Released in 1992, Bone Machine was the 10th Studio album from Tom Waits. Back in the early 90s music mags regularly featured a free cassette tape, which contained a selection of tracks from the recently released albums. This was my introduction to bone machine. A cassette, which included the track The Earth Died Screaming. Unlike CD’s or streaming devices, the cassette format made skipping between tracks a bit of an art form, especially when driving.
The effect of being pinned in your car, having to endure all types of music, you would not usually select with limited ability to skip tracks certainly helps educate your taste. By the way, the album cover was taken by Jesse Dylan, Sir Bob’s son.
If Wednesday is hump day, then Monday 17th February has been that midpoint when discussions and concepts start to turn into deliverables. The critical shift from having to plan something to now making it happen. A brief conversation with the team and its full-throttle. Now onto the build schedule.
Our addiction to celebrity extinguishes another star, and the well-oiled cogs of fabricated grief immediately started to turn. Sympathies have been expressed. Role model status bestowed, conspiracies now conspire, and countless posting of soft-filter photographs on social media accounts have been shared. The newspaper trolls who hounded and vilified while in life are now immersed in their obnoxious expressions in death. It’s the remorse we cannot manipulate. Its to be discovered in that briefest of moments when we find ourselves at our most vulnerable. The fleeting second we all have between consciousness and sleep. Where genuine self-reflection happens as we lay naked with only our thoughts to determine if we are to enjoy a peaceful night or insomnia.
A place where over-edited selfies have no value, and we cannot hide behind the virtual wall cocooning our fear of reality. A reality, to be drip-fed on short term/zero-hour contracts in a get rich quick or die trying competition. A world where the excesses and those who harbour greed float to the surface and pollute all empathy. Where a docile mass are steered away from questioning power and seeking accountability over those who hold it.
To become a consumer with default choices, low expectations and subserviently programmed to the whims of the market. A market where anger is depleted, isolated and suppressed through a matrix of automated complaints systems. Where any notion of rebellion is distilled, branded, repackaged and monetised.
Haplessly we proceed to consume the chase of celebrity. We enjoy the hunt and even after the kill we dig over the carcass seeking every morsel, every detail, that will offer an explanation. After all, they “had it all” the lifestyle, the beautify and no less the fame. Its everything we clamour for from behind our mobile phones and all along, we could hear those muffled screams. Still, we decided to ignore the cry of, “I’m a celebrity get me out of here.”
(*Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press was cancelled by the Conservative Government.)
Big wheels keep on turning. There is no bigger truth. Those feeling depressed and dispirited by the current state of politics in the U.K. should remember what goes around, ultimately comes around. Many look back with rose filtered glasses to the Conservative-Thatcher decade of the 80s. The decade when the barking dog of unfettered greed was unleashed. Forty years on are there parallels between now and then? Then I was a young man growing up in the North East of England. The heartland of Labour’s so-called red wall, which lazy political commentators get so excited about from their studios in London or garbling hyper-nonsense from the steps of Downing Street.
Right-wing, working-class patriotism has always been a reality behind the ‘red wall’ as it no doubt exists behind the ‘blue-wall’ of Christchurch.
Now and then the Tories manage to select a leader from their most elite ranks, who by birthright attain the Tory crown and their spin doctors, advisors and supporters then mould a persona and finance their chosen one’s adventures behind the red wall.
Back in the 80s, it was Thatcher, and now it’s good old Jolly Johnson who enjoys nothing more than driving dumpster trucks, sharing a jar with his flat-capped buddies down the local and sticking it up those pesky foreigners across the channel.
The late 1970s/1980s in the U.K. were much more than punk, disco, padded shoulders, Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, Filofaxes, house brick mobile phones and the birth of “loads of money.” For many, it was often a fucking bleak and violent place to exist.
Poverty rates rocketed as the gap between rich and poor escalated beyond anything previously experienced in our modern history. The Brixton Uprising, followed by civil unrest in Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham.
Blair Peach who campaigned against the rise of fascism was killed by a member of the infamous Special Petrol Group (SPG) within the Met. Police, who were less trusted than a South American paramilitary hit squad. The SPG seemed to operate with impunity under cover of the stop and search law, which permitted a police officer to stop, search and potentially arrest people on suspicion of them being in breach of section 4 of the Vagrancy Act 1824.
