Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Thích Nhất Hạnh: THE FATHER OF MINDFULNESS



Rather late in the day, The Generalist has become aware of  Thích Nhất Hạnh, considered the Father of Mindfulness who died on January 22nd this year aged 95. He founded a new form of Buddhism and founded monastic communities in the West and in Hong Kong, Thailand and many other countries including Vietnam where he was born and suffered the effects of the war before escaping to create a retreat in France. 

He visited America three times and persuaded Martin Luther King to come out against the war which he knew would change the tide of public opinion. MLK's speech began: "Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now, Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct". 

He nominated Nhất Hạnh for a Nobel Peace Prize which he won: 'His ideas for peace if applied would build a monument to ecumenism [a movement within Christianity toward the recovery of unity among all Christians], to world brotherhood, to humanity'.

The following material is from the soundtrack of a wonderful documentary 'A Cloud Never Dies' which is available on YouTube.

"I am not inclined to be a politician. My vocation is as a monk. But as a monk you have to have the courage to speak out against social injustice and the violation of human rights."

He developed walking meditation. "You should do it as if you are the most happiest person in the world.. Do not set yourself a goal for a particular destination. So we don't have to hurry because there's nothing up there to get. Therefore walking is not a means but an end by itself."

These are some of his messages: 'we need to overcome violence and fanaticism by coming  together as brothers and sisters in the human family and learn the art of cultivating peace to help transform the alienation and the loneliness of the modern world'.

'The way out is in, to go back to oneself and take care of oneself, learning how to generate a feeling of joy, learning how to generate happiness, learning how to handle a painful emotion. Listening to suffering allows understanding and compassion to be born and we suffer less.'

'It's my conviction that we cannot change the world if we are not capable of changing our way of thinking, our consciousness. That is why awakening, collective awakening, collective change in our way of thinking, our way of seeing things, is very crucial. All of us can help promote that.

'Our task is to come together and produce that kind of collective awakening. There are many ways in order to bring about the kind of collective awakening. There are many ways in order to bring about that kind of collective awakening and change. That is the way to change our way of daily life so that there is more mindfulness, more peace, more love which is a very urgent thing. And we can do that beginning now, today.

'When you wake up you see that the earth is not just the environment. The earth is in you and you are the Earth. You touch the nature of interbeing. At that moment you can have real communication with the earth.'

'We know that many civilisations in the past have vanished and this civilisation of ours can vanish also. We need a real awakening. A real enlightenment. We have to change our way of thinking and seeing things and this is possible. Our century should be a century of spirituality. Whether we can survive or not depends on it'

See 10 best books: https://nerdycreator.com/bookclub/thich-nhat-hanh-books/



Tuesday, June 21, 2022

ART MAGAZINES: STATE/f22 and ROSA



To come across two new art magazines in the same week is a rare and delightful event. To complicate matters somewhat STATE and f22 are two different magazines in one. To quote 'Totally free, STATE is about new manoeuvres in painting and the visual arts - combined with f22, a supplement on developments in the fusion of art & photography. It is not a review magazine. It's about PEOPLE  worth serious consideration; PLACES that are hot and happening; and PROJECTS developing in the art world'. STATE is 83pp and f22 is 4Opp. Yes its free. First published in January 2011, this bi-monthly is distributed to art schools, galleries, libraries and museums across the UK. You can get copies posted to you free if you pay for the postage. See state-media.com

Its the brain child of  Mike von Joel who has been working in publishing for 40 years and has a long track record of producing magazines. His first was The New Style (1976-1980)  which promised readers ''the disgusting inside stories'' about fashion and the news media. A string of art magazines followed  - Art Line (1982-1997) Artissues and artBooknews (both founded in 1990), State of Art (a free newspaper 2005-2007). He also edited Photoicon, a Norwegian-based magazine focused on international photography. Von Joel is the Creative Director of 'Art Bermondsey Project Space', a not for profit contemporary art gallery founded in 2015. Their blurb reads:

'Project Space presents art, photography and moving image from across the UK, offering a flagship venue for both emerging and established artists. This, combined with our visionary educational and early learning programs, promotes freedom of creative expression through the visual arts. The converted Victorian Paper Factory (hence name The Vellum Building) provides three exhibition rooms and our proximity to the world-famous White Cube gallery establishes interest from all levels of the contemporary art world'.

