I Bought MarsEdit 4

Okay, I did the thing. RedSweater replied to my Tweet really quickly and I got the upgrade price of $24.95, so I’m in!

I’ve got my Applet ready in IFTTT but so far it has been failing. It triggers when a new post is made to the RSS feed that it’s monitoring so this is my testing that again, rather than a notable post. Although it might turn out that way. I don’t really know what I’m going to say yet!

Ah, yes, micro.blog. Have you heard of that? I got an email from Manton Reece—remember him, the buy behind App.net?—with some info about micro.blog. It sounded neat, so I checked it out and went to sign up, only to find that I had already signed up. Presumably that’s how I was on his email list. D’oh!

I put my $5 down and installed the iOS app yesterday and have been quite enjoying it. I wondered whether it would give me a place with a similar vibe to what Vox.com used to be back in my early blogging days. I’ve heard comments that it feels like the early days of Twitter, which is exactly how App.net felt too. So it might have some legs and become a thing that I do, along with this blog here. It’s currently at camscampbell.micro.bog, but if it sticks I’ll get a domain for it.

Should I try MarsEdit again?

Back in the day I used RedSweater’s MarsEdit to post to this blog so that I could write in Markdown. Ironically I’m looking at it again now, but to go the other way.


Well, I like writing in the native WordPress posting window. It’s got so much better over the last year with the Gutenberg blocks and all that, but I can’t get posts OUT of WordPress to sit nicely in my DayOne journal, so I was wondering if I could use MarEdit as a way of converting WordPress code into Markdown, maybe with BBEdit or Atom? But so far I haven’t been able to figure it out.

Brett Terpstra’s Slogger used to be good for getting blog posts in DayOne, but I got way into the weeds with Slogger too many times. I’m not a developer and spent way too much time typing sudo this and sudo that and eventually I gave up and started using IFTTT.

So, I’m now wondering if there is a way of using IFTTT to get my blog posts published into DayOne with RSS? Hmmm. I’m going to give that a try.

Still, MarsEdit is kinda cool for browsing through and editing blog posts once they’ve been published, editing tags and all that sort of stuff. I didn’t install it through the App Store though, so I can’t get an upgrade price. V3 doesn’t install from the downloads on Redsweater’s site.


Oh no, IFTTT has gone subscription only. Aaargh. Ah, but I can do it with the Standard account if it’s an applet that someone else has created and put in the Explore section. Thank you, Funky Penguin, whoever you are!

Right, I’m going to test it with this post, but the real gravy will be if it works properly with posts entered directly in the WordPress CMS.

Except I’m NOT going to test it with this post from MarsEdit, because I don’t have a licence. I’ll have to copy and paste this into the CMS. Wish me luck!

Writing is a Skill that Requires Practice.

Slept until 08:46. Result! Still feeling tired though. I made Illy coffee again because Len was still sleeping. She got up just as the last drips dropped into the mug. Ugh.

I read a nice quote from Scott Adams’ blog yesterday that kind of sums up what I’m trying to do here:

Writing is a skill that requires practice. So the first part of my system involves practicing on a regular basis. I didn’t know what I was practicing for, exactly, and that’s what makes it a system and not a goal. I was moving from a place with low odds (being an out-of-practice writer) to a place of good odds (a well-practiced writer with higher visibility).

Scott Adams

It was that that inspired me to make this a thing that I do and not just a thing that I think about. And besides, I LOVE this Ducky One 2 keyboard with cherry red switches!

Yesterday’s Goals

What were yesterday’s goals? Let me check…

  1. I didn’t decide on the Notion course yet. I’m letting it percolate. I did reread August Bradley’s sales page and it *almost* converted and still very well might.
  2. Profits reinvested into Finiko and Finalmente as well. I had four plans cash out in Finalmente yesterday!
  3. Adding more Last.fm posts seems like a thing to do maybe one at a time as it’s not moving the needle on anything.
  4. I did get all the guitar exercises done, and done well too, including recording one and playing the teacher part to the recording AND tabbing one out in Guitar Pro.

Small Wins

Installing Guitar Pro and tabbing out a tune. That was a bit of a hurdle that I’d been putting off for a long time. There’s a real learning curve to that software, but I managed to figure out enough to notate a whole exercise!

Content Consumed

I did the dog walk loop in the middle of the day and listened to an enjoyable episode of Roderick on the Line. John Roderick talked at length about a relationship and went into the emotion behind it. It really get a lot from John’s candour, but this one in particular was quite moving and inspirational.

I started reading Mindset, by Carol Dweck. This came up on Jim Kwik’s talk for Teachable’s Share What You Know Summit, but the reviews put me off buying it at that time. It came up again on August Bradley’s course page as a prerequisite for the course, so I thought I’d give it a go. So far I haven’t learned anything from it that I didn’t already know. One reviewer suggested not bothering with it but reading Scott Adams’ book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life, instead. That seems more in my wheelhouse.

