Category Archives: 19th Century

Demolition on the high street

This week we’re starting with a return to the splendour of the Royal Palace Hotel, which we visited a couple of weeks ago.

 

 

Unfortunately this was in 1961, when its demolition had started. Parts of the interior were now part of a new exterior and many of its windows were just blank holes.

This picture shows the early stages of the work.

 

 

The parade of shops next to the hotel, of which Slaters was one, has gone. Note the original location of the bus stop.

The gate remains.

 

 

Soon the hotel itself was just rubble, piling up behind billboards.

 

 

No more guests.

 

 

Just pipes and exposed basements.

 

 

The north side of Kensington High Street was no stranger to demolition.

Look at this scene from the early 1900s.

 

 

The LCC had a road widening scheme in 1902/03 and nothing would stand in its way. See the sign?

Here it is again.

 

 

This picture was made from a glass negative which has a crack on the left. The small building to the right of the crack can be seen in two of the pictures in the post about Slater’s.

Here is another view of the same open space.

 

 

Where’s St Mary Abbots? Look closely, it’s just behind that metal structure, which must be an Edwardian crane

Into this space later emerged a striking building.

 

 

This building, in a 1924 illustration,  is sometimes referred to as the Crown building (the land belonged to the Crown Estate), or the Ladymere building. It was built for the John Barker Company and had seven public floors, with many lifts and a subway leading to the main Barkers building on the south side of the street. It is now more known for the ground floor shops which have stripped away part of the facade so you barely know what a grand building lies above street level. Like many buildings in the High Street, it’s at its best when seen from the upper deck of a bus heading west, particularly the tower (or “pavilion”) which is an unexpectedly exuberant feature.

 

 

 

Check it out next time you pass it. We’ll take a look at the shops in this area in more modern times in a future post, and possibly come back to this building, but first we should finish our business with the hotel.

This grainy picture from 1961 shows the site ready for development with now just the trees of Kensington Gardens showing beyond the billboards.

 

 

The empty site was to be filled with a new hotel, the Royal Garden Hotel.

In this picture the lodge building  which stood next to the King’s Arms hotel is still there. This small building survived the entire history of the Royal Palace Hotel.

 

 

One of my readers (see the comments section of the Slaters post) thinks it can also be seen in this print, a detail from an 18th century print called called A southern view of Kensington.

 

 

I wasn’t sure at first, but I’m warming to the idea. What do you think? (The viewpoint is I think from a spot just inside the Gardens looking south.)

In any case, the building was finally demolished as you can see in this 1965 picture of the new hotel.

 

 

It was designed by the Richard Seifert company in the style often referred to as brutalist, although you could say it was simply large and practical. It has been a popular hotel and  temporary residents include members of popular beat group the Monkees (I believe. I’m recalling a documentary) and of course the 1966 England World Cup squad.

The current version features aluminium cladding which was installed in the 1990s. I often hesitate to criticize or dismiss contemporary buildings but the truth is I haven’t found anyone willing to praise the refurbished version. Our ephemera collection contains this snippet from the  Evening Standard.

 

Thank you, Mr Nellen (and friend whose name was unfortunately torn off?)

The penultimate image this week is that original hotel, The King’s Arms, back in the 1880s, together with its small friend.

 

 

 

Postscript

This should have been last week’s post, but I was quite busy with work matters so I let it go for a week, and Isabel’s post last week attracted so much attention it deserved a second week as the lead post. As I hint above, you will soon be sick of Kensington High Street as I have recently been shown an extensive collection of images from our Planning collection which I intend to use in future posts.

On another matter, when I was much younger, I liked the Walker Brothers, even though they were no relation to me at all, and later I was fond of Climate of Hunter, one of Scott Walker’s later, more experimental works. But I can’t claim to have listened much to his late avant-garde works. Nevertheless I felt I should note his passing.

Another recent notable death (for me anyway) was that of Larry Cohen, film director / producer and screen writer. He was perhaps best known for “It’s alive!”. But my favourite was his 1982 horror film “Q – the winged serpent”, which featured a kind of Aztec dragon, the Chrysler Building and the late David Carradine. It’s probably one of those films people call guilty pleasures, but I just call films I like, such as Night of the Demon, The Devil rides out and Constantine.

I didn’t manage to fit this 1961 picture into the main body of the post but I thought I’d slip it in at the end. Two people asleep in the warmth of an afternoon undisturbed by the sound of the traffic.

