Thursday 30 November 2023

Shane MacGowan RIP

RIP Shane. For many a year the Pogues gig was the start of our Xmas celebrations. The man was a genius and his genius reconnected many a north London lad with their cultural Irish roots, linking up the traditions of both punk and Irish music. A few of us have tickets to see the The Pogue Traders at Dingwalls at Xmas, a tradition we started when it became clear that Shane was unlikely to return to the road. I daresay there will not be a dry eye in the house at the end, but for us, that will be his wake.

As a member of the North London music community, all I can say is that we've lost one of our own. Shane may have departed this world, but his music will live on for a very long time.

Wednesday 29 November 2023

The death of the pub industry

 How many pubs have we lost in London and the Borough of Barnet over the last few years? I was having a chat with some friends at the Mill Hill Services club last night and we were reminiscing about night in various pubs. In Edgware, we've lost the White Hart, The White Lion, The Beehive and The Railway, alomg with the Edge of Town. The only pub left is the Three Wishes which wasn't a pub when I used to consider Edgware a place for a night out. In Burnt Oak, the Bald Faced Stag, The Prince of Wales and The Broadway have gone. In Mill Hill, we've lost The Mill and the Railway/Royal Engineer as well as The Bell that opened and closed on The Broadway. 

What is interesting is that when I talk to people who are not really 'pub people', they say that this is because the traditional pub model is outdated and that to 'survive' you have to become a trendy Gastropub. As far as a I am concerned, the term Gastropub is a misnomer. The places are restaurants. For me, you can only really call a pub a pub if its primary business is the selling of ales, wines and spirits. There are plenty of pubs operating to this model that do very well thank you. I'm not a fan, but Wetherspoons have made millions from concentrating on selling beer and not being trendy. Then there are the local, niche pubs that do a fine job and sell decent, real ales that you simply can't get at the supermarket and provide a pleasant environment to consume it in. 

The biggest myth of all is that people go to the pub to drink alcohol and 'get pissed'. If this was the target, the cheapest way to do it is to get a bottle of vodka and drink it at home. People go to the pub because the human race are sociable beings. We like the company of other people and when we have a few drinks, we become less inhibited. If we are chatting to our mates, we get into deeper conversations than we would when we are sober. When we are in the company of the opposite sex, we drop our guard and help to ensure the ongoing future of the human race. 

But someone, presumably a bean counter, decided a few decades ago that providing a warm, friendly environment for people to talk b@ll@cks and drink beer was not the way to make money. If you server up some vaguely edible food, you can make more money. The idea was that there would be a whole new, different market that would fill up your pub estate and you'd make far more money. Then they realised that ordinary boozers, who were the core market, put off these new, mythical customers. So why not put the prices up? That way the new customers would spend even more and the old customers would bugger off elsewhere. 

It was also expensive to keep real ales properly and you needed people who knew what they were doing. Why not just sell dull, keg and bottled beers that need no great knowledge and care and employ teenagers on minimum wages. They then realised that there were all manner of 'fiddles' for want of a better word, that Landlords were running, that ensured that they made a decent bit of money on the side. Why should staff, not shareholders get this cash. So they brought in computerised tills and stock control systems. The switch to payment cards meant that it was almost impossible for Landlords to do any 'cash sidelines'. This meant that for best and smartest Landlords, who knew how to fill pubs and make a few quid, there was little or no incentive to work in the industry. 

So now, we have a situation where these clone pubs, selling beers that are marketed by brand gimmicks, rather than taste proliferate. They are operated by bean counting pub co's, most of whom have no real interest in the industry they are in. They are staffed by the cheapest staff, who have little or no interest in their job and see it as something to do for a few moths/years, whilst they are waiting for something else.

It is no wonder that most are struggling. Worst still, the pubco's know they can make more money selling pubs for development rather than deveeleoping profitable pubs, which sadly requires hard work and investment. 

