Friday, 31 July 2009

ONE STELLA TOO MANY FOR JACK KEROUAC?


Truman Capote once famously bitched about On The Road saying “That’s not writing – that’s typing”. But it’s Jack Kerouac’s mother’s writing that’s been in the news this week, and it turns out she definitely wasn’t writing.

I’ll cut the convoluted saga to the bone. Being a big mummy’s boy, Jack, despite being married to his third wife Stella Sampas, left everything in his will to his mother Gabrielle. Jack died in 1969. When Gabrielle died in 1973 she left everything to Stella. The Sampas family, now headed by John Sampas (Stella died in 1990) has done a roaring trade flogging Jack’s work and reaping the royalties ever since. However, this week after a monumental legal case started by Jack’s unwanted and neglected daughter Jan in 1994, a county court in Florida has ruled Gabrielle’s signature on her will is a forgery. Dun-dun-durrr.

This is too late for Jan Kerouac who died in 1996, but maybe not for Jack’s nephew, Paul Blake Jr. – currently living in a mobile home without a toilet in Arizona - who Jack wrote the day before he died with this memorable passage:

“I've turned over my entire estate, real, personal, and mixed, to Memere, and if she dies before me, it is then turned to you, and if I die thereafter, it all goes to you.... I just wanted to leave my "estate? (which is what it really is) to someone directly connected with the last remaining drop of my direct blood line, which is, me, sister Carolyn, your Mom, and not to leave a dingblasted fucking goddam thing to my wife's one hundred Greek relatives. I also plan to divorce, or have her marriage to me, annulled. Just telling you the facts of how it is”.

Someone sporting a fuck-off told-you-so grin is Gerald Nicosia, author of the most detailed Kerouac biography so far, Memory Babe. Nicosia has been raving like a man possessed against John Sampas for years about skullduggery at play and how shabbily Sampas has treated Jack’s estate; particularly the way he hawked individual items: Jack’s raincoat and other personal items were sold to Johnny Depp, and the original On The Road scroll manuscript for $2.43 million to Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts who are a football team apparently; not a Midwestern stud farm as I thought. (Personally I’m glad Irsay bought the scroll as he has generously toured it around the globe so I got to see it; something I never dreamed would happen). Those are the eye catching deals but according to Nicosia plenty other items have found their way into the hands of dealers that could only have originated from Sampas. Quite what Nicosia has to gain from all this is subject of much debate but one of his grievances is the archive should be kept together in a library as an important public archive and not broken up and scattered across the globe to wealthy collectors. (It now does live in the New York Public Library but is still executed by Sampas).

Nicosia has made few friends and plenty of enemies in his tireless and aggressive campaign but he’ll feel suitably vindicated as he watches slices of humble pie going down from those who dismissed him as an irritating asshole and Jan Kerouac as a liar out for the family silver by claiming the will was faked. John Sampas, who has kept his head down in comparison, was once quoted as saying “Gerald Nicosia's poisoned hand will never touch the Kerouac archive. His touch is the touch of death”. Interesting choice of words there John. So, whose poisoned hand was it that faked Gabrielle Kerouac’s will to steal the estate of Jack Kerouac?

www.geraldnicosia.com
www.cosmicbaseball.com

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

JULY PLAYLIST


If you’d wandered in to Monkey Mansions during July, just before you heard stars you may have heard one of these:

1. Tommy Ridgley – “Monkey Man” (1953)
Jumping New Orleans R&B songs about monkey men are always a hit round these parts.

2. Brenda Holloway – “Crying Time” (1965)
Our Brenda never cut anything less than fabulous for Motown who pissed her talent up the wall and left magical moments like this in the can for forty years.

3. The Spinners – “Truly Yours” (1966)
The lines “But the one thing I’ll never understand/ How you found the nerve to take a pen in your hand/ And sign the letter truly yours” sound more Dylan than Hunter/Stevenson.

4. Nick Drake – “At The Chime Of The City Clock” (1970)
Not the purists view but Drake’s songs were improved tenfold by adding strings and saxophones.

