Media coverage of strike…


Hello Good People who read this blog….

I just want to write a little thing,because I am so furious and shocked about the media coverage on the imminent strike in the UK for people working in  public services. I just saw that great educationalist, role model for good behaviour and well-known feminist, James Whale ( please realise I writing with extreme sarcasm!), and to my shock  and horror Miriam Stoppard, both criticising the strike, and teachers in particular,in no uncertain terms for striking and depriving children of their education.

I am so furious with them and the media coverage I have seen so far.

I will just speak about the teachers as education is something I know about. First of all , correct me if I am wrong, but by the end of June all the essential teaching, main exams, have been done and dusted and frankly the last 3 or 4 weeks of the summer term, are taken up with end of year tasks, days out, sports days, school concerts, award ceremonies etc. Many children disappear on cheap holidays with their families at this time. You can more or less write off the last three weeks of the school year in terms of serious academic work . Also most private schools are either closed or closing by the start of July while the state schools run for another couple of weeks. If you wanted to close a school for one day this is not a bad time. In fact I hope all young people will support their teachers and join the march.

Secondly in the past, successive governments have totally disrupted the entire state education system in several ways.The government has closed down schools not for one,but many days during term-time, for years now in order to re-train teachers.Originally called “Baker days” teachers have been constantly forced to change the way they teach , what they teach, how they teach in order to please successive governments , and this has meant many days when schools were closed down.In terms of working parents, frankly there is very little consideration or help at any time of year to cope with school hours, school holidays etc., so an extra day of trying to find childcare for a good cause to will ensure quality of education for one’s children, is no big sacrifice.

The government’s implementation of the National Curriculum , league tables, and adding more and more non-academic responsibilities to the work of teachers, has been far more disruptive to children’s education that one day’s strike, at the end of the school year.

The teachers I know get up at 6. a.m. and sometimes work into the evening planning lessons, they also work at the weekends and holidays correcting work and planning lessons. The lessons planning becoming increasingly ludicrous with the ever-changing  demands of the National Curriculum.

For example one primary school teacher I know, who teaches in a very “rough” area of London, explained how she had to create a lesson teaching the painting technique of “Pointillism” , illustrated with famous paintings by Seurat which included rivers, sea and pools of water, so that this could also double-up as a science lesson on water.

I like creative  education, and I am all for teaching art in schools, but considering many of these children do not have books at home, and come from very economically deprived backgrounds, I think maybe Seurat would not be my  priority  if I were in charge of my own teaching.

Getting back to my point, this teacher retired at 60. But even though she worked tremendously long-hours, she loved her job so much,that she decided to stay on beyond 60 as a supply teacher within the same school.  However by the age of 62, she found her energy level were just too low to keep it up indefinitely, and  even though she is incredibly fit and energetic, at 62 she is forced to retire altogether at the end of this term. She can because she has a pension!

Teaching is demanding physically, emotionally, spiritually and one can expect to work a 60 hour week. It requires great commitment to children and to the future of society. Teachers are under-valued and their teaching is constantly disrupted with each changing government’s new policy, no matter which one is elected.

Therefore I am furious at the media coverage that seems to criticise teachers for wanting to retire before the age of 68  and  who expect to have a good pension to live on.

If I were not a hippie, and I was a dictator who ruled  Britain ( which I can be  in my blog), I would seize the private assets of  bankers and politicians, and their power-mad fantasies, and make them do community service: a couple of years of teaching for free in state schools, also forcing  all their children to attend the schools they work in. If they failed their OFSTED inspections then they would have to try and claim benefits and see how far they got before they would almost inevitably give up!

I would also not allow such bias in the news and other media coverage against the strike. Maybe all these critical media people could do worse than spend a couple of years working in a state school as well and then see if they thought they could still do it at 50 let alone 60 or 68.

I feel this government is trying to re-create class differences in the UK  and prohibit social mobility by creating two types of education. I doubt if private schools would employ full-time 68 year old teachers! If the teachers did not strike it would show that they didn’t understand the nature of their job and that they did not care about the quality of education for children.

Love and Peace

Born2rant

( will be joining protests soon in support of them. I had both a private and a state education, my best school  teachers were without question from the comprehensive I attended.)

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Day Three of my Imaginary Glastonbury


Hello Good People who read this blog….

I thought I would start by telling you that although I smoked lots of imaginary spliffs yesterday, in real life I can’t get away with such behaviour! Dope makes me feel thoroughly ill, especially a couple of days afterwards when I get what I can only describe as “emotionally weak, panicking easily and slightly paranoid”, so these days I can only get away with the very occasional indulgence and then pay dearly for it afterwards. I love the feeling of getting stoned but I also lose keys, money, and cannot function and do all the stuff I like doing normally if I ever indulge! When I was younger I had a better resistance to these things but also grass now is  just so much stronger than the stuff we had twenty, thirty years ago.It’s a different drug these days.

So at my imaginary Glastonbury I wake up Sunday morning feeling also really rough, like a hundred elephants have been stampeding on my head in my sleep. I also get cramp in my left leg!

My Imaginary Sunday at Glastonbury is a bit of a blur, and I have in reality, little time today to write about it. So I will do this briefly( sorry!).

I look for the Healing Field to see if anyone can help me with my dope hang-over but instead find the International Music  field.

I stop and find a Javanese man who speaks no English, he endeavours to show me how to play a Sundanese zither from West Java, to accompany the singing of his beautiful wife.

After this morning’s music lesson, I traipse across the International Music field and go into a large marquee.What I see next is so bizarre that I wonder if I am imagining it all.On a cinema screen they are showing  the Chinese Revolutionary Opera: Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy ( I don’t think you’ll be seeing this at WOMAD! Please note that the singer/dancer is riding an invisible horse whose movements  are portrayed through percussion)

Leaving the International Music Cinema , I stroll around the field and come across a myriad of old friends and we edge our way to the Krautrock and German Electronica tent where we find a serene performance by Klaus Schulze

For the rest of the day, we gather our resources to make a picnic and find a dry piece of ground next to the main stage. We are all recovering from the previous night, the sun is blazing and we want to take it easy and chat about our news and lives.Some of these people I haven’t seen for ten years, a festival is more efficient than a Christmas card to stay in touch. We are all exhausted but cannot resist dancing when the Ozric Tentacles appear on stage.
Domes of G’Bal

After this we can hardly believe our eyes, as a navy blue box with a flashing light on the top,gradually manifests itself on the stage. It’s the tardis!

As if by magic,out comes the original Dr. Who followed by The Beatles ,( and a small dalek groupie wearing a pink feather boa round her neck) .

We just have to get up and sing along as they start to perform  I am The Walrus.

Inevitably we get stoned again and have to eat an entire packet of chocolate biscuits, plus crepes and drink more beer,until Pink Floyd’s set starts with  Careful with that Axe Eugene.

As we reach the final act, the sun has gone and mercifully the air is pleasant and cooler. A well-loved hippie band takes the stage, they must have some kind of secret sacred store of energy after all these years, and all those drugs.I know I can’t really cope with the pace but somehow this group’s energy is infectious and makes us feel 18 again . Yes it’s  Gong,what a great way to end the imaginary Glastonbury festival!

I go home, tired and too exhausted to go into details! I am sad to go home to an urban space where I am not constantly surrounded by live music and many friends, but we have talked about meeting at Solfest towards the end of the festival season and other festivals in between.

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


Too busy living to blog or watch TV, plus a teeny bit about Solfest 2010


Hello Good People who evidently still read this blog…

I keep trying to give up this blog for good but it’s up there in cyberspace without me, just like the millions of  photographs of teenagers on Facebook,  who may at some time, rue the day they allowed photos of, and  information about themselves, to be handed over to various companies and intelligence agencies who rule the net. My blog will outlive my initial enthusiasm for bi-weekly blogging ,and like many a dead rock star’s music, will probably outlive me.

I did go to Solfest this year , and I guess that by the number of hits on the day it ended, many will have to checked in to see if I have done a review like I have done the three previous years.

In a word  “no”, and I’m not really going to. It is still the greatest UK hippie festival that I have experienced this millennium,although a few less punters this year and slightly more zealous security. Well actually, I mean specifically one guy. A young security steward who wore large sunglasses day or night , wore a “security hat”, and obviously took his job extremely seriously. He questioned and scrutinised people at the gates of Solfest as if they were non-EU citizens of “Asian” origin trying to get through passport control at Heathrow. It was only one enthusiastic Nazi  in the whole organisation, but one too many, plus he never seemed to go off duty. Maybe he dreams of being head of all security services one day…in which case, don’t work at a hippie festival, run by hippies.

Backstage the air of hippiedom was also occasionally marred by the odd territorial argument over which loo one could use .One group of people in particular, got hysterical if other members of crew used “their” portaloo and shouted to me “don’t fill our loo up or we can’t use it”, which I found mildly insulting. There was also by the end of the weekend, a row over who could have access to my nearest water supply. Various people started to attach their own personal pipes,to the general standpipe going directly to their tent or caravan, leaving no access to water for the humble camper without extra water-pipe fixtures, and a trickle of water to all trying to get their direct private supply, due to low pressure. It was exemplary of the follies and injustices of  Capitalism, which I hoped to get away from completely during my stay at Solfest. I am hoping that the hippie spirit of sharing resources over and above stupid claims to exclusive access to basic amenities will return next year in the backstage area.

I have not written a review of Solfest, why ? Because I am not often here.

I’ve turned my back on blogging, Myspace, Facebook, hotmail, Googlemail, all mainstream TV news, most TV programmes, and most Radio programmes. I do still use youtube quite a lot, especially if I want to hear music from the other side of the world. I mainly watch TV if I have visitors who want to watch it or if I am just too tired or ill to think of anything else I can do. I read newspapers if I find them lying on the tube, and yet without the internet or the media intruding in my life as much, I am not suffering from any withdrawal symptoms. Quite the opposite, I actually talk to real people face-to-face,  go to real places, and don’t feel like my life is over because my hair is dull or I don’t have a car, or I don’t know what David deCameron said today, and I haven’t suffered any more patriotic military propaganda passing for news on a daily basis.

However I will entwine this rant against second hand communication and experiences with a bit of music from Solfest.

In spite of my previous negative comments, Solfest  is still friendly, creative, and the happiest weekend of the year for me. I always meet great people, have long rambling conversations, dance to loud music even though I feel I am too old to do so, laugh at the inventiveness of fancy dress costumes, discover new  music, see amazing landscapes, feel hopeful that there is a little bit of the year that is not cynical and under surveillance but is creative and flourishing. I love going up north, can’t cope with southern festivals ever since my first Solfest. Ironically it has now become a yearly gathering point for people I know from London, Brighton and South Wales.

Every ageing hippie seems to have their favourite yearly festival, the one where they will see their old friends again and maybe have a little smoke even if they gave up on New Year’s day 2000, laugh like teenagers again, and show their kids how to power generators by pedalling like crazy, how to make things out of wood, and basically introduce them to various degrees of alternative living.

Some of my favourite musicians at Solfest 2010.

Here is John Fairhurst playing sitar music on the guitar. I saw him on the main stage on Saturday, strumming hard and fast, blending slide guitar with flamenco and ragas, very impressive. Unfortunately there is no footage of him playing at Solfest, so here he is playing in 2008 at an album launch party.

John Fairhurst , a sublime creative guitarist. Here he  starts quietly and gradually builds up momentum, then later explodes into a raucous manifestation of  many guitar genres peeping out from one another to say a brief  hello. Are you following me? Good, if not, don’t read any more, have a cup of tea instead.

My favourite Drystone stage act at Solfest was Richard Barry and The Chaps from Manchester. Maybe I am biased, I met Richard at a residential songwriting workshop in 1999. His sense of humour, charm and excellent musicianship make him always worth catching. Yet again, there is no Solfest footage his performance. It was pouring down with rain when he started but he still gathered a crowd, and then the sun came out!

Richard Barry and The Chaps – Please Don’t Ration My Fags.

I spent a lot more time in the Dance Tent than I intended to, especially on Saturday night where I danced to Eat Static, now a solo act, but still doing “his”/ “their” thing, and this guy DJ Adsorb who did an interesting set. Well I enjoyed it but I am frankly not an expert in dance music at all!  I’m more of an acoustic guitar person myself. I just liked Adsorb’s set because there was plenty of variety.

Now maybe it’s because I have never taken the right drugs , or possibly because I haven’t taken the correct amount of drugs, or more likely because I don’t even know by what  acronyms the drugs I’d have to take, and ask for,  from someone  two decades or more younger than me, leads me to find the brain-shaking tones of “doofff-doofff-doofff-da-da-dooff-dooff-doofff etc…” looped for an hour, and somehow so loud that they obliterate any other sounds in the mix…..B.O.R.I.N.G..

However this Solfest having spent much time talking to DJs in the Chill-Out tent who had taken the correct drugs, with their abbreviated names, in the right amounts, to like every type of  Dance Music,  I was  re-assured  that what I was referring to, was music that was  “relentless”.

You can actually pretend to like it, then when in the company of those you truly trust, complain that in fact it was “relentless” possibly shaking your head to demonstrate just how relentless it was.

So now I can blend in with people who know and appreciate all types of dance music by saying  ” God, that was  relentless!” and show the punishment I endured with a little  downwards shake of the head.

But as you can tell I don’t pretend to be anyone but the anonymous person I am pretending to be.

I cannot find much footage of Solfest 2010 itself!

But here is some footage from the Dance tent, I don’t know which DJ this is but I am sure someone will tell me, it could very well be DJ Adsorb, this is then contrasted with the Dogs in Space ( Chill-Out) tent, where you will see a few seconds of an amazing trio driven by the jazz beats of the Van Der Graaf Generator drummer: Guy Evans, along with psychedelic guitarist, Nigel Mazlyn Jones and flautist/guitarist Jim Nield. I caught the end of their set and they created a sound as colourful and ambient as the décor and lightshow of the Dogs in Space tent itself, shame there are only a few seconds of this available to show. I thoroughly enjoyed their mesmerizing set of jazz drumming and psychedelia.

The Damned played but I didn’t go to see them, the youtube clips are pretty poor quality soundwise.

Another act who played twice in the Dogs in Space tent and performed in cafés all over the site were the excellent Marley Chingus, from Liverpool,played rich bebop jazz covers as well as their own compositions, their long-haired and bearded trumpet player was particularly outstanding although all of them are very highly skilled musicians. Again no footage of them at Solfest but here they are with one of their own compositions, no trumpet player but a great sax player instead.

Marley Chingus -Neolithic Chant.

Well I’m off now to make some tea and maybe listen to some music. In the meantime I asked a DJ who came to visit my place last night what his favourite Gong tune was. He told me this one because of the electronics in it, the synths were played  by Tim Blake. It’s a fantabulous track beginning with synths, echo and tabla and building up nicely into a freeform jazz jam with psychedelic lead guitar, slide “glissando” guitar, with other sounds and many instruments thrown in for good measure.

So, I’ll leave you with the brilliant and mind-awakening : Gong – A Sprinkling of Clouds (1974)


Love and Peace to all of you

and remember hippies are cool, superficial people are… well …superficial

Born2rant

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

…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.


Guilfest 2009 delayed review of a mishmash festival


Hello Good People who read this blog…

I’ve been away some more and then was ill and then was in hospital with pipes up my nose and much more horrible places, but I am making it all sound far more dramatic and less conventional than it is…

However it provides a bloody good excuse for not having promptly written a review of Guilfest 2009 .

Why write a review of Guilfest anyway? After all it’s not a hippie festival! I hear you cry ( in my imagination that imagines that someone out there in cyberspace apart from MI5 and MI6 reads this).

Well two reasons:

1. I was there ( see previous entry for reason I was there)

2. I talked to Alice Armstrong ( see end of this entry for some footage in “The Laundry”..not a club but really in laundry) to ask her for her name for  a review. Both her and her guitarist were very enthusiastic and wanted the address of my blog , so now for them,because I like to keep to my word, rather than to gratify Lemmy or anyone else, I will write a review of my impressions of the festival and intersperse it with some of the music.

On the first evening, I missed Eat Static as I couldn’t find the dance tent hidden away in a corner of the festival, but I heard The Stranglers from my tent. I was resting preparing myself for Motorhead .I had a headache followed by a cough. There was a bloke at the gate,selling T-shirts saying “ I’ve got swine flu” with a big pink pig on it. I thought of buying one but didn’t.

By then I had realised that the festival was basically a gig in a field complete with modern Britain’s  fascist rules and regulations . To go into the main site, you had to endure young people randomly grabbing and tugging  at your wristband without warning , followed by the “customs” inspection, having everything in your bag, opened, sniffed, even tasted. I’m surprised they stopped short of a cavity search.But the British public, like apathetic sheep, just seemed to succumb to this kind of treatment without fuss. I don’t think ID cards will be hard to bring in, that’s nothing!

The reason for this behaviour was to stop people bringing in alcohol, drugs, and re-selling tickets and wristbands. However within sight and earshot of this procedure about ten ticket touts were relentlessly buying and selling tickets and wristbands. In the camping field several hundred under 16s and their “flu friends” were drinking hundreds of cans of beer , bottles of spirits and taking nitrous oxide, in full view of the same stewards so anxious to check everything in your bag. What a farce!

