Time already for another year end review. Before I checked my little black books I wondered if I had done anything of note and found, to my surprise, that I had done far more than I remembered. My years seem to start quietly and then build up momentum until I feel like I have my back against the wall fending off things that have to be done. So ... 2010 ... here goes.
The first series of Bellamy's People started in January on BBC2. My sketch with Paul Whitehouse was not scheduled until the second series in an episode devoted to music. I swallowed my disappointment and ploughed on with life.
In February I went to see a BBC adaption of 'Alice in Wonderland' directed in the 1960's by Jonathan Miller featuring such luminaries as Peter Sellers and Peter Cook (their only appearance on screen together). Miller himself was there for a question and answer session after the screening. An audience member told him he didn't think it was very funny and Miller responded that he felt that the book was about the loss of childhood. I thought it was both funny (in parts), surreal and strangely moving. A week later I ran into Miller on the escalator of Camden Town Tube and felt emboldened to tell him I thought he was absolutely right. He looked startled for a moment and then recognized me - I had been sitting in the front row. I told him that when I had attained my thirteenth year I had asked my English teacher whether my childhood was over (she told me not to be so silly). We chatted until we emerged into the street and I shook his hand and we parted. It was only then that I realised that - like the White Rabbit - we had been emerging from a hole in the ground.
Spent much of March and April wandering around the City researching the Radio Play I am writing on Samuel Pepys as my main project for Advanced Creative Writing for the Degree. These included very entertaining lectures by Graham Fawcett - with food and drink - at Pepys's local church, St. Olaves, in Hart Street near the Tower. I was delighted with the result and (hooray) another Distinction. Meanwhile our street band, Out of Nowhere, recruited a new vocalist, Txaco Jones. She is a wonderful singer but is also someone who really fits in with the band; rehearsals commence!
Jennie Belle Star contacted me and asked me to play with her band, One Stop Experience, at the Fiddlers Elbow as part of the famous Camden Crawl. I was too busy to rehearse but did my homework, met the band on the night and we played a blinder to a packed and sweating crowd. Jennie Belle Star is some performer: funny, energetic, chatty and indefatigable. Then it was off to Birmingham to play the Town Hall with Graham Coxon's Power Acoustic Ensemble. This was to be our last gig and so it was a bitter/sweet experience but one hell of a gig. And we stayed in a hotel so it was back to the hotel bar till ... well I have no idea. I like Birmingham though and enjoyed lovely homemade soup and a pint in The Post House on the canal.
June's edition of Mojo Magazine contained an obituary of Stevie New which upset me though I knew he wasn't well. He was the first 'pop star' I ever worked with in the early Eighties; we did some recording together after the demise of The Rich Kids. The last time I saw him was at his flat in Crouch End in about 1997. We chatted all afternoon about families and music and he played me stuff that he was working on. He said he would walk me to the end of the street. We walked 400 yards down the road talking intently and then he looked around and stared at me grinning broadly: "Where am I?" I had to walk him back. This was a man so involved with what he was doing that he didn't even know where he was! RIP Steve.
In July I spent some days in Hailsworth with a friend from University, Cindy Engel, and we caught some of the World Cup in picturesque country pubs (Including a 30 mile round trip on bicycles for a pub lunch in Geldeston.) On the return trip we watched some youths jumping into a river from an old mill. I told Cindy (apropos of nothing in particular) that it wasn't advisable to jump into a river from a tree with a bra full of pebbles (when you hit the water the pebbles pound you in the face). Cindy said: "I take it you are speaking from personal experience?". I had to admit that I was. Oh happy days! We also went to see an exhibition of paintings by Fred Ingrams in a manor house near Norwich. Great to see Fred again; I hadn't seen him since his sister, Jubby's, funeral; he thanked me for the track 'For Jubs' that appeared on the last album 'Mechanicatastrophe'. I promised to visit Norwich for a more extended stay. Went to Brighton to plan, with Mike Pellanconi, the recording of the next album. Stayed at Chrissy-Boy Foreman's new place which is very impressive. He kept pressing buttons and cooker extractor fans would rise up out of the work surface like something from Thunderbirds. Had a lovely time and when I thanked him he said "Any time Lou ... with limits." Oh he's a card.
In August travelled with Jennie Belle Star's One Stop Experience to a festival in Rhyll: 'August Bank Holiday Fun in the Sun'. The stage seemed to be set up in what looked like a Sainsbury's car park just behind the promenade and wind and rain lashed down all day soaking the few Parka clad enthusiasts who had bravely turned up to see us. Poor Jennie said it was the "weirdest gig I've done in my life ... believe me!", though I quite enjoyed it. We were on the same bill as Eric Faulkner's Bay City Rollers and Eric turned out to be a lovely chap. At one point he said "It's been quite a journey. One-Hundred-and-Twenty-Six million records sold and here I am trying to earn a pension. One day it's 3000 people in Frankfurt going completely mad and the next it's ... " and we looked around at the puddles and the rain in the twilight before he continued "....Rhyll," and we laughed. Oh well - we all got paid.
September was a month of social events. Melody and I visited Arundel for the 50th birthday of Krystyna who Melody and I met in Greece four or five years ago. Her son, Louis, seems to be a natural on drums and he backed his school steel band on a rickety stage in the garden. Slight disaster as one steel pan fell and knocked the rest over like so many dominoes but great fun. Then to Hastings to the wedding of Bernard - my childhood next door neighbour - and Esther. He had hired a great Cuban band and I danced so hard that I injured my big toe doing complicated shuffle pirouettes but I didn't notice until the following day. I admired the pier which unfortunately burned down two days later ... absolutely nothing to do with me.
Then the big event of the year: commenced recording the album in Brighton. Spent three days between the 12th and 15th October, laying down backing tracks with Graham Fox (drums) and Gareth Huw Davies (double bass), both members of the Graham Coxon Ensemble.
I had previously been told by a specialist at the Royal Free Hospital that they had located a lump in my liver so I approached this in a very 'This is my final statement' kind of way. An extraordinary session with great music; I suppose my fatalism contributed to that - I refused to settle for play-safe cliches so it was tough. The following week I was told that the results of the liver test revealed that the lump was a 'regeneration nodule' which left me at a bit of a loss: there goes my final statement scenario. I told the specialist that "...this last year on the planet stuff is really good for your creativity." I'm not sure he entirely understood but - well - you never know; I might get run over by a bus or something.
Then it was back to London to rehearse the Hunky Dory project in aid of Medecins Sans Frontieres with Robyn Hitchcock. His 'Heavy Friends' included Steve Irvine (drums - Lloyd Cole and the Commotions), Mark Bedford (Bass - Madness) and many other brilliant musicians. However I had the unenviable task of replicating the brilliant Rick Wakeman on tracks such as 'Life on Mars'. At the end of rehearsals we got on our knees and said "Thank you, thank you David [Bowie]. Sounded extraordinary - especially things like TVC15. We did two sell-out gigs at the Three Kings in Clerkenwell on the 30th and 31st October and - according to the head of Medecins - it was one of the most extraordinary gigs he'd ever been to in 35 years of dedicated concert going.
Needless to say I was terrified but you have to rise to these occasions. Peter Blake turned up on the 31st to auction some of his art work and after the gig the indefatigable Robyn and friends had a sing song until three in the morning. Getting home was difficult. Walking through Holborn there were lots of blood covered Zombies wandering around in states of extreme inebriation. By the time I found a bus these same zombies were splayed out on all the seats, snoring. Well - it was Halloween. We raised nearly £8000.00 for the cause!
Meanwhile sessions for the album continued. It was possibly the worst Winter in living memory to record in Brighton. The deep snow meant train cancelations and general hardship. Areste Noda added percussion; the two Jennys (who did the Hunky Dory project) did Violin and Cello; Patmo Sheeran added some brilliant guitars and - finally on the 30th December - John Eacott, Louise Elliott, and Mike Kearsey added Trumpet and Flugel Horn; Tenor Saxophone; and Trombone and Euphonium respectively.
I have to say the results knock me out; this is truly something different.
The usual parties in December: at Charlie and Vicki's (her 50th), Paul told me that he was absolutely furious (on my behalf) that the BBC had cancelled the second series of 'Bellamy's People'. Then he grinned and said "Mind you; they've given us another Radio Series." Think I said they were 'cheapskates'; there goes my dream of tele-visual stardom. Somewhere in the vaults is a fantastic sketch of a pop composer (me) and his poncy lyricist (Paul). I think they should commission a show featuring failed and aborted comedies - at least it would be cheap!
Now to mixing the album - provisionally entitled ' Midnight in Havana'...