During these strange lockdown, stay at home, social distancing times, London Shoes is still able to continue publishing its popular weekly blogs – by simple recourse to unpublished material held in its vaults, stored there specifically for rainy-day situations.
So-this week’s blog represents Part 2 on the topic of “London’s – Lost Music Venues”.
First cab-off-the-rank is a pub I used to frequent regularly in my mid-teens, throughout the early 1970’s.
>>The “Green Man” pub-Leytonstone-E11
The Green Man pub in Leytonstone-London E11 is a place that is steeped in history.
Records show that there’s been a tavern & coaching inn on its site since the late 1600 – mainly because its location was once on the main roadway between London and Cambridge.
Back in the day, the ‘Green Man’ was a popular stopping off and meeting point for highwaymen, and in its folklore it is said that the building is haunted by the ghost of legendary highwayman ‘Dick Turpin’.
Anyway – throughout the 1970’s, the pub had a resident band by the name of ‘Deep Feeling’ that would play their every week, drawing in crowds from all over east London and beyond – a very popular band.
Deep Feeling were a ‘covers’ band – but with a bit of an unconventional twist. This bunch of exceptional musicians did not simply bang out covers of popular chart hits of the day – instead they played covers of classic album tracks, mainly from the more progressive bands of the day – a very unusual and some might say risky approach – but one that was extremely popular with the punters.
At any weekend down at the Green Man in the early 70’s the band would be up on stage banging out all time legendary classic tracks from the likes of super groups such as Yes – Genesis – Pink Floyd – Led Zeppelin – plus many more, to a very appreciative audience – and many would say that their ‘covers’ were often better than the ‘live’ versions played by the original groups themselves.
I do have a slight personal tenuous link to the Green Man, because in Aug 1973 I started work at Barclays Bank-Leytonstone branch, just a couple of hundred yards down the road from the pub, and I got to know some of the bar staff when they used to come into the branch to do the banking and collect their change orders – and I often used to head back to Leytonstone at the weekends to have a beer with them, whilst watching the excellent Deep Feeling do their stuff up on stage.
The Green Man pub is still around today, but now it is one of the O’Neill’s pub chain, and sadly no more ‘live’ music.
>>The ‘Hammersmith Palais’:
This famous old London venue was first opened in 1919 as the ‘Hammersmith Palais de Danse’ – the very first ‘Palais’ dancehall venue in Britain. Throughout the following decade the venue became a roller-skating rink and an ice-skating rink – before reverting back into a dancehall in the 1930’s.
In the late 1950’s the renowned and extremely popular ‘Joe Loss & his Orchestra’ were the resident band there, and in fact, at one time, the band’s vocalist was one Ross McManus – Elvis Costello’s dad.
On a good night, the Hammersmith Palais could hold up to 2,000 punters – and in the early 60’s both the Beatles and The Rolling Stones played there. Throughout the mid to late 1970’s and beyond the Hammersmith Palais was a popular venue for the top ‘punk’ bands of the day with bands like The Police and The Jam and The Clash all recording ‘live’ albums from their performances there – and the Palais was also one of the main London venues hosting different genres of African & Afro Caribbean music with everything from artists like King Sunny Ade, Delroy Wilson & Toots & the Maytals just to name just a few, performing there.
One of the early singles released by The Clash is “White Man in Hammersmith Palais”, and just so happens to be my personal favourite of theirs.
Sadly in 2007, the Hammersmith Palais closed its doors for the last time as a music venue, and this wonderful historic building was demolished. In its place today is a student accommodation building, but at least on its external wall there is a commemorative plaque to remind people of the historic importance of the old Palais.
>>The “Alexandra Palace”-North London:
Another venue that has hosted some significant music events, but is historically famous for much more significant stuff than that is the “Alexandra Palace” in North London.
The ‘Ally Pally’ (as it is more commonly known as) is a massive iconic building that looks down on North London and because of its location, is a landmark that can be seen for miles around.
It was first opened in 1875 as ‘The Peoples Palace’ and throughout its life time it has been famous for a number of things, mainly as the once home of TV and Radio broadcasting – and also as a major exhibition centre.
However, in terms of ‘music’, it has its own little place in the history of rock music.
In 1962 it was renowned for hosting all-night ‘Carnival of Jazz’ gigs, and in 64 The Rolling Stones first played there.
But it is mainly as a result of an event held there back in 1967 when it hosted the now legendary “14 Hour Technicolour Dream” that the Ally Pally gained its little niche in ‘live’ music history.
The ’14 Hour Technicolour Dream’ event was held during the heights of the so called Summer of Love, and was a multi-artist gig held for the purposes of raising funds for the infamous and controversial ‘underground’ counter-culture newspaper the ‘International Times’.
The likes of John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Soft Machine, The Move, Pete Townshend, The Pretty Things, plus many more, offered their services for the event, and an estimated 10,000 attended. Pink Floyd was the headline act and they took to the stage at 5am in the morning. The gig has subsequently gone down in music history and is even talked about to this very day.
In 1969 The Who performed their rock opera ‘Tommy’ there to a massive audience.
