Archive | August, 2013

Steve Swindells’ Sleeve Notes To ‘The Lost Albums’.

19 Aug

Steve Swindells’ Sleeve Notes To The Lost Albums.


I’m going to kick this off by saying that I’m really embarrassed. As far as I know, I’m not suffering from alzheimers, but I simply cannot remember the names of the bass player and drummer who played so well on The Invisible Man’, disc 1   one of The Lost Albums, which were recorded in 1980, then digitally remastered and reissued as a double CD on Flicknife Records in 2012.

Nor can Steve Mann, the excellent guitarist who played so brilliantly on it too  And I only identified him because of some excellent, online detective work by a fan of mine.   I am convinced that the bass player was called Charlie, but Steve Mann thinks he was called Alex.  So, if you’ll ever forgive me guys, please, get in touch!  It WAS over thirty years ago. You were an amazingly adept, vibey and soulful rhythm section, especially as we recorded all those songs  live in just one day.  Then I had another day to do overdubs, vocals and mix all the tracks. Manic!  Good energy captured though, I’d say. God only knows how my voice held-up whilst recording the vocals on so many songs so quickly; not to mention the massed backing vocals, sung note-by-note –  well before the age of the ‘copied & pasted’ computerised BVs that we can do so much more easily do these days.

The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man

As I recall, those mostly mysterious musicians on The Invisible Man were recruited via an ad in The Melody Maker and were the first three guys who showed-up to the audition. We ‘jammed’, we gelled immediately and that was IT – there was excellent chemistry. The idea was that they were going to be my band for some live gigs and TV.  It was them (plus another guitarist) who performed with me on The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1980.   I was managed by Trinifold, whose main (well, really only) act was The Who.  I’d been signed to Atco records in NYC in 1979 by their CEO Doug Morris (is he still the President of Universal Music these days?)* and the result was my self-produced second solo album Fresh Blood, which was released worldwide in 1980, receiving much critical acclaim and reaching #3 on the US airplay charts in its second week of release. It was, I’m pleased to say, digitally remastered and re-issued on CD on Atomhenge/Cherry Red in 2009 and is now downloadable on Amazon/iTunes, at last.

The first thing I’d like to point out in relation to specific tracks on The Lost Albums is that ‘Stranger On A Train‘ is a true, albeit  seemingly unlikely, story.

I was nineteen at the time and it was a deeply strange and unnerving experience involving  spooky revelations from a self-proclaimed member of ‘The Brain Police’ who knew where I lived, where I hung out and lots more details about my life.  All a bit freaky. So much so that it took me ten years to write the song. He autographed my songwriting/diary notebook on the table in the carriage, having  ‘spared me from throwing me off the train’, as he’d initially threatened, after I’d apparently proved myself to be worthy of continuing to live.  Phew.  Perhaps it’s best not to mention his name, particularly if it was genuine.  He signed my notebook with ‘best wishes’ though. Yeah, I know –  you couldn’t make it up.  And I didn’t.

As a songwriter, I’ve always had a rule not to reveal what the true inspirations for songs were, should anyone ask.  So I just blew that one!  ‘Stranger On  A Train’ was, however, a special case, being based on such a scary and bizarre experience.

The reason for my inscrutability about my songs is that people who are listening should be able to form their own opinions as to what the song is about, in relation to their own reactions, and, hopefully,  have their own emotional handle on them.  Songs are in the public domain and are open to interpretation.  Long may it remain so.

It’s certainly true to recall that 1980 was an incredibly exciting, intense, emotionally- charged, roller-coaster ride of a year for me, and that is very much echoed in the songs on The Lost Albums, which just kept pouring-out, like confessional sessions on an imaginary psychiatrist’s couch.  It was all from the heart and/or experience though – no prog-rock-pompous, pretentious nonsense here, I hope, although ‘Fall Of The Empire’ on the Treachery CD might sound dangerously close.  That song grew organically from a  seemingly spurious promo tour of Europe (why? I should have been doing coast-to-coast US radio interviews on the back of Fresh Blood being #3 in the US airplay charts) which included radio interviews and meaningless back-slapping lunches and dinners with record company execs in Hilversum, Hamburg, Brussels, Milan and Madrid over a period of a few days.  Fall of the empire indeed.  Follow the narrative in the song and see where it takes you.

For some reason, I can recall exactly who played on the Treachery album. That was the Big Country rhythm section: the excellent Tony Butler (bass) and Mark Brzezicki (drums), who later went on to perform the same role in the house band at Live Aid at Wembley Stadium in 1985.  Pretty good for the CV eh guys?  And on guitar on Treachery was Simon Townshend, who’s now playing with his brother Pete in The Who.


We are talking A-list.

Both sets of musicians on these two albums were amazingly quick at picking-up my often complex musical ideas and interpreted them with great skill and soulfulness.  And I recall that the vibe at both sessions was powerful,  rushed, real, live and alive –  with great commitment from all concerned, especially my lynchpin engineer and co-producer Mike Pela  at Pete Townsend‘s Eel Pie Studios in Soho’s Broadwick street (now, sadly, no more), who was just brilliant.

My favourite tracks on The Lost Albums  are ‘I wanna Be Wild‘ (I really let the angry,  masculine gay beast out of the cage there); ‘Martyrs And Madmen‘  and ‘Treachery‘ (which were both later covered by Roger Daltrey); ‘Breaking And Entering’; ‘Writing In The Dust’;  ‘Walking On Dangerous Ground’; ‘Desolation Boulevard’, ‘Media Stars’ (very prescient); ‘Outlaw’; ‘The Invisible Man’ and ‘Dreams Of Dying’ (it was only a dream: think Hemmingway/Kennedy/Key West/Florida). Although I’m proud of all of them all,  the sometimes angry,  optimistic, melancholic, reflective and emotionally-charged energy of the songs could seem a bit intense. Even if it might have been a remembered dream occasionally, all of them were about real issues and all those emotional, intellectual and career-orientated challenges of the time, including the cynical, super-successful smug bastards who fucked-me over and hung me out to dry.

