Bloc 2012 Festival Review


Bloc Festival Review or why you shouldn’t try to have a good festival in a paranoid London devoid of all common sense.

Hello Good People who might read this blog….


Postscript July 10th 2012: When I wrote this post, it was from a confused punter’s perspective, I’d just experienced the festival ,left early and the next day was trying to make sense of it ( and also review the music in my own daft way). I start off blaming health and safety rules being over the top then get very worried as I leave, due to angry crowds outside and  people being cramped and prevented from going where they wanted inside . Since then I heard a totally different story from the  festival crew, which I wrote on July 7th. I now feel totally differently about the whole thing. If the information which was told to me was correct, then I think that some people  were neglectful of public safety to different degrees and maybe when large sums of money and major investments are involved, we really do need health and safety rules.


It’s been a long time, sorry about that, I did start writing this blog under my real name but it didn’t really work, so here I am back briefly as Born2rant, to write about a festival I went to yesterday that could have been great, but which I decided to leave before it all went to pieces.

This will only be a review of my limited experiences. I guess I arrived at the Bloc festival site at London’s Pleasure Gardens around 4.30pm by 10pm I decided it was sensible to leave but had a lot of difficulty getting out.

I was due to hang out on the ship MS Stubnitz, which has successfully been sailing around Germany as a mobile art installation and general chilling out party place for some time. It takes coming to crazy Britain for the Germans to realise they are far better off back home where things are more liberal, the state has less control, and the general public has not lost its ability to make individual sensible decisions without external legislation. Forget gloating about how great and wonderful the British are when I was trying to leave the Bloc festival, it was like trying to escape from a “psychedelic concentration camp” and that was entirely due to Great Union-Jack waving, right Royal Diamond Jubilee, aren’t we proud to be having the Olympics in London, paranoid British madness.

I arrived at Pontoon Dock around 4.15pm. There seemed to be a lot of stressed out people in orange jackets obstructing the oyster card bleeping machines, so people got confused where to “touch out”. They ushered me to a bridge to cross over the road and immediately my bag was searched, then further on more people in orange jackets asking me for a ticket. Other punters were clutching tickets printed out from the internet, I thought that strange to start with, it might be OK for using a budget airline, but without computers, scanners, ID and a whole big security system how can you tell if a computer print-out is genuine? I asked where the guest entrance was after some confusion I was directed to a gate a few minutes walk away.

At the guest entrance I had my bag searched again, then a sniffer dog climbed up the back of my legs, then my bag was searched AGAIN!!!! I complained politely but complied. They couldn’t find my name on the guest list but gave me a wristband anyway because I was saying all the right names. I had to put the wristband on myself, also a bit strange.

It took me a few minutes to chill out after all the security measures, and dealing with stressed out people, lots of security guards on the site, and mobile CCTV units, but the security man I spoke to was friendly enough and to be fair all the police people I spoke to during the course of the day were polite, but then all the paying public I met at the festival were also extremely patient and polite considering we were treated like dangerous animals throughout the festival, and the people who payed £125 per weekend ticket must have been peeved.

At first I went on the ship, the MS Stubnitz where I had a great time. In Germany they do not have many health and safety regulations, and do not scream announcements to passengers on the tube to say that due to a little drizzle that people are bound to fall over and kill themselves on the potentially slippery floor. Therefore I think the general public were probably quite shocked to be on an actual fishing ship with many steps, some damp from rain, and bits of metal to step over, no warning signs and generally to be in a place where you actually had to take responsibility for yourself and keep yourself sober enough to watch what you did. Also there was a big central hole leading from one deck to another, this had some fencing and chains around it to stop people falling in.  From the all dancing deck below, I could see many punters going to the edge of the hole and testing to see if the fence was secure. I felt like saying “You are at a festival, you are free to enjoy yourselves now, so forget the fences, forget health and security rules and just enjoy the lack of them for once”. I feel that the British public and especially Londoners, are brainwashed at all times to seek fences and rules in order to feel safe. Of course bad things could and do happen, but life is dangerous, you can’t control everything, get over it and try to enjoy life!

People on the ship were having a good time, somehow in spite of sniffer dogs and CCTV everywhere, the odd person was skinning up on the top deck, most sat drinking beer, smiling beneath the warm sun bouncing off their sunglasses. Below many moved to the music whilst taking copious pictures of the ship on their phones. Downstairs there were at least two bars and padded “seating bars” around tables where they used to freeze and chop fish. The ship was an awesome place to have different party rooms, the angular industrial music bounced off the ship’s hull in a suitably sheet metal way.

My only gripe about the ship was the music, I would have preferred dancing to Led Zep’s Immigrant Song, that would have been perfect or some kind of heavy metal version of  the Ride of the Valkyries would have been great.Here is some Led Zeppelin with  The Song Remains the Same just for effect,old fart I am!

But the DJ I heard on the Stubnitz was mixing French café style accordion music with deafening heart-stopping bass and drum music, note I did not write “drum ‘n’ bass”. I am too old and psychedelic to know what type of dance music I was listening to but it was experi and mental. I left the relaxed atmosphere of the MS Stubnitz to go and see Steve Reich around 6pm.

This was another “odd thing” , I noticed that they put some of the biggest crowd-pullers on early on both evenings even though the music ended at 6 a.m. Gary Numan was due to be on at 6pm the following day (today). I started to realise that maybe there were “problems” with the festival. Well to be fair all festivals have problems, they are always a headache to run for the organisers but some are worse than others. You really need to know what you are doing when you run a festival, especially if you plan to run it in a dock full of water and then place barriers so people can’t get out.

I found the hugest biggest queue  zigzagging its way round a small bit of the site, but people were patient and well-behaved, I hardly saw anyone attempt to push in. I must have queued for over 20 minutes, everyone was saying they’d never seen anything like this and we could hear Mr. Reich playing from outside, we could not understand why security did not seem to be letting anyone in.

Once we got in the tent was only a third full and yet he had been playing for over 30 minutes. The sound quality was not good, the audience was pretty thin, so this did not help the general feel of the gig. Many people were waiting for their friends to be allowed in.

While watching Steve Reich there were times when I wanted to sit down or leave, but both options were difficult from where I was standing, once people were allowed in from their long queuing they tended to head into the crowd and stand and the only way out I could see was through the entrance with hundreds and hundreds of people blocking the way. I looked around and saw there was a zip in the side of the tent, if I’d been feeling trapped I thought I could always use it to get the hell out.

