From the Sixties to the End of the Noughties..did it match up to expectations?


Hello Good People who read this blog

I am listening to music over the headphones while I write this, to keep me focussed and calm,so I might as well start by sharing what I am listening to. Some English sixties folk, Sandy Denny with an acoustic home recorded demo version of Who Knows Where the Time Goes?

Across the purple sky, all the birds are leaving…

Well everyone on TV and radio seems to be reviewing the noughties. I can’t believe a decade has gone by.

I feel a sense of foreboding in broaching the subject of the “noughties” as I think for me it was a decade that started with high hopes and ends in doubt, fear and disappointment. In my personal life that is not the case but in terms of an alternative type of person living in London, it has not been a great decade.

************************************************************************************************************

I guess for me this decade started in the sixties. As a child, the year 2000 seemed like an impossibly long time away. I wondered if I actually would live to be that old.

In 1968 , this is what we thought could be happening in 2001:

At school in the sixties,one of the favourite essay topics of teachers, was to ask us write about how the world would be in the year 2000. We all wrote about world peace, wearing silver suits, having robots to do all our housework, going for holidays in outer space, an absence of disease, poverty and famine and extraordinary futuristic and sophisticated pop music,together with the occasional time machine and transporter room ( in the style of Star Trek). It is hardly surprising that we were so optimistic, the sixties was an amazing time of progress, with the peace movement, breaking down of many prejudices,new fashions made of new synthetic materials, amazing ground-breaking pop music, advances in medicine and the proliferation of science fiction which speculated on how new technology would affect us all in the future.

Some of the predictions made by scientists were very misguided.

Tomorrow’s World (BBC)  in the late 60s

At other times the predictions were petty spot on. Here is a clip I found called Britain of the Future . It features mobile phones, CCTV in banks, luxury short plane journeys to Sydney, computers and the internet, how we will select our children for mathematical ability, flatscreen TVs  and more.If you play it 5 minutes in, you will find some predictions for 2000. The population figures quoted must be for Britain only. In fact according to the National Statistics office the UK population in 2008 was 61 million and not quite the 65 million that they anticipated for 2000.

It is hardly surprising that in the sixties, a time of great creativity, invention and hope, that we looked to the future with great excitement. Could we say the same now? How do we see the future in these fearful times where every TV programme seems to warn us about some threat : climate change,  terrorist attack, or timeless pleasures that are a danger to our health, as well as the possibility of financial ruin or new diseases that will wipe us all out unless we wash our hands 20 times a day.

Do you know any teachers who ask their class to write an essay about how exciting life will be in the year 2050?

Poor kids today!

In 1969, western consciousness was full of hope. Everyone with access to a TV,remembers the day when Apollo 11 landed on the moon.  The music of The Beatles, Hendrix and others was so new, young and exciting , we hoped that with new technology  we would be creating the most amazing music ever by 2010…OOPS! We didn’t account for those forces that kill creativity: trying to make money by trying to appeal to all, trying to look perfect, marketing, advertising, selling your soul to Satan Cowell etc..

I remember sitting with some friends back in the eighties, after listening to all four “sides” of  Electric Ladyland and saying:  “Just imagine what music Hendrix would make if he’d survived until the year 2000 , with all that technology!” and others agreeing and imagining this amazing music with  new synthesizers and effects and even computers.

Now I think:”Yep…if Hendrix had survived, I bet his record company would be re-issuing all his old stuff. Maybe having gone through a brief “Unplugged” tour during the nineties.” Cynical me…

But technology has brought some interesting new music, even if it is sometimes rehashed old music from the sixties. Recently this was recommended to me by two people in their twenties. DJ Shadow’s “Endtroducing” ,first released in 1996 and re-issued in 2005.This album is created entirely out of samples. D.J Shadow combines these skillfully to make a totally new, and some would say,genius, classic album.

Is this the future of music?

Building Steam with a Grain of Salt  by  DJ Shadow.

I like it, but I prefer Dark Side of The Moon which uses samples of speech but where  the music is less repetitive and  the lyrics have a message.( Or do I have a case of middle-aged “They just don’t write tunes like they used to and don’t police officers look young”etc.?)P.S. 3/1/2010 However this track has definitely “grown on me” in the past few days. I find a lot of good music plays that trick.

