March 10, 2010

First part of excerpts from "Tales from the Embassy", Dave Tomlin trilogy on his experiences in the Sixties!!!

You can read below the first part of some excerpts from "Tales from the Embassy" trilogy written by Dave Tomlin about his esclusive experiences in the Sixties.
Behind some nicknames you can discover well-known characters of the TEB story:
Zen Glenn is Glen Sweeney
Mr. Smith is the same Dave Tomlin
Dick is Dick Dadem
Moonjelly is the Giant Sun Trolley

Trios Eros is The Third Ear Band.
So now we have the rare opportunity to know some obscure facts of the past, as the happening in Kensington park that was the beginning of the so-called "guerilla warfare" ...

"No flowers for McCafferty
A police inspector from a central London station has telephoned the embassy asking to speak with Smith.
‘I understand that you are a friend of Mr Michael McCafferty,’ says the inspector.
‘Well I know him,’ says Smith. ‘But I doubt he has any friends.’
‘So it seems,’ replies the inspector. ‘And what about relations, did he have any family?’
‘I think he may have a sister somewhere,’ says Smith. ‘But why did you say “did”?’
‘Because he’s dead,’ says the inspector. ‘He was found floating in the river off Wapping Pier with a knife in his back and we’re trying to trace his next of kin.’
Smith cannot help him and the inspector refuses to give any further information.
‘I’m afraid the matter is still under investigation.’ He says, and ends the call firmly by putting down the phone.
McCafferty dead, and in such a fitting way, thinks Smith. It seems to him almost inevitable that given his approach to life he must end this way. He imagines the shadowy hulk of Wapping Pier. A full moon hangs over the river. Street lamps on the far shore dapple the surface with dancing reflections and a black hump quietly breaks the waterline turning lazy circles in the shadows of the pier. McCafferty, face down and transfixed has gambled once too often and someone has finally called him out. Nevertheless the news appals Smith, and he sits on the stairs near the telephone casting his mind back to the time when McCafferty had first appeared on his event horizon. 

It is the summer of 1966 and revolution is in the air. Something new is trying to be born and the establishment ethic is nervous, shifting uncomfortably on its ponderous foundations. McCafferty has arrived at the London Free School with a short haircut and a copy of Auden’s poems in his jacket pocket from which he is fond of reading aloud. He renders the lines in a forceful manner, the words articulated precisely and delivered in a sarcastic tone, as if the poem lays bare the pathetic and sorry state of his listeners. Smith’s connection with the school had begun the previous winter, when at a meeting called to found a free school in Notting Hill he had volunteered to teach a class in music composition. He had subsequently spent many chilly evenings in the dank basement in which it is housed waiting for the hoard of culture hungry locals to come pouring through the door. His waiting had been almost entirely in vain. One or two pensioners had ventured down looking for a cup of tea, a few bolshie teenagers hang around for a while restless and looking for some action.
‘I’m here to teach you how to write music,’ says Smith, and they look at him as if he is mad.
‘It’s the Thursday night down at the scout-hall syndrome,’ he thinks. ‘We’d do better running a bingo club.’ 

Around about this time, what with the ozone in the air from the seismological shifts taking place in the culture and one thing or another, Smith embarks upon a course of madness which involves the casting away of all possessions and the abandonment of his rented room. He has decided to take to the streets with only the clothes he wears and a wooden flute. Having just finished reading Herman Hess’ Magister Ludi, the image of its hero leaving all behind and casting himself upon the whim of circumstance has appealed mightily to his imagination. It is spring and the weather is fine; he feels confident that by nightfall of the first day providence will have provided him with some shelter.
Providence however, decrees otherwise. After spending a fruitless day wandering the streets of Notting Hill, eyes alert for the chance circumstance which will open the door into a new life, he finds himself late that night still in the same predicament. The streets are deserted and Smith is forced to conclude that nothing much is coming his way at the moment. It is getting dark and a little chilly, he thrusts his hand deep into his trouser pocket and feels a flat tapering object. It is his key to the cellar of the Free School and he cannot resist the opportunity it offers.
Letting himself quickly in he goes to the cellar below where he takes off his shoes, bundles up his jacket for a pillow and climbs upon a small billiard-table which has been donated to the school. Morning comes and he rises early and departs unseen. The next day brings nothing in the way of doors to new worlds, and since he had moved to the area barely six months before he knows no one. Night falls and he must use the key again. And again, and again, and again. But he cannot see any harm in it and no one is any the wiser. After a while he gets the old iron range working with wood taken from local skips. He finds a large can, cleans it out and cooks himself the odd stew with vegetables left by the market barrows in the Portobello road. He is surviving in this way when he meets Bob, an old friend and trumpet player who has nowhere to stay. Smith, feeling that he has a moral obligation to help a friend invites him to shelter for the night at the school.
‘But we must leave early in the morning and allow no one to see or hear us,’ says Smith, and Bob accompanies him down to the cellar that night. And the next, and the next, and the next. Pretty soon a friend of Bob’s turns up. He is a painter and on the street. Bob Dylan is singing, “How does it feel to be out on your own?” and Smith doesn’t say no.
Things are now beginning to happen for him. He has recently collected a few interesting musicians together and formed a group called Moonjelly, and chief amongst these is Zen Glenn, a drummer who uses certain alchemical principles to reduce his technique to a minimum. He produces a simple rolling beat from which he will not deviate whatever the mode or speed of the music. The group play at various neighbourhood venues where their abstract improvisations are looked upon favourably by the freaks of the time. Zen has also picked up the sense of change which lies sparkling in the air and joins Smith one day in a spot of musical guerrilla warfare. Free concerts are the latest underground revolutionary fashion and Zen and Smith have decided to donate their talents to such a concert. They tell no one of their plans or the purity of the ‘happening’ would be sullied. One afternoon they descend upon Kensington Gardens where the bandstand is empty. They mount the steps to the podium.
Smith has recently borrowed an old tenor-sax from Bob’s brother and now he takes it from the bag in which it had been hidden, while Zen unwraps the cloth from a flat Sufi drum. It is a sunny day and the park is tranquil, dotted only here and there by the odd dog-walker or perambulator-pushing nursemaid. ‘It is a good day for a concert,’ thinks Smith, and raising his horn to his mouth blows a sudden high stream of tones which whirl around each other in a tight cluster. He blows hard and long, while behind him comes a mesmerising throb as Zen applies his alchemical skills to his drum and gives support to Smith’s shrieking horn. This performance is no adolescent defiance of authority. It is the creation of an event, a spontaneous happening bursting into life out of the sheer joy of living.
‘Well that’s the theory,’ thinks Smith. ‘Now let’s see how many notes I can play before a park-keeper or the fuzz turn up.’ He applies himself with vigour to his horn, riffling up and down on the keys his fingers striking willy-nilly where they fall, while from the horn comes a wailing stream of honks, shrieks and cacophonic bursts of iconoclastic music.

As the sound reaches them, the figures which dot the landscape turn their faces towards the bandstand and some of the dogs set to barking. But Zen and Smith play blithely on, their music permeating to the far reaches of the park where a keeper on his rounds hears the distant racket and begins his long determined plod to put a stop to it. They see him coming long before he reaches the bandstand and continue the performance until, stern of visage he mounts the steps to the podium. Unscrewing the neck of his saxophone Smith drops the instrument back into the bag, while Zen’s drum disappears with equal speed. They do not wait to hear the municipal admonitions but leave and make for the exit, the keeper’s voice following them across the park.
‘You can’t do that,’ he shouts. ‘Music’s not allowed in the park!’
Smith is glad to have found Zen who doesn’t get nervous in these situations. He has discovered that Zen is an ex-burglar who because he is smallish in size kept watch at the bottom of the ladder while his two accomplices went inside.
‘Yeah man,’ says Zen, when Smith asks him about it. ‘I was third man in a ladder gang.’
‘Do we have to play everything at the same speed?’ complains Dick, a trombonist who joins Moonjelly occasionally.
Zen’s Zen emerges like the proverbial uncarved block.
‘If you want to go faster, go ahead,’ he snarls, and means it.
They are playing a gig at a local church hall and the audience are interested in this altercation and clearly think that the dialogue is part of some multi-media set up. ‘Well sod you!’ shouts Dick, who loses his temper easily and he begins speeding up, pumping the rhythm faster and faster. But he is on his own since Zen stubbornly refuses to budge. Smith, torn between the two, opts in this instance for a speed around half-way between the drum and the trombone. Now he has upset Dick for his lack of support and ditto Zen for his betrayal and they glare angrily at each other, while their audience look on with delight. The performance has real depth and the music is wonderful...".
(©2010 Dave Tomlin - from the book "Tales from the Embassy" vol. 1)

no©2010 Luca Ferrari

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