Friday, March 16, 2018


Three freak histories have coincided at THE GENERALIST HQ. All are valuable additions to the library and come highly recommended.

'A Hero For High Times' by Ian Marchant [Jonathan Cape] is the most recently published of the three Its full and grand subtitle outlines its mission: 'A Younger Reader's Guide to the Beats, Hippies, Freaks, Punks, Ravers, New Age Travellers And Dog-On-A-Rope Brew Crew Crusties Of The British Isles 1956-1994'.

Bob Rowberry
Read review by Teddy Jamieson in The Sunday Herald [Scotland]

Ian tells the history through the story of the life of his friend Bob Rowberry who he's known for some 30 years. Now 75, Bob has lived through all these times and trends and has a grand fund of anecdotes about his life on the road, on the streets of Soho, his journeys to Afghanistan. He was present at many of the major festivals and defining events and was an enthusiastic consumer of the best drugs of the time. Living life on the edge, he still resides in an old school bus in a wood in Wales where, throughout the book, he and Ian sit drinking mugs of coffee, smoking spliff and recording Bob's chatter. Amongst Bob's claims to fame are that Procol Harum was named after his cat, that he gave R.D. Laing his first acid trip and that he was the first to import Afghan coats to Britain.

The book is named after a famous Russian novel by Mikhail Lermontov 'A Hero of our Time' and the quote Ian draws from it underpins his view of Bob: 'You know, there really exist certain people to whom it is assigned, at their birth, to have all sorts of extraordinary things happen to them'.

Ian came on the scene during punk, was in a band, had a hectic and creative life of his own as a performer, writer and now historian.As he explains it, the impetus for the book came from when he was lecturing at Birmingham University and noticed not only that there was little or no political activity, unlike when he was at Uni, but also that the students knew nothing about what he calls Freak culture. 

Ian suggests that all the different forms and tribes of dissenters can be united under a united freak banner. It's clear that there was a connection, a wave of protest, that spread throughout the time period the book embraces - from 1956 when Ian highlights the Suez Canal crisis, the Soviet invasion of Hungary and the release of Elvis Presley's 'Hearthbreak Hotel' as starting points to the Convoy and road protests of the 90s.

In the book, Ian intersperses essays of various lengths which - for the Younger Readers - explains the background to the events and people that Bob is referring to. The 480 pages include a good index, bibliographies, discographies and lists of relevant films. The main text is also peppered with references to other key works. 

When Bob mentions a person or a topic, like his meeting Ronan O'Rahilly the founder of Radio Caroline, Ian halts his reminiscences and writes a good background brief on the era of Pirate Radio and Ronan's personal story - a lot of which I didn't know, although I did meet him on several occasions. There's an important section for instance on the fact that, up until the 60s, homosexuality was illegal which may shock many of his Younger Readers. There is nothing patronising in his tone. He writes clearly and openly about the sexism of the 'underground', pointing out also that many of the important battles for freedom were fought in the '70s and beyond.

Ian tries to avoid the ground already covered at length by Barry Miles in his numerous titles that document both the Beat and the 60's cultural revolution, such as the underground press and the major metropolitan events that Miles played a role in. [See Previous Posts: Barry Miles: Boswell of the Underground and The British Underground Press of the Sixties.

This is refreshing, although one aspect of the  underground press that would bring added value to his history would be the remarkable spread of regional and local underground press from that period. When I was at Frendz magazine - a national underground newspaper that is still under the radar [The Generalist holds the nearest thing to its official archive] - I compiled a list and a map of more than 100 mags and papers in existence at that time (1971/72), a mixture of litho-printed papers and fanzine-types, produced on a Gestetner and stapled. This kind of duplicating machine, now superseded by the photocopier, known generically as a mimeograph, produced copies from a stencil. 

Ian is very good on all the free festivals,  the commune movement [500 in the UK in 1985], the early green movements, the travellers and the Tipi Valley scene in Wales [Ian was born and lived in Newhaven, a few scant miles from where these words are being written, and moved Welshwards in mid-life ]. 

Hw writes that the American-based Whole Earth catalogue was a big influence on these movements and here am happy to correct one small matter: 'There was a short-lived British version, called the 'Index of Possibilities.'  In fact what happened was Colin Moorcraft began a 'Whole Earth Catalogue British Edition' supplement in Friends magazine, Much later, in 1972, in what became Frendz, myself and colleagues produced a couple of 4pp supplements entitled 'The Great British Catalogue'. We then got a book deal with Wildwood House to produce a book of the same name. In fact this morphed into a different style of book: 'An Index of Possibilities: Energy and Power' - a strange kind of alternative encyclopedia. Two other volumes were commissioned but never completed. See Previous Index post.

