Archive for January, 2016|Monthly archive page

Et tu Brutalist?

I had a great London wander today – theme: Brutalist Architecture. First outing for my Brutalist London Map which I got from the Twentieth Century Society via Blue Crow Media (beautifully designed, for a mere 8 quid).

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I had a pre-outing last weekend to Trellick Tower on Golborne Road. The architect Erno Goldfinger shares a birthday with me (and John Martyn) so I have a bit of a soft spot for him. My niece lives there so I got to capture some of the interiors…

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Trellick Tower

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Entrance hall windows (rear)

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I headed East this morning to Blackwall on the Docklands Light Railway. First stop Robin Hood Gardens in E14. Although the 20th Century Society is fighting to get it listed and indeed saved, personally I found it terrible architecture and even worse housing. As I walked around the estate two separate people asked me whether I was there for the consultation – the second was an architect type. He told me there was a big session taking place today regarding the redevelopment of the whole area so it looks like it’s a gonner (no tears).

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Robin Hood Gardens, Poplar, London E14

Fortunately within 5 minutes walk is Balfron Tower, the 1967 precursor by Goldfinger to Trellick Tower (1972).

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Balfron Tower, London E14

Trellick was definitely an improvement, partly because it has a far better site. The nautical touch of Trellick’s tower is evident in a smaller block adjacent to Balfron called Glenkerry House.

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Glenkerry House

I sailed off North West from there across E14 and E3 to E2 where two further Brutalist sites beckoned. Leaving views of Canary Wharf Tower and the Docklands behind me, under blue skies in bright winter sun I walked along canals (Limehouse Cut and the Regent’s Canal at Mile End), through back streets, past Victorian churches and factories, until I got to the estates behind Roman Road. And there waited two beauties by Denys Lasdun, architect of the National Theatre, one of the most well known Brutalist buildings in the city.

First the exquisite Trevelyan House, gleaming white against the azure sky.

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Trevelyan House

It is characterised by the central staircase/lift shaft connecting its two halves. A couple of roads away is a sister block, Sulkin House.

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Sulkin House

So that’s the first flânage from my Brutalist London Map. I bought a pear from the fruit stall behind Sulkin exchanging badinage with the West Ham supporting stall holder and his dad, thanks to my Spurs scarf (from Savile Rogue). Then an Italian coffee from two lovely Italian girls on the Roman Road. Lunch at Pellicci’s on Bethnal Green Road, Est. 1900, served by the grandson of the founder, proper Cockney, all the staff super-welcoming, sat with a chatty second-generation Irish couple from Walthamstow. Final stop – Flashback Records down the street where I picked up a copy of Lola by The Kinks, boys from my manor.

Headed back to my manor after 5 hours walking with a spring in my step as the sun set on a brutally beautiful day.

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The photos are all here.

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‘Heroes’ mystery solved

A few days ago when I was in Berlin I wrote this (in a post called Where Are We Now? about David Bowie):

There are a few panels of the Berlin Wall on display on the north side of the place and then a significant stretch of the banal concrete sections in Niederkirchnerstrasse (on the corner of which was the Blackstar poster above). The bands graffitied on that section indicate how frozen in time it is: Blondie, Madness, Lee Perry all get a painted name check. A few more individual sections stand in the grounds of the apartment blocks adjacent to the Hansa Studio in Köthener Strasse. It all helps get you in the ‘Heroes’ frame of mind. I tried to figure out where Bowie might have seen Visconti and his lover from the studio windows but it’s hard to figure as two walls are blank and there’s no obvious spot where the Wall would have been in sight from the front or back of the Hansa building so the lovers’ kiss remains in the imagination (which is probably where it actually was anyway).

Well I was wrong – the spot where the lovers (Visconti and a backing singer) kissed by the Wall was behind the building. I actually snuck through an archway to investigate that Sunday afternoon. A security guard came out of a concealed door as I got to the end of the short tunnel but he must have thought it was not worth the bother and let it go. I walked around a bit in the back garden and car park in search of the spot so I reckon I must have been pretty much bang on at one point.

The mystery is solved in this fascinating video clip (20 mins) from BBC4 in which Visconti recalls the event (about 11 mins in).

David Bowie at the Berlin Wall, 1987

The 4 best things to come out of Scotland

While I’m still under the influence of the Macallan’s I thought it best to capture the best of Scotland – I was daydreaming for just a moment at the Burns Night gathering we’ve just been to at Cha Cha Cha in the shadowy alleyways of Muswell Hill, transfixed by a pile of Tunnock’s tea cakes, wondering what else as magnificent as a Tunnock’s Caramel has emerged from north of the border…

1. Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer

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5 layers of wafer, 4 layers of caramel, fully coated in real milk chocolate. The dog’s cahones.

