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

There’s a load of crap on the TV again(Anti-Media stories part 4).


anti-media continued…. mess-age-magnet-on-careers.jpg

Some other memories of the Anti-Media films. They took lots of footage at Wapping where there were protests by printers at job losses due to computerisation . I think I may be getting some of my years mixed up…apologies for that ,Wapping was in 1986 but I am talking about involvement with Anti-Media events for a period of a couple of years so when I have written 1983 it could have been 1985! I will write more about this in other blogs connected to Club Dog and Alice in Wonderland’s Magical Mystery Trip.
They also had films of shop dummies in windows, it was a bit eerie.
I remember attempting to do stand-up “alien” comedy jokes at our events at Pentameters. My jokes died live on stage. I realised telling jokes was not my forte but throwing jelly at the audience saying it was my ex-husband who suddenly disintergrated was making them laugh, as was playing my silver fake electric guitar, getting out of my silver cardboard box spaceship, emerging from being covered in a mass of newspaper like a mummy shedding it’s bandages, singing love songs to Mr.Spock ( not Dr. Spock) and general anarchy.
I performed as Astragone Arglegargle in many different contexts but performing at the Anti-media events at Pentameters gave me a space to experiment with my act ,write and record new materials, in front of a small supportive audience before doing bigger events or performing to hostile audiences!
I also had an act of performing “Opera Classics”. At that time there were some awful albums of “Rock Classics” i.e. orchestras playing perfectly harmonic arranged and orchestrated versions of famous rock songs and in one fell swoop missing the point of rock music altogether. So I dressed up in a beautiful pink and yellow long dress , wore some kind of fake pearls and sang songs in a suprano fake operatic voice with appropriate posh body language, facial expressions and gestures. I sang Arias including
Hey Fattie Bum-bum“, (Sweet sugar dumpling) by Carl Malcolm, “War Pigs ” ( Black Sabbath), ” Assault and Battery” ( of the human anatomy) by Hawkwind, and of course ” Anarchy in the UK” by the Sex Pistols and other songs I can no longer remember.
Although this kind of thing has been done since then it was a first at the time.
I gave Christmas cards at one event but had tippexed out all the messages and instead gave the audience cards with unusual messages such as ” Throw away your TV” or random symbolic messages from the I Ching or vague affirmations on self-realisation. This was also before the concept of ” affirmations” tore its way into popular psychology books and made us feel guilty for not being able to achieve our perfect goals for ever more.
There was also performance poetry, from a poet with a club in Barnet, it was as I recall stream of consciousness stuff. There were a lot of masks and balaclava helmets, there was spontaneous political anti-corporate/anti-media ranting, jazz piano playing, live graffitti, more films slash edited and experimental in the style of Jean-Luc Godard , strange trousers and costumes, always deliberately wearing the most unfashionable types of clothing, more interviews with people in hair, fashion and maybe even TV executives, Jud Suss, ( a band of multi-instrumentalists mostly of Jewish families pretending to be Hasidic Jews with much melodramatic wailing naming themselves after an anti-semitic nazi film ..more in another blog), more films, more poets, more crazy music and acts of nonsense .
Leonie was always there in the background like a benevolent force smiling on.
I wish I could remember more but because I had to memorise my own bits and pieces and was often cowering with stage nerves at the side of the stage during the other films and random acts I didn’t always take in what was going on.
However one day we went too far for Pentameters and for the world.

Unbeknown to me there were plans afoot in Hogan and Richard’s mind of which I knew nothing , on this occasion and others. They seemed like such sweet young polite lads too!
After an evening of performances, I finished the show or so I thought with a bit of Astragone Arglegargle alien Music-Hall type stuff.
Then Hogan and Richard put a large TV on the stage. Both of them looked really serious and were in the wings. I just knew something bad was about to happen.
Hogan went on stage and faced the television set, he looked like he was doing some kind of ritualistic silent prayer with the TV set as an altar and made ritual gestures. Then he unzipped his trousers and pissed on the TV. I remember being worried in case he electrocuted himself.
Now forgive me for forgetting who exactly performed the next bit but I had my head turned away and left pretty promptly around this time. So I cannot remember if it was Hogan or Richard , but someone then made the most enormous sausage of poo on top of the TV set.
I heard later that they had been saving it up for 5 days to be sure it would work.
The punchline was ” Look ! There’s a load of crap on the tele as usual!” ( boom,boom,)
A lot of the audience left but about 3 remained and Clive ( Treatment) then grabbed a bagel which was on a table put a bit of shit in the middle and went up to individual members of the audience saying:” Would anyone like a shit sandwich?”
I left. I was slightly peeved that they hadn’t warned me that a show I was taking part in was about to make such a coup.
The place cleared easily with some heckling and later we regrouped at Bob’s place up the road where I seem to remember Clive removed the banister from the staircase by accident of drunkenness. The first time I met Clive a few years before, he was crawling down a staircase head first and there have been a few Clive staircase related incidents since..odd.
Leonie was not at all happy she ordered Hogan and Richard to have the place fumigated and disinfected and I believe Pentameters had to close down and cancel shows as a result. I think the shit sandwich had been passed around a bit too much.
That was the last Pentameters Anti-Media event sadly…but Anti-Media was not dead. If you think that was extreme forget it!
Next time I write you’ll understand why names were changed.
(I so wish blogs were not written with the last one at the top…it would be better the other way around. Thanks for reading.)

