|So dear reader, let me
entreat you to another deathly installment of misadventure in the
collective names of time, money and energy wasting. This leg not
unreasonably deals with *most* of the rest of notable, unlikely,
borderline irrelevant or otherwise apposite sites in north and west
London. Some had to bite the dust by virtue of being too far from
a railway station or bus stop; some were too far from both but too
important to leave out, so cutting out the biscuits, booze and a few
months on a treadmill should see you right. That way you'll make it to
the end without needing an ambulance. Hopefully. We begin this
sad pageant in Charlbert Street, which is *kind* of near to where the
Wests and North Part 1 trail abandoned you after Abbey Road. Kind of....
So then, here we are at RAK - a comparitively new studio compared to Abbey Road or AIR, but not one without pedigree. It was the brainchild of producer, arranger, entrepeneur and all-round lucky bastard Mickie Most. He'd seemed to make a habit of being in the right place at the right time and capitalising on it to outrageous effect. Early on in the 1950's, he listened to American Forces radio, learned to play the guitar and even formed a mildly successful duo which performed around Soho. That took a permanant back seat when he relocated to South Africa for four years in 1959 to appease his new wife's parents. By that time, early rock n' roll had fallen by the wayside to comparitively blander material in Britain and America - but South Africa didn't know that yet, and Most made the most of it by putting together a new band and knocking out cover versions of American rock n'roll hits. Rabid consumers gave him and his band eleven chart-toppers in 1962 alone. I said he was lucky, did I not? But Mickey was a clever dick(y), because he produced them all himself too. In 1963 he came back to England, and almost immediately ran into a band called The Animals. By various ways and means he got them into a studio (Kingsway, or De Lane Lea as it would become) and 'House Of The Rising Sun' was laid down - in fifteen minutes flat. It was....quite successful. He followed that by matching Herman's Hermits with 'I'm Into Something Good' (which he was), and later still married 'Hi-Ho Silver Lining' to a guitar player called Jeff Beck. A Midas touch was obvious with singles, but forays into album production were mostly disastrous and so Most spent the better part of the next five years flying to America and back to visit music publishers' headquarters. There he'd find unrecorded songs waiting to be turned into the next million-seller, and Most seized upon these with glee. Annoyingly he had a further talent for knowing just which song would be good for which performer. Not always, but 99% of the time he'd be right (and of course, raking it in as the producer too). As the 1970's approached many industry figures reckoned the singles market was in terminal decline - but not Mickie Most. So if they didn't want his services, he'd keep them for himself - and formed RAK Records (incorporating publishing and management arms) in 1969. He was proved right yet again when the first 27 singles issued by RAK were all hits. His empire building continued with the purchase of this place here, a former schoolhouse and hall, and turned it into a three-minute pop song hit factory - and they just kept on coming. That said, in 1986 the record label was sold to EMI to enable Most to focus on the publishing side of things and the studio. It would take until 2003 for his luck to finally run out, dying of cancer at the age of 64. Nowadays, just over forty years after RAK Studios opened, they're still very much a viable business (unlike many London-based big studios these days) and RAK Publishing's in no danger either. Having slumbered you into a coma, is it worth you knowing why you're here then? Well, perhaps. RAK was used by Pink Floyd in 1982 or thereabouts for overdubs on their jovial party record 'The Final Cut', but as we barely know what really happened during the fractured, tortured, miserable and hideous making of the album as a whole one can only speculate what or who were involved here given the number of session players involved. One day in the future, we might know a bit more. Gilmour apparently did some guitar bothering within, probably opting out of going to Mayfair Studios (coming up later) if Waters was inside going through endless strangulated vocal takes. Rick Wright's solo odyssey of 1996, 'Broken China', was recorded in France in 1995/6 and then subjected to overdubbing sessions of some kind here - but again, details are worse than sketchy. Nonetheless, it all counts as Pink Floyd (or related) activity so I thought I'd include it in the tour. It also gives you another famous London studio to cross off the list, so don't feel *too* short-changed....
Right then. What next, I hear you sigh? How about another walk? Not too far, but a walk nonetheless. Continue up Charlbert Street, until the junction with Prince Albert Road. Turn left, and plant yourself at the bus stop up ahead. When and if it comes, take a (274) a couple of stops not only to save you walking, but to give yourself a rest for what I've foolishly got coming up next. If you're injured, infirm, elderly or otherwise physically compromised, this next stop is highly inadvisable. Seriously. If this sounds like you, then hold on; I'll get back to you in a minute. For those who think they're hard enough, when the display board and/or female automaton intones Primrose Hill's coming up, ring the bell and alight. Turn left, going back the way you've come, and hopefully on the right - adjacent to a zebra crossing - you should see an entrance to Primrose Hill itself. Go on then. Start mountaineering! Oh, alright then. You don't have to go up to the very, very top if you don't, but the views are good. For those of you I left a few sentences ago, don't get off the bus but stay on until it turns into Albert Terrace and warns you the stop for London Zoo's imminent. Get off here, heading to the right and walk along Albert Terrace. As it comes up to the junction of Regent's Park Road, you can if you so desire enter the lower (and flatter) parts of Primrose Hill and saunter along, keeping sight of Regent's Park Road on your right so you don't get lost. So, either way we're now loping around and along what's known as.....
So, here we are, walking Primrose....sorry, that's someone else. Ahem. What's so good about a bloody great grassy mound then? More than time, tide, your and my patience allows. But let's give it a go anyway, albeit condensed to the point of negligence. In centuries gone by, the entire area - indeed most of the country - was more or less wild, with meadows, woods and forests covering hundreds and hundreds of miles. Despite the way it's turned out, these parts were no different and this hill in particular was always covered in.....can you guess yet? Indeed it was, although they were difficult to appreciate considering the hugely dense blanket of brambles that shared the soil. The land was first gifted to a leper colony by King Edward I, but much later Henry VI took it back, subsequently giving it to the college he'd just founded: Eton. Rather later still, Henry VIII threw his considerable weight around and was given the leper colony buildings, but apparently didn't want the land which Eton College managed to keep. Or something like that. Further centuries elapsed, many a sword or pistol-based duel took place on the hill over women and in about 1825 Eton College's guardians realised that as Primrose Hill was still theirs, they were sitting on a goldmine. They somehow secured an act of Parliament to lease out plots to build on, but other concerned parties lobbied for their own act to make Primrose Hill more accessible. Once Queen Victoria had planted herself on the throne of power, an exchange with Eton College took place and the hill became Crown property - effectively opening up the hill for all as common land and a recreation facility. Thus a proper, modelled park was laid out covering fifty acres for the enjoyment of the public - and enjoy it they did, holding all manner of events be they firework displays, political demonstrations or just to take in the views of London from east to west. And do you know what? Despite the passage of nearly a century and three-quarters the great British public and tourists flock here still, to do pretty much the same. So if you're up there now, drink in the sight and see how many places you can spot and recognise. Over a similar timespan the park's become pretty iconic in cultural terms, featuring in so many books, songs and films that the chances are you've read about, heard reference to or seen it without even realising - definitely too many for me to list on this bollock-awful abomination. However, musically speaking this list of great and good never included Pink Floyd; it's featured The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Marillion, Jeff ("POOOLARRR!!!!") Wayne, Elvis Costello, Madness.....even Girls Aloud for fuck's sake. But almost nothing from Barrett, Gilmour, Mason, Waters or Wright at all. There was at least one football match in the early 70's, which pitched the North London Marxists against the Pink Floyd XI. According to possibly bogus details in the band's '74 Winter Tour programme, they lost to the Marxists 4-0 - and I'm sure I read somewhere that during the game Gilmour bit his tongue so hard he needed hosptial treatment afterwards. But that might be bollocks too. Alas, to this day there's still bugger all in terms of proper, solid band-related involvement but there was an extraordinary publicity stunt for the satellite TV company Sky in October 2009, promoting their screening of the 'Dark Side of the Moon' segment of the 'Pulse' DVD on the Sky Arts channel. They deigned to construct a giant five-metre tall representation of the 'Dark Side' album cover 's prism, which used diffused LED lighting to make the triangle glow. A white laser shone from the left-hand side, and blue, green and red ones came out from the right. Obviously it looked distinctly underwhelming during the day but as darkness fell it was, admittedly, quite impressive. The incident was widely reported on TV, radio and print - not least by Sky themselves, I'd imagine. Quite why they thought it'd make anybody tune in given that the likely interested parties already had it on DVD is anybody's guess, and I'd be amazed if it prompted a stampede to sign up and take out a costly subscription to line Rupert Murcoc....sorry, Murdoch's pockets a bit more. But who knows? Stranger things have happened at sea. Fortunately the whole farrago was filmed from start to end and made its way onto YouTube for our delectation and delight, which for those necessarily absent was nice.....
Right then, time to go I think. Depending where you are on, around or beside the hill, try to make your way over to the Primrose Hill Road exit over the far corner of the park, and come out onto the street. Turn left, walking down to the crossroads with Regent's Park Road left and right, and Rothwell Street straight ahead. Cross over and go into Rothwell Street, and at the bottom you'll find Chalcott Crescent. Turn right here, and follow it round until it comes to a fork with Sharpleshall Street on the right and Berkeley Road on the left. I think you ought to take Sharpleshall first, because....well, because. Keep an eye out on the right, because between the houses and the local public library there's a tiny little alleyway. Does it look *slightly* inviting? It ought to. But that's all it is, an alleyway with a big door at the end which keeps its secrets well hidden. So, just linger for a few seconds, take a picture if you must and come back out again. Turn left, and follow Sharpleshall Street round into Berkeley Road, and keep going until you see another alleyway called Elgin Mews. This one's got a bloody great gate in front, just big enough for people carriers with darkened windows to squeeze through. But why bother? Well, you probably won't believe it, but this used to be.....
Is there any less likely location for a major London recording studio? Well, certainly not on this website. Surrounded on all sides by private houses, council flats, a church and the local library, Mayfair Studios is where the greater part of 1983's 'The Final Cut' was recorded. But more of that later. The studios never used to be in the middle of this bizarre quadwrangle; they first lived in the salubrious parish of....yes, you guessed it: Mayfair - 64 South Moulton Street, W1. For some reason or another they moved here to the now equally desirable area of Primrose Hill in 1981, didn't bother changing their name, and stayed. As with Abbey Road and Olympic Studios, it attracted and continues to attract a vast array of names you've actually heard of, and even own records by. Not least our pensionable friends Pink Floyd, who chose Mayfair to lay down most of 'The Final Cut' during the last half of 1982. Many will know that it was by far and away the least happy album the band ever made - not necessarily in terms of content (grim though it was), but by virtue of the fact that relations were not so much strained as terminally broken, Roger Waters ultimately leaving the group after its release. As a result, comparitively little information about what actually happened during that period is available, even with the advent of Nick Mason's 'Inside Out' book. He gives us rather more than we previously had, but one senses there's still much more to be recounted. Roger Waters kindly volunteered the anecdote about "playing Donkey Kong for hours and hours" in 2004, but that's about it. The tale will probably never be fully told, and so we must move on to other activities - no, I don't really want them to be Pink Floyd related anymore either but I've made a rod for my own back, haven't I? So....in 1984, David Gilmour's second solo album, 'About Face' - largely written and recorded as a direct result of the break-up following 'The Final Cut' - was mixed here by 'The Wall' producer James Guthrie, despite having been recorded in France. Finally, work of some description was carried out in 1987 on the Floyd comeback album 'A Momentary Lapse Of Reason', presumably quite late in the day; author Karl Dallas, who was writing a book on Pink Floyd at the time, was invited by David Gilmour up to "a studio in Primrose Hill" one dark night for an exclusive preview. It might *not* have been Mayfair, admittedly. But it does appear in the list of studios used for the record, so I'm going to make an educated guess.....
