Saturday, July 02, 2011

Now that's really something

I was lying awake this morning thinking about Edinburgh and about how certain streets and places connect directly to memories from my late teens and early twenties. The particular street I was thinking of is in the west end of Edinburgh, and connects Haymarket to Fountainbridge.

  • A family from a "community" near Ullapool (in the far north west of Scotland), whose two red-headed sons went to my school, had a flat in the street. (The first time I ever saw the older son, the one who was in my class, he was opening the car door outside the school as we drew up behind - he then bolted away down the street in the opposite direction, which I would also have been doing if I'd had the guts. For both of us, it should have been our first day at that school; it ended up just being mine because, as we were solemnly informed, he had "school phobia"; he didn't appear for another few weeks.) I was a bit intimidated by their flat: the parents rarely seemed to be there, and it was known as a drug hangout and a place to go after the pubs closed. My brother was friends with the younger son and in my prejudiced assessment, if he was drinking hard liquor at the age of 13, it was because he used to go that flat.
  • Me and my friends used to go a rockabilly nightclub (believe it or not such things were very trendy in the late 80s)  in Morrison Street, in the basement of the now long-gone White Swan pub, called "The Lazy H"; there, Edinburgh hipsters kicked the night away to an eclectic mix of "The House Of Bamboo", "At the Hop", and northern soul scene favourites like "Cross the Tracks". To get home from the White Swan, we'd walk along the street in the early hours. 
  • There, after a night dancing  at the Lazy H, I stood in a doorway talking to a friend and watched my much-lamented ex-boyfriend's brother, David (a dark-haired, good looking, insouciant character who first put the idea into my head of studying law; he was a law student at Aberdeen and it seemed very glamorous. Needless to say, when I actually went to Aberdeen, the scales fell away), walking along the street hand in hand with his new girlfriend, a very attractive girl called Louise, who always makes me think of this song. Louise had ringlets, but it seemed to work; she looked like Lisa Bonet. I was madly jealous of her, because she seemed to have everything.
  • When I started my job as a legal editor in 1993, I soon got terrible shoulder and back pain from poor posture while editing (this was in the days before computers, so I was sitting at a desk looking down). I went to a chiropractor and he cracked me around: the pain went immediately, in a rush of relief so powerful that it was almost like taking a drug. His clinic was in the same street. I enjoyed it so much that despite the cost I went back for a second session; he gently told me I didn't need to come back for a third. Not all chiropractors are charlatans.
  • My sister and I went for dinner with a friend of hers who had a flat there. It was in the days when everyone had just discovered woks and lots of people had one, but few people knew how to use them properly (soggy soy broccoli anyone?). My sister's friend had made a stir-fry with ginger, but had sliced the ginger into large chunks. I bit enthusiastically into a piece, thinking it was a nice juicy bit of chicken. This must surely equate to the moment (happily, not on the same evening)when my sister ate a piece of chalk that was nestling in a bowl of peanuts.
  • Me and my sister saw Edwyn Collins there, at Marcos Leisure Centre, in the early 1990s. He wore a checked "western" shirt with silver clips and (I could have sworn) a bolo tie, sat on a stool and played acoustic guitar to a hushed audience of devotees. To my sister's disappointment, he didn't play "The Coffee Table Song" (if you don't follow any other link, follow this one). I was hoping to see someone there who also (as a pseudonym, as it turned out) called himself Edwyn.

The street, of course, is Grove Street, but amazingly, I had such a mental block about the name that I couldn't remember it till I found it on Google Maps.


Anonymous said...

I don't think I was there, always I have seen him in some rather odd venues. A rockabilly bar in Essen, Germany being the strangest.

I did see you at another Edwyn Collins concert, although I think you were with a dark-haired, short(ish) guy - unless your sister was going through a Cabaret phase at the time. Edwyn Collins was playing with Roddy Frame and it was somewhere over near the University, Minto Street or thereabouts.

It is the right timeframe though, so perhaps my mind is playing tricks. Hasn't that area been knocked down now ? I really can't picture it at all although I must have passed by it a few times.


