display | more...

The Backbeat Club was an illegal drugs den, operating near London's Charing Cross Road for most of 1998. This was a brave location, as the Backbeat was situated in a sprawling, four storey warehouse, found down a small sidestreet in the very heart of London. With a capacity of around a thousand people, the Backbeat was a bustling, noisy, and terribly unsubtle commercial marijuana outlet, complete with a chill-out room, two dancefloors, three bars, four pool tables, and an awful lot of (unseen) guns. These were largely located behind the reinforced steel door at the top of the stairs, where you passed a £10 note through a letterbox, and were handed a bag of passable hashish or crap, seedy weed from a gloved hand in return.

Despite (or perhaps because of) the almost certain probability that the security guys were heavily armed, the Backbeat was a very peaceful, law abiding place. In all my (considerable) time spent at the club I only saw one incident that led me to fear for someone's health, but otherwise the atmosphere was always completely chilled out. This was at least partly due to the large percentage of student backpackers who frequented the club, which was always full of young foreigners, presumably tipped off about the Backbeat's existence by the dodgy blokes outside Camden Town tube station, offering hash-sensi-weed to all and sundry. (Londoners never talk to strange people outside tube stations).

The Backbeat would open around 6.30pm, when it immediately filled up with people leaving work, and closed sometime after 1am, having belched out thousands of extremely high people into the night. At busy times, (especially opening time), queues would form - queues which were clearly visible from the Charing Cross Road. People were frequently sick outside the club. The whole thing was very, very obvious, but somehow the club managed to avoid the long arm of the law until December of 1998, when the police finally stormed the building with a couple of hundred heavily armed officers. No-one was hurt in the raid, and in all probability the Backbeat management shrugged off the forced closure of their central London headquarters, and started up again somewhere a bit less conspicuous. Good luck to 'em, I say.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.