26th March 2018 I was wondering why the music I was making was so frantic and intense. Then I realised it was because I frantically and intensely needed a wee, but despite this realisation I decided not to go for a wee quite yet as I wanted to take advantage of the fact that I really really needed a wee to make the track sound even more like the feeling of needing a wee. And I wanted to sing ‘I need a wee‘, for added authenticity. When I returned, I wrote the tinkling section that finishes the piece. Now this is what everybody in our house sings when they need a wee. It‘s tea, rather than hard drugs, that informs my creative process.
12th March 2018 Every few years over the last thirty I‘ve written a song while imagining I‘m one particular chap. I must have a dozen. I didn‘t know what he looked like until Daisy mentioned she‘d been waiting for a bus with a chap and his Mum, and how pleased she was because she hadn‘t seen them in fifteen years, and as she told me more about this chap I realised he was him, my Mr Particular Person. And now, at last, I knew what he looked like; and his mum.
Daisy told me how they used to regularly visit the cafe in Cole Bros in Sheffield for a light lunch or afternoon tea, probably like most of the other elderly ladies there chatting, after going round the shops. Cole Bros was a big posh-ish department store. Daisy was a waitress there in the early nineties. She would wonder about their life, what it would be like to have a son that never grew up and what would happen when she died. Daisy also wondered about the woman that only wore green, the too thin woman that only ever drank black coffee, and Dave Berry who sang the crying game in the Sixties and used to come in with his glamorous wife.
After some more about Dave, Daisy returned to the man and his mum at the bus stop. His mum wore beige crimplene slacks, beige Clarks K Skips shoes and either a beige-ish anorak or perhaps a fleece. They were probably from Dore and Totley or Whirlow, probably had a big Thirties house. Daisy could imagine her other sons were doctors or solicitors. The two of them were waiting for the bus with another lady. Both ladies seemed nice, sprightly but reserved, and well over seventy but doing a good job of ignoring that fact. Ladies is how they would have described themselves.
I hadn‘t realised how tall he was. I‘d got his clothes wrong too. I‘d had him in a V neck short-sleeved Fair Isle jumper. His Mum had him in a light woollen navy jumper with the tips of the collar breaking the round neck. He had a little round tummy – Daisy remembered him as always keen on buns. His shoes were often-polished brown lace-ups, double knotted, very solid and probably polished by her. He was clean and smart, very presentable. He seemed about forty now, with an un-detailed face and an always slightly delighted expression. Quite handsome, but not manly, his hair dark with a careful side-parting like a 1950‘s boy. Daisy even knew his name: Michael.
He used a pause in the conversation between his mother and her friend to ask her friend. ‘‘Do you like fruit?‘‘ She replied ,‘Yes.‘ He asked, ‘Do you like music?‘‘ She replied, ‘Yes.‘ He said, very pleased to be able to say it, ‘I know you do!‘ He was still smiling at this successful exchange when they got on their bus. I used that conversation in a song called Fruit and Music. Although in it I misremembered the conversation as a monologue directed at a bus of people:
‘Do you like fruit? I do. Do you like music? I do.‘
Another song he is in is this one, written before I‘d met Daisy. I‘ll tell you what happens in it so you don‘t have to concentrate too much or because I just like thinking about what happens in it. Someone -- probably, I know now, his mum -- buys him a red balloon which of course makes him deliciously happy. Then a bee appears. He worries that the bee might mistake the balloon for a fruit: it is an apple-red and pear-shaped balloon after all. He appeases the bee with candyfloss. No sting in the tail in this story. You can‘t train bees. I know you know that! So in the video for the song the bee is played by our West Highland Terrier, Percy. Edwin is Mr Particular‘s mum and Neil Fitzpatrick is the balloon vendor.
9th February 2016 If you are singer who is not always able to persuade an audience to attend to your songs, then perhaps you might try a method that I have found effective: handing out a multiple choice test with a question about each of your songs. I usually hold a marking session just before my last song. Prizes are nice.They like praise.
7th July 1986 I wrote Me and my Mini sometime in the early 1980s to cheer up my brother Pin when he was ill in bed in a cold flat in 149 Charles Barry Crescent in Hulme in Manchester. He drove a Mini and I had owned one in the Seventies. I sat in a chair with my feet on the end of his bed and played the guitar and sang at him. If his face seemed to at all to notice a line I kept it. He got – and gets – bored easily and only likes things he thinks are obviously good, and nothing much for very long. I put girls and violence and him in it to keep him interested for as long as possible.
Eight Inches by Eight
People that don‘t know me but know about me tend to know I wrote a song called Its a Fine Day and performed two songs on a popular television show in the 1980s called The Tube.
The first time I tried to get on The Tube was in its early days. I phoned up, was put through to a researcher, announced I was a poet, and offered to walk about Newcastle‘s streets getting people to read my poems aloud. They didn‘t have a poet: they said yes. A camera crew followed me about Newcastle for an afternoon; most people asked to read agreed without obvious consideration and enjoyed doing it. A small girl walked over and insisted on her turn as her class had been doing learning to read. An elderly woman said, ‘You’ve put a tear in my eye,’ then grinned and added ‘and what‘s the bloody use of that.’
A row of women at a bus stop roared through a poem, almost gaplessly lobbing out a line each with bouncy pleasure, then congratulated themselves on their performance; it‘s not a self-conscious city. A policeman on a horse did falter to a stop with disappointment and irritation halfway through a poem in which he was about to kiss a man. I remember sharply how I was briefly, sharply sad that I had upset him.
I was told that the piece would be broadcast soon. I didn‘t have a television. Nor did many people I knew. Mick Hobbins did, and because he was always at work at Oxford Road Railway Station lent me a key to his flat. His living room was mainly a big television set and a woman watching it. She was quietly friendly. We watched The Tube and I wasn’t on it. We talked about Germany because that was where she was from and where I used to live. I toddled off to the phone-box and rang the researcher; he said my clip had been put back and I would probably be on soon. I watched The Tube thrice more with the quiet friendly woman without having my poems read to me, then rang the researcher again and was told that the producers were moving away from poetry. The woman turned out to be Nico of the Velvet Underground. The flat – unlike most of that Hulme – is still there.
Pin also went with me to Newcastle when I tried for the second time to get on The Tube. A new and junior and not concentrating researcher let me invite us into the programme‘s office, a huge, packed – and until just after we started – busy room. I jumped on to a desk and then jumped from desk to desk playing and singing, as I tend to, Me and my Mini loudly while staring at people so they would understand the words. Most of the desks were sat at, and also sat on by lots of paperwork, telephones, coffees and so on. A few things got broken but I didn’t think anyone would mind. Pin drove around the room with exaggerated dignity and verve and without a car, sometimes signalling and beeping. The researcher praised us, took Pin and me to a pub, bought us a drink, said he had to go to the toilet, then didn’t return.
We were cheered by finding a very long and bulky and heavy coil of thick rope in one of the derelict turrety things near part of a bridge over the Tyne. It hadn‘t been so obvious in the open air that it stank of creosote as it was in the train carriage. We refused to get rid of it and a lot of people moved to different cabbages. I am tired – I meant carriages.
A friend‘s friend asked me to play at a charity concert in London. Unknown to me, the friend‘s friend‘s friend who was the other organiser, was also a researcher for The Tube and afterwards suggested that I might like to play on it. My friend Alan filmed me doing four songs in a small room in the basement of the W.M.C.A in London borrowed by another friend, Malcolm, a swimming guard there. If Me and My Mini is below this sentence I have sifted the fullness of the top room and found the relevant video tape. No I can‘t find it.