“I cancelled the Sex Pistols.” Howard Bossick, former guvnor at the Greyhound, talks punk, smashed pianos and the music scene in 70s Croydon

By - Tuesday 29th April, 2014

Hawkwind, hell-raising and Croydon’s musical heyday, by the man who ran South London’s leading music venue

Howard Bossick, former owner of The Greyhound. Image author’s own.

Howard Bossick, current owner of Bad Apple, former owner of Black Sheep Bar and the man who reprimanded the lead singer of Queen, was top dog at the Greyhound music venue in Park Lane from 1969 until 1977, just over the road from the Fairfield Halls. We talked about the music scene in Croydon, what David Bowie is like in real life and that fabled encounter with Freddie.

The Greyhound rivalled Fairfield as Croydon’s premier music scene when you were general manager there. Tell us about the Croydon music scene from ’69 – ’77.

Croydon had a thriving music scene and probably the most knowledgeable audiences as far as bands were concerned at the time. It was thought that if a band made it at the Greyhound, they’d made it.

How did the Greyhound fit in with the rest of London?

There weren’t many venues in the capital, particularly ones the size of the Greyhound. It was one of the foremost venues in South London, if not the whole of London. On Sundays we ran the ‘Croydon Blues Club’, where you could rock up and pay a few quid to see some of the breaking bands at the time. Some of them turned out to be very important names in the British, and indeed international, music scene: Deep Purple, The Faces, Status Quo, Genesis, Stealer’s Wheel, Hawkwind, Thin Lizzy, The Ramones, The Jam…

Roxy Music was my £10 support act

You were situated directly opposite Fairfield Halls on the site of what was to become the infamous Blue Orchid. Were they your competitors at the time, and did you have a good working relationship?

Fairfield was a bit snooty about having certain groups in. They thought the kind of music we hosted was beneath them, though later on they became more mainstream. But they always went for the big well-known groups, not the up-and-coming ones. I think they were worried the place might get smashed up.

Some great names passed through the doors at the Greyhound: David Bowie, Queen, Deep Purple, Roxy Music. At the time, most of them were just breaking into the music scene – did you have any idea about the dizzy heights some of those acts would reach?

Not at all – and in fact, there were usually two groups that played each night, the main act and their support, and some of the supports made it in a really big way. For example, Roxy Music – they used to get paid a tenner as a support group. The main groups usually got between two or three hundred pounds. We used to charge anything from £2 to £4 on the door – bargain!

What was David Bowie like in person?


Who made the biggest mess in the dressing room?


Who was the biggest headache to deal with?


Freddie Mercury was smashing up my piano

Who was the nicest artist you crossed paths with?

Marc Bolan (T. Rex) who was an Addington boy. He was charming.

Got any juicy stories?

When Queen had finished their gig, I had a bit of an argument with Freddie Mercury because he was smashing up my piano. It wasn’t a grand piano but he shouldn’t have been doing it and he was a bit over the top.

Did you tell him off?

Yes, but we made up by the end of the evening.

And did you let him come back and play again?

Yes, but he didn’t want to.

So you really upset Freddie Mercury?

No, I don’t think he was upset – we just couldn’t afford him!

The Greyhound became a leading punk/new wave venue from around 1977. Punk was coming in as you were leaving – so what did you think of the punk scene?

I didn’t much like it. We actually had the Sex Pistols booked and I cancelled them because I didn’t want to be spat on.

Did you regret it?

Yes, I suppose I did. I would have liked to have seen them. I had the opportunity but decided that because we were still a banqueting venue and quite a smart one for the area, it wasn’t the image we wanted and we had a reputation to protect.

You said that Queen was your favourite band. What made them stand out?

They were head and shoulders above the others because they were very, very talented, particularly Freddie Mercury.

Standards have dropped, and there’s more police involvement nowadays

What is your favourite memory of working at the Greyhound?

The camaraderie – we had quite a team that really pulled together.

You have run venues in Croydon for many years, most recently the Black Sheep Bar (1997-2013) and Bad Apple. What would you say are the key differences between Croydon’s nightlife now and back in the ’70s?

People have more disposable income yet standards have dropped. There’s far more police involvement now and it’s more difficult to run a business because of the high rent and business rates. People have changed as well – I think they are not as respectful, not as polite.

And musically it’s changed completely too. You were there when the British rock scene was taking off…

Yes, and ironically, I left in August 1977 which was the day the King (Elvis Presley) died.

That death makes a sad endnote to Howard Bossick’s time at the Greyhound, but it’s fascinating to share musical memories which belong not only to him but to the whole of Croydon. If he’s brought recollections flooding back, or just inspired curiosity about this exciting time in our history, I’d recommend Chris Groom’s fabulous book Rock In And Around Croydon for some rare photographs and clippings. My thanks to Howard Bossick for this interview – it’s been amazing to hear all about it first-hand.

Stephanie Darkes

Stephanie Darkes

Croydon Girl, Loves all things music and getting nerdy about Croydon's rich music scene past and present. In the past she has run music venues, managed bands and had her own fanzine. Now she is mostly a Social Media Superstar. A Founder & Partner at Dot Social, she also writes and blogs for other Croydon publications, has a show on Croydon Radio (Croydon Rocks) and heads up the weekend organisation of Purley Festival.

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