Middle Earth Club,

Covent Garden,

London

 
 
Middle Earth Club
 
 

Do you have any memories of Middle Earth?

We would love to hear from you !

 
 

With the demise of UFO, people moved over to Middle Earth.

Started as The Electric Garden, it transformed into "The Earth" and attracted a whole new band of converts.
With 1967 in full flower and psychedelia becoming widespread, many new sounds were introduced by the knowledgeable DJ's John Peel and Jeff Dexter.

If UFO was exotic, then Middle Earth was breathtaking.

Held in a vast warehouse basement in Covent Garden when it was still a market, the club was a stones throw from the Opera House and at midnight, droves of brilliantly attired people would congregate around the tube exit.

The blast of sound and heavy incensed air would welcome you into a world of fruit, liquid slides, films, porn and vast amounts of drugs. The essential friends meeting place that was UFO was being lost to whole new groups of people as soul bands had evolved into psychedelia, Zoot Money became Dantalions Chariot with their awesome lightshow, together with The Action and The Creation.

The stoned crowd would leave at dawn and pick their way through the vegetables much to the amusement of the market workers. Grandma's attic was being plundered for any old or theatrical garb. However, when Middle Earth was raided, the whole club destroyed.

With that it moved to The Roundhouse at Chalk Farm. This is a large circular building and inside were tiered seating around a single stage. Above the seats were the lightshows reaching to the ceiling.

On the outer rim were stalls and room to dance and just trip-out. There was also a restaurant. By now many people made the pilgrimage to the club as it showcased everything that was underground.

Among the bands who played were The Floyd, Pretty Things, Doors, Jefferson Airplane, The Byrds and Captain Beefheart.

Middle Earth died and a new club opened in the West End - Midnight Court

Rusty Cat Sneazin - March 2002

 

Do I remember Middle Earth???......well yes although it is a little fragmentary......probably making the transition from light and bitter to red leb about this time :-).

There was a doorway about the size of a domestic front door leading to the ticket office. All painted matt black and illuminated by ultra violet strip lights.

Good effect and showed the "passout" stamp on the back of your hand as well as the dandruff.
The aroma of fruit giving way to other controlled fragrances. The "cafe" inside sold apples - seemed to expect you to add your own sauce to them.

Two or three stages, white painted walls with coloured blobs and bubbles creeping up them from projectors in a tower.

John Peel and Jeff Dexter playing music until the first set, perhaps around 22:00 . Seem to remember Marc Bolan gave John Peel a hamster called "Biscuit" - going round and round on a turntable. Deboraarobed , Salamanda Palaganda etc took a little getting used to but I think was better than his later "pop" music.

The Nice - aaah the pulsating hypnotic rhythm of Rondo and the sinister Flower King of Flies punctuated by Keith Emerson rocking the keyboard back and forth with daggers stuck between the keys.

Pink Floyd doing Interstellar Overdrive and Astronomy Domine - their lightshow was simple but effective. A bank of high powered footlights alternating with a similar bank of overhead lights caused large dark shadows to dance up and down behind them.

I think it was this night that caused John, one of our party to go home and appropriate his father's projector. Inserting a mixture of washing up liquid and fountain pen ink into a slide, he projected it on the white house opposite at about 3:00 in the morning. The beginning of Cerebrum Lights.

There were "happenings". I think at the OZ Benefit attended by the Pink Fairies and the Deviants (what was the name of the silent movie star on the front of International Times ??) The military came in and crucified some bloke ! Slightly more realistic was John Peel saying " Ah! there's Inspector Bloggs over the back there trying very hard not to look like a plain clothes policeman".

Middle Earth was for me the Icon, the catalyst of a new way of seeing the world. I was never a full flower pushin' , bell ringin' hippy but have been a Middle Earther ever since.

Phil - November 2003

 

Hello,
My name is Robert and I'm in Calif. I was just telling a 19yo online about
visiting the club Middle Earth in the 1960's.

I was in the US Army and stationed in Germany. I became a hippie in 1966 there .LOL.

