Many years ago I wrote a (thankfully) now-discontinued blog that for some strange reason had thousands of readers but was – in hindsight – shamefully shit. Occasionally, however, it was vaguely tolerable and its saving grace was its musical recommendations, in a time before YouTube, Soundcloud and Spotify.
Accessing the vaults, it seems that on this day 10 years ago, while living in Stoke Newington, I felt the need to document my walk to work while listening to my trusty Sony CD Walkman (note how this is even mentioned this with a hint of pride below). Here’s a little bit of time travel to a time before Dalston was “Dalston”. Even if the writer needs a good retroactive slap for being a twat, at least the tunes are still awesome.
Walking to work
8.47am: I check the time and realise it’s time to split. Careful analysis of weather (sunny and mild) and mood (sunny and mild) results in the selection of two homemade funk compilations as the morning’s soundtrack – Easter Funk 1 and Easter Funk 3, so-called because they were compiled at Easter. At the last minute I remember my evening’s plans (a launch for the FACT presents ART exhibition of Glastonbury photos at Phonica Records) and throw a pair of heels in my bag in case I feel like being 6ft for the night. We’re off.
Track 1: Erucu, Jermaine Jackson Man, this is one mother of a track. Old Jezza certainly had the funk back then – before he got lost in the Michael vortex and started calling his kids Jermajesty and the like. Outside TAC Wedding Warehouse on Stoke Newington Road, I pass an old lady immaculately kitted out in lilac and long gloves. As I head past Chris Dry Cleaners, the track reaches a bit with annoying samples of ‘cute’ kiddies’ voices, and I am reminded how much I hate that in songs. [EDIT: kids’ voices samples added by Larry Levan in a live mix from which this was ripped. Sorry JJ.]
Track 2: Rain, Dorothy Morrison As Dot starts belting it out about bad weather, the sun goes behind a cloud. I pass Somine café, a place the Frenchman has always insisted sells the best soup in Stokey. It’s never appealed. The Rio is screening Pedro Almodóvar’s Bad Education for a limited time, but I realise I’m so poor this week I’m going to miss it. I march on into the grotty heart of Dalston – Kingsland High Street – which is fairly empty of people but, as always, full of rubbish.
Track 3: Can’t Hide From Yourself, Teddy Pendergrass I’ve really got a strut on now, this is one of the best tracks ever written – Sneak and Carter did a good job but still couldn’t touch it with their Can’t Hide From Your Bud… The fish and meat shops are pungent as usual, and I wonder if the phone-card dealers sitting at their suspiciously-portable tables are as dodgy as they look. The sign outside American Beauty for Thermoslimmer promises ‘lightning-fast performance’. If only – I’ve got that Mallorca trip coming up next week…
Track 4: Shakara, Fela Kuti It’s proper sunny now as I pass the knock-off Nikes stall on Boleyn Road and narrowly avoid bowling over a drunk old codger who swerves into my path outside ScooterDen (owned by George Dennison, who sells scooters). The toes on my left foot are starting to lose circulation, a legacy of my drunken foot-breaking incident last summer, but I stride on regardless past the Downham Road Ladbrokes and over Regents Canal. There appears to be the remains of a giant birthday cake, the kind strippers leap out of, floating in the murky water, but there’s no time to investigate further, as my Sony CD Walkman has started to skip. I pause in the shadow of the mosque and sort it out, and take the opportunity to get a photo of the truly frightening Russian Pub signage as well.
Track 5: Get Happy, Jimmy ‘Bo’ Horne A tramp is punching the new bus ticket machine outside the Sowers Church as an old duck getting a blue rinse at Charlie’s Angels salon looks on aghast. I can see the spire of my old next-door neighbour, Shoreditch Church, in the distance, and smile fondly at the memories. Outside the Royal Standard pub on Kingsland Road, a Hoxtonite on a bike comments on my trainers (Adidas Melbournes). The Geffrye Museum is looking particularly green and lush this morning – I really must stop being a philistine and actually go there soon, I’ve been walking past it for years now.
Track 6: Leaders Of The New School, Mt Airy Groove Past Retford Street, and I notice my old flat is up for lease again. A man is drooling over a selection of trowels in the window of the hardware shop while over the road, a bendy bus stalls but, for once, doesn’t burst into flames.
Track 7: If You Want Me To Stay, Sly & The Family Stone Hanging a right and approaching Hoxton Street, I glance up towards the Red Lion, outside which two old men in hats are laughing in the sunshine. On spotting a poster for The Cooler, I make a note to hype it up in the blog, as it looks superb – William H Macy rocks. As I hotfoot it into Hoxton Square, a woman standing outside White Cube asks me if this is Hoxton Square. Er, yes.
Track 8: The Donkey, Whitefield Brothers I pass another old flat, above the ever-rubbish Liquid Bar on Pitfield Street, and wonder who lives there now and how they are putting up with the floor-shaking traffic noise. The bar around the corner on Old Street was formerly called Bar 150 (all drinks £1.50), then Bar 160 (drinks £1.60). Now it’s called Bar 170, but drinks are £1.80. Go figure. All’s quiet at the fire station this morning – a change from the heady evenings of summer 2001, when the firemen used to dangle a fake spider on a string onto the unsuspecting Hoxton hordes to hilarious effect.
Track 9: Don’t Fight The Feeling, Sound Experience Old Street station looms, as do a number of station gyps. I put my phone away, on which I have been taking notes, and descend into the subterranean world to complete my journey. I feel good.