The Ashers Of Wimpole Street

When I was a southern California resident I thought the coolest place one could possibly have ever been was in early Swinging London. See, when you live in Pacific Beach or god forbid Imperial Beach (you don't get to live in Belair or god damn Newport Beach or Malibu or even generally Santa Monica if yer playing Tuesday nights at Spaceland, dawg) and you are the rare possessor of a brain it can be pretty lonely. This is Stupidland, folks. This is stripmall central. Yeah, there's a beach and the sky is blue and you can drive up the Silver Strand to Coronado but if you're lonely and everyone thinks you're insane and you're starting to realize that Home Depot gig could go on for a while, well, it's depressing and that monotonous god damn blue sky is pretty depressing. Oh, god it's depressing. And then you start thinking about London in 1963 and MAN IS IT DEPRESSING. And the ten illegals living next door are playin' that fucking Macarena pretty loud and that cockface is washing his CHRISTING CAMARO AGAIN. It was like a mantra for me....The Scotch of St. James...Belgravia...St. John's Wood...Cavendish Avenue...

Wow. I moved back here because you can't really be happy if you hate where you are. I wouldn't go on record as Mr. Laffy at any point in the near future, but being in a beautiful place that you love is one hell of a start. You can take a fucking walk, gods sake. Get a song idea.

I got that fantastic Barry Miles book about McCartney and the thing is like a love letter to Swinging London. What a fantastic book that is. My heavens. The Indica, Alma Cogan, The Bag O' Nails...beautiful. Beautiful. All rain and possibility.

And all in black and white. They didn't have color in Swinging London until "Help".

Yeah, I've been to London a few. I like that Victoria Station and smokin' in the movie theater. Dug that. Dug the Mayfair thing and Hyde Park. Liked it a lot. I was there in '81 when i were sixteen. that was great. On my own. Great. Stayed with a family in Swiss Cottage. House next to a graveyard. That red sky? Nutty. Rode the ferry from Ostende. Nice. Got a sleeper. I did a lot of shit like that when I was 16-17. Went up to that Sweden to play housie with a girl that had moved up there and on down to France and Spain and that. It was good. It's good to get out at that age and have a thing or two pounded into you. And vice versa not to put too fine a point on it. These kids today you can't let 'em go to the drugstore on their own. They'll think it's Nintendo when they're riding their bike and they'll blow it or something. They'll Never ache like you and I did. No, they won't. You need Catcher In The Rye and Roxy Music and stuff like that to ache old school. You know it's true.

Maybe it's for the best. I've read that depression and great art aren't necessarily linked so maybe it's fine the way they smile all pretty and innocent. I was not an innocent 15 year old. I was most definitely an idealistic one. Definitely open to possibility. Time I was 15 I'd done most of the things. yeah, pretty much all the stuff was checked off. It's good and bad. It lets you get to work in your twenties, you know? You don't much have hostels and Eurail passes on the mind in your twenties when you've done things.

Rocked on down to Italy, you know? The west. Pisa and on down the coast to Riomaggiore and La Spezie and there. Beautiful, beautiful stuff. Nights on park benches in Milan. I tried to write a book about it and it was fucking horrible. Can you imagine 300 pages of me? Eegh.

The other thing is too that I thought it would be an asset to be unique and sort of different like that. To have rappelled into crypts and heard the bark of the .38 and done Runs through 4 countries. to have gotten born in Helsinki and to have ridden rickety buses through Bolivia and to have lived the early Pinochet days in Santiago. All that crap. I thought that as an artist it would be sort of compelling to people to have that background.

But you know, I gotta say it isn't. Not the case at all.

People want people like the dude around the corner. The familiar, the relateable. I think if you're going to get up behind a microphone it's better if you're maybe more like a bartender from Queens than a kind of junior international Kerouac.

That's why I cultivate this whole sort of proletarian rock-the-folks-and-deal-square speech. I think of it as guthrieizing. You gotta guthrieize a little. Nobody wants that foreign-intrigue crap.

