Simon Watson Taylor: surrealist, pataphysician & cabin steward

The death in 2005 at the age of 82 of aged hippy and anarchist Simon Watson Taylor went almost unnoticed in the Arts pages and it was left to his friend and former house-mate George Melly to supply an obituary in the Independent in which he pointed out the major contributions of the writer and translator of Alfred Jarry to the Surrealist and Pataphysics movements in Europe during the fifties and sixties. On a personal level, Melly also alluded to his friend’s ‘acid humour ‘, his delight in confronting and dispatching the pretensions of the bourgeoisie, and a determination to remain free of encumbrances. At one point in his early life we are told that he took a job as an airline cabin steward in order to travel the world.Indeed, among all his friends who had some way embraced aspects of the bourgeois life- style, Melly claimed that Watson Taylor stood out as a man ‘truly free’.

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‘Come on, Daddy O.’

It was the first visit of Jazz legend Lionel Hampton to England and one of his gigs was seemingly at Hanley Town Hall in north Staffordshire, according to G. A. Roberts, who captured the occasion in an article that appeared in the December 1956 issue cum grado, the student magazine of what was soon to become Keele University.

Photo by William Gottlieb

According to Roberts, the band played one number without Hampton and when the great man was introduced to the audience there was a:

Deafening  roar from the audience, deafening noise from the band. A lean light grey suited  negro ran onto the stage acknowledging his reception. With a wealth of gesticulation, he stopped the band and then led them into another hectic number—loud, driving, swinging. We were away---from the beginning, Hampton’s tactics were clear ---he was going to produce such a dynamic, hypnotic, driving, compelling, metronomic beat that the audience would be goaded  into a frenzy of excitement and enthusiasm…but twice on the evening Hampton sacrificed sheer beat for artistry.
He used the vibroharp to produce sounds of real beauty which even the band could not drown ; caressing the instrument so that its strange tones filled the echoing hall. But then, as though ashamed of his lapse of taste, he returned to the repetition of fast mechanical tunes. The audience loved it…

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Small collection of rock lapel badges (pins) 2

The second and last showing of these badges from the world of rock music in the late 1970s and early 1980s-- before MP3 players, Spotify, YouTube etc.,

Joe Meek had shot himself (and his unfortunate landlady) in 1967 but lived on through this badge as did the green  Mekon...Gary Wright has a fan website and still tours Europe. Little is known of the SHF band and the 'Life is a Fight' badge probably refers to a political campaign of the time...


Small collection of rock lapel badges (pins) 1

These came with a ton of books on rock and seem to date from the late 1970s to the early 1980s. Truly ephemeral - they relate to some almost forgotten campaigns and acts, although Sex Pistols, The Who and Joni Mitchell are still famous. Not sure what was being defended in Sheffield and what 'The Incredible Plant' was. Johnnie Allan was a 'swamp pop' musician and The Soft Boys were well known in there day but finally disbanded in 2003, Stiff records are still renowned and mono keeps making a comeback ...more to come.


A Son of Belial (Balliol)

Found in one of our old catalogues this curious satirical work by Martin Geldart describing the hell of his undergraduate years at Balliol College, Oxford.

Martin Geldart (writing as 'Nitram Tradleg') A SON OF BELIAL. Autobiographical sketches by Nitram Tradleg.  (Trubner, London 1882). 8vo. pp viii, 250. Autobiographical 'sketches.' Geldart was at Balliol with Gerard Manley Hopkins who is mentioned several times in the text as 'Gerontius Manley.' A witty satire of Balliol life,  in which Geldart refers to Hopkins as my 'ritualistic friend.'** Hopkins wrote to his mother that Geldart was 'the ugliest man I have ever laid eyes on', although he had been a friend and even stayed with Geldart's family in one Oxford holiday. The phrase 'Sons of Belial' was apparently used by Newman to refer to the orgies that took place at his college on Trinity Monday. Rev. Edmund Martin Geldart, M.A., disappeared from the tidal boat from Newhaven to Dieppe in 1889, aged 41. Apart from this book he wrote several works relating to the language and literature of Modern Greece, on which he was an acknowledged authority.

It appears to have been a slightly used copy and sold (not rapidly) for £120 in 2002.

** "Gerontius Manley and I had many talks on religion. He was quite at one with me on the hollowness of Protestant orthodoxy, but he had a simple remedy-the authority of the Church. The right of private judgment must in the long run inevitably lead to Rationalism."

