69 Dean Street and the making of UK club culture

Andrew Ridgeley , Wham Rap, video, Face magazine, Club Culture,

Click pic to open the Wham Rap! video in another window … “Man or mouse” Andrew Ridgeley establishes his group’s clubbing credentials in the opening shots of the Wham video by reading this very Face cover story on Club Culture that you’re about to read!

An upstairs‑downstairs tale
of two key nightspots

First published as the cover story to The Face No 34
in February 1983 with photography © by Derek Ridgers.

Reprinted in The Faber Book of Pop, 1995;
and in Night Fever (Boxtree) 1997.

❏ First posted here online on 16 October 2009

69 Dean Street, Soho, club culture, The Face magazine, London, 1980s, nightlife,Billys, Gossips club, Gargoyle club, Blitz Kids

Doors to two Soho clubs only feet apart – from The Face, February 1983

69 Dean Street is an address implanted somewhere in the folk memory of every FACE reader. During the four years when the launchpad for musical experiment shifted from traditional rock gigs to the dancefloor, 69 Dean Street became a factory farm that has fattened each passing cult en route to today’s richly flavoured mainstream.

FACE No 34,club cultureThis is an upstairs‑downstairs tale of two separate nightspots which share the same building and the same pioneering policy of fostering a different theme each night of the week. At Christmas the upstairs club, the Gargoyle, passed into history with the expiry of its lease, though the one‑nighters it hosted are all now resurfacing elsewhere. Downstairs a lavish sign in the street proclaims the proud history of the second club, deep in the basement cellars: “Gossip’s, formerly Billy’s”.

Here is the birthplace of the one-nighter through which the TransEurope Express once roared towards the Blitz and beyond. It was here that ritualised the weekly party. It is here that the nightclub has identified yet another role for itself in 1983 . . .

Upstairs, downstairs on Meard Street: the sign on the wall announces Gossip’s “formerly Billy’s” beside the pedimented doorway leading down to the cellars… A few paces further along is the neon sign of the Gargoyle, where a lift whisks guests to the rooftop theatre-bar. Photographed by Derek Ridgers

Downstairs: this Tuesday in 1982 at Gossips it was Sir Jules’ Sound Table. Photographed by Derek Ridgers

❚ THE STRIPPER RETRIEVES her scattered tassels to a smattering of applause from the idlers in Burton suits. Pinki Pirelli scurries naked from the fifth‑floor bar that was Soho’s idea of plush when it opened in the Fifties, into the ladies room to dress for her next appointment. She leaves by the notoriously rickety lift and in the street pushes past a youthful queue waiting to take the same lift skyward for a night billed as “thoroughly nasty”. Participants include the ubiquitous Siouxsie, music bizzybodies, a BBC producer who says he doesn’t mind being two years late on the scene (“that’s television”) and a dazzling kaleidoscope of current cults you could describe extremely inadequately as Dracula meets the Muppets.

It is 11pm and since this is Wednesday the rooftop Gargoyle club is undergoing its weekly transformation into the Batcave, the most unsubtle of London’s one‑night stands, fronted by a Jaggeresque youth in mascara and black lace and without doubt the runaway success of the year.

comedy storeThe rest of the week The Gargoyle becomes in turn a moviemakers’ showcase, a Sixties soul night, a gay club which welcomes straights, and the Comedy Store which back in 1979 threw up the Alexei Sayle school of “alternative” comics who seem now to have colonised half our TV.

A few paces along the pavement a second door leads down to the cellars of the same building and the sinewy and refreshingly unfamiliar rhythms of Afrobeat. A white youth in a sabbath hat is greeting the kind of mix‑it membership that’s becoming a regular feature of nightlife: a gracious black beauty just in from Nigeria, a Camden Town trendy, Sixties art dealer Kasmin (“Is that his first name or his last?” asks a junior clubber called Lloyd) and in separate company, Kasmin’s son Paul.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays at Gossip’s: left, Sound Table Knights; right, Christian Cotterill with his Gold Coast high-lifers. Photographed by Derek Ridgers

Since this is Wednesday this is the Gold Coast club but other nights in the Gossip’s week are devoted to straight jazz, rapping, rocking blues, jazz‑funk and roots rockers with Capital Radio deejay David Rodigan. By the time you read this any of these could have dropped out: in the world of one‑nighters, two weeks means make or break.

Since 1978 when Rusty Egan’s Bowie Night at Billy’s ritualised the private party which enjoyed full disco facilities, Gossip’s astutely wised to filling the slack nights in its week. In came Pink Monday, Pistols, The Clinic, Jive Dive, Vidzine and five different Tuesday tenants in the past year alone. The nature of the one‑nighter is its transience – that now legendary Bowie Night ran only three months. Certainly fast bucks have encouraged exploitation of passing fads but club‑owners have had to depend entirely on streetwise young frontmen to bring them each craze. Central to the Billy’s‑into‑Blitz axis of Egan as DJ, Strange as greeter, was the innovation that youth assumed the initiative. “These were the first clubs run for kids by kids without feeling we were being ripped off,” it was said at the time.

Perry Haines with his i‑D night was next off the grid with his “100mph dance music”. He succeeded at Gossip’s. Stevo and Jock McDonald tried and flopped. Gaz Mayall’s Rockin’ Blues is now in its third year and one reason why he’s enjoying London’s longest run is inevitably the universal appeal of the blues he plays. Another is Gaz’s membership list. It reads like a hip Who’s Who without regard for age.

“A promoter’s social register must be strong and if it’s not he won’t keep a following,” says Reid Anderson, co‑licensee of the Gargoyle upstairs. With a former pageboy to the Queen, the 24‑year‑old heir to a 13th Earl hosting Tuesdays (called Soul Furnace, he says, because “it’s hot”), this not surprisingly is the strongest night of their week.

Steve Strange and Perry Haines carefully constructed their own social registers but most aspiring promoters who walk in mean a gamble for the club. “Gossip’s has always had the bottle to take chances,” says Mick Collins, manager downstairs. “You need courage to let anyone who impresses you have a go. And you need courage to cut it if it fails on its first night. I’ve lost fortunes in the past advertising people’s second nights.” What happens of course is that some kid on an ego trip falls to realise that it’s his own job to promote the event.

Thursdays and Fridays at Gossip’s: left, Gaz greets a Rockin’ Blues follower; right, Steve Walsh, host of Radio Invicta’s fusion night. Photographed by Derek Ridgers

With dwindling cash closing clubs two or three nights a week, last winter saw the West End stiff with handbills for Mod revivals, paisleyed psychedelia and mime‑faced futurism. Some club‑owners got stung. The Gargoyle scored a first for rapping but when the air got a little too heavy the Language Lab had to go. Gossip’s, in line with a solid black‑music reputation, gave reggae a home last winter, but now has to display signs requesting “Gentlemen: No Hats on Fridays and Saturdays” which is a euphemism to blacks like “No jeans” is to whites.

“That’s our only restriction,” Collins says, “and because of it the club feels safe. People can get away with a lot here and that matters. Some kids can only afford one night out and they’ll spend all that week’s dole here. There’s no longer the money to go out every night so we’ve learned to vary our clientele through the week.”

Upstairs, owner Don Ward has also made a former stripclub which had outlived its purpose viable. “As long as people leave here with money in their pocket, they’ll come back next week. Yes I’m taking a little now off a lot of people. Each night’s promoter works hard too. And the profits go to him.”

Upstairs: New Year at David Tennant’s Gargoyle club in the 1940s where the dress code was usually more relaxed than elsewhere in London. Source: Michael Luke

Gargoyle membership embraced toffs and artists: from Nancy Cunard to Nancy Mitford, Victor Rothschild to Roland Penrose, Lee Miller to William Burroughs, and occasionally in the mix the odd spy such as Guy Burgess

❚ 69 DEAN STREET CAN TRACE its ancestry back to the dawn of clubmanship. It stands on the corner of what seems a quaint filmset, Soho’s oldest intact Georgian terrace, where lived Batty Langley, the carpenter-architect whose many pattern books became templates for the neo-classical features of the four-storey London town house.

Scarcely a proper street, more a passage linking Dean Street to Wardour, today a spraycan has dubbed the strip alongside Gossip’s “Rapping Yard”, while an old tablet set into the same wall dates it: “Meard Street 1732”, named after John Meard, the carpenter who built No 69 on the Pitt estate. The original Jethro Tull, wouldn’t you like to know, was writing his revolutionary theories about English farming then and in the building boom which followed the Great Fire of 1666, speculators spread mansions over Soho Fields. Artists quickly adopted the new suburb as London’s fashionable quarter, and the king, Charles II, purportedly visited his mistress “pretty, witty” Nell Gwynne in a house on the site of No 69.

During the 19th century the Novello music publishing family took over the lease and added two upper storeys between 1864 and 1875 to house a music printing-works. As recently as their 1930s incarnation, these two floors housed the radical Gargoyle club. This boasted a theatrical-artistic-political membership which included Noël Coward and Tallulah Bankhead for whom it daringly relaxed the evening dress requirement. Up to the 40s, as the haunt of the painter Francis Bacon’s Soho Group, the club had hanging on its wall Matisse’s Red Studio, arguably his most important painting. After the Gargoyle’s founder, the Hon David Tennant, sold up during the second world war, the Red Studio was offered to the Tate for the price of £400 and declined as too expensive (this translates to a mere £6,000 in 1983 when Matisses go for millions!!!) so its loss to North America became an art-world scandal.

