The Scene club was in Ham Yard, off Great Windmill Street, in Soho, central London.
It had previously been a jazz club, but by 1963 it had become a club for mods, mainly playing records, but also featuring live groups.
I believe it was, in part at least, owned by Ronan O'Rahilly, who started Radio Caroline. Guy Stevens of Sue Records was the first DJ (I think).
I first went in 1963 with a group of my friends. I was a mod (of sorts, I was an apprentice and didn't have a lot of money), but the main reason we went was that the advert in the Record Mirror spoke of records played by artistes including Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Jimmy Reed, Howling Wolf, Jerry Lee Lewis and others.
I can't remember if they used the term "Maximum R&B" first, or if this was originated by the Who later.
At this time the Merseybeat boom was getting under way, beat groups were beginning to feature cover versions of rhythm and blues songs, and we wanted to hear the originals.
Chuck Berry's records had been issued in this country, but when Chess moved from London to the Pye group, his singles had been deleted. So when there was terrific interest in his material nothing was available.
I remember my first visit, the music seemed incredible.
All the great rhythm and blues records, plus good rock'n'roll stuff, plus the current Phil Spector hits like Da Doo Ron Ron and Zippadee Doo Dah (hope that is spelt right). I had never been to a club before, only to local dance halls, like the Tottenham Royal, where there was not the same atmosphere. And there were all these guys wearing the clothes I wanted and was having difficulty affording.
You went down a staircase, paid your money, had your hand stamped (just like the Dome) and went into a rectangular room. As I recall the DJ was in a little box to the right of the entrance, but it was flush to the wall. In the right hand corner opposite the DJ was a bar, that only sold soft drinks (I remember cola that was made from powder and water, really horrible).
A bit further to the left of the entrance was a passage to the cloakroom. Along the far wall to the left were booths, I think the first few times I went there you couldn't see what was going on, but later they were opened up, I think this happened after a raid for drugs. And I think on the right hand wall between the bar and DJ booth were benches.
The rest was a dance floor (I seem to remember a pillar or two, but again I could be wrong). People stood around or danced. A lot of the time it was a case of being seen at the right place.
I went a few more times, but became a regular in 1964. This was in the later part of the summer, I'd met a girl, and we were always going out to places to hear music and dance. So we went to the Scene, and the music was less rhythm and bluesy, more what we'd call soul, but it was still called rhythm and blues by us.
Also popular that summer were old rock'n'roll records by people like Bill Haley, Carl Perkins, etc. Remember this was the time of the mods and rockers riots, grossly exaggerated by the papers. But those records had the right beat for the dances of the time, the Block, and later the Bang, Also that time I remember the Miracles I Like It Like That, and the Supremes When The Lovelight Shines In His Eyes. I remember I wore an off white jacket with patch pockets (very fashionable then) and thought I was really cool. I also had a sort of crewcut, it was the summer of the American look, levis with little turnips and desert boots.
Shortly after that I joined (instead of using vouchers from the Record Mirror), as did my mates and girlfriend. It was a guinea (£1 5p). That seemed a lot of money in those pre inflation days to an apprentice. Monday nights were free to members, and Tuesday (the best weekday night) was one shilling (5p). The all nighter on Saturday was 5 shillings (25p), but I couldn't go to them with my girlfriend, her parents would have gone mad.We regularly went Tuesdays, and often Mondays.
When the Who started appearing at the Marquee in Wardour Street we would often go to the Scene in the break between their appearances, for about 3/4 of an hour.
The music by then was what I would describe as classic soul, Motown, Chess, Major Lance, Impressions, Gene Chandler, plus tracks like Boom Boom and Dimples by John Lee Hooker, and Jimmy Reed classics. Also Ska (or Bluebeat as it was known) was played, but not great amounts, records like Madness by Prince Buster and Carolina by the Folks Brothers. Also Jamaica Ska, I can't remember who sang it but it was a minor hit in the USA on the Atlantic label. Incidentally when I danced with my girlfriend we often jived, this was quite common then.
I remember that Night Train by James Brown was a regular play (it had just been issued on the Sue label), and people formed a chain and weaved in and out of the dancers. It was led by an attractive blonde who looked like Dusty Springfield, one of my mates fancied her. Organ instrumenta ls were highly popular, people like Jimmy Smith and Jimmy McGriff. Quite a lot of jazzy sounding stuff was played as well plus almost anything issued by the British Sue label. I wish there were playlists available.
One Tuesday night an American TV were filming, I'd love to see that now.
In February 1965 my girlfriend packed me in for one of my mates, this broke up our crowd. A couple of the others had girlfriends and were drifting away anyway. At that point I was pretty down and started to go to all nighters there with one of my mates.
I would meet him at about a quarter to midnight in Piccadilly Circus underground station, outside the gents toilets believe it or not, I must have been extremely naïve in those days about that sort of thing. We'd then go straight to the Scene, pay our money and go in to hear the music. It was exciting and the music was brilliant. It was the time
all the classics were coming out, Respect (Otis), In The Midnight Hour, Nothing Can Stop Me, I Can't Help Myself, etc. I am sure you could name those records. Now to a certain extent they seem a bit hackneyed, we have all heard them so much.
But they were new then and so so exciting. Just like if you hear a Northern or R&B track you have never heard before. I'd hear one of my faves and be out on the floor straight away.
As well as soul and R&B tracks, some pop stuff was played. GTO by Ronnie & The Daytonas (a sort of surfing sound, but I think actually made in somewhere like South Carolina); Yeh Yeh, Georgie Fame; Jewel Atkins' Birds & The Bees; Righteous Bros Hung On You (a great track IMHO, better than Loving Feeling); the Vogues You're The One, quite a good pop record, but written by Petula Clark, the DJ (by now an attractive blonde lady) must have liked it; and just before the end Lightning Strikes (Lou Christie) and Barbara Ann (Beach Boys).
Also she like to play Tallahassee Lassie (Freddie Cannon); Summertime Blues (Eddie Cochran) and Lewis Boogie (Jerry Lee Lewis).
At the same time bluesy stuff was still played; as was an EP made by the Animals for Decca (presumably a demo tape) featuring Boom Boom and Dimples (I am certain not the versions they did for Parlophone). There was a version of Mohair Sam but it was not Charlie Rich, it had different more amusing lyrics; and also a different version of Leaving Here, not Eddie Holland or the Birds. Somethings just stick in your mind.
During the all nighters we would go out for a walk to get some air and go to the milk machine in Berwick Street. I remember we were once accosted by a lady of the night who offered her services for 30 shillings (£1 50p). Needless to say we turned her kind offer down, music was more important, plus I think she made us a bit nervous.
Many of the records played were imports, so we heard many good records long before they were issued in the UK. I started going out with a girl (who eventually became my wife) in January 1966 and I took her there a few times, but there was another drugs raid, it re-opened but it wasn't the same. We stopped going in about March or April
1966. It later became the King Creole club but I know nothing of that.
It had a major effect on my musical taste, and I still look for some tracks I remember and have never found. When you're young you are inclined to take everything for granted, and that's how we were. It was good and I am glad I went there, I wouldn't be the person I am today if I hadn't gone there."