**Update - 08/09** this is nearly as embarrassing as missing the London Arena's demolition. It would seem that Mayfair closed at the end of 2008 after financial difficulties, and nobody told me. I probably wasn't first on their contacts list, admittedly.....anyway, the building's still there and their website's still current. In fact there's two of them, the latest being dated 2009 and reports suggest they want to reopen this year sometime. Will they? I don't know. The small alleyway in the picture has even been given a name since I was last there - Elgin Mews - although what that means for Mayfair's future, if anything, remains to be seen. If I manage to see it, that is....
**Update - 05/10** told you I'd miss it, did I not?. It would appear that the entire building was sort-of renovated and used for the nothing if not ambitious 'Museum Of Everything' during October 2009, an exhbition of the most bizarre, unusual, weird (or, if you like, exciting, visceral and challenging) pictures, paintings, sculptures and general artistic installatory-type stuff, using the comparitively cramped rooms and corridors to good effect. Alas, it was only while passing by on 9/5/10 that I even noticed the exhibition had been there in the first place. Consequently, it would seem that Mayfair will not in fact be reborn. Or not as a recording studio, anyway. Bugger....
So, after the non-event that was Mayfair, what next? I suppose you want, nay demand, a site that still exists to make the whole enterprise worthwhile, don't you? Oh, alright then. Keep walking down Berkeley Road, past the baptist church (*obvious* location for it, beside a building that purveyed rock n' roll - and probably drugs and sex too) and on to the junction with Regent's Park Road (yes, that again) and turn right. This'll take you through some pretty.....well, pretty few metres of pavement really. See, Primrose Hill's not just about the hill itself; it's about the properties, the shops, restaurants, the cars and most of all, the people. Look at them now, all self-assured boys and girls with confidence and cash in abundance. Bastards. Nick Mason makes mention of a restaurant the band used to frequent near Mayfair Studios during arguing/recording; I've got no proof, but I wouldn't mind betting it was along this stretch here - assuming Primrose Hill was as gentrified in 1981 as it clearly is nowadays, being home to many rich people, famous people, confident people and......sorry, I'll get a grip.... So, mind you don't get run over by the Lamborghinis, Bugaboos or Louboutins of the Primrose Hill set and continue down Regent's Park Road until you reach the bottom, where Gloucester Avenue awaits. It'll have to, as we're going straight across and over the pedestrian bridge spanning the railway that runs from Euston to the north of England and ultimately Scotland. When you get to the other side, turn right into....Regent's Park Avenue - or the continuation thereof. Wander down the hill, past the flats/apartments, and on the right there's a little alleyway which leads to a car park. Take a sneaky look if you want (if on-site security lets you) and look at the back end of our next stop. When you've had your fill or they've otherwise told you to piss off, carry on down the rest of Regent's Park Avenue and go right into Chalk Farm Road. Really not very much further on, you'll see the front end of our next port of call.....
by Robert Dockray under the direction of principal engineer
Robert Stevenson in 1847, the Roundhouse was built to house 23 railway
engines and a 34ft turntable. It was given over to the purposes of
entertainment after the railway company abandoned it to a gin company,
who also left it to stand in ruins for fifteen years. Pink Floyd would
go on to play here often, and it was at an early show at this venue on
October 1966, to launch the London Free School devisor John Hopkins'
brainchild - the underground International Times
gained a review by the San Francisco Examiner. Good news? Not really.
The reviewer was unaware that they had played at all, mistaking them
just a group of amateur musicians - which technically they were at the
time - who happened to take the stage during
a flat period in the evening's programme. Most despairingly of all,
a huge jelly that was made for the occasion got squashed flat by a
bicycle. Or was driven over by Pink Floyd's van. Both accounts are
widespead, and obviously enough nobody knows the real truth anymore.
Curiously, Nick Mason has commented on the PA they used around that
time - certainly at this venue, and probably for that very show -
being so underpowered that they might as well have been playing
unplugged. Fair enough, I suppose - were it not for the widespread
reports of how terrifyingly loud they were on the night. Oh well. For
those members of society they hadn't yet struck deaf, they would return
triumphant many times after that,
not least when the original site of the UFO Club in Tottenham Court
Road was served with what amounted to an eviction order in July 1967
and then moved here. Despite being wildly unsuitable (bordering on
dangerous, in fact) UFO stuck it out for two or three months before
giving up - but only because the rent was too high. Even London's other
great psychedelic playground, Middle Earth, tried their luck
after UFO left - but that too failed to transfer with any lasting
success. Nevertheless the
building itself continued to thrive despite being in a poor state, with
manner of arts and entertainments taking place - including Pink Floyd's
final Roundhouse appearance on the 17th January 1971. They happened to
by Quiver who boasted Tim Renwick, years later to become a long-time
Floyd and Roger Waters associate both live and on record.
Closure in 1983 spelt what many believed to be the end but after being
bought by the retired toymaker Torquil Norman in 1998, things looked
up. The Roundhouse Trust was established, Mason himself became
involved to some degree or another (he's certainly on its Advisory
Board and Development Council), and
before long a
£30million renovation and redevelopment programme began.
Completion and reopening in June 2006 put the Roundhouse firmly back on
the map, bigger and better than ever. So very big, in fact, it's
to get it all in when you're trying to take a picture of the bloody
thing which includes the extension on the right. That tree doesn't help
In fact, this place is the subject of a little
investigation I was able to undertake during the renovation years, and
before I realised my camera could take bigger pictures. Find
**Update 7/8/07** - Apparently the Roundhouse's restautant does the fifth-best chips in London, according to Time Out magazine. Booking is advisable.....
**Update - 16/08/09** - while taking the new picture above, I was rendered very peckish by the rooftop BBQ that was smoking away just out of shot on the right. Were it not for the fact that it was unbearably hot and I wanted to go home, I'd have indulged. Given that hunger, heatstroke and an addled mind later forced me to buy an Unlucky Fried Kitten anyway, I'm astonished I wasn't killed by that instead. I *suffer* for you people, you know....
There you go - I said I'd find you a site that still existed! Presumably you've even gone inside and had your fill in the cafe/bar/restaurant too. So where now then? Go along Chalk Farm Road in the direction of Camden Town tube station (or you could just hop on a tube at Chalk Farm, but you know you need the exercise....), passing not only the famous market which always used to be good for a look on Sunday mornings for certain Floyd-related objects in years gone by, but also a little shop called Gohils that sells boots, *and* the studios of MTV/VH-1 which are in Hawley Crescent. You might also spot the Electric Ballroom, a well-loved basement club which seems to be permanently under threat of closure, not least because Camden Town tube station next door needs the space it occupies to get much bigger. Once you arrive at the station, take a train to Kings Cross. It shouldn't take too long if there's no hold-ups, late-finishing engineering work or bodies on the line. If there are such inconveniences, you can get a bus (214) instead but hopefully it won't come to it. So, once you've struggled off the train at Kings Cross, make your way up to street level and leave the station via the Caledonian Road exit if you can. It's a long subterranean claustrophobic trudge and restricted in it's opening hours for some inexplicable reason, seemingly only available to use from Monday-Friday until 8:00pm. If it's closed, you'll have to come out of Kings Cross station on the Euston Road (north side), turn left and walk for about five minutes, crossing over York Way at the traffic lights and then keeping straight on. Shortly you'll next come up to the traffic-lighted junction with Caledonian Road. What you can see over on the right is The Scala, formerly the Kings Cross Cinema - which has had a *very* colourful past (and an interesting neighbour too). You'd do well to cross Pentonville Road using the traffic lights here actually, and continue on the other side of Pentonville. If you didn't manage to use it, you should now be able to see the tube/railway station exit I'd have wanted you to use all along to get this far. Still, we're here now. If it's a weekday and you've made it out of the Caledonian Road exit from Kings Cross, without knowing it you've just trodden all over a little bit of sonic history. If not, then....well, loiter a while at the bus stop....
This one took me years and years to even come close to properly finding. In the end, before I'd had a chance (or before I'd got off my arse) to make my last throw of the dice and call in the services of the British Library, someone emailed me and told me all about it instead. Just as well, for I'd been led astray by various rumours, half-truths and outright lies for some considerable time. I see no great reason to drastically edit my original write-up on Unit, so I'm going to use it again - with the considerable bonus of being allied to the correct, if no longer extant, location at last....
Now I'd like to lead you by the clammy fingers into 1974 when Pink Floyd were, by most accounts, just as shattered, shellshocked, exhausted, sick and tired as you must be after having to read this twaddle-ridden sentence. What us and them don't share however, was a sudden global fame and outrageous fortune off the back of 'Dark Side Of The Moon'. 1973's lengthy tours of the UK, north America and Canada had just about finished them off, leaving Roger Waters in particular somewhat jaundiced with the whole business. But both EMI in London and CBS Records in New York were ecstatic, and looked forward to the follow-up album - CBS in particular, who'd just signed the band up after they walked out on an increasingly unsuitable Capitol Records, having fulfulled their contract at the close of '73. So the pressure was on Pink Floyd to deliver. Eventually they did, in the shape of 1975's 'Wish You Were Here' album - but it brought the band close to destruction. In the meantime though, they had a French tour to undertake in June 1974. They needed new material, and fast - if only to stop themselves getting bored when playing the shows in France. The band convened at a shabby rehearsal room here at King's Cross in north London at the beginning of the year and set to work desperately trying to get something going. Waters had brought along some lyrics, from which would emerge two songs: 'Raving and Drooling', plus the no-less cheerful 'You've Gotta Be Crazy'. Both were rather long, raw, bitter and (with the benefit of hindsight) not terribly good as they stood. When they were trundled out to audiences as opening numbers on dates of the '74 tour, the press and some fans were largely unimpressed. But during the rehearsal sessions here a third song came together, again utilising Waters' lyrics. The atmosphere in the rehearsal room was reportedly rather strained, and inspiration on a musical front hard to find. But out of nowhere one day, David Gilmour chanced upon four little notes on his fretboard - B flat, F, G and E - which, once heard, are *never* forgotten. Well, not under normal circumstances, anyway. It proved to be the catalyst for the completion of the third mammoth composition, with Gilmour's musical ideas matching Waters' lyrical concerns far better than 'Raving And Drooling' or 'You've Gotta Be Crazy'. So good was it, in fact, that it was retained after the completion of the 1974 tour and included on the following year's album 'Wish You Were Here'. The song's name (as you probably already know) is 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond', a hymn to the band's old cohort Syd Barrett. Originally a twenty-minute odyssey during the live shows of '74 in France, by the time it was released on record it had been split in half to open and close the album. Meanwhile, the hapless 'Raving And Drooling', plus 'You've Gotta Be Crazy' were shelved entirely, only being dusted off and re-worded a couple of years later to form a large part of 1977's 'Animals' album. Returning to the present, what I've not been able to identify with any certainty is *which* building is or was the rehearsal studios. The only clue that has ever been left is in an interview with Gilmour's guitar technician, Phil Taylor. He said that "I even went next door to the Wimpy Bar to get their lunch!"
