Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Cowboy Waltz.

Evening Strumpets,

Here's a finished version of an old charmers classic.  Producer is the incredibly talented Sarah Mac who has captured us as close to as we could wish for.



Learn something new

Mark.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Brain Teeser 2. Rob Nichols



Evening Strumpets.

Here's Rob Nichols brilliant replies to the Brain Teeser.  more info regarding Rob follows it.

Laurel and Hardy or Morecambe and Wise?

Got to be Laurel and Hardy.

Except your own front room where is your favourite place to be in Teesside.

Riverside Stadium of course.

Out of all the Star Wars movies, which one and why?

Oh no. This is not going to be popular but I was always a Star Trek rather than Star Wars fan and have never seen an entire Star Wars film. Hangs head in shame. Walks slowly away...

What do you think of the Teesside accent?

Teesside accent, yer jokin aren't you. Hewn from hills like iron ore. Springing from the Tees. Teesside is real English.

What’s your dream gig?

Dream Gig. Playing on a big stage but with stairs down so I can get up and down into the crowd as I am a bit old for the David Saunders method. Where everyone enjoys being entertained and has a laugh. Where it doesn't clash with a Boro game. A festival would be nice. I ask too much.

Little or Large?

I saw Syd Little at reception at the then Mbro Thistle hotel dressed in a lilac
V-neck jumper. The receptionist didn't recognise him. He was saying perhaps the room was booked under my real name. Bob Fischer could tell you what that is.
So it has to be Eddie Large for him to do impressions of 1970s cartoon characters, interrupt Syd singing and create mayhem with Crackerjack pencils. Ah the memories, and they say TV was better in the past.

What was your first public performance? 

First gig experience was performing 3 John Cooper Clarke poems at South Park 6th Form college in "a brand new track suit and I've got the old one two." You had to be there. 
First gig with Shrug at Albert upstairs Oct 1985 I played one finger keyboard and was singer on 3 songs. I was nervous for days before hand.

Are you nicer than Bob Fisher and if so, which I doubt, Prove it!

How could I possibly be nicer than Bob Fischer.  No way. Have you actually read any of my reviews?  Had to go ex directory and move to a safe house. I obviously don't have the temperament for it.

On a scale of minus 10 to plus 10 what is your belly button?

Belly Button? Where would I find that? I try to avoid anatomy lessons whenever possible.

When was the last time you were excited about a piece of music?

I was really excited hearing Kingsley Chapman and the Murder playing their songs semi acoustically at Saltburn Sound of Silence. The arrangements were inspiring. Fantastic.

What was your first cinema experience?

First cinema experience.. Hmm.. I think it was Jungle Book with my brother and other kids as a treat. Now that was a cartoon... What, Eddie Large did the voices?... No way!

If there is such a thing as bliss, what is it?

Bliss!  Boro winning the League Cup came close and Lightning Striking Twice v Basel and Steaua Bucharest was like walking on water, clouds and football fields of marshmallows. Maybe that is ecstasy rather than bliss.

How old were you when you first swore and what was the swear word?

Swear word! The transition from gosh to good bloomin to bloody was like a descent into hard drugs as a school kid at Captain Cook Juniors.

Worst gig experience?

For Shrug it was playing a gig at a pub in Ipswich at which the promoter didn't turn up and neither did any punters. But there was little or no evidence of posters or promotion.
Anyway the bands entertained each other and those drinking in the pub. But afterwards the landlord, who had kindly beckoned us to park in the pub courtyard, told us he would unlock the gates and allow us to drive clear if we paid him £30 for the privilege. We suffered in Suffolk.

What would you tell your 16 year old self if you met them in a pub back then?

Put your hand in your pocket and get your pocket money on the table to get these drinks in.

Would you tell a friend they had a bogey showing whilst talking to them?
The old bogey dilemma - I would probably get my handkerchief out and blow my nose in sympathy in the hopes that they would take the hint.  Of course they wouldn't. And later I would reflect on the situation, look down and realise my flies were open the whole time.

What would you rather lose?  Sight or hearing? 

I have rubbish eye sight in one eye and an early Avalanche Party gig gave me ringing in my ears for three months. I went for a hearing test after waking up thinking there was a burglar alarm going off only to realise it was in my head.. Or ears. Having Oli Heffernan in our band it us only a matter of time before I go deaf.

Where are you playing coming up?

Supporting our post post punk heroes The Membranes at The Westgarth a
re run of two gigs we played with them back at the end of the 80s. I know... I know I look too old to have been around then. Friday Nov 18th. John Robb of the Membranes is a fantastic bloke and gave us so much help and advice down the years. Lovely of him to ask us to support them all these years on.

Who would you like me to ask to be Brain Teesed next?


I would really like to read the answers of Louise Radford, singer of the band Serinette.


Initially I'd placed the following at the head of this Strum before realising I had so much to say about Rob that by the time you'd ploughed through it you'd probably have lost the will to live and not read Rob's answers, which frankly are too good to ignore.  So it's here now.  Thanks for staying!

When Andy Johnson nominated Rob Nichols to take part in the second Brain Teeser I was happier than a lost football in a park when it's found by some kids in trainers.  He probably won't remember, but Rob was my introduction to the local live music scene in Middlesbrough in 1986.  I'm not sure if he was the founder of the Middlesbrough Music Collective, but after chatting with him in a mythical pub called The Empire and explaining that me and my mates Carl and Mark played guitar and wrote songs and played cover versions in what we amusingly called "a band" ( The three of us would play in Carl's bedroom, but had to be quiet and finished by eight because as Carl's Mam would inform us every week from 1983 to 1989, "Next door's got a baby").  Rob invited us to visit the Collectives meetings which were held in an amazing building opposite the Old cinema called Studio 64.  I have no idea why it was called Studio 64, other than it was a rehearsal and recording Studio.  We attended loads of meetings, very rarely using our voices but happily taking in the inspired and sometimes frankly bonkers ideas being thrown around the room before eventually Polytechnic (Me and Carl) and proper work (Mark) took us away from the local area for a couple of years.

Rob is the singer in the legendary Teesside band Shrug.  With songs as brilliant as House of Pain, and my favourite Rolf Harris Car Park, but it is in their live performances for which they are most fondly known in Teesside, as well as around the world having toured Europe to acclaim.  Rob as a frontman is a sight once seen never forgotten.



Alongside this Rob is a Founder/Editor/Contributor and regular seller of the unofficial Middlesbrough Football Club Programme "fmttm" which has kept me and thousands of other fans tickled for 568 issues.  Part of the Match ritual for me and Hal is to find the front "Private Eye" style cover of the latest edition.

http://fansonline.net/middlesbrough/mb/

And if you think that is enough, then Rob has for the past thirty years been THE reviewer of local bands for our local newspaper The Evening Gazette ( I don't care what it's called these days) as well as being an avid supporter and mouthpiece for many bands a couple of which I have had the privilege to play in.  I can count on one hand the number of people I have seen at more gigs in Teesside.  he genuinely loves music, and all music at that.  Rob Nichols, trailblazer, journalist, musician, pioneer, but most importantly great bloke.

https://myspace.com/robshrug

Till the next one, learn something new, like why it was called Studio 64.

Mark.


Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Rowan Tree

Evening Strumpets,

Here's the other song we recorded in August for our ongoing Double A side a Month challenge which we have set ourselves.

I was looking up for details of this song as I was convinced that it was a folk standard which Andy had arranged, but all I could find was a, frankly, awful bagpipes version.  So I texted Carl, and amazingly it turns out that Andy wrote this by himself.  I defy anyone to find a better folk song.  It is in my opinion the best charmers song we have in our set so far, and is a definite call out for the other Charmers who write songs to up our games, except me of course!!

Anyway, it is my genuine pleasure to introduce to you the other Charming A Side of August.



Great isn't it?

Till the next one learn something new,

Mark


Saturday, 3 September 2016

Charming times.

         



Afternoon Strumpets,

The Charmers have decided it's time to get some demo's done, no messing about.   We've set ourselves a target of two a month for the next twelve months.

I'll be posting the efforts and you'll be able to hear them on our website alongside other stuff.

http://www.thealicecharmers.com

Here's the first song.  I wrote it following listening to a brilliant talk by Bob Fischer regarding the legend of the Hob Man, which was prominent in Yorkshire up until the late nineteenth Century.  The legend brought over by the Vikings (it's believed) told of a small naked being who helped run farms and houses through the night whilst the owners slept.  All he asked for in return was a nice bowl of cream to be left out for him to drink.  One story tells that a farmer's wife feels that cream is far too extravagant and one night leaves a bowl of milk.  The Hob Man doesn't like this one little bit and spends the next couple of nights running around the house screaming till the cream is reintroduced.