At the Gargoyle vestiges of lost splendour still shine, like an Art Deco staircase designed by Matisse in steel and brass that links the dancefloor with the rooftop theatre and bar. As the Nell Gwynne revue staging three lavish stripshows a night, this was where businessmen came to clinch their deals over dinner and a hostess and whatever – until the last Labour government said, sorry but hostesses are no longer tax deductible. The Astor closed, the Churchill [continued after the jump…]


Matisse’s Red Studio of 1911: it once hung in Soho’s legendary Gargoyle club, but was sold in 1942 by David Tennant and acquired by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1949 (Mrs Simon Guggenheim Fund) © Succession H. Matisse / DACS

The rooftop Gargoyle club at 69 Dean Street opened in 1925, boasting the French painter Henri Matisse not only as a member but as the inspiration for the Moorish interior of its ballroom – a steel and brass staircase was still in evidence when the Comedy Store took over the club in 1979. Michael Luke recalls other gems from the nightclub’s heyday when owned by the Hon David Tennant: “The large picture by Matisse that hung in the dining-room, lending an air of go-ahead culture to the club… was one of two paintings David Tennant had bought from Matisse in Paris… The Red Studio (1911), a large canvas roughly six foot by seven recognised as one of Matisse’s most original and daring inventions, and described by the painter as one of his ‘all or nothing works’, now hangs in MOMA in New York. The other (now part of the Phillips Collection in Washington), The Studio, Quai St Michel (1916), caught and held the eye as you descended the main staircase in the club with its sublimated voluptuousness. Lorette, Matisse’s favourite model of the period, lies naked on a couch with the spire of the Sainte Chapelle seen through the window across the Seine on the Ile de la Cité…

Described by the art critic David Sylvester as ‘two of the most important works of art of the 20th century’… Tennant had bought the two Matisses for what now seems to be the ludicrously small sum of £600 [… after spotting them] stacked in the Quai St Michel studio, amongst a mass of other canvases… [When the Gargoyle reopened in June 1941, both Matisses were gone. The Quai had been] acquired by Douglas Cooper for a derisory sum… He turned a quick profit by selling the painting to Kenneth Clark whence it went in due course to the Phillips Collection.” – Quoted from David Tennant and the Gargoyle Years, by Michael Luke (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1991)

Gargoyle club, dean street, Soho, London, nightlife, 1950s
[continuation…] closed, but in May 1979 the Gargoyle did some speculating of its own. Don Ward, himself a one‑time comic, imported the American Comedy Store format: an evening of stand‑up comics plus an achingly trendy audience who gonged off the most hopeless performers. “I feel as welcome here as Hitler at a Barmitzvah,” said one joker last month to a Saturday crowd that’s still in its twenties but after three years rates only a Springsteen in trendiness.

The Comedy Store did prove to be a crucial staging post in weaning young comics off left‑wing benefits and on to the music circuits. Then last year along came the eminence grise who’d been trying to make Pythons out of the breakaway Comic Strip team, Simon Oakes, who in the words of a friend “knows absolutely everybody” and in those of a rival “has more fingers than there are pies to put them in”.

Meard Street, Soho, Westminster Wi-fi, Ian Wilder, Gossips

Meard Street, Soho: built 1720-1732 by John Meard father and son, commemorated by a plaque erected beside the door to Gossip’s in 2010, and viewable worldwide 24/7 thanks to Westminster council’s pioneering wi-fi street security system. Photograph © 2010 by Shapersofthe80s

What he injected by putting music first with the Language Lab and (Lord) David Ogilvy’s Soul Furnace was a social mix you seldom find elsewhere. So though you really can hear some Henry say “They let you in for half price after 1am, like a half‑day ski pass”, once inside you nevertheless find underage Wembley mods Doing the Dog beside young Lady Cosima Fry. “This club has been a great leveller,” Oakes says, “because it’s based on people not style.”

Likewise at The Lift on Thursdays. “Straights have such misconceptions about gays: people still ask me if I play the male or female role,” says co‑host Steve Swindells, who encourages gays to bring straight friends of all sexes. The bait is the hardest music in town, not the usual wimpy American gay disco, but rebel funk, BLT, Man Parrish. The deejay has scrawled across the wall “Boogie leads to integration”.

If the top-floor Gargoyle has cast itself as an equal opportunities crusader, down in the cellars of No 69 Gossip’s pads the musical waterfront with as much zeal. The Jamaican Vince Howard, who has owned Gossip’s since the days when gay clubs like Billy’s led musical taste, is a Soho legend himself, straight out of Shaft, huge hats, fistfuls of rings and the only black man to own a venue in Soho. His jeweller along Meard Street once showed me a mock‑up for a mountainous ring he was making: “18‑carat gold, 16 diamonds, it shone like a torch. I showed it to Vince and he said, I want more diamonds on it.”

