I have found this plastic bag...

I have found this bag of audio cassette tapes containing recordings and stuff made twenty years ago or so, I am going through them and remembering...

You can start from the beginning if it makes it easier to read.

her letters from, her letters to, her Clarkesville Park, her London Zoo

22 Oct 2012
Clarksville Parks and Recreation logo

Glen was keen on having a place featured in the band name, like a park, zoo or train station and I guess we must have wanted the name to sound American. I think we were talking about different things that might work in front of 'Park', and later on we were talking about The Monkees, and the bass line to Last Train to Clarkesville, and for a moment we were just going to be called 'Clarkesville' until we remembered the 'Park' thing, put two and two together and became Clarkesville Park[1] [2].

Now if you're reading these rememberings as some kind of informal informative guide about how to form an indie pop band, well then don't! - you are wasting your time, but if you are you will notice that so far we have broken the first rule of band forming established much much earlier in these rememberings ie.

1) Get a drummer,  there is no drummer.

and of course the second rule:

2) 'getting some songs together' has been slightly circumvented here by 'covers'.

We figured we could fill out our set with obscure covers, those who recognised the songs would appreciate the nod to the original artists; those who didn't well would probably assume we'd written them and we'd appear better than we actually were.

So in addition to 'Decomposing Trees' by Galaxie 500 we also worked out the following:

I'd like to apologise to any Galaxie 500 fans who happen upon the above track, it was a bit of a watershed moment for me, when I realised no matter how many times I rewind a song, I do not have the musical ear to understand which notes are being played; or it seems words being sung...

It is much easier these days what with the internet.


Many years later I buy a copy of Matt Welton's (see illinois) first poetry collection: 'The Book of Matthew' it has a poem 'The Fundament of Wonderment' which features the line:

her letters from, her letters to, her Clarkesville Park, her London Zoo


Coincidentally there is a Clarksville Parks & Recreation service in Clarksville, Indiana, and a Clarksville City Park in Arkansas; but no Clarkesville Park with an e that I'm aware of.

The Panda Keepers

03 Oct 2012
Catchy Debut Cassette Cover

In the Spring of 93, I wasn't the only person putting my poetry to music. Glen (ex Headbirths, ex Octoberine) sent me a tape of a whole album of songs of my poems that he had recorded to music, (He'd named the band on the tape as'The Panda Keepers' and the album 'Catchy Debut' - the track above is taken from this 'Lips Undressing Smiles')

I was pretty much living part-time in Nottingham now, I had a girlfriend there, and only really came back to sign on in Manchester and go to the 'Band on the Wall' new material comedy night with Dave on a Sunday evening.

John and Will had moved down to London, leaving Glen sharing Alfreton Road with Will's ex-girlfriend Caroline (who had her own band 'Halo' with Dave from The Headbirths, you're following all this right ?) , and they were looking for someone else to move in.

I figured Glen had been in a band with just about every combination of musicians amongst our mutual aquaintances, but was still a little taken aback to be asked if I'd like to play bass on some new songs he was working on.

This kind of suited me because I was pretty much at a loose end during the daytime whilst my girlfriend was at college and as we've probably already established slighly in awe of Glen's creativity and liked hanging around 220 Alfreton road. so we whiled away afternoons recording onto a 2-track Karaoke machine, drinking tea and endlessly mixing down two tracks into one to overlay another track, hence all the hiss on these recordings.

NB: Here is Glen's version of Darling Harbour Planetarium

The Panda Keeper

16 Sep 2012
Cover of pamphlet: The Panda Keeper

So about this time I put together my second collection of poems under the name 'The Panda Keeper'[1], I know it's difficult to keep up with demand sometimes.[2]

I liked making the pamphlets, probably more than writing or reading the poems, I liked typesetting, selection and arrangement of the poems, designing the covers and then badly photocopying the result in a Loughborough Prontaprint (I had to go home to Leicestershire in those days to use a computer); consequently the poetry contained within was patchy, as I often edited them to fit the pages nicely.

This was my best pamphlet though.

And it was about this time that I did my best poetry gig ever (not saying much really), it was in Huddersfield Polytechnic for their 'One World Week' previously I'd mainly performed with like eight or ten other poets on a bill and usually held my own but been largely un-memorable, unless I'd painted a t-shirt for the occasion, afterwards, people always wanted to talk about the t-shirts but not the poems.

Anyway it was with my friend, another poet Stuart Nolan (now magician amongst other things see: Hex Induction) who had organised it with a friend of his who may have been a Huddersfield Ents Officer? We were supporting the quite amazing but scary Pram who had just released their 'Gash' mini LP (The Dead Piano on YouTube).

We got dead drunk, on the train from Manchester starting at lunchtime, and in the bars of Huddersfield beforehand. I seemed fine though on stage, and got laughs for the Australian Soap Opera poem, cheers and general applause (general applause is better than polite applause which would be the usual response to my poetry) Stuart though after me, didn't fair so well with the crowd and it all went a bit wrong when his friend, also drunk, rolled about on stage in a Mushroom costume, trying to bowl him over as he did his seminal Firework poem.

