Thursday, 29 November 2018

Poem: 'SUBMERGE'


SUBMERGE 


I hear the soft murmur of waves
in the trees, damply aquatic,
fish dart in drizzles of rain
across fields of shimmering tide,
England, our new Atlantis
is sinking beneath the sea
lost and neglected, eroding away
in the gentle silt of forgetting
no future, frightened of today
submerging in dull nullity
retreating through leagues of regret,
I pause, squelching through wetland
and listen to history draining away
in the soft murmuring of tide,
riverbanks ebb into lakes,
high streets into a swans glide
of disturbed dreams where
steeples collapse in the flood
swallowed by undercurrents,
this is the dream I once had,
those not drowned are drowning,
we dissolve into mist
and float away…

Featured in 'View From Atlantis':
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Wednesday, 28 November 2018

ROLAND PENROSE: Surrealism's Third Eye




ROLAND PENROSE: 
SURREALISM’S THIRD EYE

Personal impressions of the 1980-1981 
Arts Council Touring Exhibition


In a world of supermarkets selling the fingers of fish in neat frozen packages beneath murals of rain-storming cigarettes – how to convey the subversion of Surrealism? Surrealism is/ was not product, but attitude. A Surrealist perception takes aspects of the normal world and uncovers the absurdity that the deaf-eyed miss. Marcel Duchamp took a hat-rack and/ or a urinal, exceptional only in their strict normality/ utilitarianism and makes them Surreal by the act of selection. The physical manifestation and personal ephemera of Surrealism, acting within and against its neat capsules of time, can become dated. Yet the aesthetic, the perception is beyond time and beyond fashion. This we recognise lurking behind the objects, assemblages, and paint layers… the ghost behind the machine, the thinking behind the reed, the action behind the reaction, in the work of English artist Roland Penrose.

Because Penrose doesn’t blind with the intellectual incandescence of a Duchamp, does not riddle logic with the inverted equations of a Salvador Dali, or overawe the critical faculty with the daunting propagandist overkill of an André Breton, he becomes human. He can be touched flesh-warm. He can be visioned in personal terms. This tactility can be sensed most intimately in a collage made up of repetitive postcard fragments where, beneath the background paint, you can see the pencil outline of planned pre-positioning (“Souvenir de Trouville”). The unravelling, the onion un-layering is there, and Penrose is one man with a pencil, a pair of scissors, and a pile of postcards. You feel the gum snagging thumb to forefinger, it’s THAT real.


The same is true of the ink line-drawings in which the process, and the challenge, is just as naked. The process is white paper with pen. The challenge is what one man, sitting in a chair in a room with a sheet of white paper and pen has accomplished. The proof is simple, clear, incontrovertible.

I grab the Penrose exhibition at the ‘Ferens Art Gallery’ in Hull, sliding in out of January sleet. Roland Penrose was the first Surrealist with whom I got on nodding terms as an inmate at the ‘Hull College Of Technology (Humberside University)’, through a mistaken connection with graphic-art ‘The Penrose Annual’. So the slight personal homage was unavoidable. It was also illuminating. A line-drawing – “Pregnancy”, was done in 1947, the year of my birth, a post-war time of drabness, rationing and bomb-sites, yet the picture is optimistic, it forms a holy absurdity flying against every proof of moral and economic defeat/ nadir. Now – 1981, in a time of much-proclaimed new austerity, in a new atmosphere of disillusionment and repression, it is a pledge that such isolated insurrection MUST continue. And because Roland Penrose is accessibly human – not Dali, not Breton, not Duchamp, it speaks directly to ME. To YOU.

London 1947 lacks the romance of Paris. The English Surrealists have traditionally lacked credibility. The posturing of George Melly’s exploding cutlery, the luminous dialogue of poet David Gascoyne, fascinating in their own uniqueness, yet always a pale reflection down a long hall of mirrors. Even the titles at this exhibition (“Hommage À Max Ernst”, “Hommage À Miró”), and subliminal whisperings of style, speak of imitation rather than inspiration. Even the greatest Penrose moments, “Winged Domino”, speak through the terminology of others – René Magritte occludes with apple, Penrose with butterflies. The national division makes the delineation that much more clinical. It makes Penrose that much more easy to dismiss. But the dates and locations demand your reassessment. PENROSE WAS THERE. Sure, he was born in St John’s Wood in 1900, but he painted “Pequod” in Paris in 1923 where he moved amongst and was accepted by Ernst, Braque and Man Ray, delta-ing out to Luis Buñuel – leading to a cameo in ‘L’Age d’Or’ (1930), as well as Miró, Paul Éluard and Dali. Penrose lived in the Paris Surrealist vortex for thirteen years. So what were YOU doing, so what had YOU achieved at age twenty-three?

Retrospect is deceptive, shot full of trace-line Family Tree’s and correlations, but Roland Penrose was hung on the edge of 1927 when he painted “Mazout” with no view of irrelevancies like a 1960 CBE, or a 1966 knighthood, or a 1980 touring exhibition. 1927 was before Andy Warhol, before Happenings, Claes Oldenburg, Abstract Expressionism, David Hockney, Bridget Riley, Jackson Pollock, you name it. Surrealism was as hot and brutish and delinquent as Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker destructuring jazz at Minton’s in 1941, was as blasphemous and obscene and euphoric as Elvis Presley crossing racial demarcations in Memphis in 1954, as angry and iconoclastic and arrogantly wilful as the Sex Pistols aborting history at the ‘Screen On The Green’ in 1976 London.


And you can still watch “Grand Jour” (1938) and interpret the water-cycle allegory piece by piece with a splendid sense of discovery. You can still be intrigued by the winged imagination of “The Conquest Of The Air” (1938). You can still be overjoyed by the wit and invention of “Captain Cook’s Last Voyage” (1936), an assemblage of nude torso, wire globe, saw handle and paint. You can still read “Portrait” (1939) like the delightfully unexpected poem that erupts through the mailbox irradiating the day with lines like ‘His hair air, his lungs a street lamp, his hand an encyclopedia, his arse his arse, his heart anything, his head nothing.’ In the summer of 1938 Penrose toured the Balkan countries by car with photographer Lee Miller, tapes of the epic on-the-road documentary poem of head-changes and eye-imprints “The Road Is Wider Than Long” – broadcast late 1979 by BBC Radio 4 – still has implications in concept and execution not totally assimilated after forty years. Listen if you have the ears. Learn if you have the perception.

British Surrealism is a footnote. Hazy connections with the great Pop Artists of the fifties are probably more cryptic coincidence than direct influence, even though – as Ronnie Scott (OBE) was to UK jazz – so was it Roland Penrose who proselytized Surrealism through his relentless PR work, his New Burlington Gallery Exhibition (1936), his Cork Street Gallery, his co-founding and endless support of the ICA, through to the Dada/ Surrealist Hayward retrospect of 1978, which he co-organised.

Disciplines of Art and the verdict of academia are the empirical illusions of textbooks. Shedding all wrappings and preconceptions you get one individual as you and I are individuals. Roland Penrose was/ is a Surrealist. More important he was/ is a man you can/ could touch. A fountain of truth, now as then.


Monday, 26 November 2018

Book Review: BRYN FORTEY's 'MERRY-GO-ROUND & OTHER WORDS'



FORTEYFICATION: 
BRYN FORTEY’S FICTION 

Book Review of: 
‘MERRY-GO-ROUND AND OTHER WORDS’ 
 by BRYN FORTEY 
(The Alchemy Press, March 2014, ISBN 978-0-9573489-6-7, 352pp) 



 ‘Cut me and I would bleed, not blood 
but the flowing patterns of unborn galaxies’ 
(“Satellite L’Amour”, Bryn Fortey 1997) 

Bryn Fortey is one of the good guys. His story “Ithica Or Bust” is an extravagant absurdist reimagining of the Homeric epic transfigured into a ludicrous galactic quest, with a two-headed eight-limbed Odysseus warp-driving through non-space, meeting Dodos and polite dinosaurs. I know the Greek island of Ithica. It is nothing like this. He describes it as ‘my comeback story after a period out of the loop, and the most light-hearted story I’ve written’ (it first appeared in ‘The Alchemy Press Book Of Ancient Wonders’, September 2012). Yet it’s just one of a startlingly original spread of profoundly imaginative tales densely packed into ‘Merry-Go-Round And Other Words’, which amazingly constitutes Bryn’s debut full-length fiction collection.

He knows all about the vagaries and pratfalls of publishing. He’s been around long enough to have been there and done it. But he’s always written on a sufficiently spaced basis that the urgency of deadlines seldom interferes with the work. He writes a tale as and when the idea and the inclination arrives and demands ‘Write me, you bastard!’ It’s only later he sets to thinking of an appropriate home for it. Kenneth Bulmer, editing ‘New Writings In SF No.28’ (July 1976) adds a personal note ‘that almost all Bryn Fortey has to say about editors is just about ninety-nine percent accurate.’

The Bryn story Bulmer was in the process of accepting – “Wordsmith”, is about a bitter resentful self-regarding unpublished writer, his craft itself outmoded by ‘thoughts extracted’ via ‘micronic impulse absorbers’. ‘He submitted manuscripts by both post and email, pestered publishers, wrote bitchy letters to the press, and achieved nothing but sweet zero. Most publishers hated him and very few would even read his submissions before rejecting.’ And while Bulmer approvingly notes that Bryn’s observations about editors are accurate ‘if not in this world then in the one he posits here’, he ‘deals much more directly with the writer’s problems.’ There’s a story within the story – the one that the fictional Piller Presavorrat is writing about ‘The Man With No Face’, a postmodern structure in its self-awareness and deconstruction of its plot-motivations. While the full narrative also ‘introduces, among other delicacies, the extravagant and intoxicating notion of Black Art, the Stealer of Dreams’, who emerges from his fictional reality.


The final irony is that when, finally driven insane by this inhabitant of his own dark imaginings, Presavorrat’s resulting ‘thought extraction’ will provide his elusive literary breakthrough. But the fact-fiction interactivity is not yet exhausted. In his ‘Afterword’ Bryn explains how even the character-name is a kind of in-joke, a Latin mangling of Robert Holdstock, a writer Bulmer had also selected for the same ‘New Writings’ edition. Holdstock is credited with an initial collaboration of another story, “Remnants”, although the connection lapsed and it wound up as Bryn’s own.

Born 27 August 1937, Bryn recalls that ‘the very first book I can remember reading was about intrepid Earthmen discovering and combating a race of Moon beings living beneath the surface of our satellite. The title, author and conclusion are lost in the mists of time, but it did help shape a lifetime’s interest in what we now term speculative fiction.’ As a result, he was active in SF-fandom since the 1960’s, reviewing novels by Samuel R Delany, Philip Josè Farmer and Philip K Dick for the BSFA-magazine ‘Vector’ as early as 1967. He writes amusingly of watching Michael Moorcock’s chaotic ‘New Wave’ lecture at an annual Easter SF Convention in Bristol, then meeting Christopher Priest and observing Brian Aldiss at the following year’s event. He took the opportunity of tracking down editor Kyril Bonfigolio in Oxford, who feared that Bryn had come to hit him in retaliation for a series of encouraging rejections from ‘Science Fantasy’ magazine. ‘Things were sometimes complicated’ Bryn recalls, ‘but never dull.’

He was working within the steel industry in Newport, south Wales, so as for where his stories come from, as well as the more obvious influences – Kurt Vonnegut, JG Ballard and Priest, he lists ‘Beat’ writers Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs, as well as a plethora of Jazz and Blues musicians who also vitally input into his creative continuum. He concedes ‘I was never prolific/ as a writer/ but I would devour books/ like a starving man.’ And the free-flowing Bop prosidy spontaneity and directness of those influences is ever-present. When he writes of having hit a new prose-vein as being ‘golden highways popped in his minds-eye’ he’s drawing on the prose-freedom of the Beats.

He sold his first story – “A Saleable Commodity” (to ‘International Storyteller’ magazine in 1969), but it was not genre fiction. He writes as he writes. His favourite genre, he says, is ‘quirky’. It sometimes seems that new writers are handed an early get-out-of-prison-free card, and he made a series of strategic sales to David A Sutton’s ‘New Writings In Horror And The Supernatural’ paperback series – “Prison” in No.1 (1971), and “Shrewhampton NE” in No.2 (1972). The latter picked up by Mary Danby for her acclaimed ‘The 15th Fontana Book Of Great Horror Stories’ in 1982. The story takes the form of a strangely-strange but oddly normal meticulously-detailed 1950’s train-journey seen through the eyes of an inquisitive boy, as their journey takes them through a kind of limbo, into a purgatory waiting room in an escape-proof British Rail station. It resembles a black-and-white low-budget episode from ‘Twilight Zone’, its extreme mundanity only gradually tipping over into the politely macabre.

His affinity with social outsiders forms the core of “Prison”, in which a gang of misfits led by alpha-male Watko squat in a derelict fairground. The horror element – drawing a lonely old man into the group only to slaughter him in a Coconut Shy ritual, is almost secondary to the dialogue delineating the group’s shifting inner politics, its guilt and jealousy sketched in with considerable insight. It’s not time specific. They could be 1950’s Angry Young Man existential rebels, or 1960’s counterculture drop-outs, or perhaps the vampire hoodlum-teens of ‘The Lost Boys’ (1987) movie – the hunchback Renfrew even seems like a play of Bram Stoker’s ‘Renfield’. Yet their ‘prison’ is their internalised alienation.


Once established, the association with Danby led to further inclusions in her anthologies, including “The Substitute” (in ‘Frighteners 2’, 1976) – a twist on the Walter Mitty/Billy Liar theme with Lackadaisical Macey swamped by his own fantasy-continuum, and the title-story of Bryn’s “Merry-Go-Round” in her ‘The 12th Fontana Book Of Great Horror Stories’ (1979). Here, the protagonist is drawn into a brutal murder plot, which rebounds when he’s betrayed by the woman he’s supposedly doing the killing for, only to be then tipped over into a bizarre ‘Groundhog Day’ retribution in which he’s doomed to repeat the murders in a time-loop forever. But there were false starts too. The original prototype of “The Oscar Project” – a clever time-travel plot with a religious-satire sting written with Jack Marsh, was sold to ‘SF Monthly’, but the lavish monthly magazine folded before publishing the story. The carbon-copy manuscript languished unseen for decades, before being extensively revised for its eventual debut in this collection.

There are poems too, ‘concocting letters to his own patterns and designs’, words ‘all dragged with blood and sweat from his own mind’. “A Taxi Driver On Mars” is a narrative fingernail in its own right, a character sketch and an outline future-history. Elsewhere, he published his own A4-size magazine, ‘Target’ (1996), theming an impressive range of material around Bryn’s preoccupations with Beat, BeBop and the fantastic realms of the imagination, following it with some ten issues of the A5 ‘Outlaw’ magazine (2002-2005, no.6 a Jazz Special). He editorialised that ‘the most exciting poetry being written today is often to be found in small-press magazines, chapbooks and pamphlets, or heard live at readings. Many of these poets are happy to operate outside the protection of the literary establishment. These are the poetry outlaws…’, he published American writers AD Winans and Gerald Nicosia, as well as Jim Burns, Chris Torrance, Sheila Badham, Geoff Williams… and me.


His own verse-collections ‘Rebel Head’ (with John Light, 2000, Forty Winks Press) or ‘Never Get Out Of These Blues Alive’ (Sad Face Press), plus poems scattered around small-press constellations of magazines – ‘Global Tapestry’, ‘Read The Music’, ‘Canine Teeth’, ‘Black Rose’ (“Memories Of Bird”) and beyond, never fail to impress. Tightly constructed, with no words wasted. Hymning the likes of “Charley Patton: Father Of The Delta Blues”, Howlin’ Wolf – ‘an indestructible force’, John Lee Hooker, “The Death Of Blind Lemon Jefferson”, and a poignant “Honky Tonk” (‘the radio was playing the/ Mead Lux Lewis 1936 version/ of Honky Tonk Train Blues/ when I came across your/ long forgotten photograph…’). As a fictioneer he writes like a poet, and his poems snatch glimpses from narratives and pin them down to the moment. Other uncollected texts are out there, worth tracking down, the SF short story “Conversations In A Darkened Place” in ‘Awen’ (Issue 76, June 2012), about two imprisoned mercenaries awaiting execution following a failed coup on a dark world, a rumoured story published under an alias in Robert Holdstock’s ‘Macrocosm’, and one in the audio-magazine ‘Tales That Terrify’, these are texts awaiting rediscovery.

When it comes to ‘Merry-Go-Round And Other Words’, I’ve probably given away far too many plot-spoilers already. Although Bryn’s fiction doesn’t necessarily work that way. Its strengths lie more around the accumulating momentum and shock nastiness than the neat closure. Although the neat closures do work like spring-loaded traps too. But I won’t pre-leak any more. Because there’s a wealth of them here. “Bomb Scare” from ‘Sci-Fright No.2’ (April/May 1995). “The Flier” from the Mike Chinn-edited ‘The Alchemy Press Book Of Pulp Heroes 2’ (October 2013), which blends crime-noir, UFO’s and Jazz (its central character LaRocca even borrows his name from the cornet-player in the Original Dixieland Jazz Band). Plus the man who saw skulls. The new sequel to “Shrewhampton North-East” – “Shrewhampton North-West”, which is both a logical extension and a visceral development of the progenitor tale. “The Teleported Woman’s Husband” about a misfiring beam-me-up technology. “Digging Of Holes Considered As Symptomatic Of Personal Compulsion”. And more.

In his introduction Johnny Mains details the personal tragedies that led to Bryn’s ‘period out of the loop’. The tragic loss of his son Jim and wife Maddalena, to whom his verse collection ‘Saying Goodbye’ (2012) is movingly dedicated. ‘The world is bent and I dropped over the edge, but landed on a rocky ledge and took root for far too many years’ he confided to me. This fine anthology reaches back to the very start of his writing career, renews our connection with the best of the years between, and presents a handful of new previously unseen gems. In total, it’s frighteningly good, an invaluable volume. Bryn Fortey is one of the good guys.

 

The second short-story collection by BRYN FORTEY 
COMPROMISING THE TRUTH’ 
is available now from Alchemy Press at:
www.amazon.co.uk/Compromising-Truth-Bryn-Fortey/dp/1911034065/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1543234495&sr=8-1&keywords=Compromising+The+Truth+Bryn+Fortey

 This review originally featured on website:
‘THE ZONE’ (UK – April 2014)


Thursday, 22 November 2018

Sixties Music: GRAHAM BOND




GRAHAM BOND: 
THERE’S A BOND BETWEEN US 

The mighty Graham Bond was one of the vital catalysts of 
 the Jazz-R&B cross-over scene that ignited the 1960s. 
He lived – and died, at the extreme edge 
 of the changes that defined the decade… 



 PRE-ORGANISATION 

‘Gonks Go Beat’ (1965) is an appalling film. It was ill-advised even as a tacky merchandising tie-in for the brief mid-sixties fad for spherical googly-eyed Gonk soft-toys. But alongside ‘Carry On...’ regulars Kenneth Connor, Terry Scott, Arthur Mullard and Frank ‘Are You Being Served’ Thornton – who attempt to make the best of Robert Hartford-Davis’ direction, ‘The Craziest Musical Adventure Ever On Planet Earth’ offers opportunistic cameos for the Nashville Teens, Lulu And Her Luvvers, The Long And The Short… and the Graham Bond Organisation.

They perform a Hammond-organ driven “Harmonica” – ‘kinda stormy with an R&B beat’, in an unlikely Beatland fake-jungle setting, with prancing Go-Go girls, and Reginald Beckwith as a comic-turn Teacher in mortarboard and chalkboard. For the group, cool-denoting dark glasses are in place at all times, maybe to provide face-saving disguise too. But look closely, blue-shirted Graham Bond on keyboard has skinny Zapata moustache, Dick Heckstall-Smith wears flat-cap pulled low for his tenor-solo – when he’s not sitting on a stuffed tiger, while surely that’s Ginger Baker on drums. And – held aloft by gyrating dancers, that’s Jack Bruce as the eponymous harmonica-player! Inclusion in this Pop-trifle might have seemed fun, and maybe even an astute career-move at the time. But film of the Graham Bond Organisation is rare. You gotta take what you can get.

As the era recedes further into history there’s a reductionist theory that tends to be applied to – say, the Yardbirds. That they were significant only because they produced three mighty guitar-spanking heroes, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. Wrong, the Yardbirds deserve their place in the narrative because they were a fine little Blues-Rock group in their own right who left a trail of defining singles and albums. The same is true of Graham Bond. It’s easy to write the story through the retrospective lens that Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker went on to become Cream, John ‘Mahavishnu’ McLaughlin played with Miles Davis (‘In A Silent Way’, 1969 and ‘Bitches Brew’, 1970) and beyond, while Jon Hiseman and Dick Heckstall-Smith formed the nucleus for Prog-fusion band Colosseum (recording Bond’s “Walkin’ In The Park” for their debut LP). But the Graham Bond Organisation was more than just the sum of its parts.

Graham John Clifton Bond was born in Romford, Essex 28 October 1937. He was adopted from a Dr Barnardo’s Orphanage, and educated at the Gidea Park ‘Royal Liberty School’. Despite a troubled childhood, his flair for music – by fourteen he’d already mastered four instruments, resulted in his first jazz gigs playing Eric Dolphy-derived alto sax with the Goudie Charles Quintet by 1960. Soon he was spending his days working in a sales office, and his evenings with the New Don Rendell Quintet jazz group. This was serious jazz, ‘blowing some of the wildest jazz within our ken’ according to journalist Chris Welch, in a sophisticated small-group interplay, with ‘Melody Maker’ voting Graham one of UK jazz’s ‘brightest hope’ in an early sixties poll.

His alto can be heard to advantage on Don Rendell’s hard-bop ‘Roarin’’ (1961 Jazzland JLP51), billed as ‘A Blast Of The Finest And Rarest UK Modern Jazz’, he even contributes one original composition – “Bring Back The Burch” a punning reference to group pianist John Burch, alongside material by Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. Plymouth-born Rendell later formed the celebrated Rendell-Carr Quintet with Ian Carr. But by then Graham had left Rendell’s combo to join Blues Incorporated in place of the mighty Cyril Davies in November 1962. 

