how we get stuck into our own little time loops. A bit like
Scotty in that episode of Star Trek TNG, albeit ours is more
a loop of the imagination rather than a transporter diagnostic.
For example, anyone of my generation and older may see and
even read the word "Snickers" on a certain chocolate
bar, but our brains still interpret the word as "Marathon",
and Marathon they will always be.
Why do people change the names of things that
everyone knows? Their reasons are always absurd. Jif was changed
to Cif, apparently, so that people didn't get big white bottles
of cleaning fluid mixed up with small plastic lemons (interestingly,
my spellchecker has just underlined Cif but not Jif, even
the computer agrees).
Two of our most legendary venues, Dingwall's
and the Camden Palace, have undergone the indignity of such
ridiculous re-branding. In the West End there has been real
excitement over the return of the Marquee, now in its fourth
incarnation, but the name means everything. Camden had not
one but four of the most world renowned venues on the planet.
But while the Roundhouse is closed for redevelopment (at least
its still going to be the Roundhouse), the Electric Ballroom
is threatened with closure by a witless and unnecessary plan
by London Underground to demolish the whole corner from Kentish
Town Road to Buck Street in order to build a new mega-tube
station full of McDonaldses and Café Neros; meanwhile
Dingwall's is now called Lock 17, and the Camden Palace is
Jif was changed to Cif, apparently,
so that people didn't get big white
bottles of cleaning fluid mixed up with small plastic lemons
Dingwall's has been Dingwall's since the beginning
of time. Well, as far back as anyone can remember anyway.
Like the Electric Ballroom and the Roundhouse, it is part
of the cultural fabric of Camden. This re-branding is akin
to renaming the Hope & Anchor something like "Oxyacetylene's",
not only pointless but completely counter-productive. When
people ask directions to Lock 17, we just tell 'em its Dingwall's.
All the posters and flyers for gigs there have to say "formerly
Dingwall's" just to remotely interest the punters.
The Camden Palace has been through a few monikers
in it's hundred year history. As the original Camden Palais
Music Hall it entertained the post Victorian generations until
acquired by the BBC in the 1940s, when it became the Camden
Theatre, playing host to legendary BBC radio shows, most notably
of all being home to the Goon Show. Yes, it's true, the adventures
of Neddy, Eccles, Bluebottle, Henry Crun and Colonel Bloodknock
all took place within it's hallowed walls. Just as the ghost
of Tony Hancock is said to haunt the stage of the Royal Festival
Hall, so one might imagine the empty music hall still echoing
with the reeling laughter of audiences enthralled by the glorious
insanity of Milligan, Sellers and Secombe. The BBC pulled
out in the early Seventies, and the music hall became a rock
venue. As The Music Machine it was an instant hit with the
gig going masses, and is even celebrated in legendary rock
movie "Breaking Glass", as "a real hall of
fame". It became the palace of punk, and by the end of
the decade had usurped the Marquee as THE venue that the great
and the good of the alternative movements wanted to play.
Soon after, under the directorship of Steve Strange, it evolved
into the Camden Palace, doubling as London's largest and most
culturally influential nightclub (indeed it was there, twenty
five years ago today, that the news of the death of Joy Division's
Ian Curtis first reached the public's ears, when it was announced
over the PA). And the Palace it remained, until a few months
ago, when it underwent (yet another) refurbishment, and was
relaunched as Koko. Whilst we all want this most precious
of venues to live long and prosper (okay, I have been watching
you-know-what a little too much this week), there is cause
to take issue with this latest re-branding. The name "Koko"
simply has no class compared to previous incarnations. It
is a cheap and brash name for something with a fierce and
proud mythology; it has no edge, no vision, no pride, it is
a neutral and meaningless word. As such the venue itself already
feels less important. It's a naff and unloaded PR stunt name,
and, like "New Labour" before it, it can't decide
what it wants to say. It lacks an innate understanding of
Despite all attempts throughout the history
of the borough to co-opt it, Camden remains defiantly alternative,
and it's sub-culture is now so deeply interwoven into it's
cultural fabric that if one doesn't want defiant alternatives,
sub-culture, rebellion, awkwardness and social diversity then
frankly one should go elsewhere. I actually find it rather
amusing. But then, I realise that Camden people do not wear
ties, at least not around their necks.