Supernova Books 2022
Subtitled “Celebrating London’s Music Heritage” and covering the city’s fruitful clubland, a smattering of essays traces the roots of a scene that spread all over the world.
There may not be many ways to define the onset of a particular style’s calendar – only as far as the one in the title of this book is concerned, the ways are plenty, given people still can’t decide which song set the rock rolling, yet in the Albion area everything, as a lot of specialists tend to agree, seemed to start in earnest on April 7th, 1962 when teenaged Keith Richards and Mick Jagger met Brian Jones, thus sowing the seed of what would become a young ensemble called THE ROLLING STONES. However, that fateful get-together could not be possible without the existence of “The Ealing Club” opened three weeks earlier by Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies, two rhythm-and-blues cognoscenti who wanted their gospel spread and aficionados of their chosen genre multiplied – and thus was established the importance of places for kindred spirits to mingle. The subject of “Rock’s Diamond Year” – a literary celebration of the titular style’s 60th anniversary – those places were more than mere venues for artists to arrive on the scene and for music enthusiasts to listen to fresh sound; those places were vital social sites, each with a story of its own and, depicted under one cover, reveal an entire stratum of London’s cultural heritage.
As a result, ten essays about them, collected here, create a more or less extensive picture of the British capital in the ’60s and beyond, partially overlapping narrative helping fill the gaps while attempting to avoid redundant repetition. It works even better when such logical splicing is happening when the accounts of eyewitnesses and archivists cross, the former conjuring up the unique atmosphere of every club and focusing on their most memorable moments as opposed to the latter which opt for a wider temporal panorama and more exact facts. Surprisingly, it’s the latter where certain inaccuracies occur, beginning with Ralph Brookfield’s introduction that spells a certain band’s name as “PROCUL HARUM” – a common error looking quite inauspiciously in this context – in the course of outlining the city’s rock topography, but the former – part-time guitarist Robert Hokum’s layout of Ealing’s sights and sounds, the current Eel Pie Club proprietor Gina Way’s reminiscences of her teenage forays into the same terrain, amateur journalist Pete Clack’s “Ricky-Tick” memories, promoter Pete Feenstra’s interview about his experiences in “The Bull’s Head” – are brimming with historically inconsequent yet so humanly vivid detail.
But then there’s a widescreen, comprehensive, almost academic account on “The Ealing Club” by Alistair Young that tracks the trends which made it a breeding ground for those who helped shift the scene from jazz fashion to R&B boom, and David Sinclair’s textual documentary on “The Crawdaddy” that logically entails Cheryl Robson’s portrait of its primary mover Giorgio Gomelsky. On the other hand, chronicles of “The Half Moon” and “The 100 Club” feel too perfunctory to do justice to those famous establishments, and even the chapter on “The Marquee” fails to impress. Still, comparisons between chapters would be as relevant as comparisons between the clubs: with whole volumes dedicated to the venues, the goal of “Rock’s Diamond Year” is to serve as a guide to London’s swinging landmarks, and as such this book works perfectly.