Tag Archives: Pink Floyd

Coco and The Butterfields: from street busking to Facebook to merchandising

(from left) Micah, Rob, Dulcima, Tom, Jamie

C and The Bs are (from left) Micah Hyson, Rob Wicks, Dulcima Showan, Tom Twyman, Jamie Smith

Last night, I chatted to the band Coco and The Butterfields before their gig at The Borderline club in London and I survived the riskiest question you can ever ask a band with a name like that.

Allegedly an American record executive once talked to Pink Floyd and asked them: “So which one is Pink?” It ended up in their song Have a Cigar.

Last night, talking to Coco and The Butterfields, I asked: “So which one is Coco?”

“I suppose it’s me,” said Tom Twyman. “It was an alias I created when I joined Facebook in 2011… I didn’t want people to know I had joined because I had told people I didn’t like it but I thought I needed it to socially network. Coco Butterfield was just a name I came up with. The band didn’t have a name, we started using my Facebook page for the band, so we called ourselves Coco and The Butterfields.”

Dulcima and Tom at The Borderline last night

Dulcima & Tom on stage at The Borderline, London. last night

There are five in the band: Dulcima, Jamie, Micah, Rob and Tom but interestingly no percussion. That role is filled brilliantly by ‘beatboxer’ Jamie, whose importance to their sound wasn’t immediately obvious to me until he did a couple of extraordinary solos.

“Jamie was one of Canterbury’s pivotal buskers,” Rob told me. “You don’t get many people beatboxing on the streets of Canterbury.”

They all used to busk individually, then joined up after Tom and Dulcima met and started playing together. The five of them have what Rob calls “a diversity of musical tastes”.

The first track of theirs I heard was Warriors (there is a video on YouTube) which made me think they were a folk-based band but, in fact, with a cover of Fresh Prince of Bel Air in their repertoire, they are quite difficult to categorise. They have coined the rather unappealing name Fip Fok to try to combine Folk, Pop and Hip Hop.

“We’re an eclectic band,” Dulcima told me. “We’re a fusion band. We’re folky pop. We bring so many different elements separately and then, when we collaborate, everyone will chuck in different things.”

“Will you have to compromise to get a record deal?” I asked.

“We don’t want a record deal,” said Dulcima.

“Is that,” I asked, “to avoid corporate compromise or because of the internet?”

“Mostly,” said Dulcima, “because we have a lot of facilities and a lot of resources, just through people we know. The people we know have skills and are more help than a record label, which would just take a cut of everything we do.”

“It’s a lot easier nowadays,” said Tom, “to release your own records.”

“Basically,” said Micah, “we don’t want people poking their noses in.”

Coco and The Butterfields busking in Durham

Street wise – Coco and The Butterfields busking in Durham

“That’s always best,” I said. “So how are you going to make your millions? Are you going to do it online?”

“The aim,” said Rob, “is to play to as many people as humanly possible.”

“Really, we are a festival band,” said Dulcima.

“I think that’s our natural state of being,” agreed Rob.

“But you won’t necessarily succeed just playing live will you?” I asked.

“Of course,” said Rob, “to a certain extent, you do have to turn yourself into a business. The band is a business and that’s how we treat it.”

“Bands these days,” said Dulcima, “are not like in the past where you could make money with records. You make a bit but it’s all downloads and people buying at gigs.”

“Basically, the main income is live shows and merchandising,” explained Rob.

One of the merchandising webpages

Some C & The Butterfields merchandising

I did not spot it myself but one page of their website, my eternally-un-named friend spotted, is advertising one EP and two teeshirts. So they have shrewdly realised that merchandising is at least as important as music sales.

Dulcima makes her own on-stage clothes and had a choice of either going into a career making textiles or joining the band. Obviously, she chose the band. But soon her clothes are going to be sold on the band’s website.

She told me: “There will be the option to buy skirts, waistcoats, children’s waistcoats, little girls’ dresses. They’re all patchwork and they will all be very different to each other.”

“That’s very interesting,” I said. “So, in order to do what you want to do creatively – which is make music – you’re going to partly finance it – quite rightly – by merchandising.”

