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 Blues Muse – Belfast – Stiff Little Fingers – Rebellion

The Blues Muse – Belfast – Stiff Little Fingers – Rebellion

The Blues Muse works his way through Punk in Ireland with rebellion and the troubles.

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Belfast

If ever Punk had been invented for a reason then Ireland was surely it. The ‘Troubles’ had been rumbling on since the turn of the century, had their roots back with Cromwell and even before with William of Orange and then way back to 1609 with the imposition of Protestant Scots into Ireland. In the seventies it had reached the height with bombings, knee-cappings, killings and an insurmountable war waged between the IRA, who wanted a united Ireland under Irish rule, and the British government who wanted British rule for Ulster and the protestant North. As an outsider I looked at it with amazement. It seemed incredible to me that Ireland was suffering such sectarian violence when the people were always so nice and friendly. But then I wasn’t Irish.

I walked through Belfast and it was scary with its barbed wire, bricked off roads, brutal grey despair only brightened by political slogans and defiant gaudy murals celebrating victories, hunger strikes and militia. It looked and felt like a war-zone.

But this was the environment that the kids had grown up in. Segregated, threatened, strip-searched, frisked and with the constant threat of violence and death from all sides.

It was fertile soil for a Punk Band and Ireland had a rich musical history. The wonder is that only two bands really emerged. While the Undertones were good and produced that brilliant ‘Teenage Kicks’ which was one of John Peel’s favourites, they never really dealt with the politics. They left that up to the other of Peelies favourites – Stiff Little Fingers.

I could only imagine the bravery of those young lads as they bellowed their fury at both sides and hit out at the stupid violence, repression and threats that they were subjected to. They made no distinction. Nobody has put it better.

It took guts to stand up to the IRA and tell them they had a suspect device, to harangue the British Army for their disrespect and disdain and to ignore the very real threats and warnings. They literally took their life in their hands for their music and held out for a vision of a better future.

Where the Sex Pistols talked of ‘No Future’ they sang about an ‘Alternative Ulster’. Instead of joining in with the politics of separation and hatred they sang about ‘Barbed Wire Love’ and hit out at racism in ‘White Noise’. This was my kind of music. It hit the heart, head and glands. It had substance, balls and quality. Punk didn’t come much better.

I watched them play in Belfast. They had ignored threats from the IRA, talk of a bust by the Brits and carried on through a bomb threat. I couldn’t take my eyes off them. They were young kids but they played their hearts out and Jake’s voice was hoarse and in ribbons by the end, the young kids in the hall packed it out and threw themselves around with gusto. Stiff Little Fingers were putting all their frustrations and anger into words and power chords. Nobody did it better.

This was what Rock music had always been about – rebellion!

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If you would like to purchase The Blues Muse, or any of my other books please follow the links:

In the UK:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Opher-Goodwin/e/B00MSHUX6Y/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1479943367&sr=1-2-ent

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blues-Muse-Opher-Goodwin/dp/1518621147/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479943367&sr=1-1&keywords=opher+goodwin

In the US:

https://www.amazon.com/Opher-Goodwin/e/B00MSHUX6Y/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1479943510&sr=1-2-ent

https://www.amazon.com/Blues-Muse-Opher-Goodwin-ebook/dp/B01HDQEMQ6/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479943567&sr=1-1&keywords=opher+goodwin+blues+muse

https://www.amazon.com/Blues-Muse-Opher-Goodwin/dp/1518621147/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479943578&sr=1-2&keywords=opher+goodwin+blues+muse

For all other countries please check out your local Amazon outlet.

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:

Tribute to Rock genius – John Lee Hooker

Tribute to Rock genius – John Lee Hooker

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John Lee Hooker

In the 1940s John Lee Hooker recorded under numerous names to avoid contractual disputes. There were hundreds of little recording studios, some in rooms above grocery stores or such like, and John must have signed a myriad of exclusive contracts. He probably spent his days going from one to the other laying down exclusive tracks. At the time he was mainly acoustic, had a great imagination and improvised a lot. So even if it was the same track that he started off laying down by the end it would be something different.

Like every other blues singer who stayed in the business he went electric after the war and by the 1950s had developed a number of different styles. His most successful was his boogie style. He’d always had this natural broken rhythm. It was quite typical for the Mississippi Bluesmen to base their songs round a repetitive rhythm. It was most pronounced in the North Mississippi Country Blues but it pervaded the area. Coming from a poor share-cropping background John would have been steeped in it. John’s was different because he would interrupt and break that rhythm. It created a more jerky style. When coupled with John’s deep, rich, resonant voice it was hypnotic. His first hit came with ‘Boogie Chillun’ using that boogie style. It was different to the piano boogie of the 1930s and 40’s but even more effect on his electric guitar in the sweaty blues clubs. It created a great rhythm to dance to.

Unlike other Blues singers from Mississippi John migrated to Detroit and missed out Chicago. That was mainly because he worked in the car industry performing in the blues clubs in the evenings. He made Detroit his home and signed to labels such as Vee-Jay and Modern. He did record some stuff for Chess and I wonder how his style would have fitted in there alongside Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. But that was not to be.

