Aikmans

May 28, 2009

Please join the Facebook group dedicated to saving Aikmans. It’s where I played most of my songs for the first time, the only place that’s ever paid me to play, and spiritual home to The St Andrews Scene which I still claim to have been part of.

I’m so sick and tired of feeling so wired as if there’s no escape, man
I need to pull out my finger, get it together, put myself in shape, man
I don’t need to make myself so stressed
Burnt-out, fried-out, broke and depressed
Need to ask Malcolm for a pint of Best
And live life in Aikmans

Unless I unload I’m going to explode, I’m gonna blow a fuse, man
There’s only one way to pick up my day and overcome the blues, man
Gonna call up my friend Francois
Bundle everybody into his car
Gonna make our way to my favourite bar
And live life in Aikmans

I’m in Aikmans, I’m in Aikaikmans, I’m in Aikmans
I’m a singsong man, I’m a popquiz fan, I’m in Aikmans
Upstairs is packed beyond all sense
The only space downstairs is by the gents
Everyone’s rocking to the guys from Fence
Who sing live in Aikmans

I’d be so happy in my Aikmans world
Oh so happy, in my Aikmans world

I’m in Aikmans, I’m in Aikaikmans, I’m in Aikmans
I’m a singsong man, I’m a popquiz fan, I’m in Aikmans
Upstairs is packed beyond all sense
The only space downstairs is by the gents
Everyone’s rocking to the guys from Fence
Who sing live in Aikmans


Ryanair

April 13, 2009

The lady beside me is snoring
There’s a man with his knees in my back
I just got a nasty concussion
When his suitcase fell down from the rack

I yearn for the romance of flying
With passengers treated like kings
But sadly my ticket’s with Ryanair
And I’m stuck in a cattle-truck with wings

But I have worse news for the traveller!
If you didn’t go on the ground!
For the privilege of spending a penny:
They’re going to be charging a pound!

They’ve taken away the bad movies
And the plasticky food on the tray
Next they’ll be taking the poky wee room
That’s usually covered in spray

I have some advice for the flyer
Desperately needing to go
Sneakily crap in the sick bag
And send it to their CEO

I have bad news for the traveller!
If you didn’t go on the ground!
For the privilege of spending a penny:
They’re going to be charging a pound!

So if you’re caught short while you’re flying
You’d best will the pilot to rush
Cross your legs, hold it in ’til the airport
Unless you’re feeling… flush!

I have bad news for the traveller!
If you didn’t go on the ground!
For the privilege of spending a penny:
They’re going to be charging a pound!


New song: War in Your Heart

January 31, 2009

You can find an MP3 here.

There’s a war in your heart over me
Why they’re fighting, no-one can see
You don’t have to be the one casualty
Of the war in your heart over me.

There’s a storm in your soul over us
And you’re reeling with every gust
We’ll both be crushed unless we adjust
To the storm in your soul over us.

I don’t have the solution
I don’t even have an idea
The one thing I know is that you don’t have to go
If you need me, I’m here.

There’s a thorn in your side and it’s this
That you’re hurting, no-one could miss
But please don’t you kiss me goodbye and dismiss
The thorn in your side that is this.

I don’t have the solution
I don’t even have an idea
The one thing I know is that you don’t have to go
If you need me, I’m here.

There’s a war in your heart over me
And it’s obvious why you might flee
I don’t want you to be the sole refugee
From the war in your heart over me.


Tom Paxton: I Am Changing My Name To Chrysler Wall Street

September 28, 2008

Tom Paxton belongs in my relatively small pantheon of personal heroes. Not just for his songwriting over the last 50 years or so – although The Ballad of Spiro Agnew alone would probably justify his inclusion – but as much for giving me genuine encouragement at a concert in Glenrothes in 2001 (“If I can do it, you can do it”) and then responding to an e-mail I sent pointing him here: he said he was right, I can do it. The man, as the saying goes, is a Proper Gent.

And what better way to flatter him than by stealing one of his songs wholesale? In fact, I’d be kind of disappointed if he wasn’t singing this exact song on his current tour. On which I expect to catch him, and suggest you do too, or at least buy a few of his albums. (Tom, if you’re reading this – feel free to steal any of my songs in return ;o) Yeah, that’s right, the ones I’ve just given away to anyone who wants them.)

