Merc’s London is a regular feature of some of the important landmarks, venues and buildings that celebrates the history, style and origins of all things we believe in, style, image, music and fashion.
The 2i’s Coffee Bar was one of the countless Coffeeshops that opened in and around Soho that served as a meeting point and social hub for the youth of London Town. Located at 59 Old Compton Street In heart of Soho, London W1 it had existed in various locations before settling at this address In April 1956.
Old Compton Street, Soho W1.
In the days before social media and widespread journalistic coverage, the importance of these venues for the youth cultures cannot be underestimated. If you wanted to know who, what, where and how, these were the places to go. While upstairs in the “2i’s” was relatively small, with standing space for approximately 20 people, the 18inch high stage (reportedly made from milk crates and planks) in the basement soon provided the attraction of live music, and in particular was paramount in the youth movement and music of the time - “Skiffle”.
Skiffle like all new genres of music took its influences from a range of styles and put its own take on it and in the 1950s the fusion of Jazz, Blues and Folk was a era defining music for the post war generation of teens discovering the brave new world.
SoHo’s “in crowd” who frequented the 2i’s were regularly treated to performances from a who’s who list of artists such as Tommy Steee, Screaming Lord Sutherland, Hank Marvin, Cliff Richard (pre Mistletoe and Wine era obvs!) and Ritchie Blackmore to name just a few. Run by 2 Australian Wrestlers Paul “Dr Death” Lincoln and Ray “Rebel” Hunter, who saw the importance of the live music as a means to compete with the abundance of coffee shops in the area.
When Tommy Steele was discovered playing there and became Britain’s first rock and roll star in September 1956, the 2i’s was secured a place not only in Soho folklore but British music history! It became a place where musicians would travel to play, and managers, A&R men and music industry employees would go to look for talent. The “Six Five Special”, a highly popular music programme of the time ( the TOTP of the era) even broadcast from the 2i’s In November 1957.
It was a hub for all that was happening, even American superstars Gene Vincent and Jerry Lee Lewis graced the stage! Eventually what first started off as venue where you could be up close and personal with the “Soho hipsters” of the time ironically became a victim of its small size, it couldn’t generate the profits to continue.
The emergence of British Bands such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones provoked a hysteria in the music world that Ment live music venues could no longer be a basement of a soho coffee shop. Eventually the 2i’s closed its doors for the final time in 1967 (ironically as a young Javid Alavi began trading from a Barrow on the neighbouring Carnaby Street as Merc Clothing) and a historic venue was lost London W1 evolved with the times !
A Commemorative green plaque was unveiled in September 2006 to celebrate the history, legacy and importance of the 2i’s and to this day sits in the same place as the music greats of the late 1950s and early 1960s once played . 59 Old Compton Street, Soho , London W1. It’s currently a fish and chip shop !!
Forever embedded in the fabric of London, Soho and youth culture, Merc clothing salutes the 2i’s coffee bar !