2. Mike Scott of The Waterboys

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5 layers of Yeats, 4 layers of Dylan, fully coated in real wild Ireland.

3. John Buchan’s stories

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My favourite copy

5 layers of outdoors, 4 layers of clubland, fully coated in real imperial conservatism.

4. Bobby Wellins’ sax on Starless & Bible Black

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5 layers of melancholy, 4 layers of beauty, fully coated in real jazz delicacy.

 

 

 

Or perhaps you know better…?

Songlines #13: Half the World Away

The Question:

What song or piece of music means the most to you?

Ciara Linder is a teacher – born in London, grew up in Northern Ireland, now living back in London. Her choice reflects this axis in her life.

The Song: Half the World Away – Aurora

Here is her older brother’s Songlines – a very different take on the London Irish experience.

 

 

The previous Songlines:

Songlines #12: Call to Prayer / Adhan

David Bowie locations in Berlin

[Updated 28/1/16]

As promised in my Where Are We Now? post just below here is a list of David Bowie related locations in Berlin which can easily be visited on foot or by foot and public transport:

David Bowie at the Berlin Wall, 1987

  • David Bowie’s 1st floor apartment (shared with Iggy Pop). Bowie lived in Berlin from late 1976 to 1979. – Hauptstrasse 155, Schöneberg [U-bahn: Kleistpark]
  • David & Iggy’s local (gay) bar, now called Neues Ufer, back then called Anderes Ufer – Hauptstrasse 157, Schöneberg
  • Hansa Tonstudio, recording studios where Low and ‘Heroes’ were recorded (in oak-panelled Tonstudio 2) and produced The Idiot for Iggy Pop – Köthener Strasse 38 [near Potsdamer Platz (which gets a mention in Where Are We Now?) – you can only enter with an official tour like the ones lead by Thilo Schmied]. The ‘Heroes’ spot (where “Standing, by the wall … we kissed, as though nothing could fall”) is just behind the studio building, accessible through an arch albeit on private property. The position of the Wall is marked by a double line of cobblestones.
  • The site of the Dschungel night club (as mentioned in Where Are We Now?) where Bowie, Iggy and Lou Reed shook a leg – Nürnberger Strasse 53 = Ellington Hotel
  • KaDeWe department store (also as mentioned in Where Are We Now?) is round the corner at Tauentzienstraße 21-24
  • Paris Bar arty restaurant in Charlottenburg where Bowie & Iggy went for special occasions to hang out with artist types – Kantstrasse 152 [U & S Zoologischer Garten]
  • Brücke Museum where Bowie went to be inspired by German Expressionist art such as that of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Erich Heckel. Otto Müller’s Lovers Between Garden Waals may be a source for the song ‘Heroes’ – Bussardsteig 9 [bus line 115, Pücklerstraße stop]
  • In front of the Reichstag where Bowie performed to 70,000 Germans in 1987, audible to more over the Wall in the East (two years before the Berliner Mauer fell).

To be added:

  • Filming locations for ‘Just a Gigolo’, the movie Bowie starred in in 1978 (directed by David Hemmings).
  • S036 – music venue in Kreuzberg where Bowie & Iggy hung out
  • Bösebrücke – the only other location mentioned in Where Are We Now? (a bit out of the city centre) where the first wave of 20,000 East Germans crossed over in 1989.
  • Joe’s Beer House – a drinking haunt of Bowie & Iggy
  • Unlimited – another of their nightclub hang-outs
  • Lützower Lampe – where Bowie celebrated his 31st birthday with Iggy and Eno and a bunch of trannies.

 

(I’ll add some of my pictures to this in the next few days)

Songlines #12: Call to Prayer / Adhan

 

The Question:

What piece of music means the most to you?

Farrah Jarral, dedicated GP and star of Osama Loves on Channel 4, comes up with a left-field choice (similar in some ways to Songlines #2) –  a religious song chosen by a not particularly religious person.

