Barcelona. October 2014.

2 Nov

On October the 22nd, my mother Audrey, my brother Mike and his wife Sylvie treated me to a five day holiday in Barcelona, which I hadn’t visited since 1988.  My mum, now a sprightly 86, had always loved my song Barcelona (now part of my alter-ego Thom Topham’s Multimedia eBook ‘My Unplanned Obsolescence’) and had never visited this magical city.

Following the recent death of my adoptive father Harold (her partner and soul-mate for over 55 years) in July, Audrey felt that her first holiday without him would possibly help to ease the pain of his passing and hopefully prove to be cathartic in enabling her to get over her loss. Also coming along for the ride were Mike and Sylvie’s son Thibault and my sister Josie and her husband Kae Bahar’s youngest, Leon.

Sylvie had booked a fantastic house via http://www.airbnb.co.uk for us to stay in in the very central CLOT area of Barcelona. This turned out to be an un-touristy, funky, largely working-class neighbourhood with a pedestrianised main street, a covered food market, great cafes and unpretentious restaurants and Parc Del Clot, a fabulous art/sports park which features ancient stoneworks, a wonderfully creative water feature, an outdoor squash court, a large paved area for people to play sports in and a long, pedestrian bridge overlooking it all.  It’s particularly attractive at night, when it is beautifully lit. Sylvie also booked our visits to Gaudi’s famous La Sagrada Familia (now virtually complete interior-wise) Casa Batllo and Parc Guell  online in advance, which proved to be a wise move.

We also took a day trip – only €8 return on the train – to the lovely seaside resort of Sitges, which is also famous as the gay holiday capital of Spain.

By some excellent synchronicity, the week before I left I discovered on Facebook that my old French friend Serge, whom I hadn’t seen for 27 years (as he’d been living in Fiji and Morocco) was also going to be in Barcelona at exactly the same time.

I  suggest that you might like to listen to the song ‘Barcelona’, the lyric of which was written in the city in 1988, as you look at my pictures.  These were taken on my iPhone4 using the Camera Plus Pro app (which I’d thoroughly recommend), before being processed via Instagram.

All photos © Steve Swindells. 2014.

 

Just landed.  Barcelona.

Just landed. Barcelona.

 

 

 

Clot Station. Barcelona.

Clot Station. Barcelona.

 

Clot-Arago (the overground) Station Escalator.

Clot-Arago (the overground) Station Escalator.

 

Our House In Clot - For Five Days.

Our House In Clot – For Five Days. L-R; Sylvie, Thibault, Audrey and Mike.

 

Family Selfie - on Career Meridional.

Family Selfie – on Carrer Meridional.  Thibault, Audrey, myself and Leon.

 

My Room.

My bedroom.

 

Mike in the main bedroom, with its balcony overlooking the street.

Mike in the main bedroom, with its balcony overlooking the street.

 

The terrace from the balcony of Audrey's bedroom.

The terrace from the balcony of Audrey’s bedroom.

 

The view from the balcony of the main bedroom.

The view from the balcony of the main bedroom.

 

 

We're walking through Clot in the direction the sea.

We’re walking through Clot in the direction of the sea – which we were to find took about 25 minutes.  Audrey wisely headed back to the house after we’d come across the beautiful Parc Del Clot.

 

 

The covered market in Clot.

The covered market in Clot.

 

 

 

Then later on after dark...

Then later on after dark…

 

Barca. Archi-tower:modern:clot

 

 

 

How does this cantilevered skyscraper defy gravity?

How does this cantilevered skyscraper defy gravity?

 

 

Nearly at the beach...

Nearly at the beach…

 

 

Leon tries to move the goalposts.

Leon tries to move the goalposts.

 

 

Shadows.

Shadows.

 

 

Sun Going Down On The Beach.

Sun Going Down On The Beach.

 

 

 

Barca Street Furniture.

Barca Street Furniture.

 

 

Selfie Reflection.

Selfie Reflection.

 

 

Urban walls as viewed from the terrace.  9am.

Urban walls as viewed from the terrace of ‘our house’.

 

 

 

The view from the terrace at night.

The view from the terrace at night.

 

 

The Stairs.

The Stairs.

 

 

Mother and son after tapas.

Mother and son after eating tapas at a local eatery in Clot.

 

 

Eureka! The house has a dressing-up box!

Eureka! The house has a dressing-up box!

 

 

Thibault & Leon Go Go.

Thibault & Leon Go Go.

 

 

Serge has arrived for dinner.

Serge has arrived for dinner.

 

 

 

The Family Ham It Up!

The Family Ham It Up!

 

 

Serge, SS and Audrey,

Serge, SS and Audrey,

 

 

Thibault Camps It Up.

The Boys Are Back In Town

 

 

Barca. Dress-up. Thib.

 

 

Serge is an old pro!

Serge is an old pro!

 

 

Leon is cool.

Leon is cool.

 

 

Audrey in her fave cafe by the market.

Audrey in her fave cafe by the market, before we head for La Sagrada Familia.

 

La Sagrada Familia is a total must-see for people visiting Barca. The interior is virtually complete and the exterior will be  – but I have no idea how long it will take.

It certainly is one of the most awe-inspiring buildings I’ve ever seen – especially internally (as a lot of the exterior is wrapped in scaffolding).  The music that they pipe into the building is quite magical too – like new-age, spiritual music from another world.  I’ve never heard anything like it.  I’m not religious at all – just naturally spiritual, but visiting this incredible basilica was an inspiring and moving experience.  Apart from when I stepped-out of the lift at the top of one of the towers.  I’m afraid to admit that I suffer from extreme vertigo, and this made me fall onto my knees and I had to literally crawl back in to the lobby of the lift.  My legs hurt like hell (no pun intended) just thinking about it.

La Sagrada Familia - a detail of one of the facades.

La Sagrada Familia – a detail of one of the facades.

 

 

Part of the main roof.  Astonishing.

Part of the ceiling and the soaring columns supporting it. Astonishing.

 

 

Audrey in the brilliant sunlight by the main doors.

Audrey in the brilliant sunlight in front of one of the awesome main doors.

 

 

God IS A DJ.

God Is A DJ.

 

 

 

Pillars lit by the sun pouring through the stunning stained-glass windows.

