Driving through London recently we passed where once stood the legendary Hammersmith Palais.
Renowned for its history, huge stage, NME awards and Georgian arcitechture.
The venue was originally opened in 1919 ‘Palais de Danse’ in order to host ballroom dancing and dance bands. The venue boasted a sprung dance floor (in my head before seeing it, I imagine it to be a lot like a trampoline, in reality, not quite as springy!)! During the war years The Hammersmith Palais was used to build tanks and store trams. In the early 1960s the Palais was used for the TV show ‘Come Dancing’ which co-incidently featured my Dad (Martyn)!
Later in the same decade more pop artists starting performing there like The Beatles, The Who and The Rolling Stones. From the 1970s until 2007 the Palais hosted Clash, The Jam, The Cure, The Specials, Iggy Pop, Robert Plant, Elvis Costello and New Order all played there. U2 also recorded a live album at The Palais in 1982. It was always my dream to perform there and in the end it was a pure coincidence of how it came Jamie & The First Class would soon be joining the roster of star studded acts to have played there so much!
Way back in 2003 New Year’s Eve we performed at The Thames Lodge in Staines and a certain guest was a friend of a friend of a man who owned an event agency. In January 2005 that event agency hired Jamie and the first class to perform at an award ceremony at the Palais. As luck would have it, the owner was there when we were sound checking, he somehow found my number and called me to say he loved us and would we consider being the resident band there. We were going to be THE band for SchoolDisco.com, performing at the Palais at least once a month! It was the most brilliant sound check ever and it changed my career!
The Palais became home from home for us, we got to know all the staff and the guests who showed up to every single one of our concerts. They were truly wild nights packed full of 2000 plus people dancing until they literally dropped! I cannot forget the condensation falling from the ceiling, almost as if the building itself was sweating from playing host 2000 plus bodies dancing the night away! The heat on stage almost made me faint a couple of times, luckily the adrenaline always saw me through and the team around around me; Neil, Matt and Dan. We were unstoppable!
The history of the venue and the pure energy of the room should have been enough for English Heritage and Hammersmith council to keep it open! The ghosts of The Clash,The Fall, The Jam ,The Rolling Stones and Jamie and the first class will be haunting those parts forever.
In the picture on the right it shows The Joe Loss Orchestra which still carries on under the musical direction of Todd Miller today. The orchestra has been in constant operation since 1930! Elvis Costello’s dad Ross McManus was the vocalist of the Orchestra for many years.
It was a phenomenal experience to have performed there and its just a shame I won’t be able to show my neices and nephews where I learned my trade.
I’m not sure whether it was the energy of all the other bands who had performed there, the sheer scale of the stage, the building, the huge amount of people to see us, or the kudos of performing in an amazingly historic building that made it so special. Whatever it was every night we performed was wild. So wild. Singing to 2000 music thirsty people was something I enjoyed so much and knew I wanted more of.
We performed there at least twenty times with our School Themed Show up until its closure in 2007. The string of concerts also included an amazing New Years Eve party, particularly special as it turned out to be the last one ever at The Palais. It was such an honour to be the resident band at one of the biggest club nights in London at the time; it will always have a special place in my heart as it was from the back of the School Disco days that we owe so much of our success of our career as a band. It’s where my dreams and ambitions from my school days came true.
It was just the beginning and the next eight years flash by.
Special thanks to Dan, Matt, Neil, Bobby, Raj, Pierre, Mikey, Glen, Pete, Barry, School Disco, Clive Thomas and all the other members of the band.
If you’d like to learn a bit more check out this