Service station that Jimi Hendrix mistook for a nightclub to be demolished

Jimi Hendrix

A motorway service station north of London that was once mistaken for a nightclub by Jimi Hendrix is facing the threat of demolition.

Watford Gap Services, the oldest of its kind in Britain having opened in 1959, may be wiped out under new plans to renovate the site to fit the era of the electric car.

Roadchef, who own the site, have submitted redevelopment plans, with negotiations ongoing with the Department for Transport over extending their lease over the land. If the new plans go ahead, the current buildings will be replaced with multi-storey buildings and hundreds of charging points for electric vehicles.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience
The Jimi Hendrix Experience at London Airport. (Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

For the first decade of its existence, the Northamptonshire services, colloquially known as the Blue Bear, became a late-night destination for people looking for somewhere to head after the 11pm shutdown in pubs in the capital.

One former nightshift worker at the service station collected the autographs of the famous figures that passed through the site, including Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield and the Eagles.

As reported in The Guardian, Dr. David Lawrence, author of Food on the Move: the Extraordinary World of the Motorway Service Area, says that Watford Gap had become “a cultural landmark” by the mid-1960s.

“There were effectively no speed limits and no traffic at the time,” Lawrence said.

He also shared an anecdote told to him by Gerry Marsden from ‘60s pop stars Gerry & The Pacemakers, in which Jimi Hendrix had once mistaken the service station for a bustling, underground nightclub. “Gerry said to Jimi, ‘Once we’ve done the gig at the 100 Club on Oxford Street, let’s go to party at the Blue Boar,’” Lawrence recalled.

Last month, NME presented an exclusive look at a mini-documentary charting the rise of The Jimi Hendrix Experience. The film looks at the start of Hendrix’s music career and it comes ahead of a new live album of his historic live set at the Hollywood Bowl in 1968, which is set to arrive in the new year.

In other Hendrix news, a rare cover of The Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ was recently unearthed and released to the public.

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