John “Hoppy” Hopkins - born 15 August 1937, died 30 January 2015
An Event in Commemoration of Hoppy’s Life
The Tabernacle, Powis Square, London W11
Friday 27 February 2015
Joe Boyd wrote an obituary about Hoppy for The Guardian. After publication Boyd ran the original text on his website followed by a longer less restrained piece about John and at the end referred to an event to commemorate Hoppy’s life. Nigel Cross followed it up and received a note from Joe’s office. “Friday 27th Feb Tabernacle Powis Sq W11 from 4.30pm”.
Hoppy’s funeral was at Kensal Rise Crematorium earlier that afternoon. Adam Blake co-ordinated the funeral and “wake up!” party.
And so it was that Nigel and I arrived at The Tabernacle late afternoon on that Friday. In the foyer we happened upon another person looking for the venue and it turned out that we were talking to Huw Price who worked in Joe Boyd’s Witchseason office in the 60s. Huw told us anecdotes about Fairport, Incredible String Band, Nick Drake etc and Nigel and I described how much they affected us as teenagers.
As more people started to arrive we ventured up stairs to the theatre laid out with circular tables and chairs and seating in the three sided balcony at higher level. The three of us headed for the balcony and the wake up party unfolded.
Michael Horovitz was the first to the stage and read some poetry. He was then joined by Vanessa Vie and they sang William Blake’s “Laughing Song”.
They were followed by the African kora player, Kadialy Kouyate, recommended to Joe Boyd by Lucy Duran, who played some beautiful long instrumental pieces.
An ageless Julie Felix then appeared to play Dylan’s “Blowin’ In the Wind”.
Joe Boyd returned to the mic to announce the playing of two recordings of Hoppy’s nifty piano contributions on The Mad Hatter’s Song by The Incredible String Band from The 5000 Spirits LP and Bootleg Whiskey by The Purple Gang, the B side of the single Granny Takes A Trip, both from 1967.
Joe had announced earlier in the evening the showing of a film about Hoppy and a plea was made for the courier to reveal themselves. In the meantime Boyd played a compilation he had put together inspired by the UFO days which included the wonderful Interstellar Overdrive by Pink Floyd but an earlier and longer version used on the soundtrack of Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London.
A number of people had come out to celebrate Hoppy’s life. Huw caught up with Barry Miles, Peter Jenner and Nigel discussed Formerly Fat Harry, Martin Stone (with Duncan “Sandy” Sanderson of Deviants/Pink Fairies) talked to us about backing a French musician and his next planned recording and Jeff Dexter appeared and pointed out Jim Haynes, who co-launched IT with Hoppy, and also Andrew Sclanders of Beat Books
And then out of nowhere the film started up. Entitled “Hoppy - The Revolutionary Spirit” with a kora soundtrack Hopkins was filmed describing his family background, school, seeing photographs of Belsen at aged 12 which coloured his view of war, university, his job in natural sciences, his trip to Russia, being given a camera by his godfather – “remember godfathers”, becoming a freelance photographer, starting the UFO with Joe Boyd and running the London Free School amongst other events in his life. The story was expanded with interviews of others including Joe Boyd, Val Wilmer, Michael Horovitz and Jeff Dexter. Towards the end of the film so far (to be continued) there was a wonderful segment of a recent Hoppy birthday celebration with a cake festooned with candles and a Roman candle fountain of fire in the middle! The film is being produced by Malcolm Boyle for Underground Head Films. After the credits there was a sequence of still photographs from Hoppy’s teenage years to his late 70s. And when we thought it was all over a video by Hoppy of a police arrest in the 60s reminded us all of his pioneering spirit. As Sue Hall commented “that wouldn’t happen today”.
We bid farewell to Huw, Jeff Dexter’s parting shot to us was the wonderfully appropriate “Goodnight kids!!” and we thanked Joe Boyd.
Nigel and I walked out into the cool evening wandering passed All Saints Church with our heads buzzing with the underground.
Hoppy – a force of nature. Without Hoppy, Joe Boyd would not have done a whole host of things, without Joe Boyd Nigel and I would not have heard or seen a whole world of music and culture.
'In the 60s a lot of us were quite optimistic. We thought we could see society chang-ing fast into what could be a better state. Looking back it didn’t change nearly as fast as we all thought. Change is really quite slow, and most of what happens gets lost in the memory of society. But there were changes made. People often say to me, “It was great in the 60s, wasn’t it? Where’s the underground now?” And my answer to that is: We are the underground! We may not call it the underground any more, and there’s an awful lot of us now, but we are joined together because we are all people who want to be free of a corrupt government and a society run by greedy hooligans'
John Hopkins in conversation with Karley Sciortino, Vice, March 2010