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MARCH MADNESS...

No one can fail to be appalled, sickened and horrified by the terrible mass shootings in New Zealand two days ago. A vile crime committed by a neo-nazi, white supremacist, far right bigot, spurred on by other hate-filled, ugly souls with heartless agendas that would drag humanity back to the dark ages, if they had their way. My heart goes out to the Muslim community now having to endure the grief caused by this foul idiot.


It's difficult to comprehend the kind of insanity that drives these dangerous louts to such extreme acts of violence. And for what purpose? To what end?


It seems we're in danger of seeing a resurgence of hateful, aggressive and intolerant attitudes fostered by the unfortunate rise of populism in many parts of the world. Sadly, examples of this are too many to mention.

What happened to the shift towards more liberal, all-embracing, enlightened thinking that I was proud to enjoy as a teenager during my mid to late 1960s years? Where now is the possibility of a more gentle, creative society? What's to blame for this cult of ignorance? Is it a lack of enlightened education? Or is the nastiness that infects social media to blame? I don't know the answer, but I despair...


Thinking back to the aforementioned cultural liberalisation that blossomed in the 1960s, I'm reminded of the time when, in 1968, I organised Wakefield's first free outdoor concert in Thornes Park. It was an unbelievable 51 years ago! 51 years, gone almost in a flash, so quick and yet so much has happened, both in personal terms and in terms of our wider world. I remember that concert as if it were only yesterday. I'd set the entire thing up from my desk at the West Riding County Supplies Department where I worked as a Local Government Officer in the soft furnishings department of that organisation. I'd later move to the job of computer progress chaser, working in tandem with the County Hall's first computer Department.


Computers back then were big machines and the one installed at County Hall looked like something from a '60s spy movie. It filled an entire room and had spools of spinning tape, dozens of dials and clattering print-out machines that were more akin to old fashioned teletype gizmos than modern day laser printers. Todays digital tablets are far more powerful than that room filled with its spinning, jittery, clattering machinery.


But, before I was promoted to Computer Progress Chaser I sat behind a desk in the Soft Furnishings section and ordered curtains and other fabrics for various Government establishments. The job involved me helping various people such as headmasters, police chiefs and basically anyone from a local government institution, to pick curtains and carpets for their offices. I'd then have to order the fabrics from various suppliers, and in the correct widths. This meant that I had to work out, from basic measurements supplied by these people, the correct length and width of material needed to furnish their office with curtains. It's fair to say that I was pretty much useless at this. The only part of the job I enjoyed was looking through the swatches of different patterned fabric and trying to guide the customer towards some striking op-art pattern or colourful abstract modernist material.


I didn't like working there but, as they say, "it was a job." The majority of the people I worked with were extremely suspicious of me as I didn't conform to whatever a 'local government officer' is supposed to look like. I had semi-long hair, wore a pink satin tie and turned up for work in winter wearing the deep scarlet artificial fur coat that I would later wear on the rear cover of my 'Northern Dream' album. I was told to get my hair cut and tone down my clothes but I simply ignored it.


I remember I'd got a calendar which had a black n' white photograph of a naked John Lennon and Yoko Ono, taken from their 'Two Virgins' album photo' shoot. The photograph showed them with their backs turned to the camera, no genitals or breasts visible. I'd pinned the calendar up alongside my desk but it caused a big controversy in the office. Various mutterings went on and it was reported to the section head who marched up to my desk and ordered that it be taken down immediately. I did as I was told but noted that some of the men at the other desks had nude pin-up, full colour calendars on display. I guess it wasn't the nakedness that offended them so much but more the fact that it was a counter-cultural hippy, and with a strange Japanese wife. Clearly, the new liberalism had yet to penetrate the corridors of local government.


Nevertheless, I made good use of the office to my own ends and chose official local government notepaper to write a letter to the Wakefield Council department who controlled the use of the park's bandstand. I wrote, (in very polite and refined terms,) that I was seeking permission to stage an 'art event' featuring poetry and music on the park's bandstand. If I'd have said it was going to be a rock concert, akin to Wakefield's own 'Woodstock' festival, the proposal would have been a non-starter.


