The Quintessence of Ladbroke Grove, Glastonbury Fayre 1971, Meanwhile Gardens, Here & Now and alternative community spirit


Hello Good People who read this blog….

If you like this post please could you rate it with stars or add a nice comment, thanks!

My friend and mentor Brian R. Banks sent me a link to a wonderful piece about the band Quintessence  from the ezine It’s Psychedelic Baby, to celebrate the release of their complete Island Records recordings.  In his article Brian describes the vibe of creativity at the time in the Ladbroke Grove area. He also has a very interesting interview with former Quintessence band member Raja Ram a.k.a. Ronald Rothfield who also depicts ‘the Grove‘ or Ladbroke Grove area, filled with musicians, squatters, and people living alternative lifestyles. Please follow this link to read Brian’s excellent article: http://www.psychedelicbabymag.com/2017/06/raja-ram-quintessences-complete-island.html

If you are wondering what Quintessence sound like, below here there is a film of them playing at Glastonbury 46 years ago.

They sing :

‘If you want a life that is free

If you want a life full of happiness

You’ve got to turn your back on fear and shame

Leave it, Leave it all behind you

Have no fear,

You’ve got to turn your back on Fortune and Fame

You’ve got to leave it all behind you

You’ve got  to leave it all behind you, ever free.’

Of course the Glastonbury Fayre was free to ‘get into’ , or rather walk into, in 1971. Others performing at this festival included a young David Bowie, Gong, Hawkwind, Traffic, Melanie, and Fairport Convention.

If you don’t like the music of Glastonbury 2017 and like me, could not afford to go there anyway, you can watch a documentary about  the free festival of Glastonbury Fayre (1971) here. To listen to Quintessence, play this video from exactly one hour onwards:

Today I walked down Portobello Road market, I found tucked away under the Westway in Acklam Road  there were residents and friends of survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire, selling cakes, clothes and a variety of things where the money goes directly to those affected. It’s going on tomorrow (Sunday 25th) as well, a bit hard to find but worth going to. I gave them a small donation and wished them good luck, but they really appreciated my modest  contribution. I was glad they organised something, just wish it was in the middle on Portobello Road and took up the whole market and wished they’d opened up the little ampitheatre in Meanwhile Gardens where bands used to play Saturday evenings for free, they could have passed the hat around and done a great benefit gig. Today so many rules and regulations and they are ignored by companies in terms of fire protection but if a few people want to gather and have a free gig , is that allowed? I hope someone does run a free gig there for the community to remember and not let it be only a grand  Simon ‘Chimney Brush-head’ Cowell production.

If you are wondering what I am talking about here is a documentary about Meanwhile Gardens from 1981; Music performance @ 20-23 mins, and in view of recent events, a rather disturbing giant Guy Fawkes Bonfire (30mins in):

 

I went to many gigs at Meanwhile Gardens including probably this one:

I was going to write about other alternative lifestyle things in Notting Hill but have to go now. I will leave you with more wonderful Here & Now from 1978 (Careful with that effects pedal Steffe). On the youtube video below there are some great photos. I recognise people, marquees, The Tibetan Ukrainian Mountain Troupe, etc……I wish I could find my old photos…people at free festivals didn’t want to be photographed a lot of the time. There are also photos of alternative lifestyles in Latimer Road with tower blocks from the estate in the background, possibly Grenfell Tower or tower blocks still standing nearby.

 

 

‘You’ll plot and scheme to get your way,

but you haven’t the got guts to do it yourself,

so you make an alliance with somebody else,

A thousand years it’s been the same,

political parties in power again,

if you’re listening man, I’d like to say,

Floating Anarchy is a better way!’  (Here & Now ‘What You See….Is What You Are’ 1978).

This is really great music and spirited musical performance..Please listen to this before bed and/or play it to your children and grandchildren instead of a bedtime story.

So wishing you Love & Peace, sending good wishes and hugs to all those affected by the Grenfell Fire disaster, let us rebuild a free creative community spirit where and when we can.

 

 

 

 

An Invitation to my school disco circa 1973-1976 ( you must be 13-18 in your head to attend)


Hello Good people and Tiger Feet who still read this blog…

  THIS IS MY MOST AMBITIOUS BLOG ENTRY TO DATE. THIS POST MAY TAKE SEVERAL SECONDS TO DOWNLOAD FULLY.  IN THE MEANTIME READ MY PRE-AMBLE AND THEN JOIN ME AT THE DISCO!

Last entry I made comments on the dreary songs of Mumford & Sons and Ed Sheeran, this post follows on from that. As many of my readers will know, before he was convicted for murder, Phil Spector was a legendary music producer. He multi-tracked many instruments playing simultaneously, until it created his notorious “Wall of Sound”. Now UK bands have many instruments playing simultaneously but end up with a “Wall of Bland”.

As an alternative, I am sending you a warm invitation to join me for a historical recreation of a 1970s school disco. This has little relation to “hippie counterculture” and is purely done for my pleasure and hopefully yours. 

Are you feeling down? If you come to my disco you will feel 100 times happier and perhaps 4 decades younger. (Bring friends!)

An explanation of what I am doing:

I am recreating an authentic playlist of music, that I remember dancing to at a variety of school discos in South London between 1973 and the beginning of 1977. The schools employed professional disk jokeys who supplied music and sometimes lighting. Later when the punk, reggae and other underground music scenes exploded, I was going to punk gigs, heavy dub reggae clubs, and then moved north of the Thames to become part of an alternative music scene, leaving my school disco days behind.

