Good morning, it’s Friday again at last. I was up bright and early this morning and noticed the Clash Blog cat and dog don’t care what day of the week it is, getting some breakfast was a bigger concern. I noticed the same indifference from a rabbit who was hopping down the street and also the low-flying stork (without a baby) that distracted me to the point of almost running the car off the road. Sorry to go all Dr. Doolittle but I wonder if the animals get a better deal? On reflection probably not because they don’t have a brilliant record collection like so many of us.
So what’s on tap today? I have photos, lots of great photos and a sign that you really need to read the blog often to make it along to the events that matter most. It also helps if you’re in London.
Last night you may recall that I wrote about the launch of the new Sheila Rock book ‘Punk+’at Browns in central London. The book looks amazing and as you might expect there was a healthy turnout for the opening event. Friend of the blog (and yet another West Ham United supporter) Nick made it along and has graciously allowed me to share his photos below. He’s the handsome chap with Mick.
Mick? Yes, that one was there along with Sheila Rock naturally, Don Letts, Tony James, Paul Simonon, Chrissie Hynde and others. A splendid time was had by all whilst you and I were working yesterday. All winter long we’re wondering where our Clash crew are and as soon as the snow melts and the sun reveals itself they’re out and about. It might be a very active summer I hope.
Please join me in thanking Nick for the photos and being on the spot. As ever click on any image to enlarge and open gallery.
Welcome back good people and by all accounts it’s Tuesday, which is good in relative terms I suppose. If you managed to get through my extended mutterings on the last post about living in West London as a teenager then you’ll make sense of what is to follow, if not then read that first.
As mentioned I had a lot to say about why I ended up living just off the Goldhawk Road/Shepherds Bush when I was a late teen. Probably choosing what part of London to live in based on liking a band isn’t the soundest decision making basis but at 17 you make a lot of strange decisions. Since leaving Stowe Road I’ve rarely thought that much about it but in a recent revelation the significance of that street suddenly seemed borderline brilliant, to me at least.
To backtrack a bit, I’ve recently started reading the book ‘Vision of a Homeland’ by Anthony Davie (huge thanks to Damian H for sending it across the Pacific to me), when I finish it I’ll post a review. The book of course is an account from the key players of Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros from the beginning right up to working on Streetcore. In the book I learned that the video below was filmed in part just a few yards from my old front door, outside and on the roof of The Town House Studios plus in and around a local pub. This came about because the filming of the video for Johnny Appleseed was done rather off the cuff and three members of The Mescaleros were at the time working with Paul Heaton (former Housemartin, at that time The Beautiful South) on his new project called Biscuit Boy. As the story goes Joe literally decided to head to the studio where they were working with Heaton and enlist them to work on his video for the single.
Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros – Johnny Appleseed
It might be that Johnny Appleseed was in my opinion one of the greatest post-Clash songs that Joe ever wrote or it could be that the video shows a sunny day in London with Joe looking on top form, but it has remained one of my favourite videos since I first saw it. To find out it was filmed in my old neighbourhood made me go back and study it in more detail. About a third of the video is filmed in the West End and features Joe alone but most/all of the clips with the band were filmed either outside the studio or at the very foot of my old road just yards from the former front door. Talk about awful timing on my part. The pub scenes both interior and exterior were at our nearest local on the SE corner of Brackenbury Road and Goldhawk Road called The Brackenbury Arms. It was a average in the extreme but pure proximity made it an occasional choice. Since the filming of the video it’s been changed into a Morocaan/Lebanese restaurant called Mezaziq, joining the sad and endless list of pub closures in Britain.
If you’re conducting your Clash related tour of London, the filming took place along and just off the Goldhawk Road from St. Stephens Ave down to Brackenbury Road on both sides of the street. Nearest tubes are Goldhawk Road and Shepherd’s Bush. It almost makes me wish I’d have stayed in that flat another 15 years but knowing my luck I’d have somehow missed the fact that Joe Strummer was filming a video at the bottom of the road. I certainly walked past the studio countless times without every knowing who was recording in there, before the internet we had no clue really did we? Make sure you check out the link to The Town House and just look at some of the albums that were recorded there over the years too, not a bad list at all.
The pub featured in the 'Johnny Appleseed' video, now a restaurant and my old house just behind the tree top left.
I’m sure that’s far more than you ever needed to know, but if you’re local or visiting a place worth heading to. I’ll be back soon with more trivia and such.
