Category Archives: West London

Brightlight City – Live at Hobgoblin, Staines

Epsom band ‘Brightlight City’, formed together holistically in 2010, following long time friendships and brotherhood (the Giarraputo brothers- Jamie on vocals and Justin on guitar). We were pleased that we managed to catch up with this band and their photogenic jamboree of musical fun at the best live music venue in Middlesex, the Hob, Staines.

Their debut single ‘Pressure’ was self released at the end of 2010 and can be heard on the cult British film ‘Jack Falls’. And their new single ‘The Others’ is a bombastic frothily beating heart bop song. Very ‘Duran Duran’ in places with but with their customary slice of acetic growl and snarl adding garnish later. And it’s even reminiscent of ‘The Jam.’

The band played an appetizing show at the Hobgoblin, featuring some excellent song structures and fine vocal imagery, expertly veneered to perfection. Songs like ‘You Shone’ which has diamond sharp lyrics and chirpily relentless vocals (with a dove-like coo-coo-coo). Shot through with cleanly etched guitars that rise and fall like demented moths around the candle-wax. Sumptuous harmonies add a luxurious quality and an impressive extra dimension.

Other catchy tunes include ‘Shortcuts’ – this travels with ease along a jagged path, yet at a light-footed pace. With short, sharp shots of guitar from Jono and Justin, and unhesitating percussion and eloquent bass from Joe and Dan. A cleverly planned chorus means this number sticks around in your brainbox long after the show.

‘Set Sail’ has an irregular rhythm guitar pattern and a sparkling pace. This song brings to mind ‘The Cure’ even with  those bruised and smeared ‘Robert Smith’ sounding vocals and an insistent chorus that drills into your skull and finds a neat place to curl up and slumber- bursting out later to surprise you!

Brightlight City are full of shine. This band, by rights, should have a profitable future.

© Neil_Mach October 2011

Link:

http://www.facebook.com/thebrightlightcity

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Foley Artist – Live at Hobgoblin, Staines – Aug 18

The craftsmen know as foley artists try to create realistic ambient sound for movies … that’s why the horses in the movies always tend to clip-clop their hooves, even when  travelling on sand or grass… the foley artist has added the sound ‘after’ filming with a couple of coconuts.  Foley Artist is also the name of a rock band that I went to see on 18 AUG at the best music venue in Middlesex – the Hobgoblin, Staines.

Foley Artist create monster sounds on a magnitude totally exceeding your expectations. Instrumentally adept, their output seems jammed firmly betwixt hardcore and hard rock – little nuggets’ of tungsten embedded between two tectonic plates. A tough nut to crack, although I hope the band eventually breaks firmly into the classic hard rock seam. At this stage vocals can be a bit hit-and-miss, but you can forgive this slight aberration as you are blown away by the style and substance of the astonishing white-hot guitar magic. In fact, their sound brings to mind – ahem – Led Zeppelin (yes, really). Bluesy, smoky, blameless, armour-piercing rock and roll, blood and flames.

These swindlers played a short set at The Hob (due to feeling under the weather.)  But the band provided enough material to get a reasonable idea of the quality of their sounds. Tunes like ‘Shadow Boxing’ from the ‘Gorgeous Dog’ E.P demonstrate the innovative guitar trickery and licentious  percussion. ‘Brad Pitts Beard’ is ice cold and angular. Satisfying bass-play from man-mountain Olly Nunn creates a bed of chewy textures for the finely detailed fretwork and interwoven vocals. Songs like ‘Wheaties Box’ are heavy, headstrong and banging. Laced with streaks of silvery guitar and full of time juxtapositions, with tempo-changes aplenty.

Bold bass-play, excellent guitar instrumentation from frontman Matt Searle together with the percussive fireworks from James on drums, mean that Foley Artist are ones to watch as they negotiate up the rocky road. Good luck lads.

