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Cavern Club: The Inside Story

Cavern Club by Debbie Greenberg

As a teenager, Debbie Greenberg was spending far too much time at the Cavern Club in her hometown of Liverpool, England. It was already the most famous music club in the world, where she had been dazzled by the Beatles’ debut performance and witnessed their rise to stardom for two years before watching the local heroes leave home.

Then in 1966, after the previous owner declared bankruptcy, her father asked out of the blue if she thought it would be a good idea to take over the club. It was an offer she couldn’t refuse. She’d been a Cavern fanatic since it was a jazz club, hardly missing a lunchtime or evening rock session until its closure a few weeks before – amid mass protests by Liverpool youth.

Now she was suddenly part of a new family business, faced with the task of helping to breathe new life into a dilapidated rock ’n’ roll shrine and build on the legacy of the legendary Mersey Beat.

This first-hand account of her ten years frequenting and eventually managing the original Cavern Club is the authentic inside story of the Beatles’ launch pad, full of triumphs and failures – and surprise celebrity encounters.

Richly illustrated with dozens of photos, posters and press clips.

Bibliographic Data:
Title: Cavern Club: The Inside Story
Author: Debbie Greenberg
Publisher: Jorvik Press
ISBN: 978-0-9863770-4-4
Publication Date: 10/24/2016
B&W 6 x 9 in. (229 x 152 mm); perfect-bound with matte lamination
190 pages; 94 B&W illustrations
Retail price: US: $19.95; UK: £17.25; EU: €19.75

Posted in Cavern Club, Our Books

Psychedelic Suburbia

Psychedelic Suburbia book cover

David Bowie was 22 years old and still living with his parents in southeast London when, quite by chance, he met Mary Finnigan while visiting her upstairs neighbours in nearby Beckenham. Still an unrecognised talent haunting the London folk clubs, desperately seeking paid gigs, he couldn’t even dream of a future as a global rock phenomenon.

Life started to take interesting turns after he moved in with Mary and her two children in the spring of 1969. With a small group of psychedelic pioneers, they launched the Beckenham Arts Lab in a local pub and organized a free music festival in the town’s park.

That summer his first hit, Space Oddity, made it into the charts and became the theme song for the first moon landing. He was suddenly on a trajectory towards superstardom.

Millions of words have been written about Bowie’s life, but his early days as a struggling songwriter and performer have been shrouded in hearsay. Here is the full story of his pivotal year in Beckenham, written before his death by his friend, lover and landlady, one of the first people to encourage and support him.

For this expanded first edition, the author has added an epilogue on the aftermath of Bowie’s death two days after the book was first published. New images include two previously unpublished photos of his Beckenham days.

Posted in Our Books, Psychedelic Suburbia

Highlights of a Lowlife

Highlights book cover

Milan Melvin was one of the most fascinating figures out of the sixties. In fact, a case could be made that he helped to shape the time of our lives. Peter Laufer is one of the sharpest journalists out of the sixties. In one of his last major decisions, Milan asked Peter to help him tell his story. Together they do, and it is one for the ages. Light up, buckle up and enjoy the flight. — Ben Fong-Torres

In a world of posers, Milan was the rare real thing. An adventurer and a strong friend. My friend. — David Crosby

When Milan Melvin rose point astride his iron palomino Harley, our caravan slept easy in the sixties, knowing he had one eye on the bad guys and heaven in his holster. — Wavy Gravy

Lean, lanky, self-contained, charming, and a natural gentleman – one of a dying breed even then. — Joan Baez

Milan Melvin was a driven, elusive, creative, lovable adventurer who colored the lives of all around him. His many-faceted career started with a stint as an undercover operative for the FBI at UC Berkeley – until he started falsifying reports.

He went on to trade Native American jewelry, import marijuana, hang with Hell’s Angels, co-found alternative radio – notably the legendary KSAN San Francisco – work on films, produce music, befriend Janis Joplin, and marry Mimi Farina, the sister of Joan Baez, who wrote her very first song about him.

Leaving America for 10 years, he lived with Tibetan Khampa guerrillas, funded a daycare center for Tibetan refugee children in Nepal, smuggled gems out of India, Burma and China, and manufactured jewelry in Thailand, before settling in Bali.

