Please note that the final cover is still to be decided!
Over the past fifty years, London has had thousands of music venues. Some have existed throughout, others have lasted just a few months. Sometimes, it’s the building itself that’s famous (the Astoria, The Rainbow, the Bull & Gate…), sometimes it’s more a case of a gang of reprobates taking over someone else’s bar for a club night of their own (UFO, Blitz, the Living Room…). In the case of the Marquee, the building itself appears to be peripatetic…
We all know where the 100 Club is, or the Brixton Academy – they’re still there, for one thing. But where were the Roxy or the Vortex or the Nashville Rooms when the Pistols did their worst? Where were Billy’s and the Blitz when the New Romantics strutted in ruffs? Where was the Batcave when the first Goths came down from the rafters?
Well, obviously we can just check on Google, but… an address is just the start, and we want to know more. Was the Camden Falcon in the mid-eighties the den of depravity that you might think from listening to Talulah Gosh records? Why did Mott the Hoople float up to the Roundhouse on a Sunday afternoon – did there used to be gigs there on Sunday afternoons in the early seventies? And what on earth happened when they went to Croydon?* I don’t know, I wasn’t there… but I was at the Enterprise in Chalk Farm, and the Deptford Fountain, trying to sell fanzines… I even remember the New Cross Venue when it wasn’t wall-to-wall tribute bands, and the Water Rats when it was still called the Pindar of Wakefield…
I also remember the pit of hell that was Upstairs at the Garage in Highbury, if you can have a pit upstairs. No seats, watery beer in plastic glasses, and nowhere to escape to if the support band was rubbish. We paid money to go to these places… or I did… but what did you do? Didn’t weird stuff used to happen on Eel Pie Island? And what about those gigs in Chislehurst Caves… was anybody there… anybody there… there…?
Woooh, spooky echo!
So… this is a bit of a big project, and its exact form will hopefully develop over time, but… what we want to do is document the history of London’s music venues. In some cases it will be simply a case of trying to identify where a particular club or venue was, hopefully with photos, but we’re also really looking for stories of what it was like to go these places; we’re not interested so much in the music, because obviously other people have written books about that… we want to know about the place itself, and what was it like to be there, in the audience… or maybe on the stage, or on the door, or on the phone to the hairy man with the beads who promised he’d have the PA there by six at the latest.
Come on… everyone remembers the first time they went to a proper gig, and had their life changed… so tell us about it. Or maybe you just want to talk about something unpleasant you once did in the toilets with Primal Scream, to find out if it was just you, and whether you should have seen a doctor (just for the record: no, it almost certainly wasn’t; and yes, you almost certainly should have – it might not even be too late).
Or maybe you just want to ask if anyone else used to go to that weird little club on Dean Street in early 1980; because you think you might have left your pirate hat on the cigarette machine…
* “In seventy-two we was born to lose/We slipped down snakes into yesterday’s news/I was ready to quit/But then we went to Croydon (Saturday Gigs, for those who aren’t hip to Mott’s oeuvre.)