Afterwards people spoke to me, and I slurred back and they bought copies of the pamphlet, and a girl Lucy sent me a postcard later in the week to say:

"I don't know about anyone else but I loved your poems, I would tell you why but I'd feel silly"

Hmmm I was probably in there, if I hadn't been so twee and sloshed. Stuarts mushroom ents friend who had sorted us places to stay, got us lost, and we spent most of the night wandering aimlessly around the streets of Huddersfield in the rain.

Darling Harbour Planetarium poem

The song above: 'Darling Harbour Planetarium' is a poem from the pamphlet that is kind of set to music,  Glen (Octoberine/The Headbirths) had sent me a tape of the ambient/avant-garde composer Harold Budd (Aztec Hotel on YouTube) and we were both enamoured with the effect, both wrote poetry and liked to listen to sad ambient american music drifting and ebbing through the small hours.

So this was a brave attempt to try and convey the feelings of the poem ambiently to music Harold Budd wise, it samples The Beatles and The KLF too; and I've saved this til last of my solo stuff because it's probably my favourite track that I recorded on my own, and the next tapes all concern music recorded with Glen after he'd stopped doing Octoberine that then followed on from this.

My second proper long term girlfriend lived in London, and when visiting her in the summer holidays, we went shopping in Covent Garden, and there was this little bead shop, and she bought me a bead of a Panda, I'm not sure why. Anyhow, when she went away for a pre-arranged holiday to Denmark, I asked her to take it with her, and wear it around her neck, so at least one of us could be with her and see the world, this led to me joking about her becoming the Panda Keeper in the zoo of my heart. When we split up a year or so later I callously retained ownership of the Panda, and it stayed on my desk, until bizarrely my next girlfriend saw it and wanted to wear it before I felt I could really explain it's significance. (Umm it's really important to me it reminds me of my ex isn't the best thing to say to a new sweetheart) and so she temporarily became the Panda Keeper, but when we then messily split up, and I kind of quite wanted it back (you know for the next one), she refused.
I still have quite a few copies of 'The Panda Keeper' knocking around, I did a second prontaprint run, especially for a gig in Portsmouth, and probably didn't need to...

The Twee Jewish Look

12 Aug 2012
Hand Knitted Mog Jumper and Twee Hasidic Jew Haircut

I had this haircut, I didn't think a photo of it existed, it was kind of like a hacked bob cut, where just the pointy bits remained and so I sort of looked a bit like a Hasidic Jew. I used to get my hair cut at Oliver San in Oldham street; and the next time I went in after the cut, my stylist said he'd had someone in saying they'd seen this guy round Manchester with this sort of weird twee-jewish haircut and they wanted theirs cut the same. It was a girl though. 

When I had this haircut, I was sometimes half-recognised in the city centre and people would stop and talk to me before realising I just worked in the pub they drank in.

The mog jumper was hand knitted for me, and was difficult to wash because it stretched bigger with every attempt, so Mog's tummy wasn't always this clean.

The song is a return to the clumsy twee janglings typical of the palatine road era; I remember thinking this was a bit rubbish at the time, a bit too twee, but I quite like it now.

Modern Life Is Rubbish

17 Jun 2012
Guitar and a cup of tea

I'm not sure when Blur's Modern Life Is Rubbish was released, but I'm guessing it must have been about three weeks before I recorded this, if I remember rightly the chords to the songs were included on the back of the sleeve, and these chord progressions are reflected in this song along with the terrible mockney accent.

I'm aware that there isn't much rememberings around the songs going on at the moment; I'd ended up managing The Bank pub on Moseley street in Manchester which was fun and probably was the most well off I've ever been, not having to pay for food or alcohol and not having any free time except outside of pub hours; my only outgoings were bus rides into town; (Housing Benefit took care of the rent (you could claim that then) - The head of Manchester Housing Benefit use to drink every lunchtime in the Square Albert, and we used to do the Manchester Evening News Crossword and he insisted I pulled his pints of Tetley - because apparently only I did it properly; effectively I gave good head.

In the end though I left to sign on the dole (you could do that then) as being in a pub was taking up all my time; I'd been helping Henry and Dave with a play they'd written called 'Road to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch' for the Green Room in Manchester, and I was backstage assisting during scene changes, and I contributed two actual jokes. Henry had a date organised for the show in Nottingham, but I couldn't do it because of pub work, so I kind of just thought what's the point.

Dave was being a comedian on the Enterprise Allowance scheme (you could do that then) and we spent much of our days, mulling round the flat, eating tuna and pasta, playing scrabble, drinking tea, drinking tea, watching rubbish telly, throwing a ping pong ball across the room with the aim of landing it in the other persons mug of tea and stealing things from the property companies skip on the drive outside that they kept permanently stacked with intriguing junk garnered from whenever they cleared out one of their properties.

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