TJ Johnson interview by Jo Kilner



ACUK Interview 09/02/2018


TJ: My name is TJ Johnson, guitar player for ABC. The date today is Friday the ninth of February 2018.

J: So, twenty years of playing guitar for . . .

TJ: The ABC band

J: when?

TJ: That’s what it was called before they changed it to

J: oh yeah

TJ: which I don’t agree with

J: No? Why not?

TJ: it’s elongated, it’s rubbish

J: Yeah, ABC is good

TJ: Its perfect fine, Association of British Calypsonians, what more do you want? Political correctness come in to it and just spoiled it

J: People still call it that though

TJ: Of course, that’s the real name, the other as I say last year I told Alex that its rubbish and I mean that

J: When did you start playing? Guitar

TJ: Guitar?

J: Yeah

TJ: When I was about twelve/thirteen in the last century

J: Last century god


J: Did you start playing calypso?

TJ: The truth is I would say yes because my parents are from the Caribbean, my Dad used to play guitar and when we jammed in my house we always played calypso that’s what he knew and calypso and a thing called merengue, have you heard of merengue? Merengue is an offshoot of calypso, like played out in places like Aruba, have you heard of Aruba?

J: Just about

TJ: That’s one island in the Caribbean. I was born there, Aruba because my Dad used to work on the oil refinery. Most of the people from that part of the Caribbean went to Aruba for work because basically there are very few places you can get regular work so they had like a community of Caribbean people in Aruba that worked in the oil refinery and so me and my brother were born there. So he got, yeah, he was very musical my Dad and he played violin, guitar, so that’s why I started playing from.

J: And when did you move over to the UK?

TJ: About ’65, very, very young started here, and started going to school and all that stuff and got pretty involved in British culture and learning all about it and all that

J: What, what about British culture, what kind of stuff did you learn about?

TJ: well, British attitude to everything from, from race to food to education to religion everything that was different to the Caribbean completely, the climate, weather and funnily enough the topic of conversation in England was the weather, cause the weather is so bad everybody talked about it all the time which was, yeah so by going to school I learned everything, most things you need to know about, attitudes and stuff, because as you know everything happens at school as you, you learn a lot about people’s attitude to different cultures to food to whatever. I learnt a lot at school.

J: Did you, are you influenced by any British music? Or is it mainly Caribbean music?

TJ: Well the thing is, I was very influenced by pop music especially the Beatles, when I heard the Beatles for the first time I was blown over by them, really blown away. When you’re that young your mind is open to anything, there is no sort of barriers as to say, you shouldn’t like this politically because they’re white or because they are black or whatever who isn’t. you’re young your mind is completely open my ears just heard the Beatles and they thought yeah just awesome and I’ve felt like that ever since.


TJ: Yeah and as I say, ever since that day I heard the Beatles they’ve been my number one group, still, after all these years my number one group cause I found that my ears are very attuned to melody and they were great melodic writers, great. The words was not that important because, if you transcribe, because melody is the music its awesome, just awesome, just listen to that, the classical, they have turned the music into classical concept, just the melodies, that’s all you need and that alone tells you what great writers they were because the first thing you need as a great writer is a great melody line, top line. Words can always come, by, like for example when Paul McCartney.


J: Yes, so sorry you were talking about music and melody

TJ: Yes, the Beatles particularly I was talking about, the melody is so strong that, just listen to the melodies without the words it’s just enough, like for example Paul McCartney was writing Yesterday , the melody came to him in his sleep, and, he realised that the melody was good that he did some research to find out if there is another song that went like that and there wasn’t so he put some rubbish melodies to it, rubbish words to it, just to, just to hold it in the mean time until he was sure that that melody was original and then he wrote proper words to it. So just to prove my point that the melody is what carries the song. Once you have a great melody, you can work on the words in the next six months if you want, but once that melody is there, you know you got a good song so to go back to my point is that the Beatles are great, great writers and so they influenced me greatly and from there on most of the bands of the sixties have influenced my ears because, pop music from the sixties is all about melodies, great melodies from all the bands from the Hollies to the Trocks to the Small Faces go on and on and on and on that’s way before your time of course but that’s okay. so those times were the beginning for me of, the spread of pop culture, you know, the sixties were such a good decade for music. Everything came from that era, in the sense that it spread throughout the world, a big part of that was also British pop bands, I’ve always loved British music, that’s it.

