Monday, August 03, 2020

sad but true

This page, I decided, was superfluous and annoying, so I have decided to eliminate it. You can have it if you want. 
The horn section in action. This was hard but I'm less disappointed with it as a picture than I might be. 

The french horn was a nightmare of course and I won't say for certain but I think that probably a la Ernie Bushmiller my picture of a french horn is more indicative than a real illustration. 

Anyway nearly done. All up this took about two hours to do ffs!!! And it's not even finished! 

Saturday, August 01, 2020

rabbit rabbit

more rejects

For decades now I have been kvetching about students who waste time complaining about doing something when they could just be doing it. So, I'm going to stop kvetching and complaining and just get this done. Meanwhile of the things I did the other night, I have dumped two pages to redraw them, and just dumped one outright. But it's all part of the process. 

Going to vacuum the carpet today as well. I think there might be cats around or something. 

Friday, July 31, 2020

the egg store ilk

I do have a few holy grails of records, and there is one I've been looking out for forever but never seen until today, when the cash I forked out some weeks ago finally bore fruit. It's a copy of Richard Earl's one and only album The Egg Store Ilk, all the way from the Netherlands.

Richard Earl was a member of the Swell Maps, of which at their peak there were about six, although the main ones always talked about are Nikki Sudden, Epic Soundtracks, and Jowe Head. No-one thinks much about the others - Phones Sportsman, Biggles Books and Golden Cockrill, ha ha what hilarious names they all had. Richard Earl is Biggles Books although apparently neither of those are his real names (I assume Dikki Mint, which discogs tells me was another name he went by, wasn't his real name either). 

In my opinion the absolute best Swell Maps record was not a Swell Maps record, it was Soundtracks and Head's 'Rain Rain Rain'. Thereafter I am on the spectrum between awe and staggering ambivalence, and there was a lot of self-indulgence there, actually (hold the front page). I really like the sound and style of a lot of the work. I love side 4 of Whatever Happens Next and pretty much all of Jane From Occupied Europe but I have a strong feeling, based on testimony from someone I trust, that Nikki was a jerk and it spoils my enjoyment. I liked Epic a lot (met him - why didn't I put that in my last blog entry?!) but I am rare amongst people with taste in not enjoying Epic's three solo albums much (so strange that I don't; maybe I should visit them again but every time I think of that 'stay in school - obey the rule' song or whatever it is I want to puke and cry). Nikki wrote most of the songs, and I guess in a way he probably inhibited Epic (to a lesser extent Jowe, who has had an amazing solo career and whose Swell Maps songs are a godsend). Nikki's lyrics, nine times out of ten, sucked a big turd in the mud, and once he went solo and got all folky-stonesy with the scarves and jewellery you sort of wanted to slap him. Also, as I say, personally I gather he was a jerk and I go into a bit of a tither when I try to grapple with what I know about him and how I feel about cancelling someone who's dead anyway. (I really resent not being able to enjoy 'The Big Store' which is a great song, and some of the other works). (Sorry to be obscure but it's not my story to tell). 

But I love the ambience of the Swell Maps records and the adventurousness of them, the milieu, the privilege, the strangeness of them. I think Epic's drumming was something else, and he was really happening, when he was colouring the work of others. Classy. 

So, Richard Earl, who was like the fourth Map (or the 5th or 6th - dunno) and who made a record and disappeared. I found a little bit of text about him on a weird music blog (that is, a blog about weird music) from 2008, which intrigued me:

