Hawkwind, Road to Utopia (aka High Wycombe)

Hawkwind meets Mike Batt is probably one of the battiest combinations anyone could think of.

But here we are with ROAD TO UTOPIA

And get the album cover with its equally batty image of a most perfect Englishness almost unmatched since Pink Floyd decided to go quaint with Ummagumma. Along with the flying saucer, Cosmism remains alive.hawkwind road to utopia

Quark, Strangeness and Charm turned into a Brazilian rumba that would get any party started, is the opening track. Robert Calvert will be turning in his grave…if in fact he is dead and not merely play-acting…

The beauty of all this for me is that our old-time fave psychedelic band Hawkwind is on Cherry Red Records who in turn now sponsor Wycombe Wanderers.

A perfect circle.

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Eagles vs Poco

Eagles versus Pocosonoran

That is the perennial question.

Eagles came up with a whole bunch of tunes that soothed the soul, whereas Poco just kept on challenging your ability to concentrate.

Be lulled into soft love or have your consciousness centers called into play.

Of course, Eagles sensibility won out. (And I’m not saying that’s wrong.)

Sleep under the stars or have engagement under the stars.

cropped-vanfrontSleep in the desert, or walk in the desert?

Eagles versus Poco

That is a perennial question.

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Freedom Music becomes Literature

Think about it…

jimi
Peace & Love

Rock music was so sixties…so seventies…and its voice was freedom and anti-war – which all got gobbled up in the eighties and beyond; so that now we are returned to the rhetoric of let’s-have-war and clamp down on dissent. People are returned to their rubbish fear of no genuine enemy and a willingness to be subsumed by a fear of non-existent threats – funnily enough, the same ones of yore: Iran, Russia, N Korea.
There has been no British or American novelistic literature of the past forty years – not worth mentioning – or, really, post-war. Orwell and Kerouac set their stuff in the forties. Everything has been manipulated to sustain the Establishment. Literature is the Establishment. A couple of Russians have made their forays into the full-frontal consciousness of Westerners, Solzhenitsyn and Pasternak (Bulgakov goes way back to Stalin), and that’s about it.
No apologies – there HAVE BEEN NO liberationist writers of any substance in this era, the one being referred to; there have been feminist, gay and black writers, as there have been south american, turkish, arabic novelists and so forth, but they have concerned themselves with ghettoised not universal concerns. Only rock music has traversed the divide.
Think of how Hendrix doing Star Spangled Banner epitomises the whole anti-war pro-freedom movement and sentiment strong at that time.
The FBI, CIA and SIS did not concern themselves overly with any writers around then. The literati could not convey meaning in the manner that the musicians were able to accomplish.
But today – or soon – I hope these secret intelligence services will have to concern themselves with what is being written by bona fide spot on writers who have the graphic intelligence to grasp and grapple with contemporary matters in a fictionalised mode that encapsulates and transgresses the masses’ hopes and fears in the way the rock musicians were able to do fifty years ago.
Since music has now become a spent political force…

sorry r n r
The literati failed – not r n r

Let Rock music become literature.
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Authenticity

Well, it’s gotta come – that feeling of…of…
Let me say, first of all, ‘rock’ ain’t rock and roll. R n r is originally blackspeak for sex – you know, the orthodox heterosexual kind when a man and woman get it together and they rock and they roll and they get the feeling real good.
Whereas Rock is a kind of philosophy of freedom which dates back to the French Encylopedists but probably finds its most recent and clearest ratiocination in the writings of Soren Kirkegaard (b. Denmark, 1813-55).

Kierkegaard
“Boredom is the root of all evil – the despairing refusal to be oneself.”

You’ve just got to look at this guy to know he would have been the ultimate rock star, with his big dreamy eyes, pouty lips and masses of quiffed-up hair. Really, he makes someone like Mick Jagger even in his prime look positively ursine. What’s more, after being reviled by the media, he died young! That boy was born to rock. But not to roll. Early doors, he gave up on love – and the love of his life – owing to a crisis of faith. The Copenhagen philosopher contained sheer inner angst no popstar of the last seventy years could possibly match – not even Elvis ‘The King’ Presley, in all honesty.

Referring to his beloved, the Danish heart-throb wrote in secret, ‘Everywhere, in the face of every girl, I see features of your beauty’ (Journals & Papers of Søren Kierkegaard, 11 August 1838), which could very well have been the inspiration behind Bell & Creed’s ‘You Are Everything’ (Avro, 13 May 1971) as performed by the Stylistics. ‘Today I saw somebody, Who looked just like you, She walked like you do, I thought it was you.’

As the daddy of modern existentialism and rock philosophy, Kirkegaard concerned himself greatly with ideas of ‘authenticity’. By this, he mostly meant being the person you can be (not necessarily ‘the best’ you – just the real you). Later, this translated into applying your energies to a cause you would be prepared either to live for entirely, or indeed die for. An oddly oxymoronic notion, I’ll grant.
Coming across a band, performer or music, you are looking for just this ‘authenticity’. Which means? Well, do they have sincerity in what they are playing or saying? Do they believe it? Or are they just approximating something they think they ought to be conveying? A thought. An attitude.
That’s the thing. It doesn’t matter if they can’t play their instruments like virtuosos, look like gods, hit all the high notes or wear the proper gear.
Do they mean it?
Do they convey it authentically?
Or is the act a sham? An ‘act’, in fact.
The problem here concerns rock n roll. On rock, we ought to be be on safer ground.
For a start, we know r n r is all about sex; so an r n r performer who does not convey this basic requirement is failing. That’s straightforward enough. Their performance is not authentic. They can of course save the whole issue by forgetting the roll and bringing forth something out of the ‘rock’ component, and if they do this then all is not lost. This, then, essentially means attitude. If they are not making you think about sex, then what are they making you think about? Of course, the passive partner in the entertainment – the observer, listener – may only want to lose all sense of feeling, so that a few hits of some chemicals followed by a series of head-banging chords, a soaring chorus or a carefully orchestrated dance routine is all that is required (maybe even without the chemicals, in some cases). To be fair, no authenticity at all is being required here, since what is being sought is pure knock-out escapism. But, if we are going to allow ourselves to rather grandly draw principles developed by first-rate thinkers of whatever century or nation into our calculus, then sheer entertainment is not what we are talking about. Remember, we are talking about life and death – about something to live for, something to die for – about being who you proclaim to be. Your very inner being projected to the outside.
‘Who Are You?’ as Peter Townshend asked.
Now, the other thing about authenticity is that the label attached to it may be altered.
Rock is about freedom. It is all about freedom. Nothing else. The first stirrings of freedom are that you are able to do and have thoughts not designated by somebody else. Your thinking is your own thinking, your actions similarly your own. That’s the first thing. That’s the initial element of rock – that it creates independence (however fleeting). If exposure to a rock performance of some kind doesn’t induce liberation in its audience then it has signally failed. End of. That is why simply being entertained and merely forgetting your everyday life for a short period does not count as freedom. That is just nullity. Freedom requires action of some kind, even if that action only refers to brainwaves.
Which pretty much brings us on to the point of this blog. Watching the old-timers who started out with an idea of liberating their audience, at least in part, you are always left with the impression of watching a bunch of guys going through the motions, no matter how much they or their audience are apparently enjoying themselves, and not unnaturally after all these years. You shouldn’t really expect a whole lot that’s new. Although, it would be great if that still occurred. Simply going over the same ground over and over again is not really particularly satisfying to those who really do constantly seek liberation. You can be lulled. You can be annulled. But you cannot have it all. You cannot be free and safe at the same time. Not here.

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All Hail the Flag

union jackThe Union Jack was always shameful to us. Rightly so. That flag was – and is – the symbol of empire and therefore nothing to be proud of. As children growing up in a little South Bucks village we knew as much, despite what the adults might try to teach us. Those unearthly, archaic crosses of three patron saints combined in one panel has fluttered over some of the worst atrocities ever committed by mankind against fellow human beings. We were aware of that. Watched it on our tv screens. Images of khaki-clad British soldiers were seen patrolling the sun-drenched streets of Aden – part of Yemen – while threatening the local population with their rifles.aden soldiers Even as a kid, you could see this was wrong, a misuse of power. Only later did I discover the British Army were stationed there to protect the oil interests of the privately-owned British Petroleum conglomerate and to help the Saudi royal household sow seeds of religious discontent amongst a growing pan-Arabic movement led by their shared arch-enemy, Nasser. Just as the British Army are there now for much the same reason, helping out their oil-producing Saudi allies as they blockade the old Aden port, destroy Yemen’s infrastructure and condemn hundreds of thousands of human beings to death by bombing, starvation and disease. With that in mind, can you possibly say that you are proud to be British or that you hold any reverence whatsoever for the Union Jack?

who jack
How to look cool in GB circa ’67

Growing up, I never could understand how The Who permitted themselves to use the Union Jack as a symbol of the band; although I got how Mary Quant and Swinging London might adopt it as a logo to increase brand awareness and increase sales. Maybe The Who wanted to make clear they weren’t American, I don’t know. The Jam used the same image a decade later, as did Oasis twenty years after that. Somehow, I cannot link youthful rebellion and the desire for freedom to think and act with such a profound image of conservative establishment authority. And I don’t think that I am alone in this anymore. At last, it is being recognised by a new generation as such. This modern anti-Brexit, pro-world generation is waking up to the awful overtones contained in those crosses, as did the German youth during the nineteen-seventies gain an understanding of what had been done in their name – and then conveniently glossed over by a previous generation – under the aegis of a black swastika emblazoned on a white circle set against a red background. If you think the Union Jack is cool – as it was considered during Blair’s Labour government, the same one that lied to a public supposedly represented by the saintly crosses in order to launch wars against the old anti-British-imperialist foes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria – then you are a fool. As a matter of fact, I could only take to the Who after they released ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’. Hah!

oasis union jack
Quasi-military pose set against the Union Jack adopted by the fun-loving Gallaghers

I watched the collapse of one empire – the British one, and now it looks as though I may be privy to the collapse of yet another empire, this time the American one.
If the Union Jack is the emblem par excellence of British imperialism, and nobody could possibly argue with that as a statement, then the Stars and Stripes, too, conveys the image of brutal military dictatorship and underhand espionage deployed to subjugate whole nations and peoples, those who have no desire to be ruled so. American governments, like their British counterparts use of the Union Jack, have had no compunction about raising the Star Spangled Banner above the heads of those whose lives they despise and whom they would control through the use of unbridled force and lies. And that’s just their own people. Look further abroad and you will discover a whole litany of dirty tricks and military might deployed against the better wishes of peoples around the globe, from Pyongyang to Kiev to Tehran and all the places in between. Full-spectrum dominance means just that, and when the cowardly American generals and politicians feel they can get away with it, they will plunder and utterly dismantle any person or persons or country that stand in their way. Just as the British taught them to do, and still would, if they could. Killing and torture, lying and subterfuge, are second nature within the American republic. Their only goal, like the British before them, is to cower humanity and rob the planet of all its resources while they bestride their imperial thrones and military hardware, lording it while saluting the imperial flag and looking over the remaining quivering mass of virtual human slaves.
usa flag
Nota bene. Just as the Americans had to leave Vietnam, routed by a determined resistance movement prepared to fight back and develop its own ideology , so the British finally had to leave Aden/Yemen in nineteen sixty-seven, driven out by the organised resistance of the nation’s Arabs (although the current activity of the British government shows that old colonial sentiments continue to exist.) Like I said, my first images of British imperialism came by way of the tv screen when I was growing up; they, the politicians, the armed forces and the mainstream media are not prepared to make that same mistake again, showing virtually no footage of what is actually happening in present-day Yemen, and only occasionally providing an – extremely skewed – analysis of the situation. You – and they – have been warned.
All hail the flag!

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