Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Ask Tom # 5031

Straight to the point - (and we don't want to seem shallow and superficial), but what the heck is happening with the barnet? Got it cut yet?


Good grief, you make 5 albums, struggle to take your music to the masses, live the dedicated life of the true artist, and all they want to know about is your hair. This is but one of the many hair related questions submitted over the years.

But the question has been asked, and rather than shirk the challenge of an in depth answer, I have instead decided to take you on a journey through the styles - if such they can be called - that I have sported through the years.

#1 Not many options available to me at this point, although what I lacked in tonsorial flare I easily made up for with a frankly awesome choice of shorts. Notice if you will the slightly sour face, the sucking on a lemon expression, due mainly to the fact I'm sucking on a lemon. Either that or there has been a catastrophic failure of early '70s nappy technology.

#2 Skipping forward a few years, I am clearly already working on the slightly longer look for the more outré gentleman, although still struggling with the exact angle at which to cut the fringe for maximum dork factor. I can only imagine my mother was wielding the scissors. See how I was working the cherubic look, set off magnificently by my maroon blouse. Quite the heartbreaker.

#3 A minor lapse in sartorial judgement led to a period of self-disgust, as evinced by the McRae tartan tie and red tank top. There was only one way to truly carry off this look, and that was by grabbing the nearest bowl and trimming round it. With that hair and those teeth, no one even remembers the clothes.

#4 The teenage years can be awkward for anyone, but I have made a bold statement with spiky blond hair contrasting splendidly with my black digital watch. The languid posture clearly showing a maturing confidence, combined with an almost fatal inability to stand up in those jeans.

#5 Notice in this next picture of one of my earlier bands, how I am already beginning to commit to the idea of "hair as vital comedy tool". I like to think I was breaking new ground in this area, although if this photo is anything to go by, one or two of the others may have been ahead of me. The all-white look was also years ahead of its time, as was the use of cane furniture as a serious prop. Today's bands could learn a thing or two from this picture. Mainly what not to do at any cost.

Yes, isn't the guy top left rather good looking. Of course, that's why he had to go. There will be more of him on my upcoming autoblography, a section on the new, lovingly homemade site we are close to getting on line.

#6 It was nothing short of a tragedy then, having invested much time and effort into researching the most ridiculous hair cuts over the years, when my first label began to insist on new strategies for the barnet. They wanted it longer, shorter, blonder, darker... like all record labels they didn't know what they wanted, they just knew it wasn't what they had. So in typical rebellious fashion, I hacked it all off and this was the result. Like Samson before me, losing my hair meant losing my strength, and all the effort of looking cool has clearly exhausted me and I have fallen asleep. Either that or someone has made me listen to Lily Allen and completely sapped my will to live.

#7 And now, back to the present day, as the hair turns a majestic shade of grey, if only in the sparse beard, and we see the return of the slightly confused, indeterminate hair length, that hints at my dogged resistance to fashion, and my preference for the timeless look of the devil-may-care, too lazy to go to the hairdresser, older gent still carving out a career in the youth obsessed world of music. It is, I'm sure you agree, a look that I have at least made my own. Although apparently, as always, I am starting to subtly influence the next generation. Poor fools.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Five's Alive

Finally, it is done. Album #5 is officially finished. Making a record is a bit like baking a cake (no, it isn't in any way remotely like baking a cake, unless your cake cost you thousands of pounds to make, isn't appreciated by anyone - even close relatives - and is eventually given away slightly stale at jumble sales) but bear with me, I've started this analogy so I'm going to finish it.

Once you have spent time gathering the ingredients; a pound of finely sifted experience; a few drops of bitter disappointment; the zest of renewed self-belief; and some sultanas... the album baking process unfolds slowly over time, changing slightly with each added ingredient, until finally, with your album starting to resemble the finished product, it is sent for the final mastering process.

At any stage something could go wrong, you could balls up the recording, the mixing, the track order (who apart from me actually listens to albums in order these days?) and finally the mastering. Assuming that you've actually started with half decent songs in the first place.

It is a stressful time. Will the cake rise? Are the ingredients better than the whole, will it come back from the bakery with "happy birthday, Tim" written in pink icing? Will the analogy you've embarked upon ever make sense?

But after many months (years when you include the writing period) your album/cake is finally finished, you can sit and stare at it while it cools on the shelf, hoping that maybe this is the cake the public have been waiting for. The one that will change the course of history, the one that will have cookery writers and celebrity chefs knocking down your door for an interview, or at least enable you to take the cake on the road, slicing it up night after night for the delectation of cake lovers everywhere.

It is also a time when your sanity is stretched thin, and those close to you worry that you are beginning to confuse making records with baking cakes. Apparently it can happen.

Fortunately for me then, that there is no time to dwell on this, as album part 2 requires attention, and the songs that were left off part one find a home on the sequel, and the process begins all over again. It's already been a good summer (bearing in mind I hate summer and all that goes with it, give me a good winter any time), I have a tour to look forward to, the occasional fishing trip, and some gigs to see.

It is vital at this point to start listening to music again, without it being a technical exercise. To enjoy the cake as it were, without tasting the baking powder and suet. ( I don't really make cakes, but those sound plausible ingredients). So if anyone has any recommendations new or old, I would appreciate it. I watched Glastonbury and thought it was the best line up ever. Of course, I would like to have played, I have fond memories of my time on the other stage, back in 1948, shortly after the war, when times were hard but we were happy. Much like today. Except for the happy bit.

So, I hope you're having a good summer, at some point I'll start divulging things about the new record (and let's face it, 45 seconds after we've sent it to the first journalist it'll be online somewhere) and then we can once more debate the quality of the cake, how it compares to other cakes I've made, and does the world really need any more of my cakes. That sort of thing.

My current musical recommendations are: Kevin Devine, Brother's Blood. Not just 'cos he's a mate but it's really great songwriting. And anything by Leadbelly, especially Laura. My favourite track of the last year.

I'm reading lots of political memoirs, readying myself for the inevitable Tory victory that will send me deeper into middle-aged depression, and I particularly recommend Chris Mullin "A View From The Foothills".

I'm still continually watching the "West Wing" on loop, as nothing has ever bettered this show - despite what journalists tell us. Yes "The Wire" is good, but you know, not that good.

Oh, and I'm working on a song that may require your help at the shows. I'll keep you posted. Right, I'm off to watch Federer dispatch Roddick in 3 sets. Tennis is almost like sport. Enjoy your Sunday.

P.S Speaking of Wimbledon, I've just remembered that my actual 5th birthday cake was in the shape of Great Uncle Bulgaria from the Wombles. Daddy had just come back from the Crimea and what with the South Sea Bubble bursting, we had to make do with...... ZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz