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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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