Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Any feedback?

Of course not, I'm performing acoustically in the open air.

Seriously, though, I've been approached a couple of times in the last couple of days about Black aka Colin Vearncombe. I think he's such an underrated songwriter. As well as "Wonderful Life" from the "Black" album I do two others from the "Comedy" album.

Becaause of this interest I've been inspired to learn is it "Give us the Means" from "Comedy". It brilliantly conveys ecomomic depression in Liverpool in the late eighties but never gives up hope. I must admit, I don't think the word "means" fits in the song unless of course it's a conscious echo of "means test".

I don't want to give the impression that I'm only interested in Colin's old songs. He's still writing and recording brilliant material. See his website for details: http://www.colinvearncombe.com/

The myspace of his little band Dog Tail Soup is highly recommended. http://www.myspace.com/dogtailsoup

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Why are you always talking about money?

Well, it's going quite well, really, so I am a bit excited.

Yesterday morning I did just under an hour in two goes on Raglan High Street and made sixty pounds.

This afternoon, I went down to the Usk Open Gardens open-air service and busked outside as people went in. First time outside the village.

I think the numbers were a bit down but that's not suprising considering kick-off in Usk was at the same moment as England started their World Cup match against Germany.

Did about forty minutes before the service and about ten minutes after and came away with forty-five pounds.

So, over a hundred pounds for the weekend.

This morning I gave my third hundred to the treasurer, bringing the parable of the talents total to about £560 in the bank.

I am excited but there are more interesting things to talk about than money, I agree.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

What about Kate and Anna?

They're not forgotten.

I saw the McGarrigle sisters when they were on Whistle Test in the mid seventies and got their first album.

I think it's patchy - I can do without "Jigsaw Puzzle of Life" and even sometimes "My town" and always the one that starts "My daddy came to see me". Mawkish is the word. But it's worth it for "Mendocino", "heart like a wheel" et al. I can even understand the lyrics to "Complainte pour Sainte Catherine" now! Yesterday, I had a go at singing "Kiss and say Goodbye". Works well.

All their albums are patchy, I think. I got the two after the first one, "Dancer with bruised knees" and thee other one when they closed the record shop in Abertillery that was then in Somerset Street and became a card shop after. I think that was the same shop that moved from the corner of Carmel Street just along from the Palace, opposite the Midland Bank. All this for future historians. To be honest, I wish I'd bought the whole stock - it wouldd be worth a packet now - all those early Island albums by people like Alan Bown, Amazing Blondel and If.

On every Kate and Anna album there are these two or three excruciating dirges or something like "NaCl" but there's also ALWAYS something that'll stay with you for ever - "Leave me be . . ." Or is that one of the excruciating dirges. That's part ont he charm. Some days one, other days the other.

Saw them live in Croydon in the mid-eighties. Pat Donaldson on bass, Gerry Conway on drums. Don't know who played guitar. They started with "Swimming Song".

So, there must be two or three things of theirs worth taking busking.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Any more songs?


I love Black, aka Colin Vearncombe.

Of course, everyone loves "Wonderful Life" and I sing that but he has written some of the best songs around in the last twenty odd years.

What about this for a simile? "You always makee me feel like I've just received an invite to last week's Halloween." I'm usually laughing too much to go on after that.

Then, there's "i caan laugh about it now." What about these lines? "You made me ache so I went for a run in the pouring rain in your neighbourhood streets. And there you were - a silhouette in the wet night air. Me in my pumps in the driving rain . . . " Vivid. "Your friends caught my eye: 'We know you love her - we saw you dancing with her shadow.'"

Colin's songs are full of great stuff like that. The only problem is wanting to cry out, "Listen to this! Listen to this!" while you're singing. A very underrated songwriter, in spite of the success of "Wonderful Life".

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Are you never going to leave Raglan?

There doesn't seem to be any need at the moment.

This morning, I finished rehearsing my choir, the Saturday Singers and decided to do half an hour on the High Street. Sounds busy, doesn't it? It isn't though, but I still made £25.

In the afternoon, the school fete was on and they'd given me a spot up on the banking near the refreshments.

It was a little bit more difficult than last week but I still came away with £30.

Legitimately sang in French three times today: twice when French people were present and once for a lady who teached French and does translation.

Then, I was just in time to go and have a cream tea at Janet's. I bet she was grateful it wasn't pelting it down like yesterday afternoon.

There was a good crowd there and after the ladies had finished selling cakes at our coffee morning I expect we made getting on for £150 between us today.

Note to self - in the words of the mighty Bob Dylan, "I'll know my song well before I start singing." Only found out half way through that I don't really know "Sunshine Superman" by Donovan.

