Phil Ochs – Opher’s World pays tribute to a genius.

Phil Ochs – Opher’s World pays tribute to a genius.

Dylan accused Ochs of being a journalist. That was far from the truth. Phil, like Bob, did scout through the newspapers to find stories and causes that would resonate with his ideals. But that isn’t all he did. He chose his words and aimed them at their targets with honesty and craft.

Phil was a part of that early sixties Folk scene in Greenwich Village. He was the most political and outspoken of them all. He was a ‘Protest’ singer. There’s nothing wrong in being a protest singer. There’s a lot that needs protesting about. It got itself a bad name after Dylan popularised ‘Protest’ and made it a commercial success. The media coined the phrase, ridiculed it, pigeon-holed it and every Tom Dick and Harry jumped on the band-wagon. They all wanted a bit of that fame and fortune that Dylan had grabbed. We need our protest singers. We need to protest. If only we had our Och’s and early Dylan’s to high-light the woeful capitalist exploitation, global inequality, war and wanton of destruction of the environment we might be better placed to deal with it. Where are the singers writing songs about the butchery of the elephants, rhinos and apes? When are we going to hear songs about the crazy overpopulation crisis that is destroying the world? Surely the new generations have the talent but do they have the sensibilities, the compassion and idealism that Phil and Bob possessed? Can they create a zeitgeist to carry a whole generation along with them like Bob and Phil did?

Both Dylan and Ochs baled out of ‘Protest’ into more poetic expressions of artistic depths. Phil always seemed to walk in Bob Dylan’s shadow and was consumed with jealousy and destroyed by alcoholism before killing himself.

But should not detract from the work he produced. His early work was full of fervour and idealism. He tirelessly set about writing his songs of hope. He shone a searchlight on the issues going on around us and by highlighting them raised them up into everyone’s consciousness. He brought those issues to life and wakened the consciousness of a generation. We became enlightened to the atrocities going on around us and activated to protest about it.

Phil targeted the civil rights war that was being fought particularly in the Southern States where the Blacks were free but still kept in slavery, where they were denied votes, rights and equality and lived in poverty and fear. Where racism was endemic, the Klu-Klux-Klan ruled and people still got lynched, beaten and tortured for speaking out or stepping out of line, where there was no justice. He sang about the assignation of Medgar Evans, the murder of civil rights campaigners and the way the hierarchy supported the suppression of black rights. People had been killed for less.

Phil targeted the war in Vietnam and American foreign policy where they felt entitled to invade other countries with impunity and sanctimoniously set themselves up as Cops of the World, dishing out their gum, rape, casual violence and disdain.

Phil targeted injustice and fought for a strong union system to protect the rights of workers yet he felt free to criticise the unions in their stance to Blacks and Communists. He had no faith in government, the establishment or the legal system. They all had their snouts in the same trough.

Phil was a man of integrity who followed on in the tradition set by Woody Guthrie. He wasn’t afraid to put his face where his words were. His songs were full of intent yet he deployed humour and produced well-crafted works of art. He was unique and that was probably his downfall. He was a little too quirky and out of step with the times. He did not easily slip into the long-haired freaks of the sixties counter-culture. He was a bit too political, too extreme and too different. He did not adopt the same uniform of freakdom or produce music with the right instrumentation for the times. He did get heavily involved with the YIPPIE political group and all their antics but he was still a little left-field. He did espouse all the right causes but he did it his way and did not quite fit in to the zeitgeist of the time. Where Dylan easily slipped from Protest to an equally incredible stream of consciousness and mercurial new sound that rode the crest of the new consciousness Phil’s created a sound that was not so much of the moment.

In hindsight it is possible to appreciate the later songs and albums. They had depth and intricacy that was just as wonderful as his early protest material. You can sense his desperation and disillusionment seeping through. He deserved much more. If he had not been so ignored and put down he probably would have blossomed even more. Who knows?

Phil left us a legacy of greatness with songs like ‘Cops of the World’, ‘Links on the chain’, ‘Here’s to the State of Mississippi’, ‘Too many martyrs’, ‘I ain’t marching anymore’. ‘There but for fortune’, ‘When I’m gone’, ‘Changes’ and so many more, that still resonate to this day!

Phil was an outspoken genius. We are desperate for more like him. Perhaps he will inspire a new generation who will create a new positive zeitgeist, highlight the wrongs and put us back on the right road.

We miss you Phil.

