Archive for October 2009

Two out of three ain't bad.   Leave a comment

(I started this a while ago and finished it today, which accounts for the temporal confusion of the following intro)

OK, a new blog entry, just to freak everyone out, starting with me… gonna keep it short though.

Gigs with The Fiery Furnaces were great. Was wondering what the point of Pete Um was a little bit just before that so it was a shot in the arm to have a good gig at The Portland, and then a huge boost to be asked to do a short tour. It was a damn shame I couldn’t do all the gigs without enough money to lose, but that’s cool, and I did three out of the five. Would have particularly liked to have played Glasgow because I’ve never been north of the border, shamefully, especially if you’ve heard my song Fuzza Buzza. By the time I’d just decided I couldn’t do it I also then just finished reading Pamela Stephenson’s mildly fascinating biography of her husband Billy Connelly (it was lying around in our loo) and his words of advice at the end of the book included visiting Glasgow at least once in your life. I hope I haven’t fucked up my one chance. Knowing me I’ll bump into Billy Connelly in Guildford within the next month and feel like the world’s sorriest loser. But yeah, the FFs are one of the world’s greatest bands, even without their welcome philanthropic gestures. What I’d heard of the records prior to playing with them, which wasn’t a lot, was a bit too cleverly arranged and songwriterly for my vulgar tastes but of course in a live context you also get a lot of added kickassness that delivers the songs in an altogether different way. Anyway, I would write a love letter to my new pals and tell you tour stories and war stories but I can’t be bothered with subtlety today.
This amused me though. I caught the coach up to Leeds and as it was Day 3 I was somewhat frayed around the edges and afraid in the core and a delayed 6.5 hour coach journey was really fucking with my equanimity. There was this posse of Poles or maybe Russians behind us and they were being quite spirited in a way that us English struggle to do, generally speaking. Anyway they all had pretty strong attachments to nicotine because every time the coach stopped they all sprang up and walked to the front of the coach like the right to fags was enshrined in international law, and then looked like condemned men when they realized they weren’t allowed off. After a while one of them, a pretty heavy looking dude, began to nip into the bogs every hour for a not-so-sly one, as the visual eqiuvalent of trying to conceal the fact that you are smoking at the back of a bus is like trying to hide a zebra or something. This arsey-looking woman got the hump about it, and began banging on the door, but at the time I was more annoyed by her than I was by a bit of fag smoke. Anyway matey had just finished his 2nd or 3rd fag round about the same time Jo looked at me with some concern and asked about the lump she had just noticed in my eye. Of course in my usual macho way I panicked and felt real mortal and so on, and so as Eastern Boy was exiting the loo looking a bit calmer I was freaking out and going in to have a look at this awful eye-tumour. So then, at the point where I’m in this foggy, claustrophobic prison of a wobbling coach toilet, face right up at the mirror, staring fearfully at the eye with the same eye I’m staring at, the coach driver’s mate comes up and starts a massive collective passenger bollocking session, which I leave the toilet to walk straight into. Obviously a sizable portion of the folk onboard assume that I’m the guilty party and of course I start to look the part into the bargain. And, being a complete nazi, what the cunty coach-boy does is lock the toilet and says it will only be unlocked if someone tells him who the offending transgressor is, whereupon they will be thrown off the bus. At this point we are still 2 hours from our destination, which due to delays ends up being three and a half. Funnily enough 60-odd people, including my odd self, take this as acceptable, or are at least feel too Englishly-awkward or generally gutless to tell him that we’re actually all grown-ups and had enough of this sort of bullshit at school. In fact me and Jo heroically stand up to this example of dimwitted fascism by texting the complaints number which is stickered to the window, but all this does is engage us in text conversation with a robot who seems to have no real purpose except to draw our fire. Anyway, for the last hour or so of the journey, in which I am very late for a soundcheck, Smoker Boy behind me is visibly agitated and can only attempt to calm himself by playing really fucking shit eurodancepop through his phone, and I experience a very frustrating sense of being trapped between two distinct types of idiocy. This frustration basically fucks up my mojo for the gig and I have that thing where instead of being able to control time and slow it down to a calibrated Pete Um setting I was just chasing it and had a monumentally average gig compared to the first two. Still, two out of three ain’t bad, as they say.

