Wednesday, 22 December 2010

A little bit of something for you regular readers.

Okay something a little different...

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

God Rest you Merry Gentlemen

A few other little classical pieces... two by Tarega, Lagrima and Adelita, and then the famous Spanish Ballard.

Enjoy - have a happy Christmas all

Wales and Back

As regular readers will know Son-of-Furtheron is residing at Aberystwyth uni these days. So we needed to get him back home for Christmas but with the weather...

I originally planned to go Saturday but weather in Wales on Friday and at our place on Saturday made that a non-starter. I thought I'd wait until Monday. But Sunday morning I watched the weather and thought "I better go today I think".

So 2 hours to dig out our drive, car and road - we'd had about 4 inches I suppose. I left about 11:30 and got through the slush to the motorway. All went well until I got to the M1 - first crash. Wasn't too long there. Then into the roadworks and frankly aweful road conditions near Newport Pagnell there was just packed ice that wasn't shifting. Two lanes only as the contraflow was shut and then a break down. Through that and carry on.

My biggest problem was the washers gave up working about Shrewsbury. So I had to stop and clean the screen from time to time. Into Wales and through Newtown ok - I noted some B&B with vacancies thinking "If I can't make it I'll come back to here".

Off over the mountains, pitch black, very cold and very focusing. I got into Aberystwyth about 6:30 I think. It was flipping cold about -8°C. We went and had a meal watched some telly and my son graciously gave up his bed for me and he slept on the sofa.

Monday up early and on the road at just after 8am as we knew more snow coming into Wales and also in the evening in Kent so wanted to beat that home. Over the mountains in the sun - very pretty but -16°C!!! And still sheep on the hills!!! But the road well cleared and slip free - well done Ceredigion council.

M54 - freezing fog but also the slip roads were terrible and vehicles joining were just spreading very slippery slush all over the road - that led to a lorry jackknifed at one.

All well again until the M1 - about 20 miles of slow traffic, again the surface was terrible, there is little point gritting if traffic is going 5 mph and stopping every two yards, all it does is pack the ice down. Another crash blah blah... M25 another crash... blah blah... Still Dartford Crossing was free moving. We got home about 4 - three hours later we had another dump of an inch or so.

Have to say though - getting about in England is getting a joke these days, weather or not intervening - we have an infrastructure that barely copes at the best of times once we have a problem, crash, snow, roadworks it just fails. Here is a radical thought, when you have a 20 mile queue on the motorway why don't they just stop people joining? Surely that would get it cleared quicker? Every junction just seems to pour more oil on the troubled water to me.

Still all home for Christmas now - which is the only thing that really matters.

Friday, 17 December 2010

A little snippet that made me quiet proud and humble

Never ask an alcoholic to buy the booze for you

So Mrs F says - "Can you go up Tescos and get the Christmas food and stuff on Thursday?" Of course being I'm not working it is least I can do as she runs from school play to governors socials etc.

"There is booze on the list you ok with that?" "I'll see how I am at the time" She still doesn't get a response like that, but given probably 2 years ago I would have instantly said no things are moving on - Alcohol is for the moment a past in my life if Alcoholism is still very much in the present.

Anyway - I come back with the shopping - no pork pies and the wrong type of shortbread but overall a success. She pulls out the bottle of Baileys (her favourite). I said "That cost £15 - good job you only drink it at Christmas". She looks at me - "I only drink it at Christmas and it is only me in the family. Why did you get a 1 litre one, the smaller would have done." Ooops - I'd pick up the little one and thought "Well that isn't worth opening" So dug about for the big bottle at the back...

moral of the story.... don't send an alcoholic to buy the booze for Christmas ! LOL!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Outstanding Achievement!!!

I am totally over the moon (as they say) that I have won the 2010 ROCK-TIL-YOU-DROP Outstanding Achievement award. Many thanks to Toby at ROCK-TIL-YOU-DROP, frankly without his encouragement and the support through the network he started I'd have never got off my backside and got out there doing what I've been doing for the last year i.e. writing, performing, recording etc.

I have to thank everyone who voted for me in the awards as I also got nominations in both the Song of the Year with Let Me Love You Tonight and the CD of the Year category with Within, my d├ębut solo CD.

The Award PODCAST is available at ROCK-TIL-YOU-DROP at the moment or directly off Divshare.

Not often I say this but I'm a bit at a loss for words frankly!

The waiting is nearly over...

Do you remember that I put a plea out for readers of this blog to vote for my in theROCK-TIL-YOU-DROP 2010 annual awards?

Well at 6pm GMT tonight the winners will be announced in a special 2010 ROCK-TIL-YOU-DROP-AWARDS podcast, which will be available to listen to, or download from the ROCK-TIL-YOU-DROP blog

Fingers crossed :-)

Sunday, 12 December 2010

I am a professional song writer!!!

My statement and royalty cheque from PRS tells me so!

Okay it isn't going to mean I have to contact a wealth management consultant but nothing can better the feeling that I have received money for the songs I have written.

So this ties up this year nicely - last year I'd just started as a solo singer, I have had stuff played on the Internet (thanks Scooter Forums Radio and Dinners!), I've played gigs, I've written and recorded a CDs worth of material, I have sold that CD internationally and now I get royalties.

Shame there are not enough 0s on the amounts I've earned or I could seriously think about not doing a proper job again and living the dream! :-)

Political Compass

I've done things like these before - this one was via Facebook via my son... looks similar to where I've fallen before. This one seemed to have very USA centric questions to me.

My Political Views
I am a left moderate social libertarian
Left: 5.54, Libertarian: 3.24

Political Spectrum Quiz

Friday, 10 December 2010

Student fees, demonstrations and all that...

I'm a child of the 60s one of the last of the baby boomer generation, my parents lived through the war, my Dad didn't get called up as he was in a prescribed occupation - i.e. working in the dockyard but he was considering volunteering just as the war ended. My Mum was just too young for service as she only left school just at the end of the war. I imagine with their background and general political persuasion that they were exactly the kind of young people who really welcomed the 1946 social welfare revolution with the NHS, Welfare and of course the education reforms that led to the explosion of the universities in the 60s.

When I left school university was free in terms of fees and it was a grant not a loan. I sort of flunked my A levels a bit, too much time thinking I was going to get my band off the ground and that worldwide stardom was but a few odd timing licks and suspended chords away - but Rush had cornered that market. Anyway I did go to college locally and it didn't cost me or my parents a penny.

So that's the background - to the point. Should students pay for their education? It grates against me a bit that they should have to - however if that payment is in some form of very cheap long term loan that they only pay back when they are earning enough and the payments are pretty much as low as possible then is that so bad? Some of the things in the new proposal I much appreciate - the removal of means testing, I never get why a rich pensioner or someone over 60 still in employment can get winter fuel allowance, free bus passes etc. when an 18 year old who has never earned a penny has the level of their maintenance payment based on what their parents earn! If means testing is appropriate there why not the elderly? Oh yes pensioners vote, many young people don't. So I was pleased to see that gone.

£9000 is that too much? I don't know. What I do know is that the politicians have no idea about life around many kitchen tables in the UK. When kids grow up hearing Mum and Dad saying things like "Can we get the £200 for that school holiday?", "We can't afford a holiday this year", "The washing machine will just have to wait we haven't got the cash"... etc. then they minister says - "It's only about £40,000 of debt you shouldn't worry" Cloud cuckoo land!

However the protests have now gone over the top - the level of violence and what is being fought for is being lost. Why this level of violence, feelings or betrayal, feelings of inequality or that noone will listen.

The things that strike me...
  • A pledge is a pledge - look up the definition. If you shouldn't have made it tough then you have to accept that mistake but stick to your pledge, or go back to the electorate and have a set of byelections with a new manifesto.
  • The violence is a small minority, I wouldn't be surprised if the ring leaders of that have been no nearer a university entrance than I have.
  • The issue will cloud over many other massive injustices being done to the young people of this country - removal of EMA, in my local area many services for under 16s (Medway Childrens university as one example) are simply being scrapped overnight.

So what is really important here to everyone in this country is that we need a generation of young people who want to be here, have belief and passion in this country and it's economy. When I get to bus pass age I know I need people in work paying the taxes that will pay for those privileges of me - there is no insurance scheme I pay into and my money is held for me the workers of today pay for the young and the old and the infirm of today - always have always will. We need people who will do all that for people like me in 20 years or so.

Government, councillors, everyone - re-engage the young people of this country now... to not do so puts this country in greater peril than anything else.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Anniversary of J Lennons death

so 30 years ago today Lennon died... I remember my Dad coming in and telling us that - also that means 30 years ago I went to see Blue Oyster Cult at the Hammersmith Odeon and we had the disastrous swear box to raise a drinking pot idea - it was abandoned before we got off the drive due to the level of contributions!!

Makes me feel flipping old however

Sunday, 5 December 2010

An early Happy Christmas

So to brighten the dark winter we've got the decorations up - much to Daughter-of-Furtheron's liking. She was moaning that we should put them up early, normally we are some point in the middle of December but with the snow and being stuck in etc we did it yesterday - although the snow was thawing quite quickly.

I downloaded Annie Lennox's A Christmas Cornucopia. If you want a new Christmas album I'd recommend this one some great interpretations of many a school hall favourite and I have always loved her voice. Daughter-of-Furtheron has also created a Christmas Playlist in Spotify, I got in with Steeleye Span and Jethro Tull whilst she wasn't looking and we had that playing all afternoon whilst the girls but the tree and the tinsel up.

I've pull out the family old ancient angel chimes to annoy everyone at the dinner table! Just looked blimey they still make very similar ones :-) I've had these since I was a boy, my aunt bought them so they have so much importance to me. For others the tingling of the bells drives them insane! :-)

The snow is a lot better than it has been, especially now I've dug the snow off the road from our house down the slope to the main road we might venture out to pickup my mother-in-law so she can have an afternoon out. We've walked down to her and brought in fresh supplies a couple of times but she has had a hip replacement and has osteoporosis so her walking about in a foot of snow or on ice isn't a good idea.

Bit early I know but given we're in the mood - Happy Christmas to all the readers of this blog.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Guitar comparison and Hughes and Kettner Statesman Dual 6L6 amp demo


So here is a little side by side comparison of three of my guitars.

All through my H&K Statesman Dual 6L6 combo.

There is a Boss Flanger throughout - that is connected via the amps effects send and return in parallel mode which I like as it has the effect colouring not dominating the sound.

In each sound clip is a shortened version of one of my tunes. Starts off on the clean channel with Twang in, then moves to the drive channel, finally the solo is on the drive channel with the boost in.

On the guitars in order the following..

Peter Cook Custom - clean is on the neck pickup then move to the neck for distorted chords and solo
PRS CE22 - position 9 on the selector (Outside coils of both pickups in parallel) for clean bit the position 10 bridge humbucker for the rest
Gordon Smith Graduate 60 - neck pickup with coil tap engaged and then bridge humbucker once drive is selected.

What's the Peter Cook sound like?

"I dunno Dud!" :-)

Alright as asked by many of you... well one reader!

So here is a demo of the Peter Cook

Three settings - first on a jazzy sequence.

This is using the Neck pickup - through my H&K Statesman 6l6 combo which is on the clean channel with the Twang button in. So the only change is on the guitar.

First - Freq pot at 1 Boost at 8
Second - Freq pot at 10 Boost at 10
Third - Freq pot at 7 Boost at 8

Nothing else is changed! Shows how versatile this beast is.

Then we go RAWK! On the drive channel of the same amp, gain on the amp about 50%. This is on the bridge pickup - again only thing changed is the tone controls on the guitar.

First - Freq pot at 3 Boost at 8
Second - Freq pot at 10 Boost at 10
Third - Freq pot at 7 Boost at 8

The third settings on both are my favoured settings with the guitar.

So here's the sound clip with all those on... enjoy

Thursday, 2 December 2010

My Peter Cook 6 string

I posted these photos on a vintage guitar forum... thought I'd stick em up here too...

It has an active preamp in it - more similar to that used in basses. One knob is overall volume, then a freq knob to pick a freq to boost/cut and then a boost control. The switches are some funny phase switch (never use it) and the preamp on off (I never have it off!). Powered by 2 9 volts under the smaller cover on the back.

It is same scale length as a Strat, Strat hardtail bridge Mighty Mite I believe. A forearm contour but no back contour. Mahogany body and neck, rosewood fingerboard 12" radius with jumboish frets. Nut the brass nut - very late 70s/early 80s! Must be over thirty years old now and I've owned it well over 20. I should use it more but the preamp controls aren't the easiest to get on with - i.e. it is easy to quickly screw it all up!!

Hello Poland and all Hughes and Kettner dual 6l6 users

I've just been looking at my blog stats...

People from Poland, Denmark, all over - including China!

Most popular search that hits my blog is Hughes and Kettner Dual 6L6 review. Really!!!

So hello all owners of that amp - or prospective users. You know what I ought to post some more stuff about it now I've had it 18 months given it is popular reading :-)

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Book reviews

I owe some ... here goes

I am Ozzy

Ozzy's autobiography - well sounds like he rambled into a tape recorder and some other guy tried to make sense of it all! Actually it was a captivating read - he is a pretty humble guy in many ways to who life seems to happen with some stunning results! He tells it how he remembers it, but he admits that he has probably arsed up his brain cells over the years and that others are at liberty to contest his version of events. Black Sabbath's rise is interesting, like other stars who I've read about there is this bit where... "we were in the van driving here and there, doing loads of gigs, any gig, we had no gear/money/anywhere to live etc. We got this manager and he was hawking us about, we made the album, this went well, that less so, we went back on the road - then the manager called and said The album is no 1, 10 whatever"... It is amazing that the move from nobody to star is a) so quick b) seems to not be noticed directly by the star other than the van becomes a limo, the hotel gets nicer and the women, drugs and alcohol more plentiful.

The bit about Randy Rhodes death was painful to read - it is clear Ozzy still has never got over that tragedy and still can't accept what happened that day. Some of the animosity towards the others in the band comes out, esp the Dio version of Sabbath straight after his departure (however one of my favourite line up of all time) but he does say in one sentence the truth of it for him... "I just wished they'd not called it Black Sabbath". Interesting that now that group/line up is of course immortalised as Heaven and Hell and sadly was cut short by Dio's death - who'd have thought he'd buy it before Ozzy?

Good read if you like Ozzy but possibly not if you aren't a fan of some sort - there is no hidden message anywhere.

Holy Warrior - Angus Donald

Blood thirsty retelling of Richard the Lionhearts crusade. However neat twist in that this one has Robin Hood there as the Earl of Locksley and is written as the narrative from an old man who was there viewpoint - that man is Alan of Dale. Little John, Will Scarlet etc. all turn up. Interesting twist on the Hood legend and not a bad telling of a sorry part of UK/European/Christian history frankly. The sacking of Messina is chillingly told, as is the massacre of the Jews in at Clifords Tower in York in 1190. So very blood thirsty, lots of people put to the sword throughout but an interesting twist on the tail. I want to read the prequel to this now - Outlaw.

The Fort - Bernard Cornwell

I love Bernards books. Well researched and brilliantly written. This is no different. It tells an interesting tale from the American war of independence - namely the Penobscot Expedition. In 1779 the British landed a force to fortify a stronghold in what is now Maine on the USA east coast. This was to be a new land called New Ireland and was hoped to be a springboard to repel the rebellion elsewhere in New England. However it was a disaster - at that point the area was part of Massachusetts and the state set up a force to repel the English at its own expense with it's melitia but they were untrained and not really up for the fight. Despite a large navel fleet including some Continental ships i.e. belonging to the fledgling federal govt they failed to subdue the British and the expedition ended in failure.

Cornwell tells the story from both sides with a large dose of writers licence but with much of the facts relayed. Paul Revere plays an interesting part and that was an education for me - he wasn't the great hero I thought he might be. John Moore one of the greatest soldiers the British army saw in the 18th and 19th centuries and possibly the man we should thank for defeating the Napoleonic forces appears as a young man - and this was truly the first battle he ever fought. Now I didn't know that! I know he created the light infantry - built all the Martello towers I have spent my life looking at near where I live etc.

