From Jimi Hendrix to The Rolling Stones – memories of The Manor House pub
- Credit: Archant
If Finsbury Park held a music festival with all the acts to have performed in the N4 postcode area, it would be the greatest gig of all time.
Bold claim, you might think – so let’s have a quick run-through.
Firstly, The Beatles played Christmas shows at the Finsbury Park Astoria in December 1963.
That venue, now the UCKG building, also played host to The Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, James Brown, Van Morrison, Neil Young, Stevie Wonder, Queen, Kool and the Gang, T Rex, Bob Marley, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Roxy Music, The Ramones, The Sex Pistols and The Jacksons. Not bad, though, to be fair, the Astoria, later known as the Rainbow, was one of the top music venues in north London.
The Manor House pub further down the Seven Sisters Road less so. But during the 1960s it punched above its weight: The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Who, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jimmy Cliff, Cream and Fleetwood Mac all performed upstairs in the nightclub during its various guises as the Bluesville R&B Club, the Downbeat Club and the Rainbow Rooms.
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And although it doesn’t exist anymore – it’s an organic food shop – the memories live long in the minds of music fans who saw the up-and-coming acts that went on to become rock gods and define the genre.
Norman Lee recalled: “I remember in about 1963 me, Bobby Heatley and Peter and Paul Reed hearing loud music from a band called The Rolling Stones. I wonder what ever happened to them?”
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The young up-and-comers Norman is referring to actually played weekly gigs at the pub in 1963 when it hosted the Harringay Jazz Club. They then went on to sell a few records and shortly before the pub closed in 2004 former bass player Bill Wyman had ominously said it was “about the only old Stones venue that still exists”.
Infuriatingly, Lyn Rennick saw most of the bands listed in the upstairs room at the pub.
“I remember it always being packed,” she told the Gazette. “There were some great local venues. I used to go to clubs in the West End to see a lot of acts but had them on my own doorstep a lot of the time.
“The Pegasus was another local pub in Green Lanes which had some famous acts, albeit most when they were just starting out.
“That was owned by Ray Donn, a promoter, who is still in the business today. In later years it was owned by Chas and Dave.”
Raymond Rayfield has a specific memory of the place. “I took a girl to see The Cream there,” he said. “It was so crowded and the bar was tiny. That club wouldn’t happen today as it was always overly packed with people and the staircase was too narrow. If there was ever a fire hundreds could have been killed.”
Another punter, Bill Green, was in the front row when Jimi Hendrix played at the pub. “I remember the Bluesville Club,” he said. “It was hosted by Nanda and Ron Lesley [who went on to run club nights at the 100 Club in the West End] and I saw such bands as Cream, Fleetwood Mac and even Jimi Hendrix having a jam with the Animals. Great days.
“Cream were playing there one night and we were drinking in the bar with Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce. Fantastic.”
Michael Winter was also there the night Hendrix took to the stage. He added: “One of my best memories was when Jimi Hendrix walked in and we were in the front row. He performed a wonderful version of Red House.”
If you’re a music aficionado who thinks this “greatest gig of all time” is lacking some Dylan, then fear not. He’s already played a gig in the park so he qualifies.
Do you have any stories about seeing bands play at The Manor House? If so, contact the Gazette on 020 7433 0104 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.