How wonderfuel it was to see so many of you at Manchester University’s Whitworth Gallery for my William Blake speech last Friday night. The gallery was heaving with beautiful people, the likes of which the Whitworth’s director said they’d never seen before at such events. However, as the journalists that I spoke to in the run-up showed so little awareness of the real William Blake (they’d all fallen for the Last Night of the Proms ‘Jerusalem’ version), I was – in my speech – determined to expose and promote Blake’s true ‘refusenik’ nature, especially as the professors who’d invited me in the first place had noted in their letter of invitation that (to their minds at least) “Julian Cope best represents the spirit of Blake in the 21st Century” (click here to read speech). William Blake was anything but the passive and devotional Christian so many nowadays assume him to have been, being instead the son of religious dissenters, Londoners whose lives had been entirely informed by the extreme possibilities of cultural change thrown up one hundred years earlier by the English Civil War. Far from being some la-de-da patriot, Blake was a man who claimed to be a republican and who wrote to a friend: “No news, save that Great Britain is hanging the Irish … and establishing the human flesh trade.” Like me, Blake stood outside society and fired broadsides at it wherever he could, ridiculing his artist contemporaries who’d fallen for the so-called Cult of the Celebrity. Like me, he kept up a constant attack both on organized religion and on God, whom he referred to as ‘Nobodaddy’ and ‘Father of Jealousy’, asking of God: “Why dost thou hide thyself in clouds?” All of this explains why William Blake – so ignored by his own contemporaries – continues to make more and more sense with the passing of time. In the Doors’ ‘When The Music’s Over’, my all-time-hero Jim Morrison said of the earth that we had ‘tied her with fences and dragged her down’, continuing a theme first discussed 200 years earlier in Blake’s poems ‘The Garden of Love’ and ‘London’. Morrison named his band after Blake’s phrase ‘the Doors of Perception’, and made the Blakean statement: “Those who make their peace with authority BECOME authority.” Curiously, Blake himself went even further, writing: “I must Create a System, or be Enslav’d by another Man’s.” Like Martin Luther and the Bronze Age prophet Zoroaster before him, William Blake dared to reject the established religious order, supporting Herman Melville’s assertion that “only the man who says ‘no’ is free”. And so, as a heathen motherfucker, you can imagine what a great honour it was for me to have represented Blake last week. Furthermore, as I see this all as validation that I have been acting my chosen role correctly, you can be sure that I shall continue to play the cultural irritant, (1) clashing with those so-called liberals who wish to give up this nation’s long history of questioning everything in case of causing offence, and (2) ridiculing those religious types whose Gods demand no more respect than Santa Claus. U-Know-ho-ho!!!
THE VIKING OF 6th AVENUE by Robert Scotto
Okay, to turn now to the reviews section, there have been a few very inspirational books published of late, some of which I must make mention. They’re mainly rock’n’roll or music themed, so I’ve decided to deal with one per month, starting with THE VIKING OF 6th AVENUE, Robert Scotto’s extraordinary biography of the blind street composer and inventor Moondog, on Process Books (www.processpackaging.com
). Now, I’m quite prepared to admit that, while the Nordic Warrior image of this be-horned and spear-wielding Thor-worshipping heathen had always intrigued and inspired me, Moondog’s music has never touched me, being mainly either too accessible and bright for my tastes, or because of his tendency to write mainly short pieces. However, the thoroughness and insightfulness of Robert Scotto’s new book has entirely turned my opinion around 180’, and the book occupied a great space in my head for over two weeks in the late autumn. And, although I’m still no closer to enjoying Moondog’s music, I’d suggest every modern musician, nay, every artist should read this book in order to better gauge where they themselves are heading. Scotto’s understanding of his highly controversial subject is truly masterful. He’s extremely rigorous throughout, compassionate where necessary, and has worked hard to explain Moondog’s obscure but highly thorough world-view (and I write this as an obsessive Odinist whose own work often suffers from the shortcomings of journalists quite happy to pass judgement though culturally utterly ill-equipped to do so). I therefore both thank and salute Robert Scotto for devoting so much time both to the work and the worldview of this heroic man. Anticipating Andy Warhol by half-a-century, Oscar Wilde once noted: “One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art." Bullshit. That’s not nearly going far enough. If you’re the kind of shamanic artist who intends to ‘live the gimmick’ (as pro-wrestlers in the US refer to it), you gotta exhibit the kind of obstinate and cosmological thoroughness that Moondog achieved. Only then can you stand up alongside the likes of such cultural heroes as George Gurdjieff, Patti Smith, William Blake, George Clinton and Vachel Lindsay.
