Sunday, 6 November 2022

Bob Dylan – The Australian Connection Part 1

 

Bob Dylan - The Australian Connection

Part 1 - The EPs


by Stuart Penney

This is a heavily revised and expanded version of a feature which first appeared in “It - The Australian Record Collectors Magazine” issue #28, dated October 1998.  At that point Bob Dylan’s current album was Time Out Of Mind.


Due to its geographical isolation Australia was for the second half of the last century a law unto itself regarding matters of a cultural nature.  This was especially true in the world of popular music where thanks to the tyranny of distance combined with a healthy dose of cultural cringe record releases were routinely delayed, sometimes edited (ie censored), and generally chopped and changed about to suit the mores of the local market.  

That’s not the case so much today, of course.  The advent of the internet has made the world a much smaller place, enabling instant communication between individuals and companies at opposite ends of the planet.  But, back in the 50s, 60s and 70s when it regularly took days or weeks for a directive to arrive from head office in London or New York, the record company outposts in far-flung Sydney, Melbourne and Wellington pretty much had free rein over the product they issued.  This independence produced some truly weird and wonderful releases, many of which are unique to Australia and New Zealand. 


 

CBS Australia’s Dylan catalogue got off to a shaky start.  Following a lengthy delay, the first four or five albums were eventually released during 1964/65, seemingly in random order.  If the catalogue numbers are any guide, the first Aussie LP to appear was Bob’s third LP The Times They Are A-Changin’, closely followed by Freewheelin’.  His self-titled debut LP seems to have been slotted in between Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited.  Meanwhile, the early singles were seemingly overlooked altogether, and “Subterranean Homesick Blues” became the debut 7” down under.  The situation improved greatly in 1966 as the catalogue finally began to match the US and UK releases.


Since the early 1970s Dylan’s Australian records have, for the most part, mirrored their US counterparts, with the odd European or British-sourced release thrown in to keep things interesting.  The 1978 triple LP set Masterpieces (arguably the world's finest Dylan compilation album, released only in Australasia and Japan) and a string of nine unique and highly desirable 7" EPs more than made up for the early chaos and confusion.

Picture sleeve singles, while somewhat thin on the ground, have also appeared from time to time, with local pressings of “Hurricane,” “Heart Of Mine” and the Australian-only 1986 tour release “Emotionally Yours” attracting interest from collectors around the world.  Mono copies of the LPs from 1966-68 are now highly prized and 70s / 80s promo items are fast becoming hard to find.  But we begin by looking at those legendary EPs.  These are the jewels in Dylan’s Aussie discography and represent some of the rarest and most desirable Australian releases of all - by any artist.


ALL-STAR HOOTENANNY (CBS BG 225035) 1965

Where Have All The Flowers Gone (Pete Seeger) / This Land Is Your Land (The New Christy Minstrels / Blowin' In The Wind (Bob Dylan) / This Train (The Brothers Four)

With only one Dylan track, this is not especially sought-after compared to the other nine EPs, but this release is significant in that it marked Bob's first appearance on a 7" record in Australia.  Released in 1965, it features four tracks from the CBS LP of the same name. 


US Columbia issued several of these Hootenanny compilation albums during the mid-60s (Hootenanny '64, Folk Jamboree etc) each containing a solitary Dylan track.  All-Star Hootenanny, however, appears to be the only one to gain an Australian release.

On the full 1964 All-Star Hootenanny LP, as released in Australia, UK and the US, Dylan also appears on the Carolyn Hester track “Swing and Turn Jubilee” where he plays harmonica.


 

THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN' (CBS BG 225062) 1965

The Times They Are A-Changin' / When the Ship Comes In / Only A Pawn In Their Game / One Too Many Mornings 

Released in early 1965, this EP began a run of nine unique Australia / New Zealand releases, all with attractive picture covers and each featuring one or more tracks seldom seen on a 7" release (in this case “When The Ship Comes In” and “Only A Pawn In Their Game”).


The sleeve essay, with its cliche-ridden references to Charlie Chaplin, Woody Guthrie, beatniks and hobos, is lifted directly from Robert Shelton's (writing as Stacey Williams) liner notes for the 1962 Bob Dylan album.

This was also issued in New Zealand (CBS BG 465005) with a subtly different cover design (ie all of Dylan's left ear is visible on the Kiwi sleeve!)


THE FREEWHEELIN' BOB DYLAN (CBS BG 225068) 1965

Blowin' In The Wind / Don't Think Twice, It's Alright / Corrina, Corrina / Down The Highway 

Two years after the release of the (US) Freewheelin' LP, came this attractively packaged EP.  Bob and his then girlfriend Suze Rotolo are seen walking arm-in-arm, as per the album sleeve, except the snowy New York street scene and parked cars have now vanished, leaving the pair looking curiously detached.


  Rear sleeve notes continue the "Chaplinesque" theme and directly quote Dylan confidante and biographer Robert Shelton.  “Down The Highway” is the unusual track here.


BOB DYLAN (CBS BG 225083) 1965

Pretty Peggy-O / Song To Woody / Freight Train Blues / Talkin' New York 

All of Dylan's Australian albums up to Highway 61 Revisited were released either out of order or delayed, so by the time his self-titled debut album appeared down under in mid-1965 (compared to March 1962 in the US and June 1962 UK), Bob's music had changed out of all recognition.  

In the face of his new, electric direction, the acoustic blues and hillbilly music on his first LP (from where the tracks on this EP are taken) seemed primitive and outdated.  As a result, both sold poorly, but while the album was, by necessity, kept on catalogue, the EP was quickly deleted.


Long rumoured not to exist by Dylan historians and discographers alike this is, without doubt, one of the rarest and most desirable Australian EPs of all - by any artist.  A clean copy is now next to impossible to find.  Along with the identical - and possibly even scarcer - New Zealand version released in 1966 (CBS BG 465017) this is thought to be the only EP in the world to feature “Pretty Peggy-O.”

Featuring a cropped version of the 1962 LP cover photo, it appears as if Bob is holding a guitar strung for a left-handed player.  In fact, the original LP sleeve designer had simply flipped the image in the interests of symmetry and to align the track titles to the right.  Sleeve notes are, once again, lifted from the debut Bob Dylan album.


BOB DYLAN’S MR. TAMBOURINE MAN (CBS BG 225099) 1966

Mr. Tambourine Man / Subterranean Homesick Blues / On The Road Again

Titled Bob Dylan’s Mr Tambourine Man (presumably to make clear who wrote the Byrds’ hit single) and utilising a trimmed, black and white adaptation of the Bringing It All Back Home album sleeve photo, this EP looks almost as good as it sounds.  In an ornate drawing room, we see the affluent-looking Dylan sitting on a couch beside an elegant woman (played by Sally Grossman, wife of Bob's then-manager Albert).  The the pair are surrounded by an array of books, records and magazines which, we assume, were meant to reflect Bob's influences and reading / listening habits in 1965.  As well as a copy of Dylan's own Another Side LP, records by Lord Buckley, the Impressions, Lotte Lenya, Robert Johnson, Ravi Shankar and Eric Von Schmidt are also clearly visible (on the LP sleeve, if not the EP).


The liner notes (borrowed from the Bob Dylan LP, yet again) incorrectly speak of "the four tracks from this EP", but with the length title track occupying the whole of side one, there is definitely only room for three.  “On The Road Again” is the surprise track here.  Also issued in New Zealand (CBS BG 465021).

Variations of this EP exist with at least three different spellings of “Subterannean” on the labels.

Six LPs seen on the Bringing It All Back Home sleeve


LIKE A ROLLING STONE (CBS BG 225111) 1966

Like A Rolling Stone / Highway 61 Revisited / From A Buick 6

The scholarly sleeve notes quote from Robert Shelton's 1962 New York Times Dylan live review.  They recall the sessions for Bob's debut album and yet again name-drop Blind Lemon Jefferson and Woody Guthrie.  All well and good, but in all probability none of this meant very much to the average 60s teenage record buyer picking up this EP simply to hear the big hit single “Like A Rolling Stone.”

Lest we forget, by 1965 Dylan was no longer the rustic folkie described in the liner notes.  He had reinvented himself as a bona fide rock star and “Like A Rolling Stone” was already a massive hit single all around the world (reaching top 5 in Australia, US and UK).


Once again, the marathon title track occupies all of side one, with “From A Buick 6” and “Highway 61 Revisited” (coincidentally, the b-sides of the next two Dylan singles) completing the hard-rocking trio.  The front cover, showing a black and white photo of Dylan in satin shirt and Triumph motorbike t-shirt against a yellow background, was lifted from the sleeve of Bob's then-current Highway 61 Revisited LP.  Also issued in New Zealand (CBS BG 465023).


JOHN WESLEY HARDING (CBS BG 225193) 1968

John Wesley Harding / The Wicked Messenger / I'll Be Your Baby Tonight / All Along the Watchtower 

Helped no doubt by the inclusion of “All Along the Watchtower”, Bob's first EP for over two years appears to have sold in respectable numbers and while not exactly common these days, it turns up more often than might be expected.  The front cover is a faithful reproduction of the LP sleeve (albeit with added lettering) and, for the first time on an Australian Dylan EP, the musicians, producer and engineer were credited on the cover.  

The inevitable size reduction of the front cover photo makes it impossible to spot the Beatles' faces allegedly hidden upside down in the tree trunk - although given the poor-quality reproduction of Australian JWH LP sleeves, that was never an easy task even with the larger album artwork.  An original US or UK pressing of the LP is required in order to see the Fab Four clearly (if, indeed, they really are there).


Photographer John Berg who took the Polaroid photo used on the cover of JWH said during an interview with John Baudie for the Dylan fanzine The Telegraph: "I got a call from Rolling Stone magazine in San Francisco.  Someone had discovered little pictures of The Beatles and the hand of Jesus in the tree trunk.  Well, I had a proof of the cover on my wall, so I went and turned it upside down and sure enough.  Ha ha ha!  I mean, if you wanted to see it, you could see it.  I was as amazed as anybody."

Spot them if you can. Accidental Beatles’ heads appeared on the John Wesley Harding LP sleeve

When Berg was asked if he still had the original Polaroid used for the cover photo, he replied "No. I used to have it in a frame, but I sold it at a benefit for NARAS (National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences).  It was auctioned off.  It made about 50 bucks.  I should never have done it."

Under the curious heading “Hear more of the Bob Dylan greatness on these CBS albums” Blonde On Blonde, Greatest Hits Vol.1 and John Wesley Harding itself are advertised (in mono and stereo) on the back cover.


NASHVILLE SKYLINE (CBS SBG 225223) 1969

Lay Lady Lay / I Threw It All Away / Nashville Skyline Rag / Country Pie

Signalling yet another major change in musical direction, Nashville Skyline legitimised country music at a stroke for an entire generation of rock musicians who had, for the most part, previously ignored - or even reviled - it – and it probably opened the door to the country rock craze of the 70s.  Such was the Dylan's influence at that time.  

Set within a vivid blue border, the front sleeve features a black and white adaptation of the album cover photo showing a broadly smiling Dylan holding his Gibson J200 guitar (a gift from George Harrison) and genially doffing his hat at the camera.


While it was obviously the big hit “Lay Lady Lay” which attracted buyers to Bob's first stereo Aussie EP, the inclusion of his debut instrumental “Nashville Skyline Rag” must have surprised more than a few of his casual followers.  The musicians were credited on the back cover once more, while the Blonde On Blonde, Greatest Hits Vol.1 and John Wesley Harding LPs are again advertised on the reverse, although significantly they were now offered only in stereo.


NEW MORNING (CBS SBG 225243) 1971

New Morning / Three Angels / The Man In Me / Wigwam 

Although it didn't come within a sniff of the charts in the US or Britain, “Wigwam” was a surprise top ten Australian single for Dylan.  So, no matter that this curious instrumental originated not from the New Morning album, but the earlier Self Portrait double set, it was tacked on here as a matter of expediency.


Despite the presence of “Wigwam” though, New Morning appears to have found few takers and is now one of the hardest Dylan Aussie EPs to find.  With its sepia photo and cream border, the wordless front cover is an almost exact reproduction the LP sleeve.  Nashville Skyline and Greatest Hits Vol.1 are pictured on the reverse.


A HARD RAIN'S A-GONNA FALL (CBS SBG 225258) 1972

A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall / If Not For You / The Mighty Quinn (Quinn, The Eskimo) / Watching The River Flow

With the exception of Bob Dylan, this is the rarest Australian Dylan EP by a country mile.  Issued in late 1972 at a time when most other countries had well and truly pensioned off the 7” EP format, this ill-matched assortment of songs was drawn from the double LP Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (or More Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits as it was titled in the UK).


All three sleeve photos used on the double LP hits compilation were taken by Barry Feinstein during Bob's appearance at the Concert for Bangla Desh in August 1971.  The monochrome EP sleeve, however, uses yet a different Feinstein picture from the same concert.  The original can be seen in full colour on page 44 of the booklet which accompanies the Concert For Bangla Desh triple LP box set.



While “A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall” and “If Not For You” are the well-known album versions (lifted from Freewheelin' and New Morning, respectively), “Watching The River Flow” was, prior to its appearance on Greatest Hits Vol.2, only available as a 1971 single.  “The Mighty Quinn (Quinn, The Eskimo)” is the seldom heard 1969 live at the Isle Of Wight version from Self Portrait.

Thanks to Robert Penney at penneydesign.com for his photo editing skills

Monday, 12 September 2022

You Say You Want A Revolution?



 

You Say You Want A Revolution?

In 1965 Marc Bolan, Donovan and Joan Baez Marched To Trafalgar Square

by Stuart Penney

Global warming and climate change are a major concern for the kids of today, and rightly so.  But in the 1960s we had a very different kind of apocalypse on our minds.  Back then we were convinced the world might end at any moment in a Russian nuclear attack (following the requisite four-minute government warning, naturally).  Whether by missile, bomber plane, submarine or ship, the twin superpowers had devised the perfect way to deliver mutually assured destruction to each other’s doorstep.  It was a genuinely scary time and for more than a decade we really did live under the shadow of a full-scale nuclear war.


So, how did we respond in the face of this impending doomsday scenario?  Did we invade the nearest art gallery and superglue ourselves to a Picasso or a Rubens?  Did we nail our hands to the fast lane of the newly built M1 motorway at Watford Gap during rush hour?  Not a bit of it.  We did what anti-nuclear protesters have always done.  We marched.  And we waved banners.  Together with politicians (Tony Benn and Michael Foot were early supporters of the cause), pop stars, members of the clergy and assorted learned scholars from Oxbridge, we pulled on our duffle coats and backpacks and trudged along the A40 from Aldermaston to Trafalgar Square carrying signs and singing songs.  That’ll show ‘em, we thought.  It’ll all be over by Christmas at this rate.

Rod, Complete With CND Stickers


I say “we” but, as a schoolkid marooned in grimy Sheffield, I was a few years too young to take part in the earliest of the CND protest marches and, in any case, I had little interest in the political side of things at that time.  At this point I’m reminded of an interview Rod Stewart gave to BBC2’s Reel Stories in 2019.  Asked by Dermot O’Leary about his time as a ban the bomb protester in the early 60s, Rod recalled with barely concealed glee, “We used to go on the CND marches, but I did it just to get shagged.  I didn’t care about the bomb, actually.  It was just rebellion, that’s all it was.”  



This is the kind of stuff the hubristic Stewart frequently blurts out in interviews.  To him, most things in life are (or once were) seen as an opportunity for “picking up the birds” as he likes to term it.  While not fully endorsing Rod’s carefully honed Jack the Lad arrogance or, indeed, his outrageous braggadocio, I could kind of see what he was getting at because as a college student in the mid-60s I did take part in a few ban the bomb protests for reasons that were not entirely altruistic.

 

There I was, in regulation corduroy jeans and desert boots, a selection of CND badges proudly displayed along the collar of my army surplus combat jacket.  Sometimes I even bought a copy of The Daily Worker newspaper (rebranded as The Morning Star in 1966) and stuffed it in the pocket of said jacket, making sure the masthead was clearly visible to all who passed by.  This ridiculous affectation was purely to enhance my left-wing street cred, you understand.  I seldom, if ever, read the dreary communist rag.*  Truth be told, my heart wasn’t really in it.  Despite coming from a staunchly Labour voting working-class family, I had little interest in the gloomy leftist politics of the CND.  For me and my school pals the marches were purely social events.  For us it was all about the music, the camaraderie and, like Rod, the girls.  These days you’d probably say we were there just for the craic. 

*Editor’s Note: In July 1977 I did buy (and read) an issue of the Morning Star purely because it contained a lengthy interview with John Peel.  On his radio show in 1987 Peel revealed he was a Morning Star subscriber and had been for some years.




But it wasn’t all beer and skittles.  On one occasion I tramped 13 miserable, footsore miles (21 km) in entirely unsuitable shoes on a drizzly CND march from Chesterfield to Sheffield simply to win the approval of a particularly attractive girl in my year at college.  We’d arranged to meet up somewhere along the route where I hoped to impress her with my knowledge of Dylan and the Beat Poets, but I arrived late to find she’d already left with some of my friends.  The mansplaining would have to wait another day.


 

The March

All of which brings us to the photographs below.  They have been popping up on the internet for years, usually on Facebook groups and the like and I’ve always found them fascinating.  So, I decided to dig a little deeper.  



They were taken by Graham Keen on May 29, 1965, during a march through central London.  This was not one of the big Easter CND marches, but a short one-day protest called the “Peace in Vietnam Meeting” which travelled from Marble Arch to Trafalgar Square.  In the late 60s Keen was art director of the underground newspaper International Times and his photographs captured some of the biggest names of the 60s counterculture.


A couple of photos show the group heading along Oxford Street.  In the background we see the Marshall and Snelgrove department store at the junction of Vere Street, indicating the march is, at that point, roughly midway between Bond Street and Oxford Circus (the store was demolished in the 70s and redeveloped as Debenhams).  Leading the protest are an array of famous (and one soon to be extremely famous) faces.  Left to right there’s Mark Feld, Olive Gibbs, Susan Robinson, Joan Baez, Donovan, Tom Paxton and Vanessa Redgrave.  Let’s meet them one by one and discover what these celebrity activists were up to in1965. 



Over on the left is 17-year-old Mark Feld, busily networking and putting his face out there.  He may have been a virtual unknown in May 1965 but here he is, already rubbing shoulders with famous pop stars and folk music aristocracy.  He’s wearing a polo neck sweater as favoured by the folkies and has a cheap nylon string acoustic guitar strapped across his back, Woody Guthrie style.  I may be wrong but it looks to me like he’s also carrying a Collets record bag.  Collets was a famous folk, blues and jazz shop, then located at 70 New Oxford Street, only a couple of minutes from where the photos were taken.  It’s tantalising to speculate what LPs young Mark might have had in his bag.


Feld briefly called himself Toby Tyler around this time and in early 1965 had made some demo recordings under that name, including a version of Dylan's "Blowin' In The Wind." Three months after the march he signed to Decca records and changed his name to Marc Bolan.  His debut solo single “The Wizard” (allegedly featuring Jimmy Page on guitar) was released on November 19, 1965.*  Following a couple more unsuccessful solo singles and a four-month stint with the band John’s Children, Bolan formed the acoustic duo Tyrannosaurus Rex with Steve Peregrin Took in 1967.  After a few moderately successful years on the John Peel endorsed hippie underground circuit (towards the end of which Took was replaced by Mickey Finn), the band name was truncated to T. Rex, Bolan plugged in his electric guitar and rapidly became the UK’s biggest pop star of the Glam era until his untimely death in a car crash on Barnes Common in September 1977.  But you don’t need me to tell you any of that.

*Ed. Note: “The Wizard” was re-recorded in 1970 for the self-titled first T. Rex album. 


 

Next to Mark is Olive Gibbs (1918-1995).  Olive was London Area Chairperson of CND between 1964-67.  She was also twice Lord Mayor of Oxford and the first Labour Chair of Oxfordshire County Council.  Often described as a “Labour firebrand,” in 2015 she was awarded a blue plaque at Christ Church Old Buildings in Oxford. 


A street in Oxford, Gibbs Crescent, was named after her, as was the Humanities building at Oxford Brookes (then Oxford Polytechnic).  In February 2017 Gibbs Crescent was in the news after an explosion killed one resident and destroyed a bock of flats. 

