6 JULY 2006




Quintessence: In Blissful Company As the hippy movement went horribly wrong with the Altamont and Manson murders, to Quintessence ‘things look great in Notting Hill Gate, we all sit around and meditate.’ According to the ‘Hippy Atrocities’ Oz 25 review of their debut Island album, ‘In Blissful Company’, the track ‘Getting it Straight in Notting Hill Gate’ ‘transcends a tendency towards total banality in the lyrics and achieves the status of a minor classic.’ After getting it straight in All Saints church hall with a lot of Grateful Dead-style ‘collective jamming’, Quintessence became known as the ultimate or worst progressive-jazz-rock-blues-Indian-cosmic-trance-hippy group, with their own in-house guru Swami Ambikananda. Having said that, they don’t sound that weird today, and back in 1969 they were described in Oz as ‘still very much your typical English blues rock outfit.’ But they didn’t look like one.

Jim Anderson (who would shortly become one of the defendants in the ‘Schoolkids’ Oz trial) had seen Quintessence ‘swanning around the Grove in their robes and sandals’, and was expecting ‘an oriental trip at least as heavy as George Harrison’s’ when he met the Australian Hindu-convert singer, Shiva (formerly Phil) Jones, on Portobello. And he wasn’t disappointed. In due course, Anderson found himself ‘cross-legged on a cushion in his incense laden pad, sipping peppermint tea, slightly distracted by the Indian petit-point of the carpets and wall hangings, mesmerised by the caste mark on his forehead, listening to his serious, gentle talk.’

Shiva explained Quintessence, and their take on oriental hippyness, telling him: “Occasionally we have kirtan which is devotional singing used to invoke Krishna consciousness. It produces a state of complete relaxation and happiness. Getting audiences to join in, which we always try to do, frees their minds from fetters, makes them forget earthly matters… At the moment our sound is simple, but eastern influence is likely to grow, and we may issue an album devoted entirely to chanting, which may be more difficult to understand… The message that we are trying to put across in our music is that it is within the grasp of everyone to attain infinite knowledge, love and peace. Every track on the record reflects upon the infinite consciousness which pervades everything.” Getting It Straight In Notting Hill Gate is also the title of a short film by Joe Gannon, the Pink Floyd and Quintessence lighting whiz kid.

The Third Ear and the People Bands In the late 60s, All Saints high church services were also given by David Bowie – during his mime phase, the Crazy World of Arthur Brown – doing ‘Fire’, the Edgar Broughton Band – doing ‘Out Demons Out’, the Third Ear Band with Tina’s Light Theatre, and the People Band. The Carnival founder Rhaune Laslett recalled an All Saints happening involving Jeff Nuttall of the People Band, ‘motorbikes and very scantily dressed girls riding pillion, throwing jam covered newspapers and other paint dripping missiles at the audience.’

Along Talbot Road, another important prog rock site is the studio next to the Globe bar where Yes practiced. This duly led to the building being sprayed with ‘No’ graffiti by Heathcote Williams; which in turn resulted in the Banksy prototype being beaten up by a gang of waiters.

On Westbourne Park Road, the Third Ear Band performed ‘cosmic ragas’ every Thursday at the Safari Tent Caribbean store at number 207 (which also hosted the early 60s Jazz club). Down Lancaster Road, in the Methodist church hall, there was ‘music, poetry, theatre every Wednesday’ at the Crypt folk club, featuring Jeff Nuttall’s experimental jazz People Band and the Third Ear Band.

The Pink Fairies’ Portobello Shuffle in Never-neverland In the messy aftermath of the 60s and the Deviants, Mick Farren returned from his bad stateside trip to stay at 56 Chesterton Road in North Kensington, on and off, through the 70s. As the hippy Napoleon of Notting Hill, he saved International Times from the London Street Commune, hells angels, and Richard Neville’s attempt to form an underground media monopoly.

On the return of the remaining Deviants (Duncan Sanderson, Russell Hunter and Paul Rudolph), they relaunched themselves as the Pink Fairies. Originally, ‘the Pink Fairies All Star Rock’n’Roll Show Motorcycle Circus’ was a drinking club/biker gang/glam rock terrorist cell who met at the Speakeasy (near Oxford Circus), encompassing all the Deviants, the Pretty Things, Larry Wallis, Vivs Prince and Stanshall, Steve Peregrin Took and Keith Moon of the Who.

