There are several sights and locations in the marvelous city of London that yours truly is fond of paying a visit whenever he is there, one of which is an impressive-looking building in the heart of the Covent Garden district that ought to be of interest to all you lovers of late-60s British rock music who prefer a bit of rock ‘n’ roll sightseeing whenever you travel. Now, before we go any further, let me just point out that this short essay merely serves as a reminder of the fact that there are countless cool music-related sights to see in the great city of London and that one will often come across them in the popular and well-frequented areas of the metropolis too. This time around we shall focus on what was once known as the Middle Earth Club, which was located at 43 King Street in Covent Garden. Many legendary and hugely influential acts played there during 1967 and 1968, some of which include Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, Graham Bond Organization, Fairport Convention, The Pretty Things, and several other noteworthy bands and artists of a certain renown. Pioneering six-string wizard and Led Zeppelin mastermind Jimmy Page was insanely active as a session musician on the London circuit prior to his astronomical career with Zeppelin but he was also a pivotal member of The Yardbirds between 1966 and 1968.
The Yardbirds eventually mutated into The New Yardbirds which then in turn became Led Zeppelin, and I would be amiss if I did not point out that The Yardbirds have boasted some of the finest guitarists to ever walk the face of the earth, namely Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and the aforementioned Page. According to Page’s official website, The Yardbirds played the Middle Earth Club on January 19, 1968. Can you imagine what it must have been like to enter the club that night and watch Jimmy tear it up on stage with his talented cohorts in such an intimate setting?! It must have been glorious. Just a week later, singer Robert Plant and hard-hitting drummer John Bonham (who would famously join forces with Page in The New Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin later that same year) graced the stage of the club with Plant’s Band of Joy on January 26, 1968 (Birmingham Music Archives). So, if you are a sucker for Led Zeppelin, the Middle Earth Club ought to be of interest.
As I mentioned before, the inimitable prog rockers Soft Machine also paid the club a visit and did so quite often, and the cool thing is that there are some wonderfully atmospheric and truly lo-fi live recordings from a gig on November 10, 1967 in that very club in circulation out there. I prefer the 2CD set entitled Turns On, which was released by the label Floating World in 2014, so make a note of that one (but keep in mind that it is mostly for fans and collectors of the band’s early material). Speaking of prog bands, the monstrously huge Pink Floyd also paid the Middle Earth Club a visit back in March 1968. As it says on their website, “Pink Floyd played London’s hippest nightspot, Middle Earth in Covent Garden. Syd Barrett was among the audience”.
Sadly, the Middle Earth Club in 43 King Street closed down in mid-1968, but the building that once housed the venue is just one of several music-related locations in or around Covent Garden that you ought to pay a visit sometime in the future. After all, it is a place of rock music history, and as author Paul Talling states, “The building has changed much through the years inside, but the exterior has survived intact”