As people slowly and steadily dribbled into the tent, while many left, the music livened up a bit. This was when a full rock band ensemble in the form of Bang on a Can, complete with sheet music,  started to play. It was enjoyable but stilted at first. They sounded like ‘Yes’ doing a version of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, in fact I was beginning to wonder if Steve Reich had been listening to the final few minutes of Tubular Bells when he wrote it. I’m sure others must have thought the same as me! But then I decided that perhaps Steve Reich  wrote it first and Mike Oldfield and Yes who copied his style. Playing repeated patterns in unusual time signatures is the link. Steve Reich must be far more influential than I realised and I must listen to more of his stuff.

Here is Bang on a Can playing Steve Reich’s  2x 5 (2008)

( turn the volume up first, sorry about any ads that come up, try AdBlock)

But although Steve Reich is no doubt a genius and influenced Yes,

I’m afraid I much prefer the following clip which sounds remarkably similar,

compare the two introductions!

Perpetual Change by Yes  (1971)

OK I digress but it’s my blog so I can, and hopefully not bore the pants off you

After Steve Reich I couldn’t get back onto the ship because by now there were long queues and barriers preventing people from going on board, this made good sense to me because it was quite crowded and there was only one way on or off, unless you jumped into the water, but I still think that if people were left to their own devices that they could have managed to see it was too crowded before boarding instead of being restrained like stupid sheep.

I went for a walk about but there wasn’t a whole lot else going on, the cheapest Amber Leaf rolling tobacco on site was a staggering £7, so I decided to go to the local shop. I couldn’t find the way out as described on the map, so I went to the main way in. There were by now already hundreds of people stuck outside the entrance, and the security process was slow and they were clearly not in a hurry to let anyone in, I have never seen anything like it before, they allowed just a handful of people in then would let them wait a few minutes before letting in another few people, meanwhile crowds were building up outside.

I asked one security guard if I could go out and come back in again. He said “NO” sternly. I explained that I had a weekend ticket. He just said “You can’t leave till later and when you do leave, you can’t come back in again”. Since there were no camping facilities, I decided he was stressed out and uninformed and I continued to look for the exit but couldn’t find one, I asked another security guard but he didn’t seem to know anything.

Then I looked for the queue to go and watch Amon Tobin on the main stage. Another very long queue, at one point that queue got muddled into the ship queue and no one knew what they were queuing for or where the queues ended. After queuing for 20 minutes in the crowded area outside, I found the main tent almost empty once I got in.

It made no bloody sense at all.

This was a joke, why was everyone queuing outside virtually empty tents in a limited area surrounded by deep water, since the whole festival was in fact at an old dock?

Amon Tobin  came on. The 3D projections were fantastic. They had a big installation of a kind of cube shaped wall, I’d seen similar things at multi-media art installations, but this was huge and exciting to start with. Amon Tobin was inside one of the cubes which was see-through, it was a bit “Spinal Tap” but I’d rather have seen Spinal Tap.  I was bored, maybe if the sound had been better I would have enjoyed it. Like so much music in 2012, the visual element seems to be more creative and interesting than the sound itself. Maybe you disagree, here is a clip, it sounds better than I remember , it was visually stunning but after a while it was repetitive ( sorry Amon,I’m sure you are a nice guy, it’s just not my kind of thing)

While I was watching the show, all around me a load of very drunk vertically challenged girls wearing too much fake tan, too much make-up, with silly hats and no clothing but a few bits of white fur and denim, were hugging each other violently and squealing. They took millions of photos of each other to put online, they disregarded the music which was very loud and hard to ignore. On the side of the stage there was  a guy pointing a camera on the audience in a type of steering-wheel shaped frame, which I thought might be a CCTV camera scanning the few people that were allowed in. I decided it was not worth sacrificing my hearing for this, and being sober and not having a set of friends to hug, I decided to go outside to look for something else to do.

By this time there were a lot more people just hanging around outside trying to get into the various venues, queues here and queues there, it was ridiculous. Then when I walked past the main gate even more people were even more tightly packed and waiting to get in and being processed at a snail’s pace as if they didn’t actually want to let them in. Those waiting outside seemed remarkably patient, I am sure some of them had maybe shelled out £55 just to see Amon Tobin , the festival was sold out, but they were unable to get in, others may have paid £125 for the two days and the last DLR train back home would not leave that late.  I felt very sorry for these people waiting, thinking that they might not get in for more than a hour or two before they’d have to go home again. I went for a walk around the dock like others who got fed up with the queues. Thirty minutes later the crowds trying to get in were chanting and then someone let off a flare, the exiled crowd cheered, I wandered off for a bit enjoying the sunset and beautiful clouds, the weather was fantastic and there were some nice walks around the dock away from everyone.

But when I came back to the entrance the people waiting to get in had disappeared, something had happened. Inside the festival the crowds were growing a bit and all this queuing was taking up a lot of space, although walking around was no problem, but it was a pain to queue up all the time, I decided since it was dark to go home and come back the following afternoon. I still could not find the exit and a security guard suggested I went out through the main gate. Since there were no crowds left on the other side of the main gate, I thought that maybe they had all got in, but I could hear “booing” not far away. There were many metal barriers, in my way and I had to climb and crawl here and there, there were many security people thinking of not letting me out, and then telling me it was OK to leave, none of them directed me to the proper exit, if indeed there was one.

I got to stairs that led into the main road and then I was quite surprised at what I saw. A double police line at the top of the stairs, plus many more security guards and on the steps a huge crowd, well-behaved, but angry and a few shouting. Well wouldn’t you be, if two of the main acts had already been on, and you’d paid £125 for a ticket to get in?

The police were very calm at that point, some stood with their arms crossed smiling, they seemed surprised that I wanted to leave, they also could not tell me of another exit and they were very polite, and helped me to get out. As I went down the steps some man grabbed me and asked me a question and I pulled away and ignored him, then this other woman shouted to me and asked me if there was trouble inside, if it was safe to go in. I said “Yes it’s fine. It’s great!” but afterwards I thought maybe I should have told her about the amount of pointless queuing you had to do to get to see any act.

After I crossed the road to get into the station I turned around and then I realised that things were seriously wrong. I hadn’t realised just how many people were queuing to get in, there were in my rough estimation at least two thousand, booing. It occurred to me then  that either they had sold far too many tickets and had hoped to stagger the crowds by putting the main acts on at 6pm, or perhaps that having a computer print-out had allowed a lot of people to forge tickets. What I couldn’t believe is that there were ticket touts still trying to buy tickets off the queuing punters, it was clearly a nightmare situation by the large crowds unable to get in.

I worried then for my son who was working there and for all the people there because if everyone had got on the site and they continued to deny people access to all the stages, then it would be overcrowded and tempers would flare especially by 6 a.m. The thing is, the tickets were expensive, most people who were going there were well-dressed, calm, extremely patient and mostly seemed  sober and compliant with the law, but we were treated like we were criminals before we even got in. It was a disgrace. It was like being kettled and herded the whole time but at a paying gig. We were not  going to a riot, it wasn’t a political demo, in fact there were no politics in evidence of any kind, not even an Amnesty International stall.

After an anxious night I got a call from my son this morning to say he was fine.

It did get overcrowded and they had to get all the stages and DJs to shut down  the music at midnight, then the police cleared the whole area. There was another big stand-off with the police and a bit of trouble, nothing major that he knew of, none at all on the ship where the good vibe remained throughout.

I wonder now how people managed to get home from the middle of nowhere at Midnight or 1 a.m.. My son stayed there overnight. He seemed to think only one person got hurt with concussion but this whole queuing/kettling technique to deal with the crowds caused a lot of the trouble and people were very angry that they were not allowed to see the artists they had paid to go and see.

I hope there were no further injuries. The rest of the festival is cancelled. I wonder if they’d had no barriers at all,  if  just maybe people would be sensible enough to come and go as they pleased.

In less paranoid times, with an atmosphere of caring for one another and looking where you tread, could a few roadies and stewards, a St. John’s Ambulance, a fire  engine and maybe a few lifebuoys, be more than enough to keep this festival safe?

Will the police be kettling people all through the Olympic games for their own safety?

I need a musical interval, this next song was ringing through my head as I took the DLR home, very worried about my son and everyone left at the festival. In spite of my ranting about health and safety regulations, given the situation and the fact that people couldn’t leave easily, I am glad they stopped everyone from getting in, it could have been a dangerous situation, due to the tensions building up over a number of hours as well as the size of the crowd outside.

The Clash – London Calling (1979)

They should just have removed the barriers so people could leave at least!

The festival was sold out, did they sell too many tickets ? I can’t see that several thousand people would forge tickets.

 If you were there and want to say something please leave a comment.

Gary Numan who was due to play today, Down In the Park

Love and Peace

Born2rant

 

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Enough Already! Riots in London August 2011


Hello Good People who read this blog…. ( this was written between around 10pm and 2 a.m.on the night of the London-wide riots)

If you are like me, living in London, what a night! I am in a relatively peaceful area but there’s been a strong smell of smoke coming into my living room since early evening, sirens, the odd scream. I don’t think there is much going on my way but hearing about Ealing and now Camden, well it could all “kick off” here too, it could “kick off” anywhere  in any disillusioned British town.

I am not at all surprised at the riots, no matter what the media people and politicians say, it is not purely due to just looting or just about one guy killed by the police. I do not think this rioting and looting would have happened if it wasn’t for many factors, including school holidays. How can they not expect trouble sooner or later? After all  we have had the politicians ripping us off with their expenses, the bankers ripping us off  massively and throwing us into a global recession while most of them still live a life of luxury, the entire global economy has collapsed since Thursday again..and then all the scandal about Rupert Murdoch’s  media empire and corrupt policemen, corrupt politicians….ridiculously expensive University fees suddenly imposed on a whole generation, massive cuts suddenly imposed on a whole generation without warning…well I am not surprised, why would anyone be surprised that we are having riots.

What do these rioters have to lose? They are already being punished before they even started to cause trouble. Prison is probably not that much of a threat compared to a life of poverty for many young people, having been brought up with the idea that materialism is everything.

Meanwhile all those moneyed politicians were quite happy to stay on their posh holidays and it’s only now that the crisis is absolutely Londonwide that they are moving their arses, pathetic lot!

But to any young person reading this I say :

“Enough already, you are  burning your own town, your are hurting your own people, destroying the homes of your friends, families, and neighbours. You may feel disconnected from everything but you are not, everything is cause and effect . You are special but  you need to change things to make things better not worse!”

British society is just f****d. I don’t like capitalism,or conventional lifestyles, but …use your brains! This is going to ruin us all, who is going to want to come here and employ you next summer?

I saw Ken Livingstone speak on the BBC News and I have to say that I agree with the things that he said. Ken will always be a hero for trying to abolish fares on public transport and for being a pain in the neck to Margaret Thatcher, even though I also remember seeing Ken promising the London Irish Community that if they elected him as mayor that he would make St. Patrick’s day a national Holiday,which I found very weird at the time,  much like Boris saying he’d get rid of bendy buses. If you don’t come from London none of this will mean anything to you.

But although I am just another alienated urban dweller, I do feel that this is my town, and I don’t like to see it go up in smoke.

Hippie ideals were political, were/are rebellious but at the heart of it all was collaboration, love and peace, simple.

You can achieve so much more by not wrecking things but by creating things.

But I feel that this is just part of the chaos going on generally and on this I will do one of my personal rants:

Last Thursday and Friday before the rioting, I experienced a series of strange incidents that demonstrated how stressed, angry and impatient Londoners were. For instance, on Friday I nearly got run over by a large Tesco truck who was reversing round a corner, on the pavement. He saw me but reckoned I could probably jump out of the way. I did but only just.

Later I was in a catholic church, yes a church, I know this may sound weird but I had my reasons, and during the mass these two women of a ripe old age were having a loud row, claiming one of them had pinched her seat while at communion, well they were kind of shouting in loud whispers, at the back of the church. But I have never seen a row in a church like this while a mass was taking place.I put it down to the heat, the economic cuts and general stress.

