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WAY OUT WEST.

Byline: ROBIN TURNER

IT'S a concrete, blunt, and quite frankly ugly building on Swansea's city centre Kingsway.

So the news the now dormant former Oceana nightclub is facing the sound of bulldozers after being bought by Swansea council won't trouble most architecturelovers.

However, the building, originally bought as a cinema (Odeon) by the Rank Organisation in the '60s, and known for many years as the Top Rank nightspot, will no doubt have a soft spot in the hearts of many looking back on their dancing days.

The Top Rank was part of a Swansea nightclub scene that at various times included the likes of Martha's, Harpers (an '80s hangout for celebrating Swans stars), Whispers, Dora's (with its sticky floors), Shades, Bonnie Tyler's favourite The Townsman, the Waterside in Swansea Marina and Barons, to name but a few.

The Top Rank, the biggest of them all, became Ritzy's, Time and Envy and later Oceana before closing in 2014 when Swansea's hot-blooded Wind Street finally assumed nightlife domination.

In the '70s, those heady days of feathercuts and flares, platforms, sideburns, prog rock and velvet suits, the Top Rank was THE place to go in South West Wales for thousands on a Friday and Saturday night. It saw groups like Genesis, Hawkwind, Nazareth, Deep Purple, The Kinks, Humble Pie, Budgie, Squeeze and many others headline.

Thousands of marriages began on the dancefloor where guys and gals bopped to the Beatles, Chic, Steeley Dan and the rest. In the late '90s, the building even hosted an "on the road" version of Top of the Pops when Diana Ross topped the bill. I know because I was there. But when I approached Diana for a few quotes, two aides dashed in front of me, one explaining:"Miss Ross ain't able to speak to no-one she don't know. Geddit?".

It didn't quite make sense, but I did "geddit".

For all the laughter, fun and energy that building generated, it had a dark side. In 1972, tragedy struck.

Les Harvey, brother of Scottish rocker Alex, was on stage with Stone the Crows on a rainy night when puddles appeared on the stage. He was electrocuted after touching a non-earth grounded microphone. And in 1973, teenagers Geraldine Hughes and her best mate Pauline Floyd hitched a lift home after enjoying a night spent dancing at the club and were raped, murdered and dumped at woods in Llandarcy, the police stumped for years as to the "Saturday night strangler's" identity until in 1990 they dug up the body of a Port Talbot bouncer who'd worked at the Top Rank and matched his DNA to the crime scene.

Virtually everyone who lives in Swansea knows the Kingsway has to change and the plans to re-develop it as a tree-lined "green plaza" with offices and flats is a good one.

It's shame, though, it wasn't done earlier.

robin.turner@walesonline.co.uk

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 22, 2015
Words:481
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