North London Food & Culture

Celebrate 50 years of electronic music in Camden

This month sees the start of a series of club nights at the Lockside, hosted by north London DJ and Noise of Art founder, Ben Osborne

Roundhouse, 1967. Photo: Camden Council

Camden’s well known for Britpop-era indie bands and resident stars such as Madness and Amy Winehouse, plus the perennial punk and rockabilly scenes. But its link to the history of electronic music is less well appreciated.

In the late 1960s the Roundhouse was being eyed up as a potential people’s theatre. And while the serious business was being discussed, it started being used for one-off raves.

This was the start of European psychedelia, which was also the period when electronic music first crossed over from being an experimental branch of classical music to pop and rock, jazz and soul.
It’s no coincidence The Beatles are a vital part of the story. I remember Karl Bartos from Kraftwerk telling me he first became aware of electronic music because of The Beatles in this era.

In the psychedelic period people in San Francisco were experimenting with wacky electronics, and The Beatles were doing the same. What’s well documented is that George Martin was helping John Lennon and Paul McCartney explore this stuff. But in late 1966 a group within the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop set up the first electronic music festival.


Original poster, 1967

Then in January 1967 – 50 years ago today, pretty much – this same group were involved in the Million Volt Light And Sound Rave, the first electronic music festival in London held at the Roundhouse on 28th Jan and again on 4th Feb.

McCartney was asked to create a piece of music for the occasion, which was debuted at the festival as Carnival Of Light, and he asked the BBC Radiophonic Workshop to collaborate with him. All of which is enough to make this a significant event in the history of UK electronic music.

Ben Osborne. Photo: own

But there’s more. Camden resident David Vorhause was a young teenager at this point and he went to the event in 1967. Here he met his future partner, Deliah Derbyshire (the celebrated Radiophonic Workshop member behind the famous Dr Who theme). He also met electronic music icons Peter Zinoviev, and Brian Hodgeson.

They’d all already ensured their place in the history of UK electronic music. But after meeting David they joined his band White Noise and released what is probably the UK’s first ever electronic pop LP.

The rest is history. But it gives us a reason to celebrate Camden’s legacy with a series of one-offs and regular nights over the coming year, kicking off with Slipped Disco at Lockside on Thursdays 23rd Feb, 2nd and 23rd March, and 6th April.

The first event is 23rd February featuring Justin Robertson at The Lockside, 75-89 Upper Walkway, Camden Lock, Camden Market NW1. For more info see Slipped Disco Camden on Facebook. 

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