Thursday, 24 August 2017

A Trip around The Borough of Barnet - Day 4 - The Torrington

We live in an amazing borough. For some time, for some time I've been meaning to do a little series on the good things. So all this week, I'll be taking you on a little trip around the Borough, detailing some of the things I like most in our neighbourhood.

Today we revist the Torrington. Perhaps the most iconic pub rock venue in the Borough, the Torrington in North Finchley. We had a great guest  blog on the subject by Allen Ashley back in 2015. Now it is not even a pub, but a hairdressers.

Guest Blog - Now A Sports Bar – The Torrington, Finchley 

The long time promoter of the Torrington is Barnet Bee, who shared a few great memories of the venue with The Barnet Eye.

 We spoke about the genres 

"I ran the Torri for 30 yrs 68 to 98 and had to move with the changing music trends. Modern Jazz to Rock/Blues was natural enough but I was never at home with punk. "

 I asked him what was the stand out night 

"Probably Dr John, though I chose the wrong musicians to play alongside him - the Balham Alligators, not sopisticated enough, Geraint Watkins excepted. Jim Richardson, bass player with G.F.'s Blue Flames castigated me saying that they would have done it for nothing; not that that would have been the case. One unexpected bonus was that a very young John Cleary played my specially hired piano with great New Orleans panache. Other contenders, Clover (almost Huey Lewis and the News) and the great saxophonist Tubby Hayes who I loved.  I must finally mention another great saxophonist Dick Morrissey who started me hassling to try to secure that room for live music. Previously I had to go to the Bulls Head in Barnes to hear him. Coincidentally we were both Irish (different sides) and we were born on the same day of the same year - odd. Other favourites were Elkie Brooks and Robert Palmer in Vinegar Joe, early 70's, Man, 70's and 80's and of course Alex Harvey and Steve Marriott.."

 And of course I asked him about Punk.


"So few of them could play well and if I just wanted the buzz I could go elsewhere and not have to clear up the wreckage. At the Torri, I loved Dury's Kilburn and the High Roads, with the 101'ers I could not help but admire Joe Strummer's commitment and I knew that the Strangers could really play. However Hugh Cornwell, following on The Pistols outrages which garnered top headlines was determined to create a riot at The Torri. The crowd was split between regulars and those with a plethora of safety pins at the front heaving and spitting at anyone around. Then Cornwell broke a string. 'Not much happening up here, why not start something out there. The mayhem increase exponenitally so I grabbed Hugh and yelled 'I'm paying you to play not wreck the place', so he quickly got going again, but it was still 'touch and go' whether or not the big window would stand the buffeting. At 10 pm I went outside and said 'Please God get us to 10.30 with the place being wrecked and I'll never put them on again'. At 10.30 I compered by complimenting the band, hoped they had all enjoyed themselves' and droned on a bit while the hubbub subsided a bit. I think it was Dave Greenfield, realising the gravity of the situation, who began a low key encore which was executed faultlessly. No great damage done, absolutely hundred of safety pins and bits of torn clothing on the floor, but we got away with it. Ian Grant, their then manager rang me a few weeks later when they were in the charts wanting to do another. I politely declined"

After his period, perhaps the greatest female artist of all started making her way there. There are loads of great videos of the venue. I love this one of Amy Winehouse in 2003 at the venue


For many of us the heyday was the 1970/80's. Much of this is detailed in the Torrington Music facebook page. Here's just one post listing the gigs from 1985

Barnet Bee has listed many of the complete years bookings. I chose 1985 here as an example. 

Torrington Gigs
Torrington Music 1985. Georgie Fame, Man, The G.B. Blues Co. and Morrissey/Mullen, Heart and Soul were rock steady favourites but new pretenders were forcing their way through. Notable among those was Big Town Playboys featuring ace pianist/vocalist Mike Sanchez. Little Sister and Dave Kelly did good business and there was a rare visit from Rocket 88. Steve Marriott; what a gig!

Sun 6th Jan Morrissey/Mullen. Noel McCalla was now featured as vocalist on M/M’s gigs from now on. Dick, Jim & unsighted Pete Jacobsen had great musical empathy

Sun 13th Jan Heart and Soul. Here’s a great band I caught up with last year. Keyboard man Tim Hinkley hailed from Vinegar Joe & Bobby Gass from his band years before.

Sun 20rd Jan Dave Kelly Band. Blues Band gtr/voc launched his own band, the line-up varying, but often with Rob Townsend & Gary Fletcher. Still gigs around.
Sun 27th Jan Snake Davis & The Suspicions. Stax, Motown and Atlantic classic soul from a fine Hull group. Part of Northern exodus of bands seeking UK-wide fame.
Steve Marriott at The Torrington
Sun 3rd Feb Morrissey/Mullen
Sun 10th Feb Rent Party. Still hoping for one of our pundits, punters who can remind me of the personnel. They proved to be an extremely popular band back then.
Sun 17th Feb Heart and Soul
Sun 24th Feb Little Sister. Graham & Malcolm Foster, Gary Brewer and Andy Wells were great favourites & attracted an extremely enthusiastic blues/rock following. Malcolm Foster left to join the Pretenders. Malcolm Hoskins replaced him.
Sun 3rd Mar Morrissey/Mullen.
Sun 10th Mar Root Jackson & the G. B. Blues Company. Wonderful band with Bob Henrit (dms), Jim Rodford (bs), Derek Griffiths (gtr) John Beecham (tbn) and Alan Feldman (pno).
Sun 17th Mar Pete Thomas’s Deep Sea Jivers. Pete’s rocky sax-lead blues was a real tonic from Manchester’s Band on The Wall. Carol Grimes/Pete Zorn guest on disc
Sun 24th Mar Little Sister
Sun 31st Mar Man. Fabulous Welsh Wizards come to lay siege on North Finchley again. Round the block for Micky, Deke, Martin and now ‘Pugwash’ John Weathers
Sun 7thApr Morrissey/Mullen
Sun 14th Apr Dave Kelly Band
Sun 21st Apr Rent Party
Sun 28th Apr Root Jackson and the G.B. Blues Company.
Sun 5th May Morrissey/Mullen
Sun 12th May Big Town Playboys, feat Ricky Cool & Mike Sanchez. Should have been huge.
Sun 19st May Heart and Soul
Sun 26th May Root Jackson and the G.B. Blues Company.
Sun 2nd Jun Morrissey/Mullen
Fri 7th Jun Root Jackson and the G.B. Blues Company.
Sun 9th Jun Big Town Playboys
Fri 14th Jun Man
Sun 16th Jun Heart and Soul
Sun 21st Jun Little Sister.
Sun 23rd Jun Root Jackson and the G. B. Blues Company.
Fri 28th Jun Morrissey/Mullen
Sun 30th Jun Lunch/Eve Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames. Always full house when he trod our self-built stage. Alan Skidmore (tnr), ‘Tan Tan’ Thornton (tpt) Ronnie Johnson (gtr), Jim Richardson (bs), Speedy Acquaye (congas), Tony Crombie? (dms)
Fri 5th July Tex Maniax. Mike Berry, Andy Roberts, B.J. Cole, Ian Campbell, Bob Loveday & Al Stewart. Star studded line-up and very enjoyable but sadly, short-lived.
Sun 7th July Morrissey/Mullen
Fri 12th July Rent Party. Can someone help with line-up? I know they pulled very well.
Sun 14th July Man
Sun 21st July Heart and Soul. Edwina Laurie (Lulu’s sister, guested on this one).
Fri 26th July Tex Maniax.
Sun 28th July Big Town Playboys, feat Ricky Cool & Mike Sanchez.
Fri 2nd Aug Steve Marriott and his Packet of Three. Brilliant Small Faces man makes his debut here with Jerry Shirley on bass and Jim Leverton on bass. What a gig!
Sun 4th Aug Morrissey Mullen.
Fri 9th Aug Superjazz. Award winning 22 piece jazz Orchestra. Modest crowd but great.
Sun 11th Aug Little Sister.
Fri 16th Aug District Six. Brilliant Afro-jazz outfit. Featured super pianist Mervyn Afrika. Sadly they were short-lived. I wonder if Mervyn Afrika still plays in the U.K.
Sun 18th Oct Juice on the Loose.
Fri 30th Aug Little Sister.
Sun 1st Sep Big Town Playboys
Fri 6th Sep Root Jackson and The G. B. Blues Company.
Fri 13th Sep Morrissey/Mullen (no vocalist as Noel was off with Icelandic Mezzo Forte.
Sun 15th Sep Rent Party
Fri 20th Sep Ruthless Blues feat Johnny Mars. I had quite forgotten that it was first fronted by Johnny Mars. Was Stevie Smith was in Salt with Mick Clarke?
Sun 22nd Sep Root Jackson and the G. B. Blues Company.
Sun 27th Sep Little Sister
Sun 29th Sep Juice on the Loose
Fri 4th Oct Living Daylites, featuring local ace guitarists Jay Stapely and Ian Hunt.
Sun 6th Oct Morrissey Mullen. Noel McCalla is back
Sun 13th Oct Big Town Playboys
Fri 18th Oct Tex Maniax
Sun 20th Oct Rent Party – cancelled (van broke down)
Sun 27th Oct Juice on the Loose. Not sure of line-up of this late line up. Rod Demick help!
Fri 1st Nov Living Daylites, featuring local ace guitarists Jay Stapely and Ian Hunt.
Sun 3rd Nov Morrissey/Mullen
Fri 8th Nov Ian Stewart’s Rocket 88. Sixth Stone’s freewheeling big blues band.
Sun 10th Nov Rent Party.
Sun 15th Nov Big Town Playboys
Sun 17th Nov Lunch/Eve Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames. Clive is one our greatest British musicians, now gigs as a trio with sons James & Tristan when not with Van Morrison etc
Fri 22nd Nov Morrissey/Mullen
Sun 24th Nov Root Jackson and the G. B. Blues Company
Fri 29th Nov Living Daylites.
Sun 31st Nov Little Sister
Sun 8th Nov Morrissey/Mullen
Sun 15th Nov Steve Marriott and his Packet of Three. Always sensational, what a guy.
Fri 20th Nov Root Jackson and the G. B. Blues Company
Sun 22nd Dec Christmas Gig with Morrissey/Mullen. Who else - Dick was a great friend, 3 free punches; made by myself. Seb now em-ceeing & party organising.
Sun 29th Dec Little Sister. Perfect antidote to our inevitable post-Christmas hangover.

Live Venues are vital. Where will we find the next Amy without the likes of the Torrington? That is why one of my missions in life is to keep music live! I am planning a series of Torrington revisted gigs for the Bohemia for later in the year. Watch this space!

1 comment:

JVK said...

I missed the Stranglers but George's depiction is brilliant. I also saw the Finchley Boys - the Stranglers' macho fans - turn up at an Eater gig at our school. Mr. Stack, an elderly teacher, did his best to keep order but it was chaos.