David Lister: The Week in Arts

Thanks for the memories (whatever they are)

Share
Related Topics

But the book does offer an interesting overview of half a century of gigs, not least because of the identities of the various people doing the reminiscing. Take John and Yoko's legendary recording of "Give Peace a Chance" in a Montreal hotel bedroom - not technically a gig actually, but who's counting? The person doing the reminiscing of that event is Petula Clark. Yes, somewhere in that crowded bedroom of hippies, anarchists, drop-outs and hangers-on was the ever so wholesome Sixties singer chanting away with the best of them. The Beatles had a wider circle of friends than we, or possibly they, remember. Petula says: "I wasn't even aware that we were being filmed or recorded," which is rather sweet.

It's interesting, too, to note that concerts were cross-cultural long before the mixed media events of later years. Billie Holiday's concert at New York's Carnegie Hall in November 1956 included four lengthy extracts from her autobiography, not even read by her, but by a critic. Such a vulnerable and troubled soul was evidently not beyond a dose of self-indulgence, or worse, a marketing sop to her publishers. Must have killed the show stone dead.

My favourite is the memory of the first Glastonbury Festival in 1971 by Daevid Allen of the band Gong, who were appearing there. Of his first night in his tent, he says: "I slept superficially, dripping and dipping in and out of consciousness until I became vividly aware of hearing a single voice singing the most beautiful song I could ever possibly imagine. The experience was breathtaking. I gave myself utterly to the beauty of it and it produced in me an ecstatic state like a slow but inevitably building spiritual orgasm."

It would, of course, be funnier if he then revealed that he had been listening to Cliff Richard or an early incarnation of the Wombles. It was in fact David Bowie who had been playing at dawn. Perhaps significantly, when Allen eventually obtained a tape of the dawn serenade, he found that it bore no resemblance to what he thought he had heard.

That's the thing about rock concerts and rock concert memories. They are often experienced in a haze, either of shared euphoria or hysteria or indeed a haze such as Daevid Allen was experiencing. They are affected by who you are with and by how much you have had to drink.

They also tend to take on greater significance in hindsight. Those who attended very early gigs by The Strokes or The White Stripes only much later realised they had experienced small corners of rock history, just as it took Petula Clark an inordinate amount of time to realise she was not just at a singsong with some mates. Gigs do have that unique I Was There quality and it's only right to look back in a hazy glow.

That's why it would be a curmudgeonly book that chronicled the terrible acoustics, the lousy sightlines, the fat bloke blocking your view, or his friend who spills beer on you. I dare say that after reaching his spiritual orgasm, Daevid Allen yelled from his tent: "Shut up, I'm trying to get some sleep here." But who wants to remember that?

Another West End farce

Few things irritate me or readers as much as booking fees for theatres. Whenever I think I have heard the worst example, an even more absurd one rolls in. Mr A J Maguire from St Neots in Cambridgeshire writes to tell me he was given £60 theatre tokens and tried to book seats with them for the Billy Joel West End musical Movin' Out, right. The seats nearest this value came to £70. He was told that in paying that extra £10, he would still have to pay a "service charge" of £1.75 a ticket. To post each ticket would be an additional £2.25.

Mr Maguire offered to collect them from the box office, but this made no difference. He would still be charged the £2.25 as they would be "looking after them". I particularly love that bit. We now have to pay theatre box offices extra money to "look after" our tickets.

Mr Maguire did the maths and realised this amounted to a total of £5.75 on a £10 transaction. He decided not to go. There must be a song in that somewhere, Billy.

* The Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell hasn't had a happy time of it recently. It can't always be easy to concentrate on every word of every speech to every arts body. So we should be understanding about a seemingly incomprehensible remark in her address at the launch of Museums and Galleries Month.

She made a particular point of highlighting a key event in the museum calendar. It was, she said, the "celebration of the bicentenary of the Islamabard (sic) Kingdom". The arts trade magazine AI speculates in its latest issue on whether this is a celebration of a forgotten West African culture, accompanied by a display of treasures from the region. In fact, Ms Jowell mispronounced or misread the word Isambard, and forgot altogether the word Brunel. It is indeed the bicentenary of Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Manager (infrastructure, upgrades, rollouts)

£38000 - £45000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

MI Analyst and SQL Developer (SQL, SSAS, SSRS)

£28000 - £32500 Per Annum + 28 days holiday, pension, discounts and more: Clea...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Reception Teachers needed for September 2014

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Re...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

August catch-up: second languages, the secret of love and is it all right to call someone stupid?

John Rentoul
High and mighty: Edinburgh Castle and city skyline  

i Editor's Letter: We're coming to Edinburgh

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?