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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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.

Anecdote – Wedding Number Two – The Registry Office

Anecdote – Wedding Number Two – The Registry Office


Wedding Number Two

I enjoyed Wedding Number One. It was all up in the air and interesting. Nobody quite knew what was going to happen next.

Wedding Number Two was scheduled for the next week in the morning. We were going to make the whole thing legal, bring all the family into harmonious rapport, bring world peace and solve the Vietnam War. We decided to only invited parents and brothers and sisters to this one.

Liz’s father rang up the night before and begged her to call it off. Liz’s Mum boycotted this one as well. We were off to a good start – I still had hopes for Vietnam.

As Wedding Number Three – The Pagan ceremony – was in the afternoon we brought all the food in the back of the car. Liz had diced Cheese and butter, which was in plastic bowls, and cut French Sticks into slices. They adorned the back seat.

Unfortunately the car wouldn’t go. We were pushing it up and down the road in our wedding gear. Some guy offered to fix it for a fiver so we paid him – and he did.

We set off very late and hurtled round the North Circular – at that time unbeset by Speed Cameras. I was desperate to make up time as we were three weddings late.

We got cut up by some idiot and I had to slam on the brakes. We got deluged with cheese and butter and were picking lumps out of our hair. I think nerves were a little fraught and we found ourselves having our first (but not last) blazing row. I should not have jammed the brakes on!

We arrived only two weddings late.

Liz’s Dad was looking rather pleased. He thought we weren’t coming.

But we’d missed our slot.

Fortunately an old girlfriend of mine helped us out. She was getting married in th3e next slot and had forgotten to pick up the banns. We slotted in to her space.

It was rather a sober affair. We went in with just our family (minus Liz’s Mum) and said our words, signed the certificate and went out.

My Mum tried to add a wedding atmosphere by giving my little sister a little silver horseshoe to give to us. She may even have thrown a little bit of confetti.

Wedding Two was done and dusted!

Anecdote – Digs in Ilford

Anecdote – Digs in Ilford

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My digs in Ilford

I shared a tiny room in a flat with my friend Pete. It was so narrow that we had a single bed each side and there was a narrow gangway between. In that space we had a paraffin heater that was on constantly. It was one of those big round stove-like contraptions. We discovered that if we put a full kettle of water on top of the heater there was enough hot water left in it by morning to make two mugs of cocoa. That was breakfast sorted. We did not have to get up. We just reached, poured and drank.

The room was freezing. There was no such thing as central heating. At one end of our room were drafty French Windows. We blocked up all the cracks with newspaper but it was single glass and the heat disappeared through it like water through sand. The inside of those panes were coated with exceedingly pretty ice crystals. We heaped all our clothes on the bed for warmth. Looking back it is a wonder we did not suffocate.

At the other end of the room was a partition. The other side of which was Hans of the buzzsaw snore.

Pete collected harmoniums and had three piled up on top of each other against that wall. He also made musical instruments, light shows, and contraptions. He was an inventor. We had mandoyukes and ukolins, guitars and violins littered around.

We alleviated the gloom by putting posters up on the wall. These were on various social and environmental issues that took our fancy, cut out from magazines and collaged on sugar-paper.

I had my record player and a pile of albums that were communally played and not given the respect they deserved. I spent a lot of my grant on LPs from the second hand shops – there were a lot of Folkways albums in the old substantial cardboard covers appearing for a quid a go. A lot of my Hendrix, Traffic and Floyd, which seemed very popular, received a few too many scratches from that time.

Lipher, my pet rat, lived in, or rather on, her bird-cage. She would wander round the room and eat the soap if she could get at it.

We had a little sink with cold water.

It was a squalid, dingy, tiny, little room but did we have some times there! It rocked.

Anecdote – Wedding Number One – The Buddhist Ceremony. (There are some photos in the photo gallery – sixties photos)

Anecdote – Wedding Number One – The Buddhist Ceremony. (There are some photos in the photo gallery – sixties photos)

Wedding Number One.
Wedding number one was A Buddhist wedding in the Temple at Sheen, Richmond. In true sixties fashion we had been going along there regularly to meditate. It was very pleasant. We had a friend called Gary Turp, who I haven’t seen for forty years, who was very into the Incredible String Band and Buddhism. He got us interested. I enjoyed it and learnt a lot.
We also made friends with a very wise monk by the name of Vorasak Candamitto. He was one of the happiest people I’ve ever met – must say something.
So we organised for a wedding ceremony and received a verbal okay.
Then we had to decide who to invite. We couldn’t fit all our friends in so we decided this was one for the relatives. It left them a little bemused so that was also okay.
On the day Liz and I got into our wedding gear. Liz had made it all. She had a dress in yellow, orange and red check which looked rather nice. She made me a top out of the same material so that we matched. She also made me this trousers of red velvet. We looked very colourful in our orange and red.
We arrived at the temple still not quite sure what, if anything was going to happen. The relatives all trooped in and we were shown to the front where we sat on cushions.
Much to our surprise the whole place was decorated with red and orange with lots of red and orange tulips. We matched!
Then a dozen monks came in. I did not know there were that many!
The ceremony was wonderful. The monks chanted and made this incredible sonorous sound. We lit candles and incense and got splashed with water. The monks chanting was intended to create Loving Kindness which was focused on that water. When the congregation and ourselves were splashed they were spreading the Loving Kindness around. I’m all in favour of Loving Kindness. We recited some words in Sanskrit. I’m not sure what we said. We could have been signing up to some Thai cult. It was probably about staying true to the path of goodness.
Then it was over.
The temple had arranged for someone to take a few photos and we ended up with three hazy black and white prints.
It wasn’t the usual wedding.
Liz’s parents boycotted it. I don’t think they approved of me.
I’m not sure what the relatives made of it. Some of them were very staid. We probably blew a few minds and sent a few tongues wagging.
One point of contention seemed to focus around whether we were actually married or not? Was it recognised?
Well that didn’t matter to us. But it seemed to matter to some. Particularly as Wedding two – The Registry Office – was not until the following week.
Were we living in sin for the week?
Well as we had been doing for a year we thought that was quite amusing. How times change.

Photo Gallery – Back in the Sixties!

Photo Gallery – Back in the Sixties!


I didn’t use a real photo of me because I didn’t want to scare you.

These are photos from back in the sixties when I was young, wild and free and everything was right with the world. I thought I could do anything I wanted and change the world. Oh to be full of the joys of youth!

My wife doesn’t want to appear on my blog so don’t tell her that I’ve put her photos up here! She is so lovely I couldn’t resist! I’m the ugly one!

Poetry – The Sixties – a poem about how is was dealt with.

Poetry – The Sixties – a poem about how is was dealt with.


The Sixties

Being brought up in the sixties was a mixed blessing. It was a time of great social change, camaraderie, ideals, optimism and adventure. It was a time when a large section of youth questioned the order and wisdom of their elders.

We thought things could be done differently without the paranoia and warmongering, the greed and selfishness. We really believed that we could create a fairer system with equality, fun, creativity and love. Friendship took on a new dimension. There was no room for racism, poverty or war. When you met people from other cultures you could relate with respect and not hate them because they were different.

People wore bright clothes that reflected the happiness and positive feelings of the time.

It was a time of great optimism and idealism, a time of global perspective, travel and discovery.

Rules – there were no rules.

We made up our own rules.

We were freaks. We did it differently. It was a universal peoplehood.

Of course the establishment were not to enamored. They saw us as a threat and our culture as opposed to everything they stood for.

They were very clever. They absorbed, bribed, subverted and took over. They ridiculed the culture, caricaturized it, satirized it, and made it into a fashion. They sold it and profited from it.

Having experienced a feeling of such positiveness it is hard to return to the rat-race of profit, greed and cruelty and resume the paranoia as if it had never been interrupted.

The sixties was like the football match on Christmas day that first Christmas in the trenches – a brief friendly interchange where you found the enemy was just the same as you. Normal warfare was quickly resumed.

The Sixties


Naïve, happy and positive,

With all the world ahead.

Changing the universe

And laughing on the way.

I thought we’d altered for ever

But found

It will be the same

As today.


Busy blowing cobwebs down

The dusty hall,

As we shunted

The old order out.

But we were merely

Creating an interlude

That wasn’t worth

A shout.



And sold down the stream.

They changed it into fashion

And sold us

Another dream.


Opher 8.11.2015

Anecdote – Bede and the spontaneous party

Anecdote – Bede and the spontaneous party

Bede and the Party

Bede is a good friend; I ended up sharing a flat with him in 1970.