Alexis Korner and harmonica-man Cyril Davies form a vital ignition point for UK R&B, turning ‘Skiffle’ nights at Wardour Street’s Roundhouse pub into the Thursday-night ‘London Blues and Barrelhouse Club’ as early as 1955, a venue where Muddy Waters, Big Bill Broonzy and Otis Spann found ecstatic audiences. 17 March 1962 they took the ABC teashop basement, just down from Ealing Broadway tube, and opened a new club, with their Blues Incorporated as the houseband. Its shifting line-ups at various times include either Art Wood or Long John Baldry (vocals), Charlie Watts, Phil Seamen or Peter ‘Ginger’ Baker (drums), Jack Bruce and Ronnie Jones, while the club itself rapidly became a hang-out for embryonic Rolling Stones and Manfred Mann’s. Its notoriety became a springboard to Blue Incorporated being offered a ‘Marquee Club’ residency, at 165 Oxford Street, from May.


Graham Bond was taken on as Blues Incorporated alto player, although he became increasingly diverted onto electric organ. He quit the line-up as early as February 1963, taking Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker with him to form his own trio. Again there was a strong jazz background. Ginger had played with the Terry Lightfoot and Acker Bilk Trad bands, and enjoyed a Ronnie Scott’s Club residency before replacing Charlie Watts in Blues Incorporated in 1962. Then the Bond trio was expanded by the addition of guitarist John McLaughlin, direct from Mike Carr’s Trio – replaced six months later by saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith. 

Beneath the conformist complacency of late-1950s Britain, Jazz – both Trad and BeBop, in collusion with Beat Generation poetry, and the Angry Young Men of new-fiction were a gnawing subversion. And there was an increasing flux between art-genre’s. Richard Malden Heckstall-Smith – born 26 September 1934, had played St Martin’s Art School dances as part of innovative Scottish clarinettist Sandy Brown’s group. But he was recruited into the New Departures jazz-poetry movement too, in which Graham Bond and poet Pete Brown creatively interact with wordsmith Michael Horovitz and Jack Bruce on stand-up bass. As part of New Departures ‘desire to nurture legends and legendary events’ there was a jazzetry concert at St Pancras Town Hall celebrating ‘The Battle Of Culloden Moor’, a heady concoction of Brown and Horovitz reading with Anselm Hollo and Adrian Mitchell, backed-up by improvisational musicians Graham Bond, Ginger Baker, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Les Condon, Stan Tracey Jeff Clyne and Bobby Wellins. Barriers were dissolving with new freedoms in the air.


--- 0 --- 
GRAHAM BOND ORGANISATION 

The Pop charts were full of Frank Ifield, Billy Fury, Helen Shapiro, Cliff (“I’m Looking Out The Window”) and Elvis (“Good Luck Charm”), around that same 1962 mid-summer. But all that was about to change. It had amused impresario Larry Parnes to create matching popstrels called Fame and Fortune for his stable of pretty-Pop Star pin-ups, but while Lance Fortune rapidly scored a Top Ten hit with “Be Mine”, Georgie Fame languished back-of-stage in the resident bands of Package Tours. It was only later – post-Parnes, playing ‘The Flamingo’ in Wardour Street that Georgie was drawn into the vibrant Blues scene, noting and absorbing the musical tastes of the club’s predominantly black audience. He and his Blue Flames began sharpening their distinctively jazz-based Rhythm & Blues style. Soon followed by the Hammond-organ fronted Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band, Ronnie Jones and the Nightimers and Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds. Creating an incidental portal of access for Graham Bond who, with only the slightest fine-tuning, was playing that music already. The barriers between R&B and jazz were already in flux, and they were about to be accelerated into new territory via that Pop-Rock axis.

It was another strange quirk of unlikely fate that led to the recording of Graham Bond’s debut single. Raymond Leslie Howard – born in Fulham 9 September 1941, was also discovered and promptly signed by Larry Parnes, as ‘Duffy Powers’. Despite a series of cover version singles – including Bobby Darin’s teen-angst “Dream Lover” and Michael Holiday’s sweetly tuneful “Starry Eyed” both in 1959, that elusive chart hit never happened, and Duffy quit Parnes in 1961, suffering from acute depression. At a loose end he followed Georgie Fame into the R&B clubs, coincidentally in time to take advantage of the Beatles first album. Track one side one of the ‘Please Please Me’ (1963) LP is Paul McCartney’s raucous “I Saw Her Standing There”, which Duffy Powers promptly adopts as a powerful up-tempo single, with a backing credit to the Graham Bond Quartet (May, Parlophone R 5024).

The ‘quartet’ at the time consists of Bond with the Jack Bruce-Ginger Baker rhythm section, and John McLaughlin on guitar. One of the first covers of a Beatles song, it must have seemed an irresistible combination, yet again the single failed to chart, despite its many positives. Perhaps it missed out because the Beatles original was already too familiar? Yet check out the ‘B’-side, “Farewell Baby”, and it’s an original Graham Bond composition. Nevertheless, BBC Radio commissioned further editions of its ‘Pop Go The Beatles’ show, with presenter Rodney Burke introducing the Fab Four’s guests Duffy Power with the Graham Bond Quartet for the fifth show, recorded at Maida Vale’s Studio 5, and broadcast 16 July 1963 at the family-friendly teatime 5-5:30pm slot.

Music was in free-fall all around the Bond Quartet. They’d come out of jazz and Blues, content to play extended jams and impromptu torque’d-up solos in clubs for niche audiences. And that was enough. As Pete Brown notes, ‘R&B provided a much-needed living and regular work for many non-establishment jazz musicians.’ Until the Rolling Stones broke through to major commercial success. They proved by example that there were receptive fans out there for harder music-forms, if it could be focused in minor presentational ways. By now the Bond Organisation were fixtures at all the trendy Mod scenes, the ‘100 Club’ on Oxford Street, while an October 1964 set at the legendary ‘Klooks Kleek’ was pirated, the tapes circulating privately for years before eventually seeing release. As such it forms a valuable document, catching the furious dynamics and group energy of “Big Boss Man” and “The First Time I Met The Blues”, as well as template versions of future studio material. Bond’s stage announcement credit to Ginger as ‘one of the most fabulous drummers in Europe’ leads into a startling “Early In The Morning’ drum-solo, contrasting its rough hand-clap driven official release.

And with the dawn of 1965, everything seemed to be dropping into place. The year opened with a major package tour promoted by Robert Stigwood, headlined by Chuck Berry and the Moody Blues. The Bond Organisation follow the Five Dimensions in the first half, before Long John Baldry takes the show into the intermission. And there was a bizarre tie-in single coupling the group’s jazzy instrumental arrangement of the traditional “Wade In The Water” – later a cool US hit for the Ramsey Lewis Trio. It showed just how strong the Organisation’s interplay worked at its very best. While the flip was the cheesy old 1957 Debbie Reynolds hit “Tammy”, a honeyed sentimental movie-song by Carrie Fisher’s mother. Graham’s vocal makes play around the melody-line, as though undecided if it’s a spoof – as in the over-the-top excesses of Gerry Monroe’s “Sally” which ludicrously reached no.4 in May 1970, or to play it straight and turn up its dramatic charm as – say, PJ Proby might have done. As it is, the song’s undeniable potential is diluted by little attempt at arrangement or pre-thought that just might have made it the breakthrough they need. Yet there were sessions across the dial on BBC Radio, taking them beyond genre, all the way from ‘Jazz Club’ to Brian Matthew’s essential Pop ‘Saturday Club’, as well as BBC2-TVs ‘Beat Room’. All the reviews were positive. All the correct connections were in place. Their visual appeal was never destined to be fanmag-shattering, but they were so hip it hurts.


With no formal keyboard training, Graham was unafraid to innovate, teaming his Hammond organ with a rotating Leslie speaker to create a phased sound. Debut LP ‘The Sound Of ‘65’ (March 1965) is top-and-tailed by regular R&B standards “Hoochie Coochie Man” and “Got My Mojo Working”. The first sax-led with a mid-point solo, ‘yeah-yeah yea-yeh’ as he announces his presence with ‘everybody knows I’m here’, the latter evolving into call-and-response, improvised into ‘got my hrrrrrrrrrr working’ with both black-cat bones and mojo’s set to stun. There were two instrumentals, “Wade In The Water” – ‘signalled by a ferocious opening cascade from ol’ Johann (Bach)’s ‘Toccata And Fugue In D Minor’, plus jazzy “Spanish Blues” with flamenco flourishes. “Oh Baby” is jerkily percussive with a powerful Ginger Baker solo, while Jack’s harmonica locomotive effects propel “Train Time” (as it will on Cream’s ‘Live At The Fillmore’ set on 1968 ‘Wheels Of Fire’). Rough and raw in a way that – say, Georgie Fame is smooth and polished, a couple of original tracks have such minimal lyrics they verge on pastiche, but when they take off into the jazzy setting of “Baby Be Good To Me”, it flies. “Baby Make Love To Me” is a slow-burning Blues with harmony vocals and cutting harmonica, closing into the repeated phrase ‘make love, make love, make love to me’. Or the witty “Neighbour Neighbour”, in which an inquisitive next-door busybody can’t make out how ‘I make my bread’ or ‘how I treat my wife’. Perhaps it reflects the dubious life-style the Organisation were living? There’s a threatening edge to Bond’s ‘something bad’s gonna happen to you’, and irony in the throw-away line ‘my success is driving you out of your head’.


Just as Rock began tentatively venturing into improvisation, the Bond group was already there as catalyst, coming from an extemporising background. ‘There’s A Bond Between Us’ (1965), which came later that same year, is tighter, sharper and more confidently integrated than what had come before. With a group line-up photo across the cover, Graham Bond ‘looks like Sweeny Todd’ writes Vicki Wickham on the liner notes, and Ginger Baker ‘looks like a refugee from Greenwich Village’. This time there are four fluid small-group instrumentals, from the opening “Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Wolf?’, through a cover of the Mar-Keys Stax specialty “Last Night”, then two group originals, “Dick’s Instrumental” showcasing Heckstall-Smith’s sax, and Ginger’s furiously percussive “Camels And Elephants”.

 The four-way group structure allows for no passengers, each a virtuoso player in his own right. Jack writes and sings “Hear Me Calling Your Name”, with its own jazzy changes. While Bond’s “Walkin’ In The Park” is one of his strongest originals. His slow late-night Blues “Baby Can It Be True” innovatively uses mellotron colouration. And there are two tracks from a Ray Charles template, with chanted ‘night and day’ back-up vocals to his filthy rasp on “The Night Time Is The Right Time”, and a playfully dirty adaptation of “What’d I Say” – ‘see the girl that’s dressed in green, put her down, you don’t know where she’s been’ and ‘see the girl with the topless dress on, she stays cool all night long’. The topless dress he was referring to was a brief and sensational sixties fashion.

There was the ‘Gonks Go Beat’ movie too. And then they play out the year with the 15 October ‘Ready Steady Go!’ (season 3, no.7), alongside Georgie Fame, Ben E King, the Fortunes and Dusty Springfield. To poet Pete Brown, ‘to my mind this was the greatest-ever British band, certainly becoming for musicians what the Beatles were to the public. I was a huge fan.’ They persist as a group’s group, appreciated and respected by other musicians and hip club goers, even when that commercial breakthrough fails to happen. The vital equation at the core of their sound takes the powerhouse Jack and Ginger chemical equilibrium, and adds an impeccable pedigree in British Blues, to equal bliss. Their superb individual technique honed by having to fight for prominence in fiercely cutting egocentric line-ups. But the Jack-Ginger axis is notoriously brittle, characterised by fiery temperament, already exacerbated by substance abuse problems. Their bickering and Ginger’s bullying led to Bond deputising the drummer to fire Bruce in order to defuse the irritation. Jack promptly joined Manfred Mann – and plays on “Pretty Flamingo”, before Baker himself quit. Yet the Graham Bond Organisation survives the departure of both, with Baker temporarily replaced in the drum-chair by roadie Pete Bailey, until Jon Hiseman takes over. He’d formerly played with pianist Mike Taylor, and in the New Jazz Orchestra.


