Download Festival?

11270100_10152886034331497_1537193094_nThis post started back in May with the working title, “Post-Election Blues”, but I never got around to finishing it, and thankfully things have moved on since then.  The new title refers not to this weekend’s Download Festival – we aren’t that genre-busting -, but to a veritable day of celebration next weekend.   On Saturday June 20th, our version of the Clash’s Rock the Casbah will be available for download as an exclusive charity pre-release from the Specialized 4 Combat Cancer album.  Please visit the Specialized website for more details and for a self-penned article in the “Featured Artists” section, and please spread the word – the more downloads there are, the greater the profile of the project and the more funding Teenage Cancer Trust can put towards their specialist wards and services.

We are grateful for this opportunity to provide further support to TCT, and for the faith that the Specialized team continue to show in us.  Extra thanks this time go to Paul Ayriss, who has worked tirelessly on compiling the album, helping us with publicity, and expanding the Specialized spirit; and to Haluk Gurer, who braved the April chill and seven unruly musicians to take the Clash-tastic photo that you see before you.

YouTube If You Want To

2012 has only been with us for one week, and I’m already acquiring new skills.  Witness the new addition to our website sidebar (I believe the technical term is a “widget”; how silkily it flies from my typing fingers) containing our YouTube debut.  Jon advised it would take hours to figure out how to put our video on the website: replieth I, Watch Me.  Mere minutes later, and visitors to are now able to revel in our monochrome glory over and over and over again…thanks, WordPress!

So yes, contributing to the Special-ized charity album for Teenage Cancer Trust just gets more and more exciting.  We’ve had a blast recording and can’t wait to hear the full versions of the other covers.  So far I’m particularly smitten with Imani Hekima’s gorgeously melancholy version of Stereotype, but all the snippets we’ve listened to are outstanding.  We hope you like our version of the Specials’ punked-out classic (Dawning of a) New Era (brass riffs with baritone sax, laid-back drums, in-your-face electric guitar, deadpan vocals, a muted trumpet solo, and carefully placed parentheticals – what’s not to like?).  But if you do, or if you don’t but simply want to rack up good karma early on in the year, please remember to hold off from downloading until the official charity album is available through or

As for the gigs, we’ve been liaising with Leicester’s “small venue with a big reputation”, the Donkey Bar, and a few other bands to organize the Leicester leg of the Special-ized album launch and promotional fundraiser.  It’s looking like it will happen in early March, but we’ll keep you apprised.  In the meantime, keep on giving in whatever way you can….

Yield and Be Free

Blinking the holiday food-coma crust from my eyes, I am horrified to note how long it’s been since the last post.  In that time, we have had a paltry number of hard frosts on the Hill, the sloe gin has been supped, Cameron and Clegg stopped sharing their crisps at lunchtime, I baked a Jewish New Year honey cake on Christmas Day, American troops finally left Iraq, Michelle Yeoh brought me to tears when talking on Front Row about her film portrayal of Aung San Suu Kyi, Bluebird Parade performed a forgettable acoustic set at the Priory in Loughborough and then quickly got over ourselves, Don Letts on 6Music presented the most enjoyable Yuletide-morning music program I’ve ever heard, Mr Rosewood joined our family, the West was tickled by Orwellian tall tales of a deceased North Korean despot (how benign become world leaders in death!), and I turned 39.  Add your notable December events as Comments below….

Most importantly, on Christmas Eve Bluebird Parade completed our contribution to the Special-ized charity album by gift-wrapping – okay, e-mailing – a top-secret MP3 file of the final mix for the lovely Mr Paul Williams, founder of the official Specials fan club.  I have mentioned the Special-ized project already on these pages, but as it grows in stature on the social network scene, I feel it is only fitting to provide a bit more information here.  You might recall that the (double) album was originally intended only as a download, but it will now be offered in limited-edition CD format as well.  It will feature over 30 contributing artists covering all the songs from the Specials’ first two albums, the eponymous debut and More Specials, plus a few more besides.  All proceeds will go to Teenage Cancer Trust, a charity that provides specialist units in NHS hospitals specifically tailored for teenagers with cancer who might not otherwise receive the care and support they need in an environment catering to their age, needs, and interests.

The release date is anticipated for February 2012.  In addition to the album, live album launch/promotional gigs are being planned for the New Year in Coventry, London, and Leicester.  We’re certainly hoping to be part of the Leicester one and will keep you updated: it’s exciting to be asked to cover a song for a compilation album, but even more so when that album is being created by good people for a good reason.  Like the annual fund my mother provides at this time of year for us to donate to the cause or organization of our choice (speaking of choice, mine is Planned Parenthood, the US’s leading sexual and reproductive health care educator, provider and advocate), to be involved in Special-ized is one of the best presents I can think of.  To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, “While to the claims of conformity none may yield and remain free at all, to the claims of charity one may yield and yet be free”.

See for more details.

Winter Coats

It has now been over a week since our full-band gig at the Musician, so apologies for the delayed report.  I have been too busy preparing my winter coat – a lovely euphemism overheard on the radio for the extra padding acquired through holiday excess and general hibernation, and one that also reminds me of Dan Simmons’ odd and affecting epic, The Terror, a re-imagining of the failed Franklin expedition to the Arctic in the 1840s.  It doesn’t give too much away about the novel to note that the two fictionalized survivors are saved by a diet of seal blubber.  I was thinking more of cheesecake, and pork and apple sausages.

The Musician gig went well.  I’m sorry we don’t have any photos to share, but we forgot to take a camera.  Have a look at the old Musician photos in the Gallery instead – the hypothetical ones from November 6th would have been similar: just as blurry, but with slightly different outfits.  Support act Calder McLaughlin couldn’t make it after all, but there was a strong showing from Leah and Jenny, who performed a diverse range of covers from Massive Attack’s Teardrop to the Backin’ Up Song from YouTube.  They were riveting and guileless and grounded – we want to hear more from them.  Thanks again to the two of them, and to all the Musician staff, and to those who braved Sunday-evening-intertia to join us.  You were just what we needed.

Sadly, with the year slowly winding up, we only have one more scheduled appearance, and that’s as an acoustic three-piece at the Priory in Loughborough on December 6th (see you there!).  However, winter coats or no, we won’t slip into complete idleness.  Styx has negotiated our first festival booking for 2012; we’ll be appearing at the Belper Exile Fest sometime in the evening on Friday, June 29th.  In the meantime, we’re trying to arrange further festival dates, so watch this space.

We’re also on a recording deadline, having been asked by Paul Willo of the Specials Forum (TheSpecials2.Com on Facebook; see our own Facebook page or the URL on our Links page) to be a part of a charity download and limited edition double-CD album for release early next year.  This will put us in the company of dozens of ska and non-ska artists, including Stone Foundation and By the Rivers, the two support bands for the last Specials tour; and established musical legends such as Rico and Roland Gift.  Everyone will be covering a different Specials track, and 100% of the proceeds will go to the Teenage Cancer Trust.  It’s very exciting.  We are currently putting our heads together to figure out how to Bluebird-ify (Dawning of a) New Era, but while we’re in creative mode we may also do some recording of a different kind – you never know.

All this, and remembering to shake the homemade sloe gin too….