THE LAST OF HIPPIES - AN HYSTERICAL ROMANCE
by Penny Rimbaud
'No answer is in itself an answer. ' Oriental proverb.
On the third of September 1975, Phil Russell, alias Phil Hope, alias Wally Hope, alias Wally, choked to death on his own vomit; blackberry, custard, bile, lodged finally and tragically in the windpipe. Blackberry, custard, bile, running from his gaping mouth onto the delicate patterns of the ornamental carpet.
He died a frightened, weak and tired man; six months earlier he had been determine, happy and exceptionally healthy; it had taken only that, short time for Her Majesty's Government's Heath Department to reduce Phil to a puke covered corpse.
'The first dream that I remember is of myself holding the hand of an older man, looking over a beautiful and peaceful valley - suddenly a fox broke cover followed by hounds and strong horses ridden by red-coated huntsmen. The man pointed into the valley and said, "That, my son, is where you're heading. "I soon found that out, I am the fox!'
Phil Russell. 1974. Phil's death marked, for us, the end of an era. Along with him died the last grain of trust that we, naively, had had in the 'system', the last seeds of hope that, if we lived a decent life based on respect rather than abuse, our example might be followed by those in authority. Of course it was a dream, but reality is based on a thousand dreams of the past; was it so silly that we should want to add ours to the future? If the power or protest had dwindled, the power of rock was showing no such faint heart. By the mid sixties, rock'n' roll ruled and no party conference was going to bring it down. Youth had found its voice and increasingly was demanding that it should be heard.
Loud within that voice was one that promised a new world, new colours, new dimensions, new time and new space. Instant karma, and all at the drop of an acid tab.
'My advice to people today is as follows: If you take the game of life seriously if you take your nervous system seriously. you'll take your sense organs seriously if you take the energy process seriously you must turn on tune in and drop out. Acid prophet, Timothy Leary.
Society was shocked, desperate parents backed off as their little darlings 'tripped' over the ornamental carpets. Hysterical reports that acid caused everything from heart- burn to total collapse of decent society appeared almost daily in the press. Sociologists invented the 'generation gap' and when the long haired weirdo flashed a V-sign at them they got that all wrong as well, it was really a peace sign, but, either way around it meant 'fuck off'. In the grey corner we had 'normal society', and in the rainbow comer sex'n'drugs'n'rock'n'roll, at least that's how the media saw it. The CND symbol was adopted as an emblem by the ever growing legions of rock-fans whose message of love and peace spread, like a prairie-fire, world-wide. The media, in its desperate need to label and thus contain anything that threatens to outdo its control, named this phenomenon 'Hippy' and the system, to which the media is number one tool in the fight against change, set about in its transparent, but none-the less effective way, to discredit this new vision.
By the late sixties, straight society was beginning to feel threatened by what its youth was up to; it didn't want its grey towns painted rainbow, the psychedelic revolution was looking a little bit too real and it had to be stopped.
Books were banned, bookshops closed down. Offices and social centres were broken into and their files were removed, doubtless to be fed into the police computers. Underground papers and magazines collapsed under the weight of official pressure, galleries and cinemas had whole shows confiscated. Artists, writers, musicians and countless unidentified hippies got dragged through the courts to answer trumped-up charges of corruption, obscenity, drug- abuse, anything that might silence their voice; but nothing could, it all mattered too much.
As oppression became increasingly heavy, public servant bobby' became known as public enemy 'piggy'; war had been declared on the peace generation, but love wasn't going to give in without a fight.
We are a generation of obscenities. The most oppressed people in this country are not the blacks not the poor, but the middle class. They don't have anything to rise up against and fight against. We will have to invent new laws to break . . . the first part of the yippy program is to kill your parents... until your prepared to kill your parents you're not ready to change this country. Our parents are our first oppressors.'
Jerry Rubin, leader of the Yippies (militant hippies), speaking at Kent State University, USA.
