Saturday, 29 November 2008

'Emergency' 2008

I've been to the theatre for a couple of nights this past week. The directing students have put on their showcases within two separate programs that run concurrently in different spaces. At the same time I'm responsible for making sure all leaving students are 'clear' as far as matters pertaining to my department are concerned - I can't say I'm entirely free from stress at the moment..

We were treated to two Tennessee Williams pieces. I must say I was impressed by the quality of his writing, it's fresh, fragrant, easy to understand. There is a vibrancy to his work too, he instinctively understands theatrical dialogue, his narratives are captivating and enjoyable, perhaps this is why he's known as one of America's greatest playwrights? The two pieces, 'And tell sad stories of the deaths of Queens' and 'This Property is condemned', were quite contrasting in direction, story and flavour. It was the zinginess of the language that united them. Wonderful stuff.

'In the solitude of cotton fields' was intensely cerebral yet superbly choreographed and acted. This piece by the late Bernard-Marie Koltes was a primal, semi-disturbing take at mankind's quest for survival via the modern means of commerce, buying, selling, dealer, client. This piece, utilising two actors, dates well; it seems to hit the spot for the place and times we, as the West, are at, 2008 and beyond.

'The Bald soprano' by Eugene Ionesco and translated by Tina Howe, was comic absurdism at its finest. Excellently cast and directed, this piece had the audience laughing and guffawing the whole way through. Absurdism has its moments, I love it, and I can't help but find that most things I stumble into (including myself) are dosed with healthy (or otherwise) sprinkles of absurdism.

John Herbert's 'Fortune and men's eyes' is one of the more intriguing pieces of this set of plays. It seemed ultra-contemporary (perhaps that was the set) but doubtless this Canadian play would have sent shock-waves throughout the theatre community back in 1967 with its graphic depictions of violence, criminal allegiances and forced gay sex within the confines of a prison cell. This piece was well directed, particularly the movement aspects, and was a riveting and enjoyable piece of theatre.

Paul Vogel's 'How I learned to drive' was dealt with uncle-to-niece incest and family relations in small-town America. This was a poignant look into family relations in small-town America that somehow broadened into wider themes of lack of love, lack of connection between the generations, and the individuals incased in it, each playing their supposed roles. I found this piece personally moving and loved the acting and the script.

That's it now. No more theatre for me for '08. It will be work, rest and play for December, in that particular order, and in equal amounts.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

fighting the bullfighters

It's said you learn something new everyday. Well, sure as hell I learnt something new last week, and that's all about the ins-&-outs of bullfighting.

I always turned a blind-eye to this thing called "bull-fighting" (an ultimate form of bullshit it is, really), taking in more of its general comic aspects such as the matador and his red cape, with the bull charging through while the matador lifts the cape just the bull is charging toward the cape and about to rip shreds off it with his horns.

That's the sort of thing I'd seen of TV, etc, and I kind of thought that was all there was to it. I had no idea of the carnage and brutality involved with this event until I read Steve Kilbey's post titled the horror show last Monday morning.

The short of it is that Steve was performing at the Adelaide Vegan Festival last weekend and in between sets he sat down at a video room to watch a load of rather upsetting and disturbing footage, his blog is a recount of what he saw.

I myself was shaken and upset by all of it. Much of it I'd known about, but having it recounted to me in that incisive, poetic way that is truly Kilbey's hit me to the core. The bullfighting I hadn't known about and perhaps this narrative affected me the worst, partly because the event is a spectacle offered up as entertainment. It's fucking atrocious, that's what it is. Here's an extract from Kilbey's blog:

...i wandered into a booth showing films
as i walked in
there was a bullfight on the screen
a tired bull covered in blood
and losing blood copiously
stuck thru with nasty little spears
finally the matador appears
a real hero
ponced up in his stupid fucking clothes
no, he should be wearing a butchers smock
this courageous prick
eventually stabs the dying confused bull
in the head
and the poor poor thing
expires in more torrents of blood
then the whales...

And so, distressed and alarmed as I was, I commence wiki'ing & googling bullfighting to discover that it's existed since ancient times. The practice and celebration of bullfighting has been concentrated in Spain and Mexico over that past 600 or so years where it's considered to be part of the cultural tradition of these countries.

I was gladdened to read that many contemporary Spaniards oppose the practice of bullfighting. A 'tradition' it may well be but that does not disguise the fact that it is criminal savagery at its upmost and is an appalling indictment of humanity's inhumanity to its fellow living creatures. The fact that it is an "entertainment" adds that further dimension of twisted, macabre horror to this diabolical fiasco.

So there are "picadors" on horseback armed with spears, spearing the bulls. The horses too have to cop a walloping throughout this whole ridiculous process. The bull of course, this magnificent beast, forced unwillingly by man's cruel sadistic hand to partake in this sacrificial murder-game, suffers most violently and heinously.

Why pick on the bull? The bull is the symbol for the sign of Taurus. The bull symbolises (in a totemic way) virility and masculine strength. They have big balls, apparently. Is there some sort of sub-conscious degenerate drive by followers of this practice to prove man's "superior" masculinity, his goddamn machismo, by subjugating a living bull with this kind of prolonged torture?? With loads of imbeciles seated around the arena cheering on??


And every year in Spanish cities there's that fucking bullrun where people get killed and gored as they run out of the way of the charging bulls. Masses of young men involve themselves with this, I've read that it has to do with fucking machismo (again). You can be sure the bulls would rather be at home, in the pastures, with the cows and their calves. And for all those idiots who get gored and killed, and those fucking matadors too, well that's just tough shit. LEAVE THE ANIMALS BE! Matador deaths are rare apparently what with doctors and surgeons at close standby at these bullfighting events. The matadors themselves are dressed to the nines in protective gear. Geez that's a bit unfair isn't it, the bull doesn't quite get that kind of preferential treatment does it.

No. The bull is an innocent defenceless victim, prey to the viciousness of men who inflict their savagery and lack of true masculinity and nobility (in the cosmic sense of the word) on these magnificent beasts.

Bullfighting should be banned. Ideally it would be better that it weren't banned as such, but instead the populace en masse decided they weren't interested in partaking in this horror show no longer, leaving the seats and the arena airily vacant.

Love this earth, respect this earth, be cosmic! We are man and woman. What's done is done, let's progress and unite, be true, be more loving, patient and aware.

Bullfighting has had its day. Let's move on.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Balmain Ukulele Klub

I went along to the Balmain Ukulele Club tonight, at the Gladstone Bowling Club in central Balmain. It's my second visit to the club, my inaugural steps to ukuleledom were taken in April, some seven months ago. Club meetings are held on the first "teen" Monday of every month except January.

The photo above is my uke, the Cole Clark Ukulele handmade from solid Australian Blackwood. Blackwood is very similar to Hawaian Koa of which traditional Hawaian ukes are made.
The Gladstone Bowling Club is an anachronism in time and that of course accounts for its many charms.Vintage, unassailable fun! Ok, up to about 7pm we strum along with the band who are calling out the chord changes from the microphone. From 7pm-8pm we play along to songs with the chord charts having had been emailed to us the week beforehand. Tonight we had a reggae theme. We strummed along to 'I shot the Sheriff' and various others. Tony Larwood conducts the session and gives out pointers through the microphone on various strumming techniques and chord fingerings.

A room full of people with their ukuleles!!!!! The ukes in the room range from the $20 Mahalos to very expensive Hawaian-made Kamakas, plus some locally-made custom beauties and relics from the 1920s.

From 8pm onward we have solo time. About a dozen of us get up and sing a song. Some people get together in groups and dress up (see the photo a few above!) I sang 'Sloop John B' and tried to calypso it up but I couldn't get the "white" Pet Sounds aka Brian Wilson version out of my head!
I took my glasses off and kept my eyes transfixed on the mike. Next time I'll loosen up and talk a little more when I perform. The next time - hopefully next month when there shall be a Christmas party - will be my third visit and I'll be suitably relaxed by then.
I was telling someone about how people are so friendly here. They replied by saying something of the sort that "you can't put up any attitude if you're playing a ukulele!" We had a good laugh over that!

As the proceedings drew to a close I spied someone I recognised. I went up to her and indeed it was Donna with her new husband, that was a very pleasant meeting! I have not seen Donna in about five years. I noticed she was playing a Kamaka uke that they bought in Hawaii on their way home from holiday.
Donna, who once played drums, remarked underhandedly how much easier it is to carry a uke than a drumkit. Oh yes, the uke is easier to carry than just about anything!!! Which of course is one of its beauties.
I can't wait to go back. Not only was this fun, it was kind of heavenly. The ukulele is a most sweet instrument and those old sweet jazz-blues jug tunes just don't sound better on any other instrument. Geez I feel happier now!
Long live the sweet ukulele!
And all these photos were taken from my cellphone and immediately "published" onto my other blog, the cellphone camera photo dumpsite. How nifty is that!

Sunday, 16 November 2008

OzMusic Day @ Darling Harbour

OzMusic day at Darling Harbour, Saturday 15 November. A day featuring two-stages of grassroots songwriters, one stage for the solos and the other for bands. I played bass in one band and took photos here and there. I stayed back at the end to help with packing up the backline, and, possessing an overworked sense of responsibility I offered to help out with reviews for my friend's magazine. The looks on people's faces when I said I'd do so was the same for everyone, that crumpled mouth look of "ok" that masked a flicker of pleasure and relief for being absolved of responsibility.
It was a cool & cloudy day thankfully, the heat can become uncomfortable if you're staying out all day in this weather. I suppose the clould cover put a damper on things, I certainly felt like it was all business-as-usual and not particularly zingy or bouyant with that.I like the blue balloon in the above photo.

The bands performed at the Palm Grove stage although for some reason they didn't bother setting up the stage this year. Playing in the band I would've prefered that they had but it didn't matter a great deal, it's all small-fry stuff.
David Griggs at the acoustic stage. He's an English-expat who's been living in Australia for 13 years now. He is a brilliant singer-songwriter, sensitive yet strong, a little plaintive, tasteful, a fine musician and natural story-teller.
This guy is playing his dad's guitar. I sold the guitar to his dad. It's a BEAUTIFUL guitar. A Maton thinline made of American Rock Maple back & sides & neck, but Australian-made. Neck was too wide & uncomfortable to perform it with my duo. Almost regret selling now, but it's in good hands, both father's pair and son's.Beccy Fielding. Great voice and soulful feeling, uses nice jazzy chords on the guitar with cool rhythms. She attracted a strong crowd.
I enjoyed taking this photo of feet. The red shoelaces stand out!
This guy, Cameron, was a pretty schmick performer.
Megan Barnes, a great singer, showing off her new guitar, a Maton EM225c made of laminate Queensland Maple back & sides & neck, Spruce top.
It had to happen didn't it...SHOW-OFF TIME!! Russell Neal took these photos. This must have been a nice musical moment.
We only get together in this format rarely these days. We still do acoustic gigs together. It's basically bumptious blues rock, like Animals meets Creedence. Gav the guitar player writes. I just choreograph the arrangements and play the bass. We used to have more members and I played keyboards. Eventually I moved onto bass. I don't think my heart was in this gig quite, I was thinking about when to do my laundry.
I wouldn't mind joining another band. It'll have to be lighter music. I don't want to do anything too heavy these days. Something like jazz/folk/rock or something.
He plays drums and cracks backs.Birds in the sky.
So there you have it. A day out, many acts, much music, a day of festivities covered in cloud. I'm not entirely sure I wish to be involved in next year's event. I think, musically, I'll just lead where my heart takes me (like most things in life).
Afterward I drove to Curlewis Street Bondi to pick up a frame that Lady Cool had purchased at Ra Ra Superstar shop. She asked me to pick it up for her seeing as I have a car, so I did. It's sitting beside me now. I had some steamed veges for dinner and later made a walking trip to the supermarket armed with green cloth bags. The laundry will have to wait for the weather to warm up again. do things like gigs, and then they're over as soon as they start, and you sort of think 'what's the point?'
I suppose the same could be said of most things, something just drives us on!
It's the drive, the imperative, the life-force, the qi, that is fundamentally important, using it, harnessing it, respecting it, loving it, and being grateful for it.
As for those reviews, *sigh*, I'll just kind-of make them up!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Struggle & Strain

