Today’s Music to keep me SANe in Isolation – Jack Kerouac.

I just felt like getting back into the old fifties Jazz. Jack Kerouac put some of his music to jazz music. It captured something of that mad time – jazz, sex and travel, reefer, zen and crazy. Life was for kicks and Sartori.  There was no time to waste. Crazy, crazy, crazy, man.

Back when I was young these were like diamonds. You couldn’t get them. Thanks to the internet we have access to all manner of gems.

The only question is whether having such easy access makes everything less important.

Today I’m listening to Jack creating a whole new era out of black music and the search for truth. Go, Go Jack. You changed the world!!

Roy Harper is a Beatnik.

Roy is a Beatnik.


Roy is a Beatnik. At least I think that is how he would still think of himself.

It is interesting to go back in time to when he was a young man and see the influences that helped form him. They went into his music and made him what he is.

As a teenager, living in Lytham St Annes, Roy discovered the Beat Generation – a group of dissident white youths living on the outreaches of society who rebelled against the basic tenets on which society was based – the joyless conformity, hypocritical lip service to religion, the work ethic, class system and general pointlessness. They were looking for something more exciting, more meaningful and more fun. They looked for that excitement and meaning in Zen, sex, marijuana, alcohol and cars. It was a spiritual quest that exploded in poetry and prose. The movement included such disparate individuals as the writers Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs, and poets Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Gary Snyder. They identified with black culture and the wild Jazz Be-bop of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Lester Young, the reefer and wild blowing sax. They were centred in New York and San Francisco where they frequented the steamy black clubs and gave their wild anti-establishment poetry readings. They caused a stir with their published work that shocked and horrified polite society – as with Ginsberg’s poem ‘Howl’.

All a bit different to life in quiet small-town St Annes.

A young Roy read ‘On The Road’ and could immediately identify with the sentiment. It set the tone for what was to come.

Roy’s first gig in the late fifties was not as a singer or guitarist but as a ‘Beat Poet’. As the Marathon Beat Poet Roy set out to walk around reciting poetry for twenty four hours culminating in a recitation on the pier. That’s a story in itself!

In the years that followed Roy did his own ‘On The Road’ hitching and busking around Europe. Here, as a busker, he learnt the guitar and a series of old Blues and Folk songs.

When he returned in the mid-sixties, having become proficient on the guitar, he decided to try to make a living singing and, with his acoustic guitar, gravitated towards the Folk Scene and Les Cousins on Greek Street in Soho.

His life-style was that of the bohemian Beat and his music reflected that.

Most of the musicians at that time had come into the music business through Skiffle, Trad Jazz, Blues or Folk. Roy was a bit different. Although he had a brief flirtation with Skiffle, his major thing had always poetry and jazz. Hence his music reflected that. Right from the start he wrote his own poetic lyrics, with their anti-establishment themes, and incorporated Jazz chords into his songs. His hero at the time was Davy Graham, who guitar playing was amazing and set the standard for everyone. Davy was also highly innovative – introducing jazz chords and Moroccan rhythms into his music.

As the sixties progressed and the counterculture developed Roy was associated with that scene – and was highly prominent in it too – but he always maintained that he was no hippie – he was a Beatnik.

William Burroughs Quotes.

Burroughs was a one-off Beat writer. Though quite how he came to be associated with Kerouac and Ginsberg always seems strange to me.

Opher's World

Well Burroughs was in many ways the architect of what became known as the Beat Movement. Though in reality the many facets of the culture had little in common with each other. Burroughs, Ginsberg and Kerouac were the three pillars. Who was most inspirational is debateable.
Here’s a few great quotes.
A paranoid is someone who knows a little of what’s going on.
Knowing even a little can scare the life out of you.
After one look at this planet any visitor from outer space would say ‘I want to see the manager.’
That is presupposing that someone is managing the mess.
Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.
So true. The subconscious is amazingly good at digging out information.
Artists to my mind are the real architects of change, and not the political legislators who implement change after the fact.

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Poetry – Meaning Jack and Allen – a stream of consciousness for the shame of it

Poetry – Meaning Jack and Allen – a stream of consciousness for the shame of it


Meaning Jack and Allen (I wrote this one for Matt)

It is great to reconnect with Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg every now and again. The visions they espoused created images in my head.

Allen altered poetry. He opened my head up and gave me eyes to see. He brought poetry to life from the rotting carcass it had been.

For me Allen’s forte was that there were no rules.

Allen wrote poetry in the same stream of consciousness that Jack wrote prose. It was a revolution.

That revolution brought a whole new way of writing, thinking and feeling. It created the modern world. Others had done it before – Henry Miller for one, but nobody connected in to that ‘reality’ the way Allen and Jack did. They were searching for the meaning in life, the ultimate kicks, to tune in to the craziness of life, to live.

They weren’t satisfied with the plastic, the superficial, the mundane; they wanted something that had depth; that meant something.

Society is empty.

Real living was to let everything out – all that emotion, feeling, energy and joy.