I really hope that some great singers/rappers will cover and/or use samples from these songs ; artists who like proper lyrics and melodies and an emotionally-based narrative that makes you think: ‘I can relate to that  – and perform it with feeling’.  You can’t beat a great groove and real playing and singing.

Question mark olives

Question mark olives

The Lost Albums were actually the demos for the potential follow-up to my critically-acclaimed Fresh Blood album.  But, unfortunately, at the time, the management and the record company that were allegedly marketing me and Fresh Blood had some cynically laddish pact which seemed to say: ‘if he doesn’t sell albums, we’ll both agree to drop him’. And after their complete lack of marketing and promotion in 1980,  that’s precisely what happened. The quality of the songs was irrelevant. I was toast.

To say that I was devastated was a bit of an understatement.  I had been summarily dropped by some major players in the music industry. So, as a result of that rejection, I dropped out of the evil empire of the music biz, utterly disillusioned.

However, by necessity, I soon reinvented myself as a successful club promoter and party organiser with hip, hit weekly one-night clubs like The Lift, Jungle, Bad, Babylon, Downbeat, Upbeat, Groove and many more throughout the eighties, along with organising parties for Prince, Madonna, Time Out and The Face magazines and more –  mostly with The Pure Organisation (of which I was I was a co-director), and many with just myself promoting them. Curiously, that’s what’s I’m best known for in London’s underground, cultural history of the late 20th century, it would appear.  I’m very proud of what I achieved in that zeitgeist, partlcularly for encouraging ‘gay-mixed’ (now known as polysexual) in my first club The Lift, which played streety black music in a fantastically evocative Soho club called The Gargoyle.  This was an art deco–meets -sixties strip club with really cool orange, 70s Scandinavian ‘love seat’s’ along with a mini- theatre (raked seats, a proscenium stage, loads of red velvet),  which was the scene of many ironically silly, improvised ‘tableaux‘.  There was also a fantastic chrome and brass art deco staircase linking the two floors.  The Gargoyle was also the launch-pad for many of the most iconic clubs of the 80s, including The Language Lab, The Dirt  Box, The Comedy Store,  The Mud Club and more. Those were the days.

That’s not to say I ever stopped writing and recording.  Just google me!  I have a huge body of work from the ensuing thirty-plus years, including several collaborations with the likes of DanMingo (big time – my little super-group, featuring members of Culture Club, Massive Attack and Hawkwind), Earthlab, Spirits Burning, Lady Sovereign, Joseph Junior, Gehan, Victoria Wilson James, Loretta Heyward, Shanks, Nik Turner, Hawklords, N-Won,  Zeus B Held, Dale Davis, Chris Kelly, Daniel Pearce, Mary Pearce, Melanie Browne, Joanna Yearwood,  and many more.

Thank you so much for listening.

Big-ups to Mike Pela for engineering and co-producing back in the day (and for re-discovering Treachery on his shelves); to all the fantastic musicians, named or not, who put their heart and soul into the sessions; to Jean-Raphael Dedieu who digitally remastered both albums and to Frenchy Groder of Flicknife, who had the confidence and belief to make this all happen.

And – of course there is life after death! You might just come back as a Metro-gnome!

Steve Swindells.

11 am. 11.11. 2011

* Update. 18. 8. 13.  Doug Morris, who personally signed me to ATCO records in NYC in 1979, is now the all-powerful President Of Sony Music.

* Update. 25.11.13.  Following a gig by  The Plastic Sturgeons, my all-star, ad-hoc jamming band, at the Brunswick in Brighton/Hove on 23.11.13, someone got in touch on Facebook to tell me he could solve the mystery of who the bass player on The Invisible Man was.  He was called Charlie Hamilton, and, sadly,  he’d recently passed away. I don’t know the back story.  At least I can now credit him for his excellent playing (and some backing vocals on ‘Outlaw’ as I recall).

You can listen to tracks from The Lost Albums here.  And here.

The Lost Albums are available on Flicknife Records.

Shifty Shades of Gay. By Steve Swindells.

17 Aug

Shifty Shades of Gay. By Steve Swindells..

via Shifty Shades of Gay. By Steve Swindells..

Shifty Shades of Gay. By Steve Swindells.

16 Aug

Shifty Shades Of Gay

By Steve Swindells


      Amongst the many tribes, creeds and nationalities of the so-called ‘black community’ – which is just as heterogeneous as the so-called ‘Gay Community’ – there exists a mysterious, cultural curiosity known as DL.

This is an acronym of Down-low, which is a term pertaining to masculine, black men who like to have sex with men, but who generally pretend to be straight  – especially to themselves.  They’re often in relationships, or even marriages, with unsuspecting women, who would probably never even imagine that their big, ‘butch’ blokes like cock and ass. After all, gay men are just a bunch of girly men, aren’t they?  And there’s no such thing as a gay, black man, right?

HAH!  What planet do you, or they, they live on?

There was an American TV series called ‘The DL Chronicles’, which I’ve never seen. I can only hope it’s better than that appallingly awful US show ‘Noah’s Arc’  which, unfortunately, I have seen a couple of episodes of.  It features a bunch of stereotypical, black queens swishing around and being…well… queens. A cringe-making, gay-blacksploitation embarrassment, as far as I’m concerned,


My favourite black, gay character on TV is definitely the handsome, masculine, wise and intelligent cop, played by Mathew St Patrick, who’s the boyfriend of the badly-behaved, gay son in the brilliant and much-lauded ‘Six Feet Under’. In the series, he’s most definitely not on the DL. What a great role-model for young, black men who think that they may be gay.


