Sunday, August 19, 2018


Colin Davies and Nol van Schaik

The first time I became aware of the existence of Nol van Schaik and his book 'The Dutch Experience'  was when I came across not the book itself but this picture of the front cover somewhere on the internet in 2005. 

On the 14th August that year, in a previous 'Inside Dope' post, I reported on the attempt  by Colin Davies with the help of Nol van Schaik to open 'The Dutch Experience' coffeeshop in Stockport, England, They were raided and both were arrested along with others present. At time of writing, Davies was serving a three-year prison sentence as a result. Van Schaik owns three coffeeshops  in Harlem and a marijuana and hemp museum.

So as it happened, on the 2nd August this year I spotted a copy of the book itself in the window of a second-hand book and vinyl store in Brighton. It had to be purchased. So now I am able to at least give you the early history of the Dutch coffee shops. The book was published in 2002. The second post on this topic will also bring you up to speed as to what's happening now on the Amsterdam coffee shop scene.


The famous Provo White Bike Plan, Teun Voeten writes 'envisioned as the ultimate solution to the "traffic terrorism of a motorized minority." The brain-child of Industrial designer Luud. Schimmelpenninck, the White Bike Plan proposed the banning of. environmentally noxious cars from the inner city, to be replaced by bicycles. Of course, the bikes were to be provided free by the city. They would be painted white and permanently unlocked, to secure their public availability.'

Van Schaik begins his tale by reminding us that the Dutch have historically traded in spices, herbs and opium and grown hemp. He tries to set the scene from which the hash coffeeshops emerged. He is correct on focusing on two important individuals - Robert Jasper Grootveld and Roel van Duyn - but his account is somewhat brief and a bit muddled. Looking for clarification, I happened to immediately find what must be the best single article on the Provo Movement. Reading this changes one's perspective on the history of that whole period. Another exciting find.

It was commissioned in 1988 by Steven Hager, the then editor of High Times magazine, and written by the great Dutch photojournalist Teun Voeten who at that time was a young anthropology student from Leiden University. Hager loved his portfolio and immediately commissioned him to photograph the Cannabis Cup Awards in Amsterdam. As the conversation progressed Hager writes:
'Suddenly, we both got very excited about the possibility of publishing the first definitive history of the Provo movement. Since so little has been written about the group, the job required a lot of research. Teun flew back to Holland and spent nearly a year tracking down all the original members for interviews. It's a great article and presenting it provides my proudest moment as a magazine editor.'
 This is how the piece begins, introducing what is by any stretch a remarkable and interesting piece of work. Voteten begins:
'It's no secret that Holland has the most liberal drug laws in the world, especially when it comes to cannabis. What you may not realize, however, is that these laws were enacted thanks to the efforts of the Dutch Provos.  
The Provos set the stage for the creation of the Merry Pranksters, Diggers, and Yippies. They were the first to combine non-violence and absurd humor to create social change.
They created the first "Happenings" and "Be-Ins." They were also the first to actively campaign against marijuana prohibition. Even so, they remain relatively unknown outside of Holland. Now, for the first time, their true story is told.
'It all started with the Nozems. Born out of the postwar economic boom, the Nozems were disaffected Dutch teens armed with consumer spending power. Part mods, part '50s juvenile delinquents, they spent most of their time cruising the streets on mopeds, bored stiff and not knowing what to do. Their favorite past-time? Raising trouble and provoking the police."Provo" was actually first coined by Dutch sociologist Buikhuizen in a condescending description of the Nozems.  
'Roel Van Duyn. a philosophy student at the University of Amsterdam, was the first to recognize the Nozems' slumbering potential. "It is our task to turn their aggression into revolutionary consciousness," he wrote in 1965. Inspired by anarchism, Dadaism, German philosopher (and counter-culture guru-to-be) Herbert Marcuse, and the Marquis de Sade. Van Duyn, a timid, introverted intellectual, soon became the major force behind Provo magazine.  
'But while Van Duyn presided over the Provos' theoretical wing, another, more important element was provided even earlier by its other co-founder, Robert Jasper Grootveld, a former window cleaner and the original clown prince of popular culture. 
'More interested in magic than Marx, Grootveld was an extroverted performance artist with a gift for theatrical gesture. During the early '60s, he attracted massive crowds in Amsterdam with exhibitionistic "Happenings."  
'At the core of Grootveld's philosophy was the belief that the masses had been brainwashed into becoming a herd of addicted consumers, the "despicable plastic people." According to Grootveld, new rituals were needed to awaken these complacent consumers. While the writings of Van Duyn greatly appealed to the educated crowd, Grootveld found his followers among street punks.
'The Provo phenomenon was an outgrowth of the alienation and absurdity of life in the early '60s. It was irresistably attractive to Dutch youth and seemed like it would travel around the world. However, in only a few short years it disappeared, choked on its own successes.'


