Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The last day of May...

It’s Tuesday but it feels like a Monday.

Last day of May and I pay a visit to FOPP. Upstairs I discover they’re selling the Uriah Heep remastered back catalogue (with loads of extra, rare tracks) for a fiver each. I take a deep breath and buy the eight they have available recorded during the classic 1970-76 period. I have all of these CDs already – the original inferior sounding issues. I am buying music I already have. I am a fool. But I love Uriah Heep and I’m getting over 50 new tracks.

At 6pm we collect the car from the garage following what we hope will be the final repair.

After nine months of trials and tribulation (cliché time), without, I hope, tempting fate, I can advise that the car is FIXED!!! They have fitted a brand new dashboard and the noises have gone. I am vindicated – I said all along it was the dashboard but they wouldn’t believe me. So that’s enough about our car – now here’s hoping I’m not speaking to soon.

At night I have a “Heepfest” and transfer all the albums (and bonus tracks) to the jukebox. Lovely day.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Hooray Hooray, It's a Holi Holiday...

Today is officially a holiday for me – I wake at 5:40 and listen to my Jukebox for half an hour or so – then it’s up and I do some post production on Ian’s recordings from yesterday, update our progress grid and the tracklisting of all the discs we’ve recorded on thus far. Then I burn him a CD and set off for what I hope will be the final repair to the dashboard of our car.

I get a courtesy car as agreed and, as I drive along to drop Ian’s CD through his door at 8:15 I’m reminded of what an enjoyable drive I could have in our car if it wasn’t for the incompetence of the service team at the garage who are completely unable to find and correct the fault.

I am conscious I didn’t point out to them again that the fans are all wrongly connected after their last cack-handed attempt at fixing the dash…but I am resigned to discovering, on collecting it back from them tomorrow night, that it will not be fixed…

Back home we have breakfast and then set off for Ocean Terminal to see Star Wars Episode III. It’s a gorgeous sunny day and it’s with some reluctance that we go ahead with the visit to the cinema. But it turns out it’s worth it, as only 6 people are in the auditorium – and none of them is a popcorn munching, mobile phone using, sweetie wrapper rustling, giggling idiot – which is good.

The film is also pretty good and certainly spectacular. The plotline is a bit weak but driven by the need to set everything up for Episode IV from 1977. I can’t believe Annakin Skywalker (Darth Vader) would be quite so gullible. A load of tosh really but entertaining nonetheless – better than Hitch-Hikers’ Guide…

We emerge into the sunshine at lunchtime and grab sandwiches and crisps from Marks & Spencer (great crisps) and head for the riverfront at Silverknowes. Anne used to come here on her bike when she was wee – before you had to wear stupid hats just to ride a bike…

We promise ourselves a Mr Whippy ice cream but by the time we walk back to the spot where we'd seen the van, it’s disappeared.

Next up we drive out to Ikea to pick up some light shades (riveting stuff this) – I love Ikea. My big fault though is I never measure any parts of the house before going there so I’m never confident enough to buy anything on spec for fear it won’t fit…

Pentland Plants is next on the agenda – Anne wants to get some plants for her pots in the back garden. She’s a great gardener but always denies this. The garden looks great all year round.

Then it’s out to Penicuik to drop off a birthday card for brother-in-law, Andrew. There’s no one in, but the dogs, Smudge and Ben actually open the back door for us and let us in – they don’t bark or anything – we could have taken what we wanted. We left the card on top of the TV.

Since we were in the vicinity, we popped in to see my mum in Loanhead for a quick visit – it turns out both she and my sister have been ill since we saw them last Tuesday. Mum’s heading back out into the world tonight though…

Back home, Anne pots her three new plants – the garden is alive with colour and Meg the Black Cat lies in a sunny patch on the path as we sit drinking wine and chatting whilst the sound of Mozart’s String Quartets drifts out from the kitchen window…

For the third night in a row I have curry for tea – this time I try making one myself from scratch with veggie mince – it’s not bad but, like all my attempts at cooking, not a patch on Anne’s.

Then it’s a blog update and a net-surf to round off a reasonably relaxing day.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

A Slow Process.....

I’m up “late” today at 7am and do some last minute post production and splicing work on Ian’s recordings from last week.

At 10, I drive to Ingliston Market to get some empty CD boxes (100 for £10 – bargain) and Plastic CD Wallets for the CD singles (200 for £5 – bargain)

Then it’s straight to Ian’s to pick him up and bring him back to Crispycat. We spend all day working on the album. First we sit down with an overview of what we’ve done so far and work out where we want each track to go from the instrumentation perspective. Then we play back some of the tracks we’ve done already and decide what’s usable and what’s not..

We set to work on “Back On The Good Earth”, “Emerald City”, “Reveille”, “She Paints Landscapes” and a couple of instrumental tracks which Ian wants a pianist friend of his to play on the album – we spend around an hour trying to work out the chords and melodies as, although we have sheet music, neither of us is particularly proficient in the music reading department.

I’m sure you’ll find it interesting to note that, after six hours work we’d managed to increase the amount of music recorded for the CD by around 20 minutes. It’s a painstaking business this music lark…

After giving Ian a lift back home, Anne and I have the remaining curry from last night (mmm mmm) and then I spend the evening making up packages from orders from the Crispycat Website….

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Saturday Night is Curry Night...

Up at 6:10 today and, for the first time since leaving his house last Sunday, I manage some time to work on Ian Sclater’s CD for a couple of hours but I don’t get as much as I’d like done.

After breakfast, we head into town as Anne’s getting waxed(!!) (I make a return appointment to see the Podiatrist there as, like our car, my toe’s just not getting sorted…) but first we pick up our new £1-from-ebay-Manual Shredder from the Post Restante. The old one broke under the pressure of just one too many pieces of documentation with our personal details on it…

I have a couple of errands to run – firstly I head to Andy Thomson’s flat – you’ll recall he’s my co-ex OOTB committee member who’s going to London on 1st June to see his girlfriend, Kat and to also see the Czars play there. I promised the Czars’ singer at his gig in Edinburgh a few weeks back that I’d burn him a copy of the rare Czars CD I have, which he apparently doesn’t have…

I also give Andy a special Promo 2CD Set containing all the tracks from the Deeperdown EPs – hopefully at least one of the 35 tracks will be worthy of inclusion on his radio show on Leith FM. Andy’s not in as promised so I manage to leave the package with an obliging neighbour.

Then it’s off to Real Foods for some gram flower and tinned chopped tomatoes in connection with the visit to Crispycat Towers tonight of John & Ali of Impossible Songs and OOTB fame. Anne’s cooking her speciality – Indian - pakoras and three different curries. She attended a night class in Indian Cookery about 15 years ago and her pakoras are the best – to say nothing of the curries…

Back home I’m upstairs working when Anne gets back from the waxer. I’m finishing off the next batch of James Jamieson CDs which I’ll pass to Jamie this week at some point – we’re both intending playing at OOTB on Thursday so maybe then.

I also surf the web for the cover art for the Jethro Tull, Asia and Tangerine Dream CDs Dr Prog gave me at the Stockhausen concert last month – he doesn’t have a scanner or printer so he doesn’t “do” covers. It’s the music that matters of course – but they look a bit better now…

I catch a little bit of the Scottish Cup Final – Celtic beat Dundee Utd 1-0 – the scoreline rather flatters the Dundee United side. It’s an emotional farewell for Martin O’Neill, the Celtic coach, as he takes a sabbatical from the game to look after his wife who’s been ill with cancer for some time now.

I make up an 81 hour various artist compilation DVD to play tonight while John & Ali are visiting – that should be enough music to keep us going. I need to load all the tracks individually as our DVD player wont shuffle between albums – only single tracks – so there are around 1,300 different single tracks on this DVD…

John & Ali arrive carrying the biggest bottle of Grolsch we’ve ever seen – it’s still in our fridge waiting to be drunk next time a giant visits our house (or next time I get thirsty for a BIG beer). They are great company – a really funny couple and around the same age as Anne and I so we have a bit in common. Much wine is consumed by Anne and John – and a wee bit by Driver Ali – while I partake of a few of the bottles of Leffe which Bernie gave me at the Karaoke last Friday.

