‘Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name, but what’s confusing you is the nature of my game, just as every cop is a criminal and all the sinners saints, as heads is tails just call me Lucifer, because I’m in need of some restraint.’
Rolling Stones ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ – 1968
Apart from the adventure playgrounds, law centres and crèches, what have the hippies done for us?
The most enduring legacy of the 1968 student revolution in Notting Hill was the graffiti. The writing on the walls, largely attributed to the Situationist King Mob group, included William Blake’s ‘The tigers (tygers) of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction’ on Basing Street (on the north-east side of the Lancaster Road junction), ‘Religion = Opium’ on All Saints church, ‘Rachman was right’ on Colville Terrace, ‘Kars kill’ on the corner of All Saints Road and Westbourne Park Road, ‘The only race is the rat race’ and ‘Revolution Now’.
As well as his local history walks in International Times, Courtney Tulloch edited the 1968 black underground paper Hustler. The office was originally at 70 Ledbury Road, business inquiries were directed to 194 Westbourne Park Road and Tulloch lived on St Luke’s Road. Answers to the Hustler’s ‘What is The Grove?’ psychogeography survey were: ‘The Grove’s just much groovier, way ahead of other areas… A square mile of squalor… A nice homey area, but needs cleaning up… A social dustbin (The Times)… Our own Notting Hill, signs of a real underground community (International Times)… A really dirty area, rats, bad housing, nothing for the kids… The streets are too bumpy and you can’t rollerskate… Notting Hill and North Kensington – areas of anarchy and flux… A splendid sleaziness, of the sort the British like to think of as Mediterranean… A transit area for vagrants, gypsies and casual workers’, and the definitive ‘It’s the sort of place where you have to be because you can’t be anywhere else.’
The first issue contains pictures of Paris-style stencil graffiti proclaiming ‘The People’s Centre All Saints Church Hall – Let kids play on the squares’, the Powis Square ‘Trespassers will be prosecuted’ sign and children playing in the road. The features include ‘The Death of Ossie’s’ on the police closure of Ossie’s gambling club at 79 Ledbury Road.
There’s also the first ‘Turn on West Indian and English feasts’ advert for the new venture of El Rio Frank Crichlow, the Mangrove restaurant at 8 All Saints Road, the black community centre of the 70s and 80s.
In Days in the Life Courtney Tulloch recalls the move from the Rio at 127 Westbourne Park Road, after he found the new premises in the Kensington Post, as the turning point from the 50s hustling scene to 60s Black Power. If anything, this made the new venue of more interest to the police. As the Mangrove became the hippest Notting Hill restaurant of them all, ‘turn on West Indian and English feasts’ were served to Sammy Davis Junior, Marvin Gaye, Jimi Hendrix, Nina Simone, Sarah Vaughan, Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Four Tops, CLR James, Vanessa Redgrave and the cast of The Avengers. Frank Crichlow reminisced in the Kensington Source mag: “People would be waiting outside in cars until tables were free. The place was out of this world – in just a couple of months it was pop-u-lar… The place would be packed and we’d see the police peeping through the windows…”
While the hippy movement went horribly wrong with the Altamont and Charles Manson murders, to Quintessence ‘things look great in Notting Hill Gate, we all sit around and meditate.’ After getting it straight in All Saints hall with a lot of Grateful Dead-style ‘collective jamming’, Quintessence became the ultimate or worst progressive/jazz/blues rock eastern influenced cosmic hippy group. The Oz writer Jim Anderson had seen Quintessence ‘swanning around the Grove in their robes and sandals’, and was expecting ‘an oriental trip at least as heavy as George Harrison’s’. Getting It Straight in Notting Hill Gate is also the title of a short film by Joe Gannon, the Pink Floyd and Quintessence lighting whiz kid, featuring Quintessence, Caroline Coon of Release and the Mangrove restaurant on All Saints Road.
