As the Gliderdrome turnss 50, resident DJ ‘Dave the Rave’ aka Dave Peatling shares his memories of the Gliderdrome and the Starlight Rooms...
I can hardly believe that the Starlight Room at the Gliderdrome is 50 years old today!
And I wonder if we really thought all those years ago that the dance hall would still be open 50 years later and having a resurgence of use?
I’m sure many of us of ‘a certain age’ have memories of which stars we saw there and still find it difficult to believe that they came to Boston and in some cases made return visits.
For nearly 80 years there has been entertainment of one sort or another at the Gliderdrome, which started as an open air skating rink before the Second World War.
A disastrous fire in May 1959 saw the original Glider destroyed but a new one was opened within 18 months on the original site and at the same time it was announced that a new purpose-built dance hall would be built in the near future.
In April 1963 the front page of The Standard was dominated by an artist’s impression of what this new hall would look like: it has to be said that the finished article looked nothing like that impression!
By Christmas it was hoped that the ‘new’ Gliderdrome would be ‘more than twice its present size and the most deluxe ballroom in Lincolnshire’.
A completely new dance hall, with room for 2,000 dancers, is to be linked to the present building (1,000 dancers) and there will be a new, theatre-style stage, dressing rooms and extended amenities for patrons’.
As it happened it was almost 18 months before the new hall actually opened, as the Starlight Room, but details of what was to come were regularly reported in The Standard.
In May 1964 came news that the hall would have a revolving stage and a few weeks later, as the time got nearer for the opening it was said that ‘no fewer than 24,000 fairy lights will be in the ceiling of the new dance hall at the Gliderdrome, especially imported from Italy’.
After more than 12 months of labour the £60,000-plus project was at least nearing completion’.
It was about this time that my long association with the Glider started.
Like many others of my age I had started going to the old hall (just before it was destroyed) and had got to know Pat Malkinson.
It was about three or four weeks before the opening when he told me that my favourite singer would be appearing at the new hall.
That was Brenda Lee, at the time the number one female singer in the world.
Of course, I didn’t believe him: how on earth could a world star be appearing in Boston, of all places?
But it was true, of course, and I still have memories – which I’m afraid I still bore people with! – of my meeting her and having a photograph taken.
That photo, incidentally, was signed by Brenda on a tour of Britain some years later and I was assured she could still remember the ‘fairy lights in the ceiling’.
The big names continued to come and within a few weeks I had started working with Pat on a Saturday night on the lights in the control room before being ‘promoted’ to playing records at the side of the stage.
The big ‘pop’ names certainly came in 1965: all the top groups of the time were on the bill at some time or another, many making return visits.
Tom Jones came twice that year, followed by P J Proby – he of split trousers fame – The Kinks, The Yardbirds, Lulu, Billy Fury, The Small Faces.
There was controversy at the beginning of 1966 as the Gliderdrome put a ban on leather jackets and motor-cycle boots!
Customers were requested to turn up at dances attired in ‘ordinary’ clothes.
But the plea was aimed only at the boys!
Dusty Springfield was the first big name to appear in 1966 and remains the only name to have appeared who had a full rehearsal before the show.
That year saw the first regular influx of American stars many of whom, it was said, had been told that if the ever appeared in England that had to make sure they appeared at the Boston Gliderdrome!
Solomon Burke and was quickly followed by Otis Redding, The Vibrations, Lee Dorsey, The Original Coasters, Edwin Starr and so on.
The Small Faces were on the same bill as Edwin, and their drummer, Kenny Jones, had to go to the old General Hospital after being hurt in an incident at the end of their show.
The Standard reported it was his second visit to the hospital and it reminded me that the first time was when I took the band to the hospital just before a previous show.
A lady from Swineshead had contacted the Gliderdrome to say that her daughter had won a national teen magazine competition to see the Small Faces on their next visit to the winner’s area.
Unfortunately, the girl had sustained a broken leg and asked if was possible for the group to visit her in the hospital.
As so many fans were waiting to see the group I had to bring my car to the rear entrance and the four lads climbed in, one in the front, two on the back seat and the other laid across their feet.
A rug was thrown over the one on the floor and the other three had boxes piled on top of them so that when I eventually emerged on to Spayne Road the only thing that could be seen was a car full of boxes.
Following years saw the big names still arriving: Jimi Hendrix, guitarist Duane Eddy from America, Stevie Wonder, Amen Corner – this group made several visits and played their last gig at the Glider before splitting up – The Original Drifters, the Ike and Tina Turner Show, The Ronettes, Ben E King, Status Quo, The Who, Ginger Baker’s Airforce and Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
In 1971 T Rex made the first of their two visits and the same year saw groups such as Supertramp and Lindisfarne along with Slade.
T-Rex’s visit at the start of 1972 was the one show which is still talked about as it was rumoured there were well over 5,000 there.
The borough licensing magistrates a few weeks later laid down conditions for a new licence, one of which that a ‘ceiling of 3,100 persons’ could be present at any one time.
That was how I described 1973 in my book, as it was the year when the management decided they had had enough of the vandalism prevalent at the time and closed the dance hall.
But it was only after Thin Lizzy, Roy Wood’s Wizzard and Elton John had appeared: what a way to go out, with three of the top bands of the time.
I wonder how much it would cost to get Elton back for a show?
Mind you, it was expensive then: £1.50!
It would be 23 years before shows restarted on a regular basis in 1996 with several of the bands of the glory days – although the name was the same, in most cases the personnel were not – making an appearance.
These continued for about 10 years until a halt was called once again, and then it was decided a couple of years ago to restart ‘popular’ dances once a month using local groups interspersed with bigger bands and so we come up to date.
How the venue missed out on the Beatles
So Elton John, T Rex, Tina Turner...but why not the Beatles?
Well they were actually booked to play!
Now, there are two versions of why they didn’t ever take to the Glider stage.
One is that their security people visited and insisted on so many restrictions that the Glider management decided to pull the plug.
The other, is that after booking the group for a small fee, believed to be around £35, those in charge decided not to sign the final contract as they had never heard of them.
If this was the case, they certainly had by the time they were set to play in the town - as the Beatles’ first record reached number one on the same weekend they were due in Boston!