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The Roxy, London, 1976 – 1978

Queuing outside the Roxy
Read Thorne’s notes about making the Roxy live album.
By the end of 1976, punk rock in the UK had acquired a reputation for violence, although this was mostly due to cheap press sensationalism.  There will always be occasional fights in clubs, and of course punk nights were no exception.  The energy level was higher than other genres’, and could prove very intimidating to observers outside this (then) quite small, almost esoteric scene.  The result was that towards the end of 1976 there were no venues which booked punk, and there was nowhere for subscribers to play.

Roxy flier, The Vibrators, February 16 1977Three partners, Barry Jones, Andy Czezowski and Ralph Jedraszcyk formed a partnership to take over Chaguaramas, a gay club in London’s Covent Garden in a run-down basement on Neal Street which had a significant gangster clientèle and was reputed to have hosted a stabbing murder.  They opened for Roxy business New Year’s Eve 1976, and thanks to fly-posting effort and subsequent word of mouth found themselves dealing with an unlikely success.  Four months later, the rent had risen accordingly, along with the emergent punk brand, and they couldn’t/didn’t want to keep up.  They left in April 1977.

The Roxy Club, London WC2Under new management, the venue staggered on for another year, even though benefitting from the live album recorded at the end of Barry’s, Andy’s and Ralph’s reign which, two months later turned out to be the first live compilation to make the Top 20 since the Concert For Bangladesh in the late 60s.  Six months after the Roxy opened, punk had moved from underground to be the big new thing.  The whole country had picked up on the ‘movement’ (as Barry Jones would put it) that had at one point retreated, in London at least, to just one social venue.

The Roxy, London WC2: A Punk History Like Hilly Kristal at CBGB, the instigators of the Roxy deserve a 21-gun salute.  Not likely in London, after the punk/establishment confrontations.  But we might dream.

The Roxy, London WC2: A Punk History is one of the best books ever written about a club, helped that the subject matter is so colorful.
It’s available on Kindle: click this link to buy it on Amazon (you’re not obliged to buy after checking it out). Author Paul Marko runs the extensive punk77 Web site.

A series  of flyers from 1976/1977, art: Barry Jones.
The Roxy was here…25 years before
Neal Street, in London’s Covent Garden
Neal Street, in London's Covent Garden

The neighborhood looks somewhat different in September 2001 …

The Roxy's door, 25 years on

… but the tree and the garbage are nice and new …

The Roxy's door, 25 years on

… and the tacky white tiles still survive.