Book records music venue's history

RICHARD BATSON The two seaside halls used to sway to the sounds of the day, from sedate strictly ballroom to angst-powered punk.

RICHARD BATSON

The two seaside halls used to sway to the sounds of the day, from sedate strictly ballroom to angst-powered punk.

On stage the acts read like Who's Who of the music world - David Bowie, Chuck Berry, Slade, Status Quo, Queen, Thin Lizzy, Hot Chocolate, Motorhead, the Sex Pistols... and The Who themselves.

On the beer-sodden floor, crowds jostled to get close to bands who were starring in the charts at the same time as they were playing in rural north Norfolk.

They arrived in convoys of buses or rode miles on mopeds, and left, deafened for two days, with hangovers and some with new girlfriends.

Between the 1960s and 1980s, the Cromer Links and West Runton Pavilion were a part of Norfolk life for a generation who still talk about the music, the atmosphere and the characters.

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Now they have been captured in print by Julie Fielder, who went to the pavilion as a teenager in the 1970s where her father John Mason worked on the door.

She wanted to record the memories, music and emotions from the two venues, helped by a reunion of fans last October, which provided a tidal wave of words and pictures from all over the world.

The book recalls the early days when the entertainment at the halls was foxtrots, waltzes and knobbly knee competitions, before pop music took over.

It was The Who who put the Links on the map, with a February 1967 gig which saw them do their trademark trashing of gear at the end in front of a wild crowd, who had paid the modern day equivalent of £75 a ticket. Lead singer Roger Daltrey drank a bottle of vodka and watched the Monkees on TV before the show.

The boss of Northrepps Cottage hotel was told to keep his restaurant open for the band afterwards, and was less than happy when all they wanted was one glass of milk.

Other tales include:

A bomb scare during a Slade concert at the Links in 1972, which saw Noddy Holder talking the crowd out of the building and offering a £50 reward to anyone revealing the hoaxer.

Long John Baldry, the worse for wear, being taken to his Cromer hotel in the back of a Mini pick up, but running into the sea in his suit and shoes.

A Runton crowd left deafened and confused by the Sex Pistols' first visit in 1976 , who then played the penultimate gig at the Links on Christmas Eve a year later.

A local Salvation Army man collecting glasses shielding his eyes from the Top of the Pops dancers, Pan's People, at the Pavilion.

There are also the characters who used to frequent the places such as larger-than-life Links bouncer John Cook; Richard Howard, who used to cycle from Norwich to West Runton in his fully teddy boy outfit; and Links' guard dog Rinty whose teethmarks were left in many a troublesome customer.

The two venues thrived in the days when bands earned a living from touring, and were keen to try out their acts in a remote part of the country away from the main reviewers.

The Links burned down in April 1978, and the Pavilion was knocked down in February 1987.

Competition between the two had taken its toll, along with the arrival of new venues in Norwich, and the fragmentation of the music scene - which ended the days when crowds came every week whatever the band.

The book is a labour of love which took 18 months of research and will be launched next weekend at the Walcott Lighthouse pub run by Steve Bullimore, who worked his way up at the Links from being a school boy glass collector to a booker of acts.

"At the time we did not realise what a great time it was. We took it for granted," he said.

The book, What Flo Said, is £14.99, with a 20pc discount at the 7.30pm launch event on Saturday, October 14. It can also be obtained from Julie on 01362 684175 or via the website www.whatflosaid.co.uk.