Can I do the thing that Ali Abdaal recommended in a YouTube video and stop reading a book? Can I really do that?

But wait, let me give Carol Dweck’s book a proper chance. I’ll read more today.

Today’s Goals

  1. Post the Blue Compass mic clamp back for a refund
  2. Post a book away from someone who asked for it on Bookmooch
  3. Learn Malagueña from the Solo Guitar Playing book.
  4. Read Carol Dweck’s book.
  5. Walk the dogs around the circuit.
  6. Write to Teachable with my questions. They didn’t respond to my Tweets.

Doesn’t sound like a really full day, does it? I could do more guitar but I want to NOT over extend with my goals and end up not fulfilling them. And I can spend as much time as is left reading and making notes.

Thoughts like Flies – Systems Thinking

Morning Pages - Thoughts Like Flies

Tired. It’s 07:46 and I’ve been awake for an hour. This happened yesterday, except that I woke up at 05:45 and did manage to get back to sleep. This morning though? Nope. As soon as I awake, the thoughts that are buzzing round my head like flies see that sliver of consciousness and pounce.

Let me just say that Illy coffee though? Yuck. When I wake up early, I use my tin of Illy instead of grinding beans because the family is still asleep, so it’s really an emergency supply. It reminds me of my Luxembourg days, when Maria Cristina and Leo would argue out over Illy vs Lavazza like it was the Mac vs PC wars all over again. It’s a happy memory though. I loved working with them.

Once you start getting freshly roasted beans though, the prepackaged preground stuff becomes emergency only. Even Costa is nicer than that!

August Bradley’s New Course

So, what’s on my mind? It’s actually August Bradley’s new course. You’ll remember yesterday that I talked about Nat Eliason and Roam Research? You obviously do, oh avid reader of mine.

Well, I asked on Twitter if there was a similar Notion course, and I got a helpful reply pointing me to August Bradley’s Notion Playlist on his YouTube channel.

I watched the first few videos and honestly felt like what I was watching was potentially life-changing. And this wasn’t marketing copy, although obviously, this is part of August’s master plan of giving away incredibly valuable content as a way of marketing for his paid course—I get that now and can also learn from how he did that.

August talked at length about systems before he even opened up Notion to show us his workflow. And that is where I’m failing. I’ve tried various different tactics over the last year and longer to come up with habits and productivity, and none of them have worked. I understand that there is more of a psychological reason here that should be explored, but I feel like August’s holistic approach will help me to understand where my points of failure are and plan for that in my system. In fact, it’s not just a feeling—he actually said as much in his early Notion videos.

Sounds like I’m talking myself into buying, doesn’t it?

I scrolled through his page to get to the price, expecting it to be $1197 at least, and yes, it will be that ($1250 actually), but today it’s mine for the low, low price of $750!

Sorry, I didn’t mean to be facetious there; I’m sure that it’s actually really good value at that price point, but the fact is that I’m earning fuck all right now and have been earning that much since lockdown started, more or less. Affordability is the kicker.

But if I don’t solve this systems problem that I have, I’ll never make a successful living as a content creator, because I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, and that is not working.


I should keep a gratitude list, though, right? Of course I should.

  1. Lying in bed this morning before getting up. Instead of feeling frustrated at not being able to get back to sleep, I chose to be mindful of the feeling of warmth as I listened to the wind outside and felt a really nice peaceful feeling of having everything that I need.
  2. I felt gratitude that my wife was lying beside me, not only because she’s amazing in so many ways, but because she was actually in bed. She’s dealing with incredible workloads right now and doesn’t always make it to bed.
  3. A sense of achievement at having started this writing project on this website and at having tidied up some old posts, particularly my book reviews—adding Amazon affiliate links to the beginning of the posts—and my weekly Last.fm chart posts.
  4. Not having to get up to run the post office. That’s something I should be mindful of every day. That was a period of my life that I suppose I had to go through, but fuck me was it brutal! The leg injury period was easier. Twelve years I did that.

What did I Read Yesterday

  1. I finished The Elves of Cintra, by Terry Brooks.
  2. Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets, by Svetlana Alexievich. It’s really good.
  3. Four exercises from Solo Guitar Playing, by Frederick Noad, the book I’m planning to launch a course on.

Disclaimer: Some links are Amazon affiliate links.

Today’s Goals

  1. Decide on the Notion course purchase and own the decision.
  2. Buy the next Finiko product with profits earned over the last two weeks.
  3. Decide whether to add more Last.fm posts from my Hive blog.
  4. Complete Lesson 8 of Solo Guitar Playing by the end of the week, so six exercises and three compositions. Let’s make today’s goal the six exercises. Anything else is a bonus.

