Today’s Music to keep me SANE in Isolation – the Byrds

The Byrds rose to fame doing electrified covers of Bob Dylan songs complete with jangly guitar (which had a lot to do with the Searchers I always thought). I loved those songs.

They had a big influence on the development of the West Coast Acid Rock scene, developing a spacey psychedelic style. It was their harmonies that brought the music to life.

The Notorious Byrd Brothers was, for me, the epitome of their style. They took it all to new heights. Sadly it was the time when they were falling apart. Crosby was booted out.

After that they went downhill. I never liked the impact of Gran Parsons and then all that Jesus stuff. Jesus wasn’t alright with me. But they still had their moments.

I often get this album out and give it a play. A great album with no dud tracks. It captured the atmosphere of those heady days for me!

So today I’ll be playing my Byrds loud!! I’ll be flying high! Try to catch us if you can!

Quotes – Jerry Rubin – The other Radical Sixties Revolutionary!

Quotes – Jerry Rubin – The other Radical Sixties Revolutionary!

Jerry was the Yippie revolutionary who loved attention, used theatre and took on the whole capitalist war-machine that is still gobbling up the planet – then he sold out and opted in!
It was fun while it lasted and it pointed out some truths about the greed and stupidity that is running this planet!
Don’t trust anyone over thirty.
That’s a worry! I’m over thirty! But I never did trust myself too much!
Most men act so tough and strong on the outside because on the inside, we are scared, weak, and fragile. Men, not women, are the weaker sex.
That’s why men buy guns, play with fast cars and motorbikes and have to show off so much!
By the end, everybody had a label — pig, liberal, radical, revolutionary … If you had everything but a gun, you were a radical but not a revolutionary.
We love to put people in pigeon-holes!
Exactly!! Your life is a statement of your philosophy! Be positive and change the world.
My life is a revolution.
I would be copping out if I stayed in the myth of the ’60s.
But the sixties gave me the fuel!

The importance of music in the sixties!

The importance of music in the sixties!

Rock Music was the life-blood of the sixties, the glue that held us together, a unifying force. It was not merely a soundtrack to be enjoyed, an entertainment or sounds to be appreciated; it was a philosophy to be discussed, a tribal anthem to identify with, a bold statement of uniqueness and difference.

As a generation it was a line in the sand between us and the older generation. They hated it and all it stood for (hedonism, fun, excitement, sex, wildness) and we loved it. It was ours. We were creating something the world had never seen before, at least not since the days of the dandy apprentices of Shakespearian times – a youth culture that separated us from the drabness and routine of the older generation. They were so boring and staid they might as well have been dead. But we were alive.

We had our clothes, our language, our style, our drugs, our philosophy – and it wasn’t at all concerned with earning money, securing a career, becoming qualified, buying a house, marrying and starting a family – it was about getting a girl, impressing your mates and having a lot of fun.

There were different clans – Mods/Rockers, Beatles/Stones, Chart/Obscure, R&B/Rock, Blues/Pop, Authentic/Plastic.

The excitement of it. I can remember rushing out to the record shop to buy the latest single by the Stones, Beatles, Pretty Things, Who, Yardbirds or Downliners Sect; putting it on the old dansette with the arm up and playing it a dozen times or replay until I’d absorbed every chord, note and word. Then flipping it over and doing the same with the B-side.

I’d scour shops and Radio Luxembourg for more obscure offering that I really loved – Like the Others, Paramounts, Measles or Bo Street Runner.

At school we would endlessly argue about the new releases and their merit, what would go up the chart and what wouldn’t. We’d parade our precious Blues albums, appreciated by a small cognoscenti, and arrogantly regard the Pop Chart fans with disdain. For us the jewels were the brilliant sounds that didn’t make the charts. That made them all the more precious. They were ours. Blues was authentic where Pop was plastic.

There were arguments about the Stones and Beatles that nearly came to blows.

As the sixties progressed so did the music. It became more experimental, varied and complex. It moved into a more adult orientated style. With Dylan’s poetry leading the way the words became more important. With the burgeoning underground the attitude became divisive. The commercial charts moved more from Pop singles to the more sophisticated albums.

It seems incredible to me that Revolver is fifty years old. How did that happen? I bought mine on the day of release and can still remember rushing home to put it on. I was sweating with excitement. I must have played it non-stop for days. There was so much to take in. Rubber Soul had been a sea-change but this was a revolution. Every track a gem and tracks like Tomorrow Never Knows so extraordinary that they blew my mind. It had everything. There was a hard edge to it, but light, bright songs too. The range was extraordinary. No other band had the ability to produce genius on such a diverse scale. From the electronic experiment of Tomorrow Never Knows to the haunting beauty of Here, There and Everywhere, the hard Rock guitar of Taxman to the foolery of Yellow Submarine. Then Good Day Sunshine, Eleanor Rigby with those strings.