Anne’s pakora and curries go down a treat and we talk for hours about this that and the next thing while the 81 hour DVD plays in the background. Later we listen to some Madredeus as they are curious to hear a band which Anne and I feel are so good.

It’s not too late a night and John and Ali head back to Queensferry around midnight but I stay up till around 2 surfing the net for more CD bargains – I pick up a live Medeski Martin and Wood for £2 – then off to bed after another busy day….

Friday, May 27, 2005

Madredeus

After a lovely meal at a little Italian place on Bread Street, Anne and I went to the Usher Hall tonight, for what turned out to be a quite brilliant concert.

Madredeus, Portugal’s finest – two hours of some of the most beautiful music you might hope to hear. The line up is two classical guitars, acoustic bass, synthesiser and divine lead vocals. Here’s some info on the band I found on the net:-

"Their music combines fado influences with modern folk music and the founding members were Pedro Ayres Magalhães (Classical Guitar), Rodrigo Leão (Synthesiser), Francisco Ribeiro (Cello) and Teresa Salgueiro (Vocals).

Magalhães and Leão formed the band in 1985, Ribeiro joined in 1986. They'd been searching for a female singer, and found Teresa Salgueiro in a Lisbon night club. Teresa liked their music and agreed to join, so in 1987 Madredeus (named that because they started playing in the Lisbon Abbey named Madre de Deus) recorded their first album, Os dias da Madredeus with Gabriel Gomes playing accordian.

In 1993, Pedro Ayres Magalhães left the band temporarily and was replaced in live concerts by José Peixoto(Classical Guitar). After Magalhães rejoined the group, it became a sextet with two guitarists.

In 1994 Rodrigo Leão left the band to start a solo career, being replaced by Carlos Maria Trindade (Synthesiser). The band continued to release albums and became very popular in Portugal, but remained relatively unknown outside the country.

This changed in 1995 when Wim Wenders, impressed by their music, asked Madredeus to score his documentary about Lisbon called Ainda -Lisbon Story. The soundtrack gave the band international fame.

In 1997 Francisco Ribeiro and Gabriel Gomes left the band as Madredeus' style started abandoning its fado roots with the release of O Paraíso. At this time Fernando Júdice (Acoustic Bass) was invited to join them, to form the current lineup, again a quintet, now comprising Salgueiro, Magalhães, Peixoto, Trindade and Júdice."

Discography
1987 Os Dias da Madre Deus
1990 Existir
1992 Lisboa (live in Lisbon)
1994 O Espirito da Paz
1995 Ainda (soundtrack from Lisbon Story)
1997 O Paraíso1998 O Porto (live in Porto)
2000 Antologia (a compilation of 'best of' material)
2001 Movimento
2002 Euforia (live in Brussels with orchestra)
2004 Um Amor Infinito
2005 Faluas do Tejo

I have all these albums except “Faluas do Tejo", which I didn’t even know existed until tonight – I’ve just bought it on e-bay from Argentina for about £7 incl P&P.

When I bought the tickets for Anne and I, I was worried the hall might be empty as no-one in the UK appears to have heard of the band. The fact that we got centre seats in row 2 was also a worry.

But I was wrong, the hall was packed – although the audience must have been around 60-70% foreign, loads of Portuguese. Some people seemed to have flown into Edinburgh especially for the gig which was one of the quietest I’ve ever attended (music wise) which leads me to add a word or two about digital cameras and phones.

Why do people watch large chunks of a concert thru their phone/camera?? Why do said devices have to have annoying little bleeps and tunes to let their stupid owners know they’ve taken a picture – presumably there’s a way of muting these sounds and the users haven't worked it out??

As Oscar Wilde so aptly put it “”Hell is other people (with noisy digital cameras and mobile phones)”.

Great concert – buy a Madredeus CD now from e-bay – there’re tons there - I’d recommend for starters “O Espirito da Paz”, “O Paraíso”, “Antologia”, “Movimento” and “Um Amor Infinito”. And for a different take on their music, get “Electronica” a remix CD by various famous DJs and producers from around the world including the great Craig Armstrong…..

Here ends the plug from the Madredeus Appreciation Society….

As a bonus, when we got home, the Iain Ballamy CD I bought on Monday on e-bay was behind the door. It includes a great version of one of my all time favourite sixties tracks, Jacky's "White Horses".

I stayed up very late (3 o'clock) writing this blog and tranferring the remaining albums from my previous jukebox to the new one, along with recent purchases, Procol Harum, Coldplay, Iain Ballamy, Bach et al....

I always change the post time to 11:59 to get the dates right...

Thursday, May 26, 2005

A “lucky” day....

Where does the time go? It’s going to be Saturday afternoon again before I can listen back and work on Ian Sclater’s recordings from last Sunday. Monday – arsing around on e-bay and surfing the net; Tuesday visiting my mum; Wednesday playing and watching football; Thursday Computer updating etc; Friday Madredeus concert – and even then, Saturday night – the long awaited visit of Impossible Songs to Crispycat Towers – for which, during Saturday daytime, muchos preparaziones will have to be carried out…so it’s going to be tight to be prepared for what is now lined up to be an eight hour session with Ian on Sunday.

Tonight Craig Sutherland, webmeister extraordinaire and saviour of the Crispycat Machine, came round to load up and run even more security conscious virus and bug zapping software onto the Billion Dollar Brain – still can’t get rid of that one last “Web Search Toolbar” spyware pishpants though can we?

I’m also now able to use the virtual studio Craig uses at home for his own music and for creating the bedrock of Creek’s improvisations. So there could be a change in the CBQ sound. “Deeperdown” may well be the last album to be recorded with the clunky analog–you-must-play-every-note-every-time-I’m-sorry-no-I-can’t-drop-you-in-there type set up….although it’ll take a lot of work to learn how to use the new software in any meaningful way of course and seeing as I am such a lazy half-wit, all of the above may come to nought.

I rounded off the evening with a quick browse on e-bay utilising my new “just-buy-any-CD-you­-might-vaguely-want-as-long-as-it’s-cheap-enough” formula. I am successful in obtaining a copy of The Tubes’ 1977 classic “Now” and a CD by Ken Hensley, keyboard maestro and main songwriter behind the classic 1970-76 Uriah Heep. OK not to everyone’s taste, but it was only £1 plus P&P…

All is turning out nice again as my new Jukebox arrived today. Despite a couple of hiccups – not remembering where I’d put the battery for it (they don’t send you a new battery) and having to reset it a couple of times, it should be fully loaded again by Saturday morning – 5,000 odd tracks already having been transferred tonight. If this was one of my “unlucky” phases, I’d never find the battery – as it was, just as I clambered onto the bed in the back room (where all my “stuff” is randomly deposited over a number of days, before being tidied up every now and then) in order to try and look down the back of it, my hand rests right next to the elusive battery.

It’s a “lucky” day today…

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Footie Footie Footie...and CDs

Football day today other than a couple of CD purchases. Another victory for the HMV Marketing Dept as I buy Procol Harum’s first four albums, “Procol Harum”, “Shine On Brightly”, “A Salty Dog” and “Home” on a 2CD set and a 4CD box of J S Bach’s Choral Music in their 2 CDs for £10 campaign.

Also, Gary – one of the non karaoke-ers from Friday night lent me a DVD he got from his brother who works out on the rigs – it has the Top 60 Albums from March 2005 on it – even the covers and labels. There’s plenty of dross but some good stuff too and a lot of new music I’ve heard of but not actually heard. Cheers Gazza.

I am a last minute inclusion in the 10 man squad for tonight’s five a sides - making up the numbers, basically. I played terribly – worse than usual – didn’t even score – with 20 minutes to go, my team were 9-1 down so we swapped a couple of players (not me unfortunately). Final score was probably around 12-8. I managed one assist but also let in a barrel-load during my multiple shots in goal (due to lack of oxygen)

Back home I wasn’t planning on watching the Champion’s League Final between Liverpool and AC Milan but, with Milan scoring inside the first minute, I was sucked in.

Jim Park had asked if I was going to watch and what I thought the result might be – I reckoned a win for Milan. He said too close to call and probably a draw after 90 minutes. I asked if he had any money on his opinion – the answer was no.

At half time, with Milan 3-0 up I was mocking Mr Park. 10 minutes later, after two great goals and a dubious penalty, only scored on the rebound, it was 3-3. Jim had been right all along. Is he a time traveller?

