Monday, October 05, 2015


The first (and probably not the last) biography of Felix Dennis has recently been published. As a long-time friend of Felix's I approached it with trepidation and a sense of relief that I hadn't been asked to do the job. 

Right up front let's say 'Hat's off' to Fergus Byrne for producing such a readable and professional piece of work that traces an ultimate rags to riches story of a unruly intelligent unstoppable boy/teenager who first sought fame and fortune as a beat band drummer, became nationally notorious as one of the Oz Three and went on build a magazine empire that earnt a bone fide fortune (£520 million plus). 

In his later years he indulged in a number of other passions, becoming a best-selling poet and author, an important patron of portrait bronzes (a legacy contained in his remarkable 'Garden of Heroes and Villains') and one of the greatest British tree planters - a modern-day John Evelyn. His vision of planting an entirely new forest in the centre of Britain - the Heart of England Forest - is already being realised. Before his untimely death in June 2014, he planted the one millionth tree. Another 11 million will follow, a process funded partly by charitable donations but mainly by all the profits from Dennis Publishing and whatever other income is gained from the dispersal of his estate. For this alone, we are all in his debt. 

The obituaries and editorial coverage following his death highlighted his well-known predilection for sex with multiple female partners and his well-publicised addiction to crack cocaine -  amongst other substances. Byrne does not shy away from this and his account makes uncomfortable reading as Felix's happy-go-lucky sex romps become more controlling and deameaning. His ability to 'pick up' women was noticeable from his teen years onwards when he was already oversexed with the gift of the gab and the energy of a rutting goat. 

Without indulging in cod psychology, Byrne gives us enough information about his childhood years and his battling relationship with his very strong and strict mother ( who died 17 days after him) to make his behaviour at least understandable if not excusable. Abandoned by his father at the age of four, he prematurely became the man of the house. In a memorable quote, his younger brother Julian says he was always aware that his brother was  different: 

'It was almost like from day one he was on a mission. He'd have a faraway look in his eye and always be skirting the edges, looking for something that was completely different, that other people wouldn't do or wouldn't say or wouldn't see.' 


From Left: Felix, Ralph Steadman & Will Self at a Groucho Club charity auction event. May 1999

As someone who, like many others from the underground press of the 1970s, worked for Felix and knew him, off and on, throughout the years, I want to take this opportunity to add some of my stories to the historical record and pay a       personal tribute to a dear friend and a generous patron, who encouraged me, gave me tremendous opportunities and saved my sorry ass on numerous occasions. 

Felix liked me I think partly because I was a good listener and I was no competition as I had absolutely no ambition to be rich and own and control the world. Underneath the bluster, the unbearable shouting at people, Felix was of course still dealing with his demons against which his only defense was his poems. I never thought he enjoyed his wealth. His natural acumen at making money was truly a mixed blessing.

I think we connected partly because my dad died when I was nine. I also had a difficult Mum (bless her). He was rarely interested in what I was doing and that was fine. I loved hearing of his exploits and behind-the-scenes gossip. Much of our hanging-out time was spent catching up on the current status of all our other mutual friends from the old underground. Mick Farren's death saddened him badly I know. 

I don't know how our friendship began but as some stage in the proceedings, when Felix was working with OZ and before the busts and the trial, we would meet on a semi-regular basis at a caff in Tottenham Court Road, have capuccino and cheesecake and then head over to the arcades in Leicester Square where we played pinball for a couple of hours. Felix loved pinball as I did. Having cut my teeth at 'The Goldmine' and 'The Viking' in Worthing, working the flippers in the company of pilled-up Mods I was good, Felix was also flash and we both worked hard to win. 

When Felix set up Bunch Books in Goodge Street at the end of the 70s we were all signed up to do stuff. It was the time of the poster mag. First came 'TV ScFi Monthly', edited by Mick which had a lot of fancy artwork alongside stories on a wide range of moves and tv series. Remember writing a feature on the Bionic Woman on an old sit-up-and-beg manual typewriter. 

