I posted this article to the Jura Books Farcebook page a few days ago, thinking that their readers may find it of interest, but the Jura bureaucracy, in its wisdom (or otherwise), chose not to make it public. Perhaps they didn't want it to compete with their self-publicity and pleas for money. Whatever their reasons, I post it here because I think it's an interesting blast from the past that some old-timers may recall and find amusing. It recounts a creative episode that occurred in Sydney in 1978. I've sourced it from Zero, a British anarchist paper of that time.
Bringing it all back home.
As part of a massive world tour, Bob Dylan recently played a concert at the Sydney Showground in Australia. 30,000 people were crammed into the arena, usually used for cattle shows, and wallowed in thick mud, eight inches deep in places. Dylan and his AGC finance company made £220,000.
A group calling themselves the Sydney Sewer Rats seized the opportunity to fight back by printing 2,000 forged tickets which they gave away free at an anti-Uranium rally on the morning of the concert. In a press release they stated that their aim was to destroy the myth of Dylan the “politically committed superstar" who can sing “Money doesn't talk, it swears” and can still take part in such a blatant rip-off as the Showground gig. “We’re not interested in copstars becoming multi-millionaires . . . we're actively opposed to people who co-opt our culture and turn it into commodities to sell-off at the highest possible price."
The forgeries, which cost £150 to produce, were good enough to get people into the arena, and the Sewer Rats say they’ll stage repeat performances at future overpriced concerts, next time on a larger scale. They advise people not to buy rip-off tickets, but to wait instead for the free forgeries, and they hope that other groups will copy their actions at other gigs.
At the Showground gig, the Sewer Rats also distributed a leaflet, Bringing it all back home, which purports to be an interview with Dylan, conducted and published by Rolling Stone magazine from a forthcoming book written by two Rolling Stone journalists. Rolling Stone’s Sydney office was quick to disassociate itself, denying that they'd ever published such an interview.
In it, Dylan is “quoted” as saying that he's only doing the tour in order to pay for the expensive renovation of his new house, his disastrous venture into films, and his divorce.
“My notoriety and fame (and soon wealth) as a 'political folk singer’ grew from my ability to publicise other people’s misery. This publicity of misery has become a major commodity in our culture (culture — the ideal commodity, the one that helps sell all the others). l ought to know.”
As they want to repeat their actions in the future, the Sewer Rats have refused to identify themselves or explain their politics in any great detail, but the Bringing it all back home leaflet reveals:
“Society produces us as maimed individuals — as stripped as possible of intelligence, sociability and sexuality. Hence we are genuinely isolated from each other — which is just what is needed for the smooth functioning of Ithis kind of society. So the constant image of everyone’s ‘happiness’ condemns everyone’s actual misery to silence . . . the real State Secret is the misery of everyday life.”
The group picked on Dylan as their first target after he had said, on landing in Australia, that “there’s nothing left to protest about”. They described him as a singer of “political commodity songs“, no different now from any other superstar, who should be ripped-off whenever possible.
The Bringing it all back home leaflet concludes:— “The most crucial thing we must all do now is to take ourselves and our desires seriously — it’s time we stopped looking to politicians, bosses, union bureaucrats, priests, deities and pop stars, and started looking to ourselves, and each other. This is the only way we will ever transform our lives.”
Not content with liberating music, Sydney Sewer Rats have just opened their latest squat, a large stone mansion overlooking Sydney harbour. When a local business operator left the country in a hurry last month on being implicated in a 2 million dollar insurance fraud, the Rats decided to check out what he'd left behind. Gold plated bath taps, wall to wall carpets and a swimming pool, according to the Rats, who described their new residence to Zero in one of a series of international trunk calls made on their new phone soon after moving in. Their dilemma is whether or not to abandon their previous squat where they spent many happy months as guests of Australia’s Roads Department.