So, that's more or less what I said originally. In between whiles, I've found that after Pink Floyd's first visit early in the year, they came back here for a further week in October '74 to undertake more musical rehearsals for the British Winter Tour. Or perhaps to give King Konk more time to nail his bass parts properly if not his vocals. It would also seem that during that week they had a visitor: artist Gerald Scarfe. In his 2010 book 'The Making Of Pink Floyd - The Wall' he tells us that he'd first got to know them all in 1973, and it was Nick Mason who suggested a year later that he come along to the final rehearsals at Unit and doodle away as they noodled away, toiling on their new music with a view to producing something for the upcoming tour programme. He did, and amongst the results was the big sketch which made up the middle pages of the 1974 British Winter Tour souvenir programme. You know the one - all stick-thin bodies apart from Gilmour, Mason with brushy moustache and pronounced proboscis, Wright hiding at the back (which he complained about when he first saw it) and Waters taking centre-stage with his gigantic teeth and nose. In Scarfe's book, Gilmour and Mason reiterate what a toilet Unit was, and Mason particularly defends the '74 tour programme as "one of the really good things we ever did," then adding with sadness that "it was singularly unsuccesssful. It was not what the public wanted." Well, I like *my* copy. Oh, and Scarfe also remembers with dismay the "depressingly limp hamburgers form the Wimpy Bar next door," like Phil Taylor did. Anyway, as I mentioned several hours ago I recieved an anonymous email about Unit Studios back in late 2009 which said this verbatim:
"The Kings Cross wimpy bar was on Pentonville Road between Caledonian Road and Kings cross road on the south side. Set both on a corner and around at a right angle to Pentonville Road with a small inset car parking area layby. It was in the same block and immediately behind Kings Cross Cinema - the door to Unit was hard to see - in the corner past the wimpy. There used to be a pub a bit further along towards Kings cross road. This area was all pulled down and redeveloped for - I think the tube station rebuilding."
Further checking up with the Subterranea Britannica website (who like dark places such as decaying tube stations) proved my informant was right, and even has pictures taken during its demolition. There was no mention of Unit Studios though. In fact if it weren't for Pink Floyd doing what they did there, when they did it, the Internet would be almost completely devoid of any reference to Unit at all. The only other entry I ever found was on a page listing recording and rehearsal sessions in 1972 for the band Matching Mole, who counted Robert Wyatt among their number. Nobody seems to know for certain what Pink Floyd were doing in the apparent shithole that was Unit. "Tight-arsed management", Gilmour once said. But given Nick Mason's producing/drumming work with Wyatt in 1974, is it too big a stretch to speculate that one suggested Unit to the other? Probably. Still, what does amuse me is the tiny newsagents currently wedged between the Caledonian Road Station exit you've (hopefully) just used and the back of the Kings Cross Astoria, or Scala as it's called nowadays, next door: the eerily-named PPFF Newsagents. Spooky, eh? The clues were there all along, hidden in plain sight just like I said they were. So, with the invaluable assistance of Anon., I've nailed it at last. In all honesty I *think* I know who they are - but I'm not saying who. Still, what I will say (again, but this time in public if you're looking in and because you even denied it when I finally inexpertly cornered you in person) is thanks very, very much - hopefully a few people'll actually bother trudging round to see what's left of it. If you're *really* brave, you could walk right round the Scala, into and along St.Chad's Place and come out further down Kings Cross Road, pretty much encircling what used to be Unit Studios. But it's a bit hairy, even in hours of daylight. Probably best not to risk it. Oh, and that branch of Wimpy's long since gone too so don't go hoping for a sausage ring and a Brown Derby to finish off with. Right, are you done? Are you still alive even? If so, walk back the way you came, get back on the Northern Line and take it another stop further to the Angel and carry on reading below. If you're in fact dead, well....I warned you about St. Chad's Place, didn't I? Interestingly, within the last few years music rehearsals have not in fact been swept under the carpet and forgotten in Kings Cross. A new facility has opened up a bit further on down Kings Cross Road in Field Street, and seems to have attracted more attention or notice (as web-based presence goes) than Unit ever has. The Joint rehearsal and practice studios would seem to be a worthy son of Unit, offering all the 21st Century facilities and service that Unit apparently thought unnecessary to pester their clientele with back in the day....
**Update 08/11** - well, that's highly amusing. Gilmour's latest interview in 'Mojo' magazine (Oct '11) banging the drum for EMI's comprehensive Floyd reissue programme, includes a bit where he kind-of remembers Unit Studios. He reckons it was "like the black hole of Calcutta, this tiny room down an alley, behind a pub. I had a look for it when I was driving past the other day....couldn't find it. It was a shit-hole." Seems like he never stumbled across The Joint's premises either. Silly sod. As for me, I'm either better at this tour guide caper than I thought, or even more insignificant than I suspected....
So then, that used to be where Unit Studios lived. Disappointed? Well, I *know* you are, but there was really no chance of even seeing the place while it was still standing. All we've got left is the fractured memories and the music, and not even that if you don't like 'Animals' or 'Wish You Were Here'. So what to do next? You might as well go back into Kings Cross station - by whatever means is available to you - and get a tube to the Angel instead. Once you're at the station (which incidentally, christener of the final Pink Floyd album, Douglas Adams, used to live behind,), and go up to street level - via the longest escalator on the entire London Underground network I might add, which is why it took ages - turn right. Walk past the bus stops on your left, and The York pub on the right. You should see up ahead Jack Wills University Outfitters, or something like that. Immediately to the right of that, running parallel, there's a narrow street going straight on alongside the market. This is Camden Passage. Go down here, and pretty soon you'll see some shops on the right-hand side. One of these is.....
What do we have here, then? Well, it's only the retail outlet (for want of a better term) of Jill Furmanovsky, rock music photographer extraordinaire. She's been responsible for some of the most widely-seen pictures of Pink Floyd at work, rest and play throughout the band's self-acknowleged glory years of 1972 - 1981. She was there when the '72 British tour began to make a new musical suite called 'Eclipse' known to the public; she was there on the '74 British tour; she was there at Abbey Road when the band were recording and mixing 'Wish You Were Here'; she was there when they built their cardboard wall at Earls Court in 1980. I think you (ahem) get the picture. Most of these, or reproductions at any rate, can be seen inside, browsed through, and purchased - at a price. The same goes for many other bands and artists plus the work of other prominent photographers. So go in and take a look - the worst they can do is throw you out. But they won't. Even when I asked if they had anything for 50p, they didn't throw me out. So you'll be alright....
Carry on the way you were going, inching along Camden Passage past all the antiques stalls and vintage clothing emporia and eventually the Camden Head pub on your right. You'll come out the end of Camden Passage shortly afterwards, and find yourself back out on a main road with Islington Green on the left and Essex Road up ahead. Walk down Essex Road, passing Packington Street on your right. Keep going, and a bit beyond that you'll see a shop - Flashback Records - who (perhaps still) doff their cap to the local heroes by decorating their staircase to the basement with a poster warning of live performances of 'The Wall'. Unfortunately it's for the ones in Germany, but it's the thought that counts. They had a mint-condition half-speed MFSL 'Dark Side Of The Moon' on vinyl in stock too last time I looked. Don't worry; if you know what that means, you'll know. If you don't, then you'll probably not give a toss anyway. In any case, almost next door is a branch of Planet Organic - which is nice for those needing to pick up some finely-ground mesquite meal in an emergency. The floors above it are rather more relevant if you're not a pesticide-free vegan gourmand though: they're a part of 64 Essex Road, a refurbished office block offering a small or large dynamic, targeted, creative space experience (fucking Ada....) available to rent - which is owned by Britannia Row of all peoples. Just a little bit further on from that, on the right and given new street nameplates within the last few years, is Britannia Row - and where lives what Britannia Row's own website modestly calls "the mothership".....
51°32'15.02"N long: 0°
Fuck me - a building that still exists! Yes, very funny. Shut up and listen. Britannia Row's an interesting place; open fields milllennia ago, then built up and fallen into a fleapit of grinding poverty with smallpox deaths to boast, it then became a small haven of manufacturing industries (especially watches), and decades further on a better-appointed residential area, which the Church seemed to think was almost entirely down to them. In the late 1960's it was bizarrely a lightbulb factory. In the current millennium so far, the reach of God has shrunk and the odd gangland murder's lit up the Row instead. In between whiles the prospects dimmed somewhat: this was the Floyd's own studio for many years, having formerly been a three-storey chapel (unusual in itself if you ask me). Throughout 1976 the band didn't go on tour, had some time to waste, and bought this building to house not only a proper studio of their own but to properly store all their sound and lighting equipment while they weren't using it. Prior to this it was all festering in garages and lock-ups all over London so a central point to house the collection made sense. In fact they also established a pair of companies to oversee hiring it out to others when they weren't using it. Not only would it provide employment for the road crew beyond Floyd tours, but it had the potential to make some money for everyone too. Amusingly the idea was *so* exciting they'd not thought about the fact that although they had speakers and cable coming out of their ears to offer, they only had the one mixing desk. Nor were they allowed to buy another for some reason. Furthermore, the band's comparivite aloofness in the industry didn't help them come across too well given that nobody else needed or could afford to rent gear so technically advanced anyway. Also, if and when Pink Floyd wanted to go off on tour again they'd need all their stuff back. Thus, the business plan was holed below the waterline from launch. It limped painfully along until 1984, when long-time tech assistant Robbie Williams (and partner Bryan Grant) bought out the PA hire company and even more amusingly piloted it to become one of the most successful providers in the world, a position it maintains to this day. This place also seems to have served as an address (if nothing else) for Greenback Films, which was established by Storm Thorgerson in 1983. They did David Gilmour's two promotional videos to support 'About Face' in '84, amongst others. But what of actual music here? Well, after renovation to a design by an old friend who'd been a student at the Regent Street Polytechnic with Mason and Waters, and equipping to a reasonable enough standard - Mason says it was "fashionably austere" while Waters sat firmly on the fence by claiming it was like "a fucking prison" - the band were incarcerated from April to December 1976 to make 'Animals' and rehearse the subsequent tour, to sift through Waters' ideas for 'The Wall' and make demo tapes during the last quarter of 1978 and later to record the children heard on 'Another Brick In The Wall Part 2', to make some of 'The Final Cut' sometime between July and December 1982, some of Nick Mason and Rick Fenn's 1985 'Profiles' album side-project, and some of 'A Momentary Lapse Of Reason' between the dying months of 1986 and the dawning ones of 1987. Work on the band's final studio album, 'The Division Bell', effectively began here in January 1993 (but only lasted for a week's worth of tentative noodling before moving on to the Astoria to cook the noodles more thoroughly). Or so Nick Mason says. Guy Pratt suggests it was three weeks, and Gilmour's on record as claiming it was two.....so take your pick. Whichever, I reckon the building's near the bottom end of the street on the left-hand side, seeing as most of the right-hand side is taken up by residential property. I strongly suspected ten years ago that the residential flats on the other side of the road, particularly Strang House, were featured in the 'Another Brick In The Wall pt.2' promotional video - and Gerald Scarfe finally confirmed it in his meaty tome 'The Making Of Pink Floyd - The Wall' in 2010. Incidentally the road in the next block - Packington Street - is where Islington Green School is and from whence those noisy kids came, featured in a thirty-years on 'where are they now?' BBC documentary a few years ago. I've also recently been made aware of a vicious rumour that either film or a cartoon of Britannia Row's facade was included at some point for projections during the second half of live performances of 'The Wall' in 1980/81, which for a group as closed-off and secretive as they were at the time seems a bit odd. Still, I don't suppose anybody'd have been any the wiser unless they knew what the building actually was in the first place. Anyway, it was thirty years ago so I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. Nick Mason still has a finger in the Britannia Row pie, and parts are available to rent as office space (or whatever you want so long as it's legal). Amongst the assortment of current occupiers are the London School of Sound, a college offering both short and long-term courses in all aspects of music theory, recording and production. To the chancer who had the old street nameplates away, I say only this: You beat me to it, you lucky sod. Well done. BASTARD!!!!