Alongside Olive is Joan Baez’s assistant and personal secretary Susan Robinson.  She was married to the famous anti-war activist Ira Sandperl (1923-2013) who was a major figure in the civil rights and peace movement.  His work influenced Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Martin Luther King, Allen Ginsberg and, of course, Joan herself.


This was a particularly busy time for the queen of folk music Joan Baez.  A seasoned activist, she took part in many famous events, notably the August 1963 March on Washington with Bob Dylan (where Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his immortal "I have a dream” speech).  Here are just a few entries from Joan’s hectic 1965 diary:

March 5 & 6: Two concerts with Bob Dylan in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and New Haven, Connecticut.

March 24: Joan sang at a “Stars for Freedom” rally during the five-day Selma to Montgomery march in Alabama.  The march was led by Martin Luther King.

April 17: The March Against the Vietnam War in Washington DC.  Joan appeared with Judy Collins and Phil Ochs. 

Late April / early May: She was part of Bob Dylan’s entourage during his 1965 English tour and was pictured in a series of famous photos with Dylan in the Victoria Embankment Gardens behind the Savoy Hotel in London.  Bob didn’t invite Joan onstage to perform as she had hoped / expected, and she left the tour in disappointment. 

May 29: The Peace in Vietnam March through London with Donovan, Tom Paxton, Vanessa Redgrave etc.  Bob Dylan was back in the UK for a BBC TV concert to be filmed on June 1 (it was broadcast in two parts on June 19 and 26), but he reportedly turned down Joan's invitation to join the march.

June 5: A week after the London march, Joan played her own concert for BBC TV.  Recorded at the BBC Television Theatre in Shepherd’s Bush (now the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire), she performed 18 songs.  The concert was originally broadcast in 1965 as two separate half-hour specials, both ending with the classic French love song “Plaisir d’amour.”  The show was re-broadcast on BBC Four in January 2009

July 22-25: Joan appeared at the Newport Folk Festival, duetting with Donovan on “Colours.”  On the final day of the festival Bob Dylan went electric for the first time, stunning the Newport crowd


October: Released in October 1964, Joan’s current album at the time of the London march was Joan Baez/5.  Her sixth album Farewell Angelina (Fontana TFL 6058) was released almost exactly a year later and was her only LP issued during 1965.  The silver PVC coat she is pictured with on the cover of Farewell Angelina is the same one she wore during the London march.

Also in October 1965 several photos from the May 29 march were used in a feature about Joan in the British teen magazine Rave.  Titled “When Joannie Goes Marching Home,” the piece carried a quite bizarre sub-heading “A Girl In A Girl’s World becomes A Girl In A Man’s World as this month it takes a look at Joan Baez, folk star beautiful, protest marcher extraordinary”



October 12-21: Seven date tour of UK & Ireland:  

12 - Sheffield (City Hall)

14 - Bristol (Colston Hall)

15 - Birmingham (Town Hall)

16/18 - London (Royal Festival Hall)

19 - Belfast (King’s Hall)

21 - Dublin (National Stadium)

Although aged just 24 in May 1965, Baez was already an established star with five LPs to her name, including two live albums.  By contrast Donovan, then a mere stripling of 19, stood at the threshold of an unimaginably successful recording career.  Let’s find out what he was up to in 1965:

January/February/March: Donovan burst on the UK pop scene via an estimated five TV appearances on Ready Steady Go!  

February 8: He signed a recording contract with Pye records

March 12: His first single “Catch the Wind” was released, reaching #4 in the UK charts  

April 11: Donovan’s first big live show of 1965 was the NME Poll Winners Concert at the Empire Pool, Wembley (now the Wembley Arena) where he received the quaintly named “New Disc or TV Singer” award.  He performed a short two song set on the same bill as some of the biggest names in UK pop, including the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Kinks  

May 14: His debut album What’s Bin Did and What’s Bin Hid (Pye NPL 18117) was released in the UK, reaching #3 in the LP charts  

May 14-23: He took part in a seven date UK package tour with the Pretty Things, Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders, Unit 4 + 2 and others  

May 28: Donovan’s second single “Colours” hit the shops just one day before the march.  Like “Catch the Wind” it also peaked at #4 in the UK singles chart  

May 29: The Peace in Vietnam March through London.  In Donovan's wonderfully hubristic 2005 autobiography The Hurdy Gurdy Man he wrote: "That June (sic) I marched with Joaney (sic) to the Protest Rally in Trafalgar Square, linking arms with Vanessa Redgrave (British actress), Tom Paxton (US folksinger), Olive Gibbs (chairperson of the CND) and a very young, very small Marc Bolan. I gave my support that day and yet I felt that protest in the streets would not be as successful in spreading the message as would the singing of songs." Later the same day, Donovan attended a Variety Club Star Gala at Battersea Park Festival Gardens, a charity event where he signed autographs, together with other pop stars and TV celebrities 

June: The What’s Bin Did and What’s Bin Hid LP was released in the US, retitled Catch the Wind (Hickory LPM 123)

August/September: A summer season at the Britannia Pier Theatre, Great Yarmouth playing four Sunday shows with, variously, the Who, the Fourmost and the In Crowd (featuring Keith West, who hit the charts in 1967 with “Excerpt from A Teenage Opera”). Don also played a similar show at the North Pier, Blackpool with the Walker Brothers and the Merseybeats.

August 5-17: After a few US dates (during which he bought his famous Gibson J45 cherry sunburst acoustic guitar in Hollywood), Donovan embarked on another UK package tour, this time co-headlining with the Byrds.  Also on the bill were Them (with Van Morrison), Elkie Brooks, Kenny Lynch and others.  The Four Pennies and Unit 4+2 alternated on some dates.  The final date in Portsmouth was cancelled due to poor ticket sales.  The compère on the tour was Ray Cameron, who was the father of UK comedian Michael McIntyre


August 13: The politically charged Universal Soldier EP was released in the UK.  It sold well, reaching the singles charts in some of the music papers (if not the national charts), no mean feat for an expensive 7” EP retailing at almost twice the price of a single 

October 15: Donovan played two shows at “Folk ‘65,” a CND benefit concert at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon.  Also on the bill were Julie Felix, Bob Davenport and the Ian Campbell Folk Group 

October 22: His second album Fairy Tale (Pye NPL 18128) was released in the UK, reaching #20 in the albums chart

October 29:  Donovan’s third single “Turquoise” was released, reaching #30 in the UK.  The song was apparently written for / about Joan Baez who later recorded it for her 1967 album Joan (Fontana TFL 6082) 

November: His second album Fairy Tale (Hickory LPM 127) was released in the US, reaching #85 in the Billboard charts

By 1966 he would leave folk music (and those insidious Dylan comparisons) behind to become a major force in the pop / psych field with million-selling US hits like “Sunshine Superman” and “Mellow Yellow.” 


Next up is US folk singer-songwriter Tom Paxton. Like Donovan he was also at the start of a long and distinguished career in 1965.  His 1964 acclaimed debut LP Ramblin’ Boy (Elektra EKL 277) contained possibly his biggest song, the much covered “The Last Thing On My Mind.”  “Goin’ To The Zoo” and the title track also became enduring concert favourites.  His second album Ain’t That News (Elektra EKL 298) was released in October 1965.  

Tom played his first UK live dates during early 1965 and just weeks earlier on May 4 he had performed at the famous Troubadour folk club in Earls Court.  By 1966 Paxton would be headlining the Royal Albert Hall and appearing on British TV.  He was aged only 28 when these photos were taken, yet he was already fast losing his hair.  Before too long Tom would seldom be seen without his trademark peaked fisherman’s cap.  Tom Paxton is still releasing music in 2022, with 50 studio albums and a dozen live LPs in his back catalogue. 

On the far right of the line we see actress Vanessa Redgrave.  She was no stranger to political activism, having joined the Committee of 100 (a CND affiliated anti-war group) in 1961.  Along with her brother Corin she joined the Workers Revolutionary Party in the 1970s and unsuccessfully ran for parliament several times under the WRP banner. 


 

Part of a famous British showbiz dynasty, Vanessa is the daughter of actors Sir Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson.  Her siblings Lynn and Corin were also successful thespians.  Aged 28 at the time of the march, Redgrave was better known as a Shakespearean stage actress in 1965, having made only one film up to that point, Behind the Mask in 1958.  That would soon change, however, with Morgan - A Suitable Case For Treatment, A Man For All Seasons and Blowup gaining cinema release in 1966 and 1967, with Camelot, Isadora Duncan and Oh! What A Lovely War (also featuring her father and brother) following soon after.  As of 2022 Vanessa has appeared in over 100 films, plus an equally impressive number of stage plays and TV productions.   She has collected numerous accolades including an Academy Award and two Golden Globes.  Her political activism continues unabated.


Scottish folk singer Alex Campbell was pictured in some photos (without his trademark beard at this point) as the procession moved along Oxford Street. As usual the march terminated at Trafalgar Square where Joan Baez performed a few songs up on the plinth alongside Landseer’s lions.  Although he wasn’t spotted marching, Bert Jansch was pictured on the stage at the foot of Nelson’s Column (an unfortunately positioned banner reading “West Ham Anarchists” sits right behind him).  Bert’s self-titled debut album (Transatlantic TRA 125) was released just six weeks earlier on April 16, 1965, and at age 21 he was fast becoming the hottest name on the London folk club scene.  I initially thought it was Ralph McTell seated next to Bert at the very edge of the photo, but Ralph was still three years away from releasing his first album in 1965. Others say it's more likely to be guitarist Mac MacLeod, an early influence on Donovan who backed him on some 1965 dates.  The jury is still out on this one.



The figure in front turning to speak to the woman in the leather cap behind Vanessa Redgrave could well be Eric Winter, a left-wing journalist from Manchester who sometimes wrote for Melody Maker.  Winter founded Sing, Britain's first folk music magazine in the style of the American Sing Out and it was he who wrote the poem “The H-Bomb’s Thunder” which, when put to the tune of “The Miner's Lifeguard,” became the Aldermaston marchers’ anthem.  A recording by The London Youth Choir with Leon Rosselson appeared on the 1959 Topic LP Songs Against The Bomb (see below).  Another esteemed Melody Maker folk writer and musician Karl Dallas was also heavily involved with the early marches, providing music to welcome the marchers as they entered the towns along the route.  

The Music – A Brief Overview

As early as 1949 the bomb and its political and social implications had found its way into popular music.  Four years after two nuclear bombs were dropped on Japan, ending World War II, Gospel group the Charming Bells recorded Lee McCullom’s “Jesus Hits Like the Atom Bomb.”  The song was covered multiple times within the first year and is still a popular gospel / doo wop song today with notable versions by Ry Cooder (1987) and the Blind Boys of Alabama (2005).  In 1998 the third album by Dallas, Texas band Tripping Daisy was titled Jesus Hits Like the Atom Bomb but, other than the title, this seems to have no connection with McCullom’s song. 

In 1950 came the talking blues “Old Man Atom” by country & western vocal group Sons of the Pioneers.  Other versions by Ozie Waters, Sam Hinton and Bob Hill appeared the same year, while Pete Seeger recorded it as “Talking Atom Blues” in 1958.  


The early CND protesters in Britain had marched to the accompaniment of trad jazz and skiffle provided by the likes of Ken Colyer’s band and journalist / musician Karl Dallas.  But folk music would soon make its presence felt.  Ewan MacColl was a key figure in the political protest movement and as early as the 1950s he was writing songs such as “The Ballad of Ho Chi Minh,” “Against the Atom Bomb” and “The Ballad of Stalin” (“Joe Stalin was a mighty man, and a mighty man was he / He led the Soviet people on the road to victory”).  Speaking to The Daily Worker in 1958, MacColl said “There are now more new songs being written than at any other time in the past 80 years - young people are finding out for themselves that folk songs are tailor-made for expressing their thoughts and comments on contemporary topics, dreams and worries.”

Songs Against The Bomb (Topic 12001) a 13 track album containing cuts by MacColl, Peggy Seeger, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and others was issued in 1959 and Ewan would hand out lyric sheets for his song “That Bomb Has Got to Go” along the route of the marches.  Among those who sang it was his future wife (and co-writer), Peggy Seeger, who went on to fight many campaigns with MacColl as well as writing numerous crusading songs of her own.


The Transatlantic label, soon to become home to Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Pentangle and a host of other famous folkies, released a 1962 album by Sheila Hancock and Sydney Carter titled Putting Out The Dustbin (Transatlantic TRA 106).  Carter wrote all 15 tracks and the vocals were shared, with Sheila singing 10.  The opening track, an up-tempo ditty titled “Coming Down from Aldermaston,” told the story of a famous protest march.  It sounds a little dated now, but it was the first time I recall the CND movement namechecked on a record.  In 1963 Carter would pen the much-loved folk song “Lord of the Dance” (sung in schools across the land and later covered by Donovan on his 1970 album HMS Donovan), while Hancock was a busy comedienne and actress who was then starring in the famous BBC sitcom The Rag Trade which ran from 1961-63.

In 1963 Ian Campbell, leader of the eponymous folk group (and father of UB40’s Ali and Robin Campbell), wrote about the Cuban Missile Crisis in “The Sun is Burning”, which became a powerful Aldermaston anthem.  This song was covered by Simon & Garfunkel on their 1964 album Wednesday Morning, 3am and was later recorded by The Dubliners (1972), Christy Moore (1978) and others. 

Bob Dylan brought the anti-war protest song into the 60s mainstream with a string of timeless classics including “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” “Masters of War” and “With God On Our Side.”  Meanwhile Donovan (him again) released the Universal Soldier EP in August 1965.  Three of the four tracks were covers of protest songs with a strong anti-war theme - "Universal Soldier" (Buffy Sainte-Marie), "Do You Hear Me Now?" (Bert Jansch) and "The War Drags On" (Mick Softley).  The fourth track was an edit of Donovan’s own “Ballad of a Crystal Man.”  References to “Vietnam,” “murdered negroes” and, inevitably, “the bomb” are shoehorned into almost every track on the EP. 


US singer / songwriter P. F. Sloan (1945-2015) saw which way the wind was blowing and conjured up “Eve Of Destruction,” an unashamedly commercial protest song, very much in the style of Bob Dylan.  After the Byrds turned it down, the Turtles included the song on their debut LP It Ain’t Me Babe.  It was then released as a single by gravel-voiced Barry McGuire (late of the New Christy Minstrels folk group) who turned it into a worldwide hit in August of 1965


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An infuriatingly catchy record, complete with random harmonica stabs à la Dylan, “Eve of Destruction” covered all the protest bases and ticked every conceivable social issue box (Cold War, Red China, middle east, Vietnam, civil rights, the draft, nuclear weapons, the space programme etc) along the way to the top of the US pop charts (#3 in the UK).  The threat of Armageddon had now become part of the teenage entertainment industry and was therefore big business.  There was even an early film clip of “Eve of Destruction” which was shown on US teen pop shows like Hullabaloo.  Set in what was presumably meant to be a dystopian post-apocalyptic world (but it actually more closely resembled a car scrap yard), this extraordinary film featured McGuire clad in what looked like a pair of jodhpurs frowning and wandering disconsolately between piles of gloomily lit wreckage while a bunch of teenagers performed a carefully choreographed go-go dance of despair atop the cars.  

Watch that video HERE :

Below are just a sample of the lyrics.  The glut of apostrophes in place of the dropped letter “G” was plainly an attempt to ape Dylan’s freewheelin’ style (which Bob had, in turn, lifted wholesale from Woody Guthrie):

The eastern world, it is explodin',

Violence flarin', bullets loadin',

You're old enough to kill but not for votin',

You don't believe in war, but what's that gun you're totin'.

At the other end of the pop spectrum were The Fugs, a loose collection of underground poets and self-styled noise terrorists led by Ed Sanders and Tuli Kupferberg.  On their 1966 self-titled second album the Fugs recorded “Kill For Peace” an anarchic track - think early Mothers of Invention minus Zappa’s musicality – which satirised the Vietnam war.  

“Gimme an F!  Gimme a U!  Gimme a C!  Gimme a K!  What’s that spell?” inquired Country Joe McDonald from the stage at Woodstock 1969.  It was one of the finest examples of audience participation the anti-war movement had seen up to that point.  He was performing an updated solo version of the Country Joe & the Fish medley “The Fish Cheer / I-Feel-Like-I’m Fixin’-To Die Rag” which opened the band’s second album released in November 1967.  

Joe’s Vietnam war spoof dated back to a 1965 EP but it would soon find a much wider audience, first on the 1967 Fish album and then even more so at Woodstock two years later.  With hard hitting satirical lyrics like this, it perfectly captured the American protest mood at that time: 

And it's one, two, three, what are we fighting for?

Don't ask me, I don't give a damn, next stop is Vietnam

And it's five, six, seven, open up the pearly gates

Well there ain't no time to wonder why

Whoopee! we're all gonna die


Recorded mid-1968 for the album Beggars Banquet (Decca LK4955), “Street Fighting Man” is possibly the Rolling Stones’ most politically charged song.  The band already had the tune, but Mick Jagger supposedly wrote the lyrics after attending an anti-Vietnam war rally in March 1968 at the US embassy in London’s Grosvenor Square together with political activist Tariq Ali.  There he witnessed mounted police charging the crowd, a rare event in Britain in 1968.  Similar instances of civil unrest were also happening in Paris around the same time.



   

Inspired by the 1968 protest marches John Lennon recorded two distinctly different versions of the song “Revolution” with the Beatles.  An up-tempo version of the song ended up on the B-Side of the “Hey Jude” single, while a slower, bluesy take (titled “Revolution 1”) was included on their self-titled double album, aka “the White Album.”


At this point Lennon was still unsure whether it was wise to fully align himself with the violent tactics of the left-wing protesters and hedged his bets with the ambiguous lyrics “But when you talk about destruction / Don’t you know that you can count me out (in).”  But, with “Give Peace A Chance” he took things to another level entirely. 


John and Yoko hit the headlines in 1969 with their extended peace campaign which started with the single “Give Peace A Chance.”  Credited to the Plastic Ono Band and recorded while Lennon was still a member of the Beatles, it reached #2 in the UK singles chart (#14 in the US).  The song instantly became an anthem of the American anti-Vietnam war movement in the 70s, where it was adopted by veterans such as Pete Seeger at peace rallies.  “Give Peace A Chance” may have been a simplistic message, but it proved to be a powerful and enduring one, still cropping up across Europe in 2022 following the attempted Russian invasion of Ukraine, which is ongoing at the time of writing.  This was followed in 1970 by another politically charged single "Power To The People" which reached #6 in the UK.

Also in 1970 Tony McPhee’s blues rock outfit The Groundhogs released their third album Thank Christ For the Bomb.  The title track took what would probably be seen as a simplistic and controversial stance today – ie that the two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were ultimately a positive thing and probably ensured that such weapons would never be used again.  The lyrics went, in part:

But, in the final year of that war, two big bangs settled the score,

Against Japan, who'd joined the fight, the rising sun didn't look so bright.

Since that day it's been stalemate, everyone's scared to obliterate,

So it seems for peace we can thank the bomb, so I say thank Christ for the bomb

But times change and causes come and go.  Eventually the once-terrifying threat of nuclear war receded, to be replaced in the 70s and 80s by new musical crusades such as Rock Against Racism, Nelson Mandela, South Africa, Live Aid, Farm Aid and a host of other worthy causes.


The mushroom cloud itself had already been reduced to an artistic cliche years earlier and the image was often used in an ironic (if not exactly light-hearted) way on album covers by everyone from Count Basie (The Atomic Mr. Basie 1958) and Tom Jones (A-tom-ic Jones 1966), to Jefferson Airplane (Crown of Creation 1968) and Iron Maiden (2 Minutes To Midnight 1984).

  

Inevitably, the world of heavy rock had embraced the stark imagery of Armageddon and in 1981 Gary Moore and Greg Lake recorded separate versions of the song “Nuclear Attack.”

In 2004 it’s likely few of those who bought the U2 album How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb gave its title* a second thought, or even knew what a mushroom cloud was.  The album went on to sell 10 million copies.  OK Boomer, indeed.

  

The CND / Vietnam peace marches of 60 years ago may be a distant fading memory, but they left an abiding legacy, certainly in the world of folk music.  The causes may be different today but the strength of feeling about the horrors of nuclear war lingers on.  

*Editor’s Note: The U2 title came from a line in the song “Fast Cars” which was a bonus track on the album in most territories.



 



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