09 November 2012
The Glasgow Apollo was an unassuming and well-loved venue which once welcomed the likes of Queen, Rod Stewart and Elton John. Linda Brown recalls the Apollo's heyday ...
How many of us of a certain age, breathe a wistful sigh of nostalgia when the name of the Apollo Theatre crops up?
Between 1973 and 1985, the Apollo Theatre in Glasgow was one of Scotland’s leading concert venues. Situated at the top of Renfield Street, the establishment, which started life as a cinema and ballroom called Green’s Playhouse, attracted and played host to many of the major and up and coming pop and rock bands of the times.
David Bowie... the list could go on and on... they all graced it’s stage.
My first experience of the Apollo was in 1977, when as a naive fifteen-year-old, I begged my parents to allow me to go and see Leo Sayer. After many tears (mine), a list of dos and don’ts (theirs) and tense negotiation, they gave permission as I would be going with a friend and her elder sisters.
I remember queuing outside in a long line which snaked
down Renfield Street on a frosty October evening.
In my neatly pressed denim flares, rust coloured corduroy trench coat, massive clunky platform boots and hair tonged and lacquered into stiff flicks à la Farrah Fawcett, I thought I was ‘nae sma’wee dreep’.
When the doors opened we surged inside and dashed for the stairs. The Apollo already had a neglected, rundown appearance but to my young eyes it was an amazing place. You could almost taste the excitement in the air. We were seated in the circle and when Leo came onstage, we had, as I recall, a wonderful view.
The Apollo already had a neglected, rundown appearance
but to my young eyes it was an amazing place.
The memory that stands out to me was the song 'When I Need You', which at the time was a huge hit. Just as Leo opened his mouth to sing the first line, an ear splitting and high pitched screech of feedback completely drowned him out. Not to be fazed, he stopped his band, took a deep breath, waited until they played the intro again and began to sing accompanied by the entire audience. A marvellous night!
Over the next few years, music and fashion changed but my taste for the Apollo never abated and I tried to go and see as many bands as I could.
I saw the fantastic Dire Straits just as they hit the big time.
The ticket, much to the astonished amusement of my teenage sons, cost me the princely sum of £1.80.
Status Quo was another memorable evening. The Apollo was literally bouncing to the beat.
Standing this time, squashed in the stalls, I watched with horrified fascination as, thanks to all the head bangers and air guitarists, the balconies above me, rocked with the music. How those balconies ever stayed up, I’ll never know!
Unfortunately as the years went by, the dilapidated theatre fell into more and more disrepair.
By the early Eighties, the Apollo was shabby and tatty but still pulling in the big names.
The last two concerts I attended were in 1984.
Firstly Dr Hook – a fantastic night with a predominately female audience, ladies' underwear thrown at the band (not mine!) and one determined, middle-aged Glasgow missus, shaking off the bouncers to plank a kiss on the lead singer. And lastly, Meatloaf, loud, flamboyant and roaring onstage on a motorbike... How else?
The Apollo closed her tired doors in June 1985 after twelve frantic years.
The building was eventually demolished in 1989.
I’ve attended many wonderful concerts since, some in the SSEC, some at Hampden, Ibrox and Celtic Park, I’ve even ventured to Edinburgh Playhouse and Murrayfield. But to my mind, there’s still none can beat the unique, magical and intimate atmosphere of the old Glasgow Apollo.