Psychic Unrest: Forces Defending Human Rights and Forces of Destruction.


Hello Good People who read this blog ( and thanks for still reading)

I find myself in a curious state of mind at the moment, as a result of the protest against the excessive rise in students fees/education cuts in London on Thursday, which resulted in destructive and strange events that burst out amid a background of peaceful and reasonable protest.

More than that,on a personal note I find that as well as the continuing student protests there are other things such as panic for my future, the future of relatives and friends that all seem to be pressing upon me and disturbing my psychic equilibrium. I am sure most people are also experiencing this on some level, so much change has occurred, with ordinary people and politicians behaving in forceful ways.

I think a lot of these forces that have laid dormant for a long time are on the one hand very creative and liberating and on the other, especially those illustrated in the news coverage, very destructive but undeniably powerful.

Before I carry on , some music, and in order to maybe bring about a bit of equilibrium I will find something peaceful. This is a song about how winter changes our frame of mind. Joni Mitchell “Urge for Going”

This unusually cold winter in the UK is another factor to affect the psyche here, violent protests usually happen in the heat of summer, but for those thousands of young people to come out in sub-zero temperatures and to keep coming back and protesting even though they know they may be kettled by police for eight hours or more, that’s the depth of feeling and determination among them. If the police used water cannons, the water would turn to ice after so many hours, but the enthusiasm of youth cannot be frozen so easily, their anger blazes like the bonfires they make to keep warm when hemmed in, at least for the time being.

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My experience of the protest. Although I am a student I hadn’t managed to get to a protest until last Thursday due to other commitments, but when our lecturers were emailing us to go for the future of our own courses, and knowing it was the date of the vote in the House of Commons, I decided to get there somehow. Unfortunately I was delayed, so I was only able to join the demo around 3 pm and missed the march. I carried no water or food in case I got kettled but went anyway. I had no idea of the route of the march but for some reason I was convinced it was to finish inParliament Square. It was hard to get there, Westminster tube station was closed so I went to Embankment, Trafalgar Square was unusually empty, I resisted a strong urge to go to the National Gallery and look at the Impressionist paintings. One of the many strange things that day, I later found out that there had been a student “sit-in” at that very gallery and if I’d followed my instincts I could have joined in.

Whitelhall and  other main roads leading off from Trafalgar Square were all sealed off by police. I took  a  little side-street  I knew and walked almost intuitively towards St. Jame’s Park, ending up in Victoria Street. I walked past sixty or so riot police, but I felt safe in spite of that and carried on until I reached the “kettling” police line that surrounded Parliament Square. To get a better view I went up onto a piece of grass in front of the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre. Along with other buildings in the area it was full of police.

Where I was, everyone seemed very calm, cheerful, holding their placards, some chanting gently,news reporters and  ordinary people taking photgraphs. From where I was standing, the events in Parliament Square sounded and looked fairly peaceful.I was there for two hours and apart from two fireworks going off, it seemed calm, with a party atmosphere.

I saw a woman around my age who was standing on her own behind me, she was holding up a notepad on which she had simply written in biro :” Parents Against Student Debt”. I stood with her and we chatted for a long time. Many other young people took photos of us.It was such a simple thing she had written, but effective and drew lots of attention.

I don’t go on many demos, but whenever I do, I meet wonderful people and it’s the only time in London where you can go up to a stranger and make amazing friends as you have an instant rapport through supporting the same cause. She worked in adoption and had two children,one about to go to Uni and the other already having to pay a substantial student debt from their studies.  We both were pretty passionate about education and the future of our society. We talked about how education is the route out of poverty. I said how much confidence in myself my first degree gave me, otherwise my life would have been quite different. My father came from a very poor background but worked hard at school and managed to get a degree and a very good job unlike the rest of his family.

Due to my “Arts and Humanities” University  education, I am able to express myself and have confidence in my thoughts. I believe that education, partlicularly education in the arts, is crucial to our society. Science is profitable and the arts and humanities seen as a logical waste of money, but to be able to express yourself and come up with new philosophies,  new points of view, and to understand the ethics and processes of other writers, artists, musicians,philosophers,cultures and historical events, that is as important as science. Of course you can do all those things without a degree but I cannot emphasise enough that without mine, this blog would never have been written.