One deejay said: “When Vince calls by even the manager stands to attention so it makes sense that I should too.” Gossip’s is the kind of place where nobody admits a surname until they know you. Yet everyone working there, staff and one‑nighters, uses the same fond word about the few square feet of stonechip floor and mirror: atmosphere. Collins says: “It’s not posh here. What we have though is heritage.”

It’s no accident that the nights which have survived the carnival of cults here say much about the dominant musical forces at work in 1983. Amazingly for a jazz‑funk night, Steve Walsh on Fridays pulls an almost exclusively black crowd: “Very upfront, advanced in their tastes – it doesn’t appeal to the white party‑crowd.” Equally unusually for an essentially reggae Saturday night, Rodigan and his ace toaster Papa Face pull a healthy mix of black and white. “It is rare,” he admits. “We emphasise the rootsy, sweeter end of reggae, Rudi Thomas, Carroll Thompson, and that attracts a lot of women.” With the lights out, the dancefloor throbs like a Ladbroke Grove blues. “Everyone dances to reggae: you have to get closer,” says Dave Gordon, aged 18.

Rockin’ Blues host: Gaz Mayall in a portrait painted by the British realist Lucian Freud in 1997

Gossips stands alone in championing reggae in the West End and it is perhaps significant that it occupies the week’s prime spot, Saturday. Both of the other hit nights at Gossip’s fall happily into playschool roles. Ghanaian Jo Hagan likes playing the educator and says the highlife at the Gold Coast is a lot less aggressive than people expect, but admits “it can be intimidating not to hear an English word sung all night”. His partner Christian Cotterill who owns half the records says: “The press made African music flavour of the month but in fact it’s all so danceable. When Gaspar Lawal played here, Gossips had its most profitable night for a year.”

If you want to see a genuine Stetson, check Thursdays and you’ll find 24‑year‑old Gaz beneath one. When he began playing blues masters B.B. King and John Lee Hooker back in 1980, Gaz said: “People didn’t know how to dance to this stuff but they’ve been practising.” For nearly three years Gaz, himself a vinyl junkie, has devotedly been handing down history – by numbers.

Cultivated sleaze at the Batcave: the most unsubtle of London’s one-night stands. Photographed by Derek Ridgers

❚ THE IMPACT OF NIGHTLIFE ON THE STYLE of the past five years is not to be underestimated. However much Futurist‑Romantic labels make the skin crawl, their legacy is evident in the vitality of today’s streets and charts, obvious though the ingredients may have been in Britain’s late-Seventies post‑punk vacuum: SF movies, a Dada retrospective, headline‑making performance art, a revival of intimate cabaret.

Yet the positive accelerators of change were a handful of nightclubs. During research for this article, photographer Derek Ridgers coined the perfect quote: he recalled that Tuesdays at Billy’s were “like walking into a Hieronymus Bosch painting: furtive but lively and with a dedication that’s never been equalled since”.

Those formative Bowie Nights and Electro Diskows were parties with a vengeance, glorifying the individual, wresting power and profits from the elders. In particular, the imaginative deejay became lionised for engineering new sounds, resplicing Kraftwerk, say, and eliminating the mid‑range in playback.

As those events of ’78 were a reaction to the sterility of Saturday Night Fever and Boney M, to dancehalls turning into discos, so the circle has turned again. What Giorgio Moroder said then is as true today of the Palaces and Haciendas: “Most disco‑goers are not dancers.” Nor are they convincing posers. Conceits which were once daring, the megadisco has now sanctioned. The mainstream giants have sanitised the cults, standardised the music and dwarfed the individual with pyrotechnics.

But what Billy’s developed, the factory farm at 69 Dean Street went on refining. The small‑scale nightclub has emerged as the customised club‑night. It reasserts the supremacy of bedrock music and consequently attracts a strong social mix. And because allegiance owes less to age‑group or to dress, it activates more socially rewarding reflexes.

What the one‑night clubgoer has discarded is the disposable identity in favour of a confident expression of taste. The Pose Age appears to be buried. Here at last is the party which requires you to come as yourself.

Text © Shapersofthe80s.com


Olli Wisdom: frontman for his goth band Specimen and the runaway once-a-week success the Batcave. © Shapersofthe80s


MONDAYS The Reel World (since Aug 82) Little‑screened movies, hosted by Spencer Style, lately superseded by Adam Baker’s Music Box.

“Do you come to the Soul Furnace often?” Photograph by Derek Ridgers

TUESDAYS Soul Furnace (Mar 82) Hosted by David Ogilvy. Stax, Tamla in three‑minute strips. “I’ve lots of rare copies of Ray Charles which seem to go missing from here.”

WEDNESDAYS The Batcave (Jul 82) Hosted by Oliver Wisdom and pet rat Basil. Sexist mud‑wrestling, UK Decay live, Sweet on disc. “We don’t suck our cheeks, we have fun.”