It is profoundly alienating. I feel like a fucking Venusian sometimes. I want to tell a funny story to some folks and it sounds like a huge lie like that dude in high school who said his dad worked for NASA.

So you guthrieize. bring it home a little. reel it in. Nobody wants that The Lady Disappears crap, you know?

Anyway- my favorite chapter in all the history of The Beatles is Paul's tenure at Jane Asher's family's house at Wimpole Street in London. Guy lives in an attic room next to Peter Asher. This is during the HEIGHT of Beatlemania. Dr. Asher and Margaret are Jane's parents, he a doctor, she a music teacher and instrumentalist. Fucking great.

Paul has an escape route to get out of the house and on with his business without trying to get through crowds of fans. He goes over the roof into the kitchen window of an old retired colonel, then through the apartment of a young married couple and out onto another street. He lives sort of like another brother in the Asher household, and at this point starts to come alive to good books and other types of art. I really, really like this about Paul McCartney, that he has the energy and character to use his rise in social status to engage his intellectual curiosity. It's so Swinging London of him to want to Expand His Horizons, not for the sake of snobbery but out of pure hunger. It reminds me of my parents. Growing up in small-town Minnesota they had that same kind of appetite for the world, going to school in Mexico and like that before they even had us. That's a cool generation right there, the born in 1930 to 1945 folks. I guess that's sort of broad, though. I'm sure there were plenty of wankers of the illest breed with bad manners and bad breath.

Paul goes to tea with Jane with her various aunts and suchwhich, having cucumber sandwiches and something-seed-cake, visiting in the country where they leave a good book by your bedside, along with a gracious assumption that you will read it. This appeals to and flatters Paul.

Could you imagine living on Wimpole Street in 1963 with the Ashers? Boy, would that be dope. In black and white? In Swinging London? Realizing dreams that you'd never even dreamed of? Being catapulted right to the front of the hugest cultural event in 50 years? Sneaking through some old guy's kitchen to make your getaway? That sounds pretty good, you know? Pretty god damned good, man. Pretty nice shit.

Paul was just super cool, man. Paul was like the fifth Beatle. I mean, not like he's not still around and rocking and all that. He's the man.

But see, he doesn't live at Wimpole Street in Swinging London anymore. With the Ashers. Writing "Yesterday" in the basement music room.

In black and white.

With cucumber sandwiches.

I should make those. I'm going to make those and eat them. Because then I'll be one step closer to being in Swinging London in the '60's. Then I just keep doing those little things and I'll keep getting closer and then one day...who knows? Who really just fuckin' knows?

Maybe I'll meet the Colonel. Maybe I'll write "World Without Love" so my roomie can have a smash international hit too. Maybe I'll hang out with Eric Burdon and Ronnie Lane at the Speakeasy. Maybe I'll start up the Indica Gallery with Barry Miles and John Dunbar.

Fuckit, we're out of cucumbers. I'm going to watch TV.


Anonymous the brentmeister general said...

Forget London '63, Bobby. London '66 was where it's at, baby!

England had just won the World Cup; national pride was at an all-time high (and not that insidious "kill the pakis, stab the wogs, kill an asylum seeker & win a PlayStation" National Front/British National Party, white is right type of Nazi, fascist "National Pride" shite that we get today). We had a booming car industry; shit, I reckon we even had a sodding Space Programme back in '66. Blue Streak! Twiggy! Bobby Moore! David Hemmings in Blow Up! Rubber Soul! Harold Wilson! George Best was sublimely gifted, beautiful and sober. David Bailey! The Dave Clark Five!!

Pop music was at a peak, all that psychedelic shit was a year in the future; The Beatles were yet to drop that bomb on the music world. It was summer all fucking year long - apart from that freakishly cold winter when lots of folk died.

