Billy Bentley (Promenades Himself In London) – Kilburn & The High Roads

“‘Allo Playmates, here’s a little London song, all about a young man’s adventures in the big city”

Before punk there was Pub Rock. It was a grass roots working class rock and roll scene disinterested in ‘show business’ and the ‘mainstream hype’. It was the equivalent of offspring from The Who and The Kinks going for a pint and having a good old fashioned knees up.

One key feature of this working class music was that it woz sung in the native tongue My Old Son. This felt like the natural progression of the gutter rat Cavern Club Beatles (before they got rich and trippy), before Magic Alex had as much influence on their horizons as Elvis Presley once did.

Predominantly Pub Rock is remembered as a southern English scene. Oop North they had Northern Soul and Wigan Pier after the 60’s and before Punk happened. Down south it was Pub Rock.

In London and pointing towards the coast of Essex (especially Canvey Island near Southend) There were bands like Dr. Feelgood, Eddie & The Hotrods and Kilburn & The Highroads doing punk without the art degree and without having the other half’s undies on.

Billy Bentley (Promenades Himself In London) is an early cut from the only Kilburn & The Highroads long player (which was simply titled Handsome) and it’s a deep catalog of London life’s colloquialisms from the middle of the 20th century (brace yourselves out of towners)

Over a suprisingly sprightly Joanna tonk and some brassy old brass Ian lays out the common lexicon of yer cockney fella.

“Billy Bentley, go to London early in the day”

Seems to ease you in all pleasant like, then you get right up between the rum and the Ribena.

“Half a quid, mate, Stand to reason, Hold your horses, How’s your father? Well, cor blimey, Wotcha Cheeky, Move along there, See the show Sir, Nice time, Ducky? You’ll be lucky, Billy Bentley he’s a caution, have a pleasant stay”

While that first verse puts a grin on the face of anyone I grew up with, it can make a geezer of a certain vintage somewhat wistful for the bygone era of the poetry from Wansted to Rislip.

“Billy Bentley, take a farther in the afternoon, Down the Grove, Up the Archway, Kilburn High Road, Dalston Junction, Clapham Common, Ealing Broadway, Cambridge Circus, Hyde Park Corner, Covent Garden, I Beg you pardon, Billy Bentley, golden platter and a dirty spoon” 

That second verse will put natives in mind of bus routes and have them counting tube stops off in their heads (or it’ll be navigated by pubs that may no longer be pubs). And yet, there’s much to be had for those who’ve never crossed the river from Blackfriars on foot or even heard ‘The tale of the plonker who bought London Bridge on a given that was taken the wrong way’.

The Sax flourish when they mention the bands own postal address, the music hall matching of ‘Covent Garden’ with ‘I beg your pardon’ would have anyone joining in with the next ”Ere we are again’ like The Limehouse Golem is still at large. But what do they know about railways? Eh?

“Billy Bentley, day in London soon to disappear, Shocking headache, Well despondent, Starvin’ ‘ungry, Bleedin’ taters, What a carve up, Double lonely, fucking Ada, All me marbles, Charming weather, Bloody clever, Billy Bentley, all the winners don’t you like it here?”

So I’m going to welcome you all to London week. Think of Ian and his band of not yet Blockheaded Pub Rockers as your A to Z.

You will hear all of the phrases used above on the various stops we make over the next week. We’re doin’ the knowledge.

“Hold very tight, please” *ding ding*

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