© Neil_Mach
August 2011

Links:

http://www.myspace.com/foleyartistmusic

http://foleyartist.bandcamp.com/

Trans Siberian Orchestra Live in London- Symphonic Crock

Back in the Seventies K-Tel released an album named ‘Classical Rock’ that was basically a well chosen selection of rock songs (such as ‘Paint it Black’ or ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’ ) that had been ‘classicalized’ by a symphony orchestra. It was not a new idea, the Moody Blues had already had gentle success with the ‘Days of Future Passed’ project, and by then we had all heard melodramatic orchestrated rock by The Beatles on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

But the ‘Classical Rock’ album sold well and a few years later we got ‘Hooked on Classics’ and other similar lighter, fluffier featherweight offerings that all made a quick buck for the orchestras concerned and were fond fodder for the TV marketers’ of the day and firm favourites  of the catwalk-empires.  Over the years they re-hash these same old winning formulas – celebrating the apparent fusion of classical music and rock. But they forget (perhaps) that both genres are living and breathing beasts. Both art forms are healthy, dynamic and energetic. They both draw huge, fanatical crowds of adoring
fans – without needing any ‘help’ from each other.

But, nevertheless, we now we have the Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) whose claim is that all this is fresh and ‘real’ and that they are bringing classics back to the audience along with a much needed lightning bolt of shock rock. These travelling showmen are already terribly successful in the U.S. and have just completed  a high profile European tour.This was their first U.K. outing. I was watching their new show ‘Beethoven’s Last Night’ at Hammersmith, London.

The narrative of the show (over-dramatically told) was that, while Beethoven was diligently working on his ‘Symphony X’ in the silence of the night, he was visited by three other-worldly characters: Mephistopheles, Fate and Twist.

And so began a Christmas-Carol type journey for poor Ludwig, who was taken back to his early years by the spirits, and forced to watch himself as a young man (missing out on lurve) and meeting Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  on the way. He was then asked to negotiate a price for his soul in exchange for the valuable works of his life. This was the rather contrived excuse for the subsequent musical pieces upon which the show was flimsily patch worked together – including pastiches of classical ‘hits’ (the ones we all love,)  mixed and matched with the elevator-quality soft rock vibes (the ones we all loathe.)

Bringing this to life on stage were a host of classical musicians together with a small herd of choristers (huddled together for safety, away from the shifty ones with the long hair.) Sharing the expansive stage was an over-exuberant violin playing crazyman (Roddy Chong), who danced around in fits and spurts, like a firecracker.  And the handful of long-haired worthy looking guitar-men (of a certain age), were spread wide across the stage – along with a sunken drummer and a couple of keyboard wizards – to make it seem like a rock show.

The flamboyant laser and lighting effects certainly added value, and dramatic pizzazz to the production and the show was nicely paced and superbly produced. But I had this constant nauseous feeling, deep in the core of my glands and the pits of my tubes, that the whole darn thing was strangely …  corpulent.  It felt like a slightly sickening eighties style big-hair-cut act of conceit. For business-men to lap up. Along with their bitchy wives. It seemed ultimately pomped up and preened to artificial perfection. A pontificating pile of pretentious pap. But that’s just me.  Several of the worthy and the good in the West London audience stood up to vigorously applaud the efforts of these noble rock-warriors who were (supposedly) blazing a trail for modern classical symphonic rock.

The female singers – especially Patti Russo- were solid, powerful, generous and gorgeous-  full of warmth and passion.  Their ‘arias’ reminded me very much of the Meat Loaf performances of the Nineties – you know the kind of  thing- a sultry lady peering-back-over-her-shoulder in earnest – the burning unsaid passions beneath the slinky dresses -appassionato squared. But the male vocalists were less successful, straining to pull notes out of the ether, and over-egging several different puddings at once, in their efforts to come across as serious and commanding performers.