09/07** - well, not so much an update
than a wind back. I've known about this for years. Absolutely years.
Yonks, in fact. And at some stage I completely forgot I ever knew in
the first place. And it's not even to do with Pink Floyd. Still, it
does concern another global force of entertainment throughout the
1970's, and one which Pink Floyd themselves were no strangers to or
Python's Flying Circus. Yes, we all know that parts of the soundtrack
to the 'Meaning Of
Life' film were recorded at Birtannia Row. But how about a
little-known compilation album that
remains unreleased to this day, eh? I don't think it was recorded here,
but it's certainly where Michael Palin (via
Motorhead, of all people) put it into the public domain....
Right then. Walk down to the end of the Row,
along the little green and past the
front of the church of St. James, and out onto Prebend Street. Go left
down here, and at the crossroads with Coleman Fields, turn right and
walk along past the Islington Business Centre until you come to the
crossroads with St. Paul Street. Turn left, and follow St. Paul until
you see St. Philip's Way beckoning you on the left. If you look down
here, probably within sight you'll see Rydon Street on the left.
Rydon's not that long either, but go down it anyway. At the bottom end,
you'll find yourself out on a busier-looking main road of sorts. This
is the A1200, more usefully known as New North Road. On the other side,
almost exactly opposite where you're standing now in fact, is number
184. We already know who used to live there, don't we?
|184 New North Road
Oh yes we do. Having set up a home at Pennard Mansions on the Goldhawk Road in Shepherd's Bush with girlfriend Judy Trim in 1968, they presumably decided pretty quickly that it was no longer fit for purpose and bought this place here for what's alleged to have been the princely sum of £8000. Why? Well, why not? Lurching towards his thirties, he obviously thought it was time to get some serious property under his belt instead of festering in a pokey flat on a main road. Of course, when he and Judy finally legally manacled themselves together in 1969, I suppose it made a perfectly lovely home. What all observers at the time didn't quite understand is what attracted them to the area in the first place, nobody particularly rating this little corner of Islington as a desirable neighbourhood, and certainly not the kind of locale a musician/lyricist/pop star should want to plant either themselves or their dearly beloved wife. But there was method in the apparent insanity - I wouldn't mind speculating that he was immediately struck by the depth/height of the front door, saving him from having to stoop as he made his way in. Then again it's perhaps more likely that it was Judy's influence and decision than Roger's to make this their castle. She'd spent much of the 1960's training to be a potter but then switched to teaching - notably at Dame Alice Owen's school, then situated not too far away from here along the Goswell Road. So on a purely professional level Judy probably came out of it rather well. That said, what was life here like for them both? Well, as luck would have it Melody Maker magazine visited Waters here in 1970 and gave its readers the merest glimpse behind the curtains/shutters/blinds of number 184. After bemoaning the drabness of the locale, specifically the Victorian buildings being rather samey, they then sensationally revealed this: "Inside, though, all is modernity, that fashionable Spartan kind, with bare polished wooden floors and the Scandinavian furniture that immediately hits the eye because of its clean, spare lines. Mr. Waters used to study architecture and he has got taste, you see." I suppose it probably looked a bit like that famous painting by David Hockney, especially as they also kept two Burmese cats here. Or was Judy's aesthetic eye responsible for some of it? We'll never know really, save the fact that Waters himself apparently did a lot of the manual labour (perhaps against his will). What we do know is this: whatever her professional credentials and acumen, Judy was no subservient little wifey at home. Dear me, no. Even though he was frequently busy putting his foot down with an iron fist on the professional front, inside information at the time suggested that poor old King Konk was reduced to a complete, whimpering shell of a man when faced with Judy in full flight. Peter Jenner reckoned that she was just about the only person on the planet who could order, cajole, demand and bully Waters into pretty much anything she wanted. One notable victory was managing to get Waters to abandon his E-Type Jaguar, parked proudly outside, and swap it for a Mini instead - which is *just* what you need when you're over six foot tall. Presumably by similar pressurising techniques was the shed at the bottom of the garden turned into a workshop for Judy to literally potter around in, with a portion of said shed gracefully being allowed for Roger to use as a home studio of sorts. So purely in terms of Pink Floyd activity, the little studio in the garden here at 184 is where a large part of everything Waters ever thought about, conceptualised, wrote and made excruciating demos of from 1968 to 1974 ot thereabouts was born. Well, probably. Obviously there were lots of group sessions in studios like Abbey Road, AIR, Morgan Sound etc. Now I think of it, maybe it's no coincidence that the big group discussion which thrashed out the ideas behind what would eventually become 'Dark Side Of The Moon' took place in Nick Mason's house instead of here. I don't suppose Judy wanted everyone round disrupting her peace and quiet. Speculation notwithstanding, we definitely know the sound effects from 'Money' were recorded here - albeit using Judy's pottery wheel (he must have caught her on a good day - or waited until she was out). Having said that, he's supposed to have played her a copy of 'Dark Side' here before it hit the shops. She listened intently and in silence, and when it finished she cried - presumably at the emotion, majesty, feeling and dignity. He said "I took that as a good sign," suggesting he didn't know where he stood with her from day to day in the first place. Oh well. This then is the happy home from which Waters worried constantly, and subsequently worried generations with his innermost neuroses via the medium of the long-playing gramophone record. However, it would seem that Judy and Roger were becoming increasingly distant and apart by the beginning of 1974. Again, speculating wildly I posit that the incident which featured on 'The Wall' - where Pink phones home, and finds it being picked up by another man - was entirely true and drawn from experience. If so, it would have probably been here which Waters called, trying to reach Judy while on tour in either '74 or '75. One can only assume that Judy did indeed take up with someone else - Waters has said he found out exactly as Pink did in the film. Then again on the commentary for the DVD of 'The Wall' he recalled that he phoned up and Judy told him quite bluntly that she didn't love him anymore. Either way, it lead to the dissolution of their marriage in 1976. It was 'the most neurotic time of my life," I think Roger's said. He left New North Road at the same time, moving south of the River Thames to Broxash Road off of Clapham Common the same year. It didn't take him long to find someone else though, even if she was only a minor member of the British aristocracy. Either way he was a fast mover; they were engaged by the end of '76. After that in about 1980 they were on the move again to a bloody great house in East Sheen, where he subsequently set up his new home studio: The Billiard Room. Judy meanwhile must have been *very* disillusioned; she spent the following decade single, going back to pottery in a serious way and exhibiting often. She married again in 1996, interestingly to a man who actually *was* an architect as opposed to someone who kind-of studied it at college, bore him a son (which she never did with Waters), continued potting to acclaim and effect but then died in January 2001.
So, that's where most things that kept Waters awake at night first made the leap from his conscience to paper. It goes without saying that it's still occupied and a private residence, and the inhabitants within mightn't even be aware of what happened decades ago. They mightn't even been *alive* decades ago. So no knocking on doors, window panes or notes through the letterbox asking if you can arrange a tour. Comprendo? Good. Leave their neighbours alone too, as they've probably all got better lawyers than you have. Right, on we go; there's much ground to cover. The next bit of walking shouldn't take more than ten minutes or thereabouts. Orientate yourself leftwards and walk up New North Road, passing our old mate St. Paul Street and later on Basire Street on our left. Keep going, and next you ought to see Popham Street on the left. Eventually you'll come to a traffic light junction with Essex Road, which I want you to walk straight over. Well, so you're over the other side at least. Once there do a left down Essex Road, past the near-useless railway station (with a sign on the wall imploring you not to park nearby in case the ground caves in, which is a bit of a worry) and on to the bus stop you can see up ahead. Wait here for a (73), one of our Germanic not-at-all dangerous, too-long and spontaneously combusting Mercedes bendy-buses, or if you don't fancy being barbecued use a (341) or (476) instead. Whichever one you go for, take it to Newington Green. After ten or fifteen minutes the synthesised automaton tells you it's coming up, and you should see the green on your right hand side. Get off, cross the road and walk all the way through the green to the other side. As you come to the tarmac at that end, you'll see a bus stop over on the left. Cross over and wait there for a (236) to Finsbury Park, which'll take you on a little rollercoaster ride down streets big and small, and there's a few points of interest along the way to spot. Towards the end of the journey, as you move through Highbury Grove into Blackstock Road, look out for Conewood Street or Elwood Street on the left. That bloody great white thing at the bottom of both roads is what used to be the home of Arsenal F.C., Gilmour and Waters' football club of choice back in the 1970's. Or so they told us, anyway. As you sense Finsbury Park's getting near, look out for St. Thomas's Road - again on the left - and spy the North London Central Mosque. Down there's where an even bigger prophet of doom for civilization than Roger Waters used to give himself a sore throat: Abu Hamza, the radical Islamist cycloptic lard-soaked cunt with metal hooks where his hands once lived (ergo his tabloid nickname, Captain Hook). As luck would have it he's in prison at the moment fighting extradition to the USA, so your collar won't be felt - or not by him, anyway. Note with amusement the Mosque's neighbour on the right - a branch of William Hill bookmakers, gloriously out of keeping with the Prophet's incantations. So, when the bus pulls into Finsbury Park bus station get ready to get off, turn left and walk along past the Arsenal shop, bear to the right, past the (other) tube station entrances and carry on under the railway bridges. Up ahead you ought to see something looking a bit like this:
The Rainbow was a famous (well, moderately famous) concert
venue in London, having seen
just about anybody who's anybody in pop/rock music during the sixties
and seventies. It opened in 1930 with 3,040 seats as the Finsbury Park
Astoria, closed in September '71, re-opened in the November, closed
again in March ' 72, re-re-opened sometime after that, closed for good
in 1981 and, despite plans for its revival in the
early 90's, nothing happened (for once). Instead it was taken over,
occupied and eventually restored to its former glory by the Universal
Church of the Kingdom of God in 1995.
