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From the Marquee to...???

PostPosted: Fri Jul 12, 2013 1:38 pm
by Adam Blake
Last night I played a fancy restaurant with Errol Linton and the band. It was a good gig. I was rather frustrated with my own playing but apparently I played OK. The restaurant is situated at 100 Wardour Street - the exact site of the Marquee club that I used to go to and sometimes play at in the 70s. I know the original Marquee was in New Oxford Street (I think) and that there was a subsequent Marquee in Charing Cross Road (where I also played), but it was the one at 100 Wardour Street that meant a great deal to me in my younger days.

As I was playing I had the misfortune to catch sight of myself in a mirrored pillar near the stage. There I was, this middle-aged man, losing his hair, trying not to develop too noticeable a paunch, playing the exact same Gibson guitar I was playing the last time I played at the Marquee which would have been sometime in early 1980 - when I was 19, nearly 20. I was overwhelmed with sadness. I'm not putting this on Facebook but I'll put it here because I have often in the past used SoTW as a confessional of sorts and even though not many people read it anymore I still feel I am amongst friends here. I was sad not only for myself and the passing of time, but also for what has happened to music in London, specifically in the West End. That the Marquee, where I saw so many great and terrible gigs, should now be nothing but an overly ornate expensive watering hole for rich people - and that I should be playing it (for £100, in case you were wondering) - seemed to me to be some kind of awful reality check. THIS is where we have got to in the last 35 years or so.

I know I should be grateful for the work. I am, believe me. I know very well how difficult it is for a freelance musician to make a living these days. A hundred pound gig in the West End is not to be sneezed at. Not at all. So why do I feel so depressed about it? Am I making too much of this? Should I just shut the fuck up, count my blessings and get on with it?

Answers, thoughts, feelings from anyone looking in much appreciated.

Re: From the Marquee to...???

PostPosted: Fri Jul 12, 2013 3:10 pm
by Alan Balfour
The only thought that came to me was what follows and how music fans of the day were spoilt for choice when it came to venues.


John Pidgeon
(from Let IT Rock, February 1973 p. 48-49 less photo and map)

At a time when most receptive organs—eyes, ears, pockets—were turned to Liverpool and its Merseybeat, another (and as it turned out almost equally important) moment in rock history occurred in London. Because "the business", the media and their public were fascinated solid by the Beatles, the Searchers, Gerry and the Pacemakers, in fact almost everyone with a fringe and a grin who called you "whack" with the correct enunciation, events in the South went unnoticed by all but a handful of fans, a couple of promoters, less journalists, and a group of musicians (most of whom ultimately achieved widespread recognition, though in some cases only after a wait that would test the patience of a lifer).

Apart from isolated pockets of interest in other urban centres—the British rhythm and blues movement was located almost exclusively in the London area.

Three people were responsible for the birth of British rhythm and blues—Chris Barber, Cyril Davies, and Alexis Korner—but it would be invidious to ascribe specific roles as father, mother and mid-wife, despite some assertions of paternity to Korner.

Chris Barber, best known as a jazz bandleader and trombonist, was the major force in bringing the blues to Britain, and as early as 1953 had formed an intended blues group within his jazz band. Things didn't however work out as he had hoped, because the vocals turned the blues into something else: The singer (and guitarist) who performed in front of Barber on bass and Beryl Bryden on washboard was one Tony (subsequently Lonnie in tribute to Lonnie Johnson) Donegan, and the musical metamorphosis brought about by his high-pitched nasal whine was soon known as "skiffle", the first home-grown pop music craze.

In 1957 Barber backed Bill Broonzy, next he brought Sister Rosetta Tharpe into the country, and in 1958 first Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee and then Muddy Waters. The purists baulked at Waters' amplification, but Davies and Korner were inspired to wire up their own instruments. Barber invited them to join his gigs for a rhythm and blues set, backing Ottilie Patterson on harmonica and guitar, and these spots proved so popular that the pair resolved to play their own straight R&B gigs with their own electric band.

