When one of our locals reopened the other day, I was delighted to discover this poster in pride of place. It harks back to the pub’s glory days, now known as the Ivy House but then called the Newlands Tavern, one of the top venues on the pub rock circuit (and one of the scene’s sole outposts south of the river).
The pub – which narrowly escaped being gutted thanks to the local community who banded together to save it from the evil clutches of the developers – has retained much of its original character (albeit somewhat marred these days by the near-constant presence of toddlers and strollers – don’t get me started about kids in pubs). It’s easy to imagine the likes of Ian Dury, Joe Strummer, Elvis Costello and Dr Feelgood whipping up a well-lubricated crowd in the main room, and indeed I took the opportunity to try out a Wilko Johnson-style duck walk on the stage one recent closing time.
Tonight I’ll get the chance to see that duck walk for real when Wilko Johnson plays Koko in Camden, something I never thought I’d have the chance to do when he announced he had terminal pancreatic cancer earlier this year. Rather wonderfully, however, following a farewell tour earlier in the year, Johnson has managed to keep his illness at bay and, to the delight of fans, has been able to schedule new gigs as he feels up to it.
I’m so excited about being able to see a man that is not only one of my all-time guitar heroes but one of music’s greatest personalities. Whether or not you’re a fan of the Feelgoods’ music (and the likes of Joe Strummer, Paul Weller, Andy Gill and Blondie can’t be wrong), you can’t help but fall utterly under Wilko Johnson’s spell.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to catch him in full throttle in Julien Temple’s excellent Oil City Confidential yet, you’re missing out – see also the BBC Radio 4’s recent Mastertapes: Wilko Johnson which is simply delightful (“Pedals? I’m a guitar player, not a cyclist!”)
As for tonight, given it’s likely to be the first and only time I’ll catch this marvellous man, there are bound to be a few tears – but I imagine I’ll be crying with laughter too.