Thursday, 21 October 2021

Songs that Stick 2 - The Sleeve Notes

Soundwave* by Steph Masterson

Back in June I said I would post the list of songs for my Funaday Dundee 2022 writing project in a couple of weeks but it seems it took me a little longer than that to get the list together. I’m not sure why I always give myself a huge amount of “work” for this “fun” project. Anyway, the list is in this post so please take a read, listen to any/all of the songs and see what you think. The order of the list is a bit random though some of it is to do with when I first heard each song. If you fancy tackling any of them over the coming months let me know. It would be nice to have a big ol’ international singalong!

As I said last time, many of these are songs and/or artists that I came across at Montrose Folk Club (a club I attended in North-East Scotland pretty regularly when I lived in Montrose between 2004 and 2018). Other songs in the list have a more tenuous link to this club as they are really just songs/artists I learned about as I started looking into other related gigs and festivals in Scotland and the Cambridge Folk Festival in England (the latter only via TV/radio). And then there are a few songs on the list that are just from albums in my collection that I come back to time and time again – songs that wouldn’t be put in the folk section of a music store maybe but that have a folk sensibility, if you like. I have always loved soul/r & b music and came to that far earlier in my own musical experiences than folk. It may seem miles away from folk (certainly in terms of image) but for me there are many links (in the sounds, the intentions, some of the stories). I couldn’t put a list of songs like this together that was too white, too samey, or too one-sided/sounded. As I mentioned in the June post I am keeping away (for the main part) from songwriters who are major household names (but you will see that I have broken my own rule here and there – some things never change).

As my focus here is writing, currently I am sending questions out to the songwriters (where possible) to put together a post around each song for January. I’ve already had some great conversations and a few fascinating sets of answers (it’s a huge generalisation but I love songwriters). The posts about the songs will go up on this blog one a day in January 2022. Much of the Funaday Dundee content appears on Instagram (as it’s mainly visual artists that take part in the wider project) so I will post something there every day in January too – maybe using some of the lyrics from each song (that part will come later … I haven’t even thought about that yet). As with last year some elements of biography/memoir will come into each blog post I am sure but I think that’s just my age – every writing experience is a chance to try and pin down memories that are slipping away! I know at least some readers enjoyed the memoir elements last year so I hope that is the case again (if not feel free to skim – I know I do…).

So, here’s the list of songs with some minimal information to start with (the posts in January will have much more detail about each song). If you see anything that you know is incorrect in this initial list please let me know straightaway. The joy of a blog is I can correct it immediately. One thing I’ve already learned (from a long chat with one of the songwriters) is how unreliable sleeve notes for albums are (I did not know this – maybe you did …). Also, if you hear anything you like, please support the artists (buy music, as directly from the artist/label as you can, give albums for birthdays/xmas etc.). I've put some links in here for shopping purposes and there will be more in the individual posts in January. Keeeeep listening!

1. Another Train

Written by: Pete Morton 

I first heard it: Performed by Canadian folk singer Eileen McGann at Montrose Folk Club in 2004. It is also on her album Journeys (1995) and on a couple of Pete’s albums (including Game Of Life).

Where you can find it online: Pete Morton’s version is here

2. The Mission Hall

Written by: Pete Livingstone

I first heard it: Performed by the Anna Massie Band at Montrose Folk Club in 2005. It’s on the 2003 Anna Massie album Glad Company, vocals by Jenn Butterworth.

Where you can find it online: The original by Pete’s band Tonight At Noon is here and the Anna Massie Band version is here

3. Fine Times

Written by: Judy Dinning

I first heard it: On her album Fine Times (2003) (though I probably bought it a while after 2003). Judy appeared regularly at Montrose Folk Club and I saw her there with the band Real Time in 2005 and 2007.

Where you can find it online: Judy’s version is here

4. Geography

Written by: Boo Hewerdine

I first heard it: Probably Heidi Talbot singing it at Montrose Folk Club in 2006 or on her album Distant Future (2004).

Where you can find it online: Heidi’s version is here, a Boo version here

5. Piece of Clay

Written by: Gloria Jones and Pam Sawyer (though sometimes online it says just Jones and sometimes just Sawyer)

I first heard it: Carleen Anderson’s version on her album Blessed Burden (1998).

Where you can find it online: Carleen sings it here

6. Gently Does It

Written by: Rab Noakes

I first heard it: At Montrose Folk Club when I saw Rab Noakes for first time in 2006 (I also saw him there in 2013 and 2014).

