Tuesday Random 10…

Didn’t get to do a Friday random 10 for the last few weeks, and this Friday I’ll be at Greenbelt, so here’s one on a tuesday…

Juliet Turner – Vampire
Steve Lawson/Jez Car – WhateverWhatever/Migration
Paul Simon – Late In The Evening
Iain Archer – The Shadow
Shawn Colvin – If These Walls Could Speak
King’s X – Goldilox
Pixies – Gouge Away
Anja Gabarek – Dizzy With Wonder
Jonatha Brooke – Secrets And Lies
Kate McGarry – But Not For Me

there you go – that’s my iTunes random function’s gift to me today.

Jonatha Brooke Live in New York DVD.

Jonatha Brooke is on of my time favourite singer/songwriters. Up there in the big four with Bruce Cockburn, Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon.

I finally got to see her play live when she came to London last year, and she was as wonderful as I’d ever imagined she would be.

Which is why I ordered her live DVD months ago, long before it was actually available, to help her out paying for the damn thing.

And this morning it arrived. So between teaching, the fairly aged feline and I have been watching it. And it genius. Of course. Beautifully shot, great song choice, her band sound remarkable, her between song chat is as charming as ever. It’s all great. You really ought to get it. It comes as a CD/DVD set, not sure what if any extras there are yet…

I own very few music DVDs. Two I think. Both are Jonatha Brooke DVDs. That says a lot.

You can buy it now from her website. It’s $17.50 + shipping, which works out to about £12 all in. For a double disc set. Shipped from the states. From the artist. It’s a no-brainer, as they say over there.

Come and see us in England again soon, J-Bro!

Beautiful songs

Pip asks the following question on his blog –

“What are two of the most beautiful songs you know?”

I thought this was going to be hard, but the two that came immediately to mind are so achingly beautiful that I think I’ve hit the jackpot straight away –

Inconsolable by Jonatha Brooke (from the album ‘Plumb’)
Everybody Here Wants You by Jeff Buckley (from Songs For My Sweetheart The Drunk)

both were fortuitous discoveries for me – the Jonatha CD (I think I’ve told this story before, but what the hell) I found on a listening post in Our Price (remember Our Price?) in Southgate – the write-up next to it said that she was like Edie Brickell and Carol King, both of whom I like, so I got the dude in the shop to put it on headphones for me. As I flicked through the booklet I saw ‘Bruce Cockburn appears courtesy of True North Records’, and that was it, I was buying it just for Cockburn completism’s sake. But the CD itself floored me. Every track was magical. I stood there and listened to about 25 minutes of it in the shop, grinning at the poor guy behind the counter, then bought it and played it non-stop for months.

The Buckley one I heard first when Lisa Ianson played it on Radio London. She didn’t pre-announce it and I thought it was Prince, and loved it so much I stopped the car on Finchley Road to hear it better. I was transfixed, and that’s when I finally got a copy of Songs For My Sweetheart… I’d avoided it up until that point, knowing that it was a record that Jeff would never have released, but just for that one song it was worth it… Actually, I was given it, so it was definitely worth it… :o)

There you go – the two most beautiful songs. What are yours?

Life Lessons From Songs

TSP bought the DVD of Love Actually on Ebay last week. I’d seen it before, but watched it again. I quite like Richard Curtis, despite thinking Four Weddings was largely nonsense, and Notting Hill suffered from the much-publicised lack of black people in a very heavily black part of London. I like the fact that he wrote Blackadder – that’s a good thing. And I like his commitment to the Make Poverty History campaign.

Anyway, this isn’t meant as a review of the film (though it must be said, the scene where Hugh Grant disses the American president is a blinder… sad that he had to be inspired to do it by the pres. hitting on his tea-lady, rather than just out of some kind of moral response to the evil horse-shit that American presidents are so often involved with, but viewers can’t be choosers, and it’s a sweet moment, nonetheless). the interesting bit of the film is in the extras.

Richard Curtis does a little talking head slot about each of the featured songs in the film, and makes the comment that he’s spent his life learning about emotions and being instructed in human relationships by female singer/songwriters. And it was a point that struck home. Particularly because two of those he picked were Joni Mitchell and Mary Chapin Carpenter – two of my favourite singer/songwriters, and also lyricists that I’ve learnt loads from.

So I’ve just been listening to ‘Come On Come On’ by MCC, which features the first song I ever heard by her, ‘He Thinks He’ll Keep Her’, which I bought on single when I was 18 or 19, and played to death. I think the album was one of the first CD albums I ever bought, and I’ve been collecting her stuff ever since. But I was struck by the lyrics, about bored housewives in loveless marriages finally having enough and leaving, and the husbands being all surprised at the end of the relationship. And it made me think, made me aware to some degree of how things are. As did so many other songs by her, and a whole host of other great female songwriters – Tracy Chapman, Suzanne Vega, the Indigo Girls, Jonatha Brooke. Some times the lessons were political, like ‘War’ by Jonatha Brooke. Sometimes just about feeling alive, like Gallileo or Watershed by the Indigo Girls. But all of them vital lessons.

