Past Times - interacting with all aspects of Great Britain's past from around the world
Find past friends.|Lifestory library.|Find heritage visits.|Gene Junction.|Seeking companions.|Nostalgia knowledge.|Seeking lost persons.

Home <> Lifestory Library <> Explore By Location <> <> <> The Carnaby Cavern -- Part 1

  Contributor: Danny BenjaminView/Add comments

Danny Benjamin was born in London in 1930 and went to Tooting Bec Grammar School. After a variety of jobs he managed a menswear shop in Penge before starting his own shop during 1958.

Michael Martin [the names of my two sons] opened in 1958,and had previously been workwear shop. The asking priceof £3,000 is around £45,000 at today's prices.

I was 27, motivated and ambitious, but without money. Thestock, included in the price, was both bland and boring.At that time I was earning £12 per week [£180] and was living with my in-laws. [I had sold my home in Hove].

£3,000 seemed an impossible dream! The shop was opposite the main post office, and I was sure it would be a winner-- but how?

I called upon my bank, and they agreed to lend me £2,000 if I could raise £1,000. My parents came to my rescue,and remortgaged their home in Hove for, I believe, £2,000.[some £30,000 today]. I paid it back in instalments of £28 [£420] monthly over the next seven years,and then continued the payments for an extra ten years,in thanks to them.

By bringing in bright young stylish clothing, and selling off the drab workwear, I soon doubled the turnover, but financially I suffered, for I was by far too optimistic,and bought excessively.

In 1959 I opened a little glasswear shop, but it failed in its first year. Stick to what you are good at I thought,and in 1961 I opened another Michael Martin shop in Colindale,NW9. Everyone agreed it was the smartest shop in London,but its takings were a disaster, and finally after sufferinga complete clear out burglary I'd had enough and closed it down.

One day in 1963. a tall slim man came into the shop, he didn't want to buy anything, but just called in fora chat. He was an amazing looking man with the brightest ginger hair. He looked like a character from a Victorian movie.

His name was 'Colin Wild' and he told me he was a window dresser for a large local store. I was still struggling to pay off the debts from my Colindale disaster, but I realised that Colin could well be the partner I so needed.

A great salesman, a complete extrovert and always the centre of any attention. Everyone loved him. Years later he became such a sensation while dancing on the 'Top Of The Pops',that jealous DJ's
tried and finally succeeded in getting rid of him, but more of that in time.

I couldn't afford to employ him, but neither could I let him go. The winter of 1963 saw me working at Watford Market. To my shame my heavily pregnant wife worked in the shop with Colin. We needed the money.

During the week I worked hard on what I enjoyed most: my mail order. I feel I should explain that in those days to make 30% profit was good. Today, shops take over 200%. We had to work much harder.

I sold any item that I could sell cheaply, from playing cards to paint brushes. Our clothing mail order needed a W1 address, and with this in mind we visited Carnaby Street,looking for a small office, but we ended up falling in love with a little dress shop, in Ganton Street.

The landlords wanted £3,000 [£40,000 today] but we couldonly scrape together £1,000. I went to the landlords and,by showing them my mail order catalogue, I won them over.We had just one year to repay the balance.

So there we were, in an empty dress shop needing shopfitting.It was already Tuesday, and we had to open by the Saturday.The shop's name we agreed would continue to be Michael Martin.

A suggestion from Colin was to crumble silver paper and staple it to the walls and ceiling, literally everywhere.He had created a Father Christmas grotto the previous year and it had looked great.

It was a crazy suggestion but it sounded different. It was different, so let's go. I went out and brought 100 rolls of kitchen foil, two staple guns and some 50,000 staples.

We worked solidly for some 36 hours until our hands were red sore and badly blistered. To finish it all off, we hung a huge ceiling fitting glass ball rotating slowly, with bright spot lights in red, yellow, and green, flashing alternate colours to the beat of the music.

We stood back, for now there could be only one name: The Carnaby Cavern. The shop became very famous in the 60's,lasting through until the late 70's. We made stagewear for all the following groups and celebrities:-

Bob Hoskins, Benny Hill, Shirley Bassey, Alexi Sale, Mud,Bay City Rollers, Long John Baldry, Edwin Starr, Four Tops,Desmond Decker, Hot Chocolate, Equals, Love Affair, Alvin Stardust, Jeremy Irons, Harlem Globetrotters, Wayne Sleep,Sweet, Alan Price, Barry Gibbs, Mark Bolan, Kinks, Foundations,Status Quo, Miss World ..........

Do you remember the TV show Hi de Hi ? We had to make the jackets badly! I got the tailors drunk! The time we fell foul of the New York mafia! The union jack jackets for The Jam. It all happened at the Cavern.

Danny Benjamin, Middlesex, 2002
View/Add comments

To add a comment you must first login or join for free, up in the top left corner.
12 Apr 2012
By Heatwave
In the early 70's, Danny Benjamin nobly assisted by Colin Wild, also made the stage gear for the original Heatwave (pop group).
Wild about Colin
13 Aug 2015
By stone
I am so glad to had stumbled across this article.

For many years I have asked people if they could remember Colin Wild and his Carnaby Street clothes shop.

In 1979 I was fitted and suited by Colin with a stage suit for a tour we were about to take throughout Europe. Bright red satin Bowie type of genre. [Coaster 70's - 80's band]

I remember Colin commenting on how skinny I was - all 9 stone wet through back then!!.

He was an eccentric character of which 'sadly' there are so few these days

I last saw his name in print in a book titled 'Bright Lights Dark Days' by TG Gayner - if you like nostalgia and a good true story full of interesting facts about the late 70's music scene and those involved in the scene back then - read it, its a great read.

Does anyone know what became of Colin and his shop?
Colin Wild Costumier
28 Feb 2017
By denisc
Yes I remember I/we used to drop into his little costume laden shop in Newburgh St W1 in the 70's & up to mid 80's.

Colin was quite a character in his catsuit or whatever went as fashionable at the time but his shop was very often a drop in & pass an hour or so 'venue' for me in my soho days. as it was many performers of all sorts of genres.

Back in the very late '80's I was told by another artist that colin had died of a heart attack sometime towards the late 1980's, I still have a costum wedding dress made by him as a reminder of those heady west days & nights, never heard colins name for years till I came across this site

Privacy Policy | Cookies Policy | Site map
Rob Blann | Worthing Dome Cinema