D is for Dylan – The Electric Rock-Poet

Saturday 31st January

The end of 1964 saw a brand new Dylan.  First track of his new Album “Bringing it all back home” was the splendid ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’. It was rock’n’roll, it was almost punk, it was almost rap – but it was undeniably still Bob Dylan.  The album contained many of his best songs including “Mr. Tambourine Man”, but he was backed by a group, which not quite hard rock was pointing in that direction.  Everything was moving fast, The Beatles in England were recording “Rubber Soul”, bands like the Stones and the Who were breaking through.  In California The Byrds took Mr. Tambourine Man in another direction, and everywhere music was exploding and expanding and changing.

In 1965 Dylan came out with “Highway 61 Revisited”, on the cover he was pure Rock’N’Roll now and so was his band.  First track was ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ – a single and at over six minutes long unheard of.  It was so good it got played anyway and became a massive hit.  The album like it’s predecessor was crammed with great songs.  It seemed as if Dylan couldn’t fail – everything he touched was gold.  The final track was the brilliant eleven minute long “Desolation Row” – as if this was the place that the young of the world were in, and had to escape from.  Dylan had escaped from the folk scene and was now hailed as a rock-god, the voice of a generation.

“Blonde on Blonde” came out on 1966 and Dylan went on the road with “The Band” to very mixed reactions, someone in London even shouting “Judas” at him.  Dylan’s answer “I don’t believe you” was a throwing down of the gauntlet.   This double album was his best yet “Rainy Day Women” “Just Like A Woman” “Stuck Inside of Mobile” and “I Want You” – one after another the great songs poured out – and they were pure poetry too.  My favourite was “Visions of Johanna” with the brilliant line ‘the ghost of electricity howled from the bones of her face’.  And the final side was a love-letter to his new wife Sara Lowndes – ‘Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands’.

Dylan was supreme, he was unassailable, the world was his.  And then it all stopped…..




Neglected Poems – No.4 – Permanence and Illusion

Friday 30th January

Whereas most of my writing is easy to understand, sometimes you write something which even you feel is edging towards something but quite what it is keeps eluding you.  I think that this is about the fact that nothing is quite what it seems, that even permanence is an illusion – everything dissolves into something else – only the illusion is permanent.  It is also about the conversation which we, men and women, are always having – though not often in words….

Permanence and Illusion

Did I ever tell you – we are an island race

Swept by currents harsh and trembling cliffs

Washed by waves that gently deposit

And build.

Standing on these headland heights

Cutting knife the wind

Voices carry – drifting in – and stark they slip away

And down by the sea where the shingle talks

You get close to the heart of it all.


In our restless quest we are changing every day

Seeking perfection and truth

A chain we are forming as each link we let slip

We are never the same as we were.

This strand of man that clings to my hand

Is a filament waving – a pure golden thread

For a pendant of flame-flashing fire.


He:     Is this the stone that your mother wore

Semi-precious as you are yet.


She:   Yes – give it back – let me hold

Touch, and unfold its obsidian net.

I thought I knew all about you

Could read you like a book

But turning around for a second I found

You’d changed in the time it took.


He:    All permanence is illusion

Even stones will dissolve

Cliffs must crumble in the rain

The shore is a wavering line.


She:   And the sharpest stone in your armoury store

The one that cut me to the core

Was soft at the edges, rounded and smooth

A net to hold and bathe my wounds


He:    Is this the stone that you found on the beach

That day you went out alone

When the gulls flew low and the boats were tethered

Grazing the close-cropped sea?


She:  Yes – I do believe it is – I keep it here on the shelf

A reminder of the days I knew who I was

When I thought all I had might remain.

I know you are clever, that I should agree

About the constant nature of change

Of Illusion, erosion and evolving with time

But to me the stone looks the same.


2066 – A Personal Memoir (the first bit)

Thursday 29th January

I have decided to slip out the book in little snippets.  This is the first bit, hope you like it.  I will return to let you have more every now and then in the vain hope that some of you might even buy the thing.  It’s on Amazon for Kindle.

2066 – a personal memoir 

part one – a slightly disturbing development…

Diary Entry – 20660101

January the first, two thousand and sixty-six – and life is shit. 

How the fuck did we get to this state; after all that golden promise of the Twentieth Century?  Why is everyone now so unhappy, why is there this overwhelming feeling that nothing will ever get any better; that we are stuck fast in this stubbornly mundane existence; that our shattered society is doomed to be shat-upon forever?  There are even rumours that the rebs, the dispossessed, the non-people, are massing and threatening our very existence, right here in the Gilded Palace of Shit.

Though that might just be propaganda – almost everything is, after all.

And why does everyone you meet feel there is something, no, everything, missing from their lives?  Why does it all feel so hopeless?  We all know that feeling of helplessness, of being completely manipulated but can see no answers, no way to turn it – our pathetic lives – around?  The ship appears to have drifted off course somehow – destination unknown.   The captain abandoned the bridge long ago, and though icebergs loom likes ghosts from an earlier tragedy through the dense fog on the starboard bow, this Titanic ploughs on regardless.   Worst of all, most of the passengers and crew are asleep; dozing through their days, oblivious to the danger, basking in their holographic dream-scapes, unable to wake up let alone taste the bitter ersatz coffee we are being served.  

( to be continued…..)

2066 - A Personal Memoir

D is for Dylan – The folksinger

Wednesday 28th January

Robert Zimmerman arrived in New York in 1961 aged 19 and set about trying to become a folksinger.  He had a voracious appetite for music and copied and borrowed wherever he could, mostly from Woody Guthrie, but also from all the other folk-singers around Greenwich Village in the early sixties.  Although many contend that he cannot sing at all, his voice carried conviction and sincerity and whatever he was singing he made it his own, and more importantly the audiences believed him.  He somehow impressed enough people that within a year he had made a record, which though rough and sparse convinced us all that he had a future.

Within a few months he had recorded a second record “The Freewheelin” which was far more self-assured and polished and was mostly his own brilliant compositions.  He was writing songs every day, and at the last minute dropped five records from his album and replaced them with five new ones.  He probably discarded many other gems along the way.   He had a way with words and sang of injustice and the downtrodden.  This album alone contains such classics as ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright’, ‘A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall’, ‘Masters of War’ and ‘With God on Our Side’.  It also has a few love songs on it like ‘Girl From The North Country.’  The cover alone is a classic with him and his girlfriend Suze Rotolo hunched up on a snowy NewYork street.  God on our Side got picked up by Peter, Paul and Mary and was a huge hit.  Suddenly Dylan had arrived.

He was hailed as a protest singer, he was the darling of the Folk Movement, he was the Great White Hope.  And he duly delivered with songs like “The Times They Are A Changin” on the album of that name.  But he was still sprinkling his albums with love songs of amazing beauty like “Boots of Spanish Leather” and his writing was becoming more poetic.  He surprised everyone with his fourth record, simply titled ‘Another Side of Bob Dylan’.  Many of the songs he was now singing were dubbed ‘finger-pointing songs’ such as “It Ain’t me Babe” and “My Back Pages”.  There were beautiful love songs like “Ballad in Plain D” and apart from “Chimes of Freedom” there was hardly a protest song on it.  Bob was rapidly moving away from being a folksinger and was creating a new identity – The Rock Poet

Bob Dylan, intenso y rebelde

Two Pieces Of Good News

Tuesday 27th January

The first is the victory of Syriza in the Greek elections.  Though much expected the margin of their victory was a surprise; they will get over 36% of the vote, which will at least give them more respectability, as many of the other European leaders’s parties have struggled to get even that much (ours included).  This is democracy in action, as the Greeks have quite clearly stated that they have had enough of Austerity.  After five years of high taxes, low wages and many workers laid off, with unemployment at 25% (and for the young at 50%) the economy is still failing and shows no sign of recovery at all. It will of course present a huge headache for the EU, but if we have learned anything about Europe, it is remarkably resilient and a formula will be found to allow Syriza to claim some sort of a victory and to stimulate the Greek economy, and also to preserve the integrity of the Euro.  The Greeks will not default and they will not leave the Euro, some of their debt may even be written off, but it may just make the policy-makers pause and realize you can only beat people down for so long.

The second bit of good news is that the Commons Environment Committee has reported that Fracking is incompatible with our internationally agreed Carbon Reduction targets to which the UK is committed.  Well, though obvious, it needed saying, and saying loudly.  FRACK OFF.  Of course the Tories will argue that Fracking is safe.  Now we need Ed Milliband to come out strongly and say that he will ban Fracking; at least if he has any sense he will.  We are in a never-never land at present, with all the political parties holding back on major policy announcements too soon before the real election campaign begins.  Time for a bit of boldness I believe.  The way things are going Labour needs to really enthuse the public or they will lose by default.

At the weekend the two leading Premier League clubs lost in the F A cup to teams from lower divisions.  A warning to all those on power – do not take the electorate for granted.

The Times They Are-A-Changing

Monday 26th January

Bob Dylan wrote those words in late 1963.  President Kennedy had just been shot dead in Dallas, America had just survived the Cuban Missile Crisis and possibly Nuclear War with Russia.  There was still Racial Segregation in the Deep South and The Beatles had changed the face of pop music with their first album and singles.  In Britain we had a Conservative Government that was reeling from the Christine Keeler Affair and led by a grouse-shooting old-school Tory Grandee.  Harold Wilson was waiting in the wings, and though we didn’t know it at the time “The Sixties” were just about to happen.

How prescient of Mr. Zimmerman to have grasped the moment so brilliantly.

And here we are fifty odd years later.  We are rapidly entering into another cold war with Russia (the old enemy), the Middle East is an absolute mess, largely of our own creation.  The country is being run by a bunch of old Etonians who only managed to scrape in with a third of the votes last time and yet tried to take the country back thirty years to the days of Maggie.  Racial Segregation has been replaced by an undeclared war on Muslims.  And where are the kids, where are the angry young people demanding the country change.  There is no new music, no new Art or fashions coming from the young.  It feels we are stuck in some time-warp, or ground-hog day.  There are channels and channels on TV and yet nothing really gripping to watch.  The cinema is full of sequels and films about superheroes or CGI filled action movies.   The two most popular politicians, Boris and Nigel, are almost caricatures and nobody can really take them seriously.  Our two main parties will be lucky to get even 30% of the vote each, and yet there is no real opposition, no new ideas; it is just a question of who can best manage the tedium and do the least harm.  We may even be heading for deflation and utter economic stagnation.  And it seems that nobody care….

It feels that the times definitely are not changing.

The Leaders Debates

Sunday 25th January

This was an American idea, from as long ago as the sixties and last election it was introduced over here.  I, like many others watched the debates, but apart from how well (or poorly) groomed before the “shows” I am not sure we learned anything at all about the leaders or their parties.  We watched, almost as one does Formula 1, more in the hope of seeing a car-crash than in who the winner will be.  There was no doubt that time that Cameron would win and as it happened he fell short of an overall majority.  In fact the only ‘blunder’ or concession won was when Gordon Brown got Cameron to reluctantly agree that he would not cut Winter Fuel Allowance.  Not that it did Gordon any good at all; he looked ill-at-ease, awkward – and worst of all ‘old’.  Nick Clegg won the debates, but still lost both votes and seats from 2005.

There is now contention this year.  Cameron obviously doesn’t want to appear, as he will have to defend his policies which have caused such hardship.  The broadcasters offered to include Farage but Cameron put up the weak argument that he wouldn’t appear unless the Greens did too.  So now we face the ludicrous idea of debates with Conservatives, Labour, Lib-Dems, Ukip, SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens.  Quite how this can be done I have no idea.  Also it is patently unfair as the SNP will only field candidates in Scotland and Plaid in Wales.  And what about the DUP, the UUP and Sinn Fein – all of whom have M.P.s at Westminster.  It is a farce of course.

A far better idea would be for special hour-long interrogations of each of the party leaders in turn, with maybe Dimbleby and Marr and a couple from ITV or Channel 5 to ask questions of them.  The SNP and Plaid and Ulster parties could have their hour-long interviews shown in their respective countries.  And just as with the World Cup BBC and ITV could have the two main leaders with BBC2, and Channel 4 and 5 hosting the others.  It would certainly be fairer.  And in any case, although we all love gladiatorial contests the leader debates tell us nothing about how competent any of them might be at running the country, or even answering questions.  It is nothing but a beauty contest.  So before it goes any further and the Monster Raving Loony Party demand a podium (they will be putting up candidates in more seats than SNP, Plaid or the Ulster parties after all) let us scrap the idea and have a proper in-depth look at each party.

This Changes Everything, Capitalism vs The Climate by Naomi Klein

Saturday 24th January

This was a Christmas present and I must again say thank-you to Asif who bought it for me.  It is a fairly heavy tome which as I am devoted to my Kindle I had to get used to carrying and reading (mostly on the tube) but it was worth it.  What a book.  In some ways it tells us nothing we do not already know; that Capitalism and specifically the constantly increasing striving for profit, and the ruthlessness of Corporations, especially in the extractive industries, where whole populations are swept aside, will kill us all.  She doesn’t go into the science too deeply except to let us know that even the UN agreed allowance of a 2 degree increase in Global Warming, which will be exceeded anyway, will undoubtedly cause (and is already causing) major weather disruptions, which of course will cost us far more than it will to change direction now – while there is just time left.

She started to depress me by showing just how ruthless the Big Corporations are and how they will do anything to stop us from even slowing them down, let alone stopping them.  And she explained how the way the World works, with mass lobbying of Politicians and corruption and the desire of the developing nations to have the same lifestyle as us seems an unwinnable combination.  She showed how we deal with that by becoming deniers ourselves and simply not thinking about it.  But then she explained how the fight back was being waged by ordinary, many poor and indigenous people, all over the world and that all these little victories meant something.  She acknowledged that without a major change in our whole thinking we might still lose, but strangely the book left me more with hope than despair.   The book struck a chord with me and made me realise that I do care, that I have always cared but that I had become one of the ostriches, head firmly in the sand, and simply not thought the battle could be won.  This is a great book, slightly over-long, and a bit too American, but essential reading.  It had made me start thinking again, and maybe, just maybe it gives us some clues as to how we might, in fact how we must, change.

Neglected Poems – Number Three – Performance

Friday 23rd January

This is another old one.  Feeling sorry for myself (as usual) this tumbled out of me one day.

As Frank Zappa might have said “De Poor Boy Got Problems”


The house-lights fade as the overture begins

The curtains sweep back and I step from the wings

           The theatre’s in darkness but I know that you’re there

            I can almost smell the sweat in your hair

                        This performance so public is strictly for you

                        You’re in total command of all that I do          


The man you see is the one you created

With your hopes and desires and your heart so elated

            I’m not even sure I really exist

          I hardly know how to function at all

                        Except as the image – the frog you once kissed

                        The beam bouncing bright off your mirror-ball


But I wasn’t always this way it would seem

I once had my own thoughts, dreamed my own dreams

            Was a man in my own right – a creature apart

            That was before you ensnared this feint-heart

                        And I sing and I dance and I pirouette

                        A puppet in your fingers, and yet, and yet

             You’re not really certain – how can I convince         

              My acting, near perfect, still makes you wince


While out in the spotlight I pull out the stops

Backstage I’m desperately searching for props

            So many people still have their claws in me

            That’s why you find so many locked doors in me     

The Act’s end approaches; the audience sits hushed     

You rip up the script, at your feet I fall…crushed 

                The actor is an actor, the man just a man

              Buckets marked FIRE are filled with damp sand


The Trouble with Democracy

Thursday 22nd January

The trouble with Democracy is that it isn’t.  It ‘aint even close.  We have been sold a pup. A vote every five years to elect a representative who will ignore most of their parties’ Manifesto and be dealing with things that nobody even mentioned at the time of the election.  We are simply rubber stamping or rejecting, we are not in any way engaging in decisions which fundamentally affect our lives.  This system was put in place, with a few amendments, over a couple of hundred years ago, when it would have been impractical to actually ask people’s opinions, even if the idea had ever occurred to our rulers.  But hey, we are all connected now.  We have 24 hour rolling news channels; we have the internet; we have mobile phones.  So why not actually let the people decide.

There is no reason at all why internet voting in elections could not be feasible, except that it would inevitably open the floodgates to more voting (which may be why it hasn’t happened).  The Scottish referendum was brilliant, because it actually involved people.  Everyone had to think about their future, it really mattered.  And that is the real trouble with our form of ‘Democracy’.  Most people know that their vote won’t count, and that the Politicians will do what they want anyway.  But rather than just shrug our shoulders, why not change things.  Under my ideas all important changes to the status quo would have to be subject to a final approval via internet voting. (Public libraries could be used for people lacking internet access, with trained staff helping computer ‘unsavvy’ voters)  Of course there would be mass lobbying by the Press and vested interests to influence voting, but we have that now and still occasionally there are decent people elected.  It might just work.  It might get the couch potatoes slightly interested.  People might realize that they can actually influence their own futures.  It would certainly appeal to young people.  And it may just be the only way we will ever combat Corporations running the World and eventually destroying us all through Global Warming, which the vast majority of people want to happen – but nobody at all is showing them the way it can be done.