Notting Hill Rock and Roll Tour

 By Ian Mole
More from Ian Mole towards the local rock'n'roll history. Discover the stories of our streets. 
Turn right outside Ladbroke Grove station and almost immediately on your right, above the betting-shop, is 145A Ladbroke Grove which was a major meeting place in the late Seventies music scene. It was the home of N.M.E. journalists Vivien Goldman and Chris Salewicz and members of The Pistols, The Clash, Aswad as well as Chrissie Hynde were often to be seen there. The next street on the right is Lancaster Road and in 1983 Joe Strummer moved into no. 37 and stayed till he left London for Andover in 1991. Keep walking south and on the second corner on your left you’ll see a pub called the Elgin
This was a popular haunt of local Teddy Boys in the 1950’s and appropriately Tom Jones played some of his earliest London dates here. He and his band lived just up the road. Back in his pre-Clash days Joe Strummer, or Woody as he was known then, used to play here regularly on Thursday nights with the 101-ers in the largish music room at the back of the pub.

In the early Eighties Clash bass-player Paul Simonon bought a basement flat at 42b Oxford Gardens, which is on the other side of Ladbroke Grove and just north of the Westway, and shortly afterwards he moved to no. 53. In the Nineties he bought a house in Aldridge Road Villas, which is straight along Westbourne Park Road from the Elgin and sixth on the left, where Joe often stayed when he was back in London. Sadly, Joe’s funeral cortege passed the Elgin on its way up to Kensal Green Cemetery in late December 2002.                                                                                                   
Back on Ladbroke Grove continue heading southwards and after a few minutes you’ll come to Blenheim Crescent on your right. Marc Bolan and wife June lived on the top floor of no. 57, and later expanded downstairs, in the years 1968-1971 during his rise to tremendous popularity in this country. Intrusion from fans forced them to move to a more private address and finally to a flat near Marble Arch. I’m surprised that there’s no blue plaque here yet. Marc first collaborator in Tyrannosaurus Rex, Steve Took, lived at 100 Cambridge Gardens after he left the band. This is the next street on the left after Ladbroke Grove station going north. In the mid-Eighties I got pally with Marc’s second collaborator, Mickey Finn, as we regularly drank together in a now defunct pub called The Duke of Norfolk in Westbourne Grove. He showed me some very nice colour slides from his T.Rex and pre-T.Rex days and once asked me if I knew what Marc’s last smash hit was. When I told him that I didn’t know, he replied, “The tree he crashed into.”  We formed a private club that consisted of people like me and him who’d fallen off local buildings and badly injured themselves while under the influence of alcohol.
The Westway flyover has ploughed through the area but other than that and some new housing estates most of Notting Hill hasn’t changed much structurally since the Sixties, though nearly all the houses have been substantially upgraded and the character of the area has changed from seedy/hippy to very chi-chi. Back in the mid-Sixties to mid-Seventies it was the centre of alternative lifestyles in London, both hippy and Afro-Caribbean and was the playground of an array of characters including Christine Keeler and John Rachman. The Colin MacInnes novel ‘Absolute Beginners’ and ‘Tainted Love’ by Stewart Home convey the old atmosphere of the area very well. 

Turn round and head along the other side of Blenheim Crescent across Portobello Road and just up on your right you’ll see the Electric Cinema, which was a local epicentre in those hippy days with dope fumes wafting around the late night screenings and country singer/local resident Sam Hutt a.k.a. Hank Wangford as the unofficial house doctor. 

Go across Portobello into Talbot Road, passing the Rough Trade record shop on your left and Colville Houses on your right, where Lemmy lived for years, and soon you’ll come to Clydesdale Road, where Tom Jones lived in 1963 before he made it big. His first major hit ‘It’s Not Unusual’ was composed not far away at Notting Hill Gate in Campden Hill Tower, opposite the Coronet Cinema. On the next left after All Saints Church, in Powis Gardens, is the site of the church hall where many early U.K. hippy happenings occurred including on 14th October 1966 Pink Floyd playing the first of a series of ten gigs. 