Scene from Parliament Square. Most people seemed cheerful even though they were being “kettled”.

We talked at length about various issues in education,society and politics and I will not go into them all. I guess one of our most basic points, having experienced  parenthood and life’s various expenses, was that it was fundamentally wrong for a young person who might, for instance, one day want to get married, buy a house, have children, for which they would need a well paid job, which would then require a degree, to start their lives in a massive amount of debt. However they rephrase it with ” oh well , you only have to pay £7 a week” etc.. the bottom line is that you will start your adult life in debt and may finish your adult life in debt, unless you come from an over-priviledged family.For parents who have their children at Eton, at nearly £10 000 per term, University fees will not seem that bad,  for a parent with their child in private education in general, it won’t be a huge step to pay £9000 per year. But for an average family, who struggle to pay their rent or their mortgage, and fuel bills, food, council tax, TV license, water bills, internet bill etc…how could they possibly allow themselves or their children to borrow that amount of money and pay it back with interest? Since employers require a degree for many basic jobs, young people are in fact “kettled” within the system.

As we discussed these issues, on our patch of grass overlooking Parliament Square, a smartly dressed woman  came up to us and said in a well-spoken voice and in a terribly British way :”Excuse me , would you like these mince pies? We brought them with us in case we got “kettled””. Looking around me there were many similar women,it was a bit like being at a Women’s Institute fête, to which the mothers had brought along many smiling, chanting, teenage children holding placards with witty slogans, few made made by socialist worker for a change. It was very white, middle-class, British and “terribly nice” at our end. Apart from being kettled out of Parliament Square, and the heavy police presence, the atmosphere was calm and party-like.

As it got to five past five o’clock ( according to Big Ben) , we decided to leave as the vibe changed, I speculated that as we got closer to the six o’clock news, that some more militant protesters might do something to get on TV. Although there was lots of space around us, and we felt very safe,we saw a group of maybe 60 people come out of nowhere, dressed in black carrying a black flag running towards a police line and trying to get into the square. I guessed they were anarchists who had been playing cat and mouse games with the police all afternoon. I didn’t see that much of a scuffle between them and the police but it was a sign that things could get agitated.

So in a boring way, I went home , saw no trouble and was anxious to watch the remainder of the protest and the vote on TV.The demo I saw was peaceful but the protest was hemmed in with people unable to leave in single or other numbers.

Next some more Joni, this time a song she wrote about lying politicians. Well have you ever met an honest one?

” The Way It Is ” Joni Mitchell ( I can’t embed this click on it then to link)

This is her  performance live on TV New Year’s Eve 1968 (I think, please correct me if I am wrong), a coded political song, but hauntingly effective:

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and now for the other side of it all:

(apologies for advertising! for using a news channel but at least there is no commentary, just footage)


Once I got home and turned on the news, I was expecting some level of trouble as the evening drew in, partly because it was there were bound to be some people wanting to cause a ruck , and  because all those trapped there would be wanting to get home. But I didn’t expect so much chaos across central London.

How did this transformation of British Youth happen so rapidly? Of course there will always be some more extreme political groups and within them, some people who want to riot, but the majority were peaceful protesters. What I am slightly susrprised by is the turn around in the thinking of young people in such a short time.

Leaving the rioters to one side for now, let’s talk about the newly politically motivated hippies…When I started my University course back in 2008, the head of our  Student’s Union gave a talk where hippies were completely ridiculed. Now the president of our student’s union has long hair and seems like a hippie to me. I am very happy with this, but such a turnaround in so short a time! There were so many long haired young men on the protest, that I wondered how I missed the announcement that being a hippie was cool again.How did they get the time to grow their hair so long? Until recently “Cheech and Chong” was how most students mentally represented hippies, but this seems to be replaced now with the cooler image of “Che Guevara”.

Bob Marley – Burnin’ & a Looting

The worst casualty Alfie Meadows, looks to me like a peaceful hippie from this photo, and not a violent thug. Also he is a philosophy student who was protesting with his lecturer mum, and we all know just how violent they are! There was probably no reason at all for his injuries apart from being forced to stay in the same place and someone hitting him with something over the head, somehow,whoever they might be. It should be on camera somewhere, the place was filmed from every possible angle.

