The Sixties Underground Rock venues – The Toby Jug
Back in the sixties when Rock music was king of the culture and all possibility prevailed there were a plethora of clubs in London and its surrounds.
I lived in London and had access to it all. London was the place to be. It was where everything was happening. There were so many venues catering for the full spectrum of music and so many bands. Every night of the week was a quagmire of decisions. We were utterly spoilt for choice. Each week I would get the NME or Time Out along with my copy of IT and peruse the gig list. It was overwhelming. I usually went to around three gigs a week and two of those were Harper gigs. But Roy played with a lot of other people and I managed to meet a number of brilliant bands through Roy Harper concerts. He certainly did not confine himself to the ‘folk’ circuit. Roy described himself as a one man Rock ‘n’ Roll band and that’s how he treated it. Not only did he perform with the likes of Ralph McTell, John Renbourn, Ron Geesin, John Martyn and Al Stewart but he also appeared alongside bands such as Free, the Bonzos, Nice and Pentangle. Just by following Roy I picked up on a lot of the best of what was around.
Those were heady days for heads, freaks and denizens of the alternative world. You would meet up with old and new friends. These were the days when you could tell a friend by the length of his hair and the clothes he wore. This was the new society. You would cross a road to say hi to complete strangers and indulge in debate about music and social events. They were the days of quiet revolution.
One of my favourite venues was the Toby Jug at Tolsworth. It was a big old pub with a large room at the back. That was the scene of a weekly Blues club. The term blues was used very loosely. They had bands as diverse as Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin and Captain Beefheart.
My favourites were always Fleetwood Mac. That band always rocked. I thought the brilliant rhythm section created by McVee and Fleetwood really allowed Pete Green and Jeremy Spencer to let rip. They were two or three bands in one.
Liz liked to dance and so we used to find space at the back and give it some energetic prancing.
What was good about the Toby Jug was that you had the room to dance but could also get near to the stage to watch the performance. For 25p you were able to see Ian Anderson play flute while standing like a stork on one leg, or watch Jimmy Page churn out those riffs. That was the place I saw Beefheart and Led Zep, up close and personal, and all for a mere 25p. None of this stadium stuff with binoculars. You could stand at the front and be a couple of feet away from Jimmy Page or Pete Green and watch their fingers as they teased the strings. You could mingle without the need of backstage passes. They weren’t so much ‘stars’ as revered exponents of ‘our’ music, fully fledged members of the new society. You felt as if we were all in some new ethos together.
We had some high old times.
The Toby Jug was one of my special 1960s haunts. Fond memories.
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