Wednesday, January 29, 2003


Welcome to the wonderful world of the year 2003. This is a year of unprecedented promise, of rare prescience, and of
a likely pretty ugly war, too. Many will triumph this year and even more will prosper. Trouble is many will triumph and prosper at the expense of others’ demise; but luckily these irksome victims and statistics are but a necessary hiccup in the grand scheme to rid the world of anyone we don’t like a lot at any given moment. For the rest of us, this will be a year of avoidance, a year of shrugging, of wavering, of tutting and toeing the line complacently and docilely. Speech is no longer free of course and will come to be taxed at an even higher rate as things develop, I’m sure, but for the moment I await my hoped-for rebate and continue typing unabashed and unashamed of my vulnerable position in the debate. Do we smell burning martyr?

It occurs to me on a daily basis that we’re without John Lennon when we most need him. It’s hard to find a strong voice for peace and reason anymore, although it was mildly reassuring to see a few thousand Americans join the world march-for-peace day a couple of weeks ago, and to introduce the notion to their youth that this demonstration, hitherto unneeded in their life so far, is now a vital presence to show the Jolly Rancher and his gang that they will not all toady to warmongering. All you are saying, I believe, is give peace a chance. (such a simple but timeless message, John)

As you know, it always falls to artists and musicians to be activists and protesters, or at least to illustrate the idiosyncrasies of the world we live in and to point out to our deaf and blind leaders that there is another point of view and another way to proceed. We’re living in a time of “hardball” where aggression is to be admired, and in-your-face is the place! Anything else is regarded as wimpy, liberal, lily-livered, socially inept and politically naïve. I dunno where it all went horribly wrong, but I can reliably tell you that a great many of those who espouse this manic push for intolerance and warlike zeal are driven by an incredible amount of self-interest and determination to wipe out free speech unless it trumpets their own agenda and makes their pals rich as hell. Think about that the next time you are tempted to shout “Bomb the Motherpluckers ...whoever they are”
All we are saying...

And now for something completely different:

I’d like to pass on a wonderful joke from Scotland that will appeal to all who like their humour on the scatological side, and who appreciate the great fun to be found in all matters relating to the human condition of breaking wind.
A married couple are lying in bed when the husband lets rip the most staggering thunderous fart. “What in the world was that all about?” asks the incredulous wife. “Fart Football” replies the husband, “and I just scored the first goal. One-nil to me” The wife considers for a minute, then she, too rolls over and lets fly with her own effort. “One-all” she says smugly. Well it wasn’t long before the inevitable second goal came from the husband, and another stunning equalizer from the wife, but I doubt any of us expected her to pull out number three with such gusto and élan. “Three-two to ME,” she cries. Now the husband is really pissed off and in an attempt to redeem himself tries as hard as he can for an answer, but only succeeds in shitting the bed, at which point he gets up and stomps round to his wife’s side.

“What’s going on, John” she says, noting the sudden change in his demeanour.
“Half time” says the husband – “Change sides”

For those of you who might find such stuff a tad on the ‘rich’ side, I would suggest you are probably reading the wrong web page, and certainly following the wrong band for starters. All of the prose I have dished up in the past on this page has been but a thin cultural veneer hiding a steaming vein of filth running below. Though with what’s available on the web nowadays and with the variety of so-called respectable people who are nabbed for nefarious internet ‘fouls’, I should think you’re all pretty much unshockable by now. It’s getting difficult to open up e-mail these days without first having to sift through innumerable offers for something rhyming with “Niagara” and its immediate availability by the truckload, or to download “Filthy Farm Sluts frolicking with fulsome foals & frothing Friars” – not to mention Naughty nuns and their Hot habits - part two.

I actually feel a bit sorry for old Pete Townshend, however, and am willing to believe (until proven otherwise) that he is a wee bit unlucky in that a) none of the supposedly high-ranking police or members of parliament who were arrested were named, b) he was researching a book for some time and had probable justification for investigating a facet of his abused past that is today flagrantly flaunted at all of us, and c) he had tried to tell the authorities about this ahead of the ‘roundup’ where he became the poster boy for the whole sting. I have absolutely no sympathy for any of these cretins who were repeat users of this website – I was solicited once by an e-mail that said “this can be OUR little secret” and when clicked on, there was a drawing of a child, and a banner that said “Father-Daughter Love” I tell you that my blood ran cold, and I couldn’t shut the thing down fast enough – I was trembling and felt assaulted and violated and, though I knew it was deleted, trashed - GONE, somehow I kept expecting it to reappear as if it had polluted my computer and was lurking in there waiting to shock and degrade me at some unexpected moment. Now I realize that all it would have taken for my identity to have joined the FBI’s list of scoundrels would have been to go one more step into the abyss - to log on - as Brother Pete seems to have done. I hope to Hell he’s innocent.

