|You again? Have you just
come here having seen the desperate invitation on the South and West's
page, or from the uninviting list that's over there on the left? Hope
so, as none of this'll make any sense whatsoever if you've
not. If you haven't, then you might do better to start here
and say to
yourself "Fuck that," and do something worthwhile instead. But if
not, then you'll begin to regret it pretty soon....
Assuming you've followed my directions (in every sense of the word), you ought to be standing outside Kensington Olympia with the Grand Hall either in front of you or to your left, and the railway tracks on the right. Ok? Good. Time for some more walking. Quite a lot, actually. Stop moaning - you *wanted* to do this, remember? So shut up. Proceed forwards along what is apparently called Olympia Way, past the little railway station on your right and bear round to the left joining Maclise Road. Not for long though, as I want you to then take Sinclair Road on the right. Remember I said you've got some serious walking to do? Oh yes. Get going then, and stop when you come up to numbers 45-53 on the left. These used to be....
Here in the depths of the sleepy-ish urban no-man's land between Olympia and Shepherd's Bush, this building (or collection of buildings) used to be Nomis Studios - a facility used by many great, good, middling and absolutely dreadful groups and solo acts for mainly rehearsal purposes since its opening in late 1980. Being an extension of pop svengali Simon Napier-Bell's publishing/management interests, interestingly he let someone called David Panton become it's owner only a couple of months later. Panton only initially visited Nomis to see what it could offer for a band he was managing at the time - and by ways unknown ended up with the whole bloody toybox. Odd. Panton didn't rest easily on his newly acquired pile though, immediately refurbishing the place over the next eighteen months. Napier-Bell couldn't have made that much effort to begin with, obviously. But it certainly did the job, with bookings rising from 30 to 80% capacity thereafter. By the mid-80's Nomis had been squatted in by such barrel-scrapings as Dire Straits, Tina Turner, Status Quo, The Police, The Style Council, George Benson, Wham!, Culture Club and Duran Duran. By late 1985, Nomis had undergone *another* refit and now offered ten rehearsal rooms of varying sizes, twelve fully-functional office suites, twenty-six high security storage cages in the basement and an extensive range of equpiment hire - but not much to speak of in the way of being a proper *recording* studio. That didn't stop them from renaming the place The Complex though. Realising this was perhaps an unwise exercise, they then laid plans for a 48-track analogue/digital studio with a control room which was promised to be one of the biggest in London. Much like evey other studio I've directed you to, in fact. In any case I never saw it so it's academic. Despite having an apparent stranglehold on the rehearsal room market and a fair slice of the pie on the recording studio front, by the mid-2000's things were getting complex for The Complex. At some stage it reverted to being called Nomis again after being sold or acquired a number of times, finally ending up in the hands of the Sanctuary Music Group - who eventually went down the pan too. Or perhaps had to sell off Nomis to realise it's propery value, or something. I'd imagine it was all very boring unless you were directly affected. I suppose we are in a small way, because whatever happened was bad enough for Nomis to close down for good in the late 2000's. Lately the place was the subject of an attempt to convert the buildings into student accommodation for those attending Imperial College university, but enough objections were raised by surrounding residents for the plan to fall through. So, what's going to become of the complex formerly known as Nomis? I don't know. What you still don't know yet is why you're here in the first place, do you? Well, it would seem that one day's worth of rehearsals for the 1989 charity project 'Rock Aid Armenia' were held here, which featured David Gilmour - although I'm not certain whether he attended, having other business to deal with like a six-day stint with Pink Floyd at the London Arena at the same time. So, let's look elsewhere: Roger Waters was asked to take part in a concert in Spain called the (don't laugh) 'Guitar Legends Festival' on October the 18th, 1991. He put together a backing band featuring the usual suspects like Andy Fairweather-Low, Snowy White and Graham Broad plus the unlikely addition of Bruce Hornsby for occasional vocals. Why? No idea, but that's just the way it is. Or was. They played a selection of old but choice cuts from 'The Wall' and 'Dark Side', plus a new song: 'What God Wants', a preview from his then forthcoming album of jovial party tunes, 'Amused To Death'. It was all filmed, broadcast and suitably archived by bootleggers across the world - and here at Nomis was where they rehearsed the set. They cut it fine though - apparently they did the run through only two days prior to showtime, before flying out to Seville and doing it for real. Waters showed his usual good grace by moaning about Jeff Beck not being there, and supposedly refused to take part in an after-show jam session with other artists on the bill too. Tosser. Nomis had a part to play of some kind for Amnesty International's 'Big 3-0' show, broadcast in December '91 - but I don't know what exactly. At a wild guess I'd say Gilmour drilled his band and guest stars into shape here before setting off for Nottingham to record the show properly, but as I say it's just a guess. Incidentally, just about everybody in Queen used to live on the other side of Sinclair Road at number 36 in the early 70's. Perhaps that's why Brian May liked using Nomis a lot too....
Bored yet? You can carry on if you want, maybe glancing down Hofland Road on the left to see the loading/unloading bay which big trucks, small vans or anybody else with related freight used to pick up or drop off at. That also included any asset-strippers who've presumably taken any valuable equpiment away in case other wily and enterprising scum has it away with millions' worth of high-end recording gear. So, carry on down Sinclair Road, evading suspicious glances from residents who thought they'd finally got rid of sightseers when Nomis closed. Go straight on at the crossroads with Addison Gardens, following into Sinclair Gardens. If you can see something big lurking behind the hosues on your right, don't lose sight of it - it's part of our next stop. When Sinclair Gardens runs out at the junction with Richmond Way, turn right and not very far along you ought to see this:
Not a million miles away from the Shepherd's Bush Empire (coming up, don't worry), hidden down a residential back street, lived the premises of the BBC's Transcription Services Studios. The Transcription Service was, by and large, entirely responsible for taking all kinds of material recorded by or for the BBC, and pressing it onto vinyl for distribution throughout the world. So if you've ever been to a record fair perhaps, and happened by an old radio transcription disc of one of Pink Floyd's BBC sessions (or anybody's, come to that), chances are that it was made in the building to your right. Although the UK's radio output was largely mono at the time, demand for stereo programmes, particularly from America, meant that a suitably equipped studio was built here to cater for such markets. It usually took a feed from whatever other places the bands recorded their sessions in, taped it in stereo and pressed up the discs for export. Sometimes though, instead of using another BBC facility, studio or theatre, the artists would come in and record a session here. That's what Syd Barrett did, recording his last-ever radio session on the 16th February, 1971. A rather short affair, it consisted of only three songs: 'Baby Lemonade', 'Dominoes' and 'Love Song'. Not long afterwards, it was broadcast on BBC Radio One's 'Sounds Of The Seventies', hosted by Bob Harris, on 1st March at six in the evening. The BBC moved out in the mid-1990's, and the current inhabitants are the K West hotel who (according to their website) aim to bring a taste of New York SoHo style to Shepherd's Bush. Well, best of British luck, anyway. Not having stayed there or even infiltrated the bar, I don't know if they've got any bits of memorabilia left over from the BBC days nailed to the walls. You could always try for me....
