Friday, September 30, 2005

Name That iPod Star!

There you go, Constant Reader... the 30 artists heard on my iPod to and from work today - via Tate Modern where Owen and I attended an excellent talk by Hayden Herrera, the biographer of Frida Kahlo. See how many you can spot?

Thursday, September 29, 2005

MARIANNE FAITHFULL at Queen Elizabeth Hall

Went to see Marianne Faithfull at the Queen Elizabeth Hall tonight with Owen. Been damn lucky this year as regards herself, the gig in the spring at Shepherds Bush as well as her appearance at the Meltdown in the summer. Excellent seats... about 6 rows back, dead centre. She seemed a bit more subdued this time out and noticeably there was no WHY D'YA DO IT? but she looked great in leather jacket, white shirt, black trousers and heels. She always makes me so worried... tottering around the stage in her heels where there are nasty snaking cables everywhere.

The set was a slightly slimmer version of the Shepherds Bush gig and her band were as excellent as before - always a pleasure to see Barry Reynolds. The numbers she does from the BEFORE THE POISON album shine more brightly live than on the cd namely NO CHILD OF MINE, LAST SONG and CRAZY LOVE. Once again she gave a barn-storming performance of Lennon's WORKING CLASS HERO - she has mined that song for every nuance in the lyrics and it now stops the show.

As the lights came up I turned to put my coat on to see Anita Pallenberg sitting directly behind me! Owen noticed the guitar tech was placing the vases of white roses which had adorned the keyboards platform at the stage apron along with the band's set-lists. So we galloped down and nabbed a rose and list. After a moment's hesitation, I picked another rose and presented it to La Pallenberg. I know, Constant Reader.... show me an old Rolling Stones squeeze and I lose it.

There was a nice surprise in the foyer too, a new concert dvd filmed in Hollywood this spring. Needless to say that was played as soon as I got home. Not only is it a record of her current excellent form but there is a delightful interview extra where she reveals the background to songs in the repertoire. The dvd also comes with an 11-track cd of the show's highlights. So I currently write this from a cloud in Marianne Heaven. I cannot think of another British singer of her era who is making music as valid and interesting as she is, male or female.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


Made glorious summer by this son of Vaio!

Constant Reader, I am cock-a-hoop. After last week's computer ballzup and the knock-on effect on my fragile psyche I was a near-basket case. However help was on hand in the shape of Owen (no change there then). He proved to be an early Santa by getting my a new Vaio laptop as an early Christmas present.

I know... he *is* a diamond.

It is lovely... it makes a woo-be-doo noise when the Vaio logo appears and it has all the extras that before I had only dreamed about... or waited until I got to Owen's to play with on his comp!

I have yet to play with all the toys but am I a big ol' happy ho now.

Nothing can shift me from my humour... not wonky punters, not recalcetrant eBay buyers, not even my pile of unwatched dvds that I cannot find the time to watch.

But panic not Constant Reader, normal raised-eyebrow attitude is bound to return soon!

Friday, September 16, 2005


Yes, Constant Reader, it has taken me a few days to be able to confront what happened on Tuesday night but I am here to tell you... I am a Soho Sex Prisoner survivor. 

For the few who have not visited the shop, there is a communal front door for us and the flats above, shop door on right, flats door in front of you. Oh and the shop doors have no windows apart from a transom above.  There I was with jacket on in the shop, due to meet Lady Miss Coates for a snifter before she spun the toons at the Retro Bar Pop Quiz - have I mentioned my 21 wins? - turned the shop lights off, nipped to the lav before the arduous trek twixt Soho and Strand, and as I came back in from the back, I saw 'Y' who lives in one of the flats above us walk along in front of the window with a young homosexulist.

I saw through the transom the outer door open and close and the sound of shopping being put down on the floor. After checking I had my mobile phone - so called because I cannot walk five paces if it's not on me - I made my way to the door thinking "Funny I didn't hear the flats door open and shut'. Just as I reached for the knob, I heard a noise. From beyond the door I heard what sounded like a slightly malfunctioning Dyson. Then I heard a slurp. And the squeak of Trainers on vinyl flooring. And it slowly dawned on me I possibly wasn't the only one reaching for a knob.