Liverpool won on penalties. Dudek, their goalie, had a breathtaking double save in the dying minutes of extra time, which I admired. His wobbly leg antics during the shoot-out were annoying, but legal I suppose, but taking three steps off the line before the penalty taker has kicked the ball…well I was under the impression that that was against the rules of the game…but what do I know?

So a grudging well done to the scousers (and honourary scousers from around the world)….

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

A Big Fat Face Now and Then...

Back to Loanhead today for the second time in three days as Pam is heading home to Hemel Hempstead tomorrow night.

By the time we get there, Pam has replaced all the furniture in my mum’s bedroom so no work to do. Anne and I have brought a Chinese takeaway out with us as my mum has a hankering after lemon chicken.

Pam and my mum recount some of their funny stories from their trip to Spain – including Pam’s visit to the Pharmacia, which involved the girl behind the counter shouting the word “Haemorrhoids” at the top of her voice for everyone in the shop to hear...you can guess the rest...

In the big clearout, a load of old photos had been uncovered – I thought I’d seen all my mum and dad’s photos but there were some of me as a baby, younger than six months, that I’d never seen before.

They were a bit of a revelation. My dad had always told me that, when I was a baby, I was like a “skint rabbit”. However, in these photos, amongst them some of my christening at three months, very spookily indeed, I look exactly as I do now!!! (facially anyway - obviously my body is slightly smaller...)

Back at home I make up a 2CD Birthday CD for the son of one of my friend’s Margaret’s chum who’s going to be 21 on Friday (hope you follow that description!).

To complete the track list with a hit from right now, I bought the new Coldplay single today – it’ll probably be No 1 this Sunday (or rather it won’t because the Crazy Frog thing will be No 1).

It was either Coldplay or the current No 1, Oasis…but I hate Oasis.

Monday, May 23, 2005

My name is David and I am a CD-aholic....

Today I discovered a new way to buy CDs. I go to e-bay, search for “CDs” and up they come, many with less than 1 minute to go till the end of the acuction. I browse the first ten minutes or so and bid for anything that takes my fancy.

You can even choose a category of CDs to browse – it’s just like being in a big CD shop. I am an inveterate impulse buyer – very seldom aware of anything I actually want.

Tonight I bought a CD by Iain Ballamy, original sax player in Bill Bruford’s Earthworks, the latest solo album from Neal Morse, ex-lead singer of nu-prog band Spock’s Beard. And I also managed to win the auction for a copy of Medeski Martin & Wood’s first album.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Back from the dead....and not...

Up at six but today I wisely leave the computer off for a couple of hours and sit hunched over the mixer and recorder in the studio working on last minute changes to Ian’s backing tracks. I also remix a couple of the ones we’ve already finished. By nine I'm ready to fire up the computer and burn the nine backing tracks we have onto a disc.

I wanted to get out to Ingliston market today to try and get some empty CD boxes – I can’t seem to find them anywhere in town at the moment and I can usually get a good deal out there – but I spend so much time on Ian’s tracks I’m behind schedule.

A quick breakfast with Anne and then I dismantle the studio and pack the necessary pieces into the bag to take out with me, grab my guitar and the backing track CD.

At Ian’s, three of the four tracks I’ve worked on are pronounced “great” but not quite what was looked for – either the style’s not right or I’ve messed up the running order re verse/chorus/middle eight etc. The fourth is great – but Ian’s not finished off his lyrics yet!!

Despite these minor set backs we spend a good four hours working on the songs. The hardest part for me is when I get back to the house and have to try and piece various parts together. It’s a challenge though - one I'll face later in the week (by which time I may well have forgotten what we were doing!). So far we’ve only had four sessions but we’ve already made good headway on ten different tracks – another new one was introduced today.

Driving back home I put the radio on in the car for any news of the Hearts game against Aberdeen, believing as I do that Celtic have already won the league by beating Motherwell…turns out Motherwell came back from the dead, scoring twice in the last two minutes of the game to win 2-1. With Rangers beating Hibs 1-0, it meant Rangers had snatched the title away from the ‘Tic. The whole season came down to the last two minutes…amazing.

We go to Anne’s mum’s for tea. Mary always gives me the free CDs she gets with her newspapers and today it’s a good one as it contains the perennial hit “Sugar Sugar” by the Archies – I love that song but till now didn’t have it in my collection.

My sister Pam and my mum are back from their Spanish holiday today so we drive out to Loanhead to see them and my other sister, Sheila, and her husband Andrew turn up too.

We’ve gathered to move furniture and lift the carpet in my mum’s bedroom – she’s having a new one delivered tomorrow.

Despite all the joking around, I’m a bit sad to be doing this as it reminds me of the day my dad died – he collapsed in the bedroom and by the time I got to the house the paramedics were trying in vain to resuscitated him. The last time I saw him, he was already dead and laid out on the bed.

That was a bad day.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Fresh Bread and Tomatoes....

Up at 5 today and quickly into burning and printing the latest batch of CDs for Jamie – much to Anne’s delight. She wants to know what all the noise is – I didn’t realise as I have my headphones on – I must admit that, at 5 in the morning the whirring of a 48x burning of a CD and side to side swishing of a high speed printer, even on silent mode, must be pretty annoying.

We call a truce as she heads back for more beauty sleep and I save my latest CDs onto the hard drive in preparation for when my new Jukebox arrives – checked yesterday, they have the old one and the replacement should be with me in a week or so (last time it took three weeks). It’s guaranteed again for three months from when it arrives. That’s not very reassuring considering I’ve had to have it replaced twice in eleven months…

Then I update the blog re last night’s karaoke adventure and generally just surf around on the net, visiting my usual haunts, Jim Park, Richard Herring, Out of the Bedroom, E-Bay, BBC.co.uk, Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, Norman Lamont, Alice Cooper, Impossible Songs trying to avoid too much noisy typing.

By the time Anne gets up and we’re ready to go for breakfast it’s already 10:45. We head for Patisserie Florentine in Stockbridge and I hold off from the full Petit Dejeuner and just settle for a pain au raisin and a latte – Anne has a plain croissant and cappuccino – don’t know why they call mine a latte – it’s just as strong as a normal coffee…I prefer Starbucks’ lattes - especially the "vente" size - huge cups that leave a mark on your forehead they're so big....

After breakfast we wander down into Stockbridge for a look round the shops and buy some fresh bread and tomatoes for lunch. I also pop into the Oxfam Music shop – they usually have a few bargains and sure enough I pick up Jordi Savall and Hesperion XX performing music from around 1600 by the composer William Brade.

I stick it on in the car – not Anne’s Cup of tea but I like it – 400 year old music – one day people'll be listening to music recorded four hundred years in the past….probably by the Beatles, probably not by Cloudland Blue Quartet..but I'll be dead and so won't be bothered....

On the way home we head to Haymarket where I pick up 200 blank CDs and, for the first time, some blank DVDs. At home I update the software on the computer (thanks Craig) to allow burning MP3s onto a DVD.

No wonder recorded music is so undervalued today – I managed to get the last 92 CDs I’ve bought onto ONE DVD!!! 992 tracks – Eighty-One and a half hours of music on a SINGLE DISC. Maybe I should put my entire back catalogue (around 200 CDs) onto a 2DVD set and sell it for a tenner?

A while back, I unplugged the speakers from our computer and put them away but I got them back out today and fitted them back again – I’m tired of having headphones on all the time…

After lunch of, it must be said, very tasty fresh bread and tomatoes, I head up to the studio and run through the Deeperdown songs – my set for a week on Thursday will be “Where Are You”, lead track from the 7th Deeperdown EP plus the second studio track from EP 1 and EP 2, “Still We Doubt You” and “The Beauty Of A Foreign Land”.

Anne’s out in the garden – the one thing she really enjoys more than anything else I think is gardening. In fact my song “The Gardener” is about her, written one day, like today when I “worked upstairs on this song” and she was deadheading some flowers…

I’m round at Ian Sclater’s again tomorrow for the next session re his CD and I promised last week I’d come up with some backing tracks for him. I completed one on Tuesday but haven’t had a chance since then to do anything. I work on three more and finally complete them around 8:30, stopping off to watch Dr Who accompanied by a Vegetable Madras from the Taj Express. Mmmm mmm..

