‘There are places I remember …’

Derby has a lot to be proud of, no matter what the gloomier types say. Firstly, it is a haven for proper beer drinkers with some great pubs; then there’s its heritage, which, for a small city, is being better preserved than most; and there’s music – more especially the memories of Clouds on London Lane.
Progress brings big changes, and all vestiges of a nightclub that was a key element in the lives of those of us in our late 50s, 60s and early 70s – have vanished. Clouds was not just where romantic relationships sparked, where life-changing decisions were made, and a where mistakes were made after drunken nights; it was the centre of a lifestyle.
In those early 1970s I frittered my life away drinking gassy beer, talking too loudly and gazing longingly at beautiful girls in tight trousers, micro shorts and skimpy skirts and dresses. I’ve no idea what the blokes wore: probably the same as me – scruffy shirt and flared trousers. What made the town stand out was its music.
When I ventured into the town for my first proper job I was dragged – not kicking and screaming, more smiling in anticipation – first to The Exeter Arms and thence to The Dolphin. Beer, especially good, real beer like Bass, Worthington or Marston’s was the elixir of life, the cure-all, and the best way of getting much-needed calories into a young body. This was at a time when a news editor had been heard to pronounce: “I don’t care how long my reporters spend in the pub as long as they come out with a good story.”
Next to the office was The Exchange – a quick fling round the lamp post and in through the narrow and stiff double doors for a half decent pint – and then up the road was The Trident with Dennis and Hazel and that particularly awful Breezer lager. My personal ‘home from home’ was the Old Silk Mill, with John Pierrepoint behind the bar and solid with students in front of it. It was music that built the Silk Mill’s custom, and John who played a leading role in promoting it.
Music was even more important as a lifestyle choice than a beer, and arriving in Derby I found that I was sharing office space with people who not just enjoyed music, but for whom it was tantamount to being an obsession. Two or three years ago I’d been mesmerised by Blood Sweat and Tears, then Cream and also Family – and to my absolute delight and amazement there was this middle-aged man, well, he was nearly 40, who not only concurred, but suggested I might like to review a band at the local music club. It was my introduction to Alan Smith, semi-professional jazz drummer, sub-editor and my mentor-to-be.
I was filling massive shoes. That summer I’d read a brilliant interview in Melody Maker with Jimi Hendrix – another idol – that had been penned by Roy Hollingworth. And I was expected to fill the boots that Roy had worn at the Derby Evening Telegraph! Thankfully, Alan was on-hand to guide me, and I was ably supported by Chris Ward. The same month I started work I was introduced to Clouds by Tim Price, who organised events at students at the Technical College on Kedleston Road.
The die had been cast. I was part of the Saturday Page Crew: a page every Saturday given over to music in all its forms. Roy, Alan and Chris had it ticking over, then Roy left for fame in London (and then New York) and I joined. Along the way, over the years, we were augmented by other reviewers like Kevin Palmer, Ray Yeomans and Tony Attwater, but the core was Alan, Chris and me.
There were several venues, but in those early 70s, Clouds was the thread that tied us all together. The club became Cleopatra’s; the manager changed (I wonder where Paul Conway is now?); and the bands brought some phenomenal sounds to the town. Most gave their all, few died on their feet, and for some local groups, Clouds was the pot around which the honey dripped.
