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Still Tearing it Up : the Shades Reunion

from The Southend Standard, 9 December 2005

40 years on, coffee-bar crew prove they haven’t forgotten how to party!

A right old knees-up – Len and Blonde Shirley Trower join in the fun at Friday’s Shades reunion
(fifth from the right is
Paler John Bobin, who sent us his own report of the evening)

Still tearing it up!

Memories of Southend’s golden rock’n’roll years came flooding back in spadefuls at the weekend, as former regulars of the town’s famous Fifties and Sixties coffee-bars held a very special reunion.

Hairlines might have receded, with more than the odd grey hair in evidence, waistlines might have expanded a tad and the odd wrinkle might have been evidence.

But for many of the 160-plus 50 and 60-somethings who packed the Ekco Social Club for Friday’s Shades Reunion, it was almost as if the clock had really been turned back 40 years, to the days when scooter and motorbike-riding youngsters flocked to coffee bars such as the Shades, El Capri and the Zanzibar. 

As a band belted out the hits of Cliff and the Shads on stage, down on the dancefloor, partygoers took the chance to cut a rug, while glancing sideways at the dancers next to them in the hope of, perhaps, recognising a face from the past.

“What a fabulous night it was!” said organiser Brian Ayling.  “It’s still hard to believe the amount of interest we have had in this.  The tickets sold so fast I couldn’t take it in it! [sic]

“I spent a lot of the night trying to work out who everyone was!  A lot of the women still look fantastic – just as good as they did as teenagers, in fact – even if most of us blokes are showing the signs of wear and tear these days!”

 The event was prompted by the huge flood of nostalgic letters and photos into the Standard after we launched our Southend’s Rock’n’Roll Years series, earlier in the summer.

As a result of the series’ success, original Southend band, The Paramounts are now reforming to play a special one-off reunion gig at Club Riga (at the Cricketers pub in Westcliff) on December 17 – a show which, like Brian’s party, sold out in a matter of days.

Friday’s event saw revellers arrive from all over the UK to catch up with old friends and also see guests of honour Len and Blonde Shirley Trower, owners of the Shades coffee bar and parents of Paramounts (and later Procol Harum) guitarist, Robin Trower.

Other guests included original Paramounts drummer Mick Brownlee and “Kellogs” John Kawlinowsky [sic], who went on to become a big wheel in the music industry.

Touring commitments prevented Robin Trower and Paramounts/Procol Harum singer Gary Brooker attending, but Brooker sent a special message which was read to those at the party.

“I still can’t really get over how fantastic it all was,” added Brian, who is already planning a second, bigger event on April 8, 2006.

“The only thing is that next time, I’m going to insist that everyone wears name-tags, so we can all work out who’s who!

“That should make it even more interesting.”

For details and tickets for the April 8 event, call Brian Ayling, on 01702 464383.

Thanks, John; and Jill, for the typing;  photos, Robin Woosey

Shades Reunion, 2006 More about the Paramounts

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