For the last decade or so I’ve been to London about 2-3 times a year. I love this town! Its atmosphere, its culture, its history and the beer! Although I’ve seen the attractions tons of times I always have to at least see some of them on every trip… and I’m not talking about Big Ben.
London is full of Pink Floyd related sightings. No wonder really since they were British but this also means that you can combine these holy sites with the usual sightseeing routine.
For me it started 8 years ago when me and a friend went to London to see David perform at the Royal Festival Hall with his “unplugged” show. We landed at Gatwick airport and just as we were closing in on London my friend cried out “holy shit!” and I turned around, looked out the window and screamed like a young girl scout that had just lost her entire supply of coockies. The rest of the passengers laughed their asses off as we were desperately trying to find our cameras before the train rushed passed by Battersea Power Station. It’s strange because you can’t really see it until you’re right next to it and this monstrous building just stands there like some medieval fortress. I was struck by a sense of awe and terror at once.
A route that I recommend is to start off at Earl’s Court just South West of Hyde Park. Earl’s Court Square is just a block south of the underground station. Syd lived here from 1967-70 and David for a short period in 1969. The pictures for the Madcap Laughs album is also shot here. The Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre isn’t all that to look at but as Floyd fans we know that there’s a lot of history here. It’s a great experience just to stand outside and run a couple of bootlegs in your head before moving on. In the 70s this was kind of the Madison Square Garden of London and Pink Floyd has held some of their more legendary concerts here like in 1973, 1980-81 and of course 1994.
Further South you’ll reach West Brompton Cemetery. The cemetery was opened in 1840 and is considered as one of the finest in London. If you’re into these sort of things I really recommend that you pay it a visit. The cover for the first Airbag EP “Sounds That I Hear” was shot here.
Now, around the corner along Chelsea Embankment some very familiar chimneys are starting to appear in the distance. For each step you take they get bigger and then you’re there – next to Battersea Power Station. Reaching it from its West side allows you to go around it from behind and into what’s left of the old back yard with the familiar brick walls covered with barbed wire as seen in the Animals booklet and guitar book. The site seems to get new redevelopment plans each year but at least now they’ve decided not to tear it down. I mean it’s the cover of THE greatest album of all time!
Another great walk is around David’s houseboat Astoria in suburban South West London. Some might feel that this is close to being a stalker but visiting Hampton (or Richmond upon Thames) is an experience in it self. Just off the train station is the magnificent Hampton Court Palace – King Henry VIII’s old palace built in early 16th century. If you take a stroll through the vast park you’ll end up in Hampton Wick. A small town where you’ll find Charlie Chandler’s Guitar Experience. A rather small shop but all the more filled with tons of history. Chandler of course is a long time friend of David and among many things restored The Black Strat in 1997 when they’ve retrieved it from Hard Rock Cafe.
Back at the Hampton Court along the South side of the Thames you’ll reach Astoria after 15-20mins. About half way up you’ll reach Hampton School Boat Club which of course sets off a though or two among us Floyd nerds when the rowers are passing by. This route is the only way you’ll be able to see Astoria as the main entrance is covered by a huge wall and lots of trees. The view is spectacular and to just sit there on a bench with Astoria right in front of you is an amazing experience. David’s rarely there so there’s little chance of any action on the boat but the beauty of the boat it self is more than enough. David and Phil has done a fantastic job keeping this boat in such a good condition.
No guitarist can leave London without a visit to Denmark Street just off Tottenham Court Road and Charing Cross. Denmark Street is packed with guitar shops of all variations. Some are just the usual Marshall, a package of strings and a ukulele kind of shop while others are real havens from Andy’s Guitars to the magnificent Vintage and Rare Guitars shop. A couple of blocks down Charing Cross lies Macari’s – home of the Colorsound pedals. This is a place I always visit and if you still haven’t picked up that Colorsound Power Boost then this is the place! The old Sound City shop used to be located right around the corner producing Fuzz Faces and Sound City amps in the late 60s.
Do you have any favourite places in London? Please feel free to share them!