Silvery London Part 1

london meteor 1854I got a few nice messages from people who had a browse through the bits and bobs on here (well, the more recent posts from when I decided to focus on SILVERY related musings) asking for more titbits particularly related to the stories behind the songs. So leading on from the fairly in depth ‘Quaire Fellow’ piece from a few weeks ago here are some notes for an unfinished entry I was writing about ‘Silvery London’ – fancying my chances making a little tourist pamphlet to circulate. In no particular order then, the first chunk of ‘Silvery London’:

  • The cover art of ‘The Naked & The Dead’ features the statue of Queen Alexandra Of Denmark on Marlborough Road (just off The Mall) designed by Alfred Gilbert to commemorate her founding of the Queen Alexandra’s Nursing Corp during the Boer War.
  • St Pancras Graveyard – A prime piece of Early Silvery – it was the setting of the night time scenes in the much celebrated (IE rough as fuck) 2006 ‘Devil In The Detail’ video (shot after a performance at Koko just around the corner) and is reputedly the subject of Thomas Hardy’s poem ‘The Levelled Churchyard’, recited nearly inaudibly on ‘Sparks & Fire’ on the second album.
  • ‘Revolving Sleepy Signs’ was partly inspired by an 1854 illustration by Mackenzie Walcott of his encounter with a meteorite at Westminster Abbey. Indeed, the drawing itself was used as the cover of an early demo (usually referred to as the ‘London Meteor’ demo) featuring the track.
  • Lost rivers of the London (the Westbourne, Effra, Tyburn and Fleet) are all mentioned in the closing song of the first album ‘Animals Are Vanishing’, an imaginary account of Sir Jonathan Hollingshead’s very real subterranean adventures. The video linked was cobbled together using footage from French director Gaston Quiribet’s fascinating ‘Fugitive Futurist’ to accompany it. Not strictly staying true to the lyrical theme of saying farewell to the buried rivers of London, but a suitably baffling take on early cinematic explorations into Futurism featuring London as the star.
  • Piccadilly, formerly Portugal Street, is mentioned in ‘That Which Is / That Which Is Not’, as are the plans of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown who is responsible for some of London’s finer green corners, including Kew and Holland Park.
  • Early Silvery rehearsals read as a ‘where’s where’ of closed London practise spaces. The first faltering steps were taken at The Joint off Old Street (fitting then that the first album was recorded years later just across the roundabout there) and then moved north to the much missed (by the rats and mould as much by the bands) Backstreet on Holloway Road just under the arches. Both are celebrated in the nonsense spouted on the outro of ‘Star Of The Sea’ on ‘Thunderer & Excelsior’.
  • The photograph of the legend ‘Erected By Parliament’ in the middle pages of the ‘Railway Architecture’ booklet is from Alfred Frank Hardiman’s statue of British Expeditionary Force Commander Earl Haig on Whitehall.
  • Shoreditch High Street is featured in the package of the second album ‘Railway Architecture’ within a picture of the old railway depot sign at number 233.
  • The mysterious nose on Great Windmill Street is referenced in the sleeve notes as the inspiration behind ‘Two Halves Of The Same Boy’. Indeed, James appeared on BBC Radio London discussing the nose with Robert Elms back in 2001.

Remember when using this guide please do be aware of those around you and careful on those tricky pavements. Until next time dear reader!

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