England - Full Moon 129 - 04/02/07
Speakers' corner: The 14 hour Technicolour Dream
Psychedelic April '67
Following up our retroscope series of last year - here's Speakers'
corner! Luna Kafé's focused eye on great events, fantastic happenings, absolute milestones, or other curious incidents from the history of rock. April 1967 saw 'The 14 hour Technicolour Dream' - the very first psychedelic gathering in the UK.
Alexandra Palace, London, April 29 and 30, 1967
It started with the counter-culture paper The International Times, an English parallel to New York's Village Voice. IT, as used to be called, was launched with an extravagant party at London's Roundhouse in October 1966. London's leading underground bands The Soft Machine and The Pink Floyd played; Marianne Faithfull won the prize for best costume, a nun's uniform with a very short skirt.
John 'Hoppy' Hopkins and Barry Miles were among the IT founders. To raise funds for the paper, Hoppy started the legendary UFO Club in Tottenham Court Road, that further established Soft Machine, the Floyd, Tomorrow and other young aspiring bands as part of a new musical movement. The establishment didn't approve on IT. According to Miles' Visual documentary on Pink Floyd the paper 'was raided by the police on orders from the Director of Public Prosecutors. They seized every single piece of paper in the office: six tons of back issues, every item of corresponence, even the personal address books of the members of staff. It was a calculated move to close the paper and would have closed down any normal business operation.'
To raise badly needed cash, Hoppy and Dave Howson quickly organised The 14 hour Technicolour Dream. It was the first gathering of this kind in the United Kingdom, an equivalent of the be-ins in San Francisco, sort of. Alexandra Palace in north London was the place. A huge theatre building, nowadays an exhibition hall, with a stage in each short end of the enormous hall, and a big helter skelter and a fiberglass igloo filled with bananas somewhere in between. In late afternoon fireworks could be seen over Muswell Hill. The event started at 8 pm Saturday evening and lasted - surprise-surprise - for 14 hours.
10 000 people came, supposedly.
The Dream was described as a multi-artist event and featured a host of poets, artists and musicians, among them Alexis Corner, The Pretty Things (during their short psychedelic era), Champion Jack Dupree, Alex Harvey, the one and only Graham Bond (an institution in British music history), Savoy Brown, The Creation, Denny Lane (ex Moody Blues, later with Paul McCartney's Wings), The Block, The Cat, Charlie Browns Clowns, The Move, Mike Horovitz, Suzy Creamcheese (early Frank Zappa and The Mothers famous groupie), Sam Gopal Dream featuring a young Lemmy (later of Motörhead in a different incarnation, to say the least), Mick and Pete, Giant Sun Trolley (later to be known as Third Ear Band), Social Deviants (later only The Deviants with crazy vocalist and IT-writer Mick Farren up front), The Stalkers, Utterly Incredible Too Long Ago To Remember, Sometimes Shouting At People and quite a few more. In fact Velvet Underground and Frank Zappa and his Mother were also featured on the poster. Zappa had been booked, but didn't make it. The Velvets were maybe present on film? The Purple Gang made a rare appearance with amplified washboards and all performing their soon to be hit "Granny Takes A Trip". The Crazy World of Arthur Brown was another up and coming act, Arthur - the god of hellfire - with his characteristic flaming helmet. The Flies had the most memorable stage act of the evening, pouring flour and water on the audience. They wore palm leaves skirts, Dracula robes and had painted faces. The music was quite punkish, with a great version of The Monkeys' "(I'm Not
Your) Stepping Stone", later to be covered by Sex Pistols. Yoko Ono held one of her famous performances where people, mainly male volunteers, where allowed to cut pieces off her clothes until she was stark naked. John Lennon was present in the audience, but never got close to Yoko until a little later.
There was allegedly a lot of drugs around. The Social Deviants' new drummer Russel Hunter claims he was there, but has no idea if he was playing. And the Deviant was the first band to enter the stage that evening ... Daevid Allen of Soft Machine wore a miner's helmet to prevent his brains from falling out. When the pink light of the rising sun finally poured in through the huge eastern windows at dawn, Pink Floyd hit the stage. It was a magical performance, they say, the welcoming of the new day. Daevid Allen supposedly learned his famous glissando guitar technique this morning, watching one of Syd Barrett's final really memorable performances. When it was all over, Hoppy stood by the door and bid everyone farewell.
The 14 Hour Technicolour Dream was the celebration of an age of innocence, the highlight of the British underground movement of the 1960s when LSD still was an unharmful drug you could put in your friends' cups of tea just for fun. According to legendary producer Joe Boyd, when Syd entered the UFO Club a month later, the twinkle in his eye had gone, forever. And we all know of Syd's tragic faith. The dream faded quickly and brutal. But for one night it was pure magic.
Copyright © 2007 JP