mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Sport 11: Spring 1993

An Era, an Institution

page 130

An Era, an Institution

black and white drawing

‘It’s a wild tyme . . .’

(‘Wild Tyme (h)’, Jefferson Airplane, After Bathing at Baxter’s)

Essentially, Baxter wasn’t trying to kick-start a ground-breaking new experiment, he was trying to reactivate and reinterpret a form of tribal life that was there before—on the Whanganui River in the form of Maori life. He was also invoking the spirit of Eric Gill’s Ditchling or Capel Y Ffin (like Gill, Baxter retreated further and further from the ‘corrupt’ city but was, paradoxically, always drawn back there). His communal ideals fell somewhere between the Utopian socialists and the spirit of late 1960s hippy communes in North America.

It was an era of simplifications and wishful thoughts—of imaginative flying machines winging their way above the corrupt and un-beautiful cities.* Like Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane, Baxter at Jerusalem believed that filling an ‘old house’ with down-at-heel people could be a kind of restoration of what was meaningful and responsible in human society. Unfortunately, while the utopian, idealistic establishment can exist happily as a highflying idea, it has a tendency, whenever it touches ground, to undo itself—just like Gill’s Ditchling. Baxter’s community of people would never be able to match his community of words.

* Perhaps the 1960s aren’t that easily dismissed. The British jazz journal The Wire devoted its May 1993 issue to ‘May 1968’. And, coincidentally, in that issue, music critic Biba Kopf wrote: ‘Of the music bonding the age’s broken pieces, Jefferson Airplane’s binds best . . . After Bathing at Baxter’s is JA’s most musically, if not politically, ambitious record. Awry raga rhythms funnel a concussive polyphony of voices, ringing guitar distortions, feedbacking and spliced tape/song chatter . . .’