In 1990 I joined a law firm that was based just off Piccadilly (London) and over the road from the merchandising shop of the “Hard Rock Cafe”.
At some point, the Manager gave a gold membership card that allowed me and my guests to queue-jump much to the frustration of those who’d waited patiently in the Mayfair drizzle to enjoy what in truth was a very good burger. There was and is to this day always a queue outside a Hard Rock Cafe whether you visit version in Paris, Madrid or Puerto Banus.
I recently tried to use the gold card at the Times Square Hard Rock Cafe much to the bemused amusement of the door security staff.
My law practice was in the music business so it was a constant fascination to the great and good – and the aspiring great and good – that a constant stream of wide-eyed primarily young or “young at heart” tourists from Europe and Japan would queue for many minutes to spend then, around £10.00 on a T shirt. But spend they did and today the iconic Hard Rock T Shirt – that I have included here not only to satiate my own nostalgia but also to venerate as a symbol – a continuing symbol – of the power of a great brand to evangelize its message.
It was usual that the Piccadilly venue would be used either as a venue for a band’s album launch or for the Brits nomination release party but there was always a buzz about the place. When the Coutts bank on the corner closed it seemed only fitting that the management of the Hard Rock should lease that space to launch a whole new merchandise operation. There was something fitting in a cash-cow business succeeding to the space occupied by a leading bank!
Long after Hard Rock as a music genre has faded – I wont say died out as I know its alive and well just not so prominent on the market – the Hard Rock Cafe shirt has featured in all manner of band video clips, catwalk shows and the pages of both the high and lower fashion press. It seems unlikely that the current crop of wearers have in fact ever eaten the mammoth burgers for which the Cafe became so famous.
The first Hard Rock Cafe was opened on Piccadilly on 14th June 1971 by Peter Morton and Isaac Tigrett. In 1979, the Hard Rock Cafe began covering its walls with rock and roll memorabilia. In 1990, The Rank Group from London acquired the Mecca Leisure Group and then made subsequent acquisitions ultimately controlling the Hard Rock Cafe brand worldwide. In 2007, Hard Rock was sold to the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and is headquartered in Orlando, Florida for US$965m.
As of December 2015, there were 191 Hard Rock locations in 59 countries, including 168 cafes, 23 hotels, and 11 casinos.
Known for its expanding collection of rock and roll memorabilia which began in 1979 with a Red Fender Lead II guitar from Eric Clapton, the archive includes over 77,000 items one of the most prized is the Bedford VAL 6 axle coach used in the 1967 film The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour.
Image from the Hard Rock Cafe