J: Did you, have you got any similar influences on, your Dad playing calypso, can you remember any names of calypso artists?

TJ: Of course, of course, the biggest name from ever, from before I was born is a guy called the Mighty Sparrow, you know, he’s the absolute legend, the biggest name calypso has ever had and still alive, and I’ve played with him thankfully. I performed with him, one of my greatest joy. But he, from the time I’ve known myself he’s been number one calypso singer in the world, after he, a guy called Lord Kitchener, another master, have you heard of him? He’s a master calypsonian, master lyricist, master orchestrator, master of everything. Lord Kitchener. He was absolutely awesome, then you have people like Shadow, another legend, great, great entertainer and singer, I’ve played with him. Baron, Mighty Baron, sweetest voice in the Caribbean, sweet, sweet melodic voice and, totally different from Shadow, Shadow is a very, ruff and gruff, very down to earth gravelly voice, you know, but the Baron, melodic, sweet, great, both great, again I’ve worked with him also , yeah so I’ve worked with most of the legends in calypso so, go on.

J: I was just going to say, when did you first get involved in the tent and the ABC and all that?

TJ: I would say twenty years ago

J: Twenty years ago

TJ: At least that, twenty years, and I’ve maybe missed one year

J: Only one?

TJ: Maybe just one year from that time because I, I love doing it because all the other things I do in music is totally away from calypso and soca so that I look forward to that, that’s the only time, well especially now, calypso singers don’t come over to England as much as they used to cause of financial restraint, you know what I’m saying, that’s why I’ve played with all these guys in the past, they don’t come anymore because again it’s too expensive, not enough money blah blah blah blah blah musicians. So the amount of calypso I do is very limited so that’s why I look forward to the tent every year, it’s a good release and freedom for me because I don’t have to arrange anything, cause I run my own bands, two three or four bands, I do all the arrangements, take care of all the bookings, all that nonsense, when I play here, I just put the music in front of me and just play it, no questions, no hassle and that’s it so it’s great release for me. Yeah, that’s why I do it.

J: Is that because, you don’t get well paid for it or anything? Alex was saying

TJ: we don’t get well paid for anything, trust me on that but we love it. Yeah musicians, most professional musicians love what they do, most not all, some musicians do it for money just chasing money, chasing money, those people for me they came into music for the wrong reasons, when I say wrong reasons, someone like myself came into the music industry purely for the love of playing, money never ever entered my thoughts of why I played music, I loved to play, just loved to play, most musicians are like that, you know, I, the amount of times I’ve been abroad and come back with less money than I went with, you would not believe it but I was saying to someone the other day, only this week actually, that my family never understood what that meant. They never understood that the money was to me as irrelevant. To them, going abroad and coming back without money was a, a travesty, a tragedy, how can you do that, are you crazy? What are you doing it for then? My siblings, my brothers couldn’t understand that, they don’t know what that meant over passion, nobody had a passion in my family except me, at a very young age, so I was following that but they didn’t understand why I was doing it, I came back without money and two weeks later you get on a plane and you go again and the same thing happens, no money and that was irrelevant to me, that meant nothings, trust me cause I was living with my parents, didn’t have to pay rent and food and all that stuff, I didn’t care about none of that, it’s just for the passion of playing and the thing about going to Germany in those days was that, you get to play every night, exactly what happened to the Beatles, I mean, exactly, all because we went to Hamburg. That’s where they learned how to play and how to write because they were playing every single night, in England play once a week, maybe twice if you’re lucky but every single night you learn how to play, you learn your craft, how to sing cause you have no choice, you’re doing five hours a night, every night, so you see Germany, especially Germany was great for British music, they gave us a lot of work because their musicians crap, simple as that, their musicians is, they brought up on oompa music, you know what that means, oompa oompa that kind of trombone, brass band kinda music , shit, trust me so the young people there didn’t want to know nothing about that, they wanted Western music, Black music, especially soul, reggae stuff like that and, pop, r’n’b, they loved that, that’s where most British bands learnt to play and to earn a living, Germany, not in France, maybe Italy a little bit, Belgium a little bit but Germany, massive market there.