A very happy Sunday to you from the towers. I’ve got a bit of time before we head to the beach today and wanted to say hello. Nothing really new to report so I’ve got the feeling the calm before the storm might signal some good news ahead. The news I expect any day now is the full details of The Clash boxset which has been promised for this year, originally penciled in for February and discussed at length now for over a year we’re still to see the fine print of a release date and price. I think it may account for a rather quiet year so far from Mick Jones as my idle speculation suggests he’s working on it for Sony. Pure speculation on my part but I hope that might be the case.
Our former flat on Stowe Road, looks much nicer 28 years later
This long forthcoming tale will all make sense in part two…I promise. When I moved out of central London in search of the first flat together with my then girlfriend I needed somewhere less expensive and at the same time larger than the shared accommodation I’d been living in just off Marylebone High Street. It was great living that close to the West End and being able to walk everywhere but something bigger and a lot more private was needed. I think it was early 1985 and I was yet to turn 18, The Clash (MKII) were on their last legs and we were heading into an era dominated by Big Audio Dynamite, The Smiths and The Jesus and Mary Chain. I was working in Tottenham Court Road and she at Selfridges. Flat seeking near Hammersmith or Shepherds Bush (it was cheap) began in earnest plus I wanted to live in what I considered to be a Clash related neighbourhood. All I really knew back then was that The Clash had met ‘properly in 1976 when Bernie Rhodes brought Joe Strummer to meet Mick and Paul in a flat just off the Uxbridge Road. In those days I had no idea exactly where but simply wanted to be nearby, even though I was almost nine years too late.
Flat hunting in London in the 80′s wasn’t enjoyable. In those days you’d get the Evening Standard and make hasty phone calls from pay phones and hopefully make an appointment to see a flat that evening. You’d bring your references and hope it was still available by the time you got there, if it was you’d hope the landlord liked you and your references convinced him you weren’t going to burn the place down. The first place we saw was on Southerton Road W6, you could literally hit The Hammersmith Palais with a good throwing arm and I hoped for the best. By the time we got there the queue outside was probably a dozen people deep, after waiting 30 minutes the back half of the queue were told the flat was taken.
Another appointment was made that same evening on Stowe Road which sits just off of The Goldhawk Road W12. Then it was a pretty run down 3 story house with a biggish ground floor flat was the target and I remember entering it and feeling like it was about 1962, everything just seemed old and worn out but it was cheap and pretty big. We didn’t have much money and although the cooker looked like it had been there since the blitz and the formica counters had known a lot of previous owners it would be alright. We were approved and found ourselves living a short walk from Goldhawk Road tube station, only 10 minutes away from Shepherds Bush Green and I liked that Loftus Road was a short stroll too if I wanted to see football when traveling away to see Arsenal was outside of my budget, which was most of the time. It was a multicultural neighbourhood with a lot of activity, markets were nearby and Ladbroke Grove and Notting Hill were just a short ride by bus or tube away. Commuting to work was always upstairs on the bus right along the top of Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park past Marble Arch and onto Oxford Street. It took longer than the tube but I always enjoyed seeing the city come to life every morning from the top of a double decker, I’d take the tube home at night.
The BBC Television Theatre, before it became the Shepherd's Bush Empire
Although our flat was a bit of a dump we had saved enough cash to buy some used bikes we didn’t get a car until a few years later when I got a ‘proper job’. Having a bike meant you could get away from the noise and down to Ravenscourt Park or alongside The Thames in less than 10 minutes. We’d often go down to the BBC Television Theatre to see if we could see a musical guest or celebrity who was appearing on Wogan which was broadcast from there three nights a week, milling around in The Bush you’d often see someone vaguely famous having a quick gin and tonic. The BBC Television Theatre is now known as the Shepherd’s Bush Empire – the same venue Big Audio Dynamite appeared at in 2011 and Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros nine years previous to that. My only memorable brush with fame was briefly chatting to The Housemartins before they appeared on Wogan in 1986.
I think we lived there for two and a half years, my memories are going to see a lot of concerts and nights in pubs down by the river in the summer. I never did bump into anyone from The Clash but I was pleased to be that close to where it all began and felt like I was living a daily pilgrimage of sorts. Frequently walking past the Hammersmith School of Art on Lime Grove made me (ridiculously?) feel I was better aware of Mick Jones than I used to be because he went there. More in the next part and a recent realisation that perhaps I should never have left that house on Stowe Road because if I had stayed I may have met Joe Strummer.