somerset house up the strand in central london is one gem of a place to hang out .. right now they’ve got an ice rink in the central courtyard with giddy folk falling on their arses,while others, even in wheelchairs, get taken by their carers for a spin over the freeze. there’s a huge tree laden with massive balls that truly stinks of christmas if you go up close enuff to sniff…that smell comes by way of fortnum & masons, but y’know..whatever.
the best thing though is chris stein’s photography exhibition in one of the many galleries off the main courtyard. entry is free,and the pictures are even more free.by that i mean,they’re loose… direct from the eye of a man who was boyfriend, guitar player,co-songwriter,and friend to anyone in the frame of every photograph. you’ll get a strong sense of all that if you read chris’s fantastic little anecdotes that reside by nearly every blow-up in the gallery…the affection for his extended rock and roll family, which includes everyone from iggy,joan jett,the ramones, is instantly obvious.there’s real sadness too, like the time joey ramone called chris from his death bed to say goodbye.i particularly loved this shot of debbie and clem the drummer…clem looks so sharp it’s almost funny…see how people on the street just have to stop and stare.
one of the lovely things about chris stein is how all the way through the blondie years,he never bragged about his genuine study of the arts.with camera in hand from early on,he and debbie rode highs that were followed by the worst lows from falling dangerously sick..he only refers to it once as“that long assed illness”, yet nearly died,while debbie sacrificed stardom to bring him back from the brink by devoting herself as a 24/7 nurse…and after the multi million albums sales, they found themselves completely fleeced and penniless, with no safety net to catch them…
however,time is kind to their legacy..the music they made hasn’t dated at all…they’re also one of the few bands who emanated a style that doesn’t look silly 35 years after the fact.one other thing i picked up on from this exhibition was how blondie were serious anglophiles.it was a big deal for them when they flew over here during the punk era for the first time…especially for their good looking drummer clem burke…it’s funny y’know…the coolest people i know in america are all anglophiles….but can you blame them?, and can you blame us for loving the great american songbook?….if there really is a ‘special relationship’ between the states and europe,it’s surely there in our mutual world of music…both have been selling each others music back and forth to each other for decades… after all…what would the beatles be without little richard or the everly brothers..chris stein will tell you himself how blondie’s ‘heart of glass’ was born out of a love for the bee gees ‘stayin alive’ and the european sound of kraftwerk.
i’ll leave you with a freely downloadable song of my own that was born of my love for chrissie hynde and blondie…so dear reader.. if you’ve got a little time on your hands,you could do worse things than spend a couple of hours in somerset house…rudolph the red nosed reindeer is ringing out down the decorated corridors and around the ice rink,but in one gallery,it’s pure ramones,iggy and blondie…. afterwards you could dander for a while by the river thames, which is easily accessed in through the out door of this charming house….lots of love, pop pickers…mary fairy liquid.