J: So do you play, do you ever sing? Do you sing as well? Do you sing calypso as well?

TJ: No, the point is I can but I don’t get the opportunity to do that because the gigs I get doesn’t call for calypso not all calypso you can put in a set, you know what I’m saying, you wouldn’t have any calypso gigs per say. There is no such thing as calypso gig, the market is not big enough for that, they haven’t got a market for that, that’s the reason why the tent is sponsored, you cannot do it unless you get financial support, so, as for calypso and soca shows, again you only have that when artists come over from the Caribbean to do a tour or whatever, that’s the only time we do only soca gigs so I don’t get to sing much soca at all although I’m not a soca singer, not specialist in that I’ve seen a few but the real soca singers and calypso singers only do the tent, they don’t have, they can’t get enough work the rest of the year to do that so most of them have to have other jobs. Me as a musician, because I, as I say I professionally do other, other work which is my main source of income.

J: Can you remember what’s the best year been at the tent? Is there one that stands out or?

TJ: Tough question, I would say the earlier days. The tent used be in Paddington a place called the yasanti, Ashanti West centre was where it really started out. They have refurbished it now, they have modernised it, and its lost all that culture, you know what I’m saying, the old ashanti bar was where we, we used to have great fun there, the building was old and it was, it just had a great feel about it and it had all the black icons on the walls and things on the walls, and all the revolutionaries and things like that. But then the tent moved to tabernacle. And it became more, more not to say synthetic, but more sort of . . . less feel, this is more a corporation type of venue, you know what I’m saying, it’s a corporation, look at it. So you don’t get the true sense of, for me personally anyway, the true sense of the Caribbean feel. They have lots of different performances and artists and all that stuff here, the assanti bar was the real. So as for the best, no there is no really no one who stands out, there have been loads of really great nights at the yasanti bar, a few ones good ones here as well but, as a matter a fact there’s one I remember, soca Elvis, a white guy singing Elvis in soca style. Soca Elvis. Great, he was really, so different, you know, he dressed in the Elvis gear singing soca. Soca Elvis. So that for me stands out as really, yeah, really different you know and great fun.But he hasn’t been back, he hasn’t been to the tabernacle for some reason I don’t know why. Cause what happens is, or what used to happen, the tent used to sort of sponsor artists from Trinidad, like maybe one special artist from Trinidad, maybe a calypso king or queen or whatever to do the tent here, yeah people like soca Elvis and people like, yeah lots of different names but again financial restraint prevent that happening, simple as that, everything is about money. Money, money, money. Money governs all. Without the money you can’t have this, this building for example sponsors a lot of art hear as you know, performances, plays, whatever, it’s all got to be sponsored by whoever, Arts Council, this, that. So, it’s all governed by money, you know. Also, what we do, I don’t know if you know, on Powis Square out here every year they would do a stage performance.

J: No, I didn’t know that.

TJ: Okay, most years, it’s sponsored most years but sometimes it’s not, can’t get enough money to do it, so what happens all day, with the Carnival, on the Carnival day, the two days of Carnival, Sunday and Monday we out here playing our set all singers performing live out front to everybody which is a highlight.

J: If it doesn’t get sponsored, it doesn’t happen?

TJ: It don’t happen, the carnival will go ahead but without that stage, that stage has to be sponsored because it’s very expensive, you have to pay all the musicians, I mean we are the musicians we are like the house band so we stable just like we do it inside but the singers, you have about maybe ten or twelve singers or whatever, they have got to be paid, and the stage got to be paid for and the engineers and the sound system and the pay, you name it, it’s expensive, so it’s not sponsored every year.

J: Has it happened often that it’s not been on?

TJ: Yeah, I think it’s been on for the last two years, thankfully, the year before that I don’t think it was on if I remember correctly but when it’s on it’s great fun, great, great fun, yeah. And plus, what you call the International, I mean the World stage because we have artists from all over the Caribbean, Africa. Like last year we had artists from, again, mostly, most of the Caribbean islands and a lot from Africa, South Africa, Zimbabwe bringing their style of music, it’s just awesome to see that, really, and the people love it. Have you ever been to carnival?

J: No, but I want to go this year.

TJ: Ohhh, ohhhh

J: I know.

TJ: I’m not blaming you for not going, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just that it’s a great, the thing is most people are scared of carnival, they’ve heard a lot of negative stories about it, you know, but there is nothing to be scared about, but if you are scared of crowds, there, that is a different thing, if you’re frightened of crowds then it’s not the place for you because it’s thousands and hundreds of thousands of people and you can be frightened but as for the culture, the music, it’s just, to me, the two best days of the year, specially when the sun is shining, oh, and the food, oh, and the music, come on, there is nothing to touch that. I mean, nothing. Nothing. That’s when you get the true tastes and sounds of the Caribbean culture, the best time for me, for the carnival is when we coming to set up here, and when there are not many people about, we’re talking about ten in the morning and you see everybody setting up their food stalls and you see all the flowers and smell the food, and you see the music is blasting and the sun is shining. I can’t remember any two better days in my life than those two days, my god, just awesome.

J: Does your whole family go, does everybody go, your whole neighbourhood?

TJ: Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s just great.

J: I was going to ask that a lot of calypso music is, is sort of social commentary, they always have something that they’re commenting on, but you’re a guitarist so you’re focus is on the melody, so I don’t know, do you think there’s something special about the melody as well or do you think that’s the social commentary is what makes it?

TJ: Okay, a good question. For someone like Sparrow right, going back to Sparrow, those two things were crucial, the melody was great, the social commentary was fantastic, so he combined those two things greatly. Great melody, because the melody will hook you to listen to the words exactly like, that’s hat great writers do. Bob Marley, like the Beatles, like Stevie Wonder, you have great melody and then it hooks you to listen to what the words are saying, that’s what Sparrow did. So, you combine the two, if you can combine the two, a lot of singers, less talented singers cannot combine the two, they might have great words but they might not have a great sense of melody, you know what I’m saying, that’s okay, they get over by being funny, and they get, they have these here every year, several people who have great, great words and they get the audience laughing all the way through which is great, so they concentrate more on the subject, you know what I’m saying, the subject matter of what they’re singing about might be a protest song about as you say it’s got to be something topical, even something that happened in this building, something that happened outside the building, something to happen within the organisation of the ABC band, anything at all that brings it and makes it topical and the people, the audience understand it and they relate to it, it’s great, so then the melody is not so important, just listen to the subject matter, they might be really angry about something so the melody will suffer, but the subject matter will get through so you basically take your pick, you have, if you have a great gift for both you do it, you might have a great gift for one, you know, it varies, yeah.

J: Is there any great characters you’ve met while you’ve, your twenty years?

TJ: Yes of course, many. There’s a guy called Peace and Love, unfortunately he died now, he died about four, maybe five six years ago. He was a character and a half, in the sense that, he was what you call eccentric. I mean eccentric in the, in the true sense of the word, I mean he was out there and his music reflected that. His performance is a sight to behold, he was in his seventies and he performed like someone in their twenties and he always wore unusual costumes, oh my he was, yeah very, very unusual, very into the music, into the, what was special about him was that he had very very special horn arrangements. His horn arrangements was the most difficult I’ve ever heard, for any of the horn men to play, they were very frantic, loads and loads of notes, loads of phrases, I mean he was incredible, so he hummed it to the, to whoever the arranger was, writing the stuff down, and he would have to write it as he hummed it and he, yeah, he was very eccentric, so he stands out as one of the more unusual performers that we’ve had here, but he was very nice, he didn’t cause any, well to me anyway of course you can’t please everyone, some people didn’t like him for whatever reason but I thought he was very, very entertaining. Simple as that. So, yeah.

J: what do you see for the future of soca and calypso, and the tent? Where do you, what do you think?

