By instalments, growing out of one family’s experience at the centre of the countercultural movement of the sixties, this autobiographical section features chapters and episodes in flashback to various pivotal, unusual and interesting times and people. It is in three sections: childhood; family and early adulthood; mature adulthood.
This part of Alt-Generations is a web-book in form. It includes text, video and images. My intention has long been to use original music to underscore certain interesting periods, people and important episodes in my surreal life. Unusual not just in childhood, but also in living and working in several countries, the U.S.A., the UK and Turkey, mainly as freelance visual editor.
Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles and Sgt. Pepper’s.
‘Watch Out for Your Ears’, featuring Jimi Hendrix, Traffic and the Animals. An extract from the film produced by our father, Tom Weber.
Sgt. Pepper’s was a huge deal culturally and musically, but it also had special significance in our young lives.
Our father Tommy secured a contract from the Beatles to produce any film released of the same name as the record. He did this in a new business partnership venture with the guys who shot and edited the original clip for the song ‘A Day in The Life’.
Tom had met and got along with the two editors who’d put that together, offered to produce and they’d agreed. He had then met with ‘the boys’ and they also agreed. I think the Beatles liked the creativity and methodology the two editors had used for the Day in The Life clip, which was to leave 16mm cameras throughout the studio during orchestral recording session – then let the participants shoot freehand and edit the resulting footage together themselves.
On walking in and out of the Apple offices, Tommy couldn’t believe his luck at the time. That is, until he received a call shortly afterwards from John Lennon and Paul McCartney saying that the Fab Four needed the money they’d advanced to him to make the Pepper’s film returned, in order to produce the Magical Mystery Tour film, which they seemed more keen on doing, as it was a new project.
Tommy was crushed and even though he had everything in writing, returned the funds advanced with a contract to the Beatles. I’m sure not many people can claim to have done something like that. I think it was a mistake. Being too soft or nice is a trait for which some of us, like Tommy, often have a weakness.
However, and I’ll write a full chapter on this in the website, John and Paul said he could still make a film using the music. They gave him the synch rights for that purpose, as a gesture. But without the lads in the film it wasn’t a project of the same scale or possibility. While still smuggling, Tom did start putting a film together, called ‘Watch Out for Your Ears’, with other artists and friends performing songs in concert. Most notably his new party friend Jimi, who opened the performance pieces tearing into a rendition of Sgt. Pepper’s in his inimitable style – which was brilliant – and barely able to remember the lyrics – which was funny.
Also at that concert, shot in Olympia in 67 I believe, were Traffic and the Animals performing sets, which Tom shot on multiple 16mm cameras. Along with these in the final edit of the film were montages of cosmic Hindu deities and characters set to Joe Cocker’s rendition of ‘A Little Help from My Friends’ and a further section of film featuring a pouting Charlotte Rampling, who was living with us at the time, writhing across the hood of a Ford Mustang. These were intercut with footage of various GT racing cars tearing around Brands Hatch. There was a Lola and also a Ford GT40 and all of this section was set to the music of Led Zep’s ‘Whole Lot of Love’.
As a note to that section of film: the Ford GT40 which Tom ‘owned’ for a while was in fact stolen by his often more dangerous partner in crime, a dealer and smuggler called Taffy, who later sold the GT40 for a huge live aboard truck. The story goes Tom and Taffy went to view the GT40 and Taffy then asked the seller if he could test drive the Le Mans winning car and never came back!
Watching that film on endless occasions in a little screening room at a post production house in Wardour Street, a film production hub in the UK, is how I became obsessed with Jimi Hendrix. I’d become immediately affected as a toddler on seeing Jimi perform in the film. It was a bit like possession, I’d fling my head back and fourth to the music. The editors and Tommy would laugh and my brother would cringe and feel embarrassed at a younger and wilder ‘thing’, a sibling who’d come along and, it seems to me in retrospect, who had taken away a lot of the attention and time from the adults. A common psychological dynamic between younger and older brothers.
Angel by Jimi Hendrix. Reinterpretation, voice and instruments by C.Weber
Angel by Jimi Hendrix is one of many reinterpretations of period pieces of music I’ve recorded and for the project. In later chapters I look forward to going more into Alternative, Post Rock, Punk and Electronic music.
