Thursday, 29 November 2012

BLUR: 13 That's where we meet when you're coming down

I am now the lucky owner of the Blur '21' box set (vinyl edition) - 13 slabs of shellac from one of Britain's finest.

The first album I took out its shrink-wrap and put the needle to was '13' from 1999. Its always been my favourite of theirs. Feelings all tied in with time and circumstances and the leanings of my melancholic soul.
Its been a while since I listened to it and I was struck by how thrilling and discombobulated the record makes me feel. Its a brave sort that opens an album with a sound as scratchy and low-fi as 'Tender' - vocals aching and melody childlike. I remember they opened their Reading 1999 set with it and it was a long way from that muted response to the cathartic chorus at Glastonbury ten years later.

'Bugman's crunchy guitars, the pop perfection of Coffee & TV, easily Graham's finest moment with the band, his detached lyric and two tone guitar. '1992' is a mellow gem of loss, BLUREMI a sneaky dig at the labels identikit Britpop indie bands. 'Trailerpark' is a loose jam with trip hop aspirations and a nonsense but funny lyric "I lost my girl to the Rolling Stones' Damon mumbles. the album's hidden treasure is 'Trimm Trabb' - great riff (stolen from Syd Barrett's 'Wined & Dined') and brilliant delivery from Damon.




In a way the album is sprawling and all over the place as I believe the band were at this point. This would be Coxon's last album with the band aside from one track on 'Think Tank'. Although this is Coxon's album sonically - woozy, stumbling and confused at the fag end of the 20th century - lyrically its all Damon and his broken heart. The aforementioned '1992' and the unbearably claustrophobic 'No Distance Left To Run' are the key pointer to his breakup with Elastica girl but its a vibe that spreads across the whole album.

I also found myself thinking how adventurous the album sounds and how much of it sounds like a template for Radiohead's 'Kid A'. The instrumental codas throughout, coming through like a daydream. the longer jammier material brings in dance beats and more avant-garde sounds. This is a far stranger album than many give it credit for, a step on from the lo-fi of 'Blur' to darker pastures.


 As I said, sprawling and lethargic but that why I like it - it was the end of the century and Blur never sounded less sure or more inspired to do what they hell they liked. Shame they couldn't keep it all together

Friday, 9 November 2012

The Return Of McAlmont & Butler (Blog)

An additional footnote to my love letter to McAlmont and Butler's 2nd album, 'Bring It Back'

http://adogfacedboystail.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/my-favourite-album-that-no-one-knows-1.html

I found out shortly after I wrote the blog that there was a promo only 7" box set edition of the album spread across 8 singles with live tracks and b sides. Being a vinyl junkie this became my "want it, want it, want it" item. 

Just this week, someone put a SIGNED copy of it on Ebay, which I duly bid on and with trembling fingers have returned home to find out I have won for just £11! Previous unsigned copies have gone form over £30

So, THIS will soon be nestling chez moi


Hoo-fucking-ray!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

And The World Says: World Party Live

World Party@ Oxford Academy 29th October 2012 

a new entry in the series "Pop Stars that look like Neil McNab"
(This time with David Hepworth's wig)

Ahh, those heady days of GLR (Greater London Radio, if you didn't know) of the very early 90's with its freewheeling mavericks, Baker, Evans & Morris' (Danny, Chris & Chris) of a weekend and chaps who could talk and loved music like Peter Curran and that Hepworth fella playing choice grown up pop music.

And if there was one band who were dancing in the heart of their playlists (although whether they actually we told what to play is a mystery) it was probably, the Waterboys. However when Karl Wallinger left that combo to start his own then GLR got right behind World Party.

As I escaped my metal phase (I was young, I was foolish) tried to connect with something new and reconnect with classic pop of the Beach Boys and the Fabs, World Party seemed to be there at the right time for me  Plus they seemed to chime with the public as they had modest hits.

Well, since then Danny Baker only plays MOR fake country gals in between his usual diverting nonsense, Chris Evans became an insufferable dick (maybe he always was) and Chris Morris made his own way in the world being a genius. The fact that he got the boot from the BBC for falsely announcing the death of Jimmy Saville on his radio show must be of supremely irony to a man who once made a devastatingly funny programme about the media coverage of pedophilia.

Karl Wallinger\ World Party continued to release albums but the public's interest waned. It must have been of little encouragement initially when his own record company took one of the songs from his neglected 'Egyptology' album and gave it to their star, Robbie Williams. He took the song and made a carbon copy of it and got a number one single. 'She's The One' became one of those tunes that no doubt is a popular choice for first dances at wedding receptions - a hook as hard hitting as Henry Cooper's with simple but beguiling melodies behind a love lyric.

So they may be a typical MOJO\Word act with little to excite for most but the above is why I made the trip through the wind and the rain to see them at the Zodiac, or rather the O2 Academy, in Oxford. It was half the price and about a twentieth of the size of the Royal Albert Hall, London two days later. First UK dates in 12 years so take your chances while you can

The gig was upstairs rather than the main room which made me wonder how many tickets they sold (I fear for the Albert Hall date) and it was fairly sparse crowd. Filled up a little before the support -Gemma Hayes.
I like her voice, she's from Ireland via LA so has an American accent when she sings - plenty of melancholy so right up my street. She announces a cover of 'Cloudbusting' at one point and I start to cringe, a) cos a lot of those lyrics about glowing yo-yo's  sound ridiculous in anyone else's mouth and b) cos I feared it would be another in a recent spate of breathy slowed down girlie versions of 80's classic so popular with advertising executives. Well she kept the power, speed and tension and did an excellent spare version of the tune and got generous applause for haveing the nerve to take a Kate Bush song.

 Gemma Hayes: cheer up love!

"I met Louis Walsh recently" she sighed as the room grumbled "he came to one of my shows and  afterwards he said he could 'make me a star' "I'd love to work with you, Gemma, I think you're great but I'd just want you to change two things" Intrigued she asked what those two things would be. "Stop writing songs, your songs are too sad, radio won't play them, I'm gonna hook you up with someone who will write you good happy pop songs. And secondly, you need to date someone famous, unless you are in the tabloids in the business you are nothing. So, are you in?" She's out and will go far.


So Karl Wallinger has filled out a bit and gone grey but in terms of voice and musical ability its business as usual. Opening with a new song from the rather spiffiing 'Arkeology' 5 CD box set of new, demos, covers, live and oddities from the past 20 years or so may appear a bit brave but as its more than a match for his older material then its a perfect choice. Such is the strength of the set tonight that he can afford to dispense with solid gold encore songs like 'Message In a Box and 'Is It Like Today?' so early in the set with the place singing along like its time to go home.

Must say that the audience really make tonight's gig. We may be few but our voices and sarky comments are strong. We've missed the old sod and we let him know it. The band includes David Duffy giving some fine fiddling (easy) and this is put to excellent effect particularly on 'Love Street' and the country stying of  'Sweet Soul Dream' which is a particular highlight for me. (Check out the version on the box set, its aces)




Another new gem 'Everybody's Falling In Love' - cover this un, Robbie! - before a couple of prime slices of sardonic pop 'Vanity Fair' and the rollicking fun romp that is 'Who Are You' from the utterly ignored last World Party album 'Dumbing Up'. Its 'Bob Dylan's 115th Dream' rhythm, delivery and hectoring style is clearly fun for the band to play and Karl cracks up a few times as he introduces the band to take their solos with his best Zimmy drawl "Whooo Are Yooooooouuu?". "Play it again!" someone yells from behind me and I concur - gawd, that was fun!

They finish the main set with a double whammy of 'Ship Of Fools' and 'Way Down Now'.  If they tour again I hope this band stays intact cos they do a brilliant job in recreating that special World Party sound. Ex-Oasis drummer, Chris Sharrock, is really on top of the songs tonight.And before you can say - WOT!!! NO 'All I Gave??????!!!! - they say thank you and goodnight with 'Thank You World'. I hope they come back sooner than later.


Setlist:

Waiting Such A Long Time
Is It Like Today?
Message In a Box
What Does It Mean Now?
When The Rainbow Comes
Love Street
She's The One
God On My Side
Call Me Up
Sunshine
Sweet Soul Dream
Everybody's Falling In Love
Vanity Fair
Who Are You?
Is It Too Late?
Ship Of Fools
Way Down Now
ENCORE:
Thank You World 

Spiritualized Live: Like A Zonked Out Dr Phibes

Spiritualized @ Camden Roundhouse: 5th November 2012 

 Support band have officially one of the worst names I have ever heard
Keep pets outside & don't return to the real world as it may explode in your face 
Ladies & Gentlemen, its 'Guy Fawkes Up Without Medication Night'


Things rarely change in Spacemanland. When he wanders on stage you wonder if his spindly legs can get him all the way to his chair and you wish he'd have a few steak dinners so he had a little colour to his pallid cheeks.

So its Shades on, guitar in hand and looking stage left throughout - that's how we go for the next 2 1\2 hours. Occasionally he will spin on his swivel chair and face the audience for a minute or so of noisy riffing but whether he's actually looking at us is unclear. That along with a muttered "Thank You" is his zenith of communication with the audience. Although in a new development to his stagecraft during the heavier moments he took to stabbing at a keyboard like a zonked out Dr Phibes. Or when John Lennon goes mad during 'I'm Down' at Shea Stadium and started flailing at the keyboard with his elbows making a discordant squeal. That.
 

 See, told you he looked pale

When I saw the band at the Royal Albert Hall last year they played the as-then-unreleased 'Sweet Heart \ Sweet Light' album in its entirety which was a lot to take in. Add into that the worst sound I have ever heard at the grand old dump to make an overall dispiriting experience. I forgot to go to a date at the Hackney Empire (I hope Stargreen enjoyed my money nevertheless) so was looking forward to hearing the new stuff properly live.

The set kicked off after some introductory riffing and grooving with 'Hey Jane' the lengthy lead single from the album and a sparky 'Electricity' but from then on it was new album tunes that whilst being more "pop" than your average Spz still wigged out when it felt right. During 'Heading To the Top's  climactic space trip a noted a few young kids down the front engaging in some furious headbanging behaviour that they had seen on film of Cream at the Royal Albert Hall in 1968. Alongside them was a tall fellow doing some interpretative hippy dancing that to all intents recreated Cliff Richards' dance moves to 'Power To All Our Friends' from the Eurovision Song Contest in 1973. (Third? You robbing European bastards!)

a Spiritualized fan yesterday

The SHSL material sounded superb live - a little looser and flakier round the edges than on the LP and often with extended psychedelic codas. These nerve jangling, heavy sections were enhanced by simple & effective visuals that repeated, warped and collapsed in on themselves.  There were quieter and more reflective songs too, sadly some of the piano was lost in a slightly muddy mix. 'A' Song; a (hopefully provisonally titled) new song was a humungous blues riff filtered through the space waves. The 2nd new track 'Perfect Miracle' was a little L&GWAFIS Pt 2 but no worse for it.  The main set ended with a couple of oldies 'Take Your Time' and a ferocious 'Electric Mainline' with the bass punching you in the chest and reverberating gently to your toes in a sensuously hypnotic way. Dance to the trance. 

For the encore a giant roar went up when the sample of the title of their 1997 masterwork echoes through the old engine turning shed.  Always a favourite of mine (if I had a funeral song, this would be it) and Jason and the two backing singers performed it beautifully. A real surprise was to hear the Spaceman 3 song ' Come Down Easy' which I mistook for an 'In My Time Of Dying \ Fixin To Die Blues' cover at first.

Now I know what it sounded like when Hurricane Sandy hit New York - the end of 'Smiles' fair took my senses away with its glorious climax - a bass throbbing, guitar string snapping, drum pounding strobefest. The screens were filled with plain black and white lines and circles that added to the disorientation and confusion as your brain overloaded, making the room spin.

Not one for the casual fan this type of gig but a treat for the faithful. For some they're tedious & self indulgent. For me they're uplifting & life affirming - I'm right, you're wrong

Setlist:
Hey Jane
Electricity
Get What You Deserve 

Too Late
 Hey Little Girl
Heading for the top
Freedom
I Am What I Am
Mary
Life Is A Problem
So Long
'A' Song
Perfect Miracle
Take Your Time
Electric Mainline
ENCORE
Ladies & Gentlemen We are Floating In Space
Come Down Easy
Smiles

Saturday, 27 October 2012

My favourite album that no-one knows * (#1)

* or loves as much as I do

 MCALMONT & BUTLER 

'Bring It Back' (2002)

 


It’s been a long time but I’m glad it’s over now
We said so many foolish things and how
And the sun came out the moment you called ­ I’m glad you called
I’m gonna be whatever you want me
So if you wanna we can try to
Bring it back
Bring it back
Bring it - we got nothing to lose
 
I think there are few people who would disagree that one of the mightiest, dazzling, sassy and empowering singles of the 1990's was Salt n Pepa\ En Vogue's 'Whatta Man'. However I also think that applies to Britpop's own odd couple - McAlmont & Butler and their re-imagining of 'I Will Survive' in the guise of 'Yes' in 1995



(Who says 90's Jools was all Paul Weller and Les NĂ©gresses Vertes?)

The best thing about Suede and the thing lacking ever since he left was the shamelessly flashy guitar work of Bernard Butler, his Ronno like riffs and hair swirling joi de vivre was infectious. David McAlmont is simply one of those people you couldn't invent, a jaw dropping voice with an ego to match. Who else would attempt to take this on and absolutely nail it



Their initial releases 'Yes' & 'You Do' were fairly successful and the inkie critics loved them  However they soon split acrimoniously and the hastily compiled 'The Sound Of McAlmont & Butler' from the two singles, b sides and a couple of out-takes was a fine reflection of their brief career. Many assumed that was the end of that chapter.


So it was a surprise when they reemerged in 2002 with a second album of material that was just as spiffing as the first. Unfortunatley the music world was now in the sway of the USA once again and bands like The Strokes were the flavour of the month. A joyous, glitzy and sunny record like theirs didn't make a dent in the public conciousness.

Which is a great shame as I think its one of THE greatest records of the the last decade.

It opens with the indie eqivelant of Viv Stanshall' s speech on 'Tubular Bells' as David introduces all the different layers of sounds and instruments as the song builds to a Temptations-tastic chorus via the sassy swagger of classic Prince. The title 'Theme From McAlmont & Butler' is a showcase for the album, it will sound like all these things and more. 

The lead single 'Falling' is very much in the mould of 'Yes' with booming Spector Wall Of Sound drums and orchestration producing pure drama for the lugholes. McAlmont's voice floats above the lush strings - achingly yearning and desperate, effortlessly swooping and diving across the octaves.



It would be so easy for this album to fall into Lighthouse Family-like cheesy cosiness but it has that classic 1960's Motown and 1970's sexy disco grooves in equal measure. During the gap between the first and second M&B album, Butler was much in demand as a producer as his own solo career spluttered and died as he just didn't have the voice to carry the songs that others in the past had delivered with their own.

It really strikes home when ballads like 'Blue' really lets McAlmont's extraordinary voice take centre stage, what would be a mumbled acoustic filler on solo Butler effort just swims round your head, the aural equivalent of an ice cold drink on a hot summer day. His falsetto on the track is nothing less than miraculous. Its beautiful in its simplicity.

If there is a theme to the album (apart from 'Theme From....', arf!) then its appears to be their own tentative attempt to rekindle their working relationship - 'Can We Make It', 'Bring It Back', Make It Right and 'Different Strokes' . Yet the songs and production has a maturity and vision that demonstrates that when it came to the work they were focused and determined to bring the best out of each other. 


I would also suggest that there may be something almost unique on the 2nd M&B album in that it features a man singing a love song to another man. As a child of the 1980's I'm oh so familiar with the Almonds, the Sommervilles, Boy George's etc but I would maintain that very few of those sang overtly about their love for their fellow man as McAlmont does on 'Sunny Boy'.

"One day I met a guy
He had sunshine in his eyes
Pretty soon I was hypnotised
Completely open "


Even George Michael since he so publicly emerged from the closet has seen fit to be so 'straight' with his sexuality. It appears that gay pop stars can be flamboyant and cheeky but we don't want to really know how they really feel.

Above all though, the thing I love about the album and their music as a whole is the fun and life that it exudes.
David can never be anything less than excited and giving within his vocal, the music has such a light and airiness about it with the finger clicks, the laid-back licks and simple pop melodies.  It blows up the world so you can see all its colours, shapes and possibilities in all their beauty. Its unashamedly joyous and proudly a bit damn ridiculous.

I was lucky enough to see them a couple of times on the tour supporting this album and they were amongst some of the best gigs I have ever witnessed. The 1st show at the Scala the day the album was released may have been the happiest group of people I have ever shared a room with. 

Teasingly a third album was written and partly recorded before Bernard hooked up with Brett Anderson for the deeply underwhelming 'The Tears' project. Suspecting this put David's nose out of joint once more, it remains lost with only the single 'Speed' as a taster of what could have been.



Perhaps when that 'Rockferry' money runs out Bernard will get the urge to get back with his old sparring partner again. They might not have been the best of friends but the tensions between them produced some of the best music to come out of the UK in the last 25 years.

Friday, 12 October 2012

This too shall pass, I'm gonna pray

Sometimes some things just have to come out of your head cos they are searing with red hot pain. They often will not matter in a couple of hours but at the time they are all encompassing. So this is more for my benefit than anything else.

The thing is: I don't matter anymore

I haven't mattered for ages. Maybe I do to me but not to anyone else. No one has done anything to suggest that I matter to them and their lives. I used to. I once felt loved and that I mattered to a couple of special people. But I don't feel that anymore.

This may sound like a suicide note or a cry for help. It isn't either of those. Its just a realization that people don't NEED me around. Yes they may be pleased to see me from time to time but very rarely do people make the effort to invite me to places that they have to interact with me on anything but a superficial level.
I accept that may be something about me and I don't blame them.

I seriously considering jacking in the Facebook and Twitter last month as I feel its an opportunity for people to be more impersonal. A "like" can make people feel that they have been in contact so they don't need to actually communicate properly with anyone. Maybe its just part of the increasingly isolated lives we all lead with little time to consider others.

Thing is, we're not here for long and you don't half regret it when people leave that you din't take the time to spend more time with them.

Some of my mates reading this may be thinking "well, thanks a bunch? Not doing a good enough job are we?". NO! You are all wonderful and give me so much help and support. I don't deserve you. I guess the Fall line "He Is Not Appreciated" is running round my head and I'm not sure who I need to feel that appreciation from and why. Maybe I'd like a surprise birthday party. Maybe I'd like all my friends to meet in a pub (or, lets face it, a booth in the snug) when I'm alive rather than after my funeral. Maybe I just need a hug right now.

And I know I have it good - a roof over my head, family, plenty of things to amuse me and too many records to play so feeling this way is crap. An acquaintance of mine is facing homelessness and such hardship due to this fucking evil government and I really have nothing to complain about in comparison.

Sort yerself out, get on with it etc So get busy living or get busy dying etc. As I said, tomorrow is another day and this may not weigh as heavily on my mind as it does now but in order to alleviate my crushing depression I have to splurge this shit out. I'm just sorry you have to read it.

 If you have any insight that is just a stupid quip or joke - please, think it and then go on with your day cos if you think this is self pitying whining that shouldn't be taken seriously then I don't need to hear that.You may be right but I don't need to hear it.


 

Friday, 20 July 2012

Kick It Out Of The Park

Despite the curfew catastrophe I thoroughly enjoyed both Springsteen and Paul Simon's epic sets in Hyde Park last weekend.

However, the general disquiet about the quietness suggests that it may be time to stop concerts in the area as they are not only annoying the locals but those attending the concerts.

I attended the first Hard Rock Calling weekend in 2006 to see England go out of the World Cup on penalties to Portugal (well I read the whole of 'Vernon God Little' instead) and Roger Waters perform 'Dark Side Of The Moon' followed by The Who on the Sunday. The thing that most impressed me was the sound. Used to underpowered outside PA's the clear vocals and strong bass of the HPC weekend was a refreshing change. Its meant that I've returned to the weekends there again over the past few years.

However, this year, like the weather, it was a depressing and frustrating experience for many. I must say that for me I was close up to the PA on both nights and for Paul Simon in particular thought the sound was perhaps a little quiet but immaculate with all those players on stage. For Springsteen that was partly true but for at least the last 30 mins of the set the sound was gradually being turned down. It wasn't my imagination, I have it on tape, the sound got thinner and more tinny as the "encore" section progressed. The curfew etc has been discussed to death but even before the power was cut there was a definite fade out.

At 10:15 on a Saturday night in, I would say, the greatest capital city in the world.

This, despite all the conspiracy theories and finger pointing, was due to the licence given by Westminster Council and agreed to by the organizers - no music after 10:30 and it was 10:40. They would have got fined and possibly risked not getting a licence for gigs next year. With the amount of concerts in Hyde Park already reduced for next year the competition for places will be harder than ever. So as a musical decision it was appalling but as a business one, understandable.

The Royal Parks Department needs the concerts there to raise revenue to maintain the fine green area of Central London. the locals hate the noise and disturbance to their lives that the concerts bring. Yes, they are probably rich and have a country cottage they could slope off to. Yes it was Saturday night, they are killjoys, its rock n roll, man etc. Yet the Council are no doubt reflecting the interest of their constituents. The lack of concerts in Hyde Park may result in higher council tax bills for the residents - most may see that as fair exchange.

But turning down the sound does not serve the musicians, audience and music.

So I would suggest it would be better for all concerned if this year would be the last year that concerts were held in Hyde Park. I say that with a heavy heart as I enjoy attending gigs there. I think they are well run, well catered for and a cut above your average outdoor gig. They are relatively easy to get to and from (although Saturday night's post gig organization was an omnishambles) and the crowds often good-natured.

The question is where else to hold outdoor gigs in London where you can have a a large stage, decent sound and travel links?

Perhaps some of the Olympic venues can be utilised rather than be mothballed. Perhaps keen cyclists Kraftwerk can have a residency at the velodrome. Victoria Park has held gigs in the past perhaps the locals not being so well healed may prevent similar problems over noise levels with the council. Is the location of Hard Rock Calling simply because it is next to their flagship London restaurant?

I shall be back in Hyde Park on 12th August to see Blur \ New Order \ The Specials hold their "Thank Fuck Its Over" party as the Olympics fades into a future of Londoners paying for the bloody thing for decades to come. I just hope that the doomy bass of 'Ghost Town', the electronic pulse of 'Blue Monday'  and the crunchy fuzz of 'Song 2' is more "whoo-hoo!!!" than "what? eh? speak up!"

Its better to burn out than to fade away.....
 

  








Monday, 16 July 2012

Paul Simon: Graceland in Hyde Park



So after the rainy night before with the Boss\Macca fuck up, t'was a sunny day once Paul Simon wandered onto stage around 7.30. He has been described as a negative presence on a stage but I felt he was having a lot of fun up there. he frequently smiled, did some dad dancing and even cracked a joke at one point. Tonight he basically had two bands on hand, the band for the non Graceland material and the original band from the 1987 Graceland tour (those still with us). The talent on display was astounding.

                                                          Look, a smile!  (Photo: Reuters)

I'd had a little peak at the Dublin setlist from a couple of days before and was overjoyed to see Hearts & Bones as its a perfect song. Such a lightness of touch musically and lyrically, his performance of it was sublime. I was reminded of Carrie Fisher's comment about it - "if you ever find yourself in the position of having Paul Simon offering to write a song about you -DO IT!"

I had been disappointed that Jimmy Cliff who was billed to appear on the day seemed to have disappeared from the running order so it was a great surprise when he popped up grinning like a loon in his gold training shoes (wonder if he got them off Jimmy Saville?). 'Many Rivers To Cross' - oh boy, that was fabulous, not a sign of strain in his voice, fresh as the day he recorded it. His protest anthem 'Vietnam' sequed into 'Mother & Child Reunion' - no doubt a tip of that hat to that fact that Paul used Jimmy's backing band to record the original track.

I don't know how it made you feel the first time you heard Ladysmith Black Mombazo on the album. It was a sound unlike I'd ever heard before. The depth, the richness, the tension and spinetingling excitement of the new. Well to hear that sound reproduced live as it echoed round that park was astounding. Fuck the nosy neighbours, they should feel blessed they could hear that on a sunny Sunday evening. The dancing, the little ticks and sounds but overall the SMILES - it was infectious. They were gone all too soon.

So we then went bouncing into Graceland itself. So much to love here - 'Crazy Love II' in particular was splendid stuff, Ray Phiri's guitar work setting the pace with Bakithi Kumalo holding the groove with some fabulous bass. Hugh Masekela stepped up with a a couple of songs that linked back to the apartheid era South Africa that gave birth to the 'Graceland' album. The passion and raw emotion during 'Stimela' was astonishing

Compared to the previous night I thought the sound was excellent. You could hear the seperation of the instruments, the little fills and riffs, vocal lines and bass runs. Yet the end of the 'Graceland' set - with what else but 'You Can Call Me Al' - with all its noise and celebration was a sharp contrast tp one of the moments of the night where Paul, alone with an acoustic, performed 'The Sound Of Silence' as if it were the first time. The way he picked his way through the song, subtly playing with the melody, singing much less stridently turning the song into a hymn.

Yes the 'in the naked light I saw, ten thousand people maybe more" line made a cheer roar across the crowd and it may be corny but I got a little shiver down my spine nonetheless.

If that wasn't enough, Jerry Douglas, who had appeared earlier with Alison Krauss & Union Station, ambled out to add some eerie and yearning dobro guitar to Simon's thoughtful picking on 'The Boxer' with the massed choir in the darkness note perfect. "There's a lot of friends up here tonight...and a few out there" Simon says to a roar of approval. "No" he deadpans "I meant some of my friends over there" he says pointing to the VIP section.  *boom-tish*

Soon it was all over bringing to an end three hours of sheer bliss that went by so fast. This felt like a landmark concert for Simon and a celebration of a time and tour that he can now have perspective on as the demonstrators have gone.


Thanks to my friends for sharing such a rare sunny night under the London sky with me and for helping me cope with the crowds by simply being there.


Setlist:

Kodachrome
Gone at Last
Dazzling Blue
50 Ways to Leave Your Lover

JIMMY CLIFF   
The Harder They Come
Many Rivers to Cross
Vietnam (with Paul)
Mother & Child Reunion (with Paul)

That Was Your Mother
Hearts and Bones / Mystery Train / Wheels
Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard
Slip Slidin' Away
The Obvious Child

LADYSMITH BLACK MOMBAZO
Hello My Baby
Nomathemba
Homeless
Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes

I Know What I Know
The Boy in the Bubble
Crazy Love, Vol. II
African Sunset (with Thandiswa)
Under African Skies (with Thandiswa)
Gumboots
Graceland

HUGH MASEKELA
Bring Him Back Home (Nelson Mandela)
Stimela

You Can Call Me Al

Encore:
The Sound of Silence (solo)
The Boxer (with Jerry Douglas)
Late in the Evening
Still Crazy After All These Years

Friday, 13 July 2012

Change, my dear, and it seems not a moment too soon

So for those still watching - this Wednesday I signed my permanent contract of employment. So I am now employed for at least another 6 months. all the hard work and fighting my corner has worked.

Its very much been no news is good news for me. I have worked really hard to make myself indispensable and vital to the company. Its a company growing and increasing its profits and business areas. The tasks should get more interesting and varied over the next few months. Its all very exciting.

During this time I've had very little anxiety and it all has given me a lot of confidence and stability. I still have a lot to work on in my personal life and habits to drop but its a giant step forward/

So I am going to change my attitude to the blog a little. It will still chart my anxiety ups and downs but also will focus more on the gigs I go to, music I listen to and the like. I want it to be a little happier and forward looking.

This is also in part due to the demise of the mighty Word magazine whose own blog community has been my main home away from home for 4 years now - great people both on and offline. I posted the following video as a tribute to the place but it was also for something else.

A friend's flatmate died last week and its been very hard for me to get my head around.

I can't say that he was a friend of mine. I probably met him maybe a dozen times but he struck me as a man with a good generous heart and a real joy for life.  I have been very fortunate in that apart from my grandparents, everyone I have been close to through my life (so far *touch wood*) are still around. I think its the sudden ending of the life of someone so, well, alive that has bought me up so short, I'm a godless heathen child, I don't believe in an afterlife, this is it, this is all there is for me. So death and finality are rarely that far from my mind if I'm honest. Those long dark teatimes of the soul at 3am can be so tough.


I don't think all this will make me live each day like its my last etc but it really has reinforced in me that we never know when our or our friends time is up. We should never take our friends for granted and let little petty arguments be the last thing we say to someone. Don't just assume that your friends know what they mean to you as it will be the one thing you wish you'd said to them when they are gone. 

So I'll leave you this and wish you and yours all the best.
 
"For one day you are here, and the next you are gone
Every horse has its year and every dog its day, my son
So the only thing to feel sad about is
All the dogs and the horses you'll have to outlive
They'll be with you when you say good-bye"



Monday, 28 May 2012

5ive Gigs In Reverse : My Costello UK Tour Nights 2&3: London

These two consecutive dates suggested a more shaking up of the setlist than usual and we were not disappointed. After the standard opening rock n roll beginning, the wheel started to spin and for me, only duplicated three songs from the Birmingham main set the week before. Was thrilled to get a pair ofd songs from Imperial Bedroom including a sparky Beyond Belief. After a pair of Johnny Cash covers with amusing anecdote he introduced his brother Ronan's band 'The Bible Code Sundays' as the first special guests of the night.

The band added some pipe and whistle to excellent readings of 'American Without Tears' and 'Little Palaces' and ending with a little instrumental jig n reel. Mr Nieve made my night with his choice of piano song for the night - Shot With His Own Gun which Elvis and he performed superbly. The real surprises came in the encore when '30 Of Foot of Grunt' lead singer and sometime actor Russell Crowe joined the band for 'Trouble' ("one of my ambitions to play an Elvis song with Elvis" quipped Russ, thankfully not in his strange Robin Hood accent) and an ill advised attempt to sing like Cash on 'Folsom Prison Blues'.

                          (Photo by Neil McNab)
the real treat was to see Martin Belmont onstage with EC for the first time in 32 years when he stood in for an ill Steve Nieve. Martin appeared on Elvis' 1981 single 'From A Whisper To a Scream' and, blimey, appearing like a garden gnome, its the other vocalist on that single - Glenn Tilbrook.

                             (Photo by Neil McNab)
The rest of the encore was very much a slightly ragged romp amongst pals with a closing Peace Love & Understanding halted as Steve Nieve appeared above the band playing giant organ (missis). A right rollicking first night.

