Staneb Sleeve Notes
The picture from the cover is The Story of the Savannah by Robert Clancy and part of a series of illustrations he did of Henry George’s work. The meaning of the picture will hopefully become clear in time. We’ll explain the name The Single Tax and Natural Energy Band further on.
The doodly stuff that’s wrapped around the picture came about when the idea was developing to do this site. We asked our mate Keith to put a website together for us, and told him our ideas. He asked us to do some doodles, and he’d seen this fictional flags design from a cover from the past. He took these away with him, and he copied and cut and arranged this design around Bob Clancy’s Savannah.
We were amazed at what he had done with our felt tip pen doodles. And it looked roughly like a map of the world. The world is certainly relevant, and this Atlantic-centred view particularly so.
When we got back to the front cover, a couple of years on, we found the shape of Central and South America was quite distinct, and it wouldn’t take much to make Africa so, and the rest of it very roughly formed itself as the world.
We kept going back to it, taking what Keith had done a lead. And a divide opened up, a schism, between a topographist camp who wanted to closely sculpt a faithful outline of the world; and the rough splurgists, who mostly won out in the end, but the fairly accurate shapes of South America and Africa show the other influence.
This continued for months, the front cover being of critical importance to all, and a design battle raged across the globe, tectonic plates grinding as continents were wrenched around and resurfaced time and again, layers laid on layers, twisted and stretched.
Someone had to say Stop!
And that’s where the world was when the music stopped. There was a very late bid for Antartica, (or was it the ghost of Gondwana?) and then there had to be the corresponding Arctic, and that looked a bit like a cloud as well, so that was cool. Then stop!
There it is. There’s no single feature that’s meant to be illustrative of anything in particular, we just wanted some image that we liked and the only consensus was a lot of green.
So, this was pleasing enough, some vague shapes that are almost but never quite really leaves, plants or animals, arranged around a rough outline of the theatre of our story. And perhaps the viewer can see the cat in it. Perfect. And perhaps it chimes with times when we feel we’re not quite really a band. Perhaps we are just a semi-fictional band in a net-borne semi-fictional piece; we'll have to see.
It was suggested by someone that the whorls beneath the kites on the front cover represent the wind driving them. Well, let it be so, but there was no intention. It’s serendipity, and we’ll take it as a good sign.
a World flag
Then there were the fictional flags, a madness of flags, many weeks just drawing flags, throwing flags away, drawing more.
The cover finished, we were hooked by now on doodling and pictures. Then a couple of bright schoolgirls we know introduced us to the idea of markers rather than cheap felt tips, and then we discovered the wonderful Winsor & Newton shop in Camberwell. Doodling became obsessive for a while - one of us particularly got carried away with this idea - and thus StanebArt came into being. The plan is to try and sell the music, but also to sell some T-shirts to get some funding into this, so we can work less and read and write more and make more music. Oh, what a dream!
Anyway, we’re definitely the sort of band that want to talk about how the front cover came about. It might even be the best bit, maybe it’s all downhill from here. If that’s as far as a viewer goes, we will have at least have registered that there’s some strange funny business gone on involving a bloke called George. But further than the story of the cover, we’re not really minded to talk about who we are as people, just a bunch of musicians who ache to record an album and then found there was something very real to say; what’s much more important is what happened to us.
What brought us here is this: one of us, by pure unlikely chance, read a book called Progress and Poverty by Henry George, from 1879, and was startled by it. And, by and by, got others to read it. And, by and more by, so it was that the truth of Tolstoy’s words was witnessed first-hand: Leo Tolstoy had said:
People do not argue with the teachings of Henry George; they simply do not know it. He who becomes acquainted with it cannot but agree.
It was, is, an electrifying experience to understand what Henry George has explained, and we saw everything afresh with new eyes, with just the vaguest feeling that we’d maybe glimpsed it all before. That’s how we became The Staneb, because we write songs, and what it is we desperately want to communicate is now the most important thing to write songs about, or do anything about.