Instrumentation is the strong element of the TSO – but I even found this slightly less exciting than it should have been. The overall sound was often buzzy and cloudy. Individual elements and instruments were obscured by the bass notes and piles-and-piles of guitar chords.  And where were the flourishes and virtuoso pieces? The keyboards were accomplished (without being scintillating or dramatic) the guitar work was robust and workaday (but not fiery or feisty.) And percussion was hum-drum and rhythmic (yet neither passionate nor creative.) This troupe does not come anywhere near to the magical virtuoso performances found in bands such as ‘Dream Theater’ or ‘Rush’.  I still fondly remember Rick Wakeman playing the “Six Wives of Henry VIII” (1973) – lurking over the piano and wildly playing the keys like some kind of madly demonic dangerously possessed praying mantis – a whirl of hands, arms and blonde locks- in a confusion of colours and sound.  There were none of these moments within the TSO show.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra creator Paul O’Neill (previously of ‘Savatage’) told us that he is influenced by the “British, British, British.”  ‘E.L.P’,  ‘Pink Floyd’, ‘Queen’ and even ‘The Who’ are cited. But lots of other bands have been blurring the lines of distinction between rock music and classical music, since those early prog-gold years.  What about E.L.O.?  Or the aforementioned ‘Moody Blues’ (still going strong?)  And good classical music often turns into popular music – look at the football hits like Nessun Dorma etc. Classics don’t need to be re-hashed, re-tread, over-hyped and tinsel-treated to make them popular. And, perhaps more importantly for the rock community, we have some excellent rock/prog bands on the circuit right now who have laudable ‘classical’ aspirations- ‘Nightwish’ and ‘Within Temptation’ are two such bands that spring to mind. These bands make fresh symphonic rock and yet have mass-market youth based potential and global appeal. Even epic speed metal bands like homegrown ‘Dragonforce’ add a powerful punch of symphonic classic-sounding rock into their overall mix, and have  huge followings.  If the TSO were truly dedicated to their art they would, at the very least, have a band like ‘Dragonforce’ along with them as ‘supporting’ artists, to show off the youthful side of the genre.

Witnessing the TSO was like watching a bunch of earnest looking bankers playing a selection of TV advert backing tapes. It was like that bloody “Isa Isa baby” advert. It doesn’t make sense, but it gets into your head.  It was like having the British Airways advert being played  to you live by a group of news-readers in wigs. The hairies in the band looked like the kind of stereo-typical rockers that wouldn’t even rattle a blue-rinse Daily Mail waving Cheltenham-based lady-golfer. You know the kind of thing – long clean hair, chiselled looks, tanned skin,  long elegant coat, shiny boots, and a silver chain.

The whole look was so fabricated and so dated you might think it was a joke. In fact it really would all be vastly amusing, if it were not for one thing … this was not meant to be taken tongue-in-cheek. It was serious music. It was in your face.  It was not fun cabaret style nonsense like the Queen musical ‘We Will Rock You’.

It was just dreary.

© Neil_Mach
March 2011

Links:

http://www.trans-siberian.com/

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The SkaSouls live at the Riverside Club, Staines

Knees up, trumpets down, shades on – let’s skavoovie!

After their phenomenal success, playing the hottest gig of the year, at The Hobgoblin, Staines last week – the SkaSouls went on to sell out the Staines Riverside Club on 17th Feb as well ( A charity performance in aid of the Joshua Deller Appeal).  We went along to find out what all the fuss was about.

On the glittery stage were six venerable musicians who all share a wide ranging musical ability, and each possesses the kind of musical experience and prowess that other bands merely fantasize about. Playing in various bands on the local and National scene before embarking on this Ska-shaped project back in the Summer of last year, these boys have since enjoyed a growing popularity as this town’s favourite 2-tone party band. And they already possess an enviable reputation for playing those authentically sweet Jamaican-style grooves and sweaty urban ska standards that you and I loved in the 80s – with covers of all your favourite songs from bands like  ‘The Specials’,  ‘Bad Manners’ and ‘Madness’.

After a raucous start at this Riverside venue, the band thundered and roared into their set like a Louisiana rainstorm – stopping for nothing – as they pelted out hit after hit. A large space was kept free to dance, and by the second song the audience was already up and dancing to the vibes. This band is wild. Those skutter-bus salt-chip shavings of sound soon start to set your world on fire.

Early numbers included ‘My Girl Lollipop’ (attributed to ‘Bad Manners’) but originally a doo-wop number for The Cadillacs’s before becoming a phenomenal hit for ‘Millie Small’ back in 1964 (as My Boy Lollipop). This song came alive with groovy flares of trumpet from Nick and thumping bass from Huw. But during the set we were also delectably teased with some delightful surprises like Chuck Berry’s  “You Never Can Tell”  or  Dexys Midnight Runners tribute to ram-jam Soul-Man Geno Washington “Geno”, upon which lead vocalist Lee sounds like vintage David Essex (in a good way, I must emphasise.)

But it is on the big tribal classix like “Gangsters” that this band really thrives and the audience becomes visibly alive.

This is two-tone heaven as the twin horns ( Nick on Trumpet and Allan on Trombone) flame and rip into your soul, the chuttering guitars frizzle your senses, the walkabout bass-lines juggle your brain and the ka-ching percussion rattles your emotions. And even creepy sound effects for songs like “Ghost Town” sound as genuinely disturbing, gritty and as ghoulish as you would expect.

Then we shoed-off for a skank doing the “Pressure Drop” (The Trojan-shaped hit from  Toots and the Maytals). This song and others in the SkaSouls repertoire feature those great wallowing Belushi-sized vocals from Lee and some impressive backing vocals from the other band members. Plus lumbering great chunks of trumpet and trombone and golden nuggets of pound-for-pound bass. Then we enjoyed “The Guns of Navarone” which was originally performed by ‘The Skatalites’ and later covered by ‘The Specials’. This tune was a thumping great success from beginning to end. And the amazing lead guitar from Ben shines out on this and other songs.

After an interval, to catch our breaths, the band raced into those endearing and catchy ska-pop standards we all loved – “Baggy Trousers” (Madnesss) and Lee Thompson’s tribute to Prince Buster “The Prince” – from which “Madness” took their name. And the incredibly structured “Night Boat to Cairo” (this song used to be a bit of an anthem for Lee’s much-loved old party band – FoulPlay.)

And in the final flourish we also enjoyed a thriving “Shame & Scandal” that started life as a hit for Lance Percival (of all people) before becoming an early ska-hit for Peter Tosh with the Skatalites – before being ‘re-born’ by ‘Madness’ during the new wave of British ska. And, of-course, we had the classic and superbly syncopated song “Israelites” (1969 Desmond Dekker.)

It was just a case of getting your knees up, trumpets down, shades on and skiffling and skadoodling the night away. Sheer bliss!

This is Lee Ridley’s dream outfit of a band, the vision he had wanted to create for years, but who would have thought that it could ever percolate into something as refreshing and uplifting as this?  Welcome to the chapel of living rhythm and holy beat ‘cos these madcap skasters are here to jump-start your weekend.  Do not take your eyes off this band …. and catch ‘em live as soon as you possibly can.

© Neil_Mach
February 2011

This concert was a charity show for the Joshua Deller Appeal – the event raised over £1200 for little Joshclick here to donate too

Band Link:

http://www.skasouls.com/

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Morning Orchestra – Live Review – Hobgoblin, Staines

They may whiff of flop-house green tea, and look like a bunch of ne’er-do-well backyard stirrers from a monochrome Buster Keaton road movie, but this band may well be the best thing to have come out of last year- well, this side of the Catskills, anyway. Organic and farm fresh, these boys harness the unsullied rawness of sometime 1950’s hometown skiffle-charm, juxtaposed with a keen ear for post punk indie rock. Think of McGuinness Flint crossed with Lovin’ Spoonful and Mumford & Sons, to get somewhere near the idea.

This astonishing show band comprises of corn-bred Dave Yeoman on vocals, also playing his trusty ukulele and some modern keys; Stoical Richard Jones on guitar and Vocals; Sage-like Andrew Stuart-Buttle on bass and also providing backing vocals and trusty Pete Rundle on drums. This is a line-up of raw kinetic energy, albeit neatly tied and tussled into a compact, camera-ready package.

So at the Hob, Staines, we enjoyed a sublime serving of feverishly beautiful songs delivered by this troop of jolly bright-eyed and virtuous do-gooders. The set was like plundering a two-for a dime Rock-Ola full of roots music hits. Take, for example, “Whatever Goes Around” which has a twanging chiming, neatly packaged vibe – this song is cheerful and buzzy in a good way. Or take the song “Two Feet”- (and please let us  forgive the fact that the intro sounds just like Sweet’s  seventies hit  “Blockbuster”.)  Let’s go straight to the highborn vocals that break through the ‘paste and sticks’ rhythm, to clear a way for that noble, yet choppy, chorus to shine through.

