Posted by: martinworster | July 7, 2011


My first forays into London nightlife really started at Camden Palace and the Wednesday night shindig Twist & Shout. Basically a night of 60s music, funk, rockabilly, surf rock, ska, Mod and Northern Soul. Camden Palace – now known as Koko – is a famous venue on Camden High Street at the Mornington Crescent end. Twist and Shout was a Wednesday night – a school night for me. It ended at 2am so there was always a few hours sleep before I had my nose in textbooks the following morning.

We used to drive up from the suburbs ( a ragbag of suburbanites looking to make it funky ) – with a designated driver. The rest of us would drink a couple of cans of Red Stripe and a packet of ten B&H each. That’s all it took back then. And we’d basically dance the whole night and try to cop of with girls. Maybe one more can of Red Strip to give you enough Dutch courage to ask a girl to dance – or better still, stick your toungue down her throat. We would probably dance in a circle, as if we were at some school disco. I remember I used to wear Doctor Marten shoes, long flowery shirts and possibly dungarees. A kind of Smiths meets Dexys Midnight Runners mash up. Oh the joys…

Camden Palace was a large club, an old theatre with various levels looking down onto the main dancefloor – even with little boxes to the side you could dance in. There used to be lots of photos on the walls in the back corridors of strange looking men with lots of white make up, black eyeliner and serious expressions. Many of the photos were of Steve Strange. Retrospectively I found out that Strange used to host the Blitz club at Camden Palace after it got too popular for it’s original West End venue and had to move to bigger premises. The Blitz club was the infamous birthplace of the New Romantic movement – who’s movers and shakers included Boy George, Spandau Ballet, Midge Ure, Steve Strange himself (of Visage), Marilyn and other flamboyant characters and musicians of the day. The Blitz would have started sometime early 80s. At Camden Palace hosted a then unknown Madonna. I saw Red Hot Chili Peppers play a music industry only gig at the Palace in the late 90s. I love how all these old venues have been standing for perhaps centuries and over the years hosted many different nights – the music, faces and fashions may change and those solid walls have seen it all. It’s like how I used to go to the Fitness Centre in Southwark which a few years prior hosted the Shoom club, which many credit as the birthplace of acid house.

It was exciting for us young suburbanites to be actually cutting it at a London club. One of those exhilerating first real tastes of teen freedom through the channel of nightlife. Venturing into the big smoke and dancing with city dwellers of all ages, races, types, orientations, shapes and sizes. I remember there used to be authentic rockers and Mods – all dressed up, and doing the dances to particular songs. If I remember correctly there was some formation dancing that went on by the locals. And there was a local scene. They probably looked down on us young public school surburbanites with long fringes and hippy shirts.

Musically it was great to hear all this rock and roll on a loud sound system. As I said it was mostly 60s music. But remember this was 1988 – the 60s only occurred twenty years previously. Weird. Makes me feel quite old. It’s the equivalent of a ‘youngster’ hearing music now from the early nineties (ie hearing Oasis, Blur, Nirvana, whatever).

Rock and roll wise I remember tunes such as Rolling Stones ‘Satisfaction’, The Who ‘My Generation, The Kinks ‘All Day And All Of The Night’ (first punk song?) and the Troggs ‘Wild Thing’. Again these songs are now Rock FM Lite staples, perhaps over played and hence over heard. To my young ears in the late 80s they sounded fresh, raw and revolutionary – and they were only twenty years old then! Bizarre, I still can’t get over this. Now the 60s is represented as some foggy distant era, romanticised and retro-remixed beyond infinity. I’m doing my best to try to remember some of the other music – definitely a lot of James Brown and other funk, vintage soul and R&B, The Surfaris ‘Wipeout’, The Trashmen ‘Surfin’ Bird’ and weird Northern Soul cuts. It game me a real love for eclecticism and musicianship before the thud of repetivive electronic beats was to swamp London and the UK for best part of the next twenty years.




  1. I did a search for Camden Palace Twist and Shout Night…some of my favorite memories abroad was from THAT dance floor.

  2. Jackie Wilson reet petite was always a huge favourite on the dancefloor as i remember

    • Yes it was, I remember that being played regularly..

  3. Good times, classic music. I grew up in Tufnell Park and me and my mates were regulars at Twist & Shout c1985 there was always lots of free tickets circulating at school. Weirdly the fashion then was very American 1950’s, everyone wore Levi 501 jeans with baseball jackets and flattop haircuts. I had some ‘polecat’ shoes which were very pointy! ‘Locomotion’ would always get a play and get people congaring about. Wasn’t the night called Locomotion either before or Twist and Shout?

  4. @Bruce. It was definitely called Twist and Shout (I still have some unused free tickets to prove it). I was one of the mods doing the formation dancing from 1985 to 87.The Locomotion was held down the road at the Town and Country (ex Forum) in Kentish Town on Fridays.

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