This week ‘London Shoes’ made a welcomed return to the topic of ‘live-music’ – and to an event that required a trek out to a basement jazz venue in deepest darkest Chelsea.
The venue for this ‘gig’ was the extremely popular and charismatic “606 Club” in Lots Road–Chelsea-London SW11, and the reason for journeying all the way from east to west London, was for the purpose of watching my old drumming tutor ‘Gentleman’ George Double from way back in the 1990’s when I was manager of the Barclays Bank branch in Mare Street-Hackney, and young George (as he was then) was one of my customers.
Anyway – for this particular event, George was thumping tubs for a legendary and much respected guitarist in the music industry, who although his name might not necessarily be immediately recognised by your average music lover – he’s a musician who has been on the scene for over 50 years now, and could quite easily be accurately described as being the ‘guitarists guitarist’ – namely Londoner “John Etheridge”.
However, before summarising the achievements of John Etheridge and this particular gig – I thought it would be useful to provide a little bit of background to the famous “606 Club” – the venue for the gig.
The “606 Club” or “The Six” as it is commonly referred to – is definitely up there as being probably one of the busiest jazz clubs in the whole of Europe, as it has performances every night of the week, and sometimes 2 gigs per day at the weekends.
The club itself has been in existence for over 40 years and has operated from its Lots Road venue since 1988.
Now – Lots Road itself is a street that has an interesting history in its own right.
It’s situated alongside the River Thames next to Chelsea Creek and is the location of a magnificent old building and site that was once one of the largest power stations in the world!!!
The ‘Lots Road Power Station’ (not be confused with the Battersea Power Station across the other side of the River), was built in the late 1800’s and sold to the ‘Metropolitan District Traction Company’ in 1901 who used it as a centre to provide power to its ‘District Railways’ service, which in turn enabled the company to keep up with the times by converting its steam powered trains to be powered electrically.
At the height of its historic background, the Lots Road Power Station was burning 700 tons of coal per day, generating up to 50,000 kw’s of power.
As the decades moved on, the Lots Road Power Station was continually being modernised, developed and equipped as rail technology evolved – to the extent that it ended up supplying the power to run the entire London Underground tube network.
It also has a ‘non-power station’ claim-to-fame as well, in that it played a major part in the launch of commercial radio in London in the early 1970’s – when ‘Capital Radio’ and ‘LBC’ used the power stations chimneys to set-up and erect temporary radio transmission masts, until such time permanent transmitters were set up elsewhere.
The Lots Road Power Station finally closed down for good in 2002 when the London Underground tube network switched over to the National Grid to provide the power it needed.
The power station site and buildings remained unused and empty up until very recently, when high level sanction was given to re-develop the site into luxury flats and apartments – and the photos I have published to accompany this article, provide an idea of the extent of the development work involved.
Anyway – back to the “606 Club” – it’s not necessarily the easiest of places to get to – the nearest tube station is probably ‘Fulham Broadway’ on the District Line, which is about a 10/15min walk away – however it is a very famous and popular venue, that not only puts on jazz gigs, it also puts on performances of R&B, Funk, Gospel, Latin, Soul & Blues music – and most of today’s top British jazz acts would have probably played the “606” at some time in their careers.
So – back to the gig, and John Etheridge.
John Etheridge has been performing in bands since the mid 1960’s the most well-known with music lovers of my generation – would probably be ‘Soft Machine’ who were a top-of-the bill act throughout the late 60’s and 70’s – and are currently experiencing a resurgence of interest and still gigging and knocking out albums of their unique style of jazz fusion music, to a new audience today.
Apart from ‘Soft Machine’ John Etheridge has played, recorded and toured the world several times over, performing with the likes of legendary jazz violinist ‘Stephane Grappelli’ – classical guitarist legend ‘ John Williams’ – the popular violin performer ‘Nigel Kennedy’ – and the acclaimed once Police guitarist ‘Andy Summers’…..to name but a few.
Reading through John Etheridge’s discography – the amount of work he has been involved in and churned out over the years is mind-blowing – as it reads something like this:-
4 albums where he has been the band leader
11 albums (and counting) with Soft Machine
5 albums with Stephane Grappelli
2 albums with Nigel Kennedy
13 plus albums with other artists
And that doesn’t include his solo output – all whilst he still continues to perform gigs with Soft Machine and solo gigs, like the one ‘London Shoes’ attended for this article.
It’s no wonder that in a famous quote from “Sting” (the legendary Police frontman) he revealed to the interviewer “I never wanted to be a star, just a highly respected musician like John Etheridge”…high praise indeed.
So – for the gig at the “606 Club” basement this week – John Etheridge was accompanied by my old mate ‘Gentleman’ George Double on drums – Pete Whittaker on organ – special guest Art Themen on sax, who together knocked out nearly 3hrs worth of quality guitar-led modern jazz – creating a fantastic vibe that was really entertaining and thoroughly enjoyed by me and all the other punters who were fortunate enough to be there.
The ‘606 Club’ – a great venue & a great night of musical entertainment provided by John Etheridge & the band – long may he continue to perform.
Please see below more detailed photos of John Etheridge & the “606 Club” blog