Fri. Aug 12th, 2022

While some of London’s rich history is easy to spot, some are hidden from view.

For example, what now appears to be just a pretty ugly church in Finsbury Park is actually the remains of one of London’s most iconic music venues.

Rainbow Theater, originally known as the Finsbury Park Astoria, is a listed building on Seven Sisters Road dating back to 1930.

Over the years, it has hosted some of the most famous acts in music history, but it closed in 1995, and is used today as an evangelical church by the Universal Church of God Kingdom.

READ MORE: Legendary London rock venue where Jimi Hendrix, Queen and Rolling Stones played had to close as music vibrations destroyed the structure

It began life as an ‘atmospheric’ cinema, bringing a piece of entertainment to an increasingly popular part of Islington, but in the 1960s it took on a dual role as a picture house and music venue.

Universal Kingdom of God Kingdom in the building of the legendary place
Universal Kingdom of God Kingdom in the building of the legendary place

It soon began to attract some of the biggest names in the industry, including The Who, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Miles Davis, Queen, The Jacksons and Bob Marley.

Here are a few of the most iconic moments in Astoria’s history.

An iconic performance by Jimi Hendrix

One performance that has gone down in history is Jimi Hendrix in March 1967.

Always eager to make a memorable performance and soaked up by the need to get a little publicity on the opening night of his tour, Hendrix decided to set his guitar on fire at Astoria.

He and his band ended their set with the song ‘Fire’, at which point Hendrix put his guitar down and started walking around the stage distracting the crowd.

Jimi Hendrix gave the audience at Finsbury Park a performance to remember
Jimi Hendrix gave the audience at Finsbury Park a performance to remember

While doing so, his manager lowered the instrument into fuel. Hendrix then grabbed the guitar and lit a match and sent it up in four-foot flames.

His hands were burned during the process and he was later treated at the hospital.

Maybe not the smartest idea, but it was certainly memorable, and the burns did not deter him from repeating the stunt just a few months later.

One of the most famous musicians in the world assaulted on stage

The assault at the Rainbow Theater left Frank Zappa with one leg shorter than the other
The assault at the Rainbow Theater left Frank Zappa with one leg shorter than the other

Another infamous moment in the venue’s history came in December 1971, after Astoria changed its name to Rainbow Theater.

Frank Zappa played encore in his set when he began a cover of The Beatles’ “I want to hold your hand”.

Some in the crowd saw the heavy-in-the-cheek performance as overly sarcastic, and it especially triggered a person’s anger.

A 24-year-old man hurried onto the stage and pushed the singer into the concrete orchestra pit.

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In his autobiography, Zappa said, “My head was over my shoulder and my neck was bent as if it had been broken.

“I had a gash in my chin, a hole in the back of my head, a broken rib and a broken leg. One arm was paralyzed.”

Other versions of the story say the man pushed Zappa because he was jealous of his girlfriend’s infatuation with the musician.

Either way, Zappa was left in a wheelchair for over half a year, his voice dropped by a third as his larynx was crushed, and he claims one leg healed shorter than the other, leaving him with a limp.

Were you at one of these iconic performances in Finsbury Park? Let us know by sending an email to josh.bolton@reachplc.com

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