Friday, 18 June 2010

I heard you broke a string?

Yes, but that's an occupational hazard.

It's what you do next that's important.

In Toulouse we would occasionally allow people to sleep in the chapel, upstairs in the office. We allowed Tadzo to do that for quite a long time.

He was an illegal immigrant: he'd turned up with a passport photocopied on an irregularly shaped piece of what looked like grey blotting paper.

He had no French and no English but pretty soon he'd taught himself French with the aid of a Rumanian Bible and a copy of John's gospel in French.

He had toured with a Rumanian orchestra playing double bass but like lots of the homeless people he was a great guitarist.

I'm a big fan of Bartok's Rumanian folk dances suite so I jumped at the chance of learning some of Tadzo's music.

Then, one day a string broke on my guitar. I reached for the case for the spare set.

"No, no, I repair it."

And that's what he did - he repaired the string with fuse wire. Waste not, want not.

Later on, Tadzo got arrested by the border police on his wedding day. At the ceremony itself.

Later still, he was killed in a car crash.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Any immediate plans?

Yes, I'm going to be busking at the Raglan VC Primary School Fete this Saturday, 19th June.

Before that, I intend to take my guitar and sign to Cwmmera to busk at the Rural Churches Fellowship Rally. Just hope I can make myself heard over all those rally cars.

Then, I want to go to the Usk Open Gardens on 27th June.

So, all in all there are still some opportunities round here before taking to the open road.

By the way, I know there are several people reading this who are not yet "Followers" and who don't "Comment". It would be great if people could declare themselves by doing one of those things. Look forward to hearing from you.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Anything else to report from Raglan Festival?

We were supporting Amy Wadge last night.

I ended up doing the sound but I quite enjoyed it because we'd borrowed Col Knight's PA.

Amy's musicians Bobby and Pete arrived first from Liverpool so we got a good sound with them first and then Amy turned up about five o'clock so that gave us plenty of time.

We had about eighty people in including some hardcore Amy fans from Penarth, Tonypandy etc.

We went on first and had a very enjoyable time with a warm and appreciative crowd.

Amy went on on at 8.30 and torre the place up. Very dynamic with great support from Pete who played one jazzy and one bluesey solo with style and energy.

Oh, and I busked before the gig and made £30 again. A grand total of £110 for the whole weekend.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

How's the Raglan Festival going?

Very well.

This morning I was on duty to do the announcements at the children's workshops so I carted the amplifier and mike and guitar and placard along.

I tried not to be too intrusive - except when I was making the announcements, of course?

Between stints at the microphone I went around singing, "Busking for Raglan Baptist Church" to little groups of people.

Made almost exactly £30 this morning.

It was great to see my old French Horn teacher, David Davies. Those were the days! We didn't have the instruments they have today. The horn I learned on had the mouthpipe bent at such an angle that I learned to play blowing out of the side of my mouth. That's the standard embouchure for playing the renaissance cornett but not much good for modern orchestral horn playing. I always had a lot of sensitivity but not much volume.

Didn't stop me getting on the National Youth Orchestra, though. Cheers, David - a wonderful, inspirational teacher.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Are you doing anything at Raglan Festival?

Just did.

We had the magnificent Devil's Violin Company at the chapel tonight. As usual, Daniel, Oli, Luke and Sarah did a fabulous job, weaving together stories and tunes. There were loads of children there but they didn't lose them for an instant. What a great advert for the power of story-telling even in a video age.

So, I sang outside with my busking sign and then processed in singing Blowin in the Wind. I improvised a little blues:

"Woke up this morning, found I had a disabled toilet to pay
Woke up this morning, found I had a disabled toilet to pay for
So all you praying people - that'll give you something to pray for.

Woke up this morning, found I had seven and a half thousand pounds missin
Woke up this morning, found I had seven and a half thousand pounds missin
But let me tell you people, at least we've got something to . . . show for it."

Result? Forty-two pounds!

I was able to give a hundred pounds to the treasurer and the grand total is up to about £160.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Anything in French?

Funny you should ask that.

Only yesterday, I got an email from someone in France who goes way back to my time in Toulouse.

So, I'd arrived in Toulouse to this church building in a modern shopping centre - the church was a kind of plate glass shop front. I was going to sit in my office reading for my PhD in French catholicism (I got it, but only nine years later and that's another story).

Anyway, as I looked out of my office window, I could see people using drugs and a guy sleeping it off on the doorstep till about midday. I had to decide whether to chase them off or invite them in so I chose the latter and started giving coffee.

