The coolest things in London then

Saturday 11 July 2015, 12.01am HKT

T H E   S E V E N T I E S   A N D   E I G H T I E S

CAN’T say what’s cool in London today but we had cool things back in my day. Srsly cool.

Today we have our gadgets, the Internetto and stuff that only looks cool, but we had actual cool places to go to and cool things to actually do.

Out of in-place

production village mike quinn

Production Village
London NW2

An oddball rural replica created in the middle of a colourless north London surburb. There was a trendy yet offbeat pub and the whole place was often used as venue to host music gigs. Apparently, the movie “Hellraiser” (1987) was filmed there.

(Photo by Mike Quinn via London RIP)

This makes up for EVERYTHING you now have

marquee club

Marquee Club
90 Wardour Street
London W1

The mother of iconic venues, in my book. You lot read about this place where Jimmi Hendrix and Joe Satriani did their first gigs, but people of my generation actually went there. Heh.

My mental image of it:— Always chockablock with black-lipsticked punks and assorted subcultural types in long queues outside, shivering away in their safety-pinned leather gear whilst pelted on by the London night rain and cold.

The current incarnation is nothing like the club of the old days (The Marquee at Upper Saint Martin’s Lane in Covent Garden). Fan site: The Marquee Club.

(Photo via LedzepConcerts)

Swazzy-snazzy Swissy

swiss centre london by matt brown

The Swiss Centre
Leicester Square
London W1

This existed from 1968 to 2007 or 2008, with it characteristic Glockenspiel clock above the corner souvenir shop.

Mum and I used to dine at the Swiss Centre Restaurant, being practically the only place in the UK at the time that served deermeat. It’s also the only place to buy Bally brand shoes too, which were (reputedly) the only brand required to be worn by the centre’s staff.

Most memorable for me:— The waitresses were mostly German, not Swiss.

(Photo by Matt Brown on Flickr)

Surfeit of surplus

Laurence Corner in 2008

Laurence Corner Army Surplus
62 Hampstead Road
London NW1

Every gear that’s cool for my generation in London (and still the talking points among my circle of people even today) came from this icon of iconic surplus and vintage shops.

Laurence Corner was one of the world’s earliest military surplus stores — it started from around the mid-1940s. Photo taken in 2008, a few months after the original owners closed up shop.

The very last thing I bought from Laurence Corner was in 2006 — a navy blue all-wool bakerboy’s cap for £3.99. I was served by the proprietress herself (who I understand has retired to Spain on the passing of the husband).

I still have the three pairs of extra-thick khaki woollen hiking socks I bought from there in 1981.

For those who still remember, Laurence Corner was opposite Euston Towers, where the head office and broadcasting studios of Capital Radio 95.8 FM used to be.

(Photo from my collection)

‘Spanish clubs’

Gemini (May 21 - June 20)

Those “Spanish clubs” in super-secret basement locations
(around Old Compton Street and Cambridge Square)
London W1

Not places learn to speak Spanish, that’s for sure.

These are where you learn to score chicks who want to be scored, geddit?

These drinking and smooching dens served unending streams of booze and snacks way past the UK drinking hours and pretty much anything goes — but nothing dangerous or brainless like drugs and fighting and stuff. Security suitably provided by members of the Old Bill bunking off from their duties and boozing even heavier than the rest of us drunken folks.

The ones I’d been taken to were dotted around from Great Windmill Street near Piccadilly, behind Shaftesbury Avenue, into Old Compton Street, and ending at Cambridge Square just off Chinatown. The ones in Lexington Avenue were brothels run by independent working girls.

Last time I was back in London (2007), Spanish clubs had become a faded memory even among the senile and dotty.

Photo unavailable, for obvious reasons.

psychobilly buskers on london's piccadilly line

Psychobilly buskers on the London Tube
Piccadilly Line, early 1980s

(author’s collection)

I got lots more cool things to talk about, but it’ll probably fill up the whole of the Internet.

Monty Python

sig tnl autograf

Originally written on 26 Nov 2014


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2 Responses to “The coolest things in London then”

  1. Ed Hurst said

    London’s the kind of place where it really doesn’t matter what’s cool anywhere else in the world. London has it’s own unique kind of cool and you can just as easily pass through without a clue. During the years when I would have cared about cool, I was either living in Alaska or going to some nowhere Baptist college. So far as I know, I’ve never had a chance to do anything cool, even by local standards. Not sad or anything, just never got to sample cool.

    Liked by 1 person

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