Pillars lit by the sun pouring through the stunning stained-glass windows.

 

 

Blue.

Blue.

 

 

Under The Blue Windows.

Under The Blue Windows.

 

The incredible ceiling above the nave.

The incredible ceiling above the nave.

Golden.

Golden.

 

 

One Of The Main Doors.

One Of The Main Doors.

 

 

 

Organ pipes coloured by the afternoon sunlight through the enormous stained glass windows.

Organ pipes coloured by the afternoon sunlight through the enormous stained glass windows.

 

 

The Ornate Ceiling From Below.

The Ornate Ceiling From Another Angle .

 

The following day, we took the train to the gorgeously funky seaside resort of Sitges and had a picnic on the beach before the boys (and men) braved the icy waters of the mediteranean (joking: it was lovely). It was a perfectly cloudless day and the temperature was 26 degrees.

A perfectly-formed roof terrace catches my eye as we walk towards the beach through the old town of Sitges.

A perfectly-formed roof terrace catches my eye as we walk towards the beach through the old town of Sitges.

 

 

Sitges. Art-Nouveau House

Sitges. beach

Sitges.  Audrey on beach

Leon and SS catching waves.

Leon and SS catching waves.

 

 

Thibault gets buried alive.

Thibault gets buried alive.

 

 

Sitges. Breakwater

Sitges from breakwater

This is my house, of course, I'm just renting it out at the moment… honest...

I’ve owned this house for years but of course I’m just renting it out at the moment… honest…

 

 

Sitges. Bendy medieval tower

Silhouettes on the breakwater.

Silhouettes on the breakwater.

 

Sitges. Silhuettes 2

The following day, we headed for the Gothic Quarter and The nearby Marina, before visiting Gaudi’s incredible Parc Guell.

A huge, metal sculpture dominates one of the main squares in The Gothic Quarter  - where we sat in the sunshine outside one of many cafes.

A huge, metal sculpture dominates one of the main squares in The Gothic Quarter – where we sat in the sunshine outside one of many cafes.

 

Barca.  Trina napkins

Audrey and I ambled through the gothic quarter down to the harbour.

Audrey and I ambled through the gothic quarter down to the harbour.

 

 

Streetlights designed by - yes, you guessed it - Gaudi.

Streetlights designed by – yes, you guessed it – Gaudi.

 

 

 

Barca, Goth Q street sunshine

 

Columbus Curve.

Columbus Curve.

 

 

Barca.  SS & Aud Marina Selfie

Barca Marina by Columbus

Floating Subuteo Sculpture in the harbour.

Floating Subuteo Sculpture in the harbour.

 

 

On The Metro Heading For Parc Guell - a Parallel Universe.

On The Metro Heading For Parc Guell – a Parallel Universe.

 

 

Barca, Parc Guell. View from abovejpg

‘The heat spreads like a blanket, on a hazy afternoon…’

Gaudi's mashed-up ceramic curves.

Gaudi’s mashed-up ceramic curves.

 

 

That's the cranes above La Sagrada Familia in the far distance.

That’s the cranes above La Sagrada Familia in the middle distance.

 

 

One of the two fantastical gatehouses.

One of the two fantastical gatehouses.

 

 

Barca. Parc Guell. Temple pillars

Audrey takes a well-earned, contemplative rest while the rest of us explore the gatehouse.

Audrey takes a well-earned, contemplative rest while the rest of us explore the gatehouse.

 

I wanted to show Serge our local Parc Del Clot at night.  He, like all of us, found it quite beguiling.  Then we heard loud music coming from the direction of Barelona’s answer to (or copy of) London’s ‘Gherkin’ and found ourselves at the opening of an exhibition of photos of reggae artists in Jamaica in the 70s and 80s, which was a coincidence, as Serge lived there for  seven years back then and had known quite a few of the subjects.  There was a free, outdoor reggae rave with cheap beer as well.  Our Saturday night’s entertainment was sorted!

After dinner...

After dinner…

SS in 'Graffiti Square' taken by Serge.

SS in ‘Plaza Graffita’ (as I dubbed it) taken by Serge.

 

 

Barca. ParcElClot. Woman:Dog2.

Sylvie and Mike dance in Parc Del Clot.

Sylvie and Mike dance in Parc Del Clot.

 

 

Barca. Parc El Clot & Akbar Tower

Serge enjoying Parc Del Clot.

Serge enjoying Parc Del Clot.

 

 

Serge at the reggae photo exhibition.

Serge at the reggae photo exhibition.

 

 

Barca. SS @ reggae exhib

People at the reggae rave.

People at the reggae rave.

 

 

Was it Sunday that we visited another of Gaudi’s masterpieces, Casa Batllo?  We packed so much in (and all that Rioja) that I’ve probably got the timelines wrong. Who cares?

Incredible stained glass in extraordinary windows of the main living room of Casa Batllo.

Incredible stained glass in the extraordinary windows of the main living room of Casa Batllo.

 

 

 

The same windows from outside.

The same windows from outside.

 

 

Bet you've never seen chimneys like this before?

Bet you’ve never seen chimneys like this before?

 

 

The massive wall of smashed ceramics at the back of the huge terrace.

The massive wall of smashed ceramics at the back of the huge terrace.

 

 

Then we went to the beach at Barcelonetta, at the Marina end, near to the Olympic Park.

Barca. Jetskis marina

Looks like Audrey's in goal!

Looks like Audrey’s in goal!

 

Barca.  Skate park

 

 

Barca Sag Fam facade across lake

Barca. Playa. S +T

Ancient and modern.

Ancient and modern.

 

Then it was time for me to leave, as mine was a separate flight to Gatwick, and the rest of the family flew back to Bristol a little later. What a wonderful five days!

Goodbye! X

Goodbye! X

 

 

Getting ready to take-off as the sun goes down.

Getting ready to take-off as the sun goes down.

 

 

Barca. EasyJet Clouds over France

Images Of An Indian Summer.

7 Oct

London. September and October 2014

All pictures taken on my iPhone 4, using the Camera Plus Pro app, then processed in Instagram.

© Steve Swindells. All Rights Reserved.

 The musical accompaniment is my moody autumnal ambient track A Peace Of My Mind

Graffiti Tunnel, Hackney Wick.

Graffiti Tunnel, Hackney Wick.