all of my life
i have known
Stuggle & Strain
a pair of curmudgeon ole timers
as olde as time itself
when dawn first cracked the psychic membrane
of ancient man
who dreamt up this here moment
and the scrambled rush of four years hence
in the incredible fury of global stuggle & strain
i see my own killjoy couple
stuggle & strain chained to rb 1970-
but they're loosened off right now
they don't quite have the same hold
as they may have held
at many divergent points in my (One) life
my cobblestone career of multiple recurrences
including that of cross-carrying zealot religionist
over the past few thousand years

i may have died in many wars
i may have died in pain
i may have died on many lands
i may have drowned in rain
i may have owned a hundred castles
i may have owed the mans
i may have been a pauper's polish
i may have staked a-claim
the sun has risen in the East
and set in the West
since time began
when Julius C was butchered by Brutus
when Jesus C was nailed to a cross
when Hiroshoma was horrifically atomised
and when towers came crashing down 7 years ago
the sun rose in the East
and set in the West
perhaps nothing really changes
only we think it does...

now Nov 08
the sun days are sublime daze
they become longer
the Chinese Jasmine pour forth their fragrant perfume
the leaves are freshly green
bountiful and eager to live
Struggle & Strain may retire dutifully
i've sent them packing to the old folks home
of pannies & peeled bananas
their ancient heads will reemerge no-doubt
but never with the same virilence
as they did in 1208
or 6 AD
or 1917
i've known the pair for way too long
and now my light spring soul says simply
I've had enough.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

the trauma of civilisation

I came across a most appealing article recently, thanks to a link on survival acres blog, titled The Machine in our Heads by Glenn Patron. The article was first published in 'Green Anarchist' in 1997 and more recently links to a blog entry in Tierra y Vida.

Although there's little presented within this article that’s particularly new to me I do find the overriding premise of it to be quite impactful. The gist is as thus: civilisation, as we've known it for 10,000 years, is traumatic to the true, ‘tribal’ self of an individual baby, or child. It is utterly foreign to our way of being and living. And so for that matter, are concepts of property, hierachy, and the State. The writer speaks of this as the "trauma of civilisation". He blames the trauma or terror of civilisation for the loss or derangement of reason, and the loss of deep thinking, ie, the free flow of natural ideas that are shut down through traumatic socialisation. He writes, "...tribal ideas threaten civilisation, so they cannot pass through the censorship of the false self, which functions specifically to ward off all serious challenges to civilisation."

I felt all that more ennobled for having read this piece, accompanied by a fresh sense of relief and purpose. It validated something in me, that the fundamental way of life represented by the living lives of the billions of people on this planet Earth, is basically skewered and off the point of our primary purpose as living human beings on this planet. But this is no-one's fault by any stretch of the imagination. It is the carry-on effect of some sort of mass drive into civilised life thousands of years ago that has now brought us to this seemingly treacherous point.

I studied Australian history at school. I studied American history at uni. I noticed many similarities in these two strands of study, ie, the craziness of Western colonisation into both of these foreign lands, the zealots, the drunks, the pioneering spiritors, and the systematic breakdown of the fabric of its indigenous peoples. I recall studying the 'trail of tears' as the American Indians were systematically led to wasteland reserves. In Australia, the white invaders remain guilty of the most sadistic felony, the genocide of the indigenous Tasmanian population. The lingering sadness you sense in that sweet beautiful island remains palpable.

And yet it appears to my understanding that indigenous, non-civilised cultures throughout the globe were in some way, corrupted like ours, although nowhere to the extent of our high-tech, high-con societies. The American Indians spoke of the 'Happy Hunting Ground', the Australian Aboriginies 'The Dreamtime'. Perhaps these myths are representative of actual, ancient times of purity, before superstition and ritual clouded the pure perception of Woman, Man, and the living Earth. Perhaps the lapse of purity in indigenous cultures throughout the planet is racial to all peoples, that the psyche of the earth "shifted" some 20,000 or so years ago, so that ritual and superstition began to make their way into the lives of indigenous peoples just as other cultures began to amass the civilising drive that has brought us to this point.

It is worth remembering that Aboriginal cultures, and American Indian cultures surely, are as vast and varied as the lands they surface on. Aboriginies throughout Australia were living totally different lives and depending on their locality, some were happier, enlightened, more gratified, more peaceful, than others of other parts and localities.

Neither peoples held concepts of speculation and property value. The Europeans enforced this practice onto their conquered lands much to the horror of the native peoples who lived primarily for the land in which they all lived and shared.

I read this article and feel an inner empowerment. Of course the concept of property, the State, hierarchy is bullshit, dead-weight. I'm not into any of it. I look into my mind's mirror and see a shining way of life that is real and true. To be man & woman of the Earth is to be one's own authority of being, life, love and God, and to demonstrate this in practical love and deep, cosmic reverence for the Earth and life on it. This, of course, is impossible to do in today's world....or it can be done but takes tremendous lift-off to pull through the gravitational sludge of the world and the turgid psychic energy now surrounding it.

And yet, I'm a man of the modern world too, albeit to a small-ish degree. Paradoxically I've been accused as being bossy and authoritarian which I don't think I am but have had occasion to be. Sometimes you have to live in this world and deal with it. If you have a job then these traits come through and often spill into the personal life.

....and I'm told I'm an angel by many people. This was said to me last night, on the phone. I'm glad to be an angel...

I enjoy the world. I enjoy the Earth in it more, such as the flowers, the birds, and the trees. And I'm certainly not adverse to chores, shopping and walking into department stores when need be.

My artistic pursuits are all that matter to me as far as "doing" anything in this worldly-world is concerned. Increasingly this includes handiwork and gardening. Jobbing I consider to be a joke, a comic absurdity, even though I actually do like my job and it's not the sort of post one can complain about. It's just that, I don't have any particular attachment for the "real" world of tax preparations, suit & tie, climbing the career ladder or obtaining a 'property' portfolio. But to live in this world and enjoy its cubist fruits, one must pay it its due. Work, and serve what you must, and make the most of it for yourself and others.

“everybody must give something back for something they get” – Bob Dylan

The knowledge of 'tribal' self, the essence of it, I taste quite clearly and openly. This is a good way to be.

Monday, 10 November 2008

John Lennon (article)

(The following is an article I wrote up some 3 years ago for a friend's magazine. I haven't rechecked for typos, there are likely to be many. Nor have I checked for obtuse expressions and grammatical anomolies of which I'm the master...
Nevertheless, John Lennon has always been one of my greatest heroes.)

25 years on from the death of John Lennon finds his light shining as strong as ever. His impact as a songwriter remains untarnished and continues to grow in stature with each passing decade, along with his persona that has taken on iconic, legendary status. There is no doubt that Lennon is one of the greats of the modern era, but the question is, what was that which made him so particularly great??

For about 15 or so years after Lennon’s passing in 1980 at the age of 40, Paul McCartney has had to suffer the ignominy of being seen as the tawdry, wimpy Beatle in contrast to the deceased Lennon, who in turn was deified as the true creative genius of the Beatles. Perhaps it was McCartney himself who put it most accurately when he said that they were as good as each other. Within the Beatles, this is true; Lennon and McCartney were equals. Yet within this statement lies further insights and truths, one of those being that both John and Paul each contributed something unique to the Beatles that was truly their own, and that one of the reasons for the Beatles amazing consistency throughout their recording career is that John and Paul’s inspiration often blazed at different times, with one or the other covering for each other’s fallow periods…and with a little bit of help from George Harrison’s songwriting. Whether or not John and Paul were equals after the Beatles split is something else altogether.

Lennon and McCartney were the premier songwriters and songwriting innovators of the 1960s, as were Bob Dylan and Brian Wilson. McCartney, Dylan and Wilson all shared something in common that Lennon didn’t, and that is that their songwriting progressed to discernable pinnacles into the mid to late sixties. For Dylan this is seen in Highway 61 Revisited & Blonde on Blonde, for Wilson it’s demonstrable in Pet Sounds and the unifinished-and-aborted-up-until-2003 Smile, and for McCartney it was Revolver, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road.

Lennon was not a songwriter who progressed and travailed a path as the aforementioned three. Lennon was something of a mighty force of nature, taken by sheer bursts of inspiration throughout his life, so that his songwriting career was marked by occasional though tremendous bouts of inspired brilliance. These bouts roughly can be traced to the early to mid 1960s, 1968, 1970-71 and then finally 1980. This is not to say that Lennon was not writing great songs during those other times, it’s just that the extraordinary voice that was Lennon’s seemed to shine most brightly during these quite remarkable creative bursts.

Bob Dylan remarked to friends upon hearing the Beatles that the chords they used were just “outrageous”. It was John Lennon who gave the early Beatles songs that sense of utter force and vibrancy, paralleled with a totally unschooled and utterly inspired musicality that was uniquely his own. Whilst McCartney, a great writer from day one, was writing songs that fit the sound of a musical formula, Lennon took strident turns in rhythmic and harmonic development, constructing songs with a rhythmic verve and touches of modal originality harmonically. This can be seen in many early Beatles songs, ‘Please Please Me’, ‘It won’t be long’, ‘There’s a place’, ‘If I fell’. Many of his chords and cadences sound modal in a bluesy way and were utterly unlike anything heard in pop music previously; and, combined with his boldness and force of expression, broke open the doors of pop music possibility never seen before or since. Take for example the middle section of ‘This Boy’ and how Lennon’s verve and sheer sexual force contrasts to the pleasant yet formulaic treatment of Brian Wilson’s ‘Surfer girl’, from which the Beatles constructed the similar do-wop verse in D major for ‘This Boy’. The height of Lennon’s early Beatles inspiration is the Hard Days Night soundtrack album whereby 10 of the 13 tracks are his. Of McCartney’s 3 songs, ‘Things we said today’ offers a glimpse into the songwriting realm he was to enter in years hence.

