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Thursday, 15 September 2011

Laura Marling Ate My Cat

By cat I mean Bagpuss, and by mine I mean Oliver Postgate, may he rest in peace.
But it cannot be denied that the work of Laura Marling has been deeply indebted to the Bagpuss team - especially the house band led by Charlie Mouse and the amazing mechanical mouse organ.  Take a track from her last album, I Speak Because I Can, the very lovely Goodbye England - where a little after 2.41 you can actually hear the Charlie Mouse Six supplying backing vocals, a section that is a direct homage to their classic hit We will fix it, we will fix it.  Listen out - it is there.
In a recent interview on 6 music, Marling acknowledged that her guitar playing has improved over the last few years - what she declined to mention were the frequent lessons from folk rock god Gabriel the Toad (and boy am I looking forward to the soon to be released EP of banjo classics that Gabriel and Marling have been working on).
I won't strain the point much further - but to note the vocal techniques learnt from Madeleine, one of the sweetest voices in the business, and that Marling has learnt deeply from Professor Yaffles many wisdoms; but the most influencial of all the Bagpuss team has to be Bagpuss himself - otherwise known to Marling as THE BEAST.
Next Week:  Lady Gaga and her stylist Mr Benn & news that Rolf Harris is to cover a song from Let England Shake as a B side to the dub step re-mix of Two Little Boys.


This week I've become a vampire.  No, I haven't been attempting to extend my life through the ingestment of blood products (an act that will only make you sick, it's like drinking sea water, the body just can't hack it, leave it to the undead folks) I've just been living in the hours of darkness.  My average day now starts in the afternoon, and the time of work starts mid evening.  From about 11pm I start cooking with gas and work solidly till about 6am when I slow to a stop and sleep.  Here's my vlog all about it.

Sometimes this kind of thing happens to me, and I know better than to fight it.  If that's what 'the muse' wants to do, then that's what I do.  (That said, there's a lot of balls said about art and the muse, if I had to write / rehearse from 9am till 5pm with an hour for lunch I'm sure I'd manage it and I doubt the work would be much worse.  Probably a bit though.)  I've been struggling for the will to do the work at present, the idea of sitting down and writing or rehearsing has made me feel quite ill.  But one gets on with it anyway because it is a job as well as a calling, even if what you do turns out to be a big steaming pile of poo.
But the last couple of nights, headphones on, listening to the Mercury Prize Shortlist one by one (surprisingly I found Katy B very good to work to - who'd a thunk it) and the new Laura Marling album, (thank you Guardian website for streaming that all week, boy did I milk that particular music cow dry! (I will buy the album anyway, so I'm not a stingy music scab)) the notepad and the keypad and the kitchen pacing and the coffee boiling has been to a glorious purpose.  It's been great because it means:
1.  GhoStoryteller is done.  Printed.  Off to full on rehearsal.  Which in turn means:
2.  No need to write more monologues / stories for 2011.
Yes, I know, this is a big shock - the Storyteller blog has lost it's remit.
Well no, just because I've written it doesn't mean the show's over.  For example, I'm not just getting to grips with the staging for the London (and Suffolk) performances of The Natural History of Trolls.  I'm creating the visual side as I type.  It's going to be a more complex affair to the New Wimbledon run - but more on that in the future.  But if I'm not writing more stories - what am I typing away at?
3.  A new play.  It's been a long time coming but I'm actually writing dialogue again.  For the last three-four years I've been mostly writing monologues or the vast Amleth play (two parts, cast of thousands, no one in their right mind would stage it, what was I thinking?) so to be able to sit down and write 3000 words of a new play in a few days is very nice.  I've got two weeks set aside in October, once GhoStoryteller has had it's premiere, to sit down and really thrash it out, at the moment I'm doing fits and starts as I do admin work and other boring stuff.  The play has a working title of Complicated Pleasures and is about some very odd relationships, or rather I set up the circumstances for odd relationships - we'll see how the characters come out of it all.  As ever my motto during writing is: how can I make this worse?  How can I make the situation more difficult, how can I really put these characters through it, how much pressure can they take before they go pop or the situation becomes too absurd.
Now one of the things I do when I start a new play / story I always go through my notebooks and any half written projects that have been abandoned, looking for any material which might fit the new work.  Much of this involves transcribing a lot of good one liners, picked up from people around me over time.  Shoes That Angels Fear To Wear was written that way - many of the lines that were said to be too absurd by the cast to be real were direct from life.  It does also mean I come across a lot of my past, things I don't even remember happening.

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