EVENT 1001 Nights Club ICA, London

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Outside the ICA, a team of police with a sniffer dog (well, a dog anyway), stopped and checked cars as the first guests arrived. Was this to be a full-scale retro-pot happening, complete with live busts and authentic Sixties paranoia? There were certain indications that this was so. What was his connection with the other entertainers? I asked Johnny Edgecombe, an elegant bowler-hatted Antiguan billed on the flier as "Christine Keeler's lover during the Profumo Scandal". "Dope," he replied succinctly, as he emerged from the gents with Howard Marks, newly appointed columnist for Loaded, and prospective parliamentary candidate, billed by the 1001 Nights Club as "drug warrior", and apparently still perceived as such by HM Customs and Excise who "took him apart" on his arrival from Majorca at the beginning of the week.

Marks and Edgecombe were both there to read from their books: in Marks's case his best-selling autobiography, though which bit he hadn't yet decided; in Edgecombe's his unpublished manuscript Calypso Train, recounting his progress from Antigua to late-Fifties Notting Hill, where he ran a shebeen in Colville Terrace. Musically this boded well - vintage blue beat, maybe - especially when reinforced by an early reggae track and the presence in the audience of Gaz Mayall, ska connoisseur and proprietor of the long- running blues club that 1001 Nights is related to. Jazz was more Edge's scene, though, and to prove it he'd brought a young tenor saxophonist, David Angol, to read his work and inject a bit of bebop swing.

For all the Sixties London ambience - Anita Pallenberg was a guest DJ, playing a mixture of Stones, Keith Richard bootlegs, Gram Parsons, classic NY punk and Peggy Lee - Morocco is the key destination in the mix. 1001 Nights was the name of the old Tangier palace converted into a restaurant by appointment to the Tangier beat coterie by Brion Gysan, and the spirit of Gysan, Burroughs, Ginsberg, sundry Rolling Stones and so forth was a key element in the concept of the club's organisers - a pair of Irish film-makers, Frank Rynne and Joe Ambrose. They also have a severe penchant for the wild pipe and drum music of the Musicians of Jajouka, houseband to the old 1001 Nights restaurant and subsequently much sought after by everyone from Brian Jones to Ornette Coleman. Thus the guttural twang of the Moroccan hajuj bass and clash of the karkabou iron castanets vied with some rather agreeable trance-ish, techno-ish music by an outfit called the Islamic Diggers during the early part of the evening.

The readings got off to a shaky start, with an inaudible contribution by the writer Kirk Lake, and a scarcely more audible follow-up by Johnny Edge's jazz spokesperson, but the buzz of conversation was such that it didn't seem to matter. The formula is clearly a promising one. Indeed, judging by the unusually crammed state of the ICA bar, it may be in danger of eventual mass popularity. Get along to the 1001 Nights now before the big breweries latch on and start stripping out their Mexican-Irish canteena decor and installing a djellaba-clad house band, mint tea machines and spittoons.