Downstairs Club / Lansdown Club / Le Disque A Go-Go / Papas / Adrianos / Glasshoppers, 9 Holdenhurst Road, Lansdowne, Bournemouth
Sited under a greengrocer’s shop at 9 Holdenhurst Road, Lansdowne, the Downstairs Club opened its doors for the first time on Wednesday 3rd May 1961 with an appearance by Pedro Harris’s Pine City Stompers. The owner, Jerry Stooks, a tall, jazz loving, double bass player soon noticed the trend for trad jazz was waning and swiftly diversified by hiring local pop and rock ‘n’ roll groups such as The Blackhawks (an Early Zoot Money combo and the first to play the club), Johnny and the Giants and Dave Anthony and the Ravers. The club became a popular after-hours hangout for local musicians Zoot Money, Colin Allen, Andy Summers, Mike and Peter Giles, Chris ‘Fergie’ Ferguson and Al Stewart who mingled in the less than salubrious surroundings socialising and sussing out the opposition.
In April 1963 Jerry sold the club to partners Alessandro ‘Tony’ Silvestro, an amateur Italian impresario, and a pianist, Allan Azern, who renamed the premises the Lansdown Club (sic). In the summer the pair spent time and money revamping the old basement and trying to come up with a new snappy name to attract the punters. After much deliberation, they decided to dump the mundane descriptive names of the past and went with a shot of pizzazz by christening the club Le Disque A Go! Go!. The pair also employed an adventurous booking policy, by upping the ante and bringing a string of up-and-coming r&b groups down to the south coast from London. Amongst the bands to make the one hundred mile journey south were The Pretty Things, The Graham Bond Organisation with Jack Bruce on bass and Ginger Baker on drums, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton on guitar, Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, The Alex Harvey Soul Band, The Animals, Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds, The Downliners Sect and the Mann Hugg Blues Brothers from Portsmouth who morphed into the chart topping Manfred Mann. Other rock royalty in waiting to perform at the club included an early sighting of David Bowie in November 1966 with his short-lived band The Buzz, Rod Stewart who was a regular visitor with The Soul Agents and Jimmy Powell and the Five Dimensions, plus Jeff Beck with one of his early professional outfits, The Tridents and The Who.
On 3rd March 1965 The Who thrilled a packed crowd with a repertoire stuffed full of James Brown, Motown and blues covers plus their latest single “I Can’t Explain”, which was riding high in the charts. Their hell raising drummer, Keith Moon, spotted local girl Kim Kerrigan, a sixteen-year old model, in the audience and began a stormy, long distance relationship while fighting off love rival Rod ‘The Mod’ Stewart (Rod’s band the Soul Agents played the following night on 4th March and it is said Stewart also took a shine to Kim). Although the liaison eventually ended in a doomed marriage, during their courtship Keith became a regular visitor to the town staying at the Kerrigans family home in Michaelgrove Road in Boscombe. He would hang out at the Disque where on 12th May 1965 he sat in with the London based Mod band The Action and on another occasion he joined The Nite People for a couple of numbers.
Access to the club caused problems for groups with a Hammond organ, the de rigueur of any self-respecting r&b outfit. Negotiating the twists and turns of the narrow staircase took a feat of great strength and stamina, as group members desperately tried not to drop two hundred and fifty pounds of well-crafted musical equipment down into the low-ceilinged basement below. After setting up on the small stage, the exhausted musicians would retire to the Metropole (now the Christopher Creeke) over the road, or the nearby Lansdowne Hotel (O’Neils) for a well-earned pint as the club didn’t hold an alcohol licence. On a good night the walls would run with condensation and the air would be thick with the fug of cigarette smoke as the place rocked to the latest rhythm and blues and soul sounds favoured by the appreciative crowd.
Like all good things, the fun came to an end as Le Disque succumbed to the discothèque craze, partly brought on by the absence of one of the owners, Allan Azern, as he was otherwise engaged travelling the length and breadth of the country playing keyboards with Michael and Peter Giles in Trendsetters Ltd. The ownership of the club was taken over in October 1966 by Adriano Rossi, originally from Menaggio in Italy. Rossi was the former manager of the first discothèque in Bournemouth, Le Kilt, which opened its doors in 1963 by Edna and Jack Ashworth, the owners of the Swiss Restaurant situated next door. Adriano saw Le Disque A Go! Go! as a perfect opportunity to branch out on his own and after another refurbishment, he opened a new club called Papa’s on 11th March 1967. For a while he carried on booking bands at the weekends, but that all stopped when he rebranded to Adrianos.
In the mid to late seventies the venue changed name yet again and traded as Glasshoppers until finally closing its doors for good in the early eighties. The windowless basement has now resorted back to its original function as a storage room for the shops above and is still in use today, although the greengrocer’s has long gone. As of today, number 9 is a branch of the T4 Taiwanese bubble tea shop franchise.
