Part 2. The Last 150,000 years
(The evolution of some of the reasons behind the songs)
Stormcock came into being during a time of great social and cultural upheaval, in a society that was rapidly changing. 1960 was only 15 years after the end of the greatest conflict in human history. Culturally, things had changed dramatically in those few years after the end of The Second World War. Elvis, Donegan and the Beat Poets had arrived in the mid 50s. The sparks of a new counter culture. Less than a decade after that people like me were singing songs with social agendas questioning the latest world order.
Actually, this was already traditional behaviour. In the previous few centuries commentary had been growing. The gradual spread of a quest for rights and enfranchisement for all ranks had slowly become an integral feature of Western human society. In the English speaking world, the on-going fusions of musical traditions such as 16th to 19th Century British and Irish folk music, 19th Century British Music Hall, American folk music, and early 20th Century Black folk, jazz and blues from the southern states of the USA were all prominent contributors to social awareness, and, in no small consequence, to political progress. What separated these earlier traditions from the 60s revolution was that the 60s revolution was international, or seemed so at the time. In many ways it was easy to imagine that it was the first real international cultural revolution. There have been a lot of revolutions; Neolithic, Industrial, French, Russian etc., and yes, people had been exchanging ideas internationally for millennia, but a cultural movement in arts, if not in science, involving masses of the populations of 50 countries and more was unprecedented. Anyone on earth who wore jeans or grew their hair was involved.
In 1965 I was labeled as ‘contemporary folk’ and summarily dismissed by the dismissive among both the ‘trad’ and the contemporary sets of folk fans. I did nothing to discourage the myth that I was a confrontational, abrasive, and stoned clown. Why would I? If I’d said, “It’s not true!” I’d have been lying. My friends knew a different person than that though.. and I wasn’t bothered about anything else. Funny times. Hackles and bristling invective from the old folkies. Actually, there’s nothing much you can do about it once the press have ‘invented’ you. You can feed it, which comes out as column inches, but you have problems when you think you’ve given one kind of an interview, but they’re sure you gave another.
In many ways the 60s were a brilliant time to be young because there was a real sense that the old world was dead, and that a new script could now be written by the latest incumbents of a different planet, with altered consciousness’ and with the new dimension of stamping their part ownership on a fledgling international media. A new media with a different means of communication than the newspaper. The vinyl 7″ or 12″ record was capable of conveying news with an emotional edge. Musical journalism wasn’t that much more expensive than a magazine, but the articles written by local boys and girls and placed onto vinyl were potential bombshells that could turn their creators into international icons overnight.
Just for a brief moment, for a couple of years perhaps, circa 1969, the world was turned on its head. There was a palpable wobble in the ancient machine. There’d been street riots in Paris the year before, and you could feel a sense, among the ‘old guard’, that they’d better be on guard. As I was about to begin recording Stormcock, the Kent State shootings happened, where the ‘National Guard’ gunned down 4 innocent students. For years I’d been very philosophical about any ‘new’ movement. A nation that could elect the obviously gifted John F Kennedy as it’s President at one moment, and then swiftly re-trace it’s steps to vote in Nixon, Agnew, Kissinger and a host of reactionary creeps at the next, was clearly hopelessly divided, to say the least. ‘One Man Rock And Roll Band’ has its roots in the 1968 Anti-Vietnam War protests. The war was even more onerous by the beginning of 1970, when I stated the obvious, ‘Welcome home o Johnny Soldier, We treat you here just like they treat you there’. I was in California at the time. I can remember watching the latest war propaganda TV news footage in silence, with my bottom lip gently pushing the top one towards my nose. There were stories of veterans being spat on in the streets. Men who had been press-ganged into fighting, either by ballot or poverty. For those among them who’d been critical of their country and its leaders before they’d been drafted, the eventual homecoming must have completely confirmed their worst opinions re- the deceit and prejudices of their government.