Sons of Belial is now the name of a 'progressive death metal' band from the UK, aiming their music at  fans of Tesseract, Monuments, Ion Dissonance, Animals As Leaders. Album cover below...


The Umbrella Club

Let no-one accuse Jot 101 of being Londoncentric. We at Jot HQ welcome quirky Jots on provincial goings-on and just to prove it here is one issue of the quarterly house journal of a Coventry-based arts organisation called The Umbrella Club.

The club, which was opened by The Goons in 1956 operated first from humble premises in Little Park Street, bang in the city centre, a three minute walk from the controversial new cathedral. In 1960 it described itself as:

‘an independent, non-political, non profitmaking organisation for encouraging interest in art music, music, literature, the theatre and kindred subjects. It arranges lectures, recitals, dramatic performances and many related activities’ 

Its house journal was a well produced quarterly anthology of poetry, short stories, reviews and art work entitled, rather imaginatively, Umbrella, which by 1960 was already into its second volume. In the Spring issue, editor T.C.Watson, a local English teacher, urges potential contributors to submit material that paints a portrait of life in the Midlands, and which reflect or interpret:

‘such problems as labour relations, race relations, the world of the teenager, the changing patterns of family life in a mobile society and the attitudes of the citizen of today to the established institutions of the past’

An earnest ambition this, at the start of a decade which saw sociology take over from English as the coolest degree option. However, it seems that many of the contributors to Umbrella were English graduates, with a strong bias towards that coolest of all English Universities in the sixties, Keele. Of the wannabe Amises, Drabbles and Larkins who contributed to  two of the 1960 issues, only two names stands out---local wunderkind novelist Susan Hill, then just 18, and Keele graduate Zulfikar Ghose, who handled the magazine’s poetry review pages. Hill, now 72, went on to become a sort of heir to Daphne du Maurier, while Ghose, a little older, is an acclaimed poet now based in the United States.

We should add that Hill, whose first scandalous novel had a theatrical background, was also a budding playwright, and must have attended many a production at the Umbrella Club while a sixth former at Coventry’s Barr’s Hill School, while Philip Larkin who, after all was born in Coventry, had at least one poem published in Umbrella. As a jazz nut he may also have heard some pretty cool notes in Little Park Street.[RH]


I once met… Anna Pavlova (and Adolf Hitler)

Found in Words Etc.,: A Miscellany (Wordspress, Haslemere 1973) this piece by author, art teacher, botanist and curator Wilfrid Jasper Walter Blunt (1901 - 1987). His meeting with Hitler is admittedly fleeting, his meeting with Pavlova slightly  more substantial, but he tells both anecdotes well..

My Friendships with the Famous

Name-dropping is a pleasant and a fairly innocuous pastime, indulged in even by Shakespeare's Hipolyta: "I was with Hercules and Cadmus once…". At a party, when conversation is flagging, I sometimes like to electrify the company by saying, quite casually, "The first time I met Hitler was…". Then, before I can be subjected to an embarrassing interrogation, I change the subject.

No publisher has ever shown the slightest eagerness to publish a full-length book on my relationship with the Führer; yet I feel that the world ought no longer to be deprived of some account of my first (and alas! last) unforgettable meeting with him. I cannot, unfortunately, remember the exact date but it was some time in the year 1929. I had gone with a German friend to the Café Hecht, in the Hofgarten in Munich; Hecht means "pike", but little did I guess how big a fish I was about to land. At the table next to ours six people were sitting - three men and three women - and on that table was a funny little flag with a swastika on it; I assumed that they were adherents of some esoteric oriental religious cult. The men were dressed in brown (like our Capuchins), and one of them sported a ridiculous little moustache.

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Song of the Football Cup (Eton 1890)

Found- a rare pamphlet Song of the Football Cup (Ingalton Drake, Eton 1890) by R. Carr Bosanquet, with music composed by Joseph Barnby. The whole song goes thus:

Mustering under the old red wall, less than year ago
(The sky that day was sullen and gray the frost lay hard below,)
Each of us vow'd he would conquer or fall, facing the friendly foe;
Our hearts we steel'd as we took the field, and felt our pulses glow.

