'F*** bingo': The Glasgow music venue that was saved from being a bingo hall
While it no longer exists, one of Glasgow’s most loved music venues is still remembered for its impressive guests, unique stage and unforgettable atmosphere.
Almost 100 years ago, the Apollo was called Green’s Playhouse, named after George Green who was an apprentice watchmaker from Preston.
The family-run site included an entertainment complex which included a cinema, ballroom, and tea rooms.
By the time it was beginning to decline in the early 1970s, the top floor was occupied by Clouds, a disco run by Unicorn Leisure.
When they heard that the Greens were planning to convert or demolish the building in favour of a bingo hall, Unicorn decided to apply to lease the building as they were keen to use it as a music venue.
In 1977, the owners of Unicorn moved to the United States and Apollo Leisure Group took over as leaseholders. Again, the idea of a bingo hall was brought up as the group was struggling to deal with the building’s chronic structural problems, and the group were considering letting Mecca Bingo acquire it.
This was met with a huge backlash from gig-goers and artists, and a petition was signed by 100,000 people – including Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton – to preserve it as a music venue.
Legendary musician Bob Geldof of the Boomtown Rats famously said: “The only thing that should happen to the Apollo is that it be torn down by rock fans, brick by brick, while a rock band plays Scotland the Brave at 50,000 watts. F*** bingo - long live rock.”
After Johnny Cash christened the stage in September 1973, the venue soon boomed with visitors as bosses would book huge stars of the era. It might be quicker to list the names of people who didn’t step onto the 15ft stage.
Abba, Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, Bon Jovi, David Bowie, Duran Duran, Kiss, Marc Bolan and The Clash are just some of the legends who soaked up the incredible atmosphere of a Glasgow audience, who could quite literally bounce up and down to the music thanks to a quirky feature of the balcony.
Andy Summers, the guitarist of The Police, once recalled that the band were “amazed that the whole thing didn’t collapse”.
Upstairs, Clouds became a hub for the lesser-known groups, which at the time included Simple Minds, Elvis Costello, Sham 69 and the Rich Kids.
While it was never struggling for big names to grace the stage and always had a crowd packed into the venue, the building itself deteriorated significantly over the years.
The petition saved the venue at the time, but in the years after that, the space went on a ‘downward spiral’ until a fire deemed the building structurally unsafe.
The Apollo was demolished in 1987, but its legacy as one of Glasgow’s greatest live music venues lives on. It was said to be the Ramones’ favourite venue to perform in, and Ozzy Osbourne reportedly demanded that if he was going to be interviewed by Scottish television, it would be held in the empty space where the building once was.
Dedicated fans have continued to preserve and celebrate the memory of the venue, from compiling memory books to restoring old recordings of gigs, from tribute nights to creating T-shirts with that iconic Bob Geldof quote on them.