Flares And Graces

Club Fiesta, in full swing.

The 1970s are regularly viewed as either the decade that fashion forgot or the most heavily mined for clobber.
But, for Sheffield, it was one of the most confident and happening eras on record, says
Neil Anderson.

 

We might not have bothered the pop charts much (that didn’t happen until the 1980s) and tens of thousands of jobs in our traditional heavy industries were being lost by the end of the decade, but for many, growing up in the era of glam, punk and Rollermania was coolest thing ever.

Opening in the summer of 1970, The Fiesta was the crowning glory of the Sheffield nightscene for many.
It was as near as the city ever got to having a large piece of Las Vegas glitz in the middle of town.
Sat on Arundel Gate, The Fiesta (now the Odeon cinema) immediately became a showpiece for the city and the country. It arguably got as close to any UK venue to landing a gig by Elvis.
The lavish 1,500 capacity venue boasted an all-seater, amphitheatre-like layout that put the front rows of the audience within yards of the biggest names on the planet.
There was a plush restaurant, in-house discotheque and approximately 150 staff on duty each night to ensure the smooth running of the place.
Club Fiesta persuaded the biggest American acts in the world to perform up close and personal with Sheffield: Stevie Wonder, Four Tops, The Beach Boys and Jackson 5 (complete with Michael Jackson) were just a few of the household names to make the trip.

Massive home-grown acts included regulars like Tommy Cooper, Les Dawson, Bruce Forsyth and the city’s own Tony Christie.
Another Sheffield talent, Marti Caine, started at the venue as a compère and ended up headlining the place.
Christine Ward (who was Christine Milner at the time) started at Club Fiesta when it opened in 1970.
She was the venue’s assistant manager and has fond memories of the place.

She said: “The Shadows played the first night at Club Fiesta following its official opening by the Mayor.
“It went well at first and then things drifted a bit. It was landing the Four Tops that did it – they could have done a month. They sold the place out and the atmosphere was unbelievable. That’s what Club Fiesta needed – top artists.
“When Stevie Wonder came we had to bring in extra doormen to stand around the stage to ensure nobody rushed it. By the end of it even the doormen were stood on the tables dancing! It was the most electric night.
“It was the same with the Beach Boys. I thought they were never going to be able to reproduce what they produced on record, but they did.
“Club Fiesta was the place to come. Acts would probably do a week with us and then go home – they wouldn’t do a tour as such. They’d also do a regular summer season and sometimes pantomime.”

But not everyone liked the idea of performing at the cabaret-style of Club Fiesta.
T-Rex, who were at the height of their fame when they were booked to play, definitely didn’t.

Christine Ward: “Everything always went wrong when I was on duty on my own. For one night only we’d got T-Rex. I arrived about six-o-clock in the evening and at 7.30pm their manager came to me and said ‘they’re not going on’. It was a sell-out and they were due on at 9pm. They decided it wasn’t their type of venue.
“I rang comedian Jack Diamond who I knew was in Sheffield and I said ‘Jack you’re going to have to do me the biggest favour you’ll ever do me – the main act’s not going on and I need you to come and do it for me’. I didn’t tell him who it was that was refusing to go on.
“As he came in he saw T-Rex. He went to the dressing room and was violently sick and wouldn’t go on. I said ‘you’ve got to do it – this is your big chance and we can get a lot of publicity out of it’.
“Jack was introduced and someone shouted ‘Ride a White Swan’. And he said ‘you ride what you want dear and I’ll ride what I want’. ”

Hofbrauhaus

Jack won plaudits for his performance under difficult circumstances.

The sheer number and variety of venues on offer in 1970s Sheffield dwarfs anything we have today: cabaret clubs, discotheques, pubs, restaurants, Working Men’s Clubs, out-of-town nightclubs, live music venues and even a 24 hour Wimpy.

The Top Rank (the venue is now the 02 Academy) dominated much of the scene with live gigs and massive weekend ‘Steeley’s’ discotheque .
Just down the road on High Street was the Crazy Daizy with its ground-breaking Bowie nights.
If you wanted rock you could try The Buccaneer on Leopold Street or maybe, a few years later, The Wapentake.
Punk rock didn’t really get a home until The Limit opened on West Street in 1978 with its groundbreaking gigs and club nights.
Sheffield did have its part to play in the foundations of punk – The Clash made their live debut at The Black Swan a couple of years earlier.
It’s fair to say the champions of political correctness were fighting a losing battle for much of the decade.

Dinner time entertainment was a far cry from the sandwich and quick wander round town most city centre workers make do with these days.
Despite the rise of the feminist movement, you could bag three strippers, topless go-go dancers and free beer for only 5p at Hofbrauhaus on Eyre Street six lunchtimes a week.
Women were praised for undertaking marathon drinking sessions in the name of charity and tales of wife swapping parties in Dronfield were front page news.
If you felt a dash of sophis-tication in the air you could do worse than go for a dinner and dance at The Grand Hotel on Leopold Street.
Training started early for aspiring party animals.

Olga, of The Buccaneer

The Top Rank had been promoting matinee performances, with the big hitters from the glam rock scene, for the youngsters since the early 1970s.
If you’d got wheels there was excuse-a-plenty to get out and about for a night out.
Five Ways Motel at Owler Bar (which later became Fannys) was packing them in every weekend.
One of the biggest events of the era was the 1976 opening of Josephine’s in Barkers Pool.
Whilst most of the country was busy sticking safety pins in its lapels, in honour of the punk rock explosion, local businessman Dave Allen went for a champagne bar, restaurant and up-market nightclub and set his stall out for the next 25 years.

If you didn’t fancy spending hard earned cash on hours of drinks, food and all-round needless banter (with the sole aim of persuading the object of your desire to de-robe), the seventies was the place for you.
No need to disappear to Attercliffe under the cover of darkness, it was all here in the city centre.
Strip shows were more common place than Starbucks are today.
Soft porn was in full view on the silver screen at the Wicker and drinking competitions got you a pat on the back from your local charity, rather than a flea in the ear from your local health spokesperson.

Neil Anderson has written various books on the city in the 1970s including Dirty Stop Out’s Guide to 1970s Sheffield; Shopaholics Guide to 1970 Sheffield and Take It To The Limit about West Street’s Limit venue. Head to his site for more

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