There are many stories to be told within that one day of protesting and rioting, from different points of view but whatever pespective you take, it will be a day remembered in history. Not so long ago I was trying to encourage young people to protest as is their democratic right, but I never meant for anyone to be injured or any violence of any kind to occur. My heart goes out to anyone who was injured especially Alfie.

Once I was watching the news events unfolded that seemed weirder by the minute.What kind of constellation was present to cause even the royal family to blythely drive into the middle of  the protest? I can’t help but think it was fate aiding and abetting a bit more chaos.

A few months ago I was encouraging young people to go on protests and was dismayed at their political apathy. Now I would implore some calm. Smashing things up violently is couter-productive and  in the long-term, the violence and aggression will rebound on those who caused it, whoever’s side they are on.It’s one thing to smash down the Berlin wall, it’s another to go on the rampage and just smash things because they are there. In the end it’s like smashing up your own home, your own future, there’s got to be a better way to demonstrate, and there’s got to be a better way to police the demonstrations. There’s also get to be a better way of dealing with any problems in our education system. If they have to cut down the number of students, why not raise the academic entry level but make it free, and why not create  jobs that don’t require a degree?

Students have been a nice little earner for the banks lending them money for too long.

Bob Marley again

I have worn myself out now from ranting and no doubt the reader too.

So as always

Love and Peace

Born2rant

Yey! The Students Are Revolting Again.


Hello Good people who might come across this blog or have read it in the past…

( this post is still being edited!)

Back in the seventies a common “joke” usually made by tittering Times readers was ” the students are revolting” as a comment on both their frequent protests and the state of their physical hygiene.

In 2010 I would say that the personal hygiene of young students is excessively fussy and over-sanitised compared to that of their lecturers who were revolting students back in the seventies. But nevermind the hygiene, the important thing is that  the students are moving, speaking, having protests. At last we have the beginnings of a new counterculture that is not based simply on wearing certain clothes. Finally we have a young generation that is ready to go out and say what they believe , even when they know they could in theory be beaten up, locked up or even killed by random batoning policemen.

I won’t venture to say that this will last forever.

Two weeks ago when a group of  “students” ( some were definitely not students but belonging to revolutionary political groups) decided to take a detour to Millbank Tower , my initial reaction was two-fold. Firstly total joy to see some true student rebellion after all these years. Secondly thinking of the people working in the building, many of whom were unconnected to the Conservative party, and how it must have stopped being fun for them as soon as the students started to set fire to things and throwing things off the roof.

However I admit, rightly or wrongly, my main emotion towards the initial student protest was total euphoria. As I am typing this I am amused as on the BBC News channel, they are telling the general public, assumed to be stupid without their godlike guidance, how they can protect themselves against snow by wearing bright jackets and being very careful. We’ve had decades of being told by the media how everything is so dangerous and how we have to be so very very very afraid of illnesses and bombs and a bit of snow. However, regardless of growing up in this state of perpetual paranoia, and in spite of seeing how protesters can be treated, these brave young people  came out and protested mostly peacefully. Even those who ended up rioting at Millbank Tower,while knowing they were constantly on camera, made no attempt to mask their faces, which was either an act of fearlessness or stupidity.

I wanted to put some music here and the obvious choice was Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A Changing”, but this song was more interesting, it’s  a Syd Barrett song protesting against protest songs , and more particularly Dylan protest songs.

Syd Barrett- Bob Dylan Blues (slight apology to Dylan fans)

The very limited police reaction to the first student protest was obviously a political decision. They could have used riot police, cs gas, water cannons, tanks, it’s central London for God’s sake. The place is crawling with armed police officers, S.A.S. and the Royal Cavalry.

If  politicians/police chiefs had wanted to do so, they could have flattened every student there within half an hour. They decided to let them carry on and have their day, probably because David Cameron was in China and wanted to demonstrate that the British way was not to run over students with tanks as in  Tiananmen Square 1989. Here is a video focussing  not on the massacre but on the brave tank man, who has disappeared ever since.

