In these unprecedented times and because of social distancing and the understandable travel restrictions, London Shoes has obviously had to considerably re-invent itself and its activities.
No longer can I just trot off into the ‘Smoke’ and do what I’ve been doing for the past 3 years.
However, all is not lost in terms of continuity, as fortunately I already had a few topics stockpiled – and with the advantage of photos I’ve held ‘in-the-vaults’ plus the migration of some that had been included in previous ‘Shoes’ publications – I am fortunately still able to knock-out a few blogs (for now anyway).
So – the subject matter for this particular publication, just so happens to be a topic that is very close to my heart, as it involves some places where I spent some fantastic and memorable evenings. The topic in question is probably gonna be covered-off in a small series of publications and is entitled……London’s “Lost Music Venues”
To kick-start Part 1 of this topic we firstly travel back to a tiny insignificant little venue tucked away in Old Compton Street-Soho – that, quite simply, is viewed nostalgically by some as the birthplace of rock’n roll in this country – “The 2 I’s Coffee Bar”. The 2 I’s Coffee Bar opened in 1956 and in the late 50’s its basement was a venue that hosted live ‘Skiffle’ music, which them morphed into early rock’n roll music.
The likes of Tommy Steele (once billed as Britain’s answer to Elvis Presley) – Cliff Richard & the Shadows – Adam Faith – Joe Brown & the Bruvvers plus many more early rockers, all cut their teeth at the 2 I’s making the venue extremely popular, and packed to the rafters most nights. The place, and the music performed there, influenced many of the stars that followed in the late 60’s and 1970’s, such as Marc Bolan and David Essex plus many more.
The 2 I’s Coffee Bar as it originally was, closed down in the very late 1960’s, but a Café still remains on the site today, which has been specifically designed as a tourist attraction – and there is a green plaque on display on its exterior wall, to commemorate just how important the venue once was to the birth of Britsh rock’n roll.
Next up is the famous “Hammersmith Odeon”. The Hammersmith Odeon first opened in 1932 as the ‘Gaumont Palace’ seating 3,500 people.
Anyone who’s anyone in the music world has at one time or another played the Hammersmith Odeon.
In the late 1950’s Buddy Holly headlined there shortly before his untimely death.
During the 1960’s the likes of the Tony Bennett – Ella Fitzgerald – Duke Ellington – Louis Armstrong all played the Odeon – and the Beatles headlined an astonishing 38 shows in 21 nights there.
Throughout the 1970’s the major rock bands from all over the world headlined at the Hammersmith Odeon – bands like The Who – Queen – Thin Lizzy – Black Sabbath – Eric Clapton – Paul McCartney – Frank Zappa – Status Quo – Bruce Springsteen plus so many more.
In July 1975, the late David Bowie unexpectedly announced his ‘retirement’ on stage during his ‘Rock ‘n Roll Suicide’ encore – and announcement that made the media headlines the next day. In fact, what he was saying was that the gig was going to be the very last ‘Ziggy Stardust’ show that he would perform.
The entire event was very well staged managed by Bowie, as a film crew captured the whole gig, and it was subsequently released as a full length feature film.
Throughout the future decades, the top bands and artists of the day still continued to headline at the venue – and the Hammersmith Odeon even hosted monumental stage performances such as: – Joseph – Riverdance – Doctor Doolittle – Mama Mia – The Royal Variety Performance – Britain’s Got Talent plus many more.
Over 60 ‘Live’ albums have been recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon.
Today, the venue is more popularly known as the ‘Hammersmith Apollo’ & is still one of London’s most popular music venues.
Half way down Wardour Street in London’s Soho district there once stood one of London’s most legendary ‘live’ music venues – ‘The Marquee Club’.
The Marquee first opened in 1958 as a jazz club and operated from a site in nearby Oxford Street.
It moved to its more popular Wardour Street venue in 1964, and remained there until 1988.
The Marquee was quite simply pivotal in the launching the careers of most of the top bands of the 60’s & 70’s.
The Rolling Stones first played there in 1962, and following that, all the legendary greats such as The Who – Jimi Hendrix – Pink Floyd – Jethro Tull – Led Zeppelin – David Bowie – Genesis – right through to the Punk era and far beyond, all cut their teeth down there, covering off all genres of music from early rock’n roll, psychedelic, reggae, heavy metal, glam, soul – every night of every week – such an iconic venue.
Interestingly, there is a little bit of a tenuous link between me and the Marquee as between 1974 to 1978, I worked at the Barclays Bank branch in Wardour Street – just a couple of hundred yards down the road from the Marquee.
Anyway, next to the venue is The Ship pub where all the top muso’s of the day used to hang out and partake in a little pre-gig tipple or two before appearing the Club – and so I used to head down to the pub in my lunch hour(s) or after work, and often found myself propping up the bar with the bands and their crews – great memories.
Also, I was at the Marquee on the evening of 9th July 1976 when Southend pub rock band ‘Eddie & the Hot Rods’ were appearing there, and the gig was recorded and 4 tracks issued on a EP entitled ‘Live at the Marquee’ – a brilliant atmosphere, and the memory of their encore of Bob Seeger’s ‘Get out of Denver’ is so accurately captured on this record.
Another ‘live rock-music’ pub, that’s still around today, but now as a jazz venue, is the ‘Red Lion’ in Leytonstone-E11.
There’s actually been a pub on the site of the Red Lion since the late 1600’s – it a very popular landmark amongst east-end pubs.
The current Red Lion building was built in 1891, and in the late 1960’s early 1970’s the hall at the back of the pub was the home of the ‘Chez Club’, a venue on the ‘live music’ circuit where many of the top bands of that era such as Genesis, Yes, Groundhogs & even Slade played.
In fact, the Red Lion goes down in history as being the venue where the newly formed Led Zeppelin made their London debut.
Again – there is another tenuous link between me and a music venue, because back in the Summer of 1972, I ventured down to the Red Lion in Leytonstone, to see a newly formed band called ‘Roxy Music’ make one of their very early performances – little did I know then that 1 year later, I would be starting work at the Barclays Bank branch in Leytonstone, just a few yards down the road from the pub.
So – that’s Part 1 of my London’s ‘Lost Music Venues’ that I’ve put together during these lockdown times – further instalments on this theme will continue, and I hope you enjoy reading all about them, as much as I have putting it together.
Below is the full gallery of all the photos aligned to Part 1 of this London’s “Lost Music Venue” blog