Steve's Online Diary

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DIARY 29/05/09

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This website has been up for a few years now. Met with Webmaster Andy Fearon recently, and a complete (and I mean complete!) re-vamp has begun. Andy reckons the new site, all inter-action and bells and whistles, should be ready for unveiling later in the summer. I am something of a technophobe, but Andy made it all sound very swish, elaborate and more than a little exciting, even to me. To Spain, to visit the old dad. Found a cool restaurant with good, serious cuisine. Always thought nobody would move to Spain for the food. Best meals I’ve had when out with family there have been Indonesian or Bulgarian (maybe Croatian, certainly east Euro). Finally found the decent one - in the Costa Blanca town where they live, at least. Great night with my brother Nigel, who my sister calls my “little buddy”. Can’t see why really, he’s a big ole boy. But my buddy, nonetheless. Proud to say so. His partner, Derek, is one of the best companions, too. They like a bit of banter, exchanges of opinion, without taking the Nice umbrage, common among my family. I like debate, banter and even argument, but a lifetime travelling with musicians who take no prisoners makes it the only way to get by. Greta missed the trip (the boy and his fab partner came with us); she’d already got a week at Boot Camp in Norfolk in the diary. Tough week, that. Very tough. But she completed and we are proud of her. She’s a softie at heart, so maybe Boot Camp and its RSM style routines have made a bit of a man of her (just kidding, girls).

 

DIARY 12/03/09

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Thinking of Culloden. But it was seven weeks ago we were there. We trudged around the battlefield, site of the last action fought on British soil. I think that’s right. Cold, windswept in January, of course. Great museum on the site, quite brilliantly presented. Then to Belfast: “an audience with.....” show, with songs thrown in. That’s what they asked for, at least. Barry and I actually played a 50 minute or so set after the interview. It was something new to me, different, and very worthwhile. Read a passage or two from The Impression collection. Bright, sensitive audience who made it easy for me. Next morning, a workshop. Never before, and I did regret agreeing to it all through the early part of the day. Then we went in. A basement room at the hotel where much of the Belfast/Nashville Songwriters Convention performances had been held. Thirty people or so. Up close. Like at home. I asked Barry what a workshop would entail, as I reckoned he might have been involved in a few. They’ll want to know how it’s all done, he said. So I sat and broke the ice. “So, what’s a workshop?” Silence. “What do you want to know?” And we were off. And, as usual, I was glad I’d said I would, and thrilled with the experience. Never before, different. Worthwhile. Special people, all the organising team, and the audiences. Welcoming and thoughtful. Bright and appreciative. Brought a smile as we were carried back to the airport that afternoon. Clint Eastwood will win the Oscar next year for Best Actor for Gran Torino. When the betting starts, I shall steam in, regardless of what comes later this year. It is charisma writ large and potent. Non-PC, which I like. He perfectly enacts the role of Mr Angry-But-Sensitive right-wing American, albeit of “Pollack” ancestry. And to Bury St Edmunds, tiny Georgian Theatre Royal for the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. They swing, these youngsters. But they aren’t quite the NYJO of ten years ago, last time I caught them. Only a few quid a ticket, and a big thrill to see young players like that.

 

DIARY 17/03/09

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Sunshine in East Anglia at last. Been months since I last made a proper assault on the woods. Coppiced hazel and stacked logs in the woodshed, passing a calm, solitary few hours. The notes are there, in notebooks and on scraps of mini-disc. Tunes and couplets, simple rhymes and deeper thoughts all jumbled, randomly acquired and noted over the past few years. There is only one way I will collate it all into coherent songs, and that is by booking a recording studio.

 

DIARY 09/02/09

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If scenery, in itself can take your breath away, The Highlands of Scotland will leave you gasping. Britain really is astonishing in its diversity of natural beauty. From Cornwall, through Devon, the changes are striking. The Chilterns, the Mendips, the Peaks and the Pennines; reaching there via Shakespeare’s own country, then the Lake District, flashing its self-confidence at you, well-earned through its proud survival through ice age after ice age. And then The Highlands, defiant and magnificent, sturdy and muscular, the product of a settlement of nature five million years ago. We gasped at times, it was sometimes that spectacular. Off the road, down the un-adopted lanes to lochs we could only locate on the large-scale atlas with ultra-close inspection. And The Great Glen, from Inverness to Fort Augustus, all covered in a rented 4 x 4. See Dulsie Bridge on Youtube. Check it out. See the lads leaping 60’ into shallow water, last summer. We were there in January, of course, so we have shots of its water, high up the Findhorn, covered in ice and rushing fast and furious, taken from the bridge. Just another of many secrets we came upon, sneaking around the hideaways of The Highlands.

 

DIARY 29/01/09

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Can't believe John Martyn has died. Watched in awe as he picked his acoustic and then slammed a fuzz-boxed Strat in Les Cousins, a hip London folk club, in the early seventies. I sang between his sets, in one of my first public efforts, Muriel The Actor and Sebastian, free and to near-silence. They wanted folk music, and I gave them The Human Menagerie. Happened the same at Bunjie's. But I played as a floor-spotter at folk shows by Bert Jansch (mesmerising), Noel Murphy (hilarious), Martin Carthy (perfect) and John Martyn (unpredictable). He was touched by the hand of some Muse, to say the least. "May You Neve" will forever live among my most wanted songs of all time. But I'll always know I can't have it. It was his, and no matter who or how many covered it (Jim Cregan produced the best of all I've heard for Linda Lewis), it will always be his. His own. To mumble and to tease us with. To intrigue and inspire. He intrigued me, back in ‚'71 and last year at the Folk Awards, where we talked backstage. He in wheelchair, having lost 30% of a leg, me feeling guilty and self-conscious towering over him. I wanted to squat like an adult does to chat to a child in a pushchair, but he'd have spotted the condescension straightaway and might have hit me. Always seemed unpredictable. Not charming. But Phil Collins will tell you that that was part of his charm, after all. And he'd be right.

 

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