London Brixton Academy: the first decade - in pictures

In 1982 former public school boy Simon Parkes bought a rundown cinema in London for £1. Over a glorious decade he turned it into a stronghold for reggae, rock, hip-hop and dance music. In his hilarious new memoir he recalls the often hairy balancing act of managing musicians, promoters, local gangsters and the police. Here, he talks through some of the Academy's finest moments

Read Tim Lewis's interview with Simon Parkes

Read an extract from Simon Parkes's memoir about the chaos at the venue in the wake of Kurt Cobain's death
Brixton: The Clash Perform At Brixton Academy In 1984
Joe Strummer performs on stage at the Clash's first show at the Brixton Academy on 8 March 1984. The Clash would return to the Academy three more times before the end of 1984, performing two consecutive headlining shows for Arthur Scargill's Christmas Party in support of the miners in December of that year Photograph: Peter Still/Redferns
Brixton: Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go
Wham!'s 1984 hit Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go video filmed at the Academy: "I was watching from the wings of the stage as the curtain went up. Wham played their first two drumbeats, boom, boom, and about 35 kids in the front row fainted on the spot," remembers Simon Parkes Photograph: PR
Brixton: The Beastie Boys perform at the Brixton Academy in 1987
The Beastie Boys perform at the Brixton Academy in June 1987, in support of their debut album, Licensed To Ill. The show even featured "a stage show with go-go dancers in cages," Parkes recalls Photograph: Rex Features
Brixton: The Damned Perform At Brixton Academy In London In 1986
Bryn Merrick, Rat Scabies, Dave Vanian and Roman Jugg of The Damned perform on stage at the Brixton Academy in 1986 Photograph: Peter Still/Redferns
Brixton: Arthur Scargill's Christmas Party poster for the Brixton Academy
The poster from Arthur Scargill’s Christmas Party benefit for the miners in December 1984. “The established venues such as the Albert Hall and the Hammersmith Odeon wouldn’t touch this gig with a 10-metre pick handle. The last thing they wanted was several thousand angry, hyped-up miners led by, horror of horrors, a punk band. They were afraid their dainty seats might get broken. The Academy, on the other hand, was made for this kind of thing,” says Parkes
Photograph: Nick Hider
Photograph: PR
Brixton: Bono at Brixton Academy in 1986
Bono of U2, who Parkes remembers as "a leftfield Irish band with a decent cult following" perform at the Academy in 1986. "I remember thinking they had hands-down the worst band name in the history of pop. But when U2 took the stage, my God did they blow me away" Photograph: Ilpo Musto/Rex Features
Brixton: The Smiths Perform At Brixton Academy In 1986
Morrissey of the Smiths at an Academy gig in October 1986. In December of that year, the band would play what would turn out to be their last ever gig together on the Brixton stage. They closed that final set with the 1983 hit Hand in Glove, the first song they ever released, which ends with the line "I'll probably never see you again". Parkes writes: "No one listening that night in 1986 could have known just how apt a show-closer that would be." This Brixton show was also the only time some Smiths hits, such as Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others, were ever performed live Photograph: Peter Still/Redferns
Brixton: The Pogues Perform At Brixton Academy In 1987
Shane MacGowan of the Pogues performs on stage dressed in NYPD cop uniform on St Patrick's Day, March 1987: "Looking back over my years at the Academy, I must have seen it all in terms of debauched partying… But I can say with absolute certainty that when it came to a pure riotous, drunken melee, there was nothing more visceral and hardcore than the Pogues' Photograph: Peter Still/Redferns
Brixton: The twister ride at a West World party
The twister ride at a Westworld party in 1988. Parkes and his team hit upon the wheeze of a "party based on the Yul Brynner movie of the same name. We turned the entire Academy into a futuristic, western-style theme park complete with tequila bar… There was this huge monster of a machine with long mechanical arms that spun around extremely fast, with terrified and exhilarated clubbers strapped to the ends… As the machine spun, it cleared the back wall of the Academy by just two inches. This Health and Safety inspector's nightmare must have been completely mind-blowing for clubbers full of booze and Lord knows what else" Photograph: Justin Thomas
Brixton: An early rave scene at Brixton Academy
In 1989, the Academy begins hosting the country’s first ever legal raves. Parkes recalls: "I said to the Brixton police commander: ‘Look, you have a problem with these illegal raves; I have a solution. Make them legal. If we bring rave to the Academy, then you’ll know it’ll all be relatively safe and contained, and you’ll kill all this media hype about failing to stop illegal parties.' I was amazed how receptive he was. I was issued the UK’s first ever 6am licence. The country’s first legal all-nighters opened at the Academy and they were an immediate, smashing success… All the major dance promoters brought their parties to us: Energy, Megadog, Return to the Source etc. There was a real sense of a new age dawning, that we were witnessing the birth of an uncharted era in popular culture. It was incredibly exciting for the whole team at the Academy. We were leading the way” Photograph: Justin Thomas
