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The Start of the Spell

by Ian Evans

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    If you download this song it comes with a free map of the walk described and a list of references (although the locations have changed since I recorded the song, as is usual for London :-)
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Apprentice: Why have we met here at the Coal Hole? There are better pubs along Fleet Street, I’d think The Urban Fox: It’s as good a start as any…. See the Savoy Hotel to our right, where Manet kept a room. Traffic runs backwards outside its entrance. We will cast a spell to change our perceptions also… Apprentice (to the barmaid): Just a filter coffee please. We’ll be drinking later I think, along our journey… Fox: I am an urban fox and I will lead you on an adventure now. Hold an A-Z in your hands at all times, to protect you…. You should bring spending money, stout shoes, a scarf (if in season) and an intention to soak up and enjoy anything that you see…. The ritual can only state some of the things that will be unearthed whilst following it. Everyone’s experience will be different. Food and drink will be recommended along the route. You must take the street directions as they come… Keep Nelson in sight and walk forward, passing the RAF Stanley Gibbons The Dr Who stamp shop Arkright’s plaque. A kindly man Royal Society and the grand Adelphi Building of Savage Clubs. I know them from Adam. We will hear of Etty later, and he lived on Buckingham Street At the same abode as Pepys, in sight of the now dry docked steps Pass Gordon’s garden. Now keep a cast obelisk to your back, as you walk Viller’s street Under the arches: A pub split in two, South African food, New Player’s Theatre, Ben Franklin and Melville’s Houses too Coutt’s Bank and the Station of her cross – Davenport’s dark place is beneath our feet now And can you feel its mystery passing up through us? Talk to Wilde for strength and pass him to Maiden’s Lane. Oriental medicine Rule’s own game reserve and Lilly Langtree’s curves sat here Maple Leaf? Stop for a half at the Porter House. Paying respects first, to the tiny man in the doorway sculpture Voltaire’s strength charges us here, And the blood of Terris (dying near) Nell Gwynn is well hidden At the Convent Garden: Frenzy, Pollock’s, Actor’s Church, Lovely!! Donkeys Keep the opera to your back, to push us up Garrick Street Anne Frank’s tree is outside the round pub, where we must pay respects At the Lamb and Flag, it’s worth having another half yet Cyber Candy has sweets from Japan There’s a building of awesome beauty to your left, of which I know not a name Behind us a Nash-esque folly on high Up Floral Street is the Tintin shop and Stanford’s – saved from fire by it’s OS Map piles St. Martin’s is next, where Stringfellow creates ugliness with beauty and the Ivy produces good food for mixed classes Seven dials for seven villains perhaps, which Agatha at the Mousetrap (passing us now) almost wrote lots If it hasn’t been destroyed by the East London Line works, the number 666 will be engraved on the ground (as you walk south down Charring Cross Road now) Down Denmark Street to window shop Pass on Jagermeisters at the Intrepid FOX This Rookery was where, “Your Song,” was written And was the tin pan home of the first Forbidden (Planet) See Central St. Giles’ Lego Towers Now buy a Sam Smith’s beer at the Angel’s stable bar Walk past St. Giles, down Flitcroft Street Elms Lesters store, with its tall green maws Now to Phoenix Gardens, to lurk at the stage door Turn right past the Phoenix Bar (which you can enter if you have an equity card) Designed by Sir Gilbert Scott (Noel Fielding’s haunt of course, not a telephone box) Cross Charring Cross Road when you see the Tam O’ Shanter sign Walk past Jarvis’s college and Foyles (a book shop with a piranha section) Turn down Manette Street (named after a Dickens character who drank here) Pass the Crow Bar and the crushing hammer See a hidden church and space invader Under the arches of the Pillars of Hercules To your right is Kirstie McColl’s bench in Soho Square Walk down Greek Street now to Old Compton A shop called Maison Bertraux sometimes gives away cream cakes here, at 1am Walk right to Frith Street and view the Mozart and TV plaques, Bar Italia and Ronnie Scott’s (which you should return to at night some time) Have breakfast now (if you’re hungry) at Patisserie Valerie. I would recommend the Eggs Benedict, whose cooking is exquisite Continue down Old Compton and choose a bottle in Gerry’s carefully, opposite carvings of ships overhead. Don’t buy anything too heavy for your mission The 3 I’s caff was where Beatle boot wearers would hang out. They only drank milk and coffee in those days Go right, passing the A Bomb in Wardour Street Wardour Street prose is, for example, the word, “anent” Hammer House (of horror) is here Noel Street crosses Berwick Street of fruit and sex Louise Vines’ mural on Shelley’s House is on Great Marlborough, where you’re heading next Beyond Retro should have a good shirt to try Look in at Liberties now, with their Paisley ties References: * The Coal Hole – A pub on the Strand. It isn’t particularly special, although it has some nice, Roman-esque wall art and a nice frontage. (It was mostly chosen for this song due to its proximity to other cool places, as a starting point) * “There are better pubs along Fleet Street” – There are! The Seven Stars on Carey Street and the Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street are real favourites * The Savoy Hotel – As I mention, the road outside the Savoy is the only one in Britain where cars drive on the right. The hotel is a beautiful, art deco building * Monet – Artistic genius, who painted the Thames during his regular stays at the hotel * “You should bring spending money etc.” – The idea of bringing things with you to a happening is a nod to the Rocky Horror Show * H.V. Morton - A favourite London writer of mine, who wrote The Spell of London * “Keep Nelson in sight” – The top of Nelson’s column is just visible at this point of the route * The RAF – The Royal Air Force was founded at a building on the Strand, which you pass here * Stanley Gibbons – A famous stamp collecting shop * The Dr Who stamp shop – Another stamp shop here, famous for its Dr Who memorabilia * Arkright’s plaque – Richard Arkright (one of the founders of workers rights) lived on Adam Street * Royal Society – A beautiful arts society building here * Adelphi Building – A beautiful block of flats behind the Savoy * Savage Club – Based in the Adelphi, this was a Georgian club for hell raisers * Adam – A Georgian architect, famous for his fireplaces, who built the Adelphi * Etty – A great painter * Pepys – Raunchy 1660’s diarist, who lived in the same house as Etty * Gordon’s garden – Gordon’s wine bar is dingy and full of candles and fine cheeses. It rules! * Dry docked steps – Behind Gordon’s garden area is a beautiful staircase (now land locked due to the building of the Thames Embankment by Joseph Bazalgette) * Obelisk – There is an interesting peaked statue on Villier’s Street, resembling an obelisk * A pub split in two – The Ship & Shovell pub on Craven passage is split into two halves, one on each side of the road * South African food – A South African goods shop can also be found here * New Player’s Theatre – A lovely little theatre, also in Craven Passage * Ben Franklin and Melville’s Houses – Both the philosopher/politician and author of Moby Dick lived on Craven Street. Franklin’s House is now an interesting museum to his life * Coutt’s Bank – The Royal bank on the Strand, which is close to the site of the Strand Magazine Offices, where Sherlock Holmes was first published * The Station of her cross – Charring Cross Station. (Queen Eleanor was brought here during her funeral procession, which is where the station’s name comes from. There’s a beautiful monument to her in the forecourt. “Station of the cross,” is just my religious pun) * Davenport’s – A magician’s equipment shop, which I adore... At this point on the route, you are walking above it, as it’s hidden underground * “Talk to Wilde” – On Duncannon Street, there’s a statue of Oscar Wilde, designed so you can sit and pretend to talk to him * Maiden’s Lane – One of my favourite London Streets * Rule’s – Rules was established by Thomas Rule in 1798 making it the oldest restaurant in London…. They serve traditional British food and own the Lartington Estate in the High Pennines, where they rear their own game birds. In the Edwardian era, the window of their top floor was London’s most desirable table, at which often sat the delectable… * Lilly Langtree - The, "Jersey Lily," who had a number of prominent lovers, including King