“It’s kind of a twin project, really,” Dulcima corrected me.

“And your first tour is coming up,” I said, “at the end of April/beginning of May.”

“What’s really fun is gigging a lot,” said Dulcima.

They were slightly concerned at only having a 45-minute slot at The Borderline last night. They prefer 90-minute performances. But they need not have worried. Their pacing and – ooh err, missus – climaxing last night were perfect. They are a superb live band.

Their performance at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury

Previous biggest show at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury

On 28th June, they will be performing their biggest gig so far – to 2,400 at the Margate Winter Gardens; their previous biggest gig was to 1,200.

“Why perform music at all?” I asked last night.

“Well,” said Micah, “Speaking personally, there’s only a certain amount of things I’m alright at. Music, rock-climbing, growing a beard and listing things.”

“Listing things?” I asked. “What sort of things?”

“Music, rock-climbing, growing a beard and listing things,” he replied.

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My encounters with Jesus Christ… and the reason I could say Yes to heroin

In yesterday’s blog – drink.

Today – drugs.

Tomorrow, who knows?

If you are lucky, maybe even sex.

I was 13 when the Beatles hit big; I was 17 in the Summer of Love. Prime druggie material.

I once spent a long time in a kitchen in Clapham with a close friend of mine and the boyfriend of one of her friends who, let’s say, was called Susan. We were trying to persuade him that Susan did not really want to see him and that he should get the train back to his home town in the north of England. The problem was that he knew he was Jesus Christ and this kept getting in the way of the discussion. He kept telling us how he could change anything by deciding it was changed. We eventually persuaded him to go with us to St Pancras station and we did put him on a train north, but he was of the opinion he did not really need to travel on trains as he was the Messiah.

The second time I encountered Jesus Christ was a couple of weeks after a plane had crashed on a crowded rural area in (I think it was) Holland. The person who had done this was prepared to make a plane similarly crash onto the Thames TV building in Euston Road, London. He told me (the person who said he made the plane crash) that he would do this unless Thames TV issued an on-air apology because one of their programmes had offended him and I should pay attention to what he said because his father just happened to be God and he himself, as you will have guessed, was Jesus Christ.

I have never taken any non-medical, so-called ‘recreational’ drugs though, at one time, I would have done.

The only drugs which ever attracted me were heroin and LSD.

Marijuana in any of its forms never attracted me. It just seemed to be an alternative to drink, though less self-destructive than alcohol and spirits.

I lost count of the number of times I sat in a room in the 1960s or 1970s while other people smoked joints and talked utter drivel.

The next day, they would go on and on about what a great, deep and meaningful philosophical discussion they had had the night before and I would think:

“Nope. I was there. You were talking utter drivel, like five year-olds after eight pints of beer.”

Hellfire – forget “I sat in a room in the 1960s or 1970s” – I have sat in rooms throughout my life listening to stoned people talking drivel.

Amiable drivel. But drivel nonetheless.

It is rubbish to say weed has no effect on anyone in the long term. Not if you take it regularly in significant quantities over a long period.

Neil in The Young Ones TV series was not a fantasy character.

That was social realism.

I have worked with real Neils.

I remember a very amiable and well-meaning but totally brain-groggy and decision-incapable head of department at a regional ITV company in the 1990s. His entire brain had been turned into semolina by twenty years or more of weed and pseudo-philosophical befuddlement. If he had been an alcoholic, he would have been dribbling saliva out the sides of his mouth; as it was, his few remaining brain cells were almost visibly dribbling out of his ears.

I might well have tried hash in the 1960s or 1970s but it just seemed to be a milder version of alcohol with less aggressive effects and there was also a seemingly tiny but actually rather large practical problem: I had never smoked nicotine cigarettes, so the whole technique of smoking and inhaling was alien to me. If anyone had offered me hash cakes, I would have eaten them; but no-one ever did.

To me, marijuana in whatever form was and is a mild and uninteresting drug. If you want to be relaxed, then I recommend you just eat a marshmallow, don’t stuff one inside your brain cavity.

