The Speakeasy Club, 48 Margaret Street London W1, was a late-night haunt for the music industry from 1966 to the late 1970s. The club was managed by Laurie O’Leary (a lifelong friend of the Kray twins) from 1968 to 1977 and Roy Flynn, who was also the first manager of Yes. Known in the business as “The Speak”, it included a restaurant and music room.
Since the club was regularly frequented by record industry and artist agency executives it attracted many bands who played for low fees in the hope of being spotted and who would form the basis of the emerging British rock scene as well as international touring bands. Among such acts were Jimi Hendrix (1966), The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, Pink Floyd, who first appeared on 19 September 1967, Mothers Of Invention (October 1967), Yes, Deep Purple (first appeared 20 March 1969), King Crimson (9 April 1969) and Bob Marley (May 1973 Catch a Fire Tour). Others such as Jeff Beck, Reg Isidore, Ginger Baker, Jan Hammer and Bobby Tench also appeared at the club, often after recording sessions.
The Who refer to the club in their song “Speakeasy” (“Speakeasy, drink easy, pull easy”) from the album The Who Sell Out (1967), as does Elvis Costello in his song “London’s Brilliant Parade” from the album Brutal Youth (1994).
Laurie O’Leary was the manager init’s heyday long before it became Cameos. He sadly passed away on 27th April 2005 and is greatly missed. Here are the memories of that time from him and some from those who were there.
The venue opened in 1966, and became well known as a late night drinking club popular with customers associated with the music industry, ranging from roadies through to The Beatles. The Who included it in the “Radio London / Speakeasy / Rotosound Strings” commercial insert for their Sell Out album in 1967. The Speakeasy also hosted performances by some of the finest acts of the time, including Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, and King Crimson (who debuted at the club).