Another PS!!!!

I recently interviewed Andy Leung for another  little radio documentary, he is the keyboard player from the band “Introducing” a nine piece band who play “Endtroducing” live at gigs and festivals. Now  this has become one of my fav tracks , here they are playing “Building Steam with a Grain of Salt” and other tracks for the album at the Skylarkin, Carling Academy Oxford in December 2008. What do you think?

I hope that the future of music in 2010 and beyond goes back to live performance, more thought-provoking contents, and originality. Unlike in previous decades, the music business is no longer the only way for independent minded musicians to get their music aired. The internet has liberated us and trapped us at the same time.

As far as file sharing goes, my feelings are mixed. The musicians I know,mostly don’t mind file sharing, they also like using open source materials and all the free things on the internet to help them, from myspace, to music lessons on youtube. But the musicians I know don’t make a whole lot of money. Internet file sharing is nothing new, ever heard of cassette recorders and photocopying machines? As a child/teenager I had very little pocket money. We used to record the entire chart show on Radio One on an old reel to reel recorder. I still have the tapes!

Here is Kraftwerk being futuristic in 1978.Will music in the coming decade be progressive or retrogressive? It all depends on what our collective consciousness or fashion dictate.

The Robots ( nevermind playing synthesizers, will they design robots to do the bloody housework next decade?)

**********************************************************************************************************

Like the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, there have been some moments in life, commonly shared with others, where I remember where I was and who I was with, and every feeling and thought impressed  up there in my memory.Preceeding the beginning of the nougthies, there was the eclipse which I saw on Hampstead Heath in London, together with several hundred others.Each one of us forwarned eternally by the media not to look straight up at the sun. It was a special and spiritual moment, I spoke to many Londoners who I didn’t know there, and strangely I bumped into all sorts of music people I knew,but who were equally surprised to see me there. The eclipse reminded us that day, that we were only on a small, rather vulnerable planet, I felt united with others, but for some reason it made me feel sad too.

New Year’s Eve 2000 itself was also a strange time for me personally,  I remember having ventured alone into Central London around the Thames surrounded by thousands of others.I have never felt so lonely! London can be like that. Luckily I went to a friend’s place later.

I guess the main events from the Noughties that affected everything else in our daily lives in London, was September the 11th 2001 followed by the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Both events completely changed the London I knew into a place where CCTV and police apparently took over. I also remember the bus and tube bombings of July 2005 and the further aborted bombings a couple of weeks later. My entire neighbourhood was cordoned off that day, and a friend had to stay at my place because the police wouldn’t let him go home.

Immediately after September the 11th , I was very interested to hear all the “ins and outs” of why the “plane crashes”  could have  happened.

I knew both Americans and Lebanese people at that time, who knew a lot about politics. Before the full story broke out in the news, it was pretty obvious from my conversations with them, that it was bound to be a group from the middle-east over Palestine.

The protest march against the invasion of Iraq in February 2003 was another day I will never forget. I have been on a quite a few protest marches, but this was exceptional. The political apathy of the British public was dispelled for once and to take part in the march was amazing. It was freezing cold and slow, but I was so pleased to see others of all ages and backgrounds united in not wanting a war.

I had written a detailed letter to my MP at the time, Michael Portilo, a month or two beforehand, giving him five well-thought out reasons why we should not invade Iraq. One of my main points was that London would become a target for terrorists if we got involved in America’s attack. I stated that we were still regarded as neutral until we committed to invading Iraq. I wrote that I thought that central London would become a less friendly, and more dangerous place with armed police, and that there would be a threat of terrorist attacks on the tubes.

To my surprise, and to his credit, Portilo wrote back me ( or maybe someone in his office wrote it for him) . It was a long letter, replying to each one of my five points in detail. The letter is somewhere up in my attic I think, I could not find it to quote here unfortunately ( I may add it later).

