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Posted on Nov 19th, 2009
The Dentist, Writing, The Shadows, Reviews

(Soundtrack: Traffic and sirens as I am in an Internet Cafe on the Uxbridge Road)
I just went to the dentist, well the dental hygenist, for a clean. She asked when I last had one and I said five years, but it is actually at least fifteen. Her objective seemed to be to cause as much pain as possible, and to punish me for not coming for so long. She said I have caused irreparable damage to my gums, and then she really went to town. I started yelping and kicking my feet in the air, with the blood spurting down my chin, and she asked in a matter of fact way, “Are you OK?”, as though she had picked up that I might have a mild headache or something. She says I have to go back in six months. I am not good with pain.
Since the last diary entry I have been working pretty hard on writing the next album. I would estimate that I am now about halfway through, but then it is hard to say you are halfway to somewhere when you don’t know where that place is. Or hard to estimate the half when you can’t see the whole. There comes a point when you are writing a big project that you are suddenly “in it”, suddenly inside looking out, rather than outside looking in. I am now at the point, which is good, but not necessarily pleasurable, as it is the point when you start to obsess on ideas for songs, and get frustrated about the things that you know are not working, or are not good enough. I am impatient. I want the songs to just fall into place and for me to love them, but it is actually going to take some effort to get there. And there is no kidding yourself – you know you are being lazy, or untrue, or faking, or stealing. I am a more fulfilled person when I am writing, but not necessarily happier, except when I get the odd big break-through or get close to the end.
I set myself a plan for the writing which involves keeping going until Easter. I find that having a plan works for me; deadlines and a schedule encourage me to get on with it. I allow myself to change the plan at any point, and I am sure I will, but I find it a productive way to work. The album still seems to be shaping up to be a solo album, and I feel it would be good to attempt to do the whole thing myself, so that it comes out completely differently to our previous albums. I mean playing everything and producing it myself. Good for me, but not necessarily for you! It occurred to me over the last couple of weeks that this means I am beholden to nobody. Not that we normally get much interference in our music, but I can literally do whatever I want with this one… If I want to try a comedy reggae song or a jazz instrumental there will be no-one around to stop me! Only joking… (at least about the jazz)…So I may take this opportunity to push things a little, and make this one as Shirley Lee as it can possible be. After that I am sure you and I will both be gagging for me to do some stuff with the band again.
We didn’t do our Pop Wishes night, hopefully we will get this in before Christmas. Bridie and I did go to see Cliff and The Shadows though and it was fabulous: Hank Marvin confirmed his place as the coolest man in rock and that guitar sounded perfect. They didn’t play any solo Cliff tracks, just the early Cliff and Shadows stuff, but Cliff has great, still for my money the best voice for ballads in Rock’n’Roll. It is hard to communicate how great they are if you don’t get it, but in terms of British music they are right up there with The Beatles, The Clash, The Stone Roses and all.
We have also caught some great movies: In The Loop, The Cove, Up and Le Donk spring to mind (“Come on Deirdre Barlow!”). Paddy Considine has become a bit of a hero – everyone knows Dead Man’s Shows is a classic, but try watching him in In America and then Le Donk. Best movie though, and I suspect this will end up being my favourite of the year, is the Michael Jackson film. I was absolutely blown away by it. I think that is the best film about dance ever, beating Shall We Dance, Top Hat, Carefree, An American In Paris, all of them! Also the best film about Soul Music that I can think of. I highly recommend it.
After we did the ICA gig, I was feeling “pretty good” about the band and myself and came across a review of the Shirley Lee album on the internet. I usually try not to read reviews as it is pointless, but I thought I would boost my ego a bit more by having a read. Unfortunately it was a rotten review. Clearly if you put records out you are going to get some good reviews and some bad reviews. This was one of those where they put the album on, listen to it for the first time, and make some notes as they go. It really laid into us, saying it was track after track of boring indie and quoted a fragment of a lyric and then said “Wow, that’s deep”. I am quoting from memory – I won’t bother to check the details, as it was also full of inaccuracies about the record. Now clearly this is my own fault for reading the bloody thing (and for making track after track of boring indie obviously). It is always a bad idea, not because good press is likely to go your head, but because they always hurt you and make you angry. People in bands tend to be sensitive types to say the least; the good things that are said go straight past us, we zoom in on the slightest criticism, and see red. I have seen band members read reasonable reviews and act as though their family has been physically attacked. After all these years I am pretty good at dealing with negative stuff, but this hit home. It not only brought me down to earth (probably a good thing), but made me boil with anger. I went to the bottom of the piece to find out who wrote it and there was no name. Definitely a good thing as if I had been able to get hold of them at that moment, I would have physically attacked them. I mean it. I calmed down after a couple of hours, and can now see it in context. I can’t complain – we have always been lucky and got really good reviews, and the Shirley Lee album got more glowing press than anything I have been involved with. Not that I really get the point: did anybody buy the album because they read the review? Though I suppose it at least tells you it’s out if you see a review. Anyway, the same thing happened to Ronan yesterday – he found a long, badly written, luke-warm review of the ICA show that was littered with mistakes about the band and the night, and it made him really really angry. I suppose at our level, the people who write this stuff would like to get into journalism and are practising their craft, including being negative. The person who wrote that got in on the guestlist as “press” too. I’ve had it with that – they can pay next time, in fact they can fuck off! I don’t feel too good about paying to see a band when some wanker has got in for free just to frown all the way through, then write down negative prose and get it circulated! Rant over… but I am serious: no more guest list places for journalists.


Guest Lists My Speamint Story:
Me and my cousin accomplice made the trip from Glasgow to Dusseldorf 3 years back to see Spearmint much to my very pregnant wife’s worry. The bleak midwinter. Flew in day before gig. As the plane descended the pilot pulls up last minute, and announces runway too icy. Lands about 2 hours halfway accross Germany. 3 hour bus ride later, and mid morning walk we find hotel. Next morning – gig day. January, Sub zero and we queue outside Dusseldorf H&M to buy hats and jumpers to stay warmer for rest of day and feast on sausage and mash for hot lunch. Do Dusseldorf’s sites and then bars. Get to venue, Pretty Vacant, and say we are on guest list. Confused looks and language problems, and Spearmint Neil steps in with fabulous welcome and ushers us down to a great night. (Topped off by Shirley “shhhushh”-ing the overzealous ecstatic Scots mid gig) One of the greatest weekends in my life. As you say – no more guest list journos, but this guest list welcome just topped off a big effort to make the gig, and is appreciated to this day.

• Posted by Peter Climie at 2:26 am on Nov 29th, 2009
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