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

Too much partying: Hawkwind and onto Solfest…


Hello Good People who still read this blog…

Some music to start with….

Here is one of my favourite Hawkwind tracks , the apocalyptic “Angels of Death” ( always reminds me of Hell’s Angels)

I can’t embed the Porchester Hall version but you can find it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsnbxH0etbM

I have been trying to get my strange radio show up on youtube before writing this review but basically I haven’t been able to due to being temporarily enjoying  a second adolescence in the body of someone old enough to be my mother.

So I might as well write what I can remember of the last week or so, excluding some of the most decadent bits.

On Friday the 28th of August I went with a friend to the Hawkwind Party in Porchester Hall  ( W2) to celebrate their 40th anniversary. I had just come back from travelling and seeing friends as soon as I got back to London. I had already way overdone it before the onslaught of the weekend, and spent the morning under my duvet thinking how I was too tired to go anywhere and just wanted to sleep for a week.

At lunchtime a friend of mine arrived to go to the party with me , we listened to “Carl’s Hawkwind Cassette” as part of  getting in “the right frame of mind”. This is a compilation made for me by another friend 20 years ago of some the best Hawkwind tracks, apparently it’s been copied and circulated so much,that bikers totally unrelated to Carl also have a copy.

Hawkwind – “You Shouldn’t Do That

We arrived at about 3.30 pm, it was very strange for me as the location of the party was in the same building as my local library and being the middle of the day, it didn’t quite feel like a “party kind” of time or place. Our first pleasant surprise was getting a free commemorative bag containing a free CD featuring the sadly deceased keyboard player, Jason Stuart, a postcard signed by the entire band, a flyer for the tour, a ticket simulating that of  their first ever gig as “Group X” at the All Saints Hall , a “Planet Rock” sticker and a packet of popping candy.

In the red carpeted stairs up to the hall, some girls in sci-fi costumes on stilts asked us if we wanted to ask a question. We didn’t understand that this was for  a question and answer session later and so proceeded to the hall.We expected a long painful wait until Hawkwind took to the stage but as we entered the room they were already on the stage blasting away. There must have been about thirty people in the audience.  Dave Brock looked kind of surprised to see us coming in. In between songs we were told how we were the lucky ones for being there early we would see Hawkwind twice unlike those who turned up just for the evening.

As soon as we got in the hall, and as the afternoon progressed,the following became clear:

(I’ll be negative to start with and positive afterwards!)

a) Something had gone drastically wrong with the organisation, and as someone who has organised different types of gig over the years I was shocked at certain things especially the “lightshow” . I have seen powerpoint presentations that were more exciting. At one point my friend asked me if it was normal to keep seeing a projection of   drop-down menus projected at the back of the stage. He thought it might be some kind of “sci-fi effect” like H.A.L.,or some computer talking to us visually perhaps.  I said “No, it’s that they can’t operate the computer software. If a lighting engineer had done this at Megadog they would have been shot!” ( or retrospectively maybe they would have been “chilled out” of the organisation).

Also the sound was awful during the acoustic bits and not great,the rest of the time until Hawkwind came on. Sometimes this is a “trick” engineers do to make the main act sound better than the support, like a bride who forces the bridesmaids to wear ugly dresses to make them look better. However I really don’t think that this was the case here, I don’t think anything malicious was going on.

In terms of the café, when I ordered a very expensive egg roll,they told me it would take 30-40 minutes. So I dragged myself  to one of the many fast food places nearby instead.

Hawkwind – “Quark, Strangeness and Charm”

b) On the positive side, we had a great time and we found it very endearing and comical when things went wrong. It was like seeing a band who really was just starting out, maybe playing in a church hall .

I think I would have hated the party if it was all running smoothly like clockwork, with glamour and perfection. The spirit of Hawkwind is anarchy, rough and ready, improvisation, free festivals, beauty out of chaos and  breaking all the rules, all this was evident during the party.

The other acts it seemed, were either composed of members of Hawkwind or roadies .

I particularly enjoyed seeing Tim Blake playing the theremin with great expertise and gurning. It was quite funny when he announced that he was going to play “an acoustic number” for the first time ever with the band “The Elves of Silbury Hill” . He played the acoustic guitar and sang but the sound of his guitar was truly unamplified and his voice was faint too, Dave Brock and the others were pretty good at guessing what chords he was playing thank God. ( didn’t there used to be a free festival on Silbury Hill or am I confusing it with Sisbury Ring or was I at both? Don’t ask me! It was a long time ago when one festival blended into another).

Also playing a set was Huw Lloyd-Langton . He had chatted to us earlier in the audience, and was very friendly although I couldn’t really understand what he was saying to me. I don’t think I took enough drugs to understand what Huw was saying, he was communicating on another level. I recognised him as a familiar face from Portobello Road from  deep  in my past but didn’t realise who he was until he took to the stage. Unfortunately on Friday, anything acoustic was very quiet and muffled, except for the awful poet who was miles too loud. I am a fan of  performance poetry  but this guy’s material reminded me of Vogon poetry.

Here is a clip of Huw Lloyd-Langton jamming from the Saturday set when the sound was a lot better, still he managed to put a few extra beats in there to keep Dave  Brock (on harmonica) on his toes!

By the time Huw did his solo set I had gone out several times for a cigarette in Porchester Road. People walking around in the street in the rush hour were puzzled by what they saw, as the street was lined by the weirdest, most extreme looking hippies mostly dressed in black with long grey hair, many of whom were smoking such vast quantities of skunk that passers-by must have been affected by secondary smoking. Several people asked me what was going on and were surprised to hear that Hawkwind were playing upstairs from their library.

I couldn’t help but think that if this party had taken place in the late seventies , that the drug-squad would have been there,  certainly people would have been searched and arrested. But here we all were, in the middle of London,in the middle of the day, in a town which is half-way to being a chilling example of a police state, and yet one of the most political, anti-authoritarian bands ever, had escaped attention from the local coppers.

Hawkwind- “Urban Guerilla”

There were many comedic moments provided by the compere, although these were not planned. He kept telling us how Hawkwind had made it a true party and festival atmosphere by decorating the hall and all the stalls. Each time he said this, we all looked around at the completely bare hall and wondered what the hell he was talking about. I guess these things materialised on the Saturday but the more he referred to it , the more we chuckled.

Hawkwind – “Assault and Battery “( Porchester Hall on Saturday 29th August)

The compere read out a “timetable of events” from 4pm onwards, it was very informative and interesting, but totally inaccurate! Meanwhile, to be honest I got pretty “tired but happy” and a lot of the afternoon was a blur.

The only event that actually happened on time was Matthew Wright’s question time. It was just like Question Time on the BBC but instead of swarmy politicians trying to sidestep questions and make themselves look good, the questions were posed to a line of mostly totally incoherent members and ex-members of Hawkwind. The questions included ” Where’s Lemmy?” ( answer : on tour). No one dared ask “Where’s Nick Turner, Mick Slattery , Terry Ollis etc?”. Ah, how divorce is hard! Who gets the alimony, custody of the name and all the friends have to choose whose side they are on.

Matthew Wright was the most eloquent and seemingly organised person there, thank God. The most popular question was supplied by a  friend of mine: “What was the most acid you have ever taken before playing live on stage? ( and when and where)” The question made Matthew Wright laugh quite a lot and the panel who were initially reluctant to answer, eventually got involved in a long discussion.

Dave said it was at the Windsor Free Festival, Huw disagreed but I am not sure what he was saying.Then there was a lengthy and confusing debate which involved orange and apple juice. Everyone in the panel contributed enthusiastically, but I’m not sure they were all answering the same question.

By the time Hawkwind rounded off the evening, introduced I think by Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, or maybe he introduced someone else.

Hawkwind started with Assault and Battery and ended with Farenheit 451, which I sang all the way down the stairs and down Westbourne Grove, occasionally punching the air.

“Farenheit 451” ( I would have prefered it with the Truffaut film as a visual)

In between the beginning and end the songs seemed go very fast from one to the other. It’s all a bit of a blur I’m afraid. Matthew Wright sang “Spirit of The Age”. I can’t put a clip up of that version,but here it is from the album.

The also did “Magnu” ( this is footage from the Friday…I will have been dancing like a maniac somewhere not far)

After the gig, I stayed up for a couple of hours and had a couple of hours sleep. I woke up a six a.m., I am usually moderate with my intake, but not this time. I realised I had to pack for a camping trip and catch a train leaving at King’s Cross at 7 a.m. to get to Solfest in Cumbria. I dawdled, writing emails instead of getting ready and then threw a few things in a suitcase. The tube got delayed at Edgware Road, my brain was in a total haze,and as I ran up the stairs to King’s Cross station carrying a heavy suitcase I thought :“I’m going to die of a heart attack running to get to a festival! How fitting!” then I thought of Lemmy and somehow I made it onto that train with one minute to spare , I arrived at Solfest ten hours later…

Leaving you with Hawkwind “Better Believe it”

and another jolly tune “Psi Power” ( Hawklords)

I got to go to bed now, going to bed early for the first time in a couple of months.Will try to get it together to do a brief review of Solfest and much more ranting soon.