Davies and Korner had organized and played blues together for several years at their London Blues and. Barrelhouse Club, but opposition to their electrified music was so intense in the tight circuit of jazz clubs that they were forced to open their own club (in a basement beneath the ABC Teashop by Ealing Broadway underground station) in order to have a regular venue for their band, Blues Incorporated. The club scene in the South had been dominated by "trad" (a meaningless abbreviation of traditional jazz which aptly severed its associations with that long-established form) since the late fifties. The term "trad" was indiscriminately applied to a sound that relied on sub-New Orleans vocals and a predictably warbling clarinet above an equally predictable banjo rhythm: the shallowest of musical backwaters. "Beat" music was confined to records, whose studio sessions were rigidly organized Tin Pan Alley jobs that kept a hard-core of session men in regular employment, or tours of one night stands where solo singers would file on stage for fifteen minute slots backed by Sounds Incorporated (if they were lucky) or dance-stepping instrumentalists would spin out a medley of their Greatest Hits. The rest was for youth clubs and back rooms

Blues Incorporated was just as much a detour around this Nowhereville as it was the result of a desire to recreate the music of Muddy Waters. The line-up of the band which played on the opening night of the Ealing club in March 1962 was Cyril Davies (harmonica, vocals), Alexis Korner (guitar), Keith Scott (piano)j Andy Hoogenboom (bass), and Charlie Watts (drums), with, briefly, Art Wood as singer. After Wood was dropped there were other changes. By mid-summer Blues Inc. consisted of Davies, Korner, tenorist Dick Heckstall-Smith, pianist Johnny Parker, Jack Bruce on bass, and Ginger Baker on drums, though others including Mick Jagger, Brian Jones and Paul Jones would sit in. By this time Chris Barber had given Blues Inc. a residency at the Marquee Club (which he ran in association with Harold Pendleton) and the Rolling Stones made their first public appearance under that name there in July.

Simultaneously another West End club—like the Marquee, a jazz club—the Flamingo in Wardour Street, was developing its own brand of rhythm and blues in the form of the Blue Flames, previously Billy Fury's backing group. At first billed just as the Blue Flames, the talent of the singer/pianist (and soon organist) got his name, Georgie Fame, stuck out in front of the band's. Because the club catered largely for black GIs and West Indians at the all-night sessions where he played, Fame's music evolved differently under the influence of his audience from that of the bands which played the Marquee (with its young white membership). The GIs would lay Smokey Robinson and James Brown records on him while the Jamaicans turned him on to Ska. It was a black who first played him Mose Allison.

When, towards the end of 1962, Cyril Davies left Blues Inc. to form his own band and was replaced by Graham Bond, the four styles of British R&B were made; the rocking Chuck'n'Bo style of the Stones, taken up by the Yardbirds and the Pretty Things; Davies's dedicated revival of Muddy Waters' 1958 sound, which had parallels in John Mayall's blues crusade; the Flamingo sound, discovered by Fame and carried on by Zoot Money's Big Roll Band, Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds, Ronnie Jones and the Night Timers, and other house bands; the post-Davies Blues Inc. was driven by brass riffs and much jazzier than before—Davies hated saxophones which had in his opinion killed jazz—and when Bond in his turn left with Baker and Bruce he pursued a similar style, first with John McLaughlin in the band and then with Dick Heckstall-Smith.

As the following for rhythm and blues grew (through word of mouth communication) jazz clubs overcame their abhorrence for the music and new clubs opened in and around London.

The rest of the story is the kind of rock history which made the columns of the pop press. The Stones got out of the club circuit into the Top Ten and the big time at the start of 1964 and others followed. Cyril Davies died the week their Lennon/ McCartney song, I Wanna Be Your Man, reached tenth place, Chris Barber was put down as a bandwagon hitch-hiker, and Alexis Korner looked as if he was never going to break big. (It's ironic that he finally made it with CCS—a band that would have got blown off stage by any Blues Inc. Iine-up).

Still, it was fun while it lasted and no doubt would not have done so for so long if the businessmen hadn't been obsessed with Liverpudlians. More importantly, British rhythm and blues was the starting point for most rock music that's happened since.

1. THE ROUNDHOUSE A pub on the corner of Wardour Street and Brewer Street, W1, which was London's "Skiffle Centre" until 1956 when Cyril Davies and Alexis Korner started the London Blues And Barrelhouse Club. The Thursday night sessions often took the form of impromptu jams amongst the blues enthusiasts present and were visited by touring American bluesmen like Muddy Waters, Otis Spann, and Big Bill Broonzy.