When the British Beat boom took off in 1964 John found his boogie style particularly popular with the British Bands. Numbers like ‘Boom Boom’ and ‘Dimples’ were on the repertoires of many bands. The Animals were firm devotees and did a great version of his chilling ‘I’m Mad’. He toured Britain and found an eager young white audience.

As time passed some of John’s songs became standards with people like Johnny Winter and George Thoroughgood giving them a real shift of gears. ‘One Bourbon, One Scotch and One Beer’ being a real crowd pleaser. Others like ‘I’m in the mood’ and ‘Tupelo’ were slower numbers. He could do a real sensual style, as with on ‘I’m in the Mood’ with that rich voice burning with sexuality. A number of his songs were little vignette’s of stories that he put together. ‘Boogie Chillun’ is about a young kid who was burning to get out into the clubs and dance. ‘Tupelo’ was about the terrible flooding that occurred in the 1930s when the Mississippi burst its banks and many lives were lost. ‘I’m Mad’ was about infidelity and murder.

He was always successful but it wasn’t really until he made the album ‘Healer’ late in his life that he really became a megastar. Doing duets with Bonnie Raitt, Carlos Santana and George Thoroughgood found him a wider appreciation. He followed that up with albums like ‘Mr Lucky’.

It was a great end to an illustrious career and much deserved.

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5 thoughts on “Tribute to Rock genius – John Lee Hooker”

    1. Hooker’s story is actually as thus:
      As a teenager he lied about his age to get into the army. Later he drifted to Memphis, Cincinatti and finally to Detroit where he settled, aged 23. Although he had been taught how to play guitar by his stepfather earlier, he didn’t have one until given it by T-Bone Walker in 1947.
      He worked only as a janitor at a car factory in Detroit by day, playing clubs at night.
      He always maintained he didn’t like Chicago because there were too many other guitar players there. He made his first recordings in November 1948 – Boogie Chillun was one of them.
      In 1949 he recorded as John Lee Hooker, Delta John, Birmingham Sam & His Magic Guitar, The Boogie Man and John Lee Booker.
      In 1950 he recorded as Texas Slim and Johnny Williams
      1951 as John Lee Booker and from summer as John Lee Hooker and remained as such.

            1. I should really thank the Bluesologist Robert Palmer – he who wrote and published ‘Deep Blues’ in 1981. I sent him a letter back then with a load of questions and he replied and we subsequently corresponded every 6 months or so over several years. He showed me the way, who to listen to, who not to, who was original, who wasn’t (too many of them) etc.
              I couldn’t have had a more knowledgeable person.

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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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3 thoughts on “Tribute to Rock Genius – Ian Dury”

    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?

Quotes – Abbie Hoffman – A sixties Revolutionary

Quotes – Abbie Hoffman – A sixties Revolutionary

Abbie was quite a character. Back in the sixties revolution the Yippies set a tone of theatre, lunacy and revolution.
We thought we were establishing a new attitude and rejecting the warmongering, profit-driven society and replacing it with something kinder, more caring and compassionate – based on sharing and camaraderie. It was an ideal that did not last but there were some good friends made and good times. It was a time of peace, laughter, fun, thought, discovery and madness. Quite an adventure. I loved it.
The music was great, the friends brilliant and optimism ruled. What more could you want?
Another sixties would be a great idea but I fear the world has become far too cynical.
Revolution is not something fixed in ideology, nor is it something fashioned to a particular decade. It is a perpetual process embedded in the human spirit.
Adventure and change – a wish for something better!
You measure a democracy by the freedom it gives its dissidents, not the freedom it gives its assimilated conformists.
How true in this age of greed, selfishness and hatred.
Free speech means the right to shout ‘theatre’ in a crowded fire.
I believe in compulsory cannibalism. If people were forced to eat what they killed, there would be no more wars.
Avoid all needle drugs, the only dope worth shooting is Richard Nixon.
I can think of a few more! (But I’m not advocating shooting anyone!)
Sacred cows make the tastiest hamburger.
The first duty of a revolutionary is to get away with it.
To steal from a brother or sister is evil. To not steal from the institutions that are the pillars of the Pig Empire is equally immoral.
There is something evil about the greed and vandalism of the global corporations who would sell the future for a quick buck – and are!
The ’60s are gone, dope will never be as cheap, sex never as free, and the rock and roll never as great.
The only way to support a revolution is to make your own.
How true!! Let’s all make our own revolutions!

Rene Magritte Quotes.

Rene Magritte Quotes.

Rene Magritte is my favourite artist. I love the paradoxes. He was such a conservative looking man who painted the most extraordinary bizarre works of art
Surrealism is an exploration of the subconscious. Nobody did it better.
Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see.
If the dream is a translation of waking life, waking life is also a translation of the dream.
We live a dream.
The mind loves the unknown. It loves images whose meaning is unknown, since the meaning of the mind itself is unknown.
Nothing is ever really known if reality is suspect.
Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist.
Life and the universe, death and love – it’s all a mystery.