Dangerous Times

In parallel to the launch of Operation Linebacker in the preceding week, the USA also implemented Operation Pocket Money, in which 11,000 thousand-pound mines were dropped into Haiphong and other North Vietnamese harbours. In a declared response, on May 11th, 1972, members of the Baader-Meinhof gang placed three pipe bombs near the entrance of the US Army Corp headquarters in Frankfurt. Over the next two weeks, five more pipe bomb attacks were staged by the gang in Augsburg, Munich, Karlsruhe, Hamburg and Heidelberg. Fortunately only five people were killed but many were injured and extensive damage was caused. Andreas Baader was captured on June 1st and the police put the rest of the gang under lock and key over the next fortnight.

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The Democratic Process

In a referendum held on May 10th 1972, five out of six voters in Ireland approved the Accession Treaty for their country to join the European Community. The previous month the Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, had signalled what he thought his country should do:

The decision which the Irish people will make on 10 May will be recorded either as an unprecedented opportunity which we chose to grasp with incalculable gain, or which we chose to throw away with irreparable loss.

In every performance of The Other One on this tour, the decisions the members of the Grateful Dead made were recorded either as an unprecedented opportunity which they chose to grasp with incalculable gain, or which they chose to throw away with irreparable loss. Mostly, they grasped any opportunity that they heard, although not always unanimously. On this night, 40 years ago, the gains were quite remarkable. Continue Reading »


That was the name given at the time to the Bickershaw Festival by those Southern jessies at the NME. Last week, the Granada and BBC North West news outfits reported the 40th anniversary of the event near Wigan through rosier eyes.

With an oversized dollop of hindsight, a parochial UK focus and their usual Pig-ignorance on the subject, the Guardian last year described – ‘for sheer oddity’ – Jeremy Beadle’s booking of the Grateful Dead to headline at Bickershaw, 40 years ago today, as one of the ‘50 key events in the history of rock music’.

At the time, no-one had a clue who Beadle was*. Garcia apparently called him a ‘capitalist shit’ at some point but he actually did a fine job in assembling an outstanding line-up (the Dead, Captain Beefheart, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Dr John, Hawkwind, The Kinks, Country Joe McDonald, Family, The Incredible String Band, Donovan, Wishbone Ash and even Stackridge) for an incredibly low price: the 3-day event cost £2.25, the equivalent of only £25 in today’s prices, and many got in for free on the Sunday. It lost money, of course, making Beadle more of a shit capitalist than a ‘capitalist shit’. Continue Reading »

Rat In A Drain Ditch

Best of frenemies: Le Duc Tho and Henry Kissinger

Negotiations aimed at producing peace in the American War in Vietnam had been on-going at the Hôtel Majestic in Paris since 1968. The main agreement in the preceding four years had been on the shape of the negotiating table and, 40 years ago today, the talks were suspended ‘indefinitely’ after the United States and South Vietnam pulled out because of ‘a lack of progress’ as North Vietnam’s negotiator, Le Duc Tho, refused to budge. President Richard Nixon, giving some credence to Henry Kissinger’s description of him to Le Duc Tho as a ‘madman’, told Kissinger: “The bastards have never been bombed like they’re going to be bombed this time.”

125 additional warplanes immediately headed for Vietnam and, five days later, Operation Linebacker started, in which U.S. aircraft eventually flew 40,000 sorties and dropped over 125,000 tons of bombs, increasing the Vietnamese civilian death toll by many thousands and the US military toll by a few hundred. The Peace Talks resumed on July 13th and both sides agreed concessions in early October. Continue Reading »

Forty years ago today the infamous 27 Club gained another member. Les Harvey, lead guitarist with Stone the Crows, and brother of ‘The Sensational’ Alex Harvey, was fatally electrocuted while performing a sound check at Swansea’s Top Rank Suite (now the Oceana nightclub). This is what they used to sound like. Maggie Bell is the ‘British Janis’ belting out the vocals.

I vividly remember seeing Stone The Crows at Manchester Uni, probably in 1971 or even early 1972, when Les played some great guitar and a quite remarkably effective solo or two on a well-amplifiedStylophone.

There’s probably a roadie or electrician out there somewhere still wracked with guilt that they didn’t earth the mike properly. Continue Reading »

I can’t handle your problems
So don’t try to handle mine
Get yourself a shotgun, a pocket full of shells
And we can while away the time

After the League Of Nations granted Belgium a colonial mandate to run Ruanda-Urundi (thus named by the previous German colonialists) in 1924,  they placed members of the minority Tutsi people in charge. To an extent, this was an enlightened move, in that both native peoples accepted that Tutsis were naturally more suited to control and administration and Hutus more suited to farming. But the Belgians formalised this difference into a class system, arbitrarily classifying anyone owning more than 10 cows as a Tutsi, forcing everyone to carry ethnic identity cards and allowing only Tutsis to attain higher education and hold positions of power. Continue Reading »


75 years ago today the German Luftwaffe and Italian Aviazione Legionaria carried out an aerial raid, on behalf of General Franco’s Fascist forces, on a small town seen as being of strategic importance in the struggle for the control of Spain. The name of that town became stamped on the world’s consciousness, both because it was one of the first ever bombing raids on a defenceless civilian population and also because it inspired the creation of one of the twentieth-century’s most powerful works of art.


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