TJ: Good question. The future, again it’s down to if it’s supported, it’s got to be well supported, at the moment, right, in the yasanti centre in Paddington they still have a youth section were like the young calypsonians, you know, I don’t see that, I don’t see that any more, to me that was the future, you know, you have a group apart from the adults, you establish it, you have a group from five to ten young calypso singers writing calypso songs and the adults would literally help them with the writing which was great, you know, they were being mentored by the adults. I don’t see that any more so that answers your question, how do I see the future, unless you have that, you don’t have a future, calypso or soca don’t have a future, you must have young people following and keeping up the tradition, they have got to be taught, they have to be taught about Caribbean tradition, Caribbean culture, where that stuff comes from, what that stuff means, you know, they were born here, unless their parents get them involved in the culture of where they’re from then the music has no chance of survival, it’s just, it’s not rocket science to figure that out, it’s simple. You must have young people to keep the tradition going, like blues for example, all the old guys, all the inventors of the music, the creators of the music, they all gone, people like Howlin’ Wolf, BB King, Albert King, John Lee Hooker and I can go on and on and on, they’re all gone, so unless you have young people following that tradition and keeping that up the blues will be dead, the blues will be gone. As a matter a fact, the only people who I see carrying on the blues tradition is young white people, both here and in America, the black people are following a different path, have taken a different path, like hip hop or maybe r’n’b and the tragedy for me is that what I’ve always been told about blues without diverting too much is that when a black person listens to blues it makes them sad but that has never happened to me, ever. Blues makes me feel great cause I’m so proud of that tradition, of where it’s from, what it comes from, blues is from suffering and the reality of life, all those guys did was take that in the songs and the performances, you know what I’m saying. So as a, up to the sixties, I think up to mid-sixties, the blues audience was all black, in America, all black and the chitterling circuit, have you heard of the chitterling circuit? The chitterling circuit is where, chitterling is basically a kind of food for poor people, it basically comes from the insides of pigs or something like that and they call it chitterling and they do it in a way, basically it’s shit food for poor people, simple as that. So they had a circuit that the blues artists and black artists went around performing. So they called it the chitterling circuit, so that’s where the blues artists used to perform because of racial barriers they couldn’t perform in the white areas. For BB King, have you heard of BB King? Right, BB King only started performing to white audiences in about 1969, before that, exactly, before that it was an all black chitterling circuit so his earnings and his reputation and his fame was limited, until he got a thing called a white manager and the guy started to book him in white venues, when he, when he entered that venue for the first time and he saw white audiences he said to the guy “I’m in the wrong place” and the guy say “nah nah nah, this is your place”, he thought he was when he saw a young white audience he thought “I’ve never played to white people before, what am I doing here?”. He said this is where going to get you to a white audience, you know what I’m saying to you, have you heard of anything like that before?

J: Similar yeah.

TJ: Okay, so basically that’s when BB King started to get white exposure in the wider world, simple as that, as I said, before that he was all playing the black audience, so from then on the black audiences dropped blues, like a hot brick, simple as that because as far as they were concerned blues is too real, it remind them to much of the heart shapes and the racism and the this that and the whatever so they dropped blues and the whites took it over, the white audiences took it over in the sense that buying the music, going to the concerts and blah blah blah. For example, the Rolling Stones and Muddy Waters have a great relationship, you know anything about that?

J: Yeah, I’ve heard of Muddy Waters yeah.

TJ: Okay, Muddy Waters, they got the name from one of Muddy Waters songs, the rolling stone, okay, because I’ve read a few books on The Rolling Stones, Keith Richard especially, I’ve got two books by him and when the Rolling Stones started they just wanted to be black. I mean, Keith Richards said plainly they just wanted to be black cause they heard the music and they think well that’s the best thing the world can ever produce, that kind of music, they just wanted to be one of those guys. I mean they really felt it, like they wanted an injection of blackness in their veins to make them sound like those legends. And Keith Richards said the Rolling Stones lived, long story short, they all lived in one house in Chelsea. Blue records were on twenty-four hours a day so they wanted that injection of blackness into their veins, to sound like Muddy Waters and the other legends, you know what I’m saying. So, basically what I’m saying people like the Rolling Stones took the tradition of blues and they were one of the few people who loved the music and the people. The music and the people, a lot of them loved the music but the people hmmmmm, and I mean that’s a fact. But the Rolling Stones loved the people and the music, they embraced both cause they think well if they don’t love the people, how can they love the music, then you’re a hypocrite. You must be a hypocrite to love the music but hate the people. If you hate the people then leave their music alone. Don’t you agree?

