WITH the outbreak of rock ‘n’ roll, the Commodore cinema/theatre changed direction, and it was a far cry from big bands and variety acts like Wilson, Keppel and Betty, that had previously featured in their live stage shows.

There was such excitement when Britain’s first rock ‘n’ roll star, Tommy Steele, was booked to appear on March 24, 1957.

That was a day to remember.

Tommy was also booked for a big charity event in London.

He flew directly from that gig to Bembridge Airport, and there were many fans waiting for him, but time was precious and he was quickly driven to the Commodore for two shows in the evening.

There were hundreds of people in Star Street trying to see him and get in and out of the shows.

He stayed in a local hotel and went back the following morning.

When I met Tommy a few years ago, he could still vividly remember those two concerts.

In fact, he loved the Island and came back a few times, secretly in his sports car, to camp in our woods.

Talent contests were all the rage in the late ‘50s, and Robin Britten, who ran both the Commodore and the Medina Cinema, jumped on the bandwagon and held them at both his venues.

Newport milkman, Terry Perkins, won the Newport contest in late 1957, and subsequently went on to become the world famous pop star, Craig Douglas.

When he came for two shows at the Commodore in the summer of 1959, he broke the box-office records.

Within a few weeks he had a number one hit.

Pat Reader, of Cowes, won the Commodore talent contest and went on to make records for the legendary Joe Meek.

Numerous pop stars of the day came to Ryde, and many people still remember the two shows Marty Wilde did in 1959.

He wore a gold lame suit and was seen to roll on the floor during his act, much to the delight of his screaming fans.

Others who came included Frankie Vaughan, Terry Dene, Jim Dale and Russ Hamilton.

The year of 1964 was a milestone in the history of the Commodore, thanks to London impresario, Mervyn Conn, who later created the Wembley country music festivals.

The British pop music explosion brought acts like Dusty Springfield, Searchers, Lulu, Animals, Hollies, Mojos, Yardbirds, who included the young Eric Clapton, Shane Fenton and Kenny Lynch to the Commodore.

The most bizarre show featured Matt Monro ­— the greatest crooner of his generation ­— and the Pretty Things, Britain’s scruffiest group, on the same bill.

In the second show, the management brought the curtain down on the Pretty Things, who sang one song for more than ten minutes.

The Island’s top band of that time was the Cherokees, and they appeared on three of the star-studded shows with great success.

The final show of that summer was called Big Night Out.

It featured purely local bands, and it was a formidable line-up, with the Cherokees, Meteors, Midnight Creepers, Escorts, Tomrons and the Johnny Marshall Trio all on the bill.

For a few years, the Commodore ballroom became the Disco Blue, run by Clive Meddick.

He brought the Move, Amen Corner, Jimmy James and the Vagabonds, Overlanders, Simon Dupree and the Big Sound and the Bluesology, who featured an unknown Reg Dwight on keyboards.

He later changed his name to Elton John.

The Commodore also had some major movies.

They had a huge success with The Robe, which was the first ever Cinemascope presentation.

When The Guns of Navarone was being shown, they had real guns in the massive foyer.

During the ‘80s, I was invited to the projection room of the Cannon Cinema ­— the name was changed for a while ­— to see three screens in action.

Ken Scott was in charge single-handed that night.

The movies were Out of Africa, The Jewel On The Nile and Thunder Alley.

He was keeping an eye on three machines and more than 30,000 feet of film.

Vernon Cooke was another projectionist, and he helped to create an Oscar winner.

During one of our interviews, Anthony Minghella praised Vernon for letting him slip out of the nearby family cafe to watch movies from the Commodore projection box.

The Franco Zeffirelli films he saw there were his inspiration that eventually would lead him to Hollywood.

There have been several changes of ownership since the Britten family ran it.

For a while, during their reign, part of the building was used as an early workshop for Britten Norman, the plane manufacturers, before they had larger premises at Bembridge Airport.

For many Commodore regulars, the sight of the one-time manager, Mr Constable, smartly dressed and wearing his Stetson hat in the magnificent foyer was a welcoming sight.

Thankfully, the Commodore lives on courtesy of Leo Leisure, who run it as a multi screen cinema and bingo hall.

It’s a long way from Richard Tauber, Jane of the Daily Mirror, Tommy Steele and Dusty Springfield.