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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.

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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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Knowing Me Knowing You Praha!

The last time I went to Prague it was less than ten years since the collapse of communism and only a handful since the Czech Republic had split from Slovakia. Despite inclement weather I was totally zapped out by it and had always meant to return but was put off by the endless warnings of how it had since been ruined by an influx of tourists and stag parties. It's probably true to say that there are more tourists and stag parties than there were in the mid 90s. However, the reasons for this are, respectively, IT'S AMAZING and CHEAP BEER, so complaining about Prague being full of tourists is a bit like grumbling about Paris or London for the same reason, except that beer costs a fraction of the price. Indeed, even the couple of times we felt totally ripped off by having to pay around 100 kr a pint, we later worked out that this was still only about £3.20. This compares pretty favourably with 10 euros for half a pint at Montmartre. The cheapest pint was 26 kr - less than a pound. The food is cheap too. In fact, our entire spending money for five days was a little over a hundred quid. Conclusion: Prague is brilliant for those who conform to the Scottish and Jewish skinflint stereotype.

So that's the cheap beer bit. The amazing bit is simply that everywhere you look is either stunning or bonkers. It looks like Disneyland made of marzipan. It's absolutely dripping with history. And unlike London where the history kind of fizzles out with the Blitz, here it's bang up to date. There are constant reminders of "The Totalitarian Regime" as it's referred to on various plaques. In the last hundred years alone it's been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, then one of the most modern democracies of the early 20th century as Czechoslovakia, then part of Nazi Germany as the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia under arch-bastard Heidrich, then engulfed by the Warsaw Pact after "liberation" and consequently invaded by their own allies (!) during the Prague spring of 68, before the velvet revolution and independence of what feels like lunchtime last Tuesday. And that's before you get onto all the blind kings and chucking people out of windows that seem to be a national pass time.

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The ironic thing is, it's due to all this desperately bad luck in the 20th century that so much of Prague's historic architecture remains. The fact that the allies sacrificed Czechoslovakia in order to buy a bit more time (Chamberlain's "peace in our time" scrap of loo roll) meant that the Nazis were able to march in and take it over without bombing the shit out of it first. And the consequent Soviet control for the second half of the 20th century meant that there was precious little in the way of gentrification or modernisation, other than a few tell tale brutalist living blocks on the edges of town. Thus you have this incredible living time capsule with gothic, baroque, art deco, art nouveau and pretty much every other architectural style you can think of (I couldn't think of any more) rubbing up against each other like giant pastel coloured wedding cakes.

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They're also really big on weird modern art. There's an enormous metallic silver pregnant woman whose womb you can climb into. So obviously I did, inspiring an entire group of French students to do the same. Pas de problem. There are figurines floating on umbrellas like Mary Poppins, suspended from telephone wires. There are giant magic mushrooms and knights riding horses upside down in the 1920s shopping arcades. It was terribly fitting that one of the first things we discovered was a Tim Burton exhibition. The one major development from my previous visit was a bizarre outburst of segways. Everywhere we went, groups of tourists glided by like crap Daleks. The whole experience was like being in an outlandish fantasy movie. The fact that we were permanently in a state of mild inebriation probably helped.

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Coming up next: what we did on our holidays.

Happy New Year?

Thundering typhoons, is that the time? Here we, three weeks into 2014 and my last proper brainshit here was in September. And that was about some run I did in May. I was going to do that end of year meme that always does the rounds at the end of the year, but now that it's no longer the end of the year, or even the start of a new one, it seemed a little futile. A nation shrugs.

One of the questions that always comes up is the Happier/Sadder than last year conundrum. I was alarmed to realise as I looked back on 2013 that I was distinctly less happy than at the same point a year previously. It's not like I was Suicidal "He's always trying to pop his cork" Syd from Viz, but I was definitely unsatisfied.

After some soul-searching I realised that this disatisfaction revolved around three things: work/home/relationship with the ever-present spectre of my degenerative physical condition lurking in the background. I also realised that it was really work that was impacting negatively on my relationships with my flatmates and my girlfriend, and that this was really the root of my ill-ease in other departments.

Now then, as Han Solo said, a man makes his own luck. Actually, I've just looked that up and apparently it wasn't Han Solo, it was somebody called Billy Zane from Titanic. Han Solo said: "Laugh it up fuzzball!" but that's not really relevant to this discussion. So as someone called Billy Zane from Titanic said, a man makes his own luck.

