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The Marvels
On Monday night I went to see two entirely different films at the same time. One was a disappointing box office flop that heralded the end of a massive franchise, the other was one of the most successful films of the year and exciting and fun and PROPER. And guess what chums? THEY WERE THE SAME FILM!

For LO! I went with my Oldest Pal and Going To See Marvel Films Buddy Mr S Carter to see "The Marvels" and it was GRATE! There were a couple of bits that weren't quite as exciting as the other bits, but overall it was VERY FUNNY and full of GRATE characters and EXCITEMENT and STAKES and also just the right amount of links to other Marvel films that made those among us who are Massive Marvel Geeks (in this case 100% of us) very happy without bogging the whole thing down. Best of all it was less than two hours long i.e. THE CORRECT LENGTH FOR ALL FILMS. Also best of all, it had a musical bit, excellent CATS, and Iman Vellani being BRILLIANT throughout.

However, all of the press about the film has been massively negative, claiming that it is a FAILURE despite the fact that it remains one of the best selling movies of the year, with a MUCH bigger audience than other supposedly successful films like Napoleon or the latest film in the Martin Scorcese Gangsterverse. And as I say, it is also FAB film. So how can this apparent anomaly EXIST?

Call me KRAZY but I think there are TWO (2) factors at work here. The first one is possibly the worst i.e. a combination of SEXISM and RACISM. For some stupid reason there is a hardcore of superhero "fans" who HATE the idea that WOMEN can be in superhero movies or indeed that people of colour can be, as if these two audiences have not been part of comics ever since the start. THUS a film with THREE women in the lead roles, two being women of colour, and a director who is ALSO a woman of colour is enough to drive them NUTS, claiming all the while that OF COURSE their rabid dislike is nothing to do with any of this and what they're ACTUALLY complaining about is "diversity" being used to replace previous characters with the same name. For instance, the fact that Carol Danvers is called "Captain Marvel" is a terrible thing because Marvel ALREADY had a character called Captain Marvel, and the existence of another ENTIRELY MORE FAMOUS character at Fawcett with exactly that name for several decades before is neither here nor there.

The other factor is MASSIVE GENRE SNOBBERY from the type of people who have been saying "Audiences are beginning to tire of superhero films" ever since IRON MAN 2. To them the fact that "The Marvels" had a lower opening than other recent Marvel films is entirely due to this prophecy finally coming true and not because JUST FOR INSTANCE it came out right after the end of the Hollywood Strikes and so has not exactly had much time to be hyped up. NO, it is because THE PROLES are finally realising that they didn't actually like superhero movies after all and what they really want is yet another fifteen hour long gangster movie or a year-long epic about A FAMOUS WHITE MAN written and directed by another FAMOUS WHITE MAN.

Obviously I am BIASED in favour of Superhero Movies and want them to keep being successful so I can keep going to see them, but that doesn't mean I think they're all good - "Eternals" was a load of old rubbish, for instance, and "Black Adam" was an offence to THE ENTIRE HUMAN RACE, second only to "Sex Lives Of The Potato Men" in the list of Worst Films I Have Ever Seen At The Pictures - and it certainly doesn't mean they're the only type of film I ever want to see. Also, I am fully aware that Films I Like are not necessarily the same as Films Other People Like. However, the way this particular film has been reviewed and anti-hyped does seem to be particularly EGREGIOUS and an example of two unpleasant factors in our current cultural discourse coming together to AGREE with each other in a manner that Quite Frankly I do not like.

So I say unto you this, gentle friends: if you get a chance do go and see "The Marvels" as it is DEAD GOOD. And also, although you may have been SPOILED for the mid-credits scene, there is more super-geeky stuff to it than I had realised before going in, and they ALSO do one of the best mid-credits scenes EVER before the credits even begin. It is FAB and I recommend it to you!

posted 6/12/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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New look/Old story
I was intending to explain the NEW LOOK for the website today, but then Shane McGowan passed away so before that I think I am duty bound to share this VIDEO of me explaining how The Validators briefly met him (and Nick Cave) whilst on TOUR some years ago:

This story is entirely true from start to finish, including the FACT that both Shane McGowan and Nick Cave left before we went on - the only possible explanation for this is that they were NOT READY for the INTENSE ROCK we threatened and so went home to bed. THUS we stayed out later than both of them COMBINED! Also, Emma still has his sunglassess!

Now that solemn duty has been completed, a quick explanation of the website redesign. Part of the reason is that I've been meaning to make it slightly more ACCESSIBLE and easier to read on a phone for a while, so have tried to follow GUIDELINES to do so. However the MAIN reason is that I'm putting in an application for an Arts Council grant. I'll tell you the details when I find out whether I GET it or not, but the salient point right now is that the application needed an ARTIST'S WEBSITE. Obviously this IS that, but the header "MJ Hibbett & The Validators" makes it look more BAND-Y, whereas the application talks about the band stuff I've done AND the Steve stuff AND solo things AND Academical Publications, so I did a minor RE-BRANDING to make it reflect all that properly.

I mention this so regular readers are aware that The Validators have not been CANCELLED, nor has Steve been deemed insufficiently WOKE, and that everything is still exactly where it always was. The only person who really suffers in this re-design is ME, really, as it's made the site much more ALL ABOUT ME which, as anyone who knows me will realise, is not the sort of thing I like AT ALL. But I will bear it, for the cause of ART!

posted 30/11/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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How We Used To Publish
You find me up to my NECK in Academical Activities this week, although this is at least an improvement over the past few months when I have been up to my very EYEBALLS in it. It's almost as if all academics set the same DEADLINES i.e. a week or two before they finish teaching for the year.

In order to avoid DEADLINE DOOM I have been following a radical and revolutionary plan i.e. I started doing things EARLY so I'd have plenty of time to get them done in. This has been GRATE in that it means I've been able to get a whole load of things sent off without MASS PANIC and ALL-NIGHTERS, but also a bit fatiguing in that it feels like there is a never ending procession of STUFF to write. Still, I am now down to one (1) grant bid, one (1) article to re-write and one (1) book to proof read before Christmas. NOTHING CAN GO WRONG!

The aforesaid article is my first one in an PRINT journal for about twenty years, and it has made me think about how very far it has all come since those days of glory spent co-writing (NB usually spellchecking) STATS articles at the University of Leicester. These days if you want to read an article or a book or whatnot it is DEAD EASY, especially if you WORK at a University because you can just go into your library systems and order something or indeed just GET it online. For example, the re-writes for this particular article involve getting references from another book and article, and so on Monday I went downstairs from my desk (NB in the office, sadly there is not a library in my building - WHICH IS WRONG), wandered along a book shelf and GOT the book, then went online and DOWNLOADED the article. It was peasy!

Things were VERY different back in the previous century, when access to articles was a PRIZED TREAT. I vividly remember my first proper job as Administrative Assistant in Psychiatry for the Elderly at Leicester General Hospital, where one of my Daily Duties was to open deliveries of new journals and stack them on the massive bookshelf in the entrance hall. We used to get LOADS of journals, including one that always had HIDEOUS and GRAPHIC images of some awful GENITAL INFECTION on the cover, but mainly standard ones like the BMJ. The shelf was handily and deliberately placed opposite the entrance to the LOO so people were forever wandering over to get something to READ whilst on the lav. My desk faced the shelf so I would look JUDGEMENTAL at those who chose THE ANNALS OF GENITAL INFECTION.

Then as now, research departments in medicine wrote a LOT of papers with a LOT of authors on them. If you could get one or more Famous Professors to be a co-author it would help get you published in a fancy journal, so my aforesaid boss was involved in LOADS. That meant that having access to previous research was important, but sometimes it was really hard to get hold of. We didn't have the interweb AT ALL back then - when I started we were still using black and white monitors! - so the only way to GET stuff was to write a LETTER to the person who wrote it, asking for a copy!

I was thinking about that all of a sudden the other night because my brain went "HEY! If I have an article in a print journal maybe they'll send me FIVE COPIES of the article!" I can't remember what these were called, but it was a whole THING when the journal used to send the lead author five (i think it was five anyway) copies of their article as a special little leaflet so that they could send it to people who asked. It was my job to reply to these article requests, enclosed the paper with a pre-printed University of Leicester compliment slip, and also to monitor how many we had left - POPULAR ones would run out really quickly and I'd need to make a trip down the corridor to the photocopier under the stairs to do some more.

