Leon Rosselson – Palaces of Gold – Meaningful lyrics.

Leon Rosselson – Palaces of Gold – Meaningful lyrics.

 

I love Leon Rosselson. I think he is one of Britain’s greatest song writers, perceptive, astute and intelligent.
In this age where the Tories are intent on bringing their dogma to bear and using austerity as an excuse to slash public services (While giving tax hand-outs to the rich) we desperately need people like Leon to point out the inequality and what it means.
Leon and I stand for fairness.
I saw what the Tory cuts did to education first hand as both a teacher and Headteacher.
They are heartless and uncaring when it comes to ordinary people. As far as they are concerned the money could be better spent on larger profits for business.
Their own sons and daughters have the privilege of Public schools, private health-care and gated communities. They have no need for the public services and despise the majority who do. They resent every penny spent on them. If they had to use the same public services the rest of us do there would be a miraculous improvement.
Leon says it better in his song.

Palaces of Gold

If the sons of company directors,
And judges’ private daughters,
Had to got to school in a slum school,
Dumped by some joker in a damp back alley,
Had to herd into classrooms cramped with worry,
With a view onto slagheaps and stagnant pools,
Had to file through corridors grey with age,
And play in a crackpot concrete cage.
Chorus (after each verse):Buttons would be pressed,
Rules would be broken.
Strings would be pulled
And magic words spoken.
Invisible fingers would mould
Palaces of gold.
If prime ministers and advertising executives,
Royal personages and bank managers’ wives
Had to live out their lives in dank rooms,
Blinded by smoke and the foul air of sewers.
Rot on the walls and rats in the cellars,
In rows of dumb houses like mouldering tombs.
Had to bring up their children and watch them grow
In a wasteland of dead streets where nothing will grow.

I’m not suggesting any kind of a plot,
Everyone knows there’s not,
But you unborn millions might like to be warned
That if you don’t want to be buried alive by slagheaps,
Pit-falls and damp walls and rat-traps and dead streets,
Arrange to be democratically born
The son of a company director
Or a judge’s fine and private daughter.

Tribute to Rock Genius – Linton Kwesi Johnson

Tribute to Rock Genius – Linton Kwesi Johnson

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Linton Kwesi Johnson

Looking more like an Oxford Don than a fiery Reggae Poet Linton Kwesi is none the less a mean dub poet with strong political overtones and an unflinching honesty, integrity and willingness to tell it how it is. He hails from Brixton via Jamaica and took up the cause of the Blacks during the turbulent times of the late seventies and eighties when the National Front took racism on the streets, the police harassed and added to the problem; the result was riots and murder. Where-ever there was injustice, prejudice or conflict Linton was there to chronicle it, put it in verse in Jamaican patois and reveal the cause and effect. It was like having a Black Woody Guthrie with a reggae vibe.

He teamed up with the Reggae producer and musician Dennis Bovell to put his vitriolic couplets to a reggae beat.

Dread Beat and Blood saw Linton fixing on the Brixton discrimination and oppression that led to the Brixton riots. It was very prophetic.  The chilling ‘All Wi Doin is Defendin’, ‘Dread, Beat and Blood’ and ‘Five Nights of Bleeding’ were followed by the even better defiant ‘Forces of Victory’ with its brilliant ‘Sonny’s Lettah (Anti-Sus Poem)’, ‘Fite Dem Back’ and ‘Time Come’. The Bass Culture album was more of the same with ‘Reggae fi Peach’ and ‘Iglan is a Bitch’.

I saw Linton in Hull reading his poetry, standing there in his three-piece suit and spectacles like the University Professor he is. The poetry burned holes in your brain.

We need more like Linton. We need more of that stuff from Linton. Linton where are you? Where is that rich voice of yours?  Where are those words that send the blood coursing through parts of the body usually dry? It’s not just Blacks who feel injustice; we can all feed off your words.

If you are liking my tributes you might like my book. You will find numerous brilliant artists you may never have heard of plus all the familiar ones. Why not find out what I’ve got to say about them?

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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.

The Levellers at the Great British Folk Festival – Photos

The Levellers at the Great British Folk Festival – Photos

The Levellers hit the stage to a great burst of lights and a supersonic noise level that instantly energised the audience into a great bouncing mass!! This was Folk/Punk about as far removed from finger-in-the-ear Folk as you could get. They rocked!!

With a faldy daldy diddle di po!!!

Here’s some photos:

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

Tribute to Rock Genius – Ian Dury

Tribute to Rock Genius – Ian Dury

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Ian Dury

Ian was a wordsmith. He started as an artist splashing colour but he ended up painting pictures with words. He loved playing with them. He was an outspoken, controversial and cantankerous person.

His childhood was blighted with polio, which left him permanently crippled, and what sounds like a horrendous experience in a home for disabled children. It left a lasting impression on his personality.

Emerging from Art School to take on the Pub Rock scene with Kilburn and the Highroads Ian began honing his writing skills. They really came to the fore with the production of his first solo album with the Blockheads. Not only was it musically more developed with a crisp production but the Stiff label release of this, along with the single ‘Sex and Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll’, set the tone for controversial lyrics and put Ian and the Blockheads at the forefront of the British New Wave/Punk explosion.

Nobody sounded like Ian. His voice wasn’t exactly operatic with its exaggerated Essex twang and the expletives certainly gave it an edge but his use of words was unique. It must have been interesting to see the rivalry between Ian and Elvis on the first Stiff tour. They were both masters at word play.

The music from the Blockheads was very tight and Ian formed a tight assemblage with the likes of Chas Jankel, Mick Gallagher, Charlie Charles and Norman Watt-Roy. They produced a rocky funky feel for Ian to string his words over like a manic Ray Winston.

Ian’s live act was extraordinary and totally different and bizarre. It was like a vaudeville clown on acid. He come on in various colourful and striped attire like a psychedelic tramp; divest himself of hats, ju-jus, bells, scarves, jackets, shirts, T-shirts, canes and various props, stuff things in his mouth, toot on horns, blow on whistles and yell out ‘OI OI!!’. It was the most visual and interesting spectacle I’ve ever witnessed. The wonder of it simply does not come across in film.

The songs were immensely varied with deployment of humour and extremely clever lyrics and topics as diverse as geniuses, reasons to be cheerful, his (also crippled) Rock idol Gene Vincent, employment choices, sex, his father, interesting Essex characters, and a recipe for utopia. His song ‘Spasticus Autisicus’ was a howl of angst aimed at what Ian viewed as a condescending attitude towards the disabled in the International Year of the Disabled Persons for which he had been asked to contribute. It got him banned by the BBC which I bet really pleased him.

Ian was entirely original, had a great vision and complex character. He never shied from causing offence or tackling subject matter that might cause upset. His death from cancer robbed us of a master song-writer and idiosyncratic performer who conformed to nothing.

Fortunately the Blockheads are still going strong storming out Ian’s songs so his spirit lives!

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    1. Without accusations of negativity – just for the record, Ian took a little of his stage presentation from Gene Vincent – the way he stood on stage and nearly all of it from Keith Moon as per his character’s attire as Uncle Ernie in Ken Russell’s ‘Tommy’ movie – made in 1974.
      The BBC made a documentary on the ‘International Year’, (I video’d it), featuring the song performed live. It was only pre-watershed radio that the BBC pulled it due to it’s severity. It was played on BBC radio on evenings.

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Ian Dury – You’ll See Glimpses – wonderful idealistic lyrics.

Ian Dury – You’ll See Glimpses – wonderful idealistic lyrics.

Ian Dury is wonderful. He was a genius. I loved his poetry and philosophy even though he was meant to have been a cantankerous bastard.

I think this song really captures the dreams of an idealist. They all think I’m mad too. There’s almost a defeatist, listen to the band on the Titanic – it’s going to go down anyway. There’s nothing you can do. Might as well just have a good time and forget that the tycoons are strip-mining the wildernesses and chopping down the jungles, and slaughtering the animals, while the religious fanatics think that god will save the day or it doesn’t matter we’re all going to paradise.

I don’t believe that rubbish.

I’m looking out from the bows and pointing at the ice-berg. We can steer round it! It doesn’t have to end in disaster!

The answers to the world’s problems are all simple. There is nothing hard about it. We elect the psychopaths. We support the business men and bankers (and they are nearly all men) on their mad journey to increase their own pots of gold. We follow the religious nutters on their crusades, inquisitions and caliphates. We are always surprised when the inevitable happens.

Instead of growth lets think sustainable. Instead of nations lets think globally. Instead of worn out diatribes from long deceased superstitions let’s think United Nations charter of Rights. Instead of tribes and patriotism lets think brother and sisterhood. Instead of war, aggression and violence lets think peace, love and fraternity. Instead of homogeneity lets value the difference. Instead of hatred lets work on trust. Instead of destroying – let’s build.

It’s all about a positive Zeitgeist. You’re all welcome.

People tell me it’s human nature; we can’t fight it.

I say bollocks. We’ve come a long way. We don’t burn people, use cat-o-nines, whip, torture, castrate and murder anymore – at least not in this country. We need a global mandate to prevent the pockets of uncivilised behaviour, like ISIS, from having too great an effect.

We don’t go bear-baiting, cock-fighting, dog-fighting or hang people from gibbets.

Human beings can progress and become civilised. We’ve come a long way.

I agree with Ian. I like his dream better than ISIS’s nightmare!

It’s a dream. I get glimpses of it. It could be real!

You’ll See Glimpses

(All spoken)

You’ll see.

They think I’m off my crust as I creep about the caff.
But I’m really getting ready to surprise them all,
Because I’m busy sorting out the problems of the world.
And when I reveal all I may get a crinkly mouth.
I’ve given my all to the task at hand unstintingly.
When it’s all over I’ll rest on my laurels.

Here for a moment is a glimpse of my plan:
All the kids will be happy learning things.
The wind will smell of wild flowers.
Nobody will whack each other about with nasty things.
All the room in the world.

They take me for a mug because I smile.
They think I’m too out of tune to mind being patronised.
All in all, it’s been another phase in my chosen career,
And when my secrets are out they’ll bite their silly tongues.
All I want for my birthday is another birthday.
When skies are blue we all feel the benefit.

Glimpse Number 2 for the listener.
Everyone will feel useful in lovely ways.
Trees will be firmly rooted in town and country.
Illness and despair will be dispensed with.
All the room in the world.

They ask me if I’ve had the voices yet.
They don’t think I know any true answers.
It’s true that I haven’t quite finished yet.
When it all comes out in the wash they’ll eat their words.
I’ve got all their names and addresses.
Later on I’ll write them each a thank-you letter.

Before I stop, here’s a last glimpse into the general future.
Home rule will exist in each home, forever.
Every living thing will be another friend.
This wonderful state of affairs will last for always.

This has been got out by a friend.

Music I do not like!

Music I do not like!

Most music I can enjoy – some more than others – but there are some things I do not like. They irritate me.

These include Abba, Queen, Eagles, the Rat Pack, Gram Parsons and Tom Jones.

I don’t know why I dislike them so much. Any suggestions?

What are your pet dislikes?

Bob Geldof at the Great British Folk Festival

Bob Geldof at the Great British Folk Festival

I notice that the Boomtown Rats are touring. That’s a must see!!

I can’t say I was looking forward to this with great enthusiasm. When I saw Bob Geldof was appearing at the Folk Festival I imagined him with an acoustic guitar. It wasn’t greatly appealing. How wrong I was. This was Bob with a band. They were about as far from Folk as you could get.

That Band rocked as good as any Boomtown Rats could have done (They had a rat or two!).

Bob was right on form starting with a rant and diatribe about Folkies and heading off with an expletive laden set with goes at the Daily Mail and diatribes about the media. There were poignant bits about Africa and the needs and personal bits. The music was hot punk and rocking and the crowd were delirious. He stormed through the last two numbers – Rat Trap and I Don’t Like Mondays and was forced to come back for a couple of forbidden encores.

This was an unexpected delight! That band rocked and Bob was giving no quarter! The unexpected highlight of the whole weekend!!

Here’s a few photos:

Donovan at the Great British Folk Festival – Photos!

Donovan at the Great British Folk Festival – Photos!

I’ve seen Donovan here before. I was looking forward to it. He is quite a character. As a young kid of sixteen I was very taken with a documentary about him and Gypsy Davey wandering around the Scottish islands in what looked to me like the idea bohemian freedom.

He’s worked with the likes of the Beatles and in between songs regaled us with anecdotes that were humorous and insightful. It made for an interesting evening.

Donovan with his guitar and songs was delightful. He tended to focus on his early work and particularly his first two albums which was great for me – bit of a nostalgia trip. I enjoyed it a lot. It was great to hear the Buffy St Marie Universal Soldier!

Here’s a few photos: