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Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Rossmore Road


Rossmore Road - Barry Andrews

"White and yellow lines and street signs"

A love song to a song.





I first (re) heard this single about two weeks ago on Youtube. I can't remember what led me there but ever since this has grown into a minor obsession. It was the second single released by Barry Andrews who had been a founder member of XTC but left after Go2. I am not really familiar with his other solo work and only vaguely familiar with the band he then formed, Shriekback. In some ways it is a close relative of Beatdown from Go2. "Beatown, it's a capital city and all roads lead to
Beatown, beatown"


When I say (re) heard what I mean is that it sparks with a haunting, nostalgic electricity that suggests that I heard it at the time of its release when I was a young teenager listening to John Peel under the bedclothes. Perhaps this is some of the appeal of the song for me, which every few plays brings me to the edge of tears. I would often listen every night high on the expectation of hearing again some masterpiece that remained un-identified. The search, conducted on the radio for the names of these songs was often fruitless, and even if you identified the song and the artist it was often impossible to get them on vinyl. You had to tape them if you wanted to listen to them again. That often meant songs having their intro replaced by the sound of the record button being released. Click.

But there is more to it. This has the fragile beauty of Wire's Outdoor Miner or Map Ref 41°N 93°W, two of my favourite songs from the era. It also has a sort of blank modernism that I like. It is the ultimate paean to the HUMdrum. It reminds me of the Modern Lover's Roadrunner, of Kraftwerk's Autobahn.... Need I say any more? Well, it also has a few touches that remind me of Madness and The Kinks.

Its a hymn to the city street, and to London. The sound of the traffic and human voices and telephone wires and electricity rising into a swelling, celebratory hum.


It reminds me of the excitement of wandering around London when I lived there for a summer as an eighteen year old. (An experience I have referred to here). Both the familiar and the unfamiliar were suffused with the chest filling anticipation of youth. Andrews cites Baker Street,  Marleybone Street and Regent's Park, all familiar London landmarks but they are just the incidental setting of this hymn to the anonymous, to the belisha beacons* that mark out pedestrian crossings, to the DHSS office, the 'safety barrier down the middle of the road', the bus route that runs along it.

The cover, with its view of the street and the graphic representation of the make-up of the road surface and the services that run underneath it is also somewhat perfect. The back cover shows what is presumably an aerial view of the Rossmore Road area and lists the impressive cast of musicians, including Robert Fripp, Steve New and Patti Paladin. Thanks to the open handed munificence of the internet I have a copy for myself to hold while I listen. I haven't been this excited about a single for decades. The next time I visit London I will ensure I make a pilgrimage.
Rossmore Road on Google Maps
I have listened to this song maybe a hundred times and more over the past couple of weeks and it has shown no sign of diminishing returns. If you asked me now to nominate an under appreciated musical masterpiece, this would be my choice.

As Wire might say Here it is...again.



Rossmore Road
The 159 runs along it
Round the corner from Baker Street
There's a dolls house shop on the corner
Of Lisson Grove and
Ross more Road / Rossmore Road

Turn left at the DHSS in Lisson Grove
You find yourself in Rossmore Road
And there's a number of public buildings
And a safety barrier down the middle of the road
In Rossmore Road / In Rossmore Road

In Rossmore Road
White and yellow lines and street signs
And public phones and traffic cones
And belisia beacons* on the central reservation
All humming now, all humming now, all humming now

To the north
The Grand Canal
Round the corner
Regent's Park
Next stop on the tube
Marylebone Road
And you can see
Balcombe Street from Rossmore Road

The 159 runs along it
Round the corner from Baker Street
There's a dolls house shop on the corner
Of Lisson Grove and
Ross more Road / Rossmore Road / Rossmore Road / Rossmore Road

In Rossmore Road
White and yellow lines and street signs
North of the river
South of the circular
Under the road
Above the railway
All humming now, all humming now, all humming now
All humming now, all humming now, all humming now
All humming now, all humming now, all humming now
All humming now, all humming now, all humming now
All humming now, all humming now, all humming now
All humming now...

*Belisha beacons - (in the UK) an orange ball containing a flashing light, mounted on a striped post on the pavement at each end of a zebra crossing. You can find out a lot more about them here - http://therantyhighwayman.blogspot.ie/2015/02/why-did-zebra-cross-road.html








Appendix: Here is something I found, Barry Andrews himself writing about Rossmore Road. You can eat the full blog post at http://shriekbackmusic.tumblr.com/post/86912275487/all-humming-now-situationism-shriekback-and
 "'Rossmore Road’ was, I think, my first original song, the first that owed nothing much to precedent, that was fuelled by direct inspiration.
Perversely attending to everyday objects: the railway line, the safety barriers, the street names I pursued Uninflected Road. But mythology just seeped in, most notably the Balcombe street siege of 75 when English coppers first brandished guns on TV -the IRA terrorists holding hostages in little Balcombe street (which you ’can see from Rossmore road’). 
Musically it was almost a music-hall song -the walking bass making it slightly jazzy, then, in the chorus it turns into a dubby half speed thing that opens up, all glowing vocals, and speaks of epiphany: 'all humming now’. The vision-enhanced glory of something totally mundane made beautiful."

And More:
http://shriekbackmusic.tumblr.com/post/86393110582/squat-part-2-breakingenteringspeedingdrifting
"She and I had a few Blues-fired all night wanders and there were some magical moments: listening to a band recording in Matrix Studios, Bloomsbury through the grate in the pavement like the streets were pumping out music. Wandering the Alexandra Road Estate in it’s Brutalist glory.
Observing Sacred Ibises in the Snowdon aviary. Seeing the dawn come up on the outwardly unremarkable but -with the right eyes- astonishing Rossmore Road. It was another world: the City beneath the City. My subsequent musical forays into psychogeographical places owed a lot to these nocturnal adventures."

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