Tuesday, 16 March 2010
Gypsy Dave -The Interview part 2
A: Ade Macrow also wants to know ‘Do you have any memory about The Lord Of the Rings film project with the Beatles ?’ Don did write a song for it which became Poor Cow and then was adapted into Poor Love for the film Poor Cow by Ken Loach, any recollection ?
G: I do remember the time that the idea was going around to make a film of The Lord Of The Rings. Donovan wanted to see about this project but when we made inquires we were told that the Beatles were first in line, if it should come about at all . It was stopped at that time because Tolkien did not want his story even illustrated let alone made into a film . Why you may ask, the reason was that he wanted everyone that read his story to make the characters up in their own imaginations while reading his book. Good for him I say . Donovan was already writing songs for the book though, that was how Poor Cow came about .
Part of the original lyrics to Poor Cow :-
Oh, I dwelt in the north in the green country,
Faramir, far from here
A: In the early 1970’s during the Open Road (which you photographed the album cover ) period you had an incident with Don’s car (the Landrover and the Jag),what was that all about? What was the Open Road time like with Candy and Mike?
G: Re. the Landrover- Jag incident…this was the most serious row with Don that I ever had, its quite a story, but that I am saving for my book too as it makes for a good yarn. Also it is complicated and would fill two or three pages - so many roads converged over this bridge of Don's and my journey through life. Candy, Mike and Dono worked very well together, given time I think they would have become a great convergence in sound . Donovan could write songs very easily for this combination of musicians and add what he wanted afterwards with no problems of ego getting in the way as he had total control of the sound he was getting as both Mike and Candy although contributing to the music to a great degree felt the true input was Donovan’s songs. We had a great deal of fun in Corfu where the band and Don stayed in a wonderful mansion right on the coast .The house belonged to a famous Greek poet who was on the run from the Junta who were going to throw him in prison and torture him for things he had said publicly about the Junta. We got the house through Alex Mardas - of Beatles fame - who supposedly gave the rent to the poet. We also got the boat - a ketch - through Alex from another runner from the Junta whose factory had been taken over by them. We paid £520,000 for the boat through a bank in the Bahamas and formed a Nautical Company to be able to sail it under a flag of convenience .I was one of the directors of that company .
A: What are you favourite memories of Don ? Any other memorable times with Julian -like the Turkey attempt at a prison break, the first tour with Don etc. What are your least favourite memories of that time?
G: Wow!… this is a huge bunch of questions! There are so many favourite memories from the early days. I suppose one would be the look of happiness on Dono's face as he looked across a cafe table at me . We had just come from his publishers, we ate double scampi and chips and ordered another helping each. It had been a matter of weeks from sleeping rough for us where a half empty packet of potatoes chips would have been a luxury. The Turkey prison breakout was a very dangerous thing for us to get involved in but the injustice of the whole story was so disgusting for Julian we were tempted to help him out all we could. In Istanbul up to that time smoking dope had been a usual thing to do for some in the know - foreigners and Turks of like mind. Whether it was legal there or not at that time I don’t know. It was no big thing until the American Government asked the Turkish Police to clamp down on Americans using dope in Turkey. This was a vain attempt on their part to do away with the dreaded drugs revival happening throughout the world. Anyway to cut a long story short, a bloody stupid young American youth had come to Istanbul determined to try some of its famed Hash .He recognised in our dear friend Julian McAllister a likely partaker and asked if he could buy some Hash from him . Julian refused. He told him he could get all the Hash he needed from many local people and gave him a small lump for free telling him he could give it back when he had found his own supply. But this idiot American was so un-cool he attracted a lot of interest in his quest and the police turned up at his hotel and searched him, whereupon they found the small lump Julian had given him. Instead of saying he got it from any one of the thousand faces passing by in the streets he put Julian right in the shit. Said Julian had sold it to him. The youth was sent packing back to the States while poor Julian was send packing to the most disgusting prison in the whole of Turkey. Julian was not heard from again for five months while he awaited trial. If anyone saw the film Midnight Express they would get a fair idea of how Julian lived in the care of the Turkish Jail. Again to cut a long story short Donovan and I got to hear of Julian’s plight through our dear friend Sammy (real name David Samuels) We three went over to Istanbul to try and sort things out. We thought with enough money thrown at the problem, the problem would go away and we could get Julian out of jail. We thought we could provide a Get Out Of Jail Free card, but it was not to be. Sammy was informed there were people to see who could indeed get Julian out of jail free, only it would cost us a lot of money . Sammy was left in Istanbul to do the deal and we promised to get him any cash he needed .It