Yes, Constant Reader, the chap who lives above the shop was having a quick knee-trembler with his bit of trade. And I was trapped. What to do? Turn the shop lights on giving them some sudden if much-needed light and possibly a heart-attack? Do I throw the door open and push my way through the gay sex love action to get to the front door? Do I slowly open the door and try to squeeze around them hoping my presence would not be detected as they had more pressings things on their... well, more pressing things? My thoughts were interrupted by the shop door starting to rattle and judder like something out of THE EXORCIST and the deeply irritating sound of loose belt buckles jingling.

Just as I arrived at my solution, namely letting them use the basement then charging punters to see the live sex show, there was a bit of frenzied whispering, more vinyl floor squeaking... and silence. This was broken by the sound of 'Y' saying "Well you know where I am if you are ever in Soho", the door opening and the two of them walking off. After extracting myself from the poster rack where I hurled myself in case they saw me I gingerly stepped outside the door. Amazingly I didn't skid completely upsy-dutch so they obviously have good aim if nothing else. Cue me running through Soho, giggling hysterically on the phone to Owen and racing to tell Dawn of my Soho Sex Prisoner Hell.

On the whole she was sympathetic despite calling me a twat for not securing the mobile phone video footage so beloved now of breaking news stories.

I do so look forward to bumping into 'Y' and having our usual discussion of the way the nasty postman leaves elastic bands off the letter bundles in the vestibule. Can't wait to see his face when I tell him it's not quite the same as someone having a sex wee there!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

You think YOU got problems!!

Constant Reader, I have been through quite a week.

I knew it was going to be a tits-up kinda week when I realised I have been living a lie for 27 years. All this time I have been searching for a copy of the NME from May 6, 1978 which had the first Anti-Nazi League/Rock Against Racism march and open-air gig on the cover. I was there and had told the world that I was well featured inside the paper in a crowd shot. Lo and behold... there it was on eBay and I won it for the princely sum of one whole pound. Skippity-hop I went that I would finally have this piece of tangible history in my hands. It arrived and I sat calmly on the couch, licking a finger and slowly turning the pages, legs crossed like a Pinter heroine.

THE BLEEDIN' PHOTO WASN'T THERE. It must have been in SOUNDS or MELODY MAKER. What a capricious mistress memory is.

Then last Thursday I decided it would be nice to have a Motown tribute on my website which was due an update the next day. There I was, happily clicking and saving on internet sites of sepia sirens of soul when I was aware my Zone Alarm was trying to tell me I had something trying to access my computer. I clicked 'deny access' and the next thing I knew I had the damn thing's icon on the computer. Cut to the computer going completely upsy-mong... switching itself off, ominous blue screens then nothing, terminating my internet access... Luckily my 24 hour computer helpline (aka Owen's mobile) was to hand. However, despite Owen sending me a weblink to help blast the spyware to bits, the computer and it's new cyber-squaters refused to yeald and then started turning off 5 minutes after it was turned on.

Owen left the leafy bowers of Streatham for the wilds of Enfield on Sunday morning to try and solve the problem but to no avail. He appeared at 12.50 - and we left on the 18.30 train for Michele's 40th birthday dinner which had started... 3 and a half hours earlier. Every time we thought it had finally become lurgi-free we would find the bloody thing lurking and sniggering loudly, proffering v-signs and mooning us. For the sake of our sanity we left with fingers crossed that Michele might have stayed in the bar bit of the bar/grill where her afternoon gathering was.. but allegedly we missed her by 20 minutes. A walk down to her flat was to no avail.

So I presume my name is mud in that mews.

So how come I am typing this now? Because I bit the bullet - yes and with MY teeth too - and reverted the computer back to factory settings. Of course that was a factory in 2000 so the damn thing is now completely confused about how life has changed in 5 years. Honey ain't we all.

