Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Those Om dudes really are hippies, aren't they? Some quotes from an interview with Al Cisneros in Arthur from last May:

"The lyrics are just verse fragments---poem-prayers that spew forth from the mist".

And on Sleep and Om's love of weed:

"I definitely look at it as kind of a botanical shrine."

Talking of hippies, I enjoyed this quote from the interview with freak folk-- sorry, free folk (freak folk, apparently, is the sanitized, mainstream-friendly version--joanna/devendra--of the real thing) pioneers Matt Valentine and Erika Elder in the end-of-year Wire. Recalling the legendary Free Folk festival in Brattleboro*, Vermont several years ago, Valentine notes:

"I'm glad that the fest turned some around and inside out, maybe someone who digs what the pop media did with the airbrushed, souped-up free folk thing might step over to the other side and stay out after curfew, maybe even do it without the coital police around. I mean, I don't know much about Joanna Newsom's music but she would have been welcome to play our fest, maybe would have got turned on."

Coital police?!?

I also enjoyed Matt Valentine's face. His startling thicket of explosively untrimmed black brambles reminded me of this fantasy that Paul Oldfield (a clean-shaven, well-groomed sort) used to unfurl every so often: the Hair Police. A special patrol group that would descend on hippies, Hell's Angels, and other facially-fuzzed and hirsute sorts that you saw loitering on Oxford's main boulevards and cart them off for forced depilation. I imagine the squad being dressed a bit like the firemen in Fahrenheit 451 but brandishing big nets like a team from a lunatic asylum rounding up escaped inmates or zoo keepers trying to catch a fugitive leopard. This was back in the early 1980s, where there were a surprisingly large number of hippie-ish types still lingering. (Perhaps that's why Tangerine Dream could headline the biggest venue in Oxford in 1981?). Indeed I used to hang out with a bunch of them, as they were some of the only interesting people at my college--them and the Anarchists, with which the hippies overlapped somewhat. These weren't original hippies, obviously, but new recruits, young people who'd spurned the New Wave in favour of the previous youth revolution to punk. In
defiance of History's onward march they plighted their troth to long hair and (for men) beards, brightly coloured raggle-taggle clothes (and in one singular case, walking around barefoot, all year round), hallucinogens, and records like Camembert Electrique and The Hangman's Incredible Daughter. I'd never even heard of Gong or ISB, and to my Penthouse and Pavement-loving ears they sounded pretty silly ('course nowadays they're among my absolute faves, so the hippies would have the last laugh there--except I think they're all accountants now or something equally non-countercultural). But anyway, an interestingly against-the-grain-of-their-own-era bunch. And I was very fascinated by the whole Sixties thing anyway, had my copy of Richard Neville's Playpower (which one of the hippies came around to borrow in a rather frazzled state one day, urgently looking for the bring-someone-down-from-a-bad-trip recipe--orange juice and a vast amount of white sugar, if I recall--cos his mate, this charismatic sort who was kinda the hippie group's leader, was freaking out, cowering in the corner of the room convinced his mate was actually his dad and dead set on murdering him.). Still Paul screwed it up for me in that he wrote a scathing and hilarious critique of pot smokers (pretty dead-on, to be honest) in Margin, this pre-Monitor fanzine we used to do, and naturally they all assumed this represented my opinions, so I was persona non grata after that. No more blowbacks for me.

*I have actually been to Brattleboro as it happens--last summer, quite unaware that it was a centre for free folk. One of Joy's old friends lives up there now. It is absolutely gorgeous and palpably full of hippie-ish energy, dating back to the original era. A place where the real hardcore back-to-the-land, free spirit types moved. As a result, there's lots of fairly-cool second-hand vinyl in the local record stores. e.g. i picked up Wendy Carlos' Sonic Seasonings and Kate & Anna McGarrigle's Joe Boyd produced debut (always been intrigued by the fact that it was Pazz #1, the rockcritocracy's choice in the year it came out, 1975, as opposed to Patti Smith or something actually yknow epochal, which tells you a lot about said rockcritocracy's ability to sense the ways things are going (and my, while the songs and voices are lovely, but the sound of that record sure is stodgy ain't it... as with seeing The Last Waltz, my thought on first hearing it was, "this is everything I don't want from music"...) But Brattleboro, and Vermont generally--I would almost move there it's so lovely, but the winters are apparently incredibly harsh.

1 comment:

  1. Surprisingly TD didn't attract many hippies back in 1981, but (as I remember it) Heavy Metal fans.