Sunday, October 01, 2023

La Discotheque/Bouncing Ball/Kisses/Chicago's in Peckham

La Discotheque in Soho's Wardour Street  opened in around 1961 and was perhaps the first place to use 'discotheque' as the name for a club in the English speaking world (there had been clubs of that name in Paris since the 1940s). The Soho club earned some notoriety as the 'Soho nerve centre' of 'the purple heart racket' (Times 10 June 1964) but that didn't stop it expanding with other branches opening up in  Oxford Street, Streatham High Road and Peckham High Street. 

Not sure of the source of the advert below promising 'The West End comes to Peckham' with 'the accent on Rhythm and Blues, and Twist' to 'Hi Fi Stereo featuring the famous Nite-Sounds':

This advert from Streatham News suggests that the Peckham club ('London's most fabulous dancing club') opened in June 1963 and was open every night until 2 am:

I found a memory of the club on Facebook: 'Went a fair bit when around 15... can remember Frankie Fraser selling purple hearts and black bombers from his car parked outside. Probably around 1964'.

Location is given as 'facing the Oodeon cinema' which was where the Job Centre now stands. I assume the club was in the same location as the later Bouncing Ball/Mr B's/Kisses/Chicago - 43 Peckham High Street. Originally built in 1890s as the Central Hall, it was know for a while in the 1960s as the Maverick club then Mr Bee's/The Bouncing Ball.

Think this Bouncing Ball flyer is from 1979, mostly reggae including Delroy Wilson and lovers rock girl group Brown Sugar (with young Caron Wheeler later of Soul II Soul). Bob Marley and the Wailers are believed to have played there in 1973 though there is a story that the band refused to play on one occasion. Don Letts took Joe Strummer from The Clash to the club.

Although best remembered as a reggae club, the Bouncing Ball also hosted a regular heavy metal Monday night in the early 1980s with resident DJs The Bailey Bros - two black former Yorkshire miners (flyer below from December 1981):

Known as Kisses in the mid 1980s, regular DJs there George Power and Gordon Mac (McNamee) named their new London dance music pirate radio station after it - Kiss FM. In that period the club was closely linked to the pirate radio/soul scene - Solar Radio put on events there and LWR (London Weekend Radio) did a a live broadcast from there in 1986, shortly before the club changed ownership and was renamed La Plaza. This prompted 'Blues & Soul' (25/2/86) to  note that  "Kisses, that long time funk oasis in the hinterlands of Peckham, is no more." 

Later it became Chicago's, there's a short Channel 4 drama from 1992 called 'We the Ragamuffin'  (directed by Julian Henriques) that was filmed there and on the now demolished North Peckham Estate. For a while in the early 1990s there was a Vaders club night, featuring DJ Seduction and Grooverider among others.

The building today:


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