Wild Hare Club Blog

Shane MacGowan - 60 & still smilin'

On Christmas Day, Shane MacGowan turned 60 much to the surprise of yours truly and many others. To celebrate the fact the Irish Government has honoured this extraordinary lyricist and songwriter with a lifetime achievement award and an all-star bash was held in Dublin's National Concert Hall on Monday 15th January, excerpts from which can be found on Youtube.

Shane and The Pogues have a special place in my heart for many reasons. I first encountered him when he was working Rocks Off record shop in Hanway Street an alley that cuts a corner between Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road. There used to be an all-night drinking dive in Hanway Street as well as two scuzzy record shops; these days it’s all been cleaned-up and the only reason you might go there for is Bradley's Spanish Bar and its still tremendous jukebox.

There was something about Shane that I can still remember the first record he sold me – an early single by Echo and the Bunnymen which from his expression he didn’t think much of. Next time I went in, he was hunched over the shop’s record deck playing Chinese Rocks by The Heartbreakers and talking animatedly

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Heathcote Williams

Campaigning poet, Heathcote Williams, died on 1st of July and he and his continual flow of words and other work will be missed by many, including me.  Age didn’t mellow him and, given the turbulent times we are currently living in, there is more need than ever for dissenters who aren’t afraid to call-out the power-hungry and the corrupt for their actions, the actions that trample over others and are tearing the natural world apart.

My one and only encounter with Heathcote Williams was at the Elephant Fayre in 1984.

The Elephant Fayre was a small festival that ran on the Port Eliot estate of Peregrine Eliot, 10th Earl of St Germans between 1981and 1986. It was a magical little festival where everybody seemed to be adding to the festivities in one way or another with music as only one element. I went twice, the first time in 1982. I arrived on the back of a motorbike, my last hitched ride from London, and for the final mile found myself flanked by a legion of Hell’s Angels who then roared off in spectacular fashion. The festival was wonderful, a strange mix of hippies and proto-goths, the latter group having

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When Richard Met Debbie

Everybody knows the story of my meeting with Patti Smith but she’s not the only one of the artists of the New York underground scene of the late 1970s who I’ve met. Yes, of the CBGB centred scene-makers, I’ve also talked to John Cale and Richard Hell, exchanged grunts with Tom Verlaine and hung with Lenny Kaye. OK I confess to having engineered these encounters, mainly by blagging my way backstage, but my coming face-to-face with the Queen of NYC cool, Debbie Harry, that was totally unexpected.

Back in the early1990s like many other over-educated and underemployed graduates brought up on the NME, I gravitated - i.e. sank - to finding a job in Record and Tape, aka Music and Video. This chain of grimy second-hand shops started in Notting Hill Gate and ended up having many branches across London, later diversifying to selling ‘vintage’ clothes and other stuff.  Which name the chain’s staff and customers refer to it as is a clear indication of their age, though both names are dated now. The shops were squalid places and not unlike the shop described by Nick Hornby in High Fidelity, staffed by people who were generally misanthropic and who

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Dakar Meantime

A musical extract from the 2012 Senegalese travelogue, in which your foreign correspondent talks about Joe Strummer and recalls a visit to legendary Dakar club, Just 4 U.

Joe Strummer was on a roll just before his untimely death in 2002.  He and his band, The Mescaleros, had really hit their stride, playing music that perhaps actually deserved to be branded ‘world  music’, a rough mix of influences and musical styles.  A new kind of folk music for the 21st century perhaps.  In their last few live sets the band was playing a new song Dakar Meantime. Sadly, or so I’ve heard, the band laid down the music for the song in the studio, so it could be included on their next album but Strummer never got to record the vocal track.   Consequently the song, which was considered to be one of their best, did not appear on the posthumous Streetcore.  I have never heard Dakar Meantime, only read about it, but know in my bones that had I been at one of those final joyous gigs, I would have been grinning from ear to ear.  I don’t know whether Strummer ever visited Dakar or whether

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Judy Henske - 'The Beatnik Queen'

A short piece on a not-well-known '60s singer, record collecting, life on the ocean wave and the kind of talk that goes on around the WHC HQ kitchen table.


Picture this, we’re in the big kitchen, that’s brother-in-law, Dave, friend and his fellow woodworker, Tim, over from France and myself. It’s fairly late, they’ve been drinking and proffer me a glass of better than the normal red from a bottle presumably brought over by Tim. The conversation soon turns to music, as it so often does, and Tim starts telling me about this singer he really loves but who is not widely known these days, Judy Henske. Her name rings a bell but no, I don’t know her work.

Tim describes this beautiful beatnik singer and her deep bluesy voice and how much he loves a live record by her that features a song Hooka Tooka, a chant with nonsense, nursery rhyme words.

Tim sings a bit - Hooka Tooka soda cracker, does your mama chaw tobacca?- and then tells me that on the record Judy introduces the song with a bit of spiel about its supposed origins as a song which the street kids would start singing

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For What It's Worth

Or why it’s worth paying the price on the ticket.


