Thursday, September 02, 2010

Memory of a Free Festival

Memory of a Free Festival by David Bowie is a song I've known for years - it's on his 1969 Space Oddity album - but I've only recently discovered it is a true South London song.

Bowie's Beckenham connections have been documented here before, but I didn't realize that this song was apparently inspired by the Free Festival held in Beckenham Recreation Ground, Croydon Road on August 16 1969. The festival was put on by Bowie and others involved in the Beckenham Arts Lab held on Sundays at the Three Tuns pub in Beckenham High Street. As David Bebbington recalls at Beckenham History, 'Bowie played solo, and the bill also included singer-songwriters Bridget St John, Keith Christmas and Toni Visconti'. Comus and The Strawbs also played.

Here's the lyrics:

"Memory Of A Free Festival"

The Children of the summer's end
Gathered in the dampened grass
We played Our songs and felt the London sky
Resting on our hands
It was God's land
It was ragged and naive
It was Heaven

Touch, We touched the very soul
Of holding each and every life
We claimed the very source of joy ran through
It didn't, but it seemed that way
I kissed a lot of people that day

Oh, to capture just one drop of all the ecstasy that swept that afternoon
To paint that love
upon a white balloon
And fly it from
the toppest top of all the tops
That man has pushed beyond his brain
Satori must be something
just the same

We scanned the skies with rainbow eyes and saw machines of every shape and size
We talked with tall Venusians passing through
And Peter tried to climb aboard but the Captain shook his head
And away they soared
Climbing through
the ivory vibrant cloud
Someone passed some bliss among the crowd
And We walked back to the road, unchained

The Sun Machine is Coming Down, and We're Gonna Have a Party
The Sun Machine is Coming Down, and We're Gonna Have a Party
The Sun Machine is Coming Down, and We're Gonna Have a Party
The Sun Machine is Coming Down, and We're Gonna Have a Party
The Sun Machine is Coming Down, and We're Gonna Have a Party."


Gypsy Lantern said...

I've never really been able to verify it, but I've heard from a couple of word-of-mouth sources that the Three Tuns in Beckenham was also one of the first London venues to put on a regular reggae night - possibly on alternate weeks from Bowie's Beckenham Arts Lab. There may be some chinese whispers involved in this version of events, but it would be pretty interesting if Bowie's thing and early London/JA soundsystem were both developing in parallel in the upstairs room of the same pub in Beckenham.

Transpontine said...

Yes, this seems to be true, with the reggae night on Friday and the Arts Lab (which was originally the folk club) on Sundays. At Beckenham History Forum someone posted this a while back: 'At the Three Tuns beckenham at the back of the pub in the 60's there use to be every friday a reggae club, the sounds were by 'Galaxy Sound', it was mixed with skinheads, bluebeaters anyone remember it?'

martin dixon said...

This song takes me right back to my teenage idealism - interesting to unearth these south London connections too