Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hotel From Hell

So I am writing this on the train back to London. I've spent the weekend in Edinburgh working at the new Highlight Famous For Comedy Club. Phew! What a mouthful! The bill was great - me as MC, Kevin Hayes aka "the Man of a Thousand Voices", Gavin Webster who has a new bit that is just awesome but one that he'll never be able to do on telly sadly, and Brian Higgins who is on cracking form at the moment. The gigs were fantastic, each in their own distinct way, and Edinburgh is still one of the most gorgeous cities in the world, even if the weather was rubbish!

The only blackspot on the whole weekend was the hotel. We were booked into the Thistle St James and they had supposedly done a deal with the club to give us a discount rate. Well, that "discount" was £99 a night so as you can imagine I was expecting something pretty exceptional for my money. After all, it was a wet weekend in January and the hotel was nowhere near full capacity.

This was the second room they gave me, the first believe it or not wasnt as good as this!

These were all the lovely yummy goodies they provided

This was the luxurious shower

Now I know you might find it hard to believe, but I am seriously not a diva. However, I posted those photos on Twitter and soon had some of my followers offering to form an escape committee to come and spring me. One follower actually did a websearch and found me a different hotel! All of them were horrified that any hotel could charge that amount of money for such a dreadful room.

Anyway, I stuck it out and am finally homebound on this train


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Blimey! There's a Banksy Movie on the Way

Check it out!


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Ligger Years... Part 4 ... More Clash

So a couple of weeks after the Manchester Apollo gig, The Clash were playing at King George's Hall in Blackburn. A group of Preston punks (actually all the punks in Preston!) had organised a mini-bus to take us there and back, but Peggy and I went earlier than the others.

I'd written up the interview and done a copy for Joe Strummer to read - copy approval even before there was such a thing! - he hadn't asked for us to do that, it was basically just an excuse to get on the guest list again!

As if getting to see The Clash again wasn't exciting enough, there was an extra-special treat awaiting me in Blackburn - now there's a sentence you never thought you'd see! There was an extra guitarist playing with them that night and I literally bumped into him backstage. It was none other than Steve Jones from The Sex Pistols!

He was the reason I'd become a punk in the first place. I can still remember seeing his photo in the NME in what was probably the first ever feature on the band, and thinking 'if that's what punk men look like, I'm gonna be a punk!' Shallow I know, but there ya go, and bear in mind that the time I was "into" 10cc!

I can still remember how my legs turned to jelly when I saw him close up. He was so handsome in those days and smelled amazing! He was wearing a Vivienne Westwood Seditionaries T-shirt that was an open letter to Derek Jarman slagging off the movie Jubilee and a pair of black jeans. Goddam he was hot!

Luckily for me, my pal Peggy aka Anne R Key, was on the ball and told him who we were. I was mute with virginal teenage desire! Eventually I recovered enough to tell him about the fanzine and ask for an interview. He said he'd happily do one after the gig. Peggy then said 'she's your number one fan, why don't you give her a kiss?' Jesus! I am cringing now just thinking of it! But, it worked, he kissed me on both cheeks and said he'd see me after the show.

That gig was one of the best times I ever saw them play, they were on cracking form and Steve Jones' guitar added an extra kick to the tunes.

After the show, we went backstage, and met one of the many seminal characters of punk rock - a former Sex Pistols roadie called Steve English. He asked Steve Jones if he planned to fuck me (I know!) and Steve Jones said 'No, she's a good girl', before disappearing off to shag two sluts in the orchestra pit!

It has to be said that while I was flattered that he didn't see me as 'just another groupie', as a 17 year old virgin, had he asked I probably woulda fucked him! What a slut! We hung out with The Clash for a bit - wooohooo another can of Coke! - and then Steve Jones reappeared minus the girls. He handed me a sweaty bit of black cloth and a piece of paper, saying we'd do the interview another time.

