‘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

13 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!

  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.

    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!
    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.

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