Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Did YOU Ken John Peel?

I went to see publisher, now poet, Felix Dennis perform a poetry set in Cardiff last night.
And most enjoyable it was too, with a good time had by all (except for the drunken punk who looked like the original bass player from Queens of the Stone Age, and his equally drunken girlfriend, who were evicted

although they may well have had a good time - in their own little way).

Dennis made his name back in the sixties, as a co-editor of OZ Magazine.
He along with his co-conspirators were indicted under the Obscene Publications Act, and were tried at the Old Bailey Court in Central London - all three of the accused attended court in drag; this didn't go down too well, and they ended up being imprisoned.

They were acquitted on appeal, but in prison long enough to have had their hippy locks shawn - the state always has to have the last word, right!

During the trial, the accused found themselves being supported by many, including John and Yoko, who went on to record a song about the proceedings: 'Do the Oz'.

Marty Feldman, Caroline Coon, George Melly, Edward De Bono and John Peel all spoke up on behalf of the accused in court, as well as defending the right to freedom of expression and freedom of speech.

But the judge failed to find their arguments convincing, and nothing could remove the horror he had experienced from seeing a cartoon depiction of Rupert the Bear with an erection. He had to send them down.

Dennis has moved on somewhat since that time, and there is no way I am going to give his full autobiography here; as very full it is. But it is fascinating, and well worth checking out. So here's a link.

As for the poetry. Well, it's decent enough.

As a performer, he's very charismatic and very confident.

He did at times become a little too whimsical for me, but he mixed it up with some serious verse.

One poem about Eva Braun's suicide was particularly moving; juxtaposed with a projected montage of images of her frozen smiling corpse alongside other stills from the bunker.
Pretty deep stuff.

Especially when it follows a poem about his old border collie!

Undoubtedly his most entertaining verse were those poems that dealt with popular culture; whether it was harking back to the sixties or responding to the hear and now.

And he's done a bit of an Angela Carter, but rather than updating classic fairy tales as she did, he's chosen to breathe a bit of vitriolic breath into nursery rhymes.

The illustrations accompanying this post are taken from his book: Nursery Rhymes for Modern Times; and in a William Blake like fashion, by looking at the pictures you can get a pretty good idea as to his poetic voice and subject matter.

The illustrators are Bill Sanderson & Sebastian Kruger.

I thought I would share with you a poem of his about a man that I am sure is still close to many people's hearts, that being the British Broadcaster (he was more than a DJ) John Peel.

If you know nothing about John Peel: well, shame on you.
But in essence, he, pretty much alone, brought alternative and minority music to millions, and he did this, via the BBC from 1967 until his unexpected demise in 2004 (he was sixty-five years old).

During his life he reached out to many in need of finding out about new music; and his shows reached alternantive and underground music fans through all the decades he worked.
From hippys to glam fans, from reggae to punk, from new wave to no wave, from nose-bleed techno to 1930's jazz: John had it covered; and not only could he blow your mind with his strange juxtapositions; but he had a sixth-sense for knowing what was going to be the next big cross-over act (The Faces, T Rex, The Pistols, the Undertones, Nirvana, Cornershop, The White Stripes, the list could go on).

Anyway, here is Felix Dennis's homage to John Peel.
I have included the words here, but it is well worth downloading (it's less than 2 mb as a straight Mpeg4 - take you seconds!), as you hear Dennis introduce the poem and then it is sung by a rather dissonant young choir to a lone piano, to the tune of the traditional 'Do you Ken John Peel' about the eighteenth-century huntsmen.
(I realize I'm not really doing it justice in my description; but honestly, it is very good; and if you were a fan of John Peel (the broadcaster, not the huntsmen), then it is an interesting curio.)So, just something brief for now.
Grab it here

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