'A Hero For High Times' touched me deeply and we [who call ourselves freaks] owe Ian Marchant and his open heart profound thanks for a grand work well done, His infectious enthusiasm and unpretentious style flows like a river. He tempers Bob's outrageous acts and statements with experiences and opinions of his own and they form a yin and yang partnership [Theory and Practice] producing a story-telling style that will appeal to his Younger Readers as he styles them. The book is dedicated to his real or future granddaughters. This could be 'The Outsider' for our time. I'm sure Colin Wilson would have approved of what is a genuine attempt to reach out, energise and inspire, the next wave of freaks by puttting them in touch with their own history. 

Marchant writes: 'Freaks wanted everybody to look at everything in new ways.'  We still want that. This is a book that deserves your attention.

Guardian Review by Iain Sinclair


     First published at the end of last year, 'Tales From The Embassy' [Strange Attractor Press] is a remarkable account by the main protagonist  Dave Tomlin of how he and an unusual floating tribe of others, successfully squatted and occupied the Cambodian Embassy in St John's Wood in London from 1976-1991.  During those years, the squatted Embassy also played host to numerous events and concerts featuring musicians from many parts of the world including the wonderful Musicians of Jojouka from Morocco, who so entranced Brian Jones and played in  Brion Gysin's restaurant and night club. 
    Dave was one of the founder members of the Third Ear Band who I saw many times at events and festivals and always thought were really cool. Dave reveals himself to have remarkable sang froid - grace under pressure. He is the one who gets into the place first, who sorts out electricity and water, organises a full-scale restoration of many of the interiors and deals with the police, council and many other authorities who take turns in trying to get them out. Dave invented the Guild of Transcultural Studies as a front for a radical experiment in living and thinking outside the box.

    Dave Tomlin has a très élégant writing style and this 500pp book is an absolute delight because of that but also because the tales are told in short essays, "communiques" of varying lengths, each one a vignette of an eccentric and wonderful world. The cast of characters in the book is lengthy; the main ones have pseudonyms but there is a list at the back with their real identities. Hoppy Hopkins and John Michell make short appearances. There are a host of memorable regular inhabitants, many of them with astonishing skills as artists or makers, musicians or cooks. The book also covers the Ladbroke Grove Free School and other initiatives in or around Portobello Road that also feature in Bob Rowberry's reminiscences. As ever with SAP books, great care has been taken with the edition - a fine cream paper and well-chosen type - which adds to the pleasure of these magical real-life tales.


    Finally, this is a great and wonderful find, which chimes in well with the previous title. 'Goodbye to London: Radical Art and Politics in the '70s' is a hardback catalogue published by Hatje Cantz in 2010 for an exhibition staged in Berlin by The New Society for Visual Arts (Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst or nGbK).

    The book is edited by Astrid Proll who also writes the foreword. A member of the Baader Meinhof gang, in 1971, at the age of 26, she escaped to London after being arrested in Germany and charged with attempted murder. She married and was able to obtain new identity documents under a new name and to hold down a variety of jobs whilst living in squats.

    In 1978 she was arrested by the Special Branch, fought her extradition but then, the following year, she voluntarily went back to Germany to fight her case. 'The attempted murder charge was dropped when it was gathered that the state had withheld information that could have cleared her but she was still sentenced to five and a half years imprisonment on account of bank robbery and falsifying documents; however, she had already spent at least two-thirds of that time in German and English prisons and therefore was released immediately.' [Source: Wikipedia]

    The book is a fascinating collection of essays, photographs and artwork documenting a time when there were lots of derelict buildings and more than 30,000 people squatting in the capital. Amongst the contributors are a great essay and photographs by Jon Savage called London Subversive', artwork by radical photomontagist Peter Kennard and photos by Jo Spence. The book's four main sections concern squatters in Tolmers Square, the South London Gay Liberation front, the Grunwick strike and art of the seventies.

    The back cover text reads: 'In a sense, the real sixties were the seventies. In the collective memory the counterculture of the seventies has taken a backseat between the revolt of 1968 and the appearance of Punk - unjustly, since the counterculture of the seventies in London was decisive in the liberalisation of British society, and the art of the time has influenced many following generations.The publication aims to demonstrate the potential that can arise from a crisis. It highlights the possibilities of radicalisation and will draw attention to a London that is still largely unknown.'

    Wednesday, March 14, 2018


    Source: A-Strategists-Guide-to-Chinas-Belt-and-Road-Initiative?
    The Generalist has become fascinated with THE BELT AND ROAD INITIATIVE a huge futuristic project, happening as we speak. Here is a short extract from a recent New Yorker piece by Jiayang Ern, prefacing a portfolio of  photos by Davide Monteleone.