The next day in the afternoon before the riots started,  I was in a Tesco supermarket (yes bad me, how ironic after nearly getting killed by one of their trucks ) ,I was calmly minding my own business when a woman tried to pick a fight with me. She was not crazy, but was deliberately standing in the middle of a limited space and was stopping people from getting past her, i.e. me. I said “sorry” no less than three times to get her to move but she didn’t budge, so I ever so gently, edged my way past her, and she started to pick a fight with me. She shouted to me that:

“English people say ‘excuse me’  not ‘sorry’  if they want someone to move.” I soon left the shop after I realised she was determined to have a row with me, she probably thought I was a tourist. I decided to go home because everyone seemed so stressed, and then I witnessed three more incidents on my way home.

OK, so  it was crowded and it’s summer, but I could really sense that there was more tension in London than usual. One of the next incidents was in a little garden/children’s area. A young man was shouting aggressively at this two year old boy, who he didn’t know, and then the man burst into tears, leaving the toddler and his mother bewildered and upset. I  then saw the man sitting on a bench rocking  slightly to and fro, his girlfriend was rubbing his back and consoling him. He also did not look like he was mentally ill, he looked like an average “respectable” bloke, but maybe everyone is just cracking up under all the global economy meltdown and so many changes and strange events worldwide. As he  was being consoled by his girlfriend, the mother and toddler were left to themselves, clearly shaken and distressed.

So I think these riots that are taking over London and perhaps the country are part of this general chaotic reaction to many stressful and oppressive events.

How is it that people are surprised that there are a load of young people miserable, willing to go to jail, and going  mad?This is how people are feeling after being told they won’t get an education, or a job, or a pension, that their library will close down that everything will be harder and harder. But also young people have had 20 or 30 years of being brainwashed that all that matters is money, sex, what you look like and in particular what objects you can buy that will get you ahead in life or make you feel better about life. 

You only have to look at the T4 presenters on Channel 4 , to know that a whole generation have nothing  but shallow, trite, crap to aspire to.

The police implore “know where your children are and ask them to come home” , but why the hell don’t you know what your children are doing anyway???? Don’t you ever spend time with your children or talk to them?

Some music now, something peaceful, not a typical piece of hippie music, but a modest example of how some popular 70s idealism helped to change mindsets. I think first you have to change your mindset, if you are strong  enough, and then put it into action to change the world.

Cat Stevens  ( BBC Theatre 1971).

I  hope that London can be rebuilt, not just the homes, the shops, the streets, but a soul , a collective heart, a willingness to care for one another, to leave behind our  screens and desks and to face one another honestly.

I think we are going to see a lot more  protest of one sort or another , we have so much monitoring, self-monitoring, outside monitoring, and rules and more rules to make everything in life that might be free or good, complicated and exhausting. Everything in our British  society in 2011 seems to assume, that everyone is a criminal. A criminal before proven innocent. I’d like to be able to go somewhere and help tomorrow, help someone, another Londoner who I don’t know, but I can’t because I don’t have a recent CRB check. I might be a pervert or I might be doing voluntary work when also claiming benefits, or I might be this or that……………..It p*****s me off because most of us are not criminals yet all of us are treated that way, it makes everything ten times more complicated than it needs to be and everything ten times less satisfying to do.

If you treat teenagers like they cannot be trusted and have to be monitored all the time, guess what? They’ll prove you right and start playing up and rebelling and doing all the things you dread. As citizens we are not treated like responsible adults able to make responsible and useful acts and decisions. Don’t get me started!!!!

I am almost sure we will have a curfew soon, except the  government will want to look good and not oppressive, so maybe they won’t bring in a curfew. Even as a hippie I actually would be scared if we had a curfew because I want to feel that I am not living under siege, but I could also understand that if parents really don’t know where their children are,  and London is going is going to be burnt to the ground that a temporary curfew might be a good thing until people calmed down a bit. I never thought I would write that!

So let’s hope somehow young people can find another way, collaborate with one another, but still kick up a fuss.

We are in a terrible financial situation and this society needs to totally reinvent itself. Labour is f****d ,the Conservatives are f****d, the other ones are also f****d.

These stupid political parties are so intent on looking good that their leaders are ineffectual insipid thunderbird puppets, and not in any way credible as leaders with brains ( I don’t mean “brains” the thunderbird puppet). As a slightly older person I see these political leaders as being students at suburban comprehensive secondary school, like the one I went to in south London, which is probably being burnt to the ground as I speak, or write.

Ed Milliband is the harmless naive, gormless first year student, in his school blazer, he still doesn’t know how to knot his tie. Ed’s mother bought his school uniform from John Lewis, it is two sizes too big,  she hopes that he might grow into it one day. His big brother doesn’t want to be seen with Ed in the playground during break time , but sometimes he comes to Ed’s rescue when he is being bullied for his lunch money.

Nick Clegg is the student teacher in English, he gulps with tension,  as he faces his class for the first time, with a sweaty forehead and clammy palms. The head of the English department always gives student teachers the most difficult classes to teach. No one ever listens to poor young Clegg. Maybe once he went into teaching with high ideals to change the world and educate all, but he soon found himself towing the line, having to follow the national curriculum, thinking about the league tables, regardless of their usefulness in children’s real education.

Lastly we have the Head Boy,such a good boy, David Cameron.

Cue music…Kevin Coyne Good Boy ( 1973 from the album Marjorie Razorblade).

David ( Cameron)  the head boy , likes to earn points for his house. His mother’s au pair, gives him a fresh hankerchief  and irons his tie every morning and if it isn’t done properly the au pair is reprimanded, she also has to make him a fresh organic packed lunch so that he doesn’t have to sit with the poorer pupils with dribbling noses who get school dinners. David knows he is better than the rest. He is in Clegg’s class but intimidates him. David  and his best friend the dim but jovial “Bozo” Boris, sit in the back of the class, sniggering while  exchanging little notes about Clegg  written in Latin. They both know that they do not belong with the masses in this comprehensive school, and will help one another up the social ladder once at University.

But who is the headteacher??? Or should I say who is the Head Mistress of this school? It is of course Theresa May, in her imagination,  she likes to pretend she is Supreme Commander Servalan  of Blakes 7 , as she rules. She has the brains and the gravitas to put all these silly little boys in their place.

Servalan ( Theresa May’s role model ) and Blakes 7

Anyway…on a more serious note , I dread to see how much damage there will be in London once the smoke clears and the sun comes up.  All the time I have been typing this, I have had the BBC News in the background, it’s windy outside and the smokey air is still blowing in through my living room window, sirens are heard in the distance from time to time. I’m not sure 24 hour news coverage is helping matters, young people want to be famous, it is encouraged in every way by endless reality TV shows, so I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them relish seeing themselves on TV.