THURSDAYS The Lift (June 82) Hosted by Tim Clark, Steve Swindells and DJ John Richards. Mixed gay club “where no one gives anyone a hard time”.

FRIDAYS Striptease 6‑11pm Mon‑Fri (early 1970s); from 11pm Comedy Store (May 79) Stand‑up comics being gonged off by students and couples.

SATURDAYS Comedy Store (May 79) Appealing to predominantly stag audiences from waist level. Sample: “Cadbury’s chocolate is the sweet you can eat between work, rest and foreplay.”

Gaz Mayall’s Rockin’ Blues: cool sounds and hot romancing. Photograph by Derek Ridgers


MONDAYS Rebel Rockers (Aug 82) Lately superseded by Just Jazz with Jeff. “Live bands like it used to be.”

TUESDAYS Sir Jules’ Sound Table (Aug 82) “Rappin’s the fashion, man.” Superseded by Some Chicken: a different party each week.

WEDNESDAYS The Gold Coast (May 82) Hosted by Christian Cotterill and Jo Hagan. Highlife Eric Ageyman, Afrobeat Fela Kuti, Juju Sunny Ade, “all so danceable”.

Gaz Mayall, Gaz's Rockin Blues, clubbing,LondonTHURSDAYS Gaz’s Rockin Blues (July 80) Hosted by Gaz Mayall. “John Lee Hooker through Little Richard with roots reggae from the beginning of West Indian music.”

FRIDAYS Radio Invicta Night (Feb 81) Hosted by Steve Walsh. “Newest jazz‑funk for the hippest crowd in London; more mature than some.”

SATURDAYS Roots Rockers (Jan 82) Hosted by David Rodigan, Papa Face, Tim Westwood. “70% lovers rock and heavy dub, 30% soul to lighten it.”

◼ ORIGINAL FOOTNOTE IN THE FACE – The Gargoyle closed December ’82 but that has not prevented its successes from striding on into 1983. At time of writing the Comedy Store was reopening mid-January in Lansdowne Row, Mayfair. The Lift has already resurfaced on Thursdays at 28 Leicester Square and the Batcave follows on Wednesdays in February.

◼ IN 2007 the whole building at No 69 was acquired for redevelopment and in 2009 a boutique hotel, Dean Street Townhouse run by the Soho House Group, opened its doors.

◼ THREE DECADES ON Gaz’s Rockin’ Blues is still going strong as London’s longest running club-night, these days at St Moritz in Wardour Street every Thursday.

◼ 2017 – Steve Swindells, promoter, musician, photographer and all-round creative, reflects on how he put together the pioneering LGBT club The Lift in the 1980s


Is this you? Add a comment below if you recognise the dancers at the Batcave who made it to The Face cover in February 1983

❏ Terrie Ford writes: I was the girl with the red lipstick on the front cover walking across the dance floor. The Batcave was a brilliant place, I went to all of them in the early years.


❏ Updated 23 April 2021

❚ THREE GREAT VINTAGE VIDEO CLIPS shot in Gossip’s club have been brought to our attention by Dave “Whisky” Wilkinson in his recent comment. An English-speaking presenter is reporting on London nightlife for Danish TV probably during 1984, and has some frisky chats with clubbers at Monday’s psychedelic one-nighter Alice in Wonderland, at Wednesday’s gothic Batcave with Olli Wisdom and at Thursday’s uber-cool Gaz’s Rockin Blues.

Dave says he discovered the clips on VHS tape during a trip to Sweden in 1985, so he set up two recorders to make a tape-to-tape copy and brought it back to London, where he presumably put it in a drawer for 30 years! Since posting three clips at YouTube six years ago they’ve so far received only 1,685 views.

69 Dean Street, Swinging 80s, nightlife, Gossip’s club, Whisky Dave, Mick Collins,

The Gossip’s fan: Whisky Dave who found the vintage videos… and the Gossip’s manager, Mick Collins who perfected the one-nighter formula. (© Danish Television)

A real discovery is finally to see Mick Collins interviewed as the shrewd manager of Gossip’s for three decades until his lease ended in 2007. During those years he started and perfected the system of booking different musical styles to attract different clienteles on each night of the week. He tells the TV reporter: “One out of every five might work, so you try five, four flop and you get one that works.” It then took courage to cut those that failed on their first nights.

Gaz Mayall was and remains today a pioneering club-host who is frank by implication about the bland state of much London clubbing in 1984. He says of his Rockin Blues: “It captures the true spirit of the 50s and 60s. Everyone comes down and lets themselves go instead of walking round watching everyone else, you know, like a bunch of zombies.”

We hear Christian Paris, who ran Alice in Wonderland for ten years at Gossip’s talking of its mix of mid-60s psychedelia with 80s non-revivalist sounds. And at the Batcave, “Jonathon” of the band Specimen boasts of releasing “my feminine energy”, Miss Terry the baglady is dying to talk about his bag, while Slack Alice Aftermath admits that he’s “always been a bit odd”. Bingo!

