Tuesday, 12 September 2017

#PinkFloyd & The UFO

Ahead of the final London Walks Pink Floyd Walking Tour on Saturday 23rd September 2017, a short playlist of numbers known to have been played by the Floyd at the famous UFO Club.

We'll be visiting the site of UFO on the tour.

NB. These live and session recordings were NOT recorded at UFO, but aim to give a flavour of the band's live sound of the period…

You can book tickets for the Pink Floyd walking Tour via EventBrite…

Playlist: Middle Earth & #PinkFloyd

Ahead of the final London Walks Pink Floyd Walking Tour on Saturday 23rd September 2017, a short playlist of numbers known to have been played by the Floyd at the famous Middle Earth Club.

We'll be visiting the site of Middle Earth on the tour

NB. These live and session recordings were NOT recorded at Middle earth, but aim to give a flavour of the band's live sound of the period

You can book for the Pink Floyd Walk via EventBrite here…

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

A Plaque For Brian Epstein

Yet more anniversary brouhaha for The Fabs – it was 50 years ago this month that Brian Epstein passed away. Here, we remember the man without whom…

Brian Epstein was The Beatles' manager and the man who polished them up for fame. The Fifth Beatle? Well that particular parlour game can rage into the small hours – what about George Martin? Neil Aspinall? And on and on…

Upon Epstein’s death in 1967 George Harrison said, “He was one of us.” John Lennon described him as “an intuitive theatrical guy”. Paul McCartney once said that “Brian was very much part of the group”. And there seems little doubt that Epstein’s theatrical nous was invaluable to The Beatles' rise in the staid world of early 1960s show business.

His first office in London was at Seven Dials, in modest Monmouth Street in London’s West End, a hop-skip-and-jump from Denmark Street, London’s Tin Pan Alley. And it is in Monmouth Street where his plaque can be found. It was unveiled by his other long-lasting protégé Cilla Black.

Friday, 23 June 2017

60s Bowie

Adam writes…

I fear it's the one bad habit I'll never be able to break: buying too many music magazines.

It's a lifelong addiction stretching back to my teens when we had three weekly music papers in this country. I'll blog about the extent of my addiction another day.

This month's Uncut magazine has done nothing to stem my addiction, presenting as it does David Bowie on its cover.

In my own contrary way I have always loved 1960s Bowie. I think his pre-history, his musical archaeology, is absolutely fascinating.

Even hardcore Bowie fans accuse me of being a wilful obscurantist when I say this, citing Bowie's own often less-than-complimentary take on his 60s oeuvre. Many are all too keen to cite The Laughing Gnome as evidence that the whole pre-Space Oddity period was a bust.

But there's more to Davy Jones/David Bowie in the 60s than just The Laughing Gnome.

(And in favour of that much-maligned track, check out the arrangement – the totally pilled-up, speedfreak bass is a danceable joy. And THAT oboe! Please feel free to come and have a fight with me about the merits of The Laughing Gnome on any of my London Walks Rock'n'Roll London tours!)

The feature, written by Michael Bonner with contributions from those who knew and worked with Bowie, is an 11-page special and beautifully illustrated. We visit Beckenham for memories of a free festival, look at the Stylophone, get Rick Wakeman’s take on the vagaries of the Mellotron and find all the clues that point to Bowie's 70s greatness along the way. Well done Uncut!

Here's a playlist of my favourite 60s' Bowie tracks…

Watch the trailer for Wednesday's Rock'n'Roll London Pub walk, 7pm Tottenham Court Road tube (exit 1)…

And here's the trailer for THIS AFTERNOON'S Rock'n'Roll London Walk which meets at 2pm Tottenham Court Road station (exit 1).

Friday, 16 June 2017

Rock'n'Roll London Pub Walk: The Movie!

Adam writes…

The NEW Rock'n'Roll London Pub Walk movie is live now!

Filmmaker and musician Jon Klein joined me on the Rock'n'Roll London Pub walk the other week. As a musician Jon played guitar with Siouxsie & the Banshees and was a founder member of Goth pioneers Specimen.

With his filmmaker's hat on he directed this new promo for the walk (and he's working on an other for the London Walks Beatles tours too!)…

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Pink Floyd, Giles Gilbert Scott, Joseph Bazalgette & The Abbey Road Mystery

Next to Dark Side of the Moon, it is arguably Pink Floyd's most famous album sleeve…

Released in 1977, Animals features Battersea Power Station (designed by, among others, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott) and a giant pig flying between its famous chimneys. The sleeve design and concept is credited to Floyd's Roger Waters with the shoot executed and shot by the famous Hipgnosis design team.

Shot being the operative word.

The inflatable pic – 30 feet in length – was filled with helium and a marksman was employed to bring the thing down with a bullet if it broke free of its moorings. Unfortunately, inclement weather halted the photoshoot and work was postponed until the next day… the marksman, alas, had only been booked for the first day.

