|**Update 01/07** - To no real effect whatsoever,
and in a far-too-late
jumping on the Google Earth bandwagon, I've given you the
latitude/longitude coordinates for each site, so you can *sort* of do
the tour without leaving your house/flat/mansion/cafe. I wish I'd had a
facility like that nine years ago...
Estimated time to complete: years. Absolutely years. Yonks,
Start at: Embankment Tube Station
Come out of the station through
exit, turn right and go under the railway bridge. (Or if you want to be
you can come out of the station on the other side and turn left
instead.) Or arrive by other means entirely - I'm not fussed. Whichever
one you choose, take the first turning
on the right afterwards which should by all accounts be Northumberland
Up ahead on the corner of Craven Street ought to be the...
|Playhouse Theatre (lat: 51°30'24.61"N
long: 0° 7'24.90"W)
First stop, and it's the location for the first three radio sessions that Pink Floyd ever performed for the BBC. The building itself opened in March 1882 under the name of The Royal Avenue Theatre, and presented comic operas, burlesques and similar fayre for about nine or ten years, after which dramatic productions were the norm - save an unscheduled interval in 1907. During internal building work, a wall from the railway station above collapsed, killing six men. The work continued afterwards, and upon re-opening the theatre was renamed the Playhouse. In 1951, and at least until 1976, the BBC regularly used it as a studio to record radio shows of all kinds. The first one with Pink Floyd in it took place live on the 3rd of March 1967, which comprised of 'Arnold Layne' and 'Candy And A Currant Bun', for a programme called 'Monday Monday' at 1.00pm. Their second visit was for a show called 'Saturday Club' on the 28th of July 1967, which was to be broadcast later on the 12th of August - except that by this time, Syd Barrett had been going off the rails owing to his weed and LSD intake and come the hour of the recording, went a bit loopy and walked out. So it was abandoned, but later on that evening Barrett and the band did manage to play what turned out to be the last-ever night at the UFO Club in Tottenham Court Road. By most accounts, it was a pretty dreadful performance too. Nonetheless, on the 27th of November they were back at the Playhouse to tape a session consisting of 'Flaming', 'Apples And Oranges', 'Scarecrow', 'The Gnome', 'Matilda Mother', 'Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun', and 'Reaction In G'. This effectively closed Pink Floyd's account at the Playhouse, pitching up next at the BBC's studios at Maida Vale, then Piccadilly and finally the Paris Theatre for their remaining BBC sessions in 1970/71. Should you be curious as to what the Playhouse looks like inside, then you could do worse than to watch the promotional video for Queen's 'Kind of Magic', because it was filmed here. Incidentally, those rather intimidating modernistic grey appendages which seem to have the theatre's roof surrounded are merely the present-day facade to Charing Cross railway station, as you'll see a bit more clearly in a minute or two's time.
Retrace your steps back to the railway bridge, and take the footbridge over the River Thames. It never used to be so, but nowadays there's a footbridge on either side of the railway bridge. If you keep on this side of it, you'll be able to see on your right the second boat moored alongside the bank, which is the Tattershall Castle. This was used as a location for a press reception in 1988 to herald the then forthcoming UK dates of the 'Momentary Lapse of Reason' Tour, and is now a floating comedy club. If you decide to be awkward and take the footbridge on the left of the railway bridge then you won't see any boats, but you will see Waterloo Bridge, designed by the same man who did Battersea Power Station and those old red telephone boxes one can still see around London. If you've ever seen the in-concert projection film that's been used since 1974 to accompany the song 'Us And Them' and wondered what it was that all those suited-and-booted men and women were herding themselves across in slow motion, wonder no more - because it was indeed Waterloo Bridge. Pay homage too to the London Eye, shaped just like the Floyd's projection screen and occasionally adorned with lights in much the same way on special occasions. Yes, conspiracists: it's a *coincidence*. Not sure about the way the camera swooped over the crowds at Hyde Park during the band's set at the Live 8 concert, to pick out both the distant Eye and Battersea Power Station though.....anyway, once over the other side, say hello to the....
Queen Elizabeth Hall and Royal Festival
51°30'21.41"N long: 0° 7'0.83"W)
stop, and a landmark performance on the 12th of May, 1967. Billed as
'Games For May', it was here at the Queen Elizabeth Hall that
quadraphonic sound was first used in
Britain, utilising a system knocked up by EMI engineers. Unfortunately,
it only had the desired effect for those sitting near the front, and
even more woefully, some bugger stole it after the show. Were this not
enough, the flowers distributed to the audience got trodden into the
carpet, and rings from the bubbles that filled the hall were left on
the leather seats and wouldn't come out. They were banned from
appearing there ever again, a request that Pink Floyd have so far
complied with. Amazing then, that the adjacent Royal Festival Hall (on
the right) let
them in on the 14th of April 1969, for the 'More Furious Madness
From The Massed Gadgets Of Auximenes' concert. This date seems to be
the premiere of 'The Man and The Journey' suite, complete with dark
silver sea-monster wandering up and down the aisles pissing on
everybody courtesy of an internal reservoir attatched to its outsized
dangly bits. More astonishingly still, David Gilmour played a one-off
solo show here
- subsequently released on VHS/DVD - at the request of long-time friend
and former Soft Machine drummer
Robert Wyatt, as part of the Meltdown Festival 2001. During the show
he commented on the 1969 appearance, saying he recieved an electric
shock from his microphone which hurled him back into the drums. They
definitely knew how to have fun in the old days, didn't they? As it
happens, it was quite fun in 2001 too - so much so that he came back in
January 2002 for three more shows with Rick Wright on occasional
keyboards and assorted creatures such as the Bearded Wyatt, Spindly
Geldof and even the lesser-spotted Bush Woman as extra-special guest
stars to provide vocals on 'Comfortably Numb'. Roger Waters appeared
here for two nights in September 2002 as a guest of Jeff Beck - which
leaves only Nick Mason as a non-performer here this century so far.
Still, there's about 90 years left for him to make good. February 2007
saw Gilmour appear again - but only in 2-D as the subject of a
exhibition by Rankin which ran until April, featuring a broad
cross-section of luminaries from all genres of the arts. Not long
after that on the 26th of May, the Queen Elizabeth Hall played host to
a forty-years-on recreation of 'Games For May' featuring many Syd
Barrett-revering artists and, on authentic oil-light effects, the man
who did it for the Floyd back in the day: Peter Wynne-Wilson.
Make your way over to Waterloo Bridge, noting before you climb the stairs up to street level that underneath the bridge lives the National Film Theatre. It's where Roger Waters' 'The Wall Live In Berlin' concert film had its press premiere in 1990, but it needn't detain us on that account. After all, Waters didn't bother showing up either. Twenty years later the NFT was also where the public got it's one and only chance to see the rediscovered 1967 'See Emily Play' performance on 'Top Of The Pops' as part of the 'Missing Believed Wiped' project on the 9th of January 2010. I was there and they actually played it three times, not the once. Pink Floyd know it exists, but haven't decided what to do with it yet. I wouldn't wait for it to officially turn up anytime soon, so follow the signs to Waterloo station. Work your way through the concourse, and towards the very far end you can usually take a train to Vauxhall. Once there, get off the train, walk down the stairs and turn right. Follow it along past the kiosks, and out into the bus station. The rather scary looking building you should see to the right is the HQ of MI6, except nobody's supposed to know that even though it's been in a Bond film. In 'The Wall', the song 'Waiting For The Worms' detailed the march of the Hammer Guard which passed this way too, on its way to Hyde Park. Anyway, find stop E and take a 344 or 44 bus in the direction of Battersea Park Road, getting off by the Royal Mail sorting office. Cross the road at the lights conveniently placed just past the bus stop, find Cringle Street, walk up it, and throw a left at Kirtling Street. Walk along to the kink in the road. The brick wall should have a gap (and a security guard, unfortunately) where you will get a mammoth side view of.....