The first time I remember meeting him was at his twenty first birthday party. He was completely naked running about all over the place. It was a strange party.

I had a car. It was an old Ford Popular sit-up and beg car that I’d painted. I’d used all the bright gloss paint I could lay my hands on. The grill was orange, body pink, lamps yellow, wheels orange with a blue stripe down the middle and various green trim. You could see it coming. It was my magic bus. It proved very popular with the police. They loved pulling me over and trying to find a problem with it. I had to regularly take my documents in to the police station. I was on every page in the book.

A stone had shattered the windscreen and, as I didn’t have the money to replace it, I solved the problem by knocking the glass out. It made for a breezy ride but was good in summer.

I’d been out to a gig with Bede and after we were heading home in my rainbow car when Bede saw that the pubs were emptying. He told me to pull over.

Bede climbed out through the broken windscreen and stood on the roof. He announced that there was a party about to happen round at his place. It seemed to go down well.

By the time we got there people had started arriving. The only trouble was that Bede was not really set up for a party. There was no sound system, no drink, no food, but we had lots of people.

Soon the flat was heaving. They were very amenable. Bede and I randomly read extracts of books to great cheers. Before long spliffs started circulating, booze magically appeared, a sound system materialised and some good music started up.

It went on all night and developed into one of the best. The only downside was that someone stole a couple of Bede’s shirts!

Crazy times.

The Sixties – My favourite films from back then.

The Sixties – My favourite films from back then.


The sixties was one of those immensely creative and different periods. It felt to me like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. We had the war and then the austere fifties where Britain was still full of rationing and catching it’s breath. Then we had the colour and liberalisation of the sixties – full of vim and vigour, where anything was possible.

The music scene was the most obvious expression of those times but then there were the fashions, comedy/satire, politics, newspapers and film.

My favourite films included:

2001 – A Space Odyssey. Arthur C Clarke/Stanley Kubrick masterpiece. I do not think it has been bettered as a Sci-fi film.

A Lion in Winter – incredible Historical drama.

Easy Rider – Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper masterpiece of motorbikes, drug deals and the schism created by the counter-culture.

Blow-up – a romp with a photographer, dolly birds and a murder.

Romeo & Juliette – Olivia Hussey – She could break your heart.

Solaris – The Russian 2001.

Far from the madding crowd – Thomas Hardy meets Julie Christie

A Clockwork Orange – Stanley Kubrick masterpiece of an Anthony Burgess book – Banned for a long time because of the copy-cat gangs. A futuristic drama with philosophical shades. A Malcolm McDowell special.

Women in Love – D H Lawrence’s genius coupled with Alan Bates, Glenda Jackson, Jennie Linden and Oliver Reed.

Alice’s Restaurant – featuring a very young Arlo Guthrie and based on his epic song.

The Knack – came out early and had a big effect on me. I painted everything in my bedroom white!

If – a story of public school and youth rebellion with Malcolm McDowell again.

Get Carter – The epitome of Michael Caine Northern Gangster movie.

There were a lot more but that will do for now. They seemed to catch a bit of the rich tapestry of the sixties.

Sixties – My favourite TV from the late sixties.

Sixties – My favourite TV from the late sixties.


I wrote up my memories of the sixties in this book. It really catalogues what was going on from my perspective.

I don’t have a great deal of time for TV and I’ve never been avid about too much. When I left home to go to college in 1968 we did not have a TV at all and I did not miss it one bit.

The four programmes I had time for were:

The Prisoner – a series starring Patrick McGoohan. It was a surreal programme set in the most amazing background of Portmerion with its futuristic architecture. It was loosely concerned with a secret agent who tried to resign and a village that he was held prisoner in, guarded by a huge bubble called Rover. He could trust no one and could not escape as they tried to reintegrate him to society. In fact it was an allegory on the pervasive techniques of the establishment. Very rebellious. Roy Harper used it as inspiration for his fabulous McGoohan’s Blues.

Marty Feldman – who had a hour directly after the Prisoner of the zaniest comedy. He was very funny and socially motivated. Unfortunately, after appearing in a couple of Films (The Young Frankenstein being one) he died.

Monty Python’s Flying Circus – always coming from Left-field in the tradition of the Goons.

Not only…. But also Peter Cook and Dudley Moore – another zany and wild comedy act that poked fun at everything.

That’s all I can think of that I got into. Probably some of you can jog my memory on a few more.