The Club A Go Go , Newcastle Upon Tyne

Friday 10th March 1967

 
The first gig of the Jimi Hendrix Experience in Newcastle took place at the Club A Go Go on Percy Street on 10th march 1967. The bands fee for the evening was £250 .There were two shows , one at 8pm in the under 18s room called the "Young Set" and a later show at 2am in the "Jazz Lounge".  There was no support band.  During the show in the "Young Set" Jimi put his guitar through the low ceiling and made a hole in it. He had done this a month earlier at the New Cellar Club in South Shields and he repeated the stunt at the Club A Go Go. Here it was definately a deliberate act and witnesses watched in amazement as Jimi rammed the headstock through the plasterboard.

 

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North East based actor/singer Jimmy Nail said " I was in my mid-teens and used to go to the Club A Go Go which had a very low ceiling. Hendrix - I hadn't seen anything like it - leapt with the guitar and it went through a ceiling tile. But get this, he let it go and continued playing while it hung from the ceiling."

Sting said in his autobiography "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.  I remember Hendrix creating a hole in the plaster ceiling above the stage with the head of his guitar, and then it was over.  I lay in my bed that night with my ears ringing and my worldview significantly altered."

Club A Go Go regular Bill Chesters remembers "I only saw the gig in the Young Set. I didn't look old enough to blag my way into the Jazz Lounge until a good while later when I got to know the doormen. You paid extra for the two venues, they were both open simultaneously, and you got a fluorescent mark on your hand which allowed you into the Jazz Lounge. We used to pay for the Young Set and drop the doorman a couple of bob for him to put the "mark" on!  With regards to the actual Hendrix gig, I can't remember much about it other than it wasn't full. I also spotted him using his hand to pluck his guitar strings when he was supposed to be playing it with his teeth!!! And I recall his curly hair being full of plaster dust when he put his guitar through the ceiling! "

Audience member Colin Hart said "I remember Jimi's guitar being stuck in the ceiling at Newcastle. He did continue to run his fingers all over it as it hung there. He left it hanging when he left the stage and it was quickly retrieved before any fans got THE souvenir of a lifetime. The Newcastle gig wasn't totally packed, but it was jammed up the front where I was."

Ron Seymour was also at the show  " I seem to remember that Hendrix played two sets in The Young Set and there was some dispute as to whether he was going to play in The Jazz Lounge. I wasn’t old enough to get into the Jazz Lounge and left after the Young Set show so I don’t know what eventually happened. I had always thought that he played both his sets in the Young Set and didn’t play in the Jazz Lounge but I could be wrong.
I also remember there was a guy called Tommy who worked on the fruit barrows in the Grainger Market, who was a bit of a feature at the club and who regularly used to get up and dance on stage with the acts. He got onto the stage during Hendrix’s show and was promptly flung into the audience by one of the roadies."

Simon Desai remembers "In the 90s I was lucky enough to get to know Ray Grehan (the manager and co-owner of the Club a Go Go in the 60s) and spent many a Friday night listening to his tales. When Jimi played the club, Ray took him aside after the gig and invited him out for a meal, asking what Jimi's favourite food was. Jimi said how much he liked 'your English fish and chips', so Ray and Jimi ended up sitting on a bench on Tynemouth seafront tucking into fish and chips."

   

Sign currently displayed in the window of the long established Marshalls fish and chip shop. This was the only fish and chip shop in Tynemouth in March 1967 so must be where Ray and Jimi went for their supper that night.  Thanks to Phil Walker for making this unofficial blue plaque.

 

Colin Woodland "I was the guitarist with Kim Davis and the Del 5 and as Ray Grehan was our manager I used to go regularly, on my own, to The GoGo. I was introduced to Jimi and remember him as very polite and very tall. Nice bloke for a legend."

 

The Venue

Throughout the sixties, Newcastle’s Club A Go Go was one of the top music venues in the North East. The Go Go was to Newcastle what the Marquee club was to London. Many of the top acts of the day played there including the Cream , Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band , Ike and Tina Turner , John Mayall's Bluesbreakers (with Eric Clapton) , Wilson Pickett , Pink Floyd , John Lee Hooker , Lulu and many more.

The Club A Go Go was co-owned by Mike Jeffery (who managed the Animals and later Jimi Hendrix) and a local businessman called Ray Grehan who also managed the club. Local band the Animals were the resident band at the club in the early sixties when it was a popular Mod venue. They also recorded a live album there and even wrote a song about the place called "Club A Go Go". The Animals residency ended in 1964 when they moved to London and their spot was taken over by the Junco Partners.

The Club A Go Go was in effect two separate clubs; the ‘Young Set’ and the ‘Jazz Lounge’, which were accessed either by a lift or several flights of stairs. At the top of the stairs, the ‘Young Set’ was on the left and the licensed ‘Jazz Lounge’ on the right. When you paid at the door on ground level, the staff would draw a mark on your hand which was visible under ultra violet light. The mark would admit you to the Jazz Lounge upstairs which had a licensed bar and was for over 18s only. The Young Set was for under 18s and did not serve alcohol.

The Club A Go Go 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. The Handyside Arcade, another well known land mark of the era, was part of the same block. These buildings have long since been demolished and in their place stands the Eldon Garden Shopping Centre.

Eldon Garden today , former location of the Club A Go Go

 

The Handyside Arcade 1977



Mike Jeffery eventually closed the club and left Newcastle to run another club in Majorca. Soon after it closed in 1973 a plane bringing him back from Majorca collided with another over France and he was killed. Mike had not only built the club into something of a legend, but through it he had also made the Animals into Tyneside's most successful group.

 

 

Memories

In an interview on the ITV series ‘Northstars’ (broadcast in 2002), Bryan Ferry recalled seeing the Junco Partners at the Go Go 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 Go Go 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, David Sweetman with the painting.

Also in the ‘Northstars’ interviews, Brian Johnson of AC/DC remembered seeing the Yardbirds at the Go Go 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. Rod Clements remembered portraits of Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson and John Lee Hooker on the walls.

In 2007 the Evening Chronicle ran an article about the Club A Go Go and requested people to write in with their memories. Many readers responded and here are some examples ....

"Great atmosphere, lousy burgers from a hatch at the side, so I remember."

1967 found Bill Chesters at the Club A Go Go watching Cream playing their second gig there. "We were right at the edge of the stage, directly in front of Jack Bruce," he remembers. "During their performance a pal of mine, Mick Cunningham of Walker, noticed Jack Bruce's jacket, hooked on to the back of his speaker. He reached inside and nicked his spare harmonica! He pushed it into my hand. I was terrified so I gave it to a girl next to me. I wonder what that would be worth now. And what a provenance!  Last year Jack was playing at The Customs House, in South Shields and he did an interview on Radio Newcastle. I rang in with that story and he was bellowing down the mike demanding his harmonica back!  What a laugh . . . he took it in good style!"

"What actually closed the Go Go was the opening of Sloopeys, formerly La Dolce Vita as a trendy nightclub. Everyone migrated there, as it was the place to be seen. By the time people realised what it was all about Mike Jeffery had closed the Go Go.  We tried always to get him to reopen it but his heart wasn't in it any more."

Club A Go Go Membership Card

 

 

Further Reading

You can read Sting's full account of seeing Hendrix at the Club A Go Go in an extract from his book here.

 

 

www.hendrixnortheast.co.uk