First studio LP by the wonderful Here And Now, these tracks were not recorded at Streetlevel Studios and not mixed by Grant Showbiz just for a change.
The front cover photograph is a view of the Freestonia area, a group of squatted buildings in and near Latimer Road, West London. To the left of that rounded pub (middle and left in photo) are a row of houses that included quite a few squats and co op housing. Opposite these houses not quite in view is some waste land owned (I believe) by the B.B.C. which other film companies (Euston Films being one) hire for filming on.
If you look carefully at some episodes of ‘The Sweeney’ and ‘Minder’ you will see these squatted houses. My favorite view of these houses appear in ‘Quadrophenia’, when Jimmy The Mod drives into his mates scrapyard looking to score some pills off the Mod working there at the time, the guy with the blow torch and the ‘heavy’ connections!
Anyway I digress, this is an absolutely stunning release that in my opinion was not bettered by this band. Lots more stuff on this site regarding this band and the various other bands on the Streetlevel and free festival scene of this period if you use the search function.
Text below courtesy of Dave Weller and JB, period photographs courtesy of Jezza, apart from the Here And Now Meanwhile Gardens performance photograph below which was sent to this site by Bob Hedger.
Here & Now were the archetypical hippie/punk crossover band and stalwarts of the 70s free festival scene. Although originally formed in 1974 it was at the Watchfield Free Festival of August 1975 where the Here & Now band truly came into being. They regrouped in March of the following year and re-captured the spirit of their first encounter as the “Primal Tapes”; two tracks from this session appearing on the “Gospel Of Free” CD. The summer of ’76 was spent touring as many free festivals as possible in the UK before heading off to tour France. At the beginning of 1977 and the end of this first French tour the band recorded a studio and live session for Radio France, and a track from this also appears on “Gospel Of Free”.
The news that Daevid Allen of Gong had been inspired to track down Here & Now after reading a review in the N.M.E. prompted the band to regroup again in the Summer of 1977, playing street parties in ‘celebration’ of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and, naturally, more free festivals. At this point Twink, the original keyboard player left the band and was replaced by roadie Gavin Da Blitz.
Here & Now teamed up with Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth of Gong in 1977 to form Planet Gong. With a political agenda based around ‘floating anarchy’, Planet Gong combined the improvisational style of the early Here & Now with the quirky nature of Gong. The first ‘Floating Anarchy’ tour saw the band playing a mix of revamped Here & Now compositions plus Gong and Daevid Allen songs. But shortly before the start of the second ‘Floating Anarchy Free Tour’ in the Spring of 1978 Allen quit and Planet Gong reverted back to the Here & Now band. Later that year Allen explained his departure;
“I flourished again in Here & Now. Basically my role was to be helped by their honesty, their positive warmth, and at the same time to get them a wider audience. The moment the work on that level was done, and I found the pressures of the other 7 billion things I was doing were pushing me back here [Deya], I had this feeling that it was the right time to now let them do it on their own”.
The fruits of Allen’s work with Here & Now were released as the “Live Floating Anarchy 1977″ album plus a single, “Opium For the People”. These were recorded during the short tour of France that Planet Gong undertook at the end of 1977. The single was recorded in a Paris studio in both English and French; as for the album, Keith The Missile Bass recalls;
” It was recorded in Toulouse at a rather – ahem – anarchic gig – a 3,000 seater which had sold out weeks in advance, and thus found itself in a very difficult situation when another 3-4,000 people showed up and couldn’t get in… they got – well – in that very French way – rather irritated… The riot police showed up a little later and joined in by showing everyone just how good their tear gas and water cannons were… meanwhile the show was going on… It was recorded on an 8 track Tascam machine and the engineers (who, it must be said, had been plonked in a corner at the back of the stage itself) did an absolutely crap job…
“Daevid Allen mixed and jiggery-poked his way through it in Deia – nursing (amongst other things) the bass sound from the crackling cellophane it originally was on tape to the relatively realistic sound on the album. Other miracles were not in short supply…
The album was first released on BYG Records in France and Charly Records in the UK, the advances being used to fund the purchase of a PA and musical equipment. Original copies of the album urged buyers to pay no more than £1.50 or better still to steal it, and had a black and white drawing on the cover with the suggestion that the owner coloured it in. The version issued by Charly saw the price increased to £2.25 – though the extra 75p did mean the cover came in colour. Since it’s release, “Live Floating Anarchy 1977″ has sold tens of thousands of copies, but the band members have never received any royalties.
Here & Now continued with a series of free tours in 1978 and 1979. No entrance fee was charged; concert goers were instead encouraged to make an appropriate donation to cover the costs of the show, feeding the band, and petrol money for the tour bus. £50 was the target for each nights collection. The second free tour, in the Summer of 1978, resulted in an album jointly issued with Alternative TV, one of the support bands, titled “What You See… Is What You Are”. Each band had one side of the LP, featuring tracks recorded on the tour. It was sold at gigs for £1.00 or could be bought in shops for £1.75. Although the sound quality is not great, it is well worth a listen not least because this is the only recording that features saxophonist Jack Neat who joined the band for a few months in early 1978.
Towards the end of 1978 Here & Now’s first studio album was released, “Give And Take”, plus an EP, recorded at the same time, “Dog In Hell”. Again, the advances on the album from Charly Records were used to fund a new tour bus, and a truck for equipment. The band then kicked off another free tour to promote the album, the fourth of that year, playing over 30 shows all over the UK. Just prior to the start of the tour they recorded a John Peel radio session following a chance encounter with him at an open air gig at Meanwhile Gardens. The Peel session captures the essence of Here & Now well. Two songs are from the “Give And Take” album and the ‘space punk’ style is much more in evidence than on the “Floating Anarchy” album, yet the importance of trying to capture the moment, the ‘here and now’, meant that two of the tracks were jammed ‘there and then’ in the Maida Vale studios – much to the surprise of the BBC engineers.
The intense touring schedule continued in 1979, resulting in a live album, “All Over The Show” and another studio single, “End Of The Beginning”. By this time the pressure of extensive touring in both the UK and Europe was beginning to take its toll. In the spring of 1979 the “choir of angels” also known as singers Suze Da Blooze and Annie Wombat, who had joined when Planet Gong was formed, left the band along with founder and drummer Kif Kif Le Batter. They were followed by another founder and guitarist Steffe Sharpstrings at the beginning of 1980. This left Keith The Bass and keyboardist Gavin Da Blitz as the remaining veterans of the Here & Now band of the 1970s – a band that probably played more free gigs than any band in history, that fused free-form psychedelic hippy rock with the attitude and raw sound of punk, and crossed paths with the ultimate pot head pixie, Daevid Allen of Gong.
Perhaps most importantly of all the Here & Now of the 70s challenged the music biz establishment by cutting out the ‘middle man’ between musicians and their fans. By selling albums to record companies they funded their own musical equipment, PA, and tour bus. This allowed them to do free tours with collections each night to cover running costs. The albums were then sold at gigs and through shops at roughly half the price of normal releases. Their ultimate goal was to establish an alternative free gig circuit run on a co-operative basis with a shared equipment pool – but this never happened. The politics of free tours and determination to challenge the music industry status quo connected with the punk ethos of the time, and Here & Now tours were typically accompanied with a host of punk bands on the bill. Many of these bands, such as The Fall and Mark Perry, went on to become the standard bearers and media darlings of the ‘alternative’ music scene of the early 80s. But Here & Now were never able to shake off the hippie tag to become anything more than the “crusties concert party”, garnering at best media indifference.
The line up changes at the end of the 70s introduced guitarist Deano Ferrari to the band along with drummer Rob Bougie. This new look Here & Now saw a continuing change away from the earlier improvisational style to a more structured approach, and also added a third musical dimension – reggae… A further change, was the introduction of an admission charge, albeit only £1, on the ‘Christmas Stocking’ tour at the end of 1980.
Recording of the next album began towards the end of 1981 and continued until March 1982. Some of the new songs had already been previewed on the band-released tape, “Stolen Moments”, but it took a further year for the album, tentatively titled “Out Of Nowhere” to see the light of day. Disenchanted with Charly Records, who had released the two previous albums plus “Live Floating Anarchy 1977″ but paid no royalties, and without a manager, Here & Now began the search for a new record label. They finally released “Fantasy Shift” in April 1983 on Chick Records, a label run by the owner of the studios where the album was recorded. With a tour lined up to coincide with the release, the first pressing of 3,000 records soon sold out. However, the label refused to run a second pressing as they felt it would be too risky.
Undaunted, the band continued with a hectic touring schedule including the obligatory summer festivals such as Stonehenge. The arrival of drummer Paul Rose (to replace Rob Peters) just as “Fantasy Shift” was released heralded the most long-lasting Here & Now line up (along with Keith Th’ Bass, Gavin Da Blitz, and Deano Ferrari). By now the Here & Now sound had morphed into hard rocking reggae with punk overtones. At the end of the year they released another self-produced tape, “Coaxed Out From Oxford”, a live show recorded in October 1983, for sale at gigs and by mail order. Then, in September 1984 the band signed a new record deal with Landslide Records. Their next album, “Theatre” was recorded during October and was about to be released when the distributor, Pinnacle, went into receivership. The 1,000 copies of the LP that had been pressed were retrieved from Pinnacle’s warehouse by the record company who gave them to the band by way of compensation as, under the circumstances, all deals were off. So, yet again, Here & Now were without the support of a record label.
Despite this latest setback, the band carried on with yet another tour including 3 nights at the Marquee Club, but by the end of 1985 they decided to call it quits. The collapse of the independent label and distribution network in the UK, the continuing frustration with dodgy record deals and a general sense that their progress was forever being thwarted meant that a farewell concert was planned for Dingwalls on the 31st January 1986. The concert was captured for posterity and released as both a video and LP under the name of “Been And Gone”. The LP was released on yet another label, Coldharbour Records; in this case it was managed by a friend of the producer of the video. The release of a live album as a ‘swan song’ was most appropriate. Throughout the 80s Here & Now continued the relentless touring of the 70s, and established themselves as a popular live attraction. And although the gigs were no longer free, causes such as CND and the ALF were often beneficiaries. Their live reputation was established despite attracting limited coverage in the weekly music press, though the ‘tour news’ pages of the N.M.E. were a notable exception.
The free festival movement of the 1970′s was utopia in action. Food, music, fun, all cost nothing. you could do what you liked as long as you didn’t harm anyone. The sun shone in the Midsummer month. There were streets and stages and shops and side-shows and the centre point was a great pyramid that was the main stage.
Here & Now were the musical heroes of the free festivals, and they established the free music circuit which was a reaction to the general unpleasantness and greed of society and the music business in particular.
The band travelled in a bus which had been converted into a living and sleeping and eating accommodation. They owned their own P.A. and equipment truck and everyone worked for free so touring expenses were non-existent. The roadies and the girls took a collection, and the £50 or whatever was enough to fuel the band and bus to the next gig.
Again, the burning everlasting summer passed in a flash. The rain and cold came back and we’d rather burned our bridges at Latty road. We took up an extremely kind offer to shelter at festival band Thandoy’s Norfolk retreat.
In the chilly damp weeks that followed, there was still no word from Daevid. Even though we were a battle-hardened unit in our own right, the uncertainty, coupled with the onset of another nine months of miserable weather, was unsettling everyone.
Tempers were fraying, and after one altercation too many, the gentle Twink found he’d had enough and left the band, kindly leaving us his bus. Keith the Bass put forward the also gentle Gavin as his replacement, and he was duly elected. His synthi maelstrom would soon earn him the name Gavin da Blitz.
Ironically, Daevid surfaced days later with a whole set up in place. A British-French tour was being organised, and by October we had all met up at Harry Williamson’s place in North Devon for rehearsals.
We combined much of the music we’d been playing as Here & Now with Daevid’s new and old material and Planet Gong came to be. By November the tour was under way
By this point Suze was singing as well as dancing and she was joined by Ano Wombat. Marie-Clair de Lune danced and sometimes so did Trissy (Janet’s seven year old daughter). After a few gigs we were joined by Gilli Smythe on space-whisper.
It was a totally different world. For one thing we simply weren’t used to playing concerts… not ones that people came to, anyway! Somehow Here & Now used to flower in the summer, in the open air. Secondly, we weren’t used to performing every day, or for that long at a time (nearly two hours – totally exhausting if you’re the drummer!). We tried to do the tour in Twink’s bus, but it just couldn’t bear to be in France without him. It broke down and refused to be mended
In France though, we had more time between gigs to get to know people a bit. Meeting all these old mates of Gong was a treat… not to mention the food!