- Which I had never before visited, in thirty-two years living here. ↩
My favourite band have become a museum piece.
Or at least, some of their instruments, clothing, lyrics, and memorabilia are in an exhibition which the Museum of London1 has been running since the fortieth anniversary of London Calling in December. I popped along today.
It’s small, but pretty good. The centrepiece is Paul Simenon’s smashed bass from the famous cover photo. It lies under glass on a red velvet cushion, like a fallen warrior lying in state (see above).
It’s actually kind of gruesome. “That’s no way to treat an expensive musical instrument,” as someone once said.
I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know, I don’t think. Except maybe that Joe had a backup white Telecaster, that I don’t think I’ve ever seen him use, either live, in video, or in photos. His iconic black one is in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, I believe. Or another museum.
Oh, and see the poster in that shot? “Two for a fiver”? When I bought London Calling it was only £3.99. Both times, as I’ve written about before.
Anyway, worth checking out, especially since it’s free. My main complaint: there are a lot of songs that could have been playing, even if they kept it to the relevant album. Instead they had a loop of just three (“London Calling,” “Train in Vain,” and “Clampdown,” the latter two live versions).
I never cared that much for Joe Cocker’s highly-rated cover of “With A Little Help From My Friends,” but I just saw it on BBC Four’s … Sings the Beatles, a programme whose title tells you exactly what it’s about.
And… hell, yeah: it’s really good. Apparently Steve Winwood and Jimmy Page are on the recording. But we won’t hold that against it.1 Sometimes all you need is the passage of time; sometimes it’s just about the mood you’re in. But it’s often worth giving things another chance.2
Now it’s on Petula Clark’s weird-arse version of “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” during which the caption tells us that Petula is Britain’s best-selling ever female artist. I’m guessing this was made before Adele.
The day after New Year's Day we decided to go to the British Museum, to see the mummies. So did half of London, it seemed. I've never seen it so crowded. Still, the mummies are always interesting. I must go back another time and see some other sections.
Home was via bookshop, Pizza Express, and Little Fockers at the cinema (ignore the critics: it’s loadsa fun; unless you didn’t like the first two, of course).
Oh, but before all that, we had tried to play basketball in Millfields Park. But there was an annoying dog-owner who couldn’t control her Alsatian. The latter proceeded to bite our basketball till it burst. When we remonstrated with the owner, she ran off.
At least it was only the basketball that got bitten.
The next day brought an early start. Neither London’s young skaters nor anybody else gets up very early on New Year’s Bank Holiday Monday, it seems. I don’t think I’ve ever seen London streets so empty. The drive in to the Aldwych area for the start of skating at Somerset House felt like driving through a Jerry Cornelius novel: “Martin tooled the big
Duesenberg Skoda down Roseberry Avenue…”
I don’t skate any more. I did it twice when I was a student, and I think once since I had kids. From the student times, I remember enjoying it, but getting very wet and very bruised. With kids I didn’t fall over so much, but only through caution, not because I had magically become able to skate.
Anyway, what with one thing and another, I didn’t do it through all those intervening years, and by the time my kids were old enough to be interested and able, I had broken my cruciate ligament in a freak gardening accident. I probably could do it now, but I’m too scared of re-injuring my knee.
So I sat in the warmth of “Tom’s Skate Lounge” and had a Cappuccino and a Danish, and took photographs and notes, while our party slowly, but with increasing confidence, circled the ice. I loved the fact that the staff members who were on the ice had hi-viz vests saying “Ice Marshall”. There’s something very pleasing about that term.
After that we drove on out to South Kensington, and the Natural History Museum. Ostensibly to see the dinosaurs. But of course, the other half of London had decided to do the same. After queueing for maybe twenty minutes to get inside, we found a 45-minute queue for the dinosaurs. So we elected for the blue whale, via the other mammals, instead.
Which was of course, fabulous. Wonderful place, the Natural History Museum. Actually, London’s pretty wonderful.