The song had been easy to write; the establishment, (and its supporters), could be seen excusing its own ruthless barbarity at the turn of every page. The protests and the atmosphere of revolution, if only largely cultural, was a lesson for them. Memos were sent between departments and the feel of McCarthyism loomed again. Visible people imagined that they were on file somewhere, and many were. Political and philosophical sparks were flying. The conservative establishment stuttered, as the world watched itself. Then they just grew their hair for a while, wore the same flairs as everyone else, checked their mirrors a couple of times, blended in, and carried on where they’d left off, accruing and diverting oppressive wealth.
Not that I’m against a certain amount of wealth, just that some of us have long realized that wealth has to be used to benefit the planet. Or not. Taking care of our environment before it takes care of us.. unless, of course, you want to leave that sort of thing to ‘god’. Which would be tantamount to praying for 6 goals in injury time. (Viz. ‘Space is just an ashtray, flesh is my best wheel, the atmosphere’s my highway, and the landscape’s my next meal, I need my own good Friday, and I’m trying to fix the deal, I’m dead on arrival, right where I stand’, Extract from Me And My Woman, 1970.)
The change that was barely perceptible at the time, but which has steadily become more of a daily fact of life, is that the media was able to flex a voice it had never had before. Well, the more intelligent elements seemed very determined to preserve the wedge they’d created between fact and nonsense, and at least one, the great Hunter S Thompson, made a career out of purposely blurring events. Out of creating satirical nonsense. Dicking around with the new wedges. Being part of events, and actually becoming the event at times. (Which so many ‘events’ deserve). Others, such as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, were developing a one step ahead approach to investigative journalism that would eventually bring down Nixon and, in the long run, contribute to at least making politicians a great deal more accountable than they had been. People who would never have become journalists just 20 years beforehand had been inspired to take up the chalice on behalf of preserving a lasting level playing field for the discerning vox populi. It seemed like a brave new world, but at the same time as Bertrand Russell, Carl Jung and Noam Chomsky bestrode the human character, it was still the same old rat race. Characters like Rupert Murdoch and Robert Maxwell still pervade.. and opportunist polemicists and blank cartridges like Martin Durkin are dredged up now and then for a bit of obligatory tabloid controversy. And so it goes, as Kurt would have said.
On this side of the pond, there’d been the anti-Vietnam war rally in Trafalgar Square that ended up in a riot in Grosvenor Square. I was supposed to meet my friend Stefan Tyszko on the day. I was a bit late and ended up being pushed into Berkeley Square, further to the east, and trapped against some railings. It was madness where I was. Too much panic.. running bodies.. screaming. Mad shuffling. No point. The ‘One Man Rock And Roll Band’ ethic had been etched into my mind. We stood outside South Africa House a couple of times, read ‘OZ’, the International times (IT), ZigZag, and anything subversive; went on an Aldermaston March, and I did quite a few charity gigs for anti-war campaigns, met Robin Cook up in Edinburgh on one march, and spoke with him for a while. He was just a young MP then. We both walked with Julie Christie. I did exchange a couple of letters with her after that, but at the time, she was living in Montgomery in Wales, and I was being pulled away by events in my recording life.
Getting Stormcock to the world was a nightmare. The record company bosses didn’t like it. There was no ‘single’. We went into a budget meeting with them in early 1971, at the EMI offices in Manchester Square, London W1. We met a guy called Colin Burn, who was the A+R man at the time. As we walked in and were sitting down, he said, “Right, Gentlemen, before we start I’d just like to tell you that there’s no money left in the budget this year”. The rest of the conversation after that went in a downward direction. I was bitter; he was recalcitrant, and smug. Later on, things became clearer. Capitol Records in Los Angeles wouldn’t release it because they said that it was ‘un-commercial’, so the plug had been pulled, internationally, at a very early date. Peter Jenner, my manager, had an extended row with Rupert Perry, the Brit who was running Capitol. The argument went on for years, and seriously affected any relationship I might have wanted to have with the USA. By the time that Capitol released me so that I could find another company over there, it was 1975, and my chance of touring the USA on even an imaginary wave of success was over. By then I’d been labeled as ‘difficult’, and marginalized by an industry that needed to drink straight pop.
The great irony for me was that Led Zeppelin could release an album with no ‘singles’, but that probably had a lot to do not only with the fantastic thing that Zeppelin presented, but with the different culture at Atlantic Records.
