Saturday, September 29, 2007

They're not purple and they're not getting any smaller!

The last time I played support to Shrinking Violets was on the 24th of September, 1995! In the (now sadly demolished) Railway Hotel in Harrow. In this year of bands reforming, it seems entirely apt that they should do the same and so... I've just got back from their first gig in about 12 years. It was a great fun evening, and not least because I was playing a set myself, and also doing the sound for the bands (I'm a multi-tasker you know!).

The night was opened by Day Release, who were doing their first gig ever! They gave a pretty good account of themselves even though their guitarist had a broken foot and the bass player was wearing a kilt with ballooons stuck under it to look like a large set of balls and a little willy!

I was next up, and cracked through a few of my more up-tempo numbers. It was great to play with a clear, loud PA and on a stage where I could move around a bit. It's always very hard to compete with a large talking audience with just acoustic guitar and voice, but I played hard and enjoyed myself. I was particularly pleased with a re-working of All I Want Is You, which I opened with. I was chuffed that a lot of people made a point of grabbing me to say how they enjoyed the set afterwards. So I was happy.

After me it was time for the main event... and what a storming performance it was. These guys really know how to put on a show... as The Wizard of Oz played in the background they went through numerous costume changes, props and swapping of instruments to bring us a fantastic set. I'd forgotten how much I loved some of their songs. Thanks For Nothing is my favourite by a long way. After an Elvis impersonation, dresses, masks, women's hats, a mandolin, a mohican made of plastic flowers, giant egg-shapped papier-mache heads and a cauliflower came and went it was all over. They can all really play too and I enjoyed every second. I hear a rumour that they are planning more shows, I hope so, life would much the less rich without them. So well done 'Hippy' Paul, Mick, Kermit, 'Arms' Paul and Neil - come back soon!!!!

Thursday, September 27, 2007


I'm off to play another last minute gig tonight after an invite from my friend Wayne. If anyone is at a loose end, do come down and support us at: HOBGOBLIN (Formerly 'The Jay Cubed') (club & bar), 73 White Lion St, Islington, N1 9PF (Nearest tube Angel) - music kicks off around 8pm.

Tonight is special as I'm planning to perform the world premier of a new poem I've 'written'. Now I don't do a lot of poetry reading, in fact none at all, but this poem is mercifully short and it's origins are very interesting. I was scanning my Junk Mail folder a few weeks ago, checking in case anything had been wrongly filed, and I realised that the headings of the 5 spam mails in there read as a rather beautiful, poignant and, some might even say, profound poem. It has almost Haiku like elegance and a real punch in the pay-off. I've reproduced it below (note I haven't changed the order of the lines), as I'm sure it will whet the appetites of all for my performance tonight.

For those that can't make it, I'll give a full account later (assuming anything interesting happens).

Have fun!


Don't Wait Any Longer
(D. Callow et al)

Don’t wait any longer,
Have you got a sec?
Looking for a friend?
Timing, important.
Do you want to enlarge your penis?

Monday, September 24, 2007


As a person who has long suffered from a birthday in the same month as Christmas, although fortunately at the start of the month. I was utterly floored when I noticed that Pizza Express have already launched their Christmas Menu!!!!! It's only September for f**ks sake! I call upon all right thinking people to immediately boycott Pizza Express until they show a bit more respect for tradition lovers, and those with a sense of perspective everywhere. Let's start a No Christmas 'til December campaign or at the very least until after fireworks night. Mid-September indeed... I ask you!!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Five Days, Three Gigs

It's been a busy few days music-wise. Kicking off with a floorspot on Sunday at The Horn in St. Albans. I must confess I certainly wasn't "feeling it" that day, perhaps Dr. Evil had gone back in time and stolen my Mowww-Jowww... or perhaps I was just in a bad mood. I played okay (I think), but the evening was kinda subdued, and to cap it all the train home was 45 minutes late... harumph!

The Castle

Moving swiftly on. Wednesday brought a debut performance at The Castle in Portobello Road. I was amongst friends as the outlaw Robert James and the wonderfully witty Wayne Myers were hosting and performing respectively. The Castle is a lovely pub with a friendly atmosphere. It has plenty of people to play to (as opposed to some open mic nights, where you are only playing to other performers!) but the downside is the high volume of background noise (ie chat), but I don't mind that. I feel it's my job to entertain and get the attention of the audience, and if that fails, at least enjoy yourself and that might rub off on a few people.