My good friend Monty has been homeless for a while and is sofa-surfing with friends and family in London.  He stays with me quite regularly and is mostly a total pleasure to spend time with – unless I happen to trigger his tumultuous temper, which has, unfortunately, happened on a couple of occasions, usually when we’ve had a few drinks, thereby triggering my equally tempestuous temper! Thankfully, these rare explosions end as swiftly as they begin, and we always end-up apologising to each other profusely and giving each other big, conciliatory hugs.

Monty is a thirty year-old, gay, multi-mixed-race (Lebanese/South African/Trinadian/Tunisian), black man who’s about to finish a course in massage therapy.  He’s planning to get a job working for one of the major cruise lines in the Caribbean – his tutor has already sent him to an informal ‘open-day’ interview with one of biggest tour operators, who informed her thereafter that they would definitely offer him a job, once he’s qualified, which he will be next month. Monty evidently charmed the pants off them, though not literally, of course. That might have qualified as a corporate-cruise orgy!

Monty is charming, articulate, complex, intelligent, funny, immaculately-dressed and extremely good-looking. And, in case you’re wondering: no, we haven’t and nor will we. He’s not my type – despite his looks – and I’m not his.  End of,  as the saying goes.

I’ve met Monty’s mother – we took her to GhettoFabulous, London’s biggest and best monthly, ‘urban’, polysexual (but mostly gay-black) club in South London.  It’s about the only club I go to these days.  Not only is the music – R&B, house and various variants of reggae –  fantastic, but the eye-candy count is usually around sixty percent – which is incredibly high – and Monty is certainly in the top-ten percent.  He’s as handsome as his mother is beautiful (she’s only forty-eight). She chatted to me as we smoked a joint (made with herbal tobacco, as I gave-up smoking many years ago) on the large, heated, ‘smoking terrace’, and explained that Monty was actually christened Montgomery, after her favourite actor, Montgomery Clift.

‘It’s a shame he turned-out to be so ugly,’ I quipped – Monty’s mum looked momentarily non-plussed – ‘but at least he’s got a sense of humour,  that’s why I call him Monty Python!’ Then she roared with laughter – a great big, throaty chuckle – and gave me a hearty high five… then slipped me an E, with a conspiratorial wink.  What a naughty mum!

Sometimes, Monty randomly shows me pictures of stunningly beautiful, masculine-looking, muscular, mostly mix-race guys, with their tops off, on his smart-phone.  He enjoys clocking my reaction (which is mostly jaw-dropping), I reckon.  At first, I assumed that they were perhaps porn stars and/or models (many of them are indeed the latter), but it soon transpires that they are either his ‘exes’; people that he’s recently met – or what us poofs refer to as fuck-buddies. He certainly is a magnet for beautiful, masculine men. Unfortunately, many of them are apparently on the DL.

A couple of months ago, when he started his Level Two course (he’s now on Level Three), he’d told me that there were several ‘hotties’ studying massage as well. One in particular had caught his eye – and, apparently, vice-versa:  ‘Apart from being stunning-looking, with an awesome, muscular physique,’ Monty had told me, ‘he’s black, but with huge BLUE eyes!’

“You’re kidding!’ I’d responded, ‘Are you sure they’re not tinted contact lenses?’

‘Deff not,’ said Monty, ‘he’s mixed-race:  Greek-African, and he’s called – are you ready? – Apollo. He makes sure that he sits beside me all the time in class and is always volunteering to massage me, and yesterday, he walked me to Baker Street Station, even though his station is Marylebone Overground. And, he also asked for my number.’

‘Hmm, ‘I said, stroking my goatee in an ironic fashion, ‘I suspect that your gaydar monitor is off the scale!’ Monty nodded and smiled; then I added: ‘Greek-African – that’s highly unusual – although, strangely enough, I had a boyfriend who boasted exactly the same exotic, mix-race parentage, in the 80s – he didn’t have blue eyes, but he rejoiced in the name Achilles, I kid you not, and I used to refer to him as a Bleek.’

‘I’ll bet he was a bit of a heel,’ quipped Monty, as his phone pinged, indicating that he’d received a text ‘but why Bleek?’

‘Black-Greek, of course, just like Blindian is Black-Indian,’ I said, then added, ‘I was with Achilles for over two years, but he wasn’t a heel per-se, perhaps more of  a high heel!

‘Duh… obvs! That’s brilliant, I’ll ask Apollo if anyone has ever referred to him as Bleek at college tomorrow,’ said Monty, chuckling, then suddenly gasped and pulled an exaggerated jaw-drop face, looked at me with a broad grin, handed me the phone and said:  ‘You are so not going to believe this – I wonder if you can guess who it is…’

I have to confess that my eyes popped out of my head as I clocked the photo of an incredibly beautiful, muscular body (the head was deliberately out-of-shot, a typical DL trait) – obviously taken in a gym – with an impressive hard-on poking into a strategically-placed, white towel, on which he’d scrawled with a large felt-tip pen: Go Obama!

Monty carried on grinning, as a psychic thought popped into my head: ‘OMG, it’s Bleek, the godlike Apollo, isn’t it?’

‘It sure as hell is,’ he replied, his head now shaking in an I don’t believe it fashion, ‘and he’s invited me over to his place in Hampstead on Friday!’

He then showed me a picture on his phone of yet another stunning and muscular (this time much-tattooed), mixed-race man who was posing topless with a combat rifle, wearing camouflage fatigues, in what looked suspiciously like Afganistan.