Before I go I’d like to leave you with some music from my good friend Frobischer Neck. He has done a wonderful cover of this track by the German band Neu! with some great Mellotron arrangements. Enjoy!

I wish all of you in London ( and elsewhere) Peace and Safety, hoping some inner wisdom could gently guide the next generation in a better way and inspire them to hope and  build an alternative world  instead of  just destroying the old one.

Born2rant


Psychic Unrest: Forces Defending Human Rights and Forces of Destruction.


Hello Good People who read this blog ( and thanks for still reading)

I find myself in a curious state of mind at the moment, as a result of the protest against the excessive rise in students fees/education cuts in London on Thursday, which resulted in destructive and strange events that burst out amid a background of peaceful and reasonable protest.

More than that,on a personal note I find that as well as the continuing student protests there are other things such as panic for my future, the future of relatives and friends that all seem to be pressing upon me and disturbing my psychic equilibrium. I am sure most people are also experiencing this on some level, so much change has occurred, with ordinary people and politicians behaving in forceful ways.

I think a lot of these forces that have laid dormant for a long time are on the one hand very creative and liberating and on the other, especially those illustrated in the news coverage, very destructive but undeniably powerful.

Before I carry on , some music, and in order to maybe bring about a bit of equilibrium I will find something peaceful. This is a song about how winter changes our frame of mind. Joni Mitchell “Urge for Going”

This unusually cold winter in the UK is another factor to affect the psyche here, violent protests usually happen in the heat of summer, but for those thousands of young people to come out in sub-zero temperatures and to keep coming back and protesting even though they know they may be kettled by police for eight hours or more, that’s the depth of feeling and determination among them. If the police used water cannons, the water would turn to ice after so many hours, but the enthusiasm of youth cannot be frozen so easily, their anger blazes like the bonfires they make to keep warm when hemmed in, at least for the time being.

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My experience of the protest. Although I am a student I hadn’t managed to get to a protest until last Thursday due to other commitments, but when our lecturers were emailing us to go for the future of our own courses, and knowing it was the date of the vote in the House of Commons, I decided to get there somehow. Unfortunately I was delayed, so I was only able to join the demo around 3 pm and missed the march. I carried no water or food in case I got kettled but went anyway. I had no idea of the route of the march but for some reason I was convinced it was to finish inParliament Square. It was hard to get there, Westminster tube station was closed so I went to Embankment, Trafalgar Square was unusually empty, I resisted a strong urge to go to the National Gallery and look at the Impressionist paintings. One of the many strange things that day, I later found out that there had been a student “sit-in” at that very gallery and if I’d followed my instincts I could have joined in.

Whitelhall and  other main roads leading off from Trafalgar Square were all sealed off by police. I took  a  little side-street  I knew and walked almost intuitively towards St. Jame’s Park, ending up in Victoria Street. I walked past sixty or so riot police, but I felt safe in spite of that and carried on until I reached the “kettling” police line that surrounded Parliament Square. To get a better view I went up onto a piece of grass in front of the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre. Along with other buildings in the area it was full of police.

Where I was, everyone seemed very calm, cheerful, holding their placards, some chanting gently,news reporters and  ordinary people taking photgraphs. From where I was standing, the events in Parliament Square sounded and looked fairly peaceful.I was there for two hours and apart from two fireworks going off, it seemed calm, with a party atmosphere.

I saw a woman around my age who was standing on her own behind me, she was holding up a notepad on which she had simply written in biro :” Parents Against Student Debt”. I stood with her and we chatted for a long time. Many other young people took photos of us.It was such a simple thing she had written, but effective and drew lots of attention.

I don’t go on many demos, but whenever I do, I meet wonderful people and it’s the only time in London where you can go up to a stranger and make amazing friends as you have an instant rapport through supporting the same cause. She worked in adoption and had two children,one about to go to Uni and the other already having to pay a substantial student debt from their studies.  We both were pretty passionate about education and the future of our society. We talked about how education is the route out of poverty. I said how much confidence in myself my first degree gave me, otherwise my life would have been quite different. My father came from a very poor background but worked hard at school and managed to get a degree and a very good job unlike the rest of his family.

Due to my “Arts and Humanities” University  education, I am able to express myself and have confidence in my thoughts. I believe that education, partlicularly education in the arts, is crucial to our society. Science is profitable and the arts and humanities seen as a logical waste of money, but to be able to express yourself and come up with new philosophies,  new points of view, and to understand the ethics and processes of other writers, artists, musicians,philosophers,cultures and historical events, that is as important as science. Of course you can do all those things without a degree but I cannot emphasise enough that without mine, this blog would never have been written.

Scene from Parliament Square. Most people seemed cheerful even though they were being “kettled”.

We talked at length about various issues in education,society and politics and I will not go into them all. I guess one of our most basic points, having experienced  parenthood and life’s various expenses, was that it was fundamentally wrong for a young person who might, for instance, one day want to get married, buy a house, have children, for which they would need a well paid job, which would then require a degree, to start their lives in a massive amount of debt. However they rephrase it with ” oh well , you only have to pay £7 a week” etc.. the bottom line is that you will start your adult life in debt and may finish your adult life in debt, unless you come from an over-priviledged family.For parents who have their children at Eton, at nearly £10 000 per term, University fees will not seem that bad,  for a parent with their child in private education in general, it won’t be a huge step to pay £9000 per year. But for an average family, who struggle to pay their rent or their mortgage, and fuel bills, food, council tax, TV license, water bills, internet bill etc…how could they possibly allow themselves or their children to borrow that amount of money and pay it back with interest? Since employers require a degree for many basic jobs, young people are in fact “kettled” within the system.

As we discussed these issues, on our patch of grass overlooking Parliament Square, a smartly dressed woman  came up to us and said in a well-spoken voice and in a terribly British way :”Excuse me , would you like these mince pies? We brought them with us in case we got “kettled””. Looking around me there were many similar women,it was a bit like being at a Women’s Institute fête, to which the mothers had brought along many smiling, chanting, teenage children holding placards with witty slogans, few made made by socialist worker for a change. It was very white, middle-class, British and “terribly nice” at our end. Apart from being kettled out of Parliament Square, and the heavy police presence, the atmosphere was calm and party-like.