Even so, there was still a faint glimmer. When Capitol finally let me go in 1975 to another Brit/American record company, Chrysalis, that company forced us to change the name and persona of the new record, (from HQ to When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease, for the US release), which was a very bad move. I was vehemently against it, but it was either take it or leave it. They were not going to dare to offend American sensibilities with a sleeve that depicted a longhaired beatnik walking on water. I didn’t feel like buying the ticket, but I had to, just to keep faith with my own team. The consequence however, was that the record lost any true focus it might have had by not releasing it with its original sleeve. The satirical defiance that characterized the English cover was now so diluted it was non-existent. It was at about that stage that I knew that if I was to carry on writing as I had, then mass popularity for my work was going to be nigh on unachievable. I knew that there was no chance of me changing my ideas about the world or my attitude to my writing, and so there it’s been stuck, for 30 years now. The record companies, managers and accountants have long since disappeared. Another story for another day…
Back at the ranch, Stormcock dribbled out slowly to a less than wound-up media. Some journalists did pick up on it, notably someone at The Melody Maker, perhaps even Allan Jones, who was later to become the editor of both Melody Maker and Uncut. Generally however, it was an accepted fact that if the record company wasn’t shouting about it, it couldn’t be any good. As a footnote, I would have to say that the aforementioned Colin Burn was not long after seen to be spending the entire EMI promo kitty on trying to buy stardom for his eleven-year-old son!
On the positive side, I’d accidentally grown up in the same management circle as Pink Floyd, and Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin had become good friends, so although the industry and its acolytes thought little of me, I had great support among fellow artists who were perhaps able to be more objective about the work I was producing. Pete Townsend and Keith Moon also became friends and so I was in rather a strange position at one stage of speaking with members of the three biggest bands in the world, while they themselves hardly spoke to each other, and sometimes not among each other, at all. At various times I became a sounding board for griefs and complaints, but I never spoke about anything any one of them had said about any of the others. It would have been undignified. I’ll never write an autobiography because I’d probably hurt people I love while giving people I don’t particularly care for a kudos they don’t deserve. In the end, friendship is and always should be honourable, especially if, as in some circumstances, it may come after a lifetime of misunderstanding.
In 1969, I was lucky to be recording, and I knew that. Most of the people I’d enjoyed as recording artists in my youth were very much older than me, and certainly in those days there was a real pride to be gained in discovering someone whose hair was grey, whose music was developed and whose wisdom was perhaps well beyond one’s own. That’s what it was all about. Generally, you considered artists of your own age to be ‘work in progress’, and sometimes as potential competition. There were a few exceptions. Concurrently, there was perhaps a load of shallow commercial pop dross about, same as usual, but it seemed conceivable that ‘Tin Pan Alley/Show Biz’ could be defeated for a while, at least until it could be separated off from the new music, and perhaps exist as a lesser fact of life than had been the case in 1960. In fact it never left us, and very soon took over again.
By the mid 60s, progressive music was inhabited on one end of the political spectrum, in the USA, by bands like MC5, but the general dysfunctionality of drugged lifestyles on top of endless touring and agitprop meant that sales were affected. And there was no place in the market economy for the kind of revolution that upset the cash-flow. It had to go. Under an ocean of medallions on hairy chests. Perhaps Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention, and to some extent Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young on the more popular side can be separated from that generalization, but most meaningful music had become tarred with the agitprop brush by the time that Stormcock was at its release date. It would rise again ten years later with the Punk revolution, but for now, those of us who cared to still be carrying some of the light from that kind of a torch would have to grin and bear facts such as Steve Georgiou morphing into Cat Stevens and beyond… and back.. again .. and Pete Townsend’s great song ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ seeming to become the universal acknowledgement that ‘we’ would be.. always.
