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The Review - FEATURE
Published: 19 November 2009
Daniel Jeanrenaud on the Northern Line
Daniel Jeanrenaud on the Northern Line
Daniel, the king of the kebab house

Takeaway and Tube musical legend Daniel Jeanrenaud tells Josh Loeb about a rock’n’roll odyssey that brought him to Camden from ‘Marseille, Tennessee’

ANYONE who has ever stumbled into The Marathon kebab house at around midnight on a misspent work night will have found themselves in the presence of a musical legend.  
Not Amy Winehouse, not Liam from Oasis or Jack from the White Stripes, nor even Led Zep’s Robert Plant – although all have put in appearances over the years. Rather, it is the man with the jet-black hair and the vintage guitar, singing Elvis, Johnny Cash and Chuck Berry covers.  
His name is Daniel Jeanrenaud and he hails from “Marseille, Tennes­see – next to Paris, Texas”.
Since 1997 he has been “taking Napoleon’s revenge with the guitar” by rocking the boozed-up crowd at the Chalk Farm eatery, above which he lived for a short time.
“It was,” he says, “the perfect home for a musician. What other landlords say you can play rock music loudly until 3am?” 
In June, after it was found breaching licensing rules, the Marathon was served notice by Camden Council that its operations faced a review, raising the spectre of closure for the bohemian venue.
It has recently had its opening hours dram­atically slashed – a decision it is appealing against.
Daniel says he has “a love-hate relationship” with The Marathon, which had previously been allowed to stay open until 4am.
“It becomes too much sometimes,” he says. “It’s been 12 years now. How many Johnny B. Goodes, how many Lone­­some Hearts is that?”  
The 50-year-old musician, who spoke to the New Journal in The Spaghetti House in Tufnell Park, where he gives regular, impromptu gigs, remembers many a wild night at The Mara­thon, which he says is calmer now than it once was. “When I first played there it was like a saloon,” he says. “The crowd’s better these days.” 
As well as playing in The Marathon and the Spaghetti House, he entertains passengers in Northern Line Tube carriages. “They’re caught in a trap,” he explains, “and they can’t walk out. Until they give me their cash.”  
The son of a Pentecostal minister, Daniel was raised in a strict Christian environment in France.
Records were banned in the house, but he heard music in church – “one of those gypsy-guitar players, Django Reinhardt-style,” he says. “Immediately I wanted to play the guitar.”
He has lived in Paris, Switzerland and America, and turned to busking after The Kingsnakes – a band he formed in San Francisco in 1978 with two ex-members of cult punk outfit the Flaming Groovies – split up.
The Kingsnakes never had any hit records but toured widely. “We did everything rock stars do, even break things,” he says. “Except we didn’t have the money to pay for them.” Eventually they were signed by EMI and started making big bucks – and promptly broke up.
Daniel is now hoping for success as a solo artist. He recently supported David Gray at the Roundhouse and his debut solo album, Get Up, is due for release soon. 
But regardless of whether he hits the big time as a soloist, he says he intends to keep playing The Marathon as long as he can. 
“In Harlem, when the great jazz pioneers of the golden age, like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald, started playing, they had residencies in clubs and restaurants seven nights a week,” says Daniel. “This type of music, whether it’s jazz, blues or popular dance music or rock and roll, works better in smaller venues.”

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