Claire said...

The MJ-ginger incident took place in Morningside, didn't it? And I'm pretty sure Coffee Table Song didn't come out until a few years after that gig.

That part of Embra has been undergoing quite a transformation. Gone are the breweries, to be replaced by bank HQs, luxury flats on the waterfront and expensive restaurants. Marco's wouldn't quite fit in but I haven't been down Grove Street for a while so I don't know if it's still there. I did live in that flat for a while in 98 though.

Louise. Ugh.

LottieP said...

Claire and I saw Aztec Camera at the Queens Hall, just after High Land Hard Rain came out. Claire went along beforehand to find out if it was sitting or standing, and the door was answered by Roddy Frame himself. He wrote on her ticket "To Claire. Hope you get a good seat. Roddy Frame". For a long time a bus stop in Clerk Street had a scratched message on it: "RODDY FRAME IS COOL". I firmly believe it to be true. (Claire, I hope you still have that ticket? I'm sure Simon would love to put it up on Edinburgh Gig Archive.)

But I never saw Edwyn and Roddy together, tgmolm (always with the pseudonyms), more's the pity.

I'm pretty sure MJ's ginger escapade was in her flat in Upper Grove Place, Claire. I only went there once. You remember Louise too? More details?

LottieP said...

Marcos Leisure Centre (why no apostrophe?!) is still there - it's the "A" on my little map in this post.

Anonymous said...

I think it might have been Queens Hall, although long after HLHR, perhaps 89-91. I was with my sister, I'll ask her if she can remember (unlikely).

It was an Edwyn Collins concert and Roddy Frame showed up to accompany Edwyn, perhaps for an encore, although he didn't sing.

99.9% certain I saw you there.

Anonymous said...

Why no apostrophe ?

Perhaps it was named in homage to the Filipino strongman Fernando, or his shoe-buying wife Imelda.

Anonymous said...

It must have been there after all:

Roddy Frame and Edwyn Collins. Tic Toc at Marco's, Edinburgh


19 Aug 1991

IT'S taken me 10 years to grow a fringe like Roger McGuinn's. Over that period Roddy Frame (Aztec Camera) and Edwyn Collins (Orange Juice) have gone from appearing at the Spaghetti Factory in Glasgow's Gibson Street as part of Postcard Records scene to appearing on the Festival Fringe dressed in black trousers and white shirts like waiters in an Italian restaurant.

Any ironies were almost certainly deliberate. This pair of pranksters know perfectly well that their brand of Glasgow camp (of which Edwyn was the architect) hold a special place in the hearts of many. The hall (packed to the gills) in Marco's Leisure Centre was helpfully sign-posted ''Hair Workshop'', just in case we got lost.

Variously augmented by Gary Sanctuary on sax and keyboards and guitarists Steve Skinner and Malcolm Ross, the duo picked and strummed their way though old favourites like Collins' Consolation Prize and Simply Thrilled Honey and Frame's The Boy Wonders and Oblivious alongside newer songs -- Graciously (Collins) and Spanish Horses (Frame) -- and covers (Dylan's I Threw It All Away and a suprisingly affecting Love's Been Good To Me).

Almost better than all that, though, was Rod and Eddie's double-act, improvised exchanges built around mock compliments and thoughts on today's youth culture: sort of Sweeney and Steen meet Victor and Barry. Some of it might even have got up the nose of Councillor Moira Knox, that's how trim a Fringe show it was.

Charlotte said...

Definitely the same one, and I know I was there (plus you saw me), but I have very litle recollection of Roddy's involvement. How strange. Great detective work, BTW.

Charlotte said...

Here's a slightly more surprising collaboration.

Charlotte said...

"The Coffee Table Song" was on Hope and Despair which was released in 1989.

Anonymous said...

I don't remember Roddy Frame singing. Apart from than, to paraphrase Casablanca,
I remember every detail. Edwyn wore a bolo tie, you wore blue.