The Beatles were experiments with instruments, arrangements, sounds and techniques in a way that had not been done before. They had taken on Brian Wilson’s production and taken it from Beachboy Pop to something else. It was the start. They were going to develop it even further. In many ways it was the coming of age for Rock Music.

It was fifty years ago today – the Beatles taught the world to play.

It is a bit different to the way music is consumed today.

Anecdote – Jimi Hendrix at the Royal Albert Hall 1969 – The Farewell gig.

Anecdote – Jimi Hendrix at the Royal Albert Hall 1969 – The Farewell gig.


Jimi Hendrix and the Royal Albert Hall 1969

The Jimi Hendrix Experience was breaking up. It was tragedy. I had seen him perform twice but that wasn’t nearly enough. Now Jimi and the Experience were splitting and going their separate ways. I couldn’t believe it. Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell were not the most brilliant and accomplished of rhythm sections but they were exciting and dynamic and the perfect foil for Jimi to play with. They added rawness, energy and gusto to the act.

Electric Ladyland, the double album masterpiece, had been released to mixed reviews. A lot of people found it hard to adapt to the longer, more drawn out tracks. They preferred the shorter more exciting tracks they had become used to on Are You Experienced and Axis Bold As Love. It took a while for people to catch up with Jimi’s genius.

But all wasn’t quite lost. There was to be one last farewell concert at the Royal Albert Hall. It was something to look forward to. All we had to do was to get hold of some tickets. Thousands of others selfishly wanted to be there as well.

There was nothing else for it. We had to queue up overnight to be sure of getting hold of some. There were a bunch of us. It seemed daft all of us queuing. Although it might have been fun. In the end Jules volunteered. We waved him off clutching money and sleeping bag. I think we were half expecting failure so it was a bit of a surprise when he returned the next day clutching tickets.

From there on it was a state of excitement as the day approached. We were expecting fireworks. The two times I had seen him before had been dynamite. I hadn’t known any act create such excitement. The whole audience went wild. And one of those was at Woburn Abbey where it was reported that the Experience were below par. They hadn’t seemed below par to me. They’d set the place alight and driven us wild.

On the day we got there early and piled in. We were up in the gallery with a great view.

The support act was New Traffic. Traffic had reformed for the gig. I loved them too and had seen them a number of times. They were brilliant and mesmeric so I was hoping for big things.

I didn’t get it. It was the worst I had ever heard them perform. They were boring. At the time I put that down to our eagerness to move on to the big thing. Probably nobody could have carried that spot. But I’ve listened to the tapes of the gig and they were definitely poor. It did not auger well. The Royal Albert Hall was not the best of venues for Rock. The sound was not good. It didn’t generate the best atmosphere.

When Jimi hit the stage everyone went haywire. Unfortunately so did the experience. Jimi was good. His playing was excellent but the whole performance was lackluster and had no fire.

I enjoyed it but did not come out singing with ecstasy like I had done before. The performance was flat.

I since listened to the tapes and seen the film. You can’t fault Jimi. I love everything he’s done. I love playing those tapes of him jamming in the studio, I love all his live gigs. I have endless hours of him. But the energy was sadly lacking from that last performance. From what should have been a brilliant memory to cherish forever it was just another good gig.

When I think of Jimi I think of those two earlier gigs.

The Birds – A British Beat Group featuring a young Ronnie Wood.

The Birds – A British Beat Group featuring a young Ronnie Wood.


I saw Ronnie featured on the One Show yesterday and it took me back.

Ronnie is releasing a book of his diaries from the beginning. He started off in a Beat Group called the Birds before moving on to the Faces and then the Stones.

It took me back to a small club in the town of Walton on Thames called the Walton Palais. It was where I saw my first two live bands – The Birds and the following week Them (With Van Morrison). It was the start of a life-time of gigging.

That first gig was the most magical night I can recall. The Birds were a revelation. The atmosphere was incredible and I was transported. I had never felt such excitement. I witnessed a knife-fight, sex on the stairs and one of the most pulsating evenings ever. It certainly whetted my appetite.

I wish I could say that recall seeing Ronnie but I don’t. What I recall was a bunch of thin, skinny guys up on stage with great Mod hairstyles, Cuban heeled Chelsea boots and suits who were producing the greatest sound I had ever heard. This was British Beat at its best. The chunky guitar riffs, the thumping beat and somebody was even flicking the lights on and off in time to create a rudimentary light show.

I was spellbound and smitten.

I was fourteen. They were great. I’ll never forget.

