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

“Political Intelligence” versus sitting around to watch the world end.


Hello Good People who read this blog

I make no apologies for this entry being political.  This is THE most important time to think about politics.

I went on the Put People First G20 March on Saturday.

I had such a great time. I joined the Oxfam group rather than march alone. I have done quite a lot of work for Oxfam so it seemed the right group to join.

Lots of friendly people there who were very knowledgeable about politics in this country, in Europe and the World. They put me to shame! They were telling me for instance about the recent general strike in France and I knew nothing about it and about many protest marches going on across Europe. People from Oxfam and other organisations club together and get a coach to go and march there. Now that’s dedication!

They all commented how apathetic British people are about politics and are lagging behind all the other countries politically.

A few years ago someone in the self-help trade coined the phrase “emotional intelligence” and I’d like to modify this to “political intelligence” , the people in Britain have very little “Political Intelligence” the British mainstream news media have very little “Political Intelligence” too, they like to make headlines that scare or shock people like the worst tabloid front pages. But they don’t report much on what is happening outside the UK unless it is a terrorist attack or some other horror story.

In television news reports, people who take an interest in what is going on and who is in charge of our daily lives , are labelled as terrorists and trouble makers.

But there are lot of people who actually want to take part in their democratic rights without being violent or wanting to kill people!

I am a bit worried about the demonstrations on Wednesday because I do think both sides plan on a bit of a ruck, that’s what the media will focus on and that will make more and more people “politically stupid” and less likely to come on the peaceful marches.

However I learnt some very important things on Saturday.On the down side there were only a pitiful  35 000 people who were concerned enough about the environment and the economy and world inequalities to come to the march. Also successive governments have ignored unions and peaceful protests following their arrogant policy which started with “this lady is not for turning” and later extending this to “not giving into terrorists” and eventually to  “not giving into the public who disagrees with the way things are run and have constructive advice to give to the government“.

However I had a wonderful time so here’s some reasons for going on a peaceful march

1. You will meet great people, make friends maybe even find love. These are people who care about things in depth, these are free thinking people, these are intelligent people. Would you rather be friends with those who just lead their little selfish consumer lives? I don’t!

2. You will get leaflets and hear about events about loads of different political organisations and events you may never hear about anywhere else. There’s lots and lots going on but there’s a media black-out on these things and they are not necessarily online. There are some extreme groups but then there are far more who are not.

3. Going on a protest march is great fun, it’s like a party .We still have some , but not much, freedom to protest publically so I say USE it. What a great feeling it was to walk down the middle of Park Lane shouting out slogans and singing and laughing.We felt powerful and united and not just sitting around waiting for the world to end.

When I used to go on protests a few decades ago we actually could march up to the front doot of 10 Downing Street ( there would be a decorative  bobby on the doorstep, this was during all the IRA bombings incidentally) and post a petition through the door, times have changed but we still have the freedom to march peacefully and be heard. I just wish some of the news coverage hadn’t been so inane, I think some of these TV news people are more interested in their hair than what is going on.

4. The speeches in Hyde park were fantastic and you will hear stuff in person that you will never hear or read anywhere else. There were the unions, world charities,religious groups and environmental groups with lots of positive alternatives to the kind of capitalism that we have now. If we don’t start to live collaboratively with eachother as people and with the rest of the natural world then things are very bleak indeed.

No one much believes in our government and there is very little in the way of opposition , the main parties are very  weak. THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A BETTER TIME TO GET INVOLVED POLITICALLY.


So I urge you to become “Politically Intelligent” don’t rely on news bulletins, find out the truth.

If you don’t want to join a political party then join a pressure group or a charity and please support PEACEFUL protest and PEACEFUL political action so that those of us who still want to change the world are not labelled terrorists.

I know a lot of people are angry about what is going on in the world and in their lives but put your your anger into positive and creative actions. You wouldn’t bring up a child with violence and hatred and I don’t believe we can create a new system with violence and hatred either.

WE NEED A COLLABORATIVE SYSTEM BASED ON UNITY. OUR SOCIETY HAS ENCOURAGED COMPETITION AND BEING SELFISH AND STUPID FOR TOO LONG.

Woodstock was not primarily about music or fashion or drugs  it was about people coming together because they didn’t want another world war.They wanted their say to solve the world’s problems through PEACE and INTELLIGENT ACTION,  finding  alternatives to mainstream greed, not through war or violence that generates more war and violence.



Love and Peace

Born2rant