During the mid sixties, Newcastle’s Club A’Gogo was one of the top music venues in the North East. The ‘Gogo’ was to Newcastle what the Marquee club was to London. It is fondly remembered by club goers and musicians alike – people like Eric Burdon, Brian Ferry and AC/DC’s Brian Johnson. But unlike the Marquee, there is very little information about the Club A’Gogo on the internet. There are, of course, many references to the Animals being the resident band at the club in the early sixties. The Animals also recorded a live album at the Gogo and even wrote a song about the place.
The Club A’Gogo has become an important part of Newcastle’s musical heritage. The club is probably best remembered for the few years between 1964 and 1967 when iconic British and American blues, rock and soul acts regularly appeared there; acts such as Jimi Hendrix, The Who, the Rolling Stones, Spencer Davis, Wilson Picket and Ike & Tina Turner.
The Club A’Gogo didn’t start its life as a venue for blues and rock bands. Although it opened up in the early sixties when Rock and Roll was becoming popular in the UK, the first music played there was a rollover from the previous decade – jazz.
Newcastle’s pre-Gogo jazz scene
From the mid 50s, Newcastle had enjoyed a very lively jazz scene. The Newcastle Jazz Club in the Royal Arcade, Pilgrim Street was founded in the first half of the 1950s and in 1955 the New Orleans Club opened up at Melbourne Street, Shieldfield. Apart from genuine jazz enthusiasts, these clubs also started attracting a lot of students from Kings College (now Newcastle University).
In 1957 steps were taken that would eventually lead to the opening of the Club A’Gogo. That year the man who founded the Gogo, Mike Jeffery, opened his first music venue – the University Jazz Club in the Cordwainers Hall above the Gardeners Arms on Nelson Street, Newcastle.
Michael Frank Jeffery was a Londoner who, after a spell in the British army, came north to study at Kings College, Newcastle. Outside of Newcastle, he is probably best known as being the man who managed both the Animals and Jimi Hendrix in the sixties and early seventies.
Over the years Mike Jeffery’s reputation has become tarnished by allegations that he fleeced the artists he was managing and more recently by an unproven accusation that he murdered Jimi Hendrix. However, had it not been for Mike Jeffery, there would have been no Club A’Gogo and the careers of many well known musicians may not have turned out the way they did.
His 1957 venture, the University Jazz Club did well as a music venue. The club was only nominally linked to the university, with the profits going into Mike Jeffery’s pocket.
Unlike the New Orleans Club, it catered for dancers as well as those people who just wanted to listen to jazz. The audience it attracted was younger than that of the New Orleans with a mixture of students and non-students. Although there were several large dance halls in the town such as the Oxford Galleries and the Majestic (where the Beatles had their first live appearance in the city), there were only a handful of small, more intimate venues around at that time.
In 1959 Mike Jeffery opened the Marimba Coffee Bar on High Bridge, Newcastle (near its junction with Grey Street). By day it served Italian food and snacks but between 8 and 12 on a night time it became a private membership club with jazz being served up by some of the best musicians around such as the Emcee 4, Tommy Henderson’s Latin American Group and the Bernie Thorpe Trio. Unofficially, the jazz sessions at the Marimba continued long after midnight.
In March 1960 Jeffery opened a larger licensed jazz venue in Carliol Square called the Downbeat Club, which started to attract a more fashionable clientele that that of the New Orleans. Eric Burdon of the Animals was a member of a crowd that used to hang out at the Downbeat. In one interview Burdon described his bunch of friends as “like a motorcycle gang …… without the motorcycles ……. they were tough, hard-drinking and listened to American music”.
A few months after the Downbeat opened there were signs that Mike Jeffery intended to move away from jazz and cater more for an increasing number of rhythm and blues fans. In an interview with the Newcastle Evening Chronicle, Jeffery suggested that he would be introducing a blues night at the Downbeat featuring an R&B band consisting of guitars, piano and tenor sax. Around the same time, he introduced Saturday afternoon record sessions for teenagers at the club. The Downbeat eventually succumbed to rock and blues music featuring local bands such as the Alan Price Combo (originally the Pagans), the Kylastrons and a Whitley Bay band called the Invaders, the first ‘non-Jazz’ band to play there.
In spite of dwindling audiences at the New Orleans and at the Downbeat on jazz nights, there were still plenty of traditional (trad) jazz bands and modern jazz combos doing the rounds in the north east. In the wider world jazz was still thriving. For instance, in 1961 there were three jazz performers in the top 20 all at the same time – (Dave Brubeck, Kenny Ball and Acker Bilk).
Birth of the Club A’Gogo
In 1962, probably partly from the proceeds of an insurance pay off from a fire at the Marimba, Mike Jeffery opened the Club A’Gogo in collaboration with another local businessman/entrepreneur called Ray Grehan who, at the time was the sales manager for a company named Automaticket.
The Club A’Gogo was situated on the top floor in a building on Percy Street in Newcastle’s Haymarket area above a canteen used by Newcastle Corporation bus crews. Another well known land mark of the era, The Handyside Arcade or Arcadia as it was sometimes called, was part of the same block. These buildings have long since been demolished and in their place stands the Eldon Garden Shopping Centre.
When the Gogo first opened, Mike Jeffery booked a lot of the same bands and musicians that had played at the Marimba and the Downbeat such as the Emcee 5, the Invaders, Tommy Henderson and Alan Price.
There were two rooms upstairs, initially managed by a gentleman called Bill Smith. On the right was the licensed “Jazz Lounge” where the Tommy Henderson combo started as the resident band. On the left was the unlicensed “Latin American Lounge” (later to be renamed the “Young Set”). The entrance downstairs was run by Keith Gibbon and Barbara Young with a guy called Paddy, an Irish ex-pro boxer in attendance.
As with his earlier ventures – the University Jazz Club and the Downbeat, which both had unlicensed sessions for teenagers under the legal drinking age, Mike Jeffery continued his policy of catering for both younger and older clientele by splitting the Gogo into the two discrete venues
Initially, the Jazz Lounge was true to its name and featured mainly jazz acts. As well as local jazzmen such as Mike Carr, jazz groups from London such as such as the Tubby Hayes Quartet and the Alan Elsdon Jazz Band appeared there on a regular basis. However, by the end of 1962 and into 1963 jazz was definitely suffering a decline. Mike Carr’s Emcee 5 made their final appearance at the club in the summer of 1962 and by 1963 jazz was phased out completely, paving the way for touring American blues artist like John Lee Hooker and Sonny Boy Williamson. Gradually, the club would change to accommodate some of the great British groups that were emerging in the early sixties; bands like the Alex Harvey Soul Band, Graham Bond Organisation, Spencer Davis Group to name but a few.
Downbeat club regulars – the Invaders became the resident band in the Young Set. Dougie Vickers, who was the Invaders’ drummer, remembers the band auditioning for Mike Jeffery. The Invaders were offered the gig at the Club A’Gogo but only on the condition that they added a sax player to their line up. They promptly found a saxophonist and began playing in the Young Set on Wednesday, Friday, Saturdays and Sunday nights. The Saturday night sessions would start at 12.00 midnight and end at 4.00am. Dougie recalls that on some occasions the queue to get into the club stretched from the doorway in Percy Street around the corner to St James Park.
Due to the popularity of the Club A’Gogo in Newcastle, Mike Jeffery also opened a second Club A’Gogo at North Parade Whitley Bay on Friday 16th August 1963. Well known national groups were booked to appear at the Whitley Bay club as well as local favourites such as the Alan Price Rhythm & Blues Combo, the Invaders and the Kylastrons
In 1963, the Alan Price Rhythm & Blues Combo (later renamed The Animals) became the resident band in the Jazz Lounge and continued their residency throughout the summer and autumn of that year. In the latter half of 1963 they were beginning to come to the attention of several influential people on the London club scene.
Although MiKe Jeffery was not managing the Alan Price Rhythm & Blues Combo at this stage, he was their main employer in so much as the band played more at his clubs in Newcastle than at any other venues in the area. Had the band slipped off to London on their own, Jeffery may have lost them forever. Probably sensing that they were on the brink of success, Mike Jeffery drew up a management contract with the Alan Price Rhythm & Blues Combo and promptly packed them off to London for the ten weeks leading up to Christmas 1963 under their new name of The Animals where they appeared at various R&B clubs such as the Scene, Eel Pie Island and the Ricky Tick.
Click here for a BBC Radio 2 article about the Animals and the Club A’Gogo.
The Animals returned to the Gogo just after Christmas 1963 but due to their success in London they weren’t there very long and eventually their residency was taken over by the Junco Partners.
In the following newspaper article from 1992 Jenny Stewart (formerly Clarke) recalls her experiences at the Gogo and her friendship with Mike Jeffery: –
Mike Jeffery (pictured left) went on to manage Jimi Hendrix and many other bands including Soft Machine and Eire Apparent. At the same time he was involved in the running of several night clubs on the Spanish island of Majorca.
Mike Jeffery met an untimely death in 1973 when an Iberian Airways DC-9 plane bringing him back from a trip to Majorca collided with another plane over Nantes in western France. The accident occurred two and a half years after Jimi Hendrix’s death in London. Mike was on his way back from Palma to attend a Court hearing when he perished along with sixty other passengers and seven Spanish crew members in the crash. Read more about Mike Jeffery’s death here.
Musician’s recollection of the Gogo
In an interview for Northstars, John Steele of the animals describes his early days at the Gogo: –
“Well, it was very exciting and at the a’Gogo you had two rooms; you had a young set room and what was called the jazz lounge. Originally that was the sophisticated jazz lounge but that developed into us (the Animals) becoming the resident band, and after a while, the policy changed to more commercial music and it was just heaving, jumping and in the young set room you would have bands like the Rolling Stones, who would come in and check us out in the other room.
