“It was part of your gig …”

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“A whole collection of beaten up Transit vans”

Many thanks to Graham Laker for alerting me to this delightful programme


It’s all about the Blue Boar Café, Watford Gap M1 in the 1960s

One of the things about playing in local bands from Portsmouth in that time was that we tended to work in and around the city or maybe along the coast (both ways) or up towards London. But we didn’t often work much further north I think. The exception for me was that brief period – July to December 1968 – when Harlem Speakeasy went ‘pro’ with a record out and signed to the Chrysalis agency.

In those few months – and to my complete, utterly naive astonishment – I was travelling in a double-wheel-base Ford Transit up-and-down the M1 (etc) to Manchester, Stockport, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Norfolk, Leeds, Nottingham, Walsall etc etc. And the Blue Boar was absolutely a large part of my experience.

Unlike many of the top stars who are mentioned in the programme, who stopped off at the Blue Boar for “egg, chips and a mug of tea gal” before driving on to their pads for an early morning kip, we virtually lived there.

Harlem Speakeasy were so impoverished that if we were (as usual) on a three-four day trip ‘up north’ we couldn’t often afford a night in a B&B. Half the band would kip in the van, the other half sit with a coffee in the Blue Boar and half way through the night, we’d swop over. By day four, driving back into Pompey as the sun began to rise, and a pile of four-day sweaty stage gear, the smell in the van was not too lovely …

We did see lots of famous bands popping in-and-out, and for reasons I can’t explain we often met up with the Keef Hartley Band, got to know them quite well (and gigged with them and Champion Jack Dupree, memorably in Chester)

Hearing the programme makes me feel nostalgic but the truth is I was completely unprepared for that experience, HS – a decent local band – were promoted beyond our level of competence and we fell apart, struggling to justify our status.



Author: pompeypop

University lecturer, longtime local musician and recently historian of popular music - especially in and around Portsmouth. My blog is entirely about that topic

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