Monday, September 19, 2005

Poem: A Journalist's Death of Socrates

Yo lo vi

And so we saw
The fragile sinews
Of his neck grow taut
The muscles there
Flicker and contract

Did he sip or gulp
Would sipping
Extend the life light

What would you have written

White colonnades
White clad figures jostling
Cries and silence

I’ve watched your carefulness
Your tenderness to others
You would have welcomed
His idea of an examined life

Of politics you would
Have recorded nothing
No mention of Critias or Alcibiades

But your instincts would
Have acknowledged
A moment of history
In the making and
How it would echo
Down the long corridors of years

You would have known
Journalism you say
Is your vocation
It bears witness
Echoes evocations.

Xenophon didn’t write
Man died by his own hand suicide
Socrates dead city youth saved
Questioner silenced for infinity
Sophists prevail
Heretic drinks hemlock

What would you have written

You walk the world
Your shoulders are bowed.

What would you have written

Death from hemlock
Starts in the feet
Paralysis slays the heart eventually.

What would you have written?

Now we are in the room
And Socrates has washed
To be no bother to the women after

How shall we bury you

As you will but I shall
Have slipped through
Your fingers
As softly
As silently,
As watered silk

Now come his children
Two little boys running
Running one bigger
Almost grown crying
Plato’s pages ring
With silence but
We hear their weeping
And the keening of the women

It is time
Says the man
With the poison cup
It is time

We say look how the sunlight
Lingers on the mountains
Wait until evening
When the shadows come.

Drink says the man
With the poison cup
Walk until your legs
Grow numb then lie
On your back and wait
For the creeping slow
Nothingness to come

Socrates drains the cup
In one gulp in one breath
Be peaceful at my death

We don’t cry out
Or sweep the
Poisoned chalice
From his willing lips

He hides his face
With a cloth
Pinch pinch
Go the fingers
Hard hard slowly,
So slowly slowly
Up Socrates’ legs.

No se puede mirar

At dead cold waist point
Socrates raises the cloth
Offer a cock to Asclepius
In case you forget that
Death really does heal life

Then all breath stops
His eyes are fixed
On the distant mountains

Socrates is dead
Has he eluded our love

What would you have written

Yo lo vi
Linda Heyworth
First publication


On the bus from Victoria, going past Trafalgar Square and the light flashed off the head of Marc Quinn's extraordinary statue, which had been unveiled for the first time that very day. Certainly a first in the history of sculpture, it sits impressively on its plinth, seemingly oblivious to the crowds below and the pigeons.

Down on Chalk Farm Road, visiting the Proud Gallery to see their Dylan Exhibition, linked to 'The Bob Dylan Scrapbook', published by Simon & Schuster. Met several beat characters and had a few Carlsberg's - as had many of the other revellers, especially the dude in the cowboy hat (there's always one).

Hot news I picked up in Snapper Books in Cecil Court, from a very bearded chap. The World Beard and Moustache Championships are being held in Berlin on October 1st. Not to be missed.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Great Gigs I Have Seen

It has long been a plan of mine to try and list all of the major gigs and concerts I have seen in my life - just as a memory exercise if nothing else. Such events are amongst the most intense and important things that have happened, after personal relationships, and I often think that for our generations born after the Second World War, that the onslaught of music in the 60s and 70s was the biggest thing in our young lives. Not that that has changed in the intervening years.

What triggered me on this thought was the fact that last week my friend David was kind enough to give me a ticket for the Prome at the Albert Hall where we saw Zubin Mehta and the Vienna Philarmonic perform. I may never have seen a full classical orchestra live before (its hard to remember) but it's certain that such performances could be counted on the finger of one hand. The programme was in three parts - some Haydn (take it or leave it), extracts from Wozzeck by Berg (the last piece of which was mesmerising).

The orchestra increased in size between the two performances, then there was an interval, and an even bigger orchestra came back on stage for the piece de resistance of the evening - Stravinsky's 'Rites of Spring' - which is what I was waiting for. I had not realised that this would be one of the great musical experiences of my life.

Those familiar with the piece will know of its savage intensity, its deep emotion, its mixture of pagan and modern. I had not prepared for the effect that it was to have, reaching inside ones heart, stirring up deep and nameless emotions.

To see a vast orchestra at work is a wonderful thing - a big six piece percussion section, ranks of brass players and woodwinds, a rank of big double-bass cello players and, of course, a flock of violinists.

Mehta was like a demon. Working without score, he danced, gestured, jabbed, swooned and flourished his baton, bringing this swirling, disjunctive, poignant, frightening piece to life, by turns, with such elegance and splendour that it brought tears to the eyes and gasps to the throat.

One image in particular stays with me. Mehta, standing like a heron when he uses his wings outstretched to shade the water in his search for fish, surrounded on three sides by the string players, with what seemed like a thousand bows making short vibrant strokes, an urgent and scary sound of great intensity - the whole like some scene from 'Lord of the Rings' , like some vast rhythmic army, soon to be joined by the elephants and the war machines, until the whole orchestra became one vast percussive instrument. Breathtaking and electrifying by turns.

In the interval, I escaped from the hot interior of the hall to the cool wind outside, where members of the orchestra were smoking chatting and laughing, all dressed in the black tail coats, looking like a cross between a pianting by Degas and Jack Vetriano.

What gigs have I seen that could match that? There is a long list ( so here's some of them): the first electric band I ever saw, the original Californian Byrds at the Assembly Hall in Worthing; the Buena Vista Social Club at the Brighton Dome; the legendary Iggy Pop gig at the King's Cross Cinema; Ray Charles at the Royal Festival Hall; Led Zeppelin at the Bath Festival; Bert Jansch at the Gardner Theatre at the University of Sussex; Alice Cooper, Manassas, the Who and Steely Dan (separate gigs) at the Rainbow; Bob Dylan at the Brighton Centre; the MC5 at Phun City; the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park; Parliament at the Hammersmith Odean; Elvis Costello at the Dominion Theatre. My life is marked out by such moments.

On the Turntable:

Road to Ruin - Supergrass
The Rough Guide to Afro-Peru
The Best of Fela Kuti
Calcutta Slide Guitar - Debashish Bhattacharya
Where the Humans Eat - Willy Mason
Ballads - Omar Sosa
No Direction Home - Bob Dylan
500% Dynamite [Soul Jazz Records]



Finding a 'lost' set of Bob Dylan pics is like discovering the Holy Grail - in a way. Such was my luck in discovering the work of Douglas Gilbert earlier this year. Some of you may have seen my feature on the subject in The Times magazine this weekend - 'The Lost Dylan'. For them that missed it, here is the full unedited text.

This month is Dylan central in the UK, with the launch of major photo exhibition at the Proud Galleries in London, coinciding with the launch of 'The Bob Dylan Scrapbook: An American Journey 1956-66 [Simon & Schuster] and the screening of the two-part Martin Scorsese documentary on Dylan 'No Direction Home' on September 26 &27th on BBC's Arena programme. See:

'In 1964, a 21-year-old photographer named Douglas R. Gilbert went on an assignment for Look magazine, to photograph the just-turned 23-year-old Bob Dylan.

In a couple of days in late June, he captured Dylan, in Woodstock, relaxing with friends – including the beat poet Allen Ginsberg - playing with kids, writing poetry, posing on his motorbike and jamming in the local café with John Sebastian (who later formed The Lovin’ Spoonful).

A week or so after, Gilbert spent a few further hours shooting Dylan getting drunk with Ramblin’ Jack Elliott at the legendary Kettle of Fish bar in Greenwich Village, examining fresh vinyl he had acquired from his recent European trip, and browsing in a local bookstore.

At the end of July, Gilbert is at the Newport Folk Festival, to record shots of Dylan appearing at the Friday opening song workshop, his surprise appearance at the end of Joan Baez’ set that night, and his solo set on the main stage on Saturday night, when Baez joined him for an encore.

Despite the quality of these elegant black and white photos, the story was subsequently rejected by Look as the editors felt Dylan was ‘too scruffy’ for a family magazine and the pictures were kept unseen in the photographer’s archive for the next 40 years, as Gilbert was unsure as to whether the copyright rested with him.

Reassured by a colleague and with encouragement from his daughter, the pictures have finally seen daylight – and the public acclaim they deserve.

A long tangled trail led me to these pictures, to Douglas Gilbert and eventually the whole set of contact sheets which proved to be the key to recapturing lost days in Dylan’s life by sequencing the pictures for the first time, identifying the key characters and researching Dylan’s life to give them a context. Thus the photos can now speak to us.
Firstly, they capture Dylan in a way we have never really seen him – relaxed, at peace, easy with himself and his surroundings. There is an innocence there but also the marks of the journey he has made from Hibbing to Greenwich Village to these images.

He is a young man who has already come a very long way. The summer before he had become the new star of Newport and had discovered Woodstock before it became ‘a zoo or a ‘nation’, in the words of Robert Shelton. Then Kennedy was shot. ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’ was released. He took a road trip across America (part Kerouac, part Fear and Loathing). He’d split up with Suze Rotolo (the girl on the cover of ‘Freewheelin’’ and was having an affair with Joan Baez. He played England, roamed Europe, hung out in Greece. On his return, he went into Studio A in New York and in one night recorded ‘Another Side of Bob Dylan’ between 7:30pm and 1.00am. That was just a couple of weeks before the first pictures you see here were taken.

In fact, we actually see Bob writing part of the liner notes for the album (says Gilbert), who captures Dylan at the typewriter in The White Room above the Café Expresso on Tinker Street, in a beautifully balanced image, full of resonant repeating shapes – the wooden mallet on the hook, the distinctive t-square shape on the drawing board, the adze-like black outline of the cover over the typewriter keys. Dylan sits, at an elegant wooden table, ashtray by his side. Cool in his suede jacket and boots of Spanish leather. A table in the foreground holds a tableaux of cigarette packets, corkscrew, French wine bottle and cup of coffee – the artist’s tools.

Some two weeks after the Newport Festival, Dylan gets taken to the Hotel Delmonico in New York by the recently deceased journalist Al Aronowitz to meet the Beatles. Al shared some heavy weed with the lads and claimed ever after that this was where the ‘60s began.

Ahead lies the legendary and explosive Dylan-goes-electric performance at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, 'Like A Rolling Stone', mob attention, stellar fame, and the mysterious bike crash (the same Triumph we see in these pictures) on July 29th 1966. Press reports at the time said he had broken his neck and almost killed himself but this version of events does not now stand up to historical scrutiny. The incident did however enable Dylan to cancel his increasingly frenetic commitments and withdraw from performing for a time, his next live show being a tribute to WoodyGuthrie, one of his key mentors, on January 20th 1968.

The pictures of Dylan and Ginsberg are amongst the best ever taken of a friendship that had begun that previous December and which lasted until the poet’s death in 1997. Ginsberg, resplendent on cotton and sandals, had recently returned from a long spell in India; the photos actually capture Dylan showing him how to play the harmonium that Ginsberg had acquired in Benares.

There are no fans in these pictures. This was a different world. Sun-splashed images of a lost summer. Gilbert’s youthful assignment has captured for history another side of Dylan. A very human one. A young man about to make it big. But in a new way. Knowing what we now know gives these rediscovered images a powerful poignancy and allows us to see Dylan afresh. Once more.'

Due to my investigative work on the photos, I have an 'Additional Research'  credit on the title page of the book of Gilbert's images. 'Forever Young: Photographs of Bob Dylan, 1964, is to be published by Da Capo Press on November 1st. The opening essay is by the legendary US rock writer Dave Marsh, biographer of Bruce Springsteen and The Who and founder of Creem magazine, where the legendary Lester Bangs was one of the star writers. It was a pleasure to work with him.

Adventures In Hyper-Reality (3): Pete Culshaw

Bush Sr and Jr visit New Orleans
Original source: Dvorak Uncensored: The Personal Weblog of John C. Dvorak

The God of Hellfire in Residence

From time to time, chez nous functions as the Beat Hotel (excellent views and rates; as much olive oil as you can eat) and it has been a great pleasure to have the legendary Arthur Brown, the God of Hellfire in residence over the past month or so.

As chance would have it, he happened to have with him the proofs from the first full-length biography of his life and times, which I have been reading intermittently between dealing with the usual assortment of real-life problems that, inevitably, interrupt any kind of artistic activity.

Written by Polly Marshall, Shirley Collins’ daughter, ‘The God of Hellfire: The Crazy Life and Times of Arthur Brown’ is an eccentric narrative of great charm and interest, which weaves a tapestry of connections, anecdotes, press clips and extensive quotes from Arthur’s own memoirs (drafted in hand on yellow lined paper, as I recall) into a story that almost beggar’s belief.

AB introduced theatricality into rock in a spectacular and formative way in the mid-1960s. He and his two compatriots formed the tallest trio in rock, scaring and stunning their audiences, and became the most heavily booked university band of the time.

Their No 1 single ‘Fire’ remains an iconic memento of British psychedelia. Arthur has told me that he sung the song at Donald Trump’s casino in Atlanta, at a party for Edward Kennedy in early 1969 and was recently helicoptered into a stadium of 40,000 people to sing at the opening of a football game featuring a team named Rhinefire, who have adopted it as their anthem. He says it was ‘much discussed in India and appealed to the Mexicans because of the trumpets.’

Once memorably described as a cross between Screaming Jay Hawkins, Little Richard, Tom Jones and Maria Callas, Arthur Brown has lost none of his extraordinary vocal power and stage presence. I can vouch for this, having seen the man personally mesmerise audiences. Playing guitar and singing in my kitchen, his voice accelerates effortlessly and astonishingly from a primeval and subterranean bass growl to a high register vocal scream that rattled the plates in my kitchen and curls your eyelids. A hard act to follow.

Naturally someone of such great talent has been poorly treated by the music business (it has to be said, not an uncommon thing at that time - or today). He has also been largely sidelined by the music and mainstream press, except as a one-hit wonder.

Yet like many musicians of his originality and calibre, he remains constantly in demand for concerts, collaborations and events in many parts of the world. He runs his own regular nights at the Komedia in Brighton, stages an annual festival in Spain, and produces music and performances of great artistry and style.

Arthur’s importance as a pioneer cannot be underestimated. Witness this marvellous account in the beautiful intro of the book by Howard Marks (‘Mr Nice’ himself) who vividly remembers his first sight of Arthur:

‘Suddenly, a human cannonball wearing Sun God robes and a science fiction mask and with his head on fire arched through the auditorium….Spinning and thrashing his head, he tore off the mask to reveal a face plastered with woad. Everyone jumped up and down and bounced off the walls in frenzied relief. They were dancing to the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, the first psychedelic soul spectacle, a memory that neither experience nor drug could ever erase.’

Then there’s John Peel: ‘I’m ashamed to say it, I don’t remember the Floyd as vividly as I remember Arthur Brown, ‘cos I mean Arthur Brown, at that time, used to stand there and insult the members of the audience in much the same way as people like Johnny Rotten.’

I remember reading how James Brown had taken his whole band, when in Nigeria, to go and see Fela Kuti, who blew him away. Well check this quote from the Godmaster Of Funk and Totally Over The Top Theatrics, Mr George Clinton: ‘We saw Arthur Brown and his Crazy World and the whole thing was just an eye-opener to me. He used to sing ‘I am the God of Hell Fire’ and then he’d set fire to his fuckin’head. That told me a lot. I knew where I was heading from then on.’

According to a heavy metal website (, the Crazy World are ‘correctly identified as the daddy and granddaddy of all the latter ‘satanic rockers.’ Ozzy covered ‘Fire’ on his 4-CD box set, released earlier this year, as did Prodigy before him. Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden is both a friend and huge fan. Check out AB’s ‘Devil’s Grip’ to see where it all came from.

In short, Arthur is a unique figure in British culture who should be celebrated and acknowledged. Spread the word by reading this book, which also contains a rich fund of stories of Arthur’s spiritual travels to Rwanda and Turkey, his legendary painting and decorating business (named Black and Brown) in Austin, Texas, with Jimmy Carl Black from the Mothers, his friendship with Jimi Hendrix and why he stripped naked at the Palermo Pop Festival 70 (and what happened to him in a Sicilian prison as a result).

Arthur Wilton-Brown, born 1942 in Whitby, Yorkshire, to a father who developed the first fully automatic toothbrush — we salute you.

‘The God of Hellfire: The Crazy Life and Times of Arthur Brown’ by Polly Marshall is published shortly by SAF Publishing Ltd (
[ISBN: 0 9646719 77 2] £20.00.

See also: