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Jazz in the Night: Smokey Dives (BBC 2007)


Documentary showing how drab post-war Britain was enlivened by the trad-jazz scene, which ballooned into our first mass youth culture, with thousands of young people dancing the night away in dimly light underground clubs, from Soho’s infamous Cy Laurie Club to The Cavern Club in Liverpool.

George Melly relives his Rabelaisian youth on the road whilst revisiting some the pubs, clubs and concert halls he once played in. His hilarious stories of singing, drinking and sleeping his way around the country, staying in rotten B n B’s and playing to University students are confirmed and embellished by interviews with fellow band members.

We learn how 50s Britain saw the emergence of two rival jazz groups – the modernist scene centred around professional bebop musicians Ronnie Scott and friends, and the more amateur raucous style of the trads. Trads wore oversized ex-army gear and duffel coats, drank beer and occasionally took speed to keep awake during their all night parties, whereas the modernists wore sharp suits and black dresses and some musicians dabbled with hard drugs.

The bouncer from Cy Laurie’s club, Bill Palmer, and regular club goers describe how hundreds of strangely clad trad fans crammed into the club every weekend. Musician Laurie Morgan explains how Archer Street in Soho was the centre of activity for the emergent modernist scene.

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