 

 

Hackney Wick.  Canal Warehouse, rusty tower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hackney Wick.  Canal, boats, rusty tower

 

 

Hackney Wick. Graffitipub

Hackney Wick. Skatepark

Hackney Wick. Feet

Hackney Wick. Sunlit Graffiti tunneljpg

Broadwick s,t Soho

Broadwick St, Soho

 

Rainy street, Soho.

Rainy street, Soho.

Rainy Soho Fabric Shop Berwick St

 

Ella…ella.

Ella…ella.

 

Berwick St Market, Soho.

Berwick St Market, Soho.

 

Trellick Tower Cocktail. Made.com Showroom, Notting Hill Gate.

Trellick Tower Cocktail. Made.com Showroom, Notting Hill Gate.

 

 

 

Egg-Timer Cruet.

Egg-Timer Cruet.

 

Afternoon sunlight - Newcombe House Notting Hill Gate

CZech embassy Sculpture gdn

 

 

Kensington Gardens.

Kensington Gardens.

 

Sunset Lake, Kenington Gdns. 1. 10. 14

Serpentine Bridge.

Serpentine Bridge.

 

Serpentine Gallery

The Monolithic Henry Moore Sculpture By The Serpentine.

The Monolithic Henry Moore Sculpture By The Serpentine.

 

 

The Italian Garden.

The Italian Garden.

 

Lovers On A Canal Bridge.

Lovers On A Canal Bridge.

 

Canal Oct Walzing Weasel

3 Swans

Orange Is The New… Houseboat.

Orange Is The New… Houseboat.

 

POWERDAY reflected.

POWERDAY reflected.

 

A Rainbow Over Willesden.

A Rainbow Over Willesden.

 

Roundwood Park, Harlesden.

Roundwood Park, Harlesden.

Club-running, Concerts, Chords, Conundrums, Conceptions, Creativity, Coercion, Comfort, Cognac and Cocaine.

29 Aug

In the very early eighties I was living in a post-war prefab just off the Old Kent Road – opposite the imposing, wrought-iron gates of Burgess Park. There were about 20 prefabs packed close together in what was known as University Village, as they were mostly rented to students. My little house had three tiny bedrooms, a minuscule kitchen, a small living room and a minute bathroom. I payed £40 a week in rent, which was pretty reasonable in those days.

I took-off the kitchen door and the one that led from the living room into one of the bedrooms (which became my office/studio) to create the feeling of more space – which was a bit of a long-shot. These doors were then put to use as an L-shaped desk – set on trestles.

Me in the prefab - complete with some of my first retro-modern pieces.

Me in the prefab – complete with some of my first retro-modern pieces.

But at least I had a whole house – which had the feel of a cosy, urban log cabin – all to myself; complete with the hitherto unthinkable luxury of a micro guest room.

Having been simultaneously and unceremoniously ‘dropped’ by Atco Records and Trinifold (The management of The Who) in 1981, I’d decided it was time for a career change  – whilst continuing with my songwriting and recording.

My first venture into club promotion had been with The Lift in 1982 (see ‘All Human Beings Welcome‘ for the story on that) and in ’83 I was soon to start expanding my burgeoning club-running and party-organising business by forming The Pure Organisation with Kevin Millins, who was the promotions director of Heaven, Europe’s largest and most successful Gay club. He hosted Asylum at the club on Wednesdays (Wednesdays!), and it was a huge success, appealing to the more alternative demimonde – both gay, straight and all things in between.

The Lift was also packed every week – largely with a gay/mixed, people-of-colour crowd. Before its Thursday night slot at the late-lamented Gargoyle Club on Meard Street in Soho was terminated (due to the lease ending), I launched Lift 2 on Fridays at Stallions, which was a wonderfully authentic 70s, gay night club at the end of an alley behind Busby’s (later Mean Fiddler two) on Charing Cross Road – knowing that it would soon become the main night.

Lift II Stallions Fridays

With Vicki Edwards @ The Lift.

With Vicki Edwards @ The Lift.

Kevin and I were promoting London’s two, hippest, coolest polysexual club nights, so it would later make perfect sense for us to team-up.

Kevin and me celebrating.

Celebrating with Kevin Millins.

Kevin In the Pure Organisation Office in Craven St, Charing Cross.

Kevin in the Pure Organisation Office in Craven St, Charing Cross.

Mondays at Busby’s had been home to BANG! for many years. This was an old-school gay/mixed night that featured campy, trash-disco DJS who talked on the mic (no!) and go-go boys. It had been massively successful back in the day, but now it was very much past its sell-by date.  So, as I had a very successful Friday night which was all over both the gay and style press (I’d done a two-page interview in The Face magazine, for instance), I decided to approach Busby’s manager Vic Sparrow with a view to offering my services to the promoters of BANG! as a consultant – to drag it kicking and screaming into the 80s. My offer was declined by the promoters. So I had another meeting with Vic whereby I suggested that The Lift and Asylum could combine their ‘crowds’ and create a new night on Mondays (Mondays!) at Busby’s. Vic liked the idea a lot. It was, I explained, just a formality to present Kevin Millins with this ready-made proposal. I’d already dreamed-up a name: Jungle.

Posing with new backdrop - in 1984?

Posing with new backdrop – in 1984?

Kevin readily agreed and so all we needed were two DJs. He was already friends with Colin Faver of Kiss FM (which was still a pirate station at the time) and we both knew Fat Tony from his outrageously silly, deliberately so-bad-they-were-good drag shows at Heaven. He’d also started DJing at various one-nighters – playing really good music (he’s still a very successful DJ – over thirty years later). Kevin and I agreed that Jungle’s music policy was to feature the best of contemporary black music, which essentially meant mostly New York-style garage, soul (‘Aint nothin’ goin’ on but the rent’), anything by Chakka Khan, and American funk like Parliament and Maze, the first rap hits (‘It’s like a jungle out there, sometimes I wonder how I keep from going under...’), along with Blondie, Talking Heads, The B-52s and Madonna, home-grown soul and jazz funk (‘You’ve got me hangin’ on a string…‘), and remixes from the cream of British electronic/indie/pop acts such Soft Cell, ABC, The Human league, Visage, New Order, Gary Numan, The Pet Shop Boys, Heaven 17, Bronski Beat, Culture Club, Erasure, Eurythmics and Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

DJFat Tony @ Jungle

DJFat Tony @ Jungle

DJ Colin Faver

DJ Colin Faver playing @ Jungle.

