Never mind the Memphis Horns … but first the journey. Bus pass to the station, Senior Railcard towards the rail fare, bus pass again for the 390 from Euston to Archway, via Kings Cross and up York Way, past the territory defined by the old Kings Cross goods yard and steam locoshed (mainline A4 Pacifics still in the early ’60s, you could never get in there without a permit), territory I’ve not set foot or tyre in for 3 decades, back when it was a grubby backwater dump. The forgotten joys of the upper deck of a London bus reveal a transformation in progress – the Guardian/Observer HQ, the stylish High Speed Rail link road bridge – and then into more familiar territory again. Torriano Avenue and the Astroturf football pitches, where practically half a lifetime ago I cracked a bone in my wrist playing in freezing conditions just like Sunday’s. And where the Flying Pig – doesn’t every football team at some stage have a goalkeeper nicknamed as such? – was knocked out once.
Anyway, first a nostalgic climb up Highgate Hill, past Dick Whittington’s cat (see him turn) to one of my favourite old London haunts, Waterlow Park – past its autumn best but still a treat in the winter sun, coots treading carefully over the frozen ponds. And down by Highgate Cemetery, a revelation since I last walked this way, when it was so overgrown you could hardly see a thing inside the railings on the east side. And across a bit and down the hill to our destination, The Boston Arms, Tufnell Park. Must be that time of the year again.
This year’s Official Kinks Fan Club Konvention yet again full of surprises. Good vibes, familiar faces from all over Europe and the US, the usual suspects for sure, but on stage with the Kast Off Kinks no less than three keyboard players, two bassists, two drummers and a back up singer all from the illustrious past of the Kinks – for the last number all at the same time – and throughout the stalwart Dave Clark guitaring and vocalising. And the icing on the cake, a brass section from Oslo (ja! ja! ja!) to remind us of the ’70s and how much we miss them. (A brass section, not necessarily the ’70s though there have been worse decades, like … every one since?*) Ray Davies’s genius back then, to augment the band with a brass section drawn from the training ground and tradition – Trad, or rather New Orleans Revivalist – that the 60s beat groups ousted from the clubs while the others pace the Stones went for soul horns. And how good it sounded yesterday afternoon. On ‘Village Green Preservation Society’. On ‘Alcohol’.
I started this piece off with mention of the over-60s bus pass (thanks to the last Labour government – age has certain pluses) because on occasions like these one is forced to consider the lines of age, as guitarists’ hands start to cramp up and you wonder how long we can keep this going at such a phenomenal intensity – the need to sit down during a set, the drinking, and that’s just the audience. Not that there weren’t reasonable representation of fans in their early twenties and ages in between. Most of the players are older than me and the subtle muscularity and showmanship of especially John Dalton’s splendid bass runs was (still) staggering. When you consider that Ray Davies‘s ‘X-Ray: an unofficial autobiography’ (published 16 years ago) had himself as a wizened old man by now (never mind considering what our parents were up to (or not up to) in their 60s) and you realise the proportions of the social shift we have ridden in post-war Britain.
Anyway, I’ve always considered the best place for music is a comfortably crowded pub with a bunch of decent players, and what could be finer than an extended workout, organ swelling around a tidal river bore** of a tune , the controlled pandemonium on what was once – and remains – ‘Milk cow blues’? A great afternoon; respect to the OKFC.
* Did you see Robert Plant’s ’80s hair in that TV prog of his a few weeks ago?
**not boring: it’s a metaphor – look it up