Where you can find it online: Rab sings it here

7. Fallen Soldier

Written by: Beverley Knight and A Clark

I first heard it: On Beverley Knight’s album Who I Am (2002).

Where you can find it online: Beverley singing it here.

8. One Voice

Written by: Ruth Moody

I first heard it: On the 2004 album 40 Days by The Wailin’ Jennys.

Where you can find it online: Album version by the band here.

9. If You Ask Me

Written by: Patsy Matheson

I first heard it: When Patsy Matheson played at Montrose Folk Club in 2012 (with Becky Mills I think) and it’s on Patsy’s 2012 album Stories of Angels and Guitars.

Where you can find it online: Patsy Matheson and Becky Mills performing the song here

10. The Littlest Birds

Written by: Samantha Parton and Jolie Holland 

I first heard it: Performed by The Bevvy Sisters at Montrose Folk Club in 2010, it’s also on their album St James Sessions (2009).

Where you can find it online: Version by The Be Good Tanyas here

11. Somewhere Tonight

Written by: Johnny Dickinson

I first heard it: Johnny’s album English Summer (2005). I also saw him at Montrose Folk Club in 2006 and 2007.

Where you can find it online: I have the CD but can’t find it online anywhere. You can still buy the CD English Summer on ebay (highly recommended).

12. General Grant’s Visit to Dundee

Written by: Michael Marra

I first heard it: Michael Marra performing it at Montrose Folk Club in 2006 (I also saw him there in 2008, 2009 and 2011). It's on live albums and Gaels Blue (1985).

Where you can find it online: A lovely live version here.  

13. What Would Woody do?

Written by: Dana Robinson

I first heard it: At Montrose Folk Club when I first saw Dana and Susan Robinson in 2005. It's on their album Avenue of the Saints.

Where you can find it online: A live version by Dana and Susan here

14. I’d Do It All Again

Written by: Corinne Bailey Rae 

I first heard it: On Corinne’s album The Sea (2010).

Where you can find it online: Corinne on video here

15. Never Any Good

Written by: Martin Simpson 

I first heard it: Not sure exactly. I saw him at Montrose Folk Club in 2005, 2008, 2009, 2011 so it was probably one of those. It’s on his 2007 album Prodigal Son.

Where you can find it online: A live version here

16. The Blue Lagoon

Written by: Findlay Napier and Boo Hewerdine 

I first heard it: Probably when I saw Findlay Napier at Montrose Folk Club in 2018. It’s on his 2017 album Glasgow.

Where you can find it online: Album version here

17. Done

Written by: Josienne Clarke 

I first heard it: Probably when I saw Josienne Clarke live with ex-duo partner Ben Walker at Montrose Folk Club in 2016 (it was Brexit Referendum Day). Josienne is now a solo act and Done is currently available on her 2010 album One Light is Gone.

Where you can find it online: A video for this brilliant song is here

18. You Don’t Owe the World Pretty

Written by: Bella Hardy

I first heard it: I think I first heard it on her 2017 album Hey Sammy.

Where you can find it online: A video by Bella here.

19. I Didn’t Try Hard Enough

Written by: Kris Drever

I first heard it: Probably at the Lemon Tree in Aberdeen in 2016, though maybe later on his 2016 album If Wishes Were Horses. I had previously seen him elsewhere many times (mainly in Montrose), either solo or with Fine Friday, Eamonn Coyne, or Eddi Reader, or in Lau.  

Where you can find it online: A live version by Kris here

20. Little Bird

Written by: Gary Anderson

I first heard it: Probably at Montrose Folk Club in around 2012 (or before) where Gary is a regular for years now and often the compere too. The track is on his album Hair o’ the Dog (2012). Gary now uses the name Kinnaber Junction for recordings but before then it was just Gary Anderson (not a darts player).

Where you can find it online: There is a video here or (cleaner) audio here

21. The Light on the Shore

Written by: Karine Polwart

I first heard it: Probably on her first solo album Faultlines (2004). I have seen her live various times (in Dundee, in Glasgow, in Aberdeen). Like a few of the songwriters in this list, I could really have picked any of Karine’s many songs because I love them all. I went for this one because it’s one I’ve paid less attention to over the years.

