Category Archives: Music


I noticed today that I really love the smell of petrol stations. They remind me of road trips; of being abroad; specifically of the many dozens of foreign motorway services we’ve stopped at en route to Kosova, Ukraine, Albania, and all those places I love so much. Even a simple German autobahn stop can seem so exotic, with its slightly different architecture, range of products, brands, and attitudes. And when you start to get up into the Alps with the stations so precariously built out onto concrete stilts, or into Italy, where you pay for your food and then order it, the atmosphere just gets more and more special; and memory-jogging. It’s so strong an association that I even get the good feeling at the grotty old Asda pumps in Charlton. Actually, grottiness doesn’t make things any less exotic. Ukraine in particular is good at dusty and run down petrol stations, and I love them all the more. Especially the guys who fill up an entire convoy with diesel without turning off the pumps between vehicles — or putting out their fags, for that matter.

Small world!

I’ve just been to the National Film Theatre to see Storefront Hitchcock, a film by Jonathan Demme (who also directed Stop Making Sense for the band Talking Heads.) The film is of Robyn Hitchcock playing in an “uncomplicated” location: a vacant shop in New York. They manage to be quite inconspicuous, in a “nobody has noticed us, we’re gettingaway with it” sense. Robyn is of course as powerful as ever. The music set I’d pretty much seen live, but the close ups really make the most of the very personal, emotional facial grimaces he makes when reaching the highest, sweetest notes. And I’ve never seen a concert make such good use of lighting — one bulb hovering during “You and Oblivion” was perfect for the isolation of it.

My experience (as usual given Robyn’s following, which tends towards élite, rather than large) was one of frustrating proximity. This is a man I’d love to get a chance to know, but the closest I’ve come is this conversation:

R (hunting around before small gig): “Have you seen my harp?”
K (at table Robyn recently vacated, and stunned in daft admiration): “Sorry, nope… erm, do you mind if I just say ‘wow’ a lot?”

Not exactly edifying. This time, I was waiting to go in and overheard some people worrying that one of their number was without a ticket. I offered them a spare I had been left with. They were most grateful before being whisked off to some backstage spot by Mr Hitchcock himself. I feel a “degree of separation” went wrong there…

The film though was very comfortable to watch, so no worries about my mental state! Robyn’s socialist, hippy-spawned politics came through better than I’ve heard before, which is great because I so much want people I respect to actually be cool (!) The song, “1974” includes the line “You could vote Labour then, you can’t do anymore”. And the introduction was brilliant, with Robyn complaining about the loss of the two-party system… but this wasn’t a Billy Bragg-style political band-wagon (sorry!) — we were cautioned by Mr H that when he tells us what a song is about, he is generally lying…

Finally, I’ll get to the point. Small world stuff got me again tonight. I noticed most people in the theatre seemed to know each other. When the man I’d given the ticket too arrived in the seat next to me, he knew the person in front of him — Tim Keegan, who appears in the film! Sheesh. And then, as I got off the train home, the people who’d been sitting in front of me on the journey up to London were getting off the return train right in front of me.

Presumably, I’m just being followed.

Either that, or planet earth is running out of processor power.

I don’t believe it. From a message about Storefront on a Robyn mailing list:

“High points:
A rare sighting of Swiss Family Hitchcock (Robyn, mother and daughter) disappearing up the NFT spiral staircase as a family group.”

Remember those people I gave the ticket to before seeing whisked off?