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Blog Archive: December 2016

Out Of Office
For me today is the last working day of the month, which means it's time to send out the final newsletter of the year and to set this, my ROCK Out Of Office.

I'll be back again during the wonderful INTERIM between now and next year, not least to do my traditional PLUGGING of The Twenty Ninth Day Of December and maybe also do a look back on the year in ROCK, but until then may I just wish all regular readers of this here blog a VERY Merry Christmas. It's always LOVELY to discover that people READ all of this, even though it does lead to several HILARIOUS ANECDOTES being cut short by someone saying "I know, you wrote about it on your blog" (PRO TIP: this works as a way to shut me up even if I HAVEN'T - i don't actually READ it so have no idea what I've been on about!). Thanks very much for being with me for these THORTS, have a DELIGHTFUL festive season, and I'll seeee you on the other side!

posted 23/12/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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Paperback Writer
Yesterday I passed a mighty milestone: I finished my NOVEL!

"Eh? WOT Novel?" you may ask, as I don't think I've actually even MENTIONED it here - I am, after all, notoriously shy and LOATHE to publicise any such exploits hem hem. It's an adaptation of Storm House, the screenplay wot I wrote for my MA dissertation. When I sent the original script around agents, competitions and so forth several people commented that it would never get made because it was FAR too expensive, and that maybe I should consider turning it into a BOOK instead.

In October 2015, when I was starting work at Imperial, I was looking for a new, easygoing, non-deadline-based, WRITING project to have a go at to ensure that I didn't DROP it all altogether. "Why don't you write that BOOK?" said The Items On My List?" This was a GOOD idea - you don't need special software to format a BOOK, you can proofread on the tube, and you can even do some of it during idle moments at work, should they occur (which, of course, in my case NEVER HAPPENED, honest).

I thus ploughed through various versions, first of getting all the SCRIPT into PROSE, then going through and properly ADAPTING it, then going through AGANE and making it WORK properly and make SENSE (several times), and eventually doing the draft that I finished yesterday, where it is actually GOOD FUN to sit and read. I reckon one more whizz through for speeling and grammar is will done it good and proper, then who knows, maybe I could let people READ it?!?

The current plan though is to "mature it in wood" i.e. not look at it at all for a couple of weeks, then in the new year have a bit of an old THINK about what to do with it next. The idea of self-publishing via Kindle etc is VERY appealing - no hoops to jump through, no rejection letters, and it's pretty much what I've always done anyway with The ROCK - but on the other hand I wouldn't IMMEDIATELY say "No" if Mr Big Publishing House offered me a million quid for paperback rights.

I'll see how I feel in the futuristic year of 2017 A.D. but for now I am quite pleased to have DONE a book! All the way to the end and EVERYTHING!

posted 22/12/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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Proper Poorly
You find me today BRAVELY carrying on having STAGGERED (bravely) into work and SLUMPED myself over my desk, giving off the occasional cough, sniff and/or splutter. For LO! I am Proper Poorly!

My MALAISE commenced on Tuesday, at which point The Lemsip In My Satchet advised me to not go in to work. I concurred and thus had a very pleasant day feeling mildly unwell but getting loads of ADMIN, also Christmas Wrapping, done. I also watched "X-Men: Apocalypse", which is RUBBISH.

This was precisely the level of poorliness that I like - enough to be respectable for having a sickie day, but not enough to stop you watching telly. However it then got WORSE the next day, and REMAINED at that level the next, when I had - FOOLISHLY - told people I'd be back at work. It was ROTTEN and I got home BEDRAGGLED, eventually going back to bed at 9:30pm rather than my usual 2:30pmn After Going Clubbing Nightly Like What I Do. I thus got about TEN HOURS kip, which was jolly nice except that it was full of FEVER DREAMS. I don't usually MIND these - Moon Horse started out as a FEVER DREAM ("this explains A LOT", says one and all) and one time I dreamt an ENTIRE EXTRA SEASON of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It was AMAZING!

THIS time however it was a lot about Sophie Countess Of Wessex negotiating with aliens about SQL to power their plumbing systems which involved small Fiat cars and EVERYTHING ELSE EVER. It was extremely dissatisfying, and when I woke up I STILL felt poorly!

Regular readers will know that I had a flu jab last month, so I was kind of expecting to be INVULNERABLE for the next six months. However, friends of a Scientific Bent inform me that that's just for INFLUENZE and cold viruses still have free rein. Curses! Thanks, "science", next winter I'm getting a DREAM CATCHER!

Anyway, the upshot of all this is that I've had to cancel my appearance at Scaledown tonight. I am EXTREMELY disappointed as these are ALWAYS good fun AND it's only FOUR minutes from my desk at work, but I fear if I turn up I will make a noise like Bob Dylan being put through a woodmill at high speed and INFECT all and sundry. It still looks like a dead good (possibly better now!) night, if you're in That London tonight I would HIGHLY recommend it!

I, however, will be sat at home with a Lemsip, hopefully watching some telly. BRAVELY!

posted 16/12/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
We're DELIGHTED to be unleashing our latest Christmas song on the world today: Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas!

It was recorded LIVE at Totally Acoustic at the start of the month with the aid of A Little Orchestra and it features mince pies being eaten, singing along, amazing orchestration and a whole HEAP of Christmassiness!

As is traditional it's been added to our ever-expanding Christmas Album Christmas Selection Box which now features a VERY respectable fourteen tracks - that's more than Phil Spector! HA! Still one song to go before we match the GRATEST Christmas Album EVER - Christmas In The Heart by Bob Dylan - but I already have ideas for NEXT year's Christmas song AND the year after's, so watch out Bob, we're coming for you!

posted 14/12/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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Paul McCartney Can Do What He Likes
You wait ages for a NEW me/Validators track to be released, and then suddenly THREE come along in the same month!

The first of these was of course Leaping Hare In Broadgate on the Joyzine Advent Calendar and the THIRD will be our version of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" due out TOMORROW. The MIDDLE of the three though is a song called Paul McCartney Can Do What He Likes, which is out NOW on Songs About Albums, a free compilation put out by The Album Wall.

I wrote the song specifically for the compilation - I couldn't decided WHICH album of his to write about, so I did THE LOT! I wrote and recorded it all quite quickly (it is full of thoughts I have been saving up for YEARS) so when I went back to listen to it the other day I'd forgotten what it sounded like. It's strange, it sounds a LOT like some of my earlier 4 track recordings for TAPES like What's So Bad About Being A Grown-Up which I now realise was done - YIKES - TWENTY years ago. Twenty years!! It's a bit hesitant, shaky and nervous - so not at ALL like the professional, competent, rocking and tight material what I am so known for these days - but I think it sums up my feelings on the matter adequately!

Maybe it sounds like that because it was the first song I'd written for AGES, and so had forgotten some of my usual HABITS. It seemed to give the old songwriting engine a bit of a KICK though - I've got ideas for LOADS more now, which is a) nice b) a bit scary. If only I had a week or so off work coming up when I could sit down and try and DO something about them all!

posted 13/12/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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Bye Bye Allo Darlin'
Last night was a BIG night for The Indie Community, for LO! it was the last EVER Allo Darlin' gig.

When the break-up was announced there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, but I was pretty SANGUINE about it. I mean, yes, they are my favourite band of the last decade, but we've had three GRATE albums out of them, as well as some AMAZING gigs and lovely memories, and THOSE will still be with us. Also, while I'm not a fan of the whole "burn out rather than fade away" idea (clearly!) there's something really nice about a band deciding that that's ENOUGH and packing up while they're all still friends with each other.

And then of course the fact that everyone KNOWS it's going to be the final gig WELL in advance means that everyone who wants to BE there can have a pretty good go of doing so, which meant that when I arrived in TOWN last night the pubs near The Scala were FULL of delightful people! I walked into The Water Rats and said hello to about 300 people in 10 seconds before Mr B Clancy stepped forward and passed on a message from Mr S Hewitt to say that he'd gone round the corner instead, as it was TOO FULL here! I squeezed out, saying hello to appox 7,000 more people as I did so, and found Steve, also Mr R Kirkham and Mr T Hopkins in The Queens Head. There was an actual proper Cockney Singalog happening on the OLD JOANNA as I entered, it was ACE!

We had some beers, picked up some more old chums, said hello to several others, and eventually wandered back round the corner to find a queue to get into the Scala consisting of roughly 2 million MORE pals. After a few minutes a security guy came along shouting that Ticketweb ticket holders could just go straight in, so we did and found yet MORE chums within, including of course Mr J Jervis at the merch stand. I wonder if Jerv has ever actually SEEN any Indie gigs? Maybe he doesn't really like it, so prefers to lurk around outside?

We went into the main auditorium for yet MORE saying hello to people, a very enjoyable set by Bill Botting And The Two Drink Minimums, and then Josie Long came on as middle support act. I did wonder how on earth this would work - having a stand-up comedian performing at a ROCK gig nearly ALWAYS ends in disaster - but she was ACE, even when someone (NB STEVE) accidentally HECKLED her and then had to HECKLE APOLOGISE!