I wrote about all this and more in my book – ‘In Search of Captain Beefheart’ – It is the story of my life with Rock Music – a memoir of a search for that excitement!

Thanks Ronnie. I’ll buy that book. It might have an entry for that wondrous night.

When First Unto This Country – a rare Phil Ochs track

This is a rare Phil Ochs track that was finally released on the Broadside Tapes album.

In the early sixties Phil would go into the Broadside studios and record his latest efforts onto a tape recorder. Many unreleased tracks were recorded this way.

He was such a great songwriter.  I like songs with meaning!

When First Unto This Country

When first unto this country a stranger I came,
I fought the Revolution, peace and quiet was my aim.
When the Indians attacked us, at least that’s what I’m told,
So we threw them off their land with no thought of greed or gold.

Then our ships were being boarded, other countries took our men,
Napoleon was too powerful, the British lost again.
And then hopelessly outnumbered, we fought our level best,
and we borrowed from Old Mexico the American South West.

And when that war was over there was no one left to fight
So we turned and fought each other–to the historians’ delight
Then for thirty years we rested, and tried to ease the pain,
until the Cuban sugar crop we gladly freed from Spain.

Then  Europe started feudin’, there were profits by the score,
so the ammunition makers fought the war to end all war,
but old Hitler started marchin’, he practiced over in Spain,
the Depression was defeated, the world was safe again.

So we joined the United Nations in hopes that war would cease
and except for Korea, we almost kept the peace.
Yes, it’s time to really end all wars, the H-Bomb makes it worse
Besides this song is much too long to add another verse.

Unfortunately there is a need for a lot more verses!

Featured Book – Star Turn – Intergalactic Rockstar – The Cover

I designed the cover using one of my own paintings.


The painting was entitled ‘Warhead’. I had envisaged a malevolent face in a nuclear explosion. The embroiled flames of the mushroom cloud was a livid red brain with the sulci and gyri of the folds of the cerebral cortex. Two eyes peered out from under the umbrella of the mushroom cloud. The funnel of superheated gas was a nose and the lips were the spreading ground explosion.

I felt it was an appropriate image to use for this Sci-fi novel. The book was explosive – about rebellion, the underworld and the establishment. Big Brother was watching and there was money to be made.

I was happy with the way the cover worked out.

If you are interested in having a read of this novel or others of my Sci-fi books there are some links below:

My best Sci-fi books in the USA:


Ebola in the Garden of Eden





Starturn – Intergalactic Rockstar


Sorting The Future


My best Sci-fi books in the UK:


Ebola In The Garden Of Eden.


Sorting The Future




Starturn – Intergalactic Rockstar


What did the Sixties mean to me?

I was eleven when the sixties started and twenty one when they ended so the sixties were my formative years and boy what formative years they were.

The 1940s were the war years – a time of death, tragedy, loss and destruction. Our cities were blasted to hell. Our economy was wrecked and we were in debt to the USA.

The 1950s were the dark days of trying to rebuild; days of austerity, rationing and immense poverty but also days of reunion and attempting to rise out of the ruins. It was the era in which we lost our empire. But there was a gleam of light at the end of that tunnel with Rock ‘n’ Roll and Skiffle.

Then came the sixties.

I think my parents had grown up in a class-ridden, conservative, very uptight culture, sexually repressed and very hypocritical. Lip-service was paid to church. There was a national anthem played every night on the radio and at the cinema. For males like me every step of life was mapped out from short trousers into long, from bachelordom to marriage, kids and work. Girls were brought up to be wives, mothers and housewives.

First there were the Beat groups riding on the coattails of first the Beatles and then the Stones and we started to breathe. We grew our hair and lived music. There were girls, fashion and style. We wore our tight jeans with winkle-pickers, long sideburns and quiffs. Then it was flares, an explosion of colour, motorbikes, scooters, long hair and a new language straight out of hip black America and beatniks. There were parties, alcohol and later spliff.

At fifteen I was reading Kerouac, listening to Dylan, the Kinks, Woody Guthrie and the Blues. I was digging the Who, Yardbirds, Smallfaces, Them, Animals, Downliners Sect, Stones, Beatles and a host of other bands.

By eighteen I had hair to my shoulders, was looking into Beat poetry, Eastern religions, psychedelia, Acid Rock, Burroughs, Ginsberg and grooving to Country Joe and the Fish, Captain Beefheart, the Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd, Hendrix, Cream, Traffic, Family, Roy Harper, Dylan, Beatles, Stones and Fleetwood Mac.

For me and my friends the rule book went out the window. We did not want the safe, boring lives of our parents; we wanted excitement, adventure, discovery and travel.

