Welcome to the vibrant history of The Marquee Club, a legendary music venue that shaped the cultural landscape of London. This article dives into the origins, iconic performances, and lasting impact of this musical haven located in the heart of London’s West End.

Setting the Stage: Origins of The Marquee Club

A Jazz Enthusiast’s Vision

Harold Pendleton, a passionate jazz aficionado and accountant, laid the foundation for The Marquee Club. His love for jazz led him to assume the role of secretary for the National Jazz Federation, paving the way for the creation of a music haven that would soon become a cornerstone of London’s music scene.

The Marquee Ballroom: Birthplace of a Legacy

The initial location of The Marquee Club was the Marquee Ballroom in the basement of the Academy Cinema on Oxford Street. With dances dating back to the early 1950s, this venue provided the perfect backdrop for the emergence of a new musical era. Angus McBean’s distinctive decor, featuring a striped canopy mimicking a marquee, added to the unique charm of the club.

A Journey Through Time: Early Performers and Evolution

Jazz at The Marquee: The Inaugural Night

On April 19, 1958, The Marquee Club hosted its first Jazz night, marking the beginning of a musical journey that would transcend genres and captivate audiences. Resident performers like Johnny Dankworth, Chris Barber, Alexis Korner, Tubby Hayes, and Joe Harriott graced the stage, creating an atmosphere that resonated with the soulful notes of jazz.

R&B Takes Centre Stage

In 1962, The Marquee Club shifted gears with the introduction of a regular R&B night. This transformative move brought American musical influences to London’s doorstep, with occasional performances by legends such as Muddy Waters. The club’s reputation soared, and by 1963, it had become synonymous with remarkable R&B acts, including Brian Auger and Manfred Mann.

The Rolling Stones and Milestones

The Birth of a Legend: Rolling Stones’ First Live Performance

On July 12, 1962, The Marquee Club etched its name in history as the venue for the first live performance by none other than the Rolling Stones. This momentous occasion marked the beginning of the band’s iconic journey, solidifying The Marquee Club’s status as a launchpad for musical legends.

Pendleton’s Legacy and the Changing Venue

From Ballroom to New Horizons

As The Marquee Club continued to evolve, Harold Pendleton faced the challenge of finding a new venue when the lease for the original location expired in 1963. Despite this setback, the club’s influence persisted, and Pendleton’s legacy extended beyond The Marquee Club with the launch of the National Jazz Festival in 1961.

The Evolution Continues: The 1960s and the Birth of Rock

As the 1960s unfolded, The Marquee Club embraced the rising wave of rock music, marking a pivotal moment in its storied history. In March 1964, the club underwent a transformative move, relocating to what would become its most famous venue, nestled at 90 Wardour Street. This new locale, spread across two buildings, witnessed the rise of rock legends on its intimate stage.

A Dry Spell and a Solution: La Chasse Club

Notably, The Marquee in Wardour Street faced a unique challenge: it lacked an alcohol licence until 1970. However, ingenious minds, including Simon White (manager of the Marquee Studio) and music agent Kenny Bell, devised a solution. La Chasse Club, a private bar at 100 Wardour Street, emerged as the go-to watering hole for musicians, operating until 1973. Managed by Jack Barrie, it became a haven for the music community.

Unforgettable Residencies: Rock Icons and Rising Stars

During the late 1960s, The Marquee Club hosted iconic residencies that solidified its status as a rock mecca. Bands like the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin, the Who, King Crimson, and Pink Floyd graced the stage, leaving an indelible mark on music history. The eclectic lineup included lesser-known gems like Mabel Greer’s Toyshop, Yes, and Jethro Tull, adding depth to the vibrant musical landscape.

Legendary Moments: Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, and Groundbreaking Records

In November 1964, David Bowie’s Manish Boys made regular appearances, marking the beginning of Bowie’s illustrious career. Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac delivered their inaugural performance in 1967, contributing to the club’s legacy. Notably, in 1964, The Marquee became the birthplace of the Moody Blues’ classic “Go Now” single, reaching No. 1 at Christmas. This success funded the development of Marquee Studios, later used by Elton John, the Groundhogs, and the Clash.

The Managerial Influence: John Gee and Jack Barrie

John Gee, a former accountant and journalist, played a pivotal role in shaping The Marquee Club’s identity during the 1960s. Recognised by the Melody Maker as “the most important venue in the history of pop music,” Gee championed bands like Ten Years After and Jethro Tull. His departure in 1970 saw Jack Barrie take the reins as the club’s manager, ensuring its continued legacy.

Conclusion: The Marquee Club’s Enduring Impact

In conclusion, The Marquee Club’s journey through the 1960s marked a crucial chapter in the history of rock music. From its relocation to Wardour Street and overcoming challenges like the absence of an alcohol licence to hosting legendary performances and shaping careers, the club stands as a testament to the transformative power of music.