Whisky Dave, who tags himself a style warrior, says he discovered the Batcave as his first goth club while at Fooberts in 1984, following it later to Gossip’s. “I really liked the weird look of those attending and the friendliness of scary-looking people and the music, so I started wearing makeup. That photo of me [above] was taken after the Batcave morphed into the KitKat Club in its early days at Westbourne Grove.” [Pete Scathe’s Demon site dedicated to
Goth history details the Batcave’s genesis.]

“I used to go to Gossip’s 3-4 times a week, to Alice in Wonderland and Gaz’s Rockin Blues as they were goth friendly. Mick Collins was always welcoming.” In those days Dave was working as a teaching lab technician in an engineering dept at Queen Mary University of London. Who’d have thought he’d still be there today?


➢ VIEW ♫ video for Culture Club’s Do You Really Want To Hurt Me – spot the club scene filmed at the Gargoyle with assorted Blitz Kids in the audience, August 1982:

TAGS – 69 Dean Street, history, baby boomers, clubbing, dance music, cabaret, club culture, nightlife, videos, London, Soho, Alice in Wonderland, Billy’s, Comedy Store, Comic Strip, Batcave, Face magazine, Gargoyle club, Gossip’s club, Red Studio, Blitz Kids, Christian Cotterill, Christian Paris, Dave Wilkinson, David Rodigan, Don Ward, David Tennant, David Ogilvy, Derek Ridgers, Gaz Mayall, Henri Matisse, Jo Hagan, Mick Collins, Olli Wisdom, Papa Face, Perry Haines, Reid Anderson, Rusty Egan, Simon Oakes, Sir Jules, Steve Swindells, Steve Walsh, Tim Clark, Tim Westwood


40 responses to “69 Dean Street and the making of UK club culture

  1. Mick Collins gossips

    So nice to be remembered. Had to close the club in 2007 due to leases finishing. Sold the licence to hotel upstairs. Have moved to France with wife and three kids.
    Be nice to hear from anyone who remembers me.

    Many thanks again
    Mick Collins

    • Antoinette Carter

      Well of all the random people to stumble across on the web! It is over 20 years since I worked the cloakroom on a Thursday night for Gaz. My flat-mate, Kira, also worked there too for a bit on the punk night (the name of which I can’t for the life of me remember). The last time I spoke to you, we were rowing over the fact that Gaz’s sister (who had said she would look after the cloakroom for a bit while I went for a dance) then left the few remaining coats, including my leather bike jacket, on the counter and pissed off home. The jacket got nicked, and if she wasn’t going to pay for it, I thought that Gossips should. You said I could have £50 for my jacket, or keep my job. I took the £50! Point of principle, you understand, and I had a day job so didn’t really need the extra money. But I don’t hold a grudge about it! I’d love to know what happened to the likes of Seychelles and Bigga (so-called because he was bigger than anyone else)……. Happy days….

    • Hey Mick, Sad to hear of Gossips demise, spent some fantastic times there and you always looked after me. I was 15 when I worked on the cloakroom at the Batcave and met my first husband and father of my eldest there, Rocka (RIP). Now mother of three and Grandmother to 1. My times at Gossips ingrained as some of the happiest times of my youth. Glad to hear you doing well and enjoying the good life. Are you still in touch with Graham ?


    • Hello Mick, long time no see! I am writing a little piece on clubs I used to run, especially the ones in Gossips, which is how I found this page. Good to hear you’re well. My email is still the same, if you have it. Get in touch!

      Those Gossips days were some of the best of my life.


    • Daniel Payne

      Hope all is well, Mick. Daniel here from Electric Dreams – I was the door host and DJ Serial Bitch who would open up before the rest would get there.
      * Shapersofthe80s writes: Thanks Daniel. Sorry to tell you that Mick Collins passed away in 2016.

  2. Great piece about “Gossips”. Though I missed the 80s Gossips scene it was my first place of work when I arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed from Portugal in the summer of 1991. Mick was still there and Gossips was still in full swing with fab nights like Gaz’s Rockin blues, Alice in Wonderland and David Rodigan’s R&B Saturday. It’s one of those places that has provided me with lots of interesting stories. Made life long friends, met a few celebs (Mick Jagger, Mick Jones, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant, Siouxsie to name a few), was even cooed by a few and – forgive the heartfelt cliché – was like being part of a family and not just a job!

    Mick was a fab boss and I miss all of the gang: Turx, Goth Karen, Cindy, Erin (who sadly died a few years ago), Leroy, Bigga, Gaz, The Doctor (Clive), Dave Beenie, Graham and everyone else that made it such a lovely place to work. It’s an honour to have worked in such a historical place and to have met such a special bunch of people! X

  3. Christian Paris

    Gossips was my life every Monday night for ten fabulous years. Would love to hear from Mick again…..

