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Spend! Spend! Spend!

Back in the glory days of LJ I did an experiment for at least a couple of years where I tracked all my spending over the month of May. For no adequately explored reason I thought I'd try that again. Here goes.

1 May

Drinks with work buddy at Red Lion = £12.78
Round of drinks + Thai food at Pineapple = £17.85

2 May

Coffee at Kentish Town Bean place = £1.90
The i = £0.50
Farmers market rip off:
Tiny loaf of bread = £1.95
Chilli cheese = £3.67
6x free range eggs = £2.00

Bottle of Pinot Grigio = £5.99
2x "luxury" yoghurt = £4.00
Buffalo mozzarella = £2.10
Sparkling water = £0.47

Sun 3rd May
4x cans lager = £5.00
Nikki toilet visit = £0.20

Mon 4th May
2x ice creams = £4.00
Oyster top-up = £4.00

Running total 4th = £66.41

Tues 5th May
Nothing = £0.00

Weds 6th May
Snickers bar (oops!) = £0.65
4x pints milk = £1.45
Cheddar = £1.45
Warburton's Thins = £1.00
Bananas = £1.06
Blueberries = £2.00
Raspberries = £2.00
2 x jars of pesto = £2.58
2 x tins of tomatoes = £1.10 (rip off)
Mayonnaise = £1.50
Discount coupon = -£1.50

Running total 6th = £82.50

AND THAT IS AS FAR AS I GOT DEAR READERS! For the next day we had an acoustic gig with Keith TOTP, an election "party" and the crippling comedown that followed the realisation that we faced five more years of our Tory overlords. So I ran away to Warsaw for the weekend, but that's another story ...
Last month I went to the United States of America masquerading as a musician with cult anarcho-punk deathrock legends Part1. That's cult as in "not very well known outside a very niche sub-culture". But still - America right? I mean, sure, it hastened the Sex Pistols' demise, drove Bernard Butler bananas and broke the spirit of pretty much every other band who'd ever crossed the pond apart from The Beatles, but at the very least it was going to be something to blabber on about on LiveJournal.

Of course the trouble with anarchists is that organisation is not their strong point. And the leap into the unknown was not helped by the fact that we'd been advised to delete any and all contact details of anyone who might actually know what was going on in order to foil Mulder & Scully or something. We'd also been instructed to fly separately, a point I refused to accede to since anyone who knows me will be aware that two things that strike fear and terror into my heart are (a) flying and (b) being alone with my own thoughts for any longer than is necessary. Particularly when the biggest news story of the day was of a depressed pilot who had just flown his passengers into an Alp.


That's Ireland that is!

Consequently Jake (singer) and I arrived at JFK to be met by absolutely no one and spent an hour or so wandering around wondering if the whole escapade was some kind of elaborate hoax. Although I was one of two members of the four-strong band who was actually in possession of a working phone, I had no useful numbers, nor did we even know where we were staying. Just as we started to run out of finger nails to chew off Mark (guitarist) arrived, full of apologies, and took us to our digs in deepest Brooklyn via the "scenic" route. I'd always thought Brooklyn was an area equivalent to, say, Camden or Brixton. However, it's massive - it's more like saying "South London" - and we must have spent close to an hour trying to find a bar or restaurant. The only bars were nail bars or hair salons and although there were dubious takeaway places galore, sitting down to eat did not appear to be high on the list of priorities of the residents of our adopted hood. Eventually we chanced upon an "Applebee's" - think Aberdeen Angus Steakhouse crossed with a Wetherspoon's populated by characters from a 70s Blaxploitation movie. I actually rather enjoyed it, particularly when our "hostess" - not to be confused with our "waitress" confusingly - hollered "Gee, you guys have ACCENTS!" Not as thick as yours love. Anyway, a rather pleasant evening was had by us and the staff must have been very taken with those quaint olde worlde accents of ours because they even staged a highly authentic "bar room brawl" between two large gentlemen who played the parts of gangsters in an impressively convincing manner.

The Three MustGetBeers

Somewhat optimistically I'd brought my running gear with me and set off on a jog around the block the next morning in order to try and get my bearings. But all I got was confused that the Broadway, Lexington and other familiar street names I chanced upon were most definitely not the ones you see on the telly. Unless you're watching The Wire.


Riding on a Subway Train - Jake and drummer.

On my return we were at last joined by our errant drummer who had been staying with what I'll diplomatically call a penpal and we all toodled off to meet our American record company, Sacred Bones, situated in a much trendier part of Brooklyn in an abandoned warehouse that reminded me very much of the old Playlouder offices. Their boss Caleb looked like a cross between Alan Moore and Rasputin. I liked him a lot. Even more so when they took us out for dinner at a trendy French restaurant. It was almost like being in a real band!


Dejeuner sur le concrete. Rasputin not pictured.

In retrospect it was probably a mistake to start drinking 12 hours before we went on stage but we really had no idea our American live debut would start so late. The gig was described as an "after show" but not in the usual sense that it's a party after a big gig, with perhaps some live entertainment. No, this was an aftershow in the sense that we had to wait until after the show that was actually on that night had finished and we could hi-jack the venue, an unsalubrious joint called the St Vitus Bar replete with skulls, where the VIP wristbands were emblazoned with SATAN SAVES. You get the idea.


The glamour of life backstage.

Chaos reigned in terms of logistics with soundman, stage manager, promoter and assorted other personnel all volleying the blame between them, though I don't think any of them meant any ill will. They all had a lot more to worry about since our gig was just one of dozens taking place across the City - a bit like the Camden Crawl with less personal hygiene. The language barrier didn't help. Plectrum is not a common word in America it transpires. Nor did anyone have a satisfactory explanation for why the bass guitar I was eventually given was held together with masking tape. Still, it's punk rock, right? Who needs things like tuners and cables? We eventually crawled on stage at about two in the morning. Or 7am UK time. I was very tired, but we played what I thought was a decent, if ragged set. The audience was disappointingly muted, though. I'd had dreams of playing the Star Spangled Banner and stage-diving into an adoring crowd. Instead we limped off to a polite ripple of applause. Mind you, there were a handful of genuinely enthusiastic punters. "Man you guys are awesome! I've waited 30 years to see you live!" I felt a bit mean when I confessed I'd only been in the band for 18 months and had no idea about the rare early demos they were quizzing me about.

Still, not a disaster by any means. And we could write this one off as a dress rehearsal since Saturday night was going to be a return to the same venue and was bound to be better organised, right kids?
Ho ho ho!

So here we are viewing several, Christmas morning is upon us once again. Which means it's time for the traditional Christmas un-socking in (almost) real-time (Caveat: I had a sneaky Christmas run to the next village and back first) ...

So without further adon't, let's unsock!

A bottle of festive Newcastle Brown, as drunk by shepherd's everywhere! Way-aye!
An Oral-B Pro-Expert Cross Action (or "Toothbrush" as we used to call them! "Removes up to 90% of plaque in hard-to-reach areas!" Since cleanliness is next to holiness!
A jar of piri-piri stuffed olives! In memory of our Lord's sermons on the Mount of Olives, or whatever it was he did there, presumably!
Some Christian Dior Fahrenheit shower gel AND deodorant, to represent the two different types of perfume the Three Wise Men brought to the baby Jee!
A shaving brush! Reminding us of the preponderance of beards in biblical times. Much like Dalston these days.
The traditional Christmas apple and orange! Something to do with Prince Albert probably. Or was it Bob Scratchit?
Some chocolate gold coins and a real gold (coloured) coin - representing the gold brought by the more generous of the three Magi!

Didn't we do well? I hope Santa is equally generous to you all my dear friends.

MERRY CHRISTMAS ONE AND ALL! XXX

A very probably incomplete list of gigs 2014

22nd January - Keith TOTP, The Monarch
27th February - Part 1, Boston Arms (Another Winter of Discontent Festival)
7th March - Animal Nitwits, Buffalo Bar (Nuisance)
22nd March - Part 1, Green Note, Brighton
29th March - Keith TOTP, Deptford
3rd April - Quango, Hackney Oslo (supporting Howler)
11th April - Part 1, Archway Tavern (Dead & Buried)
2nd May - Keith TOTP, Monarch (Her Parents farewell gig)
9th May - Part 1, Paris (Unpleasant Meeting Festival)
24th May - Part 1, The Dome (Scumfest)
20th June - New Royal Family (Redux), Bingo Master's Breakout (karaoke gig)
24th June - New Royal Family, Buffalo Bar (Rik Mayall tribute)
4th July - Quango, Power Lunches
31st July - Quango, Macbeth
9th August - Part 1, Blackpool Rebellion Festival
16th August - Quango, The Gunners
13th September - Keith TOTP, The Windmill (Gracetonbury)
14th September - Keith TOTP, The Lexington (supporting Dream Themes + Davros!)
3rd October - Part 1, Helsinki
4th October - Part 1, Tampere
28th October - Keith TOTP, Guerrilla gig at Filthy's
29th October - Animal Nitwits, Guerrilla gig at Filthy's
31st October - Keith TOTP, Buffalo Bar
31st October - Dom Green's Fright Machine, Buffalo Bar
8th November - Famous Cocks, The Pipeline (Antlib Convention)
27th November - Keith TOTP, Buffalo Bar
13th December - Part 1, Gravesend, Red Lion

