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

Interview - Keith Boyce of Heavy Metal kids

Keith Boyce

Keith Boyce is mostly known as the drummer of one of the pioneering British punk bands: Heavy Metal Kids. At The Marquee, he was protagonist of the development of rock sound from early 70's to early 80's with different bands, including Long John Baldry and Bram Tchaikovsky.

Keith remembers the Marquee days, an experience that he defines as "Massive".

-What is the first image that springs to your mind when you hear the words "Marquee Club"?

Hot, sweaty, overcrowded and noisy. Everything a great rock 'n' roll club should be!

- Do you remember the very first time you ever visited the club?

I don't remember the first time but I know I was very young, like 13 or 14, so it was late '67 or sometime in '68.

- You played at the Marquee club in February the 8th 1972 as a member of Ashman Reynolds, supporting The Long John Baldry Road Show. Can you remember if that was the first time you played at the Marquee and how was it?

Yeah, I'm pretty certain that was the first time. It was amazing to be playing there as I'd already been there many times and seen a lot of fantastic bands there so it felt very special to be on the same stage that they had been on.

- So during that period Ashman Reynolds became Long John Baldry's backing band, how many times do you remember playing with Long John Baldry at the Marquee?

I only remember playing there once with Baldry.

- Sadly, soon after you played with him, Baldry was eventually put into a mental institution due to depression and mental problems. Did you notice these problems while working with him?

Well, Baldry was a sensitive guy and quite highly strung like a lot of great performers but I can't say I noticed anything that strange about him while I was with him. But he really did hit the booze in a big way most nights and I'm pretty sure that didn't help his mental state in the long run.

- In 1972 John Baldry changed his band's lineup and three years later you became a forming member of Heavy Metal Kids. What did you do in between? Did you play at the Marquee with any other band?

Not quite correct. In mid '72 we'd just done a 4 month tour of the States with Baldry and when we got back to England John decided to take a break. So me and Bob Weston (Baldry's guitarist) got a call from our mate Mickey Waller who had a few weeks lined up in some club in the south of France in Nice and wondered if we wanted to go. So off we went with Mickey, Ronnie Thomas and a singer named Terry Scott and what was meant to be a few week jaunt turned into 5 months over there! After 3 weeks in Nice we got a gig in St. Tropez which I loved at the time even though at first we couldn't afford a hotel so we slept in bamboo huts on the beach! Bob however only stayed for a few weeks there as he got fed up with the sparse conditions and made his way back to London and lucky for him too as when he got back there was a message from Mick Fleetwood inviting him to join Fleetwood Mac which of course he did! Anyway things improved for us in France and we ended up making an album with a singer called Nino Ferrer who was one of the biggest stars in France at the time. When we finally decided to go back to London in late 72 our Singer Terry decided he liked it in Paris so much he'd stay there so when we got to London we found Gary Holton and that was the start of the Heavy Metal Kids.

Heavy Metal Kids

- In February 1975, Heavy Metal Kids played for the first time at the Marquee, presenting your second album "Anvil Chorus". How was your comeback to the club and how different was the atmosphere at the club from the early Baldry shows?

No, in fact we played there with the Kids quite a few times before that. The first time I remember with the Kids there was as support to the Average White Band. I think this was in May '73. After that gig we started headline spots and we played there a lot right up till we split in '78. It was always a great atmosphere there and we all loved playing there.

- Is it true that you broke Jimi Hendrix?s attendance record at the club?

Yeah, it is! We always pulled a good crowd there but one New Years Eve was insane. I think we had 1026 people in the club and we were told we'd beat Jimi's record by 13 people. Or he had 1026 and we had 13 more than that! Anyway I remember it was unbearably hot in there with sweat dripping off the ceiling and walls and it was hard to breathe even though it was freezing outside. Don't know what the fire safety people would have made of it as it was well dangerous as you couldn't move and the I think the club was only allowed to have about 320 people in it!

- Heavy Metal Kids are considered as one of the most influential bands to the later British punk explosion. Do you remember having a lot to do with the punk scene before the Sex Pistols appeared the front pages of the music newspapers?

