Rock Music Genres – The British Blues Beat Groups of the early 60s – The Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, Them, Pretty Things, Downliners Sect and Animals.

Rock Music Genres – The British Blues Beat Groups of the early 60s – The Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, Them, Pretty Things, Downliners Sect and Animals.

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The British Beat Group Blues boom – 1964

Hard on the heels of Merseybeat came the first British Blues boom in the form of the sixties beat groups. They were led by the Rolling Stones but closely followed by the Animals, Pretty Things, Yardbirds, Downliners Sect, Manfred Mann, Bo St Runners, Kinks and Them.

The real pioneers of this Blues boom were Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, Graham Bond and Zoot Money. But, while being seminal, they did not receive the commercial success of their compatriots.

The blues set, of which I was one, were a little snooty when it came to the blues. We saw it as superior to the Pop and Rock of the day. It seemed raw, earthy and authentic, not produced as a product by the record companies. This was genuine music from the heart, or at least the genitals. It spoke of real life and not soppy love, and teenage crap. You could wander about looking incredible serious and intellectual clutching your Sleepy John Estes and Elmore James albums. It was all very cliquey. And this was precisely how many of these bands came together. They were passionate aficionados. To us blues wasn’t just a music form; it was a crusade. We loved it and we loved those old black guys from the depths of Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana. It was an exclusive club.

In the Art Colleges all over the country various passionate blues musicians got together to swap their precious collections of coveted albums, learn licks, exchange tales and learn how to imitate their idols. They didn’t do it quite the same. They speeded it up a bit, added a bit of a rave up, but in general were remarkably true to the music of their heroes. They might have wanted to make the big time but it was more important to be true to the music, do it justice and win the respect of your fellow musicians. In the process it created a great club scene and a lot of followers. The blues was cool.

From the Deep South of the Thames Delta we had the Rolling Stones and Yardbirds fighting it out for supremacy in Richmond and the Kinks and Pretty Things battling with the Downliners Sect. From the swamps and levees of Newcastle we had the Animals and from the plantations of Ireland we had Them. Almost overnight the blues was the biggest thing going and the kids were all dancing to the music of black southern America.

The catalogues of Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Robert Johnson, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and John Lee Hooker were plundered.

The Stones nearly hit with their first single – a cover of Chuck Berry’s ‘Come On’ and then had theit first top ten hit with a song given to them by the Beatles. After that it was all systems go. They actually got to number one with an extremely authentic version of Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Little Red Rooster’. Their first two albums were stuffed with blues covers. Likewise the Kinks first album was full of Swamp Blues. Them hit the charts with ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’. There were covers of ‘Dimples’, ‘Got My Mojo Working’, ‘I’m a Lover not a Fighter’, ‘Got Love if You Want It’, ‘Good Morning Little Schoolgirl’, ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’, ‘I Just Want to Make Love to You’, ‘I Ain’t Got You’, ‘Cadillac’, ‘Honest I Do’, ‘I’m a Man’, ‘I’m Mad Again’, ‘I Wish You Would’, ‘Smokestack Lightnin’’, Mona (I Need You Baby)’, ‘Too Much Monkey Business’, ‘Around and Round’, ‘Bo Diddley’, ‘You Can’t Judge a Book’, ‘You Can’t Catch Me’, ‘Boom Boom’, and a dozen more. The blues was selling to white kids. They were in the playground discussing blues harp, slide guitar and square guitars. The exclusive club had opened right up.

This in turn paved the way for the blues guys to come back over from America. Middle-aged blues guys like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson and John Lee Hooker received rapturous receptions from young white kids while mini-skirted white girls danced to their rhythm. They must have been amaqzed. It was a million miles away from the sweaty Chicago clubs.

The Press had a field day. They pitted the long-haired, scruffy blues bands against the smart suited Mersey bands. There were the lovable mop-tops and the obscene and dangerous Stones who you wouldn’t want your daughter going within a hundred miles of. It was great fun and of course the Stones manager – Andrew Loog Oldham – lapped it up and fed it for all it was worth.

What it did to the music was to bring a harder edge to the sound. It was not so Poppy and over-produced. There was a rough, raw edge to it. This was not commercial pop; this was unrefined blues – and it rocked! The excitement and energy was right there in your face!

The first band I ever saw live were the British Birds with Ron Wood on guitar. The second band I caught was Them when ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ was riding high in the charts. I was in my element.

Of course it couldn’t last. The blues bands were quickly joined by the Mod bands and soon everyone was writing their own material. It all became more ‘original’ sounding and the blues became only one component.

You can see it with the Stones – the first two albums were heavily Blues and then the music changed. Likewise with the Downliners Sect – one superb blues album and then into country. The Kinks – one Swamp Blues album and then their own distinctive sound. The blues phase moved on and burnt itself out. After 1964 the British Blues Beat Bands changed their sound.

The irony was that, on the back of the Beatles and Merseybeat, the British Beat groups exported blues back to America. The Rolling Stones, Animals and Yardbirds got the American white kids dancing to black American blues. The real thing might have been playing on their doorsteps and they had never heard it. They went for the sound of the British Beat groups with a vengeance. The blues invaded America.

Rock Music Genres – British Mod Bands of the Sixties – Who, Smallfaces etc.

Rock Music Genres – British Mod Bands of the Sixties – Who, Smallfaces etc.

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The Mod Beat Groups – 1964

Along with the advent of the British Blues groups came the Mod bands. The were led by the Who and Small Faces but there was soon a lot of cross-over. Bands like the Stones, Yardbirds and Kinks were rapidly absorbed into the Mod scene. Then there were bands like The Action, Creation, Birds and the Smoke.

The Mod scene was a phenomenon. At one end of my town was the old Rocker café. They had their big motorbikes, leather jackets and greased back hair. They listened to the old Rock ‘n’ Roll with Eddie Cochran, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. At the other end was the Mod café. They were into Ska, Bluebeat and R&B. The Mods had their scooters. They had to be gleaming chrome with loads of fur trim and racks of lights. The Mods had layered hair and Italian suits with chisel-toe boots. The girls wore mini-skirts with plastic macs and had their hair back-combed and bobbed. The need was to keep up with the changing fashion. The in thing was to put on your fur-trimmed Parka over your suit and ride around on your lambretta with your girl draped over the back.

The Mods were into purple hearts and modern art design with the Union Jack being a favourite motif. All the Mods in my place seemed to be small, cocky and chirpy. The Rockers were bigger and meaner. There were lots of fights and aggro.

Then there was the language. Every tribe has to have its coded words so that everyone else was excluded from the ‘In-Crowd’. You could just be a number or if you were ranked highly enough you could be a Face. The Who started out as the High-Numbers and the Smallfaces were little guys with high status.

The Mod Bands were producing great original sounds. The Who started off with ‘I Can’t Explain’ with its heavy riff, the Kinks got in on the scene with ‘You Really Got Me’ and the Smallfaces with ‘What You Gonna Do About It’.  Their albums were filled with the sort of R&B tracks that the kids were into with James Brown covers and Martha and the Vandellas. The strange thing is that I do not remember any of them doing any reggae covers though the Ska and Bluebeat were really popular.

It didn’t take long for the whole Beat scene to merge together. I don’t know what the States made of it all. It looked as if the Mersey, Blues and Mod bands were all merged in together as the British Invasion. They probably didn’t make the same distinctions as there were in England.

Jimi – a poem

Jimi

 

A sorcerer

Changing a guitar into a bomb,

A machine gun,

A helicopter gunship,

A roaring machine of death

Or a vehicle of love.

 

Harnessing feedback

Through a tremolo arm,

With an elbow,

The back of a hand,

Teeth and soul.

 

Creating sounds

That had never been heard;

A tsunami of emotion

And wonder.

 

A magician

Towering over

The vibe

Of our alternative

Vision.

 

Opher – 16.8.2019

 

 

I was fortunate enough to catch a look at Woodstock. It took me back to the ideals of my youth. We were so naive – but brave, so optimistic and full of hope, so earnest and determined.

This is the new world we built.

We fought for freedoms, nature, equality and an end to racism, sexism and elitism with big dollops of love and fun.

It’s a battle that is still going on.

I watched Jimi play at Woodstock – not long before his death. He brought reality and Vietnam into the fight. War is the result of all that greed and inequality. He conjured up emotion.

We had the alternative vision and Jimi was our magician. He worked his magic in our ears and minds and opened our eyes.

Phil Ochs – Changes – A beautiful song about how everything passes.

Phil Ochs – Changes – A beautiful song about how everything passes.

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Phil Ochs was a troubled genius. His songs are so passionate and thought provoking. This song is not a social/political one. It’s about how things come and go. We have to love them and give them up. Our loves, our lives are transitory. But there is beauty in that moment and we can look back at the beauty and share it.

Time brings changes and the new can be different and just as good. Our lives change. The passions die down. We grow old and die. But life goes on and those changes are all part of its richness. We leave something of us behind in the passing.

Phil certainly touched and changed a lot of people. He fought for a fairer world. It’s a fight that continues.

All life is change. Before we go we have a duty to make the world better.

I’m including this song in the celebration of my life.

Changes

Sit by my side, come as close as the air
And share in a memory of gray
And wander in my words
Dream about the pictures that I play of changes

Green leaves of summer turn red in the fall
To brown and to yellow, they fade
And then they have to die
Trapped within the circle time parade of changes

Scenes of my young years were warm in my mind
Visions of shadows that shine
‘Til one day I returned and found they were
The victims of the vines of changes

The world’s spinning madly, it drifts in the dark
It Swings through a hollow of haze
A race around the stars
Journey through the universe ablaze with changes

Moments of magic will glow in the night
All fears of the forest are gone
But when the morning breaks
They’re swept away by golden drops of dawn of changes

Passions will part to a strange melody
As fires will sometimes burn cold
Like petals in the wind
We’re puppets to the silver strings of souls of changes

Your tears will be trembling, now we’re somewhere else
One last cup of wine we will pour
And I’ll kiss you one more time
And leave you on the rolling river shore of changes

So sit by my side, come as close as the air
And share in a memory of gray
And wander in my words
Dream about the pictures that I play of changes

jorge@earthackney.co.uk

The Sixties – What it was for me.

The Sixties – What it was for me.

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The Sixties – What it was for me.

Time gives you perspective.

I was born in 1949 so the sixties was my era. It was the period of time that formed me.

The sixties for me represent freedom, questioning, optimism, assuredness, discovery, adventure and experimentation.

If you never try you’ll never succeed. If you never fail you’ve never tried. Failure is a learning experience.

This was the time I left home. I had my mind full of Kerouac, Beatles, Downliners Sect, Bob Dylan, Roy Harper, Captain Beefheart and Ginsberg. I was discovering literature and reading DH Lawrence, Steinbeck, Mailer, Jerry Rubin, Hemingway, Henry Miller, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C Clarke, Vonnegut, Hesse and Sheckley. I was travelling around. At fourteen I spent the summer hitching round France, at twenty I was hitching round the States – New York Greenwich Village over to San Francisco and LA, camping in Big Sur.

I was at college and meeting all kinds of interesting people – up rapping and hanging out. There were gigs to go to, places to stay, to see, to hear, to read – minds to be expanded.

I looked at mystical teachings, American Indian philosophy, Eastern mysticism and Buddhism. I looked at nuclear physics and Art. I discovered surreal and infinity.

It was a time of growth, wonder and huge pleasure.

I was in love. I was wild and had no obligation. There was a world to discover. There was a mind to furnish.

Back then I looked at my parents and saw them in a rut of work, suburban life and boredom. I promised myself I was going to do more with my mind, my life and my future. I might burn out but I’d go down blazing.

I saw my parents following the rules. But this was the new age. There were no rules. I did not want to be part of that society with its selfishness, greed and war-mongering. I wanted a life based on different principles: – equality, freedom, exploration, fairness, openness and love. I wanted to see those other cultures and find what they were about.

I tore up the rule book. I’d make my own. I knew what I wanted. I knew what was right. I did not aspire to wealth, status or the hypocrisy of religion. I wanted something mystical and meaningful, exciting and wonderful.