During 1967 a friend and I went on leave ( holiday) to London for 2 weeks. We tried to find some places to meet like minded people. Well, girls! and dope too!

Along the way we met some folks who took us to that Magical place - Middle Earth. What a scene! We were both around 21 or 22 yo. Two naive ,innocent boys from small town America. We had a blast!!

Since it has been almost 37 years later I'm sure my memories are a bit faded .But I remember the doors
(door) opening at 11pm.

One single dwelling size door with a window in it and a sign like stain glass saying Middle Earth. Nothing more.

Then going in and seeing that huge cavern full of young people wandering about. I remember 3 stages set up I think. When one band finished, another started.

We went Fri and Sat,then Fri and Sat the next weekend. Then our holiday was over.The only band I remember from those shows was the (ugh) Lemon Pipers.

I do remember we were so dissappointed because Traffic was playing the following week and we were going to miss them.

One other memory of those nites was stumbling out that door at 8am and looking around and seeing 100's and 100's of hippie kids feeling like us ,that they'ed been part of history that nite.

What a great club. I've been to the great San francisco venues of the 60's but Middle Earth was the absolute TOPS!

Robert - February 2004

 

Hi All
Like a lot of other people my memories of the middle earth are a mixture of hazy and sometimes vivid images. I can remember queuing up out side at about 10 o’clock and floating down the stairs when it opened.

I think that I must have heard the dialogue to a lot of classic films from the Cain Mutiny to Citizen Cane whilst trying to sleep in the early ours of the morning.

One memory that is etched into my mind is John Peel introducing Captain Beafheart in 1968.

But there is one thing that has always stayed with me and that is the feeling that I was experiencing something special with brothers and sisters of a like mind.

Submitted - February 2004

 

Hi, I've got some memories of Middle Earth, I played there a few times in a duo "Sensory Armada"

We were two short guys with long hair and BIG BLACK HATS.

I knew Marc Boland a little bit. Also used to watch Sam Gopal Dream, Jeff Beck with Rod Stewart. Also remember the drug raids, there was quite a few of them.The police used to turn up very late or early (5 or 6am)

We also had some contact with John Peel. Nice man.

We should have played there in December 67 with The Electric Prunes but we had a disagreement and split up almost over night.

Shame.

Dave - April 2004

 

Hi
I played at Middle Earth quite a few times in a group called the Avalons.

We were a young blues band with a bit of psych thrown in.

I remember playing there with Zoot Money and I think early Pink Floyd with Syd Barret trying to put them off whilst standing at the front of the stage (he had just departed from them)

One Saturday night we played at the Corn Exchange Cambridge at 9 0clock with Fleetwood Mac then drove into London and played at the Whisky A Go Go 1 O'Clock in the morning, then drove round to Covent garden and was playing at Middle Earth at about 3 o'clock

I only remember two stages opposite each other, well a bit offset, we always had the stage to the left of the entrance and it seemed to be the higher one, I think made out of scaffolding.

Great days, so much freedom

Dave - February 2010

 

Yes, I still think about Middle Earth.

Fantastic light shows, bands and dancing.

Oddly enough no one has mentioned when Ike and Tina Turner appeared,what a night ,totally different from the "usual".

Remember one of the Ikettes had a plaster cast on her arm and someone fired a water pistol at Tina, she laughted.

Friday nights became Sat morning, round to the old Charing Cross hospital, into the basement to the toilets there for a wash and brush up, make my way to Traf Square, usually the Old Bill would search you for drugs, Never found any though(we had taken them already) Few hours sleep, anywhere, then back to Middle Earth for Sat night.

Then Sunday train from Liverpool Street station home.

The night of the big police raid, seemed like hundreds of coppers there. Every one forced down one end then filtered through and searched, names and addresses taken, then slung out at awful hour.

Told my kids about it.

What a time to have lived...really lived

Thanks Middle Earth for the memories

Michael - August 2011

 

I remember going to Middle Earth in the sixties with my boyfriend, I was only fifteen and thought it must be the most magical place ever.

