In the Seventies, there was such an abundance of good clubs in London, that club crawling after a late dinner used to take hours. During the beginning of that decade, one of the most popular clubs in London was the Sombrero in High Street Kensington, known to its loyal punters as ‘Yours Or Mine’. It was supposed to be a gay club, but was patronised by trendy heterosexuals and all the stars. Bianca Jagger with her entourage of fashionable gays was a constant visitor. The club was tiny. The tables were covered with red paper tablecloths, the lit dance floor was minuscule, but the subterranean dive had a magical atmosphere. The characters in “Frantic”, my novel about the nostalgic early Seventies, almost lived in a club called The Igloo, which was a pseudo name for The Sombrero. ‘At The Igloo, the desperate couple passed the forbidding bouncer on the door by promising to pay their entrance money the next time round. Half running, half jumping, they descended into the murky bowels of the club.’
Tramp in Jermyn Street was still an institution, and the Speakeasy, the Music Business club in Maddox Street was still going. But, when disco became fashionable in the late Seventies, a glut of clubs opened. Down the road from Tramp which still played hardcore The Rolling Stones, a club called Maunkberry’s was populated by a younger crowd. The late Marc Bolan and David Bowie used to hang out there, so did Arnold Schwarzenegger during his body building days. Wedgies in Kings Road was a bit off the beaten track, but all the toffs used to go there to dine and dance, due to the club’s titled managers, Lord Burgesh and Sir Dai Llewellyn. Regine, the international queen of nightclubs added her London club to her international chain. It was in the top floor of the old Derry & Tom’s (later Biba) on High Street Kensington, but that proved to be a bit out of the way for committed clubbers in the end. At the club’s conception, Andy Warhol and his entourage strolled round the roof garden, and European royalty like Caroline of Monaco had parties there, but the club soon died a death.
Undoubtedly, The Embassy Club in Old Bond Street was the best club in town. It was the UK clone of Studio 54, and had a good sized dance-floor, perfect for disco dancing to hits like Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Survived’. The opening party was stuffed with British aristocrats and members of the glitterati. Michael Fish, who invented the kipper-tie asked a select group of ‘ladies who lunch’ to organise the guest lists, forbidding them to invite their gay friends, which was ironic as the club’s male clientele were later mostly bisexual.
Besides the big discos which were conducive to amyl nitrate fuelled dancing, there were more intimate, membership clubs like Mortons in Berkely Square, famous for its long bar on the ground floor and of course, the futuristically designed Zanzibar in Covent Garden. On any given night, you would meet ‘everybody who was anybody’ in it’s long bar. The owners went on to form the successful Soho club called Groucho’s in the Eighties. But, for late Seventies clubbers who loved to boogie until the early hours, clubbing was all downhill from then on.