Cathode Elysium Lights was another ‘member led’ initiative that widened the range of the Drama Club’s activities and took those involved, and their ‘special effects’, into the wider world of mainstream pop and rock music!
CEL was originally set up in 1969 by Dave Paulding, John Oatham, and Terry Hooker, all Markhouse Drama Club members, with Sid Worth joining the group a short while afterwards.
It all started as a very simple affair with the group using the small store (‘cupboard’) in the upper corridor of the school to experiment with oil and water based inks coated between glass slides – which they then heated up in a projector to make the inks boil and produce the desired ‘ psychedelic’ effects on a screen – and so was born their ‘light show’
John recalls that the princely sum of £30 was ‘negotiated’ as a start up grant from Les Martin at the Marsh Street Youth Centre and this, plus a weekly sub of ‘six bob’ from each of the group, enabled them to buy some projectors and start to do some gigs – mainly at discos and at live bands shows.
Whether or not John, Dave, Sid & Terry had any idea of how their new enterprise would develop from this modest start is a moot point – but develop it certainly did and they clearly made their mark within the lightshow fraternity – even to the extent of still having their name featured in ‘Pooters’ – ‘Light Show Hall of Fame!
During the time in which they ran Cathode Elysium Lights, the group performed in a good many well-known establishments including the Marquee Club, the Roundhouse, Quaglinos, Temple – Whisky a Go Go, Rainbow and the 100 Club. Their gigs were, however, not just confined to these well-known London establishments, as they also worked in venues somewhat further afield including, amongst others, Reading University, The Cambridge Corn Exchange and a whole host of different clubs, pubs and private venues around the Home Counties.
Appearing at these venues was not their only claim to fame as a good number of well-known DJ’s and Bands also features in their CV – with the former including Keith Skues, Simon King, David Hamilton, Simon Bates and Noel Edmonds – amongst others.
The list of Bands is equally impressive and some of those that they worked with, between 1969 – 1980, include Jethro Tull, Wishbone Ash, Pink Floyd, Manfred Mann, Sam Apple Pie, Chicken, Shack, Hawkwind, Genesis, Atomic Rooster, Curved Air, Yes, T Rex, Uriah Heap, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Slade, Jackson Heights, Barclay James Harvest, The Faces, Argent, Brian Auger, Fleetwood Mack, Strawbs, Sha na na, Sandy Denny, ELO, Wizard and Paul Simon – an impressive array of well-established and popular groups of the time!
By all accounts getting to and from venues with an array ‘projectors’ in hand proved an interesting exercise in the early days – particularly given the ‘normal’ early hours of the morning finishing time of most of their gigs! Perhaps, with luck, John may be persuaded to use the website’s ‘Members Memories’ page to recount the story of their often used overnight shelter in one of Liverpool Street Station’s Telephone Kiosks – whilst awaiting the early morning St James Street Express!!!
Poster of CEL’s ‘Double Bill’ at The Temple – with May Blitz and Slade – Note the ‘small print’ of ‘MIND BLOWING LIGHTING’