It's weird that all of those memories should suddenly come dashing back, but CRUMBS it doesn't half make me appreciate how much EASIER all of this sort of thing is nowadays. If I'd had to write off for every article I needed for my PhD I would have been RUINED by the cost of stamps!

posted 28/11/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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Doctor Who Unleashed
Like pretty much everyone of my ILK and TYPE I have spent the past year getting Quite Excited about the new series of Doctor Who. Most of the general TV and media focus has been on David Tennant coming back but I was more thrilled at the idea of The Great And Wonderful RTD returning, although when I actually WATCHED the show (diligently un-spoilered slightly later on Saturday evening) it took me a while to get back into his particular style of Doctor Who i.e. him going "HERE IS THE MESSAGE EVERYONE! AHA!"

However, once I had accepted that that is actually part of the GRATE JOY of any RTD show I settled in and enjoyed it very much indeed. INDEED my views on how it worked can be summed up in this excellent comment made by Mr T Ewing on The Socials, which I shall quote in full:
I don’t think I’d really anticipated what a good fit RTD adapting Pat Mills would be - both enormously vibes-driven writers (in my day we called it thrill power) with big subtext-is-for-cowards agendas behind that.

That is SUCH a PERCEPTIVE and CORRECT thing to say that I have now been thinking about it for two whole days, gazing at it in wonder!

The actual EPISODE, however, is not the reason for which I write this here blog, OH NO. What I wish to speak of instead is "Doctor Who Unleashed" what came afterwards. This is the new version of "Doctor Who Confidential" where they talk about aspects of the making of the show, except as far as I can remember that previous version did not have a Larky Presenter doing the presenting as if Everything Is Just A Terrific Laugh. I know it marks me out as someone in LATE YOUTH but my goodness, why does everything have to have some tedious twerp of a comedian or comedian-alternative in it these days, pretending a) not to be as posh as they patently are b) making a virtue of being HALF-ARSED about everything.

This half-arsedness was especially noticeable when they talked about the ROOTS of this particular episode i.e. in the Doctor Who Comic story done by Pat Mills and Dave Gibbons over 40 years ago. I was VERY happy to see this being discussed, but ANNOYED by the extremely half-arsed description that said "Pat and Dave wrote the original Star Beast..." NO! Pat wrote it, Dave drew it FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE. Also there was a list of stories they had "written", and these "stories" included "Judge Dredd" AND "2000AD". UM. That's not quite right is it? It was ALMOST AS IF they could not be BOTHERED to spend 0.2 picoseconds actually checking it and getting it CORRECT because - hey guys! - being half-arsed and feckless is NATURALLY HILARIOUS.

ANYWAY. This colossal GRUMP was then COMPLETELY DISPELLED by the WONDERFUL thing that happened next, as we saw Pat Mills and Dave Gibbons visiting the set to see what had been done with their original creation. They were both a bit overwhelmed, with Dave Gibbons talking a LOT and Pat Mills WEIRDLY SILENCED, which is something I would not have thought possible. He is KNOWN as being AN FIREBRAND but here he seemed to be lost for words - I mean, maybe they edited out a long speech about THATCHER or something, but he seemed genuinely moved by the whole thing.

The BEST bit though was when a CLEARLY EXCITED David Tennant came running up, OBVIOUSLY DELIGHTED to meet Pat Mills and David Gibbobns, grinning all over his face and then REELING OFF a COMPLETE and CORRECT list of all the stories they had done in Doctor Who comic that he had loved. It was LOVELY, entirly FULLY-ARSED and also SINCERE and, to be honest, probably how an awful lot of the rest of us would have reacted, given the chance. It completely made up for all the effected casualness that had come before.

After a couple of minutes David Tennant wafted off back to work, leaving Mills and Gibbons - and also HIBBETT - rather moved by the whole experience. It was lovely - more of this please!

posted 26/11/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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The Social Media Portfolio Expands Again
There was a time long ago when getting onto a new social media platform was a thing of excitement and thrills, a rare event like getting a new Doctor Who are having a new Prime Minister. These days it feels like an almost daily occurrence, like... well, you get the idea.

Such thoughts have come to mind because (thanks to an invite from the excellent Mr W Pilkington) I have signed up for Bluesky! "Ooh," I thought as I began to log in, "How is this going to work then eh? What new delights await?" and the answer was the same as it was with Threads, or Mastodon, or Instagram, or whatever else we've gone through in the never ending journey to replace Twitter i.e. that it's always fun spending ten minutes picking PALS to follow, and then it's great the following day when they follow you back, but then... um... it's all sort of like Twitter but with less people. There's also less MAD ADVERTS for things that a) I don't want b) twitter is now actively telling me not to look at, but still - it definitely feels like the glory days of about ten years ago are gone and there is now nothing like Twitter As Was.

And to be honest, that is FINE with me. I now spend a lot less time of an evening GLOMMING through my twitter feed and a lot MORE time doing wholesome things like reading ACTUAL BOOKS. There was a short period when it felt like Twitter was democratising access to THORTS and IDEAS, when the likes of you and I had as much chance with going VIRAL with something as any celebrity, but that was pretty quickly stamped down on. Weirdly, for one as ROCK AND ROLL and COOL as what I am, I now find that the only SOCIALS I really look at is flipping FACEBOOK, just to see what various PALS are up to.

Anyway, all of that is to say that if anyone else is on Bluesky do please come and say hello and I will inevitably follow you back so that we can enjoy each other's company for the next fortnight or so until something ELSE radical and exciting turns up that looks almost exactly like Twitter. OR, perhaps, maybe, someone somewhere will FINALLLY listen to THE KIDS and gives us the FUTURISTIC BRANE HOLOGRAMS what we have so long been calling for. Come on Elon, get with it Zucks, give us what we want and if you get a move on we'll even let you advertise shoes that we already own on it! AND BOXES OF VEGETABLES!

posted 20/11/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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The Lion Who Never Roared
Last night The Beer In My Bottle and I strolled through mythical Maryland to get to The Wanstead Tap, there to watch Mr M Tiller present a talk about his new book The Lion Who Never Roared.

As we know from STATISTICAL FACTS I have gigged and toured EXTENSIVELY over the years with Matt, and during those times he has a) always been a DELIGHT b) often spoken of the story of Jack Leslie, a legendary Plymouth Argyle player who was called up for England but then suddenly had the call-up denied by the FA once they realised he was black. Telling this story has been a long-term project for Matt, starting off with a SONG but then transmuting into co-founding The Jack Leslie Campaign, which set out to erect a statue outside Argyle's ground and ended up not only doing THAT but - incredibly - managing to get the FA to award an honorary England cap to his family.

The story of the story has ITSELF been quite an amazing thing, not least because the campaign was trying to put UP a statue recognising racial injustice at a time when other statues of slave owners were being torn DOWN, and this evening was a bit about that, but mostly going into more depth about Jack Leslie's life. I knew the outline of what had happened to him but Matt took us through a FASCINATING pile of details, Painting A Picture of what life was like for him back in the first half of the twentieth century, when he was the only black player in the football league.

There was also a GRATE bit at the end when he got Jack Leslie's granddaughter up to talk about her Grandad, followed by QUESTIONS which included thoughts about the family, discussion of ongoing racial injustice in sport, and, at the end, an in-depth FOOTBALL STATS discussion because, after all, you cannot have any discussion of football without a massive STATS discussion. Matt handled it all with APLOMB and we were VERY PROUD, especially when a MASSIVE QUEUE formed to get him to sign it - that never happened when we did gigs together!

queue of people lining up to get Matt Tiller to sign a copy of his book

The desire to BUY was so strong that they actually sold out of copies before I could get one, although HANDILY it is very much available in All Good Book Stores and indeed direct from the campaign. I would highly recommend it as an ENTHRALLING and also IMPORTANT story what needs telling... and has been!

posted 17/11/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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Grown-Up Conferencing
Last week I spent a couple of days up in distant LEEDS, there to attend the Comics Forum conference. Short version: it was really good fun and/but felt dead GROWN UP.

The good fun part is easy to explain because it was a coming together of UK (and a few other) comics scholars to present and talk about COMICS. The Comics Studies community is exceedingly welcoming and full of ENTHUSIASM and VIM so it is always GRATE to be once more among them, especially when I get to do a presentation myself, as I did this time. It was called Three Generations Of Dennis The Menace: How Gok Wan created a new storyworld superpower and was all about how a change to the Dennis The Menace storyworld eleven years ago led to The Beano finally entering the equivalent of The Bronze AGe in US superhero comics. One big chunk of it was some MIND BLOWING revelations about continuity in Beanotown which I trailed rather heavily throughout the talk. SO heavy was this trailering that I started to worry that I might be over-egging it, but the eventual reaction was well worth the wait. If anybody wishes to experience this experience please ask me about it next time you see me in a pub and I will be DELIGHTED to share!

The grown-up part was partly to do with the FACT that I didn't JUST tit around showing off (although OBVS I did that) but also talked about Proper Things both Comics and REF-based. However it was also to do with the dawning realisation that I was now NO LONGER one of the new young kids who were just getting stuck into their their PhD. When I HAD been in that position lots of lovely people listened to me talk about MY research, so now it was my turn to talk to THEM about what they were up to. This felt GOOD and was also EXTREMELY INTERESTING - people doing Comics Studies PhDs are doing some FASCINATING stuff!

While I was there I also popped round the corner to the venue that used to be Carpe Diem, a place we had played MANY times back in the day. It was almost entirely different to how it had been back then, with far fewer underage drinkers and fights, but a lot more Street Food and Craft Ales, although weirdly the raised area where the stage had been set up was still in place. It was actually really nice and I went there TWICE for some lovely pizza and some Surprisingly Delicious alcohol free IPA.

Back at the conference I also had various CONVERSATIONS about the next PROJECT what I am thinking up, which will be based around my BOOK what is coming out next year, which I guess is even MORE grown-up than the rest of it. It was an all-round DELIGHTFUL couple of days anyway, and it's made me PINE for the next one!

posted 13/11/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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ROCKING Cambourne
On Friday night myself and The Maps In My Zoning Plan headed to CAMBOURNE, somewhere between Cambridge and St Neots, where I was due to play a gig at The Hub with The British IBM. Getting there went very well all the way to Cambridge, but then got a bit more difficult as MASSIVE traffic meant that it took about 40 minutes to GET at taxi and then twice as long as expected to get to Cambourne itself.

THUS we only managed to get to The Hub a couple of minutes after The British IBM had started, which was a shame as it meant we MISSED a slice of gig that turned out to be GRATE. As the aforesaid Strings On My Guitar pointed out, the sound was LOVELY and the whole thing GROOVED along. I've played with them several times although, it turns out on later investigation, almost always VIRTUALLY, which may explain why it all felt so ROUNDED and ORGANIC in real life. Or it might just be that a GLOCKENSPIEL was employed, which is pretty much always good!

While they were playing my BRANE was WHIRRING as I tried to work out a) the audience b) my setlist. The evening was Retro Computing themed with a range of old computers set up along the sides of the room, so I knew at least ONE song I was going to be playing, but the rest of the set was a bit tricky to work out. Previous experience tells me that some of my GUARANTEED GIG BANGERS don't always go down too well in these sort of environments so I had a bit of a THINK and this is what I came up with:

  • Bad Back
  • I Come From The Fens
  • Fire Drill
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • Chips And Cheese, Pint Of Wine
  • I Think I Did OK
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • Hey Hey 16K
  • Boom Shake The Room

  • Doing a slightly different set to usual meant it was a LOVELY challenge for me to steer my REMARKS through an unfamiliar ROCK ROUTE, and playing Bad Back first turned out to be a REALLY good idea, as I had correctly jduged the audience's familiarity with said ailment. Most of the rest of it ROCKED along nicely too, with the fact that everyone GOT Chips And Cheese, Pint Of Wine making me very happy indeed, but why on EARTH have I not done Fire Drill in the live arena before? It was GRATE!

    The best bit for me though was that I got ALL the way through it - I had a bit of a cold last week so hadn't been able to do as much practice as I'd like (I never used to practice AT ALL when I was doing 6 gigs a month, but now it's more like 6 gigs a YEAR I sort of have to!). I was especially worried when I decided, 20 seconds in, to abandon the microphone and go Totally Acoustic but it seemed to go all right and my voice kept going for THE LOT. The only major PANIC was right at the very end when I forgot the words to Boom Shake The Room and almost gave it up, but luckily The Lyrics On My Songsheet DID remember and shouted them out so I could get back on track. PHEW!

    When it was all over I chatted to lots of lovely people, notably our pals The Suttons who had come along, and also SOLD some MERCH. Aidy from The British IBM (who had organised the whole thing) suggested setting up a MERCH TABLE and to my surprise this generated a small crowd of purchasers, who I think may have gone home with slightly more than they bargained for. I'd brought a LOT of stuff, especially CASSETTES as I realised that this was likely to be the audience containing the most people with tape players that I'd ever perform to, and didn't want to have to carry it all home again!

    It was a lovely evening all round, and it ended with a small group of us staggering into the night in search of the hotel nearby where most of us were staying, full of THORTS and FURTHER DISCUSSION. It was a DELIGHTFUL bunch of people to play for and a GRATE evening!

    posted 4/11/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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    Like Everything That I'd Ever Lost Had Come Back
    I had a MILDLY STRANGE experience the other day, sort of like DEJA VU but then also not. I don't think it has a name, such is its MILD STRANGENESS, but if anyone can tell me that it DOES I would be very grateful.

    What it was was as follows. I was listening to the "new" Beatles song yesterday and having various thoughts e.g. that it sounded a bit like The Beatles but also not quite like anything else by The Beatles and so therefore even more like The Actual Beatles, and also that the song was all right but the best bit had been in the Making Of when you first hear John Lennon's extracted voice and it is A BIT EXCITING. Anyway, as I was listening it struck me that it was almost as if The Universe was trying to be nice to me - and me specifically - as it had ALSO just unleashed new stuff from Old Doctors Who i.e. the Tales Of The Tardis on iPlayer. I watched some of this last night, by the way, and was really quite surprised by how good "Earthshock" was. I remember watching it at the time, but had no idea it was GOOD!

    That's TWO of the Cultural Items I like MOST that have unearthed new material, what are the chances eh? But then later in the evening I was listening to the rather lovely new Kirsty MacColl boxset. This is a GORGEOUS thing, beautifully made and also PACKED with demoes and other things I'd never heard before. "Crumbs!" I expectorated. "That's THREE of my favourite things that came back. Why, if it carried on like this there's only Douglas Adams left!"

    About 0.3 nanoseconds later I realised that, only a few weeks ago, I'd taken delivery of 42: The Wildly Improbable Ideas Of Douglas Adams, a big crowdfunded book what is PACKED with previously unreleased Douglas Adams stuff. WHAT IS GOING ON HERE? "It's like", I thought, "everything that I'd ever lost has come back. That's a song isn't it?"

    OH CRIKEY! It IS a song - a song by Allo Darlin', my top most favourite band of The Current Century who - HOLD ON TO YOUR HATS - split up eight-ish years ago but returned to do some gigs THIS VERY WEEK!!!!!

    I tell you what, if it hadn't already BEEN Halloween then this would make for a spooky story to spook even the most hardened DRACULA. I am now struggling to think of many other CULTURAL TOUCHSTONES that I love that HAVEN'T yet come back again. I mean, are we about to find out there's a whole other Molesworth book coming out? (Yes I know there is a cartoon series possibly coming but that's Not Quite The Same...although, maybe it is?)

    It feels like a whole heap of things coming out at once, which I suppose MIGHT just be something that happens when you reach this late stage of your THIRTIES (very late stage) what I am currently in. Maybe this is the point when things you liked get ARCHIVED and UNCOVERED? Or maybe it really IS The Universe thinking "Let's give Hibbett a treat and bring all his stuff back." If that is the case then I say THANKS, The Universe, it is much appreciated although perhaps a bit overwhelming!

    posted 3/11/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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    Bingeing Becky Chambers
    When I was about eight years old I got REALLY into The Famous Five books. Yes yes I know they are OF THEIR TIME in some (A LOT) of the attitudes therein but the time I read them in was ALSO of its time so it wasn't so obvious then.

    Anyway, I read LOADS of them one after the other, and after a while I remember thinking to myself "This is all well and good, these adventures and so forth, but what I'd really like would be a book where nothing happens at all and they just hang around being pals with each other." That is right, way back in 1978 I predicted the advent of THE HANGOUT SITCOM, I was indeed a visionary even in 1978 at the age of eight... um... I mean MINUS TWENTY.

    That THORT has stuck with me ever since - sometimes you like the characters so much that you don't actually NEED them to go around answering calls to adventure or leaping into the void and so on. This may partly explain why I FLIPPING LOVE the works of Becky Chambers so much, because she writes books where really really interesting characters interact with each other and say interesting things without too much ACTION getting in the way. They are GRATE!

    Like pretty much everyone else the first book of hers I read was "The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet" which was BRILLIANT. Weirdly I then kept buying the follow-ups when they came out but forgetting quite how much I'd enjoyed them so took ages to get round to each one on the Kindle, at which point I'd think "Oh yes, I really like these books don't I?"

    This changed a month or so ago when I read "The Galaxy And The Ground Within" which is the very EPITOME of "Interesting Characters Just Hanging Around A Bit", although saying that does rather glide over the IMMENSE and AMAZING worldbuilding that she does in all her books (a subject which I shall return to momentarily). What basically happens in that one (NOT REALLY SPOILERS) is that some SPACE ALIENS get stuck at a SPACE MOTEL for a bit and spend a while interacting with each other - there is some MILD PERIL towards the end, but that's pretty much it, and it is RUDDY MARVELOUS. All of the characters are SPACE ALIENS with their own cultures and ways of existing which she mixes and matches to generate all sorts of IDEAS about how societies work, or might work, and does it in a supremely DELIGHTFUL way.

    It was so brilliant that at the end I thought "RIGHT! This time there will be no messing about, I'm going to read the next thing she does RIGHT AWAY". As it turned out I had waited so long to read THAT book that there were already two MORE to go - the two books in the "Monk And Robot" DUOLOGY. CRUMBS! If these had been any more up my street they would have moved in next door and invited me round to talk about Doctor Doom, for LO! not only are they immense and wonderful examples of world building done with a light hand, containing fascinating characters and ideas, but they are also SHORT! HOORAH!

    I realised how much I wanted to SHOUT about these books a couple of days ago when I finished the first one, "Psalm For The Wild Built". There is a bit near the end where one of the characters does something for the other that is SO INCREDIBLY MOVING that it moved me to tear up on The Elizabeth Line. More than that, the thing that happens is something TOTALLY MADE UP and relies on the fact you fully understand the characters and the entirely fictional SPACE WORLDS what they live in. It was absolutely incredible!

    As I type I am watching the clock so I can get on and finish "Prayer For The Crown Shy" - I would have finished it yesterday but I had looked up Crown Shyness to see if it was real (it is) and then spent about an hour reading about it. It's educational as well as moving, what more could anyone want from a book eh?

    Well yes, data about Doctor Doom OBVIOUSLY, but other than that these are pretty much perfect and I would very much recommend them to anyone!

    posted 1/11/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Weekend In The 2010s
    You find me today in a PARLOUS STATE, for LO! I have just got back from a delightful weekend in the 2010s and it was a) EXHAUSTING b) BRILLIANT.

    The trip was brought about due to the wonderful and life-affiriming, though brief, return of Allo Darlin' to the ROCK FRAY. They are one of my all-time favourite bands EVER and as a result myself and Mr S Hewitt got A Little Bit Excited when they announced some dates and bought tickets for not ONE but TWO shows.

    The first of these was at Ramsgate Music Hall on Friday afternoon - the evening show had sold out in 0.02 pico seconds so this extra one had been put in, and thus Steve and I met at lunchtime at Stratford International to ZOOM down to see them. We arrived with plenty of time to pop to THE PUB (NB that was its name) where it turned out that approx 95% of everybody there was ALSO going to the gig. We then got a MASSIVE bag of chips each from the next door chippy and waddled down to the venue where the SAYING OOH HELLO began. The first person so OOH HELLOed was Ms J Gilroy but there were MANY more to follow over the course of the weekend, including several people who I don't actually know but thought I did because they looked like the sort of person I might. I mean, they were people at an Allo Darlin' gig, so there was a good chance!

    Inside the room was PACKED but also WELL AIR CONDITIONED so it was a very pleasant place for a GRATE gig. The band came on and looked pretty much as I remembered them, which is of course only logical because me and Steve look EXACTLY THE SAME too, obviously. There was some light trepidation for the first couple of songs, but then the muscle memory kicked in and they TOTALLY ROCKED. It was exactly and precisely like they had never been away, with the only exception being everyone looked if anything slightly MORE comfortable being there. It was a FAB set and looking around I did see quite a lot of people having THE FEELINGS, and this very much included ME.

    We got some MERCH, said hello to some more people, said "see you tomorrow" to the same group, and then headed to a pub we had been recommended which turned out to be exactly like all pubs had been in 1989, with raised platforms, wooden staircases, and very clearly THE SAME CARPET still. It wasn't nice, but then when we got back to THE OLYMPICS we went for a couple of beers in my local - Mother Kelly's - where we were joined by The Pint In My Glass. That was MUCH nicer!

    The next day's gig was in the evening in Islington, so I met Steve in a pub nearby which was chosen for VICINITY more than pleasantness - and had THE WORST PUB TABLE EVER with huge HOLES and LUMPS in it so BEER was liable to go everywhere, and did! - and so we quickly moved ourselves over to Islington Assembly Hall where even MORE saying OOH HELLO took place with all sorts of lovely people from all over the place who I used to see once a year at Indietracks. Cor, there really was an Indietracks VIBE going on, it was ACE. It is a MASSIVE venue which had loads of room for LOADS of lovely people, and to be honest it felt a bit impertinent when BANDS came on and interrupted our conversations. Still, the support bands - Fortitude Valley and Mammoth Penguins - were GRATE so I think they can be excused.

    Anyway, then Allo Darlin' came on and it was even better than last night. That big stage really really suited them, with songs more than HUGE enough to get a thousand people singing and dancing along. I loved seeing them in tiny venues over the years, but as with their farewell gig back in 2016 it felt like this is where they should always be playing. If you have the ability to give JOY to that number of people all at once, and also have it still feel like the same COMMUNITY who could cram into a carriage at a steam engine centre, then it's probably a good idea to DO it.

    Afterwards we staggered out bleary eyed and follwed Mr S Price round the corner to SOME PUB I can't remember the name of to sit around and be the versions of ourselves we had been 8 years ago i.e. QUITE DRUNK and SHOWING OFF. I for one do not approve of such behaviour hem hem but must admit it was fun. It's been a LONG time since I've had to hurry off for the last tube on a Saturday night tho!

    Then the final section of the weekend was a trip to the revived HANGOVER LOUNGE at the Lexington, where I delighted in confusing Mr G Ware by attempting to have a conversation with him that we had very much had the night before. I was too polite to point out that one of us must have been too drunk to remember, but he definitely must have been as it is the only explanation.

    A delightful parade of people wandered in and it was a gorgeous couple of hours rolling around in the loveliness of the Indietracks-related community. I staggered off to get my train home with a heart full of joy from a weekend well spent, as well as a feeling of incomprehension that I used to manage to do this EVERY weekend and also on days in between. It was KNACKERING, but also GRATE!

    posted 30/10/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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    After the let down of "The Mysteries" it was perhaps FOOLHARDY of me to leap straight into reading "Illuminations" by Alan Moore, as I was potentially letting myself in for even MORE disappointment. I mean, I really like Bill Watterson but I flipping LOVE Alan Moore, as his influence on me has been SO GRATE that I even wrote a SONG about him - and indeed went so far as to PLAY that song into his very face. Also, while this book was a similar change of usual format, from comics to books in this case, I did at least have some experience of Alan Moore's non-comics writing. Having said that I hadn't been super keen on it - "Jerusalenm" still sits on my book shelf, GLOWERING at me, unread!

    It was thus with some trepidation that I commenced reading, expecting a DIFFICULT and LENGTHY read that I would almost definitely never get to the end of it. SPOILERS: that is not how it worked out. The first story, "Hypothetical Lizard" was SORT OF what I expected - quite long, quite serious, very descriptive and with lots of rude bits - but after that it was A DELIGHT. For LO! the thing that I had forgotten about Alan Moore, and that MOST people always seem to forget, is that he is REALLY REALLY FUNNY. Nearly all of the remaining stories were often HILARIOUS, but also EXCITING and FUN and INTERESTING and basically all of those things that we all fell in love with about 10,000,000 years ago when his name started popping up in Future Shocks and Time Twisters in 2000AD. It was GRATE!

    A lot of the stories ARE pretty much Future Shocks and/or Time Twisters too (yes yes I know that they are all Short Stories and, as he says in the Acknowledgements, these were invented by Edgar Allen Poe but HEY 2000AD was where I first fell upon them so there), with that LOVELY feeling where you GET what is going on JUST before the end. For instance the last story, "And, at the Last, Just to Be Done with Silence" goes from A Bit Confusing, through to Intriguing and then, JUST before the last bit, into full on "OH I SEE!" and "Maybe I will read that all over again now?"

    Most thrillingly of all, that last story ALSO has a character from Peterborough in it, which is something that almost NEVER happens. There's quite a lot of East Midlands in the whole book actually, notably in "Location, Location, Location" where the last judgement happens in BEDFORD. There's also a surprising amount of understanding of The Modern World, which is another of those things what one doesn't expect from Alan Moore. I always imagine him sitting in a LOFTY BASEMENT (he is Alan Moore, he can have a lofty basement if he wants) FULMINATING against modernity, but there are LOADS of references to Life As What It Is Currently Lived, with witty and clever points to make about them.

    There are several of these in "What We Can Know About Thunderman", which is the most talked about story in the whole book because it is a) the longest by far and b) a very very funny and EXCORIATING semi-fictionalisted history of American superhero comic books. Quite apart from everything else, it was amazing reading it to realise that not only had Alan Moore clearly WATCHED "Lois And Clark" but had actually Quite Liked It, although doesn't seem to have been so keen on "Riverdale".