Van Schalk  writes that  Grootveld first came to public attention in 1955 when he began sailing Amsterdam's canals in a heated raft. He picks up the story of Grootveld in 1969 when he and Kees Hoekert, who 'had been sowing cannabis seeds all over Amsterdam's lanes, parks, veranda's and balconies', founded the Lowland Weed Company and 'opened the first ever pure hemp outlet'

Discovered that Kees Hoekert died on the last day of 2017 aged 88: According to his Facebook site: 'Cannabis culture started in Holland with Kees Hoekert going to Morocco in 1951. He's the one that found out that the cannabis seeds from Morocco and South America could also be grown in the Netherlands, and that smoking pot does not lead to addiction or hard drugs use. It was the start of the legendary (and officially registered) Lowland Weed Company.'

This picture must be later. Kees (left) and Grootveld
'The plants were openly displayed on top of Kees' houseboat; they actually stashed 15.000 on it, and started offering them for sale, for a guilder a piece. Hundreds of people were attracted by this opportunity, every day, and visited the houseboat, where Grootveld and Hoekert sold them rapidly, the customers walking off with as much plants as the could carry. They sold a total of 30.000 plants in a few weeks, that season. This green enterprise caused a pile-up in the neighborhood traffic; Kees' and Robert Jasper's clientele wanted a trunk load full! The police came to their assistance, for a change, and directed the future cannabis growers to the Lowlands Weed Company houseboat, to keep the other traffic flowing.'
Between 1968 and 1976 the authorities re-examined their policy towards cannabis. The Baan committee was established to look into the alternatives to filling the prisons with hash smokers. Their report made it clear that the law had to change and offered various options to government. The result was the 1976 Netherlands Opium Act which made, writes van Shaik: 
'a distinction between cannabis products and drugs bearing unacceptable risks...Penalties for dealing in the latter were sharply increased, while those for trade and use of cannabis were reduced substantially. Possession of marijuana and hash up to 30 grams became a misdemeanour. It caused a boom in the number of so-called teahouses and coffeeshops that started selling cannabis, and the beginning of a new mainstream in Dutch society.'


Coffeeshop Mellow Yellow in the former bakery Eickholt, May 1978 Stadsarchief Beeldbank.Photo Martin Alberts
Source:  Amsterdam Museum

The first coffee shop or 'tea house' as it was then known was opened in Amsterdam in 1972, in a rented room at 'Second Home' - a walk-in youth centre - located at Weesperzijde 53 on the Keizersgracht canal, 

Old school friends of Wernard Bruining's invited him there to join their 1970 New Year celebrations.Wernard (b.1950), who was at the time training to be a teacher, completely dug the social atmosphere where hash was being smoked, which reminded him of New Guinea [then a Dutch colony] where he lived and grew up before settling into Holland in 1960. It was the beginning of what he called 'my year of love and peace'. Second Home was run by the 'uncles' who also supervised guided LSD experiences for groups in the 'trip room', 

At that time, according to Van Schaik, marijuana was scarce in Amsterdam. What was available was Moroccan hash. To get their supplies, Second Home pooled their money and a designated buyer ventured out, avoiding street hustlers and making a score with older, more established, dealers.

In 1971 the owners of the building that housed Second Home was sold by its owners. Nine members of the hippie group rented a flat with two small rooms and a kitchen. When a fire broke out on the floor below, they became homeless once more. That same night they squatted a former bakery shop  near Weesperzijde 53. 

So many friends and acquaintances started coming round on a regular basis they decided in 1972 to make it into the 'Mellow Yellow' teahouse, named after the Donovan track. Van Schaik says that 'they considered the term 'coffeeshop' but they found that too commercial.

What made their place different from other clubs and venues, where you had an array of competing dealers, was that they had one house dealer selling pre-packed bags of 10 and 25 guilder deals of cannabis. It was open from 'wake-up until 3 o'clock in the morning.'  until there was so many people coming they had to reduce the numbers by cutting the opening hours to 8pm-12pm only. The new look, as seen on the cover of van Schaik's book, featuring a yellow submarine with four portholes, came in 1973. At one point when Werner was house dealer he realised he was selling 100 kilos a day. That's when he stopped.