Well, I remember when punk started we weren't too sure what all the fuss was about that these bands were new and outrageous. It was like we'd already done all that as we'd already been banned from half the venues and hotels in the U.K. and elsewhere as far back as '74. Gary and Mickey were always being arrested for something or other. It got to be a joke at one point. Like if we couldn't find one of them when we were leaving for a gig we'd send someone down to Chelsea Nick and that's normally where they were! Anyway, when we started to met some of these guys from the Sex Pistols and the Damned and the Clash and other punk bands it turned out they'd all been coming to see us for the last few years. Some of them have said we were one of the only bands they could relate to at the time just before punk as it was all flares and beards and bands like ELP and Genesis taking themselves far too seriously and playing 20 minutes solos and boring everyone to death.

- Did you check out any of the later punk bands at the Marquee?

Yeah, I saw a few like 999, Chelsea, The Lurkers , The Jam and some others.

Reading Rock

- In 1974 and 1975, Heavy Metal Kids played at Reading Rock festival, which was organized by the National Jazz Federation and the Marquee club. How different was the atmosphere from the Marquee's audience and the festival?

Not a lot for us really apart from the fact there was about 30,000 people instead of 800 or so! As normal with us it was still like a party and we managed to get everyone on their feet which few of the other bands managed to do. It was a great festival and we loved playing it.

- Which are your personal memories about the London punk scene during the mid 70's?

Once I got into the punk thing I liked it a lot. I became good mates with Rat Scabies and we'd go out seeing other bands and having a jolly up when we weren't gigging. The Marquee was always fun and another place we favored was the Nashville Rooms. Great days and always a good laugh even if it was at the expense of some of the dodgy punk bands doing the rounds at the time.

- What can you remember about your relationship with the managers of the Marquee club?

I remember Jack Barrie being a likable guy even though we all thought he was real straight with his suit and tie and short hair. I also remember him having a fit when our manager Rikki Farr had a set to with some guys who were taking a right liberty and blood was shed all over the brand new carpet in the bar! These 3 guys were well cocky and didn't realise that Rikki's father was the Boxer Tommy Farr and Rikki was a chip off of the old block so to speak. Their Mistake! Anyway these 3 guys were bleeding and out cold on the floor and Rikki was running around like a maniac and Jack was more worried about the claret on his new carpet than anything else!

- Do you remember drinking with other bands at the Ship pub?

Oh yeah! We were always in there before the show as were many of our fans and other bands. That pub really was great. I mean you had all these pissed up rockers and later punks misbehaving badly and meanwhile you had old Sid the landlord behind the bar with his portrait of the Queen hanging up with his radio on the old Radio 3 Channel going full blast! So weird! In fact he had the dials sellotaped down on his old radio so no-one could change the channel! Funny! Sid had been there forever and he was about 80 and a bit of a misery guts but a good bloke really as he put up with all our nonsense. He had a lovely German wife as well who's name escapes me. I started sneaking in there for a half of cider when I was 13 and I still can't go to town without popping in there as it's still got a certain air to it.

- Some British punk artists such as Siouxsie Sioux and the Sex Pistols used to claim on those days that the Marquee was a stinky place because it was just a business place stuck in the past. What do you think about it?

Humm... a lot of those bands moaned about everything then though didn't they? I think they thought they were being Cool! Like everything was meant to be boring wasn't it? No Fun and all that! Meanwhile I was having the time of my life! Didn't the Pistols get themselves banned from there the first time they played there? I guess they thought it was the thing to do. Of course it was somewhat of a business place. It was bound to be being as it was central and everyone played there but what's wrong with that?

- Gary Holton built a reputation upon his wild personality and showmanship. Do you remember any particular anecdote about him at the Marquee?

Too many to mention really! Like him streaking naked across the stage? One incident I still think of even now though that makes me chuckle. You know those green fluorescent plastic sticks you can get? You know the things you snap and they Glow? Well somehow we found if you cut the top off one and splashed the liquid over the place it looked pretty wild. So one night in the middle of a guitar solo Gary got 3 or 4 of them and chopped the tops off and started splashing it all over the audience and us. Well it looked pretty spectacular in the dark and something like the aftermath of a nuclear explosion as everyone was covered in this bright green radioactive looking stuff. Well the funny thing is a few days later we were playing somewhere and we took all the stage clothes out of this trunk and there was holes everywhere in them! Then we noticed that it had taken chunks of varnish off the guitars and drums and even burnt into the wood! Like this stuff was really acid. I was pissing myself as I had visions of the audience all walking around in rags after that night!

- In 1976, you joined Phil May & The Fallen Angels to replace Twink Adler after he had a car crash. Did you ever play at the Marquee with the band?