Love and Peace

Born2rant

The Big Green Dispersion and Solfest 2009


Hello Good People who read this blog ,

(to anyone who read my Guilfest post, I have just added a video clip of Alice Armstrong at the end of it)

Just a note to say  that I just got an email from my son telling me that “The Big Green Gathering“, probably the official festival most like the older style alternative free festivals of the eighties , has been cancelled.

The Big Green Gathering really does represent  alternative hippie counterculture in all its creative and political forms, so it’s very sad.

Some footage of the Big Green Gathering one of many clips to be found on youtube but this one is particularly well put together.

Here is the notice from the BGG website:

Welcome to
The Big Green Gathering
The world’s premier and award winning Green Festival
Attitude Is Everything – Bronze Level Award
July 29th – 2nd August 2009
urgent message

Dear Friends,
following threatened injunction proceedings in High Court by Mendip District Council supported by Somerset & Avon Police and having taken extensive advice from a prominent QC and other eminent lawyers, the directors of the Big Green Gathering have been left with no other option than to voluntarily surrender the license for the Big Green Gathering 2009. The event will now not take place and the directors’ advice and request is that no one intending to attend the event should attempt to do so, as the site is now closed and they are likely to be turned away by Somerset Police. It is our intention to avoid any form of confrontation or public disorder in regard to this and it is our earnest hope that all those involved will follow this advice. It is with great sadness that we have been forced into this position and we express our profound apologies to all those concerned. The Directors of The Big Green Gathering

This is a very last minute decision. I don’t fully understand why the festival has been banned by the local council and police.

According to the BBC , the festival is cancelled for safety reasons as well as crime. Is this the whole reason? Or is it to stop political subversives from meeting in large quantities?

see BBC website: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/somerset/8169477.stm

is it really that dangerous that it must be closed down?

It looks like a great way to socialise kids and help them to build for the future when the world will change through our abuse of it.

Here are some more highly dangerous and criminal activities at the BGG.Young people making their own films of the festival. These are fantastic.

**********************************************************************************************************

Meanwhile I should be going to Solfest in Cumbria at the end of August( 28th -30th) ,after going to Hawkwind’s 40th Anniversary gig at Porchester Halls in London the night before.

It’s a long way from London but still my favourite festival, the atmosphere is much friendlier than festivals in the south and people go there not to see any particular band but for the festival experience.Everyone is co-operative and creates a good atmosphere, Saturday is “Fancy Dress” day,which is always spectacular and inventive.

I recommend it for any hippies out there who can no longer go to The Big Green Gathering, but get your tickets early.

It only costs £85 for the weekend  including camping  and car with very limited tickets. You can get there easily from Carlisle by train and minibus.

from the Solfest website:

“Tickets for Solfest 2009 will be available from the following outlets:

  • The Carnegie Theatre, Workington, 01900 602122 (telephone and counter sales, cash and cards accepted)
  • The Cumberland Building Society, Aspatria (over the counter cash sales only)
  • The Cumberland Building Society, Wigton (over the counter cash sales only)
  • The Cumberland Building Society, Silloth (over the counter cash sales only)

For Solfest 2009 there will be a total of 6500 adult tickets available. There will also be a total of 750 children’s tickets and 750 Young people’s tickets. When they are gone, they are gone!”

Although I said that it isn’t the bands that matter, the line-up includes The Charlatans who I saw do a great live gig at Guilfest. Other acts include The Orb, Kula Shaker, Adrian Edmonson and the Bad Shepherds, The Beat ( who I was told did a great set at Guilfest too), The Buzzcocks, the  Blockheads, Nerina Pallot, and many more.

Solfest has all the things lacking at Guilfest in terms of quality of festival-going experience.

A sample from last year’s Solfest , as part of the goings-on in the all night Dogs in Space chill out tent featuring a bit of  Tetchi who are billed to play again there this year (this film makes the tent look a lot darker than in real life, it was actually fairly bright in there).

Any comments on why you think The Big Gathering was cancelled?

Love and Peace

Born2rant

p.s. thanks to the UK Hippie Forum, I have found this update about what to do if you have a ticket.Is there a UK Beatnik Forum? and a UK Crusty Forum? and if not why not?

Next time a radio show I made about the songwriting communities of Open Mic clubs in London.

From BGG website ( note that Gong are playing the Big Chill keep referring to the BGG website for news, the Big Chill is a good place if you want a holiday but it’s nothing like the BGG experience in terms of  green anarchy, still I think  it’s good that they’ve done this, better that than leave people totally stranded)

Several other festivals have already approached us, offering to accept BIg Green Gathering tickets for their events. Some have placed no limit on the number of our ticket holders they will accept. Others have offered us a quota… and have told us that they will announce, on their websites, how many they can accomodate and how many places for BGG ticket holders they still have left. So far, if you have paid for a ticket (whether full price or concession) you will find it is definitely good for full admission to SUNRISE 2010 (late May 2010, Somerset) See website for details of how their BGG swap quota is standing and we are hoping, soon, to announce similar swap options for several festivals. Watch this space please.
ALSO
If you are willing to pay an extra £20, you can swap your Big Green Gathering ticket for a ticket to the BIG CHILL. All you have to do is turn up at the gate of the Big Chill with your BGG ticket and your extra £20. We’ll have a stall there, and some of the same speakers who were on our bill (including Jonathan Cainer) will be in their Words In Motion tent. Also on the Big Chill bill are Max Romeo, Gong, Pharoah Sanders and Music from the Penguin Cafe, plus comedy from Noel Fielding, Tim Minchin, John Hegley, Josie Long and Rob Deering.
Click here for the link. Please note; the Big Chill is not yet a Green event but they do have a long history of supporting honourable causes including Amnesty International… and they are now starting to use more solar and wind power. Solar Aid have a presence there this year.
OR
If you really want to make a gesture of faith and support… you can hold on to your ticket and we will honour it at the next Big Green Gathering, wherever and whenever it will be.
If we can avoid having to give too many straight refunds, it will help us survive. And if you are feeling extra-ordinarily generous, you can simply write to us telling us that you are ‘donating’ your ticket towards our survival fund.



Solfest (Cumbria) 2008…a personal journey


Hello Good people who read this blog

(there may be some editorial mistakes I missed still swimming about)

( this post is very long to save your eyes from going funny copy it & print it!)

I am still coming down from the high of going to Solfest where although there were some initial stresses a thoroughly good time was enjoyed by myself and my companions.

You just can’t beat Solfest as a small friendly creative festival. It has no pretentions of grandeur it is what it is like most of the festival attendees it’s simply there being alternative, subversive, artistic, musical and just a having bloody good time . It doesn’t need to do any social climbing or promote itself.

It sold out but it doesn’t sell out to corporate nonsense or music biz nonsense.

The clips I put up were made by other people I was too busy enjoying myself to film anything!

This is the Human Jukebox you have to put a pound and they will play what you chose!

The Journey to Solfest

Although my son decided to travel from London up to the festival some 10 million miles away in a small car containing 4 blokes,  4 different types of guitar, a mixer, a saxophone, computers, a keyboard and 4 tents, 4 rucksacks and probably more. I decided to travel up the easy way by train and was due to borrow one of the lad’s guitars to perform as I couldn’t carry mine along with everything else.

I have a lot of respect for any festival that puts on a free bus from the local train station and no respect for those who don’t! We all need to be green and some of us don’t drive. There was a lot of traffic trying to get into the festival  and our friendly patient minibus driver took us through the lake district on a detour to avoid congestion he then took me and a couple of others near the artist’s gate which I was very grateful for.

There were a few teething problems on the Friday at The Chill-Out (Dogs in Space) stage jointly organised by Michael Dog of Megadog and Fred of SPACED which was where I was due to camp and perform. I think there were gremlins at work either that or just the heavy rain. The power was failing frequently all evening leaving punters in the dark and with acts having to start and stop, plus there were sound problems with feedback when anyone used a microphone onstage and other technical problems with speakers and then with the generator but the vibe was still good. Thanks to the hard work and brainpower of the crew the many various difficulties were all sorted out by Saturday . I was due to perform the next day at Saturday lunchtime and didn’t really start to relax and enjoy myself fully until after my gig.

Another creative lunatic from Solfest this year!

Never lend a guitar to a man at a festival (even if it’s Bob Dylan wanting try out his new song)

I got up Saturday around 11a.m. after a couple of hours sleep , being camped backstage is great in many ways but you have to be able to sleep through the universal “doof-doof-doof-dum dum doof-doof-doof etc…” from the Dance Tent combined with the much quieter all night djs in the Chill Out tent and louder than both of these were the bass lines bursting out from the Disco Fromage nearby.

Subsequent nights I slept fine with some well placed earplugs and an extra layer of clothing to keep me warm in bed.

I had my pre-gig nerves but knew these could be handled if I followed my plan to rehearse alone and spend some quiet time to relax before going on.  But hey, it’s a festival… I should have known better than expect anything to go to plan!