Police raided them after a few years but nothing was found or confiscated. A second visit came in 1978 without hassle but later that year, a 20-strong police force came at them with dogs and found their secret stash, confiscating 801 grams of cannabis and 82 grans of hash. At the end of that year, 'Mellow Yellow' caught fire and that was the end of that location. However, it reopened shortly after on Vijzelstraat, near the Heineken Museum, and has remained there until the last day of 2016 when it was forced to close. [See next post]

Nol's book is highly detailed and there is a wealth of other information to be gleaned. Copies of the book are not quite as rare as hen's teeth but nevertheless difficult to find. It took me 13 years!!


Colin Davies and Nol van Schaik
As mentioned at the beginning of this piece Nol van Schaik worked with Colin Davies to open the first Amsterdam-style coffeshop in the UK. Nol writes at length (45pp) about this in his book. The Generalist has put together a selection of links, arranged chronologically, which runs from the first news story when it opened and was immediately raided to 2015. It's an extraordinary story and shows that Davies was man ahead of his time in pushing for medical marijuana, now at last being recognised as an important and effective treatment for many illnesses and conditions.

16th Sept 2001: Cannabis Owner released [BBC News]

20 Nov 2001: A tea, a coffee and two joints, please... [The Independent]

14 Apr 2002: Dope cafe king was bank robber [The Guardian]

25 April 2002: Go Dutch in Dorset [The Guardian]. News of cannabis cafe in Bournemouth

May 17, 2002: Colin Davies is free [Cannabis Culture]

July 3, 2002: Colin Davies in jail again [Cannabis Culture]

02 Oct 2002: Coffee shop man guilty of cannabis charges [The Telegraph]


So what is the situation with the Dutch coffeeshops in recent times? The cannabis control system appears to be in a state of flux. Is legalisation in the Netherlands now inevitable in the next five years?

[Left] The iconic Mellow Yellow was forced to close on December 31st 2016. 

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction says (March 2018) that there are 573 coffee shops in 103 of the 380 municipalities in The Netherlands, including The Hague. A  report from The Economist [10th Jan 2017] estimated that, since 1995, the number of coffeshops in the Dutch capital has been reduced by more than half, from 350 to just 167.  

This closely regulated network of places in Amsterdam where visitors can buy and smoke cannabis - used by one in four of the 17m tourists in 2016 -  is considered by the liberal city authorities to be the way of keeping soft drugs out of the hands of criminals.

But the government in the Hague, the political capital of the Netherlands, has clamped down by banning coffeeshops near the border from selling to tourists and forcing the closure of coffeeshops which are less than 250m from schools. 

'Mellow Yellow' was a victim of this latter ruling (it was 230m from a hairdressing school) as were nearly 20 others. Thirty more were closed some years before during a clean-up of the red light district but the majority of coffeeshops in the city, says The Economist, 'went out of business either because they ran into trouble with law enforcement (there have been several shootings recently) or because they couldn’t hack it financially. A “no growth” policy means coffeeshops are petering  [out?] because no licenses are being handed out for new ones to replace those that have closed.'

[According to an NPR report and a Guardian piece, both in 2018, Amsterdam is suffering from 'overtourism' (as is Venice, Dubrovnik and Barcelona). In 2017 tourist numbers went up to 18.5m, an 11% rise on the previous year. The city government has responded by doubling the tax on hotel rooms to 6%, banning short-term Airbnb in the city centre and new souvenir shops. In early August more than 2m of the city's 85,000 inhabitants now go abroad on holiday to avoid the tourists,]

So the coffeeshops that remain have to deal with a higher demand. This means, in some cases, coverting from being a cosy cafe to just doing take-aways. They are allowed legally to only hold 500 grams of marijuana at any one time which 'makes their couriers more vulnerable to robberies. It could also push proprietors to turn to criminals for their increased supply needs.'  There has also been an increase in street dealers.

In Febreuary 2017 the Financial Times reported that the Dutch parliament had narrowly approved a bill that would create a regulated supply chain of growers who are permitted to cultivate the drug without being arrested. This removes a legal loophole that left coffeeshops open to prosecution for obtaining supplies for their businesses. At that time, the cannabis bill still had to be approved in the Dutch senate.

The FT reports: 'Yet at the same time Dutch police have gone after those who grow the drug, dismantling nearly 6,000 plantations in 2015 alone, according to NRC, a Dutch newspaper. This policy discrepancy led to criminal gangs becoming heavily involved in cannabis production, according to the bill’s supporters. They also argue that allowing its cultivation would reduce the grip of organised crime on supply and cut its export to other countries.'