 

Advertisements

Madame Bach Gladstone: water colours of a neighbourhood

Local Studies collections quite often contain water colour paintings by local residents. We’re all familiar with that trope of historical fiction and TV drama, the accomplished young lady who paints pictures of her neighbourhood. Mrs Elizabeth Bach Gladstone is one of those. Now we’ve seen quite a few amateur water colorists on the blog: Marianne (or Mary Ann) Rush, Louisa Goldsmid, the un-named artist of the Red Portfolio,  and a few professionals: E. Hosmer Shepherd, William Cowen, Yoshio Markino. Some of them are talented, some of them are competent, some of them are a bit weird.

Elizabeth Bach Gladstone was born in 1858 and spent her young life in Kensington before her marriage to Henri Bach in 1896 and subsequently moving to France. She was the daughter of Professor John Hall Gladstone and the younger sister of Florence Gladstone, the author of Notting Hill in Bygone Times, the first history of the Notting Hill area. Her other sister was Margaret Gladstone the wife of the Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald. Margaret also did water colours but our collection has 67 paintings donated to the Library in 1933 by Madame Bach Gladstone (as it says on the card I’m just looking at).

I was probably always going to feature some of these works here at some stage but I was reminded of Elizabeth by this picture, which connects with the recent posts about Slaters and the Royal Palace Hotel.

 

 

This is a view looking south at Kensington High Street from Palace Green Avenue. On the right is Palace Avenue Lodge, and visible through the gateway, number 1 Kensington High Street (about which I’ve written already).

This area, taking in the vicinity on both sides of Kensington Church Street, was Elizabeth’s patch, and she painted this picturein 1893 when the Royal Place Hotel was newly built.

The picture below looks down Kensington Church Street.

 

 

 

The writing on the back of the mount (probably not Elizabeth’s) identifies the George Inn and the roof of the Carmelite Monastery but doesn’t say anything about the spire on the left. You’d assume it was St Mary Abbots Church.

Here is a better view from 1888.

 

 

The pleasure of these sparsely populated water colours is their tranquillity. The busy life of urban Kensington becomes peaceful so  this dusty street becomes as quiet as a cathedral precinct.

The garden below could be in a small town.

 

 

 

The spire in the picture though is not Kensington’s best known church, and the house is not its vicarage.

They both belong to this church, a favourite of Elizabeth’s.

 

 

St Paul’s, Vicarage Gate, briefly seen in a photograph in this post. (St Paul’s was damaged during WW2 and subsequently demolished.)

Elizabeth looks inside.

 

 

 

Another feature of amateur water colour painters is the figures. Not quite right in this one but passable.

Below, another garden corner.

 

 

The parish room of St Paul’s, also 1888.

And here, a view nearby, of Little Campden House.

 

 

 

This view says “down Hornton Place” (Hornton Place runs west off Hornton Street)

 

 

I’m not sure if the church tower would look quite so imposing in real life. (Although the modern surrounding buildings may be bigger now, and they didn’t have Google Street View in the 1880s.)

[Update a couple of weeks later: I went and stood at the end of Hornton Place, and the church tower does do some serious looming from thtt angle, so apologies to Elizabeth]

This picture, looking down Gordon Place (off Holland Street) is immediately recognizeable, even if the background has changed a little.

 

 

 

A small carriage trundles down another quiet road, Sheffield Terrace in this picture.

 

 

Once again, Elizabeth shows us solitary dwellings set amongst big trees, sitting behind low walls with a street so quiet a couple of birds can stand around in the middle once the carriage has passed by.

Now we actually move south of Kensington High Street,

 

 

Kensington Square, 1894 featuring another convent and a grammar school.

Below, the stables at Kensington Palace, a suitable spot for a painter to set up.

 

 

The lady in blue is competently done.

Unfortunately, the figure in the picture below (which I like, don’t get me wrong) in Dukes Lane walking opposite the walls of the Carmelite Monastery, really gets away from the artist.

 

 

Something wrong with the scale? (And the face?). Well, sorry Elizabeth, you can’t nail them all.

Postscript

Thanks to everyone who left a comment last week, especially those who corrected the identification of the streets. Unlike the Photo Survey pictures by John Rogers (who never made any errors in place names) those pictures may have been captioned (and dated) quite a while after the pictures wete taken. And the pictures didn’t originate with Local Studies. I was glad to have them uncovered after years of being lost. Actual lost pictures are actually quite rare – sometimes I come across images I’ve never seen before but it’s rare to find pictures that not even my predessessors knew about.

