Archive for January, 2009

The Alps

Friday, January 30th, 2009

I’m currently listening to Something I Might Regret. I doubt it though.

I spend a fair amount of time at least checking new bands – though I confess that my attention span tends to be slim these days. A few seconds on MySpace at best sometimes.

But I got an email from Sam a few days ago. He plays in a band called The Alps, “hailing from the cobbled maritime backstreets of old Greenwich town,” no less.

Sam knows how to melt a jaded Phantom’s heart. And here’s a tip. Sending a picture of swaggering young men posing in the Painted Hall guarantees a spin on the spectral decks.

Ok, I thought. The usual thirty seconds. I might even give it forty-five, since they’re local.

I listened to everything.

So – how do I describe The Alps? There’s certainly something retro about them. I’m thinking early 80s guitar-based alt-pop. I can hear The Fall in there somewhere (and also, possibly a tad distressing for them, Duran Duran…) but there’s a little more than that in there. Perhaps some post-Aztec Roddy Frame? Yeah. A bit more reflective, but not gloomy enough for Morrissey.

I turn to their biog. Ah yes – a “confident and stylish brand of 3 minute pop gems.” Well, I’ll give ‘em points for chutzpah. But – hey – I was right – 1980s. Yesss. The Phantom links a finger and marks up an imaginary point for hearing nearly-correct influences (ok, perhaps not the Duran Duran…) I didn’t hear the ‘folk music and sea shanties’ though. I guess I won’t make it onto Buzzcocks after all.

I haven’t been to see them live yet – they’ve not been performing recently, though Sam tells me that they’re planning some gigs for Feb. When they do I’ll try to get along. I’m determined to go to more gigs this year. These guys are intriguing.

I understand that 2009 is one for electro-pop from the girls; that guitar-bands will have to work harder to get where they’re going. But from what I hear of the Alps, they might just do it…

Hear their new single Obstacle Race here

Playing Catch Up

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Folks – once again I have to apologise – I’m getting bogged down with mail and it’s taking me forever to deal with it all.

I love getting your questions, comments and hot gossip – so please – don’t stop sending it. Just don’t hold your breath for me answering it quickly.


Clash In The Attic

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

For once, this terrible pun is not from the Phantom’s pen – but I couldn’t think of a better title for this post.

I was sent a press release from Chris Merriman, the human face of a new internet project, based in that hot-bed of rock & roll, Charlton, which aims to create an archive of rock memorabilia – the kind of thing that most of us tend to squirrel away in files and boxes never to be looked at again until the House Clearance brigade move in.

We’re talking archive and bootleg footage from gigs, fanzines, interviews and photos of rock legends (and presumably not-so-legendary pop acts…) that you might have knocking around that you’d like to see earn you a bit of cash.

Rokpool already has a load of previously unseen footage/photos etc of famous stars like Zepplin, Clapton and The Beatles, but it’s looking for more before its launch to the cyberworld. I assume it will be a bit like a cross-media photo library. If you’re holding something really interesting, it could earn you an absolute mint, and this sounds like a very exciting project.


The talk of ‘unique licensing arrangements’ in the press release intrigues me. A word to the wise. Read any contracts VERY carefully, and don’t be afraid to challenge aspects you don’t like.

I have absolutely no reason to believe that Rokpool is anything other than completely up-front and honest – and I think it will be a valuable addition to the music world – but it is (or will be, at least) part of the wider Music Business. Any music contract should be scrutinised (and, if necessary, argued) down to the last comma.

But, caveat aside, this looks like a brilliant idea. If you’re sitting on a gem, contact Chris at

So – The Dwarf Orchard?

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Did any of you go to the working party a couple of weeks ago to start tackling the Dwarf Orchard? It was on weekdays, so many people (including me) couldn’t make it – but I’d like to know how it went. I had a peek through the gates, but all I could make out was a giant box of footballs that must have been lost over the wall…

That Silvertown Crossing

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Following the talk about the foot tunnel yesterday, Dazza sent me this map, with the proposed Silver town crossing.

