Let’s start with music…

A picture of Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart of The Grateful Dead

Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart

It’s no secret that I’m something of a Grateful Dead fan. I can’t call myself a Dead Head because I haven’t been a regular attendee at their gigs, in fact my chance to see them live at Wembley in the late 70s was scuppered by the cancellation of the performance my ticket was for, which was the low point of that particular year.

Something that’s always fascinated me about the band is that they were a two drummer outfit for almost their entire existence up to Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995. Over the last 50 years or so, various other bands have toyed with the two drummer idea but none have seemed to be able to make it stick. Why is that?

One of the reasons, I believe, is that Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart were entirely sympatico, working with each other to lay down dense, multi-layered drumming that would be physically impossible for a lone drummer restricted to 2 arms and 2 feet. One only has to watch footage of them to realise how attuned to each other they were. Another reason is that, unlike most of the other bands that tried the idea, there was never a sense that Kreutzmann and Hart were competing, in fact the reverse seemed to be true; this wasn’t a drum battle. I’ve been to gigs by other bands where two drummers were going at it like Animal v Buddy Rich and it wasn’t often a pretty sight; or sound.

The complex rhythms that these superb drummers created were such an important element in the construction of the Grateful Dead sound, almost instantly recognisable and always exciting.

Still on the subject of the Grateful Dead, something which really burns me needs to be said, even after 30 years. In 1987 the band released a studio single Touch of Grey which, to almost everybody’s astonishment charted top 10 in America. I heard the song and loved it immediately, when I discovered that it was written after Garcia had recovered from a diabetic coma I loved it even more. Yes, it’s a toe-tapper but then so much of the Dead’s oevre has been, that was one of their magic ingredients. When I started reading sneering reviews that dismissed it as commercial I was furious. What’s wrong with commercial success? This is the job, the career path if you will, that these guys chose and part of that is making a living. As it happens they made a very good living out of performing in front of more people than any other band in history but to paraphrase the song “it’s alright”. Here is Touch of Grey, I love this video…


I’ll try a bit harder this time..

A picture of me

I sort of lost the plot with this blog. Life, study and health all conspired to undermineĀ  my intentions

When I decided to quit the PGCE course, I sat down with my husband and had a serious talk about the future. At 64 I’ve got less than a year to go before I can officially retire and we decided that early retirement was the sensible course; his income can support us while the clock runs down to my 65th birthday in March 2018

I’ve had a trying couple of years on the health front with a series of operations following which recovery has been slower and more difficult than I and my consultants hoped. I’m well on the way to a proper recovery now and, a knee operation this Friday not withstanding, I feel like taking on the challenges that fell by the wayside

As a musician I’ve sinfully neglected my playing and composing; that is now going to change. As a writer I’ve created nothing since I started my degree course in 2011; that will also change

So what will this blog be about now? Anything and everything is the answer

There will almost certainly be reminiscences about my childhood and youth; they were interesting times after all and I’m at an age now when looking back can be done rather more dispationately and with less fear. I’ll talk about music, the stuff I’m working on, the stuff I listen to. I’ll talk about books and the written word in general, sometimes I may become technical and a bit didactic; bear with me please. Basically I’ll write about anything that grabs me at any given moment

Here we go…

I’m a Lefty but don’t blame me for Labour’s failings…

So now the post mortem begins and the next few weeks will see the Labour Party tear itself apart in a frantic attempt to undo the damage of the general election defeat. What, I suspect, nobody will face up to is the fact that the election was lost before it even started because the Labour Party no longer has an identity to place before the electorate.

One of the biggest issues of recent times must surely be the NHS and yet Ed barely mentioned it until the campaign was almost over when he blurted out a half-arsed promise to sort things out but failed to mention where the money would come from. Yes, the Tories made similar unfunded commitments but had the luxury of already being in government so the electorate were less inclined to question their promises. That the said electorate might regret their lack of action when the government starts selling the NHS off to their hedge fund chums is another matter.