5. Mose Allison – “Wild Man On The Loose” (1970)
Mose lets rip on the organ, a big brassy band gallop down the road apiece, there’s a tiger in the street and a wild man on the loose.

6. Tommy Tate – “If You Got To Love Somebody” (1977)
A floating cloud of delightful disco. Sorry, “modern soul”.

7. The Fall – “Repetition” (1977)
When feeling particularly crotchety (and remember this is the Fall we’re talking about) they’d play this “for three hours” infuriating the punks so much they’d start fighting. Way to go.

8. Television Personalities – “Geoffrey Ingram” (1980)
The TVPs take Geoffrey from A Taste of Honey and wrap him in their quaint easy charm. “Me and Geoff got to a Jam gig, we got there too late/ The Marquee was sold out and it was only five past eight”.

9. The Campbell Stokes Sunshine Recorder – “Track One” (2009)
From the album Makes Your Ears Smile. Does exactly what it says.

10. Ben Kweller – “Old Hat” (2009)
It’s not easy to make Country music cool but it is possible. Exhibit A.

Monday, 27 July 2009

MORRISSEY at BRIXTON ACADEMY


“A punctured bicycle, on a hillside desolate, will nature make a man of me yet?” I’m singing at the top of my voice. My best mate Jonny Wilks has his arms outstretched as we reel around the fountain. There’s no denying we’re mincing about. We’re walking home from school and it’s 1984.

“When in this charming car, this charming man.” A quarter of a century later and Morrissey is using the song to open his set. It doesn’t sound like mine and Jonny’s version, nor Morrissey and Marr’s. It’s like he’s joined a pub rock band on some beer crates at the back of the Swan and Bottle. Only louder. You’d think this song would kick things off big time yet the reaction is surprisingly lukewarm, not helped by the relatively obscure “Billy Budd” that follows it, nor “Black Cloud” one of the weaker tracks from the current Years of Refusal LP.

“How Soon Is Now” should be a winner, and you can dress it up with as many bangs on a giant gong as you want, but the band bludgeon all the friction and edginess out of it. Subtlety isn’t their strong point. I’d expect Smiths numbers to sound different but there’s “different” and there’s “a bit shite”. Dylan gigs are games of Name That Tune where he’s reworked, rearranged and rewritten songs with varying degrees of success. At their worst they’re interesting. Moz’s Smiths versions aren’t interesting, they’re simply bad versions. Other victims were “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others”, “Ask” and “Girlfriend In A Coma”. Maybe I’m being too precious about them but I was praying for the butchery to stop.

Some of the blame must go to the sound engineer. Morrissey was in good strong voice, crystal clear, but the rest, especially the guitars, were a stodgy mush. For forty quid a ticket it’s not asking too much to be able to distinguish one instrument from another. But why the need for three guitars anyway?

The new tracks from Years of Refusal fared better as they’re meaty, glam-punkish affairs to begin with, although none surpassed their recorded cousins. Moz, for his part, still can’t find a pair of jeans to fit properly; still possesses that gangly awkwardness a thousand years in the business hasn’t smoothed over; and is still weighed down by the sack of spuds he carries on his shoulder due to perceived ill treatment by the beastly British music press. “How many came to review our little show? None”. Later he whinges like a moaning ninny about a previous reviewer before introducing “The World Is Full of Crashing Bores”. Rather than reveling in outsider chic it came across as somewhat sad and pitiful, like Lenny Bruce and his persecution complex.

I’ll give credit for a thoughtful set list. It was far from a greatest hits – or even recent hits – collection (what constitutes a hit these days?) with curios thrown in the small pocket of diehards at the front, eager to touch the hem of his garment, probably appreciated more than the casual fan. “The Loop” was transformed from weedy skiffle into raucous rockabilly and was the surprise highlight until the one-song encore of “First Of The Gang To Die” lifted proceedings with a welcome spring in its step.

After 25 years of not wishing to spoil my nostalgic boyhood memories, it feels like I’ve killed the golden goose. I still love you Morrissey; only slightly less than I used to.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

THE FLIPSIDE PRESENTS: JOANNA (1968)


Just when you think you’ve seen every Swinging London film, the Flipside team unearths a new one to show at the NFT.

