Saturday, May 29, 2010

Eleanor Pritchard interview

One of our local designer-makers, the very talented weaver Eleanor Pritchard is interviewed in the Guardian weekend today as part of their 'disappearing acts' about indigenous crafts.

You can read the story here. There's unfortunately no mention of Cockpit Arts, but being a (very) amateur weaver myself and a great admirer of Eleanor's work, I recognised her studio and her work from the photograph.

If you haven't had chance to visit Cockpit Arts in Creekside, the next open studios is in a few weeks time. It comes highly recommended.

Royal Albert revisited

Myself and the geezer patronise the Royal Albert in New Cross fairly regularly (at least once a fortnight for dinner) - I've written about it before, way back in 2007, but felt it was time for a new review three years on!

A recent interview with the new manager on Brockley Central blog promised improvements to the areas I felt were lacking, especially guest beers. A new chef and new menu with more seasonal food was also on the cards. So what, if anything, has changed?

First, beers. Well Richard promised that the 'troublesome fourth pump' would be repaired and brought into service to allow more frequent rotation of guest beers. I recall that it was, temporarily, although the last few visits it seems to have gone back into retirement. It's great that they offer Brakspear's bitter at £2.50 a pint - it's a reliable and inoffensive beer that keeps the price of a round to a respectable level. There is almost always Landlord on offer, and almost always a Purity beer (Gold last time I visited). But I'm saddened to say that the guest beers have been fairly evasive. For a brief, glorious period they were offering Doom Bar on tap but now, after several visits with no guest beer in sight, I'm starting to wonder if I hallucinated it!

Perhaps there have been recurring problems with the hand pumps, or perhaps I have just been unlucky in turning up as the guest beers were drained, but I would love to see a better balance between guest and regular ales. Why not two regular and two guest? Or even one regular and three guest?

I am lucky enough to work close by the fabulous new Cask pub in Pimlico. Until fairly recently this was a fading and failing bar that was lucky to attract a handful of punters even at lunchtime. On Tuesday night it was rammed with customers, many of them sampling one of the TEN or so real ales that were available on tap. Although it offers food, only a few people were there to eat. 'Build it and they will come,' I thought to myself - even on a Tuesday night!

But I digress. If you are a lager or wine drinker, by the way, you will also find a reasonable choice of drinks.

As to food, the menu has definitely seen an improvement - it changes quite regularly and does include several vegetarian and seafood options. I chose the 'couscous and roasted squash salad with grilled halloumi' while the geezer had the seafood tagliatelle.

The salad was tasty, fresh and good value for money - but nothing like I was expecting. Call me old fashioned but when a dish contains multiple ingredients, I expect the description to start with the ingredient that makes up the biggest proportion of the dish, and continue downwards - a bit like food labelling.

So I was expecting a lot of roasted squash and couscous, a few slabs of halloumi, and a bit of green stuff. They got the halloumi proportion about right, but I certainly wasn't expecting masses of rocket, green beans and other green stuff with a scattering of couscous.

As I said, it WAS tasty, I just felt a bit cheated and might have chosen something else if I'd known - although there's the possibility that I would have been equally as disappointed.

Luckily I didn't choose the seafood tagliatelle - the geezer is remarkably tolerant, some might even say too tolerant, and very averse to complaining. If I'd been served this I would have taken it back.

I'm sorry guys but this is downright lazy. Ocean Stix or whatever they are called does NOT qualify as seafood unless you are running a fast food store. No amount of piling rocket on the top can hide the fact that this is basically pasta with mussels and chopped up Ocean Stix. What of the prawns? Any sign of a bit of fish or squid? Unless you ramp up the seafood aspect of this dish, at £9 it's risking being known as a bit of a rip-off.

Having got that off my chest, I feel I should finish on a more positive note. I do like the fact that although the pub shows football in the front bar, it keeps the sound low so the place doesn't turn into a no-go zone for me. Whether this will change during the World Cup I don't know. Hopefully the back part of the bar will remain footy-free.

The staff are very friendly and helpful and the atmosphere in the bar is generally lively but not intrusive. It's still the best in the area for food, and hopefully the ale offerings will improve given time.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Deptford station: well blow me down!*

"Volker Fitzpatrick has been awarded a £7m contract for the construction of a new railway station at Deptford, south London. The station redevelopment includes part demolition of existing canopies, and new-build work, providing over-bridge glazing to both platforms. Client is the London Borough of Lewisham. Volker saw off four other bidders to win the contract."

*A much censored version of what originally went through my head when I read this.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lewisham People's Day: the Beat

Forgive me if this is old news, but I was very excited to get the latest issue of Lewisham Life and discover that the Beat are headlining at Lewisham People's Day this year on 10 July.

I was a massive fan of the Beat when I was a teenager, as much if not more than the Specials and Madness. But I was too young to go and see them perform live and didn't have any older siblings who were into the same kind of music and willing to take me with them.

But last year I finally saw them play at the Wychwood Festival in Cheltenham and it was one of the most lively gigs I've seen for some time. On one of the hottest days of the summer, Rankin Roger tore up and down the stage like a man possessed, singing as if his life depended on it and getting the (mostly) older members of the audience bouncing about in front of the stage. The young crowd were rather bemused by the sight of us middle-aged and somewhat portly peeps getting all shouty and jumpy!

Rankin Roger, who is interviewed in Lewisham Life, still fronts the band but now with his son Murphy 'Ranking' Jnr instead of Dave Wakeling, who tours the USA with a group called the English Beat.