Therefore I decided that 2014's New Year Resolutions should be attempts to address the aforementioned concerns. I solemnly vowed to:

1. Be nicer to my girlfriend
2. Be more tolerant of my flatmates
3. But look for somewhere else to live
4. Join a union
5. Sign up for an online Excel course
6. Register with recruitment agencies
7. Attend the local Ankylosing Spondilitis support group

For 1 and 2, you'd have to ask them whether or not I've been successful.
3 has taken a bit of a back seat, mainly because I had the flat to myself for the first couple of weeks of the year.

But more measurable success can be found in points 4 to 7, all of which I have initiated. And it's incredible the peace of mind these have brought about. So already January, often the gloomiest month of the year, seems distinctly more promising than the arse end of 2013. The fact that I started it with a 5km run at 9am on New Year's Day, rather than a hangover the size of Ukraine probably helped too.

But enough of this navel-gazing, I've got a gig to play - the first of 2014. Back where I'm often happiest, as seventh guitarist in Keith Top of the Pops & His Minor UK Indie Celebrity All-Star Backing Band. Camden Monarch. 10pm. It's free. Come on down. It'll be nice to see you ...

Marathon Man

So the German leg of our enormously enjoyable tour with Art Brut came to an end and a few days later I hopped on a train to Scotland to head for my first full marathon. One of the most wonderful things about the tour for me was heading out for a run in a strange city each morning. I say each morning, although predictably the runs got less and less frequent as the tour went on. But I still managed to run at least every other day and I was quite impressed with my commitment and resolve, which it has to be said are not the characteristics I'm renowned for.

Here's the run I did the morning after our first show:

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A lot of people are put off of marathons because of the amount of training it's supposed to take, but I thoroughly enjoyed expanding the radius of my usual routes. I felt a bit like a pioneer, charging into the unknown. I didn't really pay much attention to any official training regime; I just tried to run a bit further than usual on a regularish basis. Most of my "long" runs were around the 2 hour mark, because I find it starts to get a bit boring after that and I don't ever want running to be boring or indeed hard work. I run because it's fun and it makes me feel good; the health aspects and fund-raising are simply happy by-products.

I love exploring anyway, so running beyond my usual comfort zones meant I discovered all sorts of brilliant new woods, nature reserves and other secret bits of north London. I very rarely set out with a definite route in mind but just had a look at a map beforehand and tried to head in a direction that looked predominantly leafy. One wood that confused me was just north of the Spaniards. I ran round in circles many times trying to find this mythical forest called Turners Wood. Only after much Googling did I discover that it is in fact a PRIVATE WOOD, with no public access. It's basically hidden behind these massive mansions around the Bishops Avenue. Apparently Liz Taylor used to play their as a child, which just added to the mystique for me. Another discovery which I was able to utilise regularly was the Dollis Valley Walk which goes from the Hampstead Heath extension all the way up to the real outskirts of London, sharing some of its route with the London Loop. You can go for almost ten miles through ostensibly urban areas without hardly ever seeing a car or even much concrete. On one of my longer runs I was trying to find High Barnet but got lost and ended up at Cockfosters, right at the end of the Piccadilly Line. It's pretty amazing that you can get to the end of the tube from central London simply by moving one foot in front of the other and repeating.

Anyway, I was reasonably confident of completing the marathon, but I was well aware that it would be much more of an endurance test - rather than a race per se - than any run I'd done before. One of the young chaps I run with at work had just done the Paris Marathon and really struggled, coming in at 4 hours 25 seconds. If he'd done each mile one second faster he'd have broken the 4 hour barrier - which was at the bottom end of my target finishing time.

So the big day came and I have never felt such a buzz at the start of a race. A truly terrific atmosphere. Due to Edinburgh having been wantonly vandalised by the never ending tram debacle, I was actually a bit late, but this worked out well as it meant there was no time to start fretting and I simply turned up and started running at the back of the very long queue.

While the city of Edinburgh is notoriously hilly, what with being built on the core of an old volcano etc, the Marathon is not. Only about two miles of it is actually in town, and downhill at that, and the rest is almost entirely flat, along the coast, through the satellite towns and villages like Prestonpans and other places I'd forgotten even existed but that I'd visited in my childhood. The vibe was really quite thrilling with well-wishers along most of the route. There were kids handing out sweets and plastic cups of water etc and it was really quite touching. I was careful to pace myself well, sticking to a steady 8 minute mile pace which is pretty easy going for me, but I knew I had to keep plenty in reserve. The biggest challenge in the early miles was not going too fast.

By about half way, I was on target to be on the right side of 3 and a half hours (my dream target) and I vainly started thinking "This is a piece of piss - I'm gonna smash this!"

However, inevitably, as I racked up the miles, fatigue began to set in. I wouldn't say I hit the legendary wall, it just gradually but increasingly got tougher and tougher. The route looped back on itself at about 16 miles and that gave me quite a boost as I saw just how many people were still miles behind. From then on, though, it became a proper struggle. To my shame I even stopped a couple of times. Not for long, just to down some water or squirt another energy gel all over my face, but starting again was a real effort. When I got to 22 miles I was telling myself, "Come on Dave, it's only four miles - you do that every lunchtime. Just get your head down and it'll all be over in half an hour!" But after a momentary spurt I slowed down to a snail's pace. Nevertheless, a cheer from my mum, her boyf and my old mucker Chrissy Boy gave me a much needed boost and I managed to pick up the pace just a tiny bit as I reached the outskirts of Musselburgh where the race ended. I knew I'd buggered my chances of getting inside 3.30 but I hoped I could still beat 3.45 and with my gangly lallies screaming as I charged towards the finishing line.

By the miracle of modern technology, a text message arrived almost instantaneously with my official chip time: 3.37.26. Not bad at all.

Picture 14

The great thing about running a marathon is that people can generally grasp the concept that it's quite a big deal. In my little cocooned indie world, people might be impressed by going on tour with the Divine Comedy or whatever, but for the wider public that sort of thing means very little - a marathon is something that pretty much everybody knows is, well, a marathon not a sprint. My mum was bursting with pride and that was worth more than all the gold discs in the world. Also my real dad, who I haven't seen for about 15 years, cycled all the way from the outskirts of Bathgate to cheer me on. He missed me, but I was touched by the thought. He was impressed by my time too - and he's a proper runner. So that was nice.

I also raised a staggering £1,150 for the National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society - more than double my original target. A huge thanks to all my amazing sponsors. Without wishing to sound too wanky, the thought that so many people had given so generously definitely spurred me on during the moments when every fibre of my aching limbs was pleading with me to pack the whole thing in and have a nice lie down.

After the most delicious pint I have ever drunk, I got the train back to London later that evening. It was packed with fellow marathon runners and was like one big joyous party. I got talking to one guy who'd run it in some insane time like 3 hours 12. His mum had died of cancer so he was doing it to raise money for Cancer Research. I couldn't remember his name but I did remember his time so I was able to work out who he was later and sponsor him myself once I got back. That felt good.

Anyway, after all that excitement, the prospect of doing a measly half marathon in less than a fortnight seems a bit feeble by comparison, but I'm doing it nonetheless. I appreciate that many people will be suffering from compassion fatigue by now, but if anyone would care to chuck a few pennies my way, I would be immensely grateful:

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/DavidBarnettRulesOK

And if anyone else has ever considered doing a marathon, I would wholeheartedly recommend it. It's undoubtedly one of the most rewarding things I've ever done.

Good luck!

Süden death

So where were we? Oh that's right, we were standing by the side of a rapidly expanding lake that had once been a carpark, watching in horror as our trusty Mystery Machine (or "van") sank below the waves. Bear in mind we were all suffering massive comedowns at this stage. I wasn't entirely sure this flood wasn't some cruel hallucination. Only the irate barks of angry German businessmen watching their beloved BMWs become submerged in liquid shit assured me that this was no dream.

But then, lo! Heroic Andy "Bardot" Barding sprang to the rescue. I say sprang, what he actually did was roll up his trousers and wade gingerly through the brown swamp towards the van. There were some tense moments as he clambered into the cabin and turned the key in the ignition (or whatever it is you do to start a van). And then! PRAISE THE FUCKING LORD ABOVE! The engine coughed into life and our Merc Sprinter reversed out of danger, sending a small tsunami our way which we danced comically to avoid. Apparently water is no significant hazard for diesel engines, but I would have still thought that flooding any kind of engine with sewage is not ideal. Phew, that was close!

After that drama, not to mention a very long drive diagonally from north east to south west Germany, we arrived in Stuttgart with little time to spare. I was still feeling a little rough when we took to the stage and was a little downhearted by the seemingly sparse audience. But as we finished the first number in record time, there was a reassuring ripple of applause from above. I looked up to see an entire mezzanine balcony level to the club of which I'd been hitherto unaware after which things got much better. Two of the Beatles are Dead went down particularly well and it was probably one of my favourite gigs of the tour, although I think this may have been the show which received a review describing our wall of sound as "ear cancer". Coming from the country that brought us Einstürzende Neubauten, that's quite a compliment. I'd hoped to include a link to that review in the interests of critical balance but couldn't find it, so here's one that gives the album 9 out of 10 instead:
http://www.wehateyourband.net/album-review-keith-totp-totp2/

After all that excitement I had a relatively early night. Early enough to get up the next morning for my first early morning run since Berlin. It was a pretty feeble run to be honest, just once around the block, and I did fear that my imminent marathon was going to present something of a challenge. But there was no time to worry about that because pretty soon we were back in the van and heading for Munchen for the last gig of the tour (or the German leg at least).

Munich was a nice place to round off our Germanic escapades being as it was the same venue - Atomic Cafe - we'd played when we'd toured with the Blood Arm way back in 2011. I remembered seeing the Brett Anderson solo poster in the dressing room and thinking it was funny that I was now playing the same kind of places as my erstwhile hero/boss. This was also of course the place where Mel persuaded a young herr to "lend" her his lederhosen. What's more it had a pornographic trainset (true fact). Another thing I liked was Charley complaining about her Thai curry before the gig: "TYPICAL BLOODY BAVARIANS PUTTING CREAM IN EVERYTHING!"

This was a fun gig although I was definitely flagging by this time. Art Brut were particularly magnificent as I recall.

Here is an "arty" video I made. I like to think it captures the true glamour of life on the road with a Top 41 indie band:



I was eager to see a bit of the city, so Rob and I slipped off while the others partied on. Aside from the beer festival, its football team and various dodgy Third Reich era links, Munich is probably most famous for Richard Strauss, Harold Faltemeyer and Mad Prince Ludwig. I couldn't find any monuments to them, but I did find an enormous shrine to Michael Jackson who is kind of an amalgamation of the three of them I guess. I'd post a picture but LJ is playing silly buggers. Take it from me, though, it was suitably wacko. That was pretty weird, but then next to it we found another shrine to his pet chimp, Bubbles, replete with actual bananas. Bananas!

And then all that remained was a 20 hour drive back to Blighty and we were all safely tucked up in bed*, wondering if the past ten days had been some incredible rock'n'roll dream, which it was really. Thank you Keith Top of the Pops, thank you Art Brut, thank you Andy Barding, and thank you fellow Minor Indie Celebrities.

*Not the same bed.

We are now at war with Jairmany

As I write it's exactly 74 years to the day since we declared war on Germany for violating the sovereign territory of Poland, who we vowed to come to the rescue of should anyone be naughty enough to invade. Strangely, when Nazi Germany's Axis partner the USSR invaded Poland from the other side and shared the spoils with Hitler a few weeks later, we did fuck all. Six years of totalenkrieg later, we let Stalin keep the bit he'd invaded while the other chunk remained a Soviet satellite for most of the rest of the century. So the next time somebody goes on a rant about how Poles have taken over London, you can reassure them that it's the least we could do.

Anyway, I've gone a little off topic here. It is now also almost a third of a year since Keith Top of the Pops & His Minor UK Indie Celebrity All-Star Backing Band invaded Germany, and if memory serves, I'd got as far as us hanging around in Berlin, unsure if we'd even get to play due to technische Schwierigkeit.

Well as you've probably guessed, we did get to play, but to be honest, dear reader, tour fatigue and the will we / won't we get to play stresses meant that I didn't enjoy this gig nearly as much as I should have. Which was a shame being as it was the biggest gig of the tour so far - and that our line-up had been swelled by at least one member of the Blood Arm. Happily, though, Art Brut suffered from no such insecurities and delivered an absolute belter.

