16 March 2009
my first rave
This is a Chapter from CJ Stone's Book Fierce Dancing (Faber & Faber 1996). I put it on my blog as he captures the essence of a diy deep house free party really well and there's bits of it that are about oz and nicky;
"The sacred music and the splendour of the ceremonies aroused a strong tide of emotion that was shared by all hearts in unison and that awakened a consciousness of the common origin of all creatures." I-Ching. 59: Dispersion.
I went to my first rave sometime in 1991. Actually I never considered I was going to a "rave". I thought I was going to a party. Which is what it was. A big party, in the open air. The term "rave" is something of a media invention. What's a rave? A sound-system, some lights, some backdrops, people getting off-their-faces. Except for the context -and, to some degree, the music- there's hardly any difference between a rave and a disco. Except that "disco" as a term has become profoundly unfashionable. Only slightly more unfashionable than "rave". The party was taking place near Plumpton in East Sussex, site of some famous festivals in the early '70s. There were six of us in the van: seven if you include my dog. Gem, Nicky, Oz, me, and two students: a quiet, gentle Asian with curly black hair called Hash, and a soft-spoken Irishman called Gordon, whose tendency to clip his words -a combination of hippy reserve and a heavy Irish accent- made him almost impossible to understand. Gem was my girlfriend at the time. Or rather -since we were always splitting up and getting back together- she wasn't actually my girlfriend at this time. But she's a very beautiful woman, and I loved her then as much as I ever loved her. Actually Gem was the reason I took up raving in the first place. Being younger than me -I was in my late thirties, she in her late twenties- she was always more in tune with what was going on, what was currently Underground and therefore cool. If it hadn't been for Gem I'd still be wearing Marks & Spark's woolly jumpers. I was never one for fashion, even in my more fashionable days.
Nero and Oz run a sound-system themselves -tVC- but in those days they were still experimenting with forms, just beginning to broaden their musical outlook. Oz is a Northern working class bloke turned radical philosopher. 6'2" of Geordie menace with pale, cold, sceptical eyes -people say he has eyes like a dead fish- deep down, you feel, there's a softie struggling to get out. He likes the fluffiest of fluffy house music, all orchestral trills and swirling clouds of melody. Occasionally I would pat him on the belly, and he'd respond to that. You'd see his eyes soften, like a cat being stroked. You almost expected him to purr.
Most sound-systems I know are anarchist collectives. tVC is different: it's a dictatorship. Oz runs everything. He's the Mussolini of the decks. He says, "why let anyone do anything when you can do it yourself." And it works. Ask him to do something and, if he agrees, it will happen. You can rely on him absolutely. Him and Nicky share one trait: they both have lopsided noses. But if Oz is the boss in the party scene, Nicky is the boss in the bedroom. She tells him what to do, how to do it and when. That's the sort of conversations us three have. Nicky loves to talk about sex. Oz says he's not interested in it, and he compares it to food. But he likes his food. He piles his plate up in a mound and sets to it with a relish.
At the time of the Plumpton party, tVC was justifiably famous in the small area around which they worked. Eclectic and thoughtful, they happily mixed rap with reggae, thrash with jazz, and had (still have) one of the most comprehensive record collections I have ever seen. But it wasn't until they discovered house music that things really started to come together.
House music -in all its disparate forms- is undoubtedly the cultural driving-force of the nineties. More so than punk in the seventies -which was just rehashed rock'n'roll but played faster, and which really came down to an attitude- house is brand new. House music takes all other forms of music apart and begins again. It is produced in the studio -it is fundamentally a producer's music- and you really don't need to play an instrument to compose it. Consequently it is freed from the constraints of formal training. Anyone, in a sense, can do it (anyone who has access to a computer, that is) and it is based on what sounds good, what sounds "right", rather than on any set of rules. It goes straight to the visceral heart of the musical body. It bends and shapes sounds like they were malleable objects, selecting sounds for their emotional quality rather than their intellectual content. Aural sculpture. Using sampling techniques the whole history, the whole range of music is at its disposal. Nothing is sacred, nothing is beyond its scope. It strips down, re-forms, re-conceives, fractures, twists, speeds-up, slows-down, distorts and re-arranges, selecting and reselecting, redefining music according to mood: and all to a hypnotically perfect -and therefore perfectly danceable- 4/4 beat. It is true that it owes more to '60s soul and to '70s disco than it does to Mozart (and it clearly defines itself as being in the tradition of black American music), but it can more effectively redefine Mozart in a rhythmical context than classical music can redefine funk. It's a sort of magpie music. It steals samples from every era to decorate its musical nest.
Techno music has gone even further. It no longer depends on musical sounds at all. Its samples are street noises and factory noises and machinery, as well as pure electronic sounds. John Cale and Karlheinz Stockhausen would have been proud: their conceits finally developed into a full-blown popular music.
House music can be bold, it can be repetitive; it can be inventive, it can be derivative; it can be witty, it can be dull; it can be emotional, it can be dreary. But you can't ignore it. It is the music of our age.
How many notes are there in an octave? Eight? Well, actually there are twelve: there are four half-notes as well in traditional Western music. But Indian music, particularly, allows for greater and greater sub-division: into 1/4, 1/8, 1/16 and even 1/32th notes. And the greatest guitar players derive their emotional range -as well as their technique- from bending between the notes: twisting, curving, caressing the notes, taking us on the long journey between one note and the next. House music goes even further. Computer generated sounds allow it to explore the infinity that lies between the mile-stone structures of conventional technique. It can organise sounds into pure form: chaotic rather than ordered -a jungle, not a garden- its very repetitiveness reminding us of the fundamental formulae that underlie the structures of nature. It is no accident that fractal images are its natural compliment. Fractal images, infinity in a finite space, endlessly repeating, endlessly swirling computer generated shapes, lead us down, down into a mirror-upon-mirror reflective universe (as above, so below) and are the very constructs of ordered nature in its mathematical purity. House music is fractal sound.
Oz and Nicky were still relatively new to the scene at the time. They still had a reggae set to fall back on. But they were completely sold. They were giving all their spare time, their money, their energy, and their relentless organisational skills to this one thing, pursuing it like it was a new religion. Which it is really. A non-organic guru, impassively perfect.
We arrived at the site sometime in the evening. We had to drive up a steep chalk track rutted with crumbling water channels, the back wheels sliding and the entire back end skidding towards the precarious drop beside us. We'd picked up a couple of girls at the bottom without realizing just how dangerous this climb would be, and they were chattering blithely about such-and-such a crew, and the size of the rig, and who was doing the lights. I didn't know what they were on about. I just wished they'd shut-up. I was in panic mode, looking down a long tunnel to my possible death.
But we made it to the top, and the girls got out, giggling amongst themselves, and then we found a nice, grassy spot where we could park up and Oz and Nicky could set up their bell-tent. Gem was ignoring me and giving me her hard-woman act. I said, "I'm glad I came." And she said, "well enjoy yourself then. I don't want you saying you came for my sake." And Hash and the Irish guy had no money, just half a tab of acid each. So it wasn't all that promising at first. I didn't even particularly like the music in those days. I was into blues and jazz and heavy r'n'b. And what was this stuff? Just "twiddle-twiddle, doink-doink, dum-dum-dum." No lyrics. All you could hear from behind the screen of trees was the incessant thud-thud-thud of the relentless 4/4 rhythm and the occasional whoop from the crowd.
We walked down the main track lined with cars. That's where all the drug-dealers sat, with disdainful faces and barely disguised sneers, car stereos blasting out. I've always hated those people. They remind me of pimps. They see human beings in terms of product. They make a point of not caring. Street-level Capitalists, no better than arms-dealers. "Fucking bastards," I thought. I was applying it to everyone at that moment: "fucking bastards." Really I just felt out of place.
And then we were in the field where the sound-system had set up, in a perfect bowl of land like an amphitheatre, bounded by trees, and with fires and lights twinkling all around. Ten minutes later I'd swallowed an E. And half an hour later I was dancing amidst the shimmering lights and cascading sounds while little winds bustled about my body sending ripples of pleasure up and down my spine. There were a couple of hundred people dancing beside me: travellers with dreadlocks and nose rings, fashionable clubbers with stack-heeled shoes; a Rastafarian who'd shaved part of his head and who looked like a shaman from some ancient tribe; young girls with slinky skirts and sunglasses; black people, white people, Asian people; and at least one middle-aged ex-hippy still yearning for the Revolution.
