It’s Definitely not Grim Up North!

There are some heroes on this small island of ours. Fighters who keep the flame alive and give a platform to those of us who plow our furrow in the unfashionable and underloved arena of melodic, tuneful, punk rock, – heroes who enable weekends as fun-filled and fulfilling as the one just passed.

We’ve been guilty of ignoring the Northern end of Great Britain for a couple of years. Those Germans, Scandinavians, Spanish, Irish and even Americans are just so damn welcoming. And I don’t know what we’ve done to Rebellion but they never answer our emails. We started to put that right this week though.

So step forward  Mr Joe Maddox and his band The Breakdowns. We needed a stopover between London and Glasgow and up they came with our salvation. The Chameleon Arts Cafe: smack bang in the middle of Nottingham on a thursday night. Run by two very friendly fellas who are determined to enjoy their work and make sure their wares are up to scratch before offering them for sale. If you ask nicely they are also not backward in coming forward with the Jaegermeister post show.

Heated to a level just a few degrees below St Petersburg on Christmas eve, the Chameleon still has a warmth only the good people of Nottingham can engender. I lived in this town for a couple of years when I was helping to run Nottingham Forest FC (twice Champions of Europe!) and I love coming back to hear the dulcet tones of the local OAPs telling me: “You’re blocking the road and breaking the law”!  Well I was, but only because we had to stop somewhere in the car to telephone the venue which is hidden down an alley and up some stairs. A great crowd, a great thursday night and we were bloody good too.

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Sophie and Mauro

And so to Glasgow. Last time we were there was a Saturday afternoon matinée. Bold idea and a good one. This time it would be a friday night proper, promoted once again by the charming Alex Mainy Main, a man of many entertaining opinions, as evidenced by his blog –“Itsaxxxxthing” (Warning: do not read if you like your point of view filtered by the Daily Mail, or are of a Trumpish disposition). He is also a general doer of good deeds for struggling musicians through his local collective The New Hellfire Club. The venue, Audio, is one of the best in the UK as were the two support bands, Media Whores and Heavy Drapes.

I love a big stage. Give us a Big Stage and we’ll show you how to use it! Sophie K Powers threw her best poses, thrashing away with no regard for life or limb,  a blur of hair, white Les Paul Junior and legs.

Mauro Venegas strutted his patch, a wild mixture of Mick Ronson and Steve Jones. Our own Jones (Karen) whacked away behind. How does someone so light hit those drums so damn hard?

And me? You know what I do when you give me a bit of space.

We were shit hot that night. It was worth the long drive just by itself.

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Audio Glasgow: Brilliant Venue

Afterwards we headed off to sample the bars of Sauchiehall Street. Glasgow late on a drunken Friday night? Well why not? You only die once.

Actually it wasn’t threatening at all. We arrived in an establishment full of young bearded fellows, quite clearly off their faces on MDMA, throwing karate poses to each other in time to modern music of indeterminate quality. The girls, clearly also floating in another dimension, were together enough to be pissed off at the lack of attention from the blokes who, despite their lack of terrestrial presence, seemed to be quite aware that they looked like a bunch of bearded Craig Revel Horwoods.

And then things got weirder. The besuited DJs played first “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath, then Whitney Huston, Dolly Parton, Sheena Easton and a whole host of guilty pleasures from the 70s and 80s. By this time the place was heaving with hipsters all getting off to music they probably wouldn’t be seen dead owning up to on Sunday morning.

We’d been joined by Guy Jardine, boss at Rebel in Print T Shirts (Check them out), a man who wouldn’t be seen dead on facebook (cough) and unmistakably: A PUNK! “This isn’t Punk” grumbled Guy, “Punk was invented to get rid of all this”! “Don’t be a silly sausage” I said. “Yes, come and have a dance” said Sophie. So off he sheepishly trotted to have a bop whereupon the DJ took Lionel Ritchie off and put on Billy Idol to save Guy’s blushes. Hospitable people these Scots.