I remember seeing Pink Floyd and watching films, it had had an electric feel that I never felt anywhere else and the light show was amazing.

We would stumble out at six in the morning to the sights and sounds of the old Covent Garden and if lucky a cup of tea from one of the stalls.

Very sad when it closed its doors for good nothing else came close.

Happy Days.

Maura - January 2012

 

It's been getting on for fifty years , since that night in Middle Earth and so my recollections must be at least hazy but what I do recall is etched by acid in the neurons. Does that matter at all ? No, because that night was a time distort in a venue that was then timeless and a disconnect.

I was just 17 years young then, in some ways a wide eyed innocent but in others, as old as the hills.
How we found and came to be at the venue is unrecollectable for certain, but I suspect our guide may have been an advert in a copy of an IT newspaper which we devoured weekly, cover to cover.

We three lads lived and worked in an industrial town, which was just a thirty mile away train and tube ride to Covent Garden. What a different place it was then to now.

Take a look at Frenzy, the Hitchcock film of 1972, which gives a flavour of the area around that time. We were not your typical hippy types, with our short hair, Levi jeans and Doc Martin boots.

In the queue waiting outside, near the arches, we must have looked incongruous among the real hippies, to the sniffy well heeled opera goers on the other side of the road who too, were waiting to enter their private world of fantasy.

In front of us a real hippy group from Newcastle, one called Moses, all reclined on the pavement, with bags and paraphenalia, one of the girls complaining to her man about, whatever.

I do remember the strange little uv lit kiosk and the flourescent stamp on the back of the hand and an inner door that led to steps down to the main and smaller black walled rooms.

Julie Driscol/Brian Auger was the band that night. They had a good following and performed well. Another group was "Writing on The Wall" a Scottish band.

There was a very cellary feel to the dimly lit rooms, which coupled with the incense and other exotic, smoke, light shows, uv glowing posters and music made it a good mostly undisturbed tripping venue, if that was what you wanted.

In one of the side cellars, some people were giving out a strange bubble gum like substance that could be blown up with a straw into odd shaped orange coloured balloons. It obviously never caught on commercially;

I have never seen it since. Much else of that night I can not recall, but the following morning when we came blinking into the light, we felt as though somehow, the above ground world with all its noise, hustle and robotic worker cries was now the alien world.

We also later, visited Middle Earth at The Roundhouse, but that's another story.

Paul - January 2015

 

I was also an occasional visitor to that amazing club Middle Earth in 1967/68.

Like the other person on here my memories of it are a bit fragmented - possibly by a combination of time passed (22/23 then) and various things smoked or consumed whilst there.

I started by hitching up from Torquay where I was working and getting there Friday or Saturday. I remember John Peel being the DJ and also seeing The Crazy World of Arthur Brown ( singing 'Fire') there one night with that flaming helmet - wild, also Tyranosaurus Rex and speaking to a cross legged Marc Bolan sitting near the stage.

About what I have no idea - think I offered him some substance which I remember he politely declined. So those two must date it fairly accurately.

I recall the small entrance door and the back of the hand exit stamp. What another world when one got inside down in the cellars, so many strange and bizarre things happening at once as one wandered about in a kind of dream into different areas.

The globular oil light show projected onto the walls and maybe also an old cartoon with no sound. The dark incense/ patchouli filled atmosphere and overall the music, always the music.

Under the influence of whatever, it was overwhelming sometimes. On entering one night I was met with the sight of some long haired freak dancing in circles around a small Xmas tree on the floor, I also recall the DJ playing the Stones '2000 Light Years From Home'. I think Sgt Pepper was also out around that time.

On its finish at around dawn, out into the grey light of Covent Garden market with the smell of the fruit and veg and flowers.

I remember with friends running down a pavement lined with those old empty wooden market barrows and suddenly getting the end of a wooden pole smack in the forehead! - A rude awakening. Those were the days!

Tony - October 2015

 

Hi Poot
How could you forget Middle Earth.. Going down the Stairs Past the Social Deviants backcombing their hair so the Fuzz hairstyle stood up, and into the Cavern which seemed to stretch on forever..

