Don Letts at The Roxy
Andy Czezowski was an amiable Cockney whose enterprise gave punk it's first permanent home. The ROXY was formerly a gay club in Neal Street, Covent Garden before Andy C. turned it into a rendez-vous for blank and spiky teenagers. In any year in any decade there are hundreds of footloose suburban kids on the streets of London's West End, looking for action, something different, exciting and preferably cheap and 1976 was no exception.
Most of the
original fans came square London suburbs like Bromley, where entertainment
choices were almost nil and youth had more time to be bored, alienated
and restless. At The ROXY these kids could meet others who considered
themselves rebellious, and take part in an underground scene where bands
and kids were re-writing the rules of rock'n'roll energy exchange. The
audience became part of the show as never before.
In this bizarre nursery Andy installed rastafarian Don Letts as disc jockey. Don had previously worked in the rag trade, and was manager of Acme Attractions, a boutique in the Kings Road, here he played music in the shop. He had no previous experience as a DJ. He had met a lot of punks at Boy, a neighbouring boutique, and sympathised with them. Despite the doubts of his black friends, he accepted the Roxy offer, and became a key figure on the scene.
All the early
punk bands played The Roxy: The Sex Pistols, The Clash, Jam, Siouxsie,
Buzzcocks, Generation X, Slaughter & The Dogs, Eater, The Slits,
The Subway Sect, among others. American acts such as Wayne County and
The Heartbreakers also appeared.
was interviewed by his pal Mark P in Sniffin' Glue N°7:
Don said that at the club he was getting more kids asking him for reggae than punk. "At first I wasn't sure whether to play it or not but then again, there ain't enough punk material out. like, they say I'm DJ'ing at The Roxy...there's no DJ'ing to do. You got like 10 LPs, right, and about 20 singles and that's it. How the fuck can you DJ? You just tearrange it every night. I had to pad it out with something and I can't stand soul, the soul right now. The soul now is, sort of...money inspired. I prefer punk rock to that shit. I prefer most of the white music now to most of that shit.".
had become fashionable and hip^and was now being patronised by college
girls, something found disguting. When he slagged off Caroline Moon,
Mark, reminded him that Coon used to go down to black clubs in the sixties,
but don was unconvinced. "You see her with her T-shirt carefully
ripped between the tits. Punk, my arse. You can tell she dresses up
like a punk to go to a punk do and probably puts on a red, gold and
green hat to go to a reggae do."
One minor event in Don's life was to assume major importance as the first 100 days of The Roxy passed quickly into legend . A lady fashion editor called Caroline Baker had bought him a 8-millimetre cine-camera as a present, and as practice with his new toy Don began to film the punks, and went to Harlesden to film The CLASH. Soon it was reported in the papers that he was making a punkmovie and evryone was asking him when it was coming out, so he filmed for three months, and as it become prohibitively expensensive he had to flog off all his possessions to buy film.
August, September 1977, a 60-minute version of the film was shown twice
at the ICA, admission 50p. It was a natural for a cover story of Time
Out: "Punk Home Movies". Don was interviewed and explained
how it had all fallen into place:
The spikiest home movie of the Seventies captured an embryonic rock revolution. The footage was primitive and unique. Johnny Rotten was in charismatic form, and smoked a joint in the DJ booth, Billy Idol did a Presley imitation in the dressing room., and The Slits were featured playing at Sussex University. They were shots of kids fixing smack, fans having a bash on the Jam's drum kit, and wild, uninhibited vertical dancing, soon dubbed 'pogoing'. Verité rock had become verité celluloid almost by accident.