Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Jimi Hendrix Dizzee Rascal mash up - or bring back 'far out'

I'm thinking of becoming a hippy again, because being redundant is in some ways a bit like it was back then. In those days I didn't really want to work, whereas now at least I want to earn some dosh, but here I am all the same in the front room at nearly midday listening to Jimi Hendrix . We had a Conservative prime minister then, Edward Heath, whose fight with the unions led to the three-day-week. Now, we've got another one, even if he is propped up by the Liberal Democrats (who didn't exist until 1988). It gets weirder. Back then grandad vests were popular - and today my ensemble includes a grandad vest.

There are of course some important differences. Hair is an obvious one. Now, frankly, the skinhead look would be easier (though way the wrong message), and it's going to be tough to reproduce the classic embellished-afghan-hound look. Also, back then I had more than 30 years of teaching English language in front of me, and I only thought I knew what a verb was (and if, by the way, you are going to say it's  'a doing word', then what about 'being'? Which brings us right back to the hippies). Back then we did talk a lot - or 'rap' as we called it - about ley lines, macrobiotics, the significance of the comet Kahoutek, the Zodiac, reincarnation and so on and so on. No doubt people still talk stoned nonsense, but I wouldn't know where to get the drugs now. This may be the biggest impediment to being a hippy again: it will have to be without drugs. They would just make me cough, and set my asthma off.

Imagine me down in a certain part of town in the January rain, in my waterproof hooded walking jacket, my skull ring, and my corduroy peaked cap, trying to recall the lingo and possibly update it a bit. "Excuse me, man. Have you got any charge, by any chance? You know - shit, like red leb and that? It's cool, incidentally, I'm not fuzz." The youngster on the corner with a mobile would probably confidently agree with me about one thing though. I isn't police.

How young people speak has changed, but I'll bet they don't like oldies trying to copy them any more than we did, and the media style pundits are still on about them supposedly debasing the English language. There's nothing like ill-informed ridicule for keeping the young in their place. In our case, what we thought of as our own language was just standard English with a light dressing of black American slang, but it was hugely derided as degenerate by 'straights.' In fact, it was the straights that called us 'hippies'. We called ourselves 'heads,' or 'freaks.' As some do today, we called each other 'man,' sometimes 'brother' or  'sister' as applicable, though you had to be fairly committed for that one. Also, as today, we used 'cool', but slightly differently. "That's cool," meant "that's acceptable," rather than "that's great, neat, brill, or mint." Similarly, a cool person was one unlikely to attract unwanted attention to themselves and thus get into a hassle with the fuzz. One of ours that is still current, and was British in origin, was 'to suss something/someone out,' meaning 'to work something out, to deduce it, or come to understand a person's motives.'

My favourite though - also British I think -  has disappeared, which is a bummer. It was 'far out'. This was used adjectivally (attributively and predicatively), and as an exclamatory adjective sentence to express enthusiasm: "This is far out blow!" "The Pink Fairies are far out, man!" (remember them, playing outside the festival, on a flatbed lorry?), and just "Wow, far out!"  I can't do the hair. I don't want to do the drugs. But I'm still into (there's another one) Hendrix, and I think we should start a campaign to bring back 'far out.'

"And so castles made of sand fall in the sea, eventually." (Jimi Hendrix, Castles Made of Sand, Axis: Bold as Love, 1967)
 "Yeah my attitude's mingin, but I don't really give a friggin rasclar." (Dizzee Rascal,  Money Money, Tongue N Cheek, 2009)

"That Dizzee Hendrix is far out though." (Alec Turer, Castles Made of Money, Tongue N Groove, 2011)

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