Friday, 28 November 2014

1974, Berlin; another time, another place

in Berlin by the wall
I was 5' 2" tall
it was very nice

In January I started a thread here which I originally intended to be an unbroken series of posts covering the years 1961 to 2014 detailing a musical education and in the process explaining to younger viewers how the past fifty odd years worked.  Things got off to a reasonably good start and we rattled through the sixties quite quickly.  

However, once we got to the 70s things went off the rails due to things that were going on out in the Real World.  April and May turned into a couple of months having a close look at the National Health Service.  (My verdict:  it's a Good Thing.  It needs investment, it needs our support, it's worth fighting for.  I can not for one moment understand why every country in the world doesn't aspire to have a National Health Service like Britain's).  

And with the end of May came an event which made everything else seem unimportant, especially a blog about my musical tastes.  The Corn Poppy took a break and the series went on the back burner.  But after a period of grace the Corn Poppy came out fighting and we were off again.  I was keen to carry on with this series because it had been fun and I was just getting up to the golden years.  

So, in September I did a bit of cheating and reposted all the year by year musical posts day be day. Then I got as far as adding one new entry before we were back checking out the services of the NHS. But we're free from hospital visiting now and  I'm going to have another go. Maybe just to the end of the 70s.  We'll see.

In the 1973 post I rabbited on about how easy it was to move from pop to rock, from Slade and the Sweet to Bowie and Roxy Music and from there on to Lou Reed and King Crimson.  Exploring is in the blood, wanting to find new frontiers and claim them for my own. I wanted to hear everything.  In 1974 I had the chance to explore someone else's map.  Cousin Norbert.

Due to a quirk of history I had a German cousin, some years older than me.  Born in 1946, a Scouse father and ein Berliner mother.  In 1974 I spent the summer in Berlin staying with Norbert. When Cousin Norbert went off to work I either wandered the streets exploring that amazing city or explored his record collection.  

There's a lot I could say about Berlin and how it influenced my world view and political understanding. After all this time the thing I remember most is the difference in colour on each side of the wall.  It was like the difference between Kansas and Oz.  West Berlin was bright and shiny, illuminated by poppy red coke signs and adverts for cameras, cars and music centres.  East Berlin was grey and drab.   There were wayside shrines on the western side of the wall marking the spot where people had tried to cross.  And been shot.

On the eastern side there were some big black limos parked where they could be seen from the West but Norbert said they were just show cars and everybody drove these funny little things called Trabants.  There was a Trabant in the Checkpoint Charlie museum with a petrol tank that had been adapted to hide someone in.

But let's talk about the music.  At that time there were people I'd read about but never had the opportunity to hear.  One was the Moody Blues. Norbert had a whole collection of Moody Blues albums.  I listened to them all once and decided I never needed to listen to them again.  

Then there was the Rolling Stones.  Of course I'd heard the Stones, Satisfaction and other pop hits but I'd never had the chance to listen to Sticky Fingers or Exile on Main Street.  Now I did.  I played them through, again and again.  Then I decided I never needed to hear them again.  

Next: Leonard Cohen.  Andy Warhol said something about Love (or maybe it was sex) being wasted on young people.  He suggested that it be kept a secret until people were 40 then sprung on them at that age when they could truly appreciate it.  I felt this way about Cohen.  I knew it was good but I knew it was beyond my 13 years.  So I made a mental note and filed Leonard Cohen until I was 40.  It was a wise decision.

What else?  Neu, Faust and Can.  I totally rejected the Rolling Stones and Moody Blues and totally embraced Neu, Faust and Can.  And Cluster and Amon Duul II.  Bloody mindedness? Probably.  This was music with its own rule book. You could tell they had listened to Chuck Berry and the Beatles somewhere along the line but that was only a launch pad from which German rock took off.  And left everything else torn in its wake.  Some of it was a bit boring.  Depended how much attention you were paying.  Or possibly how stoned you were.  I was 13.  I wasn't stoned at all.

What else did he have?  Beatles and solo Beatles albums.  One I kept going back to was George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh, particularly Dylan's contribution.  There was a pile of Dylan albums too.  I quite liked these.  

Apart from listening to Cousin Norbert's record collection I used to listen to AFN, American Forces Network.  They would play contemporary pop and also 60s American music to remind the troops what they were defending - music from garage punk to surf.  A typical segue would be Rock your Baby, then  Shimmy, Shimmy Co Co Bop followed by Good Vibrations.  

This was also the summer that I started drinking  coffee and President Nixon resigned. Nixon was on the news all summer, Another Oz like revelation - the mask had been stripped from a world leader and he was revealed as a petty, petty man only interested in self preservation. The whole thing was a charade.

This gave the whole West is Best vibe that permeated Berlin a sour taste.  The West Berlin experience was based on show, on showing the neighbours that we earn more than you, we've got a newer car, we've got a bigger tv,  The whole thing was a charade.

Well, no it wasn't.  The West really did have more than the East, by a long chalk.  But money was being pumped into West Berlin just so that those behind the Iron Curtain could see how Great Things Are - if only you renounce Communism and join us.  I loved West Berlin, I was fascinated by East Berlin.  It kinda made you think.  Would you go for Capitalism (an ideology where Man is exploited by his fellow Man) or Communism (an ideology where Man is exploited by his fellow Man)?

When the wall went up in 1961 Cousin Norbert was on one side and Uncle Charlie was on the other.  They didn't see each other again for decades.  Can you imagine that?

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Left Bank

A rather lovely set of photos from our Paris correspondent, all taken in the neighbourhood called La Butte aux Cailles in the 13th arrondissemont.  That's the hill of quails.  As in the expression "It don't matter no more'n a hill of quail" (Faulkner, Grapes of Wrath, p272).

La Butte aux Cailles has been described as a "a little corner of Spain parachuted into Paris".

merci Mme Akriche

what's this?  . . .

Thursday, 20 November 2014

amidst the wreckage i hear a little voice in space

and although I know
I'll never see your face 
on the road again
come the day 
I'm called away 
we will meet
where the river ends
Song for Jackie Leven, Jinder

Song for Jackie Leven, Jinder, QE2 Activity Centre 2012

Poortoun,  written by Jackie Leven, performed by Jinder, Wells Cathedral  2012

Monday, 17 November 2014

Walked into some cold-bloodedness there

Here I come

Stomp your feet

Gotta get up

Listen to me

Bite the hand

Doctrina de homine

What the hell's this all about?

I didn't pull that trigger, I was just playing with some corner boy

Looking for the murder weapon

Doors open at nine, bro

You know me

 What skills you got that'll help you in the real world

You think your silence is worth something?

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Out for the weekend

She was a ham sandwich of a woman and we won't see her like again

I'm a single mom, I'm never coming back here

I've waited for this my whole life

I like mad numbers

I'm not reading any distraction behaviour

It's rare these days that somebody delivers what they say

A compliment is never wasted on me

I have a message for you

Got my face on the ace

He is one smug bastard,  that Jools

Toby, the bet's off

You're the 43rd innocent person I've booked in this week

Ben Naz Forever


Ben Naz Guerilla Artist.

Rumple Stiltskin

Today in Leake Street graffiti artists, street artists, urban artists, skateboard punks, druggy downtown kids have gathered to show their respect by covering the Leake Street tunnel with tributes.  Yesterday members of the Secret Society of Superhero Villain Artists (Southwest) gathered in Portsmouth (following Together in Solitude) to do the same.

Here's some new paint from the Fratton Park walls.

Rumple Stiltskin

Rumple Stiltskin

The Agent

The Agent/Angus

 The Agent



 Fratton Park

Jip Cr2em, Leake Street, September 2104