In March 25th 2018, the New York Times  published an article 'Solving the Dutch Pot Paradox: Legal to Buy, but Not to Grow' by Chistopher F, Schuetze which examined this issue. It says the Dutch government has proposed a pilot program to explore the effects of legalizing, standardizing and taxing professional-grade marijuana operations which it is hoped will remove organised gangs from the supply chain.
'Last month, the national police union, Politie Bond, released a stinging report warning of the growth of organized crime in the country, fueled by the drug trade. 
The Netherlands fulfills many characteristics of a narco-state. Detectives see a parallel economy emerging,” the report stated, noting that while crime over all had decreased, those producing and trafficking drugs were becoming ever more sophisticated.'
 [A piece about this report in The Guardian claims that 'A large majority of ecstasy taken in Europe and the US comes from labs in the south of the country, which are increasingly run by Moroccan gangs involved in the production of cannabis. Half of the €5.7bn a year of cocaine taken in Europe comes through the port of Rotterdam, according to Europol.']
Referring back to the pilot programme, Schuetze reports that:
'The proposal, which is being shaped in committee and is scheduled for a vote in Parliament in the summer, would allow six to 10 Dutch cities to legally produce and sell cannabis for four years.
 Although only the rough outline of the proposal is known so far, the law would most likely license official growers, who will then be allowed to grow specific strains, similar to how medical marijuana is handled in the Netherlands.
Whatever final shape the pilot project takes, it is likely to create a multimillion-dollar industry, and stakeholders — from corporate greenhouse suppliers to coffee shop owners — are vying for a say. 
“We ask to be part of making the rules,” said Nicole Maalsté, an academic who helps represent nearly half the 567 Dutch coffee shops nationwide. “We want to be partners in this.”
Schuetze's story was filed from the city of Breda in the south of the Netherlands:
'The coffee shops are a fixture of neighborhood life in many Dutch cities...A shared fear among those connected to the current coffee shop scene is that a fully open and commercial system would squeeze out the smaller growers they have come to count on.
But others see such a shake-up as an inevitable part of commercialization.
“Whether you like it or not, the consumption is so widespread that you have to organize the production,” said Mr. Depla, the mayor of Breda.'


 In 'Cannabis smoking outlawed in The Hague's city centre' by James Crisp [The Telegraph 16th April 2018] he reports that The Hague has banned cannabis smoking on the streets of its city centre and in major shopping areas and the central railway station after complaints from residents. 'Local politicians had considered outlawing cannabis use across the whole city but opted to pinpoint certain areas instead. 

'Several other Dutch local authorities have considered similar moves...Rotterdam, which has moved to cut its number of coffee shops, banned pot-smoking near schools. Later, the ban was extended to the whole of the city, making it illegal to smoke a joint on the street.'

In 'Dutch Cities Don't Love Weed' by Feargus O' Sullivan published on the CityLab website (20th April 2018) he writes his views on The Hague ban
'The Hague’s new ban on the public consumption is the latest signal of the country’s waning tolerance... the tide seems to be turning against general tolerance in the Netherlands, with increasing curbs being placed on cannabis trade and public consumption. So why is this tightening up occurring here at a time when other countries are moving toward relaxing their laws?
'The truth is that the Netherlands has been trying to curb some aspects of the weed business for a while now. As things stand, cannabis possession is technically illegal, but for personal consumption, that law is ignored. Amsterdam (later followed by Rotterdam) banned coffee shops from setting up within 250 meters (820 feet) of secondary schools as far back as 2011.  
'Meanwhile, the whole country came close to limiting weed sales back in 2012, when the government proposed a “Weed Pass” system that would limit cannabis sales to national residents, replacing a cannabis club membership system that had long been in place in the county’s three southernmost provinces. While a few border towns kept the system, the pilot was largely abandoned due to fears that it increased black-market street trading.' 
'Consumption isn’t necessarily the target here—the Netherlands has long had comparatively low levels of cannabis use compared to other European countries, anyway. It’s more about combatting a sense of public untidiness and tacit official approval for weed use...Frustration at publicly active stoners is also partly influenced by the country’s ongoing anti-tourist backlash.'

 On the 7th July 2018, the Dutch government in the Hague gave the green light to a wide-ranging experiment to allow six to 10 municipalities around the country to legally grow cannabis.



'A Look Inside Amsterdam’s Cannabis Liberation Day 2018' was published [25th July 2018) on the website. Its a great article with lots of links. Here is a short summary of this reportage of an event featuring the Cannabis University  - an eight-hour program of master classes and panels - which ran alongside the Cannabis Liberation Day "protestival" that took place on June 17th in Amsterdam’s Flevopark.