In the late 60s All Saints high church services were given by David Bowie during his mime phase, promoted by Doug Smith’s Clearwater Productions; the Crazy World of Arthur Brown of ‘Fire’ notoriety with Pegasus, Ron Geesin, Vincent Crane and the Action; the Edgar Broughton Band doing ‘Out Demons Out’, the Third Ear Band and Tina’s Light Theatre; Ram John Holder, the Foundations (then Ramon Sounds) of ‘Baby Now that I’ve Found You’ and ‘Build Me Up Buttercup’ fame, the Blue Notes steel band, and Keefe West’s production of Shakespeare in Harlem.
1970 August 9 As the Westway opened to traffic there was a re-housing protest on the hard shoulder, and on the same day there was a protest march under the flyover. In the late 60s and early 70s there seems to have been a demo in Notting Hill virtually every other day, while All Saints hall hosted at least one community action meeting a night.
The march was protesting about police persecution of the Mangrove, outside each of the 3 local police stations; the Notting Hill station on Ladbroke Road, Sirdar Road in Notting Dale, and the plan was to finish at Harrow Road. As the march went up Great Western Road, police attempts to divert it away from Harrow Road resulted in a mini-riot on Portnall Road, the arrest of 17 demonstrators, and the protracted trial of the Mangrove 9 – including the restaurant owner Frank Crichlow and the Black Power activist turned TV personality Darcus Howe.
Michael Storey’s Days in the Life recollection of All Saints Road, when he was working with the film-maker Horace Ove, included Michael X coming round at the height of his notoriety, boasting that “with 6 good guys” he could start a Black Power revolution: “Stokeley Carmichael came over to meet him… There were all these heavy black dudes everywhere… They were glamorous. They had something that I felt I hadn’t; it was going into another world. We used to go to each other’s houses and dance and play music all afternoon. Then I lived in St Luke’s Mews. The Mangrove was round the corner and I slipped into this whole lifestyle of not really doing anything. You had shebeens, the right music, open houses… Horace told me when I came with my pink cheeks that I wouldn’t last a year; I lasted less… I was busted outside the Mangrove, I got burgled by a junkie who I had staying in the flat, and then I left.”
Overlapping the West Indian Grove, Ceres restaurant cooked up the macrobiotic health food revolution next door to the Mangrove at 8a All Saints Road (later at 269 Portobello Road), comparatively unchallenged by the authorities. As well as dishing up muesli, bean stew and brown rice to the hippy festival masses, the Ceres Sams family were wholefood suppliers to the Bolans and the Lennons.
September 17/18 The day after Jimi Hendrix’s last gig at Ronnie Scott’s, he went to Kensington Market on the High Street (where Freddie Mercury of Queen was a stallholder at the time), and a party thrown by Mike Nesmith of the Monkees. After that he returned to Notting Hill for the last time, with his German ice skater girlfriend Monika Dannemann. He was reputedly last seen in Roy Stewart’s Globe bar at 103 Talbot Road and/or the Mangrove at 8 All Saints Road. On the morning of September 18 1970, Hendrix ended up on Ladbroke Grove in the basement of 22 Lansdowne Crescent. Having taken barbiturates earlier, he polished off a bottle of sleeping pills and was sick in his sleep.
In Once Upon A Time there was a place called Notting Hill Gate, the Wise brothers noted: “One truly sad incident vis-à-vis the dayglo desperate life of rebel stars. It was on All Saints that Jimi Hendrix – perhaps the greatest jazz-rock guitarist of all – on the eve of music entering into total eclipse, either ODed or committed suicide, leaving behind his dying-to-be-loved, final farewell on a piece of paper” – possibly referring to his last Ladbroke Grove poem. In a posthumous All Saints Road link the Hendrix estate refused permission for ‘Electric Ladyland’ material to be used in the All Saints group film Honest (directed by Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics). On the 30th anniversary of Hendrix’s death, Paula Yates, The Tube presenter ex of Bob Geldof, died of drugs misadventure in St Luke’s Mews off All Saints Road.