The magazine is stuffed with interesting material leading with a lengthy interview with Frank Stella, now aged 85 and still working hard at his studio complex at Rock Tavern, New York. Another long piece is about Lynn Barber the journalist and the interviews she  conducted with Tracy Emin (who became a good friend), Damien Hirst, Mark Quinn and the Chapman brothers, one of whom threatened to kill her. 

There's News and Money sections, Art books reviewed by von Joel and a DOCUMENTS section with nine essays by different authors on 'Art in Theory and Practice'. These include a leading piece on Andy Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable and an interesting essay on food and art featuring Joseph Beuys and  a shop in Scotland called Narture - Baking Bread to fund arts projects'.

If you now turn the magazine over f22 has some interesting material - the collage work of Penny Slinger, the amazing photojournalism of David Taggart under the theme Republic of Humanity. His photos of people all over the world are extraordinary and deeply moving as well as being technically amazing. I also got fascinated by the piece called The Lost Faust, an art film by Philipp Humm, starring Steven Berkoff, which took three years to make. It is set in the future but based on Goethe's famous tragedy about this medieval necromancer and alchemist. The film is part of a wider project, what Hamm calls a Gesamtkunstwerk which means a 'total work of art'. Humm also is producing an illustrated novella, drawings, sculptures, fine art photos and paintings.


  ROSA [The Review of Sussex Arts] is a complete newby  quarterly magazine put together by Jessica Wood as publisher with Alec Leith as Editor (formerly of the local magazine Viva Lewes. now defunct) with Rowena Easton as Art Director. 

The opening Editorial suggests that apart from visual arts which make up the entire contents of this first issue (106 pages/£9), they will, in the future, also include musicians, live performers and writers. In contrast to STATE the design has lots of white space and big headlines. They have managed to get 14 pages of advertising which suggests there is a healthy future for the project

It begins with a roundup of summer festivals, events and exhibitions followed by a seven page feature on their chosen cover artist Fergus Hare, a Portslade based painter. This set of pictures with beaches, sea, clouds and anonymous figures have been  compared to Edward Hopper which perturbs him. He tells Leith that they are all connected with his mother who died when he was 18. "I am trying to contact her with what I do as if she were alive. Not in subject necessarily, but emotionally."

Next we have an artistic duo of Ben Langlands & Nikki Bell who have staged three exhibitions Utopia, Absent Artists and Near Heaven at Charleston. The latter refers to Vanessa Bell's attic studio which for many years had been unused and was chock-full of an  abandoned objects and dusty files. The artists cleared it out because, says Nikki, "We want you to stand in the physical space where Vanessa stood". Her daughter referred to her mother's studio as Near Heaven.

There's a great presentation of the late Robert Tavener's sketchbooks whose archive is being carefully managed by Emma Mason. Tavener  taught at Eastbourne art college and his beautiful work has gained an international reputation.

Alex Grey's article features the pictures and story of a church mural that Grey helped save from destruction. Grey has been compiling a list of works of art in Sussex streets, parks, churches and other public places
 
Alexandra Loske, a curator at the Royal Pavilion and Brighton Museums, is the author of Colour: A Visual History. Her piece focuses on the colour blue.

Next is a profile of Glyn Philpot (1884-1937) to initially made his reputation for his portraiture but then switched his style to Modernism. The  Pallant House Gallery is staging a retrospective of his work entitled Flesh and Spirit which will run until October.

'Who Am I Today' deals with  Katie Sollohub's oeuvre and her unusual daily routine which involves swimming in the sea no matter what the weather conditions are and then painting  a head-and-shoulders self-portrait straight after.

This summer Glyndebourne will stage an exhibition that highlights 70 years of programme covers. which includes work by Hockney and Grayson  Perry. 

There's more on Charleston with an article on Vanessa Bell's Garden,  an architectural piece on the Bayside tower in Worthing, a day out in St Leonards, works of art for sale, cartoons by Harry Venning' 

 Luciana Hill's 3D recreation of Magnus Volk's strange and wonderful Daddy Long Legs which offered a 'Sea Voyage on Wheels' from 1897 to 1901 is made possible by an app made by creative technologist Alex May [my son!!]

