Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Boys Are Back in Town! Lynott returns to Dublin

Rock fans never need a reason to visit Dublin. For one thing there's always good live music to be had somewhere. For another the city has some tremendous record shops. And the third; it's one of the few cities (outside of perhaps Memphis and Liverpool) that really exploit their rock heritage.

One of the city's most famed sons was Phil Lynott, best known for his band 'Thin Lizzy'. Though born in the UK's West Midlands, Lynott's mother is a Dubliner and Lynott was brought up in the city and is buried there at St. Fintan's cemetery in Sutton, northeast Dublin. There's a fine permanent statue of the man just off Grafton Street, but over the next month the city also hosts a fantastic temporary exhibition, at St Stephen's Green Shopping Center, dedicated to the musician's life and times. Amongst a heap of memorabilia on display is Lynott's 1972 diary, containing hand-written lyrics to some of Lizzy's most memorable songs.

Lynott's birthday, on August 20th, is to be commemorated when a special pageant is planned for the city. Costumes have produced in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and will no doubt bring the colour and exuberance of Brazilian carnival to the streets of Dublin. Incidentally, one myth that has recently been exploded (by his mother, Philomena) is that Lynott's father was Brazilian; he was actaully British-Guyanian.

Unfortunately, the exhibition only runs until August 31st so it’s a case of getting your skates on if you want to be one of 'the boys back in town'.

Recommended accommodation: St Stephen’s on the Green. Not as pricey or as noisy as the Temple Bar hotels but just as conveniently situated for all Dublin’s attractions.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Memories are Made of This

I was overjoyed recently to discover, on-line inevitably, some memorabilia that evoked long-forgotten personal memories. And it reminded me that preserving rock heritage very much includes ensuring that ephemera, even apparently the inconsequential, is saved. The history of the rock age will not be told and interpreted through the 'concrete' artifacts of buildings, stage gear and instruments. The real stuff of history will be the ticket stubs, handbills and posters that contextualise the personalities and performances.

On a recent ‘Classic Rock’ tour we stood outside Finsbury Park's Rainbow Theatre (nee the Astoria and now a Brazilian church). I did my best to bring the building to life with tales of Zappa's misfortunes there, Pink Floyd's seminal performance of Dark Side of the Moon, Hendrix's first guitar burning, The Who's 'Tommy' show, Van Morrison's historic BBC live broadcast, Clapton's return gig, and Bob Marley's triumph. But the thing that really brought the whole thing to life for tour participants was holding a facsimile ticket for the Beatles first fan club show, held in this very building, December 1964; a facsimile copied from an original to be found for sale on the MEM Cinema & Music Memorabilia site (http://www.rockpopmem.com/).

Palpable shivers were brought to collective spines as each in turn was presented their own 'ticket to ride'. So much history in such a little bit of paper. And to think that the original holder of this ticket would have paid just 8/6d for it. (Here's one for the historians; when did scalpers first appear?). In 'modern' money that's about 44p (75 US$ cents, half a €uro, less than one Brazilian Real). That's what a rock (pop) show was then worth; even for the biggest band.

Fantastic isn't it? McCartney's show in Hyde Park cost about £90 last year. How times have changed. But it is by examining such ephemera that historians begin to understand rock's changing position in our social history. It's not just so called 'valuable' memorabiliia that's the key. For a few months (perhaps years) Amy Whitehouse (RIP) material will now fetch a premium, but will it ever illustrate anything other than the story of yet another poor, troubled kid caught up in, and beliveing, the rock'n' roll dream'? Historians wil have plenty of examples to choose from. The key is to preserve the generic, not the specific. A poster for the Crawdaddy in Richmond will be worth a thousand autographed Stones LPs (especially since the vandals who now own the building have erased all memories of its illustrious rock past.

Me? My emphemera will only interest a limited audience. It's not the real stuff of history. My purchases from MEM’s site were a programme for Frank Zappa's 1972 Oval show (with Jeff Beck and Welsh band, Man, among the supports - and what a show!), and an original handbill for one of the first formal concerts I ever went to; a package tour with Gene Pitney headlining. But the real reason for going? To see my then 'fav' band, Amen Corner, who were also on the bill. It seemed a lot at the time (and a significant percentage of my weekly pocket money), but I'd wager the ticket was not more then 5s (anyone got one?). Happy days, happy memories, and two pieces of rock history that I'm now proud to own.

