Me, me, me, me and Here & Now and me
Unabridged version of a contribution for liner notes of the Here and Now, Gospel of Free retrospective CDs - only a tiny part of which made it into the booklet.
I'd started to hear about Here & Now when I was living with Steve Hillage and Miquette up at the Gong farm in Witney, Oxford - I'd been a massive fan of both Gong and Bowie and had hitched all round the country to see both groups, bunking off school, but Bowie was somehow untouchable (Hunky Dory period) whereas me and my very tripped-out friends were getting lifts back in the Gong bus after gigs, often ending up crashing at Witney.
When Gong split between the mystics and the musos - I'd sort of stepped into the shoes of Twink (original synth player, solder machine, and bus owner with Here & Now) as general go-for slash sounding board, and Steve, who was about to record "L". The summer of '75 Steve had moved down to Wiltshire with Miquette andin between demos/auditions we hit the Meagan Fayre - where Steve jammed with Here & Now. I had a not too wonderful trip watching it all and we split the next morning missing our middle-class comforts a bit too much. But, the vibe had been laid.
Anyway, I toured with Steve and the "L" Band as his guitar roadie and became increasingly disenchanted with the sharp end of Rock 'n' Roll - no sleep and lifting boxes with thick racist sexist thugs and hardly ever seeing Steve. Got left behind when the "L" Band went to the the United States, and so toddled off to Kent University to become a lawyer to change the system from within.
Ha ha ha! After one term of Acid and Whiskey and arguments with every lecturer, '76 saw me searching for something I wanted to give myself to.
Challacombe was a festival in North Devon that I hitched to that spring, and there was the Green Goddess - Twink's bus! Suddenly I met all those other people I didn't despise! Steffy and Kif-Kif and Sooze the Blooz and Janet and Greg and Twink in particular (at this point Gavin and Keith the Bass weren't about). How do you say in your language - Hep Cats with attitude! I thought they were it. An amazing band who played totally improvised - feeling the moment - oh yes. All living in the bus, but, not soft hippy idiots - strong, independent people who were making their own world. Just like I'd heard Roy Harper sing, "If you feel you want a better world, why don't you just make one…."
I wanted in - they vaguely knew me from Hillage days and I was helping them set up their gear before you could say Boom Shanka and themes stick in my mind from that time.
I went away from the festival spinning like a top, split university and hit Brighton to supply students with grain food. Sort of settled down into my "bizniz" there - wondering how to contact Here & Now when lo and behold Here & Now came to play a cinema in Brighton - organised by the legendary Hamish (later of the Sex Pistols!!).
Again they were right out there. Keith the Bass was a solid rock and Kif-Kif and Steffy to dive off and Twink's home made synths intrigued me. Also Anno Wombat put on an appearance took my heart back to London with her. I was in.
Next was Stonehenge and I was on the bus. Yahoo. That year we created Freedom City just across from the stones. We were some sort of cross between Sense and Ozric Tentacles musically, but by now the lifestyle was seducing me as well. Playing for free - no rules - pissing-off old patriarchs like Sid Rawle we were the young guns and we were going for it. People wanted music we gave them a free flowing reflection of themselves - they gave us food - good scene. This was an innocent Stonehenge, before all the smack and heavy police shit. Teepees - I'd never seen a teepee outside of cowboy films. People giving each other what thy needed.
That summer we played gigs in the back of squats, up at the brilliant Deeply Vale and loads of others whose names escape me. Rhyader in Wales we all played totally naked and Twink nearly killed himself by electrocution by touching his microphone while holding on to his synth - now I knew why that happened and suddenly I was kicking around with the P.A. trying to get it so Steffy and K.K's vocals could be heard - thus a sound man was born.
Songs like Soviet Commercial Radio (later daevid what???) and Addicted and Boom Shiva Shanka started to be little islands on the improvisations. At some point we lived off jam for about 3 days - no bread just jam. We had money for petrol and that was it. K.K. and I had to invent the toe bong just to get stoned. (Actually it was KK and Susie's idea I think - a bong so big you had to smoke it standing up and put your big toe over the hole.) Our rap as I remember was - "Do you want to try this bong, man?"
As the festival season was coming to a close we were all getting a bit thin and wired - Twink couldn't handle the hassle anymore and split - rather gr***ly selling us the bus for the £20 he paid for it (that was the best bus Here & Now ever had). Gavin who had by now started helping me hump gear was dragged in as new synth player and we went off to starve - first in France trying to fruit pick.
So there was KK and Susie, me and Anno, Keith the Bass and Janet daughter Trissy, Gavin and MCJ [Mary Clare Johnston], Steffe and Annie, Doug the Slug driving and Bella cooking. MCJ danced and Annie taped every gig she could. I remember Annie signed on as Alice Springs and they didn't bat an eyelid. Anyway another band called Thandoy had foolishly mentioned that they had a place in Norfolk [North Farm] and if we were ever in the area to call by - so off we went - played the EYE Festival. After a set by the H. Wangford Band that seemed to last for hours.