Yesterday I listened to I’ve Played in Every Toilet, on Radio 4.
John Harris visits some of Britain’s surviving small music venues and asks what will happen if they disappear altogether.
All over the UK, small music venues are threatened with closure, or have already gone out of business. Many of them have hosted gigs by truly legendary names and were once securely built into the so-called ‘toilet circuit’, which allowed promising musicians to take their first tentative steps on the national stage.
It made me remember the time I was a gig organiser, in Elgin in the mid-to-late 60s.
In those days, the pubs closed at 10pm. There wasn’t much else to do after 10pm, but there was a dance hall called the Two Red Shoes, which we knew as ‘The Boots’, where occasionally there were dances. The problem was that they were not allowed to have a late bar themselves, and therefore needed an external organisation of some sort or another to front events and apply to the council for a late license.
If you read down this page from The Beatles Bible, you can see that the fab four played at the Two Red Shoes on 3rd Jan 1963, and that the event was promoted by the Elgin Folk Music Club. That meant that the folk club would have applied for the late license, and received a cut of the takings.
Someone has written an excellent WordPress blog for the Two Red Shoes Ballroom. From this, you can see that many well known bands and singers played there over the years, including Anita Harris, Paul And Barry Ryan, The Mindbenders, the Moody Blues, the Swinging Blue Jeans, the Honeycombs, the Groundhogs, The Ivy League, and more. Pink Floyd played there in 1967. I remember seeing them being driven down the High Street in a big white car.
The dances were held in the name of clubs such as the Elgin Dance Club, the Elgin Ladies’ Hockey Club, the Elgin Jazz Club, Findhorn Water Ski Club, and so on.
Very near the bottom of this page for 1967 is an entry:
December 27 – Young Liberals’ Association present The Jim Martin Band
That was the gig I organised! The Jim(my) Martin Band were the house band. I’m sure I had another band of schoolmates playing that night as well, but they don’t seem to have made the cut. I’m not sure how, as a 16 year old, I’d applied for the license – I must have got someone else to sign for it. I remember that, in order to save costs, I printed off the tickets at school as an art project. By the night of the dance, and even though myself and the other Young Liberals had spent two weeks trying to persuade everyone we knew to buy one, we’d only sold about ten tickets. I was quite worried when I turned up at The Boots to stand at the door, which I had to do as the organiser. In the event, it turned out to be totally successful. They had more people through the door by 10.30 than any previous gig, and the place was packed.
In the following years I went to one or two dances at the Two Red Shoes, mostly at Christmas time when on vacation from university. They were always good dances.
According to this entry in The Northern Scot, there was no buyer for the venue when it came up for sale in October 2012.