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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
1950s subcultures

Soho is an area in the centre of the West End of London, England, in the City of Westminster. It is an entertainment district which for much of the later part of the 20th century had a reputation for its sex shops as well as its nightlife and film industry. Since the early 1980s the area has undergone considerable transformation and is now a fashionable district of upmarket restaurants and media offices with only a small remnant of "sex industry" venues in the west of the area.

Music scene

The music scene in Soho can be traced back to 1948 and Club Eleven which is generally revered as the fountainhead of modern jazz in the UK. It was located at 41 Great Windmill Street. The Harmony Inn was an unsavoury cafe and hang-out for musicians on Archer Street operating during the 1940s and 1950s. It stayed open very late attracting jazz fans from the nearby Cy Laurie Jazz Club.

Soho was the setting for Brecht's famous song Mack The Knife:

And the ghastly fire in Soho, seven children at a go — In the crowd stands Mack the Knife, but he's not asked and doesn't know.

The Ken Colyer Band's 51 Club (Great Newport Street) opened in the eary fifties. Blues guitarist and harmonica player Cyril Davies and guitarist Bob Watson launched the London Skiffle Centre, London’s first skiffle club, on the first floor of the Roundhouse pub on Wardour Street in 1952.

In the early 1950s, Soho became the center of the Beatnik culture in London. Coffee Bars like Le Macabre (Wardour Street) which had coffin shaped tables, fostered beat poetry, jive dance and political debate. The Goings On located in Archer Street was and Sunday afternoon club, organised by Liverpool beat poets Pete Brown, Johnny Byrne and Spike Hawkins, that opened in January 1966. For the rest of the week it operated as an illegal gambling den. Other “beat” coffee bars in Soho included the French, Le Grande, Stockpot, Melbray, Universal, La Roca, Freight Train (Skiffle star Chas McDevitt’s place), El Toro, Picasso, Las Vegas, and the Moka Bar.

The 2 i’s Coffee Bar (live acts performed in the tiny basement) was probably the first rock club in Europe, opened in 1956 (59 Old Compton Street) and soon Soho was the centre of the fledgling rock scene in London. Clubs included the Flamingo Club (which started in 1952 as Jazz at the Mapleton), La Discotheque, Whiskey a Go Go, Ronan O'Rahilly's (of pirate radio station, Radio Caroline fame) The Scene in 1962 (first mod club - near the Windmill Theatre in Ham Yard - formally The Piccadilly Club) and jazz clubs like Ronnie Scott's (opened in 1959 at 39 Gerrard Street and moved to 47 Frith Street in 1965 ) and the 100 Club.

Soho's Wardour Street was the home of the legendary Marquee Club (90 Wardour Street) which opened in 1958 and where the Rolling Stones first performed in July 1962. Eric Clapton and Brian Jones both lived for a time in Soho sharing a flat with future rock publicist, Tony Brainsby.

Later, the Sex Pistols lived above number 6 Denmark Sreet, and recorded their first demos there.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Soho" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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