Off the album Beano, Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton, John Mayall, 1966
Robert Rauschenberg (1925 – 2008) was associated with his friend Jasper John in New York in the early 1960s in the creation of Pop Art. His works include paintings, collages, and combinations of disparate objects – ‘Monogram’, 1959, consists of a stuffed goat girdled by a tyre on a painted base.
Taken from Dictionary of Art and Artists, by Peter and Linda Murray, 1959
Combine Painting – Enciclopedia Treccani.
Di Nina Simone si dice essere stata una musicista molto severa, puntuale, bad tempered, e di poche moine. Qualche tempo fa mi capitò leggere la sua autobiografia, ‘I put a spell on you’, che prende il titolo da uno dei suoi meravigliosi brani. Nel libro la Simone racconta della propria carriera, iniziata da piccolissima, al pianoforte della Chiesa locale, e conclusasi negli anni ’90 con un successo che l’ha resa famosa in tutto il mondo. Giusto nelle ultime pagine del libro la Simone fa riferimento a un episodio accaduto proprio qui a Londra, che segna la rottura con l’agente Sannucci e la cancellazione di una settimana di concerti al Ronnie Scott’s, un jazz club in Soho, dove la Simone era solita esibirsi intorno agli anni ’80. A causa della lite l’agente rientra in America da solo, la Simone si trattiene ancora in Europa, tra Liberia e Francia, Svizzera e Olanda, intanto esibendosi in concerti.
Il libro è del 1991, ed è nel Gennaio del’91 che la Simone partecipa in America a una parata per celebrare il compleanno di Martin Luther King; appena negli anni ’60 il brano ‘Mississippi Goddam‘, contenuto nell’album ‘Nina Simone In Concert’, ricorda l’omicidio di Medgar Evers e il borbardamento nei pressi di una chiesa in Alabama che costa la morte a quattro bambini neri; il brano viene recepito come una chiara denuncia al razzismo e segna un inizio nella lotta ai diritti civili portata avanti dalla Simone, che diversamente da Martin Luther King, però, invita i fratelli a ribellarsi alle armi, con le armi; anche per questo la Simone viene più volte allontanata dalla scena pubblica, sebbene nel libro viene solo fatto riferimento a un trasferimento nelle Barbados utilizzato come escamotage per non pagare le tasse e non finanziare lo stato americano, che negli anni ’60 va in guerra nel Vietnam.
Nel libro ci sono molti ricordi legati all’infanzia e alla Grande Depressione, alle ristrettezze economiche in cui versava la famiglia (otto figli), al duro apprendistato a cui prima che l’insegnante di piano sè stessa ha sottoposto attraverso rigide e ferree sedute di studio e totale dedizione alla musica; il primo amore, la scelta di abbandonare casa per trasferirisi da sola in città, dove approfondisce gli studi di pianoforte, inizia a suonare nei locali, fa carriera come musicista e vive l’età adulta, tra palcoscenici, viaggi, casinò, champagne, antidepressivi, due matrimoni, una figlia, un divorzio, un amante ammazzato, e un’etichetta, quella della musicista jazz, che non sopporta, le rode il fegato, a tutt’oggi sono sicura farebbe impazzire, e di proprio pugno, in prima persona, nella propria autobiografia, tiene a chiarire. Un poco stizzita
‘After Town Hall critics started to talk about what sort of music I was playing and tried to find a neat slot to file it away in. It was difficult for them because I was playing popular songs in a classical style with a classical piano technique influenced by cocktail jazz. On top of that I included spirituals and children’s songs in my performances, and those sort of songs were automatically identified with the folk movement. So saying what sort of music I played gave the critics problems because there was something from everything in there, but it also meant I was appreciated across the board – by jazz, folk, pop and blues fans as well as admirers of classical music.
They finally ended up describing me as a ‘jazz-and-something-else-singer’. To me ‘jazz’ meant a way of thinking, a way of being, and the black man in America was jazz in everything he did – in the way he walked, talked, thought and acted. Jazz music was just another aspect of the whole thing, so in that sense because I was black I was a jazz singer, but in every other way I most definitely wasn’t.
