Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Glory is fleeting...

I don't remember going up to London much as a teenager, so I never experienced the buzz of going to a place like the Rough Trade shop in its formative years. Anyways, Croydon had it's own punk and new wave record shop - Bonaparte!

I remember well the giant Elvis Costello billboard, although back in the day it seemed somehow bigger! We used to hang out in the shop pretty much every Saturday around 1978/79, occasionally buying singles (everything we could afford by The Buzzcocks, The Clash and The Jam) and sometimes (funds permitting) an LP. I remember my friend Steve trying to persuade me to get Elvis Costello's 'Armed Forces' (released January 79) but I thought the cover was shit so I got the first PiL LP instead (released December 1978)...

Most of the time we didn't buy anything - just watching the punks walking in and out. Unlike Rough Trade's Ladbroke Grove shop, I don't remember there being a reggae crossover - Croydon wasn't much of a cultural melting pot in those days, although West Croydon down towards Thornton Heath was more of an ethnic mix. We weren't really punks ourselves - more a mix of new wave and mod (Harrington jackets and Jam shoes) moving into the whole Two-Tone/Ska thing as 1979 progressed.

The office at Bonaparte

The staff were always cool and Bonaparte actually employed a couple of Croydon's famous musical talents - Kirsty McColl and Anne Clark. McColl (who went to school at Ashburton where my Mum worked) had a job in the mail order department and Clark worked in the shop after a stint as a nurse at Croydon's notorious psychiatric hospital Cane Hill. Clark became involved in The Warehouse Theater (just around the corner from Bonaparte) - putting on shows by Croydon's The Damned and Bromley's Siouxsie and the Banshees and Generation X. She began experimenting with music and lyrics herself, appearing on stage in Richard Strange's Cabaret Futura with Depeche Mode (featuring regular Beckenham clubber Dave Gahan).

Kirsty McColl and Anne Clark

I don't remember when Bonaparte closed but that whole row of buildings was demolished when the new East Croydon station was being constructed around 1990 (the new station opened in 1992.) Bonaparte used to be on the left hand side of the station.

The original East Croydon station

and how it looks today...

Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever...
Napolean Bonaparte

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