Monday, March 31, 2008

The A-Z of Divinyl-ness... (aka Alphabet Meme)

I was tagged in a meme recently by Canuck Chick, aka Bamboo Blitz and, let's face it, I am rubbish/lazy/preoccupied/delete as appropriate* lately, therefore I have decided to wimp out and simply repost something from my pre-Blogger days (although I did migrate it over here with me, so it comes straight from way back in my archive somewhere). Well, it fits the bill..! I shall not tag anyone directly, but feel free to meme away...the original meme asks for one fact about yourself for each letter of the alphabet!

Atheist. Ambition. Something I wish I had more of! (The) Arena…the place of my misspent youth (well mid-teen years anyway!). Albert Herbert Hawkins: The Naughtiest Boy in the World...was one of my favourite books...all about spacemen being scared of mice...what could be better? (The Beast in the Bathtub is also worth checking out!).

Boobies. Yes, they are rather large. No I didn't have them surgically enhanced for your viewing pleasure, so you can stop looking now, my face is up here! (See also 'jubblies'). Boudoir (by Vivienne Westwood)…my 'signature scent'. Blonde…something which (as I have got older) I am no longer…which is also kind of true of blue-eyed.

Creative. At times. Colour co-ordinated. It's important! Caring…according to Gil who, when I asked her about this blog, immediately said I was "Kind, caring, sensitive"…I don't think she really got that it wasn't a 'big myself up' kind of blog…but I'm including it here anyway, simply because Gil is fit! Coca Cola…way superior in taste to Diet Coke, however it does leave your mouth feeling like something's died in it. It's a tough one. Canada…is somewhere I want to go (and I have new 'relatives' in Calgary…and had a penpal in Quebec as a child). Celibate. I might as well be!

Dancing. Or not, as the case may be. Something which is, to me, extremely scary and awkward, and which should be avoided at all costs! Dresses…yes, I do wear them…people never believe me until they've seen it with their own eyes. Possibly because I also own dungarees (I like them…sod the stereotypes!). Dreamer (rather than doer). Dual nationality…lucky me eh?

Enthusiastic…often rather hyperactively so. Edible. There's a cheese with the same name as me (minds out of the gutter please!). Elvis…surely the most beautiful man ever (although Marlon Brando was sometimes pretty hot too!).

Fuller-figured…or maybe even (gasp!) FAT! Fag hag…most of my friends are gay men. It just happened that way. Can you be a fag hag if you yourself are of a somewhat bendy persuasion? Football bores me rigid (as do most other sports). Future. Something of which I am unable to conceive (this links in with 'ambition'!).

Gateshead. Well, it's where I live. Also gin…is rather smashing :o) Goats' cheese…actually, also gherkins…food I love! Geek…we rule! Gigs.

Horizon. My favourite concept when playing 'I Spy' as a child…unfortunately this meant that it was always rather easy to guess what I had spotted…it was either that or 'tree'! Also horizons (plural)…something I was very fortunate to have been provided with growing up, and Horizons, a group I worked for as a volunteer in my time at uni. Homo…wner.

Indescribable…seriously, why am I bothering? Indiscreet (at times…see also 'loud'!). Indecisive. Individual (see 'U'). iPod…the best invention ever? Certainly the best Christmas present I have ever had.

Journalist. Something I would love to be (of the print variety…ideally a critic) should I have any of the requisite drive or motivation. Jubblies (as per 'boobies'). Joanna. It's my middle name. Junior VIP (or UM)...British Midlands frequent flier when I was only wee.

Kitsch…a great word and a great home decorating scheme! Kissing. A wonderful pastime…and I have been told (lots of times!) that I am rather good at it, thank you very much ;o)

Loud…for this is the word that is most often used to describe me. Laugh. I am frequently told I have a dirty one. Lazy…yes, I admit it. Lori…in which case, 'L' also stands for (blummin') long story. Labels…none of them fit me very well (I'm not talking clothes, I'm talking being put into nice little discrete boxes).

MUSIC!! Is life. Also Middlesbrough, for that is where me roots are, mon. And minky…tee hee. Mushrooms. Are truly evil things…bleurch! Misfit. Well, it has to be acknowledged. Messy! Mature…yeah, right! Mud, mud glorious possibly the first song I learnt to sing...although it may have been It's A Long Way to Tipperary or Be Bop A dad's not quite sure and I certainly don't remember.

New Zealand. The place of my birth, and the origin of my first name. Also Northern…something which I was known for being in my time at sixth form college, due to relocating to Hampshire from Teesside and being something of an anomaly. Needles (as in syringes)…absolutely petrify me :o( (It's called trypanophobia). Noses…I love a good, unusual nose.

Obstreperous. Just because it's a jolly smashing word and reminds me of a jolly smashing friend. Onomatopoeia…a great concept, in a word that is spelt horribly (see 'vowels'). Oldies…but goldies (this could go for my musical or romantic preferences!).

Photography. Is fun (except for when I am the subject). Perfume…is a great book, in my humble opinion. Pal Ben would, I reckon, be a good name for a band (well, better than Red Leather anyway…as my friend Kate and I were called as children singing for pennies in her front yard!). Portrait of A Legend…my Desert Island Disc. Plucking…I am addicted to my tweezers…unhealthily so. Piercings. I have two, despite the aforementioned trypanophobia (go figure). Paul Simon…one of my favourite recording artists. Pubs…beat clubs every time.

Queer. Well what else begins with 'Q'? Queuing, just because I'm British? Erm…Queen Latifah? She's hot! Qi…is a jolly useful word to know when playing Scrabble.

Riki Pickle. My dad used to call me this (basically because it sounds a very little bit like my actual name I think). Red wine…yum yum, yes please! Reflective observer (and abstract conceptualiser)…my dominant learning style(s). Roland Rat...important to my childhood for so many reasons!

Singer. Something else I would love to be (see 'journalist')…if I was brave enough and, erm, could sing consistently in tune! San Francisco…the place I lost my heart…fnar. Stars…are my favourite shape. Spendthrift…I am so rubbish with money. Which brings us neatly onto shoes…love them, love them, love them…especially trainers. Stentorian (look it up). Shy…no, really. Scrabble. Split ends…I am lazy about getting around to having my hair cut. Sabre...was my Auntie's dog when I was a kid...even when he got really old he used to climb the stairs so that he could sleep by my bed. One of the best friends I ever had. Sixties Mania 2. My favourite tape in the car aged dad would get sooooooo sick of it! Sam :o(

Taurean. Well, I am. That's all there is to say about that really. Touc…a nickname I tried to create for myself as a kid (this never really works)…simply because I'd never had a proper one. Tapestry…possibly my favourite album. Tabitha. Was the name of the cat I had at my Auntie's house when I was young…she was named after the little girl in Bewitched…and was my muse in winning a Bellamy's Bugle Pet Poetry Competition (one of the very few things I have ever won!). Tartan Asia Extreme…have released some super films. Tokyo. Is somewhere I would love to visit.

Unusual…I have been referred to as 'special' in the past, which perhaps is not so great…particularly when it's your friends saying it! But "Nice…different…unusual" is ok. Definitely unique. Ditto unforgettable. "Umb-er-ella…ella…ella" is a truly pants song, yet still made it to the top of the charts! I despair.

Vowels. I have a thing about vowels being all up next to each other in spelling a word…they make horrid sounds when you have to say them out loud. Example words are moist, poignant, the name Phoebe…and the way onomatopoeia is spelt is like this too. Vinyl. As in LPs. Vegetarian…mostly (chicken's a vegetable right?). Verbose (this will not come as any great shock!).

Walrus. Because, as a wee little snip of a peep, I had an alphabet book where 'W' stood for 'Walrus' and I used to point it out convinced that it was a picture of my Uncle Mike! Yes, these good looks are hereditary ;o) Water…drinking it, swimming in it, listening to it run, looking out at it (in sea form). Walkers' cheese and onion crisps. Wellington Hospital…the more specific place of my birth (see 'New Zealand'). Words…are brilliant and I am a little bit obsessed with them.