Now, assuming you've given the bar a miss or been turfed out unceremoniously by security, up ahead you might see a pub on the right. Once when I came this way I passed by a full-on fist fight outside, strolling by as noncholantly as I was able, making no eye contact whatsoever in case I became part of it. So to save you from that, I want you to instead head over to the left and Charecroft Way. This is little more than a service road for the Shepherd's Bush Centre, a shopping/cinema/amusements precinct of sorts which on this side at least has little to commend it. Actually, the last time I went inside properly I wasn't all that struck by the front or interior either. It's academic, for once you've reached the end and the junction with Rockley Road you need to a)spare a thought for those poor sods who live on the left-hand side of Charecroft Way and what they've got to look at from their front windows, and b)turn right down Rockley Road. Follow it all the way down to the loud, busy one-way sound of carnage that is Shepherd's Bush Green. Would it thrill you to know that this neighbourhood has produced more successful bands per square foot than anywhere else in the British Isles? No, me neither. At the bottom of Rockley, turn right and plonk yourself down at bus stop 'F' for a well-deserved rest. As we're here, remind yourself of a little rumour you might have heard: did Syd Barrett lift the riff for 'Interstellar Overdrive' from the signature tune for the BBC sitcom 'Steptoe and Son'? Dates and times don't seem to match, but it was nigh-on half a century ago so don't lose any sleep. I only mention it because 'Steptoe and Son' was set in a fictional decrepit scrapyard, somewhere in ....Shepherd's Bush. When either a (283) or a (295) turn up, get aboard and take a seat. Once you're on and it's set off, as the bus approaches the traffic lights and junction for Shepherd's Bush Road, keep an eye out on the right for what's across the way - yes, it's the delight of Shepherd's Bush Empire - and yes, we're going to miss it. For now. We've got to come back this way in any case, so don't worry too much. The bus will, if your driver's compus mentis, strike off left down Shepherd's Bush Road and take you along some unremarkable metres of Victorian solidity, mostly independent shops, restaurants, takeaways, or housing. After a time you'll approach Brook Green, which is quite a nice little area these days apparently - or in other words, expensive to live in. As it's name implies, you'll pass by a green on your left on which the inhabitants picnic, fly kites, play cricket or luxuriate on benches. The rest drink strong lager, smoke whatever's going round the manor at the time and stab each other to death. At the distant side of Brook Green itself used to live a gigantic factory complex owned by Lyons, the cake/biscuit makers - and where I suspect some scenes for the film of 'The Wall' were shot (insofar as we know for a fact that an old biscuit factory in Hammersmith was used, and Lyons was the only one around). Most of that was torn down decades ago so there's nothing much to see anymore. If however you can look out of the windows on the right though, you might spot a branch of Tesco's hiding over the way along with Access Storage Solutions. If you can, try and spot what's on the roof of Tesco's. It's a copper dome, with the word 'Osram' writ large beneath. Decades ago both Access and Tesco's used to be home to the Osram Lighting Factory, which made all kinds of bulbs, tubes, fixtures and fittings for both the home and industry. Does it have any relevance to Pink Floyd? I don't know. They might have made some lights that they used in the past, even if it was for their homes and offices as opposed to stage shows. But the Osram Factory *does* appear in a band-related book.....just. Still, we'll worry about that in a bit. Currently you're still on the bus, and by now should have passed the Fire Station on the right. Not very long at all after that the electric mistress will intone that Hammersmith Library's coming up - so ring the bell and get off. Wait until the bus has got out of the way and look over the other side of the road. You'll see a derelict building there, flanked by a pub on the right and what used to be a fire station on the left. So what's this borderline-relevant place then? It used to be the Hammersmith Palais, yet another venue whose virtues have passed into legend and folklore. It opened in 1910 and has variously served time as a roller-skating rink, a dance hall, an ice rink, a dance hall (again), live music (early rock n'roll, punk, reggae or Asian) and was the home of the notorious 'School Disco' club nights in the late 1990's. Only fractionally more ludicrous was Elton John nearly failing to make it through the doors when he chose it as the venue for his 50th birthday party, having uncharacteristically chosen a costume so voluminous and ungainly he needed to be delivered on the back of a truck just to get there. During the Palais's days as a live music venue it obviously played host to many post-war bands and artistes you've never even heard of and some you definitely have. I'll leave you to discover the litany of infamy yourself by searching on Google or somesuch.
Anyway, you still don't know why you're here though, do you? Well, if you've not moved appreciably from when you got off the bus, look back down Shepherd's Bush Road and see if it stirs any memories. No? It's understandable if you don't remember a bloody thing. Certainly this stretch of road never appeared in a Pink Floyd promotional video, nor in any album artwork. Song books however.....see if you can get hold of the book for 'The Final Cut' (easily done on the web), and find the double-page spread for the song 'Paranoid Eyes'. Standing pretty much where the photographer was, are you not? Alright, so there's no adverts for Courage Best or some record or another over the road, nor is something looking like a Monty Python Pepperpot woman about to walk past. Nor will any approaching buses look like the one featured, and nowadays they certainly won't be sporting adverts for cigars - but never mind. Towards the back of the picture you can also see what used to be the Osram factory I droned on about earlier, and.....that's about it really. I still don't know *why* they decided this place should be featured, but there you go. Right, now this is where it gets complicated. Turn 180 degrees and walk up the road towards Hammersmith Broadway, the big noisy junction up ahead. There should be some traffic lights somewhere at the end, and if you can use them to get over on the right to where that big red London Transport symbol thing on a pillar is that'd be useful. Once you're there, plunge maniacally into what's essentially a schizophrenic hybrid of tube station (underneath), shopping centre (ground level) and bus station (upstairs?). For those of you who know me, my online moniker and where it came from, this place is a kind of temple. Get the titles for 'Bottom' up on YouTube, and all *might* become clear. Or not. Anyway, wander through the shopping centre, keeping a lookout for signs dangling from the ceiling directing you to the next port of call. With any luck you'll come out of the shopping centre and see a pedestrian crossing waiting for you and a big elevated road above. Once you've crossed over and ducked underneath the flyover, you'll probably recognise the lower flanks of this building below....
*Update - 1/1/12* you mightn't be able to go under the flyover as I've detailed above; it's just been discovered that crucial pre-stressed concrete supports have fractured sufficiently to expose the steel within and corrode it to buggery. So I can't guarantee you'll be able to pass under the flyover as I described above. But they do promise it'll be open for business again before the Olympics. So that's alright then....
Another solid mainstay of rock n' roll London, the 3,500-seat premises formerly and most famously known as the Hammersmith Odeon - but built and opened in 1932 as a cinema under the name of the Gaumont Palace - has seen comparitively little of Pink Floyd and a great deal of everybody else, be they musical, comedic, cinematic or theatrical. Plunder the web for further details, and don't blame me if you get swamped in them. Having said that, it is in the position of having been the London venue for David Gilmour's 'About Face' tour for just three nights in 1984. Fortunately for us at least one of those nights was filmed, recorded and subsequently released on video, featuring special guests Roy Harper and Nick Mason. Unfortunately for us, the tape that emerged was nowhere near the whole show and due to what was called "lack of commercial interest" it was never actually issued for the UK market. So ironically Brits had to go to America to get a copy, which was deemed worthy of being able to buy it if it so chose. Of course it's long since been deleted and there's no plans for a DVD reissue, so we're stuffed unless we trade for a copy (as one did in the old days), go bittorrenting for a month solid or manage to scoop up a genuine original VHS issue with the shrink-wrap still on it from somewhere like eBay. That's what I did, and so I'd like to thank Jocelyn here and now for letting me have it at such a knock-down, bargain basement, one-copy only, once-it's-gone-it's-gone price. And she's a lovely girl to boot. So there. Any other connections to Pink Floyd are tenuous at best, comprising of either Roger Waters or Gilmour turning up to see someone else - like Neil Young, John Lee Hooker, Gary Moore and Van Morrison, all of whom have been enjoyed by one or the other. Things only improved slightly in 2001 when Gilmour took part in the Leiber and Stoller gala tribute concert here, plaintively croaking away to their ballad 'Don't' which was included not only on the event's subsequently-issued video/DVD, but also as a bonus extra on Gilmour's self-titled 2002 video/DVD too. Going back even further than Gilmour's 1984 shows, Nick Mason bumped into disc jockey Nick Horne here in the mid-70's, from which would eventually emerge Capital Radio's sprawling six-part 1977 documentary on Pink Floyd. It was largely a PR exercise which would have been rounded off by Horne playing the even newer-than-new 'Animals' album in full, but in the event John Peel and the BBC got there a day or two before him. Most tenuously of all, comedic actor Nigel Planer's enduring character 'Neil the Hippy' played a farewell gig here in 1984 and *might* have performed a cover of Syd Barrett's 'The Gnome'. But then again he might not. I was only eight years old at the time, so I wasn't there. But I don't want things to get heavy, alright? Curiously, the building has long been a favourite venue for live albums and performance videos to be recorded and/or filmed in - quite possibly more so than any other in London. Why? I don't know. Do you? Let me in on it if you do.....