And so to Middlesbrough, home to Stephen Harland and his Riverside Rebellion. Well at least there’s one Rebellion festival which will have us 😉

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Riverside Rebellion

And that is what you call a line up.

We were on at the perfect time: about 8 pm. But: we followed Church of Eon and Cyanide Pills. Watching them both I was thinking, “This is going to take some serious showing off to keep up with”. Church of Eon even had a portly local jump up in his ABBA pyjamas during their cover of Mama Mia.

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Man in ABBA Pyjamas

Cyanide Pills were simply magnificent: everything you want when Leeds meets Lager.

So we really did get up to some serious, world-class showing off. There weren’t the wide open spaces of Audio so we crashed into each other a lot, I couldn’t hear a word I was singing and the mike kept flying off its stand. But I think we pulled the largest crowd of the night and kept them there to our glorious finale.

On the way back to the hotel Mauro stopped to pick up a local delicacy: the Chicken Parma. He had a half sized one which was about 4 kilos of breaded, fried chicken covered in 3 litres of melted cheese and a bucket of fries. I share a hotel room with him and was worried (having seen Monty Python’s Meaning of Life).

Back in London the next day I discovered that the first band on in Nottingham, Bones Park Rider, had kindly sent me a recording of our set. In celebration of this deliriously wonderful jaunt we offer a 15 minute extract for download here. It’s completely free (subject to Bandcamp’s monthly limit) although you can pay a little if you want to.

London, Brighton, Sheffield, Grimsby, York and Nottingham again in the first quarter of next year do you say? I can’t wait.

Post Script (3 Jan 2017) Following this post a number of people contacted Rebellion to say we are great. Rebellion have contacted us and we have been offered a slot for this summer. I love you all!

 

 

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It Was Another Age

On our first album, Little Big Head, there is a track, Rolling On, which contains my most autobiographical lyric to date. In three minutes odd it goes from childhood, through moving to London, falling into the punk scene, settling down, family and now.

For me, the most evocative part is the early verse dealing with my upbringing in Canterbury, a sleepy, provincial town in Kent. Sixty miles from London but part of a different universe altogether.

I grew up at the edge of town on the London Road Council estate. Uniform red brick houses, three small but adequate bedrooms, sporadic traffic, apple orchards out the back and the famous Canterbury Cathedral, founding place of Christianity in Britain, visible from everywhere.

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Canterbury Cathedral looming over everything

 

Solidly working class but safe. No one was rich but no one was really poor. And from the rose-tinted perspective of many decades later, the sun, of course, always shone.

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The London Road Estate with sun “always” shining.

The best aspect of growing up there was that, by and large, we were free. A motley gang of 7,8,9, and 10 year olds always playing football in the street. If traffic came by, the ball would be picked up and, once the car passed, the endless game would carry on.

I say “always playing football” but that’s not quite true. There was always time for other escapades.

As July and August approached the apples in the orchards would ripen and it was time for the farmers to be on maximum guard as the “scrumping” season approached. Packs of German Shepherd dogs were bought in to patrol the crops and save them from the gangs of urchins who saw it as a badge of honour to strip the trees of their bounty of ripe red fruit. The farmers themselves would patrol with shot guns ready to fire at any tree infested with monkey like boys who were busy helping themselves to everything they could grab.

The operation was military in its precision. Small boys were sent ahead to reconnoitre for dogs and guns. If the coast was clear a Game of Thrones like charge of older, bigger, better climbers descended and the harvest began. Sometimes the dogs would hear us without the small boys seeing them, and a mad dash ensued with hounds after their quarry and shotgun blasts going off behind.

Usually though, all passed peacefully  and a procession of scamps would be seen wending their way back through the estate, jumpers bulging bulbously with their illicit bounty. Mothers would wait at the door to give each and everyone a clip round the ear for being “naughty”, but apple pie was always on for “pudding” at “tea time”. Nothing was wasted.

Or there were the bike trips. “Where are you going?” our mother would ask as bikes were wheeled past the back door. “Just down the road” was the reply. But in fact an expedition was planned to Whitstable, 10 miles away and the nearest coast. The route would involve 20 or so imps often cycling down a dual carriageway to get to the sea. Swimming would  follow, then drying off on the way back. No food was packed so we’d knock on the door of complete strangers and ask for a sandwich. An ordinary day dodging high-speed traffic, risking not just drowning but, from the viewpoint of this modern, paranoid age, abduction also.

“Where have you been?”, was the question on our return. “Nowhere”, was the reply.

I could go on with tales of organised shoplifting in the toy shops of Canterbury high street. The aim was to get one over on the security guards who knew exactly what we were there for, but never caught us. Often the booty was thrown away as it wasn’t really the point. Or playing chicken on the electrified main rail line from Dover to London. Raids to let the bicycle tyres down of kids from other streets. “Knock out ginger”, easy pickings fishing in local fish farms, fake dog turds left on the steps of Canterbury Cathedral to shock the tourists, breaking my little finger the one and only time I hit a boy who had just hit my little brother………. you get the picture: a childhood of adventure and “We were all in clover”.

But “time rolled on”, I turned eleven, and for complicated, domestic reasons I was torn from the family home and sent to a middle class world where I needed to mend my ways and hide my roots, else people would think less of me if they knew where I came from. But that’s a story for another song.

So what has bought on this orgy of nostalgic reminiscing?

Well on 23 July we play in Deal, a hop and a skip from Canterbury, in that delightful seaside town, remote enough to be saved from the weekend home buying Londoners that Whitstable has been prey to, but lively enough to enjoy a thriving live music scene. It’s also now my brother’s home and we appear at The Lighthouse, his local and a boozer I wanted to play the minute I walked in.

All sorts of family will be there and, if you want to join us at this free gig, the details are here.

So, in celebration of this rare and momentous return to Kent, may I urge you to give “Rolling On” a listen, either in pure, unsullied audio perfection here or with added audio-visual splendour here.

Thank you for your indulgence and company on this fond meander down memory lane.

In Praise of Bandcamp

Here’s a few tips and info I’ve learned for new bands who want to get their music out there. It’s also hopefully interesting for those who like to know how these things work.

If you don’t have a record company to look after you, and these days if you aren’t a karaoke solo singer that’ll be nearly everyone, you have to make and distribute your own music. It’s quite easy to have worldwide digital distribution on ITunes, Amazon, Spotify and Apple Music etc. You just need an aggregator.

We use AWAL which stands for Artists Without A Label. They are owned by the large, relative newcomer, Kobalt. You upload your music and artwork to the account you create on their site and, voila, everyone can download or stream your music worldwide. (The depressing thing is you’ll find your music will also appear on loads of sites which steal it and offer it cheap without paying, but that’s another subject and not AWAL’s fault).

AWAL will also try to make sure that, if someone uploads one of your songs to YouTube, an advert runs and you get something at least. YouTube is a problem at the moment. (It’s owned by Google who believe they own the internet. Actually they do own the internet because governments allow them to own over 90% of internet search advertising which means they are a monopoly and richer than the rest of the world put together. Again, that’s another subject). YouTube pays out far less than the pennies others like Spotify pay so please bear that in mind when you rip a track by an artist to post on YouTube without their permission. (I’m not talking about clips you film at gigs btw. They only help spread the word IMHO).

AWAL works very well. They do the job they say they will for 15% of what you earn and a transfer appears in your bank account every month along with a very clear and interesting statement of where the money was earned.

If there’s one drawback it’s that you don’t have any influence over how things appear on the various platforms. For instance on Spotify if you listen to “Little Big Head” by “Duncan Reid”, there’s nothing to show that there’s an associated album, “The Difficult Second Album” by “Duncan Reid and the Big Heads”.

The other drawback is that while AWAL take 15% of what they receive, Apple, for instance, also take 30% of what they receive before paying AWAL, so you end up with just over half of what people pay.

