Doors -Summer’s almost gone

When I was walking up my hill in the grey Autumn day – a bit of a contrast to yesterday’s heat and sunshine – I found myself singing this.

The Doors were one of my favourite bands.

It feels like Summer has gone. Where will we be? In the midst of a pandemic and winter on its way!

My back pages – 1992 – Bob Dylan and an array of stars.

These really are my back pages now. So great to see people like George Harrison, Neil Young, Tom Petty and Robbie Robinson playing with Bob on this great Dylan song.

It feels like the whole era is eroding daily as it drops into a misunderstood history.

Star – the idea behind the book

Star – the idea behind the book

I started writing Star in 1981.

I had an idea for writing a novel based on the underground Rock Music of the sixties but putting it a thousand years into the future on an intergalactic scale.

My main character had to be a larger than life Rock Star.

The motivation for the story was based on two separate incidents: the motorbike accident of Bob Dylan in 1966 and the death of Jimi Hendrix in 1970. Both spawned conspiracy theories of Mafia involvement, Black Panther involvement, pressure from management, contracts, work pressure, pressure to maintain creativity, drug use, government concern and many more.

That seemed a rich vein to mine.

So I put my character in an infamous underground band, thrust into a leading role in the social unrest that was taking the form of an increasing political, antiestablishment youth movement sweeping the galaxy.

All I had to do was recreate the social and political changes of the sixties in a futuristic setting and move my character through them.

It was interesting and fun. The result was ‘Star’.

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Today’s Music to help keep up my spirits through Isolation! – The Doors!!

I’ve always loved the Doors right since the moment I heard that first album. I worked all Friday night at Lyons bakery in Kingston and met this fellow long-hair there called Mike. He was trying to grow his hair to his feet and so refused to brush it in case it broke the ends off! He introduced me to the Doors first album and eulogised over them.

I did too.

Such a shame that Jim Morrison messed himself up on alcohol! I would have loved that band to be around a lot longer. They were superb live!

My favourite album is Strange Days. I used to play it to death.

I’m going to put it on now and turn the dial to twelve!!

Frank Zappa – It can’t happen here!

Frank Zappa – It can’t happen here!

Good old Frank he always summed things up succinctly!

Freak out was one of those great albums that came out in 1966. A blast of weirdness. There is nobody quite like Frank.  How do you categorise music like this? This blew minds!

The song was a warning. It was highlighting the fact that a new culture was being born. The young were out of control and doing something else – they were not part of the establishment any more. They did not buy into the American Dream.

Unfortunately the ‘new culture’ became a fashion.

It did happen. Then it didn’t.

I thought the song was appropriate right now because a different ‘It can’t Happen Here’ is happening – a lot more scary.

It Can’t Happen Here

Frank Zappa

It can’t happen here
It can’t happen here
I’m telling you, my dear
That it can’t happen here
Because I been checkin’ it out, baby
I checked it out a couple a times, hmmmmmmmm

And I’m telling you
It can’t happen here
Oh darling, it’s important that you believe me
(bop bop bop bop)
That it can’t happen here

Who could imagine that they would freak out somewhere in kansas…
Kansas kansas tototototodo
Kansas kansas tototototodo
Kansas kansas
Who could imagine that they would freak out in minnesota…
Mimimimimimimi minnesota, minnesota, minnesota
Who could imagine…

Who could imagine
That they would freak out in washington, d.c.
D.c. d.c. d.c. d.c. d.c.
It can’t happen here
Ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba
It can’t happen here
It can’t happen here
Everybody’s safe and it can’t happen here
No freaks for us
It can’t happen here
Everybody’s clean and it can’t happen here
No, no, it won’t happen here
I’m telling you it can’t
It won’t happen here
(bop bop didi bop didi bop bop bop)
Plastic folks, you know
It won’t happen here
You’re safe, mama
You’re safe, baby
You just cook a tv dinner
And you make it
(bop bop bop)
No no no no
Oh, we’re gonna get a tv dinner and cook it up
Go get a tv dinner and cook it up
Cook it up
Oh, and it won’t happen here
(no no no no no no no no no no no
Man you guys are really safe
Everything’s cool).
Who could imagine
Who could imagine
That they would freak out in the suburbs
I remember (tu-tu)
I remember (tu-tu)
I remember (tu-tu)
They had a swimming pool
I remember (tu-tu)
I remember (tu-tu)
They had a swimming pool
I remember (tu-tu)
I remember (tu-tu)
They had a swimming pool.