In a general sense we’ll get into some of the seemingly more universal psychological dynamics between siblings, mostly their rivalries – I have a nice interview with a family psychologist. I’ll try and keep it light but also not miss the essence of the rub and the interpersonal dynamics and commonalities in families, particularly our cousins, who had a very similar dynamic. We’ll look at great feuds like the Gallagher brothers and the sisters Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine – and compare notes, especially amusing ones.
Some of you will notice the title of the Beatles song is also the title of the book Robert Greenfield wrote about our family. Not a book that I or many people who knew us at that time would recommend as an accurate portrayal or representation of our family. Essentially the book puts forth Jake’s recollection and version of our childhood lives. Alt-Generations will be more of my perspective and recall, with more sociology and psychology in the mix, a lack of which I suspect may have been part of the problem with Greenfield’s book. Although, to his credit, Greenfield did try to balance some of this out and incorporate a few more of my points of view, most notably that my brother at times could be little difficult, which occasionally caused rifts between him and some of the artists in our childhood, most notably between him and Keith Richards. Many of us, including our Scottish Nanny, Mo, Joanna Harcourt-Smith and I, didn’t completely recognise Bob’s slightly generous and angelic portrayal of my brother in the book. But there are two sides to every story, as we know.
There was a strange and to me an oddly manipulative transformation of the characters in the final edit of the book – I was edited to come off like a little thug and not very thoughtful – which curiously was not in the penultimate edit I was forwarded.
Sound and Music – And the E-Biography.
Along with text and written chapters are playable documentary audio extracts, which the reader can select while browsing chapters. It is hoped to add to or reinforce the authenticity.
Without getting too private or personal sociologically, a number of chapters will compare a few key life stages over three generations of fathers and sons – those being myself, my father and my son. Simple comparative life stages include: birth, family, education, work and marriage.
The concept is also that the browser can select a background soundtrack to play, while s/he is browsing, which ought to be at a background level, so as not to interrupt the browsers experience of the narrative.
I was born on November 25th, 1964 in Holland Park Nursing Homes. I was a ‘blue baby’, had mottle all over my skin and barely survived. That much we do know, although no record of the exact time exists as the nursing homes burnt down not long after.
My mother was Susan Anne Coriat Weber and my father was born Thomas Einer Arkner, in Denmark in the late 1930s. After the war, when my grandparents separated, my father and his mother moved back to England, her homeland. He later took his mother’s maiden name, Weber, which became our family name.
He was in and around the hospital at the time of my the birth, but too high to remember the time of day. Also there was an Irish business partner of my father’s. For many years my Tommy couldn’t figure out why he was there. Decades later, when I was working in Turkey and visited my father in Rugby where he was living at the time, I walked into the living room and he turned white and looked like he’d seen a ghost. ‘What’s the matter?’ I asked him. Tom said that I’d just reminded him of an old business partner of his, an Irish guy, now a property dealer in Spain, who had been present at my birth, although he could never figure out why. Apart from being a room mate of his and an ex-boyfriend of mum’s, that is. Thus, at around the age of forty, my world was turned upside down and I was forced to get my head around the idea that the man whom I’d always presumed to be my biological dad in fact might not be, at all.
The first song on the radio I remember hearing. ‘That’s interesting’, I thought. ‘I like it!’.
First Memory: Tara Browne – the man who inspired Lennon to write ‘A Day in The Life’.
My earliest travel memory as a kid was a driving trip to Tara and his family at their country house in Ireland. My father and mother bundled us two boys into the back of the Mini Cooper and drove there, the ferry taking us across the water to the Emerald Isle. Many of my earliest memories are of being tucked in the back of that car, bouncing up and down so our heads would hit the roof while my old man, usually in a rush, took us somewhere, dropped off a friend at an airport or in this case to see Tara, ‘The Irish Prince’, as he was often referred to in the circle of London poets and freaks.