Many of the aforementioned groundbreaking bands also boasted (if that’s the right word) the first-ever ‘out’ gay pop stars – all of whom became regulars at Jungle – which was a massive hit from the outset – along with Sade, The Sex Pistols, Mica Paris, Neneh Cherry, Bananarama, Rifat Ozbek, Judy Blame, Jasper Conran, Leigh Bowery, David Holah, The Face Editor Sheryl Garrett, Ben and Andy Boilerhouse, Damon Rochefort (of Nomad), Andi Oliver, Eric Robinson, Stephen Linnard, Steve Strange, Germaine Stewart, crimpers Stephen Hamilton, Sam McKnight and Ronald Falloon, Princess Julia, Duggie Fields, John Maybury, John Galliano, ‘starchitect’ Nigel Coates (another ex from the 70s), Anthony Price, Ashley Lloyd-Jennings (of Hackett – we’d had a fling in the 70s) the milliners Stephen Jones and Phillip Treacy, the late Justin Fashanu (soccer’s first ‘out’- not to mention black – premier-league footballer) and many more luminaries from a decade which saw British achievements in fashion and the arts reach new heights – particularly from the gay and polysexual underground.

Jungle in '83. Behind me is Tony Wilkinson, who tragically drowned in Jamaica in 2014.

Jungle in ’83. Behind me is Tony Wilkinson, who tragically drowned in Jamaica in 2014.

One night, the ‘Red Indian’ from The Village People showed-up at Jungle – dressed in full ‘tribal’ mode, complete with enormous head dress – and tried to pick me up! Sorry dude, not my type. The Village People were just considered to be a camp joke by us London movers and shakers. I was far more interested in meeting John ‘Jellybean’ Benitez (he came to Jungle and we chatted at length) who’d produced ‘Holiday’, Madonna’s first hit single, which the DJs at both the Lift and Jungle had played to death. When it had come out as an import from the US, everyone had assumed that she was black.

Ashley Lloyd-Jennings (co-founder of Hackett) and friends at Jungle.

Ashley Lloyd-Jennings (with beard, co-founder of Hackett) and friends at Jungle.

And suddenly, there were black, gay men out clubbing in force – especially at The Lift and Jungle (where the legendary and sorely-missed Breeze was the ‘door whore’, before becoming a resident DJ, along with Vicki Edwards, at The Pure Organisation’s subsequently wildly successful club night BAD in the Soundshaft, which was part of Heaven, but had a separate entrance).

Breeze  door-whoring @ Jungle

Breeze door-whoring @ Jungle

The lesbians took a little longer to get on board, but the first-ever (and only) lesbian mega-club was Venus Rising on Thursdays at The Fridge in Brixton, where my good friend Vicki Edwards was the superstar DJ, but that didn’t open until the late 80s, as far as I recall.

DJ Vicki Edwards.

DJ Vicki Edwards in the 80s.

In 1985, Jungle had arguably became the first club in London to play a new kind of club music which had sprung from gay, black underground nights in Chicago.

It was called house music.

We certainly put on the first-ever PA by a house artist in London, which was ‘Love Can’t Turn Around’ by Farley Jackmaster Funk, in the larger-than-life form of featured vocalist, the late Darryl Pandy. I clearly remember him asking me in what passed as a dressing room (a glorified cupboard behind the stage), whether he should wear the sparkly turquoise kaftan or the orange one. I suggested the former. He went down a storm, with a gaggle of gay pop stars (do you remember that night Paul Rutherford?) dancing wildly at the front and being showered with Darryl’s sweat.

Ralph Chan and Ronald Falloon @ Jungle.

Ralph Chan and Ronald Falloon @ Jungle.

Kevin and my roles in The Pure Organisation (Pure… Organisation. I’d dreamed-up this neat bit of branding) were clearly defined from the outset. I was the creative and PR director, he was the financial and business director. Occasionally we crossed-over, but with little friction, until when he decided to try and take-over my natural, creative director role after Jungle moved to Paris (which is totally another story), which unfortunately resulted in the downfall of our little empire (along with the Heaven management’s racism, which later caused BAD to close) – and my departure from it.  It’s OK, we’re friends again these days (he’s running European Gay Ski Week). I guess you’ll just have to ask him why that  anomaly occurred.

The quieter, upstairs bar at Jungle.

The quieter, upstairs bar at Jungle.

In 1979, I’d been signed to Atco Records in New York by Doug Morris (whom, as I write, is the most powerful man in the music industry – the President of Sony Music) and the result was my second album ‘Fresh Blood’ (regarded as a classic by many and reissued on Cherry Red/Atomhenge in 2009. Check-out my sleeve notes elsewhere in this collection). I’d had terrific reviews (‘Boy can this guy write lyrics; a sparkling debut’: Rolling Stone) and it reached number 3 in the US airplay charts, two weeks after its release, with little or no promotion.

Then I made some great follow-up demos with terrific, all-star musicians before, much to my chagrin, as I mentioned earlier, I was subsequently summarily dropped by both Atco Records and Trinifold Management.

Why?

I’m happy to report that these high-quality demos were finally released as my double CD ‘The Lost Albums’ on Flicknife Records in 2012. This makes me believe in Good Karma – albeit delayed by over thirty years. My sleeve notes  are also featured in ‘Sex N’ Drugs N’ Sausage Rolls’.

TheLostAlbums_Mod3+

I’d withdrawn from trying to continue as a recording artist in the music industry as a result of this devastating roller-coaster ride and was licking my wounds when I decided to re-invent myself as club promoter and party organiser. I had to pull something out of the survival bag.

Stellar events which either The Pure Organisation or myself individually later organised included Prince’s ‘Love Sexy’ after-parties in 1988 (along with my good friend Thom Topham) and parties for Madonna, Warner Music, Time Out and The Face magazines, to name a few.

Suddenly I was a successful face, although I kept a relatively low profile – I was not one for air-kisses and calling everyone dahling.