Schiele Take A Bow

As with just about anything of note in my life, my interest in Egon Schiele can be entirely blamed on Adam Ant. "I'm a friend of Egon Schiele, I'm a friend of Mr Spock" he fibbed, on his song Friends, a drab outtake from the flawed but brilliant debut album Dirk Wears White Sox. Admittedly, me and most other people of my generation would only became aware of the song - and by extension Egon Schiele - when he (Adam, not Egon) reworked the tune considerably as a bouncy discoed-up b-side to his unlikely 1981 Christmas hit Ant Rap. With me so far? Good.

Schiele is best known for being Gustav Klimt's unruly protege, getting booted out / quitting the Vienna school of art, possibly having an affair with his sister, certainly getting up to a bit of hanky panky with a 14 year old, cavorting with prostitutes, going to jail for indecency, getting married twice, painting lots of brilliant, vividly visceral pictures of ladies flashing their naughty bits, surviving the First World War and dying. All by the time he was 28. Phew.

His better known works, often reproduced as prints and postcards, are as familiar as Sunflowers or the Mona Lisa. So my gast was well and truly flabbered this week when I discovered that there are no Schiele pieces on permanent public display in the UK. I still can't quite believe this is true. (Hang on, okay no "major works" apparently). This knowledge has made me particularly grateful that I made the effort to run to the Belvedere in Vienna on the Keith Top of the Pops / Blood Arm tour of Europe a few years ago, while the rest of the minor indie celebrities were nursing hangovers the size of the city's ferris wheel.

As you can gather I was pretty blooming excited when I found out that London's Courtauld Gallery was hosting a major exhibition, especially as I was having it off this week and my plans for some kind of an adventure had come to naught. So excited in fact that I got there a bit early. "I'm afraid the exhibition doesn't open until tomorrow, sir!" Hey, at least it got me out bed, right kids?

When it did finally open, I was there, along with a curious mix of mostly young studenty types and retired couples. I guess they are the demographics most likely to have a Thursday afternoon in October free. The show is titled "The Radical Nude" and, as you might expect, focuses on some of the juiciest work for which he is best known: emaciated self-portraits in contorted, Christ-like poses, and various prostitutes, girlfriends and relatives hitching up their skirts. Given the looming horror of war and the fact that Sigmund Freud was hanging in the same circles, this obsession with sex and death is hardly surprising.

The works are mostly charcoal drawings with unorthodox washes of green and purple watercolour accentuating muscle and bone. Often the only colour is red; accentuating the lips, nips and lips again of the various ladies. Many of the works on display are still disturbing now so it's easy to imagine the rumpus they must have caused 100 years ago. One of the joys of the exhibition is listening to the reactions of the public. "I knew I didn't like Egon Schiele!" harrumphs one old fossil, "I'm going downstairs!", while his wife titters. I guess this is probably the first time he's seen female genitals in a while.

It's remarkable that a few sketches from a hundred years ago can still rouse such strong feelings. I don't know whether Schiele is a wicked child abuser or a champion of feminism (arguments have been made for both cases) but his skill as a draughtsman, in particular his mastery of line, is undeniable. He never used rubbers (no sniggering at the back please), nor did he try to disguise errors, instead incorporating these mistakes, so that hands occasionally look like tangled claws.

No doubt his pal Sigmund would have had a field day psychoanalysing the fact that Egon's self-portraits depict a skinny, twisted wreck, while his female subjects are, if not always beautiful, then at least usually bold, confident and defiant. Indeed, the look suggested by the women in one of the most famous pictures, the self-explanatory "Two Girls Embracing" is not so much "come hither" as "fuck off, you're not invited".

Several of the pictures are signed along two different edges, hinting that the works could be hung and viewed from entirely different angles. This provokes the curious spectacle of a gallery full of people tilting their heads to 90 degrees. Many exhibitions claim to be head-turning. This one really is.

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Scotland the Brave

I have very mixed feelings about the referendum. Head says no, heart says yes, etc. Not that it matters since I don't even get a vote. Still, I've got a 100 pound bet on it being No, so I reckon I'll be happy whatever happens.

Meanwhile, here's two genuine messages I sent to the campaign leaders yesterday. They still haven't got round to replying. I expect they're a bit busy right now.


Dear Alistair Darling

As we reach the closing crucial hours of this historic campaign I feel it is up to every Scottish citizen to lend their weight to your noble cause.

Please therefore accept this sincere offer of my pop band, the New Royal Family's much loved composition Scotland The Brave (a modern twist on the old classic) as our contender for the official anthem of the BETTER TOGETHER campaign.

The song was composed way back in 1986 when I was just a naive schoolboy at Brechin High in the county of Angus, and yet it was not properly recorded until I had made my fortune in London, with the help of fine fellows and ladies from south of the border (and an American, but that's not particularly relevant to the argument I'm trying to make here). This combination of Scottish and English talents I think symbolises more perfectly than even JK Rowling's impassioned ramblings, the great things that the Scots and English have achieved together, and can continue to achieve if we just put our differences aside and stop squabbling about oil.

Indeed, the lyrics today are more relevant than ever. "SNP propaganda (SNP!)" we chant, before delivering the sucker punch "Like living in a verandah" - an indictment of the fairy tale economics of Alex Salmond and his Tartan Tories.

It is thus with great pride that I make this humble offering to the BETTER TOGETHER campaign and hope that, by uniting the forces of your functional grasp of macro economic policy and our catchy singalong, we can continue to reap the combined benefits of the United Kingdom.

I tried to send an mp3 but the form wouldn't let me, so here's our simple but effective video on YouTube:



Please let me know if you'd like an mp3 or CD version. If you're a vinyl man, you'll have to wait for our Greatest Hits, due next year.

Whatever the outcome, I hope our song raises a smile!

Lang may yer lum reek, Darling!

Yours in excited anticipation

David Barnett



Dear Alex Salmond

As we reach the crucial closing hours of this historic campaign I feel it is up to every Scottish citizen to lend their weight to your noble cause.

Please therefore accept this sincere offer of my pop band, the New Royal Family's much loved composition Scotland The Brave (a modern twist on the old classic) as our contender for the official anthem of the YES campaign.

The song was composed way back in 1986 when I was just a naive schoolboy at Brechin High in the county of Angus, struggling to pass my O Grades despite Mrs Thatcher's attempt to weaken our hardy Scots bones by her Great School Milk Robbery of just a few years earlier.

Yet the lyrics today are more relevant than ever. "SNP propaganda (SNP!)" we chant, in probably one of the earliest namechecks of your great party in song form, particularly in the 80s when no one took it seriously. "A third world country, flushed down the drain" we predict of the fate that awaits us if we continue to be dictated to from Westminster, pointing the finger of blame at the "Sassenachs (who) don't give a sh**".

It is thus with great pride that I make this humble offering to the YES campaign and hope that, by uniting the forces of your fine oratory and our catchy singalong, we can at last throw of the yoke of more than three centuries of English oppression.

An mp3 is attached, or you can watch our simple but effective video on YouTube:



Please let me know if you require a CD version. If you're a vinyl man, you'll have to wait for our Greatest Hits, due next year.

Lang may yer lum reek, 'Eck!

Yours in excited anticipation

David Barnett (A Scotsman living in London)
Astonishingly it is now more than a year since the the revamped edition of my book came out (and even longer since I bust a gut to hit the January 2013 deadline).

Commercial break: it's currently available in not very many good bookshops plus ON SPECIAL OFFER ON AMAZON RIGHT NOW! http://www.amazon.co.uk/Suede-The-Biography-David-Barnett/dp/0233003762

During this long interval the publishers have been suspiciously quiet. I really didn't want to have to beg for a free copy, but then I realised that this false pride was pointless and thought I'd get in touch. I endeavored to be as polite as possible ...


Hi Roland

Hope all is well with you. I was just checking in to see how things were going with the Suede biography as unbelievably more than a year has whizzed by since the publication date and I don't think I've heard anything from you or anyone at Carlton in that time.

For my part, I managed to secure interviews with UK and US publications (notably the Quietus), hosted a Suede quiz (with a concurrent one taking place on Twitter), formed a Suede tribute band called Animal Nitwits, squeezed plugs into a couple of gig reviews and led several Suede-themed walking tours of London. Please let me know if you'd like any further details on any of these activities.

Obviously it goes without saying that I'm more than happy to do anything else within my abilities to help promote the book. I realise the band have dipped out of the spotlight recently but a new album is in the offing so hopefully that will help to rekindle some interest.

Also, I still haven't received my complimentary copies yet (I believe this was supposed to be ten copies) so if you could give the relevant parties a prod that would be much appreciated, since I promised copies to various helpful people who gave their time to be interviewed for the update. It might be easier to have them delivered to my work address.

