Sorry to disappoint all the football fans, or rhyming slang hounds, I really do mean the city...I love Bristol. As only those who have left it can. Drives me bonkers that when I go back some people who live there just whine about it. It looks better than ever to me. Not just because it has Starbucks now, though if you try to order a triple shot no-whipped non-fat peppermint mocha you just get the blank look and "We just sell coffee...". I can't understand the controversy about the Fountains on the center, the pissing old men as Dad calls them. How is that a step back from the vomit sodden scrubland that used to be there? I have spent way too many cold 2am's waiting on the center shivering for a taxi, watching boy racer drunks running over slower pedestrian drunks. I am impressed too, that in an age where pubs close and get turned into something less useful, like a bank, Bristol is going the other way. There are more pubs than ever in Bristol and most of them seem to have been former banks.
Going back is funny...especially asking for directions. Directions are given to you in all four dimensions of the space time continuum. It's not enough to know the geography, you have to have the history too..."You want to go down past The Bell, then turn right where the bus shelter used to be..." Directions that depend on landmarks that aren't there any more, classic. So in the spirit of that, most of this is going to be about places that don't exist any more, like my social life, they are long extinct.
I never had a local, the pubs in Stockwood are really nothing special. We either walked to country pubs like the the Hunters Rest, rode the bikes to somewhere more interesting or for a major session pub crawled our way down town. Of course by the time we arrived at town (can't remember our exact route, GI in Briz, Parkside Arnos Court, cider at the 3 Lamps, definitely those were in the mix somewhere...) we were so legless the doormen had a bloody good laugh at us before telling us tonight was a "private party", - bouncer speak for bugger off home you sad wasted tossers. We would be drunk enough to think that walking home was a clever idea, home was far enough that by the time we were half way, we were cold and sober enough to think this was a bloody stupid idea. I woke up frozen and stiff in a lot of shop doorways. No coats of course, warm clothes weren't "hard" and were a liability in a club anyway, we certainly wouldn't waste drinking tokens on Cloakrooms. This still seems to be true. Now I am old enough to not give a toss, I enjoy seeing all the kiddies in their un-tucked shirts shivering for a taxi during the Christmas Eve downpour. Ha, youth eh? Where's me cardi...
Even today, with everyone living all over the suburbs of Bristol, The Center still makes a good place to meet. We can all get there and home again with public transport. We just try to find quieter places like St Michaels Hill pubs where us old farts can sit down and lie about what we did down town when we were younger. That and argue about the fountains...
Not that I was ever a big clubber but this topic comes up when us old fogies get together, trying to out do each other remembering obscure clubs and pubs from the good old days that we never actually had. Seems like somewhere there should be a list. Well, Yer tis...in the rough order of when I went to them, if I did at all. I probably forgot a lot. I blame the War.
Most of the early years were spent in pubs, not night clubs. Clifton was popular because of the Coronation Taps, very good value for money getting pissed on Scrumpy. Judgment definitely impaired though, I remember one night we rolled a unconsciously drunk mate under a car to "keep him safe". The Loo at the Taps could get crowded too, another night I decided to use the backyard doorway of one of the houses on the lane outside. The timing was excellent, just as a rather posh lady opened the door to say "What are on earth are you doing...urgh!"
If you can fill in the gaps, have a story to tell or I got something wrong, lemme know...thanks to Sally, Dave, Paul and the cast of British Telecomm for straightening out some of the details so far.
Hazel O'Connor on Tour 1981 - support band was Duran Duran!
On All Saints almost next door to Mad Harry's Amusements and the Cinemas.
This was the first proper Night Club I ever went to. We chose it because it had a reputation for not being too worried about being under 18 even though it was obviously almost opposite the main cop shop. Must have been just after December 1976 when I was working at Boots because I ran into someone I worked with there. Before this I had done a couple of school disco's (even dragged my older cousin Howard to one once...another story) but had managed to avoid trying to dance. This is where I discovered I couldn't. What I was doing couldn't be called dancing, more like twitching, rhythm was lost on me. Oh well, thank heavens the Gap Band would later invent Oops Upside Your head or the dance floor and I would have remained complete strangers. Maybe that would have been a good thing.