The dark side of the 80s was the strangely back-to-the-fifties reign of La Thatcher, along the spectre of AIDS – the dark, frightening and oppressive cloud that was to invidiously create so much anti-gay propaganda and was infect or kill so many of my friends (including straight women) and lovers – as the decade became a strangely convoluted mish-mash of coping and surviving, good-will, bonding and charity (The Terence Higgins Trust), creativity, clashes (the trade unions, the miners) and sometimes consensus, covetousness (think Wall St and The City Of London) and, for me, successful club-running and party organising, along with the party peoples’ consumption of industrial quantities of cocaine. I was given copious amounts of it – simply for putting certain people on the guest list.

Naturally, not being greedy or possessing an addictive nature, I generously distributed these gifts amongst my more interesting and charming Junglers  by inviting them into the nearest thing we might have called a VIP room – our office.

I always saw myself as a facilitator and mentor to young people who were talented by introducing them to more well-known and successful people.  As a result, several flourishing, creative careers were virtually launched at The Lift and Jungle.

Jungle was VIP in its entirety, apart from our little office, or orifice, as I’d childishly dubbed it.

Perhaps I’d been inspired by my visits to the legendary orifice in Studio 54 in New York?

When Kevin and I first teamed-up to launch Jungle and formed The Pure Organisation, he’d suggested that the best way to guarantee a full club early in the night (thereby keeping the tills ringing behind the bars to keep the owner’s aligned drinks company – in Busby’s case Whitbread – happy) was to make it cheaper to get in the earlier you came. Then I came up with the idea of the first-ever see-through, acetate flyer, which I designed. The reason for using this material was not just its cool novelty (you had to hold it up to the light to read the print), but also the fact that you could easily have holes punched out of the flyers after printing several thousand.

The first Jungle flyer - designed by yours truly.

‘The hunter gets captured by the game’: the first Jungle flyer – designed by yours truly.

The key to our Jungle PR campaign was a word-of-mouth whisper that the flyers without the holes punched-out allowed the holders to get into the club for free before midnight. The ones with holes enabled people to get for £1 before midnight (after all, you can’t replace punched-out holes, can you?). Therefore – due to this gently deliberate confusion – on the opening night, the queue to get in stretched all the way around the block – which included The Astoria.

Sadly, both venues have now been demolished to facilitate the new Crossrail station at Tottenham Court Road.

Kevin had negotiated a clever deal with Vic Sparrow, the canny, avuncular and portly manager of Busby’s. He’d offered a bar guarantee of something like £2,000 or thereabouts (I don’t remember exactly, it was 31 years ago, after all) and, in return, we’d take 100% of the money on the door and pay the DJs, our door staff and our team that ‘dressed’ the venue before we opened. The club would pay the security and bar staff. This was all agreed and the arrangement suited all concerned for more than three, successful years. Rarely did the attendance dip below 1,000 people (often it was 1,300) and the atmosphere was always electric, with great vibes all round. And it was sexy. You should also remember – this was a weekly club night held on a Monday! And there was never, ever any trouble.

One day in 1985, I took an interesting call in The Pure Organisation’s wood-panelled, 1st floor suite of offices in a classic Georgian house in Craven street, behind Heaven (where Kevin Millins’ Asylum had transmuted into the massively successful Pyramid on Wednesdays). It was from a member of Janet Jackson’s management team. He wondered politely if we’d be able to let her in to Jungle through a back door as she wanted to hang out anonymously with a couple of friends. This was accomplished with minimum fuss, as she didn’t require any special treatment whatsoever. It was my pleasure to get her a drink – I seem to recall that it was a JD and Coke – and to have a good chat with her about her brilliant producers Jam and Lewis and that beautiful guy who’d starred in her video of ‘What Have You Done for Me Lately’. I asked her if he was gay. She simply replied: ‘What do you think?’ With a warmly-delivered wink.

On another occasion we managed to persuade DJ Fat Tony (who wasn’t actually fat at all) to perform a tribute to Dusty Springfield at the first Jungle Trash Ball – lip-synching in Dusty drag – which he pulled-off with his usual deliciously daft mix of insouciance, irony and panache. It was only years later that I read somewhere – perhaps after Dusty had died – that she used to joke about how she ‘looked like a drag queen’ in her shows in the late 60s.

I still think that she is one of the greatest female singers ever. Along with Aretha.

I was watching an excellent documentary about Dusty on BBC4, just the other day, and was suddenly transported back to 1974 when a picture of what was Phillips (Dusty’s record label) Recording Studio in the 60s and 70s came-up on screen.

Some amazing music had been recorded there: At least two albums by Dusty, The Walker Brothers and, later, The Electric Light Orchestra. It had a unique sound quality – it was BIG, basically. I recorded some of what was supposed to be my second album ‘Swallow’ there, and had been thrilled to drink-in that magical, aural atmosphere. I’d always thought it pleasantly quirky that you accessed the studio through a slightly formal little garden.

Phillips Studio in Stanhope Place, Marble Arch.

Phillips Studio in Stanhope Place, Marble Arch.

‘Swallow’ never saw the light of day, thanks to my evil, junky, alcoholic, Svengali-like manager/producer Mark Edwards sweeping everything off the managing director of RCA Records’ desk in a drunken rage. But Karma eventually kicked-in and the album finally came out as the ‘bonus CD’ with the reissue of Messages in 2009.

Messages

I have a broad taste in music: from soulful rock and singer-songwriter to soul and R&B and classical and jazz, but not really prog-rock generally (apart from perhaps some Supertramp, Caravan and selective early Yes and Genesis tracks).

I’d been classically trained on the piano from the age of Seven – just weekly lessons. In 1966, my elder brother Rob and I left the wonderfully-named Sexey’s School in Bruton in Somerset: a very good grammar school (where we were boarders). We departed because we were being bullied as a result of perceived favourtism by ‘Matron’; perhaps because we slept in a small ‘dorm’ with just one other boy called Willy (who was probably my first boyfriend). Both Rob and I had passed the entrance exam to The Bristol Cathedral School after taking and passing our Eleven-plus (as it was called back then) exam a few years earlier.  However, I wasn’t Eleven, I was ten, as I’d somehow jumped a year in primary school. I think it was something to do with my IQ, which was pretty high, but I don’t recall the exact figure (141 seems to ring a bell). Suffice to say, I was later invited to join Mensa, but didn’t bother. I’m not a fan of elite smugness.

