My Adolescent Weekend & the Power of Gatherings(Part Deux)


Hello Good People who read this blog

After my last entry which attracted a lot of readers , I thought I’d cheer things up a bit.

In the media the knife crime and violence is taking up every spare moment of our consciousness and although it is obviously important I think I need to brighten things up a bit.

So here we go first of all I will tell you that on a whim, because I happened to have my debit card on me when I went out, I bought a sitar today.

Oh what joy! It’s so cool, I’m making a horrible noise on it but playing the riff from Led Zep’s ” Kashmir” is a doddle. I played for hours and the day’s severe stresses faded into harmonic overtones of OM!

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I wrote an entry originally posted on Sunday night all about my mad weekend and how at my age I probably shouldn’t be enjoying myself so much. In the morning I deleted it because it didn’t follow on from my stories of Notting Hill dodgy places, but what happened is that someone, maybe WordPress somehow translated it into French with one of those daft internet translators that completely distorts the meaning and then linked it to my site so since my petty hedonistic weekend is out there for everyone to read in very strange French I thought I’d re-issue it in English. If you read my blog regularly you’ll notice posts appearing, disappearing, re-edited , translated into Japanese..hmm, it’s got to be done.

I hope you enjoy it. My blog like me likes to flit about from subject to subject and swing from one state of mind to another.

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“My Weekend” by hippie aged 14 (sorry I meant 40 something)

Hello Good People who read this blog!

This blog is getting weirder and more anarchic and spontaneous as time goes on, but that’s ok, that’s what life is like unpredictable , with high and lows, memories and day-to day realities, unexpected joys and nightmares.

I am therefore putting my tales of drug-dealers of the late 70s early eighties in Notting Hill and beyond to one side for now.

I’m going to tell you about my weekend as I am ending it with Glastonbury in the background.

On Friday afternoon having no other commitments I decided on a whim to get a bus up to Speaker’s Corner to go to Nelson Mandela’s birthday party. I didn’t have a ticket of course at £65 pounds a hit well , it’s beyond my budget. But you can sit on the grass and hear it from outside.

At first I went to watch the screens from the gates. You could see the screens clearly, at that point there was Annie Lennox and with an African choir. I have no idea who half the performers I heard or saw were although Eddie Grant got everyone near me dancing and singing “ Give me Hope Joanna!” , Will Smith was great too there were so many performers doing 2 songs each.
There was a great mix of people gathered outside looking at the screens. Wafts of smoke of a fragrant nature, lots of black people of all shades, ages, income brackets, tourists as well as out of town white families with their picnics and dogs, groups of students, all different kinds of people. The crowd was as eclectic as the music..

I couldn’t hear the acts so I moved to a bit of grass closest to the stage where I couldn’t see any screens. Hearing it clearly was more important as was sitting down after a couple of hours.
There were a lot of police and one of the bits of fence nearby was regularly being opened to allow in and out convoys of police escorted black limousines. Naturally we the rabble outside then took the opportunity to get up and crowd around and look inside with the police telling us to move back.

There was this very cheerful pretty black woman in her forties …( actually I’m writing “black” but I have to say I didn’t notice to start with. I know that sounds lame but unless I go out of London for a long time, or someone is extreme in their clothing and “attitude” I often don’t notice what colour people are).
Anyway she was a real laugh and was shouting at the policemen ” Come on give us a smile don’t look so miserable! It’s a birthday party!” and many variations on this.
Later I got talking to her and her friend and we found a gap in a fence to peak through and spent the evening in each other’s company and discussed the artists and politics and had a great time.

At one point another woman who I can only describe as what Amy Winehouse would look like in 25 year’s time with no front teeth, pushed us out of the way , along with her mates all totally off their faces. “I love Amy Winehouse” she shouted and we could tell as she dressed just like her.
Later her boyfriend was arrested and carried away by a couple of police officers. I don’t like to be mean but our evening was slightly improved as a result.

As Amy Winehouse started to sing “ Rehab” her voice was weak and faltering and it was kind of sad and I wondered why on earth someone hasn’t cancelled her gigs yet as she clearly is not well mentally or physically, confirmed by her hitting someone in the audience the following evening at Glastonbury.

I really hope in my dreams that some good people, maybe a bit older who have overcome their own addictions, come to terms with themselves, maybe musicians, could take Amy Winehouse off secretly away from the city, the press, the music biz, the crowds to some calm anonymous cottage by the sea and let her chill out and not be this sad object of fascination for the public. She’s only young, maybe she doesn’t want to go to rehab but she definitely needs rescuing.

Later my new acquaintances managed to succeed in making at least one policeman smile.
We were totally sober but there was a great party atmosphere and it was contagious.

I saw several older black people outside the the fence who were wandering about or sitting on the grass. One woman in her seventies wearing a scarf round her head and the kind of earrings and clothes that to me are characteristically Afro-Caribbean must have made a trip there specially , even though she had trouble walking, Nelson Mandela must have meant a lot to her. I found it very moving to see her there.

Similarly I was standing next to a sharp-suited black gentleman who looked like he was well into his eighties who was smiling to everyone. I don’t think he came to see Queen or Bono.
When Mr. Mandela himself appeared on the stage I got up and rushed to find a screen I could peak at and I found myself quite emotional. He looks so vibrant, he represents hope.

I remember all those years of campaigning, from the “Rock Against Racism” gigs I attended in Brockwell Park to Wembley, years later, people singing “Free Nelson Mandela” . I watched and videoed it at home wishing I’d been in the audience.
That concert made a difference, a political difference and he was freed eventually.

How history and the news was rewritten. Once it was Nelson Mandela the “violent terrorist”, Winnie Mandela the “ever-loyal wife”. I never thought Mandela would ever speak in public again let alone be freed from jail to create a new nation.

I can’t embed this video so here’s the link, copy and paste job . “Free Nelson Mandela” with Amy Winehouse in Hyde park it’s cool.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=tcmGGuwAoJs&feature=related

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Saturday I went to a totally different event. I was invited by a close friend to go an see Brian Wilson at Kenwood , Hampstead Heath. This was the weirdest outdoor gig I have ever been to. I don’t think there was anyone there who hadn’t attended public school. All these people had big sophisticated rugs and groundsheets to mark their territory, with iceboxes and Pringles and stuff.
I went to the Big Chill once, I enjoyed it but its level of middle-class affluence scared me a bit. Who brings a Gazebo and a crate of fine wine to a festival? The organisers provided cocktail bars and “greeters” and even clean loos. It’s just not natural.

Yesterday Brian Wilson and his note-perfect band was great though and a good time was had by all. I enjoyed watching the Japanese couple next to us. They watched drunken groups of young people jumping and jiving about to all the Beach Boys hits in great admiration of their free expression .

The gig seemed to end really fast the music was excellent, the performance and sound improving with our levels of debauchery. Although Brian Wilson did miss out a whole verse of a song, I wouldn’t have realised if he hadn’t said anything.

Before and after the concert and during the intermission there was some guy making a terrible monotone announcement in a public school accent for “Jacques Fruit Cider… the cider with Fruit!”………………

Enjoy Jacque’s fruit cider any time ” etc.. each time he said it everyone laughed and cringed he must have said it 20 times. We were near a free “Jacques cider” tent.
The girls at the Jacque’s taster tent were giving away the stuff by the gallon and we got pretty rat-arsed, none of us drink much and have no resistance to such things, we got through our own bottles of booze and most of Jacque’s cider too. It tasted like very sweet lemonade so it was hard to imagine it was alcoholic.

This made the journey back “interesting.” Standing up was possible but walking was trying, or rather trying to walk involved thought processes close to rocket science.

My friends decided that we wouldn’t leave the conventional way along with everyone else but that we would climb over a fence, with a sign on it saying “Do not on any account climb over this fence” and walk to Hampstead.
We managed the fence, I was proud of myself. We walked a bit more, got more wrecked , watched bats , argued about whether or not they were actually bats, I ranted stupidly telling tales of famous rock stars incoherently and then we found we were actually locked into the grounds of Kenwood House and it was dark.
By this point standing up had become very difficult .We were in our forties behaving like we were fourteen unable to get home. When we eventually found the peripheral gate with 6 foot tall iron fence with rusty menacing spikes on the top , I refused to climb over it although there were several comical attempts to haul me over. They would have been more successful getting a drunken wild horse over that impressive solid iron fence. But once they realised this and gave up, I still couldn’t persuade them to go back to the official exit.

We got out in the end but I am sworn to secrecy how, nothing criminal was done, is all I can say. However we then walked at breakneck speed in pitch dark through woods which was terrifying although I laughed most of the way. The whole thing took about two hours but I guess it was fun since none of us broke any bones in the process.

This is Brian Wilson at Glastonbury 3 years ago( except I can’t embed this one either!) copy and paste this:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=4yMR53VcUSk

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Sunday I felt a bit under the weather and I was going to go back to Hyde Park to hear kt Tunstall and The Police. I went for a short walk to the shops and bumped into someone who I think was Hawkwind’s ex-manager, Doug Smith,( who I recognised from the Hawkwind documentary and have seen many times walking down Pembridge Road but then I thought I saw Dave Brock before and it wasn’t, I see so many famous people in the street round here that I just like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and assume everyone is just famous, I’m short-sighted so this helps with my confusion ) The guy who may or may not have been Doug Smith looked at me partly because I was looking at him and maybe because I have this habit of singing while I walk down the street. I suddenly wondered if he read my blog and if I should say hello. Then out of the blue a few feet further I saw a songwriter I know from North London in a wheelchair , who was very surprised to see me. She said I was her angel as she needed some assistance buying bananas and couldn’t physically enter the shop. It was so weird bumping into 2 people like that one after another who I recognised ( or who I thought I did). London isn’t usually like this but I felt connected for once.

Later after various important emails and phone calls, my friend Dave Russell came round and I interviewed him again. After writing a bit about The Apollo in All Saints Road last time I wanted more info on this and the Black community in Notting Hill in the 70s and 80s.
I forgot all about going to Hyde Park .
The “interview” was really a rambling unplanned hung-over conversation which I will edit and put up in the blog soon.. We ended up watching the Glastonbury festival on my computer, my favourite bit was The Groove Armada, ( it’s rare that I can remember the name of a band beyond 1979..that’s when I stopped trying to remember them) what a show…… Dave wanted to see Suzanne Vega and Joan Baez but although I stayed up late I didn’t see them …..and well that’s my weekend.

Live music and all its ensuing interrelationships is what makes me feel alive and happy.

But I am allowed to embed a bit of Hawkwind definitely my favourite of the three so that’s OK!

Love and peace

Born2rant

P.S. I hope my little journey cheered you up a bit. I have just found out that I have been accepted on a Masters course in Ethnomusicology and I am over the moon and scared but mainly very pleased. Buying the sitar today wasn’t as crazy as I thought , I’ll be needing it for my course!

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Steve Hillage always looking to the future: Part one from Hyde Park to Solfest


Steve Hillage always looking to the future: Part one from Hyde Park to Solfest


Hello Good people who read this blog…

This week I thought I’d write a bit about Steve Hillage. It’s very difficult if not impossible to write about Steve Hillage without referring to my life and that of others in relation to him. This is an entirely subjective view of Steve Hillage . I have no detailed knowledge of his music after 1980 although I have seen System 7 several times.
So just like Douglas Adam’s description of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, due to hazy memories and subjective nonsense some of the contents may be “apocryphal” ( doubtful ). So to any fanatical fans of Steve Hillage, System 7, academics, musicologists , or the man himself if he reads this (and he might), or my ex for writing about him without him being there,then I apologise in advance for anything stupid, crass, innacurate or silly that I say.
I do not however apologise to any music journalists who might read this as they specialise in writing stupid, crass, innacurate and silly things about musicians but in an authoritative way.
No I assure you what I am about to write may be complete and utter bollocks, fiction in fact which bears only coincidental resemblance to any people living or dead, ever, anywhere.*(see footnote)

So here we go…

I first saw Steve Hillage as a teenager at the Queen concert in Hyde Park on 18th September 1976. It was the first “festival” type gig I’d been to. I’d seen the film of Woodstock and Hyde Park turned into a mini Woodstock without the mud for the day. I seem to remember that Brian May of Queen was a big fan of Steve Hillage and of Jimi Hendrix. Bung in Jimmy Page and you’d probably have my favourite 4 electric guitarists.

The gig was organised to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Jimi Hendrix on the 18th of September1970. Hendrix died in Notting Hill in circumstances which have never been fully explained. This could be the subject of a whole other blog and an area of perhaps morbid curiosity for me after reading Kathy Etchingham’s autobiography.

Anyway back to Steve Hillage….

I went to Hyde Park to go and see Queen but I was hanging around at the side of the stage where the most bizarre people I had ever seen were sitting on the grass. They were such over the top hippies that I was fascinated by them. One of them was wearing a duck on his head ( a decoy duck as a hat..it was hot). There were people going in and out of the backstage area to join the strange group on the grass no doubt smoking grass and I was wondering if it was Steve Hillage who also was wearing some kind of weird hat. I was so young I didn’t really know what grass was , in those days there wasn’t drug education in schools. I remember there were some people looking quite high swaying about or meditating cross-legged next to burning josticks planted in the ground and I didn’t know if that was some kind of drug too. My parents certainly would have thought it was. There were huge crowds and it was very exciting, very alternative, full of hippies and a bit scary as I wasn’t quite sure what was going on and was young. I got photographed at least 20 times by different people at that gig maybe because I had dressed up in a T-shirt I’d made saying “Prophet” in big letters on the front and was wearing a home-made black corduroy floppy hat and was hanging around the side of the stage/backstage area.

Later on I scrutinised the stage and realised it was Steve Hillage I’d seen hopping in and out of the backstage area and his music blew me away.

I remember his rendition of “It’s all too much” a George Harrison song which I was already fond of for having a celestial quality to it but Steve Hillage was taking it to another world. The music shone and glittered and took you through harmonic waves turnstiles into other audio dimensions ( God I sound like one of those terrible Music Journalists…I must apologise!) .Basically Steve Hillage was something I’d never heard before. He used pentatonic scales from the East that I’d only heard in snatches of Indian Classical music. World music was not really broadcast then. It was Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel, Womad etc ..which brought it to the attention of us young westerners and later Whirlygig etc.. .

I think for most of the Queen audience maybe the music was just too different for them to understand but I was completely smitten by it.

Well in the context of the variety of sounds in 2008 this won’t sound the same and apologies for poor quality but here is Steve Hillage at that Hyde Park Gig. The most interesting parts are the instrumental bits after he finishes singing the song. It looks like they were having quite a few technical problems. There is footage of faultless live gigs available but not here yet! ( more about that next time)

Later my problem was that none of my friends or anyone I knew had any interest in this kind of music. Most of them liked pop or straight classic rock like Thin Lizzy. I was well into punk as well and knew a few punks. Around the same time I got into Gong from finding a collection of Gong albums in my local library but had no idea that Steve Hillage had been in Gong until later.

Anyway to cut a long story short when I was at college doing my A-levels I met my ex partner Michael . One of the main things we had in common was an almost identical record collection and a total obsession with music and the hippie movement which was verging on the fanatical (now I’m older of course I’m not like that at all).

In particular we both knew and loved the music of Steve Hillage and Gong. Our subsequent relationship was very much based around these things.

We used to have a record player that could play a side of an album repeatedly without pausing and there were times when we listened to a side of Green or Rainbow Dome Musick , or Live Herald for 8 hours or more , once I think we heard side one of Live Herald for an entire weekend going to sleep and waking up with it in the morning. But it never seemed to do us any harm and I can still listen to these records now, you’d think I would have got bored with it!

As well as the music we were finding and exploring the alternative scene in Notting Hill, at free festivals, playing music in bands together and later running gigs .

At first we ran a few gigs together under the name “Dead Dog Promotions” , then at a later stage this became ” Club Dog” which later still once we had split up for some time became “Megadog” . You can guess who Michael wanted to book .

1. Anyone who sounded like Steve Hillage

2. Steve Hillage

Of course I’m joking and many other types of act were booked and the club enjoyed diversity. In fact other acts booked in particular for Club Dog were all about fusing different styles of music to create something totally new and original just as Gong and Hillage have done as well as representing an alternative community.

It ‘s not the first time I have been a fan of someone and then got to meet them through being involved in the music scene. But it’s hard to explain what huge fans we both were and how ironic it is that System 7 then became one of the acts associated with Megadog.

Hurdy Gurdy Man (song by Donovan)

This was filmed on March 20th 1977 at the Otto Hahn School in Bensberg Germany for the Rockpalast TV programme. (go to http://www.rockpalastarchiv.de/welcomee.html for more info on this music series)

Steve Hillage and band:

Miquette Giraudy (synthesiser and vocals) Colin Bass ( great name for a bass player!) , Clive Bunker (drums) Christian Boulé (guitar), Phil Hodges (keyboards), Basil Brooks (synthesiser)

I think this is correct and would have been the same line up on the previous video at Hyde Park

Ranting about music and connections between people and events…

I think it is fair to say that the impact of the music by Steve Hillage and Gong in an indirect way changed the course of my life and that of many others. When I studied music at University they kept telling us that “Music is all about relationships”. The relationship between notes, the relationship between beats , instruments, musicians in a band , the relationship between bands and their audience, the relationship between music and the media and opportunity for broadcast, the relationship between fans of a particular band , the relationship we create emotionally with the music we listen to and the thoughts and memories we associate with each piece of music. Steve Hillage has been weaving in and out of my life since 1976 and I am sure, the cosmos willing , that our paths will cross again.

If you read my entry on Solfest 2007 you will see that was the last time our paths briefly crossed and you will understand why I said to him that I thought that the crackles at the beginning of our vinyl copy of Rainbow Dome Musick were due to us playing it so much!

In fact it’s a fault with the pressing. That’s the autobiographical bit done, I hope I haven’t embarrassed Michael as he will read this at some point. I was trying to do this blog anonymously but then of course I started to tell people about it and so it’s only half anonymous now!

I am so tired that I cannot spell anymore but next time I want to write about Steve Hillage’s musical journey, and various thoughts about numbers and (vaguely) spiritual stuff!

Goodnight….

More Soon….Please go to

http://www.planetgong.co.uk/maze/blurbs/hillage.shtml

for more info on Steve Hillage!

*P.S. This isn’t really fiction I just got carried away in my apologies