 


The high life – at the Royal Palace Hotel

We caught a glimpse of the Royal Palace Hotel last week but it looked pretty dull and gloomy in that rather faded photograph, even though it was probably only a few years old. To capture the aspirational feel of a new hotel you really need promotional material and especially artwork. So, for the most part, we’ll give the photographs a week off. Here is a view from an architectural publication showing the grand design.

The hotel, built in 1892-93 was built on the site of the King’s Arms Hotel (basically a large tavern) but was a far more ambitious building, towering over the surrounding houses and shops and looking down on Kensington Gardens.

 

 

It was intended to serve the growing number of visitors to London, and entice them in with many modern features, such as the grand entrance.

 

 

 

This week’s pictures are all illustrations from a contemporary periodical The style reminds me at least of William Luker. In the 1890s it was still somewhat easier for magazines to use artists to portray scenes like the exciting interior life of a brand new hotel.

 

 

An elegant woman glides through the entrance hall on her way out for a promenade through fashionable Kensington. A gentleman reads a newspaper in the hall. Not an aspidistra perhaps, but some kind of giant fern.

Below another view of the entrance hall, looking down from the gallery. Guest linger in the sumptuous public areas of the hotel.

 

 

 

Inevitably, the interior design of some of the public rooms is influenced by the exotic cultures of the near and far east such as this one, the “Eastern Lounge”

 

 

 

Or this one, an “eastern room” another young woman chats with a gentleman in formal dress, under a kind of canopy, surrounded by more of those giant ferns.

 

 

Guests could dine in a variety of dining rooms, some of them small and intimate.

 

 

Other larger, and more grand.

 

 

 

There were also the usual convenience of London life, such as a billiard room.

 

 

One of the features the hotel was most proud of were the extensive suites where residents could effectively have their own apartments, with private sitting rooms.

 

 

 

The husband sits around with a newspaper, while his wife concentrates on looking good. Below, a family group are actually making themselves comfortable and settling in in front of a warm fire.

 

 

In a private drawing room, a mother and daughter spend some quality time together.

 

 

I’m not quite sure what they’re doing. Perhaps the girl is insisting she should be wearing something more fashionable now she’s quite old enough to wear adult clothes. Maybe her mother (or is it an older sister?) is quietly asserting that she’ll just have to wait.

There’s a nice view out of the window of course, and they can go walking in the Gardens as often as they like. I could refer them to Mr Luker’s pictures of Kensington life, or some postcards of the Gardens.

 

v

 

After an outing, it’s only a short walk back to the wondrous hotel.

 

 

It’s conceivable that the young lady might live to see this view in her old age.

 

 

1958. The Royal Palace Hotel looks intact, and still looks tall and elegant through the trees. But, if not actually empty at this moment, it didn’t have long before the end. It was demolished, and a larger hotel built on the site with a new name. We have a few pictures of that process but I’ll save those for another time. Today, let’s remember the hotel in its glory days as that young woman might have done.

 

Postscript

You might have expected me to mark the sad death of Mark Hollis, leader of the now reasonably obscure band Talk Talk with a few words. Talk Talk went from sounding like successors to Duran Duran to making avant garde, almost jazz-like music.  I actually own four of their albums (bought during the era when Fopp Records sold back catalogue CDs at pretty reasonable prices), so this morning I put on Spirit of Eden, thought to be one of their best.

Actually, I never really got it, despite many attempts. I was much more of a fan of David Sylvian, who trod a similar path from pop to avant garde, much more successfully to my mind. I hope he’s okay. I wonder what the residents of the Palace Hotel circa 1894 would have made of either of them being played in the public rooms?

I’m posting this quite late in the day at nearly 6pm. One of my regular readers (M) will soon let me know if there are any typos.


Slaters

Sometimes a post arises out of  nothing but curiosity. I started with a few pictures of a shop called Slaters.

 

 

Alfred Slater began as a butcher but by 1909, the date of this picture, he was a butcher and provision dealer. The building caught my interest because of its elaborate frontage, not unlike some of the nearby buildings we’ve seen in other posts. The other pictures of the shop show the interior.

 

 

A fine marble slab featuring a selection of dead animals including a set with lolling necks. The interior is as well decorated as the front.

Below, a selection of cured meats, with many cheeses and other products.

 

 

Some chairs for the customers to sit in while giving and waiting for their orders . It seems like a high class establishment to me. No sawdust on the floor here.