Meanwhile, my new piano teacher at The Cathedral School had me playing pieces by my favourites like Eric Satie, Stravinsky, Delius and Debussy.

When I turned 15, he asked me one day what I was planning as a career, if anything. I answered immediately that I wanted to be a songwriter. A huge smile crossed his face as he replied enthusiastically: ‘then you must learn the basics of jazz and blues. These two genres are the basis of all modern songwriting, along, of course, with classical music. But, you must unlearn everything you learnt with classical music and start again from scratch by understanding complex chord structures and the power of improvisation.’

‘I’ve been improvising for years.’ I replied happily.

‘Excellent!’ He said. ‘Then let’s explore some jazz and blues magic.’

And so we did – for several months. He was the best teacher-ever and the only one I ever needed.

There’s more to this back story though.

In 1973, I was signed to RCA and my first album ‘Messages’ came out world-wide to generally excellent reviews in 1974.

There was a launch-party in the luxurious, penthouse hospitality suite of RCA’s headquarters in Curzon Street, Mayfair. It was a fairly dull corporate affair until a tall man walked in who seemed familiar. Wasn’t this Mr Whatever – my former piano piano teacher (obviously he wasn’t actually called Mr Whatever, but I don’t remember his name)?

Indeed it was. He came over and shook my hand and I naturally asked why he was at my album launch. He laughed and explained: ‘I now live in London and work for your publishers, Chappell Music.’

‘What an amazing coincidence!’ I exclaimed, and went on to thank him profusely for having introduced me to the core basics of songwriting back in the day.

‘All that classical training enabled your fingers to do complex things, and gifted you an innate appreciation of melody, form, harmony, timbres, dynamics and the very mathematics of composition.’

‘Indeed it did.’ I said, sipping champagne and trying to ignore the rictus grins (probably cocaine-induced) of the dreary, oleaginous RCA executives.

‘And the blues and jazz basics that I made you aware of allowed you to tap into your songwriting muse, with all those spirits flying around your head like soulful butterflies.’

‘That’s a lovely analogy, I can’t thank you enough for enlightening me as you did.’

‘Steve, it’s my pleasure,’ said Mr Whatever, clinking my glass. ‘I’m extremely proud of what you’ve achieved with your first album – how brilliant to have a full orchestra on many of the tracks – and you are now officially my highest-achieving and critically acclaimed pupil. Your songwriting is of the highest calibre.’

To say that I was humbled would be an understatement. I felt blessed.

‘Messages’ had been recorded when I was 21. It was all a bit glamourous and high-end with top musicians, including members  of Elton John’s band, Mike Giles, the drummer from King Crimson, and John Gustafson, Roxy Music’s bass player. Studios where it was recorded included AIR, Island, The Who’s Ramport studio in Battersea, and (yay!) Abbey Road. But my manager/producer Mark Edwards (who’d ‘discovered’ me playing with Squidd – the first proper band that I’d played with – at Fulham Town Hall at a Gay Liberation Front Benefit Gig in 1972) was an upper-class gay man who became obsessed with me. And I did not reciprocate. At all.  He looked like Gandalf. Therefore, he bitterly resented my rejection.

He was a mess. To his left on the mixing desk – a pile of cocaine. To his right, a bottle of Cognac. He was violent and abusive. He made my life hell.

Eventually, in 1975, I escaped, thanks to my great friends Caroline Guinness and Tim Clark, who literally kidnapped me, thereby releasing me from his evil clutches; and my extraordinary mother Audrey, who took my ‘management contract’ to a lawyer, who declared that it wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.

Audrey and Harold, my late, adoptive father, enthusiastically attended many of my club-opening nights as well!

My mind is suddenly drawn to a concert in 1979 at what was then the Hammersmith Odeon (now it’s the *insert sponsor* Apollo). It was a sold-out gig by Todd Rundgren’s Utopia – I had a standing-only ticket, so I naturally headed for the mixing desk – where the sound would be optimum –  and was able to stand right behind it without being challenged; in fact, the sound engineer turned around and smiled – a dazzling smile – at me. He was handsome, Latino-looking with longish curly black hair, stubble and a moustache and what looked like a fine athletic body. Obviously, he couldn’t be gay, could he..?

A few more songs into the show he turned around again and smiled and motioned for me to sit next to him on a drum stool which he’d produced with a flourish. His leg brushing against mine told me all I needed to know. My ‘gaydar’ had been on-point. He was an excellent sound engineer too – and the band were superb. After the encores and as the audience started to file out, he asked me my name and invited me back to the hotel where the band and crew were staying. I was happy to accept. A fleet of limos took us to Marble arch and the rather magnificent Georgian crescent that housed the Five-star Montcalm Hotel. ‘Let’s go straight to my room’ he whispered conspiratorially, ‘so we can party all night, just the two of us – ‘cos the band have a day off tomorrow.’

I tried to suppress a bit of a gasp as we entered his first floor room at the front of the hotel, with its huge sash windows. This was as a result of clocking the stylish luxury of what was actually a duplex suite. The massive double bed was on a mezzanine above a capacious lounge area which featured cool, Italian-looking, minimalist-chic furniture.

‘How about some Champagne?’ Suggested Ernesto with a grin, ‘and a big fat joint and a line of the finest Columbian marching powder…’

‘That would be totally spliffing!’ I replied, in a cod, upper-class English accent.

‘I think that the Krug is a good vintage’, he said brightly, uncorking a bottle of  it expertly, ‘then there’s a bottle of Remy Martin for us to enjoy later!’

This was my first experience of high-end Rock N’ Roll decadence (the most we got up to with The Hawklords was a joint or two after a gig with a few beers – and the odd line of coke here and there). Before long we were tearing off each other’s clothes and kissing passionately. Damn, he was a great kisser, a great everything, and he had the most athletically perfect posterior. The rest of the night is a complete blur of clouds of sensuality.

I would, however, suggest that sharing a bottle of brandy after a bottle of champagne, along with coke n’ smoke is likely to lead to a very bad case of the whirling pits. I just managed to make it to the marble-tiled bathroom to throw up. Then we both passed-out on the tangled sheets after an amazing night of hot passion.