Weekly Last.fm Charts, featuring The The

Week 25 September – 2 October 2020

Weekly Last.fm Charts

I just spent some time going through my old Last.fm chart posts and updating them to blocks for WordPress 5. It got me listening to lots again and has inspired me to start doing it again. It’s really fun to look back through these charts and get a feel for what was going on in my life through the music I was listening to.

I did it for a while on my Steemit blog but it never really took. I like this way better, using Steempress to put it on my Hive blog but keeping it on my own blog as the primary source.

The The

Since I wrote my review of Long Shadows, High Hopes: the Life and Times of Matt Johnson and The The, I’ve been listening to The The a lot. It’s good because the band is probably not accurately reflected in my all-time weightings on Last.fm as I listened to them all the time before I started scrobbling.

I’m not sure why, but I didn’t listen to NakedSelf when it was released, nor since really, right up until a couple of weeks ago. I had a morning in bed with the book on my Kindle and I listened to it on my AirPods as I read about each track in the book. It was an amazing experience and I’ve been listening to NakedSelf a lot since then.

Strangeways, Here We Come

This Smiths album came up on my radar because of Tim’s Listening Party on Twitter. I’d never taken part in the listening parties, although I knew that he’d done The The at least a couple of times. I started following the Twitter account and this came up straight away.

This is the only Smiths album I ever bought. I got it after hearing it at the army apprentices’ college in Harrogate when John Hall played it one time. John’s nickname was Manc, so you can guess where he’s from, right? And yes, I was called Jock, obviously.

I’ve always loved the album, but listening to it with a live Twitter party going on added a whole new level of appreciation. Totally fun.

I’ve come to wish you an unhappy birthday, because you’re evil and you liked, and if you should die I may feel slightly sad, but I won’t cry.

Unhappy Birthday


The Others

To be honest, I’m not sure what the others are, with the exception of Bajofondo. I found them while browsing Tim’s Listening Party archives and fired it on simply because the album cover drew me right in.

I mean come on, right?

I think the rest of the bands will have been Spotify algorithms carrying on with that style as I do know Gotan Project (I saw them in Luxembourg one time as it happens!).

RankAvatarArtist nameOptionsScrobbles
1Avatar for The TheThe The36 scrobbles
2Avatar for The SmithsThe Smiths20
3Avatar for BajofondoBajofondo18
4Avatar for Astor PiazzollaAstor Piazzolla2
5Avatar for AterciopeladosAterciopeladosMore1
6Avatar for Gotan ProjectGotan Project1
7Avatar for Jorge DrexlerJorge Drexler1
8Avatar for Kevin JohansenKevin Johansen1
9Avatar for Serú GiránSerú Girán1

That tremolo guitar. Love it!

Sounds like classic The The. I hope Matt Johnson brings out another album soon. I’d love to hear what these mad COVID times inspire him to write.

The Elves of Cintra, by Terry Brooks

I listened to The Elves of Cintra audiobook, brilliantly narrated by Phil Gigante.

I have fond memories of the Shannara books. I *think* it was recommended to me by a school friend back in the late 80s and I had a copy of The Sword of Shannara from the library at the Army Apprentices’ College in Harrogate when I had my accident in 1989. In those days I read fantasy pretty much exclusively and the derivative nature of Sword didn’t bother me at all.

I also have a memory of lying in my bunk at the apprentices’ college reading the Scions of Shannara when midnight struck into my 19th birthday and then I continued through that quadrilogy during the next phase of surgeries on my leg.

I’m not sure why I didn’t follow up when Terry Brooks wrote more and more Shannara books at the time, but I’m making up for it now and going right back to the beginning of the Word and the Void series.

The Word and the Void

The Genesis of Shannara trilogy follows on from the Word and the Void trilogy, so we’re now still in the real world, but after the apocalypse.

What apocolypse?


There are demons and mutated humans out to kill everyone, humans and elves both — but where the fuck did the elves come from if we’re supposed to be in the real world? I don’t feel like that is ever really explained. Maybe they were always there. Maybe they still are!

And why do the demons want to kill everyone? Just because that’s what demons do? What would they do if there was no one left to kill? Just chill I suppose.

And how the the demons that are in the Forbidding get put there? And when? In between the two trilogies? It’s never mentioned in the Word and the Void, so I’m guessing so?

I’d like to have more of the tale of what happened between the two trilogies. Maybe that comes in the Gypsy Morph? The old King of the Silver River pulls that old Allanon trick of not revealing everything to the young hero because it would be too much or some pish like that, and I found that kind of annoying. Very Terry Brooksy as tropes go. Just give the hero all the info and he might just win the battle a little easier? Hmmm.

What happened to Nest Freemark?

What happened to the fucking world?

And those feeders, what are they all about? They’re always there but they don’t serve the story at all.

And the elves? Where did they come from? Oh, wait, I already asked that, didn’t I?

How does Candle have foresight? What’s the deal with the lady from the Welsh valleys that hands out Knight of the Word staffs?

