Tag 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.



Filed under music, Uncategorized

For the record

Mikel vinyl

Mikel vinyl (Photo credit: aspitos4kids)

I need excitement oh I need it bad
And it’s the best I’ve ever had

The Undertones (or just possibly Busted if you are not of an age).    I think this is one of the tunes that will stay with me forever.   The tremble in the voice of Feargal Sharkey and half a dozen simple bar chords that even I could replicate without too much trouble.   I had it on an EP and it was probably the song that I sang along to more than any other in the late ’70’s.

I don’t need excitement, I am already excited!  You won’t believe the source of my delirium.    I have a record token.  Do you remember them?

It’s not exactly a record token.   It is a voucher for a High Street distributor of books and music, so it could be a book token but I have decided that it is going to be used to buy some music.

I mentioned it to my son – he is a musician and I thought he would be as thrilled as I.   Ha!   “There’s no such thing as a record token and there never has been.  You’ve made it up”  (to be fair, I did make a lot of things up when he was young, he still thinks that the ink in a marker pen is made from spider blood).      “Why don’t you just download it” he said.

The youth of today.   When I was a very young man I used to live for the weekend trip into town.    I’d have my wages from my paper round (£3.50, morning and evening round every day but Sunday.   Sunday was just mornings but absolutely horrid because the papers were all too big to go through the letterbox and the bag weighed more than me) and I had a predetermined route around the independent record shops.    They were never in the absolute town centre, you’d find them in slightly run-down streets or as small stalls in some of the indoor markets.

The best ones were gloomy inside and the floor would be slightly tacky.  The staff would be pale, mysterious and slightly forbidding, as if they lived a subterranean life and only emerged from their caliginous existence to attend concerts of little known but uber trendy bands.      Albums would be arranged either by genre or alphabetically and occasionally both.   There would be hand written labels acting as separators and well-known or long-established performers would have their own mini section.    In some shops there was a special section for coloured vinyl and picture disks.

After a visit to each shop there would come a time for deliberation.   For me, this was in a cake shop called Druckers.    A huge slice of something covered in cream that should definitely not be tackled without a fork and possibly a bib and once the cake was consumed it was back to the chosen store.   This was the best bit.

The album of choice would be in a thin cellophane wrapping and would be in a plastic bag designed specifically for carrying a 12 inch record.    Once on the bus home the cellophane would be torn away and the serious work of examining the track listing could begin.   This was just a teaser for the sleeve notes inside.   So much information to absorb about who wrote and performed on each track.    Sometimes the lyrics were included and in exceptional cases (usually on a concept album) there would be notes on how the album was conceived.

All of this was just a preamble to putting the record onto the deck and actually listening to it.    Some had cryptic messages engraved around the run out – these thrilled me beyond belief (although I’ve never been sure why).    A good choice in record would then get several plays non-stop until I’d decided which were my favourite tracks and tried to work out which ones would be singles.

Oh the joy of it all.   So this weekend I’m going to a different town centre and to just one shop.   There’s unlikely to be vinyl there but there will be CD’s and they will still have sleeve notes to read.    I may even find a cake shop to visit after my perusals to give me time to contemplate.   After all, I don’t want to rush into anything.  I know that  the CD will not smell the same as a record and I’ll probably have listened to it all the way through by the time I get home, but it will still be far more fun than iTunes.

There are many more people being moved by the feeling of anticipation here.  I’m sure that you will enjoy their posts as much as I did.


Filed under Shopping