It’s been a busy time. I filmed a programme on Punk for the BBC on February 18. It was held at the Rum Kitchen on All Saints Road in Notting Hill. Now going to Notting Hill is strange enough for me, I tend to not leave the West End if I can help it, though I have been going there recently because Terry Wilson, author of Project 101 with Brion Gysin, lives just off All Saints Rd and I have recently been cataloguing his archives. The Rum Kitchen was particularly strange for me because I had last been there about 50 years ago when I designed the cover for an issue of Heatwave, a magazine concerned with the West Indian community in Notting Hill. Back then those premises housed the Mangrove, a café run by Frank Critchlow. When you walked in the door a wave of pot smoke hit you and you were high before you sat down. Frank was busted – it seemed – every month, but now, astonishingly, there is a blue plaque outside on the wall proclaiming Frank as a great ‘community leader’. Which he was, of course, but it just shows how the establishment can attempt to co-opt and swallow everyone and everybody.
I was interviewed about the attitude of sixties people towards the punks. I was interviewed by Thurston Moore, who, since leaving Sonic Youth, has become a celebrated member of the Stoke Newington set and a major contributor to London’s counter-cultural arts scene. It was more of an extended conversation, but I’m sure they will be able to clip something from it. My view was always that the Punks were mostly hippies with short hair. Some, people like John Lydon, came from a very different, tougher, background but guys like Rat Scabies or Captain Sensible from The Damned, or Joe Strummer and Mick Jones from the Clash clearly came from a sixties hippie base. Strummer even cast the i-Ching to decide whether to join the Clash or not and how much more hippie can you get than that?
Thurston and I had lunch together beforehand and it was great to be able discuss obscure American and European small-press poetry publications with him – Birth Press, Dead Language Press, Divers Press. There are few people left alive that I know whom I can do that with. I had not realised how famous he was until people stopped us in Portobello Road, asking if they could shoot a selfie with him. It’s not like the old days when people wanted autographs. Chrissie Hynde was also on the bill, and I was struck by her deep love of London. She’s another American who has brought energy and talent to the scene. She worked on New Musical Express before I did, in the early seventies, and told me that she was given the job by my friend Ian MacDonald; something I hadn’t known.