Humbled to feature in this excerpt from David Erdos’ poem inspired by an event I helped organise in Portobello Road. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did. Such an honour. Lee
NOTES FROM A STREET LEVEL UNDERGROUND
Beneath Brexit’s scarred face, unruly chemicals mingle;
The Portobello vein feeds the headspace as any good drug dealer
Knows. Running from its Notting Hill peak to the lowest
Ladbroke Grove basement, the famed antique market is a sinus
Stream to art’s nose. One can smell the ganja and gage, barbecued
Meat and the incense: as you walk down this road its time travel,
From Rachman’s first tenants down to the exiles that the blessed
Heathcote Williams housed; although smeared by bland film,
It still has a touch of the Donald Cammells about it;
There is something between shade and sunlight that means
Each precious new thing is allowed. This was the oppositions HQ;
From Hawkwind and Moorcock, to Greg Sam’s vegan
Innovations and Lee Harris’ shop, Alchemy, Portobello Road
Pumps strong blood; it was Camden well before Camden;
Scale its heights, find strange glamour, as Jagger reclines in his tub.
Traces then still remain and these are magicked back
In a moment as Youth launches his new record label
At the Mau Mau Bar, love is leased.
Over two days, years appear, from Euro tyros, The Gulps
– one of the new great bands in the making – to Nik Turner,
Lee Harris and Brian Barritt’s newly sourced frequencies.
Cecile, Eno’s niece, daughter of the exquisite Roger, Youth himself,
Gaudi, spinning frenzied discs, Flinton Chalk; Steve Hillage
Appears through bright sun, in his DJ guise, toning midnight,
As Indotransceltic fuse nations, mirroring this multi-cultural road
And time walk. This is to be a festival of the mind, finding its feet
Through dance music. As urban blues echoes and the spirits transcend
Painting breath. In this enclave, this sound cave, and in these
Saving graces, the lessons of the past find the future.
But it is the present they’re after, the present that remains out of step.
Youth and Alex Patterson of the Orb overture with their
Cosmic Oddysey soundscape, before Mycal One Dread infiltrates pulse
And groove. Greg Sams then reveals, interviewed that this shadowed
Road was once the founding path of the future, as he sourced
And created London’s first health food eaterie doors away.
This need to return to the pure has only recently become
The new lifestyle, ironically adopted by others, who after years
Of killing the planet have decided their own state is the first natural
Thing they should save. Mixmaster Morris furrows before heralding
Youth’s guru, Lee Harris, Poet and playwright, south African seminalist,
Mind, unlike those decades younger, still fuelled by vision,
Defining what it truly means to be free. Harris worked
With Jim Haynes, founding the Arts Lab in the 60s,
He arranged dates for Ginsburg and wrote and reviewed for IT;
He ran his shop, close to Sams, shielding the vapours
Before vapists, he was the first to publish Bryan Talbot
And counter cultural bible Home Grown.
Harris is the psychedelic Beatnik whose lessons on love and art’s
Understanding took him from working with Orson Welles to Frank Zappa,
After being one of the first Whites in Jo’burg to join the ANC:
Minds are blown. They do not make lives like this, not anymore;
That’s what’s missing. Harris reflects, each thought kissing
Some of the particular glories he’s held. He recants. He recounts,
He reveals, then sings poems that restore those lost moments
When this road and this city shone with potentials to which everyone
Of worth was compelled. He calls for questions. None come.
And that is one of the event’s only issues; that it takes place in a conclave,
That liked minded or not, avoids search. Where minds were blown,
Now they’re blocked by the constraints of appearance. Trends breed the trendy,
Something that’s exemplified by the road. People hang, but ghosts
Haunt and do their best to remind them, that some are still living,
And wish to remind the new of what’s owed; acts of proper Independence
And faith that fought to resist tightened systems and which sought
True communion through the thorough respect of each self.
Harris glowed like a gem on the dim-lit stage, I could see it.
With his psychedelic T-Shirt as totem, his shining spirit
Granted language dimension, adding fresh flavour to the food outside,
And placing in both ear and pocket the positive exchange
Of mind wealth. But we do not know what to prize; Brexit’s other
Great danger: do we deserve the confusion and the disasters to come,
As All falls? Maybe Samuel Beckett was right, only a handful
Of stones has true value. The currencies we engender will burn us
Through our pockets along with the wracked market stalls.
Lee Harris’ life and work created our counter culture.
Along with Brian Barritt, Tim Leary, Ginsberg and Burroughs,
Heathcote; they all ventured here. It was on this street they held
Congress, just as Youth does in the sunlight, as he gives thanks
And praise to Spring spirits: in the middle of the day; starred input.
Something is happening here, beyond the launch and introduction