Entering into the main festival site was always a bit like going into a  strange concentration camp with no human rights or freedoms but with lots of good music and where  you could still smoke at a live gig.


Friday night :Motorhead as viewed from the position of adoring fans “Ace of Spades” Guilfest 2009

some Motorhead  choreography

Motorhead did a blinding gig, sometimes their energy waned for a minute or two but then they were back on form. Lemmy threatened to stop at one point because so many things ( mainly frisbees) were being thrown on stage . There was even a spectacular stage invasion. There was some excellent lead guitar playing, though I can never hear Lemmy’s lyrics and I got bored during the drum solo ( time to get a beer). Lemmy’s son, Paul ,came and played guitar on some songs with Lemmy on harmonica ,they did some acoustic blues. All in all a great gig with lots of energy and variety.

Motorhead with Fire-eaters on stage Guilfest

After Motorhead my second favourite gig came as a surprise to me . It was these guys , The Charlatans, far more psychedelic than I expected, also very dynamic and energetic.I liked all of their songs and they were “in the zone” performance-wise.
Saturday night:The Charlatans at Guilfest

The Only One I know

The Charlatans again (includes vibrant keyboard part):

They were followed by Brian Wilson who I missed due to monsoon type rain, poor guy playing sunny music in the dark with everyone running for cover. Good Vibrations ( note pools of water on the front of the stage)

Another one of my gripes about this festival was that there was nowhere you could sit indoors and have a cup of coffee, the cafes were grim and not run by hippies . Since it rained a lot, sitting indoors was important, a lot of people brought their own chairs and giant umbrellas, gazebos etc… but being ecologically minded ( and without enough dosh to run a car) I bring the bare minimum to  festivals. At other festivals I go to there are hippie run cafes under big tarpaulins where there are old sofas, carpets, or at least bales of hay to sit on while you drink and eat out of the rain.

Also the programmes which cost £5 , a lot of money when you have none, was the only way of finding out who was on stage when.

At the information point when I asked who was on stage, they deliberately hid the programme from me as they gave out information, like I was some kind of free-loading thief, explaining to me that I had to buy a programme if I wanted to know anything more. I paid £120 including postage for a bloody ticket, I don’t want to have to be  robbed of another fiver to know who is performing. Pah! I say in disgust!

Plus the real ale I bought there was the worst pint I have ever drunk in my life and their measures of vodka seemed to be very mean. There were no showers on site, these were some distance off the site at a swimming pool. No one I talked to could be bothered to walk there.

Anyway at least there was some good music.

During the daytime around the festival I spotted Fezheads in a tent not just dancing but playing some excellent surf music with their band. Highly entertaining although a couple of young blokes pulled up behind me and watched them  saying that they were crap as they were making mistakes with their dance steps. I think they missed the point.

Surrey University was one of the sponsors. The head of Popular Music there used to be my lecturer years ago and created some very interesting courses , he didn’t mind my writing essays on the Ozric Tentacles and Stonehenge. (I have a sneaky feeling that the Prof. in question could be the person with long red hair lurking at the back of the stage on the Motorhead and Charlatan clips but I may be totally mistaken).

However the Uni produced a brochure with some truly horrific pictures of Jimmy Page and George Martin.I had to throw the brochure away as I was so freaked out by a photo of Jimmy Page grinning with extra-whitened teeth,wearing full graduate garb including silly hat ,looking like King Henry the VIII’s skinny cousin.
Whatever happened to your tight satin snake trousers Jimmy???

I saw quite a bit of music on Sunday, having sussed out my camping situation and accepting that there would be no sleep till Notting Hill ( i. e. in my own bed) due to the loud tent/bar next to me running all Saturday night, Sunday morning and well into the afternoon when they left . This large tent run by some of the younger attendees, was stacked with big amps, lights, and a big bar. At four a.m. I heard about a hundred people sing “woo-hoo” along to Blur , and shortly afterwards they all shouted repeatedly ” Naked Bar!” and could hear them stripping .Their music was often louder than the main stage, most people moved their tents away after the first night but I have ear-plugs and have camped next to 24 dance music stages.
On Sunday morning I got up and saw The Rock Choir, the less I say about them the better.There were so many of them, that they were performing on both main stages simultaneously, another strange decision made probably by either by a crazy fan or a committee. Committees should NEVER run a festival ( I speak from experience) leave it to a couple of driven individuals who know what they are doing.( arrogant opinionated ranting from me but that’s what I’m here for! )
Motorhead and Will Young headlining at the same festival?????What were they thinking? ( Ker-ching  ££££££ let’s maximise our audience possibly).