Robert James opened and in a worrying omen managed to break a string. I was next on, so after a slight haitus I kicked off. I played I Need Your Love, Minneapolis, Tomorrow, Vulnerable, Lullabies and Do You Want To Dance? And it went down pretty good. I was encouraged by people watching and nodding their heads in time, and I grew in confidence as the set went on. Set done I relaxed at the bar, well for a moment or two anyway. The string breaking maladies continued as Wayne broke one of his. As my guitar was tuned and ready to go, I quickly loaned it to him and he was able to finish off in good form. He's a very good player and it was great to get a chance to hear my guitar from the punter's point of view. I was pleased to hear it sounded great!

Wayne, Frog Morris and myself then had a suitably jolly remainder of the evening, when much alcohol was consumed and we enjoyed all the other acts. Robert James (guitar re-strung) was a rousing finish to the night. I shall be back, and I thoroughly recommend the Wednesday nights there. Great fun and great entertainment. Thanks for coming Frog!


Somehow in all the frivolity I managed to sign myself up for a return visit to Edwards! Rob was the host again and a mixture of pre-booked and floorspot acts performed. The standard, I have to say, was very high and all the turns played well. In fact as my spot approached and then was put back I was nervous about playing, and considered sneaking out. In the end I managed to stay sober and performed with gusto. It's a truism that a good performer will encourage the others on the bill and it certainly seemed true that everyone was trying very hard and, for the most part, succeeding. During my performance a chap sitting to my left added some percussion which sounded great. It made Vulnerable slightly challenging as I tend to vary the speed quite a bit, although it works very well with a fixed beat too, I think it was one of my best performances of this song. In fact it was quite a night for percussionists as the worlds saddest percussionist in a red top accompanied a couple of other acts. It's a highlight of Rob's performances that he passes out percussion instruments and encourages the audience and performers to join in. This tends to make for a rousing night, even if occasionally the song finishes only for the percussionist to continue on oblivious to everything!

It was hard work doing two gigs in two days and I came off sweating, but very happy. My guitar's work wasn't finished though, as one act had come without a guitar (who does that!!) so I loaned mine out again. The evening climaxed with more stomping, slapping, strumming and howling (and in Wayne's case self-harm as he preceeded to bash himself all over with a shell covered shaker). You really must check out Robert James some time if you are able, as he's a real performer who can make two hours worth of other (good to very good) acts seem entirely pedestrian. I'm looking forward to the next one already!


P.S. There were way too many other excellent acts to mention here, but if I was to pick one other out then do check out Mike Davies an excellent blues guitarist/singer. He only got one song, but he made the most of it.

P.P.S. The photos are Robert James at The Castle (top) and Wayne Myers at The Castle (playing my guitar, bottom)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Rock 'n' Pop

Couple of chances to see me strum my stuff this week. Tonight I'm off to The Horn in St. Albans, where the music quality is varied, but usually high, and the loos have to be seen to believed! Check the picture.

On Wednesday I venture to a new venue, The Castle, in Notting Hill. (225 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, W11, Nearest tube Ladbroke Grove) I'll be on about 9pm and will be playing for 20 minutes!!

More gigs coming. Plus I've recently jammed with a new bass player who was excellent. Trying to talk my brother into drumming for us on Monday, or at least helping us find a suitable tub-thumper... very excited by this, as it will be a song-led three piece with a lot of improvisation, effects and real impact. I've been dreaming of having a band like this for a long time and it's a good feeling to know I'm close now. BTW, if you are a drummer who likes the sound of a three-piece with some adventure and experimentation thrown in (something between The Police and Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood) then get in touch!!

See you at a gig very soon,


Monday, September 10, 2007

The Police

Where am I? Queensbury in Harrow in a church hall. What am I doing? I'm playing live in front of an audience on electric guitar for the first time ever. It's 1986 and the song my brother and I are playing (badly, I've no doubt) is Wrapped Around Your Finger by The Police. I'm playing a white Stratocaster copy through a Carlsbro amp... I really wanted a Telecaster. I fell in love with The Police when they released Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic, and slowly worked my way through the back catalogue. Synchronicity became my soundtrack. By 1986, mind you, The Police were nearly over. They released a remix of Don't Stand So Close to me and then split up. My first gig was a Sting gig, I wished it was The Police.

Where am I? Soho, London. What am I doing? I'm at a gallery looking at pictures taken by Andy Summers in the mid-eighties. I'm not alone, the other guy in the room is another 30-something. I feel rumbled. It's September 7th 2007. I have the Telecaster now. I can play Roxanne and Message In A Bottle. I can even play Every Breath You Take, but it's harder. I've been playing in bands for 21 years... still one thing I haven't done yet... see they guys that started it all play live.

