Joe Stead – The Ramblings of an old Codger. Volume Fourteen - November 2001.
I didn’t want to dwell too much on the Afghan conflict this month. But, as I surmised, things are going just the way Bin Laden planned and the subject is just too damned important to ignore. I suppose one did not have to be a mind reader to expect that America and Britain would fall headlong into the trap that Bin Laden had set, but it seems to have escaped the imagination of Messrs Bush and Blair. (I did get a couple of pertinent letters by the way and they will, as usual, follow later). What I did not expect however was that the Mayor of New York would reject a cheque for $3,000,000 simply because he was told a home truth. His arrogance is further proof to me that the majority of Americans are completely unaware of how and why the rest of the world thinks. I had a somewhat heated discussion a few years ago with an old American pal Martha Burns (who in her time had been a reputable American folk singer) who simply would not accept that Americans are starved of world news. It’s not the fault of the American public that they are ignorant of facts, and this is not an isolated view of my own. The American public is simply not told, or perhaps the ‘Land of the Free’ is simply told what the government and television companies think is relevant. Sometimes Americans can find important world events hidden away on the inner pages of The New York Times (or a similar journal). Martha is one American who does. But how many Americans have the time, the patience, or the aptitude to do this? And the answer unfortunately is very few. When discussing Americans with my English colleagues who have just returned from the USA they all say the same thing. The television tells them very little, and what they are told is sometimes heavily biased. Remember it was only a few decades ago that Pete Seeger was completely banned from singing on radio or television. Why? Because he represented an alternative view from that of the government. And when he did get back, CBS cut out a whole song from the Smothers Brothers TV show because one of Pete’s songs dared to question the Vietnam war. I bet if Pete could get onto television today he would again be singing ‘em something they didn’t want to hear.
Meanwhile most Americans think that George Bush is doing a good job. If George Bush had been seen to be trying to do something in the Middle East (as his predecessor had done) instead of sitting on his backside on his ranch in Texas the atrocity of September 11th might never have happened. It is this kind of arrogance and the arrogance shown by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and his ilk that has heaped this misery on America and the rest of the world. America is the biggest and most powerful nation in the world. Its people are by nature some of the kindest and generous I have ever met and if they really knew how the majority of the world looked at them they would probably be mortified. I have made many friends in America whilst touring and singing and I hope that my recent Ramblings do not upset some of them. But you cannot ride rough-shod over everyone simply because of your power and your wealth. Bin Laden has brought this firmly to the fore. But even now, whilst most Americans still don’t understand why two aeroplanes flew into the twin towers, the mayor of New York turns round and kicks one of America’s firmest Muslim ally’s in the teeth. The whole thing beggars belief.
A few months ago I asked you two questions. Who were you going to vote for at the government elections and did it really matter who you voted for anyway? The result of the General Election was pretty conclusive. A lot of people didn’t bother to vote and those who did sided very much with our right wing socialist government that operates under the heading of The Labour Party, the leader of whom of course is the Right Honourable Tony Blair. I wanted a socialist government, so whilst I did vote, I did note vote as is my usual want. So please don’t point fingers at me! An easy thing to say – especially as I live in a country that is again fast embarrassing me. We must remember that only a few years ago Britain backed France when she decided to test atomic bombs in the South Pacific. I’m not particularly proud of being British and certainly less so today than I was 10 years ago.
In May Mr Blair acknowledged that the first 5 years of his government had done next to nothing for health care, education and transport. So when we now listen to him, as he leads us reluctantly into another war, it’s worth remembering that he may also be warning us that his mission for mankind is so important that we might have to wait yet another five years or so for our hip replacement, and probably longer before we can ride on a safe bus or a punctual train. The Labour Party was elected to save Britain from decay not from Osama Bin Laden. The Britain Blair governs is blighted by institutionalised racism, white male dominance, obscene private wealth, shameful public poverty and a police force that is both racist and chaotically administered. We talk of Third World Countries when we ourselves are one already. We readily attack a poorer nation called Afghanistan because a bunch of renegade Muslims from Saudia Arabia chose to hijack aeroplanes and fly them into public buildings in New York. Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers are now known to be Saudis, including the brother of a police commander, the son of a tribal chief, two teachers and three law graduates. They committed an awful atrocity, but where is the sense and logic in dropping bombs on an illiterate nation of Arabs who knew nothing about it? I hope I get some letters on this because I’m starting to think I’m slowly going mad.