The protesters were perhaps more confident on Wednesday, thinking that since they had been treated with kid gloves two weeks ago, that they could go out and protest peacefully, or some riot, without being batoned to death again yesterday. However, the Tiananmen Square massacre occurred after a month of protests in China in various locations, where the police and army had been restrained. I firmly believe that the government is allowing students to ” let off steam” and that if the protests grow and are prolonged, that the army and riot police will soon make examples of a few rioters by severe injury, maybe a death, and severe prison sentences. However anyone actually setting fire to buildings etc…is kind of asking to be arrested at the very least. I am a peaceful anarchist, there are many ways of redistributing power.

A musical interlude in my ranting:

When I first started this blog there was far less footage available for me to post. Luckily this is up here now. My old friends Treatment ,who changed the course of my life,playing two contrasting songs in 1983 at The Greyhound in London. Like many similar bands their rehearsal time was sometimes live on stage playing to an audience, which allowed for some improvisation, part of the “Treatment sound” was due to the live psychedelic mixing.

Treatment- Stamp Out Mutants/Love is Getting Nowhere ( live 1983)

I do hope that our new coalition government continues to be restrained, but once they think they might lose control of their power and position altogether, we may see a totally different side to the police and armed forces.

Things have changed so quickly, even a year or two ago, I never thought we would ever see students protesting and showing their anger against authority ever again. Let me re-state that I am a pacifist and that I believe that violence leads to more violence, just as war leads to more wars.

Along with this new phase of student politicisation ( is that a real expression or one I just made up from too much studying?), I have sensed in the past year, that there are less jokes about “hippies” who express themselves freely, who challenge some of the more detrimental decisions made by those in power, or who complain about the inequalities in society or the treatment of our animals and environment.

In the past two years, young people have witnessed politicians using tax-payer’s money for duck houses and moats, they have seen how bankers have payed themselves billions and continue to do so,while a whole generation is told that they will have to pay for the gluttony of city finance-dealers, not just now but for a decade or more to come, young people have seen the dreams of their future careers and studies evaporate and it has left them empty hearted with nothing to lose through public protest.

But most of all I think that the news media, showing the protests in Greece, France, and other parts of Europe, have influenced the students and the public in the UK to think, “well if the French are protesting so much about the pension age going up to 62, why aren’t we protesting a lot more for all the damage and pressure we are under?”.

Ten years ago , you couldn’t force or bribe your average student to go and protest at the introduction of ever rising University fees. In 2000 most students were young Business Studies orientated hopefuls. They were born under the astrological constellation of Thatcher and brainwashed by social reinforcement from all directions , derived from  American business ethics, they believed that anyone who wanted to , could start their own business, or go to University, dress nicely, work hard and earn enough money to buy their designer clothes/cars/music/hair à la “Hollyoaks” or other soap opera full of glamourous-looking  young people. As long as they could get well pissed at the weekends and have a snort of coke when work needed to be done, there was no need to debase themselves by getting involved in shabby student politics.

Anyway I think I have ranted enough for now. I am glad to see protesting students, although hypocritically I have not been on the protests myself due to other reasons. But I’ll be on the next one, shying away from violence, but still protesting enough to walk down the middle of London streets. There has not been a majority of politically-motivated students for decades and I feel they need to be aware that the authorities may decide to crush them at any point.However the media-wise Prime Minister , and bumbling Boris, are well aware that whoever looks like the “good-guy”on TV holds the real power, and therefore some protesting may be allowed for some time!

Hawkwind- You Shouldn’t Do That (Brock/Turner 1971)sorry I think I’ve put this up before, it’s just a bit more direct than a Dylan protest song.

In the meantime, let’s see a bit of people power. In a democracy, politicians are meant to be our servants. Instead it seems, the people are the servants to a few well-connected, obscenely rich and over-priviledged business people and aristocrats who have temporarily lost control of the economy and who have been exposed for the liars and greedy people that they are. It’s not a good time for a Royal Wedding, I suggest they have it down the register office with a few sandwiches and dips in the living room afterwards.

Sometimes angry but still wishing you all:Love and Peace

Born2rant


Too busy living to blog or watch TV, plus a teeny bit about Solfest 2010


Hello Good People who evidently still read this blog…

I keep trying to give up this blog for good but it’s up there in cyberspace without me, just like the millions of  photographs of teenagers on Facebook,  who may at some time, rue the day they allowed photos of, and  information about themselves, to be handed over to various companies and intelligence agencies who rule the net. My blog will outlive my initial enthusiasm for bi-weekly blogging ,and like many a dead rock star’s music, will probably outlive me.

I did go to Solfest this year , and I guess that by the number of hits on the day it ended, many will have to checked in to see if I have done a review like I have done the three previous years.

In a word  “no”, and I’m not really going to. It is still the greatest UK hippie festival that I have experienced this millennium,although a few less punters this year and slightly more zealous security. Well actually, I mean specifically one guy. A young security steward who wore large sunglasses day or night , wore a “security hat”, and obviously took his job extremely seriously. He questioned and scrutinised people at the gates of Solfest as if they were non-EU citizens of “Asian” origin trying to get through passport control at Heathrow. It was only one enthusiastic Nazi  in the whole organisation, but one too many, plus he never seemed to go off duty. Maybe he dreams of being head of all security services one day…in which case, don’t work at a hippie festival, run by hippies.

Backstage the air of hippiedom was also occasionally marred by the odd territorial argument over which loo one could use .One group of people in particular, got hysterical if other members of crew used “their” portaloo and shouted to me “don’t fill our loo up or we can’t use it”, which I found mildly insulting. There was also by the end of the weekend, a row over who could have access to my nearest water supply. Various people started to attach their own personal pipes,to the general standpipe going directly to their tent or caravan, leaving no access to water for the humble camper without extra water-pipe fixtures, and a trickle of water to all trying to get their direct private supply, due to low pressure. It was exemplary of the follies and injustices of  Capitalism, which I hoped to get away from completely during my stay at Solfest. I am hoping that the hippie spirit of sharing resources over and above stupid claims to exclusive access to basic amenities will return next year in the backstage area.

I have not written a review of Solfest, why ? Because I am not often here.

I’ve turned my back on blogging, Myspace, Facebook, hotmail, Googlemail, all mainstream TV news, most TV programmes, and most Radio programmes. I do still use youtube quite a lot, especially if I want to hear music from the other side of the world. I mainly watch TV if I have visitors who want to watch it or if I am just too tired or ill to think of anything else I can do. I read newspapers if I find them lying on the tube, and yet without the internet or the media intruding in my life as much, I am not suffering from any withdrawal symptoms. Quite the opposite, I actually talk to real people face-to-face,  go to real places, and don’t feel like my life is over because my hair is dull or I don’t have a car, or I don’t know what David deCameron said today, and I haven’t suffered any more patriotic military propaganda passing for news on a daily basis.

However I will entwine this rant against second hand communication and experiences with a bit of music from Solfest.

In spite of my previous negative comments, Solfest  is still friendly, creative, and the happiest weekend of the year for me. I always meet great people, have long rambling conversations, dance to loud music even though I feel I am too old to do so, laugh at the inventiveness of fancy dress costumes, discover new  music, see amazing landscapes, feel hopeful that there is a little bit of the year that is not cynical and under surveillance but is creative and flourishing. I love going up north, can’t cope with southern festivals ever since my first Solfest. Ironically it has now become a yearly gathering point for people I know from London, Brighton and South Wales.

Every ageing hippie seems to have their favourite yearly festival, the one where they will see their old friends again and maybe have a little smoke even if they gave up on New Year’s day 2000, laugh like teenagers again, and show their kids how to power generators by pedalling like crazy, how to make things out of wood, and basically introduce them to various degrees of alternative living.

Some of my favourite musicians at Solfest 2010.

Here is John Fairhurst playing sitar music on the guitar. I saw him on the main stage on Saturday, strumming hard and fast, blending slide guitar with flamenco and ragas, very impressive. Unfortunately there is no footage of him playing at Solfest, so here he is playing in 2008 at an album launch party.