London, Royal Albert Hall, May 23rd, 2012

I Hope You're Happy Now
Heart Of The City
Mystery Dance
Radio Radio
The Stations Of The Cross/Get Ready
New Lace Sleeves
Beyond Belief
Oliver's Army
Long Honeymoon
Cry Cry Cry
I Still Miss Someone
American Without Tears
Little Palaces
Shot With His Own Gun
Watching The Detectives/Help Me
Alison
Everyday I Write The Book
Chelsea
I Want You
ENCORE
A Slow Drag With Josephine
Jimmie Standing In The Rain
Tramp The Dirt Down
Shipbuilding
Trouble
Folsom Prison Blues
From A Whisper To A Scream
Pump It Up
Peace, Love And Understanding

-----
I was flying solo the next night and looking forward to different set and guests. Right from the off I wasn't disappointed as the band blasted through 'Lipstick Vogue' and 'You Belong To Me'. No 'Heart Of the City'? Could this be a foreboding?

Jackpots were back in style tonight and I was happy gor get a big slice of, err, "Get Happy" with Falling Down, 5ive Gears, Fidelity & a mighty King Horse quickly followed by a "Time" Jackpot which led to Strict.. \ Man Out Of.. and the popular ditty by 60's hitmakers The Rolling Stones - 'Out Of Time'. Then came tonight's special guest via a fixed spin from Napoleon.

                  (Photo by Gelliant Gutfright)
The greatest singer and songwriter in England - Mr Nick Lowe ambles out to sing 'Poisoned Rose' which features on his new album and does a majestic job. He's gone after that but we know he'll be back. Steve Nieve climbs up to the grand organ for a song from Brutal Youth, an album that has been largely ignored on this tour, and his accompaniment of Elvis on 'Favourite Hour' is my highlight of the tour so far.

(Photo by Gelliant Gutfright)

The encore features a mean and moody 'National Ransom No.9' before Nick returns to run through 'Heart Of The City' and 'Peace Love & Understanding'

Simply marvellous.

London, Royal Albert Hall, May 24th, 2012

Lipstick Vogue
You Belong To Me
Mystery Dance
Radio Radio
This Year's Girl
Spooky Girlfriend
Party Girl
I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down
High Fidelity
Five Gears In Reverse
King Horse
Alison
Strict Time
Man Out Of Time
Out Of Time
The Stations Of The Cross/Get Ready
Poisoned Rose
Watching The Detectives/Help Me
Favourite Hour
Deep Dark Truthful Mirror
Shipbuilding
A Slow Drag With Josephine
Jimmie Standing In The Rain
Tramp The Dirt Down
National Ransom No.9
Oliver's Army
Beyond Belief
Purple Rain
Clubland
Pump It Up/Day Tripper
Heart Of The City
Peace, Love And Understanding


I'm certain as a lost dog pondering a signpost

Well its been an eventful couple of weeks all told what with more Costello gigs and my new job.

The first crack in my upward path was last Tuesday when my boss said he wanted a word. I was in good spirits and tbh I thought he was going to offer me a full time contract. Pride comes before a fall etc

He said that he felt that I was struggling, making too many mistakes and not cut out for the role so that was that. We'd talk again in a week but it was pretty much a done deal. I was shell shocked, I hardly took any of it in. It really hit me when I was driving home and I cried my heart out. It was as if all the things that I believed about myself in my darkest moments were true. And in big letters above all was the word FAILURE. I really didn't want to see anyone I knew as I thought they would just see the disappointment I was.

I had a couple of Costello gigs to look forward to in London (see next blog entry) and I did something that I would never have done 6 months ago. I sat down and wrote my boss an email. I had to get these thoughts out of my head, to express myself in a way I had not been able to as I was so overwhelmed.

This is some of what I wrote

---I just thought I would express a few things that I feel I didn't have a chance or was able to say yesterday. As you might have noticed I thought that I was increasingly getting more confident and at ease with the office system and producing the admin material correctly and so our discussion yesterday came as something of a shock. I thought I had ironed out my initial jitters and stumbles, that first Monday was a bit of a blur if I’m honest, and was learning well.

 ........
As you can tell, having this job means a lot to me. Just this short trial period has increased my confidence and reinvigorated me. So even, if you decide, that we can go no further I really appreciate the opportunity you have given me. The things that I have learnt and experience gained are invaluable and I only hope that you appreciate that I did what i thought was right at all times. I enjoyed my time with the company these past 6 days and found the work interesting.

I don’t expect a response to this but just wanted you to appreciate some of these things for when we speak next week -----
So that was it.

next morning after the first Costello RAH gig I picked up the phone and it was my Boss asking if I'd like to come back to work. When I got there he asked me if I had written that email which I said I had he said that he admired my commitment and passion and would take me back on til the end of the month as long as I "upped my game", which I had readily admitted I needed to.

Well that day went OK but today i made a couple of stupid, silly mistakes. they weren't big things - a wrong phone number here, a misspelt name there but enough to just rattle my confidence. I felt under pressure from my own perfectionism. So I sat down with my boss toward the end of the day and said that I thought I was wasting his time. We had a chat and he asked if there was anything I'd like to tell him that he could help me with.

So I told him about my panic attacks. I explained a little and it turns out he has a relative who has just completed a doctorate in psychology, he didn't toss me out of the office, or castigate me for not telling him these things at interview. He assured me that the mistakes that I made were little things and that I should just stay calm and be a little more organised. He felt that I had been treading on eggshells and nervous cos I was "on trial". And so as far as he was concerned that was over. he would be offering me a temporary 6 month contact on Thursday.

However we both agreed that I had to be sure that i wanted and could cope with the job. He'd rather I told him tomorrow if I don't want to do it than about a weeks tiem when there won't be time to get someone else in the role.

And I want to do it, I really do, I mean its a job ffs and it could lead to bigger things. He's taking a risk despite everything and giving me the opportunity to prove to myself that I can do this

So thats why I am, a little lost, confused, keen not to let anyone down and in need of advice and \or  a good kick up the arse

.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

5 Gigs In Reverse: My Costello UK Tour: Night 1 in Birmingham

I've always had this deep sense of resentment and loss in my heart that I was not old or wise enough to see Elvis & the A's 1986 Spinning Songbook tour which took a simple idea that shook up the often dull and predictable live rock gig. No-one has tried it since.

I always promised myself that if Elvis toured it again I would go to as many as I could. So when "The Revolver Tour" started to roll last year I hoped i wouldn't have to make the trip across the pond just to see it. So when he announced UK dates I went for broke (almost) and booked up for five.

Since I'd booked the tickets I'd gone and got myself a proper job and the 1st gig fell on my 2nd day at work. So I was a bit tired as I drove through the wind and rain on the M40 up to the Birmingham Symphony Hall. A truly great venue with excellent sound and I've seen some great Costello shows there

Walking into the hall and seeing that wheel towering over the stage was quite a moment
as the PA played circus muzak version of EC hits and songs from the shows.



At the appointed time on the ticket the lights went down as the band strolled on but with a "He's a fine figure of man and handsome too" the lights were up and we were off for a initial flurry of rock n roll songs - the only part of the  set that was on the map. After a punchy "Radio Radio" EC picked up his cane, donned his top hat and MR NAPOLEON DYNAMITE (he was around waaaayyy before the film) was our host for the night. Its hard to imagine the snarling avenging nerd of 77 being a slightly camp all round entertainer with a fine line in scripted and impromptu patter.

His dancers\assistants for the evening were responsible for bringing people 'from their seats in the stalls to their place in the stars". After their spins the guests could sit in the bar or dance in the go-go cage with one of the nubile young ladies or at one point with EC playing his guitar.

The wheel was very fond of jackpots tonight which meant a string of songs so the show flowed in a way that more spinners choosing individual songs would have broken up. This meant that a couple of spinner were sitting up on the stage for six songs. A couple of punters tested their strength with the 'Hammer Of Songs'



with a ring of the bell meaning a free pick from the wheel.

Personal highlights were, as ever, 'I Want You' with Steve Nieve playing a harpsichord part from the Beatles song of the same name as the stage was drenched in blood red light. The intimacy and claustrophobia of the original recording really came across in this live arrangement.

'Tramp the Dirt Down' is sadly as relevant today as it was when EC first sang it. the bogeyman may have changed but the anger against a heartless and careless government still holds true. The Imposters gave the song a stately weight that an acoustic version would have missed.

Napoleon came and sat across the aisle from me to sing randy Newman's 'I've Been Wrong Before' and I loved the ukulele intro to the encore. I don't think I've heard Steve play 'Shipbuilding' better and Elvis was on top voice all night 

Three hours later with the clock on the wall saying it was quitting time the band had the place on their feet for 'Peace Love & Understanding'.

Can I do it again please, Daddy? Yep on Wednesday night at the Albert Hall.....

Birmingham, England
May 15th, 2012

I Hope You're Happy Now
Heart Of The City
Mystery Dance
Radio Radio

THE SPECTACULAR SPINNING SONGBOOK

"JOANNA" JACKPOT
Talking In The Dark
She

"NUMBERS" JACKPOT
Less Than Zero
Two Little HItlers
My Three Sons
So Like Candy
Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood

"GIRL" JACKPOT
This Year's Girl
Party Girl
Girls Talk

"KINGS RANSOM" JACKPOT
Poisoned Rose
Suit Of Lights
All These Strangers

"THE HAMMER OF SONGS"
Motel Matches
Bedlam
No Particular Place To Go
I've Been Wrong Before

"BEAUTY & BEAST" JACKPOT
All This Useless Beauty
Rocking Horse Road
King Horse
I Want You

ENCORE:
A Slow Drag With Josephine
Who's The Meanest Girl In Town, Josephine
Jimmie Standing In The Rain
Tramp The Dirt Down
Oliver's Army
Shipbuilding
Watching The Detectives
Chelsea
Peace, Love And Understanding

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Welcome To the Working Week

"I know it don't thrill ya / I hope it don't kill ya"

Me too, Elvis, me too

Surprisingly I had very little anxiety on my drive over to start my new job last Monday. The sky may have been dark and rain constant but I was more nervously excited than anything else. Am starting a two week trial which I am amazed that I have in the first place.

Mondays in any business are busy busy busy and this day was no exception. In the morning i got to grips with the office computer systems and observed one of my new colleagues taking orders over the phone. My stomach was in a bit of a knot and was still pretty tied up over lunch. In the afternoon I started to take some of those orders over the phone and my brain just went into panic mode. Not panic attack mode but "what the bloody hell am I supposed to be doing?" mode. Somehow I stumbled through the afternoon and when I got home my head was just hammering with all the concentration, frustration and stress. I couldn't see me being able to do this every day. Every time that phone rand my heart went into my mouth and my brain went in neutral

Day 2 and I decided to make a list of the info I needed from customers so I could methodically go through it when answering the phone and not make any errors. I have never been much good with the phone if I'm honest - hate ringing up for things, call centres and the like. Well this was very much in at the deep end, sink or swim time. All my calls up to this point were on speakerphone so my boss could hear what I and the customer were saying in case I got things wrong. He didn't say this but it was clear that was the reason. Unfortunately the shitiness of all "speakerphones" meant I often found it hard to decipher the shrill squawk on the other end of the line. However as the day wore on I got more confident and by days end I was far more relaxed about it all. I even had to chase up some debts at once point and dealt with that very well indeed.

Despite a late night out - see upcoming gig post - I was feeling quite bright and keen on Day 3 and from then on it went fairly well. A few errors here and there but the learning curve was getting less steep. I had worked out my ways of dealing with my lack of product knowledge by keeping details close at hand and not letting customers rush and confuse me.

All in all my first week was a success. I think I impressed on my boss that I knew what I was doing, can adapt and learn quickly and cope with the pressure. At weeks end I did a bit of work on the website and the opportunity to help build and develop that arm of the business I find intriguing and exciting.

And my anxiety. Well it never really reared its ugly head. I guess I very rarely had time to stop and think as I was so busy but even when I had a job last year both to and from work I sometimes had really bad attacks. This time, nothing so far

On my day off I visited a lovely old bloke as part of my voluntary work and I discovered that his phone had been dead for three days due to a local fault. I noticed that he was wearing a pendant alarm and discovered that this naturally runs via the phone. Therefore if he had fallen in the past three days then the button and alarm would not have worked. I checked online and found that BT had the job as "completed by 5pm next Tuesday". A quick call to BT and within 90 mins the phone was fixed and they checked his alarm was working too.

The thing is that I was so much more confident, organised and relaxed dealing with that situation. This week of a proper paid and responsible job has already started to change the way I deal with things.

I hope that I do well this week and sign a full contract. This could be where it starts to get good. .

Saturday, 5 May 2012

I was looking for a job and then I found a job....

and heaven knows, that was one weird day

So yesterday i was awoken by a Tardis landing. Not unusual as that happens when my phone rings. Through my dozy head I let it go to voicemail. Then my proper land-line rang so I reached out a claw and answered.

It was some bloke asking about a job vacancy I had applied for and eventually could I come in for an interview at 3pm. I  mumbled yes and then hung up. My body wanted more sleep but my brain was asking "which of the many jobs that you threw a CV at 11pm last night was that?". Found the details and after first thinking I'd applied for something the other side of London I started worrying and had a look at the company website.

Now interviews are a strange thing. I've not done many and I have a pretty high strike rate of late (two for three if you're wondering) but they rarely worry me in the way that regular life does. I think its because I see job interviews as playing  a part. I feel that you are acting the role of "the ideal candidate" so the person being judged is not you but the version of you that you're trying to present.

This one I was fairly shaken by, I suppose cos I wasn't mentally prepared for it. But I put on some appropriately soothing music (Gillian Welch) and drove to my doom. The interview was quite tough, I was asked some questions that weren't that easy to answer without some hands on info but I blustered through them and tried to put how I could do the job. I walked out thinking I had done okay but no idea if I had said the right things

I was due in London in the evening for a meet up with friends so I stopped at the motorway services to change. And of course to get some chocolate to steady my jangled nerves. Whilst I was trying to decide - went for a couple of Twirls in the end - and my mobile went. It was the bloke I had just spent an hour being interrogated by. "Blimey" I thought, "that was quick. They've decided against me already". But I was bloody shocked to hear him saying I had the job.

So yesterday within 7 hours I was informed of a job interview, had said interview and got a job that they guy had been interviewing for all week. I was the last one and got it. The evening out in London was bloody marvellous as usual but I was still a bit shell-shocked if I was honest.

Now if you've been following this blog then you'll know that less than 5 months ago i was pretty down as low as I've been for a long while. So to get from there to here is nothing short of a bloody miracle in my eyes. Now I'm only on a 2 week trial and it could all crumble but right now- its been a  helluva boost.
So I would like to thank all my friends in the online and meat world for supporting me so doggedly particularly of late. I would not be where I am today without you. Just a kind text\mail\message can make all the difference on the good and bad days. Its really been a transforming time and its not over yet.

Now if anyone has any advice on Internet ,marketing, let me have it!


Saturday, 14 April 2012

Yesterday my life was in ruins \ Now today I know what I'm doing

Its been a while since my last post. That's not because things have been going badly but rather that I've just been trying to get out in the world and get on with things and try to forget that I have anxiety that I feel the need to write about.

It hasn't been all plain sailing and there aren't moments where I still hate myself doe the way I make myself feel but there really is nothing that I have failed or backed away from. I have been continuing to try and take the train when I feel it is needed. I have gone to a couple of gigs and deliberately chosen seats in the middle of rows so as to try and break my habit of always sitting on the aisle.