The cloth was the Seditionaries t-shirt and the bit of paper was the address and phone number of Glitterbest in Denmark St - Malcolm McLaren's office!


Sunday, January 17, 2010

A First For Me

So this weekend I was gigging at one of my favourite clubs in the country, The Last Laugh in Sheffield.
I always have fun there and thanks to Toby Foster and Jules who run it, I'm always well looked after.

This weekend that turned out to be more important than usual as I found myself away from home and sick as a dog!

On Tuesday night I went to the Comedian's Christmas Do(n't) at The Bedroom Bar. A yearly event organised by the fabulous Susan Murray and the equally fabulous Michael Legge, in which all the comics who can be arsed gather together for a catch-up. I'd never been before, so I made a special effort to go this time. I'm so glad I did. It was great to see tons of people I haven't seen in aaaaaaaages!

Sadly tho, I suspect I picked up a little germ there too, cos by Wednesday morning I was feeling more than a bit grotty. Nothing specific, but a bit of a cough, a bit of a tickly throat and just not "right". It was a snowy, horrid day on Wednesday anyway so I stayed indoors and just took it easy.

By Thursday, as I was Sheffield-bound, I felt more than a bit iffy. Sneezing, coughing, sweating, the whole nine yards. Luckily for me I was on first every night so could do my set, then come back to the lovely new hotel they've found for us.

Thursday night I did just that, but Friday morning I felt worse. I slipped on my clothes and trekked through the rain to Boots. The nice lady sold me some Day and Night Nurse capsules and I went back to bed till showtime.

What I didn't know is that all those pills kinda foggy up your mind, and Friday night I kinda dug myself into a comedy hole I couldn't really get out of. I was seriously relieved when I saw my time light! I didn't die but I sure as hell didn't storm it. I heard later on that nobody stormed it tho, so perhaps it wasn't all me.

Saturday I just stayed in bed all day, trying to sleep/sweat it out, but I went to the gig still feeling like crap. I did however, go on determined to rock the joint no matter how sick I felt. And I did!

If I hadn't been out of town, I would've cancelled my Friday and Saturday night gigs, I really felt that ill. What this weekend has taught me is that I can do it. Even when I'm not 100%.

That's a cool lesson to learn.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Ligger Years... Part 3

Emboldened by the successes of interviews with Ian Dury and Glen Matlock, Gaye Abandon (that's me folks) cast the net wider still, and got the big one.

We blagged tickets to see The Clash at Manchester Apollo and got there early enough to catch them coming in for a soundcheck. Their tour manager - Johnny Green - told us that we could do the interview when they came back later to do the gig.

I remember it was pissing down that day and poor old Peggy or Anne R Key as she was now known had used some kind of temporary black dye on her hair. The rain showed just how temporary it was as the colour ran in rivulets down her face! We nipped into the pub that used to be next door to the Apollo - I dunno if it's still there, I'm guessing that whole area has been re-developed by now, it was like a bombsite in '78! - and she wiped the black streaks off her face and we prepared for our big interview.

The Clash were like my all-time favourite band in the punk rock days - and probably still are if the truth be told! - so the thoughts of getting to sit down with Joe Strummer and Mick Jones was incredibly exciting for me.

True to his word, when Johnny Green saw us waiting outside he slipped us in through the stage door and up to the band's dressing room. I was introduced to Joe Strummer and offered a drink. I remember only having the balls to get a Coke!

Joe was a great interview - once I'd calmed down enough to talk to him properly. I remember being impressed by his intelligence and articulacy (is that even a word?????). Anyway, it was quickly becoming apparent that none of these "punks" were illiterate yobs! After Joe, we sat down with Paul Simenon who was far less chatty, Topper had nowt to say really, and Mick Jones was second only to Joe in the chatty stakes.