Sometimes Dave’s uke takes the lead or introduces a song, like the bumpy “Caroline” with the thumpy bass, rat-a-tat percussion and soft as goose-down vocals. At other times, Dave takes goes to the keyboard, to add texture and depth. The whole time he  bounces, Cheshire-cat grins, and cradles the heart-warmed audience with his gentle vibrato-filled vocals.

The splendid “Everything Alright” has generous layers of softly textured melody and a sweetly groovy rhythm. This is the ultimate feelgood ‘angels in white’ lullaby for you and your gal. I thoroughly recommend a hug by the fireplace with this tune on softly in the background. Those precise harmonies will gladden your heart. And it will get your ‘other half’ in the mood.

There is plenty more shilly-shally riffing from the oversize scrapbook of this jook house band, and most breeze along at a fairly frantic pace. The musicianship and vocal quality is quite astonishing. Songs range from softly rocking up-tempo numbers- each played with beguiling style-  to low slung  cotton-picking gen-u-ine Americana.

Wow. What a band!  What a Catch for the Hobgoblin!  See ’em as soon as you can, while it is still possible. ‘Cos They will be flying high, certainly, by the end of the year.

© Neil_Mach
December 2010

Link:

http://www.myspace.com/themorningorchestra

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Paloma Faith at Hammersmith Apollo – Some Spectacular Shizz

I must admit I have become as the french say  ‘enamoured’ by Paloma over the last year.  And so have the hundreds of beautiful fans who were waiting on the wet West London streets outside the HMV Hammersmith Apollo to see Paloma Faith at the home-coming London end of what she describes as her ‘massively short’ tour. As I looked up and down the huge line of people waiting patiently to enter the venue, I realized that I had not seen a crowd like this since –  I do not know – Kate Bush, probably. The fact is, there were girls there, let’s say 14 or 15 years old,  they looked like dance school students, there were plenty of college aged young people gathered together in large packs, there were older ‘married looking’ couples standing hand-in-hand, even older gentlemen and ladies who needed assistance to walk – it seemed they had come by bus. There were big bald geezers, punks, goths, rockers, hip-hoppers, dudes, and all colours of the rainbow …. anyway, you get the picture. Paloma appeals to a mass audience. And why? Because she is  that rare kind of phenomena – a musical star who is both outrageously entertaining yet down to earth. And she plays a music that spans generations and genres – jazz and soul from the glory days of Etta James and Billie Holiday, right up to American hip hop and funk like Cee Lo Green.

So looking like a vision of Tamara de Lempicka in a 1920’s Art Deco Paris-set garden, Paloma Faith arrived on stage in a stunning and glamorous peacock dress with fan-like white wings spread to the rear. Geometric shapes dominated the style of her costume head dress and ‘wings’ and her glittery 1920’s style jewellery was draped, dangling precariously low. She was every inch a silent movie siren. As you may already know, Paloma was once a performer in burlesque shows, and she likes to strike a pose! So almost immediately, as she spread her wings, her porcelain frame created a picture perfect art deco image against the background screen. Glamour is her thing. The terrific band was also done up-to-the-nines in matching suits – crisp and perfectly tailored.

The opening number “Play On” from the album “Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful?”  is powerful and anthemic. It reminds me a lot of a favourite  Grace Slick number ( ‘Dreams’ from the 1980 solo album.) It is haunting, dark and melancholic yet rousing and jubilant enough to get the heart pumping and the spirit lifted from your bones. This song merged graciously into the much more urban and gritty ‘Stone Cold Sober’.  Paloma might throw her heart at the wrong man (from time-to-time) but when her heart goes into a song,  she delivers it on a preciously beautiful plate of splendid sounds for all to enjoy and devour.

“Broken Doll”  is quirky, bizarre and childish  – like it’s mistress – and is not one of my favourites on her album.  But you have to buy into this innocence and schmaltz if you want to stand any chance of getting to know Paloma and her music. Her singing voice is expansive, bold, loud-mouthed, brassy and hungry… but standing before us (albeit dressed as an Art Deco icon) she is a tiny doll, babyish, and over-cute. A right little “pop princess”.  She knows she is our kooky puppet. And she plays it for all it’s worth!