On Whiteladies near the train station. I was amazed to find out Bristol even had a wannabe metro, not that the stations are anywhere useful. I know this place was talked about a lot at school but I can't really say for sure if I ever went there. I think we did, we were quite into going to Crockers for a while, which was nearby on Cotham Hill. Our Chemistry teacher Wil Glasby played there with his band Lucy La Stick. I have an Album for a band called Corkscrew that played there a lot, I think most of the Chemistry class got suckered into buying one. For Platform 1 all I have is vague recollection of a doorway and a small spiral staircase...yeah, um, bloody memory.
The Dug Out (Now Thai House Restaurant)
I went to the legendary Dugout on Park Row a couple of times, before it closed down. It felt like you were being very daring to go there, it had quite the seedy reputation, but was probably just full of students. I just remember it being hot, packed and hard to get to the bar or loo. The steep staircase was a test of how drunk you were. Nobody ever offered me any drugs either.
Of course now it is hallowed ground to the post trance generation, I think they blame "townie" types like me for it's demise. Nope, not my fault, though I did have a bad blind date with the daughter of the copper most responsible for closing it down, she was very proud of her Dad's work. The bad karma for being involved in that is why fate brought her to a date with me probably.
I went to The Dojo on Park St in my role as oldest swinger in town a couple of years ago and it reminded me a lot of the Dug-out, apart from the nice outside gardeny bit you can escape to.
Martells (Formerly LeMans? Magellans? Now a Casino)
Anchor Road behind the library.
If every other doorman in town had laughed at you, if you had foolishly said Knowle, Shirehampton or Southmead when the bouncer asked where you were from...Martells were still happy to see you. You could even buy Scampi in a Basket from a funky hole in the wall hatch. When I first went there I am sure it wasn't called Martells but something else...LeMans I think, but someone suggested Magellans, I am not convinced about that. I was working at Aerospace first time I went here so must have 1978'ish.
I haunted this place later on in the 80's when it was called Martells. Some very dodgy stories start off in Martells. One of the group I was with one night (nobody you know...) got off with some awful woman called Rose, I remember it because she had the tinted glasses, would you bloody believe it. He took her out to the small car park next to the club, behind the library, and did the deed in a parking space there. Not in a car...just risking gravel rash on the tarmac in the parking space. I don't think he even put money in the meter...ended suddenly when she spotted some headlights swing by and declared "F....it's my husband..." Oh yes, quality girls in Martells.
Papillons (formerly Top Rank, Baileys, Romeo & Juliets (R&Js), Papillons, Odyssey, now The Works)
On Nelson St, another place that is undeterred by being on the doorstep of Bridewell Police Station. The doormen there never met a spotty larger lout they didn't like as far as I can tell, as long as he had nice shoes. Reminds me of a sketch from Three of a Kind with Lenny Henry as the Doorman asking a potential customer if they have any weapons on them, then handing him a broken bottle and says "take this then, it's rough in there..."
Not a big fan of the place, first went when it was called R&Js. Returned when it was Papillons and it's such a feature of the Center that thinking about it I have been there a lot for a place I can't stand. It was just inevitable you would go there at some point. For a brief period in the late 80's the bouncer was someone I was at college with and later worked with. This made it easier to get in when pissed but he never went so far as to offer me free entrance for the simple reason I didn't have tits, cheers Julian. It was crap but - better than Busby's...
Busbys ( formerly Gaumont cinema, became Ritzys, Creation and now Sports Cafe)
Busbys on Baldwin St was even more a Capri driver kind of place than R&J's, they were the centers big two for many years. My sisters social life was here for a long time, she was a barmaid there as were a couple of her friends and a doorman or two were regulars at my parents house.
I rediscovered the place briefly in the mid-80's for Wednesdays' Separates and Desperates nights with my flat mate, Phil. Luckily it was so scary and depressing we gave that up after our first visit. The Bunch of Grapes on King St was where people went to get pre-club-prices drunk. We entertained ourselves one night betting how many times the past-her-sell-by-date Joan Collins wannabe in the red wooly mini dress and white stilettos would fall off the bar stool again. This was pre-thong underwear era (yes children, only from Ann Summers in those days, long before M&S started selling them to toddlers) but she had a wedgie that gave a glimpse of things to come. Beer goggles definitely required.
Tiffanys (formerly The Glen, demolished for Glen Hospital)
At the top of Whiteladies, down below the street level in a sort of valley, like a quarry ditch, was Tiffanys. It had trees inside with Christmas lights on and was another place into the Scampi in a Basket scene. Later in the 70s they had Punk night on Sundays, I saw Siouxie and Banshees, Clash and Adverts there.
It was demolished and the Glen Hospital built on it though I am happy to say a mate of mine knows who scavenged the original neon sign from outside.
Lourdes (formely Roxy's, demolished for Galleries)
Approximately above where Midland Educational used to be on Fairfax St was Lourdes. Originally it was a heavy metal place called Roxys but went disco after Saturday Night Fever and even had Bristol's first illuminated glass floor and infinity mirrors put in. You're impressed I can tell. There was a car park out the back, it was considered very entertaining to pee off it into Fairfax St.
I had my 21'st birthday party there which was supposed to get you a free bottle of Champaign as long as you passed out enough tickets. When I asked where my bottle was they told me my ticket score was so low I owed them a bottle. Even getting in was a near disaster, my nice new t-shirt was trendy as these things go, but it was still a t-shirt and far below the dress standards of Lourdes. My girlfriend had to use her superpowers and unleash her devastating pout on them to let me in. I was told to not let the manager see me. Ah, you just don't get trauma like that any more.
Part of the the ABC Entertainment Center on Frogmore St with the Cinema, Ice Skating Rink and other nightclub Raquels. The Locarno did more gigs than act as a club. In the early days the security was done by Teddy Boys from the ice rink, morons in Crombies who hated the punks that started to play there. The Locarno became punk central for a long time, I got spit on there more than anywhere else. I attribute my hearing loss and feisty immune system to the Locarno. You could see Beki Bondage wandering about in her torn stockings long before she went off and formed Vice Squad to debut there with The Damned. A lot of great Sunday nights out there, park the bike outside the Hatchet, go see the Clash or whoever, wobble home sweaty, deaf and covered in gob.
Since I mentioned it...was it upstairs or downstairs from the Locarno? Can't remember. I think Raquel's was the first place to have lasers, back when seeing a single red beam slice through some smoke was pretty exciting. They would only switch them on for a short time though and instead of dancing townies would sit down to watch while they jiggled the beam a bit and Be Amazed. Eventually a lot of the mirrors got bent off track, sit in the wrong spot and you could be vaporized. Well, no, not really, it was just sad and crap. I broke a carpel bone in my hand by thumping a condom machine here. I wish there was an interesting story to relate about why, but no, there isn't.
The Lokiel (sunk?)
The Lokiel was a boat in the floating harbour where all the waterfront bars like Piano and Pitcher are now. For some of the time it had a nightclub in the hold. The nightclub was a bit naff at the best of times, I tried to start a fight with a supposed-to-be-a-mate by pouring a pint over him for running off with my girlfriend. In retrospect I reckon her virtue was pretty safe from him.
The Lokiel listed to one side and my claim to Bristol fame is that I was on it when some cretin in a speedboat got it that way by repeatedly circling and building up his wake against it. I could have been shipwrecked in the center...
Not to be confused with the Thekla, another floater that showed up much later.
The Granary (Belgian mussel bar now)
Heavy metal central on Welsh Back off of Queens Square. I never mastered Air Guitar, not into the music but could definitely understand the appeal of the Rock Chick look. The alleged Bristol Hells Angels hung out upstairs. Then punk came along and Denim worship was over for me before it had even begun...
Steam Tavern (formerly Lautrecs?, Yesterdays, changed to Steam?)
Near the Naval Volunteer in King St. Popular for office parties when I first went there, then called Yesterdays - The Good Times. Yeah, right. It was Steam when my end of term party ended up there...Richard trying to snort the vodka he spilled off the table with a rolled up fiver (we never got the hang of drugs)...before collapsing on top of it and trashing everyone's beer on the floor.
The Porthouse (now The Warehouse?)
I think there were two nightlcubs close together off of Prince St, one was the Porthouse. Multilevel place with tiny dance floor on the bottom but you could actually get away from it a bit and have a conversation upstairs.
The other one I can't remember the name of but it was much smaller and have vague stirrings about a big window looking out to the street. Bloody memory. It was one of these places a friend of mine met a young lady who honored him with a dockside BJ as he escorted her home. Unfortunately, he felt she was below his normal standards, so he lied and told her his name was Steve, expecting to never see her again. Imagine his surprise when she showed up in his parents house a few months later, his brothers new girlfriend. To the awkwardness of the meeting was the the added confusion caused by her greeting him with "Oh, hi Steve..."
Bierkeller (formerly Hoffbrauhaus)
The Bierkeller is still there on All Saints as far as I know. Funny place, part oompah band for various weekend office do's and part Rock venue. I was quite fond of this place, even if it did close at 1am. The party-do thing gave it a bit of a different feel to your average club, much more mixed group of people who wouldn't even normally go to a club if it wasn't an office party. Yes, I'm talking about feeling comfortable amongst all the other (even older) old farts again. If you went regularly they would give you tickets to next week and keep the cycle going. Sometimes used to go there first to get steined up then leave early to sweat it all out again at the Mandrake.
I got refused entry to the Mandrake Club in Frogmore so many times it became an obsession for me. That subdued anonymous doorway just kept mocking me in my early teen years. Story goes that it was mainly there for the benefit of nurses, coppers and others working late shifts to go for a drink. Most people who went there were faces that owner Richard knew. If you didn't have the face then you had to be a member, to be a member you needed another member. I finally cracked it when Ian's friend Carol got me signed in, she wasn't a member but she was certainly a well known face. The Mandrake was then the default destination for years, a great mix of age groups, tending to be light on the kiddie factor. If I could, I would still go there now - bet I wouldn't be the oldest either, so there.
A bunch of tiny cellars decorated in the psychedelic 60's and apparently unchanged since. Try to avoid seeing it with the lights on...
The Boulevard (formerly Sedan Chair, forgettable nightclub, now Velvet Lounge?)
Not a club, The Sedan Chair was a sad and tiny city center pub that always seemed to be struggling. Some bright spark tried the old barmaids in lingerie trick to pull in punters. So along came The Boulevard featuring girls in Basques, Stockings and Suspenders. It caused quite a stir, at least in the media where it got featured on Points West and such. It finally succumbed to the curse of The Sedan Chair, that place has never been popular no matter what, must be built over and old plague pit or something. After a while it was empty and the girls starting wearing their cardi's to work. It became a bar nightclub place I can't remember the title of, changed names a couple of times. In a circle of life kind of thing it is now a lapdance place called Velvet Lounge (?)...so I am told.
Golds (the Tube?)
Just a bit along from the Mandrake on Frogmore was another doorway. This was Golds, small and nothing special. I think it was connected to Bristol Poly somehow because we ended up there once after going to the secret Unity Street Student Bar...clearly it failed to make an impression on me.
Funny little place opposite St Mary Redcliffe, could get a bit rough. Another refuge for those who couldn't get in anywhere else in town. You had to watch where you put your foot in the car park outside it, loads of potholes filled with water. A bootie is never a good start (or end) to an evening.
Stilettos (formerly Malt and Hops? became Slug and Lettuce?)
Real Ale bar downstairs from Broad St became Stilettos for a while (or something like that), small cellar dance bar. Calmed my nerves in here after being spotted by a girlfriends bouncer ex who had just grabbed me by the throat. Other than that, I've got more or less happy memories of it being relaxed smallish pub with dancing.
