Droogs and Drudettes,
What a fabulous World Cup this one has been. And what a chance to think globally and act locally. After watching England’s victory over Argentina from a claustrophobic Dutch hotel bedroom in The Hague, I arrived back to find our house festooned with crosses of St. George, elegantly displayed by my American missus. In times of this reluctant British union, what better way to side-step the mixed message of the Union Jack than to have re-appropriated an even more dubious image and hugged it to our collective chest. During the Summer Solstice celebrations, dropping off and picking up friends in Avebury took on a whole new meaning with the flags on the car. Its message screamed "These are different times." We can no longer sit in judgement because the world has got just too weird. And when we finally went out to Brazil, and all the intelligentsia clucked about the way Beckham, Seaman and Svengland had hoodwinked us all along, I finally understood what it is to live on these islands, with our inherent unspoken smugness. Britain’s post-empire psyche still gnaws away at itself looking for evidence of our inherent racism, when it’s been staring us right in the face all along. Our racism is in the way we patronise Ireland’s football team and shout how well they did for getting less far in the World Cup than our own team did, because it unconsciously reveals how we still expect everything of ourselves and nothing of the Irish.
The theme of my lecture at The Hague had been ‘The Shaman as Doorway’, and I was explaining how shamanism provides gateways between two or more opposing worlds. Anyone who has seen my shows will know how I constantly push the idea that even bad rock’n’roll is the real thing because, unlike classical music, it is a barbarian artform and is no respecter of taste or ruthless perfection. Instead it is a creator of ritual and the moment. And a Gibson Les Paul copy accompanying a Chad Valley drum kit will still have the smoker girls at the back of the youth club dancing as they laugh at you. The shaman cannot stay indoors and quietly meditate upon his visions as is expected of the hermit and monk. Instead, he must take his vision to the people, for, as the legendary Sioux shaman Black Elk commented:
"A man who has a vision is not able to use the power until after he performed the vision for the people to see."
It’s as Rogan Taylor wrote, in his book The Death & Ressurection Show: "Showmanship itself is defined as ‘the capacity for exhibiting one’s capabilities’, which is certainly one of the functions for which the shaman’s performance is designed." But if rock’n’roll reveals the shaman as doorway, then so does the footballer stand at the gateway between two opposing worlds. And just because most football supporters would not admit that attending the match is an act of worship in an un-roofed temple, this does not mean it is untrue. Indeed, the pre-teen visions of Child Beckham as a future shaman adhere entirely to Black Elk’s analysis that Beckham would not be able to ‘use the power until after he performed the vision for the people to see.’ I have even suggested that the goalkeeper is the ultimate shaman - the lonely gatekeeper with colours exclusively his own and an Odinist number one on his back. Some goalies even adopt styles totally at odds with the rest of their team. Look to Germany’s Oliver Khan, question the khol black eye make-up of Turkey’s Rustu, and Svengland’s longhaired and moustachoied David Seaman and you’ll see what I mean (change one letter of Seaman’s name and it reads ‘shaman’ anyway). So I sat down to the World Cup final with hopes that Germany would win it and I was sorely mistaken. For I had reckoned without the brilliance of a Brazilian team which fields poetically-named tricksters on its side. Indeed, I should have known as soon as Edilson, Edmilson and Denilson took their places. So how could we really have expected either England or Germany to stand a chance against a country which has had the pick of players with such names as Rivaldo, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Jairzinho, Rivelino and Juninho. The potency of the magical act begins with such things as names, and works its way down into every pore and orifice of the performer. Take a look at David Beckham’s inspired blond Mohawk, Freddie Ljungberg’s flaming red cockatoo, or Ronaldo’s stupid-stupid-stupid pubic triangle haircut and tell me truly that their magic had no bearing on any of the games.
