Saturday 4 June 2011
Dylan Jones: 'In the Seventies, every band who wanted to leave an impression went to the Cambridge pub in the West End'
The Cambridge is still there, but it isn't the same. How could it be? The Cambridge pub sits on the north-west corner of Cambridge Circus in London's West End – in 1977, just 100 yards from the Marquee, 100 yards from the 100 Club, and only 50 yards from Central Saint Martins School of Art. From 1976 to 1980, the Cambridge was the most important pub in Soho, and every band who wanted to leave an impression usually ended up there, pumping money into the jukebox, drinking bottles of Pils, and throwing shapes in their leather jackets.
The downstairs bar often felt like a Parisian brasserie – long, busy, everyone giddy with expectation – but the upstairs bar was where you went if you knew what was going on. It was always full of demanding people – punks, art students, pop stars and fashion designers – and so you had to be on your guard. Malcolm McLaren had his own stool, the Sex Pistols seemed to be there every Friday night, and Siouxsie and the Banshees took up residency by the jukebox. The Pistols' designer, Jamie Reid, was the coolest man there. He always wore a tight, thigh-length black leather suit jacket, his hair was always fashioned into this greasy, truck-driver quiff, and he had a bottle of Pils seemingly grafted to his left hand. Pils was the only thing that anyone drank.
Everything happened at the Cambridge: a girl was decapitated by a lorry after she bet her friend she could crawl underneath it before it pulled away; a Saint Martins painter called Alan was beaten senseless because he persisted in dressing like Hitler. The first time we saw him we immediately took bets on how long it would take before someone kicked the living daylights out of him. And just two weeks later he stumbled into the Cambridge covered in fearsome bruises.
Most people congregated at the Cambridge before moving off into the night, to the latest tranche of nightclubs sprouting up all over the city. With the fancy-dress parade at its height, a generation of young entrepreneurs were taking over nightclubs for one night a week, installing their own DJs and creating a phenomenon out of nothing.
Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'
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