POP / David Lancaster on pop

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Indy Lifestyle Online
'Too fast to live, too young to die]' screamed the headlines when the popular press first descended on London's notorious Ace Cafe in the late 1950s, unwittingly giving birth to a peculiarly British icon of popular culture - the Rocker.

Famously open 24 hours a day, the doors of the Ace Cafe finally closed in September 1969. This Sunday, 25 years later, the original Ace crowd and their baby-boom followers will return in their thousands to the site of the cafe, now a tyre warehouse.

Conveniently placed on the then under-used, fast thoroughfare called the North Circular, it was ideal for an informal bike race or high-speed cat-and-mouse game with the police. The Ace was soon the centre for the initial skirmishes with the mods, the set for the gay 1964 B-movie The Leather Boys and throughout the Sixties became ever more infamous as a den of violence, premarital sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. The first plans for the Great Train Robbery were hatched amid its steamy warmth.

But it was the bike boys that grabbed the headlines. Anyone driving past would have seen why. From the high-brow Vincents to the Fords of the bike world, Triumph, everything could be seen on the cafe's forecourt to the Ace.

By the end of the swinging decade, students had longer hair than the Rockers and the Vietnam protests warranted more column inches. For those making their way there this Sunday, however, the Ace was always simply a place where they courted, argued or just hung out. To them, its closure was as important a moment in history as the lunar landings.

The Ace is on the A406 north of Hanger Lane just off the A40. Runs start mid-morning on Sun from London's Chelsea Bridge, Jock's Cafe on the Bath Road in Colnbrook, Quincy's Bar on the A41 and Box Hill, Surrey. See full story, Independent London, p5 tomorrow

(Photograph omitted)