In a dysfunctional society, crap is king of the music market place. 38 years after Stormcock was made, the music industry I first knew is dissipated, and mostly dead. Slowly strangled by its many disparate ineptitudes, whole series of reactionary decisions, both technical and corporate, changes in culture, and submersion into general conservatism, it’s long been a hostage to fortune. Eventually forced to survive on crumbs because the info age public have been conned into regarding music as free, all it can do is to puke up pop, for turnover. The 2008 equivalent of 1971 record company CEOs are now bringing updated software to a box about a foot away from your face. Select music fashion is now dispensed by glossy mags in Sunday broadsheets, and a world sewer of effluent compact discs are now ‘flogged’ by barrow boys. Music has no movement any more. Among the youth, there’s no focused mass support for anything other than stadium rock cattle markets and a ‘Top 40’ that’s by and large tragic.
You either live in a world where music is brought to you like virtual baked beans, or somewhere remote, where you have to go out and positively search for something a bit different. Probably something that doesn’t smell of clique and red carpet. A place where Budweiser doesn’t exist would be a good start.
Sport and an imposed almost pop religious ‘Reality’ has taken over the mass media. Specialized music was always more difficult than mass sport. To choose to bring something into your home and adopt it as an emotional prop used to be a choice you made. You discriminated. Often that was difficult, because perhaps you couldn’t be sure of what it was actually giving you psychically. Modern sport coverage is very different. You perhaps used to have your local team, and you saw them once a week. It was a time dedicated to vocally supporting your tribal locality. A point in the week on your day off when you could shout and scream and let it all hang out without fear of accusation or reprimand. The balance has now been altered completely. Sport is now piped into the homes of billions. There are no difficult choices any more. You don’t have to think. Every night you can pay a visit to the theatre of dreams, watch the colours cavort around, get to know the he-men, the tarts, the whingers, the dancing fools, the criminals, get emotional on your sofa, with hardly any intellectual input, and not have to give your real emotional life anything like a real work out. Real life, the stuff you live in those odd moments.. like.. when you take off in an aircraft and put yourself completely into the hands of someone who may have had to do a couple of lines half an hour ago, is an occasional hassle.. which punctuates the seamless cocoon of 24/7 ‘Reality TV’. Opium for the masses, as they used to say.
Music was a different ball game when I was younger. It existed in a different world.. before musak was even a wrinkle in its mother’s egg. When pubs existed more for debate than binge. When Boddingtons was bitter. In my early 20s I thought that it would be best if I didn’t make a record until I was about 30 years of age. I didn’t think I’d be ready before that. I thought that I’d need experience. A lot of life experience. I thought that I’d have to nurture my voice and hone stagecraft, being out there in front of people.. before I could even think about recording.
In the event, that turned out to be quite an old fashioned view. What was happening was that the reasons for, and consequently the nature of, recording, was changing rapidly. Recording had reached a stage where it was being performed for many different reasons. Not just to record technical virtuosity, but to record much more personal messages.. and there was suddenly more immediacy about the ideas it was beginning to be able to convey. Making records was suddenly becoming slightly more available to people outside of ‘show-biz’. People were beginning to realize that they could record themselves and their own communities doing what they did, thinking what they thought, in a much more available way than had been possible only a handful of years before. The whole world was in the process of becoming equipped to do what Alan Lomax had single-handedly done 40 years earlier. To hear The Who singing ‘Substitute’, and to be able to buy it the same day in Shepherds Bush for much less than your pocket money was exactly where it was now at.
The days of Gracie Fields being gradually shunted over from ‘Music Hall’ to film and eventually to recording star now seemed like a long and arduous journey. Recording star ‘with no previous experience’ was now on offer, and the boy next door was going for it. Times had changed. I was just 25 when I made my first record. I’d been gigging around the clubs for a couple of years before that. I’d only been a free man for about 4 years…
Even so, my first few records were made in somewhat constrained circumstances. Although I can look back on them now and relive those various constraints, the thoughts behind the individual songs are still with me, and notwithstanding the production values of their time, the thoughts themselves delineate a mental modus operandi that had been ensconced in my consciousness since the year dot. I would have to say that the foundation for a lot of my writing was laid down by the time I was nine years old. There was an innate template that my first thoughts were founded on. Things either fitted that template or they didn’t. It was quite easy really. Honesty of intention was paramount. Black and white in my early years. I was enamoured of poetic nuance, and repulsed by religious bullshit. Religion has had a place in the human psyche for hundreds of thousands, probably millions of years, but the kind of simplistic ‘god in the sky’ rubbish they’d tried to con us with in my childhood was no longer working. People were now far more able to step away for a moment and consider the world in the universe, and for a lot of us, ‘God’ was no longer a sane consideration.
