The CubiKlub

The statement in 1957 by the Prime Minister of the day, Harold Macmillan, that the country had ‘never had it so good’ reflected the beginnings of an economic upturn, full employment and a rise in living standards. It also coincided with a baby boom, the 1960’s seeing a huge rise in the teenage population. With conscription at an end and money in their pockets, young people sought ways to rebel against their parent’s generation and to make their own mark with new fashions, new music and a whole new culture of youth. By the early 1960’s things certainly weren’t ‘what they used to be’ and in Rochdale, places for young people to spend their money were sprouting up all over.

It must, therefore, be galling for the young people of today to look back at how much there was to do in the 1960’s. Whilst the Carlton Ballroom catered for an older generation, there were plenty of places for teenagers to see live bands. The Three Cellars in Milnrow, The Lower Cambers with DJ Rony King (Ron the One) and The Pyramid Beat Club (bands 4 nights a week) featured major ‘groups’ for a 2/6d entry. Out of town there was the Tender Trap at Bacup and Rochdale Fire Station supported regular dances with music from local bands such as The Travellers.

The CubiKlub, which could be found in the cellar of an old six storey factory near to what was the Yelloway bus station (now the new library), purported to be the biggest club in the North when it opened in April of 1964. Owned and managed by Paddy Jones and Clifford Kelly its publicity suggested that it could hold 1500 customers with an aim to cater for ‘those interested in rhythm and blues music’ and placing itself as a ‘mods only’ club with all-nighters as a regular feature. This may have been to attract a niche market but it also set up animosity with local ‘Rockers,’ the avowed cultural enemies of the mods.

Blue fluorescent lighting lit up the dingy interior like that of the famous Liverpool Cavern. As a fire escape from the subterranean rooms, a 12 foot tunnel corridor had been dug providing access to the street. All seemed set for the grand opening.

The first night of the CubiKlub was on 16th April 1964 although there was a noticeable lack of local publicity for it. It was an event, however, which even now remains shrouded in mystery and controversy. Given the limits on safe numbers, queueing began as early as 4.00pm to see The Rolling Stones, perhaps the second most popular band in the country at that time, and this must have alarmed the authorities, the suggestion being that too many tickets at 5/- and 7/6 (non-members) had been sold. By 8.00pm, an hour before the Stones were to go on stage, 800 were inside the packed premises whilst outside over 1000 young people 8-10 deep were pushing to get in, scuffles breaking out at the edges of the crowd. 50 police personnel formed a chain across the front of the building, police dogs at the ready. Inside the club it is said that two members of the Rolling Stones had found sanctuary in the manager’s office (there remains some debate as to which ones) whilst somewhere outside Manchester the remaining members of the band, due to a ‘vehicle puncture,’ were unable to reach Rochdale.  So tensions, inevitably, were rising. Whilst Clifford Kelly inside the club was shouting ‘Move back from the stage ! The Stones won’t appear unless you do !’ the surge continued and 20 young girls had to be removed from the club having fainted, one of them, a 13 year old, taken to the Infirmary.

Outside on Slack Street, trouble was breaking out. Teenagers were running wild and shouting at police in the street. Rockers from out of town were picking fights with those mods unable to find security inside the club. Some suggestions were that eggs and a screwdriver were thrown at the police and in the melee, four teenagers were arrested and brought to court the following morning to be fined £20 each for threatening behaviour. At some point in the evening, the Stones concert was cancelled and the large crowd eventually dispersed.

Following the incidents on the opening night, Rochdale Borough architects were brought in to assess the club’s fire regulations and issue recommendations on the club’s capacity, rumour being that some of the fire regulations had not been met at the time of opening.

The CubiKlub ran for a few years in the 1960’s featuring regular bands including David John and the Mood, but the club also attracted major artists such as Eric Clapton, Little Richard, Rod Stewart (who filled a pie machine in the club with illicit herbs !), Screaming Jay Hawkins and Elton John amongst many more.  One can only hope that in the future Rochdale could host such major musicians and artists as did the CubiKlub, but it would require risk-taking mavericks such as Clifford Kelly to do so. 

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