Battersea Power Station (lat: 51°28'54.15"N long: 0°
On the day of the 2nd of December 1976, eleven photographers, an eight-strong film crew (one in a helicopter), and a marksman watched the pig, named Algie, launch itself into position...or not. It wouldn't inflate properly, so they tried again the day after. A gust of wind broke the pig's moorings, and it was at this point they all regretted not telling the marksman to come back the next day.....Algie eventually came back down to earth in a field in the environs of Canterbury in Kent, after causing much air traffic chaos. On the 19th of January 1977, it was also here that the world's press had the opportunity to hear for the first time what the 'Animals' album actually sounded like. Just the once, mind. Even then, according to someone present, everybody was too busy talking for it to be heard properly. Nobody from the band bothered to turn up either, leaving it for manager Steve O'Rourke to field complaints. Apparently Gilmour would have been there, but couldn't get a babysitter in time. Oh well. I also have the faintest suspicion that the promotional video for 'Not Now John', from 'The Final Cut', was shot here in late 1982 or early '83. If it was, it would have been done in the dying days of the station's operational life, which finally gave up smoking in 1983. If you watch the video, there's a brief glimpse of a yellow warning sign with the letters 'CEGB' on it - which stands for Central Electricity Generating Board. Or it does in the context of a British power station, anyway. In truth, it might not have been filmed here - especially considering how much disruption they caused everybody in 1976. But I'm still fairly confident that it was Battersea. Unless anybody else knows better....
I didn't take a photo of the massive side view you'll have seen because it surprised me how big it was, so I've left it a surprise for you. Besides, the security guard didn't look too accommodating.
Kirtling Street to the end, turn left, then right down Battersea Park
Road (helpfully not marked by a nameplate). Now if you've perhaps tried
to bargain with the security guards but got nowhere fast, as you plod
along here you'll see nothing short of a miracle. Owing to the work
that's *finally* taking place, a big hole
was opened up in the perimeter fence for vehicular access when I last
wandered by. Two years on
however (Aug '05), and it seems to have been closed off again. But
between the edge of the gates and where the gateposts join the wall,
there's a tiny gap. So shove your
camera into it if it's still there, and do the necessary like I did (as
Throughout the month of August 2008, the
current owners of the Station invited the general public inside the
grounds for a privileged peek, wander round and exploration of almost
everything left to see that hasn't been ravaged by nature's cruelty.
Knowing myself what that feels like, did I take them up on their
unfeasibly generous offer? Of course I did.....
So, that's what you've been missing all these
years. Was it worth it? Probably not, compared to the kind of things
urban explorers audaciously do instead.....
08/09** The submitted plans for redevelopment were rejected,
largely because of that eco-funnel thing being out of character and too
tall. Now, current owners of the site REO seem to be in financial
difficulties and need to find someone else with lots of money to join
them in keeping the dream alive. Unsurprising, I suppose, given that
nobody's got a pot to piss in these days. But wearyingly familiar.....
03/10** A survey by Beautiful Britain magazine has discovered
that poor old Battersea is the second biggest eyesore in the entire
United Kingdom. Well, fuck you too. To maintain balance, it must be
pointed out that the magazine's byline is "Celebrating the past,
embracing the future." But only some of it, if their readership's any
**Update - 05/11** Just to let you know, the Irish backers/owners seem to have lost much, all or lots of thier pecuniary clout. Just like Ireland itself, actually.....
**Update - 25/9/11** As most of the English-speaking world knows (not to mention those who aren't), the son of Algie flew proudly above the remains of the northern towers of Battersea Power Station like his father did all those years ago. Being but a human construct and not a *real* pig as such, it was quite happy to bob about on the breeze in order to announce that the latest (and last ever) reissuing/remastering/archive-trawling/wallet-plundering programme is now available to buy if one so chooses. I *could* have provided pictures of my own of the event, but as the planet's media fell for it they'll have to suffice instead.....
**Update - 01/12/11** Well, that's just wonderful. Whoever it is that actually owns the place these days (some jumble of companies and concerns, but still ultimately Treasury Holdings, that Irish lot I mentioned half a year ago) owes Lloyds Bank just over 500 million quid, obviously can't pay it and so administrators will be called in. Amusingly (or not) a few days beforehand there was much rejoicing about confirmation of a new tube line extension to be built serving Battersea and what was *supposed* to be going on here. A few days before *that*, there were stories of Chelsea Football Club wanting to build themselves a new stadium next door to the power station instead. Who knows, cares or dares to dream anymore? All that *is* certain is the even less likely fact that the American Embassy's coming here to open in 2017 - assuming London as a whole'll still be standing by then....
**Update - 7/6/12** Well, well, well.....looks like a fierce bidding war's been going on when I've not been watching, and essentially Chelsea Football Club.....lost. Some Malaysian consortium satisfied those holding the power more than Chelsea did, and so very shortly the new owners will be SP Setia and Sime Darby - whoever they might be. Of course, there's always the possibility that they'll back out what with the 28-day due dilegence thing (the big business equivalent of a money-back guarantee if you don't like the dress you've just bought after all), but as it's not elapsed yet we just don't know.....
Once you've torn yourself away, keep going down Battersea Park Road and take a right down Prince Of Wales Drive. Go down to the roundabout and across on the other side you'll see the gates of Battersea Park. Go on, you know you want to. I'd advise spending as much time as you can wandering through here, if only for the fact that until you come to Hyde Park at the end of this leg, nothing as green and tranquil exists anywhere else on this tour. As you amble along, you'll probably see a pagoda - the site of the 'Tango For Tibet' in 1995, which Gilmour is alleged to have participated in. Presumably his contribution was purely musical; even to commemorate the Dalai Lama's 60th birthday, I can't see him dancing, tango or otherwise. As compensation, Leo Sayer also appeared - and we all know how he feels about dancing. Finding your way over to the river and walking alongside that will make sure you're well placed to come out by the Albert Bridge. Use it to cross the river, noting as you go the tasteful pale pink inlays on the bridge's balconies. At the traffic lights on the other side, you want to be going left along Chenye Walk. You have the option to continue strolling by the riverside or on the right-hand side of the road behind that shrubbery, doubtless designed to make sure the multi-millionaires who live along this road won't have to see the traffic from their opulent drawing rooms - such as Gerald Scarfe, animator of very loony toons for 'The Wall', who still has a residence and studio along this street in which he and Roger Waters did a lot of preliminary work for the aforementioned film. In any case, ultimately you want to look out for the turning on the right by the name of Old Church Street. Down here, on the right *just* past number 46a, is the former site of....