What happens when a good idea degrades into chaos and insanity(Anti-Media stories part 5)

Goings on in Pentameters Theatre:Anti-Media event, rantings on TV, fashion slavery and incompetent policemen(Anti-Media stories part 2)


I was told to go to a fringe theatre in Hampstead called “Pentameters” above a pub called “The Three Horseshoes” opposite Hampstead tube station.
A lovely smiling woman called Leonie was running this theatre and had allowed the mysterious anti-media people to run an event there. She had no idea what she had taken on. In an interview with the Camden New Journal about her theatre she later said
“…I was doing some amazing shows. We did anti-media shows. And they were as radical as you can get.”
Considering that before us she recently had Rik Mayall , Jennifer Saunders plus some of the Young Ones and the Comedy Strip performing there you have to take this as a compliment.
I was quite nervous when I arrived at their first gig to perform my alien act complete with green slime and cling film. I was also there to do others things in the show but I had no idea what. We were backstage and a fairly manic tall young man was on roller blades wearing a pig’s head mask , he shook hands with me and introduced himself as Andy.
Hogan and Richard looked nervous and then said “Let’s go on”.
I said ” What? What do you want me to do?”
They said it didn’t matter we all just had to go on stage and improvise something,anything that came to our heads and be spontaneous.

So we went on stage. Me in my glistening glowing costume, Andy on his roller blades and pig’s head, then there was this quiet guy simply called “OM” who never said anything but was a cool gentle hippie who had cut his hair and now wore a Nazi uniform with a silver polished Nazi helmet and then Hogan and Richard in their untrendy attire.
That was my first experience of Anti-Media.
We walked around the stage area in interweaving circles mumbling things to ourselves and occasionally to one another to a fairly packed room.
Later I performed as Astragone, I had written an extra song called “The Television’s on Everywhere”
I can still remember the opening lyrics
” The television’s on everywhere,
If I want to know nothing all I have to do
is switch on to TV A.M. ,
I really must stay in to wash my brain tonight,
because Quincy is dissecting in my living room,
I hope the sofa don’t stain.”

and here is an Interlude….cue a potter throwing a pot…..an Interlude of ranting about TV:

You have to understand some of the reasons for our rebellion against TV. We were the first generation of children brought up with TV. Our parents didn’t watch it as much or if they did it was with some background of life without TV in their lives.
My mother used to say TV was a great babysitter.She told me how she could place me in front of it all day long propped up with a pillow when I was a little baby and leave me in front of the Test-Card with music playing while she worked . I reckon at least I had a pretty great early music education thanks to hours in front of the Test-Card and I remember from an early age imitating the sound of the TV going “ooooh” in perfect unison with the high pitched tone it would blast out once all the music was played and there were no more broadcasts. I used to sing to it. But don’t pity me I was a sixties baby and millions were like me, plonked in front of the TV from birth and through all the stages of childhood.
I used to have nightmares about advertisements for fairy liquid .The perfect woman/mother/housewife in it was coming to murder me and I had bad dreams about other advertisements too.
I used to have sleepless nights after watching horror films late at night from an early age with images of scenes from Hammer Horror films like flashbacks that stayed with me for years.
I heard debates of how important it was for women to have “sex appeal” and what was “sex appeal” and how we all had to be stick thin. I grew up with the messages that if you are not stick thin and do not have sex appeal that you are worthless and no one will love you.
Any psychologists who dare to say we are not brainwashed by TV and that our children are not affected by it are plain stupid, crazy or blind or trying to protect advertising / TV/ Film companies. Or maybe it’s like smokers in charge of telling us smoking is bad for us .They’ll tell us it’s OK for years until they get found out. Maybe they are simply in denial themselves.
TV is a passive addiction that induces a semi-hypnotic state. That is why advertisers use it. If TV was not the best vehicle to brainwash people with then why on earth would they spend billions on their 20 second slots to sell millions of products. Anyone with a logical brain or business sense can see TV is a brainwashing device even if it wasn’t designed to be like that.

At the time of the Anti-Media events we had a new channel, channel 4 .We suddenly had 25% more TV to watch in the UK and we now had just invented breakfast TV where you could still be half awake and watch TV. I remember when I first saw adverts in the morning, I couldn’t cope as there were times I thought I might be still dreaming and any tune from early morning ads would stay in my head for the rest of the day echoing round my brain like a tape loop.
I guess I’ve acclimatised to it now. I do love watching films and programmes, often the most shallow ones but at least I am an adult.At least I know that what I am watching is bad for my mental health in large doses just like I know smoking ten fags a day is bad for my physical health but I can make a choice. I try to limit my TV/film viewing to a maximum of 2 hours a day now and although I frequently fail ,I certainly feel emotionally and mentally better off from my TV diets. I think watching TV with other people if you are discussing and sharing the programmes is different you can question it but watching TV alone for hours on end should definitely carry a mental health warning.