No, I didn't play the Marquee with them. I only did some showcase gigs with them as I was helping out my old pal Mickey Waller (the Kids original guitarist) and I went back to the Kids as soon as they found another drummer.

- So at this stage the Heavy Metal Kids split. The last time you played with the band at the Marquee was for two consecutive concerts in September 1977. Do you remember those gigs?

Yeah, I do. But that wasn't the last time we played there. I know that as I just looked at the Club Calender! I see we played in March '78 and that was probably the last time. Anyway those 2 shows were both great nights. We had our line-up of Barry Paul and Jay Williams on guitars for those and we got our old mate Brian Johnston from Whitesnake in on keyboards as well so it was a really big sound. My only regret is we didn't record those shows. It would have made a great album I think.

- Soon later you formed The Battleaxe trio along with Bram Tchaikovsky and Mickey Broadbent and played again at the Marquee in October 1978. Can you remember if the audience and atmosphere at the club was the same as with Heavy Metal Kids?

No, it was a fair bit different. With Bram we were more like a power poptrio and not nearly as powerful as the Kids. Also we had Gary in the Kids who was one of the best front-men ever so it was a lot cooler for Bram there.

- As a member of the audience at the Marquee, which bands or gigs do you remember especially?

How much time have you got? I could go on for hours about all the great bands I've seen there but I'll try to be brief. I used to see so many bands there but here are some that spring to mind... Traffic for one. I must have seen them 3 or 4 times or more there and they were always fantastic. Then I saw the Nice there maybe a dozen times or so as they seemed to play there ever week. They were brilliant and I loved the drummer Blinky Davidson. He was amazing and should have gone on to greater things as should Davey O'list the guitar player. I saw Soft Machine there a lot as well and I loved them as well. Robert Wyatt was a brilliant drummer as well as being a great singer. How about John Mayall's Bluesbreakers with a young Mick Taylor and a 15 year old Andy Fraser on bass? That was pretty amazing as well. Other greats I saw were Spooky Tooth, Jethro Tull, Taste, Family, Anysley Dunbar Retaliation, Ten Years After, Jeff Beck Group etc... Oh and try this one for size I went to see what I thought was The Yardbirds (billed as the New Yardbirds) in October '68 and it turned out to be Led Zeppelin doing their first gig at the club! Needless to say they were Fantastic! So I went back and saw them there again in December. Another fantastic night there was when Vanilla Fudge played there in September '69. They were incredible and Carmine Appice the drummer blew my head off. He was astounding. It's funny as Ronnie Thomas the Bass Player from the Kids was there as well only I wouldn't meet him for another 3 years but years later we spoke about how great the Fudge were that night.

- How much is true and how much is legend about the groupies and liggers thing at the Marquee?

Plenty of liggers but only a few groupies from what I remember.

- The dressing room of the Marquee was legendary for it's graffiti welcomed walls. Did you ever leave your signature on it?

Of course. I think I sprayed our name larger than any other there right across the far back wall. Where is that wall now? You think they would have kept it like the Berlin Wall or something er?

(Note: Sadly, the original walls of the dressing room were demolished and only the graffiti on the door remains)

- In the 80's you moved to live in France. Did you ever visit the Marquee club or keep in touch with people from the club after your last concert there?

I actually moved over to France in the mid 90's by which time the Marquee was on it last legs at the new premises in Charing Cross Road. Anyway I used to go all the time to the new Marquee until I moved to France and even when I went back every few months I'd pop in as I still had some mates that worked there and I wanted to see a few bands. Then one day I was walking past and I couldn't see it and I thought I'd missed it so I turned round and doubled back and still couldn't work out where it was! It was then I saw they'd turned it into some horrible yuppies pub! I was horrified that they could do that!

- So you were not pleased about the demolishing of the original building at 90 Wardour street?

I was really upset and annoyed. I mean, how can you knock a place like that down that has so much musical history and is so right for rock 'n' roll? To add insult to injury they put a pouncey restaurant there as well! I mean at the very least least it could have been a Hard Rock Cafe type place! It's as bad as them knocking down the Cavern! Almost worst when you think everyone of any note played The Marquee except The Beatles.

- Have you ever told your children about the Marquee club days?

I don't have any children but if I did I'm sure they be bored stiff with me goin' on about the good old days at the Marquee!

- If you had to define the effect that the Marquee club had in your life or in your musical career, how would you put it into words?

One word: Massive!

Interview by K. Barroso, November 2006.
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