I borrowed a six string acoustic guitar from one of the two Hamishes resident at the Chill-Out tent.

I started to rehearse backstage with a bit of an audience and this poet who was also about to go stage just before me wanted to play me a song and said he was going to use the guitar onstage. He was a nice guy and in spite of the fact that I soon wanted to garrotte him with a guitar string in a very unhippie way I am sure he is still a very nice guy.

I reluctantly handed him the guitar and to cut a very long story short this was a big mistake. He kept telling me that if I was nervous I had to do this breathing exercise and trying to persuade me to do this exercise while simultaneously breaking the strings on the guitar one by one. Then he was rushing off to get another string to put it on and then telling me to do the breathing exercise again for my nerves, then showing me how to put on a guitar string ( as if I didn’t know how to do this after putting them for myself for 35 years) and each time he would snap the string again. Somehow he got through two spare sets of guitar strings. He would not let me or the owner of the guitar have it back as he was deeply apologetic and was adamant he would fix it himself.

I lost count of how many strings he broke after 4 or 5 I could no longer stand watching him and was frantically going up to random people asking them to lend me an acoustic guitar as I was about to play on stage. Eventually he found a replacement guitar for us ( thanks to Blenkie the owner of said guitar)   but I decided I’d had enough and was not going to risk any more damage. In a very unhippie way,  I grabbed the guitar and made a mad dash off with it while the poet was still telling me to do this breathing exercise to calm my nerves.

The adrenaline from stage nerves , the string breaking incident plus some feedback problems on stage meant my performance had a few mistakes in it but no one seemed to notice and it went well, the lovely  people at Solfest came up to me throughout the festival to say they enjoyed it.

I sincerely hope to play there again and other festivals but with my own guitar which will be kept hidden from poets.

Doof! (Mr Psik)

Some of the people I met

Here is one of the enthusiastic and vibrant people I met and saw perform  Buntyface in the Chill-Out tent this year but this footage is from the previous year…need to feed my brain now…

All the people I met at Solfest were friendly and approachable although a minority were too out of it to really communicate including one old hippie complete with hippie hat who came into the Chill-Out tent and played with the decor of dangling shiny silver threads in the middle of the tent then proceeded to climb on the tables and fall on people, another old drunken hippie was shouting “What about me?” to various people  very loudly during a film and I also saw a steward crawling into a speaker under the stage to pass out from the evening’s excesses ( I checked to see that he was still breathing). But generally speaking people were able to hold full conversations and/or dance wildly to the proceedings.

Various people made an impression on me for instance I was chatting to a singer the same age as me. She said she wouldn’t even bother with women who lied about their age that it was a kind of dishonesty , that she was proud of who she was and that her age meant she was able to give advice to people. She was a (young) grandmother and proud of it. She also had a disability which meant she had to take very strong painkillers every four hours, even in the middle of the night or be in such pain that she would pass out and needed a special kind of bed to sleep in.  This woman was performing in a band and camping at a festival. She also had a varied lovelife. I suddenly felt that there were no excuses not to live your life fully no matter what your circumstances and to wear your age with pride.

I was also impressed by a woman working at “The Camel’s Arse”café one morning. She was single-handedly taking a constant stream of orders, dealing with the money and calling out people’s names when their meals were ready. She was clearly exhausted and stressed and yet she had a smile on her face illustrated with facepaints and greeted each customer with a welcoming cheerful tone that warranted a medal.

The Saturday fancy-dress code enabled people to be endlessly inventive. There were hundreds of interesting costumes for instance in our tent I saw someone dressed as a whoopie cushion, a couple of dominos danced with a pack of  fascinated little children while a Big Friendly Giant on stilts scared them a bit.
Outside at night I saw an incredible sight. Four illuminated people on bicycles. Each bike and rider covered with carefully placed fairy lights, each  a seperate colour, they were spectacular when they cycled in the darkness.

Loads of men in drag, usually the butch macho men.

Outside the Chill-Out tent I shared a fag with “Martin” and “Amy”, two bumbling drunk hairy macho scousers with big black wigs, mini skirts ( frequently falling down and needing to be pulled up again), and make-up plastered on their face. One of them staggered up to me and asked if I had any crack cocaine. I was a bit taken aback until I realised he was “in character” and was pretending to be Amy Winehouse. He showed me his tattoos on one bicep he had a delicatedly drawn diagram of male sexual equipment and on the other a more scrawled “BLAKE”. “Martin” who I suggested should be called “Martina”  was well over six foot tall . He asked me if I liked his make up as he had spent hours getting ready. I looked up at his face, his crimson lipstick was not just on his lips but also plastered all around his stubbly face along with eyeliner that was also heftily and precariously applied. I just looked at him and laughed. They ranted about how they had left their wives and children and were going to have the operation and other things. Everything they said and did made me laugh. I told them they made a great double act and should be onstage. Martin responded “You haven’t seen us together in bed yet” the image was too much for my mind to cope with.

The “Dogs in Space“crew were great too and I had many rambling and bizarre conversations with them at all times of day and night, I already knew most of them some being part of the family past or present.

Here is a clip of the Chill-Out tent at night taken by Michael although it was a lot brighter than this in real life! ( I am  hoping  he won’t mind me linking  it up here  but I don’t think he will. Go to Michael Dog’s myspace

www.myspace.com/michaeldog

for more photos of Solfest 2008 and another video of daytime in the chill-out tent!)


Some of the acts I enjoyed

In terms of entertainment I missed a lot of it because there was simply so much going on and I was spending most of my time at the “Dogs in Space” tent. I still have not attended a Solfest workshop or other activities such as sauna etc..
At the Chill-Out ( Dogs in Space) tent there was a huge variety of acts going on and it was very different to the previous year. The tent ran 24 hours a day and ended at 8 a.m. Monday morning so there was room for variety.
They had acoustic bands with harps, hurdy gurdies, jazz, singer-songwriters, djs, vjs, experimental electronica bands, films, poetry, weird jams, hip-hop rapping and probably more that I missed. Hosted by Michael Dog and assisted by Len from Needle and Thread not forgetting the invaluable input of the second Hamish and sound engineer Matt both great characters.

Some of my favourite acts from the “Dogs in Space” tent included……..
The 2.2 killaVolt Cables whose beautiful melodic electronica that can be listened to lying down or when dancing. In their spare time they also put on shows  with a dance company from the Laban School in London.
To listen to their music check out their myspace :   http://www.myspace.com/twopointtwokv

I also greatly enjoyed an extended set from the Bonsai Big Band from South London. Their brand of nu- jazz was immaculately performed and structured in sections like a symphony with layer upon layer of tastily textured instrumental lines.

I missed Mixmorris Morris’ set  as he was on in the middle of the night but had a chat with him and hope to see him again. He said he’d been in Canada and Japan djing recently and he was very excited to tell me that he had sung with a band his own songs at The Big Chill Festival earlier this summer. It was the first time he had sung on stage for years. He looked well and relaxed.

I also enjoyed hearing the acoustic guitar virtuosity of Hamish Meany ( whose guitar was trashed by a poet and who drove half the performers 10 million miles up to the festival).

The cheerful jazz showtunes of Tres Fez fronted by the talented Helen Maher ( singer and accordion player)
and more….

I didn’t visit the Drystone Stage ( Acoustic Music)  much. This was because I spend a lot of time in acoustic clubs performing or listening to acoustic music and I wanted a break from it. However you can listen to a podcast of some of the performers by copying and pasting this link:

http://drystone.podOmatic.com/entry/2008-07-01T08_29_18-07_00

I was also not in the mood for dancing as my legs were tired so I didn’t venture too far into the Disco Fromage or the Dance Tent.

However I was unexpectedly taken backstage into the Dance Tent and sat on a metal box onstage behind Michael (Dog of Megadog ) while he did his set. The sound wasn’t too loud through the on stage monitors and I was able to rest my legs and enjoy the music and the spectacular lightshow/projections. God I sound like I’m 100 years old.  Some really mad band went on after him and I danced a bit to that. Sorry that is such a brief and sedentary review of the Dance Tent!

On the Main stage I saw a bit of Supergrass , a bit of Alabama 3 , a bit of Dreadzone.
My favourite acts included the very manic folk/rockabilly/ska  Black Velvet Band. Although there was an embarrassing moment when the over-energetic lead singer said ” This next song is the story of a virgin and a ( something or other)…Are there any virgins out in the audience?”
Then he looked down as there were about 20 or 30 little girls and boys dancing right in front of the stage and said . “..except for you of course” .
Oh how I cringed on his behalf!
* (see comment by Louis of The Black Velvet Band below this post)
I also very much enjoyed dancing to the mute Bikini Beach Band who dressed in orange costumes, fez hats and shades played a variety of pop tunes re-arranged in ace surf music style and accompanied by two Hawaiian grass-skirted dancers.

