The Portsmouth Music Scene
1,000 DAYS of HEAVENA few years ago I wrote and published a very personal memoir of my life on the Pompey music scene. This document is a significantly different attempt to chronicle more ‘objectively’ a very specific period in that scene, from the summer of 1967 to the early months of 1970.
It was stimulated by three apparently unconnected events during the summer of 2003. Firstly, I was involved in an Oral History Project at the Portsmouth’s City Museum, recording the memories of local musicians. In the near future this will result in a publication and a web-site. Secondly, I was contacted by John Clark (ex-Coconut Mushroom) and invited to his retirement party where, for the first time in decades I met John, Mick McGuigan, Graham Barnes and Terry Threadingham who were all in the band. A few weeks later I received a request from Paul Cross in Southend who edits an on-line magazine of British Psychedelia called “Sweet Floral Albion”. I did not know him, but in the summer of 2003, he emailed me at work and asked me to write an account of my time in two Portsmouth bands, Harlem Speakeasy (who I never thought were psychedelic) and Rosemary. In the account I mentioned a number of other bands including Tangerine Slyde, Coconut Mushroom and Heaven. Paul sought more information and these various events took on a compelling impetus, so I went off to the Central Library to read the accounts of that time from the local paper. Then I contacted a number of people from those days who also helped in various ways – especially Mick Cooper and Hilary Thorpe.
Initially, the account addressed the whole of the 1960s but it became unmanageable, so I have limited myself initially to this specific period. The idea of “1,000 Days” is borrowed from a couple of magazines (Mojo and Uncut) which did similar things with Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles’ psychedelic period. Heaven are prominent in the title partly because they were a fine band but principally because using their name offers other connotations. For me, at least, that period was, and remains in my memory, a kind of heaven.
My approach was very simple. I read every one of ‘Spinner’s’ pop pages in the local paper, the News, over that period and I tried to include all relevant references to local bands and interesting gigs in those 1,000 days from mid-July 1967 to mid April 1970. The significance of those dates should become apparent in the reading. In some cases I have included information about folk and jazz events because they seem to me to touch on that scene and that period but to a large extent this document records a transition in popular music from beat and soul bands to what I am labelling ‘psychedelic’. That is my preferred term for music and events which were also sometimes called ‘underground’ or ‘progressive’.
In this sense the subject matter is more ‘subjective’ than the initial approach of simply listing everything. I have done some editing, for example excluding most references to cabaret, mainstream ‘pop’ or country & western. Elsewhere I have included some items of general news or information because they seem appropriate. Those are my choices and reveal something of my interests and preferences.
I have been involved in Portsmouth music for decades but the 1960s will always be the period of real significance in my musical life. The early 1960s offered me an introduction to popular music, and in the mid-1960s I began playing fairly tentatively (mostly acoustic, folk stuff) but was more of a consumer of live music – particularly at the Birdcage Club. It was there, and at the Guildhall & Savoy that I saw some of the greatest acts of that time, including the Beatles, Little Richard, the Who, Cream, the Small Faces, Them, Wilson Pickett, the Animals and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.
But in 1967 I finally joined a real band and got my first chance to play seriously. It just happened to be that magical ‘Summer of Love’ with all the connotations of experimentation in every aspect of music, fashion, presentation, visual images and ideas. I think some people were involved without being convinced about everything that was happening, but for me every one of those 1,000 days were simply astonishing and I’ve never regretted one moment. While it was happening I believed, almost constantly, that anything was possible and the whole thing was simply a prelude to a bigger and better future. That was clearly naïve, although it helped me to savour it fully at the time. I recognise now the truth in one of the old hippie anthems
We are but a moment’s sunlight
But what a moment!
What follows, documents the story of that period and that attitude. I would like to hope that we might eventually have other tales of this and other periods and approaches in the 1960s.
Although this is ‘published’ I have done it in such a way that it can and will be easily amended, updated and reprinted – in virtual and paper form. I will be very happy to receive comments and my contact details are available at the end of the document.
* “Get Together” written by Chet Powers in 1967 and recorded by a number of bands. My favourite is by the Youngbloods.