The Song: the Muslim call to prayer, the Adhan

 

 

And here’s the song in question:

 

 

Previous Songlines:

Songlines #11: Sheena Is a Punk Rocker (Aidan Murtagh of Protex)

Songlines #10: Bach to the Future (James Rhodes)

Songlines #9: The Flower Duet

Songlines #8: I’m Waiting for the Man

Songlines #7: Soul to Squeeze

Songlines #6 – Pakistan perspectives

Songlines #5 – NYC Blues

Songlines #4 – Thank Christ for the BBC (London Irish)

Songlines #3 – She Moved Through the Fair

Songlines #2 – Rich Mix

Songlines #1 – Hammertime

 

Cut up by Bowie’s black-out

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Blackout from ‘Heroes’ (1977)

Something happened on the day he died

Karma is keeping quiet for now

Beloved by luscious

Then I’m useless in the evening

Night owls might be more creative

Spiders May Live in Every Room of Your House

Three Scottish boys discovered a strange cache

A Blast from the Past

And Air & Space

Show off your genius

Rock Genius

Because I can

When I Come Around

Millions of songs

We rise and shine driven

After mourning the passing

Black on white

With teachers at all levels

Move Beyond

For the twenty-first century

Cushioned within the box

We are losing all our heroes

People that simply do not exist anymore

The dance sequence is my favourite part

Non-stop pop

Das war noch Musik

Where they trashtalk each other

Fame and offending people

And it was impossible to find

Compulsive ice cream consumption

You just broke the internet

And a bunch of Silicon Valley dudes

Either help them or get out of their way

A “blessing to one another” he noted, chomping at the bit

And an environment teeming with wildlife

That will help shape the island’s future

The worldwide association

And improve trajectories.

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[This was written by taking a phrase from each web page (starting with the lyrics of Blackstar) and then clicking through to an adjoining page and taking something that caught my eye from that and so on… – the pages ranged from an advert for a job on the Falkland Islands to scientific analysis of the benefits of early rising.]

Goodbye to Berlin: Day 3 in Bowie’s Berlin

 

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Goodbye to my badge

My Low badge, in my life since 1978, decided to jump ship off my lapel – it’s somewhere in Berlin which seems just about right. From Carnaby Street to Kurfürstendamm or wherever on earth it landed – a journey as tidy as the Big Man’s. He had his Mod phase (as in Baby Loves That Way – Davy Jones & The Lower Third) so no doubt made the odd sortie into Carnaby Street and environs in his time.

So headed off badgeless for an early start, a wander along the Spree across a tranquil corner of Museum Island, ice floating in the dark green waters, bright sunshine through sub-zero temperatures. Went as far as the subterranean monument to the burning of books by the Nazis, a ghostly room of empty shelves glimpsed through a small window set in a cobbled courtyard in front of the Law faculty of Humboldt University. Bowie had a weird brush with fascism and Nietzsche in the 70s which it took him a while to extricate himself from, probably coke fuelled. He also had a terrible adolescent German moustache at one point – very rare fashion faux pas.

My main meeting of the day at Doc Campus was over a hill to the north of the hotel. At the brow of the hill on the way over I found a great little record shop and in the little window at feet level was a 7” picture disc of Young Americans which of course I was compelled to spunk my Euros on. Plus a copy of Kraftwerk’s Das Model (Deutsche version) as a nod to Bowie’s inspiration from them, Neu and other Teutonic electronica. And a copy of The Stars We Are LP (nice n cheap) by Marc Almond, a big Bowie infuencee. All zeroed in on in the space of a few minutes (from years of practice) , then on to the gathering…

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Hallo to Young Americans

We reviewed 76 documentary projects of which only one had a direct connection to Bowie – one centred on 60s singer P J Proby who Bowie emulated, probably in a tongue in cheek way, on certain Berlin trilogy tracks and earlier recordings.

Had a farewell currywurst before heading for home. On the plane back I read a telling note from the BBC Talent Selection Group in 1965 following an audition Bowie did for them: “A singer devoid of personality. Sings wrong notes and out of tune.” Just goes to show. How little people know. You need to trust your own instincts.

It’s now 23.59 on the first week anniversary of the Thin White Duke’s trip to the Station on the other side of the Border. Official end to BowieWeek of reflection, mourning and celebration. Concluding it in Berlin was a real privilege.

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Goodbye to the old world

 

Where Are We Now? : Day 2 in Bowie’s Berlin

So in the absence of a professional (i.e. Thilo Schmied) I had to opt for a DIY Bowie tour of Berlin to mark the end of this sombre week.

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Starting out from Rosenthaler Platz in Mitte I headed west to Friedrichstrasse where last time I was here (a year ago) I picked up a copy of Zeit, a small box set of Bowie’s four Berlin-related LPs – what a difference a year makes. Zeit waits for no man.

I took a small diversion past the Berlin Ensemble’s theatre (Theater am Schiffbauerdamm) where Brecht set himself up in 1954, as a tip of the cap to the Baal EP which showed me another dimension of Bowie in 1982.