I was trying to think how to describe it, when in the Q&A session afterward, director Mike Sarne offered advice on pitching films to secure funding. Investors, he said, rarely read beyond the first full stop so you’ve got to hook them straight away with something simple they’ll like and understand. Joanna was pitched as “the female Alfie”, and in many ways it is. But before you rub your hands in glee, it’s not as good as that.

Joanna breezes into technicolour London from her grey upbringing and sets about coldly pursuing the groovy London lifestyle via a string of liaisons with rich married men, artists, Lords and shady characters before becoming pregnant. Played by Genevieve Waite, Joanna accrues a dazzling wardrobe of 1968 outfits and looks foxy in a Twiggy way but talks in a ditzy, childlike voice meant to sound cute but is actually bleeding annoying. That makes the film difficult to take seriously – not that it’s a serious film by any stretch of the imagination, yet probably has a vaguely serious message in it somewhere about the pursuit of happiness.

There are great scenes of London streets, the Southbank (including one where she bangs the wall of the NFT), a shopping spree, cool fashions, an art exhibition, and the obligatory skipping through the pigeons in Trafalgar Square moment. Any 60s film with all that is worth watching but as a cross between Alfie and Darling it falls someway short of both.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

SUGAR PIE DESANTO - GO GO POWER: THE COMPLETE CHESS SINGLES 1961-1966


For over forty years, from the Twisted Wheel to the Mousetrap, the feisty sound of Sugar Pie Desanto as graced Mod clubs throughout the land. Many a well polished shoe has had its sole leather worn thin to the rhythm and soul shuffle of “Soulful Dress”, “I Don’t Wanna Fuss”, “In The Basement” and “Go Go Power”. Her duet, “Do I Make Myself Clear”, with Etta James remains in DJ boxes for whenever the added oomph of a sure fire classic is needed on the dancefloor.

All these and more are collected on Kent’s impressive new 24 track compilation. It’s a bit late in the day to drag up the vinyl versus CD argument but it would be remiss not to mention how different those singles sound on this CD. Much of the life digitally sucked out of them. This is obviously less apparent on the lesser heard numbers and there are plenty of those to enjoy with quality performances from both Desanto and her crack team of Chess players: the raunchy “Use What You Got”; the girl group bounce of “There’s Gonna Be Trouble”; and the polished Motown production of “Here You Come Running”.

But for all this, and the stylish booklet, it’s the inclusion of the previously unreleased “Witch For A Night” that makes this an utterly essential purchase. Recorded during the 1966 “Go Go Power” sessions, it’s a similarly upbeat stormer, and one of – if not the – fastest in her catalogue. It’s structure and overall driving force makes me think of Etta’s “Mellow Fellow” and just as that’s become a staple of Mod clubs (to the point of overplay) “Witch For A Night” would certainly be held in the same esteem had it received the release it so blatantly deserved. Stabbing horns, rolling Hammond, sharp guitar break and a rasping vocal, it’s everything you could wish for.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

INTERNATIONAL TIMES ARCHIVE LAUNCH


The International Times Archive was launched on Thursday accompanied by a suitably psychedelic light show over Hoppy’s photographs at the Idea Generation Gallery.

Every issue of the hippy underground bible (usually known as IT) is now available on-line with scans of each page in all their original hotchpotch glory. I’ve frittered loads of time, randomly clicking to read the happenings that attempted to focus the minds of those out of their minds since its first edition in 1966. For example, on the day I was born the freaks were watching a programme of Kenneth Anger films at the Arts Lab on Drury Lane; had something to eat at the Golden Egg on Oxford Street; and were looking forward to “a barbecue and dance with steel bands, the Action and other groups” at the Notting Hill Festival the next day.