It is a problematic thing, being a rock ‘n’ roll band and going on about reading books and writing and stuff; but we can’t help that. That’s what Henry George did to us. Sometimes we catch ourselves saying something about primary sources or something, and it sounds almost academic at times and it’s a huge joke.
Going on about writing and political philosophy definitely isn’t rock ‘n’ roll. And we’re sorry, but it’s just because what there is to say is so important. We think we have got to tell you this, because we think you need to know this, above all. This is about the freedom that rock ‘n’ roll music was always about, this is where it actually is. If it knew it, the liberty that Henry George describes is what rock ‘n’ roll music is about. We get a bit over-excited sometimes and repeat ourselves.
In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have often chosen to belabour a song with particular meaning, we’d be more inclined to explore atmosphere and nonsense. A recording we made in the past, the one that seems the best example, is a song called Quit Stoning Our Romance, and this is what we were. We include this just to have some pop as some balance, have at least one track that's just a song. We should have songs that are just songs. All the same, we always saw pop music as a vehicle for lyrics about the real world and its issues. Of course it should be; it should be about everything and nothing, as for a while it had the freedom to be anything. Now things are urgent.
We’ve always seen things much like Lester Bangs, who said:
don’t ask me why I obsessively look to rock ’n’ roll bands for some kind of model for a better society … I guess it’s just that I glimpsed something beautiful in a flashbulb moment once, and perhaps mistaking it for prophecy have been seeking its fulfilment ever since. And perhaps that nothing else in the world ever seemed to hold even that much promise.
Even that much promise. Now, for us, something does. We’ve realised that there just are these burning issues to address, that must be addressed, with music or with anything. We’ve got to get all this back in the pool of public knowledge, where it once was. You ought to give us a chance with this.
We’re pressing our melodies to the service of enlightened and righteous renaissance. Through the medium of song we most naturally express this because, for us, the three minute pop song is the highest form of art. For us, the best of it is the most memorable and evocative art there is. We’ve humbly aspired to practice the art of the three minute pop song, though not necessarily three minutes and not necessarily pop, but that’s where we’re at.
After reading Progress and Poverty, something very strange happened to us, some strange process began. It all started from a general interest in who this Henry George man could be, who had written this clear message. In the age of the World Wide Web, it’s a couple of heartbeats before further reading on a subject can be found. And so, one thing leading to another, we found ourselves increasingly drawn into the intrigues of the most fascinating secret history, history which has been submerged and paved over.
We realised we had to record the album, and put up this website, and start talking about all these things.
As well as songs, we had the idea of doing a few notes about everything with how we felt about it, as much for ourselves to keep some track of what had become all-consuming fascination. But we kept needing to know more, and, really, things kept taking us into other things, what the initial idea was kept on expanding and felt beyond us to control at times.
This happened: a three year fever of curiosity took a collective grip of us, a frenzy of what we feel a little pretentious about calling research, more like random nose-following, surfing the web, but gradually becoming aware of reams of unsuspected and startling history.
It must be understood, this was extraordinary and uncharacteristic behaviour for us, for we’re not academics or students by any stretch of imagination, and don’t write anything longer than song lyrics. Pretty lazy, too. But, drawn into a story, here we were making notes, swapping links, and in time starting to check each other’s apparently unearthed facts and quotes, etc., against other sources. Discussing what it means, clarifying views of things, because a hell of a can of writhing worms appeared once we started peering a little deeper into history.
One of us started to try to knit together our disparate threads into some kind of coherence, and found that one word comes after another. And this has become the set of notes that we offer here to explain where we’re coming from.
Having said that we were in no way students of anything, it is true that we were people animated by politics, as far as arguing in pubs, and we previously were people who came from some different ideological viewpoints, and we were often bitterly divided on issues. How we would rage at each other in the blindness and ignorance of that old way of framing politics, the way we grew up with and were schooled in, and hear every other argument framed in.
