Located at 301 West 46th Street in New York City, The Scene, which opened its doors sometime in 1965, was indeed the most renowned rock club in the USA for a short span during the mid-sixties. This joint was run by a fella by the name of Steve Paul, who had begun his career in the rock world working as a publicist for the famed Peppermint Lounge club in NYC. Paul, who had a talent for spotting the next big thing in rock music, made his mark on the music scene by being a savvy judge of musical talent. Paul was among the first clubs on the East Coast to book The Doors (who were booked for a three-week run) early on in their career. The club also became a favorite hangout for Jimi Hendrix, who enjoyed stopping by frequently for late night jam sessions whenever he was in town. This led to other rock stars showing up to jam as well and soon everybody who was anybody was making the (heh,heh) scene.
A Young Steve Paul
"Born in New York in 1941, Paul was the son of a high-school principal but never intended to follow a traditional career path. Fascinated by the nightclubs he saw on the silver screen, he dreamed of opening his own. 'I’d create me a world of reality within the world of reality. Make your dreams come true,' he wrote in Hullabaloo magazine in 1967. He started out doing public relations for a couple of New York restaurants and helped popularize the Peppermint Lounge, the Manhattan bar associated with the twist craze of the early Sixties. By 1965 he had enough money to turn a labyrinthine, cavernous, 5,000sq ft club, located on 46th Street near Times Square, into Steve Paul’s The Scene." (The Independent)
"According to a groovy self-penned article in the May 1967 issue of Hullabaloo magazine, his ambitions for the impresario field were formed via frequent childhood viewings of the Late, Late Show: The owners of nightclubs in ['30s and '40s] movies had loads of people to keep 'em company. Huge sofas and many phones in massive modern offices. Rising stages. Hidden safes loaded with cash. Beautiful girls in abundance. Bodyguard chums and not a blanket in sight. Doctors and do-gooders and firemen and free-thinkers had to go to bed at night. Nightclub owners didn't. Someday I'd grow up and own me a nightclub...I'd create me a world of reality within the world of reality. Make your dreams come true. It can happen to you. It would be called The Scene. Big S(cene) in name. Little s(cene) in reality (within reality). A place where together people could get together. I'd own it. But so would you. I'd work there. But so would you. I'd play there. But so would you. We'd all give what we could. For the scene's common good. From what I can gather, the club initially opened in '65 to great fanfare. In the article, Paul writes of the Lovin' Spoonful, the Young Rascals, and Sammy Davis, Jr. gracing the stage. In Popism: The Warhol '60s (New York: Harper & Row, 1983), Warhol writes of a Scene party attended by himself and Edie Sedgwick; other guests included Liza Minnelli and Peter Allen, Baby Jane Holzer, "and Marion Javits and Huntington Hartford and Wendy Vanderbilt and Christina Paolozzi, who was the first model to appear nude in Harper's Bazaar," among other breathlessly dropped names." (It's All The Streets You Crossed So Long Ago blog)
Here's a piece written by Greg Shaw in Hullaballoo magazine circa 1967: "Steve Paul's The Scene is a popular midtown nightclub at 46th St. and 8th Ave. It sports a labyrinth floor plan which extends through a bizarre network of brick walled cellar rooms and passageways. While the club caters primarily to the jet-set, it also attracts a growing number of the hippie community. Steve Paul once described the purpose of his club in this way: 'To use music as a common denominator for the fusion between music, musicians, people who like music, and people who are music in their very being.' Steve Paul, who had an uncanny eye for spotting new stars, would often feature new talent at his club long before word of them had gone out. Among the wide variety of performers featured at The Scene are the Velvet Underground, Pink Floyd, Jeff Beck, Traffic, the Rascals, Fleetwood Mac and The Chambers Brothers. The Scene attracted swarms of jet-setters, Broadway dancers, motorcycle riders and Manhattan’s moneyed elite through two incarnations in its six-year life…The Scene was as a refuge for performers, stagehands and artists, including stars like Sammy Davis Jr. and Liza Minnelli, who might burst into impromptu song. Richard Pryor might tell jokes. Tennessee Williams liked to stop by. Andy Warhol filmed an underground movie of Scene patrons watching an underground movie. After a few years the scene at the Scene began to lose steam, and it went dark. Then the poet Allen Ginsberg and Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary, among others, stepped in with financial assistance. Mr. Paul’s focus soon changed to rock music.”