Setting the scene: School discos were of course free of charge. We as pupils thought it was very funny that the teachers attended. They sat at a table at the back of the school assembly hall, where the discos took place. We were amused to see the female teachers with their glasses removed, exposing lashings of bright blue eyeshadow and mascara, wearing flowing evening gowns and giggling. The male school teachers stood around in their flash 70s leisure suits, a bottle of beer in hand, getting drunk. They were vastly outnumbered by the women.

Normally our teachers were strict and angry with us, and loudly condemning all sexual activities outside a loving marriage. If we exposed the slightest bit of flesh, we were seriously reprimanded. But at the school disco, the teachers were now giggling and flirting with one another in a very scary way.

It was the teacher’s night off and so we also got the night off, to dance to sexy tunes, but we were pretty well behaved. The general age group was around 13 to 19 years old. Strangely I don’t remember being accompanied by parents to or from any discos or parties in my early teens. I seem to remember that we were allowed alcohol in a weak punch (mostly lemonade). No one got actually drunk, a few girls my age went outside to have cigarettes (usually forbidden at school). There was no sex or drugs that I knew of. Occasionally couples “snogged” on the dance floor or outside.

I went to discos at different schools in South London but they were pretty much all the same.

The lighting was simply done by turning most of the lights off! Some DJs supplied lighting, such as a strobe, which would be used during the final set of rock numbers. How I loved to dance in the strobe light, all self-consciousness gone! Occasionally the DJ would have a tiny lighting rig, which looked like a miniscule set of traffic lights, with four or five dim lights of different colours. This was set up in front of his decks which were on a table. Occasionally there was a glitter ball attached to the ceiling which made the school hall sparkle during the disco numbers. Sometimes there was a smoke machine used during slow romantic numbers.

I have little recollection of the DJs, anonymous young men with hundreds of 7 inch singles in cardboard boxes. If you went to ask them for a request, they usually told you to shove off.

There would be EXCELLENT sound quality, this was everything in the 1970s. Big speakers, loud music. The “cartridge” attached to the stylus, was usually incredibly rare and expensive. When music lovers handled their records and put them back in their sleeves, they did this with the same care and expertise that a Catholic would treat the ancient relics of some saint’s fingers or other revered body parts. I also remember being dragged to a massive “Hi-Fi” show spread across several posh hotels, where people would buy the latest stereo, or sometimes quadrophonic, hi-fi equipment. It all had to be perfect and newly developed, it had to be the right brand, and the sound of the music had to be perfect.

Dancing: generally speaking the boys didn’t dance. It was deeply uncool for boys to dance. If they did dance it was usually to their favourite rock tune. When self-conscious long-haired teenage boys heard their favourite band being played at the disco, they felt compelled to get on the dance floor to pay tribute to their most hallowed musicians. They would do this kind of Neanderthal adolescent swaying, sometimes with a sort of “hopping” movement, whilst trying to head bang at the same time. It was rarely in time to the beat. They managed to make their long hair cover their faces enough to hide their self-consciousness. I think this kind of dancing evolved into punk pogoing and rock “moshing”.

But there were also many boys with short-hair who liked dancing and were fearless in doing so, they danced like the girls mostly.

Other more “square” and timid boys, whose own clothes resembled school uniforms, hung around in the shadows like patient fishermen angling under the full moon. They were only here in the hope of enticing a girl to dance with them during the smooching songs near the finish.

The girls danced together usually in pairs or groups of friends. I recall several main types of dance although you could just about get away with anything, in fact I had invented a “finger dance” for when I was tired.

The main “girl’s dance” was swinging hips from side to side with slight stepping left to right, in time to the music. Hands and arms were not used much. I still use this dance technique today and get away with it.

Then there was the “funky chicken”, which was basically pretending to be a chicken.

Then the “bump” which was great fun. Usually a friend would interrupt your chicken movements by suddenly “bumping” into your bottom with their bottom or hip.

Then there were more sophisticated dances that accompanied “Jive Talking” and “the Hustle” and any songs mentioning the twist. They usually involved doing something with your arms and hands and legs at the same time and were hard to maintain.

Also there was the wild head banging which I was very good at especially as I had long hair and loved rock music.

Apart from that there was the “slow dance” ritual. The DJ would play several slow songs in a sequence. The start of each song could be the cause of some fear and trepidation.

Those boys who had been waiting around patiently for the chance to dance up close with a girl, would emerge from the shadows. They asked the girls and were mostly rejected. The girls weren’t expected to ask who we wanted to dance with, that would be controlling, unfeminine and totally unacceptable. Mostly the boys who asked us to dance were just not the ones we wanted to dance close to, let alone kiss, so we rejected them. Often girls danced with each other to avoid the whole embarrassment of it.

Others who paired up to dance to the slow tracks would often end up “snogging” and dribbling all over each other while the rest of us looked on. During these slow dances, the boys often suffered from what we called WHD or “wandering hands disease”. Things didn’t usually go too far at the school disco though, but some new romances developed between the older teenagers.

The music that was played was often the stuff I vowed NEVER to have in my own record collection. For a start they were all singles, I collected and listened to albums by dozens of “serious” artists such as Genesis, Yes, Led Zeppelin, Hendrix and others. I hated to listen to “soul” music and disco songs but conversely I loved to dance to them with my friends. Now when I hear these same tunes I feel totally invigorated.

Now I can hear the musicianship in these songs. I can understand why and how I resent bland music that is produced now (I am also guilty of this in my own song writing). Perhaps the rock journalist in the film “Almost Famous” was right, maybe pop music should be “dumb”. Maybe once pop music gets too clever, it’s just no fun anymore for anyone.

This is escapist music but it isn’t stupid, there’s a lot of skill in the arrangements, orchestration, dynamics, and in the playing and singing techniques.

Some of these tracks are much older than 1973 but were obviously favourites of DJs and dancers at that time.

As we danced we thought that the music of the future would be so incredibly superior to the songs we danced to at our school disco. We thought these songs were a “flash in the pan”, a passing trend, of disposable songs for “teenyboppers” that would be dead and forgotten within 6 months. Sometimes it’s probably better that we don’t know the future…

So make yourself some weak shandy, get your best dance moves ready, and join me for this authentic 1973-1976 school disco playlist and I guarantee that you will feel life is better!

N.B. please play this through the best speakers you can find, and LOUD!

Once you’ve danced to all of these, it will be like taking acid and going to the moon, you’ll never be the same again.

Oh and I forgot to say… it is usually in fancy dress. I used to just wear my every day clothes, add a head band and paint flowers on my face, and declare myself a hippie, which I was anyway! Others made an effort. At one school disco, a boy in my class was wearing full scuba diving gear, complete with flippers, a black whole body frog suit, snorkel and goggles. I spoke to him for some time and he just nodded back. I thought it was probably difficult for him to speak. Then he turned away and I watched him walk off, slowly raising his big flippers and slapping them onto the floor. I kind of felt sorry for him, as it wasn’t ideal footwear for a disco, or walking, or speaking. I then turned round to look at the others, and saw the guy I thought I’d been speaking to, standing next to me, not in fancy dress. I’ve no idea who the bloke in the frog suit was!

This is an epic playlist. I chose a total of 58 songs from over 170, so there are quite a few I had to leave out. I wanted the timing to fit the length of an evening. The disco starts at 7 pm and closes at 11pm because otherwise your parents would worry!

It’s a mixture of soul, rock, early disco, pop, early reggae and novelty records. Some sections are for fast dancing, others for less vigorous dancing, one section for “headbanging”, and one for smooching and bringing the evening to a close.

I’ve put these songs in an order so that it more or less flows, this was before DJs did proper “mixing”. They just tried to get the mood to flow from one track to another rather than try to match bpm.

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

FINALLY THE DISCO STARTS HERE, THANKS FOR YOUR PATIENCE:

  1. Crocodile Rock – Elton John (3.53   )

  1. Cum on feel the noize- Slade (3.21)

  1. I can help- Billy Swan (3.57) fade before end

  1. My coo ca choo- Alvin Stardust (2.44)

  1. Tiger Feet- Mud (3.50)

  1. 25 or 6 to 4 – Chicago (4.59)

  1. Kung Fu Fighting (3.11)

  1. Who’s that lady- Isley Bros (5.36)

  1. Layla- Derek and the Dominos (7.04)

  1. Wishing Well- Free (3.31)

  1. Feel Like Making Love – Bad Company (5.05)

  1. Nutbush City Limits- Ike & Tina Turner (2.59)

  1. Boogie Nights- Heatwave (3.11)

  1. That’s the way- K.C. and the Sunshine Band (3.07)

  1. Love is the Drug- Roxy Music (2.41)

  1. Monster Mash- Bobby Picket (3.15)

17. The Leader of the pack- the Shangri-las (2.38)

  1. Seasons in the sun-Terry Jacks (3.26)

  1. Make me smile – Cockney Rebel (3.55)

  1. The Jean Genie – David Bowie (4.38)

  1. Now I’m Here- Queen (4.14)

  1. Hocus Pocus- Focus (3.20)

  1. Pick up the pieces – Average White Band (4.00)

  1. Boogie Wonderland- Earth, Wind and Fire (4.52)

  1. The Hustle – Van McCoy (3.49)

  1. You Sexy Thing- Hot Chocolate (4.04)

  1. Heaven must be missing an angel – Tavares (3.31)

  1. Sugar, Honey, Honey- The Archies (2.45)

  1. The Isrealites – Desmond Dekker (2.35)

  1. Hey Fattie Bum Bum- Carl Malcom (2.08)

  1. Uptown top ranking – Althea and Donna (3.55)

  1. Superstition – Stevie Wonder (4.27)

  1. Lady Marmalade- Labelle (3.58)

  1. Green Onions- Booker T & the MG’s (2.58)

  1. Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting- Elton John (4.57)

  1. Blockbuster- The Sweet (3.11)

  1. Remember you’re a Womble –The Wombles (3.46)

  1. Sugar Baby Love- The Rubettes (3.30)

  1. Money, Money, Money – Abba (3.07)

  1. This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us – Sparks (3.01)

  1. Black Night- Deep Purple (3.26)

  1. Silver Machine- Hawkwind (4.38)

  1. Hi-Ho Silver Lining- Jeff Beck (2.51)

  1. You really got me – The Kinks (2.14)

  1. Whiskey in the Jar – Thin Lizzie (3.52)

  1. Pinball Wizard- The Who (3.02)

  1. Easy Livin’ – Uriah Heep (2.36)

  1. Radar Love- Golden Earring (5.03)

  1. Born to be Wild – Steppenwolf (3.30)

  1. All the Young Dudes- Mott the Hoople (3.27)

  1. A Whiter Shade of Pale- Procul Harum (4.00)

  1. Killing me softly- Roberta Flack (4.50)

  1. Air that I breathe – The Hollies (4.08)

  1. Without You- Harry Nilsson (3.28)

  1. Sailing – Rod Stewart (4.51)

  1. Bridge Over troubled Water – Simon and Garfunkel (4.51)

  1. Samba Pa Ti – Santana (4.52)

 

Goodnight all you “Tiger Feet” out there.

Love and Peace

Born2rant

Day 2 at my Imaginary Glastonbury- Saturday


Hello Good People who still sometimes read this blog…

(still editing this, sorry about errors, it was written in free-flowing time)

In a fit of self-serving blogging to cheer me up, I am going to bore you all with Day Two of my imaginary ideal Glastonbury.

It’s Saturday , so it will be a long day. Weather is cloudy and unsettled, but hey it’s not raining. I got wellies on for the mud and last night had an imaginary sing song with bearded dread-locked strangers playing djembe by the fire until dawn, sharing bottles of scrumpy, herbal cigarettes,many jokes and looking up to spot shooting stars. I was woken up by the dawn chorus of birds and grumpy young tikes, am a bit dazed, but am looking forwards to foraging for breakfast and a cup of good coffee, and to see if there are any solar powered showers.  Can smell lovely bacon but am trying to be veggie. Maybe I can find a nice veggie sausage alternative.
By the time my physical needs are slowly sorted, it should be time for the first act of today ( at my imaginary Glastonbury…cheaper than the real one and with some of my favourite bands).

Led Zeppelin are billed on the Folk Garden Stage, ( playing electric later on Mainstage). Great, that will do to start my day. This pedal-powered stage is adorned with flowerbeds   and with creeping honey suckle plants hanging over the stage instead of a lighting rig ( this is not evident in the footage I have chosen…you need to use your imagination).
Going to California – Led Zeppelin

Well after that beautiful acoustic performance, I sit down on a bale of hay and chat to Jimmy Page about his acoustic guitar tunings and smile at Robert Plant who talks incessantly about Viking Sagas, ( John Paul-Jones has gone off for a morning shit in the backstage portaloo).
It is still dry, but the skies are turning dark grey.Was that a rumble of thunder in the distance, or an amplifier farting angrily? I don’t know, that Honey Rose cigarette I scrounged off Mr. Plant is giving me a strange sense of space, colour and time.
All the tents look the same as I amble back, I spend two and a half hours looking for mine, it’s blue and I bought it from Millet’s.

Found my tent and collapsed like a clean-living middle-aged hippie who cannot cope with intoxicants of any kind. I am woken up by what sounds like a load of balloons being inflated simultaneously.Ah, a herd of young people and their nitrous oxide I think! I don’t approve, but it’s a festival, and the UK do both festivals and excessive alcohol and drug consumption particularly well.

Managed to get a lift in the back of the van of some crew member to get to a supermarket. All the locals look at us with dishevelled hair and screw up their faces as they sense the smells of skunk and woodfires which suddenly seem to emanate from our clothing once indoors.
The security guard follows us around. I buy festival essentials:cuppa soups, rizzlas, rolling tobacco, tea bags, powdered milk,chocolate biscuits,beer,candles, spare lighter,loo roll and a magazine that I will never read.

Getting back into the festival takes a while due to queues of traffic and getting lost on country roads.My driver is a guy I never met before called Botty. I have  known three “Botties” before,and they were all pretty much the same. He wears a hat , a torn t-shirt and an evil grin.  He likes loud classic rock and  heavy metal music , and so while we are stuck in lines of traffic surrounded by fields, he enriches my musical education with his stereo blasting AC/DC, ZZ Top, Rush  and many other rock bands. He tells me I should investigate the Free-floating Anarchy Noise Tent this evening. So later I go and investigate and to my surprise find my old friends Treatment performing on stage.
Treatment -The Hidden Attack (at a Club Dog event at Shoreditch Town Hall?)

After dancing  like a maniac, I join Clive, Adam and co.  and they encourage me to stay to watch Acid Mother’s Temple from Japan.

I love loud musical anarchy.

Later on,it’s getting dark , and I walk around aimlessly, munching on a reasonably-priced and delicious nut-burger ( remember the prices are imaginary),who is this on the Acoustic Politico-Philosophy Stage? Yes it’s Benjamin Zephaniah, oh joy!

At the end of Zephaniah‘s act, an MC appears in a silly jester’s hat with bells on,  a big pink tutu , his hair in plaits dyed purple to match his beard.
He tell us that he runs “Men and Gender in the 21st century workshops”in the Healing Field and also reminds us that Bob Marley is about to appear on the main stage, creating a minor stampede of Benjamin Zephaniah fans to rush out into the rain. Yes it’s raining, out come the plastic macs distributed with free copies of the Guardian.

But as we plod through mud and showers, to get to the main stage , the sun appears,  re-awakening the evening sky. Bob Marley  is resurrected from the dead, like  a Messiah living  briefly once more to sing us songs of love, hope and tribulation all encased in Rasta spirituality.
Concrete Jungle

After Bob Marley, having  danced and sampled spliffs handed to me from smiling multi-coloured strangers in the crowd, who instantly became my friends, Steve Hillage appears on the stage as he was in 1977! (Steve Hillage  is as great now as he ever was but can’t find recent footage with  good sound quality )

I have been dancing my socks off,drinking some beer, met many strangers, had many laughs, got reasonably covered in mud. I have few possessions but  great happiness renewed in my  heart and spirit.
Late at night, now the booze has worn off, there’s a special guest  on the  Literary and Pensive Songs Stage . It’s my favourite songstress: Joni Mitchell.
This is a sung poem really, about a woman who will not commit or give up her freedom, and her abandoned lovers(or fans?). A few tears run down my cheeks as she sings, but they make feel more alive emotionally and I cannot regret them:
Cactus Tree

I need to go to bed now before I get too stoned ( in my imagination) to enjoy the rest of the weekend. I can’t wait until tomorrow. I have no idea who will be playing as I couldn’t afford a programme as usual.

Well I hope you have enjoyed my Saturday at Glastonbury, I have. I just need a time machine, a ton of money and to own a big plot of land near a spiritual place.

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


…to Solfest, not a review, but some thoughts…


Hello Good People who read this blog…

Although I will be writing about Solfest, this is not a review as I have done in the past two years. I spent most of my time at Solfest recovering from the Hawkwind party and evaluating other experiences I had from my crazy summer.

For me the Notting Hill Carnival or in recent years Solfest , mark the end of summer and announce the beginning of a period of reflection and times indoors. Hawkwind reminds me of the past and the power of rebellion. The music reflects the effects of both drugs and the power of large gatherings and in particular the extremes of creativity.Thus opening  the “Doors of Perception” to deeper consciousness where both heaven and hell  live cheek by jowl.

Solfest was an altogether more “grounding” experience and is an example of a “newer type of festival”, exemplifying changes in alternative culture. It bridges the spirit of free festivals, mainly started by travelling creative idealistic people being chased around the country by the police, with the present, to create an event that has learnt lessons from the past and does its own thing while still conforming to rules and regulations, although there is  much turning of a blind eye to activities that are not harming anyone.

At Solfest I found both the most anarchic creative influences present in the entertainment, fancy dress costumes, and various types of  artistic installation and also mainstream culture in some of the aspiring stars performing, still climbing that ladder, even though making obscene amounts of money out of music is mostly a thing of the past.

At Solfest, you can pretty much have the experience you want, whether you have small children,don’t have children, love acoustic music, want to go to various excesses of toxicity, want to be healthy and coherent and attend yoga workshops, want to rock, listen to live world music, chill out all night  in a psychedelic way or want to dance.

This is a clip from the dance tent although many of the older and youngest attendees completely avoid this place.

The Ashan Project in the Dance tent Solfest 2009

The only time I went into the dance tent was on Saturday night waiting for The Orb to come on and this was an experience in itself. Northerners and the Scots know how to get excited and to enjoy themselves with free abandon twenty times more than any uptight Londoner. The atmosphere was crazy. The tent was packed with people of all ages in strange costumes with hash pipes, cans of beer, laughing ,dancing and shouting and throwing themselves about and screaming in anticipation. After thirty minutes of  being pushed about in a friendly way by revellers, I left the dance tent feeling like I was being boring but also avoiding the odd bruise the next day.

I am using youtube in a lazy way today but I think this little clip highlights pretty much what it is like wandering around this festival and why I love it. You have the organised entertainment but the majority of the time you have people just entertaining themselves, everyone participates and creates the atmosphere( watch about 1 minute in for little sound system scene with live singer, random saxophonist and “The Urban Gypsies” dancing along).

If you like your rock music truly raw and raucous (plus beer) then the Bar Stage is often the place to be. I didn’t see this band but I quite like them(you get to see them on stage 30 seconds into this clip).

This is “Vice Squad” originally formed in 1979 as a punk rock band featuring “Beki Bondage” on vocals.

There seems to be less footage of Solfest this year up online than last time.

One of the reasons may have been the mud and the rain. By Sunday,the mud was almost as bad as Glastonbury 1997. My tent is cosy but not very high and you have to crawl into it from outside. Due to last minute packing ,I had only one pair of jeans and no torch, since coming home I have washed my jeans three times on the maximum cycle to get rid of the mud and had to machine wash the tent too, plus my boots have shrunk . You get the picture! Travelling home on public transport one had to adopt a ” I don’t care if people stare at me strangely” attitude.

Also walking around the festival started to get a bit grim by Sunday night. I went to watch Kula Shaker then The Charlatans with my son and his friends. I didn’t much like Kula Shaker, sometimes I felt like I was listening to The Doors, sometimes The Who, sometimes early Deep Purple, or even The Kinks. It was like listening to a puzzle , lots of pieces of different bands copied and assembled into songs but no continuity or individual style. The performance was faultless and excellently executed, but then to me,that’s not creative. I like music that has mistakes, it’s the mistakes and the improvisation that generates something new.

In the break between the two bands my son and I discussed various things, we like talking about music and culture together. We were saying how everyone is a “covers band” these days. The new bands copy the styles of the old bands and the old bands keep touring doing their old stuff, that nothing new has really happened for twenty years in terms of live (non-dance) music. I pointed out that in the 60s and 70s everyone was intent on finding their own unique style and not just trying to fit into a marketable music category that wouldn’t offend anyone.

My son wanted to know a detailed account of the Hawkwind party. Then he told me about a conversation he had heard in the Dogs in Space tent with this bloke who had been a HUGE Hawkwind fan. The ex-Hawkwind fan described how he used to have every single Hawkwind album on vinyl, first pressings only. When asked if he had sold them since,he said in all seriousness(something like) :”No, I gave up drugs and as part of  the process, I had to give away all my Hawkwind albums, it was a big step!”

I know we were cruel, but we laughed about it and imagined a twelve step programme for giving up drugs .

STEP ONE: Get rid of all your Hawkwind memorabilia and never listen to them again!

( end of my brief comment on Solfest, still my favourite festival)

Love and Peace

Born2rant

p.s. I just found out that the “Urban Gypsies” were on “Britain’s Got Talent” 2008 , they have just blown their urban gypsy credibility.


Too much partying: Hawkwind and onto Solfest…


Hello Good People who still read this blog…

Some music to start with….

Here is one of my favourite Hawkwind tracks , the apocalyptic “Angels of Death” ( always reminds me of Hell’s Angels)

I can’t embed the Porchester Hall version but you can find it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsnbxH0etbM

I have been trying to get my strange radio show up on youtube before writing this review but basically I haven’t been able to due to being temporarily enjoying  a second adolescence in the body of someone old enough to be my mother.

So I might as well write what I can remember of the last week or so, excluding some of the most decadent bits.

On Friday the 28th of August I went with a friend to the Hawkwind Party in Porchester Hall  ( W2) to celebrate their 40th anniversary. I had just come back from travelling and seeing friends as soon as I got back to London. I had already way overdone it before the onslaught of the weekend, and spent the morning under my duvet thinking how I was too tired to go anywhere and just wanted to sleep for a week.

At lunchtime a friend of mine arrived to go to the party with me , we listened to “Carl’s Hawkwind Cassette” as part of  getting in “the right frame of mind”. This is a compilation made for me by another friend 20 years ago of some the best Hawkwind tracks, apparently it’s been copied and circulated so much,that bikers totally unrelated to Carl also have a copy.

Hawkwind – “You Shouldn’t Do That

We arrived at about 3.30 pm, it was very strange for me as the location of the party was in the same building as my local library and being the middle of the day, it didn’t quite feel like a “party kind” of time or place. Our first pleasant surprise was getting a free commemorative bag containing a free CD featuring the sadly deceased keyboard player, Jason Stuart, a postcard signed by the entire band, a flyer for the tour, a ticket simulating that of  their first ever gig as “Group X” at the All Saints Hall , a “Planet Rock” sticker and a packet of popping candy.

In the red carpeted stairs up to the hall, some girls in sci-fi costumes on stilts asked us if we wanted to ask a question. We didn’t understand that this was for  a question and answer session later and so proceeded to the hall.We expected a long painful wait until Hawkwind took to the stage but as we entered the room they were already on the stage blasting away. There must have been about thirty people in the audience.  Dave Brock looked kind of surprised to see us coming in. In between songs we were told how we were the lucky ones for being there early we would see Hawkwind twice unlike those who turned up just for the evening.

As soon as we got in the hall, and as the afternoon progressed,the following became clear:

(I’ll be negative to start with and positive afterwards!)

a) Something had gone drastically wrong with the organisation, and as someone who has organised different types of gig over the years I was shocked at certain things especially the “lightshow” . I have seen powerpoint presentations that were more exciting. At one point my friend asked me if it was normal to keep seeing a projection of   drop-down menus projected at the back of the stage. He thought it might be some kind of “sci-fi effect” like H.A.L.,or some computer talking to us visually perhaps.  I said “No, it’s that they can’t operate the computer software. If a lighting engineer had done this at Megadog they would have been shot!” ( or retrospectively maybe they would have been “chilled out” of the organisation).

Also the sound was awful during the acoustic bits and not great,the rest of the time until Hawkwind came on. Sometimes this is a “trick” engineers do to make the main act sound better than the support, like a bride who forces the bridesmaids to wear ugly dresses to make them look better. However I really don’t think that this was the case here, I don’t think anything malicious was going on.

In terms of the café, when I ordered a very expensive egg roll,they told me it would take 30-40 minutes. So I dragged myself  to one of the many fast food places nearby instead.

Hawkwind – “Quark, Strangeness and Charm”

b) On the positive side, we had a great time and we found it very endearing and comical when things went wrong. It was like seeing a band who really was just starting out, maybe playing in a church hall .

I think I would have hated the party if it was all running smoothly like clockwork, with glamour and perfection. The spirit of Hawkwind is anarchy, rough and ready, improvisation, free festivals, beauty out of chaos and  breaking all the rules, all this was evident during the party.

The other acts it seemed, were either composed of members of Hawkwind or roadies .

I particularly enjoyed seeing Tim Blake playing the theremin with great expertise and gurning. It was quite funny when he announced that he was going to play “an acoustic number” for the first time ever with the band “The Elves of Silbury Hill” . He played the acoustic guitar and sang but the sound of his guitar was truly unamplified and his voice was faint too, Dave Brock and the others were pretty good at guessing what chords he was playing thank God. ( didn’t there used to be a free festival on Silbury Hill or am I confusing it with Sisbury Ring or was I at both? Don’t ask me! It was a long time ago when one festival blended into another).