In recent decades the likes of Queen, Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Jam, the Stone Roses, Bjork, Blur and Jayzee have all played the Ally Pally, and the venue has also been used for such events as the ‘Brit Awards’ and the ‘Mobo Awards’ – so quite a musical heritage for a multi-purpose venue.
>>The ‘Rainbow Theatre’-Finsbury Park:
The ‘Rainbow’ in Finsbury Park north London – probably my favourite ‘lost’ music venue, as it is a place that had many a great night out in my youth.
The ‘Rainbow’ first opened as the ‘Finsbury Park Astoria’ cinema back in 1930.
In the 60’s it hosted gigs by music legends such as the Beatles, The Beach Boys and Jimi Hendrix.
In 1971 the venue was given over entirely to music and renamed the ‘Rainbow Theatre’, and for the next decade it hosted the best of the best in terms of music of all genres, especially rock music – literally anyone who was anyone, played the Rainbow – the list is endless:- The Faces – Pink Floyd – Yes – Eric Clapton – James Brown – Genesis – Stevie Wonder – Van Morrison – Queen – Kool & the Gang – Deep Purple – The Jackson 5 – Wings – David Bowie, are just some of the many legendary gigs at the Rainbow.
As I mentioned earlier, this was my personal favourite venue – and I went to quite a few times particularly in the early 1970’s.
One gig that I attended there has now gone down in music history and is referred to even to this day.
In August 1972 the Rainbow hosted a gig by David Bowie & the Spiders from Mars. His now iconic album “The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders from Mars” had only been released a couple of months earlier, and this gig was part of his very first ‘Ziggy Stardust’ tour – a tour which had commenced in February that year, when Bowie was generally an unknown in the rock hierarchy stakes.
Opening for Bowie that night were a reasonably ‘new’ band by the name of ‘Roxy Music’, who themselves had only just released their very first album.
Bowie pulled out all the stops for this Rainbow gig. The stage was set-up with scaffolding and walkways everywhere, for Bowie to strut his stuff around on – there was a large screen backdrop that displayed various images – the lightshow was exceptional – and to cap it all, the now late mime artist Lindsay Kemp & his Troupe accompanied Bowie & the Spiders on stage as they ran through their set of selected tracks from his ‘Man Who Sold the World’ – ‘Hunky Dory’ & ‘Ziggy Stardust’ albums – it was without doubt one of the best gigs that I have ever experienced, and one that will be forever etched on my memory .
Sadly, the Rainbow closed down in 1981 and stood disused for over a decade, prevented from being demolished because of its Grade II listed protection status. However, in recent years it has become the home of ‘The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God’.
>>‘Flamingo Club’ – Wardour Street-Soho-W1:
The ‘Flamingo Club’ first opened in 1957 in the basement of an old grocery store deep in the heart of London’s Soho district.
It started life as a jazz club, and in fact the legendary ‘Ronnie Scott’ who went on to open a jazz club of his own under his own name – was once the saxophonist in the Flamingo’s resident band.
The Flamingo soon attracted a solid following and was well known for its Jazz Weekend all-nighters.
By the time the 60’s began, the club had started to develop a bit of a bad reputation, as it was a regular haunt for London’s gangsters, pimps, prostitutes and drug dealers.
In 1962 the Flamingo became more widely known because of its tenuous connection to the Profumo Affair scandal, as it was the place where Christine Keeler’s two lovers ‘Lucky Gordon’ and ‘Johnny Edgecombe’ came to blows (this particular incident was covered off in detail in the recent TV drama about Keeler).
By 1963 the Flamingo had become the centre of the ever growing and popular ‘Mod’ culture – and it was also the sort of place that the likes of the Beatles, Stones & Hendrix plus other current stars, would regularly hang-out.
Apart from just the Mod’s, a lot of US Servicemen also used to gravitate to the Flamingo Club, which by now was well known for hosting music events that played genres such as R&B – Ska – Bluebeat & Reggae – attracting multi-cultural audiences.
Throughout its heyday the stars such as Ella Fitzgerald – Billie Holiday – Stevie Wonder – John Lee Hooker – Otis Redding – Rod Stewart – Pink Floyd – Eric Clapton – The Small Faces – all performed down at the Flamingo Club.
The resident band throughout the majority of these times was ‘Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames’ backing all the top US stars of the day, and they themselves went on to secure commercial success in their own right.
Sadly, times changed and the Flamingo Club as it was closed down in 1972 – but ‘live’ music continued to be performed there, as its upstairs was converted firstly to the ‘Whiskey-a-Go Go’ club and then in the 80’s the ‘Wag Club’ – a popular haunt of the ‘New Romantics’ movement.
In 2001 major renovation was undertaken and the site became an O’Neill’s pub – which it remains today.
Inside the pub today there are numerous items of memorabilia that refer to its old life, and on its exterior wall there is a plaque that commemorates just how important the old Flamingo Club was to the London music scene.
So – that’s Part 2 of London’s ‘Lost Music Venues’ – London Shoes ‘lockdown’ publication for this week, which I’m sure the music aficionados in particular will enjoy.
Below is a full summary of all the photo accompanying Pt2 of London’s ‘Lost Music Venues’ blog