2. THE EALING RHYTHM AND BLUES CLUB The first British rhythm and blues club, which opened on March 17th, 1962. The club was run by Davies and Korner in order to provide a regular gig for their band, Blues- Incorporated, which was shunned by narrow-minded jazz club promoters. Various combinations of future Rolling Stones, Pretty Things and Manfreds would sit in with the house band or jam during the interval.

3. THE MARQUEE CLUB Formerly the "London Jazz Centre" the club's premises were beneath the Academy Cinema at 166 Oxford Street, W1, when "Rhythm And Blues Night" was first held in May 1962. The Rolling Stones made their first public appearance there two months later. In March 1964 the club moved to its present location at 90 Wardour Street, where, having relinquished the "jazz" tag, almost every session was devoted to R&B.

5. THE FLAMINGO CLUB A modern jazz club situated at 33—37 Wardour Street, whose "all-nighter" sessions were run by the Gunnell Brothers, Rik and John. The switch to rhythm and blues was largely stimulated by the musical tastes of the black GIs and West Indians who accounted for most of the audience. Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames were the first of the house bands and recorded their classic Rhythm And Blues At The Flamingo album there in September 1963. The bandroom beside the stage was a celebrated meeting place for insomniac musicians and people of other late night professions.

6. THE CRAWDADDY CLUB Opened by Georgio Gomelsky at the Station Hotel, Richmond, the Sunday evening sessions with the Rolling Stones rapidly became so popular that the club had to move from the four hundred capacity hotel ballroom to the larger Richmond Athletics Association Clubhouse. Gomelsky ran a second Crawdaddy Club at the Star Hotel, Broad Green, London Road, Croydon , where the Animals played their first gig in the south of England.

9. EEL PIE ISLAND Now demolished, the hotel on the island in the River Thames at Twickenham (joined to the shore by a narrow footbridge) was a favourite venue. Everyone played there at one time or another, but no one had a stronger following than Cyril Davies. With his R&B All-Stars he made his last public appearance there in January 1964.

10. THE SCENE CLUB Situated in Ham Yard (off Great Windmill Street, W1) was renowned not only for its live bands but also for Guy Stevens' "R&B Record Night" on Mondays.

11. THE STUDIO '51 CLUB The Downliners Sect first made a name for themselves at this club at 10-11 Great Newport Street, WC2, where the Stones had a Sunday afternoon residency.

12. KLOOK'S KLEEK CLUB Despite its exotic name the club's premises were at the Railway Hotel, West Hampstead. One of the many jazz clubs which went over to rhythm and blues, it was the setting for a live album by John Mayall.

Re: From the Marquee to...???

PostPosted: Fri Jul 12, 2013 3:17 pm
by NormanD
There comes a time in most people's lives, you either stick with it or get out for something else. I think you reached that point years ago, Adam, and not just when you caught your reflection gazing back at you yesterday. It probably wasn't 35 years ago when you played the same venue, but even long before that.

You've stuck with it. The world's changed. You're not out of date, the world is. I've no doubt that you know more about what's going on in this world than most of this world knows or cares about what's going on in yours. Your hair may be changing, Adam, but I know that your politics aren't. There are probably more hard-nose graspers now than 35 years back, and even more that think that's how things should be. They've got no idea of a collective future, or even a dream of what one might even mean. The Marquee will change hands again and again, and its musical ghosts will be forgotten by all but a few like yourself / ourselves. All we can do is keep alive a collective memory - of creating good music, and art, and writing - dreaming of it, sharing it out, passing it on, and watching a generation below take it further.

I, too, often feel pessimistic and old, aimless and lost, but then I get a reminder of how much exciting new music is being made by people maybe a third of my age. Your post after the Festival day you enjoyed last weekend is testament to that, and a wake-up for me - and I wasn't even there.

Re: From the Marquee to...???

PostPosted: Fri Jul 12, 2013 3:42 pm
by Adam Blake
Thank you, Norman, for that kind vote of confidence. And thanks, Alan, for that reminder of a lost age.

