The Blue Boar was a service station on the UK's first major motorway the M1. The M1 started around Watford Gap and finished around Leeds. Of course Anglozine is a London based company so for arguments sake, we can also say it starts in Leeds and ends down in that London.
The Watford Gap is in the county of Northamptonshire (home to English bench made real deal footwear) and 75 miles north of Londons Trafalgar Square. Watford Gap to many is described as the dividing line between North versus South in the British Isles- its always interesting to hear where Brits believe this border to be
The M1 officially launched in 1959 and following an AC Cobra sports car clocking up 100mph and the old bill hapless to do anything about it, a national speed limit was put in place.
The Blue Boar opened in the early 1961 and while work was been carried out with the help of Harry Weedon, the architect behind Odeon Art Deco cinemas in the interwar period. Mr.Weedon along with Owen Williams work was initially slammed in the Architects Journal as a 'common place design' in the midst of a mid-20th century modernist era.
The glamorous Americana Googie style had never been seen in Britain before and so seating faced plate glass windows with traffic flying past, while waitresses bought you tea, egg and chips - a rarity back then, sheer glamour. You could also pick up a postcard with a print of The Blue Boar services so modern and otherworldly were these new fangled pit stops- which of course seems odd today.
But the Blue Boar was more than a quick snack and toilet stop it was a literal staging post on the road to success, the M1 was the backbone of the UK tour circuit.
A teenage Keith Richards sitting opposite Andrew Loog Oldham was photographed by Philip Townsend (no relation to the Who) at the Blue Boar pre-fame in July 1963. The band were on their way to Birmingham from London for the Rolling Stones first TV performance. There first major breakthrough being a Chuck Berry cover from 1961 'Come On'.
The Jukebox became an absolute barometer of success and every band wanted to have their 7" played on it. To walk into the Blue Boar and hear your song was praise indeed. My dad would often bomb down to the Blue Boar with his mates from South Birmingham in one of his pals fathers Jaguar they'd 'borrow' for the evening while said pops was asleep.
One night they selected a few tunes on the jukebox and looked around a rather empty Blue Boar -it was the middle of the night. With plenty of room and free tables, The Who walked into the diner and strangely plonked themselves on the table close to the South Birmingham gang. A Who song started to play and Peter Townshend commented "Oh well done" to which my dads designated driver mate rebuffed "So you should be" clearly he wasn't a Who fan.
With more bands breaking into beat music and gigging constantly fans started to increasingly head to the Blue Boar in the hope of catching their idols. For a couple of years the epicentre of cool was between junctions 16 and 17 on the M1. Jimmy Hendrix moved to London in 1967, when asked which places he wanted to see he mentioned the Blue Boar, assuming it was a club- the notoriety of the motorway service station had even spread Stateside.
The squares, truckers, bands and their fans democratic mingling and queueing for food with their trays came to end towards the end of the 1960's. Jeff Beck and Ronnie Wood had to do a runner mid fry-up from the Blue Boar to avoid a beating from chain wielding rockers, the Jeff Beck group continued up the M1 to the Scottish boarders to finish their nationwide tour.
As bands got more famous and the Bedford vans were too lowly for the now famous bands they just ate on the bus or sent in the roadies for take aways. By the 1970's The Blue Boar success was well and truly over and bands such as The Kinks 1972 'motorway' and Roy Harpers 'Watford Gap' penned songs about the demise of the once place to be seen road side scene.
The Anglozine zine this season ran a few questions past the Gang of Four (London boys made good in Leeds surely the M1 personified) and Hugo put the relevance of the Watford Gap north south divide as "the Mason/Dixon line" when explaining the relevance of the imaginary cultural border to his American friends, he also talks of driving up and down the M1 in a red Ford transit van. The other Q&A is with artist Corbin Shaw who is the only person I have ever met that has worked at a service station, and on the M1 to boot.
We have a few styles this season inspired by an original Blue Boar Garage patch that I've had since yonks, I'd like to think my dad picked it up on one of his midnight flits. Check out the screen printed mock turtle neck tshirts, football scarves and one off huge totes with hand woven patches. The patches are embroidered on an antique 1930's chainstitch machine operated by a freehand crank, the ideal look for such this industrious transport caf'
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