Interview over, we were asked if we wanted to watch the gig from backstage, but as this was our first time seeing the Clash properly, we wanted to be out in the audience. As it turned out, we shoulda stayed backstage! We'd missed Suicide who were the support act, but as The Clash walked onstage all hell let loose. We were sat near the front, but no-one was sitting! Soon no-one had the choice, as the seats began flying over our head and landing in the orchestra pit!

The whole gig passed in a bit of a blur, but even to this day i can remember the energy that just powered the whole experience. All of us, the band, the crowd and the poor, useless security men, were on fire!

Best of all, we even made the bus back to Preston!

I saw The Clash play over 30 times and most of those gigs are still alive in my memory, so if you enjoyed this on, there's plenty more Clash stories to come, believe me!


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

JoJo Smith...The Ligger Years Part 2

So yesterday I posted about my meeting with Ian Dury and the feedback has been amazing! Not to mention to huge amount of hits to my site!

As a result, I've decided to stop hanging onto all my little rock and roll stories for the mythical autobiography, and start recounting them here. Let's face it, I'm not famous enough for the 'big budget in the shops for Christmas' type book deal, and thank god my life hasn't been tragic enough to make a bomb on one of those "misery books".

In yesterday's blog I explained that in order to legitimize my meeting with Mr Dury I said that me and my mates had a fanzine called The Ligger. At that point it was nothing more than words, but as we sat on the train back to Preston, it dawned on me that actually doing a fanzine would be a great idea.

Kosmo had given us tips on being real liggers, useful tips such as:

1. Never pay for a gig ticket, always ring the record company press offices and blag them

2. Never pay for records, always ring the record company press offices and blag them.

3. Never pay for anything much at all if you can help it, blag, blag, blag!

Those words resonated in my head and have stood me in good stead for almost all of my adult life!

As you might imagine, Preston wasn't exactly Punk Rock Central, so we had to travel for our ligging. One trip we took was to Blackpool. Glen Matlock - the Sex Pistol who was sacked for 'liking The Beatles' had formed another group called The Rich Kids and they were doing a gig in what I recall was the function room of a hotel somewhere in the seaside town.

This time it was just Peggy and I that went. By now we had proper Punk Rock pseudonyms - just like Poly Styrene and Sid Vicious - Peggy was Anne R Key and I was Gaye Abandon! I'd contacted the record company - EMI ironically given Glen's previous band's troubles with the label - and got us on the guest list, and we were off!

Guest List - two of the most incredibly wonderful words in the world ever put together!

Now strictly speaking of course the Rich Kids weren't punk rock, dear god they had an ex-member of the teeny-bop group Slik in them! I speak of course of Midge Ure. At the time we went to see them, they'd had one record out, also called Rich Kids (I got a free copy!). We were more interested in seeing the ex-Sex Pistol on bass then what he was today.

The gig itself has faded from my memory, but I do remember it was great! Exciting, so different to the Blockheads one in that the room was tiny and we were really close to the band. Up until then we'd only ever seen bands in massive venues like the Guildhall, and the Manchester Apollo and the Liverpool Empire, so to be in somewhere about the same size as one of those venue's toilet was enthralling.

After the show we sat down with Glen and did the interview. He was happy to talk about the Pistols tho of course preferred to talk about his new band, but he was happy to talk. So much so that we missed the last train back to Preston! Bless him, he gave us £20 which in those days was plenty to get us a taxi home. Luckily, he'd also given us an address for his management offices and I'm proud to say we did actually send him a £20 postal order when we got back!

As a footnote to this tale, I actually saw Glen on the tube a couple of weeks ago. I thought it'd be way to weird to try and remind him about this incident from 32 years ago. I have to say that of almost all the people from those days he's worn the best, he was looking hawt for a man in his 50's!


Monday, January 11, 2010

One More Movie! AKA The Ligger Years...Pt 1

Soooo today I revisited a bit of my history.

I went to see Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, the Ian Dury biopic starring Andy Serkis. I had a little investment in it being good, apart from the £7.80 it cost me to get in. Thirty-two years ago Ian Dury and The Blockheads came to Preston to perform at The Guildhall, and me and my mates Peggy and Lynn had tickets to go see them.

