Sep 152014
 

London will be a short train ride away. I’m geographically challenged, but England seems incredibly small. I’m leaning toward London, but I’ll tell you what I told my wife and my friend: “What am I going to do in London for 2 or 3 days by myself other than track down cool record stores and see Abbey Road? Aside from Abbey Road, I might as well spend a couple of days in New York?”

I don’t know, the fact that the English speak English makes the country seem less exotic to me. I like trying to speak Italian, French, and Hungarian, when I’m in Italy, France, or Hungary, respectively. I am already fluent in English. What I’m I going to do, try to trip natives up by asking where I can find an elevator?

I love to eat, and I always love to seek out native fare in whatever city I visit. Don’t the English have about the worst reputation for food? I consider food a major part of my cultural explorations. I know, they supposedly have great Indian food, but that won’t qualify as “great English food.” I guess I can have a laugh eating bangers and mash and other forms of meat and potatoes, but the thought of treating myself to one of those massive, greasy English breakfasts and then belching and farting the rest of the day is not my cup of tea. (And don’t get this coffee drinker started on the lack of excitement over the notion of “high tea.”) I’m aware I’m exposing myself as a stone-cold idiot for sharing these thoughts, but I seek your advice.

Honestly, there’s so much about English culture that I’ve always loved—the bands, The Avengers, The Prisoner, the swinging fashions from just about any century, the novelists—and wanted to experience firsthand, but finally given the chance to go there, alone, I’m not sure how I’m going to fill my time other than do the things I’d do if dropped into the Lower East Side of Manhatten for a couple of days. As I told my wife and friend, “I have no interest in seeing any of that Queen shit!” I hope to walk near the Towers of London and Big Ben and whatnot, but I doubt I’ll feel like standing in line to see anything that honors the monarchy.

I have no interest in pubs. Just because they’re called “pubs” rather than “bars” doesn’t make them any better, as Americans seem to suggest when they linger over the word “pubs,” does it? Beside, I don’t drink! Is a tonic water with lime in a pub any better than a tonic water with lime in as United States bar?

Is there a killer museum I must see in London, not one centered around centuries of “Queen shit” (not the band Queen either)?

Most likely, I’m going to start by investigating the following activities:

  • Must-visit record stores
  • Must-visit book stores
  • Visits to some iconic spots I might know of from album covers, movies, etc (eg, the pub on the cover of Muswell Hillbillies)
  • Cool hang-out spot, where I can hang out and imagine what it’s like to be cool in London
  • A personal meeting with Happiness Stan, that wonderful old Townsman who used to write amazing tales of his days attending legendary rock festivals with a parade of marvelous women.

What am I missing? I apologize in advance for this shocking display of ignorance. I know you’ve come to expect more of me in my travels, but I’m a little stumped by the prospect of this UK trip. I wish I had more time, so I wouldn’t feel so pressured. Please help me on my musical journey.

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  32 Responses to “Musical Musts in London?”

  1. Damn Mr. Mod. You sound like you travel almost as badly as I do!

  2. I think I’m a sturdy, loose traveler, in most situations, but I’m feeling oddly anxious about this trip, like all the things I want to see (Swingin’ ’60s, punk rock) will be gone, and I won’t know what to do.

  3. grumpy old guy….

  4. That’s a tough call: the temptation of doing all the obvious locations Abbey Rd, Paul’s house round the corner etc.. but if you fancy doing something a bit diff’, in a two hour jaunt that will get you everything from The Sgt Pepper and Butcher sleeve photo shoots, to key-era Stones, to Cream to Bowie and the birthplace of punk – even Monty Python, try my guide to the King’s Rd. A two mile round trip will tick off all those and more…

    http://channelmondo.blogspot.co.uk/2009/03/magical-history-tour-of-kings-roads.html

    Or this Fabs guide to London has all the apartments, studios. filming locations and sleeve-shot sessions (including the bush from Rubber Soul)… you’re only ever minutes away from a Beatles site with this book …

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Beatles-London-Ultimate-Around/dp/1906032262

