Thursday 2 June 2011

I made it to The Top

A recent visit to the West End found me walking down Wardour Street past the site of The Marquee. To any young 'uns reading this, the legendary London was torn down in the early 90s. The only reminder that 90 Wardour Street W1 once played host to some of rock and roll's most famous, and infamous, luminaries is the blue plaque name-checking Keith Moon.

I have many happy memories of nights spent in the tiny Soho club. Anyone who's been (and if you were there, like me, you really must be a dinosaur) will remember the corridor from the main doors leading to the bar on the left. Once in the bar, through the glazed wall/window you could see when the support band were about to pack up and vacate the stage in readiness for the main turn. That's when everyone would pile in and form a scrum in front of the stage. A blind eye would be turned when it came to fire regulations, so despite the venue having an official capacity of 700, there would often be 1000+ sweaty bodies in there. And there certainly was in October 1983 when ZZ Top (even then, a stadium act in the States) came to town. As a warm up gig for their Eliminator tour, the Texan beardies descended on The Marquee - a venue so small that the band would have played in places with dressing rooms bigger than it (and what they would have made of the broom cupboard where they got changed is probably unprintable). Here's my ticket.

I've got a button badge somewhere in the loft with the strapline 'I made it to The Top.' I don't know what ' be in your seats by 7.45' was strictly standing only. Looking back, three things stand out when I think about that night: seeing Thomas the Vance in the bar, being close to tears when they played La Grange and chatting with Garry Bushell who was reviewing it for Sounds; my music paper of choice. Good times.

Pickin' on Tush!


  1. Oh, I liked the Marquee such a lot. It was the ultimate exciting sweatbox venue, and I still mourn its passing. The Charing Cross Road incarnation was such a travesty that I almost wept the first time I went there. It was never going to succeed after that.

    I never knew ZZ Top played there - truly amazing!

  2. The Quireboys were the last lot I saw at The Marquee - a properly sweaty night. Gigs I missed: Hanoi Rocks (catch it here ) although I caught them a couple of days before this show at Crocs, and Guns 'N' Roses (couldn't find anyone interested in tagging along to their UK debut).

    Dig about on youtube for Bowie's 1980 Floor Show, an unreleased Stones set and some early Faces all recorded at Ye Olde Marquee

  3. don't start me on the passing of great venues.... The Astoria was the latest one to bite the dust. One day someone might look back and wonder what as a generation we were doing! I mean the Cavern where the Beatles played - gone!

    The Marquee - Marillion the first time, UFO - fantastic gig... etc.

  4. I had no idea it was that big, I always imagined it as being tiny. Never made it to the venue, but always remember reading about in the early Kerrangs. It always seemed to be an important place, and that anybody who wanted to be someone had to play there.

  5. We'd have a scoop in The Ship first and then sneak in the Marquee for free through the NCP carpark next door and in through the back door.

  6. I've been listening to ZZ Top all week, mainly Tres Hombres and would loved to have seen them. I've never been to the Marquee, our local venue of choice in the old days was The Apollow in Glasgow, only 230 miles away! In the days of dole and YOP schemes it was rare to be able to afford to go and see anything!
    I have a friend who was in various bands and he nearly shat himself with delight when they got a gig at the Marquee. I think it was Tyger Tyger, fronted by Jess Cox of Tygers of Pantang fame.

  7. I'd LOVE to have seen ZZTop, they really were ace. Are they still going?

  8. Clearly remember the Marquee when it was in Wardour St, although was too young to have been to it. My dad's best mate had an office a few doors away from it, and always remember walking past with my dad & peering in whilst on route to a visit his mate.

    Criminal how it was allowed to go, without anyone making a fuss.

    Went to lots of gigs when it moved to Charring Cross, but I'd imagine that was no doubt awful for anyone who had actually visited the original. Even that was allowed to just die without a word. Only in England...


  9. A great post!
    I never made it to the Marquee but remember as the venue of choice for many a band when I first started wandering around Blighty for gigs.