As the dulcet tones of the busker underneath the bridge at Blackfriars travels down stream,I captured the moment in time.This moment,this late Friday morning drew me to imagine another time in an altogether different time of life,but somehow,it still had its affect on me.
As the tidal Thames seems to be returning to its dirty water days,if all but a pemporary impression,my memory of 1977 along the Southbank was given to be as if by an unintended gift from our busker.You see,he was a musician really from a different time.His voice,rasping,desperate almost,but with a genuine emotion that conjured up within me a voice that I could associate with.In that moment,in that sanitizer Southbank as it is now,I remembered the old Blackfriars,the old OXO building,the old London,and then I remembered the history of the place.You see,when I first went there,it was a far different South bank,with the Thames still a working river,with the Warfs in business as such.Its concrete buildings look tired now,and when I first frequented the Royal Festival hall,these places were the artistic hub of London before the onset of the Barbican centre.As I walked from Blackfriars. Really the bridge in a few seconds of nostalgia,I realised that back in the 1970’s life was less complicated,less troubled by ideological fanaticism that now affects our capital so much.Yes,the Skyline is so changed since those days,but as the Sunlight on St Paul’s reflected back at me,I can see why London still is a magnet for so many foreign tourists.
Of course,in the 1970’s,London grappled with its identity but in different ways.It had the sleese of Soho to root out ,the East end gangs and the like,but the South Bank was then,the place where Londoners came to relax and to be entertained,with the National Theatre opening in that decade,the national film theatre and the breath of artistic endeavour that these centres have brought us.
Having had my time as a young man listening,watching and just soaking up this atmosphere,I’m trying not to compare the two South banks so to speak.On the one hand,the place was looking tired,in need of a make over ,so to speak,and with ITV making their headquarters there,the presenters present a sheen to proceedings.As I look back on my school friends,it always surprises me to see just how cool Philip Scofield is now,as I knew him as the younger brother of Susan at Newquay school in the early 1970’s.
So,my brief visit to London on Friday conjured up some memories that attest to a different London.Is it a better one?Well,that might have to be left for others to decide.
As I reflect on this Sunday afternoon,I’m resigned to the success of the Southbank ,with its pleasure park “eye”,its licensed street vendors with their supposedly top grade food hygiene ratings,but I wonder what the old Londoners would make of it now,the ones who visited it when it was opened as the “Festical of Britain in the 1950s”.Would they think it was too cultural now,or too exclusive for their co servative tastes.Its intriguing to me as a curious person.
Wether the nannies are too busy to venture down the South bank now who knows.Maybe I need to read “Time out ” again,,or just accept that I’m a country boy now with a love for culture and jellied eels.Like all working class boys,you can take them out of the council flat,but ,deep down,they are still working class.
So,I wonder if my Joe Cocker acoustic guitar guy is still singing with that natural rasping voice and carrying on when you drop your silver into his case because ,deep down,he would sing anywhere,and anytime.His dulcet tones in G flat fit more to the 1970’s ,that “this is me,you have to bleed with me ,or you can …k ..f.These types of people don’t make much money,probably don’t care,but somehow,they survive and have survived.As my mind was ,on the one hand with him as he bled,he wasn’t aware that I knew him in the abstract ,that I knew what he knew.It kind of felt obstusely real to me though.Like a young Gerry Rafferty with the Stealers wheel in a grotty folk club .That was real,in the moment.That musical all or nothing thing that those folk guys had then and never compromised.
Yes,in a few years time Gerry would burst unto the scene with “Baker street”.That i too,like Dylan going electric,seemed to be to be a revolution in folk music from the previous.All that thought,that registration,came from one guy belting out his stuff,his folk ,his spunk under Blackfriars.
So London still has the affect to make me feel musically.Now,of course,we are in the “age of the acoustic song”,or so we are taught to believe,but then,the music industry was gripped with “New Wave music”, the “Rough trade,stiff little fingers labels ,where the independent labels were at war with the established giants of EMI,CBS and Polydor.As I write this now,I Marvell that this post literally came out of a few minutes of this busker ,this artist from my time,this guy stuck in a time warp.But,do you know what really got me was:He just didn’t care,he was absolutely safe in his skin.
To conclude,London ,along with Paris and New York, are known as centres for artistic endeavour.I would also like to add that they are also centres of individual expression too.
Thank you for your interest in my rather protracted and self indulgent muse today on this lazy Sunday.