John Sinclair – Sitarratha

• “Sitarratha” set to a picture of the album reissue cover.

9.3 “Classic Poetry from the USA”

From his album “Beatnik Youth” (Iron Man Records) recorded in 2011, and first released in a limited batch in late 2012. Remastered and reissued in July, 2017.

What a stunning symphony, zestful but laid back all the same, as he pays homage to John Coltrane against a hazy swirl of a backdrop that’s all at once soulful, bluesy and jazzy with just a hint of eastern promise.

Making the magic happen:

Narration – John Sinclair
Backing Vocals – Michael Rendall, Youth
Bass – Youth
Drums – Hugo Wilkinson
Guitar – James Sedwoods
Hammond Organ – Michael Rendall
Piano – Alex Ward
Producer – Youth
Recorded By – Michael Rendall
Saxophone – Alex Ward
Solina – Michael Rendall
Vocals – Angie Brown
Written By – Alan Clayton, John Sinclair, Martin Glover

The original press release:

They call him “The Big Chief”. From Detroit to New Orleans and from Los Angeles to Amsterdam, John Sinclair is still the cigar-chomping, king-size, psychedelic old-gangster poet, a living legend, a veteran of the counterculture, a survivor of the Marijuana Wars, and one of the last bohemians still standing. As a co-founder of the Detroit underground newspaper The Fifth Estate, manager of punk godfathers MC5, and Chairman of the White Panther Party – described on Wikipedia in these modern times as “a far-left, anti-racist, white American political collective founded in 1968 and dedicated to ‘cultural revolution’” his mark on the boho rock & roll underground has been unique.

In 1969, with Richard Nixon in the White House, Vietnam in chaos in the wake of the Viet Cong’s near-suicidal Tet Offensive, and American cities still scared and scarred from urban riots, even the comparatively harmless agitprop pranks of White Panther “cultural revolution” had those in power reaching for their metaphoric – and sometimes actual – revolvers. Authorities remembered how John had organized the MC5’s playing outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, the only band actually able to perform before Mayor Daley’s rabid police department violently derailed the massive anti-Vietnam war rally with teargas, billy clubs, and helicopter support.

John was deemed a danger to society and set up like a bowling pin. After handing a couple of joints to a hassling hippie who turned out to be an undercover narcotics agent, John found himself on the bad end of a ten year jail term. At the same time though he became a cause celebre. Free John Sinclair became one more battle cry in an embattled era. Protests, propaganda, and a giant concert in Ann Arbor headlined by John Lennon and Yoko Ono ultimately resulted in John’s release in November 1971. Lennon even wrote a song about him called ‘John Sinclair’ which he included on his ‘Sometime In New York City’ album.

In common with much that happens with John, a meeting with producer Youth (Paul McCartneys ‘Fireman’, Primal Scream, The Verve etc & Killing Joke bass player) that sowed the creative seeds was a matter of stoned synchronicity. As Track Records boss Ian Grant tells it , “Alan Clayton told me he had ‘John Sinclair coming round tomorrow.’ I said “the John Sinclair”. One night Zodiac (Mindwarp) was on the bill the Dirty Strangers and Youth was very taken with John. “I want to make a jazz album with John”. Since then, the two met at Youths house whenever he was home, and when John was in the country, and recorded the album.”

And – through the course of those recordings – John, always so associated with the 1960s, took a serious step into the ways of the 21st century, with the same intoned poetry (he even tells the tale of Thelonious Monk on acid), but with melodic backing vocals, highly inventive production, even a nod to hip-hop, but still remembering his first loves of blues, be-bop, and classic rock & roll. Beatnik Youth is one more step in the Big Chief’s long zigzag trip that seems set to continue all the way to the far blue horizon. Summing up John Sinclair, you can only say with certainty that the beatnik goes on.

Guest on the album include, Howard Marks, Keith Levine, Bobby Gillespie, Brian James, Angie Brown, Zodiac (Mindwarp), Jesse Wood, Mark Stewart, Alan Clayton and Youth plays bass on all tracks.

12 page booklet with sleevenotes by Mick Farren and John Sinclair

“if we are lucky, we will live through it all, yes, and the music will ring in our ears, and we will hear it, and it will bring us through, we will wake up singing”

Amen, brother.

Get it at Bandcamp.