Saturday, 18 December 2010

herb lester associates: wish you were there

Another mention, but a worthy one, of the already acclaimed Herb Lester Associates, for the company's third map, Wish You Were There, which this time taps into the all-too-popular daydream of walking into the past with a round up of the shops, clubs, bars, photographic and TV studios and "sundry diversions" of pre-hippie 60s London.

Famous and forgotten legends alike are carefully plotted and pithily described here, from the Scotch of St James, Tiles and the Two I's to I Was Lord Kitchener's Valet, The Marquee and Better Books. Lesser-known delights include Studio 51, home at one point to a residency (and the recording of a live album) by the Downliners Sect among others, the Kenny Lynch Record Centre (next to Paul Raymond's Revue Bar in Soho) and beatnik coffee bars Le Macabre and Heaven & Hell. 

Richard Lester's Boutique London, which came out in October, received due lavish praise for including plenty of photographs in its coverage of swinging 60s London shops from Kings Road to Carnaby Street, and Wish You Were There could be a handy companion to that tome. Loving attention to atmospheric detail in the writing and ad cuttings is the added bonus in this pocket-sized guide, easily conjuring up the buzz of the era. You might visit the first boutique within a store, Simpson's 'Trend' on Piccadilly, before scootering up to the Ready Steady Go studios in Holborn for a chance at TV dancing immortality, unless you were already at the Plug Hole for the regular Friday residency of The Syndicat, or heading to Whitehorse Street for 9pm, to be sure of getting the guinea dinner included in the entry to way-out Edwardian club Sete E Mejo. One thing's for sure, if you were in central London, you weren't far from a new hip place to see and be seen at, with a rapid turnover that put the kibosh on boredom.

Not so much has changed in that respect, and although central London's current makeover may be a nagging concern (at the very least), as historians are fond of pointing out, the capital's past is never really erased, just covered in another layer of history. With remnants lurking in all kinds of strange places, as Herb Lester points out, the old city is there "if you look hard enough".

Wish You Were There map, £4, Herb Lester Associates

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