The most legendary rock and indie clubs
9 May 2021, 19:00
Small, sweaty, intimate. They’re the tiny rock venues where you’ve danced, moshed and made a fool of yourself. How many of these have you been to?
The Marquee, London
Originally opened as a jazz club in 1958, the Marquee’s first location was at 165 Oxford Street. It moved to its most famous location in 1964 at 90 Wardour Street, where it quickly became associated with the British pop boom of the decade. The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and dozens more all played on the stage, draped with striped curtains like a real marquee.
In the 70s, Queen, Status Quo and The Faces all performed there and Bowie shot his 1980 Floorshow TV special in the venue in 1974. As punk broke, The Marquee became one of the key venues to see new bands - as Paul Weller put it in The Jam’s single in 1978: “There’s an A-Bomb In Wardour Street”, The Cure played a Sunday night residency in March 1979, with Joy Division as support on one night and the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal gained a foothold at The Marquee in the early 1980s. Wham! shot the video to I’m Your Man in 1985, but the Wardour Street building closed in 1988 and is now a restaurant.
The club re-opened in a new location in Charing Cross Road at the site of a former cinema, and was a key venue in Central London, hosting a secret show by Metallica in 1990. After its closure in 1996 (it’s now a Wetherspoons), two more attempts to launch the Marquee as a club in Islington and then Leicester Square were short-lived.
CBGB, New York
Opened in December 1973, this East Village club’s name was meant to denote “Country, BlueGrass and Blues”, but quickly became associated with the glam metal of the New York Dolls and then the burgeoning US punk scene, playing host to the likes of Patti Smith, The Ramones, Talking Heads and Blondie.
The 1980s saw the club embrace the hardcore punk scene for a while, but the venue struggled financially as the 21st Century broke, and Patti Smith played the last ever show there on 15 October 2006.
The Haçienda, Manchester
The famous Mancunian club was best known for its glory days during the Acid House and early Rave era, but it was launched as a rock club. Founded by Factory Records and the band New Order in May 1982, early gigs were played by The Smiths, Echo And The Bunnymen, Simple Minds and New Order themselves who gave Blue Monday its UK live debut in January 1983.
As clubbing took over and the venue became more and more popular, gigs became more infrequent across the years, but the Haç played host to Blur, Placebo, Supergrass and The Prodigy, before the final live show by Spiritualized on 15 June 1997. After years of money problems, security issues and trouble, the club lost its licence that month and closed on the 28th of June. The building was demolished in 2002, and “The Haçienda Apartments” were built in its place.
The Cavern, Liverpool
Best known for being the venue that brought The Beatles to the attention of the wider world, this cellar in Mathew Street in Liverpool city centre was one of the many, many clubs that sprang up in the area in the late 50s and early 60s. The Fab Four played there 292 times and it was where their manager Brian Epstein first spotted them.
The club also played host to local acts Gerry And The Pacemakers, Billy J Kramer and Cilla Black, plus bands from other parts of the UK including The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Yardbirds. Queen performed at the Cavern on Halloween 1970 and Status Quo and Black Sabbath also made appearances.
It all came to an end on 27 May 1973, when the original cellar venue was closed and yje buildings above were demolished to make way for the new Merseyrail project. A new Cavern Club opened across the way at 7 Mathew Street, but in 1976 this changed to Eric’s, which became popular as a punk club.
An attempt was made to excavate the original cellar, but the location was found to be structurally unsafe, so the area was redeveloped as the Cavern Walks shopping centre, with a new Cavern Club and Abbey Road pub. Paul McCartney played a special show at the current Cavern in 2018 to launch his Egypt Station album.
Rock City, Nottingham
Opened in 1980 with a show by the punk act The Undertones, this former ice skating rink is one of the stalwarts of the indie and rock scene. R.E.M. played an early UK show there in 1984, you could have seen Guns N’Roses there in October 1987 for a fiver, or the Chili Peppers in 1990 for £5.50.
Nirvana took to the Rock City stage in December 1991 in the aftermath of the release of Nevermind and there were queues around the block when David Bowie's Earthling tour stopped off in Nottingham. If you’ve not have at least one wild night at Rock City then you’ve never lived.
King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow
This Glasgow venue is now cemented in history as the place where Alan McGee first saw Oasis play on 31 May 1993, leading the Creation label boss to sign the Manchester band. Founded in 1990, King Tut’s has played host to Blur, Radiohead, Manic Street Preachers, The Verve, Coldplay, Snow Patrol, Muse, Elbow and The Killers among many, many others. The venue also gave its name to a tent at the much-missed T In The Park festival.
Moles Club, Bath
This tiny venue opened on New Year’s Eve 1978 and has since played hot to everyone from The Smiths, Radiohead, Supergrass and Oasis to Bastille, Mumford And Sons and Ed Sheeran. In July 1983, Moles was used by The Cure as a warm-up date for a festival appearance. A fire in 2014 almost caused the closure of this iconic venue, but it was back in business by the end of the following year. Recent acts to play the venue include The Amazons, Yonaka, The Big Moon and We Are Scientists and Moles’ club nights are legendary.
The 100 Club, London
Located at Number 100, Oxford Street, this basement club opened in 1942, but has only operated under the “100 Club” name since 1964 when it was associated with the rhythm and blues boom, hosting shows by The Animals, The Kinks, The Who and the early incarnations of Fleetwood Mac.
But it was The 100 Club’s Punk Festival in September 1976 that changed the public perception of the venue - the Sex Pistols, The Clash, Buzzcocks, The Jam, The Stranglers and The Damned all performed, with Siouxsie And The Banshees making their live debut at the event, with Sid Vicious on drums.
Recent years have seen gigs by IDLES, The Specials, Turin Brakes, Babyshambles and Florence + The Machine, who played the venue for this very radio station on 17 November 2009. Amy Winehouse joined Mark Ronson onstage at The 100 Club during a show in July 2010, a year before her death.
It’s one of the few music venues left in the West End of London and has changed little since its 1960s heyday.
Whisky A GoGo
Opened on Sunset Boulevard in January 1964, this club was modelled after a Paris disco of the same name, but its speciality was hosting live bands. By the late 1960s, The Doors were the Whisky’s house band and psych rock bands like Love, The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield were regular performers.
In the early 90s, the Whisky went grunge with Soundgarden, Mudhoney and The Melvins all appearing. It was also the place where Oasis played a disastrous American showcase in September 1994, where overindulgence in crystal meth meant nobody knew which song they were supposed to be playing. Noel Gallagher threw a strop, went missing for a few days and ended up writing the classic Talk Tonight.
The Cockpit, Leeds
Situated under an railway arch by Leeds station, the Cockpit had three live rooms and was responsible for thousands of great nights out. The Killers played there, supporting the New York band Stellastarr, Kaiser Chiefs met each other there when they were called Parva and were signed after playing the Cockpit.
Bloc Party, Muse, Coldplay, Kasabian, The White Stripes and Amy Winehouse all played there too. However, the venue closed in September 2014 following some “essential maintenance work” which was never completed.
A former church in De Weteringschans in the Dutch city, this venue launched in March 1968 as the “Cosmic Relaxation Center Paradiso” and quickly became a key location for gigs. Joy Division played one of their few European dates there in January 1980 and the venue has seen shows by Pink Floyd, Sex Pistols, The Killers, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers and many more.
The Leadmill, Sheffield
The Yorkshire city’s longest running music venue, the Leadmill achieve immortality when Arctic Monkeys made it their stomping ground around the time of their debut single I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor. Parva supported The Libertines in 2002 - two years before they changed their name to Kaiser Chiefs.
Pulp played there as far back as 1980 and the venue played host to a lot of goth acts in the first half of the decade, but since then the Leadmill has entertained Suede, Manic Street Preachers, Primal Scream, Manic Street Preachers, Coldplay, Muse, Oasis, Stereophonics, Kasabian, The Killers and Royal Blood.
The Roxy, Los Angeles
Record mogul David Geffen was an early supporter of this LA club, which opened in September 1973. After hosting the original US run of The Rocky Horror Show, the Roxy became the hottest music venue on the strip, with acts like Neil Young, The Ramones and Bruce Springsteen all performing there. In the 70s, the On The Rox bar upstairs was a hangout for the boozy likes of John Lennon, Keith Moon and John Belushi.
The 80s saw the Roxy become a favourite for metal bands and other rock groups, including Guns N’Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers, No Doubt, Bon Jovi, Faith No More and an early performance by Nirvana.
A hugely popular club in South Wales, TJ’s opened in 1985 and quickly became synonymous with indie and Britpop. Oasis played an early show there in May 1994 and Catatonia filmed the video for Mulder And Scully in the venue.
Legend has it that Kurt Cobain proposed to Courtney Love after a Nirvana gig on 10 December 1991.