Alive and up on the roof

By Keith Newbery

Published on Friday, February 08, 2013 - 11:15


Alive and up on the roof

Five Alive, bringing back memories of La Babalu club, Ryde.

THIS ISLAND LIFE THIS photograph will spark plenty of memories for the baby-boomer generation, who grew up during the 60s and remember when, for ten glorious years, Britain became the spiritual home of modern music and pop culture.

It was a time when albums were called LPs and assembled warblers were referred to as groups, not bands.

Indeed, in those days bands were full of pensioners playing euphoniums on street corners, or gatherings of gruff miners blasting away in a church hall after another tough day down t’pit.

Fifty years ago, it was also de rigueur for pop groups to pose for publicity shots in pretentious locations.

For example, you would see the Yardbirds peering glumly from behind the stanchions at the base of a crane; the Merseybeats strategically placed in the shadow of vast containers on Liverpool docks; or the Moody Blues doing their utmost to look both moody and blue in the middle of a field, while the winter wind tugged at their trendy locks.

It was impossible to open the NME or Record Mirror without seeing pages of photos like this, featuring the stars of the day wrapped up in scarves, either looking consumptive or snarling at life in general.

I’m presuming this was the rationale behind the construction of this rather peculiar photograph, which was forwarded to me by Grumpy Greening.

He was seeking the identity of the chaps who had decided to dress as Spanish waiters and station themselves on the roof of the old La Babalu club which, in a previous incarnation, had been the control tower for Ryde airport. I had no idea who they were, so it was time to consult the founts of all 60s’ music knowledge on the Island — Malc Lawrence and Dave (Cousin) Cannon.

Between them, they identified (from left to right) Robbie Whitewood, Roy Colgate, Mick Marsh, Tom Bennett, Mick Newbery and Bernie Cullen — otherwise known as Five Alive (despite the fact there are six of them).

One’s first instinct is to doff one’s cap to the anonymous photographer, who appears to have carried out his duties while perched somewhat precariously on the guttering, in conditions best described as gusty.

As he was apparently bracing himself in the face of a force seven, he can be forgiven for not noticing Robbie’s arm obscuring Roy’s face.

Can I quickly point out (in view of the rapidly-expanding nature of my Island family in recent weeks) that Mick, as far as I’m aware, is not a relative.

However, in view of all the Cotton cousins I have amassed of late, it would be premature to rule out some sort of connection to a man who has the same surname.

Of course, the Babalu was not the only club in the Island all those years ago, as Tony Cooper reminded me in a fascinating e-mail.

He recalled the Flamingo, at the back of the Royal Victorian Arcade, Ryde, where entry was gained by knocking on a door and waiting for the bouncer to open a hatch to check your membership.

'The upper floor,’ said Tony, 'had a bar with a small stage and dance floor and in the basement was a restaurant and small casino.’

Apparently, to go from one to the other meant a trip through the gents’ toilet, which must have made it an interesting night out for any woman who fancied a prawn cocktail or a quick bet.

Tony was obviously a connoisseur of the Island club scene at the time, and recalls the Hallam Hotel at Seaview, where it was possible to avoid paying membership or entrance charges.

Apparently, all you had to do was enter via the hotel reception, take the service stairs down to the laundry room, cut through the basement and enter the club through the toilets.

Other nightspots mentioned by Tony and sure to bring back memories to those of a certain age were the Eastcliffe at Shanklin, Julisa’s at Ventnor and Rupert’s Bar at Westhill Manor.

Cliff on a cliff isn’t on the IW

WHILE we’re on the subject of popular music, you may recall that, just before Christmas, I mused about the video for Cliff Richard’s recording of Saviour’s Day.

It depicted the old boy chirruping to the faithful as they gathered at the cliff edge, before miming his heart out in front of what appeared to be Arch Rock, in Freshwater Bay.

Tim Cooper (formerly a resident of said town) e-mailed from Totton to say the actual location for the shoot was Dorset, and the Arch Rock lookalike was, in fact, Durdle Door.

I mention it in case any Cliff fans (and there are many tens of thousands, despite the best efforts of national radio stations to pretend he no longer exists) would like to make a quiet pilgrimage next summer.

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