Dylan Jones: Welcome to the Roundhouse


Collecting rock paraphernalia is not something I've ever seriously considered - would you really want to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds for John Lennon's old spectacles? - but it has becoming something of an unexpected occupational hazard. I still have a drumstick thrown from the stage by Keith Moon during a London Who gig in 1975. I have the placard given out to everyone at the Ramones' Christmas 1977 show at the Rainbow in Finsbury Park (misspelled "Gabba Gabba Hay"). And, in a shoebox somewhere under my stairs, I have a the original set list of The Doors' infamous performance at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm in 1968.

About 15 years ago I wrote a biography of the band's lead singer, Jim Morrison, and came across this during my research. No doubt if things don't go according to plan I could auction it at Sotheby's, but for the moment the crumbled A5 piece of paper can nestle between the photograph of a semi-naked Morrison in his girlfriend's flat, and the letters from his common-law wife (and occasional white witch), Patricia Kennealy Morrison. There are conflicting reports about the evening's success, and when Morrison went into his tried-and-tested: "Father, I want to kill you" routine, some longhair shouted, "Bloody carnivore!"

Until last week I'm not sure I'd been to the Roundhouse in 30 years. Back then it was one of the mainstay punk venues, and in a relatively short period of time I saw The Buzzcocks, The Stranglers, Sham 69, Slaughter and the Dogs (yes, they were as rubbish as they sound) and dozens more. It was where we met to show off our new boots and panties. So popular was it that a gang of us failed rather spectacularly to get into the legendary Ramones/Talking Heads double-header in the summer of 1977, skulking off to watch - ignominy of ignominies - the Led Zeppelin film, The Song Remains The Same.

I went there last week for a Bafta event, one of the many bashes to be held there since it re-opened in June after a £30m facelift. The Norman Trust spearheaded the redevelopment, with help from the Arts Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the money look like it's been well spent. Part of their pitch was providing an arts centre for the local community, and the Roundhouse is a fully functioning workshop as well as a place to go and see new pop groups and difficult theatre (and I guarantee there'll be a lot of that).

You can see for yourself in a few weeks as Damon Albarn and Paul Simonon's new band The Good, The Bad & The Queen play there on 26 October. Ex-Clash bassist Simonon compares the band to the sort of music Peter Ackroyd might make if he decided to, which sounds slightly more interesting than Jim Morrison drunkenly threatening to kill his father.

Dylan Jones is the editor of GQ


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