Then it’s the Eurovision Song Contest until CSI : New York and Law & Order : Criminal Intent then off to bed, knowing I still have some work to do on Ian’s stuff first thing tomorrow before driving to his place for 11 am.

Friday, May 20, 2005

CBQ does Meat Loaf....

No music work again today other than mailing out a few CDs ordered over the net via the Crispycat Website. You can get all my available CDs there plus Jamie’s album and the latest from Creek, Edinburgh’s best electronic improv group – take a look....
(http://www.crispycat.co.uk/inside/music/default.asp)

Tonight I went along to a charity karaoke evening in aid of SANDS, the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society. Back in December 2003, Crispycat released a special edition 5 track CBQ CD single in conjunction with the charity and raised several hundred pounds to help raise much needed funds. The Society provides counselling, both immediate and ongoing, to parents who have suffered these tragic losses.

Anne isn’t a fan of karaoke and so, after dropping me off at the Golf Club where the evening was to be held, she went to her chum, Lynn’s house. They were working on turning the trousers she’d had ruined in Antequera back in March (http://crispycat-recordings.blogspot.com/2005/03/antequera.html) into shorter versions (as seen in the Next catalogue) and succeeded admirably.

I knew I had a lot of work to get through tomorrow, what with burning more CDs, both CBQ and James Jamieson, and working on the remaining backing tracks for my fifth session with Ian Sclater on Sunday.

So I only had six or seven Gin and Tonics....

First they had a disco - I don't dance much these days and just stayed in my seat a-drinkin'. However, one of the girls at our table, Wendy, was up like a shot for "Amarillo" and had Peter Kay off to a tea - body stance, facial expressions and stupid marching - hilarious - especially as many of the older ladies on the floor were doing the slosh while Wendy marched around in amongst them!

I got up twice for the karaoke, first to sing “It’s A Sin” by the Pet Shop Boys (last year I did their version of “Always on my Mind”) for which my performance was fairly run-of–the-mill but hard, as the backing track was in the wrong key for me.

Then I sang a duet with another of the girls in our party, Tracey. She’d chosen Meat Loaf’s “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” – apparently it’s one of her all time favourite songs and she sometimes duets on it with her dad – even although he’s colour-blind and can’t actually see the lyrics on the screen!!

I must admit, although I agreed to the duet since no other guy in our party (say hello Ian, Bernie, Gary) would get “on stage”, I couldn’t for the life of me remember how the song went – that is until the music started – then it all came back to me.

We made it through admirably – I was driven along by Tracey's unbridled enthusiasm for the song and suddently had in my head a superb performance by Meat Loaf of this very song on the Old Grey Whistle Test back in, probably, 1978. Just for good measure, I mixed in a few Elvis impersonations – it was great fun and, for what to me was a fairly obscure song, I couldn’t believe the number of what I’d term, “young people”, who were up on the floor for the full 9 minutes, singing along and dancing around like they were Meat Loaf’s greatest fans…and that I was in fact Meat Loaf and Tracey was Ellen Foley.

A second highlight of the night was Bernie winning four bottles of Leffe Belgian Beer and two large Leffe glasses – which he gave to me because he only drinks bottled lager…

Anne picked me up around midnight and after a quick flick through the delivered today June edition of the Wire, it was off to bed with Meat Loaf in my head…..

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Self Doubt - it's wonderful thing...

Tonight I played at Out of the Bedroom again. It was a quieter night than two weeks ago. Jamie arrived late and took a squashee slot (gets to play one song). He played “On The Inside” from his album – the last track to be added to it – in fact it wasn’t on the first version we released in December – we updated the album in January to include this new song. It was its first ever outing and drew loud applause and whooping from the audience – cool.

I played “Anything But Ill”, “The Gardener” and “Very Small” as I’d planned. “Anything But Ill” went really well but I found “The Gardener” a wee bit flat, energy wise and, by the time I’d played it, the guitar was a little out of tune for “Very Small” - but it was close enough for jazz I suppose as one wag in the audience piped up.

All in all the set went down well and once again I sold a few CDs in the break. But, personally, I was disappointed with my performance despite people telling me it was great. Different perspectives I suppose. Jamie sold a couple of albums and we both bought the Edinburgh Sound Collective’s CD from Iona Marshall.

Listening to it, the stand outs are as I would expect – Iona’s two tracks with Soulalba and Lindsay West’s two songs. Fraser Drummond’s songs are good too and the opening track from Scuff is enjoyable. The rhythms on the CD are in the main latinised which isn't wholly to my tastes and although generally great, some bits of the production work are a wee bit iffy (says production maestro – ha - not) - possibly due to different sources being used? A girl called Jess Bryant has a couple of tracks on it and people “on the scene, man” generally rave about her but I just don’t get it, I’m afraid. Her two tracks are the low points for me...and £6 is a bit steep - ha you could get 6 of my EPs for that!! Bottom line though, it's an entertaining and varied disc and you can't say fairer than that...

I was probably a bit harsh in my post the other day re OOTB – but one thing’s true – it is incredibly smoky. People who go every week may well fall foul of Roy Castle syndrome…

Got to bed around 12 and listened to my “album” version of the “Deeperdown” singles, trying to imagine what the people who bought them would think when listening. It’s one thing compiling the discs and listening to them yourself but, once they’re out there in other people’s homes, doubt creeps in – and doubt crept in. But maybe I’m just being too self critical…

Surfing the net makes me think – can anyone really get famous anymore – does anyone want to - everyone’s on the web - blogging - posting their photos (http://www.flickr.com/) - there’s so much out there it’s like 1,000,000 Channel TV - you flick and flick (click and click) - but you seldom hang around for more than a few seconds….so why do I bother with any of it? The music, the art-work, the CDs, the blogging??? Oh dear - why am I here?? – I suppose because it’s in me and needs to come out…

Ali from Impossible Songs was there tonight and we had a good laugh before the evening started. I’m puzzled by the fact that I seem to be able to entertain and perform well in a one on one situation, or in a small group, but once I’m on the stage, I kind of freeze up…I am not a charismatic performer in any way and must appear to be so up my own arse....and I am soooo nervous before I play – even just doing three wee songs in front of an appreciative room where, logically, I have nothing to worry about….. After all this time of playing live, you’d think I’d be immune to it by now – but I was feeling quite ill for over an hour last night before it was time for my slot…

Self doubt creeping in indeed…..

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Does beer beat music into submission?...I'm afraid so...

Didn’t do anything today really and drinking a couple of pints of Kronenburg Blanc put paid to any chances of my actually working on any music or even just rehearsing my three tunes for OOTB tomorrow night.

I’m getting hooked on Medeski Martin & Wood and bought another of their CDs today, “Combustication”. I feel an e-bay frenzy coming on as I’m tracking a few of their more obscure releases there. Prior to Monday’s purchase I already had a couple of their more recent releases, “The Dropper” and “Uninvisible”. They, Brad Mehldau, Ethan Iverson and Esbjorn Svensson are, for me, taking jazz in a good direction.

In addition to the MMW disc, I bought three 2CD Blue Note Trips, DJ Mix compilations by a Dutchman called DJ Maestro – “Goin’ Down/Getting’ Up”, “Saturday Night/Sunday Morning” and “Sunset/Sunrise”. Very funky but probably a few too many vocal tracks for my liking, because, as you know, there is no place in jazz for vocals!!

The Jukebox is now winging its way back to Creative and a new one should be despatched soon. In the meantime I’m converting new CDs to MP3 on my hard drive in preparation for loading into the new player. Lucky I had all my tracks backed up.

Just received the OOTB review for 05/05/05 back in my in-box, so it’s now been sent to their huge mailing list. It doesn’t look as bad as I’d thought…

And an e-mail from Stewart Robinson (Peri Urban - Periurbanix@aol.com) thanking me for listening to his CD. What does he expect? I'm going to use it as a coaster? It's a good album and he tells me our e-mail correspondence last year partly inspired him to put it all together - that and the enthusiasm of his wife Ali and little daughter, Lily - so where's my Exec Producer credit then... ;-)

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Music, music and more music...and strawberries (Mmm)

After last night’s miserable failure to rebuild the studio after the visit to Ian Sclater’s on Sunday with the “Crispycat Mobile Facility”, I vowed to do it tonight. And I did…and it was good.

