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A Memory Resides In Soho
On the 1st August 2015 a special night had arrived for seventy-five year old Robert Harris and his seventy-two year old wife Barbara. Robert was nattily dressed in a blue suit and Barbara looked elegant in a long flowing red and black flowery dress. They were in the heart of the Soho district of London. It was Saturday night and its long, narrow labyrinth of streets had started to fill. They liked this area and their stride was confident and assured. In Frifth Street the clock over the Bar Italia, outlined in a red and green neon blaze, told them it was 7.50pm. Turning right into Old Compton Street and with an excited exchange of smiles, they spoke at the same time “nearly there”.
Robert and Barbara had chosen the House of Ho restaurant at 59 Old Compton Street to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Arriving at its entrance, they saw a small queue had formed outside. Barbara watched as her husband’s eyes widened, his gaze now fixed on a green circular plaque with white lettering on the restaurant wall. It read; Site of the 2i’s Coffee Bar (1956-1970) Birthplace of British Rock ‘N Roll and the Popular Music Industry. He let his fingers run over the words Rock ‘N Roll. He allowed himself to whisper, “Gotta be Rock ‘N Roll music”.
“Rock n Roll Music – Its Gotta be Rock n Roll Music – If You Wanna Dance With Me” A leather clad band were belting out the lyrics. The ruggedly handsome lead singer flanked by two guitarists and a drummer behind them commanded the attention of the tiny packed basement of the 2i’s Coffee Bar in the year of 1959. Five dozen people earnestly watched a makeshift stage in front of them visibly bounce whilst the beat thumped out from two speakers attached to grimy sweat drenched walls.
Directly in front of the stage a handful of bubble-gum faced teenage girls with hopeful wide eyes stared up at the lead singer and guitarists as if they were deities. Behind them stood a group of teddy boys suited in drainpipe trousers and with perfected quiffs which hung over faces cut from stone.
The drummer with his up turned collar and swept back, jet black hair provided the band’s heartbeat. His face a concentration of ..2-4.. 2,3,4 as his sticks hit sweat coated drum skins. In the audience stood a beautiful slender figured girl dressed in a pink polo neck and black stockings. Silky blonde hair fell over her shoulders, her eyes green and perfectly almond shaped. Her gaze passed straight through the lead singer and guitarists and was purposely directed to the drummer. He caught her eye. Her smile was subtle and warm. It made him breathe in twice and he almost missed hitting the big brass cymbal right in front of him.
The thumping beat emanated itself up from the basement’s narrow staircase and upstairs into The 2i’s Coffee Bar. A busy barman worked behind a small counter, serving to a young and hip crowd. The espresso coffee machine hissed and frothed while an orange juice dispenser and a sandwich display case rapidly emptied. The sound of the basement managed to filter out into the 2i’s entrance on Old Compton Street. The fevered interest in this music had been picked up by national radio. It would be transmitted out to millions of expectant teenagers throughout the country who impatiently paced their bedrooms, waiting for the arrival of more news on the birth of this new sound.
Clouds of curling blue cigarette smoke had made halos around the bare light bulbs which illuminated the basement stage. The band’s back beat continued to pump from a snare drum and the raw chords of the bass and rhythm guitars whilst the teenage girls’ heads bopped in unison.
The drummer watched the blonde girl. She was whispering in her girlfriend’s ear, her face half submerged in her hair. They were talking girls-talk, secreted words passing to each other with knowing-girl smiles. She allowed him the interplay of a second glance.
The lead singer geared up and leant over the crowd to blast out the last verse of Rock and Roll Music. The guitarists and the drummer unified to give their version of this song a short sharp finish. Hands clapped in front of the excited smiling faces of the girls, behind them appreciative applause came from the clique of teddy boys. The band bowed.
The infatuated drummer searched for his blonde girl and he caught sight of her amongst the crowd. She was looking at him, waiting to be found. This time he turned his head and winked. He made it just one second overly long so that it became comical. She put her fingers to her lips to cover her smile and dropped her head to hide her giggles.
A pleading chorus of song requests was called out by the girls to the lead singer. He flaunted his good looking boy smile at them, answering back, “which song was that?” Amused, rolled eyes played out between the rest of the band, they knew he was teasing. The lead singer theatrically cupped his hand behind his ear, “what song next?.. next please!”
“Next please” the polite, attractive receptionist at the House of Ho restaurant had called out to Robert and Barbara, “Oh that’s us” said Barbara. Robert was still looking at the plaque. “Oh! Bobby come on now, we’re getting called”. Robert looked at his wife, he turned his head and winked. He made it just one second overly long so that it became comical. Barbara put her fingers to her lips to cover her smile. She dropped her head to hide her giggles.
Thank you for reading. hope you enjoyed. All comments are welcomed :)
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