Saturday, 26 October 2013

lake eerie

Ooh, I go swimming, swimming in the water
Swimming in the river, swimming in the sea
I go swimming

"Visits to the swimming pool in the fifties and sixties were always accompanied by anxiety about diseases, especially polio whenever there was an outbreak, and verrucas. There were steel baskets for your clothes, a Brylcream machine on the way out, and Wagon Wheels, Penguins and Bovril at the cafĂ©. And always, everywhere, boys shivering. On swimming days at school, the smell of wet togs pervaded the classroom, the dampness seeping through to smudge the ink in the exercise books in our satchells."   Roger Deakin Waterlog page 310
Gigi Cifali's beautiful images here reminded me of Roger Deakin's wonderful book Waterlog. Although I never met him - he lived in Suffolk - but I miss him as his books were always a joy to read and gave me a yearning to get outside.

I remember open air swimming pools in Hitchin and Bedford by the River Ouze. Mostly I remember the one near my house in Stevenage in Letchmore Road park. A place that was frequented by big wild boys who took great pleasure in leaving broken glass there for us littluns to maim ourselves on whilst shivering in our home-knitted swimming trunks. I also remember those swimming lessons with a shudder.

Have a look at these fantastically eldritch images from another time somewhere in the deep past.

october 26th

Soon if we meet again then there'll be
Revolution, that's all that it can be
If you find your own solution then that's all right with me.
If I wanted to, could I depend on you, my friend?

Soon if we dream again then there'll be
Revolution, that's all that it can be
If you find your own solution then that's all right with me.
If I wanted to, could I depend on you, my friend?

Soon if we hope again then there'll be
Revolution, that's all that it can be
If you find your own solution then that's all right with me.
Revolution. It's got to be revolution.
It's all that it can be.

On 26th October, 1917, the All-Russian Congress of Soviets met and handed over power to the Soviet Council of People's Commissars. Lenin was elected chairman and other appointments included Leon Trotsky (Foreign Affairs) Alexei Rykov (Internal Affairs), Anatoli Lunacharsky (Education), Alexandra Kollontai (Social Welfare), Felix Dzerzhinsky (Internal Affairs), Joseph Stalin (Nationalities), Peter Stuchka (Justice) and Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko (War). Anatoli Lunacharsky was made the Commissar of Enlightenment and went on to establish the Bolshoi Drama Theatre. Proper intelligent politicians that lot. Mind you, I can easily imagine the current Secretary of State for Education eventually sharing Trotsky's fate. Sooner rather than later, please.

Not many specific dates are celebrated by their very own song. The beautiful creamy lead guitar on this 1970 single by the Pretty Things has always been a favourite of mine. The harpsichord was probably at the suggestion of its producer Norman "Hurricane" Smith. I first heard it the week before its release on a Radio 1 Sunday night "Progressive" show. I rushed out and bought it the following Friday - release day for all new records in those days. I've still got the single and it's there on my iPod as an additional track on Parachute. An album that still resonates for me from those heady days. I bought it in the Longship (here and here) for a few quid off of a heroin addict who needed some cash. I guess I got the better deal. I've still got it.

In the cd cover notes (just about legible), one Mike Stax says, "It was the date of the Russian Revolution (sic), but the song appeared to be a kind of farewell to the comrades of another, more recent, failed revolution." The late sixties were a time of hope and the future looked great. But the cold winds of the austere Seventies soon blew such silly notions away. I've mentioned elsewhere my disappointment in the lack of a jetpack or holidays on Mars. Mind you, recent news about the Gold Rush mentality of volunteers for the one-way trip to Mars and the advert for the current series for Have I Got News For You  suggests that the jetpack is a fundamental right for all. We want our jetpacks and we want them now! James Bond had one in Thunderball in 1965. It looks as though they're still a long way off from being commercially available. Ah well, I still fancy an electric bike - I had a go on one recently. It was great fun, they go up to fifteen mph and no pedalling uphill. That's cylcing.

Anyway, back to reality. Today's date is an auspicious one. It seems that the idea of Revolution is currently popular. If you can bear to watch it if you missed it, the spat between Jeremy Paxman and the over-rated loquacious Russell Brand is worth watching (once). Both personalities are Marmite types. Personally I quite like Paxman. Can't stand the other fellow though. Perhaps he thinks he's the new James Dean: what are you rebelling about? What you got? Anything to keep in the news I guess. He's probably got a new book with a ridiculously childish title to sell or another film out that I'll avoid like the plague.

Still, the other thing that seems to be going on is the way that social media has lit up with anti-Gove vitriol. The man is a charlatan, and the most dangerous (and hated) man in the country at the moment. An English Spring could be working its way through facebook and Twitter. Probably more of an English Autumn and it won't be violent but at least there's hope. Remember Tony Benn's five questions of power:

What power have you got?
Where did you get it from?
In whose interests do you use it?
To whom are you accountable?
How do we get rid of you?

All together now:
You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world

Sunday, 6 October 2013

the world is a wonderful place

You live and you die
There's no reason why
The world is a wonderful place

I was sitting quietly in the staff room a few months back when the question was raised as to who - if anyone - knew of the name of a Bassoonist. Any Bassoonist, not just a famous one. I, of course, was able to supply the name of one to everyone's chagrin amazement. I chose to mention Brian Gulland of Gryphon fame mainly because I had met him a few times (see here) but a few minutes ago was immediately aware that I should have mentioned the wonderful Lindsay Cooper  who I have just read has died at the ridiculously young age of about 62. That's no age - Christ, that's a year younger than my dad.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I didn't want to just write about dead people but I can't help but mention the passing of some fellow travellers. Lindsay Cooper was a great musician as the obit from the Independent will testify. She played on some great albums - I may not love Slapp Happy etc but via Henry Cow, I was introduced to Dagmar Krause*, Peter Blegvad and the occasional album Cooper played on. Not forgetting, of course she played on the much-maligned Mike Oldfield album Hergest Ridge.

More importantly, I suppose, is the fact that she played on this a great rare track by Richard and Linda Thompson. I think - and quite happy to be corrected - it was recorded for I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight but remained unreleased until R&L became vaguely famous enough to release. This was before his conversion to Sufism and shows Thompson's dark world view to good effect. Lyrically and melodically it has echoes of Brecht & Weill and Cooper's bassoon helps no end in creating that effect.

And then she was diagnosed with MS and left to cope in ignominy for years. And now an obituary. So, she wasn't famous or particularly important but she was a great talent. And a famous Bassoonist. Remember that in your next quiz.

* Dagmar Krause: Supply and Demand: Songs by Brecht/Weill and Eisler (1986, LP, Hannibal Records) is well worth spending a few hours with. Has Thompson on it in case you're not sold . . .