Day 6 cntd (April 4th 2009)
Ye Olde Swiss Cottage (Swiss Cottage) 3 x ½ Sam Smith’s Bitter £2.82
Anyone who has driven up or down the Finchley Road will have seen the rather odd looking building in the middle of the Swiss Cottage one way system. It does indeed look like an old Swiss cottage, and sits in an uneasy partnership with the slightly more modern looking cinema next door. There is certainly no sign of any rolling alpine hills or singing goatherds, although I’m sure there was certainly less traffic around when the original building was put here in about 1803. Mr Lewis then informed us that the current pub (reconstructed in 1965), was copying the Swiss Cottage that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert built for their kids at their Osborne House estate on the Isle of Wight. Good knowledge sir.
It is, in short, a strange pub. It is run by Sam Smith’s, who have a number of fine pubs but contain only their own drinks brands, which helps add to the strangeness of this place. It has also been blessed with possibly the greatest cryptic review I have yet seen on abeerintheevening.com, where someone has posted simply “You find a bag of shite in the desert. Do you eat it?”
Brilliant, if a little harsh, because Ye Olde Swiss Cottage isn’t really that bad. Plus it had something over every single place we had visited so far. Yes indeed, it is really, really cheap. Our round worked out at a majestic 94p per half, or £1.88 per pint, easily beating the cheapest Wetherspoons we’ve been to. On the other hand, to say it is lacking in atmosphere is an immense understatement. There were six people outside (including us), and it was a very strange experience to walk from the noisy chaos that surrounds you on the Finchley Road into a truly deathly silence inside the bar. No TV, no music, no sound of customers chatting. Just empty space, a lonely looking barman and a small poster advertising a reward for the return of a lost dog. He’s probably in the room somewhere, under a table where he presumably died of boredom.
Other features of the Swiss Cottage: well, it did have a tap room and a pool room to one side of the building, and indeed a balcony bar upstairs. We didn’t venture into any of these however, on account of them all looking dark, unwelcoming and, er, shut. Also, the pub sign, rather than have the Swiss flag on it, plumped instead for a picture of a Swiss Guard. You know, the ones from The Vatican. In Rome. In Italy. As we noticed this, Mr Lewis affirmed his “font of all knowledge” status by telling us that the original Swiss Guard uniform design is usually attributed to Michelangelo, although a chap called Commandant Repond actually designed the current uniforms in 1914. He’s on a trivia roll.
A truly outstanding, if odd, building, with a very strange pub contained within. We couldn’t help thinking it was another wasted opportunity – should be a great pub but just isn’t. Still, if you’re visiting the Odeon next door and you like cheap beer and very quiet rooms, this could be just your thing.
INTERLUDE: Essential Pub Conversations Number 8 – What are the Most Memorable Music Moments in Film?
Christ we opened up a can of worms with this one. The discussions (ie arguments) are still going on today, and it was very, very difficult to cut the list down to size because it is such a subjective, er, subject.
We had been sitting in the sunshine talking usual pub rubbish, passing the time pleasantly. We always knew that with Gareth along for the day and it was only a matter of time before the talk turned to movies….
So what we ended up with was this: What are the most memorable moments in film involving music? We argued for ever, moved on, bought new drinks, and argued some more. We ended up trying to keep the criteria simple.
- It must be an existing piece of music – ie not written specifically for the film.
- Musicals not included
- In fact, no songs where the cast are playing the song – Musical or not (although sing-along’s to songs in the background are allowed)
Point one is a biggie, and ruled out a whole lot of options, some brilliant (songs from The Graduate, Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head from Butch and Sundance), as well as the slightly more dubious (Stayin’ Alive) and the more obvious (all the Bond themes – although for the record Nobody Does it Better and Goldfinger would’ve been right up there).
Point two keeps us lean and mean. Out goes anything from The Sound of Music, Chicago, Rocky Horror Show, and most of Disney.
Point three, regrettably knocks out such delights as The Soggy Bottom Boys from Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, Steve Carrell and Co bursting into Aquarius at the end of The 40 Year Old Virgin, and the majesty that is Gareth’s personal favourite – God Gave Rock and Roll to You, from the end of Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.
We were going hard core. We were looking for those songs that remind you of a particular scene from a film, a particular point in the story. Quite often hearing one would lead to an immediate image of the other. We even needed to limit the number of Tarantino movies we would allow, otherwise the list would look like the soundtrack to Pulp Fiction.
Here’s the top ten we ended up with – as usual, in no particular order, because quite frankly it took us long enough to just get this far:
Misirlou (Dick Dale) from Pulp Fiction – an obvious start, but a spectacular one with Pumpkin, Honeybunny et al.
Layla (Derek and The Dominoes) from Goodfellas – The piano section, as Robert De Niro eliminates all his ties to the Lufthansa heist
Don’t Stop Me Now (Queen) from Shaun of the Dead – Easily the best ever zombie killing sequence using pool cues and Freddie Mercury.
Stuck in the Middle with You (Stealers Wheel) from Reservoir Dogs – A song now permanently associated with ear slicing nastiness.
Claire De Lune (Debussy) from Ocean’s Eleven – a stunning piece of music set against the backdrop of the Eleven watching the Bellagio’s fountains in Vegas.
Perfect Day (Lou Reed) from Trainspotting – Don’t do drugs, kids.
Tiny Dancer (Elton John) from Almost Famous – cheesy but perfect as dear old Reg Dwight reunites bickering bandmates.
Ride of the Valkyries (Wagner) from Apocalypse Now – iconic helicopter images, set to iconic music.
Old Time Rock’n’Roll (Bob Seger) from Risky Business – a very young Cruise, dancing around his parents house to the Silver Bullet Band
Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen) from Wayne’s World – How could we leave it out? Worth it just for the “Mirth-mobile”.
Random Disqualifications: We are basically movie snobs, and so the pottery bit from Ghost got disqualified because it’s a horrible film and we really didn’t like it; we also couldn’t bring ourselves to consider the Dirty Dancing soundtrack (sorry mum, I know it’s your fave film); Werewolves of London from the Colour of Money was out because the Cruiser was just too smug by this point; and God Only Knows from the end of Love Actually was discarded because the film overall is just a bit too cheesy.
Honourable Mentions: Across 110th Street from Jackie Brown; Lust for Life at the start of Trainspotting; pretty much the rest of the music from Tarantino films (particularly Little Green Bag, You Never Can Tell, Didn’t I Blow Your Mind, Son of a Preacher Man, Girl You’ll be a Woman Soon etc, etc etc) ; La Cavatina from The Deer Hunter (we couldn’t quite work out whether it was written for the film or not); and not forgetting I Can’t Turn You Loose from the first car chase scene in the Blues Brothers – although you could argue it is a musical, this is one of the few songs not performed by any of the cast.
Slightly Pathetic Pleas: JW asking if we could have the “Moon and New York City” song from Arthur, before being told it is actually called “Arthur’s Theme”; and finally Gareth claiming that “White Christmas” could be included from the film White Christmas, because it was originally written for the earlier film “Holiday Inn and therefore dodges rule one. The fact that it is from a musical (rule 2) and is sung by the cast (rule 3) is another matter. I think you start to get the picture on just how wide ranging and contentious this ended up being. Enough. Music Moments in Movies – Done.