The brotherhood of the leaky boot and other stories

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

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2 thoughts on “The brotherhood of the leaky boot and other stories

  1. Great post, Pete. The film and music compliment each other really well. And as you say, Gor blimey guv’nor, they don’t make films like that anymore. A right load of characters. Meanwhile, poverty and homelessness is being brought back by the Tories – 2016 saw the sixth successive annual rise in rough sleepers in England. Seeing the down-and-outs knocking back the turps. Jeez. I better they didn’t have to film long before they got the brawl breaking out either. James Mason comes across really strangely though. It seems he’s trying to be compassionate and understanding, but everything he says sounds disdainful. Come on, James, make up your mind: are you with us or against us?

    • Thanks very much Pete. They don’t half! And Guv’nor they don’t make films like that anymore. My mind is still not made up concerning Mr Mason but that don’t matter when you’ve got characters like the 1970’s type strongman and the man at the end singing that very sad tune. A film and a half!

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