Not long ago I was listening to The Staple Singers classic When Will We Paid, a piece of southern gospel-tinged soul of the kind that often rings through WHC HQ, a style of music that I find irresistible and sometimes deeply moving. The lyrics are about how the Afro-American population has consistently been paid less and massively exploited, a situation sadly not much changed since the song was written, as anyone who has dug into the context of the ongoing unrest in many US cities will already know. (See for instance this Huffington Post blog on why the Baltimore riots didn’t just start with the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody). However, as I was listening to the song I thought the words could equally apply to the lot of the itinerant musician and the direct experience of Pops, Mavis and the rest of the musical Staples family before they got their break.

Music is magic, it transports us, lifts our spirits and sometimes even makes us want to get up and dance. Music weaves into our lives in unexpected ways, it’s always there and I

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Punk Graffix

The other day I caught a snippet of Joe Strummer talking on the radio (an archive show) about how the visual identity of The Clash was almost as important as the music. As mentioned in my previous blog on 40 years of punk rock attitude, the visual creativity of that period fired me and many others up.

It’s why I still love records, the covers are/were often affordable pieces of art. I love gig posters too and whenever I am in a foreign city I am scouring the walls for the posters giving clues to the emerging and popular cultures particular to that place, i.e. the stuff that most tourists are oblivious too. It’s always an adventure finding a small club in a foreign country, taking you somewhere off the beaten track, especially if at the end of it you find a bunch of enormous Norwegian death metalheads preparing for Ragnarok.

For these reasons I like to put some effort and care into producing the artwork related to Wild Hare Club events and especially important for the upcoming punky reggae party.

The punk explosion was of course pre the days of personal computers and Photoshop and much of

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Stage Diving with Eno & Other Campfire Tales

One man’s account of Campfire Convention 001. Note, this is only the half of it. Each of the several hundred other people there will have their own stories, all to be shared, many, no doubt, around the campfire.

Many of you regular Wild Hare Clubbers will know that I have been banging on about Campfire for a while now. Well the time has come to report on the very first gathering - Campfire Convention 001 - which took place in and around The Bridge Inn at Michaelchurch St Escley last weekend. Like many others who were there, I am still getting my head around, (or in modern parlance processing for we are nothing if not digitally savvy us Campfire people), what was a very rich and very human experience.

Where to begin? Well the adventure really started when Stas (Mrs Hare) and I picked up Chrissie, a fellow volunteer crew member who we’d met at the June pre-meeting, and her seriously impressive pile of gear at Hereford Station on Thursday afternoon. Sharing a lift with people you don’t know so well is always exciting and it brought back memories of summers criss-crossing the country, hitching to festivals or to stay

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40 Years of Punk Rock Attitude

Celebrate the 40th anniversary of punk rock? The idea is of course ludicrous - I mean, punk as heritage? How ironic is that? But hey, I’m going to do it anyway by throwing a punky reggae party with my friends and fellow scene-makers from The Underground Revolution on 9th September in Hereford to which you are all invited and here’s why.

1976 was a year zero of some kind - the nascent punk rock scene sparked off a cultural upheaval in this country at the fag end of the 1970s which smashed the rose-coloured Lennon lenses of the prevailing hippy worldview and inspired a whole generation of creatives with its incandescent energy. It wasn’t just musicians of course who got fired up by the scene, but future designers, writers and activists too. Our culture is still feeding off that energy even now. Take Dame Vivienne Westwood for example - hailed as a great British eccentric, icon and export, she is now held close to the bosom of the establishment and was touted as a symbol of Cool Britannia’s world-beating creativity. She wasn’t always thought of so fondly by the powers that be. It’s peculiar really, how the iconoclasts

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Campfire Convention - sparks ignite!

To me a summer doesn’t seem quite right without having spent at least one long weekend under canvas at a festival with one night when you stay up until dawn, talking to someone you’ve only just met round the campfire.  However, the big festivals have lost their charm for me and it’s always the small and new events that the magic happens. I am particularly thinking back to the first Elephant Fayres held in Port Elliot where everybody contributed to the merriment in some way or another.  At the most memorable of my Elephant Fayres, we had a small food stall from which we sold a number of delicious foodstuffs including orange and cardamom ice cream.  Unfortunately, the generators went down and all the ice cream began to melt. Rather than have it go to waste, I was giving cones away, one of which h I handed to the poet Heathcote Williams.  In exchange he gave me a copy of his Elephant Newspaper which was later adapted for his book ‘Sacred Elephant’.  But I digress, for you, it’s probably somewhere else.

It was good news then, when, not so long ago, I heard murmurings of the Campfire Convention that

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The WHC's virtual jukebox

The Wild Hare Club can also be found on twitter @WildHareClub. Every so often I post links to songs that can be found in the boxes of great singles that I have collected over the years.  These #fave45s are gradually building up into a virtual jukebox that can be enjoyed at your leisure.

So here to whet your appetite is a list of 45 of my favourite 45s compiled to mark my 45th birthday.

These are not my 45 favourite singles of all time or a list that makes any claims beyond the fact that each of these records was special enough for me to shell out some hard earned cash - or in the case of some of them, precious pocket money.   The list is therefore decidedly retro.  All are tunes that may come out across the P.A. between bands at a WHC gig.

Obvious omissions in terms of favourite bands may be because I only have the songs on l.p.  - for example I never bought any Stones singles because I had the albums and a copy of ‘Rolled Gold’.  Similarly Blondie’s greatest hits is a party in and of itself.  Did I tell you about when

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