The Metro youth club, on the corner of Tavistock Crescent and St Luke’s Road, hosted an Alton Ellis and Duke Vin gig, and a police siege which ended in a youth breakout and another local trial. 1971 ended with 2 more Notting Hill trials at the Old Bailey, the Mangrove in Court 1 and the first of the Angry Brigade in Court 2. In the latter Jake Prescott was found guilty of conspiracy to cause explosions and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment; but the Mangrove 9 were acquitted of conspiracy to cause riot and affray. As reported in the Mangrove trial special IT 120, “in the pub afterwards, the jurors explained why they went against Judge Clarke’s biased conduct of the trial and told defendants they were astonished at police methods and thought they often lied. The trial also revealed the pigs’ prejudice against and their over-reaction to the demo.” In the constabulary’s football analogy the verdict was seen as Mangrove 1 Police 0.
Even though the charges were thrown out of court, the notorious PC Pulley remained adamant that 8 All Saints Road was a legitimate object of frequent police investigation, as it was “a haunt of criminals, prostitutes and the like.” The North Kensington Labour MP Bruce Douglas-Mann said in the trial that the mere presence of Pulley in the area constituted “a provocation to the black population.” Whereas Pulley’s boss Gilbert Kelland cited him in Crime in London as ‘one of the most outstanding operational officers the force has ever known.’ David May of Friends and the Kensington News concurred, calling him “a superstar” as he looked back on a time of better race relations (from the 80s), when Pulley’s line was, “I am in no way racist, but these blacks are breaking the law with Marijuana.”
In Miles’s radical restaurant review in Days in the Life, when the IT and Indica founder visited the Mangrove with the cover artwork for Teamwork, the magazine of the West Indian Standing Conference: “First of all there was a lot of rustling and ‘What is this white boy doing in here?’ sort of thing. Then they all had a lot of design theories, gave it a lot of criticism. The Mangrove used to be insane; the smell of dope coming out of the kitchen was enough to wipe you out just sitting at a table.” Jenneba Sie Jalloh evokes the restaurant’s distinctive vibe in All Saints and Sinners: ‘Mangrove, smell of hashish, swirling clouds of ashen smoke, weave in, around, away, palms like giant fingers, sounds of laughing, belly deep and penetrating, wise words and indiscretions, deep canary yellows, matted reds and browns, a tropical tapestry of colour, light and sounds.’
In Days in the Life Courtney Tulloch cites the Mangrove as the spiritual home of the Notting Hill Caribbean Carnival: “That was a good example of using the skills, abilities and crafts of all those people who were condemned as pimps and so on… It was those same people, the ones who were called pimps and prostitutes and drug pushers, who created Carnival and keep creating it. We demonstrated that those people could come out of those basements and create their art and their music, which is what they’d always wanted to do. On that level the establishment did not suppress the black movement. We won; we more than won. We created a community.”
As the police inadvertently brought about Courtney Tulloch’s black British revolution, the Mangrove was transformed from a regular Caribbean café into the Black Power restaurant/community association/ working men’s club/revolutionary talking shop. The Met’s reefer madness (originally directed at hippies, rather than black people), and PC Pulley’s early efforts to curtail the Notting Hill restaurant craze, began a couple of decades of Mangrove raids, busts, trials, demos, riots and general antagonism between the police and black community, that made All Saints Road the epicentre of young black London seeking legal assistance, the capital’s main reggae artery, and the Carnival backstage area.
During the Angry Brigade trial at the Old Bailey, Jim Greenfield was goaded by the prosecution counsel Mathew into showing his anti-establishment feelings: Mathew, referring to the policing of Powis Square and All Saints Road: “And you saw some unhappy things happening at Notting Hill Gate.” Greenfield: “Unhappy?” Mathew: “Did you see unhappy things happen?” Greenfield: “I would say it was downright disgusting.” Mathew: “That is what I thought you would say. You hate the police.”