This is another
building which has attained English Heritage grade two listed status,
granted way back in January 1974.
Floydian interest is maintained by the pre-album release 'Dark Side
Of The Moon' shows that knocked critics and public sideways from the
17th-20th February 1972. Almost exactly a month prior to that, the band
were here for three days' worth of production rehearsals (17th - 19th
of January). Not long afterwards, they outgrew the venue
totally and were forced to move to places like Earls Court. This was
also supposed to be the place at which the 'Live At Pompeii' film was
to be previewed in London on November 25th 1972, but the building's
decided at the eleventh hour not to let it go ahead on the dubious
grounds of being competitive to their own activities. So that buggered
that one up. I suppose we can look elsewhere and draw comfort from the
that this was where Jimi Hendrix first publicly incinerated a Fender
Stratocaster instead. Further production rehearsals took place in
February 1973 for a forthcoming tour of America, and the last visit by
Pink Floyd - months after they'd upgraded to Earls Court and become
just too bloody popular for their own good - was on the 4th of November
1973, appearing twice in one evening at a benefit show to raise money
for their old friend from the days of the UFO club, stricken Soft
Machine drummer Robert Wyatt.
**Update - 18/4/01**....I happened to pass by the Rainbow, and wouldn't you know it? Just as the Paris Theatre is unwrapped from its scaffolding, the Rainbow gets some instead, all around the front. One assumes this is to clean up the tilework which does, to be honest, need some attention. So if you go there now, and for the foreseeable future, you won't be able to see much. Sorry. You could always amuse yourself with the graffiti along the left-hand side of the building. "Ken Dodd's dad's dog's dead." Do you know what it all means? Answers on a postcard please....**
20/8/02**...I happened by once more, and the scaffolding has
removed. So has the sign in red script which said "Rainbow", finally
closing the lid on its rock and pop past. That graffiti's still round
the left-hand side though. See the out-takes page for
11/12/03**....I've just learned that
inside, on the stage, there's now a baptismal font the size of a
swimming pool. Bloody hell....**
28/2/04**....I passed by
some killjoy's been busy. The Ken Dodd grafitti's been removed!
Bastards. On the bright side, I learned what the place looks like
inside - and it's extraordinary. It's a visual fandango of
Spanish-influenced architecture and art, as would have been common
during the Moorish occupation. Just think of a classic bygone Hispanic
townscape, and everything your mind's eye sees is, to a greater or
lesser extent, included in the auditorium. Except the donkeys. After
some years of neglect in the 80's, the auditorium and foyer have been
restored to pretty much their original condition. Sadly, you won't be
likely to gain access to see any of it up close - there's no access to
curious members of the public and, for reasons known only to
themselves, absolutely no photography is tolerated by the church. Not
even members of the congregation are allowed to get snap-happy
apparently. Even the
foyer and what used to be the ticket office are covered by CCTV cameras
to make sure they don't get away with it. So I have no
revealing pictures to share. But fortunately the links page knows
people who do....
**Update - 3/11**.....Well, it's still there - and almost certainly still out of bounds to heathen non-believers. But at least they're still taking good care of it from what I can see.....
Right then, where do we go from here? Further west, obviously - and further back in time. It'll be a trial getting there though. Walk back the way you came under the bridges, and on your left you should see a long-looking subway which claims to lead to the tube station. It does, but if you follow it all the way to the very, very, very end you'll see daylight once more and come out at the arse end of Finsbury Park sation, and *another* little bus station here on Wells Crescent. Have a wander round, and find out which stop to queue at for a (W7) to Crouch Hill. Once you're on board, after ten minutes or so the sonic mistress will probably mention Dickenson Road is coming up. Ring the bell and get off at that stop if you can. Walk along to Haslemere Gardens up ahead on your left. Turn down here, and trudge all the way down the leafy lane until you see Waverley Road on the right. If you go down here, you're looking at the back end of our next stop on your left. The last original feature of this location is probably the derelict schoolkeeper's cottage, which if you look around closely enough is still kept company by a small sign giving away what this place used to be once upon a time. Currently home to Coleridge Primary School, it's been extended a bit and certainly refurbished to bring it up to scratch - or otherwise to stop it falling down. Linger a while, but not too much - unless it's a weekend, public holiday or proper school break, you'll end up on a register of some kind if you're caught loitering and taking pictures. Walk to the end of Waverley, and turn left. What you can see looks quite imposing and no wonder - decades ago, it used to be this:
|Hornsey College of Art
So, up here on Crouch End Hill used to stand Hornsey College of Art. This seat of learning was originally opened in the autumn of 1882 by artist/teacher Charles Swinsford on another site entirely, and by the mid-1930's offered drawing, oil and watercolour painting, geometery and perspective, modelling, design and wood carving, lithography, etching and fashion drawing. As these disciplines were clearly more engaging than applied calculus, in 1931 they had to open a new extension - *probably* the building to your right - to house the intake. That same year they renamed themselves the Hornsey School of Arts and Crafts, adding graphics and printing in time for the beginning of World War Two. During it they added photography to the course list, and by the end of the global skirmish they'd been bombed by the Luftwaffe. It failed to dampen spirits terminally, and in the 1950's they re-renamed themselves Hornsey College of Art. Having by this time well over 1400 full and part-time students, still further expansion was needed. The 1960's saw a famous rebellion by students and even staff over funding, but after crushing the mutiny the school solved the space problem by using other smaller annexes all over north London to hold whatever they could accomodate. In 1973 Hornsey joined up with Hendon and Enfield Technical Colleges to become Middlesex Polytechnic. The all-new Cat Hill campus to hold all classes in every subject finally opened in 1979, and in 1981 the original Crouch End Hill site here was vacated. Then the Trade Union Congress moved in at some stage thereafter and used it as a training facility of their own and left themselves, at a guess in the early/mid 90's or so. Some squatters took up noisy residence briefly in 2007, by which time the local council had acquired the lease to turn it into an extension for the Coleridge Primary School. Plans were approved, work was undertaken and that's what the place is now. So what then has all this to do with Pink Floyd? Well, as I mentioned in passing a while back, one of the college's tutors was a man named Mike Leonard, who also did a part-time stint at the Regent Street Polytechnic where Waters, Mason and (briefly) Wright pretended to study architecture. Leonard's extra-curricular interest was the projection of light, machines to enable it, devices to bend, shape, deform and otherwise transmogrify it, and the possibilities of synchronising the results to music. In 1962 he set up a dedicated department here to experiment wildly with all kinds of bulbs, motors, drive belts, switches, perforated wheels, pulleys, screws, bolts, glass slides, oil and sellotape. Roger Waters in particular was drawn to this marriage of light and sound, and having become a tenant of Mike Leonard's in 1963 at Stanhope Gardens (coming up later) their professional and personal relationship would flourish - for a while, anyway. Waters would often spend spare hours (which as we know, students *rarely* have) assisting Leonard in his laboratory with whatever experiments he conducted. But every now and then the rest of Waters' mates would wander along and appear at Hornsey, sometimes just for the opportunity to sonically pollute the additional rehearsal space it provided, after Mike Leonard apparently asked them to come down and play - although he reckons it only happened four or five times. Bob Klose remembers one occasion when the band set up their gear and started strumming away as Leonard's lights were flashing on and off. He says "That was a very embryonic version of what eventually became the Pink Floyd sound. That's where the original impulse came from. That sort of lodged in everyone's subconscious." By that I suspect he means the tipping point from when they were still regularly playing standard R&B numbers with a weird improvised bit in the middle, to Syd Barrett in particular finding his own style of playing and original songwriting by his own means - and we all know what *that* was, don't we? Mixing his formative musical influences and pharmaceuticals with Mike Leonard's gloopy refractions equalled, in a word, psychedelia. That said, Bob Klose sportingly admits that his leaving the group in 1965 contributed greatly to the shift too. It's generally agreed that this tentative coupling of light and sound didn't happen overnight; it took a while to gel (or as much as visual and sonic improvisation can when neither side's entirely certain of what they're doing), but this for the antecedents of Pink Floyd as we know it was where it's widely believed to have first happened. Of course it wasn't just Barrett, Waters and the others joining Mike Leonard in his quest; other students enrolled for other disciplines at Hornsey also contributed to the cause when they felt the urge to escape whatever they'd unwisely signed up for instead. Indeed they were perhaps too enthusiastic all round. It's alleged that students with no interest in illuminating amateur pop bands with an increasingly twisted sense of melody lodged complaints because Leonard spent too much time sodding around with his light machines instead of lecturing. Presumably those under his part-time wing at Regent Street Polytechnic saw even less of him than those he was supposed to be properly teaching at Hornsey. Do we know anything more for certain about Mike Leonard's and Pink Floyd's eclectic electronic hi-jinks at Hornsey? Well, not really. Although we do know they did in fact play a proper gig here on November the 18th, 1966 with lights provided by the college's students, presumably the other slackers who'd volunteered to lay down their pens to worship at the (brightly-lit) court of Leonard. Do we know *what* they played? Well....no. But it probably looked amazing, and sounded fairly hideous. Pictures of them apparently perfoming here are all we have to prove it happened at all, flanked by their Selmer P.A. system and standing on a small stage with their heads not that far from the ceiling. By this time, Pink Floyd had broken through and swept all before them at the London Free School sound/light shows in Powis Gardens, and around a month later in late December '66 the UFO Club would begin. So was this date at Hornsey a final thank-you for all their goodwill and support, and for Mike Leonard too? Just maybe it was, although nobody else has definitely said so, let alone speculated. Of course Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Rick Wright were never properly enrolled students here - but that's not to say Hornsey doesn't have some other claims to fame, most notably Kink-to-be Ray Davies, hairy Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover, nutty boy Mike Barson of Madness, dandy highwayman Adam Ant and (amongst other assets) rock-bottomed Lynsey De Paul, all of whom passed through Hornsey's portals with varying degrees of distinction.