Richard Goldstein (rock journalist)
"Steve Paul's knack for spotlighting unbroken acts amid all that nightglow musk, made the show erratic but exciting...It is to his credit that his entertainment was live and breathing...The Scene was its own attraction. Steve Paul got his pictures in a lot of newspapers. Newsweek chronicled 'the sad demise of The Stork Club and the explosive emergence of The Scene' in one week. The Scene was THE club in New York in the true sense and the business sense and the hip sense and the decency sense...Steve Paul is the Jack Parr of rock & roll. He doesn't sing or dance or tell funny stories. He brings it all together. The only fringe benefit is fame...As emcee, he sometimes sits at the feet of his entertainers. No one has actually seen him cry onstage but he claims he has for so long that everyone believes it. It's part of the cool." (Richard Golstein, The Village Voice 1967)
The physical layout of the club, which most folks compared to an underground disco type club, was described in a Classic Albums documentary on the making of the Hendrix lp Electric Ladyland by Jim Marron (The Scene's maitre d') as follows: "It had three rooms that focused in, like, a cross on the stage, and as a subterranean basement, it had the sort of Paris-cave-disco style to it." (NY Times 2012)
David Henderson's biography of Jimi Hendrix, 'Scuse Me While I Kiss The Sky (Doubleday, 1978) describes the vibe that was going down at The Scene: "Out front, a big lighted entrance; inside are narrow rectangular panels leading up to a dim box office. You sweep past into a zigzag-shaped maze-like room with tiny tables and tiny-backed chairs. But up on the tiny stage, two feet off the floor, the music happens...It was dark and intimate, almost labyrinthine, yet you could go there and party, or play and just sit alone and drink, and no one restrained you either way. Jimi soon found the Scene Club irresistible...Fans did not hassle you there. It was dark and intimate, almost labyrinthine, yet you could go there and party, or play and just sit alone and drink, and no-one restrained you either way. And most important of all was that he could play there. He could play any time he wanted to. He could woodshed right in the middle of New York City. The Scene Club was like a mini-forum model for every arena he would ever play. The shouting stark frenzy of the close room is what he brought with him to every stage around the world. It was always the small intimate room he was really playing to. The thousand and one nights of playing long into the Scene Club's night. When the chairs would finally be upside down upon the tiny tables. When Steve Paul himself would finally have to pull the plug, while Jimi alone in his universe would be totally unaware of the hour or of the devotees and workers who patiently waited within the exhilaration of his sound. At the Scene, Jimi would completely let himself go--playing all he knew and didn't know, going beyond sharing--playing all. Trying to get it all out."
The Doors @ The Scene
"The Doors played their last set at The Scene on a Saturday night. At 3 AM, when all the paying customers had left, Steve Paul locked us all in and gave a party for the boys, who had been the biggest draw in the history of his club. And on his part, Steve had been a good and groovy employer; I remember John asking Jim why he (Jim) would get to The Scene so well in advance of the time they had to perform, and Jim's answering, 'Well, I like to hang around Steve Paul and listen to him rap. He's funny.' Anyhow, there was a case of champagne for the closing night party, and it didn't matter that it wasn't quite chilled because everyone was happy, sloppy and tired, and it was a beautiful party. Robbie did his imitation of a shrimp, and Jim found something lying on the floor which looked like a balloon but wasn't, so he blew it up and let it go, whereupon it landed in Ingrid Superstar's champagne glass, which made Jim laugh, and everyone loved each other without any uptightness. It would be good if everything the Doors ever have to do ends so nicely." (Hullabaloo magazine.)