But all that is over now; it remains quite astonishing that Henry George’s insights from over a century ago have united us, swept away all differences, taken all forward to a better place. Now, there is complete fundamental agreement between us. It is a wonder that this should be so, but then, it is as Tolstoy, a century ago, had said it is. You see, we need to push this at you any way we can think of.
Our doing this research and writing is, of course, purely and completely a product of the World Wide Web, and it wouldn’t have been even imaginable in the days before. The commons of the WWW has made so many things possible. The spontaneous collaborative order which occurred among us was itself like an manifestation of the Web, the miracle of the age, which was facilitating the searching and delivering of this previously undreamed of access to content.
And it was all akin to when a band clicks together. There is often a recognisable moment, when musicians have been jamming with each other for some time, when everything suddenly clunks into place. And if, say, it’s a four person band, then, from that moment, there is like a fifth band member in the room, who is the unified spirit of the four players, or like a musical Higg’s boson. It was that kind of communal spirit which descended upon us.
The combination of reading Henry George and then finding the Web could open to such endless fascination and facility, and deliver so much work donated by others to this global commons, invoked this consuming curiosity. We read like none of us had read before, with a suddenly urgent need to better understand history, the story of how we got here, and the story of how we might have gone another way; the story of what better way there could be, and all provoked by the blessed realisation that there really is a better way, and the astonishing realisation that it’s obvious, once seen, and always has been.
So, we’re the Single Tax and Natural Energy Band.
The Single Tax part of it is in reference to the Single Taxers, the movement of the late 19th and early 20th century USA, inspired by the insights of Henry George in Progress and Poverty and other works. It was the Single Taxers we heard of first, we later realised.
The Natural Energy part of it comes from the fact that we are terrified about biosphere distress, and if you love life and love this world, how could you not be? How is it rational to not fear the very worst? And all the shades of worse on the way down. And one of us has always been an avid follower of what’s usually called renewable energy, just picking up the enormous energy that flows around us all the time always seemed so childishly obvious, especially in the light of hydrocarbon use and the varieties of hellish problems that has wrought upon us. The most obvious thing to be done to address biosphere distress is to change the way we generate energy immediately, and we want to continue to raise awareness of how easily possible that actually is, and how insanely negligent it is to do otherwise.
A lot of the songs we’d been writing over some years had snippets sneaked in about energy, and we found we started coming out with these song ideas inspired by what had been revealed to us in Progress & Poverty. So, in the end, it just had to be, we couldn’t help renaming ourselves as The Single Tax and Natural Energy Band; Staneb. It came to us in a brief conversation, and we thought it sounded just right. Someone in the band said that Staneb sounds like a Russian space capsule, and maybe it does, but there it is. It suggests an album cover some time, to really get ahead of ourselves. Or maybe not.
We hope you explore the site and read a bit more. You don’t have to read it all, just have a random dip into the wider Staneb sleeve notes and see if we can hold you a while. As we can, we’ll continue to add tracks here and more notes and keep expanding it.
We can only ever afford to be in a recording studio for a couple of hours at a time, so it takes a long time to get things done and it’s difficult; but we’ve done our best. But for certain there will be more here soon. There will be a second LP, where we’ve got to try and find a theme around taking everything somewhere further.
It didn't look likely, but the site is here now, a beginning, and it will hopefully progress, and always be a work-in-progress, even if at times a work-in-poverty; very relatively, of course.
Not rock ‘n’ roll. When Alice Cooper heard that various rock stars were campaigning for Democratic Presidential Candidate John Kerry in 2004, he said they were committing treason against rock n' roll. And he was right. But we’re not campaigning for anything as tawdry as a party that takes over when the other one fails, we’re trying to raise awareness of something that holds the whole world back from being the completely beautiful place that it should be and threatens to destroy it. Something that explains why these parties always fail. Heck, rock 'n' roll, if we’re going to sing songs about freedom, this really has become a time when what that means and how that comes about really does have to be thought about and understood a little, by everybody. Chuck Berry didn’t have to worry about what gasoline was doing to the world. So, we’re excusing ourselves.
But a lot of this does comes out sounding pretty studious, we find ourselves quoting academics and stuff. But, look, all this is really very simple, and it’s of the utmost importance. It’s really not going to be challenging to follow, and it is of the utmost importance, we don’t think it could be more important.
The success of this site is simply measured: it’s by the number of people who are persuaded by this site to read Progress and Poverty.
You can download it for free or just print it off here
For us, this is our LP, though it’s just a website, of course, though we see that there are lots of advantages to this website format, we couldn’t have got all the sleeve notes on a 12 inch sleeve. The WWW is still a fresh wonder every day.
If you’ve enjoyed listening to any of these tracks and if you’d like to help us put up some more music and further develop this site, you could buy the CD or one of our T-shirts, tea cloths, whatever.
When we can afford to, we’ll get a blog going on this site or somewhere. It would be really good to hear if we’ve succeeded in getting anyone to read Progress & Poverty. We’d like feedback, of course, and help from you in developing this website into being as effective as it can be in achieving its aims. Until we can get a blog going, you can email us on the contact tab, and we will in time answer.
We did get carried away with the notes, now we’ve said stop. We’re not going to stop, of course, but for long enough to get this thing launched in some form.
The full Contents page next, but briefly, the notes are about:
Progress and Poverty where we discuss the book we want you to read, but without giving very much away because we think it’s infinitely better that you read the book …
The Progress of Henry George where we look a little at the life and career of HG, and how his ideas were so powerfully true that they had to be hushed up, while trying not to mention the ideas themselves.
The Single Taxers a very brief history of the movement inspired by Henry George’s teaching and its influence on the developing United States, and in whose honour we derive part of our name. By now, finding it very hard to not refer to the insight itself and wondering whether it was such a good idea to do it that way, but anyway …
Natural Energy the other part of our name, where we make note of seemingly irresistible advances in natural energy harvesting, a brief history of developments, and particularly try to draw attention to the work of Kitegen.
The World’s Progress Without Justice where we’ve taken a look at the 20th century, and what unfolded when the world failed to accept what Henry George had presented. We boldly went, armed with just one History ‘O’ Level, and we found much more than we’d bargained for, became dragged back to 1545 at one point. We felt dismay at all that’s happened, and then took a peek into a future. It turned into a kind of Staneb state of the world report.
Timeline of all the dates mentioned in these notes.
The Persistence of Hope where we note some of those who have always been there, keeping hope alive, and organisations which are active in pursuing justice now.
What They Say About Henry George Some people who agree . . .
in the future . . . Many more notes to come … we just need time. Money would help. In time, we will hopefully broaden and deepen the themes we’ve visited, and upload new notes, and try and evolve into something that’s genuinely useful. At the moment there’s the beginnings of notes on:
Money in which we will try to gain and explain a deeper understanding of the issues of Money, finance, etc., and take a little tour around its history, expanding on The World’s Progress Without Justice
George and Scripture where we look at the historical religious antecedents to, and the universal accord of HG’s teaching. This really is going to be an effort of learning if we can do it.
Problems of Communicating the Truth a look at issues around explaining to people what they should know.
Henry George in the Neoliberal Antebiocalyptic Age We try to educate ourselves into a deeper understanding the work of Henry George and its further development by Mason Gaffney, at an analytical level, and explore application of this to the modern world, and practise explaining it all better. We need to hurry up, obviously.
Henry George Prehistory which is a look at all Henry George’s historical antecedents who had clearly glimpsed the same star.
Biosphere Distress a bit of history, bit of science, bit of praying …
Country by Country Potted histories of the countries around the world who have entertained justice for a while.
So, here it is, it’s taken us a fevered three and a half years since finishing Progress and Poverty to get this here. More to come.
The Staneb, October, 2015
StanebArt debut exhibition:
This was agreed to but not unreservedly. Hopefully this can improve..
These are all from a notebook, clumsily scanned, but perhaps that's all part of the art.
Eagle Tearing Down Temple With Golden Thread