Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Saville Theatre where Steve Winwood and I sang

The other day I came across a blog post about my first (and so far only) appearance on the West End stage.

I was 8 and the family had gone to see Danny La Rue in Queen Passionella and the Sleeping Beauty. I was one of the children asked up on to the stage to sing during this (sort of) pantomime.

Thinking about it, given La Rue's slightly risqué reputation, there probably weren't many children there, which made it more likely I would be chosen. (But then I must have been one of the few children who was allowed to stay up to watch Frankie Howerd in Up Pompeii!)

Reading about Queen Passionella after rediscovering that post, I found that it was staged at the Saville theatre.

The Saville was in Shaftesbury Avenue and had a remarkable history. Opened in 1931, it was leased by the Beatles' manager Brian Epstein in 1965.

According to Wikipedia, he presented:
both plays (including works by Arnold Wesker) and rock and roll shows. The venue became notorious for its Sunday night concerts. During one by Chuck Berry, members of the audience stormed the stage and the police were called to clear the theatre. 
The venue saw the last UK appearance of The Jimi Hendrix Experience in August 1967, before their groundbreaking Monterey Pop Festival performance. The Move and Procol Harum also appeared on the bill. An eclectic mix of bands such as Nirvana, Cream, Fairport Convention, the Incredible String Band and The Bee Gees, also appeared there.
The Beatles borrowed the Saville to make their "Hello, Goodbye" promo (an early music video) in November 1967, and on 8 December 1967, Yoko Ono performed her The Fog Machine: Music of the Mind there, which included a projection of her film Bottoms (Film No. 4) in the men's room during the concert. The Rolling Stones played two shows on 21 December 1969. 
The theatre was sold in 1969, and returned to presenting theatrical productions and under the new management it presented the London première of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, a production that brought Leonard Rossiter to public attention.
Then I saw this tweet:
That's right: Traffic's first appearance was 47 years ago today and at the Saville Theatre. That is about 18 months before my appearance there.

Today the Saville theatre is a cinema - the Odeon Covent Garden - but I am sure that it remembers me and Danny and Steve.

1 comment:

wolfi said...

Yes, those were the days!
I was in London a few times as a student in the 60s - would have come more often but couldn't afford it of course ...

I remember buying the Blind Faith LP with the controversial picture somewhere near Leicester Square fresh from the press and presenting it proudly to my friends in Germany. One New Year's Eve my sisters and a friend were in a club on Charing Cross Road in a concert by Family (if I remember corectly) and my friend left because the music was too loud for him ...

And later I saw and heard the Albino brothers Johnny and Edgar Winter in the Roundhouse ...

Though I was not lucky enough to be there at Blind Faith's famous concert in hyde park or get to see the stones.

But I made it to Ginger Baker's Airpforce somewhere near Frankfurt,sitting on the floor surrounded by GIs which offered me a joint ...

You always bring up happy memories - thanks for that, Jonathan!