|Sound Techniques Studios (lat: 51°29'3.67"N long:
This quaint little facility, hidden down the alley between the two buildings, used to be a dairy around 200 years ago which disappointingly explains the true meaning of the heifer's head sticking out of the second storey brickwork; my own prior theory was that it wanted to elope but couldn't get down the stairs. Sound Techniques is more or less where Pink Floyd's recording career began to take proper shape - but in a very strange way. A friend of the band, Peter Whitehead, was and is still a filmmaker and needed a soundtrack to his latest project, a documentary of London as it swung like a pendulum did. Luckily enough Whitehead was secretly dallying with one of Syd Barrett's many girlfriends at the time - one Jenny Spires, apparently - and thus had him and his band just as ready and willing as the delightful Jenny presumably was. He put the money up for recording sessions here at Sound Techniques on the 11th and 12th of January 1966 and got a long, long take of their current live favourite 'Interstellar Overdrive' plus another instrumental piece called 'Nick's Boogie'. On top of that he filmed them recording it all and therefore captured the earliest known footage of Pink Floyd in existence. 'Interstellar' was present on the ensuing film., 'Tonite Let's All Make Love In London', perfectly capturing the sights and sounds of the age. It was released in 1968, and the Floyd footage gained a video release of its own in 1990 along with the discarded 'Nick's Boogie'. Pink Floyd's next visit to Sound Techniques woild be even more important. Their recently acquired manager, Peter Jenner, and associate Andrew King had just set up Blackhill Enterprises, to promote and book the band into venues across the country. Trouble was, as neither had any real experience (save the London Free School's own record label and the only band they briefly represented, AMM), they were no bloody good at it. Luckily though another more established outfit, the eponymous Bryan Morrison Agency, were asked to book the band - sight unseen and sound unheard - for a Christmas ball which led to further partnership between the band, Morrison and Blackhill. Before all of *that*, in pursuit of a record deal, a private recording session to make a demo tape on or about the 31st October 1966 in an uncertain location - certainly not Sound Techniques - took place, with Jenner and King in attendance. Former Elektra Records executive and soon to be UFO Club stalwart Joe Boyd thought it was good enough and hawked it round to his old workmates at Elektra (who liked it but didn't get the money right), Island Records (who also liked it but were orientated towards the black/Jamaican market instead) and lastly Polydor who followed suit by also finding it agreeable. The band liked them too, and even went down to Polydor's studios to show them what they could do. Bryan Morrison also went along too, ostensibly for reasons of none - but he had a secret agenda. Morrison was talking to EMI on the quiet, and after the Polydor visit encouraged the band to defer a decision until they'd made themselves a properly-engineered tape instead of the lo-fi demos from October overseen by Jenner and King (who were, unlike Boyd, presumably as good at sound engineering as they were at band management). Boyd was also blissfully ignorant about Morrsion's sneakiness, and even formed his own company in expectation of the band taking the Polydor deal and him being their producer. Coming good on his advice to smarten their demo tapes up, Morrison paid for their first professional recordings and sessions commenced here at Sound Techniques Studios on or about the 23rd January 1967 with Boyd, having both the practical experience and Sound Techniques at his beck and call, in the producer's chair After a week or so, the band laid down the catchy knicker-nicking ditty 'Arnold Layne', with 'Candy and a Currant Bun' as a proposed B-side. Upon completion, Morrison swiftly went over to EMI with the tape, made all the right noises and left again with the news that EMI wanted Pink Floyd - NOW. Two days later, they'd got them. Part of the deal with EMI was that their own producers alone would be used, and they'd lined up Norman Smith to work with their hot, if incomprehensible new band. Bryan Morrison had shafted Joe Boyd in one brilliantly-executed....well, execution, who was now out in the cold production-wise. The Pink Floyd were off and running.....sort of. The first single, 'Arnold Layne', had done fairly well despite being banned by a number of radio stations including pirates, which must have been demoralising. Come May '67, for the follow-up - 'See Emily Play' - they spent a lot of time and money but neither Pink Floyd nor Norman Smith could get the same results at Abbey Road as they could at Sound Techniques. So Smith and the band went back there to record the single, which was a victory of sorts for the ousted Boyd, however phyrric. One curious little aside about the 'Emily' sessions is the appearance of a friend of Syd Barrett's popping in to see him. His name was David Gilmour, who'd just nipped over from Belgium to buy some replacement secondhand microphones for his band Jokers Wild and heard that Syd was down at Sound Techniques with *his* band. Once again, time and tide have eroded the exact details of how Gilmour heard. In a 1973 interview, he says that Barrett called him up and invited him down; in another quote (the date of which I've been unable to ascertain) he said that he rang Barrett up and got his girlfriend instead, who told him that the band were down at Sound Techniques. So who knows, cares or dares to dream? Not I. What every account that Gilmour has given consistently recalls was that when he got there, Syd just stared at him as if he'd never seen him before in his entire life. Nobody knew or guessed at the time, but Barrett's acid-catalysed descent into incapability was about to begin.....
Follow Old Church Street onwards to the junction with the King's Road. Turn right, and plod up here until you come up to the junction with Sydney Street on the left. Just past that, on the right, is......
|Chelsea Old Town
Hall (lat: 51°29'14.14"N long:
Alright then. Does anybody want to even hazard a guess what this classically-columnar pile of brick and stone has to do with the history of Pink Floyd? Well, in truth it doesn't have too much to defend itself with. The band did play here, certainly; but it was a very small gig for the benefit of a privileged few. Furthermore, they shared a bill and dressing rooms with other bands who were playing that night. It's the kind of arrangement that was undoubtedly common back in the Sixties when they were up-and-coming, and travelling around the country as part of a package tour. So what would you say if I told you that the gig in question took place as recently as 1996? Frightening, I think you'll agree. You may further surmise that it was perhaps a little-advertised gala charity show, all in a good cause - and in a way it was indeed just that. The occasion happened to be a star-studded birthday party to mark David Gilmour's half-century lumbering the planet. At this point I'll dispense with the flippancy (for once) and hand you over to Andre of The Bootleg Beatles, who although obviously more concerned with his lookalikes, nevertheless gives a first-class account - indeed, only account I've ever seen *anywhere* - of the evening's festivities.
CLICK HERE FOR THE BIG STORY......
And if that doesn't impress you much, then you'll have to be content with Nick Mason marrying his second wife, Annette Lynton, in 1990 at Chelsea Registry Office which lives just around the far-right corner of the building as you see it in the picture. Actually, I ought to come clean here and now: what you can see here is the rear of the building. At the front, there was far too much traffic getting in the way to be able to take a clear picture. But that's the King's Road on a Saturday afternoon for you, I suppose. Not to mention the fact that I like the appearance of the back much more than I do the front. I've got half a mind to suggest they built it the wrong way around, actually....