A friend of mine told me in the 1970s: “You just don’t understand what weed is like because you have never taken it.”

But, in the 1980s, I vividly remember standing in Soho with a long-term alcoholic I knew as he looked lovingly into the crowded window display of Gerry’s booze shop in Old Compton Street.

You could see the tenderness and nostalgic thoughts in his eyes as they moved from bottle to bottle and from label to label.

I was not an alcoholic, but I could see objectively what the drink had done and was doing to him.

In a sense, to see the real effect of a drug, you have to not take it.

I was always very strongly attracted to LSD.

It held the very major attraction to me of mind-alteration and making surrealism real. But the attraction and alarm bells over-lapped and, in any case, LSD was not available in my circles in my middle class area in Ilford, East London/Essex in the late 1960s.

Yes, I went to events at the Arts Lab in Drury Lane; yes I read International Times and went to Blackhill Enterprises’ free rock concerts in Hyde Park before the sheer scale of the Rolling Stones’ appearance in 1969 ruined them. But life in Ilford at that point was not druggy.

By the time LSD was available to me, I had read enough about people freaking out on it, read of Syd Barrett self-destructing in Pink Floyd, seen other people’s minds gone wrong. And then there were the Manson Murders in 1969. Not acid-induced as such, but not totally unrelated to druggy people’s minds going haywire.

The logic of LSD, as I saw it, was that you could alter the chemical balance inside your mind and, as it were, temporarily re-arrange the inter-connections. But if you felt, as I rightly or wrongly did, that perhaps your mind was potentially ‘near the edge’ to begin with, then there was the obvious danger that LSD would tip you permanently over the edge.

So I would have taken acid during a short window of opportunity but it was not available to me until after that window of acceptance had closed. I never took it. And reading about Beach Boy Brian Wilson’s mind being sent spinning over the edge by one drink spiked with acid did not change my opinion. He spiralled out of control after that first acid trip of course but, the way Rolling Stone told it, the whole spiral began with that one tab of acid.

With heroin: the same thing. When I would have taken it, the stuff was not available to me. When it was available I no longer wanted to take it.

When I was in my late teens, a close friend of mine married someone who was ‘an ex–heroin addict’. But, even then I knew that being an ex-heroin addict is a bit like being an ex-member of the SAS. You can never be too sure.

Years later, when the first anti-heroin ads appeared on TV, a close friend of mine said to me, “They make smack look bloody attractive, don’t they?” and I had to agree with her. If I had been an impressionable young teenager and it had been available, I would almost certainly have taken heroin. The first anti-heroin TV commercials were almost, but not quite, as good a commercial for smack as Trainspotting which felt to me like a positive Jerusalem of an anthemic hymn to the attractions of smack.

That first injection of heroin may, as I have been told, give you the biggest high – the most gigantic orgasmic leap – you have ever had. But it is also a drug for nihilists.

So that’s the one for me.

I think, with heroin, the potential lows can be as attractive as the highs – something the anti-heroin ads never seem to have realised.

Whereas cocaine seems to me to be the drug of self-doubting egotists who want to prove to themselves that they are as special as they hope they might be.

But that is another blog.

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Rutger Hauer says more about life in “Blade Runner” than the Bible, the Koran and Douglas Adams

Last night, I watched Brian De Palma’s movie The Untouchables on TV. The music is by Ennio Morricone.

“That music is very sad,” I said to the friend who was watching it with me. “An old man’s music. He composed the music for Once Upon a Time in the West too. That’s melancholic.”

I think you have to be over a certain age to fully appreciate Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West. It’s not about death, it’s about dying and it’s very long.

On YouTube recently, I stumbled on the closing sequence of Richard Attenborough’s movie Oh! What a Lovely War.

I cried.

I watched it five times over the next week. I cried each time I saw the final shot. I bought the DVD from Amazon and watched it with a (slightly younger) friend. I cried at the closing sequence, watching the final shot. One single shot, held for over two minutes. She didn’t understand why.

Clearly the cancer and cancer scares swirling amid my friends must be having their toll.

