Hoppy – Underground Head

 KRIS NEEDS watched an array of film clips from Hoppy – An Underground Head and took in a rather surreal performance from fellow head and friend Michael Horovitz on a wet Saturday day afternoon in Alexandra Palace


Michael Horovitz’s ebullient song-poetry rang around Alexandra Palace on Saturday – just like 50 years ago when the UK’s original beat poet and counterculture instigator was one of countless performers at The 14 Hour Technicolour Dream.

Although famously visited by a tripping John Lennon and closed by Pink Floyd as the sun beamed in through the mighty windows, The Technicolour Dream became something of a watershed for London’s burgeoning underground scene but also marked the end of this brief age of innocence as the media and establishment prepared to pounce and destroy.

There would follow numerous establishment persecutions and drug busts, including underground dynamo John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins, who got nine months for supposedly possessing marijuana but was really a prime target for establishing International Times, starting the UFO club with Joe Boyd (where London experienced its first all-night raves), promoting The 14 Hour Technicolour Dream and co-founding The Notting Hill Carnival as an annual event.

Hoppy, who died in January 2015, was the main reason filmmakers Malcolm Boyle and Carl Stickley organised The Happening Tent at the Pally on Saturday, showing working footage from Hoppy – Underground Head, their proposed film designed to celebrate this crucial figure in the UK underground before his rich but fragmented history is lost forever. The pair have already shot interviews with Hoppy and his contemporaries for the film, providing a first-hand account of the original London underground as it felt at the time.

Although trained as a nuclear physicist, Hoppy soon discovered his talent for nailing the perfect music photograph, including the shot of Brian Jones with his back turned to a steaming Ally Pally crowd that suggested the venerable Great Hall would be a suitable venue for a gathering of the clans and party celebrating the new underground (while raising money to finance IT). But on June 1st, he was hauled up on trumped up drugs charges that saw him sent down by a judge who described him as “a pest to society”. As a “Free Hoppy” campaign kicked up, he served six months while becoming a martyr to the new drugs consciousness as Stephen Abrams started a campaign to liberalise the cannabis laws and Paul McCartney took out a full-page ad in The Times calling for its decriminalisation.

The film is essential, both as a document of this vitally influential time and as a tribute to one of the key figures in pioneering everything we hold dear today. It was slightly eerie hearing the Floyd ringing out at Ally Pally again half a century later and incongruous but life-affirming to see the 82-year-old Michael Horovitz still at it, giving animated readings of his poems and playing imaginary kazoo to mainly an audience of families driven in by the torrential rain. The man’s a story in himself and also deserving of a movie, as shown by his epic answer to just one question from Malcolm Boyle that included being at the meeting where CND was launched and staging 1965’s landmark Wholly Communion poetry event at The Royal Albert Hall now credited with being the global underground’s first show of strength and unity.

Let’s start with Hoppy. Go to www.hoppyfilm.com to find out more and how you can contribute.


Jesse Ed Davis: Washita Love Child

Native American guitar prodigy JESSE ED DAVIS was sidesman for legends such as John Lennon, Gene Clark, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, and released a trio of solo albums in the early ‘70s. THOMAS PATTERSON hears personal memories of a man who died young but burned brightly from Mike Johnson, producer of new compilation Red Dirt Boogie: The Atco Recordings 1970-1972

I was a big fan of Jesse, because I’m a Beatles’ freak. I had a lot of the bootlegs, going back into the early ‘70s. I had the Walls and Bridges session that he was very prominent on.

Being in LA, I read in the LA Weekly that Yoko Ono was doing an art show. This was in 1985, and I thought, “I’m going to crash it and see if I can get in.” I was waiting in line at the gallery, and I noticed Jesse was in line a few people back. I invited him up to where I was standing, two from the door. I said, “I’m a big fan, I know your work.” I ran his discography by him. He was very interesting, he wanted to talk. When the door opened, we went in and mingled, and Jesse saw Yoko, and took me with him, and introduced me. “Mike Johnson, this is Yoko Ono.” And I thought, “Holy cow, I’ve arrived!”

We spoke for a few minutes then Jesse took Yoko off to the side. I don’t know what they talked about but it looked very serious and then she left. Was he there to ask her for money, was he there to ask for a favour, as he there just out affection? I never knew and I never asked. But while we were in line, we exchanged phone numbers. A few days went by and he actually called me. I was at work, and he asked if I were ever around, could I give him a lift? And I said, “Sure, I can take you wherever you need to go.” And that’s where it started.

I was always really honoured when Jesse would call and ask for a favour like that. It was just really cool having that audience with him, one on one in my car as we’re driving some place. Many times I didn’t ask him why we were going somewhere, it was kind of weird. Of course, this was way back before Uber. But by picking him up and driving him places, I could ask him questions.

He lived on Sawtelle in Palms. Often, I’d be in his apartment and he’d show me things – he had tapes, he had photographs. I was seeing Polarioids and photographs that weren’t in an album but were in a shoebox. And he this old TV tray, and underneath this tray was the box of photos. He’d loan me cassettes, things like Taj Mahal live at The Fillmore. He was a giving sort, it was tit for tat. And sometimes he’d come and hang in my condo in Redondo, and he’d sit on the sofa and play the blues.

One day I showed up at his, and he said “Did I ever show you this?” It was The Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus. It was a rough cut, years before it came out andhe said Bill Wyman had given it to him. And I sat and watched it in his apartment. I thought, “What a wonderful in into this world.” And all I had to do was occasionally loan him twenty dollars and drive him someplace. Read more Jesse Ed Davis: Washita Love Child


Shindig! Broadcast #39

Jon ‘Mojo’ Mills and Thomas Patterson just get on with playing what they want, manning the mother ship Soho into uncharted territories… or something like that


George Tipton ‘One’

M. J. Parker ‘Can I Find A Way’

America ‘Rainy Day’

The Byrds ‘Gunga Din’

Bondoogle & Balderdash ‘Never Got To Know Him’

General Johnson ‘ Saginaw County Line’

David ‘Please Mr. Policeman’

Orange Bicycle ‘Last Cloud Home’

Humble Pie ‘As Safe As Yesterday Is’

Andy Robinson ‘Absolutely The End’

Honeybus ‘She Sold Blackpool Rock’

Jesse Ed Davis ‘Washita Love Child’

Jim Sullivan ’Tom Cat’

Link Wray ‘Fire & Brimstone’

49th Blue Streak ‘Foxy Lady’

The Thomas Group ‘Capricorn Colours’

Travis Pike’s Tea Party ‘If I Didn’t Love You Girl’

Lowell George & The Factory ’Sleep Tight’

Kaleidoscope ‘Pulsating Dream’

Shiva’s Headband ‘Ebeneezer’

The Paupers ‘Copper Penny’

Gary Wright & Wonderwheel ‘Lovetaker’

SRC ‘Midnight Fever’

The Grateful Dead ‘In The Pines’

The Grateful Dead ’Shakedown Street’

The Peels ’Time Marches On’