The question we must ask ourselves now is “Will it all end?” Not “When will it all end?” Whatever the outcome Bin Laden is now a Martyr to the cause. If mankind lives long enough Bin Laden might be seen as the ‘New Messiah’ similar to the old model who helped destroy the Roman Empire. I cannot change what the allied governments are going to do in the immediate future any more than you, so my only hope is that when they catch Bin Laden, assuming he has not already died beforehand, that someone has the good sense to slay him on the spot. What this world does not need is a ‘fair trial’ followed by either 40 years of imprisonment, or the death penalty. An immediate on the spot death will certainly bring about further terrorism. But it goes without saying that forty years in prison will result in forty years of terrorism, combined with continual kidnapping, ransoms and deaths. Take your pick. We in the West are not going to win this battle – so we might as well prepare ourselves now. Call me a defeatist if you want, frankly I call it realism. Whether we acknowledge it or not we are fighting a holy war with an opponent who wants to glorify himself by dying. Remember it’s been done before and 40% of Americans, and countless other Christians still pay homage to him 2000 years later. In the long run we will not have peace, unless we in the West change our attitudes. Opponents who welcome death are impossible to overcome.
I got a short and interesting letter from Oscar Brand. “The villains are still the people who think they are the sole owners of the truth”. I’m not sure if that makes me a villain too. I certainly speak my mind and not everyone likes it. From editors of folk magazines to other musicians I tend to upset folk somewhere along the way. But even if I’m wrong (as I frequently am) I hope I make you think. I like to think I’m the first to apologise when wrong, so if this piece of writing proves to be a load of old tosh let me apologise now to those I have offended.
Will singing help? We certainly believed this back in the 1950’s and 60’. We marched from Aldermaston to Trafalgar Square every Easter to save the world. Government did listen to us but we were simply considered to be freaks of our time. But peace songs brought about a period of free love whilst the youth of the sixties vehemently questioned the Vietnam War and apartheid. (The latter otherwise known as ‘The white man’s problem’!) What has happened to that youth? Suddenly they are either all now very quiet, or they are actually supporting the war effort in Afghanistan. It might help if a few of us got together and started fund raising concerts around the country to send support to Afghanistan. It would take a lot of us to do it, but it might prove to the governments of our respective countries that our own houses need putting in order.
Mark D Moss, the editor of Sing Out, had this to say in the magazine this quarter….
“Sing Out has always expressed the notion that music has a power in and of itself. Singing together can help us become closer. Sharing our music with others helps to make connections, and listening to music from other cultures and philosophies fosters a real understanding. This is not just some old folkie dream or wish. One look around during the last week proves the point, whether you choose as evidence members of congress and the press gathering on the Capitol steps to sing “God Bless America” or the poignant use of Bruce Springsteen’s recording of “We shall overcome” as a soundtrack for the news coverage of the heroic efforts of volunteers in the tragedy’s aftermath. Music can bring us together. Music can cross cultural and philosophical divides. Music can heal.”
Songs certainly have an incredible power. I’ve sung Stuart Marson’s “America” for many years now. One of the reasons I sang it, apart from it being a good little song, was that it had 13 different chords in it, and I simply enjoyed the thought of a good song with 13 chords! But Stuart wrote the song 30 years ago in 1971 when he was a student at Oxford. (Incidentally he is now the head master at Rhyl Grammar School). Was he a fortune teller? Could he see into the future? Just read these lyrics…….
And all along the streets of Harlem
Wind was blowing paper cartons
Dead men filled the sidewalks and the squares
And out along the desert highways
Not one car was going my way
Salt grass was all dying in the West, in the West…….
…….I saw a City burning in the night sky
I saw a whaling ship go down in Boston Bay
I saw Lincoln kneeling in the ruins, of America
I came upon a cabin in the mountains
A bunch of Indians had razed it to the ground
The cavalry came by to brood upon the killing, in America.
……..and Souza played an elegy
The marching men were ill at ease
As winter filled the streets with ice and snow
And Marilyn was young again
I saw her laughing in the rain
That ran in endless rivers, down her body, down her body……
You only have to substitute a couple of different words (without changing the meaning), and the first verse runs:
And from Manhatten down to Harlem
Wind was blowing paper cartons
Dead men filled the sidewalks and the squares
And out along the desert highways
Not one plane was flying my way
Salt grass was all dying in the West, in the West…….
I’ve never stopped singing the song in the last 15 years but suddenly it has taken on a completely different meaning. Audiences sit there before me with that creepy atmosphere surrounding us that all singers experience when they’ve suddenly hit on a song and a subject that is close to everyone’s heart. A chill runs down your spine.
