The Hippodrome Golders Green is a fine old building, now Grade II listed, originally designed and built as a music hall venue in 1913.
The Golders Green Hippodrome is located adjacent to Golders Green tube station.
The Golders Green Hippodrome is located adjacent to Golders Green tube station.
Hotels which were given the name “Railway Hotel” were almost always located next, or close to, railway stations, fairly obvious really. Of course, when stations were closed the need for the hotel often diminished and many ended up closing. So the Railway Hotel Harrow & Wealdstone is a bit of an exception since the station is still in use but the hotel has long since gone.
The Railway Hotel Harrow was the venue where the Who were reputed to have begun their guitar smashing antics in 1964, albeit in their earlier guise of the High Numbers. The band can be seen posing outside the hotel on the album cover shown above and in the centre fold spread of Meaty Beaty Big & Bouncy. The Who’s manager to be, Kit Lambert, actually discovered them at this location and the rest is history. The guitar smashing incident was actually an accident with Pete Townsend accidentally hitting his guitar on the low roof above the stage but the crowd apparently loved it so he kept it in the act for years afterwards.
The Who had a residency at the Railway Hotel during the summer of 1964.
The Railway Hotel Harrow & Wealdstone was torched in 2002 in an arson attack and has now been replaced with something much less interesting – yet another block of flats.
Interestingly, two of the blocks of flats built on the site were named after Who (High Numbers) members Roger Daltry (Daltry house) and Keith Moon, (Moon House). There is a townsend House in Harrow but we are not sure whether that was named after Pete Townsend or if it was just a coincidence. A plaque was erected to commemorate the Who, the guitar smashing and the bands association with the hotel. The plaque has since dissapeared and is probably in someone’s collection of rock memorabilia – wish I had it!
Other acts known to have played at the Railway Hotel Harrow & Wealdstone include Jethro Tull, Savoy Brown and Anysley Dunbar – we know this because of the brilliant poster shown below:
It was a popular venue with the Mods, with whom the Who were closely associated, hence the appearance of their lesser known rock opera “Quadraphenia”.
The iconic photograph for David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust album cover was shot on Heddon Street in London. The photo shoot took place during January of 1972 and the photographer was Brian Ward.
The sign “K West” was the trade sign for a firm of the same name, trading as furriers at that time. The sign was removed, as was the telephone box, although that was later replaced.
In 2012 the landlords, The Crown Estate, erected a memorial plaque to commemorate the event.
The album cover photograph was taken by Brian Ward outside furriers “K. West” at 23 Heddon Street, London in January 1972, looking south-east towards the centre of the city. Bowie said of the sign, “It’s such a shame that sign went [was removed]. People read so much into it. They thought ‘K. West’ must be some sort of code for ‘quest.’ It took on all these sort of mystical overtones.” The post office in the background (now “The Living Room, W1” bar) was the site of London’s first nightclub, The Cave of the Golden Calf, which opened in 1912. As part of street renovations, in April 1997 a red “K series” phonebox was returned to the street, replacing a modern blue phonebox, which in turn had replaced the original phonebox featured on the rear cover.
Of the album’s packaging in general, Bowie said:
The idea was to hit a look somewhere between the Malcolm McDowell thing with the one mascaraed eyelash and insects. It was the era of Wild Boys, by William S. Burroughs. […] [It] was a cross between that and Clockwork Orange that really started to put together the shape and the look of what Ziggy and the Spiders were going to become. […] Everything had to be infinitely symbolic.”
The cover was among the ten chosen by the Royal Mail for a set of “Classic Album Cover” postage stamps issued in January 2010.
The rear cover of the original vinyl LP contained the instruction “TO BE PLAYED AT MAXIMUM VOLUME” (in caps). The instruction was omitted, however, from re-releases.
In March 2012, The Crown Estate, which owns Regent Street and Heddon Street, installed a commemorative brown plaque at No. 23 in the same place as the “K. West” sign on the cover photo. The unveiling was attended by original band members Woodmansey and Bolder, and was unveiled by Gary Kemp. The plaque was the first to be installed by The Crown Estate and is one of the few plaques in the country devoted to fictional characters.
