Suze da Blooz
Singing da Blooz by Suze
Unabridged version of a contribution for liner notes of the Here and Now, Gospel of Free retrospective CDs - only a tiny part of which made it into the booklet.
OHH BIZZO VOICE-master you've been onto me again!! And how can these things BE spoken about? How can the memory of something so seminal, so forming and transforming be expressed? I feel wordless and my fingers keep getting onto the worng keys. I don't think that I can say anything which will come near expressing what I'd like to say about the Here and Now Band. Not Now. Not about Then. I don't even know how far back to go to find the beginning. But if I don't say my piece… So here goes…
I came to London from Exeter in 1974 seeking a future. I'd got tired of the stoned smoke haze which settled over the comfortably incestuous world of Exeter where we promised ourselves that one day we'd buy a big bus, travel the world, form the most influential free-floating band that ever toured etc etc etc. Exeter in the 70's was probably the closest I ever got to the to the isle of the lotus-eaters and some never managed to drag themselves away. But I craved the reality of living music, live audiences, a real bus to tour the real world and so I left that rural womb and returned to London and the most run-down squat you've ever seen (not even water or a toilet) at 100 Freston Road where Rivers, a brilliant lute-player in an advanced stage of schizophrenia, and I enjoyed a surreal but exotically sexual relationship.
I was sure I'd find THAT BAND in this seedy, corner of West London. But although I felt at home with the cosmopolitan population of Latimer Road, I couldn't bear the separation from the green beauty of Exeter. When spring came, I covered the crumbling walls of the squat with murals of lakes, flowers and trees but it didn't work.
Early in 1976 I returned to Exeter, and a room in a house in Little Silver on an ancient Saxon site next to St David's Church. For me, this premature visit to London was an interesting example of waiting for the right time because although we hung out in the same places and knew the same people, I never even heard of the Here and Now Band (they lived just around the corner from Freston Road in a slightly more up-market squat in Stoneleigh Street) until Green Mene Jean and I made what was to be the start of an epic journey together in May 1976.
I had come up to London to visit old friends in a state of great excitement which had been developing over the past months. I knew that I was on the verge of great things and I had perfect trust that the way forward would show itself. During the 5 months in which I lived in St David's Hill, I had begun to study astrology and the I Ching, continued work on drawing and painting, developed my skills as a singer, dancer and actress and creativity was bursting inside me like bubbles in wine.
Jean and I decided that as nothing much was doing in our domestic situations, we would take to the road, spend the summer at the Free Festivals and take life from there. We had our week's giros and very little else as far as I remember, no tents, no sleeping bags, no sensible clothes - I very soon lost my shoes and spent the summer and autumn barefoot. We hitched down to Bath where Jean said that we would be able to stay with her friends, the Here and Now Band. Our last lift dropped us in Bath next to a poster announcing the Here and Now gig was starting in half an hour just around the corner. We turned into the backstreet containing the small hall and there before me was the dream made manifest. THE BUS. I knew that I had come home.
When the music began, there was an unbelievable sense of familiarity, this was the music which I had been hearing inside my head for years, which I had looked for in Exeter, in Freston Road, London. This was IT. I had no doubts that I would join this band of people, that I had found my spiritual family and that this was an important moment in my life and my development. I danced with the joy and abandon of complete confidence in the rightness of my self-expression. This was an innocent stage for me, before power struggles, sexual challenges, doubts clouded the joy of simply being in the Here and Now.
The long hot summer of 76 followed. Jean and I lived, worked played and loved our way around the Free Festivals with Here and Now, taking part in the first convoy exodus from Rhayader Free Festival. In the autumn the whole band left England to do a home-made, improvised Grand Tour of France. By now the band included Keith the Bass, Janet and Trissy (Janet's 7 year old daughter), Kif-Kif le batter, Steffy Sharpstrings, me (Suze da Blooz), Green Jean, Baron, another dancer, the dreaded Twonk (Twink) and his BUS.
This bus was THE Here and Now bus as far as I am concerned. It was the archetype and all the buses which followed were merely shadows of this wonderful old green Bedford which had once been used by the Police to transport prisoners but which had defected and joined the other side. I loved this Bus and my relationship with it convinces me that a manufactured object can have a soul. It was an earthly representative of the Goddess, a green womb on wheels, which protected us, carried us without harm even in the most challenging and dangerous situations. It never let us down. If it had to run out of petrol when we had no money, it was always within pushing distance of our next destination. The sight of it turning the corner would reassure me as the sight of its mother returning makes everything all right for a child. Sitting on the carpeted engine cover I listened to the tunes of its engine and watched the landscape unfold around me. I was happy, fulfilled, full of hope and I understood perfectly the principles of Here and Now.
Here and Now, it's like Buddhist sand paintings, art which flows through without being captured and concretized. Art like a seed. A fragment which contains a huge and unpredictable potential. Energy which releases itself trusting in the meaningful centre of all self-expression and seeing in this the reason for its existence. The fact that it is, is the reason for its being. Each second is an act of art. Each decision is a perfect expression of current experience and communion in the experience is the basis for the fellowship which holds the participants together. Here and Now believes that the world is abundant. A rich, immense, powerful, living creation and that we complete each second participating in this endless creation.
Each step of the road is signposted and, by going out and seeking the fellowship, a great network of mutual support spreads like a blessing. We lived like wandering minstrels, welcomed in and fed by organic farming co-operatives, strange groups, students, DJ's, music lovers and even future band members. Gavinda Blitz found us and brought us back to his parents' holiday home. Here and Now recognises the interdependence of all humanity. The need to be part of a family, to be loved, to belong, to have a place anywhere and everywhere, a common philosophy which enlightens. The fact that we are, that we play, that we sing and dance is the reason for our existence. If you have food and we have none it is your privilege to share with us. We need you to carry on. You need us to make life meaningful.
Take us into police stations, search our vehicles and find that our intention is to contact the source and be the participants in the richness and bounty of life. This makes policeman envious but we are rejoicing in our shared lifestyle. We don't want to exert a strangle hold on life, and count our joys like a miser. We want to go out there and share in the richness of life and we expect you to share your richness with us.
The words is that was are electric gypsies and our survival is the testament to the success of our way of being. Each step is met with the perfect response each hand shake forms another part of the network. And for me dancing is the expression through my body of this joy. The pleasure of a balanced stretch - contrasting movements of yin inbreath, sinking and falling down to the centre where the return comes and yang energy begins to force itself up through trunk, limbs, neck, through to the tips of the fingers and toes and then beyond flowing out into the universe. I am a part of nature, dancing the trees, the moon in all her phases, the rising and setting suns, the stars. I am part of a movement that goes out and of a voice crying out a message that echoes far into space the distance of a thousand miles and more…..? Was it true that John McEnroe came to one of our gigs having listened to the album Give and Take in California?
How many twilights, midnights, dawns and sunny afternoons have we celebrated, playing live at the festivals and how much of that magical music which flowed so freely from us has found a fertile resting place where it has grown and developed? Where else did we play? Anywhere from busking in the smart shopping centres of Strasbourg to the studios of Radio France. We never rehearsed. That was an alien concept. We either played music or we didn't. Having an audience was not the important thing - the expression of the moment in sound was the reason for our playing.
We played one gig in a beautiful bandstand in the square of a small town in the South of France in early November 19761. It was a quiet Sunday afternoon and there was a special astrological configuration which we wanted to celebrate. Around the edges of the square the old men sat drinking pastis vaguely surprised at the colourful event taking place in their midst. Leaves were falling from the plane trees and some children who were expert tumblers created a spectacular floorshow tossing the leaves high and performing acrobatics among them as they fluttered down. This gig was for me so powerful and intense that having participated in it remains one of the major achievements of my life.
Salernes Town Square was a rare moment. Doing what one loves most with the people one loves most and what happens is filled with meaning. This is a love affair with the cosmos. Life and art are no longer separate but participate with each other in a communion of sound, colour, movement and the spontaneous involvement of those who happen to be present. What more can you want?
For me these early days were the time when the Here and Now Band was really hot, ripe with potential, intensely believing in itself, deeply involved and committed, we battled passionately with each other to meet the challenge of all those who work together to make a common vision a workable reality. And a lot of blood was shed.
The rest followed, daevid allen, Grant Showbiz, Ano, Marie-Clare, The Roadies and the Equipment truck, other buses, my daughter Lily, conceived on the Planet Gong French Tour and born during the Summer Tour of 1978, our departure from Here and Now, the creation of the Androids of Mu to celebrate the energy of the feminine in rock music, and the birth of my son Tom who now plays bass in his own band.
Suze Allport, aka Suze da Blooz danced her way off the planet on Sunday 19th August 2007, following a long illness. We are all better for having travelled even a little way with her. (Wolf)