An heir to the Guinness family and Irish, he was much loved in those circles for being a bit of a rebel, but also a man of exotic heritage. Tara later reciprocated when he came to visit us at our London house in his Lotus and, seeing my eyes light up, took me for quick spin around Chester Square, where we lived at the time.
He seemed completely unaffected. When we arrived at his house he bundled us kids into a warm bath, along with his baby and then put us in front of the fire, having wrapped us in oversized sweaters. Tara was very normal, very cheerful, young and sadly remembered as the guy who inspired the song ‘A Day In the Life’. Presumably a little worse for wear, he drove through a red light and realising his mistake swerved to take the full brunt of the side-coming vehicle, an act which saved the life of his female companion at the time, who was in the passenger seat.
Second Memory – A Trip to Dublin.
My mother, brother and I flew out to Dublin to meet an Irishman who seemed to be one of mum’s big loves. This would have been in 1968, I believe. Bizarrely, as we touched down, two of the tyres of the aircraft burst and though it was nothing too serious, the plane had to be evacuated. I think mum was already a little shaken when we checked in and bedded down for the night in the Dublin old-time guest house.
The next day with us kids in tow, mum went to a house and rang the doorbell. An unremarkable man of medium height with shoulder length hair answered the door. He was clad in a Lebanese velvet kaftan, not unlike one of mum’s, and inside the house behind the doorway in which he stood, the voices of a number of young and seemingly happy ladies could clearly be heard. Occasionally one of the ladies would flitter across the room behind the Irishman, in and out of our view, as mum and this man exchanged heated words, but he wouldn’t let us in. Afterwards, obviously somewhat bereft, mum took us to the cinema where we watched the then just released film, ‘Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid’.
Third Memory – Boy in The Picture.
I must have been about four years old when, one night climbing up the ladder to the platform bed or mezzanine where we slept, in Hugh Street, I noticed some family photographs stuck to the wall by the wooden ladder. Tommy, our father, would often do this. Stopping to look at them for a minute, I was curious about one and asked one of the adults – Tommy or Charlotte Rampling, who was living with us at the time – ‘Who is that boy in the picture?’. ‘That’s you!’ they replied, laughing. Before then I’d never had a sense of who I personally was in the physical world. I felt happy though to be that kid, as the boy in the picture looked like a positive and not unattractive person.
DEATH of a FATHER.
In the Summer of 2006 our father, Tommy Weber, passed away from cancer of the pancreas. My suspicion is that he knew he was not long for this world at least a year or so prior to his passing. I suspect this for a number of reasons. Firstly, the incredibly passionate desire he had for all his sons to be together at his youngest son, Buddy’s, wedding to Angie, in the last year before he passed. Something that Jake and I, living in Malibu and Palm Springs at the time, unaware of the reason behind the urgency of his pleas to be at the wedding for one last reunion, were unable to oblige our younger brother and the old man by doing. Secondly, he was incredibly generous in the last year or so of his life. No sooner coming into a small inheritance from his mother, Pamela’s, estate – of around £100k – than he gave all the proceeds away to us, his three sons.
Us three brothers and my son Beau carried Tommy’s casket into the service, after which the mourners entered and took their seats. We three brothers read or gave a small speech for our father, as the refrains of ‘Kinder Days’ – a song I’d recorded and written recently on the west coast – faded away. Tom had always been my biggest, sometimes only, music fan.
My Brother and I.
This picture was taken in 1968.
So who exactly were my family? I will try and describe them for you.
My brother was the more careful one, not as wild by nature as mum, dad or I, although he became much more confident in his teenage years. We definitely had each other’s back while travelling, trying to settle into a new school or if dad was out of it, dealing or using.
He is a year and three-quarters older than me, born on the 12th of March 1963. He was not bad as a sibling, pretty helpful and fair, but a slightly picky and finicky older brother which, psychologically, I gather from interviews and research is not uncommon for older siblings.
We’ve always been a similar height and weight, but very different natures and looks – which does pose or proffer up the question: are we of the same father?
Although close while travelling, Jake and I would fight for hours on end over the smallest things, but neither could get the upper hand until finally we’d apologise, sob and make up.