Edward VII. (She may have been the inspiration for the character of Irene Adler in a Sherlock Holmes novel) * Maple Leaf – A Canadian bar on Maiden Lane * “A half” – A half pint of beer. Rarely ordered, as they don’t take long to drink * The Porter House – A chain of Irish pubs, with one branch on Maiden Lane in Covent Garden. They also sell oysters and have décor a bit like the inside of Captain Nemo’s Nautilus. Steampunk a go go! Outside the Maiden Lane Branch is an odd sculpture of a house, containing a tiny figure of a man. I love it, but have had difficulty in finding out the sculptor’s name * Voltaire – French author and rationalist, who has a blue plaque on Maiden Lane * Terriss (dying near) - William Terriss was a Victorian actor, who was stabbed to death on Maiden’s Lane (behind the Adelphi Theatre). His ghost is said to haunt both the theatre and Covent Garden tube station * Nell Gwynn – Actress, wit and long-term mistress of King Charles II of England. Samantha Cameron (the wife of the British Prime Minister David) is thought to be her descendant. In this section of the song I’m actually referring to a nice pub named after her, which is very hidden away off Bull Inn Court * Frenzy – Hitchcock’s final film, based in Covent Garden * Pollock’s – A toy shop, famous for its paper theatres * Actor’s Church – St. Paul’s Church (not the famous St. Paul’s) is here. It was the site of the first ever Punch and Judy show and was known for the number of actors in its congregation * "Lovely!!" – Catch phrase of the serial killer in Frenzy, who worked here * Donkeys – Donkeys were used regularly whilst Covent Garden was a fruit market. There’s a monument here in honour of their work * The opera – At this point of the walk, the Royal Opera House is just visible behind you * The round pub – The Roundhouse on Garrick Street, is unusually shaped * Anne Frank’s tree – A tree grows outside the Roundhouse, to commemorate this iconic diarist. It was grown from a cutting of her original tree, in Amsterdam * The Lamb and Flag – Another worthwhile pub (perhaps the best in Covent Garden although it's tiny) where bare knuckle fights were once held * Cyber Candy – A Japanese sweet shop. Really interesting * A building of awesome beauty – I’d never been able to identify this building when walking by, however I now know that it’s the famous Garrick Club! (Thank you Google Street View :-) If you look through the grand doors, it looks like a stately home inside * “Behind us a Nash-esque folly” – I don’t know what this structure is but, at the end of Garrick Street, you can see an odd, John Nash-esque structure, a little like the Lighthouse Building in King’s Cross * The Tintin shop – There’s a nice shop here, which sells official Tintin merchandise. I’m a big fan * Stanford’s – A famous travel shop, with a wonderful world map on its floor * O.S. Map piles – When the above shop caught fire, it was saved by its enormous number of Ordinance survey maps, which acted as a firewall * St. Martin’s Lane – An interesting area of theatrical shops and home to the English National Opera. I’m very fond of a pub there, called the Salisbury * Stringfellow – Peter Stringfellow is a preposterously hair-styled nightclub owner (a bit like an English Hugh Hefner character) * “Ugliness from beauty” – This is an example of me screwing up a lyric :-) I wanted to say that Peter Stringfellow creates an ugly environment with beautiful girls…. However, it didn’t scan, so I had to sing, “beauty from ugliness,” which isn’t at all what I meant * The Ivy – An exclusive, art deco restaurant near Seven Dials * Seven dials – A sun dial built by the Worshipful Company of Mercers, to mark the area where 7 roads meet in Covent Garden. (I was free associating with this lyric, as I’m about to mention an Agatha Christie play and was subconsciously reminded of a book by her, in which the villains wear dial-shaped masks. She possibly got the idea from the Seven Dials area herself) * The Mousetrap – Agatha Christie’s play, which is still the longest running in the world… It’s showing at Covent Garden, in the same theatre where it opened in 1952 * 666 – As I sing here, the number of the beast was once carved on the pavement, outside Tottenham Court Road tube station. Sadly, it has now been removed by railway builders, as I anticipated in the lyrics * Denmark Street - This contains a lot of instrument