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The Many Lives Lived On A Corner In Camden Town

The Camden Theatre opened on Boxing Day 1900 and for nine years played host to opera performances and theatrical offerings, the first venue to do so outside of London's West End. In 1909 it reopened as a variety show theatre and eventually morphed into a cinema.

The building was closed during World War II even though it survived when many of its neighbors didn't during the blitz. The BBC took it over in 1945 and used it as a radio and recording studio well into the 1970s. The Rolling Stones performed here in 1964; the Faces in 1970. Monty Python's Flying Circus album was recorded here in 1970 just two years. before the BBC left it empty and precariously close to being demolished.

In 1977, reopened and renamed as The Music Machine, the venue became the epicenter for new wave and punk bands playing host to The Boomtown Rats, The Clash and The Jam. In 1979, heavy metal band, Iron Maiden, played a one night gig here. Sadly, in 1980, this was the last place AC/DC's Bon Scott was seen drinking before his death later that night.

The year 1982 brought about another name change for the corner venue. Now known as Camden Palace it was the location where Madonna first performed in the UK. In 1985, where Steve Marriott played with his band Packet of Three.

In 1988, Prince graced its stage as part of his Lovesexy Tour with Rolling Stone, Ronnie Wood as guest guitarist. Prince so enjoyed performing here he held an invite only party at the club as well as a number of full concerts into the following decades.

After years of holding weekly rave events the club closed in 2004. As luck would have it, an entertainment company saw the future potential in the building and, not only bought it but, invested a multimillion pound restoration effort. The six month refurbishment added so many updated technical facilities that when it reopened, the venue, now called KOKO, was equipped to facilitate live concerts, club nights, corporate events and television productions.

In 2005, Coldplay used KOKO to launch their album X&Y. That same year Madonna returned to host her album launch of Confessions on a Dance Floor.

In 2006, Elton John chose KOKO as the place to throw a benefit party for his AIDS charity bash.

2007 brought Prince back for a secret show; his first in over 10 years. My Chemical Romance held a private gig here hosted by BBC Radio 1.

So many other bands have appeared here since the 2004 restoration; The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Oasis, Bruno Mars, (Camden's own) Amy Winehouse, Lady Gaga, Usher, Noel Gallagher...and the list goes on.

In 2017 Ed Sheeran performed a private show promoting his third album, Divide.

While undergoing another restoration project, a large fire broke out in January of 2020. It took 60 firefighters nearly six hours to control the blaze. The cause of the construction site fire was never determined but the damage was said to have been contained in the roof area.

KOKO reopened in all her new glory in April of 2022.

Rock Tour London's video tour The Stories From Fitzrovia to Camden Town takes you to KOKO. Click here to take a trip to Camden Town and other places with rock and roll stories.

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©RockTourLondon, 2022

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