The Birth (and Death) of the Popular Music Counterculture

‘Counterculture’ may be a term only coined in the sixties, but its reach stretches back into the movement of 18th century Romanticism, and its foundation in the poetry of William Wordsworth. In truth, it’s always been about the poetry. From the writing of Bob Dylan in the folk revival of the sixties, flanked by the likes of Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, to Patti Smith; laying down the groundwork of punk in the 1970’s. A lack of poetry then is perhaps to blame for the lack of an emergent counter-culture in recent decades; although it may be the most lyrical of musical mediums, rap music, which seeks to lay the path for a future resurgence.

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William S. Burroughs & Jack Kerouac

The point of a counter-culture is that exists on the fringes. When it becomes populist then naturally it becomes a culture to be countered: such is the ebb and flow of the music industry over the past sixty years. The beat generation was the first counter-culture to boast popular music as one of its facets, and the first to emerge since the Bohemian movement of mid-19th century Europe. Encompassing the likes of painter Jackson Pollock, author William S. Burroughs and poet Allen Ginsberg, the scene emerged in response to the clean-cut and wholesome, but tepid state of being eminent in post-war America, and folk-revivalism in the heart of Greenwich Village was an essential aspect of the movement. (more…)

“I want you to feel like you’ve got a brother and a friend in me”: JD Weaver on fighting the bigots with song (Part Two).

(Continued from Part One

You’re proving people’s misconceptions wrong by working on your debut album Neon Soul at the moment: how’s progress on that front?

I’m starting to get a little paralysis in my fingers now, so I’m struggling to play guitar at the moment – but thankfully in the summer before that happened I managed to get some help from a recording studio, a college for recording called SSR, based in Camden. They have a team there including two guys called Matt and Erron, who really liked my music and what I’d done before and were down to help me, which I really appreciated because I couldn’t find accessible studios and people were turning me down, asking me for thousands of pounds, but luckily a nice person decided to help me. I went down and recorded my vocals and acoustic guitar and it’s with them now – they’re adding extra musicians and mixing it. I’d like to think that before the end of the year I’ll have something.

I can’t wait to hear it. You have some great artwork for the upcoming album and your first EP Where Eagles Fly, how did that come about and what are you trying to portray in how your package your music?

That was done by a friend of mine in the States called Kendrick Kid who’s a graphic designer in LA. Wherever I’ve spoken to him he’s a lovely guy who liked what I was doing and, again, he did it for free. I don’t want to sound like a cheapskate, but it really restores your faith in people, and he produced two of the most beautiful covers I’ve ever seen done digitally. It incorporated a lot of things from my music but in a way that’s tasteful and respectful to the people I was trying to raise awareness off.

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“I’ve been told to go and euthanise myself”: The Realities of Disability in the UK with JD Weaver; Singer-Songwriter and Disabled Rights Campaigner (Part One).

JD Weaver is a 20-year-old singer songwriter from Crewe, who was diagnosed in primary school with muscular dystrophy. Not that that’s stopped him: he claims to write as many as 20 songs a week, last year released his debut EP Where Eagles Fly and is working on his first album, Neon Soul, this summer. He is also an activist, not just for the disabled but for LGBT rights and racial matters also. I spoke to him about his upcoming record, but first he painted to me a sorry picture of the state of attitudes to, and support for, disabled people in Britain in the 21st century.

Can you briefly outline your daily experiences as a member of the disabled community in Britain?

Recently hate crimes against the disabled are actually on the rise. I talk to a lot of people inside the community, and many of them have been attacked, some of them hospitalised – and very little of it has been reported. There are people I know who’ve been beaten up. I’ve been out on the street and verbally abused by elderly people.

What have people said to you on the street?

Words that should be gone by now, words like ‘spastic’, ‘cripple’, ‘retard’… I’ve been told to go and euthanise myself. All the terms that have been used over decades against disabled people, wrapped up in one.

It’s shocking to me because, as you say, it’s not often reported: and in my mind nobody uses those words anymore…

I always say to people that just because you don’t see something, it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Just because I haven’t been racially abused, it doesn’t mean I don’t know that racism isn’t there. The best way to gain knowledge isn’t to read false statistics. One of my Native American friends says that to find truth you have to go and seek it yourself, not try to get it through somebody else – the best way to find out about these things is to ask people from these communities directly; say to them “tell me your experiences”, don’t tell them what’s going on. Somebody tells me how disabled people are treated, but it’s rarely the reality. That’s the reality they write for me. Over 60,000 disabled people are attacked every year in the UK. 80% of disabled people are out of full time employment. The government will try and confuse that by saying it’s actually 60% who are unemployed but that fails to take part-time jobs and volunteer jobs into account: volunteer jobs make up around 15% of the 80% they claim. People don’t know that disabled people are 70% poorer than the average member of society in the UK. (more…)