Two Magic Rupees and a Space Chillum

Post-colonial travels of a seminal British Rocker

NEIL ROCK (1936 – 2018)

ISBN: 78-1-887276-41-2 SUMMER 2023 COOL GROVE PRESS

On New Year’s Eve 1959, Neil Rock threw a bottle of champagne into the air out- side a London folk club and—as it smashed on the street—made a resolution never again to do any job he didn’t want to do.

He had first felt drawn to road travel aged eight, on a wonder-filled journey from Leeds to London during the WWII blackout. During his early teens successive waves of American popular music—jazz, rock’n’roll, R&B—gave him even more motiva- tion to get out into the world. He learned to jive, became a DJ and toured the north of England with a skiffle group. In 1959, he teamed up with acclaimed guitarist Davy Graham as a duo performing in Soho’s folk clubs and then spent the following summer busking in Paris and along the French Riviera.

Neil carried on alone through Spain to Morocco. It was there he found his true métier: buying old jewelry and artefacts in the markets to sell in Spain and France and, once a year, take back to London. Over the next three decades, he explored and traded his way through North Africa, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the USA and the former Communist countries of eastern Europe. The 1990s saw him spending more and more time in Ibiza—where he became a strong voice for Friends of the Earth—but the wanderlust never left him. In 2005, aged 69, he drove solo from the southern tip of Spain to the northern tip of Norway.

Story-telling was part of the currency of the travelling life, and Neil provided more than his fair share of entertainment around hotel tables and camp fires, some of which he jotted down for Oz, the journal of London’s counter-culture. It was not until many years later, though, when worsening health finally began to limit new adventures, that he began to include tales of his old ones in letters to his old friend Brice Bowman and sister Susan Kovacs. Neil died in 2018, at home in Ibiza, and is much missed by all who knew him.

For Two Magic Rupees and a Space Chillum, Brice and Susan have collected those stories to document Neil’s extraordinary life, bring a fond smile to the faces of his surviv- ing friends and—who knows?—maybe inspire the nomads of today and tomorrow. They are an ever-surprising mixture of comical set-pieces, socio-historical commen- taries, records of cultural lore, eulogies for times past and people passed, spiritual contemplations, cosmic encounters and rollicking adventure yarns.