Where am I? Twickenham Stadium. What am I doing? Well you can probably guess. It's September 8th 2007, my friends and brother are all here (somewhere) alongside 55,000 other people. On a stage, somewhere down there, a small figure walks onto a darkened stage and starts to play a gong. It's Stewart Copeland and he's closely followed onstage by Andy Summers and Sting... something I've waited 24 (ish) years for is really happening. I can't actually believe it. The crowd roar as Summers starts to play Message in a Bottle. I panic, I can't hear anything! But the crowd noise abates and I get treated to 2 hours of pop perfection. I cry. Someone buys me a drink. I start to sing along with everything. I'm pleased I know the words to some of the less well known songs. Andy Summers plays some huge guitar solos... why the fuck not. I don't care, I love it. I cry more. Somehow we get home. I don't really remember.

Where am I? The Horn in St. Albans. What am I doing? I'm on stage playing Do You Want To Dance? I improvise some lyrics from Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic. It's Sept 9th. I got to do the one thing that I really wanted to do and never thought would happen. I've been through the gamut of emotions and come out singing. I don't cry. I smile and have fun. Life carries on.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I Went To Documenta and All I Got Was This Lousy Mug

Actually I think it's a lovely mug and it's from the 4th Skulptur Projekte in Muenster and not from Documenta at all. But I did go to both last week and had a quite varied time. Documenta is an important (so they say) art exhibition and event which is held every five years in Kassel, Germany. Kassel itself is a very workman-like town in the heart of Germany with very few buildings older than the 50's. I wondered at first if it was a new town, but it turns out in fact that we bombed it flat during the war. Poignant then that the Documenta event is a very political exhibition and, this year at least, quite dark in nature. It didn't help either that the weather was lousy when we were there. After the fun of Berlin and the Kunst-Werke exhibition of Joe Coleman it came as quite a culture shock. We stayed in a business hotel just out of town and got the bus in each day to see the art. We shuffled around all the major galleries and tried to find somewhere to have fun in Kassel, but we failed. I also discovered the the brothers Grimm used to live there, grim was the word alright! So we left as early as we could and went to Muenster.

The Skulptur Projecte in Muenster only happens every ten years, and this is the fourth occurrence, so it's quite a privilege to be there. In contrast to Documenta the only politics seems to be about the interaction between art and public spaces and it's a much more light-hearted affair. I didn't get to see the Bruce Nauman inverted pyramid - Square Depression and the Guillaume Bijl buried church, but we did see some good stuff. Our favourites were the Mike Kelley petting zoo, complete with cow, goats and donkeys!! We also liked a sculpture made from crushed plastic animals, the sort that towns use to promote events. Ironically the hotel we stayed in actually had one of the painted cows in it's lobby!

Muenster is a much more fun place to go out and we managed to find a Mexican bar that served us about 6 cocktails with extra shots along the way and only charged us €28 !! We also found a fun Italian restaurant where everyone in the party gets their own charge card, no arguments about splitting the bill there then!! Now that's my kind of town!


P.S. The Shrinking Violets are reforming, and I'm supporting them at their gig on the 29th Sept at the Trinity in Harrow. Should be a riot!!

P.P.S. The Pet Shop Boys look set to announce more dates in October... hoorah!! I'm not unemployed yet!

Fit and the Conniptions

Well, I've just spent about the last three hours looking at the cartoons of I guy I barely know from about 15 years ago... he once roped in my brother to do drums for him, and I was probably very upset as I was dead jealous of anyone who stole my band members. But he's a totally cool guy (in an entirely un-cool way, if you know what I mean) and a sensational cartoonist. Think Dilbert for music lovers and you've just about got it. The fact that we are both still survivors in the "music world" despite various ups and downs is both a source of encouragement and a damning kick in the teeth, but that's what Wayne seems to be all about. So there you go. Do: a) check out his cartoon series, by clicking "First" in the link that's coming up and going through it day by day, b) go to one of his gigs, 'cos you'll be in the cartoon one way or another, and c) support your local musicians, we are like the High Street, about to be taken over by Tesco or summit.

Worthy posts on Documenta, Skulptur Projeckte and The Police to follow... keeep up if you can! Ha.

Here is Wayne's cartoon about our gig the other night:


P.S. Happy birthday to my brother on 3rd Sept just gone... the day war broke out, don't chya'know!