This Day in Music, August 23: Maximum R&B

By , Contributor

On this day in 1967, Joni Mitchell played her first ever UK show when she opened for The Piccadilly Line at The Marquee Club in London.

Joni Mitchell at the Marquee! Can you imagine? And as a support act! I wonder how many stood and listened on that historic evening in 1967?

Anyone who’s anyone has played at - or wanted to play at - The Marquee. It’s the equivalent of wanting to appear on Top Of The Pops. One could argue that this sweaty little Soho club is the most important venue in the world. More so than The Cavern and CBGB and The Troubadour. The Marquee Club has the edge; it is the most important venue in the history of European pop music.

The Marquee Club first opened on April 19, 1958 in 165 Oxford Street, London. During the following years the Marquee became the most important place for the jazz and rhythm and blues scenes in London, where legends like Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters, Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated, and harmonica player Cyril Davies played regularly.

During the '60s a new generation of British rhythm and blues bands such as the Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Animals, Manfred Mann (who hold the record for the most appearances - 102!), and John Mayall forged the coming of a new era in pop music at the Marquee.

marquee.JPG.PNGOn March 13, 1964 the venue was relocated to its most famous location in London's Soho district, at 90 Wardour Street. The Marquee became the most important venue for the emerging British scene and witnessed the birth and rise of some of the most important artists in the '60s and '70s such as David Bowie (who would play lunchtime shows), Jimi Hendrix (who appeared four times), Pink Floyd, Cream, Led Zeppelin, Free, Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull, The Who, Rod Stewart, and many others.

The club was also witness at the birth of all the different musical genres born during the last decades of the 20th century, including acid rock, progressive rock, hard rock, and folk rock.

During the late '70s and early '80s The Marquee saw the development of British punk and new wave. The Clash, The Cure, Joy Division, The Damned, Generation X, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and The Sex Pistols all appeared.

The '80s saw synth pop, heavy rock, and just plain pop/rock, with bands such as U2, Ultravox, The Pretenders, The Police, Dire Straits, Stone Roses, Iron Maiden, The Bangles, Def Leppard, AC/DC, Motley Crue - I could go on, but I won’t. Just imagine the sights those sweaty dressing room walls have witnessed!

The club also became famous for its 'secret' gigs and one-off 'fan thank yous, and warm-up shows. The Jam, Iron Maiden, Prince, Metallica all played them.

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The club is unique in that its remained ‘the place to play’ for so many years, and kept its cool, from the early blues, rock, new wave, punk, metal -The Marquee has always helped to develop new scenes.

Writing this and looking at the lists of famous acts who played at the club made me look a little harder at all those acts who also appeared but never hit the dizzy heights of show biz.

Bearded Lady, The Fabulous Poodles, Skip Bifferty, Dead Fingers Talk, The Sharrons, Octopus, Hard Meat, Clayson and the Argonauts, Radiators From Space…they all achieved something special. They all played at The Marquee.


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A former musician, Neil was in the 80's group The Cheaters who were once signed to EMI's Parlophone label, and released three albums. He was also a radio presenter and is still a regular music pundit on various BBC stations. Neil is the founder of the award winning web site This Day in Music which is…

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