At Wychwood they did all the old faves - Mirror in the Bathroom, Stand Down Margaret, Can't Get Used to Losing You, Hands off She's Mine, Twist & Crawl etc etc - so if that performance was anything to go by, Lewisham is in for a treat.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

little red

model: pia
makeup: shella ruby
hair: ben martin
styling: rikki lee

Saturday, May 22, 2010

March 5, 1972 Winterland, San Francisco: Yogi Phlegm with Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh

Winterland, the one time ice palace at Post and Steiner in San Francisco, looms large in the history of rock and in the imagination of Deadheads. The 5400 capacity hall (built in 1928 as The New Dreamland Rink) was only used for the largest shows in the 1960s, those too large for the Fillmore (capacity 1500) or the Fillmore West (capacity 2500). As a result, Winterland hosted some of the most legendary rock shows of the 1960s. When the Fillmore West closed in July, 1971, Bill Graham Presents ultimately took over the lease on Winterland until the building itself was closed in 1978. Thus many of the most memorable acts of the 1970s played at Winterland as well, hosted by Bill Graham, and as a result the old arena became a sort of wormhole to the 1960s. Winterland was kind of a dump, truth be told, but bands had been playing there for so long that all its attributes had been assessed, so everybody sounded great. It was a dump, yes, but it was our dump.

On March 5, 1972 a benefit was held for the Indians at Alcatraz (another fascinating digression I can't get into here). The bill was Grateful Dead/New Riders of The Purple Sage/Yogi Phlegm. Although the show was a benefit, it was a Bill Graham Presents production. The Fillmore West had closed on July 4, 1971, and after his usual threats Graham had continued to produce shows in the Bay Area. In the late 1971/early 1972 period, BGP was putting on shows about every other weekend at Winterland. By mid-summer, there were shows almost every weekend. There were a number of interesting, if somewhat unrelated facts about the March 5, 1972 show that are worthy of consideration, so I will link them together here.

Yogi Phlegm with Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh
Although the Grateful Dead were still scrambling financially in 1972, they were bona fide rock stars by any standard. The Dead had been local heroes and underground sensations when the Haight Ashbury scene broke through in 1967, but that hadn't been accompanied by substantial record sales or radio play. By 1972, however, the Dead had had two successful albums (Workingman's Dead and American Beauty) that had received substantial airplay on FM radio stations across the country, and in September 1971 they had just released their live double lp (known colloquially as "Skull and Roses") which became their first gold album.

Self-effacing Jerry Garcia was the Dead's "frontman," however much he wanted to be just another band member. If his epic guitar skills were not reason enough, his thoughtful and articulate comments in many interviews combined with his genial demeanor to make him seem like a smart, friendly hippie who would be fun to hang out with and just happened to be a rock star. Garcia had released his first solo album in January 1972, and tracks like "Deal" and "The Wheel" received significant FM airplay as well. Although Garcia seemed to shy away from mansions and Hollywood, there was no way to deny the fact that in San Francisco or anywhere else "Jerry Garcia" was an event in himself.

Yogi Phlegm was the new name for the reconstituted Sons of Champlin. The Sons, a tremendous band from Marin who had never put the pieces together, had broken up in mid-1970 under complex circumstances in which the band members believed they did not have the rights to their band's name. When they reformed later in 1970, they had only 5 members and no horn section, and they were performing new, jazzier material that was less heavily arranged than their previous incarnation. Fans and promoters (particularly Bill Graham) hated the comical Yogi Phlegm name, and most referred to them as The Sons of Champlin anyway. The band, always ahead of its time, now played soulful rock music with wide-open Mahavishnu Orchestra-style instrumental passages that even San Francisco audiences were hardly ready for, so the group continued to struggle despite their talent.

With all this in mind, it is surprising indeed to find out that the March 5, 1972 benefit began with Bill Champlin and Bill Vitt of Yogi Phlegm playing with Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh. While Vitt played drums, Champlin sang and played Hammond organ for a couple of jammed out blues, including "Big Boss Man" and "How Blue Can You Get." Jerry Garcia was a rock star by any standard, and a major star in the firmament in San Francisco. Why was he opening his band's show at the biggest rock venue in San Francisco with some casual blues jamming with the opening act?

The story as far as I know it seems to have been that three members of Yogi Phlegm were stuck in traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge, on the way to Winterland. In the era before cell phones, there was no telling where they might have been and when they might arrive. Bill Graham liked to run a tight ship, and he had a complicated love/hate relationship with The Sons--he had always supported the band (in 1969 he loaned them money to buy a truck, for example), but he thought he knew what was best for them, too. Graham probably saw their booking on the bill as a courtesy, and wasn't going to delay the show because three members of the band (guitarist Terry Haggerty, pianist Geoff Palmer and bassist David Schallock) were missing in action. Supposedly Graham blew his stack and told Bill Champlin to find a guitar player and bassist and get on stage and start playing at the appointed time "or else."

It is a sign of Bill Champlin's status as a musician that in his moment of need Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh bailed him out by joining him on stage. Granted, the Sons and the Dead went way back, but its a unique thing indeed for the most famous member of the headlining band to appear with the opening act. Its even more singular in that they just had to fake it, like they were at the Lion's Share in San Anselmo (the musician's bar where they all hung out) instead of at Winterland. Of course, at least once Bill Graham had demanded the Dead go on stage without the late arriving Jerry Garcia (June 6, 1969, when Phil Lesh asked Wayne Ceballos of Aum to deputize for the first several numbers), so Jerry and Phil must have been pretty sympathetic to Champlin's plight, but its still pretty remarkable.

After the brief blues jam, the three Phlegm/Sons members appeared and Jerry and Phil stepped aside. According to the eyewitness on the Archive comments, they played a great set, not surprising given the excellent contemporary tapes of performances that circulate. The blues jam tape floats around as well, less remarkable for its substance than the fact that it happened at all. Only in San Francisco.

I have pieced the Yogi Phlegm-Garcia story together as best I can from various second-hand sources. Anyone with better information or corrections is encouraged to mention them in the Comments. 

Stage Alignment
Winterland looms large in the memory and legend of San Francisco and San Francisco rock fans, particularly Deadheads. I saw my first rock show at a Grateful Dead concert at Winterland in 1972 (for the record, the bus came by and I got on December 12, 1972). Entering the huge, dark arena and seeing the Dead's equipment rising to the ceiling around the stage was a dramatic prelude to what was about to come, and I'm sure my experience was shared by many. Although Winterland was old and run down, so many bands had played there that the sound and lights were all figured out, so every band sounded great in Winterland. Deadheads who never got to go to Winterland have seen the Closing Of Winterland dvd and numerous photos, so its easy to visualize the Dead's Winterland stage configuration.

However, another interesting thing about the March 5, 1972 Winterland show was that there was a completely different stage alignment. The "classic" Winterland stage alignment, and the only one I ever knew from December 1972 onwards, had the stage at the far end of the hall from the entrance, on the narrower Western end of the rectangle (towards Pierce, away from Steiner). The March show, however, had the stage on the North side (towards Sutter, away from Post). This completely re-orients the stage to the center of the long side of the rectangle. Many more people seated in the balcony would be much nearer the stage, and those standing on the floor would end up with a different sightline. I do not know how often this alignment was used, or what its purpose was. The Dead played a one-off show at Winterland on October 9, 1972, and the sideways config was used, but afterwards it was not repeated to my knowledge for any band.

Over the years I have tried to determine whether the sideways configuration was used in the 1960s or any other time prior to 1972. The person who originally told me about the '72 show (hi Tex) thought that it had been used that way "occasionally" before, but he wasn't sure. Given the number of famous 1960s rock shows held at Winterland by Bill Graham and others, I thought I could find a helpful photo, and I completely struck out. I don't just mean of a photo showing 1960s Winterland stage alignment--I mean any photos from Winterland rock shows in the 1960s, none, nada. It is odd how such a legendary hall remains so little documented.

In early 1972, the BGP organization had not yet fully transitioned to having shows at Winterland every weekend. The concern in those days was whether the 5400 capacity Winterland was too large to be filled on a weekly basis. I have to assume that the attempts to re-align the stage were part of some experiments by BGP people to improve the hall, although since we don't know what they were trying to improve (the sound? the load-out? stage management? the concession stands?) its hard to say why the experiment was dropped. Does anyone recall the stage configuration for 1960s Winterland shows?

Of course, by mid-1972 Bill Graham was putting on concerts at Winterland almost every weekend, and as the decade wore on it turned out that Winterland was too small, not too large. The last show was December 31, 1978, with the Grateful Dead at the farthest Western end of the hall. The building was torn down in 1985, and the site is a block of condominiums now. Every few years I drive by for some reason or another. Post and Steiner was the first address I learned in San Francisco (I lived in the suburbs) and I always have strangely mixed feelings when I see condos instead of a crumbling ice palace. The songs on the radio always sound better the nearer I get, though, and while its probably just my own nostalgia, it still fits--everybody sounds better at Winterland.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Deptford Arms planning applications

The demise of the Deptford Arms and its imminent resurrection as a Paddy Power betting shop has been discussed widely on this blog, and Deptford blogosphere neighbours Crosswhatfields and Transpontine. As a pub it did not do much to cater for my custom, with its uncomfortable furniture and lack of ale (both could have easily been rectified by a landlord with some vision), but as a music and arts venue it was a valuable part of Deptford's cultural life and has been for many years. Despite this, the owner clearly preferred to lease the building to Paddy Power bookmakers rather than putting in any effort to improve the pub to attract more regular business throughout the week.

Unfortunately as they stand at the moment, licensing laws permit change of use from pubs to bookmakers without leaving any powers for local authorities to prevent clustering of such businesses in target areas. Local authorities which reject licence applications from bookmakers are then likely to have to defend themselves against legal action from the applicant. With budgets at risk this is understandably not a position councils want to put themselves in.

Paddy Power's first planning application (reference DC/10/73357/X) for amendments to the building was sensibly rejected by Lewisham's planners. Although it is not a listed building, it is in the Deptford High Street conservation area. "The proposed alterations would adversely affect the appearance and character of this prominent building and would be detrimental to the character and appearance of this part of the Deptford High Street Conservation Area, contrary to Policies URB 8 Shopfronts and URB 16 New Development, Changes of Use and Alterations to Buildings in Conservation Areas in the adopted Unitary Development Plan (July 2004)," the planners said.

Here's a couple of clips from the original drawings, showing the proposed elevation on Reginald Road and the proposed illuminated sign (all of these can be viewed in full on the planning department's website, see details below).

The main point to note is that the application proposes replacement of the existing timber windows with aluminimium-framed windows (in lurid, Paddy-Power-corporate-green). The extent and colouring of the proposed signage is also unnecessarily overbearing in my opinion, and will have a very negative visual impact on the building and its surrounds.

Not surprisingly, Paddy Power appealed against the decision, but the grounds given for the appeal were rather lame to say the least. Such grounds include the suggestion that the internally illuminated signs it proposes are 'characteristic of the Conservation Area in its wider sense'. Whatever that means.

Anyone can comment on the appeal, you can do so online at this link, by clicking on the link at the bottom of the page (to documents) and then clicking through from the new page to 'comment on this case' but you must do so by 8 June 2010.

In the meantime, however, it seems that Paddy Power is not entirely confident of winning its appeal, and after a site visit with the planning officers, earlier this month submitted new planning applications for the changes to the building and the signage (references DC/10/74269/FT and DC/10/74268/X). This time they also included a 'planning, design & access statement' to support the application, which makes for interesting reading.

The changes to the shopfront proposals are subtle but show some progress. Instead of replacing the window frames, they will retain and make good the existing frames. The signage will be lit by external lights rather than internally-illuminated. The proposed external roller shutter on Reginald Road has been changed to an internal roller shutter, and the gaudy yellow sign is now hanging from a 'shepherd's hook' fitting. Cute touch but in my opinion still totally overshadowed by the gaudiness of the yellow and green of the whole signage system. (don't be fooled by the duller-looking shades of colour on these pictures, by the way, the colour reference numbers are still exactly the same as on the previous pictures. I suspect the colour balance in the file was adjusted somehow).

The accompanying design statement defends this signage, claiming 'the wholly appropriate given the previous signage on the public house premises'. Is it? I can't say that I agree at all.

'This corporate approach has been accepted by local councils across the country,' the statement goes on, 'including in Conservation Areas.' Which some might translate as 'we've got plenty of stuff to throw at you in court if you refuse' although of course I couldn't possibly comment.

The main defence of the designs is that it's better to have a betting shop here than vacant premises. The fact that the premises were not empty when the statement was submitted seems to have been overlooked.

Somewhat laughably the statement also defends the proposed development with the following comment: 'a bookmaker's use is a complimentary use to the retail function and adds VARIETY and vitality to the shopping area'.

How the applicant can include this statement with any serious intent, given that the new betting shop will be the seventh on the high street, is beyond me.

All the documents relating to these applications are available on Lewisham's planning portal, just by searching here using the application number.

Although it is too late to save the pub, protecting the look and quality of buildings within the high street conservation area is a central part of maintaining what makes Deptford unique and attractive to so many. The high street already has too many regrettable redevelopments that make me shake my head and think 'who let that through?'. If you care about retaining what's there, please take a minute to click through to these links and consider commenting on the proposals.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Submissions for Deptford X are now being invited

A range of opportunities for artists living or working in Greater London are being offered as part of the Deptford X festival which will be held between 24 September and 3 October 2010.

Artists can apply for the Renewal Award (five grants for site-specific works, two of which will be awarded to Deptford-based artists), the Photography Project, three artists' residencies, and the Deptford Fringe (restricted to artists in SE8).

Full details and briefs for Deptford X submissions are available here.

This year's Deptford X project is being led by artist Mark Titchner.

Free tickets to ride

If you fancy a trip to the East End or down to Croydon this weekend, why not try out the new East London Line for free? Hop along to New Cross/New Cross Gate, Surrey Quays or Rotherhithe and you could pick up one of the 10,000 free tickets being given out on Sunday when the line opens for full service. Here's the relevant extract from the press release (with Boris's self-congratulatory comments deleted I'm afraid).

"Ten thousand free tickets will be given out to passengers to travel on London Overground’s new East London railway on its first day of operating a full public service this Sunday (May 23).

Free tickets will be issued at stations along the line on a first come first served basis. Each station will be given a finite number of the tickets based on the number of people who use it. Each station will be limited to one ticket per person; they will be non-transferable, valid for Sunday 23 May only and limited to the East London route on the London Overground network. Passengers interchanging from other networks need to complete their first journey by touching out with their Oystercard."

More info about the line here.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Heritage Breeds

by Jennifer Kendall

Many people have heard of heirloom seeds, vegetables and fruits, but did you know there are heirloom breeds of livestock and poultry. Often referred to as “heritage,” these animals once roamed America’s pastoral landscape, but today they face the threat of extinction. Modern agriculture’s focus on increased yield and production has led to the disappearance of many traditional breeds that possess valuable traits and genetics. These breeds are a window into the past and an insurance policy for our future.

Lessons from the Past
In the mid-1800’s, the Irish potato famine killed more than a million people in Ireland and caused another million to flee the country. The Irish planted a specific variety of potato known as the “lumper.” The potato crop lacked genetic diversity, so when the blight hit this monoculture, devastation was imminent.
Today, our agricultural food system reflects this same lack of genetic diversity. A recent study of industrial chicken strains showed that 50% of ancestral genetics have been lost. In the US, 99% of all turkeys raised are a single breed: the Broad Breasted White. This breed has been so heavily selected for its large breast that it can no longer mate naturally. Without artificial insemination, this variety would go extinct in one generation. The genetic pool is getting shallower and shallower, making our risks higher and higher. Traditional or heritage breeds have valuable genetics that expand biodiversity and help secure our food systems. Not to mention, they are often quite tasty!

How can you help?
More than 20% of the 6,500 breeds of domesticated animals face extinction. It’s not just wild animals and exotic species that need our help. In 2010, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy listed 180 breeds of domestic animals on its Conservation Priority List, and the organization listed more than 30 poultry breeds as a “critical” conservation priority.
You can help preserve these breeds for future generations in many ways:
  • Eat them to save them: It may seem counterintuitive, but eating these breeds helps to put them back onto the American dinner table, in turn developing a market for the farmers who raise these breeds. The greater the demand for these breeds, the greater the number of them farmers will raise.
  • Support your local farmer: Many people have a family dentist, doctor and mechanic, but how many have a family famer? Many heritage breeds are raised on small, local farms. Learn what breeders are in your area and buy from them. Visit to learn more.
  • Share the message: Most people don’t know domesticated animals face the danger of extinction. Share your knowledge about heritage breeds, biodiversity and the need to save these breeds!
  • Give them a job: The unemployment crisis has hit heritage breeds hard. Many traditional breeds have lost favor, and have lost their traditional roles on farms and homesteads. These breeds need to have a job, such as geese for weeding, chickens for pest control, or cattle for brush management. Learn about alternative uses for these breeds and help to give them their jobs back!
  • Raise endangered breeds: If you are interested in chickens or other breeds, consider raising a heritage breed. Heritage breeds retain essential attributes for survival and self-sufficiency – fertility, foraging ability, longevity, maternal instincts, ability to mate naturally, and natural resistance to parasites and disease. Many of the heritage chicken breeds would make great backyard birds. Visit and visit the “Pick-A-Chick” section to find a bird right for you.
Traditional Breeds, Fun Facts
Heritage breeds possess valuable genetics, but they also embody the history, culture and traditions of a bygone era. Take some time to learn about the various heritage breeds and their unique stories.

