Sunday, March 24, 2024


I'm deep into the history of the blues starting with the short life of Robert Johnson whose 29 recorded songs are considered the greatest blues tracks ever laid down. Like a string of modern musicians he died at the age of 27. 

Rumours abounded that he sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads in exchange for his extraordinary skill with the guitar and his haunting vocals. There were only 2 photos of him. 

He played piano and other instruments and could play country and church songs. He could pick up and play any piece of music. He travelled to New York and Canada playing in pubs, clubs and juke joints, busking in the streets, jumping the  trains.  By all accounts he visited a lot of women on his way through. His two wives+ children died. He was poisoned stone dead for eyeing up a barman's wife. That's how the skeleton of the  story went. 

These four books published in 2004, 2019, 2020 2023 have changed, enlivened, expanded, corrected and deepened our understanding of Robert Johnson.

Escaping The Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Elijah Wald [2004]:

  The three main chapters of this chunky 342pp epic are The World That Johnson Knew, Thomas Johnson: The Life Remembered  and The Blues Roll On. 

He comes straight in with the fact that 'For its First Fifty years Blues was primarily black popular music. Everything suggests that Johnson hoped to make it on the commercial blues scene but he failed 

In the 1960s a world of white and international listeners discovered the blues, and for roughly the last 40 years, the style has primarily been played for  a white cult audience... Wald considers Johnson to be a bridge between these two very different worlds. His readable texted is packed with fresh perspectives and valuable after notes. Links to all his other books can be found here:

click to  [Author's detailed exposition if the book]


UP JUMPED THE DEVIL; The Real Life of Robert Johnson.

by Bruce Conforth and Gayle Dean

This highly detailed account of Johnson's life has been widely considered the most accurate story of  the musician's life, They worked on it for 50 years, interviewing as many people who new RJ as possible.

There is a lengthy review on the book in the Chicago Review Press:



This is a  valuable intimate memoir by Robert Johnson's Stepsister Annye C Anderson. She is 95 and is planning to produce a second volume. Its a great insight into Johnson's family.



by Robert "Mack" McCormick There's such a complex story here. A battle for rights. Mack spent 50 years on this book project of all his investigations. He died in 2015 after many years of legal battles over the rights to Johnson's work. This link explains the whole story very well. Macks' monster archive is now in the Smithsonian Museum

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

MICK BROWN: Eastern/Western Journalistic Journeys

Mick Brown's new book The Nirvana Express is a substantial and valuable historical vehicle exploring as it does the Western interest in Eastern religions and spiritual thoughts from Victorian times to the 1960s world of beatniks and LSD hippydom and beyond. There are gurus galore of varying credibility up to the present day. This follows on from two earlier books: The Spiritual Tourist [1998] (an account of his own trip to India) and The Dance of 17 Lives [2004] ( an extraordinary investigation into the world of the Dalai Lama) 

Mick Brown was a top rate journalist for the Sunday Times for ten years and works as a main feature writer for the The Telegraph's magazine and many other outlets. 

His string of remarkable journalistic journeys includes his book American  Heartbeat [1993] which documents his travels across and up and down America from Woodstock to San Jose by Song Title on the grounds that the geography and emotional landscapes of America have been mapped out like no other country's in music and song.

In February1998 I received a curious and completely unexpected invitation... Would I like to interview Carlos Castaneda?' To the uninitiated, the invitation will mean nothing. But those who came of age in the Sixties counter-culture will recognise that it was like being invited to peruse the Cretan Minotaur.'

Mick allowed The Generalist to reprint this piece. It is one of our most popular posts. [See: Carlos Castaneda and Don Juan; Truth or Fiction /May 18th 2016]

[Mick has also written music biographies of  Richard Branson  and  Phil Spector. The latter book called 'Tearing Down The Wall'  is reviewed on April 11th 2007]

Thursday, July 13, 2023



This is a truly wonderful album. Joyous. A huge range of wonderful instrumentation. Spiritual. Calming. Healing. I played it to an audience who were of one mind. Brilliant. Composed by Peter Culshaw who plays piano throughout. Peter is a really great music journalist who has travelled the world and interviewed at least 100 of the greatest musicians on the planet. He was the first to discover the Buena Vista Social Club. He has written many books perhaps most notably his biography of Manu Chao which Talking Heads David Byrne rated as the of the best music books ever. This is a great record produced in Mumbai, London and Odessa by ISKRA Music. It will be welcomed and celebrated by people in many cultures. Don't miss it. It's a work of love and beauty. Good for the soul.

Friday, June 23, 2023



This article was published in  19 Magazine on May 5th 1973.

Text is by Mick Brown and photos by Jean Kisch and John Tibera


If you're the slightest bit interested in yourself, your body, the planet you inhabit and anything connected with it, you should be interested in a publication scheduled to appear in October. Titled The Catalogue: An Index Of Possibilities, it is basically a reference work on everything you ever wanted to know. The publishers responsible for collating 'the whole extent of human knowledge' (their words, not mine) into the five volumes which constitute The Catalogue were all formerly connected with the late, lamented underground paper Frendz. John May was editor, John Trux business man-ager and Mike Marten and John Chesterman were occasional contributors.