This post on the Mild Equator site that features comments from photographer Colin Beard captures the vibes at club on a night The Doors appeared at Steve Paul's The Scene: ""Lilian Roxon wanted us to go to the 'The Scene' disco that was the all the rage in New York, particularly for those involved in the Pop scene. She also wanted me to meet a female 'Pop' photographer called Linda Eastman. Lilian thought that Linda and I, both being photographers, both involved in the Pop scene were bound to hit it off so she made a date for us to meet at the disco. On the way to 'The Scene' with Lily and Lilian, I learned that Linda Eastman was the daughter of George Eastman, the Eastman-Kodak magnate which for some reason made me feel anxious. Perhaps it wasn't so surprising - I was on my way to a blind date with a girl who was not only conspicuous as a photographer in the biggest arena of all, but she possessed a family name that was synonymous with photography. Lyn was already at the disco when we arrived, surrounded by friends or contacts, chattering breathlessly, hailing familiar people across the darkly lit floor. Lilian introduced me as 'Australia's leading Pop photographer - been in London for four months - photographed absolutely every body, darling - The Stones, The Who. Absolutely brilliant, darling - you two should have lots in common.' It was noisy in the Disco, records playing full volume with boosted bass and people shouting ever louder to make themselves heard. It was not a good time to get to know a stranger. After the initial introduction, she barely looked at me again. I watched her eyes dart excitedly from person to person and her red painted lips like a caricatured puppet chatter silently and it all felt like an hallucination. I wandered off. I lost myself amid the bubbling disco lights and watched the people dancing. Suddenly, the music stopped and the babbling voices seemed to dissolve into an unnatural silence which I initially suspected was the effects of the cannabis smoke that hovered pungently around my nose. There was an announcement over the PA system, but it made little sense to me but I noticed that clusters of people were sidling across the dance floor and sitting cross-legged in front of the low stage. The lights went down until it was almost pitch black but I could make out dark shapes shuffle onto the stage. 'Ladies and gentlemen - The Scene presents - the latest New York sensation - The Doors!'. The shriek of the electric guitars pierced the darkness, bringing with it flashes of vibrant blue light. A lithe figure towered over me his snake-like hips strangely twisted and wrapped around the microphone stand. (After the Doors set) Jim Morrison left the stage as mysteriously as he had appeared, leaping into the adjoining darkness in two spectacular bounds. The audience screamed and stamped their feet in unison. 'We want 'The Doors - we want Jim - more, more, more.' But they weren't getting more. Instead, a strange pale-faced man (Tiny Tim) trotted onto the vacated stage. His hair was long and hung carelessly about his face in ringlets, his nose long and beak-like and he carried a tiny ukulele under his arm. I watched as he leaned his long, awkward body towards the microphone, and plucked each string of his ukulele to check the tuning. The ukulele looked ridiculously toy-like within his large clumsy hands, but the cords rang out sonorously followed by a tuneless falsetto voice - 'Tiptoe, through the tulips, through the tulips - come walk with me.' Was this man serious? The audience were jeering at him, mocking him, laughing at him - he did have courage or else a very thick skin. I spent the rest of the evening at the disco dancing with the girl who had been set on fire. She was a strong looking girl, dark haired with the full lips and slightly lumpy cheek bones that suggested New York Jewish parentage. I didn't run into Lyn Eastman again that night."
"Before moving to London and snagging a certain Beatle, Linda Eastman honed her photography skills while regularly making the Scene. Her friend Michael Weber provides an atmospheric account of the club and her picture-taking techniques: We met at The Scene in the heart of Hell's Kitchen, the most happening music joint in New York City. Linda was rumored to be the heiress to the Eastman Kodak fortune, a myth perpetrated by the fact she often sat with The Scene's resident millionaire, Deering Howe, as in John Deere tractors. Here was this perfectly clad debutante schlepping two Nikons around her neck while everyone else was tripping-out in their caftans. To say Linda stuck out like a sore thumb would be putting it mildly, but she was no heiress. The Scene was the place the top groups got together to jam when performing at New York's bigger venues. Getting past owner Steve Paul at the door was no mean feat, if you got past Teddy first, his sharkskin-suited maitre ‘d, up on the sidewalk. Paul was a brash 21-year-old kid, and if he did ordain your entrance to his club it was not before he unceremoniously put you down. That was his cover charge, a patented one line insult. Rarely, if ever, did he charge his regulars admission. I can't remember Steve ever insulting Linda, though. Her passion was photographing musicians and his was giving them a home. Linda and Steve were simpatico. Tiny Tim always warmed up the house, strumming camp show tunes on his little ukulele while singing along in that nasal falsetto he made famous years later on the Johnny Carson Show. When Tiny decided to finish, it could be one song it could be seven, the Super Groups would get up and jam. That's when Linda sprang to action. She worked seamlessly, blending in with the act. No matter who they were, how famous or infamous, Linda got in their face. That's how she got her portfolio together. For a while Linda was as much a fixture at The Scene as Tiny Tim. That's really saying something." (from the popular blog It's All The Streets You Crossed Not So Long Ago)
The secret behind Steve Paul's success at his club was due to his knack for booking acts right before they achieved mass popularity. Among the acts who graced the tiny stage at The Scene were such sixties luminaries as Tiny Tim, Van Morrison, The Rascals, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, The Blues Project, Moby Grape, Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, Fleetwood Mac, Ten Years After, Pink Floyd, Steppenwolf, Traffic, The Seeds, The Velvet Underground, The Chambers Brothers, and Johnny Winter. The McCoys, a combo best remembered for their iconic pop hit Hang On Sloopy, were The Scene's resident house band. As a result of their work at The Scene, they would later end up getting a gig as Johnny Winter's backup band on his Johnny Winter And album which featured the hit single, Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo. The McCoys bandleader, Rick Derringer, would go on to establish himself as a solo artists with the 1973 release of his debut album, All American Boy which was released by Steve Paul's Blue Sky label.
