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The Bus Palladium, life and death of a rock club

Tewfik Hakem speaks with James Archcreator of the Bus Palladium, Sam Bernettjournalist, radio, music, entertainment producer and lyricist, and Cyril Bodinlast artistic director of Bus Palladium.

Located at 6 rue Fontaine, in Pigalle, the Bus Palladium denoted, from its creation, other establishments in the district. Before becoming a hotspot for nightlife and rock, the place was a cabaret on the decline. In 1965, James Arch decides to turn it into a discotheque with very little means and a lot of will:

“One evening, one of my friends calls me and says: James, I’m with Salvador Dalí, I told him about your place, he absolutely wants to come and see you.” (…) I tell him no, he will be disappointed! This is not good. Finally, he was so insistent that he came. (…) He stayed in the middle of the floor, watching the beatniks who were wriggling. As I saw that he was scrutinizing the decoration of the place, I wanted to apologize by saying: You know, master, I didn’t have time to do the work, but I’ll get to it soon. He said to me: Above all, do not touch anything! You have an exceptional work of kitsch art there! (…) The evening ended and Captain Moore came to see me and said: Master Dalí would like to organize an evening for all his friends. We did this evening where the Bus Palladium really started, it was in October 1965.”

Pete Doherty at Bus Palladium in January 2013
Pete Doherty at Bus Palladium in January 2013

©Getty
– Stephane Cardinale – Corbis / Contributor

Known for being behind the opening of some famous nightclubs in the Paris region, such as the Rock and Roll Circus or Martine’s, Sam Bernett also ran the Bus Palladium in the 1970s:

“The Bus Palladium had been an incredible event in Paris in 1965 but it was short-lived, since it opened in September 1965 and it ended in February 1966. So its first operation lasted six months and I found it sad that this box no longer exists and above all that it may never exist.Between 1966 and my takeover, at the dawn of 1973-74, nothing happened.(…) When I was offered to buy it back and take it back, it was obvious that the brand, the Bus Palladium represented something extraordinary. So I decided to revive it, with this rock spirit, this exceptional musical program that I had already brought since the Rock and Roll Circus, which I had created on rue de Seine in 1969. All of a sudden, everyone joined in and the Bus once again became the fashionable Parisian club, frequented by all of Paris and also by people passionate about music.”

During these ten years of success, Serge Gainsbourg was a great regular at the Bus Palladium, Sam Bernett has an anecdote about him:

“One evening he got out of the Bus and he wasn’t walking very straight and he sat down on the sidewalk. A cop bus was passing and they thought it was a tramp or a drunk who had fallen into the stream The bus stopped and the brigadier on getting out noticed that it was Gainsbourg, he asked him if he was all right (…) and offered to take him home. Serge got into the basket at salad and the cops brought him back to rue de Verneuil. (…) He was a little sobered up and, to thank them, he told them to come and have a drink at the house. You have to see the scene where, around a piano, a half-grand Steinway, a playing Gainsbourg and five or six cops, with kepi under their arm, glass in hand, who listen to it at seven in the morning, at the exit of the Bus Palladium! (…) And after that, every evening, around 4-5 a.m., the bus would stop, the sergeant would get out and ask the door: “Is Monsieur Gainsbourg there? He needs a cab?”

Sam Bernett and Serge Gainsbourg, the Bus Palladium years
Sam Bernett and Serge Gainsbourg, the Bus Palladium years

– Personal collection of Sam Bernett

Last director of Bus Palladium, Cyril Bodin contributed to its transformation in 2010, the rock club became a concert hall open every evening:

“The spirit of the Bus Palladium is popular first and foremost, the customer is king but not necessarily his money, we try to put everyone in the same boat. Some artists, who are known and who come to us, is a bit the same thing, we treat them properly but we are not glued to their sneakers all evening, we let them evolve. It’s simplicity, that’s what characterizes us. (…) With the construction of the palace, a club is planned in the basement, which leaves me a little perplexed it is the standard of the hotel which will be above and the Bus still has the vocation of being a popular club where everyone has been mixing since 1965.”

People dance during the Technikart Mademoiselle magazine launch party at the Bus Palladium on November 18, 2021 in Paris, France.
People dance during the Technikart Mademoiselle magazine launch party at the Bus Palladium on November 18, 2021 in Paris, France.

©Getty
– Jib Kan/WireImage

Thus, the small building which has only one floor will be demolished soon. Instead, a six-storey, 36-room luxury hotel will be built, with three basement levels. According to the promoters, a performance hall would be kept in the first basement, but nothing is recorded.

Read also :
Last trip to Bus Palladium

Musical programming

  • “Who is “in” who is “out””, Serge Gainsbourg (1966)
  • “The Palladium”, Liz Brady (1966)
  • “Rebel Rebel”, David Bowie (1974)
  • “Nazi Rock”, Serge Gainsbourg (1975)
  • “For What It’s Worth”, Buffalo Springfield (1967)
  • “Bye Bye Johnny B. Good”, Eddy Mitchell (1975)
  • “Fire”, Kasabian (2009)

The singer of BB Brunes Adrien Gallo at the Bus Palladium on September 18, 2019 in Paris
The singer of BB Brunes Adrien Gallo at the Bus Palladium on September 18, 2019 in Paris

©Getty
– Jib Kan/WireImage

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