Thursday, March 21, 2019

Decca and a Sombrero

This building, which I pass on my walk to work every morning, is the old Decca recording studio in West Hampstead. This is where The Moody Blues recorded some of their best-known albums, including "Days of Future Passed" and "In Search of the Lost Chord," where David Bowie recorded his first single, and where The Zombies recorded "She's Not There." The Beatles auditioned for Decca here in 1962, only to be rejected. (They also played at the Railroad Tavern, a pub just barely visible to the right.)

I've mentioned nearby Billy Fury Way several times on this blog -- a somewhat forbidding path running from West End Lane to Finchley Road along the railroad tracks. Occasionally I walk Olga there. Well, it is so named because English '60s rocker Billy Fury also recorded here at Decca.

It's kind of cool to pass the building (now home to the English National Opera) and think of all the history that occurred there. Those Moody Blues albums, in particular, are favorites of mine.

I spent yesterday at work wrapping more books. Fortunately they're all done now -- all 140 or so. I wonder which luckless 8th Grader is going to wind up with that book bearing an image of Jacob Rees-Mogg, one of the dark lords of Brexit?

Here's my latest scavenged find -- a sombrero-shaped chip bowl complete with compartments for salsa and guac! Someone left it on top of their rubbish bin on the street, clearly hoping to find it a home. It looks like it's never even been used. Is it tacky? Absolutely! And probably politically incorrect as well. But I couldn't resist!

Dave merely groaned.

Last night I planted our sweet pea seeds. And did I mention that I got packets of poppy and cosmos seeds from a magazine subscription at work? So I need to get the cosmos planted as well. I have one more empty seed tray just waiting for them. The poppies, fortunately, can just be scattered directly on the ground.


  1. You're right about that dish not being politically correct but it grows on you, so I hope you get to use it. Your garden sounds full, can't wait to see the results.Decca recordings seemed to dominate our household in the early sixties. My mother had a lot of varied albums which she played on a portable hi-fi.

  2. I am probably being naive or stupid ,but why is a dish shaped like a hat politically incorrect ?

  3. Let Dave groan! I like the dish - its colourful and vibrant, and would spice up any kitchen bench.

  4. We are like minded you and I Steve. I loved and still love the Moody Blues and of course at my age was in love with Billy Fury who died quite young I believe.
    As for scavenging, I'm with you there as well, I would have loved to find that little pot, so colorful and you know how I like my colors.
    I'm going to tell my Grandson to take a look at this post, he works for Universal as an A&R man and so would be very interest in the building.

  5. I wonder what is within the Jacob Rees-Mogg book jacket. I'm guessing either "Mein Kampf" or "Little House on the Prairie". As for Billy Fury Way, I wonder if one day there will be a Steve Reed Way? It will surely be popular with fly-tippers and scavengers alike.

  6. Tacky is all in the eye of the beholder.. I think the sombrero dip bowl is fun, slightly kitch but definitely worth picking up from the top of the bin.
    Is the dog with the long ears in a book on the list? I'll have that book please.
    Decca records - there's a blast from the past.

  7. E: Decca was a huge label in its day! We're definitely going to make an effort to use the sombrero.

    Frances: Not naive or stupid at all! In the USA, particularly, sombreros are sometimes seen as a stereotype -- certainly not something modern Mexicans would wear. They'd probably laugh at this bowl, too!

    David: It is colorful and playful! Believe me, Dave is used to groaning at me. :)

    Briony: It's interesting how Decca was here in West Hampstead and Abbey Road Studios are nearby in St. John's Wood. Quite a hotbed for the recording industry! Billy Fury never made it big in the states so I was unfamiliar with him before I moved here. He died in his 40's, as I recall.

    YP: Yeah, I made no connection between the book and the wrapping, so it could be anything. (Definitely not "Mein Kampf," though!) I should be honored to have a "way" named for me if it leads to more reuse of perfectly good household items that would otherwise be discarded!

    Alphie: The dog isn't related to the book inside the wrapper -- he's just a fun picture. I'll let you know what book is inside when it gets unwrapped -- then you can pick up your own copy if you're so inclined! :)

  8. That chip and dip bowl is fantastic! Excellent find! And I don't think it's non-PC at all. I had lunch yesterday at a restaurant here on Long Island called Little Mexico and it's owned and operated by Mexican Americans and you know it's good Mexican food because there are always loads of other Mexican Americans eating there. They have posters of classic Mexican films on the wall and 4 out of the 5 posters depict men wearing sombreros.

