Early on Thursday evening I drove over from the MU HQ in Oval to meet long-term friend and producer James Reynolds at the Duke on the Green, in the New King’s Road. After a delicious cod and chips we walked over the Green to his studio, where we spent an enjoyable hour listening to new recordings by a number of rising artists.
The following morning I met up with David Cohen, Communications and PR Manager for PPL, at Hideaway coffee house in Smith’s Court, Soho. We discussed the latest work in communications by our respective music industry organisations.
I then had some time before my appointment with producer Greg Fitzgerald for lunch at The Booking Office, St Pancras. So I walked through Soho and into Fitzrovia, an area where I lived from the autumn of 1977 through to the spring of 1978. I took a special look around Fitzroy Square where I had been a resident at the hostel Toc H at No.15 on the north side. (I recall being told at the time that No. 29 was the home of George Bernard Shaw from 1887 until 1898 and home for Virginia Woolf from 1907 to 1911).
I then continued my walk along Euston Road where I unexpectedly came across an RMT demo. The rail union was holding a protest to mark three years since the start of industrial action over driver-only operation on Southern Rail. The RMT continues to campaign against the changes, which made drivers responsible for the opening and closing of train doors, with guards taking on the role of on-board supervisor. The ASLEF union, which represents drivers, joined the RMT in taking industrial action but eventually accepted a deal from Southern operator Govia Thameslink.
The demo was taking place outside Govia’s London headquarters and as I passed a series of speeches was underway. I was then recognised by a TUC colleague and asked if I would like to say a few words. An opportunity I rarely turn down! I followed Len McCluskey, the leader of Unite, and a stirring speech by an activist on how the changes were impacting upon the rights of disabled passengers. I was introduced, took the microphone, and spoke about how musicians were often travelling at night, returning from gig venues and theatres carrying expensive instruments, and how security for both themselves and their kit remains a key issue. I then wished everyone well, stated my personal solidarity with their stance, and walked towards St Pancras.
I met Greg at the bar/restaurant and we passed a very pleasant hour planning the recording sessions for my new songs in the summer at his Canterbury studio.
I then walked back through the streets south of St Pancras, via Russell Square and Holborn, towards the heart of the West End. I always enjoy a stroll along Denmark St – London’s ‘Tin Pan’ Alley – and dropped into a number of the shops.
At the end of the street I went down the steps into the basement of Chris Bryant’s shop on the corner of Charing Cross Road, where a visitor was trying out a banjo. I had an interesting conversation with him about the history of the instrument and how it had its roots in Mesopotamia. (There will be a feature on this in a future issue of The Musician this year).
My final stop was at Macari’s, in Charing Cross Road, where I tried out a superb Gibson 339 in sunset burst finish. I told the assistant the story of how Diz Disley had sold a guitar for £20 to Vic Flick on the street outside the shop in the early 1960s, an instrument which can be heard playing – to my mind – the most famous guitar riff of all time, the James Bond theme as recorded by the John Barry Seven. I believe the guitar was a Clifford Essex Paragon De Luxe and is – or certainly was until recently – an exhibit at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, USA.
(Monty Norman was contracted to compose the first Bond film, Dr. No. Three weeks before the film release date, the main theme of James Bond remained uncompleted. Film producer, Cubby Broccoli, contacted Barry and commissioned him to complete a suitable final score. With the aid of Flick’s skilled guitar playing, they finished the score in time, and the piece has become movie history).
My final assignation for this 24 hour period was to be with my best man Ian McConnell at the Slug & Lettuce in Croydon and so I caught a train to East Croydon from Victoria. (We were originally introduced to each other in 1983 over a drink in The Globe, Moorgate, by Ian’s girlfriend at the time, Fiona Campbell). A few gins and beers later as we made plans for our trip to Lisbon in May with Jonathan Stewart and Oli Morris, we parted and I took the tram back to Beckenham Junction. It had been an entertaining day.