There are still some wonderful pubs in London. I was out in Clerkenwell last Thursday and was delighted to see that the pubs we visited on our pub and curry crawl were packed and many of the punters were young adults. They served decent beer and people were enjoying the ambience. The beer was not extortionately expensive in the pubs we visited, in fact you'd spend more on a pint in some pubs in Mill Hill than these central London watering holes. It doesn't seem to occur to any one in the 'hospitality' industry that if you price your customers out of the market, they don't come. The pub model works when pubs are busy and local people can turn up, knowing that there will be a few mates to have a chat with. Pubs used to have pool, dartboards and all manner of other things, that have disappeared from most. I've no idea who came up with the idea that soggy fish and chips would make pubs more enticing than decent beer and a chat with your mates, but they have a lot to answer for. 

Of course some pubs still do what they do exceptionally well, which is why I love playing with my band at The Dublin Castle in Camden. Why not come down on 23rd December and see how you can run a decent music pub, pack it out and do alright. Tickets here   

Monday 27 November 2023

I'm proud to be part of this! Can you help? - Help Madness fans beat Pancreatic Cancer

On Saturday 4th November, my band, The False Dots performed at the  Madchat Autumn get together at The Dublin Castle. Madchat is the online Madness community. To me, Madness are the quintessential North London band. They have gone from being scalliwags, to being national treasures, even performing their hit "Our House" on top of Buckingham Palace as part of the Queen's jubilee celebrations. Every year, Madchat select a charity to support for the year and hold fundraising events. This years charity is Pancreatic Cancer UK. This is a cause very close to my heart. In August 2000, my business partner, Ernie Ferebee was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer. He was told he had 3-6 months to live and there was no cure. He had three children under 7. Ernie managed 8 months, seeing his kids through Xmas. For me, that has always been personal. When Madchat announced the charity, I knew we had to be involved. 

I thought of ways to try and help raise funds. I paid for 50 CD's to be pressed up, featuring my band performing one of our numbers, Saturday, with a guest performance by Lee Thompson of Madness on sax. These highly limited edition CD's were on sale at the event. This was a one off. I also pressed up 15 copies for promotion of the event. One was returned and I auctioned this, raising another £50, meaning all in, we raised £300 with our efforts. It was the least I could do and hopefully, it will make a small difference in the fight.

Anyway, I just checked the TOTAL  on the Madchat Just giving page and it's at £5,855, just £145 short of £6,000! I really would love to see the total reach the magical £6,000 for the year before the page closes and Madchat choose a new charity. It's personal for me, so I have a special deal to offer you. If you make a £10 donation to the charity, I will put you on the Guest List for The False Dots gig at The Dublin Castle at the Dublin Castle on Saturday 23rd December (details here) and you will get a very special, limited edition False Dots badge as a souviner. How does that sound. If you gift aid it, then you will give £12 for your £10. If you've already got a ticket, don't worry, donate £2 and we'll give you the badge! And if you don't like the False Dots but want to make a donation to beat Pancreatic cancer, just put a donation in!

The False Dots at The Dublin Castle
To gift aid, the link is here -, please put "MADCHAT FALSE DOTS GUEST" for a pass or "MADCHAT FALSE DOTS BADGE" in the message along with whatever else you might want to say. If just 12 people who read this blog come as guests,  then Madchat will hit the £6,000 and I'm sure Ernie will be looking down from his cloud in the sky feeling proud of us all. I will go through the pledges before the gig and add them to the list. If you can't go, please add a donation anyway. Sadly, unlike many cancers, Pancreatic cancer survival rates have not improved since Ernie passed away. A night at The Dublin Castle is always a great night, especially on the Saturday before Christmas. The pub is the spiritual home of Madness and Madchat have their name on the wall, having helped the venue survive the Lockdown!

I am so proud to be associated with Madness and Madchat. Lee Thompson of Madness has been a big supporter of many of my efforts to raise money for cancer charities over the years. In 2008, Lee even put a band together with guitar legend Chris Spedding specially to raise money for MacMillan at a gig we'd organised at The Bull in Barnet. It was the last gig our former bassplayer, Paul Hircombe played with us before he died of cancer.  This week Madness got their first UK No 1 Album, long overdue. I am made up for Lee and the rest of the crew. Long overdue, as are Knighthoods and Brit Awards.

Here is a video we made of the track Lee performed with us.

If you are a Madness fan and are not a member of Madchat, click here to join - it's the best way to follow the band!

