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.

IMG_1995

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….

12 bar 19 07 13

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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Rambling about Marshall Stacks again

 

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I discarded 90% of my worldly goods when I moved to Berlin  but the Marshall Stack came with me.  Death Valley Surfers  had a New Year’s Eve show there at the end of 2000, and it came along in the van  (along with the other 10% of my worldly goods.)  I’d never envisioned the Stack not being a  part of my life,  but my life changed.  Gig requirements in my new home shifted from “band van” to “small car” or even “take the bus” shows.  My last-century  sound equipment was becoming more decorative than functional. It graced the minimally furnished front room of my first  Berlin flat, but it didn’t get around much.

Marshall Stack and Ms Ruby Freeman

Marshall Stack and Ms Ruby Freeman, Berlin 2003

Eventually  a move to a third floor apartment with no lift overtook all other considerations. Goodbye, Stack.

I was doing mainly salon and bar shows where a  compact and minimal setup was the way to go. After one or two experiments with a Beringer and a custom made Michael Bender (cult Berlin amp inventor),  I went for  a double act of sturdy new generation VOX-es.  They had precious little of the magic  I remember from the AC 30 I played in the seventies (though the little pink one scores  10 for cuteness)

Big Vox and Little Vox

I didn’t give Marshalls much more thought to be honest, until I made a trip to Liverpool with my partner in 2005. We chanced to see a poster in a  guitar shop, advertising none other than Jim Marshall,  signing copies of his new CD that day . The total lack of fanfare was unbelievable. I’ve seen better publicity for a church jumble sale.  Naturally we went in and he signed two posters for us. As can happen with meeting famous people, I could think of buggerall to say.  This was compounded by my guilt  for having ditched his creation the year before . But somehow I did manage  a couple of pleasantries, and will never forget the impression he made – courteous, unassuming and a total gentleman  – I’ll also never forget  my astonishment on hearing his CD  which was a million miles from the rock monster sound he’d created, more like granddad singing in the bath. Bless him.

Gentleman Jim Marshall, Liverpool 2005

Gentleman Jim Marshall, Liverpool 2005

Finally,  a photo  of the Stack on active service – at a  Joyryde recording at  Alaska studios, London in 1993.  I think the corrugated iron was there to make it even louder.  Scientific explanations  welcome.

Marshall Stack at Alaska Studios 1993