There’s also a search facility that allows more considered research. I searched for “Reggie King” and was rewarded with a gig review all my previous investigations had failed to uncover. You can view the results in plain text or from the original page layout. The site is basic, old fashioned looking, unattractive and can be slow - like an old hippy, hey! - but it’s worth persevering.

www.internationaltimes.it

Saturday, 18 July 2009

A TOAST TO HUNTER S. THOMPSON

Had Hunter S. Thompson not taken his own life in 2005, today would have been his 72nd birthday.

Seems only right and proper to toast the good doctor with a drink at the very least. Here, our man has a suggestion. Cheers!

Friday, 17 July 2009

SOUL POWER


Soul Power, a new film by Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, documents the 3-day music festival held in Zaire during 1974 to compliment the Ali-Foreman “Rumble In The Jungle” world title fight.

If there’s one plane journey to have been on, it’s the one that flew the musicians from New York. Talk about unbridled excitement. James Brown, Bill Withers, BB King and whole bands of Afro-America’s finest getting down, singing, dancing and partying hard onboard. How the pilot stayed on course and resisted the urge to join them is a mystery. And when they step off the plane they’re greeted by Muhammad Ali and continue having it large on the tarmac.

Using only footage recorded during 1974, the film, apart from the occasional on-screen caption, looks like an unearthed movie rather than a new production – which is a good thing; and it’s what it is, really. There’s plenty of “going back to the motherland” and much talk of “blackness” throughout, with everyone in high spirits feeling a huge sense of freedom, adventure and comradeship. Ali was the star of ’74 and his quick wit and fierce intellect steals every scene he’s in. Going to swat a fly on his arm, he misses, “even the flies here are faster, in America, they’re too slow, too fat”. Asked whether blacks and whites were “brothers” he launched into an articulate, eloquent tirade of why they weren’t. Watching this you can’t help but feel terribly sad about how Parkinson’s has affected him. Not Parky, he wasn’t even a contender.

The film includes performances by The Spinners (who were fantastic fun throughout), Miriam Makeba, BB King, Bill Withers, Celia Cruz and the Fania All-Stars, Big Black, The Crusaders and others. As enjoyable as it was to watch once, there's too much conga slapping and bongo bashing for my taste. Finally, to a typically OTT introduction, comes Jaaaaaames Broooowwwn; the moment I’d been waiting for. He was good the 50s, great in the 60s, but peaked when he discovered the joys of the lycra jumpsuit in the early 70s. Even with his little tubby belly sticking out, he gets on the good stack-heeled-shoed foot, and turns it loose. Simply superb. But there wasn’t enough of JB. Gimme some more. With the DVD due in November, here’s hoping for some extra tracks.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

A MONKEY'S TALE #1: A POT TO PISS IN


I get back to my hotel room shortly after two. They call it a hotel but it’s more a large B&B. I’ve had five or six pints of Stella and two JD and cokes. I’m pissed but not shit faced.

I kick off my shoes, drop my shirt on the floor, put my trousers over the chair as neatly as I can manage, take off my socks then pause. Normally I wouldn’t sleep in my pants but something about the grubbiness of the sheets makes me think twice and keep them on. Within seconds I’m asleep.

As is the way these days, I wake in the middle of the night needing a tinkle. Go to the bathroom and shut the door behind me. Hang on. I’m not in the bathroom. I’m in the corridor. Bollocks. Push the door. Locked. Push harder. Still locked. You’re having a laugh. Shit. What am I going to do? Before I can think about that, the issue of needing a leak becomes urgent. Run down three flights of stairs to the ground floor. No toilets. Run back up to my floor. No toilets there either. Oh yeah, all the rooms are en-suite. I’m getting desperate. Go back down the stairs. There’s a small potted plant on the landing. Hmmm. Consider it but judge it wouldn’t take it all and carpet is a pale blue colour that’ll show the spillage too clearly. And seeing how at some point I’ll have to get help I’ll be too obviously the culprit.

Back on the ground floor and I’m hopping about wildly and panicking. Shall I go outside? You madman. Bad enough being locked out my room in my skimpy pants let alone out in the street. The lounge. Come on, come on, there’s got to be something there. Would a cushion soak it all up? Ridiculous idea. The breakfast room. I expect the door to be locked but it’s not and I go in. Hallelujah! Those little silver tea pots all lined up glistening, beckoning. Ahhhhh. And relax. Except the pot’s rapidly filling so I pinch hard and grab a larger pot. And finish. Phew. Relief.

But now I realise I’m stood in the darken breakfast room of a shabby hotel in a miserable seaside town at quarter to five in morning holding two pots of piss dressed only in my Calvin Klein’s. In a fleeting glass-half-full moment I thank the Lord for the grubbiness of those sheets.

I wander around before finding a small sink under a counter and rinse the pots before putting back on tables. It’s too early to wake the hotelier – not that I know how to anyway – so go back to my room and curl up on the floor outside. It’s draughty but I fall asleep before waking up again and, yep, need another piss. Repeat.

It’s now half seven and I reckon it’s a reasonable time to take a deep breath and summon help. In the reception I spot a “please call for assistance” buzzer. It’s deafening. Immediately from a hatch under the stairs right next to the breakfast room pops the head of an angry troll. In a Mr. Reasonable voice I go, “Excuse me, do you have a spare key for room 4?” He doesn’t strike me as the type of chap that would normally object to half naked men standing in front of him but even he apparently draws the line at puffy eyed old mods stinking of beer and piss covered in red blotchy imprints from his scratchy synthetic carpet. Silently he gives me the key and I hot foot it trying to look as casual as the circumstances allow.

At this stage I should just pack my bag and leg it in shame but I go to bed meaning I see him again when I check out. “Sorry about that earlier, I must’ve been sleepwalking and found myself locked out”. He doesn’t say much and I’m out of there.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

COOL AS FUCK PLAYLIST


Don’t normally do DJ playlists but here’s what I played at Cool As Fuck in Hastings on Friday.

The brief recommended uptempo 45s with a bit of Motown for a mixed crowd including a few scooterists. Seemed a perfect opportunity to revive some old soul classics I wouldn’t normally play at hardcore mod/R&B nights. And no, before you ask, that didn’t include “The Snake”.

The following transformed a miserable depressing hovel of an inbred seaside town so wretched you feel the compulsion to shoot heroin in your eyes, into a sizzling orgy of frantic tail feather shaking.

2330-0015
Eddie Holland – Baby Shake (Motown)
Sugar & Sweet – You Don’t Have To Cry (Pep)
Jimmy Elledge – Gonna Turn Your Voodoo On (RCA Victor)
Bobby Marchan – Chickee Wah-Wah (Gale)
Dorie Williams – Tell Me Everything You Know (635)
Otis Rush – Homework (Duke)
Artie Golden – Look Out (Sunshine)
The Rollers – Troubles (Bel-Star)
Johnny Watson – I Say, I Love You (King)
Roy Roberts – Got To Have Your Love (Ninandy)
Alder Ray – My Heart Is In Danger (Minit)
The Four Shells – Hot Dog (Volt)
Ray Scott – Right Now (Decca)
Dalton Boys – I’ve Been Cheated (VIP)
Aretha Franklin – Tighten Up Your Tie, Button Up Your Jacket (Columbia)
Edwin Starr – I Have Faith In You (Ric-Tic)
The O’Jays – Lipstick Traces (Imperial)
The Groove – Love Is Getting Better (Wand)
David Dunn – Say Ain’t It So (Lori)

0050-0125
Rufus Thomas – Turn Your Damper Down (Stax)
Big Maybelle – Quittin’ Time (Direction)
Grover Pruitt – Little Girl (Salem)
The Dippers – Goin’ Ape (Diplomacy)
Rufus Lumley – I’m Standing (Horton)
The Downbeats – Request Of A Fool (Tamla)
Isley Brothers – This Old Heart Of Mine (Tamla Motown)
Kim Weston – Helpless (Gordy)
Gloria Grey – It’s A Sweet World (Warner Brothers)
Sugar Pie Desanto – Here I Come Running (Checker)
Jimmy Bell – What’cha Gonna Do About Me (Hickory)
Banny Price – You Love Me Pretty Baby (Jewel)
Mike Pedecin – Burnt Toast and Black Coffee (Federal)
Ernie Washington – Lonesome Shack (Chattahoochee)
Sugar Boy Williams – Little Girl (Herald)
Prince Conley – I’m Going Home (Satellite)

NATIONAL ART HATE WEEK


Black sheep of the art world Billy Childish, Jamie Reid, James Cauty and Harry Adams are up to their antagonistic best promoting National Art Hate Week which begins tomorrow.

What’s it all about? In part:

"NATIONAL ART HATE WEEK is a call for direct action against the mass acceptance of art as a false economy for the smug manipulative elite and their ensuing grip of control over culture as a tool for mediated emotion, market lead non-critical homogeny, and boring popularism."

Sounds reasonable.

For further propaganda see www.arthate.com

Thursday, 9 July 2009

VIC TEMPLAR DOES HIS CHUNKERS


I like writers who suffer for their art. Who drag themselves through the streets at dawn looking for an angry fix. Who burn in the bowels of hell before clawing themselves back by their filthy fingernails only to lose their grip and slide further in to the abyss. Who slip from wanton hedonism to abject misery in the space of a page.

Vic Templar is not one those writers. Yet his little book of short stories shows he too has suffered. Stung by a wasp, he was. On his tongue. It’s not quite walking 47 miles of barbed wire, using a cobra snake for a necktie, but it’s a start. His warm, matey, nostalgic style is more Nick Hornby than Nick Kent but his musings on his nan, his dustman, playing golf with monks, and forgetting his friend’s name raise a sneaky smile.

Vic Templar Does His Clunkers is the equivalent of sitting for hours on a Sunday watching repeats of Come Dine With Me, with a warm mug of tea in one hand, a custard cream in the other, and the cat curled up on your lap. And, believe it or not, there are times when that’s preferable to drinking absinthe from a shoe with winos, junkies and whores.

Vic Templar Does His Chunkers is published by Blackheath Books, priced £5.
www.blackheathbooks.org.uk

JOHN "HOPPY" HOPKINS EXHIBITION FOOTAGE

In case my review earlier still hasn't encouraged you to Hoppy's exhibition - or if you live too far away - here's a short video of the opening night produced by the Idea Generation Gallery. Get along if you can.



John “Hoppy” Hopkins: Against Tyranny is at the Idea Generation Gallery, 11 Chance Street, Bethnal Green, London until 19th July 2009, admission free.

http://www.ideageneration.co.uk/generationgallery.php

Sunday, 5 July 2009

NAKED LUNCH 50th ANNIVERSARY at the BEAT HOTEL, PARIS


July 2009 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch by Olympia Press in Paris. To mark this auspicious occasion, this week the city hosted a number of events to pay tribute: Burroughs scholars attended a three day symposium; Naked Lunch @ 50: Anniversary Essays was published; and at the site of the Beat Hotel, a commemorative plaque was unveiled.

The Beat Hotel, home at various times from 1957 to Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso at el, and birthplace of countless creations from poems to cut-ups, paintings to Dream Machines, closed in 1963 and is now the swanky Relais Hotel Vieux Paris. There’s nothing left of the old interior, save some timber beams and joists the new rooms have been built around. The rooms have been spruced up, decorated in sea of migraine inducing garishness: the same bright flowery pattern on the wallpaper, bedspread and headboard, curtains, cushions and table cloth. In its heyday it was officially known solely by the address of 9 Rue Git-Le-Coeur. The Beat Hotel title, given by Corso, made it sound grander than it was; in modern parlance it would be a shithole. There really was a hole in the floor the residents shat in, and those who didn’t bring their own paper made do with pages of the telephone directory. The rooms were known as cells, some, like Corso’s, you had to crawl on your knees to get in. There was little light and the electricity barely powered a dim light bulb and tiny radio in each room. What it did have was cheap rent, you were left alone, you could do what you wanted and providing the owner Madame Rachou (and her cat, Mirtaud) liked you, you’d have the authorities kept off your case. This freedom attracted the bohemian community of writers, poets, painters, photographers and prostitutes to live and for the Beats – especially Burroughs – to create.