Within a month of Rubin's speech, the university was in uproar. The mostly white, middle class students, to show their objection to the way in which both their campus and their country were being run, had staged innumerable demonstrations and burnt down part of the university. The authorities called in the army to 'restore peace', which they did in true military fashion by shooting dead four students.
'After the shooting stopped, I heard screams and turned and saw a guy kneeling holding a girl's head to his hands. The guy was getting hysterical, crying, yelling, shouting, "Those fucking pigs, they shot you". ' A Kent State student after the shootings.
The system had got in first. What Rubin hadn't accounted for, although past history should have been a lesson to him, was that parents would be prepared to kill their children rather than accept change.
'Mother, "Anyone who appears on the streets of a city like Kent with long hair, dirty clothes or barefooted deserves to be shot. "
Question; "Is long hair a justification for shooting some- one?" Mother; "Yes We have got to clean up this nation, and we'll start with the long-hairs. "
Question- "Would you permit one of your sons to be shot simply because he went barefooted ?" Mother; "Yes". '
A mother speaks after the shootings at Kent. The days of flower power were over; the piggies were out grazing in the meadows.
'I'm very proud to be called a pig It stands for pride, integrity and guts. ' Ronald Reagan
By the end of the sixties, throughout the western world, the 'people' hat returned to the streets. The dream was cross-fading with the nightmare. In France, the government was almost overthrown by anarchist students; in Holland, the Provos made a laughing stock of conventional politics; in Germany Baader-Meinhof revenged itself on a state still run by ageing Nazis; in America, peace became a bigger issue than war; in Northern Ireland, the Catholics demonstrated in demand for civil rights; in England, colleges and universities were 'occupied', embassies stormed. People everywhere were calling for a life without fear, a world without war and were demanding a freedom from the authorities who for years they had dismissed as almost non-existent. The system, for far too long, had had it all its own way. Amongst the people themselves, however, a long standing animosity was becoming evident =A5 the conflicting interests of anarchism and socialism.
Disagreements aside, the movement for change continued. Anarchist, socialist, activist, pacifist, working class, middle class, black, white - one thing at least united them all, a common cause, a universal factor, a shared flag - good old rock'n' roll.
In the late sixties, Woodstock in America, and Glastonbury in Britain, created a tradition in rock music that has now become part of our way of life - the free festival. Free music, free space, free mind; at least that, like 'once upon a time', is how the fairy story goes.
Many of the clashes between the authorities and the youth movement in the late sixties and early seventies were, broadly speaking, of a political nature, leftist platforms for social discontent, rather than anarchic demands by individuals for the right to live their own lives The free festivals were anarchist celebrations of freedom, as opposed to socialist demonstrations against oppression and, as such, presented the authorities with a new problem how do you stop people having fun? Their answer was predictable - stamp on them.
Windsor Park is one of Her Majesty's many back-gardens and when the hippies decided that it was an ideal site for a free festival, she was 'not amused'. The first Windsor Free had been a reasonably quiet affair and the authorities had kept a low profile. Next year things were different and the Queen's unwanted guests were forcibly removed by the police and the royal corgis were, no doubt, suitably relieved, free once more to wander undisturbed. At the front of the clashing forces that year, dressed variously in nothing, or a pair of faded jeans and a brightly embroidered shirt emblazoned with the simple message 'Hope', was one Phil Russell He danced amongst the rows of police asking, "What kind of gentle-men are you?", or mocking, "What kind and gentle men you are." The boys in blue were probably=20 men, but they were neither kind nor gentle. Phil came away from Windsor disturbed; he hated violence and was sickened by what he had seen. Love? Peace? Hope? It was shortly after this that we first met.
For many years we had been running an open house, we had space and felt we should share it. We had wanted a place where people could get together to work and Live in a creative atmosphere rather than the stifling, inward looking family environments in which we had all been brought up. It was inevitable that someone Like Phil would eventually pass our way.
