Saturday 20 April 2024

We've got a handful of songs to sing you

"Can I have another piece of chocolate cake?" - ©Neil Finn

You may or may not be aware that I haven't written any new songs for quite a while. I guess over the years I've written between eighty and a hundred songs in total. Of those I'd say thirty or so are keepers. And of those, I've recorded around twenty. Yet, whenever I get up and play at various folk clubs, singarounds, floor spots and the like I bet I only rotate maybe ten songs maximum. Yep, I've got stale. I've taken my foot off the gas and have been happy to coast. I generally pad my repertoire out with one or two (select) covers and would admit, quite freely, that at some point I must have turned my songwriting tap off. 

Hopefully that's about to change. I was invited to a relatively new songwriters group that's sprung up in the town and who meet on the third Thursday (I love that alliteration) of the month. So I went along last Thursday. There were seven of us. We chatted, played a brand new song each and then critiqued what we'd just heard. It was lovely. It was inspiring. This may just be the kick up the arse I need to apply seat of pants to seat of chair - as PG Wodehouse once said. My song, 'The Ocean', which was really only in embryonic form, was received really well. I'll go away now - finish it, tart it up and, while I'm about it, try and get another new song ready for next month. Footnote - it was Dan's birthday on Thursday (Dan is one of the group's founding fathers) and we had cake. Chocolate cake. Matt's wife (Matt - who started the group) baked it specially. I think I'm going to enjoy Songwriters.

Tuesday 16 April 2024


Barrie (left) & Shawn at home

When producer & all round multi-instrumentalist Shawn Lee from Young Gun Silver Fox (my go-to yacht rockers) recently hooked up with Barrie Cadogan (he of Little Barrie and, sometimes, Primal Scream), you just knew that alchemy couldn't be far away. A lot of guitars. A lot of soul. A lot of surprises too. Together they're known as Ultrasonic Grand Prix and the resulting album is called Instafuzz. This is the opening track. It's groovy. No other word for it.

Ultrasonic Grand Prix - Seamoon Rising (2024)

Sunday 14 April 2024

Dymo Dymo Dymo

In the 1970s the only hand held device I owned (not counting my portable transistor radio) was a Dymo machine. I say 'machine'; it was, in fact, nothing more than a rudimentary embosser with a crude wheel - where you fed the tape - to find the correct letter and a 'trigger' once said letter had been located. You know of what I speak - chances you had one too. Er, well those of a certain age group perhaps. Those winter nights used to fly by.

I'd have been lost without mine. All my cassettes were badged up in this way. And as I was precious about not writing on the inlay card (all my tapes were logged in a liberated exercise book from school) it was the main means of cassette identification. As you can see from this Damned C90 (their first album borrowed from Riggsby and dubbed, plus an interview they did on the radio back in the day) the unique number (28) it was given meant I could locate it in a heartbeat. In addition to all this vitaldata, my exercise book also contained each track meticulously catalogued and searchable from the tape counter log ('New Rose' [525-614]) - this meant I could skip between tracks. Invaluable on Beatles albums when faced with the ubiquitous Ringo track. God, just writing this and I can see that the 15 year old me must have had way too much time on his hands.

In a house move a few years back I condensed my cassette collection down from over a hundred to just a select ten - the Crown Jewels, if you will. They and the 50 year old exercise book still reside in the bottom of a packing case somewhere in my garage. One of my Summer jobs will be (and I've been saying this since we moved into this house seven years ago) to retrieve them and reacquaint them with my Damned tape which somehow avoided being lost in the bottom of a removals chest. Watch this space for Time Team updates.

* Vital to me and precisely nobody else.

Tuesday 9 April 2024


With one foot in 1964 it's not easy to pigeonhole Fizzy Orange; sixty years on, bands that sound as good as this and as frenetic as they do are bound to cause a stir in 2024. And that's precisely what they're doing; both in their native Dublin and over here in the UK too. Their blistering indie sounding, soul infused, new six track EP, 'Fizzy Orange in Mono', is chock-full of tunes that will possibly, if played at the correct volume, cause irreparable damage to your speakers. Here's a taster of the lead single from it brought to you in a very Hard Day's Night kinda way...

Fizzy Orange - Choo Choo (2024)

Sunday 7 April 2024

Good Times Will Come Again

My excitement levels were off the charts in anticipation of last night's Megson gig. When the world came to an end in March 2020, so did my chances (I was convinced) of ever seeing them live; of seeing anyone live, ever again. Well, it only took four years but, blimey, what a four years it's been. The world's not quite the same as it was four years ago. I'm not sure I'm the same as I was four years ago. That being said, Stu & Debbie Hanna are - I reckon they've been in stasis since the first lockdown. Stu's hair is just as wild (in a good way) and Debs is just as, well, gorgeous. Am I allowed to say that? (Speaking to them both in the interval I can in fact confirm that both statements are factually correct.)

If I said they opened with Are You Sitting Comfortably and closed with a rousing version of Good Times Will Come Again and that they played The Long Shot and that they tore through their latest album (the terrific What Are We Trying to Say?), then I think you'll have a idea of how perfectly pitched the evening's set was. Their songwriting, their sense of timing, their interplay is flawless; no wonder they're all over the BBC folk awards. I have to say, and I think I told some old friends who I met in the bar (that I hadn't, bizarrely, seen in seven years), that this gig has gone straight into My Top Five Gigs Of All Time. And for those who don't know what it was up against, here's an idea of the competition. 

It goes without saying that if they come within a hundred mile* radius of your house you should make every effort to go and see them. Even if just to see Stu's hair!

Megson - Good Times Will Come Again (2016)

* Nottingham to Helmsley was just shy of 120 miles in case you were wondering.