XX. Is my chromosomal make-up…at least as far as I am aware (see also 'boobies'!). Xmas…comes but once a year…and is a totally unnecessary way of shorthand-ing Christmas. "Xanadu…ooo…hey, Xanadu!" (well, 'X' is a rather difficult one!).

Yodelling. Well, not really…I just thought it would be an amusing thing to put! Yan tan tether nether pim…yan dick, tan dick, tether dick, nether dick etc. This is how Cumbrians count sheep…what a bloody useless piece of knowledge! Yonder…I word I recently decided that I would try to use more frequently. Yorkshire…a place I am not from, so quit telling me I sound like I am!

Zaftig…hell yeah baby! Zami (see 'queer'). Zzzzzzzzzzzz…and that's your lot! :o) I'm off for a snooze now.

My life in song...with a little help from Elvis Costello!

I was over at Zen's page recently and saw a post that really caught my interest; she, in turn, had got the idea from The Notorious J*O*E. The basic idea is that there are 25 questions, which you have to answer using the song titles in one band's/artist's/songwriter's back catalogue.
I've been through a few before coming to rest with Elvis Costello...first there was Kristin Hersh and Throwing Muses (predominantly one word titles, which made the task somewhat difficult!), then I tried Pixies, then Paul Simon, but none quite seemed to fit the bill. In the case of Mr McManus, I had a hard time whittling it down to one answer per question! Well, what were brackets invented for if not me and my verbosity?
And so, to the challenge...

1. Are you a male or female?


2. Describe yourself.

Hidden Charms (decided against Worthless Thing, as it is a long time since I have been a teenager!).

3. Describe your day.

Sittin' and Thinkin'.

4. Describe where you currently live.

This Town.

5. If you could go anywhere, where would you go?

Chelsea (I Don't Want To Go To), Black Sails In the Sunset methinks (less obvious than Living In Paradise!).

6. Your best friend is...

The Invisible Man.

7. Your favourite colour is...

When Green Eyes Turn Blue.

8. You know that...

Imagination Is A Powerful Deceiver.

9. What's the weather like?

The Other Side of Summer.

10. If your life was a television show, what would it be called?

The Imposter (or perhaps Everyday I Write the Book).

11. What is life to you?

This Sad Burlesque (also considered: Brilliant Mistake, Dear Sweet Filthy World, God's Comic, All This Useless Beauty and Monkey To Man).

12. What is the best advice you have to give?

Tiny Steps (although this only just won out over Peace, Love and Understanding and Don't Look Back. Or how about Put Your Big Toe In the Milk of Human Kindness?).

13. Describe your ex.

Battered Old Bird. Ha ha! No, that's about Accidents Will Happen? Or I Hope You're Happy Now? (The latter sounds quite threatening typed here, but I intended it in a nice way, honest).

14. Your current relationship status?

No Action (I wished I could have used Getting Mighty Crowded!).

15. What's your favourite hobby?

Pretty Words (Turning the Town Red would've been a good answer, but it wouldn't really have been true).

16. When you think of your friends...

Running Out of Angels (or Lip Service).

17. What do your friends think of you?

Mouth Almighty (or perhaps even Too Far Gone).

18. What does your current love interest think of you?

Honey Are You Straight Or Are You Blind (maybe also God Give Me Strength!).

19. You always travel with?

Radio Radio.

20. The best way to end a long day?

Sleep of the Just (although Howling At the Moon, Talking In the Dark, Human Touch, Sweet Dreams, and simply Sleep could all have worked too).

21. Your occupation is?

Coal Train Robberies...well, ok, not really, but nor is it Shipbuilding or King of Thieves.

22. When you grow up, you want to?

[Have a] Seven Day Weekend! (This is, at least, less melancholic than my initially chosen title of I Want To Vanish!).

23. What does your family think of you?

Distorted Angel...or simply Big Sister.

24. Your favourite food is?

Chewing Gum.

25. You want to be remembered as?

Beyond Belief.

That was rather fun! If you would like to join in, I would love to see your choices...leave me a comment to let me know if you've had a bash at this one.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Songs in honour of the soul-sapping, bank account-draining, arse-raping new government budget!