  9. I have a tortilla and chip bowl too! Someone gave it to me. There is no sombrero involved, however. I don't think I've ever used mine.
    You did such a great job of wrapping those books.
    Oh dear, Steve. I never could stand the Moody Blues. Too...moody? Not nearly bluesie enough? I don't know but they just never did a darn thing for me. And to just fully confess all my sins- I never liked Pink Floyd either. I will be handing in my hippie card now.

  10. I love the sombrero plate! That's the kind of look I was going for when we were registering for "china" when we got married. I wanted all the colors! Sadly, 1990 wasn't a good year for colorful china, and there wasn't anywhere to easily find Fiestaware, so I had to settle for Lenox Poppies on Blue.

  11. Aah..thanks for the reply! Obviously not being from USA I wouldn't know that! Glad I am not " stupid". X

  12. Interesting history in that building. Somebody will never live down the Beatles rejection here.

  13. I was a big fan of the Moody Blues, even saw them in concert in Houston. I was in Trader Joe's about a year ago wearing my Pink Floyd shirt and the youngish cashier asked if I'd ever seen them in concert, no I replied but I did see the Moody Blues. She just gave me a blank look and said, well I guess you saw lots of great bands. she had no idea who the Moody Blues were.

    And poor Dave. be sure and use it next time he cooks a fancy dinner for friends.

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  15. Clearly, I need to make a pilgrimage to see this place. To heck with Abbey Road Studios. I LOVE the Moody Blues. That story you linked is fascinating. I even listened to some of the tracks from the audition tape. Those voices coming shining through but the choice of songs seems all wrong. Of course, that's a hindsight point of view.
    I also love your chip dish! You need to have a Mexican themed dinner party just so you can use it.

  16. We still have lots of snow on the ground but now that marijuana is legal in Canada I germinated a packet of 5 seeds and two have come up in their pots on the window sill.

    I love cosmos. And sweetpeas. Am jealous you'll see yours long before I'll see mine.


  17. I'm with the band: I too love the taco dish. Great colors and cute and I do not find it politically incorrect at all. I don't think I ever heard Billy Fury. I learned on Wikipedia that he had rheumatic fever as a child and that damaged his heart, leading to his death at age 42. He suffered a heart attack while returning from a recording session. At Decca?

  18. I just love how you wrapped the books! Damn awesome! I listened to the Moody Blues a ton back in the day, and now that you posted this, I have to give them a spin again!

  19. 140 books wrapped? Lord :) You are dedicated!

    So much history in the Decca building. It's cool that it still stands, and is still connected with music. At least it looks that way (English National Opera sign, and someone approaching the door).

  20. Vivian: Well, they definitely did get worn back in the day. I think some Mexicans are wary of perpetuating the idea that modern Mexico is full of people wearing sombreros and serapes and riding burros.

    Ms Moon: Yeah, you strike me as a fan of grittier, bluesier music. This is why you are a Stones person!

    Bug: Well, Lenox poppies on blue is much classier than this, I'm sure!

    Red: Yeah, I think that rejection dogged those people their entire lives!

    Ellen: Isn't it weird how the Moody Blues haven't had the staying power of some other bands? I think it's because they had relatively few top ten hits. They were more about concept albums.

    Fresca: What happened to your comment?!

    Sharon: Yeah, check it out! I wonder if they do tours or anything?

    Blondi: OK, your seed germination rate is about like mine. I planted tons of seeds and a majority still haven't come up. I'm hoping they're just moving slowly!

    Catalyst: I never heard Billy Fury either. Weren't there also some substance abuse issues?

    StillWater: I'm glad you like the books! Hopefully the 8th Graders will be into them too!

    Jenny-O: Yeah, it's home to the English National Opera now. The building doesn't look to be in great shape, though. At least superficially it could use some sprucing up.

  21. STEVE: Sorry, I didn't like the tone of my original comment--I've finally come back to make a comment I can stand by.

    I wish I had a light comic touch: a write-up of a conversation that starts with,
    "Is my sombrero tortilla-chip bowl racist?" would be so of the times, both ludicrous and sincere, it could go in the New Yorker.

    I recently read Conversations with Friends by young Irish writer Sally Rooney, who has been getting rave reviews.
    The story is standard young-woman-finding-her-way fare, but with voices lifted, Rooney says, from real conversations with her contemporaries--conversations about exactly this sort of concern.
    But the novel is not, sadly, funny, which also fits the mood of the times, eh?