I'm alright, really. I just got the blues is all... (Time for some Hound Dog Taylor, methinks)

Re: From the Marquee to...???

PostPosted: Fri Jul 12, 2013 6:29 pm
by AndyM
Adam, you would have felt even worse if you had been one of the diners, watching you performing, then remembering your younger musical self.

Re: From the Marquee to...???

PostPosted: Fri Jul 12, 2013 11:04 pm
by Rob Hall
Adam Blake wrote:I'm alright, really. I just got the blues is all... (Time for some Hound Dog Taylor, methinks)

Good. We all get the blues some time. Hang in there, keep the faith. I love your playing Adam, and I look forward to hearing you play again sometime soon, I hope.

Re: From the Marquee to...???

PostPosted: Sat Jul 13, 2013 12:28 am
by Adam Blake
Thanks, Rob.

Andy, horrendous notion! I'd think: well, his blues playing's improved but he's lost a lot of energy. Definitely swings and roundabouts. Needs a new suit.

Re: From the Marquee to...???

PostPosted: Sat Jul 13, 2013 9:39 am
by will vine
Adam Blake wrote:As I was playing I had the misfortune to catch sight of myself in a mirrored pillar near the stage. There I was, this middle-aged man, losing his hair, trying not to develop too noticeable a paunch, playing the exact same Gibson guitar I was playing the last time I played at the Marquee which would have been sometime in early 1980 - when I was 19, nearly 20. I was overwhelmed with sadness.

There's a guy that keeps creeping around wherever I go, a fat baldy headed geezer. He turns up in shop windows, mirrors,sometimes on people's phones, or in wedding group photos. He always catches me off guard. I hate the bastard. On a bad day he looks like a slob, on a good day a retired civil servant, yet I know he's got a Rock'n'Roll heart.

I'm gonna go out dancing every night
Gonna see all the city lights
Gonna do everything in silver and gold
Got to hurry up before I grow too old.

It would be hard to believe that those who were taken suddenly rich and famous would want to drag their own broken bodies round a vibrant London club scene now but surely Sir Elton, Sir Mick, Sir Paul, Pete, Roger, Bryan, and all the gang must, as they laugh their way to the bank,wonder Has it really come to this; playing in a field to people with camper vans and picnic hampers? This is not what I joined up for. They too must be perplexed at how things have panned out, at the conditions they are playing under, the material they are shackled to, and the audiences they are playing for.

A grotesque and confusing mash-up of idealism and spectacular greed, it's hard to understand whether we should be grateful or heartbroken that Rock'n'Roll has found a way of accommodating middle age and beyond.

It beats the hell out of me how so many wonderful musicians of all ages roam the country making a living in little restaurants, clubs, pubs, and corporate events. Time for you to listen to The Sultans of Swing maybe Adam? And hey, The same Gibson for all these years? People have become legendary over things like that...."Check out Guitar George........."

Re: From the Marquee to...???

PostPosted: Sat Jul 13, 2013 10:52 am
by Adam Blake
Good points well made, Will. And I like "The Sultans Of Swing" these days (having grown out of hating it because it was by Dire Straits).

From The Beano to BB King

PostPosted: Sat Jul 13, 2013 11:12 am
by Jamie Renton
Playing the lowdown dirty blues in the kind of place that would have been named "El Swanko de Posh" in The Beano must be a strange experience Adam. Especially on the hallowed ground where the Marquee once stood (I can feel the sticky floor underfoot and slippery plastic pint glass in my hand, as I write this. Smell that familiar mix of leather, lager and nicotine). But who knows? maybe you opened a few ears the other night.

We all have to eat some shit as we pay our dues. The important thing is to treasure the good times, the good places and most importantly the good people (like the small but passionate band to be found on this forum).

As for future generations? right now I can hear this blasting out of my daughter's bedroom:

Re: From the Marquee to...???

PostPosted: Sat Jul 13, 2013 12:35 pm
by Adam Blake
Oh God, that is just so great. The first chorus alone is just an object lesson in How To Do It. You raised her right, Jamie!

Leather, lager and nicotine and sticky floors - yep, and what time are Generation X on?