Sunday 26 November 2023

The Sunday Reflection #1 - Change is a good thing

 For the last decade or so, I've had a little Sunday ritual. I get up, make the missus breakfast, then do the "Tweets of The Week" blog, then go to Mass. When I finish, I go oo Boucherie Gerard, get what I need for Sunday Lunch. I then return, make lunch, watch the football and generally (if we are not seeing a gig), have a relatively early, chilled night. Last week, I did this for the last time, well the Tweets of the week, you can click here to read here why I'm not doing that anymore. I woke up this morning and realised I'll miss doing it. I had a ritual. I made a note of any during the week that caught my eye, then I'd search on all of the areas of the Borough such as Burnt Oak, Edgware, Cricklewood etc to see what I'd missed. This was actually great. I came across all sorts of wonderful Tweeters and many interesting things that fascinated me. A few of the Tweeters that I randomly found and became people I met and admire deserve a mention as I wrap this up

@Superfast72, @Time_NW - Mark Amies - I think I first noticed Mark through his support for the Railway Hotel campaign. Mark became a friend and we made several videos together. He is a top bloke and I could always rely on him to provide a good tweet or two. In fact I probably discriminated against him in the end, not posting great tweets in the list, because I felt I had to widen the net! Thanks Mark. 

@Finchleybirder - Samuel Levy - Samuel's work documenting the wildlife of Darlands is amazing. He contributed a guest blog concerning the proposed power station next to the nature reserve. He also helped me enormously when I contributed a chapter to the West London Wildlife book (a great present for any Londoners who like wildlife and exploring). Thanks Samuel 

@Milepost13 - Robin Morel - The local Network Rail infrastructure man. A great source of info on matters Thameslink. He's kindly arranged for me to have a look around the Cricklewood train maintenance facility on a couple of occasions, which has been fascinating, as someone interested in the Borough and London's industrial history and architecture. Thanks Robin

Thanks to everyone else I featured. I will still be keeping an eye out. I should really have included this in last weeks blog, but better late than never.

Change. It can be difficult, but it is a very good thing as well. I have had three massive changes in my life recently. Two of these have been extremely difficult and I have and am struggling to deal with them. 

In August 2022, when attending my nephews wedding in |Crete, I turned my ankle over and badly sprained it. It has not been the same since. In March, having played football all of my life, I made the decision to stop playing until it healed. I currently still am wearing an ankle support. It hasn't healed. I am getting my head around the fact that I may well have played my last football match. Football kept me fit and was a big release from the stress of life.  Stress is the biggest killer of all. I haven't really worked out how to fill this gap.

Also in March (could it be related to the stress of stopping football), I learned that my prostate cancer had flared up. I found myself faced with the awful choice of ignoring it, having radiotherapy or surgery. In August, I had surgery. The effects have been life changing. I'm lucky that I am continent, but currently I have no sexual function. I find this to be a very difficult thing to deal with. My major fear with regard to surgery was losing this. I seriously thought about just ignoring it and letting the cancer take its course. There are times when I wish I had. Another few years of normal life, enjoying myself and then a trip to Switzerland when the pain got too much. I may have been hit by a bus before it got to that and I'd have had a far better time. As this would not really be fair on Clare or the kids, I discounted the option, but it will also be a what if. I am struggling to pick a positive out of this change. I wish I could see something good in it. I've been told that things can take three years to return (if they do). Maybe in thee years time, I'll be writing a blog about how good a decision I made, to encourage other blokes that there is a future.

Now reading this, you may be thinking that it's all gloom and doom. It isn't. There has been one massive positive for me, that came out of a very tragic situation. I've been playing guitar in The False Dots  for 44 years. I've always enjoyed it. The band has always had a vocalist. In early 2021, when we still had lockdown, the band started rehearsing as a three piece. There were no plans to do anything more than 'get a few numbers together'. I had written a song that I wanted to try and get Lee Thompson of Madness (who is a mate of mine) and Jenny Bellstar to sing. I did a rough recording and my kids said "Dad, it sounds good, you should sing it". I was surprised to say the least, but this inspired me. I started to write songs that I could sing. I've always been a prolific song writer, I have hundreds in my unused song book. Most have been written with other people in mind and simply didn't work. 

