Hyde Park (lat: 51°30'32.68"N long: 0° 9'41.17"W)
Park was where the first large-scale free outdoor concert in Britain
was held, on the 29th of June 1968. It featured Pink Floyd,
Tyrannosaurus Rex, Roy Harper and Jethro Tull. It was organised by
Blackhill Enterprises, who were Pink Floyd's (and jut about everyopne
else on the bill's) management at the time.
The British disc jockey John Peel, whose BBC Radio One show 'Top Gear'
famously captured Floyd in session two times, considers it the best
outdoor event he'd ever been to. He took a rowing boat out on the
Serpentine, lay back and let it all wash over him. The music, that is.
Not the water. I suspect he was
somewhere at the top-left end as seen in the picture, but I could be
wrong. Nobody nowadays seems to know exactly where the stage was, which
doesn't help. It's often said that it was positioned in an area of the
park called the Cockpit, but it certainly isn't on my map. And with a
name like that it's
not the kind of question you want to be asking passers-by,
really. There was a further concert here, again organised by Blackhill
on the 18th July 1970, at which Floyd played 'Atom Heart Mother' with
the Phillip Jones Brass Ensemble. The stage for that was located far
closer to Hyde Park Corner apparently, not in the Cockpit. It's alleged
that the whole show was filmed, but almost nothing's been seen since
and it mighn't even exist anymore. Then in 1974
David Gilmour lent a
guitar-laden hand to Roy Harper for his 'Unknown Soldier' show, part of
that year's Hyde Park free concert. It was
also mooted as a location for
the London dates of The 'Momentary Laspe Of Reason' tour in 1988
it was not to be. Gilmour also took part in The Who's all-star one-off
of 'Quadrophenia' here in 1996. The 2nd of July 2005 saw the
biggest concert yet, Live 8 - featuring the phenomenally unlikely
appearance of Pink Floyd including Roger Waters, sounding (if
not looking at times) like they'd
never split up in the first place. Just over a year later, Waters swung
by on July
1st 2006 as part of his 'Because-Gilmour's-Doing-One-So-Will-I' tour,
playing as part of the Hyde Park Calling Festival. The show featured a
full run-through of 'Dark Side Of The Moon', which itself featured a
free gift to the faithful: Nick Mason, battering the tubs for the
duration of 'Dark Side'. Over the decades, the park
hello to people as diverse as the Rollling Stones, the Pope, Pavarotti
the monsters from Star Trek....
Depending where you are in the park
(hopefully not over by the Royal Albert Hall - that's on the South and
West trail, and thus cheating), make your way right over the other
side to Marble Arch. The arch itself was originally supposed to be the
gatehouse for Buckingham Palace, but was built with no consideration
for the width of the horse-drawn carriages that were going to be
passing underneath it.
So they gave up and plonked it here instead. Anyway....once there, or
close by at least, head over to Edgware Road - that's the one with the
Odeon cinema on the corner. Unless you're a glutton for punishment, I'd
advise going overground instead of using the pedestrian subways. I've
been through them many times, and unfailingly get lost and emerge on
the wrong side of a different road to the one I wanted to be on in the
first place. There's also the consideration that they're largely a
national disgrace, but there you go. Anyway, once safely over and along
Edgware Road, take the first on the right which is Bryanston Street.
Down here is the former site of....
|Pye Studios (lat:
51°30'51.57"N long: 0° 9'31.59"W)
This rather grey-looking office block was the home of ATV which incorporated Pye Studios, a company and record label that Pink Floyd have never been particularly associated with and certainly never signed to. But because French film director Barbet Schroeder asked them to score his new film, EMI wouldn't let Pink Floyd waste valuable time in their own studios working on it. So they ended up here, recording the music on the 'More' soundtrack album of 1969 and apparently paying the studio costs and producing the record themselves. I don't know about you, but it rather ruins my enjoyment of such gentle pieces from the album as 'Cirrus Minor' to know that they weren't recorded in an approximation of pastoral tranquility, but a stone's throw from an urban traffic blackspot and pedestrian subway-cum-lavatory instead. Oh well. The studios themselves were in the basement, and up until the early 1970's usually saw rather less intimidating artists who made what they now call MOR music - including Barry Cryer's cover version of 'The Purple People Eater', which accidentally topped the charts for three weeks in Finland. "How few of us can say the same," he modestly proclaims - but in his own defence, Cryer says that they did give away a free car with every copy. Nowadays, the studios and indeed the Pye record label have long since disappeared, and the building's basement is a casino while the visible floors are offices.
**Update - 6/11/05 - I'm really getting depressed now. Some clever boy demolished the whole sodding building without telling me, pretty much as far back as you can see in the picture. Thus there's no great need to come down here anymore. There'll be bugger all left on the entire circuit at this rate...**
**Update - 07/08 - This is what we've got now, as seen from the far end in the old picture. In truth it's looked like this for a good few years, so sorry about that. Old age, weak bladder....bone idleness....you'll know what it's like yourself soon.**
Follow Bryanston Street down to the crossroads with Portman Street. Go straight on into Portman Mews South, over Orchard Street into Edwards Mews, and then left into Duke Street. Go straight over at the crossroads with Wigmore Street, and soon afterwards you'll find yourself in...
Manchester Square (lat: 51°31'1.12"N long: 0°
In the far left corner as you enter the square, number 20 is the former home of EMI records, who eventually won the supposed battle with Polydor to sign Pink Floyd up. The lurid details of that are on the South and West circuit page, but in short a man called Bryan Morrison came here with a professionally-recorded tape of the band, told EMI top brass what they wanted to hear and got an offer in 48 hours, which Pink Floyd took. Although EMI secured the band for £5000 - good money back in the day - it was still a pretty poor deal. As part of it, at the insistence of the grandly-named Sidney Arthur Beecher-Stevens - who had to be obeyed as he was signing the cheque with £5000 written on it - they had to drop their friend and current produer Joe Boyd and work exclusively with in-house producer Norman Smith at Abbey Road, whose only pedigree in the business was as the Beatles' engineer. Still, Pink Floyd went with it and EMI perhaps regretted their offer when, for some time after the announcement of the signing, much was made by the press over the psychedelic connections and associated drug involvement - the same brouhaha that would effectively shut down the UFO Club in July 1967. The hysteria faded eventually, but it did nobody any favours. After the band had signed the hapless Boyd away for a pittance, EMI insisted on them doing an audition. A bit late now, you might well think - and it was, but I suppose they wanted to see just how big a mistake they'd made for themselves. I'm not certain if the audition took place here, but it's as good a guess as any. What definitely did happen here was the company's reception/party/piss-up involving large numbers of important people, lots of food, drink, occasional drugs and some entertainment: Pink Floyd miming 'Arnold Layne' to their new lords and masters. The official signature ceremony was then carried out, everyone looked happy, and following that some commemorative photographs were taken by Dezo Hoffman. You know the ones: Syd, Roger, Nick and Rick outside the building doing the same kind of vaguely coordinated concert party turn we've all done after one's inhibitions have been pilfered by an evening's crapulence. Their first *official* publicity photosession probably happened at some stage here too, prior to the release of debut single 'Arnold Layne'. It's only notable because, in one of the resulting pictures, Mason strikes a head-resting-on-chin pose suggesting wisdom centuries beyond his tender years, Barrett seems mesmerised by Waters' shirt and Waters himself appears to be suffering from severe acne. Nowadays EMI no longer occupy the premises, having moved out in 1995. In fact it doesn't look like anybody does.