The characters are pretty wooden and tropey, but they serve the story well enough and the lack of detail into their motivations keeps the story moving along pretty fast I suppose.

I tell you what though, if all these loose ends aren’t wrapped up in the Gypsy Morph, I’ll… I’ll …

… probably keep reading the next books anyway. Who am I kidding?

Morning Pages?

Could I use this blog as a place to write my morning pages? Publish my unedited thoughts to the world?

Yes, I could.

My head is buzzing with creative ideas right now. The problem comes when that feeling goes away, which of course it does. Then I’m left with a feeling of hopelessness, of helplessness.

Share What You Know Summit

I’ve been going through Teachable’s Share What You Know summit. It cost me $40 and came at a time when I wasn’t able to tune in live on days 1 and 2 (of 3). The result of that was that I got behind and started to feel overwhelmed. I did get through some of it, and found it to be quite useful. I took notes in Roam Research, practising the skills I’d learned from Nat Eliason’s Effortless Output in Roam course. I probably watched less than a third of all the content, but I’d already decided that that was enough. Don’t get me wrong—it wasn’t bad, but it was really just a huge advert for the Teachable platform and to the personal brands of the speakers. And that also isn’t a bad thing. One of the talks came up with an analogy of watching someone bleed but not offering your sticking plaster because you don’t want to seem markety. In other words, marketing is just a way of getting your thing in front of people that could really use it.

Could I really use the personal brands of the speakers? Yes, undoubtedly. But what I seem to be lacking is focus.

How to Get Clients to Come to You

The speaker that has stayed with me is Rebecca Tracey. She did one of the night class sessions and talked about her Uncaged Life philosophy. She’s a life coach and made a lot of sense. The core of her philosophy is to come up with a strong message and figure out just what it is that you do.

THAT’S my problem. What do I do? What am I offering potential clients? What do I want to do?

Lack of Focus

I spend my days being busy, following first one thing then another.

‘How much is this course? $250 dollars to learn how to take notes? I’m in!’

‘But wait! What’s this course here? Learn how to teach a course? But I don’t have any course ideas … doesn’t matter – it will change your life! It has the answers! I’m in!’

So, at the end of that week, I’ve not finished the note-taking course, nor having I finished the Teachable course. And I’ve done absolutely nothing to earn my place in this crowded world.

Come up with a Plan

I need a plan, a core product, an offering. Then I need to make sure that the things I’m doing contribute to that, to ‘moving the needle’ in the parlance of our times.

Do I have a plan? Well, I do as it happens. As I walked the dogs last night, it came to me — even though I was listening to a fantasy book. I love guitar, right? My idea of live streaming my practice sessions fell flat, which in turn meant that I’m not getting through my Fred Noad Solo Guitar Playing book.

Why don’t I go through my Noad book to the end, make notes on each exercise on challenges, then go back to the beginning and make a course?

Why not indeed. So that’s my idea. I should set myself a deadline to complete the book – how does the end of the year sound? That could work. I’ll go through the book and come up with a weekly quota.

Stalin’s Scribe, Brian J. Boeck

I bought Stalin’s Scribe on a whim whilst on holiday in the town of my Alma Mater, St Andrews university. It was my first time visiting Toppings Books and I happily spent a few hours in there.

I’ve had a fascination with the Stalin era of the Soviet Union since my army days when I studied GCSE Russian Studies and wrote a paper on the show trials and purges.

You might find this a little hard to believe, but I had never heard of Sholokhov, or his famous novel The Quiet Don. Why should it be hard to believe? Because I studied Russian language and literature for four years and spent years living in the former Soviet Union. When I saw the book in Toppings, I thought I was buying a book written about Stalin by his official scribe!

So, even though I thought I was reading something else entirely, I found myself completely drawn in anyway.

On the face of it, it’s about an author whose magnum opus ‘The Quiet Don’ is iffy at best because of plagiarism charges levelled against Sholokhov, and who wrote very little of note after that. But there is so much more to it than that.

It’s about an author who was able to navigate the tricky political landscape and still managed to stay alive, become wealthy and even win the Nobel Prize for Literature. That in itself makes for a good story, and that is exactly what this book turned out to be.

Sholokhov was not afraid of speaking truth to power and was able to use his influence over the years, including instigating the release of 3 political prisoners released from the clutches of the NKVD after he’d learned of the truth behind the great terror.

Not only did Sholokhov manage to keep from being imprisoned, exiled or shot, he also managed to stay in the good books of the leaders of the Soviet Union right up to the present, as it is mentioned in the afterword that Putin visited Sholokhov’s home in Vioshki in 2005 to mark the centenary of Sholokhov’s birth.

The writing style of the book made it easy to read. The research was well done and obviously extensive. It did seem to jump forward in time pretty fast towards the end, but I guess that’s because there wasn’t much else to say? Maybe it was edited down to make it shorter and an easier read? I’m sure it could quite easily have been twice as long.