These days, it’s BBC world Service news, football results (fart and otherwise), new cars to drool over and the odd Daily Telegraph crossword that keeps me amused for the little time that I ever get to spend online and onscreen.
I can see how many become addicted to the box, however, and I’m sure that most of you who read this claptrap are already spending waaaay too much time on the internet when there are cathedrals to be demolished, rivers to be drained, mountains to be levelled and trees to be felled for more newspapers to provide advertising space for the multi-national corporate megaliths who need to pry us free from what little is left of our money now that the tide has turned in favour of bare-faced theft and licensed larceny at the highest level. Benevolent capitalism my arse!

Christmas and New Year holidays were good, though, and I hope many of you had as relaxed and refreshing a time as I did this year; I escaped the blitz of commercialism and conscience-twisting that goes along with the Northern
Hemisphere holiday psyche, and ran away to a desert island where I checked the news about once a week just to make sure civilization was still intact and that nobody had yet started firing shots at Iraq / North Korea / Zimbabwe / and/or enter the name of your favored foe here. It was blissful to be able to ignore the hurly-burly of the Messiah’s birthday celebrations, and instead concentrate on the construction of the perfect rum punch, learning how to correctly open a coconut, and knowing how to discern the difference between a barracuda and a needle-fish, so that at the sight of the latter I’m no longer shooting out of the water like a popped champagne cork and landing all over the surface like a madwoman’s shit. I was able to develop a bit of serenity (if not sobriety - these tropical types are not shrinking violets, after all) and for someone who logs more miles in a year than some flight crews and many truck-drivers, it is very cool to be constrained to a bit of land a few miles long and only a couple wide. Well, two and a half if the tide’s out. I saw a wonderful T-shirt down there that I think summed up their attitude to the season: it said “My Liver has been BAD – it must be PUNISHED”, and another, a replica of the shirt worn by agents of the D.E.A. In tiny letters underneath the initials it had

drunk every afternoon

But back to reality I had to come, and to withering cold and things called driving-conditions and wind-chill and
minus degrees of the kind to try the will of the most intrepid arctic explorer. There is work to be done here in the cradle of AWB, and an album to finish now that we have our vocal first mate Klyde Jones on the ship’s bridge; some pretty handy tunes are coming together as I write, and we finally seem to have the time, the space, the will, the songs, and if someone will just give us loads of money ...

Seriously, though, this is our current mission, and apart from a few select dates in February we will keep our shoulders to the pump until this is complete. I was checking racks of CDs the other day in Barnes N’ Borders or some such, and I couldn’t help but notice how irrelevant cover-art seems to be nowadays – not that there’s much space on one of these four-inch squares to begin with. However it does appear that it has little to do with the selling point of records in the modern domain, when you consider the agonizing, double-guessing, debating and redesigning that used to be part of the LP cover process, and without which you couldn’t hope to attract anyone into buying your newest offering. Now, it might as well be a silhouette of the group, some surreal symbol or ‘swoosh’ or, if a solo artist, then a photo that would give Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon or David Bailey indigestion, and would certainly have Herb Ritts turning in his grave. There certainly seems to be a vogue for what I term ‘amateur-chic’ as a design ethic, or maybe it’s just cheaper and easier not to give a shit since all the standards have slipped anyway, and let’s face it, you’re dead lucky if there’s more than one or two good tracks on a CD in the first place. So we will buck the trend, be our anachronistic selves, and we will TRY to come up with the old-fashioned goods inside and out for your delight and

We might fail, but we will TRY!

I will leave you temporarily with the above brief news and views update, and will go and secure my fifth layer of clothing before venturing into the arctic wastes near New York. My people are hungry and I must try to hunt a wooly mammoth or sabre-toothed attorney for dinner, or there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth. There always is anyway – it’s what Fred does best!

Apologies to all who clamored for and were disappointed by lack of a Season’s Greeting on this page before Christmas, but I literally just had time to finish our last gig, fly back to base, quickly dig out a pair of sandals and a loin-cloth, and head back to the airport in the middle of the night for the ‘Desert-Island Special’ at dawn the next morning. I was however pained by my negligence; but my conscience cleared around the time they had brought me my second Bloody Mary, you’ll be relieved to know.

As for the perfect rum punch – one generous slice of lime, fresh from the tree if possible, some crushed ice, a jigger of Pusser’s rum (Mount Gay if unavailable), the juice of a fresh orange, and a good dash of sweet cranberry juice to top off. Shake or stir minimally, find a nearby sunset, and enjoy. Can be taken more than once a day without too much trouble, and should be! Happy New Year.