**Update - 16/2/03 - Nobody tells me about these things, do they? I mean, look at it now. Just look. Totally unrecognisable. I don't know how long it's been parading itself like that. I mean, it even looks smaller. Oh well. It's just another victim of the popular trend to strip away, gut, renovate and re-clad older buildings - presumably because it's cheaper than knocking them down and starting again....**
round the Square and exit via Hinde Street. At the
right into Mandeville Place, go straight on into James Street,
and chuck a left into Oxford Street. Cross over and find Davies Street
on the right. Head off down here, and steel yourself for some long,
long walking - very roughly 300 metres' worth if my calculations are
correct, I'm afraid. Mild diversion can be sought by inspecting the
menu of Claridges when you pass it, where Gordon Ramsay exercises both
his culinary genius and sewer mouth. You want to
be looking out for the fifth turning on the
left, called Bourdon Street. Go down here, and tucked away along the
rather short third turning on the left - Bourdon Place - will
|Vic Singh Ltd (lat:
51°30'40.54"N long: 0° 8'44.09"W)
It was here in either March or April 1967 that photographer Vic Singh shot the darlings of the London underground and hot new EMI signing, Pink Floyd, for the cover of their forthcoming debut album called 'Piper At The Gates Of Dawn'. Unlike the band's later designers Storm Thorgerson, Aubrey Powell and Hipgnosis, chances are you've never heard of him - so who is he? Born in India to parents who emigrated to the UK in the late 1940's, Singh's father had taught him how to develop and print film while still in India at the indecently youthful age of four. After the Singhs settled in England his mother (herself the daughter of a photographer) worked in a studio and with a background like that, Vic's destiny was always going to revolve around Hasselblads and Nikons. "It's similar to a musician growing up when his parents are musicians," he subsequently said. Sure enough, upon reaching man's estate Vic began working as a photographer's assistant for various studios around London, culminating at the (apparently) famed Studio 5 alongside a junior David Bailey, soon to become the camera-toting colossus of swinging London. Singh and Bailey left Studio 5 after a pay dispute - Bailey joining Vogue magazine, and Singh deciding to set up on his own here at 7 Bourdon Place after securing a loan to do so from renowned follicle molester Vidal Sassoon, of all people. Pink Floyd met Singh at some stage in the months prior to the shoot for the first time at an event in Piccadilly Circus, and got in touch later on to commission him to do the job. They all seemed to be on the same wavelength even though the band themselves didn't really seem to know what they were after, never having had to worry about album covers before. Vic came up with the perfect technological doobery - a prism lens, given to him by a friend called George Harrison (yes, that one) who couldn't get much of a tune out of it whatever he did. The effect it has - splitting the image into so many segments and blurring the edges into each other - seemed to fit the bill and after instructing the band to turn up with their grooviest, brightest, most colourful psychedelic clothes, set to work. The session took a whole day, using both the prism lens and regular ones and afterwards, the band selected the picture they liked best. Syd Barrett apparently devised the back cover, with a sillhouette of a particular full group shot taken even earlier at another photo session entirely in Ruskin Park in south London. It was all sent over to EMI and not long afterwards the record hit the shelves. Pink Floyd were properly off and running, but would transfer their cover designing allegiances to old Cambridge mates Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell by the time they were ready to think about that difficult second album. In any event Vic Singh closed his studio in 1968/9 (he can't remember exactly when) and departed for a new life in the country, leaving almost his entire collection of work in the care of his mother. In a pattern I suspect many who've ever left valuable possessions in the care of a parent at the family home will recognise, she moved house herself in due course and managed to lose around 90% of his negatives along the way - including most of the 'Piper' session. "A great shame, but these things happen," says Vic. Well, that's one way of putting it, certainly.....
Inch along the rest of Bourdon Place until it runs into Bourdon Mews, and follow it down to the end and round to the left. That should put you at a crossroads of sorts wth the rest of Bourdon Street up ahead of you, Grosvenor Hill on the left and Bloomfield Place on the right. You have a choice on your hands now: if you go down Bloomfield Place, it'll deposit you in New Bond Street - our very own equivalent of Rodeo Drive, without any palm trees but with all the big designer-name shops and prestige cars with darkened windows parked outside. If a bit of retail therapy makes you come over all unnecessary, then you'll probably want to turn left out of Bloomfield Place and just go straight on, gazing adoringly at everything you'll never afford until you hit number 69, our next *proper* stop. If however you're one of those who laugh in the face of conspicuous consumption, then.....let's see what you do next when you win the lottery, eh? Until such time as you do, and if New Bond Street's bounteous provends leave you cold, then go straight on at the crossroads, following the continuation of Bourdon Street. This'll dump you in Grosvenor Street, and over on the other side to the right you should see Avery Row. Head down that, and at the end you should find yourself at another crossroads with Brook Street running left and right, and South Moulton Lane straight on. Don't worry about it though, because we're turning right into Brook Street. Note as you go the splendidly named Haunch Of Venison Yard on your left - unless you're a vegetarian, but let's be honest: Nut Cutlet Court just doesn't have the same je ne sais quoi, does it? Someone who *did* have a certain something used to live almost directly opposite it on the right (and is in truth the only reason I've brought you down here): Jimi Hendrix. His former residence was at number 23 in a flat on the first floor, which he shared with girlfriend Kathy Etchingham. An English Heritage blue plaque sits on the wall, and Hendrix is notable for being not only the first rock star to be awarded with one, but also the first black man too. It caused a degree of disquiet within the higher echelons of society, who rather thought that such distinctions ought to be saved for people like Hendrix's neighbour at number 25 - Georg Frideric Handel. Obviously they missed each other by a good 200 years or so, but never mind. To make up for it Hendrix apparently went out and bought a copy of 'Messiah' after he learned who used to live next door. As you come up to the crossroads with New Bond Street turn left, and very very soon you'll see this curiosity:
|69 New Bond Street
(lat: 51°30'49.07"N long: 0°
Now this is truly fascinating. Alright then....it's not really. It's a tad quirky though, because it demonstrates that for all their pomp, aloofness and pretensions to higher planes of art, Pink Floyd still had more than merely tenuous connections to music and musicians with occasionally less lofty ambition beyond sharing a management company, being on the same bill as them for free concerts in Hyde Park and having their future wife as a roadie (June Child, who used to drive their van and subsequently married the subject of this particular location). Towards the end of 1973, number 69 New Bond Street was where the T. Rex Wax Co. was based. Yes, that's the T-Rex with Marc Bolan in it. He took control of the building and apparently sub-let some offices to Pink Floyd and The Who. From what I can ascertain, it seems to be the case that Floyd's copyright and royalties manager of the time, a chap called Duart Perrin, worked from these offices. For whatever reason, Bolan had lost control of the building by 1977 but apparently was so keen to keep his own office here that he reputedly rented it back - from none other than Pink Floyd. So presumably they took control of the entire building once it became clear Bolan had to let it go. Alas, as we all know he wouldn't be around to enjoy it much longer, unfortunately. As for what Pink Floyd eventually did with the building, I don't know. I don't think they have it anymore, unless you know different....
As an additional note of interest, look to your right back down New Bond Street to the Fenwicks department store. It's the central London branch of the independently owned chainstore of the same name, and (coincidentally) the postal address for Mark Fenwick Management - who look after someone called Roger Waters. It is occasionally alleged that one can, if they so desire, write to this address and receive a personally signed photograph of the man himself within a reasonable delay. But don't all do it at once, or I'll probably end up in court on a charge of inciting harassment. Or something.
Carry on up New Bond Street, and turn right into Oxford Street. Then go left up Old Cavendish Street, right into Henrietta Place, and round Cavendish Square until you find Cavendish Place. No, I don't know what a cavendish is either. Go along Cavendish Place, and that should dump you in Langham Place. If you look to your left, you'll see - hiding round the corner admittedly - Broadcasting House, from whence the BBC beams some of its radio shows. Syd Barrett was a guest on DJ Pete Drummond's show here on the 27th of December 1969 and, instinctively knowing how to make a dynamic contribution, didn't say or do *anything*. Hurrah.
If you turn right, you'll immediately be on Regent Street. And very shortly, on the right hand side, should be...
Regent Street Polytechnic (lat: 51°31'1.06"N long: 0°
Carry straight on, across Regent Street and into Mortimer Street. When you get to the crossroads with Great Portland Street, turn left and then take the first right which will be Little Titchfield Street. Along here is...
|Regent Street Poly Architectural
51°31'5.33"N long: 0° 8'28.47"W)
Up there was where they spent their occasional leisure (ha!), and this is where they worked - some of the time. Nicholas Mason, Roger Waters and Richard Wright all variously arrived between the springs of 1962 and 1963, and despite all studying the same subject at the same place in the same class at the same time, would take some months to properly find each other. After an initial distrust involving things like Mason's refusal to lend his car to Waters under the pretext of it being broken - and then being seen merrily driving it embarrassingly soon afterwards, or Wright's inability to lend Waters a cigarette, they were eventually drawn together. Mostly it was musical taste which bonded them, and their keen interest in doing anything other than learning - such as going to the cinema, or poking around in music shops and clothing emporia. When they were in fact pursuing their studies, their individual educational performances differed widely: Mason was a good(ish) student, Wright wasn't all that interested anyway, and Waters used to criticise his tutors because he didn't like their teaching methods. So how did they make the leap to music? Well, Waters always had a guitar about his person to aggravate with and saw a notice placed by two other students in September 1963. Keith Noble and Clive Metcalfe were already fairly proficient and often played gigs around the capital but wanted to bring others in to expand their horizons. Waters and Mason saw the notice, turned up at the common room and began rehearsing with them. Unlike Noble and Metcalfe, neither of them could play as such. Sillybuggers, yes. Instruments? Not *really*. Wright also came in on the act at some stage, proving useful by not only playing the piano rather well, but getting his then girlfriend - fellow student Juliette Gale - to provide vocals. This dynamic sextet called themselves The Sigma 6, and fulfilled engagments like birthday parties and private Poly functions admirably. After another year or so, many name changes (the Abdabs, Screaming Abdabs and the cuddly-sounding Meggadeaths) and much further japery, they'd been joined by their first real musican, fellow Poly student and Cambridge-dweller Bob Klose. However Noble and Metcalfe decided they couldn't get on with him and left, taking up their duo-based antics once more. Around the same time, another Cambridge boy - Syd Barrett - had applied for and been accepted by the Camberwell School of Art in south London, far away on the other side of the river Thames. After successfully seeking out Roger Waters (don't ask me how) whom he knew from their shared childhood and adolescence, he further decided to join The Abdabs (as they called themselves that particular week). Wright and Juliette Gale temporarily left the band, and only Wright came back again afterwards - albeit not as a Poly student, having agreed that he shouldn't have listened to his careers advisor, architecture wasn't his forte and thus signing up with the London College of Music instead - leaving them all without a voice. Bob Klose asked another refugee of his acquaintance from Cambridge, Chris Dennis, if he fancied it. Dennis, being older, had both practical experience and vital equipment - a proper PA system. Despite this promising new recruit, Dennis never really fitted in. He was more of a rhythm and blues man, and his approach was more knockabout and comedic which didn't sit well with Waters in particular, already sharpening his skills as a power-crazed megalomanic. Indeed it was Waters who apparently asked Klose to tell Dennis goodbye, but was denied the early chance to lose friends and alienate people by Dennis's RAF duty-imposed departure to Bahrain instead. Despite this, Klose is alleged to have still acted on orders and informed Dennis by means of a public payphone call from Tottenham Court Road tube station. Syd Barrett was shoved involuntarily into the position of frontman, a responsibility which became all the more pressured when Klose walked away in or about the summer of 1965. Unlike Chris Dennis, it wasn't actually Roger Waters who tried to push him this time - it was his parents. They were more interested in getting him to do his work at the college, not having the time of his life with friends in a band. Bastards. Then again, some say it was because of musical differences with Barrett instead. Who knows anymore? Not I. Either way, Syd had now assumed control on lead guitar and begun to set a course for rather weirder-sounding material than they'd previously attempted. In between this personnel-based bedlam, the band had kept up tradition and flirted with more alternative names: The Spectrum Five, Leonard's Lodgers - named after Mason, Waters, and eventually Syd's landlord, occasional Poly lecturer Mike Leonard who lived in Highgate - and finally hit upon The Pink Floyd Blues Band at the beginning of 1965. Then they thought not and plumped for The Tea Set. After Klose's departure the band partially reverted back to the name The Pink Floyd in the winter of 1965 with the definitive line-up of Barrett, Mason, Waters and Wright, all playing the instruments we actually associate them with at last.....
