Exclusive Interview: Jools and Paul Donnelly Revive Club A-Go-Go and Newcastle’s Music History

Incredible Work Reviving Newcastle’s Musical and Modernist History: An Interview with Jools & Paul Donnelly

I connected with Jools and Paul a few years ago, and we instantly hit it off due to our shared passion for modernist culture and history. Both of them are great supporters of Mods Of Your Generation, and we equally support their endeavors. Since starting Mods Of Your Generation back in 2015, I have had the pleasure of meeting many great people, and Jools and Paul are two of the nicest individuals on the scene.

Although I am not from the North East, it has been fascinating to learn about its post-war modernist history through their insights. While the origins of the modernist movement are often associated with London, it played a significant role in shaping teenage life across the UK, including the North East. Jools and Paul work tirelessly to research and promote Newcastle’s history, and they have a keen eye for inspiring the next generation.

Their efforts have included successfully campaigning for a commemorative plaque at the site of the original Club a’Gogo, which was a legendary venue where bands and artists such as “The Animals” performed. They also offered work experience to teenagers during the pandemic and hosted a charity fundraiser for the NHS to support emergency PPE. Currently, they are writing a book that focuses on the mod scene in Newcastle from the 1960s to the present day and have self-published a magazine called “The Downbeat,” which serves as a platform to promote the North East’s musical heritage.

We fully support their endeavors, and it is great to share the same interests and passions with them. We had the privilege of asking them a few questions about all their latest happenings, and they kindly took the time out of their busy schedule to answer them.

Personal Connection to the Mod Scene: How Did You Get Involved and Why Has it Been Important to Your Life?


Thanks for having us Johnny, it’s always our pleasure to chat to Mods Of Your Generation. For me, my awareness of ‘mod’ first came about with the release of the film Quadrophenia. Like many revival mods the impact this film had on the youth when it was first released in 1979 cannot be overstated. The build-up in the media and music magazines about Quadrophenia had created huge anticipation and excitement about the film and when it was finally released EVERYONE wanted to see it. The film was an X rated film and I was underage at the time. There was a huge queue outside of the cinema with bouncers on the door. I think the cinema managementknew there was going to be a huge amount of under age kids trying to get in. Luckily for me, even though it was obvious I was not 18, the bouncer let me in. That film changed my life. From the opening sequence, the music, the scooters, and the attitude that was it. I wanted to be a mod. It never leaves you and I still love the film!


For me it started when I was a little 2-tone kid. Me and my best mate, we loved the clothes, the music, the style and the attitude. We would wear Crombies, Sta-Prest and Fred Perry’s with our Dr Martin boots. We were introduced to the music by my mate’s two older brothers. One was an original suedehead at the time, and he was always immaculately turned out. He taught us how to polish our Dr Martins the right way and how to colour the stitching around the soles with yellow chalk. We would go round and listen to his record collection which was fantastic. The music back then was great, it stays with you.

Jools and Paul Donnelly – Reviving Newcastle’s Music History

Reviving the Legacy of Club A’Gogo: Can You Tell Us About the Venue’s History, Some of the Notable Acts That Performed, and Why It’s Important to Newcastle’s Heritage?

The Club a’Gogo was a hugely important part of the 60s club scene. The artists who played at the club read like a roll call of music royalty: the Rolling Stones, John Lee Hooker, Sonny Boy Williamson, Chris Farlowe, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and of course those ‘Sons of Newcastle’, the Animals. When the American blues acts played in London, they would then head up to Newcastle, bypassing Liverpool, to play the Club a’Gogo. Newcastle was well known for its R&B scene and the club goers would give these American blues acts a rapturous reception. Incidentally we are doing a piece on John Lee Hooker at the Club a’Gogo in Issue 2 of The Downbeat. The club is not remembered as we feel it should be, hence our book on the club and the mod scene of 60s Newcastle.

When and How Did You Discover the Forgotten History of Newcastle and the Club A’Gogo During the Mod Era of Teenage Rebellion?

When we decided to start our own mod club, we were looking for a suitable name and Club a’Gogo came up. At the time we had no idea about the history of the club or of the artists that played there. When we started researching the history of the club we found that Newcastle in the 60s was known as a ‘mod mecca’. We were fascinated by this as we had no idea Newcastle had had this huge mod scene going on. The club was actually voted No 3 in The Guardian’s ‘Most Influential Clubs of the last 100 Years’. We wanted to promote the history of the club and bring it to a new audience.

The Club A’Gogo was upstairs from the Handyside Arcade, Percy Street, Newcastle (Image: NEWCASTLE CHRONICLE)

The Downbeat Magazine: How Did the Idea Come About and What Can Readers Expect from Future Issues?

We had never planned our publishing a magazine, it just started off as a grain of an idea and then kind of took over. The idea came up as we had been interviewed about Club a’Gogo in a couple of modzines last year, Start and Dedicated Follower. We just thought we would like to have a go at producing our own magazine and fill it with stuff that we find interesting. We never thought it would take off the way it has, it’s been really exciting for us!

The name comes from another lost Newcastle venue, The Downbeat Club. This club started off as a jazz club and then moved onto play Rhythm and Blues. The Newcastle Beats and Mods loved The Downbeat club. We talked about The Downbeat club in Issue 1. Me and Paul love our music and culture and much as we love the mod scene we are interested in other music genres and cultures. I collect vintage clothes from the 30s/40s and 50s and I love the social history, culture and music from these decades too. Paul is into music history, art and sub cults. We are both avid readers and together we decide what we would like to feature in each issue. Our first issue sold out the first and second print runs and The Downbeat has been selling around the world, we did not expect this at all. We have had some fantastic people writing for us, John Hellier, Mike Tenner, John Leo Waters and Rafael. We are currently working on Issues 2 and 3, which again has some great contributors.

John Hellier: Club a’ Gogo supporter, Music journalist, author and record producer. Also known for his association with Small Faces.

Promoting the Mod Scene and Encouraging Youth Involvement: Why is it Important to You?

This is a huge part of what we are about, we are proud of the work we have done to promote the history of the Club a’Gogo and the music scene of 1960s Newcastle but we feel it is important not to be ‘frozen in time’and we need to bring the music of the club and the mod scene to those young ones out there who have not heard of it. We aim to be inclusive of all ages and we actively encourage the young ones to get involved with our club. We hope eventually to offer them the chance to DJ at the club. We love Record Store Day and we have a free event to celebrate RSD with open decks with exactly this in mind. The feedback we have from the young mods on the scene has been great. Also in The Downbeat magazine we are keen to promote new talent and names that are not yet well known on the scene. We feel it’s important to give the young ones a chance to be showcased.

What Future Events and Projects are Planned for Club A’Gogo, and What Can We Expect in the Future?

Our biggest achievement and the one which we are most proud of (even more than our Downbeat magazine!) is being successful in our campaign to get a commemorative plaque on the site of the Club a’Gogo. This has been long overdue and something the people of Newcastle have really wanted to ensure this legendary club is remembered as it should be. This plaque is fantastic for Newcastle and now visitors can visit the site of the club and the ‘home of the Animals’. We don’t want to stop there though, we’d love to see a plaque at the site of The Downbeat Club! We are really looking forward to getting our club re started in July this year and we will be running Saturday-afternoons, ‘The Pit at Club a’Gogo’ on a weekly basis and ‘The Downbeat’ on Friday nights. More info is available about our club nights via our website ,www.club a gogo.co.uk. And of course we are busy working on our book, again updates are available via Facebook or our website.

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