Hi many coincidences. I just remet Jowe Head of the Swell maps (and others) in a gig in a small town in the Catskills in NY state. We used to be neighbours in London 1980-82. I shared a house with two of the Swell maps - Epic and Richard, and as a young filmmaker, shared the Swell maps' TEAC 4-track for my sound work. Jowe was recording his first solo album 'Pincer Movement' and Richard was building bikes and recording - or building - his first solo album - the Egg Store Ilk It took several months while he learnt the sax and handmade several percussion instruments. The film myself and girlfriend were working on was called 'A Sense of Waiting' and originally the last song on Richard's album was to be used as the title song (a Big sense of waiting) others related to our common film fetishes (Werner Herzog's 'Heart of Glass' inspired Hypnotism of a Film Cast) the title was bounced off a weird shop on Stamford Hill called The Egg Store (we lived in Stoke Newington) and Richard's family name is NOT Earl, but I'll leavce him his privacy. Yes, he was Biggles and he HATED the nickname. He was a very decent bloke and now - apparently - constructs classic racecars for pleasure somewhere in the Cotswolds. I haven't seen him since 84??? and I have been looking for any sight of this album for decades, so thanks for that. The cover was hand printed from woodciuts Richard did and one of the percussion implements was a series of beer tops strung together at the end of a broom handle. the whole was banged on the floor. I know this because Richard's floor was my bedroom ceiling! Though The Egg Store Ilk had nothing to do with me, I felt unreasonably proud of it. In a sense we were all part of a community without realising and everyone's ideas and enthusiasms filtered into everyone else's work. I still make videos which owe a lot to the d-i-y ethos and I'm pleased to see me old mates are still awarded some kind of kudos by younger generations. Nice to see this blog so appreciative of Richard's winter work at a time I know he was finally getting back into playing after what he considered an unpleasant chore (live concerts left him sick to the stomach with nerves) and, ultimately, musically unrewarding. best regards Russell from Woodstock, NY

So the record, which I've known about for decades, is finally in my possession. I won't say I dreamed about it every night but I have long been intrigued and I have never had the opportunity. It's been a long day and I'm thrilled to have it in my house. I'll let you know how it goes down (almost 100% certain, of course, that it will be a disappointment - how could it not be - even when I really just do not know what to expect!). 

Really looking forward to new Swell Maps record compiled by Jowe from his own tape stash - all new stuff, apparently. 

at least you can say you've seen it

I actually did not see this show. I have seen Barry Humphries live at least once though, possibly twice, but in the 90s, not June 1974. 

'The other week, in the Spectator, Mr Harold Nicolson was consoling himself as best he could for having reached the age of sixty. As he perceived, the only positive satisfaction in growing older is that after a certain point you can begin boasting of having seen things that no one will ever have the chance to see again.' So wrote George Orwell in a column published in the Tribune on 24 January 1947. He goes on to talk about some celebrities he saw in his life: Marie Lloyd, Little Tich, and 'a string of crowned heads and other celebrities from Edward VII onwards'. He then focuses on two important moments: seeing P├ętain at Foch's funeral in 1929 and a decade before Queen Mary at Windsor Castle, although at that time he says he was more entranced by one of her grooms, a 'strange archaic figure... immobile as a waxwork.'*

I have to put aside the weirdness I feel at someone consoling themselves at reaching 60 as though it were some kind of grand old seniority, although since the way stats are headed in Victoria it seems likely I will die from coronavirus sometime next week, I guess I will never really know what 60 feels like. But of course like almost anyone who's read that column or reprints of it in the last 73 years, I have been moved to wonder about the things I've seen, that no-one will ever have the chance to see again. Like Orwell, I initially think less of things and more of people, that is, people who in many instances stayed alive long enough for me to have seen them living, and I feel like I have quite a few strings to my bow there, although I also am reminded of the show title At Least You Can Say You've Seen It, a Barry Humphries joke that I still think is funny every time I think of it. 

OK, so if existing in the same place/time as someone is valuable or important, which it isn't, except if a bomb hit that place and time everyone would remember the famous person dying and occasionally there'd be a completist list somewhere of the other people who died and my name would be on it, I have:

Met Ernie Bourne at a party or some kind of social function where I was too young to distinguish fact from fiction
Had a coin taken out of my ear by Norman Hunter
Shaken hands with Roald Dahl
Seen the Aunty Jack show at Dallas Brookes Hall
Shaken hands with Daryl Somers 
Saw Prince Charles at Robert Menzies' funeral procession down Collins St, 1978

Those are pretty good, aren't they, although really all except Uncle Norman and Joffa Boy were currently active and famous when I saw them. Then in adult life, I've:

Seen Snakefinger's legendary show the night he had his heart attack.
Look at all the man bands, May 1981. I don't regret my choice.

