Memories of 1970s groups

Top Rank ticket
From the private collection of Paul Clarkson
Roy Wood of Wizzard autograph
From the private collection of Paul Clarkson

Opened in 1965

The Top Rank Suite as we knew it, was opened on the 10th November 1965; it was designed by Russell Diplock and was the first part of the new West Street/Churchill Square re-development after the war. In December 1966 a ten-pin bowling alley and an ice rink were added. The bowling alley closed in 1970 and the ice rink the following year due to falling revenue. In 1972 the building was re-named the Kingswest and it was split into several bars and a cinema. Local people had a love/hate relationship with the building, many saying it was ugly and not in keeping with the buildings on the seafront. Others, mainly the younger generation, loved it for its entertainment.

Great groups in the 1970s

The early 1970s were the best time as they had some great groups play there. My wife saw Rod Stewart and The Faces supported by Nazareth for the princely sum of 75p on 7th February 1972, she remembers it being absolutely packed. She also saw the Four Tops in the same year. I saw Lindisfarne in 1972 supported by Genesis who were still a 5 piece band with Peter Gabriel at that point. The stage was too small for all of their equipment and they seemed to be as packed in as we were in the audience. At the end of their last song ‘The Return of the Giant Hogweed’ a huge flash went up from the edge of the stage as part of the act, but a member of staff at the back pulled the plug thinking it was a fire. That was that, we didn’t get an encore.

A meeting with Roy Wood

Later in the year I saw Slade with Suzi Quatro and Thin Lizzy supporting. Dave Hill of Slade was nursing a broken leg and had to sit at the side of the stage. Mott the Hoople also appeared at the Suite and at the time they had just released ‘All the Young Dudes’ so again it was packed solid. The one gig I will always remember was Wizzard with Roy Wood. It was October 1972 and their first tour after Roy’s departure from ELO, so we were keen to see them. It started at 7.30, we saw the Third Ear Band and Discovery at the start of the evening. It got to midnight when Roy Wood walked on stage to announce they could not play as their lorry had broken down containing all their gear. As an autograph hunter at the time, I was determined to get something out of the evening so I chased him round the back, and just before he disappeared up the spiral staircase I managed to catch up with him, and he signed the back of my ticket!

Do you remember?

Did you see any of these groups? Maybe you remember seeing other groups here? If you can share your memories with us, please leave a comment below.


Comments about this page

  • Yes, I saw The Faces there early 70s, it could have been 7th February 1972. The time I saw them they were very drunk by the end of the show, and one (I think dear old Ronnie Lane) had to be replaced by a roadie!  I saw many other bands there, and surprisingly many hard reggae bands like Burning Spear and Gregory Isaacs, probably that was mid to late 70s!

    By Peter Groves (08/01/2014)
  • I got an evening job at The Suite in Jan/Feb 1972 as a glass collector.  Rod Stewart and Slade appeared there within a week or two of each other (as I remember), but I didn’t have much glass collecting to do as the audiences were so mesmerised they gave up drinking while they listened to the bands. Slade were absolutely fantastic. Loud and fantastic!

    By Renia (09/01/2014)
  • Looking back at the Four Tops show that my wife went to, it was interesting to see that it was at 10.30pm. The Suite was not really a ‘gig’ venue at that time as it was more of a dancing venue. In those days that was ‘late’ as the show wouldn’t have finished before midnight and as my wife lived in Coldean she remembers that she had to get a taxi which was not cheap. Getting a taxi in those days was a luxury, but as the last number 13 bus left the Old Steine at 11pm it didn’t leave any other option. In the 70s, although the tickets look cheap, she was only earning about £7 a week, so the ticket was nearly a quarter of her salary. This didn’t leave a lot for any extras so it would have been a dear night out!

    By Paul Clarkson (12/01/2014)
  • I was at the Faces concert in 1972, funny I remember Nazareth as support but not Byzantium (must be old age!). What I remember most was how loud Nazareth were but their PA/Sound system kept breaking down and, after a few abortive attempts, they finally gave up and walked off stage, We then had a long wait before the Faces finally appeared but it was worth it, they were fantastic. Also remember seeing Osibisa and The Elgins at The Suite: small venue but great atmosphere.

    By Leigh Sturgeon (11/03/2014)
  • Great club for more intimate rock acts. I remember being totally blown away by Steve Hillage somewhere around ’76. By the late 70s the punk / new wave explosion saw some great bands visiting, an ideal venue for anyone “too big” for The Alhambra.
    Stiff Little Fingers twice (though not the legendary tour where they supported TRB – a regret which I carry to this day), The Adverts whom I watched from the balcony, as being over 20 at the time I was “very nearly dead” in punk terms and of course the infamous Buzzcocks gig where the roadies were attacking the audience which then provoked a riot after the band walked off stage.  It was a surreal sight to see a single bobby walking into the middle of the crowd swinging his truncheon around his head and clearing a huge area of the floor. The reported aftermath was a single injury to a roadie after being hit in the groin by a full can of beer (well deserved) and one arrest of an individual walking up West Street with an amplifier under his arm.

    By Phil Edwards (04/04/2014)
  • In the late 70s, Thursday nights were reggae night at the Top Rank and all the best visiting JA outfits played there. In 1978 I saw Dillinger, The Gladiators and Culture. A bit later on I saw Steel Pulse, Barrington Levy, Burning Spear, Eek A Mouse and probably some others I now can’t remember. The vibe in the late 70s was fairly mellow with a crowd consisting of punks, hippies, students, soul fans and the curious. In the early 80s the atmosphere changed with a different crowd coming down from London… it got heavier, more gangsterish. The sounds were still great though. Really miss those nights. I had to travel down from mid-sussex (not easy when the last train home was 11:10pm) and sometimes walked back to Hassocks. Now I can actually see the Odeon from my window… but no more gigs there, shame.

    By Mike (16/04/2014)
  • Mike I remember the reggae nights, saw some great artists, shame but most of them are no longer with us.  R.I.P. Bob, Peter, Osbourne, Delroy, I-Roy, Carlton, Brent and the rest!

    By Peter Groves (16/04/2014)
  • I remember a night at Top Rank- 1974 – Showaddywaddy on stage – oh yes, it was a bomb.

    By Dan Kullman (13/12/2014)
  • Leigh, I was at that Elgins gig, great times.

    By Phil Lambert (16/07/2015)
  • Yes, were lots of good times. I worked behind the bars –  ice and cockroaches!

    By Paul (24/09/2015)
  • Great memories of the Suite in the ’60s. Does anyone have any pics of The Love Affair when they played there? Would have been 1968 or ’69, I think. I also went to see them at The Dome too in 1969. Happy days.

    By Irene Dobson (nee Budd) (16/10/2015)
  • I was certainly at the Faces and Slade concerts and remember the guitarist in the wheelchair nursing his broken leg. I’ve also got memories of Doctors of Madness and Rainbow later in the seventies as well as a lot of punk bands such as Sham 69 etc.

    By Robert White (26/06/2016)
  • Anyone know or remember Sherry the resident DJ/Compere at the Suite in the 60/70s?

    By Julie (13/09/2016)
  • I was a big fan of the suite from 1967, dancing there regularly and remember Tuesday evenings as being the cheapest night. A mod took me there on such a night, our first and last date! Whiter Shade of Pale was playing. Also, being a hairdresser there was an annual Loreal colour trophy competition that I attended, which was always a fab night. I remember wearing a white smocked dress two years running and a girl coming up to me and saying that she recognised me because of my dress – I didn’t wear it again! Lindisfarne and Genesis in ’72 stick in my mind as being great nights. I can’t be sure but I seem to think that Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Titch were playing one lunchtime in the suite, my friend and I bunked off from college to see them.  Mind you that was many years ago and I may have got it wrong. I would love those years back again.

    By Maz Hopwood (09/02/2017)
  • I was 17 in 1976 and since the previous year I had been a regular at the rock disco upstairs at the Hungry Years (I could pass for18 easy then). Most nights I was there head banging away with the best of them and indeed a number of cherished girlfriends were first met there. However, Tuesday night was rock night at the Top Rank. The ritual was to cut the 30p discount coupon from Tuesday’s Evening Argus, that of course your parents always bought and get in for 50p rather than 80p. It was always an aural adjustment from the small, loud confines of the Hungry Years to the comparatively cavernous venue of the Top Rank. In there, the sound kind of dissipated, unlike the Years where it positively pounded off the walls back at you. This often resulted in my felt need to air guitar into the bass speaker of the PA in one corner. I was a big Status Quo fan at that time and met a very nice guy, a TV repair man by trade, called Glen who had huge sideburns and was one of the band’s biggest fans. We would happily rock out, both with heads in the bass bin!

    So to the Tuesday night bands, from memory those I saw at the Top Rank in 1976-7 included the art rock strains of The Doctors of Madness (Kid Strange’s ‘KiD’ shaped guitar fascinated me), the funky propulsion of Roogalator, local band The Tonge (later The Depressions) deputising for a late cancelling Lone Star (‘a bummer as I wanted to see them as well’ announced the singer in his introduction). The Soho Jets (more art glam, check out their ‘High-Heeled Tarzan’ 45 on Polydor, excellent and right out there).

    A Pre- Crowded House Split Endz with Eraser head hair cuts and a early ’77 John Foxx led Ultravox! gig. Here, a small bunch of kids in PVC bin liner type clothing were congregated at one side of the floor and clearly ‘in the know’ as regards the band whilst all the hairy rockers were on the other side looking bemused. This was the first punk band I’d seen. I gawped in amazement between the band and their fans and thought, I’m having some of this. Ultravox! dressed in the same way as their fans slammed through a fast paced set (they still had Stevie Shears on guitar then) which included ‘TV Orphan’, a song which for almost forty years I thought I had imagined so quickly did it seem to disappear from their set. Only a year or two ago did I find it on Youtube from a grainy 1976 German televised gig someone managed to video. I could hardly believe it! I was sane after all! After this TR gig, I went and had my long, dank head banging locks shaved off, so taken was I with this newly emergent teenage popular sub culture of punk.

