Wednesday, January 26, 2005

People's Republic of Disco

Went to the Windmill in Brixton on Saturday for People's Republic of Disco. For those who don't know, the premise is that everybody can bring two tracks which are randomly selected to play, thus offering a practical critique of superstar DJs and other nonsense. Inspired by Friday's Gang of Four gig (which led to the Montague Arms being mentioned in the New York Times!), I took along 'At home he's a tourist', which got a good crowd reaction. Altogether now - 'down on the disco floor, they make their profit'. Next PRoD is on 19th February.

If ever you are short of something to do in South London of an evening, you are more or less guaranteed some aural stimulation at Windmill. There's far too many events to mention here, but Angular artistes Luxembourg and The Vichy Government are there next Tuesday (1st Feb).

New Cross Red Cross Crawl

Bit of a late one here but recently our friend Bongo Tom has burst forth, literally frothing, about this local music event. There is a music festival taking place up and down the New Cross Road this Sunday, the 30th January, called Red Cross New Cross . It's a charity mass-rock out to raise money for the Tsunami appeal.

This will take place during the day and night at the Catapult Club, round the side of the Amersham Arms, 338 New Cross Road, the Walpole Arms, 407 New Cross Road, New Cross Inn (aka Bar Alchemy but I think they're trying to quietly drop that one) 323 New Cross Road, and the Goldsmiths Tavern, 306 New Cross Road, which is trying to get a bit of it's old reputation back after changing from a gritty punk venue with boarded-up windows to what resembled, as far as I could see through the glossy windows, a British Legion Club more at home in Camberley than New Cross.

The New Cross Inn has Dirty Pretty Things, cartoon punks Bogus Gasman, the spooky and lovely sounding Gemma Ray, Crowd, Monster Raging Boogie Party and the charmingly named Yellow Snow,

It's a punk/ska a-go-go at the Catapult Club with: Inner-Terrestrials (politico ska-punk band), Pain (I think this'll be the ex-RDF lot gotten noisy, usually spelt P@IN, I think), Headjam, Hoover & Pitman and Short Bus Window Lickers. I would guess this one i will be your best chance of sighting a studded leather jacket, a Crass t-shirt with the sleeves cut out or a green-mohican.

The flyer I have promises "an eclectic mix of blues and jazz sets from new and established local musicians" at the Walpole and Bongo Tom backs that up by saying: "lots of familiar local acoustic groups and musicians, such as the Repertoire Dogs, playing in the Walpole. It'll be a chilled-out acoustic session, gradually getting more energetic through the day and culminating in a jam session." Bongo Tom will be banging his bongos there, apparently.

The Goldsmiths are chilling too with " eclectic mix of blues Redroute, jazz sets from Stone Pony and established local musicians The Sly Ones, the Purples and Stabilisers."

Who is playing when will be listed on the day and that's a lot of bloody interesting music for a fiver. A contact email for the event is (swap _at_ for @)

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Down at the Cross Bones

John Constable is Southwark’s shamanic poet, singer of songs and teller of tales of the lost history and magic of London’s outlaw borough. If my memory serves me correctly, John was talking through Southwark as the Jubilee Line extension was being dug below him and as the excavation encountered the Cross Bones graveyard, a site for paupers, prostitutes and other outsiders. As a skeleton was unearthed, the Goose, the goddess of outsiders, aspect of Isis and genius loci of Southwark contacted John and began singing her songs through him and his colleges in the Southwark Mysteries.

The focus for John at present is to leave a shrine on the site of the Cross Bones for the individuals interred beneath. London transport and other greedy developers are attempting to build an office on the site so, at 7pm on the 23rd of each month, John and others go to the gates of the site on Redcross Way, (just north of junction with Union Street), London SE1, (Borough tube, or London Bridge - Borough High St exit), to commemorate those buried there.

John says:
to honour the souls of the outcast dead, the prostitutes and paupers buried there...
to sing the songs of the Goose and Crow...
to perform our own (syncretic not dogmatic) inclusive rituals...
to bring our own offerings - ribbons, flowers, feathers and other totems...
to tie them to the gate, adding our personal sigils to the >self-transforming shrine that has appeared...
to envision the memorial garden that is already taking root, despite the
best efforts of the would-be developers...
to reclaim magic, mystery and true community in the heart of our city...

(after which we all head off to a convenient watering hole to shoot the breeze, conspire with our higher selves and see how the spirits move us). The shrine has recently gained some extraordinary totems, including a piece of stone from the wall of Jerusalem, willow wreaths (for protection), a wand (once waved in through the door of 10 Downing Street during presentation of an SFC petition to reform the draconian laws that punish working girls and boys), and John Crow's 50 year old teddy-bear (with the >straw spilling from the seams) bound with ribbons of power…at recent 23rd gatherings, magic has occurred...

Monday, January 24, 2005

Piper at the Gates of Sainsbury

Entering New Cross from Peckham, the first real landmark you encounter is the sacred ground of the Montague Arms followed by the cross-roads of New Cross Gate. Further along however, just before you get to New Cross Gate station, is a bloody massive Sainsbury where just about everyone around New Cross goes shopping (I've bumped into friends old and new there).
So, on the SELFS email list this morning Robert asks:
"Walking along the alley between the Sainsbury's fence in New Cross Gate and JDsports shop, there is a strange full sound emanating from a pipe high up on thewall and as one approaches passes it by it alters in it's pitch."
Being obsessed with furry animals both cute and vile, I reply:
"Knowing what goes on in that bit of New Cross I think it might be some sort of anti-rat device that uses high-pitched noise though I don’t know if our monkey-ears should pick it up. High frequency sound drives the oily little bastards mad and, hopefully, away"
Robert, who has a lot more sense that me, replies:
"I'd guess it's some sort of vent for an extractor fan, it's audible from some distance and quite musical"
To which I reply to, rather witlessly:
"Maybe it should have a show on Resonance FM"
Then Jason Oliver chips in with:
"i think it might just be an extractor fan, although experimenting with it yesterday by walking up the alley and then walking down the path to Sainsbury's, you can make your own Coil-style anti-anthems, at no cost whatsoever."
Which is a relief to the Duchess of Rocklands Minxy because she says:
"oh thank god for that, i had a funny moment on me bike once. i had to get me clanger out and squeeze it back at the noise. i didnt think i was going mad though, its lovely"
And so Jacqueline Woo-war Smith piped up:
"Ah, I love a singing pipe...a pipe on a gate in Glastonbury was singing to me the other day! Perhaps pipes are taking over!!?"
Which may be true so I'll be careful when shopping tonight. I may just seek this pipe out, though, and have a bit of a boogie.

End of the Affair?

The Slutski messages at New Cross have been painted over again but there was a new piece of writing in the tunnel that leads to the London Bridge-bound platform. On the right hand side of the tunnel someone, I think it's the same person who wanted 'Slutski' to 'Phone' them, has written 'I don't love you anymore'.

Which is a sad thing to see first thing on a Monday morning because the world needs more love than humanity is currently generating. It’s written in a strange way too; at the end of each word the pen slides back, putting a squiggle through each word as if the author isn’t quite sure that what they write is the truth or that they don’t want it to be true. The thing is, once one has written something down, it is out there in the world and is on its way to becoming truer than it ma have been before. Especially if it’s written in the dingy tunnel at New Cross station and read on a cold Monday morning.

Once that magic has worked what you have to do is move on.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Gang of Four in New Cross

So one of the greatest bands of all time decide to play their first gig in 20 years and where do they choose to play - The Montague Arms of course! The Gang of Four have reformed on the back of everyone from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Franz Ferdinand playing around with their punk-funk sound, and to prepare for some big gigs next week they played the 'secret' gig in New Cross tonight. When I heard about this today I thought it must be a joke - in my local music pub? On the stage where even I have trod?

But it was all true and a big, crowded, sweaty affair it was too - they were by far and away the most danceable white band of their genre/period and they still sounded sharper than 90% of groups then or since. Their critical thinking hasn't dated at all (capitalism still exists I'm afraid), unlike some of the more sloganeering bands of that period, and some of their material has acquired new resonances. As John King bashed out a rhythm with a piece of metal on a microwave, intoning the lyrics of 'Ether' -"white noise in a white room" - I was reminded that while the H-Blocks in Ireland might have closed (the song's original subject), torture by British troops is still pretty topical.

When some bands reform they seem embarrassed and half-hearted, but nobody could accuse the Gang of Four of that on tonight's performance, with singer Jon King scurrying around the stage on all fours, guitarist Andy Gill's intense stare, and original rhythm section Hugo Burnham and Dave Allen shaking the stuffed animal heads, marine ephemera and other bizarre decorations in this most idiosyncratic of South London taverns.

Didn't catch the full set list but for any Go4 obsessives out there it started off with 'What we all want' followed by 'Not great men', 'Ether' 'Why theory?', and 'Return the Gift'. Next songs included 'He'd send in the army', 'At home he's a tourist', 'Anthrax', 'Natural's not in it', before finishing up wiht 'To Hell with Poverty'. A short set of encores included 'We live as we dream alone' and 'Damaged Goods', before they came back on again for 'Essence Rare'.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Desperately Seeking Slutski

I first saw it written in the tunnel and on the poster hoardings of New Cross station. Some one was asking, in black marker pen, for someone to ‘Phone Me Slutski’. It got painted over in the tunnel but a new plea appeared a day or so later. ‘Phone Me Slutski’.

Then we were walking up from the Ravensbourne River the other day toward Lewisham and there is was again, ‘Phone Me Slutski’, scrawled across a phone box near the station.

It could all be some sort of art project, of course, there was a chap who would write “Do not move, this is street art” on the fridges, old tires and other stuff that had been dumped in New Cross last year. He did it for reasons that, I’m sure, made sense to him. There were posters pinned to the lamp posts around Goldsmiths and the Marquis of Granby last August pleading for someone called Viv to get in touch with some sorrowful someone and that the sorry one loved (maybe still loves) him or her. It could have been art or it could have been someone writing out their desperation on the streets where their love walked.

‘Phone Me Slutskí’ hasn’t got the manic edge of something like the Viv posters (I wish I’d photographed them), there’s no pleas, no number, just the command: ‘Phone Me’ and the named ‘Slutski’. Maybe a nasty rash, not love, has blossomed between the two, or more, people involved in the Slutski affair or perhaps the Sluteé (as opposed to the Slutski) craves more from the Slutski but the Slutski, as the name suggests, had left without leaving so much as a phone number, PO Box number or details of their regular drinking hole.

Or maybe this a different language for love or lust, one I don’t know. There’s more out there, at least one for every person in the world, and most of them are only understood by those directly involved (if they’re lucky).

Sounds of SE14

New Cross and surrounding area has been a source of musical creativity from the Music Hall-era through to punk, reggae and up to the present day. As part of the Telegraph Hill Festival, I will be doing a talk on 'The Sounds of SE14', illustrated with excerpts of music from bands and artists linked with the area (OK, I might stretch it to include bits of Brockley and Deptford). It's all planned for Saturday 5th March 2005, at the Telegraph Hill Centre (next door to St.Catherine's Church at the top of Pepys Road). Doors open with music from 8:00 pm, with the talk starting at 8:30 pm sharp with the aim of finishing by 9:30 pm to allow plenty of drinking time afterwards. Details are being finalised, but is should be £3 entrance including a free copy of my 'Deptford Fun City: a ramble through the history and music of New Cross and Deptford'. Expect to hear, and hear about, Louis Armstrong, Spike Milligan, John Cale (of Velvet Underground), Malcolm McLaren, Bonzos, Dire Straits, Kate Bush, This Heat, Alternative TV, Ozric Tentacles, Jah Shaka, Squeeze, Blur and much more beside.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Get stuck into The Gluerooms

I'm very fond of the Gluerooms, the monthly experimental and improv night that takes place at the Amersham Arms, 388 New Cross Road, New Cross (on the New Cross Station railway bridge).

The first one for this year is on Wednesday 26th January, from 9pm, and features
Richard Sanderson, who has appeared on these pages before in various guises, under the name of 'Richard of Hume'. He'll be indulging his passion for squeeze-boxes and electronica and it should be as interesting as anything a lap-top and melodeon playing, old New Wave Punk Morris Dancer could throw together.

Along with Richard, the London Electric Guitar Orchestra are performing. I have no idea what they sound like but their name conjures up something interesting, doesn’t it? I know that Thurston Moore and Lee Renaldo of Sonic Youth met, many years ago, in Glenn Branco’s Guitar Orchestra so maybe the London group sound like an orchestra of guitars played by at least two people who will, in the future, go off and form a band as good as Sonic Youth. Or maybe they won’t but I think it's worth the risk of seeing them, just in case.

It’s £3 entry and there’s the usual house disco. All proceed for this month go to the Tsunami relief appeal.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Shaun of the Dead

Despite being set entirely in Crouch End, the exterior shots around "The Winchester" pub, a main feature in this very British zombie film, were the Duke of Albany on Monson Road in New Cross Gate. I was tipped off when the chimney of the Millwall incinerator appeared in one shot, as Simon Pegg & co cross a road to get to the pub.
The Music Room on the New Cross Road tell the story of how they got involved here and I met the chap how played the zombie that got into Shaun’s flat and lost an arm in a fight. He’s the one-armed dancing partner (not a euphemism, they really do do dance classes together) of my boss, who lives in Brockley, and came in to the office to do some design work.

There is a
planning application out there to turn the pub into flats but I don’t know if this has gone through yet or if the pub is still open. Here’s a description of the pub, describing it as looking “closed down” already and here’s a website where one intrepid fan visited the pub while on a pilgrimage of SotD locations.

All together now "Dan, dan, dan, duh-dan-du-dan. White lines!"

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band

Another New Cross-linked band was 60s pranksters The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band (best known for 'Urban Spaceman'). The band's Neil Innes (later of The Rutles) described meeting the band's singer for the first time: "I first met Vivian Stanshall in a pub in New Cross, not far from Goldsmith's College. He was overweight, wearing a black frock coat, Billy Bunter trousers and carrying a euphonium under his arm. His broad face dwarfed the miniature, oval-shaped, violet tinted Victorian spectacles perched on his nose and, on either side of his head, he sported very large false ears made of unpleasant pink rubber! It occured to me immediately, that here was an interesting man, even for an art student and this was only 1963 - or was it 1964?".

Made in SE London

According to the South London Press, Daniel Bedingfield recorded his first album, 'Gotta Get Thru This' in his bedroom at his parents' house in Manor Avenue, Brockley. The same paper also reported that Matt Hales wrote Aqualung's 'Strange and Beautiful' on a piano under the stairs in his Brockley flat.

What other front doors round here hide a cauldron of musical creativity (for better or worse)? In the pub last night somebody claimed that The Orb's 'Little Fluffy Clouds' was recorded in a housing co-op flat in Jerningham Road, New Cross. Can anybody throw any light on this? I am doubtful. However The Orb's fantastically titled 'A Huge Ever-Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre of the Ultraworld'(1989) was recorded at 'Trancentral', the KLF's HQ based in Jimmy Cauty's house in Camberwell (not sure of the exact location - again any suggestions welcome).

Monday, January 10, 2005

It's Halloween (apparently)

New Cross & Deptford have quietly appeared in quiet a few recent films, either filled with vampires in 'Interview with the Vampire', zombies in 'Shaun of the Dead' and the things that pass for human beings in the fiction of Hanif Kureishi in ‘Intimacy’.

Now New Cross itself (or herself or himself, I’m not sure if anyone has tried to dowse the sex of the genus loci of our area) is appearing as the star of a film along with some of the band he/she/it cherishes so well. “Rocklands - Live In New Cross” is showing at the (perversly named) Halloween Short Film Festival and features such local musos as: Art Brut, Bloc Party (who I think I saw on Top of the Pops on Friday but I may have been dreaming (or brainwashed by Art Brut records)), Corporation:Blend, The Crowd and The Ludes are among many bands thrashing away in the film.

It’s on Sunday 16th January at 10pm with two other Charlie Productions, the company that made the film. The festival itself describes itself, on their site, as “Punk Rock in it's outlook, and uncompromising in it's vision” which is, of course, what we like here at Transpontine.

On Friday 14th January, from 9pm, south-east Londoners MyEyes MyEyes will be running some short films at the festival too, followed by films presented by the ever-lovely Fortean Times. Who have very little to do with south-east London but I read it every month anyway.

The full program is here, entry is £1.50 Mon-Fri; £2.50 weekends The ICA is at The Mall, London SW1, near where t’Queen lives.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Away with the Fairies in Greenwich

At South East London Folklore Society on Monday 10th January, Jeremy Harte will be speaking on 'Explore Fairy Traditions'. Jeremy Harte combines folklore scholarship with a lively style to show what the presence of fairies meant to peoples’ lives. He draws on legends, ballads and testimony from Britain and Ireland to reveal changelings, brownies, demon lovers and abduction into the Otherworld. His research is based on primary sources and many errors about fairy tradition are laid to rest. Jeremy is the author of numerous articles on earth-mysteries, folklore and more, his book Explore Fairy Traditions was published by ’Explore Books’ in October 2004.

It all happens at 8 pm upstairs at The Spanish Galleon, 48 Greenwich Church Street, SE10 and costs £2.50 / £1.50 concessions.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005


If your new year resolution is to get fitter you could do worse than check out Greenwich cyclists. They have a number of rides arranged around over the next few months, including one next Sunday to Dagenham!

The Swear

New Cross indie darlings The Swear are headlining The Baby Seal Club at Infinity (10 Old Burlington St, Mayfair) on Thursday 6th January along with Twisted Charm and Angels Fight The City.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

New Year in New Cross

At five to twelve, the band in Skehans pub was belting out a Waterboys cover, while the sound of a gospel choir drifted out from the House of Bread church in Kitto Road.

We headed up to the top of Telegraph Hill park where a couple of hundred people saw in the New Year with bubbly and fireworks, not to mention a fine view of other people's fireworks going off all over London. People have been gathering there every year since Millennium Eve (although a few months earlier, in August 1999, lots of us watched the solar eclipse there). The event isn't advertised or organised - people just seem to gravitate towards the highest local point, and why not?

What did you get up to?