Here are the viewing Berlin several verden verrückt to Art Brut:

photo-59

Obviously after this milestone of a gig we were all keen to let our hair down. And it was here that things began to get a little bit messy. One of our party saw a man about a dog. Several of our party indulged. And everyone went a tad mental. One of our party, who shall remain nameless, ended up in a red hot romp in the hotel foyer with another member of our entourage. Said member's other half was not present. I befriended the drummer from the Wedding Present, shortly before having a minor mental breakdown and sobbing on his shoulder while Kind Ben Lambert, our drummer, tried to tuck me safely up in bed. And one of the most pacifistic members of the gang went out looking for a fight on the streets of Berlin, but to the best of my knowledge was unsuccessful in finding one.

I am reliably informed that at some point the next morning I awoke, rocking the top bunk of our dormitory while shrieking "I'M TRAPPED IN SPANDAU!" at the top of my voice. I'm hoping Rob will supply pictorial evidence of this. As a decidedly ropey-looking bunch of minor indie celebrities trooped out to the van, I played an amusing visual gag with the aid of a banana. My mother was unimpressed. I'm hoping Keith will supply visual evidence of this.

Thus, the long journey from Berlin to Stuttgart, was a lurchingly painful one, the pelting rain drumming threateningly against the windows and adding a sense of foreboding to the already terrifying journey. It was with some relief that we stopped off at a service station on the autobahn for some refreshments. This relief was shortlived, however, when Kind Ben Lambert, having popped out to the van to get his fags, returned with the news that the van was now sitting in two feet of water. "Great joke, your majesty!" we chorused. But it was no joke. The van was sitting in a veritable lake of brown muddy water. And the water was rising fast.

While we weren't yet in as much trouble of the very cross owners of the flash BMWs and Mercedes that were now almost submerged, the gravity of the situation was clear and exacerbated by our group paranoia. "We're doomed!" I hollered. All our equipment was in there. People's phones and laptops were casually sitting on the floor, perilously close to the plimsole line. And we were still hundreds of kilometres from the next schau. I'm hoping someone will supply photographic and / or video evidence of this drama to demonstrate just what a pickle we were in.

Will our intrepid heroes get out of this latest scrape alive? Tune in next time for the next gripping episode ... DIT! DIT! DAAAAAAH!



EDIT: Keith Top of the Pops would like it to be publicly known that he remained unfazed by any of the various dramas that surfaced throughout our rock'n'roll adventures. Indeed you could probably insert the following sentence whenever moments of peril arise:

"Meanwhile Keith Top of the Pops casually lit another Marlboro, shrugged his shoulders and said 'chill dudes, it's cool!', like some kind of 21st century Fonze."
Viewing several! You may recall that my last on tour diary report left us on a bit of a cliffhanger with your narrator (that's me) waking up from a weird dream to find a CANNABIS LEAF TATTOOED ON HIS FACE!

Apologies if you've been on tenterhooks during the elongated interim going "DAVE! DAVE! TELL US ABOUT THE TATTOO OF A CANNABIS LEAF ON YOUR FACE!" But the good news is that you can all relax. For - get this - it wasn't a tattoo after all!

After a few minutes of genuine terror, I spotted that I had a mirror image of exactly the same druggy logo ON THE BACK OF MY HAND. So the offending blemish wasn't a tattoo after all but the hand stamp from the previous evening's venue. Phew. I had obviously slept with my hand pressed against my cheek and the high alcohol content oozing from my sweaty pores had somehow fused the two together resulting in this terrible facial manifestation. Cripes.

Anyway, my relief was somewhat tempered by the fact that no amount of scrubbing seemed to remove the inky blot from my cheek and thus it was a somewhat downhearted third guitarist that joined the rest of the indie celebrities in the van WITH A CANNABIS LEAF TATTOOED ON HIS FACE.

Can't really remember much of the journey - I think I was engrossed in a biography of Malcolm McLaren - but we arrived without incident in Berlin at tea time. Excitingly our hotel was very close to one of the few remaining stretches of the Berlin Wall. I believe David Hasselhof wants to demolish this bit. I'm not sure why. Maybe to erect an enormous statue of himself straddling the Spree?