This week was a bit of a milestone as I finished by course of CBT by mutual consent. Its taught me a lot and saved me from a real tailspin I was in at the beginning of the year. Its given me tools to combat my anxiety which I will probably use for the rest of my life. It may just be the power of positive thought but it works for me.

I still am trying to adjust to things - sometimes facing up to things I fear is very tiring and when I get tired I get very emotional. A couple of times recently that's spilt over onto Twitter and people have been concerned which is very sweet but there's no need to worry. A "chin up old son" message is very much appreciated however. I often wish I had someone to go through these battles with me but I realise I don't need anyone to physically hold my hand but the support and help I've got in person and with messages has helped in ways you can't imagine.

So this week when I finished my CBT I took a short trip on a train to do some shopping. had a bit of emergency dental work, went to a screening at the NFT which I travelled to by train both ways, including a detour to Camden, I went to a gig last night and was at the very front of a large crowded room with no "escape routes". On all these occasions my anxiety didn't make me change my plans, bottle out, back down or feel like a failure.

All this doesn't mean that I don't still hate being at the centre of large crowds, that train travel still makes me nervous, that I don't get claustrophobic sometimes and that I don't have those moments of doubt. I still have pretty low self esteem but I take much more comfort in the friendships I have than I do before. I think I'm always going to have to work hard on making sure that my life continues to expand rather than shrink.

But I think that right now I'm doing alright






Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Don't start me talkin' / I could talk all night

So this week I've started on this scheme that our council is running in conjunction with one of the charities I volunteer for. Basically its a form of volunteer agency where local groups in need can come for help. To be honest I'm still a bit unsure about it. It appears to me that some of the activities that people are being asked to do are things that local authorities usually pay people to do but with the cuts.....

You indicate online how many hours you can spare a week and when and those in need are matched to you. So this week was the scheme and my first assignment. Obviously I'll talk generally about this as it would be wrong to go into too much detail.

My first assignment was to help a guy, recently confined to a wheelchair and with limited upper body movement to set up his laptop so he could run a net connection via his I-phone. Pretty straightforward stuff but due to a confusing phone it took  a little longer.

The thing is that wasn't really why I was there - the details of the assignment mentioned "befriending" which boils down to a cup o' tea and a chat. This I was a bit apprehensive about. Cos it could be a horribly stilted and uncomfortable affair. Would we just end up talking about how he ended up in a chair? Would we have any common ground to discuss.

However I think i struck lucky - I spent an hour longer there than I was assigned to just rabbiting away. The guy was a fellow music nut and we just talked and talked and talked about music and bands. Some I'd never heard of, some I knew the name of and some I was a big fan of.  I think he was quite surprised that I knew some of the bands he was mentioning. OK I'm not that familiar with Bees Make Honey or guitarists from Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias but I could throw in some names and references. Gigs at Olympia in 70's with ver Quo, Barclay James Harvest may not be on my "gigs I wish I'd seen" list but it was great to share someones enthusiasm.

At the end I said I'd be pleased to come up again and help him with some other stuff. I'd helped with his email, facebook etc so hopefully that will help him get in touch with people. he'd only just moved into this sheltered accommodation flat complex so hopefully i made him feel a little more settled.

Checked in with the agency later in the day and they said they'd heard from him and his care worker than he was delighted with how it had all gone and would like me to go up there next week for some other tech stuff and music chat.

It feels good to have made a real difference to someone whose life can be very isolated and hard to adjust to. Through the scheme you don't get paid but you get points that add up to free cinema tickets, swimming, cheap meals and the like. As I said, I have mixed emotions as I believe that this may be taking up the slack that has been caused by the deep cuts in social and health services. However - who is going to do it if no one volunteers? I hate to think of guys like this alone and isolated from "the big society" that is supposed to care so much for them in these times of austerity.

People seem to think that the only way to fight these cuts is to pitch a tent in London, put on a V for Vendetta mask and eat mung bean salad. Which is all good but all you cosy liberals can practically help those in need right now by putting down the spliff and getting off your arse. The Tories may have abandoned the sick, the disabled and the helpless but it doesn't mean we should. If you have the spare time, be it just a couple of hours a week, seek out your local charities and see if you can help. It can make all the difference to someones life.

and to be very selfish - all the time I was spending time helping someone else - I never once had any anxiety.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

What a difference a day makes

To all my fine fine friends



Sitting down on the steps at the old post office
The flag was flying at half-mast
And i was thinking' bout how everyone is dying
And maybe it's time to live

I don't know where we're going
I don't know what we'll do

And maybe it's time to live

Thursday, 8 March 2012

You know what hope is?

Hope is a bastard
Hope is a liar
A Cheat and a tease
Hope comes near you
Kick its backside
Got no place in days like these

Its one of those days when I feel useless, ugly, stupid, used, fat, pathetic, hopeless, lonely, friendless, scared, weak, wrong, aimless, wasted, battered, broken, sad, betrayed, tired, needy, jealous, loveless, nasty, strange, evil, selfish, cold, bruised, lost and generally don't want to be here

Ignore me, I'll feel better tomorrow

Thursday, 1 March 2012

I could hide neath the wings of the bluebird as she sings

Its been a while since my last post and that doesn't mean that I have been slacking off or things have been going bad.

To be honest I have been trying to act as much as possible that I don't have a problem. Rather than treating things like train journeys, gigs and social phobia  as special challenges I am trying to make them seem as normal as I can. Part of the anxiety is the antici....pation which bubbles away beneath the surface. So if I have a gig or similar in the evening then I will be clock watching and getting more nervous. With a gig I had in reading last week I tried to avoid that. Wasn't easy as I had to keep an eye on the time as I was meeting someone before travelling but I used that as part of the attempt not to get wound up

As a result I was very relaxed and okay with everything - probably the most relaxed I have been at  a gig since I had flu, got dosed up on Pro Plus and went to see Starsailor at the Astoria. I was high as a kite and it was brilliant gig. Those two things may have been linked.

So thanks for your continued support I have a busy couple of weeks of anxiety hot spots coming up so will write more after those (setbacks permitting) . Life ain't rosy but its brighter than it has been for a long while.

Friday, 17 February 2012

I wish that for just one time, You could stand inside my shoes



But in these shoes? I don't think so..

So I did the train trip up to London thing on Thursday - look I have a picture to prove it



And I thought it would be helpful to sort of piece together what my thoughts were like on that journey so you can get an idea of how my anxiety effects something that other people do without  a thought. It also gives me a chance to see how I behave and how my mind (sort of) works

So I was planning to go up on Wednesday but because the cold I had was weighing heavy on my chest it gave me anxiety like symptoms so I bottled it. It'd be like giving myself extra problems to deal with. So I decided to wait for it to clear up. Luckily by Thursday it had buggered off

Unlike the time before when I travelled up this wasn't on the spur of the moment so my brain had time to start getting nervous about it the night before, And in the morning, nothing serious but just a low level background hum of tension.

So got to the station, the train was already there so had no time to think and was on. Put on ipod and latched onto Spiritualized 'Ladies & Gents' LP which starts soothing and then gets loud and epic. Feeling a bit nervous, have to think about what my inner "chatterbox" is doing and how its making me feel. Runs along the lines of

"what-are-you-doing-youre-not-gonna-be-able-to-cope-if-something-goes-wrong-like-what?-like-heart-attack-or-its-anxiety-you-fucking-twat-its-ok-i-can-getup-and-pretend-to-faint-as-people-will-look-after-me-thats-pathetic-yes-but-iwon't-feel-so-alone-with-this-but-that-will-be-terrible-and-you'll-never-do-this-again-thats-true-and-besides-there-is-nothing-anyone-can-do-i'd-just-have-to-calm-down-myself-
its-all-me-just-doing-it-to-myself-yes-radiohead-very-clever-you-idiot-ok-breathing-get-it-under-control-well-whats-normal-breathing-usually-i-just-do-it-i'm-not-thinking-about-how-long-it-takes-between-breaths-do-i?!"