I think the new edition looks very nice indeed, although one major flaw that various people have pointed out is that their has been a bit of a cock-up with the timeline - in particular all or most of 1994 has gone awry, which is rather unfortunate as this is arguably the most important year in Suede history. Do you think it would be possible to have this fixed in any future reprints, or at least in the e-book version?

I'd be very grateful if you could update me accordingly.

Many thanks and best wishes

David


I received the following, not entirely satisfactory, reply. Still, at least it looks like I might get to see the bloody thing shortly ...


Hi David,

Good to hear from you again. I’m very well thanks, hope you are too.

Sounds like you have been busy Suede-ing it around!

I will order books from the warehouse for you today, sorry about that oversight.

Please can you let me know precisely what needs to be done to 1994 and I will get it sorted out for e-books initially and to make sure it’s ready in case of reprints.

With best wishes,

R.

Blackpool Rock

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside, although that very much depends on which bit of seaside it is. I've been to Blackpool a couple of times before, as a Suede groupie/lackey in the 90s, and remember it being a desperately sad place, not so much in need of a lick of paint as in need of being ripped up and started again. Perhaps that's why it's the perfect place for Rebellion, a festival in name, but in reality more of an AGM for punk rockers stuck in a weird timewarp - not as you might expect of the 1977 vintage, but more the fag end circa 1981 when the dwindling faithful scrawled "Punk's Not Dead" on the back of their leather jackets, the cool kids who liked dressing up had binned the bin liners to become new romantics or goths, and arguably the only decent punk band left by that time took a great big bite out of the rabid hand that fed by releasing a single called "Punk IS Dead".

Fast forward to last weekend and here I was again, this time as the bass player of cult death rock legends, the Google-flummoxing "Part 1". Don't worry if you haven't heard of them, I hadn't either until just over a year ago when they got back together to play Rebellion 2013, some 30 years after their last gig. The original trio had been joined by my flatmate and eternal teenager/anarcho drummer Chris. Then on the eve of this great comeback their bass player went AWOL and they were forced to perform as a bassless three-piece. I said I'd stand in if they had anything else coming up until they found a proper replacement. We've since played storming gigs in London, Brighton and Paris, with shows in Helsinki and beyond coming up shortly.

Nikki and Richard of Quango on merchandise duties:

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Our Blackpool performance, sadly, was something of an anti-climax. An early slot, mediocre turnout, technical hitches, embarrassing gaps and some shoddy playing meant that my immediate impression was that it had been a total disaster, not least because my girlfriend was seeing us for the first time. But happily it seemed that we had just about gotten away with it. Despite having run over time and having to ditch half the set we were called back for an unexpected encore. Part 1 t-shirts, badges, patches and other goodies flew off the stall. Mark Perry of Sniffing Glue fame asked if we'd be interested in supporting his band, Alternative TV (yes please).

A grumpy Part 1 take to the stage:

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Of course the best thing about getting the show over and done with by teatime was it meant we could enjoy the rest of the festival. I finally got to see Hardskin in the flesh and thoroughly enjoyed belowing "We are the Wankers!" along with their far more substantial crowd. I was a bit puzzled when, bizarrely, my old boss's ex wife turned up and started going on about how she didn't understand how some people didn't realise they were a joke. I didn't realise they were a joke, although they are very funny (see also the New Royal Family). Our great new showbiz mates ATV were excellent too, although Steve Ignorant's new band was a personal disappointment as I'd just read his autobiography and thoroughly enjoyed it.

As you might expect, the music all became rather samey after a while and I had much more fun just wandering about, gawping at the sights, drooling over some of the records and marveling at the venue. The Winter Gardens is an incredible art deco complex (although bits of it date back to Victorian times), reminiscent of what I imagine Alexandra Palace must have been like before it was bombed. Indeed the cavernous theatre where we briefly watched the UK Subs was more impressive than the band. After some 12 hours of drinking we skipped Killing Joke and popped into Ma Kelly's, packed with hen parties and karaoke style cabaret, to dance to Knock on Wood, along with We Are The Wankers probably THE song of the weekend.

Here's Nikki with one of the many interesting characters we met:

Webby

Webby there actually made it into The Guardian too: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2014/aug/09/rebellion-punk-festival-blackpool-winter-gardens-in-pictures

Breakfast in Pat's Guest House was at 9 sharp so we were up earlier than was probably wise and teetered cautiously along the seemingly endless seafront. Blackpool Tower was wrapped in scaffolding. The three piers in various states of delapidation. And the famous "Pleasure Beach" took an eternity to reach as we passed a bamboozling assortment of shops, fast food outlets and Scooby Doo style fun houses that combined to create an assault on the senses that I think is popularly known as cognitive dissonance. Just when it seemed things could get no weirder a pink fairytale carriage would trundle by, drawn by horses with Barbie pink hair. Or the Red Arrows would roar overhead, spurting red white and blue graffiti over the grey sky. The whole experience was given a heightened touch of the bizarre by the random appearance of punks with multi-coloured mohicans on every corner. But I have to say, the people were all lovely, and there was something about Blackpool's defiant refusal to die despite being so obviously past its sell-by date that was actually rather charming and inspirational.

