Monday, 24 May 2010

White Van Man

Video made by Andy Export and Rio Fraser of pop band Unlucky Fried Kitten.
Sarah Kennedy coined the phrase "White Van Man" on BBC Radio 2 in 1997 but the origins of the white van man...or of the particular section of society that falls within those boundaries goes back many years.
Michel de Nostredame...better known as Nostradamus...alluded to the phenonemon in a 16th century quatraine..with the line "L'armee Celtique contre les montaignars" (The French army will fight the men from the mountains)This later applied to Henri de La Rochejaquelein's ambush and murder during the White Terror of 1794. It was a clear allusion to the "white vanguard men" of the mountains...who were typically social outcasts. Napoleonic times there was much mention of the horsemen on the coarser stock white horses who would lead the line but also who would cause problems by cutting across the path of the finer horsemen. They were dubbed "hommes de la charger de blanc" (white charger men) and were duly looked down upon.
In the late 18th Century the smugglers around the Romney Marsh region of East Kent would use white boats to blend in with the mists and foam around the beaches of Dungeness, Hythe, Dymchurch, Rye, Littlestone and,more commonly, Maidstone. Perhaps the most ruthless of the smuggling gangs was Basil "Flash" Rogers, a member of the notorious Hawkhurst Gang, who spread waves of fear through local communities just by mooring his "white wooden boat" in the harbour. "It's white boat man night tonight" the locals would whisper, knowing that the ale-houses would be rowdy for the evening. Basil was found dead in the cellar of a sleazy warehouse on the sea-front at Boulougne, France, beaten to death with his own his reputation came to be his downfall.
Then, of course, in our own modern world we had The Beatles who wrote and recorded The White Album...said to be a searing indictment on social distaste for the working class. In February 1968 The Beatles and their wives flew to India to stay at the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's Himalayan meditation centre at Rishikesh. Starr got bored and came home at the end of the month. McCartney stuck it out till mid March.Lennon and Harrison remained until April. Apart from the mountain air and Transcendental Meditation the most significant thing about The Beatles' stay in Rishikesh was that they were almost entirely drug-free. This undoubtedly cleared their minds and they began to see their clarity as the "white mind" so they were in effect "white mind men" though it has never been substantialised as to how the link moved from "mind" to "van". Some modern students of the Fab Four claim that Lennon refused delivery of a black piano prior to the writing of Imagine...and postponed it's promotion until the famous white piano,that we all know so well now,was delivered instead. (perhaps it was delivered in a white van...driven by a white van man)
Enjoy the song and the video.

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