Lennon was soon to enter his Bob Dylan phase and began writing songs with more of a sense of self-confession that faintly disguised a melancholy soul, ‘I’m a loser’, ‘I’ll cry instead’, ‘Help’ (sped up for the movie sountrack), ‘You’re gonna lose that girl’, and ‘You’ve got to hide your love away’. The Rubber Soul album of late 1965 caught McCartney and Lennon on a synergistic mind wave, that along with George’s songs and he and Ringo’s empathetic musicianship, helped make it one of the finest Beatles albums. From there on the path Lennon and McCartney took as songwriters would begin to diverge, although that wasn’t to affect the excellence and unity of Beatles recordings until perhaps the ‘White Album’ aka Beatles.

Revolver of 1966, always considered to be either the greatest or 2nd best Beatles album recorded, is astonishing in its sheer variety of expression matched with its consistency of purpose – it’s a remarkably unified and cohesive album. Revolver is probably the album that best showcases the essential differences between McCartney and Lennon. By now, McCartney’s star was on the ascendant and he was at the peak of his ballad writing, his songs were grounded in the buzzing atmosphere of swinging London, upbeat and urbane with remarkable melodies, never before had McCartney sounded so assured, eg, ‘Eleanor Rigby’, ‘Good day sunshine’, ‘For no one’. Lennon on the other hand had nothing to do with swinging London; his songs reflected a suburban inertia exacerbated by frequent LSD use. Songs like ‘I’m only sleeping’ and ‘She said she said’ don’t appear to say much on the surface but matched to the music they are utterly brilliant compositions, the latter in particular points to disturbing recollections of traumas past – which would become fully cognizant for its author by the time of the 1st solo album. Lennon hated ‘And your bird can sing’ but it remains a Britpop classic, and ‘Tomorrow never knows’ catches him constructing a song on one chord with the remainder of the Beatles and George Martin aiding in the ground breaking production. Revolver – as well as the ‘Penny Lane’ · ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ single demonstrates that where McCartney is utterly superb, Lennon is utterly brilliant, yet they are as superb and brilliant as each other.

Whereas as Lennon was once edged on by Bob Dylan’s influence, McCartney now took the clarion call from Brian Wilson and wanted to do something that would better Pet Sounds. The result was the ‘Sgt Pepper’ album, often cited as the apogee of McCartney’s creativity. Objectively Lennon’s songs are blighted by drug use that had blunted his true inspiration. However, Lennon wrote one stunning song, ‘A Day in the Life’, arguably the greatest song on the album and the greatest collaboration between Lennon and McCartney (the “…woke up…” section was McCartney’s). The introduction to ‘A Day in the Life’ featuring Lennon’s acoustic guitar and vocal remains one the eeriest and mesmerizing moments of Lennon’s songwriting cannon. Other standout songs during the post-Pepper period for Lennon include ‘I am the Walrus’ and more peculiarly, ‘Hey Bulldog’. The latter was recorded prior to the band’s hiatus to India to spend time with the Maharishi and of which the recording was filmed for the ‘Lady Madonna’ single promo, to find its way on the Yellow Submarine sountrack. ‘Hey Bulldog’ is a lesser-known Lennon classic where his old verve and vitality returns after years of drug-induced torpor. ‘Hey Bulldog’ is classic unaffected happy Lennon rock, even though the lyrics tend to be pointed towards McCartney. Lennon would never sound quite so innocent and carefree again.

It’s often remarked by Beatle biographers that the Beatles were Lennon’s band up until the making of Sgt Pepper, from which then onward the band became McCartney’s, with McCartney creating the lion’s share of the music. This is not totally true. The ‘White Album’ of 1968 is stamped by Lennon’s mercurial voice, both musically and emotively. Somehow the trip to India in February 1968 inspired Lennon into a new phase of songwriting that brought through songs that, for perhaps the first time, brought through the real John Lennon. These songs had the edge of aggression, a touch of menace, yet were sometimes gentle and beguiling, yet all had a lyrical freedom he hadn’t quite touched in past occasions. Perhaps it was staying off the substances combined with the meditation, or, his awakening love for Yoko Ono that awakened his true voice. In any event the ‘White Album’ is a central focus for Lennon fans as the album captures his most diverse and intriguing range of songwriting, ‘Sexy Sadie’, ‘Dear Prudence’, ‘Happiness is a warm gun’, ‘Julia’, ‘Yer blues’, etc etc, although it was McCartney who brought a true sense of winsome melancholia to the album with ‘Mother Nature’s Son’ and in particular‘Blackbird’, one of his very best songs.

Lennon continued to write classics up until the Beatles demise, eg, ‘Come Together’, ‘Don’t let me down’ etc, but it was McCartney who composed the epitaphs and fitting swan songs to the end of an extraordinary era in the finale of Abbey Road and ‘Let it be’ and ‘Long and winding road’. After the White Album, Lennon’s passions lay elsewhere; one of which were his avant-garde extemporisations with Yoko Ono that although authentic enough in their delivery and conviction, remained unpopular with the public. McCartney pointed out years later that he’d explored the avant-garde earlier, in the mid-60’s, and had not made a fuss over it.

The passing of the Beatles gave Lennon the opportunity to explore his songwriting on a wider level. ‘Cold Turkey’ from 1969 was his first “primal” song, the pain and anguish of the subject matter expelling itself in the most vindictively snarl-like guitar phrasing Lennon or anyone has ever recorded before or since. ‘Instant Karma’ of February 1970 is a Lennon classic; written in the morning and recorded in the afternoon it has a most catchy verse structure featuring pleasing and dramatic modulations whereby all patterns are based on I – minor VI, falling into the classic “…we all shine on…” chorus. Bursting with sheer verve and energy, ‘Instant Karma’ is inspired rock at its very best.

McCartney reportedly took the Beatles split the hardest yet Lennon himself was veering with depression, upon which Yoko enlisted the help of Dr Arthur Janov, exponent of primal scream therapy. This therapy allowed Lennon to get in touch with his childhood traumas and demons though it didn’t curb his anger any. Still, following from that, he came out with one of rock’s greatest albums, John Lennon/The Plastic Ono Band. This album is anything but Hard Days Night, it is purely elemental rock, conceptually stark and quite painful (‘Mother’, ‘I Found Out’), yet mixed with songs of pure sensitivity and yearning (‘Look at me’ & ‘Love’). Lennon uses ‘God’ as an epitaph in diverging himself of his past by singing repeatedly “I don’t believe….” citing Beatles, Zimmerman, Krishna etc, finally stating “...I just believe in me, Yoko and me, and that’s reality…”. This album was complimented somewhat by what is probably Rock’s cornerstone interview, that with Rolling Stone magazine’s editor Jann Wenner on 8 December 1970, exactly 10 years prior to the day of his death.

Imagine album of 1971 captured Lennon on a songwriting high, gracing this album with far more poise and melodic grace than its predecessor. ‘Imagine’ is the obvious pick for superb craftsmanship yet ‘Jealous Guy’ also features a beautiful melody. ‘How do you sleep’ is a thinly veiled dig at McCartney and shows signs that the Liverpool roughie of old was about to reemerge in Lennon, yet of the song, Lennon was to play down its vitriol in future years. McCartney was justly hurt at the rather adolescent jibes thrown at him in ‘How do you sleep’, yet there’s no denying that the music with its swanky bluesiness was terrific and served as a good counterpoint to the lyrics.

Lennon’s consistency began to sway as his personal life became more erratic. ‘Number 9 dream’ and ‘Whatever gets you thru the night’ are classic Lennon songs, the latter in particular right up to date with the times and earned him a number one record. In 1974 Lennon recorded an album of covers, partly to pay homage to his roots and partly because his inspiration was swayed off its course due to his drunken rampaging around Los Angeles.

By 1975 Lennon had returned to Ono in New York, had fathered a child Sean and took time off from the music business. When Lennon returned to the public eye in 1980 he remarked on this period as a happy one where he settled down to the business of being a house-husband. Insiders paint a different picture that portrayed Lennon as a moody, lonely, and unfocused man, addicted to cannabis, and whose relationship with Yoko had fructified. Apparently their situation reached its nadir in early 1980. It was during a trip to Bermuda that Lennon was inspired to write the Double Fantasy album after seeing the flower by that name, and, as a means to mend his relationship with Yoko. Lennon and Yoko were to start recording Double Fantasy in August 1980 and these sessions and all the songs they spawned would prove to be the closing chapter on Lennon’s work.

Lennon had written songs in the late 70’s that included ‘Free as a bird’ and ‘Real love’ that made their way into Beatles releases in the mid-90s. The new songs in 1980 had a freshness and power, beginning with ‘Serve yourself’ of early 1980 which was inspired and directed against Dylan’s ‘You gotta serve somebody’. The songs that made Double Fantasy did not excite contemporary reviewers who were in fact annoyed that John didn’t have anything better to do than to sing love songs about Yoko and have to tell the world how great their relationship was. Yet by the beginning of December 1980 it climbed up around the top of the British and American charts. Lennon’s death on 8 December put hold to those reviews, and now in hindsight, some 25 years on it’s evident that these songs are amongst the very best of Lennon’s career, and that his songwriting skills had again reached peak form. Even songs like ‘Clean up time’ sound sharp and contemporary and didn’t merely sound like an ex-Beatle playing ex-Beatle music. Off-cuts include the reggae influenced (and eerily prescient ‘Living on borrowed time’ and the excellent ‘Nobody told me’ which would become a single in 1984 and released on the posthumous Milk and Honey). Yet the songs on Double Fantasy are amongst the most special, ‘Starting over’, faintly echoing Brian Wilson’s ‘Don’t worry baby’, musically illustrates Lennon bringing together some of his roots with a wonderfully yearning tune and a reawakened clarity of expression. ‘Losing you’ has that contemporary ‘New York 1980’ edge with a gripping and suspenseful riff eased with a terrific middle eight. ‘Watching the wheels’ was another great song; obviously Lennon had regained his poise to a point where he’d never been so lucid as a writer. ‘Beautiful Boy’ pays lovely homage to his son Sean, and a song like ‘Woman’ is a reminder that though Lennon had died young, it’s through the grace of life that he was inspired to compose a most beautiful epitaph of love and gratitude prior to his passing. The poise, expressiveness, the underlying grace and a newfound mellowness in these songs of Double Fantasy paint Lennon’s passing in a bittersweet yet somewhat salutary picture.

