One by one, we are losing the iconic venues.
The Cavern went years ago, the Hacienda is now posh flats- ironically bearing the same name- while the Astoria is going to be some sort of shopping precinct. Our city centres are becoming sanitised and scrubbed. Those grubby corners where popular culture gets made are disappearing.
So what, you may ask. Why should we care? In this modern download age of zippy-fast communication these places have had their time, haven’t they? But they are never just buildings. They are steeped in the dust and grime of history.
The latest victim of the relentless profit drive in 21st century UK is London’s 100 Club, which is under threat of closure. One of the longest running venues in the world, it started putting live gigs on in 1942.
It was formally a jazz club and the place where, in the autumn of 1976, the key punk festival took place that saw the coming of age for the movement that would be so influential in British pop culture. Over two days The Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, The Damned and The Clash played their breakout shows and Siouxsie And The Banshees played their first gig.
Since then the 100 Club has hosted so many cool gigs. It was the London venue for the second wave of punk, a Metallica warm-up, Rolling Stones secret shows and the Horrors’ breakout gig. It was the venue of one of the key early Oasis shows. Gallows have played there many times.
I’ve played there myself and loved its sense of history and sense of occasion and the iconic logo on the wall behind the stage. So many bands, so many styles, are all part of its continuing diverse tradition. The club’s unique ambience has survived many different eras of music, in a way that the serial new venues geared solely for profit never can never match.
The 100 Club, though – described by Aerosmith’s Joe Perry as “the finest rock’n’roll club in the world” – is talking of shutting by Christmas because of a soaring rates bill and a high rent. Instead of helping small business or cultural landmarks, modern UK seems intent on crushing them in the relentless drive for profit.
Maybe this time with the surge in internet-driven people power, we can do something about this. We can’t let these faceless profiteers keep on stealing our culture.
There are, of course campaigns to keep it open. Facebook is full of them. They may work. This could also be an opportunity for the Bertie Wooster-lite mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to actually do something for the rock’n’roll he pays lip service to.
The unlikely Clash fan (another Tory music fan who doesn’t listen to the lyrics?) has a chance to do something for the culture of the city. The rest of us need to stand up and be counted. We don’t all want to live in a plastic corporate culture.