And then it was time for Allo Darlin' themselves to start and for all of my SANGUITY to DISSOLVE into TEARS. Flipping heck but it was EMOTIONAL - I spent approx 50% of the entire set BLUBBING! When Belle & Sebastian came along and changed my life all those many years ago I never thought a band would MEAN so much again, but then this bunch came along and, well, DID. A few years ago when they and Standard Fare were gigging around there was an amazing feeling of Indiepop coming ALIVE - great gigs, proper busy audiences, exciting THINGS happening and a LOT of happiness - so now they've finished it really feels like the end of an era. Gigs will still happen and there'll be lovely people making great music still, but the next time they play an Allo Darlin' song at Indietracks it will be with the knowledge that the discography is finished, there won't be any more.

It was a beautiful way to go out though, in a room full of very happy, also sad, people, celebrating the joy that these four people brought to us all and enjoying the chance to let them know we appreciated it. Thanks Allo Darlin', you were brilliant!

posted 12/12/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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A Very Valid Christmas BOGOF
At this festive time of year one's thoughts turn to two things: firstly, what on earth are we buying for family members' presents and, secondly, what albums have come out this year that I can pretend to have listened to for some kind of spurious 'Best Of' list?

Luckily for you, gentle reader, I can answer BOTH those questions in one go with ADDED EXTRA free gifts for you yourself! "Don't be an INSANIANC Hibbett", I hear you splutter, "NO MAN can solve both these problems at once!"

To which I reply "That's a bit harsh, couldn't you at least read on to the next paragraph?" for LO! it is here that I reveal the reasoning behind my KRAZY CLAIMS. Our album, Still Valid may SEEM like a timeless classic but it was only actually released in July of this year and it ALSO makes the PERFECT Christmas gift for young or old! All right, maybe it makes a bit MORE of a perfect Christmas gift for people in their late, late, "late twenties" who will more likely appreciate some of the ADULT THEMES contained within, but still: I guarantee(*) that it will delight ANYONE who unwraps it on Christmas morning!

"But what of this free gift?" you may add, not having learnt lessons from the previous paragraph's advice to wait for further information. Fear not, my hasty friend, for there is an AMAZING SPECIAL OFFER where you can buy a copy of Still Valid and get a copy of ANY(**) of our other albums thrown in COMPLETELY FOR FREE! You can give THIS to your gift receiver as an extra present, hand it on to somebody else, or even KEEP IT as a reward for your own Yuletide Gift Management SKILLZ - the choice is yours!

However you decide to use this AMAZING SPECIAL OFFER I hope it brings festive JOY to you and all your family. If anybody takes advantage of it then it will certainly bring some to ME!

(*) "Guarantee" used here in the political sense i.e. not really a guarantee, more of a hope. Although it's definitely A LOT MORE of a guarantee than anything to do with Brexit.
(**) Any that I've still got copies left of anyway... which is most of them.

posted 6/12/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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Totally Acoustic RETURNS!
Last Thursday saw the glorious return of Totally Acoustic just in time for CHRISTMAS. It also saw the glorious return of me WALKING there from work, which has not happened for several YEARS. It only took me SIX minutes to get from my desk to the bar, it was FANTASTIC!

I arrived to find various members of A Little Orchestra also arriving so we went upstairs and started getting set up. With tables placed I went downstairs to find Mr FA Machine rolling in and then, almost immediately after him, Mr T "Tiger" McClure and Ms C Birkby. Here something STRANGE happened - Tom took his coat off and put his bags down. "Why don't we just take it all upstairs?" I said and he looked at me PERPLEXED, as if he had never even BEEN to The King & Queen before. I was astounded - I had assumed he had, but NO, apart from Frankie this was to be the first time ANY Validators had been there! KRAZY!

Upstairs Tom was invited to join A Little Orchestra for the evening as they were a couple of violinists down, and he did NOT take much persuading! Myself, Frankie and Christina went back downstairs for the next half an hour while he practice with them, and we were joined by a VARIETY of pals, including The Hewitts and, before too long, The Pattisons. Tim entered wearing his new CAJON drum on his BACK - EVERYONE had come on TRANES to the gig, another FIRST in YEARS of gigging. If we could do ALL gigs like this it would be AMAZING - think of the BEER we could get down us!

Soon we were all gathered, all except for Mr B Bailey, AKA The Boy In The Cupbaord. Ben lives in BRIGHTON, which means of course that it is IMPOSSIBLE for him to get trains due to Southern Rail being UTTERLY USELESS. He sent an apologetic message detailing his various THWARTED PLANS to get up to the big city, including a trip to HOVE. It was a right shame, but we'll get him back another time!

