The Lord Denham (Dagenham Heath) 2 x ½ Silver Stallion, ½ Tanglefoot, ½ Old Rosie £3.90
By now I was starting to very slowly change my opinions about Wetherspoons. Keith has spent a long time telling me that they aren’t always awful and that you could often get a decent pint of ale. I was finally beginning to believe him.
Not that the Lord Denham was a particularly good pub – far from it – but it wasn’t that awful either, and once again the ales we ordered were in excellent condition. Lewis even ordered a cheeky Old Rosie to check if it was good on handpull. It was proper loopy-juice, but in good nick nevertheless.
Otherwise, it was business as usual: a bog standard JDW outlet with very little that was different to any other JDW outlet you might visit – maybe except for the Stannah Stairlift that went down the stairs between levels. There were a few old boys towards the back playing rummy “for small stakes”, and they definitely looked like they might need the Stannah if they were ever going to leave. Shunning the offer of main meals for £2.99 and Cocktail pitchers for £5.80 we quickly departed in search of more unusual fare.
The Roundhouse (Becontree) ½ Courage Best, ½ Strongbow, ½ Stella £4.45
This was a long, long way from the station – as we wandered down featureless suburban streets we began to fear that we wouldn’t actually make it and would remain Lost in Essex for the rest of our lives. Finally though, we rounded the last corner to be confronted with the site of The Roundhouse.
What a building! It looked like some sort of thirties Art Deco beer temple although apparently it was only built in 1969. The ground floor of the building was indeed wide and round, with a square tower rising out of the middle – it actually looks like a bell tower, so perhaps most of Becontree can hear it when last orders are called. This should’ve been an amazing pub, but as usual a serious lack of care and attention ensured that the whole thing was actually a dishevelled mess. Such a shame.
There are three bar areas around the building, all as grotty as each other, and the toilets were truly awful. There was a sort of stage area in one of the rooms and it was only later that we discovered that this was originally quite a well known music venue.
“Deep Purple played here in 1972. It’s been going steadily downhill ever since” was how one chap summed it up on beerintheevening.com. These days the live acts seemed to be considerably random, as they were advertising “An evening with Ray Parlour and Alvin Martin”. Not sure I remember any of their songs……
Still, the landlady was very nice; you could get a double gin for £2.00 and have a game of darts in the corner whilst you drank it. They were also obviously very community minded – there was a lot of stuff in the bar about all the fundraising the pub and its locals were doing for John and Bridie’s Charity (for two Essex children with a rare and incurable genetic disease). It’s always good to know that a pub can be the centre of a community in more ways than one, and it is a crying shame that places like The Roundhouse are being allowed to deteriorate until they get closed and knocked down.
Anyway, time to move on. Random discovery as we left – there is a road round the back of the pub called Bragg Close, and it is actually named after Billy Bragg, whose family had apparently lived there for 100 years or so. Fact. Highly appropriate too, seeing as the conversations today were becoming almost exclusively about music. Time to sort out the big debate.
INTERLUDE: Essential Pub Conversations Number 13 – What is The Ultimate Fantasy Rock Band? (Sub-category: 1 Alive, 1 Dead!)
The ridiculously long walk to and from the Roundhouse gave us plenty of time to flesh this one out. As previously mentioned, we had been ranting about music since the very first pub today, chatting about great bands, terrible bands, bands that thought they were great but weren’t, people who were outstanding in bands but rubbish as solo acts, and people who were just great whatever they did.
This was all leading us inexorably towards the mother of all music arguments. Taking away all constraints imposed by money, history, geography and lifespan – Who would make up the Greatest Rock Band of All Time?
We spent long enough just arguing about what format the band should take, but settled on: Lead Singer/Front Man; Lead Guitarist; Rhythm/2nd Guitarist; Bassist; Drummer. Then because we were enjoying it so much we extended it to include up to three backing singers too. Plus we spent so long arguing about guys who were still rocking today versus musicians who have shuffled off this mortal coil (usually via crashes, drowning, shotguns or vomit) that we finally agreed that we would put together not one, but TWO magnificent Supergroups – The Dead Kennedys and The Living Dolls, if you will.
We started with the live band, and threw as many suggestions as we could into the hat – although Gareth immediately thought he had it in the bag. “Just give me Cream, fronted by Brian Johnson, that’ll do” He said, and then firmly cemented his loyalty for the Geordie AC/DC front man by declaring “And if anyone mentions Bon Scott for the dead band, I’ll kill them.”
It’s fair to say that most of the early calls were based around the lead singer, and as expected, the arguments were fierce. My impassioned pleas for David Bowie were shouted down on the grounds that he was never “RocknRoll” enough and Jagger was rejected due to the fact that he looks like his body is made out of coat hangers these days. Gareth was still pushing hard for Johnson too, but Keith and I were having difficulty coming to terms with his flat cap. What about the Bruces? Well, we all agreed that Springsteen just wasn’t a good enough singer, and Dickinson was just a bit too mad (although he would come in handy for flying the tour plane and fighting off the paparazzi with his epee). When all was said and done, however there really was only one choice, and once he was in place, the rest of the band just seemed to fall into line:
The Ultimate Fantasy Rock Band (Alive):
Lead Singer – Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin)
The ability to truly wail out an anthem, and strut around like a rock god with spectacular hair and incredibly skinny trousers sealed it for the Led Zeppelin legend.
