1 Adrift in Notting Hill and A Blues for Shindig
2 Alex Trocchi’s Invisible Insurrection
3 Longhair Times: Hoppy and Miles
4 Rolling Stones on the Portobello Road
5 Michael X on the Black Beat in the Ghetto
6 Ladbroke Grove Roots

Rolling Stones on the Portobello Road

The local story of the blues (music rather than clubs) began on Moscow Road in Bayswater, with Alexis Korner of Blues Incorporated putting up American blues greats and his British rhythm’n’blues protégés, including Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones. When the latter moved to London in 1962 he’s said to have adopted a cat-like routine of crawling in through a window and sleeping under Korner’s kitchen table. After Moscow Road, the local life of Brian Jones continued at his own pad on Powis Square, in the Rio café, and at Whiteleys where he briefly had a job. Mick Jagger was photographed visiting Portobello market in 1965 with Charlie Watts and Chrissie Shrimpton, at the time of ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’.

Merseybeat: Portobello Beatles
If anything, the Beatles have better Notting Hill street cred than the Stones. As the Fab Four moved to London in 1964 at the height of Beatlemania, as well as recording at nearby Abbey Road, the group inaugurated the Portobello pop market in Richard Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night. In the Notting Hill sequence, having been encouraged to go ‘parading’ by Paul’s grandfather (played by Wilfrid Brambell, ‘Albert’ from Steptoe and Son), Ringo Starr first appears on St Luke’s Road photographing a milk bottle basket outside 2 Lancaster Road; to an instrumental version of ‘This Boy (is in love with you)’. From there he’s chased by two screaming girl fans down Lancaster Road to All Saints Road.

Ringo founded All Saints as a pop site (some years before the reggae scene appeared) by running round the north-east corner of Lancaster Road into the secondhand clothes shop at number 20 (which was a Japanese art gallery the last time I looked). As he comes out in beatnik disguise and heads along All Saints towards Tavistock Road, a policeman eyes him up and a beatnik girl tells him to “Get out of it, Shorty.” Ringo’s ‘parading’ sequence concludes with a Keystone Kops-style chase sequence in Notting Dale, to ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, with all the Beatles running in and out of the police station (the old St John’s church school hall) on Clarendon Road and along the bombed out Heathfield Street, where the famous jumping up in the air film still was taken.

On the Portobello Beatles Magical Mystery Tour, Alice’s antiques shop at number 86, on the corner of Denbigh Close, sold the Edwardian police capes modelled by the group in the early 60s. Down the road at number 100 the Good Fairy arcade hosted a moptops memorabilia stall in the 90s. Peter Blake found inspiration for the ‘Sergeant Pepper’ sleeve in the antiques market Victoriana and the Guards jacket shop I Was Lord Kitchener’s Valet at number 293. The Merseybeat poet Roger McGough followed the Beatles to London to live at the south end of Portobello, as he acquired pop notoriety in his own right as part of Scaffold (the spoof pop group responsible for ‘Lily the Pink’) along with Paul McCartney’s brother Mike McGear; and later as the stepfather of Happy Mondays manager Nathan McGough. In North Kensington George Melly, the Scouse surrealist/jazz singer and author of Revolt into Style, became a Bohemian landmark on St Lawrence Terrace. In the 90s, at the time of the Hamburg Beatles film Backbeat (some of which was filmed locally), the sister of the original bassist Stu Sutcliffe had a photography gallery at 324 Portobello Road.

The London Free School
After the 1965 beat poetry happening at the Albert Hall featuring Ginsberg, Horovitz, Trocchi, Harry Fainlight, etc, the next key event in the history of British counter-culture was the 1966 London Free School community action featuring the first Notting Hill Carnival procession and Pink Floyd at All Saints church hall. The early Pink Floyd fans Emily Young and the actress Anjelica Huston have described themselves at the time of the All Saints hall gigs as beatnik existentialists or proto-goths, rather than colourful hippies, always wearing black clothes and make-up.

The first issue of the Free School newsletter, The Gate, reported that ‘the photography group (Hoppy and Graham Keen) was last seen at a ‘happening’ at the Marquee club, surrounded by people dancing around in cardboard boxes.’ As Hoppy became involved in the beat ‘Spontaneous Underground’ happenings at the Marquee, the London Free School music group (Joe Boyd) spawned the Electra subsidiary label DNA (for an album by the surrealist jazz band AMM, who performed in lab coats). For the Easter ’66 CND march, Hoppy and Miles came up with the ‘Exploding Galactic Moon’ issue of Longhair Times.

read on - part 5: Michael X on the Black Beat in the Ghetto




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