The most important rock and pop route of Notting Hill isn’t Portobello Road, Ladbroke Grove, the Westway or All Saints Road, it’s Basing Street. From the late 60s the sidestreet between Portobello and All Saints has been twinned with the New Orleans’ jazz label Basin Street as the location of the Island recording studios (that became ZTT and Sarm West). As Jimmy Cliff left Island in the wake of The Harder They Come, Bob Marley turned up on Basing Street, when he was staying in Neasden after playing with Johnny Nash. Chris Blackwell duly perfected the rock-reggae fusion in 1972 on the Wailers’ ‘Catch A Fire’ Zippo-sleeved album featuring ‘Concrete Jungle’ and ‘Stir It Up’. The dreadzone of Portobello market between Westbourne Park Road and Tavistock Road was founded by the rocksteady reggae outfit the Heptones, when they posed for Adrian Boot at the Lancaster Road junction in the early 70s.
The last great local protest of the early 70s came in the wake of the controversial Colville/Tavistock housing report, with the Notting Hill People’s Association ‘community lock-in’ at All Saints church hall on the night of May 8/9 1973. During the course of the extended meeting, reported in the press as ‘The Siege of Notting Hill’ and ‘Mob Rule’, councillors were held hostage and forced to listen to locals’ demands; for the Council to put compulsory purchase orders on multi-occupied properties in the Colville area; the Powis Square Talbot Tabernacle to be opened as a community centre; and the Electric Cinema to be saved from redevelopment. After the councillors finally agreed to hold off the eviction of the Chippolina family, the protestors left the hall chanting “Power to the People! CPO!” The Conservative Council leader Malby Crofton famously said on his release, “I am not making any bargains with these bloody anarchists.”
Mick Farren won the last underground press obscenity trial of his IT off-shoot Nasty Tales comic; running up a tab at the All Saints Road taxi office in the process.
Horace Ove, who directed the 1970 Reggae film and appeared in Cleopatra, joined forces with The Lonely Londoners author Sam Selvon to make the mid 70s Notting Hill film Pressure. Ove and Selvon focused on the second generation black British identity crisis via the transformation of Herbert Norville’s ‘Tony’ character from an Anglicised ‘fish and chips man’ to a dread ‘pattie man’. The change in consciousness from US-style Black Power to Afro-Caribbean roots militancy is captured by the ‘Blood and Fire’ reggae soundtrack. Norman Beaton appears as ‘Preacher’ and Ram John Holder (of Leo the Last local previous) is ‘Brother John’. The Caribbean Karakata store at 194 Kensington Park Road appears as Tony’s father’s shop, Colin’s Black Power stall is on Portobello at the Tavistock Road junction, Tony and co also appear on Portobello Green, All Saints Road and Harrow Road.
Joe Strummer’s 101’ers’ residency at the Chippenham pub came to an end in 1975, shortly before their eviction from the Walterton Road Big Brother house. The group’s next squat 36 St Luke’s Road, of A Hard Day’s Night previous (to the east of All Saints Road), was advertised in Heathcote Williams’ Ruff Tuff Cream Puff squatting estate agents mag as: ’empty 2 years/entry through rear/no roof/suit astronomer.’ Their next musical residency in the Elgin put them and Notting Hill on the pub rock map.
In Jon Savage’s England’s Dreaming punk history, Viv Albertine described Sid Vicious as having “this fantastic disguise of a loping, get-wise Jamaican expression.” Nick Kent of the NME (formerly of Frendz) recalled the All Saints Road Rastas to describe Johnny Rotten’s attitude: “I’d have to walk past these black guys who would never touch me, but it was running a gauntlet. That’s where he got it, from listening to reggae and hanging round those guys.”
The most militant Wailer Peter Tosh signed to Virgin for ‘Legalise It’ and a distribution deal was struck with the Atra label of the dub producer Keith Hudson. Richard Branson’s open-door hippy ethos ended in March 1976 after the mutinous Atra crew stormed the pop admiral’s quarters at 19 Denbigh Terrace to inquire about their share of the treasure, in the time honoured tradition. The situation was reduced to 70s farce when the appearance of a window cleaner allowed Branson to escape to Vernon Yard in his underpants. Then a wiretapped meeting between the labels in the Caribbean café Back-a-Yard at 301/3 Portobello Road was raided by police Keystone Kops style. The affair ended in another Notting Hill trial, during which Branson failed to identify the accused.
In the punk period Notting Hill film The Squeeze (nothing to do with the Jools Holland group), Stacy Keach as an alcoholic detective and Freddie Starr as his sidekick search the area for a kidnapped girl. This turns into an extended pub crawl featuring the militant reggae Apollo on All Saints Road, the Bevington Arms on Bevington Road (another pub rock venue, now the Carnival Films production office) and the Bramley Arms on Freston Road (also in The Lavender Hill Mob, Sid and Nancy, etc, now part of the Chrysalis Building) – outside of which the shoot-out finalé takes place. The Squeeze search sequence also includes the early stages of the 1976 Carnival.
August 29/30 As recounted by Darcus Howe in The Road Make to Walk on Carnival Day: The Battle for the West Indian Carnival in Britain, since 1975 there had been mounting conflict between the Carnival Development Committee (backed by Darcus Howe’s militant Race Today Collective) and the Golborne 100 group (led by George Clark, the housing activist saint turned anti-Carnival sinner), who wanted the Carnival moved to the White City stadium, backed by the Council and the police. On his arrival at the Mangrove on All Saints Road, Darcus Howe was told: “Is a police Carnival… it look like the police have dey own band… is police for days.” As the temperature rose, tempers were lost at what was then seen as excessive policing. In due course, following an attempted arrest under the Westway, in Ladbroke Grove’s defining pop psychogeography moment, the inevitable clash of police and youths came to a soundtrack of the ’76 Carnival hit, Junior Murvin’s ‘Police and Thieves’.
As the rioting moved under the Westway, alongside the hoardings sprayed with ‘Same thing day after day… tube – work… how much more can you take’, in the Black Britain photo of youths on Tavistock Road, rather than militant dread or rude boy style, it was a funky reggae party. On the All Saints Road riot frontline the police besieged the Mangrove Carnival sanctuary. As officers with dustbin lids for shields came off worse in the street battles, Frank Crichlow and Darcus Howe were arrested again. Darcus duly took over the militant Carnival Development Committee.
In Brinsley Forde’s ’76 Carnival memoir, Aswad were playing ‘Three Babylon’ (‘tried to make I and I run, they come to have fun with their long truncheons’) outside the Island recording studios on Basing Street when the rioting broke out. After evacuating their equipment to 2 Lancaster Road, later that night Aswad appeared again at the Metro youth club on Tavistock Crescent near Westbourne Park station. Brinsley Forde recalls playing amidst “a sea of policemen.” Joe Strummer, Paul Simonon and Sid Vicious are said to have been warned off by a black woman when they attempted to attend this gig. The Clash are recalled rubbing shoulders with local Rastas in Bites café off Portobello Road.
‘The Wailers will be there, the Slits, the Feelgoods, the Clash… rejected by society, treated with impunity, protected by their dignity… It’s a punky reggae party, we hope it will be hearty.’ After Bob Marley was shot in the run up to the December ’76 ‘Smile Jamaica’ concert (probably by a supporter of the Jamaican Labour Party, as the gig was promoted by the rival People’s National Party), the Wailers came to England for the punky reggae party. During their Babylondon exile in 1977 the group recorded their most commercial album ‘Exodus’ in the Island Studios on Basing Street. By all accounts, Bob Marley was initially sceptical of punk rock and more inclined towards prog. In his exile on King’s Road at the height of the punk scene, as Chris Salewicz put it in Songs of Freedom, “at first Bob strongly resisted what he perceived to be simply another manifestation of Babylon”‘
When Don Letts was managing the King’s Road punk shop Acme Attractions/Boy, he recalls being chastised for wearing bondage trousers, with Bob asking him: “What yuh wan’ look like all them nasty punk people feh?” However, in Notting Hill during the ‘Exodus’ sessions, he was won over to the cause by Don, Neville Garrick (the Wailers’ designer) and Viv Goldman. Don says he assured him that the Clash were reggae fans, not ‘crazy baldheads’, and Viv Goldman lent him ‘The Clash’ album featuring Junior Murvin’s ‘Police and Thieves’ produced by Lee Perry. This led to Bob, Lee Perry and Aswad recording ‘Punky Reggae Party’ to accompany ‘Jamming’, the Wailers’ first top 10 single. Over the years this track has stirred up mixed feelings in the music press; whereas Chris Salewicz cites it as ‘the definitive celebration of the punk-reggae fusion’, Lloyd Bradley dismisses the whole concept.
