Wednesday 31 March 2021




I recall how Michael used to come around 
and say ‘Andy, show me some dance moves’ 
and I throw stylish shapes that I later see 
him use when the video debuts on MTV, 
how just once, when I idly scratch my balls 
he goes ‘yeah man, that’s so fine-superfine’ 
in that sweet melodic falsetto of his, 
and despite my protestations he’s there 
crotch-grabbing on that next hit vid of his, 
sometimes I miss that little Jackson guy… 
and I remember how this scruffy little Folkie 
comes pestering ‘Andy, help me write hits’ 
but I’m busy sequencing Little Mix tracks 
and he’s such an obvious no-hoper 
I tell him to sod off, I still feel a tad guilty, 
about whatever happened to that Ed Sheeran…

Tuesday 30 March 2021

Vintage Poetry: 'New Departures'



Book Review of: 
DOUBLE DOUBLE Nos. 7/8 AND 10/11’ 
(£2.40 or $8, from Michael Horovitz)

Michael Horovitz is a cerebral Charles Atlas. Crawl along to this latest edition of his irregularly published journal jaded, bored, slagged off, and it will blow the dust from your mental entrails, refurbish your silted-up poetic perceptions, reaffirm your belief in sunlight, tone up flaccid limp imaginations, make you dance, sing and anything, leave you dazed and ecstatically confused, punch-drunk on words that hang in your head like fish-bones in your throat. It’s addictive, it gets you high on life – sell your stash, unplug your iron-lung, pawn your ‘angel-headed-hipster’ Union Card – but get it.

Ron Geesin

Everyone you would expect to find is here, the excellent Thom Gunn trading his ‘Black Jacket’ for a bathrobe in a tense “The Bath-House”, Adrian Mitchell liberates a page or two with his “A Tourists Guide To England” – previously in Nigel Gray’s ‘Green And Pleasant Land’ collection, Pete Brown – the great Battered Ornament of our time renews his not-forgotten association as an original live New Departure with three most welcome new poems, a good Tom McGrath (‘for seventeen years all I ever wanted to do was have it/ now I have had it god knows how many times, and all I want to do is have it again’), a clutch of new Allen Ginsberg, one called “Yes, It’s Hopeless” as pessimistic as the crash of doom on a hydrogen jukebox, some odd and idiosyncratic Ivor Cutler (‘I found my son in the lavatory/ having intercourse with a meningococcus/ ‘what’s wrong with your sister son?’ I muttered’), Lee Harwood comments effectively on a “1930s Photo” of a Dustbowl shotgun shack, plus four hangers-on from the Mersey Scene, Grimms Brian Patten writing about success and Roger McGough about a skinhead, Spike Hawkins about a “Whitehall Blunder” and Adrian Henri confirming an impression I gained at a last year’s reading that he’s attempting to upmarket his work with a long ambitious “Metropolis” and a lighter “Scenes From Science Fiction” penned in conjunction with PJ (Philip Jose?) Farmer. There’s a good Gay-junkie-urine-and-excrement poem from Bill Burroughs, while RD Laing (‘…the flowers I cannot name/ grow all the same…’), Samuel Beckett, Greg Corso (‘truth is eternity/ sojourning in time’) and a John Cage word-game add to the superstar ratings. 

There are visuals and concretes – “Kyoto To Tokyo” from Bob Cobbing, David Hockney making a ‘Bigger Splash’ with a portrait of Yves Marie reading, impressions of Picasso plus simplified faces, pictures and cartoons by Barry Fantoni and a beautifully bizarre strip by Alison Swan, all spliced around conversational poems, calm nature poems, humorous poems, political poems (a bit about society’s yobs and misfits enlisting by John Arden, a routine pacifist poem by Christopher Logue, a better one about the Kent State University killings by Lyn Lifshin), mystic poems and mandalas, a couple of Jazz poems by Calvin Hernton – one for Billie Holiday, one for Eric Dolphy, lengthy almost-prose and visuals recalling his ‘IT’/‘Styng’ underground press contributions from Jeff Nuttall, brilliantly imagined SF-tinged poems – “Telegram From San Francisco” by Sinclair Beiles and Annie Rooney about burial at sea because land is too scarce, with mourners wearing frogman suits, and “I Dream Of Life” from Ron Geesin fresh from his work with Pink Floyd and movie soundtracks, likening five naked babies to ‘upturned tortoises’, scientifically modified into nuclear bombs.