The night kicked off, as ever, with The Theme Song. I didn't notice at the time, but The Notes In My Melody later pointed out to me that the TUNE had subtly CHANGED. It was fine when I demonstrated it, but then when we did the practice run through some people sang a note differently towards the end which changed the whole final line. AMAZINGLY everyone else went along with it as it was happening, and then everyone repeated the changed tune when we did the "proper" version for recording! As she stated, it was FASCINATING the way that everybody ADAPTED as it was going along and (including me) just accepted that that's how it would be. MUSIC everybody!

After that it was my turn to do a couple of songs. I'd brought an actual MUSIC STAND so that i could do a NEW song -
  • Cheer Up Love - without panicking over the words. It seemed to go OK, so then I did a couple from The Back Catalogue: Red and White Sockets and Hey Hey 16K, neither of which I'd practiced AT ALL but seemed to get through pretty well. Maybe NO practicing is the way forward, or perhaps it is the simple PRESENCE of a Music Stand that makes me remember WURDZ better?

    After a short break A Little Orchestra introduced me introducing THEM and we were off for a GLORIOUS half hour of songs, featuring a tribute to Mr L Cohen, some jewish folk music, and the inevitable (at this time of year) CHRISTMAS SONGS. It was utterly utterly lovely - they always are, that's why I asked them to play the Christmas show!

    Their set concluded with the first of two collaborations with US i.e. The Validators. We did a version of "Merry Little Christmas Time" that was pretty darn MAGICAL. We'd worked out a whole STAGING of it which involved other Validators strolling in for the second verse and then handing out MINCE PIES. It all went really well except that you can hear quite a LOT of Mince Pie taking and eating through the middle of the song! As the aforementioned Pie In My Tin said later on, it felt and sounded a bit like a SCHOOL PLAY i.e. SUPER CHRISTMASSY. It'll be edited and released as this year's contribution to the Christmas Selection Box SOON!

    Finally it was time for The Validators to take to the stage - here's what we did:
  • One Last Party (with A Little Orchestra)
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • Can We Be Friends?
  • Mental Judo
  • In The North Stand
  • Easily Impressed
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • The Advent Calendar Of FACT
  • We Did It Anyway

  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • It went really well! There was singing along, there were a LOT of remarks and there was... PLAYING MUSIC! I'm sure you're thinking "But Mark, surely that's what happens at all Validators gigs?" and you would be correct, but this time, with everything at audible, correct levels and no pre-determined way of playing the songs it felt like we were all LISTENING to each other and reacting, like some kind of MUSICIANS. It was sort of beautiful!

    There was also a lengthy discussion of which 'Parks And Recreation' characters we would be, a break for STOLLEN (which I think was probably better for the band, who were eating stollen, than the audience, who were perplexed), and a GLORIOUS bass solo during In The North Stand. It WORKED, basically, it really WORKED and when it was all over we all agreed that we would have to do it this way again!

    The only thing even vaguely moving towards "wrong" during the evening was that there were almost TOO MANY lovely people there and I didn't get a chance to TALK properly to lots of them e.g. Mr R Kirkham had come and I hardly got to say ANYTHING to him!

    Other than that all was delightful, including WHISKY before heading home. It's really really good to have Totally Acoustic back, the next one's in January, the first Thursday in 2017 - you should come along!.

    posted 5/12/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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    It's Advent!
    Today is the first day of ADVENT which means that it is FINALLY Christmas! I know different people have different ideas about this, but I reckon that THIS year especially the planet Earth NEEDS some Christmassy cheering up. Chez Nous it has been a trial to wait THIS long, to be honest, but I sincerely believe that the day that the first door on the advent calendar is opened is the day that you can get out the Bob Dylan Christmas CD and GET CHRISTMASSY!

    Talking of Advent Calendars and ROCK, I'm very happy to report that the first door in the JoyZine Advent Calendar is not only OPEN but has behind it a BRAND NEW song by US - Leaping Hare In Broadgate!

    This was recorded for Still Valid but was never used, so has lain FALLOW until now. I'm very happy to see it finally out in the wild, as I think it is Quite Funky! It's accompanied today by a wonderful, and properly Christmassy, track from Piney Gir too - go and have a listen, it's FAB, and will be followed by LOADS more songs all the way up to the 24th.

    Now, if you will excuse me I have a whole HEAP of Mince Pies and STOLLEN to take to Totally Acoustic tonight. I cannot WAIT!

    posted 1/12/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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