I thought the new world of love and simple living, sharing and equality was worth more.

This was the height of the Hippie era and although I did not think I was one of them I was in tune with the idealism and ethos.

Of course, life caught up with me and compromise was the order of the day. But there were values I kept sacrosanct. The idealism of the sixties was subsumed and faded along with the casualties. But it left a great rebellious legacy that has changed the world and informs me to this day.

I took all that with me in my journey through life. I still do not trust our leaders. They are just people. I see them as part of a corrupt, hypocritical system. I still do not trust religion. I see it as man-made and power seeking. I still look for that world of meaning and creativity and see life as one long exploration, a journey of fun friendship and love. I still believe in openness, fairness and freedom. I took that into my teaching. Teaching is about relationship. You open up and give of yourself and you get ten times as much back. Honesty and genuine openness. I still play my music and read avidly. I still think we can build a better world. All the ordinary people I’ve met all over the world are good, kind, caring and helpful. There’s a minority of brutal thugs, selfish bastards and exploiting megalomaniacs. Why do we keep electing them?

Life is about opening your mind to the universe and letting it in. My mind is rich and full. I’ve loved it all. What a life!

I cannot imagine a better time to have lived!

Barry Melton – From Country Joe and The Fish – with Stephan Missri – at the Adelphi, Hull

Country Joe and the Fish was one of my favourite West Coast Acid Rock band.  I can still remember hearing that great album Electric Music For The Mind And Body for the first time. It was a totally different sound and Barry’s great electric guitar was an important element. He made that acid drenched sound that was quite different to anything else I’d heard. One of my favourite albums of all-time.

It felt great to have such an icon of those times visiting Hull again.

Barry was playing acoustic as a duo with the greatly talented French guitarist Stephane Missri. It worked well. They managed to summon up that counter-culture vibe of the old San Franciscan scene. They were joined by John Roberts on spoons and vocals.

The place was packed and Barry got the crowd joining in and grooving.

The highlight of the evening was when Barry jammed with Crooked Weather. He took up the electric guitar and it rocked.

Joh Roberts

Barry looking pensive

Barry with Stephane (John Roberts in the background)

Buffy St Marie – My Country ‘Tis of thy People You’re Dyin’ – Passionate song about the genocide of the Native American Indian.

Buffy St Marie – My Country ‘Tis of thy People You’re Dyin’ – Passionate song about the genocide of the Native American Indian.

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Buffy St Marie was a full-blooded Native American Indian. Her passion shows in this articulate elegy concerning the plight of the Indians and the lies and genocide that was inflicted upon them.

An incredible piece of writing! I do not believe a stronger or more passionate song has ever been written! This is the best!! Nobody with a heart could fail to react.

“My Country ‘Tis Of Thy People You’re Dying” was written by Sainte-marie, Buffy.

Now that your big eyes have finally opened
Now that you’re wondering how must they feel
Meaning them that you’ve chased across
America’s movie screens

Now that you’re wondering how can it be real
That the ones you’ve called colorful, noble and proud
In your school propaganda, they starve in their splendor
You’ve asked for my comment, I simply will render

My country ’tis of thy people you’re dying

Now that the long houses breed superstition
You force us to send our toddlers away
To your schools where they’re taught
To despise their traditions

You forbid them their languages, then further say
That American history really began
When Columbus set sail out of Europe
Then stress that the nation of leeches that conquered this land
Are the biggest and bravest and boldest and best

And yet where in your history books is the tale
Of the genocide basic to this country’s birth
Of the preachers who lied, how the Bill of Rights failed

How a nation of patriots returned to their earth
And where will it tell of the Liberty Bell
As it rang with a thud o’er Kinzua mud
And of brave Uncle Sam in Alaska this year

My country ’tis of thy people you’re dying

Hear how the bargain was made for the West
With her shivering children in zero degrees
Blankets for your land, so the treaties attest
Oh well, blankets for land is a bargain indeed

And the blankets were those Uncle Sam had collected
From smallpox-diseased dying soldiers that day
And the tribes were wiped out and the history books censored
A hundred years of your statesmen have felt
It’s better this way

And yet a few of the conquered have somehow survived
Their blood runs the redder though genes have paled
From the Gran Canyon’s caverns to craven sad hills
The wounded, the losers, the robbed sing their tale

From Los Angeles County to upstate New York
The white nation fattens while others grow lean
Oh the tricked and evicted they know what I mean

My country ’tis of thy people you’re dying

The past it just crumbled, the future just threatens
Our life blood shut up in your chemical tanks
And now here you come, bill of sale in your hands
And surprise in your eyes that we’re lacking in thanks

For the blessings of civilization you’ve brought us
The lessons you’ve taught us, the ruin you’ve wrought us
Oh see what our trust in America’s brought us

My country ’tis of thy people you’re dying

Now that the pride of the sires receives charity
Now that we’re harmless and safe behind laws
Now that my life’s to be known as your ‘Heritage’
Now that even the graves have been robbed

Now that our own chosen way is a novelty
Hands on our hearts we salute you your victory
Choke on your blue white and scarlet hypocrisy
Pitying the blindness that you’ve never seen

That the eagles of war whose wings lent you glory
They were never no more than carrion crows
Pushed the wrens from their nest
Stole their eggs, changed their story

The mockingbird sings it, it’s all that he knows
“Ah, what can I do?”, say a powerless few
With a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye
Can’t you see that their poverty’s profiting you?

My country ’tis of thy people you’re dying

Book Recommendation – A Beat Novel – Opher Goodwin – Goofin’ with the Cosmic Freaks

This was my attempt to write a kind of sixties On The Road. I think of it as my Beat novel.

Some of you might recognise the character I based the book on. It has all the craziness of the times an is a good read:

In the UK:

In the USA:

Thank you for supporting me and my writing!

Roy Harper epitomised the Sixties

Roy Harper epitomised the Sixties.

Looking back to the 1950s, life was extremely drab and conforming. I think of it as being in black and white. It was only towards the end, with the advent of Rock ‘n’ Roll that things started to wake up. But Rock ‘n’ Roll was visceral. It took the intellectual rebellion of the Beat Generation to come up with a real philosophy. There we had it – Zen, dope, sex, Jazz, poetry and the road. A different way of living.

In the sixties the visceral Rock joined with the philosophy of Beat, along with a sacrament or two of psychedelic awakening, to create that unique 60s revolution.

Unfortunately the people who were leading the movement tended to be the musicians and most of them were not equipped to articulate any sound philosophy or direction. But Roy was. He epitomised what the sixties was all about.

It was the civil rights movement and anti-war movement (aimed at Vietnam) that galvanised the youth. It opened our eyes to the fact that our society was not being run for the right reasons and our politicians and businesses were not leading us down the right path. The greed, selfishness and violence were self-evident.

The youth of the day had absorbed the message from Beat poetry that there was a superior, less hypocritical, more fun, and more fulfilling way of living. It couldn’t be just paying lip-service in church, trying to make lots of money, working in a boring career and being a cog in a machine to service a wealthy elite, that, if you played all your cards right, you could join (the carrot). It could be creative, inspirational, individual and fulfilling.

So when Roy, who was steeped in Beat Generation philosophy, and had lived it while on the road, came along with songs like Circle and then the majestic McGoohan’s Blues and I Hate The Whiteman, he had distilled all the elements, made it a British version, and put in words what was in our heads. He was the genuine article.

I think Roy shamelessly rejected the whole aim of Western society with barbed poetry aimed at its warmongering ways, destruction of our natural way of life, its warped values and plastic universe. He wanted something better based on sharing, community, fun, love and fellowship. He hankered after that nomadic hunter-gatherer society with the freedom and closeness to nature that we had lost.

I don’t think that anybody else, apart, maybe, from sixties Dylan, ever got closer. Roy was full on with an intensity and fury that some found hard to take. As a musician he was excellent; as a poet he was outstanding; as a social commentator he was in a class of his own and as an example of what the sixties was all about he was unparalleled. That early Harper was an idealist, an optimist and really thought that by pointing out the gaping problems in society we could build a better world – like so many of us back then. He believed that our little band of freaks was pointing at a better way.

Perhaps it was just a pipe dream?