Whether it was the obsequious, deferential tone of my letter or just the headed County Supplies notepaper it was written on, but permission was granted and I began to work on the content of the event. To stay true to the fact that I'd mentioned 'poetry' as being part of the event, I got a couple of people to read some counter-cultural poetry on the day. I planned to put my band 'Global Village' as the headline act but also arranged for a couple of other musical performances. One of these was a kind of 'supergroup' trio comprising drummer Martin Tagg, bass guitarist Malc Bryan and myself on guitar. This band was purely a one-off, assembled just for the concert. I called the band 'Buffalo Canvas' and it played heavy rock improvisations. I also appeared with a friend of mine from Art School who played acoustic guitar and wrote songs. His first name was Charles but I'm afraid his surname escapes me after all these years. He was very good though and I accompanied him on a nylon strung acoustic guitar. I remember that one of his songs was titled 'Jubilee Hotel.'


So, in all, I appeared three times during the concert. I'd also used the office 'Gestetner' machine to run off some copies of a flyer I'd designed, advertising the event. I also did the same for a kind of souvenir program. I remember, the week before the concert, Alan Quinn, (Global Village's bass guitarist,) and Bryan Holden, (Global Village's drummer,) and myself standing in Wakefield's Bull Ring, handing out the flyers to the Saturday afternoon shoppers.


The day of the free concert started with fine weather. We'd pooled various bits of equipment for the show and actually had a couple of Marshall amps on stage borrowed from a band with a bit more financial acumen than ourselves. Bryan Holden wore a kind of teacher's gown and I wore a white leather fringed and beaded waistcoat that had been made for me by Cath Wood who was one of the 'Holyground' girls. (Mike Levon and all the other Holyground crew attended too.) My outfit was completed by a pair of scarlet crushed velvet loon pants and a lilac grandad vest.


Not long after the show got underway, it began to rain and by the time Global Village took the stage, the audience was getting very wet. So, I decided to invite anyone without an umbrella to join us on the bandstand and dance. Immediately, a section of the crowd clambered onto the stage and everyone started rocking out. It was great fun until a policeman, who had been sent to oversee any trouble, decided that this was putting too much stress on the structure and attempted to order everyone off, with only a modest success.


But those were happy times and there was such a feeling of optimism in the air. If only there still was...

A rather grainy photograph of Global Village's free concert in Thornes Park, Wakefield, in 1968, 51 years ago. This picture shows some of the audience up on the stage of the bandstand, sheltering from the rain after I'd invited them to join us. You can see Mike Levon of Holyground standing facing the camera in front of the stage. I'm standing sideways wearing the white fringed waistcoat mentioned in the journal entry and Alan Quinn is on the left with his bass guitar. The guy in between us in black with dark glasses is Martin Foye who compared the event. Martin was an old Art School chum of mine but sadly passed away some years ago. Alan Quinn is also no longer on this Earth. I miss their friendship very much.


A photograph taken from the side of the stage of the park bandstand during Global Village's free concert in 1968. Centre of the pic is Alan Quinn with his Baldwin bass guitar. I'm behind him, slightly to the right with my Gibson ES 345 guitar. The person behind the microphone stand facing the rear of the stage, just left of Alan Quinn, is Charles who was the ex-Wakefield art student who wrote and sang his own songs that I mentioned in this journal entry.


Alan Quinn, (left,) and myself performing in Global Village at the free concert in Wakefield Park in 1968. At this time my Gibson 345 guitar had its original tobacco sunburst finish and gold pickup covers. It also had the stuck-on initials 'WN' applied to the pick guard. I later removed these but there is still, to this day, a slight mark on the pick guard where the acid from the initial's glue had stuck to the plastic. In the late '70s, I had the Gibson refinished in a cherry sunburst and removed the gold pickup covers to expose the black coils underneath. I still, of course, have that guitar...it was the one that my father had bought me from Kitchen's music shop in Leeds in, (I think,) 1963.

Behind Alan and myself you can see the jumble of amplifiers, amongst them the Marshalls we'd borrowed for the gig. I was using one of the Marshalls but Alan is plugged into a Selmer amp which is in turn plugged into a large Selmer speaker cab. (The Selmer amp is sitting on top of the Marshall and the Selmer Speaker cab is to the left of Alan.)


And one more photograph from that day in the park in 1968, (which some of you may have seen before.) This is me with my Gibson 345, looking rather wistful I think. Maybe projecting myself into the future where I'm looking back on this time with equally wistful feelings.





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© Bill Nelson 2020

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