Last summer the Church wrote about Iggy’s noticed visit at the Cromwellian club in November 1966, where the dance-crew of Ready Steady Go! were launching the latest dance-craze The Bend.
The club existed since 1964 or 1965 and in the autumn of that year jazz-singer, writer, critic and generally bad tempered journalist Georges Melly wrote a piece about the place, that was later re-printed in his excellent account of the pop art days in Britain Revolt Into Style. In contradiction with most flower power studies his book did not appear two decades or more after the facts happened. Melly wrote his essays when Swingin’ London was still swinging although it was slightly running out of breath. The Reverend finds it funny how many of the anecdotes that Melly has noted on the spot can now be found in other books.
The Church’s archive had a copy of this work for ages, but dark forces made it disappear into the same vortex that also swallows the Reverend’s second sock when he is in search for a clean nice pair. But this summer the book miraculously re-appeared from the vaults of Atagong mansion. As the book has been long out of print we hereby re-print Mr. George Melly’s reflections. The Church is confident he won’t mind…
I don't know the details of Roy Harrod's quarrel with the Cromwellian, but there is no doubt that it is ‘out'. I went there six months ago (early 1965, FA) and it was full of well-known faces. On my recent two visits I recognized nobody.
Bart Kimber, the general manager, says he is delighted. 'It's back to sanity and smartness' is the way he puts it. He hated the place full of paint-stained jeans and last century T-shirts. 'We get three distinct crowds,' he told me, 'downstairs the younger set. We offer them name-groups, and records introduced by disc jockeys from the pirate radio stations. In the ground floor bar, there's a higher age group, drinkers you see. While upstairs there's gambling. Would you care to look around?'
The club is in a large house in the Cromwell Road. It too is decorated in the baronial style except here there are suits of armour and old master reproductions in heavy gold frames. The basement has murals of nymphs seducing puritans, and is very noisy. The atmosphere of the whole complex is relaxed and pleasant. 'Nobody rushes' is how Mr Kimber puts it. The prices seem very reasonable. 'Here,' he says, ‘the artists are not being fleeced, but they're just too high for the kids.' Quite a lot of pop performers still come; Georgie Fame, the Zombies, the New Faces, Jonathan King were all there on one night he told me, and Dusty likes it. What about the top groups, I asked. 'We have them here occasionally,' he said, 'and we're pleased to see them, but were not desperate.' The club was full and spending so I am inclined to believe him. I asked him who his clientele was. 'A lot of continental people, film extras, hairdressers, P.R.OS, advertising people, no boxers. They cause bother, but quite a few wrestlers.' In fact the club is owned by five wrestlers so of course it's natural that they have never had any trouble.
'Look,' said Mr Kimber, 'of course we're successful. Parking's easy out here, and you can get stoned out of your eyeballs for 2£. We don't want to be in.'
George Melly’s description starts with the observation that a certain Roy Harrod has had some troubles with the Cromwellian. Rod (not Roy) Harrod had been attached to The Cromwellian but offered his services to The Scotch of St James club after a quarrel with the owners. Rod Harrod, who made some fame in the city as a music journalist, knew several bands personally and had enough influence to invite them to the club that he favoured. When he left The Crom that club was out and, in a matter of weeks, The Scotch of St. James was in. Harrod’s guests weren’t second grade. The Beatles, The Stones and The Animals eagerly accepted his invitations (consumptions were always on the house for these bands). Although the club obviously benefited from these famous visitors Roy Harrod tried to respect their privacy, George Melly tells the story how a visitor, who had the audacity to ask George Harrison for an autograph, was immediately removed from the club. His account ends with the fact that Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon would arrive in five minutes, reason enough for George Melly to go home.
Rod Harrod had a nose for bands and singers and on the 24th of September 1966 he invited a young American guitarist to have a blues jam on stage. The contract, hastily written on a napkin, was signed by an unknown artist called Jimi Hendrix. (back to George Melly's Cromwellian essay)
Update 2010: Rod Harrod has shared some of his memories with the Reverend: Rod Harrod remembers The Crom Just another world exclusive of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit.
Ready Steady Go!
Regular visitors of the Church will know that the Reverend strongly beliefs in a connection between Ig and Ready Steady Go! The evidence is rather flimsy to say the least, but George Melly’s account adds another piece of the puzzle that may prove this theory.
When George Melly interviewed Bart Kimber that last one claimed that Dusty (Springfield) liked the Cromwellian (autumn of 1965). The next year Ig was spotted by NME on a Cromwellian RSG!-party and the person who (probably) introduced Ig to Syd Barrett maintains that Ig invited her ‘once to a party with Dusty Springfield and crew’ (see When Syd met Iggy).
So far for this weeks sermon from the Reverend, go in peace, sistren and brethren, and don’t do anything that Iggy wouldn’t have done.
Sources (other than the above internet links):
Melly, George: Revolt Into Style – The Pop Arts In Britain, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1972, p. 98-101.