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MP3 The Shadow Kabinet - Hark!

"When greyness strikes run to the Kabinet of Dr. Shadow. He''ll put the psychedelia back in your step." - Andy Partridge XTC

14 MP3 Songs
ROCK: 60''s Rock, ROCK: Psychedelic

What is it with Camden Town? Not long since just another run-down inner London burgh, now it''s like Haight-Ashbury after the deluge. Awash with drunks, nutters, small-fry dope dealers and over-eager scene-seekers 24 hours a day; only the presence of a monolithic Sainsbury''s hinting that real life may still be going on.

It''s dusk, the dead of winter, and outside the Tube station it''s hard to tell who''s buying, who''s selling and who''s just waiting for the cashpoint on the corner. And as I shoulder my way through the throng, I think I catch a fragment of melody, a sound heard almost internally, felt beneath the skin. As I hear it again I find myself stopping mid-stride, commuters, thieves and would-be socialisers crashing into me. Moving to the crash rail, I peer round for the busker, the open-car window, the bootleg CD stall. But there''s nothing but roaring traffic, the great buses heaving into Camden Road, the blur of voices. And then breathing through it, there''s the music again.

There are certain sounds, certain phrases and cadences, that belong to you, that you''ll never transcend or escape. And it occurs to me, standing in the freezing rush hour din, the noise of the yellow blurring lights, that there are also sounds that are communal: the music that got whole generations on the move, that accompanied the great gatherings. And the music that made us storm out of the dining room, that played in our heads as we hung out in the windswept precincts of Harlow New Town at nine at night, thinking it was really late (and I haven''t even been to Harlow New Town).

At that moment, I catch sight through the crowd - or I think I do - of a tousled head moving towards the Tube, and a face caught for a split second in the station''s glare. I plunge into the crowd after it, and hear somewhere (not in my ears, that''s for sure) the music, that music.

A wall of blue-garbed inspectors blocks the entrance to the Tube, ticket
barriers beyond. They''ve changed the bloody layout! Rounding the corner, I see him crossing Kentish Town Road, identifying him instantly from the Pied-Piper ringlets, the magician''s scarf thrown back over his shoulder Somerset! The great trash alchemist, the man with the rock ''n''roll gazetteer in his pocket, the entire youth culture roadmap in his head, trailing melody in his wake like a faint perfumed mist.

Now where''s he gone? Charging into Sainsbury''s car park, I catch his beetling form in the glint from the great reef of trolleys. Somerset! I''ve been waiting years to have words with this guy. Wanting to know what the fuck he thinks he''s doing, the great shoplifter of rock ''n''roll running amok in the the youth culture supermarket. Dashing into the fresh produce department, I want to shout at the oblivious shelf-stackers, "Don''t you know who that is?". A lightning tour of the aisles, and I wonder if he actually came in. Then I see him miles away, back by the entrance, smiling at the girl at the one-basket-only till.

I literally run along the line of tills, and see him scuttling over Camden
Road with his pint of milk (doesn''t this guy ever eat?), turning into a
run-down side street. I realise I''ve lost him, pop''s maverick mannerist has vanished clean into this blank inner-city dead end. Then I hear it again suddenly loud and clear, coming from a seedy-looking 1960s'' block of flats - the sort of grimy, nondescript building you''d never normally notice. Yet putting my ear to a downstairs window, I can hear the music quite clearly. And is it Bacharach or Bachman-Turner Overdrive? Bad Finger or Bad Company? The references within references of ELO or 10cc turned inside out till they come out as songs so fresh and now, ''made on tv popstars'' would kill to sing them. Yet we''d all far rather hear the man himself, his ragged juvenile lead tones, as ineffably English as country lanes and the sort of Sunday teas nobody eats any more. A bit Mike D''Abo, a bit Davy Jones, except that like everything about Somerset, as soon as you''ve put your finger on it, it''s gone.

The place looks like a squat: a grimy, eastern-looking blanket hanging at the window, a muggy overhead light beyond. Searching for the right door bell, I spot a very scuffed brass plate on the wall below. Moving my head to catch the faint light, I pick out the words, ''The Shadow Kabinet''. I ring the bells one after the other. I ring and ring, till after a few minutes, I notice the music''s no longer there.

And the light in the window''s gone with it. Looking up at the dark fa├žade
and round at the empty dead-end street, I feel a forbidding chill. That
brass plate: was it ever there?
Somerset! If you ever read this, phone me!

Mark Hudson

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