Lightshows projected on floor Walls & ceiling adding to Spacey Effect.

John Peel our Hero and Musical Director and Freedom to Expand Our Minds, Take Acid and Freak out Dancing...until the early hours of Dawn.

I was there on the Major Raid night getting a Large cup of Tea from the Market porters Stall across the road when the Pig's Arrived Onforce.

Other Places included Arts Lab, Happening 44, UFO and later Roundhouse.

Later at Guildford Art School met Colin Brown who said he'd been in The Sensory Armada.

Dont Forget the Free Festivals in Hyde Park over 2 Summers.

Cheers
Nij - January 2016

 

I never went to U.F.O., I was aware of it but just never got round to going. Didn’t expect it to be so short lived. Starting in late December 1966 it ended, at its Tottenham Court Road location, mid the following June. Carrying on for a bit at The Roundhouse in Chalk Farm, Camden, North London.

I made up for it with Middle Earth in Covent Garden, just north of The Strand in London.

I recall Tyrannosaurus Rex playing on my first visit. I went with my school friend, and later light show partner, Ken Smith. It was the usual you tell your parents you’re staying with me and vice versa, in order to be able to stay out all night. Middle Earth started around 10pm, on Fridays and Saturdays, and went through till dawn.

We descended the steps down from the pavement at 44 Kings Street, paid our £1.00 guest entrance fee and wandered into the basement space that had a couple of stages and a wooden cabin in the centre. On top of the cabin were arrayed projectors shining onto the walls with liquid slides. There was also a Rank Strand pattern projector producing a vortex effect.

Within the cabin Jeff Dexter or John Peel played records in between live performances.

From checking dates on-line I believe that was 7th October 1967. T Rex’s previous appearance on 23rd September, two weeks prior, was filmed and can be seen on YouTube. As I don’t recall a film crew I’m going with the October date.

Our next visit, I went with Ken again, was I think the following weekend 13th October when we saw The Third Ear Band and Soft Machine which was to say the least - mind blowing. Jon Newey of JazzWise, who I have subsequently come to know, described the sensation of encountering Soft Machine in his sleeve notes for Middle Earth Masters as being like a blitzkrieg. I couldn’t agree more. Having previously heard loud bands close-up, The Yardbirds with both Eric Clapton and then Jeff Beck, plus The Who, Soft Machine were another level.

Robert Wyatt, already with a bare torso, removed his trousers behind the speakers and took the drum stool in his underpants. Kevin Ayers, the bass player, wore tight red slacks and a black string vest. Around his eyes had been painted beautiful radiating suns. When he closed his eyes the face of the sun had been painted on the lids. Mike Ratledge sat cooly at his organ and they just took off, or, as the Hapshash poster says turned on.

And then there was the visual accompaniment of Mark Boyle. Still unsurpassed to this day with his mastery of liquid slides. Clean beautiful colours with majestic dynamic fluidity. If I wasn’t already hooked, from having seen Zoot Money’s Dantalians Chariot light show at their Windsor Jazz Festival debut back in August, I was now completely smitten.

I have realised it is impossible for me to remember all the times I went to Middle Earth but certain events stick in my memory.

One night there was quite a loud bang followed by the tinkling of broken glass and darkness. I guess a power surge had caused all the projectors to blow their delicate incandescent filament lamps. Along with some of their optics and the liquid slides they were projecting. After much cussing and oathing slowly the place came back to life.

Although a lot of the music at the time was unusual there was some particularly odd music emanating from the speakers one time. Looking through the window of the DJ cabin there was Jeff Dexter grinning like the proverbial Cheshire over a turntable with a bright red LP going round on it. Hapshash and The Coloured Coat featuring The Human Host and The Heavy Metal Kids had taken time out from designing the finest posters of the time to record an exceptionally free form record. Keith Canadine, one of my later business partners, claimed to have been in the studio banging a tambourine when it was recorded.