Then 'Star Wars Monthly' arrived and we were really in business. We produced some 20 issues and Felix flew me out to Hollywood twice to do a 64pp newsstand special magazine on The Making of The Empire Strikes Back'. You can read my adventures here

Following on from this we did some poster mags on Indiana Jones and another newsstand special on the 'Making of Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom'. I met and interviewed Spielberg (for the 2nd time) and many of the key players and makers including Kate Capshaw (Spielberg's future wife), the Costume Designer, the Cinematographer (who had shot the Ealing Comedy 'Kind Hearts &Coronets') and many others. 

Then there was a long gap. The occasional meet, the odd drunken party before the pre-Millennium period by which time I had reached the end of my tether and resources. I wrote to Felix and asked for his help. It was something like a 4pm appointment in his office in Kingly Street. I went to Golden Square and had a coffee just before and I knew that whatever Felix suggested I was going to have to do By the time I was ushered into his office the sky had turned inky black and loud thunderclaps boomed across Regent Street like bomb blasts. Felix came straight to the point. "I've got two jobs for you". There was massive lightning strike right over the building. Then a pause. I want you to edit 'Tree News' magazine and catalog The Oz Archive. That was the next five years of my life. 

Another five-year stretch leading up his death, revolved around the production of a beautiful illustrated book on 'The Garden of Heroes and Villains'. A second edition followed which, in the end contained more than 50 larger-than-life bronze figures from some 30 different sculptors.  A last memorial supplement documented the final pieces he'd commissioned including a large bronze figure of himself, wearing an old flying jacket inscribed with some of his poems. 


A great strength of Byrne's book to my mind lies in his account of Felix's final years, not so much the material on the poetry tours but his medical condition and the sufferings he had to go through. I was on the mailing list for to receive a number of letters from Felix in which he described in grim detail the stages of treatment he was going through and its results. I thank him for persuading me to give up smoking (three years now). I know we've all got to die but I thought I'd try and avoid his way. He did recover from the throat cancer due to prompt treatment but in the end the lung cancer got him. 

This force of nature was a figure Shakespeare would have revelled in, a dangerous hybrid of Felix the Cat and Dennis the Menace. A man who seemed to stride the world, to have experienced sexual and financial extremes, drug addiction and high-flying adrenaline-riven business pressures at the highest level, who had several close-calls with the Reaper and spent his last years pumping out poetry and planting trees. He has left a legacy of memories in the minds of so many. Bombastic and domineering, he had a wonderful laugh and, buried deep, the sweet and fragile nature of a damaged child. 

Byrne pctures him wandering round Mandalay, one of two houses he owned on Mustique, fingering and gazing at the many treasures and objects he owned, like a character from Greek tragedy. He lost his voice and his battle for life in the end but his spirit and nature are captured in his verse and encoded in his vision of a new Forest of Arden. I can hear his voice now, shouting: 'Wendy.Where's my tea' and 'John, just bloody well get on with it.' I miss him  a lot.

Sunday, September 27, 2015


Markus Brunetti spent almost a decade travelling on a 'grand tour' of Europe photographing cathedrals and other sacred buildings. In each case he shoots them from hundreds of different angles over a period of weeks or even years and then digitally assembles them to create as hyper-realistic image. Born in Bavaria to a family of builders and architects, the prints he produces are often up to three metres high. 



Turned on to TeamLab by an article some weeks back by Jan Dalley in the Financial Times. Founded in 2001 by engineer/physicist Toshiyaki Inoko, it's a group of some 300 collaborators from a huge range of disciplines. This group of 'ultra-technologists'. says Dalley, 'use digital media to create artwork that aims to rattle our perceptions and generally blow our minds. Not to mention dissolve the borders between science, technology, design and art. Loads of beautiful videos including this one: 'A Blackboard where Little People live'.

Friday, September 18, 2015


It's been almost two years since my last post as I have been working
flat out producing five issues of  two free music papers which is hard work. 
You can read all of these on-line at these two locations:

Hoping to start posting again semi-regularly. Despite no new posts am
still receiving some 3,000 hits a month, Thanks to all readers around the world.

