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Friday, October 29, 2010

It's So Far Out it's Straight Down - Video

This is the full It's So Far Out it's Straight Down video. This was a short film produced by Granada Television, based in the English midlands, about the then-nascent underground scene in London. It's quite hard to track down in its entirety - although clips regularly turn up on nostalgia shows and music documentaries - but it's well worth seeking out, mainly for its rare glimpse into the British underground well before it descended into a vast and pointless love-in.

Broadcast in March 1967, the film thus predates the Summer of Love by several months, so we're treated to the sight of earnest young men in suits and glasses cutting a rug to a live set from Pink Floyd at the legendary UFO club - which turns out to closely resemble the cramped basement it then was.

Plenty of countercultural legends contribute, including Paul McCartney (as a talking head in the studio), Allen Ginsberg, John 'Hoppy' Hopkins and Burroughs biographer Barry 'Miles' Miles, but the real interest for most viewers has to be the VERY early concert footage of Pink Floyd, along with a rough version of the band's "Matilda Mother" (then known as "Percy The Ratcatcher") on the soundtrack. This is among their earliest recordings, never mind their first appearance in a documentary, as the film's broadcast more-or-less coincided with the release of their first single.

It also does a nice job of giving the lie to the Blow Up/Austin Powers image of 'Swinging London' that has since become the accepted version of the era.

This conversation with Paul McCartney was originally broadcast on British television as part of the program 'So Far Out It's Straight Down,' which dealt with the topic of the changing attitudes of the late-Sixties, and London's underground movement: namely the Indica Bookshop and International Times. Paul's interview with Jo Durden-Smith was filmed by Granada Television on January 18th 1967, The program was telecast on March 7th.

McCartney's interview was split up into 3 separate segments which were interspersed throughout the program.

Segment One:

PAUL: "I really wish the people that look sort of in anger at the 'weirdos,' at the happenings, at the psychedelic freak-out, would instead of just looking with anger-- just look with nothing; with no feeling; be unbiased about it. They really don't realize that what these people are talking about is something that they really want themselves. It's something that everyone wants. You know, it's personal freedom to be able to talk and be able to say things-- And it's dead straight! It's a real sort of basic pleasure for everyone. But it looks weird from the outside."

Segment Two:

PAUL: "Even though everyone is sort of getting on very well in this society we've got, it's a bit too controlled, you know. Because you suddenly, you want to go and do something and somebody says: 'Oh, no!! Subsection B, Clause A!! You can't do that, you know!!' And you say, 'Well, why not? I'm a human being and that, and haven't I got my rights?' They say, 'Well yes. But you're not allowed to do THAT!' You say, 'Well if it doesn't interfere with anyone it must be okay.' 'Sorry! Still isn't!' you know. So people have suddenly-- I think alot of people have twigged that this, uhh... They've shut themselves in a bit, you know. People that say music is just controlled music, and art is just landscapes and things... aren't right, because it's other things as well. They've got all these rules; Rules of how to live, how to paint, how to make music-- and it's just not true anymore. They don't work; all those rules. You can't apply them, because it means then that you're assuming that you know it all. You know, (uses his hands to divide the past, present and future) primitive man, us, and something else. And WE don't know it all yet."

"And so, all-in-all, what this gang of people from the 'International Times,' 'Indica,' and the whole scene is trying to do is try to see where we are now and see what we've got around us; see any mistakes we've made and straighten 'em out. (laughs) You know, it's just a straight forward 'endeavor' kind of scene. You know, just to do something other than what's been done before. Because what's been done before isn't necessarily the answer. There could be another answer, you know."

Segment Three:

PAUL: "What they're saying and what they're doing is, sort of... nothing strange about it. It's just dead straight. They're talking about things that are a bit new you know. And they're talking about things which people don't really know too much about yet. So they tend to get, you know-- people tend to put them down a bit and say, well you know-- 'weirdo,' 'psychedelic,' and things. But it's really just what's going on around, and they're just trying to look into it a bit."

"So the next time you see the word, like-- any new strange word like 'psychedelic,' the whole bit, you know-- 'freak-out music' and all of that, don't immediately take it as... because your first reaction's gonna be one of fear, you know. So if you don't know anything about it, you can sort of trust that it's gonna be alright. You know, it's probably not that bad. 'Cuz it's human beings that are doing it, and you know vaguely what human beings do. And they're probably going to think of it nearly the same way you would in that situation. And that's true, you know. You can trust to the fact that things are generally not as bad as you make them out to be."

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