Sunday, May 5, 2013

Rock plaques; where and when?

It’s encouraging to see a number of new plaques appearing on some of London’s rock heritage sites; most recent additions have included one in Hanwell on the site of Jim Marshall’s (Marshall Amps) first shop, and one commemorating George and John on the old Apple boutique building in Baker Street. Like London buses, you wait ages for one to come along and then three do in quick succession! It begs the question what should plaques commemorate, and should there be some criteria underpinning their use. Currently, we have four types of plaque; the ‘official’ English Heritage on, those placed by the charity The Heritage Foundation, those mounted by the local Westminster or Camden Councils and a few private ones. Only the first demand a strict criteria; the commemorated must have been dead 25-years, have contributed something significant to their art, and have a good chance of being remembered. There are just two rock ones in London, one for Hendrix the other Lennon. They don’t always get it right. ‘Who was that; never heard of him’ is an oft heard cry from Londoners and tourists alike as they read the inscription on a Blue plaque’. The mould was broken last year with the black plaque for Ziggy Stardust, a fictional character. But why do they have to be dead? Why can’t we commemorate more places of significance, as the Marshall plaque does? It’d be good to see a plaque on Alexandria Palace commemorating the famed ’14 Hour Technicolour Dream’ hippy festival of 1967 for example. Or one on Green Street, Mayfair, on the only flat where all four Beatles lived together. One that cries out for commemoration, especially since the redeveloper vandals have even removed the iconic name sign from the front of the building, is Olympic Studios in Barnes. Any more suggestions?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

West London: Cradle of Rock

How is it that thousands of rock fans will beat a path to Liverpool, yet the ‘Cradle of Rock’ – London’s Acton-Ealing/Richmond/Hanwell triangle – remains a rarely visited backwater, discovered only by the most ardent of fans? I guess the answer is obvious; The Beatles. Yet, even Beatle history is writ large around west London. West London’s roll call of fame includes The Rolling Stones; The Who; Deep Purple; Queen, and more recently the Magic Numbers, Lily Allen and Jamiroquai. Yes, we know about Liverpool’s Cavern but where would rock be without the Crawdaddy, The Ealing Blues, Club, Eelpie Island or The Goldhawk Club? A quick search of rock bios finds a host of artists associated with these boroughs; Dusty Springfield grew up here, as did Fleetwood Mac’s John McVie, Hendrix’s drummer, Mitch Mitchell, Rick Wakeman, and all of the Who; Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott died at his home in the area. There are sites connected with Zep, Uriah Heep and a host of other grerat acts. Even now the borough boats its share of famed resindents including members of Iron Mai
den and the Manic Street Preachers. Perhaps one reason why it remains comparatively unknown is the absence of local marketing. It’s the old problem; no one of political importance considers rock heritage to be worth preserving or promoting. Well, thankfully, there’ll soon be another commemorative wall plaque to add to the one for the Ealing Blues Club and at Ace Cafe; the site of Jim Marshall’s shop – birthplace of Marshall Amps – is to get one on April 6th this year. And Beatle sites in the area? Well-known scenes from both films were shot in and around Richmond, and the world’s first-ever promo film for ‘Paperback Writer’ and ‘Rain’ was shot at nearby Chiswick House (see photo). The ‘cradle or rock’ is certainly worth a visit!