A rich mixture by any account. More details on subscriptions and stockists here. https://rosamagazine.co.uk/

Saturday, June 11, 2022

THE EALING CLUB: BIRTHPLACE OF BLUES IN BRITAIN


You can buy all these items from the Ealing Club Community Interest Company
The DVD paints a good picture of why this venue is considered to be the epicentre of the Blues Boom through extensive interviews with key players. 'The A-Z of Ealing Rock' provides short profiles of many musicians who were attached to Ealing and the club. The tea towel is a map and chart of those people 

https://the-ealing-club.myshopify.com/collections/all
*

This third piece about the birth of blues in Britain links to my two previous posts about Ricky-Tick clubs and  Eel Pie Island which, when taken all together, give a good picture of how things developed in the the 1960s.  

The story of this remarkable venue began when Fery Asgari, an Iranian student who had come to study English at the Ealing Technical College got involved with some bands in the art school of the college. He told a BBC interviewer: "The art school at the college could boast various bands, many in love with the blues. I found myself helping to promote the music nights but it was hard to find a venue because the music was so loud.

"Then I was walking near Ealing Broadway station and I heard jazz and I followed it down the steps… and I found this little basement music club. Within a few weeks I was running the place. To start with we had jazz on Thursdays and Fridays and R&B on Saturday."

The two most important figures in R&B at the time were the pioneering Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies who had been running the acoustic London Blues and Barrelhouse Club from the Roundhouse pub at Wardour Street in Soho had recently been ejected for playing electric music. They relocated to the Ealing Club and played their first gig there on 17th March 1962 - a night now celebrated with a blue plaque.

Korner recalled: “The club held only 200 when you packed them all in. There were only about 100 people in all of London that were into the blues and all of them showed up at the club that first night” All the musicians remember it as a sweaty moist place.

In the coming months everybody met everybody. Alexis and Davies ran Blues Incorporated which had a constantly changing line-up. Amongst the players were Eric Burdon, Paul Jones, Long John Baldry, Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton. It was a place where new bands were hatched and many musicians cut their teeth and learned their riffs.

On the evening of 7 April 1962 Mick Jagger and Keith Richards visited the Ealing Club to see Blues Incorporated for the first time. The club was the place where they later met Brian Jones for the first time. On the 12th January 1963 the classic Rolling Stones line-up played its first gig to an audience of about five people! In the Ealing Club documentary Pete Townshend  says that the Stones played 400 shows in 1963, many of which were at Ealing. Ronnie Wood also played the club with his band The Birds.

When Alexis parted ways with Cyril, the latter got his All Stars band together featuring Ginger Baker,  Jack Bruce, Dick Heckstall-Smith and Graham Bond,

Just down the road from the club was a music shop run by Jim Marshall whose amps were much more    powerful than others. Working there as a Saturday boy was Mitch Michell who learnt to drum there. He played at the club in a band called Soul Messengers, toured with many others, played with Georgie Fame before gaining stardom with Jimi Hendrix. Other musicians who came to the club were John Mayall, Rod Stewart and Dick Taylor.

In 1964-1965 the Mods started arriving at the Club and The Who did many gigs there and when Psychedelic culture arrived the Pink Floyd played there. Later came soul and reggae artists followed by a disco scene and house music.

Sadly the huge Crossrail project will reach Ealing and the Ealing club building is to be demolished. The end of an era.

Thursday, June 09, 2022

RICKY-TICK CLUB AND THE BRITISH R&B 60s SCENE

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Following on from Andrew Humphreys' 'Raving Upon Thames'  - a Richmond/Eel Pie Island musical history my friend Chris Lewis tipped me off to 'As You Were': The true adventures of the Ricky-Tick club. The book has been written by John Mansfield (with the help of younger brother Colin). The photo above shows John (right) with Philip Hayward (left) who he met when they were both doing national service in Germany after the war. 