We wanted a new world. There was a general rebellion against the greed and selfishness of society, the meaningless of life, the violent warmongering, the repugnant racism, elitism and class system, and the destructiveness of the consumer society with all its environmental damage. We no longer bought into it. The rat-race, with its chasing of money and status symbols was not alluring. We wanted something better, something more meaningful and fulfilling, something deeper, less violent and destructive, and we thought we could do it. We really thought we could build a better society and drop out of the death machine. The dream was something simple, self-sufficient and more in harmony with the planet. It was the days of simplicity.

Those were also the days of optimism spent gabbing through the night in great earnest wonder, talking philosophy, talking politics, talking spirituality, talking music, talking about a new society founded on different tenets without all the possessions and greed. Those were days of sharing and listening to music.

It was naïve and unrealistic. But we were living a revolution. They were the days when civil rights, feminism, environmentalist and fashion were spawned. They were the days of fun and laughter, friendship and joy; days spent listening to music, going to gigs and free festivals, grooving; days of sex and hedonism.

That was our revolution. We made our own clothes, instruments and pleasures; we hitched around and travelled continents. We had hugely different horizons and dreams to that of our parents.

They were days of discovery of philosophy, art, literature, dance, music, ideas, creativity, political awareness, social awareness, love and travel.

It was short-lived but it burned. I packed so much into a few short years. It was mind-expanding, enlightening and full of idealism and dreams. And that’s what the sixties meant for me.

I took that energy and positivity forward into my life and my creativity. It informed my philosophy of life, my family, my career and my writing.

The sixties gave me an unlimited set of horizons.


Tribute Bands – The Upbeat Beatles at Skegness – Photos

I don’t like tribute bands. I don’t care how good they are. I think they are a negative experience. I can’t see why anyone talented enough to play that well would want to be so uncreative. Tribute bands are ruining Rock Music.

Now I can see the flaws in my feelings. It is creative to mimic another person so closely. It is no difference to performing in a play. A lot of bands cover other people’s songs. What’s the difference?

I don’t like them.

The Upbeat Beatles were good at what they did. John and Ringo really looked the part. George didn’t really look like George though. They played their part – though I found it irritating the way they referred to each other as if they were really Paul, John, George and Ringo. They focussed on the earlier Beatles of course. That was to be expected.

I just don’t like Tribute Bands. It’s mercenary.

Checking through my school reports.

Yesterday we were sorting out some of the old paperwork and came across my old school reports. It was fascinating to read those words from fifty plus years ago. I had pictures of some of those teachers as middle aged men and women. It was salutary to think that they were all most probably dead now, even the younger ones. But their words came down to me through the years.

In my first year in secondary school I ended up thirteenth in class. My RE report was just Fair. In other subjects it was noted that I had a fair effort score, that I had not given my best, that I was erratic and tended to be a dreamer at times. Only in Science, Maths and History did I do well.

By the time I reached the Sixth Form it was noted that I doing great in Zoology but not much else. Seemingly I wasn’t taking my work seriously. I was cutting a lot of lessons and my conduct was generally good but deemed immature. My Punctuality was very poor. The general comment from my Form Tutor was that I chose what I liked and disregarded what I didn’t. Mr Morrell noted that unfortunately life doesn’t work like that and we have to work at what we don’t enjoy.

That got me thinking back. It was a fair assessment. Indeed, I hadn’t realised that Mr Morrell was so perceptive. I hated the guy with a vengeance. He was a prat.

In my younger years I was scruffy, untidy and my work was the same; it was scrawled out as quickly as I could do it and was very messy. I wanted to get it out of the way. I never did any homework. All I wanted to do was get off back to my many pet animals, out into the fields, woods and streams to hunt wild creatures and off with my friends making dens, climbing trees or playing games in the street. School was largely a nuisance.

In my later teens I had discovered Jack Kerouac, was obsessed with Rock Music and its lyrics, was concerned about my hair and image and was busy chatting up the girls and sorting out who it was that I was taking out this week. School got in the way. I was always being shouted at and sent home for rebellious dress code violations. My hair was too long, my sideburns too long, I grew beards, my trousers were too low cut and too tight. My socks too bright and then my trousers were too wide. The Deputy Head took a personal interest in berating me. I spent nearly as much time at home as I did at school. I didn’t care. I was too full of hormones.

The fact that I achieved a reasonable set of exam results was almost a miracle. I hardly did any work and missed such a lot of lessons. I had other priorities.

Now I look back and realise that a little more effort might well have had big effects on my life but I was living in the present. That was all that mattered. I have learnt that lesson that Mr Morrell was so frustrated about. I now know that there are no short-cuts and you have to work at the things you don’t enjoy if you want to achieve. You cannot just do the things you want to do.

It’s a bit late, I know, but it is an important lesson.

Who would have believed it – that that old fool Mr Morrell might have known something after all.