Last month, I told you about the ancient monuments at Fokinger Slag, and I’m happy to report that I was not let down. But travelling in Europe is weird nowadays on account of the lack of borders. And as they’ve even torn down the huge structures which housed all the cross-border beauracracy, the only way you know you’ve entered a different country is when the motorway exit signs change their language. Crossing into Germany from the Netherlands this month, I was diverted off the E37 because of contraflow, and so entered Germany along a minor road. Without even the comfort of those humorous ‘Ausfahrt’ signs, I was temporarily confused. But then I slowly got into the whole trip – being alienated is part of being abroad. Look at your passport - you’re a fucking alien! This is no Britocentric rap but, in truth, I’m probably just fearful of us losing all our idiosyncrasies – not just European but worldwide. Surely these differences between peoples is what keeps us all awake. Once McDonald’s sushi is the breakfast choice of all, weez gonna be in big trouble. So vive le difference in everything, and the more curiosities of nationality the better. I like that Ireland makes you drive in miles per hour but has all the distances on road signs printed in kilometres. It keeps us on our toes. I like small Belgium having all the signs in two languages, and I like Dutch signs for ‘Luik’ suddenly becoming ‘Liege’ as soon as you cross into Belgium. I always thought life would become less mysterious as I grew up, but now I don’t believe it does. You either rise shamanically to the challenge of the journey outwards, or hide meekly from everything by seeking a place on new age versions of Skellig Michael or Lindisfarne, and wait for this era’s version of the Vikings to come and stamp you out. For the writing of The Modern Antiquarian, I carefully used all the original names of the monuments, and only referred to their numbers for absolute last resort convenience. I hated that a beautiful stone circle such as Cnoc Ceann a’Gharraidh had been temporarily reduced to the prosaic ‘Callanish 3’. But the point I’m trying to make with all these examples is this – human beings thrive on differences, which are far more likely to create more ‘human’ humans than where everything has become sanitised and uniform. Because it is in uniformity that humans go to sleep. I know that the robot within us needs to be activated in order to get us to places under difficult situations. But we have to be careful to leave that robot self in the car once we’ve arrived, or else it’s our robot who’ll be watching that movie we’ve driven miles to see, or the stone circle we’ve looked forward to visiting for so long. Which is why I’ll always enjoy visiting monuments such as D46 in the Netherlands, but will prefer those stones under their more funky title of Fokinger Slag. Got me?
Now, I’m sitting listening to the marvellous ur-drones of Fried-X, whose ambient curtain of female sound hangs over the room like Kalacackra meets Amon Duul’s Paradieswarts Duul. These are the post-Universal Panzies group put together by Mandy NS, X-Mass and the Boy Fried, and their delightfully eerie muse is an ever-building sonic wall seemingly constructed around the tragic pulsings of the multiple heartbeats of lost souls.
Meanwhile rehearsing for an American tour in Las Vegas, the remaining members of The Who mourn the death of legendary bassist John Entwistle, who died of a heart attack last Thursday. Knowing of Townshend and Daltrey’s capacity for inappropriate replacements, I had scoffed cynically to my Who-worshipping missus that they’d probably just go ahead with the tour with some session man. But, even I was shocked to hear they had chosen the everyman of every dodgy 80s record Pino Palladino. The Ox was a man of dark humour, but methinks even he won’t be laughing in his grave at the prospect of Townshend and Daltrey mourning all the way to the bank.
I’m looking forward to DISCOVER AVEBURY in four days’ time. Needless to say, recent activities at The British Museum have been somewhat curtailed, and now even future public events have all been cancelled. Indeed, DISCOVER AVEBURY began as another two day festival in the spirit of DISCOVER ODIN, but was cut short on account of new BM policies. So I’m looking forward to watching Messrs. Burl, Gillings and Pollard this coming Friday, but time is now so restricted that I shall have to be content with the role of curator and general host of the evening.
By the way, RITE NOW is still on course for its September release; its four sticky funk-o-thon mantras waiting to ooze thang all over your living room. And the prizes for this month’s Head Heritage competition will be ten promo CD copies of a new Brain Donor song called "My Pagan Ass". The CD features two entirely different – but equally squally – versions of this song. So don yo’ Donor hats and stomp over to the competition enclosure, and pronto, Tonto.
More than this, I gotta wish you all a cool summer. Hey, I just managed an entire Address Drudion with barely a hint of sniping because I’m feeling compassion for the world during these mysterious times. Besides, Ronaldo has been redeemed and that’s okay by me.
Mr. Surf Drood (M’Lud Yatesbury)