 One of the main sessions had Derrick Bergman as interviewer. He is the chair and founder of the Dutch Union for the Abolition of Cannabis Prohibition (VOC for short) who started the festival in 2009 and has run it since. This year's event was the largest ever (estimated 10,000-15,000 people) and is the last. Bergman explained why in an email a few weeks after the festival:
 'We’ve spent over ten months preparing for this final edition, which means there’s less time, energy and money for our other activities, such as lobbying politicians, informing media, running campaigns. Compared to the situation when we started in 2009, the world has really changed, and we believe legalization of cannabis has become inevitable here in the Netherlands. We feel our priority should now be to make sure that regulation of cannabis will not turn into ‘prohibition 2.0.’ This means we will focus on influencing policy makers, politicians, and journalists.”

Bergam interviewed 'The Bulldog' coffeeshop impresario Henk de Vries, and Ben Dronkers, the who founded Sensi Seeds.
 'Sharing a stage—and a joint—at Cannabis University, the men spoke for their allotted 25 minutes about the past 50 years, during which the Dutch government has turned a blind eye to cannabis use and vending yet punished its commercial cultivation.... It was momentous. Nowadays, De Vries rarely gives interviews. Dronkers lives in Malaysia, though was in town after having opened 'We Are Mary Jane: Women of Cannabis', a new exhibition at the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum (which he also established in 1985).
  'Though one hails from Rotterdam and the other from rivaling Amsterdam, Dronkers and De Vries revealed remarkably similar backgrounds. Just shy of 70, both got involved with dealing “grass” through proximity to the “African weed,” as De Vries termed it, that arrived on ships in their respective cities’ ports. Each waltzed into readymade networks through their fathers’ business dealings.
'Dronkers’ dad sold secondhand goods—schlepping around used fridges was a convenient way to transport illicit substances. By 1984, Dronkers had opened Rotterdam’s first coffeeshop, Sensi Smile. 
'De Vries’ dad had a sex shop, which became The Bulldog’s flagship location once De Vries decided selling porn was, in a word, “shit” (reportedly throwing the collection of videos and printed matter in a canal) and transformed the place. Its vibe was modeled after an old Dutch koffiehuis, where people were expected to relax, bitch about social and political grievances, and consume whatever they desired.
'A characteristically Dutch knack for commerce and entrepreneurialism made them savvy and solvent. But being broadminded free spirits kept Dronkers and De Vries unwavering in their vision of a green society. When both men described countless raids and arrests and Bergman asked why they still bothered, they were matter-of-fact. “You get raided a hundred times, a thousand times. All this hassle, all this shit, normal people would. Why did you not give up?
“Well, because you believe in what you do. And we knew there was nothing wrong with it; on the contrary, there was something good. We couldn’t give up,” responded Dronkers. “We want to legalize. We want this plant to be a plant for all humankind, for all its purposes.”
FINAL WORDS                    
'When it comes to the cannabis culture, it's sad. The Grasshopper, which is one of the biggest coffee shops in Amsterdam, is being shut down. Also, coffee shops were able to stay open until 3, now the vast majority of them shut down at 1 o'clock. So many of the great growers have left. The whole culture has fled and shifted to Spain, Colorado, and, of course, California. So the whole culture of Amsterdam has really changed. It's definitely moving in the wrong direction. All it does, as we've seen in America and elsewhere, is that the industries don't go away, they just shift. They take different form and they shift to places where you can get into a lot more trouble and get hurt, to be honest.'
'With the book, I really wanted to create an experience for people who smoke. I think people in the cannabis community would enjoy it because it captures my transition from someone who never really smoked that much before I went to Amsterdam. It shows how innocent the plant really is. It's not a big deal. It's just a part of life. It shows that you can go to an Ivy League school and smoke a joint and be fine.'
         Source: Interview with David Wienir on 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018


Bob Boilen, co-creator of Tiny Concerts. He
was once in a band called Tiny Desk Unit
The main reason I've started making music again after a lengthy gap of maybe 18 months or more was watching NPR Tiny Concerts on YouTube.

Started in 2008, by November 2016, the series included more than 550 concerts, viewed a collective 80 million times on YouTube. 

The full story about the origins of Tiny Concerts and Bob Boilen himself can be found here at

The series features bands of all shapes and sizes, playing all kinds of music from a wide geographic spread. 

They continue to stun me and entrance me. I watch  and rewatch my favourites. Here are some artists who  I consider a bit special for a variety of reasons. 

They are called Tiny Concerts because there is very little room for the band. Bigger bands are shoehorned into a space between bookshelves and counter, all covered with objects of all kinds. Each set-up uses the available space cleverly.They're shot in the NPR building during the lunchtime break. Each set lasts for about 20-25 minutes max - time for three or four numbers generally.

What makes it so good is their taste in music and their openness to new music. They are particularly well filmed, edited and recorded. These Tiny Concerts pack a punch. They come highly recommended. You'll be hooked.

Ani Di Franco
Lake Street Drive
Margaret Glasby
Lo Moon
Lalah Hathaway
The Crossrhodes
The Midnight Hour
Tom Misch
Chick Corea and Garry Burton


Tuesday, August 14, 2018


Having already got acclaimed biographies of Bob Marley and Joe Strummer under his belt, Chris Salewicz (a mate of mine from the NME of the 1970s) tackles the mystery that is the enigmatic Jimmy Page, creator of Led Zeppelin, around whom swirls a cloud of rumours. The task cannot have been easy. 
Firstly there is a heap of books about the Zeps including Page's 'photographic biography'. The best known is 'Hammer of the Gods' written by Stephen Davis - a prolific rock biographer in his own right - which was based partly on his experiences on tour with the band for two weeks in 1975 but mainly on  the salacious recollections of Zeps' road manger Richard Cole, which the band have dismissed as utter tosh. More substantial is 'Trampled Under Foot' an extensive oral biography by music journalist Barney Hopkins, which The Generalist reviewed at length when it was published in 2012. This post also contains my own small personal recollections of the band and can be found here.

Chris has interviewed Page in the past and includes two of these pieces in the book, but didn't do so for this unauthorised bio. He brings something new to the party methinks in a number of ways. The whole 500-page epic has a insightful narrative arc presented in a sophisticated manner by someone who is extremely knowledgeable and able to extract previously unrecorded stories. Strikingly, he quickly tunes in to the astrological/magical seam that runs through the band and the music because he understands the importance of that and where it was coming from. 

Jimmy Page (born in 1944) discovered Aleister Crowley when he was 15, as did many others of that generation at a time when the occult and the sacred were being revisited. Salewicz suggests that Page was one of a very few who took Crowley to heart and used his vision and concepts to create something astonishing. Page also lived in a house where Crowley had lived and became one of the top collectors of his work and that of the occult artist Austin Osman Spare. He also loves the PreRaphaelites and currently lives in an extraordinary gothic revival Tower House in Kensington, London, a Victorian castle designed by the architect William Burges. [Robert Plant brought his own spiritual dimension to the band with his deep affection for the landscape of the Welsh hills, folk music, Tolkein, Viking culture and the music of Morocco.]

Original ticket for the London premiere of 'The Song Remains The Same'
[The Generalist Archive]
This a book about Jimmy Page rather than Led Zeppelin but LZ in all its aspects was created by Jimmy Page almost as an art project. He was certainly the architect. He assembled the group - an experienced multi-instrumentalist session player and two lads from Birmingham - Plantie, the inexperienced wailer with curls and Bonham, the drummer from Hell. By playing together, the four of them - whose identity was later to be condensed into four magic icons - produced an alchemical reaction that created a fifth dimension - the loudest, most powerful, thundering Visigoth band the world had seen. Driven by Page - a slim immaculate figure, especially in his velvet dragon suit, wearing his double-necked guitar, with cascading locks and androgonous features, playing with unearthly dexterity, exuding an odour of mystique. Not since Paganini, who played the fiddle like the devil... Page was scary but strangely alluring.

The explosive dark power of  the Zeps cauterised major stadiums and blazed a trail across America before capturing the rest of the world. The cliché is that the same dark power destroyed the band. Common sense would quickly suggest that the LZ space plane was bound to implode given their velocity and the industrial amount of white powders that increasingly interfered with the making of the music. It is clear Plant was severely out of it for a long stretch, barely functioning. Now at the age of 73, he gives speeches at the Oxford Union, has been awarded an OBE and has completed a massive remastering of all Led Zeps work.

Chris takes us through the early years: discovering a guitar by chance, appearing on a BBC tv talent show with his skiffle band aged 13, leaving school at 15 when he went on tour for two years with the Crusaders before then going to art college. From early 1963 he was picked up and became the youngest top session guitarist on the scene - he was Lil' Jim Pea to the other top player Big Jim Sullivan.

