Dark They Were & Golden Eyed

I mentioned the bookshop Dark They Were & Golden Eyed in this blog the other day, and doing this made me wonder what I could dig up about it on the web. Not that much as it happens, although there was a Flickr picture of the shop sign with the following remark underneath:
“DTWAGE was a bookshop in St. Anne’s Court off Berwick St. market I think, in London. It sold a lot of SF and head stuff like old copies of Friendz and Oz. Posters, bongs. They would play music I had never heard before like Zappa so I would have to ask them what it was and then go and buy the records. They closed approx. 1980.”
To which I added the following as a comment: “Oh I used to love going in the DTWAGE shop on St Anne’s Court which is between Dean Street and Wardour Street, whereas Berwick Street is between Wardour and Poland Streets, all the main streets run down from Oxford Street into the heart of Soho… St Anne’s Court is just a little paved street, there used to be an old bit of probably former bombsite land used as a car park on much of the south side running from Dean Street towards Wardour, which is where Marianne Faithfull allegedly spent a lot of her seventies junkie period I think (now just a crummy office development)…
“Anyway, I used to use the Court Cafe on the north side a lot, laughing at the suits drinking their tea with shaking hands after visiting the prostitutes in the flats above… and I bought Crowley novels (and Norman Spinrad etc) and other shirt from DTWAGE in the seventies which was on the south side but closer to Wardour Street, and The Marquee Club was just around the corner for going and seeing lots of punk bands of that era: Adam & The Ants, Ultravox, Raped etc. etc. DTWAGE was a great little shop (I much preferred it to Forbidden Planet then on Denmark Street in its earlier and smaller days) and I discovered all sorts of weird shirt there for the first time as a teenager in the 70s…. It seems DTWAGE was open until at least 1981 since I found the following fanzine entry from 1981 put online ‘Dark They Were & Golden-Eyed bookshop is being sold to Marvel (Cadence Industries Inc), rumors Peter Pinto… ” from: «a href=“http://news.ansible.co.uk/a18.html" target="_blank” rel=“noopener noreferrer”>http://news.ansible.co.uk/a18.html>. But presumably the Marvel deal fell through or this was a false rumour coz the shop was certainly gone before the mid-eighties….”
Elsewhere I found a blog that dealt with DTWAGE in passing and with a little more detail in the comments:
“Which was the first comic shop you went to and what was your impression of it?
“In return for standing outside the pub for several hours, my dad once took me to Dark They Were & Golden Eyed in Soho (or thereabouts) in the mid-70s – I was too young – & despite the comics it was all a bit too much for me – I think I was frightened of the hippies & the bongs & other drug paraphernalia on display (not that I knew what they were) & the smells & the ‘other worldliness’ – we didn’t stay long (I don’t think we bought anything either) & never went back – of course now I’m jealous of my cool friends who hung out (& in one case worked) in the legendary Dark They Were...
“Comment 1. This is what I ‘remember’: to get to the shop you had to go down a v. narrow alleyway which led to a courtyard – & then Dark They Were etc was down some stairs – & to get to the comix & books you had to go past these display cabinets w/the exotic & alien items in ’em… despite only being there the once, it = quite a vivid childhood memory – so I hope it’s not a false ‘un.
“Comment 2. It was all DTWAGE, I think, but upstairs with the paraphernalia were the picture-less books, mostly SF. They did not sell any war comics.
“Comment 3; “a v.narrow alleyway which led to a courtyard -” You’re remembering a road off Oxford St., off which was St. Anne’s Court, the location of DTWAGE, and later a comics shop run by Zoe someone. The only place with which I’ve ever foxed a London cabbie.”
So to this I added the following: “I loved Dark They Were & Golden Eyed. I started hanging out in the west end without adult supervision when I was 12 in 1974 and I think I discovered the shop pretty much then…. was certainly going in regularly in the later seventies… Nice memories here… ”
So if anyone else has memories of Dark They Were & Golden Eyed add ’em in the comments. What next? A blog about other ‘lost’ London bookshops… could go for some counterculture related enterprises like _Duck Soup (_Nick Kimberley’s operation in Lambs Conduit Passage after he left Compendium), or maybe some of those exchange bookshops you could still find in the west end in 1970s, or what about one of Bernard Stone’s bookshops (I don’t think I ever went to the original in Kensington but I visited some of the later ones)… And like I keep saying, the recession makes it feel more like the 1970s again every day, it’s a groove sensation baby!
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!


Comment by K Mail on 2009-02-11 09:23:11 +0000

Actually “Dark They Were & Golden Eyed” is a novel by Ray Bradbury.

