As the city’s New Adelphi celebrates its 30th anniversary, Phil Booth raises a glass to the humble terrace house which became one of the country’s most interesting music venues.
ITS list of clients is as diverse as it is remarkable, and includes Oasis, Radiohead, Pulp and the Happy Mondays. Others to have graced its offbeat but uptempo stage include the Stone Roses, the LA’s, Green Day, Travis and of course the locals, the Housemartins and the Beautiful South.
All have left their own mark on one of the most modest but enigmatic musical venues – a terrace house in Hull known as the New Adelphi.
The property is now an end of terrace. But in its earlier existence, before the Adelphi was born, it was a mid terrace. Until, in the 1940s, a German bomber obliterated three neighbouring houses, leaving a yawning gap which years down the line would become the venue’s car park.
The three-bedroomed house was built complete with garden in 1888 in De Grey Street, which links the busy Beverley Road with Newland Avenue. Standing in the middle of this unobtrusive residential street, it was, in 1923, granted a liquor licence and became a club.
In 1956 it was renamed the Civil Service Sports and Social Club, featuring pool, darts and dominoes, before, in the early 1970s, being converted into an industrial launderette. It reopened as a drinking establishment in 1978, under the name Adelphi, being renamed the New Adelphi in the early 1980s.
And then, in 1984, it was bought by Paul Jackson. The then 30-year-old had spent 13 years working as a shipping clerk with Fenners in Hull, and was ready for a change. His musical interests meant he had a huge record collection, but no experience in running a club, yet alone a live music venue.
But it was his dream. He remortgaged his house and borrowed the money to buy the club and the new venue was born.
His mother Joan said: “When he told me he was giving the job up I was quite surprised but wanted him to do what he was happy doing.”
In the book One Man and His Bog, by Dr Ian Smith and produced to celebrate the club’s 20th birthday in 2004, Paul explains the clientele at the time.
“Our regular punters consisted of the local gangster fraternity. I felt like virtually all the drugs off Hull docks must have been coming through the club.”
This was nothing like what he wanted. And so he began to transform the club into his dream venue. He teamed up with Nick Taylor and Nick Swift, of the Unity Club, and they began to bring out-of-town bands to De Grey Street.
In the book Nick Taylor tells of his surprise at his first visit: “I couldn’t believe what I found. An end of terrace typical Victorian house with a sign attached to it. Was this a joke?
“Jacko answered the door like one of those characters from the old Hammer House of Horror productions. The only difference was that he was wearing fluffy slippers.
“And so I went in. I was even more shocked by the inside than I was with the outside. It seemed to be no more than a living room knocked through to the lounge with a small stage at the far end. Where there should have been a kitchen there was a bar. Where there should have been a porch there was a pool table. Surreal in the extreme.”
Into this house came the bands. Local and from out of town. Good and bad. And some, indifferent.
As they played on the small stage, word began to spread about the new venue. The Housemartins, who called themselves the fourth best band in Hull, first played there in 1984, and helped the club reach a new audience when, the following year, they landed a record deal with Go Discs and signed their contract on the stage at the Adelphi.
Housemartins drummer Hugh Whittaker said: “The occasion of the signing was the culmination of many months of hard work... but it was in recognition of the importance of the club for the band, and the support of Paul Jackson, that we decided to set up the event.”
Within months the Housemartins were household names, regularly on Top of the Pops and riding high in the charts with songs like Happy Hour.
Other acts were by now keen to grace the venue. The Happy Mondays played there three times, and the Stone Roses appeared in front of an audience of about 30 a year before hitting the big time.
Oasis were on stage in 1994, a few days after performing their single Supersonic on TV. They drew quite a crowd.
Nick Clay, of local band Pink Noise, said: “I went down De Grey Street early one evening and saw a queue outside the club. I remember thinking that I didn’t know what was going on anymore. I’d never seen queues there before.”
The venue has a capacity of 200, but Paul says “160 is more comfortable”.
Down the years, the club has become an increasing attraction for the bands themselves as its quirky reputation has grown, with Paul always managing to keep things fresh.
Next week it will be 30 years since he took over, a landmark he finds “pretty unbelievable”. He adds: “There was a vision of how the Adelphi would operate and regenerate and it has continued to do that. It was always planned that it would evolve from generation to generation. But when I arrived I would never have thought of still being here after 30 years.
“Loads of amazing things have happened but the highlight for me is the people, the really interesting young people from around the world, and the music is why they are here and that’s fantastic.”
Many of those people will be there next week as the club stages events to celebrate its 30th birthday. There will be a number of guest appearances, and the headline act next Friday night will be Kaiser Chiefs.
Simon Rix, bass guitarist with the Leeds-based band, said: “Smaller venues are so important to supporting new music but with many around the country closing down, it’s great to see the Adelphi celebrating its 30th birthday, We’re looking forward to finally playing there.”
If it is anything like the 25th anniversary, the club’s regulars are in for a treat. Then Jarvis Cocker turned up unannounced. The Pulp frontman has a special affinity with the club having played there a number of times in the group’s early days.
Band members remember the venue well, with Nick Banks saying: “I think my Pulp debut was at the Adelphi club back in 1986. We played there four or five times in the late 80s.
“Sometimes the place would be rammed and you’d think ‘come on’ but then next time it would be a dozen spotty indie kids or nutters who had wandered in off the street.”
After his 25th anniversary appearance, Cocker said: “I can’t remember how many times Pulp played here. We came to the Adelphi a fair few times. I wanted to come back because it was always good to us.
“People were always nice to us and I always had a lot of affection for the place. Most places like this have, unfortunately, closed down.”
Happily, the New Adelphi is still going, and in the days of arenas and huge venues, it offers a now rare atmosphere, the chance to stand in what is effectively a house, perhaps play pool, and listen to some live music.
One of its great lasting charms is the fact punters mingle at the bar yards from where the musicians perform.
Those performers have included Attila the Stockbroker, a poet and folk musician from Brighton who played the Adelphi numerous times.
One audience member said: “I saw Attila playing on Remembrance Sunday, and he played The Green Fields of France. Grown men were crying at the bar. It could have been because it was last orders, but what a beautiful song.”
• For full details of the club’s 30th anniversary celebrations go to www.theadelphi.com