‘Bloody hell –  who the fuck’s this bloke, giving it loads?’ I asked, handing him back his phone, wondering if I might run out of exclamatory words or phrases – other than ‘Wow!’ – in reaction to this procession of beauties that were waltzing before my eyes like actors in an imagined play, featuring the most beautiful, masculine, black men in the known universe.

‘Oh, that’s Paolo,’ said Monty nonchalantly, now texting away again on his phone, ‘he’s a Blatino, with Brazilian parents’

A thought occurred to me that Brazil is one of the few genuinely multi-racial, ‘rainbow nations’ on this earth, along with South Africa, The US, Cuba, Canada (just) and The UK. Then I asked:  ‘And who might this stunning-looking man be to you?’

‘Oh, Paolo is, or was, a fuck buddy, he’s in the army and is also a model’ he said, tapping away on his phone from the chill zone in my living area; ‘but he lied to me.’

‘How so?’ I asked through the open door of my studio, where I was multi-tasking away, checking my emails and advancing various, creative endeavors. ‘So, that pic was taken in Afganistan – and how did he lie to you?’

‘Yes, he was in Helmand province for a six-month tour of duty – and he still has his fantastic legs.’

‘Dark,’ I commented drily, whilst uploading one of my latest mixes on Garage Band * subliminal commercial break alert* a cool collaboration with a soulfully talented Israeli girl called Hadas Balas, whom I’d met and jammed with – instant rapport – at a house-warming party for my new neighbour Doctor Clive – who has his own circus, as you do, and is also a real doctor – earlier this year *commercial ends*.

‘Quite,’ said Monty in his usual sprightly fashion, then continued: ’ Well, we’d been fucking for a while – and he really is a fantastic shag –  but he’s on the DL.  He’s not even out to his friends – even the army guys who he has sex with… and there are several – he’s shown me pics’.’

‘Damn…’ I said (inadvertently crashing my MAC by being impatient – and through having way too many windows and tabs open. Firefox is usually the main culprit), ‘that’s pathetic!’

‘It is a bit,’ said Monty, with a kind-of rueful disdain, then added:’ Anyways,  I kind of gave him an ultimatum.  Either he came out to his friends, colleagues and family, or he wasn’t gonna get any more of my ass!  So he promised me he’d start by telling his parents. I was pleased, and naively thought we might be heading into a genuine relationship as a result, especially as he’d finished with his long-term girlfriend, ostensibly to be with me.  But I was wrong.  On the night that he’d supposedly confessed all to his parents, in Surbiton, I was supposed to go over to his place in Kilburn, after his return. But he was suddenly unavailable.  When I texted him to ask why, he said that he was hanging out with his army mates and ‘chilling’.

‘That was somewhat insensitive.’ I suggested.

‘Indeed it was,’ agreed Monty; ‘he insisted, however, that he’d told his parents. But my instinct, however, told me otherwise.  So I went over to his place at One in the morning and banged on his door until he opened it – looking fabulous as ever in a pair of running shorts.  I dismissed all thoughts of lust, and, when we went inside, I accused him of lying just so that he could continue to have sex with me. He tried to deny it, but his eyes told me the truth, and I promptly left.’

‘That’s really sad,’ I said, as my MAC stuttered back into life, ‘that’s DL for you. Perhaps it should stand for damn lies. Looks like he wanted to have his cakes – and to eat them too!’

‘You know what I’m saying?’ Said Monty, slightly plaintively. His phone pinged again and his eyes widened as he read the text: ‘You’re not going to believe this…’

‘Paolo’s asked you to marry him?’ I suggested, jokingly.

‘Nope, but Apollo the Bleek has asked me over right now, says he’s got a bottle of voddy and some nice skunk. I’m gagging!’

‘Just as well you’ve got the day off tomorrow then.’ I said drily.

The next day, Monty rolled-in at around 2pm and slumped onto my chill-zone-come-guest-bed in the living area. ‘God! I’m hungover!’ He moaned, rolling his eyes.

‘So… what happened?’ I asked.

‘He got me really drunk and vaguely seduced me, in a clumsy sort of way, then laid-back and let me do all the work!

‘Typical behaviour of a DL!’ I said, before Monty promptly fell asleep.

A few days later, he came ‘round after college and exclaimed:’ The Bleek is, as of now, excommunicated!’

Why, what happened?’

‘All the guys were in the showers (the course took place in an up-market health club in Marylebone) after a work-out, and he made that typical oh-so-straight, alleged joke, you know:  be careful you don’t drop the soap in the shower guys! Everyone laughed, except me; I was furious with him.  It’s a matter of principal, you can’t be hypocritical like that, it makes me fuckin’ sick! ‘

‘Did you express your disgust in front of everyone?’ I asked.

‘Nearly… I had to bite my lip to stop myself, but nah, I told him when he tried to walk me to the station, and stated in no uncertain terms that I don’t live a lie, and I don’t wanna be friends with people who do, and walked off.’

‘Good on ya!’  I said, giving him a hug, then simply said: ‘respect!’

More recently, during his Level Three course, Monty reported a frisson of flirtation with a great big black hunk, a semi-pro rugby player called Mack, who was showing interest in being his ‘new best friend’. Monty told me that Mack was an awesome figure of a man, and that the gaydar needles were seemingly flickering on the dials as well. Or was he fooling himself?

The funny thing was that Bleek was also on the course – and was apparently watching Monty and Mack like a hawk.

‘Did you say ‘hi’ to Bleek?’ I asked Monty.

‘Yeah – of course,’ he replied, ‘But, I was just polite and kept my distance. Then Mack asked me to be his partner in a stretching session in the gym and… well, I do believe that there was a level of tumescence in his shorts.’