John Fairhurst , a sublime creative guitarist. Here he  starts quietly and gradually builds up momentum, then later explodes into a raucous manifestation of  many guitar genres peeping out from one another to say a brief  hello. Are you following me? Good, if not, don’t read any more, have a cup of tea instead.

My favourite Drystone stage act at Solfest was Richard Barry and The Chaps from Manchester. Maybe I am biased, I met Richard at a residential songwriting workshop in 1999. His sense of humour, charm and excellent musicianship make him always worth catching. Yet again, there is no Solfest footage his performance. It was pouring down with rain when he started but he still gathered a crowd, and then the sun came out!

Richard Barry and The Chaps – Please Don’t Ration My Fags.

I spent a lot more time in the Dance Tent than I intended to, especially on Saturday night where I danced to Eat Static, now a solo act, but still doing “his”/ “their” thing, and this guy DJ Adsorb who did an interesting set. Well I enjoyed it but I am frankly not an expert in dance music at all!  I’m more of an acoustic guitar person myself. I just liked Adsorb’s set because there was plenty of variety.

Now maybe it’s because I have never taken the right drugs , or possibly because I haven’t taken the correct amount of drugs, or more likely because I don’t even know by what  acronyms the drugs I’d have to take, and ask for,  from someone  two decades or more younger than me, leads me to find the brain-shaking tones of “doofff-doofff-doofff-da-da-dooff-dooff-doofff etc…” looped for an hour, and somehow so loud that they obliterate any other sounds in the mix…..B.O.R.I.N.G..

However this Solfest having spent much time talking to DJs in the Chill-Out tent who had taken the correct drugs, with their abbreviated names, in the right amounts, to like every type of  Dance Music,  I was  re-assured  that what I was referring to, was music that was  “relentless”.

You can actually pretend to like it, then when in the company of those you truly trust, complain that in fact it was “relentless” possibly shaking your head to demonstrate just how relentless it was.

So now I can blend in with people who know and appreciate all types of dance music by saying  ” God, that was  relentless!” and show the punishment I endured with a little  downwards shake of the head.

But as you can tell I don’t pretend to be anyone but the anonymous person I am pretending to be.

I cannot find much footage of Solfest 2010 itself!

But here is some footage from the Dance tent, I don’t know which DJ this is but I am sure someone will tell me, it could very well be DJ Adsorb, this is then contrasted with the Dogs in Space ( Chill-Out) tent, where you will see a few seconds of an amazing trio driven by the jazz beats of the Van Der Graaf Generator drummer: Guy Evans, along with psychedelic guitarist, Nigel Mazlyn Jones and flautist/guitarist Jim Nield. I caught the end of their set and they created a sound as colourful and ambient as the décor and lightshow of the Dogs in Space tent itself, shame there are only a few seconds of this available to show. I thoroughly enjoyed their mesmerizing set of jazz drumming and psychedelia.

The Damned played but I didn’t go to see them, the youtube clips are pretty poor quality soundwise.

Another act who played twice in the Dogs in Space tent and performed in cafés all over the site were the excellent Marley Chingus, from Liverpool,played rich bebop jazz covers as well as their own compositions, their long-haired and bearded trumpet player was particularly outstanding although all of them are very highly skilled musicians. Again no footage of them at Solfest but here they are with one of their own compositions, no trumpet player but a great sax player instead.

Marley Chingus -Neolithic Chant.

Well I’m off now to make some tea and maybe listen to some music. In the meantime I asked a DJ who came to visit my place last night what his favourite Gong tune was. He told me this one because of the electronics in it, the synths were played  by Tim Blake. It’s a fantabulous track beginning with synths, echo and tabla and building up nicely into a freeform jazz jam with psychedelic lead guitar, slide “glissando” guitar, with other sounds and many instruments thrown in for good measure.

So, I’ll leave you with the brilliant and mind-awakening : Gong – A Sprinkling of Clouds (1974)


Love and Peace to all of you

and remember hippies are cool, superficial people are… well …superficial

Born2rant

Acid Mothers Temple,Stearica, Chambers of the Heart (Oxford 30/05/2010)


Hello Good People who still sometimes read this blog…

I return briefly to give a highly subjective account of a gig I went to at the weekend, that blew my mind and which has deafened me although I hope to regain my hearing gradually over the week (wear earplugs kids and don’t do as I did).

