Yesterday’s news of Blur reuniting to play a big gig in Hyde Park next July brought back a few memories of the peninsula, long before it became an entertainment venue, a buy-to-let landlord’s dream, and when the phrase “North Greenwich” would result in puzzled looks…
The video to Parklife was filmed over a couple of days in August 1994 in River Way, outside the Pilot pub. I remember this well – I was a big fan of the band and the filming took place on my 20th birthday. You can also see Ordnance Crescent (and the hoardings which covered up work on the Jubilee Line extension) and the Sun-in-the-Sands roundabout as well.
Of course, it doesn’t look like that now – the old street, which contained the pub, the cottages, a power station and an industrial estate – and years before, a railway bridge for the line up to the gas works – was obliterated in 1998 as part of construction work on the Millennium Dome. The tenants in the cottages were given their marching orders as the Dome’s operators moved in, the industrial yards moved to Charlton.
But before then, there were a couple of reminders left behind of Greenwich’s contribution to Britpop history – the words “PARK LIFE” and an arrow were left painted on the road by the production crew where the road met the river, by the rusting jetty once used by the gas works. The “Parklife Walk East/West” signs were inspired by the old “Riverside Walk East/West” signs on River Way, back when it was impossible to walk around the peninsula and walkers had to walk down it and across the Blackwall Tunnel approach to continue their journeys.
All now gone, of course, but the houses and pub remain as some of the few remnants of the peninsula’s pre-1999 past. Indeed, the Pilot’s a fine pub, a great escape from the soulless venues inside the Dome. When the car park outside the pub is empty, though, it is still possible to remember what it was like that sunny day when Blur came to town, though.
Of course, it’s not their only link to these parts – the members of Blur met at Goldsmiths College in New Cross, and Alex James’s brilliant memoir of his time in the band, Bit of a Blur, details his days living in a squat on New Cross Road.
I’ve mixed feelings on the band getting back together again, myself – I tend to be the sort of person who thinks memories should be left in the past, and the thought of a load of 30somethings returning to the days when they were younger and less paunchy is a bit embarrassing. Mind you, that doesn’t stop Oasis lumbering on. On the other hand, Blur didn’t actually split up (no formal announcement was ever made of Graham Coxon’s departure, for example) and it’s only five years since their last album.
But then again, I don’t begrudge them the pay day, and might even try to get to Hyde Park myself. Now, I hope you’ll excuse this 30something another nostalgia trip…