From, probably, the fifth form at Roundhay School I extended my nights out from just the Chained Bull, and Phoenix Bar at Roundhay Mansion to later nights out in Leeds City. A friend of mine, Dave G, was into real ale and at the start of the seventies CAMRA, Campaign For Real Ale movement, was getting to be a real force. Dave used to brew his own beer at the time and his parents didn’t seem to mind that he wasn’t eighteen. He would have beer bubbling around and so did his father and the house had the strong aroma of yeast, hops and fermenting beer. Home brewing was quite a thing at this time and most Saturday afternoons I would go around to Dave’s house and listen to whatever new albums he had bought. Pete and others would often attend, but many times it was just the two of us. When this was the case, out would come his homebrew. The crown top of the bottle would be prised off and there was a resulting hiss. Dave would pour two glasses, trying not to disturb the beer which had a thickish layer of yeast sediment at the bottom.
His beer had two distinctive qualities. One of these was that it was an acquired taste. Unlike the commercial brews it had a strong flavour and his varied recipes produced some interesting, and at times, challenging flavours. The brews also had a very high alcohol content and were strongly coloured.
David was always buying new albums and he had a very eclectic taste. He would buy albums after listening and reading reviews, whether he had heard the artist or not. It was through him that I heard ‘The Man Who Sold the World’, one of David Bowie’s first albums and ‘Hunky Dory’. He was also keen on some more obscure artists, such as Andy Pratt who had a minor hit with ‘Avenging Annie’. We would sit, drink and smoke and all the while listen to whatever was new to his collection. Dave lived between Harehills Lane and Gledhow Valley Road, in the Gledhow Parks, I seem to remember, and it was rare that his parents were in the house. As the afternoons wore on we became quite merry. Dave was always very generous and he would ply me with drinks, whether I wanted them or not. When his supply of beer was getting low and we were less fussy, even the sludge at the bottom was consumed. As this was Saturday afternoon and we were usually meeting people in the evening it was not a great start. Being quite sloshed by tea time, we would head off to meet up with other friends.
Sometimes that meant going into Leeds and often meeting in a CAMRA pub in Sheepscar. It might have been the White Stag, but I thought that was a Tetley pub. Whilst there Dave would buy rounds and if there were just the two of us I would have a line of pints whilst Dave set the pace and wanted me to keep up. I don’t know how he did it, or I did, for that matter. From here we would walk into Leeds and often we would go to Leeds Poly for either concerts or some of their discos. We would usually miss the last bus and end up walking all the way back home. Needless to say, much of the evenings would be a blur and even after a late rising the next day, I would swear never to do it again as the hangover was awful. Dave never seemed to be affected and was ready to go again on Sunday night.
Younger readers probably don’t know about the pub closing times. Public houses had to close at 10.30pm and ‘Last drinks!’ was shouted out shortly before closing time. This allowed time for all drinks to be consumed before the pubs had to shut. What this did result in was the very quick consumption of drinks in the last half hour, and produced large numbers of intoxicated people pouring out of pubs at the same time, and probably contributed to some of the aggression that occurred. Night clubs did not have the same restrictions and they could serve alcohol into the early hours of the morning.