Jimi Hendrix & Johnny Winter jamming circa 1969
One of the things that added to The Scene's hip reputation was the spontaneous jams that took place on the club's stage from time to time. Jimi Hendrix, who was doing sessions at the nearby recording studio The Record Plant for his Electric Ladyland album, would show up and sit in with bands along with other club regulars such as Steve Stills, Mike Bloomfield, Buddy Miles and Johnny Winter. One of the most notorious jams featured a drunken Jim Morrison attempting to simulate the act of fellatio on a somewhat bemused Jimi Hendrix while Morrison moaned into the microphone and rolled around the tiny stage. I guess you had to be there folks.
The Nice performing @ The Scene 1969
SOME OF THE ACTS WHO PERFORMED @ THE SCENE
The Velvet Underground
The Young Rascals
Sha Na Na
10 Year's After
Johnny & Edgar Winter
Pacific Gas & Electric
The Crazy World of Arthur Brown
Blood Sweat & Tears
The Chambers Bros
Three's A Crowd
Beacon Street Union
Soft White Underbelly
The Blues Project
John Hammond Jr.
Here's some actual footage from Steve Paul's The Scene circa 1970
From the May, 1967 issue of Crawdaddy Magazine: "Steve Paul is producing a series of two-hour color TV specials on pop music and people and the interaction between them; the show will be seen on Channel 5 in New York and certain other Metromedia stations across the country. Steve's club, the Scene, has recently been the late-night home of some very nice New York jam sessions, particularly while the Cream, the Chicago Loop, and Wilson Pickett's band were working nearby in Murray the K's Easter show at the RKO 58th."
"Not long after the demise of the TV show, The Scene began to flounder, then it sank. The Jet Set took off with as much noise as it had made in landing and the click of high heels became an empty echo on Steve Paul's dance floor...Paul says, 'We were busy being busy instead of grooving. 'It was a matter of repeating spontaneity.'...Steve Paul walks a line he sets for himself, somewhere between hustling and grooving." (Richard Goldstein, Village Voice 1967)
During the years that he owned The Scene, Steve Paul also worked as the personal manager of several artists who appeared at his club; working closely with Johnny Winter, Edgar Winter, Rick Derringer (who was leader of The McCoys) and David Johansen,
In 1968, Steve Paul became the manager of Johnny Winter. Paul had travelled from New York to Texas to successfully promote his managerial abilities to Winter, after reading a Rolling Stone review of Texas music by Larry Sepulvado, in which Winter was described as "the hottest item outside of Janis Joplin". Based on Paul's negotiating abilities, Winter shortly thereafter in 1968 signed the then-largest recording contract ever offered by Columbia Records: $600,000, payable over five years.
In 1973, Paul started Blue Sky Records, a label promoted and distributed by Columbia Records. Between 1973 and 1982, it became the principal recording label for Johnny Winter, Edgar Winter, Rick Derringer and David Johansen, all of whom were managed by Paul. Through Johnny Winter's involvement as a producer, the label is also credited with reviving the later career of Muddy Waters. The label largely ceased operations with Winter's departure in 1983, which coincided with the termination of his management relationship with Steve Paul.
Due to the changing trends in the mercurial rock scene and various internal problems (financial and otherwise), The Scene eventually had to shut its doors sometime in the late sixties.
In Clinton Heylin's excellent book All Yesterday's Parties: The Velvet Underground In Print 1966 - 1971 (Da Capo Press, 2005), Sterling Morrison of The Velvet Underground, in a 1970 interview, comments about the last days at The Scene: "The Mafia was beating people up. They were having these incredible fights...so Steve Paul just shut it down... The liquor laws work in such a way that if you have a trouble spot your liquor license can be revoked. So organized crime comes in and says, I want a piece of the action, and they say, no, you can't have it. So they just start these giant fights there. And the clubs lose their license. That's what happened at Arthur's. The Mafia people will even beat themselves up just so the police will come. That's what happened at The Scene."
The photo above was posted in a Facebook Group called Steve Paul's The Scene (highly recommended read on Facebook) The picture is of the location where Steve Paul’s The Scene once existed. The ghosts along West 46th Street still remember the good times. Amen.