    I can understand why Long Term Comics Professionals found "Thunderman" to be A Bit Mean, but it is clearly meant to be over the top - the suggestion about what happened to the Apollo astronauts is not, I think, meant to be taken seriously, and I don't know that he's REALLY suggesting that the CIA were quite so involved in The Marvel Age. It also talks a lot about the joy and wonder of comics when you're a kid, demonstrates a VAST understanding about how it all works, and then becomes PROFOUNDLY MOVING at the end in a manner which reminded me a LOT of the similarly lovely ending to the ABC Universe.

    The only story that I didn't like AT ALL was "American Light: An Appreciation" which I must admit I gave up on as without an in-depth knowledge of The Beat Scene it was entirely impenetrable, and also written IN Beat Poetry, to which I am CLINICALLY ALLERGIC. That one reminded my of "Cinema Purgatorio", in that I'm sure it's good if you know what it's on about, but I didn't really mind skipping one chapter when the rest of the book had stuff like Whispering Pete's, Bosman Brains, and very very spooky seasides in it.

    In summmary, I thought it was bloody brilliant, and am now SURPRISED that this fact SURPRISED me. Maybe I should go and finally give "Jerusalem" a try now? posted 30/10/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Mysteries
    Over the past few years I have been EXCITED and INTRIGUED by the news that Bill Watterson (i.e. him what made Calvin & Hobbes) was working on something NEW. Like most sensible people I flipping LOVE Calvin & Hobbes and, though I fully respected and saluted his reasons for packing it in (he thought he'd reached the end and didn't want to keep flogging it so that it became less good) I was saddened by the fact that he seemed to have basically RETIRED and wasn't bringing out anything else.

    Thus I was EXCITED when news came that the project had an actual NAME - "The Mysteries" - and I was further THRILLED recently when I saw the below video, stating that it was coming out IMMINENTLY.

    The video's all about how Bill Watterson and his co-creator John Kascht collaborated on the project, and I found it INTERESTING. The general thrust seemed to be that the pair of them had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA how to collaborate, or even what collaborating meant, and were utterly terrible at doing it, as both their styles and their working methods were completely at odds. This was presented as an Interesting Artistic Problem, although to be honest part of me thought "No, you are just really bad at collaborating with other people and maybe should not be doing it at all", but it seemed that at the end, after YEARS of not getting anywhere, something different had come out of it. Also, there wasn't really much clue what the thing they were creating actually WAS. Was it a book of photographs? An animation? Or what?

    I was keen to find out so I went online to ORDER a copy and was surprised to find it was Reasonably Priced - maybe it's because I've been buying Academic Books lately, but I was expecting it to be an Art Object or something that cost 50 quid, rather than a normal price for a normal book. A few days later it arrived and it turned out to be Just A Book - and quite a cheaply produced one at that. The binding wasn't great, the sticker on the cover was skewiff, and it had a smell that was more Mass Production Factory A Long Way Away than the lovely Book Smell I was expecting.

    I sat down to read it and within about five minutes I had finished reading it. It turns out that the book is a (VERY) short story about a fairytale land where the people basically kill off nature and then die, accompanied by some very nice images that, as far as I can tell, are photographs of models they produced during the lengthy collaboration period. It feels like a 1970s children's book, possibly issued as a cash-in adaptation for a TV show where there's a basic story on the left hand side of each double page and a single drawing on the right hand side. All it needs is for the pages to be thicker, like the thick cardboard pages you get in books for toddlers.

    To say I was dissapointed would be... well, ACCURATE. It felt like an awfully long time to wait for something that you could have read at least twice in the time it takes to watch the video about how they made it. Even then it would have been OK if the story had some flipping DEPTH to it ("People are not necessarily inclined to pursue long-term interests" is basically the whole thing) or indeed some HUMOUR or INSIGHT or anything that was GRATE about Bill Watterson to start with. I'm all in favour of people trying something new, but when that something new is, to be honest, so flimsy and a bit dull, then maybe not so much.

    I feel bad complaining about it, but maybe that's because I feel I OUGHT to like it because it's black and white and hardbacked and therefore ADULT. On the plus side it did lead me to finally dive into a new work in a new format by ANOTHER immense literary hero of the past century (i.e. ALAN MOORE) which I shall probably bang on about when I've got to the end, but I would have preferred it if THIS had been good too. It doesn't need to have been as (SPOILERS) really brillaint as "Illuminations" is, but it would have been nice if it had been a bit closer!

    posted 25/10/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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    Guys and Dolls
    Last week myself and The Razzle In My Dazzle went to The Bridge Theatre to see 'Guys And Dolls'. Executive Summary: it was AMAZING.

    Having got the tickets a while ago I think it's fair to say neither of us were hugely in the mood for a night out, but that feeling changed pretty much as soon as we walked into the building. The Bridge Theatre is NEW - it opened in 2017 (i.e. approx 100 years after most of the West End theatres) and feels like the architects had gone "All right, what's AWFUL about most old theatres, and how can we fix it?"

    The first notable aspect of this was that you walked into a large open foyer with a MASSIVE bar all along one side, staffed by LOADS of Delightful Young People, which meant that you could get a drink almost immediately and then weren't shuffling around in aisles and tiny areas before the show started. It also meant we could mill around and bump into none other than Mr T Ellis-Jones, who I hadn't seen for YEARS. This was a harbinger of a GRATE night to follow!

    We had tickets for the standing area, which meant we had to check our coats and bags into the cloakroom. I had thought that this would be a massive FAFF but it turned out to be brilliantly organised and super speedy. We then went down into the main theatre where we found ourselves in a big open area with lighted lines on the floor. It was IMMMERSIVE THEATRE so I expected this to involve the cast walking between us into different areas but there was MUCH more to it than that, for LO! the lighted areas ROSE UP in multiple configurations, forming stages and streets and islands and ALL SORTS so we could get right up close and walk around to different bits to get a better view if needed. It was FANTASTIC, not least because you could always see what was happening and were also INCREDIBLY close to the action.

    And COR what action it was! 'Guys And Dolls' is a BRILLIANT show with a METRIC TONNE of GIGANTIC HITS and they did them all fantastically. It was also surprisingly MOVING, especially when you could get really close to Actual Actors doing Actual Acting and also THE SINGING. In the interval I wandered around humming 'I'll Know' to myself with GLEE and pretty much everyone else in the audience was BUZZING too. In fact by the end we were GRINNING so much that our faces LITERALLY HURT, and ended up DANCING with the cast after The Bowing - bowing which featured the stage management crew getting a round of applause and deservedly so, as they had spent the whole night politely but firmly shuffling people around to get out of the way of rising stage areas.

    It felt like a wonderful, glorious experience that we didn't want to end - which is extremely rare for me, as I'm usually looking at my watch after 40 minutes of pretty much ANYTHING - but when it DID end we were herded out easily and calmly, popping to the merch stand for MERCH, getting our bags etc and then out into the night within minutes. It was fantastic and highly recommended, and we're now pondering if and when we can do it again!

    posted 23/10/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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    Thanks To Lamacq
    Today is the day that Mr Steve Lamacq celebrates his 30th Anniversary in BBC Broadcasting and also comes to the end of his "drive-time" radio show on 6music. In the lead-up to this there has been a LOT of talk about all the amazing bands he's discovered over the years who have gone on to be COLOSSAL and, while this is all well and good, I think there is a vast and vital part of his legacy that hasn't been covered half as much i.e. all the amazing bands he's discovered over the years who did NOT go on to be colossal.

    I speak as ONE WHO KNOWS for LO! that would very much include me and The Validators!

    Steve first played us in about 2003 when This Is Not A Library came out. I will never ever forget the afternoon when he rang me up at work to let me know he was going to play one of our songs as IT WAS STEVE LABLOODYMACQ ON THE PHONE!!!

    He was on the Sunday show at that point and I ended up becoming a vaguely regular GUEST, popping in several times over the next year or two. The first time I went in I sat nervously in the corner of the tiny studio, started playing a song, and then FORGOT THE WORDS so had to stop and ask if he knew what they were. We were live on the radio at the time, but he was very nice about it! Afterwards we went to the pub and a few of the Assistants asked me how Steve had found out about me. This seemed like a weird question - obviously I'd just sent him a CD and he'd listened to it, wasn't that how EVERYBODY chose the music for their shows?

    It turned out that this was VERY MUCH NOT how everybody else chose, or chooses, music for their shows, and I think that's the key thing that has made him such a LEGEND over the years. Basically, if you sent something to Steve Lamacq (by post, by email, or indeed by THRUSTING CASSETTES at him in the pub back in the previous century) he would almost certainly give it a listen and, if he liked it, PLAY it. This is TOTALLY different to how most national radio people have ever worked, who rarely even GET a choice of what to play and, if they do, tend to hedge their bets and go with what's IN. There ARE still other people - WONDERFUL people - who play stuff just because they like it, many of whom I know and think are GRATE - but Steve Lamacq is one of the very few who made it all the way up to having a national station and STILL did it.

