Farewell to the Pipeline, which was, all too briefly, the centre of rock ’n roll London. In the early years of this decade my nights out frequently incorporated three rock venues: The Pipeline, The Intrepid Fox and the 12 Bar Club. All three have now closed. A typical night out would involve beer and pinball at the Pipeline, a journey west to Denmark Street and more beer, more pinball and live music at the 12 Bar, with the odd stroll to the Intrepid Fox (100 yards away), which also had a pinball machine but no live music. For a while my initials were on the high scores of both the Addams Family game in the latter bar and the Funhouse table at the 12 Bar. This was an indication that the top pinball players didn’t spend much time at either place, but they did frequent (and some of them ran) the Pipeline, so I was never on the high scores of any of the machines there. The last time I went to the Pipeline we had seven pinball tables to choose from, and three pool tables.
The original Intrepid Fox, which I knew from the 1990s, was in Wardour Street (there’s a Byron hamburger restaurant there now), and it moved to its new home in St Giles some time around 2005. The new Intrepid Fox was the first of these three bars to close, in 2013 I think. The 12 Bar Club in Denmark Street closed in early 2015 and its replacement, on Holloway Road, lasted barely a year, as I wrote here earlier this year.
For a year or so key people from that old rock ’n roll triangle were to be found together at the Pipeline. Barnet, who ran the London Callin’ nights in Denmark Street, put on gigs in the venue downstairs, with acts like Viva Las Vegas and the London Sewage Company. One of the barmen from the Intrepid Fox was doing shifts behind the bar at the Pipeline. And the original owners were still there. Six years ago I would meet them in three different venues, now they were all gathered together in Middlesex Street, E1. Twenty months after it closed the old 12 Bar in Denmark Street lies empty, but rumours persist that it will become a coffee shop. The Pipeline too lies empty, and the people who promote my kind of music are facing an even more nomadic existence just to stage a gig every now and then.
Joni Mitchell was not a heavily featured artist at any of the bars mentioned in this piece but the words of “Big Yellow Taxi” come to mind. “Don’t it always seem to go / You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” The difference here is that we knew what we had, and appreciated it. And now it’s gone.