Pubs · Demolition

The Horseshoe, Gorgie Road

Horseshoe Inn Gorgie Road

The latest edition of CAMRA’s Pints of View magazine reports that The Horseshoe is due for demolition.

This is very unfortunate.  Not only is it a great pub with McEwan’s 70 shilling, it is cheap and has a vibrant beer garden.  Worse, this is allegedly Gorgie’s oldest building (opposite the soon-to-be renovated Saughton rose gardens;) say what you like about the pub, as lots of people do, often, but I think it’s a handsome building which will be a loss.

Horseshoe Inn Gorgie

Just a bit along the road is this building; it was the Roxy Cinema until 1963, then a bingo hall, you can see that the art deco frontage has been retained. John Lennon allegedly used to go there when he visited his uncle in Edinburgh. I guess it’s possible, but there must have been easier cinemas to get to from Murrayfield.

Old Roxy Cinema Gorgie

Books · Music

From Stan Freberg to The Wedding Album

In the Extended Special Edition of Mark Lewisohn’s “All These Years – Volume 1:Tune In,” he mentions how much John and Paul enjoyed Stan Freberg’s “John and Marsha,” from 1951, but not released in England until 1956.
It still sounds great today, to me.

In a sly footnote (on page 765, not even near the end of the first volume of “All These Years – it runs to more than 1600 pages over two volumes,) he made me laugh out loud where he writes “…John would parody [John and Marsha] on record in 1969…”
He can only mean this, from 1969’s The Wedding Album;

Did John really think he was parodying a comedy record at this peak point of the Lennono avant garde adventure? I doubt it and I bet at that point he would have failed to see the humour in the suggestion. But you can’t not hear “John and Marsha…”

Books · Music

Oh no, not another Beatles book!

Mark Lewisohn The Beatles Tune In

I’ve just finished Mark Lewisohn’s The Beatles Tune In, over nine hundred pages of Beatles goodness, the latest version of the greatest story ever told.  Hard to put down, but pleasant to take time over.  The first of three instalments of a series of Beatles books called All These Years, Tune In takes us up to the end of 1962, so at a rough guess, the trilogy will weigh in at about three thousand pages.

Do we really need all this information?  Are there not enough Beatles books out there already?  Obviously yes, obviously no, respectively.

Lewisohn has used his position as the Beatles historian to undertake painstaking research about the story we all know; in Tune In, the overfamiliar characters are presented with new and fresh depth, the result of Lewisohn’s extensive interviews with as many of the supporting cast, bit players and supernumeraries as he could speak with; document research also fills in the prehistory of each of the key players and we get a strong feeling of how their family backgrounds informed attitudes and creativity.

He is also a fine writer; an undertaking of this nature could have been dry and dusty, but Lewisohn’s narrative skill makes for a frequently touching, often humourous read, for example, the paragraphs describing McCartney having, then being taken over by, the idea for “I Saw Her Standing There;” one bravura chapter shows us the parallel and separate developments of the young Brian Epstein and the young George Martin outside of how they would come to be defined by their parts in The Beatles success, an invigorating approach.

There are loads of previously unknown (or under-known) facts in the book, which I won’t spoil by relating; more excitingly, Lewisohn puts all the “well known” parts of The Beatles’ story into perspective so that frequently the received version is not as simple as was always thought; for example, he points out how outlandish it was that The Beatles would be courted to make an LP after one successful single – in 1961, only the most well established pop acts would maybe be considered worthy of the chance to make more than singles, yet here was George Martin offering to make an LP of mostly Lennon/McCartney originals…

I can’t not share one nugget though… Jurgen Vollmer’s picture of John Lennon in Hamburg’s Jager-Passage in 1961 was of course used by John for the cover of Rock’n’Roll in 1975 – what I hadn’t come across before is the fact that the blurred figures in the foreground are Paul, Stuart and George.  Without anyone realising, Lennon picked a Beatles group shot for a solo album…

John Lennon rock 'n' roll

So, thank you Mr Lewisohn for the time and the trouble.  I eagerly await the next volumes and hope I live long enough that he’ll tell me who the woman in the picture below is!


The Beatles on Abbey Road with unknown woman
Who is this woman with The Beatles on Abbey Road?


Music · Travel

New Year’s Day in NYC

John Lennon Gibson Guitars New York

On New Year’s day 2011 I was in New York City, waking in the Chelsea Hotel (I was actually resident there, it’s not just where I happened to have fallen asleep…) Nice work if you can get it and you can get it if your girlfriend tries…
I recently wrote about John Lennon in Edinburgh and the vibrations that can hit you around my home town. So of course I was going to go to the Dakota building when in NYC.
I was on several tour buses in New York and when I go back, the rule of thumb will be to look for the gayest tour guide, because they will be the most interesting. The guy this particular morning pointed out the site of Studio 54, umpteen defunct theatres, loads of movie references, the Leonard Bernstein centre…anyway, you know what I’m saying.
As we approached the area around Central Park where the Dakota building is, he pointed out a pub called Malachy’s, which was unusual because a) it was a pub in a upper-dupper class residential area and b) it looked like a cowp. He claimed that this was where John Lennon would go for a drink of an evening after he’d got Sean down.
The tour bus drops you off outside Central Park near the Strawberry Fields memorial park, which is pretty disappointing. On this day, someone had formed a banana mandala on the memorial itself, which was puzzling, as I did not know John was a particular fan of the fruit…there are signs enjoining visitors to be silent and respectful, but that hadn’t put off the busker playing Sting songs (Sting has an apartment in the area…) A bit of a dump really.


Strawberry Fields memorial New York John Lennon Imagine

Walking over to the Dakota was emotional. I thought of John’s last walk home – what was he thinking, was he going to nick out for a pint later that night?
The Dakota building is tourist central (I raise my hand,) a roundabout of people posing for pictures, as I of course did. Must be a bit annoying for actual residents (Lauren Bacall still lives there) but there’s no way round that; the psychic pull will be there for the next few hundred years.

Dakota Building New York

We walked down to the pub pointed out by the tour guide. Although I was still jangly from the previous night’s celebration, it seemed mandatory that we should have a drink in John Lennon’s local (I had already bought the story.)
But it was shut. We looked longingly at the frontage, with its Bass sign and realised that it was only about 11 in the morning. Our diligence at rising early to make the most of our few days in the city that never sleeps had beaten us…

Malachy's bar New York

Books · Music

The Beatles in Scotland by Ken McNab

The Beatles in Scotland by Ken McNab

I’ve been reading and enjoying this over the last few days.

For some unfathomable reason, the Tesco near work has a fantastic range of local interest books all at reduced prices, so this baby was just over a fiver despite just having been published in paperback with a new foreword (it originally came out in 2008 but has been updated.)

It seems like McNab has spoken to every Scottish person ever associated with The Beatles or a Beatle, whether they were in Scotland at the time or emigre Scots in London in the sixties.

There are some pretty good pictures, but sadly not the one of John, Yoko and Kyoko outside what was RBS in Shandwick Place – it was originally taken by a photographer for the Edinburgh Evening News or perhaps The Scotsman.  That picture has bugged me for years; I first saw it Douglas Healy’s John Lennon in Edinburgh, than as what I assume was a colourised version of the black and white original in an Evening News supplement a few years ago – but all searches of the websites of each paper yield nothing.

Maybe they just lost the negative?

I’ll try to get a good scan soon and add it to the site.


World Party – Arkeology

Arkeology - World Party

A few months ago the new World Party release came out, a five-CD collection called Arkeology.

  Arkeology consists of a delightful grab-bag of Karl Wallinger’s music from 1984 until almost the present; there are World Party b-sides, live recordings, radio sessions and out-takes covering rock, alt-rock, funk, p-funk, folk, country, music-hall, musicals, even comedy. If this sounds un-focussed, it is, but in the best possible way – put on any disc and prepare to be dazzled by Wallinger’s kaleidoscopic vision of music.

I’ve been a fan for years and years, especially when Goodbye Jumbo came out in 1990, a blend of Stones, Beatles, Dylan, Prince, Beach Boys and Hendrix influences which was invigorating without being slavish in devotion; to paraphrase the essay inside Arkeology, Wallinger had done his homework and then managed to forget he’d done the homework. Great songs performed with gusto and attention to detail. I was lonely for this sort of thing at the time.