Comment by Stewart Home on 2009-02-11 12:03:45 +0000

Hey being totally wrong is a groove sensation (and I’m still having a blast being Michael K)

Comment by A boring scumbag on 2009-02-11 16:38:31 +0000

Hey Stewart Home liking the blog, I ave been reading your stuff with a mix of bemusement and interest for a while now. I would like to arks you a question based on ur espoused left wing views.
Do you think it is a good idea for there to be a general boycott of Israeli goods at the moment?
There is an academic boycott going on at the moment, people at the university I go to have been discussing this recently. Quite a lot of groups like the SWP and stuff like that think a boycott is a good idea. I would tend to agree because of the racist nature of the agricultural set up in the occupied territories, certainly I avoid Israeli food for this reason, I’ve been over to W Bank and seen it for myself.
However people like the Alliance for Workers Liberty, judging by the logo on their website, reckon people like Rosa Luxemberg would disagree because it would reinforce militarism and a ‘siege mentality’ in the state. They believe a one state solution is untenable also because of the reactionary nature of Israel’s immediate enemies. I would be interested to read your opinion on the matter!
PS your novels are fukkin SICK bruv

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-02-11 23:45:33 +0000

I can understand why being left sick to the guts at what is going on would make some people want to boycott Israeli goods/food, but I wouldn’t want to make a fetish of it. Of course dominant forms of nationalism are always the most obnoxious, but those who fight against them in the name of other nationalisms if eventually successful may well prove just as obnoxious…. However, boycotting Israeli food doesn’t have to imply anything more than support for those being crushed by the Israeli state… and one can quite logically do this while opposing all forms of nationalism.

Comment by Beauty & The Beat on 2009-02-12 00:05:40 +0000

Golden eyed? Wrong kind of alien!

Comment by Smokey Bear on 2009-02-12 00:26:14 +0000

They sold some wicked bongs in Dark They Were And Golden Eyed man!

Comment by William “Stumpy” Zevon on 2009-02-12 00:38:10 +0000

Beats me if I know what you’re talking about. But my boy Warren would have a view on this, he was into werewolves in London and that sort of thing.

Comment by Díre McCain on 2009-02-12 00:48:35 +0000

Hmmmm, can’t speak for this particular joint (for obvious reasons), but there was a similar shop in North Long Beach, with a ghetto twist, simply because of its location. Not sure if it’s still there, but in the late 80s, it was a fabulous place to not only acquire the goodies you’ve mentioned, but DRUGS DRUGS DRUGS as well! In fact, one of the “clerks” fed my LSD habit for a while – generous fellow that he was…

Comment by Arthur Lee on 2009-02-12 11:26:44 +0000

Never trust a hippie!

Comment by Michael Moorcock on 2009-02-12 15:43:13 +0000

DTWAGE was one of the best shops outside the Grove, and the ones inside were so secret you needed an invitation to pass the portals.

Comment by The Other Maria Fusco on 2009-02-12 17:06:05 +0000

Too much personalisation going on here, what is missing is the political.

Comment by The Real Randy ‘Bedhopper’ Zuckerberg on 2009-02-12 17:43:51 +0000

Social networking sites are much better places to meet people for threesomes and group sex than musty old head shops. And you can sell other businesses intimate user details afterwards! Making money on the web is a groove sensation. Sex is a business, and business is the best sex! I like it best when my sex partners roll up hundreds of thousands of dollars in high denomination notes and ram them into me baby!

Comment by Philip K. Dickhead on 2009-02-12 19:31:22 +0000

Dark They Were And Golden Eyed is my phantom twin!

Comment by Brion Gysin on 2009-02-12 20:04:54 +0000

There’s no creation without destruction; there’s no destruction without creation.

Comment by Msmarmitelover on 2009-02-12 23:44:34 +0000

Who would you choose for a celebrity threesome?
My sister thinks Brangelina.
I’d choose Fern and Phil.
Johnny and Vanessa, hmm not so sure.
But worth thinking about eh?

Comment by K Mail on 2009-02-13 09:51:34 +0000

I’d be hard pressed to choose between Carmen Electra and Prince, or Carmen Electra and Paul McCartney.

Comment by Stewart Home on 2009-02-13 14:09:02 +0000

Well I’m having Michael K and Ms Marmite Lover tomorrow night. I hope K brings the strap-on which glows in the dark…it’s a groove sensation!!