If you want to offer LPs and CDs on Amazon the costs are also high.

For unsigned bands there is an alternative where you sell downloads, CDs, LPs and merch direct to fans. It’s called Bandcamp. You set up your shop yourself making sure fans get the highest quality downloads (yes there is a big difference in sound quality between a download based on a so called WAV file and one based on an inferior MP3). You can give tracks away for free, set a price or ask people to pay what they want.You can make sure fans also get lyrics and song notes with their downloads and add photos and bonus tracks.

And Bandcamp just make the one charge of 15% for downloads and 10% on physical items, so you get the majority of the money.

I’m sure there are other sites for bands to do this but this is the one I know and if you are searching to buy stuff from an unsigned band you have discovered I would urge you to check Bandcamp first. Every little helps.

If you are interested, our Bandcamp shop is here

They’ve Got it All -A Lost Treasure from Little Big Head

Children. Life changing aren’t they. When they’re young they think you are great. You know everything and, within reason and perhaps after a bit of coercion, they do what you say.

We’re all genetically modified to find them absorbing and would do anything to keep them safe and happy. As Billy Conolly said: “Kids are like farts. My own don’t smell bad at all”.

And then come the teenage years and you know nothing. “What do you mean?” said my 14 year old daughter, “of course I’ll be alright if go down to Camden till 3 am” and I was the fool for not letting her. But they have to do that. It’s part of the process of making you let go and accepting they’re growing up and will soon be gone. (For thoughts on a similar subject listen to “Long Long Gone” on the “Difficult 2nd Album”)

But for all the trials and tribulations, when you’ve got kids you really do have it all.

I wrote a song on the subject and recorded it for “Little Big Head”. It didn’t make the album so I gave it to a charity which supports Michael Sobell House, a Hospice for the terminally ill. They included it on the fund raising CD “A Tribute to Paul Fox”. Paul was guitarist in The Ruts and was helped by MSH before he sadly succumbed to cancer. I’m happy to say the CD, which features TV Smith, UK Subs, Chelsea, The Urban Voodoo Machine and many more, sold well and is worth checking out.

You can hear “They’ve Got it All” on Soundcloud and, if you are quick enough and get there before their free allocation runs out, download it as well.

Listen to “They’ve Got it All” here and download for free if you are quick enough

Scandinavians: probably the most generous fans in the world

Last summer our delightful Norwegian agent, Harry Steen, turned up to our London show with three kilos of salmon and four jars of caviar. It was a charming gift, albeit constituting a somewhat unconventional package to carry around at a gig.Thankfully he brought the fish in a cool bag so I managed to get it home without it starting to hum our tunes.

Wild Norwegian salmon. What a treat.

Stockholm last week managed to surpass that. My total haul for the gig was as follows:

1 hand painted portrait freshly arrived from Finland,
2 bottles of liquorice firewater,
2 bars of dark chocolate, and …….

the icing on the cake ……….

2 jars of peanut butter.

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Hand Painted Portrait by the effervescant Juha Rindall from Finland

 

Aren’t people wonderful?

Rock and Roll: it beats shopping and still provides the essentials of life.

Check out some steaming footage of C’est la Vie from Stockholm here

Our version of that Boys classic Soda Pressing here

Thinking

Jeepster

Long Long Gone

Duncan and Tim’s South American Jaunt. Part 6: Montevideo revisited

You can read part 5 of this blog here

And so to the ferry across the River Plate and the bus to Montevideo. I’d played here two years earlier with The Boys and had the time of my life. So much so that I wrote a song about it and, in particular, the ClashCityRockers bar where I’d spent most of the time hanging out.

The effect of the song was pretty much to big the place up and everyone was talking about going to this mythical location as if it would be the source of all happiness. “What have I done?”, I thought. “It’s only a bar. Everyone is going to be so let down”.

The gig was in the smallest venue of the tour with a suitably scaled down audience but the reaction was the loudest and most raucous. Tim was not allowed to leave the stage and nor where we.

