A bargain was bagged last week for the princely sum of £2.94 (including p+p off Amazon), it was a book by Geoffrey Fletcher which inspired the film “The London Nobody Knows” as featured in the last post. It’s a nice old book with illustrations by Fletcher (who was a graphic artist as well as a writer) and a preface written in 1989 where he mentions the changes in London since the original publication of 1962.
The book features lots of places that have long disappeared, language from a time gone by (some that now wouldn’t be politically correct) and some just plain daft: “Weird youths…stare listlessly into radio and jazz shops, youths with white-eyeleted shoes accompanied by their fun-molls. Each couple has horribly pointed shoes that make me think of elves; they twitch epileptically to the sound of jazz”. God knows what he’d say if he was still about today about London’s youth (and also the 50-odd year old punks wandering around New Cross with “Discharge” painted on the back of their “levver” jackets) but we love this book and it comes highly recommended!
If they were ever going to do a contemporary rewrite of the book and were looking for someone to do the illustrations we here at Liylh reckon they should be done by the artist Marc Gooderham (his “Elder Street, Spitalfields” above and Hawksmoor’s “Christchurch” below) as he uses decaying London as a major inspiration (examples of his London paintings here). As it says on his website about his work “Capturing the singular beauty to be found in those neglected buildings that have fallen into disrepair as the living city continues to evolve around them”. Fletcher would have liked that! By coincidence “The London Nobody Knows” was and is used by Marc as his bible and in his own words: “for drawing and sketching, looking for lost architectural delights… the book was a great discovery”. Have a look at more of Marc’s work here.
And finally while researching this post I found two episodes of a Radio 4 programme from 2011 where Dan Cruickshank revisits Geoffrey Fletcher’s old haunts in the first episode hereand in the second he visits his own quirky favourites here. One of them is the abandoned St Mary’s Underground Station in Whitechapelwhich is featured on this short BBC film here. The London nobody knows indeed! P
This week a friend told me about a very melancholic piece of music by Gavin Bryars called “Jesus’ blood never failed me yet” which samples a homeless man singing taken from an outtake of a 1970’s film about men who lived rough around Waterloo Station. It’s a well crafted number but be warned it’s very poignant and not one to have on if you’re feeling a bit down or you’ll be in tears within seconds.
The song put me in mind of a scene from a film featuring James Mason touring the capital which has always stuck in my mind. He was interviewing some men living in a Salvation Army hostel and said to them (on the subject of prejudice against homeless people when trying to get employment) “you are simply, down on your luck”.
The film is the wonderful “The London Nobody Knows” from 1967 produced by Norman Cohen originally from a book of the same name by Geoffrey Fletcher circa 1962 (available from Amazon on paperback very cheaply here). It is a snapshot of London in times well gone by and starts with the heavy reverberated voice of music hall legend Marie Lloyd and James Mason’s footsteps in the then dilapidated Bedford Theatre, Camden Town now sadly gone.
Music-related locations like The Camden Catacombs (underneath Rehearsal Rehearsals where The Clash and Subway Sect would practice) are featured as well as The Roundhouse. There’s even public loo’s (“All men are equal in the eyes of a lavatory attendant” Mason quips) featuring one in Holborn which supposed once had goldfish in the cistern and the classic double doorway type urinal in Star Yard which we featured here.
It’s a lovely slice of life from back then and features street entertainers you don’t see anymore (the Yosser Hughes/Screaming Lord Sutch-like song and dance duo above and Johnny Eagle the strongman come escapologist below who had a regular pitch near the Tower of London so I’ve been told) alongside an array of sheepskin coat-clad characters. So grab yourself half a stout, have a butchers at this film and when it’s over you can rightly say “Gor blimey guv’nor they don’t make films that like anymore”. P
It’s not every day you get to ask a couple of machine gun-toting policemen for directions but last Monday lunchtime I did. I was lost outside the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Green Park and trying to find my way to an address that once housed an organisation that changed the face of UK radio forever.
In the days of old there were no pop music radio stations in the UK until Radio Caroline changed all that in 1964 (more on the station here). I’ve long been fascinated by the offshore pirates of the 60’s and have just finished Ray Clark’s “Radio Caroline: the true story of the boat that rocked”so the other afternoon I decided to take a trip to 6 Chesterfield Gardens W1 (once known as “Caroline House”) where the station had their London HQ from 1964 to 1967.
It’s funny what impressions an address gives as I was expecting the location to be a nice square surrounding a leafy park but alas it wasn’t; it was a nondescript gloomy looking dead-end filled with expensive cars and builders busily filling skips. Looking at the building today it looks a lot cleaner compared to the images of it back in the sixties and is now a bright and airy office complex which now houses a collection of finance related firms.
Back then the building contained the Caroline organisation (that had offices over all four floors and a recording studio down in the basement) and other music related companies they rented floor space out to. These included the actor Terrence Stamp, Robert Stigwood (who managed The Bee Gees, Lord Sutch and Cream) and Track records (ran by Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp who also managed The Who) and it was here Roger and the boys filmed their Happy Jack video. In the promo film directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg in 1966 you can see the grand staircase and one of the high-ceilinged rooms with classy chandeliers.
If you want to see more of what the place was like in its heyday there’s a wonderful short film from 1965 about Radio Caroline here and the first two minutes features the interior and exterior of Caroline House. As the narrator in the film says says “(It’s) a big building for a big organisation”. It sure was! P