Lead Guitar – Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin)
2nd Guitar – Eric Clapton (Cream, The Yardbirds, Derek and the Dominos etc, etc)
There are a lot of amazing guitarists out there, but nobody else really stood a chance. Who could resist seeing the man who wrote some of the greatest guitar riffs playing alongside, er, the man who wrote some of the greatest guitar riffs of all time? Honourable mentions should go to the likes of Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, Keef (there were some arguments about whether he is technically alive, or in fact, undead), Gary Moore, Dave Gilmour and even good old Brian May – although he was subsequently disqualified for his single-handed demolition of the Ozone layer through the use of hairspray.
Bass Guitar – Flea (Red Hot Chilli Peppers)
Can you believe someone actually suggested Mark King from Level 42? There were only a few serious contenders for us here – step forward Paul McCartney, Jack Bruce and John Entwhistle – but we went for Flea because he is technically brilliant, a bit more modern than most of our choices, and is such a psychopath, we would fear for our lives if we didn’t vote him in. Unsurprisingly, no one mentioned Sting.
Drums – Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters)
Ok, so we cheated a little bit here. He hasn’t officially played drums for years, but quite frankly, this band is so Rock and Roll that any member could go missing due to overdose, drunken misadventure, Alzheimer’s or even emergency hip replacement – Dave is the man that could step up, take over any role, and save the gig.
Backing Singers – Aretha Franklin, Beyonce, Tom Jones
We had to have Aretha even though she now needs a reinforced stage, Beyonce offers a bit more youth and Bootyliciousness, and even though we wanted an all girl line up, there was no way that we could leave Tom out of this altogether. It’s the voice you see.
First Single – Freebird by Lynyrd Skynyrd
Who wouldn’t want to hear Clapton and Page go head to head on a five minute, mind-shredding double guitar solo?
The Ultimate Fantasy Rock Band (Dead)
Lead Singer – Freddie Mercury (Queen)
Is this controversial? Not sure. I know several people, and at least one family member that will be devastated that we didn’t pick Elvis but in the end we just kept on coming back to Freddie – camp as Christmas, but the ultimate showman with the voice to back it up. Sure, we mentioned the likes of Marc Bolan and Jim Morrison, but they were never going to make the top spot. If you looked to the world of soul there are some fantastic options there too – Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, James Brown or even Ray Charles (and by the way, yes this conversation did take place after June, and no, we didn’t consider Michael Jackson). Ultimately this was a fantasy Rock band and we needed someone who could totally rock out That man was Farrokh Bulsara. Although, we would definitely try and get Elvis to duet on a couple of tracks.
Lead Guitar – Jimi Hendrix
Never in doubt.
2nd/Rhythm Guitar – Brian Jones (The Rolling Stones)
We did of course have plenty of arguments about the axe men that should feature in our dead band even though Hendrix was a shoe in. There were many, many options, none of whom seem to have died peacefully in their sleep: Stevie Ray Vaughan (helicopter crash), Paul Kossoff from Free (drug induced heart attack on a plane), Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead (died in rehab for heroin addiction), Duane Allman (motorcycle crash), and of course not forgetting our eventual winners Hendrix (choked on his own vomit), and Brian Jones (dead in a swimming pool). We had decided that we wanted our 2nd guitarist to be a man who seamlessly fitted in to a band with the other guitarist, and never played a wasted note – I was pushing hard for George Harrison at this point, but Mr Lewis successfully argued in favour of the mercurial Stones man, due to greater versatility as a musician, and a much more Rock and Roll death.
Bass – Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy)
Another shoe in – because he was awesome, and because he could also fill in as singer and main songwriter whenever required.
Drums – John Bonham
Moon or Bonham? Bonham or Moon? We plumped for Bonham in the end but it was a pretty close call. Both energetic, both mad, both came to typical ends (Bonham choked on his own vomit after 40 vodkas, Moon overdosed on 32 super strong sedatives). In the end, Led Zep’s body of work swung it for us. Although, if we were allowed to use fictional drummers, any of Spinal Taps three doomed rhythm men could have been in (choked on someone else’s vomit, died in a bizarre gardening accident, and spontaneously combusted on stage).
Backing Singers – Dusty Springfield, Billie Holiday, Mama Cass
This is an awesome backing lineup. Dusty for the stunning vocals and sexual ambiguity, Billie for the emotional power and hard drugs, and Mama Cass for the harmonies and the sandwiches. God knows, if we could have had a bigger backing group, we would have ended up with Karen Carpenter, Nina Simone and Janis Joplin in there as well. That would have been some party.
First single – Knights of Cydonia by Muse
A leftfield choice, partly for a bit of a giggle, but also because pompous, overblown harmonious stadium rock would suit our lead and backing singers down to a T, and the main riff would sound even more lunatic with extra Hendrix Wah-wah.
So there it is. The Ultimate Fantasy Rock Bands, live and dead. Surely nobody is going to argue with the impeccable choices we have made are they?