The Roxy, and walking out on the Clash

Well I listened to the Robert Elms, BBC London show from Wednesday, it had a fascinating regular feature from Russell Clarke, the “rock and roll routemaster“.

roxyThis week Russell was covering the history of the Roxy Night Club in London. Between Russells description and Roberts memories of London and the London club scene at the time they captured it perfectly for me. I went on to read Paul Markos “The Roxy London WC2: A Punk History”. The book contains some great qoutes that seem to sum up the dance music scene at the time too, one from Billy Idol:

We gravitated towards gay discos because they were much more tolerant of young people like us, being different. They left us alone, everything thing sprang from that gay scene.”

and another from Boy George:

Gay clubs were the only safe havens, Rods, Louises, Chageramas in Neal St, and the Sombrero in High St Kensington.

and indeed, many of these were the clubs of my teen dance music years, including for me and our small group from the ‘burb s, Angie, Jane, Barbs, Paul, Colin plus Andrew and Euan from Cuffley, Mash in Greek St among other clubs.

What the Elms show and especially Markos book did, was answer one of the big questions for me thats being eating away at me for years. I recall going to Chaguaramas in a then pretty run down Covent Garden many times. In 1975 it was one of the best Jazz Funk clubs in London. It was tiny place, like many of the best clubs at the time, it was in the basement. Through the summer of 1975 it was fine, but over the next year it slipped into decline, starting to show from the wear and tear of being a tiny club that was pretty busy.

Over on my triathlon blog, I wrote back in 2008 about when “disco died”. I ended that blog with

Anyone out there confirm or correct my memories? Which year was it? Was there a party New Years Eve 1976 with a punk band ? Who were the band that played that night? and was it chaguaramas or Shagaramas? I must admit, I always thought it was the latter.

Well it looks like it was indeed New Years Day. Which meant I was there at the start of the seminal Punk Revolution in London actually got its home, the Roxy. Me, as I said over in the other blog, when the Clash came on at midnight, we walked out in disgust. There is a great video on the Roxy on Facebook, as far as I remember, I never went back.

Footnote: I emailed Russell Clarke just before writing this. He replied promptly, in his reply was this link, which is a compiled list of all the nights and bands that played at the Roxy. Case closed, no gig on 31-12-76.

You can actually read Markos book for free, here in the google cache. If the link doesn’t work, search for chaguaramas night club and take the first result that google returns. They mention us at the top of page-61.

Author: Mark Cathcart

Formerly an Executive Director of Systems Engineering and a Senior Distinguished Engineer at Dell. Prior to that, an IBM Distinguished Engineer working for the Systems Group in NY and Austin. I’m currently “retired until further notice”.

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