Gone but not forgotten: a pick of some of the most famous lost Edinburgh pubs and clubs you’ll remember

All of us at some point in our lives have suffered a vile hangover after a good night out on the tiles.

We take a nostalgic look back at some of the Edinburgh watering holes and night spots which made it all worthwhile.

The Cas Rock

Cas Rock

Edinburgh’s historic West Port: Most notable for Burke & Hare, strip bars and… The Cas Rock.

When seminal West Port punk bar The Lord Darnley was taken over in 1992, a name change followed. The bar was refurbished and changed to The Cas Rock Café – the café part swiftly dropped following a few legal noises from the new Hard Rock on George Street.

Devoted to a mix of punk, rock, metal and indie music, the Cas was a tooth-cutting shop for aspiring local talent, as well as attracting a string of household names: UK Subs; Snow Patrol; Idlewild; Annie Christian (signed by Virgin records the night they played); Mogwai; The Fall; Teenage Fanclub; New Bomb Turks; The Meteors; Cornershop; Arab Strap; BMX Bandits; The Vaselines, to name but a few… Today’s Bannerman’s Bar residents, the Rab Howat Band, played to a crammed Cas audience each Saturday afternoon.

Gin Goblins

The Halloween shows courtesy of top Edinburgh punk outfit, The Gin Goblins, were the stuff of legend. Each year (against the express wishes of the bar) singer Mikie Jacobs made a point of ripping off a doll’s head filled with (presumably fake) blood during the performance.

The first time it happened, the morning cleaner spotted the blood-splattered stage area and was left in a state of abject shock, thinking a murder had taken place.

Cas Rock’s former bar worker, Jooly Blackie, who took over as manager/band booker in 1998 had this to say, “The Cas wasn’t just a pub, but a meeting place for bands and the like, never to be repeated in Edinburgh.

Quiz nights would see local bands pitted against one another with banter-a-plenty. Bands became friends, became staff, became partners.”

“People would arrive on a Saturday night and be greeted with the question ‘which band are you here for?’, the answer usually being, ‘I don’t know… Just a good band’. I don’t believe any other venue was operating like that at the time.”

The Cas Rock was replaced in 2000 by El Barrio salsa bar, prompting the message: ‘F*** tapas, support rock ‘n’ roll’ to be spray painted on to the side of the building. The individual responsible remains a mystery.

Clouds/Coasters

Coasters roller disco in 1982. Picture: TSPL

Coasters roller disco in 1982. Picture: TSPL

Clouds, Coasters, Outer Limits, The Network, depending on your age the name will differ for the well-trodden night club which still stands today at West Tollcross.

The venue opened in the 1940s as The New Cavendish dancehall, famous for its sprung dancefloor and jiving patrons. In the late 1960s, groups such as Pink Floyd paid a visit as the New Cavendish sought to reinvent itself for a new crowd.

By the 1970s, under the new name ‘Clouds’, it had transformed into a popular haunt of choice for Edinburgh’s gig-going youth, attracting some of the biggest acts of the era, such as The Ramones, The Clash, The Rezillos, and The Jam. Clouds quickly garnered a fierce reputation as one of the best night clubs in the Capital.

The establishment was rebranded as Coasters in 1979, a roller disco which continued to carve its fine reputation as host to lots of well-known bands. As house music began to thunder through in the mid-1980s, the name changed again to Outer Limits, then the Network in 1990, before reverting to its roots as The Cavendish in 1991.

Since then, Edinburgh locals have generally referred to the venue as ‘The Cav’, even during its brief stint as Lava Ignite in the noughties. The management eventually cottoned on and ‘Cav’ became the club’s official name in 2012.

 

Former Page three model Sam Fox attended the re-opening weekend after the fire of 1985.

Cav is now one of Edinburgh’s oldest continually-operating club venues, though it could be argued that its glory days are somewhat entrenched in the past.

The Caledonian Ale House

Haymarket Railway Station and Caledonian Ale House. Picture: Geograph

Haymarket Railway Station and Caledonian Ale House. Picture: Geograph

The Caledonian Ale House is the only establishment on our list which can be safely classified as a pub and not much else. Famed for its 90/- Caledonian draught ale, and featuring a good selection of whisky and beer, this quaint, compact watering hole had stood adjacent Haymarket Station since 1862 and still contained much of its original décor prior to its demise.

Inhabited by a mixture of transient rail-goers and faithful locals, the cosy Caledonian Ale House, known as the Haymarket Station Bar until 1995, offered a unique atmosphere and was generally packed to the rafters in the evenings – particularly after a big game at nearby Murrayfield. Food was served in the upstairs area which once hosted live jazz.

The end of the line for the 146-year-old bar came in 2008 when it was stripped of its Category C listing and subsequently demolished: Its crime? It stood in the way of the then proposed tram route.

The Yellow Carvel

Folk singer Tam White gig at the Yellow Carvel in 1970. Picture: TSPL

Folk singer Tam White gig at the Yellow Carvel in 1970. Picture: TSPL

Known for a time as one of Edinburgh’s chief folk venues, The Yellow Carvel owed its rather curious name to a 300-ton armed merchant ship (or caravel) harboured at the port of Leith in the 15th century.

Located on Hunter Square in the 1960s and ‘70s, the pub became a haven for the city’s patchouli-scented folk crowd, as well as blues and jazz types.

It featured live music on a regular basis, including a number of bands from the famous London-based indy label, Stiff Records in the late 1970s as The Carvel began to dip its toe into the punk and new wave scene.

True to its name, the basement area of the establishment was decorated to resemble the deck of an old clipper, with sailing sheets and netting fixed to the ceiling.

Following the Carvel’s closure, the pub was transformed into The Ceilidh Club, and is now the student-dominated Tron bar.

The music and clientele at 9 Hunter Square has changed dramatically, but today’s Edinburgh’s folk aficionados can find solace at Sandy Bell’s or The Royal Oak, both less than a mile’s stagger from the old Yellow Carvel.

Fire Island

Edinburgh hasn’t seen anything like it before or since.

Princes Street’s legendary Fire Island was the brainchild of club owner and entrepreneur Bill Grainger, who ran Shadows, Glasgow’s first ever regular gay disco in the late ‘70s.

Unlike its counterpart along the M8, Edinburgh’s gay scene offered very little. The LGBT community often found themselves restricted to the corner of the few city centre bars forward-thinking enough to entertain them.

Grainger changed all that in 1978 when Fire Island was launched on Monday nights at Jimmy Roccio’s famous West End Club, formerly the International Club, ‘The Nash’.

When the West End Club lost its drinking licence due to patrons fighting, the increasingly popular (and non-violent) Fire Island became the permanent fixture.

Fire Island was widely renowned for its HI NRG dance music and disco nights. The club’s spectacular lighting effects and stunning audio quality attracted clubbers, both gay and straight, from up and down the country.

It was perhaps the closest thing Edinburgh had to Studio 54. Heterosexual guests were made welcome on the understanding that they tolerated the fact it was a place for gay people. Any trouble and they were swiftly shown the exit.

During its tenure, the club played host to the likes of Eartha Kitt; The Village People; The Three Degrees; Hazell Dean; and Mel & Kim.

Even Simon Cowell popped in on the odd occasion, accompanied by his then partner, Sinitta, leading to Bill working with the future X Factor mogul on various projects during that period.

Warning – video clip contains strobe lighting

Fire Island was forced to close in September 1988 when the owners of 128 Princes Street sold the premises to the Waterstones chain of bookstores.

Fittingly, the final ever song played at the club was ABBA’s hit, Thank You For The Music. Edinburgh’s gay scene faltered in the wake of its demise, but managed to recover and flourish over the course of the 1990s. To say that Bill Grainger’s Fire Island helped lay the foundations is an understatement.

The Venue

The Venue. Picture: TSPL

The Venue. Picture: TSPL

It would have been nigh on impossible to compile a list of fondly-remembered Edinburgh pubs and clubs without mentioning this legendary err… venue.

The search engine-unfriendly Venue opened as the Jailhouse on Calton Road back in the early 1980s. During its relatively short life, it served the city exceptionally well, introducing Edinburgh punters to an eclectic mix of traditional guitar-based bands and electronic acts.

The Stone Roses (twice); Sonic Youth; Manic Street Preachers; Suede; My Bloody Valentine; LCD Soundsystem; NOFX; Hot Chip; The Comsat Angels, are just some of the many famous names who graced its hallowed stage over the years.

The Venue was an advocate of techno music almost from the day it opened. Its signature club nights ‘Pure’ and ‘Tribal Funktion’ were considered two of the best the Capital had to offer. Pure, in particular has lived long in the memory for those who made it along regularly – no mean feat when you consider the possible substances involved…

Brett Anderson, lead singer with the band Suede on stage at The Venue in 1992.

Brett Anderson, lead singer with the band Suede on stage at The Venue in 1992.

Unfortunately, the good times couldn’t roll forever. In 2004 it was announced that the building occupied by the Venue had been sold to a property developer. With the club regularly matching the decibels of a passenger jet during take-off, it was never realistically going to work out. The Venue was given a stay of execution of four years, it received just two.

The final night at the 900-capacity Venue arrived in June 2006. The graffiti sprayed across the doorway shortly after it closed read, ‘The Best R.I.P.’ A fitting epitaph for what many from the ‘Burgh consider to be the greatest club of them all.

About The Author

David Mclean

David McLean is the founder of the Lost Edinburgh Facebook page

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