It was interesting to read that there are still documents in locked archives.

“Though some of his secrets no doubt remain buried deep in closed archives, his contributions to Soviet history can now be recognized.”


Sholokhov seemed to be ahead of his time in the way that he perceived the dangers of Soviet policy. First he spoke of the failings of the agricultural policy as he saw them when Stalin launched collectivisation. He saw what was happening on the front during the war and was able to see through the propaganda with his mind before seeing it with his own eyes.

And later on, the 23rd Party Congress in 1966:

The remaining environmental portions of the speech still packed a few punches. He accused an unnamed factory of criminal indifference to poisoning the Volga River and killing between 11 and 22 million fish.

He claimed that the “glorious sea, sacred Baikal” was in danger from the felling of forests and the construction of cellulose paper industries along its pristine shores. He cited statistics about the dumping of waste water into the Don River and condemned the tenfold decline in the number of fish. In spite of key deletions, he still skewered the Fisheries Minister for bringing the Azov sea basin to “the edge of catastrophe.” Sholokhov was the only keynote speaker at the congress who spoke of nature as something more than a resource for immediate economic exploitation.

Dozens of other speeches emphasized the conquering of nature for industrial growth, but his was the only one to even mention the problem of industrial waste.


I took some personal pleasure at the reference to Santa Barbara in the afterword. I spent a year in Odessa from 1995-96 and my landlady was obsessed with that show!

Book Review: Long Shadows, High Hopes: The Life and Times of Matt Johnson & The The

I put Long Shadows High Hopes on my Kindle in June 2018 and was super excited to read it. Why then did it take me this long to finish it? Let’s just call it inertia. See what I did there?

I found the opening chapters rather a slog, so I’m sure that had something to do with my lack of progress. Of course, I do understand that the book had to start at the beginning, and I was going through a ‘not reading physical words’ phase. Most of my books are consumed in audiobook format.

Goodreads says I started reading it on 9 May 2019 so not as bad as I thought, but still …

I picked it back up this month and this time it took. I spent time reading it and listening through the back catalogue of The The’s albums, which a lot of the time meant I would stop reading and just listen to the music again, in my new home office with my studio monitors actually installed properly. And boy oh boy, what an experience!

Neil Fraser has clearly grown up with Matt Johnson’s music in his ears. This is a book written by someone who knows what they’re talking about. It really helped that context about the political landscape was included, although it could hardly not be, given Matt’s lyrics.

All the legal stuff was pretty grim to read about, the initial Cherry Red contract through to the collapse of the Sony deal. I guess it’s still the same now, only it’s Spotify et al who are raping the artists. I know that one of my other favourite artists, Suzanne Vega, has been going through legal battles to get her back catalogue released, going so far as to rerecord her catalogue for her compilation albums (which are great, by the way!) At least now there are more accessible avenues for self-distribution, and the The The fan site takeover was a genius move.

Matt Johnson on stage at the Glasgow Barrowland Ballroom
© 2018 Cams Campbell

I’m super glad that the book got as far as the Comeback Special Tour of 2018. I did manage to get a ticket for the Glasgow Barrowland gig and it was fucking superb. I was also pleased to read about the gig at the same venue in 1993, the one where Johnny Marr showed up. I was at that one too, although that was in my drinking years and I’m not sure how much of it I remember. Not much to be honest. The Comeback tour though – I was sober for that and got pretty close to the front. If you’ve been to the Barrowland, you’ll know what that means. What a show.

Barrowland Sign
© 2016 Cams Campbell

Of course, Matt’s story isn’t done yet, and that’s a beautiful thing. We can look forward to whatever Matt’s working on, knowing pretty much that we’re gonna love it whatever it is. I wasn’t a super fan of Burning Blue Soul, but other than that, Matt’s oeuvre has accompanied me through life and has helped me and inspired me more than he will ever know.

Those inertia years though. Jeezo. I can so relate to that, albeit without being a recording artist. I particularly enjoyed reading that part of the book, about the inspiration coming from The Inertia Variations by John Tottenham and the death of Andy.

Quotes and Comments

I highlighted some passages and made notes as I read through the book and I’ll share them here.

Amongst the wall-to-wall requests for musicians, or budding musicians, into the Pistols or The Clash, he spied one that was different. Looking for a bass/lead guitarist into Velvets/Syd Barrett.

Location 1358

Well, well, well. The Velvets and Syd Barrett. Of course! I’d have been tempted to reply to that ad myself!

‘Red Cinders’ begins with a muffled drum loop that spends a minute accompanied by flashes of noise stabs, the whole thus far being a good demonstration of how exposure to the studio had heightened his appreciation of the atmospherics he had discovered in film soundtracks as a boy. At one minute a guitar riff bursts into play and disappears almost at once to allow another, much funkier drum loop to take over, again with various noises put through various effects boxes. Around halfway things take a more industrial turn and the track continues in this vein. Although it is perhaps a minute too long it serves as a good introduction to the album, letting listeners know that they are going to be taken on a journey of some kind, something that the album cover probably gave away before the vinyl was put onto the turntable.

