West End Roundup

Hi West Enders, it’s a week of, as the oh-so-quaint saying goes, ‘bits and bobs’ about our favourite part of the city.

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The renewal begins

Did you ever wonder when the West End officially began its rebirth? According to Newcastle City Council it was 13 July 2000. Why this date? It was the opening of the Quest Apartments, a fairly routine event one would have thought, but according to the Council it had a much greater significance.

They took the opportunity to put up a plaque in front of the building which reads: ‘The Quest Apartments. Celebrating the rebirth of the West End. Officially opened by the Lord Mayor of Newcastle the Right Worshipful John Tate. 13 July 2000’. Have a look when you are next passing 575 Hunter Street. 

What’s our song?

Now that we are truly coming into our own I think we need a theme song. If the West End had a soundtrack what would it be? I love the English band The Pet Shop Boys and have often hummed ‘West End Girls’, their song about the working class men of London pining for the rich girls in the West End, during my travels around Newcastle West. The chorus goes like this:

In a West End town, a dead end world
The East End boys and West End girls
West End girls

The West End girls
The West End boys
And West End girls

Local artist Mark Alyward proposes ‘West End Blues’ recorded in 1928 by Louis Armstrong and His Hot Fives. You can see a clip of it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXHdqTVC3cA

The West End that the original writer of the song, Joe Oliver, was referring to was the most westerly point of Lake Pontchartrain in the Orleans Parish in Louisiana. . Apparently in the 1920s it was a busy summer resort with live music, restaurants and the lake itself was a popular bathing spot. A number of blues artists have recorded ‘West End Blues’, but Louis Armstrong’s version became so influential that in 1979 it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

But the best comment about ‘West End Blues’ comes from Billie Holiday. “Sometimes the record would make me so sad, I’d cry up a storm” she wrote. “Other times the same damn record would make me so happy.” Holliday also cited Louis Armstrong’s instrumental technique as a formative influence on her own vocal style. “It sounded like he was making love to me” she once told a jazz critic “That’s how I wanted to sing.”

And to me that sounds like a perfect song for the West End.


Kimberly O’Sullivan

Have you chosen the West End as your home or as the perfect place to run your business? Do you have a West End tale which deserves a wider audience? What inspires and infuriates you about the West End? If you have a story to tell I would love to talk to you! Here’s how to find me: kimberly@netspace.net.au; 0413 250 155.



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