Pete Brown

Sadly there’s also death here too, poetry by the suicided Mark Hyatt (‘…crossing that “Border Line” was to be his apotheosis of the ‘Romantic Agony’’ according to Horovitz), Stevie Smith is seen reading at the 1966 Albert Hall Concert, then not reading at the Palais Voor Schoone Hunste Brussels 1967, Charles Olson is tributed with an excerpt from a poem by Jonathan Williams, examples of the work of Mal Dean (‘New Worlds’, ‘Melody Maker’, ‘IT: International Times’ and Pete Brown album-sleeve illustrator) are set beside the poems of his wife Libby Houston, and – of course, there is Jack Kerouac who ‘kissed the leper of prose – and miraculously cured it’ according to Horovitz. Each writer is discussed and anecdotally remembered in the editor’s long ‘Afterwords’-type introductory diatribe. Later on Patrick Waites writes ‘what’s all this talk of dying?/ poets were made to sing’ – and this bulbous two-hundred-plus-page anthology sings in quadraphonic sound and glorious widescreen monochrome. ‘Every rift loaded with ore, all fruit filled with ripeness to the core’ as the cover proclaims. To extend my abysmal introductory metaphor, Michael Horovitz – he of the magic kazoo, raises this unique collection from the earth on his apocalyptical shoulders into a firmament of typewritten constellations. Originally intended as a tenth anniversary issue, delays have meant it becoming the fifteenth birthday manifestation of the series, becoming in the process the most exciting poetry collection I’ve read since Horovitz’s previous milestone – ‘The Children Of Albion’ (Penguin Books, 1969). If the revolution is not to be televised, it could be argued that it has already been put into print. 

Published in: 
‘HAT no.2’ (UK – October 1976) 
‘GARGOYLE no.6’ (USA – August 1977)

Saturday 27 March 2021

Derek Taylor: For Your Radioactive Children


My Derek Taylor TV interview is here...
(I come in at around the 20:27-minute mark)
My Derek Taylor radio interview is here...

Friday 26 March 2021

Cult Albums: Richie Havens





Album Review of: 

He was the Greenwich Village beatnik reading the kind of Beat Generation poetry he strips across the rear album-sleeve. He was the Folkie who played open ‘E’ thumb-chord acoustic guitar with minimalist highly percussive rawness. He took songs by the best contemporary writers, his fluid baritone translating them into his own compelling urgency, while Jeremy & The Satyrs cook dense and busy grooves around him. Issued on prestigious Verve Forecast in 1968, this second album followed ‘Mixed Bag’ (1966) into the lower rungs of both the Pop and Jazz charts, just before he did ‘Woodstock’. Six are Havens originals, three of them written with producer John Court. Loose jerky rhythms, pattering bongos, darting flute, clavinet and smashing gong on “No Opportunity Necessary” – later covered by Yes. “The Klan” is a stark anti-racist weapon, written under alias by Alan Arkin of ‘Catch-22’ and the ‘Pentagon Papers’. Havens even anticipates World Music with the 7:27-minute raga-Rock title-track, which must have been soundtrack for every crash-pad and psychedelic dungeon, even though the stoned bliss liner photos of him wielding the sitar look more of their time than timeless. The shamanistic trance-dance “Run, Shaker Life” proves the devil doesn’t have all the best tunes, because Havens had several of his own. 

Published in: 
‘R’N’R: ROCK ‘N’ REEL Vol.2 no.72 (Nov-Dec)’ 
(UK – November 2018)


CD review of: 
(Stormy Forest/ Evangeline GEL 4080) 

There are artists whose careers dazzle with a phantasmagoria of change, reinvention, style-switches and startling evolutions. There are others who first define the exact limits of their terrain, then stay within them. Although there was a recent collaboration with Groove Armada, suffice to say that Richard P Havens (born 1941) is not one of the former. A Brooklyn street-kid from the Bedford-Stuyvesant area, steeped in Gospel and Doo-Wop, he developed his distinctive style way back in the beatnik hootenanny Greenwich Village coffee-houses, as early as the early sixties folk scene. That insistent acoustic rhythm played on that E-chord open-tuned guitar, that intense, gruff, yet surprisingly interpretive voice which Andy Gill calls a ‘gentle fervour’. His grizzled beard, sandals and beads, investing a powerful, near guru-like presence. 

