Friday, November 26, 2010

There’s good news, and there’s bad news …

On the good news front is the ever-increasing number of plaques and memorials commemorating rock landmarks that are appearing in London. However, counter-balancing this is the ever-existing threat of closure of other equally important sites, or worse, their possible destruction.

October was an exceptional month. Not only did Lennon finally get recognition (see my last post), but Beatles manager, Brian Epstein has his name attached to a wall. Interestingly, the site chosen was in Monmouth Street, on the edge of Covent Garden. While this was undoubtedly an important place in Brian’s career, with it being NEMS first London office, there are several other buildings that arguably deserved association with him. There’s Chapel Street for example, where he died. Or perhaps Sutherland House, another former office of Brian Epstein’s NEMS organisation, where John Lennon made his famous remark in 1966 that the Beatles were “bigger than Jesus”. Presumably, it’s all determined who is willing to have a plaque on their frontage.

There aren’t many interiors that celebrate their rock heritage so the new room that the Clissold Arms in Muswell Hill has dedicate to its Kinks history is to be applauded. This pub, standing literally opposite the Davies brother’s Demark Terrace home, was the site of the first performance by the band that was later to find fame as the Kinks. The pub owners have turned their large front room into a virtual shrine for the band, decorating it with press cuttings, photos and album covers. Apparently, the last owners were given some original memorabilia by Ray but it disappeared when the pub changed hands. Unfortunately, and understandably, Ray is unlikely to be as generous with his own heritage again.

Now to the bad news… this year we have already lost the great Olympic Studios in Barnes now the 100 Club is under threat. If it was to go, it’s not only heritage we’d lose but one of London’s current great venues. Standing eponymously on Oxford Street, the 100 Club has seen everyone from the Stones and Who through the Sex Pistols and Clash to Oasis on stage. In fact, it was one of the original launch pads of punk, hosting an infamous festival here in 1976. A night out here is truly a trip down the time tunnel as you descend the stairs to a beer-soaked, sticky-carpeted basement. It needs your support if its not to close: It'll definitely have mine of December 17 for The Pretty Things, and probably again late in the month for Wilco Jonhson (ex Dr Feelgood). What a great way to end the year!

Friday, November 19, 2010


It has been a long time coming but at last John Lennon has a commemorative 'Blue Plaque' on a London building. It was fittingly unveiled by Yoko Ono in October on the first home that she and John shared as a couple; 34 Montague Square.

The actual wording on the plaques certainly doesn't tell the full story of this monumental landmark. The ground floor and basement of this lovely central London Georgian period building had its first rock'n'roll resident in the shape of Ringo Star. There's a great photo of Paul and Ringo taken outside on their way to collect their MBEs. When Ringo decided to move out to the country, Jimi Hendrix and manager, ex-Animals bassist, Chas Chandler moved in, with their respective ladies.

Jimi was reputedly not the ideal tenant, as we heard from Jeff Dexter, who spent many an evening with Jimi there, at our recent Hendrix Commemorative weekend. It was while living there that Jimi wrote 'The Wind Cries Mary'.

Anyway, Jimi's exit led to John's Liverpool-based mother-in-law moving in. But this was but for a brief interlude as John's split from first wife, Cynthia, meant that John now required a new place to stay himself. Montague Square thus became John and Yoko's first, and in fact last, home in London before upping sticks for NYC.

Behind these basic facts, however, there's a raft of stories, other players and rock history and legend. Paul worked at a studio in the basement, starting work on Eleanor Rigby; American author William Burroughs also recorded here; and the infamous photo of a naked John and Yoko, taken for the front of the Two Virgins album was shot here.

We'd like to think that all those who have signed our petition while on a tour over these past few years (and there were over 5000 of you from a total) of 52 countries worldwide) has contributed to this honour for John Lennon.

So that's two Blue Plaques now; John and Jimi. There are other commemorative plaques, of course, (see my next posting) but these are 'unofficial'. Who, or what, would you like to see commemorated from rock's heritage?