But although there is plenty to think about in these three pictures, I wondered if that was all I was going to see of Slaters. The three pictures might make a good short post for Christmas.

After all, 18-20 Kensington High Street is no longer with us. Since 1909 a whole stretch of the north side of the street has been redeveloped.

I was still curious to find out more, so I went to look at more photographs, and street directories.

This part of the High Street was much photographed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Look at this post. (And its companions) But there are  more images in which to look for Slaters.

It’s actually in this picture, in the distance.  The railings are by the entrance to Kensington Gardens. The gateway has a heraldic lion holding a coat of arms. (Which survives to this day, like one other feature in the picture. Can you see it)

Behind that, The King’s Arms public house. This picture is probably from 1887. the year of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. The public house would soon be demolished.

 

 

I used this picture in that previous post, but I enlarged a different section. The close up below shows Slaters, especially decorated as many shops were that year.

 

 

 

And a nice further detail of two young women hurrying across the street, rushing to get between the carriages. You can actually see that the one bringing up the rear has her right foot off the ground.

In this picture the street is plainer, but you can see just by the lamp of the Cumberland Arms the sign above the alley on the right of Slaters which says Hodgson.

 

 

 

We know from Kelly’s Street Directory of 1889 that this alley was called Cumberland Yard, and in it were the businesses of G T Patterson, Veterinary Surgeon and William Hodgson, coach builder. This picture might show Cumberland Yard.

 

 

 

(Look closely and find two men on the roofs of two of the buildings crammed together behind shops and inns.)

On the other side of Slaters, heading west was a wine merchants..

 

 

Three smart dudes in top hats, obviously all wine merchants thinking seriously about getting someone to load or unload those crates and barrels. The horse is thinking he’ll just wait till they decide what to do. No point in rushing things.

Those gates and railings? Still there today, I think, at the bottom of Kensington Palace Gardens. Even then, not just anybody could enter.

The next picture must be after 1890.

 

 

Slaters is stiil there on the far left. You can see part of a sign reminding clients of its services to the royal family. Outside, are another horse and cart are ready to go. You can even see the alley leading to Hodgson’s.  Next door is the Duke of Cumberland public house and a few other businesses. Above them all towers the side of the newly built  Royal Palace Hotel. Although the photo is faded you can just see the word Hotel in big letters.

Here’ a map section pinpointing Slaters.

 

 

The map also marks the Bank I referred to in this post, named after a favourite phrase from the Survey of London.

You’ve probably noticed that the Slaters in the first picture is not the same building as in the earlier pictures. This section of the High Street was subject to a London County Council road-widening scheme in 1902-1905. The management of Slaters took this opportunity to  build a much more prestigious and striking  structure.

 

 

 

 

Higher, and definitely more Burgundian. In 1902 it was celebrated in The Architect magazine. This image is what is called an ink photo, which I take to be an actual photograph gone over in ink to make it more suitable for publication in an illustrated periodical like the Illustrated London News. (You can see more examples of these in this post). It’s a nice clear image, which even offers a tantalising view up the alley. Is that a ladder in the distance? Unfortunately you can’t zoom in on these ink photos as easily as with a photographic print.

They also provided an interior view.

 

I love those light fittings.

I haven’t called Slaters a forgotten building as I sometimes do on the blog because it had a long history on the High Street and stayed in the lee of the Royal Palace Hotel until both of them were demolished at the end of the 1950s.  The early days of the hotel are another story of course, and one we will come back to soon. Kensington High Street always has more stories to tell.

Although my Kensington memory doesn’t go back to the 1950s I’m sure there are still plenty of people who saw Slaters in its heyday, or have family memories of it. If so, please leave a comment.

 


Luker’s interiors

As I said in my first post about William Luker Jr, his illustrations to W J Loftie’s Kensington: Historical and Picturesque number over 300. So I haven’t covered all the best ones in two posts. There are still plenty left. In this case we’re following Luker inside various homes in the Kensington area.

 

 

Light shines through glass panels in the door showing a hall with ornate paneling and a fireplace. Beside it a chair with a high back, over which is draped a robe of some kind. It’s these little details that always intrigue me. here’s another empty space.

 

This hall is pleasantly cluttered with a seemingly random collection of art objects. It seems to be a common feature in the rooms of Luker’s friends, like at Lowther Lodge. (An interesting building in itself.)

 

 

 

Also cluttered in parts, but quite spacious too.

 

 

Luker had access to some luxurious properties, like this drawing room with plants and paintings.

