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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz