troubled diva  

My freelance writing can now be found at
Recently: VV Brown, Alabama 3, Just Jack, Phantom Band, Frankmusik, Twilight Sad, Slaid Cleaves, Alesha Dixon, Bellowhead, The Unthanks, Dizzee Rascal.

On Thursday September 17th, I danced on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.
Click here to watch, and here to listen.

Friday, October 07, 2005

There's no proper posting today, as I've taken the day off work in order to loll around on the couch feeling sorry for myself, and alternately coughing (it's at the dry and chesty death-rattle stage), sneezing (with wall-shaking violence) and passing wind (at ear-splitting volume). Three weeks in, and this never-ending cold of mine appears to be reaching some sort of crescendo slash denouement slash catharsis, depending on which European language you feel like appropriating.

Luckily, I have something which I prepared earlier: the third and final Trash Boudoir mix of 1980s gay disco. Once again, this is pitched at a faster BPM range than its predecessor - and once again, it's even more "specialist" in genre - but for my money, it's also the most musically satisfying. (I'm particularly pleased with the mixing.) The mix concludes with possibly my two favourite Hi-NRG tracks of all time - and listen out for the cheeky sound sample which I've incorporated into one of them.

The next time I do a podcast, it should revert to the usual blend of speech and eclectic music. But first, I need a fully functional set of vocal chords. In the meantime, this mix should set you nicely up for the weekend. Have fun! No, you run along, I'll be fine! I've got my Benilyn and my blanket!

(P.S. Because I promised: Kinky Boots. A perfectly servicable feelgood Brit-flick light comedy, which drops plenty of entertaining moments amongst the standard plot trajectories and stock character manipulations. Best watched with a bunch of friends in a convivial mood, it won't exactly have you on the edge of your seat, but it should have you leaving the cinema with a suitably warm glow of bonhomie. Particularly if you have a predilection for boots, trannies, cabaret shows, stout-hearted working folk rallying round in a crisis, and the fair city of Northampton. Six and a half out of ten, then.)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Format firsts. (1)

First 7" single (bought for me):
Knock Knock Who's There? - Mary Hopkin (1970)

Ah, who could forget the two-way diva-meets-diva Bitch Fest of the 1970 Eurovision Song Contest, as Opportunity Knocks winner and Beatles protegé Mary Hopkin was pitted against that lilting colleen from across the Irish Sea, Dana Provincial?

I was already a fan of La Hopkin, having seen her and Tommy Steele in panto at the London Palladium, where we all sang along to her big hit, Those Were The Days, as well as Steele's "Junior Choice" favourite, Little White Bull. And I was already a fan of Eurovision, having watched Cliff Richard being pipped at the post by Spain in 1968, back when the contest was screened before my bedtime. This time round, as with Lulu in 1969, I wasn't allowed to stay up late, and so relied on my grandmother's account of the evening. She had been most unimpressed with Lulu's allegedly scruffy demeanour ("Straight off the plane! The silly girl had no time to comb her hair!"), but was charmed by Mary - and Dana - in 1970. So much so, that she bought us copies of both their singles.

As my sister's kindergarten class had been singing it at school (something which I considered terribly daring and modern), she was given Dana's winning song All Kinds Of Everything, with the equally lilting Channel Breeze on the flip. Meanwhile, because I had been following the weekly Song For Europe qualifying contest so avidly, I was given Mary Hopkin's single, on the Beatles' Apple label - backed with the runner-up song, the even more jaunty I'm Going To Fall In Love Again (The Very Next Chance I Get).

There had been singles in our house before - the earliest being The Beatles' She Loves You, which I regard as Side One, Track One of my entire life - but, aside from kids' records (Johnny Morris from TV's Animal Magic telling the story of Lorenzo The Llama; Vivien Leigh - yes, that one - reciting Beatrix Potter's Tale Of The Flopsy Bunnies), Knock Knock was the first one that was actually, officially mine. A lifelong interest in Eurovision (apart from a few years when it went a bit crap in the 1980s) was born.

Looking at the lyrics now, my twisted 21st century brain can't help wondering whether there hadn't been a risqué subtext to this seemingly harmless ditty all along. Check this out:
Climb the stair, and then I say a prayer
For someone who could share my situation,
But instead, as I lay down my head,
I have to leave it all to my imagination...

Knock knock, who's there?
Could this be love that's calling?
The door is always open wide.

Knock knock, who's there?
Now as the night is falling,
Take off your coat and come inside.
Hands where we can see them please Mary, there's a good girl. OK, so it's no Sugar Walls - but, you know, slippery slope.

No such trouble for Dana the country girl, so pure and sheltered that she even lacked the descriptive language to articulate her innermost desires. ("Dances! Romances! T'ings of der Noight!") Next to such innocence, the following year's UK entry from Clodagh Rodgers, Jack In The Box ("I'm going to bounce up and down on my spring!") looked positively debauched. How far we have come, ladies and gentlemen. How far we have come.


Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I'm bored. Let's chat.

I'll be hanging out in the comments box attached to this post, from now until I say otherwise. Any subject. Any subject at all. Go!

Update: Subjects covered so far include:
  • Bouncy castles in Gran Canaria.
  • The goddess-like genius that is Miss Rachel "pop's last hope" Stevens.
  • The perceived neatness of my desk.
  • The pros and cons of non-monogamous relationships.
  • Spice Girls dog-chews.
  • The "adult" charms of Dita Van Teese.
  • Kate "about bloody time and all" Bush.
  • What Mike and Mish are wearing today.
  • The eternal "Which Alan Is Which?" conundrum.
  • What's on at the flicks.
  • That Bob Dylan documentary.
  • What I had for me tea.
Keep 'em coming! This is better than actual blogging!

Eyup, Reluctant Nomad has discovered meme "tagging".

Oh, bless those darling little newbies! My dear friend Alan - not knowing that I am far too important and influential a blogger to be bothered with such trifles - has decided to "tag" me with a meme thingy. To wit: he wants me to post a picture of my computer, and its immediate milieu.

Since it would appear to be Meme Week on Diva, and since I would hate to disoblige a friend (a real-life meatspace friend at that, not one of your namby-pamby Met You Once At A Blogmeet And Now We're Like Sisters constructs), and since I'm still trying to will my blogging mojo back into life by any means at my disposal... is an exhaustively annotated picture of the very place where a significant proportion of Troubled Diva is created, as snapped after I got home from work yesterday evening. (The annotations represent an attempt at Adding Value to what might otherwise be a deeply dull post. I do try and go the extra mile.)

1. Lovely Dell computer, as ordered online about 18 months ago. Easy to order, good on price, prompt delivery, doddle to install, no subsequent problems, happy customer, recommend them to anybody. K insisted that we splash out on the flat-screen monitor, and I'm glad he did; it's vastly easier on the eye. (It's also much better at displaying nice, bright, cheerful versions of my digital photos - unlike the machine I'm currently using, which has seen fit to render the above image in several shades of sludge. For optimum viewing results, please come round to my house and look at them on my computer etc etc.)

2. Not so lovely Dell printer/scanner/copier/fax - as ordered at the same time as the PC, in total ignorance of the Great Dell Ink Cartridge Scam. (Basically, no other makes of ink cartridge are compatible, so you have to keep ordering from Dell, at a hideously inflated price. Avoid avoid avoid.)

3. This is the very microphone which I use to record the Troubled Diva podcasts!

4. Brand new so-called "digital" phone, which K picked up at reduced price from Dixons on Monday. I know, I know. I wanted to warn him, but I was in a bit of a hyper-critical mood on Sunday (nasty touch of flu), and didn't dare venture yet another negative opinion. So we're currently lumbered with this absolute piece of shit: terrible reproduction quality, which makes it sound like you're speaking from a padded cell, at the bottom of a well, while someone does the hoovering in the background. Digital my arse.

5. Horrible unaesthetic chair, reduced to clear in Office World about 6 or 7 years ago. Unergonomic in design, and it squeaks every time that you so much as twitch. Plus it's grey, and so clashes with the entire room (and indeed the entire house).

6. Spare chair, for those Darling Let's Surf The Web Together moments. (Consquently covered with random bits of paper for 90% of the time.) This was relegated from the sitting room, once its combination of wicker and curvy metal began to scream Early 1990s.

7. Jumbo spindle of blank CDs, ready for burning. If I've done you a CD in the last few months, then it will have been peeled off this spindle.

8. Sturdy beech-effect IKEA desk. (Yes, we do occasionally give house room to IKEA products. They're particularly good on office stuff.) The drawers contain 95% crap which didn't have a home elsewhere; I only ever open them to retrieve the digital camera, which lives in the middle drawer.

9. Exciting M15-approved electronic paper shredder, as purchased by K while he was still working from home. Because you can't be too careful. (We've had someone go through our wheelie bin on a couple of occasions. Or maybe it was the local fox. Yes, the Park Estate has its own fox. It's a wonder the residents have never taken up hunting. After all, it's not as if they ever pass up a chance to be faux-gentry.)

10. Waste paper bin, which our cleaner never empties because it has scary modern technical stuff in it like discarded CDs, and she doesn't like to tangle with such matters. Oh God, I'm blogging about our cleaner. Take me out and shoot me, before I morph into Polly Filler.

11. Terracotta mug, bought from IKEA in 1992 when we moved into the house, containing a freshly brewed cup of Twinings English Breakfast. Note the sad lack of Troubled Diva merchandising in the mug arena (and indeed in the mousemat arena). Because, believe it or not, I don't actually own any of my own merchandise. Well, it seems a little masturbatory, don't you think?

12. Painting, by Alicia Dubnyckyj, of the Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. Let's look at it properly, shall we?

Bought (and blogged) in January 2003, this painting took on an added level of interest a year later, when the chapel in question was used by Britney Spears for her Whoops I'd Had A Few Too Many 24-hour marriage to "childhood sweetheart" Jason Alexander. Perhaps they have a commemorative plaque there now.

13. A bunch of recently digitised CDs. (The CD burner is out of sight, behind the nasty grey chair.) Top of the pile: a CDR of Jet Propelled Photographs by Daevid Allen's University Of Errors, as copied by my mate Stereoboard, and consisting of latter-day space-prog covers of extremely early Soft Machine tunes. Yes, it's a bit Niche even by my standards.

14. It's very untidy of me to leave it lying around like that, but the iPod to USB connection cable is used so frequently, that there's scarcely any point in tidying it away. Everyone's allowed one area of the house where they can be a total slob, right?

15. The only bookshelves in the house, which run from floor to ceiling in this handily placed alcove. Unlike with music, we're not great hoarders of books, unless they're hardbacks or contain pretty pictures. Read 'em, pass 'em on, or bung 'em in a box for the charity shop. Anyway, just visible in this shot are: In The Fascist Bathroom by Greil Marcus, an original 1950's collection of Ronald Searle's St Trinians cartoons, and a large number of signed and dedicated first editions of Dymbel's Young Adult Fiction paperbacks.

Any further questions? And shall I "tag" someone this time round?

Yes, I shall. Peter, you're It. Show us yer workings!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Lazy-ass music meme.

Cheaper and quicker than cognitive behavioural therapy: just stick your MP3 player on shuffle, and let it answer the following set questions, oracle style.

1. What do you think of me, Random Music Player?
Emily Snow - M. Craft.

I'm not sure how this got onto my iPod, but it turns out to be a wistful, mournful, slightly twee acoustic ditty concerning the impermanence of human relations.

"Where do we go, now all the late night bars have closed, and our friends have turned to shadows? People come and people go... blink of an eye... we're all gonna die... so what are we waiting for tomorrow?"

Well gee, THIS is working. THANKS for that, iPod! Is there any point in continuing with this? Or with anything? Anything at all?

Also, I don't take awfully kindly to being called Emily Snow. It makes me sound like some sort of coke-sniffing spinster, and I refute the comparison utterly.

Or perhaps this is some sort of "confrontational" therapy, deliberately designed to challenge and provoke? We shall see.

2. Will I have a happy life?
Six Days - DJ Shadow.

So does that mean that I can only expect six days of happiness in the rest of my miserable life, or that I've only got six days left on this benighted planet? F***ing hell, enough with the doom and gloom already! Where are we going with this?

"You could be sitting taking lunch, the news will hit you like a punch, it's only Tuesday... tomorrow never comes until it's too late."

This is one miserable dirge. I scarcely dare continue.

3. What do my friends really think of me?
Childrens World - Maceo Parker.

Good grief, this sounds even more mournful and tragic than the DJ Shadow track, as a lone sax picks out a ragged, forlorn solo over softly descending organ chords and understated, bluesy guitar chops. For, like, over ten minutes. Maceo Parker is best known for his sizzling, ecstatically funky work with James Brown's band... so what happened here?

I have visions of my friends all standing round and shaking their heads in sorrow, in a kind of what-went-wrong way. "He could have been someone... if only... he never really grew up though, did he..."

Towards the end, things reach a kind of frenzied crescendo of agonised wailing, with multiple horn solos all kicking off and singing their own disconnected songs of individual pain. Was it something I said?

4. What does my Significant Other think of me?
Od Yeshoma - Oi Va Voi.

Jeez, more lush downtempo lugubriousness. What's UP with this iPod today? Where's the DISCO, fer chrissakes?

Whatever it is that K thinks of me, he has chosen to express it in the form of a traditional Hebrew prayer. Well, we do pride ourselves on never doing Obvious and Slushy. Ah, here's a translation.

"Still will be heard in the mountains of Judas, and in the streets of Jerusalem. A voice of laughter and a voice of joy, A voice of a groom and a voice of a bride."

Well, I suppose that's vaguely cheering, if a little obtuse. Or maybe he's planning to elope with a nice Jewish girl, leaving me standing at the altar registrar's table, sweating in my nice Paul Smith suit, nosegay already wilting in my clenched fist?

Moving swiftly on...

5. Do people secretly lust after me?
Yesterday - Matt Munro.

"Suddenly, I'm not half the man I used to be..." I swear I'm not making these up. Still, that would explain the lack of shitty sticks down NG1 last Friday.

6. How can I make myself happy?
We've Only Just Begun - The Carpenters.

"So many roads to choose. We start off walking and learn to run."

Following many months of referrals, screenings and false starts, my first proper CBT session took place yesterday evening. Mountains to climb, streams to ford, etc etc. Nuff said.

"Talking it over, just the two of us. Working together, day to day."

Someone inside that infernal machine is HAVING A LARF.

7. What should I do with my life?
A Rose Is Still A Rose - Aretha Franklin.

"Baby girl, you're still a flower... darling, you hold the power." This is WAY too Zen for a prosaic soul like me. Give me simple messages, dammit! And enough with the camp over-familiarities - a little professional distance would be appreciated, thank you.

8. Why must life be so full of pain?
Call Me - Feminnem.

"There were times when I really doubted, if after stormy weather always comes the sun. But now I can see the world from a different side, yeah..."

At last! It's sunny, it's bouncy, it's breezy, it's lively: it's this year's Eurovision entry from plucky little Bosnia & Herzegovina, sent to banish all sadness and fill my heart with gladness. For when a Eurovision song is playing, then nothing bad can happen to y...

"Fifty candles on the party cakes, for many years of happiness."

Oh, just f**k off and DIE. I'M FORTY-THREE!

9. How can I maximize my pleasure during sex?
When Poets Dreamed Of Angels - David Sylvian.

"She rises early from bed, runs to the mirror, the bruises inflicted in moments of fury. He kneels beside her once more, whispers a promise: next time Iíll break every bone in your body."

OK, now you're just scaring me. May I see your certificate?

10. Can you give me some advice?
Every Party Has A Winner And A Loser - Erlend ōye.

Save your platitudes for Blackpool, pal. Do I even look like David Cameron? (Who was described by Rory Bremner on this morning's Today programme as a political iPod, curiously enough.)

11. What do you think happiness is?
Doop - Doop.

Now we're singing from the same hymn sheet. Happiness is... an instrumental novelty number. Indeedy-doody-doo!

12. Do you have any advice to give over the next few hours/days?
Peach Trees - Rufus Wainwright.

"And I really do wish you were here next to me, cos I'm going to see James Dean. There I will be, under the peach trees with him."

This must be some sort of tit-for-tat reprisal for the nice Jewish girl. Frankly, I think I've got the better deal.

13. Will I die happy?
Small Song - Lhasa De Sela.

"I made a small small song. I sang it all night long, all through the wind and rain, until the morning came. This song is my small song. I sang it all night long, and when the morning came, I had to start all over again. My song is so so small, I could get down and crawl, searching from wall to wall, and never see anything at all. How could you hate such a small song? If i was right, I would be wrong. Donít be afraid, itís just a small song."

Oh, iPod. And I thought we were on the point of a breakthrough. Same time in a fortnight, is it? Yes, I've got cash. No, I'll see myself out.

Moral: Man, that machine has more issues than I do. Perhaps this was the point all along.

Don't worry: I shan't be "tagging" anyone with this, as I believe common parlance now has it. What is this, the school playground?

(Yes, I take your point.)

Update (1): guyana-gyal suggests playing some Donna Summer and doing the answers again. An excellent suggestion. Here are the (very different) results.

Update (2): Meg of me(ish) dot org takes the meme, mutates it a bit, then does her own iTunes-on-shuffle splurge. (Yay, John Martyn's cover of Glory Box!)

(via various places, including here and here)