So not just interesting military history but also interesting interplay between the characters which Cornwell has supposed from his research. He also feels that the Commodore of the fleet was badly treated afterwards simply as the state needed get the £3,000,000 it spent back from the other states in the new federation. Interesting views indeed. Fabulous read.

It's snowing

Is it still November? Doesn't look like it outside - we got the long awaited snow over night and it has carried on snowing on and off all day, only mostly small flurries but more looks to be coming down now. I'm surprised it took this long, normally if the wind comes in from the east in the winter we cop it - we live on the slope of the North Downs and the snow just gets unloaded from the North Sea on us as the cloud comes in. I think 10 miles east it will have largely fallen as rain, that isn't uncommon but as the height rises we get the snow.

So snow in Kent - my daughters school shut early at lunchtime, but at least they tried to operate unlike many. Mrs F has gone off and her school has stayed open. No trains running by the sound of it but frankly that is hardly surprising you pay £4000 plus for a season ticket and they provide the biggest joke of a service in the country! Probably in Europe! I don't want to sound like a whingeing old man but I did commute to London for a few years 20 years or so ago and the only times I don't remember getting in were... the hurricane of 86, to be fair there were trees all over the line that I could see that day, the really bad snow the year before that when we had yards of the stuff outside and no one in the rest of the country had a flake! and when the IRA used to blow up or threaten to blow up a station. To be honest the terrorist threat was greater to delaying me than the weather but now seems it is always up the creek as soon as the temp is 0 or below. Remember last New Years Day when they screwed up my sons girlfriend getting to our family meal!

Still luckily I don't have to go anywhere so I finished my latest book... review to hopefully follow and swept the snow off the path/drive... only for it to come back again - still keeps me fit!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

one step at a time...

The interview came and went and I didn't get the job... I blew it - the preconception was that the job was a long way from what I'd previously been doing. I liked the guy who owned the company but in the end he really wanted a team leader on the up not someone like me who's done that job some years ago.

Never mind - onwards and upwards as they say

Monday, 22 November 2010


I've been somewhat quiet on here lately, so what's been going on...

I've been decorating - that took a lot of October up. We have a large open plan house, it wasn't originally like that but someone (before our tenancy) put an arch between the lounge and the dining room (very 70s) removing the old fold back doors that were there - they were on the back of the garage when we moved in, what a joke they had to go! - and they also moved a wall through 90° to remove the hallway but make an entrance porch but the stairway is now in the lounge. That means when you decorate now you have to decorate, the dining room, the lounge, the stairway and the upstairs landing. This means all 8 room doors in the house have to be painted and three large cupboard doors as well! Anyway that was a minimum three weeks with me working pretty much everyday - I did have one day off to help out at some AA thing.

November - well the decorating bug had got hold so I did my sons bedroom. In fairness we'd bought the paint he wanted in the summer but I just hadn't got around to it - clearing his room was a nightmare. How can someone only 20 years old have so much crap already!! Anyway that was finished this weekend with Mrs F helping me get the new border stuck up - and I had to do a little "adjustment" in the lounge to accommodate the new fireplace we collected Saturday.

Oh yes and there were the gigs in Oct (Lamb and Flag) and Nov (The Libertine and Strood) so any downtime from the decorating was spent practising. I've written one new song that got an airing at The Libertine gig. My Baby got a full band treatment at Strood.

Anyway - I have started to apply for some jobs. Well a few jobs - but it's been frustrating. Now I was clearly living a delusional life (not the first time) but I thought I would phone up, send CV etc. and people would go - "This guy has a lot of experience, knowledge, etc. we should at least talk to him". Reality has not been like that. It is either - we need someone like this... they then describe a bizarre person with so many characteristics/knowledge that you think "They'll never get all that". The agent on more than one occasion has said "This one is proving difficult to fill" No shit Sherlock! Or you need industry specific knowledge - I partly get that but to me also bringing someone in from outside I'd have thought would mean that person would look at stuff in new ways and offer new/different solutions, also that person would be really engaged in learning that business not bored with it all.

Anyway - I do have an interview today! So I'm off to that this afternoon.

And it is Daughter-of-Furtheron's 15th birthday that must be a good omen surely.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Gigs done!

Ok - Looks like that might be it on the gigs front until 2011.

The private party gig was a laugh - I did a short solo set and then was in an "easy listening" jazz band thing a mate has put together. I know it isn't really my sort of thing but then playing something you don't listen to or play much can stretch you.

My brother-in-law, sister and some friends came along. My brother-in-law is a bass player and he said "The band sounded great" - so must have been good.

The Libertine was another great afternoon of fun. Only three acts due to late illness withdrawals but I still enjoyed it and Toby of RTYD fame indicated how much he thinks I've come along in terms of confidence, quality and choice of material in the last year. That is nice to get comments like that.

So 2011 - the year I finally get the recognition I deserve and get catapulted into super stardom? I doubt it hopefully some more solo gigs - the drummer from the jazz band thing has suggested a couple of Kent based open mic nights I might like to try out. Also I might try and put a band together or join something else. I got asked to try out for a jazz funk type outfit the other day - which again would stretch me as a player. We'll see.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

gigs this weekend!

I'm playing a private party in Strood on Saturday. If anyone in the Kent area would like to come along I have some limited invites available - email me.

Sunday I'm playing at the RTYD Acoustic Sunday at The Libertine in Borough. I'll be on sometime between 1:30 - 3:00.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Impressive service

I've used Award Session before for leads especially. They make such a range, it's like you just pretty much custom order what you want, they use top quality components and they have never been an issue. I ordered some recently and they arrived in double quick time.

However I noticed an issue with the billing - I emailed them and it was sorted out in double quick time as well.

Top service award of the year so far goes to Award Session!

Monday, 1 November 2010

Rock Til You Drop 2010 awards

The Rock Til You Drop 2010 awards are nearing.

This is a bit cheeky I know but hell everyone else does it don't they...

Could you all just click on this link to the voting form and put Graham Hunt - Within in the best CD category and Graham Hunt - Let Me Love you Tonight in the best song one?

I'd be very grateful... ta!

Friday, 29 October 2010

Bells catalogue

From good old FlatEric...

Who remembers the Bells catalogue? As a kid I used to send off for these and wear them out thumbing through them :-)

Page 24 - look at the bottom right hand corner - that was the first electric guitar I ever owned! My Mum and Dad helped me buy it when I was 12.

Les Paul gold top deluxe for £239 anyone!! Or a Black Custom - like mine at the top of the picture here... yours for £389!!! Although you had to pay £18.90 for a hard case!


Sunday, 24 October 2010

Lamb & Flag gig

Well I throughly enjoyed the Lamb & Flag gig yesterday.

We (that is Mrs F, Daughter-of-Furtheron and I) made our way up to London on the train and met up with my brother, his wife and daughter for a meal before heading to the venue. By the end of the meal I was into the usual pre-gig nerves which I think Mrs F could easily spot - I had been talking with my brother about the Grand Prix and other stuff but slowly started to shut down. This is my way a bit before any gig - I get to the point of wanting to a) get to the venue to check all is ok b) get on stage and get it over with!

Funny isn't it I really want to play live to get my stuff heard by people and I do genuinely enjoy it once I'm playing but before hand that day all the "Why on earth did I agree to this?", "It'll be crap", "I'll be booed off" etc. thoughts can't help but invade the brain. I've read several autobiographies of other performers who have similar issues, odd we want to do it in the first place isn't it?

Anyway - the venue is really nice - a typical old Victorian type London pub right in the heart of the West End, James Street just off Oxford Street very near Bond Street tube station. The acoustic night is held in the upstairs room which is a nice size and a really good venue, it's only disadvantage is that people have to head back downstairs to get drinks but it's no real issue. There was quiet a packed crowd. There were three solo acts and two duets on last night. Given the trek back to Kent we couldn't stay all the way through unfortunately but what we heard was really good. A great place for some acoustic showcasing if people have new, different material they'd like to try out.