How ironic that I finally saw ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND early last week before any of this started. How handy it would be to be able to erase unhappy memories from one's mind. I know where I would start.....

Saturday, September 03, 2005

FRIDA KAHLO at Tate Modern

Finally made it to see the Frida Kahlo exhibition at Tate Modern with Owen at a 7pm admission time. As usual, the experience of looking at paintings, more often than not, sideways on and edging between people got a bit wearing after a while. But hang around long enough and you get there eventually.

It was a wonderfully illuminating experience to finally see so many of her famous paintings. More often than not they are smaller than one would expect which makes them more intense. Three 'shock' works: MY BIRTH, HENRY FORD HOSPITAL and A FEW SMALL NIPS are all in one room and are riveting for this very reason. The starkness of the images is what makes them such painful viewing.

I was reminded when walking around the rooms of the Barbican exhibition of Carrington's work 10 years ago. Kahlo was by far the more important and successful artist but there seemed quite a few points of reference to both of them. The reluctance of either to see themselves as strictly professional painters (giving paintings away to friends and lovers as gifts), their bi-sexuality, their early deaths and the insular vision of their art, painting what they knew and saw and lived.

When I got home I watched one of the extras on the US dvd of FRIDA which is an onstage interview with director Julie Taymor. She is asked by a woman in the audience why the film focused on the love story of Frida and Diego Rivera and seemed to neglect her political and feminist leanings. Taymor eloquently argues that you cannot have a discussion of Kahlo without the relationship with Rivera which was the inspiration for her art. Similarly one cannot discuss the life of Carrington without acknowledging her profound love of Lytton Strachey. Julie Taymor then pointed out that when Frida was first championed as a feminist icon during the 1980s it was not just as a victim of physical pain but for the perceived emotional neglect by Rivera. This triggered in my mind the way Virginia Woolf was similarly viewed and lauded in the 1970s as a feminist victim of the sexual abuse of her step-brothers.

But as when reading Woolf's writing, when looking at the art of Kahlo I don't look upon them as the work of victims. Even in Kahlo's darkest work there is an ironic humour and a strong sense of self which makes one fully believe their friend's reminisces of their being such positive life-forces.

Kahlo's best work as a visual rendering of Woolf's closing lines from THE WAVES "Death is the enemy. Against you I will fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding".

Thursday, September 01, 2005

THE MAN WHO CRIED... he wasn't the only one

Just watched the mighty strange film THE MAN WHO CRIED on dvd.

The next time someone of older years says "they don't make them like they used to" you can now point to this film and say "Yes they do". However whether said person will like it or whether it is successful is something completely different.

The always-watchable Christina Ricci plays a young Russian Jewish girl who as a child is sent to America to live with her father already there. But what with one thing and another she ends up in England and renamed Susan. She gains employment with a dance troupe in Paris where she meets and befriends emigre Russian Lola (played by Cate Blanchett darlink). Lola's machinations get them employed in the chorus of an opera company run by... Harry Dean Stanton (?) where the star is an egotistical Italian tenor played by... John Turtutto (???) Cue one too many scenes of Turturro lip-synching arias in cheesy costumes. 

While Lola is seducing the tenor, the doe-eyed Susan has fallen for the dark charms of Johnny Depp in another of his flashing-eyed gypsy characters. Soon the talk is of impending war and our four displaced characters must do what they must to survive.

Blanchett is wonderfully flashy in her characterisation of the predatory Lola, Depp smoulders on a low-light, Turturro makes a good hissable villain and Ricci is one of the few actresses who could make the character's fate-tossed journey believable.

Excellent cinematography and lush music help to guide one from a Russian shtetl to (literally) a Hollywood ending via a sinking liner. As much as I admired Sally Potter's film the hapless Susan brought to mind Thelma Ritter's line from ALL ABOUT EVE "What a story! Everything but the bloodhounds snappin' at her rear end."