the ace cafe in north london

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last week i fell in love with a roadside cafe..it’s funny how many with music in their veins, fall head over heal for houses like these,and here’s maybe why..back in the 1950’s,the only places to hear records loudly were on cafe jukeboxes or at fairgrounds. it’s hard to imagine it now, but outside of america, national radio was slow in embracing the rhythm and blues, so places like the ace, are the earliest churches of rock n roll culture in england.

cafes with character are very photogenic. i got my first new iPhone in five years last month, and what i’m enjoying most is the camera. i love how they’re less of a deal than lugging around a more exacting affair…they slide in and out of your pocket with such ease,         and that alone encourages the kid within to keep all eyes peeled for poetry in motion.

so here’s some photographs of the ace, and below that i’ll give you some history.

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Ace Building Archive 1938 x 1Athe ace was born in 1938,and being located by a roadside of one of the first motorways in and out of london, attracted bikers as well as the haulage lorries, but then during wartime it got bombed in an air raid. once the dust settled, it was rebuilt into what’s still there acebombednow… i’m so in love with this place, i’ve dragged thomas back there three times in the one week…we’ve taken friends there for fry ups and mugs of tea…the staff and bikers themselves have cool bad ass style…naturally it’s mostly a hetero joint, but what’s interesting is they play host to weddings and civil partnerships…i guess acepicthe gay bikers,of which there are indeed many, would gravitate there like any other gang who’s out on their wheels for the weekend.maybe one or two met and fell in love there..i dunno..but i saw all nationalities and skin tones hang comfortably under that roof..the food’s great..ten times better than those bog awful mainstream service stations..it’s got proper style and scrubbed integrity.IMG_0616 - Version 2

in the nightshot just above where i’m now writing to you,the actual owner is standing at the counter in terrific 50’s clothes and hair… i think he’s a rare and inspired businessman. the youtube i’ve embedded below is of an early english cult movie that features the ace cafe right in the opening scene…i was grinning watching this…even the tables are arranged in exactly the same way as they are today…it’s an important film because it’s one of the first in england to hint at ‘the love that dare not speak its name’..if you know what i mean….  it’s called *the leather boys* IMG_0367 - Version 6IMG_0341 - Version 4
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17 Responses to the ace cafe in north london

  1. tim says:

    Nice piece GG. I watched Leather Boys quite recently. The Ace is part of our cultural heritage. Long may it stand.

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  2. tim says:

    fantastic song, cheers

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  3. Richard Malpas says:

    Passed it many times but never stopped….looks a great place…There used to be another similar bikers-cafe on the A20 near Wrotham called Johnson’s, affectionately known as Joe’s….It was said that there was a challenge to race down Wrotham Hill to Farningham roundabout and return before the Leader of the Pack stopped playing…Not too sure if this was just rumours but they would have certainly had to travel some speed..Again it was said that a few lost their lives doing this…We were more of the mod scene so never dared to enter….Love your view on the Ace though…looks like it could be a regular breakfast for you….Take care Mary of the Leather….

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    • oh ritchie,if you’re ever passing by there on a saturday/sunday morning,think about pulling in…it’s a great atmosphere…it must be great in the summertime…thanks for letting me know about ‘johnsons’…i’ll definitely go there sometime………yes…i would have been more of a mod orientated youngster too,thankfully those gang wars are over…it’s all beautiful …i got the vinyl of quadrophenia last week.. playing it loads.

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  4. Richard Malpas says:

    Sorry, got it wrong, it was on Death Hill, not Wrotham. The name was changed from the original because of the number of accidents there. Brands Hatch is close by….

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  5. Richard Malpas says:

    Sadly Johnson’s closed years ago….it used to be busy,,,,,all memories to those old rockers…..I love the film and soundtrack to Quadrophenia….excellent times..

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  6. Richard Malpas says:

    By the way, have you seen the Carlsburg stunt where there is a cinema full of bikers and only two seats available for the ‘innocents’…? Love it…!! if not, it’s on Youtube…

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  7. Richard Malpas says:

    Glad you like….it’s nice to please….Your life journeys certainly please the reader……see you next time.

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  8. At a time when other cool places are disappearing, it’s great to hear the Ace Cafe is still thriving and maintaining the fifties cool!

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  9. i loved learning how you played the ace too, kathy… i was watching a rockabilly group soundcheck there one evening, and i can so easily imagine you performing there.

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  10. willie says:

    long time – hope you are well

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    • willie!!…i’m very well thanks…you seem well too…a grand dad now…i’ve seen pictures…lovely to hear from you.

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      • willie says:

        Yeah – The gorgeous Bella 2 next week. What are you doing apart fro making music and writing ? You certainly look fit and well. Glad you enjoyed your evening with Clive at Ronnies. I spent many years working with him. The stories he has to tell are amazing.. Nights with him and Van [before Van stopped drinking] talking about “previous” was the greatest eduction on music I ever had.. I eventually got The Shamrock’s album out btw – It is superb.

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      • hi willie…that’s all i do…music,cause it hurts if i stop.. got a good home life..spend a bit of time out in the southern california desert…little trips into town,but very much a homeboy…yes ..the shamrocks..katie and roe sent me a copy..i love it…i remember meeting you for the first time during the sessions for that record…and the last time i saw you was actually at ronnie scotts when you had van doing an afternoon show there….give my love to katie and roe if you’re up round portrush.

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