90 Wardour Street in 2012
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
Big Yellow Taxi – Joni Mitchell
London is a city steeped in history, in spite of that, it appears as if the city’s modern musical history is not worth preserving, since we’ve lost many legendary rock venues and with them, all the history they were a part of.
This lack of concern for the preservation of rock history is something I find puzzling, since the UK is known for its many legendary musicians throughout the world. Considering the success of musicals such as We Will Rock You, currently playing at the Dominion Theatre, located only minutes away from Soho, one would think more would’ve been done to ensure London’s rock history was preserved for future generations.
A walk around Soho now, leaves one wishing for a time machine. 90 Wardour Street marks the location of the once legendary Marquee Club with a plaque telling visitors Keith Moon played there.
30 years of rock history reduced to this?
However, it wasn’t just The Who who played there, but many legendary rock musicians. Amongst them: The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie to name but a few.
The Marquee club opened its doors in April 1958 at 165 Oxford Street and soon became known for its jazz and rhythm & blues scene. In March 1964, the club relocated to its legendary Soho location at Wardour Street, becoming the place for emerging bands to play in. The club’s popularity continued into the 70′s and 80′s with bands like the Clash, the Cure, the Damned, Joy Division, the Police and the Sex Pistols playing there.
A bit of trivia that I found personally very interesting: Bauhaus played there once, in November 1979, something I had no idea about as it is not mentioned in any of the books I’ve read about them.
The end of the Marquee came in 1988, after the facade of the building was found to have suffered structural damage, caused by the years of vibrations from the thousands of watts the venue had experienced. Considering the vast age of many buildings around London, I cannot help but wonder if something could have been done to save the venue from demolition. Sadly, this was not to be, and the club closed its doors on the 18th of July, 1988, but all was not lost.
The club relocated yet again, this time to 105-107 Charing Cross Road, and there, it remained until 1995. Since then, the club has resurfaced in a variety of locations and guises, though none have lasted long.
Will the Marquee be reborn yet again?
There is a promising announcement on the official website announcing a new TV series entitled ‘Live From The Marquee’, meant to have gone into development this past March, but there are no further updates.
If anyone who happens to stumble upon this post, was lucky enough to visit the club at any of its locations, but particularly at its Wardour location, I’d love to hear your memories. I never had the good fortune of visiting it myself.
If you would like to know more about the Marquee’s legendary history, be sure to visit the excellent archive website ran by Koldo Barroso here which has a lot more historic information, as well as a list of gigs from 1958 to 1988. To rock history buffs, such as myself, this is priceless information. Sadly, due to time constraints, the website is no longer being updated, but don’t let that deter your from paying it a visit, it is worth a look.
Stay tuned for a future post about the London Astoria, another lost venue that is no more, where I saw The Damned perform in 1998.