As it got to five past five o’clock ( according to Big Ben) , we decided to leave as the vibe changed, I speculated that as we got closer to the six o’clock news, that some more militant protesters might do something to get on TV. Although there was lots of space around us, and we felt very safe,we saw a group of maybe 60 people come out of nowhere, dressed in black carrying a black flag running towards a police line and trying to get into the square. I guessed they were anarchists who had been playing cat and mouse games with the police all afternoon. I didn’t see that much of a scuffle between them and the police but it was a sign that things could get agitated.

So in a boring way, I went home , saw no trouble and was anxious to watch the remainder of the protest and the vote on TV.The demo I saw was peaceful but the protest was hemmed in with people unable to leave in single or other numbers.

Next some more Joni, this time a song she wrote about lying politicians. Well have you ever met an honest one?

” The Way It Is ” Joni Mitchell ( I can’t embed this click on it then to link)

This is her  performance live on TV New Year’s Eve 1968 (I think, please correct me if I am wrong), a coded political song, but hauntingly effective:

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and now for the other side of it all:

(apologies for advertising! for using a news channel but at least there is no commentary, just footage)


Once I got home and turned on the news, I was expecting some level of trouble as the evening drew in, partly because it was there were bound to be some people wanting to cause a ruck , and  because all those trapped there would be wanting to get home. But I didn’t expect so much chaos across central London.

How did this transformation of British Youth happen so rapidly? Of course there will always be some more extreme political groups and within them, some people who want to riot, but the majority were peaceful protesters. What I am slightly susrprised by is the turn around in the thinking of young people in such a short time.

Leaving the rioters to one side for now, let’s talk about the newly politically motivated hippies…When I started my University course back in 2008, the head of our  Student’s Union gave a talk where hippies were completely ridiculed. Now the president of our student’s union has long hair and seems like a hippie to me. I am very happy with this, but such a turnaround in so short a time! There were so many long haired young men on the protest, that I wondered how I missed the announcement that being a hippie was cool again.How did they get the time to grow their hair so long? Until recently “Cheech and Chong” was how most students mentally represented hippies, but this seems to be replaced now with the cooler image of “Che Guevara”.

Bob Marley – Burnin’ & a Looting

The worst casualty Alfie Meadows, looks to me like a peaceful hippie from this photo, and not a violent thug. Also he is a philosophy student who was protesting with his lecturer mum, and we all know just how violent they are! There was probably no reason at all for his injuries apart from being forced to stay in the same place and someone hitting him with something over the head, somehow,whoever they might be. It should be on camera somewhere, the place was filmed from every possible angle.

There are many stories to be told within that one day of protesting and rioting, from different points of view but whatever pespective you take, it will be a day remembered in history. Not so long ago I was trying to encourage young people to protest as is their democratic right, but I never meant for anyone to be injured or any violence of any kind to occur. My heart goes out to anyone who was injured especially Alfie.

Once I was watching the news events unfolded that seemed weirder by the minute.What kind of constellation was present to cause even the royal family to blythely drive into the middle of  the protest? I can’t help but think it was fate aiding and abetting a bit more chaos.

A few months ago I was encouraging young people to go on protests and was dismayed at their political apathy. Now I would implore some calm. Smashing things up violently is couter-productive and  in the long-term, the violence and aggression will rebound on those who caused it, whoever’s side they are on.It’s one thing to smash down the Berlin wall, it’s another to go on the rampage and just smash things because they are there. In the end it’s like smashing up your own home, your own future, there’s got to be a better way to demonstrate, and there’s got to be a better way to police the demonstrations. There’s also get to be a better way of dealing with any problems in our education system. If they have to cut down the number of students, why not raise the academic entry level but make it free, and why not create  jobs that don’t require a degree?

Students have been a nice little earner for the banks lending them money for too long.

Bob Marley again

I have worn myself out now from ranting and no doubt the reader too.

So as always

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


Chasing Fame or Cheating Fame?


Hello Good People who read this blog...

I am writing because I am about to work on some music projects and I do so reluctantly, due to the amount of work involved, but also because on a subconscious level I am troubled by concepts of “fame” and my relationship with it.

As a creative person, working on “creative projects” involves dealing with other people’s reaction to what I do,and if I ever needed to be successful enough to earn a living from music, a certain amount of compromise and chasing exposure would be required.

It seems that many young people I know are getting into acting, modelling, music, with “fame” as the eventual desired outcome and goal.  As a young person, I also daydreamed that from my music I might be accomplished enough to be famous and in my fantasy to have the respect,  power, and recognition that came with fame.

So I am writing this maybe to try to understand my relationship with fame. I don’t chase fame, I avoid it.

There have been many incidents in my life where it seemed like I was “cheating fame” in the same way people “cheat death”. Maybe I sound crazy but I think that the whole issue of fame and recognition by large numbers of people , is a worthy concept to examine, however clumsily I do this.

In our largely secular society, many seem to aspire to be famous when previously they might have wanted to go to heaven , or  might have wanted a good career and a respectable role within their social group, a happy marriage , a solid home.

It seems to me that chasing fame is a very ” conformist” thing to do, wanting to be accepted by the masses surely means having to “play the game” on some level, follow a passing fashion, please your media patrons. I feel deeply sorry for young people now who chase fame. I think this is a result of the media environment and social codes they grow up with, largely a modern phenomenon from the ever-growing forms of mass media, including my blog!

If you want to get to the truth it’s best to rely on real life experience  than theory, so sorry to bore you again with my life!

As a child I was lucky enough to grow up in Chelsea in the 1960s and 1970s surrounded by famous people. For instance,I remember seeing a Rolls Royce every day with the number plate “BOW 1”  with David or Angela Bowie and sometimes their son, being driven around.  A close relative of mine worked for Bowie and told me a few stories. What struck me the most, was that I was not allowed to know the address of where Bowie lived, he had to change his phone number at least once every six months and this number was also kept strictly secret. On the one hand you have this superstar parading around Chelsea in a Rolls Royce, and on the other you have someone desperately trying to get away from people,not the paparazzi but his fanatical fans.

I grew up in the age of Beatlemania, it was a new religion, there seemed to be a lot less famous people than now, their fame seemed greater and more enduring  because almost everything  in the sixties was groundbreaking.