Because of ‘Porgy’ people often compared me to Billie Holiday, which I hated. That was just one song out of my repertoire, and anybody who saw me perform could see we were entirely different, What made me mad was that it meant people couldn’t get past the fact we were both black: if I had happened to be white nobody would have made the connection. And I didn’t like to be put in a box with other jazz singers because my musicianship was totally different, and in its own way superior. Calling me a jazz singer was a way of ignoring my musical background because I didn’t fit into white ideas of what a black performer should be. It was a racist thing; ‘If she’s black she must be a jazz singer’. It diminished me, exactly like Langston Hughes was diminished when people called him a ‘great black poet’. Langston was a great poet period, and it was up to him and him alone to say what part the colour of his skin had to do with that.
If I had to be called something it should have been a folk singer, because there was more folk and blues than jazz in my playing.
[Taken from I put a spell on you, the autobiography of Nina Simone, with Stephen Cleary, 1991]
Conoscendo la voce della Simone ho immaginato quella fra me e il libro una chiaccherata fra estranei che viaggiano nello stesso treno vuoto, scomparto fumatori, l’una seduta di fianco all’altra. Il tono di lei è severo, delle volte gentile, delle volte amichevole, quasi mai affettuoso; la Simone guarda fuori dal finestrino, lo sguardo fermo. Ogni tanto si interrompe, si schiarisce la voce, riprende a parlare. Delle volte polemizza, ci tiene a chiarire. Avverto è impacciata, preferirebbe starsene altrove.
Basterebbe interromperla un istante e chiederle di cantare per sapere cosa è davvero successo in tutti quegli anni di lunga carriera e fede incondizionata alla Musa. Sarebbe allora che la voce della Simone tradirebbe il mito e svelerebbe la donna, sola e vulnerabile, sincera finalmente e solo attraverso la musica.
‘All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon which one can neither resist nor understand.’
Da adolescente avevo una cotta per Andrea De Carlo. Avevo una cotta per De Carlo perchè Andrea, a differenza degli altri scrittori italiani che leggevo, era l’unico ad ascoltare i Rolling Stones in macchina, a vivere in una casa sperduta in campagna, ad essere caduto da cavallo (rimanendovi paralizzato per metà del corpo), a suonare la chitarra, e teneva sempre a esibire quell’aria posticcia e cagionevole, romantica e decandente, che ai tempi deve aver esercitato su di me un forte appeal.
Mi ricordo com’è iniziata; avevo 15 anni, vivevo ancora a casa dei miei, lavoravo nel negozio di dischi in via Natoli e Irene, la proprietaria del negozio, usava tenere i libri di Andrea sotto la cassa, in uno scaffale. L’infatuazione è partita con ‘Treno di Panna’, è proseguita con ‘Due di Due’,‘Nel momento’,‘Di noi tre’, ha raggiunto il sublime, l’apice della parabola d’amore con ‘Arco d’Amore’, e si è esaurita con ‘Pura Vita’. Non ricordo più neanche perchè. Anzi me lo ricordo, a un certo punto mi sono accorta De Carlo è un uomo. E borghese. Delle volte inconcludente, polemico, vanitoso, pigro, egocentrico, bugiardo, noioso. Come tutti gli uomini, proletari e me compresa. Quello che voglio dire è che vedendo in De Carlo l’uomo, ho smitizzato l’eroe e un assoluto, la sua proiezione ideale, che ho ridotto a pura finzione. Imparando a distinguere l’eroe dall’uomo, e l’uomo dallo scrittore, avrei dovuto imparare anche a distinguere la realtà dalla finzione. Missione fallita, quello di idealizzare gli uomini e innamorarmi degli scrittori che leggo è un vizio che continuo ad avere e in parte è dovuto al fatto che sono un soggetto bipolare con tendenza al delirio d’amore e alla sindrome dell’amante immaginario di De Clérembault (erotomania di Esquirol inclusa); in parte perchè trascorro leggendo quasi tutto il tempo libero che mi rimane da lavoro (ragione per cui mi piace scegliere sempre con cura e attenzione gli scrittori che mi porto a letto); ma soprattutto perchè scrivendo uno scrittore dà il meglio di sè e io, che malamente resisto alla vanità del satiro, ne rimango lusingata, quite flattered indeed. C’è quel lato civettuolo di me che adora essere sedotto dalle parole, dalla loro disposizione, dalla logica che le tiene insieme e si sviluppa in concetti, non importa la materia del discorrere; io adoro l’idea di un uomo che pur di eccitare il mio interesse, la mia curiosità, la mia attenzione, trascorre ore, giorni, settimane, in alcuni casi anni, in posa creativa, sotto sforzo intellettuale, in piena tribolazione, pur di compiacere la mia immaginazione e farmi godere il libro. Fosse leggere un atto sessuale squisitamente intellettuale e il libro un oggetto del piacere oggettivamente.. scomodo, ne convengo. Non solo, credo un libro un atto d’amore. Tanto più bello il libro, tanto più significativa la generosità d’animo dello scrittore. La bellezza di un libro dipenderà dal grado di corrispondenza e impatto che questo avrà in oguno di noi, per questo trovo volgari certi ‘eliterismi’ di nicchia che tendono a classificare la qualità dei libri, dunque anche quella dei lettori.
Qualche tempo fa mi sono avvicinata alla lettura dello scrittore e drammaturgo polacco Witold Gombrowicz, di cui ho letto Cosmos; ieri ho ripreso il romanzo Pornografia, che trovo di difficile lettura in inglese ma interessante perchè scritto postumo agli anni di occupazione tedesca in Polonia, dunque in un clima di tensioni culturali che in seguito hanno compromesso la pubblicazione del romanzo e incoraggiato lo scrittore a emigrare in Argentina. Il romanzo sviluppa il concetto dell”immaturità’, tipica della giovinezza quanto dell’età adulta, nel primo caso una componente del carattere, socialmente condivisa, nel secondo rimproverata e resa oggetto di inevitabili finzioni e alterazioni della personalità; una delle ragioni che spinge alcune donne a chiedersi Ancora perchè l’uomo di una volta non esiste più; l’uomo di una volta non è mai esistito, è un mito, pura finzione letteraria, un’icona; secondo Gombrowicz, in età adulta quella immaturità verrebbe dall’uomo nascosta attraverso una maschera, che indossa e rappresenta un mito, il mito di sè stesso; quello del vincente, del temerario, dell’eroe, cui virtù, in verità, non lo rappresentano nella sostanza e infine rendono responsabile della propria infelicità.
La trama del romanzo vuole due anziani intellettuali di campagna sedotti dalla passionalità di una giovane coppia di amanti che inducono a commettere un crimine. Pulsioni di vita, pulsioni di morte, Eros, Thanatos
Dice Witold Gombrowicz nella prefazione al romanzo
‘I do not believe in a nonerotic philosophy. I do not trust any desexualized idea. It’s hard to believe that Hegel’s Science of Logic or Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason could have been conceived if their authors had not kept a certain distance from their bodies. But pure conscience, when it is hardly realized, must be steeped again in the body, in sex, in Eros; the artist must plunge the philosopher in enchantment, charm, and grace’
‘A Polish author once wrote to me asking about the philosophical meaning of Pornografia.
‘Let us try to express ourselves as simply as possible. Man, as we know, aims at the absolute. At fulfillment. At truth, at God, at total maturity.. To seize everything, to realize himself entirely – this is his imperative.
‘Now, in Pornografia it seems to me that another of man’s aims appears, a more secret one, undoubtedly, one which is in some way illegal: his need for the unfinished..for imperfection..for inferiority..for youth’
Gombrowicz è maggiormente conosciuto per il romanzo di debutto Ferdydurke, pubblicato nel 1937, di cui Pornografia è l’epilogo
‘Ferdydurke is undoubtedly my basic work, the best introduction to what I am and what I represent. Written twenty years later, Pornografia originates from Ferdydurke. I should therefore say a few words about this book.
It’s the grotesque story of a gentleman who becomes a child because other people treat him like one. Ferdydurke is intended to reveal the Great Immaturity of humanity. Man, as he is described in this book, is an opaque and neutral being who has to express himself by certain means of behavior and therefore becomes, from outside – for others – far more definite and precise than he is for himself.
Hence a tragic disproportion between his secret immaturity and the mask he assumes when he deals with other people. All he can do is to adapt himself internally to his mask, as though he really were what he appears to be.
It can therefore be said that the man of Ferdydurke is created by others, that men create each other by imposing forms on each other, or what we would call facons d’etre.