**Update - early January or thereabouts** Apparently a Douglas Adams tribute show is to take place here later in the year (March 11th), and the musical highlight and headlining act is rumoured (if not more or less confirmed outright) to be a band which last played in Adams's living room in Duncan Terrace, not all that far away from Britannia Row on the occasion of his 50th birthday. Said band featured a shy, retiring lad called David on guitar, and so......apparently there's *definitely* going to be footage of Adams playing with Pink Floyd at their penultimate night in 1994 at Earls Court shown. Whether or not it'll surface legitimately or otherwise afterwards, who knows.....?
**Update - 12/3/12* Well, not unsurprisingly he *was* there, along with 'er indoors and unidentified children (theirs, obviously). Clad in his customary funereal black, he played 'Wish You Were Here' and the Chuck Berry number 'Too Much Monkey Business'. He also then did his bit for the final number, 'A Whiter Shade Of Pale', featuring a solo which by all reports fitted in very nicely indeed. Then everyone took a bow, repaired backstage for drinks and nibbles, and then went home safe in the knowledge it was a job well done. Nobody mentioned the Earls Court footage though, so perhaps they decided against....
So that's that done with. All you've got to do now is go back, retracing your steps all the way through the shopping centre until you come out where you first went in, reaching daylight once more. This time though I want you to scan the horizon for a little tube station made of brick over the way in a leftish direction. Negotiate the crossings and lights with skill, ingenuity, verve and panache until you're safely over, into the station and on a train. This is the start of the Hammersmith and City line (appropriately enough, the pink one on the tube map) and although it *was* a fiasco to get to, we're only going for one stop. As it goes you might realise it's following an adjacent path to Shepherd's Bush Road that we came along about twenty minutes ago. When it dumps you at Goldhawk Road station, get off and go down to street level. Turn left and make your way along Goldhawk Road, which annoyingly seems not to have any safe places to cross over to the other side. But cross over we must at some stage, and unless you want to make a run for it our earliest opportunity will be a bit further along at the junction with Titmuss Street (no giggling) over on the right. So even though it's annoying, take advantage of it and carry on up Goldhawk Road. Not too long after that, you cross over St.Stephen's Street and see one end of our next port of call - the former site of Townhouse Studios. If you want you can stay at this end, but if you carry on up Goldhawk to the next turning on the left - Godolphin Road - the rest of Townhouse will be revealed.....
So here we have what used to be another dreadfully well-appointed studio facility, frequented by all those global superstars you've had records by since you were old enough to go out on your own. It opened in for business in 1978, having previously served as Goldhawk Film Sound Studios who presumably dubbed movie soundtracks. Virgin beardie Richard Branson decided to buy the place from Goldhawk and instructed his team, who'd not long rebuilt his Manor Studios in Oxfordshire, to make this place nothing short of superb. It featured just two studios initially, overseen by a staff of twelve and cost close to a million to do up. That's probably why even back then Townhouse charged about 85 quid an hour to use, which was fairly crippling at the time. Indeed it was initially regarded as a bit of an oddity, especially studio two. Most clients and indeed staff preferred working in studio one. Perhaps it was the relatively bizarre concept of studio two that got people; it was essentially made of stone, which came from Virgin's Manor Studios rebuild. This rather handily lent it the same kind of acoustics you might have otherwise found in old churches or castles, which (if you could afford it) was a unique selling point apart from anything else. Not many could, and so it looked like studio two and indeed Townhouse as a whole might founder reasonably soon after opening. However it struggled on, and found a saviour in 1980 in the diminutively unlikely form of Phil Collins who recorded his first solo album 'Face Value' within. Ever wondered how he got that drum sound for 'In The Air Tonight'? You bash the shit out of them in a stone room, that's how. Not only did it finally get studio two properly going, it also got other studios around the world interested in stone cladding to replicate the Townhouse sound. Between then and the mid 1990's the place finally flourished with clients such as Stevie Wonder, Prince, Frank Zappa, the Sex Pistols, The Jam, Queen, Elton John (straight after Diana's funeral no less), Bob Dylan, Oasis and Blur. For some reason or another Townhouse was acquired in 1992 by EMI, who then sold it to the Sanctuary Group in 2002. As we know already, Sanctuary overreached themselves, closing the main studios in 2006 (but not the mastering block, which was connected to Godolphin's bit by dint of the studios spanning the length of all the shops and flats along Goldhawk Road, albeit tucked behind them). Townhouse briefly fully reopened a year later, seeing an encouraging flow of great, good, middling or pitiful clientele but Sanctuary swiftly lost the plot themselves thereafter. The Universal Music Group leapt into the breech, paying £45million for the privilege (and taking on debts of £60million to buy out Sanctuary). Not too long afterwards, Universal themselves realised they'd made a mistake, negotiated a break in the lease arrangement with the freeholder and closed Townhouse for good in March 2008, after 30 years (mostly) at the top. Obviously Universal held an auction of all the desirable equipiment within at Townhouse itself a few months later, which made them *some* money back at least. Lately, the buildings remain and are up for sale at however many millions they wanted. I did know the price, but I've forgotten it now. The estate agents Sint & Co. have a nice website that tells you more. Still, what's Pink Floyd's claim to fame here? It's less them and more Roger Waters, who decided for whatever reason to drill his backing band into shape within in preparation for what's (probably) still the biggest concert ever staged - The Wall Live In Berlin, on the 21st of July, 1990. Obviously, what with a cast of hundreds, they couldn't *all* come down here and rehearse. I can only assume that was done on-site in Berlin, but certainly Waters and his Bleeding Heart Band did a run-through of the slightly different set that he demanded of them on or about the 2nd of May, 1990. As luck would have it (or not depending on who you are) the rehearsals leaked out somehow and are easily available in the usual places throughout cyberspace. Apparently they showcase Waters' attempts to vocally replicate the sound effects from the original album, which I fear were as good as his singing - or so I surmise, as in truth I've not heard the tapes myself. If it's anything like his occasional regional accents with which he embellishes TV and radio interviews, Christ help us all. For all those who *still* wouldn't piss on his former Floyd compatriots if they were on fire, I don't suppose you'll buy me a drink if I tell you that the man they brought in to replace him, Guy Pratt, had a little room here at Townhouse once upon a time. As I write this, England's World Cup 2010 campaign has mildly revitalised itself which is only relevant because the unofficial song of their 1998 World Cup assault, 'Vindaloo' by Fat Les, was recorded here at Townhouse Studios with Pratt having a not insubstantial hand in it's creation, amongst many other things.
**Update - 27/6/10** Hurrah! We're out of the cup, and almost exactly as I predicted too! I've always said our role was to export these games to the rest of the world, and be a bit upset when the rest of the world proves far better at them than we ever were, are, and ever will be too....