Portilo assured me that if we did not invade Iraq, that London would become a terrorist target and a dangerous place to live. Although a conservative MP, he  fully supported the labour government’s actions. I might have sounded hysterical in my letter,but I was right.  Our tubes were bombed and London did become a far more paranoid and fearful place, with new detention laws and the police, at times taking over tube stations with an aggressive and intimidating presence,compounded by stories of police torture at Scotland Yard, police brutality at recent climate change protests etc…

I have subsequently met Kurdish refugees from Iraq and Turkey, living here in London, who were extremely happy to see Saddam go. One guy I knew lost not only his family, but all his friends,school teachers and everyone he ever met in his entire life, through one of Saddam’s mass gas attacks of the Kurds.

I am still a pacifist and think we were wrong to invade Iraq, but these things are never entirely black and white.

*************************************************************************************************************

I guess my main worry for the next decade is the impact of climate change, I do think life for people will have to change whether we plan for it or not.

On a positive note, I am a great believer in Mother Earth. Before all the patriarchal religions ( and yes I know I will upset many by writing this!) there were religions in most parts of the world based on the concept of the great mother, the giver of life. The planet and all living things , and sometimes non-living things such land,rocks and hills etc. were sacred and respected.

If we don’t adopt a better attitude, then the forces of nature which are stronger than the forces of man, will take over.I believe the planet will be self-regulating. This is a very harsh image and of course I don’t want anyone to die or suffer. If we think of the planet as a kind of living being under threat (from billions of  little human parasites), then I believe that it could rebel and kill enough people so that it can restore itself back to health.

Well let’s see if we can prevent any great tragedy from happening by using  less, and thinking more about the way we treat our planet within this gigantic, wonderful and mysterious Universe. We must choose to either plunder or to care for this beautiful, delicate, live-giving planet Earth.

Happy New Year 2010,

May the next decade bring us Wisdom and Peace

Born2rant

Drug Dealers of Notting Hill ( and nearby) plus dope culture 1979-1981 (part deux)


Hello Good People who read this blog whether you got here on purpose or by accident you are all welcome!

My rambling blog is going to attempt at some form of confused continuity by continuing my stories of drug dealers . Please refer to my calendar on the right and click on June the 27th to read the first part of these tales.

Anyone out there firstly should know that names have been changed and some facts may be distorted by the following mathematical formula:

(time-compressed-in-my-brain) x (imagination + fantasies)  x % ^  (the fact I was very stoned at the time). However if only you knew the stuff I left out, that’s far wilder, so anything innacurate will not be an exageration, if indeed I get to tell that stuff in this post.

The Sports Shop

So if you read my entry (27/6/08)  you’ll know that via my friend who was looking for a party we found a house full of  drug dealers living above a sport’s shop in Harrow Road . At last we had found a regular place to score that did not involve dealing with brawls in pubs or hanging out in  All Saint’s Road.

I had concepts of dodgy drug dealers before I met these guys. This was in 1979 and all I can say is that from our point of view it was the happiest household I’d ever been to. The first people we got to know through my partying friend were two guys called Tony from Northern Ireland.

They were either from Ulster or Belfast I cannot remember, but I do remember that due to the amount of bombings going on,  the general stereotype was that anyone with a strong northern Irish accent was feared as a bomber. This was because each time there was a bomb , on the news they would always conclude by saying “and someone with a strong  Irish accent phoned up to claim the IRA were responsible”. The IRA also were involved in some kind of drug smuggling but there was no way these two young men with strong Northern Irish accents were at all interested in bombing anyone or in politics either , they were only interested in getting stoned, having a laugh and listening to good music.

One of the Tonys had a sweet young  face, always smiling he had a drum kit in his room and I had my first go on drums thanks to him. I was rubbish and realised drums were not for me. He played them pretty well though. His taller friend,  also a Tony, had long black hair with wrigglets and a moustache, he looked altogether wilder and people teased him by saying he looked like one of the Fabulous Furry Freak brothers ( the one with the glasses…what was his name? Phineas Freakears!). Both Tonys were friendly guys with a great sense of humour.