Location 2218

I loved that the book goes into individual tracks in this way. I didn’t hear Burning Blue Soul until it was rereleased on CD and I never cared for it much to be honest. It was nice getting some context from the book and relistening to it. I particularly enjoyed learning about the studio techniques Matt was using then, and of course about how he picked up those techniques through his time at De Wolfe.

From the beginning the conjoined twins of ‘Cold Spell Ahead’ were separated. The first half of that track was the source material and the latter section was forgotten about. The job was to now transform the sound and effectively create a new song. Three key instruments made this possible. Firstly there was an upgrade in rhythm box. The Roland 808 drum machine was much more effective at creating a driving rhythm, its continuing use some three decades and more later testament to its qualities. Over its insistent groove came an equally rhythmic bass line, played by Matt on Thorne’s electric Fender Precision bass guitar. It was also the first time he played on a Rickenbacker twelve-string, which he employed for the main rhythm and riff parts. With the rhythm in place the rest came easy and strings from Thorne’s trusty Synclavier were brought in at intervals along with some sax and flute by Crispin Cioe of the Uptown Horns. The final, and what turned out to be winning element, was provided by an instrument that Matt had become transfixed with on a shopping trip to Manny’s on 48th Street, New York’s ‘Music Row’.

Location 2523

It was a xylimba, a mallet percussion instrument, with wooden keys over a single box resonator. This was used to add another, much faster, rhythmic groove. The decision to open the track with this riff was a master-stroke. The first few bars of the finished ten-minute recording consist of the xylimba pattern and 808 hi-hat taps, with the 808 kick drum introduced for a few bars before a snare fill brings the guitar riff in and the song suddenly fills out in all its recognisable glory. By delaying the start of the song-proper in this way, Thorne provided club DJs with the sort of intro that could be used to mix from one track to another and, when the song was familiar, announce its presence in a way that was designed to get people onto the dance floor.

Location 2532

I LOVE this kind of detail! It also inspired me to look up Cold Spell Ahead and I found a recording on YouTube. I’d heard OF it, but not actually heard it. And so that wonderful sound is a xylimba – now I know!

One thing that helped grease the wheels of the Some Bizzare social scene, and enhance the sense that they were a band apart, was ecstasy. Some five or six years in advance of the ‘discovery’ of the drug by a group of DJs and clubbers in Ibiza, there was an even more exclusive coterie of people who had experienced it at a time when hardly anybody outside of America had heard of it. Johnson was initiated via Stevo and Marc Almond. “There was this girl who used to bring them in, Cindy Ecstasy was her name. You know those coat hangers that have that white cardboard strip on them, I suppose to stop the trousers getting creased? She would put the pills all the way along the inside of those, on all her clothes, taking a hell of a risk, and you would get a phone call, ‘Cindy’s in town’, or ‘Cindy’s coming to town’, and we’d all meet up in a friend’s flat in Knightsbridge. It blew my mind the first time I took it, and I think it was a lot stronger back then, though everyone says that don’t they. But it was powerful stuff and we got quite heavily into it, and so that influenced Soul Mining.”

Location 2921

It was super interesting to read about the drugs that Matt and the band were using at the time. I’m no stranger to some of these myself, but I had no idea that it was going on in the UK as early as it was.

[I’ve Been Waiting for Tomorrow All My Life] Ignoring the philosophical nuggets that this idea throws up it is clear to see that this lyric is Johnson’s first overtly political one, as he rails against society and what he sees as the machinery that has created it. The lines, I’ve been filled with useless information/Spewed out by papers and radio stations, about the subtle propaganda of the state, were written a few years before Margaret Thatcher was famously quoted, in a Woman’s Own interview, as saying there was no such thing as society, intent as her government was on completely reshaping it.

Location 3018

Matt Johnson, the prophet, something he would prove to be more than once. It’s crazy how much his art shows the hypocrisy and the intent of politics and politicians, crazy but beautiful. I would love to see what kind of lyrics Matt would be writing today, right now, if he were to get in a flow state and let the energy flow through his brilliant mind.

After a serious amount of head-scratching and discussion it was decided that the beautiful-sounding Yamaha C3 baby grand piano sitting there in the live room might be the answer, and Annie Roseberry, who had made the suggestion, was asked if she knew of a good candidate. She suggested Jools Holland, who had tinkled the ivories with Squeeze until they had split the previous year, and was now better known as compere of Channel 4 music show The Tube. It proved to be an inspired choice, as Johnson was to relate to Kevin Foakes at an event to celebrate the reissued box set of Soul Mining some thirty-one years later.