On the Bar Stage I went to see The Hamsters but arrived just in time to hear them say a final ” Thank you and Goodnight”. Still I can go see them back in London at the Half Moon in Putney where they play the last Saturday of every month.
I saw a couple of mad heavy rock bands that made me laugh, cheered me up and made me realise I’m not that good a guitar player and should learn  more.
Firstly a band called “Off the Hook” with an impressive over-the-top lead singer and frontman with a wrestler’s demeanour, stomping about the stage like a stormtrooper hitting cymbals attached to the microphone stand aggressively. He also took the bass player by surprise hitting him between the legs with his drumstick. (This sounds rude but it wasn’t, it was just bonkers.)
The final act on the Bar Stage was just so entertaining I’ve saved writing about them until last.
Forget MOTORHEAD, forget BLACK SABBATH, forget “The Darkness”
( who?  they were easily forgotten) for now we have a band who not only are Motorhead and Sabbath rolled into one but they can turn any pop tune into a heavy metal epic.They’re bloody good musicians and hilarious too.

I am speaking of a band who are the new Spinal Tap and Bad News but more inventive.( they might even be as good as Bludgen..seeThe Chainsaw Party (still feeling guilty about this)


This is a band descended from Vikings (having emigrated to Newcastle) known as  “AROCKALYPSE NOW”.

Here is a clip from their Rockumentary the full thing is up on youtube ( starting off with a cover of a “Bad News” song and then to disco hit “You Spin Me Right Round”)


On Sunday night I had left my son and his friend dancing at the Disco Fromage as I wanted to go hear some live music.

I then came across the fabulous “Arockalypse Now” doing a heavy metal version of ” Play That Funky Music White Boy” on the Bar Stage and it was so good that I ran back down the hill and dragged them off the illuminated dance floor saying “I’m taking you to a higher place where you can both dance and hear good live music“. ( or something less dramatic but it doesn’t sound as good).
They were persuaded and when we got there they were not disappointed. The audience were going completely berserk dancing and headbanging carried away by the passion and lunacy of the performers on the stage. Some people behind me were all dancing while holding up a carpet, it was mad. They played a number of tunes including codpiece Cameo’s Word Up“. The thing is the quality of the musicianship and how they arranged the songs was just amazing. If they were in London I’d go and see them every Saturday night to shrug off the stresses of the week.
Here is a clip of them at Solfest doing “The Final Countdown” but it’s not as great as I remembered at the time. I think being far away from the stage , poor sound quality and not being actually there in the drunken crowd has a lot to do with it.
Check out their myspace site….  http://http://www.myspace.com/arockalypsenow
(they do a great version  of Ziggy Stardust).
Enjoy!

Love and peace
Born2rant
(Undercover Hippie tempted to start headbanging again)

(My thanks to Michael for “strongly suggesting” I play in the Chill-Out tent and putting me on his artist list and to Len (for strongly accepting the suggestion))

Steve Hillage Part 3 :Gone to Heaven and Found System 7


Steve Hillage Part 3 :Gone to Heaven and Found System 7
(something old , something new, something borrowed,something Green)


Hello Good People who read this blog! (sorry about typos I am still editing this!)

Apologies for the delay since my last entry.
Yesterday
I went to Heaven last night and saw System 7.

launchparties2c.gif
Preamble….
I have to say that I wasn’t in the mood to go to the album launch party. This was for a totally different reason. Recently I’ve been thinking of learning to play Congolese music on the guitar from a guy I met at a folk club ( The Green Note) in Camden called Nick Mulvey whose guitar playing is stunning. Yesterday afternoon, impressed by the Congolese style of guitar playing I’d heard Nick playing , I went online to find out a bit more about the Congo which is now split into 2 countries .
I read some deeply disturbing facts about “the war against women” in The Democratic Republic of Congo and it had put me in a mood of feeling just so naive about what is really going on in this world and how cut off and priviledged we are in this country.
I phoned up my son in Germany for some some encouragement to go to the gig knowing he would be very envious of my seeing System 7, Eat Static, and Alex Patterson and Slack Baba .

He told me that I must go and to wear something “funky” so I did! I wore something funky and totally untrendy that suited my hippie roots and I went.

I got there just in time as System 7 were already on stage. Steve Hillage was wearing glasses but they suited him ( I am being so shallow but honest! I wish I could think of a witty joke including the phrase ” should have gone to specsavers” but I can’t).

dragon-and-phoenix

I was feeling self-conscious at first alone in a rather over-the-top outfit at Heaven and decided that I would not and could not dance. However the music was infectious and I started to move and then once dancing I could not stop.
I recognised the beautiful “Hinotori” and “Song for the Phoenix” from the youtube excerpts .Others of my too-old-to-be-dancing-to-techno generation surrounded me going berserk in time to the music , including a guy who danced with me who looked exactly like Howard Marks I still don’t know if it was him.

Some of the crowd were young and alternative, others young and gay and not really familiar with System 7 et al, and mostly people in their thirties who probably used to go to Megadog but no one I knew apart from those on stage. I was half expecting to see Mixmaster Morris dancing there or some significant others but even surrounded by strangers I felt at home and sharing a common need to dance and celebrate life there and then.
Miquette as usual seemed to be enjoying herself smiling at the audience and making synth sounds. Steve Hillage played a lot of guitar and at times I just wanted them to take out all the sequenced drum beats ( sorry I know I am using uncool music terminology because I am a 60s and 70s music person) because I just wanted to hear the live guitar on its own.
There was a good lightshow with some interesting video clips but the music was the main thing for me.
There was a contrast of old and new. Some bits of rock guitar and psychedelic ” analog” sounding synth, some ambient phases and then the hardcore techno. But no matter what style and twists and turns the music made it was always colourful and multidimentional and never once got boring .

I confess that a lot of techno bores me senseless when too repetitive but this was not in that category. Furthermore rather than trying to be too cool/trendy to make an effort to relate to their audience Steve and Miquette frequently made eye contact with the crowd and smiled warmly.


Here is a bit from the album courtesy of System7 on Youtube “Hinotori

They played their new “Phoenix“album which has samples of old and new. “Hinotori” has bits of rock guitar riffs, with ambient keyboards and the “thumping bass”.

I’ll pause this assessment of the new System 7 album with a little rant about where I am coming from

In case you hadn’t guessed by now, I am not a “clubber” although I’ve been to a lot of club nights over the years. I’d so much like to hear a live bassist and drummer and percussionist with this music, but I guess then the bass-player would inevitably want to play something more complex and less trance-like than the simple one note on one beat and it would alter the experience. There is something about “repetitive beats” that switches off the endless chatter of the mind and waves of emotions and takes you into wanting to move and to feel the rhythm connecting in your body like a kind of physical euphoric meditation . However I still prefer a live band and emotions and the chatter of the mind over dancing .The experience of dancing to ambient/trance/techno music in a friendly atmosphere I can enjoy from time to time, it has its plus points, I can get on a physical and mental high without the use of toxic substances and sometimes make new friends, get fit but there’s no denying that I prefer live bands with songs, emotions, controversy, mayhem.

Now back to the gig/Phoenix Album…..

The celestial and very beautiful”Song for the Phoenix” (which you can hear on my previous entry or on youtube) starts with Tibetan bells and has guitar that sounds almost acoustic through reverb, there are many familiar sounds here and there and I wonder if samples for Steve’s works from the seventies were used in places. I wish I was more of an anorak and could tell you.
The dancing crowd went completely crazy as samples of Gong’s “Pot-Head Pixies” singing ” I am , you are , we are crAAAZEEE!”
were blended with industrial beats ( if they are not industrial then I was just guessing! I need my son to help me with the right lingo)

The atmosphere was fantastic and wildly energetic and there was room enough dance madly without injuring others too badly . I did not see any big fish or little fish just individuals inventing their own crAAAAZEEE dances to this Gong sample track called “Strange Beings“.
During other pieces there were episodes of glissando guitar and sometimes just mayhem but it was all good.
Towards the end of their set they were joined by Slack Baba and Alex Paterson creating interesting and at times maybe conflicting mixtures which seemed to be due to a short technical setback but no one minded as it was still good enough to dance to…and let’s face it … once you start dancing to this kind of music it is impossible to stop if the good vibe is still there.

Lastly Merv ( Eat Static) joined them on an electronic pad drums and played in his usual forceful way in control and master of any rhythm . He is really is an astounding live drummer.

I wish the 5 of them had gone on for longer but it had to end. There was a lot of cheering and shouting and handshaking, even minor stage-invasion at one point.
The last time I had seen System 7 was in the dance tent at Solfest this summer but the atmosphere was totally different here. In the huge dance tent it had been very loud, very heavy, very crowded and I had felt alienated in the noise , the stage seemed remote and I was surrounded with people dancing with a bit of an aggressive and drunken edge to it that time. Last night the venue was cosier, the crowd was smiling, joyful and the volume was not deafening and so the more melodic aspects of the music could be more freely enjoyed without distortion.
Afterwards Alex Paterson ( The Orb) did a set and the bass was cranked way up . Later still after 1 a.m. Merv on his own started a Joie-less set for Eat Static I would have loved to have stayed but this time everything was cranked way up on trebble and bass and all the middle frequencies too! and my ears without earplugs just had to be taken home, plus I’d danced solidly for two hours and considering I have just shed wearing a neckbrace after having an agonising neck I thought it wise to leave and stop dancing before I risked further pain and inflammation. ( I’m so boring I know but I did enough excessive headbanging next to bass drum speakers when younger and lost a little of hearing and braincells).