    Christian Paris – Alice In Wonderland 1983-1993

    • Antoinette Carter

      Hey Christian — Last I heard you’d run off to the States and married Ringo Starr’s daughter — or is that just an urban myth?

  4. Please let me share a part of my small audio archives, this is not 1982 (I was too young) but I hope you will appreciate it : http://youtu.be/dnbfwkbVnlg

    Shapersofthe80s adds: Can any of our readers identify the band playing here in the summer of 1988?

  5. Me and my friends all of us from Sweden went to Gossips Alice in Wonderland in 1986-1987. We where gothkids.

  6. Born in the 80s

    My mum and her best friend (my god-mother) always talk about Gossips and how it was the first club they went to when she was 16! First time my mum had seen two men kissing was on Old Compton street haha

  7. Wow. I used to go to Alice in Wonderland when I was fifteen. Gossips was a huge part of my formative years and always full of wonderful people. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without those adventures.

  8. Hi Mick – I’ve worked there on and off for two years, I was Debbie’s friend, and this was my first paid job, I was 20 and freshly arrived in London, around 94/95. I was in the cloakroom, taking over from Cindy when she couldn’t make it and then she left for the States. I have some mad memories of my time working there, when we had the “colonel” as the boss from Jamaica. You used to come up with stories such as “Bowie was in love with another cloakroom girl in the past” but the Gossips I worked was Jamaican jungle nights… Sometimes it could be rough, cos we had some difficult clients, but Leroy was always around to deal with it! I have still fun memories, and you always treated us so nicely (it’s the reason we stayed so long), much love – Steph

  9. Shirley Royal

    Hi – I worked for a short while as a secretary for Vince Howard. I was only 19/20 at the time and had never been to London before. My friend and I went to the club one night (she’s black, I’m white) and I had never been in a place before where I was probably in the only couple of white girls. Vince was a larger than life character and we used to drive around London in a taxi. I never did any work lol. Would love to know what happened to him ???? I’m 53 now…

    • Hi Shirley, he retired to the south coast to live out the last of his years… I heard he passed away recently.

  10. The other two faces with Terrie Ford are Chris Bell, original drummer with the Thompson Twins and Spear of Destiny and Debbie from Leeds.

  11. I went to Alices every Monday. Was the best time of my life. I have so many memories. Twirling round the dance floor with the Anadin brothers being one of them. Being followed all night by Lemmy from Motorhead another till Wendi West told him to bugger off! Wish I had a time machine! I would go back there in a shot. Beware the Mike catcher in his silver machine chasing after Fuzzy Wuzzy the bear because he keeps thinking it’s Tuesday! ❤ love peace and bananas xxxx

  12. Great to know the history behind Gossips/Spats nightclub of which I was an avid patron after leaving school in 81. Hearing tales of Crackers and the Electric ballroom wetted my appetite for the moves that came with feeling the Soul’n’Jazzfunk boogie, Lovers Rock. This was the Golden Era for the sub-genres of a bigger picture that many of us were more than happy to occupy. Coming from Luton, 69 Dean St was like a home from home, there was almost a ritual to how our time was spent. Good Times!! Thanks fa’d’memries. AB

  13. Hello all, It’s Clive here, the Dr from Doctor and the Medics. For those that knew Mick Collins I’m really sad to have to let you know that I have just heard from his daughter and Mick passed away last week.

    It was nice to see his post at the top of this page and to know that he had some recognition of everything he achieved at Gossips. The truth is that nights like Alice in Wonderland would never have been given a chance elsewhere but Mick took chances and then stood by you when times were hard, something unique in Soho in the cut-throat 80s. As a result he was part and parcel of all that culture that was generated through that wonderful little club and we need to remember him for all he did. He is not known to many people but to those of us who he helped along the way and became our friend we thank him.

    Mick Collins LEGEND!!! R.I.P. and thank you Mick for giving us a chance.

    Doc x x

    • Miles Davis Landesman

      In reply to The Doctor… Mick was the nice guy. He let me do a club called STAP ON.
      No body came, at least we had fun.
      Love you Mick
      From miles davis landesman

  14. Geoff Parker

    Don’t see anything about the Language Lab here, apart from a name check. As far as I know, it was the first rap night in the UK, and I went to its opening night with my girlfriend, now wife, and my flat mate. Maybe this was 1981, but I’m not sure. We went up a flight of stairs from the street, which turned out to be a fire exit, so we emerged straight into the club & got in free.

    Rap was so young & there were so few rap records out there that it seemed most of the music was from Jamaican reggae DJs, & the tune of the night for me was Ranking Devon’s ‘All Nations Have To Bow’. As it happens, I played that tune just last night at my monthly reggae night ‘Catch A Fire’ at the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton, which is what prompted me to google ‘Language Lab’. Any memories out there?

    * Shapersofthe80s writes: Thanks Geoff, much appreciated. This piece was researched in late 1982 and as it acknowledges, “The Gargoyle scored a first for rapping but when the air got a little too heavy the Language Lab had to go”, so your memories might well date from 1981, as you suspect.

    • Charlie Marbles

      Hi there Geoff…
      I am a filmmaker (also old bboy) developing a project about how hip hop hit the UK…. I am most interested in photos from Language Lab (upstairs), Sir Jules, Roddigan, Gaz, etc. Don’t suppose you took any?
      Cheers, Charlie

      • Rob Knight

        Remember the best disco In town on Saturday with John Sachs capital radio 😝 and the Harley Davison on stage

  15. What a place the Batcave was, great bands great staff, demented. Going there was awsome, much missed, many thanks to you all. Brian Rault, Jersey UK

  16. I have tons of photos from Gossips circa 89-92. Mostly goth and industrial crowds. Think anyone would be interested in those photos? They told me not to take pictures of the celebs, unless requested, but there are a few in there.

    I was the American that worked the cloak room on Wednesdays occasionally (Hard club) and always had my camera…

    Shapersofthe80s writes: Thanks, Kim, for letting us know. We can post some here but why not make your own page at Facebook and see what response it attracts?

    • In reply to Kim Winkler (above) – Hi Kim, We were Hardclub regulars 1990-93 + would be great to see how we looked back then. Please can you write on FB? My name there is Mark Watchman.

      Mick Collins, what a kind soul. Only the best memories of chatting with Mick at the top of the stairs during Hardclub / Severin’s Kiss nights. Ciao, Pete

    • Melodye Buskin

      I remember you because I was an American living in London at the time and it was kind of unusual to see any. I moved back to The U.S. In the late 90s. Are you still there or are you on FB?

    • I would love to see your photos Kim. My brother and I were Hardclub 92 die hards! Had the most epic nights there and met some wonderful souls!

    • Yeah Kim I would love to see those photos too! Please upload them somewhere and inform us.

    • Hi – I used to come to the Hard Club in the 90s and someone took a picture of me and Andrew Fletcher (DM) but it got lost … I think Lenny was the DJ at the time.

  17. Pingback: The thump of the music, like some powerful creature barely contained – We Raise Our Hands In The Sanctuary

  18. Loved Rodigan and Papa Face’s Sat reggae night – my friend and I used to get the last tube of the night to Tottenham Court Rd and the night bus back lol. My Mum said normal people were going to bed when we were going out. Such great times 😀

  19. Melodye Buskin

    I knew Mick for many years and dated his guitarist brother Robert. Sorry to hear of his passing. He was a great guy and generous to a fault. Does anyone know where Robert is now and is he contactable? My name is Melodye Chisholm (now Buskin).

  20. Pingback: The thump of the music, like some powerful creature barely contained | Inky Cloak

  21. My band The Exhibits from Croydon played at Gossip’s couple of times late ’90s/early 00s – was a great little gig, loved playing there. Course clubbing means I had very hazy memories to fall back on, but that’s part of the charm. Good times.

  22. Aaaaah The Lift !!! – I still reckon that was the best nightclub scene of my youth, and really was a pointer to the future of London clubbing – gay straight, black, white and the simply the hottest DJs in London, lots of early electro imports, early house, gogo, jazz funk. We’d go in and not stop dancing for 3 hours and then at closing time head out to the Candy Box.

    Dance floor awash with good vibes – everyone got on with each other because we were there for one reason – the music. (And in the toilets, coke, ganja and whatever #wewereyoungthen) Oh I miss those days! Greatest club ever.

  23. I had a very strange dream I was working at gossips again, Mick Collins was in the dream. I used to work behind the bar from 1997 to 2002.Fun times, seems like a lifetime ago.

    • I was a regular there and friends with Claire behind the bar. We went on hols and I heard she possibly married a scuba diver instructor?! Would love to hear from her. – Wanda

  24. Sigh, I used to love going to Gossips in 1996 to the Monday night bliss of New Gold Dream with DJ Alon. The music was Underground Early 80s Blitz heaven and Alternative 80s with everything heard from Mobiles, Fad Gadget, Visage, Bowie, Classix Nouveaux etc… The club itself was the most underground looking club I had ever been to and since, NOTHING has come close. I miss that club A LOT!

    * Vintage readers will remember Jason Buchanan as Melbourne’s No 1 fan of British music, bar none. In 2010 Shapersofthe80s sent him as its own special reporter along to relive his teeny-pop years when the reformed Spandau Ballet toured there…

  25. Dave Wilkinson

    I went to Sweden in 1985 and was shown these videos and set up two VHS recorders to do a tape-to-tape copy and bring them back to London. I believe they were made by a Danish TV channel regarding London nightlife.

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