Where you can find it online: Album version here

22. Blackbird

Written by: Belinda O’Hooley

I first heard it: Either on the Rachel Unthank and the Winterset album The Bairns (2007) or when I saw that band at Stonehaven Folk Festival in July 2008. Belinda left the band around that time and has been part of the duo O’Hooley and Tidow since 2009, as well as in other groups and a solo performer. The duo played Montrose Folk Club in December 2012.

Where you can find it online: Album version here

23. Let It Rain

Written by: Tracy Chapman

I first heard it: On Tracy’s 2002 album Let It Rain. Obviously Tracy Chapman is one of the more widely known writers/musicians in this list but I feel this album is much less well-known than her earlier work and it is amazing. It is one of the albums that’s always on my phone…

Where you can find it online: Album version here

24. Sing About Love

Written by: Boff Whalley

I first heard it: On Chumbawamba’s brilliant 2008 album The Boy Bands Have Won.

Where you can find it online: Album version here

25. Come on in my Kitchen

Written by: Robert Johnson

I first heard it: At a Crooked Still gig at Celtic Connections in Glasgow in 2007. It was first recorded by Robert Johnson in the 1930s.

Where you can find it online: Johnson version here, Crooked Still (with the line up I saw) version here

26. Edina

Written by: Ross Wilson

I first heard it: Probably when I first saw Blue Rose Code at Montrose Folk Club in 2015.

Where you can find it online: Lovely version here.

27. We Could Fly

Written by: Rhiannon Giddens and Dirk Powell

I first heard it: On Rhiannon’s 2017 album Freedom Highway, or maybe on the radio (Radio 2 Folk Show maybe) or maybe when I saw her and band live in Glasgow in November 2017.

Where you can find it online: Amazing version here

28. Tightrope

Written by: Kim Edgar

I first heard it: On Kim’s 2016 album Untold Stories.

Where you can find it online: Great video here

29. Golden Leaves

Written by: Rhona Macfarlane

I first heard it: Either at Montrose Folk Club in 2016 or 2017 or as a single in 2016 or on Rhona’s 2017 EP The Tide.

Where you can find it online: Lovely video here.

30. Lay My Heart

Written by: Rachel Sermanni

I first heard it: At Glasgow festival Celtic Connections (online) in 2021. I bought it on Bandcamp (where it says first released in 2017).

Where you can find it online: Lovely video here.

31. Tentsmuir Sky

Written by: Roseanne Reid

I first heard it: Online somewhere in 2021 when it came out. I bought it on Bandcamp.

Where you can find it online: Lovely video here

*Eagle-eyed regulars may notice this is the artwork used on the cover of my rough-as-you-like 2008 book of poems More about the song. In recent years I moved away from writing about music but I guess I'm back with a boom bang a bang now ...

Saturday, 10 July 2021

Just keep swimming?

The above is a poem from a few years ago (text at end of the post in case you can't read photo poems). This week I added it to a recent photo of the mouth of the river Tay (taken in Broughty Ferry). I put it on social media – it didn’t make a big splash or anything. Still, here it is again.

I’ve lived near serious water since 2002 and I know it has a huge (positive) effect on my mental health. When I wasn’t mentally healthy it was feelings of being trapped that did a lot of the daily damage and living in a landlocked situation (in West Yorkshire) was something I was glad to change. When I didn’t live near the sea I wrote poems about photos of the sea (see Flat good – it’s about halfway down this page of little poems) and every chance I could I got away to water. I knew that just standing on a beach looking at the sea really helped me then and it still does. Lockdown without a river or the sea? Not sure that would have worked out so well for me… Congratulations to anyone who managed/is managing that.

Then this poem (The big sound). Sometimes when we write poems I think we have some quite clear ideas about what a poem is ‘about’ (even if it has other layers as well) but with this one I really didn’t have a clue. It just popped out and it felt like a poem (to me) but I couldn’t have said what it was ‘about’ or why it had appeared. I liked it enough to put it in my second little collection but it’s just floated around in there since then, not caused any waves (sorry … I guess I am a tabloid headline writer in another life*).

Then this week I was reading some Covid-19 news. Cases are rising, rising, rising in the UK and places are opening, opening, opening at the same time. I hear people saying they are keen for ‘the end’, for ‘normal’, and these are not things I really recognise but at the same time I know what they mean. And suddenly I remembered this poem and had another look at it, looked at the water, put them together.

When I posted it online this week an old friend said it seemed ‘about hope’ which is interesting because I think it gave me the exact opposite feeling! Moods and words are such odd beasts. It's all in the interpretation perhaps.