Right. I've had enough of Hornsey now. So, assuming you're on the same side of the street as the ex-college's building, walk away from it in the direction we were going before we stopped, past the end of Haslemere Gardens, and to the crest of the hill. With any luck you'll see a bus stop in the distance down the hill., so trundle along to it and take a seat. When or if it comes, get on a (41) to Archway, and stay on it until it gets to the very very end and the driver all but kicks you out. It should rest up (or boot you off) beside a branch of McDonald's, in the appropriately named MacDonald Road. So, stumble from the bus and turn right, which'll bring you almost immediately to the annoyingly busy Archway interchange. Assuming you haven't succumbed to the greasy lure of the golden arches, the side of our next target's pretty much right in front of you - with a big sign promoting the glory of Guinness. Good luck on getting to it though....yes, as you can probably tell, it's stuck right in the middle of a fucking great roundabout with no immediately obvious way of getting right up to it without risking serious injury or death. Guinness might be worth it, but to be honest the Archway Tavern ain't unless you're a rabid Kinks fan. So instead you can walk along to the bus stops almost beside you and survey the building from there....
Just before we learn what the pub before you has to do with our greying minstrels, let me explain this: ideally we'd want to do this place and the second from last stop on this leg back to front, but unless you're a big fan of public transport with more time than sense (or more/less still than you'd need to get this far anyway) it's really not worth the extra aggravation. In a nutshell this pub was where the band used to rehearse when the neighbours at Stanhope Gardens got pissed off with the noise, and Stanhope Gardens' owner used to lecture and experniment with light/sound equipment at Hornsey College of Art. Got it? Lovely. Now we can delve deeper. Not much deeper, though. The locale of Archway, and this particular part, was always an important one given its habit of being a major road junction over the centuries. Even back in the days of dirt tracks and horse-drawn carriages when all around was fields and farmland, through traffic was impressive. After all, it's hereabouts that one would have effectively begun their journey towards the north of England and beyond - along what would imaginitively become known as the Great North Road, be it on foot, horseback or stagecoach along somewhat unreliable highways across rather challenging terrain, espeically on the way up to and past Highgate village (as we'll find out ourselves in a while). Progress being what it is, with the passage of time the surrounding farmland was developed and the roads necessarily became bigger, better and busier. By the early 19th Century things had got a bit ridiculous, and in 1813 the Archway Road was opened, which cut a straight, flat path through the hideous geology so everything on legs, hooves or wheels didn't have to trek uphill to go through the quaint and comely Highgate village and ruin that on their way north. It has remained a major peice of highway ever since, especially after the advent of motorised vehicles. Such was their impact that by the early 70's Archway Road needed to be upgraded to a dual carriageway to accommodate the traffic - and this also entailed marooning the Archway Tavern (and a church) on an giant island/roundabout thingy, to cope with the amount of passing vehicular mayhem. Beforehand, you had to go round the front of the tavern to get to or from either Archway Road or Highgate Hill, with the immediate space in front of the tavern being used for buses to terminate, park up and turn round outside. Nowadays as we know they tend to dump you where you were deposited a few minutes ago, and through traffic goes all the way around the Archway Tavern in numbers that are frankly annoying. Still, one thing's remained constant throughout all this carnage though - the public houses, wine merchants, and purveyors of ale to weary travellers looking for a drink or a place to rest their heads. Not that they'd get much of that at the Archway Tavern in 1964 though. As previously mentioned, when neighbours had had enough of the satanic rumblings and ear-piercing shrieks of Mike Leonard's tenants at 39 Stanhope Gardens, Messrs. Barrett, Klose, Mason, Waters and Wright would instead cart all their clobber down here and drive the clientele away by producing the same atonal din which terrified the denizens of Stanhope. But we'll get to *that* properly in a while. Very sadly, nobody seems to know exactly what it was they rehearsed here anymore, and it's a reasonable guess that anyone who *could* expired years ago. The remaining members of the band probably can't remember either. Having driven away what patrons the Archway Tavern used to be able to call regulars, the audial assault continued to batter Highgate with a malevolence (mercifully) unheard of before or since. Two other hostelries were in the line of fire, conveniently situated along Archway Road to reduce the band's transport costs: the Woodway, and the Winchester. Far from merely rehearsing, it's thought that they actually played *properly* to *people* at the Winchester, who were presumably enjoying a quiet drink of an evening until disaster struck. Actually, I'll come clean now: Julian Palacious reckons it was called the Woodway; I on the other hand can't find any readily available source that says a Woodway ever existed. A *Woodman* does, but not a Woodway. So that'll have to do for now. Should you wish to see these or even partake of a libation within, then your best bet is to get on the tube at Archway and go one stop north to Highgate. Once you're back at street level, head right and walk up to the junction of Southwood Lane and Muswell Hill Road for the Woodman, and then walk all the way downhill (or get a bus if you're suffering) to the Winchester, plonked on the corner of Archway Road and Northwood Road. After that you can then get yourself back to the Archway Tavern, to recommence the planned journey I've run myself physically, mentally and financially dry over the last decade or so to complete......
Right, did you just get off the tube? Good. Seeing as you're hopefully now standing at the bus stops glaring ruefully at the Archway Tavern and especially at the Guinness sign (wishing you had one to hand - or is that just me?), align yourself with the queue for the stop served by the (271) and when it comes, ride it all the way to the very, very end. Along the way you'll probably notice that things are getting very hilly indeed. When the bus gets to the end of the line and .....well, I hesitiate to call it a bus *station*, but when it pulls into the tiny space it's allowed - possibly needing to reverse back a bit - get off, turn left and walk along South Grove, passing Pond Square on the right. As you keep trudging down South Grove you'll probably gather that this is yet another pretty and affluent little corner of London, so if you recieve stares of suspicion as you go don't take it personally. They just think you're going to mug them or somesuch. Saunter as casually as you're able, until you come up against another little green on the right - more like a little roundabout actually - and a big church on the left. Inspect this place of worship with a critical eye. Does it look familiar? Probably not, but inch tentatively into the car park all the same. Whatever you do they've got to forgive you anyway, apparently....
|St. Michael's Church
So, what's this when it's at home? Well I'll tell you what in the fullness of time - but first of all let's deal with the building before you. As churches in and around the environs of London go, this one's quite youthful; it was built close to the sites of two far older and demolished houses of holy in eleven months flat. Costing a little over 8000 pounds - quite cheap in those days - it opened in 1832 and is (apparently) a superb example of neo-Gothic architecture. I suppose Mason and (perhaps) Waters would have known that given their studies at Regent Street Poly, but knowing how badly they applied themselves it's just as likely they wouldn't. As I pointed out when you were on the bus getting here, the streets and pavements were pretty brutal in terms of gradient - and St. Michael's is to all intents and purposes their apex: no other church in Greater London (or, say, within a 20-25 mile radius) is situated any higher. So that's the church dealt with, however briefly; their website'll give you more. Much more. It won't tell you why you're here though, and I gravely doubt divine intervention will either. So you'll have to put up with me instead. Fairly early on in Pink Floyd's professional career - at the start in fact - EMI had issued 'Arnold Layne' as their debut single and to promote it on television the band were filmed on a beach leaping around in various coats, hats, masks and dark glasses (save Syd Barrett, who opted for some Oriental thingy throughout) in the company of a tailor's dummy which they manhandled, brutally dismantled, inappropriately clothed and performed gymnastics beside for no good reason. Roger Waters is additionally featured in a remarkable sequence where he throws an umbrella, casts off his hat, theatrically leaps up and falls to the floor - but all in reverse thanks to the magic of running the film backwards. But you know all of this anyway, as you've seen the video a couple of thousand times already. So how about an alternative one for 'Arnold Layne' you mightn't even be aware exists? Oh, it does - I've seen it with what's left of my own eyes, and if anything it's even more bizarre than cavorting on sand with a dismembered mannequin. It starts.....weirdly. Amongst trees in a small clearing of sorts, we see Waters and Barrett squaring up to one another and more or less wrestling, Mason standing stock still with his head back scanning the skies, and Wright marching stiffly hither and yon with scant regard for ultimate destination. Freaky enough yet? This inexplicable mayhem is briefly interrupted by a dancing girl and the caption 'MADE IN ENGLAND', then back to the forest for a few seconds more pushing and shoving by Waters/Barrett, then the dancing girl again, more wrestling and *then*.....an unidentified lake, on the near bank of which we see Mason, Waters and Wright lounging over the ground with Barrett standing behind them at the water's edge. As the line "Why can't you see?" is reached, the camera zooms in fast on Barrett's head as he mimes, who points to the heavens and stares accusingly into the lens. After a short sequence of heads together and hands joined as filmed from underneath for Wright's organ solo, the action finally moves here - pretty much to the spot you're standing on now. Barrett faces sideways and kneels reverentially on the ground, Waters stands facing the camera, but with his head bowed and wearing some kind of cloak or cowl, while Mason and Wright stand facing the church (slowly raising their arms to reveal they're holding bunches of flowers - obviously). Barrett mimes emphatically the lines "He hates it/Doors bang/Chain gang", then Waters is seen standing somewhere else entirely looking....well, fucking miserable really as the chorus is heard. As we reach "Two to know, two to know" we go back to the lake and the crash zoom into Barrett for "Why can't you see?" - but at the end he points at the camera, scowling at us almost angrily....then for the final "Arnold Layne....Arnold Layne....Arnold Lay-yne.....Arnold Layne, don't do it again" bit we go back to the church. Mason and Wright are doing a jolly slo-mo dance with their flowers, Barrett's still on his knees and Waters emerges from his cloak/cowl thing like Dracula about to take a drink. Then the camera pans slowly up along the church's spire as the song ends. So there you go. What the bloody hell's it all about? Answers on a postcard please....I could have made it easier for everybody by giving you a link to YouTube so you could see it for yourself, but.....I didn't. The woodland/lake scenes would probably have been filmed nearby at Hampstead Heath or perhaps even closer at Highgate Ponds, but I've never been there and can't be bothered to now. I will strongly advise against recreating the video when you're visiting, not for perceived threats of eternal damnation and hellfire but because interested parties will probably bring down the full panoply of the legal system upon your mortal soul instead. Or in plainer English, nobody looked that friendly when I first came this way - and it's not like I didn't brush my hair that morning either. But there you go - that's Christian charity for you. Actually, fuck it all and do it anyway, awarding imaginary points to anyone who notices and actually knows what you're doing and why.....