I direct you to this article about where it all currently stands (as far as I can see.) I like the idea of a bridge – but surely the road that would lead into it is already a bottleneck? On the plan above the little yellow line disappears into somewhere around the tunnel entrance.

It’s a nice idea, but I don’t really get how it would work in practice…

The Dark Hole of Doom

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Richard asks:

“I was wandering down to Wickes along Blackheath Road yesterday to buy a new paintbrush when I happened to notice a large hole (maybe a couple of metres square) in the pavement. It’s right on the corner of the cross roads, where Blackheath Rd meets Lewisham Rd. Being a nosy sort, I peered in as far as I could (it was surrounded by a safety fence and already full of obligatory random rubbish like beer bottles and shoes – grrrrr).

Interestingly, there seemed to be a brick passage that ran off from the hole, in the direction of Lewisham.

Any idea what this may be and how far it runs? How did the hole come to be exposed anyway?”

The Phantom replies:

I haven’t seen this. Are you sure it’s not part of the seemingly-everlasting programme of water mains replacement? Though I confess a brick-lined passage says ‘sewer’ to me. In Victorian times, even the humblest of sewers were rather beautifully executed, which makes them look like secret tunnels rather than back passages…

If it’s not either of those, then I have no clue. Has anyone else seen this hole – or does anyone know what it is?

Tunnel Vision

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Time and Tide may wait for no man, but it seems Tunnels might just have to get in line. Ross and I have been discussing the broken lift at the south end of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel.

Ross’s New Year’s resolution of cycling to work in Holborn (gulp) hasn’t got off to a very good start as he hates having to lug his bike down the steps (I guess it could be considered all part of the workout…)so

“I took the opportunity this morning to speak to the chap in the north-side lift about it and, whilst being slightly cagey, suggested that it might not be worked upon anytime soon due to “political reasons”. What those might be, he didn’t know. The only notice on the lift itself says something along the lines of “out of order until further notice,” he says.

As IanVisits told me recently, there is a major refurb planned for both the Greenwich and Woolwich tunnels. But Ross is worried.

“I could be completely wrong here but it rather sounds like work on the Tunnel (including the lifts) might cease until the refurbishment proper. And, as the article below suggests this won’t be finished until 2011, should we expect the south-side lift (and whatever else conks out in the meantime) to be out of use for the foreseeable future?”

I have a horrid feeling Ross may be right. Does anyone know anything about this?

Laser Love

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Back in the late 90s, while on part of a nationwide initiative to tart up all of France’s cathedrals, it occurred to the mayor of Amiens that the beautiful Cathedral there had probably not always been quite so – well – tastefully monochrome in its appearance. That in its medieval heyday, all the saints and decorations would have been a riot of colour, painted in varying garish hues, bringing the place to life.

Sure enough, as the decorations right on top of the cathedral were given a spruce-up, traces of the original paints were found. The mayor was delighted and not a little smug.

Now, even given it being the millennium and all, the Mayor knew that no one was going to wear his climbing up the scaffolding in smock and beret and painting all the saints’ beards red again.

But the French are very good at many things – and son-et-lumiere is just one of many including the obvious – champagne, Bouillebasse and the Gallic Shrug. At a cost of heaven-knows-how-much, a specially-cut laser gobo was attached to a projector, and now, for an hour each evening in summer, Amiens cathedral is lit to look like it would have done around 700 years ago.

I have never seen it, so I confess to having borrowed a picture from this website, where you can find more examples of just how great it looks, as well as what it looks like during the day.

Now. I was visiting the Queen’s House on Saturday. And one thing you can’t level at the Queen’s House is garishness. In fact, for a place that’s seen so much history, I find it hard to get any real feel of what went on in there. There are some fabulous paintings, and the building itself is seminal – I would call it austerely beautiful. But as a place where so much happened, it’s soulless. I get no sense of anyone living – or doing anything – here. Its a sophisticated, tasteful art gallery. But that’s it.

On Open House Day last year, I went to Marlborough House to see the Gentileschi paintings that originally adorned those sad, empty, achingly beautiful ceiling panels in the cube room of the Queens House. It reminded me how much a bit of colour would bring some life to those empty roundels I saw on Saturday.

