Sunday, February 25, 2007

1950s Raves Continued

In an earlier post, we referred to the revivalist jazz raves organised by Mick Mulligan and George Melly in London in the early 1950s, the earliest use we have found so far of the term 'rave' and 'ravers' in a musical context (as opposed to 'raving mad').

Another key figure in this first London rave scene was the clarinettist Cy Laurie (1926-2002), pictured here. Cy Laurie’s Jazz Club was held downstairs at Mac's Rehearsal Rooms at 41 Great Windmill Street, Soho. The space had earlier been the base for Ronnie Scott's Club 11, one of London's first modern jazz clubs which opened there in 1948, before moving to Carnaby Street. But it was Laurie's club that became famous for all-night raves.

One 50s raver recalled 'The Windmill Street club was the Saturday Night magnet in my late teens; it was the music and the atmosphere, but also the place to find out the address of that week's rave; there were five of us, and between us we could muster three cars - unusual in those days - which ensured that we always gathered passengers who knew the ropes. On one then celebrated occasion, four of us went to Manchester, at the drop of a hat in an Austin A35, by the time we got there it was all over, so we returned to London with an extra passenger, who had been given a trumpet which he taught himself to play on the journey' (so years before the late 1980s London orbital parties, the convoy of rave pilgrims was established).

Another remembers 'all nighters at Cy's were a buzz. I was one of the - all dressed in black and often barefoot - dancers who was first AND last on the floor.... Cy's place was a culture thing, and included the early morning rush to Waterloo station to get the Milk Train to Hastings, for "FUN" in the Hastings caves'. Others would stumble into the Harmony Inn cafe in Archer Street. By the end of the 1950s, Laurie had moved on to India to study with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, beating the Beatles to it, while revivalist jazz had been superseded by the trad jazz boom and a new crowd of ravers.

In Bomb Culture (1968), his overview of 1950s and 1960s underground culture, Jeff Nuttal observes that the revivalist jazz scene was very much a Paris as well as London bohemian sub culture:

"Paris, after the war, has been the traditional home of bohemianism... the post­war pop-bohemianism launched itself with a cult of the primitive, of ceramic beads and dirndl skirts, of ankle-thong sandals and curtain-hoop ear-rings, of shaggy corduroys and ten-day beards, of seamen's sweaters and home-dyed battle-dress.... the clubs which set themselves up in London and Paris and promoted New Orleans jazz like a religion were totally outside of commerce, running at the start of things on a non-profit-making basis, employing amateur bands, collec­tions of students, particularly art students, who imitated the great recordings by King Oliver, Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton with varying skill and complete self-decep­tion... The following was a minority following, self-conscious and partisan, opin­ionated and crusading. The world was evil, governed by Mam­mon and Moloch. New Orleans jazz was a music straight from the heart and the swamp, unclouded by the corrupting touch of civilization. It would refertilize the world".

1 comment:

omalone1 said...

It's interesting to note that when he came to London, Rich Riley claims he rehearsed at Mac's