What your favourite piece of memorabilia? Will it broadly inform future generations or just be something for the grandkids to wonder at?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Be There or Be Square!

London 60s Week is just around the corner.

This is a great event celebrating all things 60s. Think of it as a kind of 'Edinburgh Festival' , but in London and focusing on th 60s! Music, dance, cinema, talks etc., etc.

London 60s Week is organised by a collection of people who were actually 'there'. Perhaps surprisingly, they remember it! The beauty is that with every event you get authenticity not some cheap commerical rip off. The idea of 60s Week is very simple: connect today's youth with yesterday's creativity and see where the combination takes us.

One event to get into your diary if you're in London on Friday, July 29th, is the '60s Shake'n' at the GARAGE, Highbury Corner. There's a packed night's entertainment; three bands, retro DJs, GO-Go Dancers (yeh!). But for me the pride of place is taken by the tribute band 'Small Fakers'. They are great. I was lucky enough to have seen the Small Faces in their heyday and this is the nearest you'll get to recreating those mad, bad, Mod nights! And at just £7.50 a head it's a bit of a give-away.

Tickets are available through http://www.hmvtickets.co/events/3665

Groovy, man!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rockin' All Over the World

Thirty-nine nationalities and counting... Here we are early July, with nearly six months left of the year to run, and we've just recorded our 39th nationality aboard the London Rock Tour. Phenomenal. We carried 39 different nationalities in total last year (not counting Scottish and Welsh who we count as UK), so there's a good chance we'll top this in 2011.

The reach of rock is simply amazing. Its power and social impact immeasurable. A trivial force, think some, though (near) future historians will recognise its impact on things like anti-war and social change movements, fashion and even education. Rock has shrunken our planet; The Beatles, Led Zep, Hendrix, Queen et al, stand beside global brands like Coca Cola, Microsoft, F.C. Barcelona and Disney.

McCartney told a funny story illustrative of rock's reach, at his Hard Rock Calling, Hyde Park concert last year. As he looked out over the assembled masses, flags of all nationalities waving above our heads, he reflected, without false pride, on how Beatles lyrics had been used around the world to teach the English language - another globalising factor. The first time he was 'Back in the USSR' he was asked to say 'hi' to a senior member of the Russian government who had apparently learned his English from Beatle songs; 'Hello', said Macca, by way of an opening. ‘Goodbye', answered the Minister! But Russian politicians did learn that 'All You Need is Love' and the 'iron curtain' was drawn back.

Happily, we already count Russians amongst this year nationality crop, but perhaps more surprising are the Puerto Ricans, Maltese, Lebanese and Syrian rockers ('power to the people' there, too) who've stepped aboard the 'Magic Bus'.

Latin American is well represented with Ecuador, Chile and Peru in addition to Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, but inevitable the big three to date are the UK, the USA and Australia.

What we're now interested to see is which will be the 40th country... Outer Mongolia, perhaps, or Malawi? I wouldn't bet against either as we're truly rockin' all over the world!

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Young Jagger

London's National Portrait Gallery has a fascinating display of portraits of a very young Mick J on show until November. It includes previously unseen shots taken by Gered Mankowitz, who was just 18 when appointed the Stones 'official' photographer.

And what age-defining images Mankowitz created in that London epicentre of '60s counter-culture, Mason Yard. In his studio, right next door to the Scotch of St James club and the Indica Art Gallery, not only was the Stones image moulded, but also that of the new-to-London Hendrix.

Inevitably, there's not a plaque to be seen recording the history made in any of these buildings.

Arguably, two of his best Stones shots are those that graced the covers of 'Between the Buttons' and 'Out of Our Heads'. The latter looks like Mason's Yard might have been the location. It captures that 'bad boy' menace so important to the band's early market poitioning! What a truly great rock photo.

If you're felling flush then you can aquire limited edition copies of Mankowitz's photo's from Jill Furmanovsky's RockArchive.com. There's a great book, too; 'Hendrix at Mason's Yard', currently on Amazon for £18. If you're really loaded (or think it's a good investment) you can get an authographed copy for £330 from Snap Galleries, where they are exhibiting Mankowitz's work until November.

The cheapest way to view Mankowitz's art though is at The National Gallery; that's free!