Anyway I was on second on the bill between 8:00 and 8:30, I did a set of almost totally original material - at Mrs F's insistence I slipped in a cover of Phil Campbell's No Love Songs towards the end dropping a song calls Strength of Their Hearts I've yet to perform live out to make way for it. Several new songs got their live debuts, Summertime, Running in the Shadows (my solo acoustic version is somewhat different from the recorded one) and Everyday being examples.

I felt my set went down pretty well, my daughter commented on several people were "nodding and singing along" and Pete McDonnell, who is one of the organizers of these evenings, came up to me after the set and as we left and was keen to offer me some more slots in the New Year. So all in all that is really good, I look forward to playing there again and now it's a venue "under my belt", as it were, there is a chance the pre-show nerves will be less the next time :-)

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Gig this Saturday - Lamb and Flag Jame Street

I'm still in decorating mode... we have a big open plan house so once you start in the dining room you have to continue into the lounge, then the stairwell then the upstairs landing... you get the picture in the end you've pretty much decorated the majority of the house! Well you've painted at least one side of every single door in the place! Anyway the end is in sight, I've only the paper to hang on the landing now and then next week a friend is coming to do the stairwell - I haven't the right ladders etc. to hang wallpaper in a stairwell - plus Mrs F didn't trust me up a ladder with my vertigo :-)

Anyway - as a diversion I'm playing a 30 min acoustic set (all original material!) at the Lamb and Flag 24 James Street. It is just north of Oxford Street very close to Bond Street tube station. If you are at a loss or in the area come along - it kicks off about 7:30 and I'm on sometime between 8 and 9 I believe.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Gig Review - Joe Bonamassa Folkestone

Last night I went to Folkestone to see Joe Bonamassa. I went with my brother, it's been years since we went to a gig together but it was just like the old days when as teenagers we went to loads together and met a couple of friends in the queue just before the doors open.

Mr Bonamassa admitted he'd never heard of Folkestone and was confused by the venue. The Leas Cliff Hall is built, as its name implies, on a cliff overlooking the channel - on a clear day you can see to France from the roof. Now since it is built on a cliff you enter at the roof of the building and there is a little building above ground as you approach the top of the cliff... see the photo below. So Joe was looking at this little building thinking "And you are going to get 1500 people in that!".

To the gig - no support and Joe hit the stage just before 8pm and left just after 10pm. 2 solid hours with now breaks, he hardly spoke at all between numbers so in terms of value for money cannot be faulted at all. He was brilliant - he is one of the finest blues-rock guitarists around without any doubt and a good vocalist and show man to boot. My brother and I commented that it is all him the whole show - i.e. you just watch him, the band more the competently support him but he is the show.

He ended up the main set with Mountain Time which is one of my favourites of his and it was just brilliantly done - I think a woman just along from me was wiping her eyes.

Throughly great night out. If you don't know him check him out and if you get the chance go see him live.

For the guitar anoraks he used a lot my list from memory is
  • Dark Sunburst Bonamassa Les Paul
  • Blue Sunburst Bonamassa Les Paul
  • Gold top Bonamassa Les Paul (plastic h/w changed from stock black to more standard style cream
  • 2 cherry sunburst Les Paul Standards (one his so called "Gary Moore" guitar)
  • Musicman Albert Lee three humbucker, rosewood necked guitar
  • A green sunburst Musicman Luke model
  • Acoustic - not a Yamaha and sorry for once I didn't know... I think maybe a Yairi as it had a split bridge like I've seen on them and diagonal inlayes on the headstock, again I think I've seen Yairi's like that

Post publish note... thanks to Richard for pointing out my missing guitars...
  • Gibson Korina Flying V (58 model)
  • Ibanez 70s destroyer - i.e. Korina Explorer copy

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Gig Reviews - Supertramp The O2 and Mumford & Sons Hammersmith Apollo

In the middle of a bit of a gig fest at the moment... 3 gigs in 4 days! I finish off with Joe Bonamassa at Folkestone tonight but here are my reviews of the first two...

Supertramp - The O2

This was billed at the 70 - 10 All the Hits and More tour. 70 - 10? For those that don't know Supertramp formed in 1970 so this year is their 40th anniversary. It has been some years since they toured and to be frank I thought that Rick Davies had had enough and was happy to put his feet up in retirement living out his days in the USA. Luckily not... some context... Supertramp were a hugely important band for me, in 1974 I heard Dreamer on the radio and was like - who/what was that? They were one of the first bands I discovered for myself and got into rather than others leading me to them if you see what I mean. Crime of the Century was a stunning album I thought, and still do. The opening harmonica of School through to the dying chords of the title track it is just brilliant. However in my friends I was really the only 'tramp fan so I never got to see them live when younger, BBC sight and sound etc. appearances excepted. Roger Hodgeson (the other founder member who made it to the big times with the band) left in 1982 after the Famous Last Words album. So the band is not what it was in it's heyday. That all said what of the gig?

Brilliant. Okay these songs mean a lot to me, they are part of my growing up etc. but the musicianship on display was top drawer. They did play all the hits and more, the leaning was, not surprisingly more towards the Rick Davies side of the recorded record but Hodgesons big ones, Logical Song, Dreamer, Give a Little Bit etc. were capably handled but a couple of additional singers - esp Bob Siebenberg's (drummer) son Jesse.

They played a good part of the Crime album which really pleased me - School being the start of the encore set.

So finally I got to see one of my fav bands of all time and I'm so pleased I did as this may well be the final time as Mr Davies isn't far off 70 now and no doubt doesn't really need the cash I suspect. Roger Hodgeson is touring next year and has been vocal that the old Supertramp experience is captured in his solo gigs... maybe but frankly this gig was as good as Supertramp can be in my opinion. Rick Davies might have an idiosyncratic singing style at times but that is all part of it really - listen to Paris (live album just after Breakfast in America) and you'll see what I mean.

Mumford and Sons - Hammersmith Apollo

From the old to the new, just like that! If you are not yet familiar with Mumford and Sons do yourself a favour and search them out. They are a cross over folk band with catchy tunes, interesting lyrics and brilliant vocal arrangements to complement the well constructed instrumentation.

After two support acts they played an energetic 1 and a half hour set. Now these guys might be quiet new to this but their live act is really top notch. They are very very tight as a band, the vocal harmonies were especially very impressive - there are many bigger name acts who I've heard live on TV etc. who could learn a lot from these lads. They added to their four piece set up with a three piece brass section and a celloist on a couple of tracks.

The multi-instrumental nature of the members shown through with guitar, banjo, drums, bass, mandolin etc. all being swapped about between numbers. Again hugely impressive.

The new songs they played bode well for the new album they are soon to start recording, I think they should not suffer with a poor second album based on that evidence.

During the encores they came out from behind the microphones and played a totally acoustic number - no amps or anything. Brave in any sized venue but the Apollo is hardly small and doing that as well as they did was one of the highlights.

They all hail from Fulham so Hammersmith was a bit of a home coming from them and playing such a well know venue as headliners was clearly very emotional for them, brilliant to see them so wrapped in the emotion of it all.

Finally a quick note on the support acts for Mumford and Sons... well one in particular Matthew and The Atlas - we got there just in time to see them take the stage and we were all blown away by them, my daughter in particular. So a little like Mumford and Sons but more folky perhaps, touches of 70s Brit folk in there too a la John Martyn and others. Really well worth checking out, they have an ep available on Spotify and a new one to be released in November.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Book Review - The Messiah Secret by James Becker

Now if you like modern globe trotting ancient relic hunting thrillers ... this is quiet a good one.

The scene is set by the prologue that indicates nearly 2000 years ago a bunch of pretty hard men go through a lot to conceal something in a pretty desolate location, but we don't know what, where or why.

Fast forward to the 21st century and an old British stately home owner is being tortured to give some information he doesn't have about something his father is supposed to have been searching for.

Thus starts the romp. Three protagonists are chasing the relic (whatever it is), one is a British Museum worker and her policeman ex-husband, the second is a very very nasty man - i.e. the one who tortures our home owner and a USA multi-millionaire.

So they shoot off here and there in the world and what they are searching sort of changes as well as you follow more the English couple as they try to catch up and over take the others searching for the relic.