I had a sore neck this morning but it was worth it. Last night I felt euphoric without alcohol of drugs, or even friends, just from the music, the never-ending dancing and the friendly atmosphere. I’ll see Merv in Eat Static or the Ozrics another time.
I was so impressed with System 7′s gig that I bought the new album on the way home which is playing happy vibe music on my computer as I tap my little blog here.

I love “Makimura -Space Pilot“( track 8).

If you like the old Steve Hillage guitar playing but not keen on pounding techno BUY THIS ALBUM ! and then we can try to persuade them to do it on “Later” on BBC2
( with Merv on drums) .

Jools Holland would be perplexed by something that actually is innovative and vibrant and not like so many hyped up acts I’ve seen on that show. Steve Hillage could teach them a thing or two!

This is the cover of “Green” from 30 years ago definitely one of my desert island discs.Cover of “Green” 1978

Some of the elements of this new album remind me of Green are they samples or is it the spirit?
Now I am listening to “Wolf-Head“(track 9) which is written in collaboration with Eat Static it’s great too. It’s like rock and deeply chaotic synth weirdness , clever passages of dark, light and a guest appearance of R2D2.

They probably use samples from Eat Static tracks . If you happen to know where from tell us in a comment.
Go to this link to hear these tracks now

http://www.a-wave.com/system7/
then click on the title that says
PHOENIX New album released Jan 28th 2008 – MP3 page
and you can listen to all the tracks!
then support System 7 by buying their album.

Yes I am biased and any other reviews of any other bands will no doubt be far more critical.
I wish I’d had a camera or phone to take pictures but I didn’t think of it but there were plenty of people filming .

Next time a review of Steve Hillage’s live in 1979 DVD and rant on about Steve Hillage some more.

( at some point I will do a little thing about Cantlin Stone ..but not yet!)

Here is a sample of System 7 at Glastonbury 2007

If you are having trouble watching this press pause until it has fully downloaded.
P.S. I was so upset about what I read about the ongoing war in Congo that I joined Amnesty International today…long overdue. I hope in the future to do something more to help rebuild peace and the welfare of people in this country, the DRC or Democratic Republic of Congo. If you want to know a bit more even though it is harrowing to read then please go to these sites. I cannot believe this stuff is not in our mainstream news more often.
Article in The Guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/nov/12/congo.international

BBC report in 2002
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/2405563.stm

Amnesty International Article
http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/africa/central-africa/dr-congo

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


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


Hello Good people who read this blog…

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

So here we go…

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

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

Anyway back to Steve Hillage….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Anyone who sounded like Steve Hillage

2. Steve Hillage

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

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

Hurdy Gurdy Man (song by Donovan)

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

Steve Hillage and band:

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

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

Ranting about music and connections between people and events…

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

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

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

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

Goodnight….

More Soon….Please go to

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

for more info on Steve Hillage!

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

Encrypted: psychedelic nights at the Deptford Crypt


Encrypted

This part is a bit about my involvement with The Crypt in Deptford. Although my memories are hazy I hope that it might spur others to write about their memories of this underground wild psychedelic club in the 1980s in the Crypt St Paul’s Church Deptford.St.Paul’s Church Deptford
(photo from Church website http://www.paulsdeptford.org.uk)

There were other nights run there including a gay night where I performed as Astragone Arglegargle. That experience and others involving The Crypt’s promoter and Club Dog would run into another few pages, also there were reggae sound systems and acid house music at a later date, but I will focus on just the 80s psychedelic club in this bit of writing.
The main band I went to see there was The Ozric Tentacles however some of the other bands included the following ( many of them start with “The” in their name!)
The Stone Roses, The Magic Mushroom Band, Treatment, The TV Personalities, The Invisible Band , The Cardiacs, Space Pirates, Wooden Baby, Nukli, and many many more……

thecryptdeptford.jpgPhoto from www.televisionpersonalities.co.uk

My first trip to the The Crypt must was around 1985 and was probably due to going to see my friends in the band “Treatment”. Through running gigs at Dead Dog promotions and playing in bands meant we were finding other people from the psychedelic scene in London or they were finding us.
For example I was in a band with Michael and some good friends (“Instant Istigkeit” you will never have heard of us, we only ever played at a couple of festivals), when we went up to Stonehenge in 1984. We played on a stage run by the Magic Mushroom band and we were supported by Dr and the Medics. Two of the girls in Dr. and the Medics hung out at our camp and told us how they had just got a manager and would soon be part of the music biz. I think it was through them that we got to know Christian and The Alice in Wonderland crew at Gossip’s in Soho. At a festival in Cambridge we met Rory from the Invisible Band who was running a stage and we played there. At the Norwich festival we met more London hippies doing interesting things and kept bumping into the same crowd. Since the Magic Mushroom Band and the others all played at the Crypt this was the link.
The guy who ran the club who I will call ” Kev” for legal reasons ( although his real name was Andy) was not a hippie at all .He was an ex-policeman and an entrepreneur who used his links with the local police to create a psychedelic club where you could get stoned all night and drink all night and know that you definitely would never get busted for either.
The Crypt was in the basement of St Paul’s church in Deptford. It’s still there now although no longer used as a club and the church website makes no mention of its history.
If you didn’t live in Deptford or in the area and didn’t have a car it was a very difficult place to travel to and back from. The club threw people out at around 4 a.m. or if you were lucky 6 a.m. and the first buses and trains did not start until 6.a.m.. There were night buses but only one every two hours or so, it was a question of having a car , hitching or begging a lift off someone home.
When the place was not full of punters before a show you could see it for what it really was.The place was a damp , mildewy, run down place with dirty walls and dirty floor and a dodgy loo without doors . But with the dope smoke , the fantastic lightshows, the colourlful drugged up crowd dancing like maniacs, and of course the amazing music , it became a magical place. There were very few public places in London you could smoke dope safely. All the hippies were cynical about the ex-copper but I never knew the place to get busted although maybe it did at a later date.
Since I was not living in South London in the eighties it was usually the trek there and back I remembered the most, like trying to find Shangri-La except unlike the Himalayas you could get mugged and the views weren’t as good( older hippies will understand the Shangri-La and “Lost Horizon” references).

A Night of Psychedelic Adventures circa 1986?

At that time the days of my every day life were quite mundane as a full-time single mum and socialising with other local parents living in Harlesden who had no connection with the psychedelic scene.
However I’ve always enjoyed a double life…
I think it might have been Halloween in 1986, I had the evening and night off.
I knew this biker couple called Jenny (a scouser) and Cedar ( not their real names). It’s so funny now because I thought Jenny was really much older than me at the time because she was thirty, I think Cedar was 25 the same as me.
Jenny and Cedar were bikers, they were an attractive couple and always dressed from head to toe in leather.
We planned( on the spur of the moment!) to go to The Marquee Club in Wardour Street to see The Cardiacs. I was going to try to get us in for free because they had seen me many times at Club Dog . We didn’t have much money on us but we went down there anyway. There were huge queues to get in to the place in Wardour Street and it sold out. We soon realised we wouldn’t get in as the place was exceeding the new fire regulations!
We decided to go to a pub nearby called “The Ship” just a couple of doors down. We went in there and at the bar next us I saw Lemmy. He was wearing a Motorhead Ace of Spades T-shirt and well..it was Lemmy!
I had seen Lemmy many times as he liked to walk up and down Portobello Road most Saturdays loudly in his boots when Michael and I used to run a stall there in the late 70s early 80s.Lemmy used to hang out in Notting Hill with a regular groups of bikers/headbangers who I knew vaguely but I’d never actually met Lemmy .
He was very famous at this time but I thought it was a safe bet to chat to him.
So while we were all lined up at the bar I nudged Jenny and whispered “Look who it is, we should say hello”, she nudged Cedar and in a macho blokey way Cedar took over the proceedings and talked to Lemmy while kind of keeping me and Jenny at bay.
Anyway we shook hands and eventually we went to sit down with him. He asked us all what we wanted to drink and bought us each a round and then he asked us what fags we smoked and he gave us each our favourite fags, for me it was rolling tobacco and rizzlas and he went out of his way to get some for me as there was none in the pub, but then he went to sit at another table and left us to it..
We sat there for a while and I suggested we should go to The Crypt because I knew the guy running it . I had performed at the Crypt as Astragone Arglegarle and Kev had messed me around over bookings and he knew he owed me a favour . So after that he always let me in for free ( you have to understand we had virtually no money on us).I knew the Ozrics were playing there as they’d told me.
But around that time the Ozrics told me something really weird….I had said to them that I’d seen them billed to be playing in 2 different venues in London on the same night. It might have been that night actually. Either Joie or Ed had told me they had 2 bands to cope with the amount of gigs they were doing. They had so many fans who wanted to play with them that they recruited people to play in 2 different Ozric Tentacles so the line up was different but then they could do two gigs in different places if necessary. In both bands there were some original members, actually now the members change at different gigs.
So anyway we were talking about this with Lemmy in the background at the next table waving to us from time to time…when this German guy started to talk to us . He was from Munich and very very tall and good looking he was also a musician. He said ” Do you know who just bought you drinks?” I said “Yes” and he joined us and said he would come with us to the Crypt although he didn’t have any money either! He sat with us and we talked and drank before leaving waving goodbye to Lemmy on the way out.
Anyway the funniest thing happened when we left the pub. You have to bear in mind that we chatted to Lemmy for about half an hour and told him how we liked his music etc…
Anyway as we left the pub Jenny said to me.
” Wow wasn’t that amazing meeting Ozzie!”
I told them them it wasn’t Ozzie Osbourne but Lemmy and they wouldn’t believe me at first and I kept saying ” But it was! He was even wearing a Motorhead t-shirt!” The German guy knew but not the bikers who spent most of their waking hours listening to Black Sabbath , AC/DC and Motorhead.
That was classic spending 30 minutes talking to Lemmy and them thinking it was Ozzie.
We set off for Deptford. We were trying to explain to the German guy that London was a very big place and that it might take us an hour or two to get there but he wouldn’t believe us. I remember showing him the A to Z to show him how big it was and him saying he knew every street in Munich how could I not know every street in London!
Anyway another thing I am very embarassed about on our journey there, this is not something I would do normally! We had no money and were a bit drunk and I was following what the others were doing. At Oxford Circus tube we jumped the barrier and then on our way to Deptford we got off at a station and Cedar started kicking a chocolate vending machine with great strength after losing his money when trying to buy a bar of chocolate…to our surprise all the money came out. I’m sure we frightened the life out of the other commuters waiting on the platform then we did this with other chocolate vending machines on the way. I can’t say I am proud of this however in the 80s if you were waiting for a train and tried to buy chocolate nine times out of ten the machine would eat your money and refuse to give you chocolate . I’d lost a few pounds before in those rip-off vending machines so had everyone else, in fact I think some commuters cheered when they saw what we were doing.
I was the only one who knew the way to the Crypt vaguely , I think I got us lost but we got there in the end. Kev let me in free but the others had to pay half price.