In those days I wanted to pull organized religion down completely, and I still do, but with so much experience in the world, I just have to admit that the accident of your place of birth and its culture very often has the most defining effect on your intellectual outlook. If you’re born in Sao Paolo to Roman Catholic parents, or in East Jerusalem to Arab parents then your fate is very likely sealed, by postcode, forever to support the politics of organized religion. It’s a shame for me to see so many good young men and women displaying this debility, this absolute failure to rise above peer politics and see the world beyond the bubble. When I see David Ortiz avoid The Big Green Monster, and slam a homer to deep left field with the bases loaded, and then waddle round the bases pointing at the sky, I think, “So god is up then?” ..But this is at the same time that I see my life passing before my eyes in one swift movement, and I drown again in the sheer weight of numbers pointing out from every spot on the surface of the planet. Yes, god is at 360º, for the believers, her only known location. So we’re inside her… then? Which, I have to say, doesn’t spoil the effect of an athlete in the Giant Haystacks mould slamming a mere ball clean out of the goddam park. Besides, sport at the edge, like hunting, transcends religion.
It can be said that the human mind developed religion as something of a ‘necessity’. With some certainty, it can be said that in times when it was perceived that meat wasn’t all the animal gave to the hunter, mind and body were equally engaged in a quest that was often dangerous. The evolution of language would have facilitated abstraction of the environment and a more precise preparation. Part of this preparation would possibly have been an invocation for the success of the hunt or the safety of the participants, or both, and more. Life at the sharp end. It has been inferred by a few cultural studies now that prehistoric hunting skills required an intuitive knowledge of the particular quarry, (naturally). A way of life ingrained for long aeons before it was suddenly disrupted by the social pressures of the Neolithic Revolution. Some kind of worship for the perceived identity or ‘spirit’ of the animal, and the obvious interrelationship between hunter and hunted, so developed in the mind of the prehistoric hunter, was nowhere near as relevant with the onset of domestication. In effect, the human still wants to give thanks for the rich meal he receives, for the mental and physical period of leisure he gets from such a rich diet, and he still has the quasi-religious reflex. But the ‘necessity’ is now archaic.. it’s now just a reflex too far.
The ‘necessity’ would have to come into effect the very next time he was hungry. He would have needed all the help his knowledge of the animal could have given him, invoking every memory of past success with a religious fervour in order to give him, in his own mind, the best possible chance to feast at the great table again. It was a mental and physical lock in, where every movement was parried by its shadow, in the sacred dance of life and death, between intelligence and instinct, out in the brutal paradise of the blue world. Now he just goes to Sainsburys. And has weird feelings he can’t explain, that won’t go away, that are sometimes temporarily but unsatisfactorily assuaged by compulsive behaviour. Admittedly, this essay offers a simplified view of some of the things I was writing about on Stormcock, and that I’ve continued considering for the decades since. Writing the book would entail a great deal of painstaking cross reference and intense personal reflection for a couple of years. I think I’d rather spend that time creating music…. and planting more trees.
When I look at the paintings in the Lascaux caves, I’m not looking at Picasso so much as an upper Paleolithic Dimitri Moor decorating a Masonic temple*, and although, according to the church of the last 100,000 years, ‘miracles are wrought by faith’, human shamanistic tendencies are perhaps now becoming slowly exposed for what they could very well be.. induced neurological responses to a new and frightening intelligence. An intelligence that could not only see the past, but also begin to predict the future.