John's life was changed when, as a teenager, he came across a wind-up gramophone and a box full of 78's. He became hooked on jazz and studied it. In 1952 he joined the newly-formed Slough Town Military Band for a couple of years and learnt to play the saxophone. When he was called up he used this musical experience to try and sign up as a Military Bandsman for the 13th/18th Hussars. When Philip turned up as a new recruit an instant rapport was established between them and for the next ten years they were a virtually inseparable double act except for a period from 1958 when Philip was posted to Malaya whilst John was discharged and returned to Britain.

Their mutual interest in music was first piqued in Hamburg when they met and hung out with The Crane River Jazz Band, a seminal outfit who first came together in 1949 and which for two years featured the cornetist Ken Colyer who was to make a great impact on the jazz and blues scene.

In 1959 John was working on a building site in Windsor opposite a pub called the Star and Garter which had a Trad Jazz club that he began to frequent and get involved in. He was very quickly offered a chance to run the club which he made a great success of. He became the manager of a band as well and bought a Lambretta scooter to scout other other possible venues in the neighbourhood. He also joined a convoy of scooters who regularly went to Eel Pie Island as this was the jazz club to go to. Further trips to London jazz clubs followed. 

When Philip returned to the scene the two would-be entrepeneurs were scratching around to make a living as their only source of income was their Sunday night jazz club which, in the summer of 1962, they renamed the Ricky-Tick jazz club. That September John was tipped off to the fact that Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated were playing at the Ealing Club. This was his first encounter with live electric blues which he says blew him away which is not surprising considering the line-up was AK with Graham Bond, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. This got him thinking about establishing an R&B club on a Friday at the Star and Garter. The first gig on the 7th December was a great success so John was keen to book them for the next Friday. Alexis said he was booked but suggested a band called The Rolling Stones who were playing interval spots at the Ealing Club.

The Stones played the Ricky-Tick on Friday Dec 14th 1962. It was Bill Wyman's debut and their first provincial booking. Following that, Brian Jones hustled more gigs in Sutton, Richmond, Putney and Twickenham. Their second Ricky-Tick gig on 11th Jan 1963 was sold out.

The Star and Garter became a music venue seven nights a week, five of the gigs being run by other promoters. The R&B Friday nights featured the Blues Incorporated or the Stones which brought in ever larger crowds which set them off looking for other venues. On the 22nd Feb they put on Alexis Korner at the Wooden Bridge Club in Guildford and the Stones at Windsor. By the first week in March they were promoting these and other bands at Reading, Windsor, Poole, Southall and Guildford. The Stones played eight gigs for them in eight days by which time, says John. 'they had established a fantastic and fanatical following'. The crowds were getting so big that they had an external metal staircase fitted at the back of the club. Capacity there had reached 300.

Promoting gigs in those days relied on rather dull woodblock printed posters and handouts to spread the word. John was amazed when he saw a huge poster with a huge screaming negro face advertising a R&B gig featuring Hogsnort Rupert - a band  with saxes. Hogsnort turned out to be the pseudonym of Bob McGrath, a student at the Farnham School of Art. He became the designer and stencil cutter for  Ricky-Tick promotions and taught them how to be silk screen printers. That March Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames were, says John, instantly adopted as the Ricky-Tick favourite as the main band ushering in a soul-jazz version of R&B.

During 1963, the Thames Valley area became the 'Blues Delta' of Britain with Ricky-Tick promoting regularly in Windsor, Slough, Maidenhead, Reading and Guildford. They put on gigs with Cyril Davis, John Mayall and Eric Clapton for blues purists . The Animals played their first gig down south, the same week that John and Phillip put on Sonny Boy Williamson supported by the Yardbirds at Windsor. John writes that by late 1963 the entire UK were feeling the 'British Blues Boom' with over 100 groups on the R&B circuit.

Early in 1964 John and Phillip were able to get a lease on Clewer Mead, a mansion by the river which John had been interested in for three years. It consisted of a large ballroom, a host of ancillary rooms and seven large flats - all for £16 a week!! Bands and artists playing here included Georgie Fame, John Lee Hooker backed by The Groundhogs, Bill Hayley, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Jerry Lee Lewis and Howlin' Wolf. 

They had room in the mansion to establish a substantial silk-screen operation producing not only 1,000 posters a day when required but also a wide range of t-shirts. In the following months or years further landmark gigs featured The Who, Long John Baldry, Little Stevie Wonder. Jimi Hendrix, The Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and on...