Also playing a set was Huw Lloyd-Langton . He had chatted to us earlier in the audience, and was very friendly although I couldn’t really understand what he was saying to me. I don’t think I took enough drugs to understand what Huw was saying, he was communicating on another level. I recognised him as a familiar face from Portobello Road from  deep  in my past but didn’t realise who he was until he took to the stage. Unfortunately on Friday, anything acoustic was very quiet and muffled, except for the awful poet who was miles too loud. I am a fan of  performance poetry  but this guy’s material reminded me of Vogon poetry.

Here is a clip of Huw Lloyd-Langton jamming from the Saturday set when the sound was a lot better, still he managed to put a few extra beats in there to keep Dave  Brock (on harmonica) on his toes!

By the time Huw did his solo set I had gone out several times for a cigarette in Porchester Road. People walking around in the street in the rush hour were puzzled by what they saw, as the street was lined by the weirdest, most extreme looking hippies mostly dressed in black with long grey hair, many of whom were smoking such vast quantities of skunk that passers-by must have been affected by secondary smoking. Several people asked me what was going on and were surprised to hear that Hawkwind were playing upstairs from their library.

I couldn’t help but think that if this party had taken place in the late seventies , that the drug-squad would have been there,  certainly people would have been searched and arrested. But here we all were, in the middle of London,in the middle of the day, in a town which is half-way to being a chilling example of a police state, and yet one of the most political, anti-authoritarian bands ever, had escaped attention from the local coppers.

Hawkwind- “Urban Guerilla”

There were many comedic moments provided by the compere, although these were not planned. He kept telling us how Hawkwind had made it a true party and festival atmosphere by decorating the hall and all the stalls. Each time he said this, we all looked around at the completely bare hall and wondered what the hell he was talking about. I guess these things materialised on the Saturday but the more he referred to it , the more we chuckled.

Hawkwind – “Assault and Battery “( Porchester Hall on Saturday 29th August)

The compere read out a “timetable of events” from 4pm onwards, it was very informative and interesting, but totally inaccurate! Meanwhile, to be honest I got pretty “tired but happy” and a lot of the afternoon was a blur.

The only event that actually happened on time was Matthew Wright’s question time. It was just like Question Time on the BBC but instead of swarmy politicians trying to sidestep questions and make themselves look good, the questions were posed to a line of mostly totally incoherent members and ex-members of Hawkwind. The questions included ” Where’s Lemmy?” ( answer : on tour). No one dared ask “Where’s Nick Turner, Mick Slattery , Terry Ollis etc?”. Ah, how divorce is hard! Who gets the alimony, custody of the name and all the friends have to choose whose side they are on.

Matthew Wright was the most eloquent and seemingly organised person there, thank God. The most popular question was supplied by a  friend of mine: “What was the most acid you have ever taken before playing live on stage? ( and when and where)” The question made Matthew Wright laugh quite a lot and the panel who were initially reluctant to answer, eventually got involved in a long discussion.

Dave said it was at the Windsor Free Festival, Huw disagreed but I am not sure what he was saying.Then there was a lengthy and confusing debate which involved orange and apple juice. Everyone in the panel contributed enthusiastically, but I’m not sure they were all answering the same question.

By the time Hawkwind rounded off the evening, introduced I think by Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, or maybe he introduced someone else.

Hawkwind started with Assault and Battery and ended with Farenheit 451, which I sang all the way down the stairs and down Westbourne Grove, occasionally punching the air.

“Farenheit 451” ( I would have prefered it with the Truffaut film as a visual)

In between the beginning and end the songs seemed go very fast from one to the other. It’s all a bit of a blur I’m afraid. Matthew Wright sang “Spirit of The Age”. I can’t put a clip up of that version,but here it is from the album.

The also did “Magnu” ( this is footage from the Friday…I will have been dancing like a maniac somewhere not far)

After the gig, I stayed up for a couple of hours and had a couple of hours sleep. I woke up a six a.m., I am usually moderate with my intake, but not this time. I realised I had to pack for a camping trip and catch a train leaving at King’s Cross at 7 a.m. to get to Solfest in Cumbria. I dawdled, writing emails instead of getting ready and then threw a few things in a suitcase. The tube got delayed at Edgware Road, my brain was in a total haze,and as I ran up the stairs to King’s Cross station carrying a heavy suitcase I thought :“I’m going to die of a heart attack running to get to a festival! How fitting!” then I thought of Lemmy and somehow I made it onto that train with one minute to spare , I arrived at Solfest ten hours later…

Leaving you with Hawkwind “Better Believe it”

and another jolly tune “Psi Power” ( Hawklords)

I got to go to bed now, going to bed early for the first time in a couple of months.Will try to get it together to do a brief review of Solfest and much more ranting soon.

Love and Peace

Born2rant

The Big Green Dispersion and Solfest 2009


Hello Good People who read this blog ,

(to anyone who read my Guilfest post, I have just added a video clip of Alice Armstrong at the end of it)

Just a note to say  that I just got an email from my son telling me that “The Big Green Gathering“, probably the official festival most like the older style alternative free festivals of the eighties , has been cancelled.

The Big Green Gathering really does represent  alternative hippie counterculture in all its creative and political forms, so it’s very sad.

Some footage of the Big Green Gathering one of many clips to be found on youtube but this one is particularly well put together.

Here is the notice from the BGG website:

Welcome to
The Big Green Gathering
The world’s premier and award winning Green Festival
Attitude Is Everything – Bronze Level Award
July 29th – 2nd August 2009
urgent message

Dear Friends,
following threatened injunction proceedings in High Court by Mendip District Council supported by Somerset & Avon Police and having taken extensive advice from a prominent QC and other eminent lawyers, the directors of the Big Green Gathering have been left with no other option than to voluntarily surrender the license for the Big Green Gathering 2009. The event will now not take place and the directors’ advice and request is that no one intending to attend the event should attempt to do so, as the site is now closed and they are likely to be turned away by Somerset Police. It is our intention to avoid any form of confrontation or public disorder in regard to this and it is our earnest hope that all those involved will follow this advice. It is with great sadness that we have been forced into this position and we express our profound apologies to all those concerned. The Directors of The Big Green Gathering

This is a very last minute decision. I don’t fully understand why the festival has been banned by the local council and police.

According to the BBC , the festival is cancelled for safety reasons as well as crime. Is this the whole reason? Or is it to stop political subversives from meeting in large quantities?

see BBC website: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/somerset/8169477.stm

is it really that dangerous that it must be closed down?

It looks like a great way to socialise kids and help them to build for the future when the world will change through our abuse of it.

Here are some more highly dangerous and criminal activities at the BGG.Young people making their own films of the festival. These are fantastic.

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

Meanwhile I should be going to Solfest in Cumbria at the end of August( 28th -30th) ,after going to Hawkwind’s 40th Anniversary gig at Porchester Halls in London the night before.

It’s a long way from London but still my favourite festival, the atmosphere is much friendlier than festivals in the south and people go there not to see any particular band but for the festival experience.Everyone is co-operative and creates a good atmosphere, Saturday is “Fancy Dress” day,which is always spectacular and inventive.

I recommend it for any hippies out there who can no longer go to The Big Green Gathering, but get your tickets early.

It only costs £85 for the weekend  including camping  and car with very limited tickets. You can get there easily from Carlisle by train and minibus.

from the Solfest website:

“Tickets for Solfest 2009 will be available from the following outlets:

  • The Carnegie Theatre, Workington, 01900 602122 (telephone and counter sales, cash and cards accepted)
  • The Cumberland Building Society, Aspatria (over the counter cash sales only)
  • The Cumberland Building Society, Wigton (over the counter cash sales only)
  • The Cumberland Building Society, Silloth (over the counter cash sales only)

For Solfest 2009 there will be a total of 6500 adult tickets available. There will also be a total of 750 children’s tickets and 750 Young people’s tickets. When they are gone, they are gone!”

Although I said that it isn’t the bands that matter, the line-up includes The Charlatans who I saw do a great live gig at Guilfest. Other acts include The Orb, Kula Shaker, Adrian Edmonson and the Bad Shepherds, The Beat ( who I was told did a great set at Guilfest too), The Buzzcocks, the  Blockheads, Nerina Pallot, and many more.

Solfest has all the things lacking at Guilfest in terms of quality of festival-going experience.

A sample from last year’s Solfest , as part of the goings-on in the all night Dogs in Space chill out tent featuring a bit of  Tetchi who are billed to play again there this year (this film makes the tent look a lot darker than in real life, it was actually fairly bright in there).

Any comments on why you think The Big Gathering was cancelled?

Love and Peace

Born2rant

p.s. thanks to the UK Hippie Forum, I have found this update about what to do if you have a ticket.Is there a UK Beatnik Forum? and a UK Crusty Forum? and if not why not?

Next time a radio show I made about the songwriting communities of Open Mic clubs in London.

From BGG website ( note that Gong are playing the Big Chill keep referring to the BGG website for news, the Big Chill is a good place if you want a holiday but it’s nothing like the BGG experience in terms of  green anarchy, still I think  it’s good that they’ve done this, better that than leave people totally stranded)

Several other festivals have already approached us, offering to accept BIg Green Gathering tickets for their events. Some have placed no limit on the number of our ticket holders they will accept. Others have offered us a quota… and have told us that they will announce, on their websites, how many they can accomodate and how many places for BGG ticket holders they still have left. So far, if you have paid for a ticket (whether full price or concession) you will find it is definitely good for full admission to SUNRISE 2010 (late May 2010, Somerset) See website for details of how their BGG swap quota is standing and we are hoping, soon, to announce similar swap options for several festivals. Watch this space please.
ALSO
If you are willing to pay an extra £20, you can swap your Big Green Gathering ticket for a ticket to the BIG CHILL. All you have to do is turn up at the gate of the Big Chill with your BGG ticket and your extra £20. We’ll have a stall there, and some of the same speakers who were on our bill (including Jonathan Cainer) will be in their Words In Motion tent. Also on the Big Chill bill are Max Romeo, Gong, Pharoah Sanders and Music from the Penguin Cafe, plus comedy from Noel Fielding, Tim Minchin, John Hegley, Josie Long and Rob Deering.
Click here for the link. Please note; the Big Chill is not yet a Green event but they do have a long history of supporting honourable causes including Amnesty International… and they are now starting to use more solar and wind power. Solar Aid have a presence there this year.
OR
If you really want to make a gesture of faith and support… you can hold on to your ticket and we will honour it at the next Big Green Gathering, wherever and whenever it will be.
If we can avoid having to give too many straight refunds, it will help us survive. And if you are feeling extra-ordinarily generous, you can simply write to us telling us that you are ‘donating’ your ticket towards our survival fund.