Shortly after this, a young couple arrived in the church and told me they'd had a background in homelessness, drugs, alcohol and the like. Between them, they set up a charitable association and together we set up the practical side of making breakfasts for about thirty homeless people - and their dogs, another nother story.

The bloke, Patrick I shall call him, had been a founder member of one of France's most notorious punk bands - Berurier Noir. He'd been thrown out of that for being too extreme (!) and had begun a long career of petty crime, suicide attempts, prison and the dreaded bottle.

Patrick and Myriam had become Christians just before joining out church. It was a tempestuous, turbulent time but eventually Patrick was accepted on a course to be a kind of street-based social worker but unfortunately the influence of some of the other students led to him having an alcoholic relapse. I'll always remember that night. About two in the morning going up in a lift to the ninth floor with INXS getting stronger on every landing. I've never been so sure of being thrown off a balcony in my life.

If you are interested, you can read all about Patrick in a novel I wrote in a previous life. It's called Playing at the Roxy and you can get it on Amazon.

Patrick and I wrote two songs together: "Brisons les Murs" and "Au cours d'une nuit de printemps" which is all about a homeless person being set alight in his cardboard box refuge. True story. i still sing these songs today and I find them very poignant.

Patrick died in 2007 of Hepatitis C. He was only 44. Myriam emailed me yesterday and she's doing well. She always was a calming influence on Patrick . . . and me.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Gone quiet?

Kind of.

Went to Abergavenny this morning to do some publicity for a concert we're doing with Amy Wadge this Saturday.

It's part of the Raglan Festival www.raglan-festival.org

Did some 4-up invitations and touted them around on market day and did some windscreens.

I must say how much I admire Paolo Nutini. Rachel, our daughter sings Rewind and Last Request but I think the whole of the first album is pretty good and I've liked what I've heard of the second. Heard him do a great cover of "Beeswing" by Richard Thompson, too. Whisper this: is he overdoing the vocal mannerisms now? But he's still so young!

So, I think I'll add Rewind to my own set.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Why don't you start?

I have now.

I was so motivated by seeing the new disabled toilet that I made a start this morning.

Everybody was thrilled with the new facilities and I made sure everybody at our coffee morning went in to have a look, although I didn't stand over them to make sure they had a go. The actual WC part is very spacious and has baby changing facilities as well as the usual handles and so on. Also, we've somehow managed to enlarge the lobby betwwen the toilets and the kitchen. The whole lot is sky blue and so light . . .

Anyway, just as I was about to go out singing, a lady gave me £20. Great start.

I stood by the post office next to Steph and Shirley who were selling tickets for the Festival next weekend.

"Blowin' in the Wind." What else can you sing to inaugurate a tour raising funds for a toilet?
"Streets of Raglan"
I was fortunate enough to be singing in French when Megan, a former French teacher at the girls' school went by, so we did an impromptu rendition of "L'amour est un oiseau rebelle" - the Habanera from "Carmen"

I told everybody about our fundraising activities - sometimes in song and people were generous beyondd what I thought.

A couple of hightlights - the two people who came up and spoke about disabled relatives and a career working with disabled people respectively.

About £45 on the street and £20 before setting out.

This disabled toilet has been a long time coming. This busking trip, too.

My running total is about £120 now - can't be bad.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

What are the ground rules?

I thought I'd better be fairly clear about the financial aspect of the trip.

After all, we were looking at Ananaias and Sapphira in last night's fellowship group. Just shows what can happen if you're not upfront about your expenses. I notice that most of the erring MPs are still alive however, even if no longer in post.

Anyway, the money comes in. So far, so good. My running total is well into the forty-odd pounds now.

I think petrol at 40p a mile is ok.
Food is ok.
Emergency accomodation is ok.
Phone is ok.

I probably won't go out and buy one of these netbooks to do this blog on while I'm on the road. I'll probably buy an in-car charger for my phone,though.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Is there no other way?

I am rereading "UK on a G string" by Justin Brown for inspiration.

He is a New Zealander who made a bet over a rugby match with an Australian.

If New Zealand lost, he had to go to Britain and raise the money for his return ticket by busking door to door.

I might have gone busking in Abergavenny today but it was raining hard - I felt sorry for the three kids turning up with their saxophones and music stands for their stint.

I was travelling around with the Grass Routes bus in preparation for my test next week. It was surprisingly intensive. We picked the customers up in Glascoed, Goitre and Usk, went to Abergavenny and then came back for another set of people from Raglan and area. Then we went back to Abergavenny and picked them all up again - twice. There was just time for a bacon sandwich in between trips. What a great service!

I resisted the temptation to burst into song and pass the hat round on the bus.

Plus, I am not really looking forward to those country lanes when I get behind the wheel.