Anyway, cut a long story short, last September, we did a gig at The Dublin Castle. It went down a storm and we've been given a residency. By the end of this year (God willing), we've done more gigs than any year since 1984! Whats more, I now feel that I can call myself a singer, not just a bloke with a guitar who does a bit of vocals. Don't get me wrong, my style of vocals is very stylised. If you like Ian Dury/The Clash/Madness/The Specials you may enjoy it. If you prefer Whitney Houston or George Michael, I'm sure you'll hate it. I have come to the conclusion that I'm a good band frontman. It is actually beyond me that I didn't properly try and do the job previously. Well actually I do know. I was kicked out of the choir for being "Tone deaf" at Church. Every time I opened my mouth I was told "You can't sing" so I believed them. Even the liberation of Punk rock in 1977 couldn't break that curse. Furthermore I wrote songs that were intended for people who could sing more conventionally.

With our new material, the songs are very Ian Duryesque. They are more stories than songs. They tell tales. They have characters. They take you on a journey and the music paints a picture. I genuinely think it works rather well. I had always dreamed that The False Dots would find an amazing singer, write them some brilliant songs that suited their vocal style and the band would get a degree of recognition and do brilliant gigs, make some amazing recordings and  get a record deal. We've done two of the three, to be honest, we will probably release the record ourselves!

But the point is that at age 61, I have discovered a new talent and have something that is making me feel good about the future. I guess that none of this is how I thought things would be at the start of the year.  I know not everyone shares my beliefs, but I strongly believe that if you work hard, God gives you what you ask for in life. Not when you want it, in the way you want it or how you imagined it. But if someone told me that at age 61, I'd have a band playing the Dublin Castle regularly, and in the words of Talking Heads 

And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wifeAnd you may ask yourself, "Well, how did I get here?"


Have a great weekend. Here's the song that inspired this blog today! And please come down and see the band on the 23rd December at The Dublin Castle - Tickets here

Friday 24 November 2023

Friday Fun 24th November 2023

As is the tradition in Barnet Blogs, we start with a Friday Joke. As is often the case, I am endebted to Mr Robert Wilkinson for the joke, a purveyor of fine Dad jokes. He's locked his account @robertwlk, so I can't embed it as usual, but he's worth a follow if you like some sillyness

Went for a run this morning but had to turn back after two minutes because I had forgotten something. Forgot I was a fat git who can't run.

More than a grain of truth in that for me. I'm nursing a very sore ankle at the moment. I had to stop playing football in March because of it!

Pic courtesy of @time_nw

As we are celebrating Dr Who this week, it warrants a mention of the 2nd Dr, Mill Hill Resident Patrick Troughton. His grandson Harry Melling, who is also a well known actor, starting his career as Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter films. Harry's Dad Brian taught my suster Valerie art at Harrow School of Art and still buys guitar strings from us occasionally 

As for my cultural week. We binge watched "The Boat" that was rather good. It brought my mind back to when I was a teenager sitting in the Wimpy in Hendon with a mate (I'm endebted to @Time_NW for a pic of the spot)

We saw a bloke leave a carrier bag on the bench opposite. As we watched, someone else came and picked it up. My mate had considered pinching it before it was collected. Having watched The Boat, I'm glad he didn't. One of my nephews found a massive bag of weed in Mill Hill Park. He took it home and burned it (over the course of a few months with his mates). I don't think the owner ever reported it missing.

The band had a good week, we wrote a new song called "Rambo" - A celebration of our drummer discovering Mod culture through Quadrophenia. We think it's rather good.  We are hoping to premiere it at our forthcoming gig at The Dublin Castle on the 23rd December. 

And on to our music round up. 

Alan Linfoot Band gig at Butchers Arms
Alan Linfoot Band (Rock Covers & Original, 4 piece) at Butchers Arms, Barnet

The Looters gig at The Three Wishes
The Looters (60s / 70s covers, 5 piece) at The Three Wishes, Edgware 

UnderCovered gig at Maddens Bar
UnderCovered (Pop / Rock / Funk, 5 piece) at Maddens Bar, East Finchley 


Wednesday 22 November 2023

Who is responsible for persuading women that looking like a toilet plunger is sexy?