Went there a lot in early days when it was the Malt and Hops and discovered Real Ale when CAMRA was trying to reintroduce this to the Whitbread generation. I think I drank it mainly for the names...who could resist something named Old Gutsnorter or whatever it was...First place I ever tried Pedigree I think.
Vadims (became Bimbos?)
Vadims was at the top of park street on the triangle and a bit posey, student territory. It changed it's name to Bimbos, maybe, and the diving club had a couple of do's there. Otherwise, I would never have gone, far to clique for us townies.
Reeves (Parkside, Arnos Court)
I saw the video to Thriller here first, all 15 minutes of it. Almost local, in Brislington just next door to the HTV studios. Did a lot of underage drinking in the Arnos Court bar. For a while there was a "Fun" bar called Bonkers here in the late eighties, dancing on the bar top kind of thing, trying to imitate Liverpool wackiness. Not as much fun as you would think.
Popular with stewed ants but too far out of the center for the likes of me. Just remember it being hot and cramped.
Sad and tacky strip club on Park St, long, long gone. Oldest and scariest naked women you would ever see outside of Barrow hospital. These girls had tattoos when it was unusual on anyone except a sailor, as much hair under their arms too...
Curves (Formerly Hickys? became Maxims?)
Half way up Park St, I have a feeling there were two clubs and I may be confusing them. Had a reasonably liberal entrance policy. I ended my Bristol stag night here in the 90's, don't know what it was called by then. Where was Curves? I have a mental block on Park St clubs for some reason...
For Kingswood locals, went there once out of curiosity. And lived.
Bristol Bridge Inn
Needed some help remembering this one...Across from Bristol Bridge, near fish market, pub on corner that had disco too...for some reason I keep wanting to call it Murphys but it was in fact Bristol Bridge Inn...d'uh, of course it was...
The Mauritania (so many names, can't even remember the last one...)
Most of my Youth (16-42 - I am defining youth flexibly these days) it had an identity crisis, sometimes a restaurant, club, dive, student bar, live venue, etc, etc. Funnily enough for most of these incarnations it was called something other then Mauritania but if they wanted it to be known as something else they should have taken the bloody great neon sign down, right? It wasn't that long ago I last went there, but it was called, um, can't remember. The point is it will always be called the Mauritania but most of the time actually isn't. Closed now though, right? It'll be back, called something else but still referred to by everyone as...the Mauritania. There's a moral in there somewhere.
The Alex. I used to try to get in here a lot just because any Club in Clifton was such a novelty. When I finally cracked it it was of course a disappointment, small and cliquey. Much later the doorman was familiar which made it easy to nip in for a quiet drink when I lived near the wrong end of The Downs (or Southmead as it's sometime known...) for a while.
Fleece and Firkin
Behind Victoria St on St Thomas and still there, this appeared in an old warehouse during the early 80's I think. A brew pub with live music and Real Ale in amusingly labeled varieties like Dogbolter, you could see a lot of students falling over by the end of the night. Richard from my Engineering class had a knack for pulling all sorts of drunk studentettes and talking them into advanced perversity with him. He'd tell the whole class about it the next day in his unique and graphic way. It seemed like shocking stuff back then but the kind of thing kids do on the first date now, according to the The Sun at least.
...and a word from the team...
Public urination as spectator sport, particularly fun for those trying to have a nice meal on the other side of the window
Nothing to do with Bristol Nightclubs...
The bleakness of the Center pre fountains...1994?
Across the docks to where the Lokiel isn't...
Looking across to the Thekla, nearby flat doorway was "Steves" knee trembler spot, should be a plaque.
You go to the Bierkeller, you dance on the table, it's the law...1993
Inside the Mandrake with CPB, totally fails to capture the flavor though, probably about 1993
View down from the balcony in a Park St club, dunno which one, about 1991
Going down hill on Park St, is there any other way? Xmas 86 I think...
Looking Up Park St, Mauritania in foreground, looks better at night (a bit)
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