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STRAWBS - LIVE IN TOKYO '75/
GRAVE NEW WORLD - THE MOVIE
REVIEWS AND COMMENTS

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Reviews

Neil Punnett

This DVD is well worth purchasing. The Tokyo Live element is a great chance to see the band at a point arguably just beyond their zenith as a rock band. Dave Lambert takes centre stage for an impressive "Just Love". Dave Cousins, somehow looking younger than on the Grave New World film of four years earlier, performs a startling "The Life Auction" which teeters on the edge of prentiousness but never falls off. Sound quality is good and the picture quality is good too.

The "Grave New World" film has to be seen. It is clear evidence that the past is indeed another country where people do things differently. Dave wears some amazing outfits, but throws himself into lead electric guitar as if he was performing in front of his bedroom mirror with a tennis racquet. Some memorable views of the band, especially on "Is it Today, Lord?". Annoyingly, the tracks are out of sequence with the album, thus destroying the concept. This is a fantastic period piece - those under thirty may well choke with laughter, but that is what we all looked like at that time. Boy, it seems such a better time then than we're living in now, but I guess we were younger and more idealistic. You only have to look at the horrific Northern Ireland footage accompanying part of the "New World" track to remember that things were pretty dire then as now. The other part of the accompanying film for "New World" is sadly out of place, IMHO: it consists of some really ancient silent film providing a laughably inadequate representation of fighting from World War One. "New World" is about NI, and they should have stuck to footage about NI - God knows, there was plenty to choose from.....

Overall, without doubt this DVD is simply a must have for any Strawbs fan. It places the boys within the context of their time, and reminds us what a near miracle it is that they are still going strong and still relevant today.


Paul Brazier eloquently disagrees that the war images were out of place ....

Given how carefully the rest of the film is put together, I can't see [the use of "ancient silent film"] as a mistake. If it doesn't fit your interpretation, perhaps your interpretation is skewed. First of all, the song isn't 'about' Northern Ireland, although much of the imagery is taken from there. I always sing this song to conclude a medley with Bob Dylan's "Masters of War" and a song variously called "I, Unseen" and "Hiroshima" according to where you get your version from. The reason for this is that I see all three songs as being about the madness of war, how it affects the young and innocent, how it is cynically entered into by people who don't have to fight, and how misleading the propaganda that gets people to go to war is.

What you have in the "New World" movies is a powerful contrast between documentary footage of the street battles in Northern Ireland, and a romantic/artistic representation of a first world war battle - reality versus romanticisation. Of course we all know what horrors were perpetrated in the first world war, which is why these images are so risible - the fat german with the handlebar moustache expiring gracefully is silly once, but the repetition of the image means it has not appeared randomly, and thus it becomes sinister. The point being made by the film is that this, nevertheless, is the romantic way the horrors of war are presented to the young, which is how the faceless organisers of wars continue to find young recruits for their butchery, which is then displayed in the documentary footage. The fact that the images are intercut and repeated only brings home how difficult it becomes to distinguish between how we feel about them.

Note that the song addresses an apparently specific person, not unlike Dylan's "Masters of War". The plain fact is that this specific person is anyone who thinks war is good, so it is not just the generals and the prime ministers and the presidents, but also the terrorists and, far more controversially, the common soldiers as well.

In his song "The Soldier" (roughly contemporary with "New World" and similarly inspired by events in NI), Harvey Andrews addresses the problems that drive an ordinary working lad to go off and die in a bomb attack in Northern Ireland. He shows that is not always a sin of commission that leads individuals into wars, but simply sometimes the sin of not thinking all that hard about what they're doing. Dave Cousins and whoever the filmmaker was plainly see that it is important that the romantic vision of war as displayed in the acted footage needs to be undercut with real footage of real suffering.

It's worth the price of the DVD alone, because it brought home to me that it is not war that is horrible and needs to be avoided. It is the causes of war, the promoters, and the ones who profit from all that suffering that need to be stopped.

I've ranted enough. This DVD is well worth getting, you will not regret spending your money. Notable for me, a lifelong Londoner, is the tramp on the embankment of the river Thames, with a factory and a chimney visible on the other bank. That view has changed astonishingly since then.

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