40 Years, 40 Bands!!
The year was 1976. In the UK, the summer was the hottest on record, 22 days straight at 28° or more. The average house price was £12,704, and petrol was 77p per gallon. Abba, Queen & Rod Stewart were topping the charts, “The Song Remains the Same”, the feature film of Led Zeppelin’s Madison Square concert, was in cinemas and The Sex Pistols were bringing Anarchy to the UK, shocking the nation.
On Kings Road, that defiance of authority & expression of counter culture angst found its centre at Vivian Westwood & Malcolm McLaren’s clothes shop, SEX, known for fetish & bondage wear and as a hangout for punks including Johnny Rotten & Glen Matlock. However, not that far away at 606 Kings Road, a different kind of scene was burgeoning in a tiny basement (capacity 30 people) underneath Christopher Wray’s Lighting Emporium. Taken over in October of 1976 by a new owner, a musician named Steve Rubie, the 606 Club was about to take Steve on the ride of his life.
While the 606 Club, at that time a tiny after hours hangout for musicians that didn’t open until 10:30 at night, hadn’t attracted the same kind of worldwide media attention that the punks were getting down the street, it would in time prove to be more durable and produce more great music and musicians than anyone could have foreseen.
Steve, who had trained as a dentist, was by then a young (very young!) working professional musician as well as a Classical flute student at Trinity College of Music & running a live music venue wasn’t something that had crossed his mind. But in the great tradition of best laid plans, what was at first a job turned into a career and forty years later, with Steve still at the helm, the Club continues to go from strength to strength presenting live music of the highest calibre seven nights a week. The 606’s evolution from post-gig, late night jam session to venue didn’t happen all at once. Steve recalls that the requirement to present “live music and dancing” seven nights a week was something of an accident, a condition of obtaining a licence to sell alcohol (to that point, the Club was the 1970’s version of “bring your own”). When the Club started putting on its own gigs, musicians were paid £5 a performance (food & drink was free), and the rent, payable in cash to Chris Wray himself, was £5 a week.
The musicians who played there in those early days included the likes of Bobby Wellins, Don Weller, Russ Henderson and Alan Leat and then later the likes of young Turks Mornington Lockett, Paul & Jeremy Stacey, Clark Tracey, Laurence Cottle & many others who have become indelibly associated with the best of British jazz.
In the forty years that Steve has owned, booked and managed the 606, much has changed. The venue expanded & moved from its original spot to its present location on Lots Road, a stone’s throw from World’s End Chelsea. The menu has moved on considerably from burgers, spaghetti and stir-fried rice with red beans to the considerably more accomplished and sophisticated menu available now. The 4K sound system, which is constantly being improved and upgraded, provides suitable support for the impressive roster of musicians performing on a regular basis and the staff roster, now totaling almost 30, is a far cry from Steve, one manager and a waitress as it was in the early days.
The 606 is also a destination for visitors from around the world, who love the spirit and the atmosphere. And that is one thing that is very much the same as the original Club, as Steve says: “though things have changed dramatically – different times, different music – the spirit has remained constant”. The 606 is still a place where characters hang out, a safe haven for musicians, a community of like-minded people who come together to enjoy the music.
So what better way to commemorate the 40th year than with over 40 bands over a thirteenday period, in a grand celebratory hurrah? The 606 is all about British-based talent, so we’ve asked a vast array of musicians who are part of the 606 “family” to perform.
The Club celebrates by welcoming :-
606 Club Big Band | Adriano Adewale | Alex Garnett | Anita Wardell | Claire Martin | Dan Reinstein | Dave O’Higgins | Earl Okin | Flo Moore | Gareth Lockrane | Gareth Williams | Giacomo Smith/Smitty’s Big 4 | Gwyneth Herbert | Hamish Stuart | Hattie Whitehead | Iain Ballamy | Ian Shaw | Imaani | Impossible Gentlemen | Jason Rebello | Jeremy Stacey | Jim Mullen | John East | John Parricelli | Julian Joseph | Laurence Cottle | Liane Carroll | Liliana Chachian’s ‘Olumo’ | Mark Lockheart | Mornington Lockett | Natalie Williams | Neil Angilley | Nigel Hitchcock | Nikki Iles | Paul Stacey | Peter Churchill | Peter King | Peter Rubie | Polly Gibbons | Rachel Sutton | RB Funkestra | Samara | Sarah Moule | Soweto Kinch | Sugar Kings | Tommy Blaize Band | Tony O’Malley | Trish Clowes | Wayne Hernandez | Zoe Francis | More special guests to be announced…