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Posted on Aug 14th, 2012
Spearmint, Helmets & Reading Machines


(Soundtrack: Django Reinhardt “Legendary”, Rodriguez “Coming From Reality”)
We had our first Spearmint rehearsal in a while a couple of weeks ago. After all this time some idiot arranged it for an early start in London on the first day of the Olympics. It all turned out fine though, in fact Ronan was the first one there! Jim and I arrived to find him trying to leave, panicked by getting there first, so we grabbed him and led him back in. Bradley Wiggins wasn’t available, so we had to make do with Andy Lewis. Great to see everyone and they are all on really good form. So we are now going to start pulling the new album together. There comes a point in the writing process when the album itself assumes a personality, takes over and declares itself ready. Or to put it less pretentiously: there are now enough ideas knocking around for us to get started.

It has been a bumpy few months, but I am now working in Brighton, and Bridie and I are buying a place down here. Which is exciting! Currently in the admin stage though, which is not exciting. But I can’t wait for us to get in there. Bridie caught a preview of that documentary about Rodriguez (Sugar Man) and it blew her away, so she bought his two albums from around 1970, and I must say they are brilliant. Have been listening to them a lot alongside the Dexy’s and Field Music records, which are both fabulous.

I read quite a lot at the start of the year and found some new favourites. “No Beast So Fierce” is by Edward Bunker. He played Mr Blue in Reservoir Dogs and I think he also wrote that amazing speech Jon Voigt does in Runaway Train (I love that!). This is a gritty semi-autobiographical novel from 1973. It is a brilliant piece of writing, so sharp and entertaining, you can see why Tarantino would love it. I also read another couple of the Martin Beck crime novels from Sweden in the 60s and 70s. There are ten of these and each one is based around a different aspect of Stockholm life. They are nearly fifty years old and yet read like they are written today: so concise and modern, so cliché- free. They clearly inform all crime writers since, and you wonder why anyone else bothers as these books already exist. I am looking forward to seeing Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher, even though it seems ridiculous.

Neil loaned me “Rat Girl” by Kristin Hersh: what an amazing book. Weird to read somebody writing like it feels inside my own head. “At Swim-Two-Birds” by Flann O’Brien made me laugh out loud and gave my imagination a bloody good work-out. As did a couple of Philip K Dick books. I like closing a book and thinking “What on earth happened at the end there?”. Also read some great stuff by Sarah Waters, Iris Murdoch, Irvine welsh, Kafka, and PG Wodehouse.

The pleasure of finding a book and carrying it with me for a week or two hasn’t dimmed since childhood. It’s not just the writing that stays with me. The cover and the feel of the paper and the smell of the paper and the look of the typeface are a big chunk of the experience. I see people on the train holding those machines that help you to read. I can see the weight benefits if you are travelling round the world but other than that they are not for me. Every book you read you’d be carrying the same piece of machinery and reading the same looking text. I know I would have a tendency to give up on a book if it started in a difficult way (which lots do), whereas a commitment to the printed book makes me plough through the early section. It nearly always gets good once you are into it.

It is similar with music. For me, a big part of the pleasure of albums has always been the sleeve and handling the vinyl itself. I found that diminished with CDs and it fell away completely with itunes. If I play a vinyl album I always listen to the whole thing, usually a couple of times. On itunes I feel more like listening to odd tracks rather than an album. There is also a horrible urge to move onto the next song once you get halfway through the current one. Almost like the excitement is about what is coming next rather than what is happening now.

I worry a bit about what will happen with movies when home viewing is totally online. At the moment at home we make ourselves watch more interesting films because they get sent to us by post or we choose them at the rental store. I suspect that when we want to watch something online after a hard day’s work, we will be tempted to opt for comfort viewing, some Ashley Judd or Kurt Russell thriller (nothing wrong with them obviously!), rather than a slow drama from Turkey or an ensemble piece from France. Yet when we have the physical discs sent to us, we make the effort to sit and watch the slow dramas and ensemble pieces, and they pretty much always turn out to be really good, and just as entertaining.

We are a little behind with this year’s movies, so need to do a bit of catching up. Must see “Ted”. Have re-watched some classic older stuff though, including “Once Were Warriors”, “Now Voyager”, “The Thin Blue Line”, “An Affair To Remember”, “Cutter’s Way”, “Mary & Max”, “Rolling Thunder”, “Mildred Pierce”, “Boiler Room”, “A Mighty Wind”, “Sabrina”, and “Heathers”, all of which are superb.
Banged my head rather dramatically in the night and spent yesterday with a headache worrying I had done some serious cranial damage. Finally Bridie made me ring the NHS helpline and they scared me, so I set the alarm for 2am last night to make sure I wasn’t slipping into a coma. Went back to sleep until 4am when as usual the baby seagulls on the rooftops all pipe up and make one heck of a racket. The headache has gone today anyway. Being tall, I have to take care as it is easy to bang my head. Bridie reckons I should just wear a helmet all the time, and she may be right.


Massively looking forward to hearing new Spearmint material. Any plans to release an album or gig in 2013? I’ve liked a lot of your music for a few years now but been playing your first solo cd quite a lot again recently great album with some superb tunes & lyrics on there. Keep the faith!

• Posted by Andy Syson at 9:12 pm on Dec 4th, 2012

Yes, we are nicely underway with the Spearmint album and it will definitely be out next year, with some accompanying gigs.
In fact, I must do an update for this site!

• Posted by Shirley Lee at 10:10 am on Dec 5th, 2012

Cool- thanks for the reply. Will keep an eye out for updates, hopefully a gig ‘up north’ might be on the cards.

• Posted by Andy Syson at 9:58 pm on Dec 5th, 2012

Oh, PLEASE-PLEASE-PLEASE (Let me get what I want): ¡A new Spearmint album in 2013!
I guess people at Weatherbox dind´t tell u, but I spent about 50 UK pounds a few months ago just in Spearmint singles and records I had just discovered. I LOVE your music, Shirley.

I have a blog, also. It’s modest and written in spanish. Not many people round here know what u did…Well, blog it’s devoted to old and new songs I love (though it´s called The Songs We Love), and i’ve deserved post nº 100 to “Left Along Among The Living”, like a special way to celebrate how much i love it. Couln´t find a legal streaming link to the song, so i guess i’ll post it with a link to the youtube lyrics version someone uploaded a long time ago. It’s the only way i’ve found to discover it to people who still haven´t heard this perfect song.

Thank you for those songs. You can´t imagine how much i love them.

• Posted by Diego at 1:14 am on Jan 31st, 2013
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