Buckeye chicken: More than 20 years before women earned the right to vote in the United States, Mrs. Nettie Metcalf of Warren, Ohio, was paving her own path. In 1896, Metcalf created the Buckeye chicken breed, the only American chicken developed entirely by a woman. Buckeyes also have a personality all their own. They are a very active fowl noted for being especially vigilant in the pursuit of mice. (Some breeders compare them to cats in this regard.). They are a quality meat bird and good layers.

Cotton Patch geese: Once commonplace on farms in the southeastern United States, Cotton Patch geese were used to weed cotton and corn fields up until the 1950s. Cotton Patch geese are remembered in the rural South for helping many farm families survive the Great Depression by providing a regular source of meat, eggs and grease. The breed is thought to have been derived from European stock brought to the states during the Colonial period. Because of their smaller size, the breed has the ability to adjust to hot weather better than most of the heavier breeds of geese.

Runner or Indian Runner duck: Runners have quite a history. Ancient Javan temple carvings indicate that Runner-type ducks existed in the Indochinese peninsula more than 2,000 years ago. People in this part of the world have been herding ducks for hundreds of years. Herders drove flocks of ducks out to rice paddies and fields during the day to eat scattered grain, weed, seeds, snails, insects, larvae, small reptiles and more. (The trained ducks kept in sight of the herder's long bamboo pole and its attached strips of cloth.) The Runner duck makes a great layer and good strains will lay well in excess of 200 white, hen-sized eggs per year. The Runner duck is a very active forager and has an active disposition.

Narragansett turkey: The Narragansett turkey is named for Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island, where the variety developed. It descends from a cross between native Eastern Wild turkeys and the domestic turkeys (probably Norfolk Blacks) brought to Colonial America by English and European colonists beginning in the 1600’s. Improved and standardized for production qualities, the Narragansett became the foundation of the turkey industry in New England. Though it was valued across the country, it was especially important in Rhode Island and Connecticut. Narragansett turkeys have traditionally been known for their calm disposition, good maternal abilities, early maturation, egg production and excellent meat qualities.

Sources: FAO: The State of Food and Agriculture (2009), Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,

Thursday, May 13, 2010

April 15, 1970 Winterland, San Francisco Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service--guest performers

(A clip from Ralph Gleason's On The Town column in the San Francisco Chronicle, Monday, April 13, 1970)

An amazing tape survives of a fantastic Grateful Dead performance at Winterland on Wednesday, April 15, 1970. Although the tape is well known amongst Deadheads, almost nothing is known of the show. No posters, photos or contemporary reviews seem to have survived, which is surprising for a concert featuring three of San Francisco's finest bands at the biggest venue in town. In my previous post I speculated on the scant information available, and suggested that the show was put on by the bands themselves, with Bill Graham and his crew acting as some sort of contractor. The Dead had headlined at the Fillmore West the previous weekend (April 9-12), so it appears that the Dead could not be advertised until those shows were complete. Ralph Gleason's Monday (April 13) column (above) appears to be the first mention of the show. Listing upcoming events, he simply says "At Winterland Wednesday...Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Grateful Dead."

Separate from the peculiar circumstances of the show itself, in the middle of the 100 minute tape, a number of musicians join Jerry Garcia and others for a pretty exciting jam, even if its only six minutes or so. Since we have no information about the show, we can only speculate on who those guests might be. The jam takes place right after the drum solo, and after a quick (0:49) drum interlude the Dead blast into "The Other One." During the jam, an additional organ player, guitarist and conga player are audible, but given that there are no vocals, anyone could be onstage using the Dead's instruments to play along with Jerry, and the second drum interlude may be there to allow the band to rejoin the stage. I will limit my speculation to the guitarist, organist and conguero, but keep in mind that numerous other guests may be there as well.

I'm a listener, not a musician, but the jam mines very different territory than either a typical Dead jam or a conventional musician's noodling session. The jam isn't based on a song known to me (like "Turn On Your Lovelight," a song almost all 60s musicians knew well) nor does it use a standard blues or country progression. The musicians play fast, in a strange rhythm--these guys are all good and playing hard, so it isn't some pals goofing off on the wrong instruments. Whoever is on stage has to either be friendly with the Dead or have some musical credibility with them, and they have to be in town. My speculation as to the April 15, 1970 guests is based on who seems the most likely, as I have nothing else to go on.

Guest Guitarist
The guitarist seems to be playing some choppy, fast chords, and sounds distinctly different than Bob Weir (I can't tell if Weir is on stage or not). For any guest appearances, the first guesses always have to come from musicians who were already there, and that points towards Gary Duncan of Quicksilver. Duncan was (and is) an exceptional rhythm guitarist with a very jazzy feel (listen to "Acupulco Gold And Silver" from Quicksilver's first album, for example). Jorma Kaukonen and John Cipollina, also on the bill, do not play in this style and it would be highly unlikely if it were them.

Band friend David Crosby was a regular onstage guest during the 1969-72 period, but the guitar playing sounds too choppy and jazzy for Crosby in 1970. Some years later Crosby headed in that direction (I'm thinking of the March 17, 1975 "Ned's Birthday" studio tape), so I suppose its possible, but I don't think Crosby played that way in 1970.

There seems to be a distinctly jazz tone to the guitarist, separate from his odd chords. If I have to speculate on an unexpected guest, I would propose local guitarist Jerry Hahn, then leading a group called The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood. Hahn had played guitar with John Handy, and then replaced Larry Coryell in the Gary Burton Quartet (a formidable task). The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood was playing Mandrake's in Berkeley on Monday and Tuesday of that week (April 13 and 14) and would return to the Matrix the next week, so they were definitely in town. Hahn was a formidable player and would have been known to every guitar player in town--certainly he might have been invited on stage.

Guest Organist
Pigpen's organ would have been onstage, and Pig generally laid out for the extensive jamming. With a convenient organ, it was easy to invite a keyboard player on stage. To eliminate the obvious choices, Tom Constanten had left the band in January, and Ned Lagin had not yet met the group.

Of the three bands on the bill, only Nicky Hopkins of Quicksilver Messenger Service played keyboards (beyond the level of noodling). Hopkins was actually a pretty good organ player, based on some obscure recordings (the original "Edward" on Shady Grove, as well as its reprise on his solo album, and possibly the Rolling Stones "Let's Spend The Night Together"). However, I'm not aware of Hopkins ever playing organ on stage, so its difficult to say what he might have sounded like. I guess its possibly him, but it sounds too dissonant to my ears.

What local musician might be playing a jazzy, high energy organ along with Jerry Garcia? Howard Wales sure seems like a likely choice. He had jammed with Garcia at least once before (August 28, 1969), and very shortly Garcia would join Wales in Monday night jam sessions at the Matrix. The playing does sound like Wales, and the timeline fits nicely.

In the realm of pure speculation, if you accept my hypothesis that the guitarist was Jerry Hahn, then it might follow that Brotherhood organist Mike Finnegan was onstage also. Finnegan is a great organist who can play anything, so while he typically plays in a bluesy style, he could jam with anyone anywhere. Finnegan spent much of late 1970 leading the house band at the Lion's Share in San Anselmo, alternating duties with Bill Champlin, so he was certainly a "friend of friends" at least with the Dead. I suppose Bill Champlin is a possibility also, as he not only played organ but was a pretty far out musician as well. Champlin was working in a band called The Rhythm Dukes at the time, with ex-Moby Grape guitarist Jerry Miller, but I guess he could have found time to drop by Winterland. Nonetheless, my money's on Howard Wales.

Guest Conguero
It takes ears much sharper than mine to identify the styles of different conga players. However, even to my ears its pretty clear that this cat can really play--this isn't some lead singer bopping along by adding a little rhythmic color on the congas, its a real player laying it down. Even by 1970, relatively few congueros were part of the rock scene, so the candidates are fewer.

The first choice for rock congas in San Francisco is always the Santana band. Santana had just played the weekend at Fillmore East (April 10-12) and were going to a big show in London (Saturday April 18). I suppose its possible that some band members flew home to San Francisco, and then flew back out to London. If so, then either Mike Carabello or Chepito Areas are reasonable possibilities--they were both fantastic players and friends with the Dead. Areas usually played timbales with Santana, but he was a fine conguero as well (also a great traps player, and a pretty good trumpet player too).

For local players, the next most likely choice would be Rico Reyes. Reyes had been in the group Sanpaku who supported the Dead many times and were quite friendly with them. Reyes played and sang on some Santana albums, and ended up helping to lead a fantastic group called Azteca in the early 1970s. He also played on some Quicksilver albums around this time (Just For Love and Fresh Air). He was a fine player who would likely always have been welcome onstage.

The most intriguing suggestion (proposed on a Wolfgang's Vault thread) was percussion great Airto Moreira. Airto had just been in town with Miles Davis, opening for the Dead at Fillmore West. Airto was still sort of an adjunct member of the band, perhaps why they were advertised as the Miles Davis Quintet on the Fillmore West poster. I'm not sure of Miles Davis's subsequent touring schedule, but Airto may not have been booked for further dates even if they were on Miles's itinerary. I don't know the exact circumstances of Airto's friendship with Mickey Hart and the Dead, but perhaps it started this early.

I should add that all of these percussive speculations might be correct. I was fortunate enough to see Airto sit in with the Dead a few times in the 1980s, and he is a fantastic traps drummer, so perhaps he played traps while someone else played congas, and any number of percussionists might have been on stage.  A picture would go a long way towards explaining this, but sadly I know of no such photos.

The April 15, 1970 performance is a fantastic performance, and its hard not to speculate on why the Dead played so well. Wednesday is not a typical working night for musicians, so perhaps a lot of friends were backstage, and Jerry and the boys decided to step up. It would be nice to know who joined them, if only to know who the band might have been trying to impress.

April 15, 1970 Winterland, San Francisco Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service

(A clip from Ralph Gleason's On The Town column in the San Francisco Chronicle, Wednesday, April 15, 1970)

By 1970, rock concerts were big business, and by any definition The Grateful Dead were rock stars. It may have been true that in 1970 many more people had heard of the Dead than had actually heard their music, and many of those who had heard their music had only the most passing acquaintance with it, having heard the occasional album track on FM radio or a bit of a record at a party, but the same is true of the Dead today. Rock stardom can project fame well beyond the music. In any case, thanks to Rolling Stone magazine, the local dailies and underground newspapers, the doings of the Grateful Dead were fairly well covered. Thus it remains remarkable how many 1970 Grateful Dead concerts remain quite mysterious.

Many Deadheads are familiar with a stellar board tape of the April 15, 1970 Winterland show. Save for a few clips and fades, the 99-minute tape appears to be a largely complete show. The lengthy set includes a number of unnamed guests during a jam after the drum solo, including a guitarist, an organist and a conga player (at least). Further research into this show reveals almost nothing--there is a sensational, memorable recording that has circulated widely, but barely a peep about the show otherwise: I know of no poster, review or photo, and only the barest of eyewitness accounts remain. This post attempts to draw conclusions from what little information is available about the promotion of the concert itself.

The Concert
I know of no poster or ads for this concert. The only reference to this show that I could find was two references in Ralph Gleason's column in the San Francisco Chronicle, briefly on Monday April 13 and then slightly more on April 15, the day of the concert (above). Gleason writes
Tonight the Jefferson Airplane, the Quicksilver Messenger Service and the Grateful Dead have their own dance at Winterland--"Three Bands for Three Dollars"
Gleason's phrasing distinctly suggests that the Dead, Airplane and the Quick are promoting their own show, and certainly this show never appears on any lists of BGP shows. However, on one of the Archive comment threads, an apparent eyewitness ("Evan S Hunt") writes
It Didn't Matter that the next day was a school day. I had boycotted all my classes. Many SF Bay Area college and university students had taken part in the drill to do the same. And while we struck, Apollo 13 astronauts were lorst into space. That morning heard a one time, last minute official public announcement on KSAN-FM that Bill Graham was throwing a midweek special.

About 5000 people emerged from out of the shadows and ponied-up the $5.50 GA charge. This is that show. This entire show appeals in that it was one of those shows when the band sits 'round the fire and moves as it wishes. No pressure, no hurry, no worry. Just get up and play and have fun. In 1970, the Grateful Dead was the kind of band that Bill Graham could ask to slip a little show in here and there to help with the bottom line. Was home well before 6 a.m. It didn't matter anyway. I had no classes that day, or the next. I slept until 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

And the killer portion of this whole episode was that I had previously attended all the GD's shows at Fillmore West in the previous seven days.
Long ago memories can be a tricky thing, with people conflating concerts in their mind, but there are a number of crucial reasons to find every word of this entirely believable. First of all, he has the date of the Apollo 13 crisis exactly correct, and the Student Strike of 1970 (too lengthy a digression to enter into here) was also a quite memorable event. Combined with the fact that the Dead had just played four nights at Fillmore West, I have every reason to believe Evan Hunt's memory of this show as a last second announcement. His memory begs an important question: who promoted this show? Why was Bill Graham on the radio pushing a last minute show, without tying it to his regular productions?

Bill Graham Presents, Circa 1970
There is a lot of mythology about Bill Graham and the Fillmores, most of it promulgated by Bill Graham. In reality, however, though the Fillmore Auditorium, Fillmore East and Fillmore West were cornerstones of the rock concert industry, that same industry had exploded to the point that those venues were no longer viable. In late 1969, Graham acknowledged that the land under the Fillmore West had been sold to Howard Johnson's, and the building would soon be demolished to build a hotel. At the same time, I am convinced that Graham was professionally afraid of a well capitalized competitor (such as Concerts West or Los Angeles-based Concert Associates) coming into San Francisco and pushing him out of business. This may seem unlikely now, but it wouldn't have seemed unlikely to Graham at the time. Winterland was simply another building for rent, and a big player with sufficient capital could lease the hall and instantly threaten the Fillmore West.

The whole subject of the San Francisco concert industry in 1970 is worth several posts on my other blog, but I am making the case here that Graham was both poking around for different business models while constantly reminding any out-of-town competitors that he was a local magician who owned the territory. By Spring 1970, the Airplane were bigger than ever (behind Volunteers), and more people had learned about the magic of The Dead (thanks to Live/Dead) and Quicksilver, whose first two albums were FM classics. Why have a "stealth" show, with little advance warning, in such a big hall?

One thing to consider is that the Grateful Dead had just headlined four memorable nights at the Fillmore West (April 9-12, Thursday through Sunday) with the Miles Davis Quintet (actually a sextet, since Airto Moreira had joined as percussionist). Thus contractually, the Dead at least would not have been allowed to advertise a show until the Fillmore West run was over. The Airplane and Quicksilver were less constrained, but the Quick would have just come back from the East Coast, and the Airplane were about to head East themselves. I suspect that means that both bands may have had uncertain schedules, so the show couldn't have been promoted as an Airplane/Quicksilver show, with the Dead added at the last second.

Gleason suggests that the three bands were putting on the show themselves. All the San Francisco bands, particularly the Dead, had a complex personal and business relationship with Bill Graham and Chet Helms, where they liked them personally yet competed with them financially. I suspect the Dead and the others wanted to put on their own show because they felt they could make more money than if they played Fillmore West, but the show could not have been promoted until the Dead's Fillmore West appearances were done. This suggests the Dead as instigators of this event, since the other two probably would have simply promoted the show in advance.

Yet Evan Hunt's memory--which seems quite clear--was firm about recalling Bill Graham announcing the show on the radio. Why would Graham announce a show by a band that had just headlined his hall, with some groups who were attempting to compete with him for the concert dollar in San Francisco? Since I've given you what little information there is about the show, anyone is free to supplement, rebut or transform my suggestions, which follow.
  • The Grateful Dead and Quicksilver wanted to put on a show in San Francisco, and the Airplane came along for the ride. The show was financially motivated--the bands thought they could make more money as the promoters of their own show. Wednesday April 15 was an open date and Winterland was an available hall. The student strike may have made the date seem especially propitious.
  • Since the Dead were booked at Fillmore West on April 9-12, their own show could not be publicized until the Fillmore West run was complete.
  • Putting on a large, professional rock show wasn't a lark; it required a professional crew and equipment. The best in the West was Bill Graham's Fillmore West operation, so the bands hired Bill Graham and his staff. There was no Fillmore West show on April 15 (John Mayall opened the next night at Fillmore West), so the crew was available. Graham was at least considering different business models, so acting as a crew for hire while another promoter (in this case the bands) took the financial risk was worth trying on for size.
  • While the Dead and the others were competing with Graham, their scope as competitors was limited to their own shows, but the threat of outside promoters was considerably more ominous. Graham needed to demonstrate to any potential competitors on both Coasts that these were still his bands, and more importantly insure that three hometown heroes did not hook up with major players in New York or Los Angeles.
Thus on April 15, 1970 the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service put on a show at Winterland to compete with Bill Graham Presents, and appear to have hired Bill Graham in order to do it. All of this is speculation on my part, if informed speculation: anyone with additional insights, information, objections or new ideas should post them in the Comments.

I will speculate on the guests at the April 15 Winterland show in my next post.

Tidemill school progress

Taking some photographs of the progress at Tidemill School and the newly-erected hoardings and traffic lights sent me back to the architect's rendering to check that the big overhang was actually meant to be there.

