Dylan at the Isle of Wight 1969 – a contemporary view

IMG_3514Found – a typed signed letter from Alan Denson*— Irish poet and writer (he wrote a book on the Irish sculptor John Hughes and edited the letters of AE and wrote about ‘Speranza’ -Lady Wilde – Oscar Wilde’s mother.)

The recipient was Beatrice Elvery, Lady Glenavy (1881 – 1970). Irish artist and literary host, friend of Katherine Mansfield and in the circle of Shaw, Lawrence and Yeats. She modelled for Orpen and painted ‘Éire’ (1907) a landmark painting promoting the idea of an independent Irish state. She married Charles Henry Gordon Campbell, 2nd Baron Glenavy (1885–1963) politician and banker in England and Ireland. The letter gives a damning contemporary view of pop music and Dylan from someone who was probably in his early 40s at the time..now his views could be considered blasphemous!

The wonder is I have managed to contain my raging fury at contemporary humbug–which goes far more and more insidiously deep than is generally recognized – and the evil vision what I sarcastically call “pretty values.” A recent example over in the Isle of Wight— the so-called “pop festival.”  What’s it all about? Hedonism: and dishing  out alleged syrup. If I were not writing to a lady I would use another word to express what I think all that syrup really means to the poor silly saps who lap it up. When I think of the neglect of artists who have a vision of the world and by struggle evolve images sequentially to interpret – not merely to record– the phases of living experience,  I’m filled with wonder, and gratitude. But who among them prosper in commercial terms? Vaughan Williams earns  less by the public performance of his symphonies than Mr. Bob Dylan and the pop degenerates get for an hours public sporadic squealing. Of course him and his sort will perish in Limbo whilst  the works of the true artists have, I believe, a concentrated faculty for enduring time without erosion of their invigorating power. Think of Berlioz’s  astoundingly original ’Symphonie Funebre et Triomphale’ where in the last movement by that imaginative in sight which proved his genius original, he suddenly changes key upward: or the fourth, fifth and sixth symphonies of Sibelius. In none of those works I’ve named is there any shade of sentimentality, which is the substance of so called ”pop” and that equally phony “folk art” – I’ll forbear and omit rude language.   [12/9/1969 Alan Denson to Lady Beatrice Glenavy from Kendal, Westmorland]

*Unknown so far to Wikipedia, possible dates 1930-2012, the only substantial info on him is at Amazon in a review of  his poems by an old friend.

Spice Girls spice labels


Sent in by a loyal jotwatcher this useful and amusing piece about the Spice Girls and Viz the cult British comic magazine. It probably dates from about 1996. Go easy on the nutmeg!

Spice Girls spice labels

Does anyone remember that issue of Viz that appeared at a time when the Spice Girls were at the height of their fame. This particular number featured cut-out ’n’-keep labels which could be stuck onto spice jars. Aping the designs of the famous Schwartz spice bottles, there was one label for four of the Spice Girls—‘Scary Spice’ was left out for some reason.  Was I the only person who actually cut out the labels and used them? I somehow doubt it. Anyway, I’ve still got them, although they are getting a bit grubby. Each label contains a description of each of the spices, together with a recipe contributed by one of the girls.

Victoria presents Basil.

There is no finer sight in a herb garden than a basil flower. Generally used to add colour a dish, Basil is completely tasteless, but compensates for this by being extremely flavourful. It can be bought in most supermarkets or stolen from posh people’s gardens.

Victoria’s recipe.
Welsh rabbit.     Place your rabbit (or hare if in season) on the toast and cover  generously with cheese. Then toast until Welsh throughout. Add Basil to taste and serve


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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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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.