Middle Earth (club)
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Middle Earth (formerly Electric Garden Club) was an influential hippie club in London, UK in the mid-to-late 1960s, following on from the UFO Club after it was closed down as a result of police pressure and the imprisonment of its founder John 'Hoppy' Hopkins.
Middle Earth started in a large cellar at 43 King Street, in Covent Garden, London. It was a competitor to the Roundhouse at Chalk Farm.
Nights at Middle Earth were normally hosted and arranged by the DJ and promoter Jeff Dexter. Groups that played there included Pink Floyd, The Who, the Jimmy Page-era Yardbirds, Roy Harper, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, JULY, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, David Bowie's folk trio Feathers, The Move, The Pretty Things, Fairport Convention and Jefferson Airplane, Eric Burdon and Captain Beefheart. The Byrds also played here twice with Gram Parsons. The main groups playing on a regular basis were Soft Machine, Tomorrow, Sam Gopal's Dream, Tyrannosaurus Rex with Marc Bolan and Steve Peregrin Took, Social Deviants, the pre-Yes Mabel Greer's Toyshop and the Graham Bond Organization who was a constant visitor/performer. Others included The Exploding Galaxy dance group, and The Tribe of the Sacred Mushroom headed by Lin Darnton had performed a play based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
The club was noteworthy for several drug raids by the police during which underage revelers were arrested. Where in fact on the occasion of the 2 raids on Covent Garden, one of which occurred while Lin Darnton's play based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead was being performed, only 2 girls were arrested for being underage. The other arrest was of a member of The Graham Bond Organization for Possession. Sam Gopal's Dream was also due to perform that night, and were hanging out in the dressing room with Graham Bond when the Police raided the club. Also a machine called the 'Trip Machine' was dismantled and taken away by the Police.
Mick Hutchinson and Pete Sears of Sam Gopal's Dream often spent the night in the club with Graham Bond after management had pad-locked the outside gates after closing. Sam Gopal's Dream was an instrumental trio that played many shows at both the Electric Garden Club and, later, at Middle Earth.
John Masara, John, Warren, Trevor and Roger (trading as Explosive Spectrum from Canvey Island), Brian Rollason, Ian Hill, Mike Capel and Don Granger were the main lighting crew at Middle Earth through 1967-69. Mike Capel and Ian Hill went on to design lighting for top live music acts of the 1960s and 1970s. Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band come out wearing Spy vs Spy outfits, each a different color - but perfect. Hats Capes, Suits, Boots, Gumikeitars, all one solid color. Bright Red, Blue, Green and Yellow with Beefheart in Black wearing his Bowler. "He finished with a 25 minute encore of "Mirror Man" Screaming. It was a mind-bender of a lightshow of classic proportions along with their music. After they finished and left the stage we killed all stage lights and brought up full house lights. Then Captain Beefheart walks out to the front of the stage and taps a mike until it became live. All the people were still trying to deal with the reality of houselights...he said in his raspy booming voice - but loud "That was the best light-show I had anywhere, better than San Francisco ~ ANYWHERE! And walked back off the stage! Mik Little a regular at the club states.... He also said that he was coming back because he loved to see so many 'turned on' people at his gig at the end of his set. His set was a fantastic magical hell of a show -----Mind blowing! Colin Jury who occasionally did lights and left the above memories has a link to his tribute page at the bottom of this page.
- The Byrds in the middle of their show, after an amazing half-set with Easy Chair and Eight Miles High etc., stopped and asked us to kill the lights and bring up the Houselights. We did this and they said "This is our last gig as the Byrds, we are now going to play Bluegrass." You should have seen the looks on the faces of these British Hippies - spongling on Sandoz - like WTF! It came off as just weird...
Nick Butt was the clubs electrician. He recalls that on the afternoon / evening that the Tribe of the sacred mushroom put on their play, after the police left following the raid, a rumour (untrue) went round the Covent garden market porters that a child was being burnt at the stake in the club. They stormed in with axes and box hooks and stayed about half an hour destroying almost everything in the club. Before leaving they smashed an axe through the office door where staff including Jeff Dexter were taking refuge.
John Peel was also a disc jockey at the Club on Saturday Nights until Mid-1968. The Club was closed down in mid-1968 and after holding events at a few venues settled at the Roundhouse where it put on the Doors and Jefferson Airplane for 4 performances over two nights in September 1968. Led Zeppelin played their first public performance there on Saturday 9 November 1968.
Paul Waldman was the club's owner, David Howson was the manager. They formed a record label called Middle Earth Records in 1969 in association with Chess Records. The label released only five album titles before it was closed in 1970. David Howson went on to become a Publicity Manager for Phonogram and Later EMI records.
Marie Brown and Jenny Fabian worked in the ticket office. Whilst working at Middle Earth, Jenny Fabian co wrote "Groupie" an Iconic book about the life and times of a Groupie. (Plus Pat - second name of this lady unknown - she did artwork for posters and many other tasks. She said 'whatever happened to Hobbit' - Pat and Hobbit were left off of this list so Hobbit says 'whatever happened to Pat').
Door Men included: Alan Reid, Scotch Billie, Norman Pilkington, Jordan Reynolds. Paul Martyn-Smith (AKA Hobbit) now known for his published work on Book of Changes - The Sum of Things.
Restaurant Staff included: Mimi & Mouse who formed a band called "Shiva's children" with Alan Reid, and accompanied the Incredible String Band as dancers on some of the ISB's 1967 gigs. Scotch Billie also ran restaurant with the help of John, plus his French Riot Baton, which he used to threaten an Inspector from Bow Street on the Middle Earth's first police raid - the only policeman to get through the door as it was shut by Hobbit until warrant was served - this gave many minutes warning to either get rid of or hide many substances collected by staff afterwards as the club was then closed to public for the night. (Account given on both raids above by Hobbit). Tim Sharman later took over the management of the restaurant in Covent Garden & continued to run it at the Roundhouse until the clubs closure.