Legends of the Bridge House: The venue everyone loved

Iron Maiden, Midge Ure, Mick Jagger – they all rocked in Canning Town

From 1975 to 1982, the Bridge House, Canning Town, in the East End of London, was the place to be. Heavy metal fans rubbed shoulders with punks, mods, skinheads and goths to watch Iron Maiden, the Tom Robinson Band, Secret Affair, Cockney Rejects and Wasted Youth. The 560-capacity pub is where Dire Straits, U2 and the Stray Cats played their first UK dates, where The Blues Band and Chas & Dave recorded live albums, and where Depeche Mode got signed.

Ray Winstone was a regular, between appearances in Scum, Quadrophenia and even in a film called Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains alongside Paul Simonon of The Clash and Steve Jones and Paul Cook of The Sex Pistols. He'd followed the advice of "Uncle Tel"– the landlord, Terence Murphy – and given up boxing in order to "get stuck into the acting".

That's one of many tales Murphy tells in The Bridge House, Canning Town: Memories of a Legendary Rock & Roll Hangout. Murphy himself was a light-heavyweight who lost a bout on ITV's opening night in 1955 and quit boxing in 1957.

When we meet for a pint near where the Bridge House used to be, he admits it's the venue, not his boxing, that people still talk about. "Every time I went out to dinner, boxing, football, someone would mention the Bridge House and the wonderful times they had there. I wrote the book for fun. I had all the paperwork: dates, bands, 1,500 tapes. I had a tape of The Executive, George Michael's first band before Wham!, but we never gave them a gig."

The Police also missed out. "I couldn't book them, not in Canning Town. People would think there were coppers in the band," Murphy says. "U2 played before they had a record deal. We had Paul Young with the Q-Tips, Alison Moyet with the Little Roosters, Annie Lennox. She seemed to have a new wig for every song," says Murphy, who took over from his brother John at the Bridge House in 1975.

"I wanted to put my mark on it. The first band I got was Remus Down Boulevard. I paid £20 a gig." Pub rock ruled at Dingwalls in Camden and the Hope and Anchor in Islington, but the Bridge House was way out in unfashionable East London, though that became a virtue. "Musicians like to hang out where they're not going to be hassled," Murphy says. "At the Bridge House, they could play a few bum notes, have a drink, relax. It became the place to have a jam. Paul Jones brought Tom McGuinness and Hughie Flint; that was the start of The Blues Band."

Murphy's policy of rotating styles and genres paid dividends. "We decided to try and keep people in the area, save them travelling to the West End. We had a couple of jam sessions, West Coast country rock with Clover [featuring Huey Lewis], heavy rock with Iron Maiden. Steve Harris [the bassist and leader] was a local boy. They always pulled a good crowd.

In 1980, Murphy told Mick Jagger not to dance. "He came with Keith Richards to see Charlie Watts, Ian Stewart and Alexis Korner play with Rocket 88. Jagger started dancing. I said, 'Mick, you're not allowed to dance. I've got a dancing licence but it's only for the stage.' He couldn't believe it."

By 1978, the Bridge House was established. "We were the first pub in the world with its own record label," Murphy says. He hit on the scheme of having photos of regulars on the inside sleeve of the Live: a Week at The Bridge E16 album: "They all bought a copy." The Mods Mayday album in 1979, featuring Squire and Secret Affair, made the charts. "Both bands signed to Arista. We never recorded to make hit records. We did it so bands would get their name about, do a few interviews, mention the pub and create a vibe."

Oddly, the Bridge House didn't capitalise on its place at the centre of the late-Seventies Oi! scene with an album. Garry Bushell, then a Sounds scribe, now a tabloid columnist, says: "The Cockney Rejects' story is about to be made into a film, so we'll have to recreate the look, sound and feel of the Bridge House. It's going to be tough. The place was a one-off."

The venue also spawned Wasted Youth, a post-punk, goth band who never quite reached the heights of Joy Division and Bauhaus, though their following included one Dave Gahan, later of Depeche Mode. "I introduced him to my son Darren who played bass in Wasted Youth," Murphy says. "Depeche Mode couldn't get a gig in London. They had the guts to give a tape with a drum machine to a rock pub. Depeche Mode played exactly the same as their tape, but only 20 people turned up. Then I thought I'd put Depeche on with Fad Gadget . Daniel Miller fell in love with them and signed them in 1980. In 1982, they heard we were struggling and they did a secret gig for us. They wanted us to keep the pub open."

Murphy shows me the site where the Bridge House once stood. "The pub became a club, then a hotel. It got pulled down for a new flyover in 2002. I did try to get a plaque but there was nowhere to put it, until now."

Murphy has given his blessing to the New Bridge House, a music venue run by Tony Nicholls and Tony Cook, a few hundred yards away. Remus Down Boulevard, featuring former Iron Maiden guitarist Dennis Stratton, played the grand opening yesterday.

'The Bridge House, Canning Town' by Terence Murphy is published by Pennant Books (£17.99); see www.thebridgehousee16.com and www.bh2live.com

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own