Also this week I wrote another poem for a wedding (a private commission). I haven’t written a huge amount since January but my goodness this one just poured out (and the person who commissioned it was super pleased with it too). In some ways it’s a small thing (woman writes poem) but in others it’s huge (for the people concerned, their big day and all that). I’m not married, I’m not a fan of marriage, but I am a fan of love and I can write about that till the cows swim home. So maybe The big sound is a hopeful poem. Maybe love is the big sea, and maybe love (in all its many forms) will get us out of this big fix … but until then here are some cows on a beach (coincidentally on the other side of the mouth of the river Tay). A friend and I took a long walk back in 2015 from Leuchars to Kinshaldie beach and then right along the edge of the water to the Tay road bridge. Just before Tentsmuir Point we were surprised to see a small herd of cows on the beach. Were we hallucinating? Were the cows on some kind of holiday? I don't think I've seen them since ...


Tentsmuir Point, 2015. Photo: Andy Fellows

*Just kidding. The media in the UK is one of the most destructive forces we have. It is home to lots of souls who will, at some point I think, be in whatever hell looks like these days … Boris Johnson’s boudoir, perhaps. Insert vomit emoji here.

The Big Sound

There was a river flowing by,
On it went, on its way,
Calling out to us all,
Swim with me, be my tide,
And we tried, splashing fast,
Getting wet, wet and tired.

Then just when we thought
We couldn't manage
One more stroke -
The river turned into the sea.

Monday, 28 June 2021

Songs that stick

Scurdie Ness, near Montrose

So is it too early to start planning my Fun A Day Dundee project for next year (asking for a friend…)? I know the annual art making and sharing doesn’t happen till January but … there’s reading and thinking to do first, right? 

After January 2021’s me-fest (a poem for every place I’ve lived – 31 in all) I’m looking in another direction this time and I welcome you to join in, contribute, come along for the ride. The plan just now is to focus on songs and, in particular, songs that I came across at the fortnightly folk club that I went to when we lived in the small Scottish/Angus town of Montrose (2004-18). I don’t know if there will be poems this time (maybe, maybe not, let’s see how it goes...). The idea for this focus came to me recently when I was listening to our music library on shuffle and heard a lovely song by a singer/songwriter that we heard at the club a few times (the first time in 2005). I hadn’t heard the song for a while (maybe years) and forgotten how lovely it was. Here’s the song (performed by the writer and his music/life partner – they perform as a duo, Dana & Susan Robinson, they live in Vermont, U.S.A):

There are quite a few folk songs called Safe Home, I think, but that’s my favourite (so far). And of course home has been something we've all had to think about more than ever in recent times. And it has been a really challenging time for musicians, especially those who aren’t mega famous and who rely on live gigs to keep their profile up and their fridges anything like full.

At folk clubs like the one in Montrose you get a mix of artists as the guest performers. You hear quite a lot of tunes/instrumental numbers (and I learned to appreciate them, folk club novice that I was in 2004) but it was always the songs that I was most interested in. Like many of us (maybe even most of us) I’ve been a song fan as long as I can remember and my tastes go pretty wide. At the folk club the songs played come under one of the following categories:

  1. Traditional songs (where most often the writers are ‘unknown’, Robert Burns kind of sneaks into this one as well though, he’s pretty unavoidable in Scotland).
  2. Songs by ‘big hitter’ songwriters of the 20th century, many of them, but not all, from over the big water to the west (Bob Dylan, Tracy Chapman, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, John Prine, Nick Drake, John Martyn etc.). 
  3. The odd rock/pop song cover (and the more daring the act the more pop they go … a Fife band called Coaltown Daisies used to do a good Titanium when they visited). 
  4. Songs by the visiting artist themselves (a mixed bag – sometimes amazing, sometimes less so, though of course these things are subjective). 
  5. Songs by other less well-known songwriters (people who are only known on the folk scene or maybe not even known there).

I’m currently reliving my trips to the folk club in Montrose (back to those pesky/useful diaries again) and trying to pick 31 songs to write about (again one for every day in January). I’m trying to focus on songs in the 4 and 5 category (but I may creep into 2 now and again as well) and I’m going to try to contact the songwriters (where possible). There are songwriters who may have been in 4 or 5 when I first went to folk club in 2004 but who have so many great songs that they are now making their way into category 2. The final piece of the puzzle is that I’d like people to have a go at covering the songs in question and doing a rough recording if they can (rough is good). It’s a collective project I’m talking about here… a folk club, a ‘sing in the round’ kind of a thing, if you like. On YouTube.