An  exception to this sense of cultural revolution was the soap opera about a Midlands Motel called “Crossroads”. I think it was mostly acted and broadcast “live” which explains a lot.

I saw actors from Crossroads, my mother’s favourite TV programme, wandering about the King’s Road. I later found out that one of the scriptwriters  was staying in our guest house incognito, he would come and write there,  even his own family did not know where he was disappearing to.

In the supermarket I remember seeing my absolute heroine, Emma Peel, except of course it was the actress Diana Rigg an altogether different person. I so wanted to be “Emma Peel” when I grew up, witty and intelligent, free, and able to karate chop herself out of dangerous situations. As a child I assumed the actress was indeed that person, shopping in Sainsbury’s.

My concept of fame was pretty warped by these and many other events.As a young child, I found the idea of becoming famous exciting, like somehow my innate shyness and all my defects of character, all problems in life, would disappear just by being famous.It seemed entirely possible to become famous in London if you were in the right place, at the right time, doing something creative.

My parents hated the whole thing. My mother would complain that racing police cars had kept her up all night because the Rolling Stones had  another debauched party. My parents respected God, the upper classes,all authority figures, classical music and literature and aspired to be educated and posh. These new TV and music celebrities and the whole new culture with its shocking fashions seemed outrageous to them.

As an adult,I have had famous people around me , including my ex-partner who will read this, who like it or not, had a certain amount of fame, which was never intended.

As a musician “fame” is difficult for me, it is a barrier, it is not something to be aspired to. I aspire to use my creativity to heal my frame of mind, do the best I can, to be innovative, because I love being experimental at times, to express myself honestly, to create things from some compelling intuitive idea, derived from processing everything I hear or think about . I struggle to do anything creative which will eventually be exposed to others and must match certain technical standards, I am not naturally talented. I essentially create stuff for myself first and secondly to reach out to a few others and see if anyone is on my wavelength. However the idea of great success and fame is still there lurking in the background like a bad smell.

What would my life be like if  suddenly my phone was constantly ringing with people wanting to be my friend? What if I wanted to walk around London and be left alone?

This is a mainstream pop tune , but my intuition says it’s the right one for this post, plus I love the production on this track: Maybe Tomorrow by The Stereophonics (2003)

What if I were so successful that other people’s salaries depended on my producing  something that would sell to the greatest amount of people? What if  I got ill from the work schedule and stress? How much would I have to conform and compromise? What if I got bad publicity for something and people started to hate me? I don’t even like going on stage, I like to do a good gig but I don’t like to face a crowd of people.

So fame may be a result of hard work in the arts, of  being a perfectionist and successfully communicating something that needs to be expressed and that will contribute to the evolution of culture. But fame in itself is terrifying to me, even if you do enjoy it, once you are up there and dealing with the stresses, you either have to maintain it all, hopefully without resorting to overwhelming addictions, or choose to go back to obscurity ( if the media will allow it!).

The environment young people are growing up with now is so much crazier than mine.

Anyone can be famous,without even working at it too much, there are more opportunities to be famous than ever before and yet fame seems more transient than ever. What kind of warped morality are young people growing up with?

I don’t think it’s so bad to want to grow up and be a Beatle or Emma Peel, but what if you want to be one of the women on “4 Music” dancing round a pole?

I don’t like the mass media and I hate the music business, but in a recession even I may have to learn to deal with it, in the hope of  getting some kind of exposure to my music and getting paid for it. For me the whole process of writing, composing, lyric writing, recording and sound editing  is a very private and solitary occupation, occasionally involving others if they are on the same wavelength, but the land of mass media and fame is as alien to me as Planet Zog.

I have written so much about myself and my ego, but this was done with the purpose of opening  a dialogue about how fame personally affects us, how it affects those closest to those who  become famous, and how much it can control our choices in life, and the lives of generations to come.

Now I have thought a bit more about fame and my relationship with it , I realise that my true reason for doing music or anything creative has been for my own healing, and sometimes to bond with others, not for money or fame.

Love & Peace

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

Steve Hillage and Gong at The Forum (27th November 2009)-A Review


Hello Good People who read this blog


I am recovering from my evening out at the Forum last night in Kentish Town ( in London for anyone who might be reading this in Estonia) to see Steve Hillage and Gong.

Our little troupe of Hillage/Gong fans started our  journey to the gig after lots of cups of tea and a supper of winter foods including of course our green vegetables. We trailed up the road happily like well-fed hobbits, ready to face the bright lights and commuters, but had to make a detour after a rather alarming  encounter with Orcs dressed in blue accompanied by their hounds of hell.

By the time we got to The Forum , The Steve Hillage Band was already on stage, playing “Love Guitar” ,one of my favourite soppy songs.  The audience didn’t seem quite warmed up at that point and so we reckon we must have arrived pretty much close to the start of the proceedings.

(double-click on the photos to see them in full-screen)

Steve Hillage Band-The Forum-27/11/2009

Left to right

Miquette Giraudy Keyboards-Synth-Backing -Vocals-Air Guitar and fun

Steve Hillage –Genius Electric Guitarist, Vocals.

Chris Taylor (I think! at least it’s him on the 2032 new album by Gong) – Drums with a zillion tempo changes

Mike Howlett-Bass-player extra-ordinaire

I know that Steve Hillage and Gong have played The Forum before in 2008, and that they have toured quite a bit in the past 18 months or so,but this is the first time I have seen the “Steve Hillage Band”. The last time I saw Steve Hillage  playing live in a “rock” band,must have been around 1979  or 1980 at The Hammersmith Odeon. Also to my embarrassment, I had never seen Gong live until  last night. Although I know their early albums and the fantastic Japanese import  “Gong Live etc.” (Virgin,1977 ) back to front. If you do not have this double album, try to get one.I got mine on vinyl as a Japanese import around twenty-nine years ago now, but still love it.

Steve Hillage and Gong fans are very difficult to get rid of, as we could tell from the average age of the audience, although there was a minority of teenagers looking blissful while cuddling with their significant others.

We didn’t go there to take photos or film, but we took a few pictures and short clips,like the two above . We went to  have a good time in the audience, not to film, and we did have a great time, my sore  feet, sore neck and sore throat (from singing and dancing along) are testimony to this, so I’ll stop writing now and put up some photos and clips enshrined in a couple of comments.