I laughed and said: ‘All hail the latest admirer!’

A few days later, we were having dinner (my new signature dish of  salmon fillets marinated in lemon, honey, coriander, soy sauce and sesame seeds then char-grilled with courgettes, red onion and baby corn) and Monty received a text. He turned to me with a serious jaw-drop look and passed me his phone. The pic’ was of a stunningly beautiful, black body – but with no head (no surprise there then).  The guy had a huge hard-on poking through a white towel in what was obviously a gym. ‘Is this history repeating itself,’ I asked Monty. ‘ who the fuck is it this time? Mack?’

‘You got it babe.’ Replied Monty, with his winning smile.

The next day, after college, Monty reported back to me that he’d informed (a no-doubt slightly shocked) Mack that he simply shouldn’t send pictures like that, as nothing was going to happen;  but that it was cool to be friends. Mack apparently took this in stride, was not freaked-out, and was even more indulgent towards Monty as the day carried on – with Bleek observing their every move. I suggested to Monty that this might be… well, perhaps less of a DL situation than usual. Was my sixth sense smelling a burgeoning relationship – or just willing it to happen?

Mack is totally Monty’s type. He loves those big, masculine, muscular guys, especially if they’re intelligent and happily gay… and not on the DL.

Steve Swindells © 2013.  All rights reserved

Another Entry In The Journal Of An Eternal Nocturnal. By Steve Swindells.

12 Aug

Another Entry In The Journal Of An Eternal Nocturnal.


(The stairwells – one already stripped of glass bricks – at the complex where I live) 

For the fourth day on the trot I was rudely awakened, at 8.30am, by a loud, motorised buzzing noise as a hydraulic platform rose to the top of the stairwell which is on the Northern-western side of the gated enclave where I live in a so-called ‘gritty area’  (although now no doubt ‘up and coming’, being so close to Notting Hill), in North West London. This was followed by several, deafening thuds from a sledgehammer.  A workman whooped as he threw the first of hundreds of dislodged glass bricks into a skip three stories below, with the inevitable, jarring crash of breaking glass.  Despite my annoyance and irritation at this intrusion, I couldn’t help inwardly smirking as I recalled an unusual, hit song by Nick Lowe from the late 70s called ‘I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass’, featuring that most excellent and radically ‘different’, jagged piano solo, played, I think, by Chaz Jankel of The Blockheads. Correct me if I’m wrong (I’ve googled it big-time, but have been unable to find the answer).

I grabbed some pathetically ineffective orange (why?), foam earplugs from the bedside table and, despite the morning heat of the first day of August, closed the window, hoping that the ineffective double-glazing of my New York loft-style apartment – in an apparently jerry-built complex – might help shut out this appalling, galling, teeth-gnashing intrusion into my hitherto sweet dreams.

This being the journal of an eternal nocturnal, I’d been trying – with the help of some prescribed Zolpiden sleeping pills (having been previously informed about ‘ the upcoming works’ in a ’round-robin’ to all twenty five apartments) to adjust my body-clock back to what many disapproving ‘normal’ people would describe as ‘conventional’ hours – that is, going to sleep around midnight, or soon after, and waking up at around 8am.  Hah! Dream on (as it were)!

I need lots of sleep because of my various illnesses (the main ones being chronic pancreatitis and emphysema), but – being an artistic polymath – there’s nothing I like more than dancing with my muses, when most of the world around me is asleep, and the spirits are buzzing like cicadas around a secluded, funky beach house in some imagined sub-tropical paradise – with no neighbours to complain about the noise.


The complex where I live was seemingly jerry-built about twelve years ago, as all the huge, external, steel frames and double, glass brick-clad stairwells of this U-shaped building (which acts as a natural amplifier of sound – any sound – like a residential, whispering gallery) are covered in rust.  Major rust – not just little blemishes. This signifies, as my landlord explained when I moved-in just over four years ago  (although the flat itself is my current apogee regarding my dream-home), that the company which constructed the building had obviously used cheap steel to save money and, that there was an ongoing, insurance claim taking place.


(My kitchen-dining area)

This was only recently settled – hence my peace now being disturbed – and it transpires that both stairwells are apparently going to be totally rebuilt and the work is scheduled to take TEN bloody weeks. Nightmare. Teeth-gnashing, angle-grinder hell to follow, no doubt. I have a horrible feeling that I’m about to morph into Dustin Hoffman being cruelly, dentally tortured by Lawrence Olivier in the film Marathon Man – for TEN, agonising weeks.

Xxxxxxxinnnnnnnnngggggggg arrrrrrgh!

Then there’s  also the sound of drilling and banging and crashing emanating from the flat next door, through the thin, breeze-block wall behind my bed- head.  This is because another apparent corner-cutting aspect of the construction of these otherwise fabulous, spacious, apartments, with their high ceilings, etched-glass panels and industrial detailing, is that the walls separating each flat are only one block thick! This means that if there are any noisy sexual antics taking place on either side, then all parties can hear every grunt and gasp, or screams and wails.


(My living area)

So, with the ridiculous orange earplugs stuffed in my ears, I tried to grab maybe another hour of sleep. It didn’t work. The earplugs fell out (I’m a ‘tosser and a turner’, especially when aurally disturbed), and simply couldn’t go back to sleep because of all the noise around me.  Was this a karmic punishment for some vile crime that I’d committed in a past life? Could I have been Hitler, Dracula, Attila The Hun, or other evil villains in history – or just just some badly-behaved, low-life scoundrel?  Answers on a psychic postcard from beyond the grave please.