They wanted to live and life had to burn. If it wasn’t real it wasn’t worth a fuck.

We’re beat but we ain’t beat yet.

Meaning Jack and Allen

Searching for meaning,

Truth and beauty

In the back streets

Away from the plastic

Neon falsity of Mammon.

Searching for a raw

Unprocessed chord,

A burst of inspiration

Blast of energy

Among the processed

Refinement of rehearsed notes.

Searching for energy.

Searching for words of passion,

Fury and eloquence,

Words that are meant,

That are revealing,

Inspiring and awakening.

Searching for candour

Amid the controlled,

Those robbed

By the political correctness thieves

Who steal souls in the name of respect.

Searching for compassion

Among the dead

Moribund corpses

Who walk the well-lit streets

Without a mind,

Regurgitating indoctrinations

And believing it.

Searching for someone to offend

Argue with

And learn from.

Who has the balls to speak;

To scream the images

That adorn the inside of their skull.

Searching for reality

In the midst of a culture

That has sold its spirit

To both religion and business,

That is bankrupt,

Devoid of ideas;

That consumes the planet

In the madness of its death throes;

In a mindless self-fuck;

That thinks plastic is perfect –

It’s what the suckers want –

It makes bucks.

Searching for the spirit

Of Kerouac, Ginsberg and Cassidy

On one long crazy rapture

One night of endless madness

With no limits

No end

Spitting words, dreams, visions and thoughts

In sounds

Beyond words

Beyond meaning.

On an endless drive

Of desperation

Roaring across plains,

Up mountains,

Down canyons

In search of crazy.

In search of ultimate kicks

Goofin’ with eternity,

Lost in honking sounds,

Mad fuck

And high on anything –

Just so long as it will never stop,

Never be understood,

Never be explained.

But it is there –

It exists

In the zen of an instant,

A rock, a sax solo, a raving stanza,

A drooling poem

Spontaneously bursting into existence

Climaxing from the tongue

In an orgy of sudden understanding,



Unfettered, furious,

So orgasmic and crude

That it throbs through your groin

To explode in your brain

With uncontainable joy.

Searching for an explanation

For the madness

Wreaked on humanity,

On the planet,

The poor trussed planet

The enslavement of humanity

The taming,

The reduction

Containment and boredom,

The pressures

That causes people

To explode

In cruelty and barbarism.

Searching for the love

That melts the soul

In ecstatic waves

That swamp, crash and churn,

So that we are absorbed,


And reborn totally alive

And free.

Searching through words,

That squirm and metamorphose,

Through my mind

My dreams –

Searching for expression,

Substance and delirium.

Searching through images

Extracted from the mundane,

With shape, texture and colour

Never before glimpsed!

Creating poems to reflect

The turmoil,

Truths that stalk the coils

Within the skull.


Opher 21.1.2016

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Allen Ginsberg – Howl – a revelation.

Allen Ginsberg – Howl – a revelation.


I encountered Howl when I was seventeen years old – back in the heady days of 1967. Back then I was a rebellious youth full of angst and disillusionment. I did not like the society I was part of. I did not want the career directions being laid out before me. I saw it all as shallow, hypocritical and pointless. I wanted something with more meaning but I did not know what it was. I wanted a life that had some depth and purpose. I rejected the whole stupidity of comfort, status and ‘fitting in’ to a society that I considered unfair, unjust and with the wrong priorities. I was on a quest to find something better.

Back then my life was all about Rock Music, friends and girls. I was into freewheelin’ and living in the moment. I wanted excitement and adventure. I wanted to live life to the full.

Poetry had been ruined for me at school. I had been made to learn and recite reams of Tennyson and Wordsworth. It did not relate to me at all. I could not connect.

I rediscovered poetry through the lyrics of the fabulous music I was listening too. Things like the Beatles – ‘Here There and Everywhere’ or the Kinks – ‘I’m Not Like Everybody Else’ and ‘Well Respected Man’ or Dylan – ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’, ‘Ramona’, ‘Pawn in the Game’ and ‘It’s Alright Ma, I’m only Bleeding’. They spoke to me. I was in to lyrics and words. I was on the cusp. Little did I know that I was shortly to be knocked out by the likes of Captain Beefheart, Country Joe and the Fish and Roy Harper. Rock Music provided my poetry and opened my mind to real social issues, mystical thought and philosophy. It gave me insight into the meaning I was seeking and a different way of living a life full of passion, love, tolerance and fairness.

Then I rediscovered poetry. I had been reading Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’, which transported me into a world that made much more sense to me. I wanted a life that was unleashed. On the cover of Kerouac’s ‘Dharma Bums’ was a photo of the mighty Allen Ginsberg. I found a copy of Ginsberg’s City Lights pocket book – ‘Howl’

The first moment I read those opening lines that Ginsberg had written way back in 1954 I was smitten. It spoke directly to me. I could relate to it. I interpreted it into my own life. I was being destroyed by the madness of my greed-ridden, war-mongering, wealth-obsessed society. I wanted out. I saw myself as that angel-headed hipster searching for that mystical connection to the universe. I was burning for it. I would rather be hungry and naked and real, rather that bloated and living in luxury in meaningless greed.