Feeling the heat closing in on sweltering day fifty years later, around 80 people from both sides of the Atlantic and a film crew, gathered outside the hotel in the narrow Parisian alley to witness the unveiling of a “plaque commemorative”. Despite overlooking the Seine and across from Notre Dame, there’s little reason to venture down Rue Git-Le-Coeur so the event was mercifully spared rubbernecking passersby. Speeches and readings reverberated in the street, including lively tributes to Harold Norse, former resident and author of Beat Hotel who died only a few weeks earlier. A champagne reception was hosted in the hotel foyer where the old hotel cafĂ© once stood and framed photographs of its famous residents looked down. A chap played the mandolin until the sweat and condensation on his glasses blinded him.

For all the beat associations with the site, the most famous is as the place Naked Lunch was finally completed. For years the manuscript was reworked and rewritten and rejected. Then, suddenly, Burroughs and pals had two weeks to type a completed version ready for publication by Olympia Press situated a few streets away.

So what would the plaque look like? What would it say? French artist Jean-Jacques Lebel had the honour of revelling all. On a transparent, rectangular sign, it read: “Beat Hotel. Ici vecurent: B.Gysin, H. Norse, G. Corso, A. Ginsberg, P. Orlovsky, I. Sommerville, W. Burroughs y acheva le Festin Nu (1959)”. I was expecting something about Bill and Naked Lunch, or the Beats in general; I wasn’t expecting to see some of those names but I’m pleased they’re there although that feeling wasn’t shared by some the hardcore Burroughsians. “Peter Orlovsky? Ginsberg’s boyfriend. What did he ever do?” In fact, there was nothing to say who these people were. So an “I. Sommerville” lived there. Onlookers will ask who he was. What did he do? When did he live there? I’m wary of anyone who doesn’t know William Burroughs, yet I wouldn’t expect many to have the foggiest about Ian Sommerville.

From an aesthetic point of view, the font looked a bit crap; the way the names were arranged diagonally that made “Burroughs” out of line looked rubbish; the way the names were listed with initials was disappointing; and why that order? It wasn’t alphabetically, it wasn’t in order of their time there, so I don’t know what it was. Maybe it was a cut-up. It could – and should – have looked brilliant, yet looked like a bit more thought was needed. On the plus side, it’s at least something and a nice way to doff the fedora to a book that’s as startlingly original today as it was fifty years ago.

The Youtube footage I took is here

Saturday, 4 July 2009

JOHN "HOPPY" HOPKINS: AGAINST TYRANNY - PHOTOGRAPHS AND PSYCHEDELIC ART FROM THE 60s COUNTERCULTURE


I’ve banged Hoppy’s drum on here before and for Shindig magazine so I don’t propose to list his lengthy achievements again; let’s just say he provided the foundations and the cement for the 60’s underground scene and tell you about his huge new photo exhibition at the Idea Generation Gallery.

Covering the early to mid 1960s these shots document politics, protest, poverty, police, pop, pot, poets, beats, beatniks, Beatles, beboppers and bikers. That’s just for starters. There are copies of International Times (which he co-founded), Nigel Weymouth’s posters from the UFO Club (which he ran with Joe Boyd), a new half hour documentary and grainy archive footage.

Many photos were featured in From The Hip, published last year after a friend accidently discovered the originals stuffed forgotten under Hoppy’s bed, but now he’s added enlightening captions that not only add to the enjoyment of these fabulous pictures but show he’s lost none of that fierce independent spirit nor those quaint old hippy ideals of justice, freedom and fair play. With most flowers from that generation now withered and died, Hoppy’s roots remain as solid as ever. As someone once said, “what’s so funny about peace, love and understanding”?

John “Hoppy” Hopkins: Against Tyranny is at the Idea Generation Gallery, 11 Chance Street, Bethnal Green, London until 19th July 2009, admission free.

From The Hip: Photographs by John “Hoppy” Hopkins 1960-66 is published by Damiani priced £24.99. www.hoppy.de