I threw on my favourite pair of Nike, pale-green swimming shorts – this meant that I would be going swimming in them later –  a nice, refreshing thought – took my wake-up handful of meds washed down with effervescent vitamin C; inhaled twice from my steroid inhaler (two in the morning, two after dinner); fed almighty JJ the God-cat (he must have Egyptian roots); then fired-up my MAC PRO (about ten years old and slightly knackered – but still somehow, mostly rocking) and checked my emails.

Glad to be reminded that my connections have passed well-over a thousand people (many of them seriously influential) and that I was in the top 5% of profiles viewed last year.

Before you jump down my throat with any figurative, judgmental disapproval about my braggocio; may I simply inform you (not justifying anything – I NEED this kind of feedback) that I am a songwriter who’s had much artistic and critical acclaim, but who has hardly ever made money out of this all-or-nothing career (despite covers from Roger Daltrey – he’s done four –  Lulu and Hawkwind – how’s that for eclectic?). So, therefore I’m suffering under the possible illusion that online, social networking might help lead me to finally attaining some sort of ‘hit’ (via a cover version – I’m way too old) or enjoying having a big song in a hit movie. My songs tend be evocative and cinematic. Wide-screen. So, the latter is perhaps more probable.

I am sixty, after all.  But I write songs right across the board, even R&B (are you shocked, maybe because I’m white? Why?).  I am not hidebound by homogeny. Having said that, I suppose that my most successful song to date is ‘Shot Down In The Night’, from 1980, and I’m very proud of it. Did you know that there’s an excellent, brand new CGI video of my original version of the song (as opposed to Hawkwind’s cover version), which was created by the very talented Phil Gornal, on You Tube?

Talking of moving pictures, a few months ago, an American guy called Damon White inboxed me on Facebook and explained that he had written, and was also directing, a film called Holy Galileo, which he explained had been inspired to an extent by The Who singer Roger Daltrey’s cover version of my song ‘Martyrs And Madmen’, which was released in 1982 (along with my song ‘Treachery’, that were the two ‘bonus’ tracks on Daltrey’s compilation album ‘Best Bits’. The two songs also made it onto his ‘One Of The Boys’ compilation, when it was reissued in 2006).

Damon then added that he had been unaware of my original, 1980 recording until I’d recently added it to my soundcloud and ‘shared’ this on FB and Twitter. The remastered track was taken from my double CD The Lost Albums, which was released in 2012 on Flicknife Records. Damon stated that, having suddenly discovered it, he really liked my original version, and wondered if it would be possible to use it in ‘Holy Galileo’, which he was shooting in Texas, Pisa, Florence and LA.  He also suggested that he’d like to interview me on-camera when he visited London in the fall, to capture my back-story about how the song came about and why the follow-up albums to my 1980 release Fresh Blood (now available on CD and iTunes folks!) were never released: for the documentary about the making of the movie.

I replied that, in principal, that would be fine, providing that we could sort out a mutually acceptable deal regarding him using the song in the film, and assured him that I could guarantee ‘fast clearance’, as I now owned 100% of the publishing.

This helps to explain why, as an artist, I tend to put so much faith in social media. How would Damon have come across my original version of the song (as sung by Daltrey), which helped inspire his script, if it weren’t for FB (Facebook)?  How would I have collaborated with Jay Tausig in the US, and Pigs Of Oblivion in Canada were it not for FB?  Many fresh opportunities are also arising through Linkedin.

As I continued my inadvertently early (thanks to the destruction of glass bricks), bleary-eyed, morning routine, I noted that I had 58 emails – mostly from peeps posting on Mixcloud (block-up my inbox, why don’t you?), along with notifications, messages and requests from my large number of friends on Facebook, including Damon White.

Being in Pilot (’76) and Hawkwind/Hawklords (’78) then getting my second major, solo record deal with Atco/WEA (Warner Music) in ’79 (I was signed in person by Doug Morris, who is now the all-powerful president of Sony Music), makes me wonder why good, even great, songs should not prevail in this corrupt and corrupted thing which we still refer to as ‘the music industry’.

All you need is one big CHART hit and then you’re set-up for life.  Not me though.  Still wishing and… hoping (as the great Dusty Springfield once sang).

Back in the real world…

Read/answered all my emails. Played with my Words With Friends ‘opponents’, then also online Scrabble; (English vocabulary being my chosen field, starting at level 21); followed by Cryptoquote and Multipopword to wake up my brain – as is my wont – whilst drinking endless cups of black, minty tea (from a teapot, of course… I am British, after all).

I then checked my editing and proof-reading of Chapter Two of ‘Mitty In India’, the second volume of my mother’s most excellent historical trilogy (I’ve already edited the first – ‘Mitty’s Letter’ – which you can read chapter-by-chapter as a blog here.

Re-read the lyrics of ‘Damage Limitation’, my new transatlantic collaboration with Ralf Lenz, of Pigs Of Oblivion.  What a wonderfully daft band name. I’m hoping to sing all the vocal parts in my digital, home studio tomorrow afternoon.  The track is rocking. My lyrics are about an evil PR company called Cosmo Nought that exists only in space and is therefore beyond jurisdiction.  Have I now invented vaguely poetic, political space rock?

Carried-on proof-reading Chapter 11 (will it be the final chapter?) of my good friend Thom Topham’s multimedia autoBLOGography ‘My Unplanned Obsolescence. In this, he’s been taken to New York City for the first time by an Italian Count in the fall of 1979, and he lands a major record deal within three days, leading to the 1980 album ‘Torn Genes’.  Thom is going to feature my 2010 remix of the title track in this chapter, he tells me.

This must have been the hottest day of the year so far. I put a clean towel, T-shirt and underpants into my new, Adidas knapsack (Argos – £17.99) and got lucky with the immediate arrival of the 206 bus, which stops right outside my home, and headed for Willesden Sports Centre.  Ten Minutes.


(A random shot – nice back eh? –  taken on my mobile phone outside the sports centre that day)

I didn’t need socks because I was wearing ten year-old, velcro-fastened-open-toed sandals that I bought in a shopping centre in Bangkok in 2003 for £3. ‘Woolfies’, as  X , my ex-best-friend, had dubbed them, having insisted that I was evidently a German paedophile. Silly man. I miss him so much.  But the ‘Wolfies’ are still going strong after ten years – unlike our previously, rocket-fuelled friendship, which he decided to end in 2009. Only he knows why: Cue sad shrug.  I sincerely hope that all is well with him and his lovely dad. I wish that he misses me too.

Free bus ride (thanks to my over-sixty-Oyster-photo-pass card – or whatever it’s called).  Free swimming (also thanks to being 60).

I headed for the male changing room, which was deserted apart from a grossly obese, hairy white man who was scrubbing his pubic area with long-handled brushes in the shower (obsessive or what?) and then took a shower myself, wondering why there are no sinks where you might shave, for instance, or something as obvious as drinking fountains. I guess the sports centre hopes to boost their meagre, municipal budget by selling mineral water from vending machines?

The faintly homoerotic smell of a male changing room – fresh sweat and socks – tripped my mind back to when I was a six year-old and used to go to the municipal swimming baths in, yes – Bath (the city) – most Saturdays.  I usually went with my older brother Rob and sometimes on my own.  Kids, it seems, were far less supervised in the oh-so-innocent, late 50s.

Audrey, my mother, had walked-out on the father of us three boys (I am the second), when I was five, in Handsworth Park in Birmingham, and had somewhat reluctantly, having no other viable option,  taken us all to live with her parents –  who lived their lives in some kind of eternal 1930s,  Ivor Novello fantasy-land – in a spacious, three-bedroomed, third floor flat overlooking the Roman Baths, opposite a Chinese laundry, in Swallow Street, a narrow thoroughfare of tall, mostly warehouse-type buildings, in this beautiful city.

The laundry’s chimney constantly pumped-out strange-smelling – but not unpleasant – steam.  My olfactory recall is one of cleanliness, but also a certain pungency. My aural recall is of  my mother and my grandmother having endless, screaming rows.

Many years later, my mother and my stepfather Harold (whom she married about a year after our arrival in Bath) had ‘gone halves’ with Nana – who lived to receive the famous, signed card from The Queen when she passed her centenary (although these days you have to request it) – and GP, as our Grandpa was dubbed, to buy a capacious, ground floor flat in a classic Georgian house overlooking Victoria Park in Bath, as GP, who’d been a heavy smoker of ‘roll-ups’,  was having difficulties with all the stairs leading up to the flat in Swallow Street, which they’d rented for years.  My parents and grandparents had inherited £3000 each, after the death of an elderly, female relative in Bournmouth: this was a large deposit at the time.  My brother Rob, having recently passed his driving test, got the ancient Austin 7 (therein lie many more exuberant teenaged tales – and this vintage car didn’t even have a clutch!).

After Nana died, my parents sold this centrally-located flat for a tidy sum.

This triggers another, more recent flashback.  I was on tour with The Hawklords in 2011 – it was very heavy going for me because of my health issues – and I used to share hotel (well, Travel Lodge) rooms with Ron Tree, the singer.  He’s from the Bath area, and is now living in the boho, arty town of Frome.  I was reminiscing with him one night, as we drank red wine after a gig, about how fate had brought me to Bath at the age of five and told him about my grandparents’ flat in Bath, opposite the Chinese laundry and over-looking the Roman Baths. His eyes nearly popped out of his head as he said: ‘You’ll never guess who squatted in that flat for a few years, back in the day…’

‘You’re right, I said, I won’t.’

Well, it was me and a bunch of n’er-do-wells!’  Exclaimed Ron gleefully.

‘No! Coincidence or what? You really couldn’t make that up!’ I responded.

The municipal swimming baths in Bath were a short walk away, through elegant and visually-pleasing streets.  I can distinctly remember admiring naked men in the changing rooms and finding them – well, some of them – attractive.  Mostly the olive-skinned, brown-eyed, masculine and athletic-looking ones. My eyes were also drawn to their dicks (mind you, all men’s eyes always are, it’s only natural) and some kind of inner voice stated:   ‘You seem to like men’.  I just knew, even at that tender age (but only confirmed it to myself, as it were, when I was a pupil at The Bristol Cathedral School, aged fourteen, as I was now regularly having sex, of sorts, with school-friends and so forth. And girls.  I was never short of admirers).

One man in particular – he rather resembled a young Sean Connery – used to encourage me to hitch a ride in the water on his muscular back, and seemed to enjoy my vague, boyish attempts at humping his pert, round, muscular bottom, as we did laps. I was a little… fucker! Looks like my preference was almost pre-determined. But I wasn’t abused per se at the pool… only on paper.

I enjoyed it – there was no trauma.  It was almost as if was in control of the situation.  Never under-estimate the power of precocious young boys who know in their hearts and souls that they’re ‘gay’ (in my case, way before the word was brought into general use in the late 70s).

After our saturday swims, me and my brother Rob would invariably head to Evan’s, a large fish and chip shop just off Abbey Green, around the corner from Nana and GP’s flat. We used to have chips, served ‘open’, in newspaper, and always asked for free ‘scrumps’, the crunchy bubbles of batter that had been left in the fat-drainers after the fish had been served. Freshly fried, hand-cut chips (and scrumps) always tasted doubly delicious after swimming, with salt, malt vinegar and tomato ketchup, when your skin tingled and you felt pleasingly hungry.