Seen The Human League (three times, but most importantly the legendarily terrible 1983 era when they were barely knew their own songs, let alone how to play them); The Birthday Party; The Gun Club; New Order in their legendarily terrible etc etc see above description of the Human League; Camper Van Beethoven; Beat Happening; The Smiths; The Fall four or five times between 1982-1990 and of course met and spoke with Mark E Smith in 1982 and had a brief correspondence with him; Jesus and Mary Chain, apparently, though I don't remember that at all (I reviewed it for a British music magazine, and I'd remember if I faked it). I saw PiL after they started to go downhill (1986 maybe?). I saw, you know, Australian Crawl. Obviously I was an active participant in the 'scene' including the Go-Betweens, Triffids, Laughing Clowns, three groups I see as so radically distinct from each other I can barely put them in one sentence but time-wise it's doable. This list devolves into people I met when I worked for Smash Hits so it starts to get meaningless - I've 'met' Kylie Minogue, twice, but that's day job stuff that means little, ditto the weirdness of being part of a 'group interview' with Mel Gibson in, of all places, a hotel in Albury. To be honest, and sorry George, most of the above doesn't mean that much to me but as mentioned, I was participating in the culture, not observing relics. On the other hand I'd much rather have seen Little Tich, d. 1928. 

I have also had an argument with Barry Humphries about the rarity value of one of his early LPs (at a book signing), and I have held momentary eye contact with Germane Greer, I don't know why that happened, perhaps more excitingly it was at the Russell Cinemas, now sadly gone but very important in my memory. I did see Gough Whitlam, launching one of his late period books at the Atheneum, and come to think of it he's probably the only PM I've seen in person, unless you count Robert Menzies in his coffin (where he belongs). Relatedly, though, I once saw Nico stuffing corn chips in her mouth in the foyer of the Bondi Cosmopolitan. 

I think this post has to be an active repository. Things will come to me that qualify as 'things that no one will ever have the chance to see again'. Here's one that just occurred to me: people smoking in restaurants, cinemas and on aeroplanes. I don't think I'll see that again. But in the main such things are probably less likely to be people (even people now dead) and more likely to be places, but at present I can only think of the three houses I grew up in, all long since demolished. Oh, I have been on a Ballarat tram, so that means before 1971: my father took me to Ballarat specially to travel on one, as they were weeks away from being decommissioned. I think we went around Lake Wendouree, but that might be a false memory, but it's also fairly likely. 

*George Orwell (ed. Ian Angus and Sonia Orwell) The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell Volume 4: In Front of Your Nose Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1970 p. 317

Thursday, July 30, 2020

i told her it was just a story

Laura and I had one of our drawing sessions last night. She can actually draw, whereas I just internally (occasionally externally) whinge about this bizarre disaster I have got myself into. I remember in the past going on extended drawing jags where I ended up producing things I actually felt good about, while recognising that they were not really conventionally excellent. In this instance I am just grinding through it. I had a long sequence - three or four pages - that was to take place over a telephone conversation and then I realised: I don't know how to draw people holding telephones. Also, one of the characters, Grace, doesn't really seem to have ears, which made the placement of the phone difficult. On top of that, three times I ruled up a page of frames and drew Grace in the first frame holding a phone and it - the phone - was disproportionately large. It was a relief to realise I could actually rewrite the whole sequence to remove the phones altogether. There was no reason for them to be talking on the phone, they could just as easily be talking in real life. 

In other news, I have no other news, so that's interesting.  

Monday, July 27, 2020


I know it's perverse but just as 6am is basically my favourite time of day, Monday is my favourite day of the week. It's a refresh and a restart. I essentially enjoy my job (in the way that I enjoy being alive - there are things about it that suck but seriously, on balance, it's great and not just because I am lucky to have a job in this climate). Also, on balance I think I am quite good at it - I maintain a balance, at any rate, so while I perhaps don't peak in any particular area (except getting published - even in that regard I don't peak in terms of publishing in A+ journals etc, which is part of a recognised rubric for people in my line of work, but at the same time, there aren't that many urban history/history journals that fit that measure anyway) I don't crash and burn in any either. Level hand on the tiller, you know, like Peter Costello I think used to boast of, maybe it wasn't him maybe it was some other a-grade fucknuckle. 

So today I have a list of things to do, most of which I will enjoy because they involve writing up research findings, and some of which are just banal ('cat food' - sorry cats). Also yeast because my bread making has been top notch lately, either because I am just lucky enough to have a great oven here or I've finally learnt how to do it right every time - ??? 

I did my usual monthly RRR stint this morning and the whole time I was talking my voice was echoing back in my ear. I don't know why this is so incredibly distracting but it is. You'd think you could block it out but there's something in your brain that stops it, I don't know whether it's the politeness gene (you can't get it out of your head that someone else is talking and you shouldn't be) or some kind of innate echo response like a bat would have. So I powered through at least as distracted by the sound of my own voice as I was by the internal monologue patting myself on the back for being such a fuckin' pro. PRO PRO PRO