Better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.
A phrase that could fast become an epitaph for Edinburgh’s dwindling live venues. In recent years, the city’s music lovers have lamented the end of several independent record stores as well as the infamous closure of Lothian Road’s Picture House; replaced by the city’s fifth Wetherspoon pub in a two mile radius. Market Street’s Electric Circus is also facing the axe in order to expand an art gallery. Whatever magic dust seasoned the city’s sweat box basements and dingy dancefloors now seems in shorter supply than ever, so the best we can do is cast our minds back to some of the best noise pollution haunts that are no longer with us and celebrate some of the many famous faces that graced the capital.
TIFFANY’S, St. Stephens Street, Stockbridge
Originally opened as The Grand Theatre in 1900, this staple of the Edinburgh music archive became a cinema in 1920 and a dancehall in the 60s, playing host to the likes of Iggy Pop, Simple Minds, Dr. Feelgood and John Cooper Clarke in the early punk days of the late 70s. Tiffany’s would host gigs on Monday nights after a promotion company at the time agreed a rent free deal (as it was believed no one would go out on a Monday night). The deal soon became something of a masterstroke with the only Monday late license in Edinburgh at the time, sparking popularity beyond expectation. The hall later rebranded as Cinderella Rockafeller’s in 1982. The grand building sadly burned down in 1991 and flats now stand in its place.
THE VENUE, Calton Road
The Venue only shut its doors for good in 2006 and is still fondly remembered by many locals throughout the city. Opened in the early 80s as the Jailhouse, The Venue boasts one of Edinburgh’s best archived performer lists; welcoming the likes of The Stone Roses, Manic Street Preachers, Pavement and The Strokes.
ABC REGAL CINEMA, Lothian Road
Most locals today will recognise the site of the ABC Regal Cinema as the Odeon on Lothian Road. Wind the clock back, however, to the mid 60s and this famous building played host to some of the most legendary names in Rock ‘n’ roll. Perhaps most famous is The Beatles’ show in 1964. Amid the wave of early Beatlemania, photographs still circulate of the day the city went wild for the fab four; many fans camping outside overnight for a shot at tickets. Ironically, Eileen Oliver and Pat Conner (who collected 8,000 signatures as teenagers to bring The Beatles to Edinburgh) were not in the audience. Their mothers had not let them camp overnight for tickets on the Saturday evening and when they turned up early Sunday morning they had sold out. In its heyday, the Regal also featured performances from Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and The Beach Boys.
Pretty much every Edinburgh resident under 30 will associate this spot with Cav, whatever their connection with the place. Step into Cav today and your scepticism would be pardoned when somebody claimed that Pink Floyd, The Jam and The Ramones to name but a few graced the sticky floors of ‘Clouds’ in the early 70s. The club was renamed Coasters in 1979, famed for its Roller Disco, Dreamland Ballroom and performances from the likes of The Jam, Depeche Mode, R.E.M. and The Clash. In recent years, the club has undergone several million pounds worth of revamps and a handful of name changes before settling on Cav back in 2012. For better or worse, don’t expect to see the next breakthrough guitar band grace their presence any time soon.
MCGOOS, High Street
Beginning as the Palace Picture House in the late 1920s, McGoos was Edinburgh’s Mod epicentre in the 60s. All night soul discos would take place most weekends, but it is perhaps most fondly remembered for hosting The Who on its stage in 1967. It only cost six shillings (around 30p) to see The Who play McGoos and tickets could only be purchased on the door. Not long after, the venue unfortunately closed after being deemed unsafe by the Fire Brigade. The front facade still remains on the High Street, opposite the Scottish Storytelling Centre.
THE SOUTHERN BAR
Still alive and well in the Southside, but worth mentioning purely for Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl’s impromptu acoustic set in 1991!
While now may be a time to lament closures, restrictions and good moments past when it comes to live music in Edinburgh, the city can brag as rich a cultural legacy from its past performances as it can its other iconic roots. While The Fringe and the Hogmanay shows dominate playing host to the best acts on offer nowadays, we can hope that the circuit returns to a similar vein of form one day. However, in the age of major sponsored arenas and European-wide festivals (albeit on hold in Scotland at the moment), the days of a fiver effectively paying you into a tunnel to see the hottest acts around may be consigned to days gone by.
*Pictures courtesy of EdinburghGigArchive