Location 3057

It proved to be an inspired choice? A-fucking-men to that! Although DC Collard also crushed it on the Comeback tour. It was great to read that passage about Jools’ coming by, nailing the solo and then them all going out for breakfast. It’s always been one of those stand-out musical moments for me that solo.

There were also a fair number of distractions. Moving into his own place in Carysfort Road was one of them, and the freedom to party was another. By this stage the goings-on at Stevo’s house in Hammersmith were well on the way to getting out of control, as many of the participants are willing to testify. Mal Mallinder from Cabaret Voltaire remembers going round all the time. “Stevo’s house in Hammersmith was like the gang headquarters. You couldn’t be on Some Bizzare and not go round his house. You would go there before a night out, or you would end up there after you’d been on a night out.” According to Skinner, “Stevo would make you listen to this dark industrial music on speakers the size of doors and you couldn’t escape, you had to listen. He decided you were listening. And he would do this with journalists too, or record company heads.” It was like Stevo, at some point, decided to throw a party and the thing just carried on, for days, weeks, months. It was relentless. Johnson’s own recollections sum up the general vibe.

Location 3396

I had to send this to one of my pals, as this could have been written about him. Just change the name Stevo to Rossco, ha ha. I spent many nights in his flat in Edinburgh being made to listen to Ministry, Front 242, Revolting Cocks and a mix tape he’d made called ‘the Car Crash Tape’. I was yearning for Wish You Were Here and a crash, but never got that until long after the sun had come up.

‘Sweet Bird Of Truth’, written at the tail-end of 1985 and recorded in January 1986, detailed the thoughts of an American pilot whose plane has been brought down over the Gulf of Arabia. There was no doubt a certain amount of unease amongst the CBS executives when they considered that the lyrics echoed reality somewhat, as during the raid on Libya, an American F-111 bomber had been shot down over the Gulf of Sidra, killing both pilots. If truth be told, Johnson himself was somewhat spooked by fact following fiction so rapidly, though he was to point out to more than one journalist who interviewed him at this time that the gift of prophecy was hardly required, just a television set and an interest in the news. The words of the song had come in a sudden rush one night when he was on ecstasy.

Location 3538

I was fascinated to read about the words coming in a ‘sudden rush one night when he was on ecstasy’. I’ve read a lot recently about the use of MDMA in therapy sessions and have long held a personal belief that it can open up channels to the source without the energy’s being corrupted in the way that alcohol can corrupt it. For the record I’ve been in recovery from alcoholism for 15 years and have ‘some experience’ with drugs. I choose other means of connection now though.

The song had been banned by Radio 1, for the use of the word ‘piss’, but as most intelligent observers noted, this was an accurate way of describing the sort of soulless shopping centres in the deprived heartlands of Britain. The moral arbiters of taste didn’t see it that way and demanded that an edit of the track with the offending phrase removed was done before airplay could be granted. ‘Heartland’ may well be Johnson’s greatest achievement. Historian and analyst of UK foreign policy, Mark Curtis, thinks so. “I heard Infected when I was a postgrad student at the LSE. It was probably ‘Heartland’ that really struck me first – just an extraordinary song and words. **‘Heartland’, I would say, is the greatest political lyric in British music.” **

Location 3647

Yep. It’s certainly the political lyric that woke me up and it’s as relevant today as it ever was.

“Mind Bomb was done on magic mushrooms; I had piles of books… I was meditating… doing all sorts of really deep, freakish things and getting into all this heavy Islamic stuff. Also Daoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism. I was trying to use consciousness as a type of microscope/telescope to delve deeper into the world around me. Ultimately, I did freak myself out a bit as I probably went too far but, in the end, everything seemed to simply boil down to love and fear and the realisation that all we see in this life is a manifestation of one of these opposing frequencies. I was also keenly aware, though, how the ego can pollute these kind of enquiries and mess everything up.”

Location 4265

The book was worth reading for this paragraph alone. It has me wishing I could hang out with Matt Johnson sometime and have a conversation about these kinds of things.

It also inspires to to do things like write a book review, something I don’t think I’ve ever done before. I dunno, maybe I did in high school, but I doubt it, given how wayward I was back then!

Why Did I Never Create?

Reading Long Shadows, High Hopes has made me ask questions of myself and wonder why the fuck I never even considered trying to be creative as a teen / twenty-something. Music was the biggest thing for us next to BMX riding, and it remains so today. I do play, but I’ve never felt that URGE to write that I get from reading about Matt’s younger years.

Is it too late? Is it fuck. I’m going to write. I’m buzzing on the back of having read this book and from some of the content I’ve been watching by young content creators who seem to be fearless in putting out their thoughts and opinions. Does it matter if I have an audience? Hell no! I’m going to keep doing it until I run out of things to say, and if it appeals to anyone, so much the better, but if it doesn’t, I’ll feel good about getting thoughts out of my head anyway.