Some bits totally unbelievable - others not so... not a bad read I found.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

The CD - a track by track commentary

Let me Love You Tonight

Written in Feb 2010. The picking bit at the beginning was the start on an acoustic but as soon as I found the chords for the verse I could hear that as a bass intro. I was pushing myself to use chords with suspense in them so a Cmaj7 to start then a Em7Sus4/B ... I think! (It is probably something else!). The lyrics were inspired by something I heard someone say in a meeting once - about when they hit their rock bottom someone said - "Let us love you tonight until you can love yourself". I nearly used that lyric as it was then realised some people could misinterpret it! So the "Until You Feel Alright" line came along and I altered some others so it can be interpreted as a love song - the listeners choice. This was one where I knew I needed to "spice it up" somewhere in and hence the move to the Bm when you're just thinking - has this song only got 3 chords?

That was recorded at Broadwood Studios in Kent after my wife bought me some studio time. The end result is what I wanted. The solo isn't bad - a couple of green ones I wish perhaps I'd nailed there and then but never mind. The solo is in E minor but the chords center on C - some mode, I never can figure them out! My electro and PRS CE 22 are the rhythm guitars, 5 String Ibanez bass of course and the solo is my Gibson Les Paul Custom. A live version is on Reverbnation to compare if you like with the studio performance.

Running in the Shadows.

A good old protest song! Well we have a Tory PM, cuts coming, strikes on the way, a left wing Labour leader... sound familiar? I wrote this as a solo acoustic piece but again in my head could hear it in a band setting. Having learnt from the studio experience I'm pleased with this one. My electro is the acoustic rhythm, my Gordon Smith Graduate 60 I think from my H&K amp gives the other rhythm track. Usual bass. And then the Gordon Smith bridge pickup coil tapped to sound a bit Telecaster is the solo.


Written ages ago. Originally in standard tuning then the Drop D idea came to me allowing it to be all over the 6 strings at the start of the pattern. Then I played it to Gordon Giltrap at a workshop some years back - he suggested the moving octaves with the drone on both D strings... took sometime to work it out though and get it nearly right most of the time :-) Named by someone I met in rehab who called it the Gypsy one... I pray he is safe and well whenever I play it.

I Used To Know Her

Written in 2003 when I was in a band called Tripwire - a covers rock band that failed without playing a gig sadly. I never used it in the band as I didn't think it fitted at all. Dug it out - still have the original scribbled lyrics etc. from when I wrote it - as I needed material to play at the Lib in Nov 2009. It is always dedicated to my wife - it is my love for her exposed to the world. Written with a deliberate David Gray style in mind, he might not think that mind... or you come to that!


Another love song... I don't write many :-) Came from noodling on the 12 string, I wanted another 12 string number. A bit like Pink Floyd to my ears but whatever... some of the lyrics came quickly others took ages and it was changing right up until I recorded it - esp the bridge bit which I knew the song needed but couldn't get any lyrics for then the Never... etc. idea hit me.

Golden Moment

A bit John Martyn maybe - that was who I was sort of thinking of anyway. I wanted a finger picked quieter number not a thrash the hell out of it type one! Originally was to be something called Lasagne Lady which was an inspiration from regular commenter Liz but never came together. I put those lyrics to the side and some days later the Golden Moment idea came to me. An inspiration from my AA sponsor. Just my LL11 recorded via a Shure mic - I like the sound I got on that.

Friends Welcome

An old thing I had lying around for ages - Yamaha LL11 with some effects applied.


Written a couple of years back. I had the intro for ages then started to play the same chords in the first position with heavy use of G in the chords wherever I could as that harks to the intro opening string drone... the chorus then fell from that. I always thought the intro/outro sounded like a Waterfall and that lead to the lyrics. Autobiographical obviously this is all about my alcoholism and recovery. At the time written I thought the whole thing was like swimming up a waterfall - which I heard once used to describing trying to get out of a black hole!

Strength of their Hearts

Inspired by people you see with some disability or illness who just get on with life and cope with it. True heroes. Very simple chord pattern etc. The solo was played on my Squier JV 62 strat using a patch on the Boss in stereo - like the sound of that one.

Rise Up

An old 12 string noodle that was the intro of something for ages. So once I had a second gig at RYTD set up I knew I had to turn it into a song. I can't remember what came first the words of the chord pattern for the verse. However there's a musical joke in it actually... Rise Up... the chord pattern is Em, G, Am, C, D (sus2)... rise up... yes it is simply a run up the Em pentatonic scale... ROFL!!! Well it amused me! I doubled with a 6 string - sometimes I like that other times I listen and think I shouldn't have bothered.

I have the 12 string detuned half a tone - the bass line is played on the 5 string Ibanez which is in concert tuning - so the E♭ is on the bottom B string.

Solo Sunday

A real old one - actually a mismatch of two songs of mine from years gone by. The start was a deliberate attempt to write something Steve Howe like and the second bit was a song I wrote in a band when I was 16 so that is 30 something years old now! I keep wondering what the lyrics were then and whether I should drag them out.


Another one that came from a noodle about - I like a pattern of chords where for a lot of it I had the same two notes on the top two strings like a drone - the D Sus4 just sort of draws your attention to it/away from it. The chorus is my great sing-a-long anthem... just need the Wembley booking now :-)

A feel good lyric about how now in recovery the best thing really over all else is that I'm actually getting happy about being me. I'm not at odds with the universe and don't believe it is out to get me. After some thought it was obvious this has to be the title track of the CD - that is a statement about how I feel today.

You Make Me More

I wanted something where I held long notes singing. I thought I was too quick in delivery of lines. It came through a noodle and is with a capo on the acoustic and the electric is the same chords in different voicings on the Strat. Acoustic is the LL11 and the bass the ever present Ibanez five string.

Inspired by something a friend once said to me "Just knowing you has made me a better person". Something I was shocked by as I didn't feel I deserved that accolade. He sadly passed away in a car crash some time later. It is dedicated to him and many others who have made me a better person just because I've known them, whether they know it or not.

My Baby

A jazzy lick I had around for ages, reminding me of My Baby Just Cares For Me by Nina Simone - which was why My Baby was in my head when the lyrics came. A tongue in cheek view of how I think some people treat love with great fickleness... :-)

Guitar is my Gibson Les Paul through a patch on the Br600 - with reflection too distorted possibly. My first success with drum patches on the br600 :-)


A Gordon Giltrap inspired piece - just came through a few noodles that I captured and built on. Written in early summer in the UK... hence that why it is such a short piece :-)

The CD Story Part 2

Into 2010...

The second gig at The Lib on Valentine's Day was more nerve racking than the first for some reason. I think because now it wasn't a one off and I was nailing my colours to the mast as a solo singer/songwriter and therefore needed to raise the game. In the end it went alright I think. I learnt some stuff there indeed... using 12 strings live is a nightmare :-) I will still go there but not ever gig. I was still "sitting down" as I had at the debut and afterwards thought - I don't feel comfortable like that - so a move to stand up ... moving about... :-) was on the cards.

I took the Boss BR600 along to that and got some surprisingly good results with it just running off batteries and on the table in front of my daughter who was in control of the buttons and only using the built in mics. If you to to my Reverbnation site you'll find a couple of live tracks in there from that.

This also introduced me to Audacity. I had one big track of the whole performance which I wanted to "chop up". Colin Gilman (good egg and sadly missed blogger) suggested that Audacity would do it and indeed it did that trick. Now a tool I wouldn't be without but I still am only scraping the surface with this stuff. There is more about this at this post.

I'd hoped for a gig with Scooter Forums radio but that didn't come off. I did get to play at a friends small party locally and Toby booked me to return to the Lib in June and every so often a new song would come along. I started looking at song structures of the covers I was learning. I noticed one important point, must had some kind of bridge in them... some bit somewhere that took them away from verse, chorus, verse, chorus. I realised why some of my songs were a) short! b) not that interesting. So I endeavoured to think about this more. It delayed the completion and recording of some songs - like Everyday which was around a few months but without the "Never..." bridge bit. Well I knew I needed it - I had the two chord repeat and the sort of melody for that bit early on but couldn't get any lyrics for a fair while.

