Leave The Capitol (Slates EP, 1981) (Youtube)
It will not drag me down
I will leave this fucking dump
I’ve lived in London for approx three decades and several factors have improved the quality of life here immensely since 1981:
- I came into existence, obviously
- Dedicated bus lanes mean that catching a bus is no longer automatically an hour-long journey of mystery. Indeed, the bus announcer lady even tells you what the stops are called now! “Clapton Girls Technology College” is the best-named bus stop.
- One is not forced to go to the Spanish Bar if one fancies an after-hours drink.
- Less crap on the streets generally, now they’ve got those sweepy-hoovery-uppy-things.
- They’ve knocked down the Astoria, one of the worst medium-sized gig venues in the universe. Good riddance.
- PRETS EVERYWHERE dear lord I love Pret and their semi-addictive mayonnaise.
The problems MES addresses in “Leave The Capitol” remain, however. Pub tables for the most part are still swimming in beer and ‘showbiz’ still whines about minute detail. People still bother you on the street — in fact, that’s got much worse.
It’s a hand on the shoulder in Leicester Square
On my first meandering visit to Covent Garden aged 15, I was approached by a heather-selling ‘gypsy’. Being extremely naive and Panglossian I thanked her for such a kind gift. People giving you random shit in the street! Free hugs! Why not accept this complimentary pen with the name of a recruitment agency written on it? Here’s a disgusting new flavour of chewing gum to try! That’s the sort of crazy loveable shit that happens in our thriving metropolis!
Of course the woman was expecting rather more in return than naive enthusiasm, and informed me that if I didn’t give her some money I would be cursed for ever. What a buzz harshener, dude. Didn’t she know we were in the Age of Aquarius? I duly coughed up a quid and decided to eschew my utopian ideals and become a cynical commuter from that day onwards. I learned to step off the escalator without breaking stride, and to cut through the back of Fitzrovia to avoid the horrors of Oxford Street. Never make eye contact with anyone, especially if they’re holding a clipboard. Expect everything to be awful, so you can be pleasantly surprised when it isn’t (c.f. most Londoners’ attitude toward the recent Olympics).
Thus I was inoculated against London’s shittiness early on. I rode my bike around the deserted wastelands of EC2 on a Sunday morning and admired the glass and steel. During bouts of insomnia, the dim roar of night buses reassured me that there was always at least one other person awake out there. I hung around in Shoreditch, Limehouse and Brick Lane, waiting for my band to become the Next Big Thing. I found other cities claustrophobic and was outraged at their lack of reliable public transport. London was definitely the place for me!
Recently though, I think my fondness for this Roman Shell might be wearing off. My old haunt of Camden is now a no-go area for any sensible person at the weekend. The shiny office blocks are less fascinating now I’ve had to spend 8 sunless hours a day inside them. 24-hour drinking means idiots yelling outside my window at 3am. As for buying a house — well dudes, I may as well feed all my money into a slot machine in individual 2p pieces. And I do kind of miss the Astoria really, if only for the dirt-cheap basement LA2 venue underneath it, selling Smirnoff Ices for 99p a pop.
But at least it’s better than Birmingham, right MES???!!!
Tired of London? Tired of Life? Try: Fit And Working Again (the recession around Victoria Station), Contraflow (I hate the countryside so much), Hard Life In Country (D. Bowie lookalikes permeate car parks).