A little trip around the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and other drug culture characters …

In fact I seem to remember we christened a fair few of our friends at that time according to different characters from that comic it was so funny and tragic at the same time. The new obscenity laws that dear old Thatcher brought in meant the nice people at the headshop in Portobello Road were busted several times for selling “Fabulous Furry Freak Brother ” comics.  I bought a board game from that head shop back in 1980 ( the shop still exists, called “Alchemy” it changed address though).

It was a board game called “Dealer Mc Dope” ( this photo is from the Last Gasp website where you can still buy this game from!). It was like Monopoly except you have to go around the world buying and selling drugs . It takes several days to win and some of the rules are quite insane and humanly impossible. I seem to remember there were 2 sets of rules one was the “Perverto Insane rules” or something involving cannabalism and nuclear explosions or similar .

The cartoons on the banknotes are fantastic with Ronald Reagan and other American politicians. Anyway I bought that from that same headshop  in 1980 and they had to keep it under the counter for me in case they got busted for selling a drug dealing game.

My favourite was always Fat Freddy’s Cat and because we had a large number of cats at home , we frequently referred ( or should I say reefer-d..very bad pun!) to the philosophy and wisdom of Fat Freddy’s Cat. He used to poo in Fat Freddy’s cowboy boots to remind him that the catbox needed changing and ours used to poo everywhere too… aah! Happy Days!

Around then there were various cinemas that catered for hippies , late night tokers and those interested in counterculture films. It was through these that we encountered Fritz the Cat. A pornographic debauched cat I didn’t much like, still it certainly turned the stereotypes of cartoons like Mickey Mouse and Felix the Cat upside down.

In Notting Hill the Electric Cinema had late night shows where I remember watching “La Vallée Obscured by Clouds“. Pink Floyd had provided the music but one of the characters (Monique) is also played by Miquette Giraudy of System 7. However in this clip she is a bit er… obscured by clouds but  that’s her in the red/brown cape or possibly blanket.

On the same bill was “More” also with some music from Pink Floyd. Both films were directed by Barbet Schroeder. I seem to remember that “More”  was  one of the most depressing junkie films I had ever seen. Mind you I don’t remember a lot about it except that I got bored . I much preferred “La Vallée” which had a more interesting story of hippies trying to reach a place and way of life before the trappings of modern culture and capitalism.

In this clip of “More” from youtube below they have censored some of the ingredients to their spaced out drug concoction……sorry !

I might have to write another entry just about films and alternative cinema because I can sense another 1500 words about to emerge.

I cannot forget the first time I saw ” Up in Smoke” in the late summer of 1979 . I was alone in Paris at the time, I had a place at The Sorbonne to study French but I was desperately lonely , broke, and had nowhere to live.  I ended up going to stay in a convent in the Latin Quarter. I went to the cinema every day to hear some spoken English as I was very homesick and I came across ” Up in Smoke ” by accident , I had never seen anything like it . Cheech and Chong playing  two bumbling American hippies in the most hilarious film I had ever seen, going through every young toker’s scenario . I  went back to the cinema to see it several times until I just had to leave Paris where I was desperately miserable and rejoin my hippie boyfriend and friends  back in London leaving my University course behind…. but I never regretted it and studied later on a course I was much more suited to.

(this clip of “Up in Smoke” has a couple of flash frames in it  added by the person who put it up on youtube but of nothing bad or brainwashing..not sure what it is a picture of)

Cheech and Chong were almost like cartoon characters, also there was Robert Crumb and the Stoned Agin posters.

The bedsits over the Sport’s shop in Harrow Road were full of young small time dealers, who actually were just like Cheech and Chong and had all the stereotype posters on their walls. The Stoned Agin one , then there was the multicoloured one of a woman smoking a great big cone spliff, plus of course Bob Marley , Jimi Hendrix and other bands.