In the 70s, gay people in rock culture were generally pretty thin on the ground; rare exceptions being Pete Shelley of The Buzzcocks, the wonderfully talented Billy McKenzie and Rob Halford, the singer from Judas Priest, although there were plenty of gay managers.

However, to come across, as it were, gay sound engineers, tour managers and road crew was totally unheard of. After all, I’d been a rock star myself in 1978, playing keyboards and recording the classic album ’25 Years On’ with The Hawklords (better-known as Hawkwind – the name-change was because of some Byzantine contractual obligations) and taking part in a massive UK tour – we’d also sold-out the Hammersmith Odeon, just the year before.

I met Pete Shelley at some hideous sub-Holiday-Inn in Bradford where both The Hawklords and The Buzzcocks were staying, having performed at different venues in the city. Pete and I were drinking beers, chatting and playing pool (how very gay) in the bar, where both bands and their crews were drinking and socialising – until an altercation suddenly occurred between two of our respective roadies; then all hell broke loose and the bar got completely trashed (how very Rock N’ Roll).  Pete and I escaped to my room and smoked a joint or three, as I recall.

I was avowedly out-gay in the band, but being a masculine man who just happened to be gay, I was determined not to be pigeon-holed or pressurised into tolerating ignorant provocation in the form of squealing voices or camp mannerisms from fellow band members or crew – as if I was supposed to relate to such fripperies?

Any such behaviour was met with a glacial stare and a short, sharp lecture from me.

Being out-gay in an all-male environment, however, can create some curious consequences, like guys almost surreptitiously asking for sexual advice and being emotionally forthcoming and confessional… but only ever in a one-to-one situation.

The tour had kicked-off on Oct 6th, 1978 at the New Theatre. Oxford. Backstage after this very successful first gig, some members of the 22-strong road crew (yes TWENTY TWO), invited me to join them for a game of poker and to drink beers. ‘But I’ve never played poker before!’ I protested. There was much laughter and head-nodding. ‘Yeah, sure, Steve,’ said Dave, the tour manager, ‘we’ve all heard that one before.’ Despite it being my poker debut, guess who won?

SS on stage with Hawklords

After a few gigs we soon ditched the rather silly, paint-spattered overalls that were part of the stage design by the otherwise extremely talented Barney Bubbles. The arty group of ineffective dancers were also swiftly dispatched and one of a group of Hells Angels who came to every gig, acting as our unofficial security posse, insisted that I wore his ‘Original’ (a customised, sleeveless American biker jacket) on stage, and I happily complied. Rockin’! If you check out  Hawklords Live ’78, (which was finally released on Atomhenge/Cherry Red in 2009), you’ll no doubt agree that this was the band at its peak… totally firing. The musical interaction between guitarist Dave Brock and myself was particularly noteworthy – an amazing energy. The rhythm section was powerfully in synch and singer Robert Calvert was on peak form. We’d bonded from the very start – he was an amazing man.

Hawklords Live 1978

Hawklords Live 1978

It’s a shame that it all went politically pear-shaped at the sold-out Hawkestra reunion concert (all the living ex-members, including Lemmy – apart from the great Simon King – showed-up,) at the Brixton Academy 22 years later in 2000. The gig itself was pretty good – I organised the recording and filming of it, under the impression that I was going to get paid what had been agreed, plus a percentage of the gate and the subsequent DVD and CD. After all, I was the only non-core member of Hawkwind who’d attended rehearsals for six weeks at Dave Brock’s farmhouse in Devon – in a roughly-converted pig house, staying in a tiny, cell-like room at some horrendous pub where the only food available was from a ‘carvery’, where (shudder!) joints of meat were kept warm for hours under large copper lamps. It was beyond vile.

Suffice to say – the audio and visual tapes are safe and maybe one day, the DVD might be released. But only if all the members get an equal share of the royalties. Period. The songwriters, however, would already be sorted in terms of publishing royalties as a matter of course.

A monitor mix of me singing ‘Shot Down In The Night’ at the concert is available to listen to on my Sound Cloud.

Back on tour in 1978, the day after my birthday, on November 22nd, The Hawklords were playing Wolverhampton Civic Hall, and I arrived at the soundcheck to find a very large birthday card in its box on top of my keyboards. All the band and crew had signed it, and quite a few of them joked that I was welcome to ‘share a room’ with them anytime!  Thanks guys, but I didn’t actually fancy any of you, although I enjoyed beating ya’ll at Poker.

Why do so many straight men assume that all gay people find them attractive? ‘You’re so vain – I bet you think this song is about you’.

The 42-date tour was mostly sold-out and critically lauded. Then, before long, within just a few months, all the money was gone and there was no record deal. Robert Calvert, the charismatic and talented singer who suffered from manic depression (now known as bipolar condition), had departed and I was surprised to be asked to take over his role, having demo’d two of my songs (‘Shot Down In the Night’ and ‘Turn It On Turn It Off’) with the now penniless band at the rather idyllic, riverside Mill House, Rockfield Studio’s residential rehearsal facility.

Me in the porch at The Mill House

Me in the porch at The Mill House in 1979.

So I left the band, made some demos with two of the most accomplished ex-members of Hawkwind (Simon King and Huw Lloyd-Langton on drums and guitar respectively) and Nic Potter from Van Der Graf Generator on bass, including the aforementioned songs that I’d originally demo’d with The Hawklords. These were paid for jointly by Pendulum Music, my new music publisher, and Francesco, a friend who was an Italian Count whose family apparently owned half of Rome.

He took me to New York in September 1979, and, largely thanks to my best girlfriend Caroline Guinness being the office manager for Trinifold (who managed The Who) and who’d introduced me to the boss, Bill Curbishley, I landed a record deal in NYC within three days, with metaphoric doors having been opened by me using Bill’s name – with his consent, of course. I was signed to ATCO (part of the WEA, now Warner Music) by its President Doug Morris for a deal worth £80K… on paper. The result was Fresh Blood. Now regarded as a classic, it was reissued on CD on Esoteric/Cherry Red in 2009.

Fresh Blood Album Cover

Having heard the demos, several major names including Jimmy Iovine and *gasp!* David Bowie  had offered to produce the album  – but I ended-up doing it myself. I imagine that the big names were simply too expensive. No-one at Trinifold ever told me the reason.