'63 was treading water, chipboard & post-war austerity. '63 was bleak. '63 was Joe Meek. Yeah, we had the car industry & The Space Programme then, but we didn't have The World Cup, man. Winning The World Cup on home soil gave '66 a crazy air of "anything is possible", which was the catalyst for the Swinging London/Sergeant Pepper/Carnaby Street/Mini Skirt explosion in '67.
For what it's worth, to most Brits Pacific Beach, Imperial Beach, Belair, Newport Beach, Malibu and Santa Monica - all "with that monotonous god damn blue sky" - are like some kind of mega-romantic Shangri-La type places. They're possibly just as depressing places to live as Blackpool, Great Yarmouth, Walton-on-the-Naze, Southend or Clacton-on-Sea but they just sound so freakishly exotic and exciting. Driving to Pacific Beach in your Camaro sounds way better than driving to Clacton in your Rover 45.

5:28 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

I'm old enough that I can think back and remember when not every single thing in this world was mediated or medicated. Makes me nostalgic for things like Swingin' London. Nostalgic for times and places that aren't mine; times and places maybe where I wasn't even born yet.

Something in my gut tells me we're all in the wrong place right now.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Bobby Lightfoot said...


Wow, that is really fascinating. Nice comment. Two things are particularly interesting to me:

1. Of COURSE the grass is always greener. What was I thinking? How would a kid in Stratcast-On-Rye not think that any town with the word "Beach" in it is the end-all? When the reality is any town with the name "Beach" in in is Braindead Central? Full of overpierced wankers and fake titted stupid nightmares?

2. Psychedelia was a messy kill-off. Of course it was. What a load of wank, as you lot say.

Um, if I kill an asylum seeker I get a Playstation? Any games come with it?

Kevin- Of course we're in the wrong place. But the more I kvetch the more I come to realize that the place is in our heads. All around the world people are giving up on enlightenment and going back to killing goats for Allah because they didn't get the SUV they wanted. The statistics for idiots turnin' to Jeebus are downright chilling.
Let's all keep hurling invective at idiots. Let's do it daily. It's our only weapon. It's our only hope.

4:21 PM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

My friends in London tell me that Prague is as close as you are going to get in '05.

9:38 AM  
Blogger Bobby Lightfoot said...

Yeah, you know, I've heard that. Never been to the C.R. I've been hearing how happening Prague is for a good decade now.

2:22 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

London in the 60's, definitely. I was in Prague in '92 when the Slovaks opted out and Havel dissolved parliament -- it felt like the lull before the Western avalanche, when snotty bargain hunters were on the advance.

I'm an Anglophile thanks to the infectious Fabs, but my choice would be The Street in The City circa 1952 -- Coltraine, Monk, Parker, you could not go wrong. Piss off all the Yankee fans, watch the Giants v da Bums, totally oblivious to the sea-change about to happen, then regale every punk I'd meet years afterwards with tales of the Greatest Era Ever, too bad you missed it!

10:08 AM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

This isn't my blog, so I will be as brief as I can.

I got bit by the bug at around 7 when they were on Sullivan. In 3rd grade we put together a "band" that mimed to "Help" and "I'm Down" and the kids cheered anyway. In the 70's and 80's I did the original band thing, labels, agents, CBGBs on Tuesday nights at 1:00 AM with day gig the next day, etc. being promised all sorts of shit, waiting for the phone to ring.

I was at a KISS show in '96. Free tickets. Sorry, but I am indeed embarassed admitting I was there. Now more than ever they represent everything that could go wrong going wrong. Anyway, I ended up talking to some kids and they were saying things like, "DUDE! YOU WERE THERE IN THE SEVEN-TEES! AWESOME!"

Back in 1981, after the horrific death of John Lennon, I read tons of things about him. In one interview (I can't find a reference) he mentioned that he sometimes wondered if he would have been happier had he been a fisherman?(!) Just him and the boat.

Here I am fixing bugs for finacial software.

Man, all we got is now. That's all they had. That's all anybody gets. The music business is dead. Good for its ass. Music is alive in well inside of you.

12:37 PM  

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