I don't think we've had a picture of our on tour brass section Mel yet (if you recall, she joined us belatedly in Hamburg). So here is a picture of our on tour brass section Mel beside the Berlin Wall at sunset:

photo-34

As this was what's technically known in touring lingo as a "day off" we had the opportunity to make our own entertainment rather than entertaining others. Yet being professional entertainers, we managed to combine both these scenarios by invading a local karaoke bar and pretty much taking it over for the entire evening. We were joined by fellow minor indie celebrity Sheila Chipperfield who ran away from the circus to join Elastica during the period when Annie left. Charley and Sheila did Connection which we all decided was pretty much a bona fide ELASTICA REUNION. I don't think the stag party whose evening we'd gatecrashed realised the INDIE HISTORY they were witnessing. There were star turns all round. I think Adie has most of it on video for when the inevitable documentary of the Keith Top of the Pops Story is made. I did Sweet Transvestite and Rob got to join Elastica by doing Run DMC with Sheila. There was also a magical moment when the MC asked "Does anybody know Ghostbusters?" and Rob ejaculated in his pants (it's his favourite film).

Rob and I left early. I say early. Probably about 2am. After all, we had the biggest gig of the tour the next day and, hey, we're professionals, right? However, upon entering the hotel foyer we found a piano and guitar awaiting us. It seemed like fate. There was only one thing for it. WE HAD TO FORM AN IMPROMPTU DAVID BOWIE/SUEDE TRIBUTE ACT! Some of it was pretty great (Rob is very good on the old joanna). Some of it wasn't so good (the middle eight of The Next Life is tricky!) but nevertheless we amassed a small appreciative audience and were highly satisfied at managing to pull off a guerrilla gig on our supposed night off. One of the audience was a strange American and fellow musician who presented us with stickers featuring a unicorn shagging a dolphin. Rob later discovered that he was a massive racist sadly, and so proceeded to affix the stickers to the hotel's instruments in order to implicate him. Considering that we were very obviously the last people to have used the instruments that night, I'm not convinced of the wisdom of this plan.

I felt a little fragile the next morning. Happily, however, the cannabis tattoo had begun to fade by this point so I set off on a little jog along by the Berlin Wall. Which was nice. photo-40

Most of the rest of the gang spent the day at a local Lido. It was here I learned the exciting FACT that wild boar can be found in the suburbs of the city. Swimming by the Spree was very pleasant, and helped erase the tattoo further. However, since it's not every day you're in Berlin, unless you're a Berliner, or perhaps someone who lives nearby and commutes into the city, I dragged Rob away to do some sightseeing.

Sadly we didn't find any wild boar, but here is me at the Reichstag, blending in with the locals:

photo-35

One of the odd things about Berlin is that many of its tourist attractions are apologies for various genocides. So instead of signs pointing to The Tower of London and St Paul's Cathedral etc, they have things like "Memorial to all the Roma Gypsies we killed", "Sorry about all the gays we exterminated" and so on. I can't imagine massive tributes to all the massacres of the indigenous populations in various American cities, nor indeed a "Sorry for all the Germans we burned to a crisp" in London. So at least they're grappling with their difficult past unlike us. Obviously the biggest of these macabre tourist sites was the Jewish Holocaust Memorial. It's vast and oppressive and genuinely moving. And yet at the same time it's also the BEST PLACE FOR KIDS TO PLAY HIDE AND SEEK IN THE WORLD! A very strange juxtaposition.

Here is Rob trying to look suitably respectful as he contemplates the murder of six million:

photo-36

I think he's overdoing it a bit, don't you?

Here's me, respectfully covering up the swearwords on my rude t-shirt:

photo-41

Anyway, we returned to the venue feeling suitably contemplative only to discover to our horror that the biggest show of the tour (so far) was in jeopardy. Some vital component of the PA system had blown or was otherwise kaput and it was unlikely to be fixed by doors. Even if they did get it working again it was unlikely that there'd be enough time for the support act to go on (that's us by the way).

Here are some worried people at the venue shrugging their shoulders and swearing angrily in German:

photo-37

Will the people of Berlin get to see Art Brut playing their guitar-based pop music? And even if they do, will they get to experience the full majesty of the Keith Top of the Pops and His UK Minor Indie Celebrity All-Star Backing Band live supporting act spectacle? Tune in next time and find out!