Bands In Pubs
Before I got involved in comedy I accidentally had a “career” in the music industry. When I say accidentally, I never really meant it to happen. And by career… It’s what I did for a living, but there was never a plan.
It’s worth pointing out that I was very young. Also, I was, and still am, a MASSIVE music fan/nut/obsessive.
Back in the day (the 80’s, man) there was nowhere in South East London to go and see the kind of bands I wanted to see in. What bands did I want to see… Why obscure stuff that John Peel played of course. Remember that “Indie” (still a word I detest) didn’t really exist as a thing then. If I wanted to see a band on Creation, I had to drag myself up to the Falcon on Camden or some other hidden room above a pub in north London.
So I had an idea… Why not find a room above a pub in South East London, where I live, and get the bands I want to see play there. I mean, how hard can it be? Right? It’ll be fun!
The Fountain, Deptford.
The first gig I ever promoted was in the small room above a pub in Deptford called The Fountain. The fountain has long since closed. I have no memory as to why I chose The Fountain as it all happened years ago. The first band (well, there was a support band that I can’t remember the name of) of my first gig was McCarthy. A band long forgotten who I then (and still do) adored. It was a real success, I think about 50 people came, and McCarthy were ace.
The next show featured The Wolfhounds, and only about 10 people showed up. So it goes.
The Wolfhounds were the last band to play The Fountain. The landlord was quite impressed with what I was doing, but pointed out (correctly) that The Fountain’s upstairs room was too small for bands, a PA and an audience all at the same time. He suggested an alternative…
The Goldsmiths Tavern, New Cross.
…And so I moved to The Goldsmiths Tavern in nearby New Cross. This was a pub I knew well, but was totally unaware of the “theatre room” at the back of the pub.
I decided that the regular music nights (every week on Wednesdays) needed a name, and The Jimmy Greaves Musical Experience was born. We had a room, a bloke who brought in a barely adequate PA every week, and for some reason I decided we needed an MC (hello Steve, or Dr Sex as I believe you called yourself. Well, it was the 80’s), all we needed were some bands. And I did pretty well on that front. The first band to headline were Cud, another band I still love (and would promote again in bigger venues).
Over the six months that The Jimmy Greaves Musical Experience ran I booked loads of bands that have long since been forgotten (The Great Leap Forward, Blow Up, Close Lobsters, Jesse Garon & The Desperadoes… all excellent but sadly forgotten) and some bands that went on to some level of success (Cud, Loop, The Inspiral Carpets, Snuff, The Family Cat).
The very final gig I promoted at The Goldsmiths Tavern was on 1 June 1988. I can be very specific about the date as it was my 21st birthday. The show featured The Inspiral Carpets supported by long forgotten (but rather fab) Creation band Blow Up.
My friends (big hello to Allison Webster, Joseph McNulty and Claire Dowse) had baked me a very large cake and brought champagne, which we shared with the Inspiral Carpets. This ended with a massive cake fight, and the band taking to the stage covered in cake. Great gig, unforgettable 21st. It would also come back to save several years later.
The First Comedy Connection
Two strange guys in rather excellent suits turned up to one of the gigs at The Goldsmiths Tavern, though I can’t remember which. They informed me that they ran a comedy night at the same venue on Fridays, and if I let them into the music nights for free I could go to the comedy shows for free in exchange. This seemed like a good idea as I had never been to live comedy at that time. The next week I went along on the Friday for their comedy night…. Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to witness. Imagine (and this will be hard) that you walked into a small room in a pub, and having had no previous idea as to what it was, witnessed The Vic Reeves Big Night Out. Needless to say, it was FUCKING BRILLIANT. Yes, the two guys in suits were Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer.
After this I moved to Manchester for a while….
… And when I returned I discovered that I had a reputation in South London for promoting good shows.
While I was up north a new venue, called The Venue, had opened in New Cross, directly over the road from the Goldsmiths Tavern.
The New Cross Venue
The lovely people at the venue offered me a job. Yes an actual job, in which they PAID me (actually it was a good offer) to book and promote all of the bands that played at the New Cross Venue. Yes, I was amazed too.
The venue is a 1200 capacity venue (with the balcony open) in downtown New Cross. I had no idea how to fill a venue of that size, so I did what I always did and booked my favourite bands. I either got very lucky, or I have amazing taste (it’s probably both, but I prefer the later). One of the first bands I booked was Scottish indie-pop outfit (aren’t they always from Scotland?) Teenage Fanclub. When I booked them very few people knew about them. The week after I booked them they were on the cover of the NME, and the gig sold out.
Over the tree years I promoted The Venue many bands came to unfashionable New Cross. Oasis, Blur, Lush, Carter USM, Edwyn Collins, Babes In Toyland, Mudhoney, Hole, The Field Mice, Transglobal Underground, Chumbawumba, The Cardiacs, Kitchens Of Distinction, Northside, Pulp, The Levelers, Ash, Ocean Colour Scene, Levitation, Momus, Shed Seven, Slowdive, Sleeper, Chapterhouse, Napalm Death, Snuff and many many more. It was a lot of fun.