The Rolling Stones rolled into town last week and Israel got some long-awaited satisfaction at one of the best live concerts ever to hit the Holy Land. But back in the early 80s, if you were hanging out in Jerusalem with a longing to hear the Stones, you would stroll over from Richie’s Pizza to a small, hole-in-the-wall club called Jazz Blues & Rock — JBRs for short.
Located on the corner of Mesilat Yesharim and Agrippas streets was founded by a group of New York transplants plus one Brit, who set up a company called Sugar Magnolia Enterprises. For anyone who follows the Grateful Dead, that name should be indication enough of their “Dead-ication”.
Posters that were no more than mimeographed sheets of paper were hung up around town at places like Richie’s where English-speakers tended to congregate, notifying people that “the new JBR is open every night (except Friday) for your partying pleasure!” The proprietors were religious, hence the Friday night caveat, but dancing until the wee hours certainly took place during the week.
Sugar Magnolia had a sideline in t-shirts (“Place your orders at the King George Youth Hostel”) but the main business was the JBR club. The beverage selection was mainly beer and that was limited to Heineken, Goldstar and Maccabi, while the entertainment was recorded music — with the occasional live music gig. But the club’s specialty was nights dedicated to particular bands or events.
For example, the death of Bob Marley on May 11, 1981, was honored with a night of reggae music.
JBRs wasn’t fancy. The metal and formica tables and chairs were worn, the stuccoed walls were decorated with dingy camel bags from East Jerusalem, second-hand rock concert posters and handmade wall hangings — lovingly crafted by fangirls out of purloined dormitory bedsheets and magic markers — of the Rolling Stones tongue and lips logo and, of course, the Grateful Dead lightning bolt skull logo. But it had an intimate, clubby feel that, for Deadheads and rockers, made it a home away from home.
And who knows? Now that the Rolling Stones have paid us a visit, maybe one day Bruce Springsteen will respond to the cry of desire — and the promise of one free beer — issued so long ago at JBRs!
The posters and photos presented above come courtesy of one former fangirl (who happens to be my sister). It would be nice to know what has happened to the other people who, for a few short years, formed the JBR community. Those in the know are welcome to contact firstname.lastname@example.org.