Threads Of Life   2 comments

Possibly as many as ten years ago I received an email from a stranger asking me curtly if I “…still had Threads Of Life, Alco.” I wondered what the person meant for for a minute, but then worked out that they must have been referring to a record that I probably had mentioned on my website. I was in the habit of listing records I had bought as a sort of charity-shop hipster’s version of conspicuous consumption, so the email flicked a switch that eventually turned the light bulb on that hovered above my head and shortly after that the dollar signs appeared in my eyes. At first Google told me nothing, which was kind of a good sign, and then deep in GEMM’s listings I found some dude trying to flog this record for $1403 (funny figure, I know, but worth about half that in sterling at the time). At this point I started to wonder whether I really was in posession of the record myself, but after about ten minutes of sweaty fingering (a favourite hobby of mine) I was holding the 12″ piece of treasure I never knew I had. I had bought it in Sally Ann’s amongst a bunch of other records just on general cover-based instinct. I’m not a proper record collector by any means, although fuck knows I’ve got enough of them, but back then I was a real amateur, as this post plainly shows. Amazingly, the record was in really good nick too. I’ve actually just been in Twitter-correspondence with the always-worth-reading Kid Shirt, who sent me a link to someone selling another copy:

Alco -Threads Of Life – Rare Private Issue Progressive EURO 1350

Alco – Threads Of Life (UK Alco ALC530 – 1972) Ex /Ex+ Stunning condition copy of this incredibly rare private press progressive album. Recorded by the band Alco at University of Surrey Mobile Studio in 1972. A-Side contains a wonderful progressive suite, including sections augumented with the Itchen Orchestra conducted by Jonathan Palmer. B-side is just Alco themselves who are Tim Caesar – keyboards and lead vocals, Paul Fidlin – bass / lead / vocals, Ben Brooke – lead / bass / vocals and Julian Caesar, drums, / synthesizer / vocals. There are some tracks by the Itchen College Barbershop Shoppers at the end. Tracks are
Side A : Threads Of Life Suite (i) When I Was A Child (ii)Rain Upon My Mind (iii) In My Dreams. Side B : (1) Waiting To Be Born (2) Look At The Clouds (3) Hello Love (4) The Chordbuster (5) Carry Me Back To Old Virginny(6) De Animals(7) Humble (8) Bill Grogan’s Goat (9) Ashmolian

Funnily enough this listing contains several words that seem to allude to various Um themes and private mythologies. I used to clean the toilets at The University Of Surrey, for example, so it’s nice to think that the karmic wheel had a done a full 360 with this one. Anyway, I was so freaked out at the thought of the record’s value that I metaphorically hugged the thing close to my body and shooed the guy away who was enquiring about buying it off me, and for all I know he could have had very deep pockets. It seemed a cruel twist of fate that he should alert me to the value of the thing and in doing so place it further from his reach, if you know what I mean. The thing is I’m selling records at the moment, as I literally cannot move for the things both in the sense that my living space is severely restriced by them, and also they would represent such a collossal inconvenience if I ever wanted to get out of my current accommodation that it actually puts me off considering it. Plus I’ve got a lot of stuff that I have no interest in owning due to buying job lots or taking gambles on covers (innit!) or inheriting record collections just because people see you as some kind of record nut (a self-perpetuating myth rather like the harmoniums at Crabapple, where people donated harmoniums because of the harmoniums). And lastly because, although I have been laughably skint my entire adult life, I have never been as potlessly piss-poor as I am at the moment. I’m currently trying to sustain body and soul for myself and 50% of an 8-year old on about 50 quid a week and it ain’t really possible, let me tell you. My JSA hasn’t turned up this week and that’s been just fucking calamitous.

So yeah,

Live rates at 2009.10.25 14:42:58 UTC
1,350.00 EUR = 1,236.99 GBP
Euro United Kingdom Pounds
1 EUR = 0.916288 GBP 1 GBP = 1.09136 EUR

would be extremely welcome, so if you’re reading this let it be known that here at Um we say that IT’S ALL GRIST meaning art and life are one and the same if this post could function as an engine that alchemically transmogrifies my fated chance encounter with the certain Threads Of Life into actual Malcom McLaren-style CASH then I could actually go and buy myself the beer I could do with or pay my son’s dinner money or something.