Comment by John Lee Hooker on 2009-02-13 14:19:11 +0000

In an enigmatic manner, the very first announcement of the band Them transpired on 14 April 1964 with an ad in a Belfast newspaper asking: Who Are? What Are? THEM followed with similarly curious ads and building interest, until the Friday ad before the gig announced that Them would be performing at the Maritime Hotel (Club Rado) that evening. Their initial club attendance in the two hundred capacity venue grew very quickly; within a week, people could be seen queuing well down the street hours before the show.
Them performed without a routine, and the act absorbed their fuel from the crowd’s energy. Morrison ad libbed, creating his songs live as he performed. Their debut of Morrison’s “Gloria” took place on stage here. Sometimes, depending on his mood, the song could last up to twenty minutes. Morrison has stated that “Them lived and died on the stage at the Maritime Hotel.” The records and tours never adequately captured the true spirit of Them, as they fed off one another and the energy of the audience. Only the most rudimentary of recordings of the performances survive.
One of the fan’s recordings of “Turn On Your Love Light” made its way to Dick Rowe with Decca Records. He was notoriously known for having turned down signing The Beatles after listening to a badly recorded demo. Not anxious to repeat this type of mistake, Rowe rushed over to the Maritime to hear Them and then rushed them into the Decca studios to sign away their rights on a standard two year contract. The minors had to have their parents’ signatures and when Eric Wrixon’s parents refused to sign, he was replaced with Patrick McAuley.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-02-13 19:04:11 +0000

I could have sworn someone else made the comment two above this one, but what the hell, fun is fun….

Comment by Stewart Home on 2009-02-14 14:59:13 +0000

I could have sworn that I made the comment thirty-first before the one you refer to but because I just can’t stop sploshing in custard inside my Wellingtons, I’m prepared to swear that somebody else said that

Comment by howling wizard, shrieking toad on 2009-02-16 01:32:31 +0000

I believe howling wizard, shrieking toad may have visted that store — I visited many such establishments with my toad.
I remember Dr Strange, the Silver Surfer, Man Thing and other assorted Marvel titles having an effect howling wizard, shrieking toad’s life and also DC horror comics too, which of course, were terribly naive when compared with their world weary EC comics counterparts from the 50’s –maybe there was a more child like edge to the DC comics. After all, the writers/illustrators of the EC comics had been through the horrors of the 2nd world war, and many of the scribes were immigrants from eastern europe, and had the holocuast looking over their shoulder.
Anti war themes did show up in the 70’s comics of course — Man Thing and Silver Surfer are pre occupied with the brutality of the Vietnam War and the nameless evil and banality of various dictatorships.
I sometimes wonder if reading these comics as a child influenced howling wizard, shrieking toad’s dislike of people.
People are no good.
Right howling toad, c’mon, let’s be off to the comforting candle light of my cave. It’s damp in there, but it’s quiet, and away from people.
People are no good.

Comment by howling wizard, shrieking toad on 2009-02-16 01:37:57 +0000

Oh,howling wizard, shrieking toad also went to see many of what people call early punk bands of the day too — I had a good dance about with my toad and much enjoyment was to be had by those in attendance. Howling wizard, shrieking toad also observed a much strange dance ceremony that the people enjoined in such establishments, indeed, whilst they partook of various odd, crude, rough apothecary medicines that had an effect on their activity.

Comment by howling wizard, shrieking toad on 2009-02-16 01:43:48 +0000

howling wizard, shrieking toad found the following review of Man Thing —
“The Man Thing comic starts off slowly, repetitively, but soon flowers into an existential, anarchic,nihilist-naive, neo primitivist landscape, which prefigures and pre empts and “pre imagines” Charles Burns “Black Hole” and aspects of Alan Moore by decades.
The action takes place in a swamp — a secluded place, a dank,, threatening, yet pure place, untouched by the corruption of man — yet it’s a place constantly under threat from corrupt, violent men,pushing at its ( mental and physical/psychical ) edges and boundaries.
However, the swamp is protected by the pure of heart, Man Thing — the beast is a being who instinctively despises corruption, the concept of “might makes right” thuggery and the bully. In other words, a very modern comic figure !!
The art is great too, with lots of good character profiles of 70’s hippies, anarchist bikers, draft dodgers, homophobic hard hats, 1950’s rockabilly gangs,hippy chicks and eccentric professors.
Get ready to take the man thing trip, from the swamps to the edge of the stratosphere out to the edges of your dreams, blurring waking and sleeping consciousness!
Great stuff, from a somewhat dull start on to a great set of tales : If you are into existential,lonely central figures and very “post modern”, apocalyptic themes,expressing a deep mistrust of modern society, then you’ll love Man Thing. I can’t believe he was left behind and taken over by Swamp Thing and “Black Hole” ! Man Thing deserves a far higher profile and respect in the comics world.”