was decided before we left Istanbul that to break him out of the main jail was near on impossible .At that time there had already been a successful break out and the police had doubled their security. The best plan from our informant would be for Julian to act as if he had gone mad. If he could pull of this charade off then they would take him to the insane asylum and from there it was possible to get him out with bribes. Julian was a good actor and once told the plan by Sammy acted the part of a madman to such good account as to be whisked off to the nut house within days of our plan. Well the best laid plans of mice and men, etc, etc. Dono had given Julian a set of coloured fibre tipped pens and a book to paint. Starved of any way to express himself creatively these coloured pens were an island of freedom for Julian . He kept them proudly in the top pocket of the only jacket he had .While acting insane he was wearing this jacket, it was night time and cold in the prison. By dawn Julian was being frog-marched through the gates of the Insane asylum where a guard seeing the gaily coloured pens sticking out of his pocket made a grab for them. Julian so near to freedom snapped out of his play acting and grabbed the pens back looking the guard squarely in the face, looking very sane as he did so. That was the end of that. Julian was whisked back immediately to the disgusting prison he had just been transported from. . Not to be beaten we went through the proper channels next time and managed to get Julian’s trial brought forward and also managed to get him to a much better prison in the country once he had been sentenced. Julian received a two year sentence for what would have been no more than a pound deal in London. The nearly six months imprisonment prior to the trail was not taken into consideration . Another great victory for the American Drugs Agency. OK, lets go on to the other questions, just remembering Julian’s suffering for what was a brotherly act on his part, is about one of the worst memories from those days anyway .
A: Another question from a fan who wants to know, ‘Can you please, ask Gyp how far sessions for his planned 'Hooker Tooker' single on Decca (to be produced by Donovan) ever got? I suspect nothing at all happened in the end but it'd be nice to have this confirmed.
G: Ah, what long memories some people have - yes you are right, it did not get very far off the ground Its best anyway to keep my singing to the bath and as I am a shower man my vocals got drowned at birth, a fate that they well deserve .My interest was always in the poetry of songs, words are everything to me and the melody acts as the medium to make me interested in what is being said through the song. Thank your Blog questioner for his or her interest .
A: How did you first get into sculpture was it due to your connection with David Wynne ?
G: Ah there, now you have it, my love of Sculpture. Well I would say that the work of David Wynne was the very first influence on me, but for an early memory of mine. I don't hold many memories from childhood but this one is almost the first on the list. My mother used to take my sister and I to a museum near to where we lived in Peckham Rye. It was called The Horniman Museum. This particular day they were having an exhibition of early Wedgwood Pottery. Wedgwood originally had a darker blue to the background of their pots. I remember having my forehead pressed against the glass of the display case. This came up to the height of my eyes and seemed gigantic to me as I strained to pick out the beautiful figures in white. These were scenes from Greek Mythology and the artistic reproduction second to none. They were executed to perfection, most of them being taken from the design of ancient Greek sculptures. I fell in love with these exquisite relief’s for they touched a part of me deeply embedded in my inner being. I had a feeling that was somehow a memory covered by a mysterious veil of knowing, yet not knowing. When I met David Wynne I was fascinated with his wonderful sculptures and spent a lot of time in his studio while he worked. I was picking up as much knowledge of sculpture as I could pack into my mind as David spoke of his sculptures and the process. Eventually I modelled for a huge piece of his called The Tyne God. A famous athlete of the day had started modelling for the work but, due to too much pressure of work, had to decline from further participation. It was at this stage that I took over and became the model and David found our figures to be so alike it took little work to change what needed to be changed for his sculpture to dovetail into what it became. In these sessions I learnt so much about the process of sculpting, it was unreal . David was an amazing artist, he was a true artist. He had never taken one art class in his life for sculpture yet he is England's greatest living sculptor. He recognised the same spirit in me and one day around his table eating a meal with his family and friends he suggested that I should take up sculpting myself ." But I have never done any sculpting David,“ I said. "Ah but you are a sculptor Gypsy, this I know by the answers you give me to my questions about my work and other sculptures I have asked you about over the time we have known each other. Your knowledge could only come from someone that was a Sculptor." I knew how serious David was as far as his work went and these few words of his sent shivers up and down my spine. I looked deep into his eyes and the very next day started my first piece. I doubt very much that I will ever attain the heights of sculpture that David Wynne has reached but even 25% of his skill would make me a happy man.
