Besides the punters who were on the hunt for erotic pleasures, Soho was also the Shangri-La of youngsters in search of a different kind of thrills such as music, dance and fashion. Starting in 1948 with the Club Eleven, Soho became the breeding ground for many music styles over the years. The 2i’s Coffee Bar, which opened in 1958, was probably the first rock club in Europe. The 60’s came and Mod culture made legends out of clubs such as The Flamingo and The Scene. Who has not heard of Carnaby Street, the centre of Mod fashion in the sixties? Soho’s Wardour Street was the home of the legendary Marquee Club, where many famous bands were baptised with their first performance, including the Rolling Stones in 1962. It was in Denmark Street, where groups such as the Rolling Stones, Kinks and Sex Pistoles cut their first records.
The streets of Soho are rich in the history and memories of those who created it. Karl Marx lived at 54 and 28 Dean Street; Mozart lived in Frith Street as a child, which is also where John Braid first demonstrated television! Casanova lived there during his stay in London. It’s main thoroughfare Shaftesbury Avenue is famous, world wide, for its theatres; as is Leicester Square for its film premiers. The Soho name has been imitated by other entertainment districts such as Soho, Hong Kong and Soho, New York. A little known fact is that the famous brand of cigarettes smoked by rugged cowboys is named after Great Marlborough Street, which was once the location of Philip Morris’ original London factory.
Most of the Mods that tramped through Soho’s warren of streets and alleys in the 60’s were either unaware, or didn’t care that local gangsters, who carried colourful names such as Charley Soho and Mick the Greek, controlled the illicit trade that went on in the one square mile. The Mod's world ran parallel to the racketeers, in fact the two never clashed. In the years that I frequented the West I had very little to do with the red lights; although I did drop some blues! The 60’s, I would dare to say, were Soho’s golden years, the clubs steamed with raw new music sounds, there seemed to be permanent movement on the streets, and fashion was showing its face to the mainstream, the United Kingdom was coming out of the shadow of World War II and opening itself to new ideas, and Soho was one of the guiding lights. In-between the strip clubs and the clip joints, gamblers and punters, Britain's youth culture was making its voice heard; a cry, which would go out and rock the world!