Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The Lonsdale/ABC, Goodbye and Thank You for the Music!

Recently the Lonsdale in Carlisle was demolished, the long fight to save
ABC Lonsdale, Carlisle
the art deco building having failed.  Since it's opening in 1931 it has been a cinema, theatre and bingo hall. It has many memories for Carlisle people, but for me it was the ABC and will always be linked to music, for it was there that I saw my first live rock gigs.

In the 1960's there used to be extensive tours of a few major musicians who each would play a handful of songs during the show. These tours came to out of the way places like Carlisle (we do not see the big acts even come close nowadays!) and these tours gave people a chance to see a little of the top acts of the day. The Beatles played the ABC, but I was too young to go to that particular show.  

I started going to shows at the ABC in 1967, I was only 13 and went by myself as none of my close friends loved music as I did, (even to this day my music loving friends are the ones I got to know through U2 :)) Looking back I'm amazed my mum let me go to gigs so young! My musical appetite was initially whetted by listening to the pirate radio station Radio Caroline or a very crackly Radio Luxemburg. In those days you just did not hear rock music on the mainstream radio, this only started with the advent of BBC Radio 1 in late 1967. Hard to imagine in these days of instant downloads.

One of the first shows I saw was an eclectic mix to say the least, headlining were The Walker Brothers, also on the bill were Engelbert Humperdinck, Cat Stevens (who I was a fan of) and one Jimi Hendrix. And the performance I remember most all these years later was, of course, Jimi Hendrix.  I was wide-eyed and open-mouthed, he seemed so exotic to me. Carlisle was not multi-cultural then (nor very much now really), and this black American in the bright clothes was like no one I'd seen before. He was exciting, sexy and totally into the music, the guitar playing was out of this world, he set the place alight. He played Hey Joe and Purple Haze, and even at my tender age I knew I was seeing someone special, very, very talented and unique, he was head and shoulders above the other artists.

Jimi Hendrix at Carlisle ABC
After the show I went round to the stage door (yeah I've been doing that for a long time too!) where there was a small group of people gathered. Jimi came out to sign autographs.  He was so different from the wild person on stage, he was very polite, appeared a little shy and was quietly spoken. I got his autograph (which I don't have now, wish I still had it!) and then he left. That night I realised just how powerful, exciting and mind-blowing live music can be. Until recently that stage door was still there and many times when I passed by I thought of the night I met Jimi and saw him play live.

I remember seeing a few other artists at the ABC, The Small Faces who I was a fan of, Jeff Beck and also Roy Orbison who were all on the same bill (again a strange mix). When Roy came on stage he looked old to my young eyes. He seemed a bit strange with his dark glasses and standing stock still on the stage. But boy when he opened his mouth, he blew me away, what a voice and it was so effortless for him and that captivated me. So different from Jimi, but it taught me how live music can touch you in so many different ways.

So, the Lonsdale/ABC was the start of my concert going, the initiation into the joys of live music, something that became an important part of my life. I never got to see Jimi play live again, but that night so long ago in April 1967 started something in me that is still going strong. So, I'm sorry to see the Lonsdale/ABC demolished, but the memories shine brightly within me, and thanks for the music and thanks to my mum for letting me go to the gigs!

(All photos by spaceman.com)

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