 

 

And this studio, currently unoccupied.

 

 

With a large painting taking shape.

Another empty hall, with a decorative floor.

 

 

And eventually we see some people. In this case John Everett Millais, posed with a palette in hand, facing his wife Effie.

 

 

The Millais house was in Palace Gate, and is now an embassy. It was Effie they used to say, whose pubic hair frightened John Ruskin (although if I mention it I feel obliged to say it was probably not true. The marriage was annulled. Ruskin later went on to found an institution we’re very fond of here at the Time Centre.)

Below, another old friend of the blog.

 

 

Edward Linley Sambourne, another friend of Luker’s. at work in his studio in Stafford Terrace.

From empty or sparsely populated rooms to a room at the Kensington Vestry Hall which is filled with people and music.

 

 

 

A musical evening. Some ladies removed their hats for the convenience of other audience members. Others kept them on, but people would have been too polite to mention the matter.

In the previous century, a less informal musical evening in a house in Kensington Square, coloured in for the published version of the illustration.

 

 

And in Luker’s “now”, hundreds of people in a room to hear a concert, at the Albert Hall.

 

 

 

 

But I think he was happiest in a nearly empty room.

 

 

With just a cat, perhaps, checking the room for feline friendly refreshments.

 

 

Or a couple of dogs in another cluttered room in Notting Hill Square. They look like they’re waiting for Luker to go so they can choose a sofa or chair in which they could relax.

Finally, back at the Millais house.

 

With a seal. Not a real one of course. It’s not Rossetti’s, after all.

All these rooms could have had a story. I’m sure Miss Miranda Green could have been in many of them. She was very well connected. But she wasn’t here this week. Perhaps next time….

 

Postscript

I’ve got a cold so I’m not very lively at the moment, hence the low word count this week. But Mr Luker’s pictures are usually evocative enough on their own.


Christmas Days: pungently Burgundian

Regulars readers will have noticed that I’m using the phrase “regular readers” frequently these days, perhaps too frequently, but I have been writing this blog for seven years now, so a certain amount of repetition is bound to creep in now and then. Some of you may be aware that as a fan of the Survey of London I treasure some of the quirky phrases that the writers use  – “umbrageous Brompton” for example or “orthodox, restless, ornamental“. But my favourite is the title of this post, and it was applied to a building I go past twice every working day. Number 1, Kensington High Street. (Not to be confused with the upstart Number 1 Kensington Road, the insistently modern apartment building between  De Vere Gardens and Victoria Road,  which is a few doors down from our Number 1 – Kensington Court and other addresses separate them.)

 

 

You can see what they mean by pungently Burgundian. A certain medieval style, decorative. Like somebody’s idea of a French chateau, something we’ve seen before.

 

Designed by Alfred Williams in 1886 for the London County Bank, it was later used by the National Bank and later the National Westminster. In the 1980s it was a branch of the Leamimgton Spa building Society.

But in recent years it has been an Indian restaurant. At one point a few years ago someone who worked there came into Local Studies and asked me if it had ever been a church. The answer was no ,but how interesting to think that it could have been. Not a regular church I imagine. the Brethren of the Free Spirit perhaps, decorated inside with reproductions of scenes from Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delight, the Sisters of Torment (also a plausible goth band from the 90s?) or the Starry Wisdom cult (branches in New England and elsewhere). But no, just a bank. This Burgundian style seemed to be a feature of late 19th century financial institutions. Look at this building society in Glasgow in the 1970s.

 

 

My home town, Chester, has plenty of these retro designs. such as the HSBC  in Eastgate Street.

 

 

 

(Chester also boasts a similarly Gothic branch of Barclays, next to the Cathedral.)

That early stretch of Kensington High Street has some of the oldest buildings in the street.

 

 

Kate Ker Banks (“robes”) at number 3, the Goat Tavern at 3A, and the Old Three Tuns at number 5.

Next to them a circulating library, an urban dairy and at 21 Foley the American dentist (even then, American dentistry was a thing – “teeth, complete set one guinea”)

 

 

 

And what The Gas and Coke Company, next to the Barkers building?

 

 

This striking urban castle goes almost unnoticed these days, with a branch of NatWest on the ground floor. But you can imagine some solitary activity going on in that tower, and if we’re thinking alternate worlds / steampunk. perhaps someone could have tethered their airship to the little tower while they clambered down into the castle for an assignation.

