Posted by: ralphmexico | August 30, 2012


The London culture bunker remained open for business as the Olympic battles raged.  A Yoko Ono exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery.  A Damien Hirst exhibition at the Tate Modern.  An Andy Warhol exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery.  An Etchings of Picasso exhibition at the British Museum.  Is this list fooling any of you listeners into thinking I have the foggiest notion about art?  ‘Cos I sure ain’t fooling myself.  Today, art is my MacGuffin.  Or something.
Yoko placed a “Wishing Tree” outside the Serpentine Gallery, encouraging punters to write down a wish on a piece of paper and attach it to the tree.  The message the tree said to the world was “Dreams can come true”.  The message the tree said to me was “Never trust a hippy”.
Inside, things improved a shade.  The show, “To The Light”, was a multi-media retrospective of the batty Jap’s career.  Having put in the hours with The Beatles’ books there was one exhibit that I craved to see more than any other – the first piece of art from Yoko that grabbed John Lennon’s attention in the 1960’s. 
And sure enough, there it was.  A step-ladder, a large magnifying glass hanging from the ceiling, and a tiny bit of writing on a white wall in the distance.  I climbed the ladder.  I looked through the magnifying glass.  I read the writing on the wall.  It said (as it said 45 years ago) “Yes”.  
Lennon had his mind blown by the piece, and by the artist.  He divorced his wife, married Yoko, broke up The Beatles, wrote “Imagine”, and got popped by a nutter in New York.  I wasn’t that impressed.  But I’ll steer clear of The Big Apple for a while anyway.
The Damien Hirst exhibition was another “Best Of” career overview.  Hirst has had a financially rewarding time, however his artistic legacy is slight if not wholly insignificant.  Cutting up a few cows, drawing some dots, giving a name to a dud U2 album is not exactly chopping off your own ear, painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, or coming up with “Liberty Belle & The Black Diamond Express”.
The Warhol stuff on show was the same old, lame old silk-screens of famous heads we’ve all seen before.  The best part of that day was the journey to and from the gallery in Dulwich, a part of South London I’d never been to before.  Brixton was the nearest tube station so I got to walk down Coldharbour Lane and Electric Avenue, off Brixton High Street.
Further music landmarks were ticked off apres-exhibition by catching a bus to Portobello Road, visiting the original Rough Trade record shop, walking “Under The Westway”, before hiking across town and up to the top of Primrose Hill where (in Damon Albarn’s words) “the view’s so nice”.  I paused a while atop o’ the hill, looking out over the city.  “I have conversed with the spiritual sun.  I saw him on Primrose Hill” wrote William Blake.  I saw no spiritual sun.  I talked to nobody.  So it goes.   
The Picasso etchings were Pablo’s trademark “Woman with six breasts, five eyes and no left arm” fare.  I went to school with girls from Meelin so there was nothing new in those sketches for me.  I didn’t dally.  Ho-hum.
OK listeners, forget art let’s dance.  It’s time to add a little music to my stay.  Billy Bragg was giving a free song-writing class in the Southbank Centre.  I turned up.  Everyone else had an acoustic guitar and looked earnest.  I was instrument-less and chancing my arm.  Captain Clipboard at the door wanted to know what my angle was.  I said I played the piano and could hardly bring one with me.  This kind of awkwardness did not compute in his square brain.  He started nervously looking around for help.  I bailed him out by confessing I was only twisting his melon, “I actually play the bodhran, but its at the shop being tuned”.
So, no song-writing class for me.  I did watch Billy doing his “Big Busk” thing by the banks of the Thames later that day though.  “Daydream Believer”, “Alright” by Supergrass, “Eighteen” by Ed Sheeran, and a unique take on the theme from “Chariots Of Fire”, complete with a clarinet sole from a ten year old boy, were the highlights of a fun-filled hour.
On the last day of the Olympics, a massive closing ceremony gig in Hyde Park featured some of the finest British bands of the last forty years.  And Blur.
New Order served up a short greatest hits package.  The Specials dished up the same set as they played in the driving rain at Oxegen 2009, except this time they omitted “Ghostown”.  That would have been too stark a portrait of Britain for the happy-clappy hordes.
The big screen was showing Madness playing at the official closing ceremony across London when Blur arrived on-stage and launched into “Girls & Boys”.  By accident of design, this merely illustrated what Blur truly are: a minor Madness. 
When they played it dark and heavy they were sublime.  Slow planes passed overhead towards Heathrow as flawless renditions of “Out Of Time” and “Beetlebum” thrilled.  The problems arose when the “‘Ow’s about a knees-up then?” factor kicked in.  “Sunday Sunday”, “Country House”, and “Parklife” (especially “Parklife”) were monstrous, music-hall tat.  Chas & Dave drinking weak lager in a Camden boozer with The Wurzels.  Grim. 
I didn’t stay to the end, or even for “To The End”.  Instead I left, and got confused on the tube (it had been a long, hot day after all).  I ended up doing a couple of circuits of the Circle Line.  “This Is A Low”, indeed.
And there you have it.  The Olympics were over.  So was what could very easily be my final visit to London for quite some time.  The day before I flew home I stood on Waterloo Bridge, looking up the Thames with “Waterloo Sunset” playing in my headphones.  It was a poignant moment.  Ray Davies was singing about “Waterloo Station”, “the river” and “Paradise”.  I was unsure when I would ever see London again.  A braver man would have shed a tear.
“Ralph” Is A Tribute To The Residents, Obviously!!
Ralph Mexico

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