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Rainbow in line to recover its musical colours

FOR the generation of peace-loving 1970s music fans who sat on the top of a hill in the Isle of Wight and listened to music for free - the authorities had erected the perimeter fence at the foot of the hill, not realising that the acoustics would be better when heard from on high - the news that the Rainbow Theatre in London is about to reopen as a live-music venue has done more to recall the world of joss- sticks and Afghan coats than any other event in recent years.

Thirteen years after the one-time cinema in Finsbury Park was closed, a property company is believed to have bought the complex, with plans to relaunch it as London's main live-music centre.

If Laurence Kirschel and Prior, headed by Irishman James Prior, succeeds in its pounds 4m venture, a large number of people in their thirties and forties will be booking the babysitter and heading for what was once considered to be the most important venue for all medium-sized rock bands on their way up, and the truly big names as they descended from the peak.

The Rolling Stones, for instance, were not Rainbow people, but Eric Clapton played there during his period of rehabilitation. The Osmond Brothers were there in 1973, provoking a riot by 6,000 hysterical girls who failed to get tickets. Rod Stewart kicked footballs into the audience and Steely Dan are part of the folklore.

But it wasn't just the music that stirred the blood. Regulars during this period point to the bizarre juxtaposition of the drugs and the mosaic halls, the Woodstock-inspired sense of collective dissipation and the opulent fountains of the 1930s building.

It was a different era towards the end when punk rock reared its head.

Converting the art deco foyer into a nightclub may not appeal to those with longer memories, but few who remember Nat King Cole and such ilk will be able to resist at least one more return trip to their dissolute past.