Twilight Interzone – a Poem about Notting Hill by Dave Russell


 Hello all good  people who read this blog

My old friend, musician and writer, Dave Russell sent me a poem he wrote about Notting Hill. He has been living there since the early sixties. I am re-posting his poem here. This is how Dave describes it:
“I wrote it in 1973; it was my vision of what I felt was the apocalypse of Hippie Notting Hill. I did a sung version of it, using the melody of Martin Carthy’s The Famous Flower of Serving Men.”

Twilight Interzone

They’ve got the damp, they’ve got the mice

In a crumbling, plastered paradise

Where boutiques sprout as fast

As anything you know.

The rich drift in their hardboard pads

Whilst some a cultivated sadness sport

In drooping sheepskin robes.

They’re gathered round to scream it free:

Ensconced in freedom’s poverty;

In cells they’re warmed, united –

Each in a crowd, each all alone

In the famous Twilight Interzone.

There shone some garish graffiti:

We are Gay: We are a Family –

Colville Terrace, number forty-two;

It left them wondering what to do

While Single Mums, with vocal fire

Challenge the Visitor’s desire

All morals above board to keep:

It is the boards whereon they sleep.

And some will play the acolyte,

In robes of yellow, robes of white;

They take their incense as they please

Black Afghan and Green Lebanese.

The groups will play their wah-wah vamps

And shred their eardrums on their amps;

“We’re gonna make it” – that’s their decree:

I wonder just what ‘it’ might be.

Scientologists exploit their plight,

Likewise do the Divine Light;

They hear the Rada Krishna sing;

They drop their trips, they do their thing.

Some preach of Lenin, Mao and Che

And reckon on the Judgement Day,

At their meetings they do not despair

Of the workers who are never there.

A cob of maize with leaves unfurled

Reveals to all the Seventh World;

We’ll contemplate a falling star

From our Mini-Minor Macro Car.

Beware the black alsatian’s roar,

Beware the rattling of your door,

Beware your rotten, creaking stair,

Your landlord did it fast repair.

The speculators have their dreams,

Their credit plans and paper schemes,

Their blatant lust, without disguise;

They rake the bread – they scrape the skies.

So if you think you’re going to be

A bulldozed, rootless refugee

Do not despair, for they do say

There’s space beneath the Motorway.

If you get fed up with this song,

It originates where you belong;

Go take your pills and make your moan

In the famous Twilight Interzone.

David Russell

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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

Notting Hill almost how I remember it…and some odd music videos (with apologies to Mumford & Sons)


Hello Good People who still read this blog…(amazingly)

I haven’t written here for so long, was very put off by the lack of privacy online and prosecutions after the London riots and then so many things happened in my daily life. Last night I stayed up late and watched old music videos with my son and it made me remember how much I enjoyed writing my blog here and ranting, and planting the odd youtube video in between my ranting as backing music.

I just like to rant to people I know these days and life has been so weird since the recession. I think being a hippie is becoming cool again, or far less frowned upon by youth in 2015,than when I first started this blog.Even becoming a Labour supporter is becoming cool again after years of three main parties advocating capitalism. But as I said the other day, we’re all fed up with relentless caterpillars ( my tired play on words). The money never trickles down from the rich to the poor, instead the rich get more maids, probably with a string of “domestic service” qualifications.The superich can pick and choose among the desperate. But even the rich are more insecure since this global economic downturn, with the rise of apocalyptic religious fanaticism, the spread of 24 news channels to scare us all, refugees and the poor arriving in the countries of the wealthy – giving rise to  more servants! and more xenophobia(see Footnote 1) to scare suburban-minded voters whose herd instinct is too strong to use their brains independently of the right-wing media.

We all share this planet, and for a long time the rich countries, and exploited countries were kept far away from one another, but eventually as travel gets easier, it seems not implausible for every country to end up with the same wealth and resources, that means us westerners will become a lot poorer! But then that’s equality. Countries and borders are drawn in sand, we are just animals roving a small planet most trying to find a way to survive while others try to conquer. ( not conker, to fight all our territorial battles with conkers on bits of string in the autumn (“Fall” for Americans) would be far more fun).

An old friend from a psychedelic band sent me a link to this wonderful piece of Hippie history, Notting Hill as it used to be. A short film entitled “Getting it Straight in Notting Hill Gate”,(1969-“Blissful Company” album) the title of a song by local band Quintessence who jam at the end of the film. Notice how little traffic there is and how many people are black, yes Notting Hill was known as a “West Indian” (Afro-Caribbean) area. Now most residents are white and superrich but also many like me don’t have much but have been living here for a very long time.

