In Earthbound, Paul Morley takes us down the Tube for a journey on the Bakerloo line, and ends up talking about a John Peel session by Can. ‘Can music remembered music from the future that had not happened yet: by remembering it, as though it was an ordinary thing to remember the future, they made it happen.’
There’s plenty on the experience of travelling underneath the city too, as well as working for the NME; possessing one of the first Sony Walkmans in London; and interviewing Mick Jagger and ‘punkishly, pompously telling [him] off for being too old, at thirty-seven, to be singing pop’.
The comparisons of Brian Eno’s music with Harry Beck’s London Underground map, then of Googling and using the Tube, are typically bravura Paul Morley, not so much spotting patterns as forcing the cultural world to bend itself to his vision of it.
If Words and Music: A History of Pop in the Shape of a City felt at times like too much of that vision for an ever so slightly less pop-obsessed reader to cope with, then Earthbound’s focus and (relatively) contained and constrained subject matter make it an always engaging read.
With this fourth and final Pantry fanzine, I finished the journey on which I had embarked in issue 3, and cast myself away on a desert island, thoroughly isolated. But having recognised the need to stand free of my influences and heroes, I wasn’t quite able to define myself with as much weight and clarity. It was summer 1989, and I was on the dole after finishing my third year exams; the Berlin Wall had not yet quite come down, and under the weight of the third Thatcher government and the all-embracing influence of situationism (it was even the subject of my dissertation), I did not feel free. So I roamed – as the Clientele song has it – emptily through Holloway, seeking solace in the streets, in the messiness of overlapping relationships, and – as ever – in music. The last being the simplest thing to hold on to and examine, as I turned life over in my hands. So that – no surprise – was what Pantry for the world was about. Not that you’d know from the cover, which with highly refined indifference gives no indication of the contents. Instead simply that arch and ironic title, whose grandiloquence is softened once you register that it’s a tribute to the Isley Brothers’ ‘Harvest for the world’, which I had grown to love that summer.
The photograph is of the house that stood opposite the point at which Hertslet Road was met by Roden Street, where I lived. The house never recovered from its state of disrepair. Not long after the photo was taken, work began on the Nags Head shopping centre, which also erased Bovay Place and the squatted red brick building that stood there.
But while I stop here with my thoughts awhile, mourning lost streets of London, why not hurry on over to The London nobody sings? The party’s in full swing, and it surely won’t be long before the scribe behind Your heart out posts a song which celebrates the part of London that you know and love best. (The same scribe, I should add, who twenty years ago contributed a piece to Pantry for the world, as we shall soon reveal.)
Great to to see residents of the Five Boroughs taking up the challenge to bring us The New York nobody sings as well. Just need Paris and Munich now.
Issue 12 of Smoke: a London peculiar is out – has probably been out for a while (it’s difficult to tell). Nominally a mayoral election special, going to press before the buffoon that is Boris entered the eye of City Hall, but sensing the way the wind and the Evening Standard was blowing, Smoke 12 is somewhat resigned to losing Ken and determined nevertheless to continue to celebrate versions of London that are very likely obscured from mayoral view by that floppy fringe of his; but not, er, by the floppy fringe of editor Matt Haynes, the Stephen Fry of psychogeography (a field of study not noted for whimsy, at least not since the original concept of the dérive was repurposed by the likes of Ian Sinclair).
Alongside regular features like ‘London’s campest statue’ and ‘Words found written on the steamed-up windows of late-night buses’, the latest issue has not untypical stories about the Caledonian Road market; the ghost of the motorway that was meant to connect the river and the M1; and about regularly falling asleep next to a particular stranger on the train into Waterloo, a practice more common than you might imagine among commuters whose outer limits location forces them to rise before six a.m.
While Smoke takes pride in being a paper-based entity, there is a website, and now a blog, Danger: void behind door, which seems to have four purposes – 1) to detail (amusingly) the frustrations of being the editor of what I think we’ll have to call a literary magazine; 2) to act as an outlet for Smoke-y pieces which are perhaps a little short of the roundedness that its published pieces posses; 3) to field interest in Sarah Records, of which Matt was one half; and 4) to return to the light of day some of the pieces he wrote as inserts for the label’s releases, which were frequently of much greater interest than the music. Driftmine reads uncannily like something from one of the better ‘pure writing’ blogs like An unreliable witness. Except that it was written in 1991.
Incidentally Matt also has another past life as a fanzine editor and he may not thank me for it but I quote him in this piece about Hurrah!