There was also a first for all of us: an outdoors dressing room! Liz came into the four walled, lit up area, about the size of a normal room. It normally served as the grill area of the bar. “This has got a very high ceiling”, she said looking at the sky. “And it’s got a barbecue!”.

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Having a laugh in the outdoor dressing room

And onto ClashCityRockers for an after show drink. It didn’t take long for Alex to get up on the tables with Tim’s guitar and start taking requests, most of which he could sing and play to the delight of the locals. Everyone took turns to join in and goodness knows how long we were there singing and drinking. All I know is it was 7am when we left.

“How do you do this all the time?” I asked Valentina, wife of Hugo who organised the gig. “We only do it when you come”, she replied smiling.

“This bar is the best place in the whole world, isn’t it?”, said Alex to Tim as we made our way out. “Not far off. But then so was everywhere else”, was the reply which pretty much summed it up.

A truly superb week. New friends made, especially Jose on drums, Tommy and Juan on guitars, Chino the roadie and Mariano to thank for organising it all. Sad farewells made as the rest of the guys headed back to Buenos Aires.

Liz and I stayed on an extra day as I had a date with the minister to receive my “Illustrious Visitor” award. A charming lady as it happened, who made a welcoming speech which I responded to in Spanish without mishap. Then onto a TV station for an interview which, this time, I took the sensible way out and did in English.

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Getting ready for my close up on Uruguayan TV

As we walked up the steps to the hotel a very sprightly old black guy came down toward us. Dressed in one of those 50’s American jackets James Dean might wear, and a captain’s hat, he was the coolest looking 86 year old you’ll ever see.

“That’s Chuck Berry”, said Liz and by George it was. So, one of the greatest Rock n Roll poets and inventor of the rock lead guitar is in town and I’m the “Illustrious Visitor”?

“C’est la Vie” said the old folk.

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A sprightly young man passes us in the hotel

Duncan and Tim’s South American Adventure Part 5: Back to BA

You can read part 4 of this blog here

And so we traveled the blissfully short 3 hour drive from Rosario back to Buenos Aires. You may remember I had left my telephone in Brazil with my iPad charger. Emails back to England had elicited help and FedEx had been engaged to ferry the equipment from Rio to BA. I was looking forward to picking it up in the hotel and for the twitches which come from being estranged from these modern day curses to subside.

“You were expecting a package from FedEx”, said the receptionist. “Yes”, I replied in joy. “The customs have impounded it” he said. “You are #*$¥%}ing joking me”, was my measured response after less sleep in a week than I’m accustomed to enjoying for a Saturday afternoon nap.

It turns out that Argentina’s much admired and completely rational president, Kristina Kirchner, has had a spat with Apple. She demanded they build a factory in her country, they declined, so she banned my particular model of iPhone. I could go to a Customs office in the equivalent of Swansea on Monday, in person and only in person, pay a fine, whereupon my iPhone would be restored to me.

“But I’ll be in Uruguay on Monday and from there I’m traveling back to Brazil and the UK”, was my plaintive cry. All were agreed it was not a promising situation.

At least there was better news from Uruguay. A government minister would be welcoming me to his office on Monday afternoon to present me with a medal as an “Illustrious Visitor” to Montevideo. The only musicians to receive this honour before were Paul MacCartney and Elton John. This was, of course, in recognition for the song “Montevideo” on my cd “Little Big Head”, a song inspired by my last trip to the city which was largely spent in an alcoholic haze of the night time hours in a bar called ClashCityRockers.

So you celebrate getting rat arsed in a city and they give you a medal for it. My kind of town.

“If he’s a government minister tell him to get onto Kirchner and get your phone back”‘ was the solitary response from a geographically challenged, and unimpressed Liz.

And so to the nights show. By now the whole team were running on pure adrenaline and audience reaction to overcome the lack of sleep. Both adrenaline and audience reaction were there in copious quantities.
Tim was in fine form as ever and the Adverts song, “One Chord Wonders”, which we played together as he joined me and the band on stage at the end of my set, particularly went down a storm.