I Am Changing My Name To Chrysler Wall Street

Oh, the price of gold is rising out of sight, and the dollar’s in a sorry state tonight
What a dollar used to get us now won’t buy a head of lettuce
No, the economic forecast isn’t bright.
But amid the clouds I see a shining ray, I begin to glimpse a new and better way,
I’ve devised a plan of action, worked it down to the last fraction
And I’m going into action here today.

I am changing my name to Wall Street, I am going down to Washington DC
I will tell Bernanke what he’s doing for those bankers would be perfectly acceptable to me
I am changing my name to Wall Street, I am heading for that great receiving line
And when they hand a billion grand out, I’ll be standing with my hand out,
Yessir, I’ll get mine.

When my creditors come screaming for my dough, I’ll be glad to tell them all where they can go
They won’t have to yell and holler, they’ll be paid to the last dollar
Where the endless streams of money seem to flow
I’ll be glad to tell them all what they can do, it’s a matter of a simple form or two,
It’s not just remuneration, it’s a liberal education,
Aren’t you kindly glad that I’m in debt to you?

I am changing my name to Wall Street, I am going down to Washington DC
I will tell Bernanke what he’s doing for those bankers would be perfectly acceptable to me
I am changing my name to Wall Street, I am heading for that great receiving line
And when they hand a billion grand out, I’ll be standing with my hand out,
Yessir, I’ll get mine.

Since the first amphibian crawled out of the slime, we’ve been struggling in an unrelenting climb
We were hardly up and walking before money started talking
And it said that failure is an awful crime
It’s been that way a millennium or two, now it seems that there’s a different point of two
If you’re a corporate titanic and your failure is gigantic
Down in Congress there’s a safety net for you.

I am changing my name to Wall Street, I am going down to Washington DC
I will tell Bernanke what he’s doing for those bankers would be perfectly acceptable to me
I am changing my name to Wall Street, I am heading for that great receiving line
And when they hand a billion grand out, I’ll be standing with my hand out,
Yessir, I’ll get mine.

(Original lyrics by Tom Paxton, 1980)


Licensing

September 27, 2008

People are forever asking me why I don’t sell my songs. Partly, I’ll concede, it’s laziness – I don’t have the business guts to hawk my wares around the record companies or really to do anything to make money out of this hobby. I played a few gigs for a few quid a few years ago, sold a few CDs, but really felt that the business side of things, even at that modest level, was eating into my enjoyment.

So, rather than hum and haw for any longer about whether I should start doing this, I’ve decided to license all of the songs, articles and other ramblings written by me on this site, under a Creative Commons attribution/non-commercial/share-alike license. What this means is, you’re allowed to take any of the material here, rewrite it, re-record it, perform it, mangle it, or (as the license says) produce derivative works, so long as you attribute it to me (‘this is a Kensson song’ is fine, I’d be grateful for a link if you’re putting something on the web) and don’t make any money off of it*. Also, if you release any derivative works, you need to slap the same license on them – you can pick up the html here.

As Woody said: “This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ours, cause we don’t give a darn. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do.”

*If you have a good reason for wanting to use material under a different license, drop me an e-mail and we can talk.


Set list/review: Hand and Flowers open mic, Sept 16th

September 16, 2008

Song for the Shy
(I’m In Love With Her) Record Collection
Romeo’s Tune

I’m disappointed at my new guitar technology (I put a pickup in my lovely, old, tobacco-brown guitar, but it wasn’t registering on the H&F electronics), and that I only got to play three songs (the organiser always plays for half an hour, whether there are three people behind him or ten), but glad that I know how to play four upside-down chords. I could see the guitarists in the crowd thinking ‘what on earth is he doing?’.

A couple of really interesting other acts – one, Tawly (my best guess at the spelling), was a tiny girl in crocs who didn’t look old enough to be in a pub. But if you’re good enough, you’re old enough (even if you’re wearing crocs), and she was good enough to silence a rowdy pub. Incredible control of the guitar, incredible control of a surprisingly big voice (where does she keep it? there’s nothing to her!), and a really good choice of songs, including Mama You’ve Been On My Mind and Eric Idle’s Universe Song (on the ukelele). I wanted to be an A&R man so I could sign her up on the spot. Three parts Joan Baez to one part Nick Drake and one part Jeff Buckley, possibly some Janis in the mix too – I hope she goes on to big things and ends up living more like Joan than the other three.