Ferdydurke was published in 1937 before Sartre formulated his theory of the regard d’autrui. But it is owing to the popularization of Sartrean concepts that this aspect of my book has been better understood and assimilated.
And yet Ferdydurke ventures on other, lesser known ground, the word ‘form’ is associated with the word ‘immaturity’. How can this Ferdydurkean man be described? Created by form he is created from outside, in other words unauthentic and deformed. To be a man means to be oneself.
He is also a constant producer of form: he secretes form tirelessly, just as the bee secretes honey.
But he is also at odds with his own form. Ferdydurke is the description of the struggle of man with his own expression, of the torture of humanity on the Procrustean bed of form.
Immaturity is not always innate or imposed by others. There is also an immaturity which culture betters us against when it submerges us and we do not manage to hoist ourselves up to its level. We are ‘infantilized’ by all ‘higher’ forms. Man, tortured by his mask, fabricated secretly, for his own usage, a sort of ‘subculture’ : a world made out of the refuse of a higher world of culture, a domain of trash, immature myths, inadmissible passions.. a second domain of compensation. That is where a certain shameful poetry is born, a certain compromising beauty..
Are we not close to Pornografia?
[..] And what if Pornografia were an attempt to renew Polish eroticism? .. An attempt to revive an eroticism which would bear a stronger relationship to our destiny and our recent history – composed of rape, slavery, and boyish squabbles- a descent to the dark limits of the conscience and the body?’
Text entirely taken from Cosmos and Pornografia, Two novels by Witold Gombrowicz, Preface, 1985
La mancata consegna di un premio Pulitzer alla letteratura per l’edizione di quest’anno ha lasciato tutti interdetti e aperto dibattiti circa la questione. Saul Bellow è l’unico scrittore americano ad essere stato insignito di 3 National book awards con i romanzi ‘The adventures of Augie March’, ‘Herzog’, e ‘Mr Sammler’s Planet‘; nel 1975 di un Pulitzer Prize per il romanzo ‘Humboldt’s Gift‘; nel 1976 di un Nobel Prize in Literature ‘for the human understanding and subtle analysis of contemporary culture that are combined in his work’
Dangling man, primo dei suoi romanzi pubblicato nel 1944, anticipa l’intera produzione letteraria dello scrittore e sembra rispondere alle polemiche circa il futuro della letteratura. Bellow colloca l’uomo al centro dell’indagine letteraria e lo fa ponendo particolareggiata attenzione ai conflitti che derivano dal confronto con la società che lo circonda, lo opprime, lo ‘strania’ e verso cui prova un sentimento di alienazione. Il più della critica concerne stile della scrittura e gli elementi di cui Bellow si serve per configurare background e ragioni di un conflitto che rappresenta il teorema uomo – umanità – società moderna. E’ certo la sensibilità di Bellow nel trattare la materia umana deriva lui dall’essere figlio di mercanti ebrei emigrati in Canada e vissuti in Russia. Saul è ultimo di quattro figli cresciuti a Chicago e nati a Montreal. I genitori parlano fra loro ebraico e russo, i ragazzi inglese, yiddish e francese. L’identità culturale di Bellow attinge dalla ricca tradizione ebraica, francese e russa, e converge nella mistificazione e conseguente disillusione del sogno americano; sono gli anni della Grande Depressione, della grande immigrazione, del grande Gatsby, del quarto potere, della chiamata alle armi, del calypso e del rockabilly. Trovo il virtuosismo dell’America condensato tutto nell’intensità accelerata di quegli anni di grave crisi sociale che hanno piegato alle ginocchia milioni di persone e rimesso in discussione le sorti di una nazione intera. Io credo è stato soltanto allora che i bianchi si sono finalmente uniti ai neri, centinaia di lingue si sono mescolate alla lingua, decine di nazioni si sono strette in una, capace di risollevarsi dalle macerie attraverso duro lavoro, sacrifici e tanta immaginazione. Del virtuosismo americano amo il senso della possibilità, quel why not? che è ottimismo e apertura, un accogliere, uno sfidare la sorte, un giocare la partita, un pensare straordinario, immaginifico, lungimirante, in funzione del domani
Secondo il dizionario inglese che ho qui con me, to dangle ha due significati:
–transitive and intransitive verb hang loosely: to swing or hang loosely, or cause something to swing or hang loosely
–transitive verb offer something as inducement: to offer or display something as an enticement or inducement
Dangling man sembra appunto offrire an inducement, uno stimolo, un motivo, un incentivo a considerare la storia un punto d’arrivo e un’occasione di partenza, e l’uomo un ‘mezzo’, letteralmente un mezzo, a cui viene chiesto di attraversare il presente consapevolmente. In Dangling man Bellow attenta a descrivere da cosa deriva quella consapevolezza, che è coscienza individuale dunque esito sociale. Quella consapevolezza nasce da una colluttazione ideale di principi e forze opposte, ora l’esercizio di una volontà di potenza, il trionfo del Romanticismo, l’eroismo del Titano, ora l’assurdità delle guerre, un crollo di valori, l’oltre uomo in crisi esistenzialista, sviscerato dalla psicoanalisi e teso al nichilismo e all’isolazione.
Il romanzo è una retrospettiva che procede per date e minuziose digressioni all’infanzia e alla giovinezza. Joseph, il protagonista, sembra guardarsi allo specchio e non riconoscersi nell’immagine che vede di sè; si agita, è nervoso, perde il senno, sembra non avere più il controllo della propria vita e sulle proprie emozioni
L’edizione che ho qui, della Penguin, è introdotta da J. M. Coetzee, che del romanzo dice nel finale
‘Dangling Man is long on reflection, short on action. It occupies the uneasy ground between the novella proper and the personal essay or confession. Various personages come onstage and exchange words with the protagonist, but beyond Joseph in his two sketchy manifestations there are no characters, properly speaking. Behind the figure of Joseph can be discerned the lonely, humiliated clerks of Gogol and Dostoevsky, brooding upon revenge; the Roquentin of Sartre’s Nausea, the scholar who undergoes a strange metaphysical experience that estranges him from the world; and the lonely young poet of Rilke’s Notebook of Malte Laurids Brigge. In this slim first book Bellow has not yet developed a vehicle adequate to the kind of novel he is feeling his way towards, one that will offer the customary novelistic satisfactions, including involvement in what feels like real- life conflict in a real-life world, and yet leave the author free to deploy his reading in European literature and thought in order to explore problems in contemporary life. For that step in Bellow’s evolution we will have to wait for Herzog (1964)
J. M. Coetzee
Ho amato questo libro dalla prima all’ultima pagina, e dalla prima all’ultima pagina questo libro ha lenito un po’ della mia solitudine e fatto stare bene, fossero state le parole un abbraccio, una mano che tiene la mano, una lettera che dà conforto.
Le parti del libro da citare sarebbero tantissime, ma ci sono due passi che fra tutti mi hanno colpita particolarmente
THIS AFTERNOON I emptied the closet of all its shoes and sat on the floor polishing them. Surrounded by rage, saddle soap, and brushes – the brown light of the street pressing in at the window, and the sparrows bickering in the dead twigs – I felt tranquil for a while and, as I set Iva’s shoes out in a row, I grew deeply satisfied. It was a borrowed satisfaction; it was doing something I had done as a child. In Montreal, on such afternoon as this, I often asked permission to spread a paper on the sitting- room floor and shine all the shoes in the house, including Aunt Dina’s with their long tongues and scores of eyelets. When I thrust my arm into one of her shoes it reached well above the elbow and I could feel the brush against my arm through the soft leather. The brow fog lay in St Dominique Street; in the sitting room, however, the stove shone on the devenport and on the oilcloth and on my forehead, drawing the skin pleasantly. I did not clean shoes because I was praised for it, but because of the work and the sensations of the room, closed off from the wet and the fog of the street, with its locked shutters and the faint green of the petal pipes along the copings of its houses. Nothing could have tempted me out of the house.
