History & Culture

The Trent House takes off

Happy Days

It's now October 89 & with the lease bought out, the Trent was effectively ours now & properly established. We still played the Clubs each night, but also threw our whole lives into that little Bar & became totally & utterly obsessed, with every little bit of it.

Young Danny & Phil, way back in the day pictured behind the upstairs bar.

It was where we grew up & we loved it with all our hearts. It now began to get national & international recognition for its overall groove & especially its far out jukebox.

The multiracial, all inclusive ethos, really started to get across to people & the Bar slowly grew & moved forward.

Original Trent collage poster
Original Trent collage poster

As attitudes began to change, people started to take notice & it became very well known for all the right reasons.

People started to love it & friendliness in Newcastle seemed to us to be moving forward too. Our tagline was…

‘Trent House, For Health & Beauty All Seasons of the Year’.

Trent Cellar
Toby & Clive in the Trent cellar

Those toilets

Upstairs behind the Trent ladies toilets there was a hidden little room. According to legend, this had been used by strippers way back in the 70s, so they could get changed, back when the Bar had been prehistoric & done stuff like that. Nipple tassels, crotch & pie for Sunday dins, were not the vibe we were going for in the 80s & 90s, but evidently the 70s were a different caper.

We actually found loads of mad old porn mags in there, proper fuzzy bush, sat on a hay bale, 70s stylee, so there may have been some element of truth in the legend, as it deffo was a porno zone of some sort.

We wanted to improve them, so we got Grieg, an art student who was working with us at the time, to paint loads of angels & toilet rolls up there, to try & create a heavenly, 'Sistine Chapel' type-vibe - but in an ex-strippers, pub toilet.

It actually turned out pretty well in the end as you can see - tres classical...

Yes it was a bit bizarre, but totally a Trent House type of vibe. It's an example of early art from our gang & an hint at the birth of the mural culture we have come to grow in the Club now today.

Glowing references

Unfortunately, not all the young ladies who frequented our fine establishment appreciated this attempt to raise the level of culture on the main toilet walls & the Trent ladies toilet cubicles became a totally different artistic 'gallery.'

A contrasting, notorious & consistent, graffiti wonderland.

No one was safe & we'd have to constantly check them, to ensure our glowing reputations were not being besmirched, by the visceral & often hilarious humour & repeated character assassinations, that staff were subjected to on a daily basis.

Kool, yes - but those ladies could also be a very harsh, scathing little gang, when it came to graffiti.

As you can see, young Floyd (on the left), always did well, whist other staff members (stage right) were not always quite so lucky...

Charming.

It's a Family Affair

Most people who knew the Bar would probably say that Family Affair by Sly Stone was our biggest Trent House ever tune. Nailed the vibe & became totally synonymous with us, but in truth there were hundreds.

Eventually technology moved forward. Computers arrived (that ordinary people like us could afford) & we burnt loads of our rare vinyl to CD, to improve the sound quality in the bar & save our best records from getting mashed up on the box.

Sly and the Family Stone - Family Affair
Trent House Jukebox classic - 87A for decades.

This also meant that (once we'd spent forever burning it all), sat alongside all the Trent's beautiful Soul, Northern & Studio #1 Reggae etc., we could now expand to far-out album tracks & mad 8 minute Disco 12's, that we didn’t have on 7″ vinyl. 

This opened up the floodgates & it was total, utter, jukebox hyperspace time...

We went completely nuts & the music just got better & better - It was bananas..!

Check the musical reservoir those floodgates were protecting.

The Original iPod

Amiga 500 System
Game changer.

Living with that mind-blowing Jukebox on a daily basis in the Trent, it was honestly as if we owned the only i-pod there had ever been in the world. It was magical.

Just imagine if no one else had ever had, heard or seen one & couldn't ever believe that a phone could play music as they do now - These were the times & this was the magical Jukebox that soundtracked them

Only we had it & other people couldn't even begin to understand how it was possible anything could be so musically diverse & great. It was all the best music we knew all in one place, our culture from a lifetime of mad collecting. It was like utter magic & it was the very heart of the Bar.

So that's how it was, a time when the Trent House in it's Jukie, effectively had the only i-pod in existence, packed tight with the greatest, rarest music know to man.

No wonder everyone was stunned in wonder at it's total musical magnificence, so were we..!

It’s also no wonder we were way more than just the city’s top cool Bar. We raised it higher then anyone could have ever dreamed.

The Trent Jukebox was able to work as an i pod as we just constructed it from a world of vinyl. No getting regularly updated chart hits from the Jukebox supplier, like other places did. No boring Phil Collins filler tracks from some knobs CD 'collection'.

None of that waffle everywhere else did. Trent House - All killers no fillers. Choice cuts, selected with the real love that comes from having & living as, a musical encyclopedia.

Musically, back then it simply didn’t seem possible. As this was years before i-pods were ever even invented, years before digital radio stations (that don’t just play chart shite all day), or downloads were a thing & we properly blew people’s minds…

The Trent back then with all the work we put into the music there, was now racing off so way ahead of the curve, that we had no idea of all the wonderful places it was going to take us.

As the selection was ever changing & ever expanding, we were always light years ahead of anywhere else & people came to the Bar specifically to play the jukebox.

Decades before downloads were even possible, we'd be up all night burning rare vinyl onto computer, so we could convert it to CDs to put on the Trent's far out 300 selection Jukebox

Realise this

It’s 100% correct to surmise that the real diverse musical roots of WHQ today, grew out of that jukebox.

We knew we were onto something special that really meant a lot to loads of people.

Power and Soul
The Trent House Soul Bar vibe.

It had taken a long time, lots of hard work & cuts & bruises, but knowing both cities as well as we did, we knew that The Trent House Soul Bar in Newcastle, was now equal to, if not better than, the majority of cool Bars in Amsterdam.

Once again we had the city’s Underground scene locked… Totally.

Gus Gill
The late Gus Gill, one member of the amazing team across 25 years, who made the Trent House just so special.

The Fabulous Barker Boys

We ‘inherited’ Mr. Alan Barker when we took over the Bar. Alan was a great friend (& at times guide) to us, did all our decorating & was a mad NUFC fan, he never missed a game. He was like the ‘Mayor’ of the Bar’s football crowd & when the Bar would heave every match day, Alan was always in there & his warm personality absolutely filled the place.

Alan & Tommy working out a cunning plan for something on match day.

Alan had three sons, there was 'Young' Alan, who was like the straight guy, Davey who was the handy man & Gary who was one of the finest hustlers we have ever met...

Need a car..? See Gary. New Trainers..? See Gary. Need a pet giraffe..? Gary's the man.

Those Fabulous Barker Boys - Davey, Young Alan, Alan senior & Gary Barker - diamonds every one of them.

All really great lads & especially Davey went on to become invaluable, in helping us to fit out the original WHQ & do what seemed like a never ending list of jobs, as we sanded, tweaked & crafted the Trent & WHQ to utter perfection over many years.

Muhammad Ali Cafe @ the original WHQ - yet another Davey Barker production.

So many daft laughs & yarns were had together, that we wouldn’t even know where to begin telling them, but without Davey’s help, much of what we dreamed up & then set out to achieve look wise, for both the Bar & the Club would never have been possible.

'It takes a Craftsman' & 'Nobody said it was gonna be easy' - the classic Davey B quotes.

Time Marches On

As time marched on & years turned into decades we kept it tight. The Trent was the first ever Observer bar of the week, was then featured in GQ Golden Bar Guide & really started to reach people, becoming known all over the country & beyond for it’s music & diversity…

Observer Bar of Week review
Observer Bar of Week review.

Whilst it was a nice surprise, it was water off a duck’s back really, as we were so deep into it we didn’t care what people looking in might have thought.

Upstairs in the Trent
Afternoon, upstairs in the Trent.

We ran it because we just always had. It had been the start of good things for us & we were properly, totally, in love with it.

Trent lock in, mid 80s
Tommy, Helen and Kath, Trent lock in, mid 80s.

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