Above us the vaulted sky arched like a cathedral, sprinkled with stars. I stretched my back and raised my arms as all the tensions lifted, all the ancient aches and pains and minor worries floating away like incense into the cool night air. Everything inside me felt like an offering to some unseen but benevolent presence: my guardian angel. Dance is prayer. Movement in sacred space: nonverbal communication to the deity. The movements acquire a symbolic air, like some ancient form of wisdom. I took my shoes off to feel the cool grass tickling my feet. Nero said: "Look at you. You're a hippy." I didn't care. Nothing mattered. I was warm and contented and in love with everyone and utterly, utterly alive: confident in my right to be there and to be as happy as I chose.
This was not the first time I'd taken Ecstasy. The first time was with Gem, on our own in her damp, cheerless bedroom, by an open fire in the middle of winter. And it was a disaster. Well, not quite a disaster. Gem had heard about this sexual drug and -being sexually orientated herself was looking forward to a long, sensual fuck. She got me to strip off while we listened to "I'm A Man" by Muddy Waters. And then there was the whoosh of unfettered energy bursting in her loins while she fell back on the bed, whooping with joy. Only by this time my dick had gone quite flaccid, and it was shrinking smaller and smaller, till it was barely a wrinkled nub of a thing peering out from beneath my belly like a turtle's head from its shell. Ecstasy is an amphetamine. It has that effect. I was as nervous as hell in any case, this being my first time with a psychedelic drug since I'd let go of the things of youth and decided I was better off -after all- as an alcoholic: a good twelve years or more. But later we got into the sensuality of it all, basking by the fire and then moving into the cool depths of the room to feel the contrast. Later we went out to buy a bottle of Champagne. We kept saying "it's our anniversary." Which it was, just about. But it certainly felt like a special occasion. It could just as well have been Christmas. And then we went to the pub and noticed how beautiful everyone looked: how crystalline their eyes. It was as if you were looking through their eyes like a sparkling glass, directly into the personality beneath.
After that we started taking it fairly regularly. It's still a period I remember as one of the happiest of my life. Me and Gem had just got back together after yet another temporary split. And I'd decided -at last- that I was going to have to commit myself to this writing-thing or die an unsatisfied man. I was bouncing out of bed in the morning, full of plans. And I'd stopped drinking, for the first, and only, time in my life. Ecstasy was so much better. Alcohol is a depressant, and nothing ever happens when you take it. You go out looking for a good time and -after the initial burst of merriment- you lose control. Me and Gem were always fighting on drink. That's why we kept splitting apart. And then you'd go home to bed to snore and fart the night away. I was fresh in that period. I felt really clean. But it didn't last. Who knows how these subtle shifts in the atmosphere build up until one day, maybe, you're caught out in a full-blown storm?
Ecstasy is a pure hedonist's drug. It encourages you to take other drugs with it. Cocaine and Champagne are two of its compliments: rich men's drugs. You always end up spending vast amounts of money. And -in the end- I was drinking beer on it too. This never worried me, despite the propaganda. I've always enjoyed a pint. And when you are on E you want to do the things you enjoy. But I began filling up with beer before it, and maybe a few while I was on it, and then gallons and gallons the day after. There was a kind of inevitability in this. Your body is wrecked, but your mind is still raging. You need a drink to sleep.
Ecstasy is a mood drug. When you're happy and in love it makes you more happy, more in love. But whenever Gem wasn't with me I'd find it just plain dull. OK, so you could see shapes in the trees. But the music just sounded like you were being processed through a computer. I overheard a conversation between two music buffs and they were just like train-spotters in their attention to detail. They made it sound so boring. And who were all these people anyway, telling me how much they loved me, greeting me as if I was their long-lost brother come home from the wars? You'd see them a few days later and they'd blank you. I once asked Nero to give me a Christmas cuddle, and she said: "No, I haven't taken any drugs." And you always ended up in the same old conversations. Nicky was the worst for this. Every time we took an E together she'd say the same thing. "I used to hate you, Chris, but now I really love you." And she'd refer to the Plumpton party. Time after time. And I'd say the same things too. "Whenever I saw you with your war paint on I'd duck out of the way. But now I love you." This dated back to her punk days when she wore heavy, black eye makeup. Even an E-head, inured to repetition, begins to notice when Nicky and Oz it was always sincere. I genuinely do love them. There were other people I'd just say these sort of things to because it was the thing to do. Your mouth runs away with you. Like speed, but with a softer edge. The beer put the bounce back into me. It became as much a part of the trip as the Ecstasy. And sometimes I wouldn't bother with the E at all: I'd drink a reasonable amount of beer and -ignoring all the sneering remarks ("here come the beer boys")- I'd dance all night just the same. That E snobbery-thing got on my nerves. Like they were proscribing my drugs for me. It was as bad as the fucking State. And in the end - especially after me and Gem split up for good- the E just dropped out altogether and I went back to my old ways, mooching round in pubs and chatting to the old geezers, and smoking too many cigarettes. I think, well at least you know what they put in beer. It's a natural process, as old as the hills. I drink Shepherd Neame's, which is brewed in a nearby town from the same ingredients they've used for centuries. OK, so it makes you feel like shit. But at least it doesn't make you feel precious.