On his return, Milan worked with film director Carl Gottlieb on Caveman, appeared on Saturday Night Live, produced TV shows and managed the acting career of former Oakland Raider John “Tooz” Matuszak. Returning to charitable work, he and his wife Georgeanne raised and funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of medical and material aid to anti-government organizations during El Salvador’s civil war.

In his last decade, Milan lived with his wife in seclusion in Wolf Creek, Oregon, before moving to Mexico for his final adventures.

Posted in Highlights of a Lowlife, Our Books

‘Teachers and self-educators now have at hand a congenial portal to challenging big thinkers’

Rob Neufeld’s review of Mirrors of the Mind appeared in Asheville Citizen-Times shortly before Ron’s book launch at the University of North Carolina, Asheville.
Read review

Posted in Mirrors of the Mind, News & Views

Psychiatric care in Denmark linked to “a severely increased risk of dying.”

University of Copenhagen researchers led a nationwide study in Denmark comparing individuals who died from suicide to matched controls between the years 1996 and 2009. Essentially, the researchers found that increasing levels of psychiatric care are associated with “a severely increased risk of dying.” They concluded, “The public health significance of this finding may be considerable.” You would think the press and public would be outraged. The study was totally ignored.

The researchers found that taking psychiatric medications during the previous year made a person 5.8 times more likely to have killed themselves. If a person had made contact with a psychiatric outpatient clinic, they were 8.2 times more likely to have killed themselves. Visiting a psychiatric emergency room was linked to a 27.9 times greater likelihood of committing suicide. And if someone had actually been admitted to a psychiatric hospital, they were 44.3 times more likely to have committed suicide within the year.
Read more

Posted in Dear Luise, News & Views

Foreword to Dear Luise

“Mom, won’t you tell the world how we’re treated?” This was Luise’s last request to her mother, Dorrit Cato Christensen. She wanted her to describe the treatment she had received in the Danish mental health care system. With this book Dorrit fulfills her daughter’s wish.

What follows is a heartrending account of a life in our psychiatric care system, a life cut tragically short – the same fate suffered by many vulnerable people being treated for mental health problems. Every year more at-risk psychiatric patients end up like Luise – we know that this population’s lifespan averages 15 to 20 years less than others in their age group. This is a clear sign that we have to change the way we treat psychiatric patients.

We must improve conditions by offering quality time, attentiveness, compassion, evenhandedness and respect to every patient, so we can design the best treatment solution for each person. We need to talk openly about mental health issues and strengthen our networks of patients, families and friends. To this end I have set up a virtual meeting place, the website Psykisksaarbar.dk, now consulted by a growing population in Denmark. In 2009 I took the initiative to found an association called Det Sociale Netværk af 2009 (The Social Network of 2009), bringing together a wide range of national voluntary mental health organizations in a joint effort to improve conditions in Denmark for the mentally ill and their relatives. The organization of which Dorrit Cato Christensen is president, Død i Psykiatrien (Death in Psychiatric Treatment), is now part of our network.

I come in contact with many people who have been, or currently are, admitted to a psychiatric ward. Most have inside experience of various facilities and all agree that there are significant differences in approach from one institution to the next. A young girl said to me: “As soon as you set foot in the ward you know what kind of hospital stay you’re in for. Whether the mind-set is caring and responsive, or whether the place is ruled by coercion, constant evaluation and a staff that ignores you.”

We should not, in all conscience, allow sub-standard treatment in a country like Denmark, yet it happens all the time. I have often heard patients say: “You must be strong to be psychologically vulnerable.” When studies show that psychiatric caregivers harbor more negative expectations and prejudices about the mentally vulnerable than the general population, it means there is a problem inherent in our mental health care system. This is exacerbated by a dreadful lack of resources in psychiatric treatment wards.

The most important thing to remember is that first and foremost we are all human beings. We must not forget this for one second, before any incapacity or vulnerability is analyzed, defined and written down. This is why it is so important to see behind the facade of a diagnosis. A diagnosis is like an overcoat – the real person is found underneath it. This is one part of her daughter’s life story that Dorrit describes so movingly for us – her personhood, her humor, her compassion and her zest for life.