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Tim with the gaucho Big Heads on One Chord Wonders

An early night. In bed by 3pm and six, count them, six whole hours of sleep before getting the ferry across the River Plate, a river the width of the English Channel, in the morning.

Duncan and Tim’s South American Adventure Part 3: The Real work begins

Read Part 2 of this blog here

Tuesday and a beautifully sunny, mishap free day arrived in Buenos Aires. There’s no blue like a clear day in “BA”, as the locals call it.

Liz and I wandered the haphazard, cobbled streets around the hotel, popping in and out of shops and lunching on the pavement of a “Parilla” restaurant. A mountain of steak, salad, grilled tomato and wine set us back a fiver a head.

8 pm saw the first rehearsal which went on till 11 at Tomas, local Dave Grohl lookalike’s, apartment. Out the back he has a wide, tiled, walled garden. The kind of space you’d kill for in a London townhouse. It was now midnight. Tomorrow was a working or school day depending on the age of our new friends so, after a long day, everyone did the logical thing.

They all called their wives to bring the respective tribes of children round, the barbecue was lit and a delightful few hours were spent into the early hours eating, drinking and talking under the stars, music playing with no complaints from the neighbours.

South American logic, you see? Sleep isn’t very important, having a good time is.

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Tommy’s garden at God knows what hour. He’s poking his head in top right. “Sleep’s not important”

Wednesday arrived and all the parts were assembled. Tim “TV” Smith arrived early in the morning after his 24 hour flight, with a day to be spent staying awake to avoid being completely messed up by the jet lag.

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Mariano and Alex doing something weird at Recoleta

So, a day sight seeing at the stunning Recoleta cemetery. And La Boca, home to Boca Juniors and vividly painted houses. At the lunch restaurant one of the cocktails offered on the drinks menu was “Vodka and Speed”! Perhaps a translation error but we decided to pass as everyone had ordered the “all you can eat pasta buffet” and thought it might be a waste of money after such an aperitif.

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“Vodka with Speed” Yep. That’ll be an “Energetic Drink”

Having just come from the cemetery across the road we also passed on one of the main courses, labeled on the English menu as a “Stiff”.

Another 3 hours rehearsal in the evening but this time bed at a reasonable hour before the 5 hour journey south to the farming city of Tandil: home to the most famous sausage, salami and cheese in Argentina and soon to witness the respective Southern Hemisphere debuts of TV Smith and Duncan Reid and the Gaucho Big Heads.

There were 2 support bands that night. Tim was to play at 1 in the morning and myself at 2 am. This was a Thursday night gig, remember, not a weekend. Try getting people out midweek in London past 10 pm!

We checked into the hotel and all were in agreement that these were not the roomiest, brightest nor most recently decorated and furnished spaces we had ever stayed in. In fact, we were all looking forward to checking out. What didn’t bother us, though, was the dull thud of drums and bass coming from the band in the bar downstairs. We wouldn’t be getting to bed before 4pm so, of course, the din would be finished by then and wouldn’t disturb the precious few hours sleep to be grabbed before setting off on tomorrow’s 8 hour drive back north to Rosario. It’s a big country, Argentina.
We arrived at the venue in time to catch The Nylons, a really entertaining Ramones tribute act. They feature a singer who gives a truly remarkable vocal impersonation of Joey. Close your eyes and it’s him.

I’d wondered how Tim would go down here. He’s great of course, but Argentineans like their music with driving guitars and drums. How would our acoustic guitar backed political troubadour fare among a crowd with little grasp of English?

No need to worry. Argentinean audiences are magnificently welcoming and Tim had them eating out of his hand, the reaction growing with each song towards a rapturous finale.

And so it was with us. Absolutely bloody exhilarating. From the kick off with Montevideo, through highlights from Little Big Head and The Boys, to a finale with Tim on One Chord Wonders. Varying degrees of pandemonium ensued. At times a stern, school masterly, Mariano was required at the front to keep things in check. His magisterial gaze even made me feel naughty and I was meant to be on the stage.