And then it got me thinking about what happens when that isn’t there. Where instead of strong, intelligent female figures, you’ve got faux-feisty soft-porn-alikes, telling us that a man ain’t no man if he ain’t buying me bling, or coming out with imbecilic horse shit like the Pussycat Dolls. ‘Don’t You Wish Your Girlfriend Was Hot Like Me?’ – no, you moronic, corporatised, tragic shell of a human being, I don’t wish my girlfriend was anything like you at all.

Lads are growing up with this as their lessons from women. was it much better in the 80s? Who were the equivalents of these totems of fuckwittage that parade across top of the pops? Mel And Kim, the Bangles, Janet Jackson before she apparently went on the game, Salt And Pepper, Kylie, Bananarama… a mixed bag, for sure, but not half as bad as the genetic detritus that passes for celebrity today. Who is there to save the day? KT Tunstall, at least. She’s fab.

So if you’ve got kids, get them into singer/songwriters. Buy them some Joni CDs, and Mary Chapin Carpenter, James Taylor and Paul Simon, Carly Simon, Bruce Cockburn, KT Tunstall, Suzanne Vega, Jonatha Brooke, Kelly Joe Phelps – story tellers not clothes horses, observers of the human condition not shills for the corporate dollar.

In a world where the bardic tradition is all but lost, we need surrogate poets and story-tellers, mythic historians and reflectors of who we are, who we want to be and who we can be if we get it together. And it’s not even about them being amazing people – John Martyn’s a disaster as a human being, but a great weaver of poetic magic. James Taylor was a violent smack-head when he wrote ‘Shower The People You Love With Love’. We just need story tellers to show us the way.

So, a comment thread – favourite songs for telling how it is, should be or could be? at least one from each of you, dear bloglings, thankyou. ;o)

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!)

Dropping bombs on the moral highground…

over in The forum, Cryptic just posted a link to This article in the Independent by Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan. He highlights the complicity of the UK government in torture round the world, both by using the ‘evidence’ gleaned in such a way, and by actively aiding the torturers by shipping off suspects to be tortured.

Now, how embarrassed are you to be British right now? This morning I was listening to the radio, hearing Billy Bragg interviewed about a project writing songs with terminal cancer patients – Billy is one of a handful of things in which I take pride as an englishman – he couldn’t have come from anywhere else, and is a national treasure. So I got out of bed feeling better than usual about being from here.

Then I read this article, and it’s catalogue of state-sanctioned abuse, torture and murder in Uzbekistan, with the tacit blessing of the UK government.

That we would be silent on the subject of torture would be a great evil. That there are people actively pushing to change the law in favour of using confessions acquired under torture in British courts is so unspeakably foul that I’m at a loss for how to describe it. And we have the audacity to invade Iraq over claims about Saddam’s human rights record. Yes, he was a sick, twisted murdering scumbag, just like the rest of the sick, twisted murdering scumbags we’re now treating as allies and friends in the ‘war on terror’. It’s unbelieveable.

thank God for people like Craig Murray – his own website looks like a great repository of information on the sickness of the euphamistic crusade that is ‘the war on terror’.

Time to contact your MP?

SoundtrackJonatha Brooke, ’10 cent wings’; Dave Matthews Band, ‘Under The Table And Dreaming’ (was there ever a more blatant case of a band getting hugely successful making vibrant interesting music and then going very bland very quickly in a quest for even greater commercial success?? UTTAD is such a lovely record, such an interesting album to listen to, so much going on, and it’s successor, Crash, was pretty damn fine too. After that? Forget it.)

More fun with last.fm

the more time I spend on the last.fm site, the more I like it. I’ve started posting a series of thoughts on albums I love in the journal section over there. Not strictly reviews (so far I haven’t given a track by track breakdown or anything) – more some stuff about how I discovered it and what it has meant to me.