If anyone would like to learn this beautiful little song it is available on my fist CD ‘Hearts on Fire’ – APL 1, drop me a line and I’ll tell you how to get hold of a copy. There is quite a large stock from one source in America too. Stuart Marson has written many fine songs and he introduced me to some of them the first night I met him. As a result I immediately signed him to my recording company. I remember coming home from the recording studio after recording Stuart’s album ‘Night falls on the Orchestra’ and walking in the front door to hear Elton John’s song about Marilyn Monroe playing on the radio. I remember staring at the radio in disbelief. We had just recorded Stuart’s song (Halo around the moon) about Marilyn that Stuart had written a few years earlier. Stuart’s song is better than Elton’s and they lived in close proximity in those days. I often wondered if Elton had got the idea of his massive hit song from the writings of Stuart. Elton John after all started his career singing in folk clubs. But we will never know and that is indeed another story.
I get another eerie feeling with audiences when I recite the following…..
“Rain and snow keeps falling from a heavy leaden sky
Women, children weeping as they kiss their men goodbye,
Bewildered then they wander as bombs fall from the clouds
And bodies lie unburied in a thousand different shrouds
For they’re dying at the border, the young folk and the old
They’re dying from the hunger and they’re dying from the cold
And they’re dying from the bullets of a bitter vicious foe
And some are simply dying ‘cos there’s no place else to go
And we sit and home in comfort, and we watch it on TV
And we thank our lucky stars that it’s them and it’s not me.
I wrote that myself about Kosovo. But it’s still applicable today of course.
Back to the plot! In the same issue of Sing Out Pete Seeger had the following to say about the power of songs…..
And the story doesn’t have to end as long as there’s a human race on earth that likes to sing, and likes to look at the stars, and likes to think about old times while thinking about new times to come. And every century will have new problems to solve, and new disagreements. But we *will* learn that it is better to talk than shoot, and that bombs always kill innocent people. We *will* learn that when words fail (and they will) we’ll find other ways to communicate. Scientists use numbers, but are not always scientific about where and when they use ‘em. Try the arts, pictures, ceramics, melodies. Who knows? We and our fellow human beings will find a way to agree to disagree.
Pete’s ideas about mankind are always right. Unfortunately mankind’s ideas about Pete’s ideas are invariably uneasy sleeping partners.
Here are a couple of letters, coupled to a letter from Mr Gandhi
Many thanks for your latest Ramblings. I, like yourself, have been trying to make some sense of the terrible loss of life that occurred on 11th Sept. I agree wholeheartedly with your analysis, unpalatable it may be to certain people who see vengeance as a positive response. I’m not as good at the rambling as you so I include an open letter to the American press by Ghandi's grandson which says everything I feel beautifully and clearly.
Non-violence accompanied by massive aid programmes to help the poor suffering masses in Afghanistan would be the greatest response possible and would be a shining example of man's ability to rise spiritually above the rest of the animal kingdom and to show some true 'planetsmanship'. Unfortunately while it would be the bravest response it is probably the only one that will be regarded as unthinkable.
Keep your chin up in these worrying times.
Love to you and yours my friend. We are looking forward to seeing you at the Hogshead Folk Club next week.
Terrorism and Nonviolence
TERRORISM AND NONVIOLENCE
BY Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi
Understandably, after the tragedy in New York and Washington DC on September 11 many have written or called the office to find out what would be an appropriate nonviolent response to such an unbelievably inhuman act of violence.
First, we must understand that nonviolence is not a strategy that we can use in a moment of crisis and discard in times of peace. Non violence is about personal attitudes, about becoming the change we wish to see in the world. Because, a nation's collective attitude is based on the attitude of the individual. Nonviolence is about building positive relationships with all human beings - relationships that are based on love, compassion, respect, understanding, and appreciation.
Nonviolence is also about not judging people as we perceive them to be - that is, a murderer is not born a murderer; a terrorist is not born a terrorist. People become murderers, robbers, and terrorists because of circumstances and experiences in life. Killing or confining murders, robbers, terrorists, or the like is not going to rid this world of them. For every one we kill or confine we create another hundred to take their place. What we need to do is to analyze dispassionately what are those circumstances that create such monsters and how can we help eliminate those circumstances, not the monsters. Justice should mean reformation and not revenge.
We saw some people in Iraq and Palestine and I dare say many other countries rejoice in the blowing up of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It horrified us, as it should. But, let us not forget that we do the same thing. When Israel bombs the Palestinians we either rejoice or show no compassion. Our attitude is they deserve what they get. When the Palestinians bomb the Israelis we are indignant and condemn them as vermin who need to be eliminated.