Brixton: Soul II Soul
"The best house band in the world?" asks Parkes, describing Soul II Soul performing as the Brixton Academy's nightclubbing reputation begins to receive widespread attention from British party-goers Photograph: Justin Thomas
Brixton: Blur
Blur’s Damon Albarn performing on the Brixton Academy stage at the Food Records Christmas party, 1991. Blur performed alongside bands such as Jesus Jones and Whirlpool, with all proceeds going to the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital Photograph: Ed Sirrs/Camera Press
Brixton: David Bowie at Brixton Academy in 1991
David Bowie at the Brixton Academy in 1991: "When Bowie toured with Tin Machine, they knew they had to play the venue that the new rock bands, and their fans, considered edgy and credible. It was pretty thrilling for me to bring an icon like the Thin White Duke to the Brixton Academy. This was a guy whose music I had grown up listening to, now playing my own venue; and damn could that band make a noise," says Parkes Photograph: Mick Hutson/Redferns
Brixton: Mounted police control crowds of fans as they leave Brixton Academy in 1987
Mounted police oversee crowds of fans as they leave an LL Cool J concert in 1987: "Obviously there was the aggression and energy [in hip-hop] that got your blood racing, but most of all it just sounded so new. It was different from anything anyone on these shores had heard before," says Parkes. A large part of his success in running the venue was down to managing decent relations with both the police and local gangsters: "The Brixton police grew to absolutely love me. I was the only player in the area who wasn’t neck-deep in the rackets. They would often stop by the Academy for a late-night beer after their shift, seeming much more interested in the pretty girls walking by than in the ganja being lit up all around them. I even let the CID use the roof for surveillance on Stockwell Park Estate behind us. While, of course, also letting the kids from the estate hide in the building if they needed to lay low for a while. My job was always to strike the balance and keep both sides happy" Photograph: Rick Wilson/Rex Features
Brixton: Dr Dre And Snoop Doggy Dogg 1994
Snoop Doggy Dogg and Dr Dre on stage in 1994. “You'd expect the catering rider for the two biggest rap stars on Earth to run to more than three letters. But there it was on the page, in black and white, in front of me: 'Catering requirements: KFC'… and despite being high as kites and full of KFC, Dre and Snoop Dogg were complete professionals, ripping up a couple of fantastic shows,” says Parkes Photograph: Brian Rasic/Rex Features
Brixton: Flavor Flav of Public Enemy at Brixton Academy
Flavor Flav of Public Enemy performing at Brixton Academy in 1995. Parkes says the venue was the natural home for hip-hop from the moment it came to the UK in the late 80s: "After an early Public Enemy gig in 1987 there had been a bit of trouble outside the Hammersmith Odeon, and the British tabloids had gone into a typically sensationalist frenzy about this new music inciting violence in ‘the youth’. True to form, the Odeon had panicked and banned all hip-hop concerts. They just weren’t rugged enough to handle the trouble associated with rap music. But we were the Brixton Academy. We defined rugged. Their loss was our gain, and we became rap’s natural home in the UK. When the US stars came over, they came straight to us. Not only was their fan base on our doorstep; we were the only ones who would book the gigs" Photograph: Andre Csillag/Rex Features
Brixton: Johnny Lawes and Simon Parkes backstage at Brixton Academy
Simon Parkes (right) with his right-hand man at the Academy, Johnny Lawes, "cutting loose after a gig", in Parkes's words. Parkes describes the pair as "not a bad little double act" Photograph: Justin Thomas
Brixton: Kraftwerk At Brixton Academy
Kraftwerk performing at Brixton Academy in 1991 Photograph: Rex Features
Brixton: A transvestite uses a urinal during an S&M party at Brixton Academy in 1995
A transvestite uses a urinal during an S&M party at Brixton Academy in 1995 Photograph: Kevin Weaver/Rex Features
Brixton: Primal Scream
"We wanna get loaded. And we wanna have a good time": Primal Scream at one of their legendary Brixton all-nighters Photograph: Justin Thomas
Brixton: Primal Scream and George Clinton
Primal Scream and George Clinton backstage at Brixton Academy in 1994 Photograph: Mick Hutson/Redferns
Brixton: Michael Hutchence of INXS
Michael Hutchence of INXS performs at the Brixton Academy in October 1994. "INXS showed up and, I have to say, played a fantastic gig… went all out with their onstage theatrics, with Michael Hutchence giving it his full Jim Morrison-meets-Crocodile Dundee routine," says Parkes. "That night was a paparazzi dream: there were Kylie and Dannii Minogue and for some reason a large crowd of big-name tennis players. I found myself looking around my rock’n’roll venue and seeing faces like Boris Becker, Pat Cash and Steffi Graf: very odd indeed. Helena Christensen [Hutchence's girfriend] had been hanging around the Academy all afternoon as the band soundchecked, before disappearing back off to the hotel with Hutchence. But that evening, just minutes after INXS came offstage, Christensen ran out of the venue in tears. And at the end of the night, Michael Hutchence left the building with Paula Yates…" Photograph: Justin Thomas

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