Sunday, 13 June 2010

Cheapo - slight return

Some days or weeks after my visit to Cheapo's old premises on January 19th  I went back - and this time actually crossed the road and pressed my camera against the window pane. Not much was visible on the day itself and I didn't bother uploading the photograph here, as one pile of debris looks pretty much like another, but that worn floor in the image taken from flickr in the prevous post now makes the following foggy image more readable, so here it is: Click to make it larger.



Sad, isn't it? When people talk about the guts being ripped out of a building, this must be what they mean. Even with the two images side by side, however, the more recent photograph is still hard to read with certainty, though presumably the dark rectangle through which the ladder cuts is the back half of the shop which once stocked my beloved jazz/nostalgia CDs. Confusing because what may be packing crates in front appear to join up with the darker shape to make a separate object.

Note, too, the red tiling on the right of the frame: presumably this shiop had other stories before the late Phil's. The more I look at this image, the more it seems sort of attractive, reminiscent of Vuillard or someone like that:: all these different patterns together. And the emptiness tells its own story for those who knew Cheapo. I haven't cropped the picture, by the way: that's just as it came out when I pressed my camera agains the glass and hoped for the best.

Mother of mercy, is this the end of Cheapo? (In this blog, I mean.) Perhaps. Though I'll probably go back periodically and look at what's there. There is also the small matter of a piece of writing which never got written - it was one of several treatments for a series of short radio plays about the area. Don't know if I want to do it now, but I'll see if I can find the sheet and copy it here. Done, as far as I remember, in the slightly annoying and mannered style of an Edinburgh writer whose name I've forgotten, but involving an exchange between the male regulars of a shop very much like Cheapo and a would-be female customer.

But what I remember most strongly is something which didn't make it in to the synopsis and doesn't really make all that much sense: an idea of the narrator or protagonist of the piece going downstairs to the basement and having - and this is what I can't quite describe - some kind of a protective cage or protective barrier in some way connected with musical knowledge, or maybe it was about absorbing, from all the rich and varied stock, some kind of superstrength, I don't quite know. But I certainly know that Cheapo, from my earliest days of acquaintance with the shop, which more or less align with my earliest days in London, was a place of fascination and a place of comfort, a refuge, I suppose, inspiring the same sort of emotions in me as my first local libraries (which lent vinyl, as I've described in earlier entries). So on the one hand it was a place to avoid all that London had to offer, and to retreat to nostalgia for the buildings which had sustained me for so long in Scotland - but I'd prefer to say it was a place which allowed me to look beyond London and my social limitations to that international brotherhood to be found in those locations, now enshrined in legend, where twentieth century popular music blossomed: Memphis, Chicago, New York.

Although I would say that, wouldn't I?

As I review those words I recalled a fragment of lyric heard on an LP which my eldest brother (I think) was playing around the early seventies:
Seeing through the universe -
Thinking is the best way to travel
As he had LPs by such groups as the Deviants I thought for many years that what I had heard was from the same sort of underground bag; it was only relatively recently, filling one of the many idle moments for which the net was made, that I found out it was the Moody Blues. Which also makes me think that the instrumental runoff, if that's the correct technical term, for the Ben E King recording of I Who Have Nothing contains a few bars which may have "inspired" (if that's the correct term) part of Nights in White Satin, a song whose fatuousness was unrivalled until the appearance of Bo Rhap. [Note to a colleague: just my opinion. I may be wrong. Aside: I'm not.]

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