as it is in the UK, so the Democrat leaders are still by and large a bunch of free market ideologues, who just tip the scales slightly less against the poor. Some tax reform seems like it’d be a good thing in the US, repealing those tax breaks for billionaires that Bush introduced a couple of years back… And healthcare – C’mon America, enough’s enough. Y’all need a national health system of some kind. It’s going to save you all money in the long run, and a lot of people dying from insufficient treatment are going to live. I’ve got a number of great friends who are in a major financial hole after having the temerity to have heart attacks or liver problems – that’s just what you need when recovering from a major operation – a bill for $$$$$$. Great. It’s savage, and y’all need to get it fixed. (note, I’ve even translated this into ‘Merkin with Google Translator so y’all can read it ;o)

In other news, I’m in the process of sorting out lots of gigs. Back teaching this week after my EuroJaunt, but not sleeping well at all, and struggling to get things done. (me? not sleeping? I can sleep standing up… this is weirdness…)

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