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Paul H revisits Claremont Road with with long gone rockers Del Amitri

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by Paul Hawkins, for outsideleft.com
originally published: October, 2006
A Notice to Quit already officially posted through the hole in the front door... Bollocks to that, didnt mean a thing as far as we were concerned.
by Paul Hawkins, for outsideleft.com
originally published: October, 2006
A Notice to Quit already officially posted through the hole in the front door... Bollocks to that, didnt mean a thing as far as we were concerned.
Autumn 1990, 6 months in the squat, a Notice to Quit already officially posted through the hole in the front door, often described as a letter box, though the hole defied that description. This official document I still have and was hand delivered  on June 19th 1990, at 15.40, signed by the Higher Executive Officer of the Department of Transport, Her Majesty`s Government, a certain Mr. Geoff Kidd.

Bollocks to that, didnt mean a thing as far as we were concerned.

The water was by now flowing into the house via a flexible water pipe running from a t-junction from next door`s supply, number 16, now squatted by 3 people. The toilet now flushed in spits, dribbles and occasional celebratory torrents, the first street party successfully done and dusted, community links were being forged and I was certainly more streetwise now regarding the Stop The M11 Campaign, its personalities and key players. I was doing something similar, though in a more radical, direct way, with other like minded locals. More of which some other time...

I remember one weekend in September or October, in both months it was fucking cold, bitterly cold, I was well layered up with two t-shirts, a shirt, a sweater, coat and hat. A large van had turned up and parked up outside number 32, Dolly`s house. Other lorries turned up later on and tall, long poles connected to pipes were erected outside Mick and Russ`s houses at the far end of the street. Arc lights were set up and flooded the cold, starry night with an artificial lustre. This event, naturally, did not go unnoticed by us Claremont Roadites and everyone was intrigued. Who the hell was it and what the fuck was going on ? Was this some newly dreamt up eviction technique ? Upon closer inspection and after some friendly, inquisitive banter it turned out it was the chart-inhabiting Scottish rockers Del Amitri, making a video for their new single. The first van was their catering van. Oh yes, a CATERING VAN, which equalled some interesting food and liquid possibilities. Del Amitri were signed to A & M Records, a major label in those days, and were exhausted from just returning from an Australian tour. Their major label paymasters had set up a video shoot in Claremont Road for their new single, Spit In The Rain, due to be released sometime in October. The shennanigans gathered quite a crowd who were very curious. Dolly watched from her front gate, peering towards the lights, trying to make sense of it all. Some of us had heard of Del Amitri, some hadn`t. They spent most of Saturday night miming to the song, being sprayed with water from small holes running along the vertical poles, to very cornily represent rain. I remember it took quite a long time. Mick and Russell were recompensed for the use of their houses, as Justin, the lead singer, sat on Mick`s doorstep for some of the shoot and other shots were taken outside their two houses. It wasn't raining in real life. Quite a few people did spit though. What then struck me  was this surreal contradiction.

Claremont road was a unique space, created out of political diktat and contained some bizare specimens of humanity, and was hosting a similarly surreal, falsely created situation, a video shoot, funded by wads of music industry cash. In the cold autumn night the overground tube trains alternatively hurtled by or sat waiting for signals to change, for buttons to be pressed up or down the line, momentarily pausing on their endless tooing and froing on the Central Line, waiting to gorge on and then vomit out passengers on their stop start rattling journey. The passengers were able to get a reasonable view of the Road, its strange raggle taggle collection of inhabitants, watching a manufactured real life situation being filmed to engage the world into buying Del Amitri`s new single release. For a brief moment it felt like I was just beginning to come up on an acid trip. But I wasn't, oh no, just life as usual. Madness within madness, created by the deranged and frenzied incumbent Conservative Party, under the command of Major General Thatcher. With a corporate record label throwing in their piss poor hand of blemished cards. A false situation, within a false situation, with an audience from the real world of London; commuters looking on at the whole thing, no doubt thinking about far more important things like, when is this bloody train going to move.

Anyhow, the catering van was too easy a target and we soon scrounged free cans of USA branded beer from the friendly catering crew. I dont recall being able to talk any food out of them. They were happy to pass out the cans, we were more eager to drink them. Free beer was not to be sniffed at. We watched for a bit, got cold, and went back to our squats to light open fires or leaky gas fires to thaw out. Must have been fucking freezing for Justin Currie, Del Amitri`s lead singer, and the rest of the band. Justin`s recollected that trippy night kindly for me; "all I can remember is sitting in a mobile home and cheating at pontoon with a deck of marked cards and singing on a doorstep with someone's dog called Brindle beside me. Nice dog, belonged to a hippy chap as I recall... ". Brindle belonged to Russ, who was a lovely man, a bit of a computer boffin, great thinker and one of the chief architects of the hand made, safe as houses ( honest mate), large, yet, portable, scaffold stage the bands used for the coming years street party, which always took place in Claremont Road, and then, come evening, about a dozen of us carried the stage, like an indie label protest throne, holding up traffic and jamming the busy Grove Green Road, over to the back of The Northcote pub for more music, drinking, more drinking and, no doubt, plenty of drug taking, especially the hallucigenic variety.



Thanks to Justin Currie, who,  is still alive and kicking, and has just released another solo album. Catch him on the Myspace  swingers ball at a PC or Mac near you now.

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Paul Hawkins

Paul Hawkins has been interested in popular culture and music, protest and survival for as long as we can remember. He began writing about things, making music and other noise at an early age. Paul has interviewed musicians, writers, poets, protestors and artists.

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