Aug 2013 • The Albert • Helen McCookerybook + Nightingales

GIg review - Sun 4 August 2013

Helen McCookerybook + Nightingales
at the Albert (Trafalgar St)
Sun 4th August 2013

Good to see singer/songwriter Helen McCookerybook back in Brighton for this exceptional gig at the Albert.

Supporting Birmingham outfit The Nightingales, the former Smartees, Joby & The Hooligans and Chefs singer, bass player and guitarist is also the author of the definitive music book The Lost Women Of Rock Music,

Armed with a gorgeous new (?) sunburst Telecaster, Helen started off to slightly muted polite applause, but as she went through her considerable repertoire the audience became more responsive, animated by her sweet voice and amusing lyrics.

Helen's witty and charming banter soon got the people on her side, a few old Chefs numbers were delivered with her easy style and she finished her set to quite a rousing ovation. Job done!

Interesting recent interview with Helen here

The main act from Brum gave a performance of tremendous power, proving they've lost none of their edge over the years. With their young female drummer pounding the skins, it soon became apparent this was a class act.

Robert's vocals and lyrics brought to mind Beefheart at his best, married to guitar and bass from the top drawer, ensuring the punters had their money's worth. Thanks to both acts and promoters Spinning Chilli for a memorable evening's entertainment.

About the Chefs

Russ Greenwood • drums
Bruv McCallum • guitar
Carl Evans • guitar, vocals
Helen McCookerybook • vocals, bass

Originally from a village outside Newcastle upon Tyne called Wylam, Helen McCallum had been tentatively writing her first songs and learning basic chords on a bass guitar, but she was also a gifted graphic artist, and decided on the Art College in Brighton to do Fine Art Printmaking - it was the only one in the country which supplied a course on the subject. Helen’s younger brother, James, liked the idea of Sussex University, so he came down too.

The first group Helen joined was Joby and the Hooligans, with Joby Visigoth (probably not his real name) and Steve Beardsley (later of the Accents) on guitar and vocals. They played a lot of memorable gigs in the Resource Centre and Vault during the early punk days. There followed an in-between band called the Smartees, consisting of Joby, Tracey Preston (later of the Molesters) on vocals, Ricky on Drums, Steve Beardsley on guitar and vocals, Carl Evans on guitar, and Helen on bass and vocals.

Carl was about 17 or 18 and Helen must have been about 20 or 21 at this time. It didn't last long, but they came up with some great songs, with Carl emerging as a talented composer of quality pop tunes. In late 1978 the Smartees dissolved, Helen finding herself at a loose end until one day Carl came to see her, having set a poem she had written, ‘Food’, to music. This worked well and they formed the Chefs, bringing in Helen’s brother James on second guitar

and recruiting a number of drummers who arrived and departed with alarming speed.Helen became ‘McCookerybook’, a name which stuck.

London gigs at the LSE and the Moonlight Club in West Hampstead followed, and the inclusion of two tracks, the aforementioned ‘Food’ and Carl’s ‘You Get Everywhere’, on the second Attrix compilation LP Vaultage 79. Attrix were impressed with the Chefs burgeoning local popularity and a set stuffed with high quality bubblegum punkpop, with often very original subject matter hidden behind the bouncy tunes and twangy guitars. When Russell Greenwood, the powerhouse drummer from the Parrots, joined the band in Spring 1980 they suddenly became a tight unit with a new, strong sound.

Attrix funded a four-song EP which the band recorded in London. On it’s release John Peel played it a lot and the gigs became more high profile. Helen’s awesome pop classic, ’24 Hours’ was the follow-up, a three-song maxi single and their last for Attrix. John Peel invited the band to do a session for him, and it was around this time that they decided to move permanently to London. Graduate Records, from the midlands, loved ’24 Hours’ and licenced it as a single themselves.

Exasperated by a lack of big-time success the drastic decision to change the group’s name to Skat probably sealed their fate. A brilliant cover of the Velvet Underground's ‘Femme Fatale’ was issued as a single; further Radio One sessions were taped, as well as an entire album’s worth of demos for Graduate (described by Helen as ‘awful’), but this was the

end of the Chefs/Skat. Carl went on to form Yip Yip Coyote while Helen set up a brassy, rockabilly-meets-Doris Day venture, Helen & The Horns.
Stuart Jones (March 2007)

Helen McCookerybook August 2007
I've just looked at the Chefs thing on the punkbrighton site - it's OK but for a few errors: I didn't play bass before I went to Brighton - I learned it for Joby and the Hooligans; the guys all wanted to do the things like playing guitar and singing and basically said 'You can play bass' to me. I borrowed one from Poison Girls for that first Joby and the Hooligans gig, which they told me used to belong to the Buzzcocks, so that suited me! Helen McC xxx

Chefs mp3's can be found on the jukebox

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Chefs scrapbook

Chefs featured on Vaultage 79
Check out Chefs posters
Check out Helen's website
See also Joby & the Hooligans
The Smartees
Chefs mp3's can be found on the jukebox

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