The Ozrics were playing and the vibe was amazing. All these girls were on stage and dancing with them, this had never happened at Club Dog. Some people I knew were doing the lightshow, the place was packed solid and everyone was doing mad psychedelic dancing and bumping into eachother under the strobes. Not all the original Ozrics were there but Joie was there and Rollie , Ed’s brother who played bass. Sadly he died at a later date but I don’t know what happened. The crowd were going mental and it was a young crowd of new hippies and I realised that night their career was going to take off . Before that they’d had a big following but it was more traveller and crusty types, now they had pretty young girls with beautiful hippie clothes dancing on stage with them.
I was all dressed up in some kind of hippie/goth evening dress that night and danced like a lunatic but not long after we arrived Jenny and Cedar and the German guy decided to go home to catch the last tube. I didn’t didn’t want to go..it was the middle of the bloody gig, we’d only been there for half an hour. So I stayed. As I sobered up I realised I would have to find a way home because the Crypt finished at 4 in the morning and although there were buses somewhere, they only ran once every two hours. I wasn’t prepared to hang around the streets of Deptford on my own waiting for a bus all night in the freezing cold…I didn’t feel safe.
Anyway I kept dancing and at the end of the gig I asked anyone I vaguely knew if they could give me a lift to Trafalgar Square where there would be night buses back home. No one I knew could help me as they lived in South London.
In the end I asked Joie who was packing up. He said I could come to his squat in south London but it would be crowded. I said it didn’t matter if I could make some tea and hang out there until 6 am. when the tubes started it would do me.
He drove to his place in Clapham and I met his new girlfriend from another psychedelic band. He told me that things had started to get stressful with a bit of fame and how these girls were beginning to get on stage with them. I’d assumed that they knew these girls and that they were part of the act but they weren’t, they just jumped on stage with them and made themselves look like they were with the band. I hung out at their place until the tubes started again. What a weird night!
( Erpland live at the Fridge, Brixton, May 19th 1991..)

Picture of Chill Out /Dogs in Space Tent Solfest 2007 thanks to Mike Cupcakedogsinspacetentsolfest1.jpg

All those years ago and so much water under the bridge but if you were part of that scene it was so special it stays with you forever. I had a very special time at Solfest this year and saw and met so many musicians I used to know and respect and recently seeing some my friends from Treatment and making new friends on myspace and at “Born to Go” a new psychedelic club in Hitchin. I am now meeting people I didn’t know from the same scene.
Anyway if anyone out there would like to write their memories or be interviewed for this blog please let me know.

Midweek expect a short blog and next Monday more stories of hippie counter culture/psychedelic music and/or my political ranting. Love and Peace.Born2rant!

Steve Hillage , Solfest 2007 and revivals


Is there a revival going on?

When I was at Solfest this year ( the one in Cumbria not in the US ) in the chill out tent there were some fantastic psychedelic, ambient and yes, trance live performances from Steve Hillage, Miquette Giraudy, Eat Static, various combinations of Ozric Tentacle members ( Nodens Ictus) and many more ( including my son, “the next generation” as they say in Star Trek with the 2.2 killaVolt Cables).

There were lots of great djs too but I’m more into live music personally and the dynamics and energy between performers and the excitement of the moment.

(Oh dear an apology to all the other people I haven’t mentioned who played or dj-ed in that tent, there were too many good ones to mention).

I really wish someone had filmed it I saw and danced to some of the best live music I heard in years and years and I go to a lot of gigs!

Steve and Miquette did a performance of ” Rainbow Dome Music” . I spoke to Steve the next day and he told me that they hadn’t performed it live before. I’m not sure if he meant ever or just since the late seventies.

He also told me that neither of them could listen to the track until it came out on CD. That’s because the vinyl version on clear vinyl has some kind of defect and crackled a lot.

I know ours did but I thought it was because we played it so much! I always cursed our copy but in fact the years of hearing some crackles at the start of the album were more than compensated for by seeing them play it live in the small chill out tent and so much other good music.

I’d heard that Steve Hillage had played some of his old stuff in Holland last year and managed to find this online, although it’s great to see it I think the sound could have been better but never mind. It seems to me that there’s a bit of a revival going on. Certainly at Solfest the Dogs in Space tent was heaven although a lot of people in the audience had no idea of who they were listening to and it was relaxed and informal. maybe that’s why it was so good. No pressure and not much ego! ( no egos or breadheads!)

Here’s Steve Hillage in 2006 then!( doing his old stuff) filmed live at the Gong UnConvention in Amsterdam, November 2006. With backing by Mike Howlett (bass), Chris Taylor (drums) and Miquette Giraudy (synths).

OM!

The Chainsaw Party (still feeling guilty about this)


The Chainsaw Party Poster

(Poster from the attic of Michael Dog. Thanks. This post was written before the poster was found so that’s why it might sound weird!)

I still remember the day we went to look at the venue and made the deal with the liberal and ever so sweet vicar.

The Church Hall was a huge old barn with oak beams and a newly renovated parquet floor. As Michael told the vicar that we were unemployed musicians wanting to do something for ourselves by running a concert and the vicar offered us the hall for free, I wanted to say something urgently as apocalyptic visions of mud on new wooden floors and possibly other damages worried me. But in the end I said nothing , I let them get on with it, I still wish I had said something .

The Chainsaw Party was a concept partly influenced by our finding 80s heavy metal bands extremely camp and funny and watching the Comic Strip doing ” Bad News” plus “Spinal Tap” etc…

Michael and Bob formed a heavy metal band with our friend James on lead vocals whose antics knew no limits and a couple of other friends. Their name was Bludgen (although I thought it was Bludgeon …don’t know who is right so I’ll use Michael’s spelling).

The day of the gig I was sent to the butcher’s to go buy some offal, as a vegetarian it was not an easy task. I also bought some cling film and experimented with a mixture of bright green powder paint, flour, oil and water which I was to cover myself with from head to toe before wrapping myself in cling film.

When I got to the church hall the usual lengthy preparations were under way including mounting projectors for the lightshow and films and decorating the room with scrim-netting , blowing up balloons ( the nitrous oxide cylinder which came from an unknown source was popular backstage) and general shifting of music equipment.

It was a very cold night with snow and ice outside so it must have been in winter 1984 0r 85?

As well as Bludgen they had booked Giant Aphid Attack fronted by Karen, which was a psychedelic punk band who played at a few of our events. Also on the bill was The Cannibals, a well-known garage surf band who are still going strong, I met and chatted to Spencer before the gig. I think Adam of Treatment and maybe Clive were in the band. Treatment were usually always booked to play but this time they were peppered around the other bands. It would be good to meet up with a few people and get things like band line-ups etc. straight for that memorable gig.

