Gods of Rap: Passion, Politics and hard beats

glasgowcrowd

An enthusiastic Glasgow crowd interacted with the ‘Gods of Rap’

The line-up for this tour just had me excited from the get go. Wu-Tang Clan, Public Enemy and De La Soul for all playing British and European dates in one show. That had me hooked. Gods of Rap kicked off on May 10 at London’s SSE Wembley Arena. I caught up with it on the 12th in Glasgow.

The crowd was big and the joint was jumping as soon as the DJ started to play. By the time De La Soul hit the stage the crowd is suitably lively. I confess that I didn’t know much of De La Soul, or thought I didn’t. But somehow I knew some of the tracks from ‘3 Feet High and Rising’ which turned 30 earlier this year. Don’t know when I heard Me, Myself and I but I did. De La Soul deserve more recognition than they have. Their music is accomplished and versatile (as shown when the funked it up during this show) and they have a lot of humour in their lyrics.

djDuring the break between bands we were entertained by DJ Premier – and I do mean entertained. Yet there was a serious side too when he and the crowd (audience scarcely fits as there was so much interaction) honoured Phife Dogg, and Nipsey Hussle amongst others.

Then Public Enemy, or Public Enemy Radio, came on to the sound of air-raid warning sirens blaring with backing ‘dancers’ dressed in camouflage doing a military style drill. Now, I’ve been a big public enemy fan over many years. One of the things I admired about them was their forthright political message. At the time it’s fair to say that I saw them as my Black Nationalist brothers who saw through a system aimed at putting them down. As a Nationalist from here in the UK I saw them as people from a different culture and tradition who had arrived as similar truths – “brothers of the same mind, unblind”. Their radical message and powerful beat reached out to me. I was delighted that Chuck D still had both the edge and the music. A true OG! Now I don’t know if his comments on Brexit and Scottish Independence are right although his view on sectarianism (there had been a Rangers v Celtic game earlier) and the ineptitude of our Tory government certainly are. But what really impressed me was that after all these years he still has passion, energy and hasn’t sold out. Fight the Power and Don’t Believe the Hype are as relevant and powerful today as when they were written – 1989 and 1988. The crowd was energised by Chuck D and you would certainly never believe that he was approaching 60!

Follow that! Wu-Tang Clan did with an incredible 30-song set-list which just vibrated with energy and passion. This wasn’t just a celebration of ’36 Chambers’ material (which reached a 25 year anniversary recently), it was much wider than that. You certainly got your money’s worth with this show!

Some have sniped at the tour. Thomas Hobbs in the Guardian said: “the tour feels more like a museum exhibit than a chance to truly replicate the frenetic energy that made each of these groups so thrilling”. He dismissed it as a “nostalgia trip”. It is far more than that, as the fans know, because it is powerful music addressing real issues. In the words of Public Enemy: “False media, we don’t need it do we?”. Go catch this tour!

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

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Counter Culture : Words Of Wisdom : Andrei Tarkovsky

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The Dirty Fucking Hippies were Right!

hippies

Were the Hippies right?

LAST MONTH I reviewed a children’s publication – https://countercultureuk.com/2019/03/20/peter-paula-and-the-pelican/ – for Counter Culture.  That was a first for me as it’d been years since I’d read a children’s book let alone review one.  This is another first because – to the best of my knowledge – I’ve never reviewed an individual music track before now.

I can’t recall exactly how I came across The Dirty Fucking Hippies Were Right!

but as soon as I heard it I was absolutely hooked.  I’ve absolutely no musical talent whatsoever, but I was soon tapping my feet, nodding my head and playing both an imaginary guitar and drumming away at the same time.  Have a listen to it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKEZoY-TMG4 and I bet you’ll be doing the same!    

Whenever I come across an album (or a single) that really appeals to me I like to find out more about it.  I’m always interested in who wrote and performed on it – and particularly what inspired the track.  Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be too much information available relating to this single.  However, I’ve been told that it probably was the work of George Carlin.