On Sunday 14th September 2014, in recognition of the importance placed on the club by local musicians Al Kirtley, Colin Saunders, Keith Collins and Ed Roberts, there was an unveiling of a blue plaque above the door of number 9. Many old faces from the bygone music scene put in an appearance including Michael Giles (Trendsetters Ltd., Giles, Giles & Fripp and King Crimson), Chris ‘Fergie’ Ferguson (The Nite People and Sands Combo), Pat ‘Pee Wee’ Sheehan (The Blackhawks and Sands Combo), Graham ‘Wes’ Douglas (Johnny King and the Raiders and The Trackmarks), John ‘Jet’ Berryman (Dave Anthony and the Raiders), John Penhale (The Stormers and Johnny and the Giants), Nigel Street (Crispin Street Quintet), Nick Newall (Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band), Paul Spencer MacCallum (Soul Foundation, The Zoo, Spencer Mac and The Wombles), Annie Christopher (Sinnermen and Sara and Sugar ‘n’ Spice) plus the former owner Allan Azern, the Mayor of Bournemouth Chris Mayne, local author Nick Churchill and Al Kirtley, whose idea it was. Andy Summers was scheduled to appear but was detained in Germany while on tour and missed the occasion, although he did send an email, part of which read, “Without the Downstairs club it is quite possible that none of it, in my case would ever have happened. The dark little cellar is where Zoot and I met, and where we knew we had to brave the big time in London”, he finished with “In a way it was home and a cradle and a perfect beginning to a life of music. I’ll see you Downstairs”. Mr Money, the Zoot in question, had the honour of pulling the cord for the grand unveiling whilst desperately trying to minimise the amount of expletives in his speech plus, to the great relief of the assembled dignitary’s, the former ‘Flamingo Flasher’ managed to keep his trousers on.
If you have any memories you would like to share of the Le Disque A Go! Go!, please use the contact box at the bottom of this page.
Bands of note that played the Downstairs Club, Lansdown Club & Le Disque a Go! Go!
Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds (Chris had a number one with “Out of Time” in 1966)
David Bowie and the Buzz (Early sighting of Ziggy Stardust)
Dave Dee and the Bostons (From Salisbury, became Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky Mick & Tich)
Dave La Kaz and the G Men (Local group, Al Stewart on guitar)
Errol Dixon (Jamaican born blues singer, was the original singer in the Ram Jam Band before Geno Washington took over)
Gary Farr and the T Bones (R&B band from Worthing, Farr’s brother Rikki, was the co-promoter of the Isle of first Wight Festivals)
Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames (Hugely popular, Georgie scored three number ones)
Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band (Geno! Geno! Geno!)
Graham Bond Organisation (Jack Bruce on bass & Ginger Baker on drums)
Herbie Goins and the Night-Timers (Popular soul band)
Jackie Lynton (Lynton released many records over the years but never hit the big time)
Jimmy James and the Vagabonds (Another popular soul band)
Jimmy Powell and the Five Dimensions (Rod Stewart was a member)
John L. Watson and the Web (A local band, apart from Watson, that released three albums)
John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers (A regular visitor, Eric Clapton on guitar)
John Lee and the Groundhogs (An early version of The Hogs)
Lee Peterson and the Defenders (Local group, original Fleetwood Mac member Bob Brunning on bass)
Les Fleur De Lys (Freakbeat heroes, local boy Gordon Haskell on bass & vocals)
Manfred Mann (Regular visitors until fame hit)
Moon’s Train (Bill Wyman of The Rolling Stones was heavily involved with this band)
Peter B’s Looners (Raised from the ashes of The Cheynes, The Looner’s included Peter Barden’s on keyboards, Mick Fleetwood on drums and Peter Green on guitar)
Rod Stewart and the Soul Agents (Early vehicle for Rod ‘The Mod’’)
Sands Combo (Local Group, Zoot Money, Tony Head, Al Kirtley and the boys)
Simon Dupree and the Big Sound (From Portsmouth, had a hit with “Kites”, became Gentle Giant)
The Action (A well respected Mod band that became Mighty Baby)
The Alex Harvey Soul Band (Alex formed The Sensational Alex Harvey Band in the seventies)
The Andy Somers Quartet (Future Policeman and Colin Allen of Stone the Crows & Focus)
The Animals (Consistent hit makers, scored a huge number one with “House of the Rising Sun” in the UK, US and Canada)
The Bo Street Runners (members included vocalist Mike Patto and drummer Mick Fleetwood)
The Cheynes (Pete Bardens on keyboards and Mick Fleetwood on drums)
The Dowlands and the Soundtracks (Local group, recorded with Joe Meek releasing eight singles)
The Downliners Sect (A gritty r&b group, Don Craine famously wore a deerstalker hat)
The Interns (Local group, their bass player, John Rostill, was poached by The Shadows while playing a gig at Le Disque)
The Paramounts (Guitarist Robin Trower, singer / pianist Gary Brooker & drummer B. J. Cole became Procol Harum)
The Pretty Things (Gritty r&b group, singer Phil May supposedly had longer hair than the Stones)
The Ravens (Local group, Robert Fripp and Gordon Haskell’s first band)
The Timebox (Ollie Halsall on guitar and Clive Griffiths on bass, both joined Patto)
Tony, Howard and the Dictators (Local group, released two singles on Oriole)
Tony Saturn and the Planets (Local group, Lee Keslake on drums)
Tony Rivers and the Castaways (Tony Rivers forged a long career in the music industry)
The Tridents (An early vehicle for the genius that is Jeff Beck on guitar)
The Who (They arrived on the back of their new single “I Can’t Explain”)
Trendsetters Ltd. (Local group, Michael and Peter Giles on drums and bass respectively)
Unit 4 (Local group, Greg Lake on guitar)
Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band (Zoot was a fixture at Le Disque)