Metal Guru

An August cycle tour that took in the home of Gustav Holst and the place of death of Glam Rock star Marc Bolan in Barnes, south London.

In the 1970’s I started to get to grips with life when I took small and big steps to understand what was naff or good taste. I had thought that good taste was a bourgeois concept and I also thought that your class was defined if you knew better than to drink ‘Blue Nun’, and weren’t fazed when asked to buy wine in a supermarket.

The first records I bought with my first wages were Gustav Holst, ‘The Planets’, Marc Bolan’s (T-Rex) ‘Electric Warrior’ and ‘Slider’.

I was able to think about both on a London ride that also featured my favourite tree in Richmond Park, the home of Ninette de Valois, the founder of the Royal Ballet in 1931 (there is a Royal Ballet School in Richmond Park) and the home of Holst plus the spot where ‘Glam Rock’ star Marc Bolan lost his life.

Gustav Holst wrote The Planets during 1914/16 at a time when Europe was in the midst of an appalling war of attrition. The work was seen at the time as being too hard for people to stand in one performance as it contained a new dissonant language of music.

Now it is taken as being a classic and a piece of music I loved when I was in my teens. His house is not far from where Marc Bolan died in Barnes (sadly the house has scaffolding around it this August day).

I also loved pop music when I was a teen and Marc Bolan was so good to jump about to and be noisy with. Sadly Marc Bolan was killed in 1977 when the Austin Mini he was travelling in driven by Gloria Jones hit a tree when she lost control over a humped bridge near to Gypsy Lane, he died instantly.

I have passed that spot at Barnes many, many times cycling to Richmond Park and now the tree that killed him seems to have gone and in its place is a memorial stone, a bust of him and notice boards with messages from fans across the world.

When not dancing to T-Rex or hanging out with Holst I was out on my bike, so no change there then.

Note: The ride I undertook began in south London at Vauxhall, a bit of dirt across Clapham Common before navigating Clapham Junction, Wandsworth Common, Southfield, onto the gravel at Wimbledon Common and then the same in Richmond Park before cycling through Mortlake and joining the rough stuff on the Thames River path to Putney and back through Chelsea Reach and Battersea Park.

A ‘Roubaixesque’  sort of cycle tour with stops at Barnes to see Holst’s House and across Barnes Common to visit Marc Bolan’s place of death.

Metal Guru

My favourite tree in Richmond Park, London

Gustav Holst house overlooking the Thames at Barnes

The house is undergoing repairs in August 2018

Ninette de Valois’ house is almost next door

March Bolan died at this spot

A wooden barrel seems to have replaced the tree that Marc Bolan’s Mini hit

Album covers – Electric Warrior and Slider



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