Lennon’s enormous mass-appeal continues to grow 25 years after his death. Perhaps it’s because as a person, there’s a lot about Lennon we can all relate to. Yoko said after his passing that he was a “simple, complex man”. When you look at it, Lennon was utterly and essentially “human” – meaning he was diverse, flawed, and prone to the entire gamut of human emotionality including that which was less than pleasant - whilst possessing an unparalleled expressive power and emotional directness of expression that channeled itself so boldly through his songs. Lennon’s music and personality are hard to pin down but people seem to be drawn to him because he was always so “out there” in whatever he did, even if that includes his bouts of depression and inertia. Dylan for example, kept the walls up particularly after his motorcycle accident in 1966. Lennon never seemed to have “walls” and his music for the most part always seemed to possess a “directness” or candidness that penetrates the psyche of the listener, no matter how “out there” Lennon may have sounded on occasions. (His interviews particularly after the Beatles demise are similar.) It follows then that his songs still possess a remarkable communicative power, they communicate to us on all levels. All this combines with a remarkable personal charisma and you get the most famous popular music icon of the late 20th century.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

tired intransit

I've been hit with a bug over these past couple of days. But I'm riding through it fine. I felt pretty ordinary getting up outta bed this morning (at 9am). Upon waking I mixed a half glass of sparkling mineral water with Noni juice. I added a teaspoon of calcium ascorbate, one of wheatgrass, and another of bitter melon. It's amazing how restoring a herbal concoction in beverage form can be for you; within two minutes I was zinging from the inside out, feeling that all that more refreshed and invigorated, and not so sick. However I need to get to bed soon, I'm very tired and I need to sleep off this virusy thingy.

I'm also moving out of here by the weekend. Perhaps the thought of that is also tiring me out a bit. I need to back up my computer in the not-unlikely event that it will fail me in transit (she's a delicate old beast is my 'puter). There's a lot I wish to write about, blog about, but I think I'm just gonna have to curb my addiction for a few days at least. Moving & recovering from the bug are my pressing prerogatives.

Congratulations to Barack get out there and invest in renewal, clean energy!!!!!

Monday, 3 November 2008

Relative reality

This is kinda cool; this new-ish phonus mobilus I have in my possession and rarely use (and was glad to have kept in the repair shop for 3 weeks), well, it takes photos like most phones, only to discover to my amazement that I can publish these photos onto a "blog"! Well, the blog is a 'mobile blog' and I've claimed that as a second blog, called 'Cellphone Camera Photo Dumpsite', to remain anonymous! ;) It's incredibly handy as I don't have to sport my camera everywhere I go; so when I'm moved to, I snap a photo on the mobile phone, and send it immediately to the b(l)og. At which point, on my computer, I save the photos onto my hard drive, and resurrect them if I wish to publish them, such as the photo above. The pixilation is fairly basic, but it's good enough for a technology semi-luddite like me.

Yep, the wonders of modern technology...

The photo was taken on the footbridge over Anzac Parade Maroubra at 7:30pm tonight, facing westward. It was a glorious late-afternoon and sunset.

Mr Survival Acres was calmer today, more reflective. He posted some words that were gladdening to read. I think he's a great human being and I'd like to meet him although of course that's not about to happen...

"This is YOUR life, live it the best you can according to you own personal code of ethics. Your decisions belong to you, they must be actualized and embraced as being yours alone...

...Finally, there are “gems” worth living by found in art, poetry, the written word and self-reflection. Call it what you will, spirituality, meditation or hidden truths, these things are freely available to anyone and can have a deep impact upon your life. They are in reality far more effective at changing lives then anything else, because they deal with the profound and penetrate to the very core of our existence (consciousness)."

I won't be quoting anymore of his stuff unless I'm absolutely moved to. You get the drift. But his work is worth following. It's better to be informed, if not prepared, because if bad stuff starts dripping down fast, the shock for us may be lessened (and 'lessoned'). And if, hopefully, if indeed it is to be carry-on world for a long time longer, then nothing remains lost in having been forewarned regardless of external circumstance.

But it makes me realise more and more how paper-thin this edifice of modern civilisation really is. It is often termed a "relative reality". Relative to what? Relative to truth, consciousness, the eternality of conscious presence, life, love. Modern civilisation is merely a projection of humanity's drive for progress, obviously. As within, so without.

And it can disappear any moment, and it will disappear for the one absolute brick-wall fact, that we die. And when that moment comes, at any given moment, ie, the moment 'given' by life, the world as we know it is finished. The banks, the stockmarkets, the friends, the people we most love, the guitars, the books, the computers....everything, is over. This is for certain. This places those objects and figures which we leave behind into nothing more than passing leaves in our purview, blown by for some brief moment, or moments, to inevitably vanish from sight with the passing of mechanical time.

The saviour is, if we are to accept the spiritualists, we are all connected and unified in consciousness. It is consciousness, life, being, God, that is responsible for our beating hearts, and that which sustains our bodies and living lives. And the flavour or fragrance of pure consciousness is love, divine love.

I have tapped into this, albeit for successive, brief moments over the span of many years. I've yet to encounter tantra and take Woman on divinely. Perhaps my next lover shall be a divine affair, I'll leave that to life. Within, within. I can't see where else to go. It seems as though the sky is closing in on us.

At this stage of evolution humanity is at the apex of its robotic, projective consciousness. We have gone "out" and attempted to find fulfillment outside of ourselves instead of divining our cosmic potential within to create a marvellous, purposeful existence on this planet Earth. We, as a whole, live mechanically, in fear of death, in fear of love. The planet is in ecological distress, she has been sorely mistreated.
But it's nothing that won't be cleaned up..

Sunday, 2 November 2008


One of my favourite bloggers is a guy who runs a storable food business in the USA, Survival Acres. His blog is flatly recognised to be the most doom-related blog on the net. I don't find him to be so much of a doomer myself, in fact I find his occassional steaminess & over-zealousness almost endearing, human. Sure he's uncompromising, but ultimately I reckon he's a great guy, a straight-shooter with a love of the planet and I immensely enjoy reading his rants, it makes me want to get out there and do something to save the planet.