Paloma introduced the good-natured and adoring crowd to a few numbers off of her forthcoming new LP. In fact, she told the audience that they could choose a track – “This is gonna be like some kind of multiple choice album – you can choose A, B or C”. After two superb and rugged versions of “Do You Want The Truth or Something Beautiful?” (The club remix and radio version) we got to hear “Just Be” and, a little later, “Me and My Cellulite” – which is bound to be a major trans-Atlantic hit for 2011 – just mark my words!

In her next outfit, looking like a photoplay version of Lillian Gish, as cocky as Betty Boop, but as glam as Priscilla Dean, she deftly stepped down a huge staircase placed centre-stage in scandalously high heels and wearing a shiny, sleeky peacock blue dress with ridiculously overblown halo-like collar, to belt out hit “Sexy Minx.”. On this song she demonstrated that she is a belter – like a Shirley Bassey – but she can be sensitive and reflective too – like a kind of Hackney-based Édith Piaf.

Determined to mine pity, compassion and awe in equal measures, as an audience it was demanded of us that we were wowed and moved. Yet we laughed at her on-stage antics ( she tried to slide gracefully across the grand piano – but had to do the movement in awkward jolts.) “Me and Grace don’t really go together – in my mind, I’m doing this in one fluid motion, but this is what you actually see.” Or, for the new song “Me and My Cellulite” she said she had to take off her sparkling high heels  “So you lot can actually see what’s going on.” she then slammed and shook her bountiful booty at the audience.

Her band played with style and panache and a good deal of vigour. Paloma explained that she would be losing her guitarist Seye Adelekan at the end of the tour. (He has got himself a record contract.)  Hairy Dom Pipkin on keys was a creative wizard,  Andrea Goldsworthy on bass was smooth and sensuous, and Sam Agard on drums was energetic and precise. Backing vocals were provided by a trio of gorgeous girls – Crystal Jones, Baby Sol, Jetta- who arrived on stage with their ‘briefcases’ containing their song-sheets.  Beautifully emotional and slickly professional.

After a raucous cover of the hit Cee Lo Green song F- You! (and F you too) “I pity the fool that falls in love with you..” Paloma also introduced us to one of her own favourite songs, “Into My Arms” a cover of a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ number (from The Boatman’s Call in 1997).  And then the time was up – wow it went fast- and we were at the end of a shiny and exhilarating show full of joy and blaze … finishing off with a vast sing along version of her hit song “New York” – we were happily bouncing and grooving like crazy – arms in the air.

And Paloma proved beyond dispute that she is no ‘Amy Winehouse’ cash-in one hit wonder. Oh no, she has more style and substance in her than Nina Simone mixed up and mashed with Outcast’s André 3000. She is a truly magnificent trooper, a true entertainer and, with Ed Harcourt, an extraordinary songwriting talent. And as her support act  Eliza Doolittle says:  “ There’s some spectacular shizz going on there!”

© Neil_Mach
November 2010

Links:

http://www.palomafaith.com

http://www.myspace.com/palomafaith

10 December 2010
Paloma Faith & the Guy Barker Orchestra

10th December: Barbican ‘Big Band’
Ticket Link http://www.barbican.org.uk
Box Office 02076388891

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Staines-on-Thames? More like Staines-under-Pants !

So they HAVE changed the name of  STAINES to Staines-on-Thames

Why?  A  conceit, I suppose.  Most likely because Staines doesn’t sound very nice, well does it?   It is like Neasden and Scunthorpe in that it has added much merriment and joviality to many a poor comedian’s script over the years.

Welcome to ScunthorpeBut the ‘on-thames’ suffix doesn’t really make sense.

Kingston,  Surrey has the ‘on-thames’ suffix to differentiate it from Hull or the capital of Jamaica.   Walton has the ‘on-thames’ to distinguish it from the Naze or a county in sunny Florida.  Sunbury has it just to elevate it from its Feltham-fringed neighbour. But Staines is the “One and Only.. ”  (as local resident Chesney Hawkes once sang) and so it doesn’t need any more frills.  Other “One and Only’s”  like  Caversham or Oxford don’t have to call themselves ‘On Thames’ to have a snobby sense of well-to-do-ness about them.  But Henley does.