End of ranting Interlude and back to recollections of first Anti-Media event:
After my alien act, I remember seeing Andy roller-blading in his pig’s head for a bit and possibly OM playing the guitar dressed as a Nazi.

Then of course there were the films made by Hogan and Richard. They liked to film people and scenes in the street :homeless alcoholics dressed in layers of rags , a dog wearing a big plastic collar to help heal some wound, footage of police riots at Wapping and the miner’s strikes. Their films were not staged but often interesting things happened on these and created more of a story. One film taken I think at Wapping showed a load of aggressive policemen standing in line taunting members of the public, one looked directly at the camera and suddenly blew his nose from a great distance deliberately expelling a bogey onto the camera lens and completely obscuring the picture. It kind of reflected their maturity in dealing with the public at that time.

An ad break to make a cup of tea or to rant about police in the 80s…..
We lived at a time of riots in Brixton ,Liverpool , Bristol and near revolution. National Front Skinheads and protesters from the Socialist Workers and The Communist Revolutionary Party were clashing and rioting in the streets.

As for my friends ,we weren’t interested in riots , we were listening to music and playing music and having a good time with our friends but we were constantly stopped and searched by the police .Myself and my partner used to get searched whenever we went anywhere in our van ( a 1960’s VW camper van…not a very good disguise for hippies). Eventually we twigged that our number plate was on the Special Branch computer probably because we had gone to the Stonehenge festival while it was still reasonably legal . Once we moved house and got another vehicle life was a lot easier, getting searched once or twice a day at times was extremely stressful and gave us a healthy disrespect for the law which came out in our creativity.But other “normal” friends of mine also got searched constantly. Some looked completely law abiding and respectable, one of our normal looking friends got searched four times on the same day in Finchley by different groups of policemen. They never found anything yet we felt nervous whenever we saw police walking down the street. There’s no denying the police really harassed alternative non-violent young people . They searched us hoping to find large quantities of drugs but they’d seen the “French Connection” ( not the designer label..the films!) far too many times and they had no idea how to find any drugs. In fact their search methods were hilarious except they were constantly humiliating us by strip searching all the guys in public, as a woman I was fairly safe as legally they needed a woman to strip search me and it was always men who stopped us . However I got frisked with my clothes on by male policemen which was pretty awful at times for a young woman. The only people I knew who got busted successfully by the police were the ones with dogs, they were far more talented at this. But to me drugs were not important , they are still not important to me and to the Anti-Media group drugs were not used or needed.

“And Now…..Back to the Anti-Media event…”
Our evening ended with a kind of open chat show. Hogan and Richard had invited a fashion clothes designer to interview him in a kind of open Terry Wogan chat show with questions from the floor.
The designer looked happy enough to start with sitting back in his chair, all debonair ready to answer questions on his new collection and how successful and great he was. Unfortunately for him though ….they had also invited someone who I think was from Oxfam, in any case they only wore charity shop clothes or ones from jumble sales. The designer talked about his work but then was challenged on clothes made by child slaves in sweat shops and how we didn’t need a constant supply of new clothes and how it made more sense ecologically to recycle all our clothes by buying second-hand. At that time charity shops were dirt cheap, much much much cheaper than Primark in case you were wondering. Also people from the audience joined in who shopped at Camden and bought second-hand clothes. They were commenting how we didn’t need designers to tell us or guide us on what to wear that fashion and style could be created by the wearer in an ethical way by sewing old clothes together to make new creations.
There were no set questions and no set beginning or ending or cute jokes like on a TV chat show. I know that now the ideas in this interview are pretty well-worn ( pardon the pun) but 23 years ago it was the very first time I had ever thought of fashion as being unethical and questioned who had made my beautiful Indian Hippie clothes. As an indirect result of that evening I then bought second-hand clothes for years and worked for a couple of years in an Oxfam shop where I made some fantastic friends. While writing this I have to say that although Primark has been my friend these past 2 or 3 years I think I’ll go back to making my own clothes or buying second-hand in less expensive charity shops. In fact even charities have been brainwashed and operate so much like businesses that there is hardly any difference. Some charities pay their employees such high revenues that people who only care about their bank balances are working for them.
After the Anti-media event we all went back to Bob’s who had recently moved to a flat a few doors down from Pentameters. Michael had come to see what I was doing although it was good for me to be involved in performance independently from our gigs and him . My alien act enabled me to do this subsequently in many different types of venue away from our psychedelic gigs. Some members of Treatment were also there and attended the subsequent Anti-Media events.
That was the first Anti-Media event I can recall but it got wilder as time went on…..

to see an interview with the lovely Leonie Scott-Matthews who was not part of Anti-Media but let us use her theatre see:www.camdennewjournal.co.uk/archive/f041203_3.htm

Modern Life is Rubbish and Harpers and Queen, glossy fashion magazine!(Anti-Media stories part 3)