Hubby and I exited Apsley House to a grey, cold and misty day.
"Are we going to get a cab?" he asked, pulling his collar up. "Look, there's a cab now!"
"We can't get a cab here."
"Because the traffic comes whizzing by from Constitution Hill and Upper Grosvenor Street and goes round this circle at breakneck speed. No cabby worth his salt is going to slam on his brakes and make a hairpin turn into Apsley House just to pick us up."
"We can get a cab there, at the next corner."
"No. That's Park Lane. Half the cars that aren't headed straight down Piccadilly are going to speed their way round that corner and up Park Lane. It's not an ideal spot for a cab to stop. We've got to go back through the pedestrian walkway and come out on the other side of Park Lane. We'll be able to get a cab there without taking our lives in our hands."
"I don't want to do that underground walkway. I hate the underground walkway. There are homeless people in the underground walkway."
"One. There's occasionally one homeless person sleeping in the underground walkway. Don't worry, I'll protect you."
We made it safely through the (empty) tunnel and out onto Piccadilly, where we flagged down the first cab we saw.
"Trafalgar Square, please," I told the cabby.
"Where in Trafalgar Square, love?"
"Anywhere it's convenient," I told him. Before long we were traveling down the Mall, when up ahead I saw the Guards approaching on their way to the Palace. I quickly got out my camera and snapped the following picture as we drove by.
I tried, okay?
Before long we were in Trafalgar Square. "This place again? Weren't we just here?"
Sigh. "We have time before the rock and roll tour starts. Are you hungry?"
"Breakfast would be good." So I took Hubby to a crowded, storefront diner-type restaurant where they served English breakfast all day long. We fought our way over to a table for two and squeezed in between the other diners.
Once we'd ordered, Hubby asked, "Why do you want to go on a three hour rock and roll tour, anyway? You hate rock music."
"I booked the tour for you. So that you could do something you liked while we're in London."
"You're going to be bored stiff."
"No, I won't. I'll get to see parts of London I haven't seen before. It'll be interesting. Their website said we're going to see sights associated with The Who, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page."
"You don't even know who Jimmy Page is."
"You don't know who Frederick Ponsonby is."
"What band did he play with?"
"No! Jimmy Page. Go on, I'll give you ten dollars if you can tell me the name of his band."
"I have no idea. I couldn't tell you if you offered me a million dollars."
"My point exactly. You're going to be bored stiff."
At the appointed hour, we met our guide, Bob, and the rest of our group and boarded the tour bus. Bob gave us an overview of what we'd be seeing on the tour and of the music scene in London from the 1940's on. It went something like this, "Blah blah, blah blah blah. Yadda yadda yadda. Blah blah." Hubby had a broad smile on his face and seemed as happy as the proverbial clam. He grinned at me and I grinned back. "Yadda yadda, blah blah blah."
I honestly can't tell you what we saw directly upon leaving the boarding point, but before I knew it, we were on Piccadilly, passing the Ritz Hotel. Then we were turning up Half Moon Street and passing our hotel.
"That's our hotel," said Hubby.
I nodded as we made a left turn onto Curzon Street and soon pulled up outside of 9 Curzon Place.
"Now that house of flats there," said Bob, pointing to it, "was an infamous party house. One of the flats was owned by singer and songwriter Harry Nilsson and everyone who was anyone to do with the music scene in the late 60's and 70's walked through that front door at one time or another. Nilsson's was flat number twelve and it was there on July 29, 1974 that Mama Cass Elliot died. And, four years later, Keith Moon died in that same flat, after which Nilsson sold the flat to Moon's bandmate, Pete Townsend."
"You didn't know any of this?" Hubby asked in a slightly accusatory tone. "It's right down the street from our hotel."
"No. I had no idea. If I'd known, I would have told you." I said a tad indignantly. "Sorry, my in depth knowledge of London stops at about 1901."
We were on the move again and were soon passing a familiar landmark.
"Coming up on our right is the house known as Number One London, home to the Dukes of Wellington. Wellington, the first Duke that is, was of course the victor at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, but the family also has ties to rock and roll. If anyone has heard of the duo Chad and Jeremy, Jeremy is a Wellesley and so has an aristocratic bloodline. He was a page boy at the Queen's coronation in 1953."
"Did you know that?" Hubby asked, rather in the same way a barrister might ask someone in the dock, "Where were you on the night of November 11, 2010?"
"You know everything about Wellington down to his shoe size and you don't know about Chad and Jeremy? How could you not know it?" he persisted.
"Er, it happened after 1901?"
I've since discovered that Jeremy is Jeremy Clyde and his mother is Lady Elizabeth Wellesley, younger sister to the current Duke of Wellington. He's on the right in the photo above and I must say that his resemblence to the first Duke is uncanny. You can be sure that there will be a follow-up blog post on this soon.
There was more blah, blah and yadda, yadda and then we found ourselves parked beside the Albert Hall, where Bob told us, "Blah blah, blah blah blah. Yadda yadda yadda. Blah blah, blah."
Next we headed for the King's Road. "This was King Charles II's private road to Kew. At that time, it was on the very outskirts of London and was very dangerous, indeed, and populated by cut throats and highwaymen."
"Did you know that?"
"Yes, I knew that."
