More Colin Bell photos. Hastings Caves setting fire to his hands 1970/71 and working with Freddie Starr

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supplied by Colin Bell

Alan Esdaile… Just noticed that’s the back of my head in the first photo. Colin’s setting his hands on fire with lighter fluid and giving me bad ideas. When I did it, I left my hands alight too long, blisters with yellow puss come to mind!

Mick Mepham… A yellow cat Alan?

Andy Qunta… Never forget how much fun it was lugging gear down to the Caves! The sound down there was interesting too! Echo….echo…..echo…. & “natural” reverb!

Mick O’Dowd…. A real rock venue! I agree Andy Qunta it was a long trek especially in inclement weather, but a great venue I promoted & played at several times. It’s rumoured that the Stones played a private gig here in early 60’s. The walk was as nearly as bad as the trek up the Pier to The Happy Ballroom!

Yvonne Cleland… <groan>

Jim Breeds… So *That’s* why there are no hamsters in the caves!

Alan Esdaile… Did a number of gigs in the Caves. Always had lots of helpers to lug the gear in but they all disappeared when it was time to pack up! A bit of a walk and worse then the pier as no trolley. All the leads and cables ended up covered in sand stone. Saw lots of great gigs here, remember seeing The Jazz Caverners a few times and The Breathers did an excellent gig.

Peter Gladwish… I will never forget playing at the caves several times during the early 70’s with ‘King-Rod’. Fabulous place to play but it’s not the gigs I remember…….it was getting the gear in and out!!!

More St Clements Caves Hastings gigs – 1978 – who went to The Caves gigs ask Mark Randall?

Mark Randall… Back in the early 70s when the Randall family used to hire two sherpas and trek to Pelham Crescent for our summer holiday: we visited St Clement’s cave for a tour. The guide said that it still hosted bands and had a night club there on occasions. Anyone here gigged there/went to gig?

Phil Gill… Seen a few bands down in the caves – The Breathers, and Richard Strange are two that spring to mind. I might even have played there, can’t recall who with but I do have a memory of lugging gear for miles down a path and then inside the caves.

Ann Gill… Did it involve Melanie Stace the sister of singing teacher Emma?

Peter Fairless… Yeah, went to a few gigs there.

Tony Davis… DJ’d there with Merlins Music Box a couple of times. Think it was for Debenhams Social Club. I do have the same memory as Phil about it being a long way to lug gear. Think they were good nights though. Interesting to see if someone could organise something down there now.

Peter Fairless… It’s full of Disney stuff, though, isn’t it?

Harry Randall… Gigged a few times in the caves like Phil said lugging gear several miles and once inside lugging it through narrow passageways Sandstone everywhere took about a week to clean the gear after good times though!

Tim Moose Bruce… Saw Die Laughing down there. Great night.

Chris Baker… Certainly have! Remember “Bear” our drummer complaining that the echo was like playing with another drummer about half a mile away!

Pete Fisher… I have very hazy memories of what would have been my very first gig with an electric band – a one-off engagement for me and my schoolmate John Davis (on bass), organised by a drummer who sounded like he’d trained at Butlins pensioner dances, and provided the only transport, a Reliant three-wheeler…cold, damp and miserably paid…

Dave Nattress… Samisen played there a couple of times.  Good gigs, summer, lots of foreign students filling the place up but yeah what an ordeal lugging all the gear down from the road on the top of the West Hill, down the path. I’m thinking none of the cabs had got wheels – no chance, and then down the steps, another narrow path, in, and what seemed like miles down the long descending sandy path to the main cavern where we played.  And then, bonus, do it in reverse.  So long ago I’m guessing the sound wasn’t great but the bodies would have helped soak up the reverb.

Tich Turner…  I performed there in 1967/68 [?], with Deep Purple. Just about the worst get-in ever. But this gig really sticks in my mind for another reason. The place was absolutely rammed. We played the 1st set & by the end of that, the condensation was pouring down the walls. We went back on & got through to the very last number, when there was this enormous ‘THWANG’, I looked round to see what the hell it was & there was Lennie Benton, his face an absolute picture. He had the body of his bass in one hand & the neck in another. Only thing was, they weren’t joined together! He had an old semi-acoustic bass, a Framus or something & the condensation had completely wasted the glue holding it together. My dear old Dad, put it back together & Len swore it played even better afterwards.

Rolling Stones – Hastings Caves?

The Hastings Observer printed this in 2011. Can anyone confirm this?

ROCK legends The Rolling Stones played one of their earliest gigs right here in Hastings.

However, it was not as you might expect in the pier’s ballroom or the now closed Crypt. Oh no, perhaps the biggest band to ever play in 1066 Country made their bow on stage at a debutante’s ball in the depths of the town’s network of caves.

Wildman guitarist Keith Richards has recently released an autobiography in which the iconic axeman reveals the band visited Hastings back in July 1963 for a gig in what is now Smugglers’ Adventure.

This would have been less than a year after the band’s first concert and just weeks after they were signed by their now infamous long-time manager Andrew Loog Oldham.

News of the subterranean performance came as a complete shock to the caves’ current custodian Trevor White, who is manager of The Smugglers’ Adventure.

He told the Observer: “We knew the caves had been used for a variety of musical performances over the centuries ranging from dances in the 18th century to regular jazz evenings in the fifties and sixties

“However, none of us realised that the great Rolling Stones had played here and now we’re desperately trying to find out more about it and see if we can trace anyone who may have been here to watch them play.

“The details are a little sketchy, and Keith may not have the best of memories for everything that happened to him in the sixties, but there’s definitely enough information in the book to prove that it did take place.”

In fact, any memories Richards does have of the event are far from glowing. In his book the guitarist – famed for his hedonistic rock and roll lifestyle, says the gig had taken place the night before a performance at the Wisbech Corn Exchange in Cambridgeshire.

He wrote: “By the greatest contrast known to rock-and-roll audiences, the previous night we’d played a debutante’s ball at Hastings caves, for somebody called Lady Lampson, all via Andrew Oldham, an awfully super-duper, upper crusty affair doing a lowlife bash in Hastings caves, which are quite big.”

And, according to his book, Life, the concert didn’t end well after someone asked the former Stones’ keyboardist, Ian Stewart, to play Moon River and a fight broke out.

“It’s extraordinary to think that one of the biggest bands in the world played here in Hastings and none of us were aware of it,” said Mr White – who was delighted with the revelation despite the less than glowing reference Richards gave the town.

“I’ve been working in the caves for more than 10 years now and I’m always discovering fascinating new information about them.”

n Did you attend Lady Lampson’s ball? Perhaps you saw another top band play in a strange local location? Email richard.morris@jpress.co.uk

Peter Fairless….Oh, yeah, if it was in Keith’s book, it was probably true. He’s the one, bizarrely, with the good memory!

Andre Palfrey-martin….Now I have read this, I do recall that about this time, there was a rumour that somebody from the Rolling Stones had been taken to A&E at the RESH after playing at a private function in the Caves.

Mick O’Dowd….The rumour was originally featured in “The Face” column of one liner bits of news in NME I think but it said that it was St.Clements Hall for a debutante’s “coming out” party but it could easily have been St Clement’s Caves.

Peter Fairless…. Nice to see this come up again! As an additional bit of information, not that it actually confirms the gig taking place but does add more support… Lady Lampson, later Lady Killearn, who is supposed to have organised the ball lived at Etchingham, so it’s going to have been Hastings, not Chislehurst, if it happened!

Andre Martin…. That was a rumour about the Stones, we think that the caves they were referring to back in the 1960s were at Chistlehurst .

Steve Turner… The deb ball was for Roxana ‘Bunty’ Lampson. I spoke to a photographer who was there. In his book Rolling With the Stones Bill Wyman says that they couldn’t play because Brian Jones was sick on the way down in their van. The photographer said it was because the electric supply wasn’t powerful enough. I’d like to find out more. It seems definite that the Stones came down though.