If you’re the sort of person who treasures ticket stubs and T-shirts from precious gigs, then Paul Talling’s London’s Lost Music Venues could be the book for you.
Meticulously researched and illustrated with photographs and contemporary flyers, Talling’s book focusses on the capital’s much missed small clubs, jazz joints, and drinking dens.
Dividing London into Central, East, North, West & South West and South East regions, it’s the kind of book you can read in one go, or leave by the loo to dip into at your leisure.
Chock-full of fascinating factoids, it’s a testament to the power of live venues to create indelible and unrepeatable moments.
Old punks might remember the night at Soho’s Vortex when Danny Baker took to the stage to lambast the crowd for cheering the passing of Elvis Presley, only to receive a hail of bottles in response.
Or they may have caught the 1974 show by a little known support band at The Nashville Rooms called The Sex Pistols.
Their performance convinced the lead singer of headliners The 101’ers, one Joe Strummer, that he needed an urgent change of musical direction.
Hammersmith’s Clarendon Ballroom will surely trigger fond memories for fans of bands like The Meteors, Guana Batz and King Kurt.
Known as the Klub Foot, the venue became a Mecca for the early ’80s Psychobilly movement, spawning six live Stomping at the Klub Foot albums.
Talling notes that the venue also played host to one of Madness’ first ever shows at the wedding reception of Stiff Records boss Dave Robinson.
Many venues like the Ealing Club and Eel Pie Island, which started out as jazz venues, became cradles for the burgeoning R&B scene in the ‘60s.
The likes of Eric Clapton, The Yardbirds and The Who got their earliest gigs in these packed, sweaty halls.
The Rolling Stones, Talling notes, played their first ever show in February 1963 in a back room of The Station Hotel in Richmond.
The Stones would go on to take over as the house band at the venue, known as the Crawdaddy, in homage to Bo Diddley’s Doing The Crawdaddy.
Indie fans might remember queuing up at The Ambulance Station on Old Kent Road in Southwark to see the likes of Chumbawumba, The Wedding Present and Pulp.
According to Talling, Johnny Marr and the usually reclusive Morrissey were tempted to attend a performance by emerging Scottish act The Jesus and Mary Chain at the venue.
The chaotic show convinced Geoff Travis to sign the band to Blanco Y Negro, despite having his car smashed up after the gig.
What’s sad about this book, particularly when COVID-19 is casting a deathly shadow over the whole future of live music, is that all these venues, which brought such joy to so many people are no more.
Talling’s book shows us that iconic clubs like the original Marquee, Ronnie Scott’s, or The Limelight serve as time capsules, releasing little dopamine hits of pleasure at great nights out.
It’s important that books like this serve to remind us of what we’ve been missing since the virus outbreak and the essential role of live music to the human experience.
- London’s Lost Music Venues is out now via the garage-punk label Damaged Goods.
- Author Paul Talling runs walking tours all over London covering old music venues, lost rivers and dereliction. More details here.