Most have you have seen it coming by now.

The pig – known as Algie – broke free and was out of sight within five minutes (that's literally out of sight, rather than, "Like, outta sight man") eventually landing in a field in Kent, having disrupted flights out of London airports on the way.

It's not the only architectural relic of London's past associated with Pink Floyd. In March 1968 they filmed at Abbey Mills Pumping Station (designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette) in deepest East London. Producer Tony Palmer (who went on to make the monumental All You Need Is Love documentary series on popular music with contributions from, among others, Charles Chilton) captured a performance of post-Syd Barrett Pink Floyd doing Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun.

The old Abbey Mills Pumping Station is but a hop, skip and jump from London's most confusing station: Abbey Road. No not THAT Abbey Road, that's why it's confusing.

So if you DO end up at Abbey Road on the DLR, and not St John's Wood on the Jubilee Line for Abbey Road Studios (where Pink Floyd recorded their albums up to, but not including Animals), then all is not lost! At least there's a flake of Rock'n'Roll London history quite nearby.

Monday, 12 June 2017

The Psychogeography of the Pink Floyd Walk

Adam writes…

Last Saturday I wandered round the route of my forthcoming Pink Floyd walking tour, doing a few last minute tweaks and adjustments. 

On earlier walks around the route I had been very much "in my head" – concentrating on best vantage points, details, facts, cuts and edits. The practicalities of a walking tour.

Saturday was different. I guess the opposite of being "in my head" would be "out of my head", but that creates another picture altogether (!), one that will have to wait until AFTER the walk on Saturday. 

On Saturday the psychogeography of the route leapt out for the first time. 

It was there all along, of course. 

But with my head up and eyes open I was delighted to see that the route I had chosen was no mere accident. Of course the route was dictated by locations and events, that's what a walking tour is all about. But the purposes of the locations we visit all changed long ago and the events are long past. Yet the subject matter had left marks or portents, poetic coincidences, clues or good omens at every step and stop.

We'll be cutting though Cecil Court on the way to Middle Earth in Covent Garden. And in Cecil Court, two of the themes of my walk, two of the recurring themes in the work of Pink Floyd, swirl all around us: childhood and war.

One of the running themes of English psychedelia (the period in which the tour begins) is second childhood. The period was made by creatives who had been war babies robbed of a childhood idyll. A theme to which Pink Floyd's principal writer Roger Waters returned again and again in his work - from Corporal Clegg on A Saucerful of Secrets right up to his masterpiece The Wall and on to The Final Cut. As we pass through Cecil Court, military memorabilia, uniforms and medals flash in our peripheral vision…

Childhood literature looms large, too. At Marchpane book shop, Alice In Wonderland is always to the fore, just as it was in underground culture in '66 and '67, a favourite book of both John Lennon and Syd Barrett

At Marchpane, I treated myself to a lovely edition of The Wind In the Willows

… the book that inspired Syd to name Pink Floyd's first album Piper At The Gates Of Dawnafter a chapter in Kenneth Grahame’s famous book.

And – curiouser and curiouser – the album loomed into view in the window of Pleasures of Past Times/Intoxica Records, also in Cecil Court…

When I got to the building where Middle Earth club was once housed in Covent Garden I was delighted to find a temporary installation in the basement in keeping with the themes above…

… we'll have a nose around on Saturday.

Then it was on to Syd's flat in '66 and '67. The building itself was demolished in the '80s, but hard by stands the specialist gaming shop Orcs Nest with this hippie fingerprint in the window…

The nearby Odeon cinema features in our tour, adorned with a frieze that includes scenes from theatrical history, including that most trippy of Shakespeare plays, A Midsummer Night's Dream…

Denmark Street is next. Was it mere coincidence that the building where the designers of Floyd's album sleeves worked had a 1968 Fender Telecaster on display

The Telecaster was, of course, Syd's guitar of choice in his Floyd heyday.

Even the architecture chimes in. The architect behind the Odeon mentioned above studied his art at Regent Street Polytechnic – where three members of Pink Floyd first met (we call in there, too). Henry Flitcroft's St Giles in the Fields is the architectural dot in the exclamation point of Denmark Street…

… and a young Nick Mason, before he became famous as the drummer in Pink Floyd, channelled Flitcroft by drawing his St John at Hampstead church for an architectural sketch project at Regent Street Poly. You can see the sketch at the Pink Floyd exhibition Their Mortal Remains at the V&A.

We even get a guest cameo from Giles Gilbert Scott, designer of Battersea Power Station, beloved of Roger Waters and all Pink Floyd fans from the sleeve of 1977's Animals. Gilbert Scott also designed the facade of the Phoenix theatre, along our route…

I'll be following this blog post with another featuring Giles Gilbert Scott and a Floyd location way out in East London.

Join me on Saturday at 10.45am for the Pink Floyd In London Walk meeting at Leicester Square tube (exit 1)…

Online booking is available for this walk…