Carry on up to the end of Little Titchfield Street, and turn right into Great Titchfield Street. Follow this all the way down to the end, where you'll find Oxford Street. Over on the far side used to live a branch of the book/cd/dvd retailers Borders. If this wasn't the first port of call for Nick Mason's 2004 UK tour to promote his book 'Inside Out', then I wouldn't have mentioned it. But it was, so I have. Presumably it was the closest shop he could find to his old haunt of Little Titchfield Street. It's only now, many years after the event, that it's occured to me. Wouldn't mind so much, but I was there myself on the day and I still forgot. Anyway, turn right into Oxford Street and gaze skywards to the right as you approach Oxford Circus. Assuming you haven't smacked into a fellow pedestrian or lamp post, as you see the Topshop clothing store, stop. You're standing at the foot of the former site of.....
Air Studios (lat: 51°30'55.93"N long: 0°
Now, turn round and work your way back a little bit until you can see Argyll Street beckoning you on the right. If nothing else, that half-timbered thing lurking at the bottom is worthy of closer investigation. Or it would be if it were real, but it's not. It's the Liberty department store, full of expensive things for rich people, and it's mock-Tudor to the core. Anyway, who cares? You've not got the money, and nor have I. Anyway, before you get that far down Argyll Street we've got this to worry about instead:
|London Palladium (lat:
51°30'52.40"N long: 0° 8'26.20"W)
Be thankful the hills aren't alive with the racket of Pink Floyd. One of the most famous theatres in the world, the London Palladium was built in 1910 on the site of an old skating rink. Disability legislation and Draconian health and saftey regulations notwithstanding, almost nothing architectural about the place has changed much since, inside or out - except the name on the front. It used to be the Palladium Theatre, and only got its more obvious moniker in 1934. In terms of Pink Floyd, this was where the first public appearance of PF Mark III, the two-man team of David Gilmour and Nick Mason - who *were* the entire band at the time, owing to Rick Wright's departure in 1981 and Roger Waters' in 1985 - anyway, this is where Gilmour and Mason appeared at the Secret Policeman's Third Ball in March 1987, held from the 26th to the 29th. Apparently the first two nights were the comedy ones, and the final two were given over to music. Both of those particular nights saw Gilmour providing odd-shaped guitars and backing vocals for his protege Kate Bush on 'Running Up That Hill' and 'Let It Be' and on the final night he, she and Mason provided vocals, bass guitar and drums for the all-star climax - a cover of Bob Dylan's 'I Shall Be Released', ironically never included on any of the various videos, albums, CDs and DVDs issued of the event since. Then again, nor has 'Let It Be' either. The clue's in the title, I suppose. For those with no love for the post-Waters incarnation of the band, the Ball was also where Gilmour spotted Nik Kershaw's percussionist - a young shaver called Gary Wallis - leaping around in a cage like his arse was on fire. In a 1986 edition of 'Guitarist' magazine, Gilmour said that "On tour, I want people who look great when they're playing, people who are exciting to watch, visually." Just as an aside...ever tried it with your eyes *closed*? Anyway, Gilmour liked what he saw (with his eyes open) and lured Wallis into a crate marked "Pink Floyd - World Tour". Four years later in 1991, Gilmour was back again as part of Jools Holland's house band for the Stephen Fry-directed benefit concert Hysteria 3, which in musical terms also featured long-time Gilmour and Pink Floyd vocal collaborator Sam Brown, and other luminaries like Edwin Starr and Elton John. Comedically there were so many, I can't be bothered to list them. Oh, alright then. There was Stephen Fry, obviously. Hugh Laurie, Ben Elton, Rowan Atkinson, Lenny Henry, Tony Slattery, Eddie Izzard and all the way from Droll Creek USA, Steven Wright - and still more that I can't be arsed to name. It was a good show though, and worth seeking out on VHS. Don't go for the re-release on DVD though - it's a different edit, which doesn't even include one of Gilmour's bits.
Right then. Now you've got a choice. You can either go back round the corner to Oxford Circus, down into the tube station and take a train to Piccadilly Circus, or you can get a bus down Regent Street to Piccadilly Circus, or you can walk down Regent Street to Piccadilly Circus. Either way, I want you to go to Piccadilly Circus (just in case you failed to pick up the subtle hint). If you take the option of walking or bussing it down Regent Street, keep your eye open for the Ferarri Shop at numbers 193-197, almost opposite renowned toy emporium Hamleys. It was officially opened on May 6th 2009 and, as a man with nearly as many sports cars as millions in the bank, obviously Nick Mason was there with a roster of racing cars and champions past and present. He even brought his 250 GTO along with him too, which was jolly sporting of him. Once you're at Piccadilly Circus, bear right-ish, passing the statue of Eros - or to give it its actual name, the Angel of Christian Charity on your left. You might have seen an early publicity phtograph of the band lounging over a lamp post here in all their period finery, with Coca-Cola getting some free advertising in the background into the bargain. I'd advise you not to bother recreating it here and now - especially if you're on your own. Passing strangers might oblige and make up the numbers if asked, but at what cost to yourself I can neither specify nor guarantee. Best instead to find Lower Regent Street just beyond, and down on the left, at number 12, you should see the former site of the....
Paris Theatre (lat: 51°30'30.64"N long: 0° 8'0.72"W)
This small theatre, built in 1932 on the left-hand corner of the Rex House complex and located two storeys below street level, was originally a cinema and after World War Two became a recording facility for BBC radio shows of all kinds, musically featuring so many famous (and not so famous) bands and solo artists that they could never in their lives be listed on a low budget website like this. Pink Floyd performed sessions here on the 20th of December 1968, the 12th of May 1969 (rescheduled from the 9th of April, when they were apparently" ill" and didn't turn up), the 16th of July 1970 and the 30th of September 1971. At one of these sessions (the 16th of July one, a preview of what was then named 'The Amazing Pudding'), the album 'Atom Heart Mother' got its title, borrowed from a headline in either John Peel's, Roger Waters' or nobody in particular's copy of that night's London Evening Standard newspaper - depending on who's telling the story. You owe it to yourself to get a copy, especially as it's free these days and Friday's magazine supplement might have shots of Gilmour or Mason out drinking - which certain unscrupulous hooligans pilfer and cruelly distort for the purposes of their own entertainment. But I digress. The theatre finally closed in 1996, replaced by the refurbished radio theatre inside Broadcasting House back up at the other end of Regent Street. I've nearly no idea what it looks like down in the bowels of the Paris nowadays but back in 1932 (and more or less up until it closed for good some sixty-four years later, apparently) it wasn't all that dissmilar to this...
**Update** well, I passed by on the 30/3/01. A sign that's been put up seems to suggest that the building is to become a fitness club. Wonderful...**
**Update** well, I passed by again, late on the 16/2/03, and it is indeed a branch of LA Fitness, who've colonised both the lower ground and basement floors at what seem to be ludicrously low rates of rental per square foot. I mean, just under six quid for the basement (where the musical action used to take place) and only just under twelve for the lower ground floor? Oh well. Shape up and dance to the happy beat of Pink Floyd if you dare....**
remarkable, you know. See the bit on the far left of the building on
the ground floor? It's been a restaurant almost as long as the Paris
has been on the tour. *Different* restaurants, admittedly. You'd
think after the first few failures, they'd have taken the hint....**
Right. Well, now you're here you might as
well go back up to Piccadilly
Circus, then left down Piccadilly itself and almost immediately on your
left at number 215 is the Contreau Prive.
