Drewy’s Party and Subsequent Matzo Ramble, 14 and 15 April 1979

I have been reminded of this weekend by several coincidences in the past few days/weeks.

Firstly, I used the following photograph to illustrate one of my party pieces from 1979 (no photos from the event itself) only for it to dawn on me and other commentators what the origins of the following photo must be.

Taken on the 15 April 1979 Matzo Ramble

Also, as part of my Ogblogging, I uploaded one of my old NewsRevue songs, Privatise, which is sung to the tune of Bright Eyes. It’s a real good one, though I say so myself – click here.

I played Bright Eyes while working on the Privatise/NewsRevue piece and it brought on a solid wave of memory from that April 1979 weekend. You couldn’t get away from Bright Eyes that spring; it was the Easter Number One, it was everywhere. I’ll insert a link at the end of this piece as a reward for those who…scroll all the way down there…I mean read this fine piece of mine in its entirety.

Drewy’s Party 14 April 1979

I don’t remember ever decorating at Anil’s house, but that’s what the diary says I did, before going on to Drewy’s place in Harrow-On-The -Hill for the party.

There was a group of visiting BBYOniks from the USA (New Jersey I believe) in town – earlier diary references cover earlier sessions with them. That is probably why I took my camera. Indeed, the photos of Drewy’s party are the only party photos I took throughout those years (unless you consider the conventions to have been several-days-long parties, which is not a ridiculous contention).

The stack of pictures from the party itself, all 31 of them, can be viewed here. A few good examples follow.

Mixture of Pinnerites and Americans

A few familiar faces (and some unfamiliar ones) in the above picture. All familiar faces in the picture below.

Some Pinner BBYO Grandees

Simon Jacobs showed off his cigarette party trick for the camera:

Simon’s party trick

I’ll need to do some work in Photoshop to enable people to see Simon’s smoke well – but I’m sure you all get the idea.

Drewy, perplexed.

Drewy could do a perplexed expression for the camera in those days, so he did that.

It was a big house, the Drewy house. Many of us stayed. Frankly, that number of people often found ways of squeezing into smaller houses – this Ivor Heller Party piece from the previous spring (1978) refers.

Aftermath and Ramble, 15 April 1979

So how have I managed to find solid evidence that my unidentified fragments of negative, including the above “trews-free in the park” picture come from the same weekend?

Not so easy.

The main suspect in “the mysterious case of the trews-free gentleman” (see the first photo of this piece, above) now lives in the USA himself. When approached, he immediately started pleading the fifth amendment, which I think has something to do with bearing arms – I really should have made more attention when I did that comparative law module…whatever, I knew I’d need to handle this character very carefully indeed.

Still, once the gentleman had been offered immunity (which is apparently what you do with guilty folk in America to get them to sing), he sang like a canary.

More conclusively, now that I have gone back to the original negatives and looked at the whole fragment, I have also found the following picture on the same strip:

Clearing up the Drewy house carpet; see the Simon photo above – case proven

Also on the same strip, a couple of nice pictures of Linda, so she must have been there too. Perhaps she has some memories of this weekend to add:

Given the negative numbers and the fragmentary nature of the negatives, I am vaguely recalling that this roll of film was not finding its way happily into and through my camera. Indeed, from the depths of my memory, I think the camera jammed on the ramble, hence the shortage of pictures on that stack.

Nevertheless, there are a few pictures from the ramble – including a couple of rare pictures from that era with me in them – all of which can be examined by clicking here.

My diary is clear that we went on from Drewy’s place to a ramble:

Case proven.

As I write (14 April 2017) it is the 38th anniversary of the Drewy Party and Matzo Ramble weekend. An auspicious anniversary, as it happens, because this is Easter weekend and also the middle days (Chol Hamoed as they are known) of Passover, an unusual coincidence of festivals, just as it was in 1979.

In the run up to this Easter, there has been a storm in a teacup in the UK about Easter Egg Hunts being renamed as Cadbury Egg Hunts – click here.  Whether this was done for marketing purposes or was, as some have suggested, “political correctness gone mad” to remove the specific reference to “Easter” I neither know nor care…

…but in the spirit of the modern era, perhaps we should rename the Matzo Ramble as a Rakusen’s Ramble. Or, in honour of our recently departed visitors from New Jersey, a Manischewitz Meander…

…now I’m rambling. Have a look at the Bright Eyes vid below. Those with memories that go back that far, might just get a little memory flash of that 1979 spring. If so, I’d love to learn about your memories too.

An Evening At The George Canning, 8 April 1979

I enjoyed several evenings of beer and music with mates from Alleyn’s at the George Canning pub, Effra Road, Brixton.

I was reminded of it (April 2017) while writing up the party and rambling events of the following (Easter) weekend of April 1979 – click here – by spotting the following diary entry from the previous weekend, 8 April:

Went to George Canning in eve

No information in that diary entry on who my companions were that evening. I remember going to the George Canning with Jim Bateman more than once and also I’m pretty sure Mark Stevens. Perhaps also Paul Deacon and/or Graham Majin on at least one occasion; others joined us too, I think, on one visit or another. This aspect of my memory needs help.

But I do remember those evenings at the George Canning reasonably well.

In 1979, the pub looked more like the 1905 picture from this urban history site than the 2003 picture – click here – even though colour photography had just about emerged by 1979 (albeit not often in my camera).

As I recall it, the music on all my visits was British Rhythm & Blues – click here – much like the first albums by bands like the Rolling Stones, Manfred Mann, The Moody Blues, the Animals etc. Whether that R&B was the style of the place always or whether that was merely what you got on the nights we could afford, I don’t know.

But we could afford these evenings on a bit of saved pocket money. The beer was just a few pence more than normal, but if you eked out two pints over the evening you could still get a whole evening of beer and music for a quid.

The George Canning type of pub wasn’t a salubrious environment back then. I’m talking about 1979 Brixton, not the hipster “south-Shoreditch-like” inner London neighbourhood of today.

Indeed I don’t suppose my mum would have approved of us going there had she realised what a dive this pub was at that time; but Effra Road was also the location of the Brixton Shule (synagogue), so (in her mind) what could possibly go wrong just a hundred yards or so up the road from there?

From our point of view, it always felt safe and welcoming enough. The nights we went to the place, it was mostly populated by people who were there for a few beers and some music. Perhaps a few old regulars bemoaning the noise, but on the whole there was a sense of shared music-following purpose.

The place is now far more venue than drinking house; Hootananny Brixton – click here to see the site.

“Over 21s only” it says at the top of the web site…that might have proved to be a bit of a problem for us 16/17 year-olds.

Not bad reviews on Yelp for the current venue – click here.

Not so sure about it as a hostel if TripAdvisor reviews are to be believed – click here.

But looking back to 1979, other old friend’s memories of those outings to the George Canning would be most welcome.

Update: when I shared this piece on the Alleyn’s 1970s Facebook Group, both Mark Stevens and Neil Voce owned up to having been part of that scene.

Mark Stevens wrote:

I used to go and see a blues band there – the Southsiders…I think they were the band that pushed me towards blues more than anything else…

Neil Voce wrote:

Definitely used to go to see them at the George Canning as it was and the two brewers in Clapham