And they thought it couldn’t happen here
(duh duh duh duh duh)
They knew it couldn’t happen here
They were so sure it couldn’t happen here

Yes yes yes–i’ve always felt that
Yes I agree man, it really makes it…yeah…
It’s a real thing, man
And it really makes it
(makes it)

Suzie, you just got to town,
And we’ve been, we’ve been very interested
In your development,
Since you first took the shots.
Forget it!
(it can’t happen here)
(can’t happen here)
(can’t happen here)

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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 – My first Roy Harper gig

Anecdote – My first Roy Harper gig


My first Roy Harper gig

It was 1967 and I had been told by my friend Bob that I ought to check out this singer that he’d seen. He told me that he sounded like me. He talked about the same stuff. And that I’d love him. Bob was cool with his white plastic mac and black tousled hair. If he thought that then it was worth checking out.

I put it to the back of my mind.

I had recently been getting into Jackson C Frank, Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. I had a motorbike and the means to get into London. The Sixties Underground was opening up to me. I was immersed in the Blues, West Coast Acid Rock and the Psychedelic/Progressive scene. It was all happening.

Les Cousins seemed to have it all when it came to the singer songwriter and what passed as ‘Contemporary Folk’.

I headed up to catch a gig by Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. It set me back a cool 20p.

Les Cousins was a basement club , down these stairs into the cellar laid out with tables and chairs and a stage. It was cosy.

Bert and John did individual sets and sandwiched in between was this fair-haired troubadour with a contagious chuckle and wicked mind. I didn’t twig straight away that this was the guy Bob had told me about. I was captivated by the patter. He only played three songs. I remember one was Blackpool. None of them were his epics. He hadn’t written those yet. But what he had to say and the power of him came straight across to me. I was smitten.

Roy Harper rocked my mind with the force of a tsunami. He was articulating the thoughts inside my head and putting them into words.

I knew I had to see him again soon, and quick, if for no other reason than to find out what I was thinking!

Anecdote – The Sixties Underground Rock venues – The Toby Jug

Anecdote – The Sixties Underground Rock venues – The Toby Jug

Rock Routes

The Sixties Underground Rock venues – The Toby Jug

Back in the sixties when Rock music was king of the culture and all possibility prevailed there were a plethora of clubs in London and its surrounds.

I lived in London and had access to it all. London was the place to be. It was where everything was happening. There were so many venues catering for the full spectrum of music and so many bands. Every night of the week was a quagmire of decisions. We were utterly spoilt for choice. Each week I would get the NME or Time Out along with my copy of IT and peruse the gig list. It was overwhelming. I usually went to around three gigs a week and two of those were Harper gigs. But Roy played with a lot of other people and I managed to meet a number of brilliant bands through Roy Harper concerts. He certainly did not confine himself to the ‘folk’ circuit. Roy described himself as a one man Rock ‘n’ Roll band and that’s how he treated it. Not only did he perform with the likes of Ralph McTell, John Renbourn, Ron Geesin, John Martyn and Al Stewart but he also appeared alongside bands such as Free, the Bonzos, Nice and Pentangle. Just by following Roy I picked up on a lot of the best of what was around.

Those were heady days for heads, freaks and denizens of the alternative world. You would meet up with old and new friends. These were the days when you could tell a friend by the length of his hair and the clothes he wore. This was the new society. You would cross a road to say hi to complete strangers and indulge in debate about music and social events. They were the days of quiet revolution.

One of my favourite venues was the Toby Jug at Tolsworth. It was a big old pub with a large room at the back. That was the scene of a weekly Blues club. The term blues was used very loosely. They had bands as diverse as Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin and Captain Beefheart.

My favourites were always Fleetwood Mac. That band always rocked. I thought the brilliant rhythm section created by McVee and Fleetwood really allowed Pete Green and Jeremy Spencer to let rip. They were two or three bands in one.

Liz liked to dance and so we used to find space at the back and give it some energetic prancing.

What was good about the Toby Jug was that you had the room to dance but could also get near to the stage to watch the performance. For 25p you were able to see Ian Anderson play flute while standing like a stork on one leg, or watch Jimmy Page churn out those riffs. That was the place I saw Beefheart and Led Zep, up close and personal, and all for a mere 25p. None of this stadium stuff with binoculars. You could stand at the front and be a couple of feet away from Jimmy Page or Pete Green and watch their fingers as they teased the strings. You could mingle without the need of backstage passes. They weren’t so much ‘stars’ as revered exponents of ‘our’ music, fully fledged members of the new society. You felt as if we were all in some new ethos together.

We had some high old times.

The Toby Jug was one of my special 1960s haunts. Fond memories.

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George Harrison – Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth) – a song for the fundamentalists.

George Harrison – Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth) – a song for the fundamentalists.


I thought this was appropriate to both the terrorists and governments!

I can’t help thinking that you don’t solve fascism with bombs. You have to tackle the root causes – Inequality, intolerance, poverty, fundamentalism, war and unemployment.

“Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)”

Give me love
Give me love
Give me peace on earth
Give me light
Give me life
Keep me free from birth
Give me hope
Help me cope, with this heavy load
Trying to, touch and reach you with,
heart and soulOM M M M M M M M M M M M M M
M M M My Lord . . .

PLEASE take hold of my hand, that
I might understand you

Won’t you please
Oh won’t you

Give me love
Give me love
Give me peace on earth
Give me light
Give me life
Keep me free from birth
Give me hope
Help me cope, with this heavy load
Trying to, touch and reach you with,
heart and soul

M M M My Lord . . .

PLEASE take hold of my hand, that
I might understand you

Fifteen and hitching around France with Foss – the planning and execution

Fifteen and hitching around France with Foss – the planning and execution

Opher Pete high

Fifteen and hitching around France with Foss – the planning and execution

It was 1964. Every day was bathed in the bright sunshine of possibility. There were no clouds in the sky and none on the horizon. I could do anything.

Foss was a fellow rugby player. He was a year older than me and was leaving school that year. I was fourteen and was up for adventure. We planned an adventure. It was meticulously worked out. It went like this:

We would hitch-hike down to the coast.

We would board a boat bound for France.

We would hitch-hike around France for the summer.

We would hitch-hike back, board a boat, hitch back home and reminisce.

What could possibly go wrong?

Our meticulous planning paid off. My parents were convinced that it was watertight. Foss, who was coming up sixteen, was so mature he would look after me. They were satisfied.

In hindsight it was probably more that they didn’t think we’d ever get it together. But we did.

The reality hit home. The ferries unreasonably demanded money for the fare. We were unable to hitch a ride on a boat. Then there was the small matter of food and shelter. We would no longer have access to the fridge and my bed.

It was OK. We could work it out. I had a sleeping bag and a rucksack. Foss had a tent. Admittedly it didn’t actually have a front to it but it would keep the rain off.

All we needed was a bit of cash. Neither of us was a musician so busking was out of the question. We set about delivering leaflets. That was fun. We ran down roads leaping over fences and hedges and stuffing leaflets through letterboxes. Apartment blocks were best. You could stuff a whole series of boxes with leaflets.

By the end of the first day we could see that we were not going to make a lot of money at this. No matter how fast you ran, stuffed, leapt and deposited we could not possibly deliver sufficient leaflets to make enough money. Not only that but we were knackered.

We came up with a solution. We would deliver to every other door and put three through each of the letterboxes. We’d miss out the odd street or two and dump half of the leaflets in the bin. That seemed to work.

We did this for three months and had amassed some cash. My parents were obviously impressed with my tenacity and subsidised my efforts.

We were all set.

I packed my big rucksack with essentials – a few changes of clothes, a toothbrush and the Rolling Stones first album and latest single. The Stones had just released it and I splashed some of my money on purchasing it. It could mean that we starved but at least we’d have good music while we starved (even if we had no means of playing it). When the sleeping bag was tied on the top the rucksack was nearly as big as me. Foss’s was even bigger. He had the tent.

We waved goodbye and set off cheerfully down the road. This was long before mobile phones. We would be out of contact for nearly two months. It was OK. We had a map, some rudimentary French, a bit of cash and a booklet about Youth Hostels in France. We were heading for the far south.

The sun was shining. Everything was good in the world.

I felt like Bilbo Baggins.