Decades ago this place used to be a subterranean cinema
catering for shifty men with stained raincoats, but come the new
millennium it had become the rather classier
Pigalle Club. Guy Pratt performed what was *supposed* to be the last
rendition of 'My
Bass and Other Animals'
*ever*.....in London.....on the 5th of March 2008. Assorted Gilmours
were present, presumably celebrating the eve of his 63rd birthday (and
frequently heckling Pratt into the bargain), as
were some Masons and Ewan McGregor for some reason. Even *I* turned up,
lowering the tone considerably. Keep plodding
up Piccadilly for a bit
until you come to this place....
|201 Piccadilly (lat:
51°30'32.66"N long: 0° 8'10.80"W)
Given its proximity to the Paris Theatre, can you possibly guess what this particular building has to do with Pink Floyd? Yes, it's another BBC recording studio. As with the Paris, the list of bands and performers that have done sessions here is equally large and predictably enough bears no close examination on a website as cheap and nasty as this one. But what of the place itself? Well, it's certainly been there a while - if the 201 Piccadilly of today is the same as the one in 1794, then that year's Kents Directory - a sort of Yellow Pages of the day, but without any phone numbers - tells us that Fyfe and Co., Linen Drapers and Haberdashers, lived there around two hundred years ago. At some point in the very late '60's or very early 1970's, the BBC upped sticks and the building then became Command Studios, particularly associated with the likes of Roxy Music. Come 1974 or thereabouts, whoever it was that actually owned the building decided that they didn't want it being used as a recording studio anymore, so that put paid to Command and music of any kind here forever. But enough of them. What of our heroes? Well, on the 25th June 1968 it would appear that they came here to record a session for the BBC's 'Top Gear' radio show. As this was the only visit they paid to this facility, let us indulge in the setlist: 'Murderistic Woman', 'Massed Gadgets Of Hercules', 'Let There Be More Light' and 'Julia Dream'. It was subsequently broadcast on the 11th of August 1968. Apparently, once the place had become Command Studios it was also used to partly record/mix what was alleged to be the quadrophonic mix of 1971's 'Meddle', only a week or so before the band's fabled live session at the Paris Theatre round the corner. As you can probably see, the building's no longer a studio but a branch of Boots the chemists. So if you're feeling poorly, hungry, thirsty or....(fill that one in yourself), then they'll probably be able to sort you out.
**Update - 10/06/05** - they won't be able to sort you out anymore. Boots the chemists are, at this site at least, in an extremely poor state of health indeed. They've only gone and knocked the whole building down, including the shop next door. I've had it on good authority that the facade of the building was protected in some way, so I can only assume that whatever's going up in it's place - probably a mixed office/retail development - will have a frontage either exactly the same, or at least in the same kind of taste. But now and forevermore, this is an ex-site. It has ceased to be. I'm not taking it out of the tour though.
**Update - 07/08** - Well, didn't they lie their jesticles off to *me*, eh? That over there on the right is not what I'd call immediately recognisable if you didn't know what lay here before. It *nearly* is from the first floor upwards, but I don't remember anything about a tower thing on the corner in the plans. Still, never mind - that's progress for you. This is what we've got now, and given that it looks like most of it still remains unoccupied we might as well club together and set up a Tour HQ. How about it? Who's with me? COME ON!!!!!
No? No takers at all? Pfffh. Bloody sod you then.
**Update - 04/10** - At least Costa Coffe or Starbucks decided to inhabit the corner spot. BUT NOBODY HERE WANTED TO, DID THEY???? No matter. I'm over it now....
Now, head back across Piccadilly Circus, and go down Coventry Street. Keep going straight on, and you'll find yourself at one end of Leicester Square. Give a passing nod to what used to be the Swiss Centre (currently demolished in anticipation of a replacement being built) where Guy Pratt performed his 'My Bass and Other Animals' show a couple of times, revealing indiscretion upon iniquity about....well, everybody in Pink Floyd really, amongst others in that wonderful business they call show. Until fairly recently, our interest in this approaching zone of mostly cinematic pleasures was strictly limited. Fortunately for us, Pink Floyd rather obligingly decided to help me along within the past couple of years by having a few film premieres of their own. So, up ahead and nearly immediately on your left, you'll see the...
|Leicester Square Empire
(lat: 51°30'38.82"N long: 0°
It was at this cinema that the film of 'The Wall' recieved its British premiere, on July 14th 1982. However it was not achieved without difficulty. Pink Floyd being Pink Floyd, they wanted to ensure that the sound system was of the highest quality. And in truth the Empire's was reckoned to be the best in Europe at the time. But on a pre-premiere test run, it was found to be badly wanting in the low end. So a new bass speaker system was installed, which kept everybody (or Pink Floyd at least) happy. Come the day of the premiere - for which tickets cost £30 or £50 to rasie funds for the Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy Centre - Messrs. Gilmour, Mason and Waters turned up in varying degrees of apparel. Waters was dinner-suited; Mason wore jeans and a t-shirt, and Gilmour pitched himself between these extremes with a jacket but no tie. Bob Geldof, Alan Parker and Gerald Scarfe also showed their faces, and other celebs like Sting, Andy Summers, Pete Townshend, Roger Taylor, Lulu, Paula Yates and disc jockey/comedian Kenny Everett were in attendance. Rick Wright wasn't, of course, having left the band under a cloud of acrimony after the last of 1981's 'Wall' shows at Earls Court just over a year previously. Nobody knew that at the time though, so the official line was that he was resting. And he was, on his yacht in Greece - but in a more permanent capacity than we were led to believe at the time. And nowadays in 2003? Well, the Empire is about to undergo its first comprehensive refitting and refurbishment since 1989 to ensure it stays at the forefront of cinematic entertainment, and Rick Wright has his hair cut and coloured every now and again to provide the outward illusion of youth. Increasingly over at least the last decade, both Gilmour and Mason have turned up to this cinema (and the others in Leicester Square) with various family members in tow for other big-screen blockbuster charity gala premiere events too. "And why not?", as Barry Norman would say....
**Update* 02/07** - that refit and refurbishment never happened until 2006. They like to take their time, obviously....
Now then, wander across the square through the middle to see the next, somewhat obvious stop. Or stay where you are. It's big enough to see from here anyway. Up to you. I'm not going to leap out from nowhere with a sharp stick and force the situation. Others might with both a knife and a view to relieving you of your wallet, but rest assured it won't be me.
|Odeon Leicester Square
It was upon the evening of September the 6th 2007 that this marble-clad megalith saw quite possibly the most lavish, feature-filled and over-the-top one-night-only premiere ever seen in the long and illustrious history of the Odeon, and almost beyond question the history of music DVD releases too. Obviously it was all in aid of David Gilmour's 'Remember That Night' 2-disc set, chronicling his 2006 shows at the Royal Albert Hall. With no hint whatsoever of grand spectacle and showy-offedness, what he wanted to try and achieve for the 1000-strong audience of invited fans and press was to bring a cut-down concert PA in, show an edit of the film, bring some of the more spectacular stage effects with him, use them in the right place and time around the auditorium with the film as it was shown to give a pseudo 3-D image, perform an opening number live too and, if there was any more money left in the meter, to simultaneously broadcast his live spot in stereo and the concert film in 5.1 surround sound to scores of other theatres and cinemas live around the UK and Europe. In order to wind down from this mammoth effort, a question and answer session hosted by BBC Radio 2's Stuart Maconie followed, and the event concluded with a surprise live jam by the whole band that everybody had just seen in the film. And that was about the sum total of his offerings, really. With a build-up like that, do you suppose Gilmour and his tecnhical team were able to pull it all off? Course they did, and apparently it all went down quite well. A pre-event bonus for anybody who was lurking around outside hours beforehand was the appearance of the man himself for publicity photos, posing awkwardly with his black Stratocaster for the assembled cameras. Given such a showcase of talent and technology, he wanted to strike the right note sartorially for the occasion and thus did his usual black jeans/t-shirt combo to nobody's great surprise. After the night's entertainment was over, the after-show party was held in the first floor bar. Gilmour stayed around for the duration and the band showed no inclination to go home either. I suspect the endless supply of drink and nibbles like duck wraps kept them occupied. Who else was in attendance? Nowhere near as many famous faces as there were for 'The Wall' premiere back in '82 but Robert Plant turned up for the day, looking like a bag of bones with a cheap wig on. After a couple of hours, the party wound down, everybody congratulated themselves on a job well done and went home. As for myself, I recieved neither invitation nor ticket and missed the entire extravaganza but took some measure of comfort from my friend Gloria. She heard the BBC's coverage on the wireless and her verdict was short, sweet and succinct: "I tuned in but I wasn't turned on - the presenter was a wanker."
Obviously, despite my description above of the Odeon being marble-clad, I just happened to turn up oblivious to the fact that a temporary coating to celebrate the premiere of 'Mamma Mia' was still being worn. Trust me though - it's sylish and expensive black marble underneath. I think it's gone now, anyway - a day or so afterwards, that new Batman thing got its premiere here with appropriate decoration to replace 'Mamma Mia'. Still, they're catchier songs than Pink Floyd, let's be honest. Depending on where you are - still outside the Empire or right in front of the Odeon - try to find the next big thing that looks like a cinema. Usefully, this one's got a bloody great orange sign on it which should help. Admittedly when I first looked for it I was facing the other way and scanning the buildings back towards Piccadilly Circus, but I got there in the end....