Mustering under the old red wall, less than year ago etc.,

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A Post-Punk Manifesto (1993)

Found in a now unfindable short-lived magazine Verbal Abuse from 1993 - a post punk manifesto by 'editrix' Chi Chi Valenti in a special Punk issue 'No/ The Future.' Coming out of New York's early 90s underground demi-monde (especially the legendary club Jackie 60) the magazine was, in this issue, boldly keeping the punk flag flying 15 years after its demise. It was a time of  AIDS and cyberpunk, just pre internet… Vogue was championing punk fashion for that fall. Contributors included Richard Hell, Matthew Barney, Patti Smith, Charles Henri Ford, Chris Stein, Alan Vega etc., We like a good manifesto and this is a curiosity- a manifesto after the event, proclaiming former glories possibly with a view to re-igniting the dying embers. But some say punk never died..

Punk made good on its only promise -DESTROY- by self-destructing while still in its infancy, thus guaranteeing eternal life.

Punks morals were spray-painted like prophecies on Paris walls by the rioting student of 1968 : 'NEVER WORK' 'BE CRUEL' 'IT IS FORBIDDEN TO FORBID.'

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The Who – 10 Worst Hotel Wreckings

Found in a copy of Q Magazine from 2004. It was a special issue devoted to British rock band The Who ('The Inside Story') and the piece was titled "Remember the Gaff Where the Doors we Smashed"- a line from their song Bellboy. The article was mentioned on the cover as 10 Worst Hotel Wreckings. At Jot we are fond of lists, even lists of debauchery and excess - so here goes in slightly  abbreviated form:

1 New York
4 April 1968
The Who's first headlong tour of the US found them ejected from the Gorham Hotel after Moon rained cherry bombs (highly explosive red firecrackers) down on New York City cops from a ninth-floor window. He used another to blow up his toilet, knocking out the plumbing on the whole floor in the process.

2 New York
5 April 1968
The Who had barely unpacked their cases at the Waldorf Astoria before they were given their marching orders for failing to provide a cash surety. Moon, unable to retrieve his luggage because the door was locked, blew it open with another cherry bomb.

3 Saskatoon
11 July 1968
According to a myth-making interview Keith Moon conducted with Rolling Stone in 1972, it was at a hotel in Saskatoon that the bored drummer chopped all of his hotel furniture into kindling.

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Pop music novel 1957

Novels, especially thrillers,  with pop or rock music settings are becoming quite collectable ..this novel Lantern Hill (Joseph, London 1957) by Barbara Worsley-Gough is so early it's practically an incunable. It has all the modern elements-- obsessive fans, excess, celebrity hauteur, displays of wealth (fabulous designer interiors) and an entourage; also the star even goes to a country retreat to get her head together...

The blurb on the inside flap of the dust wrapper reads:

Phyllis Flower, beautiful and famous, has become the 'top pop singer' with an immense fan-club following. Although an essentially nice person, she has been spoiled by success and made tyrannical by flattery. Like many successful people in the entertainment world, she is surrounded by a crowd of so-called friends and hangers on, all of them greedy for pleasure and bent on making as much as they can out of their generous patroness.

But Phyllis leavs her Knightsbridge house and goes to Lantern Hill, the Irish country home of her dead husband. There she romps in the fields with her child, takes pleasure in roughing it and forgets for a while that she is a celebrity whose faces known to everyone, whose voice has become the property of those thousands of unknown people who buy her records.

At Lantern Hill a tragedy occurs, a sudden death by poison. The unravelling of the mystery is undertaken by Aloysius Kelly, the Irish journalist who is an old friend of the family. By chance he finds out the strange method used by the poisoner and his efforts to solve an exceptionally nasty and cunning murder take him to Dublin ...Working with the police, his rudimentary notions of detection augmented by an intimate acquaintance with the Flower circle of sycophants and admirers, Aloysius Hill returns to London and at last discovers the motive for the murder...

From the text at the beginning of Chapter Two:

Basil Chalk had no taste for television, or for popular music. He would have been none the wiser if he had been told that the goddess on the balcony was Phyllis Flower, the Pop singer known to her innumerable fans as the Spirit of Song. He had only haziest notion of Pop singers, of what they sang, and he knew the names of none of them. He'd never sat before a screen worry platform or stage and heard the size of the rapture and seen the tears brush from adoring eyes as Phyllis indulged her fans with their favourite Only A Babe and I'll Dream it Again. He had never even heard a recording of the phenomenal Flower voice, with its extraordinary power and compass, the blood-curdling low notes, and the terrible ease with which it out-soared the range of every other living soprano. This experience was still in store for Basil Chalk.