Harold Pendleton who died at the age of 93 in 2017 is perhaps a name not known to the general public but as this book shows he was a key figure in the development of music in the UK. A huge jazz fan he got the bug for promoting and staging bands in various venues leading to his establishment of the Marquee in 1958 which he ran for 30 years. The venue itself may have been pretty scuzzy but it became the place that every band wanted to play. In the prologue to the book his son explains why.
'A gig at the Marquee announced that a band has left the orbit of the suburban pub circuit and was on its way up. It was the place where agents managers and journalists went to check out new talent: contracts could be signed before the stage was cleared and a memorable performance could land a band their first notices in the music weeklies. It was the gateway to the big time.'
This classy book written by Robert Sellers is highly detailed and manages to give the reader a fantastic picture of this remarkable club that played host to literally thousands of bands of all types and styles. A Timeline at the end of the book highlights the standout nights and the most frequent performers. There is also a list of live recordings. The main text is peppered throughout with quotes from fresh interviews with leading figures in all the streams of music.
To give some idea of the intensity of the task of compiling this history take the year 1977. Sellers writes: 'It saw first gigs for the Jam, Ultravox!, the Only Ones, the Motors, Generation X, the Vibrators, X-Ray Spex, The Police, Squeeze, the Boomtown Rats, John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett, the Damned, the Buzzcocks, Wire, Tom Robinson, Japan, Sham 69, Adam and the Ants, and XTC.
The catholic booking policy meant that the in the same year there were appearances from 'the influential folkster Bert Jansch, the reformed Pink Fairies, Medieval progsters Gryphon, the old school rock of Edgar Broughton and Wishbone Ash and a nostalgic two-nighter in the company of Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames. Not to mention what was supposed to be a farewell concert by Motorhead.'
Lemmy is quoted at the front of the book: 'The reason I liked the Marquee was because it was scruffy and a hellhole, and your feet stuck to the floor, and that's exactly what a rock and roll club should be like'
The book as a whole is beautifully put together with some great photos starting with a fab shot of Guns and Roses on their first gig in the UK. A valuable addition to the history of British music.