Saturday, 27 September 2008

Youtube cover versions

You know how it is, you're supremely talented but just too damn special to even get onto X- factor. So what do you do? Simply broadcast your extraordinary gift via Youtube instead. It usually goes something like this: 'I was bored so here's a video of me doing 'Enter Sandman' on my clarinet, will somebody give me a thousand pounds please?' It would just be too easy to put the five most hideous offerings up here, so instead I set myself the task of finding ten genuinely excellent cover versions out there in the ether. Not to get all Victoria Wood on you but I really have never seen so many untidy bedrooms and nasty pelmets in my life. Anyway, God himself couldn't find ten outstanding covers on there so here's five, and don't think they were easy to come by. Enjoy ...

'Boxing' by Ben Folds Five

'Fox in the Snow' by Belle & Sebastian

'Hometown Glory' by Adele

'Babooshka' by Kate Bush

'Motion Picture Soundtrack' by Radiohead

Monday, 22 September 2008

Can't cry hard enough

I’ve been bed-hopping a fair bit lately. Sleeping alone I might add, just holidaying at various friends’ and relatives’ places. It’s nice to be looked after but it can give one a slightly disjointed feeling waking up to a different ceiling each day. Having had a lovely evening with friends Kate and Pete in Chorlton I retire to my Auntie and Uncle’s house where I’m cat-sitting for their Charlie and their Poppy. I’m full of wine and fall asleep right away but my night is plagued by terrible dreams, one in particular I remember clearly.

I’m living back at my parents’ house and, after everyone goes to bed each night, I step outside, barefoot and barechested, and I fly. I fly over the houses and fields, I fly down to the seafront, along the promenade, gliding quietly through the night sky. It’s an amazing sensation and I land back home exhilarated. It’s also unsettling though, I’m a little more afraid each time I fly. The air is bitingly cold and I can’t wear anything more than trousers or else I won’t take off. I’m a little bit scared of the dark. I worry I will see something else flying too. Sometimes I see macabre, murderous things through people’s windows as I sail past.

One night I am flying only feet above a suburban street when I see a boy watching me from his window, terrified, and in a fit of cruelty I fly right up to the glass and pull an horrific face before disappearing into the air. The next night I see my Mum standing out in the garden looking up. I join her and I see that news of me must have spread, the black sky is full of laser beams, fireworks and flares are sent up to light the clouds and find me out. People are sailing in hot air balloons, desperately waving torches to try and track me down. The sky looks beautiful.

I decide flying is too dangerous tonight so I feign illness and am tucked up in bed. My elder sister comes to see me, she holds my hand and tells me I’ll be okay and for some reason it moves me to tears. I see behind her eyes that she knows something more than she is letting on. When I wake I’m not sure where I am. There are strangers around me arguing with each other, their faces are unkind and I sense their anger will soon be directed at me. I try to snuggle under the blankets but one of the men looks squarely at me and I feel something violent is about to occur. Suddenly my powers get the better of me and I lift involuntarily right out of the bed and in broad daylight begin to hover in front of everyone. People begin to scream and hurl things at me and I have to make my escape. I am hounded into the sky where planes begin to pursue me. I know they mean to capture me and pull me apart and see what I am. I realise I’m alone and so I have to flee. I don’t have a chance to say goodbye.

As I’m flying away to who knows what I hear Judy Collins singing the beautiful, maudlin, epic wrist-slasher, ‘Can’t cry hard enough’, and it so upsets me to hear it that I scream to try and drown it out.

‘I’m gonna live my life like every day's the last

Without a simple goodbye it all goes by so fast

And now that you're gone I can't cry hard enough

I can't cry hard enough for you to hear me now …’

That’s when I wake up for real, and I am screaming the house down, waiting for my boyfriend to shake me like he always does and tell me it’s a dream and that everything is okay. But he doesn’t, and he won’t, because I’m also waking up to the fact that real life is suddenly worse than these strange nightmares I’m having. He’s left me, in fact, hence the bed-hopping, and what I thought was my great love, isn’t. Charlie comes and nuzzles me to see what all the fuss is about and it’s such an innocent and loving act I can’t help crying. I fall asleep eventually with the same bloody song on repeat in my head. I wish I’d never heard it. I wake the next day and I am miserable, lonely, frazzled, pondering that I am one day closer to … what?