I then worked on the first two of five of Ian’s songs I learned on Sunday. My brief is to produce initial backing tracks that we can use next Sunday. I spent two hours on this, managing a backing track for “Back on the Good Earth” which consisted of just two acoustic guitars, and another which is not quite right yet. I added a quick CBQ vocal to “Good Earth” just to see what it sounded like with a vocal and it was quite good, if I might say so myself.

Then I went downstairs to watch “CSI” but Anne was already watching “Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee” and advised she was taping “CSI”.

So I made us some tea and dished out the strawberries and went back upstairs and proceeded to write the now 10 days overdue review of 05/05/05’s Out of the Bedroom. This took two hours.

It was a disappointing effort as I was struggling to actually remember what anyone had sounded like and it was a bit of a chore to do (ha I remember back to when I did the reviews regularly, I used to really enjoy doing them, even though I’d sometimes take up to four hours to write them).

This will probably be my last review – it just takes too much time and you have to endure the entire evening, no matter how good or bad the performances are (as it turned out, on 05/05/05 there were only a couple of duffers). But it’s a horrible smoke filled room that makes your clothes stink – roll on the smoking ban!! Better to get in, do your set and get home again not too late….

I got a surprise in the post today. A free copy of the new Peri Urban CD “Sugar Junkie”. Peri is the moniker of my old chum Stewart Robinson. I first met Stewart in 1983 when his cat had kittens and we took the runt of the litter. We called her Crispy.

In the mid eighties we had a band called The Dancers of San Martino – we nearly got signed to Virgin but they took on Danny Wilson and The Big Dish instead – more fool them of course.

In the late nineties I recorded around four CDs of purely improvised electronic music with Stewart, in fact our first improvised collaboration from 1996 was the first CD to use the name Cloudland Blue Quartet for my work.

Anyway, I digress – the CD is very good. I didn’t even know he was working on it and it arrived completely out of the blue. He used to do Tangerine Dream like instrumental pieces, now he writes songs and sings them in a gruff American accent like a cross between Alice Cooper and Captain Beefheart. He really is a great musician and I don’t know anyone else who knows their way as well around music software on a computer – his productions put mine to shame (not hard I hear you cry). I need to try and convince him to get out of his house and up to OOTB to do a few songs….

Good on you Stu, I thought you’d retired.

Albums of the Year 1959 to 2004 (I love a list...)

I haven't posted any pictures on the blog for a while so I was looking through all the pics on my hard drive and came a cross the ones posted below. They are the covers of my favourite albums (as at 2003) of each year from 1959 to 2003. I've added my 2004 favourite to the list.

1959 Miles Davis - Kind of Blue
1960 John Coltrane - Giant Steps
1961 Miles Davis - Someday My Prince Will Come
1962 Dexter Gordon - Go
1963 Hank Mobley - No Room For Squares
1964 John Coltrance - Coltrane's Sound
1965 Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited
1966 Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde
1967 The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground & Nico
1968 Miles Davis - Miles In The Sky
1969 King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King
1970 Emerson Lake & Palmer - Emerson Lake & Palmer
1971 Alice Cooper - Love It To Death
1972 Yes - Close To The Edge
1973 Alice Cooper - Billion Dollar Babies
1974 King Crimson - Red
1975 Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here
1976 Genesis - Wind and Wuthering
1977 David Bowie - Low
1978 UK - UK
1979 Pink Floyd - The Wall
1980 David Bowie - Scary Monsters and Super Creeps
1981 Simple Minds - Sons and Fascination/Sister Feelings Call
1982 Brian Eno - On Land
1983 Pink Floyd - The Final Cut
1984 Rush - Grace Under Pressure
1985 Rush - Power Windows
1986 David Sylvian - Gone To Earth
1987 Yes - Big Generator
1988 Talk Talk - Spirit of Eden
1989 The Blue Nile - Hats
1990 Jellyfish - Bellybutton
1991 Talk Talk - Laughing Stock
1992 Roger Waters - Amused To Death
1993 Sylvian/Fripp - The First Day
1994 Yes - Talk
1995 King Crimson - Thrak
1996 The Blue Nile - Peace at Last
1997 Radiohead - OK Computer
1998 Marillion - Radiation
1999 Spock's Beard - Day For Night
2000 Alice Cooper - Brutal Planet
2001 Yes - Magnification
2002 Peter Gabriel - Up
2003 King Crimson - The Power to Believe
2004 The Blue Nile - High

The covers for 1959-2003 are set out below....

1959-1969

1970-1979

1980-1992

1993-2003

Monday, May 16, 2005

Sucked in by Marketing and Television....

Yet another marketing campaign by HMV draws me in. I buy Medeski, Martin & Wood’s latest CD, “End Of The World Party” for £4.99 and it makes it straight into my top ten for May so far. It’s on Blue Note but it’s not really jazz – but it’s a cracker of an album, funky mixed up sounds, great drumming and superb production. A very talented trio.

I was planing to rebuild the studio tonight in preparation for what should be a week of playing and recording, initially concentrating on Ian Sclater’s songs and then seeing if I can’t finally make some sort of start to the new CBQ album. “Anotherhappyday” was released in September 2003 so I want to get the new album out before two years have passed!! But.....

I run through the three songs for Thursday again and then, unfortunately, TV sucks me in and I end up watching:-

Junior Mastermind
University Challenge - TV Team vs Radio Team
2 Episodes of Coronation Street
New Tricks
The Alan Hansen Documentary on what footballers do when their footballing careers are over

I'll definitely get back to the studio tomorrow

Good news on the Jukebox front as Creative agree to replace my machine (for a second time). Luckily I have all my tracks backed up on the computer hard-drive, but, if it’s anything like last time, it’ll be around three weeks before the new machine arrives.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Working Sunday....

Up early again as I needed to transfer Ian’s tracks worked on so far to a CD. Surprise, surprise, the CD writer worked perfectly. So I made a five track disc for him of what we’ve done so far.

Another beautiful day but, again, I’ll spend most of it indoors. Made it to Ian’s just after 11 and we get to work straight away on my learning some of his songs. In all, we ran through five songs in four hours, which is pretty good going. Now I’ll work on my own on these to produce some initial backing tracks for next Sunday’s session – same time, same place... (and I also have the makings of a new CBQ song – the first of 2005).

Anne’s off to Tynecastle to see Hearts v Celtic again – and again Hearts come off worse, losing 2-1. But, by all accounts, they deserved a draw. Looks like they’ll definitely be fifth now. Next week is the last game of the season and Hearts must play Aberdeen. Aberdeen are Hearts’ arch-enemy, Hibs', only potential obstacle to a place in Europe, so will Hearts “lie down” to them? I don’t think so but no doubt the press will speculate this week.

I go to pick her up and forget I’m recording Star Trek :Enterprise on manual rather than timer – by the time I remember, the recording is half way through an episode of CSI – oh well, we’ve still got tons of stuff to watch, including about 10 episodes of Desperate Housewives!

In the studio, I run through my set for Thursday again – can’t keep my guitar in tune….then I cook dinner – badly – choosing to ladle the stuffed pasta out the pan onto the plates (albeit with a ladle with holes) rather than draining it (why do I always try and taking cooking shortcuts? Why haven't I learned they don't work??) leading to a rather watery experience all round. After doing the dishes, it’s time for Coronation Street.

Then up to the studio to go through Ian’s songs again whilst they’re fresh in my mind.

I write up the blog whilst listening to a Haydn String Quartet, then it’s back down to watch today’s Premiership Football – one of my favourites from when I was a kid, Norwich City, are thrasged 6-0 and relegated…but I’m sure they’ll be back. At 3pm they were safe - between then and 4:45 all four of the relegation candidates were, at some point, in the coveted safe 17th place in the league - in the end it was West Brom that clawed their way out and Norwich are joined by Crystal Palace and Southampton.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Inside on a lovely day....

Up at 5:40 (hmm thought it was 6:40 – not that that makes it any better). Other than a break for breakfast, worked solidly on the Deeperdown EPs till 1pm, burning discs, printing and sticking together covers, on disc printing etc etc a veritable production line….replacing those sold over the last two weeks and building up a supply of the three new ones for Monday and, just for good measure, the final EP “Where Are You” which isn’t out till 30 May.

