Archive for July, 2006

Steely Dan plug

Monday, July 31st, 2006

Hmm, this is the first time I’ve ever tried to post to my blog from a mobile phone, but here goes…..

I’m somewhere in the wilds of Scotland, but was pleased and honoured to read today that Walter Becker of Steely Dan is a fan of my music! Apparently he correctly identified ‘Airwaves’ in a blindfolded music test, and went on to say good things about it. I haven’t read the article but here’s the link:

I was strongly influenced by what I suppose was their ‘middle period’, especially ‘The Royal Scam’ LP. They were as unique to the seventies as were Talking Heads to the eighties–each stood out as way more intelligent, lyrically challenging and musically intriguing than 99% of their contemporaries. Nice to see they’re touring again. Maybe I’ll get to play support to them one day, I think our audiences might intersect rather nicely!

it's Lunesse's Birthday!

Tuesday, July 18th, 2006

Yesterday was Lunesse’s birthday. She’s my wonderful webmistress and tour manager and I adore her. So should you!!

Happy Birthday Lunesse.


A great day altogether: my family was invited to the House Of Lords for tea with a Baroness, then to Earl’s Court where we had backstage passes for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers!

Matthew update

Tuesday, July 11th, 2006


My friend and former bass player Matthew Seligman is living in Japan with his wife and little daughter Daisy. He has a band there that’s touring there right now and he’s writing a blog.

I met Matthew in about 1978 when he joined Bruce Woolley and the Camera Club. He’d recently left the Soft Boys. He introduced me to a guitarist/songwriter called Kevin Armstrong with whom he occasionally played. When BWCC broke up Matthew and Kevin became my first touring band, and they both featured extensively on ‘The Flat Earth.’

Aside from stints with me and Robyn, he also played with The Pretenders and the Thompson Twins, among others. And he co-wrote ‘Dissidents’, ‘Ability To Swing’ and ‘Neon Sisters’.
Matthew would probably agree that he’d be be completely nuts were it not for his music! I think it is the harmony of those four strings that keeps him comparatively sane. However he is the best barometer I have for whether my own music is on its artistic track or not. I’m sure we’ll work together again one day.

I should add one little anecdote. When Matthew visited me in LA around 1992 he told me of a town in Arizona called Seligman. It was so named after an ancestor of his that was Abraham Lincoln’s banker. Old man Seligman helped put the railroad though Arizona, so the locals named the town after him. Matthew had known about this town all his life and could point it out on a map.

Now, I’d recently attained my private pilot’s license so I offered to fly us out there in a 2-seater plane. I figured out we could just about make it in a long day if we left Burbank before dawn. We stopped for breakfast at Lake Havasu, overlooking London Bridge. Then we flew on towards Seligman, which my airport guide said had a ‘dirt strip with rocks and livestock.’ But my desert navigation was not too great (in LA if you get lost you just fly down low enough so you can see the freeway signs!) Our first attempt at a landing turned out to be in the wrong town altogether, though it was on the right railway line. Matthew got pretty sick in the turbulence. Eventually we found Seligman, and avoiding the rocks and livestock we set down close to the ‘center’ of town. We strutted into town, Matthew all in white like a saint that came from the sky.

We went into the only place open, a lone 50′s-looking diner, for some lunch. It was like something out of a David Lynch movie. A gum-chewing waitress with a beehive came over to take our order. Matthew pulled out his British passport and said ‘look! Look at my name!’ ‘Se-LIG-man?’ she said. ‘So?’ ‘No no, it’s SEL-igman. My great grandfather built this town!’ ‘Nah-uh… this here’s Se-LIG-man Arizona, honey. You got the wrong town.’ She took our order and left, leaving Matthew a bit stunned. Then slowly an old cowboy that was sitting at the counter swung round on his stool and looked Matthew up and down. ‘So you’re a Seligman, huh? Guess my great grandaddy knew your great grandaddy. Didn’t like him much, neither.’

Last month somebody told me they’d driven through Seligman recently, and it’s become a total tourist trap, with souvenir shops and a Wild West shootout reenactment. I’m getting to the age where places I once visited have changed beyond recognition, and it’s very disconcerting. Heading for the Scottish Hebrides next week, where Kathleen and I spent our honeymoon 18 years ago, and I’m just hoping they’ve retained some measure of their bleak charm….

My ambigram

Monday, July 10th, 2006


Someone in the Forum grabbed this Ambigram by Scott Kim off the web to use as their avatar. It’s been a few years since I saw it so I thought I’d tell you the story.

Many years ago–maybe 1992–I was invited to a ‘thinktank’ for a proposed computer game company called Rocket Science. At the time there was a strong feeling among intelligent creative people that computer and video games had the potential to be more than just mindless shoot-’em-ups. (This was strongly reminescent of the early days of MTV when a comparable feeling existed about music videos!) A group of clever types got together at a retreat in Napa to talk about the possibilities. Among the invitees was Scott Kim, a brilliant mathemetician, graphic artist and puzzle designer. But at the time I had never heard of Scott.

The first evening of the event, were all at a fine restaurant seated at a long table. I was at one end. Halfway through the meal a man walked over to my end and put a paper napkin in front of me with my name ‘Thomas’ written on it. He said nothing. I thanked him. He just stood there patiently. I looked again at the napkin, stared at it, and then it dawned on me. I turned it upside down and now it said ‘Dolby’! Scott had come up with it as we sat there at dinner.

Scott was kind enough to let me use it on my Flat Earth Society web site. Later we ended up living about 4 miles away from each other on the California coast, and every now and then I bump into him and his wife the talented Amy.

BTW Rocket Science was a spectacular supernova of a company that blew through hundreds of millions of dollars in VC money then exploded leaving nothing more than a smouldering crater. Its greatest achievement was a game called Obsidian, which was revered by a handful of quirky gamers but failed to ignite in the commercial marketplace. However, it’s where the founders of WebTV met, which led me to Steve Hales, creator of the Beatnik Audio Engine; also where I met Andrew Rostaing, now chief engineer at Beatnik; and indirectly resulted in Danger Inc, who make my favourite PDA/phone.


Sunday, July 2nd, 2006

Kathleen and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary today! We were married July 2nd 1988 at Snape in Suffolk. This evening we went back there and exchanged wedding rings all over again. We are very happy!