Now, carry straight on down the King's Road, pausing for a microsecond to note the branch of Starbucks Coffee on the corner of Shawcross Street. I mention this only because, if I remember correctly (which I probably don't) it boasts, or used to boast, a famous vaguely-related regular customer: Bob Geldof. (*Update* - I *was* wrong - he used to lurk at Picasso's a few doors back, which had to close down in July '09 due to the recession despite a solid following). Keep plodding on, losing calories and confidence all the way as the hordes of young men and women who look like they've just stepped out of a Calvin Klein underwear advert pass by, until you come to Anderson Street on the left. Go down here, and shortly it will run into Sloane Avenue. After a while one will happen by a petrol station, notable for persistently having the most larcenous fuel prices to be found anywhere within at least a thirty mile radius. Possibly the entire British Isles, in fact. As you'll have probably deduced by now as a result of our wanders through Chelsea, anybody whose privilege it is to call it their local won't find filling up with even a full tank remotely taxing on the wallet anyway. The petrol station has something else to offer beyond financial ruin for the unwary stranger running on empty though: it's plonked at one end of Chelsea Cloisters, which keeps a tale or two within its walls....
Chelsea Cloisters (lat: 51°29'33.05"N long:
apartment block is probably Syd Barrett's last home in London before
going back to Cambridge for good in 1982. He
in the early or mid 70's, at about the time that his first two solo
albums were being re-released as a double set. Photographer Storm
him here to take pictures for the cover, but Syd just didn't want to
know. Stories of his existence while residing here are about as bizarre
as you'd expect. He's said to have rented two apartments, one to live
in on the ninth floor (No.902), and one on the sixth for all his
musical equipment. It is further alleged that he had
seven television sets in the same room which he watched all at the
same time - which *is* eccentric, considering we only had three
channels available to watch in
those days anyway. Furthermore there were two big fridge-freezers,
which is probably where the pork chops were kept. I ought to explain
this for the uninitiated, actually - two years after I originally wrote
it. Syd turned up unannounced at Abbey Road in 1975 while the band were
mixing the song 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond', so fat and bald that for
a while nobody recognised him - although they hadn't seen him at all
for some years anyway. "I've been eating a lot of pork chops" was his
explanation. The final time Syd passed by is reported as being when
Pink Floyd were
working on 'The Final Cut' in 1982, staying only for a couple of weeks
for reasons uncertain before drifting off again to Cambridge - never to
return. Or did he....?
Continue up Sloane Avenue, go straight across at the top into Pelham Street, and follow it to the end. At this somewhat chaotic juction, wrapped around the corners of Brompton Road and Harrington Road, you'll see a grim-looking building. This is....
Egerton Court (lat: 51°29'38.24"N long: 0°10'29.35"W)
being rescued by ccncerned parties from 101 Cromwell Road (of which
more later) around July/August 1967, and a brief residency in the far
south-west riverside town of Richmond with girlfriend of the moment
Lindsay Corner, plus Rick Wright and his girlfriend Juliette, the
Victorian flats here at Egerton Court were where Syd
and Lindsay eventually ended up. Storm Thorgerson also lived here for a
his Hipgnosis co-conspirator Aubrey Powell. Indeed it was as the pair
were going inside one day they happened by the name which would
in turn make theirs. The story goes that somebody - Syd perhaps - had
written the word 'Hipgnosis' on their front door. Thorgerson and Powell
thought it sounded fantastic - and nicked it. Well, they do say good
artists copy, but great artists steal....or something like that. In any
case, whatever the intentions of those who bailed Syd and Lindsay out
of Cromwell Road, this place was in fact
better in terms of substance abuse either. Barrett obviously declined
and more often than not it was Lindsay who bore the brunt of his
deterioration. Other occupants often heard her screams at all hours,
and sometimes tried to intervene - usually getting a fist in the face
and an order to piss off out of it by Syd in the process. By this stage
pretty much beyond any meaningful recovery, as the infamous story with
location is associated attests. One day, a visitor (why I've called him
that I don't know, as it's no secret it was Jonathon Meades)
heard a somewhat frightful metallic clanking noise coming from a
cupboard. He enquired as to what it was, and was told that it was
Syd having a bad trip. The others had locked him in the airing
cupboard, which wasn't very nice. However, Aubrey Powell has since said
wasn't true - and that they just told Meades that to wind him up
because he was "a hanger-on, a straight cat just out of school."
Latterly, Powell's elaborated by saying that there was no airing
cupboard in the place to begin with and Syd, already very paranoid
owing to his humungous dope intake, contrived to lock himself in the
toilet, fail to find the lights into the bargain and began shouting to
be let out - at exactly the same time Meades walked past. If
Powell's anything to go by, you'd also see the likes of Donovan, Pete
Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull turn up from time to time not to
mention an ever-changing stream of old friends, associates and
hangers-on from Cambridge looking for a place to stay, Syd or both. By
February of 1968 David Gilmour had joined Pink Floyd and Barrett's
inability to perform at all led to his effective dismissal, officially
announced to the world on April the 6th. He left Egerton Court (going
back home to Cambridge for a while) by
June/July, but Lindsay Corner had left both the building and Syd
earlier still, having had enough of being his personal punchbag. As
with most contentious issues surrounding the history of the band,
there's a question mark over just how bad Syd's behaviour really was or
wasn't towards Lindsay. All anyone can say with any degree certainty is
that she eventually settled down,
married and brought up a family as the 1970's approached. After Syd
left, amongst many sightings there was a tale about him being spotted
some years later on the platforms of South Kensington tube station
just across the road from here, dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and Bermuda
shorts. Which leads us nicely to the next stage, as I want you to walk
right through the very same tube station.....
So, make your way over to South Kensington tube station. Once there, take a right after the ticket barrier, and find the "Subway To Museums" sign. Follow it, and enter the subway - because this is the...
Cromwell Road Subway (lat: 51°29'45.24"N long: 0°10'26.88"W)
for some fun, methinks....so, what's this got to do with anything?
Well, Roger Waters has said in interviews that he ran up and down this
subway, linking the Science Museum with the tube station, to get the
sound of the footsteps which one hears in 'On The Run', from 'Dark Side
Of The Moon'. So, try it yourself. Recreate that magic...go on, I bet
you can't resist it! But mind those innocent commuters now. Of course,
other sources say it was Alan Parsons ('Dark Side's' producer) jogging
away in studio 2 at Abbey Road. However, Waters reiterated his comments
in recent interviews for 'Dark Side's' 30th Anniversary. So, unless
he's desperate for the credit on that too, it almost
certainly wasn't done at Abbey Road. And we can't go inside there
anyway unless you want to try it on and get ejected by security, so as
such this is the best you're going to get unless they decide to hold
another open day like they did in April 2005. Sorry about that. Perhaps
this'll cheer you up in the meantime, though. Forget 'Dark Side', and
embrace 'The Wall' like the whining younger brother you love to only
partially love instead. One of its stand-out tracks, 'Run Like Hell',
has a few footsteps of its own along the way - not to mention some
heavy breathing too. And you'll never guess where *they* were recorded,
will you? They were, and by album engineer James Guthrie late one
evening in January 1979. Going above and beyond the call of duty,
Guthrie not only recorded the effects but featured in them himself.
It's his footsteps you can hear, and his respiratory patterns too.
Arming himself like a live bootlegger, he got a portable tape machine,
strapped a microphone to his head and began sprinting like a maniac.