But I often lose my zeal until the next time I visit the man's site. The arguments, his blogs, tend to linger with me though.

Here are some quotes from yesterday's post:

"McIsane is not only a stupid old man, he’s a dangerously stupid old man, and so is Sarah Palin, who has demonstrated a complete lack of intelligence and integrity that bears careful consideration.

A vote for McInsane is one step closer to a fundamentalist junta being run again on this country. If Palin ascends to the office of President because that “72 year old heartbeat” stops pumping, you can be SURE that this country will represent the 12th century by the end of Palin’s term."

speaking of his over-zealousness which I find almost perversely amusing:

"Keep your religious BULLSHIT to yourselves people, and keep it at home where it belongs in your private lives and keep it OUT of politics, and the world will be a much safer place as we deal with REALITY. Or do you REALLY want to return to the Dark Ages and the Inquisition? Need I remind you of the terrifying suffering inflicted by the religious DEMONS and FOOLS of those days as they tortured and maimed their way through entire continents of people? This is the path that America is on for the McInsane / Palin ticket and exactly what jihad (Christian or Muslim) represents.

But I have absolutely no love for Obama either...."

the man was steaming:

" still do not believe we are that close to collapse. Oh, but we are. We are far closer then most of you yet realize. The latest data shows that we are well under seven years now due to just one of many issues and that is oil decline. The latest data on the environmental declines is just as bad. But America holds it collective (drugged) breath (inhaling on smoke and dope no doubt) as it awaits the “results” of yet another rigged “voting” process.

Give me a break. We’ve already lost people. It’s already OVER. It’s a done deal, we lose, America loses, the world loses, we’ve got nothing but garbage and big interest to “vote” for, to appease us to NOT rebel and revolt or better yet, ABANDON this failed sham of a government and go learn to take care of ourselves as we will be absolutely forced to do so in just a couple of years at the most.

On Tuesday, I’m going to laugh my ass off at the stupid gyrations and hand-wringing that will undoubtedly be going on. The alleged “riots” that are supposed to happen (if either side “wins”) are already a total joke. Riot against what, exactly? You idiots who are claiming this, wake the hell up. YOU’VE ALREADY LOST. I’ve already long since accepted REALITY, I suggest all of you do too.

It’s time to GET WITH THE PROGRAM OF SAVING YOUR OWN SKIN. If you still think you can put your faith and trust into a lying self-serving government AGAIN - GO AHEAD, but I’m not getting in your boat - EVER. I know where this is leading, and I know what any politicians will do to get elected. Our local paper here demonstrates this is spades, they must think we are absolute IDIOTS to fall for their lies again and again and again (and most of us are).

We are still headed for all of the following: MARTIAL LAW, CIVIL WAR, NATIONALIZING, CONFISCATION OF ASSETS, EVEN RELIGIOUS INDOCTRINATION, FOOD SHORTAGES, RIOTS, BREAD LINES, MASSIVE UNEMPLOYMENT, HOMELESSNESS, BANK FAILURES, GAS LINES, ENERGY SHORTAGES AND WORLD WAR. Huge dislocations of the populations are also on the agenda, prison camps, work camps, debtor camps, and bio-regions (inhabitable regions due to envirionmental degradation including drought and massive food shortages)."

I remain calm, aloof from what's written. We'll just have to wait and see how events unfold although I obviously DON'T want us to be sliding down this direction. I eagerly await the results of the USA presidential election. We are moving, have moved, into incredibly volatile times where the rules that we've taken for granted over our living lives seem to now be jarring violently out of alignment, where the basic expectancies of food on the supermarket shelves, gas in the bowser, money in the bank and an equitable climate don't seem such a granted assurity anymore.


This has been a weekend of constant high cloud. We get that sort of thing around late-October/November. I hate it. I don't usually mind cloudy weather but not during mid-Spring as it's an awful stilted kind of cloud that hangs and doesn't go anywhere. Bright, cloudy, and irky. My mood was thus, ikky and uncertain. I'm gravitating towards spirit books again as I sense my rational self is coming to pieces a little. I observe the world and with each footstep I take I sense I'm walking into uncharted territory, away from my lifelong assumed expectations, and into something more brittle and in-your-face.

Part of me feels like a wisened, genteel adult, the southern-Italian gentleman as it were. The other part feels like a 3-year boy looking out at my world with a kind of perplexed astonishment, falling through and getting spun by all kinds of webs my innocence knows nothing about and would rather flee from, and avoid.

But this is reality, the blessed Earth at this moment, and the world we've devised. We have to be objective about it, and quite frankly the planet's a mess.

Within within. I read somewhere that as time speeds up and pressure of living escalates we have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transcend our personal selves and cross into the inner dimension of being, ie, being independent of form and body, but uses the body, such as that body typing these words now, or reading these words. By 'lifetime' I suppose I mean some sort of quadrant of immortality, a bunch of many living lives finding some sort of apex in this living life, on the Earth in the 21st century as we rally towards the end of the Mayan long-count, Dec 21, 2012.

Keep reading the daily newspapers. The worldly winds are hastening and the headlines will keep darting through.


And today I set up the p/a at the pub in Glebe. I was begrudging of this all week, something I wasn't looking forward to. But it was ok. It was fun. I played and sang well this time, in tune. All the acts were compliant. It was cruisy. Most of all, it was pleasant. The cloudy day didn't bother me so much in the pub.

We gotta keep the funtimes rolling.

Paul Hewson shooting star

i'm in the sunshine A mate of mine produces a monthly songwriter newsletter which goes out to a hundred or so mainly Sydney-based...