I’m listening to the CBQ MP3 CD which has 110 tracks on it. The original “Another Happy Day” from the 2003 album of the same name, is, if I might say so myself, a quite brilliant track (Nothing like blowing my own trumpet…. )

Before I start recording the Deeperdown album (yes starting again from scratch) I’ll have to find my notes on the studio settings I used when recording the AHD album – it has a great CBQ sound to it. Funny how you never really notice at the time how you're doing something when you are doing something and so, a couple of years later, you look back and say "how did I do that?"....it's almost as if someone else was doing it...

After lunch, I run through the three song set for Thursday at OOTB, EPs nos 4, 5 and 6 - “Anything But Ill”, “The Gardener” and “Very Small”…then, just for good measure, I go through the rest of the songs on the Deeperdown album. All this takes me an hour, counting interruptions and restarts.

Then back to work on Ian Sclater’s music. We have our third session tomorrow and Ian’s second guest guitarist has pulled out. So tomorrow I’ll be learning a few of his songs with a view to playing on the CD.

Anne’s sister, Jane, pops round with our nephew and niece, Ollie and Kitty and we have a coffee in the back garden. It’s the best day of the year so far but I’m indoors as usual. Ollie and I share a white choclate Easter Egg he’s brought for me – apparently I’d claimed it when I saw him at Easter….and he remembered?!!? He likes “The Crocodile Song” and strums the guitar while I change the chords.

Tonight I was going to put together a disc of the five tracks Ian and I’ve progressed thus far, including the edited together “It’s Weird In Here”. But I can’t get my CD Recorder to work!! And the digital link from the mini-disc to the computer doesn’t seem to produce any recordable signal either….

Resigning myself to another early start to try and sort this out I ended the day with a well earned rest watching CSI : New York and Law & Order : Criminal Intent..

Friday, May 13, 2005

Zapped and Scrubbed...

Craig Sutherland is my Webmeister.

He is also now, officially, the Man.

Last night at 21:30 hours, my computer was pronounced by Craig as "twatted", in fact, as "the most twatted computer I've ever seen".

24 hours later, it's back up and running with a skip (and a bit of a limp) in its step.....

He zapped, he washed, he scrubbed, he trapped, he killed (and he still hasn't done for every little blighter in the gubbins of the Crispycat Nerve Centre)....however, he also did all that just a bit too thoroughly and, at the end of the night, he'd wiped any access to all the user names and passwords on the Hard Drive....I could no longer access the machine.

Today, he searched and he found. I guess there's software out there for everything under the sun. Thank the lord (Lord Craig that is...) that User Names and Passwords are just as vulnerable to manipulation as any politician you'd care to name.

And so I'm back - I'm chipper - I'm smiling.

So here's a list of the CDs I bought today...

Haydn - Symphonies Nos 82 and 84
Haydn - Symphonies Nos 94, 95 & 97
Haydn - Symphonies Nos 92, 94, 103, 104, 105
Mozart - Mass in C Minor
Music of Thomas Tallis & John Sheppard
Puccini's Heroines

Rock On!!

Even less chipper....

Computer now totally tits up......but fixable - most likely out of order till next Wednesday so this is last post for a while...
Car repair (hopefully the last) brought forward after some formal complaining from 30/5 to 17/5...
Jukebox - might get a replacement - they'll be e-mailing me while I have no computer to pick up the e-mails....
Toe - needs more podiatry....

Summer appears to be here however so I might get out and about for a bit.....

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Not Chipper

I can no longer be chipper about things:-

1. My computer is rapidly going tits up...
2. My Jukebox has gone tits up..
3. The continuing car saga..
4. My toe hurts...(shouldn't really have played football last night)

I am spending almost every spare moment trying to save the computer - consequently I'm way behind schedule on everything else.

It could be worse I agree.....

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Goal of the Season...?

I’m at the end of my tether re the computer problems and Martin, the IT guru who built it can’t help me till next Wednesday at the earliest as he’s off on holiday with Michelle to drive their new sports car very quickly around a race track for several days.

I bought the latest Spock’s Beard CD, “Octane” via E-Bay last Monday and it finally arrived today – it was worth the wait. Recommended.

Tonight I played footie for the first time since 30 March, and the first time since having my toe “done”. Much pain I must report! Despite this I managed two goals, one of which was a throw back to my prime as I tricked a defender (Jim Park ha ha) and the goalie only to be driven wide into a seemingly impossible position. But, spying the goalie off his line, I cannoned my shot off the wall and diagonally into the net. I even got a high five from a member of the opposing team (not Jim though ha ha).

Jim had the last laugh though as the Whites ran out winners at the end by two goals. Probably two of the ones let in by my little old lady goal-keeping style.

Today is our German friend Birgit’s birthday. Happy birthday Birgit!! She lives up near Oban on an island called Luing and hopefully we will visit her soon along with Brodski. Alan steals all our friends he so personable. Some man!

So Me, Jorg, Birgit, Jim Park and Jamie Frain all have May birthdays.

Late tonight the Jukebox has now gone tits up to add to my technological woes. 7,500 tracks are inside it.

Picked up my sister, Pam, from the Airport - she's off to Spain for a week with my mum. They had a good time in Majorca last year and so decided to do it again. Pam's husband, Richard, stays at home in Hemel probably glad of the holiday!!

Depression is kicking in despite my great goal tonight (which incidentally injured my toe somewhat).

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Viral Infections Spreading....

I'm fighting an uphill battle against various viral infections of my (computer) system...

I am working on:-
Ian Sclater's sessions
CBQ CD Singles - the 2nd batch
Uploading recent CDs to the Jukebox
Writing the review of OOTB 05/05/05 (except the CBQ review which John from Impossible Songs has already written and which is posted as a comment on the blog entry below at 05/05/05)
Trying to get rid of viruses etc (5 hours alone tonight!!)

Of course this last is impacting negatively on everything else....

Monday, May 09, 2005

Cars coming out of their lying ears....

Back to reality this morning as I take the car to the garage again.

The engineer tells me the sales guy’s lied to me. They didn’t fit a new de-nippled dash. They merely repaired the old dash…and in taking it out and putting it back they’ve added scratches.

He says he’s not going to mess me about – just order and fit a brand new dash straight away.

For the sales guys though this is a problem as they don’t have a courtesy car till 30 May. So a repair which was to have happened on 2 May will now take place on 30 May. I reluctantly agree, as I need to have the courtesy car in order for travel to and from the garage not to last for hours.

Later on I phone customer services and complain. I want a car asap or I want them to give me a hire car and they can pay for it. After all they’ve got cars coming out of their ears – not literally - although some of the people there whom I’ve told about the problems do appear to have trouble hearing what I’m saying, so you never know….

At night we do a shop at the local 24 hour Tesco and find the previously mysteriously missing contents of our glove compartment strewn around the boot. Maybe if they’d tried replacing them where they got them from they might have noticed the compartment no longer opens after their masterly “repair job”.

More pish is flowing into the computer from the net despite my now adding a “router” (whatever that is…)

Late on I do a couple of hours work on Ian Sclater’s songs and piece together a reasonable version of his song “It’s Weird In Here”.. This is a good song. If you hear it once you can’t help singing it.

Today is my German friend, Jorg Sonnenschein’s Birthday. Two years ago today I recorded a long soundscape in his name. I don’t think he’s heard it. Jorg’s the only person I know with more music than me – but I don’t think my music’s his personal cup of tea…

Happy Birthday Jorg!!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The Pop Up Hellmouth....

We hadn’t booked breakfast so we were up at 8 and out on the street by 8:45 heading for Blackfriars and the tube to Heathrow, where we did get breakfast. Coffee and a Danish each.

There was a 30 minte delay in take off (after we’d boarded) which is a bit of a wait on a 60 minute flight but that’s air travel for you.

It was a very bumpy flight due to turbulence – all the clouds seemed to be at exactly the same height at which we were flying. I always judge the severity of any situation on a plane by the faces of the cabin crew. They continued to smile and so I was at ease, even though it was very shaky.

Coming into Edinburgh we had a great view of the city. Just prior to flying over Arthur’s Seat and then out over the Firth of Forth, I saw my old school, Lasswade High. It was strange looking down from above. The best part of flying is the different perspective it gives…

Back home and Meg was fine despite having been left for around 30 hours on her own.