Friday, 19 September 2008

Speed Diary 2

Elbow win the Mercury (at last!) and it feels like a well-deserved hometown victory. To be fair I had only heard a third of the albums short-listed but theirs is a genuine beauty. The very next night, after a gorgeous dinner at Katie’s, she and I head to The Temple of Convenience (my long-time favourite and now neighbourhood bar, housed in a converted Victorian lav) where the band are back from London and celebrating in true Manc style by getting pissed with their mates after 2 hours sleep (and several dozen interviews). Bit different from Mayfair innit? Stephen Fretwell is also in attendance as are some of I Am Kloot. Guy Garvey is ‘the happiest man in the world’ ™ at this stage and it’s a pleasure to shake his hand. When we leave them a few hours later he is swaying by the jukebox with girlfriend Emma by his side and the world at his feet, knocking back mysterious black shots and smiling for England.

Birthday drinks for Emma and Anne at Kro 2 where Matthew brings the best and most inconvenient gift ever, pictured.

Then he and I head to the Union to witness the triumphant return of the mighty Wire. Eeek! I love this band with a special kind of reverence I reserve for those who are truly innovative but are too frequently overlooked in people’s record collections (Pixies and Kraftwerk figure on this list too). They still sound amazing and though I don’t get to hear ‘Dot Dash’ or the gazillion others I prayed for, we do get ‘The 15th’ (the cover by Fischerspooner is in my ten greatest covers ever list) and a face-slapping version of ‘12XU’ which reminds me why I fell in love with the fuckers in the first place.

Robert Gotobed is my favourite living drummer, there I said it. The new album tracks already sound like vintage Wire, angular speed-drone, and the new girl guitarist is shit hot. A girl guitarist is probably the only thing that could have made Wire any cooler in fact. If it comes to it I would like to be buried with my Pink Flag please, though it’s ‘Outdoor Miner’ from Chairs Missing which features my favourite opening lines of any song ever. Regard:

'No blind spots
In leopard's eyes
Can only help
To jeopardise
The lives of lambs
The shepherd cries'


Next night is a huge group dinner at Cocotoo’s with 15 of us in greedy attendance, including my Ma and Pa. I’ve had mediocre food in Cocotoo’s before but this time I am pleasantly surprised with a delicious Ravioli con Funghi which came in a rich yumscious cheese sauce and which I forced myself to finish. Then it’s back up to the Union for a gig at the opposite end of the musical spectrum, Nearly Dan, the Steely Dan tribute band to end all others. They are in fact blessed with the approval of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker themselves. I was raised on Steely Dan, to me they are the sound of long summer drives in the back of my auntie and uncle’s car where the trip is more important than the destination and you can pretend you’re out on the open road in the 1970s, idling your way from East Coast to West whenever you get too jaded by one or the other and your only worry is where the next shot of Cuervo Gold is coming from …

'I'll learn to work the saxophone
And I'll play just what I feel
Drink Scotch whisky all night long
And die behind the wheel ...'

Speed Diary 1

Here’s how I spend my time and your money …

To Odder with Matthew for a gottle o’ geer and a GORGEOUS pizza (better than Cornerhouse even), all for a crisp fiver, how good is that? Quick pint at Cord, very empty, then on to Nexus for a night of music and album launching. Nexus is a nifty little basement café cum gallery and performance space at the corner of Oldham and Dale Street. It started life as a safe-space-late-night-café affiliated with the local church so that mashed clubbers could wait for cabs out of the way of danger. How sweet. It explains the incongruity between wall graffiti (‘I hope your kids explode!’) and overheard conversations (’I haven’t seen you since your baptism!’).