This is where the long, long, oh-so-bloody long-awaited premiere of the 'Pulse' DVD took place on the balmy evening of the 3rd of July 2006, for an audience of around 250 assorted meedya types, a few competition winners and occasional friends/family. Cover-designing giant Storm Thorgerson, bouncing bassist Guy Pratt, greying saxophonist Dick Parry and multi-instrumentalist Floyd/Waters boundary-crossing polymath Jon Carin were there too. So was Roxy Musician Phil Manzanera, presumably because he could be and not because of his almost total lack of connection to the product being hawked. Obviously Gilmour, Mason and Wright were there too, clad in the usual funereal grey and black save for a distinctly off-message Mason, who instead chose one of his special shirts and a pair of shabby-looking trainers. The venue was suitably defiled with promotional materials, for both decoration and subsequent auction. The most arresting of these were a number of pairs of giant eyeballs, exactly as found on the DVD's cover packaging, which the band were forced to sign and stand in front of for publicity pictures. The time-honoured device of a round or six of drinks kicked things off, and at 7:00pm or thereabouts the assembled gentry made their way into the auditorium to witness the full majesty of what was then the world's most spectacular touring rock show ever. The evening's MC, Stuart Maconie (him again) did a brief introduction, and then it was showtime. For the purposes of the event, a special edit of the concert was shown - 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond', 'Learning To Fly', 'High Hopes' and the whole 'Dark Side' set, utilising the full potential of the cinema's wall-shaking 5.1 surround sound capabilities. Apparently Gilmour could be seen singing (or mouthing) along to....well, himself throughout. How lovely. Afterwards there was an intermission followed by Gilmour, Mason and Wright being interrogated by both Maconie and the great unwashed in the audience. Good humoured, educational and informative it was too, apparrently. When that was concluded, the three musketeers stayed around to sign offerings from all quarters, and everyone then went home. Or off to the pub. Or over to the Groucho Club perhaps. One of the pairs of giant eyeballs was subsequently auctioned on eBay in December 2006, and made £16,500 for the homeless charity Crisis (of which Gilmour is a vice-president). The only sour note was....well, you'd think that an event like that carrying a name as big as Pink Floyd's would be the main attraction in Leicester Square that particular night. And you'd be right, save for the European premiere of 'Pirates Of The Caribbean' taking place over at the Odeon, with Johnny Depp causing crowd-based mayhem throughout the entire evening.....
Keep going straight on, and take Cranbourne Street out of the Square. Carry straight on over Charing Cross Road, and keep going. When you come up to the crossorads with St. Martin's Lane you'll see Garrick Street over to the right. Go down here to the junction of Bedford Street and King Street. Not too far beyond, down Bedford Street and on the left in Indigo Place, is St. Paul's churchyard. Along the paving slabs leading up to the church itself used to live a walk of fame, instigated by the television company ITV to celebrate fifty years of broadcasting and the best (in their view) of British actors, actresses, musicians, entertainers and the like. The walk was launched in a memorably disastrous live broadcast spectacular in which everything that could go wrong did. Although they didn't attend, I am reliably informed that Pink Floyd were included among the chosen ones, and as such earned a modest star-shaped plaque which was inset along the pavement leading up to the church. Weeks after the event, the walk of fame was proving less a walk and more a slide of death. People going up and down the paving stones were, like God, moving in a mysterious way due to the shiny metallic stars proving rather slippery and treacherous to tread on. So they were all ripped up and taken away before legal action was brought by the hobbling wounded. The eventual fate of the plaques remains unknown to me, but even if they were still there today they'd be in permanent danger of vanishing to be sold for melting down by opportunistic chancers. Still, that's recession for you. Needs must and all that. I bet they never have this trouble in Hollywood, do they?
Anyway, if you're still standing like a tit in a trance at the junction of Bedford Street and King Street, I suggest you take King Street. It was in a pub somewhere along here that Gilmour met and discussed the thorny topic of Syd Barrett with journalist Nick Kent in 1974, which begat the New Musical Express article 'The Cracked Ballad Of Syd Barrett' - apparently the most detailed account of his life and work up to that point. Carry on along King Street, and this will soon plant you firmly in Covent Garden Market. Quite handily, what we'll find adjacent to it on the left is....
|Middle Earth (lat:
51°30'43.10"N long: 0° 7'26.38"W)
Yea, welcome one and all to the site of what used to be called Middle Earth, a psychedelic club par excellence. Normal people and the postman knew it as 43 King Street, and not unreasonably so because after all that was its address. But to the average London hippy, this place was second only to the UFO Club. A former 17th-century music hall amongst other things, the club was named in homage to Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings and all the action took place in the basement, which was divided into a long sucession of connecting rooms in which you'd be able to see and hear acoustic sets, poetry, films, or have your body painted. Incense, strobes, oil light shows, drugs, and music all combined to make it a haven for the underground scene. All-nighters on Fridays and Saturdays were popular and the bands one could see here in the main black-painted room were in the order of Fairport Convention, Jefferson Airplane, Tyrannosaurus Rex and of course Pink Floyd. And was it all too good to be true? Ultimately, yes. At a private party one night in March 1968, a guest brought their children along. That same night, police raided the building, found the children and on the way back to the station told Covent Garden's market porters that kids were being crucified inside. So the porters stormed the place in disgust and smashed it up. Or so the story goes, anyway. In any event Middle Earth closed down and moved to the less-than-satisfactory Roundhouse in Chalk Farm, just like the UFO Club was forced to after its closure at Tottenham Court Road in July 1967. Pink Floyd played here only four times, on 15/12/67, 16/3/68, 17/5/68 and 21/6/68, but it was enough to consolidate their position as the premier psychedelic band. One man who presumably wasn't happy with that was Syd Barrett, who by late '67 was no longer playing with the band - or more accurately, the band were no longer playing with him. Still holding a copy of the band's forthcoming engagements at the time, he apparently turned up here once when Pink Floyd were on and stood at the front, scowling at David Gilmour - let's not forget, a lifelong friend - in a very unfriendly manner indeed. Nowadays, 43 King Street is...well, it's pink and in moderate disrepair. Needless to say, it's a listed building too. It also became home to an audacious troupe of squatters in the dying months of 2002 who claimed the building as their own and set up a commune inside.
**Update.....5/4/04....** Well, that was a bit of a disappointment. It's currently covered over with scaffolding and sheeting, so nobody can see it in all its pinkiness anymore. Or it certainly was when I passed by on the 4th of April, anyway. It's apparently finally getting a thorough renovation, with the lower floors being used for retail purposes and the upper ones for residential apartments or flats. So, start saving now and you might be lucky enough to live above Middle Earth one day....
**Update.....07/08....** It's only been four years. Stop moaning. Just thought I'd tell you that it's completely refurbished, there's a branch of LK Bennett shoes in the middle of the ground floor (that'll keep your girlfriend occupied) and the pink's been replaced by a pleasing terracotta colour. That's all. Attempts to take a clear updated picture were thwarted by an ice-cream van and numerous rickshaw things parking up outside. We tried though. Honest.
**Update....05/11** Looks like the shoe market didn't have the legs to last the pace - LK Bennett's is no more, and it would seem the entire lower floor's being refitted to house a Ralph Lauren store instead to sell their 'Rugby' line - which probably *won't* include surgical supports and jockstraps....
So, move on past Middle Earth (as was), and up to the Apple Store - the biggest in the world apparently. You might want to pause briefly outside, or even go in a have a nose around. Obviously you'll enjoy it if you're enamoured with their wares, but there's another reason to loiter......
Well, this is a bit tricky actually - not least because there's nothing much to see anymore. Precious few clues are left either, so you'll just have to take my word for it. The buildings that used to live here were not at all dissimilar (though not identical) to number 43 which we've just seen, but just behind them lived a little gated courtyard called.....well, Cubitt's Yard obviously. Towards the end of the 1800's, many of Covent Garden's buildings were either constructed or modified by William Cubitt and Co., engineers and builders to the gentry. Presumably to mark the fact that his firm had carried out such a large portion of the work in and around Covent Garden, he awarded himself a congratulatory namecheck. Or perhaps not. Either way I don't suppose he'll be pursuing me in court for defamation of character, so I'll probably get away with it. It matters little for our purposes, for Cubitt's Yard is no longer - and consequently nor is the site which would have been nice to have included. But what was it? Well, thanks largely to Gerald Scarfe and his 2010 book 'The Making Of Pink Floyd - The Wall', it would seem that a basement studio in the Yard was where he and his team did their first proper work for Pink Floyd. All of them had seen his startling animated film 'The Long Drawn Out Trip' in 1973, and agreed that he'd be a useful man to contact in the near future for their own evil ends. Not long afterwards, Nick Mason managed to get hold of Scarfe and asked him if he wouldn't mind perhaps doing something with them and for them. Apparently, not being a fan as such, he presented himself at Mason's house in Camden in April '73 filled with trepidation. He needn't have worried. He met Gilmour, Waters and Wright and was presented with their entire body of work to date. Then they invited him to a live show (Scarfe says it was at the Rainbow Theatre - which would have been one of the two Robert Wyatt benefit shows on November the 4th '73), and he was both duly impressed and converted to the cause - of listeing to the records and watching them in concert at least. By his own admission he didn't take up their offer of work straight away, and to nudge him in the right direction they got him to do the drawings that appeared in the 1974 British Winter Tour programme. The band liked it (even if the fans apparently didn't) and reiterated their offer to make their shows more....animated. Thus, he accepted the challenge and set to work with a small, select team at his home along Chenye Walk in Chelsea. Trouble was, he didn't know what he was doing - and the band didn't know what they were after in particular either. After various meetings, false starts, accidents with incontinent domestic pets and much trial and error, Scarfe and his scribblers finally picked up speed - discovering that the demands of the project and their own imaginations were outgrowing Chenye Walk. So they moved operations here to Cubitt's Yard, renting a basement and setting up shop within. While incumbent, Scarfe and his team produced the in-concert projection films for 'Welcome To The Machine' - with the clanking metal monster, seas of blood and shiny obelisk. Apparently they also knocked out a sequence involving a fluttering leaf transforming into the figure of a falling man, which was shown as the band perfomed 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond'. Photographs prove it, but typically nothing was ever filmed. No matter, for you've probably seen the sequence anyway - taking as long as it did to produce and costing as much as it did, it was used all over again as an in-concert projection for performances of 'The Trial' when the band played 'The Wall' in 1980/81. The animating team apparently moved again, from Cubitt's Yard at some stage to an undisclosed location in Fulham - presumably once the extra space it afforded became surplus to requirements (or the rent's requirements became unaffordable) which was probably handier for Scarfe in terms of location. After all, Chenye Walk's much closer to Fulham than Covent Garden is. But that aside, no more can be told unless you know different....
I know, it's not there anymore but.....well, when you're watching clips of the videos produced here on your bootle.....sorry, on YouTube, then at least you'll know from whence they originally came. So, are we fit to continue? You probably want to go home instead. If you don't, then continue along what's left of King Street past the shiny glassage of the Apple Store. Not only did its construction/conversion knock out Cubitt's Yard, it also swallowed the Rock Garden which used to live on the corner of King Street and James Street. It opened in 1976 and prided itself on featuring many a hitherto unknown or cult act which would either remain that way or become far more popular. The most notable example would probably have been Mancunian miserablists The Smiths, who made their London debut there and were signed to Rough Trade as a consequence. Anyway, assuming you've decided to carry on living I reckon you should turn left up James Street. Be amused/appalled by the various artists and entertainers vying for your time and money, carry on walking past the tube station and straight over Long Acre into Neal Street. Continue to trundle, and just past the junction with Earlham Street at 41-43 Neal Street is the old site of....
|The Roxy Club
(lat: 51°30'47.88"N long: 0°
This site may not actually be worth it, because it never had anything to do with Pink Floyd. Granted, for a brief few months at the height of the punk era the building's basement was the most important venue in the capital if you had a mohican and a prediliction to stick safety pins through your cheeks (and perhaps wear a "I hate Pink Floyd" t-shirt as Johnny Rotten famously did), but otherwise interest for us is almost nil. I say almost because in the February 1990 edition of Record Collector, you will find it confidently stated that just a few short months after the punk explosion had burned out and the club had closed down in 1978, David Gilmour and his band were filmed here performing a half-hour live set consisting of five songs from his recently-issued debut solo album. This magesterial assertion seems to fly in the face of accepted facts, those being that the film was made in the same French studios used to record the album. The trouble is that the article in Record Collector had just about everything else right and Floydian heavyweight Andy Mabbett helping out too. So I don't know, really. As it's on the way (sort of), I thought I'd include it - until someone comes along and tells me off because the place really, really had sod all to do with David Gilmour....
**Update.....21/11/07**.....I can't even remember when I put the Roxy into the tour anymore, but it was a fair few years ago. Whenever it was, it's taken all this time for someone to come along and tell me if I was right or wrong. Their name? Phil Taylor, Gilmour's guitar technician. He didn't email me personally. If anybody *that* close to the band should ever do so, it'll probably be a warm greeting coupled with a threat of legal action instead. Anyhow, he's just published a rather good book about Gilmour's long-serving black Fender Stratocaster and its various modifications down the ages. Within, detailing changes made to the guitar for the solo album of '78, he just happens to mention that an audienceless session was filmed at....The Roxy.
I'm still slightly sceptical though, as from what I've heard the Roxy in its punk heyday wasn't big enough to swing a mouse in, let alone a cat. And having personally seen the footage in question, I could easily believe being able to swing a dog around wherever it was they shot it. Mind you, they do say everything looks bigger on camera. So who knows?
**Update....09/08**.....If I didn't know any better, I'd think that Phil Taylor's been reading my unpleasant prose. The second, hardback edition of 'The Black Strat' includes a new picture from the Roxy session which proves just how small it really was, with cameramen squashed up on the floor or standing right at the foot of the stage.....
Turn round and go back along Neal Street until you come to the junction with Shelton Street/Earlham Street. Take Earlham Street, and when you get to the little roundabout (grandly known as Seven Dials and covered in boarding at last report), find Mercer Street and follow it to the end. This'll bring you out on Shaftesbury Avenue, and nearly directly opposite you'll see the....
|Saville Theatre (lat: 51°30'51.20"N
long: 0° 7'41.67"W)
This theatre opened in 1931, and had a good 34 years as a 1,200 seat venue for plays, musicals and the like until 1965. The Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein, took over the licence and his plan was to put on Sunday night music shows. Although it didn't come to fruition until the close of 1966, when it did the attractions were in the order of Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Fairport Convention, The Who, Jeff Beck, Little Richard, The Bee Gees, Traffic, and more often than not one of The Beatles - but only as an audience member, not as a performer. Along with this ragbag of no-hopers you might also be able to see Pink Floyd, who only actually played here a couple of times. But there's a lasting legacy from one of these visits in the form of some pictures of the band, not in performance but lounging around a grand piano, which itself is in front of what looks like a safety curtain, on which is a big painting of a country house and its garden. Or that's what the picture's caption said, anyway. Sunday nights at the Saville, although popular, were brought to an early end by Epstein's death and the building returned to being a theatre once again, only finding its current role as a cinema after an extensive conversion in 1970.
Carry on left down Shaftesbury Avenue towards Cambridge Circus and the giant Palace Theatre (which used to be home to the musical 'Spamalot', a remix of the film 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' which Pink Floyd helped to finance in 1975), but pause just before you reach it and glance over to your left. Over there you'll see....
2 Earlham Street (lat: 51°30'48.37"N long: 0°
1966 Syd Barrett lived at number 2, sharing the flat with its owner,
Peter Wynne-Wilson (the Floyd's oil light
projectionist at the time), and Syd could be found right at the
top in the attic room. Conditions were fairly basic; according to some
reports, at one time Barrett had little more than a bed, a guitar, a
single clothes rail and a few shirts/trousers to his name. Presumably
he was too bohemian for socks and underpants. Nevertheless, it was here
that most of the songs that
Barrett recorded with Pink Floyd were written. "He'd sit
around with copious amounts of hash and grass and write these
incredible songs," Peter recalled. Peter Jenner, the Floyd's
first manager, says "The strongest image I always have of Syd is of him
sitting in his flat in Earlham Street with his guitar and his book of
songs which he represented by paintings with different coloured
circles." At some stage, he was joined by his latest girlfriend Lindsay
Corner. Alas, by April the follwing year Syd had moved to 101 Cromwell
Road in Earl's Court, and further into drugged delirium. Nowadays
number 2 has been demolished and rebuilt, or not demolished but had
its frontage rebricked and is currently a newsagents which, might I
say, actually stocks Coca-Cola made in England as opposed to Northern
Germany or Bratislavia. It's not relevant in the slightest, but it's
noting as Bratislavan Coke tastes like English Coke does after it's
in direct sunlight for three weeks with the lid off.
building *was* demolished, and the new one as seen here was put up
about 20 years ago. Architecturally it didn't look all that dissimilar
to the pub next door though. The newsagents don't stock English Coke
anymore either. Pah.....**
8/4/07......I've been told that
this place, or more accurately the flat when it was both standing and
Syd was living in it, had a purple front door. Obviously it hasn't
anymore (unless you want to do a bit of DIY terrorism overnight on the
yellow with a tin of Dulux), but as it's apparently a quite well known
fact to everybody but me, I just thought I'd mention it. For this
information I'm indebted to Ellie, who should be out there doing the
tour as I type these words at four minutes to six in the
evening......so thanks very much!**
tried to take another picture here too, but some arsehole had set up
his stall right in front of it. It hasn't changed that much
though, so don't worry.**
05/11.....Well, it's still a newsagents - but it doesn't have
the black sign over the windows and doorway anymore. Just thought I'd
Despite the administrators being called in at
the end of June 2007, just
behind you still lives a branch of Fopp's music/video
shop. Presumably some kind of rescue package proved viable, or it
would've long since gone. Anyway, this branch bears the distinction of
being Nick Mason's last
London port of call on his book signing tour to promote 'Inside Out' in
2004. Nobody else seems to have explicitly acknowleged it, but I reckon
chose this small outlet because it was within a gnat's
chuff of Syd Barrett's old place. I did actually make an attempt to put
it to Mason on the day, but traffic carnage meant I arrived there ten
minutes after he left. Bugger.....
a bit further along to Cambridge Circus itself, and *just* past the pub
take a very sharp left into West Street. Walk down to the end, and turn
around. What you should see is this:
|The Ivy (lat:
51°30'46.09"N long: 0° 7'41.00"W)
This restaurant is where the worlds of celebrity and culinary excellence collide on a daily basis. Around 90 years ago, a pair of Italians opened a little cafe which proved popular with the surrounding thespian contingent working at the numerous theatres nearby. The cafe was christened 'The Ivy'. Apparently the name comes from an old song quoted by a regular patron, assuring one of the Italians that not even building work in the restaurant (as it had grown to be by then) would keep her away. "We will always come to see you, we will cling together like the ivy." A lovely tale, no doubt; still, I'd have preferred it if they'd stolen the name from someone's great-grandmother instead. Even if it does sound like an old woman, The Ivy continues to enjoy the patronage of everybody you've ever seen or heard of, some you haven't who are even more powerful than the ones you have, and every now and again when their reservation finally comes up after a wait of a few years, the average man or woman on the street who's been saving for the occasion. The place looks comically small on the outside but is apparently comfortable inside, the food is variously very poor, adequate or amongst the world's best depending on who you believe, the prices are equally variable according to opinion (tending towards larcenous) and even if you're not going inside, you'll probably be quite amused by the hordes of paparazzi fightng outside for the best position every night. So given what we now know about The Ivy, I'm awarding no points whatsoever if you guess that Pink Floyd have passed by and sampled the delights within. One particular occasion was very special indeed: according to that bastion of hard global journalism Fox News, on or about the 1st July 2005 was when Gilmour, Mason, Wright and their wives sat down around a table with Waters and his partner and ate, drank and talked together for the first time in decades without recourse to legal action afterwards. In the UK, most media seemed to ignore the story completely but the Daily Mirror, if I recall, gave it the time of day. Still, days later they'd make up for it by putting coverage of their little busking session at Live 8 on every available sheet of paper in the world.
If you've finished star-gazing, or been moved on by police, walk round the other side of the restaurant along Litchfield Street, turn right at the end down Charing Cross Road, past the Palace Theatre again and left into Moor Street. This'll run into Old Compton Street and not far away on the right is a totally different eating experience....
Pollo Restaurant/Bar (lat: 51°30'49.06"N long: 0°
an area of Soho associated
with the gay community, at number 20 a cafe/bar called Pollo
can be seen. This was one of Syd Barrett's favourite haunts
before the ill-fated move to Cromwell Road, according to amp-f's very
own (well, until he left) Angus Mair. So there. Syd would apparently
spend hours here with Lindsay Corner, plus Peter
Jenner and his girlfriend Susie Gawler-Wright, playing the Oriental
board game 'Go' - or do all that at Earlham Street and then come here
afterwards to recuperate via the medium of chocolate. Either way, this
mania led Syd to investigate the I-Ching, which
in turn provided some inspiration for the song 'Chapter 24' - as found
At The Gates Of Dawn'.
01/03/05** - this site has
also been closed down, much to my chagrin and that of classiccafes.co.uk, who were in the middle of writing
a book about
these places and their dwindling numbers. But like 201 Piccadilly, it's
not being knocked out of *my* townscape....
06/07** - Look everybody - it's opened up again! Apparently it's
become a branch of a
minor pizzeria chain, and seems to have continued the good food/huge
portions/reasonable price policy that made Pollo so popular for so many
decades. This means that it's extremely busy most of the
time, so don't automatically assume you can just turn up and get a
Continue onwards to the junction of Old Compton Street and Dean Street. Turn right up Dean Street, and almost immediately you'll see on the right....
The Groucho Club (lat: 51°30'47.38"N long: 0°
Now this is a bit of a speculative one, this. I think, and it's only what I think, unless someone wants to back me up, that one, some or all of the current members of Pink Floyd belong or used to belong to this establishment, which is a private club attracting artistic and media types in general. In more than one interview with the band or individual, mention has been made of the place it's taking place in, which, if not the Groucho, then something sounding remarkably like it. Of course, it may just be that the magazine uses it to impress interviewees. Or maybe the Floyd did. I don't know. I'm not wealthy, influential or a meedya tart so I can only guess at how these things work. If you don't see anyone famillar there, you'll probably see many other well-known UK celebrities at least of an evening. So make yourself comfy, and see who you can see (probably the establishment's security, telling you to move along quietly)....
In fact, now I think about it, the place I was
thinking of was probably Soho House, which is back the other way. But
06/07**- Thanks to the seemingly unlikely
source of Floyd back-up bassist Guy Pratt, he confirms that Gilmour
least had involvement with the club. Quite a bit actually - he was
apparently a founder member, off the back of which Pratt joined (or was
allowed to join) a few years later. Doubtless
many a convivial evening engaged in the pursuit of liver damage and/or
snow clearance ensued - if not by Gilmour and/or Pratt, then by a great
many other faces you know, love and admire. Go on, sue me....
09/09** - You've been able to see even less of the club than
ususal for a long old while now, because it's being refurbished. Fear
not though, for it's due to reopen this month - if you're a member.
Which you're not, are you?
Carry on the way you were going down Old Compton Street, and follow it to the end. Turn right up Wardour Street, and just after the bend in the road, on the right, you'll find the site of....
The Marquee Club (lat: 51°30'45.94"N long: 0°
90 is one of the former locations of
the Marquee, coming after the Oxford Street one and before it moved to
Charing Cross Road. Known
far and wide for being the Soho sweatbox in which every group played
except The Beatles, it was on the 30th January 1966 that the
Spontaneous Underground began. Organised by Steve Stollman, a
newly-landed American in his early twenties, he rapidly connected
himself with the emerging underground scene by way of Better Books on
Charing Cross Road, a haven of couterculture literature run by Barry
Miles. Making their
debut on either the 30th of January, 27th of February or even the 13th
or 30th March (precise memories are predictably cloudy) and
as Pink Floyd Sound, they started to earn their
reputation as the
underground band, playing excruciatingly
loud and extended covers of songs from, amongst others, Chuck Berry,
Geno Washington, Booker T & The MG's and the Rolling Stones. They
were supposedly present at the Spontaneous Underground nine times, and
luckily on the last occasion - the 12th June - a college lecturer
called Peter Jenner was in the audience. He was bored with the day job,
had wider ambutions to be a band manager along with his friends John
Hopkins and American Elektra Records executive Joe Boyd, and on seeing
the Pink Floyd Sound he knew he had to have them. After apparently
getting their contact details from Stollman, he wasted no time and made
his approach. But the band had
other ideas and went on
holiday instead, as they weren't even sure whether this music thing was
worth the candle. So he pestered them again a few months later, after
having lost John Hopkins's interest along the way and drafting in
another friend - Andrew King, who brought free time to the table
(mainly because he too was bored with the day job and jacked it in)
plus money in the form of an inheritance. Armed with this, Jenner
convinced the band and thus became their first manager, albeit
haphazardly at first because he was still teaching until October '66.
Blackhill Enterprises was born, and gets a thorough seeing to on
another part of this hideous website. Despite dropping out John
had been to America and
came back inspired to open a sort of community centre in Notting Hill -
the London Free School in March '66 which is where Pink Floyd Sound
graduated to after the Spontaneous
Underground folded in June. In case you think I'd forgotten him, Joe
Boyd's admittedly short-lived role in the partnership was yet to
flourish, but his time would
soon come once the band began to hanker for a recording contract - and
go again with indecent haste once they'd been signed by EMI. Still,
returning to the Marquee, nowadays the black archway
with the striped piping on the right - the original entrance to the
club - is the entrance to the Soho Lofts apartments, and where the main
floorspace of the venue once was is now used as an exclusive restaurant
of Sir Terence Conran's, Mezzo.
3/11/04 - Sod all to do with the
Floyd, but if you were hoping to get some food or a drink at Mezzo
while you were there, then be warned that it's not Mezzo anymore. It's
now called Meza apparently, Spanish in theme, and the service is by
accounts dismal even at quieter times of the day. I suppose that's *me*
banned from the premises for a lunchtime paella then....**
01/08 - It's not even Mezo these days either, but I've forgotten
the name under which it currently disappoints....**
Walk up Wardour Street in the direction of Oxford
Street, and fifth turning on the left is Noel Street. Along here is....
|Pink Floyd Music Publishers (lat:
51°30'54.65"N long: 0° 8'8.53"W)
Feeling peckish yet? Why not have a bite to eat at Caffe Tosca, who'll presumably fulfill your every need so long as it's not something outrageous like a stuffed camel? In truth though, they're not the main attraction as the heading above implies; this is where Pink Floyd Music Publishers have their office, in the UK at least. Through the lattice gates is the portal to their abode, denoted by words writ small on the glass. So if anybody reading this has songbooks, tablature books, etc. and wondered what the Neal Street building it lists as the relevant address looks like, now you know. Even if your musical ability stretches no further than farting the National Anthem, they're well worth seeking out because they often include photographs and/or interviews unavailable anywhere else. And no, I won't hear a word about such an office being so close to a source of food to quell the pangs of David Gilmour, nor will I stand for any comments referring to the operatic qualities of the cafe's name and the less than operatic ability of Roger Waters' uniquely-strained larynx either. So there. We could make it three in a row if you dropped the 'c' in Tosca and replaced it with another 's', but I'll leave it up to you as to who you want to lambast with that particular misspelt insult.....
Now, backtrack along Noel Street, turn right into Wardour Street and on the left you should, after a bit, find St. Anne's Court. Go down here, noting as you do that Trident Studios - the first independent sixteen-track facility in the UK - used to be here, and when you reach the end turn left down Dean Street. Take a right up Carlisle Street, and this will plonk you in Soho Square. At number one is MPL Communications, Paul McCartney's company offices, but we won't worry about that. Instead we'll leave the square by way of Greek Street, and then go left up Manette Street. This'll lead us out onto Charing Cross Road, and almost directly opposite on the other side of the road is Denmark Street. Along its short length used to live.....well, everybody really. Let's have a look.....
(lat: 51°30'54.60"N long: 0° 7'45.08"W)
Well, here we are in Tin Pan Alley, the legendary few metres of road which were essentially the epicentre of the British music industry from the 1940's right up until the '60's. Back then it was where most record labels or publishers had their headquarters; nowadays it's full of instrument shops containing even more guitars than David Gilmour's got at home. If these places haven't sidetracked you *too* much, Number 6 is the closest you'll likely come to the former working space of Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell's creative headquarters. They began Hipgnosis in 1968 while still students at the Royal College of Art, and elected to keep going after their studies were over - mainly because they needed the feeble sums of money they made to keep a roof over their heads. However, having completed their studies, they couldn't use the facilities at the college anymore and so were forced to use Powell's bathroom for half a year. Not being the ideal environment for a photographic studio, they desperately looked for somewhere else and set up shop here in February 1970. Initially it looked less than inviting, but they had to admit it was better suited than Powell's cramped bathtub. Being Cambridge friends from way back, Pink Floyd would prove vital clients in the early years; although Hipgnosis's first commission for them was the cover for 'A Saucerful Of Secrets' in 1968 (done in the bathroom), 'Atom Heart Mother' and 'Meddle' followed after the company came to Denmark Street. Gradually their reputation spread, but it did little for the finances. Writing about the early years, in 1977 Thorgerson said "For five years we earned very little but did progessively more and more work." And work they did, providing Pink Floyd with 'Dark Side Of The Moon', 'A Nice Pair' and 'Wish You Were Here', plus things like Led Zeppelin's 'Houses Of The Holy', Genesis's 'Lamb Lies Down On Broadway' and much more besides for the Pretty Things. Peter Frampton, 10cc, Peter Gabriel, the Rolling Stones and various other bands I've never seen or heard of in the first place. This influx of custom meant that by the mid '70's Hipgnosis had expanded to use two floors, taking the pictures on the first and having the artwork room, office and reception on the second. Apparently the whole place looked like a bombsite throughout at the best of times, or if not that bad then very untidy. They even kept up the well-worn student habit of using their handbasin as a latrine, seeing as the actual toilet was on a different floor entirely and often locked. Christ knows what they did if they needed to play the long game. Shat in a wastepaper basket, probably. All of this, however, was as of nothing compared to their short-lived neighbours and what they got up to. They were a quartet of noisy ne'er-do-wells who called themselves the Sex Pistols, festering and rehearsing in a small brick-built thing next to Hipgnosis's studios. Apparently the two factions were always passing each other in the slim alleyway hidden out the back, but "They were always very nice boys" acccording to Powell. They'd have been acquainted much longer had they been able to pay their rent, but they couldn't and so moved onwards and upwards to nationwide disgust, disapproval and loathing by Daily Mail readers everywhere. That's the Pistols obviously, not Hipgnosis - athough even some of their designs gave record company executives the odd bout of cardiotachia over the years. I suppose I'd better elaborate on why you'll probably come no closer than I did in the picture: all of this graphic action genuinely took place at the back of the building, in what might as well have been completely separate quarters to the shop in front of you. Access was presumably afforded through the arched green doorway hiding behind the lamp-post on the left, but I don't know. The ground-floor shop, Vintage and Rare Guitars, has always been shut when I passed by so I couldn't ask them anything either. A tour of the Pistols' place is provided on their latest DVD, which gives one a taste of their bit if not Hipgnosis's. A crew from Granada TV did film Thorgerson and his team here for a programme called 'So It Goes' in 1974, but I don't think it was ever rebroadcast in Britain or elsewhere for that matter. Still, look on Google Earth with the coordinates I've provided, zoom in, take a screengrab, do a large gamma correction in your image editor of choice and you'll see some likely-looking suspects sticking out from the back....
Obviously you'll have to wait until you get home for that. Our ceaseless march continues, a muscle-aching, thigh-crunching, patella-grinding, metatarsal-snapping, toe-stubbing, morale-sapping neverending distance of ten metres or so up the road to this place here.....
|Regent Sound Studios (lat:
51°30'55.17"N long: 0° 7'45.27"W)
Now I suppose I've cheated a bit, because this place has nothing to do with Pink Floyd. It was however where many other people chose to record, because Regent Sound was popular and inexpensive. Among the bands destined to make it big who recorded early, if not their first sessions here were The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and Genesis - whose sessions were financed by Jonathon King, former pop impresario and currently a convicted paedophile. Among the bands partly financed by King and destined *not* to make it big were David Gilmour's first proper band, Jokers Wild, who recorded a six track mini-album in 1965 out of their own wallet. King, who had contacts with the Decca record label, heard it and auditioned the band at Decca's studios in Broadhurst Gardens in west Hampstead. Liking what he heard (or maybe even what he saw, knowing what we know now) he bankrolled a further session here at Regent Sound which resulted in a cover of Sam and Dave's 'You Don't Know What Love Is' and Otis Redding's 'That's How Strong My Love Is', as the Jokers' proposed debut release with Decca. Or it would have been had the numerous British pirate radio stations around at the time not come across the original Sam and Dave number, which swiftly saw it being properly released as a single in the UK. So that was the end of the Jokers' wild dreams of chart action. Gilmour wouldn't have to wait much longer afterwards for another crack at stardom though. When Regent Sound closed, it eventually found further fame as Helter Skelter, a musical bookshop considered to be at least the best in London, and maybe even the country. Or it was until it closed down and became an online retailer instead. Their publishing arm heroically reissued the original 1991 edition of the for-a-long-time definitive Floyd biography, Nicholas Schaffner's 'Echoes - The Pink Floyd Odyessy'. Sometime in the early millenium, the building reverted to being Regent Sound once more, outwardly if not inside. Last time I was at the bookshop (when it *was* a bookshop, anyway) they had a genuine UFO poster - I can't describe it, but it's the yellow and red one which *everybody* knows - for the tidy sum of £225. Or 255, one or the other. I can't remember. Let's face it, if you're seriously in the market for one then thirty quid more's no great loss. Still, it was an appropriate poster for them to have, because guess where we're going now?
Oh yes. Go back up to Charing Cross Road, turn right, and on the left-hand side behind a load of scaffolding at last report used to live the Astoria - not Gilmour's floating studio, but a much-loved live music venue built on the site of an old pickle factory, which subsequently got flattened to make way for Tottenham Court Road Underground station's rebuilding/expansion. But wouldn't you know it, though - Gilmour even played there in 1990, when 'Jools Holland's Happening' was recorded within. He apparently performed 'Such A Night', 'Movin' On' and 'Wide Eyed And Legless' in the company of Andy Fairweather-Low. Despite the relative youth of the occasion, it seems to be one of the most elusive bits of footage he's ever appeared in owing to its initial broadcast on an obscure satellite channel that nearly nobody could recieve, much less watch even if it wanted to. Although repeated on Channel 4 two years hence (after the original TV station that made the show, BSB, died), it might have drawn more attention had it not been flung across the airwaves in the middle of the bloody night. Since then BSB's output has largely been wiped, lost or otherwise binned so the chances are it'll never be seen again unless enterprising production staff or featured artists requested copies off the master tapes. Maybe something'll turn up after Gilmour dies.... that aside, interestingly one could also draw a fairly direct line - quite literally in fact - between the acid house club nights the Astoria used to host in the late Eighties and what used to go on down Tottenham Court Road in the mid-sixties. Young men and women dressed weirdly, dancing deliriously in the street, frolicking in the fountains at the base of the Centre Point tower....joyous abandon all round. The only difference was that whereas the police in 1967 knew exactly what was going on, for some reason they didn't know what to make of it in 1988 and just laughed at the gaiety of it all. Well, you know what they say about policemen: three stripes, they can read and write. Two stripes, they can read or write, and one stripe? They know someone who can read or write....at the crossroads with Oxford Street go straight over into Tottenham Court Road. Or if you prefer, you can plunge into the subway and through the subterranean horror of the tube station, passing what I assume are the contemporary versions of the payphones Bob Klose allegedly fired Chris Dennis from way back in 1965. Once you're back up at street level and on Tottenham Court Road proper, keep walking. After a bit of a trek past any number of electrical stores with endless paraphernalia both you and I covet but can't afford, up ahead on the left you'll see the former site of....
The UFO Club (lat: 51°31'6.42"N long: 0°