The Catalogue's inspiration was the American Whole Earth Catalogue (the last volume of which is available here in Penguin), which established itself as an indispensable aid to Americans on a back-to-the-land kick, giving practical advice on everything from where to buy specific tools to methods of growing food organically or building geodesic domes:

 The Whole Earth Catalogue was fine, for America; but, because there isn't the land here to get back to, and most of the tools listed were only available in the States anyway, the book was of little practical use to British readers. The Catalogue, claims Mike Marten, is more concerned with information than tools, and is part of a more radical philosophy than frontiersmanship alone.

"It comes down to the fact that the information you need to change anything, even your immediate environment—where you live, what you do—is very difficult to get hold of in this country, and it's made more difficult because, although we're only a small country, there seems to be greater resistance by people who have in-formation to disseminate it.

 "If you take societies, such as the British Astronomical Association, everything is very tight — it's old colonels, old astronomers and the like, all sitting fuddy duddily together in Piccadilly, watching the skies. If you ring them up or write to them they regard you as an intruder —it's almost a closed shop.

"In the States, on the other hand, where it's a part of their philosophy to be as outward about everything as possible, a similar institution would probably deluge you with piles of information —the opposite extreme."


"What The Catalogue will do is give as much information on the subjects we cover as is practically possible. We'll review books on the subject, and organisations devoted to it—ranging from governmental to the cranky to the alternative; we'll list films and video-cassettes which can be bought or hired, on the subject, details of further education classes readers could take." The Catalogue will be published in five parts over three years.

 The first volume concentrates on power and energy systems, also dynamics and forces —both physical and metaphysical. The volume progresses from the theory of relativity and nuclear physics, through the power and energy systems of the earth and body to those of the mind and, finally, to God and the numerous religious interpretations.

"As The Catalogue is intended as a working book wherever possible, practical information will be listed —the open days at Jodrell Bank Research Station, techniques of dowsing, how to construct water wheels, even how to cast astrological charts."

Volume Two deals with structures. "Social structures, business structures. We're going to examine very closely just what organisations, such as The National Health Service, do and how people can get the most from them . . ." Volume Three deals with communication, knowledge and dialogue. Volume Four is Down To Earth—"farming, flowers and beasts".  Volume Five is inventions, discoveries, explorations and games.

As well as serving to broaden people’s interests The Catalogue will act as a sort of information pool, firstly generating interest in subjects, making reader’s aware of their own possibilities for further involvement and finally, listing the facilities by which they can do so.


“We’ll explain the essence of a subject first,” says John May, and then examining it in a number of different ways, all the time leading from the theoretical to the practical, so you get people involved in the ideas of the subject, capture their imagination, then they turn over the page  and there’s the address and phone number of people who are actually doing it. It places the onus on the reader so if they want to find out more they can actually do it themselves.”

“The real hope,” says John Trux is that people will use The Catalogue as a tool for getting into all types of a radical activity. A lot of good thins are happening with small groups of people but the only media outlet for hem at the moment is the Alternative Press and the occasional piece in other publications. A lot of radical ideas are feasible if enough people are into them. At the moment, there is either scattered groups of people or not enough people aware of what's happening. We're going to say 'This is happening; if you're interested these are the people to contact."

The American Whole Earth Catalogue started out with a minority, predominantly freak readership, and finished up as one of America's best-selling paperback books in years. John May hopes much the same thing will happen with the British Catalogue. "We're not just aiming at young people, or people in communes, or whatever. We hope our audience will be as varied as our contributors who are a strange mixture —old-age pensioners, lecturers, students, people in mundane jobs who have information on interest-ing subjects to pass on."

By making The Catalogue factual and accurate he aims to set a precedent, which other 'alternative' publications will follow, and also break down the prejudices people have against the underground Press in general.

"Up until now, the whole alternative underground Press scene has been very much 'Wow, man, that's really far out' — all rhetoric and no facts, no careful, critical examination of things."


 "The Catalogue will have the minimum of rhetoric and will examine things such as gurus and psychic phenomena —or any of those sort of fashionable things —carefully and says, 'These are the facts'; not 'Wow, isn't it freaky?'

"As long as people dismiss information and ideas as hippy bull-shit, the longer it'll take to change things. At the moment, it's when The Sunday Times does an article on drugs that people read it and say, 'Yes, that must be the truth'. If they read it in IT they just say, 'Oh, that's them hippies . . .'

 We aim to establish ourselves in such a position that when we come up with something startling about, say, social structures, it will be credible, people will believe us. Above all, we aim to make The Catalogue as interesting as possible, so that people do respond and get involved. I don't know how many will actually use it. We hope a lot."

