I met Colin Cripps
June 1973 at the Left Centre in Coventry. We were both producing our respective magazines using the the Centre's Golf Ball Typewriters and Offset Litho Printer. Colin was producing The Willenhall Free Press
and Bo and I were producing the first edition of HOBO. Colin was from Cambridge but studying for a literature degree at Warwick University. He lived in Ivy Walk, Willenhall and I lived in nearby Willenhall Wood at the time. At the time Colin was involved in Tenants Association and Willenhall Estate News. At the time there was a 'minor gale blowing between the tenants associations' and the Willenhall Free Press developed out of that.
Colin was also an accomplished guitarist and writer and his (then) wife, Lynda Hardcastle played recorder and sang. They had around them, in Ivy Walk, a group of creative people, poets, musicians and artists. Living in Willenhall I often went down to see them; join in the jam sessions, share poems and songs, swap chords sequences, riffs, discuss poetry, politics, philosophy and the Coventry music scene. Colin and Lyn and the others got involved in, and were highly supportive of the Hobo Music Workshop at the Holyhead Youth Centre in 1974 (more of that in a later post) and a few of the Hobo layouts were done at their place. Although they were not used for publicity in the end,One night, after discussing the apathy that was around at the time, they collectively produced some flyer's for the Hobo Workshop after one of the weekly sessions had a lower turn out. The Hobo Workshop did pick up but it took a lot of work and a 'Shut Down City Centre Concert' protest campaign to do it! (again more about the Workshop to come). The nucleus of the Mountain Ash Band was formed during this time but towards the end on 1974 after Colin completed his degree, they moved up to Ilkley in Yorkshire where the band wrote and performed their masterpiece, The Hermit. Colin also went on to write a history of the main forms and styles of popular music in the 20th Century
in 1988. The book concludes with a short passage on forms of West Indian styles and a small section on TWO TONE (pictured here) -
However, that's jumping ahead -
Before they left Coventry, they made creative entries into my Communication Book - here is a stream of consciousness piece about Coventry by Colin from the book -
THE SLOW TRAIN (GOD, EVA, and all stations in between) Colin Cripps
Coventry-city of spires-after all that – the torture you went through – why have you not learnt? Where is your heart? –
Office block, red wine sun through your uncurtained windows, no typists, no product, not even ink on sheets of A.10, only heaven glows on your walls- empty flats decay the clean way-no heart in the precinct, no life, no blood of general ownership flows though your hardened arteries-stillborn, this Phoenix will perhaps never rekindle – through double-glazing, from his skull he has directed vision-white concrete rejects all light, creates no colour, but your grey is already halfway to nothingness – middle class lady, neatly attired in comfort fresh underwear, perfectly perfumed, motionless make up mask, I would never have discovered that you too shit if you hadn’t shat on me.
Lady Diahorrea unloads her troubles in her back streets, her public lavatories, her estates; Willenhall young maid that you once were – sitting beneath a tree in everyone’s forest – she put you in servants attire – on the bus from Chase Hostels to town, stubbly chin, old coat, old man on the way to work, drink and bed once a gain – never ending round of one bred to service – don’t believe the lady on the horse my brother, she takes the services of your sweat and eats your meal with delicate refinement, alas no use, coercion, creation, transformation in your sense, she shits her daily round, indiscriminately
selecting her areas, her thousand bowed heads, her understains.
Labour party, union house, how far have you come! Quite grown! Gone up in the world of deodorised dreams – the backsliding, back handed, back to front, black legging respectable face of piracy, privateering, profiteering, political men.
So many fooled faces, visages, masks at mosques, business rituals at the Vere – where is the heaven you invoke? Your daylight séances produce no rebirth – your black mass meetings of monetary monks see no angels.
Somewhere a cell jumped off your car carpets, skipped the lights, crashed into the microcosm of Coombe, lived it all out, met up with you all, your felt ideas, your fantastic words, your devotion, will to go ahead, your energy, your art, your convincing universal politics, your human laughter as you’ve sped up, spaced out, peaked, gone through, come down, crashed out and peered those curious eyes, red and sore, out at the outrageous, humiliating Babel beyond your window. Raspberry of Radio One to raspberry at Radio One. Grow my flock. You are all in my dream; can I be in yours?
From your flyovers to your flies, papers to pamphlets, advertisements to mirrors, comfortableness to the twitch of worry, sore bones to broken minds, split people together ones with sad eyes, I pay you the greatest accolade – I have learnt from you.
Poet / Lyricist Ray King of Ivy Walk, Willenhall was one of them and wrote a sad farewell to them, recorded in the Communication book but ended up moving to Ilkley too and writing the lyrics for the Mountain Ash Band. Here are a few sections from his very long farewell poem Till Then - it is worth sharing!
......I am burning deep
that I long for all to see,
Did I hear a whisper in the dark?
a year has passed
Many moons have waxed
into forgotten episode.
but something holds intact
something frosted like Christmas card landscapes,
Memory is fickle
treacherous as furtive night time.............
We were sometimes vein
but strangely honest
as we sowed those seeds
Time will take intensity from memory;
that strange intensity that only now
We will carry all those yesterdays
to tire in smoky anedote
Though the thought was born
in lowly Ivy Walk
It strides the lord of thought
through night time
pausing on the brink of time
to gaze a knowing eye
across the universe
of silver studded
........are we nothing more than whispers
as sound slips from a broken hour glass,
this I refuse,
as much goodbye........
our suns will burn again
our suns will burn again,
till then, till then,
Excerpts for Ray King's Poem Till Then (Ivy Walk 1974)
Soon Ray moved to Ilkley too and the the Mountain Ash Band were formed. Ray wrote all the the lyrics for the Hermit, an album that it is now very rare (see this website) Mountain Ash Band The band consisted of Colin Cripps Guitar / research and original concept and music; Ray King - Lyrics; Sean Mansley - Narration; Geoff Bowen - Fiddle / Recorder; Martin Carter - Vocals / guitar; Alan Rose - Vocals/ Whistle; Graham Jones - bass / vocals / recorder; Lynda Hardcastle - Vocals / Recorders; Kevin Slingsby - Drums. 1975 Pic of album cover The Hermit here -
It's the story of a local Hermit (local to Ilkley Moors) called Job Senior - written not so much as a story but as a series of 'Glimpses of his world' as they imagined them seen by Job at the crisis points of his life. Lynn told me the album was remixed for CD in the 90's and a second version of the Mountain Ash Band was formed with Alan Rose and Lynda Hardcastle.
"Reviewed by pOoTer:
Its been a long time tracking this legendary recording down. Possibly one of the rarest UK folk gems from 1975, as rare as life itself?. Awesome electric violin and disturbingly haunting vocals tell the depressing story of a Yorkshire hermit named Job Senior. "Birth" sets the scene for what is a profoundly sad album that will leave you deep in thought every time you hear it. "Journeys" a fine piece of violin work runs into "Stone on Stone" which is almost Incredible String Band in vocal style. "A long Winter" tells of the latter stages of Job's life after his wife dies and he is living alone on the moors of Ilkley. "Who Knows" is a sorry lament as Job ends up living in the remains of his dead wifes house which has been pulled down by her family in an attempt to evict him. "The Outcast/Rebirth" ends the albums tragic story. Hear it and weep................"
Here are the lyrics to the first song on this rare album written by Ray King with music by Colin Cripps. Pic below - Lynda Hardcastle - Vocals and Recorders.
On crimson wings the sun comes up
Across the eastern sky
Who see the early dawning hour
When some may live and some may die.
Bent on the earth beneath the sky
A new born cry is heard.
The silent sky is split in two
The first eruption of the word.
Your life is started.
Your life’s begun.
Be quick, the years wait for no one.
A million things are yet undone
Before the winking of an eye,
Before the setting of the sun
A chance is barely waiting,
A chance is barely anything.
Please know your hour will come, (too soon, too soon, too soon.)
Your time will come.
Mother’s in the kitchen and Father’s on the land.
They’ll tell you life is only what you’re holding in your hand.
They know the price of hardship; yes they know the coins of sweat.
They know the price that pain affords. They know, they know it all and yet.
Your baby hands are open
And clutching for a star
But still they stop and warn you
You will never reach that far.
Be quick time’s waiting,
Be quick it slips away.
A lifetime will not leisure
In the measure of today.
Lynda Hardcastle - (This is just one of their beautiful albums)
- went on to work musically with her new partner - Folk singer / guitarist Alan Rose in the Ilkley area c 1975 and in the 90's formed the successful all female Folk Group GRACENOTES
Helen Hockenhull - vocals and keyboards
Visit their website to hear their music and find out more -