MIDNIGHT PYRE by Fricara Pacchu
From the sublime to the ridiculous, Krautrock freaks should search out the incredibly cinematic pacman themes of MIDNIGHT PYRE by Finland’s Fricara Pacchu. Released on Lal Lal Lal Records, this keyboard-driven teen trio look straighter than the early Undertones, but sport an overdriven and over-recorded lo-fi sound somewhat akin to side two of Joy Div.’s CLOSER at 45rpm through a single compressor mike. Digital distortion pervades, nay, invades their motorik single-note Winter Olympics themes (as though played by be-mittened primary schoolers), and the time just flashes past. Cop-a-load-o’this via Lal Lal Lal Records at www.haamu.com/lallallal
LONG GOODBYE by Robert Martin
Two vinyl re-issues conclude this month’s reviews, the first being Robert Martin’s bizarre mid-80s Avant-Cosy lo-fi classic LP LONG GOODBYE. Coming on like distant and highly-evocative psychedelic easy-listening relative of Michael Hurley’s solo albums, Martin’s vocals are like some uncanny soprano Scott Walker singing ‘Osama’ Tim Hardin’s ‘The Black Sheep Boy’ while his shadowy grey familiar contributes Sterling Morrison cyclical guitar licks and buddies up on backing harmonies. Despite the abyss between what Robert Martin hears in his head and what he’s able bring to us with his extremely limited arsenal of recording equipment, the performance and content of these songs is such that it’s still easy to reach Martin’s ecstatically despondent pleasure centres. Strangest of all, when the record ends, the hole left in your living environment is more than just sonic; it’s psychically vast. This weird package is available on San Francisco’s Yik Yak label, but is most easily scoffed up via David Keenan’s excellent Volcanic Tongue outlet (www.volcanictongue.co.uk
A CANDLE FOR JUDITH by The Way We Live
Finally, I’d like to thank everyone at Ozit Records for the fabulous vinyl re-issues of the Tractor’s two legendary Dandelion LPs TRACTOR and the previous year’s A CANDLE FOR JUDITH, recorded under the band name ‘The Way We Live’. Fucking hell, these sumptuous packages do John Peel’s originals justice, and no mistake. And just ear-holing the wayward and apoplectic fuzz guitar debauchery of ‘Storm’ for the first time in years sent me racing for cover. Little did I think, way back in ’72 when I scored these babies cheap at Brum’s Diskery as white labels, that they’d next be returning as luxury items (replete with heavy duty clear plazzie sleeves), almost 40 years later. Check out both LPs from www.tractor-ozit.com
, and hurry because they’ze both limited editions!
In the meantime, I’ve just returned from visiting another lost law centre, this time up on The Wirral, for my forthcoming book on the ancient law, and have also been continuing recording for my new album, now entitled BLACK SHEEP. Although most of the themes of this record cover the outsider nature of the rock’n’roller and cultural refusenik, the overall sound feels remarkable pastoral in places, what with my tendency to daub Mellotron 400 across everything. Methinks it’s gonna be a really beautiful, though highly disturbed (natch), piece of rock’n’roll.
Until next month, M’Luds, Me Ladies,
Love reign Over Y’all,
JULIAN (Lord Yatesbury)