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Bayswater Rock and Roll Tour

By Ian Mole 

In the very early Eighties I used to live at 40 Hereford Road W2 almost opposite a pub called the Princess Louise. One of the first times I went in there I was almost keeled over by the marijuana fumes and couldn’t help but notice a guy rolling a large joint on the bar. 
 
I later read that Howard Marks had been a regular there and perhaps this was a throwback to his presence. It later became a Slug and Lettuce and I frequented it in the early Nineties when Glenn Gregory from Heaven 17 and Spizz, of Spizz Energy etc, were regulars too. I was leaving my front path one day when I almost bumped into a passing Joe Strummer who was in deep conversation with a friend. A pal of mine told me that Jeff Beck used to live in that street and that he often got his post by mistake but I never saw him.

Head north along Hereford Road and turn right at the end into Talbot Road. Take the second right into Alexander Street, where at no. 32 was the headquarters of the fabled Stiff Records undoubtedly the greatest British indie label of the punk/new wave era with acts such as Elvis Costello, Ian Dury and The Blockheads, Nick Lowe, The Pogues and Madness on their books among many others. Jake Riviera and Dave Robinson’s cavalier approach to the business was a breath of fresh air and inspired many others to establish their own labels. The premises are now occupied by an art gallery.

Double back and turn right into Westbourne Park Road and at the end turn right again into Porchester Road. You’ll soon come on your right to Porchester Hall, which has been known to host gigs including one by Pete Townshend that was recorded for the VH1 ‘Storytellers’ series. I myself saw James here at a special alcohol-free gig in 1987. The public bathrooms scene from ‘Quadrophenia’ 
in which the protagonist Jimmy meets his old mate Kevin again after several years was shot in the adjoining Porchester Centre. Continue to the end of Porchester Road and go straight across Westbourne Grove into Inverness Terrace. After five minutes on your right, on the corner of Inverness Place, you’ll come to the Hyde Park Towers Hotel and this is where Jimi Hendrix stayed for a few months after arriving in London from New York in September 1966. He wrote ‘Stone Free’ here among other songs. It’s a fine-looking hotel now but apparently it was a right dump in those days and part of the staircase collapsed while he was there. You can read about Jimi’s life in London and elsewhere in ‘Through Gypsy Eyes’, a good book written by his girlfriend of that time Kathy Etchingham.

Turn right from Inverness Place into Queensway and then take the next left into Moscow Road. Alexis Korner was the major mover and shaker of the British rhythm and blues scene in the Fifties and early Sixties and he was a long-term Bayswater resident, living in a flat in Burnham Court in Moscow Road and later, after 1965, at no.116A Queensway. His legendary blues club in Ealing Broadway featured very early perfor-mances by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Eric Burdon, Paul Jones, Eric Clapton and loads of other key names. He always had musicians sleeping at his flat and helped many a fledgling career notably that of Free, whom he also named. Unlikely though it may sound, Brian Jones used to work in the carpet department at nearby Whiteley’s and was often round for tea.
                         
Moscow Road is also notable in that Crosby Stills and Nash rehearsed their first album here in late 1968, though where that was exactly has been lost in the marijuana fumes of time. Another location that’s proved very hard to pin down is that of the original CTS Studios in Queensway where Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jnr. worked among many others and it was here that John Barry recorded ‘The James Bond Theme’ featuring the trademark guitar of Vic Flick.     

Head to the south end of Queensway, turn left into Bayswater Road and keep walking for around ten minutes. The Columbia Hotel at 95-99 Lancaster Gate was surely the number one rock and roll residence in London but is now rather more sedate. In its heyday in the early Eighties it was always full of bands like Simple Minds and The Associates while later on The Scissor Sisters and many others enjoyed its rock-friendly ambience. On the first Oasis album there’s a track called ‘Columbia’ but there’s some debate over whether it refers to this hotel or another in Liverpool.                              

Back on Bayswater Road turn left just before Lancaster Gate station and proceed along Sussex Gardens for a few minutes before turning left into Spring Street and then right into Praed Street. At nos. 113-115 The Clash manager Bernie Rhodes used to have a small basement office/studio and it was here that the band held auditions in 1977 to recruit a new drummer and Topper Headon became that man.                                        
                                 
Ian Mole
 
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