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The UFO Club was founded by John Hopkins (usually known as "Hoppy") and Joe Boyd in an Irish dancehall called the "Blarney Club" in the basement of 31 Tottenham Court Road, under the Gala Berkeley Cinema. It opened on Dec. 23, 1966. Initially the club was advertised as "UFO Presents Nite Tripper". This had been because Boyd and Hopkins could not decide on "UFO" or "Nite Tripper" as a name for their club. Eventually they settled on "UFO".
Soft Machine and Pink Floyd were booked for the first two Fridays, and then re-engaged as the club carried on into 1967 after its initial success. Initial events combined live music with light shows, avant garde films and slide shows, and dance troupes.
Pink Floyd's tenure at UFO was a short run. As their fame grew they were able to play bigger venues for higher fees. Boyd protested that their increasing fame was largely due to the success of UFO, but the band's management wanted to move on and an agreement was made for just three more Floyd performances at UFO, at an increased fee.
Hopkins and Boyd had to cast around for a new "house band" for UFO. They settled on Soft Machine but also started booking other acts who were attracted by the club's reputation. Amongst them were The Incredible String Band, Arthur Brown, Tomorrow, and Procol Harum, who played there when "A Whiter Shade of Pale" was No 1 in the charts.
An advertisement featuring the Flammarion engraving in the Feb 13–26 issue of The International Times for "UfOria! Festival of Love 10.30 till dawn" [sic] announced "feb.10 — the bonzo dog doodah band • flix–dali–bunuel • ginger johnson african drums" as well as "feb 17 — soft machine • mark boyle projections • movies • food • erogenius 3 + 4".
Hapshash and the Coloured Coat, consisting of Michael English and Nigel Waymouth, designed psychedelic posters to advertise events. The food was macrobiotic and included brown rice rissoles, vegetarian stuffed vine leaves and felafel, supplied by Craig Sams, who went on to co-found Whole Earth Foods and Green & Black's.
Jack Bracelin's (Fiveacres Lights) created some of the light shows with equipment which ranged from 16mm projection of what we would now call 'art house' films (often projected sideways or projected into smoke) or 5 Kw 'Pani's' (effects projectors) borrowed from Samuelsons at Pinewood or Elstree film studios (or Strand Electric at Vauxhall) to overhead projectors with transparent trays borrowed from refrigerators and filled with water/indian ink/beer/whatever. A favorite was to use 'Aldis' slide projectors with dual layer 2×2 glass specimen slides with basic designs created with wax crayons (drawn by Lou – the oft naked lady) and then various substances introduced with syringes – indian inks, snot, semen – in fact anything of imiscible viscosities. Bubbles made by injecting air between the glass plates which were then squeezed (by a pair of long nose pliers – in time to the music) would send folks even further off their heads!
The UFO Club’s success was its downfall — being too small to accommodate the increasing number of visitors. If a big name such as Jeff Beck was playing, UFO broke even, but the club usually lost money. In October 1967 the UFO Club at the Roundhouse folded.
The hard rock band UFO is named for this club.
UFO Club billings
- Dec 23/30: Nite Tripper under Gala Berkeley Cinema; Warhol movies; Soft Machine; Pink Floyd; Anger movies; Heating warm; IT god
- Jan 13: Pink Floyd; Marilyn Monroe movie; The Sun Trolley; Technicolor strobe; Fiveacre slides; Karate
- Jan 20: Pink Floyd; Anger movie
- Jan 27: AMM Music; Pink Floyd; Five Acre Light; Flight of the Aerogenius Chpt 1; International Times; IT Girl Beauty Contest
- Feb 3: Soft Machine; Brown's Poetry; Flight of the Aerogenius Chpt 2; Bruce Connor Movies
- Feb 10: Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band; Ginger Johnson; Bank Dick WC Fields
- Feb 17: Soft Machine; Indian Music; Disney Cartoons; Mark Boyle Feature Movie
- Feb 24: Pink Floyd; Brothers Grimm
- Mar 3: Soft Machine; Pink Floyd
- Mar 10: Pink Floyd
- Mar 17: St Patrick's day off
- Mar 24: Soft Machine
- Mar 31: Crazy World of Arthur Brown; Pink Alberts; 'spot the fuzz contest'
- Apr 7: Soft Machine
- Apr 14: Arthur Brown; Social Deviants; Special: the fuzz
- Apr 21: Pink Floyd
- Apr 28: Tomorrow; The Purple Gang
- (Apr 29/30: 14-Hour Technicolor Dream at the Alexandra Palace)
- May 5: Soft Machine; Arthur Brown
- May 12: The Graham Bond Organisation; Procol Harum
- May 19: Tomorrow; Arthur Brown; The People Show
- May 26: The Move, The Knack
- Jun 2: Pink Floyd
- Jun 9: Procol Harum; The Smoke
- Jun 10: Pink Floyd
- Jun 16: Crazy World of Arthur Brown; Soft Machine; The People Blues Band 4.30am
- Jun 23: Liverpool Love Festival; The Trip
- Jun 30: Tomorrow; The Knack; Dead Sea Fruit
- Jul 7: Denny Laine; The Pretty Things
- Jul 14: Arthur Brown; Alexis Korner; Victor Brox
- Jul 21: Tomorrow; Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band
- Jul 28: Pink Floyd; CIA v UFO; Fairport Convention; Shiva's Children
- Aug 4: Eric Burdon; Family
- Aug 11: Tomorrow
- Aug 18: Arthur Brown; The Incredible String Band
- Sep 1/2: UFO Festival: Pink Floyd; Soft Machine; The Move; Arthur Brown; Tomorrow; Denny Laine
- Sep 8: Eric Burdon & The New Animals; Aynsley Dunbar
- Sep 15: Soft Machine; Family
- Sep 22: Dantalian's Chariot w/ Zoot Money & His Light Show; The Social Deviants; The Exploding Galaxy
- Sep 29: Jeff Beck; Ten Years After; Mark Boyle's New Sensual Laboratory; Contessa Veronica
- Boyd, Joe, White Bicycles – Making Music in the 1960s, Serpent's Tail, 2006. ISBN 1-85242-910-0
- Jones, Malcolm (2003). "The Making of The Madcap Laughs" (21st Anniversary ed.). Brain Damage. p. 27.
- Jones, Malcolm (2003). "The Making of The Madcap Laughs" (21st Anniversary ed.). Brain Damage. p. 28.
- Jones, Malcolm (2003). "The Making of The Madcap Laughs" (21st Anniversary ed.). Brain Damage. p. 29.
- Jones, Malcolm (2003). "The Making of The Madcap Laughs" (21st Anniversary ed.). Brain Damage. p. 30.
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- Hopkins, John, FROM THE HIP – Photographs by JOHN "HOPPY" HOPKINS in the 1960–66, DAMIANI. 2008. ISBN 978-88-6208-018-7
- Boyd, Joe, White Bicycles – Making Music in the 1960s, Serpent's Tail. 2007. ISBN 978-1-85242-489-3
- Miles, Barry: In the Sixties. (London 2002)
- Green, Jonathon: Days in the Life: Voices from the English Underground, 1961–73 (London 1998)
- Saunders, William Jimi Hendrix London Roaring Forties Press. 2010. ISBN 978-0-9843165-1-9
- Joe Beard's biography of The Purple Gang – Taking the Purple – contains many references to UFO. Available in print ISBN 978-0-9928671-0-2 or online in Kindle format http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KLOEOIO ISBN 978-0-9928671-1-9