Tommy, our father, was definitely the extrovert. Unnaturally good looking, he was a risk taker. He was very warm and social. But also liked to race cars and do anything that seemed impossible at a time when anything seemed possible. He was wild, generous and big-hearted, but became overly chemically explorative during the 60s and then heavily addicted in the early seventies: a Viking rebel.
Above is a rare shot of Tommy actually racing. I found it on the Marcos website. Marcos was a collaboration between Frank Costin, the Lotus designer, and Gem Marsh. The car was built of wood and went like the clappers. Although not very big inside and difficult to climb into Tommy thought of it as a Spitfire with four wheels.
Tom was taken at a very young age, around five years old, from Denmark – his birth country – to England and put into a strict and punishing boarding school called Halibury. In the school they nurtured and shaped tough young men needed to fill the ranks of soldier/administrators of the empire and particularly the East India Trading company. Which, in some way, his grandfather on his mother’s side, Evelyn Weber, was involved in. He owned a successful trading company with real estate and offices in the city and the docklands, for which Tommy was being raised to enter as a clerk and presumably, at some point, work his way up into management.
While my brother and I were growing up and attended schools in different countries, when he was sober – which for long periods seemed a test for him – Tom would tell us about his rebellion against the cruel British culture and the public school, into which he felt he was rudely displaced from what he described as the far warmer and more natural people and culture of his childhood in Denmark. There in this big estate, Hald, now a retreat for writers, he liked to get messy with the animals and work on the farm.
While my brother and I would be dealing with the difficulties of being outsiders at some new school in France, Spain or Denmark, challenges like language, making friends or dealing with bullies, Tom would tell us how he once whipped the headmaster with his own cane and slept with the cleaning ladies.
Tom went from that public school to the air cadets. Flying was the second big love of his life, after the first, which was his home country Denmark.
However, Tom was colour blind and bad luck meant that one day in training when he was carrying a doctor on a routine approach to land in France, his passenger became suspicious when Tom failed to notice a red light flashing in the cockpit. He was busted. And so, according to the old man, naturally he took up the next most dangerous thing, motor racing. Which of course mum hated.
Between that time and when he met my mother – Susan Anne Coriat – in the early sixties, he worked for a while as a clerk at his English grandfather’s import and export trading company at the East India Docks.
But that life and work was too cut-and-dried for Tom, who ever since his removal from Denmark as a kid rebelled against everything and everyone. So his grandfather had to let him go and Tom put away the bowler hat and umbrella and opened a small gambling den from his private flat in the West End, before marrying mum and having us two kids. We grew up in small house in Pimlico.
Mum was the introvert. Attractive and more of a true seeker or hippy. But more on her next time…
Mum was something of the introvert among us, the dreamy one – not unlike me. I was slightly extroverted as a child although I became less so in adulthood.
Mum was poetic, her head in the clouds a bit, a spiritual seeker and I guess a proper hippy of the times, like her circle of friends. Christopher Gibbs describes mum. A famous art-dealer, Chris supposedly turned many of the Stones entourage on to LSD. He lived on Cheyney Walk, like Keith Richards and frequented The Flying Dragon, the health food café mum opened in World’s End, Chelsea, in around 1968, after her marriage to my father began to fall apart.
Like all boys, I had an extremely close relationship with mum. She raised Jake on her own before I came along on November 25th 1964. At that time it was decided she needed help and she advertised in a national paper for a nanny. Mo, a nineteen year-old from Aberdeen, answered the ad and she and I then also became very close. Mo and Jake didn’t get on. I’d often sleep in Mo’s bedroom at the top of the house, beneath her imposing poster of her teenage hero, George Best, which Mo had plastered to the ceiling above her bed.
There are a bunch of revealing anecdotes about Mum. Once clothed only in flowers, she rode her salt and pepper horse, Jerusalem Artichoke, right through the annual fair at Padstow, which gave the locals something to talk about.
In contrast to Dad’s friends, who were motor-racing, property or other kinds of dealers, mum’s friends were an arty crowd: Mark Palmer, the Queen’s godson, who owned a popular modelling agency; Christopher Gibbs, a celebrated, gay Chelsea antiques and art dealer, who supposedly turned Jagger and Keith Richards onto acid one weekend out at Redlands and Frances Travers, mum’s work friend at The Flying Dragon and, like Christopher Gibbs, one of the Gipsy travellers living on the grounds at Eliot Castle.