The other huge issue facing the country is the plight of some of the most vulnerable members of our society, those that need and should receive the full support of the state. To listen to the Labour Party adding their voice to the dismal “Strivers v Skivers” rhetoric was one of the most dispiriting moments in the campaign and firmly cemented my determination to never renew the membership I resigned when Tony Blair badgered the party into the centre ground. Simplistic judgements against vulnerable people are almost certain to be ill-judged and fundamentally wrong and yet no politician, that I have heard, is prepared to stand up and defend these people whose voices are being drowned by the roar of self-interest that is the legacy of the Thatcher and Blair years.

Tuition fees were rightly a plank of Ed’s campaign but that’s all they should have been, not an entire lovingly restored wooden floor. The Liberal Democrats were properly punished for their perfidy in waving through the increase in fees but the fact is that those who are now students and of voting age are pretty much stuck with their fees, that cannot be undone. The people who will most fear the looming increase are currently in sixth form or college and don’t have the vote (that I believe the voting age should be 16 is an argument for another article). Incidentally, anybody who sees the Tory promise of a million apprenticeships as a great step forward might want to read Louis Althusser’s brilliant discourse on the method and purpose of state mandated education and training.

It has been instructive to read that small section of the main stream media that supported, or at least didn’t oppose, the Labour campaign. The strident accusation that “it was the lefties that ruined it” is tiresome, unhelpful and downright wrong. By most peoples’ lights I class as a lefty and I’m damned proud of being one. As it happens I voted for the Labour candidate in my local constituency not because of his party but because he personally has been an excellent constituency MP.

What is most damaging to Labour’s electoral prospects is the tribalism that is already evident in the leadership battle. What should be an exercise to find the best leader, one who can rehabilitate the party in the eyes of the electorate, will descend into a misguided ideological battle between the left and the centre with the result that a messy compromise will probably emerge that convinces nobody. Also, and I’m looking at certain well known Labour supporting newspapers here, snide ad hominem attacks on Ed Miliband will do nothing to undermine the Tory Party but will further damage the Labour Party that you all profess to support. There is, however, an important question that is not an attack on Ed, he was only the messenger and I don’t kill messengers. Who was responsible for that sophomoric PR stunt with the monolith? We all remember the famous Sheffield Moment of 1992, #EdStone could replace that as the byword for the exact point at which a campaign sinks below the waves.

As things stand it is hard to see how the Labour Party can hope to recover from this particular rout perhaps its time, like that of the old Liberal Party, has passed. It is customary to sneer at single issue parties such as the NHA Party but at least they stand for something, all the present Labour Party seems to stand for is a watered down version of the status quo.

Here we go yet again…

So, where will the latest iteration of my blog go?

The answer to that is nowhere in particular. I don’t want to focus on one or two issues and I don’t want to create a persistently contentious style. I have a broad range of interests andĀ  I hope that my writing will reflect this. I will, of course, continue to address controversial matters as I’ve done in the past.

With the general election approaching politics will inevitably raise its head on these pages and for that I offer no apologies. Despite growing up in the Tory heartland of rural West Sussex, I’ve been a proud socialist since my early teens. On many occasions my convictions brought me into conflict with my grammar school headmaster and frequently brought some form of sanction but I never deviated from my beliefs.

I do, however, foresee a problem at the forthcoming election. Tony Blair recently suggested that Ed Milliband and the Labour Party had moved too far to the left to win, a claim that I find both ridiculous and baffling. The Labour Party needs to move to the left, to re-connect with the very people it was created to represent. As things stand this hollowed out husk of a political entity is utterly failing the most vulnerable people in society and so far I’ve seen little evidence that things will change for the better in the event of Labour forming a majority government in May. My problem, then, is whether or not I can in all conscience vote for a party that won’t commit to improving the lot of ordinary people. Particularly dispiriting has been the enthusiasm with which the Labour Party has embraced the “skivers versus strivers” rhetoric of the right wing parties.

Time will tell and I’ll be returning to this issue between now and the general election.