It was only much later, when I was writing the internet column for Time Out magazine throughout the second half of the 90s (under the pseudonym Spyder), that I had a form of contact with Bowie, when I wrote a piece about Bowie.net (now www.davidbowie.com) in which ‘Spyder’ mentioned his metaphorical brush with Bowie. So, through his publicist Alan Edwards, Bowie asked if I could get copies of my two albums to his publicist’s office. I only had one copy of each, so I had to go through the ironic rigmarole of buying them in the secondhand record shop which was conveniently located in Kingly Street in Fitzrovia, where I was living.

David Bowie's faxed response to getting my albums.

David Bowie’s faxed response to his finally listening to my albums .

In 1988 Kevin Millins and I were featured in the centre-page-spread of the 100th issue of The Face – along with 98 of what the most influential magazine of the decade perceived to be the UK’s top 100 ‘movers and shakers’ including Jazzy B, Norman Jay (both now honoured by her Maj with an OBE and an MBE respectively), Leigh Bowery, Patrick Lilley, Graham Ball, Fat Tony, Rusty Egan and Chris Sullivan, to name but a few.

Kevin and I are the only ones wearing shades. Must have been a heavy night before.

We’re both wearing shades.

I wonder if anyone has got a scan of the other half of The Face centre-page spread?

© Steve Swindells. All rights reserved. 2014.

Main photo – from the Fresh Blood cover photo session (1980) by the late, great Bob Carlos Clarke.

All other photos (apart from The Face 100th issue centre-spread) © Steve Swindells.

iPhone Phinger Paintings . June 2010 – June 2014

29 Jun

Check for hyperlinks to SS music in the captions.

All content © Steve Swindells. All Rights Reserved.

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Bam Boo is my 2nd instrumental ambient chill album

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A Tissue Of Lies.

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Summer Deep.

A Womb With A View by SS. 30.3.10

A Womb With A View

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Caveat.

Hello Yellow 4 signed

Hello Yellow 4

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City Of Night.

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Elephant Heat.

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Infanta De Castille

Hejiro

Hejiro

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Homo Alono.

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Homo Alono Too.

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The Red Mist.

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The Diary Of Tran Frank.

 

 

 

 

 

Chrystal Mesh

Chrystal Mesh

 

 

Your Wicked Way

Your Wicked Way

 

 

Street Life London. Instagrams from April – June 2014.

28 Jun

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via Street Life London. Instagrams from April – June 2014..

Street Life London. Instagrams from April – June 2014.

28 Jun

All pics taken using the Camera Plus Pro app on my iPhone 4, then processed in Instagram.

Coloured hyperlinks on some of the photo captions will open SS tunes or videos in another tab as well.

  © Steve Swindells.

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Abstract Refuse (Damage Limitation), Shoreditch.

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Al-fresco, Willesden Green.

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Alan Whicker’s Scooter? Kensal Rise.

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Arresting Shadows.  Willesden Junction.

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 Art Wall, Shoreditch.

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‘B4 It’s Begun’, Elephant And Castle.

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Billy Fury Way, West Hampstead.

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Billy Fury Way Too.

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Blind Faith, Shoreditch.

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Boris Biker, Broadwick Street Soho.

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British Blonde. Soho.

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Brown Cafe.  Old Compton Street, Soho.

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Burger Queen, Harlesden.

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Bus. Elephant And Castle.

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Carnival Shop, Harlesden.

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A Sunny Evening On Chiswick Mall.

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Cock Soup, Harlesden.

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Damnation Alley.  West Hampstead.

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Derby And Joanne. Soho.

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Dusk, Chiswick Mall.

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E.N.O.  Saint Martin’s Lane.

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Enteria, Selfie Reflection. Old Compton Street, Soho.

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Fishy People, Harlesden.

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For The Love Of Dog (Banksy?), Shoreditch.

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Graffiti Bus, Shoreditch.

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High, Kilburn.

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Holiday Inn, Beyond And Before, Shoreditch.

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Hot Dog, Shoreditch.

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Houseboat Community, Chiswick Mall.

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Hoxton Dream Home.

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Hoxton Pick-up.

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Hoxton Station.

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I’ve Found God –  In Harlesden!

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iSandals, Kilburn High Road Tube Station.

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Kilburn High Road Station.

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Kiosk, Harlesden.

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Meet N’ Greet, Old Compton Street Soho.

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Mind, Queen’s Park Tube Station.

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More Fishy Business, Harlesden.

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Nero Fiddles.  Soho.

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Old Lady Checks Out The Video Games, Harlesden.

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Old Man (From Iceland?), Harlesden.

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Old Man Returns From Tesco Metro, Harlesden.

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On Waterloo Bridge.

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On Waterloo Bridge Too.

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One Man And His Dog Asleep, Soho.

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Oxo Tower, South Bank.

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Peacock Lady, Harlesden.

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Platform Edge. Kilburn High Road.

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Pizza Delivery, Harlesden.

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Ragga And Flowers. Harlesden.

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Riverside Restaurant Terrace, Chiswick Mall.

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Roisin In Full Flow, Harlesden.

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Sexting? West Hampstead Tube Station.

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Satellite Alley, Harlesden.

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Texting Alley, Berwick Street, Soho.

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The Station Manager.

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The Violinist, Piccadilly.

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Tunnel Of Lurve.  Shoreditch.

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Underground, Baker Street.

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Vintage Merc. Kensal Rise.

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Walk On By, Soho.

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Watch This Space, Selfie Reflection, Shoreditch.

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Waterloo Bridge.

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Waterloo Sunset.

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West End Gurls.

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What’s cookin’? Soho.

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Wigstock, Harlesden.

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Wigstock Too.

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Wigstock 3 (By Gilbert And George?)

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Willesden Junction, Night.

Canal Knowledge. Grand Union. 2013 – June 2014.

26 Jun

Graffiti Blue Bridgeshipwreck-too Instagram pics taken along the Grand Union Canal in Harlesden, Ladbroke Grove, Kensal Green and Park Royal in London in 2013 and 2014.

Taken on my iPhone using the Camera Plus Pro app, then converted into Instagram en masse later. All photos © Steve Swindells.ImageImageImage

ImageGreen Gaffiti BridgeThe ghost of Hunter S thompsonThe White Stripes

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