There is something to be said for a particular room - or theatre or space - which offers a certain feeling that can never really be succinctly recreated. In an interview with the fictional punk-rock band ‘The Ain’t Rights’ in the film Green Room, they say that when a band plays in a room, once it’s over, it’s over. That feeling can’t be continued forever.
While that may be a fictitious quote from a non-existent band, this is the exactly what makes these venues great. Some phenomenal live albums have been recorded in some of these clubs and historical photos have been snapped.
Footage from Nirvana concerts at the Crocodile Café in Seattle, (their local city at the time) comes to mind. The venue has also been host to Pearl Jam, Beastie Boys and Sleater-Kinney and numerous other bands you’d go red at the cheeks for.
The history of the venue truly transcends most clubs – which, for the sake of argument - isn’t Fabric (RIP). It’s a floor and a stage. Imagine watching Nirvana play to a few hundred people or less; you really could say you were there when it was happening. And Crocodile Café saw it all. The Rockfords (featuring members of Goodness and Pearl Jam) recorded their live album in 2003, while Kula Shaker, Stormy and Screaming Females are all booked to perform there before the end of the year.
Pre-grunge, Hollywood venues were the thing. Take the three-hour jam session with Led Zeppelin and Fairport Convention on 4 September 1970 at , The Troubadour, which is also where a young Tom Waits got himself a record deal following an amateur night at the venue. It’s also the place where Florence + The Machine, Alabama Shakes and Odd Future played their earliest shows in LA; indeed the spirit of the up-and-coming newbie is still alive there.
A little further along Sunset Strip, the all-ages Whiskey A Go Go is another integral venue for rock, and remains a hot spot for shows today. So much so that they’ve just announced their own TV channel, streaming performances. At a capacity of 500, this is one of the cosiest venues to watch some of the biggest bands in the world. Metallica, The Beach Boys(above), Steppoenwolf and The Doors are among the names who have appeared here. Guns ‘N’ Roses and Mötley Crüe were also regulars at the Whiskey A Go Go, before becoming stadium acts.
The third in a trio of Sunset Strip venues is The Roxy Theatre. Performances by Sex Pistols (1977), The Clash (1980), and then a later generation of rockers with Incubus and then Kings Of Leon have been inside these four walls. Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys recorded his debut solo album here, while Pete Yorn also made his 2001 live album here. The venue saw Frank Zappa, Genesis, New York Dolls and most notably Bob Marley & The Wailers; whose ‘Live At The Roxy’ double-disc album (featuring an epic final run of tracks – ‘Get Up, Stand Up’, ‘No More Trouble’ and closing with ‘War’) was recorded here.
Across the Atlantic, The Marquee in London’s Soho was a serious hot spot for rock acts, established or not. Despite a change in whereabouts since its opening in 1958, the venue has seen some acts establish their reputations here. The Rolling Stones, Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd all performed here among an arsenal of internationally known artists - including Status Quo, who filmed their video for ‘Paper Plane’ here, while Guns ‘N’ Roses used the club for their UK debut.
After The UFO Club (which was shut down by police and the imprisonment of its founder John Hopkins) came a venue that bred a similarly tasteful psychedelia – Middle Earth. John Peel DJ’d at the club on Saturday nights, while Pink Floyd and The Who frequented the stage at 43 Kings Street in Covent Garden, at the time, was a grimy dystopia, making it perfect for a weirdos’ rock club.
Not far away, on the forever-busy Oxford Street, where the Marquee first opened before it moved to Soho, modestly lies another one of London’s infamous venues – The 100 Club. In the heady ‘70s during the massive wave of punk, The Damned and The Stranglers played there, before the Sex Pistols recorded their live album at the club. Still standing, the club survived a near shut-down in 2010 before a musicians including Paul McCartney took part in a campaign to keep it open.
Most known for being the cultural birthplace of The Beatles, The Cavern in Liverpool started off as a jazz and skiffle club before adhering to the spirit of rock ’n’ roll. The place became a milestone for bands hoping to follow in The Beatles’ footsteps, but that was never to be done. The venue, albeit slightly moved, is still visited by Beatles fans worldwide.
Home to The Ramones, New York’s CBGBs began as a blues club before the new wave of rock and punk washed away anything clean left in the building. Influential artists like Television, Patti Smith, Talking Heads and Blondie performed there. And from the 1980s, hardcore-punk found its breeding ground there – becoming an East Coast mirror of what was happening in California punk at the time.
Green Day were regulars at the legendary 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley in the 1980’s, before being banned for signing to major label Reprise Records for the release of 1994’s ‘Dookie’. Before they became international stadium-fillers, the trio started out there around the time of AFI, who became a face of gothic punk and also went on to gain critical success. The collective all-ages, volunteer run venue tolerated no racism, sexism or homophobia and was one of the most-travelled to venues of the Bay Area.
So next time you’re in one of these iconic rock clubs think of those in whose footsteps you’re following.
Words: Giles Bidder