When I meet people who support The Social Network, who form networks on our website Psykisksårbar.dk, or participate in our regular Sunday get-togethers, it strikes me how similar we humans really are and how much we have in common. There is basically no real difference between you and me and a person who happens to have been given a psychiatric diagnosis. It is not a question of these people being completely different, but more that sometimes they may experience so much inner noise that they are thrown off-balance and become vulnerable.

The most important thing we can do for psychiatric patients is not to keep them isolated. Loneliness is their worst enemy. And it is crucial that we nurture hope, that we hope and believe we can find the best in each other, and that we make room for the individual. Hope is the vital life-giving elixir for the soul, mind and body – to be able to sense that the people around you believe in you, that you are valued, that you are needed. We become whole when others believe in us. And we’re most likely to find this when we feel the solidarity of good fellowship.

I would like to thank Dorrit Cato Christensen for her work with mental health patients and their families and friends, and for the very important work she is doing as president of the association Død i Psykiatrien. Her book is a poignant contribution to the debate, in which she openly and candidly tells the story of her daughter’s sad fate and gives us a glimpse of our mental health care system groping for the right treatment. Luise’s hospital records show that she told her caregivers she felt she could not tolerate the drug treatment they prescribed and wanted them to phase it out. But instead of less medication, she got more. This turned out to be fatal.

Many patients and relatives will already be familiar with the situations and events Dorrit portrays here. Many will see their own lives reflected in this story and perhaps even find the energy to fight for a dignified life. I also hope that mental health practitioners will read the book, then stop and think carefully about how they can deepen their professional skills through respect for the individual. We can be certain of one thing – pills are not and never will be enough. We must constantly listen to our patients and think carefully about whether we are giving the right medicine to the right person. The “medicine” that always works for the psychologically vulnerable is to approach them with compassion, nurturing, trust and calmness.

Poul Nyrup Rasmussen
Danish Prime Minister 1993-2001
Member of European Parliament 2004-2009

Read more about Poul Nyrup

Posted in Dear Luise, News & Views

Foreword to AsEverWas

Estranged from his parents at an early age, Hammond made up for the loss by exerting his sense of adventure, coupled with an uncanny ability to socialize positively with just about everyone he met. Consequently, where others might have faltered, he moved from scene to scene – first on the West Coast, later in Europe and Morocco – almost magically protected by his innate bonhomie and easygoing lifestyle, while having extraordinary and often hilarious adventures.

We first met in San Francisco in the late 1960s when the Haight-Ashbury was the Mecca of the American youth diaspora; draft dodgers were leaving for Europe, and particularly England. Though Hammond was clever enough to dodge the draft without having to emigrate, the cost of freedom had become too expensive, and he split the US with his wife Wendy and headed east. As Hammond and Wendy passed through London we met again, this time in the squats of Prince of Wales Road, a half-derelict inner-city zone where all you needed to steal a house was a jimmy and a lookout.

All sorts of happenings and counterculture events were flowing in a continuous stream. The underground press, arts labs, psychedelic nightclubs and sheer exuberant street life, coupled with the international exchange of ideas and experiences, made the cities of Western Europe a cultural melting pot. For a life-artist like Hammond this was evidently more than just fun.

Adept at writing, staging spontaneous events and ingesting neuroactive substances, Hammond swam through the culture like a salmon in familiar ocean currents. He could have become a well-known poet or a masterly oil painter, a filmmaker or a travel guide. But the thing about generalists is you never know where they are going to pop up next. And through the whole of AsEverWas runs his laidback delivery, serious yet very funny, with an old-world politeness reminiscent of Alistair Cooke’s Letters from America (and unlike Mr. Cooke, Hammond doesn’t suffer from the impediment of a hungry ego).

The dramatis personae of AsEverWas include many figures, both well known and little known, too numerous to name. But to pick a few at random from a cast of hundreds, look out for poet Allen Ginsberg, author William Burroughs, singers Nico and Carmen McRae, streetwise Hube ‘The Cube’ Leslie, musician Pete Townshend, Digger Emmett Grogan, and TV presenter Kenneth Allsop. Or the cameos of actor Del Close, an unreformed happenings artist (who later wrecked my own piano in a Notting Hill church hall, but that’s for another time). Then there are the funny episodes. I can’t even remember laughing so much as I did at the surreal absurdity and nail-biting suspense of Hammond’s Moroccan adventure.

One other thing, this is a true story, all of it. And the fact that it stops at 1976 can mean only one thing: watch out for the sequel folks. Hammond has returned to his artistic root and he’s riding high.

John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins, London, 2002

Posted in AsEverWas, News & Views

Psychiatric care in Denmark linked to “a severely increased risk of dying.”

University of Copenhagen researchers led a nationwide study in Denmark comparing individuals who died from suicide to matched controls between the years 1996 and 2009. Essentially, the researchers found that increasing levels of psychiatric care are associated with “a severely increased risk of dying.” They concluded, “The public health significance of this finding may be considerable.” You would think the press and public would be outraged. The study was totally ignored.

The researchers found that taking psychiatric medications during the previous year made a person 5.8 times more likely to have killed themselves. If a person had made contact with a psychiatric outpatient clinic, they were 8.2 times more likely to have killed themselves. Visiting a psychiatric emergency room was linked to a 27.9 times greater likelihood of committing suicide. And if someone had actually been admitted to a psychiatric hospital, they were 44.3 times more likely to have committed suicide within the year.
Read more

Posted in Dear Luise, News & Views

Foreword to Dear Luise

“Mom, won’t you tell the world how we’re treated?” This was Luise’s last request to her mother, Dorrit Cato Christensen. She wanted her to describe the treatment she had received in the Danish mental health care system. With this book Dorrit fulfills her daughter’s wish.

What follows is a heartrending account of a life in our psychiatric care system, a life cut tragically short – the same fate suffered by many vulnerable people being treated for mental health problems. Every year more at-risk psychiatric patients end up like Luise – we know that this population’s lifespan averages 15 to 20 years less than others in their age group. This is a clear sign that we have to change the way we treat psychiatric patients.

We must improve conditions by offering quality time, attentiveness, compassion, evenhandedness and respect to every patient, so we can design the best treatment solution for each person. We need to talk openly about mental health issues and strengthen our networks of patients, families and friends. To this end I have set up a virtual meeting place, the website Psykisksaarbar.dk, now consulted by a growing population in Denmark. In 2009 I took the initiative to found an association called Det Sociale Netværk af 2009 (The Social Network of 2009), bringing together a wide range of national voluntary mental health organizations in a joint effort to improve conditions in Denmark for the mentally ill and their relatives. The organization of which Dorrit Cato Christensen is president, Død i Psykiatrien (Death in Psychiatric Treatment), is now part of our network.

I come in contact with many people who have been, or currently are, admitted to a psychiatric ward. Most have inside experience of various facilities and all agree that there are significant differences in approach from one institution to the next. A young girl said to me: “As soon as you set foot in the ward you know what kind of hospital stay you’re in for. Whether the mind-set is caring and responsive, or whether the place is ruled by coercion, constant evaluation and a staff that ignores you.”

We should not, in all conscience, allow sub-standard treatment in a country like Denmark, yet it happens all the time. I have often heard patients say: “You must be strong to be psychologically vulnerable.” When studies show that psychiatric caregivers harbor more negative expectations and prejudices about the mentally vulnerable than the general population, it means there is a problem inherent in our mental health care system. This is exacerbated by a dreadful lack of resources in psychiatric treatment wards.

The most important thing to remember is that first and foremost we are all human beings. We must not forget this for one second, before any incapacity or vulnerability is analyzed, defined and written down. This is why it is so important to see behind the facade of a diagnosis. A diagnosis is like an overcoat – the real person is found underneath it. This is one part of her daughter’s life story that Dorrit describes so movingly for us – her personhood, her humor, her compassion and her zest for life.

When I meet people who support The Social Network, who form networks on our website Psykisksårbar.dk, or participate in our regular Sunday get-togethers, it strikes me how similar we humans really are and how much we have in common. There is basically no real difference between you and me and a person who happens to have been given a psychiatric diagnosis. It is not a question of these people being completely different, but more that sometimes they may experience so much inner noise that they are thrown off-balance and become vulnerable.

