“This place wasn’t just part of the swinging sixties – it was the swinging sixties”
I don’t know who said this, but it is certainly true that Scotch of St James was one of the, if not the, go-to places for everybody who was anybody in the 1960s.
With so many original venues closing down over the years and being turned into pubs, pizza places, coffee shops and estate agents, it is refreshing to find one of the survivors of this rare breed to not only be still around but also having been carefully refurbished to its former glory.
But let’s turn the clocks back 50 odd years. On 14th July 1965, The Scotch of St James officially opened its doors for the first time. That opening night nobody could have known that this small after-hours nightclub would become one of the epicentres of the swinging sixties. Attending the launch were three members of the Beatles, all the Rolling Stones, except for Charlie, and members of The Who, The Kinks, The Animals and The Hollies. Talk about rock royalty! In fact just about every known face from the 1960’s music scene could have been spotted that night, making their way through cobble-paved Mason’s Yard to enter The Scotch of St. James trough its heavy wooden doors.
Even today, entering Mason’s Yard is like discovering a piece of London that time forgot. Just behind Fortnum & Mason on Jermyn Street between Duke Street St. James and Duke of York Street with a colourful history stretching back to the Great Fire of London of 1666, 300 years before it went on to become an iconic Rock ‘n’ Roll postcode.
It was at ‘The Scotch’ on September 24th 1966 that a scruffy musician played for the first time ever under the stage name ‘Jimi Hendrix’, after landing in the UK with just 40 bucks and a guitar in his hand. It was also here that Chas from The Animals used a Scotch Of St James napkin to draft a contract between Track Records and Jimi Hendrix; and where he premièred his entire ‘Are You Experienced’ album live on the Scotch stage. Tom Jones, Elton John and Rod Stewart were all regulars and ‘The Who’ also debuted their album ‘Tommy’ here.
20 year old guitarist Eric Clapton was discovered by the head of Atlantic Records, jamming in the basement after a ‘Wicked Wilson Picket’ performance. Sonny and Cher shot a short film for their new song ‘I Got You Babe’ here and it was the very spot where Paul McCartney first met Stevie Wonder. Perhaps one of the most significant meetings that The Scotch Of St James was part of, was the famous first encounter between Yoko Ono and John Lennon, when a late night led to an after-party at the Indica Gallery & Bookshop next door, which was part owned by Peter Asher, brother of McCartney’s then-girlfriend, Jane. This gallery was also were famed photographer, Gered Mankowitz, photographed many a rock legend. Talking of Gered Mankowitz, look out for a brand new exhibition, in which he collaborates with Royal artist Christian Furr, coming to London In June.
Today The Scotch of St James still attracts the music and fashion crowd and it has been booked for parties by, amongst others, Mark Ronson, Dino Chapman, Metallica, Mario Testino, Stella McCartney and Jean-Paul Gaultier.
Set across two floors, The Scotch of St James is still reminiscent of the original sixties hangout, and a recent refurbishment adding animal and plant print design elements, sumptuous gold velvet lounge seating and splashes of intense colour to the original décor has given a somewhat colonial feel to the relaxed, speakeasy space.
Upstairs is a beautiful and well stocked copper bar and plenty of seating, including a room that can be transformed into a private suit. In the basement is the legendary live nightclub with private tables and booths overlooking the historical dance floor and the DJ and stage area.
Please check before you go and visit (Thursdays to Saturdays only), as this unique Mayfair location and iconic venue can be hired for all kind of events, private and corporate, for up to 200 people (135 seated). The Scotch has an extended licence until 5am, so it’s great for after parties. We recently attended a showcase event and were treated to live music and a burlesque show, there were delicious canapés and cocktails, a photo booth and a taco truck parked in the yard – just contact the event team for details and see what they can do for you..
The Scotch Of St James
13 Masons Yard
Thursday 10pm till late / Friday, Saturday 11pm till late