He’s there, naturally, at ‘Woodstock’. A black folkie in a white genre. Not soul enough for the black market. Something between. An underground figure catching the fragile zeitgeist to perfection as he improvises “Motherless Child” into an impassioned ‘Freedom’. ‘Progressive Folk Blues’ they called it. Perhaps it could now rate as early ‘World Music’ (he uses Turkish violin, bouzouki, and electric sitar here), or some kind of Jose Feliciano fortunate misfit? He’s also better known as an interpreter of other’s songs that as a writer in his own right, having covered Jackson Browne, Marty Balin, Bob Lind, John Martyn and even Pink Floyd (“On The Turning Away”). Whatever, he here revisits himself – most tellingly, through “Woodstock” itself via Joni Mitchell’s oft-recorded anthem, and yet another Dylan – this time it’s “All Along The Watchtower”. But then again, they go back a long way, Havens was there at the 1965 Newport Festival where Dylan first ‘went electric’. 

He goes on to select another Jack Hammer, and also an early Fred Neil song which I’d never heard before, yet “Red Flowers” is a tortured Cold War anti-nukes relic (‘red were the flowers, growing out of the ashes of war’) charged with all the contemporary relevance of the Cuba Crisis. “By The Grace Of The Sun” with its tabla percussion is one of six new Havens’ originals (including instrumental “Dusk”), his highest ratio of own-compositions since 1999’s ‘Time’ which had seven. And this is something like his twenty-seventh album. For some, a melodic irrelevance. But if you liked it then you just might like it now.

Published in: 
‘KEYSTONE no.6’ 
(UK – December 2004)

Thursday 25 March 2021

Gig Archive: Bluetones & Marion, BritPop in Leeds



Gig Review of: 
at the ‘Heineken Festival’, Leeds

What’s so great about living in the mid-nineties? Let me count the ways, (a) this four-day nation of Mad Togs & Englishmen, (b) kicking through an autumn-leaves sediment of crushed lager cans, while (c) submerging in music as familiar and comforting as pools of warm beer. Rock without originality might be an empty experience. But as empty experiences go, it’s still pretty damn good. Take a Bluetonic. Watch Mark Morris do his neat little shuffling dance as the Bluetones bring their lilting “Are You Blue Or Are You Blind” all the way from Hounslow. It’s got all the distinguishing features of Now-Indie without any startlingly different ingredients. But hey, life’s complicated enough. There’s always Sixty-Foot Dolls dragging an energetic mess of neo-Mod Grunge from Newport, Gwent, a power-trio ‘White-Knuckle Ride’, they do a biting “Stay” laced with a Pop-catchy chorus, then close with the Beatles amped-up “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide (Except Me And My Monkey)”. 


Originality? Well – there’s Cecil who open with some taped psychedelic yodelling and close with Vera Lynn, even if what happens between intro and outro is less memorable. While at one point petulant Menswear lead Johnny Dean announces ‘I’m not gonna be satisfied until I can see you STEAM!,’ although it’s left to Marion’s leather terrorist-chic to raise the temperature sufficiently close to meltdown for that to happen. Today, they’re the choice of a New Generation. The first intimations of their status come with the ‘Pretty Vacant’ play-in to “Time”, framed by their symmetry of inward-pointing guitars. Jaime Harding sits on the monitors in all-over black, leaning out into the audience to banter ‘whoever it is throwing cans at the band… make sure you fucking do it right, and actually HIT us!!!’ They’ve largely gone beyond the new-Smiths tag enforced by their ex-Morrissey support spot, and despite the open-air sound they’re tighter than tight on new song “Wait”. Again, originality might not be their strong point. But here at Leeds, it seems even the winner fakes all, and unlike every other A.N. Other band who become increasingly average as the day’s turn-over progresses, Marion power-up the ingredients into a toxic concoction that rollerblades effortlessly across the opposition. There’s an undeniably Morrissey inflection after the harmonica bursts of “Asleep”, but there’s also something oddly like a Robert Plant strangled wail during “My Children”, but then “It Stopped Dancing” is a new drug altogether, out on its own in a solid metal wall of guitar noise. 

That’s what’s so great about living in the mid-nineties. It might not be THAT new. But it’s here. And it’s happening now.

Wednesday 24 March 2021

DVD: 'The Adjustment Bureau' (2011)



Review of: 
With Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, & Terence Stamp. Director: George Nolfi. 
Producer: George Nolfi, Chris Moore, Michael Hackett, 
Bill Carraro, Isa Dick Hacktt & Joel Viertel. 
Original Release: Universal Pictures/ Media Rights Capital, 
March 2011.106-minutes. DVD, Universal Pictures, July 2011

You have to love Dick. While everyone else in the SF continuum was still clumping on about Moon-bases and adventuring to Mars, he – and well, maybe JG Ballard too, was already into the next level of weirdness. Which is why he only later came into posthumous public consciousness. With a vengeance. Arnie’s lumbering ‘Total Recall’, ‘A Scanner Darkly’, Will Smith’s ‘Minority Report’, ‘Screamers’ – plus one of the finest SF films of them all, Ridley Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’, are all derived from his paranoid vision. Now there’s ‘The Adjustment Bureau’ which might just be described as a romance of star-crossed lovers. Although the original Philip Kindred Dick short story – in ‘Orbit’ magazine (September 1954), wasn’t a romance. Nothing like it. But not much of that original plot remains. What stays intact is the theme. The idea. The concept. That familiar Dickian riff that life is not as we know or understand it. 

This time, history is not a random process. It is controlled, edited and manipulated. And the determining factor here is a spilled coffee. David Norris (Matt Damon) is tipped to be New York senator when his campaign is derailed by a prank mooning film-clip from his college years. Already the youngest-ever congressmen, he’s the kind of clean-cut JFK honest politician you only ever find in US productions. He’s snub-nosed in what some might consider an endearingly cute way. He meets a girl in a black dress as she’s coming out of the cubicle in the gents, where she’s been hiding to avoid hotel security. She is Elise (Emily Blunt), who does contemporary dance for the ‘Cedar Lake’ ballet and has something of the arty-cookiness Diane Keaton deployed to such effect in ‘Annie Hall’. ‘Do I know you?’ he asks. No, but he soon will, despite the vast omnipotent cosmic forces ranged against them. They kiss, then she disappears, hotly chased by security. This is where the coffee comes in. With his election plans scuppered he prepares to take the bus to a dull meeting about solar panels. But his movements are being monitored by mysterious Men in Black. It’s they who conspire that he must spill coffee on his shirt at 07:05, setting up a chain of consequences. 

As it is, the operator responsible – Harry (Anthony Mackie) nods off on the bench, and misses the vital moment, an omission that initiates an ‘endless ripple effect’. David catches the bus he was supposed to miss, finds himself sitting next to Elise, eyeing up her attractively abbreviated miniskirt. They are reunited. Then, arriving at the office he finds the personnel frozen into immobility and being scanned by the Men in Black. He’s seen behind a curtain he’s not even supposed to know exists. The correctly spilled coffee would have ensured none of this happened. Now, they must level with him, and warn him off. So they explain that they are the Intervention Team who ‘make sure things happen according to plan’. They monitor the world. They can reset and recalibrate reality. They have ledgers with dots moving across grids to represent the intersection of lives. Some things are meant to happen. Others are not meant to happen. He is destined, it is hinted, for the Presidency. She to become a world-renowned dancer. His career needs his raw hunger. She would fill the hunger, and demotivate him. Hence their love is not part of the plan. So he tries to give her up, he really does. But, like the lyrics from a cheesy Pop-tune, theirs is a love so strong it breaks all the rules. Three years later he’s back on the campaign-trail when he glimpses her on the street, and, despite deliberate obstruction, it begins again. The ‘adjuster’ Thompson (an acidic Terence Stamp) stands at the foot of their bed as they sleep together. ‘Whatever happened to Free Will?’ David protests. Only to be told ‘you don’t have free will. You have the appearance of free will’. ‘All I have is the choices I make’ he argues back, ‘and I choose her’. At the same moment she falls and sprains her ankle, a warning that they’re capable of wrecking her dance-career if events are not kept on-plan. Again, against his better judgment, he walks out on her. 

