Archive for the ‘jimi hendrix’ Category

The skinny on Skinny-dipping

Rupert Brooke in Granchester (with soft collar)

Rupert Brooke in Granchester (with soft collar)

On Thursday evening I joined Channel 4 colleagues at The Courthouse Hotel [formerly the Marylebone Magistrates Court, was glad to see cells have been imaginatively retained] opposite Carnaby Street (a resonant area for me as just round the corner from my very first workplace, Solus in Marshall Street, Soho, whose attic contained hidden gems like footage of Jimi Hendrix at the Isle of Wight and James Baldwin in Paris) to view as it was broadcast a programme I had (deliberately) only seen as raw footage – Alone in the Wild. Since the beginning of July we have been publishing online the rushes of the show as they came out of the wilderness of the Yukon, where cameraman/film-maker Ed Wardle was living and recording his experiences himself, completely alone in the wild. My part of the cross-platform commission also involved publishing daily out-going only short messages from the wild via Twitter, which were subsequently used to punctuate the three films in the series. [Next one is this Thursday at 9pm on C4]

One scene in Episode 1 saw Ed delighting in a skinny-dip in the lake where he had made camp, frolicking like a child, immersing himself with joy in the place he shared with a stately moose and grayling destined for his frying pan.

I’ve been equally struck recently by accounts of poet Rupert Brooke’s skinny-dipping activities in Granchester, a place made magical for me after a lone moonlit cycle-ride to there in the middle of one Romantic night. In particular, accounts of ‘The Midnight Swim’ when this proto-hippy young poet shared the waters of Byron’s Pool with the unstable, radical woman of letters Virginia Stephens, later Woolf, who finished her life alone in the underwater wild of a Sussex river.

It was 1911. They were both single. Rupert was 24, Virginia was 29. It was the year Poems 1911 was published (clue in the title), Brooke’s one and only volume of poems to appear during his actual lifetime. (Woolf’s first novel appeared four years later.)

Christopher Hassall describes the incident in his biography of Brooke (Rupert Brooke: a Biography 1964):

“It was the end of August. Virginia Stephen arrived at the Old Vicarage and occupied Ka’s bed on the other side of the house. The garden room was strewn with scraps of Strindberg, pages of Bland Vassen and fragments of verse. Probably the guest had brought with her an early chapter of The Voyage Out to revise while Brooke was reading or writing stretched out on the grass. One warm night there was a clear sky and a moon and they walked out to the shadowy waters of Byron’s Pool. “Let’s go swimming, quite naked,” Brooke said, and they did.”

Brooke mentions in his well known poem The Old Vicarage, Granchester this pool where his poetic forebear Byron swam when no-one was about:

Still in the dawn waters cool
His ghostly Lordship swims his pool

The painter Augustus John, who lived nearby with a caravan load of hot women and brown children, was also a naked frequenter of the pool, as was the philosopher Wittgenstein.

The Midnight Swim is also fictionalised and extrapolated upon in Jill Dawson’s recent novel The Great Lover which I read on holiday this August (exactly 98 years after the skinny-dip in question), kindly given to me by Aysha Rafaele (a fellow C4 Commissioning Editor from Documentaries) who spotted it in the Richard & Judy Book Club pile.

So any action between the two of them, both swingers-both-ways? Rupert, I get the impression, was more inclined to the hetero. Virginia must be well documented but I’m not sure exactly how her bi was balanced. Lytton Strachey had proposed to her two years earlier but they both realised, in the cool light of day the next morning, it wouldn’t work out. I don’t think any one knows or ever said quite what occurred, which leaves it as a lovely little mystery…

The Midnight Swim wasn’t their first watery encounter. In April 1899 (Rupert was 11, Virginia was 17) the Brookes went to St. Ives on holiday, where Leslie Stephen was also vacationing with his family. The two of them played together by the sea.

Yeats called Brooke “the handsomest young man in England”. By the year of The Midnight Swim, Brooke was secretly engaged or attached in some fashion to Noel Olivier, a fascinating character in her own right (Rupert was 24, Noel was 19) here’s her Wikipedia entry.

I had a go recently at drafting a Wikipedia entry for her sister Brynhild who seemed a promising character, the most beautiful of the Olivier sisters, but there’s very little to go on. This is what I have so far:

”’Brynhild Olivier”’ (1886 – 13th January 1935) was a member of [[Rupert Brooke]]‘s circle before the First World War and associated with the [[Bloomsbury Group]]. She was the fourth daughter of [[Sydney Haldane Olivier]], 1st Baron Olivier, and Margaret Cox; she was sister of Margery, Daphne and [[Noel Olivier|Noel]].

She married art historian [[A. E. Popham]] (Arthur Ewart Hugh Popham, known as Hugh) in 1912 (becoming Brynhild Popham). Hugh Popham was a friend of Rupert Brooke. They were divorced in 1924. She married [[F. R. N. Sherrard]] in 1924 (becoming Brynhild Sherrard).

She was the mother of [[Anne Olivier Popham]], who became the wife of art historian and writer [[Quentin Bell]]. She was also the mother of the poet, translator and theologian [[Philip Sherrard|Philip Owen Arnould Sherrard]] (born 23 September 1922, Oxford).

Brynhild was the first of the four Olivier sisters the poet Rupert Brooke met. Although she was reputedly the most beautiful, it was her sister Noel Olivier for whom Brooke fell.

She was first cousin of the actor [[Laurence Olivier]].

If there’s anyone out there in internetland who knows anything more about Brynhild (Bryn) Olivier, please do let me know via comments or however so I can get enough substance in the article to make it acceptable for Wikipedia – i.e. more information on what she achieved in her adult life.

Rupert and Noel met in 1908 when he was 20 and she a 15-year-old schoolgirl at the then fashionable, progressive Bedales in Petersfield. Noel’s father was Lord Sydney Olivier (uncle of dear, dear Larry), a prominent Fabian and high-ranking civil servant, serving in his time as Governor of Jamaica and Secretary of State for India.

Bedales was something of a centre for getting your kit off. Various members of Brooke’s circle had been there, the first co-ed public school, which encouraged a passion for the open air and healthy outdoor games. Nude swimming and sunbathing (segregated) made it on to the curriculum (hoorah!). The Sun Bathing Society’s Annual Summer Conference was held there in 1931 and naturists used the Bedales grounds out of term in the wake of their starting to organise in Britain during the previous decade.

Noel went on to have a long and interesting career as a doctor, politically active in a way reflecting her Fabian roots. Rupert had a short one as an early crash-and-burn teen hero, paving the way for everyone from James Dean to (fellow Cantabrian) Nick Drake to River (appropriately enough) Phoenix. He didn’t quite make 28. He cast himself as a Neo-Pagan (becoming a central figure of an eponymous group of writers and artists) and Virginia confirmed this: “He was consciously and definitely pagan.” They were the original Teddy Boys, the reckless youth of the Edwardian era, rebelling against the constraints of stiff-collared Victorian ways.

Embodying the Neo-Pagan ideals of youth, comradeship and the Simple Life, Brooke revelled in going barefoot and skinny-dipping: “Two miles from Cambridge up the river I wander about barefoot and almost naked. I live on honey, eggs and milk.” (letter to Noel Olivier, summer 1909). A bit of Romantic exaggeration of course, but Rupert certainly enjoyed casting off a few layers.

This summer I had the Simple Pleasure of bathing in Lough Hyne, just outside of Baltimore (the one in West Cork as opposed to The Wire one). It is pretty much unique as a salt-water lake, quite the place to go if you want to hang with a goby, shanny, blenny, three-spined stickleback or clingfish. Its salty water reminded me of another top bathing experience – the Blue Hole, East of Port Antonio, Jamaica (aka the Blue Lagoon since Brooke Shields skinny-dipped there in 1980, directed by Randal Kleiser, who I had a ridiculous phonecall with when I was working at Solus – for some unaccountable reason I turned momentarily into The Player, luckily old Randy couldn’t see the tenderfoot at the other end of the transatlantic line). The Blue Hole is a mixed salt and fresh water lagoon, fed by cold underground springs. When you swim you have the unique experience of one stroke warm, next stroke cool, warm, cool, warm, cool, warm, cool. Divers and scientists say it has a depth of about 180 feet. Local islanders say it is bottomless and a monsterous creature lives down below. The mixture of intense physical pleasure and underlying anxiety of the sheer extent and unknowableness of Nature is an experience common to skinny-dippers the world wide.

