One of the shocks of middle age is realising just how old some of the music is that one listens to. Like all right-thinking people, one of my favourite tracks is the Clash’s ‘White Man in Hammersmith Palais‘ – which is now nearly 40 years old. It’s chastening to think that track is as distant from the present as punk was from Ambrose and his Orchestra and Al Bowlly.
The other shock is that the places associated with this music have become sites for visitors. In just the same way as one would go and see parts of the city where Shakespeare or Dickens lived and worked, so one can now go and pay one’s respects to the venues where the Beatles, or the Rolling Stones or David Bowie once performed.
I took a tour last week, showing visitors some of the rock ‘n’ roll sites for London of the ’60s and ’70s – Savile Row (where the Beatles last performed together), Broadwick Street (where the Stones were formed), Haddon Street, Trident Studios, the sites of the Marquee and Billy’s. It would have been easy to pick another dozen – the alley behind the Savoy where Bob Dylan filmed the video for ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’, or the 100 Club in Oxford Street, the 2is coffee bar, Abbey Road. In fact, one could probably do a different tour every day for a month without needing to go over the same ground.
(If you want to arrange a rock ‘n’ roll walk, contact me via my other website.)
What’s interesting is how these moments of teenage exuberance have become commiditised, packaged, part of the mainstream, whether that’s the whole Punk London thing, or my own walks.
That get’s us back to White Man in Hammersmith Palais again, the line “you think it’s funny, turning rebellion into money?”
Not funny ha ha perhaps, but definitely funny peculiar.