Introducing the Spitalfields Crooner

I chose the heading because:

  • My life began in Spitalfields (and still does)
  • A life-long love of music

My age is not important… whenever asked the question my stock reply is “I’m still breathing, so let’s see what tomorrow holds.” Besides, there’s too many movies to see before that last gasp. One you have to see, if you haven’t already, is a Czech film The Shop on Main Street. Get it… a masterpiece.

That enough of films for the moment…

Brunswick Buildings

Brunswick Buildings, near Middlesex Street

The photo alongside is Brunswick Building which was sited just a few metres from Middlesex Street; the divide between the East End and the City of London, and home for me from my birth until its demolition in 1974 when the buildings were falling apart because of neglect by the private landlord. In its heyday before neglect set in it was the prince of all the other tenements in the area, and famous enough to have three books written about it by a former tenant, the author Ralph Finn (see No Tears in Aldgate).

The main body of inhabitants comprised Jewish families of characters dispensing great wit and humour day after day.
“Mr Eisner, how much do you charge for making a suit?”
“I make a lovely one for 150 guineas, or I can make a nice one for 75 guineas”
“That sounds reasonable, can you make me one for 50 guineas?”
“No problem, but listen – don’t you want sleeves?”
Wentworth Street Market

Wentworth Street Market in the 1930s

In starting this column I would like to make it a mixture of past and present and maybe get some intake from whoever on some of the things I feel strongly about. For instance, let’s take bagels, or more correctly, beigels, here comes a little bit of nostalgia… to paraphrase the title of a Lionel Bart show “Fings ain’t what they used to be”. The tasteless thing that passes for one today ain’t a patch on how they once tasted. The lady in the picture is selling the real thing in Wentworth St market (circa 1930s) when 95% of all the stalls there sold food with real taste. Sadly they all disappeared by the end of the 1960s. The beigel bakery situated on the corner of Brick Lane and Hanbury Street went much earlier. Good enough reason to lower flags at half-mast.

A while ago the London Standard freebie had a two-page spread on the problem of the homeless. Turning several pages I was confronted by 20 or more pages devoted to luxurious homes of all types – bungalows, penthouses, beautiful cottages, etc, etc for sale at the most astronomical prices imaginable. Leaving aside the few who the pages were aimed for – could only bring forth from those highlighted in the homeless article “when I win the lottery”. Where’s Robespierre when you want him?

May I ramble a bit? Thanks. I love reading, always have done. Not all subjects, but like you I can pick and choose. Many years ago a cousin (Ruby if you want to know) gave me a copy of a detective novel by Ellery Queen (actually a pseudonym for two American writers, Frederic Dannay and Manfred B Lee). I’ve put that in detail because they are without doubt the best mystery writers one could wish for in the idiom. A problem of deduction. In fact they are known as the American equivalent of Sherlock Holmes (also a dab hand at deduction). Needless to say I have almost all the Ellery Queen novels (he is also the name of the detective). You’ll never guess who did it.

I take my leave for now, with a couple of my favourite songs.

5 Responses to Introducing the Spitalfields Crooner

  • Dave falconer says:

    Hi Mike
    Great website. Just been listening to your music and remembering enjoying your performance in the Golden Heart.
    Dave Falconer
    -say hello to Sandra & Katie

  • Sophie says:

    Bonjour Michael,
    Finally, you are putting words down. I spent a lovely time reading you.
    Encore, encore…..
    Missing you and your sweet Sheila.
    A bientot.

  • Helen King says:

    Hola Michael
    I’m emailing from a warm Madrid to say that I love your website.
    Great to read your words of wisdom and the snippets about London from days gone by.
    Wish that I could be there for your next live performance at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club – you’re a star crooner to rival Frank himself!
    Greetings from Chris and me,

  • lesley rozental says:

    love the website! Keep posting snippets from the “real” east end…. absolutely fascinating! Want to hear all the great tales of you and the family growing up in brunswick buildings!

    Cant understand why Tony Bennett didnt call for you to duet on his last cd!!
    lots of love

  • Hi Mick

    hope you’re keeping well. Watched ‘The Shop on the High Street’ this afternoon with Ella. Absolutely brilliant! Thanks for recommending it.
    Great website & i agree with you re beigels tragedy…

    bye for now Michelle & Phil


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Mike Myers, The Spitalfields Crooner