Friday, 14 October 2016

Making 'Little Stones' PO!'s first album

My blogging history of PO! got stuck around 1989. That's when 'Little Stones' was made. I'm hoping to re-release it soon, so here's a little information about it. 

PO!'s first album, Little Stones, was recorded by Terri Lowe of The Originals on his Tascam 1/4" reel to reel 4-track machine at a cost of £20. Members of The Originals played the backing tracks, recorded at Leicester's Chatham Street basement. This was because the former members of PO! had left me with with no musicians. The vocals, extra guitars and other instruments were recorded at the Originals' house on Aylestone Road (on the corner of Rutland Avenue) over a number of weekends when there were no Leicester City home matches. (Terri Lowe went to the home games). 

I had written most of the songs over a period of a few months. Usually I composed on acoustic guitar with a pad and pen to write down chords and vocal melodies down before evolving the lyrics. I can remember living in a flat that was freezing cold, and wearing fingerless gloves for at least one of the songs. 

At the time of recording, I was suffering with throat problems and a chest infection that affected my singing. Producer Terri set high standards for the recording. On one occasion, he insisted that I go out and ride a bike as fast as I could to the top of the road 'to clear my lungs' before singing. I think at least one track was recorded in the bathroom for its natural reverb, and he tickled me to get the giggling on 'All I Really Want to Do'.

The LP record was processed by AWL of Leicester. We had to drive round to Mr Lipinski's house to pick up the boxes of sleeveless (and therefore cheap) vinyl. Mr Lipinski lived in a tidy detached house about 2 miles from where I lived. He was like a friendly great-uncle who pretended to be interested in our musical achievements, but he wasn't impressed when I told him that John Peel had played our flexidiscs. 

A friend, Boris Barker, designed the sleeve. Computer-aided publishing was in its infancy and so it was a mixture of letraset. computer printing and physical cut and paste. We had 1000 records pressed and card sleeves printed, which had to be folded and glued by hand. I numbered the first 200 on the inner sleeve. 

I think it's good to be able to sum up the purpose of a song concisely. So here is a quickfire list of the headlines. Naturally, I like the songs to work on many levels, using a range of different voices, timbres and structures. But essentially, most of these early songs were created as a challenge to a world that seemed unfair and abusive. 

Glass King
One of many 'challenging patriarchy' songs; kind of Davina and Goliath.

One of many 'I had a friend and things went wrong when we grew up' songs; also it's quite sour and jealous, too.

Anti-corruption with name-checking; No-one like me got anywhere. 

Ever Been Had
A feeling sorry for oneself song. It also has the same line that a (much later) Tracey Thorn song has: "I'm walking past your door, but you don't live there any more."

Haunt You
Challenging patriarchy and giving them the willies.

About wrecked dreams, specifically that of a rural male ballet dancer.

About luck / lack of luck.

Appleseed Alley
Patriarchy; a song with spunk.

Lying on My Side
Be what you are.

The Torturers
Bad times for young women.

Poor Old John
Drugs and rock 'n' roll and not much else.

All I Really Want To Do
A Bob Dylan Song with giggling.

I'm not sure whether to re-release it via itunes, or press another vinyl - a CD doesn't seem right. Let me know what you think I should do. 

Monday, 25 July 2016

So who are PO! and will I like them?


This post is written for anyone attending Indietracks festival this weekend 29-31st July 2016. It always seems a shame when there's so much choice of what to go and see and you might miss something good if you haven't got your schedule totally organised. But then again, there's the serendipity of discovering something worthwhile - and hopefully that will happen for me. 

Back in 1986, the must-read music paper of the day, the NME, printed a number of editions with free cassette compilations. The start of the indie-pop movement is often attributed to C86, which was one of these cassettes.  The following year, I formed the band PO! My motivations were largely feminist anger at a harsh world, but there was no Riot Grrrl then and I was probably too nice. I also did like singable tunes and wordsmithery so indie-pop was the genre that fitted best of all. If you didn't listen to the lyrics, you might be cheered by the soaring and jangly tunes, but the words are often more reflective, miserable or aggressive. The name PO! means lots of different things but originally meant Piss Off!
Over the next 15 years, PO! had various line-ups. For a while we were an all-female band. Later versions of the band got very grown up and serious until I decided to stop doing it around the millennium. Since then, the Internet has generated interest in PO! and I kept reading things online about how I had disappeared. A divorce, and a year of treatment for breast cancer have re-motivated me to communicate with the world through song. This year, I'm singing my old songs. After that I might have something different to say. 

