soho 1960-1980

By David Silverman

I worked in Soho for 20 years but kept no record other than what is in  my memory bank. I am interested in whatever information and record has been kept of that period, especially the early 60's. I cannot imagine that any of my biographical detials will be of any use but if your organisation has any specific questions I may be able to answer them.

I was keen on music and was a habitue of all the clubs in their various forms. I met my wife in the whiskey-a-gogo in 1965. I visited the Marquee in its all its guises and was present at the opening night of The Scene club.

I witnessed several of the Soho characters, was a regular at the Dog & Duck, the Crown and Two Chairmen, Jimmy's restaurant and the New Shanghai on the corner of Wardour Street and St Ann's Court.

I am looking to jog my memory of that period.

Thanks, David Silverman

This page was added by David Silverman on 14/04/2011.
Comments about this page

I too have worked in Soho since 1987, blimey over 20+ years…My pals and I often reminisce about the places that have gone and the things and have ended up in their place. In no particular order, only as it comes to my memory… FRITH STREET The Dog & Duck when it was all hot, sweaty and full of blokes invariably in leather jackets with collars up, shoulder to shoulder drinking smoking and talking about work. When the windows were frosted and a trip to the loo was something of a challenge after a few pints. Across the road on the corner was the now gone Rasa Sayang…where you could get the best prawns in batter…and a post 3pm Tiger Beer before all day hours. Then a trip down to The Carlisle Arms for those delicious door-step sandwiches. Andreas…the Anglo-Greek restaurant across the road from Tapestry, where you could get the best steak & kidney pie with mash and Brussels sprouts, washed down with gallons of retsina… Capinina’s which was the Italian restaurant with the Swiss Chalet feel, where they presented the food to you raw on a trolley for you to choose your meal. And finally from Frith Street, Lepicure with the gas lamp burning outside and when a visit to the toilet there was a visit to a throne-room with magazines an papers to be read at your ease. Kettners is still there of course, but not the Kettners we can recall going to. The very expensive Champagne Bar then into the main restaurant to be serenaded by the nice old fellow in the DJ and the grand piano while we ate either pizza, burger, steak, baked potato, with either Peroni or Frascati... That's all I've got for now, but I'm sure there is more if you'd like it

By Laurance O'Neill
On 28/07/2011

Hi David, did you go to The French pub & if so, do you remember Robert MacBryde or William Crozier both painters who went there? or even Martin Green the publisher who would hang out with David Archer or Patrick Swift? I'd like to hear from you,Fiona

By Fiona Green
On 28/07/2011

Arriving in Soho in 1957 for the first time, was like walking through the dock area of East London where I was born, with its wonderful smells of exotic herbs,and spices emanating from its many bonded warehouses. But thats where the diference ended. Indeed, Soho was another world on its own. Before you arrived in Soho, you could follow its aroma, along Charing Cross from Tottenham Crt Rd tube station to the corner of Old Compton St, and that had nothing to do with iron foot Jack a local celebrity, whose lack of personal hygiene, I have since dicovered, was abysmal, by those that new him and the one person to have put the b.o into bohemian. Once you passed no 3 Old Compton St, the Star Cafe where iron foot held court you were in another world.This was 1957 when I was 14 yr old teenager, and at the height of skiffle,trad jazz, and rock & roll, the new music which was sweeping the nation. Although the music had a big influnence on us youngsters, the only place to get a real taste of it was in Soho and some of its coffee bars, as discribed in 'Absolute Beginners' by Colin McInnes. We were all looking for excitement, and this was a bit dangerous to, a new world for us teenagers, indeed we were the first generation to be called teenagers. Soho was the place we would visit most weekends, if we had the cash. There were plenty of amusement arcades to hang out in plus, it was a far more intresting place being closer to the action. Hanging around Soho, in the late 195Os was an experience watching, the street girls plying their trade, even after the change in the law 1957 to stop them working the streets, and Old Compton St had its fair share. After a visit to the 2 I's coffee bar and espresso out of one of those pyrex cups and saucers,one was all we could afford! I think it was about one shilling and sixpence. It was either that or a bag of chips from the chip shop off Lisle St, near Gerrard St or the Berwick st chippie which is still open, I was in there boxing day 2o11 buying my lunch. However, standing outside the 2 I's, where the celler doors opened onto the street to vent the heat coming from the basement, you could listen to the live music eminating from the cellar which was always packed. Being advertised in the widow by the juke box, read--Home of the Stars-- TO-NITE-Terry Dene.What with the sounds and the smells coming from Camisa's Deli next door, which I still use today, and the action on the street,was magic, wonderful memories.I'm sure most like minded people visiting Soho then, would have remembered Le Macabre Coffee Bar a beatnik joint on the corner of Wardoutr St and Meard St.What facinated us was its wacky interior. Everthing was black, walls tables, chairs. In fact the tables were made to look like coffins, with lighted candles everywhere. In one corner was a make shift stage where aspiring ' Kerouac' beats would recite poetry, with others occompanying their words on guitar. One character who held court there was bohemian Johnny, with his long golden hair which hung well down his back, by the standards then, very long indeed! He alway wore a black cape, and looked like someting out of a Hammer Film. Later on we would go to The 1OO CLUB on Oxford St to see the Humphrey Lyttelton's band. The place was always packed with beatniks, and a great place for dancing. Another venue for skiffle and jazz was Chislehurst Caves in Kent. It was alway full of Soho beatniks, who you would often see at Ken Colyer's Studio 51 club in Grt Newport St. By 1959 we became mods and the scene had moved to Carnaby St. During the late 5Os & early 6Os, another character, who billed himself as -Britains Ace Drummer - was a guy called Raye Du-Val who lived nearby in D' arblay St. He claimed the world record for nonstop drumming, without a break, for how long, I can't remember. He often appeared at the Top Ten Club in Berwick St, and at Chislehurst Caves. On the corner of Berwick St and D'arblay St was the Freight Train Coffee Bar which was opened by Chas McDevitt on the strengh of his hit skiffle record called 'Freight Train' which made the charts, and featured Nancy Whiskey on vocals. Chas had a flat on the corner of Old Compton Street and Charing Cross Rd opposite Molly Moggs. In a building which was also being used for prostitution at the time. Sam Wedges Coffee Bar was opposite the Freight Train in Berwick St, and in the baesment was the Top Ten Club which was opened by Vince Taylor and the Playboys, who found fame at the 2 I's coffee bar, but were more popular in France. During 196O we would hang out in the Farm Coffee Bar a beatnik hangout on Monmouth St Seven Dials, a very arty place run by Brian & Susan Robbins. It reminded me of the Le Macabre, but without the coffins.Opposite was the Neucleus Coffee Bar managed by Gary Winkler, a good place to doss in for the price of a coffee.It had been the scene of a drug dealers fued outside in the street where the next door shop had been blasted with shogun pellets.The clientele included, all kinds of characters drop outs,muscians, prostitutes,drug dealers and also at one time or another, Hank Mavin & Bruce Welch who became Cliff Richard's Drifters backing group, all 2 I's coffee bar proteges. Later in 1964 two doors along from the Nucleus was where The Beatles manager Brian Epstein set up his first London Office. We spent many an hour in the Nucleus planing trips to Brighton from Victoria by either the milk train or by scooter. By then I had a Vespa 15O GS scooter, and had become a Mod. The Modernist thing was happening all over London, and Carnaby St and Kings Rd were the places to buy intresting clothes. The influence's were a mixture of French and Italian styling. Italian suits were the thing and French casual, when posing on our scooters, Lambretta's or Vespa's. The French Blue and White stripe Breton Shirt was a favorite, worn with a black beret or a Fred Perry tennis shirt, levi jeans, plus, either handmade winkle pickers or desert boots. To be really cool you would always carry a packet of French cigarettes in your pocket.We would often pose on our scooters in Soho or along the Kings Rd, or sometimes outside the Wimpey Bar in Whitechapel at Gardiners Corner, a big Mod hangout, at the time. Living Covent Garden since 1963, Soho and the surrounding West End have become were part of my manor. Fond memories of Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames at the Flamingo, and also the Whiskey a Go Go which is now an O'Neill's chain restaurant.Most of my shopping was done Berwick St Market. Some of the shops that have sinced vanished, include ballet shops Gamba's on the corner of Dean & Old Compton st, and Anello & David. Their shop was situated on the corner Of New Compton St and Charing Cross Rd. Long gone is the French bakers the Boulangerie, wonderful smell, which was next door to L'Escargot on Greek St opposite Peter Cooks Establishment Club at no 18. Also gone the Welsh Dairy Pugh's in Frith St where I would often buy ham on the bone and fresh milk.The thing that stands out most during this period was the pungent smell of fresh roasted and ground coffee and will alway remind me where ever I am, of Soho. Gone to are the wet fish shops. I had a choice,either Richards in Brewer St which was on the oppsite side to Lina Stores,or Richards sister shop on Drury Lane. I have used Camisa's deli for many years and, the Algerian Coffee Stores, both in Old Compton St. Today, retied I still spend time drinking cappuccinos' or having tea at Patisserie Valerie and watch the changing scene in and around the Soho area. I rember several years ago going into Maison Berteux in Greek St and forgeting where I was, I asked Michele, for a cappuccino! the indignant responce was,--this is a French estabishment --not Italian. Such is the ethnic mix of the area, which was always Soho and even more so today. During the mid 6Os I was working at a advertising agency in Knightway house in Soho sq where they were working on the Beatles cartoon the Yellow Submarine. Also on the other side of the square Paul McCartney had his Publishing Company I belive it is still there. One minor connection with Soho, I have is, my cousin, during the 7Os & 8Os owned Hammer Films and had their headquarters in Hammer House on Wardour St. There was a crime side to Soho,which is another story for another time, I could go on, but I'm sure there are many others with fond memories and their own stories about this historical and facinating area of London we call Soho

By george skeggs
On 20/03/2014

I hang around Soho from about 1963. I remember the girls who stood in doorways in Gerrard Street, and ran up stairs to a bar I cant recall the name of but it was above the Alphabet Club (or almost). Does anyone remember Wardour Mews and the clubs down there. (If anyone wasn't too blocked up to remember). I think one was called the No.9 club. I also remember a Turkish coffee bar at the beginning of Wardour Street, Picadilly end, I think it was something like the Britannia Club, not sure though! Of course the 2 eyes and another I recall as the Bastille. I hope someone can remember some of these places and the people who frequented them, you might have know me! By Jackie Cook 16th January 2012

By Jackie Cook
On 20/03/2014

I liked David's comments but give us more please! I too hung out in Soho from about 1962 - mostly in the French clubs and Italian restaurants. I have a site commemorating the coffee bar Les Enfants Terribles. Hope it's ok to give the link here:

By adrian stern
On 20/03/2014

I worked in Soho in the sixties: Paxton's Music in Old Compton Street; HMV Dean Street; the Highlander (now the Nellie Dean); and Bunjies on the other side of Charing Cross Road. Hung out in: the 2iis; The French House; Flamingo Club; La Poubelle; etc Remember Martin Green (who published my mother's last novel - I hope he is still around in Newlyn); Eddie Linden (I proof-read Aquarius); John Gawsworth, The King of Redonda; The Chicago Kid; Gaston Berlemont; Ski-Hi Lee, the wrestler; Rosie (from the Don Partridge song; he dressed as a girl from a harem and haunted Berwick Market) and many others.

By Charles Hunt
On 20/03/2014

Happy times i uesd to go to Soho a lot and Went to Jimmys, French House,Coach and Horses and the Italian delis

By Mr Jeremy Haines
On 20/03/2014

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