Phillip died in 1993 thus ending a partnership that had made a substantial impact on the British music scene of the day through a promotion and booking business that spread to venues across the south-east bringing the best of jazz, R&B, soul and rock to a wide audience. It's a real-life account of the music scene at that time and further evidence of the intensity of 1960s culture well illustrated with the posters and handouts of the period. The book is well designed, printed and bound and is a welcome addition to the story of British music

There is a complete list of gigs at the various Ricky-Tick venues here 
https://www.rickytick.com/gig-lists/

Saturday, May 07, 2022

RAVING UPON THAMES: AN UNTOLD MUSICAL HISTORY

The Generalist has a great interest in the history of British music and a belief that the true story has not been told or not told properly. This why 'Raving Upon Thames' by Andrew Humphreys - a former Time Out editor  - is so valuable and why its garnered 4 stars from Mojo.

Back in May 6th 2016 I published a post entitled on two books: COUNTERCULTURE UK & THE BRITISH BEAT EXPLOSION. The second publication, edited by J.C.Wheatley was subtitled Rock 'n' Roll Island and was focused on Eel Pie Island in the Thames - one of the hotspots of the music scene in Britain from the 1950s onward. A 160pp paperback with lots of photos it was the first proper account of this place that I had read. 


Andrew Humphreys book is twice the size and focuses not only on the Island but the whole scene around Richmond, the Kingston Art School, the early music festivals and the counter culture  of the town and district in exceptional detail. Two maps on the inside covers of the book give a geographical outline. All quotes are carefully sourced and indexed and must represent years of work methinks.

It is well known that Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Pete Townshend and Jeff Beck were all living in the district. This area was the training ground for the Rolling Stones and the starting out showcase point for a wide variety of musicians and musical styles, from Blues, R& B, folk, metal, psychedelia and punk rock, It was bohemian quarter of great importance in the development of  British music, comparable to Soho and Liverpool. Wave after wave of successful bands and musicians passed through and enjoyed the coffee shops, record shops and hang-out places of which only some survive today. Its a grand story, well told. 

 'Raving Upon Thames' has a lot to say about the Yardbirds. In a previous post in April 22nd 2012 THE TOP TOPHAM/JOHN IDAN BAND: THE YARDBIRDS AND BEYOND there is an interview I did with the bands first guitarist Top Topham.

I did take the stage at Eel Pie Island once as a DJ with my brand new copy of Led Zeps first album which had just been released on 31st March 1969. Can't remember the gig.

Andrew is not only the author of the book but is also the publisher as he's set up his own imprint called Paradise Road which aims to publish books about London. Two planned titles are The Marquee Story by Robert Sellers and Nick Pendleton and Denmark Street by Peter Watts. Looking forward to those.  




Thursday, May 05, 2022

FLAMIN' GROOVIES by NICK KENT

This is the Flamin' Groovies playing their first gig in Britain for many years at the Pattern Club in Brighton on May 1st. They played a tight set of sharp songs that hit the spot from note 1. Led by Cyril Jordan's guitar work the band line-up is Chris Von Sneidern (vocals and guitar),Tony Sales (drums) and Arom Ellis (bass) - all fine players with  impressive musical cvs. The last time I'd seen the Flamin' Groovies live was when they played back-up band to Iggy and the Stooges first legendary gig in the UK on July 15th 1972 at the Scala in London. We hung out with them at that time and Cyril remembered those days. I gave him a copy of our underground newspaper Frendz from 23rd June 1972 which features this great piece by Nick Kent published here for the first time since then.
                                                                              *

As I recall it was the second week of July back there in 1970 — prime time for a righteous dose of dem ole Summertime Blues. At that time, Frendz' celebrated rock writer was living in a one-horse town, still picking his nose and possessing a touching appearance of dog-eared innocence which the excesses of Ladbroke Grove were so soon to remove from his benign features. But believe me readers, I was going through the torments of hell. Let me clue you into some of the weights then being forcibly placed on my frail shoulders. My folks were hustling me to get some sort of vocational job. I was sweating and itching a lot and my girlfriend was having a period. Jesus, there wasn't even a good dirty movie on worth going to see. I was somewhat distraught over my circumstances and my condition may well have degenerated even further into the realms of self-abuse or even a possible teenage nervous breakdown were it not for a hot tip given to me by a good friend of mine concerning a piece of black plastic which he claimed could cure all ills and turn frantic desolation into unrelieved ecstasy. This record was 'Flamingo' and had been made by a group with the, uh, shall we say 'unlikely' name of the Flamin’ Groovies.

 Well I sold my Crosby, Stills and Nash albums, trucked on down to the nearest record store which stocked imports, suspiciously surveyed the cover (who were all these ugly mothers in their high fashion psychedelic clothing anyway?) and finally laid out the cash.

I had been informed, by the way, that this album contained the most killer rock n' roll recalling a spirit which had been celebrated before Chuck Berry left Chess to go to Mercury, Jerry Lee Lewis took up with country music and Pete Townsend had started believing he was a genius.

 Well, I got home, put the platter on the player and sat back waiting for the charge. About eight beats through the first number, I got a sinking feeling in my stomach, twelve beats later I almost puked. What is this shit? God, the band sounded like they were working out in a garage somewhere, while the lead singer seemed to have been doing the vocal track while he was f...ing a dog and eating boiled sweets at the same time. It was certainly primal but then so is gorilla fart.

This, of course, was before I had been fully turned on to the deliciously joyful noise of pure punk rock, preferring the more 'civilised' sounds going down and around at that time. However I persevered and by the end of July I had become quite attached to it. By the middle of August, the album was the only thing I ever played. Yes, friends, it took some doing but I had eventually broken down the barriers and turned my back on the flaccid bourgeois 'music' of the 'progressive rock' musician, in order to really get my rocks off from listening to high energy punk consciousness rock-a-boogie.

 The Flamin' Groovies were the acorn gospel and I, in turn, became a fanatical believer. I now recall how my social life was almost completely ruined when, at 'hip, cool' parties, I insisted on subtly slipping in a Groovies album between 'Atom Heart Mother' and Joni Mitchell. This would cause hippies to drop their joints and tear up their kaftans in fits of rage and impotence.

 The answer was simply that they couldn't take it, and many times the Spirit of Woodstock was temporarily destroyed as I was bodily thrown out of their parents' houses. I even started getting a bad reputation as some kind of hoodlum, but by that time, I didn't care.

 I was well stocked with killer records by the Kingsmen, the Seeds, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, the Cordettes, Question Mark and the Mysterians — you name it, I was on the look out for it. But my Groovies' albums always took precedence over everything else and I'd play 'Roadhouse' and 'Have you seen my baby?' as a kind of ritual every night before I crashed out.

But enough of this unnecessary banter and down to business The Groovies have since moved over to low-energy complacent old England to become what I hope and am quietly confident over, the ace partying rock n’ roll band that this country has needed for so long. Sort of like the Pink Fairies but without the constrictively tight community thing and a far flashier stage act. To put it simply, the Flamin’ Groovies deliver in no uncertain manner- you wanna hear some hot licks? Well drummer Danny Mihm and bassists George Alexander are the crew to check out. Wanna hear some real neat songs? Well hits just keep on coming when the band starts working out – everything from ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ and 'Nervous Breakdown' to third generation rockers like 'Sweet Jane' and the band's own 'Teenage Head'. Tell ya, if the full force of the Groovies doesn't get you up and jiving, then you'd better check yourself out at a morticians. Call them the best rock n' roll band currently resident in this country if you want to, I won't argue with you, and until Iggy Pop starts showing off his class, and the MC5 prove themselves more together and capable of 'doin' it', than what we had to put up with on their last tour, that's the way it's going to stay.

The Groovies can cut any English band under the impression that they're playing 24 carat rock n' roll to a frazzle. Simple as that. What those greasy rock revival bands who work the circuits in this country can never comprehend is that rock n' roll in its pure '50s form never really died. Sure, it went down a lot of times during the '60s but the energy was always there whatever games we as a generation got ourselves into. Rough diamonds were being produced all down the line, whether they were the Stones' work-outs or those early vital Who tracks or the Kinks, or the Young Rascals and the Velvets in New York City. And now we're thick into the third-generation rock comin' at ya straight from the frayed nerve-ends of the Teenage Wasteland.

What makes the Groovies a vital and exceptional band in this context is their ability to work on the music of all three generations and make everything they do quite believable. The four tracks they have laid down in the studios since they've been here, really show this. 'Talahassie Lassie' ('She my Talahassie Lassie/Down in FLA') which is pure delicious first generation camp, and three original numbers. 

The originals, and all of them are classics, are 'Shake Some Action' which is kinda like second-generation Who, worked with an energy and enthusiasm that the 1972 Who would find hard to muster; 'You To re Me Down' has vocal harmonies somewhere between Lennon and McCartney and the Everley Brothers, a song styled around the kind of stuff the Beatles used to do when they were really a group, a middle break straight out of early Who and lyrics recalling first generation teenage heart-break confessions fodder: the production, as Danny Mihm states, sounds just like 1964 Beatles produced by Phil Spector, but the overall sound is pure Flamin' Groovies, and it's a gas. 

Best of all, though, is 'Slow Death' which is pure lethal third-generation mainline rock. The song's about smack and as such stands right there with Lou Reed's 'I'm Waiting for the Man' and 'Heroin' as the ace song to deal with the subject. Building on one fine, fine riff, the whole thing moves with an urgency akin to some of the better stuff the Stones have just put out. The song was written in Detroit by Jordan and the old vocalist, Roy Loney. 'We'd moved out of 'Frisco because there was nothing happening, and headed over to the Mid-West. When we got there though, we found that everyone was 'jonesed' out. Roy just wrote the lyrics down as a natural reaction to what was going on there.' 'Slow Death' is being released as a single with 'Talahassie Lassie' as the B side. Watch out.

The Groovies, as the Chosen Few, were one of the very original San Francisco bands, along with The Charlatans and the Mystery Trend. Always a freakish band (using the word to recall a time when it really meant something) they found themselves often rejected, as their style of rock n' roll conflicted with the psychedelic music being laid out at the time. "Everyone was taking acid and laying out those long jams and raga solos, and when we came on and played short, straight rock numbers, they'd either think we were a comedy act or else they'd throw things at us." 

The Groovies were one of the prime movers in the whole San Francisco movement, though. They took over the old Fillmore Auditorium after Bill Graham had moved the Fillmore West set-up to the Carousel Ballroom, in order to put on dances which captured the spirit of the original environment. Also they took the weird step of cutting and releasing their first record themselves. The record, an EP entitled 'Sneakers' was recorded and mixed in ten hours. Ten thousand pressings were made and the whole bitch is now a real collector's item. Finally a neat contract was signed with Epic, who paid so much for the actual contract they couldn't afford to give them adequate publicity so, they moved to Kama Sutra, who again left them hamstrung by lack of publicity.

 The critics dug the music though. Guys like Richard Meltzer would turn up to sessions and the band became the all-action partying combo to see. By the time 'Teenage Head', their third and best album so far, was released both Loney the vocalist and Tim Lynch, second lead guitar player, had split. Lynch had been busted for dope, while Loney, originally an actor, had lost interest and had therefore become a pretty uninspiring front man. 

So Jim Farrell, a fine slide player, took over from Lynch (mostly all the guitar playing on 'Teenage Head' is Cyril Jordan's work by the way) and Chris Williams, just 18-years old and the front man for ex-Charlatan Mike Wilhelm's band, Loose Gravel, became the vocalist. Pissed by the lack of action and the apathy of San Francisco, and scared by the zombie-like state of places like Detroit, they decided to get it together to move to England.

 Cyril, easily the leader and decision maker of the band, came ahead to check out the outlets and general potential of the country, liked what he saw and moved the whole shebang to these fine shores. The band then went up to Rockfield to cut some sides produced by Dave Edmunds (who has just released his excellent first album 'Rockpile'), played the Bickershaw Festival, and are now busy or mixing the new sides, drinking and smoking dope and getting ready for the live gigs they are going to be doing towards the end of June.

