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.
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.
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.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day