When fate decided many years later that my younger brother Frank would find himself living in a double-aspect, second-floor flat overlooking Evan’s chip shop on one side (Abbey Green was on the other) about twelve years ago, it was still there.

Sometimes we would be treated to a proper, ice-cream milkshake at Hand’s Dairy (which was also still going the last time I looked – maybe it still is), opposite the Abbey Churchyard, which was utter heaven for us kids.  ‘Yum yum, pig’s bum!’ we used to chorus before noisily sucking the utterly delicious, creamy concoction through straws; then giggling as we reluctantly reached the bottom of the glasses and enjoyed deliberately exaggerating the loud, gurgling noises that we made sucking up the foamy dregs.  My favourite flavour was strawberry.

There used to be a tiny antique/curio shop, with a bow window, in the pedestrian street to the side of Hand’s Dairy, which led into Abbey Green. I used to gaze longingly at a large, red crystal bauble which was in the centre of its window, which was displayed in an ivory-coloured, silk-lined case (I’d decided that it was definitely magical), and eventually saved up enough of my pocket money to buy it. It was all very Dickensian: maybe it was even called The Old Curiosity Shop.  I do believe it might still be there.

As I disrobed in the bland changing room at the Sports Centre, I noticed a few, small, blue-ish-yellow bruises around my arms. Where the fuck did those come from, I wondered. Then I recalled that last Friday, after I’d invited six people – all immediate neighbours – over to dinner (emphatically NOT a dinner party, what a horribly bourgeois concept, but we had a wonderful night – I’d served my own-recipe, deluxe Shepherd’s Pie Provencal) – that way too much red wine had evidently over-reacted with my various medications and that I must have fallen over or something, after everyone had left.

The next day, I was surprised to find that what I’d dubbed the ‘Madmen (the cult TV show set in an advertising agency in New York in the 60s) tribute, 60s coffee table’ which I’d found in the street in Willesden Green in 2006 was smashed and my beloved Mathmos, rocket lava lamp was broken. No memories. Just bruises.


(My dinner guests, having ‘a fag break’ outside the flat next door)

This was not good. Luckily, I have another, fabulous retro-modern table – German, branded underneath as from 1960 – which I’d picked-up in a charity shop in West Hampstead in 2006, for £25. It has a black glass top, which is etched with thin strings of electric yellow and blue and is inset with tiny, jewel-like, iridescent rectangles of Nacre (more commonly known as mother-of-pearl).


(my ‘Madmen’ tribute table, mark two)

As I headed for the pool from the changing room, a squealing cacophony assailed my ears.  Just what I need, I thought, after my unwanted, wake-up call of sledgehammers and broken glass.

The main area of the pool appeared to be packed-full of scores of very noisy little tadpoles – mostly black, but some brown and white, all squirming and splashing about and squealing.

There were two lanes for swimmers, such as myself, who wished to do laps. Medium and fast.  Clockwise and anti-clockwise.  All the ‘lane swimmers’ were, for some unknown reason, doing the opposite (had they recently arrived from Rumania or Latvia perchance?).

I clocked all my fave bodyguards and swimming teachers. There are at least four guys who work at the sports centre who tick my various boxes. It’s encouraging to have some eye-candy to spur-on your physical efforts, I always say, although I can only see fuzzy beauty without my glasses.  I was vainly hoping that they might have been impressed by my backwards froggy-swim, which is quite original.  I swim like a frog… on its back.  But I don’t, or won’t, croak. Yet.

Then I always do a breast stoke for the next length, trying to remember to do that seemingly unnecessary dip-your-face-in-the-water-then–breathe-when-you-resurface thing.  What’s that all about?

I’d swum ten lengths, and was sitting on the edge of the pool, thinking of leaving, when a beautiful black man, perhaps about twenty five years-old, swam towards me, then touched the pool’s edge beneath me, breathing heavily with evident triumph (perhaps he’d beaten his own record?), then smiled at me with warmth and… something.

Obviously, I grinned back at him, and he returned my grin.

You may have gathered, by now, that I’m mostly attracted to black, or mixed-race men.  Don’t ask me why. It just evolved organically after I opened my first successful, polysexual-but-mostly gay, one-nighter The Lift, at the deservedly legendary Gargoyle Club in London’s Soho, in 1982. The music we played every Thursday night in this wonderfully wacky space (art deco-meets-60s) on the top two floors of a building on the corner of Dean and Meard streets, was a heady mixture of seriously streety black music (mostly American) and English Electro.  The Lift was an instant hit and ran successfully for about five years in various venues, after The Gargoyle sadly closed down in 1983, despite the efforts of the various promoters (myself, The Mudd Club, The Language Lab, The Bat Cave etc) who ran nights there, tried unsuccessfully to raise the money  – which was, as I recall, £75K – to buy the lease.

I swam another two lengths, perhaps in honour of the black swimmer’s fineness, noted that he’d disappeared, then headed back to the Spartan, pale-blue-tiled, male changing room, which was deserted, as ever (most people use the cubicles in the so-called ‘changing village’); then showered, dried-off, got dressed and wandered back home in the hot sunshine, feeling energized and refreshed, wondering what fate might have in store for me next time at the sports centre; now that I’ve vowed to go at least twice a week.

As I headed home, I was musing about surreptitiously putting a print-out over the new ‘do not enter’ signs on the three floors of the  North-western stairwell.


It would have read: ‘People who live in stone houses should not throw glass (bricks)’.

But, wishing to preserve the peace (if not ‘my peaceful sleep’), I reluctantly decided against it.

© Steve Swindells. 2013.  All rights reserved.

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