The Marquee Club - How it used to be?
The Marquee club, 90 Wardour Street
The premises of the Marquee club located at 90 Wardour street occupied two building blocks of the street. Stuck into the large art deco stone arch of the original building was the framed window were the shows were usually announced every week. On the right side of the window there was a small entrance door headed a white signal of Maquee on top. This was the main audience entrance to the club. By the late 70's a black marquee was placed in the arch with the logo of the club in red letters.
Entrance corridor at the Marquee, 1975
Crossing the entrance door there was a cloakroom and a long narrow corridor would take to the bar on the left. The capacity of the main room was about 500 to 700 people, but the club got to host up to 1.000 people in it's most succesful nights. The plastic/metal chairs would be usually displayed for the audience before the concert. If there is a memory that springs in everyone's minds when they are asked about the old Marquee days, that is the collective sweat, and the sticky floor full of chewing gum and sticky coke and the suffocating heat that made Jimi Hendrix guitar go continually out of tune.
Jimi Hendrix at the Marquee club, 1967
The original design of the Marquee club's stage comes from the old days of the Marquee ballroom hall at 165 Oxford Street in the early 60's. The decoration was devised by Angus McBean in the shape of a circus masquerade in red and white stripes. This distinctive look would remain for many years even in the later club at Wardour Street. Angus McBean, who was at the time a designer for theatre sets, was later better known for his work as a portrait photographer.
McBean photographed numerous movie stars during the 30's and his famous picture of The Beatles standing up at the balcony of EMI's offices was published in the debut album of the band "Please, Please me" (1963). When the Marquee club moved to 90 Wardour street, the owner Harold Pendleton negotiated with the director of the Marquee ballroom, George Hoellering, to keep the rights to use a replica of the original circus decoration and large mirror panels were placed all around the main room to provide a feeling of space.
Marillion at the Marquee, 1983
By 1971 the decoration of the club changed and the traditional circus look was supplied by a black painting on the walls and the back of the stage featuring the classical logo of the Marquee in yellow. Also, when David Bowie hired the club for three days to shoot the TV show "The 1980 Floor Show" in October 1973, production team rebuilt completely the stage and backstage and the walls and ceilings were repainted to the horror of the club managener Jack Barrie. The black colour and Marquee logo in yellow remained since to the last days of the club in 1988.
More pictures of the Marquee club can be seen at the Gallery of this site.
The bar that was set in the mid 70's was placed close to the stage on the left and it was separated by a large window from which the concerts could be seen. Apparently, many music journalists wrote their critics right from there. In 1970, a second bar was opened in the in front of the stage and opposite the toilets, where hot dogs, hamburgers, cold snacks and drinks were served. During the first years of the club until February 1970, the club was not licensed for serving alcohol and it used to offer soft drinks and coffee.
The Small Faces leaving by the club's backdoor in Richmond Mews, 1966
The artists used to load their gear by a back door at Richmond Mews, the back street of the building which is connected by a narrow alley to St. Anne's Court, the street where The Ship pub and Trident sudios where located. The upper floor of the building was used for the offices of the club and the National Jazz Federation. Next to the club was the Marquee recording studios, opened in the late 60's and run by Spencer Brooks who still runs in Shepperton the company Marquee Audio Ltd. dedicated to professional audio systems. Some of the artists who used the studio services were Elton John, Marillion, Vangelis, The Clash, Daevid Allen, Elliot Murphy, the Penny Peeps, Ralph McTell and Graham Bonnet, to name a few.
Membership card, 1969
The schedule of the club was from 19.00 h to 11.00 h. Since the very first days the club worked as a membership club. The members would pay a monthly fee for a membership card that would give them admission for all of the nights during a six month period. The membership renewal periods were from January to June and from July to December and by 1967 the price of the card was of 6 shillings. Other ways of admission were by paying a more expensive fee at the entrance of the club. Also, in the early 70's the club started offering special reduced admission for students and in 1967 the club started celebrating Student Only Nights on the wednesday evenings.
At the door there used to be a bouncer to control the entrance and sometimes secretary John Gee himself, would be attending the reception. In the most successful nights, like the time that Jimi Hendrix performed at the club, the queue would go down Wardour street.
A classical image of the club was the one of the young students sitting on the floor by the entrance of the club, since for many years the Marquee turned into a classical meeting point in the Soho. The Marquee club used to print and send send a montly programme to it's members, including the full programming and schedules.
A collection of memorabilia pictures at the Marquee club is displayed at the Gallery of this site.
Generation X at the dressing room, 1977
The dressing room was a narrow room with two rows of coaches facing each other and no toilet or sink, so the artists would have to go to the audience toilets by the main room in case to have an urge. One of the most distinctive trademarks of the club was the graffiti welcomed walls of the dressing room, which was placed in the basement under the stage, hosting the signatures and all short of obscene writings written by a long list of artists and visitors for three generations. From the famous "Pete Towsend's nose is a Rickenbaker on legs" caption to the first Yes logo by the pen of the band's first guitarist Peter Banks.
Sadly, all this unique collection of modern memorabilia was gone forever with the demolishing of the building.
A collection of dressing room and backstage pictures at the Marquee club is displayed at the Gallery of this site.
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