There was a floppy-haired guy doing quite funky versions of Fire and Rain and Itchycoo Park. There was an older guy who did a folk cover of Purple Rain, which took me until the chorus to pick up. And there was me, banging out my standards upside-down. None of which came close to Tawly.


Can I have an N, please, Bob?

September 8, 2008

In case you’re interested in the results of the NaNo time trial, these 468 words took a little over 20 minutes to produce. Assuming a constant workrate, that makes a full NaNo about 40 hours of work.

It was as if I’d stumbled on El Dorado. It started as a flash of dull green somewhere between the many decaying boxes of my mum’s attic – a dull green I half-recognised but couldn’t immediately place. I tunnelled my way betweeen boxes of stuff – hoarded stuff, stuff too ancient to be of any use ever again, but too close to someone’s heart to throw away. There are boxes of 1980s computers up there, books on how to mend long-obsolete motors. And there was a typewriter.

In the brilliantly cruel way my mum’s attic has of kicking you when you’re down, the typewriter came back into my life the day somebody left – she being a girl (now a woman, of course, do the maths) I’d had a crush on for the better part of two decades. The typewriter and she were originally part of my life at the same time, more or less – on the roller, there are a number of obtuse declarations of desire, there in black ink on tipp-ex.

I used to write everything on the typewriter – letters, essays, songs, diaries, abortive attempts at novels (I plan to rectify that this November – this ramble is partly a NaNo time trial) – and then, at some point, I got a proper computer and abandoned it to the loft.

It was a lucky find. The case had a sticker on it marked 50p, almost certainly implying that my mum had unsuccessfully tried to offload it at one of her many car boot sales. It’s not in great shape – the fabric that used to cover the case is patchy at best, the N and G keys are – actually, no longer missing, I just shook the machine and found them – but even when replaced on their relatively blunt stands, tend to fall off within a handful of keystrokes.

For all its flaws, though, it’s a marvellous machine. It smells of journalism and epistolary novels. It sounds a little like a train when it’s being used properly. It takes a genuine effort to press the keys hard enough to make a mark on the paper, and some coordination to avoid jamming several keys together. Somehow it brings you closer to your writing, knowing that it’s relatively difficult to delete paragraphs wholesale, and knowing that the typewriter is going to be responsible for about as many misprints as you are (the space bar is a little shaky, occasionally printing two spaces, sometimes none at all).

Above all, the typewriter is a machine designed solely for producing words on. A computer has a thousand functions, each further removed from writing than the last. There’s no pinging e-mail on this, only the ping of reaching the end of a line. There’s no internet dragging you off to research obscure rock bands. It’s like being in a ’60s newsroom, and almost makes me want to start smoking.


A Bright Cold Day in April

August 28, 2008

It is a little after midnight, and the whisky has addled my brain a little, but it strikes me that there’s nowhere on the site where you can download ABCDiA as it was recorded. Let me rectify that:

* Written by Phil Ochs

** Written by Colin Beveridge/Michael Dempster

All other songs written by Colin Beveridge. Engineering etc. by Ross Bambrey. Please download, listen, enjoy and share (with credit) for non-commercial purposes. All other rights are reserved until I’ve time to look out an appropriate license.


A rally with Barack Obama, Brick Breeden Fieldhouse, Bozeman, MT, May 19th

May 21, 2008

This piece represents a journalistic first for me: it’s the first article I’ve ever written in shorthand and then transcribed for public consumption. Next stop Hansard.

“I don’t belong to an organised political party; I’m a Democrat.”
- Tom Paxton

I guess you’d have to call it a Reich-roll: until a moment ago, if you typed ‘Obama’ int Wikipedia, it redirected you to the page for Adolf Hitler. Ha bloody ha. I can’t figure out if it was the work of a McCain supporter, a Clinton aficionado, or a canny Obama staffer, but the idea that someone would be redirected to the Hitler page and think “Oh my God! The black liberal really is just like the most racist, right-wing jerk the world has ever seen (well – not necessarily the worst, but if there were a premier league of genocidal arseholes, you’d expect him to challenge for at least a Champions League place)… no. They’d think “Another of our many enemies is sabotaging our champion” and redouble their efforts – I hope, at least.

In any case, we went to see Barack Obama speak at the Fieldhouse this evening. The speech was impressive; the organisation, not so much. I can understand giving out more tickets than the 7,000 places available in the main arena, kind of. However, I can’t understand the lack of a plan for what would happen if and when they all showed up. Yes, there was an overflow room in the gym – good enough, in a pinch – but you have to tell the throng that’s just been rudely shut out of the main event where the need to go, you need to tell them clearly, and you need to have the other venue expecting the crowd, rather than, say, closing the door. Also, is it really unreasonable to ask for a screen in the overflow room? I know you probably haven’t organised such a big event before, being red-state Democrats and all, but people, please.

Well, what did he say? He played up not being George Bush a lot, displaying his anti-war credentials, and pretty shrewdly differentiated between the war against Al-Qaeda and the war in Iraq. He made it clear that he would associate McCain with Bush at every opportunity. He was almost dismissively polite about Clinton, mentioning his respect and admiration for an ‘incredible public servant’, but focussed very quickly on party unity. The best joke was about “my cousin, Dick Cheney” and how he was so embarrassed when that came out.

He made a big thing about the environment (stressing the huntin’-n-shootin’ benefits of clean water and clear air), at one point promising to employ billions of people in the search for new forms of energy – a stretch, I think, even for the world’s most powerful man. He talked of healthcare, of the economy, tried to put things simply and relevantly, keeping things local, speaking like a preacher at times: making people enthusiastic by telling them about a future, an after-election, that he believes in, that he can make them believe in, but that looks a bit far-fetched for cynics like me.

He talked of tuition credits in exchange for volunteering or community service, but most of all about the power of ordinary people (people, in politicians’ speeches, are never people, but Americans, or even better: hard-working Americans. If you can mention family in there too, the sustained applause might give you time to fly out to another swing state for a photo-op and back to finish your speech). Where was I? Ah, Iowa. The power of ordinary hard-working-American-families to change things for the better. He wants to kick special interests out of Washington; I think that’s another big ask.

He’s a charismatic man, a man whose chief quality may be making people feel good about themselves, making people feel powerful, hopeful. He ended with his family history, and emphasised that he had live the American Dream – coming from relative poverty to become a teacher, a lawyer, a senator. He left unsaid that McCain and Clinton both come from relatively privileged backgrounds.

It’s difficult to dislike Obama, and almost anywhere else in the world he’d be a shoo-in. In the US, though, it’s tough to know whether the excitement he generates among young people and normally apathetic HWAFs will be enough to overcome the barriers of racism, conservatism and anti-intellectualism that prevail across the country. I like to hope he can.


United

April 29, 2008

The more eagle-eyed readers will spot that this is a reworking of Dear FedEx. There are actually a few more verses of this, but I thought just singing the true ones would be more effective than claiming to have flown via Timbuktu. There is an audio recording, but I need to clean it up and put it online. Soon.

United, United, I write to complain
You’ve led me to miss my connection again
Twenty-four hours of my life down the drain
And all you can do is treat me with disdain

United, United you’re driving me spare
I just spent the night at Chicago O’Hare
You dumped me in Madison, tearing my hair
And now you’re refusing to refund my fare.

United, United, the air’s turning blue
I’ve been calling all night and I still can’t get through
I’m stuck navigating your computer menu
Which tells me my call is important to you

United, United, you’re making me cry
All of your ads tell me ‘it’s time to fly’
But when I spoke to the ticket desk guy
He said ‘ten more hours ‘til you’re in the sky’.

United, United you’ve got to be jokin’
If you think this voucher will stop my ears smokin’
My trip took forever and the TV was broken
And you think I’ll be happy with a stinking gift token

United, United, you’re useless at best
You got me home tired and grumpy and stressed
I’d rate you zero or possibly less
You make me nostalgic to fly with North West.


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