Phil Hope was a smiling, bronzed, hippy warrior. His eyes were the colour of the blue skies that he loved, his neatly cut hair was the gold of the sun that he worshipped He was proud and upright, anarchistic and wild, pensive and poetic. His ideas were a strange mixture of the thinkings of the people whom he admired and amongst whom he had lived. The dancing Arabs The peasant Cypriots The noble lasai The silent and sad North American Indians for whom he felt a real closeness of spirit. Phil had travelled the world and had met fellow thinkers in every place that he had stopped, but always he returned to England. Perhaps it was his love of the mythical past, King Arthur and His Knights, that brought him back, or perhaps he felt as we do, that real change can only be effected in the place that you most understand home.
Phil could talk and talk and talk. Half of what he spoke of seemed like pure fantasy, the other half like pure poetry. He was gifted with a strange kind of magic. One day in our garden, it was early summer, he conjured up a snowstorm, huge white flakes falling amongst the daisies on the lawn. Another time he created a multi-rainbowed sky- it was as if he had cut up a rainbow and thrown the pieces into the air where they hung in strange random patterns. Looking back on it now it seems unbelievable but, all the same, I can remember both occasions vividly.
On our first meeting he described Windsor Free; we had always avoided festivals, so our knowledge of them was very limited. Phil outlined the histories and then went on to detail his ideas for the future. He proceeded to unfold what was, to us, a ludicrous plan. He wanted to claim back Stonehenge (a place that he regarded as sacred to the people and stolen by the government) and make it: a site for free festivals, free music, free space free mind; at least that, like 'happily ever after', is how the fairy story goes.
It is sad that none of that 'freedom' was evident when we attempted to play at the Stonehenge Festival ten years later. Since Phil's death, it had been a dream that one day we would play the festival as a kind of memorial to him. In 1980 we had the band and the opportunity to do it.
Our presence at Stonehenge attracted several hundred punks to whom the festival scene was a novelty, they, in turn, attracted interest from various factions to whom punk was equally new. The atmosphere seemed relaxed and as dusk fell, thousands of people gathered around the stage to listen to the night's music. suddenly, for no apparent reason, a group of bikers stormed the stage saying that they were not going to tolerate punks at Their festival'. What followed was one Or the most violent and frightening experiences of our lives. Bikers armed with bottles, chains and clubs, stalked around the site viciously attacking any punk that they set eyes on. There was nowhere to hide, nowhere to escape to; all night we attempted to protect ourselves and other terrified punks from their mindless violence. there were screams of terror as people were dragged off into the darkness to be given lessons on peace and love; it was hopeless trying to save anyone because, in the blackness of the night, they were impossible to find. Meanwhile, the predominantly hippy gathering, lost in the soft blur of their stoned reality, remained oblivious Or our fate.
Weeks later a hippy newsheet defended the bikers, saying that they were an anarchist group who had misunderstood our motives some misunderstanding! Some anarchists!
If Phil and the first Stonehenge festivals were our first flirtations with 'real' hippy culture, this was probably our last.
Dream filled hippies were a phenomenon of the early seventies, lost souls whose brains were governed more by dope and acid than by common-sense. They were generally a bore, waffling on about how things were 'going to be' in about as realistic a way as snow describing how it will survive the summer's sun. For all his strange ideas, Phil seemed different. Drugs, to him, were not something to 'drop out' with, but a communion with a reality of colour and hope that he actively brought back into the world of greyness and despair. He used drugs carefully and creatively, not for 'escape', but to help realise 'a means of escape'.
In many respects we could never have been described as hippies. After the usual small amount of experimentation we had rejected the use of drugs because we felt that they confused thought and generally interfered with relationships rather than contributing to them.
We had opened up our house at a time when many others were doing the same. The so called 'commune movement' was the natural result of people like ourselves wishing to create lives of co-operation, understanding and sharing. Individual housing is one of the most obvious causes for the- desperate shortage of homes, communal living is a practical solution to the problem. If we could learn to share our homes, maybe we could Learn to share our world and that is the first step towards a state of sanity.