The  two Tony’s were always very happy to see us. We used to get up to run our stall in Portobello Road at   6 a.m. on Saturday mornings and yet I think we used to go there to score and get stoned on a Friday night and I was working full-time. We were young and sleep was optional. (Also jobs were a much less demanding back then in every way  and I worked a 36 hour week which was considered as a typical 9-5 full-time job with a lunch hour and morning and afternoon tea breaks. )

We’d spend the evening there and have tea and munchies and lots of spliffs. There were sometimes other drugs there but we didn’t generally bother with those, I certainly was not interested in other drugs at all. There was quite a range of different types of cannabis available and the different varieties of dope available improved when eventually we got to know their dealers, and their dealer’s dealers! But for a year or so we hung out happily at the Sport’s shop and got to know the other inhabitants who all were smiley jolly people and seemed eager to be our friends and tell us of the latest attempts by the police to have them busted.

Dope was cheap, much cheaper than beer and made me happy, not aggressive or miserable like alcohol could. Plus it made me feel good about being creative and someone who liked to think about society as the entire drug culture was about using drugs to expand the mind and to create new music and other artistic and intellectual pursuits. I think I personally wanted the spiritual ecstatic experience that religion alluded to ( being filled with the Holy Ghost!) but just didn’t deliver. I wanted to feel at one with the planet, with all living things and that life was special and had a purpose. I think I found this through dope temporarily at least although I think the company and culture associated with drug-taking was equally important.

But I was also quite paranoid, we all were but none of us admitted it as well as very accident prone when stoned and well…it’s not a risk-free activity.  At the time we thought it was healthy to smoke it and that tobacco was dangerous so we often smoked neat bongs, pipes, and grass spliffs, and so did the health- conscious people we knew. It always makes me laugh, I’ve known so many hippies who have given up tobacco, eat only vegan and sometimes macrobiotic foods, won’t use any anti-biotics or painkillers or any type of “poisonous” conventional medicine yet they are quite happy to have huge quantities of dope and sometimes other “natural” non-pharmaceutical drugs like mushrooms and even opium etc…

Still I find most people are walking contradictions including myself. In those days we all thought that dope was not only healthy but good for you, cured asthma, arthritis, annorexia, depression, and that is why we supported  the “legalise cannabis campaign” and were willing to risk getting arrested at Smokey Bear’s Picnics in Hyde Park and other legalise cannabis events.

My thoughts and feelings about dope are totally different now and today’s skunk is a totally different drug.  Skunk has wrecked the mental health of at least one of my friends.  Also we now have the knowledge that smoking anything gives you cancer…is ignorance bliss? or just foolish? or were we just young and some of us finding life very stressful and alienating without dope and the good company of other smokers?

It was bliss back then to smoke dope and feel that it was revolutionary, wise, naughty and illegal as well as a healthy herb and it separated us from “straight” people who liked to drink lots. It was very “us” and “them”.

I’ll write more soon. At my leisure!

Please tell me in a comment  if you had any dope smoker’s posters on your wall or other paraphenelia  I may have forgotten about . How about unusual cigarette papers? Like there were dollar bill ones and pink leopard-skin skins.

and do you smile each time you watch the BBC London news read by  Rizzla Teeth? I do!

Yes..the dope-smoking culture and sense of humour doesn’t go away even if writing blogs has replaced the hours of giggling and listening to Gong while smoking bongs. Happy Days!

( cough ! cough! splutter! wheeze!)

Lots of things from the US in this entry and I’ll finish with a trailer from the film Psych-out ( 1968 ) see below this paragraph . It’s an absolutely brilliant little montage of this crazy colourful film. I first went to see this at The Scala in King’s Cross as part of an all-nighter with my ex and our mate Gid  who was 6 foot 4 and had his face painted as a mouse. They were both tripping from dope cake and totally freaked out from seeing this cautionary  film and I had to try and chill them out after the film by finding them munchies and talking to them about nice things. It was quite difficult not to smile , Gid looked very sweet as a 6 foot 4 inch terrified  long-haired hippie mouse with a little red nose and painted whiskers across his cheeks.

PSYCH-OUT” 1968 ( a  psychedelic movie with some horror sequences includes a young Jack Nicholson with long-hair, the Seeds, the Strawberry Alarm Clock and much more!)

Love and peace

Born2rant

  • Calendar

    • August 2017
      M T W T F S S
      « Jun    
       123456
      78910111213
      14151617181920
      21222324252627
      28293031  
  • Search