Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Big Pub Bands

Everyone had to start somewhere and for many bands in the 60s, and ever since, it’s been at ‘the pub’. Well before the era of Pub Rock, bands frequented pubs up and down the length of Britain just trying to get a break. The Greyhound on the Brighton Road was one such pub that for a while hosted many aspiring bands. Given that it was home to the Redhill and Reigate Arts Workshop (I was the DJ - man) it was hardly surprising. One Friday night the tension was palpable, Walrus, a band, it was said, about to be signed to Decca Nova were booked to appear. The tension was more to do with how a nine-piece band, that included brass and keyboards, was going to fit on a stage that was normally pretty cosy for a four piece. That’s what makes bands today hanker after playing ‘clubs’, it’s the sense of being close to your audience (although some of Walrus were actually in the audience at the Greyhound).

Bands such as the Stones are well known for their ‘secret’ club warm up gigs and during their last world tour they played in some intimate venues to recall their glory days. Which is what makes the story of 1990s pub rockers Midlife Crisis so interesting. This group of aging, some of whom were airline executives, who had a fairly regular gig at the Ravenswood Arms Hotel, near East Grinstead, in Sussex decided that they were going to do the whole thing in reverse. They were not short of a bob or two so they pooled their cash, paid the required guarantee, and booked the Royal Albert Hall for a gig in 1995. Midlife Crisis proved they were a really good pub rock band.


r morris said...

So whatever happened to Walrus?

About seventeen years ago, (or so) the two remaining members of Badfinger played in a bar here in Idaho Falls. That's got to be pretty depressing for such a great band. Sad, doing the pub band thing, becoming very successful and acclaimed, and then ending up playing pubs again.

Sadly, I was too poor to afford the minimal cover charge.

Richard Evans said...

Sometimes going back on to the pub circuit having had success can prove to be, if not lucrative, certainly a good way to stretch out and produce some fine music in ones later years. A classic example of this was Steve Marriott who, in the late 80s played most of the London pub circuit including the Half Moon, Putney and similar venues. For me and my pals a Friday night going "Marriotting' was one of the finest ways to start the weekend. He had a great voice and played some mean blues - his version of 'Five Long Years' being my favourite. And no matter what time of the year, he always ended his set with Chuck Berry's 'Run Rudolph Run'. Sadly missed. God bless little Steve Marriott.

r morris said...

Very interesting, Richard. I hadn't thought of musicians doing it by choice. I know some musicians like the intimacy of the smaller venues, and while these are not lucrative, I guess it doesn't matter if you have money.
The Stones love playing the tiny gigs.