    Other bands that come to mind from the TR include Motorhead, Lemmy kicking his amp to got louder even though it was up all the way. The Stranglers – twice. Once supported by under rated punk band London (whose drummer later turned up in Culture Club) and once by The US band The Dictators whose singer Handsome Dick Manatoba (I think?) had a huge perm, an obvious punk audience target. Never has human spittle looked so decorative as when it adorned that guy’s hair! The Adverts (as someone has already mentioned)  – I seem to recall them postponing the gig a couple of times before finally playing. The Jam – £1.00 in advance or £1.20 on the door. supported by a pre-Secret Affair band The New Hearts (The Jam walked off after two songs because of the spitting but came back on and no-one then spat). Elvis Costello & The Attractions when they were a good new wave pure-pop band;Sham 69 and the bone head (as distinct from skinhead) rioters that wouldn’t leave them alone and attacking punks at intervals; The Buzzcocks – another riot, as has been mentioned. I was overtaken buy the two punks running up West Street with Pete Shelley’s amp wondering where to hide it. It had his name on it in big letters.

    I am also sure I saw a band called Alone Again Or after the Arthur Lee / Love song with a male / female lead vocal which I very much enjoyed but maybe like Ultravox’s ‘TV Orphan’ I am just imagining it (again?)

    By Paul Martin (17/05/2017)
  • Saw loads of bands at Brighton Top Rank in the late ’70s and early ’80s. U2, Adam and The Ants, Bauhaus (quite a few times) Toyah, Classix Nouveau, The Psychedelic Furs, PIL, Gregory Isaacsand The House of Love to name but a few. Happy days.

    By Jeff Stonehouse (25/05/2017)
  • I wish I could go back to the days of the fab ‘Suite’. Walking down those magical stairs with the fantastic Motown music rising up and drawing you into a world of dance. I met my lovely husband there back in 1968 and we are still together and happily married now for 46 years.  The Mods used to call me little Jill with my dolly front shoes from Shoe Box and my black and white mini dress with earrings to match, I felt part of the scene. Jerry was king of the mods, does anyone remember him? I also saw Otis Reading – he was amazing. My husband and I miss those wonderful times. Best Era ever. Love this site.   

    By Jill Read nee Shephard (26/08/2017)
  • Yes Julie, I remember Sherry the resident DJ and also Marie Harper who was the morning DJ when I used to enter miming competitions down the Suite as a young 13-14 year old to songs like The Boat that I Row by Lulu and some by  Dusty Springfield. I kept winning and the other kids complained and said it was favouritism, ie accused me of being Marie Harper’s sister because I looked like her. Glad I’m not that age any more.

    By Jill Read nee Shephard (26/08/2017)
  • I saw some wonderful bands such The Commodores, Average White Band between 1975/80, and so many others. I loved the suite; great all round sound. Does anyone remember Sat morning discos and Tuesdays cheap nights disco?

    By Valerie Lawrence nee Starnes (08/10/2017)
  • First time I went to a gig there was in Oct or November 1972 when I saw Kevin Ayers, Climax Blues Band and another group I can’t remember.
    It was the night after ELP played at the Dome and the Tarkus placed in the middle of the stage fired polystyrene balls and clogged the grand piano causing the gig to be paused while they cleared it out.

    By Laurence McLeod (Truck) (06/05/2020)
  • I remember seeing Simple Minds at the Top Rank suite. The speakers were so loud the floor was vibrating to the beat. The music that evening seems legendary in my memory. Earlier years I remember great times at the Saturday morning disco 💃 dancing to Motown songs like “Saturday Night at the Movies” by The Four Tops and lots of Gary Glitter back then. Also saw Supertramp there and I took a couple of photos of the lead singer’s jacket which was all lit up with bulbs. I remember seeing Steve Lewis who sang a bunch of Elvis songs, including “Hound Dog”. Wow! Good times!

    By Louise (23/06/2020)
  • I remember seeing Cat Stevens at The Top Rank Suite on a gig promoting his 1966 single “I love my dog” he was wearing a little box jacket mod suit. Recently heard him on Desert Island Discs under his new name Yusaf Islam where he said he was always very nervous when appearing live.
    I loved the Motown music and went most weeks from when it opened and well into 1970’s, remember wearing “dollyrocker ” dresses which I used to buy in a tiny shop by The Sussex pub in East Street.

    By Janet McCarthy (23/10/2020)
  • I was mesmerised by “Johnny Guitar Watson”!
    He could sing, dance and play the guitar like no other… must have been 1973/4?
    White hat, gold tooth and oozing personality!
    A great night…. he had it all! 😊👍

    By John (13/02/2022)

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