I decided on the spur of the moment to go to Oxford on Sunday to see Acid Mothers Temple.

I bought my ticket online, but shortly afterwards realised I was ill with a stomach bug and had a bit of a temperature, but decided to go anyway, these difficulties were  compounded by missing not one but two Oxford Tube coaches ( long stupid story). However I live with the philosophy that if something has many obstacles in the way, then the rewards at the end of it all are bound to be amazing so I forged my way to Oxford from London eventually.

The Bullingdon Arms venue was a bit grim but OK. Many posters about sniffer dogs and a ban on drug dealing, made me realise that I was probably not hanging out in the poshest part of Oxford but the low down and dirty experimental rock part, as it should be for such a gig.

The first act on were a young local band called Chambers of The Heart. I think they were a 5 piece band, it was hard to tell as they were playing in the dark, with only a film projection behind to illuminate them. Sounding like early Hawkwind, they were very loud and jammed continuously well, but in line with the age of the musicians, they sounded too well rehearsed and polished to actually be mistaken for a group who were creating sounds out of the air after taking a strange combination of far too many drugs ( i.e. early Hawkwind or any of the other 70s jam bands crawling out of the squats and back streets of Ladbroke Grove).

Chambers of the Heart had no vocalist but was fronted by a truly excellent female theremin player, who made this contraption her own by making it sing like a drunken but earnest Clanger. They sounded somehow slower  than Hawkwind, but compensated for this by having great swells of  loud energy and contrasting quiet peaceful bits.

I couldn’t find any youtube clips for this band but instead here’s their myspace:

chambers of the heart
http://www.myspace.com/chambersoftheheartgroup

Motorhead may have claimed to have “Everything Louder Than Everything Else“, but that’s only because Stearica was not playing live at the time. Italian band Stearica, have several pleasant-sounding melodic clips of themselves online however at this gig they were loud, forceful, speedy and raucous like this clip but much louder and somewhat faster:

Stearica 14/4/2008 ( in the spirit that I saw them play in)

Again there was no singer, but the drummer was the front man. He was the most manic drummer since Keith Moon , although this reference may now be outmoded. He asked the audience standing a few feet back from the stage,to come in closer, in a strong Italian accent. So I moved right to the front, but I had already become so engrossed in the music than I forgot to put in earplugs. Thereby injuring both brain and ears and experiencing the music in the same way as gorging a curry full of chillies and not much in the way of other ingredients.

The bassist played from a wheelchair, with energy and originality. A third member of the band played synth and guitar through two rows of pedal effects, but I was not able to hear him until the rhythm section stopped playing, and even  then, I wasn’t sure if what I was listening too was him playing high-pitched sounds or my internal screaming tinnitus.

However here he is on an occasion where he can be heard:

There was nothing subtle about this band, but also no boring moments,high-speed all the way through. At one point, in mid-song,the drummer got up and the whole band halted in suspended animation, which was surreal. They kept this up for some time until the crowds cheered enough for the drummer to start back up again and the others joined in perfectly in time. Pretty impressive. If I was running a psychedelic club I’d book them just for their sheer attitude and contagious enthusiasm.

By the time Acid Mothers Temple got on stage , I was already a bit deaf and had headbanged several thousand brain-cells out of existence ( now living in headbanger’s heaven). I was a bit worried that I would not be able to hear the next band or have any energy left to dance with. I needn’t have worried as they cranked up the volume of the Marshall amps even further, and the two guitarists standing in front of me, moved about as they played ,so that somehow I became possessed by a need to dance even more frenetically. I didn’t need drink or drugs, the music was enough to temporarily cure my stomach malaise and send me into a psychedelic trance.

The entire band was Japanese except for the bass player who had broken his arm and was replaced by a white guy with a poney tail and a moustache . He was a dead-ringer for a guy I used to know who was both a devout Catholic and a devout drug dealer with gangster connections.  This phased me initially, wondering if people who look just like other people, have similar personalities and lifestyles, but I digress. He was just a good bass player.

The lead guitarist was an artist. I don’t know his background but I could imagine him starting by learning to play Chopin from an early age and practising this for 5 hours a day and then graduating to Hawkwind, Hendrix, Pink Floyd and Steve Hillage in adolescence.

The front man with long grey hair, on guitar and synth, seemed also to have studied the greats. You note that I do not name them.I  know little about Acid Mothers Temple.

Of course I had heard of this band for some years , and knew that they had a connection with Gong, but the reason why I was at this concert was after a conversation in a London restaurant with some music students.

One girl, who is an excellent musician herself and generally a nice person, was taking the piss out of hippies as most people do. She was telling us about an Acid Mothers Temple gig she’d been to. She described them as being total hippies, who jammed for hours on stage, with a lead guitarist who did twenty-minute long solos, how everyone there was on acid and how there were hundreds of long-haired hippies in the audience either swaying or dancing crazily for hours on end to the loud psychedelic mayhem happening on stage. At which point I had to say “That sounds great!” even though she was criticising them. A music lecturer then helpfully told me that they were on tour and about to gig in Oxford.

I had heard some Japanese “noise” bands from clips on youtube, and this is what I was expecting, but Acid Mothers Temple was not only “noise”, it was bloody good music. It was not “original” music in Western terms, but blatantly imitating early Pink Floyd and Hawkwind jams, Hendrix , Steve Hillage, or other psychedelic artists, re-hashed (pardon the pun) and re-assembled into beautiful musical forms, sublimely executed by these crazed rebellious musicians. The riffs could be  a bit laboured and repetitive, but this had the effect of sending everyone into some kind of  trance. At one point I got slightly bored with the repeated riff  but then the bass player launched into the most amazing bass line in the style of Yes bassist Chris Squire.

But you can hear this for yourselves. A clip of  Acid Mothers Temple, this is one of their famous tracks ,Pink Lady Lemonade..wait for the bass to come in…followed a minute or so later by guitar solo (27 th march 2010 Vancouver)

Here is a little taster of them during a manic more disjointed phase of their musical performance from 2006:

The drummer was tucked away in the back but still drove the ever-changing speed and volume.There were phases in the music of light and dark, the pretty and melodic contrasted with piercing chaos. Feedback was used throughout as an extra dimension as well as prolific stage antics.

On several occasions, I expected the guitarist to smash his guitar to pieces in front of me and was ready to duck or catch it, if it landed in my direction. There were attempts at singing but due to the volume of the instruments it was impossible for either the audience, or the musicians to hear any vocals. At times,even the drum kit , which was being hit as hard as humanly possible, barely registered against the storm of surrounding feedback and electronic overdrive.

But hey, why have one drum-kit when you can have two?

Here is a clip of  Acid Mothers Temple ( with two drummers), doing a cover of a Steve Hillage track :The Glorious Om Riff Somehow they manage to shout the lyrics in a totally different key to the music, I don’t know if this is intentional , or just because they were deafened. Luckily they did not play this at the excellent Oxford gig I attended,as it is a bit painful to a  Steve Hillage fan, and yet it’s still brilliantly rebellious and entertaining. I assure you that they are much more “polished ” in 2010…if polished is the best word to describe them. Anyway Steve Hillage fans should play this clip from around 5 minutes in and see what you think of their cover version. Even later on in the clip, the band gets a tad nihilistic.

Acid Mother’s Temple with glissando guitar ( beautiful!)
14th April 2010 Kentucky

The final 30 minutes of the gig had virtually non-stop strobes. The lead guitarist threw his guitar around and then hung it up on the lighting rig, letting it ring out the feedback before leaving the stage.

Love ’em or hate ’em, the hurricane of electronic sounds and the dedication of the musicians to blow your mind into the ultimate psychedelic experience makes an “Acid Mothers Temple” concert an unmissable cathartic event.

It’s been three days and I still have some tinnitus in my ears, but all in all, that was the craziest psychedelic rock gig I have been to in 30 years.

There were no lyrics, no elaborate lightshows, no on stage choreography, but f*** me it was good.

Go see Acid Mothers Temple before you die, or they do (and bring earplugs).

Love and Peace

Born2rant

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.

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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?)

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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.

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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