    Since that first gig I popped into his Sunday show quite a few times, notably doing weekly re-writes of The Fair Play Trophy (again) for Euro 2004 and then writing and performing Good Luck In Your New Job for when he went over to DRIVETIME. He kept on supporting us over the years since then too, booking us for a live session at Maida Vale as an act of VENGEANCE against Radio One when they ended The Evening Session, phoning in LIVE to a show during the Edinburgh run of My Exciting Life In ROCK and even providing a free VOICEOVER for Regardez, Ecoutez et Repetez.

    That was his idea, by the way - I bumped into him on a train and he suggested it! He also made that album an "Album Of The Day" on 6Music, which was very strange indeed, not least because it led to George Lamb unwittingly playing Do The Indie Kid, including "Music Of The Future", during daytime!

    He's since played something from NEARLY all of our albums on his various shows - he wasn't so keen on Dinosaur Planet but I can FORGIVE that terrible error - and has booked me and us for various thing over the years too. I am thus EXTREMELY grateful!

    But the thing is, he's done this with LOADS of other bands over the years too, irrespective of their potential for COLOSSALNESS, and ALL because he's just KEEN on hearing STUFF. I give the examples above not to show off - well, all right, a BIT to show off - but to illustrate that he's the sort of person who'll stick with something he likes even when it is MANIFESTLY CLEAR that it is not and never will be COOL and therefore will not make him look good in any way, and that he's been doing this every week for YEARS. If you listen back to his show you'll hear a lot of the bands he's known for, certainly, and lots of acts who sound like The Next Big Thing, but in pretty much every single show you'll also hear as much of the OTHER stuff - the loonies, the oddballs, and (IN MY CASE) the unacknowledged genii - as he can get in. It didn't make HIM look cool but it definitely did make US look cool, if only for an afternoon!

    And it is for this that I, and I'm sure many others of my ilk, will SALUTE him. He has done us a GRATE service over the years, and I'm sure he will continue to do so for ever onward. I, for one, would not like to try and stop him!

    posted 20/10/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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    Ruth From Po!
    Earlier this week I heard the awful news that Ruth from Po! had passed away. I knew she'd been ill for a while and that things had recently got worse, but it was still a horrible shock to find that she'd gone. I didn't know her particularly well or anything, but she'd been a huge influence on my life (as she had been on MANY) and was a complete hero several times over, so I just wanted to say a bit about how much she'd meant to me over the years.

    The first time I ever met Ruth was about 100,0000,0000 years ago in Leicester when I accidentally bumbled upstairs in The Mag one night to find Po! doing a gig. In fact it was this gig here in this video!

    Here in the future it's entirely normal to find video footage of a gig you went to, but seeing this from 30+ years ago did my head in, although not as much as actually BEING there did, for LO! it totally and completely blew my tiny mind. I had vaguely heard this sort of music on the radio late at night or in other people's record collections, but actually BEING there in this tiny room above my favourite pub was ASTONISHING. As the video shows, they also sounded AMAZING and I couldn't believe that this was just some PEOPLE doing a gig as if it was a normal thing to do, while playing HIT after HIT after HIT. It remains one of the best gigs I've ever been too, partly because of the shock of it all but mostly because it was so GRATE.

    Afterwards I shuffled round to the side of the stage to buy a copy of their album 'Little Stones' off the bass player - this was the legendary Mr Gary Gilchrist who I have since spent MANY hours in pubs with, but who has to me ALWAYS been "Gary from Po!" and thus a figure of AWE. The album was just as brilliant as I hoped - their version of "All I Really Want To Do" is still my favourite - and the very idea that you could release a record YOURSELF, without having to ask for permission, was a REVELATION. Really, that was the beginning of me realising that if you wanted to play gigs or put our records or any of that you COULD. It wouldn't necessarily be as AMAZING as that particular record but, apart from getting hold of some CA$H, there wasn't anything else to stop you.

    After that I kept an eye out for future gigs, but they hardly ever seemed to happen. I bought subsequent albums, which were GRATE, and was astonished to find out that Ruth had been part of the Alan Jenkins Diaspora (that's not one of his band names, but it very easily could be). I delved into the Leicester Music Scene and made all sorts of LIFELONG PALS, and a huge part of me doing all that was the inspiration of that one gig.

    Many many years later in 2016 I heard that Ruth was out and about doing gigs again, so found an email address and asked if she fancied coming to play at Totally Acoustic. To my amazement she was completely up for it and came down to play ANOTHER of my all-time favourite gigs EVER. As the blog says, I couldn't quite get my head around the fact that RUTH FROM PO! was actually THERE in the same room as me, playing all those amazing songs that I'd loved so much. I must admit I had A Bit Of An Old Cry!

    You can hear some of them on the podcast of that night, and some more from when Po! came to play the next year and then again in 2020. All of those shows were incredibly emotional for me, and I had a REALLY hard time picking which songs to keep in!

    Not long after that Ruth was an inspiration all over AGAIN when she started up the Unglamorous Music project. Seen from afar this was a BRILLIANT idea where she basically got together women who'd THOUGHT about joining bands but had never got round to it and then got them to FORM bands. This resulted in a sudden explosion of GRATE BANDS and, even more importantly, a sudden explosion of JOY. It got covered in all sorts of media outlets because it is clearly a fantastic idea that brought happiness to many many people, and it was a source of GLEE at my end to realise that this was the person who'd already inspired so many of us so much just getting on and doing it AGAIN in the same way. As before she showed that if you wanted to be in a band you did not have to ask for anyone's permission, and that is pretty much as PUNK as it gets.

    I don't really know how to end this to be honest - all I really wanted to do was to express how much Ruth had meant to me over the many years, and how brilliant it was to have known her, if only a little bit. I know she wasn't just Ruth from Po! but that was the person I knew, and I'm very very glad I staggered upstairs in the pub to see her all those years ago. Thanks Ruth!

    posted 18/10/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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    Impending Doom
    These days it feels like this blog is turning into one of those webpages from the early 2000s which had a hits counter, an "under construction" GIF and a front page blog saying "Sorry I've not updated in a while, but that's all going to change soon!"

    Anyway, sorry I've not updated in a while, but that's all going to change soon! (being in the second paragraph makes it FINE) The reason for the lack of news updates is the same as ever i.e. there hasn't been that much news to share. GIGS continue to occur but not very often, and though I do sometimes have vague tingles of NEW SONGS it will be a good long while until a studio is approached. Actually, by the time that's necessary we probably won't even have to bother with anything like that, I'll just be able to ring up a ROBOT and say "the songs are all metaphors involving something to do with jobs with lots of rhymes in it that only work in a Peterborough accent, and the music sounds like The Validatos, you know, THEM" and leave it to SKYNET to generate an album.

    HOWEVER, though ROCK is in short supply there ARE a couple of other things coming up that are ACTUALLY QUITE EXCITING. The one I am free to speak of at the moment is to do with my forthcoming BOOK, "Data And Doctor Doom", what is coming out early next year. I know that it is coming out early next year because last week I was chatting to someone who casually mentioned that they had seen it in THE CATALOGUE. I had no idea about any of that so went and looked and LO! There it was, just hanging around nonchalantly on the Palgrave Studies in Comics and Graphic Novels page as if it wasn't a big deal. It's even got its own page with release dates, ISBN and ISSNs, which makes it seem TERRIFYINGLY REAL.

    On top of all of that, the main listings page even has a tiny image of the COVER. I reckon that means it's OK for me to do my own slightly bigger COVER REVEAL, so here it is!

    Front cover of Data And Doctor Doom

    It looks PROPER, I think. The main image is one what I done myself, and which I spent several very happy hours doodling on, rather nicely re-sized and cropped by the designers to look fairly respectable. I am, to say the least HAPPY with it! You can also find it listed on Amazon - it's nearly A HUNDRED QUID on there but then again you do get free delivery if you're with Prime!

    As stated, the actual genuine real-life BOOK will be out early next year (it says 10 January 2024 on the Palgrave listing, but that's more of a guide than a genuine diary date) and I will be shouting about it A LOT around then. I'm also thinking of some Publicity Activity too, some of which would be GOOD FUN, but for now I'm planning to just enjoy the fact that there is an ISBN with my name on it!

    posted 9/10/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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    Joyzine Addendum
    After all the excitement of doing an actual GIG for the 20th Anniversary of JOYZINE, I forgot to mention that they have also unleashed a compilation album called 20 Years Of Joy: Volume 1 to mark the occasion, available on Bandcamp.