J: Yeah, I agree.

TJ: Leave their music alone if you hate the people, you know what I’m saying.

J: That makes sense.

TJ: Of course, but the Rolling Stones they loved the people.

J: Do you think stuff like the Notting Hill Carnival helps in terms of-

TJ: Race relations?

J: well yeah that and also passing on cultural traditons?

TJ: Without a doubt. Without a doubt, because without Caribbean people coming here for the first time you wouldn’t have any carnival. The people here wouldn’t know what carnival, what that means. What’s a carnival? Why you going in the street dressed up and all that nonsense, it’s uncivilised, come on, we are civilised people here, we don’t do that shit, that’s an English mentality, I know that, I been here a long time but bit by bit, and bit by bit, they got into it. And they realised this is a great tradition because you have the music, you have the costume, you have the food, you have the steel pans, you have the, as a matter a fact the day before I came here I was listening to a clip, I was watching on the Youtube a clip from the fifties about Caribbean carnival, the carnival in Trinidad, it started with air hostesses in England. I didn’t know where that was leading and they talked about how hard air hostesses worked blah blah blah and talking about the fifties I’m talking about, but they say but it’s not all bad because when they go to the Caribbean they have two days, they have the beautiful climate and they have the food and they have the two days of celebration of the carnival, can you believe that? And they showed the air hostesses changing into costume to take part in the Trinidad carnival.

J: That’s amazing.

TJ: Isn’t that incredible?

J: Yeah, that really is.

TJ: That is incredible, so they, what I’m saying, they work hard, but they have great times when they go to the Caribbean by showing these, they showed them, they had their own band in the Trinidad Carnival marching and waving and jumping about and we just happen to be talking about this thing today. Great coincidence.

J: It is. Do you think, hmm what to ask next, do you think you’ll continue to play always for the ABC and you’ll keep going on?

TJ: For the ABC? Unless they get rid of me, yeah, unless they say TJ we’ve had enough of you, you’re crap, we’re going to get someone else, we’re going to get someone younger, you’re ugly, you’re, we’ve done with you, go, unless they say that. The thing is, it’s a good question, the guy who started the ABC, Tiger

J: Yes, Mighty Tiger?

TJ: Mighty Tiger, relating to your question, about twenty years ago when I started, Tiger said to me, no one else knows this, he said this to me personally, he said TJ you are the only guitarist I want in this band and this is your gig as long as you want it. Tiger said that to me. He never said it to anyone, I haven’t mentioned it to anyone else, just you. Tiger said, this is your gig forever if you want it, you’re the only one we want on guitar, this is your gig. Tiger said that to me and I’ll let the world know that.

J: Well, if he said that to you.

TJ: What?

J: I said, if he said that to you

TJ: Then that answers your question

J: Yep.

TJ: Definitely, I just love, I love, because he knows I love the music, I feel the music, it’s my background, it’s where my parents are from, we grew up on that, I grew up, it’s in my blood, I don’t have to learn it, I just play and that’s what he saw and that’s what he heard, that’s why he said this is your gig.

J: That’s really something.

TJ: Yeah.

J: Is there anything else you’d like to say? I mean I think I’ve asked you pretty much everything.