We reacted without compassion when we bombed the cities of Iraq. I was among the millions in the United States who sat glued to the television and watched the drama as though it was a made for television film. The television had desensitized us. Thousands of innocent men, women and children were being blown to bits and instead of feeling sorry for them, we marveled at the efficiency of our military. For more than ten years we have continued to wreak havoc in Iraq - an estimated 50, 000 children die every year because of sanctions that we have imposed - and it hasn't moved us to compassion. All this is done, we are told, because we want to get rid of the Satan called Sadam Hussein.
Now we are getting ready to do this all over again to get rid of another Satan called Osama Bin Laden. We will bomb the cities of Afghanistan because they harbor the Satan and in the process we will help create a thousand other bin Ladens.
Some might say, "We don't care what the world thinks of us as long as they respect our strength. After all we have the means to blow this world to pieces since we are the only surviving super-power. Do we want the world to respect us the way school children respect a bully? Is that our role in the world?
If a bully is what we want to be then we must be prepared to face the same consequences a school-yard bully faces. On the other hand we cannot tell the world "Leave us alone..." Isolationism is not what this world is built for.
All of this brings us back to the question: How do we respond nonviolently to terrorism?
The consequences of a military response are not very rosy. Many thousands of innocent people will die both here and in the country or countries we attack. Militancy will increase exponentially and, ultimately, we will be faced with another, more pertinent, moral question: What will we gain by destroying half the world? Will we be able to live with a clear conscience?
We must acknowledge our role in helping create monsters in the world and then find ways to contain these monsters without hurting more innocent people and then redefine our role in the world. I think we must move from seeking to be respected for our military strength to being respected for our moral strength.
We need to appreciate that we are in a position to play a powerful role in helping the "other half" of the world attain a better standard of life not by throwing a few crumbs, but by significantly involving ourselves in constructive economic programs.
For too long our foreign policy has been based on "what is good for the United States." It smacks of selfishness. Our foreign policy should now be based on what is good for the world and how can we do the right thing to help the world become more peaceful.
To those who have lost loved ones in this and other terrorist acts, I say I share your grief. I am sorry that you have become victims of senseless violence. But let this sad episode not make you vengeful because no amount of violence and killing is going to bring you inner peace. Anger and hate never do. The memory of those victims who have died in this and other violent incidents around the world will be better preserved and meaningfully commemorated if we all learn to forgive and dedicate our lives to helping create a peaceful, respectful, and understanding world.
Founder Director, M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence
650 East Parkway South
Memphis TN 38104
Don’t blame the victim. Even if America put all the passengers into a ketchup bottle, the villains are still the people who think they’re the sole owners of the truth.
How you doing? Great surprise yesterday morning, went to the post office and there was this little package for me - your 60th birthday CD. Thanks so much - a really nice touch and much appreciated and enjoyed. You could have signed the bloody thing - it would have increased its value no end!
Anyway, it was a beautiful spring day here yesterday - bright sunshine and 70 degrees - so I took the CD home, opened all the doors and windows, stuck the CD in the player, cranked up the volume and....SERENDIPPITY! .....all the mynah birds and rosellas disappeared from the roof of our house; something that has never, ever happened before in the ten years we have lived here: the nearest we came to removing them was when the crop-dusting plane flew over at zero feet a few years ago! I ran outside and watched in disbelief as the offending birds flew off to the SW and settled on my neighbour's roof. I shall offer him the hire of your CD this evening - we could be rich, Joe!
No, all joking apart, I'm very grateful to you and I shall make a point of playing the CD at least once a week to remind myself of why I left the UK!
So at least Jonesy is happy this month.
A couple of weeks ago someone posted a request for help onto the uk.music.folk newsgroup. The gentleman was thinking of starting up a Folk Club and was looking for advice.
This got me (Graham Dixon) thinking:-
There are lots' of us out here with experience (some good - some not so good) of running Folk Clubs & Folk Nights so why not have a central point where:-
(i) We can pool our resources
(ii) Anyone thinking of starting up a club can get some advice on 'what to do' and 'what not to do'
I've put up a page at http://members.fortunecity.com/soyouwanttorunafolknight/
Obviously (as it's only just gone up) it only contains my contributions - the idea is for others to contribute/suggest etc
Please let me have anything that you may think is of interest and I will credit you - on the page
Too old to Rock & Roll - Too young to die
Well we in Kimbers Men are promoting our own concert this month. To be exact we will be taking to the stage for our first ever professional gig on Saturday November 17th at The Barge and Barrel Public House in Elland near Halifax. Kick Off at 8pm sharp. In John Bromley we have possibly the finest voice on the folk scene since Paul Robeson. A sound so powerful and rich that it has to be heard to be believed. John can be engaged separately to perform traditional British folk ballads and will be doing precisely this. In Joe Stead we have a professional with over 35 years experience who has toured America more times than he can remember. In Neil Kimber and Roger ‘Tonky’ Hepworth we have a remarkable duo who work under the collective name of ‘Sumuvus’. Neil and Tonky can be employed separately to perform a mixture of traditional and contemporary songs with outstanding guitar accompaniment; and they too will be doing precisely this. When you book Kimber’s Men you get four acts for the price of one! Kimber’s Men are a dream team for festival organisers and booking agents. You make one phone call. Pay one fee. You get four acts!