After having first been used as a cinema, which was, after all, what it was originally designed and built for, the building that many a concert goer from the 70s attended in order to pay homage to their chosen rock gods, (or indeed godesses), has now become a church.
After it had served its time as a cinema, having originally been called the Astoria, the Odeon closed its doors in September 1971 and was renamed the Rainbow Theatre.
It was here that some of rock’s finest hours occurred. Its a long list but it started with the Who performing the opening concert in November 1971, supported by the little known Roxy Music and a great blues Singer/Guitarist called Loyd Watson who, like me, hailed from the Cambridgeshire city of Peterborough.
Prior to this, however, back in its days as a cinema, The Rainbow hosted occasional music concerts and it is notable for the fact that Jimi Hendrix played there on 31st march 1967. It was at this event, for the first time, that Jimi set fire to his guitar as part of the act – a stunt he became famous for afterwards along with playing the instrument with his teeth and behind his back. At this point, Jimi was not top of the bill however, that honour being held by the Walker Brothers. Another pre-rainbow highlight was the Beachboys who recorded their “Live In London” album there.
During its lifetime as one of the world’s premier music venues, the rainbow played host to many legendary acts, a few of which are as follows, in no particular order:
Queen, (recorded 1974’s “Live At The Rainbow”)
Genesis, (recorded 1973’s “Live At The Rainbow”)
David Bowie, (who introduced us to Ziggy Stardust there in August 1972)
Frank Zappa, (due to play 2 nights but pushed off the stage on the first night by a “fan” resulting in serious injury)
Eddie and the Hot Rods, (recorded live album 1977)
Bob Marley, (recorded “Live At The Rainbow” there)
Mott The Hoople
Buzzcocks, (recorded live album there 1979)
Yes, (parts of he live album “Yessongs” recorded here)
Thin Lizzy, (parts of “Live & Dangerous” recorded there)
Stiff Little Fingers, (live album “Hanx” recorded there, 1980)
Iron Maiden, (1981 live video “Live At Rainbow Theatre” recorded there)
and, as they say, many more.
The Rainbow closed as a music venue on Christmas Eve 1981 with the management citing difficulties in maintaining the building to the standard required by its listed status. I myself was working in the industry at the time and had become aware of the problems in staging major bands in what were relatively small venues where it was becoming difficult to cover the costs of touring. The maths, increasingly, started to point towards larger venues for major acts where they could stand a chance of making a profit.
From the venue’s point of view, all smaller venues, not just the Rainbow, it was getting difficult to fill the places often enough to keep the numbers in the black.
The Rainbow served as a boxing venue for a short time and, like many of Top Rank’s former cinemas, was considered for conversion into a Bingo Hall but in 1995, following years of disuse, it was purchased and restored by the Brazilian Pentecostal Church who still own and use it to this day.
So, one of the worlds premier venues is currently a church, nothing wrong with that, my “RockBottom” angle here is that this wonderful destination for musical pilgrims has, like many other smaller venues, fallen by the wayside as we rush towards a concert culture that involves much larger venues that are primarily designed for sporting events with tens of thousands of seats and in which you will almost certainly not have much of a view of the act – except of course, on the giant screens that have become ubiquitous at such occasions.
That’s progress of course and I accept it as you must too. If you want to see major bands its probably going to be in an Arena or stadium or at one of the increasing number of festivals that keep popping up.
The Rainbow Theatre, born 1930, still going strong.
Thanks to Rick Burton who runs an excellent site dedicated to the Rainbow Theatre here.
Here are some links for Rainbow Live concert albums.
Bob Marley & The Wailers Live At The Rainbow Theatre (recorded 1977)
This link is for the DVD.
Focus At The Rainbow, (recorded May 1973)
The guitar virtuoso Jan Akkerman was still with them at this point, (he left in 1976 but has played with them since then for short spells). remastered and sounding great. This link is for the CD, see the “Celebrated RockBottoms Store” for MP3 and other options.