I watched the Rock Choir, on both stages but had to leave urgently, as two terribly nice young white boys backed by about two hundred white suburban housewives sang a rap song to Jesus in a very earnest fashion. ( just as well Lemmy wasn’t around).

Later, fortunately I caught The Hamsters, who initially seemed a bit jaded, but warmed up nicely and soon attracted a large crowd when playing Hendrix and AC/DC covers and their usual antics of swapping instruments went down well.

The Hamsters are one of my favourite live bands, who I go to see once or twice a year.So even though I can’t find Guilfest footage of them I have to put up a clip of them anyway.The Hamsters play Purple Haze ( but not at Guilfest!) Rock Against Ageism!

Later that evening,The Happy Mondays were pretty boring after a couple of songs although they had a fab female vocalist with twenty times the singing ability of Shaun Ryder ( bet there are some interesting ego clashes backstage!).

Bez ,clearly no longer on the wagon, addressed the audience like some demented mute traffic cop. He threw a maraca to a member of the audience close to me and then gesticulated madly that the wrong person had caught it, then indicated he wanted it back, then once it was thrown back to him on stage, he delivered it to the person who was meant to receive it ( or at least this is what I understood at the time  but who knows what motivates him?)
Here he is when he still had both maracas.( but possibly not all of his marbles).

Earlier in the day I’d seen “Goldie Looking Chain” and realised that  I was going to see two ex-Big Brother contestants in one day ( Bez and Maggot, whatever happened to “street cred”?).
“Goldie Looking Chain” are a great  bawdy leaping hip-hop act, very entertaining but so inapropriate to bill them on a Sunday afternoon full of families with young children, many of them waiting to see Will Young in the evening.

There were lots of little girls looking quite puzzled and disturbed when GLC explained in great detail the basis for their song ” Can I F*** your sister?“,  thereby making some lads laugh but traumatising parents and daughters alike.

Apart from Motorhead, the band I saw most beloved by the crowds, including families and people of all ages and backgrounds, were “The Wailers“. The dancing  audience knew all the words and the vibe was fantastic.
Amazingly I can’t find any Guilfest footage of The Wailers even though they were hugely popular, so here’s a clip of them in Saint-Petersburg earlier in the year, imagine the same scenario but in blazing sunshine with a couple of thousand people dancing and singing along .

But the reason why I wrote this entry was after talking to one young woman from Guilford and her guitarist friend in the acoustic lounge. She has a stunning big powerful blues/soul voice. Her name is Alice Armstrong and she was accompanied by American guitarist Jack Kristiansen. They did a couple of interesting jointly-written songs including “Roll-Up” ( i.e. “Skin-Up”) on Sunday. Her stage presence and that big and mature-sounding voice of hers is begging for a big band behind her. I asked for her name, and the name of their act which is simply “Alice Armstrong” . They were definitely the best act on compared to the other stages at that point. I was dismayed to find no trace of her music on the net.

In the late sixties or early seventies, Alice’s voice would have been ideal for a loud raunchy rock or blues band but musical fashions change,  she has a great voice  and I  hope she finds her niche.
It’s a big shame that I cannot find her singing  online but here are some pictures of her from her myspace profile and hopefully, she may be persuaded to record herself or film herself ,so it can go online. But Alice, my advice is to develop your own style, don’t copy anyone else, trust your instincts!

I will email her to check she doesn’t mind me using these photos . ( note the troll behind the window)

Alice Armstrong from Guildfordalice amrstrong 1

alice armstrong2

Anyway got to go now…my next project awaits my attention…

UPDATE! 27/07/09 Alice has uploaded a couple of home vids on youtube, however I’m not sure they do her or her voice justice, she still could do with a band and an attentive audience, however you can hear the essence of her voice on the youtube clips at the following address:http://www.youtube.com/alicearmstrong

( I quite like the one in the laundry with beer) …so I’ll put it up here.

Alice Armstrong with Jack Kristiansen “Roll-up”

Will do another unusual blog entry soon.

Love and Peace

Born2rant

p.s. 19/7/09 A lot of  Will Young fans are coming to read this review. Sorry there is no Will Young here, you need to write your own review and ranting  from  a Will Young fan point of view!




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