*I’ll reserve the right to alter this sentence as the mood takes me
Some of us imagine that we are able to move on from this kind of a primeval state of mind. We imagine that we can see a future in which the mystical cave dragons of high-church gothic skyscrapers have been expunged by the true coming of age of the underlying ideals of The Enlightenment. It’s been a very slow process, but a more modern expression of freedom is almost at hand. There are still huge moral and ethical obstacles in its path. For example, the growth of a burgeoning ex-third world middle-class satisfaction with the perceived advantages of unified superstition are only just beginning to be realized in China, India, Africa and South America. Huge populations are probably about to become subject to state manipulation of an archaic human need to exercise that part of the mind that’s been emotionally engaged by shifting superstition for at least the last 150,000 years.
However, taking all of that into consideration, the seeds of an immerging freedom along lines that have more future integrity have now been sown, and their fruits will eventually be tasted by all. Ideally, those fruits will present a more real world, a world that has really questioned the hypocrisy of cult, and lives more honestly at one with itself and the planet. It’s going to be a long haul, but the seeds have been planted and the ground is yet fertile.. they will not be denied. Even by the coming deluge. Many descriptive scientific sub-divisions will necessarily have to be charted before understanding will become anything like universal. It will be tantamount to teaching whole populations not only to read and write, but also to totally understand what it is that they’re understanding as second nature. This may facilitate the same kind of leap that was made in the first dawn of sapiens, but that’s as far, and probably further than we can go in search of the future being who is likely to have evolved beyond the abstraction of hunting skills and the prospective symbolic. As every sci-fi buff imagines, the development of physics may eventually present us with opportunities to travel in time. This may seem like a physiological impossibility in this age, but the concept may have some future mileage. What would concern me more would be the philosophical questions.. who, why, what, where, when & etc.. which certainly wouldn’t be able to escape present ethical considerations, and may not even be in any sense politically future viable either.
Hopefully, I’ve got nowhere near, in these preceding paragraphs, to answering questions that are often raised as to why people like me want to drag god through the courts. It’s simple. Habeas Corpus. It’s time the old buggar appeared.. or not. What?! We are commanded by an absolutely stainless church to retain belief in something that politically shifts with each tide, and cannot be relied upon to hold up humanity, in its finest hour! How painful! She must be on the side of the flies then. So god is the maggot that eats you, and the very black smoke coming from the crematorium chimney. The umbilical chord, the partridge full of lead shot, the great white shark with a boat in its mouth, tyrannosaurus rex with the Barnes tree in its gullet. I will readily forgive anyone with religious tendencies, and lovingly share a world. And hope never to be patronizing about that. I may propose, in my deepest heart, that I see them as deluded, and I may think that that’s not what the world needs right now, and they may stretch my patience to the limit, but that’s no reason to ostracize them. The vast majority don’t have the time to study humanity, nor have the access to be able to piece together enough of the histories of humanity to be able to make judgments as to what religion is, or what kind of a mental reflex it may represent. They’re not ignorant; they just don’t have the time to enable completely impassive judgment of human historical circumstance to enter their consciousness. They’re wired to believe, and while I can disparagingly infer that they’re high-end nexus faith replicants, they’re just as much a part of me as I am of them. My heart and my hand must go out to them. I must just say, and to everyone, “Welcome to the space race”.
By the time I came to record Stormcock, I was ready to lead the revolution against faith fiction being regarded as fact.. and I was leading from the front. It was very risky. I was never a media man; I was only ever a poet. I didn’t have the means to be able to announce the record to the world as a departure from the pop norm. There was no forum available for that. And I hadn’t cut my teeth in the Oxford Union debating society either. My school life had been solid middle class grammar school, but I’d always been drawn to the street. When I was 15, I didn’t see university as an option at all. I knew I’d make more sense out in real life.. and the sooner I could get there, the better. I hated the establishment with deep down odium. The establishment was a cobwebbed monster that ate kids like me for breakfast. I guess that by the age of 9 I’d shown the parent tribe that I needed to be different. I wanted to live in a different world where kids like me were not despised; but they wanted to squash that. Eventually there was no quarter given on either side. I became reckless, and ended up in a load of trouble. They were determined to teach me a lesson. They did. We took each other down to the bone. It was a holocaust, neither side recovered.