Frankly I'm surprised he never got mugged down there in the process,
but there you go. Still, as I
said earlier: Go on, try it yourself and recreate that magic! But if
Olympian athleticism's not your bag, you can take a brief climb up to
street level a short way along for a look at the Natural History Museum
- or one end of it at any rate. Gilmour appeared here in September 1989
for the Red Balloon Ball (in aid of The Lung Foundation) with Mark
Knopfler, Chris Rea, Garys Moore and Brooker plus the
honeyed larynx of Sam Brown. The event actually took place in the
museum's Dinosaur Room, which (insert your own ageing musicians gag of
Anyway, are you tired with all that wacky
racing? I thought so.
James Guthrie probably was too. Limp back before your
tendons seize up completely, and get on the tube (a District Line one),
To.. well, nothing as such. I'll let you into a
little secret. At this point I was quite keen for you all to get off at
Gloucester Road station, so you could walk the short distance to 101
Cromwell Road. After his time at 2 Earlham Street, by April '67 this
was another home of Syd's where his acid intake had really gone beyond
a joke, everything in sight was said to be spiked and even the
household's cat took a voyage to the edge of the cosmos
sometimes. This was largely as a result of it being another
squat/hovel/drop-in centre for anybody who'd moved in the right circles
in Cambridge, who'd ever experimented with substances whilst there and then made the pilgramage down to London.
As time wore on, bona-fide residents (few as they were) would come
home of a late evening or early morning and find swarms of genuine
strangers hanging around the halls and rooms that they'd never seen
before in their lives, usually in varying states of chemical disarray.
they were joined by Roger Waters as an incumbent, but not for
long. Presumably it was all a bit too shambolic for his
well-ordered sensibilities. Syd's tenancy meant that Pink Floyd would
rehearse here from time to time, to the eternal annoyance of the
neighbours. One of them, Duggie Fields, would not only find their music
highly disagreeable but (logically enough) become a flatmate of Syd's a
couple of years hence in 1969. As we already know, Syd and girlfriend
Lindsay Corner were rescued from this den of iniquity around
July/August '67 and then misguidedly installed at Egerton Court
instead, for more of the
same (but worse). Returning to the present, unfortunately whatever was
at number 101 was demolished and replaced by a supermarket in 1991. So
unless you want a prawn and mayonnaise sandwich, you needn't bother.
Instead you can stay on the tube, and alight at Earl's Court. Hopefully
you'll take the Warwick Road exit from the station - the other one
comes out at the wrong place entirely. The right one, however....
Earls Court (lat: 51°29'21.30"N long: 0°11'50.90"W)
Well, what can we say about Earls Court that you don't know already? That the floor's fully retractable, so that the International Boat Show can be held? Well it is, so there - *and* the railway runs underneath the whole lot too. Amazing it hasn't all caved in by now, really. No longer the largest indoor exhibition hall in Europe, Earls Court 1 (as the main hall is known these days) was completed in 1937, and is a venue in which just about every major pop and rock performer has played in, and countless other events take place within all year round - like the eternally-lofty 'Tower Of Time', whatever that might have been. As regards Pink Floyd, it was home to the acclaimed 'Dark Side' shows of 1973, the less enthusiastically received 'Wall' shows in 1980/81, Roger Waters' 'Pros and Cons Of Hitchhiking' in 1984, and the grudgingly acknowledged as really quite good fourteen-night conclusion of the 'Division Bell' tour in 1994. So it's a fairly popular place with the band. Waters' long-awaited resurrection resulted in him selling out two nights in May 2007, giving the second night's audience a special bonus prize of Nick Mason. An interesting side issue (if you've got no life) became apparent when first researching this tour back in the dark ages. Does Earls Court have an apostrophe, as in "Earl's" or not, and did Pink Floyd get it right when using the name in/on the 'Pulse' video (or DVD these days)? A glance at the sign on the exhibition hall suggests no apostrophe, but the Tube station has an apostrophe on all its signs. The local authorities say an apostrophe should be there, but the exhibition hall seems not to follow this rule. So PF did indeed get it right, unlike countless bootleggers down the ages - so I'm told. *Anyway*, Earls Court also makes a rather large cameo in the barely-legal DVD 'The Lost Documentary', featuring long-forgotten footage chronicling the race to get the venue, stage and equipment ready for the 1980 'Wall' shows, plus a wander round outside to talk to the crowds and ticket touts. They should have had a bit of foresight and done the same for the 'Pulse' DVD, I reckon......
- I read with something approaching several thousand leagues beyond
dismay that the land on which the entire Earls Court complex lives is
being eyed by developers with a view to demolishing it and putting up
the usual offices/shops/homes in its place. Not only is the local
council on side for these plans at the present time, but one of the
parties proposing this carnage happens to have a 50% stake in Earls
Court anyway. Whatever comes to pass, the bulldozers won't be moving in
for a long time yet; if nothing else, the place has long been confirmed
for a starring role in the 2012 Olympic Games, London's big chance to
prove to the world at large that we are in fact as logistically useless
always thought we were in the first place....
**Update - 09/10** - Well, there you go. Earls Court's current owner, Capital and Counties PLC, says it's going to be turned to dust in the dying months of 2012 after completion of it's role in the year's Olympic Games. Kensington Olympia's getting a facelift instead, and Earls Court's site and a good 65 acres surrounding it will be treated to.....well, unless you're a significant investor it hardly matters really, does it? Hurry up and see it before it dies.....
Depressed? Me too. If Earls Court's still in front of you, I want you to now go left along Warwick Road, past the junction with Penywern Road, and do a left at the next junction - Earls Court Square. Note if you will: no apostrophe, which (for the local council at least) is a catastrophe. In any case, wander down the Square, and just past the communal gardens cut down Farnell Mews on the right. This'll take you to the other side of the square, and once there turn left again. Not too far away, framed by the occasional tree, should be this building....
