Girls, cocaine, alcohol, rock’n’roll, sex, beers, drugs, television sets in the swimming pool ! Yes, that was my lost weekend when all excesses were made possible thank to the Eurostar and a few quids! Ok, London is not the most affordable city in the world and what it has won as worldwide city on one side, it has certainly lost in authenticity on the other side but this is overall such a great and energizing city that this is always a pleasure for one to get their 2 hours and a half of train to get there.
Be relieved ; I will not talk to you about the beauties of Oxford Circus or Tower Bridge but I will focus on the music spots I went to and share a few things I really enjoyed.
– 8h13 : Paris Gare du Nord : Eurostar leaving ! ok, not very rock’n’roll… and 9h30 : arriving ihe London Underground St Pancrass station !
-10h45 : “David Bowie is…” exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum
First note that no pictures are allowed in the exhibition, which is a good thing… and means you have to read this article! This exhibition had been forecast for a long time and the fact that David Bowie came back out of nowhere to announce his new LP “The Next Day” in January and then published it in March was a pure coincidence. Of course, he had nicely allow the exhibition’s curators to use all costumes, suits, clothes…and dresses he had worn throughout his career but nobody was aware of such a come-back. David Bowie is therefore again everywhere now whereas I remember the time when we all thought he had disappeared from public and artistic life.
I was expecting the exhibition to really focus on the fashion side as I had read that the clothes were all there and analysed in detail. This is indeed the case but much more than this and this exhibition is COM-PUL-SO-RY fo all David Bowie and rock’n’roll fans! First, the sonic landscape is excellent ; every visitor first receives a great quality headset and the music and words interact with the place where you stay when visiting the exhibition. Then, this is actually about all aspects of the Thin White Duke’s career : fashion indeed but of course music, in and out influences, context, the Berlin years, movies, etc… As far as I am concerned, this is the most moving music event I have seen in ages and there is in particular a spectacular room with a 10-meter high ceiling showing fantastic live performances of the great man. Count around 2 hours for the whole visit such detailed and rich this exhibition is. Go there but book now as this already close to being sold-out.
– 15h00 : Rough Trade East, Brick Lane
Please go to the “Favourite Records Stores” page to know more about this shop. I would say that this is a great place in a rising neighborhood which reminded me a bit of Williamsburg in Brooklyn and having such a big records store in these ages is something quite crazy that has to be supported. I would just give a bit of criticism by saying that I found not too much choice for such a big store (compared for instance to Waterloo in Austin or Gibert Joseph in Paris).
– 20h00 : Dexys, Duke of York’s Theatre
Good times for great artists or bands who had more or less disappeared : David Bowie, My Bloody Valentine…and Dexys (formerly Dexys Midnight Runners). I had already written a few posts about one of my favourite bands ever, either about their classic LP “Don’t Stand Me Down” or them being in my Top 100. But seeing them live was really something I would never have imagined and I must say that I probably was the happiest man in the universe for 2 hours and a half. Well, me plus the audience in the theatre as it had been a long time since I experienced such enthusiasm through a concert (well, too much concerts in Paris probably as UK audiences are known for having much more communication between artists and fans).
The show was based on the recent great “One Day I Am Going To Soar” LP, played in order and in its entirety. This album is actually based on a kind of love story that ends badly but full of witticism, humour and charms. Amazing leader and singer Kevin Rowland (what a voice…) was on stage with between seven and ten musicians depending on the songs and the least one can say is that this is very rich and soulful music. Having back Jim Paterson on trombone was in particular very moving so important he is in Dexys’ history and sound.
The second part of the show was based on old songs from all periods and LP’s and the performance succeeded in growing in quality and stature. It was really the kind of shows you do not want to end. The band finished with a gorgeous playing of their masterpiece “What’s She Like”, with Kevin singing beautifully onstage and…elsewhere!
After all these emotions, nothing better than a good run in Regent’s Park (1h10 minutes as I slightly lost myself…) and a good English Breakfast with toast and Marmite!
I took advantage of my last hours in beautiful sunny London first with a walk in the Camden neighborhood near the famous Roundhouse theatre and more precisely with a visit to a photographic exhibition around Graham Nash’s work. Yes, indeed THE Nash from Crosby, Stills and Nash is as well a very crafted photograph and this exhibition is worth having a look if you happen to be nearby.
I kept on doing my pilgrimage near Soho, first by buying a couple of records at the Sounds of the Universe store (home of the great Soul Jazz label) and then by taking a few pictures of 23rd, Heddon Street, the place where David Bowie’s “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars ” cover was shot. Of course, things have changed and there are no more sense of deep London there anymore but still an important landstone in the history of rock music.
All these rock places plus hundreds of anecdotes can be found in the nice book “Streets of London” published by Le Mot et le Reste. Not the kind a book to read from A to Z but very enjoyable to have it around when visiting the city.
Now leaving London by the 15h31 Eurostar… but I will be back soon for sure !