The house has never been somewhere where people 'drop out', we wanted somewhere where people could 'drop in' and realise that given their own time and space they could create their own purposes and reasons and, most importantly, their own lives. We wanted to offer a place where people could be something that the system never allows them to be themselves. In many respects we were closer to anarchist traditions than to hippy ones but, inevitably, there was an interaction.
We shared Phil's disgust with 'straight' society, a society that puts more value on property than on people, that respects wealth more than it does wisdom. We supported his vision Or a world where the people took back from the state what the state had stolen from the people. Squatting as a political statement has its roots in that way of thought. Why should we have to pay for what is rightfully ours? Whose world is this?
Maybe squatting Stonehenge wasn't such a bad idea. Phil kept coming back to the house with new plans. His enthusiasm was infectious and finally we agreed to help him organise the first Stonehenge Festival, Summer Solstice, June 74.
'Then called King Arther with loud voice "Where here before U5 the heathen hound who slew our ancestors now march we to them . . . and when we come to them myself foremost of all the fight I will begin.' 'Brut' Layamon.
By the beginning of 1974 we had printed thousands of hand-outs and posters for the festival and Phil had sent out hundreds of invitations to such varied celebrities as the Pope, the Duke of Edinburgh, The Beatles, the British Airways air hostesses and the Hippies of Katmandu. Needless to say, not many of the invitees turned up on the appointed date, but Phil was happy that a motley crew of a few hundred hippies had.
For nine weeks PhD and those who were prepared to brave the increasingly wet summer, held fort at the old stone monument, watched in growing confusion by the old stone-faced monument keepers.
Wood-smoke drew into the damp night air, grey smoke against grey stones. Leaping flames illuminated the story- tellers who sat, rainbow splashes in the plain landscape, telling tales of how it was that this fire w as lit in this place, at this time, on our earth.
'Our generation is the best mass movement in history - experimenting with anything in now search for love and peace. Knowledge kicks religion life but even if it leads us to our death at least we're all trying together Our temple is sound we fight our battles with music drums like thunder cymbals like lighting banks of electronic equipment like nuclear missiles of sound. We have guitars instead of tommy-guns' PhD Russell, 1974.
Rock 'n roll revolution, day in, day out, the talk went on, the rain came down and if this year there'd only been a battered old cassette player to pump out the sounds, next year they'd do better.
Eventually, the Department of the Environment, keepers of the old stone-faced monument keepers, served the 'Wallies of Stonehenge' notice to withdraw from government property. The various inhabitants of the fort had agreed that, should the authorities intervene, they would answer only to the name of Wally; the name originated from a lost dog, much sought after at the Isle of Wight Festival of many years back. The ludicrous summonses against Phil Wally, Sid Wally, Chris Wally etc. did much to set the scene for the absurd trial that followed in London's High Courts.
Government enquiries are frequently used to lead the public into thinking that something positive is being done about situations where the system has been seen to step out of line. These token gestures allow the authorities to commit atrocious crimes against the people while suffering no real fear of reprisal The tactic has been employed in cases of military and police violations in Belfast, Brixton etc.; environmental violations such as deadly radiation leaks from power stations like Wind scale in Cumbria; compulsory purchase orders, official theft, on land for motor ways, airports and more nuclear plants, all of which are more likely to be a part of government plans for the event of nuclear war than to be for the convenience of the public; other 'mistakes' such as corruption by government officials, the maltreatment of inmates in prisons and mental homes, violence by teachers in schools, whenever, in fact, the authorities need a cover-up for their activities.
Those in government are perfectly aware that they and the authorities to whom they have been given power, daily commit crimes against the public and yet, unless they are exposed by that same public, who rightly might fear for their own well-being, nothing is done.
In cases where the public do become aware of inexcusable behaviour by the authorities, the government sets up its own enquiry to 'investigate' the issue. Something 'appears' to be happening and the gullible, silent, violent majority are satisfied that 'justice has been done'. The crude fact however, is that the government will have done nothing at all except to have produced and printed a few White Papers that hardly anyone will read and no one will take any notice of. Meanwhile the 'official crimes continue, unhindered.