Bo Diddley’s guitar and other UK Hard Rock treasures
Is This The Hard Rock Cafe’s Greatest Treasure?
October 1, 2012 by Every Record Tells A Story
As the silver-cross-wearing and black-nail-varnish sporting readers amongst you may know, Black Sabbath got back together in 2012 to perform a few shows. Regrettably, original Sabbath drummer Bill Ward did not participate due to a dispute over that root of all evil,
Sharon Osbourne money.
Which brings us to The Hard Rock Cafe. As most of you will know, the original Hard Rock Cafe in London first started displaying rock and pop memorabilia after Eric Clapton sent a guitar to the owners asking it to mark the spot over his favourite table. In a spirit of competitiveness, Pete Townsend found out about this and not wanting to be outdone sent a note saying “Mine’s as good as his, Love Pete”.
Since then, Hard Rock Cafes across the globe have been outbidding each other to secure priceless pieces of rock history such as Bobby Blotzer’s drumsticks, a signed Kip Winger guitar and Gene Simmons’ hairpiece.
What I discovered in my most recent trip to the London Hard Rock Cafe was that some of the most interesting pieces are not in the restaurant itself, but kept in a bank vault (the former use of the premises) underneath the merchandise shop which sits across the road from the restaurant. The shop runs regular (free) tours and so whilst we waited for a table I took the kids into The Vault to soak in a bit of rock n roll history.
The guide took us down some narrow steps into a basement corridor. My kids skipped ahead slightly as we admired the precious artefacts on the wall, whilst I was feeling much as Howard Carter must have felt as he stepped into the tomb of Tutankhamen, the only difference being the hieroglyphics on the wall focusing less on the more intricate details of the story of Isis and the rise of the Sun God Ra, and more warning me not to touch any of the exhibits. Oh, and the rock music being pumped devastatingly loudly through the store’s pa system was probably absent in Carter’s initial excursions into the Valley of the Kings.
I heard a drumming sound, followed by a quick request from the guide not to touch anything. Before I could tut disapprovingly at whoever had behaved so inconsiderately, I looked round and rolled my eyes skywards as I quickly discovered a very pleased looking daughter standing over Bill Ward’s drum kit with only a slightly guilty look on her face.
After looking suitably cross at her and publicly admonishing her, I reflected that she had managed to do something I hadn’t done: she had played Black Sabbath’s drums. Actually- was it only fatherly pride that made me think she was keeping good time?
So here’s the thing I want to say to Ozzy, Tony and Geezer: if you really can’t work out your differences with Bill, I think I might have a decent replacement (with experience) if you can only wait another dozen years or so…
In the meantime, let’s explore the treasures of the London Hard Rock Cafe Vault. In addition to guitars from BB King, David Bowie and Bob Dylan, plus jackets from Eric Clapton and Keith Moon you can see:
Bo Diddley’s famous “cigar-box” shaped guitar…
…Elton John’s credit card…
…John Lennon’s jacket…
….and Lennon’s lyric sheet for instant karma – which cost the Hard Rock Cafe half a million according to our guide. That’s a lot of burgers and pulled-pork sandwiches…
But without any doubt the highlight of the trip and collection was not in the vault, but in the main restaurant.
The best thing in any Hard Rock Cafe in the Whole World has to be the Mick Jagger Spitting Image Puppet (top of page).
Never mind your £0.5m lyrics to John Lennon’s Instant Karma. Indeed – this treasure was far less expensive. A similar Jagger latex puppet head was sold at Bonhams in July this year for the modest sum of £4,750…. If only I had known (and had a spare five grand…). But it is an absolute joy to behold.
For those unfamiliar with this most British of satirical comedy shows, I present aYouTube video of the Jagger puppet in action.
With classic sketches including the Reagan satire “The President’s Brain is Missing”, portraying Margaret Thatcher as a cross dressing dominatrix, and an Apartheid-era song “I’ve Never Met A Nice South African“, Spitting Image represented a Golden Era of puerile schoolboy comedy and British satire. The Jagger Puppet in this video clip stands alongside McCartney, Townsend and Cliff Richard who are all described as “old farts”. This was in the late eighties… What does that make them now?! (It’s not as good a song as the We are the World spoof “We’re Scared of Bob” – below).
Seeing the puppet close up under a glass case is amazing. I half expected it to spring to life with the exaggerated drawling Jagger accent. Whilst it may not beat the Tower of London on London’s Tourist trail, I think it comes a very close second – and beats even the delights of Elton John’s credit card and Eric Clapton’s suit…
Record #96: Spitting Image – We’re Scared of Bob