    'When complete, the Belt and Road will connect, by China's accounting, sixty-five per cent of the world's population and thirty per cent of global G.D.P. So far, sixty-eight countries have signed on. If bridges, pipelines, and railroads are the arteries of the modern world, then China is positioning itself as the beating heart.  
    'Like most Chinese official-speak, the phrase "Belt and Road" obscures more than it clarifies: the "belt" will be composed of land routes running from China to Scandinavia, the Iberian Peninsula, and the Middle East; the "road" refers to shipping.' 


    'The Belt and Road Initiative, or One Belt, One Road, is a strategic long-term development project devised by China’s government, consisting of bilateral trade agreements and partnerships and physical infrastructure development along two key overland and maritime trade routes. Broadly, the purpose of the initiative is to increase, simplify and strengthen the flow of trade and capital between the East and West. 
    'The enormity of the project means that timescales for ‘completion’ are vague or extremely long-term, potentially decades away – this has created some scepticism about whether it will ever be implemented to the full capacity of its plans.
     'From a globalisation perspective, if the huge scale and ambition of the BRI comes to fruition, it could signal a transformation of geopolitics and global trade in the 21st century. The initiative will bring jobs and infrastructure to previously deprived or inaccessible regions; companies inside China will be able to trade with ease outside of mainland boundaries, and external organisations will have access to the growing middle classes. It has been estimated that by 2030, 66% of the world’s middle classes will live in Asia.
    'Although many countries and government including the US, UK and India have expressed scepticism about the initiative or rejected it altogether, plans are underway and the level of China’s ambition is clear.
    'As journalist and writer Wade Shepherd said in a recent Forbes article, “One day, soon perhaps, all of these pieces will align and we will wake up to a very different world, upon which time nobody will be able to do anything about it. Just because the BRI is difficult to define doesn’t mean it’s not happening. While the West mocks, China builds.”

    An interesting documentary 'The New Silk Road: Ambition and Opportunity | CNBC' can be seen here:

    Friday, March 09, 2018


    I have written several posts about my time at the NME (1975-1982) as a freelance, mainly using the pseudonym Dick Tracy. I wrote almost entirely about things that were not music but were related: books, films, campaigning issues, the music business, drugs and more. Above is my first and only cover story (1978) -  an investigative piece on record piracy and, below that, my first-ever story for the NME back in 1975. From small acorns...

    In 2005, the year I started this blog, I wrote a long piece about how I got to the NME and my memories of that time, with lists of all the main stories I wrote that were published. My head is still full of other unrecorded reminiscences.

    In 2012, the 60th year of the NME, a history book of the NME by Pat Long was published. I wrote a long review of this and a follow-up post  with corrections or amendments to the material that Pat had written about the non-musical journalism in the NME by myself and others. I was simultaneously grateful that some of my work merited acknowledgment.

    Great times. My thoughts go out to all friends and comrades from those days.

    NME now stands for No More Editions.

    Thursday, March 08, 2018


     Delighted to be promoting one of the gigs in the Spring Tour of Britain by Lach. Our gig is in Lewes at The Lansdown Arms. Back in 2005, I was involved in another gig at this same venue featuring Ramblin' Jack Elliott, who for some years lived with Woody Guthrie. There's a nice connection there.

    Lach (pronounced ‘Latch’) is the writer/performer star of BBC Radio 4's ‘The Lach Chronicles’, author of 'The Thin Book of Poems', composer of six albums and founder of the international music and art movement known as Antifolk.

    “Lach’s Great.” - Bob Dylan

    "Lach is the mastermind of Antifolk, like a Lower East Side rendezvous of Bob Dylan and Patti Smith. Like black snow, stalled subway cars and random violence, Lach is a Manhattan institution."-NY Times

    "Lach is incredibly bright, he's influential, he's funny, he's smart, and he’s got his own, sort of, counter-culture charm. A very intelligent songwriter, funny, poetic. He became part of New York folklore."-Suzanne Vega

    “He’s fucking funny!” - Nikki Sixx ( of Mötley Crüe)

    "The roots of modern songwriting: Bob Dylan, Syd Barrett, The New York Dolls, Nick Drake and Lach!"-Time Out London

    "He's a street-corner ambassador. Lach is beat. He's a ringmaster. He's a poet's poet."-Michelle Shocked

    "Lach is so what the East Village used to be all about. He's a gruff‑and-tough punk turned poet with a heart of gold."-Time Out New York

    "Lach is a face-ache funny, beat-punk-unplugged joy!"-The Guardian UK

    "Lach is a star! More Woody Allen than Woody Guthrie and a raised middle finger to the folk purists."-NME

    "The best punk rhythm guitarist since Johnny Ramone."-Billy Ficca of Television

    "Lach is rarely less than a face-ache funny, beat-punk-unplugged joy, and likely to send you home with several favourite new songs " - The Guardian UK

    "5 Stars! Really quite magical! " - Colin Somerville, The Herald

    PS My American friend Dave sent me a picture of Woody Guthrie's New Year Resolutions for 1943

    Tuesday, March 06, 2018


    Synapse, portrait of Klimowski and Danusia Schejbal, silkscreen of photomontage, 1983

    'A few words about Klimowski? Impossible. You can't capture an imagination such as his in a sentence or two. He is a free man and you'll never catch him. He looks at things head-on but at the same time inside out and upside down, round the corner and through a shattered keyhole. His eye is a microscope, a magnifying glass, a two-way mirror and a crystal ball. He leads the field by a very long furlong, out on his own, making his own weather. He is Klimowski, unafraid.'  - Harold Pinter

    Fine words from the late playwright who knew a kindred spirit when he saw one. Both share a sense of menace in their work.

    Klimowski is a broad-ranging graphic artist, employing many techniques and experimenting with photography, painting and printmaking.. He is a world-class illustrator, producing many series of fine book jackets and, in recent years, has racked up a number of graphic novels for SelfMadeHero and also produced their company logo. He is an Emeritus Professor at the Royal College of Art.

    This beautiful brand new SelfMadeHero book contains poster works from 1977 to 2017, providing a wonderful overview of one aspect of this maestro's prolific and diverse lifework. Rick Poynor in his great art/design magazine The Eye, identifies Klimowski's   "mental library of obsessional images to which he must endlessly return: eyes, faces, hands, the naked torso, angels and demons, snakes, flames, pens, pencils and cameras.' [Poynor's excellent essay 'Theatre of Dreams' [Autumn 1994] is an insightful source. See also his essay in Design Observer]

    Klimowski was born in London in 1949 of Polish parents. Poynor writes:
    'His first visit to Poland with family friends at the age of 11 revealed an unsuspected world of steam trains, lazy month-long summer holidays and fine living on a shoestring.'

    From 1968 to 1973, Klimowski studied sculpture, painting and graphics at St. Martin’s School of Art. He did not plan to become a graphic artist but Poynor says,  he was drawn to the posters he saw in the jazz clubs on his trips to Poland. His interests shifted towards photography and European film-makers.

    Klimowski met Danusia Schejbal ("love at first sight") and they decided to go and live in Poland.

     "When we went in the 1970s to live there, Poland was like the 1950s in England. Even the cars were rounded and slightly old-fashioned. You had wood panelling and chrome lights and radios with valves." Poynor comments: 'This sense of pleasurable dislocation, of being out-of-time and adrift in a world of archetypes, has become one of the defining characteristics of his work.'

    Wieslaw Rosocha poster
    From 1973 they lived and worked in Warsaw. For the first two years, Klimowski studied at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts; poster design under Professor Henryk Tomaszewski and film animation under Dr Kazimierz Urbanski. 'Klimowski began working professionally while still a student at the academy. .. In 1974 he married Danusia Schejbal, also a child of émigré parents, and she joined him at the academy to study set design. Klimowski asked to stay on for another year and spent much of the time working on stop-frame animations.

    Poynor writes: '...he made his way as a student to Warsaw, where he rapidly built a career for himself as one of the leading young Polish poster artists of the 1970s....'His posters for Polanski’s 'Chinatown' and Altman’s 'Nashville' (1976), won him a bonus payment, a prize from the Hollywood Reporter and Polish newspaper coverage'.

    Klimowski said: "Suddenly I got masses of posters and I was one of these big poster designers. It was a big thing for a graphic artist because everybody saw them."

    One of five posters Klimowski produced for
    films by Jim Jarmusch who is very popular in
    Only one of Klimowski's film or theatre posters that he produced in Poland was censored. His imagination was allowed full reign because theatre posters had to be produced long before the full details of the look of the production were settled. The now famous film-posters for American films also relied largely on his own imagination and a brief synopsis of the plot line. Danusia was on hand to gracefully life-model for many of these.

    'Then' writes Poynor 'in 1980, just before the imposition of martial law and at the height of his success, he saw what seemed to be a well-mapped future opening up ahead of him, took fright at the certainty of it all ... and decided to return with his family to Britain.'

    Poster for a theatrical adaptation
    of Dostoyevsky’s The Possessed,1980.
     The novelist compares the terrorists in his
     political melodrama to devils.
    Klimowski's work is dark. In the tradition of past photo-collagists, (Surrealism, Dada and Expressionism), elements jostle for attention in vividly disturbing ways.

    Wings and antlers sprout from heads that often appear to be full of machinery. Striking black and white hand-drawn work contrasts brilliantly with an artful photmontage slashed with colour


    Andrzej Klimowski and Danusia Schejbal revisited their journey to Poland  in the graphic novel 'Behind The Curtain', also published by SelfMadeHero. They talk about the project on a YouTube video. See also an interesting and delightful interview with them both at