The older I get, the stranger the world gets. When I was a teenager, my no 1 crush was Lesley Ash. Any male around my age, who saw Quadrophenia will know why. Later in her career, she appeared in Men Behaving Badly. I wasn't really a fan of the show, but watched it as I enjoyed seeing her on the TV. Then one day I was reading the paper and I was absolutely gobsmacked to read that she was in intensive care, in a life threatening condition. She'd had plastic surgery and it had gone wrong. She ended up with what the tabloid press uncharitably dubbed a trout pout. I simply couldn't get my head around why she felt she needed the procedure. I do get that sometimes people feel very insecure about their looks, but whenever I see anyone who has had noticeable plastic surgery, to my eyes, they simply look a bit strange and mildly disturbing. I understand that some people, especially actresses of a certain age, want to hold back the process of ageing. If its your job and you see your earning potential declining, I get it. However what I simply don't get at all are the perfectly good looking young girls, who are getting all manner of fillers etc. Of course, it is up to them, but why do they think it is a sexy look? Do young blokes like such a fake and false look? When I was a teenager, most of the guys I knew were none to keen on girls who looked over made up, let alone mutilated in the name of beauty. It seems to me that the whole thing is highly unscrupulous. It feeds on young people's insecurities and I do wonder what the long term side effects of the various treatments will be. It seems that Leslie Ash has had long term problems associated with the silicone used in fillers. There is a term for toxic masculinity, where males develop rather ridiculous attitudes towards women. Should there be a similar term for whatever inspires perfectly good looking people to mutilate themselves.

Monday 20 November 2023

"Too fat and too black" - How I lost my faith in the UK music industry

 I've nearly written this blog a few times. I started, but couldn't say what I wanted to say in language which wouldn't offend people who are friends of mine. I realised recently that this wasn't entirely true. It was more out of cowardice, not being able to justify the fact that I hadn't said this a very long time ago. Let me take you back to the late 1970's. The False Dots were just an idea, in the mind of myself and a local hooligan called Pete Conway. We both attended Rock Against Racism gigs and despised Eric Claptons racist comments. Our first act setting up the band was to write a charter that any new members would have to sign. The idea was that if you were a member of The False Dots, you were signing up to a full, political charter. There was a full list of causes we supported, a list of things you could and couldn't do. There was a list of bands that you had to like and list of artists that you had to hate. In truth we put more energy into writing the band charter, than we did learning our instruments. Pete carefully wrote it out and I sneaked into the school photocopying room and got ten copies made (it was when photocopies were purple, anyone else remember that). Two of the principles were that the band would be non sexist and non racist. The Clash were a big inspiration at the time. We made attempts to try and play reggae (failing miserably), we wanted a mixed line up, but this never materialised. By the time we'd learned to play well enough to recruit other members, we'd lost the charter. But we felt it was important to be more than just a band playing a few nice tunes. 

As the band developed, Pete left, new members came in. We developed. In 1983, Venessa Sagoe joined as our singer. Venessa was a force of nature. She was born of Nigerian/Jewish heritage. I'd never heard anyone sing as well as Vanessa. She could literally sing anything. As soon as she joined, we developed a brand new set. We just felt that the old material wasn't good enough for her. Venessa was quite shy on a one to one basis. Our only concern was that when she got up on a stage she might get stage fright. After 3 seconds of her first gig, we realised that our concerns were misplaced. As often happens when a football team uncovers a star, everyone raises their game. In February 1984, the band played at Dingwalls. I couldn't really see any scenario where we wouldn't get a deal and become rich and famous (unless someone pinched Venessa). The songs were great, the band was good and we could blow audiences away. 

We were approached by an A&R scout from a major and someone who wanted to manage us. It seemed like the world was at our feet. We recruited a keyboard player, the final piece in the jigsaw, recorded a demo and followed the managers advice, to let him deal with the label. Then....

Nothing happened. I couldn't understand what was going on. The manager stopped answering my calls. He'd said "leave all the business to me, I'll get you a blinding deal". By chance, I bumped into the A&R scout at another bands gig. He saw me and looked embarrassed. I asked him directly what was going on. He was a decent guy and asked "Is the band still with your mananger?". I realised that the only way to get a straight answer was to say "No, he didn't really come up with anything". I then heard the full story. He'd presented the demo, which the band had paid for (on my inistance as I wanted to own the recordings) as a demo for Venessa. No mention of the band. The label, who had initially been interested in the idea of the band, had told him "She's too fat and too black to be a successful pop artist". I was horrified. The A&R guy told me he'd got the band, but his bosses didn't get Venessa as a solo artist at all. The manager had told the label that the band were not up to scratch and that was the end of that. As there was no quick buck to make, the manager had simply cut us dead.