A: Did your love of sculpture lead to your move to Greece?
G: ....did it? Well yes and no .When Donovan and I first went to Greece in 1966 we discovered by accident (if there is such a thing ) the Island of Paros. This Island just happens to be the Island where all the Ancient Greek sculptors came to find their Marble and to work on it. It was known as Lychnitis and all the famous pieces of sculpture in antiquity came from this marble. Many years later and knowing this as a fact I decided, after meeting and falling in love with an artist called Rita Schmeiser, to move to the Isle of Paros to continue with my sculpting. I found a lovely house in the hills above Parikia and persuaded the beautiful young and talented painter Rita to live with me there in seclusion.
A: Can you tell me a little about your time in Paros ?
G: I had gone to Paros for the second time with my son Matthew, who was about 9 years old at the time. I regaled him on the boat journey over from Athens with some stories of my previous stay. When we arrived on Paros it had changed so much I had little idea of where we had stayed before - the way to the old house having been bulldozed up and three dozen hotels blocked the donkey path that I remembered - so I could not tell how to find the old cottage. Matthew was disappointed about not seeing the old house so one day, with little hope of finding the house, we took a small path up into the hills. Sure enough we found a place a bit like the cottage we had rented but the view seemed to me the wrong way around. In my memory I had another picture . We walked into the garden, then I was sure we were in the wrong place. Just then a very pleasant man, a German named Holger Troltze, asked us if he could be of any assistance .He showed us around the inside of the house and again I was sure it was the wrong place. We sat and had a cup of tea with Holger and his famous model girlfriend while I explained our circumstances. The upshot of it all was that a day later I went with him to the barbers and put a years rent down in advance on the house, as I was going to rent the property. I also bought all Holger’s furniture, gas stove etc from him and I also bought some chisels and hammers as he was a painter and a sculptor too. On my first day back from Paros, at a friends house, I met and soon fell in love with a pretty young girl called Rita . We subsequently spent 27 years on this amazing island. After starting to sculpt in the marble there, I eventually gave it up as Rita and I started work my book called Sandylea . I had started the book on Paros years before but one of Rita's paintings reminded me so much of the main character, Sandylea, that she started more illustrations for the book and we had great fun through the winter months writing and illustrating this project together .You will have to read my book to find out further details but I did start my work sculpting again in marble and many wonderful people have in their houses on the island my work in marble and bronze .
A: How did you come to leave Greece and set up your own school and artists retreat in Thailand?