Sunday, November 17, 2013



This is a real picture by Lewes' very own Steve Arch of Leonard Cohen enjoying our first issue.

First we take Lewes, then we take Berlin.

Act locally, think globally

Spread the word


This recent issue of the NME reprinted one of my  stories that I wrote for the paper back in the 1970s, concerning Keith Richards' heroin trial in Toronto. Published 35 years ago on 18th November 1978. I much appreciated this tribute to the work that I did under the nom de plume Dick Tracy between 1975 and 1982.

You can read the whole article here:

I say the whole article because on the reprint they clipped off one short para at the end. As follows:

'So Richards is out once more. Meanwhile Vicious spends time in Bellevue psychiatric hospital after a suicide attempt. Another week in the history of rock and roll.'

This gave the piece a different cultural resonance. Richards got off and out due to the power of the Rolling Stones empire who pulled every string and favour to keep their man from going down for a long time. Meanwhile and simultaneously, we were following the grim final days of Sid Vicious who was badly hooked on heroin and facing a murder trail. He had, it seems, been abandoned and had few resources to help him. Its worth looking back on what happened.

At the beginning of 1978, The Sex Pistols embarked on their first American tour, which fell apart in just two weeks. Vicious flew back to New York to hook up with girlfriend Nancy Spungen and, after a short trip to London and Paris in connection the Sex Pistols film, they set up home in the Chelsea Hotel on 23rd Street. Sid had a new band The Idols but that October he was arrested for killing Spungen who was found dead in their apartment from a single stab wound. According to

'Police found Vicious wandering the hotel hallways, crying; he was immediately taken into custody and charged with second-degree homicide, although Virgin Records put up the money required for bail shortly afterwards. Vicious' mental state became even more erratic following his arrest, and an attempt at suicide by slashing his wrist was made several days later, resulting in a two-week internment at the psychiatric ward at Bellevue Hospital. Another arrest followed in December due to an assault on Patti Smith's brother Todd at Max's Kansas City; after serving two months in jail, Virgin supplied his bail for a second time, and he was released once again pending his trial for Spungen's murder. That trial would never take place: Vicious was found dead of what is speculated to be a deliberate heroin overdose on February 2nd at the home of his new girlfriend Michelle Robinson.'
Since that time, I have often thought about the contrast between the fate of Richards and Vicious but then, just yesterday, as chance would have it, I found this extraordinary news story from Johnny Rotten. It appears that one of the few people who stepped in to help Sid was, in fact, Mick Jagger. According to Uncut
John Lydon has spoken about his admiration for Mick Jagger, who paid Sid Vicious' lawyers when the Sex Pistols bassist was arrested for the alleged murder of girlfriend Nancy Spungen.
The full interview was in The Daily Record and can be found here

Sunday, August 04, 2013



It is with great sadness that THE GENERALIST reports the death of Mick Farren, a long-time friend and elder brother figure to me, who was a key figure in the British underground scene in the 60s and 70s. Founder and lead singer of The Deviants, one-time editor of International Times,  noted NME writer, prolific author, great blogger, Mick had a big heart often hidden behind a tough troublesome front. Possessor of a big ego and an afro to match, he over-indulged in life with great abandon and pushed the pedal to the metal right up his final dramatic act - his death on stage at the Borderline in London.

Mick grew up in Worthing and us younger Worthing lads looked up to him as an iconic freak. We were the ground crew who helped create the stage and site for Phun City – the first great British free festival – which featured the first-ever performance in the UK by the legendary MC5.

Later I worked on the underground press, hung out in the Grove and saw Mick at gigs, parties and demos on a regular basis. Mick got me into the NME and I was regular writer for Thrills which he edited.

Lost touch with him during his long sojourn in New York and LA but reconnected when I helped  get a flat in Brighton for him (and the cat). Fortunately I promoted one of the last Deviant gigs at the Con Club in Lewes in Dec 2012.

I very recently reviewed his last publication – a fat anthology of his writings from Head Press here. This post has links to several other Previous Posts on Mick.

Mick was a stand-up guy, always  looking out for me and always buying me a beer when he knew I was virtually penniless. Fortunately I was able to tell him in person how much that meant to me before he died.

Mick was a tough nut, unafraid of speaking his mind and difficult to impress, who evolved a unique journalistic style that was pithy, sharp and dark. He loved bourbon, speed, smoke, leather jackets, cowboy boots, Gene Vincent and Elvis and he stood up with great courage to both the Establishment and his own demons. He was no angel and had no room for sentimentality. He created his own legend and in his version of events he was always centre stage.

Like many others, I miss him badly. He was a true rebel spirit.

MICK F 3130

MICK F 4131

Unpublished photos by yours truly of Mick doing a reading from ‘Give The Anarchist A Cigarette’ at Waterstones in  Brighton in 1998. Top picture is the after-show party in a room above a gay club off the Steine. Mick improvises whilst Tim Rundall (I think) plays guitar and son Louis tinkles on the piano!!



Thanx to Richard Adams for sending over this pic of Mick at the Inn on the Green in Ladbroke Grove, snapped 28 May 2009. Richard comments: ‘I think he’d just arrived in England after America had taken its toll.’

Two great pictures taken by the legend that is Joe Stevens – one of them is a beauty of a colour shot of Mick and Ed Barker – together with a pithy tribute from Joe.

This is the uncut version of an article that appeared in The Guardian by Charles Shaar Murray: ‘Mick, we hardly knew ye…’

Miles Charles Shaar Murray Mick Farren Chalkie Davies

The pic, recently unearthed by Chalkie Davies, shows Miles, CSM, Micky and Chalkie in Brighton,summer of 1976.



The Telegraph

The Independent/Chris Salewicz

The Guardian/Richard Williams

The New York Times/Bruce Webber

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Layout 1


Things have been quiet on the blogging front as I have been flat out producing a new free micro music paper to coincide with the Mumford & Sons festival in Lewes last weekend.

I wrote, edited, produced, financed and distributed the paper (5,000 copies) in just 10 weeks. It can be done.



You can read it on-line at

Sunday, June 23, 2013


TERRENCE MALICK112 Have just had my mind blown by watching ‘To The Wonder’ – the latest movie by Terrence Malick – one of the great filmmakers working in cinema today. You can read up on him on IMDB and Wikipedia. Also: a lengthy essay ‘Waiting for Terence Malick’ by Michael Nordine on the Salon site.

I was wondering how to explain what makes this film so special when I cam across this wonderful quote which nails it:

‘Those rambling philosophical voiceovers; the placid images of nature, offering quiet contrast to the evil deeds of men; the stunning cinematography, often achieved with natural light; the striking use of music – here is a filmmaker with a clear sensibility and aesthetic who makes narrative films that are neither literary nor theatrical, in the sense of foregrounding dialogue, event, or character, but are instead principally cinematic, movies that suggest narrative, emotion, and idea through image and sound.’

This quote comes from a great essay by Chris Wisniewski on which discusses ‘Days of Heaven’ and ‘The New World’.Terrence Malick

Malick directed ‘Days of Heaven’ in 1978  - five years after his debut film ‘Badlands’ -  after which he didn’t direct a film for 20 years – though he did produce and write scripts.  ‘The Thin Red LIne’ came out in 1998 and then there was a seven-year gap before ‘The New World’. ‘The Tree of Life’ and ‘To The Wonder’ came out in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

He apparently shot two new films back-to-back in 2012: Lawless starring Ryan Gosling, with a supporting cast including Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara and Haley Bennett and Knight of Cups which will star Bale, alongside Blanchett and Isabel Lucas.

Chris’ essay says arguably that its the editing that distinguishes Malick’s work on these two films (and others) but the contrast is the first was edited using analog technology, the second used digital.

This most interesting. Sometime back THE GENERALIST flagged up the existence of the documentary ‘Side by Side’ – produced and narrated by Keanu Reeves which skilfully examines all aspects of the film-making process and contrasts the analog and digital production methods. Its an absolute must see for anyone interested in the future of cinema. Saw a cinema screening a month or so back and now await my DVD copy from Lovefilm. Will chew on this bone further in a separate post.