Right then. Assuming you've not been arrested, what's next? How about a walk all the way back to where you got off the bus? I know, it's a disappointment but it is somewhat important. So, meander back to the curious little bus station we saw ten minutes or so ago, and when you get there you might as well cross over Highgate Hill and investigate the charity emporia of Highgate Village. I've often found it advantageous to do so - not necessarily for Floyd-related crap, but my collection of nearly-new Thomas Pink shirts is coming on a treat. Shame I've got no substance to match the style, but there you go. So, when you're finished all you've got to do now is walk all the way back down Highgate High Street, the way the bus strained on the way up. Don't worry; I don't want you to go *all* the way back down to Archway. Still, as you go do take note of the Angel Inn at number 37 on your right. You might well spy a recently dedicated blue plaque - alas not a genuine English Heritage one, but one with tangential relevance all the same. Said hostelry was the regular watering hole of ex-Python Graham Chapman, who (as the plaque says) "drank here often and copiously." As any fule know, he played the lead role in 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail', which was partly financed by.....Pink Floyd. Well, I *said* it was tangential. Don't let me stop you from seeking refreshment within if you feel the need; but equally don't hold me to account if you're found hours later in the gutter by paramedics. Assuming you've not just been released by the local plod on bail, continue down Highgate High Street to the junction and traffic lights with Dartmouth Park Hill and Hornsey Lane. It's quite steep, but as we're going down it shouldn't be too hard on the toes. So, when you're there at the junction turn left into Hornsey Lane and walk along for a few minutes to the bus stop up ahead. Wait here for a (W3), and get on. The next actual bus stop after this one is interesting; it's on top of the Archway Bridge (or what the locals affectionately dub Suicide Bridge), which spans the cutting with the dual-carriageway which we last saw beginning at Archway. Yes, it *is* quite tall/high up, and handy for those wanting to throw a seven. For those who don't, the views of the London skyline are quite nice and even better if the weather's playing ball. Truth be told, you could have walked down Hornsey Lane this far from Highgate Hill anyway if you wanted to drink in the vista at your own leisure. Either way, once you're on board the bus the electric mistress on the (W3) is a very advanced girl indeed and will warn you that it's entering into the hail-and-ride section of the route, meaning you'll have to keep your ears and eyes peeled for when the bus turns into Stanhope Road. When it does, it'll only be a couple more minutes before it warns you Stanhope Gardens is coming up. So ring the bell, and get ready to disembark. It usually pulls in and drops you off just short of the crossroads with Hurst Avenue on the right, and Stanhope Gardens on the left. Walk down Stanhope Gardens, and after five or so minutes (maybe less) you'll probably come across the house below - although it's got lots of vegetation in front of it, so even then you mightn't see too much.....
Here in the leafy lanes of residential Highgate, lives a mutitude of properties dating from the dawn of the 20th Century. Almost everything here used to be farmland, but with the coming of the railways and an anticipated subsequent influx of wealthy-ish people wanting to own property close to the city, landowners cashed in and sold up near to the close of the 19th Century. Or so far as I can make out. Don't suppose it matters *that* much, because the period we're interested in comes about six decades later - September 1963 to be precise. This is where a man in his mid-thirties called Mike Leonard decided to buy a three-storey house, probably for its proximity to one of his places of work: Hornsey College of Art, at which he taught, lectured or otherwise educated people. By his own admission being opposed to the idea of owning property (presuambly some sociopolitial stance), he still went ahead and once the deal was done and he was in possession of the keys, set about making drastic internal changes. The ground floor was converted into a self-contained flat/apartment, and the first floor was where Leonard thought he'd keep his own living quarters and studio/office. The attic would become a workshop of sorts, and additionally he added what you might as well call a roof terrace above all that so one could take in the air, enjoy an alfresco meal or sunbathe (weather permitting, which in England it rarely did or indeed does). His living quarters on the first floor became an extraordinary repositry for all kinds of ephemera: books, ethnic instruments, jazz and avant-garde freaky far-out experimental records, gramophone players and as he was also quite a proficent pianist, a baby grand piano to tinker around with. There's also an allegation that he had a couple of suits of armour up there too, which is worrying. Surrounding this extraordinary collection of objects were the walls, apparently covered not in paper but hessian and all manner of artwork and pictures, which was suitably bohemian. Being but a poor lecturer at a suburban college or two with a mortgage to pay, there was always a sly method in his madness. He decided to become a landlord of sorts by offering the ground floor flat for rent, earning himself a bit on the side to put towards paying off his mortgage. Obviously he had a ready market to aim at: his students. I can only presume he put an advert up on the noticeboards at either Hornsey, Regent Street Polytechnic (or both), inviting all interested parties to get in touch. Furthermore I have no idea whether or not there was a long list of potental candidates for the places available either, but it hardly matters because we all more or less know who was initially chosen: Roger Waters and Nick Mason. They took up residence in the front room around September 1963, having previously lived in various squats (Waters) or with parents (Mason). It's suggested that Rick Wright moved in at around the same time by some - but almost no sources mention this, let alone confirm it. So, let's make this several shades beyond stupid and give you a book-by-book summation of who came and went, when: Ready? Mason's 'Inside Out' says both he and Waters moved in September '63, and then Mason left for home in summer '64. Bob Klose moves in during September '64 and leaves the band, Regent Street Poly and Stanhope Gardens in summer '65. Next, Miles' 'PF- The Early Years' says much the same, but quotes Waters asserting that both Bob Klose and Syd Barrett arrived at the same time and moved into Stanhope together too (unless I've misunderstood his wording). Then he goes on to add that Barrett did move in at Stanhope after finding his first London lodgings in Tottenham Street disagreeable, and shared the front room with Waters in or around the winter of '64 while Bob Klose - still in residence then - shared the other ground floor room with another Cambridge bloke, Dave Gilbert. No, I've never heard of him either. Now for Povey and Russell's 'Echoes': they reckon Mason, Waters *and* Wright all eventually ended up living here at the same time, then muddy the waters considerably by seeming to suggest that Syd Barrett and Bob Klose were both at Tottenham Street together and moved over to Stanhope at the same time. In order for this to happen Mason left, as did Wright at the same time (from both Stanhope and the Regent Street Poly) which left space for Barrett and Klose. As Wright had left Stanhope and the Poly for an extended jolly in Europe, Mike Leonard then inveigled his way in to became the band's occasional keyboard player for a while - and finally got to use the Farfisa Duo organ in artistic anger which he bought for them. Got a headache yet? Oh, poor fools - we're only halfway. Next up comes Nicholas Schaffner's 'Saucerful Of Secrets', for many years the definitive Floyd biography. Luckily for us he doesn't say very much at all about Stanhope Gardens, which saves us time. What of its arbitarily-elected successor, Mark Blake's 'Pigs Might Fly'? Well, he agrees that Mason and Waters were the first lodgers in '63 followed by Klose in or around summer/autumn '64 (allowing Waters to take up bass duties given Klose's evident superiority on guitar - and probably bass too, but we'll let that one go). Barrett meanwhile had arrived in London and installed himself at Tottenham Street, but only lasted a couple of months there before shifting over to Stanhope Gardens which had Klose, Waters and Dave Gilbert in it. Mason left for his parental palacial mansion, and Wright moved in with girlfriend Juliette Gale. Rob Chapman's 'Syd Barrett - A Very Irregular Head' also concurs that Waters was already a lodger at Stanhope, albeit reckoning on his arrival in London in 1962. Thus he was there by the time Syd came to live at Stanhope, but seems to think that Syd moved over to Tottenham Street *afterwards* for the new college term of September '64. Apparently letters Syd wrote to girlfriend Libby Gausden at the time *seem* to back it up too, which really throws a spanner in everyone's works. Being a Barrett book, the others don't get much of a look-in really. Finally (or as finally as I can be arsed with), Julian Palacious's 'Dark Globe' says that Mike Leonard reckons he first met Mason, Waters and Wright at Regent Street Poly, and let them know there was space at his place - and seems to state all three moved in simultaneously to the ground floor. Then he goes on to say Dave Gilbert (him again - another Camberwell student apparently), Klose, Barrett amd Waters subsequently made up the lodgers. Then again he also reckons that someone called Peter Kuttner was a tenant sharing with Waters and Mason *before* Barrett and Klose moved in. Has your migrane escalated beyond endurance? I bet it has. So, if you're prepared to turn your nose up at times and dates, everyone apart from David Gilmour that was ever in what later became Pink Floyd (as well as a few other faces for ballast) lived here at one time or another, not always necessarily simultaneously. Ok? That made it *so* much easier, did it not? I suppose you're so pissed off by now you don't want to know what happened here anymore, and don't give a toss who did it. If you want to lie down in a darkened room instead, I won't stand in your way. If perchance you don't.....well, I'm sure you know about the pictures taken of the Tea Set (as was) in the back garden in early 1965, variously looking mean, moody and serious or otherwise leaping around in the air as if propelled via an invisible trampoline. There's probably more but that's all I can remember at the moment. On day-to-day terms, life was moderately idyllic: for the ground floor occupants a rota was devised for domestic duties. When Syd was in charge of food and cooking he had a carefully considered daily budget of 20p to feed Waters, Klose, himself and whoever else was there. Either way, it hardly mattered because he was only spending 5p a day in total on *all* of them apparently. The largely (elderly) vegetarian fare he badly prepared and presented would reasonably explain why they all looked so thin, gaunt, famine-stricken and very annoyed indeed at times. Indeed on that dietary basis it's a wonder they had sufficient energy for studying or playing instruments in the first place. Every now and then they'd invite Mike Leonard down for dinner - an invitation he always seemed to be fairly apprehensive about in the knowledge of Syd's interesting take on edible cuisine. That however was just the food; there's also an extraordinary allegation by Leonard involving a friend of Roger Waters' acquantaince bringing round a sizeable monkey which was then chained to a tree in the garden, just to scare the neighbours shitless. Quite apart from animal welfare issues, you'd imagine that the band rehearsals in the front room regularly taking the neighbours' foundations out would have discombobulated them enough. In fact we know it did, as petitions were signed and complaints lodged with the authorities including one particularly upset individual claiming their mental health was in peril as a consequence. For his part Mike Leonard failed to give much of a flying fuck for the occupants of the surrounding houses, and thus ensured that he'd never be top of their Christmas card lists ever again. Indeed in 2003 he cheerfully recalled that "You could hear them half a mile away.....they were known." It wasn't just the immediate neighbours, either. Apparently local girls of varying ages seemed to cotton on to the fact that something interesting was going on within, and peered through the ground floor windows to catch a glimpse of the long-haired pretty boys inside that played exciting music. Obviously they weren't (possibly on *both* counts), and it was thought that the oestrogen-crazed teens had myopically mistaken them for the Rolling Stones. So, that was the most fractional glimpse behind the curtains at 39 Stanhope Gardens. It was here too that their future manager Peter Jenner managed to find the band, after having got their address/number from Steve Stollman (instigator of the Spontaneous Underground events at the Marquee Club in '66) after being intrigued by the curious noise which they made. Sadly when he got their details and made his approach, only Waters was home as the others had buggered off on holiday. But they came back again, and so did Jenner - and before long they'd be managed by both him and Andrew King, and annoying the ears of Notting Hill at the London Free School instead. Mike Leonard again comes up trumps with miscellaneous memories: he's quoted as saying that "The band was very ordinary, not that good. Some tapes made here I listened to were fairly awful. Roger could not sing in tune properly, though he later developed his whispering style." Well, constructive criticism never hurt anyone - athough I'd be quite keen to hear those tapes for myself to see if they had any value as pest control devices. Mike added, "One would never have thought they would get anywhere. They never got out of bed until one or two in the afternoon." Musical incompetence and poor timekeeping aside, what else can be said? Well, given free rein to gambol and frolic amongst Leonard's collection of esoteric junk were his cats, Tunji and McGhee. According to Waters (who started to idolise felines once he began living here) one was apparently a stray that Leonard had taken in, and has related a touching yarn about a bird flying through an open window one day and instead of being allowed to escape, being shredded to buggery by Tunji and McGhee. Nice. Nick Mason says that the cats were otherwise fed by Leonard trailing smoked fish across the walls for them to follow, which must have lent the place a positively bewitching aroma indeed. Interestingly Waters recalls the same tale, but uses raw chicken in his version instead - which is probably even more grave a health hazard, but in the event nobody was found to have died. Apart from the chicken. While nobody disputes the feeding methods, Julian Palacios states that Tunjii had an additional 'i' to his name and was a stray that Waters found instead. I don't care which version's true anymore to be honest, and nor do you. More intriguing is the mysterious Peter Kuttner, lodging at the same time as Waters and Mason in '63 (and Wright too if he really *was* there simultaneously). He was apparently employed at the Marquee Club in some capacity or another, and offered to take a demo tape of the Tea Set (*presumably* their name at the time) along for the management there to sample. The band declined this kind offer however, and if they *were* as dreadful as Mike Leonard says they were then it's probably not a decision they still have sleepless nights about. Kuttner also remembers the swooning local girls sneaking around the perimiter of the house to see what the pulsating hunks of prime beefcake within were doing - although I'm fairly certain that the insomnia they were suffering at the time has long since been alleviated. *So* much more could be written about the goings on at Stanhope Gardens, but I've got things to be getting on with and so have you. Let's leave it to the proper books. The only other notable things that demand attention are the rare occasions the BBC came here to film both Pink Floyd (as they were by then) and Mike Leonard (as he always was). Their first visit was on the 12th of December 1967, for the BBC1 programme 'Tomorrow's World'. They were principally there to show Leonard's work with light machines for use on 'Top Of The Pops', not one whit discouraged by the fact that television was only in black and white in those days. The segment was aired only once in January 1968, and never seen again until October 1994 when short clips were included in the BBC 'Omnibus' documentary chronicling the band's history. The second visit made by the BBC was for the 2003 'Omnibus' documentary on Syd Barrett, which interviewed Leonard at length and gave us all a good nose around 39 Stanhope Gardens into the bargain. It eventually got a DVD release and after that an expanded reissue a few years later. Would that be enough? Oh no. Somehow, the full-length clip from 1967 mysteriously leaked from the dusty BBC archives in 2006 or thereabouts, and inevitably made it to YouTube for our delectation and delight. Is there any more to add? Well....not really. Apparently a TV advert for Shredded Wheat was filmed along Stanhope Gardens in 2003 too, but that's neither here nor there. Nowadays, number 39 is still standing, still looks mildly scruffy, and perhaps still has Mike Leonard living inside. But *don't* go knocking on his door. We've seen all we could have hoped for and deserved on the 'Omnibus' documentary, so don't go pestering him for a private tour. Got it? Good.