I was a huge fan, I had one of the limited edition copies of Sex & Drugs on Stiff - I also had an "If it ain't Stiff, it ain't worth a fuck" t-shirts which I got free just by writing to them at 32 Alexander St and asking for one!

The afternoon of the gig, a Saturday, Lynn and Peggy met me for lunch - I worked Tuesday to Saturday at the Lancashire Evening Post - and we tried to work out how we could get backstage and meet Ian Dury. I said "Let's say we've got a fanzine and wanna interview him". The girls agreed it was a good idea, so we went over to the Guildhall to see if there was anyone around we could try blagging with. Oh man! The arrogance and fearlessness of youth eh? I was 16 and invincible!

This guy Kosmo Vinyl appeared. He worked with the band and said that if we found him after the gig we could go meet Ian Dury and maybe do our interview. He asked what the fanzine was called and I just blurted out "The Ligger". It was a brilliant name as it was something I'd always aspired to be. I never wanted to fuck the bands, but I did wanna lig - hang out with em and drink their beer!

Anyway, we went to the gig and we did go backstage. Unfortunately, so did half of Preston. These were the days of punk rock and "no more heroes". We got our photo taken with Ian Dury, and were all set to scarper when Kosmo found us. He said that there was no chance of doing the interview tonight, but if we turned up on Sunday lunchtime, we could go with them to Liverpool and do the interview on the bus!

How could we refuse? Of course we told minor fibs to our parents. No halfway respectable parent would say yes to their 16 year old daughter asking if it was OK to go to another town on a tour bus with a "punk rocker".

Anyway, off we went. We met up with Kosmo outside The Crest hotel and he led us onto the bus and introduced us to Ian! He remembered us from the night before, so he was cool. As this whole scam had been my idea, I was selected to ask the questions (to be fair I had written them!) and Peggy and Lynn were gonna write down his answers. No tape recorders or shorthand for us!

I also took him a present. At the time he had a Union Jack on his front teeth and I had a pair of Union Jack socks, so I gave them to him. They were ankle socks and while he thanked me for them, he explained that he couldn't wear them, and rolled up his trouser-leg to show me why. I'd never seen a caliper before or indeed met anyone with polio, but as he showed me his leg he said that he only wore the thick fisherman's socks cos they stopped the caliper from rubbing. Talk about an ice-breaker!

Somehow, I managed to come up with enough interesting questions to hold his attention all the way to the Liverpool Empire. We were escorted in through the stage door, and got to watch the soundcheck - god it was so exciting! Like a dream come true!

We had to leave halfway through the gig to get a train back to Preston, but that was and still is one of the most magical days ever!

So that was my Ian Dury story. That interview was written up and eventually led to me getting a proper gig as a journalist a few months later when I moved to London.

The movie really was fantastic, Andy Serkis's portrayal is incredible, and while Kosmo Vinyl seems to have been totally written out of the story, it was reasonably accurate. If you're of a certain age, go see it, what a remarkable man.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Off With A Bang!

So this weekend saw the first proper gigs of 2010 after all the festive performances, and I couldn't have picked a better place to start than the Covent Garden Comedy Club @ Heaven, here in London. It really ticks all the boxes, good space, staff who give a shit, good mannered audiences and dead easy to get to. Result!

Friday night I opened the show. I had a great time and felt right at home on the stage. The icing on the cake was that I was back home in my pj's watching Big Brother by 9.30!

On Saturday night I was on in the middle - aka the 'sweet spot' - and boy was it sweet! I felt like a comedy superstar, and could've easily stayed on the rest of the night! As a bonus I also got to see my old mate Andrew Maxwell doing his thang - wonderful as always! Kudos to Matt Price too who was doing his first MC'ing weekend there. Sterling work fella.


Movies, Movies, Movies!!!!!!!!!