Roy Harper – The Tallest Tree – a homage to Chico Mendes

Roy Harpers tribute to Chico Mendes – The Brazilian conservationist who was murdered trying to save the Amazon rainforest.

He stood against the destruction and died for it.

The earth is possessed
By the curse of the west
Who devour
Newpaper furniture
Paparazzia by the hour
But a man with a vision
Believed
That tomorrow’s begun
And has to be won
And nobody here is reprieved
O Chico, Chico Mendes
The man in a million
Stood in the way
Stood his ground
For the earth
For the coming of day
The chorus of dawn
On the perch of each morning
Receives
A forest of tears
As the joy reappears
On their leaves
And believes
Sings his name
And the tallest tree
Forever stands
Beyond the flame
North south east and west
We can all reach the rest
Every day
Now is the chance
To set out together
For a beautiful day
Whoever saw it
A different way
Was a man in a nightmare
Too numb to the future
Of brilliant possibles
Ever to share
The same air
As the men in the clay
O Chico, Chico Mendes
There are men who are more than just men

Billy Bragg and Leon Rosselson – World turned upside Down! The Story of the Diggers of St George’s Hill.

Billy Bragg and Leon Rosselson – World turned upside Down! The Story of the Diggers of St George’s Hill.

I lived down the road from St George’s Hill and even had a girlfriend who lived there but I did not realise anything about its history until much later.

St George’s hill was the centre of a great political struggle. A group of poor people defied the land owners. They claimed that the land was no-ones to own; that is was free. They claimed the right to farm the common land and live in peace.

The land had been seized by the powerful aristocrats. The King and his barons laid claim to it all and parcelled it up between them. They sold it to their cronies. The common people had no rights.

The Diggers on St George’s Hill were attacked by the army and killed and dispersed. Their homes and crops were burnt and they were driven off.

The cruel incident was described in song by Leon Rosselson and covered by Billy Bragg.

The World Turned Upside Down – Leon Rosselson

In 1649
To St. George’s Hill,
A ragged band they called the Diggers
Came to show the people’s will
They defied the landlords
They defied the laws
They were the dispossessed reclaiming what was theirs

We come in peace they said
To dig and sow
We come to work the lands in common
And to make the waste ground grow
This earth divided
We will make whole
So it will be
A common treasury for all

The sin of property
We do disdain
No man has any right to buy and sell
The earth for private gain
By theft and murder
They took the land
Mow everywhere the walls
Spring up at their command

They make the laws
To chain us well
The clergy dazzle us with heaven
Or they damn us into hell
We will not worship
The God they serve
The God of greed who feed the rich
While poor folk starve

We work we eat together
We need no swords
We will not bow to the masters
Or pay rent to the lords
Still we are free men
Though we are poor
You Diggers all stand up for glory
Stand up now

From the men of property
The orders came
They sent the hired men and troopers
To wipe out the Diggers’ claim
Tear down their cottages
Destroy their corn
They were dispersed
But still the vision lingers on

You poor take courage
You rich take care
This earth was made a common treasury
For everyone to share
All things in common
All people one
We come in peace
The orders came to cut them down

Read more: Billy Bragg – The World Turned Upside Down Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Animal Rights – Plant Rights – Human Rights

Animal Rights – Plant Rights – Human Rights

Around 3 billion years ago a wondrous thing happened. The Earth had been cooling for a couple of billion years and conditions conspired to create something incredible. The first simple life-form was produced.

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The chances of that happening are so slight that it is possible that out of all the planets circling the 400 billion stars in our own galaxy this is the only instance where life has spontaneously formed. It could be that we are the only life in any of the two trillion galaxies that we know of.

Life is something special.

From that one single cell of life the whole spectrum of life on this planet has evolved – from the simplest to the most complex.

What we have all around us comes from that first cell. We are all its children.

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No plant or animal is more evolved than any other. We have all been around for exactly the same time.

Only humans would apply a value system to life. We try to create a hierarchy of importance.

We place plants at the bottom of the scale, then bacteria, then we work our way up through worms, slugs, insects to fish, then through amphibian, reptiles and birds to mammals – through mammals to monkeys then apes and finally us – human beings – the crown of creation. Some people don’t even accept that we are animals and related to everything else. Somehow we were uniquely created by a deity. We are not part of this at all.

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Except this is nonsense. Nothing is more important than anything else. We humans are just animals. We have merely organised living things according to their similarity to ourselves. In a biological sense plants are the highest form of life. Their cellular complexities is hundreds of times more complex than that of any human cell. We place a premium on intelligence. Consciousness and intelligence are merely survival characteristics evolved by organisms – nothing more.