Jimmy was totally devoted to understanding every aspect of guitar work and studio practice, as was the young John Paul Jones, also working as a session player on the circuit. By the time he formed Led Zeppelin, Jimmy had played so many sessions on so many hit records, a lot of which he wrote the B-sides for, that he'd earned his first million. This enabled him to pay for the recording of their first album even before they went to any record company.

Pre Led Zep he had also gained  touring experience in the US with The Yardbirds - a band which also featured Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. The three of them lived within a 10-mile radius of each other. [The band's first guitarist was Top Topham who The Generalist interviewed in 2012 ]

Chris takes us on the Zeps' wild ride and the after-show shenanigans which regularly got out of hand. These are delicate matters  but it seems that the damage and sleaze was driven by Bonham and Cole with Page and Plant dipping in and out of the chaos. Page's answer to the pressure turned into a problem with drugs. Not unknown in the music business or any other part of the entertainment field. The book does not avoid talking about the bad taste salaciousness of those wild times but neither does it lay down a heavy judgment call. Many girls involved have their say.

The post-Zep period is by its nature anti-climatic but Plant and Page had major success in the 1990s with the Unledded MTV show and further acclaim came with the one-off 2007 Led Zep reunion. it was fascinating to read of Page and Plant's epic world tour with Moroccan musicians and a Western orchestra. They now have a more equal relationship it seems, particularly since Plant's Grammy award with Alison Krauss.

Chris concludes that: 'Page has emerged as the most revered and respected of all classic rock artists. Despite all the odds, Jimmy Page has become the greatest treasure of British popular music.' His book, a fresh and valuable addition to the existing literature, is now top of the heap.

[Good interview with Chris Salewicz  by Robert Elms on Radio London well worth a listen]

Jimmy Page | Full Address and Q&A at The Oxford Union
Interestingly, 35 minutes in a girl asks him about his involvement with the Golden Dawn. He shuts the subject down quite quickly.

Incidentally it's the 50th anniversary of the first Led Zeppelin rehearsal this month.

Friday, August 03, 2018


Published by Reel Art Press
This is the real deal - a cache of unknown pictures by Burt Glinn [1925-2008], a top Magnum photographer which had remained untouched for 50 years - of the Beat scene on the East and West coast of  America in the period 1957-1960.

More than half the negatives are in colour  - the first ever colour photos of The Beats of Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg and his lover Peter Orlowsky.

Jack paddles around making faces, wearing a beret and a long raincoat, Allen and Peter sit on a bench in Washington Square with their publisher Barney Rossett of Grove Press, Corso poses on window ledges and, in one dramatic set of b&ws in a club, he is being restrained from getting into a fight. Ferlinghetti stares straight into the lens, can of beer in his hand, framed by the bookshelves of City Lights with Shig, the shop manager

But there is much more than the poets themselves. The first set entitled 'upper and lower bohemians 1957' shows an upscale party with the ub's chatting and surrounded by modern art followed by portraits of artists in their studio, ub's at exhibition galleries and great pictures of Merce Cunningham and his top dancer Anita Huffington. The stunner for me is de Kooning 's studio with Larry Rivers. Brilliant. Cut to a jazz club where ub's and lb's crossover.

Gregory Corso [detail]
'east coast beats 1959' is a wonderful selection of shots, beginnig with the entrance stairway to the Seven Arts Coffee Gallery which hosts night-reading poets from 2am every Friday.  We see Ted Joans reading at the Bizarre coffee shop in Greenwich Village, Leroi Jones with his baby, and other photogenic beats posing against the evening sky on New York balconies. Cut to a "Rent A Beatnik" party where the young, stoned and beautiful drink, and a jazz club called the Half Note followed by a show at the March Gallery and hipsters hanging out at the Cock-n-Bull.         

west coast beats 1960 follows similar tracks, mixing b&w and colour, travelling across the city from location to location, wild parties in lofts, cellars and clubs. Two jazzmen play chess against a startling yellow and orange curtain. Dancers get into the groove at the Fox and Hound, We see artist's apartments and studios, musicians jamming in a studio with an eccentric collection of instruments. Buddhist Alan Watts laughs in front of a giant amplifying horn.

Three essays open the book, beginning with 'burt glinn 1959'  by Sarah Stacke, a photojournalist who was enlisted by Glinn to help digitise his huge photo collection. She writes:
'Eudora Welty said that photographers  must "be sensitive to the speed not simply of the camera's shutter, but of the moment in time."  The social movements as well as the gestures and peculiarities of individuals to which  Burt paid attention, speak to this quality. Burt's images of the Beats, almost always made at night, arrange arms in motion, burning cigarettes, berets. typed pages and earnest conversations inside the frame. The compositions render the culture of the nonconformity and spontaneous expressionism embraced by the Beats.' 
Jack Kerouac and Barbara Ferrera [detail]
Next comes 'burt and the beats' by Michael Shulman who was working with Tony Nourmand, the publisher of this book, on a Glinn retrospective when they discovered this cache of colour shots.

Glinn by Shulmnan's account and others was an incredibly accomplished photographer who covered a wide range of reportage from Hollywood celebrities to Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution. Shulman says that Glinn's core talent was 'his unerring way of getting inside the emotional truth of the situation'  You can see a lovely selection of Glinn's work on his own website:

Also included is an essay by Jack Kerouac originally written for Holiday magazine entitled 'and this is the beat nightlife of new york' - his own guide to the beat underworld of the time.

This excellent book, well-designed with nice-smelling paper, is a really valuable addition to The Generalist's Beat library and comes highly recommended. It's a window into an undocumented world. You can almost smell the atmosphere, hear the jazz and the bongoes. We're digging these Beats man!

The publishers Reel Art Press [RAP] are new to me. They're producing tasty and sylish visual treats so check them out here:



Published by W.W. Norton. 2015

This marvelous volume I found in Bow Windows bookshop in Lewes, my go-to-place for random discoveries.

'Writing Across The Landscape' is composed of extracts from Ferlinghetti's travel journals, 'the fruits of over five decades of travel.' from 1960-2010. What a remarkable man he is [See: 'Ferlinghetti Speaks Out at 99. His voice as vital as ever' (San Francisco Chronicle/ 21 March 2018)]

A very few extracts have been previously published but most were typed up from the handwritten journals Mr F had given to the Bancroft Library at the University of California and had never looked at them since. He collaborated with the editors on both selection and editing. The book includes many of his drawings.

The Editors Giada Diano and Matthew Gleeson write: 'Together, these records of observations and experiences show that the poet's journeys around the world form one of the most crucial and rich sources of creative inspiration.'  

Interestingly, they claim 'though he is often identified with the writers of the Beat generation because he published them through City Lights, Lawrence has never considered himself a Beat. These notebooks testify to his connections to a wide international field of avant-garde literary ferment and poetry of dissent.'

It begins with the Normandy Invasion [he also saw Nagasaki in August 1945 after the bomb). In the 60s alone he went to Latin America, Cuba, France, North Africa, La Paz, Russia, Rome and numerous other destinations. He was in Paris in the summer of '68,

The book is a masterclas of both poetry and prose, imagination and observation, to be dipped into time and again. The book is fêted
on the back with heartfelt puffs from, amongst others, Francis Ford Coppola and Patti Smith, who has this to say.
"Courageously beautiful, High spirited and sensual, Ferlinghetti's private jounal reads like an open letter to the reader. One can hear his distinctive voice. Our American poet and wanderer. As beloved as the land itself."



This new restored text is considered closest to Burroughs' original wishes. The edition also contains many appendices regarding the birth of the project and various alternative texts. This edition is the Grove Press paperback first published in 2001. The Editor's Notes begin:

'Naked Lunch evolved slowly and unpredictably over nine tumultuous years in the life of its author, William Seward Burroughs. The novel was not created according to a predetermined outline or plan, but accumulated through a decade of travel and turmoil on four continents and continually edited and reedited not only by its author but also by his close friends Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. It went through innumerable partial and "final" drafts, mostly in Tangier, Morocco, and took its final shape only when Maurice Girodias told Burroughs in June 1959 that he needed a finished text within two weeks, for publication by his English-language Olympia Press in Paris. Thus, by its very nature, Naked Lunch resists the idea of a fixed text, and our re-creation of the history of its composition and editing has required a careful review of many disparate typescripts in various archival collections, as well as the two first editions in 1959 (Olypia Press) and 1962 (Grove Press) - the texts of which are quite different.'


'The Beat Museum was founded by Jerry and Estelle Cimino in 2003, in Monterey, California. After meeting John Allen Cassady (son of Neal and Carolyn Cassady), John and Jerry developed a two-man show and took it on the road in an Airstream RV they dubbed the Beat Museum on Wheels (or the Beatmobile for short), sharing the story of the Beat Generation with young people from coast to coast. They arrived in North Beach in 2006, and a temporary Beat Museum opened in the Live Worms gallery on Grant Avenue. Following a brief move to The Cannery at Fisherman’s Wharf, we moved into our permanent home at 540 Broadway, across the street from City Lights Books.'