So I’m sitting indoors with Les Rallizes Denudes’ HEAVIER THAN A DEATH IN THE FAMILY on the stereo, and I’m wondering where the summer went and is it coming back. Rallizes releases are a bit like London buses really – you wait for years and then three come along at once. But at least this new batch which have just hit the streets can in some way replace the heatwave which has eluded our family so far. Les Rallizes take "Sally Go Round the Roses"-type riffs and play barrages of distorted acid guitar solos over them for 15-minutes at a time, until the original musical seed is utterly forgotten. Hey, and their enormous LIVE ’77 is finally back out on double-vinyl, so search out both of these mothers before they’re snorted up into the collections of the UK’s myriad Nipponophiliacs.
We just got back from Land’s End, where the eight-or-so dolphins bobbing around in Porthmeor Bay took me right back to that mythically hot summer of 1976, when I swam right across St. Ives harbour with them. I didn’t get much research done, though, and spent a lot of time watching great grey galleons of doom cloud the horizons. Mind you, people watching was fun, and seeing a ten-year-old boy discover a baby shark trapped in a rock pool on Porthmeor Beach was my idea of a real holiday. But food was a wind-up in St. Ives. Every restaurant explanation of my family’s vegetarianism was met by the response: "But you do eat fish?" What IS going on? How can a vegetarian eat fish and believe that they are vegetarian? Over-fishing is causing chaos in eco-systems all over the world and, in Cornwall especially, dead dolphins - victims of fishing nets - are left to rot on the beaches. Guys, I really think Kurt was being ironic when he sang "It’s OK to eat fish, cos they don’t have any feelings"…
I’d like to thank everyone who came to DISCOVER AVEBURY last month. The event was sold out and it was certainly wonderful to get Aubrey Burl on the same bill as Mark Gillings and Josh Pollard. What a double act Gillings and Pollard are! Unlike DISCOVER ODIN, I chose to dress fairly conventionally this time for fear of undermining the power of the proceedings. Yet still the fire alarms went off towards the end of the lectures, and I took great photos of The British Museum, with three large fire tenders clustered at the foot of its steps. You’ll obviously know my whole schtick about the shaman being the doorway or interface between different worlds. Well, nowhere is this better illustrated than at both DISCOVER ODIN and DISCOVER AVEBURY, where a large rock’n’roll audience was able to mingle with middle – and old-aged intellectuals in London’s greatest repository of learning, presented by a longhair in stackheels! Nowadays, too much is made of the shamanistic past having been supposedly integrated into the main body of the church (Dervishes swallowed up by Islam, etc.) because the shamen were freaks and nere-do-wells who undermined their communities. I’m sure the hugely extreme Siberian, Eskimo and Alaskan shamen cited by anthropologists and writers such as Joseph Campbell were anachronistic examples from societies on the edge of modern culture - merely outlaws and vestiges of a once useful (and serviceable) caste of practitioners of ritual and the sacred.
And is it not a little unfair to cite last-gasp Eskimo shamen such as the murderous Igjugurjuk as proof of how out-of-control shamanism in general always was? Frontiersmen of our own society would never be cited by any sensible soul as being ‘average’ examples. So isn’t citing Igjugurjuk as an example the same as suggesting George Best was your average footballer? Or citing Thomas a’Beckett as your average priest? Or Wyatt Earp ever your average lawman?
Shamanism is about the trickster - but how do we define the trickster? Is he an imp of the perverse like Coyote of the American Plains Indians’ myths? Was he the goalpost-moving Loki of the Norse Myths, killing sweet Baldr the Beautiful or getting the Gods and Goddesses in to danger only to himself help them out of it? Even occultists and tarot readers vacillate, portraying the Hanging Man as both Prometheus AND Loki AND Odin. Personally, I think they can all be the same, as I inferred during the last Drudion about the Goalkeeper as Shaman.
Back in Spring of 1996CE, during the protest against the Newbury Bypass, I spent a great deal of time down at the front line of the protest wearing a hard hat and the fluorescent yellow of the security men, screaming in my best Windsor Davies-sergeant-major-tones at my wonderfully-raimented protester allies that they were "’Orrible crusty ‘ippies with no ‘omes to go to." Then I would march up and down the lines of hard hats inspecting ‘the troops’, referring to them as my own, but occasionally undermining the whole thing with the admonishment:
"Keep that line… SERPENTINE!!!"
Screaming at the people in the trees that their mother Earth wasn’t gonna save them this time, and to return to the real world, only further mystified those pathetic hard-hats, each one of whom knowing that I – though clad in similarly official gear - was not on their side at all. But what WAS it all about?
It was about confusing the situation to allow the trickster in. It was about teenage Kurt Cobain embarrassing his elders by spraying ‘God is Gay’ on a Seattle wall. It was about my friend and ex-manager Cally attending a protest by the Countryside Alliance, dressed in tweeds and wellies, but undermining them through embarrassment by holding up a placard proclaiming "All foxes are Gay!" It was ‘Old’ Billy Bragg singing about taking down the Union Jack sandwiched between boy bands of T.O.T.P. and (strangest of all) Sir Cliff singing the excruciating "Millennium Prayer" on the same show two years earlier.
Compared with these genuinely subversive trickster acts, Damien Hirst’s ‘dead cow and calf’ says more about the artist himself (his laddite leanings and his wish to be perceived as [foul phase] Cutting Edge) than anything genuine. And this is surely what George Gurdjieff meant in the early 20th century when he suggested that the problem with contemporary art was that (even then) it was merely a celebration of the individual artist’s personal neurosis, rather than being any deeper comment on society’s woes. Art is not a Mirror but a Hammer, but I believe that we must now qualify that statement: that some art must also become a mirror again in order to then become the Hammer.
Struuuth! After all that, I’m now I’m listening to MUSIC MADE MOSTLY BY HUMANS, a great album of studio out-takes and demos from just after Yuya Uchida split the Flowers, but before Flower Travellin’ Band made their first album. It sounds like The Misunderstood in places, but its long unwinding ambient ballads shows just how far they were prepared to investigate new sounds.
Regarding my own recording schedule, RITE NOW is finally in production and features an excellent essay from my Spanish friend, the poet Annexus Quam, and four mesmerising on-the-one meditational funkathons. Next year, Queen Elizabeth will finally release a 3rd album, GLAMBIENCE, which is gonna be yet more of the cosmic ooze so beloved by Thighpaulsandra and myself. For those of you who are waiting and don’t wanna wait anymore, check out the Six Gods’ ambulent new album. In places it sounds exactly like the first Queen Elizabeth record, whilst it elsewhere feels like Q.E. meeting Roedelius’ magical ’94 release LA NORDICA.
Finally, I should tell you what has happened in the past weeks regarding LET ME SPEAK TO THE DRIVER. A big meeting at HarperCollins revealed to myself, my commissioning editor and our entire production team that there is no way we will fit all my information into a book the size of THE MODERN ANTIQUARIAN. Neither I nor HarperCollins wish to hit the public with a larger book, as it would end up going over the thirty quid mark and be far too heavy to struggle around with. So, reluctantly, we have decided to split the book into two volumes, and will probably release the gazetteer section first. It was decided to do this in such an order as to allow readers to familiarise themselves with everywhere I write about first, before I then hit you all with my interpretations and repositories in volume two. I hope this don’t sound too disappointing to you – remember that THE MODERN ANTIQUARIAN was delayed for a couple of years, but this made the book greater in the long run.
Sorry this Drudion has been such a ruddy long piece, but obviously this stuff is important (and occasionally difficult) to explain.
Hope y’all have hot fun in the Summertime – ho hum,
Mr. Drude (M’Lud Yatesbury)