Denmark Street, Corporate Barbarians, and Shiny Black Guitars

The accelerating destruction of one of my favourite parts of London is well documented elsewhere. I won’t even attempt the whole story, but here’s my synopsis: Denmark Street, a.k.a London’s Tin Pan Alley, and other parts of Soho, London are being “regenerated” (read: legally vandalised, offered to the highest bidder and/or destroyed ) and regurgitated as some brave new vision of fuck-knows-what. With profits going fuck-knows-where.

Me and Denmark Street, we go back a long way

I’m not about to go all sentimental here. Most of the guitars were overpriced and I never did meet any rock legends there. But Denmark Street was  simply a small yet important part of my life for as long as I can remember.  I liked the vibes. It was always My World and nothing to do with boring day jobs, or family problems, or anything in my life that was giving me grief.  I could just mooch around at my own speed, checking out the goodies and occasionally buying more than strings and picks. Back in the seventies – then based in Liverpool – I’d gone down for a weekend and returned with a shiny black Ibanez acoustic with a Fender-style headstock from Andy’s. Purchased from Andy himself.  Super cool when everyone else in the Pool had hideous generic jumbos that looked like they’d been made from a front room sideboard.

In 2000,  I bought my lovely  SG -I Gibson in a shop that to date is Macari’s, but was then seemingly owned by Rokas, later known as Rockers. Let’s  hope it won’t shortly be owned by 02.

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An uncharacteristically good deal for a West End guitar!

A wake-up call I ignored

I haven’t lived in London for over 14 years and for most of them Denmark street and the surrounding area was my default place to revisit. In my head – and only in my head –  it was still the same street I’d hung out in for three decades on and off,  before moving to Berlin. The demolition of the nearby Astoria, where I’d seen a pre-mega Nirvana and danced to the Reverend Horton Heat was a wake-up call that I ignored. I didn’t like the ever-increasing number of hoardings around the Crossrail project at Tottenham Court Road every time I visited,  but tried not to think about it.

Then petitions were appearing on Facebook and I realised just how bad things really were in my old stomping ground.When public opinion and petitions were totally and cynically ignored, and the eviction order served on the  legendary 12 Bar Club, with neighbouring shops and businesses under a similar threat, I was moved to write this song:

(words and lyrics copyright Kathy Freeman 2015 )

to finish off….. a photo from a show I did at the 12 Bar.  By the way I’m playing my Other Lovely SG. It lives in London to save the hassle of transporting guitars on planes. But that’s another story….

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I never played at the 12 Bar when I lived in the UK, but had a great time playing there in 2013

Kathy Freeman Songs: BANDCAMP

More about Kathy Freeman at KATHY-FREEMAN.DE

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Ramblings about front room concerts, forgotten lyrics, and Amanda Palmer

Fact: Some people are invariably more into drink ordering, I-phone checking, hen partying or anything else under the sun than listening  to what’s on stage. Many musician friends feel deeply wounded by this apparent lack of respect. I’m not. Which makes me  totally Zen or totally in denial, or both. I just direct myself at the good folk who ARE listening and go with the flow.  And  corporate-type events  where I’m officially background ear candy are  actually great opportunities to experiment, and to improve on new or rusty repertoire.

However when I played a  Wohnzimmer (Front room) Konzert  two months ago near Chemnitz at the Scala Adorf  (official title of Micha and Kat’s front room, in the country village where they host monthly invite-only events) ……. something very different happened.

Everyone was listening in rapturous pin-dropping silence ……and that’s just while I looking for my plectrum. Ah, that’s what respect is! You have to truly deliver to deserve it. Time to  be totally focused, totally honest…. and to think on my feet.  I played the intro of one song, and then faced the singer’s ultimate nightmare – total lyrics blank. After 3 unusually long seconds, I announced that my subconscious was telling me not to play that song, and moved on. (and it’s still telling me, because I can’t remember which song it was) But the songs I did remember went down really well, we got that connection going, and I was firing on all four.  By the second set  it felt less like a poetry reading and more like rock’n’roll.

Cushion-cat watches me at the soundcheck.

Cushion-cat watches me at the soundcheck.

The Magic Carpet

The Magic Carpet

Micha is a massive Amanda Palmer fan, and this got me wondering how the evening would have gone with her at the wheel. Wohnzimmer concerts remove the filter of all those subplots that go on in traditional venues. It’s artist to audience undiluted. I’d read about how Amanda P had achieved total one-ness with her fans by letting them write all over her with felt-tip pens. While I got as far as encouraging them to sing along on a couple of numbers.  Maybe that’s why she’s made a million and I haven’t. But at least I didn’t have to stand in the shower afterwards for 20 minutes with a scrubbing brush and a jar of Swarfega.

My accomodation  was about six metres and a flight of stairs from the venue

My accomodation was about six metres and a flight of stairs from the venue

I can honestly say it was a great evening and I’m ready to do more like it! Especially if they make coffee like Micha does.

Farewell Scala Adorf (photo by Michael Reich)

Farewell Scala Adorf (photo by Michael Reich)

    You can hear some of the songs I played, and a shedload of other ones here at BANDCAMP

More about Kathy Freeman at  KATHY-FREEMAN.DE