Back to Malick and ‘To The Wonder’. It principally follows a love story – shot in Paris, Mont St Michel and Oklahoma – but has another level featuring Javier Bardem as a priest.

The camera is always on the move and, in this film, the main female character dances her way through it creating another level of movement. A third is movement in nature – rippling  leaves and branches, grasslands, undersea swirls, lakes & waterfalls. Everything flows.

The framing is partial. People half in and half out of the frame. Dialogue is scattered as if blown by the wind which seems to be another character throughout. Ben Affleck is humanised in the process.

The relativity of when you watch a film has an effect on your perception of it. The screen I was watching it on sits in front of a window behind which is an elder tree in flower and other trees behind. They were being whipped by the wind at the same time as I was watching the wind on screen. Had to stop the film so as take a walk before the light disappeared. Slipped over on wet grass and bashed my head. Finished watching the film.

This film touches you in many places and on many levels. For some reason it kept reminding me of Godfrey Reggio’s films which form the second half of this post.

There’s a lot in Mallick’s films that suggests he is a man of belief – if not a Christian per se then perhaps someone who is absorbed by spiritual and philosophical questions.

I’d always thought that Reggio was a Jesuit priest but, according to Wikipedia, ‘Reggio spent fourteen years in fasting, silence and prayer, training to be a monk within the Congregation of Christian Brothers, a Roman Catholic pontifical order, before abandoning that path and making the films.’

To anyone who was around in the 1970s his movies - Koyaanisqatsi and its sequelPowaqqatsi  (later followed by  ‘Naqoyqatsi’  - the weakest of the trilogy) were powerful; experiences.

The titles come from the Hopi language. ‘Koyaanisqatsi’ means ‘Life Out of Balance’ ‘Powaqqatsi’ means "life in transformation," and Naqoyqatsi means "life as war." They are poetic/ symphonic documentaries which, in a powerful way, brings home the extent to which we are damaging the earth and alienating ourselves from the natural environment.

A hallmark of these films is some extraordinary cinematography - mainly shot using slow motion and time lapse.  Ron Fricke, the cinematographer who shot these films subsequently made two films of his own - ‘Baraka’ and ‘Samsara’ both of which I watched recently.For these he built his own 65mm equipment.  Back in the day I had lunch with Fricke (and my young son) after a morning press screening of ‘Baraka’ in London.

The trilogy have soundtracks by Philip Glass which makes a major contribution to their success.  My son and I saw Glass and his mini-orchestra play live as the films were screened at the Festival Hall in London.

Its exciting to discover that Reggio and Glass have been working on a new film ‘Visitors’ which will premiere at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival.

Steven Soderbergh, who is one of Reggio’s great supporters says:

Reggio’s “pure cinema” works are hard to sum up in a sentence, and the new film is no different. “It’s connected to the other Qatsi films in the sense it’s Godfrey’s wordless take on a certain subject, but he’s changed his game here,” Soderbergh said. “There’s more directing in it, more things he’s specifically staging for the camera than he’s done before, and there are performers in the film. He’s taken what he does and pushed it into a new area, which was really exciting for me to watch. It’s thirty years ago this year when Koyaanisqatsi came out. I watched it again, and there just isn’t a single, visual idea in that movie that hasn’t been ripped off, assimilated, regurgitated, built upon. Actually I watched all three films again, and it made me laugh how other directors just took his language and just ran with it. Here, he’s moved the goal post as if to challenge others and say, ‘Alright, let’s see what you can do with this.’ It’s so striking, but not necessarily immediately applicable to what everybody else does. They’ll have to work to steal this one.”


See: [not updated since 2005]

"...The crisis that we are approaching today is of yet another order. For it entails the transition, not from one form of society and power to another, but to a new environment...The present a total crisis triggered by transition to a new and previously unknown environment, the technological environment....The present change of environment is much more fundamental than anything that the race has experienced for the last five thousand years."

- Jacques Ellul