Of course there’s no way the Commonwealth Secretariat will ever let us have those paintings back (hell – they won’t even let you photograph them…) but I understand that back in the 90s, there was a similar experiment to the Mayor of Amiens’s laser display to put the pictures on the Queen’s House ceiling by projection.

I keep reading very sniffy accounts of how the Queen’s House was in the 90s, largely, it seems, by purists who didn’t like the idea of populating the place with fake furniture and rooms of – goodness – different period styles. I can’t really comment on that – I don’t remember it. I only went once (you had to pay back then – not everything is worse these days…) and it was ages ago.

The guidebooks I have from the 70s and 80s appear to have a totally different picture in that centre circle, ‘attributed to Sir James Thornhill.’ I have absolutely no idea what happened to that. Was it painted-out in an attack of ‘taste?’ If it was, then I’m against the ’90s update too. The Maybe-Thornhill might not be part of the original Jones plan – but neither is a blank white space.

Now we have nothing. A dull building that was once Glamour Personified.

Why did this Scanachrome projection of the Gentileschi murals stop?

Maybe it was considered old-fashioned, and went out the same time as the rest of the ’90s ‘improvements.’ Throwing the baby out with the bathwater, perhaps.

Maybe the images were a bit fuzzy. Well – just take a peek at those saints on Amiens Cathedral. And they’re 3D statues. Lasers can do amazing things these days.

Perhaps it was that old perennial – cash. But hang on. They’ve just been given twenty million quid. But – oh, sorry. That’s for the maritime part of the museum. And maybe the Queen’s House is one of the poor relations who won’t see any of that.

To be honest, I don’t know why the projections went.

But now I’m asking. Can we have them back? What aesthetic harm would they do if the ceiling murals were projected for an hour a day, other than to perhaps bring a bit of much-needed life into a sombre building of great worthiness? It might even increase visitor numbers. (personally I’d have them animated too, so the figures would ‘dance’ – but maybe that is going a little too far…)

Do you remember the Scanachrome projection? Was it any cop? Would some laser-love brighten up this beautiful, currently-slightly-dull building?

Sad Beehive News

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Rebecca has just confirmed JohnSE’s note that Beehive will be closing at the end of the month. Apparently it just wasn’t really worth it to just serve coffee – and I guess there was no room to serve anything else.

There’s a small silver lining to the cloud this brings to anyone who’s ever enjoyed a cup of the best coffee in Greenwich. They will continue to sell their coffee at the Nevada Street Deli – and, I understand, will honour the loyalty card system too.

It’s good-ish, I guess, but I liked having them both. I had always cherished dreams of Beehive moving into that shrine to 60s Mod culture, the Coffee Cellar in Turnpin Lane, (which always used to be the best coffee in Greenwich until it died last year…)

Maybe when things calm down financially….

Free The Pingu One!

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Today, I have to bring to your attention a disgraceful matter.

A violation of Basic Penguin Rights, happening under our very noses, as the seeming ‘charity shop’ on the corner of Blackwall Lane and Pelton Road subjects this poor pantomime penguin to living in a freezing back yard, with just a stripy scarf to protect him against the cruelty of the elements and a mere wheelie bin to sleep in.

His crime? As yet unproven – but he is incarcerated under suspicion of being ‘the wrong kind of penguin suit.’

It’s understandable how it happened. The shop specialises in evening wear.

Clearly whoever donated him to the store thought that he would find a decent home there, maybe a family who would love and cherish him. Instead he is forced to live in the yard, abandoned, frightened and alone. A poster-chick who screams:

“A Penguin Outfit is for life, not just your store’s promotion…”

As he pitifully peers through his prison bars, I urge you to join me in a letter-writing campaign to release this poor creature.* Or maybe you could go one better and adopt him. He’ll need a fair bit of wringing-out after yesterday’s cruel rainstorms, but a rescue-penguin can give years of joy.

I have a friend who once rescued a pantomime duck. I leave you to fill in the obvious puns…

*It’s possible that this penguin isn’t an outfit at all, but another persecuted minority, the Giant-Fairground-Stuffed-Toy. This does nothing to alleviate the situation. Carney-Penguins have rights too.