Occasionally people, feeling sorry for the poor little fella being naked leave clothing out for him.  He puts the clothing on and immediately feels superior to the other Hobs and runs away as he now is above the role previously allocated to him.

The most famous Hob story concerns a family who's lives are being ruined by a particular Hob, and one morning they decide to "flit" the farm with all of their belongings.  An hour into their journey to their new home they stop their wagon to ask a stranger for directions and when he asks them what they are doing a voice from the back of the wagon yells out "We're flitting".  Realising they will never be free of the Hob Man they turn their wagon round and return to the farm.

There are some great stories, but as Bob says in the talk don't just google it.  Get yourselves out to bookshops, second hand ones particularly, and look around for the old legend.

Anyway here's the song.



Till the next one learn something new,

Mark.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Panda song!



Evening Strumpets,




That is all,

Till the next one,

learn something new, like who Panda Boils is?

Mark.

Cigar Box boogie

Afternoon Strumpets,



I picked up a cigar box starter kit at the Deer Shed Festival this year from Chicken Bone John for a ridiculously cheap price, (check out his website below, it is rather wonderful).  I've tried slide before, but have never been able to get away with thinking that I was wrecking a perfectly good guitar so have held back when playing, which is kind of against the point of playing slide.  Although the kit came equipped with a perfectly good glass bottle neck I found I preferred playing with the longer steel slide I had previously purchased.

Anyhow here's a couple of demos of something I've been building.  One with my son and his mate playing FIFA 16 in the background and scoring a goal, one without.

Hope you like and please let me know what you think, either on here or on the soundcloud thingamajig.







http://www.chickenbonejohn.com

Till the next one,

Learn something new,

Mark.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Brain Teeser 1. Andrew Johnson



Afternoon Strumpets.

A couple of months ago I was thinking about the talented people who inhabit this part of the third marble from the Tolley, which in turn got me thinking about the various conversations I'd had with them over a couple of beers waiting to either go on and play or be entertained by others.  Some of the conversations had been of great depth and meaning, some were as facile as sifting sand.  I wanted a way to get these discussions onto a forum.  Hence the Brain Teeser!

My first Teeser is the rather wonderful Andrew Johnson, a gentleman who I and The Charmers (as well as the Broken Broadcast) have had the privilege to play for, with, and alongside.  He promotes local music, has been involved in Musical Theatre, and with his bands "The Southmartins" and "Cherry Head Cherry Heart" has provided many a dance and singalong for the good folks of Teesside and beyond.  Links are below.

Cherry Head Cherry Heart

The Southmartins

So, good people, let's start by asking

Laurel and Hardy or Morecambe and Wise?

Laurel and Hardy. The wit and slapstick still has me in creases and without them Morecambe and Wise, as much as I love them, wouldn't have been the same.

Except your own front room where is your favourite place to be in Teesside.

Favourite place is in a venue either watching a performance or performing myself. Failing that It'll be eating fish and chips in Saltburn

Out of all the Star Wars movies, which one and why?

I know it's cool to say Empire but it's probably A New Hope. It's the only one that's really self-contained and it was such a huge thing when I was a kid. You get older and more cynical so the darker pull of Empire and even Revenge of The Sith is there but the first one has a perfect balance of light and shade.

What do you think of the Teesside accent?

I love the Teesside accent. It's a good "piss taker" accent and I think that's what I've done most of my life!

What’s your dream gig?

I'm slowly ticking off my bucket list of gigs to see. Beck was amazing last week. In terms of a dream gig to perform at I guess it would be one playing my own stuff, either solo or as part of a band and having people sing it back to me. You know you've really created something and connected then but I like performing and making that connection even if it's not my own material. It's just as valid if people enjoy it.

Little or Large?

Hmmm. It depends on what you’re talking about. If it’s the comedy duo then I reckon they really don’t work in isolation and only just together. If you’re talking about food then I tend to aim for little but end up going large if it’s there in front of me. In terms of what I’m attracted to in the opposite sex then a little on the large side is no bad thing in my book.

What was your first public performance? 

The first that I very vaguely remember was when I must have been about 4 and I played a Santa Claus in a school Christmas production. I remember it possibly because a photo of me existed somewhere and my nan always commented on my scuffed shoes! I also remember mimicking a friend of mine and making people laugh about the same age.

Are you nicer than Bob Fisher and if so, which I doubt, Prove it!

No I’m not nicer than Bob Fischer and I can prove it.

On a scale of minus 10 to plus 10 what is your belly button?

Probably about -8 (as in 80% IN). It’s pretty cavernous depending on my fluctuating weight of course. I’m trying to get a (love)handle on that.

When was the last time you were excited about a piece of music?

I get excited about new music (or music new to me) all the time. I reckon the last time I really flipped over something was when I finally ‘discovered” Harry Nilsson. I’d bought an “Essential” collection on a whim in HMV one day and it sat in my car, unplayed, for months. I finally decided to give it a go on the way back from a gig and I was like “Why do I not know this music?!”. It’s like finding another Beatles. I tend to get a bit obsessive about acts and so I went bought a box set of every album, plus books, DVD etc etc.

 What was your first cinema experience?

The first I remember was Star Wars. Genuinely. I was born in 1971 so I was prime fodder for it. I’d never heard of it until a friend of mine brought a book to school that he’d bought at the cinema when he went to see it and it just looked so exotic and unlike anything we’d seen before. And it was. Changed my life. Helped you look beyond your own boundaries as a kid. It was like our internet.

If there is such a thing as bliss, what is it?

Bliss for me can be many things but the prime conditions are that I’m immersed in doing something I love. That can be alone or with others. I’m not sure where this is going but my mind is getting a bit carried away…


How old were you when you first swore and what was the swear word?

I remember “bum” and “botter” being early words that were used by our group of friends. I probably got told off for saying “willy” instead of tail or something. I don’t really remember. I do remember hearing the word “fuck” for the first time from one of my sister’s older friends and I laughed out loud, it was such an abrupt, unusual word.

Worst gig experience?

Anything dull, tuneless or wrapped up in its own musicality. I did see a local act at a Stockton Weekender in the last couple of years of it that I found achingly boring and wondered why on earth they were there. Clearly good players but the quality of songs was turgid. Can’t name them though

What would you tell your 16 year old self if you met them in a pub back then?

 “Just fucking do it!”

Would you tell a friend they had a bogey showing whilst talking to them?

Yes. For my own benefit. It’s hideously hypnotic to have to look at, as is food.

What would you rather lose?  Sight or hearing? 

Argh! I’ve had damaged hearing for years now really from dancing, deejaying and rock’n’roll so I can kind of handle that but if it went totally I’d be gutted. I’ve always had pretty much 20/20 vision and I’m a decent artist, particularly portraits. It’s just starting to go a little bit so that’s affected me as I expected it to always be there so even though I’m more involved with music I accept that hearing is going to suffer but the eyes! Not the eyes!


Where are you playing coming up?

All over. Hartlepool Town Hall with The Southmartins then on to our tour of o2 Academy venues in Glasgow, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, Birmingham and Islington. With Cherry Head, Cherry Heart we’re doing a very, very special local album launch on 14th October (full launch next year). It’s a gig at an amazing secret venue, never before used and the audience won’t know where it is until they’re taken there (tickets from http://www.wegottickets.com/event/365311 Very exciting and the album is sounding amazing too.

Who would you like me to ask to be Brain Teesed next?


Rob Nichols.



And that's it.

I hope you have enjoyed reading the Teeser and until the next one,

learn something new,

Mark.



Saturday, 20 August 2016

Back to Life, Back to Reality.



Afternoon Strumpets,

Apologies for lack of posts over the last couple of years, it would be very easy to blame life situations, work commitments, busy schedules etc, but the truth is I felt like I'd bored the living bejesus out of you all.

A couple of weeks ago my Dad passed away after a long battle with dementia, and a bad fall.  I've had so much love and support from family and friends which has really helped and one of the things I was working on before his final battle was a questionnaire which I asked local musicians from the Teesside area a number of random enquiries.  I was going to set up a new blogspot when I thought hang on, I already have a perfectly good one in place already.

So I'm back.  The first Brain Teeser (see, see what I did there), will be going on over the next couple of days so until then,

learn something new,

Mark.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

That's all Volks!




Evening Strumpets,

Jesus it's been a while hasn't it.  There's been loads going on in the Charming world of the Strum over the past couple of months, and at some point in the next couple of days I'll be updating you regarding all of it.  In the meantime, here's a couple of vids from a Festival in Redcar we played a couple of weeks ago, where we headlined (or went on last, as Carl puts it) The brilliantly named "Tent of Quirk".  We get a conga going at one point led by my boy Hal Charmer!








Hope you like them. Rougher than a Brickies palms, but then when have we ever been anything else?

Till the next one, learn something new,

Mark.