I've been on a bit of a cinema kick this last week. So far I've seen Nowhere Boy, It's Complicated and Nine.

I go through real phases with movies, My movie partner has been absent of late so I'm missing out on the artier, more obscure stuff, but I have to say I've found something of merit in all the movies I've seen in the last few days.

Nowhere Boy was a really lovely surprise. I went more out of curiosity than anything, the off-screen antics of the director Sam Taylor-Wood who at 42 is now both engaged to and pregnant by the film's leading man/boy, 19-year-old Aaron Johnson. Its really none of my business but I do find it a bit icky!

However, the movie was really gentle, he was a fantastic John Lennon, and it was a very pleasant way to pass a couple of hours. The supporting cast, including Kristin Scott-Thomas and Anne-Marie Duff as the two strong women who shaped the young Lennon, were wonderful.

It's Complicated is not a movie that will change your life, but my god, if you want a really good laugh for 90-odd minutes, this is the one to see. I thought it might be more of an old-boiler flick - as opposed to a chick flick - aimed at us menopausal old birds who are a bit cynical and yet still hoping for the happy ending. It was a bit of a surprise how many men were in the audience too. Moreover judging by the amount of hearty laughter in the cinema, they loved it too.

Meryl Streep is like a new woman these days. She's always been a great actress, but recently with films like Julie and Julia, Mama Mia, and now this one, she just has this joie de vivre which shines out of the screen. Alec Baldwin, who looks slightly "tight", is also great fun as her ex-husband.

The weirdest thing tho is Steve Martin's face! Now I am the last person who can comment on plastic surgery or botox, but whatever it is that he's done to himself, its very, very wrong, like some kind of death mask! Still a great movie tho!

It's taken me a while to get around to seeing Nine, but I made it today. What a bizarre experience it was! Its a musical that doesn't have one single memorable song, and no real story to speak of. Having said that tho, Daniel Day Lewis is really hot in it! As is Penelope Cruz of course. So if you're a bit hungover this is the movie to see cos it demands no brain at all and you can just look at the gorgeous images on the screen.

There ya go, JoJo's Film Reviews 2010. I heard there was a vacancy going somewhere for a movie critic....

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Happy New Decade!!!!!!!!

Sooooo here we are in the next bit of the new millenium, which isn't as new as it was 10 years ago of course.

Since my return from Berlin I've been in Crimbo Limbo, not knowing which day is Bank Holiday and which day isn't, often just not knowing what day it is at all. Most of them have felt like Sundays to be honest.

I went back to yoga last week for the first time in nearly three weeks. Amazing how quickly you get stiff ain't it? It felt good to get back to it, there were only two classes last week but I made it to both. I also made it to the gym a couple of times which was awesome too! Especially my trip the morning of NYE when one of the guys who works in the gym asked me if I used to be a ballet dancer! To say I was incredibly flattered is something of an understatement! I'm still glowing a bit inside when I think of it.

Of course me being me, I didn't just say "no, but thank you", I said 'no love, I used to be 20 stones". One of these days I really will learn to take a compliment. He said he thought I must have been a dancer because of my posture. Just goes to show what yoga can do for a gal! I hadn't even noticed how my posture had improved. Hell a few years ago I wouldn't have even passed for a belly dancer, never mind a ballet dancer!

New Year's Eve was fantastic. I was working, which is always a result for me. You can't not have a good one when you wake up on New Year's Day with a bag full of cash! I was at The Glee Club in Birmingham which as you all know by now is my favourite club ever, and was one with a great bunch of guys including Sean Collins and Andy Robinson. Champagne was consumed afterwards and a great time was had by all.

I'm back to work properly next week, and looking forward to it too, but it's been lovely having this break. Its been a time to rest up - the extreme cold seems to affect the lupus - and a time to just reflect on my life.

This isn't a time for dramatic changes, but a rather dramatic shift has taken place in the way I view the world and see my place in it.