Seems like it is, and the hoardings are just protecting site staff who need to gain access to all sides of the building as construction progresses. Annoyingly it means that the traffic lights are going to be there until at least January 2011. Apologies for the two views being from opposite ends of the street, by the way; the sun was in the wrong place this morning to match the view up with the rendering!

Construction work next to the railway line is progressing so rapidly that it's now impossible to see on site from the station platform.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Urban screen 19th May: SUS

Urban Screen at the Albany Theatre in Deptford is showing the newly-released film SUS in a special screening next Wednesday.

"1979 Election Night, as Thatcher comes into power. SUS takes place on that very night, when Delroy (Clint Dyer: Unknown White Male, Sahara) is being interrogated about his pregnant wife who has been found dead in a pool of blood. With all the evidence stacking up against him, Delroy continually refuses to confess. He suffers a night of callous humiliation at the hands of two racist coppers (Ralph Brown: The Crying Game, Withnail & I, Rafe Spall, The Calcium Kid, Hot Fuzz), both high on the impending Conservative landslide victory, and more concerned with the outcome of the election than establishing the truth.

Written in 1979 by Barrie Keefe (The Long Good Friday) and based on a true story, SUS is a powerful cry against institutional racism, which is as relevant today as ever. Instead of SUS ("suspect under suspicion"), there is "stop and search" under Section 44 of the Terrorist Act of 2000."

Urban Screen will be showing the film in a special screening on 19th May @ 7pm at the Albany in Deptford. The event includes a panel discussion with main actor Clint Dyer, Barrie Keeffe (tbc), Duwayne Brooks and Benjamin Zephaniyah.

Eat Meet supperclub

'Deptford borders' (New Cross/Brockley if you're being precise) is getting its own supperclub as from next month, when Julie & Sophie will be hosting the first 'Eat Meet Supperclub' at Julie's house.

If you're not familiar with this phenomena, where have you been? Basically it involves members of the public opening up their homes to cook meals for total strangers; usually at a very reasonable price compared to eating out at a restaurant. Blackheath's Savoy Truffle Supperclub even made it into the top ten supperclubs as voted by the Times last year. While the idea of being a host leaves me cold, the prospect of someone else cooking me dinner while I get to have a nosy in their house a la Come Dine With Me, is rather more attractive.

Anyway, here's what Julie says about Eat Meet Supperclub:

"It happens monthly in my home in Brockley / New Cross / Telegraph Hill. It'll be for 'everyone' one month, and for singles the next. Each event will be food-themed and the £25 donation includes three, four or five courses (depending on the cuisine), a cocktail on arrival and you can bring your own booze (no corkage). If the weather's good, it'll in in our sunny garden.
It'll be on Saturday nights, and we've just released the first two dates, so to book, please email Sophie at"

Forthcoming dates are:
Saturday 26th June – everyone welcome (foodie theme 'summery euro mash-up')
Saturday 17th July – straight singles (foodie theme 'Abigail's party retro classics')

Like any self-respecting venture these days they have a blog and a facebook group

If you go along, do feel free to report back!

Margaret McMillan Park

Today being the first sunny day I had the chance to wander freely with my camera, I took the opportunity to spend some time considering the newly-reopened and redeveloped Margaret McMillan Park.

My first observation (albeit with some reservations, about which more later) is that it is a HUGE improvement on the previous situation. The designers have achieved their aim of improving visibility and sight lines through the park and opening it up to become a much more cohesive space, but without making it sterile. There are a lot more paths which increase accessibility through the park from all sides, encouraging greater use.

Although many of the shrubs were removed to improve visibility, the mature trees were mostly retained. They counterbalance the fresh just-planted look of the borders and new shrubs, and were being fully exploited by local birdlife during my visit.

The seating is excellent and plentiful - consisting of a combination of big slabs of stone (vandal-proof if a little cold on the bum) and some very good quality, solidly-made park benches. The children's play area also has a couple of heavy wooden picnic tables - not the removable type, I hasten to add. These are solidly connected to the ground!

The play area has been rebuilt with a variety of equipment, although some of it does seem to be missing - hopefully the swings are yet to be erected, and haven't been pinched already.

One of the climbing frames also seems to be missing a ring.

At the New Cross end of the park, a couple of carved tree trunks have been erected. I'm not really sure about these - firstly whether they fit, secondly how they will weather over time. One is carved with some seemingly random patterns, a horse and some numbers, the other is inspired by the McMillan sisters and their contributions to Deptford's history. The latter has been rather inconveniently sited next to a bed of lavender, and in order to read the wording, which spirals round the trunk of the tree, you have to trample through the bed.

Despite my misgivings about the carved sculptures, it's good to see new benches and marble seating at this end too, encouraging people to linger and use the park rather than it just being a cut-through to New Cross Station.

New signage at each end of the park, including stone blocks carved with the name of the park and new sign posts, reinforce the new image of the area as a park - somewhere to go to, not just to pass through.

And what of my reservations? Firstly, what's with the sticky things? Interesting at first glance, but ultimately rather pointless. I feel that they detract from the nice natural landscaping that has otherwise been achieved. I fear they will act as graffiti magnets and will prove neither vandal-proof nor durable. Since they are 'planted' at regular intervals, it will only take the loss of one of them to upset the balance.

Three bike racks in the middle of the park. I hear the deafening sound of a box being ticked, and suspect that these racks will never be graced by a bicycle. The only possible reason someone would want to lock their bike up in the park would be if they were bringing their kids to the play area - but the play area is so small it is easy enough to lean your bike against one of the blocks of marble/picnic tables and keep an eye on it. If you are sitting on one of the benches you would lean your bike up against the back of the bench. If you are going to the town centre, you would use one of the bike racks closer to the shops.

Overall, a vast improvement with just a few minor niggles. Work on Fordham Park is now under way, we'll be keeping an eye out to see how this pans out.