Right opposite, the Tabernacle on Powis Square was where Damon Albarn’s and Paul Simonon’s The Good, The Bad and The Queen used to rehearse. A little along Talbot Road on the right is the Globe, a basement bar/café that was frequented by The Stones, Hendrix, Van Morrison and Bob Marley back in the day. Turn left up Powis Terrace and across Westbourne Park Road you’ll find the now gentrified All Saints Road, which was formerly the black community’s front-line and home, at no. 8, to the Mangrove Restaurant which welcomed numerous celebrity guests including Hendrix, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye and Sammy Davis as well as numerous less welcome visits from the police. St Luke’s Mews, which runs across All Saints, was where Paula Yates died and has been home to a number of musicians in its time including Lemmy, Joe Cocker and Chet Baker. All Saints also features in the first Beatles movie ‘A Hard Day’s Night’. When Ringo goes walkabout he turns up photographing a milk-bottle container outside of 2 Lancaster Road. Two girls then spot him and pursue him down to the corner with All Saints, where he enters the second-hand clothes shop at no. 20 and emerges dressed as a beatnik. All Saints Road not surprisingly was where the girl group All Saints began but that’s all I’m going to say about them.

Mick Jagger has a local connection with his 1968 movie ‘Performance’, which was partly filmed at a house on the corner of Talbot Road and Powis Square. The real number is 25 Powis Square but this was changed in the movie to 81. The director, Nic Roeg, lived in Westbourne Grove for years.

Back in the real world, Brian Jones lived in Powis Square in 1962. Lemmy made his debut with Hawkwind in Powis Square itself in 1971’s Peoples Free Carnival. In the mid-Eighties I often used to see him in the Earl of Lonsdale (Henneky’s) on the corner of Portobello and Westbourne Grove, endlessly playing the bandit while downing strong liquor and smoking fags. Before that he was a regular over the road at The Princess Alexandra (now the Portobello Gold). I saw Joe Strummer in the Lonsdale too.

Head back along Westbourne Park Road towards Portobello and on your left is Basing Street, where Island Studios was founded by label boss Chris Blackwell in the late Sixties. This was where Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ was recorded on 25th November 1984 and also where many great records were made such as, ‘Led Zeppelin 4’ (including ‘Stairway to Heaven’), much of Bob Marley and The Wailers ‘Exodus’, Jethro Tull’s ‘Aqualung’ and others by The Stones, The Clash, Madonna, Free, Bad Company and Roxy Music. Bob Marley also stayed with wife Rita in a flat in Basing Street opposite the studios. It was later taken over by Trevor Lord’s ZTT Records and Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s mid-Eighties smashes were created here. These days it’s still going strong and is known as Sarm West.

Turn left into Portobello Road and on the right, on the corner with Elgin Crescent is a pub called The Duke of Wellington which was known as Finch’s in the old days and was a popular haunt of the local rock and roll fraternity. Annie Lennox worked in Mr Christian’s Deli at 11 Elgin Crescent in the late Seventies. Take the first left from Elgin Crescent into Kensington Park Road and the next right into Arundel Gardens. Producer Joe Meek, of 'Telstar' fame, lived here at no. 20 between 1957 and 1959. Joe was a pioneer in home-recording and not surprisingly this didn’t go down too well with his neighbours, which resulted in him eventually being forced out.

Get back onto Portobello and a little further up on your right is The Portobello Star, where Joe Strummer was a regular patron. Again on your right is Vernon Yard, where Virgin Records had its first major H.Q. At the next junction, with Westbourne Grove, you’ll see the Earl of Lonsdale on your left with The Portobello Gold soon coming up on your right. The Lonsdale was a home to the burgeoning punk movement in 1976 with Sid Vicious being among its clientele and it was recreated in the movie ‘Sid and Nancy’. All of these bars would be almost unrecognizable to the punters who frequented them years ago as along with the rest of the area they’ve been heavily gentrified. Just up on the left from these pubs is Denbigh Terrace where, at no. 19, Richard Branson used to live in the Seventies and it was here that Malcolm McLaren signed The Pistols to Virgin Records. Next on the left is Denbigh Close, where The Who’s manager Kit Lambert had his last ever residence. The next left is Chepstow Villas where Mark Knopfler lived for several years; he also recorded ‘Portobello Belle’ at Basing Street during this time. Jason Donovan lived two houses away from Mark and the house in between was used in a scene from Hanif Kureishi’s movie ‘London Kills Me’. 

Double back to Westbourne Grove and continue westwards till you reach Ladbroke Grove. Just across the junction is Lansdowne Crescent where at no. 22 Jimi Hendrix died after an accidental drug overdose on 18th September 1970. He was staying in the basement flat of a girlfriend Monika Danneman beneath what was then the Samarkand Hotel. Like the deaths of other rock stars, Jimi’s has been veiled in a lot of rumours but I prefer to take the word of the ambulancemen who came to attend to him, and who incidentally didn’t know who he was, that he was long dead when they arrived. 

 Ian Mole                             
See also A West London Rock and Roll tour
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