Before Dinners got a proper job again I was a regular appearer on his radio show. So I signed up to PRS I've not yet earnt from this but you can but hope :-) I need Dinners to get the show back on the air ;-)

As regulars will know I left work (redundancy) in July and that opened up a time to me to focus on the music. I did some recording of some stuff I'd written that had been lying around waiting for me to record it. I was learning more about the recorder now so if you aren't a music techy skip this bit...

So the Boss br600 is a simple all in one 8 track digital recorder. It is no longer a current model but available cheap second hand. Firstly - get a power supply! It can eat batteries and also needs secure power at many points of it's operation, failing batteries not good! You can use the internal mics - I have done for the live recording and for demos. Plug in a mic - I started with a cheap old Peavey one but have bought two Shure mics now. Or plug in an instrument.

It has a wealth of "in line" effects. This includes a COSM amp modeller - so all of my bass recordings have been via this and most of my guitar recordings but I have done some off a mic from my Hughes and Kettner amp. For me some acoustics are microphone recordings (esp things like Golden Moment, Gypsy etc.) but others are using my electro and using the inline effects to colour that.

It also has a drum machine that took me a while to suss out - hence why most of the early recordings have no drums!! I don't know why I didn't get it - just stupid at first. You have to get the bpm fixed and then work from that. Once that is done I now know how useful that is for things like "loop recording" (i.e. looping the same bit over and over to practice a solo) or punch ins to patch up mistakes ... every bloody bass line for me! :-)

You have tracks 1 - 4 then a stereo tracks on 5/6 and 7/8. Normally if needed I bounce to 5/6 early on and reuse the early tracks but in one case (Strength of their hearts) I used 5/6 for a stereo guitar patch with the inline effects. My arrangements are never overly burdened with too much stuff so I've never got to need to use all 8 tracks. Good thing is the drums are a separate thing, only if you have them playing in a bounce do they get actually recorded... there was a learning - don't bounce early with the drums playing if you haven't finalized the drum pattern!!! doh! So now I only add the drums to the final bounce down. I've read some forum comments where they say that the Br600 is only really a 6 track as you need the tracks for the final bounce... wrong. It has a clever trick in that you can select a "virtual track" for it to go on and so you bound to 7/8 V2 not V1 and that should I believe work - I've not tried it mind. That means you have 8 full tracks and you could have done two stereo bounces if you thought about it and a full stereo drum rack as well on the final mix down. Not bad for a box about the size (but deeper) of an iPad.

Other tips on the BR600 - buy memory cards. It is tempremental about size and speed etc. So update the s/w from the Roland site and then buy ones you find recommended on forums. The ones I bought like this have given me no trouble at all.

Once recorded and the last bounce is done... what then? I export the 7/8 track with the stereo mix down done. You export to a WAV file and get that onto you PC. I then use a cheap MP3 converter I've got. However increasingly - actually always now I load up into Audacity. I then just trim the start and end... normally at the start I've had a counting on the drums for a few bars which I replace with silence before the mix down - so there are several seconds of nothing... or more commonly a cough and or string scrapes! Audacity allows you to easily select that and cut it... and the same at the end. One thing I learnt from the studio experience was that you can do fade outs as well. I've just got into that in Audacity to give a better ending where some of my early ones you can hear where the stop button was hit on the bass line or whatever. In Audacity select the tail of the track and hit effects and then fade out... brilliant. There are other things like a fade in etc. I've not yet tried but think I will at some point on something... a la Boston More Than a Feeling start etc.

Okay techy bit sort of over...

My wife paid for me to have some time in a professional studio which you can read about here. I learnt a huge amount in that few hours. Punch ins and outs - use of effects etc. All really great stuff and the out come track was everything I'd hoped for and the production I'd had in my head since writing it back at the beginning of the year. I'd never recorded it as I wanted to "get it right" but knew it needed a lot of stuff.

So here we are nearly into October... nearly a year since I first emailed Toby.

I've played a bunch of gigs at The Libertine and a couple of private party ones as well. I've written a whole bunch of stuff - 54 mins approx (ok Waterfall, I Used To Know Her, Solo Sunday and Gypsy were already written ... but....). I've got a gig at The Lamb and Flag coming up (Oct 23rd) which I'm really chuffed about - that will be a 30min all original material set! :-) I've been played several times on internet radio - thanks Dinners and Scooter Forums radio. Really it was Dinners huge enthusiasm and appetite for material that really spurred me on at the start of all this. I've had the Reverbnation page up for a while and it's a great way of getting my material out there... it is listen to by some people from time to time, I set up a Myspace one too befriend me on that if you are on there.

So I looked at this body of work and thought - make a CD. I looked at duplication/printing costs and could have got 1000 done or something but thought - will I sell a 1000? Who knows. But I thought, apart from Let Me Love You Tonight and the time in the studio then this has been all totally me writing, playing, recording etc. so why not the CD as well. I bought some blank CDs, empty cases, a program to make/print labels and inlays and did it all myself. I've sold a handful so far but one to punxxi who is someone I've never physically met and who lives in the USA... can I claim I'm an international recording artist now? One caveat - my son took the cover photo and did the photoshop manipulation on that ... so he has a credit as well :-)

You look at it and ok the numbers are low, num of gigs, attendances at gigs, listeners to the Drunk Punk Show, number of CDs sold, hits on Myspace/Reverbnation... etc. However what the heck I've done all this in a year and I'm reasonably proud of it all.

The CD story part 1

Here is a the story of the last year of my life...

In 2009 I looked to put a band together, for sometime the music in my life was a frustration not an enjoyment. I knew I needed some kind of outlet for it. I had some replies to some ads and met some people but nothing clicked. People were either just into "I want to gig endlessly" or "I don't want to gig" or "I'm not good enough"... etc. I just couldn't find people I clicked with.

Then in August 2009 I was taken ill and was off work for a while and simply not good at all. Everything took a back seat and the people I had made contact with drifted away - largely my fault I'll be honest as I didn't pursue anything at that time.

October arrived and I felt a bit better physically. That month erstwhile blogger, ex-MagicShip front man Colin Gillman introduced me to Rock-Til-You-Drop and he played at the October Sunday Acoustic afternoon at The Libertine. In a moment of madness I thought - I could do that, be a way to put my toe back in the water. So I emailed Toby Burton and tentatively offered myself for a Sunday slot. His answer as "how about next month". Hell!!! only a month to get ready. So I dusted off some old acoustic stuff of mine and thought about a few covers that I could play in a solo setting.

So November 15th arrived and I played my first ever totally solo gig (with me singing, I'd done some small classical ones as a kid!) I was really pleased with it, Four Dinners showed up, my brother and his wife came along, another friend turned up late, but Ken, Colin and Steve came along to support and so did my old pal Deejay.

The spark was set - especially as Toby had offered another possible set in a couple of months. So I thought - let's record some of this stuff. I'd had a Boss BR600 lying around doing nothing for a year or more at the time and I got out the mic and hit record. So on 17th Nov 2009 I used to know her made it's debut on this here very site. Quickly over the next few days I was writing some more material, Toby confirmed a gig for Valentines Day and Dinners God love him played my tune on his Drunk Punk show on Scooter Forums radio.

So now I was a solo singer/songwriter/guitarist. I worked on new material, got a bit more knowledgeable about the recorder. Learnt some other covers or dusted off old ones I'd not played in years. I was being pushed by Dinners to get more stuff available for him to use on his show.

In December some more material was written - including Within the title track of the CD and one that means a lot to me personally. (More about the tracks in a separate post later folks...) I found Reverbnation via the band Logan and created my own page and loaded up my material there. I also bought a new guitar to make live shows easy which I funded by letting Flat Eric add my Peter Cook bass to his impressive collection.

So we entered 2010 and the story will continue in post two due soon...

Sunday, 26 September 2010

CD available!!!!

I'm really pleased to announce the release of my home made CD Within.

Within contains 15 tracks all written and performed by yours truly and with one exception (Let Me Love You Tonight) they were all recorded by me at home as well. The CD itself is also home produced with the printing and burning etc. all done on my home PC. Not often in this day and age you get that level of sweat in any product is it :-)

There is one exclusive track only available on the CD for the time being so what better reason to buy one do you need?

Easiest is to pay me £7 via paypal to or email me at that address for overseas rates (depends on the postage) and how to pay/order via post if you'd prefer.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Why do you play the guitar?

It's funny - I've had this conversation with many people over the years I've been playing. Now for many the belief it that I picked up the guitar as a way to get girls or because it is supposedly some phallic symbol. I've heard these thoughts reinforced many times by observers, other musicians etc.

However for me that was never the reason in my head and I never make the association with the sex thing that many seem to. When I was very little I was obsessed with music, my Mum had one of those huge stereograms that people used to have in the 60s - I just remember that replacing our old Danset record player.

Here's a similar type one...

Eventually this ended up in my bedroom whilst I was in 6th form / college before I replaced it with a music center I bought off my wife's brother not long before he passed away.

Anyway back to the point... I used to stand in front of this loaded with 45s that were on the spindle and crashed on to the deck to play... remember that - playlists aren't new you know just the technology has changed :-) My Mum had a good collection of music, Elvis, The Beatles, Shadows, Herb Albert etc. I had a little old metal toy guitar that I used to stand and mime with "playing along". I honestly can't remember when I didn't do that. By junior school I was into anything music, learning the recorder and in the choir etc. so I could read music etc.

I then went to grammar school and again was straight into the choir and then into the orchestra playing the oboe - I've no idea why but I wanted the oboe. I think I'd heard that was the instrument all others tuned to in an orchestra therefore it must be the best I thought! Also then my Mum got me a cheap Spanish guitar and started to learn in a group lesson but didn't get on, soon Mum found a young lady who taught classical guitar and I took off with that. A year later the first electric arrived and bands started.

However in all this - it was the music, making music, writing my own music that was always the driver and the interest for me. Frankly I never considered being a musician and a guitarist would "get me the girls" or was some form of public masturbation. However I did meet my wife through music connections - she'd been in a show that my mate had played drums for and she came to see a big band jazz band we were both in and he introduced me to her. She then came along to one of our rock band rehearsals and the rest is history as they say. But I don't think the guitar had any appeal to her in any way.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Sorry is this 2010?

I heard the story today on the news about the failure to repeal the rule banning openly gay people from serving in the US military.

I was to shocked to say the least - when did we get rid of that nonsense in stuffy old Britain? About 10 years ago and that was long over due - I seem to recall it being a European directive that finally forced the govt hand. To be honest though now today in 2010 you'd think any such ban in any vocation / job as simply ridiculous and unfair.

I can't understand the reasoning against it - some general claims it would "disrupt unit morale" - sorry?! There are over 10,000 people who have been discharged from the forces in the last 10 years over this.

It makes you wonder doesn't it... here we are standing shoulder to shoulder fighting wars that supposedly are supposed to introduce our fantastic western freedom to them and those forces have a policy so openly discriminatory. Bizarre.

As my brother said about Obama's election - "Yep he is a black American but when they elect a full blood native American or an openly gay president then I'll be impressed". We're a long way from that aren't we?

Monday, 20 September 2010

Wales and back

... well just about!

It was that weekend of the year I dread, i.e. Son-of-Furtheron (the now semi-professional photographer and physics/space science student) was due to return to university. Well he has a week or so before lectures but wanted to get there and set up his new flat with his flat mate and supposedly do some reading up on the modules he is doing this semester.

So Friday night we packed off Daughter-of-Furtheron to stay with her "other family" - some friends of ours whose daughter is the same age and they have been best friends since mother and toddler days. It was the friends 15th birthday weekend so they were more than happy to have their adopted daughter there and there were shopping trips and lunches etc. all planned.

Saturday morning we were up at the crack of dawn my belief being an early start would avoid traffic issues... oh how wrong! Car loaded to near maximum capacity with cameras, clothes, X-boxes, guitars, amps... you get the picture - thank goodness we'd done one run to see the new flat before hand else we'd never have got the three of us and all that lot in the car!

M2, Dartford, M25 including the roadworks - all going fine :-) Then "Accident after next junction", so first A road excursion to cut across to the M1. M1 was a nightmare in the roadworks - I picked (twice!!!) the one lane in the contraflow and both times a couple of hundred yards into the 5 miles of it all stop. Engine off and wait - 5 mins later all moving again and never a reason as to why we stopped - mind boggling if we had to stop that long there must be something stuck somewhere... surely?

Anyway then M1 closed J16!!! Damn! Cross country again onto the M40 and then the M42 the motorway I hate the most in the UK all that "active management" - chaos more like. Use Hard Shoulder - Use Hard Shoulder only for this junction ... don't use it... For crying out loud how's it help?!

The rest of the journey via Shrewsbury and Welshpool was ok and we arrived at sunny Aberystwyth (ok I lie it was damp and drizzly as ever) before nightfall.

The new flat is just brilliant - so much better than the dump he was in last year. He water board was already threatening legal action over unpaid bills so student life begins again with him having to make a payment over the phone urgently to stop the water being shut off :-) We bought him a toaster as a flat warming present and he had the internet up and running in double quick time - priorities!

The journey back was better - one A road excursion to avoid another crash on the M1 - why are there so many crashes on the M1? We'd only been in a few mins and he's been in Aber less than 25 hours and he calls to introduce a new girlfriend! Oh to be 20 eh... can anyone remember 20?

Friday, 17 September 2010

Technical crap today...

Monday evening I turned on the TV - we still had a big old tube TV (kids please ask your parents what I'm on about). Well it warmed up and George Alaghia appeared, briefly, then *bang* and the picture disappeared and the light started flashing alternate green and red, no doubt a useful error code to an engineer. So I did the usual thing, turned it off and on about 3 times before finally admitting that it had failed. I've been saying for some time that "when the TV breaks I'll get a new one".

So my son starts showing me modern TVs. There was a time when I felt up to date on this stuff and new roughly what was what but which 1080i vs 1080p, 100Hz refresh... blah blah blah... I felt totally an idiot and so out of touch. How can so much have changed in the 8 years since I last bought one. However my son guided me through my belligerent denial trying to explain the various features and what they would potentially provide me with.

Tuesday we set off to John Lewis to look - armed with some price comparisions. We quickly found 3 that were in the range of what I was looking for and started to compare the pictures - a cheat really as they had a piped HD feed which given we can't get HD Freeview here until 2012 it was a bit pointless. Anyway I settled on the one I thought had the best picture (it was a 100hz one so that being the deciding factor no doubt) and we approached the guy to haggle. Failed! The John Lewis "never knowingly under sold" promises has more small print than a contract with Simon Cowell! Still never mind I realised I was haggling over £70 and if I bought off an internet site I'd have to pay £20 for delivery and only get a 1 year warranty so with John Lewis giving a 5 year one "for free" (well in the price) I went for it.

My son and his mate ("I'll see this project through" :-)) had a great time helping getting it all up and running which was nice of them. So at last as my son says our TV is at last in the 21st Century. I had to admit the picture is much better than the old set and DVDs via the player my son sold me a while back that does "upscaling" is just stunning.


Network hard drive. I thought a simple solution to home PC backups. Oh how wrong. I ordered a 2tb one from Amazon Marketplace - that was cancelled instantly. I thought £74 for that too good to be true, elsewhere it was £175 so I think a typo mistake that they realised when no doubt flooded with orders! So I bought the £80 500Gb one. The instructions when it arrived couldn't be simpler. Attached power cable. Attach ethernet cable into the router and power up. Load the s/w on the CD.

Ok this'll take no time. Hmm... CD wouldn't work "illegal operation" error as soon as you hit the autorun.exe. So onto Forums and found a link to download off the manufactures site the s/w in a zip. Did that and installed. Now we are cooking!

Ok so just copy over my "data disk" - about 20GB, big but not huge. I did a drag and drop and left it as I got on with something else. Then at the bottom of the screen in the task bar the thing saying "3 days remaining" made me look again. What?!!! It was creeping along. So onto their support. "It is your router - try direct"... same speed issue. So now about an hour in I thought - "blow this". I tried a small cheap 500GB USB drive my son had recently bought - 20 times the speed. So parceled up the network drive and sent it back.

Technology - bloody marvelous isn't it. Good job I don't work I need days and days on this bloody stuff.

Book Review - Sepulchre by Kate Mosse

Summary - a very good book, an excellent read.

Kate follows the format from her excellent Labyrinth book of a few years back that I previously enjoyed and my wife liked a lot - so much so that Sepulcher was bought and read by her some time back and sat on the shelf waiting patiently for me to get round to it. The format in question is that of a time shift novel where there are two stories intertwined around each other one in the present day and one in the past - namely in this case in the 1870s.

The 1870s story line involves a family in Paris where we are introduced to one of the heroines of the book a teenage girl who is just blossoming into a woman. She is highly concerned about her brother a writer and journalist who early in the year lost his lover and who has had a series of rumours smearing his character. Suddenly they are offered a chance to visit an aunt - the much younger widow of an old uncle who they had hardly ever seen. So they escape Paris - and you know that this is a good thing as the net seems to be closing on the brother by the day. They lay a false trail indicating that they are travelling in one way but head in another to the Carcassonne region and the big house that is owned by the aunt. Here she is lead into much intrigue regarding the legends of the area and the occult actions of her late uncle some years back.

In the modern day we find our second heroine a musician who is writing a book about Debussy and in France to carry out research. However also she is a woman who knows little of her family past - her mother committed suicide and a cousin brought her up and she knows little of her family other than some belief that they came from France after the first world war. She is determined to find out more and heads to Carcassonne to find out more after a very bizarre and surprising Tarot reading.. Here the two stories intertwine around the people, the tarots, the occult and more.

A real page turner with some great little plot twists and turns and a brilliant climax where the two stories come to a fitting conclusion. Kate Mosse is a very accomplished writer. I'm not sure if the principal audience is female for this kind of thing but I throughly enjoyed it too.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Oil City Confidential

The story of Dr Feelgood. I watched this film that was shown on BBC4 on Friday - if you are quick you can catch a repeat tonight again on BBC4 or via the iplayer no doubt.

Brilliant film. It charted the Canvey Island boys early lives, talked a lot about the culture and atmosphere on Canvey in the 60s and early 70s which made them what they were. It then charted the bands genesis and sadly the departure of Wilko Johnson - there was a little bit of time given to the imediate time after that with Gypie Mayo when they still had some chart success. But let us be honest Wilko and Lee Brilleaux (now I know where that name came from :-)) were Feelgood. Lee with his agressive vocals and stance and Wilko his mad man side man flinging himself around the stage on the end of the curly lead with his telecaster his weapon. The Big Figure and John B Sharpe were one of the greatest rhythm sections ever - just there on the beat and solid whilst the too loonies at the front went nuts.

It is a shame they parted company too early really. The Feelgoods were such an influential band - punk would probably not have been the same without them and really they should be considered up with the legendary bands of the past. But not to be. However Stupidity is frankly a stunning album - second in my live albums of all time to UFOs Strangers In The Night.

They still are going but without any originals but it was Lee's wish they continue after his far too early death.

Here they are at their best with Back In The Night - the first track I heard of them.

And here is Riot in Cell Block No 9 - one of the first things I learnt on the guitar!

Lastly You Shouldn't Call the Doctor - just watch Wilko on this... brilliantly manic!

Friday, 10 September 2010

New songs.

I've more new songs to be heard at my reverbnation player.

Everyday and Golden Moment. Enjoy

It's a Brave New World

Or is it...

My son has just posted a rant on his blog over at The Cynical Scientist. I can't say I disagree with him. Is this country in too much debt? Yes - as a country but also as individuals, too many people have mortgaged themselves to the hilt and have loans for this and that, credit cards maxed out etc. The UKs personal debt is about £1.5 trillion (source BBC news). I can't even thing in numbers that high. So taking the World Bank published population for the UK as 61,414,062 that means we are in debt to the tune of about £25,000 each. Hang on! Each that is every man woman and child in the country. Now think on how many have no debt at all? Suddenly you start to realise the mess we are in - and I'm not talking government debt here - this is the debt people personally have.

So we have to stop living the ludicrous way but we have an economy that is pretty much funded by services and the public sector - we make precious little and a lot of our income is things like financial services and insurance.

Where is the next big thing? What is the next internet? We need to get the UK into the position to be determining that, leading that, making oodles of cash out of that. So yes cut but we need to think about investment. School building programmes cut, university fees to rise etc. etc. All the things I believe we should be actively pouring money into.

I ponder some of this as I do sitting here unemployed at the moment. I have to admit I'm going to start looking at banks for work they still seem to be recruiting in many areas so I'm as much to blame as others but I can't turn the country on my own. Frankly though where I live I can only think of a couple of manufacturing companies, and one of them is a major defence contractor that has just announced big job loses, pretty much everything else is retail, banking, insurance, health or local government. Where is the "industry" we used to have?

Monday, 6 September 2010

Very proud Dad

Today my daughter returned to school - year 10! Where are the years going?

So I got up at 6am to make Mrs F a tea and wish Daughter-of-Furtheron a good day. She was her usual miserable self :-) She "doesn't do mornings" and after some weeks of coming down stairs wrapped in a duvet to sit in front of the TV whilst one of us got her breakfast ready so she could ease into the day the up at 6:30 and on the bus at 7:25 was a shock :-)

However one thing was she had her GCSE results to look forward to. She had taken two a couple of years early - what is it with schools and all this excelerated learning these days? Let them have their childhoods and adolesences I say - anyway... TWO As!!!!

So so pleased and proud of her.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Another new song!!! Running in the Shadows

I'm on a roll on the music front following my time in the studio. Two days at home with my little BR600 has produced Running in the Shadows - go to or look right for the player.

This is more rockier than my usual stuff and is a good old fashion protest song - turn it up!



Wednesday, 1 September 2010

New mix of Let Me Love You Tonight available

A new mix of the Let Me Love You Tonight track from last Friday's studio jaunt. I realised that the bass seemed to drift away in the mix. I emailed Nick at Broadwood Music and in a jiffy another mix was available.

Hear it over at or via the player in the right hand margin on this page. :-)

I've been spurred into trying to get a more "band" sound via my little Boss BR600 - I'm half way through with another track now amid some swearing as you find out little annoyances with things - like I shouldn't have done a bounce without first completing the drum track or at least I should have muted the drums in the bounce down. Also I can't figure out the punch in / out buttons... must read the manual that'll no doubt help :-)

Saturday, 28 August 2010

The Studio experience...

I spent 4 hours in the studio yesterday - you'll remember this was Mrs F's anniversary present to me :-)

What a great time! Firstly huge thanks to Nick of Broadwood Music Productions for all his help. Broadwood studios is a little studio in a small "enterprise center" in a village just along the road from us. Actually I go to an AA meeting there pretty much every Wednesday. The studio is small but with a lot of stuff packed in to it and all I could possibly need for my needs.

I'd gone prepared with several songs but, not surprisingly, we only got one done in the time we had - particularly given the arrangement/production I had in my head going in. We worked on Let Me Love You Tonight - which I've had a live version up on my Reverbnation player since I played it live at one of the RTYD Libertine gigs in Feb.

Nick got me to play the song through and then started with Logic Pro on his Apple set up. I've never really used software like this for recording so it was a real lesson for me. I've learnt a lot I can apply with my little Boss thing and it has made me wonder about getting a PC recording set up - however I do still worry I'll spend more time fiddling with the s/w etc. rather than playing/recording!

So we put down an acoustic track and then an electric rhythm one over some drums from EA Drummer. Then the bass and vocals. Then Nick performed magic coming up with some quick string arrangements which really add to the piece. Lastly I played the solo that I've been working on. We did about 5 takes and chose to use take 2 even though there are a couple of dud notes in there but I still preferred it over some of the others. Nick again cleaned up some string noise etc. quickly - showing me how the greats get those very clean sounding fingering... ok some of them might not need it but now I've seen that I won't so overly judge some of that in my playing.... oh yes and why did I never buy that Marshall JMP1 I once had on my wish list - plug in and within seconds I had the sound I had in my head - lovely piece of kit - can't understand why they dropped it off the catalogue.

Anyway - the final outcome of Let Me Love You Tonight is up at now. Hope you enjoy it.