When I interviewed Jon Lord he confided to me that ‘Georgie Fame and Graham Bond – they were organists I listened to way back in the mists of time. So that’s where I came from initially. Graham Bond was my mentor. I learned from him. The Graham Bond Organisation used to play at the same Blues Clubs that the Artwoods (Lord’s group at the time) used to play at. We were usually the interval band, so I used to – figuratively speaking, sit at his feet. And I used to pester him with questions about how to get the Hammond to sound like this, like that, like the other. And he taught me an enormous amount. Superb musician. Very odd man, strange man, but a brilliant musician.’

There are extravagant stories. Of John McLaughlin passing out on stage. As he slowly collapses, his rasping guitar emits squalls of feedback. Rather than offering help, Jack Bruce stands back, notating the sounds for future reference. On another occasion, in mid-set, it’s Jack who shorts his bass against the microphone, receiving a flash electric shock that stuns him. As the gig progresses they calmly pick him up and lay him out on top of Graham’s organ until he revives. ‘Bond sat there like some pudgy mandarin (a pioneer in the distribution of facial hair he was, too), shooting his cuffs like some demented concert pianist and bringing his arms crashing down on the keyboards’ (‘New Musical Express’ 25 May 1974).

Yet Bond’s jazzy aggressive Blues would never find widespread success. Consider, apart from the obvious Ray Charles original, everyone from Elvis Presley to Brenda Lee did covers of “What’d I Say”. “Got My Mojo Working” was an onstage stormer, but Long John Baldry already did a stand-out version, as did Manfred Mann – with powerful Paul Jones vocals. So what exactly was the Organisation’s unique selling point? Some of their original songs were strong, delivered in that loose intuitively rough interplay that sparked magic live, but they’d benefit from a producer’s tidying to make them commercially viable, in the way that – say, Georgie Fame was lubricated by punching horns.

‘I went to see the band down ‘The Marquee’, playing to a sparse audience’ recalls Pete Brown. ‘Graham, keeping up with fashion, was wearing psychedelic kaftans and had attempted to persuade the others to do the same. Dick would only go as far as a Hawaiian-style shirt that looked too small on him. They had a good light show, but were still playing the same jazz and R&B songs, albeit supremely well.’ Invited to play the ‘Amazing Technicolour Dream’ Hippie-Fest at the Alexandra Palace they arrive ‘late, unrehearsed and disorganised and never went on.’

From his dingy Ladbroke Grove basement flat, a cash-strapped Graham watched his two former sidemen go global with Cream. He’d tutored Jon Lord on organ technique, and Jon went on to Deep Purple. It is the lot of pioneers, they open doors for others to pass through. With Bond already subject to physical and mental health problems, depression and manic episodes compounded by narcotics. Not the Mod purple hearts or Pep pills, not the Hippie grass or LSD, but the hard heroin of Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker, Chet Baker and William S Burroughs. As Pete Brown observes, the group came to an end in 1967 with ‘Dick and Jon having become disenchanted with Graham’s growing smack addiction and dodgy attitude towards the band’s finances’ (from ‘White Rooms And Imaginary Westerns’, JR Books, 2010).


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POST-ORGANISATION 

In a sense, this had been Graham Bond’s highpoint. For the duration of these two albums he was the coming thing. Yet even without that focus there was more to come. In early 1968, newly dedicated and attempting to stay clean, Bond set off to America – via an Irish stop-over, for twenty months of new adventures, without ever bothering about Work Permit complications. From New York they move to Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles, courtesy of Lou Reizner. After all, hadn’t Eric Burdon recreated his career on the west coast, with Zoot Money joining his New Animals there? And Van Morrison was discovering a whole new US audience following the crash-and-burn of Them. English Rock musicians were immediately immaculately cool. Doors opened. Graham stands in when the Buddy Miles Express organist quits. He jams with Jefferson Airplane, and works with Graham Nash on an album by the Fool. In LA, Irwin Garr had launched Pulsar Records to siphon off the new counter-culture market. He scored a distribution deal through Mercury, with Mac ‘Dr John’ Rebennack and Harold Battiste stashed on backroom production roles.

And Graham cut a solo album lifting its title – ‘Love Is The Law’, from the writings of cult ‘golden dawn’ Satanist Aleister Crowley. There’s a hippie girl dancer on the cover, and lyrics with a slanted vagueness taking advantage of that new mood, although the sound is a logical organ-led evolution of what had gone before. The title track extends his mellotron explorations into the realm of cosmic imagery, ‘love is the law of the sun and the moon and the stars.’ The churchy organ of “Crossroads Of Time” takes that same Age Of Aquarius new-era feel, that after two World Wars it was time for a renewed morality, ‘ain’t gonna fight no more, no more, gonna make love not war, not war.’ ‘This is the age of Aquarius, the age of colour and sound’ Bond explained to Chris Welch (in ‘Melody Maker’ June 1970).

The theme continues with the jazzy organ of “The World Will Soon Be Free” which is based on his new wife’s ‘dream in colour’, although he and American dancer Diane Stewart were not actually married until Spring 1970 with a wild event at London’s ‘Revolution’ club. Her dream sees ‘the whole wide world was one big family’ while adding a cautionary note that ‘it was just a dream’, yet it anticipates John Lennon’s “Imagine” in that ‘dreams can come true’ and ‘the whole world will soon be free.’ It was a strong album, but was overlooked in the psychedelic tsumami of strange new names. Lacking distribution too, it was not even initially available in the UK, beyond a promotional single combining “Love Is The Law” c/w “Naz”.

As a reaction to 1950s social conformity the counter-culture media flaunted an admirable openness to alternate belief-systems, which could also be naively gullible. As well as the Maharishi the Beatles include Aleister Crowley – the self-styled ‘Great Beast’ (1875-1947), in their ‘Sergeant Pepper’ art-collage. He was the same occultist who exerted a fascination upon Jimmy Page, as well as on Genesis P Orridge of Throbbing Gristle. Before we even get to the dark underside of the hippie idyll personified by Charles Manson. Beyond good and evil, Crowley’s ‘Law Of Thelema’ dictates ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.’ Which can have unfortunate consequences to a certain mindset.

It’s not clear when Bond first became intrigued by this Dark Side, but it’s already showing its influence in his lyric preoccupations. There are stories he believed himself to be Crowley’s lost love-child. One of Crowley’s scarlet women acolytes gave birth in 1937, leaving the baby at an orphanage. On the tenuous reasoning that Bond himself was born in 1937 and adopted at six months old from an orphanage, the symmetry makes a certain kind of sense-connection when he researched this. He set out his beliefs in an article for ‘IT: International Times’ (September 1969). Yet it seems Bond’s flirtation was at least positive in that he used Crowley’s Thelema system to get off smack.


A second album for Pulsar – ‘The Mighty Grahame Bond’ (1969, AR 10606) followed, and musically stands as one of his most accomplished sets, efficiently fusing his jazzy keyboard with rootsy Blues influences. For the cover-photo he wears a colourful kaftan, maybe to lower visibility of his expanding waistline! He was also doing session-work with Harvey Mandel – he plays piano on “You Can’t Tell Me” on his 1968 ‘Christo Redentor’ album (Philips SBL7873). He also contributes to Dr John’s ‘The Sun, Moon And Herbs’ (1971, Atlantic 2400161) – on tracks “Black John The Conqueror”, “Pots Of Fiyo” and “Familiar Reality-Reprise”, alongside such luminaries as Doris Troy, Bobby Whitlock, Bobby Keys, the Memphis Horns and Jim Price.

Bond might have been adrift in troubled waters, but he was still capable of making waves. Following his American sojourn he returned – via a stop-over in Jamaica, with spectacular highs and lows. He was promptly arrested and confined in Pentonville for alleged contempt of court resulting from two-year-old bankruptcy charges. ‘I was treated very well in prison and was allowed to play the piano and give a talk to the prisoners on alto saxophone playing’ he told ‘Melody Maker’. Only to be released in time to launch a new band – Initiation (with drums and percussion by Keith Bailey and Dave Sheen) at Pantiles Club, then a less-than sold-out Albert Hall concert, opening the set by playing a flamboyant overture on the Albert Hall organ (17 October). The brief Initiation stay together long enough to do a session for Radio One’s ‘Top Gear’ (31 January 1970).

From that point on, he became involved in a long series of abortive groups, including recording with Ginger Baker’s Air Force as well as working as part of Jack Bruce’s ‘Harmony Row’ (1971) promotion band with Dick Heckstall-Smith. Feelings of resentment at being employed by his more-successful former-sidemen must have been compounded by Jack subsequently firing Graham from the band!

‘Holy Magick’ in 1971, the name of the group and the album, arrived within a gatefold Stonehenge cover, on the prestigious Progressive Vertigo label with Graham and Diane Stewart as the nucleus around which pick-up musicians orbit, including Rick Grech, Victor Brox, Alex Dmochoski and Jon Moreshead, formerly of Aynsley Dunbar’s Retaliation. It’s an album of dissonance, chants, incantations, white magic, Celtic mysticism and pentagrams (‘my father’s six-pointed star’, Crowley as father?), over a jazzy improvisational flux. What writer Rob Young described as ‘steamy, rhythmic workouts heavily infused with ritual magic chants and mantric voodoo’ (in ‘Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music’, Faber, 2010).

It could be argued Bond is channelling mystical influences in the same way that Dr John uses his New Orleans juju traditions. Or as Sun Ra uses his outer space mythology. ‘I believe that an artist should prepare himself scientifically for the task of creation’ he told journalist Richard Williams. The sound of his organ swells and seethes around sharp percussion, and flaring echoing horns. Horn sections wail and stutter over pummelling rhythms. It is relentless. No compromise. No concessions. No hits! Diane’s voice adds edge and response. There are nominally eighteen tracks, but initially there’s barely a delineation as one track bleeds into the next for twenty-three minutes. There are snatches of motivational lyric – ‘seek and you’ll find, it’s all in our mind,’ and ‘there is no fear, that enters in here.’ With quasi-religious ‘thou art the kingdom and the power and the glory for aeons and aeons and aeons, amen.’ To Harry Shapiro who writes the CD reissue liner-notes it’s ‘a magical ritual done in the Ray Charles mode’… maybe, but whatever in means it’s a stunningly-conceived extended piece.

The last four tracks stand slightly apart. “The Judgement” retains a recognisable blues form, with piano and gospel voices, while the millenarian lyrics exhorts ‘the end has just begun’ and that ‘it is too late for changing, now that god has made the plan… to start the Earth’s new cycle.’ Then his appeals for King Arthur and the wizard Merlin to return utilises cutting guitar figures around ‘the twelve holy knights of the grail.’ Those seeking a more personal insight into whatever is going on inside Graham’s head can find clues in ‘my soul caught the fear’ over the slinky slithering “My Archangel Mikael”, ‘when the chaos of this wicked world brings you pain… he calls, Mikael calls.’ He seems to be stripping himself to the core with ‘I’ve been dead too long, I can’t hide myself no more,’ into the entrancing “The Magician” where he confesses ‘I was a fool to think I could make it on my own,’ with a direct reference – maybe, to him and Diane, that now ‘we work our magic together’ and ‘there aint nothing we both can’t do.’


The second part of the project – ‘We Put Our Magick On You’, with its pentagram cover (‘the symbols on this cover, and the Tattwa or Elemental Signs on the inside constitute the keys to practical high Magick’), extends the themes into Hindu and Aquarian beliefs. Pattering toms lead into catchy girl-voice harmonies about ‘everbody’s looking for Jesus, but Jesus changed his name, his name is Harakhite…’ Despite dazzling keyboard-work, it’s not easily digestible material. It’s true that around the same time the Beatles Apple Records were hoisting the Radha Krishna Temple into the top ten. Quintessence were nudging into eastern sacred music, Joe Harriott and John Meyer were developing their fascinating ‘Indo-Jazz Fusions’ experiments, and even Black Sabbath were marketing their own Horror-movie brand of Satanism. Graham Bond was moving into strange territory, but he was not entirely out-of-sync with the times.

Graham Bond’s final recording project comes in the form of a link-up with poet-lyricist Pete Brown, who’d already collaborated with Jack Bruce on “White Room” and “Theme For An Imaginary Western” – among other classic tracks. It forms the culmination of a long-term mutual respect. And the album title – ‘Two Heads Are Better Than One’, works on a number of levels. It equates to a fusion of equals, with a cover collage showing great duos Batman and Robin, Laurel and Hardy, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Tom and Jerry, Tarzan and Jane, and Bonnie and Clyde as well as Brown and Bond. While ‘heads’ is a sly term for, among other slang usages, ‘a head of their time’, and a derivation of acid-head, meaning aware or turned on. The ‘Vox’ magazine reviewer says ‘if “Colonel Fright’s Dancing Terrapins” is daft, “Ig The Pig” is mad, with Bond hexing his former manager’ for disasters ‘down in Californ-i-ay’ (‘we put our voodoo on you now’). The Caribbean party sway of “Oobati” contrasts with the spaced piano and fractured experimental structure of “Amazing Grass”, and the lurching fun changes of “Scunthorpe Crabmeat Train Sideways Boogie Shuffle Stomp”. There’s free sax solos, powerful percussion, with Bond’s vocals and agile keyboards always in control. Soundtrack material added to CD reissues ‘shows Bond’s organ staying in control as the rest of his life falls apart’ (October 1992).

But more than just Bond’s final album – through a hook-up with Les Reed’s new Chapter One label, it was a band and a tour too, Graham’s Hammond C3 and saxophone, Pete’s trumpet and talking drums, drummer Ed Spevock, Lisle Harper on bass, with Diane adding vocal harmonies. Later, guitarist Derek Foley joins too, replaced by an energetic Mick Walker. Following a few try-out gigs prior to Christmas 1972, including one with Hawkwind at the Seymour Hall, the band takes to the road in a Mercedes truck.

There were college gigs, then to France and down to Marseille with Graham and Pete sharing driving duties. After a UK stop-over there were German dates, including one at Hamburg’s Stadpark. Pete Brown tells the tale of how Bond retains his mystic incantation “Freaky Beaks” for the set, which hexes enemies and hate-figures. It was surely coincidental that he includes the name of right-wing publisher Axel Springer, and that the next day Springer’s HQ is devastated by an unexplained explosion? Calling off backstage at a Gentle Giant gig Graham grabs a pass-around joint and ‘reduced it to ash in one blast’. As Phil Ryan (of Man, on the same bill) relates, ‘examining the saxophonist’s very expensive instrument’ Graham ‘blew a few things on it that the poor guy would never get close to, and handed it back, saying ‘great horn’.’ A drunk Graham Bond plays most of the Payerne Festival in Switzerland ‘from underneath the Hammond’, following it with excellent sets at Bilzen on the German-Belgium border with Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express, and in Hanover with Arthur Brown and Zoot Money.


Evicted from a cottage he shared with Diane, the couple move into Pete Brown’s Montagu Square flat for the best part of six months. With uncanny prescience Bond and Brown play Burton-on-Trent’s ‘76 Club’ where Graham delivers a eulogy to recently-deceased jazz drummer and junkie friend Phil Seamen. Then at a Scarborough date ‘a seriously unreliably’ Graham collapsed on stage and was hospitalised, bringing the Bond And Brown duo project to a close. Following its demise, and a split with Diane, there was steady roll downhill.

There was Magus, a line-up involving Folkie Carolanne Pegg (aka Carole Pegg of Mr Fox), with bass-player Pete MacBeth, guitarist Brian Holloway and funky Paul Olsen on drums. But Bond’s unpredictable behaviour, his dependence on drug and occult lore, was leading them into increasingly bizarre involvements. Always a large man of voracious appetites, excessive in most things, his life and career were fractured by frequent depression resulting from substance abuse and his psychic obsessions. Stories proliferate. After Long John Baldry had been sent voodoo dolls at his Muswell Hill home, Graham visits to carry out an exorcism – with Ginger Baker in tow (Ginger called him ‘Gipsy Rose Bond’). ‘Graham told me that he felt he had taken something quite terrible and very heavy out of the house on his shoulders’ Baldry told ‘Melody Maker’. Bond returns home to find a live chicken nailed to his door – the ultimate occult curse.


An imposingly large bearded man in flowing kaftan, beads around his neck, he took trips hunting Ley-lines. Stopping off on tours he’d emerge from some local pharmacy with ten assorted mind-and-body-altering pharmaceuticals – explaining gleefully what each one did, before necking them all at once! He got beaten up after double-crossing a drug-dealer and sought sanctuary in a police station, only to be hauled into custody for the 35-pence bag of hash he was carrying. Subject to evaluation over his mental stability he managed to convince the psychiatrist that he’s only a Taxi Driver! He was held in custody for just shy of a month prior to transfer to Springfield sanatorium. Despite taking prescription antidepressant downers following hospital in early-March 1974, he continued to suffer crippling depression.

Pete Brown called off while Graham was staying in Holloway, north London with roadie-friend John Hunt. ‘He said he’d sworn off all the magic stuff and drugs and was now just going to play jazz and blues.’ In a weird limbo, Bond phoned ‘New Musical Express’ to line up an interview, ‘he sounded purposeful, optimistic, enthusiastic, and full of energy’, with plans for tomorrow. Then he went out for the walk from which he never returns. He died Wednesday, 8 May 1974 under the wheels of a speeding tube-train at Finsbury Park station in mysterious circumstances. An eyewitness claims he jumped. It takes the police days to even identify the body, using fingerprints. Only the silver pendant talisman star he wore around his neck escaped unscratched. The news shocked its way around the music community. Always unpredictable, Graham was never less than respected. There’s no clear verdict of suicide, accident, or victim of black-magic foul play.

There’s potential, and then there’s lost potential. Georgie Fame and Zoot Money also endure slumps and troughs but come out the other side into renewed respect and cultdom. While re-evaluations of the Graham Bond legacy continue as his work finds new audiences through re-mastered CD editions and YouTube uploads. There’s even a clip in an appalling film called ‘Gonks Go Beat’. It’s tough that he’s no longer around to enjoy it.


THE MIGHTY GRAHAM BOND 

1961 – ‘ROARIN’’ by the New Don Rendell Quintet (1961 Jazzland JLP51, reissued on CD by BGP, 2005), recorded 17 June and 29 August 1961 at Star Sound Studios, with Don Rendell (tenor sax), John Burch (piano), Tony Archer (bass), Phil Kinorra (drums), and Graham Bond who plays alto sax and contributes one original composition – ‘Bring Back The Burch’

May 1963 – ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ c/w ‘Farewell Baby’ (Bond original) by Duffy Power with the Graham Bond Quartet (Parlophone R 5024)

June 1964 – ‘Long Tall Shorty’ (Don Covay-Abramson) c/w ‘Long Legged Baby’ (Bond) (Decca F11909) A-side collected onto compilation LP ‘The Sixties Explosion 1962-1969’ (See For Miles SEE CD 223) and ‘Pop Inside The Sixties Vol.2’ (SEECD399)

1964 – ‘THE GRAHAM BOND ORGANISATION’ EP (Decca DFE 4616) with ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’, ‘High Heeled Sneakers’, ‘Little Girl’, ‘Long Legged Baby’, ‘Strut Around’. First two tracks collected onto compilation ‘Blues Roots’ (Decca ROOTS6), while an early version of ‘Wade In The Water’ is on ‘Blues Now’ (Decca LK4681)

October 1964 – ‘GRAHAM BOND ORGANISATION: LIVE AT KLOOKS KLEEK’ bootleg recorded live 15 October 1964 (admission 3s6d), with ‘Wade In The Water’, ‘Big Boss Man’, ‘Early In The Morning’ (with Ginger Baker drum solo), ‘Person To Person Blues’ (with Heckstall-Smith tenor solo), ‘Spanish Blues’, ‘Introduction By Dick Jordan’ (stage banter), ‘The First Time I Met The Blues’ (Buddy Guy), ‘Stormy Monday’ (Willie Dixon), ‘Train Time’, ‘What’d I Say’. Produced by Giogio Gomelsky, liner notes by Chris Welch. First released in the UK as ‘The Beginning Of Jazz-Rock’ in 1977 as Charly CR300-17, then under various titles, by Decal LIK-47 in 1988 as ‘Live At Klooks Kleek’ and as ‘Person To Person Blues’ by Metrodome METRO431 in 2000, also Charly CD214

January 1965 – ‘Wade In The Water’ c/w ‘Tammy’ (Columbia DB7471)


March 1965 – ‘THE SOUND OF ‘65’ Graham Bond Organisation LP (Columbia 33SX1711) Graham Bond, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, with side one: ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ (Willie Dixon), ‘Baby Make Love To Me’, ‘Neighbour, Neighbour’, ‘Early In The Morning’ (trad, group-arranged), ‘Spanish Blues’ (Bond instrumental), ‘Oh Baby’ (Bond), ‘Little Girl’ (Bond). Side two: ‘I Want You’ (Bond), ‘Wade In The Water’ (group instrumental, trad arranged with Paul Getty), ‘Got My Mojo Working’ (Muddy Waters), ‘Train Time’ (group composition), ‘Baby Be Good To Me’ (group, with Dodfrey), ‘Half A Man’ (Bond), ‘Tammy’. ‘The playing is absolutely confident, with the songs less important in themselves than as stepping stones to instrumental freedom’ according to Brian Hogg

March 1965 – ‘Tell Me (I’m Gonna Love Again)’ (‘John Group’ aka Bond-Baker-Bruce-Heckstall-Smith) c/w ‘Love Come Shining Through’ (John Group) (Columbia DB7528)

1965 – ‘GONKS GO BEAT’ Soundtrack (Decca LK4673) includes the Graham Bond Organisation’s ‘Harmonica’, alongside Lulu And The Luvvers, The Long And The Short, Nashville Teens

July 1965 – ‘Lease On Love’ c/w ‘My Heart’s In Little Pieces’ (Graham Bond) (Columbia DB7647). Both sides featured as bonus tracks on German CD ‘There’s A Bond Between Us’ 2009 Repertoire Records REP5117


October 1965 – ‘THERE’S A BOND BETWEEN US’ Graham Bond Organisation LP (Columbia 33SX1750) with side one: ‘Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?’, ‘Hear Me Calling Your Name’ (Jack Bruce song and vocals), ‘The Night Time Is The Right Time’, ‘Walkin In The Park’ (Bond), ‘Last Night’ (Mar-Keys), ‘Baby Can It Be True?’ (Bond). Side two: ‘What’d I Say’ (Ray Charles), ‘Dick’s Instrumental’ (Heckstall-Smith), ‘Don’t Let Go’ (Jesse Stone), ‘Keep A Drivin’ (Chuck Willis), ‘Have You Ever Loved A Woman?’ (Freddie King), ‘Camels And Elephants’ (Ginger Baker). Liner notes by Vicki Wickham. The two Organisation albums issued as one CD by Edsel DED254 (1988), BGO BGOCD500 (1999), and Demon DED254

1966 – ‘Saint James Infirmary’ (arr: Ginger Baker) c/w ‘Soul Tango’ (Graham Bond) (Columbia DB7838). Features Neil Hubbard on guitar, replacing Jack Bruce. ‘It was a true group performance with each musician concentrating on playing together rather than saving their efforts for their own solos’ according to Brian Hogg. Both sides featured as bonus tracks on German CD ‘There’s A Bond Between Us’ 2009 Repertoire Records REP5117

1966 – ‘Substitute’ c/w ‘Waltz For A Pig’ (Reaction 591001) by The Who, although the B-side, credited to ‘The Who Orchestra’ actually features label-boss Robert Stigwood’s other clients the Graham Bond Organisation, writer-credited to Harry Butcher, a Ginger Baker alias

February 1967 – ‘You’ve Gotta Have Love Baby’ (Graham Bond) c/w ‘I Love You’ (Graham Bond) (Page One POF014) Produced by Larry Page. Jon Hiseman on drums. ‘This was a strange single, with its peculiar mid-Eastern rhythm, frantic sax and pounding ogan.’ Both sides featured as bonus tracks on German CD ‘There’s A Bond Between Us’ 2009 Repertoire Records REP5117

1968 – ‘THE CROSSROADS OF TIME’ (Mercury 20134SMCL) by Eyes Of Blue, with Graham Bond liner notes, includes two songs ‘Love Is The Law’ and the title-track written by Bond through his wife Diane Stewart’s name

1968 – ‘LOVE IS THE LAW’ as by Grahame Bond (US Pulsar Records AR10604, UK 2011 CD Esoteric Recordings ECLEC2239) with ‘Love Is The Law’, ‘Moving Towards The Light’, ‘Our Love Will Come Shining Through’, ‘I Couldn’t Stand It Anymore’, ‘Sun Dance’, ‘Crossroads Of Time’, ‘Bad News Blues’, ‘Strange Times, Sad Times’, ‘The Naz’, ‘The World Will Soon Be Free’. Titles credited to ‘Billy Gamble’ (Graham Bond), with Harvey Mandel (guitar), Eddie Hoh (drums), Harvey Brooks (bass)

1969 – ‘THE MIGHTY GRAHAME BOND’ (US Pulsar AR 10606) with ‘Water, Water’, ‘Oh Shining One’, ‘Pictures In The Fire’, ‘Baroque’, ‘Sisters And Brothers’. Side two ‘Stiffnecked Chicken’, ‘Freaky Beaky’, ‘Walk Onto Me’, ‘Magic Mojo’, ‘Brothers And Sisters’ with strong Bond Hammond organ as well as Mellotron and alto sax, Harvey Mandel (guitar), Max Bennett (bass), Eddie Hoh (drums), Drachen Theaker (drums), Frank Mayes (sax). All original songs credited to ‘Billy Gamble’. Liner notes by Troy Randle

January 1970 – ‘Walking In The Park’ c/w ‘Springtime In The City’ (Warner Bros WB 8004) Both sides written by Graham Bond

March 1970 – ‘GINGER BAKER’S AIR FORCE’ (Polydor 2662-001) Ginger’s ten-piece big-band recorded live at the Royal Albert Hall, 15 January 1970, features Bond sax solo on Harold McNair’s ‘DaDa Man’, Bond vocals on ‘Aiko Biaye’, also Baker’s ‘Early In The Morning’ as on ‘The Sound Of 65’. Bond also takes lead vocals on the studio LP ‘GINGER BAKER’S AIR FORCE 2’ (December 1970, Polydor 2383-029) and writes ‘Twelve Gates Of The City’


May 1970 – ‘SOLID BOND’ Double LP (Warner Bros 3001) Graham Bond Quartet live tracks recorded at Klooks Kleek in 1963 with Bond, McLaughlin, Bruce and Baker, ‘Ho-Ho Country Kicking Blues’ (Bruce song), ‘The Grass Is Greener’ (Bond-McLaughlin ‘in a Mingus-like 6/8 groove’), ‘Doxy’ (Sonny Rollins), plus a 1966 Graham Bond Organisation Olympic Studio session with Bond, Heckstall-Smith, Neil Hubbard (guitar) and Jon Hiseman with ‘Green Onions’ and ‘Last Night’ plus Bond compositions ‘Springtime In The City’, ‘Can’t Stand It’, ‘Only Sixteen’, ‘Long Legged Baby’, ‘Walkin’ In The Park’, ‘It’s Not Goodbye’ and ‘Neighour Neighbour’

1971 – ‘THIS IS: BOND IN AMERICA’ LP (Mercury 6499200/1, Philips International 6382010) with ‘Stiffnecked Chicken’, ‘Walk Onto Me’, ‘I Couldn’t Stand It Anymore’, ‘Oh Shining One’, ‘Moving Towards The Light’. Side two ‘Crossroads Of Time’, ‘Baroque’, ‘Freaky Beak’, ‘Strange Times, Sad Times’, ‘Love Is The Law’. Made up of tracks from his two US-recorded albums

1971 – ‘HOLY MAGICK’ LP as by Holy Magick (Vertigo 6360021, reissued as BGO BGOLP35) with ‘Meditation Aumgn’, ‘The Qabalistic Cross: The World Of The Aeon’, ‘Invocation To The Light’, ‘The Pentagram Ritual’, ‘The Qabalistic Cross: Hymn Of Praise’, ‘Twelve Gates To The City’, ‘The Holy Words Iao Saluao’, ‘Aquarius Mantra’, ‘Enochian’, ‘Abrahadabra The Word Of The Aeon’, ‘Praise City Of Light’, ‘The Qabalistic Cross Aumgn: Return Of Arthur’, ‘The Magician’ with Ric Grech, Diane Stewart, John Moreshead, Steve York, Keith Bailey, Victor and Jenny Brox. Debut Vertigo single April ‘Twelve Gates To the City’ c/w a new version on ‘Water, Water’

February 1971 – ‘WE PUT OUR MAGICK ON YOU’ LP as by Holy Magick (Vertigo 6360042, reissued as BGO BGOLP73) with ‘Forbidden Fruit Part 1’, ‘Moving Towards The Light’, ‘Ajama’ (written by Gaspar Lawall), ‘Druid’, ‘I Put My Magick On You’, ‘Time To Die’, ‘Hail Ra Harakhite’, ‘Forbidden Fruit Part 2’. With Graham Bond and Diane, Terry Poole (bass), John ‘Pugwash’ Weathers (drums), Graham ‘Hedley’ Williams (guitar), Gaspar Lawall (percussion), Steve Gregory (saxophone). A 2008 double-pack as BGO483 combines both albums


November 1972 – ‘TWO HEADS ARE BETTER THAN ONE’ Pete Brown and Graham Bond (Chapter One CHS-R-813) features Diane Bond’s ‘Amazing Grass’ plus ‘Lost Tribe’ (Bond-Brown), ‘Ig The Pig’ (Bond), ‘Oobati’, ‘Scunthorpe Crabmeat Train Sideways Boogie Shuffle Stomp’ (Bond-Brown), ‘CFDT: Colonel Fright’s Dancing Terrapins’ with Mick Hutchinson guitar, ‘Mass Debate’, ‘Looking For Time’ (Bond-Brown). Recorded at Richard Branson’s Manor Studios in Oxfordshire with engineer Tom Newman of ‘Tubular Bells’. A December 1992 CD reissue with bonus tracks SEECD345 adds single ‘Milk Is Turning Sour In My Shoes’ and ‘Macumbe’ (Afro-Gospel written by Lyle Harper), plus material for Murray Grigor’s ‘Maltamour’ docu-movie soundtrack about Malta, dubbed at the Islington Pathway Studio, ‘The Beginning’, ‘Aeroplane Drinking Man’, ‘Italian Song’, ‘Spend My Nights In Armour’, ‘Fury Of War’, ‘Magpie Man’, ‘Drum Roll’, ‘Swing Song’, ‘Sailor’s Song’, ‘The Ending’. With Erica Bond and Sue Wooley backing vocals, Mick Walker (percussion), Lisle Harper (ex-Gass, bass, congas), Ed Spevock (ex-Piblokto, drums), Derek Foley (ex-Paladin, guitar) 

1972 – ‘Lost Tribe’ c/w Milk Is Turning Sour In My Shoes’ + ‘Macumba’ (Harvest 2C 006-93828) Pete Brown and Graham Bond. There’s also a ‘Lost Tribe’ EP done in France for Pathe-Marconi

1972 – ‘A STORY ENDED’ by DICK HECKSTALL-SMITH (Bronze ILPS 9196) solo album recorded after collapse of Colosseum Mark One, with Bond’s organ, piano and synthesiser guesting on ‘Moses In The Bullrushhourses’, ‘What The Morning Was After’ (both Pete Brown lyrics) and ‘The Pirate’s Dream’. Features Jon Hiseman, Caleb Quaye, Chris Spedding, Chris Farlowe, Dave Greenslade. Graham Bond also plays alto on ‘Male Chauvinist Pig Song’ and other tracks on Steve York’s Camelo Pardalis ‘Manor Live’ LP (Virgin, 1973), and he appears as ‘sax-player’ in the 1973 ‘That’ll Be The Day’ David Essex movie

April 1992 – ‘THE R ‘N’ B SCENE VOLUME II’ (See For Miles LP SEE73, CD SEE4) includes Bond’s ‘Harmonica’ and ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’

2008 – ‘LOST 1973 ALBUM’ by the John Dummer Band (Angel Air Records SJPCD276). Recorded in 1973, but shelved until 2008, featuring John Dummer (drums and vocals), Graham Bond (sax), Ian ‘Thump’ Thompson (bass), Pick Withers (drums), Pete Emery (guitar), Colin ‘Foghat’ Earl (keyboards)


 2015 – ‘GRAHAM BOND: LIVE AT THE BBC AND OTHER STORIES’ (Repertoire Records REPUK 1279) vastly significant 4CD covering all phases of his career from 25 April 1963 ‘BBC Jazz Club’ recorded at Paris Cinema by The Graham Bond Quartet with Bobby Breen, ‘Bluesology’, ‘I’m Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town’, ‘Hello Little Girl’, ‘Spanish Blues’, ‘Wade In The Water’, ‘Hallelujah I Love Her So’, ‘Every Day I Have The Blues’. Then Duffy Power with the Graham Bond Quartet, ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, ‘I Got A Woman’. ‘Summertime’, ‘Hallelujah I Love Her So’. The Don Rendell Quintet with guest Dick Heckstall-Smith from 9 September 1962 ‘Jazz Session’ at Paris Cinema, ‘Things Are Getting Better’, ‘Elsie And Ena aka Bring Back The Burch’, ‘Richmond Festival’, ‘Kelly Blue’, ‘Troika’, ‘Kazeef’, ‘Persian Party’. Graham Bond Organisation 22 January 1966 from ‘Jazz Beat’ 22 January 1966 at Playhouse Theatre, ‘Wade In The Water’, ‘Only Sixteen’, ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home’. Graham Bond And Pete Brown from ‘Sounds Of The Seventies’ 23 March 1972 at Maida Vale, ‘Macumbe’, ‘Milk Is Turning Sour In My Shoes’, ‘Beak Suite’. Graham Bond and Dick Heckstall-Smith 1963 Home Tape, ‘Improvisation’. Dick Heckstall-Smith Band demo ‘Moses In The Bullrushourses’. Graham Bond Organisation Live 1966/1967 ‘What’d I Say?’. Graham Bond Initiation Live 1969/1970 ‘Wade In The Water’. Graham Bond Quartet 16 July 1963 from ‘Pop Goes The Beatles’ at Aeolian Hall, ‘I Got A Woman’, ‘Cabbage Greens’, ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, ‘Spanish Blues’. Graham Bond Initiation 31 January 1970 from ‘Top Gear’ at Maida Vale, ‘Walkin’ In The Park/ I Want You’, ‘Wade In The Water’, ‘Love Is The Law’ and 22 March 1970 from ‘John Peel Show’ at Paris Cinema, ‘Love Is The Law’, ‘Magic Mojo’, ‘The World Will Still Be Free’, ‘Wade In The Water’. The Brian Dee Trio featuring Graham Bond from the 1962 EP ‘Jazz And Twist’ (Vaux VA8), ‘Things Are Getting Better’. The Philamore Lincoln featuring Graham Bond from 1970 LP ‘The North Wind Blew South’ (Epic BN26497), ‘Blew Through’. Graham Bond with Ken Wray And The Joe Palin Trio, a 1962 rehearsal session at ‘Club 43’ in Manchester, ‘Sack O’ Woe’, ‘Mack The Knife’, ‘Work Song’, ‘Oleo’, ‘Things Are Getting Better’ 

June 1992 book – ‘GRAHAM BOND: THE MIGHTY SHADOW’ by Harry Shapiro (Guinness Publishing, Square One) well-researched biography with interviews, includes allegations of Bond’s improprieties with his step-daughter, reprinted in 2004 by Crossroads Press ISBN 10-1872747078


Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Poem: 'LAST POEM'



LAST POEM 


Beelzebub, take my legs
I’ve walked a million miles
I’ve done all the walking I need,
walked London, Rome and Central Park,
walked Malham Cove and Holy Island,
don’t need to walk no more…

Beelzebub, take my nose
I’ve inhaled the world and
breathed it back out again,
sniffed flowers, herbs and the
sweet moistness of women’s bodies,
don’t need to smell more…

Beelzebub, take my ears
I have the sound of worlds within me,
gulls circling above familiar harbours
guitar chords that haunt my memory,
the aching gasp of lovers
the cries of my babies,
don’t need to hear more…

Beelzebub, take my tongue,
I’ve said all I need to say
talked and argued with lovers and friends
sung and shouted and raved
at the madness of the world,
recited fairy-tales to children
and whispered soft eroticisms
while entwined in acts of love,
there’s nothing more to say…

Beelzebub, take my eyes
I’ve seen all I need to see,
the wine-dark seas of Crete
the gates of Graceland, the paint
and art and dance and sunrise,
the 9:11 towers falling,
don’t need to see more…

but Beelzebub, leave me my mind
so I can write
just one more poem…



Proud to renew my long-term association with,
and have my poem featured in the excellent new
'MINOTAUR #76' alongside fine writers such as
Ed Mycue, Ruth Moon Kempher, Geoff Bowman
& Jim Watson-Gove.
Issues $5 from: heartfirestudio@gmail.com


Sunday, 28 October 2018

'MEAT IS MURDER': THE VEGGIE AND HOW TO BE ONE



“MEAT IS MURDER...!” 
THE VEGGIE: 
AND HOW TO BE ONE 

 Andrew Darlington gave up eating meat five years ago. 
(This feature originally published in 1999, and appears 
here in its original form). Are YOU still a Meathead? 
Why are Veggies on a demographic roll? Who says 
 by the middle of the next century we could all be Veggie? 
 Who are the radical outer fringes of the Paramilitary 
 Provisional Wing of the Vegetarian Society? 
And what is the hideous secret behind... Jelly Babies???? 

 “Believe me. Sooner or later all pigs get eaten. 
That’s the way the world works...” 
 Fly the Sheepdog to Babe the Sheep-pig (‘BABE’


MEAT IS MURDER.

The ad on the hoarding shows a cutely loveable little calf. And the cutely loveable little calf is saying ‘WHEN I’M A BURGER, I WANT TO BE WASHED DOWN WITH IRN-BRU’. Is that sick in the Benetton shock-outrage strategy of sick? Or is that inspired copywriting? Calves grow up to be cows. Cows become burgers. We know that. But we don’t want to be shown. We don’t want to be faced with the reality of it. Well – not quite so graphically anyway.

“To me, to eat meat would be like eating the flesh of a new-born baby” explains editor-publisher Michael Butterworth, forking Veggie tagliatelle in an alcove of the ‘Pig And Drum’ off Deansgate, Manchester. A friend, a lifetime veggie – and vegan too, we talk it over before I too quit my carnivore habits. “As soon as people find out you’re veggie they seem to feel the need to explain themselves. They go ‘Well – I don’t eat MUCH meat, to be honest. Only at weekends.’ Or ‘I only eat WHITE meat.’ Or ‘Sometimes I get a Margherita pizza instead of Meat-Feast’. I mean – hey, I don’t care. Don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. Don’t dump your guilt on ME. It’s as though deep deep down inside there’s something that’s telling them that YOU have the moral high-ground. That deep deep down inside they know that there’s something faintly obscene about meat. They know it. And they feel the need to apologise for it...”

I’d been tempted before by the idea. But then, why the hell? there’s no real reason, is there? I enjoy food. I love eating. And what do Veggie’s get? Go to most restaurants and that option with the Green Tick comes down to a meat-free Lasagne hidden away at the bottom of the menu, and that’s it! And even morally – everything on the planet eats something else. The world is an orgy of mutual cannibalism and always has been. Life is no respecter of life. Was it William Burroughs, Philip K Dick or Mick Farren who said ‘Life don’t give a rat’s arse who lives it’? Whoever it was, I second that emotion. And just how far down the food-chain can you go anyway? No-one talks about rights for slugs, woodworms and bacteria – do they? It’s not even as though the major religious belief systems condemn meat eating, except perhaps those that subscribe to the idea of some kind of reincarnation, in which case you have a certain vested interest in not eating something that you might later be incarnated as. There might be six million Veggie adherents of the Jain sect in India who refuse to eat anything after nightfall for fear of accidentally swallowing some living thing. But to most everyone else ‘god’ gave the animals of the field to us as a kind of four-legged larder. Cut here. Chew on this bit. It’s convenience food at its most convenient.

Then my daughter, Susan, quit eating meat. And a gesture of solidarity was called for. No, not that either. It was more a put up or shut up to myself. So – from New Year 1994, no more meat.

“The problem is, most people have never even seen a chicken that’s not plucked, frozen, and lying in the freezer with its legs in the air. When you buy your meat you steer that trolley with the misaligned front wheel to the Supermarket chiller cabinet where what you’re buying is just another item from a range of hygienic shrink-wrapped consumables. It’s just another product. It’s in no obvious way different to buying a packet of Honey-Nut Cornflakes or a Toilet Duck. It’s a Silverside or it’s a Sirloin, it’s not a bit of a dead animal. It’s not something that’s been cut from the corpse of a living being. I suppose way down you know. But on the surface it’s not something that’s immediately obvious”, a reflective pause. Ritchie is a musician, keyboardist with some bands you’ve probably heard of, and some you haven’t. He quit meat long before I did. It was Hey, a life-style thing! Know-what-I-mean?

“As a kid growing up through the late-1950s in Hull I remember there was a butchers on the corner of Whitefriargate where as a part of the display outside they’d festoon beheaded pheasants, unplucked with their feathers and everything intact. But where the heads had been they’d fix little cups on wires to catch the steady drip of blood. Except the cups were never quite big enough. They’d overflow and they’d drip down onto the pavement below where they’d form little rivulets of blood that ran down across the pavement and into the gutter. This is true. As a kid, hanging onto me Mam’s hand, I’d walk along that stretch of pavement carefully jumping over those little forking streams of pheasant-blood. And no-one thought twice about it then. I’d hazard a guess that opinion has changed slightly across the years since, people wouldn’t like that now, something like that would no longer be quite so acceptable. People eat meat. People enjoy eating pheasant in exactly the same way they did then. But they’d prefer not to know the precise details of how exactly it arrived on their plate...”

Performance Poet Nick Toczek does a routine about how he gave up eating meat. About the withdrawal symptoms that followed his decision. About walking through the precinct past McDonalds and being assailed by the seductive aroma of flame-grilled burgers. About almost giving in. ‘Hey, just one won’t hurt, will it? If no-one’s watching and I sneak in for just one Quarter Pounder McWhopper? Where’s the damage?’

It’s five years since I gave up eating meat. Five years since I made that decision. And I can honestly say I’ve never had any retrograde tendencies. Yet. Never had the slightest back-sliding ‘Hey – no-one’s looking, just one burger won’t hurt’ lapse back into carnivorism. Yet.


“The day may come when the rest of animal creation may 
acquire those rights which could never have been withholden 
 from them but by the hand of tyranny... the question is not 
 ‘Can they reason?’ Nor ‘Can they talk?’ But ‘Can they suffer?’” 
 (Jeremy Bentham, 19th Century philosopher) 

“There’s a very good argument for saying that eating other animals has been beneficial for people in the evolutionary sense.” Ritchie again, owl-eye glasses, and his long straggling hair slightly receding at the front. He’s getting a little more philosophical now, to a background of pre-release studio electronics. “Go back some millions of years. Watch the herbivores out on the great African savannahs. They spend every available moment of every day just eating. They have to do that. Only by eating continually do they get enough of the vital nutrition they need to stay alive. Then look at the predators. It’s the lions and tigers and stuff which lie around basking in the sun, frolicking and grooming themselves. Then once in a while they go out and kill something – a gazelle or a wildebeest, and they eat it. They get in that one neat package all the nutrients it’s taken that gazelle all day to eat! It’s energy-efficient. It’s a bit messy, all that blood and intestines and shit, but it’s convenient.”

“On that far-distant day in pre-prehistory when Fred Flintstone quit eating nuts and berries and went out trapping mastodons and sabre-tooth tigers or whatever it was, it was an important step forward. Between meals of concentrated dead-animal nutrition they could use all that extra spare time to sit around inventing things. Useful things like art, mathematics, nationalism, warfare, cities, religion, CD’s, genocide – stuff like that. And you have to consider that, at that time, the world was one vast wilderness of wildlife, a global safari-park, with tiny pockets of humans competing as just one minority species against continent-wide masses of other and often better-survival-equipped species. In a way, it was OK. It was Tarzan. It was one-on-one. And it continued that way, basically, through much of recorded history. Human expansion was slight, population expansion got regularly pruned back by wars, disease and famine. The graph of human proliferation stayed pretty much horizontal. That didn’t change significantly until the introduction of things like industrialisation, hygiene, medicine, sanitation, inoculation – and suddenly that population graph goes from the horizontal to the near-vertical.”