Suddenly I wasn’t alone anymore. There were other people who thought like me. I had discovered poetry.

These were the words that opened my mind:

‘I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
Angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection
to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,’

The Best Minds of my Generation – a poem

The Best Minds of my Generation


I watched the best minds of my generation struggling to discover the truth,

Striving to establish equality,

Learning to respect the universe in which we find ourselves

And dreaming of discovering a better, more meaningful, way to live.


I watched the best minds of my generation applying their whole being

Into filling their lives with wonder,

Celebrating the beauty of existence

And expressing their lust for sensation.


I saw them laugh, rant and argue,

Rabid with passion,

With bulging eyes and wild gesticulations,

Desperate to communicate the ideas in their heads

Before they dissipated into the ether,

Until their tongues were too exhausted to sing,

Their limbs too exhausted to dance,

Their organs too exhausted to love,

And their minds too numb to thin.

So that they finally subsided

Into contemplative ecstasy

And slept wherever they found themselves.


Opher 20.8.2019



I was fortunate to find myself among a group of artistic people who were eager to expand their horizons and were never content to lead a mundane life. They were explorers of inner space, travellers and creators. They were as eager as me to delve into the possibilities and mysteries that surrounded them.

They were not prepared to accept the ordinary and always strived to unearth the extraordinary.

I was very fortunate.

You may have noticed more than a passing nod to the great Allen Ginsberg!

Early years in teaching and William Burroughs and censorship

Early years in teaching and William Burroughs and censorship

When I went into teaching I was determined to approach it in a different manner to the experience that I had imposed upon me in schools. A lot of my teachers were tyrants and I hated them. I refused to have the distant hierarchy of teacher and pupil. I insisted the students called me by my first name. For me teaching was a privilege. I was not there to force-feed reluctant kids with turgid facts; I was there to enlighten and expand minds, to promote thinking, questioning and discovery and turn on kids to the awe and wonder of the universe.
It did not quite work that way.
The world was not ready for me. The teaching staff thought I was a rebellious nutter and the kids thought I was being weak and played up.
Over my first year or two I had to adjust to find the balance. It was a lesson in life. People liked order and to be told what to do. The kids preferred a strict vicious teacher to a weak one. They felt safer. They knew where they were. That’s why we elect psychopaths and sociopaths; they are strong, clear and black and white. You know where you stand with fascism.
I found a middle way.
At lunch-time I shunned the staff table and sat with the kids. I ran clubs, played sport and got to know them.
I believed teaching was not about power but more about relationship. That learning was not about knowledge so much as the skills and qualities necessary to experience life. I still do.
The students found me interesting and we developed good relationships. They asked me to contribute to a student magazine. I wrote a piece for them. The Senior Team thought it was not appropriate and banned it. The students published the magazine with a space where my story should have been with ‘CENSORED’ written over the pages.
Great stuff.
One of the brightest of the young rebels, a certain Stephen Ellis, won a prize for speech day. That meant that he received a sum of money towards a book of his choice. He came along to me and asked my advice as to what book might be a good one to purchase.
Without too much thought I said that probably something by Kerouac, Ginsberg or Burroughs might be good. He bought a William Burroughs.
The day before Speech day, when the prizes were to be distributed, the lads took their books in. The Religious Education teacher went apoplectic when he saw the William Burroughs book. He took it home to check.
The next day he brought it back. He had painstakingly cut out all the offensive bits. Now anyone who is familiar with Burroughs will know that he is renowned for his straight talking offensiveness. The book was a colander of holes. There were as many holes as words.
I thought all those cut out bits were right up William Burroughs street. He was famous for using the cut-up technique. That would have been something – to make a new book out of a rearranging of all the offensive bits!
Stephen was marched off to the Headteacher to explain why he had chosen such an extreme book. I thought my short career might be on the line. Stephen did not mention me. He feigned innocence. He seemed delighted at what had happened. All this fuss was exciting. It was all a big game.
I think he went on to become a solicitor. I hope he still has that book.

Howl – Allen Ginsberg and the birth of the Beat Generation!

The poem that opened up worlds for me.

Opher's World

allen_ginsberg_2012_03_20 Allen Ginsberg single-handedly rescued poetry for me.  I had it destroyed for me in Primary School. The teacher’s view of poetry was to get us (nine and ten year olds) to learn a poem by rote each week. We had the delights of Tennyson and Wordsworth to memorise. We would have to stand in turn and recite a verse on request. She would point to you and you would have to comply. If you did not know it then you had to miss PE (Physical Exercise), which we all loved, to stay in and learn it. I spent a number of afternoons peering longingly at the rest of the class outside. It instilled hatred. There was no attempt to look at meaning or appreciation. Poetry was merely a task, a pain, a punishment. In Secondary School all I can remember is the class reciting ‘The Jumblies’. Great though it was…

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