Go and sit by the train toilet in case I have to go in there to 'not vomit' (cos it never happens for me during PA's) or if I want to hide if it all gets too much. Feel a little better and try positive thoughts, (its a thought not a fact,, its a thought not a fact,, its a thought not a fact) and looking out at the industrial wastelands around Slough. Hate the fact that trains are such sterile airless tubes these days and that opening a window is akin to child abuse. Still, try and let the music and things around me distract me. I find I can't read cos a) it seems like I'm doing some purposeful DISTRACTION so my brain revolts  and b) cos it makes me a little travel sick. Tweet a couple of things but that also makes me feel weird. Still I feel more distracted and calmer. Several times I just have to take deep breaths and relax. That low level tension never leaves but this experience is nowhere near as bad as last time. If last time was an 8 this was about a 3

We reach Paddington and the tube to Camden and back was an absolute breeze. I think my Ipod helped. Instead of just calming music I had it on random. I found myself doing some "secret dancing" (fans of Collings and Herrin will know what I mean) particularly to a good run of Motown and Northern Soul.

Before long I was back at Paddington for the home straight. Was about 3pm and I thought "hmm, not eaten today, maybe I should try something" so got a sandwich from Whistlestop (hilarious) and found my train. It wasn't until we were about 5 mins in that I took a couple of bites of sandwich. After feeling OK for ten minutes, had a couple more bites. Uh oh, feeling weird about this, anxiety rising, its a thought not a fact,  its a thought not a fact, its a thought not a fact,its a thought not a fact,its a thought not a fact,its a thought not a fact,its a thought not a fact,its a thought not a fact,its a thought not a fact,its a thought not a fact,its a thought not a fact,its a thought not a fact,its a thought not a fact,its a thought not a fact,its a thought not a fact,its a thought not a fact,its a thought not a fact,its a thought not a fact,its a thought not a fact, feeling better. Manage to get back to as normal as I can and finish off one sandwich just as I arrive back at home station.

Overall that trip was much easier than before and this is the key. I've got to keep doing these things until they no longer hold that fear for me. Of course I have to address my fear of eating\drinking then travelling but one step at a time and I did a bit of that already. I think now I have to apply these methods to other parts of my life and raise my general self worth and confidence.

So I feel I'm working at things. I'm aiming to add a couple of things to my life over the next couple of weeks that will shake up my routine. It would be nice if I could find a job but I'm not alone with that one by any means.

Onwards and upwards.....

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Whilst shivering in my shoes, I'll strike a careless pose

This shall be my theme tune for tomorrow.


Thanks for all the good wishes and messages today people.

I cried the other night, I can't even say why

I don't think that I've had a day as bad as today in a long time. And it wasn't my anxiety, that was fine. I didn't really do much so there wasn't much to get nervous about.

I've just had this feeling of complete despair, tiredness, loneliness and sheer bloody sadness all day. I think part of it is what I've been up to recently, changing the way I live, trying to push myself and beat my demons. The highs are great but the lows seem a lot deeper than I'm used to. Therapy does tend to mix you up a bit like this - you have to taked the good with the bad.

Its just a feeling that i don't belong anywhere, that I don't matter, that I'm a failure - and its not suicidal or anything like that, its just a helplessness. If only I drank or did some drugs I could escape for a while. I think the CBT has made me realise how different my life could become but how far I feel from that point that it might as well not exist

I wish i was stronger, better, smarter and.....just able to see what others see to like in me cos I just can't see it. Its so fucking hard to get rid of years of self doubt and this is the sort of whiny self pitying shite that I didn't want to write here. It just opens me up to all the ridicule and hateful thoughts that I pour on myself day upon day. And I don't blame anyone for thinking that I'm pathetic - cos I agree.

Thing is tomorrow I'm going to go out into the world and give all those demons a good kicking but right now I am so low down and scared on my own. I just wish today hadn't happened at all.

God I know I'm going to regret writing this tomorrow.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

People just ain't no good, i think thats well understood

Or so I have thought for a long time.

I guess it all goes back to my first real girlfriend and my anxiety that was in its first terrifying phase. She was very chilled, laid back and confident. I was anything but. We muddled along but it soon became clear that she neither wanted or found it possible to understand what I was going through. We were both in our late teens so looking back I don't blame her. "Panic attacks" were an alien thing to most GPs let alone spods like me.

However I think this had a critical effect on how I lived my life and still do despite recent leaps and bounds. I hid my anxiety away from people as much as I could as I thought they wouldn't want to know me anymore. Like she did.

So this past year has really smacked me round the head with revelations. I have met more people and made more genuine friends in 2011 than I have in years. And as you can see I have laid all this stuff out in front of them.

And to a man\woman they have all been supportive, interested and I must say i really didn't expect that. And that's no indicator of how I regard my friends and colleagues NOW its more a reflection of how people from my past have. And of course both friends new and old are learning about this at the same time. A couple of people who I only met last year were totally floored by this blog as they didn't see their experience of meeting me in what was going on under my skin.

And now I'm grateful for friends looking out for me when I'm out and about in town. Not in an annoying way but just to let me know that they are there if I need them. They want me to do well, to feel better, to lose some of the fear but if I feel bad then they are with me. Its an unfamiliar but happy place I find myself in atm.

I've been doing really well anxiety wise. Went and saw The Ladykillers again and was absolutely fine (again if you haven't seen it - GO! before it disappears) was very relaxed and chilled. Been on the underground and despite getting a bit lost in the Northern line spaghetti around Kings Cross and Euston I took it in my stride. I hope to add and improve on this over the coming weeks.

So to all my pals, I appreciate you more than I have before, I hope I'm less cynical and open about people - well maybe. And if you know someone that you haven't called in a while cos of work, stress and other bullshit that piles up - pick up the phone, get out there and do it. 

I think that until recently i couldn't see myself having a serious relationship with anyone again cos of all this bullshit in my head. Slowly I'm appreciating that might not be the case.

Monday, 6 February 2012

DFB's DISCS No.1: The Cruisin' Series 1955-1970

Well I thought I'd post something non therapy so here's the first of my informational musical postings

DFB's DISCS No.1: The Cruisin' Series 1955-1970 (on CD\cassette\vinyl)



Imagine if you will a machine that could pick up radio signals from the past. And you could tune it into classic US radio shows to get the sound you'd have heard riding along in your automobile, going to pick up your best girl and hot foot it to the hop across town

Well we can dream. However there is a great series of albums that can give you some of that. The 'Cruisin' series from 1995-1970 give you a slice of a radio show from a US city. You get about 45 minutes of classic tracks, adverts, film trailers, DJ chatter and nonsense. It took the UK more than a decade to even catch up to music radio this exciting and alive.




A particular favourite of mine in the 1965 edition with Robert W Morgan from "Boss Radio" KHJ in Los Angeles. The USA is in the grip of Beatlemania and a caller has to chant "yeah yeah yeah" to win a competition in their special Beatles promotion for the week. There is whole different language going on here with 'Magic Key' times, "Boss Angeles", The Real Don Steele and ads for Laramie cigarettes. The songs are often familiar as your own family but in context of a show they have an added vibrancy



As you may have noticed the albums have these great comic strip covers which chart the lives of Eddie & Peggy through the years with comments on the news and events of the time. They have a rough time through the sixties but as you see Peg ends up barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen in the end. What girl could ask for more? A career you say? Hey baby, that's cute, hows that pie coming along?

There is a detailed page about The Cruisin' series here http://leemichaelwithers.tripod.com/cruisin.htm

Beware - a company is putting out basic rock n roll comps with similar covers, no DJ stuff so avoid them

Have the complete series on CD but am always on the lookout for vinyl copies. Have 1958 & 1960 so if you see any others then lmk!