Next a walk across Potsdamer Platz to set the Where are We Now? trail in motion:

Had to get the train
From Potsdamer Platz
You never knew that
That I could do that
Just walking the dead
Sitting in the Dschungel
On Nürnberger Strasse
A man lost in time
Near KaDeWe
Just walking the dead
Where are we now, where are we now?

There are a few panels of the Berlin Wall on display on the north side of the place and then a significant stretch of the banal concrete sections in Niederkirchnerstrasse (on the corner of which was the Blackstar poster above). The bands graffitied on that section indicate how frozen in time it is: Blondie, Madness, Lee Perry all get a painted name check. A few more individual sections stand in the grounds of the apartment blocks adjacent to the Hansa Studio in Köthener Strasse. It all helps get you in the ‘Heroes’ frame of mind. I tried to figure out where Bowie might have seen Visconti and his lover from the studio windows but it’s hard to figure as two walls are blank and there’s no obvious spot where the Wall would have been in sight from the front or back of the Hansa building so the lovers’ kiss remains in the imagination (which is probably where it actually was anyway).

Outside the Hansa Studio was a small shrine of candles and flowers, a child’s drawing and an empty wine bottle, as well as a black star. A couple of people stopped briefly to have a look. We listened to Breaking Glass on my phone there outside the building where it was recorded, and to ‘Heroes’. I took a few photos which I’ll upload when I get home – don’t have the gear with me.

Next stop was a bigger floral shine. This one outside Bowie’s old apartment (and Iggy Pop’s) at 155 Hauptstrasse in Schöneberg. That I do have a couple of photos from on my phone – I wonder why we still call it a phone as it’s about the last thing I ever use it for! The photos and messages lay nestled in pristine ice.

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Where Are We Now? At his front door

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Feeling Low

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There was a small gathering there, a shameless paparazzo getting in everyone’s way without caring, to remind us of the sort of crap DB had to put up with thanks to Fame and how it puts you there where things are hollow. It was an interesting sight to see but itself had a certain hollowness, people wanting to connect but in a slightly chilled way.

We went next door to have a drink to warm up at David & Iggy’s local (now called Neues Ufer). I had a read of Peter Doggett’s rather over-muso The Man who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s whilst having a bet about whether they sell more cheese cake or apple strudel in Ufer. The cheese cake was good. The coffee hit the spot. The candle light added to the vibe. The Jean Genie suddenly put its head above the chat noise as daylight faded.

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The last leg was over in Charlottenburg.

A man lost in time
Near KaDeWe

I checked out KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens), the largest department store in continental Europe. Then round the corner to the Ellington Hotel in Nürnberger Strasse…

Sitting in the Dschungel
On Nürnberger Strasse

Besides hosting jazz greats from Duke Ellington (the Thin Black Duke) to Ella Fitzgerald, from Lionel Hampton to Louis Armstrong (the Black Star), it was the location of the Dschungel night club, Studio 54 but at Nürnberger Strasse 53. We ordered up some suitably sophisticated cocktails to toast the Big Man containing all sorts of goodies from cinnamon  to absinthe. Got a bit of a buzz on; admired the art deco architecture, fixtures & fittings; and walked on down the road… as we walked past the Gedächnis Kirche (Remembrance Church) the bell tolled six.

Last stop of the day – the Paris Bar, arty hang-out of West Berlin prior to the fall of the Wall, a haunt of Bowie and pals. Now the East of the city is one big arty hang-out. On the wall, subtly placed among the floor-to-ceiling art works, is a slightly faded photo of Bowie beside a modern painting. It was a place for birthdays and special occasions among his circle so a fitting place to round off the day. We did our Desert Island Discs (again) after dinner over coffee – it’s been a few years since the last time and there will have been minor shifts though I haven’t checked back yet. Things move on.

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I’m going to put the addresses etc. of the above Bowie Berlin spots in the next post in case anyone wants to visit any of them in a DIY kind of way.

Sometimes I feel the need to move on
So I pack a bag, move on, move on
Well I might take a train or sail at dawn
Might take a girl, when I move on, when I move on

Somewhere someone’s calling me when the chips are down
I’m just a traveling man, maybe it’s just a trick of the mind, but
Somewhere there’s a morning sky bluer than her eyes
Somewhere there’s an ocean innocent and wild

[Move On from the 3rd of Bowie’s Berlin trilogy, Lodger – the one that got me a fantastic voyage to Vienna]

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Not so Low now

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