G: I finally left my beloved Paros, not meaning to at all . My dear mother, God rest her soul, died quite a while prior to my leaving. She died of complications from emphysema contracted at her work, where her other two colleagues just happened to be chain smokers, passive smoking they call it, but its not very passive for the sufferer I can tell you . My poor mother went through a further 25 years of torment, and I do mean torment, before she died from this disease, she was a non smoker all her life with never a cigarette touching her lips. Anyway the point being, in her will she left me and my sister Sandra a little money. After I had got somewhat over her death (do we really ever get over a loved one dying ?) I thought I would use the money to take a three months holiday in a part of the world I had never visited before. That country was Thailand .Within two weeks of my visit I met a most amazing Thai woman called Pannee. We got on like a house on fire even though she was half my age. I felt from the start that I knew her so well. It was soon realized that Pannee had the same birthday as my son Matthew, 26th October, although Pannee was born one year later then my son. Age has another meaning in the East,it still has a lot to do with respect and knowledge gained and a settled life as far as finances go . It is very common for an elderly man to marry a younger woman in the countries of the East. Thus it is very pleasant to live in Thailand without the constant looks of jealousy one can get in the West from men and woman stuck in marriages that have long lost there sparkle. So there you have it . I have been interested and have done quite a lot of teaching of sculpture in Greece and it was always a dream to have a place where potential or already established artists can come to get into the medium of sculpture or maybe find there inspiration again in whatever realm of the arts they are proficient at. I wanted to create a quite and tranquil setting predisposed to creativity and peace. Well I think I have managed to do just that here in Thailand by designing my own house, school and grounds with that purpose in mind. The courses last two months and includes all food ( made by my wife Pannee ), drinks, a beautiful double room all with french windows overlooking my lake or overlooking unspoiled jungle like flora .Each room has a shower toilet and washbasin. There is a huge living room with computers and comfort to read, write or just relax .Outside we have a pleasing gardens and a lake full of fish that covers three sides of the house. Here in a Thai style boathouse, reached by a wooden bridge, it is very relaxing to fish. Eat them or put them back, that is up to you , Pannee will gladly make a delicious dish out of them . All this plus tuition is only 3,000 euros for the two months.We have a bronze foundry nearby where for a fraction of the cost of casting in Europe you can have your clay sculptures cast into bronze .
A: How is your School of Sculpture and Artists retreat going?
G: How is it working? Well we are in a recession at the moment in the parts of the world where culture matters, so it is not such a good a time to get students. They must come from abroad, all my students must come from Europe or America . The cost of the fare to get to Thailand is a little heavy and although the schooling is very cheap compared to many schools, with the strong Baht it works out a little difficult to pull together for many potential students. I don’t want to go about spending fortunes on advertising for our little school - the best way is always through word of mouth and any students that have gone through our school have loved the experience, so slowly we will arrive at the amount of students we need to make a little profit to build more small cottages in our grounds for a few more students to also enjoy the experience. Keep your fingers crossed that it works for us please Andrew.
A: I read somewhere you exhibited in Athens during the Olympics, what did that entail?
G: I think you are referring here to an exhibition in Athens we had called THE CLEAR LIGHT ON PAROS. It was first proposed to the then Mayor Of Paros to have an exhibition of the artists involved in IPAC, a society for the artists of Paros that I had a hand in starting and supporting in Athens. The Mayor took the idea and ran with it, inviting other artistic groups like ours from Athens to join in the exhibition. There were not a lot of sculptors involved so the organiser (a very well known Athens critic) after seeing my sculptures asked me if I would put nine of my pieces in the exhibition. Anyway the exhibition was a great success.
A: Big question, who are your favourite artists and why?
G: Difficult again because there are few artists as such where I like all their work. Salvador Dali would be one, David Wynne another. All the classical orientated movements I enjoy their work. Klimt I love; a Swedish artist called Carl Larsson; Rodin of course; some of Picasso's work is outrageous; I also like Van Gogh's work. Oh there are so many really it’s impossible to name them all .
A: Is there one dream art project you would want to be involved in, what would it be? There is talk of a new Colossus of Rhodes project - would that interest you?
G: No plans to get involved in that project although I will do anything to support the new Museum at the Acropolis, its been a long time coming and is modern enough to be able to hold what we call the Elgin Marbles, but it is really the frieze from the Acropolis’s buildings and should by any rights be returned to Athens. If an American Indians Shirt can be considered so important as to be returned to its tribe because of its religious significance, then the Elgin Marbles are ten million times more important to the Greeks. God bless Elgin for saving them from the Turks who were selling them to local merchants to be broken down in lime to make a white paint called Asphesti.
OK .all my love to all my old friends that might read this blog of Andrew’s and my love goes out to any fan of DONOVAN who reads this. All I can say is you have very good taste in music and are interested in a genuine artist - not some hyped up nothing.
Many Thanks to Gyp for taking the time out to answer these questions . Some very interesting answers there. The first 19 chapters from Gypsy Dave’s autobiography are available at his site .The site also gives details as how you can study at Gyp’s School of Sculpture or relax in the creative atmosphere of the Artists Retreat.
© Andrew Morris