A cold lunchtime tinkle on the ivories

Just as I was wondering what I was going to stick in the blog today, I bumped into Piano Around London’s James Tofalli happily tinkling the ivories outside Sainsbury’s in Holborn. He has a lovely sound, a nice little set-up and a great sign too! It would have been nice if someone had donated a portable heater to him as it was bitterly cold this lunchtime. Keep up the good work James!

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A lunchtime song and dance (and what a dance!)

This lunchtime while walking down Tottenham Court Road a couple of buskers were going through their paces outside the tube station. I’ve seen these two before; a dreadlocked singer/percussionist with a tambourine strapped to his left foot and a guitarist giving it loads in a non-John Williams style.

During a version of Black Uhuru’s “Shine Eye Gal” (with some vocals stylings borrowed from Junior Reid’s One Blood) a lone passer-by got up and done his stuff. He was still there when I returned about ten minutes later. The duo were half way through Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” the dancer now  jacketless and doing a bad nervous twitch/Jagger strut type dance mixed with a impression of a chicken. Well worth 80 pence of anyone’s money. And the music? It certainly beats the “Theme from The Deer hunter” any day! P

Watch the cloth moth

Today on my lunchtime jaunt to Waitrose in Bloomsbury to pick up some halloween novelties I spotted a mythical character not usually seen around these parts. The guy was in his mid 60’s, grey hair styled into a compact quiff and had on a pair of chunky brothel creepers. The leather biker’s jacket he wore had a selection of patches (a few shaped like Iron Crosses) on the back and he looked me straight in the eye as if I was his enemy and gave me such a scowl. This was a genuine teddy boy/greaser hybrid that once frequented English seaside towns or drove buses in the Midlands in the 1970’s.

I automatically assumed that he’d just come out of the Rebel Threads – Clothing of the bad, beautiful & misunderstood exhibition at The Horse Hospital. The exhibition is free and until Saturday 4th November it features a small selection of what is on offer upstairs in The Contemporary Wardrobe Collection. So if you like “yer vintage threads” well this one is for you! P

Rebel Threads – Clothing of the bad, beautiful & misunderstood
The Horse Hospital

Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 1JD
Until Saturday 4th November Wed-Sat 12pm-6pm
Admission Free

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

Don’t touch that dial

Radio Live transmission

As a fan of all things radio I merrily legged it from Covent Garden over to the Tate Modern this lunchtime to see Cildo Meireles Babel. It’s a tower of around 800 radios of varying ages, from valve sets at the bottom to small modern electronic radios at the top, displayed in a darkened room.

As a self-confessed radio nut the installation is great to see and also hear, as each set is tuned to a different channel making each time you go to visit a one-off experience. The only complaint is it’s only audible at a low volume so hard of hearing punters like myself have to strain to have a listen.

Worth popping over to the Tate and having a look but pack your ear horn and bring a torch! More on the installation here. P

Flexing those lunchtime muscles

xray

Earlier this year we featured the excellent X-Ray Audio exhibition at The Horse Hospital (post here.) Well it’s back again and well worth going to if you haven’t already been!

X-Ray Audio – Bone Music 1946-1964 
Saturday 28th November – Saturday 19th December 2015
The Horse Hospital, Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 1JD

It’s all about illegal recordings cut into X-ray plates from the cold war period and here’s more about them from  x-rayaudio.squarespace.com

“In the Soviet states during the cold-war era, most modern Western bands and music was banned for all sorts of reasons including ‘neo-fascism’, ‘mysticism’ and even ‘obscurantism’. Much Russian music was also forbidden for a variety of other reasons. Even certain rhythms were regarded unfavourably. But a vibrant, secret and risky trade grew up in what became known as ‘Bones’ or ‘Ribs’”.

“These Bones were medical X-Ray fluorography sheets unofficially obtained from hospitals, cut into discs and embossed with the grooves of bootlegged gramophone records – a kind of medical version of a DJ dub plate.”flexi

Alongside the great exhibition are two related live events that are a must to go to, if you like the sound of that sort of madness.

The first is on Saturday 5th December with Strictly Kev (DJ Food) (£6.50/£8) talking about his flexidisc collection with Stephen Coates (The Real Tuesday Weld/X-ray audio) and there’s a free mystery flexi for the first 20 people through the door. (Above: Some of this writer’s flexi discs.) More details here.

And on Friday 11th December (£10/£12) the night features Lydia Kavina (grand-niece of Lev Theremin) and one of the best Theremin players in the world performing, alongside x-ray audio, who provide a live demonstration of recording onto X-Ray plates. More details here. Earlier this year we attended a similar event and all we can say it was brilliant!

So go and have a look at the exhibition during a lunchtime or attend on the night(s), you won’t be disappointed! P

There’s a whole lot of (hand) shaking going on…

Freemason_1

Yesterday I popped into The Library and Museum of Freemasonry at Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queens Street WC2 5AZ to have a look at the exhibition “Spotlight – Freemasons and entertainment.”

Firstly I thought it would be hard work getting into the building, imagining going through a handshake test, followed by all sort of trouser rolling and apron wearing jollities but no. It was a straightforward “go up the stairs and keep to your right for the exhibition.” When I reached the library I was greeted by a happy librarian only willing to talk about the Freemason’s Hall which is a fine old Art Deco building by the way.

The exhibition itself is interesting enough if you like that sort of thing but the only information I gleamed from it was Rick Wakeman and Freddy “Parrot-face” Davies are examples of lodge members who are also “modern day entertainers.” Not my sort of entertainers, sorry.

Freemason_3

But it’s in the far room off the library (which houses the exhibition) where all the good stuff is. This is where the actual museum is and if you like pottery, regalia, cloaks and daggers and such-like with mad imagery on them, this is the place for you!

There’s plates printed with pyramids, tea pots with weird logos, strange looking medals and also a stone supposedly from King Solomon’s mines. It’s all mad stuff and well worth spending half an hour at. Below is my personal favourite from the exhibition.

freemason_2

But on no account leave a bad comment in the visitors book or you might find next time you want a bank loan or planning permission you might be mysteriously declined with no explanation. P