April 6 After a Basing Street ‘Jamming’ session, Bob and the Wailers’ bass player Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett were returning to the King’s Road BMW HQ when they found themselves held up in traffic on Ladbroke Grove outside 101 Ladbroke Road – Notting Hill police station. Bob and Family Man were inevitably found to be in possession of ganja and interviewed for the Notting Hill Babylon files. Bob Marley’s ghost also haunts numbers 8 and 18 All Saints Road on the old reggae frontline; the Mangrove and the Apollo pub; the Globe bar and the house of Trevor Bow of Sons of Jah on Talbot Road, the Rasta House of Dread on Lancaster Road and Acklam Road, where he was in attendance at the ’77 Carnival. He also played football on Wormwood Scrubs, his wife Rita of the I-Threes lived on Basing Street, and his son Julian currently lives locally.
Trevor Bow, the Sons of Jah guitarist/percussionist/lead singer/songwriter, described in the music press as a ‘close Marley confidant’, also acted as the Wailer chef, along with Lucky Gordon from the Profumo affair. The Island staff also included the Caribbean Notting Hill Carnival founder Leslie Palmer, who became Toots and the Maytals tour manager. Sons of Jah featured the Wailers’ drum and bass section, the brothers Carlton and Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett. They usually played with King Sounds and the Israelites, who rivalled them as the Carnival stalwart original All Saints Road group. Into the 21st century, some tenuous Wailers/Sons of Jah could be found manning Red’s Rasta stall and cab office at 253 Portobello Road, on the corner of Lancaster Road. Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett currently has over 50 children and is pursuing a £60 million royalties claim against Island and the Marley estate to support them.
When Steve Montgomery founded Rough Trade San Francisco in 1977, one of his first tasks was to introduce the American punk rock scene to militant reggae in Search & Destroy fanzine. From the Rough Trade reggae mail-order catalogue, he recommended Dr Alimantado’s ‘Slavery Let I Go’ and ‘Born For A Purpose'; the first release of the Greensleeves label (then on Uxbridge Road, later Goldhawk Road). Dr Alimantado was also recommended by Johnny Rotten, Joe Strummer in ‘Rudie Can’t Fail’ and graffiti on Great Western Road.
In another rock-reggae local connection, the late 70s residence of Lemmy of Motörhead, the heavy punk rocker previously of Hawkwind, was on All Saints Road. After Motörhead’s regular Hammersmith Odeon gigs, Lemmy occasionally slept in St Luke’s Mews at the Mangrove end of the street alongside Westbourne Park Road. The stellar mews was also inhabited by Joan Armatrading (of ‘Love and Affection’ fame), the jazz trumpeter Chet Baker, the soul singer Richie Havens and the Hair star Marsha Hunt. The Inside Notting Hill author Miranda Davies, who moved into the mews property Motörhead squatted, recalls the estate agent being too frightened to show anyone around before 3pm. Lemmy’s Portobello roadcrew included DikMik of Hawkwind, a biker called Goat, and Mikkelson, the legendary black All Saints hells angel who died in a police related incident.
