rock-o-the-north

This week sees the latest night dedicated to that institution of North East rock – The Mayfair – a decade after its famous doors were closed for the very last time.

And despite the fact that we’re once again pretty well off for club size venues in Newcastle there’s no doubt that none boast the same electric atmosphere which underpinned Europe’s biggest and longest-running rock club.

Spanning four decades and delivering all of the biggest bands on the planet, to anyone under the age of 20 The Mayfair is no more than a myth. Those of us who stumbled across the venue towards the end of its lifespan often feel cheated that our relationship with the old ballroom was cut short. But those lucky enough to enjoy its 70s and 80s heyday should revel in their good fortune.

Whether tomorrow’s o2 Academy’s Mayfair Reunion will truly do justice to the great old place remains to be seen. But the very fact that ever rock promoter in the region likes to reference the venue when starting a new club night is testimony to the pulling power and enduring reputation of a genuine North East institution.

For the hair metal generation The Mayfair brings back memories of Little Jeff and Guns N Roses, outrageous fashion and gallons of hairspray. Those who packed its floor two decades earlier might disagree, but there was no better time to be a weekend regular than in the late 80s. Even The Quireboys felt pressed to pen a tune about a vacuous hall in need of a lick of paint and a later licence and back then every other bloke inside the doors looked like Spike or Axl Rose.

For the general public the sight of glammed up, made-up rockers snaking alongside the Newgate Street Co-op on a Friday and Saturday night was a pretty scary vision. For wannabe rockers and under-age ale tasters alike it was the only queue to be part of – gaining entry was a passport to the pages of Kerrang!, Metal Hammer and Raw.

Even the onset of grunge didn’t halt the Mayfair in its tracks. The soundtracks of the club nights always encompassed every era and every genre – keeping new punters happy and the old guard satisfied. Where the likes of Free, Steppenwolf, Argent and Thin Lizzy bands as diverse as Smashing Pumpkins and Living Colour would follow three decades later.

But 10 years ago the death knell sounded for a venue which simply couldn’t compete with shiny new glass, a multiplex cinema, trendy bars and super cool eateries. At a time when classic rock was struggling to survive – and even a region proud of its rock roots had turned its back on all but the biggest live acts – the loss of The Mayfair appeared to be the final nail in the coffin.

But hindsight, and nostalgia, is a beautiful thing and even before Little Jeff passed away his Mayfair rock nights had been reinvented and reborn. These days such evenings bearing the famous venue’s name are springing up everywhere, with the Academy’s regular reunion nights widely recognised as the market leader within a venue which has taken up the baton for rock in Newcastle.

Gone, but never forgotten, The Mayfair will always mean so much to readers of rushonrock and lovers of rock the world over. Even now there are rock musicians unaware that the venue ever shut its doors and the expression of disappointment on their faces tells its own story. Let’s at least keep the memory alive.