Her crowd all hung out at her health food café in the World’s End, “The Flying Dragon”, and later moved down to Cornwall to live in Gipsy caravans on the Estate of Lord Eliot. The caravans were spread around a broken down old house on the grounds of Elliot Castle, in Cornwall, not far from where I now live. We lived there for a bit with them. They baked good smelling bread and did little more than live simply off the earth and, I guess, contemplate nature until they got bored and moved on.
George Harrison was a good friend of mum’s. They were not that dissimilar in nature: slightly introvert, poetic and seekers, spiritually speaking.
When George came to visit our home in Pimlico, I was woken in the middle of the night by a pinch from Mo, our 19 year old nanny from Aberdeen. She was in a state of some panic and told me I had to go downstairs and interrupt the grown ups, who were playing records and smoking their ‘funny cigarettes’ in the front room. As I rubbed my eyes, she frantically related that there was a Beatle in the house, George Harrison, and she needed an excuse to meet him. I was to go down and tell mum I’d had a nightmare, she would follow and whisk me away from the adults – thus saving the day – not before locking eyes with George.
One night towards the end of the break up, another Beatle came round for dinner with his new, very quiet Japanese girlfriend. Mum cooked a big meal but we kids had to go out for some yoghurt as apparently that was all the girlfriend ate. As the night wore on and mum took us off and tucked us up in bed, she made my brother and me promise the strangest thing, which was that we would never take drugs. Honestly, I’m not sure we knew what exactly drugs were at the time, although we duly promised that to her before she closed the door and rejoined the adults.
In the clip below George talks about drugs, heroin in particular. At some point both mum and dad would become addicted, although knowing what I know now, I suspect psychological as well as undiagnosed mental health issues had a lot to do with those addictions.
Living With The Band of Gypsies at Castle Eliot.
Port Eliot Castle. Where they have the writing and music festival in the Summer.
This is where we lived for a while – on the grounds, not in the castle. With mum, Mark Palmer and his caravan of gypsies, living off the land. Mark Palmer had a huge model agency in London as well as a band of travelling freaks – when he was not touring music festivals with his best mate. Mark drove a Triumph and his inseparable best mate, who he toured the music festivals with, drove a Norton .
Mark Palmer’s agency From Mark Palmer’s 60s Modelling Agency – publicityshothttps://goo.gl/images/wGcznk
Though I never met him, Jago Eliot sounded like a fascinating guy who died young. He was a street performer and club owner. His father, Perry or Peregrine Eliot, was very much part of the group of freaks which included art dealer Christopher Gibbs and Jagger. The latter briefly hosted the caravan on the grounds of his estate before it moved to Port Eliot. Perry let us all stay in a broken down old house somewhere on the Eliot estate where I can attest we all lived very simply.
Meeting Jimi Hendrix, my first real music hero.
The Boy Who Walked With The Gods.
Press Clipping from Rocknuts.net, Feb 2016:
Forty-seven years ago today, Hendrix electrified the Royal Albert Hall in London. Just before he thrashed Purple Haze, a young boy ambled onto the stage, whispered a message to Hendrix and toddled off. For 47 years, the identity of the boy in the photo above has remained a mystery.
In a fascinating story, UCR details how the mystery got solved. A hardcore Hendrix fan named Yazid Manou started posting the photo on various Hendrix fan boards. Finally, someone was able to identify him as little Charlie Weber – a boy who grew up in a wonderland full of rock royalty. He was immortalized in Robert Greenfield’s hippie opus, A Day in the Life: One Family, the Beautiful People, and the End of the Sixties.
Once he was identified, Manou reached out to Weber to show him the photo. Weber had never seen the shot:
“To open up an email and see piece of your past looking at you like that was just extraordinary,” he said. “I’ve never seen the picture before, but I remember very clearly being backstage before the photo happened. My father introduced me to Hendrix. Of course they were all doing ridiculous amounts of chemicals when we met. But Hendrix put me up on his shoulders. He was just a lovely guy; a beautiful guy with lovely energy.”
… He remembers the moment he walked out on stage, too. “If you look at the shot, it’s like a fantasy image; like something from Alice in Wonderland, he continued. “Back then, in that era, a child wandering out was not all that odd, I suppose. Nobody tried to stop me. A year later, I did a similar thing at the Isle of Wight concert when Donovan led me and Julian Jones, Brian Jones’ son that Donovan was raising, out onstage. But nothing was like going out to see Jimi.”
As to what he told Hendrix once he got out there, he’s not completely sure.
“What do you say when you see a musical hero? I suppose I would have said, ‘I really love your music,’ or something in that vein. Or, ‘Could you play ‘Foxey Lady?’’ If you watch the clip you can see, in the midst of all that was going on, he managed to be very human. He was very engaged and patient. Looking at me like, hey, this kid here, he’s as important as anyone else. Hendrix’s values were 100 percent. You see the warmth and his normalcy.”
The concert appearance was just one of dozens of crazy stories from Weber’s youth. The son of a race car driver and filmmaker, Weber got toted around the world – often an arm’s length away from the most famous musicians in the world at the absolute heights of their powers.
He was even there when Mick Jagger married Bianca Perez-Mora Macias in 1971. In a now-infamous story, Weber had coke taped to his body, so he could smuggle drugs in as a wedding gift.
It was a different time, a different place. And one that we’ll probably never see again. “We were walking with gods,” Weber says.
The Isle of Wight – Julian Jones, Jake and I on stage with Donovan.
Julian Leitch (son of Brian Jones) was adopted by Donavan when he partnered with Brian’s ex-wife. At the Isle of Wight festival my brother and I spent most of our time away from the adults, playing with Julian. We’d generally run around and get up to a little bit of mischief. Not too much, nicking pancakes from often slightly stoned traders, usually by sneaking under the canvas awnings of the food tents and making our move, while their backs were turned, from a newly or nearly prepared crêpe.
We’d arrived at the Isle of Wight in a convoy of cars and bikes. Our aunt Lulu, Tommy’s half sister, was there and a bunch of people from the Cornish band of gypsies. Mark Palmer came on his Triumph and his best friend, Nick I think it was, on a Norton.
Once there our crowd, which included Zoe – a leading model for Vogue and my father’s date at the time – all seemed to convene inside Taffy’s huge truck, which was the size of a house and opened to the side. A proper festival vehicle. This was the truck Taffy traded the GT40 for. Sitting on her lap, at some point I became completely absorbed in the beauty of Zoe and for some reason tried to kiss her on the lips. The room laughed and Zoe smiled and said, ‘Not that kind of kiss, Charley’.
At some point hanging around with him backstage, Julian pulled us up and out in front of the crowd. It was shocking, there were around two hundred thousand people and they seemed pleased to see us. This for his step-dad, Donovan’s, performance of a song he’d written for him called ‘How Much Can You Pee When You’re Only Three’. The crowd cheered, and the roadies brought microphones and stands. To be honest, as Jake and I had pointed out several times when Julian had brought up the idea, we didn’t know any of the words. Although much more exciting, it felt a bit like visiting church when you have to pretend you know the words to some hymns and you sort of wing it and try your best to sing along. I presume Julian did however know the words and just didn’t want to be the only kid out there while his father sang a song to him about peeing in front of huge crowd of hundreds of thousands of strangers.
One of the best performers in the festival, to my mind, was John Sebastian from the Loving Spoonful, whom I really liked. Somehow, completely alone and spontaneously I wandered off from Jake and Julian and sought this singer out in his dressing caravan or lodgings after the show. He was gracious and we chatted briefly. I said I liked his music a lot. Then he showed me his guitar case, which was full of hundreds of different kinds of rolling papers that he’d gathered from all around the world: liquorice ones, dollar bill ones, peace sign ones – which I found to be a bit of a treasure trove.
Hendrix was also there and played, but it was just so so, his performance. People said the sound was really bad and that was the reason. Although I was just a kid, I’m not sure if Jimi was becoming depressed on deeper level, for some reason.