In his Zigzag interview Lemmy told Kris Needs of a typical day in the life of the king of speed: “I don’t know if you’ve had experience of these people, they come round, ‘I wanna buy some speed’, and you say, ‘I haven’t got any.’ So he sits there for 4 hours in your sitting room saying nothing, just mumbling at yer. After a while we said, ‘Listen, man, why don’t you leave’, and he said, ‘No, man, you don’t understand the cosmicness of it’, and we said, ‘No, man, you should leave! Yeah, leave! Get out man!’ and he says, ‘Now don’t get uptight.’ So we called Phil (the Motörhead drummer ‘Philthy Animal’ Taylor) and he grabs him and drags him to the door and flings him out. Then the guy kicks the door down, Phil beats me to it, we raced to the door, kicked him all the way down the mews and left him in a pool of water. He came up 2 weeks later and apologised for hurting Phil’s hand.”
In Cranked Up Really High Stewart Home seems to have started a ‘red skins’ v (allegedly) NF ‘Grove skins’ ‘punk riot’ during an Acklam Hall Crisis gig, which spilled over Ladbroke Grove into St Charles Hospital. The originally pro-reggae skinhead cult re-emerged in the late 70s as a far-right Thatcher youth movement, espousing generally anti-black music sentiments. However, the Wise brothers insist that the local ‘Gate skins’ were non-racist/National Front, if not ‘commie skins’ who socialised with Rastas on All Saints Road. In most other accounts they were authentic enough NF, though local skinheads did co-exist amicably enough with the Rasta scene. In Hollywood W10 the Acklam Hall skinhead aggro was re-enacted in Breaking Glass, the Dodi Fayed produced plastic punk film starring Hazel O’Connor as a troubled pop icon. At one point Hazel as ‘Kate Crawley’ starts a ‘Rock Against 1984′ skinhead riot under the Westway roundabout and her flat is on or around All Saints Road.
In spite or because of new riot control measures, enforced by 10,000 policemen, there was another Carnival riot at the Monday closedown. After a reputed skinhead attack on the police along Acklam Road, Viv Goldman wrote in Melody Maker: ‘The cans and bottles glittered like fireworks in the street lights, then shone again as they bounced back off the riot shields. The thud thud thud of the impact rivalled the bass in steadiness, suddenly the street of peaceful dancers was a revolutionary frontline, and the militant style of the dreads was put in its conceptual context.’
At the time of the 1979 Carnival, the Metro youth club on Tavistock Crescent was occupied by the local youth in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the black community centre’s closure. The Metro was the scene of an early 70s police siege, Alton Ellis and Aswad gigs, and the home venue in sound-clashes of Dennis Bovell’s Sufferer Hi-fi sound-system. By the time the Slits signed to Island, the local punk girl group had become more reggae than punk rock. Their long awaited debut album ‘Cut’ produced by Dennis ‘Blackbeard’ Bovell best encapsulates the mood and attitude of the Notting Hill punky reggae party. Dennis Bovell was also the frontman of Matumbi and the post-punky reggae producer of the Pop Group and Janet Kay’s lovers rock hit ‘Silly Games’.
Before Nick Cave’s Basing Street ‘Murder Ballads’, Nick Lowe came up with the downbeat ‘Basing Street’ track about a murder on the street as the b-side of his 1979 Radar single ‘Cracking Up': ‘It’s an ugly sight, by the police light, but lonely now as the innocents leave in twos and threes, cop straightens up, wiping blood off his hand, says Christ above, that’s the worst I’ve seen in more than 70, somebody says I think I remember him, used to see him hanging round, but it’s hard to be sure, looking at him now, whose hand made the boy suffer and bleed? Who did the deed on Basing Street? It’s 4.29 and out on the airwaves late night DJ plays for the lost and lonely, and their late night ways, popping pills, washed down with coffee, with a little coughing blows cigarette ash off the late news flash, the world is waiting for it now, in the palm of his hand, he raises up the microphone and says: We interrupt this programme, but out there in radioland they’re all asleep, as the firemen hose down Basing Street.’