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Local Heroes

 By Piers Thompson
The dread and the cops - late 70s 
 
These mean streets of Napoli have thrown up their fair share of Local Heroes. You’ve got Aswad and Pink Floyd, Nic Roeg and Noel Clarke, Neneh Cherry and The Raincoats. And then there’s the Holy Trinity, those three agents provocateurs, Mick, Paul and Joe, towering above Ladbroke Grove like the Colossus of Trellick, calling out for a riot of their own.
 

Images of The Clash are seared into every street in the neighbourhood, whether it is Mick brooding down at the lights on the Westway, or Paul striding through the market in his paint-spattered leathers, or Joe and his 101’ers gigging at The Elgin. But the seminal image comes from Ladbroke Grove during Carnival in 76. Paul and Joe, caught between the lines of Police and Thieves, cry out for a riot of their own.
 
And it is Carnival that provides the high point for two of my particular heroes, Michael de Freitas and Gaz Mayall.
 
Michael is the ultimate flawed hero, . A chancer from Trinidad, via Tiger Bay, his arrival in Notting Hill sparks off the 60s. Simultaneously 

buffeted by the events he is instrumental in shaping, he veers from Rachman henchman to scourge of slum landlords; from soft spoken gangster, Michael de Freitas, to  Michael X, Britain’s black power leader; from the charismatic catalyst of the counter-culture to paranoid and murderous leader of a cult.
 
 
But it was Michael de Freitas who started the Notting Hill Carnival, when he and Rhaune Laslett (a middle-aged, wheelchair-bound Polish émigré) held a party for the local kids of the London Free School in 1966. 
As jazzmen Russ Henderson and Sterling Betancourt led the pied piper 

parade around Powis Square, London’s Carnival was born. But more of him later.
 
But today, Carnival revolves around Gaz Mayall and his Rockin Blues Sound System outside The Globe. It’s where the spirit of Michaels’s Carnival still resides…and Napoli adores him for it. 
 
 

In 1986, he formed the Trojans, his Celtic ska ensemble, who return to their W11 roots on Saturday (see below) at The Tabernacle. In 1989, Gaz rocked his first Carnival, where he continues to build outrageous sets and purvey sounds as diverse as Prince Buster and Paloma Faith.Gaz changed London’s night-life. He created the Club Scene as we now know it. Gaz was the first person to take over a night-club one night a week and do his own crazy-assed thing. Gaz’s Rockin’ Blues opened at Gossips in 1980 and has been going ever since, though it moved in 94 to St Moritz.
 
 On SBS_TV - Trojans Live at The Tabernacle (press full screen and then play)
 
 
The Trojans will be playing at the Tabernacle this coming Saturday - 17/10/09 - see related listing plus tickets here. 
 
 
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