51°29'22.67"N long: 0°11'28.96"W)
After Syd Barrett had left both Egerton Court and Pink Floyd, he reputedly returned home to Cambridge around June/July of 1968. However he came back to London in January 1969 and ended up living at number 29 in this mansion block with an old friend, artist Duggie Fields, whom he'd last encountered at 101 Cromwell Road a few years previously. It was generally agreed that Syd seemed much happier once he'd left the band, and moreover he was still financially secure from his Floyd royalties - so Fields agreed to move into the three-bedroom flat with him. A third mutual friend joined them both, but wouldn't be around long for some reason. He moved out and Syd's latest paramour, Gala Pinion, took his place. She'd come down from Cambridge and got a job at the Chelsea Drug Store, a nearby forward-thinking retail emporium which included a chemist. Whether or not Syd took any advantage of this fortuitous appointment, I don't know. Given his previous track record, it's a fair bet. What is certain is that around the time he moved in, both his and his contemporaries' pharmaceutical vehicle of choice had changed: LSD was largely out, and Mandrax was in. Mainly a sedative, its yawning effect could be tempered if one could actually hold back it's impact by chucking as much coffee down them at the same time. The result would be a warm, happy, comfortable trance-like state. Comfortably numb, you might say. Despite his typically overambitious consumption, after a while Gala and Syd's relationship became volatile in the same way his and Lindsay Corner's was at Egerton Court. In a Jerry Springer-esqe twist, Gala was one of Lindsay's best mates which made for much wailing and gnashing of teeth. For his part, Fields supportively locked himself in his room and painted just to keep out of the way, presumably regretting ever getting involved in the whole caper. More often than not being in a blissful fog courtesy of the Mandrax, Syd began to let himself go even more, becomng a stranger to domestic hygiene or even just opening the bedroom curtains once in a while. His habit of allowing virtual strangers stay around continued too. He let a drug-addled pair from parts unknown live in the hallway, and then the living room. Who were they? Who knows? Who cares? Duggie Fields did *eventually*, but.....in amongst this domestic pantomime, Syd had actually been relatively busy (Mandrax notwithstanding). In March '69 he made contact with EMI about recording again, and by the following month and all through the summer he was at Abbey Road, going about business in as haphazard a way as you might expect. What became known as 'The Madcap Laughs' was eventually released in January 1970, and its cover design was shot here by Storm Thorgerson and assisted by Mick Rock. In preparation, Syd had cleared the contents of his room and painted the bare floorboards in alternating orange and purple (or blue and red, depending on whether you believe your own eyes or not). In his haste, enthusiasm or stupidity, he never swept the floor before starting to paint - so whatever dust, hair, odds, sods and detritus was there before he began got drowned in emulsion. There's also a tale - disputed by some - that, instead of starting from the door and leaving a strategic pathway through, he managed to paint himself in by starting in a far corner. The back cover boasts the remarkable feature of a naked girl - Iggy the Eskimo - posing artfully on a chair, thought to be one of the legion of women who visited Syd frequently. Iggy is particularly intriguing because, unlike most of the other girls that came here, nobody knew even back then who she really was or where she came from. Syd typically let her stay at Wetherby Mansions all the same. After she left, nobody really knew what became of her either for decades. until she was tracked down by a local newspaper in Meanwhile, Gala Pinion and Syd remained sort-of together despite his frequent drug usage and the mounting confusion it caused in him. As with David Gilmour when recording 'See Emily Play', friends would visit Syd at Wetherby Gardens and find him a shadow of his former *former* self, let alone how they remembered him five years ago or more. Even passing strangers not after a place to stay or drugs would benefit from his spongy mind; one such character apparently found himself the owner of an old pink Pontiac car which Syd had come by and left outside the Mansions as an impromptu exchange for a packet of fags. The legend goes that Syd already had a Mini, and swapped that for the Pontiac with the pecussionist from T.Rex. By now, Barrett driving *any* car would be a grave concern to public health and safety. Despite all this, every now and again Syd seemed to realise what was happening to himself and made plans for the future - which never came off. Something that *did* work with more success than many anticipated was 'The Madcap Laughs', which sold around 5000 copies in only a month or two. EMI were happy, and work began at Abbey Road in late February of 1970 on a second solo effort with Gilmour as sole producer (unlike 'Madcap'). Syd was fortunate indeed to have his old friend on hand to help him; this time round, things were much worse. It started off well, but rapidly deteriorated. It would take another five months to get anything remotely like an album together, with Syd only occasionally showing any enthusiam, awareness or discipline to get the work done. The situation here at Wetherby Mansions was no better either. The only brief moment of partial clarity was when he did his first live solo gig on the 6th of June at Kensington Olympia, which is coming up later. His second album, 'Barrett', was eventually released in early November 1970. What with Syd's state getting worse, Duggie Fields felt he had to move out temporarily just for a break, staying with a friend who apparently turned out to be even worse than Syd was. So that was a dead loss. However, with the dawn of 1971 Syd had had enough too. Consciously or not, deliberately or otherwise, he found himself back at the family home in Cambridge, having taken Gala Pinion with him - although she wouildn't stay around for long. Duggie Fields finally found the wherewithall to reclaim his flat from all the wastrels that Syd had let in, and peace fell upon Wetherby Mansions once again. For now, London had seen the last of Syd Barrett. Give or take another year or two, he'd be back - but installed at Chelsea Cloisters, which we passed a couple of hours ago....
So, where next? Walk up to the end, and go left along Earls Court Road. No apostrophe there either, is there? Wander past the shops, and also past the other entrance/exit to the tube station. Obviously if you ignored my warning earlier, you'll have been this way about fifteen minutes ago. Now you're back again, annoy a local and get them to take your picture standing by the adjacent Police Box if you like. It'll clearly signify you're a tourist or Doctor Who fan, but that's alright. Just don't come clean about Pink Floyd too, and you might escape unharmed. Carry on the way we were going and after passing Longridge Road on the left, cross Earls Court Road at the lights convieniently situated just beyond. This'll give you a sporting chance of crossing Cromwell Road up ahead without getting run over, which (when you get to it) you'll realise has got even bigger than when we last saw it, and has no subway to make things easier. So, once over the other side of that, keep straight on down the remainder of Earls Court Road. First on your left is Logan Place. It's got nothing to do with Pink Floyd really, but as Freddie Mercury lived and indeed died here I just thought I'd mention it. Carry on past St. Phillip's church on your right, past the Princess Victoria pub, past Scarsdale Villas and at the very very end you should come to the junction with Kensington High Street. Over on the other side to the left, you should see a collection of bare flagpoles, looking a bit sorry for themselves. Head over to them, for they're part of the.....
|Commonwealth Institute (lat:
51°29'59.53"N long: 0°12'0.73"W)
Well, this *is* a strange-looking effort. Is it a tent? Is it a greenhouse? Is it it both? Is it neither? Designed by the same architects who devised the Royal Festival Hall, the Commonwealth Institute opened in 1962. It's main purpose - to host exhibitions about countries from what was termed the Commonwealth of Nations (mostly former British Empire colonies that we'd ravaged) didn't really tiddle anyone's winks as an attraction. Unfortunately it took nearly 40 years for this to become obvious to those in charge, and after much expenditure and waste the exhibitions and the Institute were closed in 1996. But back in the days when the aims of a united Commonweath still fired *some* imaginations, Pink Floyd had captured the attention of Christopher Hunt, a classical music promoter - most likely because he was a friend of band manager Peter Jenner's wife, Sumi. Being rather younger and less crusty, stuffy and reserved than many of his contemporaries, Hunt was actually quite a fan. "I believe that the Pink Floyd are something quite different from normal pop groups," he said - and different they were, with their experimental freak-out dischordant racket which could clear most venues outside of London in no more than a few minutes. Nevertheless, Hunt invited them to perform here on the 17th January 1967 at an event called 'Music In Colour by the Pink Floyd'. And perform they did., but nobody knows what the setlist was anymore. It *has* been remembered that during the break in sets, a mime act performed 'a piece for paper giants called NOIT'. Created by someone called John Latham, he devised it as a 'three-dimensional representation of Pink Floyd's state of mind.' If popular myth is true, Syd Barrett's alone would have been a challenge enough so we can only marvel at Latham's ambition. We can also reasonably assume that, despite the appalling reception the band were getting outside of the underground scene, things went fairly well here. Indeed it proved to be a stepping stone to one of the most important and ambitious gigs Pink Floyd ever played. Hunt's connections in the classical world, and the apparent success of the Commonwealth Institue show, seemed to convince the people in charge of the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the South Bank complex that perhaps they should allow Pink Floyd to perform there. As we know (because we passed by several hours ago) they duly so did on the 12 May, blotting both their copybook and the venue's seating, earning themselves a lifetime ban. What effect all of this had on Christopher Hunt's career and standing among his peers, we can only speculate upon. Nowadays, the Commonwealth Institue is closed, abandoned, and wondering to itself just what went wrong. I almost shed a manly tear when I wrote that, you know - espeically as I learned what a calabash was while visiting on a school trip in 1987, a fact that has seved me well whenever the topic of edible gourds crop up in erudite discourse. Just in case you were wondering, the roof's design is technically known as a hyperbolic paraboloid. Sounds almost as stupid as an Azimuth Coordinator, I reckon.....
**Update - 12/08** - the Institute may yet be saved - not by killing it dead and using the rubble for foundations to support another block of cripplingly expensive apartments (not least because it's Grade II* listed by English Heritage), but by letting the Design Museum move in and *some* residential/commercial and office properties to be built. All in the best possible taste though, because the surrounding gardens are Grade II listed and Holland Park which is behind the Institute is protected by endless planning legislation too....
**Update - 08/09** - The scheme for the Design Museum seems to be on ice, as they're still arguing about what to do with the place. Objectors say the residential blocks, intended to finance the work to the Institute (going for about three million a pop - pocket money in *this* locale) were too tall and the plans for the Institute's interior were no good either. Are we looking at another fiasco similar to Battersea Power Station?
Once you've bade farewell to the Institute, walk back out onto Kensington High Street and turn right. Plod for about ten minutes - or you could cross over the High Street and catch a bus going towards Kensington Olympia. That's what I did, but only because it was raining. As Kensington High Street runs into Hammersmith Road, get off at the stop for Olympia's railway station, and you should see a glimpse of the halls over on the right. Cross the road somehow, and take in the splendour...
|Kensington Olympia (lat:
51°29'48.21"N long: 0°12'37.88"W)
This Victorian collection of exhibition facilities first opened in 1866, under the name of the National Agricultural Hall. It was the largest single project ever constructed by the prolific civil engineers Andrew Handyside and Co., covering a total of four acres. What eventually became known as the Grand Hall (seen here) is 450 feel long and 250 feet wide, and was on completion the largest building in the country at the time whose roof was covered by a single span of iron and glass. As the years progressed, the Grand Hall was joined by the National Hall and what's now called Olympia 2 after the same people who look after Earls Court took it under their wing. Pink Floyd first came here for the 'Christmas On Earth Continued' event on the evening of the 22nd of December 1967. With two music stages, light shows, a makeshift cinema and a pretend beach, it was probably the last big all-night mixed-media psychedelic circus of the entire era. It featured all the bands or people you'd expect to have seen at UFO or Middle Earth, and some you might not have: the Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Who, Eric Burdon and The Animals and of course the unforgettably-named Paper Blitz Tissue. Pink Floyd took the stage at about 5:00am and turned in what must have been an uneven performance at best; Syd Barrett was on another inconvenient acid-fuelled voyage to Hades and it was after this gig that the others could no longer ignore the fact that he was a liability to himself and everyone else. Fortunately they'd already got their eye on a replacement for Syd, and had approached him a few weeks beforehand after a show at the Royal College of Art (which we'll visit later on). Interestingly, 'Christmas On Earth' was filmed but very little has been released or seen at all. Of that which has, a Joe Cocker promo video includes Pink Floyd briefly glimpsed on a stage with three transparent or translucent pyramidal structures of some kind in front of them. No, I don't know why either. Following his unceremonious exit from the band, by 1970 Syd had managed to record 'The Madcap Laughs' and had completed as much useful recording he was able to for his second album too. Rightly or wrongly, he must have felt the time was right to tackle a live show - and here's where he made his debut appearance on Saturday, the 6th June at the four day long 'Extravaganza '70 Music and Fashion Festival'. Also on the bill were the likes of Mungo Jerry, The Move, The Pretty Things and many others of whom you've never heard. Ominously a last-minute addition to the bill in any case, helping Syd along were David Gilmour on bass, and Jerry Shirley on drums. His set comprised four tracks from his first solo album, swiftly banged out and not *entirely* successful; his vocals were apparently inaudible, and even before the last number was finished Syd wandered off the stage. His second album was subsequently released anyway, while Barrett subsequently retreated instead. Pink Floyd however continued onwards and upwards, using Olympia's vast and fortunately available expanse years later for production rehearsals in January 1977, to iron out any technical kinks and personality clashes before setting off on a world tour in support of their forthcoming 'Animals' album. Photographs of the rather cold-looking sessions can be found in the 'Animals' songbook, still seemingly available to buy. Or I imagine you could search the web for a scanned copy in PDF format. I only *imagine* though, if the lawyers are reading. Incidentally, the railway station that serves Olympia apparently has the distinction of being the boarding point that the Royal Family would have escaped London from in the event of Cold War armaggeddon. As we know it never came to pass, and they instead decided to implode *themselves* in the 1990's to the horror, amusement or total indifference of their loyal public.
**Update - 10/11** As promised they've been doing a lot of renovation, modernising and cobbling together at Olympia in the past year or so. Obviously I missed it entirely, but there you go. Sorry if it was covered in scaffolding and boards when you passed by yourself....
Now then. What comes next? Well, *if* it still existed I could take you to what I *think* was a place used in the film of 'The Wall'. But I won't. Behind the enitre Olympia complex used to live an even bigger jumble of buildings belonging to J. Lyons and Co, who made cakes, breads, pies, ice creams, biscuits and loads of other comestible toot for.....well, Great Bitain and most of the rest of the world it would seem. In the late 1800's they bought a couple of acres of land occupied by a building which housed a piano factory fronting Hammersmith Road. Cadby Hall was its name and it grew, expanded, mutated and basically stayed put until around 1983 - having at it's peak employed around 30,000 people on site producing food 24 hours a day. In between whiles Lyons also housed the world's first business computer at Cadby Hall which they had to design and build themselves as nothing else on Earth existed to do the job. That was in 1951; a decade afterwards some jumped-up American lot called IBM came along with cheaper and more reliable machines. Bastards. At around the same time IBM was conquering the world with it's new desktop PC in late 1981, Pink Floyd were upsetting themselves trying to make the film of 'The Wall' - and it's alleged by people like Alan Parker that portions were shot at a "disused biscuit factory in Hammersmith." About an hour into the film, depicting adult Pink's nightmare, young Pink wanders through a corpse-strewn battlefield, goes into a tunnel of sorts and emerges into what appears to be a deserted hospital ward full of empty beds. In a small room at one end, young Pink finds his adult self crouched on a corner barking at all-comers. He then not unreasonably shits himself and runs away. Later on, there's also the scenes of Pink turning all putrefied and being carted downstairs into a waiting car as the 'Comfortably Numb' solo is played. Parker says it was bloody cold while they were there and that Bob Geldof was "very brave, although actually it wasn't that brave - he complained all the time....mind you when you look at it it's hardly surprising." Both sequences were apparently shot somewhere in the "deserted biscuit factory in Hammersmith" which I tentatively posit was Cadby Hall. The only hole in my thesis is that I don't know exactly when Lyons left, or if they let them use a part of the factory which they weren't worried about. Additionally it mighn't be the *only* factory which made food in Hammersmith - but Lyons was so big it literally left little space for anyone else to muscle in. So who knows? Not I. All I do know is that Cadby Hall was flattened in June 1983, meaning there's bugger all left to see anymore apart from a little street called Lyons Walk which runs along the back of the Olympia complex - but that's your lot. In truth there wasn't much potential misinformation about Pink Floyd and Lyons either until I came along and ruined it. Oh well....
So, what next? Well, when - and I stress, WHEN - I write it, I'll give you a choice of branching off and going to Shepherd's Bush to see all the BBC studios, a house and recording studio and *perhaps* lighten your purse at the recently opened consumer ziggurat called Westfield. Let's be honest, we need all the help we can get at the moment. Afterwards, you can then meet up with the next regular stop via Notting Hill and Kensington Gardens.
Does it still sound fucking awful? Tough - I've done it. Just for you. I actually quite enjoyed this little diversion, managing to get a Mother's Day present into the bargain at Westfield. Do you want to do it too? I think you'd best click just underneath here then....
A BIT FURTHER WEST.....
No, I *didn't* mean you should buy my mother a present too, though I don't imagine she'd disagree in principle. But if you don't want to do the extra mileage (and I wouldn't blame you) read on, and console yourself to missing the unparalleled joys that comprise Shepherd's Bush. So, you've presumably now tired with Olympia. Walk back up to the main road where you got off the bus (you never walked it in the end, did you?) and take whatever bus goes back in the direction you came, towards Kensington Gardens. Once aboard, listen out for the disembodied voice that tells you what's coming up and get off at Palace Gate. Cross over the road at the lights they've kindly installed for us, and you should see something a bit like this down Palace Gate itself.....
The Countdown Club (lat: 51°30'4.74"N long:
So, we've already seen Earls Court where they played their
penultimate concert on the 29th of October 1994. How about what's
alleged to have been their first? Nowadays a casino, it was here at
Gate that was widely believed to be the first time Pink
Floyd played under that name, sometime in the spring of 1965, and as
such it's a very important place indeed. "We played from eight 'til one
in the morning with a twenty minute tea break in the middle. We were
paid £15", recalled Roger Waters. Rick Wright must have had
jet-lag; he thinks it was nine 'til two. Nick Mason has dug around in
his filing cabinets and provided more still: he says it used to be
either a hotel or a block of flats. I spoke to an employee of the
casino some years ago who said it used to be the gatehouse for Royal
Palace just across the way, but was dismantled and put back together
here. I suspect he thought I was an Australian tourist or somesuch. He
was wrong in both cases. Anyway,
Pink Floyd didn't just make this a historic one-night stand; no, they
held a Friday night residency here. It went well initially: down in the
they played three sets per night, at ninety minutes each which meant
that after a relatively short time nobody in the audience was in any
great condition to realise that the band up there were playing the same
bloody songs all over again. Maybe they weren't though - one memory
Barry Miles) thinks they probably had about 80 songs in their canon by
now. Either way, they nevertheless
to attract a small but hardcore legion of fans. But ultimately it
couldn't last forever. After three
whole nights - or weeks - of music (depending on who you believe), the
club was nailed with an injunction for
being too noisy. Undaunted (or more accurately impoverished, for this
was the only engagement they had at the time which actually paid them
money), Pink Floyd were troupers and offered to perform unplugged with
a double bass of dubious provenance, an upright piano, acoustic guitars
and a drum kit with wire brushes. Thus the embryonic space-rockers were
able to continue, until sometime in the summer of '65. Between then and
now, they offered songs like 'How High the Moon' and 'Long Tall Texan',
often with extended middle bits to fill in the time - which would hold
them in good stead the following year when they gained an important
booking at the
Marquee club in Soho. As the Countdown residency drew to a close,
lost their best musician - Bob Klose - and Nick Mason was due to
commence a year's worth of practical experience in architecture at his
girlfriend's father's firm of architects. Nevertheless, he was
sufficiently close to London to continue playing with the band as they
relentlessly gigged around the capital and its environs leaving anger,
frustration, indifference and trauma in their wake....
5/9/05* - it has come
attention that Mason thinks that the band was, at the time of the
Countdown Club, still called the Tea Set - thus my usage at the
beginning of the word "alleged"and "was widely believed to be". But
I'm so tired, I don't fucking care anymore....
now you're back at the top of Palace Gate, turn right and walk along
Kensington Gore, until you reach both the Albert Memorial (the
impressive golden monument on your left), and on the right *just*
before the more obviously arresting chocolate sponge cake-shaped
building, is this abomination....
College of Art (lat: 51°30'4.64"N
Alright. Perhaps I was being unfair. After all, looks aren't everything. But let's face it, the RCoA is at best decidedly at odds with much of its immediate surroundings. The RCoA was founded in 1837, and used to live in South Kensington before moving here in 1962 - by which time sculpture and graphic, industrial and fashion design had been added to the range of studies available. Attaining Royal Charter in 1967 meant it became a university in its own right, and given the more creatively-slanted students it had (like Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell) it'll come as no surprise at all to learn that Pink Floyd, with all their peculiar artistry, were booked by the entertainments manager and played here more than a few times. One of those occasions, in late '67, proved to be a pivotal moment in the band's history: their old mate from Cambridge, Dave Gilmour, was in the audience - and during the interval, Nick Mason asked him if he might, you know, just on the off-chance, be interested in joining the band as a second guitarist to assist his old mate Syd Barrett, himself by this time not much more than a lead weight around the band's neck. Gilmour was certainly interested, and understandably so given that his own band, Jokers Wild, had recently broken up after failing to secure a recording contract on a cruel twist of fate, and his current occupation was driving a delivery van for noted fashionista Ossie Clark and his Quorum boutique (which was on the King's Road, where we've not long been. I'll add it to the tour if I remember....). At some stage between Mason broaching the subject and his actual recruitment, Gilmour was actually sacked by Clark anyway which neatly dispensed with all the messy formal business of handing in notice and the like. "But it was thoroughly deserved," commented Gilmour in 1998. Sadly I don't know what it was he actually *did* do to warrant this action, but on the whole I think neither party has too many lingering regrets. Especially not Clark, who's been dead since 1996. Just as a side-issue, if you're still all pent-up about the RCoA and its architecture, then do please take this into consideration: the dark grey stonework which clads the building was specially sourced and selected, in order that it should match the dreary colour of the Royal Albert Hall's exterior. However, shortly after the college opened the Albert Hall's management decided it was about time to give the place a good wash, to get rid of all the grime and pollution that had stuck to its walls over the last few decades.....or so I was told by a RCoA security guard. He probably thought I was an Australian tourist too....
Bored yet? Turn round and look at this instead....
Royal Albert Hall (lat: 51°30'3.47"N long:
You can finish up
off by partaking of the venue's cafe (found at the South Porch, door
12) for a snack and a coffee (yes, it *is* the ubiquitous Starbucks'.
Or is it
Starbucks's? Or even just Starbucks? Oh, sod it - I don't even like
coffee). Then cross the road and have a
pleasant meander through Hyde Park. Find your way over to Hyde Park
Corner - it *is* quite a distance - and lurch unsteadily onto the
Centrals trail, if you've still got the will to live. I don't actually
it's possible to do both in a single day. So, save it for
later. Or another visit entirely. It'll still be there when you come
back. The buildings might not be, but the route will.....