shops. It was also the site of several big events in music: The Rolling Stones, Donovan and Jimmy Hendrix recording their first tracks, Lionel Bart first hearing an American rock and roll single, David Bowie sleeping in his car, the Sex Pistols living in a basement together…. * Jagermeisters – A German herbal spirit from the 1930’s, now popular in the metal and Goth communities * The Intrepid Fox - A metal/Goth pub in Denmark Street. It was previously sited in Wardour Street (for 220 years!) and patronised by many rock and roll celebrities. Mick Jagger visited regularly in the 60’s and Ewan McGregor liked it for a while, in the 1990’s * Rookery – Denmark Street appears on surveys from the 1730s… The area around it was known as, “the Rookery,” (a part of London that had developed as a slum to the west of the City). A rookery is a criminal area, which gave rise to the scavenging bird’s name * Your Song - In 1970, Elton John wrote, "Your Song," (his first hit single) in Denmark Street. He also mentions the street in, “Bitter Fingers,” off his Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy album * Tin Pan Alley – An area of New York, where music publishing and recording was once centred * Forbidden Planet - Named after a cracking 1956 film, this is a chain of science fiction shops, which first opened on Denmark Street * Central St. Giles’ Lego Towers - A new building (in 2010) on Denmark Street. It’s brightly coloured and looks like a Lego building. I admire the architects for including a lot of sculptures, but I’m not sure that I like the multi-coloured walls * Sam Smith’s beer – Sam Smith’s are a chain of British pubs, who make ALL of their own drinks in Yorkshire (even vodka and tequila!) This allows them to be very cheap (and also to make some experimental and exotic drinks.) * Angel’s stable bar - A Sam Smith’s pub at the end of Denmark Street, which includes an old stable area * St. Giles in the Field – A lovely Palladian church on Denmark Street, known as the Poet’s Church. I once saw The North Sea Radio Orchestra play there * Flitcroft Street – The eponymous Henry Flitcroft was one of the architects of St. Giles’ Church * Elms Lesters – A painting studio on Flitcroft Street, which has fascinating tall, green doors to allow giant canvases to be moved in and out * Phoenix Gardens – A small community garden (and registered charity) on Flitcroft Street, which is managed by volunteers to provide a relaxing spot/habitat for wildlife * Phoenix Bar – The bar of the Phoenix Theatre requires an actor’s Equity card to get in. It’s really nice and an actor friend has signed me in a few times. It’s fairly burlesque in design, with acting memorabilia and an owner in a colourful waistcoat * Equity cards – Actors’ Union membership * Sir Gilbert Scott – Designer of both the Phoenix Theatre and the classic, red British telephone box. (Also, Battersea Power Station, the Tate Modern, Waterloo Bridge and Liverpool Cathedral!) It’s rumoured that the shape of the arches on Waterloo Bridge mimics the shape of his telephone box roofs * Noel Fielding – Comedian of Mighty Boosh fame and rather brilliant at times. I saw him in the Phoenix Theatre bar, holding court to a group of trendy folk * Charring Cross Road – Once famed for its book shops, including the unusual Murder One (crime books only!) and Silver Moon (the largest women’s interest book shop in the world). These have now sadly closed, due to competition and increasing rents. An interesting local feature can be found in the middle of Charing Cross Road, at its junction with Old Compton Street. Beneath the grille in the traffic island in the middle of the road, the old road signs for the now-vanished Little Compton Street can be seen * Jarvis’s college – “She studied sculpture at St. Martin’s College” – Common People by Pulp. We are now walking past it * Foyles – A wonderful book shop, with a live piranha display in its children’s’ section. It used to be famous for its odd filing system and multi-national staff. You needed to queue for a ticket and then take your ticket to a separate till, to request a book * Manette Street - named after a Dickens character who drinks here in A Tale of Two Cities * The Crow Bar – A cool rock pub on Manette Street * The crushing hammer – A sculpture outside Goldbeater’s House on Manette Street. (These were commonly found outside goldbeaters’ shops and are discussed in a display at the Victoria and Albert Museum) * Space invader – The French artist, “invader,” puts little mosaics of space invaders around London and Paris. One of them is on the arch of the Pillars of Hercules * The Pillars of Hercules – Dr. Manette’s pub, which is now often used by authors… Clive James named a book after it and it also has an unusual arch, over Manette Street * Kirstie McColl’s bench – A bench, in honour of the singer, is in Soho Square. One of her lyrics mentions the square and she was, very sadly, killed in a boating accident * Maison Bertraux – This small café has a gallery, in which Noel fielding once displayed his paintings. They did give me cream cakes here on one occasion, as they have to be thrown out at the end of the day * Frith Street – My first band Elevenses played its first gig on this street, in the now defunct Waikiki Club. Mozart lived here too, as did John Logie Baird when he displayed his first TV prototype * Bar Italia – An all night coffee shop on Frith Street, once immortalised in a Pulp song. (Jarvis cocker was mentioned earlier of course.) It’s a fascinating hang out at 2am, as policemen and ambulance men come by, as well as musicians and dancers * Ronnie Scott’s – A jazz club (opposite Bar Italia) which opened in 1959. Its saxophonist host has now sadly died, but he was famous for his jokes and introductions. A typical line might be, "Our next guest is one of the finest musicians in the country. In the city… he's crap." The club was the site of Jimi Hendrix's last live performance (as R.S. had also branched out into rock music by that point). I loved the club on my one visit, although I did make a disastrously meek attempt to chat up an insanely pretty South African girl * Greek Street - Sir Joseph Bazalgette started work on the construction of the London Embankment in this street. His ancestor came up with the idea of the Big Brother TV show * Old Compton Street – A street in Soho, famous for its gay bars * Patisserie Valerie – A slightly expensive but wonderful French Café here * Eggs Benedict – One of my favourite breakfasts (possibly invented in New York, by Lemuel Benedict in the 1940’s or, more likely (?), in France sometime before then) * Gerry’s – London’s best alcohol store. You can buy anything there * The 2 I’s Cafe – I sing this wrongly as 3 I’s! That will teach me to risk recording a line before I do my research! (Several 1950’s rock and roll stars were discovered or performed at this café) * Beatle boots – Slip on, elasticated boots, popular in the 1960’s * Milk and coffee – Milk bars were popular in the 1960’s. For some reason, teenagers didn’t seem to drink alcohol as much in those days. Or maybe they did? * A-Bomb in Wardour Street – A Jam song, named after the street where we’re stood now * Wardour Street prose – Deliberately old-fashioned slang is occasionally known by this term, due to the street’s (now completely vanished) antique shops * “Anent” – An example of this kind of prose... The word means an antique shop, although I incorrectly say, “ament,” in the lyrics, which would mean a mentally deficient person! * Hammer house of horror – Wardour Street was once home to London’s film industry. The Hammer company occasionally used an alarm (called the horn of horror by my Dad) to warn the audience that a gruesome scene was about to be shown * Berwick Street – A run down Soho Street, which has a fruit and veg market, many lap dancing places, brothels and second hand record shops * Louise Vines’ mural on Shelley’s House – Percy Bryce Shelly’s house now features a mural of Soho scenes * Beyond Retro – A Vintage clothes shop here. I love it, but they never have anything in my size, which is always frustrating * Liberties – A Tudor-styled department store, next to Carnaby Street, which specialises in Paisley shirts and tie


This song describes a walk around central London, lead by a fox spirit guide. If you'd like to do the walk in real life just go to the Coal Hole pub on the Strand and follow the directions in the lyrics and free map provided.


released December 1, 2014

* Ian Evans: Singing and all instruments
* Liz Sheppard played the part of the fox
* Thank you to Helen Taylor for taking the cover photo


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Pop/experimental/rock musician and songwriter from London

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