The Pretty Things drummer Twink had an earlier Fairies group in Colchester, and through him Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd was in the Pink Fairies family tree – but soon fell out again. The Floyd and the Fairies also have flying pigs imagery in common (ie. real pigs, not policemen), but that’s about it. The Fairies’ ‘Never-neverland’ debut album features their live standard, ‘Uncle Harry’s Last Freakout’, recounting a 1970 hippy happening in Holland Park being broken up by police. As reported in the underground paper Frendz, ‘a large crowd of freaks were gathered, quietly smoking dope and playing guitars, when a bunch of pigs (in this case, policemen), cunningly disguised as bushes and shrubs, leapt out and busted part of the crowd.’

Underground Underworld: Frendz The literary equivalent of the Pink Fairies was (ironically enough, after the TV series) called Friends. The most underground paper of them all began as the 60s ended, when Mick Jagger and Jann Wenner pulled the plug on the UK edition of Rolling Stone, for generally getting too radical; originally as Friends of Rolling Stone. After Jann Wenner sued the title was changed to Friends, and when Alan Marcuson quit as editor and John Trux took over it became Frendz; in Jan O’Malley’s Politics of Community Action it’s miss-spelt Frenz.

Following the party celebrating the end of the UK Rolling Stone, where Marc Bolan was spiked with acid, Alan Marcuson established 305 (now Uncle’s restaurant) as Portobello’s most renowned hippy number. Here pop, pot and politics became inextricably entwined as Friends was run by Marcuson and Charlie Radcliffe, the Situationist-turned-Howard Marksist, ‘out of chaotic offices at the north end – the sleaziest, blackest, most druggy end of the Portobello Road.’

In Jonathon Green’s Days in the Life, the UK Rolling Stone editor Andrew Bailey speaks more highly of its radical off-shoot: “It was the highlight of my week to go up there and score off Little Tony. Friends was unbelievable… nothing had prepared me for this. There was Friends, ripping off every image they could find, doing it all on IBM golfballs and actually making a far more vibrant product than the supposedly professional techniques we used at Rolling Stone managed. The north end of Portobello Road on a Saturday morning to me was absolutely magic, I loved it.” At Friends height, in Nigel Fountain’s Underground eulogy, ‘the phantom of the 1950s Village Voice was stalking Portobello Road.’

Portobello Headshops Through the 70s the ground floor of 305 was Ross Grainger’s Sunflower ‘alternative shop’, which specialised in chillums, Kandahar shirts, incense, natural oils, Morrocan leather bags, Tibetan prints, rock posters, head books by Jack Kerouac, Herman Hess and Aleister Crowley, and studies of Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism. In the Frendz 29 ‘Clasifadz’ plug for ‘Ross’s toys and bags’ at the Friends shop and the Family Dog Shop at 2 Blenheim Crescent, Ross is described as ‘a sailmaker by trade’ who ‘specialises in real sail canvas flax, the ancient Egyptian magic material.’

Philm Freakz A few doors down, Ten Years After were filmed, and photographed by Philm Freakz, pretending to play on the pavement outside the Forbidden Fruit headshop at 295. The TYA frontman Alvin Lee and Philm Freakz (real name, Phil Franks) both lived on Portobello at the time. The latter’s abode was a crash-pad and pose location of Graham Bond, Hawkwind, Gong and Yes; he also photographed the pre-Phil Collins Genesis in Kensal Green cemetery. Ten Years After had previously appeared at Woodstock in 1969, and released the ‘Stonedhenge’ album.

Today the Portobello headshop tradition is maintained, and personified by Lee Harris and Hank of Alchemy (originally at number 253, now at 261), who had a drug paraphernalia counter-culture trial in the 90s.

The Sacred Geometry of the Great Pyramid, Stonehenge, Glastonbury and 307 Portobello Road In 1971 the second Glastonbury Fayre was mobilised by Arabella Churchill (Winston’s hippy granddaughter), whose Revelation Enterprises were next door to Frendz at 307 Portobello Road. This one featured a predominantly Notting Hill-based or associated line-up; Bowie, Bolan, Traffic, Mighty Baby, Stacia’s debut with Hawkwind, the Pink Fairies and Skin Alley; with posters by Barney Bubbles, and was filmed by Nic Roeg and David Puttnam. Frendz reported that ‘Arabella Churchill put up a lot of the bread and suffered constant hassles from her family.’ The origin of the Glastonbury festival and the cosmic significance of the site was explained by Andrew Kerr, as to do with sacred geometry:

‘Worthy Farm is linked to Stonehenge, the Glastonbury Zodiac and the great cosmic pattern of ley lines and energy points. The whole system is a mind-bender… Sacred geometry is to do with the measurements of the Universe… all the stone circles and megalithic structures in the world are built according to sacred geometry. The freemasons who built the ancient churches and cathedrals guarded those secrets until they became obscured by establishment ritual and archaeological arrogance. These secrets are gradually being unearthed by divinely inspired men like John Michell, Keith Critchlow and Nosher… Imagine all heavenly bodies transmitting astrological impulses (the Earth included). These impulses are received and transmitted at high energy points (Stonehenge, Glastonbury etc). All these energy points are connected by leys, corresponding to the nervous system in the human body. The leys are therefore the Earth’s nerves by which messages are passed… The stage at Glastonbury fair was built in the form of the Great Pyramid on a powerful blind spring in the hope that it would draw to it beneficial astrological influence into our tired planet… For those who’d read such books as John Michell’s View Over Atlantis the site itself was of special importance: the junction of the leylines under the pyramid and the spiritual importance of Glastonbury itself…’

Blenheim Crescent Illuminati The last incarnation of Frendz, edited by John Trux and John May, was back along Portobello at 2 Blenheim Crescent, above the Dog Shop. The Oz designer Richard Adams moved up Blenheim Crescent to carry on designing the last issues of Oz, IT and Frendz with Barney Bubbles, the Index of Possibilities featuring Michael Moorcock stories, cOzmic comics and the Bruce Lee Kung Fu Monthly postermags. Adams went on to found the Open Head Press with Heathcote Williams, and through the 70s they shared the upstairs offices with the Index, Emma Tennant’s Bananas surrealist quarterly, Hasslefree Press/Knockabout Comics, the Legalise Cannabis Campaign, John Michell, Moorcock, Hawkwind, Gong, Marianne Faithfull and Boss Goodman. Open Head publications have included The Fanatic proto-X-files magazine, and the programme for Ken Campbell’s Illuminatus conspiracy theory fringe theatre epic, starring the Frestonian Time Bandits star David Rappaport.

The Children of Albion Emma Tennant wrote in her Burnt Diaries of Blenheim Crescent/Kensington Park Road (now more famous for the real Travel bookshop represented in Notting Hill the movie), ‘indeed this corner of Notting Hill would be hard to define in a travel guide. It’s possible to think of it as Albion, when Michael Horovitz walks past, or Boadicea’s city, when John Michell, decoder of ancient runes and druidic circles, breezes along the pavement outside.’ In Soft City, Michael Horovitz’s ‘Vision of Portobello’ poem from The Children of Albion anthology – featuring ‘screaming tricycles and melons, lettuces and ripe negroes, stripe shirt, and others proud walking’ – is cited by Jonathan Raban as a prime example of Blakean hippy mysticism in ‘The Magical City’ chapter.

Macrobiotic Fantasia Jonathan Raban singled out the Sams’ macrobiotic healthfood store, Ceres on Portobello Road, as the most disturbing aspect of the early 70s acid Fantasia: ‘The girls who drift about the store, filling wire baskets with soya beans, miso and wakame sea weed, have the dim inwardness of gaze of Elizabeth Siddall in Rosetti’s ‘Jenny’. In bedsitters in Ladbroke Grove, they create themselves over gas rings, feeding their immaculate insides on harmoniously balanced amounts of yin and yang foods. It is hard to tell whether their beatific expressions come from their convictions of inner virtue or from undernourishment.’

The Sams family store first appeared as the Macrobiotic Restaurant on Campden Hill Road, with Graham Bond playing in the basement. After that you could find ‘a whole universe in a bowl of brown rice’ at 136 Westbourne Terrace, where Marc Bolan met Mickey Finn, while the Ceres Bakery on Freston Road was subject to Here & Now gigs. Aside from dishing up muesli, bean stew and brown rice to the hippy festival masses, the Sams family (Craig, Greg, Ann) were wholefood suppliers to the Bolans and the Lennons. They also published the Harmony mag, Seed: The Journal of Organic Living, the 1977 Portobello Guide and Gideon Sams’ The Punk novel (filmed as The Punk and the Princess). In the guide Ann Sams calls the Lancaster Road to Oxford Gardens section of the road ‘the Portobello Village’; the alternative market of ‘reggae music, soul food, underground newspapers, wholewheat bread, Bedouin dresses, art deco objects, natural shoes, herbal medicines, a free shop, brown rice, and a gypsy fortune teller.’



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