Work on volume one of The Catalogue has already begun, but John May needs information and people willing to recycle it for subsequent volumes. Anybody with anything to offer—even if only help in the office — should contact John May at 2 Blenheim Crescent, London W11 (01-727 4712). •

Friday, May 19, 2023



Mick was one of the most prominent figures of the British counter-culture. A poet, author, musician, activist. In the late 60s Mick headed the protopunk band The Deviants and later released solo material under his own name. he is the author of more than 30 books both non-fiction and fiction. Here are some of them.
A biography and a chunky collection of his lifetime work.

This highly illustrated book  with design and layout by Edward Barker is a counter-culture classic. That's Ed and Mick with me just behind them. Cover by David Wills

Thursday, May 18, 2023


 Monday 15th May: Spotted  a hardback copy of 'The Letters of Allen Ginsberg' in the window of the Bow Windows  bookshop in Lewes. Edited by Bill Morgan who was Ginsberg's  literary archivist for many years. The letters are lengthy and full of thoughtful topics which make great reading. He is described as one of the most prolific letter writers of the 20th century. letters to Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Neal Cassady and Carolyn Cassady, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gary Snyder, Gregory Corso, e.e. cummings, Peter Orlovsky, Herbert Hunke, Bob Dylan, Timothy Leary, Jimmy Carter, Paul Bowles, Bill Clinton and many more. He travels extensively and the reader is carried into a wide variety of adventures and countries. When searching for a possible extract I settled on his letter to President Jimmy Carter on October 26th 1979.

'It has recently been brought to my attention that no writer currently sits on the National Council on the Arts. Although the performing and visual arts have their own lobbying groups, there's not a commercial market for poetry large enough to support a heavy pressure group. Some assistance is open to writers within the National Endowment for the Arts, but Literature has the smallest budget in the N.E.A.

'Poetry practices control awareness and purification of the language, it makes up penetratingly communicative word pictures. Because poetry is like the central nervous system of the body politic, poetic projection of image has a compelling role in the history of human actions. That's why Shelly said, "Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the World". That's why someone representing poetry and prose word arts should sit on the National Council on the Arts and have some say in national arts monies. Maybe it would be better to give no money to art at all, see what happens, if arts have been brought up by national patronage, and made lethargic to the pain of America's present history, politics etc. Painters have an industry with vast slush funds flowing up and down Madison Avenue. Because poetry comes out in little magazines, non commercial, it would be best to beef up the least fat-cat art. If we are going to have subsidiz- ation at all, put a poet to buffer it from commerce, censorship, and government interference. You need somebody with brains on top to figure out how to do it right - namely some writers on the National Council on the Arts.' Sincerely Allen Ginsberg.

I asked Jonathan if he had any other Ginsberg work and, within minutes I held in my hand a rare and wonderful book 'The Riverside Interviews 1: Allen Ginsberg' published by the Binnacle Press in 1980. First Edition 1/600 copies.:https//

This was the first of a series conducted by Gavin Selerie - a prolific poet and teacher in his own right. see

The other Riverside Interviews  2: Lawrence Ferlinghetti; 3: Gregory Corso; 4: Jerome Rothenberg [with Eric Mottram]; 6: Tom McGrath [Binnacle Press, produced between 1980 and 1984]

The text is produced on a typewriter. This interview was conducted at Riverside Studios, Hammersmith, London, before Ginsberg's reading on 4th November 1979, and at Miles' flat in the West End after Ginsberg's reading at Battersea Arts Centre. Some additional material was supplied in a conversation which took place after the reading at the Round House on 17th November 1979.

There is a 5 -page intro: Selerie writes on page iv: 'In conversation with Ginsberg, I found that I was dealing with a mind continually alert to new situations and ready to absorb new information.....

'On meeting Ginsberg, I was struck first of all by the authority of his bearings; here was a man who knew things from experience and who could muster facts and examples to support his argument. Then, gradually, the confident assertion of beliefs or opinions seemed to be counterbalances by a certain humility....Ginsberg's knowledge of literature commands respect. The ease with which he quoted from other people's writing underlined his sensitivity to language.'

The follows 42 pages of interview. Ginsberg talks in great depth about making poems, the rhythm of poems and his own experiences in life. I like this extract:

'Ezra Pound was the one who pointed out long ago that poetry, music and dance were one. His proposition was that at one time word, movement and melody were one art or parts of one performance...

'The person who comes nearest to that in pronouncing language aloud is Mick Jagger; or some other rock or popular musicians and ballet people. OK, so just to be classical about it: let us be reminded that in the immemorial mists of history poetry and music and even dance were allied and that this combination is nothing new.'

The book comes complete with photographs by Chris Schwarz. The cover is Ginsberg outside the front of William Blake's cottage at Felpham. November 1979.

One other is the Ginsberg and three others in front of the Public House Bookshop in Brighton  - Richard Cupidi who owned and ran the bookshop, Lee Harwood and Peter Orlovsky.