Great nights at The Lion's Den in Ipswich

Stephn Foster Lion's Den Mickey Jupp Band

The Mickey Jupp Band at The Lion’s Den - Credit: Stephen Foster

Sex and drugs and rock and roll. That’s a line (no pun intended) that the late, great Ian Dury came up with and it soon caught on, so much so that it remains a term often used to describe life in the music industry.

The BBC refused to play the single of the same name. In those days when the Beeb banned a record it was usually a signal for thousands of people to immediately go out and buy it - but not on this occasion. A limp sales performance meant it failed to chart and it was promptly deleted a couple of months later. Nevertheless (and prepare yourself for an audacious piece of namedropping) a couple of years later Ian Dury told me he was delighted with how his now classic debut ‘45 had sold.

Stephen Foster Lions Den Ipswich

Foz on compere duties at The Lion’s Den. - Credit: Stephen Foster

I’ve seen and heard a lot of rock and roll in my time but I’ve not witnessed much in the way of sex and drugs. I have no doubt whatsoever it still goes on. It’s just that my invite always seems to get lost in the post. That said, my eyes were certainly opened backstage at the Lion’s Den in Ipswich in the mid-to-late 1990s.

I was preparing to introduce the band about to go on when I spotted both members of the rhythm section huddled together sniffing what looked like the contents of a Sherbet Fountain.

As Charlie Rich quite rightly pointed out, no one knows what goes on behind closed doors. I’ve never been one to hang around in bands’ dressing rooms unless invited.

A quick knock on the door to remind them of the start and finish times and then to settle up with them at the end of the night is often about as close as I get to the rock’n’roll lifestyle. I’m not prudish by any stretch of the imagination but some things are best unseen and unheard!

The Smokestack blues nights at the back of the Golden Lion certainly provided great times for many gig-goers in Ipswich. For a few glorious years myself and John Butters lived the dream. There was nothing glamorous about it but when I look back at the 30 or so shows we put on there I have nothing but fond memories.

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There was American singer and guitarist Chris Smither politely putting me in my place when I suggested he might like to play a more uptempo set than usual. On another occasion I introduced a star struck Kevin Beattie to The Yardbirds and there was the night I was introduced to a man purporting to be Jeremy Spencer from Fleetwood Mac!

My only regret from that era was that we don’t have enough photos of the gigs. From time to time a local photographer would do the honours but just like in the era of Ipswich’s Bluesville nights 30 years earlier very few pictures were taken. A far cry from nowadays when virtually everyone has a camera on their phone and they’re not afraid to use it.

Thankfully I have kept all the posters and press cuttings from the days when a Friday night at The Lion’s Den was the perfect start to a blues fan’s weekend. One thing’s for sure, every time I walk along that side of the Corn Exchange I always glance across to the back of the Golden Lion building and think of the golden days when up to 200 people would squeeze into Ipswich’s home of the blues.


Next week I conclude my weekly nostalgia trip by reflecting on a very special moment in my life that hasn’t actually happened yet but all being well is about to. I’m due to be awarded an honorary degree by the University Of Suffolk this Friday. To say I’m proud and delighted would be something of an understatement.

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