Friday, August 01, 2008

In clubland

Back in 1970 when I was 15, and the only regular entertainment available to us was the weekly Youth Club discotheque in Blackheath, my friend Dangerous Hazel got wind of something special happening in Dudley: a club, she said, a club for people like us - weirdos, prog rockers and crypto-hippies - somewhere we could get to hear stuff other than the chart-toppers and bubblegum pop that was the Youth Club's staple fare.

It took her a bit of digging but finally Hazel tracked it down. It was (and still is) called JB's and, at that point in its history, was based in the clubhouse at Dudley Town football ground. Not long after, it moved up the town to the back of a gents' outfitters near Top Church and, for the next five-or-so years, this became our musical home-from-home.

On Thursday nights there was a disco of sorts, but without the dancing. Fridays and Saturdays were band nights. In those five glorious years I must have seen hundreds of bands, most of whom I've forgotten now, but some standout gigs remain in the memory banks - Richard and Linda Thompson several times (even before they were married and Linda was still Peters), Dr Feelgood at least twice, Stan Webb's Broken Glass and Chicken Shack, legendary bluesmen Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee (yes, I now all bluesmen get called legendary, but this pair really, really were). People say the mid 70s were rubbish for music, but not from where I was sitting, they weren't.

There was memorable drinking to go with the memorable music. The beer of choice was Newcastle Brown, drunk from the bottle. One night John Woodhouse peeled the label off his bottle and gave it to me as a memento - I kept it for years, sellotaped to a peice of card in a box with all my concert tickets from Birmingham Town Hall and the stubs of two joss sticks from a Quintessence concert. At that point in my young life, though, I was not much of a beer drinker, preferring the more girly delights of port-and-lemon (10p) - the infamous post-Sonny-Terry-and-Brownie-McGhee port-and-lemon-bath-staining incident did not please The Mater one bit.

Anyway, in 1976 I headed off to university, discovered folk music, let punk pass me by, started to feel I was 'too old' for that kind of thing and lost touch with The Club (as my particular group of regulars called it). Even when I moved back to the Black Country after university, I never re-established my JB's habit.

I still miss it though.

And I did perform there once, myself, in the early 80s, as a member of Dudley and District CND's Street Theatre troupe - I think the audience was just slightly bigger than the company, but not much.

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