Effectively, I was over 20 when I finally managed to free myself from the chains of an oppressive childhood. Another story… Suffice to say that I took the opportunity to get myself out onto the road, to find out what the world was about. I rarely looked back. Stormcock was the piece of work that marked the culmination of those early years. I’d been single-minded with my writing for years by the time I reached 25. I was going to stick to the facts as I knew them. There was going to be no straying off into easy fantasy. The prose was going to come straight from the wounded heart.. which begged a question. Was a child with essentially a broken heart ever going to be able to enthuse his contemporaries with positive compassion? Well, he could see it in the mirror, behind the horror of rejection as a young boy, but would those same feelings of rejection come home to roost in the fullness of the unforgiving mirror of a career in the public gaze? Would his young soulmind be able to steer around the obvious pitfalls of a fallen youth?
I struggled with my personality. I was effusive and ebullient with friends, but withdrawn and brooding with myself. I always sought and found moments to retreat, like I always had. There was often a temperamental crisis. I often needed help, but I was always going to sort my own problems out by myself, I was always too proud to seek assistance. I’d never been afforded it in my childhood, why would I need it now?
These were the rules of life as Stormcock was written. I was 28. Ask no favours; seek no guidance save from experience gained. Go forward.. seek the facts at all costs.. defy anachronistic law, jobsworths and bullshit.. promote laughter.. have fun, especially with the women. Write from the edge of the precipice, and from the middle of the beautiful garden. Convey to the world your own understanding of human culture. Break bread with suspected enemies. Overcome physical boundaries with courage. Throw the stone into the lake and see yourself. Always question authority, and never let up. Beware the human chameleon. Laughter is a common language, but so is deceit. Treat impostors with disdain, respect the simple man. Love the woman more, and let the children have their head, but let them know the score.
After my 4th record, Flat, Baroque And Berserk… I’d managed to leap from the tower of Babel in a fake suicide attempt. As was usually the case I floated to rest on a cardinal sin. I’d landed in a Bosch painting, and he was about to become pope. I thought I’d automatically landed in deep do-do and horror show personal interrogation, but the landing was smooth, and I felt really good. I quickly realized that I was in lust. I made up my mind to lie there until at least the first coitus. In the end it turned out to be an endless wet dream. An innate dysfunctionality curse, where I found myself failing, again and again, to cover the entire market place with my own effluent. It was an ongoing nightmare. The market place was always the one ruling effluential factor. As one EMI executive was fond of repeating. “Every week, we throw 60 pieces of shit at the wall.. we’d be very unlucky if one or two of them didn’t stick”. A sign not only of effluence, but also of the supreme confidence of executive bollocks. Combined, the most undesirable qualities ever realized on any planet within millions of light years. I shared his heartfelt responsibility. I had to. I’m on this planet. I know the condition. When I’m recording, it costs €200 a month in electric bills. Nothing is ever switched off.. it can’t be.. everything has to be saved and restarted.. and never left. There’s a TV with a different channel on in every room in the house. It’s the only way I can get any exercise.
Have I got enough ground in my temporary/false possession to enable me to drive an ox to turn a windmill? To supply me down the ludicrous vas cabled deferens of my imaginary birthright with light to burn beyond the sunset?? Beyond time? Further than you could possibly imagine in your wildest reality dream, being snuggled up to the approving citizens of Pork.. applauding your every progress with their cavernous Duchess. And what price humanity? Whatever the cost, there are billions of slaves. Would you allow that? Even for a dumb ox? In your ex-Blairness? Of course you would. You’d preside. You have done. You’ve held the greasy red top in the palm of your understanding.. and believed. You’re a believer. A worthless prole in the advancing proletide. Seek not my company. I will irritate you. You will see yourself in my mirror. You will see your hearts desire, and the emptiness of your resolution. Your true love, and your demise. Your idle neighbourhood. The flood. The pyroclastic flow from the smooth contours of my volcanic thighs.
In Studio 3 at EMI Abbey Road Studios, in July 1970, I’d managed to begin to combine the pith of the first five years of a recording career into an effort to push on. To consolidate the statements of the previous albums with a more accurate delivery. To push what I thought was an alternative approach to music art into the media. Some of my contemporary journalists, (among those who thought they knew the work), were content to write me off as some kind of esoteric; but they mainly failed to see the desire in me to gather and re-write the simple social statements of the previous generation of poets such as Kerouac, Guthrie and Leadbelly into a more comprehensive and timeless manifesto for our own corner of humanity. I’ve not been entirely successful in the achievement of that desire, and perhaps that’s not within the power of one simple individual to achieve, but at least I can try to tell myself that I set that bar at a modern starting height.
I had what seemed like huge concerns at the time. We were losing ground. The 60s had become increasingly embarrassing. By 1970, Elvis had become a parody of himself, in vaguely the same way that Peter Sellers had… and countless other former voices were returning to type. It was all over bar the shouting, which was continued for a time by things like flying pigs, and increasingly larger flying rigs with decibels to kill. Decadence set in.. I was part of it. It was very Roman. Floating around like a Covent Garden mime, completely out of it, in an endless Maxfield Parrish scene. Eventually the 70s, 80s, 90s and noughties have all been retrospectively farcical as far as youth movements go. Most of them have their moments when they’re ‘on’, but the messages are mostly dilute before they reach the outside world. Personal, intentionally commercial and generally myopic, they lack scope. The best pop is delivered with a universally recognized emotional sentiment. Of course, that’s the way that pop works, and a voice that momentarily strikes an emotional chord is instantly marketed and fills the airwaves to the exclusion of all else, leaving what’s left of the airwaves in the noughties largely barren. Emotional chords are now ten a penny. Power seems to have drifted from the artistic to the technical, and is stuck at the gates of an unachievable tech perfection. That’s not to say that art is dead, far from it; temporarily swamped by its own hoard: hopefully; maybe; well, I mean, I’ve got a prehensile mouth that’ll grab any available chord. Who’s to say that there are not others just like me?
There’s no way to compare 21st Century commercial art with the Lascaux images, except to say that, technically, probably, there’s not much improvement, if at all. Even taking into account the discoveries and developments of new materials, there’s at least 35,000 years of near stasis at the high end. This is perhaps beginning to be punctuated by scattered recognizable movements of shifting emphasis in building, sculpture, painting and thought, perhaps as gradual compliment to the social and ergonomic facility of a budding secular outlook. But it’s painfully slow, and at the low end, volume rules, OK! And does the insane level of population help? Well, no.. The wood’s never going to be seen again until most of the trees are burnt. There has to be a great hot and cold slow down. The animal has come too far for its own good in too short a space of time to be able to that quickly assimilate the knowledge of how to proceed successfully. Niagra, and 30 ft away from the great plunge, with the coxless four at the oar. Do you really care about succeeding generations? Of course not. You’re not part of the future, why should you? Whole species will become extinct anyway, without you move a muscle. It’s only me who cares about the disappearance of the lovely sparrow. I miss him, and her, but the next new boys on the block will never know him, so they won’t. They’re the same as you. It’s only seconds away anyway, and as you know, you could always cope with a few seconds.. er.. this won’t take long Sir…
However, the conservative ape hasn’t got to where he’s got by rushing things. It was always going to be slow. Even to imagine change is in itself a giant leap. Until the last few centuries, most people lived and died in the same village. God was the landscape, not just the speck on it he’s now effectively become. We’re now headed for those last few seconds of slowness. It won’t matter. The next inheritors will likely do the same unless they can correctly interpret the salient archeology quite early on. Will anything from the planet ever become off-world? Mmm.! Potential genetic make-up of an invertebrate.. should have paid more attention…
I was very happy with the record when it was released. It thought that it captured the essence of my enquiry at the time. In many ways it’s a defining moment. There have been a few peaks in my recorded output, but this one can be regarded as the first, and I look back on it with great affection.
There will be a part 3… when I can get around to it. It’ll be about the decoding the imagery contained on the original 12 inch sleeve. I haven’t started yet. There’s no real need to do so for a while. It’s all been in my head for decades now… and it’s tree planting time here. There are 26 due to be planted. Half of the prep work/digging has been done, and time’s flying. The tallest one is 15 feet and will grow to 80ft.. and included there are three 7ft sequoias, etc etc.