After the first couple of songs, the audience were warmed up and the crowd had swelled, in fact the place was packed out. They had made an early start and this had obviously caught some by surprise. Steve Hillage and his band were on form. Occasionally Hillage seemed to lose confidence with his vocals, as many singers do as they get older, especially if they have not been singing for a decade or two. If you listen to Joni Mitchell in the sixties and now in her sixties, her voice is totally different but it’s good, she has had to change her singing range and vocal style to keep it up.

In terms of guitar playing and performing, Steve Hillage is still at the top of his league. As the evening wore on, he just got better and better ( and better) playing complicated solos, with key changes, tempo changes, etc..

Here is a short clip Intro to Hurdy-Gurdy Man

He played some fast and furious guitar too and the band were great, but we were too busy dancing to film it! No doubt more footage will appear on youtube. Also Mike  Howlett’s excellent bass playing was mixed in a way that was not beefy enough , we wanted to hear it louder,and yet it obliterated a bit of the rest of the band’s sound, not sure how! I guess that’s what live music is about, it depends where you stand (and the taste and/or ability of the engineer).

The set was amazing and the crowd were ecstatic, a great lightshow too with inventive animations adding to the whole performance.

My only complaint about The Steve Hillage Band was that their set was so short. I would have been happy to see them play their first five albums from start to end and would have not got bored for a second or judged them if they had missed a few bits and improvised instead.

Personally I would have been happier to see the evening split equally between Gong and Steve Hillage.

An Interval of Rainbow Dome Musick , while we got our “healing” beer would have been ideal! ( I am joking…kind of)

However,when we saw the long set that Gong played with the same instrumentalists , we realised perhaps why Steve Hillage’s set was short but quality rather than quantity. When we arrived at 7.45 pm, The Steve Hillage Band was already playing and by the time Gong had left the stage it was past 11 pm.

Miquette and Steve ( Forum 27/11/2009)

There was a long break for drinks, just as well as it seemed impossible to get served ( hence the request for Rainbow Dome Musick at this point to keep us all calm). Only two bars on the ground floor, for thousands of people, the bar we queued up at only had one person serving, although after half an hour or so ,he was joined by two others.

The mood was jolly, lots of blokes, average age 50, many still with long hair or bald.But there were also a few women of all ages and also there were young, some very young ,teenage boys occasionally with young,very young,girlfriends in tow.

There is always a new crop of hippies germinating from any background. They emerge at around the age of 13 and by 16 they are either in a band or leading some form of alternative lifestyle with individual image to boot.These budding hippies who appear from nowhere decade after decade, will always gravitate towards the music of Gong and Steve Hillage.

Gong appeared on stage at around 9.15pm. They consisted of the members of  The Steve Hillage Band , plus Daevid Allen ( vocals and  guitar, and much leaping around), Gilli Smyth ( Vocals, “Space Whispers”, Goddess/Witch) and Theo Travis ( playing some rather excellent flute and sax).

Gong at The Forum 27/11/2009 ( minus Miquette)

We couldn’t help but notice that Gilli seemed older than the kind of woman you’d expect onstage with a rock band.We have been conditioned to expect only young people onstage doing weird rock music,  especially when it comes to women in a non-acoustic band.We are super-conditioned that only certain types of sexualised young women or alternatively young teenage rebel girls who shave their heads or dye it some extreme colour, will  be there. But I believe in breaking boundaries, most of the best classic bands are older, too old to rock and roll and too young to die? No! Get on stage, I say!

According to Wikipedia, Gilli Smyth, is 76 years old and used to be in academia, lecturing at the Sorbonne before deciding to do something all the more intellectual by forming Gong with her partner Daevid Allen.

Here is Gilli being a Witch on stage along to a free-form jazz jam from other members of Gong.

The Witch’s Song Performed at The Forum 27/11/2009  originally released 1973 on “Radio Gnome Invisible.Part One”

Daevid Allen is 71. But he bounces around the stage like a kangaroo on acid (and speed). Daevid has such a stage presence  that I can’t help but wonder what on earth he would do if he didn’t go on stage and dispel that energy. He is a jester with apparently boundless tigger-like energy. He definitely needs a stage to bounce on!

Gong- You Can’t Kill Me

Unfortunately the camera ran out of memory before being able to film Daevid in his special silver-white silk catsuit, embellished by CDs, or his “No one Knows I’m a Lesbian” T-Shirt, or when he chased Miquette around the stage, or was she chasing him, either way his energy was impressive.


Daevid Allen at The Forum 27/11/2009

Miquette having fun playing air guitar along to Steve (27/11/09-Forum)

There were times when Gong shouted and repeated the same line over like a cross between a sergeant major barking orders and the rat-rat-rat of a self-loading machine gun, which reminded me of war , riots and abrupt change. At other times, Gong intoned half-sung and half-spoken poems with themes of the collective unconscious and mythical archetypes in a free-from jazz jam, then planting  a strong melodic chorus , wherever and whenever it seemed the least expected. There were times when the music became ultra-psychedelic, the same repeated riff and beat, getting faster and louder with glissando guitars and excessive strobes, it went on in a cyclic fashion until it induced the brain into resistance or acceptance. I could not help but close my eyes to take it in. I felt like I was at some spiritual ceremony and that certain harmonious energies were being purposefully raised. I was pelted with rays of  white light and the sound of repeated musical mantras ,until I felt transported from the middle of winter, to a bright dance tent at some summer festival. People didn’t dance as much as they would in a dance tent though, but then we are older and we were tired by the end of the evening.

However there seemed to be some incredibly strong positive force present within the music. ..and I couldn’t help but notice that at the end of the evening, after a long encore and a very long gig,  Daevid Allen seemed to do a little ceremony to seal off each one of his chakra points, starting at his head and working his way down before leaving the stage.

Aha! I thought to myself , that’s where Daevid gets his energy from: rituals and chakras!

I am somewhat cynical about anything too religious, but they must be getting their energy from somewhere!

Love and Peace ( off to do yoga,meditation and find my chakras now!)

Born2rant

p.s. for more of a spiritual explanation click on Pete’s comment on the upper part of the left hand column of this blog or follow this link  to hear Daevid Allen’s spiritual vision for Gong( thanks again Pete).

http://vimeo.com/1626328

new readers to this blog  might be interested in this entry as well…

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