Tuesday, 10 August 2021

My memories of nights out in Edgware in the late 1970's and early 1980's

As we start to gear up for the forthcoming Edgware Community Festival, my mind comes back to some great times I spent in Edgware in my youth.

I'll let you in on a little secret. When I was a teenager, Monday night was my favourite night for going out in Edgware. As there were rarely gigs on a Monday, there was not much music to watch, but Monday was the night that the well to do of Edgware gave their Au Pair's the night off. Most of these would congregate at the Beehive Pub. Generally they wouldn't have much money, although it didn't really matter, as they would expect boys to buy them drinks. As a skint schoolboy then a skint musician, you may have thought this would present a problem. Not for our little gang. We'd turn up for the last hour of fun. The less savvy locals would have spent the evening buying the girls drinks and getting ever more plastered. We'd turn up sober and well brushed up and then we'd adjourn back to a local friends place for a little party with any young ladies we could persuade to join us. Needless to say, at times we weren't very popular with some of the guys there, but generally they were so bladdered that by the next week they'd have forgotten and the whole sorry saga would repeat itself. Often we'd end up having an impromtu jam, as all of my mates then were musicians. Paul Hircombe, the bassplayer in my band, ended up with one of these girls, going out with her for 27 years until the year before he passed away with cancer. We made some very good friends there. For those that didn't know the Beehive, it was like the wild west at times, especially on a Friday and Saturday night. All manner of dodgy shenanigans were gotten up to. I didn't really go there that often on those nights, as I preferred music venues, but Edgware was a decent destination when there wasn't a good gig to watch. There was a decent pub trail of the White Hart, The White Lion, The Masons, The Railway Hotel and then the Masons Arms. 

Edgware had a bevvy of interesting characters. Names such as Yogi, Tank and Eddie would be familiar to any from that era who frequented Edgware in the evening during the late 70's and early 80's. I was saddened to learn that Eddie had passed away recently. He was a feature of the Beehive for a while, helping to keep order in the establishment. My ex's younger sister had the hots for him. I am not sure whether this was ever reciprocated. His brother John still runs the Edgware music store. John is a proper rock and roller and has played in whole bunch of local bands. 

The one place in Edgware that you would see some decent live music was The Sparrowhawk on the Broadfields estate. I first got to know the venue as a child. It was a popular venue for social events and dinner dances. I recall one year meeting "The Real Father Christmas" there. By the mid/late 70's I knew it better for the gigs. The Friends of The Earth used to organise benefit gigs there, mostly prog rock and rythme and blues. I also saw the Polecats at the venue, a great night. There was a time when the height of my musical ambitions was to play at The Sparrowhawk. The pub also had a thriving Rockabilly club later on. Given that the pub was very tucked away, it was a very strange place, in hindsight, to have such a wonderful music pedigree. Although it wasn't really my thing as a punk rocker, I did also have the odd night out in Jingles, the nightclub of choice for the citizen of Burnt Oak and Edgware. They did occasionally host the odd band, which was my usual reason for going, although a couple of times girlfriends would more or less force me to go, as they wanted a dance. I'd generally go on sufferance and lurk around feeling out of place, buying them drinks. Anyone who has ever seen me dance will understand my reticience. In hindsight it was a great place for those that did enjoy that. 

As well as the live music, Edgware had Don Mackrill's music shop AKA Music Stop. I bought my first guitar, a Hofner Galaxy in there. I also bought a Selmer Zodiac IV amp. I wish I'd kept it! We'd look longingly at the guitars in the window, I was pleased to see an image on Google Streetmaps of the shop, albeit after it closed, from 2008. Finding this gave me a little quiver of the lip. I think just about everyone I knew at the time got their guitar there, let alone countless sets of Ernie Ball Super Slinky strings. Don stopped talking to me after we opened Mill Hill Music Complex's music shop. 