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-02-16 10:11:40 +0000

Oh Silver Surfer was my favourite. I didn’t get into comics in a big way until I discovered Marvel & DC when I was around 10. Before that I would sometimes read Commando Comics. These are a series of British comic books that drew on World Wars I and II. The comic, still in print today, is noted for its distinctive 7 x 5 1/2 inch, 68 page format, with some 135 panels per story, which is roughly similar to a standard 22 page US comic. Most panels have both captions and dialogue to further the plot. Sound effects are rarely if ever used. The intention is to make a Commando story easy to read and follow. The artwork is in black and white except for the colour covers, with the lettering done in typewriter font.
The stories contain certain characteristic motifs; courage, cowardice, patriotism, dying for one’s country, noble actions in the face of danger, enmity turning into friendship when the going gets tough, and so on. Commando Comics depict soldiers as racist national stereotypes, glorifying Allied soldiers, and showing others mostly as cruel, stupid or ignorant barbarians; However in a lot of the stories some enemies are portrayed as nice, friendly characters who dislike their country’s justification of war. There was usually no continuity between books; each comic was a complete story with start and finish.
The comic series, then going by the title Commando War Stories in Pictures, was launched by D.C. Thomson of Dundee, Scotland, in July, 1961. During its launch year two issues were published per month, but due to the comic’s increasing popularity this rose to four a month. Since 1981 there have been eight issues published per month. I, of course, haven’t been reading them since the very early seventies.

Comment by howling wizard, shrieking toad on 2009-02-16 10:51:07 +0000

Yes, I too was brought up on Commando , and other boys comics like Lion and Thunder, and Warlord. Adam Eterno was a particular favourite character of mine, and even though I haven’t thought about these stories and characters since about 1975,it seems clear to me the effect they must have had on young boys’ consciousness and “sense of morality” in the way you accurately outline — memory, it’s a funny thing. Consciousness, it’s a funny thing. Time , it’s a funny thing. I haven’t read these for decades, yet seem to remember all of them, and the smells, sounds and emotions they evoked at the time.
Shrieking Toad liked them too.

Comment by shrieking toad on 2009-02-16 10:56:06 +0000

No I didn’t.

Comment by howling wizard, shrieking toad on 2009-02-16 10:57:17 +0000

Toad, to the back of the cave with you! Haven’t you prepared the morning’s gruel yet? Stir the pot!

Comment by Joe Parker on 2010-01-12 20:10:34 +0000

DTWAGE was first located in Bedfordbury, a street near Leicester Square station.
I used to visit Watkins, a bookshop in Cecil Court that dealt with all subjects paranormal, and a kind lady in the shop told me of this strange bookshop run by strange people a few streets away that sold the books I was looking for.
I had difficulty in finding it but was overjoyed when eventually I did.
Browsing there could be ‘unusual’ to say the least as the young lady there would think nothing of just closing the shop on a whim for lunch despite the fact that there were customers in the shop.
Not always done in a polite way, either.
Something along the lines ‘you can all eff off now, I’m closing for lunch’ as I recall: despite the fact that the lunch hours on the door were different.
The cat(s) they kept in the shop would sometimes jump onto piles of books stacked on top of shelves and on the floor tumbling them over. I recall times when customers – me included – would be challenged ‘did you do that, take more care’. You never got the impression that your protestations of innocence were quite believed.
Derek was an interesting man and I enjoyed listening to his opinions on books.
It was a lot better when they moved to Berwick St, though I had a panic attack when I arrived at Bedfordbury one day only to find the shop closed and the window empty. Luckily there was info in the window regarding their new address in Berwick St.
The new shop had more space – both for books and for the cats to jump about.
In the window was a big, handwritten sign: ‘We Do NOT Sell Porn’! A rarity in Berwick St, I suppose.
The move to St. Anne’s Court saw the last move for them. More space, more staff who weren’t always helpful.
One time, I saw a book in the window that I couldn’t find on the shelves and on enquiring was told it was the only copy left.
I asked to buy it but was refused. On seeing Derek I asked why I couldn’t buy it. He went into the window and got it for me.
Sadly it was the begining of the end for a truly original bookshop and some brilliant times for me spent there.
DTWAGE set the pattern for many other shops that emulated but always lacked the atmosphere.
Good memories and I still have many of the books I bought there.

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