In the West End of London,between Picadilly and Covent Garden lies Leicester Square, a focal point for the busy London nightlife. Once a residential area built on the fields fronting the Earl of Leicester's mansion, it holds the large movie houses, such as the Empire and the Odeons, as well as the popular nightclubs; such as the Maximus, the Equinox, and the Hippodrome.
The London Hippodrome was built in 1900 by famed theatre architect Frank Manchen for theatre house mogul, Sir Edward Moss. It was to be the crown jewel in the Moss Empire.
Opening on January 15, 1900, The London Hippodrome was a circus, a water spectacular, and variety show all wrapped up into one. The Hippodrome featured circus animals and live theatre and included a massive, 400 ton, 8-foot deep,water tank that could be hydraulically raised to the stage level and would often sport elephants and polar bears sliding into its depths from above. Water jets positioned around the tank could shoot columns of water in graceful arcs 20 feet into the air.
In 1958, The Hippodrome was transformed into the famous cabaret style nightclub and restaurant, "The Talk of the Town." Gone were the days of the water shows, wild animals and circus acts.
"The Policy of The Talk of the Town is to provide three forms of entertainment under one roof; here patrons may wine and dine satisfyingly, and elegantly dance to the music of famous orchestras, and, in the course of the evening, enjoy the two contrasted stage presentations that form the theatre-entertainment"--excerpt from opening night programme.
The Talk of the Town played host to some of the world's greatest singers and cabaret artists. Stars such as: Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, Shirley Bassey, Ethel Merman, Buddy Greco, Tom Jones all performed there.
By 1983, the Talk of the Town had gone by the way of other restaurant/theater style venues and new owner Peter Stringfellow, the self-titled "King of Clubs, transformed the place into the "world's greatest discotheque", a futuristic monstrosity of black and chrome, pulsating lights, and elevating stage. He also gave the nightclub back its original name--The Hippodrome. The club was immensely popular, Thames Television producing a weekly show there called, "Live at the Hippodrome." Stringfellow sold the club 10 years later however, and the club languished for another 10 before reopening in 2004 as "Cirque at the London Hippodrome"
The 2,000 seat capacity, Cirque at the Hippodrome returned the historic venue back to its roots, hosting circus acts, trapeze artists, dancers and "plenty of feathers;" as well as the more modern musical extravaganzas. Much of the gaudy modernistic trappings were replaced, or at least covered up, and in its place came the gold and lush, red velvet of a turn-of-the-century, burlesque Moulin Rouge. It was named "London Club of the Year" for 2004. Sadly, the Hippodrome nightclub has shut its doors again and is used at this time for special events only
This concert performance by Rory Gallagher, titled "Bottle of Gin," is identified as having taken place at the London Hippodrome on March 17, 1974: one month prior to his appearance at the Golders Green Hippodrome in North London that was recorded for the BBC radio. This date is in question however, since Rory was touring in America at that time. Quite possibly this concert was held at the Golders Green Hippodrome, and the date and venue incorrectly identified on the bootleg. Whichever Hippodrome it was held at, it's a concert you won't want to miss.