This is a link to the short film which was put up online by the lovely people at the British Film Institute:

http://player.bfi.org.uk/film/watch-getting-it-straight-in-notting-hill-gate-1970/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20150812-player-new-britain-on-film&utm_content=20150812-player-new-britain-on-film+CID_36555ab4aae7529e39e04b8809b2ea5e&utm_source=cm&utm_term=WATCH+FOR+FREE

I still live there but feel totally alienated from all the posh residents, I blend in but I remember when Notting Hill was a dangerous and exciting place. I remember each time I walked down certain roads at night on my own, particularly down “All Saints Road”, anyone who spotted me assumed that I was a prostitute or in search of a drug deal. In fact I was more interested in just exploring different ways of being. I’ve never enjoyed danger, but boredom is like death, so sometimes one has to make a compromise and take risks for the sake of avoiding a depressing existence.

Who can afford to live in Notting Hill now? Who can afford to live in London? The prices of houses has got so crazy now that it can’t go on forever, the prices have to stabilise in the next couple of years. There simply aren’t enough millionaires to buy all the houses in London, or rent them. They say that Russian Oligarchs are to blame, but I think they are making them into (rich) scapegoats, after all it is a UK decision not to cap the prices of houses and to keep the “fair rents” at the same level as the going local market cost for rents. Rampant Caterpillars!

I have to put some other music videos up here. They are not hippie videos but are just weird and entertaining. This is the Eurythmics. Here someone is either making fun of the ridiculously extravagant British pop videos of the eighties or this is a genuinely silly pop video.

Great song though! and interesting video, note the cows (why?), the forerunner to the personal computer ( we only had word processors at that time) and obligatory period costume ( see also Boy George Karma Chameleon video and others)

The Eurhythmics – Sweet Dreams 1983 ( I hope this link works!)

Then here’s a great live/not live performance of Radar Love by Golden Earring. Have you ever seen a more bored audience? Note the blonde girl teenagers forced to sit on the stage, frankly I don’t think any of these people like rock music and I think they were all told they would be tortured if they did not sit quietly until the end of the song ( I’d be the same if I had to sit through an Ed Sheeran gig).There’s a very angry looking woman with big glasses in the background, that would be me at a Mumford & Sons gig.Meanwhile the band do a great “stonking” semi-live performance. It looks live they are performing live over a recording, it doesn’t matter, the song is great. I never used to think so but I am old and any music of the 1970s is better than the bland brain death that is Mumford and Sons ( I can get away with saying this because you haven’t heard my own songs).

Golden Earring -Radar Love (1973)(Yey turn it up and dance round the room and ROCK!!!)( Mumford and Sons are so square!)

Now staying on the topic of rock..until last night I never knew who was responsible behind that wonderful song “Black Betty” which used to be played at my school disco right after “Black Knight” (Deep Purple), ” Play that Funky Music” (Wild Cherry), ” You ain’t seen nothing yet” (Bachman Turner Overdrive), and “Jive Talking” (The Bee Gees). But it would seem that all of the dudes performing the aforementioned songs were white and “Ram Jam” who played “Black Betty” looked like this, but hey, as long as you have a Gibson guitar with gold fittings who cares about image?

( I hope this like works!) Black Betty -Ram Jam (1977) Great Glasses!

Today’s “square” and dreary songwriters who find Johnny Cash wildly exciting, and who perceive the music of Mumford and Sons as orgasmic as a Carlos Santana solo, as he melds into one with his instrument, surrendering to a climax of sustained peals of electric sensual screaming guitar ecstasy, will no doubt get very excited by my next music video. ( I can be a dreary songwriter too, and I must get back to my corny song rehearsal later- actually I think perhaps Mumford & Sons have got a bit less dreary recently, but still not as great as my next video).

If you are too young to remember the 1970s then you won’t fully understand the context of the wonderful comedy of “Father Ted“. However this following video will assist you in understanding “the lovely girls competition” and this lovely girl would have won. Dana singing “All Kinds of Everything“. The lyrics start off like Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” but without any of the philosophy. I love the lyrics, totally absurd in places!

“Seagulls and aeroplanes
things of the sky
winds that go howlin’,

Carlos Santana’s orgasmic guitar solos,

breezes that sigh
city sights
neon lights
grey skies or blue
all kinds of everything remind me of you”

( I hope Dana doesn’t read this, I’m sure she’s still a lovely lady)

Dana- All Kinds of Everything (1970)

Love and Peace

Born2rant

Footnote

1. Originally I wrote “Zenophobia” instead of “Xenophobia” . I don’t think the word “Zenophobia” exists, so I have decided that it means the fear someone experiences when realising they are thinking, behaving or dressing like a hippie, or otherwise enjoying hippie music (i.e. most 60s and early 70s guitar based music).Zenophobia afflicts a broad-spectrum of society regardless of religion, economic class, racial background or education. This blog is one of the projects that tries to help people with “Zenophobia” and to re-assure them that it is OK to be a hippie and that once people start to think with their minds, they will realise that rampant caterpillars and Osiris have brainwashed them away from a sensible, peaceful and creatively free way of living on this planet.