Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Rock Shrines 13 - 20

Rock Shrine No. 13 - Air Studios

When George Martin produced The Beatles he was on an EMI salary – no royalties for him. In 1969 he left the company and established Air Studios at Oxford Circus. See that row of windows above the ledge and below the roof? That was Air Studios. Probably the only recording studios on the fifth floor.

As you would expect, the best artists in the world passed through these rooms, including Kate Bush, Genesis, Procul Harum, The Pretenders, and Roxy Music, who recorded their second album ‘For Your Pleasure’ here. I was writing an article on them and abused my privilege to come back several times to watch them mix and finish the album. So I can tell you that “Bogus Man” was several minutes longer and had to be trimmed to fit on a vinyl record.

It was always very odd to look out the windows and realise you were five floors up.

In 1991 the lease ran out and Air moved to a church in Hampstead.
It’s at Oxford Circus, above Nike Town.



Rock Shrine No. 14 - The Rock Garden

The Rock Garden was the first British venue for Talking Heads. They played in a small basement room in early 1977 and Brian Eno was in the audience. It was a strange affair; the band were nervous and we were curious. But Brian saw something special, because this is where he introduced himself to the band. The start of a beautiful friendship.

It’s at 6-7 The Piazza at Covent Garden.

Map Location

Put this post code into Google Earth and go for a ride: WC2E 8HB



Rock Shrine No. 15 - Kings Cross Cinema


In June, 1972 The Stooges played their one UK concert at the Kings Cross Cinema. It was a midnight gig, which meant that first of all a lucky bunch of us drove up to Aylesbury (about 30 miles north of London) to see David Bowie being Ziggy Stardust.

It wasn’t the best show I’ve ever seen, but it was the most nervous. Iggy had a verrrrry long mic cord and wandered into the audience a lot. He sat on a girl’s lap and sang right into her eyes. He grabbed one guy by the side of his head and shook it really fast. You had no idea what he would do next and it made for a very tense atmosphere.

The band were…The Stooges! James Williamson stood in one spot in front of a double Marshall stack ripping off big riffs and noise. The Ashetons made rhythtm thunder. They played a lot of Raw Power, though we didn’t know that, mixed in with TV Eye, Dog, 1969 and others. At one point the sound screwed up and with a shout of rage Ig hurled the mic against the stage floor. It bounced about a foot into the air in three or four pieces, in a line like an illustration from a manual. While it was fixed he stood alone in the middle of the stage and started singing ‘The Shadow Of Your Smile’ in his best Frank Sinatra voice. He sang it really low so everyone shut up to hear it. It was beautiful. The back cover of Raw Power is from that show.


Today it’s a cinema and club called the Scala, at 275 Pentonville Rd., near Kings Cross station.

Map Location

Put this post code into Google Earth and go for a ride: N1 9NL






Rock Shrine No. 16 - Hammersmith Palais

“Midnight to six, man, For the first time from Jamaica
Dillinger and Leroy Smart, Delroy Wilson, your cool operator”

On June 5, 1977 Joe Strummer from The Clash went to a concert he expected to be a celebration of the roots reggae we were all listening to that year. Instead he got “Four Tops all night with encores from stage right” and poured his frustration into their best song.

The Palais opened in 1919 to host jazz bands and was a popular dance venue until the Fifties. On the back of the building a mural remains from – probably – its opening promoting the dances.

In the early to mid Seventies it was a popular venue for reggae concerts, then for bands such as PiL, The Cramps and Soft Cell, and finally for British Asian dance acts. Ten years ago Elton John held his 50th birthday here.

On 22nd January 2007, the Palais was condemned to be demolished. There will be a series of concerts over the next few days, climaxing on 31st March with former Clash-man Paul Simonon playing in his new band The Good, The Bad and The Queen.

It’s at 242 Hammersmith Road, just up the road from Hammersmith tube station.

Map location

Put this post code into Google Earth and go for a ride: W6 7NL




Rock Shrine No. 17 – Hammersmith Apollo

It’s now called the Hammersmith Apollo, but true music fans call it by its real name: The Hammersmith Odeon.

