Picture Lewisham 1952 Jennifer and Carol
‘My generation is slowly leaving, one by one by a hundred and more, the War Babies and the post-war baby boomers are cutting loose to God knows where? I am missing and mourning so many dear ones. So many friends.
Artists, great minds, people I admired so much, Gil Scott Heron, Bert Jansch, John Renbourne, Prince, Phoebe Snow, Maya Angelou, Heathcote Williams, Zaha Hadid, David Bowie, Steven Hawkins and Leonard Cohen, Terry Pratchett, Seamus Heaney and many more, have written and sung – made their final marks on the planet. Just a few of them, too many to mention all, my generation. Going, going gone.
Then Dolores O’Riordan and Amy Winehouse: far too young.
Some of us died a long time ago, before we got old, and will remain forever young. When I was living in ‘The Grove’ in the late 60‘s into the 1970’s London in the Ws of 10 11 and 2. Swinbrooke Road and the end that is all gone of St. Stevens Gardens, demolished and the rag pop-sickle bag of people who had been crowded into those tenements scattered or dead. Then to 8a All Saints Road, a little yellow house above a Macrobiotic café called ‘Grene Genes’ next door to The Mangrove.
Mark Bolan had been around, Paul Kossoff and Nick Drake, tousled hair, young faces are blown away as if on the cold winds from the Russian Urals. Looking at my old photos, I was young and they are still young. Now I am getting old and they never will be. Archie Leggett and Patto, Sammy Mitchell, Sandy Denny, Steve Miller, Jo Anne Kelly, Joe Strummer, all gone and in more recent times, Elton Dean, Pip Pyle and Poly Styrene, Donald Duck Dunn and Lol Coxhill all people with whom I had sung, recorded or shared stages with. Ronnie Scott and Pete King no longer preside over Ronnie Scotts in Soho.
Meandering around the Portobello Road in my mind, faces here faces there. Lemmy lurking, always looking on the wild side, and Heathcote Williams, Hoppy and Susie Creamcheese, John Peel and Simon Stable, Jeff Dexter, Exploding Galaxy and Quintessence, Pink Fairies, Deviants and Hawkwind. The folk who became friends, Frank Critchlow the man with a smile that lit up the world, and Dee who cooked in The Mangrove, both now gone, dispatched in Carriages drawn by Black Horses through the streets they knew so well, hopefully, they are somewhere, in my dreams still drinking the Jamaican Rum and the Best Carrot Juice ever made on this earth. That was when Portobello Road was called ‘The Lane ‘ and everybody knew everybody else or imagined they did.
The smell of those times still lingers occasionally, an old forgotten door momentarily ajar, Joss Sticks and Patchouli Oil, Weed and Hashish, Mick’s Cafe and The Apollo Pub on the All Saints Road, a sound check in Amsterdam or Stockholm, San Francisco or Bolton or Lancaster, Hamburg or Krakow. I always felt that the Hippy life was not for me. I had intended to be a Beatnik, a Daughter of the Fifties artistic revolution, wearing 501 Levis and black sweaters with a cigarette on the go, preferably French, the obligatory book of Poetry, Miles Davis on the Dansette record Player in my own pad somewhere in Central London, Paris or New York.
I reckon that is in part why I never settled with anybody or anywhere too long. Those who didn’t care for me and told me that I would end up slapping Butter and slicing Cheese on a marble slab in a back street Grocer Shop, they have to bite or hold or their tongues and that is not a good thing to do. It hurts like Hell and tongues are like wriggling eels if you try to hang on to them. The Grocers shops and marble slabs have vanished. We dwell in a different world now, Internet and High-Speed Train, Mobile Phone and out of Town Shopping Centers. Twitter and Facebook, Kindle and Skype and a brand new face on a new neck above new breasts if you can afford or want the Surgeon’s Knife. My story is one of struggle to find a way through a business famous for its lack of compassion, its fixation with youth and beauty and its obsession with celebrity.
An extract from The Singers Tale.
When she was growing up, alongside her others, she had listened to the voices on the outside. They never appeared before her; she did not see their faces. They were called the BBC and they lived in the Wireless. They had narrated the War; sung songs of Hope and Glory raised a laugh and sometimes spoke in grave and important tones.
This is the BBC Home Service.
Looking backwards then forwards, sometimes in monochrome and sometimes in colour. ‘
Photo Kasia Hrybowicz