The Marquee Club - A tribute site dedicated to the history of the legendary Marquee club at London's 90 Wardour street.

The London Soho scene

To understand the history of the Marquee club and it's roll in London's music scene, it is necessary to know how the vibrant city life grew and developed. For decades Soho attracted generations of talented artists like a magnet, and from the 40's music hall times to recent times, it became the real epicenter of the whole music spectrum.

During the 17th century, the central neighborhood of Soho became the spot for European emigrants and people exiled for their religion from Italy, Russia, Poland, Germany, and especially Protestants and Huguenots from France. Most of them were Greek Christians who ran away from the Ottoman persecution who are remembered now by the presence of Greek Street. Most of the emigrant collective was formed by craftsmen such as furniture makers, tailors and silversmiths. In 1854 a serious outbreak of cholera hit the area and many residents moved out to save their life.

During the 18th century, Soho became an important spot in the city for entertainment and became the most cosmopolitan neighbourhood of London. Many prostitutes moved in to open brothels around the whole area and the prostitution business reached it's peak when Hooper's Hotel, located on Soho Square, started offering private rooms for pleasure.

Mozart

At the same time new theatres, music halls and good restaurants were opened in the neighborhood, which was followed by a considerable increase of resident artists in the area. A nine year old W.A. Mozart was a resident at 20 Frith Street in 1764 while he was touring with his father around Europe offering demonstrations of their virtuoso music skills with his sister. Landscape painter John Constable lived also on Frith Street during the early 19th century. Italian painter Canaletto lived in Soho until he returned to Venice in 1756. Casanova, the famous Italian lover, used to live on Greek Street during his stay in London. German philosopher and revolutionary Karl Marx lived with his family at 28 Dean Street. Also, the infamous romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley lived on 18 Great Marlborough Street, a plaque and a mural of the English poet commemorate his stay. William Blake, the visionary artist and poet, was born in 1957 in the now dissapeared house at 8 Marshall Street. Another eminent neighbor was the Hungarian composer Frank Listz, who lived at 18 Great Marlborough Street in1840 and 1841.

Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington at the London Palladium, 1933

In 1840, the music-hall phenomena took over London and by 1866 there were about 33 halls in the city and this musical and leisure trend would grow bigger until the first decades of the 20th century. During the 30's, venues like the Café de Paris, The Casino and the Romano's were established as the most important music hall spots in Soho's night life. These venues became the foundation for the importation of jazz music from the U.S. during the upcoming years. The first American jazz act to cross the sea right from New Orleans was the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, who performed at the Hippodrome located at Charing Cross Road.

Original Dixieland Jazz Band

The Original Dixieland Jazz Band at the Hippodrome , 1932

Louis Armstrong played at the London Palladium, located at 7-8 Argyll Street, in 1932 and a year later Duke Ellington did also. The legendary Ronnie Scott's Jazz club opened it's doors in 47 Frith Street in 1959. The same year a ban on street prostitution was enforced, provoking the move of the activities to the first floor apartments, which still can be seen today announced with neon signs. By 1981 there were no less than 164 sex establishments working in the area.

During the 50's Soho was definitively the place for artists to live. The Colony Room Coterie of artists, including Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon, spent their nights dancing and drinking heavily at the Colony Room in no 41 Dean Street. In July 1956, Wally Whyton played at the second annual Soho Fair to start the skiffle scene in London that would change the whole map of the music in the UK and by extension in the rest of Europe.

Skiffle

Steve Benbow, Brixton Bert and Jimmie MacGregor at the Skiffle Cellar 1958

The Soho Fair of 1956 meant the confirmation of the birth of pop music in the UK, with the singular British mix of folk and blues called skiffle. This pre-rock 'n' roll scene was established throughout the 50's in clubs such as the London Jazz Club, the Round House pub, the Skiffle Cellar, the 2 I's, and the Cave. At the same time, the 50's were witness to a growing club scene in Soho spinning around jazz music and new clubs were opened around the area. The Flamingo club opened it's doors in 1952 in Wardour St., originally called "Jazz at the Mapleton". In 1958, when the first Marquee club was opened at 165 Oxford street, the city was ready to live through the blossoming of a new generation of artists and new forms of music that would portray the culture of the 20th century.

During the 30's, Wardour St became the place for film companies to become established which has remained until today. Eventually Soho grew during the 60's and 70's as the place where everything happened. Recording studios such as Regent Sound in Denmark Street, where the Rolling Stones first recorded, and Trident studios at 17 St. Annes Court, where Genesis and David Bowie recorded some of their master works, where right there. Denmark St. was nicknamed the British Tin Pan Alley for being the spot where all of the musicians would buy and rent their instruments and gear.

The Ship Club

The Ship Club at Wardour Street

Cafes like La Giaconda would host an army of rock star aspirers who would spend the hours just looking through the windows waiting for a famous rocker to pass by or just imagining themselves heading the bill at the Marquee club. The Ship pub in Wardour street would serve pints of beer to all the rock artists before their shows and during the intermisions at the Marquee when the club was not licensed to serve alcohol yet. Just a few numbers from there, from 11 o'clock just after the daily Marquee shows, La Chasse club would extend the music nights for the musicians to have a drink and listen to some good music in the company of everybody else in the music business. This was a time when everyone knew each other in the music business and musicians and future rock stars would hang around with a diversity of managers, fans, students and sexy tourists from the Netherlands. This was pretty much the portrait of Soho life during the last decades of the 20th century.

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