The Well - January 09
Just walked past Steve's old house in Princedale Road in Notting Hill, dropping off some borrowed Chelsea season tickets, lent by a kindly eye surgeon - I suppose that's one way of ensuring you get a good view of the game.
The house hasn't changed much on the outside and the street is still as salubrious as ever, with old haunts such as Julie's Wine Bar just around the corner - where Steve hosted an end of tour party (does any one know which tour?) - and the Singapore Mandarin up on the Holland Park Avenue, which used to have a small dance-floor and a resident steel band, so no prizes for guessing where Steve may have got some of his ideas in the 1980's. We've been back recently with the Hacketts, but the steel band has long gone and the Singapore Slings just made me sleepy and slurred. (Am I getting old? Yesterday I was stopped in the Fulham Road by my ex chiropractor who asked me whether I had retired!)
The extortionately expensive Halcyon Hotel is almost opposite, the scene of a hilarious meal with John Hackett - but more of that later, perhaps. We'd pile back to Steve's house after the shows at the Hammersmith Odeon, slightly nervous, but keen to fit in and mingle with the usual suspects, such as John Shearer - now a magician - and the inimitable Pete Hicks - a vegan, who is soon to release an album with that famous carnivore, Nick Magnus. (Last night I was back in Hammersmith at the newly-named Apollo to see Mr Jason Donovan. A few months earlier I was there to see Lou Reed with a close friend and a friend of his, both no longer with us.)
I looked slim and young (I was!) in Steve's floor to ceiling living-room mirror, dressed in my Johnson's shirts, Fiourucci jeans and those Westwood/Maclaren T- shirts - one I still own, bought by my dear mother from a shop on King's Road called 'Sex', emblazoned with a photograph of Gary Gilmore being executed by electric chair - or was it firing squad? Steve is sure it was a firing squad. Thanks Mum.
Walking home today, a lot less slim and definitely devoid of any punk apparel, I took the mazy route past the Holland Park mansions, including Jimmy Page's gothic pile and Branson's London town house, towards High Street Kensington - for a long time a major artery to our lives, along with King's Road, where everyone would buy impossibly tight loons at the recently-demolished Kensington Market and watch the shoplifters in Biba.
Does anyone else remember that guy with the placard, who was convinced he was Jesus Christ? He seemed to be at all the gigs at that that time and was even up on stage at a 'Can' gig (one of my favourite bands ever!) at Imperial College, who generously jammed along with him until he finally gave up and left - now, of course we'd all be able to see the event on Youtube. I recall I was outside Derber Shoes at the bottom of Kensington Church Street when I finally decided to have a chat with the great man, who seemed rather lost and forlorn. He completely blanked me. Perhaps it was my T-shirt; but I hope to this day he wasn't really Jesus.
The Royal Garden Hotel is still there - famous for being the only place where the victorious England football team of 1966 paraded their trophy (a proper parade? Well, no one expected us to win!) - and where later a frustrated Steve Hackett squeezed the life out of a wine glass at a reception for the Alex Harvey Band, severing vital tendons - resulting in the hasty rescheduling of Genesis gigs and hours of surgery. The Monkees waved to hysterical fans from one of its rooms overlooking Kensington Gardens (I recently asked for the very same room and they looked at me as if I was mad!) and a triumphant Yuri Gagarin drove past in an open top car after he orbited the planet. (Does anyone remember Witchety's, the all night restaurant on the corner of Earl's Court Rd., where there was that evening with the American heiress turned female wrestler, Kid Creole and several of his Coconuts?)
Kensington Palace is next door, where somehow a posh girl painter we knew from St Martin's managed to make her drunken way inside, only to be accosted by a toff in a dressing gown and promptly arrested. She was offered a spicy photo session for a Sunday broadsheet, but declined on grounds of decency.
A quick left and it's on to Palace Gate. Steve once rented a rather luxurious mansion flat here, where I recall him showing us the artwork for the cover of 'Wind and Wuthering'. The upmarket environs of Gloucester Road was stark contrast to a previous flat Steve rented in gloomy Saltram Crescent, Kilburn, shared with Dave Jacobsen, the Genesis sound engineer. Genesis were away touring America and the flat had a few sitters, including a very blonde German beauty-therapist who worked somewhere in Knightsbridge, close to a club in Balfour Place called 'The Process', where bells rang and people disappeared upstairs for 'processing', while I remained downstairs in the cafe, obliviously consuming large amounts of 'Riso Pilipino' - fried brown rice with onions and a fried egg on top - before nipping round the corner to Hyde Park for a game of 5-a-side football, where on Sunday afternoons there would be a formidable team of Irish priests and a menagerie of waiters from the Park Lane hotels kicking the life out of each other. One day T-Rex ambled past and joined in, sadly minus Marc Bolan. (No jokes please about priests being good at crosses!)
'The Process' was always full of American rich-kids who were constantly being 'grounded'. One, whose mother was in Kubrick's 'Paths of Glory', had a massive house in Cheyne Walk, with Warhol's on the stairs, a juke-box and a lift - there was even a telegram from the Kennedy's lying around . Someone else's dad produced the Rolling Stones. At the time of all this high-powered social-mixing I was working in Littlewoods in Oxford Street, collecting plates on trays in the canteen with a bunch of skinheads and a silent Asian gentleman who stacked the dishwasher with stoical dignity and left for home dressed in a three - piece suit, carrying a briefcase and rolled umbrella. Mungo Jerry was having his big hit, 'In the Summertime', a song I always associate with skinheads punching their fists through plastic trays and a shy, dignified Asian man looking on with contempt.
There was a party at the Kilburn flat when Mike Rutherford showed me snapshots of the tour and Dave played various recordings he'd made from the sound-desk - including one in LA when Peter Gabriel apparently climaxed Supper's Ready dressed as Santa Claus. Where are those tapes now? And what happened to all those white-label acetates of The Lamb that were lying around? Roberta Flack's 'Killing Me Softly' was often playing on Dave's hi-fi , along with Harris's 'MacArthur Park'- a Genesis favourite, I believe. 'Someone left the cake out in the Rain'- surely Jimmy Webb's surreal and potently symbolic lyrics must have caught the eye of a young Mr Gabriel.
Burglars would climb in through the windows at night and the ceiling fell in shortly after Steve left.