Someone has put online all issues of the British hippie/alternative culture newspaper International Times (aka “it”).

I was the Film Section editor for one of its incarnations in 1974.

Tempus fugit or would that be better as the Nicer sentence Ars Longa Vita Brevis?

There comes a point where I guess everyone gets slightly pretentious and feels like Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner.

Especially when you look round comedy clubs and you’re by far the oldest person in the room and you don’t laugh as much because you’ve heard what must be literally thousands of jokes told live on stage over decades.

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”

With me, it’s flashes of memories from the 1960s.

I remember working at the long-forgotten Free Bookshop in Earls Court. It was really just a garage in a mews and people donated second hand books to it but – hey! man! – wouldn’t it be great if everything was free? I remember going downstairs in the Arts Lab in Drury Lane to see experimental films; I think I saw the long-forgotten Herostratus movie there. I remember walking among people holding daffodils in the darkened streets around the Royal Albert Hall when we all came out of a Donovan concert. Or was it an Incredible String Band gig? I remember the two amazingly talented members of the Incredible String Band sitting in a pile of mostly eccentric musical instruments on stage at the Royal Albert Hall; they played them all at one point or another.

No, I was right originally. It was a Donovan concert in January 1967. It’s in Wikipedia, so it must be true. On stage at Donovan’s gig, a ballerina danced during a 12-minute performance of Golden Apples.

I remember it.

Moments in time.

Like tears in rain.

It’s not true when they say that if you can remember the Sixties you weren’t there.

I remember being in the Queen Elizabeth Hall (or was it the Purcell Room?) on the South Bank of the River Thames in London, seeing the two-man hippie group Tyrannosaurus Rex perform before Marc Bolan dumped Steve Peregrine Took and formed what Tyrannosaurus Rex fans like me mostly felt was the far-inferior T Rex. And the Tyrannosaurus Rex support act that night on the South Bank was a mime artist who did not impress me called David Jones who later re-invented himself as David Bowie. I still didn’t rate him much as David Bowie: he was just a jumped-up mime artist who sang.

No, it wasn’t in the Queen Elizabeth Hall or the Purcell Room. It didn’t happen there. It was in the Royal Festival Hall on Whit Monday, 3rd June 1968. There’s an ad for it on the back cover of International Times issue 31.

The gig was organised by Blackhill Enterprises, who were part-owned by Pink Floyd.

The ad says DJ John Peel was providing “vibrations” and the wonderful Roy Harper was supporting.

I remember that now.

But the ad says “David Bowie” was supporting.

I’m sure he was introduced on stage as “David Jones”.

I think.

I used to go to the early free rock concerts which Blackhill Enterprises organised in a small-ish natural grass amphitheatre called ‘the cockpit’ in Hyde Park. Not many people went. Just enough to sit on the grass and listen comfortably. I think I may have been in the audience by the stage on the cover of the second issue of the new Time Out listings magazine.

I realised Pink Floyd – whom I hadn’t much rated before – were better heard at a distance when their sounds were drifting over water – like bagpipes – so I meandered over and listened to them from the other side of the Serpentine.

I remember a few months or a few weeks later turning up ten minutes before the Rolling Stones were due to start their free Hyde Park gig and found thousands of people had turned up and the gig had been moved to a flatter area. I think maybe I had not realised the Stones would draw a crowd. I gave up and went home. The Hyde Park gigs never recovered. Too many people from then on.

I remember going to The Great South Coast Bank Holiday Pop Festivity on the Isle of Wight in 1968. I went to see seeing Jefferson Airplane, Tyrannosaurus Rex, The Pretty Things, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and Fairport Convention. I didn’t go back the next year to the re-named Isle of Wight Festival because top-of-the-bill was the horribly pretentious and whiney non-singer Bob Dylan. What have people ever seen in him?

Moments in time.

Like tears in rain.

Ars longa,
vita brevis,
occasio praeceps,
experimentum periculosum,
iudicium difficile.

You can look it up on Wikipedia.

Though equally good, I reckon is the ancient saying:

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

OK, maybe I spent too much time in the 1960s…

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