At the time I was 20 years old and lacked the life experience I had no. Myself and my then girlfriend were sharing a flat with Venessa and her boyfriend. I went home and was met by a smiling household. I was furious. But how could I tell Venessa what had happened. What should I tell the rest of the band? I believed that the label was absolutely wrong on every level, but we had lost momentum. I confided some of the details with our bassplayer Paul Hircombe. He was equally horrified and also took the whole thing badly. He decided to move to France with his girlfriend. I felt I'd failed everyone and also that the music industry was fundamentally crap. I'd spent my adult life trying to make a successful band and had what I thought was one of the best up and coming bands, but it had been made clear that the industry wasn't interested in bands that don't 'follow a formula'. I simply didn't know what to say to Venessa. I believed that she deserved better. When we'd written our charter, it was to break down the walls that meant great artists like Venessa found in their way. The whole thing fell apart. I felt incredibly angry about it. In hindsight, I wish I'd called a band meeting and told everyone the truth and said "if you are up for it, lets prove the F**kers wrong", done an independent release and used what allies we had to have a go. Instead, it all just fell apart and I felt resentful of everyone. If anyone had said "You are no good", it might have been different, but all we were told was that our singer was too fat and the wrong colour. Being good didn't matter. As for the manager, I had my doubts almost immediately. I was angry with muself for not acting earlier. I feel out of love with the industry. 

Fast forward to 2009. The band was doing a few gigs, mostly for charities and benefits. We weren't trying to get a deal. I was quite comfortable with playing the odd gig and just enjoying having a nice night with a few mates. Then a young Sudanese singer, Connie Abbe turned up. I had a few songs that Venessa had sung, that I'd never recorded. I asked Connie to sing them. I was blown away when I heard her. She, like Venessa, was immense. Although it was the last thing I intended, we started to play gigs in Camden and write new material. It was fun and it felt great. I knew that Connie's future lay beyond The False Dots, but I thought that we could enjoy writing a chapter. We recorded the material and got a gig at The Purple Turtle in Camden Town. I asked a few music industry contacts. We were brilliant, if I say so myself. I was elated, until I got the feedback. 35 years after Venessa, I got exactly the same response. Connie had a job with rapper Emmanual Jal, she took off on a world tour. I realised that nothing had changed in the UK music industry. 

I asked myself, how can it be that two of the best singers I've ever heard cannot rustle up any interest at all in the industry? The sad truth is that if I'd have sung the songs myself in 1984, in my Ian Dury-esque monotone voice, we'd have had more chance of success. If we'd just had Venessa and Connie as backing singers, maybe they could have snuck in through a side door? I was asked by a mate recently if I had any regrets in life. I have few, but I do regret not having a proper plan to circumvent the racist/sexist record labels that control UK music. 

If you don't believe me, consider a few facts. Before the rise of Bob Marley, Judge Dread, a white bloke from the black country was the biggest selling reggae/ska artist in the UK, despite all of his records being banned by the BBC. Of the top 20 selling UK singles, the only black artists to make an appearance are Pharell Williams and Boney M make an appearance. When you consider that Robson & Jerome, Aqua and WIll Young are in there, you can draw your own conclusions. When you consider that US giants Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Aretha Frankin and Gladys Knight didn't make the list it shows what the industry wants to promote, and how hard it is for homgrown UK black artists. When you watch the Jools Holland show, you see amazing singers like Ruby Turner, but they've never been seriously promoted by the industry. The likes of Pauline Black and Joan Armatrading have amazing catalogues, huge respect, but the sad truth is that the industry has never been interested in doing more than marketing them on the back of feeding frenzys such as the 79 British Ska explosion or as a niche artist. 