So please get in touch if you’re a folk clubber and have any particular memories of songs you heard at the club and have never forgotten (comment on here or on Facebook or wherever you find yourself – I keep trying to get off Facebook but so many of you are still only there and I don’t want to lose you!). Or if you fancy having a go at covering one of the songs let me know that too (very alternative versions always welcome). There is plenty of time to practise before January. I will print up a list of the songs when it’s ready (I’m on the 2008 diary today so it might be a couple of weeks till I’m done).

Safe home (unless you’re already at home in which case just thanks for reading).

Thursday, 3 June 2021

Blogs fight back!


Arbroath, last weekend.

So, all the world's a podcast right now ... but blogs are still with us and here are a couple of newish ones that I can recommend to you (both of these are written by people I know pretty well).

A friend of mine and her colleague are setting off this weekend on a cycling trip from Land's End to John o' Groats. Follow their progress on a blog here. Donate to their fundraiser if you can here too.

Our daughter has been writing a blog for much of the lockdown era. She has a collection of theatre programmes and her blog concentrates on the musicals she's seen (with quite a bit of life added into the mix). Read her blog Heather Loves Musicals here. On Instagram you can even hear her sing a little bit of one of the songs mentioned in her most recent post.

I was quite caught up in the world of blogs a few years back. I started my first one at the end of February 2007 (this one - first posts here) and continued with it (pretty regularly) till 2011. I wrote about all sorts and did very little editing (I'd probably cringe if I read some of it now!). Lots of the other bloggers I interacted with regularly in the early days still have blogs going and you can see them in the list on the lower right hand side of the web version of this blog (you might not see the links on a phone/tablet version, I have no idea why). I also had a blog for the poetry events I organised 2008-2010 (here). Then in 2011 we had our family 6-month trip to North America and of course that had a blog too (this one). I still read that epic quite a lot (especially in recent months) and I'm glad I kept to the discipline of writing it for the whole trip. I do keep handwritten diaries too but they are pretty simple affairs (more to help the memory than anything) and the travel blog has a lot of detail (plus all the photos of course) and it can really make me smile (sometimes even laugh at my own jokes...). And on our return was I going to start up another blog..? Why, yes (the one you're looking at now...) oh and why not - another cup of coffee for the road - here's another one I put up for a long poem I wrote at the end of 2011.

There are lots of reasons why I continue with blogging (even if it is irregular these days - I'm on the computer a lot for other work now and the eyes get tired). I like the speed of it, the freedom, the ability to post about absolutely anything. I suppose they are a bit like sketchbooks and/or scrapbooks in that sense and you either like that kind of thing or you don't (and I do). I do put poems up on my blogs (sometimes when they're very new). I know this can affect how other places (magazines etc.) will publish your work but I have totally abandoned the 'sending poems to magazines' business. I did it quite a bit for years, had some success (a few such triumphs mentioned on my website if you're interested), and quite a few rejections, but it takes up such a lot of time and it wasn't for me in the end (it's a lot of admin and admin has never been my favourite activity). 

Anyway, I've no particular poems to share with you today. Just thought I hadn't posted for a wee while so wanted to keep things moving on here. And if you haven't seen it on social media already here's a pic of the new Michael Marra mural in Lochee in Dundee (by artist Michael Corr). I've written about Marra on most of my blogs somewhere along the way, written poems about him, written about seeing him at live gigs, written about books about him. He died in 2012 but my goodness his music and his presence certainly live on, especially here in his home toon.

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

More fun, more love

This weekend sees the online exhibition for Fun A Day Dundee 2021. Of course it’s online, everything’s still online, but the only upside to this is you can see it from wherever you are in the world (programme of activities above). From this Friday evening at their site (Scottish time) you can see work (and links to more work) from all the participants who took part in January of this year and as usual there is a huge range of work (arts, crafts, carts, rafts…). Any time from Friday please head over and explore – but maybe on a screen bigger than a phone (unless your phone is gigantic) as there will be a lot of work to see.

I took part in the project this January and was asked to write a reflective piece about my contribution (‘31 Postcodes’) for the exhibition blog this weekend (and as you can see on the programme that piece will be live on their site from this Sunday afternoon - it's up now so here is the link). There’s plenty to read in that piece so I won’t repeat it all here. Instead let me just remind you that all the poems and posts from January are still on this blog (or Instagram) to look at/listen to (starting on 1st January 2021). Also I have put together a YouTube playlist to accompany the project called 31 Postcodes. It has a track for every home/place I’ve lived – not always the favourite piece of music that I listened to there but the one that most comes to mind when I think of that particular place and time. For some of the places it was pretty tough to pick (because I lived there for a very short or very long time or because I listened to so much different music there) so I didn’t soul search about it too much and just plumped for something that seemed right. It’s seems almost criminal to have a list without Stevie Wonder or Nina Simone and so many, many others but it’s only 31 entries so I did what I could. Here's some background to each choice.

For postcode/poem 1 (1967-73) - The Beatles Penny Lane

In this house I often played with a pile of old 45s that my half-sisters had left behind when they moved away. There were a few Beatles records in there and this was certainly one of my favourites. There was also some Cliff Richard…

For postcode/poem 2 (1973-4) - Mud Tiger Feet

I have strong memories of a ‘twist’ competition at my 7th birthday party to this record. I think I tried so hard to win I gave myself several stitches. Please howl with laughter at the TOTP video on the playlist…

For postcode/poem 3 (1974-6/7) - Rock Follies Sugar Mountain

I watched this TV series with my Mum. I was probably far too young but I really enjoyed it and she loved it (Julie Covington was a big fave of hers so we only ever listened to her Evita, no Elaine Paige in our house – sorry EP).

For postcode/poem 4 (1977-8) - Earth, Wind & Fire September

I had the vinyl album of The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire Vol 1 and I loved it.

For postcode/poem 5 (1978-83) - Chic Le Freak

A school disco favourite. You'll have to read the posts to understand why the dates overlap at times...

For postcode/poem 6 (1979-83) - Neil Young Old Man

As a teenager I found this song fascinating and listened to it over and over (and the rest of Harvest, an album that was at that point about 10 years old). I don’t remember borrowing this from a sibling nor do I remember choosing it for myself so it’s as if it just magically appeared in my room. I also listened regularly to local radio, Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall, Spandau Ballet’s True, and far too much Black Sabbath and ACDC (in the smoking room) but somehow it’s Neil who’s made the list for this address. 

For postcode/poem 7 (1983-4) - Shalamar A Night To Remember

I saw this band ‘live’ at the Capital Radio ‘Best Disco in Town’ on the Strand (though it was more PA than full band I think…). At the time it seemed very sophisticated – I was new in London, remember and I bet they wouldn’t have come to Middlesbrough in 1983! Looking at the Youtube video I realise why I bought a pair of black and white stripey trousers around this time…

For postcode/poem 8 (1984-5) - David Bowie Oh! You Pretty Things

I’m sure many of us have Bowie tracks that come in and out of our lives. There are lots that I like but I had quite a Bowie phase in late teens and I loved this track back then (that and Wild is the Wind). 

For postcode/poem 9 (1985) - Madonna Into the Groove

Around this time I saw Desperately Seeking Susan in Madrid (dubbed into Spanish as it was mainstream and not an artfilm). I was 18. I loved it and somehow particularly because it was in Spanish (the name Susan sounds totally different for a start).

For postcode/poem 10 (1985) - Joaquin Sabina y Viceversa Incompatibilidad de Caracteres

Lots of Spanish and Latin American music was played in this house but I thought I should pick a Spanish one for Madrid so here is one from that era. To be honest the song I most associate with this house is Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing as my Basque flatmate had a cousin conscripted in the army who used to visit us when on leave and play that track over and over (very loud). That is a song I would happily never hear again.

For postcode/poem 11 (1986) - Silvio Rodriguez Vamos a Andar

This Cuban singer/songwriter was much beloved by almost everyone I knew in Madrid. I even saw him live there but the memory is a bit vague… I think it was some sort of arena and not really the environment for his very gentle voice.

For postcode/poem 12 (1986-7) - Billy Bragg A New England

Not such a gentle voice this time. One of my best uni friends had stacks of homemade cassettes in her room in the first year (Cocteau Twins, Everything But the Girl, Elvis Costello, lots of bands I’d never heard of like The Woodentops and The Three Johns – I’ve still never listened to either of those) and she also introduced me to Billy Bragg (the sound, not the man). We saw him live at the Cambridge Corn Exchange (where we also saw, I think, Hugh Masekela and Ben Elton, but not on the same bill). Another uni friend played me the Tom Waits album Heart of Saturday Night for the first time and that is still a firm favourite in whichever house I’m in (and definitely my favourite of his albums).

For postcode/poem 13 (1987-8) - George Michael Faith

As mentioned in the blog post for this one, this was one of the sounds of my 21st birthday in our student house. 

For postcode/poem 14 (1988) - Mel & Kim Showing Out

Stock Aitken Waterman were evil but their music was almost inescapable around this time. I did have a weakness for Mel & Kim and I did watch quite a bit of Hitman and Her (it was terrible but remember, kids, we had less choice at 3am in those days).

For postcode/poem 15 (1988-9) - Diana Ross & The Supremes Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

I’ve often hidden in the 1960s or '70s and my last year at college (1988-89) was one such year (it felt nicer there, I didn’t have to think about the future). The video on the playlist is just Diana because all the Supremes ones I could see weren’t live.

For postcode/poem 16 (1989) - The Stone Roses Fools Gold

My brother had a party in this house of my Mum’s when she was away once and some friends and I (foolishly) took LSD and listened/danced to the first Stone Roses album on repeat literally all night long. My brother’s friends found us very confusing (they were more drinkers). Why were we so thin? Why did we only want to listen to one album? What were we laughing at?

For postcode/poem 17 (1989-90) - Omar There’s Nothing Like This

Although I was mainly raving around this time I liked to listen to the Leeds pirate radio station WYBC and it had a soul show that I loved on Saturday afternoons (i.e. my weekend breakfast show, nice and soothing and calming after a night of acid house). The DJ was called Soulmaster Hazzy and he played this track a lot in 1989 – sometimes 3 times in a row (you can do that on pirate radio).

For postcode/poem 18 (1990) - Happy Mondays Step On

Again I was listening/dancing to a lot of dance/house music at this point but that is a little blurred timewise (which tracks were out when, what was part of the mix…). I do remember dancing to this though when friend and I used to go to cheap student nights mid-week (we weren’t students, just dedicated followers of sound and syrup). We didn’t know a lot of student music but we knew this one.

For postcode/poem 19 (1990-91) - Diana Brown and Barry K Sharpe The Masterplan

Again there was much house/rave music in the air but friends and I listened to this track a lot (home and away) and I also remember hearing/seeing Sharpe at a sound system at Notting Hill Carnival at around this time (well, I think it was him - it could have been anyone, it was very busy). 

For postcode/poem 20 (1991) - Gil Scott-Heron Three Miles Down

I listened to a lot of GSH driving once I had a car with a decent sound system in it (it was a cassette player). I had the live double cassette Tales of Gil Scott-Heron by Gil Scott-Heron and his Amnesia Express and I would really recommend it. It really gives the feeling of his live shows (I saw him at the Leeds Irish Centre, the internet suggests this was 1992 and that sounds about right). 

For postcode/poem 21 (1991) - Fresh Four Wishing on a Star

Slow dancing at the end of a very long all-night house party… I think that’s what this was about.

For postcode/poem 22 (1991-2) - Sabrina Johnston Peace (Brothers in Rhythm Mix)

This one is mentioned in the poem – I didn’t love it especially but my flatmate played it very loud and very often. She was new to rave/house music - this was her first love, in that sense.

For postcode/poem 23 (1992-3) - K & M Funk and Drive 

You’ll not find this on Spotify. It’s a funky house record that was rereleased under the name Elevatorman (also not on Spotify). The boyf of the time played it a lot.

For postcode/poem 24 (1993-5) - Tricky Hell is Round the Corner

DJ Daisy and I both loved the Maxinquaye album by Tricky. Full of great tracks.

For postcode/poem 25 (1995-6) - Underworld Rez/Cowgirl

I could pick a millions tracks for this one but I went with one that we danced to rather than played ourselves (as DJs). Happy memories of bouncing around a dancefloor somewhere in London at 4am when we’d finished our own set.

For postcode/poem 26 (1996-98) - Joan Osborne Crazy Baby

A suitable come-down track for so many reasons. From the great album Relish.

For postcode/poem 27 (1998-2002) - World Party She’s the One

When I was pregnant I was pretty sure we were expecting a girl (all my sisters had had girls) and I often found myself singing this song (I listened to quite a bit of Radio 2 around this point – I didn’t like a lot of it but 6 Music was still playing far too much punk for my taste in 2000 so it was a compromise). Obviously the better known version of this track is by Robbie Williams but I am medically allergic to anything to do with Take That so I can’t recommend you listen to that. This is the original and it’s very similar, Robbie didn’t do anything different with it.

For postcode/poem 28 (2002-4) - The White Stripes Black Math

When our lives were full of pre-school sounds The White Stripes made a nice alternative to Part of Your World and Bibbidy Bobbidy Boo every now and then. We all used to bounce around the house to this track (including daughter and any other kids present).

For postcode/poem 29 (2004) - Buena Vista Social Club Candela

This period was a couple of months in a small house with my Mum so we kept our noisier music at bay and chose music she couldn’t complain about (she once asked if the washing machine was on – it was Radiohead… it was years later I realised she was probably being funny).

For postcode/poem 30 (2004-18) - Ana Laan Happiness is a Long Discipline

We were 14 years at this address and a lot of music under the bridge. I picked this one because it’s a good approach to life and the singer/songwriter is an old friend who should be better known in the UK (she lives in Spain). She is brilliant, sings in Spanish, English and other languages. This song is from her 2007 album Chocolate and Roses.

For postcode/poem 31 (2018-now) - Michael Marra All will be well

Marra gets a mention in the Dundee poem, as of course he should. This isn’t the song of his I know best or listen to most but it seemed a good note to end on, especially now. Marra was good at writing about all of life – the good, the bad and the ugly – and giving it a touch of something like magic as he went. He is in my Premier League of singer/songwriters (which is an extensive and brilliant team but I’m not going to start listing all those on the team who didn’t make it onto this particular list of 31 tracks or we will be here all weekend and then you won’t have time to go and check out all the Fun A Day exhibition!). 

Thanks for reading and by the way the 'more love' in the post title is a reference to a song by Tim O'Brien. I first heard it at Montrose Folk Club (performed by the band Real Time, sung by the lovely Judy Dinning, sadly no longer with us). The Chicks (formerly the Dixie Chicks) cover it too.

Saturday, 13 March 2021

Oh mother!


Another day

Hey, Mum, I still see you – 

in an urn, in a cupboard,

in the corner of a room.

It’s not ideal but there it is – 

you always were patient.

Other options were too tricky,

or busy, or expensive.

You’d say treats are for the living,

memories and motherhood,

a mixed bag.

Simple but not simplistic,

you are so widely dispersed.

In the garden, in the kitchen,

you go where we go

every day.

RF 2021

Here it aloud here.

Times are emotional, am I right? But you know, they always are, it’s just that sometimes we’re more aware of it. After the frenzy of blog activity in January this year I've had a month or so away (recovering...) but here are a few marvellous things that have made me feel even more emotional than usual this week:

1. A poetry round table as part of the StAnza festival. 

Everything is online this year of course (which suits me better to be honest... I struggle to sit in quiet audiences in real life). The poet reading her work was Tishani Doshi and her most famous poem (Girls Are Coming out of the Woods) certainly brought a tear to my eye (and hers) yesterday for all too familiar reasons. I think it was actually her tears that prompted mine during the reading. She is very good on how to both hate and love the world around us. 

2. The book no one is talking about this by Patricia Lockwood

I saw it mentioned on one of author David Nicholls’ Twitter book launch days and bought a copy (and not from Amazon...). It is not an easy book to get into (especially if you are aged, like me, over 50 and possibly guilty of using all the wrong emojis) but I persisted and it is so worth it - such lovely writing! Poets are all very well but I do often feel that many of the most poetic writers are people who work in other areas (see also this week Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald and too much music to mention). On some days I feel like I only really like about 5 poems in the whole history of literature (bah humbug). On a related note, daughter and I also listened to Nicholls himself talking about adapting novels for the screen this week (you can catch up with that for free here). 

3. The radio shows on BBC 6 Music in the 6 Music Artist in Residence series 

And in particular the ones curated recently by Arlo Parks. These are a joy, joy, joy but the first of her six programmes only has one day left on the player so dont hang about. I am also really enjoying a weekly programme on BBC Radio Scotland (the Roddy Hart Show on Tuesday evenings at 10pm). In this weeks show his album of note was Arab Straps As Days Get Dark and I particularly enjoyed the spoken part of Tears on Tour (“what would you call the opposite of a comedian?” etc.). Well, a poet maybe...

Anyway, more when it comes.

About the photo - my Mum, Margaret Fox (formerly Parr, née Bryant), died in 2010 aged 86. Today I took her out into the garden for a photo shoot.