Clause 28: Played on the ignorance, prejudice and fear often felt towards the gay community. As the world mobilised against the apartheid regime of South Africa, Thatcher welcomed its leaders to this country, as friends. Extremist’s in the Conservative Party, including Thatcher’s husband Denis, who happened to have business interests in the racist state, openly applauded denunciations of the ANC as a terrorist organisation at the Conservative Party Conference. Other delegates called for the hanging of the ANC leader Nelson Mandela. March 1990 and again, towns and cities were subjected to violent riots. This time against the poll tax, introduced by the Conservative government of the day. Then in 2011, under the watch of the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron rioting broke out in London, Birmingham and other cities in the U.K.
The script may change, it may be tailored, dressed up, spun and efficiently targeted through Fakebook ads, but be in no doubt whatsoever the book remains the same.
The Johnson administration is now feeling its way, pushing against barriers it may feel are sensitive, to test the waters and judge the strength of push back they receive. The deportations of Jamaicans by the Johnson administration is straight from the Trump textbook, which is to agitate discontent between communities. Stirring up the pot to see what happens, forming the narrative, and drip-feeding messages to a targeted audience.
Johnson is merely a complicit puppet in the reactionary and populist politics, funded by billionaires and oligarchs whose only interest is to destabilise any sense of oversight or accountability by any government i.e. their war on the EU. Unfettered greed will ultimately consume itself, but in the meantime, a lot of poison is going to be injected into our social fabric, which will take time to rinse out.
When I look back at the 80s, put them into context today, and reflect on what I believe is coming over the next five years. The depth of the damage, in my opinion, will be determined by the level of resistance our young people give to it. Until then, Johnson will continue to push.
My hope is that it does not result in violence, as it did in the 80s, 90s, and 2011, but given the track record of the Conservatives I don’t think they care that much, to be honest. To them, it will only be collateral damage.
Sweetwater, one of those bands from the 1960s who through a set of circumstances beyond their control never seemed to receive the credit or recognition they so much deserve. Initially conceived as a regular house band playing the coffee shops in and around their native California the band quickly became the regular support for The Doors and The Animals in the late 60s. They charted in the US with a cover of Motherless Child a song most associated with Paul Robeson. Their 1968 first and self-titled album in my humble opinion is a little gem of the original psychedelic era that is often overlooked.
Many a pop quiz pundit will know that Sweetwater were booked to open the original Woodstock in 1969 but due to the numbers attending and the related traffic jams, they were unable to get to the stage on time. Then later that year lead singer Nansi Nevins was badly injured in a car accident, which hindered the progression of the band.
My favourite track from their self titled album is My Crystal Spider while the lyrics to What’s Wrong, (video below), seems more pertinent today than back in 1969. If you’ve not heard the album and you are partial to a little 60s psychedelia then welcome aboard and take a trip.
There are crew members at the West Holts Stage who have crew t-shirts going back much further, but this is the earliest one I have in my collection. It’s from 1998, a bit special simply because it was the first time I had a full role at the stage. What is surprising is the lack of information about 1998 (even the official website) on the web. While having very little memory of this year myself I’ve gone through the programmes and below are the top 3 headliners for The Jazz Stage (now The West Holts Stage) over the festival. A little bit special by any measure.
Cornershop (if memory serves me right they also headlined the Other Stage on Saturday night too).
Roni Size and Reprazent
Amanpondo feat. Juno Reactor
Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters
Over the weekend Tortoise and Terry Callier also featured on the Jazz Stage line up. My two abiding memories of that year were not actually Jazz Stage related, but watching Sonic Youth rip it up on Pyramid after the Tony Bennett legend’s slot. And watching Joe Strummer perform for the last time. In fact, that is me (right) with an old friend with the Mescaleros feat. Joe Strummer in the background.
This time of the year I finally get round to cleaning up hard drives and files in preparation for the forthcoming festival. in doing so, I’ve come across a stash of old photographs. This photograph of Roots Manuva goes back 11 years. At the time, we were still in our Jazz Stage incarnation. As well as Roots that year we also had Q-Tip, Playing for Change, Lamb, The Streets, The Black Eyed Peas, Baaba Maal, Lamb, Steel Pulse, amongst others performing.
Michael Jackson passed away during the festival prompting all manner of hastily arranged set changes to allow a tribute cover, while Rolf Harris made his final appearance around Saturday lunchtime on the Jazz Stage before his infamous fall from grace.