Albert stole my heart
The PO! songs which seem best-loved live or on You Tube include Fay, which is a quiet song about how a sparky, daring and mouthy young girl full of potential becomes damaged and suicidal in adulthood.  Appleseed Alley is a wide-themed song about the spread of ideas, sex and control; it's based on the legend of Johnny Appleseed. Sunday Never Comes Around is a pure pop song; I always say it's the only love song I've ever written, but I realise that's not true because I also wrote a love song for Albert, a horse at the Redwings Horse Sanctuary.  

I'm sometimes called a veteran of the scene. These are the things I've done that I'm proud of:

  • My 100+ songs have substance; mostly they are about girl experience in a tricky world;
  • I was good in the 1980s/90s at promoting my band; locally, nationally and internationally;
  • I set up and ran Rutland Records for over 10 years;
  • John Peel rang up and offered us a Radio 1 session, which was repeated.
  • Our last 7" was Single of the Week in the NME.
  • Online people who are half my age seem to like what PO! did;
  • Despite not playing or releasing anything for 15 years, I still get offered gigs;
  • I am still alive, fairly healthy, not 'disappeared' and can make music again when I want to.

I'm playing with a scaled-down PO! band on Saturday 30th July at 5pm on the indoor stage, and as a solo performer on Sunday 31st at 8.20pm. I'll be pleased to see anyone there and hope to meet PO! fans old and new. 

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

PO! music - what's out there?

I'm just about to put together a website and make PO! songs available in a digital and physical way again. It might take me a few months, but I'm determined to do it.

In the days when letters came through the post and I parceled up cardboard on a daily basis, it was fun to run a record label, but I guess it can be just as fun with instant downloady technology, analytics and 'likes'. Just got to get used to it, that's all. 

In the meantime, here are links to all the tracks I can find online at present: 

A Page A Day

 Northern Wonder

Danny's Girl

Your Shout

Appleseed Alley 

I Took My Head on a Date

Sunday Never Comes Around  


Haunt You


Good Behaviour 

Jacqueline's House

Things That Might

Bus Shelter .... in the Rain 

I Won't Stay  

Two Friends (Bedroom Version) 

Your Brother (Thanks for finding this, Andy) 

She Lies in State (Bedroom Version)   

Monday, 9 May 2016

Doing a U turn on playing gigs

Before I had cancer treatment, I had retired from music. I wrote in my blog that it would be unlikely that I would ever play with  PO! again; I was too old, nobody would want it and it just seemed a crappy thing to do. 

But after having a whole body and hair reboot, the idea of making music with friends just seems like a fantastic idea, because making music IS fantastic. If nobody wants to listen then they don't have to, and it doesn't matter what anyone thinks, because I could have died and not had this opportunity. 

Strangely though, my interest seems to be coinciding with other people's interest in PO! Some are old fans whose names I know from the old mail order business; others are much younger people who have grown up with Japanese fanzines and Spanish vinyl and somehow know that PO! are part of the indie-pop furniture.

2016 got off to a good start when Mark Hibbett emailed and asked me to play a gig at Totally Acoustic in London. A few weeks later, Marianthi from Indietracks was also offering a slot for PO! at the July festival. The guitar came out, songs were considered and practised and, on April 7th, I played solo at Totally Acoustic - the King and Queen pub where Bob Dylan played his UK debut in 1962.

An amazing kind soul, Alan Hames, has also helped by plodding through all my tape reels and DATs to get the old recordings into this century's format. It means I can re-release the first album, Little Stones fairly soon and put some recordings up on the Internet. I feel like I'm a proper old woman of indie-pop and that's quite a fine thing to be!

The last step is starting rehearsals with Paul (drummer) and Gary (bass) to see if we make the right noise as a 3-piece. The requests from fans are influencing what we'll play at Indietracks (and at least one other gig as a warm-up). I will let you know soon.