A Passage to India.
Shocking, that someone so lovely, bright and sensitive should be caged in that kind of environment. Obvious comparisons to Francis Farmer, the actress played so well by Jessica Lange, and her horrific ordeals spring to mind.
My mother was institutionalised for a few months in around 1969. This was after her sanity slipped on a trip back from India, where we flew out unaccompanied on Air India to meet her, an Irish man (the one who couldn’t be named for legal reasons in Greenfield’s book, A Day in the Life) and an amazing guru called Dr. Bindu.
Dr. Bindu was a well know local holy man in the mountains in India, North of Deli. He was a school teacher and ran an orphanage for homeless kids, who ran around happily in the playground of his school where we met him. When I was introduced to him, he smiled and shook my hand for what seemed like a beat and asked me ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?‘ Without much hesitation, a confident four year old, I said ‘I want to be a racing car driver like my dad’. He paused thoughtfully for a moment and said ‘You will not be a racing driver, you will be a writer’. Knowing that people respected this man, I was more than a little crushed at the time about this news.
Since the day mum and us two boys had joined dad on a grandstand after he won a GT race in some lethal contraption, smiling from ear to ear, with a wreath around his neck and a bottle of champagne in his hand, with which he sprayed us, I’d never seriously entertained becoming anything else.
Mum started behaving erratically on the trip back from India. She’d become disillusioned with another man, her Irish lord boyfriend, I don’t know but suspect he might be in the running as another who could be my biological father. The trip home to England took us to Istanbul and also an extended stay on Buyukada, in the Princess Islands. An island I remember from many years ago as having only horse drawn carriages. Curiously it was also where I had my last flat in Istanbul in 2016, around the time the coup took place and I decided it was time to return to the UK.
Her mental health took a particularly bad turn for the worse after falling and hitting her head on a rock at the cave of St. John the Baptist, on the island of Patmos. She started having visions and once, seemingly on a whim, swam stark naked out to another island in the middle of the night. The authorities brought her back to us. This was while we were very young kids and sleeping back at the hotel room.
When we returned to the UK her grandmother picked us all up in her little Morris and reprimanded mum for being so much trouble. After some time we think the family resolved that she needed to be sectioned. All of which was emotionally and psychologically extremely complicated, as I think her elder sister – who was far straighter than mum and also somewhat jealous of her – was the one who drove Puss to the clinic in Oxford and left her there.
Visiting her in the institution it was a terrifying environment to see her in. When we entered her private room a woman we’d never met before leapt up and yelled ‘Marlon, Marlon!’ and tried to grab Jake. It freaked us out, my father, brother and me. It was Anita Pallenberg, mum’s room mate, who, because of his blonde hair and her not having seen Marlon for a while had mistaken Jake for her boy.
In retrospect we learned all kinds of lighter, mitigating stories about the partners – Tommy and Keith – climbing up the drainpipe and into the window to visit the girls in their room, seeming with all kinds of illicit substances, although that was one of the reasons the ladies were in there in the first place, to kick pretty serious habits. On one occasion, Keith was reported to have climbed in the window with an acetate or first pressing of ‘Sticky Fingers’, to the sounds of which which they all partied.
But how out of it exactly one has to be to not to recognise your own kid, I can only imagine. It must have been a combination of heavy medication and the young mother, Anita, obviously missing her baby.
I do know that while in there mum received electro shock therapy. I don’t know if Anita did, I doubt it and although that’s where the two met, this is where Anita and mum struck up their friendship, which we suspect also developed into a romance. Knowing Anita’s naughty nature, one can’t help but imagine what might have happened in that room. This was also where Mum and Anita developed the germ of the idea for Tom, our father, to smuggle cocaine out to the Stones in the South of France, where they would record ‘Exile on Main Street’ as tax exiles and where we joined them a year or two later.
Exile on Main Street – Nellcôte. Page Boys to the Jaggers.
I was closer to Keith as a kid and never felt particularly close to Mick. Although, like Keith, Mick is definitely something of a genius. As an adult I admire his writing ability and also I rate creativity above all else – except if the person is abusive in some way to people, family or loved ones.
