Tag Archives: Roy Hinton

Roy Hinton, The Caxton, Pimlico RIP

9 Aug

We all live with death these days, but there are some deaths which stun us such as that of JFK or John Lennon. It’s too soon, just not now, please. Such was the reaction when my good friend Ian told me of Roy’s passing. Ian had turned me on to the Caxton in 1965 as I approached the age of 14. I was already six foot one inch tall, had a part-time job and money in my pocket to buy those Ivy look mohair suits, American button-down shirts and American shoes.

Max Justice, hard Mod and supplier of mohair suit lengths!

My first night there was like a religious experience as we descended the stairs into the dance hall where at the end sat Roy at the first twin record deck in London, playing music I’d never heard before apart from the stock soul tracks you’d get on Radio Luxemburg when the medium wave allowed. But added to that was the Ska music of Jamaica, even more exotic than the soul coming out of Detroit, Chicago or Memphis.

Roy and I soon became good friends to the point that I’d play the records myself if he was needed elsewhere. From that, I started calling round for him to go to the club together. Those early evenings waiting in his flat turned me on further to even more far out stuff such as Jimmy Smith, Miles Davis or John Lee Hooker. While not played in the club, these guys were nevertheless part of the cool scene going on in the world of the Mod.

Soon after, I accompanied Roy every weekend to either Sir Coxsone’s Downbeat Records in Brixton for the Ska imports From Jamaica or to Soul City in Monmouth St, WC2 for the latest soul imports from the USA. Soon, the word of the Caxton spread south of the water to Clapham, Brixton and Lambeth and the crowd got very glsmorous style-wise albeit slightly tense in gang terms with serious dancers in search of these stomping sounds.  Roy never let the crowd down, often surprising them with a rare track which produced a stream of queries after their titles.

By 1969, I’d bailed out of the scene as reggae became more mainstream and was getting associated with the more violent Skinhead movement. I moved on to become a mix of a jazz and suedehead, digging CSNY, Santana or my father’s cool music. As my mates moved on to long hair and flares, I kept the faith with my sharp suits, shirts and ties to the point where, if out, girls thought I must have just come out of prison to be hanging around with those Yetis.

Like most people, I got on with life until one day Ian phoned me to say he’d been on a stroll down memory lane and stumbled through the door of The Caxton to not only be greeted by Roy and his assistant Jan, but to be shown our contemporary signing in books and photos that I remember being taken down there in 1967.

I shortly followed Ian down there to be met likewise by Roy and to see that the club was now an educational centre for the disabled youth of Westminster. Indeed, Roy and Jan had been awarded the MBE for their services but they typically played this down. The lnk below shoees the difference that can be made to people’s lives.

If you’re lucky, some people come into your life, even if only briefly, and change it utterly and forever. I can say that Roy is one such person for not only myself but also for many other Westminster kids who otherwise may have ended up in prison or dead, given the gang scene that was emerging. But that music lives on in all of us and I won’t be the only one forever transported back to that romantic and electrifying dancefloor when today we hear Pheonix City by Roland Alphonso or Things Get Better by Eddie Floyd, too many more tracks will do the same but are too numerous to mention here.

Ian recalled in tribute to Roy that “It’s true to say that my life would have taken a different course without his musical inspiration”. Certainly, without Roy, I wouldn’t have the record collection that I have. I owe my musical tastes today to him.

Roy, you’ll never know what you were and still are to us Pimlico kids, I can’t hear certain records without seeing your face there at the record counter. Your cancer took you away far too early, neither we ravers of the Sixties nor the lucky kids today who’ve had a leg up to achieve self-respect and worthiness despite their disability can thank you other than by following your example and not crossing over to the other side as is so easy.

Roy Hinton; friend, legend, inspiration.

To my soul brother here’s the tune–my own group’s last tune–that heralded the end of the night and the walk home through Pimlico’s then shabby post-war streets.