I don’t mean to belittle the wonder of consciousness and intelligence – they are phenomenal. I merely point out that they are one of many equally fabulous wonders that life possesses. They are no more special.

Likewise we cannot know the level of consciousness of other creatures or even plants. We can only surmise.

Personally I believe we will soon discover that plants have a consciousness that is quite as good as ours. We will see.

The argument that I am making is that life is too fabulous to treat with the disdain that we have been treating it. We should be worshipping all of it for the wonder it is and protecting it with all our might.

I am a big advocate of human rights – but I am a bigger advocate of the rights of the rest of the spectrum of life. I think it is foolish to make distinction.

The message I would send is – protect nature, protect the plants and animals around us, conserve the wilderness and diversity. They all have as much importance and rights as we do.

This is what I have to say about the destruction we are doing to nature and a way forward.

Democracy – The long and often bloody fight for freedom – The Peterloo Massacre.

Democracy – The long and often bloody fight for freedom – The Peterloo Massacre.

Peterloo massacre
You can only have real democracy when you have transparency, fair representation and a vote for every man and woman. That was far from the case two hundred years ago.
Women were denied the vote. Only landowners could vote. Some towns with only a handful of voters were electing two MPs. Two towns electing two MPs each had only 1 eligible voter. Half of the MPs in the House were elected by a mere 154 votes. Cities with hundreds of thousands were grossly underrepresented.
The economic and employment situation in the North was dire and people felt they had no recourse to justice. They had no vote and no representation.
At St. Peter’s field near Manchester between 60,000 and 80,000 gathered to hold a peaceful public meeting and protest. The establishment was rattled. They thought it might develop into a riot, ferment general unrest and lead to a revolution. They banned it. But the protesters still met.
The cavalry were called to charge. People were trampled and slashed with sabres. The crowd was eventually dispersed. They left 11 to 15 dead and over 600 to 700 badly injured – 168 of which were women. The first to be killed was a baby knocked out of his mother’s arms by a charging cavalryman. Witnesses claimed the cavalrymen slashed out indiscriminately at anyone they could. The area was sodden with blood.
It became known as the Peterloo massacre in ironic contrast to the recent battle of Waterloo.

It led to renewed impetus for justice and the Chartist Movement who fought for the right to vote.

Freedoms and rights are not freely given. They are paid for with lives and blood and can so easily be stripped away again.

Ken Loach Quotes – Britain’s greatest Film Director!

Ken Loach Quotes – Britain’s greatest Film Director!

Ken Loach is my favourite Director. He is highly intelligent and his films always have a pertinent social message that I can empathise with. I like films that make you think. Ken is the conscience of the nation. His films should be compulsory – particularly for Tories who are usually incapable of appreciating human suffering.

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Maybe if we tell the truth about the past, we can tell the truth about the present.

I see the lies and despair. Brexit and Trump – a litany of hatred and lies. The media and politicians all have their agenda and no scruples. It’s getting worse. The sheeple are treated with utter scorn and manipulated.

A movie isn’t a political movement, a party or even an article. It’s just a film. At best it can add its voice to public outrage.

There’s a hell of a lot of injustice and rage to tap into.

About Thatcher’s death: Let’s privatise her funeral. Put it out on competitive tender and accept the cheapest bid. That’s what she would have wanted.

Such with and humour. I’m glad they buried her. They just did it fifty years too late.

I turned down the OBE because its not a club you want to join when you look at the villains who’ve got it. Its all the things I think are despicable: patronage, deferring to the monarchy and the name of the British Empire, which is a monument of exploitation and conquest.

Not many people with that calibre of integrity. Too many money-grabbing, power-seeking selfish gits who take the money.

One lesson to learn is that the press and the broadcasters are not neutral. And it seems we have to learn it each time there is a dispute: they are actually committed to one side.

Orgreave taught me that even the BBC have their agenda. The bias is there. The establishment orchestrate out feelings.

In the end the privatisation of war is not acceptable. We shouldn’t be issuing these sub-contracts to these contracting companies because the people who run them are making millions. There should be no relationship between ex-politicians and them, like John Reid and Malcolm Rifkind, who are now associated with contracting companies having been ministers of defence. That’s unacceptable.

It is incredible hoe people like Rumsfeldt are raking it in! Should be a law against it!

If you would like to purchase my books on Rock Music here’s a few:
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Civil Rights – The murder of Medgar Evers.

Civil Rights – The murder of Medgar Evers.

 

Medgar Evers was a Civil Rights leader in Mississippi. He campaigned for desegregation. He was involved with the desegregation of schools and colleges, desegregation of beaches, restrooms and organised boycotts. His high profile activities and leadership role made him a target for the white supremacists. They threatened to kill him if he did not stop.

 

Medgar, like so many of those Civil Rights Activists, was a brave man. He knew these were no idle threats and that if he continued to fight for freedom and justice he would most likely be murdered. It did not deter him.

 

He continued even after a car came close to running him down outside his house and a Molotov cocktail was thrown through the window of his house. He did not stop despite the risks to himself and his young family. Freedom was worth dying for.

 

Back in Mississippi the life of a black man was cheap. There was no protection from the law. People were beaten, shot and lynched with impunity. The Kl Klux Klan were rife and many of the police and judges were in the organisation. There was no protection. The black community was terrorised.

 

How many people would have the courage to continue in the face of such threats? Knowing that in the dead of night a callous murdered could set fire to your house or shoot you in your bed and there was no police to help you?

 

Medgar Evers did not flinch.

 

On June the 12th 1963, as he was getting out of his car in the drive of his house, Medgar Evers was shot in the back.

 

The coward white supremacist Byron Del La Beckwith, a member of the Klu Klux Klan, had hidden in the bushes and shot him in the back.

 

Many people wrote tributes and songs to Medgar Evers – the most important being Bob Dylan’s – ‘Only a Pawn in their Game’ – which suggested that Byron was a pawn being used by the senior faceless supremacists who were terrorising people for their own ends.

 

Freedom has been bought with blood! It is always hard to gain and easy to give away!

Man – a genius of a catoon video that illustrates the relationship between mankind and nature.

I have to thank Cheryl and Safar for this link!! This is a must watch video for anybody concerned about man’s impact on the planet!!

Work is a Four-Letter Word

Work is a Four-Letter Word

That was superb. It was both amusing and made a number of thought provoking points.
I remember work well. It’s a type of prostitution (even if you enjoy it).

a nomad in cyberspace

Thought I’d begin my rant on the subject with this little film. It’s only a few minutes long but makes its point so eloquently I almost don’t want to add anything else.

In a way, my job is done. So I’ve just fired myself.

Ha, that’s better! The burden of having to fulminate against such an obvious target was beginning to weigh heavy. Who doesn’t curse their job several times a day? And who needs an old codger like me, long-since retired from the wearisome world of work, to kick against the pricks he no longer has to suffer?

Don’t get me wrong. I liked teaching … whenever I had the time and energy to do it properly. Teaching is simple. You choose a topic that interests and perhaps even excites you, organise the lesson carefully (leaving as little to chance as possible while making sure you can take advantage of any…

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Democracy – The long and often bloody fight for freedom – The Abolition of Slavery in the United States of America.

Democracy – The long and often bloody fight for freedom – The Abolition of Slavery in the United States of America.

The use of slaves was widespread in America though there were some opposition from certain groups. They were used as domestics, artisans or field workers. These Africans were imported via the Arab slave traders in what had become a lucrative trade.

With the American War of Independence slavery was maintained. The Southern States had the greatest numbers as their agricultural practices of growing tobacco, cotton and rice was very labour intensive.

In 1808 an act came in prohibiting the importation of slaves. The Northern States began abolishing slavery. In 1830 abolitionists such as John Brown favoured armed force to forment riots among black slaves. Baptists and Methodists preached for the abolition of slavery.

It all came to a head in 1860 with the civil war. The Northern States renounced slavery and the Southern States supported it. In 1863 Lincoln’s proclamation of Emancipation promised freedom for slaves. At the end of the war in 1865 the proclamation was enforced throughout America and slaves were freed.

Unfortunately that was not the end of the matter. The aftermath of slavery is still felt today with a legacy of racism that pervades many parts of the States. Up until the civil rights movements of the 1960s blacks in the South were not permitted to vote, were forced to use second rate facilities and institutions and treated as second-class citizens. The White Supremacists of the Klu Klux Klan maintained an apartheid system through force and terror.

In the modern age this racism, which still persists, is intolerable.

The hope that the election of a black president signalled the dawn of a new age is still perhaps premature. There is a way to go.

Freedom is won through the bravery of men like Medgar Evans and Martin Luther King and the determined struggle of those white and black activists and people who stood up to be counted, protested and marched despite the intimidation and threats. Many were killed in that struggle. It still is not complete.