ALL THE WORDS BELOW ARE WRITTEN BY GERARD WHO USED TO FRONT THE BAND FLOWERS IN THE DUSTBIN.
GERARD IS ALSO A WRITER OF BOOKS NOTABLY; ‘THE STORY OF CRASS’ (UNDER THE NAME GEORGE BERGER).
GERARD HAS ALSO WRITTEN FOR SOUNDS, MELODY MAKER, AND AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL AMONGST OTHERS.
PRIOR TO THE BOOK; ‘THE STORY OF CRASS’, GERARD’S PREVIOUS BOOK WAS A BIOGRAPHY OF THE LEVELLERS; ‘DANCE BEFORE THE STORM’ (UNDER THE NAME GEORGE BERGER).
I started the Zen 23 YouTube channel because I found myself listening to a lot of ‘podcast’ interviews on YouTube. These were often with gangsters; an alternative lifestyle of sorts, but not anything you’d want to emulate or admire.
So, I decided to make video chats with people I found interesting – people who could offer a different way of looking at the world and dealing with the questions of existence. The good stuff without the vibration-lowering car crash bits if you will.
Some of these interviews were with old punks (the chats with Boff Whalley and Honey Bane in particular, have proved popular) and others with practitioners of complementary health treatments. I felt like there had to be some place that these things met in the middle.
Zen 23 is a project that seeks to reunify the strands that got separated when the hippie / alternative movement largely abandoned ideas of collective bargaining in favour of the increasingly introspective individualisation that has defined the modern western world. To reintegrate the quest for better happier individuals with the quest for a fairer world. To reconnect the microcosm and the macrocosm – look after your mind and body, but also look after the earth and our fellow dwellers, animal, and human.
The realisation that (chances are) these videos will last a long long time felt quite profound to me. When we were all busy being bright young things in the late 70s and early 80s, it never occurred to me that any of it would be remembered at all, never mind the way it has. Armed with this revelation, it felt like a good idea to talk to some people who may offer some kind of inspiration to someone out there in the future. The kind of inspiration I wish I had been exposed to during the difficult years of puberty and careers advisers presenting me with a terrifyingly narrow parameter of possibilities.
Here was, and indeed is, a chance to leave a historical archive of what Tony astutely described as a ‘secret history’. This democratisation of shared memory was what gave me a buzz about the internet back in the early days of the late 90s. Since then, of course, we’ve seen that the dream didn’t quite turn out as planned. The initially fun sites about the JFK assassination and UFOs mutated into something far more sinister, leaving us with the horrendous influence of QAnon et al. Here then, is a chance to give people a glimpse of something else, possibilities more benign and open.
Tony D’s story is fascinating on a couple of levels. Most will be attracted by his early punk experiences, hanging around London in 1977 and fraternising with Malcolm McLaren. These are indeed fascinating tales.
But it’s what was to follow that I find amazing – Tony’s continuation of a life less ordinary, in pursuit of ‘the spirit’, as detailed in KYPP 6. It’s a hero’s journey that takes him first to Stonehenge Festival, and then on across Europe in a converted bus and over to Pakistan, perfecting his circus performance and life skills along the way. Performance as a backstage pass to a continued alternative lifestyle and noble dedication to accessing all areas of possibility.
These interviews also give us a tantalising peep inside Tony’s head. To live outside the law, you must be honest, and Tony’s openness to new directions, honesty, and positivity shine though as what I would hope will serve as an inspiration to anyone who cares to listen.
When Ken Kesey announce his intention to stop writing, he explained he’d rather be a lightning rod than a seismograph. I’d say Tony’s move from Ripped & Torn to KYPP signalled a similar move, and I hope these interviews do the same.
In a contemporary world where words like ‘freedom’ and ‘libertarian’ are misrepresented beyond the point of redundancy, here’s the real deal.
THANK YOU TO GERARD FOR THOSE WORDS – FOR THOSE WHO WOULD BE INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE ABOUT ZEN 23 PLEASE PRESS HERE FOR THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE.
THE SIX TONY D INTERVIEWS ARE BELOW.
PHOTOGRAPH ABOVE: GERARD FROM FLOWERS IN THE DUSTBIN
Folk that know me (Mickey ‘Penguin’) know of my fondness for Flowers In The Dustbin. I witnessed Flowers In The Dustbin many times throughout the bands lifetime in the 1980’s. The performances were colourful, chaotic, sometimes shambolic and beautiful.
I wrote to the band several times and always got a couple of pages back in the most beautiful handwriting I had ever seen from Gerard the vocalist. Just a merchandise list was certainly not good enough to send back to a young kid who had placed the time and the effort to write a badly spelled and horrendously punctuated letter that would shortly be soap-stamped up for the eventual delivery to the band somewhere in the furthest southern suburbs of south London. I still have those letters safe.
Gerard along with Andy Martin from The Apostles were pretty much responsible inspiration-wise to get my spelling, my handwriting and my punctuation to a far better standard, an inspiration that still remains today. Who needs school?
FLOWERS IN THE DUSTBIN
Flowers In The Dustbin released a 12″ E.P on the All The Madmen record label, and were a quarter of the reason that I visited Brougham Road in Hackney in 1985 to search out something far different to the life I was used to back in my Hertfordshire / Essex border town. The other three quarters of the reason for the first visit to All The Madmen records were, in no particular order, The Astronauts, The Mob and Blyth Power.
The All The Madmen 12″ single ‘Freaks Run Wild’ released in 1984 was an absolute classic.
Indebted to Gerard for the snippet of informative text and the lyrics all written in burgandy text below.
“Flowers In The Dustbin were doing a gig at the Roxborough Tavern in Harrow when Mick Lugworm came up and asked us if we wanted to do a record on All The Madmen records. It was a complete surprise – we hadn’t even considered a record at that point. But it was full of good omens for me. David Bowie’s ‘mad’ brother was in “Cane Hill loony bin”, which was my local (so to speak) – so doing a record on a label named after the song Bowie wrote about him was neat, particularly given our fondness for utilising the Doors ‘all the children are insane’ line. Freaks was recorded after Si and Bill had been in the band less than a week. Bill had filled in on drums with us before however, and none of the songs required a Jimmy Page level of competence for Si to learn. Finding a studio was done via the local Yellow Pages. I found one just around the corner from my old school, which at the time seemed some kind of fitting, if ill-defined, revenge. We booked two days and invited old friend – and This Bitter Lesson chanteuse – Claire Taylor to put some extra vocals on it. I thought Claire was a Goddess and her voice was liquid velvet and so could take the edge off my own perceived vocal shortcomings. Also it seemed a good idea to have a woman singing at a time when the only female punk vocals around seemed to be aping the numbing aggressive shouting of their male counterparts”.
A little over a year later Conflicts record label Mortarhate released the ‘Nails Of The Heart’ 7″ single which also included ‘The Reason Why’, my favorite Flowers In The Dustbin song.
“People look but they just don’t see Seem like they’re listening but never seem to hear Insomnia, pain, won’t stop whirling Love is a currency, you still use sterling But some children never grow up And see the world and see it fucked And lyrics might be eloquent But they stop at the skin Whilst my heart cries tears For the love wasted within Like me when I ignored you on the bus And you even sat next to me on the tube And the mutual strangers never connect And people even talk but nothing gets said I’m reaching for your heart but your skin’s like lead.”
A year or so after that release, ‘Like My Crazy Colours’ was released on Cold Harbour records. Coming up a close second to ‘The Reason Why’, ‘Lick My Crazy Colours’ was for a while played back to back on the stereo, both records played many times in one session.
“The windswept horizon of hot summer paradise You realise the truth, you find where your freedom lies The taste of love on a dear friends lips Feel your vision blur as you give in, so willingly The old ones complained, and they said they were wiser than us But us we’re just having a party to last for the rest of our lives They wised it and sized it and they analysed it through and through But us we just did it, we had nothing better to do, so willingly Oh Mr Clean with your nicotine-stained brain Businesswoman Julie, never felt the beauty, never picked a tulip, just kept fixing Pepsi But in your business-suits of navy blue Do you really think your children take any notice of you? Not willingly.”
Some of Gerard’s lyrics seemed to hit the spot every time for someone like me with my awkwardly shy sensibilities at that age, desperately trying to figure out a way to change my world and the outside world for the better.
This 7″ single released on Cold Harbour Records was to be the last offering from Flowers In The Dustbin sadly.