The main event is the launch of third album, The Kansas Sessions, from Kirsty McGee and her Hobopop collective. First up however is The Bee’s Niece, pseudonym of singer-songwriter Ragnhild Zeigler, and very lovely she is too, delicate, plucky songs with a wry and funny underside. Alas she couldn’t compete for long with the noise from the percolator and smoothie maker so we retire somewhere with a license to wait for something a bit louder. Matt and Phred’s was a melancholy scene, two bored and beautiful barmaids, us three supping Guinness by the open window looking onto the rainy back street, and a lone pianist practising his sad jazz down the back. I am so going back there for a proper night soon, haven’t been for far too long.

Back to Nexus then to hear Kirsty MCgee’s up-beat, foot-stomping, rockabilly ‘n’ country tunes. All good fun and some fantastic lyrics but not my cup of Earl Grey especially. Excellent musicians though and any live music is better than a night in front of the telly. And all for free!

Later in the week and Are Friends Eclectic? comes around again at Retro. This usually studenty pub had THE most amazing clientele upstairs out of term time, I was transfixed. A gaggle of old-school seventies clone queens manhandling the jukebox in one corner, a slab of gorgeous Manc rough trade in the other, metal hair freaks round the bar, rough diamond Gorton sports dyke serving, and right in the window a straight couple gettin’ it on in the most spectacularly public fashion. Get a room people! Love it.

Guinness and black for me please. Drank it all night and woke up feeling like a cough sweet. This month’s AFE was Manchester themed, with a particular bent towards Moz/Smiths. Sparsely populated though, which was a shame. Where else can you hear Slaughter and the Dogs and The Wedding Present of a Thursday? The lovely Phil Gatenby did a turn on the decks and we persuaded him to whip out his new Smiths tattoo (and his very hairy arms also).

Next day it’s off down Whalley Range to celebrate the lovely Maria’s tenth year in Manchester. I had a similar idea to celebrate my own anniversary a while back (I think I went on holiday instead) where everybody would have to dress as themselves ten years ago. I still might do it. Depressingly though, I might only look slightly different. I bet I even have my old glasses. Utterly wrecked and up till 5 am, relocating to Chorlton along the way. My attempt to force everyone to listen to this at 4 in the morning went down like the proverbial, but I still believe!

Party again the next night, this time to celebrate Emma and James shacking up. Hooray! Feeling very fragile by this point but lovely to see friendly faces from Charlotte, Kate, Pete, Dee, John, my brudder and his lovely g-friend Charlie. All next day is spent on the couch at Dee’s watching The Green Wing which I have come to regard as semi-genius.

I take a spontaneous half-day off later in the week and eat my favourite thing in the world which is the falafel burger with spicy fries at the Deaf Institute then me and Char go off to the Great Northern Warehouse to watch The Dark Knight, about which nothing more needs to be said, other than 1) Christian Bale isn’t trying, and 2) it’s a fitting swan song for poor Heath. A framed picture of Heath adorns my CD tower and makes me think daily about the irresistible tragedy of somebody so beautiful that dies young. I still miss River Phoenix. God love ‘em both.

Sunday, 14 September 2008


Ah, let me count the ways. It’s 1992 and grunge isn’t really cutting it beyond Nirvana and man cannot live on Nevermind alone. Having missed every great youth movement by being born in the nowhere nothing nobody year of 1978, at the age of fourteen I was content to live forever with my Smiths and Pixies albums and dream about what might have been. And then one Saturday morning this happened …

And that was it for me, absolutely in love. Suede Suede Suede. After that I ate, slept and lived nothing but the band. I had to take the train to the bright lights of Preston to buy those first magic three 12 inch singles because nowhere in the backwater of Blackpool stocked them and looking at my well-played and well-loved copies now I am confident they are amongst the most important moments in British music and my life.