For those who don’t know, George Carlin (1937 – 2008) was an American stand-up comedian, actor, author, and social critic.  His website – https://georgecarlin.com/ – indicates that he did recordings, but I get the impression that they’re live recordings of his comedy gigs.  There’s nothing to say that he was (or wasn’t) involved in some way with this track.  (On saying that, I haven’t conducted too much in-depth research on him – indeed, until his name was mentioned to me I was only vaguely aware of Carlin.)

To some extent, it doesn’t matter who was involved with the track.  It’s remarkable for a couple of reasons.  

Firstly, it’s strangely hypnotic.  This is because of the ‘swirling’ sound of a the guitar throughout the entire track.  (Not being a musician I couldn’t tell you what sort of guitar it is or what the correct technical term name is for the ‘swirling’ sound it makes.)  This ‘swirling’ sound is very pronounced during the chorus, but I also like the way it continues in the background throughout the track. 

Secondly, there’s no singing on The Dirty Fucking Hippies Were Right!   It just features the spoken word, which makes its message very, very clear indeed.  I also liked the way that it was simply impossible to categorise the track as it doesn’t really fit any genre or sub-genre of music that I know of.  (Don’t we just love to put individuals, bands and even single tracks into boxes?!!)

Much like 19 by Paul Hardcastle – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRJFvtvTGEk – The Dirty Fucking Hippies tells a story.  But whilst Hardcastle’s masterpiece just looked at Vietnam, this track covers a multitude of subjects.  War – and particularly Vietnam – is up there, but so is the environment, pollution, the power of multi-nationals, political corruption, Big-Pharma, the destruction of small town America, capitalism and so on.  Remarkably it provides quite a lot of information about each subject matter.  It’s also the first time I’ve heard the term ‘Banksters’ (a mixture of the words bankers and gangsters) on a track – but the term Banksters is a really great description of these vultures.  

Whist listening to the track I realised that I know next to nothing about hippies.  It made me want to find out about more about the origins and objectives of this counter-cultural movement from the 60s.  The Dirty Fucking Hippies Were Right! also made specific references to the Vietnam war and also Abbie Hoffman who ‘baited’ the Banksters by throwing cash onto the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.  Again, it made me want to find out more about Vietnam – about which I know very little – and Abbie Hoffman – who I wouldn’t know, even if I pulled him out of my stew!

It’s not very often that listening to one track opens up so many other avenues of further study.  I’d highly recommend that you listen to the track and take in its core message.  At 6 mins 30 secs it’s longer than many tracks – but it’s well-worth the effort. 

  • Reviewed by John Field

 

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Peter, Paula and the Pelican

Peter, Paula and the Pelican.  Brent Cheetham.  Grosvenor House Publishing Ltd, Surrey, England.  ISBN 978-1-78623-019-5  Paperback. 41 pages.  Available from Amazon UK  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Peter-Paula-Pelican-Brent-Cheetham/dp/1786230194/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_3?crid=25VZW7VKTDDKZ&keywords=brent+cheetham&qid=1552144194&s=gateway&sprefix=brent+cheetham%2Caps%2C179&sr=8-3-fkmrnull

IT’S BEEN a long time since I’ve read a children’s publication.  I’ve never reviewed one before, so I didn’t know what to expect.  Therefore, Peter, Paula and the Pelican was a first for me.  If that wasn’t enough, the author is an old mucker of mine, Brent Cheetham!

Published towards the middle of 2016, Peter, Paula and the Pelican is the first of several booklets he has written.  The others include The Rake’s Regression (Nov 2016), Ecstatic Essays (Apr 2017), andCuffley Capers (Aug 2017).

Before delving into any publication I always like to look at both the authors and publishers notes to get an idea of what I’m about to read. Peter, Paula and the Pelican was no exception.  Here I got a hint of thewhimsical nature of the booklet and the sense of humour employed by the author.  We are told that the book is:

‘a romp of a story, combining humour, pathos and nonsense for the edification of the young and the not so young adults who are still young at heart.  The author confirms that he has not yet had a visit from the men in white coats.

The author is aged 60, lives in the village of Cuffley, Hertfordshire, and still is partial to the odd peanut butter sandwich although he says he prefers a nice strong cup of English breakfast tea over a glass of ginger beer’.

Peter, Paula and the Pelican is set in England in 1925 and tells the tale of brother and sister Peter and Paula Brown who live in a cottage in the village of Sleepy Hollow.  Like many children they are getting under their mother’s feet so she sends them out to play.

Making their way to the local woods they come across hole in the bottom of a hedge which in turn leads to a large oak door.  Peter, who is the oldest, is all for opening the door.  Paula, on the other hand, worries in case there are ‘monsters, lions or dragons’ on the other side.  However, Peter notes that the last dragon was “killed years ago by somebody called St. George.”  (I thought that this was a nice way of weaving a little heritage and tradition into the book).

Disaster strikes when the door slams behind them as they become stuck in this ‘strange land’ that boasts two suns in the sky.  However, this is relatively normal compared to the adventure that follows and the characters they meet!

First up is a talking Pelican who informs them that they’re in Back to Front Land.  The only way of getting back home is to see the Prime Minister, Herbert Spencer.  He can gain them an audience with King Lupin the Second so that they get the key to unlock the door.  The King lives ‘in a big house in the big city’ but is unlikely to see the children ‘on account of the Brent.’

So who or what is ‘the Brent’?  In the best traditions of any children’s publication he is some form of ogre.  He ‘is a great big ugly giant, with moles on his face, who goes to the big city every now and again and demands peanut butter sandwiches and often knocks off chimney pots from the roof of the city houses’.

The Pelican has offered to take them to the ‘big house’ and so the adventure begins.  As mentioned earlier they meet some very weird and wonderful characters.  They include talking chickens who are knitting square egg cosies for the square eggs that they lay.  There’s also atractor-driving talking monkey, ‘silly sheep’ who have a problem as they never tell lies, a talking tablecloth, peanut butter mines (for some reason Back to Front Land seems to thrive on peanut butter) and a sign that points in two opposite directions – but to the same location!

Two more amazing characters include an owl who has such bad eyesight he has to wear glasses.  Indeed, this owl defies convention by coming out during the day – yes, you’ve guessed it, he’s a day owl as opposed to a night owl!  There’s also a retired dancing horse called Brian who talks absolute nonsense.  For instance, when asked what are the ingredients to carrot soup he replies ‘carrots and soup of course.’

I laughed at the method of transport that was taken to see the Prime Minister and King Lupin in the ‘big city,’ for Peter and Paula sat on Brian’s back whilst the Pelican perched on his head.  This must have been a sight for sore eyes.  Needless to say, Brian the nonsense horse talked absolute nonsense during the journey.

At last they reach their destination and manage to sort out ‘the Brent’ problem.  I don’t want to go into any detail how they did this – I don’t know if I’m over-thinking this part of the booklet, but I think much of what’s wrong with modern Britain can be explained here.  Read it for yourself and see if you come to the same conclusion.  The only thing I will say is that Paula is the hero of the hour.

I hope I’m not spoiling things by saying that the children make it home ok.  However, they do get some help from the Pelican, ‘the Brent’ and a bi-plane made of wood and canvas!

I must admit I really enjoyed Peter, Paula and the Pelican.  I chuckled to myself as some of what was said (especially by Mrs. Brown) brought back memories from my own childhood, which admittedly wasn’t exactly yesterday.  Typical English eccentricity flows through it – Peanut Butter sandwiches and Ginger Beer feature heavily – and I wondered how Brent (the author as opposed to the ogre!) managed to dream up these characters.   Indeed, where did he get his inspiration from?  It’s also Politically Incorrect in parts and the gender stereotypes would give the Orwellian ’thought police’ many a sleepless night.

The only downside were a few spelling and grammatical errors, which the author has acknowledged.  Hopefully, they’ll be sorted out in any reprint. However, they don’t really spoil this booklet at all and I’d happily recommend it to anyone who reads to their children.

  • Reviewed by John Field.

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The Upside (2019)

theupsidePG-13 | 2h 5min | Comedy, Drama | 11 January 2019 (USA and UK)
Director: Neil Burger
Writers: Jon Hartmere (screenplay by), Éric Toledano (based on the motion picture “Les Intouchables”)
Stars: Nicole Kidman, Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston, Golshifteh Farahani

I enjoyed this remake of the French film The Intouchables (2011). Both films are very good and The Upside follows the original pretty closely (with some notable exceptions). It’s good that the story will reach a wider audience as it is a very positive one. I know that many are put off foreign language films with subtitles and this story is certainly worth re-telling. It concerns the relationship between a wealthy man, Phillip (played by Bryan Cranston), with quadriplegia and an unemployed man with a criminal record, Dell (played by Kevin Hart), who’s fighting battles of his own. It’s based on a true story. If I had to choose I’d go with the original but both films are well worth watching. The story is full of humour and has some important messages about how people should respect and treat each other. At heart this film is about how people can help others see life differently and redeem themselves. The art in both films is that the story shows this without being preachy!

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dt1EEV-Szu4

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Stealing History : Art Theft, Looting, and Other Crimes Against our Cultural Heritage

stealinghistoryStealing History : Art Theft, Looting, and Other Crimes Against our Cultural Heritage Colleen Margaret Clarke and Eli Jacob Szydlo

Stealing History concisely addresses an area of criminal justice studies which has historically been inadequately represented, thus filling a void in the literature. Well-sourced, this book is an excellent primary or supplemental text, which as a discourse views art theft as a crime perceived by authorities as less important than other more violent crimes. Art and cultural crime ranks third largest in criminal enterprise worldwide, and, the author of this book attempts to break down why crimes of this nature matter. Furthermore, she delineates which steps law enforcement should consider to prevent it in the future.

Cultural crimes include appropriating objects found in museums and private displays, but also objects which represent cultural identity and national history. Historically, heads of state have looted freely while empire building. Various leaders from Great Britain were guilty of this, as well as, Napoleon, Hitler, and more recently ISIL/ISIS, by systematically destroying cultural sites, churches, collections, both public and private, and looting archaeological digs to eradicate any evidence of a culture they want to absorb and oppress, as well as a means to raise money to support their cause. They use it to destroy the hopes of those who grew up with these cultural artifacts as a part of their history and identity. Soul destroying and very calculated, so that they might assimilate the community into their more extremist world view, it is done to prevent the culture from re-emerging.

UNESCO considers the intentional destruction of cultural heritage, not just a crime, but a war crime. Clarke’s main point is that in order for law enforcement and governments to prevent these types of crime, they must first understand what it is they are fighting. She feels many do not respect the severity of this type of crime and classifying it as an art crime means justice is not accorded to the history, culture, intellect, and scholarly works which are being annihilated.

While the US views these as property crimes, Clarke feels they should rather be viewed as cultural crimes or war crimes, which is how the United Nations perceives them. Stealing History addresses the question of priority. The US is the largest market for illegal and illicit artwork globally; and Clarke appeals for more preventative steps by law enforcement, in addition to instituting better security to meet international standards as a step towards reducing these crimes.

She makes the point that destruction of important buildings and monuments are used to shock us, therefore why doesn’t destruction of art and cultural artifacts elicit the same response? A society’s culture is depicted by its art, and history has chronicled primordial cultures through the discoveries of remnants of more ancient societies. Why then, is more reverence given to archaeology than to art? Clarke relates that it is difficult to separate culture from art, a defining factor in a society’s self-identification.

Clarke discusses how damaging it is to a culture to destroy the provenance of historical artifacts by removing them from where they were found, furthermore, not only are pieces damaged by careless thieves, but they are taken out of context; therefore we lose the history connected to the culture of origination. Looting is fairly common in third world countries, and according to Interpol, hundreds of sites have been looted; between 60 and 90 percent of tombs and other archaeological sites. This, Clarke relates is due to lack of government control, as well as opportunistic looting in war zones and poorer economies where government control might be inhibited.

During WWI and WWII works of art in Europe were stolen by invading forces, including Gustav Klimt’s Woman in Gold which was renamed from the original Adele Bloch-Blauer to hide its origin. Since the onset of the war, targeted families were removed from their homes and anything of value was taken and documented by the German military, done to such a scale that it was impossible to document the extent of it. Van Eyck’s Ghent Alter piece of 1482 was taken twice by Germany; once during WWI, when the Treaty of Versailles forced its return and again in WWII. These painted panels have been targeted at least thirteen times, from theft to destruction to censoring. Prior to WWI the victor of a war could plunder without much recourse, however during this period the international art community began to discuss cultural preservation and its protections during times of war, with a focus on monuments.

Sometimes stolen art is bartered back to its owner as a ransom, fetching a better price than selling on the black market, and evading the chance that the work might be recognized and reported. Ransoming is far safer and more profitable for these thieves. While few cases exist of a thief stealing a piece of art merely to enhance their own personal collection exist, Frenchman Stephane Breitwieser stole 239 pieces of art worth $ 1.4b. Unfortunately, he stored the stash at his mother’s and upon his arrest; she shredded the works with scissors, before grinding them in the garbage disposal. Many thieves damage art in the process of stealing it, while, others duplicate the work and then sell the original. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London actually has a display of such forged works of art, over a 100 such pieces.

It wasn’t until 1970 that the United Nations took an official stance on these types of crimes forming UNESCO and as of 2011; these guidelines for awareness and prevention of cultural crimes have been ratified by up to 190 nations. The fault in this convention is that it is not retroactive and crimes committed before the signing of the convention are exempt.

Clarke covers the following topics: media’s portrayal of art crime; history of art and related crimes; cultural differences between the US and Europe and their effect on art crimes; looting and archeological sites, economic impacts, police demands, scrutiny and the future; security and policing globally; and growth of and prevention of art crime. A concise and interesting read with thoughtful suggestions aimed at prevention of future art and cultural crimes in an evolving world. Clarke writes an interesting chapter on police scrutiny discussing how things have changed since 9/11 with local law enforcement having to respond as the first line of defense against terrorism, and indicating why art crime is so far down the priority list as it is lumped in with property crimes and why logistically, it just cannot be given the attention it deserves. One solution, she writes is to educate local forces on the idea that art crime is generally not local, but global, connected to antiquity theft, fraud and terrorism within international criminal organizations, thereby changing the perceptions of these types of crimes.

Author Colleen Clarke, PhD. has been director of the Law Enforcement Program at MSU, and formerly a police officer at Thunder Bay PD. She has contributed to Encyclopedia of Street Crime in America (Sage, 2013) and The Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice (Wiley, 2013). She has written for the National Social Science Journal, International Journal of Police Strategies & Management and Law Enforcement Executive FORUM. Co-author Eli J. Szydlo received his background in law enforcement from his undergraduate studies at MSU, and previously studied at the Kansas City Art Institute, encountering the field of art crimes.

Reviewed by Rosdaughr

Published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

Pages: 176 • 978-1-4422-6079-5 • Hardback • April 2017 • $36.00 • (£24.95)

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The Romantic Rocker – Some Thoughts on Phil Lynott

phillynottWhat made Phil an ‘outsider’? Well, was this rowdy rocker and party goer, really an outsider? I think so. Of course just the hue of his skin in Dublin at the time would have ‘marked him out’. A black Irishman in the 50s and 60s – there was a novelty. Either he had to live up to that difference  or retreat from it – Phil, ostensibly, lived up to it. In fact he had been born at West Bromich in the West Midlands of England close to where I grew up. But Phil was sent to Dublin to live with and be brought up by his grandmother and family. He pays tribute to her in one of his songs titled ‘Sarah’. He wrote another ‘Sarah’ for his first born.

