THE LEGEND OF MOONDANCER – How There’s Often More To Some Things Than Meets The Eye And Why That Can Be A Bit Of A Let Down

 Don’t fret; this isn’t some sort of homage to G P Taylor or J K Rowling or any of the long dead writers whose ideas they both nicked. (No direct insult to GP or JK intended there; all writers steal ideas.) No, this is about a rock bar in the mid nineteen eighties. I’ll grant you there isn’t an obvious logical connection between a mullet infested drinking den slap bang in the middle of Thatcher’s Britain and this post’s rather twee Sword ‘n’ Sorcery title. We stop at many places to link the two, so allow me to start joining the dots.

Every fourteen year old boy has a special place he hangs about in; usually a place populated by like minded young chaps. Mine was a place called The Handyside Arcade. It’s not there anymore. It was knocked down to make way for a soulless extension to an already charm free city centre shopping mall.

The Handyside was a run down Victorian arcade, falling to bits and full of weird clothes shops and coin shops and various other establishments that the rest of the city refused to accommodate. It was re-branded in the 60s as “Newcastle’s Answer To Carnaby Street”. Here’s a publicity shot from that re-launch.

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 Walking through The Handyside Arcade in the 80s, it would be easy to come to the conclusion that if it was “Newcastle’s Answer To Carnaby Street”, then Newcastle didn’t hear the question correctly. But every Saturday, I would make a beeline for it, and in particular for the only place in it of any interest for someone of my youthful tendencies : The Kard Bar. This is an arty photographer’s vision of The Kard Bar :

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This is how I remember The Kard Bar

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 The Kard Bar was a teenage Rock fan’s Aladdin’s cave. It was so full of so much cool stuff it would make want to weep a little bit if you didn’t keep a grip on yourself at all times. It stank of damp and patchouli oil and hormonal desperation and we loved it. There were 1960’s posters – actual ones, not replicas. I think the proprietor had bought a job lot at the end of the decade and still hadn’t managed to shift them all by 1984.

There were bullet belts, spiky wristbands, bongs, pipes, swords, machetes, poppers, back-patches, outlandish hair dyes and, taking pride of place in the front window, a genuine Hitler Youth dagger. Not that any of us were interested in the Hitler Youth dagger. The closest we came was admiring the use of umlauts on the latest Motorhead t-shirt. All very fascinating, but what we were really interested in was lurking in the back room. The video game room. We were there for the Gorf machine.

This may sound a bit quaint now, in the age of the X-Box, but to us the Gorf machine was amazing. The Gorf machine talked. As you progressed from Space Cadet to Space Avenger, it heckled and harangued you without mercy : “Bite the dust, Space Cadet. Ha ha ha”, “Some galactic defender you are, Space Cadet” etc, etc. It was a hard game, so most of us never got beyond Space Cadet. Though there was always some games genius who could make one 10p coin last for hours, so for the most part Gorf was a Saturday afternoon spectator sport.

As entertaining as this spectator sport was, it couldn’t hold our attention forever. Eventually and inevitably, we moved on from the Rock Arcade to the Rock Bars. There were many to choose from in Newcastle city centre back then. The City Tavern, The Percy Arms, The Haymarket. But the one I often ended up in was Trillian’s.

 trillians

The reason I went in there had nothing to do with Rock. The reason was science fiction. As far as I knew, it was the only business in the country named after a character in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. (The London estate agent Hotblack Desiato doesn’t count. Douglas Adams stole the name from them, not the other way around.) I was a massive fan of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. The fact that Trillians was also where all the prettiest Rock Chicks hung out may also have been a factor in me choosing to drink there

As young apprentice drinkers, we used to hang around the older, more experienced metal heads and try to ingratiate ourselves like little court jesters. A pain in the hole for the oldies, but at least they got to impress us with stories about how much more drunk/stoned/rebellious they were when they were our age. They like that kind of thing, the old folk.

During the old folks’ reminiscences – and bear in mind some of the people telling the tales were as old as twenty seven- one name kept cropping up. Moondancer.

Moondancer was a local hero of a previous generation. And seeing as us apprentice drinkers were 16, “a previous generation” meant “about eight years ago”. Which in this case meant the mid 70s.

Moondancer got himself into all sorts of scrapes. He dressed like a 1960s hippy, with loon pants and a gentleman’s necktie knotted around his knee. He endeared himself to many and those who knew him talked about him often. To me, as an impressionable teenager, he sounded like a wild-eyed poet. A wandering warrior shaman who lived life by his own rules, backed up by a lifetime of mystical knowledge. I mean, the name says it all doesn’t it? Moondancer.

I held this opinion for many years. Then I discovered how Moondancer came by his unusual moniker. Before Trillians was called Trillians, it was called The Jubilee. And before it was called The Jubilee, it was called The Man On The Moon. Moondancer used to go in that bar of a night time, get ripped, and dance in front of the juke box all night. He was The Man On The Moon Dancer. And seeing as that’s a bit unwieldy as nick names go, he became Moondancer.

This was a bit disappointing. Not hugely disappointing, though. I’m well aware that the likelihood of finding a bona fide Shaman Warrior Poet in Newcastle upon Tyne was always going to be pretty slim. It was just kind of nice to think that some people I knew may have met one in the form of Mr Moondancer.

In the unlikely event that anyone who did know the man reads this, it would be nice if they could come forward with some support for him being a bit more JK Rowling and GP Taylor than Hunter S Thompson or Irvine Welsh. I’d like that.

Post Script :

Since originally posting this, I have found some old photos of Moondancer on a Facebook group. So, without further ado here he is. The man himself. Moondancer.

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© Copyright Michael Grimes 2015

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About thedailygrime

At that awkward age - too young to be a grumpy old man, but just acerbic and downtrodden enough to have an opinion. Read it here.

17 responses to “THE LEGEND OF MOONDANCER – How There’s Often More To Some Things Than Meets The Eye And Why That Can Be A Bit Of A Let Down”

  1. bwanadik says :

    Wow. You remember Moondancer. I met him, but I was only a kid. I think my own memories are more of Catweaszle than the real Moondancer – that’s how he came across to me. My darling cousin Bev knew him well – he used to hang around Fynd and The Handyside (Hippie) Arcade. Apparently he was totally fried on various psychedelic substances, and was known to share his wisdom with the apprentice metallers in the arcade. I’ll be seeing Bev soon, I’ll get you some tales.

  2. bwanadik says :

    I’ve also heard many allegations that the proprietor of a certain shop in the Handyside was allegedly a notorious nonce, who would offer young lads a discount if he could watch them try on certain items of clothing from his Alladin’s Cave.

    Allegedly.

  3. joanna says :

    I remember him well. I came to Newcastle as a student in 1976 and he was a big feature of those days. Lovely, lovely guy. He always had time to chat…and as I was always around the rock pubs and shops I ended up talking to him a lot. I have a memory of him wearing a long cape too..
    so pleased you posted this. Brought memories flooding back.

    • thedailygrime says :

      Glad you enjoyed it, Joanna. I have just updated this post. I found a few pictures of Moondancer on a Facebook group and have added one of them to the post at the end. So, if you haven’t already found the photos of him yourself, there’s one there for you.
      Mike 🙂

  4. Jonny says :

    I dont think that he got his name from dancling in front of a jukebox in The Man on The Moon. I picked him up in Durham in 1975, when he was thumbing a lift into Newcastle. He was quite spaced out at the time, but seemed like a really nice hippy. From memory (not so good after 40 odd years), this was his first visit to Newcastle, and he made his home here for a while.
    He called himself Moondancer at that time. I saw him around town a few times over the next few years, and then he was gone.

    • thedailygrime says :

      I read the thing about Moondancer getting his name from the Jukebox on a thread somewhere a few years ago. I didn’t believe it either to tell you the truth. But I thought if it was true – or even if it wasn’t- that it made an interesting point about the image people present and how we perceive that image. Hope you enjoyed the post anyway and thanks for reading it.
      Mike

      • Jonny says :

        Yes, I did enjoy it, thanks Mike. I was only remenising, because I saw the youtube link for the Metro Radio advert for Mr Rahman, who fitted the zip for only one pound…….Yes, one pound. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46dUJ1sHrJ8&sns=em
        This got me thinking about James Whale and the day I had to take him back to the metro Studio in Swalwell, and sat in for part of his show, which was just after Big Phil’s slot (Harvey Phillips), the Funk Master. I then remembered that Moondancer used to call in every once in a while, and googled Moondancer Newcastle, which lead me to your post.
        Cheers Bud. :))

      • thedailygrime says :

        Ah, Mr Rahman. I’d forgotten about him. Seem to remember someone did some sort of hip hop scratch version of his advert. Very amusing. Glad you enjoyed the post. Don’t worry too much about the spelling. If it wasn’t for auto correct, nothing I wrote would be remotely intelligible. 🙂

  5. Jonny says :

    I Know, Reminiscing. Sorry, Spelling was never a strong point.:(

  6. Bruce Allinson LBIPP says :

    We used to hangout with Moondancer, or Bob quite a lot as did many others.

    RIP Bob Stott it’s great that so much of Newcastle remembers him so fondly and I love the stories around him especially all the made up ones

    • David hillier says :

      Further to my last reply years later i was employed as a one man bus driver for the then pte driving the no 33 along osborne rd moondancer got on still dressed in the same garb he ofered me the sun newspaper as fare paymend this l declined he then said you must eat then offered me a half eaten packet of kp nuts i told him to sit down and hope a ticket inspector did not get on he got off haymarket area thanking me and leaving the nuts on the tray i never ever saw him again after that

  7. Liz Dubois says :

    I remember Bob, or Moondancer, saying to me way back in the mists of time, before 1975, You roll quite a nice joint for a little chicky. We didn’t become close 🙂

  8. David hillier says :

    Moondancer came from Jesmond he cut through the arcade to do voluntary work at the cyrenians shelter for the homeless well educated from a good family his eratice behaviour was the result of a motorcycle accident in the Osborne Rd area not drugs the name came from the silver moon 🌒 emblem on his guitar I frequently spoke to him on leases park Rd when on my lunch break I was 16 yes old at the time and was a trainee junior artist I am now 59

  9. Vicky Palmer says :

    He lived up the road from me! I grew up in Larkspur Tce and Moondancer lived on Sandringham Road. His mantra was ‘I’m as free as a bird’. I remember him running around in nothing but his ‘girlfriend’s knickers’as he would gleefully tell me. I often stopped for a chat. I felt there was something very innocent yet sad about Moondancer. If he had a head-injury he was certainly aware of it because he used to tell me he ‘would be cured’ if he ate well and looked after himself.

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