Friday, 19 October 2012

ROLLING STONES WEEK: The mythologisation process

As many readers already know my day job is the Director if the Centre for Fortean Zoology, and one of the things that I have written widely about during my career as ringmaster of the world's largest cryptozoological circus is something I have dubbed 'The Mythologisation Process'. This is the socio-cultural process by which myths are made. One classic example can be found in the way that the media deals with the predations of a small population of naturalised big cats which appear to live on the moorlands of southwestern England.

If there was a learned article entitled something like Feeding Patterns of a group of naturalised P.concolor on Westcountry moorlands no-one would take any notice, but when The Daily Mirror proclaims The Beast of Bodmin Strikes Again then it sells a lot of newspapers.

Over the years I have realised that this is a paradigm which one can also see in rock music. Take The Rolling Stones for example.

The obvious example would be the 1967 Redlands drug bust...

  • Who was Acid King David Scneidermann?
  • Was he the same bloke Albert Goldman wrote about in The Lives of John Lennon?
  • What the hell was he doing at the Toronto Peace Festival?
  • Was he a CIA agent?
  • Did the police really wait until George Harrison left before busting them?
  • Was there a Mars Bar?

And the story goes on...

But that would be too obvious. Let's look at another great Rolling Stones event: The 1969 free concert in Hyde Park.

Here I would like to say a big thank you to the publishers of The Rolling Stones: 50 for permission to use this picture from their remarkable book.

The first thing I read about it was in a compendium of writings about The Rolling Stones by David Dalton. He made the gig sound so much better than it actually was. In fact, even a cursory look at the film of the event shows they were shambolic, under-rehearsed and Mick Taylor looks scared stiff. But the aspect that I want to look at here has nothing to do with the band, the tragedy/inevitability of Brian Jones' demise, or even the fact that the British Hells Angels did a pretty good job of security which opened the doors for the incredible cock up that was Altamont six months later.

No. What I want to talk about is the butterflies. ABKCO had ordered cases of live cabbage white (p. rapae and P.brassicae) butterflies from L.Hugh Newman's butterfly farm in Kent to be released during the event, and according to Newman himself the event went smoothly.

But, determined to wring some element of chaos from the story various commentators from the music industry have alleged either that Their Satanic Majesties either forgot to put air holes in the carrying cases so that they all died, or released them successfully - so successfully that the butterflies ate all the vegetables in every allotment for miles (totally ignoring the fact that adult butterflies don't eat cabbages).

All three descriptions of events cannot be true. Which one was it? Of things like this, myths are made.

 PS. Look at the film about 28 minutes in. It looks like L.Hugh Newman, who is a bigger hero to me than any of the Stones was probably telling the truth. The insects look pretty healthy to me.

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What happens when you mix what is - arguably - the world's most interesting record company, with an anarchist manic-depressive rock music historian polymath, and a method of dissemination which means that a daily rock-music magazine can be almost instantaneous?

Most of this blog is related in some way to the music, books and films produced by Gonzo Multimedia, but the editor has a grasshopper mind and so also writes about all sorts of cultural issues which interest him, and which he hopes will interest you as well.