The Groovies themselves are one of the few real groups I've met. They all live together and drink and socialise together and their personalities seem to complement each other. Danny's the drummer so naturally he's the funny one. George is the bass player so he's sort of quiet but blends in nicely. Jimmy's the second lead guitarist so he looks dedicated and smiles a lot. Chris is the vocalist so he looks kind of moody (he has two front teeth missing which is classy if nothing else) and he went to the same mental hospital as James Taylor (a good conversation topic) and there's Cyril who's the leader and main hustler for the band. Cyril learnt his hustling techniques under the careful tuition of his old buddies Kim Fowley and Rodney Bingenheimer. Together they used to crash Beach Boys and Jan and Dean concerts and get backstage and talk with Brian Wilson (that was before Brian freaked out, by the way).

Cyril is a real rock n' roller who wears mirrored shades and clicks his fingers a lot but if anyone is going to be the superstar it'll be Chris. He's not that strong a vocalist and his moves are derivative, but, like Rick Derringer who took over Johnny Winter's band even when Winter was on the stage, he's got a certain charisma which stems directly from his youth and enthusiasm.

But he's emphatic when he states: "There's only one real superstar in the world, and that's Elvis. Listen, for the last ten years, Elvis has been recording crap and making shitty films, but everyone just dismisses them, y'know, and says — 'Elvis—oh wow! he was great'. Now when someone like McCartney turns out crap, everyone really puts him down but Presley is above everyone, man. He can do anything and people won't condemn him outright."

"What disgusts me about the old rockers is like how they cruise on their reputation. Chuck Berry — I love Chuck Berry — I mean we wouldn't be here right now if it weren't for Chuck Berry and his guitar licks but nowadays he just goes to a gig, picks up with just any band he's given — no rehearsals, nothing — he doesn't even tune his guitar. He goes on and plays this lousy set with this song called 'I want to play with myself' or 'My Ding-a-ling' — it's the old 'Reelin and Rockin' thing y'know — which he plays for about 15 minutes. And the crowd eat it up. God, when I saw him I was puking up backstage. It was disgusting . I mean Bo Diddley is fat and old, y'know, and the Everley Brothers put on this crappy show, but at least they can still sing. But Chuck Berry — and this man is an artist." Ah, what old age and show business can do to an inspired rocker! 

The Groovies are concerned with pulling all the stops out on the track —drawing forth all the innocence and pure teenage excitement the original possessed. And they succeed. No more, no less. Because the band knows exactly what rock n' roll is all about — where it was way back when and where it is now. They're hip to its sense of fun and fully aware of the drive and urgency needed to get behind an inspired performance. And there's nothing artsy-fartsy or pre-conceived about their act.

The band eventually go back into the recording booth to put the finishing touches to the track they're doing tonight, which is 'Talahassie Lassie'. Freddie Cannon, who did the original, has grown a paunch and a goatee, appears occasionally on things like the Dick Clark Show and tries to trade off his lack of talent on his former name-and-intentions — they just wanna play the music they love and make a success of it —and if that sounds corny then it's supposed to. Just pick up on the double-album released by Buddah — 'The Flamin' Groovies which is actually 'Flamingo' and 'Teenage Head' in one package. Put it on with absolutely no expectations whatsoever. You'll only be disappointed. Just let it get to you and then the rush will be all yours. No shit. Hey, and by the way, does anyone know where I can get hold of some old sides by Cannibal and the Headhunters?

Sunday, April 24, 2022

The Return of An African in Greenland




Back in April1983, I travelled to Paris to spend three days with Tété-Michel Kpomassie and his family who made me most welcome. The Sunday Times magazine commissioned me to write a piece on his remarkable book. The piece was rejected at time. You can read it along with a  more detailed account of my trip in the two previous posts on The Generalist in November 2009.

https://hqinfo.blogspot.com/2009/11/archive-african-in-greenland-1.html

https://hqinfo.blogspot.com/2009/11/archive-african-in-greenland-2.htm

Many years later I am delighted to say that his wonderful book with a new Afterword has just been published by Penguin Modern Classics and is now available in eight other languages.

Reading the new material takes me back to how wonderful his writing style is. He has always kept impeccable diaries and the level of detail he brings to his accounts is impressive to say the least. He not only made three further trips to Greenland over the years but also made two epic journeys around Africa ten years apart to 16 countries. His mission was to enable young Africans to learn about Greenland and to open their minds about the outside world.