On clearer nights we would meet up at Leeds Poly and have a few beers and play snooker whilst hanging around in a group and having a good time and then move on to some of the late night entertainment venues. We had to plan in advance if we were going to a club as suitable dress codes were in place. Shirts with collars and no jeans were the rule for most and even then you had to appear sober and sensible for the bouncers to allow you in. Large numbers of lads in a group would often be refused and it was easier if you were a couple. Around the Merrion Centre there were a few places to go and, for that reason, drinks at the General Wade could be the starting off point. The most popular at the time, I recall, was Cinderellas Rockerfellas. This was at the back of the Merrion Centre and it was owned by the late Peter Stringfellow, who later went on to greater things in London and the USA. The clubs were upstairs in a two storey building and Rockerfellas was supposed to be classier and catered for older clientele, whereas Cinderellas was for younger clients. The music and decor in each would match the style for the age groups and was louder in Cinderellas. Despite being separate, once in you could move from one section to the other. Lights flashed, the dance floors were busy and music belted out. Chic, Bee Gees, KC and the Sunshine Band, Kool and the Gang, Marvin Gaye, the Stylistics, the list goes on. Never my choice in music, but it was well suited for the clubs. Girls would often dance in circles around their handbags and interested boys would approach nervously. They could be rejected with a curt word or just by being ignored, and the lad’s friends would fall around in hysterics and their friend’s discomfort and rejection. If they were successful then the friends would not be quite so clever and envy would be the response.
There were steep steps that led up to the clubs, and once inside it was an impressive magical world. Glass floors, plush seating and very dim lights impressed and in Cinderellas conversations were difficult with the deafening volume of the music. If you did want to talk you would go through to Rockerfellas where the music was at a slightly lower level.
There were always staff keeping an eye out and I don’t ever remember there being any trouble. My friend, Dave, was not the best coordinated person. He was tall and long-limbed and I do remember his attempt to impress a group of girls with his dancing. His style was what I would now say seemed like a fairly accurate imitation of Mr Bean dancing. It certainly grabbed quite a lot of attention. Needless to say, it was not successful in impressing the ladies, but it was successful in getting a bouncer to tell him to get off the dance floor. Rejection never seemed to faze Dave and, a bit like the toys in the budgie’s cage, he just bounced back and gave it another go.
There was another local venue and that was the Intime. This was near to the General Wade and was below street level. We went a few times and, again, I never saw any trouble. It played a lot of the same music as Cinderellas and had a clock theme. What was common with both of these clubs was that alcohol was very expensive. We, and I would assume many others, would make sure we had sufficient to drink before going to the clubs, and when there would only buy one or maybe two drinks. The best time to arrive was shortly before last orders as great crowds would arrive after 10.30, wanting to get in and many would be refused.
The problem with these venues for us was that going always meant having to walk home. We didn’t have a lot of money and so taxis were a luxury saved for special occasions. The walk was interesting and meant passing the notorious Spencer Place near Harehills, but I never had any problems and made the trek many times.
Another option was the Hoffbrauhaus in the Merrion Centre. This was based on the Bavarian Beer Hauses in Munich. When it first opened a group of us organised a Roundhay outing, a bit like our visit to Batley Variety Club and Freddy Star. The Hofbrauhaus was downstairs and was set out with hordes of people sitting on long benches next to solid wooden tables. Beer was the only drink I can remember and it was served in enormous handled glasses called Steins. When starting the evening the Steins were full with relatively small heads of beer, but later in the evening, as people became less discerning, the heads filled half the glass. There was an Oom-pah Band, with men in lederhosen and fedoras, and girls in frilled dresses with white blouses, belted under the boobs. The evening was heavily organised with audience participation in singing, standing on the benches and stamping and much drinking. At the time, it was like nothing I had ever seen, but like many venues it lost its novelty value and became less popular. I seem to remember they even started having striptease to try and get the crowds. I also know that bands played there at one time before it went the way of Tudor Banquets, Bernie Inns and other venues.
I can’t say that clubs were ever really my thing. I guess I was more of a hippy at heart and I preferred progressive music and rock, to disco and pop. I was happier at the Poly, Thomas Danby College, Leeds Uni, and the Town Hall and other venues that had live bands. After saying this, I have some interesting memories of a night after watching Man United play and then attending Pip’s Nightclub in Manchester, with Dave, Mick L and his younger brother (all ex-Roundhay School boys). I also was a regular for a while at Crazy Daisy’s nightclub in Sheffield, when I lived there in the late 1970s.
My latest album out now and free to listen to on the Soundcloud player below. An eclectic mix.