Nikki was determined to make the most of the theme park. We asked the man on the desk which ride he would recommend. "I wouldn't recommend any of them," he replied, quite seriously. "I've worked here five years and wouldn't go on any of them!" So Nikki dragged me on to some kind of bobsleigh contraption which cost 10 pounds and lasted for about that many seconds, which was more than enough given the punishment my poor old bones took. While she hung around for more of the same, I hooked up with Part 1 guitarist Mark and our skinhead roadie Richard who had been on a shopping spree. Richard's haul included a plastic dog turd, some smoke bombs, a fake parking ticket, and a CD of protestant anthems called "We Hate the IRA". Perhaps fortunately he had refrained from buying one of the golliw*gs displayed proudly alongside the Blackpool rock and candifloss in the myriad outlets of tatt.

As we hopped off the tram on our return to the guesthouse to pick up our bags, two biplanes flew overhead. There were people STANDING ON TOP OF THEM, flapping their arms about like demented semaphore signallers. I like to think they were waving us goodbye. Much to our amazement we had all had quite a splendid time after all. Thank you Blackpool. See you next year?

Walking like Akela

More than ten years have passed since, at the arse end of February 2004, the old Suede office on White Lion Street (or White Line Street as it was often referred for reasons I can’t begin to fathom) finally shut up shop. We went out with a bang with a suitably debauched party whose guests included members of Suede, the Jesus & Mary Chain and, um, hot new acts Luxembourg and The Boyfriends, as well as an impressive legion of industry bigwigs and hangers on - all of us squeezed into the hot confines of the claustrophobic concentrated complex of four tiny box-shaped rooms at a time when the smoking ban seemed a ludicrous proposition that would never be enforceable in liberal England. For some reason I decided Bailey's would be my drink of choice that evening.

Also in attendance was Lindy Heymann, director of Suede's first couple of suitably low-rent promotional videos who, in a nice piece of serendipidy had also recently directed the video to Suede's swansong, the largely forgotten but actually quite good Attitude. The video was filmed at the wonderful Wilton's Music Hall and starred Alien legend John Hurt. Had I known he'd be a future Doctor Who I'd probably have been even more impressed than I already was. Lindy and I got on like a pair of pants on fire, or at least I thought we did in my Bailey’s-fuelled state. When she revealed that she was still in ownership of the one-piece Veruschka-inspired body suit from The Drowners, we (or let’s be honest, I) hatched a plan to dig it out and have me wear it in the debut video of my hot new band’s yet to be released debut single. Perhaps fortunately for all concerned, that plan came to naught. But I also got her to confirm the whereabouts of the legendary “Drowners bridge” from the aforementioned vid – hidden, as I had suspected, in the no-man’s land between the notorious Maiden Lane estate and the sprawling abandoned goods yards of Kings Cross, which were only just being warmed up for redevelopment after a century of neglect.

Maiden Lane – a nod to the “unfortunate” ladies of the night that used to ply their trade up that road (since nudged just spitting distance away to Market Road) – is pretty much all that remains of Agar Town. The ugly sister of Camden Town or Kentish Town, it had more in common with the near-slum of Somers Town, some of which still survives squeezed between the leviathans of Euston and St Pancras. Agar Town was even less fortunate: dozens of streets, hundreds of homes and thousands of lives were demolished in the name of progress. Agar Town was quite literally erased from the map (Agar Grove is the only visible clue remaining) to make way for the vast railway lands of Kings Cross and St Pancras.

It was as I was explaining all this to poor Lindy that somehow the vital connection between Suede and psychogeography was made. At least, it was in my confused head. Obviously, it had always existed, in the backstreets that Brett’s endless hired cars drove him and his lanky heroines through. And not just those strange, almost gleefully teenage lyrics but also the perennial interviews about wandering mapless through the capital’s highways and byways that took an arcane knowledge to understand compared with the dull grid patterns of America.

As someone who had just found himself with a hitherto unknown large amount of spare time on his hands and feet, wandering mapless around London was something I did quite a lot of over the coming months, and not just in my largely fruitless quest for some kind of gainful employment for when the stash of Suede goodies I’d been stockpiling under the bed finally ran out. But how to combine this wanderlust and my unparalleled fountain of apparently now useless Suede knowledge (since the book had come out and they’d gone and split up with a whimper unbecoming of their influential cult status)?

And so, almost as a joke, the concept of Suedewalks was hatched. The formula was simple: get some fellow aficionados together, follow a route joining as many Suede-related dots together as possible and stop off in the odd watering hole to reminisce starry eyed about the good old days. “Suedewalks are and always will be free!” I declared, perhaps a little naively in retrospect. But hey, it’s good to give something back right?

The first one took us around those urban railway lands, to the pub where the Metal Mickey promo was shot, over The Drowners bridge and onto Camden where Morrissey came to scribble the words to My Insatiable One at the Camden Palace and Bernard ran along the high street in his pants for reasons best known to him. It seemed to be a success.

Since then I’ve probably led around a dozen similar tours around different parts of London – with the parties varying in size from one solitary confused fan to a dozen or more. Suedewalks even ended up being featured in the Guardian’s travel section once upon a time, but have become less frequent as the years have ticked on.

But of all these many arse-slapping perambulations, none have been as enjoyable personally as the one that took place last weekend, after a Portuguese Suede fan called Miguel casually enquired as to whether anyone fancied a Suedewalk. It turned out lots of people did. In fact, as we assembled outside the Boogaloo in Highgate, our departure was constantly delayed by news that someone else was on their way and would be with us “any minute now”. There must have been around a dozen of us when the landlord grew curious and after we’d all had a drink before even taking one proper step of our walk, armed us with a bag full of beer! This was undoubtedly the best start to a Suedewalk ever.

And so it continued, the wonderfully varied gang of Suedeheads of all ages, genders and nationalities, cooing at these now legendary sights and sites, taking photos of the trees that Brett was too Siamese to catch the leaves from and generally having a jolly good reminisce down Memory Lane via Brett Boulevard. Among the tenuously linked locations on this route were Holly Village where Steve Jones berates Tona de Bret (Brett Anderson and Johnny Rotten’s vocal coach) during his hunt for Malcolm McLaren (now buried next door in Highgate Cemetery) and the Dead End Street from the Kinks’ Dead End Street (er, Brett covered one of their other songs once). When I moved to London in 1995, The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle was around 16 years old while that Kinks record had come out 30 years previously.



As we reached the scene of Suede’s first ever live performance at Hampstead’s White Horse I realised that that debut gig had taken place more than 24 years ago, and was therefore just as much a part of rock’n’roll history to this new generation of Suede devotees as those Sex Pistols and Kinks haunts had been when I first ran away to the big smoke. So their excitement was entirely justified and wonderfully intoxicating. Indeed, as we finally settled down in a Kentish Town boozer, and at least three of the gang eagerly presented their new editions of the Suede biog for me to sign (cough, dear publishers, where are my free copies eh?) I can truthfully say I don’t think I’ve had as much fun nattering about Suede since I grilled Brett for the book more than ten years ago.

“You know,” beamed Samantha, wearing a Dog Man Star t-shirt and possibly among the most enthusiastic of our troupe, “You’re not nearly as up your own arse as I thought you’d be.”

I’m hoping that goes on Trip Advisor.

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ps: Looks like Miguel enjoyed himself too: http://strange-sound.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/suedewalk-2014.html

Never Mind the Balaerics

I'm approaching the end of my near week of much needed rest and recuperation at Nikki's parents' luxury retreat in Mallorca. Although I've been lucky enough to visit Prague and Paris recently I felt I could really do with a holiday doing bugger all.

We've both had a rum time of it at work recently. Nikki's dream job at the Jewish community centre turned out to be not quite as dreamy as she'd anticipated. Meanwhile I've increasingly come to the conclusion that although I enjoy my work very much, the organisation itself is decidedly suspect. My superiors are obviously aware of my discontent because the other day my big boss invited me for a "catch up" which seemed a bit fishy as I don't think he's ever spoken to me in a one-to-one sitch before. I reckoned I was either up for a much-deserved promotion or a much-undeserved redundancy and was quite excited at the prospect of either option.

He took me to one of those dreadful fast food chains masquerading as coffee shops and bought me a bowl of hot milk then started telling me that my work was among the best the company produces. You may find it hard to believe but I'm quite a sucker for flattery so I said that this was very rewarding to hear, although inwardly I was thinking that this was a bit of an indictment of the company since I have no idea what I'm doing half the time. He then said that it was as frustrating for him not to be able to reward talent as it was for me. I was not entirely convinced by the veracity of this argument. He asked if I had any concerns about the business. I cautiously said I didn't know how honest it would be wise for me to be. He said I should be completely honest. However, I got the distinct impression that he didn't like me being honest at all and he hasn't spoken to me since.

EDIT: THE NUCLEAR OPTION APPEARS TO HAVE WORKED - AS OF 9 JUNE I AM NO LONGER A LOWLY RESEARCH ANALYST BUT A RESEARCH CONSULTANT. GOO GOO G'JOOB!

So, as I was saying, good to get away. Our first full day was spent lounging under palm trees. I read a novel about Caligula, which seemed suitably louche. I bought Nikki the first Adrian Mole book as she had never read any of them. It was nice to hear her giggling away. As you can probably tell, he has been a dead good inspiration on my journalistic development.

However, I'm not very good at relaxing. Lying around not doing very much gives one an awful time to think about things, which inevitably leads to worry and panic. Also, lying around not doing very much is terrible for my condition so all the relaxing resulted in quite a lot of pain. The fact that I had fried myself by the inept application of suntan lotion probably didn't help. So I spent most of Thursday in bed feeling sorry for myself and freaking out about stupid things like the fact that all the furnishings in the luxury holiday villa are exactly the same as those in Nikki's north London flat, even down to the plates and cutlery. This is why relaxing does me no good.

Thus with a steely determination to conquer my funk we set off for an ill-advised run in the mid-day sun on Thursday. It felt really good to move about. Renewed with fresh vigour I decided to swim across to the island across the bay. It's probably only a few hundred metres but it feels like miles and I felt a proper sense of achievement. Unlike my previous visit two years ago, I brought some flip flops with me to ease exploration of the jagged rocks. The island reminded me of the one in the novel of You Only Live Twice, populated by hazards. There were a lot of mysterious creatures darting across my path in the corner of my eye. They were probably newts but in my mind they were those tiny dinosaurs that terrorising the hapless bloke in Jurassic Park 2.

IMG-20140606-00700

In the evening we caught the bus into Palma. Nikki looked at shoes and I didn't. But I did buy a pair of cheap sunglasses that looked exactly the same as the ones that were €192.01 more expensive. We got slightly lost in the narrow winding streets and I enjoyed that. Had another look at the massive cathedral. Nikki's dad claims it is so big you can see it from space. Then we went for a very acceptable Thai. The dessert took so long to arrive that they gave it to us for free. Another small but significant victory for our side.

Pumped with undeserved confidence I attempted a second swim to the island the following day. I manage to catch my knee on one of the rocks as I clambered onto the shore and then got a bit paranoid that the blood dripping from my knee might attract man-eating sharks or similar predators. I attempted swimming back to the mainland on my back with my injured leg raised out of the water, but this proved impracticable. Anyway, the good news is that the man-eating sharks didn't strike.

I still felt a bit restive after that so I decided to go on an adventure. Nikki enjoys lying about in the sun more than I do so I agreed to be back in time to make her tea. I had a vague idea to climb the hills to the big monument I'd spied on our run to the shops but actually getting to the hills in question proved problematic as there was a big motorway separating them from me. After getting lost in some woods, which smelled lovely and seemed very alien with their giant cacti and rocky foundations, I spent a lot of time walking up cul-de-sacs and along steep driveways that ended at a private residence or others that started off uphill then took a long wide arc and ended up back at sea level. However, after about two and a half hours I eventually reached my destination. I must say the views were absolutely cracking. From my elevated position, above the clouds I could see Palma and the cathedral that you may or may not be able to see from space. And also the king's holiday home - I guess the equivalent of Balmoral. They say he's bedded 1,500 women. That's loads. No wonder he's abdicating.

Getting home was much easier. I just headed down towards the sea then turned right. When I returned Nikki was almost in tears. She thought I'd only been intending to go for a half hour walk and assumed I must have fallen off a mountain to my doom. I made her a slap up mushroom and tagliatelle concoction to make up for it. We've been extremely lucky in that her folks filled the fridge for us the last time they were here so we've feasted like kings the whole time.

And now she is beckoning me to the pool again. Let's see if I can get any better at this relaxing business. Adios!

EDIT: HERE IS A PHOTO I TOOK BEFORE MY PHONE DIED FROM MY ADVENTURE ABOVE THE CLOUDS. THE CASTLE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FOREST IS THE KING'S HOLIDAY HOME. THE CATHEDRAL YOU CAN ALLEGEDLY SEE FROM SPACE IS ON THE EXTREME LEFT.

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