TJ: yeah, basically, yeah I’ll just, I’m just very grateful for the opportunity of playing in this band and helping to carry on the tradition of calypso and soca because, for me, it’s the greatest tradition coming from the Caribbean. Playing in the Carnival, the whole bit, the music, the costume, the attitude, the subject matter, all of it. I’ve been a part of it for a long time and as I said before, I’ve played with most of the legends which is a, you can’t take that away from me, I love that music, I love the people that performs it, that writes it, that, it’s just great being a part of it and I just want to see it carry on so to see it carry on we’ve got to have, we’re talking about young people to carry it on, we need more young people, young singers, potential legends, writers, performers, to carry the tradition on, without that the tradition will die. It will die, you know you’ve got to have young blood to carry it on, you know, and as I said, at the asanti bar we had young people being mentored by older ones, I don’t see that any more. Again, I’m sure it’s down to financial restraint, everything, as I say, is down to that, the support from whoever, whatever, maybe it’s not there anymore, Alex will tell you more about that than I can, he’d know more about that sort of thing. I just want to see this tradition carry on because it’s just great for Ladbroke Grove, tell you about Ladbroke Grove, when I first came to England my parents were living in Ealing, right, Ealing Broadway. Very middle class, very proper, especially in those days, sixties, very proper, very snobbish, very everything you can think of. And, when we got up in the mornings, we had to put on a shirt and tie. Can you believe that? We had to wear a bloody tie, we were that proper, we were being brought up like real middle-class kids and we hated it, okay. Within six months we moved to Ladbroke Grove and that was the beginning of my life. That was it.

J: What was so different about it?

TJ: Ladbroke Grove opened everything for me, that’s what started me playing music seriously, Ladbroke Grove. That’s where I met some of my best friends.

J: Why was it so different?

TJ: Because there are more black people here. And the culture was carried on, and it was loose, it was free, it was, it was, it was, my god. There was clubs, there were parties, there are house parties, there are girls, there were this, my god Ladbroke Grove, and from that moment up to this day Ladbroke Grove for me is the best borough to now in the whole of England, Ladbroke Grove, right here. I used to live at the top of Portobello Road, Rendal Street, 7 Rendel Street, it’s gone now, they replaced that street with, and the whole area replaced with flats and all that stuff. By doing that, you lose a lot of the culture. The neighbourhood culture, building flats, although those flats are not too high, but still whatever, in those days we had streets and everybody played in the streets, we all knew each other, I mean my god, best days of my life, Ladbroke Grove, Ladbroke Grove in the sixties, seventies and eighties. Culture now is eradicated, now Ladbroke Grove is turning into a very, oh, what is the word for it, I want to find a nice word for it, there is and isn’t a nice word for it but it’s turned into a very cosmopolitan area where people don’t care about people anymore, people now, what it is, what will happen, I have to blame the government for that, what you call gentrification, ruined Ladbroke Grove. Tell them I said that. Tell anyone that I said that. Gentrification has ruined Ladbroke Grove for me. It’s taken away the real people and bring in people with money and people with maybe the right background or the right jobs, working in the city you can afford this, and afford that, and jack the rents up to, to, come on. Poor people have to take a back seat and go by the, go wherever they can go, places that they don’t want to be because they can’t afford to be in Ladbroke Grove which is what, what they love, I’m talking about personally. If I lived in Ladbroke Grove still they’d have done that to me because I know I couldn’t afford to live here anymore. So, gentrification has ruined Ladbroke Grove for me personally, yeah, and I’ve seen all the changes, I’ve seen all the difference, I’m old enough to know the difference, I’ve seen how it used to be and how it is now. Young people like yourself look at it now, they’re saying oh lovely, oh lovely place to live, no. No, forget it, right now it is just too controlled, it is too proper, it is too rich, too much money, too much this, too much that for me, you see where I’m coming from.

J: Yeah, of course.

TJ: It’s not, I mean no, no, the market, the market, Portobello market is the heart of Ladbroke Grove, okay, still. Even though it’s lost a lot of the culture, tradition, I still come here most Saturdays when I’m not playing, if I’m not busy I’ll come here and walk the Portobello Road end to end, I always find old friends, meet old friends and talk about the old days like an old man, you know what I’m saying. You cannot touch that, trust me, you cannot touch that, especially in the summer time, sun is shining, my god, up and down, the market, friends, talking, whatever, Ladbroke Grove is the place for me in the whole of England, the best place I’ve ever been in, ever lived in. And I’ve travelled all over England, as a musician you get to travel everywhere but Ladbroke Grove is where my heart is still. I’m done.

J: That’s good. Thankyou.


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