The-Blue-Lagoon

Long Players

whats going on - marvin gaye After playing the 100 Greatest Songs of all time parlour game with my friend Doug Miller over Christmas (me in the North of London, him in the South of France) he came back with the 50 Greatest LPs of all time challenge (no compilations, only one record per artist/band). I failed miserably – couldn’t boil it down to less than 75. So here they are – the 75 best LPs ever (of course, I’ll be popping back from time to time to make the odd sneaky change):

Beauty Stab – ABC
The Stars We Are – Marc Almond
The Last Waltz – The Band
The White Album – The Beatles
Post – Bjork
Go Tell It on the Mountain – Blind Boys of Alabama
Plastic Letters – Blondie
Space Oddity – David Bowie
Love Bites – Buzzcocks
The Clash – The Clash
A Rush of Blood to the Head – Coldplay
* A Love Supreme – John Coltrane
Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me – The Cure
* Kind of Blue – Miles Davis
Don’t Stand Me Down – Dexy’s Midnight Runners
Hot August Night – Neil Diamond
The Doors – The Doors
Pink Moon – Nick Drake
Blood on the Tracks – Bob Dylan
Bill Evans – Conversations with Myself
Tiger in the Rain – Michael Franks
* Stay Human – Michael Franti & Spearhead
The Score – The Fugees
* What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
Flesh – David Gray
Guys & Dolls movie ST
Are you experienced? – Jimi Hendrix
The Miseducation of – Lauryn Hill
Yarona – Abdullah Ibrahim trio
All Mod Cons – The Jam
Jesus Christ Superstar
Unknown Pleasures – Joy Division
On Song – Brian Kennedy
Led Zeppelin IV – Led Zeppelin
Imagine – John Lennon
Cinquieme As – MC Solaar
The Snake – Shane MacGowan & the Popes
Madness – Madness
Correct Use of Soap – Magazine
Exodus – Bob Marley & the Wailers
* Solid Air – John Martyn
New World Order – Curtis Mayfield
Monk’s Dream – Thelonius Monk quartet
A Night in San Francisco – Van Morrison
Blues and the Abstract Truth – Oliver Nelson
Throw Down Yours Arms – Sinead O’Connor
Meddle – Pink Floyd
Dummy – Portishead
Metal Box – Public Image Ltd (in the metal box)
O – Damien Rice
Some Girls – The Rolling Stones
Stranded – Roxy Music
Rumblefish OST (Stewart Copeland)
The Crack – The Ruts
Abraxas – Sanata
Gymnopedies – Eric Satie
Never Mind the Bollocks – The Sex Pistols
* Songs for Swinging Lovers – Frank Sinatra
The Scream – Siouxsie and the Banshees
Six Days in June
Easter – Patti Smith
The Specials – The Specials
The Rising – Bruce Springsteen
We’ll Never Turn Back – Mavis Staples
Tea for the Tillerman – Cat Stevens
Brilliant Trees – David Sylvian
Remain in the Light – Talking Heads
Sweet Baby James – James Taylor
Stan Tracey – Under Milk Wood
Joshua Tree – U2
Signing Off – UB40
Live in Leeds – The Who
Talking Book – Stevie Wonder
Harvest – Neil Young
*Road to Freedom – The Young Disciples

And in case you’ve ever lain awake at night wondering what the top 7 LPs of all time are in order, here you are:

1 Kind of Blue – Miles Davis
2 What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
3 A Love Supreme – John Coltrane
4 Songs for Swinging Lovers – Frank Sinatra
5 Solid Air – John Martyn
6 Road to Freedom – The Young Disciples
7 Stay Human – Michael Franti & Spearhead

Doug’s top 50 is somewhat more sophisticated as befits an international man of mystery:
1. Mariano/Vant’hof/Catherine – Sleep My Love
2. Garbarek/Gismonti/Haden – Folk Songs
3. What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
4. Songs in the Key of Life – Stevie Wonder
5. Beyond Skin – Nitin Sawhney
6. Soro – Salif Keita
7. Leftfield – Leftism
8. John Coltrane – A Love Supreme
9. Airto Moreira – Seeds on the Ground
10. Khomsa – Anouar Brahem
11. Santana – Caravanserai
12. Edu Lobo – Cantiga De Longe
13. Remain in Light – Talking Heads
14. Eastern Sounds – Yusef Lateeef
15. Devotional Songs – Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
16. The Velvet Underground and Nico
17. Gabor Szabo & Bobby Womack – High Contrast
18. The Isley Brothers – 3+3
19. This Is My Country – The Impressions
20. Pharaoh Sanders – Journey To the One
21. Miles Davis – In a Silent Way
22. DJ Shadow Entroducing
23. Keith Jarrett – The Koln Concert
24. Sigur Ros – Takk
25. Let it Bleed – The Rolling Stones
26. Brian Eno/Harold Budd – The Plateau of Mirror
27. Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd
28. Tabula Rasa – Arvo Part
29. Mothership Connection – Parliament
30. Lou Reed – Transformer
31. Led Zeppelin – 2
32. David Sylvian – Secrets of the Beehive
33. Free Will – Gil Scot Heron
34. David Crosby – If I Could Only Remember My Name
35. Spirit – 12 Dreams of Dr Sardonicus
36. Jdilla – Donuts
37. Five Leaves Left – Nick Drake
38. Clube De Esquina – Milton Nascimento
39. Sonny Rollins – Saxophone Colossus
40. Lonnie Liston Smith – Expansions
41. Anthony and the Johnsons – I am a Bird Now
42. TheInflated Tear – Rahsan Roland Kirk
43. Blue Camel – Rabih Abou-Khalil
44. What Colour is Love – Terry Callier
45. Fat Albert Rotunda – Herbie Hancock
46. Diamond Dogs – David Bowie
47. Assagai – Afrorock
48. Biosphere – Sub-Strata
49. Ein Deutche Requiem – Brahms (Simon Rattle)
50. The Nordic Quartet – Rypdal/Surman/Storaas.Krog

Feel free to join in…

Drinker with a writing problem

brendan behan

What do I think of when I hear the name Brendan Behan?

* Drink
* Fighting
* IRA
* Dylan Thomas
* Woolly jumper
* Dexy’s Midnight Runners

Drink:
By all accounts the man was an alcoholic for years. It certainly done him in. He described himself as “a drinker with a writing problem” (not quite Oscar wit, but amusing enough).

Fighting / Woolly jumper:
He looks like a brawler in the photos, even with those 50s Irish woolly jumper and tie arrangements. I’m not sure how much fighting he actually did – suspect most of it was with himself.

IRA:
He seems to have got caught a lot but I suppose at least it gave him raw material for his writing. His first stretch, the time he did in borstal, was for republican activities, specifically a half-baked attempt to blow up Liverpool docks. His first writings, poetry and prose, were published in Fianna, the magazine of Fianna Eireann, the youth organisation of the IRA. (My first published photos were in An Phoblacht [it's a long story] but from there, besides our shared wild&windswept hairdo, our lifestories diverge.) I get the impression he eventually grew out of the IRA and came to doubt political violence.

Dylan Thomas:
There appears to be a number of close parallels between Dylan and Brendan – lionised to death in the US, hounded by the media, the drink, the woman they couldn’t live with or without (Caitlin and Beatrice respectively), the woolly jumper with tie look, money worries, New York, the White Horse Tavern on Hudson St. in Greenwich Village. My sister-in-law Bronagh is arriving from Dublin this evening and she knows about these things so hopefully I’ll be a bit more clued up about these connections by the time I hit the pit tonight. Poking around on the web I came across a bit of a spat in the mid-60s on this very point between Conor Cruise O’Brien and a certain Constantine FitzGibbon (a biographer of Thomas) – O’Brien made connections between the two and FitzGibbon denied them.

I stumbled across this rather neat link last night: “Dylan Thomas wrote Under Milk Wood, Brendan Behan wrote under Littlewood” – referring to Joan Littlewood whose Theatre Workshop put on The Quare Fellow at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in 1956, transferring to the West End and ultimately to Broadway, establishing his international rep.

It’s the last commonality on the list above – time spent in New York – which gives rise to this posting. A new play entitled Brendan at the Chelsea is coming up this month at the Riverside in Hammersmith (starting 15th January) written by Behan’s niece Janet and starring Adrian Dunbar (The Crying Game, The General, My Left Foot, Hear My Song – who co-directs) and Brid Brennan (Dancing at Lughnasa, Topsy-Turvy).

It’s set in the 60s in the “legendary bohemian bolt-hole”, The Chelsea Hotel (where Dylan Thomas checked out of this world in 1953 with alcohol poisoning – hang-out also for that other poet who adopted Thomas’ name, Bob Dylan, and his buddy Allen Ginsberg, not to mention writers ranging from Eugene O’Neill to Arthur C. Clarke [who wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey there], and musos including Leonard Cohen, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead, and of course the ungrateful dead, Nancy Spungen, who had no fun in a room there with Sid back in 1978). So, fellow playwright Arthur Miller is just across the hall, the grooves of free jazzer Ornette Coleman are drifting down from a floor above and Brendan’s in his room, short of dough and inspiration – he’s hung over and way past the delivery date of his next book, not a line written. He’s been told to stop drinking or he’ll be dead in six months – and that was two years ago….

So all set for a lively night on 23rd Street. I’ll report back when I’ve seen it and if you fancy a night of drama, drink and the fascinating interaction of human Behans, you’re just a click away from the Riverside

Dexy’s Midnight Runners:
I remember buying their first single Dance Stance and being intrigued by the litany of literary Irish (including Brendan who I hadn’t read but if he was in the same list as Oscar Wilde that was good enough for me)

Never heard about Oscar Wilde
Don’t want to know about Brendan Behan
Don’t think about Sean O’Casey
Don’t care about George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett
Won’t talk about Eugene O’Neill
Don’t know about Edna O’Brien
Won’t think about Laurence Sterne

Shut it
You don’t undertand it
Shut it
That’s not the way I planned it
Shut your mouth til you know the truth.

Songlines

patti smith

It’s been a Big Music Week for me. After all the excitement of Madcap’s Last Laugh last Thursday this Thursday was marked by a fabulous performance by Patti Smith at the Roundhouse. I’m nearly on overload now – someone get me a wet flannel to lay across my fevered brow.

I’m a big believer in the importance of connections in creativity, as per the very first post on this blog inspired by Andre Breton on surprising connections. I had this fantastic text book at school in Mr Fitch’s English class – Paradise Lost, Books I-II (edited by John Broadbent for Cambridge University Press) – which was a real inspiration for me at a crucial age. I found a second-hand copy years later. As it says on the back: “The editors’ aim is not simply to inform on points of fact, but by indicating lines of investigation, to stimulate the student’s interest and to encourage him [this must be the boys school version] to find out for himself. Links with subjects not traditionally regarded as concerning ‘English’ are emphasised.” So the footnotes in the book, which make up about a third of the text, range from notes on flies/Golding/Sartre via 16th century polar exploration to Freud. Being taught about Milton also gave me a real love of language and its roots. One of the aspects of Patti’s performance last night which was most enrapturing was her obvious delight in using and playing with language. Her take on Smells Like Teen Spirit – one of those uncoverable songs, covered masterfully – reveled in the simple lyrics: A mulatto. An albino. A mosquito. My libido. She inserted stretches of poetry into the songs by others which make up her new record Twelve bringing an energetic new dimension to great songs – like White Rabbit and Are You Experienced?

Which brings me back to the connections, the whole place was radiating with them last night. She opened with Gloria which I’d seen Van perform just six days before on the very same stage. And perhaps Jim Morrison sang in the same round hall when he famously played the Roundhouse with The Doors in 1968, legend has it doing the longest encore of all time. Patti went on to perform Soul Kitchen.

She did a cracking version of Are You Experienced? with her trusty stalwart Lenny Kaye on guitar while she accompanied with her mad clarinet playing, which was perfect for the song, properly steeped in psychedelia, a direct link to Jimi Hendrix who played the Roundhouse in February 1967, and who Patti also name-checked during a climactic version of Rock’n’Roll Nigger.

Then there are the links to CBGBs via Debbie Harry /Blondie. To Kenneth Tynan via liberal use of “fuck”. To American beat poetry via The Living Theatre of New York. Connections radiating around that resonant space, 360 degrees of power (it was once a railway engine turning shed) and intoxication (an old gin warehouse) and performance for the people (home of Arnold Wesker’s Centre 42).

Last weekend my younger son had Symmetry as the subject for his homework. I was really taken by how he could see Infinity in the Circle without knowing the word or exactly how to express it – his words were more than up to capturing the amazing concept. I never got round to reading that book Songlines (every one seemed to enjoy it at the time) but I’ve no doubt that last night’s performance was the hub of a rich radiance of music, words and beyond.

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