Electric gypsies - Page 2

A Day in the Life charts the decline of the West and the search for another country
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Puss and Tommy Weber sunbathe

Every summer in Virginia, my favorite pastime — even above slopping hogs and barn dancing — was handling the snakes. But lil' ol' me was yet unprepared for being ensnared in Anita Pallenberg's chamber of smoke-and-mirrors.

My old soul arose like the fabled Kemetic Bennu bird of prehistory from that befuddling, dazzling screening, leaving me a lifelong devotee of the occultist, pirate triumvirate that is my beloved doom fox Pallenberg, interiors aesthete Christopher Gibbs, and the film's auteur par excellence — the late, great Scot Donald Cammell. (Yes, Nicholas Roeg was essentially the technical director, but the film's peculiar psychosexual tangle and audacious vision could come from no other brilliant cerebellum than Cammell's.)

And so I was transfixed by the cover of Day In The Life. There stared a witch even more lovely and remote than my muse Anita. Looking inside, I discovered that she was Puss Weber, and that the young Fata Morgana boy from a Stones memorabilia photo that I'd long obsessed over was her eldest son, Jake. Alongside his bruh' Charley, he had an inadvertent ringside seat to Mick and Keith's maiden voyage into the rough black Atlantic. You can read all about it in this book, a great gift from the cosmos.

"Fantasy" by Earth, Wind, & Fire was the private, tacit anthem of my family's feminine trio in the 1970s — which paralleled that of the Weber boys. Strange and beautiful it is that Jake, son of Tommy the Tumbling Dice, should find himself co-starring on a show called Medium, wherein his character, Joe DuBois, has a witchy-empowered wife he must support and nurture much as he once did his beloved mother Puss. As Marshall McLuhan proclaimed during the year of Jake's birth (in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man): "The medium is the message." Although W.E.B. DuBois (no relation) famously said the problem of the 20th century of is that of the color line, it can now also be argued that the past century-plus has been marked more than almost anything else by the problems stemming from the interface of man and machine — spirituality vs. technology.

In this light, it seems no accident that Tommy Weber has become an antihero fit to rival his fellow Archer, Duane "Skyman" Allman, in my internal spiritual pantheon. I would hazard a guess that both of his sons are currently fulfilling what Tommy wrote to Jake in 1982: "There is a very important secret. Work is much more interesting than play and if you are lucky enough to be able to make your work your play and your play pay, well then you're in clover."

One cannot claim "Tommy the Tumbling Dice" and his beautiful, free spirit wife Susan Ann Caroline "Puss" Coriat should not have had children, for their now grown sons are vital contributors to our black Atlantic culture and are fine human beings. Still, these rather tortured Swinging Londoners' families rival the pathology often on display around the corners of my 'hood in high Harlem.

I am far less enchanted by A Day in the Life's testimonials on Puss and Tommy's pre-Stones circle in London than I am arrested by their families' collective African history. Greenfield's book aims to shoot an arrow straight into the heart of Boomerville, yet it also unwittingly works as a strong resource for the far opposite realm of postcolonial studies. In fact, with some tweaking, it could serve as one of that discipline's core works — a testament to its riches.

One of my most cherished passages in Greenfield's book deals with Tommy's haphazard management of the pioneering Afro-rock band Osibisa. A crazy trip through northern Africa is bookended by him, Jake, and Charley enduring a harrowing stay in jail in Lagos. To a degree, Puss and Tommy were confined by being products of their class and times. Yet they cannot be judged now via the uptight lenses of today.

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