Phil was ‘black’, living apart from his mother, with an estranged father. He was brought up in Catholic Ireland – so different at the time, say, from ‘Swinging London’ and more generally the ‘swinging sixties’ – the decade when he first began to play music. Phil was tall, very leggy and eventually grew an impressive ‘Afro’ hair cut. There was no mistaking him. But there was always a dichotomy about his nature. I met and talked with him a few times (I’m lucky to be able to say) even got to play drums along with him once! With his doleful eyes, lush Dublin brogue and gentle demeanour OFF-stage (I never witnessed his wild side) – this was contrasted with the posing rocker, ‘eye-for-a-lady’, ‘jack-the-lad’, ‘twinkle in the eye’ hard rocker ON stage. Thin Lizzy were a SUPERB live act. They made their reputation and career from their live performances. And they had (to quote a song and album title) a ‘bad reputation’.

There was though, more to this rocker than one would expect. Yes he could write heavy songs with swagger such as ‘The Rocker’: I am your main man if you’re looking for trouble but also some of the most beautiful ballads, such as ‘Still in Love With You’: Think I’ll just fall to pieces/if I don’t find something else to do/ this sadness it never ceases/ I’m still in love with you. Or there were the songs of yearning, ‘Wild One’ being an example with its lines: How can we carry on, now you are gone, my wild one. There were many songs imbued with Irish legend of myth and adventure and with more contemporary reference such as, ‘Freedom Song’: I believe in the freedom song/Long live liberty/I believe in the freedom song/Doesn’t matter what you do to me.

But there was also his religious/spiritual side. I’m writing these words now because the following lines often pop into my head, from the song ‘Dear Lord’: Dear Lord, this is a prayer, just let me know if you’re really there/Dear Lord, come gain control, oh Lord, come save my soul/Give me dignity, restore my sanity, oh Lord, come rescue me/
Dear Lord, my vanity, oh Lord, it’s killin’ me, it’s killin’ me.

Phil had a sense of the Divine… a sense of the world beyond…I even think he had a sense of his impending mortality. This mix of rocker and romantic gave his songs a quality so often lacking from his contemporaries. Thin Lizzy’s songs had this mixture of Rock; Romance; Celtic History; Religion/Spirituality.

Phil was an outsider by nature not by choice. He was ‘Johnny’ the character popping up in many of his songs – he was ‘The Cowboy’, his childhood reflecting children’s awe then of the Wild West and he bringing these romantic adventures to life in the raw 1970s: I am just a cowboy, lonesome on the trail…

Well if you don’t know, Phil succumbed to the effects of drugs and their long-term use in the mid-80s. Perhaps that was always going to be his destiny. Never to grow old. Always remembered as the rocker, the gypsy with his dangling, hooped earring. His playfulness and talent. But it’s still a damn shame he’s gone.  These words reflect just a slight insight into the man and his songs. If you don’t know him and Thin Lizzy check out their back catalogue. ‘Vagabonds of the Western World’ is a raw, solid, Irish, romantic flavoured album from the band as a three-piece; ‘Nightlife’ is a soulful peculiarity (and my favourite album); Jailbreak is the ‘Classic Line-up’ at its height, containing their most famous hit song, ‘The Boys are Back in Town’.

If you don’t know Thin Lizzy and you like your rock delivered with feeling and intensity and yet with some beautiful slow ballads and thought-provoking lyrics – you will be highly delighted when you do. If you already know them – you’ll understand everything I have written. Phil’s life was a romantic-tragedy – with all the paradox that those two words combining bring. I’ll leave you with this stanza from his song, ‘Spirit Slips Away’. Written when he and the band were on the cusp of real stardom.

And when the music that makes you blue
Unfolds its secrets, the mysteries are told to you
May the angels sing rejoice to you
That fateful day when your spirit slips away

By Tim Bragg

Phil Lynott (20 August 1949 – 4 January 1986) was best known as the singer, frontman and bassist with Thin Lizzy

Tim Bragg is author of ‘Lyrics to Live by: Keys to Self-Help; Notes for a Better Life: https://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B07FW1BC5D/thirdway0c

 

 

 

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