We would be in the jazz lounge backing John Lee Hooker or Sonny Boy Williamson; I’ve backed people like Tubby Hayes and Tony Coe and as well as playing with Eric (Burdon) before we were called the Animals. I also played with Mike Carr at times, playing straight jazz, so there was this beautiful mix of music – modern jazz, R & B and authentic blues men coming over from America, with the new British music going on in the room next door. It was jumping, a fantastic atmosphere. Yeah it was great.”
In a 2010 interview, Eric Burdon was asked about his memories of the Club a’Gogo. This was what he said: –
“As soon as I finished my art studies, I was offered the job of designing the interior of a club project. It became the Club a Go-Go. It was my first and only job as a designer in the commercial world. The Club a Go-Go was a shining star of the northern British club world, which meant it also had to be a den of iniquity. It’s where the North East mob was born – they ran several clubs in the area. It was a mixture of teen heaven, with the devil running loose wielding a hatchet. It was the only place outside of one club in London that actually had a full-on gaming licence. It was very clear that the mob from London would take interest, as gaming back then was strictly controlled in England and only one club in London’s West End had been allowed the game of roulette. I have many great memories from Club A Go-Go. I remember when the late John Lee Hooker played there, he said to me: ‘Man, I’ve seen some wild stuff in my years but nothing like this. This is Newcastle Mississippi.’
Continuing with the same theme, here’s John Lee Hooker’s take on the Club A’Gogo, from extracts of his biography ‘Boogie Man’ by Charles Shaar Murray. John Lee Hooker recalls his first visit to the Gogo in 1964: –
” ‘You ever hear’a Newcastle?’ demands John Lee Hooker of a British acquaintance. The acquaintance fruitlessly racks his brain, mentally scrolling through a headful of half-forgot ten fragments of Delta lore. ‘Newcastle, Mississippi?’ he enquires eventually. Apparently not. ‘You ever been to Newcastle?’ Hooker asks again, somewhat impatiently this time. ‘Newcastle in Britain. Newcastle . . . boy, that was rough. There was a bar I played every night. It was rough.’
‘Was that the Club-A-Go-Go?’ the acquaintance asks, recalling a notorious dive founded in that fair city during the early ’60s – with decor designed by Eric Burdon, vocalist for the club’s original house band, the Animals – by Mike Jeffery, subsequently manager of the Animals and Jimi Hendrix. Hooker nods. ‘Fighting outside, ooohhhh! And inside. ‘Oh,’ I said, ‘that’s it. I ain’t gonna play here no more.’ They were fighting like dogs! Little kids carryin’ knives an’ all the rest of it. . . shit. Oh boy, it was rough. Everybody say, ‘Hey man, this ain’t nothin’, they fight here all the time.’ I say, ‘Yes, ’n I be in the middle of it!’
To most Brits, weaned on lurid horror stories of American inner-city violence, there is something almost ludicrous in the notion that someone who had survived in the Detroit ghetto, more or less unscathed, for a quarter-century or so, could possibly be taken aback by a bunch of beered-up teenage Geordies. Nevertheless, what’s familiar is often reassuring, even if it may seem scary to outsiders. And what’s unfamiliar is often what catches you unawares.”
Then about his second UK tour: –
“Meanwhile John Lee Hooker was poised for his second British tour of 1964. If Roy Fisher (the manager of the British band – The Groundhogs who backed Hooker on his first UK tour) is correct, Hooker’s long-held nervousness concerning Newcastle in general and Mike Jeffery’s Club-A-Go-Go in particular may have its roots in one specific occurence during this jaunt.
‘It was without a doubt the best place that John played,’ says Fisher. ‘Yes, it did have its rougher element and I think he was kind of nervous about that, but it was really, really good. He was nervous in crowds, and because of the hit record, most places were jam-packed. In Newcastle it was big, and there were about eight hundred people packed into this place, which at that time in a club was a lot of people. The dressing room wasn’t at the side of the stage, it was at the back in the managerial offices, so to get him on stage we had to push him through the crowd, so I guess that’s probably what he means. In retrospect, I don’t think it was as dramatic as he thought of it at the time. Me, who’s not too tall, and John, who’s very very small – five foot seven – it was a problem to get him on stage, because we didn’t have any assistance, which at the time pissed me off as well. I had to manoeuvre him through this crowd. It was the first time in the whole tour that he hadn’t been on time to go on stage; most times, unlike many of the other blues singers I can recall, he was always very punctual. The band went on, they played their set, then they would play his intro music and he’d be standing at the side of the stage and then he’d come on. The Geordie reaction was incredible.’”
Another band that appeared at the Gogo in 1967 was Captain Beefheart. In his book about his days with Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band, drummer John ‘drumbo’ French recalls the visit to the club: –
“We became lost trying to find this club, as we had driven up from London. It was late afternoon when we finally asked directions. I recall rolling down the window and asking some fellow on the street if he’d heard of the place. He didn’t understand me. I said it again and his face lit up: “Oooh, the cloob a goo goo.” He went on and on about how to get there. The brogue to my untrained ear sounded Scottish. I didn’t understand a word he said but the driver got it all. I thanked him and we drove off to the club. It was a medium sized club with a lot of thick dark tables with initial carved in them, and the smell of ale permeating the whole building.
“John French: Do you remember playing in the Club A’Gogo in Newcastle?
Jerry Handley (Beefheart’s bass player): I remember Newcastle, that’s where the Animals were from originally.
John French: They sounded Scottish, they had very strong accents. There were knife marks all over the booths. It was a rough looking place. They carved their initials in all the booths.
“The performance that night was quite good. By this time we were into our stride. I think the main problem with the band was that Don (Captain Beefheart) didn’t like to tour or perform. However it was the best thing for us.”
In an interview on the ITV series ‘Northstars’ (broadcast in 2002), Bryan Ferry recalled seeing the Junco Partners at the Gogo and playing there with his own band – the Gas Board. He remembered carrying the band’s gear from the Young Set across the landing to the Jazz Lounge. Ferry described the atmosphere at the Gogo as heavily charged and said it was the best club he had been to. He also remembered that the walls of the Jazz Lounge had a day-glo mural of a New York skyline. In fact, he helped the artist, a David Sweetman with the painting. In Michael Bracewell’s book – ‘Roxy – the band that invented an era’, Ferry is quoted as saying:-
“The Club A’Gogo was great. That was near the bus station. You’d go up these stairs, past all these bus drivers and bus conductors who had a tea room or office there, and the club was at the top. It was in two sections; there was what they called “Young Set” and then there was the “Old Set” or “Jazz Set”. So you had to set up in one part of it for the first set, and then you had to move all your equipment through to the other side – there were two rooms, in other words, and the second was more sophisticated. The first was bigger, maybe.
Later I saw all sorts of people there: Cream, the Spencer Davis Group, Wilson Pickett, Captain Beefheart – I was DJ at the club the night Beefheart played there.
There was this marvellous Jewish man called Myer Thomas, who was the boss of the A’Gogo. He was like a Sidney Greenstreet figure – this big, big man in a double-breasted suit. He was a great character – really scary. And some quite hard men used to go there – like gangsters; dressed in mohair suits, with beautiful girls – the best looking girls in Newcastle; quite tarty. It was really exciting – it felt really “It” to go there. beautiful girls …”
Also in the ‘Northstars’ interviews, Brian Johnson of AC/DC remembered seeing the Yardbirds at the Gogo but was kicked out as soon as Keith Relf appeared on stage because he was too young to be in the Jazz Lounge; Sting recalled seeing Jimi Hendrix and Rod Clements of Lindisfarne remembered being close to the stage when the likes of John Mayall and Alex Harvey appeared. He recalled meeting the same bunch of people around the stage area waiting for the bands to appear and remembered portraits of Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson and John Lee Hooker on the walls.
Newcastle musician Gordon Sumner, better known as Sting recalls his teenage adventure at the Gogo: –
“The Club A Go-Go is above some shops in Percy Street, behind the Haymarket. It was originally a jazz club catering to the sophisticated tastes that developed in and around the university. The Go-Go is where the Animals had their residency before they hit the big time, and living proof that the Beatles miracle could be repeated, even in Newcastle. When I am fifteen years old, the first live band I ever see is there: the Graham Bond Organisation. It is a fortunate introduction. Graham Bond is a big -round–faced man with long greasy hair and a mandarin mustache. He plays Hammond organ and alto sax and sings in a gruff and passionate baritone. His band contains figures who will soon become legends: Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, who will become more famous as members of Cream, on bass and drums respectively, and Dick -Heckstall–Smith on tenor. The music is harsh and uncompromising and I’m not sure if I like it, but I have a strong sense that what is being played has a weight and a seriousness that will later be characterized and then caricatured as “heavy.” Graham Bond would later become obsessed with the occult and end his own life under a train in London’s Underground.
I go to see John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, again at the Go-Go, although I don’t remember which of their subsequently legendary guitarists was on duty that night. It certainly wasn’t Clapton, though it may have been Peter Green. But it wasn’t until December of that year that I really had my mind blown.
I would watch Top of the Pops with a religious devotion at 7:30 every Thursday evening. I loved this show with a passion. Almost forty years later I can still see a picture of the DJ, Jimmy Saville, standing in front of a large chart of the top twenty, circa 1966, and am able to sing a line from every entry. Such familiarity with the music of the time could not, however, have prepared me for the whirlwind, the tidal wave, the earthquake, the force of nature that was Jimi Hendrix.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience appeared on Top of the Pops in December of 1966 and changed everything. Hendrix had transformed “Hey Joe,” an old folk song, and propelled it by the elegant ferocity of his guitar playing into a sassy, bluesy vehicle of awesome power. His vocal was as sulky and offhand as it was passionate and openly sexual, and as the three-piece band stormed through the three minute song, I imagined everyone in whole country in front of their tellys sitting bolt upright in their chairs.
Wow! What the fuck was that?
It seemed only days later that he would be booked to appear at the Go-Go. The excitement in the town is palpable. I am technically too young to gain admission to a nightclub, but because of my height I can easily pass for eighteen. I have brought a change of clothes in my schoolbag, a pair of Levi’s and a white Ben Sherman shirt with a -button–down collar. These are the “coolest” clothes I have, and look fine under my school overcoat. I change out of my uniform in the toilets at the Central Station, trying not to breathe. The lavatory is foul with the pungent stench of urine and sadness. I dress with mesmeric slowness, not wanting to drop any of my clothes on the filthy floor, beneath a faded Ministry of Health poster warning of the dangers of VD. Some hope! I still haven’t come close to having sex. There are no girls at school, and most of my evenings are taken up traveling home on trains and buses. When I do get home, I usually have a punitive amount of work to do, and when on those rare opportunities I do meet girls I am painfully shy and haven’t a clue what to say. But the other reason is music; I already have my passion. I stow my bag in the lockers at the station and set off at a brisk pace for Percy Street, breathing in the crisp air of the evening in grateful gulps and anticipating something extraordinary.
There is a long queue stretching around the corner. I tuck myself into the end of the line and wait. I imagine I’m one of the youngest people there, although my height allows me some anonymity in the crowd. They are mainly boys, dressed much the same as me, although a few dandified “exotics” have managed to purchase Afghan coats and are sporting droopy Zapata moustaches and spiffy desert boots. The girls all have the same style, hair parted severely in the middle and falling in lank sheets to the shoulders of black leather coats. There is an atmosphere of seriousness, though, that pervades the crowd, as if we are about to witness an event of high cultural significance. Hendrix will play two sets. I manage to scrape in for the first one, which is fortunate, as I would have had to find some convincing excuse to stay out so late for the second. My parents have no idea where I am, and I have no wish to tell them. One of the dividends of my alienation is that I don’t have much explaining to do and am pretty much left to my own devices.
The club is tiny and I secure a pitch for myself halfway between the stage and the back wall. I will have no trouble seeing. The band of course are late. The crowd waits patiently.
They say that ‘if you remember the sixties, then you weren’t there’.
Well, much the same could be said of this gig. The Jimi Hendrix Experience was an overwhelming, deafening wave of sound that simply obliterated analysis. I think I remember snatches of “Hey Joe” and “Foxy Lady,” but that event remains a blur of noise and breathtaking virtuosity, of Afro’d hair, wild clothes, and towers of Marshall amplifiers. It was also the first time I’d ever seen a black man. I remember Hendrix creating a hole in the plaster ceiling above the stage with the head of his guitar, and then it was over.”
The Junco Partners, who took over as the Gogo’s resident house band after the Animals, know as much about the club as anyone. There’s a couple of videos on the Juncos’ MySpace page in which a members revisit and talk about the club. Click on the link below to access the videos. (You’ll need to click on the video links on the MySpace right hand side bar to get the videos to play.)
During his short career, Jimi Hendrix only played a handful of gigs in the north east. One of them was at the Club a’GoGo on 10 March 1967, a week before the release of ‘Purple Haze’. His first hit -‘Hey Joe’ had first appeared in the charts 3 months earlier. By the time of the GoGo gig, Hendrix had built up a solid reputation in the music press and was receiving accolades from famous musicians, such as Mick Jagger.
Hendrix played two sets at the Club A’Gogo; the first in the Young Set and then a late set in the Jazz Lounge. Five weeks earlier he had played at the Cellar Club in South Shields and had surprised the audience by ramming his guitar into the ceiling above the stage. Hendrix repeated the stunt at the Gogo and left his guitar suspended in the hole he made in the ceiling.
Alan Price and Eric Burdon wrote a song about the Club a’Gogo for the Animals.
The lyrics are as follows: –
“My baby found a new place to go
Hangs around town at the Club-a-gogo
Takes all my money for the picture show
But I know she spends it at the club-a-gogo
Let’s go babe, let’s go, I love you, come on, yeah!
It’s one of the coolest spots in town
You take too much tho’ it’s bound to get you down
She’s got a boy-friend they call Big Joe
He’s a big shot at the club-a-gogo
Babe, come on, let’s go, let’s go babe, yeah!
Now they play the blues there every day and every night
Everybody monkeys and they feel alright
Ask my friend, Myer he’ll tell you so
That there ain’t no place like the club-a-gogo
Let’s go babe, ah let’s go, come on it’s alright, s’alright, s’alright
I guess I can’t blame her for goin’ up there tho’
The place is full of soul, heart and soul, baby
It’s alright dad, John Lee Hooker, Jerome Green,
Rolling Stones, Memphis Slim up there, Jimmy Reed too baby,
Sonny Boy Williamson baby”
The “Myer’ mentioned in the third verse is, of course, Myer Thomas. As for the “Big Joe” in verse two; this is what Eric Burdon had to say about the song in an interview for the New Musical Express in February 1965: –
” ‘There is no Big Joe’ said Eric. There was a slight lull in the conversation as he reflected slowly. ‘Y’know, there is a guy called ‘Dave’ – he’s the fastest thing on two legs I’ve ever seen when it comes to a scrap.’ He (Eric) climbed into his sheepskin and made for the door. ‘He’d make a very interesting match for Cassius. I’d put money on Dave, he’s the greatest!’ “.
Anyone who went to the Gogo at that time would know Eric Burdon was referring to bouncer, Dave Finlay.
Club goers’ recollections
My own personal experiences of the Club A’Gogo were limited to a handful of gigs I did there and late night visits to the Jazz Lounge; I played there, both in the Young Set and the Jazz Lounge with two bands; the Jazzboard and the Village. The first time I played there was with the Jazzboard two days before Christmas in 1965. The place was absolutely crammed and there was an electric atmosphere, in particular in the Jazz Lounge. I’d not been to the club before and this initial visit gave me a real taste for the place. Unfortunately, due to band commitments and the fact I lived in Sunderland, I was never a regular weekly visitor to the club but when I was with the Jazzboard in 1966 we often went to the Jazz Lounge after our own gigs in the Newcastle area had finished. Some of the bands I saw at these late night sessions were Graham Bond, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers (with Eric Clapton), Geno Washington and not forgetting Newcastle’s favourite band, The Junco Partners.
Around this time, there used to be a black guy who sat in with a lot of the visiting bands on conga drums. I think he must have kept his drums at the club and brought them out if he got the nod from the band. The stage in the Jazz Lounge wasn’t very high and you could get quite close to the musicians.
People who frequented the Gogo in the sixties will also remember some of the characters who worked at the club. Tommy Crumb, a bald guy who usually wore a leather coat, looked after the door on ground level with several others. The club in general was run by Myer Thomas who is mentioned by name in the Animals song ‘Club a’GoGo’.
Amongst other things, Myer Thomas (mentioned by Bryan Ferry above) used to manage the stage logistics and the smooth running of the bands’ performances. I can remember him once telling off our keyboard player, Jimmy Hall, for smoking on stage. Other names that people remember as working at the club were Big Phil, Keith Crombie and Keith Young.
A couple of the better known bouncers were the Finlay brothers – Dave and Tommy. I recall waiting to go into the club late one night when a guy came running out of the door hotly pursued by Dave Finlay. The guy ran along Percy Street and Dave tried to head him off by jumping onto the bonnets and roofs of a row of parked cars.
Ex-club goers that have contributed to the Chronicle Live site remember the mod clothes – herringbone jackets and hush puppies and other gear brought from City Stylish. Another shop that sold clothing to the Newcastle mods was Marcus Price who had a shop a few doors along from the Club A’Gogo. Here is an extract from Michael Bracewell’s book – ‘Roxy – the band that invented an era’. Marcus Price says:-
“Mike Jeffery , who actually owned the A’Gogo had done social studies at university. He then had an older man who fronted it, who was from a retail background – Myer Thomas; he had a deadpan manner, and used to pop into the shop for ties. Initially Mike had a coffee house, and then he translated that into a club – the A’Gogo. He was up-to-the-minute you see.
The A’Gogo became a bit like the Cavern in Liverpool. Women’s styles at the club varied – some of it was flash Newcastle, but a lot of the time it was just sweaters and jeans. Slightly better dressed in the older “Lounge” section. The hair was that Kathy McGowan kind of thing. Black pullovers. Ben Sherman shirt dresses. Little Levi jackets ….
They put on a lot of American stuff – John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson – mainly blues. Then we had the local stuff – the Animals, of course. Also Long John Baldry, Rod Stewart when he was just starting off, Julie Driscoll, Eric Clapton. The Junco Partners were the resident group..”
From the same book, artist Stephen Buckley who was at university with Bryan Ferry recalls: –
“The premises of the A’Gogo must have been a warehouse of some sort, originally. There were two very large dance areas, coming up from a central staircase, and there was a vicarious danger about it, as well. I suppose I went there three or four times a week; and it had a late night license. But curiously enough it was the dancing that was the thing, rather than the drinking. One wasn’t getting drunk, one was dancing. I saw the Stones and the Who.”
Fellow artist Tim head, who was also part of Ferry’s crowd says: –
“We used to go to this wonderful club, the A’Gogo, which was very near the university in the Haymarket. That’s where all the R&B bands would play – I saw Hendrix play there; in fact he came back to a student party with us. Bryan did some DJ’ing there later.
They specialised in R&B – Geno Washington, the Who. The Club A’Gogo had these steep steps going up to it, and I remember a guy being pulled out by the bouncers – as I was going back into the club this poor guy was being hurled down the stairs and thrown into the street.”
Avril Leitch recalls clubbing at both the Downbeat and the Gogo: –
Our Saturday nights started at The Muscle-In under the railway arches, then the Club a’Gogo until midnight then we’d follow the Animals to the Downbeat before walking home at around 5am. across the Town Moor.
The Downbeat became a bit of a druggy place with ‘bodies’ lying around the floor. But the Animals were brilliant – each number would last about ten minutes. The walls were painted red or black and the light bulbs were black.
The Club a’Gogo was certainly the place to be and I remember preferring listening to the Animals in one room than to the Rolling Stones in the other. There was a bit of a gambling room in one corner, I remember. The Stones were new boys then – I danced with Mick Jagger!
Our hands were painted with invisible ink so we could come and go without having to pay again.”
Anne Wilson (previously Cotton) recalls some of her experiences at the Gogo: –
“My twin sister and I went to the Gogo from 1962 then for a short period, to the Downbeat. Once we started going to the Gogo again we just couldn’t stop. We were known for our dancing. If you went to the Gogo you’d remember us. Sometimes a record was put on as request for ‘the Cotton twins’ because no one was dancing and we never minded being the only ones on the floor. It would encourage others to get up and the evening would start.
The Gogo was our lives. We went there at least three times a week . Over the years we made many new friends so having no one to go to the club with was never a problem. You’d walk in and were bound to meet up with someone you knew.
I’ve read articles about people who supposedly went to the club but no one mentions ‘Frenchy’. I find that strange. He certainly was a big part of the Gogo scene as well as the Finlays. The last time I saw Frenchy was 1966 in the Quay Club. I’d heard he was going to prison. He certainly didn’t look happy.
Of course you can never talk about the Gogo and not mention the Junco Partners. They were so good. We had great evenings dancing to their music. First in the ‘Young-set’ and later in the Jazz Lounge.
There were many very special evenings when groups got together and played together. I remember Long John Baldry and the Spence Davis Group (before they were famous). We were really annoyed that we had to queue outside ‘our’ club to see a group we’d been listening to for quite a while. Of course fame also meant they stopped coming.
The night the Stones came to the Gogo Mike Jeffery told everyone to leave them alone as they’d come to enjoy themselves. Later that night we were asked if we wanted to go to a party and were taken in a jeep to what was then The Quay Club – but it wasn’t open at that stage. We sat at the same table as all the Stones, everyone talking away and left at 4.30. It was something to talk about at Art College the next day. Whether anybody believed me or not is another thing!”
Alan Brack, a regular at the Club A’Gogo, remembers the club more for the DJs and the records they played than the bands that appeared there. Here’s what Alan has to say about the Gogo:
“It was by far the greatest club in the UK, even the planet for that matter and that’s an understatement! The Marquee (London), Pink Flamingo (London) … Twisted Wheel (Manchester), Mojo (Sheffield) etc. etc. – eat ya heart out! We all know about the list of every great band or artist that played there but sadly we tend not to mention the awesome, overwhelming, mesmerising dance and soul music that shook and vibrated the club dance floor to its foundations! Many a time the club members would be disappointed when the DJ switched off the music and announced the next act no matter who it was and that’s a fact. They were still in groove for the next belter. How on earth could an act follow the scintillating, fabulous, obscure rare foot stomping shattering soul / ska / Stax/ rhythm & blues music? – No contest!
Here’s a few unquestionable examples that shook that floor to its foundations Don Covay (Sookie Sookie); Rufus Thomas (Willy Nilly); Homer Banks (Sixty Minutes Of Your Love) – by far the best soul song ever; Willie Mitchell (Ever Things Gonna Be All Right); Shorty Long (Function At The Junction and his fantastic Shantilly Lace); Soul Brothers 6 (Some Kind Of Wonderful); William Bell (Never Like This Before ); Sam & Dave (You Got Me Hummin’).
The most anticipated and probably the best gig there was Hendrix. Only his Woodstock appearance eclipsed that unforgettable night at the Gogo. Some other great gigs were when the great Robert Parker played there in September 1966. Also that month Cream played their first Newcastle gig at the GoGo – I can remember the poster. I can also remember when Johhny Kidd from the Pirates died and the DJ played tribute.
I still stand by my word that this club was a venue that was noted mainly for the music played by the DJs – amazing obscure floor shattering mesmerising dance belters. That’s what made this legendary club.”
Another ex-Gogo regular remembers manager, Myer Thomas at the time that the Animal’s ‘House of the Rising Sun’ had been released. Every night he would announce its progress up the charts. Myer eventually moved out to Majorca where Mike Jeffery together with Keith Gibbon opened a night club named Sergeant Peppers in the Plaza Gomilla, Palma.
ChronicleLive, often features people’s memories of the life and times of the Gogo and is well worth checking out.
The demise of the Club A’Gogo
I haven’t been able to establish the exact date that the Gogo closed its doors for the final time. According to Jenny Clarke’s newspaper article, Mike Jeffery’s regime ended when the Gogo went into receivership in 1965 and was sold the following year. The club continued under new management for at least another two years.
In an article in the Sunday Sun dated 1988 about Ray Grehan, Mike Jeffery’s original business partner, Grehan said that he purchased the club from Mike Jeffery when Jeffery went to America with The Animals. During the time that Ray Grehan was allegedly the sole owner of the Gogo, he was heavily involved in setting up casinos and gambling establishments all over the country so it is likely that he left the day-to-day running of the club, including the booking of bands to someone else.
According to one contributor to the Chronicle Live site, the Gogo lost its popularity after the opening of Sloopy’s (formerly La Dolce Vita) and this forced its closure. The closure probably took place at the end of 1968 or in the first few months of 1969. I certainly remember seeing ex-Gogo doorman, Dave Finlay working at the Crescendo Club, Whitley Bay in the Summer of 1969.
For some the spirit of the Club A’Gogo died a lot earlier than 1969. In a television interview, Ronnie Barker, vocalist with the Junco Partners, recalled the demise of the Gogo: –
“Well the Club A’Gogo only really had a period of about four years that was its heyday. Sixty three, four, five, six and the management changed hands round about sixty seven. And after that the artistic control or whatever you want to call it just went out of the window, they started booking sub-standard acts.”
The GoGo is best remembered for its intimate atmosphere and for the great bands that appeared there in its heydays of the mid-sixties. Here are some of the bands and artists that appeared at the Gogo: –
• Alan Bown Set
• Alan Price
• Alex Harvey
• Alexis Korner
• Amen Corner
• Brian Auger’s Trinity (with Julie Driscoll)
• Captain Beefheart
• Garnet Mimms
• Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band
• Graham Bond Organisation
• Herman’s Hermits
• Howlin’ Wolf
• Ike and Tina Turner
• Jeff Beck
• Jimi Hendrix
• Jimmy James & the Vagabonds
• John Lee Hooker
• John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers
• Long John Baldry
• Mary Wells
• Memphis Slim
• Moody Blues
• Pink Floyd
• P J Proby
• Rolling Stones
• Root & Jenny Jackson
• Screaming Jay Hawkins
• Shotgun Express
• Sonny Boy Williamson
• Spencer Davis Group
• Status Quo
• Steam Packet (with Rod Stewart)
• T Bone Walker
• The Animals
• The Family
• The Herd (with Peter Frampton)
• The Move
• The Who
• Walker Brothers
• Wilson Pickett
• Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band
Here are some Gogo gig dates: –
• 08/11/1963 – Rolling Stones
• 07/02/1964 – Graham Bond
• 05/06/1964 – John Lee Hooker
• 20/11/1964 – Jimmy Reed
• 15/12/1964 – Stormsville Shakers
• 05/02/1965 – Alex Harvey Soul Band
• 13/02/1965 – Spencer Davis Group
• 18/02/1965 – Stormsville Shakers
• 20/03/1965 – T Bone Walker
• 30/04/1965 – Stormsville Shakers
• 12/11/1965 – Stormsville Shakers
• 13/11/1965 – Steam Packet
• 20/01/1966 – Spencer Davis
• 29/01/1966 – John Mayall
• 03/02/1966 – Steam Packet
• 17/02/1966 – The Who
• 19/03/1966 – Zoot Money
• 04/08/1966 – Stormsville Shakers
• 17/09/1966 – John Evan Band (pre- Jethro Tull)
• 29/09/1966 – Stormsville Shakers
• 12/10/1966 – The Family
• 10/11/1966 – The Family
• 15/12/1966 – The Family
• 31/12/1966 – Shotgun Express
• 02/02/1967 – Alexis Korner
• 10/03/1967 – Jimi Hendrix
• 11/03/1967 – Root & Jenny Jackson
• 16/03/1967 – Jimmy James & the Vagabonds
• 14/04/1967 – Pink Floyd
• 21/04/1967 – Mary Wells
• 19/05/1967 – Pink Floyd
• 01/07/1967 – The Family
• 20/10/1967 – Cream
• 16/11/1967 – Jeff Beck
• 23/11/1967 – Cream
• 04/12/1967 – Eric Burdon and the Animals
• 01/08/1968 – Stormsville Shakers
• 15/03/1968 – Status Quo
• 22/03/1968 – The Herd
• 04/04/1968 – John Mayall
• 06/06/1968 – John Mayall
• 12/10/1968 – Stormsville Shakers