Why the MARQUEE?

IAN PENMAN, one of our producers, tells his own personal story of The MARQUEE:

Of all the Rock clubs in all the world, why did we choose The MARQUEE?

Ian: "My own relationship with The MARQUEE started when I was a teenager."


"It’s not often (if ever) that I wish I was older.  But one instance was when (in 1976 at the age of 14) I begged my parents to let me go to a club in London with some older friends to watch a band that we all loved – and listened to on Tommy Vance’s “Friday Night Rock show” on the BBC.  That band was AC/DC, and that club was called The MARQUEE.  In fact, AC/DC played The MARQUEE no less than 11 times in 1976*, and I was refused permission to go to all of them!"

"Perhaps that is why, in the same way that a kid who is told he is too young to drink alcohol becomes crazy for the stuff, I became addicted to The MARQUEE?!".  

"Oh, and how many people would today give up at least one major limb to get to go back in time to just one of those AC/DC shows?!"


Ian: "But don’t feel too sorry for me, I did finally get to see AC/DC live in August 1981 at the “Monsters of Rock” festival at Castle Donnington (by which time I was 19, and didn’t need anyone’s permission to go!)."  

"Sadly, by that time, Bon Scott had died (19 February 1980), so I never got to see Bon live. Perhaps this, above all reasons, explains why I am so keen to rebuild the classic (Rock) era MARQUEE, and get some of the legendary bands back there one more time for one more show."


Ian: "In 1973, I was 11 and had just started getting into music, beginning with the single “Caroline” by Status Quo, which was jammed into my memory by a cross channel ferry disco DJ during a school trip to Blankenberge.  He played it again and again, and we kids danced like crazy each time.  So I bought that record, my first, ever. I soon followed it up with my second (single) purchase: “Rubber Bullets” by 10CC.  I am not sure why, I guess I must have seen it on Top Of the Pops – where we got our weekly music fix." 

"From there, I quickly progressed to “Rock” music – via the plethora of Rock talent available to my generation during our school years.  I later figured out that ALL of my favourite bands had played The MARQUEE, before they broke through to the “big time” - including Led Zeppelin (December ‘68), The Who (December ‘64), The Stones (March ‘71), Pink Floyd (December ‘66), Genesis (January ‘70), Queen (January ‘71), Deep Purple (September ‘69), Yes (December ‘68), Thin Lizzy (July ‘74), U2 (January ‘80), AC/DC (most of ‘76) and Dire Straits (March ‘78).  ALL of these bands broke at The MARQUEE, alongside many earlier bands that were from before my time, such as Jimi Hendrix (January ‘67), Cream (August ‘66), Fleetwood Mac (August ‘67) and Elton John (June ‘70).  Hence "The MARQUEE" quickly became a place of legend to me and many other budding rock musicians of the '70s and '80s."

"To a teenager at the time, without the benefit of laptops or mobile phones, live music was the only form of entertainment we all craved.  Those of us not into football, of course.  And to experience the bands that we loved, live, the one venue where all the best bands played that cropped up again and again was The MARQUEE”.  

By then located at 90 Wardour Street in Soho, The MARQUEE became our “Mecca”.  My formative late teenage years were thus spent lusting over keyboards at Argents in Denmark Street (I know, not guitars!), and then hanging out in Wardour Street trying to scalp tickets for that night’s show at The MARQUEE.  Anyone who went there in those days will never forget the experience, even if it includes the rubber floor sticky with last night's split beer, or the sweat dripping off the black walls, or indeed the ridiculously tiny backstage room!"

SESSIONS - and where to find work!

Ian: "In the early 1980s, after deciding that working for a family stockbroking firm in Chicago wasn’t for me, I started playing sessions on keyboard at a recording studio on Lake Shore Drive called Studio West, for a producer called Rick Domanski.  He loved the fact that he had “a Beatle” around (many Americans can’t tell the difference between a Southern and a Scouse accent!). It was here that I met my first American love, a terrific lightning bolt Rock n’ Roll “chick” called Cynthia.  We became inseparable.  And not just because her father (a major Chicago stockbroker with an apartment on the 44th floor of the John Hancock Building) smoked the best weed!"

"That led to me returning to the UK to become a session keyboard player full time.  Cynthia came with me.  And that led to me going back to The MARQUEE as often as possible to try to pick up work.  Which in turn meant hanging out at The Ship pub on Wardour Street, where the bands and their roadies used to drink between the sound check and the gig."  

"If you made friends, and kept your ear to the ground, you could find out who was hot on the circuit, and who was getting signed, and would need (and be able to afford) a keyboard player!"

"It was here that I met Steve Creese (a sensational session drummer, ex Lotus Eaters), who invited me to audition for a recently arrived in London Liverpool guitar band called Two People - just signed to Polydor Records."

TWO PEOPLE - Live at the MARQUEE - Melody Maker review. 

Ian: "I remember one time, in December 1979, watching a fairly unknown “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” band, who then sported a fairly outrageous (later to be fired) singer called Paul Di’Anno.  I was standing next to a slightly older guy with blonde hair wearing the NWOBHM standard (at the time) studded leather jacket and skin tight jeans.  He asked me what I thought of the band.  I said that I thought that they were “just OK”.  His name was Adrian Smith.  He was asked to join the band at that time, but turned them down.  He changed his mind the next year and went on to join the band on guitar – becoming one of their longest serving members (1980-1990, and then from 1999 on).  The band was called “Iron Maiden”.  You may have heard of them..."

"That was what The MARQUEE was like - the only place in the UK where you could stand shoulder to shoulder and share a pint with the next superstar."

Ian: "This eventually led me to get into some bands who actually PLAYED the Marquee (with me on keyboards).  Notably Zerra 1 (27 October 1984) and Two People (12 June 1985). Finally, I was on the same stage as my heroes.  Zerra 1 performed on many large stages (including the Roskilde Festival in Denmark, in front of a crowd of 100,000), but none of those shows were as exciting as treading the same boards as Hendrix, Zeppelin, The Stones, Genesis and The Who had so famously done before me."

CHICAGO - Ian in Chicago in 1981.

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