Legendary club that was home to rock 'n' roll greats is to be relaunched

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

The Marquee club, which for years gave new bands a sweaty, smelly home in Soho, is to be recreated as part of an upmarket leisure development in Islington.

In its original location in Oxford Street, the Marquee helped to start the career of the world's most successful bands, including the Rolling Stones and the Who. Later, David Bowie and U2 found fame there. It was the place to play in London for more than three decades but closed in 1996.

The building has since been turned into luxury loft apartments, but the Marquee name is about to revived by the former Eurythmics musician Dave Stewart and the entrepreneur Mark Fuller who have bought the brand name.

Mr Stewart, who played at the club himself and took part in a Radio 2 tribute to the venue last year, was reluctant to talk about the plans before the official launch next week.

The club is likely to open in July as part of a multimillion-pound development named N1. The 150,000sqft (14,000m2) development opposite the Angel Tube station in the heart of gentrified Islington will have a mix of fashion and lifestyle shops, a multi-screen cinema and an open area for performances and exhibitions.

Rock fans will jostle for space with shoppers. Developers Centros Miller say French Connection, Gap, Wagamama and Yo! Sushi restaurant chains are committed to the project.

Mr Stewart and Mr Fuller will be attempting to recreate one of the most famous venues in British rock music, first opened by Harold Pendleton and Chris Barber, co-directors of the National Jazz Federation, in 1958. Four years later Alexis Korner performed the first R&B interval set with his band, Blues Incorporated, and in the same year the Rolling Stones played their first gig there.

In 1964 it moved to its famous home in Wardour Street and the Marquee's tiny stage hosted nearly every important band of the next three decades. David Bowie was a regular who went to the club to meet other musicians before he was in a band himself. In the Radio 2 tribute he recalled being inspired to write a musical after seeing Pink Floyd there. Once he formed his own group he took to the same stage, on occasion singing a duet of Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe" with a naked Marianne Faithfull.

Bowie was joined in the tribute by Bill Wyman, the former Sex Pistol Glen Matlock and Bob Geldof, who all said the Marquee was one of the world's greatest venues.

Geldof said he felt he was finally in a "proper band" when he and the Boomtown Rats stood on the stage on which Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones had performed.

When he and other musicians look back at the Marquee's glory days they all fondly recall its "disgusting" atmosphere.

According to Geldof, it was like an outside toilet that smelt of beer and old clothes, but it did not matter because the room contained the "pillars of musical culture".

Whether a new club surrounded by global brands in one of London's swankiest corners can create the same aura remains to be seen.