    As you may have GLEANED from the title, this is the first of SEVERAL such compilations which I believe will be released over the course of the year (four altogether I think). The one what I'm on features a HOST of excellent acts like Scaramanga Six, Burning Hell, Piney Gir, and Deux Furieuses (as watched on Sunday) alongside the traditional Many Many More.

    My track is a cover version of What A Wonderful World (AKA That Louis Armstrong Song, You Know, It's In James Bond). The remit for the compilation was that all the songs should be something to do with JOY and, after a while trying to think up a new song I eventually realised that this was my opportunity to COVER one what I've been piddling about with for literally DECADES. I have a big folder full of SONGS copied from Songbooks over the years, a large number of which were written down in the last century whilst visitng my dad in Cornwall - he has LOADS of these songbooks, so I would sit in his spare room trying out all these other songs, and one of my all-time favourites was the aforementiond "What A Wonderful World". It took me quite a lot of figuring out and transposing to get it into a format that I could actually PLAY, after which I have spent many many years strumming it in the privacy of my own home in a fairly gentle, cautiously sung version.

    I've never played it LIVE because I don't have the confidence in either my singing OR guitar playing to do it, but thought that I would probably be able to get it pretty much right if I too several goes at recording it. Friends, I have to report that I was INCORRECT and even with modern Jiggery Pokery I was unable to get it taped in anything LIKE a publically acceptable way.

    CHASTISED I decided to have a go at using the MAGIC OF MIDI to do something else, and over the course of a couple of days it MUTATED from a gentle strum through a beautiful classic to something that sounded as if SKYNET was taking a break after OBLITERATING HUMANITY and was all of a sudden wondering if that had been entirely the right thing to do. This was, of course, also taking place in a universe where SKYNET has a noticeable East Midlands accent, and I guess that would mean that the TERMINATORS would have been similar recast. "Oi'll Be Back ME DUCK" possibly?

    Anyway, I think it turned out all right and even if it didn't there is a whole HEAP of other GRATE stuff on the album, so why not give it a listen and then also PURCHASE it? GO ON!

    posted 23/8/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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    Music Recommendations Requested
    Last year I put out a REQUEST on The Socials asking for recommendations of new music to listen to. I did this because I fancied refreshing my WALKMAN but could not be bothered to go out and look for anything myself, but it turned out to be a GRATE idea as my PALS came up with a TONNE of really good music for me to have a listen to.

    They came up with NINETY TWO different acts to listen to, in fact, which I then spent several happy months trawling through, and I found some BRILLIANT stuff in there. My absolute favourites were THE BETHS - I have now bought ALL their albums and even been to SEE them, and am now wishing they would hurry up and get back from World Tour so they can record some MORE. I also flipping LOVED Lonely Tourist, Pip Blom and Lande Hekt, and have respectively tried to book a gig with, bought more albums by, and been to SEE (supporting The Beths) each of them SINCE. I also liked Bas Jan, Dream Wife, Holiday Ghosts and Sad13 too - it was a BOUNTIFUL crop.

    Of the other EIGHTY-ISH acts I enjoyed lots of them, thought "Oh yes, I can see why you like that" for some, but actively DISLIKED only a few. I will not, of course, NAME NAMES for any of these because I am dead polite, but I think it can be summed up with me not liking a) anything that sounds like folk music or b) Men Angrily Shouting Over A Drum Machine. There was quite a LOT of the latter - if I wanted to listen to that I could make my own at home!

    It was a GRATE SUCCESS all round, and I find myself in the same situation again i.e. I'd like to listen to some new stuff I like but cannot be bothered to go and look for it myself. SO, with that in mind - what's a) NEW b) GOOD that c) I would probably like?

    Looking at the LAST batch I think it's pretty clear the general sort of stuff I like i.e. largely the JINGLE, also the JANGLE, some GOOD WORDS, PROPER CHORUSES, and NOT BEING FOLK MUSIC. If anybody can think of anything that EITHER fulfils the above criteria OR is something DIFFERENT but is STILL NOT FOLK MUSIC and does not feature Men Shouting Angrily Over A Drum Machine then I would very much like to hear about it please, either in the comments below or over on The Socials. FACT me up kids!

    posted 22/8/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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    Joyzine At 20
    On Saturday I headed off to distant NEW CROSS, where I was due to play at the 20th birthday celebrations for Joyzine. Joyzine has been a constant source of, well, JOY, in my ROCKING LIFE for all of those two decades, through gigs, reviews, mentions, the radio show, and ALL SORTS, so I was utterly delighted to have been asked to go and play.

    I arrived to find Paul From Joyzine looking surprisingly NOT TERRIFIED for a man who was organising not one but TWO consecutive all-dayers. He took me through to look at The Garden Stage where I'd be playing, which turned out to be very much an actual GARDEN, and then I was garlanded with a wrist band which entitled me to a 50% discount on EVERYTHING. I fully support this sort of action on the part of venues, and every time I bought a beer it felt like it WAS about twenty years ago, price-wise!

    While venturing to the bar I bumped into the wonderful Mr Dave Green and we fell into discussion about topics various, as is our wont, in the garden. After a while I had to tear myself away to do a quick soundcheck, and I was VERY pleased to be able to debut A Song For The Soundcheck, which I had finished writing the day before EXPRESSLY for this purpose. It was GRATE!

    We then waited a few minutes for people to come out to the back, and then after an intro from Paul I launched into my set, THUS:

  • The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • Billy Jones Is Dead
  • Bad Back
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • Easily Impressed
  • We Did It Anyway

  • As you can see, it was very much a HITS SET, which was a WISE choice because as far as I could gather approx 90% of the audience had never ever seen me before. It's been a while (nearly a year in fact) since I've done a NORMAL gig of this sort so I had to remember how it's supposed to work, and I think it went all right. The nice thing about playing for people who are hearing the songs for the first time is that they (hopefully) LARF in specific places, and I always think "Oh yeah, that IS quite a good bit". I BABBLED ON a bit due to nervousnessness but otherwise it was a LOT of fun. Gigs are GRATE!

    After that Dave and I wandered into the main room and watched Deux Furieuses, who were BRILLIANT. It was JUST guitar and drums but CRIKEY, what guitars and drums they were! It was VERY LOUD and VERY EXCITING and we both felt that they were AMAZING!

    After that it was time for me to head off, so I said farewell to Dave and anybody else I could find and then headed off back to East London. That was a LOT of fun to do, does anybody ELSE have an anniversary coming up I can do??

    posted 21/8/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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    Doom Described
    I had some DELIGHTFUL comics news this week - my article Image Quotation of Past Events to Enforce Storyworld Continuity in John Byrne’s Fantastic Four has been published in the current issue of 'Closure'. 'Closure' is a German open access academic journal about comics, and this particular issue features papers based on the 2021 Comfor conference that I attended.

    I'm really happy that my paper's out there as it is about something that I think it is DEAD INTERESTING. It looks at three issues of John Byrne's run on "The Fantastic Four" during the 1980s when he tried very hard to make himself the one true successor to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. One of the ways he did this was by using "Image quotation" (basically copying previous panels as part of flashbacks) to enforce the idea that he was the only person who could decide what was or wasn't "true" for that set of characters. I found it REALLY FASCINATING, and hopefully some of that comes across in the article.

    I'm also happy because of the COMPANY I'm keeping - the ComFor lot are a RIGHT bunch of SUPERBRANES, so I'm delighted to have SNUCK IN amongst them. Now I'm off to have a proper READ of what they all said!

    posted 15/8/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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    Hibbettfest Datafest
    To mark the successful completion of HIBBETTFEST I thought I'd use the information that resides within The Database Of ROCK to generate some FACTS about the history of the festival that many people have hailed as "The best festival to ever recur in Ray's Mum's Back Garden".

    So, the first thing to say is that there have been 14 Hibbettfests overall since 2004. Fallow years occurred in 2006, 2015 and 2019 for reasons that I can't remember, and from 2020 to 2022 for Global Crisis Reasons.

    Hibbettfests are defined here as events occurring in Ray's Mum's Back Garden. There was an earlier proto-Hibbettfest which took place in Winchester on 10 August 2003 in Ray's Back Garden, but although this was arranged by Ray's Mum (as a surprise birthday celebration for Ray) it was not until it reached its official venue the following year that Hibbettfests as we know them today properly began.

    The median date for gigs to happen was 28 July, while the mean date is 25 July. As the graph below shows, Hibbettfest has occurred at different times over the years, although most often in August.

    Over the fourteen Hibbettfests I have performed 73 different songs. The table below shows all of those performed 3 or more times.