I have taken my time in getting around to it (really, would you expect any less from me lately?), but I just had to post about the government budget report that was announced this week. Is there any man out there with a less fitting name than Alistair Darling? Surely that is like a serial killer being called Schnookums Fluffy-bunny?
This year's budget means that I will be paying an extra:
  • 55 pence on a bottle of spirits
  • 14 pence on a bottle of wine
  • 4 pence on a pint of beer (some places in Newcastle are already charging £3.60 for the privilege!)

  • 11 pence on a packet of 20 cigarettes (I am seriously not pleased about this!)

I will also be paying more fuel duty, more car tax (it's fine if you can afford to buy a new car...I can't even afford to get my current one fixed!). Oh, and an extra 3.9% in Council Tax. Joy!

But surely, I hear you cry, the budget can't be all bad?

You are right, of course. Child Benefit has been upped, there is £200 million being invested in schools to raise GCSE results and the government plan to spend £2 billion more on British troops.

All well and good...but as a pacifist who has no intention of spawning any mewling sproglets, who has already got pretty good GCSE results thank you very much (really far too long ago), yet still pays her taxes, I demand some money off my tabs! (Overseas readers - tabs = cigarettes). It's only fair...some kind of voucher system, or tab stamps or suchlike, will do me.

Thank you in advance darling Mr Darling!

(All songs below are in mp3 format, all downloadable by right clicking, saving target as, etc. know the crack by now)

Shitloads Of Money - Liz Phair

The Hustle - Van McCoy

Money, Money, Money - Abba

Cash Machine - Hard-Fi

Welfare For the Rich - The Nihilistics

Free Money - Patti Smith

Rape Me - Nirvana

Money Worries - Bedouin Soundclash

If I Was A Rich Girl - Gwen Stefani

Give, Give, Give Me More, More, More - The Wonder Stuff

It's Yer Money I'm After Baby - The Wonder Stuff

Rich Man's World - Eilen Jewell

Baby You're A Rich Man - The Beatles

Mo Money Mo Problems - Notorious BIG and Puff Daddy

Cash Cow - We Are Scientists

'Til the Money Runs Out - Tom Waits

Little Old Money Maker - The Meters

Cash Grab Complications On the Matter - The White Stripes

Don't You Mess With My Money - Sterling Harrison

Fools Gold - The Stone Roses

Cash Machine - Two Ton Boa

Sorry We Took All Yr Money - Scary Mansion

I just couldn't bring myself to upload Money For Nothing by Dire Straits, no matter how apt the title is!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Live music review: Carolina Chocolate Drops, Newcastle Cluny 07/03/08 (plus Lady Caroline Mary)

Bluegrass / soul / blues / gospel / country / general musical bastardisation (with full respect to African-American musical traditions) that is a TREAT to listen to!

Contrary to how it may seem, I do attend gigs at venues other than the Cluny. But when, via their affiliation with the Jumpin' Hot Club, they book such great bands (and in such a brilliant, and small, venue) as Carolina Chocolate Drops, a wee jaunt out is very hard to resist!

In contrast to the last gig review I wrote (the last proper, not pretendy gig review, anyway), I was a good 20, maybe even 30, years younger than half the audience here tonight...well, aside from the hoardes of lezzies, presumably out in force to cheer on local lass Caroline Mary at her debut solo Cluny support slot.

Well known round these parts, at least in lesbian circles, as a member of Mush and The Camp Vamps, Lady Caroline Mary is now setting out all alone, just her and a banjo...well, and a guitar too, actually.

Her first five or six songs were played on the guitar, before she took to her banjo, which is when things became even more promising. This is very girly music, with songs about 'pussy cats' and lines like "a tray of fancies lies on the sideboard and I didn't know I could take one". In fact, she would make a great childrens' party entertainer, with her rather charming way of rhyming along as she goes and use of words such as "fandango". But listen a little more intently and you realise that often the sentiments proffered, whilst perhaps disguised as cutesy, can be quite cynical. Sometimes, however, they just stay about "I'm so sorry your allergies made you my house".

Caroline could easily be described with that much overused word 'quirky', introducing songs with lines like "This is for any ghosts" and (the definite high point of her set) her "self-indulgent" low-key, banjo cover of Kim Wilde's Kids In America. Titters, and chorus of supportive lesbians providing the "Woah-oh"s aside, this really did work quite well!

Relatively subdued until that went down so successfully, Caroline appeared to relax a little for the final song of her set - "This is a song I wrote after a visit to Australia. It's called Australia" - and now that she had 'warmed into' things, there was something generally more engaging about her performance. But I'm a sucker for the banjo...and Caroline herself isn't too shabby!

Carolina Chocolate Drops took to the stage shortly later, and it was immediately apparent that they were friendly, likeable people...this, for me, is half the battle. I hate it hate it hate it when you go to see a band and they look like they can't be arsed being there, or look at the audience like they smell bad. No such nonsense with the Chocolate Drops...they told us about their drive up from Chichester and how they expected us to join in. I thought that they may be a little disappointed with the Cluny crowd if they were expecting full-on American-style honky tonkin', but we did our best in our inimitably British way!

They spent the set swapping instruments (fiddles, banjo, guitar, jug, castanets, snare, kazoo...even the latter was played skillfully!) and getting up to do seemingly impromptu, although possibly quite practiced, jigs and dances. At one point, Rhiannon Giddens (who got into contra dancing after graduating from university) was lucky not to behead herself when she jumped up on a speaker and danced for us...complete with 'knee swap' moves...oh yes!

Their musicianship and natural ability was astounding, their love and knowledge of music past and present impressive. This is not traditional music, in the sense of sticking to any specific comes across, I suppose, as bluegrass, due to the instruments employed, but borrows equally from old school black singers and bluesmen. They talk passionately about reigniting black banjo-playing heritage and named themselves in homage to the 1920s fiddle and mandolin band Tennessee Chocolate Drops. They even covered a traditional Irish tune for piano and flute with their fiddle, banjo and guitar line-up (the song Mountain Dew...possibly my favourite of the entire set). And Giddens has a wonderful, soulful 5 of the set was an a capella number about Lazarus, on which she reminded me of Ruthie Foster and incorporated gospel influences. There was a good old stomp and clap along from the audience, proving that the Cluny crowd were capable of a little interaction...if in a relatively restrained, stiff upper lip way.

Justin Robinson was incredible on his fiddle (bringing to mind the line from Old Crow Medicine Show's song Wagon Wheel - "born to be a fiddler in an old-time string band"), and blew me away (pun entirely intended) when he kept up his jug playing (which sounded like spit and raspberries, but provided some rhythmical accompaniment) for an entire song...that guy must have an awful lot of breath in him! On the very same song, we were treated to a full-on rock and roll style howl by Dom Flemons...

...who looked like a premature front porch-sitter in his check shirt, braces (as in breeches) and glasses.

I must reiterate before I sign off just what a likeable group of people Carolina Chocolate Drops are...they put everything into the performance, care about engaging their audience, and are hugely talented and entertaining. This, Giddens told us, is their "first tour overseas...we're completely addicted to tea now". Hopefully that means they'll be coming across the pond to visit us again soon. This is a band that you simply have to see live! (where, if you click on 'media' and then 'sound clips', you can listen to seven of their songs)

And please, please buy their music:

Heritage (enhanced CD - their first and only European release, not available in the States)

Dona Got A Ramblin' Mind

As part of their set, the Chocolate Drops did a great cover of Blu Cantrell's Hit Em Up Style...with banjo, natch!
Here is a video of them performing it at the Great Lakes Folk Festival in August 2007 (courtesy of HomerMFishbulb over at YouTube)...the sound quality isn't great on this, but it should give you an idea of how fun their cover is!

Free and legal downloads:

mp3: Starry Crown -Carolina Chocolate Drops

mp3: Rickett's Hornpipe - Carolina Chocolate Drops

mp3: Short Life of Trouble - Carolina Chocolate Drops