The equipment for us to set up broadband was behind the door so I took some time to set this up. Our connection's 20 times faster than before. Then we went to Anne’s mum’s for my birthday tea. The celebrations never end!

Back home again and I’m noticing problems with the computer – masses of pop-ups - it’s almost as if Broadband’s opened the Pop-Up Hellmouth….

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Tate and Globe...

Putting the car trouble out of our minds for the next couple of days we were off to London today for my birthday treat.

Up at 6:15, we were checking in at 6:45 for an 8 am flight to London City. A coffee and croissant in the Airport was followed by a hot breakfast on the plane.

The credit card check in scenario is great – no queues!!

On the flight, the Steward knew my name. I didn’t recognise him at first but it was a guy called Nick whom I’d not seen for probably 15 years. He was a friend of Malcolm Logan’s. I’ve been in various bands and music projects with Malcolm over the years, most recently Crazy Wisdom, but since 1998 when I closed Reptile records, I’ve only seen him once or twice.

Nick used to hang around with us when we were in a band called Call Me Clive in the late eighties. Our claim to fame was touring with Goodbye Mr MacKenzie, of which Shirley Manson of Garbage was a member. It was good to see him again and he sent us on our way to London with a couple of bottles of Gin and some White Wine. Top bloke!

The landing at City was a bit hairy as the plane descends twice as steeply as normal. But it was worth it as, by 9:50 we were at Piccadilly Circus.

I headed for the Record Shops of Soho, Selectadisc, Mr CD, Sister Ray the Record Exchange etc etc, there must be around 20 shops on and around Berwick St. As ever I had no real idea of what I was looking for, I’m an inveterate browser.

In the end I bought a disc of string quartets based on the music of Genesis from 1970-1980. An acquired taste. I tried to buy an EP by Jason Falkner, once of the great band Jellyfish, but the shop couldn’t locate the disc that went with the cover so I left empty handed.

Then it was onto the tube again and over the river (or under the river) to London Bridge Station and a short walk to our hotel on Southwark Bridge Road. Superb room and so quiet. I loved it.

After a quick G&T to revitalise us it was off to the river and we went to Shakespeare’s Globe. I’d seen on the net that there was a performance of The Tempest tonight but I’d called to enquire about tickets and it was completely sold out.

After just a quick look round we went to the Pizza Express next door for lunch including a bottle of wine. I love Italian white – best white in the world for me. Whilst we lunched we watched the passers by being pelted by rain and hail, which luckily had cleared by the time we emerged, rosy cheeked into the fairly windy day.

We made our way along to the Tate Modern, surprised to find it was free to enter. Highlights for me were works by Mark Rothko, Cy Twomby (great name!), Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, and Gerhardt Richter – the “Richter” of my 1999 Soundscape CD “Reinhardt Richter Rosenquist”.

Midway through our visit, we bought coffees and went out onto one of the balconies next to the great chimney, which dominates the building and the skyline. From here (which was very windy indeed) we looked out over the river onto St Paul’s. The bright blue skies and white, white clouds made a brilliant backdrop. In fact throughout the gallery there were several exciting views of the great church, which was almost a work in itself within the gallery.

After a visit to the shop (I love the shops in Art Galleries – I prefer books with pictures I think) we went back to the Globe intending to take the tour, as we wouldn’t be able to attend the play in the evening. But it was five o’clock and the exhibition was just closing.

We wandered into the box office and asked about returns. They said the queue started from 6pm with any returns being sold first come first served at 6:30. So we went off for a swift drink and, at 5:45 we started the queue. We were first. We had a chance.

At 6:30 the guy from the box office came out with just two envelopes. He said he had two £5 tickets for the standing area (people who watch from here are “Groundlings”) or two £29 tickets for front row grand circle.

£60 lighter (£1 each for cushions) we entered the theatre at 7:15. What a brilliant experience. I thoroughly recommend you go to a show if you’re in London. I do find Shakespeare difficult to follow at times due to the arcane language, almost like watching a foreign language film without subtitles. But the spectacle itself is half the fun. I wouldn’t mind going again next time I’m down. I’m so old I needed to be in a seat though. Two hours non-stop standing after queuing for nearly an hour would’ve been too much for my decaying legs…

After the play we walked back to London Bridge and took the tube back over to Soho where we found a nice little Indian Restaurant, again in Berwick St. Then it was back to the hotel and we finally hit the sack around 12:30. It was like having a second birthday. Thanks Anne – you’re the best!

Friday, May 06, 2005

Arnold Clark - Promises Delivered??

Finally got the car back tonight.

We handed it in on Monday "for two days" to have "the noise" fixed and the "nipple-ised" dash board replaced.

They gave us a courtesy car and asked us to insure it for three days "just in case".

Late Wednesday afternoon, I got a call asking me to extend the insurance for one more day as they'd started working on the dash that day but hadn't finished yet. What the f*** were they doing Monday and Tuesday?? Standing around looking at it??

No call yesterday so we drove out to the garage looking forward to picking up a noise-free de-nippled car....looking around the forecourt we couldn't see it...then we saw it in the work shop and I wandered in for a wee look...

Two burly mechanics were pushing and shoving and pressing the dashboard into place while various parts of the car lay strewn around the ground outside the car....not a great thing for us to see.

A bit like going to see a friend in hospital and accidentally stumbling into the operating theatre as the surgeon batters a particularly stubborn piece of body into submission.

No real surprise then to be told at reception "the car isn't quite ready and can you go away and extend the insurance for one more day and sorry we didn't phone you to save you a wasted journey out to the back of beyond and we'll definitely be ready tomorrow and we'll deliver it to you and take the courtesy car away and it'll definitely be fixed, we'll test it and test it and test it and it'll be just great - no noise - no nipples.."

"OK" we said.

Today they delivered the car back to us.

The "new" dash has scratches all over it

It's all raggedy where it joins the other bits of the instrument panel

You can see the glue

The fan is completely wrongly reconnected - it's guesswork as to where the air's going to be coming from

The dashboard vibrates all the time now

....and the glove compartment won't open more than half an inch and all former contents including several CDs, are missing...

I hate to think what it'd have been like if they hadn't given it a damn good road test before returning it.

WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO THESE DAYS TO GET PEOPLE TO DO THINGS PROPERLY???

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Crocodiles and Tchaikovsky....

I made my return tonight to Out of the Bedroom, playing live for the first time since last November

I was very nervous and fluffed the start to the first song “Love and War” – even dropping the plectrum. After all these years I don’t know why I should still get so nervous about singing a couple of songs in front of a few people….but I do.

The song went well though – eventually - with a new ending being created by the audience who’d never heard it before. After the key changed final verse there’s supposed to be a long silent gap before one last chorus – but they all started clapping thinking it was over – and so, it was.

“Half a Lifetime Away” went down well too. I played it more slowly than the version on the new EP but slightly faster than I was playing it last year. I wrote it on 1st May 2004 when I realised that it was over half my lifetime away since 1st May 1980 which I’d spent with all my friends in Felsberg, Germany, where I’d been living since August the previous year.

Labour Day in Germany is a day when everything closes down completely. We’d made sure we had loads of drink and sausages and stuff and a big group of us made our way up the hill at the back of the village first thing in the morning and proceeded to drink all day round a big fire on which we cooked our food. It was a great day I’ll never forget – and I’ll never forget the hangover either – hmmm maybe I should write a follow up about the 2nd of May 1980…

By coincidence, my old chum Jorg Sonnenschein had called me from Felsberg to wish me a Happy Birthday just before I left the house for OOTB. Jorg is the one referred to in the song in the line “The friends I once knew, now all but one are gone”. He has a big old house in the middle of Felsberg which he’s renovating single-handedly whilst still working a normal eight hour day and spending time with his wife, Yvonne and their three children Xenia, Ansem and Teja – Ansem is our God Son. It was good to hear from him and I hope we’ll see each other sometime this year.

Last time we met up was in the summer of 2003 and his father was very ill with cancer. As it turns out, my own dad died suddenly within a week or so of his dad, Oskar’s death….