    1The Lesson Of The Smiths10
    2Easily Impressed8
    3=Boom Shake The Room7
    3=It Only Works Because You're here7
    5=Theme From Dinosaur Planet5
    5=We Did It Anyway5
    7(You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock4
    8=Dinosaurs Talk Like Pirates3
    8=My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once3
    8=Payday Is The Best Day3
    8=The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)3
    8=20 Things To Do Before You're 303

    Comparing this to the overall list from the first one thousand gigs we can see that the major surprises are the high placing for (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock and the non-appearance of Hey Hey 16K . I'm pretty sure that's because I have long realised that its appeal is severely limited amongst audiences that are 50% small babies and dogs. Maybe that's why Dinosaurs Talk Like Pirates appears so often - thinking about it, I reckon that's a HIT in the canine and/or infant communities!

    Moving on, Hibbettfest is, of course, not just about me. I mean, it's NAMED after me and everything but there have been various other people who've played. This all began in 2008, with the arrival Pete Green as the first guest artiste, and since then several more people have shared the stage/patio. Key amongs them was Ray himself who has compered almost all of them, as well as providing the buffet. No statistics are available for how much I have eaten from said buffet, but a rough approximation would be A LOT.

    Apart from Ray, the people who have joined me on the patio the most times are Mr Steve Hewitt and Tom 'The Tiger' McClure, at four times each, including 2023. Mr Tim Pattison has played three times, Frankie Machine and Alexander Christopher Hale twice, and there have been one-time only appearances from Chris T-T, Daniel and Norbert Dentrassangle, Emma Pattison, Gavin Osborn. Jasmine Allen Estate, Matt Tiller, Shelley from Finance, Dunc Vernon and the aforementioned Pete Green.

    If we compare these names to the list of People I Have ROCKED With during the first one thousand gigs, we can see that Steve tops both, but that Tom has clambered boldly over Tim and Frankie to get to joint first position. After that we can see that the list of people who've shared a patio with me is not all that different to those who've done the same on a more conventional "stage".

    To summarise then, the actual content of Hibbettfest gigs did not vary all that much from gigs overall - it had a fairly standard setlists of BANGERS, with the usual glittering array of ROCK STARS joining me on stage. The difference, then, was in the venue itself. Sadly I have never recorded DELIGHTFULNESS of promoters or EXCELLENCE of Estate Managers, but if I had then the various Kirkhams would have been charttoppers. Similarly I have never recorded excellence of RIDER because a) I don't usually get one and b) none would ever have compared to that received at Hibbettfest. Truly, it has been a wonderful thing, and I salute it in the best possible way - through FACTS!
    posted 14/8/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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    Hibbettfest Completed!
    On Saturday I headed to distant DUDLEY to attend the final iterarion of HIBBETTFEST, that grand tradition what has occurred on the patio of Ray's Mum's Back Garden these many years.

    I was joined by Mr S Hewitt at Marylebone station, who kept me up to date with The Football by listening to it on his phone and occasionally going "OOH!" and "YES!" It was like a live action TELETEXT. We then met with Mr FA Machine at Birmingham Moor Street and together we travelled to Cradley Heath, where Ray's Day picked us up for the final leg to the festival site.

    We arrived to find a whole HEAP of lovely people, not least Ray, his Mum, tonnes of old pals, and performers in the shape of Mr T 'The Tiger' McClure, Mr G Williams aka Jasmine Allen Estate and Mrs SJ Newman aka Shelley From Finance. Shelley had originally been coming as part of Alex And The Christopher Hale Band but Alex was POORLY and so she STEPPED UP!

    There had been some worries beforehand about the weather but, apart from a few spots of rain mid-afternoon it was lovely, and we had a DELIGHTFUL time standing around yacking surrounded by a new batch of BABIES and slightly less new batch of DOGS.

    After an hour or so of this it was time to get going, with Gareth doing some (I think) NEW MATERIAL, as well as some HITS. Ray then opened the BUFFET, which was both MASSIVE and BRILLIANT, and once we were all suitably STUFFED it was then time for Shelley to ROCK the patio, which she very much DID. At this point the CAKES were brought out and we ate MORE food. It was GRATE!

    Also, at some point during all this (there was so much FOOD going on it was hard to concentrate) there were GIFTS. Myself and Ray were presented with CUSHIONS by the Kirkham Estate, which was lovely, and EVERYONE got given a Hibbettfest Tote Bag which Ray had made himself. It was, as ever, LIKE a normal festival, but MUCH BETTER!

    After all that excitement Steve and I got up and did a MEDLEY of songs from Dinosaur Planet. It was the same arrangement that we did at GIG ONE THOUSAND and, as then, I did wonder what on earth someone would make of it all who'd never seen the show. It was a LOT of fun though, especially watching Steve trying to change SONG SHEETS with dinosaur puppets on both hands!

    I was then joined by Franke and Tom, and we took our turn to ROCK through a bunch of hits, THUS:
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • Billy Jones Is Dead
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • Easily Impressed
  • We Did It Anyway
  • Steve joined us for the last one, and then after all THAT we did an encore of Boom Shake The Room joined by Gareth, Shelley, and extra special guest Mr Dunc Vernon, which was a WHOLE HEAP of good times!

    It was, in short, BLOODY BRILLIANT and a wonderful send off for this most wonderful series of gigs. The party broke up not long after that, with a hearty slice of us heading off via MAGIC BUS or TIGERMOBILE to The Wellington for BEER, as is tradition. The last train home was PAINFULLY early so me, Steve and Rob had to leave quite quickly, but apart from that it had been an all round GRATE day. Thanks everybody for coming, it was ACE!

    posted 13/8/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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    All Goals Achieved
    Today I am DELIGHTED to herald the UNLEASHMENT of a brand new compilation album from Artists Against Success - the fantastic All Goals Achieved!

    This is a compilation album, put together by my Mighty Colleague Mr FA Machine, celebrating TWENTY FIVE (25) YEARS of Artists Against Success. It is called "All Goals Achieved" because we set out to DEFY THE MAN, and we have very much DONE SO.

    Frankie's original idea was to try and get in touch with as many of the old AAS acts as possible and ask them if they'd like to contribute a track. When we discussed it we hoped a few of them would do so, but in the end EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM sent us something. Two of our other initial goals were Not To Be Total Wankers and Not To Rip People Off and we very much hope that the FACT that everyone's still talking to us illustrates that we have also achieved this one!

    I know I am biased, but there really are some CRACKING tracks on there, including lots and lots of BRAND NEW material. Lots of it was recorded ESPECIALLY for us, and there are MULTIPLE bands who have done their first recording in YEARS as a result. We are Very Pleased about this!

    There's also loads of ME in the tracklist - I would argue that this is only right, as there has been loads of ME in the back catalogue - including stuff from Voon, Jane and John, The Validators, me and Steve and EVEN MORE. "Plenty Of Hibbett" is perhaps the best way to describe it.

    Best of all - even better than there being loads of ME - is the FACT that the whole thing is FREE. Yes, that's right - FREE! You can get it on Spotify and all those sorts of places, but if you go to the Artists Against Success Bandcamp page you can get THE LOT for absolutely NOTHING!

    "But MJ and Frankie," you might say, "surely that can't be right? Isn't the whole point of The Corrupt Music Business to make as much money as possible, generally by FLEECING THE KIDS? Won't these actions upset - perhaps even be seen as DEFYING - THE MAN?"


    posted 28/7/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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    Hibbettfest Returns!
    Now that I've finished turning Comics Studies LITERALLY ON ITS HEAD it's time to give some attention to the Krazy World Of Rock And Roll, TO WHIT getting a bit more organised about HIBBETTFEST 2023.

    As you can see on the gigs page I have updated the details slightly - it already said that the EXTRAVAGANZA would be taking place in Kingswinford on Saturday 12 August, but now it ALSO says that the ACTS will be beginning at about 2pm, and that those ACTS will be Jasmine Allen Estate, Alexander Christopher Hale, and then ME featuring a) Mr S Hewitt and b) about 50% of The Validators. NOT shown on the listings is the FACT that after that we'll all get in a big taxi and head into town for BEER, as is tradition.

    It's always a GRATE day and if you'd like to come you are very welcome. HOWEVER, it really really IS in Ray's Mum's back garden - over the years many people have assumed this is a KRAZY VENUE NAME, but it is NOT - so I can't really broadcast the address here on this extremely public forum, so if you fancy a trip to Kingswinford email at mjhibbett (AT) hotmail (DOT) com and I'll give you the details. It is basically like a RAVE!

    And yes, I am PRETTY SURE that the sophisticated AI overminds what we have these days would be able to crack the COMPLEX CODE that I have used for my email address there, but anything we can do to foil SKYNET for now is worth having a go at!

    posted 12/7/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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