Most Ecstasy simply isn't Ecstasy in any case. Not MDMA. It's a cocktail. Heroin, speed, acid, a variety of other chemicals. More often than not it's MDA -closely related, but far more dangerous than MDMA- and sometimes it is no more than caffeine. Even when you find a good source, they're obliged to sell you whatever they've got, just to make their own money back. And at fifteen pounds a hit, it seems like a self-indulgent luxury. You can't share it. You can't pass it round. You can't buy someone a dose, like you can a pint, just to show them you're their friend. I've always felt that it was vastly overpriced.
I've nothing against MDMA. It's a lovely drug, when it's properly used. Once a month, or on special occasions. A good dance and a good hug. It can help you to re-establish your friendships and your relationship with the universe. If only you could be sure what goes into it. That's the problem of illegality. There's no way to control the quality of the product. Sometimes I'm inclined to believe that the government wants to keep it that way. Ecstasy is a dangerous drug. Not necessarily to the individual. To establishment images of how we are supposed to live.
But at this time -the night of the Plumpton party- I was still in the throes of my love-affair with the drug. It was still new and fresh to me. There's another thing about E. It gives you unlimited confidence, like you're the King of the World. Your back straightens and you rise to a regal posture. You really feel that nothing can harm you. So that when Gem told me that her and Nero and Oz had all taken acid, well I took some too.
We walked back to the van with Hash in tow. He was tripping and couldn't see where to put his feet. He was tripping and tripping up at the same time. Every rise seemed like a mountain to him. We had to guide him over clumps of grass as if they were jungles. When we were back at the van Gem suggested we make some coffee. We had this double burner, and a large 16k bottle of Calor Gas. Only the pipe wasn't long enough. You'd rest the bottle on the floor of the van, but you couldn't put the burner down. There was nothing to stand it on. Gem was doing one thing while I was doing another and we were getting into a muddle. And then there was some stranger clucking over the van. "A doubledoored VW: I've never seen one like this before. It seems longer to me. Yes, I'm sure it's longer than usual. Whose is it? Who's the owner?" I was having an anxiety attack. I really didn't want to get into a conversation about VW vans at that moment. And then Neroki said something and it made no sense. It was like the whole world spinning out of orbit. Suddenly nothing made sense. Reality was coming at me from some elliptical angle. The acid had hit, and I ran away. I'm really not sure what happened next. I was in the woods. The trees circled me like a sacred grove. I remember hearing people calling me, but I ignored them. I think I may have clung to a tree. I even have the vaguest memory of climbing one. I was embracing the trees and talking to them. After that I was wandering round looking at the ground, completely lost. There was an entire landscape down there. My consciousness was being guided ever deeper into that unknown place by a will-o'-the-wisp spark. A rational portion of my mind said, "Pouk-ledden" and that explained it all to me. Pouk-ledden is a nineteenth century Midland colloquialism. It means, "to be led by Puck." I was remembering my researches into folklore, how sometimes people are led by mischievous spirits into a strange fairy landscape. That's where I was, in fairyland. Everything glowed with an internal light. It was pitch black, but I could see all the details in there. I realised that I wasn't going to be able to get out, and just sat down on the ground. And all of a sudden I was contented. I didn't have to go anywhere. I didn't have to do anything.
Everything was natural and good.
At a certain point my dog found me. She'd been weaving her way between us all night. She's a German Shepherd. We were her flock. She snuffled me and I buried my face in her fur, immersed in her dogginess. For a moment -for a century- we were one being. And then she was gone. But there's something about acid. Something beyond the rational. I think that's why I find it so hard to take. At the heart of every acid-trip there's an enigma. Maybe it's the same enigma that is at the heart of the Universe. That's how it feels at the time. You are not what you think you are. The World is not what you imagine it to be. Nothing is real. Or reality is something far different than you've been led to believe. It poses this strange puzzle for you. A flat -no, a deep- contradiction. In the heart of the trip is a person who does not exist, in a place which is nowhere, from a time when there is no time. It's you. And yet it's not you. It's huge (as big as the universe itself) and yet it is contained in the smallest space imaginable. There's no words to explain it. Contraction and expansion. The Enigma. We are so used to the measurable flow of things that when we hit the immeasurable it blows our heads apart. We regard Time as like the gradations on a ruler: seconds ticking by, turning into hours, days, weeks, lifetimes. And all of a sudden you are swimming in it. It is an Ocean. Past, present, future: they are all the same. Moments are merely drops merged into that Ocean of time, and this reality is like waves lapping the shore. My measured mind cannot take it.
What acid does is remind you that words are not reality. And my verbal mind cannot take that either. It seems like nonsense. Maybe it's just none-sense. And then, in no time at all, it was light again and I went back to the van. It was empty. Cold and abandoned. Nicky and Oz were the first to return. "What happened to you?" I asked. They told me. Nicky had been having a hard time of it. Oz had been nursing her. They were kind of tottering together as they arrived, arm in arm. "What happened to you?" they asked. I told them. "I've been talking to the trees," I said. I could still feel the abyss of madness out there. I was still suffering vertigo. Me and Nicky lay down in the tent. Every so often I would have to go for a piss. And Oz would go for a piss too. It was odd that it was always at the same time. There was something incredibly boyish about us standing there pissing against our respective trees. An identity. I'd look over at Oz, looking down at himself, and then at myself, looking down at myself. We were the same. Cartoon characters. Oz looked like Big Vern out of Viz. Everyone looked distorted, blotched and cartoony to me.
But really I was waiting for Gem to come back. I kept calling out to her in my mind (as I had been all night): "Gem, Gem, Gem!" And then, finally, she was walking towards us through the woods, a vision. She'd been dancing all the time I was in the woods. She was wearing a shiny, black, plastic coat and a slinky dress, and her dark hair was slicked back. And her skin was the colour of copper. A sleek, dark, burnished angel. I'd never seen anyone so beautiful in all my life.
She came and sat down near the tent. Hash was leaning out. They were talking in subdued voices, and Gem was playing with his hair affectionately. There was something between them. I was watching them from some sorrowful void, absorbing the scene in front of me, quietly subdued. Eventually I asked her if she wanted to go for a walk. I was looking round frantically for my sunglasses, but couldn't find them. I was desperate. Hash said, "you're vain." And I said, "no, I just don't want anyone to see how furtive my eyes really are." The acid was coming and going in waves. Everything would be looking normal, and then there'd be a distortion of some kind, a face twisted into some agonising shape. In the end I gave up my search for the sunglasses, and we went for our walk without them. The world would just have to put up with my eyes. We were looking for water. We walked down the dusty path where the drug-dealers were congregated. I was still thinking "fucking bastards." There was something forbidding and ugly about them, like mad psychiatrists. And then Gem took hold of me, in a line of trees beside the path, and started kissing me. It was like drinking of the Fountain of Life. A salty-sweet liquid merging. The Water of Life. And her lips were soft and pliant as they parted for me. And the slinky dress (which was really a slip) slid wantonly over her smooth skin as I pressed my hand to her belly. She was looking up at me with her dark, impenetrable eyes, like a woodland creature, full of trust and love. And all my troubles lifted. Even the drug-dealers didn't bother me anymore. Here we were again, in love again. I wanted to take her to where I'd been hiding all night. But when we got there the woods no longer looked like a grove, and there was no fairylandscape. Only Gem. No perceptual distortion. Just a vision of beauty. This is how it had been from the second I'd laid eyes on her. No matter how the world weaved and twisted, when I looked at her everything became transformed, simplified, kindly, at ease. Gem crouched down in the woods and lifted her dress to piss, and she looked me in the eyes as she did it, chattering blithely like she was in a shopping queue. But I knew she was doing it for me. I knew it was a privilege meant just for me. To see her in her intimate loveliness, performing this simple human function. It was like she was saying, "this is yours." What lay in there, in the Well of Desire, was mine. And in that moment the Ocean of Time drowned my rational mind once more. It was like I'd known this moment all my life. That it was inherent in the very fabric of the Universe, a quiet, secret deja vu, only waiting to be discovered again. I felt that we'd been in communication all night, both waiting for this. I'm using a lot of capital letters in this account: the Fountain of Life, the Water of Life, the Well of Desire, the Ocean of Time. I'm not exactly sure why that is. Except, maybe, that it represents something beyond me. Something ingrained in the processes of Life Itself. Not me. Something bigger than me.
Gem and I have split up now, by the way. She runs a shop and has a lover and a lovely new baby. I see her about now and then. We exchange inconsequential politenesses, and smile at each other. I still like seeing her. Occasionally she's asked me if I have a lover and I shrug. What can I say? The whole world is my lover. My lover is my work.
The day wore on and the acid wore off. We ate some food and Hash and I went scrounging for some cigarettes. Hash told me he'd slept with Gem, but that they'd not had sex. I wasn't angry. I knew he felt strongly about her. How could I be angry? I felt strongly too. Then he said, "God, I was so out of it last night I could actually see fractals in the ground." It was only later that I realised that that was because there were fractals. It was no hallucination. The light crew were projecting them. That's the trouble with acid. You can't tell your arse from your elbow.
At a certain point a police helicopter circled overhead like an alien intruder. Why didn't they leave us alone? And then a police car came skidding up the track, closely followed by a repair van. People were hanging onto the frame of the van and whooping, waving their shirts and letting their hair flow in the wind. And there were some people who were still dancing. There was one striking Asian girl who was swaying back and forth with her eyes closed, rolling her head so that her black hair billowed about her face like a curtain. She'd been doing it when we arrived. She was still doing it as we left.
After that night I started going to parties regularly. tVC began organising them. Sometimes they were ecstatic. Sometimes they were dull. I was never entirely sure what made the difference. There was a particular group of people I needed to see for the party to work, a bunch of Women we referred to as The Mother's Union. They're all in their early thirties with kids. Mostly they'd been involved in the club scene in the eighties. They weren't by any stretch of the imagination what you'd call ravers. They liked to dance, that's all. And they'd dance whether they had Ecstasy in their systems or not. Ecstasy just made the dance last longer. Oz, Nicky, Gem and I became firm friends: the nucleus of a tribe. If Oz and Nicky weren't organising the party, they'd know where the party was. My age didn't seem to make a difference. Or rather, it was when my age made no difference that the party was good. I needed other people around me of comparable age. When it was only teenagers I started having problems.
There was one particularly beautiful party in a barn out in the country. This was after me and Gem had finally split up for good. I'd been cracking up. Oz and Nicky gave me an E for helping them move some stuff. I started dancing as the E came on, and danced for about 4 hours nonstop. I was firmly wedded to one of the walls. We had a clique by there, in the corner by the decks. And suddenly it was as if we were one animal. Everyone was pumping and gyrating in some ritual performance, perfectly co-ordinated, like a cellular being. I kept saying "Shekhinah, Shekhinah, Shekhinah," like an evocation of the Goddess. I wasn't allowed to say "Gem, Gem, Gem," anymore. I felt I was a part of all this, a part of the human race, and that this expression of ourselves was what we were meant to be doing. It was like an active meditation, stillness through movement, a celebration not only of ourselves, but of the gift of life itself. That night I wrote a few lines based on this feeling: One Body - One Soul One Heart - One Mind One Love Energy - Synergy - Rapture Heaven-on-Earth It was a kind of slogan. Anyone who has ever taken Ecstasy will recognise the feeling. Other times I found myself in situations where I was just out of place. Surrounded by wealthy hedonists and bored-looking young model-girls who wouldn't give me a second glance. I began to recognise the drawbacks to the party scene. It was a rich person's game. They were taking Ecstasy and drinking champagne and working in the City of London as commodity brokers. It reminded me of the cocaine-scene of the eighties. Overpriced drugs and undervalued humanity. That gorgeous unity was only available to those who could afford to pay. The working class people who were there were either drug dealers or prostitutes. There was a terrible stench of decadence about the whole scene. I remember talking to one tired-looking woman at a party. I said, "haven't you taken any drugs?" "Yes," she said. "I've taken a flatliner." Flatliner means death. "I'm a deck widow," she said. Her boyfriend was more interested in music than he was in her.
Driving home from Plumpton I had a minor revelation. It was about the landscape. I'd see pockets of land in the hills around me and think, "that would be a good place for a party." I could imagine the lights and the sounds and the people dancing, and I had a clear impression of the Earth as like a lover, longing for our attention. I felt that the land itself enjoyed the dancing. She was the Shekhinah, the Goddess, awakening to Jehovah's Love. Or that's how it felt. I'd been brought up on a diet of Wordsworth, of the poet wandering lonely as a cloud. Except that clouds aren't lonely, of course. They like to gather. I'd tried hard to feel all the proper romantic feelings. There was no engagement there, no connection. The land was "out there", separate, distinct: and I was here, an observer in my fortress of solitude, bereft, lonely. Something was missing. What was missing was me.
After Plumpton the landscape took on a new aspect, as a place of celebration. Every natural amphitheatre, every glade, every ancient oak became the scene of some imaginary party where the sub-bass heartbeat of the music ran in currents through the Earth, in which I and my friends gathered in celebration of our lives. It was like the land was opening up to me, awakening. In a way, this was the most revolutionary thought I've ever had. It wasn't a thought, it was a feeling. It wasn't theoretical, it was real. The knowledge that the land belongs to us, that the planet belongs to us, as we belong to her. It happened -that revelation- on some deep, emotional level, like love.
Later that year me, Oz and Nicky tried to repeat the experience. We went looking for a free festival at Cissbury rings in Sussex. There were a couple of others with us, I'm not sure who. Rick was one of them. This was long before the Criminal Justice Act was even a twinkle in Michael Howard's eye. But the Police were acting like it was already the law. We reached the site of the party and there were roadblocks everywhere. The police stopped us and asked everyone their names. I was obliged to answer being the driver. But Oz announced from the back that the rest of us didn't have to say anything. Nevertheless Rick gave his name. He was overawed by the police presence. We were sent on a wild goose chase from one site to the next. In the end we were in a convoy of motorbikes and buses and beat-up old cars. In front of us was a Ford Cortina with a girl with long hair leaning out of the window, holding on to the roof, and whooping. The police blocked all our exits and drove us on until we were out of the county. And once we were there the next lot were waiting for us. They let us sleep in a layby, on the border between the two counties.
The girl with the long hair came and spoke to us. She was very middle class, very proper. She said: "That's what I like about these Festies, there are so many drugs. I've snorted a whole gram of cocaine." I couldn't help but wonder where all the money came from. Rick began to sneer at her for being middle class. He used to be in the SWP. But he's the most middle class person I know. I was upset by this as I really fancied the girl. I had the (probably vain) impression that she'd come back especially to talk to me. This is the reason I call Rick a psychopath. He really doesn't care what might be going on in anyone else's head. After she'd gone Rick said, "I hate people like that." The funny thing is: he's exactly like her. The following day the van was searched. The police were looking through the back, sniffing a bottle of washing up liquid as if it was high class drugs. I asked them why they were searching, and they said, "You were acting suspiciously. You looked nervous." I said: "Of course I'm nervous: I've got half a dozen policemen breathing down my neck." Fortunately they missed the gram of speed that someone had stashed in the VW handbook. And the Ecstasy that was in Nicky's knickers. And the hash that was in Oz's top pocket. And... I drove off and threw a wobbly. "I've had it," I said. "I'm going home." We stopped off briefly for a rest and something to eat. Rick had cooked some food. Red cabbage and beans. It had been sitting above the engine in the back of the van, and was starting to ferment. It smelt like sick. It was so repulsive that it made you gag just to be near it. The smell carried for about 300 yards. Rick was trying to get it out, and he dropped it. The whole of the back of the van was smeared with this pink puke. Even my dog wouldn't touch it. But Rick ate a plateful in any case. He felt obliged to because he'd made it. "Hmmm, it's lovely," he kept saying, while the rest of us were retching.