My last song was “The Crocodile Song”. It has a nice happy go lucky tune, which I co-wrote with my nephew, Andy Wilson but the words are a wee bit disturbing. I seldom write a song like “Half a Lifetime Away” where I have a clear idea of the ideas to get across in the song and write the lyric accordingly. Mostly I just write what comes into my head and it seems to take on a meaning later on – and so it was with Crocodile Song.

I took a book off the shelf, “The Viper’s Knot” by Francois Mauriac, and opened it randomly, coming across the line “Crocodile I am and crocodile I shall remain” and proceeded to write a lyric straight off based around that line. As you might imagine, if someone is describing themselves as a crocodile, they’re probably not a very nice person hence the lines..

“Crocodile I am and crocodile I'll stay
So let me take your hand on a sunny day
I know you want to be with me
Even if it seems like something else to you”

All in all I enjoyed it and I think the audience did too, I sold quite a few CDs afterwards…

Earlier in the day I’d spent more of my birthday money on a couple of classical box-sets – Claudio Abbado and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s recordings of Tchaikovsky’s six symphonies plus various other works – a six CD set and an eleven CD box highlighting the cello playing of Dutchman Anner Bijlsma issued by Sony on his 70th birthday last year.

So I fell asleep tonight with Tchaikovsky in my headphones – he was one of my dad’s favourite composers and one he used to spark my interest in music back in the sixties….

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

My birthday today – hurrah!!

The Fourth of May – the best day of the year (for me anyway)

Most of my presents were money – which is good for someone my age and a lot better than ties, pants, handkerchiefs or socks which is what my dad used to get when he was my age.

Anne’s present was an “itinerary”.

She’s taking me to London for the day on Saturday, flying back on Sunday and says I can choose what we do whilst we’re there. So I’ll be surfing the net between now and then to see what’s on.

Went to FOPP today (for a change, seeing as it’s my birthday) and bought Lambchop’s “Aw C’Mon No You C’Mon” double CD, M’s 2nd album “Official Secrets”, Grand Funk Railroad’s “On Time”, and a double CD set of T.Rex’s singles (A & B sides) from 1972-1977.

The M CD is great. Robin Scott (M), most famous for the single “Pop Muzik”, was one of the first people to make a video album, which he did for this record over 20 years ago. I’ve got a copy on video somewhere but I think it’s on Betamax (ask your parents).

I love Grand Funk. But I don’t know why. There’s just something about them. They’re like an American Uriah Heep – reviled by the critics yet sold millions of records to “the kids” in the late sixties and early seventies. This is from 69/70 and it rocks!

I bought the T.Rex mainly because its red and blue cover reminds me of the old 7” single sleeves Marc Bolan’s hits were issued in. I remember buying them all when they came out and playing them to death. Much the same as I did with Gary Glitter. For me 1972-1974 was the golden age of pop.

My good friend Alan Brodie gave me “Pet Shop Boys – Back to Mine” an excellent double CD of tracks Neil and Chris would play for you if you went back to their respective “pads” after a night uptown. Top Stuff.

Alan’s ex-girlfriend, Julie also sent me a present. “The Best of Laura Pausini”. She’s an Italian pop star (Laura not Julie) – I love listening to foreign language CDs (I can get the gist of the French ones, I can understand the German ones, I get a little of the Italian and Spanish but haven't really got a clue re Portuguese or Dutch) but they’re usually pretty good and Laura has a great voice…

In the evening Anne and I made our way to Henderson’s, a vegetarian restaurant and wine bar which has been in the centre of Edinburgh since the early seventies I think. We shared a bottle of wine here, whilst listening to the jazz guitar duo providing some background sounds for the winers and diners.

Then it was off to Bell’s Diner in St Stephen St, one of my all time favourite restaurants. We had a huge slap up with all the trimmings washed down with another bottle of wine. Then a taxi home. Another great birthday under my (undone) belt….

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Music Work...

I worked today on Ian Sclater's second session, listening back to all the takes of the couple of songs we concentrated on. I had to take notes on all the lines of the songs. We were recording vocals and so I may have to edit together different parts of different takes - which will be a difficult and time consuming job but hopefully worth it in the end....

Monday, May 02, 2005

I love a list.....

It’s my birthday on Wednesday and Anne has put together an ”Itinerary” for next Saturday – so I’m looking forward to that.

As a diversion, I compiled four CDs today each featuring ten tracks, one each from my best 10 albums obtained in January, February, March and April – and here they are (I love a list):-

January
Hank Mobley - Poppin'
Tina Brooks - True Blue
Johnny Griffin - The Congregation
Bartok - Solo Piano Works
Yes - Fragile (Remaster)
Various - Out Of The Blue
Isaac Hayes - The Man
Various - Chilled Out Euphoria
Brad Mehldau - Largo
John Gorka - Old Futures Gone

February
Various - Lennon & McCartney Jazz Collection
Various - Block Rockin' Breaks
Kurt Rosenwinkl - Heartcore
Grand Funk Railroad - Bosnia
String Cheese Incident - Untying the Knot
Jason Mraz - Waiting For My Rocket to Come
Various - 60s Pop Classics
Various - A Snapshot From the 2005 Domino Ten Day
Tangerine Dream - Royal Albert Hall 2/4/75
Beethoven/Schumann - Piano Concertos

March
Yes - Relayer (Remaster)
Andrew Hill - Black Fire
Stars Of The Lid - Gravitational Pull vs. The Desire For An Aquatic Life
Oh Susanna - Oh Susanna
Shivaree - I Oughtta Give You A Shot In The Head
Sigur Ros - Music For Split Sides
Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Alex Harvey - Considering the Situation
Rheostatics - Night Of The Shooting Stars
Mozart - Complete String Quartets

April
Janacek - Piano Sonatas
Various - A Deep Blue Conception
Francoise Hardy - Tant de Belles Choses
Philip Glass - The Civil Wars
Freddie Hubbard - A Soul Experiment
Lee Morgan - Charisma
Vaughan Wiliams - Fantasia on Greensleeves
The Album Leaf - In A Safe Place
Xenakis - Chamber Music 1955-1990
Jethro Tull - Thick As A Brick

Tasty.....

...oh yes, and an apology to Beach Boys fans - I've been listening to "Pet Sounds" again and can now pronounce it "not bad"....not great, but not bad - and it may be a case of my ears being influenced by the sleeve notes... still doesn't make my April Top Ten though....

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Science Fiction Sunday...

A bit of a science fiction day today. I got up at 7 and immediately watched last night’s Dr Who episode, “Dalek”. Definitely one of the best episodes I’ve seen. The Dalek of the title turned out to be the last in existence and was being held in an underground alien artefact museum by the “owner of the internet”. In the end I felt sorry for the dalek as it came to the realisation that there was more to life than killing and racial purity, eventually exterminating itself.

After sending out the remainder of the Crispycat Newsletters, we headed for the cinema at the big new shopping mall down at Leith Docks. The whole area is undergoing an amazing regeneration at present and I’m pretty sure a few developers are making a barrow-load of cash. To be fair though, if there can be such a thing, the mall itself is probably one of the best in and around Edinburgh.

We went to see “The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. I’d watched the TV series around 20 years ago and so most of what happened was quite familiar to me. The makers are on a hiding to nothing really since so many anoraks want everything to be faithful to the book or the afore-mentioned TV series, while their goal must be to produce a film which will appeal to the millions around the world who’ve not read the book, heard the radio plays or seen it on the TV.

All in all a pretty good effort and quite entertaining, although Mos Def (I think) as Ford Prefect was rather invisible. The girl who played Trillion seemed very nice though.

This was the Director and Producer’s first feature film, in fact the first thing they’d ever done which was longer than a four minute pop video. So well done to them.

In the afternoon (we always go early to the cinema in the hope that there’ll be as few popcorn munching, sweetie wrapper rustling morons as possible in the theatre – it usually works) we watched two back to back episodes of Enterprise with Scott Bakula, who was so good in Quantum Leap around 10 years ago.

In the evening, I rehearsed a set for Out of the Bedroom. The CD singles are ready and I’m definitely going this Thursday. I talked with Jamie a couple of days ago and he told me he’s been along the last two weeks cos he’d read the blog and thought I was going. Sorry Jamie – I’ll definitely be there this week.

I’ll be doing “Love and War” which is apt as I last sang it on the night of the US election back in November and now I’ll be singing it on the night of the UK election….