Category Archives: Music

The inauspicious beginning of my musical career

My sister Lindsey (that’s her at the bottom of the photo, enjoying experiencing my performance) recently found this old photo, taken in our back garden when I was about three years old. So that would be 1972, the year of Fragile, Machine Head, For the Roses and Paul Simon’s first solo album.


Crossfire, More Like a Teacake Vicar and Mike & Andy (1988)

Like a phoenix from the flames …

Did Anne Heap of Frogs really break up, as I said last time? Or did they merely sack me? You’d think I’d be able to tell the difference between these two scenarios, but ten months after the second AHOF gig, this happened:


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Anne Heap of Frogs (1987-1988)

A flagrant festival of nostalgia today — my apologies to the 6,999,996 of you were were not members of the short-lived heavy metal band Anne Heap of Frogs in Bishop’s Stortford in the late 1980s. This post is for me, Andy, Richard and Eddie (and maybe our mums).


The ticket you see above is from the first Anne Heap of Frogs concert, played on the evening of Saturday 26 September 1987, at the URC Church Hall in Water Lane, Bishop’s Stortford. Astonishing to think that was 28 years ago.

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Which Joni Mitchell album do members think is best?

The excellent website allows members to score Mitchell’s albums and songs. There is a page listing all songs by rating, but no analogous page that I can find with the album ranks. Being curious to see what the members’ wisdom-of-crowds had to say, I scraped the current scores off the 19 pages for her 19 studio albums, with the following results:

score year album
9.67 1971 Blue
9.67 1976 Hejira
9.61 1972 For the Roses
9.56 1974 Court and Spark
9.50 1975 The Hissing of Summer Lawns
9.29 1970 Ladies of the Canyon
9.12 1968 Song to a Seagull
8.99 1991 Night Ride Home
8.92 1994 Turbulent Indigo
8.83 1977 Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter
8.78 1969 Clouds
8.56 2002 Travelogue
8.29 2000 Both Sides Now
8.04 2007 Shine
8.01 1979 Mingus
7.70 1988 Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm
7.60 1982 Wild Things Run Fast
7.49 1998 Taming the Tiger
7.39 1985 Dog Eat Dog

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What I’ve been reading lately, part 7

[See also previous and subsequent posts in this series.]

I’m trying to move quickly to catch up with myself — I’m still a few months behind — so apologies if these books are not given as much coverage as they deserve.

Joni Mitchell: In Her Own Words — Malka Marom

A truly fascinating set of three (very long) interviews, conducted many years apart, with the most endlessly fascinating singer-songwriter of them all. (If you don’t accept my assessment, ask David Crosby.) Malka Marom was a folk singer herself, so has a good angle on the issues that Joni is dealing with — personal, musical and poetic. They’re some of the most revealing interviews I’ve ever read, not in terms of salacious details but of slowly and effectively opening up essence of a person, revealing what makes her tick.

And I’d have to say that Joni doesn’t come out of it all that well, in the end. It’s apparent in all three interviews that she’s quite a self-focussed person, and that tendency becomes stronger and darker across the three interviews. Towards the end we read

I’m reliving old injuries. I’m reliving them and I’m telling the person off that I didn’t tell off. I’m trying to expel anger. And it hangs in the air and I go, ‘What that very satisfactory, when you said that to them? No.’ And then I kind of do it again.

For such a free spirit, she seems to find it hard to let go of old hurts and resentments. It’s a shame; but, no doubt, a part of what made her such an absolutely superb artist. And she really does stand alone.

Marom’s book is well worth reading for anyone who loves Joni’s work. Continue reading

Joni Mitchell: subverting expectation line by line, word by word and phoneme by phoneme

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the music of Joni Mitchell recently, and I wanted to share an observation. It’s not news that her music is all about subverting expectations — see for example the ubiquitous use of the unresolved suspensions that she terms “chords of inquiry”. Here I want to draw attention to a few places where she makes consecutive parts of her lyrics contradict, or at least reinterpret, each other.


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Recordings from the Mitcheldean pre-Festival concert

Just in case anyone’s brave enough to want to hear our set from Saturday night, I’ve been sent some rather good recordings by David Stephens, who ran the PA. If anything, the recording quality is rather too good, as it’s very unforgiving of my decidedly wobbly pitching. Fiona sounds superb, though.

Here’s our version of Chloe and Silas‘s gorgeous Tax Office Love Song:

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