The unholy trinity

The first time I saw them play I took the train to Liverpool in secret with a gang of older kids from around town and even though they all got completely hammered on Bacardi on the train to the point that one of them got her boob out in the street and even though we got separated between the stalls and the circle and one of them had to pretend she had her boyfriend’s insulin so they would let us swap and even though I had to leave before the end to get the last train, my adoration was sealed. I saw them play in total, I think, twelve times, including at my first ever Gay Pride on Hackney Marshes in which they transformed an otherwise fairly grim day into a celebration.

At the 1996 fanclub gig we waited in the snow outside the Hanover Grand as an impossibly pouty Suede-boy walked unflinchingly to the front of the line and somehow blagged his way in. Next time we saw him he was on stage playing keyboards, it was Neil Codling playing his first Suede gig.

We blagged our way backstage by pretending to be fanzine editors where we recorded a scandalous interview with Simon Gilbert. He proclaimed that Morrissey was openly gay, the whole mystery thing was utter bollocks, he was often to be seen round Soho with various rough trade boyfriends and it was no secret other than to deluded fans, like us, and that Simon himself had spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on cocaine. We were riveted. The tape also features a nervous seventeen-year-old me telling Simon that I’m not gay, when asked I might add. In fact I didn’t come out for another SEVEN YEARS. Jesus. Part of the allure of Suede though was that it didn’t matter, you didn’t have to have a cock up your arse (as Brett said) or be one thing or the other in order to be bent of gender and young and glamorous and all of that, it simply didn’t matter in their world.

In their heyday I was utterly in awe of Bernard, who I still rank alongside John Squire and Johnny Marr as all time kiss-my-shoes guitar heroes. Looking back though I’m bowled over more than ever by Brett’s brilliant lyrics which I have taken for granted for too long. See the following gems for proof he was amongst the greatest lyric writers of his day:

‘Where’s all the money gone? I’m talking to you …’

'This still life is all I ever do, there by the window, quietly killed for you ...'

‘She will come from Argentina with her cemetery eyes …’

‘In your council home he broke all your bones …’

‘You don’t think about it, you don’t do without it, because you’re beautiful, and if your baby’s going crazy that’s how you made me …’

(c) Tee Corinne

‘We’ll go from the bungalows where the debts still grow each day …’

‘All the white kids shuffle to the heavy metal stutter …’

‘Dressed as a cowboy in a permanent gag, it’s sadder than it probably sounds …’

‘She walks in beauty like the night, discarding her clothes in the plastic flowers …’

‘Come to my arms I’m lost, just you and me together in the year of the horse …’

‘Shake a fake tan through aerosol land …’

‘Oh Dad, she’s driving me mad …’

Favourite Suede moments …

Suede turn the entire Brit Awards upside down by caterwauling their way through ‘Animal Nitrate’ in lace shirts in front of an industry audience who are about as interested as your Mum and Dad were.

Brett’s hysterical rant over the majestic closing minutes of the greatest non-album single ever ‘Stay Together’.

The photo shoot in the public toilet.

(c) Joanne Leonard

Meeting the beautiful David McAlmont at the fan club gig.

Interviewed by the Melody Maker, Brett is asked to quote a line of poetry and recites ‘Pale blinds drawn all day, nothing to do, nothing to say …’ from Bowie’s ‘Sound and Vision’.

Covering 'Brass in Pocket' on The Word.

The interviewer who described Brett as ‘the bottom’.

Onstage at Blackpool Empress Ballroom, Bernard has the stage to himself as he crawls round on hands and knees during ear-splitting feedback from the end of ‘He’s Dead’ smashing a tambourine over and over on the floor until it’s literally in pieces, then jumps to his feet, smiles, and salutes the crowd like a boy scout.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Robin Hood and his merry men and also two merry women

To Robin Hood’s Bay for a weekend of camping. It’s not in Nottingham as I quite naturally assumed, oh no, it’s in Yorkshire. It’s very beautiful there. We arrived early morning armed with umbrellas, galoshes, raincoats and were met by a mist that melted into glorious sunshine. I even got sunburn. We never thought to pack sunglasses, sunblock, a hat or anything like that. It’s August for heaven’s sake, how were we to know?