I was lucky enough to meet Karl once in 1997 on the release of the Egyptology album. The EMI rep called me at work one tedious Monday morning and asked if I was interested in going to a playback of the new album that night at La Belle Angele in Edinburgh.

“Will he be playing?” I asked.

“No, definitely not, but he will be there to chat to people.”

Good enough for me, so I and a few friends went along…and were delighted to see the stage in the venue set up with piano, drums and guitar. Wallinger, Chris Sharrock (ex of The La’s and indeed World Party) and John Turnbull from The Blockheads availed themselves of the respective instruments and played a short and bracing set. Then the free bar opened and the artists mingled.

Wallinger was very pleasant and signed all my albums; I recall we had a chat about the current McCartney album, which I think would have been Flaming Pie, in “we are not worthy” terms. Chris Sharrock asked if I was coming to the World Party show which was taking place a few months later in Glasgow and I must have been a bit non-committal, because he said to just go and tell the door staff he said it was OK to get in…couldn’t see that working with a Glasgow doorman somehow.

The label had run out of free copies of the album and I agreed with Karl that I would send him a copy of the excellent booklet by Edinburgh comedian Douglas Healy John Lennon in Edinburgh and he said he’d get me an album sent out.

One of the songs they played from Egyptology that night was “She’s The One,” which soon of course became a mega-hit for Robbie Williams, presumably through the auspices of Williams producer and frequent World Party member Guy Williams.

Another album, Dumbing Down, followed, then apparent silence. It turns out the silence was due to a bout of bad health for Karl starting with a stroke in 2001 – on recovery, he started working again, but more under the radar. I guess times and the industry had changed even by then.

So; good to have the new record (well, 5 CD set,) as well as good reports of a recent gig at the Albert Hall and a couple of attendant warm-up shows. Hopefully there will be a platform for wider touring soon, because the live tracks from the turn of the nineties on Arkeology have served to remind me of what an AWESOME band World Party were on the three or four occasions I saw them (on consecutive nights in Edinburgh and Glasgow at one point, they were that good.)

When they went into the funk, there was the sense they were about to levitate; lefty Wallinger with his upside down guitars, Sharrock elaborate but not flash with a subtle sense of showmanship, Dave Caitlin-Birch (the original Paul from The Bootleg Beatles I was recently told by his counterpart in Them Beatles) pumping on one of several Hofner violin basses. Max Eadie and Guy Chambers were also in that band and there are maybe half-a-dozen live recordings from that period on Arkeology which take me right back to these nights.

The effortless range of styles across the five CDs would dilute the impact of many talents, but is actually a strength of this package – it’s great just to listen to any (or all) of the CDs from start to finish. Like a good meal, there’s a bit of everything, it all complements each other and it leaves you replete.

But of course, over five CDs not everything can be a highlight; different people would choose differently, but for me, the best bits are (as mentioned) the turn of the nineties live tracks; an alternative, super p-funked version of “What Is Love All About” with Andy Newmark on drums; “Another One,” a Basement Tapes influenced ramble; “I’m Only Dozing,” which is deeply sinister in the sixties English pop style of which its lyrics are an incantation; and an amazing cover of Dylan’s “Sweetheart Like You” which is sonically close to the original (that was his point in trying it out) but becomes its own thing (or given the amount of Clinton-influences around, should that be “thang?”)

In the notes, Karl mentions that when he was boy in the sixties, there were only about fifteen albums and forty singles at home, but they were quite enough to fill him with the sense of wonder of how the music worked.

I wonder what they were? The Beatles (White Album) for sure, probably Sgt Pepper and Rubber Soul; Highway 61 and probably Bringing It All Back Home; a best of The Beach Boys; The Sound of Music (everybody had it;) definitely Beggars Banquet; possibly Sly and the Family Stone’s Greatest Hits…as for the singles, the sort of singles collection that people had in the sixties would be as multi-faceted as the music on Arkeology turns out.

I wonder if there is any pre-teens around nowadays with the sense of wonder for music that was inculcated in the sixties just by being open to everything?

Anyway, I surely hope that there will be some World Party shows soon…meanwhile, I’ll keep spinning these fantastic discs, just like my imaginary sixties kid.