Finished? Good. Now then, what's next? An anticlimax, that's what. Start walking back the way you came down Goldhawk Road, glancing back at Townhouse's mastering block again as you cross St. Stephen's Road. Keep going, crossing Devonport Steet and Titumss Street (both of them), finally coming to a halt as you approach Lime Grove. Turn left down here, and after a short time you'll come across some more modern-looking houses which don't entirely chime with the ancient ones along the rest of the street. Hardly surprising really, as what used to be here was demolished a quarter of a century ago. But make no mistake: Pink Floyd *did* perform here, and the building in which they did so was *extraordinary*.....
No, it really was remarkable - when it still existed. Lime Grove, this narrow, innocuous side street with residental housing and (naturally enough) a closed-down public swimming pool somewhere along its length, was where the BBC decided to plonk their main television studios. Decades before that though, it was even more inexplicably where the Gaumont film company bought land between existing houses to build a studio largely made of glass in 1912 - which despite being the best in the country, wasn't very good once films had progressed to the stage where they could marry sound to the pictures. So they knocked most of it down and built a monstrous ninety-foot tall megalith which (mostly) opened in 1932 and almost certainly ruined the ambient light levels for the poor sods who lived in its wake. But in those days I don't suppose environmental planning issues were terribly important. The studios only had to be as high as they were because the railway line out the back couldn't really be moved, so the easiest way to make more floorspace was to build upwards. I suppose to be honest, the studios didn't look too bad at all - just bizarrely out of place compared to the houses either side. It made little difference - films aplenty churned out of Lime Grove regardless at the manic rate of one a month. But after the Second World War it was deemed that the studios were outdated and uneconomical for the production of celluoid entertaiments, and the owners at the time (the Rank Organisation) put them up for sale. Into the picture came the BBC, looking for somewhere to help out their elderly, cramped facilites up at Alexandra Palace. In truth they'd already bought a vast tract of land at nearby White City to build a new studio complex but owing to the size of it, it wouldn't be ready for years yet. So they bought the Lime Grove buildings to tide them over while the White City one slowly took shape. Despite being weirdly-shaped, a bit old, ramshackle and utterly decrepit in places with an internal layout that was as confusing as a maze in a hall of mirrors, they liked it so much they stayed here for another 40 years. Only in 1991 did the BBC call it a day, and two years after that it was torn down, demolished and swept away like it never existed. Many bemoaned its loss, both profesionally and historically - but being riddled with asbestos, the safer course was chosen both for the general public and the BBC's legal department. Nowadays these houses and flats occupy the site, with the only nod to what used to be here being the names of the new roads along which they lie - and even then they refer only to the pre-BBC era. Typical. Still, if you deduce with a rapier-like sharpness that Pink Floyd used to turn up here from time to time in order to allow their ugly mugs to be beamed into the homes of the nation, you wouldn't be far wrong. Their first visit here was on the 30th of March 1967, to perform (sorry, mime) debut single 'Arnold Layne' for the renowned chart show 'Top Of The Pops' in studio G. Alas, being a pre-recorded programme meant that by the time its intended transmission date came along, the single's chart placing had dropped sufficiently far to no longer qualify for inclusion in the programme. No matter, for the next time Pink Floyd came here was much better: they did 'Pow R Toc H' and 'Astronomy Domine', and presenter Hans Keller interviewed Roger Waters and Syd Barrett. As you probably already know, the programme was 'Look Of The Week' and it took place at 11:15pm on the 14th of May '67. Not only was it a genuinely live broadcast, it was recorded too and remarkably survived in the archives despite BBC policy to regularly wipe tapes and reuse them. Their next three visits fell foul of this apparent stupidity: the 6th, 13th and 27th of July '67 - all engagements for 'Top Of The Pops', performing (or pretending to perform) follow-up single 'See Emily Play' for the audience of polyester-clad teenage girls crazed on sherbert dip-dabs and crisps. The 27th's occasion was the one at which Syd Barrett began to demonstrably tire of the business they call show, undoing the careful work of the BBC's make-up and wardrobe department's minstrations upon him and making the famous complaint that if John Lennon didn't have to do this, why did he? For their part, the BBC's set designers did as good a job of marrying the music to the visuals as best they could with tinfoil, paper, glue and guesswork. We only know this much because for each appearance, there's colour photographs if not film (which would have been black and white anyway). Having said that, about 40 minutes' worth of 'TOTP' footage was discovered in a sorry state in late 2009, cleaned up (sort of) and publicly shown at the National Film Theatre in January 2010. Anyway, Barrett's dissatisfaction on the 27th of July drew itself out sufficiently to ruin a BBC radio session the following day at the Playhouse Theatre when he walked out and never came back. That same evening was their last ever show at the UFO Club in Tottenham Court Road, and a few days later live dates were being cancelled left, right and centre until the beginning of September for the veiled reasons of Barrett's "exhaustion". His days with the band were almost over by then, and by the time they next came to Lime Grove it was David Gilmour plucking the banjos on the 26th of March 1968 for 'Late Night Line Up' - but nobody knows what they played now. In any event it wasn't broadcast until the September, and I think we can safely assume it was another show which got wiped or taped over. Incidentally the following day was the one where the band went over to Abbey Mills Pumping Station in Stratford and were filmed by Tony Palmer playing 'Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun', which they saw the results of at both Lime Grove *and* it's supposed replacement, TV Centre in White City, in the September. Precise records seem to be contradictory but the Great British public wouldn't see it until the November however, and even then only in black and white initially - if they had a telly at all. Whatever the truth, it would seem that Pink Floyd paid no further visits to Lime Grove thereafter, presumably because Television Centre in White City had opened in 1960 and was now where all future recordings or live broadcasts were made. Or those with Pink Floyd in them at any rate. But we'll worry about that when we get there, and we will in the fullness of time. Just in case you've forgotten (because I *did* mention it half an hour ago) Lime Grove's decaying, dank, mouldy, pigeon-infested, rat shit-strewn rabbit warrens would continue to operate until 1991, and suffer the demolition contractor's wrecking ball two years afterwards. So there's nothing relevant to see. Sorry about that. But there was plenty to say though, eh?
I know, yet *another* crushing anti-climax to add to the expanding list. But the next stop definitely still exists. All you've got to do is turn round, walk straight back to Goldhawk Road and turn left when you get there. Stroll on, passing under the bridge and the tube station which you came out of a while ago. Beyond that, you'll see the entrance to Shepherd's Bush Market on the left. If you want to and if time allows, you can see what it's got to offer. It's apparently very good indeed for exotic fruits and vegetables, but my taste for kumquats and physalis is negligible at best and if your demand is similar, then keep going. As you can probably see by now this stretch of Goldhawk is a busy, shabby stretch of ethnic food shops, barbers which seem to be still cutting hair at ten in the evening, men selling phonecards from cardboard booths that give cheap rate calls to Africa and, obviously enough, fabric merchants. One such establishment lives on the ground floor of our next stop, so keep a keen eye out for it on your left. It's better appreciated from the other side of the road actually, so if you can cross over without subsequent recourse to a couple of buckets and forensic pathologists then be my guest. On my initial reconnaisance run, I went straight past this place but if it makes me look any less of a twat I'll lie and say a big van was parked up in front of the doors....
