one day in the middle of june or roundabouts i clocked a thing going on down the kings road in chelsea…there’s a chap called morgan howell who does these gorgeous big blow ups of old 45 rpm pop singles…he’s very exacting…gets all the crinkles into the paper sleeves,and they are pure eye candy…i see the bbc has now decorated it’s radio studios with these fun pieces of art……and so i figured i’d head to this gallery where they were giving a bit of a splash. when i got there i found much to my surprise there was more going on than these blow ups of pop singles…they had a hifi shop come along with a gramophone turntable that cost as much as a rolls royce,where they played a new mono pressing of the beatles ‘a hard days night’….now this was an odd thing in itself…imagine this….about three rows of mostly males sitting ever so still while someone made it clear that we were listening to one of the worlds great hifi systems…he then proceeds to play not just one track off ‘a hard days night’ but the whole buggery album..side a and side b,while all these mojo magazine type males sat bolt upright listening to music that was designed for young girls and boys to scream and dance mindlessly to fifty years ago. the whole experience was curiously funny and sexless..men with beards stroking their chins,and sure,the perfect mono pressing of this beatles record did sound fantastic…i don’t think i’ve ever heard mono in such high quality before,it was lovely on the ear…pure and simple…no exhausting modern production fireworks…just a well healed band playing live to tape.
so there we are in this airless basement on the kings road…three rows of beard strokers listening earnestly to a full album of music that was created for the young dumb and full of cum. to heighten the irony of the situation, is the sad absence of anything remotely rock and roll on the kings road today…not one record shop…..even the punk rockers have gone….it’s hard to imagine dandified hippies ever having set foot on that street now..the chelsea drug store that mick jagger sang of, is now a macdonalds. it’s just not the same place it once was…so i sat there feeling like i’d arrived at a party that ended decades ago…very very strange.
the next surprise was a high profile journalist/radio presenter interviewing the mother of all beatles biographers….this man hunts out accurate details of jean paul george and gringo’s lives like no other..his life seems to have been devoted to writing mostly about the beatles..it seems to have paid him well..his books are the chosen benchmark i’m told….and i’m enjoying this man telling us things like how coincidently all four beatles fathers escaped military service,and had their fathers not done so,those mop topped boys wouldn’t have been free to chase dreams and bugger off to places like hamburg in 1961…this is all fine,but then he turned me off… he explained how in the midst of writing these beatle books his relationship had soured with paul…he then went on to say he wishes paul would stop singing….right there and then i decided i didn’t like this man anymore…how bloody dare he?!…sure i understand that pauls voice isn’t the supple power house it once was,but firstly,if paul wants to sing,then why the fun shouldn’t he…no one’s forcing anyone to listen..but what shocked me,was as a consummate biographer,that he wasn’t curious or interested in how pauls singing would play out on his way to the grave….
i’ve been thinking about this a lot lately….the way singing voices change throughout a lifetime…i love how leonard cohen’s negotiated his singing style…i’m glad he kept on singing for us to hear that…then there’s robert plant,who’s been very smart..he doesn’t yell and scream like he used to…he preserves his voice by not selling out to led zeppelin re-union tours, and as a result makes sweeter music that suits him at his time in life…he’s looking after his voice..marianne faithful became a very interesting singer when her voice buckled..truly awful sometimes,but so full of character on her record ‘broken english’…and then there’s paul,who just seems to love performing live..it’s not great all the time,but fuck me,it’s still better than most. the thing is…when a voice looses it’s supple tone or range,it’s often replaced with something else..a pathos…a sadness…the mortality edging in…for me that can be so riveting to listen to.the sound of a human voice over his or hers own peak…the roll down the hill..the fading and weakening.. y’know there’s a great song on the latest paul mccartney album,where they recorded him without him really knowing..his voice sounds craggy,and all the more convincing for it…he is very old after all…but there he is…singing his truth,while some biographer would rather he’d stop. here’s a video..this biographer was vain and smart enough to ruminate on weather the song was written about him…and maybe it was…millions of hims and jim jims who have great authority on someone else’s life that is not their own. here’s the song. so this nostalgia based evening wasn’t quite over until some old music business executive told us how different things were back in the day…he must have been blind,cause most of us were almost as old as he was….but i was curious about him…never did catch his name…but he had that wonderful combination of a posh talking voice offset with a slight rock n roll lilt to his delivery…like say chris blackwell who ran island records..or marianne faithful… so the evening is now coming to a close. i walk outside where the old music executive is standing on the kerb of the kings road smokin a fag in the balmy london evening…i thought …that looks cool…he looked so relaxed and formidable…tall,and like he owns the very street we’re standing on…he began to wonder away from the gallery,and it looked like poetry to me..this old cunt..in a suit…nose in the air…smokin his fag..walking away and fully aware of what a glorious evening it is…not dark yet…..so wouldn’t you know it, i start following him…i was just curious…i wanted to know where he was going…i figured he probably lived in chelsea, and i wanted to see what type of house he lived in….hahahahahaha…so it was fun following this bleeder..he went down all the little backroads to the side of the kings road…little streets i’d never seen before that are lovely…tiny cute little houses in lovely pastel colours ,with opened up interiors….it’s funny how some very rich folk who live in places like chelsea ,but deck the situation out to look and feel like a village on their street….it takes millions to maintain that rustic look in heart of the city.