"But this," Bob went on, "is also where the heart of the music and fashion business was located beginning in the 1960's. Blah, blah, yadda, blah blah."
Bob pointed out various sites along the Road: Mary Quant's former storefront, the Chelsea Drugstore, the former headquarters of Swan Song Records, blah, blah, blah. Then we made left off the King's Road and onto Old Church Street, where we stopped in front of the most interesting house below.
"Originally," Bob began, "this building was one of Chelsea's many dairies, but in 1964, the building down that alleyway behind this one became home to Sound Techniques recording studio, where a whole host of rock legends recorded. They included Elton John, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, The Yardbirds, The Who, yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah."
I tried to take good photos of the building, which has many architectural details, including decorative tiles at each end of the building. Unfortunately, the bus's windows were rain covered.
Soon after, we made a rest stop at Bill Wyman's Sticky Fingers bar and restaurant. I ordered us two welcome pints while Hubby used the restroom and then checked out the rock memorabilia lining the walls.
"This is great, Hon."
"Good. I'm glad you're having a good time."
"How come you never took me to King's Road before? There's lot's of interesting stuff there."
"When I think of the King's Road, I think shopping. When I think shopping, I don't think of you. You hate shopping."
We all trooped back on the bus and the tour continued on to Notting Hill.
"We're now in Landsdowne Crescent, where the property prices have soared and where you currently see a row of pretty nice houses," Bob told us. "But in the 1960's, this was a really seedy part of London and most of these houses were flop houses and transient hotels. It is there, at number twenty-two where the Samarkand Hotel used to be and where Jimi Hendrix died on September 18, 1970." Bob went on to give us details of Hendrix's life and career that included such salient facts as yadda, yadda, yadda and blah, blah. Beside me, Hubby listened to Bob's every word.
"Hendrix, Hon. Probably the greatest guitar player ever."
Working hard to seem interested, I smiled and nodded in return.
Next, we visited the site of Island Records and then the house above in Holland Park, which was built by architect William Burges. Actor Richard Harris purchased the house in 1968 and the current owner is Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, which is why it was on our tour.
"Jimmy Page," Hubby said, elbowing me in the side.
"Led Zeppelin," I replied. "Give me ten dollars."
Next, we stopped in front of Paul McCartney's home in St. John's Wood, above.
And by the time dusk was falling and the rain was coming down harder still, we arrived at Abbey Studios, where Bob gave us a talk about it's recording history. "Yadda, yadda, blah, blah, etc., etc., etc."
"I can't believe it's all covered in graffiti," Hubby said. "I mean, it's Abbey Road, it's iconic and look what people have done to it."
"It's an insult," I said.
"Kinda like the dust on the centerpiece at Apsley House."
Speaking of iconic, below is the Beatles Abbey Road album cover.
And this is what Abbey Road looked like when we arrived.
Abbey Road is not a quiet, backwater street. There's a bend in the road just before the Studio and traffic comes round it at a fairly brisk clip. Bob parked the bus at the side of the road and allowed those who so desired to recreate the famous walk across Abbey Road.
"Go on," I told Hubby.
"Nah. It's raining. And cold."
"Go on. If you don't do it, you'll kick yourself later."
"Yes. Go. I'll take your picture."
You can see Hubby's white shoes on the sidewalk to the left in the photo above.
There's Hubby above, just entering the zebra crossing.
And here he is waving to the camera. With oncoming traffic approaching.
Our next stop was Mick Jagger's house in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, above.
Our last stop was in Savile Row, where the Beatles played their final live concert on January 30, 1969 on the rooftop of the Apple building at 3 Savile Row.
Obviously, I didn't take the photo above, because when we were there, it was dark and raining. Bob dropped us all off in Piccadilly Circus and we thanked him for his expert knowledge and a really great tour.
"What now?" Hubby asked as we stood on the crowded sidewalk.
"Now we go back to the hotel and have a drink, then we eat dinner and go to the theatre."
"Yes," I said, looking for a cab. "Do you want to eat at Burger and Lobster again?"
"I don't know. Let's just get back to the hotel for now."
Finally, a cab pulled up. "We're going to Half Moon Street," I told the cabby through the driver's window.
He looked at me as though I had two heads. "It's only down the street a few yards. You could walk there."
I then looked at him as though he had two heads and one of them was wearing a Viking helmet. Then I said, "I could walk to China, too, but I'm tired and it's raining and I'd rather take a cab. This is a cab, isn't it? And you are a cab driver, aren't you? Or am I mistaken?"
"My good man," muttered Hubby.
"I'll have to go all the way up to Oxford Street and double back," the cabby complained. "If you really want a ride, get in, but you really could walk."
We got in. We went up to Oxford Street. We circled around Berkeley Square. We got to our hotel, got out and I paid the cabby.
"That's the strangest thing that's ever happened to me in London," I told Hubby as the cab drove away. "Was that strange, or is it just me?"
"It was strange, alright. And that wasn't just a few yards down the road. And it's raining."
We stood on the pavement and stared at each other for a few moments, digesting what had just happened.
"Let's go inside," Hubby suggested.
"And have a stiff rum and coke."
"Or two. My good woman."
Part Four Coming Soon!
Labels: A Couple in England, Kristine Hughes