The Jeff Beck group played through four Marshall slanted top speaker cabinets. Two below and two inverted on top creating a precarious looking shallow ‘V’ half way up. Presumably for better sound spread. Not that it was difficult to hear him in such a relatively confined space!

21st October ‘67 Eire Apparent played. Ken and I were sat up on some scaffold railings for a better view when in through the back door came Jimi Hendrix together with his manager Chas Chandler. They stood right in front of us and I watched the remainder of the set through Jimi’s back combed hair. I presume they had come to check out Eire Apparent who were also managed by Chas and about to go out on a package tour with Hendrix, Pink Floyd and The Move the following month.

Mabel Greers Toyshop stood out from the crowd. I suppose they would as they transformed into Yes.

Juniors Eyes were another good power trio that we saw there.

I saw Dantalians Chariot for a second time at Ewell Tech on 17th February 1968. They went on to Middle Earth afterwards but I didn’t. Although I did see them again there for the last time on 13th April ‘68, just before they disbanded. They played on the end stage. Andy Sommers, later to find fame in The Police, had a white cone on his nose. I later discovered that it was a splint. His nose having been broken in a van crash on the way home from a gig.

At some point the central cabin was removed and replaced by a lighting bridge with ladders either end for access. The projectionists now perched up there.

Saturday 11th May was possibly my last visit to Middle Earth, as it closed in July. This night The Byrds played. It was packed as you would expect for an internationally famous U.S. band in such a relatively small venue.

I had gone on this occasion with two other chums, whose names escape me. We had arrived early to be sure of getting in. Before the placed filled up completely I noticed someone sat on the floor legs outstretched with his back to one of ladders, previously mentioned, fast asleep, or very stoned, and motionless. The light show this evening utilised the U.S. style overhead projectors with clock glasses on them, as bowls for the liquids.

This method requires fairly frequent changing of the bowls. The used liquids are tipped into a bucket and the clock glasses wiped clean ready to be used again. One of the light show operators doing this above our man lost his grip. The bowl fell and smashed on the head of our comatose man surrounding him in glass splinters. He slowly opened his eyes, looked down around him, probably thinking his brain had fallen out and promptly went back to sleep.

In the small hours, or maybe it was the last big one, The Byrds took the stage. Starting with all their familiar rock’n roll hits before proceeding to take out banjos and play country music. We were a bit nonplussed by this. We were also extremely hot and so decided to go outside and get some fresh air.

Covent Garden at the time was the location of London’s main wholesale fruit and vegetable market. On the wide covered pavement outside Middle Earth were cages for produce. As it was Saturday evening most were empty from the last days trading and would not be refilled until Sunday evening ready for an early start on Monday morning. One cage however had a small pile of water melons left in the bottom of it. Four foot square and maybe seven high but open at the top, it seemed a good idea to give one of the lads a leg up to liberate one of these melons so that we could slate our thirst.

Within seconds of him clambering out with said melon a police squad car, a Riley of course, screeched to a halt and we were all promptly bundled in the back and taken to nearby Bow Street nick.

It transpired that a night watchman in a tower on top of the main central building had watched the crime unfurl and called the fuzz. As it was fairly trivial, a thought it didn’t feel like it at the time, they wanted just one of us to put our hand up. Fortunately one of my friends’ parents were away in the U.S. for a couple of weeks. We figured the case would be done and dusted by the time they got back and no-one would be any the wiser. So he was book and we all trooped back to Middle Earth and descended the steps once more. I guess the whole episode took between an hour or two. However to our surprise The Byrds were still playing!

A couple of postscripts

Roll forward 40 years or so and our son, by then art teacher in a local school, relays his fathers story to the caretaker one day. “Oh, I was there that night. My friend and I wandered down Whitehall early the morning afterwards. We thought it would be a good jape to knock on the door of 10 Downing Street at 7am.” They felt the long arm of the law that night too.

In the mid ‘70s we used an excellent photographer, Graham Hitchcock (well he would be with a name like that!) to shoot our products and lighting effects. He was based in a basement further east along King Street and very similar in layout and feel to Middle Earth.

 

Neil Rice - July 2020