We had run a previous gig in a town hall where no one had turned up and part of the reason for having a spoof heavy metal party was because we knew so many bikers . We affectionately called them Hendon MC and the name stuck although most of them came from Finchley.

As the gig began and we let the public in, we were pleased to see that there was a crowd. However soon the bikers came inside the hall, on their motorbikes, they were going round in circles and filling the venue with fumes and putting tyre marks on the parquet flooring. Eventually after much showing off they parked their bikes near the front on the right side. On the left hand side of the stage there was a paddling pool full of peat where a mud wrestling contest was held. The audience being mainly made up of bikers and in a general atmosphere of rowdiness, the mud wrestling and pelting continued throughout the evening and at one point the paddling pool collapsed altogether spilling a mud pond all over the floor.

Half way through the evening I went on covered from head to foot in green slime and cling film and a dress ( I am glad I chose to wear the dress at the last minute as people were constantly coming up to me and peeling off my cling film ). I was the alien cabaret Astragone Arglegarle\'s first gig ( not a flattering photo of me)( see Anti-media stories part one for more details). I was pelted with mud by skinheads while I sang ” She just desperately wants hippies” then ” Your slime mingled with mine” ( quite appropriate when covered in green slime and mud pies) and told a few jokes.

Later Bludgen took the stage fronted by one of our friends James who enjoyed doing dangerous things. I had bought the offal for their act and he had put it in a life-sized papier mache head. I will now let Michael tell you some of the rest of the story in his words.

” Yes there was indeed a papier mache head filled with offal which James stamped on till it burst and then threw the contents out into the audience who then proceeded to throw bits of offal at each other.(It was herrings in blown up durexes at the next gig!)
Bob was hanged on a theatrical gallows during one number. The harness that he was wearing went wrong and he found himself REALLY hanging by his neck though none of us were aware! Thankfully, the gallows collapsed under his weight, damaging his Les Paul guitar, but saving his life in the process!”

Some Bludgen song titles: ‘Suck My Dick’, ‘Hendon MC Born To Be Free’ and ‘You’re Dead’.

“Someone called Louise did indeed bring a chainsaw (which she was waving about switched on) onstage and at one point, she waved it from behind, between James’s legs which he was unaware of. I noticed it whilst I was playing and remember thinking how close he came to losing his manhood in spectacular fashion….And yes, I did buy and wear a pair of too tight PVC trousers, that split at
the crotch…and I wasn’t wearing underpants!

Poor vicar!”

After the gig we did all we could to salvage the hall. We were all tired and pretty much out of it. There was a glass eating contest going on in the kitchen which I was trying to stop between a friend and another biker. They kept munching their way through beer glasses and I kept telling them to stop whilst simultaneously amazed that there was no blood or cuts even though they were biting through real glass. I guess it was some kind of biker miracle.

Luckily quite a few people stayed to clear up , I remember mopping up for hours and hours with the back door open and snow and ice everywhere as we tried to get all the mud that had tipped out from paddling pool outside. I spent all night cleaning but the place was a wreck, the balloons had flown up to the joists in the roof, I think someone was trying to shoot them down with an air gun, the tyre marks and oil spillage from the bikers on the parquet flooring….

Yes poor vicar . I think we gave him some money for the damages but still…

It was a great party and it’s on film somewhere although I have not seen it.

That’s all for now.

Thanks to Gordon from Treatment for the photo and to Michael Dog for his verbal contribution.

(If anyone reading this was there and can remember any other details please let me know)

What happens when a good idea degrades into chaos and insanity(Anti-Media stories part 5)


What happens when a good idea degrades into chaos and insanity

Terrorism , paranoia and police state!

I have been quite reticent to write some of the items in the next few stories.
Firstly because I want to protect my old acquaintances and I worry that if MI5 or the FBI or Interpol or someone reads this that they will go berserk and want to find and arrest people.
***So all I will say to all you people who might be from any of those agencies is that all these events happened 23 or so years ago. All the people involved are either now completely law abiding or have had some form of psychiatric treatment. In 2007 we /they are no threat to any government or members of the public or to anyone at all.So calm down!

We are living in strange paranoid times. In the late 60s and 70s the London I grew up in was full of bombs. As a child I used to wake up regularly from some kind of explosion in the middle of the night. There were letter bombs and car bombs and bombs left in plastic bags in London and throughout the country mainly by the IRA but also by the PLO and others.In case the reader is too young to remember , Lord Mountbatten a public figure , famous as a soldier and member of the Royal Family , Prince Charles’ great-uncle and mentor was killed off the Irish coast by a bomb on his boat along with other members of his family and crew. Can you imagine the response if a member of the Royal Family was killed now. They would have to question every Muslim under 30 in the country!
There would be mass panic and 24 hour coverage on the news.
There were countless attacks on Britain by the IRA. The US government were often unsympathetic to these attacks.
Another case in point was the Brighton bombing in 1984 where the government were directly attacked at the Brighton Party conference. Five people died and several permanently disabled as a result, 34 others injured.
Now the daughter of one of the ministers killed in the blast Jo Berry who is an acquaintance of mine campaigns all over the world for peace. She has allied herself with the IRA bomber himself and both now campaign against terrorism and for peace. Whatever your opinion is on this matter , one has to admit it’s quite an achievement and can only inspire other former enemies to find a different way of bringing about change.

However if you watch the news these days you’d think we had never had a terrorist threat before in this country and that somehow we must live with constant surveillance and with extra police powers , and that we must at all times be scared and suspicious.
I understand that possibly the plans of Al-Qaeda are to cause devastation on a much bigger scale than for instance the IRA, and I understand that September the 11th was a terrible crime against humanity. I’m a pacifist and believe that violence just creates retaliation and more violence. I am not on the side of terrorists of any kind however I do think now part of our brainwashing is to leap on and kill anyone subversive in case they could be a terrorist threat. It’s Carte Blanche for the authorities to suppress and destroy any little group of subversives they come across and young people today are therefore not only apathetic about politics but also the ones who do protest put their lives at risk. Maybe that’s always been the case and young people were braver before.
It strikes me that a lot of the protests done by young people I know of is through ” partying” in public places or in ways that are unusual. These are protests but they are not overtly political but it’s certainly better than nothing and less risky to those involved.However the wonderful Circle Line parties , which I was lucky to take part in once, have been stopped because the Spacehijakers were worried about people getting taken for terrorists and harmed by the police. All we were doing was having a drink and a dance on the tube!
(only a few hundred of us on the same train).

My second reservation for telling you the following stories is because I do not want the readers to lose sight of the original message. The Anti-Media message is a vitally important one. It is anti-corporate, anti-advertising, anti-brainwashing to buy products we do not need at a time when the planet can no longer sustain our levels of production and consumption.
The Anti-Media message could almost be equated with Anti-Stupidity and thinking for yourself. However you will read in some of the following stories why I left it all got too extreme for me. However they are still great stories and I love to tell them. We weren’t terrorists , we were only challenging modern culture in our little ways. But still once explosives were involved I had to quit.
Have I mentioned at least three times that I am a pacifist? Good, then I will continue on a lighter note…

Odds and Ends
Some More Anti-media Stories

The Kidnap of Ronald Mac Donald

There was a plan to kidnap Ronald Mac Donald.
At children’s birthday parties at Mac Donald’s they often had a member of staff dressed as Ronald Mac Donald clowning around to entertain the kids. There was an Anti-Media plan to kidnap one and hold him for ransom.
A couple of years ago I bumped into Richard and asked him if this had ever taken place .
He told me there had been an attempt at this. They were a really nice bunch of people and although they often had pretty crazy plans they were too nice to ever do anyone any harm. They had modified their kidnap plan and instead they infiltrated Mac Donald’s and one of them got a job there and volunteered to do the children’s party dressed as Ronald McDonald.
As he was doing the party they pulled up a van outside and bungled him into the back and then sent a letter telling Mac Donald’s of various anti-media demands to be met or they wouldn’t see Ronald again. The plan failed because Mac Donalds ignored the letter and other bunglings. The guy quit but they may have made some kind of film of it somewhere.

The Mess-Age Magnet

Hogan and Howard had asked me if I wanted to contribute something to their Anti-Media magazine ( a contradiction in terms) called the Mess-age Magnet. When I asked them what kind of things they wanted me to write they told me to write anything. I like anarchic organisations of all sorts where you are given trust, freedom and responsibility. It brings out the best in me.
I didn’t know what to write. This must have been in 1985 while we were still doing Anti-Media events.
Every summer myself, Michael and our son would go off to free festivals. That year was particularly interesting as the free festival scene and the country was changing.
The scene had changed because it was growing and Magaret Thatcher was calling us all
” medieval brigands”
although I think the most illegal thing we did on our travels was to sell excellent tea, real coffee and pancakes at a very cheap price from our makeshift cafe without a license . We were even parked on land where it was legal to do so, but the government changed the laws so that The Stonehenge Festival became illegal, and other festivals on sites where there had been traditional fairs, and squatting rights, common land laws etc..were all changed so that our little peaceful free festivals became illegal. As they became illegal the people who went to them changed too. But that’s another story.
In 1985 on our travels from festival to festival we landed at The Cantlin Stone festival. It was one of the happiest times of my life. We were travelling with other groups of hippies in little tribes to deserted places and living off common land, collecting wood, the children who were not wild as they were at some festivals were playing together exploring the hills and countryside around from sunrise to sunset. Every single person I met at Cantlin Stone had interesting tales to tell. Many had come from Hull and other northern towns. Some told us they had been unemployed for several years due to the closing down of different industries and had decided that instead of being on the dole and living in a city full of desolation and junkies that they had chosen to take to the open road, living on buses and in teepees. It was an idyllic lifestyle. I was never lonely, I always felt supported, so happy and so rich in the company of so many benevolent and highly intelligent and colourful interesting people. We were living without TV or newpapers or news and we were very happy.
Therefore it was while I was at Cantlin Stone, perched up on a hill of heather and woods which the forester had shown me was damaged by acid rain, that I wrote about my time there and how our whole sense of selves changed from being away from TV and all sources of news. In fact we probably were in the news if not at that festival then at others we travelled to that summer without our knowledge.
My contribution to the magazine was only 2 pages long. The rest were collages of newspaper and magazine clippings and cartoons with scrawled comments on various issues such as” Is Modern Life Rubbish?“, ” Dress like the pig you are“, “If you think home-taping is killing music you know nothing in either ear.“, ” Love me less, respect me more”.
There were articles about many issues:

” ANTImedia seeks GURLS to contribute to magazine and performances. a GURL regards her environment with contempt and distrust..she is fed up of seeing her contemporaries hanging around with men who are fashion conscious cool and hedonistic….GURLS don’t like the media one bit.”

Another page had a ten step programme ( with 13 steps of course) .They are a bit dated as now it would be computers and computer games and social networking sites and cds and dvds they would avoid as well as TV. Also men with pony tails were quite slimy and trendy at the time and Walkmans were the latest thing…but anyway.

TEN STEPS

1. Turn down the volume on your television during advertisements

2. Turn off altogether

3. Sell television ( and/or all modern conveniences such as expensive hi-fi , or extensive record collection).

4.Cancel standing subscriptions to any daily/weekly/monthly magazines

5.Avoid high neon low life restaurants and take away diners.

6. Avoid high streets and shops bigger than the size of a living room.

7. Allow not your gaze to wander onto street adverts, thus immediately disarming the use of said items.

8. Make a stencil and disfigure the above adverts and invent other creative ideas to occupy yourself positively during your newly found creative life.

9. Tell your friends and discuss anti media ideas with them.

10. Lose them

11. Avoid all modern so called culture.

12. de centralize anti-media by forming your own groups

13. With your new capital from abstaining from bad goods, finance anti-media housing, transport, publications, etc..like buying a pair of garden shears to clear obstacles from underground trains, such as ponytails and walkman leads .
Take the ten steps and your life can only be Improving.”

A flat in Bloomsbury and the Telecom Conspiracy

Hogan had a flat in Bloomsbury and I was invited to come to an anti-media meeting there to discuss various plans.
Hogan used to live there in a media free zone. I remember him telling me he’d met this homeless guy , who I think was an alcoholic and allowed him to move in for a while for free.
Hogan, Richard and Andy were there plus myself and my son.
During the meeting I needed to make a phone call. By the phone there was a window and what I thought was a telescope next to it . However you didn’t need a telescope to see the BT tower. It had been the Post Office Tower but we were living in an era where the Thatcherite government was privatising public companies. The GPO( General Post Office) had split and now we had British Telecom sold off in shares along with British Gas, British Rail etc.. It is hardly surprising that anti-corporate anti-media would have resented the newly renamed Telecom Tower and all the publicity in launching the British Telecom brand.
I saw a jar by the phone which was full of coins and I assumed it was to go towards the phone bill. So I offered to pay for my call and put some money in the jar.
However as I offered to put in ten pence for the bill they told me that each time someone made a call the money was not going to pay British Telecom but to buy explosives to blow up the Telecom Tower. I then looked at the telescope again and I think they were going to use it as some kind of rocket launcher and it was pointed straight up at the Telecom Tower a couple of streets away.

If you haven’t already done so please read my note above ***.

Anyway I rejoined the meeting not sure if this was a joke but my head was swimming and I knew I needed to rethink my involvement with them. Later they gave me and my son a lift home. I have never been so scared in the back of a car. Richard had just learned to drive and had a full license but Andy was driving with a provisional license. The drive was very scary and I seem to remember us going the wrong way up one-way streets and through red lights etc..My son was oblivious and I rediscovered a long-lost belief in God as I prayed we would make it home. After a while Richard said to Andy casually ” So when’s your first driving lesson?”.
After this I reflected and I knew that although my friends were lovely and I agreed with their challenging the media and mass consumerism that somewhere along the line there was a screw loose and marbles gone a-missing.
I still didn’t know if they were joking about the explosives but I knew I would not be part of it anymore. Pooing shit on the TV is one thing( see previous post about crap on the tv), saving up for explosives and my son’s safety were another. It had got too extreme for me.

Exploding Jimmy Tarbuck

About a week or so after that in the rush hour along one of London’s busiest roads they exploded something. There was a huge billboard of Jimmy Tarbuck’s face grinning next to a giant 3 D microwave. In the microwave oven there was a 3D rotating turkey. It was a whole 3D installation, trying to persuade people to roast their turkeys at Christmas in a newly available microwave oven.
They put an incendiary device behind the turkey and it exploded to the amazement of people caught in rush hour traffic. They immediately then called the fire brigade as the billboard was catching fire. No one was hurt, Jimmy Tarbuck’s huge grinning face remained intact.Please see note *** above!

Russell and his explosions

Russell poor lad was one of the anti-media crew I knew less well than the others. I had been out for a drink with him and others once in Hampstead . I barely knew Russell and a couple of others I have not mentioned as they did not perform at the Anti-media Pentameters events or come to Dead Dog promotions /Treatment gigs..( see previous entries in blog for Pentameters events).

When I met him , Russell was shy and quiet, he looked a bit like a young Bob Dylan but wearing some kind of chunky hand-knitted jumper with pictures on it. I thought he looked like the kind of repressed kid who might have been bullied as a child. Russell got a kick from exploding things. Hogan and Richard had told me a few tales about Russell’s behaviour before he finally got psychiatric treatment.
Hogan had left the flat in Bloomsbury and shared a house with Russell for a while. In order to entertain themselves they started to paint furniture and objects in the house, then the carpet was painted. I think Hogan was trying to find something therapeutic for Russell to do as his mental state was clearly worrying. Then Russell took it a stage further and started to set fire to things around the house, he even put lighter fuel on the lawn and set fire to that.
By then Hogan started to realise this was no longer “anti-media art” but simply lunacy and couldn’t live with him anymore. Richard had also told me a story where they were visiting Russell’s parents and he suddenly let off an incendiary device in their living room. He told the others to run and drive off but their car wouldn’t start and eventually being in the middle of a remote part of Scotland and without mobile phones, they had to go back into the parent’s house. They helped them with the damage and then called the AA waiting for them in the family home Russell had just tried to destroy.
Please read note ****

Epilogue

So that is the story of Anti-Media or what I can remember of it.
It went from idealism into anarchy and insanity but the idealism without the insanity is what we need now. We need to counteract the power and morals of the media, advertising and corporate thinking if this planet is ever to have any hope of a future. But not with bombs, explosives or violence but with words and thoughts and hopefully communities collaborating away from media and advertising intervention.

So where are they now?
I bumped into Richard at The Notting Hill Arts Centre where he was DJing. As well as being a DJ and he also set up his own record label and worked for a couple of other independent labels and a music project involving a member of Blur. I asked him if he had talked to anyone from Blur about them using our slogan “Modern Life is Rubbish”. He told me that a few years back they had written to Sony records to complain that they were using our slogan without our permission but didn’t get a reply. He said he might mention it again in the future.

I bumped into Hogan a few years ago in an Oxfam shop in Drury Lane where I was working . He still buys his clothes in Oxfam shops. He had a couple of adoring women in tow. He looked exactly the same and hadn’t changed in 20 years, neither has Richard. Hogan told me he was now working as a documentary maker and had just made a series for the BBC.

I last saw Leonie and Om together as a happy couple at a blues gig at the George Robey opposite The Rainbow in Finsbury Park before Club Dog moved there. He was playing harmonica on stage with a blues/garage band with other friends of mine including Clive and Adam from Treatment. Leonie was expecting a baby.

The other Anti-Media people I have never seen again.
As for me I live in Notting Hill and I write and teach music and recently started writing blogs in response to my son’s request and a guy from Wigan who wanted some stories about completely different things but which involved some of the same community. Next Monday more ranting and a new chapter “The Chainsaw Party” .

Astragone Arglegargle (that’s me that is!)

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