The first two are Hejira by Joni Mitchell, and Plumb by Jonatha Brooke – both remarkable albums that I came across in interesting circumstances that have stayed part of my aural landscape for a decade or so. I’m listening to Plumb at the moment, and it’s no less wonderful than the day I first bought it.

in other news, last night was a curry night with Sarda, Kari, Matt and Claire – Sarda and Kari being over from the US is always cause for curry, even if Sarda does seem to be in London more now than when he living in Reading… hmmm. Much fun was had by all (and much lovely spicey food), though my opinion of all of them was diminished by them being part of that damaged social grouping comprised of peopl who thought Lost In Translation was any good. Let me clarify, Lost In Translation was shit. Implausible, plotless nonsense. Yes, it was ‘beautifully shot’ but if you want beautiful camera work watch ‘The Blue Planet’ or ‘Secret Life Of Plants’ – thingie Coppola can’t get close to David Attenborough and his team for lovely camera-work, and you don’t have to put up with a load of unbelieveable nonsense about two people with nothing in common meeting in a hotel and suddenly feeling ‘a connection’. No, it’s bollocks, and anyone who tells you otherwise is just wrong.

Now, Matt and Claire, go and get Whale Rider and Team America, and watch some proper films.

SoundtrackJonatha Brooke, ‘Plumb’.

Italy post no. 11 (last one!)

(written 25/7/05 17.07)

So, on the plane on the way home. It turns out there was wifi available in the airport once you’d gone through to the departure lounge, but I met up with a guy from Naples who was at the gig yesterday, so spent the time chatting to him instead of online. So none of this stuff will be uploaded til I get home.

The good news is that I’ve had no hassle at all getting my bass onto the planes on this trip – it remains to be seen if my rack makes it home safely; it’s currently in the hold, at the mercy of the gorillas that throw your stuff around in a way euphamistically refered to as ‘baggage handling’ – I think baggage mutilation or baggage stomping would be more accurate.

Anyway, it’s the home stretch, and I’m hugely looking forward to heading out for curry tonight with TSP and Jez. Can’t wait to be home.

It’s been a very successful trip – a lot of opportunities have presented themselves for further touring in Italy, and I’ll hopefully be back there in November. Which gives me about three months to learn how to explain the story behind Shizzle in Italian.

From this evening though, it’ll be full speed back into Edinburgh, as well as the gigs in Guildford and Berwick, and planning some more dates for September, writing an extended improv framework for a performance at Greenbelt and planning a couple of tours for early 2006 with Theo in the UK and Michael Manring in the US.

…And now I’ve just been fleeced to the tune of £4.60 for a particularly hideous cup of hot chocolate (I’m dying for a mint tea – I’ve had none for days!!) and a cheese and pickle sandwich… don’t you just love budget airlines?

Oh, things are looking up, I’ve just noticed that one of the flight attendants has taken that crap-mowhawk-boy-band hair thing one stage further and is teetering dangerously on the boy-band/flock of seagulls cusp. Somehow bad 80s hair makes the journey more palatable.

SoundtrackMaurizio Rolli, ‘Archivi Sonori’; Jonatha Brooke, ’10 Cent Wings’; James Taylor, ‘Hourglass’.

Right now, I should be at a Jonatha gig…

So the plan for this evening was to do my gig at the National Theatre, come home, drop off my stuff and shoot down to the Borderline to catch Jonatha Brooke’s gig there.

The gig at the NT went very well – lots of friendly faces in the audience, some very fine improvs in the set, and nice versions of all the album tunes too. We finished at 7.20, then chatted to people in the audience for about another 20mins/half an hour (this is where I could have saved time, but would have been very rude to all the lovely people who came to the gig to run off), then go and get the car from the carpark, load up, drop Theo at home, head back up here and unload.

The small person had rung The Borderline to find out what time Jonatha is on stage, and they said she goes on at 9.15, will be off by 10.30 – I was expecting it to go on til 11. So I’m not ready to go out til 9, ergo, no gig for us this evening.


This is Jonatha’s first ever gig with a band in the UK, as far as I’m aware (I don’t think she brought a band with her when she played here in 95…) and certainly the only chance we’ll have to see her with band for a while (unless it’s a storming success and she comes back!)

I’ve got a whole load of texts on my phone from people who are there asking if I’m going…

Ah well, at least our gig went well…

Jonatha gig #4

Last night was gig number four this month – back at the 12 Bar, this time a headline set of just over an hour. She’s almost too good – a really great set-list, including, I’m glad to say, a song I’d never heard (there’s not much Jonatha-related material I haven’t heard) – a song called ‘I’ll Try’ from some Disney movie… Beautiful, tried to find it on iTunes today, but it’s not there (lots of her other stuff is though – go and get it!)

Her last gig in the UK for now is at The Bedford in Balham on Monday – JUST GO!! If you haven’t seen her on this tour, you need to, she’s a genius.

In other news, still no news on my wallet, so I’m guessing it’s gone permanently. Bollocks.

Random link of the day – www.wordcount.org – the 86,000 most commonly used words in the English language in order. A fantastic site.

Soundtrack – Paul Simon, ‘You’re The One’; Incognito, ‘Positivity’; Jonatha Brooke, ‘Live’; Stevie Wonder; ‘Hotter Than July’.

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