The most important thing we can do for psychiatric patients is not to keep them isolated. Loneliness is their worst enemy. And it is crucial that we nurture hope, that we hope and believe we can find the best in each other, and that we make room for the individual. Hope is the vital life-giving elixir for the soul, mind and body – to be able to sense that the people around you believe in you, that you are valued, that you are needed. We become whole when others believe in us. And we’re most likely to find this when we feel the solidarity of good fellowship.

I would like to thank Dorrit Cato Christensen for her work with mental health patients and their families and friends, and for the very important work she is doing as president of the association Død i Psykiatrien. Her book is a poignant contribution to the debate, in which she openly and candidly tells the story of her daughter’s sad fate and gives us a glimpse of our mental health care system groping for the right treatment. Luise’s hospital records show that she told her caregivers she felt she could not tolerate the drug treatment they prescribed and wanted them to phase it out. But instead of less medication, she got more. This turned out to be fatal.

Many patients and relatives will already be familiar with the situations and events Dorrit portrays here. Many will see their own lives reflected in this story and perhaps even find the energy to fight for a dignified life. I also hope that mental health practitioners will read the book, then stop and think carefully about how they can deepen their professional skills through respect for the individual. We can be certain of one thing – pills are not and never will be enough. We must constantly listen to our patients and think carefully about whether we are giving the right medicine to the right person. The “medicine” that always works for the psychologically vulnerable is to approach them with compassion, nurturing, trust and calmness.

Poul Nyrup Rasmussen
Danish Prime Minister 1993-2001
Member of European Parliament 2004-2009

Read more about Poul Nyrup

Posted in Dear Luise, News & Views

Foreword to AsEverWas

Estranged from his parents at an early age, Hammond made up for the loss by exerting his sense of adventure, coupled with an uncanny ability to socialize positively with just about everyone he met. Consequently, where others might have faltered, he moved from scene to scene – first on the West Coast, later in Europe and Morocco – almost magically protected by his innate bonhomie and easygoing lifestyle, while having extraordinary and often hilarious adventures.

We first met in San Francisco in the late 1960s when the Haight-Ashbury was the Mecca of the American youth diaspora; draft dodgers were leaving for Europe, and particularly England. Though Hammond was clever enough to dodge the draft without having to emigrate, the cost of freedom had become too expensive, and he split the US with his wife Wendy and headed east. As Hammond and Wendy passed through London we met again, this time in the squats of Prince of Wales Road, a half-derelict inner-city zone where all you needed to steal a house was a jimmy and a lookout.

All sorts of happenings and counterculture events were flowing in a continuous stream. The underground press, arts labs, psychedelic nightclubs and sheer exuberant street life, coupled with the international exchange of ideas and experiences, made the cities of Western Europe a cultural melting pot. For a life-artist like Hammond this was evidently more than just fun.

Adept at writing, staging spontaneous events and ingesting neuroactive substances, Hammond swam through the culture like a salmon in familiar ocean currents. He could have become a well-known poet or a masterly oil painter, a filmmaker or a travel guide. But the thing about generalists is you never know where they are going to pop up next. And through the whole of AsEverWas runs his laidback delivery, serious yet very funny, with an old-world politeness reminiscent of Alistair Cooke’s Letters from America (and unlike Mr. Cooke, Hammond doesn’t suffer from the impediment of a hungry ego).

The dramatis personae of AsEverWas include many figures, both well known and little known, too numerous to name. But to pick a few at random from a cast of hundreds, look out for poet Allen Ginsberg, author William Burroughs, singers Nico and Carmen McRae, streetwise Hube ‘The Cube’ Leslie, musician Pete Townshend, Digger Emmett Grogan, and TV presenter Kenneth Allsop. Or the cameos of actor Del Close, an unreformed happenings artist (who later wrecked my own piano in a Notting Hill church hall, but that’s for another time). Then there are the funny episodes. I can’t even remember laughing so much as I did at the surreal absurdity and nail-biting suspense of Hammond’s Moroccan adventure.

One other thing, this is a true story, all of it. And the fact that it stops at 1976 can mean only one thing: watch out for the sequel folks. Hammond has returned to his artistic root and he’s riding high.

John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins, London, 2002

Posted in AsEverWas, News & Views