Some critics detect trace-elements of Christian mythology in the film’s ‘free will’ versus ‘determinism’ equation, but it’s not necessary to buy into such superstitious hokum to be intrigued by the concept. Are they angels? Not quite, although some theologies have seen them that way. Are they an ultimately benevolent extraterrestrial race shepherding truculent delinquent humanity towards a better evolutionary maturity? Or a secretive Dan Brown conspiracy-cabal exerting its tentacular influence in furtherance of its own control-freakery objectives? In truth they seem more a dull grey bureaucracy, headed by the Chairman – no messing here with the non-gender-specific ‘Chair’ or ‘Chairperson’. No, it’s the antique Judeo-Christian male authority figure. And they’ve been guiding history forever. Whenever they step back the Roman Empire collapses into Dark Age barbarism, or Nazi dictators destabilise the world into global war. But Norse pagan mythology also invented the Norns, the three Fates who weave the individual threads of our lives into the vast tapestry of existence. Harry Harrison, with Kathleen Maclean wrote a charming fantasy ‘The Web Of The Norns’ about it. So it’s a recurrent idea. A useful metaphor. 

And eleven months later, David is ahead in the polls. While in a spiteful rebound she’s engaged to her ex. The Plan is back on track. The credits for the film include ‘visual effects’, but its less CGi FX-spectacle than it is human story. The main visual gimmick is the magic doors by which the Adjusters navigate around the city, a network explained in the DVD bonus feature ‘Leaping Through New York’, although in truth it’s a cinema-splice no more impressive than stepping into, and out of the Tardis. Meanwhile, only Adjuster Harry has doubts, with his sense of aggrieved responsibility bothering him. He confides to David that the intensity of their love is due to the fact that in a previous draft of the ‘Plan’ they were destined to be together. Their intense attraction is a ‘remnant from old plans’. So the Plan is not inflexible. It can be amended. Harry also helpfully divulges the secret of the dimensional ‘doors’ – turn the doorknob clockwise and wear a fedora, enabling David to give ‘The Graduate’ wedding-prevention dash a sci-fi twist. One step through the Museum of Modern Art, the next into the Manhattan Pumping Station, a race through the rain in and out of doors as the Bureau pursue and call in the Intervention Team for an Emergency Reality-Reset. 

In a reprise of their first meeting, David finds a troubled Elise again, in the courthouse bathroom, reuniting the lovers. Like the lyrics from another cheesy Pop-tune, he sort-of tells her ‘if loving you is wrong, I don’t want to be right’, and they escape through the door to the foot of the Statue of Liberty, where they determine to take their protest direct to the Chairman. Towards a final confrontation on the roof of a building overlooking Central Park. And the Plan is rewritten in their favour. Strength of will and determination, it seems, can change your destiny. Very little of that is present in the original Philip K Dick short story. Just the idea of the omnipotent ‘Adjustment Team’ monitoring and editing, altering and guiding human lives. So when the internet goes down, and you think it’s chance. Sometimes, just sometimes it is. There was once a cartoon in ‘New Musical Express’ of a nerdy Sci-Fi geek getting seriously menaced for innocently enquiring ‘do you like Dick or Moorcock?’ Well, out beyond the Geek-o-sphere we all love Dick now. Unless we’ve just been adjusted that way?


Director: George Nolfi. Producer: George Nolfi, Chris Moore, Michael Hackett, Bill Carraro, Isa Dick Hacktt & Joel Viertel. Screenplay by George Nolfi, based on the short story “Adjustment Team” by Philip K Dick. With Matt Damon (as David Norris), Emily Blunt (as Elise Sellas), Anthony Mackie (as Harry Mitchell), John Slattery (as Richardson), Anthony Ruivivar (as McCrady), Michael Kelly (as Charlie Traynor), Terence Stamp (as Thompson). Music by Thomas Newman, with two original songs by Richard Ashcroft (“Future’s Bright” & “Are You Ready?” over opening & closing credits. Original Release: Universal Pictures, March 2011.106-minutes. DVD, Universal Pictures, July 2011 Bonus DVD features include: Deleted & Extended Scenes, Leaping Through New York, Destined To Be, Becoming Elise, and George Nolfi Commentary.

Featured on website: 
‘VIDEOVISTA’ (UK – August 2011)