On the Road

It’s perhaps interesting that the book I finished just before I got through Long Shadows, High Hopes was Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. I have some journal entries that I wrote whilst reading that that are along the same lines as what I’ve just written about creativity. I found that book to be incredibly inspiring and got me thinking that some of my experiences are actually pretty interesting and could make for some good content.

Matt’s Back Catalogue

It feels like I’ll be in a The The consumption phase for quite a while now after having read this book. For one thing, how come I never got into NakedSelf? That’s just weird. I put it down to timing – in 2000 I was working overseas, although that didn’t stop me from finding Kid A. I didn’t listen to NakedSelf until just last week and I’ve listened to it twice today already. I put it on my AirPods walking through Glasgow at night a couple of nights ago and it was spectacular.

I have seen Johanna St Michaels’s Inertia Variations, but it’s not available anywhere that I can find right now and I would dearly like to watch it again. Shame.

“The Human Race is about to Reap What it Sows.”



It has to be five stars from me for this one. It’s not even up for debate. A solid, indisputable five stars. Well written, well researched, detailed

Ali Abdaal has Inspired Me BIG TIME!

Who the fuck is Ali Abdaal? I didn’t know either, until lunch time today. Since then, he’s changed my life.

I don’t know if you know, but my mental health hasn’t always been great. I came out of a bipolar downswing at the beginning of this week, a downswing that I wasn’t even really aware that I was in until I wasn’t. And it felt fucking amazing. Wheeeee! I was feeling a glow, an energy, positivity in waves that I hadn’t felt for months.

That led to productivity. I can do anything when I’m on an upswing; everything seems possible. All the ideas and plans that I had on my last upswing suddenly feel good again. Time to get to work!

Knowledge Working Space

I’ve always been interested in the knowledge working space. I remember signing up for Backpack in around 2006, listening to Merlin Mann’s interview with David Allen of Getting Things Done, reading David Sparks’ posts about OmniFocus, reading Shawn Blanc, starting a blog, and another blog, and a music website and a photography website.

Then the downswing would come and everything would seem pointless and I’d feel like I was a fraud. ‘Who cares, right?’.

I’ve been going through these ups and downs for as long as I can remember. Now I’m in an upswing and feeling like it will never end, and so I’m going to go with that and not think about the fact that it always does end. But I’m going to try and ‘bank some creative capital’ this time, and every time from now on.

Ali Abdaal

This is where Ali Abdaal comes in.

Let’s rewind a little, back to a couple of weeks ago when I discovered a new-ish note-taking service called Roam Research. I can’t remember how I found it. No, wait, it was from one of my favourite newsletters, Iain Broome’s. He just happened to mention it on his Substack blog.

I signed up because it sounded fantastic, but the upswing hadn’t kicked in and I did nothing with it until this weekend. I’ve spent the last two days watching YouTube videos on how it works, and that was how I found Ali Abdaal. I’ve watched four or five of his videos today and am now reading one of three books that he recommended.

Side note: this is another danger zone for me on an upswing – I buy stuff like I had ALL the money! I even made a note in my journal to reign that in this time around, because it never ends well. And of course I can justify every single purchase! I’m now staring at the Joker keyboard on the IQUNIX store and trying hard not to buy it (I already ordered a Keychron K4 earlier in the week — oops!)

But the books, right. I’m now reading Show Your Work, by Austin Kleon. It’s really good.

I’m highlighting it in the Kindle app, which highlights will then be added to a page in Roam Research via Readwise. It’s the sort of workflow that really excites me. Naturally it’s going to involve buying a subscription both to Roam Research AND Readwise when the trials are up. This is what I was talking about!

Banking Creative Capital

Ali talks about passive income in this video.

He’s a doctor, working for the NHS in the UK. And he’s making a comfortable living making content and from affiliate marketing. But wait, he’s a doctor? Working for the NHS? I’ve been around UK hospitals enough to have an idea of how much work that is. And I’M complaining that I don’t have time to make videos? What?

Nuts, right?

Not only that, but Ali’s down-to-earth style in his videos really appeals to me and makes me feel a little less like an impostor. So, that’s why I’m feeling inspired af right now. I have multiple projects in my head, some of which have content created going back to June 2019 and which I’ve done fuck all with because ‘I don’t have time’. So from now on, whenever I think I don’t have time, I’ll remind myself that I’m not a junior doctor for the NHS and stop fucking complaining!

So while I’m feeling positive, I’m going to get to work with some content and a new website that’s in the works for my network marketing ideas. I know from having been part of the knowledge space for a long time that consistency is perhaps the main ingredient when it comes to algorithms and audience building, so if I can just get enough content ready and schedule it out, it could just work.

I think it’s that lack of consistency that has held me back. I hear YouTubers talking about how they’ve been on YouTube forever, meaning five years. I published my first video in 2007 before even Google bought it. But I’m not going to regret the past; I’m going to start today and send a big shoutout of gratitude to Ali.


**Featured Image copyright Ali Abdaal.