Well that’s just the start of self promotion! That apart, we’ve chosen a successful pub with a sympathetic landlord, we’ve been down to the local paper, we’ve told the local radio station, we’ve printed posters and we are all selling tickets. We mention the concert to everyone we meet. So if any of you live within striking distance of Halifax you should come along. We will have a good time and so will the audience. Remember: It’s Saturday November 17th!
In the meantime we are rehearsing hard. Not only for the concert, but for two forthcoming CD’s – one of which will hopefully be commissioned by the RNLI.
For those of you who collect pre and after dinner toasts……
Try this one sent to me by Trevor Lister the editor of Folk Roundabout. Apparently it is a Yorkshire toast.
'ere's ti uz
All on uz
May we nivver want for nowt
Nor me neither.
Short but adequate huh?
Have you heard the dreadful rumour that permeates this country that soccer players are thick? Well to prove just how dynamic they can be I’m closing this epistle with a few quotes
'I would not be bothered if we lost every game as long as we won the league.' - Mark Viduka
'He's put on weight and I've lost it, and vice versa.' - Ronnie Whelan
'If you don't believe you can win, there is no point in getting out of bed at the end of the day.' - Neville Southall
'We lost because we didn't win.' - Ronaldo
'I've had 14 bookings this season - 8 of which were my fault, but 7 of which were disputable.' - Paul Gascoigne
'I've never wanted to leave. I'm here for the rest of my life, and hopefully after that as well.' - Alan Shearer
'I'd like to play for an Italian club, like Barcelona.' - Mark Draper
'You've got to believe that you're going to win, and I believe we'll win the World Cup until the final whistle blows and we're knocked out.' - Peter Shilton
'I faxed a transfer request to the club at the beginning of the week, but let me state that I don't want to leave Leicester.' - Stan Collymore
'Without being too harsh on David Beckham, he cost us the match.' - Ian Wright
'It was a big relief off my shoulder.' - Paul Gascoigne
'I'm as happy as I can be - but I have been happier.' - Ugo Ehiogu
'It took a lot of bottle for Tony (Adams) to own up.' - Ian Wright
'Leeds is a great club and it's been my home for years, even though I live in Middlesborough.' - Jonathan Woodgate
'I can see the carrot at the end of the tunnel.' - Stuart Pearce
'I took a whack on my left ankle, but something told me it was my right.' - Lee Hendrie
'I couldn't settle in Italy - it was like living in a foreign country.' - Ian Rush
Interviewer: 'Would it be fair to describe you as a volatile player?'
David Beckham: 'Well, I can play in the centre, on the right and occasionally on the left side.'
'If you're 0-0 down, there's no-one better to get you back on terms than Ian Wright.' - Robbie Earle
'Germany are a very difficult team to play...they had 11 internationals out there today.' - Steve Lomas
'I always used to put my right boot on first, and then obviously my right sock.' - Barry Venison
'I definitely want Brooklyn to be christened, but I don't know into what religion yet.' - David Beckham
'The Brazilians were South America, and the Ukranians will be more European.' - Phil Neville
'All that remains is for a few dots and commas to be crossed.' - Mitchell Thomas
'Alex Ferguson is the best manager I've ever had at this level. Well, he's the only manager I've actually had at this level. But he's the best manager I've ever had.' - David Beckham
'The opening ceremony was good, although I missed it.' - Graeme Le Saux
'One accusation you can't throw at me is that I've always done my best.'- Alan Shearer
'I'd rather play in front of a full house than an empty crowd.' - Johnny Giles
'Sometimes in football you have to score goals.' - Thierry Henry
'My parents have been there for me, ever since I was about 7.' - David Beckham
'I was surprised, but I always say nothing surprises me in football.' –Les Ferdinand
'It was like the ref had a brand new yellow card and wanted to see if it worked.' - Richard Rufus
'There's no in between - you're either good or bad. We were in between.' Gary Lineker
'Winning doesn't really matter as long as you win.' - Vinny Jones
Keep smiling – but most of all