There was Charge, then Hardware, who starred at a Cambridge May Ball; Freight; Nu-Frame, with whom I later travelled to the original Cavern in Liverpool just weeks before the bulldozers moved in; Waite; and Expression; and that was just to the end of 1972. But let’s go back to December 4, 1970, when a little-known foursome took the stage at the Technical College – and propelled me into a friendship that would only be interrupted by the band’s rocket-like rise to stardom. It was Slade.
The King’s Hall, the college, The Hippodrome, that disco under the Pennine Hotel, the Flowerpot for mainly folk, and various working men’s clubs (very raunchy stripteases on a Sunday lunchtime, I remember), were good venues, but almost every Thursday and then again most Saturdays it was back to Clouds.
Looking back at my press cuttings, some of the world’s greatest bands graced the stages of Derbyshire venues, but let’s concentrate on Clouds, the epicentre of our musical world. There was Ginger Baker’s Airforce (’filling but stodgy’!), Salamander and Skin Alley; Leon Russell (‘this is the best gig we’ve done on the tour so far’); Genesis; Uriah Heap (‘A hot hairy couple writhed on the seat next to me’!); Status Quo (’going to go a long way’!); Thin Lizzy (’head turning quality’); Barclay James Harvest (‘not as god as their last visit’); Arthur Brown’s Kingdom Come (‘hellish costumes to entrance a bewildered audience’). The naivety of my reporting knows no bounds!
Let’s just say that the Babington Lane club hosted some of the greatest names in rock – and quite a few that have been lost to time and vinyl. How about: Teargas, Gin House, High Tide, Steamhammer, Groundhogs, Black Widow, Genesis, Uriah Heap, Blonde on Blonde, Van der Graaf Generator (with Pete Hammill, son of top Derby businessman Maurice, on vocals), Sam Apple Pie, Mick Abraham Band, Stray, Amazing Blondel, Brick House, Wild Turkey, Head, Hands and Feet, National Head Band, Pete Yorke Percussion Band, Killing Floor, Pretty Things, Radha Krishna Temple, Man, UFO, Chicken Shack, Supertramp, Good Habit – and then it closed with, or actually without, Pete Brown and Piblokto, Stackwaddies, Bubastis, Egypt, and Origin at the end of August 1971.
All was not lost. Clouds had gone; welcome to Cleopatra’s. The first gig was Jimmy Ruffin, then came: Paladin, Sunshine, Fruup, Jude, Medicine Head, Supertramp, Stone the Crows, and the year end with Trapeze.
To many people that list of names will wash over or under them; to me – supported thankfully by press cuttings – they bring back a host of wonderful memories. My diaries are full of names for which I no longer have faces.
So what made Clouds so special? Forget objectivity: there’s no definitive answer. Nottingham, the ‘big city’ had a thriving, pulsating jazz scene and many more rock venues than Derby, Leicester had offered up some of the greatest musicians, such as Family, and both cities, plus Loughborough, had exceptional universities with heaving music scenes. But Derby had Clouds. The club was friendly, the regulars knew each other and happily spent their money, and central to its success was an enlightened booking manager – initially Paul Conway in 1970 and ’71 – who managed to persuade musicians on the cusp of stardom to ply their wares to an appreciative and knowledgeable audience.
Looking back at the reviews has re-awakened some of the adventures we got up to. Some we remember, most will be lost at the bottom of a beer glass, and a few have resulted in literary inspiration. Having left the world of newspapers I am now writing novels, all set in Derby in the early 1970s, and each drawing from the people and places I remember – so it’s sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll, and only the guilty will see themselves in these works of fiction. (First Dead Body is available on Amazon, paperback or Kindle, or direct from me.)
Clouds is no longer; The Hippodrome is pretty derelict; and the Crown Club at Spondon is not even a pile of bricks. Never has The Beatles song ‘In My Life’ been so appropriate …

There are places I’ll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I’ve loved them all

32 thoughts on “‘There are places I remember …’”

  1. Many thanks for the reminders of music events in Derby back in the day. I stumbled upon your site online whilst racking my brains to remember artists I saw at the Magic of Ju-Ju nights at Clouds. As a Press Officer at Rolls-Royce I knew Alan Smith, and of course Chris Ward and Tony Attwater. I spent my college days at Kedleston Road Tech, and as a member of the entertainments committee there, helped organise lots of events, the Slade concerts, Atomic Rooster, the Trippy nights, and so on. My alter ego became involved with folk music, roadie for the Druids and Roaring Jelly, sound man for Ram’sBottom and R.Cajun in their early days.
    Thanks for the memories!
    John Terry

    1. Hi John.
      I’ve just put a ‘review’ of the latest Slade concert on the site!!! Wonderful night back with the lads in Wolverhampton.

      1. Hi Richard !
        Since retiring in August I have been making a effort to archive some hundreds of tape recordings of bands I ‘did’ the sound for around the Midlands in the 70s and 80s.
        I have come across a couple of cassettes which I obviously failed miserably to properly identify the artists, and I was wondering if by any chance you might remember the bands or their line ups.
        The first was Last Detail, approximately 1981, playing Texas Swing, bluegrass and other acoustic material, possibly at a gig where R.Cajun played at Trent Poly.
        The second recording is of Kickin’ Chicken, which I had helpfully labelled as RAOB 26.2.82 ! Once again, R..Cajun in their original acoustic line-up may have been involved, as they often hired the upstairs room of the Buffs in Derby, and I would have been there to provide the PA.
        I know it is a long time ago, but as both recordings have survived the ravages of time, two Atlantic crossings, five house moves and decades of neglect in indifferent storage containers, I just hoped you might remember them ?
        Many thanks, all the best
        Seasons Greetings!
        Cheers
        John

  2. Hi Richard I remember those times well great times , great places, great people, I have travelled to many places but no place like derby a town to be proud of.
    I use to play with a band called pugma-ho who Paul Conway use to manage.
    Nice guy, happy memories any idea of what happened to him.

    Cheers
    Chris Camm

  3. magic of juju at clouds brings back memories. i used to play in Brickhouse. we were managed by paul conway, who used to keep us fairly busy gigging up and down the A38. i should have one of his gig lists tucked away somewhere. We did some gigs at clouds supporting barclay james harvest and thin lizzy and used to travel up there to see other bands.

  4. Hello Richard,
    It’s good to read your memories of the Derby music scene and especially those about Clouds/Cleo’s club, which also was a regular haunt for us all those years ago.

    Learning of the sad death today of the great Leon Russell, I too remember that phenomenal concert by Leon Russell & his Shelter People, all crammed onto the tiny stage of the London Road club and literally lifting the roof off – an all time great gig.

    What chance of putting together the story of Clouds/Cleo’s – are there people out there who have stories, photos, memorabilia? I do have some!

  5. Hi Richard,
    I was lucky enough to have a job, (though I cannot remember what I was paid – if at all), collecting glasses at Clouds when I was 16 or 17. Simple enough work which occasionally involved helping some of those guys in the bands you list up and down those huge back stairs with their equipment. I particularly remember Amazing Blondel’s haunted harmonium. Then I often got to sit in the green room whilst they downed a pint or three. Being acknowledged by Nick Parfitt or having a long chat with Tony McPhee about his add-a-sound device seemed normal at the time. Though just being in the same room as Peter Hammill instilled reverence even then. I value those times greatly now. I had for a while strings, plectrums, (discarded or dropped by names we all know now but were unheard of then), many posters and such paraphernalia displayed in my bedroom until they were ousted by my parents.
    So thanks for the confirmation that it really happened… sometimes I’ve thought it was my imagination. And John.. would love to hear those tapes if you ever publish!
    Regards,
    Russ Hamer

    1. Thanks for the response Russ. Sorry I’ve not got back to you sooner. I’ve been finalising the third book in the Simon Jardine series.
      Perhaps we could meet up over a pint when I’m in Derby? I’m on Facebook and at Richard@tonyrcox.co.uk

  6. “Magic Of Ju-Ju” began in a club above Jackson’s The Tailors. I’m not sure how many weeks that venue was open, but I’m fairly sure I saw Hawkwind there, and perhaps Van Der Graaf Generator. I knew Paul Conway because we shared cigarettes in the private places at Derby School. After school, Paul managed a newsagents at the lower end of Abbey Street. I worked nearby at Simpson’s the Printers, and I would stop in his place to buy magazines like “Oz” and “Friends” that promoted the underground scene. I was surprised when he got into the music business, but he offered something the community needed. He was a nice guy. Last I heard, a long time ago, he was managing a newsagents in London. I don’t know if Paul did the bookings for the art college dances at Clouds, but those were good nights. Seeing Jethro Tull for the first time was a night to remember!

    1. Hello John.
      The Derby College of Art & Technology (Tech or Art College) was where I saw, and reviewed, some fantastic bands (Slade – December 5, 1970, included). The guy who did the booking for all the bands – and also, I believe, booked for Cleopatra’ – was Tim Price. I was a big fan of Paul Conway’s, but I believe he left under a cloud. Perhaps, as so often happens, the cloud was invented after he’d gone?

  7. Hi all
    My uncle was part owner of the Clouds when I was 17. We danced with a small group of girls on-stage on the teenage nights. My cousin Haydn Harris was part-time DJ & his friend Ian Telfor.
    I can remember some of the band’s, mainly in Cleos days I think.
    Haydns brother Chris Harris wrote a good piece about the Clouds a few years ago now, but I can’t find it in telegraph archives. Sadly Chris died a couple of years ago – he was a great campaigner for Derby Arbotretum & Hippodrome.
    I don’t have any memorabilia of the Clouds, but would love it if anyone can copy me posters, advertising etc – anything as a reminder of those great Derby days.

    1. Hello Tina.
      I’ll ask Anton Rippon about Chris. Plus, on September 27, Roger Smith (formerly Smith East Advertising) is launching a book on the bands who visited Derby in the 50s and 60s. I’ll ask him at the launch that evening.

  8. Hello Richard, long time no see. Zina and I are still in the Derby area and she found your reminiscences. I only came to Derby in 1969/70 and recall some great nights at Clouds, the Tech. College Great Hall and that place with the plastic palm trees on Babbington Lane. In the short time I was at the art college I DJ’d several of the shows that the Students Union put on. Leon Russel was one of the high points, he was magnificent. If only he’d bought his friends along, Delaney and Bonney and Eric Clapton and Joe Cocker Clouds could well have disintegrated that night. Do you remember Roger Ruskin Spear at the college Great Hall? I nearly wet myself. And the night we booked Atomic Rooster AND Arthur Brown’s Kingdom Come on the same bill, just weeks after Vince Crane and Carl Palmer split to form Atomic Rooster. There were 2 ex Derby art college lads in Kingdom Come at the time, Andy Dalby and Paul Brown. There was only one very small changing room at that venue, I wondered how they would get on, but there was no blood and they both did good sets. Zina’s birthday was on the same night as the Slade show and I was D.J.ing again and I asked Noddy Holder to sing Happy Birthday for her, and THEY DID.
    So your an author now. Now where did I put that birthday book token………

    1. Oh wow. That’s winding back the clock. I remember those days – and those gigs.
      I’ll email you my address. It would be good to meet up for a chat.
      At the book launch I made contact with John Pierrepont (The Old Silk Mill when it was the hub of rock music).
      I hope you enjoy the books – the best way is to get them through my publisher http://www.fahrenheit-press.com

      I really look forward to meeting up.
      Cheers,
      Richard

    2. Hi John. You okay? Remember those days well. First at the (I think) New Penny above the tailors. Then Clouds/Cleo’s. Great bands, too numerous to mention. Back Door a particular favourite. Anyone remember Smile (Queen pre Freddie M). Groundhogs lots of times. Hawkwind. Slade at the college were great as were Balls (Denny Maine, Trevor Burton) Who I think supported Kingdom Come. Just happened on this site whilst listening to the first Black Widow lp who also played clouds.

      1. Hello Malc.
        It’s my web page. I was a Saturday Page ‘crew’ member from 1970 to about 1976. Now I write crime thrillers under my pen name of Tony R Cox.

      2. Forgive me using your web site as a public talking shop Richard.
        Would that Malc Shardlow or another Malc. I remember Balls, it was one of their warm up gigs were had in the foyer at the art college, prior to them going on the road. Trouble is Denny Laine got an offer he couldn’t refuse soon after from a bloke called Paul McCartney to join his new band called “Wings”, bad move, Balls was much better.

        1. Good morning John. You may want to have a look at Facebook for these sort of messages. I find that so many of the people of that era use Facebook.
          Ref. Denny Laine and Balls. I remember that gig. Great guy, great musician – but he also rolled the best joint I’ve ever had! Not that I’m allowed to say that. Ha ha.

      3. Hello Malc, Yes I did work at Penny’s then went on to work at the Hippo, the top floor of a Hotel I think in Macklin street, I became longtime friends with the doorman, John Caldwell, it’s been many years since then and we lost touch somewhere along the way. I was lucky to work in a lot of places in and around Derby, The first was at the Top Rank Bowling alley with one deck haha! though you could not exactly call it Disco! then I moved onto the Locarno in Babington lane and was later Joined by Laws Wilson! such a long time ago, I’d forgotten all this until reply to you!

        1. Hello John.
          You mention Loz Wilson. I lost touch with him in the 70s (moved to Nottm Post and then married). I believe he died. Can you fill me in any more?

          1. Hi Richard,
            In some ways they were strange times, I remember one Friday evening working at Clouds, There was a guy Called ‘Mick Mead’
            bit of a hard man, even the bouncers were wary of him, anyway on this particular Friday night it was his birthday, he got hold of Bugle from somewhere and was running up and down the Dancefloor blowing it, I remember hearing one of the bouncers saying to Pete ‘Do you want us to stop him’ he replied ‘No he’s all right for now it’s his birthday!
            I later read in the Telegraph that, (he was working on a nearby building site)I believe the next morning, they were Piling, the Pile hammer got stuck Tragically some he managed to get his head in the way as he freed it off and died instantly of his crush injuries. Later looking back at it, It was as if he was saying goodbye to everyone that ‘night of the Bugle’
            I also worked at the Blue Orchid at Draycott and ran a number of my own Dicso’s one favourite I remember was at the Park hotel, Chaddesden. I lost a few friends in those years, Chris Jones from Nottingham was one he used to travel all over with his girlfriend to our Discos, one night he’d turn up in Market Harborough the next in Kenilworth, well on a particular Friday night he left Clouds, all I know was that he overtook a car on the old railway bridge on Havey road (now gone) and hit another car head on, all were killed, why I never knew why as he always seemed such a sensible guy! There were other tragedies but I will leave them.
            There were, of course, many girls that I knew, but I think after all these years it’s only polite to leave them nameless and in my fond memories. You can always look at my facebook page, there is a lot more stuff on there from the past!

  9. 1967, I was 15……a group of us heard about a “club” at Woodlands school, Allestree. We decided to give it a try ( not knowing exactly what sort of club it was ) after
    being invited by a girl we met on a bike ride. Friday night arrived and off we went………..on getting there, the queue snaked out of the grounds, 4 a breast for a good 50 to 60 yards or more. Downstairs was for taking a break and havng a coke……..upstairs
    a low ceiling room, DJ and all the gear in a corner, belting out music we’d never heard before, soul R&b etc………..nothing
    like UK pop of the time. It was like arriving on a different planet……………great stuff…………….worth being stopped by two burly park wardens with big dogs and the summons that followed…………”for taking our bikes in the Park”…………our short-cut. After that, not all, but a lot of UK music didn’t do much for me.

    1. Wow. That’s going back before my time. I was at school in Buxton. Joined the Derby Tel in 1970 and was a Saturday Page ‘crew’ member until about 1976. I left for the Nottingham E. Post then a career in PR.
      I now write crime thrillers under the pen name Tony R Cox. Derby (and Cleos) are central to them all.
      Cheers, Richard

  10. I remember Clouds from even before those days, Alan Smith wrote a nice article about me when I worked there as DJ in 1967-69, Along with, Bobby Childs, Dave Wymark and Jonnie Jinks. The original club was a Discotheque, one of the first, people used to come from all over the country to sample the ‘magic’ that was ‘clouds’. It was above Man Eggertons a Rolls Royce dealership and used to be the Regal Ballroom back in the Fifties. The design came from The Art college and owned by Cymbal Entertainments who had offices opposite. Originally the Club was Managed by Jim Milton and the original DJ was Trevor East, now with Sky Sports. After Jim Jeff Skerritt came along and then Peter Martin who changed it into Cleopatra’s. Peter and I went on to work together after Clouds for about another 10 years. Peters still working hard even though he’s in his 80’s loving every bit of it, though now into Ballroom dance promotions. I have many memories of Clouds, mostly good though some were memorable for other reasons. It’s a shame the many photos and films that were shot of Club nights and appearing bands can no longer be accessed.
    I wonder where all the ex-staff are now? If still around?

    1. Hello John.
      Great to hear from you. I vaguely remember Peter from Cleos, but my ‘role’ – apart from trying to drink the bar dry – was very much as a music reporter, therefore I just dropped in and out. I now write about the place under my pen name of Tony R Cox.
      Do you know whatever happened to Paul Conway? He disappeared and there was a rumour that it was under somewhat of a cloud.
      Cheers, Richard

    2. Hi John, Do you recall seeing PP Arnold play Clouds, bank holiday Monday at the end of May ’67? Was that during your time DJing there? The First Cut Is The Deepest was climbing the charts and her live band were The Nice (before they got Brian in on drums and landed a record deal).

      1. Hi, Nigel Yes, I do remember I still have a signed copy of that single, Funny how so many people think its a ‘Rod Stewart’ song, had a few arguments about that! Talking of Rod S. He actually appeared at Clouds with his then band ‘the shotgun express’
        In those days there were so many great singers/bands on there, Jimmy Ruffin, Edwin Star. Ike & Tina, Long John Baldry and Geno Washington to mention a few, Someone somewhere must have the many 8mm and16mm movies that were filmed up there, not to mention the hundreds of 35mm slides that were constantly on rotate, in the Bar area.
        A great place in the early days!

    3. Hi John-wasn’t it Johnnie back in the day!?-glad to see you are still out and about?-We had some good nights at Clouds and Cleos-and a few good nights when we weren’t djing-I seem to remember!Iwent back with my pal Carl Dene and we did the Clouds re-union night at the Derby Assembly Rooms circa 2004-i think-it wasn’t our fault that they burnt it down though.
      There were over 1,000 there that night-the Fantastics,were top of the bill,Poor old Pete he would have loved that many at Clouds!Heard Pete on WM a few months ago -he still sounded fine !

      1. Hi Dave,
        Yes, it has been a very long time, but of course, before this super media, people did not have the means to get or keep in touch.
        Yes we had some good times and yes it was Johnnie, I do have a facebook page; https://www.facebook.com/johnniemaxwell
        I thought you lost in the aeons of time, haha, but glad to hear from you. Yes Peter M is still going coming up to 83 and still promoting but he’s back into his (first love) ballroom dancing, he’s even been on strictly C D. Not for me though. Did you say he was on WM? sorry, don’t know that! Look me up and we can chat some more! Tc John.

  11. Well, I really can’t say why I did not look this up years ago! Such brilliant memories for me. I was a regular at Clouds/Cleos, above, Mann Egerton showroom. Must echo thoughts of others that Leon Russell stands out. I remember going to town the day after that gig and buying the album in the Co-op record department and having to walk home because I had spent bfh. One gig I went to which I see no mention of was Skid Row, who had a young guitarist called Gary Moore. Phenomenal. Cheers Roy.

    1. Hi Roy.
      That was February 19,1972. I’ll have to check if I did a report for the Telegraph’s Saturday Page. I’ll report back. Cheers and thanks for your comment.

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