Category Archives: music

The island that music did not forget

I stopped.    Twelve months ago.    I thought “Nobody reads this, why do I do it?”.

Then I sent an email and the recipient said “God, I live your writing”. I figured it was either a typo or an anagram.  “God, I evil your writing” just didn’t scan so I assume my corespondent loves my writing.  Let us live in hope (and the self translation of keyboard errors).

There is an island (there are many, my tale concerns just one) in the Thames.  It is called  Eel Pie Island.  One can only assume that it was once a fine place to purchase pie made from eels.  Allowing that it is on the Thames then that is a reasonable assumption.

In the ’60’s there was a venue there.  It’s a fair argument that the London sound of the decade (as opposed to the Mersey sound) developed in West London with Eel Pie Island and The Crawdaddy (just upriver in Richmond) being the home of English rhythm and blues.   We had The Beatles on the northern river and The Rolling Stones on the southern one.  Gerry and the Pacemakers were Ferrying across the Mersey whilst the Kinks were appreciating a Waterloo sunset.

The Eel Pie venue was in a hotel (famed amongst other things for a sprung dance floor) and whilst access was ostensibly by a footbridge it was not unknown for intrepid music lovers to row there.   By all accounts, the return journeys were generally considered more precarious than the outgoing trip.     The hotel fell on hard times and after a brief resurgence in the late ’60’s (Black Sabbath, Hawkwind and a host of other rock bands of the time appeared there) it fell into disrepair and was destroyed by an unexplained fire in 1971 (at the time it was the home to the largest hippie commune in the UK).

All well and good you may cry.   Now get on and tell us a tale.

Although Eel Pie island is now the home of artists and wealthy bohemians, the spirit of 1960’s rhythm and blues has stayed alive and well in the area and has migrated to the cleverly titled Eel Pie Club.   I wonder where they got that name from?   The Eel Pie Club meet once in a while (usually on a Thursday) in a room the same shape as Italy (although not as big or with such interesting politics).   Keep that image in your head.   There is a bar that runs roughly along the coast from Rome to Naples (the till is in Mondragone) and the stage is in the bit of Ionian Sea between the heel and the toe.  The dressing rooms are somewhere over in Calabria and there’s a nice relaxing area somewhere up near Milan.   Curiously, if you continue this geographic exploration then the toilets are just off the coast of Albania.

I have been popping in occasionally over the last few years.   Enough to be on nodding terms with the regulars but not frequently enough to be invited to weddings or funerals (of the members, not of the club.  I think it is still unattached).    Last week was a significant anniversary and the place was heaving.   I took some time to people watch.

Generally I am one of the younger patrons.   Generally there is a plethora of loud check shirts.  This night was different.   We had  everybody there.   The hipsters with their groomed but over-exuberant beards.   The lithe and writhing twenty-somethings in spray on jeans and killer heels.   Parents, perhaps escaping from kiddy duty for the first time in a month.   Overdressed, over-lubricated and occasionally over-balancing.  Pashminas cast wantonly to one side and polished loafers  tapping out a long forgotten beat, mustard chinos hiding knees unused to dancing.    Then there’s the originals.   Dress shirts untucked and uncuffed and sporting a silk bandana.   Predecessors to Lawrence Llewelyn Bowen but emitting the haphazard elegance that can only come from not knowing any other way.

The feature band started as a foursome and ended as (I think) a nine piece, complete with a brass section.   The CV’s of each member covering the entire spectrum of music from the last half century.   Old pros who are too good to dismiss and having too much fun to stop.

I’d invite you along, it is a brilliant venue and the music and performers are legendary.   The problem is, I like it as a tiny club.   I like being able to get to the bar when I want to and I enjoy the fact that it is normally a secret for just a handful of us.

Note that since writing this The Eel Pie club has relocated to Brigadoon.   Performances are generally every other Thursday and this week brings The Others to the little stage in the Ionian Sea.

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Changes

Have I got you singing?    Inside your head is there a little voice going “ch ch ch ch changes”?.

As a schoolboy I had a friend who believed that every single line of song that David Bowie wrote had a second and deeper meaning.   We played along with him for sometime but eventually he just became too pretentious for his own good so we asked him to provide a detailed assessment of the hidden thoughts behind The Laughing Gnome.  It probably ruined his life.

I am not overly fond of changes.   The daily prompt has changed its format and while I can see it has many benefits and looks a lot sexier it took me a while to find what I was looking for.   To be fair, this is probably a reflection on me rather than the new look as the phrase “Have you never been mellow” was staring out at me in 40 point font size (Arial I think, or something very close to it).

The prompt is wondering how we wind down after a hard day at work or at school (or perhaps both if you are a teacher, it doesn’t mention that).    I think if it was rephrased to ask “how do your friends think you wind down…” then there would be a unanimous shout from around the UK.   In fact, let’s try it.

Hey everyone.   How does Robby wind down?  What does he do to chill out when he’s not at work?

 

Did you hear it?  They all shouted “GIN”.

 

Nothing could be further from the truth of course.    Whilst it is fair to say that I enjoy a very small beaker of Mr Hendrick’s finest occasionally I don’t constantly totter around with a bottle of Tanqueray No. Ten at my lips. No, no, no.   I sometimes have a glass of sherry instead.

Relaxing is one of those things that I occasionally excel at.   If I thought I could get away with it I’d put it on my CV.  “In my spare time I sit around and do nothing” but it’s probably not a wise thing to do, I haven’t updated my CV in years mind, I think on the part where I suggest my salary requirements they are listed in pounds, shillings and pence.

Thinking about it, I don’t actually do nothing.   I’m always doing something even when it looks like I’m ready for embalming.    I may be reading a book or I may be sketching a picture (usually in my head, the pictures that I draw in my head are invariably  better than the ones that come out on paper, although whilst sketching a tree in the park recently a very kind -and possibly blind- old dear asked me if I would mind submitting a drawing to a charity auction).

The one thing that I will always be doing is listening to music.   It fascinates me.   I don’t mean classical music, pop for want of a better word.   Almost any pop at all.    It takes me away, it soothes my soul and mends my broken bits.   Regular readers will know that after an unfortunate encounter with an asparagus fern my music centre ceased to function and for a brief while I was singing with no accompaniment.    This is the one area where change has been good, change has been spectacular in fact.   The purchase of a tablet thingy and a healthy investment in some blue tooth speakers has brought Spotify to my kitchen.  I now have all of the music in the world and it is all on a little device smaller than an A4 piece of paper.

The only slight downfall of having all of the music in the world in the palm of your hand is choosing.   With the CD’s you just look at what you have and think “Yup, I’ll listen to S Club Seven’s greatest hits” or “Today won’t be complete until I hear Barry Manilow singing Mandy”.   Where do you start?

I’ve started with Motown.   I think I shall work geographically around the world but what better place to start than Detroit.   This means that whilst you have been singing ch ch ch changes through my little blog I have been Gladys Knight.  Or more accurately I have been The Pips.  There is surely no better thing in all the world than to sing the backing vocals to “Midnight Train to Georgia”, find a copy of the song, get a copy of the lyrics and just sing the words in brackets.   You’ll sing  “Guess who’s gonna be right by his side” and know that you have the glorious “Whoo whoo” coming up soon and a little bit of you will thank me for giving you such joy.

 

 

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