These flats (or apartment block if you prefer) situated on the Goldhawk Road is very difficult to gain information on in terms of when it was built or why. All I can tell you is that for some reason it was built with five floors instesd of the surrounding properties which only had four. I don't know when it was built, who built it, who if anyone Pennard was, or what they did to deserve a building with their name on it. Maybe it was he who designed or constructed it, and claimed bragging rights. I suppose I could contact Hammersmith and Fulham council, but going on my past record with official channels I doubt it'd come free or easy. So, let's abandon the architectural lecture, and move straight on to why we're standing around oustide in the first place. In early 1968, and for not particularly long afterwards, Roger Waters and his girlfriend Judy Trim moved to a small flat here (number unknown) within Pennard Mansions to do whatever it is that young couples do when they're living in sin. Or so I'd imagine. It was here that he'd begin to find a hitherto unexpected personal writing discipline, which the band certainly needed in light of Syd Barrett's departure/dismissal. Alright, so history's told us that Waters's herculean resolve, steely will and iron fist eventually had entirely the opposite effect - but for now, it was moderately restrained and channelled towards trying to keep Pink Floyd as a going concern. Being a child from a town with a far gentler pace of life, finding himself in a block of flats on a main road with constant noise, pollution, disruption and general chaos is alleged to have been a bit of a jolt - although in fairness quite how he couldn't readily adjust to that compared to the excruciating racket his band made every night remains a mystery. Watching this stream of passing traffic beneath him and wage slaves making their way to and from Goldhawk Road tube station just up the road at either end of the day, Waters began to muse on the apparent lack of mental or physical contact between everyone wandering by like automatons. In the fullness of time, these ponderings would find their place in the second verse of 'Echoes' from the 1971 album 'Meddle'. Or they would once his *original* lyrics about planets, suns and other cosmic bollocks were binned in about July '71, finally giving them a proper sense of where they wanted to go professionally, which was *not* outer space. Trouble was, something else that Waters chanced upon while living here would provide a faint inspiration for their next record in 1973 which ironically *would* put them in a different cosmos altogether. Apparently he'd often take the tube from Goldhawk Road to Paddington himself, and along the wall bordering the tracks before the train went into a tunnel was repetitively written a piece of graffiti which pretty much summed up what bits of 'Dark Side of the Moon' would largely be about. So far as he remembers, it went a bit like this: "SAME THING DAY AFTER DAY. HAVE A CUP OF COFFEE, GO DOWN THE STATION, GET ON THE TRAIN, GO TO WORK, COME HOME, WATCH TV, GO TO BED - SAME THING DAY AFTER DAY." He's phrased it slightly differently in other interviews, but you get the idea. The endless, moribund daily grind with almost nothing to recommend it and it's potential to eventually make one go a bit mental obviously resonated with him. Then again, he's also said that the same daubings were an inspiration for the 'Work' sections of 'The Man and the Journey' suite of 1969. So who knows? Apparently he's also expounded upon an advertising poster he saw while on the tube once which included the words "Get a good job with more pay". Waters wasn't entirely able to work out just what it was supposed to be selling *exactly*, proving that it's not just nowadays when you haven't got a bloody clue what the ads are all about sometimes. Still, he never entirely forgot about it, and it gave him a line for one of his catchier songs a few years afterwards - so it clearly worked on one level or another. Having made an honest woman of Judy in 1969, the couple decided on a bigger and better home in Islington, on the New North Road - which isn't all that far away from Britannia Row where Pink Floyd's studio used to be, not that they had it at the time. However by 1975 they'd tired of one another, divorced, and Waters had moved to Clapham in south London - miles away from Britannia Row, which they *did* have by '76. Trust him to make it so bloody difficult. Then again, driving over from Clapham to Britannia Row every day always took him past Battersea Power Station, so....
Indeed, it gave him an idea for an album cover - which in time would sever the long and fruitful collaboration with old freinds Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell. But anyway, as you've become bored with Pennard Mansions it's time to move on. Walk onwards towards Shepherd's Bush Green until you arrive back at the traffic lights and junction with Shepherd's Bush Road on your right, and the actual Green across the way. Just to confuse the issue, if you turn left at the lights the road ahead is also called Shepherd's Bush Green. Turn left, and go along this end of the Green. As long as you're passing, or have already passed an O'Neill's pub on the corner with the Bush Theatre on the upper floors, you're going the right way. I suspect you'll recognise the towery thing on the building next door as well, given that you passed by earlier and I told you to ignore it. No longer, for it's time to give it your full attention:
|o2 Shepherds Bush Empire
Given what we know about the Old Town Hall in Chelsea (thoughtlessly moved and incorporated into the South and West circuit), I suppose you're all set to pluck a name at random from the remaining members of the band both past and present and confidently assert that their birthday party was held here, at the turreted Shepherd's Bush Empire. Go on then. I dare you. Chosen yet? Hands up all those who picked Gilmour for a second time, on the basis that he's the least likely to be featured *again* and therefore seems to be the only candidate that's so obviously incorrect that it must in fact be the right answer. Well, you're wrong. It wasn't him, it wasn't Nick Mason, nor Roger Waters or Syd Barrett. Yes, it's almost unbelievable, is it not? The shy, retiring Rick Wright can't possibly be a party animal, can he? Well.... apparently he was in the late 70's, but that's another story altogether. Nevertheless, joy and alcoholic refreshement were uninhibited when his daughter Gala married the Floyd's backup bassist since 1987, Guy Pratt. It was here that the reception party was held, boasting a guest list which straddled the arts and entertainment worlds with effortless ease. Although cruelly and cynically overlooked myself when they came to writing the invites, I do know that the multi-talented Stephen Fry, not quite as wide-ranging Damien Hirst, still less-broad Rowland Rivron, Alex James (of largely retired Floyd-revering band Blur), Serwah Ackason (who?), Felix Harwood (what?), Claudia Fontaine, Piers Jackson and Jade Jagger were all there. So were David Gilmour, his wife Polly Samson, plus Rick Wright and his wife Millie too. Apparently, the festivities lasted until four o'clock the next morning and many of the, shall we say, *older* guests were still there right to the very end. So it must have been a good do, eh? Amusingly, Guy Pratt himself revealed in his book 'My Bass And Other Animals' that he and the aforementioned Rivron had already been banned for life from the building (or parts therein) by the BBC years and years ago during its days as a studio for recorded and live broadcast television shows. Did the Pratts book the place purely in the spirit of belated revenge? I don't know. Probably not. These days, you're just as likely to see Pink Floyd tribute bands playing here to an adoring handful, especially now a *full* reunion's somewhat unachieivable. Just as another one of my boring asides, the first ever act to play at this theatre way back on the 17th August 1903 was The Fred Karno Troupe - and as we know, Karno was the man who comissioned a houseboat called the Astoria to be built, little realising that some eighty years later it'd be turned into a recording studio and owned by David Gilmour.
Funny how things turn out. Ready for the next stop? Well, I'm going even if you're not. Proceed smartly, shambolically, healthily, steathily or tragically forwards, passing the remainder of the Empire and whatever else it is that's there (an old cinema if I remember correctly). Keep going past the Walkabout Inn, a post office and some private college or another, and when you come up against the next set of traffic lights with Uxbridge Road on the right, go straight across and over into Wood Lane. After a short time you'll probably notice the obscenely large Westfield shopping centre on your right, looking rather out of character considering the residential houses/flats on our side of the road. It's just as incongruous as Lime Grove was before demolition, actually. But there it most assuredly is, and a mecca for both the aspiring glitterati and genuinely wealthy of west London too. Shortly, our side of the road'll have some newer flats, and then a bloody great private multi-storey car park for people who work at our next port of call. Pass under the railway bridge, and just past Wood Lane tube station on the other side of the road, and hiding behind the trees on your right will be this:
|BBC Television Centre
Here we are then: fifty years old or so this year, the world's first purpose-built television production complex, which like Lime Grove is in a slightly strange and out-of-the-way place given its importance. So how did it get here, relatively far away from London 'proper'? Well, once Lime Grove had been acquired it was still obvious that this new-fangled TV lark would be very big indeed, and so the BBC bought a roughly triangular-shaped, thirteen-acre tract of land here in 1950 which used to be home to the Franco-British Exhibition of 1908 - a kind of giant cultural marketplace and showground - in a series of specially constructed pavilion-like buildings all ivory in colour, which is how the general area soon came by its name of White City. The Olympic Games of 1908 were held here next door to the exhbition halls in a 93,000 seat stadium, and as a whole the site measured 140 acres. Most of it was in fact taken by the local council who then built the South Africa housing estate on it, beloved of Pete Townshend, who wrote an album and made a film about it in 1985 (one track of which, 'White City Fighting', was co-written with David Gilmour). Almost nothing now remains of the exhibition pavilions, the whole lot being demolished after also serving as a site for other fairs and shows and also making military oddments during the World War years. Not the stadium though: after the 1908 games, it was home to the British athletics team until 1971 - who then moved to a new stadium at Crystal Palace Park in south London, next to which our greasy-mopped minstrels sort of premiered 'Echoes' that same year (and killed a lot of fish). In any case White City's stadium continued being a dog racing track until 1984, and then that too got flattened. Still, there's nothing we can do about that now. Going back to 1950, the BBC bought their 13 acres of land and plans were laid for a bastion of excellence to be the envy of the entire globe. It would take a book the size of War and Peace to tell the whole story, but in short the first spark of inspiration was a question mark doodled inside a triangle on the back of an envelope by designer Graham Dawbarn while having a drink in the pub, as all the best (and worst) ideas often are. Initial plans were ingenious, final plans weren't the same as initial ones but still extraordinary, and the actual construction and equipping of the most of the resultant buildings took about ten years or so. Thus in 1960 the BBC Television Centre officially opened for business - and hasn't really stopped expanding, mutating, refitting, rebuilding and upgrading ever since. It currently boasts around eight large studios, five smaller ones and hundreds of other rooms/offices/cupboards which are smaller still. Many people work inside (a couple of thousand), and the latest addition to the complex opened in 2001. Despite differing opinions on the programming content they've provided across the decades, there's little doubt that the technological aspects of Television Centre are still the country's, Europe's and...fuck it, the planet's best. But then I would say that, wouldn't I? Not even being bombed by Irish dissidents in 2001 seriously derailed operations, but subsequent global financial carnage has proved more disruptive. In 2007 the BBC announced plans to scale down operations within three or four years owing to running costs and comparitive decrepitude in places, sell off the buildings and land and move much of the staff, administration and programme-making that used to take place here to new premises in Manchester - costing the knock-down sum of around 400million quid. It's 2010 as I write and they're still here, having been dealt a bit of a blow by being nailed with an English Heritage Grade II preservation listing for studio one (the big one facing you now with "BBC Television Centre" written on it), the central circular block next door (or concrete doughnut as it's known) and even other bits you can't see from here that join up to it. So at the very least the subsequent owners can't radically alter or demolish the most visually obvious or distinctive parts. The current plan is to establish a 'cultural quarter' after the BBC sells Television Centre, letting newer media companies of all colours set up here and do with it as they will - but the BBC'll rent some studios and facilites back from whomever takes over so they can carry on making *something* on-site. Apparently. Let's see them categorically move out first. After that cripplingly dull account of typical British incompetence, I suppose I'd better give you what you actually wanted to know instead: Pink Floyd or their members' visits to this venerable old bugger. Say anything you like about the British Broadcasting Corporation, but don't accuse them of not giving us enough of our favourite sexagenarians. Ready? Here we go then: it would seem that their first visit was on April the 11th 1968, to record a take of 'A Saucerful Of Secrets' for inclusion in the Tony Palmer-devised documentary 'All My Loving'. I can't claim to have seen all of it (because I haven't), so whether it made the final cut or not I can't say. The next visit was on the 28th of June for a BBC 2 programme called 'Release', wherein Roger Waters was interviewed by the aformentioned Palmer, presumably about 'All My Loving'. The band also ran through 'Saucerful of Secrets' live for the viewing few. Again, no footage remains and if it does, it's keeping bloody quiet about it. More woeful still was the fate of the group's next televisual engagement here: the evening of the 20th of July 1969, the night that saw America assume total ownership of the moon (with more than a little help from maps courtesey of little old England). Pink Floyd played an entirely improvised 12-bar blues jam in studio 5 for a part of the evening's celebratons called 'But What If It's All Green Cheese?'. Although the soundtrack of this little ditty is out there, the actual programme - indeed almost the entire night's footage - was heroically lost/wiped by the BBC over 35 years ago. In any case, Pink Floyd didn't jam to live action of Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin bouncing playfully around the lunar dust anyway; 'Green Cheese' started at 10:00pm and finished at 11, and Armstrong's feet didn't hit the surface of the moon until 03:56am. Gilmour recalled the event on the 40th anniversary of the landing, and seems to think they were walking around when they were playing. I suppose it's not inconcievable they stayed around and played again when they were, but as nearly all footage is lost forever, we'll never know. Still, enough of this wild speculation - back to established facts. They disgraced TV Centre once again the 5th of March 1970, recording a piece titled 'Zabriske Point' (for internal BBC records at any rate) for the BBC 2 show 'Line Up', which was then beamed to the watching handful at 11:10pm on the 13th. One can only assume it was used to promote/discuss/dissect the 'Zabriske Point' film, for which Pink Floyd did some of the soundtrack. As for the 'Line Up' show itself, it's again reasonable to say it's missing, presumed wiped. This would seem to be the band's last engagement with Television Centre, pretty much forever. Obviously after 1970 their increasing popularity and workrate meant they were either all over Europe and America or stuck in recording studios instead, seeming to prefer radio interviews thereafter. Which isn't to say that the individual members didn't look in at TV Centre from time to time, usually to let the public know they'd got a new record out or to play with someone else on a music show who has. Quite possibly the first to get there was Nick Mason, pretending to drum for Robert Wyatt on 'Top Of The Pops' in 1974 when his campy cover of 'I'm A Believer' became a hit. That aside, Gilmour's the main suspect for solo sojourns here, his earliest engagements most probably being his stints on the game show 'Pop Quiz' on BBC1, which for convenience's sake I can't imagine being recorded anywhere else. Three times he appeared: August 1981, December 1983 and finally in September 1984. Captaining a team each time, I think he won them all too. It's more than likely that his appearance on the comedy show 'French and Saunders' in 1990, atonally buggering the riff for 'Another Brick In The Wall', would have been filmed within. When? Don't know exactly, but it was broadcast on April the 19th on BBC2. Mason turned up in December 1992, much older and minus moustache for BBC1's 'Hearts Of Gold', a hideous saccharine-fest where worthy nobodies get rewarded for bravery. Apparently Mason drove one bloke (who'd saved his driving instructor's life) around the district in his Ferrari for a while. It's believed the recipient did in fact like Pink Floyd to begin with. The most intriguing engagement has to be the 'Bop For Bosnia' on the 6th of February 1994. Alongside organiser Chris Jagger, Leo Sayer, Simon Kirke, Dave Stewart and others, it seems bloody stupid that it was held here inside Studio 1 - and nothing resembling film or even sound has cropped up since. Oh well, it's their funeral. Gilmour's appearances on Jools Holland's programmes are many and varied: the earliest one was his '5th Annual Hootenanny; recorded here in late December 1997 sometime and cunningly broadcast in synch and 'as live' when '97 gave way to '98. Backing B.B. King (having recently played on his 'Deuces Wild' album), it was on this occasion that Gilmour solemnly declared to "Give up food". At the time nobody quite bought it - but we certainly believed his non-committal answer when Holland pressed him on the chances of a new Floyd album. The next time Gilmour happened by TV Centre was as part of Paul McCartney's band, blowing a metaphorical trumpet for his 'Run Devil Run' album on which he guested. Holland's regular 'Later....' programme saw them do four songs from the record, recorded here on the 2nd of November 1999 and subesquently catapulted into homes on the 6th. Clearly not being one to over-indulge a pop demi-god, the curiously dyed mop-top and his rather greyer band then appeared in a special edition of 'Parkinson', the long-running chat show hosted by wrinkling sycophantic blatherer Michael Parkinson, recorded on the 2nd of December 1999 in Studio 6 and flung across the airwaves the following evening. Just in case this promotional blizzard wasn't enough, the BBC also covered McCartney's Cavern Club show extensively on TV and radio too. The 21st of November 2001 was his next documented visit to Shepherd's Bush, again for 'Later....' but this time lending his banjo-bothering assistance to Holland and his Big Band along with an occasional collaborator of old, Mica Paris. They did 'I Put A Spell On You', just like they did nine years previously for Channel 4 (when Gilmour had both hair and lard), but if memory serves he used a drier guitar tone this time. It's bound to be on YouTube somewhere. In any case they were all featured on Holland's album 'Small World Big Band' which is why they were there in the first place, and it got broadcast two or three days later on BBC2. I'm pretty sure they did it all *again* for an edition of 'Parkinson' around this time too on BBC1 (well, I *know* they did - I taped it) but nobody seems to have listed the date. Never mind. It would have happened here. Oh yes. Trust me. Owing to such aggravating inconveniences like Live8 in 2005, it would be some time before Television Centre saw Gilmour again - but when they did, it was on the 23rd of May 2006. Just before starting the UK dates of the 'On An Island' tour, his whole band (including David Crosby and Graham Nash) were on....can you guess? Course you can. They ran through 'Take A Breath', 'On An Island' and even 'Arnold Layne', complete with slightly wayward vocals from Rick Wright. Gilmour's next visit to Shepherd's Bush was on the 23rd of September 2008, again for 'Later...', and a poignant one indeed. Along with the 'Island' touring band, they did 'The Blue' and for (probably) the first and last time ever, a fitting rendition of 'Remember A Day' in tribute to Rick Wright. He was due to be there with them, but presumably deteriorated rapidly and died on the 15th aged 65. Alas, life goes on - and it did when the usual suspect turned up at TV Centre and made an otherwise inexplicable appearance subtly backing the Reverend Al Green, promoting his then imminent tour on 'Friday Night With Jonathon Ross' and beamed to the great unwashed on Friday, 18th of June 2010. 'Let's Stay Together' was the song they did, amusingly so given that Pink Floyd patently didn't (give or take the odd reunion). Observers complained that Gilmour's contribution was almost inaudible too, lost under the blast of horns, organ, bass and piano - but there you go. Is it worth mentioning anybody else now? Probably not, as they've either been on shows for the BBC that weren't filmed here (Nick Mason on 'Top Gear' for example), or other channels entirely. Oh, I remember: Roger Waters was on 'Breakfast', live and direct from TV Centre on the 23rd of November 2005, talking about his opera 'Ca Ira' for anybody who wasn't late for work or on the school run. That's it, I think. If there's any more, let me know. My eyes ache now.
Right, so that was, is and will remain (until they move out) BBC Television Centre. Before they go, you could pre-book yourself a tour of the place, which comes highly recommened by many. Not me though, as I've not done it. I shall have to get around to it one day. In the meantime, wave goodbye, farewell and sayonara to Auntie (look it up) and see if you can cross over Wood Lane. Hopefully you'll be able to see White City bus station over there somewhere. If time is on your side, then by all means prop up our shaking economy and melt your flexible friends in a quick spin round Westfield's high-end retail emporia. But if you've already done your dough paying for your Travelcard, then the best option is to take a bus (31, 148, 228) in the direction of Holland Park. While you trundle or hurtle along (depending on how late the bus is running), take note of the scenery once you've gone back through Shepherd's Bush Green, and then cleared the big roundabout with the silver water column thing and started down Holland Park Avenue. It's tree-lined, fecund and really rather lovely - and the properties either side are a world away from White City's council flats. Truth be told, they're a solar system from most people's houses, because Holland Park is a *very* affluent part of London indeed. So wealthy in fact, that Google Streets doesn't even cover much of Holland Park Avenue. Make what you will of that.... If you can, keep an eye out on the left hand side for Princedale Road. Somewhere along there, *probably* at number 70, used to live Blackhill Enterprises after their move from a house they had at Edbrooke Road in Notting Hill. Things were very cosy indeed at Princedale Road; the building was shared by a model agency, at which Richard Wright's future wife worked, and the what's-on guide, Time Out magazine, rented space here too, as did counterculture bugle Oz magazine. Most of the stories concerning Syd Barrett's run-ins with the management would *probably* have happened here. Few sources I've got to hand seem to specify what happened where in this regard. That's always assuming I've got Blackhill's office locations in the right order, but nobody else I can find has listed them specifically in date order either. In 'Inside Out', Nick Mason only mentions the office in Alexander Street. I'll have to look into it a bit more at a later date. Beyond Princedale Road, also look out for the next turning on the left, Portland Road. Number 43a was the address of EMKA Productions for many years, Pink Floyd's management under Steve O'Rourke. They're not there now though. He certainly isn't, having died prematurely in 2003. Anyway, when the bus approaches Holland Park tube station, disembark, turn right and and walk along to the traffic lights and junction up ahead. If the bus doesn't, you're fucked. Yes, alright: it happened to me and I had to walk back.....
|Holland Park Avenue/Ladbroke
So, imagine the scene. You're in a band, and things are going quite badly lately. Oh, you've still got places to go, gigs to play and bookings to come - but your lead singer, guitarist and chief songwriter's fucking both himself and everyone else's career up simultaneously. Yes, he's managing to turn up to the gigs - just. But he's doing virtually nothing at the shows themselves. You've had to ask a friend to join you and help out, just so you can at least play the shows already booked around the country without being bottled off stage, run out of town and ending up even poorer. Would you have wanted to see a group like that of an evening? Or even *been* in a group like that? Alright, so some of you probably would. Some of you probably *are*. Either way it was going down like a sack of shit with new boy David Gilmour, plus Mason, Waters and Wright and the crunch, such as it was, came here as the band were passing through in their ancient Bentley (bought secondhand, featuring brakes that didn't), apparently with Roger Waters at the wheel. The story goes that as they drove through the junction of Holland Park Avenue and Ladbroke Grove on the 26th of January 1968, either en-route to a business meeting or coming back from said meeting, but otherwise definitely due to play a gig in Southampton that evening, it was suggested by *someone* that perhaps they shouldn't bother going on to Andrew King's flat in Richmond and picking Syd up. So basically....they didn't. Ever again. Who was it that said "Shall we pick Syd up?" Who was it that answered "No, let's not bother."? Well, what do you think? Given the length of time that's passed since, nobody's entirely prepared to commit themselves anymore or own up. Gilmour's always given no hint as to who asked the question, but occasionally has said that it was ("probably") Waters who answered it. Which is no surprise. Ever the diplomat, Nick Mason doesn't even hazard a guess in his book 'Inside Out' but qualifies things by admitting it was somewhat cruel, callous and unpleasant behaviour by each of them. Rick Wright, as far as I know, hasn't commented at all in the past and won't now be issuing a statement for the forseeable future. I don't think Waters has been very forthcoming either, really. But there you go. Barrett eventually realised they'd shafted him and, still being in reciept of the band's itinerary for the forthcoming months, allegedly started stalking them (at, for example, Middle Earth in Covent Garden). Anyway, regardless of who said what, this is where it happened (unless they're *all* still lying their arses off) and Pink Floyd would never be quite the same again. The incident has passed into the band's history and folklore, and forty years later would be an inspiration for a play written by Tom Stoppard, entitled 'Rock N' Roll'. Syd's experiences both in the band and afterwards were woven into the story, which in Stoppard's words "Is partly about Communism, partly about consciousness, slightly about Sappho, and mainly about Czechoslovakia between 1968 and 1990." Obviously. Maybe it's not as cerebral as it sounds, but I rather doubt it. In any case, the play was a success in the West End, with both Gilmour and Mason attending the opening night and presumably doing more than their bit to demolish the complimentary food and drink afterwards. Waters went to the New York premiere, loved it and apparently became good friends with Stoppard after meeting him in London too - and they all lived happily ever after....
Having circled all sides of the junction, thought about a drink in the pub but rejected the idea on the grounds of your face, voice and clothing not fitting the doubtless obsecnely wealthy types that have already been glaring at you from behind their designer sunglasses, we can move on. If perchance you're American, and your stomach is grumbling for the kind of stuff you can get at home, then call in at the American Food Store just over in Ladbroke Grove. If your eyes don't water at the sight of things you thought you'd never see again until you got back, then the prices'll probably make you cry instead. When you're finished, walk back to the bus stop you got off at, and take the bus - any bus - that goes past Queensway tube sation. Or you could even take the tube from Holland Park, actually. It ought to be faster, but if you do that you won't be able to get off en route and visit the famous Music and Video Exchange shops along Notting Hill Gate at numbers 36-42, though. Well, you could as it happens - Notting Hill Gate's got a tube station too. But it's up to you, your financial status, the time of day and hours of daylight left. Whichever, on arrival at Queensway make sure you've come out of the station via the Bayswater Road exit if you've used the tube, or if you've taken the bus, get off and walk back a bit up Bayswater Road and cross over at the nearby traffic lights. Once over, head over to your right and when you see Black Lion Gate (English Heritage Grade II listed, no less), march through it and breathe in the rarified air of Kensington Gardens. Pretty soon on your right, you'll probably see a playground with a pirate ship, cafeteria and benches for you to rest your weary bones. This is the Diana Memorial Playground, so named because a)she's dead, b)she loved children and c)lived a few hundred metres away at Kensington Palace. As you look around the playground, you'll probably see something a bit strange - a metal cage surrounding an old tree stump, with little people living in it....
Well, this is distinctly odd, is it not? A hollow old log, nine feet tall, with tiny figures of elves and pixies hiding in the knots. Why? Well, whyever not? After all, Kensington Gardens *was* where Peter Pan lived with some fairies many moons ago. Who said he'd moved on, anyway? The oak began life not in Kensington Gardens but Richmond Park, way over in the south-west of London. It happily got on with life for around 800 years, but in 1911 (or 1928 - opinions seem to differ) the illustrator and sculptor Ivor Innes was commissioned to get to work with his carving implements, whittling away at the wood to produce little fairies, elves, witches, imps, pixies and the occasional animal - mostly hewn from the stump, but some were cast in plaster and attached afterwards. They were all then painted in suitably bright colours, as befits Little People of such significance. But who are they? Well, Wookey the witch is there with her three jars of health, wealth and happiness - which is nice of her. Huckleberry the gnome's busy carrying some berries up the Gnomes' Stairway to the feast taking place within Bark Hall. There's also Grumples and Groodles the elves, being rudely interrupted from their slumber by Brownie, Dinkie, Rumplelocks and Hereandthere, a mischeivious quartet busy pilfering eggs from the crows' nest. Just another day in the land of the Little People really, with nothing like cold calls by energy salesmen, speed cameras, tube strikes or vuvuzelas to ruin it. Alas some misery must interrupt this reverie for a moment: as I previously mentioned, although the Oak was definitely moved here to Kensington Gardens in 1928 as part of a scheme to improve public recreational facilities (including creating the first playground here between 1923 and 1932, and the Serpentine Lido in 1931) some sources think that it was only after it arrived here that Innes began work, and not 1911 as I said earlier. Innes and his wife also wrote a book about the Oak and it's inhabitants in 1930, so they were definitely the the Oak's tenants by then. Whenever it was that the Elfin Oak's lodgers did begin to take shape, Ivor Innes continuted to maintain them with care, love and attention for another 40 years, presumably until old age, infirmity or death caught up with him. The world of the Little People wouldn't be forgotten though: comedic megalith Spike Milligan was always fond of the Oak, and funded restoration in the mid-1960's, and again in the late 1990's. By then, even English Heritage realised that the Elfin Oak was very special, granting it a Grade II listing alongside that of the golden statue of Peter Pan just along the way, crafted by Sir George Frampton and unveiled by Peter Pan's creator J.M. Barrie in 1912. The only sore point to all this is what now has to surround the Elfin Oak and the Little People today: a security cage, to stop vandals, hoodlums, ASBO merchants and assorted dross from bringing disruption to the lives of the innocent creatures who peacefully reside in the Oak. Alright, so it also includes a roof so they don't get wet; but I'm sure they'd rather not be fenced in like they are. Of course, most of this is perfectly lovely - but thus far it's got absolutely bugger all to do with Pink Floyd, has it? Well, no. Not really. It *does* if you count the small picture of David Gilmour standing next to the Oak on the back of the album sleeve of 1969's 'Ummagumma', but apart from that? Nothing. Oh, there was also the slight consideration that Syd Barrett was thought to like the stories of J.M. Barrie as a child too, so he'd probably have loved the Elfin Oak and all who live in her, I reckon. Hopefully he came here to see it at least the once....
So, what next? Well, nothing really. All you have to do now is carry on walking, along The Broadwalk until you get to the other side of Kensington Gardens. You'll probably be distracted along the way by things like Kensington Palace, especially if there's a party going on within like there was when I first came by to see if the route actually worked in practice. It also pissed down relentlessly as I was here, which must have annoyed the partygoers more than me - after all, I didn't have a cocktail dress to get ruined, and I could take shelter under the trees in any case. It didn't stop their live music though. Wish I could remember what they played now. Don't suppose it matters anymore. If you look over to your left, you'll perhaps see the Serpentine Gallery in the distance. It's usually host to contemporary art exhibitions, and has a special temporary pavilion constructed each summer. When I passed by it was a rather angular red structure which you could probably see better than the actual Gallery itself. The Serpentine Gallery's summer party is always a popular fixture on the social circuit (that is, for millionaires, billionaires and the occasional lower order of celebrity punching way above their weight), so it won't surprise you to know that certain members of a parrticular rock band have been attendees before now. Gilmour and Polly Samson certainly came to the 2009, 2006, 2005 (with *Roger Waters* too, a few days before Live8), 2004, 2003, and 2002 parties. It's no great surprise they've also been to the Tatler 100 Most Invited Party (along with Nick Mason) for nearly as many consecutive years either. Anyway, before we get lost in this extravagant social whirl, I've got to get you out of Kensington Gardens without losing you. It should be pretty simple, even in driving rain. Just carry on down The Broadwalk, until you see a busy road up ahead and a big gate to get through to it. The road's called Kensington Gore, the gate's called Palace Gate, and directly opposite is the road called Palace Gate too - where you can reconnect with the South and West trail. Remember that, do you? We branched off it hours ago after Kensigton Olympia. I promised I'd get you back on track eventually, didn't I? Go on then. Cross over Kensington Gore, and look at the Countdown Club on Palace Gate. I'll see you there in a few seconds.....