I have always thought that ‘Laleham St Annes’ has a nice ring to it – and would be a name welcome to most riverside estate agents. And with that name is still possible to keep the ‘Staines’ bit (albeit corrupted into St Annes.)

And why does it have to be connected to the River Thames anyway?  The ancient market town has a moor (two actually) so why not go the whole nine yards and rename the town altogether as ‘The Great Dark Moor’ or ‘Little Black Moor’.  That would look great in the estate agent windows – and on the coat-of-arms  – and certainly would give the place a certain whiff of ‘Lord of the Rings’  type mystery.

Or why not allude to the enormous amount of lakes and reservoirs in the district … if it is good enough for our close neighbour Virginia and remote Cumbrian cousin Coniston– why not call it  Staines Water?   Although that sounds like it is one of those regional fat-cat water companies.

© Neil Mach
© Neil Mach

We could take a leaf out of the old Soviet book – they liked to name their industrial towns after the things they made. Like ‘Tractor Town’ or ‘Electric Town’.  We could call our lovely town ‘Lino Town’.  Yes, I know the lino industry is all gone now, but it was one of our great claims to fame and provided Staines with a valuable international reputation.

Or Lagonda Town?  That was (after all) a  ‘made up’ word anyway. And it sounds like a luxurious brand. You have to admit – it is pretty ‘tourist friendly’.

We were once famous for our mills too, we had water mills, powder mills, mustard mills… what about Great Mills ? No, on second thoughts that makes us sound like a huge shopping mall.

What about delving further back into history and using the names left by the ancient people who lived here by the river?   They used the meads (meadows) to farm and their greatest celebration was at Lammas (Loaf Mass) when they had safely gathered in the harvest.  So why not Lammas Meads?  Now that has a nice ring to it.  Although it sounds a bit like a concrete seventies comprehensive school. And there is already a Staines Lammas football team.

© Neil Mach
© Neil Mach

It is said that the Elders of this area once used to meet under a Thorn tree (also sometimes an Ash Tree) to decide upon important local matters- thus Spelthorne or the ‘Speilthorne’  – the ‘talking tree’…. so why not use this name?  Now the name is used just for a boring local government district but once it was a truly great name, mentioned in the Domesday Book – the whole area that we now know as Staines was called the Spelthorne Hundred.  Now that’s a good name isn’t it?

Or why not copy the Bailiwick of Guernsey and name our town after our church – St Peter?  Hythe was once a thriving little port so why not St Peters Port?  Or Hythe Port.  Or St Marys?  Like the Isles of Scilly?

When the Romans arrived here back in 43 A.D and created the first crossing point over the river, they had a respect for the sacred name of the river – they knew it as Thamases – they just added Isis to the end of it to make it more sound more, well,  ‘Roman’.  But they did not want to upset the gentle old river god (Father Thames) by renaming his river any more than they had to.  Maybe we could be just as respectful as the Romans and call our town Thames Isis?  Now that would be a nice place to live and prosper in wouldn’t it?  And there would be no more little digs from comedians about our silly name.

I suppose, if we couldn’t beat them (the comedians) then we could join them by calling our home town ‘Staines Massive’.  Nowadays, the irony of Sacha Baron Cohen’s clever use of Staines for placing his character Ali G is lost on most people you meet.  They actually believe we live in some kind of  ‘hood’ (conjuring up images of the Lower West Side) where street-gangs like the Jets and the Sharks hang-out…  rather than where we actually reside-  a fairly boring and conservative geriatric bungalow-town sandwiched uninspiringly between the M25 and Heathrow.

Do you know what the Romans called the place when they discovered it?
Ad Pontes – meaning at the bridges.  Now that’s as good  a name as any for a town isn’t it?

© Neil_Mach
1st November 2010
[Updated once the local authority changed the name.]

For Music, Arts and Going Out in Staines – check out ADPONTES-STAINES

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