**Update - 17/9/12** It has come to my attention, rather later than it should have, that Mike Leonard died earlier in the year of causes unknown (apart from old age), and 39 Stanhope is up for auction on the 20/9. Apparently he also owned the house next door too, which I don't think many people knew. Various pictures of the interior have been issued by Savills, the auction house, and when I said it was mildly scruffy I was fractionally wide of the mark. Not far from derelict would be more appropriate, although given Leonard's state of health towards the end, however he met it, it's probably not a surprise.....
**Update - 21/9/12** Well, that *was* interesting. Apparently both 39 Stanhope and next door were bought by a property developer originally from Singapore, the comely Sham Masterman from the slum-like environs of Kensington and Chelsea. Being a (comparitively) young, thrusting, dynamic go-ahead businesswoman with a property portfolio of her own already, one can only assume that the £2.4 million she laid out was but a drop in the ocean. It was reported that she decided to take a punt on the houses after seeing the feature which BBC London broadcast just a day or two previous, which does rather smack of more money than sense. Sham (maintain chivalry people, and *try* not to laugh) commented that she "didn't really need to work", but was on the lookout for something to seemingly stave off the day-to-day boredom of moneyed privilege. In a bid to justify her extravagance, Masterman (I'm telling you, even her *name* sounds like a piss-take in itself) claimed that although no great admirer of the band herself, she maintains she does have a friend who's a fan and furthermore, just so the knuckle-dragging proles might have an infitessimal chance of securing their own bit of history apropros Stanhope Gardens, she tantalisingly hints that the various effects Mike Leonard thoughtfully left behind might potentially, possibly, perhaps and just maybe end up on eBay at some stage. So, get ready to bend your flexible friends or, if you're even poorer than that, give Wonga.com a call instead......
So then....what's next? Well, if you want I can now give you a riveting choice: you could either go back up Stanhope Gardens the way you came, or follow it all the way round into Claremont Road. If you carry on down Claremont it'll take you in a big semi-circle and dump you back out on Stanhope Road so it doesn't really matter, although you've probably had enough of walking by now. Whichever one you choose, you want to wait for the bus going the same way it was when you got off of it. Stick your hand out to wave it down when you see it approaching, as as you remember (don't you?) this is a hail-and-ride section of the route. When it arrives, you're on board and it's off, take it all the way to Crouch End Broadway. It's not too long a journey, probably taking about eight to ten minutes. As the bus approaches the broadway, it bears left and heads off in what appears to be the wrong direction so ring the bell. It ought to stop shortly, allowing you to get off and plod back up to the broadway and (once you're off, walking a bit and crossing over) past the war memorial. Now, this is a bit tricky. If you can see past the memorial and spot a branch of Tesco's over on the right, see if you can't get over there somehow without getting run over. Usefully there's another bus stop outside it, so queue up here in a restrained, orderly or knackered fashion for a (W7) to Alexandra Palace (finally). I always wanted to end this leg here, as it's where the original route of More Of The West and North finished when I first devised it about twelve years ago - and it remains a suitably impressive finish, especially if you can get inside. So when your carriage arrives, get on and take it all the way - *all* the way to when our trusty electric mistress tells us the stop for Alexandra Palace is coming up. You've probably been expectantly looking at it from the windows all the while, but now you're off the bus and standing on the pavement.....what next? I *know* it's bloody miles away. Well, it is - sorry about that. More walking'll do it. What do you mean, "fuck off"? It's only up an obscenely-steep hill, that's all. You want the full experience and to approach it like the hippies did in 1967, don't you? No? Really? Oh, alright then. Walk up to the traffic lights you can see about 75-100 metres ahead, and cross over towards Priory Road on the right. If you go down here, you'll see another bus stop in front of some shops. All you've now got to do is wait for a (W3), which'll take you all the way uphill along Alexandra Palace Way slowly but surely, to the very front of......
So here we are at last, alongside this rather wonderful piece of Victoriana. It opened in 1873, and burned down sixteen days later. On 1st May 1875 a replacement opened, which survived - for a while. The annexe on the right with the mast was where the first public high-definition television system in the world, the BBC Home Service, began broadcasting from in 1936. Much later in July 1980 the palace caught fire again, while hosting (or due to host) the Capital Radio Jazz Festival. A sad loss for the building, Capital and even for Pink Floyd; they apparently lent Capital around half a million quid's worth of PA equipment for the event. A sympathetic spokesman said that it didn't matter that much as they'd got another six or seven systems stored in their garage anyway. Alexandra Palace was rather less fortunate, and 'restoration' was completed in 1988. I use the inverted commas because as you can see vast areas of it are *still* gutted shells, which clearly have little if any hope of being restored to their former glory lest a financial miracle comes along. Which it won't, or not in our lifetime. As for our heroes, it was where the '14 Hour Technicolor Dream' was held on the night of the 29th of April 1967, an event which is legend for those who can still remember if they were there or not. The band had already done a show in Holland earlier that evening and, after a ferry over the North Sea and a lethal drive from the terminal, finally took the stage at 4.00am just as the sun was beginning to rise. Footage of the event (but not PF at it) can be seen in the Floyd DVD 'London 66-67', and clips were seen in the BBC/WXGN co-production 'Dancing In The Street', sub-titled 'Eight Miles High', which used to be available in the shops but has probably been deleted now. I bet it's on YouTube though. They performed here again on the 29th of July 1967, at the Love-In Festival, an appearance which (amusingly, given the title) didn't go down too well apparently. Barrett was stoned to buggery *again*, and it was supposedly what happened at this engagement which would provide Waters with inspiration for 'The Wall' ten or eleven years later. The dressing room door-knocking and calls of "Time to go!" might have stemmed from the largely futile attempts to awaken Syd from his stupor that night. Others suggest it wasn't here at all though, citing the shambolic 'Christmas On Earth Continued' gig at Olympia instead. Whichever, decades later David Gilmour played here at 1990's Red Balloon Ball for the Lung Foundation with Justin Hayward, Jools Holland and Ian Paice. He was also a participant at a party held to celebrate the Dalai Lama's birthday in 1996, unexpectedly performing the Syd Barrett song 'Terrapin'. Apparently few in the crowd knew who Gilmour (or Barrett) was, much less what he was playing. Sharp-eyed viewers will also see the briefest of glimpses of Alexandra Palace in the film of 'The Wall' during 'Waiting For The Worms', when the Hammer Guard prepares to march. In 2005, it was the location for a car show to which Nick Mason lent his recently purchased Ferrari Enzo (if we're looking for increasingly tenuous connections). As 2005 drew to a close, it also played host to the British Music Hall Of Fame ceremony - at which Pink Floyd were inducted by Pete Townshend, now that they're more or less all on speaking terms again. Sadly only David Gilmour and Nick Mason attended in person; Rick Wright was ill (a portent of doom realised a few years hence) and Roger Waters was busy preparing for his new opera in Italy and so appeared live by satellite on a huge screen above the winners' podium. Collecting the award, Mason looked up at this, backed away, turned to the crowd and commented: "Scary."I *think* they've all buried any particular hatchets apropos that occasion by now. Finally Gilmour looked in a year later to induct fractured Beach Boy Brian Wilson into the 2006 Hall Of Fame. You can then conclude by looking back over the splendid views of London, if you're lucky. The chances are it'll be shrouded in smog. It could be Mexico City down there, for all you know....
09/08** - The British Music Hall of
has been dropped, abandoned, discontinued and killed. 2006's was the
last one, 2007 fell by the wayside completely and now they think it's
far too late to have another one. Neither the British Phonographic
Industry (or BPI as it now likes to be known, presumably to save on
ink) or Channel 4 who televised the awards from time to time, pulled
their finger out and found a sponsor to pay for the bloody thing. Oh
well. It was nice while it lasted....
And that's your lot. Painful, was it not? Sorry about that. You'll never get that time back again, you know....