How can you love and industry that neglects its biggest assets. I'm an average guitarist at best, I play in a decent band, but the likes of Venessa and Connie had real talent and no one was interested. I was sounding off about this and a friend said "What about Lizzo?". Is she a sign things are changing? Not in the UK, she's American. It seems to me that there was a gleeful press ready to crucify her when she got into a dispute with her backing singers. When I see the success of Adele, I realise that it isn't the physical shape of an artist that defines success. The gatekeepers simply don't want certain people to succeed and this demonstrably racist. 

One of the reasons I loved the punk era was we could have singers like Poly Styrene emerge, who were not stereotypical. I believed things had changed. I now realise that was simply because the labels saw Punk as a short term fad to cash in on. When such things happen, the rules get stretched for a while. Then as soon as the labels decide the cash has dried up, the trapdoor slams shut again. I was asked why I felt The False Dots didn't achieve the success that at times, we seemed to be on the brink of. It is horrific to have to answer "Because the industry was too ignorant and racist to sign an unknown band with a lead singer who was not a stereotypical body type and colour". I'm not saying no black singers ever got signed or promoted by labels, but they were always marketed in niches and never given the support that some of their white peers got. Generally, they'd made their name as part of other set ups, where they were backing singers etc. 

The real proof of this is that the one track that The False Dots got released in the 1980's was not with Venessa, but another female singer, a year before she joined. It wasn't great, but there was interest. That says it all. 

And what hurts most is that it has taken me so long to say it how it is. 

This was Connie with the band back in 2010. She is rather good, isn't she?

Sunday 19 November 2023

The final tweets of the week in the London Borough of Barnet - 19th November 2023 - A statement

 I had a couple of emails asking me whether I should be doing this feature, in light of the platform owners behaviour. This has seen large companies such as M&S and BT withdrawing advertising from the brand. The question I have to ask is this. Do I want to promote a company such as "X" which is run by someone who clearly has a very different agenda for his platform to what I happen to believe in. This is something I've thought long and hard about since the ownership was changed. 

I have to be honest, I love many aspects of Twitter, not least it's democracy. Anyone can post a tweet which could go viral and go around the world. I've learned all manner of things and made a few good friends along the way. I block those that I don't want to see and I have always enjoyed doing this feature. 

Since the current owner took the helm, I've found it increasingly difficult to put this together. On occasisons, searches haven't worked. Every move seems to have been misconceived attempts to squeeze more money out of the platform, none of which have made it easier to use or better for the ordinary folk who use it. Some of the changes, charging for blue ticks, limiting searches, making their view of what you want the default, so you see all manner of tweets you are not interested in are infuriating. 

It seems that the platform has lost it's heart and soul. Tweets are no longer tweets. Twitter is no longer twitter. How can you pick "tweets of the week" when there is no such thing as a tweet? I doubt whether Elon Musk gives a flying F**K whether I do this or what I think of his platform. For the time being, I am staying on the platform, but I look at it less and less. I think it is dying on its feet. My wish is that Musk would sell it to someone who understood what it should and could be, rather than seemingly running it as a vanity project. 

Do I want to spend my Sunday morning doing this feature? I don't really think I do. So this is it.

I will finish with a special edition. This weeks pick are the good and bad of local tweeters, which I am retweeting as a final hurrah, with a bit of commentary.

1. I f it hadn't been for the campaign to save the Railway Hotel in Edgware, I may have wrapped this feature up a long time ago. Twitter was an effective campaigning platform for naming and shaming lazy Councillors. A big thanks is due to Cllr Lucy Wakeley, who has stepped up. If the Barnet Tories have any sense, they will find a bigger platform for her talents

2. This had to be said

3. I really feel I had to say this. David is a nice enough bloke, but if he wants to persuade me that he is worthy of my vote, then he'd better do a few less photo ops and a bit more proper campaigning on local issues

4. I will miss the tweets from our local sports clubs

5. And now for the worst of local Twitter. Smart media and PR exec rewriting our local history

6. Yes and Yes

7. I'll miss highlighting some of the amazing pics of our locality

8. I also love finding these sort of gems!

9. I'll miss highlighting the amazing work of our libraries

10. Sad really to end with a scumbag alert, but if it gets my mate John his guitar back, then what better way

That really is all folks, lets end with some music. If you like it, you can see me with The False Dots at the Dublin Castle on Sat 23rd December playing this!