Creativity is kind of the altar at which I worship, my religion, so to speak. However, being a bit of a music, car and tech fanatic – as an adult as well as as a kid – around the time we were page boys at his and Bianca’s wedding, Mick let me into his world and showed me what at the time seemed to be space age technology: the inside of the front of his Rolls Royce convertible – not a car that particularly impressed me. But it played singles – you just slipped them in and the music came out. Really as a kid I had never seen anything like it. It seemed like magic!
ERIC AND THE DOMINOS – Exile.
Eric Clapton now apparently runs and operates a rehab clinic. Although a separate enterprise, so does Polly Parsons, the daughter of Gram.
When the Stones were setting up to record ’Exile’ at Nellcôte Eric Clapton stayed there for a couple of weeks around the time of Mick and Bianca’s wedding where my brother, Marlon and I served as page boys.
However, Eric stayed in his room for most of the time, in a bad way, asking for drugs. A state he’d seemingly been in for at least a couple of years, since he’d recorded and played Layla, his magnum opus, for Pattie Boyd. Most people know the story but less her reaction: on hearing the song Pattie was speechless, she apparently just left the room without saying a word. This, Eric says, was the start of his heroin habit.
Back to Nellcôte and the virtuoso guitarist being locked away in his room experiencing withdrawal. Keith and the old man, Tommy, exchanged words. Keith being of the opinion that it was Eric’s problem and to let him deal with it.
Never in need of much of an excuse to procure drugs, meet a great musician or help a person in need, for that matter, Tom went to Marseille and scored, presumably through the contacts of Gross Jacques, the hired helper for the head cook Gerard Mosiniak.
Eric was thus saved from cold turkey or, depending on your view, pushed further down the road in his heroin addiction.
Unfortunately it didn’t cause Eric to magically appear from his room and start socialising with everyone or jamming with Keith, which was the secret wish of a lot of people in the villa.
Spain, Switzerland, Joanna Harcourt-Smith. Meeting Tim Leary.
Denmark at Hald, Tommy’s childhood and early home.
Hald is now a writers retreat in Jutland Denmark. This was our old Danish family house during WW2, which we visited and stayed in with Tom as kids, in about 1972, when it was called the Student Centre of Europe.
My father lived there before he was taken away to England by our grandmother just after the war. He told me that when he was growing up things would move around, like cards or glasses on tables and that the ‘old grey lady of Hald’ would enter his father’s study regularly. So one day grandfather set up a camera in the hope to capture a photograph of some spectre entering his study. He said farfar did capture something, which appeared to be a ghost and that the picture was in the Museum in Copenhagen.
This is video of inside Hald, the Danish estate where our father, uncle and grandparents lived until the end of WW2. After the war the place was confiscated by the government as punishment against grandfather, a senior general under some suspicion after the war because he’d worked and socialised with the German military brass.
On a big dinner night, our father Tommy – who hated the Nazis – crept downstairs, snuck under the dining table and peed on the legs and shoes of each of the German visiting officers. Tommy subsequently received a thrashing, which wasn’t the first time. He was a very gregarious child and always getting into trouble.
Our Danish grandfather was a slightly reactionary rightwing guy who joined the French foreign legion after an indiscreet liaison with a Finnish aristocrat or princess. While stationed in Africa he is said to have removed his own appendix whilst in the jungle.
Very trippy for me to watch the video, as we stayed at Hald as guests in 1973 when it was called the Student Center Europe. Somehow dad persuaded them to let him rent us a student room for a couple of weeks when we were revisiting his roots with Jimi Hendrix’ Danish ex, I believe it was Kristen.
We lived in Copenhagen for a bit and later went to school for about a year in Jutland, where we lived in a rented cottage.
The video shows no ghosts of course. But it seems to reinforce the belief that the house may indeed be haunted.
Return to London, St Ann’s Villas and a Godsend, Summerhill School.
Our uncle Alan and Aunt Jenny – Mum’s sister – rescue the hippy orphans for a year or so, as Tom gets into his old ways and we kids live as guests in a castle in Hertfordshire.