    For food – I’d recommend Pellicci’s in Bethnal Green, third generation of the same Italian family still running it, with a great mix of Italian and English dishes (and reasonable prices too)… From here, you’re just a short hop away from Brick Lane and Jack the Ripper territory. If you go mention me as Meatballs Dave. And you may bump into Eric Hall friend of Marc Bolan, Freddie Mercury, Elton John – and the Sex Pistols..

    http://planetmondo.blogspot.co.uk/2011/03/food-week-londons-most-classic-cafe.html

    Also used as a location in the Lennon film Nowhere Boy.. and check Yoko’s take on it here…

    http://planetmondo.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/yoko-eno.html

  5. I come to you for help, and this is what I get?

  6. diskojoe

    If I was going to London, I would do a bit of Kinks sightseeing, like going to Muswell Hill, Hampstead Heath, as well as checking out Konk Studios, which Ray has apparently turned into an art gallery after unsuccessfully trying to sell it. Another thought is to go to Wivenhoe & see Martin Newell. Someone I know through his message board actually went to see him a few years ago & Martin treated him very nicely.

  7. I kid, I kid…

    Have you looked to see if any bands of note are playing? How about just seeing some random local bands? I’m always surprised by some of the listings in the back of Mojo of interesting bands that are still around but don’t necessarily make it over to the states.

  8. A quick peek at Time Out London reveals a musical smorgasbord including your beloved Kate Bush, the Buzzcocks (I know you just saw them but it would be cool to see them again over there), Hawkwind and the Wonderstuff (gigantic douchebags who are mildly entertaining, but I was surprised to see they were still around).

    Also, there has to be a London equivalent of Johnny Brenda’s or the Boot and Saddle. You could just roll the dice…

  9. Give our regards to Happiness Stan and tell him to check in sometime if you manage to connect with him.

  10. I’m hoping to do so! Thanks for your tips, too. Keep ’em coming, Townsfolks!

  11. Stonehenge!

  12. I’ve buzzed you some tips pal – but they seem to be waiting moderation?

  13. Ah – it’s probably a security thing limiting links. I’ll see that you post gets through now. Thanks! You’re over there, right?

  14. TREMENDOUS tips!!! These suggestions alone will likely fill my time. If you’re in that area, planet mondo, and feel like grabbing a bite with a real, live Townsman, let’s make it happen. Thank you.

  15. Cheers Mr M – lemme know your dates and I’m sure we can sort summat out. planetmondo@gmail.com

    One other a trip to the Princess Louise in Holborn should be on anyone’s list.. One of London’s finest Victorian pubs… and from their Denmark St – London’s Tin Pan Alley is just a ten minute walk…

    Cheers pal

  16. BigSteve

    I can’t believe you’re going to leave Manchester without doing some sort of Smiths pilgrimage.

  17. ladymisskirroyale

    Or, while you’re in Manchester, you could go to Moss Side, which Barry Adamson paid homage to in his great double album “Moss Side Stories.” Actually, given the roughness of the area, don’t go, just listen to the album. Here’s a track:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_iUrCzxT3Cc

  18. ladymisskirroyale

    Manchester is a pretty neat city. Plenty of music and hippy culture to check out there. Start by re-watching “24 Hour Party People.” Or consider a walking tour of the music history spots: there certainly are many of them. http://www.newmanchesterwalks.com/walks-tours/music/factory-records-the-sound-of-modern-manchester/

  19. ladymisskirroyale

    Let me know if you want to talk more about London (areas, things to consider, etc.). And can I give you my relatives’ Christmas parcels to take with you?

  20. ladymisskirroyale

    Suggestions:
    1. Skip Brick Lane. Getting too touristy. If you want good Indian food, just ask where to find a good curry.
    2. Try visiting the Clerkenwell part of the city, my favorite part of the city to stay. Was bombed out during the war, now rebuild and center of architecture and design firms in the city, plus great Central-East location, easy to get about. Excellent pubs in the area that are also good for food, and some have good live music, too.
    3. Go to the Tate Modern and just walk in the Turbine Hall. If you have time, a spin around to see the Rothkos there can be nice.
    4. Favorite museum: Cortauld Gallery at Sommerset House. Small but some very well known paintings.
    5. As for record stores, many have shut. You can find some good things at the local markets (Camdentown, Exmouth, etc.) if you’re there on a market day.
    6. Naff, but go get a shave and haircut at a proper barber. Mr. Royale loved one in Islington, “Sharps,” above the Ben Sherman store.
    7. Go shop for some Mod wear (or Modwear) on Carnaby Street, or check this out: http://www.modculture.co.uk/cities/city-guide-london/
    8. The food in London is GREAT. Once you move beyond fish and chips with mushy peas, or beans on toast, you will find amazing fish, beef, pork (about 50 shades of bacon), cheese, veg, fruit…and don’t even get me started on the puddings. I have a list of foods that I search out on each trip. If you end up in the Clerkenwell area, go to my caf’, the J and A Cafe.
    9. The Thames boat cruise down to Greenwhich (that of Greenwhich Mean Time) is fun if the weather is good and you have a few spare hours.
    10. Just walk around. London is a great walking city. If the weather is bad, the Tube is easy. (Get an Oyster Card if you are there for more than a couple of days and plan to travel over large parts of the city.) If you just travel by Tube, you’ll see a huge swath of the London populace.
    11. Visiting Hampstead Heath makes you feel that you are 200 years in the past. If you are feeling literary, you can go to Keats home there.
    12. I could keep going, but I think I’m bogarting your post.

  21. Yes, we will talk as the trip approaches. Thanks!

    BTW, #6 in your list is a definite NO! I don’t let any “barber” touch my hair. This head of hair is for “stylists” only. I’m like Barry Gibb when it comes to my mane.

  22. ladymisskirroyale

    Mod, we’re talking “barber,” not barber. You know, those hipster places where the men who work there all have beards? Regardless, you know how much hair Mr. Royale has, so he did not have the “barber” touch any of it, but he loved the shave with hot towels, etc. It’s a socially-ok’d guy’s facial.

  23. Ha! I get you, but I don’t see the point of paying some guy to shave me with a straight razor knowing full well that my Flintstones-worthy 5 o’clock shadow will return at its appointed time. How long did Slim’s shave last? He strikes as a man with highly active jaw and cheek follicles.

  24. ladymisskirroyale

    The whole hot-towel-on-the-face, shave, more hot towels and tonics…I’d say it took about an hour. The lack of 4, 5 or 6 o’clock shadow was pretty impressive so obviously it was a pretty close shave. He just kept patting his face and smiling so it must have been good. http://www.bensherman.com/us/sharps-barbers/

  25. I second ladymisskirroyale’s recommendation for the Tate Modern.

    Do you like cheese? Please stop by Neal’s Dairy Yard. Pick up some cheese and other picnic supplies and have a lunch by the bank of the Thames somewhere.

  26. hrrundivbakshi

    First off: I am pleased that you think British food sucks — presumably “compared to ours.” This pleases me because I suspect you will find it vastly *superior* to ours in almost every respect: freshness, imagination, value, tastiness, etc. Prepare to return to the US of A wondering when and where we started to get shit all wrong in the food dept.

    Secondly: the museum thing will present you with an embarrassment of riches from which to choose. My personal favorite is the Soane Museum — http://www.soane.org. It’s wonderfully wild and weird, in an eclectic Victorian kind of way. Last time I was there, Marty Scorcese was waiting outside in a limo, waiting for a VIP entree — which I didn’t see him get, BTW. He smiled at me and nodded vigorously when I mouthed the words “that museum is fucking AWESOME” and gave him the thumbs-up on my way out. So go there.

  27. I love cheese, but this isn’t some Monty Python cheese shop set up, is it, mrclean?

  28. No! Its one of the greatest cheese shops in the world:

    http://www.nealsyarddairy.co.uk/index.html

  29. ladymisskirroyale

    To quote you, Mod, “true dat.”

 
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