The beach there is fantastic, a mix of slimy Palaeolithic-looking stone, rock pools, fresh water streams running down from the hill, and stretches of golden sand. The water was freezing so our planned swim didn’t happen though some brave souls did indulge, including children, so I felt a bit of a coward. We had a paddle, flew kites, had a cliff top walk with lots of exciting birds flying about, including the robin that follows us everywhere we go. Through Boggle Hole and then back to the village.

The village itself is gorgeous, tiny and relatively unspoiled, just a fistful of pubs, chippies and sweetshops and a main road that runs right into the sea. Pub dinner at Ye Dolphin and then drinks outside the lovely big Victoria pub at night on the cliff top watching the odd bat and having a right old laugh with Neil, Dean, Christine, Stuart, James and Frances who just announced she is 3 months pregnant! Happy times.

Next day we whistle-stop at a brilliant little greasy spoon in Whitby, where I want to retire, there or Bridlington, or Scarborough. Disappointed to see no Goths but it was very sunny. Then a bit further up the coast to Sandsend with it’s enormous beach, coves and little slate cliff faces. Read the paper, played Frisbee, sorry ‘sports disk’, and had more despicably indulgent scran. Manchester soon loomed with its hideous weather, we drove home in a rainstorm.

For the record, over the course of the weekend I consumed: chips, a pickled egg, a 99, a chocolate muffin, cranberry and lemon cake, Black Sheep ale, a vegetable curry, Bulmers, some other kind of ale, clotted cream fudge, a peanut cracknel bar, a giant jelly snake, cinder toffee ice cream, Hula Hoops, scrambled egg with beans on toast, a cream tea of scones, jam and clotted cream, pizza, and mozzarella pasta. I virtually had to be winched into work on Monday.

Friday, 5 September 2008

The Holy Grail

I wouldn't normally post between posts so to speak but I've managed to find it, that elusive, near-mythical treasure: the funniest thing on the internet. Approach this with extreme caution. Move all hot beverages out of the way. And dont skimp, you need to watch right to the end because just when you think it can't get any better, they raise the bar. Is it the humpingly bad dance moves? Her flat ogre singing voice? Or could it be the presence of the two hair queens ninnying about the place that makes this such a singular accomplishment? You decide. God, I love youtube.

Boxing's been good to me ...

Those of you who know me will know I am a long-time fan of boxing, or something. Sweaty shorts, plenty of action in the ring ... alright, regardless of my complete indifference to the sport, I am SO loving having this poster accost me at every corner of the city. Good god, that boy has beefed up innit? Consequently I am blundering about town in a state of constant arousal, setting off car alarms wherever I go by walking into the buggers. Get the match over with already so I can get on with my life. Also, deal with this. He's like an Asian Philip Olivier isn't he?

'How like a god ...'

Thursday, 4 September 2008

The Novel and the fishes

After a period of self-doubt, things suddenly seem to conspire in my favour. As I began to experience unprecedented despair last week about my writing and my increasing boredom at work, my horoscope read as follows: “
If you’re not pursuing a career that is meaningful, don’t worry. The right opportunity will come along when you concentrate on the activities that bring you joy.” Talk about divine intervention! Speaking of which, meeting the Divine David Hoyle at Club Brenda the other week implanted a seed in my brain which has grown into an idea that will allow me to move my final character on to his destiny, just in the nick of time too as I had a day booked off from work to write and was worried I’d hit a brick wall and would just sit there all day sobbing onto the keyboard, drinking coffee and listening to Adele’s ‘Hometown Glory’ on repeat. Instead I actually wrote. Click.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008


There’s a lot of it about so I’m whoring some of it out to you lucky people …


First up are the literally fantastic Coraline. Rae’s ethereal, witty and alluring songs have as much in common with Angela Carter and the Brothers Grimm as with any of the multiple genres they effortlessly hopscotch between. ‘Oz’ from the new EP is a funny, spiralling retell of The Wizard of Oz. Having gone to London to give the music a new audience, a record contract has deservedly come their way. To celebrate the release of The Little Freedoms EP the band are having a series of launches and a Northern fix can be had at either The Met, Bury on September 26 or, very excitingly, at the Deaf Institute right here in town on October 9. I have been wowed in concert several times, highly recommended.

(c) Ranulph Redlin

Next up is photographer Ranulph Redlin. Red has just added to an accomplished portfolio with an excellent series entitled Sex, Fries and Battered Hake, a visual tale of a modern mermaid sunk in moral corruption. Sexy urban magic realism and colours you can eat. Keep your eyes peeled round Manchester for forthcoming exhibitions of his work.

From Sex, Fries and Battered Hake (c) Ranulph Redlin

Finally, if like me you think Ed Harcourt is our greatest living songwriter, we might just have found a successor in Manchester-based Ben McGarvey. Start by listening to the brilliant ‘Disjointed’ then ‘Too Busy Framing’ from the LP of the same name, then just give in.

Ben McGarvey, in crayon form

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

there’s no point in not being friends with someone if you want to be friends with them

Being a writer and all (nope, don’t feel comfortable saying that yet) I know I should get out there and get my voice heard and absorb inspiration and encouragement from fellow scribes but I find I’m too shy and unsure of myself, still, at thirty. In addition, my cringe tolerance is extremely low and if I find myself trapped in some art café listening to ‘sensitive’ souls reading rubbish poetry about broken hearts (if you really had a broken heart you’d be at home, eating cake on the floor in front of the fridge, watching Sex and the City and crying every ten minutes) then I know I’ll just end up turning bright red and grinding my teeth with embarrassment until I’m asked to leave.

It is with trepidation then that I attend there’s no point in not being friends with someone if you want to be friends with them in the basement of the Deaf Institute. (I don’t know what the name of the night is a reference to, anyone?). The lovely Emma Unsworth is reading from her novel tonight and our mutual friend Katie has invited us along to show support and so here we are. And goddamit if it isn’t all a lovely surprise. There is nothing mortifying at all, in fact nothing even approaching mediocre, my molars remain unground for the entire evening. What a talented bunch of writers.

The night is put on by Sally Cook and Chris Killen. Chris is a Waterstones employee, author of Day of Moustaches, and forthcoming novel, The Bird Room. I had heard of him prior to this night after reading a short piece in my favourite publication in the world ever, The South Manchester Reporter, which described how Chris met Steven Hall, author of The Raw Shark Texts, in the Deansgate Waterstones where he works (and which features, circuitously enough, in Hall’s novel) and persuaded him to read the manuscript of The Bird Room. Apparently a lovely guy, Hall did just that and this act of kindness has resulted in Mr Killen getting a book deal with Canongate, a story which is both inspiring and depressing, but a success I’m certain is well-deserved. I’m very much looking forward to reading it.

Anyway, the readings. Emma’s opening chapter was intriguing, atmospheric, funny and put me in mind of Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges are not the only fruit in the way it keeps your eyes at a child’s level with just a few deft touches of detail. Some wonderful short stories, plenty of breaks for wine and cigs, and two particular highlights for me. The first being the excellent (and published, thankyou very much) poet Annie Clarkson, a Lancastrian turned Mancunian, just like me. She read a selection of absolutely wonderful poems in a voice you could happily live in. My favourite one is luckily featured in the link above and is one of the sexiest and most disarming pieces of poetry I’ve read in ages. Gave me shivers of a most unnecessary kind. I had to go and congratulate her afterwards. The other highlight was the stand-up slot filled by Ben Davis and his brother. Really funny, dry and unexpected humour delivered in a subtle and confident way that I truly believe means this guy is headed for stardom. See him in tiny venues while you still can.

Next month’s promises to relocate from the awfully hot and overfilled basement to a bigger better venue somewhere, as it deserves. Will I, should I, can I make myself read something there? Gosh darnit, courage, where are you?