East London. 2009. A cold monday night. Ian Dury and the Blockheads’ often overlooked classic: ‘Fuck You Noddy’ plays scratchily on a record player and stutters to an end. A portly middle-aged man in a trilby reaches over from his battered easy chair and puts a Skatalites record onto the turntable in its place. "'ere. Tim. Is that the original pressing, or the re-issue?"
His round-faced lager-top drinking partner pipes up from across the other side of a stack of LPs and 45s: “Re-issue, Phill. You can tell by the triangular hole in the centre. Original’s one of the rarest records in existence.” So far, so quiet Monday night in the Bethnal Green Working Mens club.
“Right.” Says the first chap: “I’ll just do a quick poem about the stadium tour I supported Madness on in the early 80’s, then we’ll get Nick Hodgeson, drummer from popular beat-combo the Kaiser Chiefs up onstage for a chat.”
That was London Word Festival’s book and record night - an evening spent in the company of local roustabouts and teen chums polymath Phill Jupitus and the East End poetry stalwarts Tim “Teething” Wells. Like a live radio show taking place in their living room, recreated with loving verisimilitude on stage as the two old Chinas entertained the generous crowd with a collection of their finest rocksteady and novelty vinyl selections, reminiscences, poetry and gags.
A nod also to Travis Elborough’s intriguing potted history of the LP, read from his book the Long-Player Goodbye and Amy Prior’s alternative ladybird book-and-tape set that contributed to a bizarrely comforting set.
Words by Sam Hawkins. Photos by Mike King.