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Poster for the Tandil gig. The yellow was the inspiration for the cover of “The Difficult Second Album”

Afterwards, having towelled down a bit, there was a deluge of Latin warmth as I went back out to the venue. Photos, CDs for signing, kisses on the cheek, unfortunately from both sexes, hands to be shaken, backs to be slapped and hugs to be exchanged. At one point I was surrounded by 5 extremely interested and gorgeous teenage girls. Not the worst experience I’ve ever suffered but it would soon be dawn and I needed my beauty sleep. But help was at hand as I spotted a nearby Alex.

“Here’s my friend, Alex” I explained to each of them before sneaking off, looking back at a slightly bewildered, but mostly delighted multi instrumentalist. “Mmmm”, I thought to myself. “There’s a song in there”. And, indeed there is. I’d been saying to Tim earlier that I’d a good tune in my head but was struggling for a theme to write the lyrics to. (Note: check out “Just as Good as I used to be” on “The Difficult Second Album”)

Downstairs a band was playing Gaucho, horse riding, cow punching music and people were dancing. Outside, at 4.30 pm in the morning, in the equivalent of Kettering, people were queuing 4 abreast for 50 yards to carry on partying the night away.

The whole of Tandil was up and at it. A multitude of dogs were joining in, engaged either in canine courtship or playing with the traffic up and down the roads.

Back in the hotel the underlying band were in full swing and the paper thin walls were keeping neither their sound nor that coming from the other residents. The latter were either returning back, or just as likely, heading out for a little reverie before work in a few hours time.

We did manage a couple of hours sleep though. On departure for Rosario shops were open and the populus were at work and in school. How, I don’t know, but there is much that is unfathomable about this admirable country.

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Tandil by day with that blue, blue Argentine sky

Tomorrow: the long road to Rosario when our intrepid troops would suffer from “car journey backside”.

You can read part 4 of this blog here

The Rock Twins

Rock Twins
Jessica and Janine Lenz

You know, often when you are on tour you meet the most remarkable people who dismiss their lives as boring while performing feats of heroics. Single mums who hold it together, long distance lorry drivers, firemen (now what have they seen and done which I could never manage), ……………… every day people who have brought families up with all the trials and tribulations that entails.

Last week in Munich was something special though.

Tine, our wonderful German agent/tour manager (who we normally call “Mum”) told me earlier in the evening that the Rock Twins were coming. They are apparently quite a feature in Munich, not least because of their ability to play a song, both of them on the same guitar. And as we were on stage they were there; right at the front smiling and enjoying the set.

After the gig I was found by their friend, Andi who said “There are two young girls who would love to meet you. Do you have 5 minutes?” And thank goodness I did because I then spent an enchanting time with Jessica and Janine.

“Hi”, they said, “we think you are such a great writer. You are the story teller of punk. We love your stories and the way you tell them. Like Joe where you change the gender of the protagonist without changing the name, and like how you use the same word weather/whether in the same line and like ……..”. And so they carried on, taking turns to speak but with one often picking up mid sentence from the other. They gave me a detailed analysis of my lyrics knowing far more about them than me, understanding everything: all the nuances and double meanings.

I answered their questions filling in a few holes in their knowledge such as who Joe was written about and all the time thinking: “This is amazing. It would be incredible for an English speaker to understand so much of what I’ve written, let alone two German girls for whom English is their second language”.

And there was something else that made me feel even more humble. It shouldn’t have made any difference and maybe it shows up a little bit of prejudice in me but I suddenly realised they are both totally blind.

I later learned that they studied as translators and interpreters so my astonishment at their grasp of English was completely misplaced. It didn’t diminish my sense of wonder though for two beautiful, super intelligent human beings.

I came away from our chat floating on air, exhilarated that what I do is so understood and appreciated by two blind, young German girls in a far flung town. It’s such days that make it worthwhile and I’ll always be grateful to the Rock Twins.