“It’s different now. It really is. Today we’ve got a situation where the world is one vast city with tiny safari-park pockets of wildlife surviving because we allow them to survive. Wildlife now survives on human whim. And it’s surviving precariously. It’s not Tarzan anymore. The old traditions of murderous manliness no longer add up. It’s not a macho-hunter thing to eat a steak cut from the body of a cow that’s been force-reared and shot full of growth hormones in some huge ‘Animal Belsen’ meat-factory. Killing animals is no longer a big-shot thing. At the start of this century William F ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody was a big hero figure because he killed something like eight-hundred buffaloes in a single day. That was seen as admirable. In popular fiction – like Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Lost World’ (1912), the Big-Game Hunter Lord John Roxton is seen as being heroic because of all the elephants and tigers he’s shot. But now, people no longer see it that way. Nowadays, people like Buffalo Bill would be seen as walking eco-disaster areas. They’d be the villains, the bad guys pitted against the conservationist good guys. Killing animals is no big deal.”

“You can argue that the creatures which will be allowed to survive into the next century and beyond will be only those creatures that we need to survive because we consume them, as human world-population – now tipping seven-billion, reaches crisis-point. You can argue that the survival of pigs, cows, sheep and chickens will be assured because they’re useful. We eat them. If you can get badgers, stoats and weasels shrink-wrapped and into the hypermarket chiller cabinets then you could cross them off the endangered-species lists and get them into the food-factories instead. You can argue it that way. You really can... or you can say instead that sure, meat-eating was an important and justifiable part of human evolution. But we know better now. We’ve grown beyond that. We know all about nutrition. We know all about alternative sources of protein which are just as nourishing and just as good to eat. Unlike cutely loveable little calves, soya-based Veggie-Burgers don’t mind being fried, or washed down with or without Irn-Bru. And they don’t involve the mass wide-scale suffering and holocaust-slaughter of millions of animals. Of other sentient beings.”


Going Veggie is essentially a personal choice. In every case it’s down to the individual. But the personal choice also has wide-ranging implications. There was a joke going around at the time of Linda McCartney’s death. Paul gets the kids together. He tells them ‘I’ve got some bad news and I’ve got some good news. The bad news is – Mummy’s dead. The good news is – we’re having a barbecue tonight with steaks and sausage and burgers and...’ It’s sick, of course. But an inevitable reaction to the deification process that followed her death. In life, as a musician, she’d been the object of ridicule. In death she suddenly became a kind of hallowed Princess Diana figure, a martyred champion of caring sharing animal-rights. To Linda, according to Paul’s eulogy, ‘all animals were Disney characters’. A tad over-sentimental perhaps? A bit too fluffy little lambkins, doe-eyed calves anthropomorphic? In the real world few people see every mouse as Mickey Mouse, or every duck as Donald. In fact, most people eat ducks and set traps for mice. Yet “what Linda has done is equal to the anti-Slavery campaign” claimed the ‘Observer’ obit (14 June 1998). Not so, her real achievement was to capitalise on her celebrity, use her Beatles-related brand-name to get veggie food out of the weird-beard whole-food lentils and sandals shops, and into the Supermarket where it could, and does, compete on equal terms with the Silversides and the Sirloins. Non-veggies eat Linda McCartney. To their surprise, they find themselves enjoying it.

But now, at century’s end, and a step beyond simply going or promoting Veggie, Animal Rights is a big deal. Following the large-scale fragmentation of Left-Wing politics a loose network of radical single-issue action groups – usually Green or Eco-Friendly, has taken its place. Anti-Road Protesters. Anti-Nukes. Anti-Animal-Testing. The Animal Rights Militia. The Animals Betrayed Coalition (ABC). And the twenty-thousand-strong National Anti-Vivisection Society. The Animal Liberation Front (ALF), founded in 1967, can be seen as the Provisional Wing of the Vegetarian Society, and its achievements are impressive. Direct Action through press campaigns, assaults, Molotov Cocktails, arson and bomb-hoaxes amplified by the public sympathy their propaganda-by-deed generates has forced the Fur Trade from the High Street stores, letter-bombs and threats have terrorised scientists involved in animal experiments, while they’ve burned down abattoirs and virtually destroyed the live-export industry. Thousands of butchers shops have been sabotaged, and all non-medical animal experimentation has ceased in University Labs through fear of ALF ‘retaliatory action’. Current flashpoints include the introduction of genetically-modified food through biotechnology companies such as Monsanto (interestingly, the same company responsible for the horrific Agent Orange defoliant used in Vietnam!).

A sprawling anarchic confederation, the ALF ‘organisation’ is decentralised, operating on a system of semi-autonomous cells, so ‘official spokesperson’ is something of a nonsense. But we talk anyway. “People tend not to think about these issues, they usually have neither the time, nor the inclination to do that – until they are directly confronted with them on a personal level.” No dark paramilitary balaclava with slit eye-holes. No flack-jacket either. Just some degree of reasonable intensity. He continues, “that state of mind tends to continue until people are forced by circumstances to sit down and think about it.

Consider this. 780-million chickens are slaughtered for food in the UK every year. They are largely caged and selectively bred to reach maturity in six, rather than twelve weeks. This means that although their muscles grow faster, their hearts and lungs do not, causing painful deformities and heart disease. Their lives are nasty, brutish, and above all – short. People might not like that, but they accept it. Yet BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) ‘Mad Cow’ disease in dairy and beef herds started out pretty much like that. First identified in September 1985, it resulted in the slaughter of 3.85 million cattle. Then it was transmitted to humans in the form of CJD (Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease). Nineteen-year old Stephen Churchill, who died in May 1995, is now accepted as its first victim. And there have been twenty-seven confirmed human CJD deaths, so far. The whole thing is a direct and inevitable consequence of intensive livestock production techniques, specifically – infection passed on from diseased sheep fed as ruminant-bone-meal to cows. There can be no real disagreement with that finding…


“Oh for the wings of 
…any bird, other than a battery hen” 
 (“Spirit Of The Age” by Hawkwind) 

The process began after World War 2 when Governments realised just how dependant Britain was on food imports. So successive administrations of all political guises subsequently encouraged the intensivisation of agriculture to achieve self-sufficiency in food supplies – including the obscenity of factory-farming techniques. And it was successful, successful to the extent that Europe, the most densely populated and heavily industrialised region in the world is now also a net exporter of food, with the absurdity of EU milk lakes and beef mountains of excess produce. While the downside of all that is the price that has been paid, first through the horrific suffering inflicted on the creatures caught up in it, and finally down the food-chain to the infected human consumers. It was only then that public opinion accelerated radically away from the whole idea of battery-produced food, and switched to buzz-words like ‘organic’ which they’d previously ridiculed as faddy or eccentric. It’s the same with genetically-modified food. That is the current battle-ground on which the issues are being fought out. Agri-Business versus Compassion In World Farming.

But in a sense that’s also just a culmination of what’s been going on since the very origins of farming and what we call ‘animal husbandry’. People have been selectively breeding, cross-breeding, splicing and grafting plants and animals ever since the beginning of recorded history. The pigs we know and love through pop-Movies like ‘Babe’ (1995), are all descended from the wild boar, although they’re now virtually unrecognisable as even the same species. All the vast diversity of dog breeds are derived originally from packs of wolves. A Babylonian or an Egyptian from whatever-the-hell thousand BC would be confused by the wealth of apples, grain, and fruit that we take for granted. Because they’ve all been developed through generations of selective breeding. We live in a hugely artificial environment created by human interference in, and manipulation of, natural processes. Genetic modification of food takes that process into new realms of possibility. And people are understandably shit-scared of what the hell will come out of such drastic tinkering.

But ‘words are cheap. Only actions really count’ asserts ALF’s Barry Horne. He’s the guy who almost fasted to death in the final months of 1998 in an attempt to pressure New Labour into honouring its manifesto pledges concerning abuse of animals, protesting “this is not for me, it is for every animal in every torture lab. The souls of the tortured dead cry out for justice...” The pre-election document ‘New Labour: New Life For Animals’ claims ‘Labour is the only party to trust on animal welfare...’ It came to the attention of Barry, a Category A prisoner held at York’s Full Sutton Prison, serving eighteen-years for £3-million fire-bomb attacks on animal-abusing Boots and Halfords branches. He decided to bring media attention to what he describes (in a letter to ‘Arkangel’ magazine) as the ‘arrogant and indifferent attitude of the Labour Government’ by beginning his death-fast at midnight 6 October – and survived for sixty-eight days during which his weight dropped from 14 to 8st. IRA hunger-striker Bobby Sands, by contrast, died after just sixty-six days of starvation in the Maze in 1981.


The Animal Rights Militia issued a hit-list of ten vivisectionists it would assassinate in the event of Horne’s death. Spike Milligan and TV’s Carla Lane pledged support. Instead, at the point of death Barry withdrew, but only after he’d succeeded in splashing his grievances across the national press and TV. ALF’s Robin Webb went head-to-head with Home Office Minister George Howarth plus various defensive scientists on ‘Newsnight’. People talked about him, and what he represents, in offices and factories and boozers across the country. Two months, three months later, he’s largely forgotten. That would have been true even if he’d taken it all the way and died for his beliefs (he actually died 5 November 2001 of liver-failure). It’s not even as though he’s the first martyr for animal rights. Jill Phipps died during the Coventry Airport protests, crushed by a lorry exporting veal-calves to the Continent in 1984. Sound-bites and photo-opportunities have a habit of getting replaced by new sound-bites and new photo-opportunities. But things do change. Attitudes can make massive seismic shifts. Already Veggies are on a demographic roll – up to four million in the UK, from 2% in the mid-eighties to today’s 7%, a more impressive figure when you realise that the growth area occurs in the fourteen-to-twenty-four year old age-band – where it’s nearer 10%, and it’s among those with a greater investment in the future.

“It’s less than a century since women were being imprisoned, and died, to establish their right to vote. In the coming century, with an accelerating species-extinction and loss of natural wildlife habitats, the rights of non-human lives will inevitably become more highly valued. Scarcity alone will dictate that. This is not Science Fiction. This is already happening. It’s happening now. It will continue. By the middle decades of the next century people will look back on our intensive-farming and industrial abuse of animals with the same kind of gut-revulsion and horrified incomprehension that we feel about Nazi Concentration Camps. Perhaps, just perhaps, we’ll all be Veggie then... of course, right here, right now, it’s not always easy, and it’s not always obvious.”

“Non-Veggies delight in pointing out that ‘Na-na-ne-naw-naw, you’re wearing leather shoes and a leather belt!’ Stuff like that. Also, even with reasonably accurate food labelling it’s not necessarily easy to avoid certain animal-based elements used in food. I always enjoyed suet puddings, imagining suet to be some kind of a plant, until it was helpfully pointed out to me that suet is – according to the dictionary, ‘a hard waxy fat around the kidneys and loins of sheep and cattle.’ Suddenly it don’t seem quite so appetising any more. And Jelly Babies. What could be more innocent that Jelly Babies? But they contain gelatine which is a ‘water-soluble protein prepared by boiling animal hides and bones.’ Think about it. And just because the restaurant has Veggie-Burgers on its menu don’t always mean that they fry it in vegetable oils. It’s often difficult to define where the lines actually occur. Sometimes you just gotta be pragmatic. While at the same time you can never actually forget that ultimately, all meat IS murder. It is. Don’t be a meat-head all you life...!”

“do you know how animals die?/ ...the flesh you so fancifully fry/ 
the meat in your mouth/ as you savour the flavour/ 
 ...it’s sizzling blood and the unholy stench/ of MURDER, / 
 ...who hears when animals cry?” 
 The Smiths (“Meat Is Murder”

Published in:
‘HOT PRESS’ Vol.23 No.1
(Eire – February 1999)