[Addendum: after one of the comments below I had a look at what the Survey said about this building and it delivered several new phrases for my collection: “shockingly striped and ornamented”, “bumptiously large shop windows” and “skittish passages of terracotta decoration”. Thank you, Teresa.]

 

Monkeys recommend

This year brought the final volume of Dave Hutchinson’s Fractured Europe series, Europe at Dawn. In the picture below Florence and Cornelius have shepherded all four volumes together.

 

 

The series is a  mixture of espionage and science fiction. In a Balkanised Europe where small regions and cities have become sovereign states, a semi-secret organisation of couriers passes secrets and people via convoluted routes. There is also a parallel pocket universe with an alternative version of Europe. This is one of the most original science fiction settings in many years, say the monkeys. I think so too.

 


Demolition: the fall of a town hall

In December 1983 I went down to Kensington High Street from North Kensington Library. It must have been one of those half days when I finished at one o’clock because it was around lunchtime. I saw from the bus that the former Kensington Town Hall had been partially breached by a wrecking ball and that the large hall in the centre of the building was now open to the elements. I was astounded. And, I admit, a little excited.

 

 

This is history now. Rumour had it that the GLC (remember them?) had been planning to list the building on a Monday, so to prevent this, demolition began the day before. Arguments followed, for and against. Some called it a desecration of a fine old building, some argued that it was financially necessary for the Council to maximize what it could make from the old building. Some said it was an architectural loss, others said that London has more than enough mediocre Victorian municipal buildings and wouldn’t miss this one. Although many years have passed the controversy has never completely been forgotten. But having noted the issues, I’m going to stick with the facts of the matter. And the pictures. Because although the building has gone, Council photographers, including our own John Rogers recorded it, and its passing. We have also been given photographs taken by members of the public. As regular readers will have realized, I like a bit of destruction. The poetry of devastation. So let me indulge myself.

 

I’ve been reading the Survey of London of course, and a handy little book published by English Heritage called London’s Town Halls, and it seems that nobody like the Town Hall that much. Its design had been reached by a “badly organised competition” from which “Gothic and Elizabethan styles were specifically excluded“. The architect, one Robert Walker (no relation as far as I know) went with (the Survey quoted Building News) “a commonplace Italian design“. (The term “Italianate” is often used pejoratively by architectural writers, as in the phrase “crude Italianate villas” applied by one writer to expensive houses in the Boltons in Old Brompton Road).  It was opened in 1880 and extended in 1898-99. It was large enough to be a serviceable town hall until the current building in Hornton Street was built. There is a post about its construction here.

 

 

This picture shows the rear extension from the garden in Church Walk.

The garden was formerly part of the church burial ground.

 

 

You can see St Mary Abbotts in the picture below.

 

 

But back to 1983. This is a view from a roof on the opposite side of the High Street, after the middle section was cleared of rubble.

 

 

The next pictures are a little earlier, immediately after the initial demolition work.

 

 

Jets of water to dampen down the dust in the air.

 

 

The view on the street after the boards went up.

 

 

And just before, a huge pile of debris.

 

Close up to the pile.

 

 

 

On the pavement, life goes on.

 

 

What was left of the building was actually left standing for a couple of years while it was being decided what to do next. The final demolition took place in 1984.

The great hall, partially cleared.

 

 

 

But before we leave this little detail from the side of the building intrigued me.

 

We’ll come back to the Town Hall again in the new year when we’ll have a look inside. Next week is the start of my usual series of short daily posts for the run up to Christmas

 

Postscript

A few hours after I published last week’s post news came through that Pete Shelley, founding member of Buzzcocks had died aged 63. As a 63-year old myself I am totally opposed to the deaths of men of that age. And as others have said, he took a bit of my life with him. Buzzcocks were one of the great punk bands and one of the first to make a record (the Spiral Scratch EP) by themselves, without any help from a record company. Shelley wrote and sang love songs with a sharp edge, catchy but uncompromisingly noisy. Sometimes at this point I quote a favourite lyric, but although Shelley wrote perfectly good pithy lyrics, what I remember most is the sound – the curious guitar on Ever fallen in love, and the powerful climax in the same song when guitar, drums and voice come together in a controlled explosion, the .  It’s perfectly appropriate that Buzzcocks recorded for United Artists who brought us records by Can (Shelley was, like me, a Can fan).

I had to explain to a couple of people who Pete Shelley was. What I said was imagine if Paul Weller died. Or John Lydon, Tom Verlaine, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry? Joe Strummer is already gone. Pete Shelley was in that league.


%d bloggers like this: