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

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I am on a lonely road and I am travelling, travelling, travelling…


Hello Good People who read this blog in my absence

(This blog entry was written after listening to hours of Joni Mitchell on my travels…)

I thought of you all on Solstice morning . The light was shining through the curtains of my guest room not long past 4 a.m. , unable to sleep I looked out the window and in the pale light I saw the sea, the birds and some drunken young revellers still ambling loudly on the beach from the night before with beer bottles in hand. They weren’t celebrating the Solstice, they were simply on holiday. Yes, I was in England but I don’t have a laptop or a mobile and was in a seaside town without internet access.

But I thought of you all out there somewhere. I felt bad for not writing about the Solstice, for this blog has become a commitment, although I don’t need any commitments right now.

I am on my own personal journey, this blog started with bits of my past, that others could relate to, then as I wrote various forces and choices transformed my present.

The same thing used to happen when I wrote many songs,  when I did art and wrote silly stories,the creative process subsequently changed my life.

Some people always stay in the same place all their lives, they like the same things, wear the same clothes, do the same job, love the same people and live with the same friends, family and neighbourhood. Although they still gently change and age, they are content with their stability.But people like me find this stability impossible and in spite of ourselves we need to transform, re-generate especially at times when the world too is changing fast( and we clash with our kin).

Joni Mitchell”California” 1970

So as a result of my blog I started to study again a subject which turned out to be just right for me in many ways, and also as a result of writing about protests and rights and looking at inequalities in relationships between people I mounted my own protest with  my nearest and dearest. Not fun, not fun at all but revolutionary. Not sure where it will end.

Also I foolishly mentioned to some that I had an anonymous blog and know that others observe me and can see into my private writings, I have to just live with that, but it has also put me off . A bit like having your parents or your teacher look over your shoulder while writing your private diary about the same said parent or teacher.

Joni Mitchell live 1974 “all i want”

Anyway I have been travelling and dealing with shit, just came back from a place in Eastern Europe that is amazing. I don’t want to tell you where it is! Because there are so few British and American tourists there at present. I may be going back there soon, just to say that people are nice there, much much nicer than in London, and that I left  a bag with my money , passport , debit card on a bench surrounded by at least a hundred people at the side of the biggest outdoor swimming pool I have ever seen and left it there for a couple of hours and no one took it.

But really coming back to London is so bad , as soon as I got here I was robbed in the street of only a few quid, still it was meant to be my week’s food money, without violence or even my noticing. I told the community police, they said there was nothing they could do but were sympathetic.

So  I called the real police, they were really nice but I soon felt like I was in a Monty Python sketch, the one with the restaurant where a diner complains about a dirty fork. In the end all the staff apologise and I think at least one stabs themselves to death.

They called me again today and asked for a description of the people hanging around me in the street when the money was taken. They chatted and laughed with me and were really nice so I thought I’d write about that.

But at lunchtime I had to walk past the same spot where I think my money was taken. There were two police vans , three police cars and about thirty police officers and community police people all standing guard around the place and stopping young people in the street asking them for ID. They didn’t stop me as I am too old.

I suddenly felt really guilty wondering if  maybe my calling them had somehow contributed to this operation.I am not being too specific here for obvious reasons. I didn’t feel good about it. I went back about four hours later and there were still around 15 police officers there stopping young people.

So on the one hand for a change I’d like to state that the police really can be very helpful and on the other , if this police presence really was in response to my complaint then we are living in a  scary place.

In the tremendously cultured , beautiful , historic, progressive , very friendly and poor town in eastern Europe I have been recently been to, they only have one or two CCTV cameras. Eco-conscious weasels break into parked cars at night and chew through the electrical wiring.There are tons of young people there, little or no health and safety rules, no Body Shop, no Starbucks etc..and the locals don’t speak English.

Apparently they had put a CCTV camera outside a building where journalists worked. The journalists complained that they should not be filmed and it was taken down. Also there was a smoking ban and bar owners who smoked complained that they would have to go outside for a smoke at their place of work, so they allow some restaurants and bars to have a major smoking section and a small non-smoking section. I’m not saying smoking is good for you but I think their approach is a little saner.

Here is a collection of Joni Mitchell songs starting with “Come to the Sunshine” with a great guitar riff with bended strings, performed live in 1967 at  the Couriers Folk Club Leicester. This song is definitely my current favourite of hers. If this plays correctly this should be a series of songs including a very expressive version of “Both Sides Now“. Joni Mitchell’s early live stuff is really her at her best in my humble opinion. If you can’t hear the others double-click onto youtube to find the rest. There are remastered (clearer) versions of some of these songs on one of a couple of live bootlegs called2nd Frets  1966-1968″ and “Live at Club 47″ ( 1968).

I think Joni should release this song again, it’s a definite hit, the version on “Live at Club 47” , unfortunately a bootleg, is louder on the guitar and more confident but the words and structure of this song are fantastic, it’s a gem of an undiscovered song. (maybe the sexual connotations kept it hidden!)

(for a complete list of Joni’s 37  unreleased early songs with lyrics go to jonimitchell.com)

Back to my travel tales in a cultured town in Eastern Europe….

I was sitting outside alone at three a.m. one night, smoking a fag and I asked a local if I was in danger of getting mugged. He told me that the only crime in their town was ” Street Demolition” which made me laugh.

I asked him what that was, it turns out it means graffiti and other small acts of vandalism like the odd beer bottle being smashed. There was lots of graffiti, but most of it was art which was much cleverer and skilled than your average “Banksy”.

I also went to an outside swimming pool there which was the size of Belgium, it even had waves without a wave machine. There was no chlorine in it, no shallow end,the lifeguard was in his own room about a million miles away and was fully clothed. It was bloody scary but no one drowned and everyone looked like they were having fun. Families chain smoked on the grass and under tress after a good swim.

The young people there seem so much more responsible and organised about their lives. They all drink  beer but  I was in this major town for ten days, I never saw a police car or a police officer.

Everyone in the street, in shops, everywhere was smiling and friendly even though I couldn’t speak the language , they were patient and entertained by my ” charade” miming skills. I didn’t have a phrase book though:

London and the UK are so over-rated, in just ain’t the same as in the times of Monty Python. Comedy is censured now so that no one gets upset. Would that sketch upset Hungarians?  It depends how people are represented. Freedom is good, travel broadens the mind if you allow it to, or if you are going a bit crazy it can cure depression or a nervous breakdown better than Prozac or dyamtholintoolitisticholum ( random name of prescribed drug I invented). If travel is better than anti-depressants then I will also say that music is also better than religion . Will I get comments? I doubt it, I’m not John Lennon.

That’s why I haven’t been here, but I am thinking of all of you. Going to Guilfest tomorrow, never been, I will writing again when I can like a  lost alternative Auntie. I’m going to Guilfest for an odd reason, my friend wants to go and see Motorhead somewhere he can smoke. Simples, squeak. Heavy rain is forecast.

I am going through a Joni Mitchell phase who wrote many songs about her travels but this is her famous ecological one.

“Big Yellow Taxi” 1970

Love and Peace

Born2rant

(I really should be packing and other stuff..excuse any typos!)

17/7/09 P.S. Clue for those who can be bothered to Google: the town I was referring to is home to a place where in the past , two dictators gave public speeches  from its main balcony,that was at the Blue Elephant Hotel. If you go there don’t take lager lout friends or hen parties with you,  the place is almost free of foreign tourists due to its location and history. Actually it’s not blue just Elephant Hotel, I must have put a colour in there with my imagination. You’ll probably read this after Googling “Blue Elephant Hotel” ten times, but I have to make it possible but hard for you to find, so only the determined will succeed, like the swimmers determined to survive a length without drowning at the swimming pool there.



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