We must also look at the culinary delights that accompanied a night out in Edgware. I have to confess that as a teenager, food was not top of my agenda for a night out. Whereas now there is nothing I enjoy more than a nice meal out, then it was a rare treat. I was very partial to Mr Jacks. It was a restaurant that did excellent kebabs and grills. I'd take girlfriends there on their birthdays (unless they were vegetarians), as it was one place that was always not too expensive but did tasty, big portions. I didn't realise at the time that it was George Michael's Dad's place (mostly because Wham! had yet to make it). Another place I must mention was the Railway Hotel. They did the most amazing buffet dinners upstairs. Being a bit of a greedy pig, if I went out for food, I wanted lots of it and their buffet's were legendary. I can remember one time, when my mum was away, I nipped in to see my Dad. He was bored and asked what I was doing for dinner. I mentioned I was meeting my then girlfriend for dinner at The Railway hotel for a buffet. He looked a bit sad and I realised he had hoped for some company for dinner, so I suggested he join us. Since my ex loved my Dad so it wasn't a problem. We went down and had the best blow out dinner, beers and shorts. He then paid for the lot and went home very happy. It was a wonderful night, one of the few great nights out I had with my Dad. When he was on form he was a diamond. That is why I always feel a tinge of sadness when I see the sorry state of the place today.

If we had food, it was simply a subterfuge to keep drinking, either in the Pizza Hut or the Indian Restaurant, which were open later than pubs. I do recall one night a friend suggesting that we got a takeaway Pizza at what was the newly opened Perfect Pizza. They told me that they did this amazing new flavour, the Hawian, which was Ham and Pineapple. I was sceptical. To me pineapple was a pudding. What was it doing on a pizza? As I'd had a copious amount of lubrication, it went down very well. I've often wondered how many people who object to pineapple on pizza have actually tried it, especially when they have the munchies?

And finally, we often ended up in the food outlet of last recall. The KFC. Despite all of the shenanigans in Edgware, I rarely recall seeing a fight, except for at the KFC. There were two reasons for this. The first was that everyone who went there after the pub was bladdered. The second was that the various tribes would meet and have to queue up together for food. Whereas they'd have spent the evening at seperate venues, etc they'd be forced into the pressure cooker that was the KFC. This was often the cause of friction. In the late 1970's, there was a rather unfortunate upsurge of neo Nazi's under the guise of the National Front. Many of these became Skinheads, who thought that shaving their heads would make them hard. For a period, bad feeling festered between these herberts and the large crowds of Jewish kids that used to congregate around the station. One evening we were sitting at one of the tables tucking in to a tasty, post pub chicken supper, when a bunch of these Skinheads arrived. They decided to push in at the front of the queue, insulting a line of young Jewish kids in a rather obnoxious,anti semitic way.

 This was a mistake, as one of the people in the queue was not a kid, but a local boxer of Jewish extraction. He rather took exception to the behaviour of the these Herberts. He told the leader that he had to apologise and go to the back of the queue, very politely. The Leader, fired up on beer and bravado sneered and swung a beery punch. This was met with a series of very well controlled jabs, that slowly propelled the herbert towards the door, delivering the coup de grace at the door, despatching the herbert into the dust. The mates of the Herbert scarpered. We all joined in a round of applause. In truth the guy looked embarrassed, but it was the best entertainment any of us had for many a moon. There were often scuffles in there, that however was the most entertaining. As I recall, the staff of the KFC gave him his dinner for free. A few weeks later, he wasn't in there and the same group tried the same trick. The whole place erupted into pandemonium and the end result was pretty much the same, it seemed that the racists were not quite as tough as they thought. We left just as the sirens were heard, a window had been smashed and we'd decided to eat our dinner on the way home rather than hang around. After that, we never saw that particular bunch of skinheads again. I don't know if they grew their hair or moved, either way,  they were no loss. 

In hindsight it was a glorious time and a great place for a night out. I do wonder if todays teenagers will have any similar tales of Edgware when they are my age?

*** Updated 8/1/2022

It seems that the actions of the Nazi skinheads was reasonably well documented and perhaps slightly more organised than I realised at the time. Happily, the ending seems to have been pretty much as I recall. I thoroughly enjoyed this tweet from the Mill Hill Historical Society. 

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