Gay punks at Stonehenge
This mentions Derby Lodge, the
Islington gay punks (Pip?), the
Pentonville Road ('Grimaldi') church
squat, Crass and Stonehenge.
"SAME THING DAY AFTER DAY - TUBE - WORK - DINNER - WORK - TUBE - ARMCHAIR - TUBE - WORK -- HOW MUCH MORE CAN YOU TAKE? -- ONE IN FIVE CRACKS UP!"
-Graffiti (circa 1977) on a wall facing the tube line between Ladbroke Grove and Westbourne Park tube stations.
Windsor 77 (or possibly 78)
Living in Uxbridge at the time, the local paper (I think) held forth about an army of invading hippies at Windsor (yet again). So I duly trundled off to Windsor for the bank holiday to be met by the massed ranks of the local constabulary & told to "fuck off home sonny". So I duly did. I later found out that a valiant few had somehow managed to evade said constabulary & hold a festival of sorts in a lay-by. Better luck next time.
Torness - May / June 79
This was a three-day "no nukes" demo / mass trespass on the then- site of Torness power station (just outside Berwick) but it deserves a mention. After a day of workshops (what to do if arrested) I was having tea at a campfire when this drum-like booming sound came out of the darkness. A minute or so later three people came out of the darkness & mist. One bearing a "Lambegh" drum, another with a cart full of firebrands and the third dressed as a ringmaster with a loudhailer inviting us all to "join the company of freaks". I needn't say that they all wore disguises, including face paint - which I had never ever seen before & so, of course, I joined in this Hamlyn-like procession round the site. We ended up in a field & watched a display of gymnastics, juggling & fire eating from our three hosts.
A friend & I hitched down from the far north, much to the surprise of people that we would travel that far for an event (then again there was absolutely nothing where we came from). Stonehenge, in some respects, was an introduction to democracy in action, which has stayed with me all these years. The "co-ordinators" would call a general site meeting & several hundred people would debate what needed to be done - organising the stage, bogs, and liaising with the local police, etc.. I'm afraid to say that it was rather spoilt by one of the Tepee people threatening to pull out "& if we go, the police will roll over the site" unless we all coughed up a (considerable) sum to finance the stage. What really hacked me off was that I later heard the allegation that some people kept 10% of donations back as a "tithe". The weather was OK for most of the week, it did rain heavily one night though - our tent got flooded out (ever tried bailing out a tent in the pitch black when you are "stoned immaculate"?). The Solstice itself was fine & sunny; there was a parade of Wally Smith's ashes round the site, the ritual storming of the gates to the Stones and people shouting "Wally!!!"
There was a "wedding" & a christening in the inner circle led by the (infamous at the time) "Rick the Vic". A Church of England vicar who had "dropped out" & whom (I think) was living with the Tepee people. (He later wrote an article for High Times, which differed significantly to how I remember the festival!) As it was hot & sunny that day, a few people stripped off, much to the excitement of a few passing Italian tourists, who proceeded to photograph everything that moved. ... Equally incongruous was an Asian family who turned up in a camper van & duly opened a shop.
Nik Turner (whom I didn't recognise with short hair) stood on me as he walked by & "Here & Now" organised the stage / running order of the bands. Some band called "Looney Q" took it upon themselves to disregard the set running & were promptly thrown off the stage by a Here & Now cohort. An aged relic from the 60's took offence to this "fascist dictatorship" & grabbed the stage mike to hold forth at length about this being "the people's festival" until hauled off - probably to have a heart attack. An enterprising couple set up "Mr & Mrs Normal's Tea Party". Which consisted of a bell tent, entrance fee 25 pence for which you received a spliff & a cup of tea. It was situated next to one of the minor stages.
Smokey Bears - Hyde Park, May 80
Having moved to London by then & cultivating the "bleak, northern industrial look" at the time, about 100+ of "us northerners" were living in a series of squats round Kings Cross / Islington. The look consisted of dressing in black Levi's, a black donkey jacket, short cropped hair -usually hennaed deep red- & a scarf; alternated between a Keyifah /an Om scarf. ... Heading the bill was Nik Turner's Inner City Unit (version 2). V2 had a much harder sound -later dubbed "Acidpunk"- & they finished the set with a storming version of Watching the Grass Grow / In the Mood (Nude) with a roadie, dressed in a silver firefighter's suit, dancing on the stage & instigating a flower fight - chucking boxes of dead daffodils into the moshing audience.
It was the day Arsenal won the FA Cup, at the time we where all living in this maze of squats round Kings Cross - the infamous Derby Lodge, which is worthy of another story. We had scored a whole blotter of "Red Dragon" (Rumour had it that it was pre-Operation Julie, recycled by a bent copper). It was enough for two tabs each & we had this big acid party - blood pouring out the walls time!
A friend from school turned up on my doorstep, having deserted from the Navy! We put him up for a week or so & decided we would smuggle him to Stonehenge, at which point he decided that he would be better off taking his chances handing himself in. As luck would have it, the day I set off, the dole office decided they had underpaid me & sent me a giro for £100+. I had arranged to meet people on site, having found the tents & a message that they where in the pub in the local town. Of course by the time I got to the pub, they had gone.
The following day I scored some most excellent acid - orange barrel. As the rush kicked in, all I could do was sit down on the Iron Age hillocks at the back of the site, listen to some Rachmaninov being played at maximum volume from a sound system & watch this magnificent psychedelic sunset. .... Later on, we all sat watching satellites / shooting stars / UFO's zipping across the sky whilst I became earnestly involved in conversation with two (tripping) young women, that "yes, the universe really was an inverted pudding bowl, painted black & if you looked closely enough, you could see the strings the stars where attached to". Just one of those little, spontaneous events, which made Stonehenge so unique. The last memory I have of that particular trip was standing round a campfire at 8:00 am (ish) some 13 or 14 hours after dropping the tab, still too wrecked to speak, watching blue, red and green squares, circles and triangles appear on peoples faces.
Band wise, Inner City Unit played a couple of sets, Nik Turner played flute with a band called Entropy & a couple of Hawkwind bods turned up & played as an ICU/Hawkwind crossover - WindHawks?? Bar that, ain't got a clue who I saw, apart from Spacemen 3 & the wonderfully monikered "Psycho Hamster meets the Killer Doughnuts from Mars". If memory serves me correctly, the latter played something like an all-night, five-hour set, as nobody else would take the stage. I think I saw Ruts DC do a set, though after being on site for three weeks or so, everything became a little blurry round the edges. Pertinent to this story is the biker gangs - mainly from the South West, who would turn up in force & colonise a section of the festival for themselves & woe betide anybody wandering into it (see above). During the latter part of the festival Crass turned up & were listed to do a set on the Saturday night. Rumours started to circulate that the biker gangs where making noises about it being "their festival" & the punks could, er, "go away". At one point, whoever was organising the main stage made an announcement that "we needn't be worried by Crass, you can easily recognise them, and they are older than us & dressed all in black". Consequently I 'dined out' as they say, for months afterwards with a couple of Crass fans of my acquaintance on the fact that I had chatted to the band round a campfire.
There was probably a fair amount of politicking going on between the groups. I remember talking to a guy from Release who were considering leaving before the Saturday night. (Can't remember if they did or not). In retrospect, rather foolishly, I scored some "Ying Yang" blotter, on the following Saturday. I knew it was going to be good when after about an hour, I got that "electric taste" in my mouth & similar to "Fear & Loathing... "The sky suddenly rendered open, on good acid, I always had this thing that the sky was made out of jelly & the horizon was the jelly skin, & all these Pterodactyl type creatures started flowing out of the hole in the sky...
Inner City Unit were just starting a set, I remember a couple of us climbing up the inside of the Pyramid stage & sitting at the back, looking down on the band. The next couple of hours, I think I just wandered around until for some reason I ended back at the main stage, round midnight where a band, I thought it was Crass, but evidently I'm wrong, were playing & a couple of bikers jumped on stage, punched the singer and commenced to smash everything up. The rest is pretty confused; I can recall seeing people being chased across the field & beaten up - some acquaintances from the Islington gay punk contingent were pretty badly hurt. I later heard that they, the bikers (to be fair I suppose, a group of them) just set about attacking anybody with short hair who looked vaguely punkish...
Round 4:00 or 5:00 am, I found myself back at what was left of the main stage. Some guy, who deserves the most enormous respect possible (& again a big thank you) had pulled together a scratch band, got the generator working & started playing again. Whoever he was, he deserves respect for having the courage to get on stage & sound off on "how this was the people's festival & we don't want no fascists wrecking the place". Braver man than I (at that time, a veteran of several 1970's anti-Nazi rallies & pitched battles with the NF), I have to say.
I remember coming down, sat on the stage as the sun rose, thinking "fucking hell, I've really fucked up this time." I managed to grab some sleep & woke up to a drizzle, the bikers had departed en masse & the whole site was a smelly tip -so I grabbed my stuff & hitched back to London. One of the lifts was from a "geezer" type bloke from "sarf Lundun mate", who had spent a couple of days on site, checking the place out. He held forth on Thatcherite free market principles (& selling various substances & goods at mark up prices to the assorted masses). I guess him & his mates moved in pretty quickly once they realised the opportunities.
Kings Cross Benefit Gig
Psycho Hamster, having lost the Killer Donuts suffix, resurfaced in late Summer 81. There was a benefit gig (pay what you could afford on the door) held in a deconsecrated church in Islington (half way up Pentonville Rd, on the left if you are travelling up the hill) on behalf of a local squatters group. I walked past the site a month or two back - it's now a business centre, Headlining were (as ever) ICU. To make this one more interesting, they rigged up a projector - with 50ft images of Judge Dredd & other 2000AD characters projected onto the back wall. Needless to say, the police raided us. Apparently they received complaints about the noise from some two miles away! (Well, it was 2:00 am) Nik Turner negotiated one more song - a 20-minute version of "Amyl Nitrate" - which normally ended with a version of the theme from the 60's TV show "Bonanza". This time, it also segued into "Johnny Todd" - a Liverpudlian folk song, which was adapted as the theme for (the 60's TV show) Z Cars.