Originally a cinema, this imposing piece of post-Art Deco has been a consumate London venue for over 40 years. Almost everyone has played here, from Ray Charles and Chuck Berry through Bobby Womack to Pharell Williams. The list of legendary concerts include all The Beatles Christmas Shows, Emmylou Harris with James Burton, a week of Bob Marley and a week of Erasure. At different times both Blondie and Tom Petty made their acquaintance with the UK here. Kanye West is playing three nights next week – followed a week later by Toto. It’s an inclusive place.

Ziggy Stardust emotionally retired on this stage in 3 July, 1973. Two years later Bruce Springsteen made a disastrous UK debut, returning a few days later in triumph. Bowie came back in 2003, Bruce in 2005 and both of them made constant references to their previous visits. (A friend was singing in Bruce’s band and said he kept looking like he was seeing ghosts.)

Of the many times I’ve been in this place, the standout is Neil Young and Crazy Horse in March, 1976. We knew he was playing new songs [Hurricane] but no idea he was full of jumbo jet volume’d dissonance and feedback. This was the first time the mad Neil attack was unveiled and the place responded with a roar as loud as the ringing in our ears. After they stopped no-one left. For 45 minutes we riotously demanded an encore until the band came out. They didn’t know we were still there until they heard the noise as they came back to play for the fun of it.

The Odeon is at Queen Caroline Street Hammersmith London W6 9QH.

The Hammersmith Palais (Rock Shrine 16) is up the road a few hundred yards.

Map Location

Put this post code into Google Earth and go for a ride: W6 9QH


Rock Shrine No. 18 – The Palladium
The Palladium is one of London’s venerable institutions and the cream of the world’s entertainers have played here. The building was originally a circus and then an ice rink before becoming a theatre in the ‘20s. Everyone’s been here – Ellington, Garland, Crosby, Fitzgerald, Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Danny Kaye, and Johnnie Ray (the Nabob of Sob) among them.

Its rock and roll fame is just as extensive. The TV show Sunday Night at the London Palladium introduced The Beatles to national TV, where Lennon famously told the rich people to “rattle your jewellry”. The Rolling Stones added to their delinquient image by refusing to ride the rotating stage that traditionally closed the show. (What innocent times!) Slade played a raucous week as part of the celebrations to mark Britain joining the EU and you could see the balcony moving from the stamping fans. Marvin Gaye recorded a live album in 1976. I saw John Denver here!

Brian Epstein’s offices were next door at 5-6 Argyle Street and is where Lennon gave the interview saying The Beatles were more famous than Jesus.

Argyle Street is just off Oxford Circus.

Map Location

Put this post code into Google Earth and go for a ride: W1F 7TF



Rock Shrine No. 19 – Ziggy Stardust
The location for a very famous album cover.
Although the brickwork has been painted and the evocative K. West sign has gone, the rest is remarkably untouched.
In 1977 Generation X knew how to make a cool reference to the past.





23 Heddon Street is off Regent Street a few hundred yards from Picadilly Circus.

Map Location


Put this post code into Google Earth and go for a ride: W1B 4RA




Rock Shrine No. 20 – Apple HQ

3 Saville Row must be one of the most famous addresses in Britain. This was Beatles HQ when they formed Apple Records, famous for the rooftop concert recorded for the film Let It Be.





When they weren’t on the roof they were in the basement studio. Here’s a photo of the mixing desk:

When George visited San Francisco and the Haight Ashbury in 1967 he somehow invited a couple of Hells Angels to visit him in London. Sure enough they showed up six months later with a retinue of friends, including the actor Peter Coyote (he was a radical hippie back then) and author Ken Kesey.

Saville Row is one part of London that’s resistent to change and therefore looks almost exactly as it did then. Next door is Gieves and Hawk, tailors to the royal household. Across the street is the back entrance of The Albany, the best address in London. Terence Stamp has lived here for more than 40 years.

Stamp shared a flat with Michael Caine before he got famous and moved here. If ‘60s Caine was movie cool then ‘60s Stamp was rock star cool. In Sean Levy’s highly readable history of Swinging London, Ready Steady Go he ends the book with an image of Stamp slipping quietly out this back door while The Beatles play on the roof.






Apple HQ, 3 Savile Row, London W1S 3PB

Map Location

Put this post code into Google Earth and go for a ride: W1S 3PB



1 comment:

Rick said...

what a incredible building, all that events happens in that place, inclusive the first song made it by the band Viagra Online was recorded here, but the most impressive was the Beattles visit.