I have never found another street that resembled St Dominique. It was in a slum between a market and a hospital. I was generally intensely preoccupied with what went on in it and watched from the stairs and the windows. Little since then has worked upon me with such force as, say, the sight of a driver trying to raise his fallen horse, of a funeral passing through the snow, or of a cripple who taunted his brother. And the pungency and staleness of its stores and cellars, the dogs, the boys, the French and immigrant women, the beggars with sores and deformities whose like I was not to meet again until I was old enough to read of Villon’s Paris, the very breezes in the narrow course of that street, have remained so clear to me that I sometimes think it it the only place where i was ever allowed to encounter reality. My father blamed himself bitterly for the poverty that forced him to bring us up in a slum and worried lest I see too much. And I did see, in a curtainless room near the market, a man rearing over a blond woman on his lap. But less easily forgotten were a cage with a rat in it thrown on a bonfire, and two quarrelling drunkards, one of whom walked away bleeding, drops falling from his head like the first slow drops of a heavy rain in summer, a crooked line of drops left on the pavement as he walked.
ABT HAS sent me a copy of a pamphlet he wrote on the government of the Territories. Expects a flattering comment, no doubt, and I shall have to rig one up. He will want me to tell him that no one else could have written such a pampleth. Suppose I were try to tell him what I thought of him. He would reply coldly, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ He has a way of turning aside everything he has no desire to understand.
Abt, more than anyone I have known, has lived continually in need of being consequential. Early in life he discovered that he was quicker, abler, than the rest of us, and that he could easily outstrip us in learning and in skills. He felt he could be great in anything he chose. We roomed together in Madison as freshmen. He was very busy that first year keeping us all his accomplishments, his music, his politics, his class work. Living with him had a bag effect on me, for I withdrew from any field he entered. People came from other campuses to consult him on doctrinal matters; no one had as much out-of-the-way information as he; he read foreign political journals the rest of us had never heard of, and reports of party congresses, those dun, mimeographed sheets on international decisions in France and Spain. No one was so subtle with opponents. Nor did many students get as much attention as he got from his teachers. A few were afraid of him and learned to avoid challenging him publicly. late afternoons, he played the piano. I would often stop by for him at the music building on the way to dinner and spend half an hour listening. He did not waste time maturing, he did not make any of the obvious mistakes. His hold was too good. That winter he was Lenin, Mozard, and Locke all rolled into one. But there was unfortunately not enough time to be all three. And so, in the spring, he passed through a crisis. It was necessary to make a choice. But, whatever it was he chose, that would be the most important. How could it be otherwise? He gave up attending meetings and practising the piano, he banished the party reports as trash, and decided to become a political philosopher. There was a general purge. Everything else went.
Anti-Duhring and The Critique of the Gotha Program sank to the rear of the bottom shelf of his bookcase and were supplanted at the top by Bentham and Locke. Now he had decided, and in dead earnestness the followed greatness. Inevitably, he fell short of his models. He would never admit that he wanted to become another Locke, but there was, wearing himself thin with the effort of the emulation, increasingly angry at himself, and unable to admit that the scale of his ambition was defeating him.
He is stubborn. Just as, in the old days, it disgraced him to confess that he was not familiar with a book or a statement that came under his jurisdiction, he now cannot acknowledge that his plan has miscarried. But then, it bothers him to be found guilty even of small errors. He does not like to forget a date or a name or the proper form of a foreign verb. He cannot be wrong, that is his difficulty. If you warn him that there is a fissure at his feet, he answers, ‘ no, you must be mistaken.’ But when it can no longer be ignored he says, ‘Do you see it?’ as though he has discovered it.
Of course, we suffer from bottomless avidity. Our lives are so precious to us, we are so watchful of waste. Or perhaps a better name for it would be the Sense of Personal Destiny. Tes, I think that is better than avidity. Shall my life one-thousandth of an inch fall short of its ultimate possibility? It is a different thing to value oneself, and to prize oneself crazily. And then there are our plants, idealizations. These are dangerous, too. They can consume us like parasites, eat us, drink us, and leave us lifelessly prostrate. And yet we are always inviting the parasite, as if we were eager to be drained and eaten.
It is because we have been taught there is no limit to what a man can be. Six hundred years ago, a man was what he was born to be. Satan and Church, representing God, did battle over him. He, by reason of his choice, partially decided the outcome. But whether, after life, he went to hell or to heaven, his place among other men was given. It could be contested. But, since, the stage has been reset and human being only walk on it, and, under this revision, we have, instead, history to answer to. We were important enough then for our souls to be fought over. Now, each of us is responsible for his own salvation, which is in his greatness. And that, that greatness, is the rock our hearts are abraded on. Great minds, great beauties, great lovers and criminals surround us. from the great sadness and desperation of Werthers and Don Juans we went to the great ruling images of Napoleons; from these to murderers who had that right over victims because they were greater than the victims; to men who felt privileged to approach others with a whip; to schoolboys and clerks who roared like revolutionary lions; to those pimps and subway creatures, debaters in midnight cafeterias who believed they could be great in treachery and catch the throats of those they felt were sound and well in the lassos of their morbidity; to dreams of greatly beautiful shadows embracing on a flawless screen. because of these things we hate immoderately and punish ourselves and one another immoderately. The fear of lagging pursues and maddens us. The fear lies in us like a cloud. It makes an inner climate of darkness. And occasionally there is a storm and hate and wounding rain out of us.
Text entirely taken from ‘Dangling Man’, by Saul Bellow, 1944
The Sixties began in the summer of 1956,ended in October of 1973 and peaked just before dawn on 1 july,1967 during a set by Tomorrow at the UFO Club in London
detto fatto,Joe Boyd lascia White Bicycles pedalare indietro di quarant’anni per le Swinging streets di una London in piena rivoluzione culturale. Semmai vi chiedeste cosa questo abbia potuto significare, Boyd ve lo racconta e dalle quinte di un piccolo club in Tottenham Court Road; LSD, Psychedelia e Rock,mods hippies hipsters e groupies, Folk and Funk and Blues: The Sixties,folks
Pink Floyd,Soft Machine,The Incredible String Band,John Martin,Fairport Convention,Nick Drake fra gli artisti che Joe Boyd lancia in pista in qualità di produttore discografico e dj; centinaia i concerti organizzati in Inghilterra e America; the Purple Gang,Procol Harum, Pretty Things, Jeff Beck,Ten Years Later, Tomorrow, le bands e i solisti presenti alle serate dell’UFO-Tottenham Court Road palcoscenico di uno spettacolo epocale,la musica si sveste finalmente del pudore,osceno e adolescenziale,degli swinging e si scopre a ballare nuda per strada, più che mai irriverente e smaliziata.
Make love,not riots-avrebbero detto allora
Sotto una parte del libro tratta dal primo capitolo
The Sixties began in the summer of 1956,ended in October of 1973 and peaked just before dawn on 1 july,1967 during a set by Tomorrow at the UFO Club in London.
John Hopkins and I had launched the weekly UFO events at an Irish dance hall in Tottenham Court Road just before Christmas in 1966,and they had quickly become the hub of psychedelic London. BY April,our resident attraction,Pink Floyd,had outgrown us,so I was always on the lookout for new groups. I saw Tomorrow at Blaises one night and thought they were pretty good.When they made their UFO debut on 19 May it was love at first sight between them and our audience. Steve Howe,later to make his name and fortune with Yes, played guitar, while Twink, a key figure in the genesis of punk,was the drummer. I don’t know what became of Junior, the bass player, but his mad-eyed, don’t-give-a-fuck presence in a string vest was a key element in their appeal. Lead singer Keith West had a solo hit that summer with ‘Excerpt From A Teenage Opera,Part 1’(Groger Jack,Groger Jack,please come back…’) and did his best to maintain a pop-star presence while around him the group was morphing into something quite different. ‘My White Bicycle’,a tribute to the free transport provided by Amsterdam’s revolutionary provos, was their new theme song, while Howe’s solos got longer and Twink’s drumming even wilder.
A month or two earlier,I would never have gone to Blaises and Tomorrow would barely have heard of UFO.Everything was accelerating that spring. New drugs,clothes,music and clubs. The psychedelic underground and the pop scene were starting to overlap. UFO crowds were bigger each week, and it was getting hard to maintain the original atmosphere. It was also difficult to ignore the increased attention from the police: the longer the queues, the more customers were getting frisked and busted.
Hoppy ran UFO’s light tower,records between shows,putting on Kurosawa samurai films at 3 a.m. and troubleshooting around the club while I stayed near the entrance and trousered the money. When plainclothes policemen asked to have a look around, I would state our policy: no search warrant, no entry. (There was nothing to prevent them from merging with the crowds and paying their way in,of course UFO’s ads often touted a ‘spot the fuzz’ competitions). As for Mr Gannon, our landlord at the Blarney Club, he felt the case of whiskey delivered to Goodge Street police station every Christmas should take care of them well enough.
A few weeks before Tomorrow’s return visit on 30 June, a uniformed bobby turned up, asking to be allowed in the collect clothes left behind by a man being held in custody. This made sense: half and hour earlier, a naked guy had bolted past me up the stairs and disappeared into the night. Hoppy and I agreed that an exception could be made, so I told the audience we were going to let the fuzz in to look for the clothes and turn on the overhead lights (murmurs and booing). As the crowd spread out in a wide circle, some garments could be seen scattered around the floor. The young bobby seemed to blush as he glanced at the crowd, a vivid cross-section of ‘London Freak’ circa May 1967: long hair on the boys,flowered dresses on the girls,Arabian or Indian shirts,a few kaftans,jeans,even a few white shirts and khaki slacks. Many were tripping; most were laughing or grinning.
The laughter grew as it became clear that the bobby’s hastily gathered armful contained more than was required to make his prisoner decent: two or three pairs of underpants (gender undetermined), a couple of shirts, a bra,several socks,etc. As he made his way to the door, the working class constable regarded us with amazement, not hatred. We, in turn,regretted that he could not grasp why we took drugs and danced in the lights,lived for the moment and regarded our fellow man with benign tolerance, even love. That was the theory, anyway. Tested, it would come undone in the ensuing years, even as the bobby’s mates donned kaftans, rolled joins and joined the crows at festivals.
The first man I knew to take hallucinogens was Eric Von Schmidts.Mailorder packages of peyote buds from Moore’s Orchid Farm in Texas arrived periodically at the Von Schmidt apartment near Harvard Square. He would cook them up in a pot and invite friends over to drink the soup. They would stack some LPs on the record player-Ali Akbar Khan, Lord Buckley,Chopin, the Swan Silverstones, Lightning Hopkins-then drink the potion and try not to be sick. If you couldn’t keep it down you weren’t, in Eric’s view,calm enough (‘centred’had not yet been used in this context) to deserve the high. It was an experience meant for an intellectual and spiritual elite, not the masses (although he certainly would have never put it in that way).
The market is too efficient, of course,to limit transcendence to people who can stomach peyote. Down the street from Eric’s flat in 1962 was the laboratory of Professor Timothy Leary, who advertised in the Harvard Crimson for volunteers to take LSD at a dollar an hour and was determined to become the Johnny Appleseed of hallucinogens. By 1967, pure, powerful LSD tabs were still available while adulterated, amphetamine-laced concoctions were starting to be widely distributed. Few bothered about how elevated the experience might be.
In June that year, a New of the world reporter tipped off Scotland Yard about a ‘drugs-and-sex’ at Keith Richards’place and was rewarded with a ringside seat at the raid. It has become the stuff of legend: Mars bars threesome, Marianne Faithfull naked under a fur rug,etc..a symbol of out-of-control decadence. The media stopped winking and grinning about “Swinging London” and started wallowing in horror stories about teenagers being led astray. Sgt Pepper was the world’s soundtrack that month and powerful Establishment figures were horrified by the implications of influential pop stars’ open fondness for drugs.
Taken From White Bicycles,by Joe Boyd,2006
Joe Boyd – Record Producer/Writer.
Fourth track from Green’s “Talkin’ About” album, Blue Note Records 1964
l’ultima volta che l’ho incontrato tirava inverno,camminavo la notte vestita d’un sorriso di niente,un’orchidea tra i capelli; piovigginava, me lo ricordo, e dovetti percorrere il doppio degli anni per ritrovarlo perduto, sul ciglio della strada e abbandonato,un amore bello e malato,vagabondo e gitano,sacro e blesfemo,come quello
non conosci dell’Amore finchè non ti sorride negli occhi e ingenuo racconta la più dolce delle bugie,la più deliziosa e spietata delle verità
- Annette Hanshaw -Lovable and Sweet
- Anita O’Day -Sing Sing Sing
- Billie Holiday-Summertime
- Marilyn Monroe – I Wanna Be Loved By You
- Peggy Lee-Black Coffee
- Julie London-Misty
- Ella Fitzgerald – All the Things you are
- Nina Simone – I put a spell on you (especially for me)
- Betty Carter – Moonlight in Vermont
- Sarah Vaughan – Lullaby of Birdland