interview by K. Barroso, January 2007
originally appeared on the Marquee Club website
Guitarist Peter Banks is one of the musicians who has performed the most on The Marquee Club’s stage at Wardour St. with different bands. This includes The Syn, Flash, Neat Change, Blodwyn Pig, and of course Yes. Despite of being one of the most talented and innovative musicians who ever played at The Marquee, he protagonised probably one of the harder tests than a guitarist could ever go through when he supported Jimi Hendrix on his infamous evening at the club.
After leaving Yes, Peter Banks has recorded several solo albums, including ‘Two Sides of Peter Banks’ (1973), ‘Instinct’ (1993), ‘Self-Contained’ (1995), ‘Reduction’ (1999) and ‘Can I Play You Something?’ (1999). Apart from his involvement in Blodwyn Pig and Flash, in 1974 he formed Empire, releasing three albums until 1979. In 2005, he formed the project oriented to instrumental improvisation Harmony In Diversity, featuring Nick Cottam (bass) and Andrew Booker (drums, vocals). Along with Billy James, Peter also wrote a fantastic auto-biographical book entitled ‘Beyond And Before’ which was of great help for the preparation of this interview and I highly recommend.
Peter Banks talked to The Marquee Club in what I believe to be one of the most interesting interviews that I have posted to date.
-What is the first image that springs to your mind when you hear the words ‘Marquee Club’?
-You played at the Marquee Club for the first time with The Syn, in August ’66, supporting Gary Farr and The T Bones. Is this first time you visited the club?
I spent a lot of time at The Marquee Club. I first went there, probably in ’64 or ’65 and I used to stand there in line on Tuesday nights to see The Who. I had seen other bands before that, but I was a regular Who fan and I just used to love those nights. I never really thought I would ever play there and of course that’s exactly what happened. I never considered that, I thought if I’d ever play The Marquee I would die a happy man!
-Some other musicians told exactly the same thing.
Really? I think that the first band I ever saw was a band called Mark Leeman Five. I remember them, I still remember seeing Long John Baldry with a certain band called Steampacket, and Rod Stewart was one of the singers. and I think Julie Driscol, and probably was Brian Auger on organ. I also remember going to The Marquee and seeing Graham Bond and that was a pretty good band, that was a top band. I remember seeing them with Ginger Baker on drums, Jack Bruce on drums and John McLaughlin on guitar, and they were playing a lot of 12 bar blues stuff and also some jazz stuff and it was very loud and very aggressive. It sounded very vulgar to myself and I really didn’t have much idea about the blues at all. I mean, it was later that I started listening to all the blues records. Also Alexis Korner, I remember him with his band. And I have an EP vinyl and it was The Cyril Davis All Stars, which I think Alexis Korner plays guitar, I think Charlie Watts on drums, and I think there’ maybe 3 or maybe 4 tracks on this EP. I think this is called “Live At The Marquee”.
I think one of the reasons they made me go to The Marquee Club was The Yardbirds album “Five Live Yardbirds”. I was in a band called Devil’s Disciples, just a local band that came from North London, and we used to play some of these Yardbirds songs without really knowing what the source material was at all. You know, I kind of found out that Chuck Berry did the song and then there was a Bob Diddley thing and a Sonny Boy Williamson thing, and then I would try to find those records, which they were still quite hard to find. But then around 1965 that stuff became quite popular in England and they released the albums on the Chess label and also on Sue Records, so that became relatively easy to find on vinyl on 45’s. And that was the first time I ever got into listening to blues records.
-You first met Chris Squire at a music store in Denmark Street, which used to be a hot spot in Soho’s music scene. What are your personal memories about London’s scene during those days?
I first meet him actually in the street, introduced by Syn’s drummer Martyn Adelman. He used to be friend of Chris. I don’t think it was in a shop, I think it was in the street, in Denmark St. I think Chris was working in a music store in Denmark St., round the back of Denmark street, and what happened there is that I ended up joining Syn. They had a guitar player and I would replace him.
Denmark street was full of mostly music publishers and managers and little kind of very dark primitive recording studios: Regent Sound, probably the most famous where The Rolling Stones made their first record, and there was quite a lot of these places and it was kind of… most of the managers and publishers were kind of middle age and we were young guys in our teens. But suddenly, the first manager that I’ve ever had, Paul Korda, he had an office in Denmark St. and that whole world opened for me through joining Syn. He was a very enthusiastic guy, he was always running around like if he was in a big hurry and I’d saw him running around the studios and the publisher’s offices and he had this kind of hair like very early Bob Dylan, like stood upright, and he was full of kind of manic energy. Very nice guy.
-Was it him who got you the residency?
That could be entirely possible. But I think there was not a formal agreement. When I came into the band I think the other guys in the band were certainly making fun of him, I recall them laughing behind his back, because he was a real character, he was a funny guy but then I think they got rid of him. I mean, that sounds very cold but I think they decided to go separate ways and I think that’s when this guy Peter Huggett started. But the real manger that Syn had, a really professional guy was called Kenny Bell, you know, we actually signed contracts with him and he had an agency to get all those gigs.
I was given that! When I joined Syn I inherited the Rickenbacker, which belonged to the previous guitar player, John Painter. I remember feeling bad about that and it was a bit strange. I actually went to see some Syn gigs with John Painter playing that Rickenbacker guitar and then they got rid of him and I came in. Other bands would do the same thing, particularly Yes, they’ve kind of used people and then when they’d found somebody better they would just say: ‘OK, we’re getting rid of you’. Very cold and calculated. Chris Squire was working for a music store that imported Rickenbacker and Chris had the Rickenbacker bass. I think the only other person who had one was certainly John Entwistle and Chris was a Who fan as I was. So when I joined the band I was actually given the Rickenbacker, which I still have today, the original one. Pete Townshend used to use the twelve string and the six string and I liked the look of the guitar, you know, with the double horn, quite unique.
When I got my Rickenbacker, which still belongs to Syn, I painted it with different colors. First of all I put some flowers. It was stuff you’d stick on kitchen shelves with different flowers on it, so when I got the Rickenbacker I stuck all these plastic things with flowers. And it probably changed the sound, but I was not much worried about that. So that original guitar went through different color calibrations and I actually painted it with beautiful psychedelic color shapes, not particularly well done, but certainly very colorful and I actually don’t have any photos of that guitar, I wish I did.
-Apart from The Who, as a member of the audience at The Marquee, are there any other bands you remember especially?
Well lots, yeah. The Action. I think Syn copied The Action and The Move. But really once I got to play at The Marquee and we had a residency band I would have gone and paid to see. I was lucky enough to be there anyway and you should go to support them. Once I started playing The Marquee I could come and go whenever I wanted to, you know, without standing in line and just walk in for nothing, so that was great actually. And of course, then I got to know a lot of the other musicians that played there, and it wasn’t all particularly friendly because, you know, all the bands were kind of rivals.
The smallest attendance was when Yes played on the day after Christmas, Boxing Day, and I think we played for 16 people and it was snowing in London.
I know for certain that the largest Marquee attendance that was with Jimi Hendrix with Syn. And also the smallest attendance was when Yes played on the day after Christmas, Boxing Day, and I think we played for 16 people and it was snowing in London. In London it’s very unusual for the snow to settle, you know, in England if we get two inches of snow, I mean, everything stops!. And it’s very unusual to see snow in Soho. And I think most of the band didn’t want to play and said: ‘Let’s go’, and Jon (Anderson) would said ‘No, no, we’ve got to play, we’ve got to play’.
-The Syn has been credited for being the first band to play a rock opera onstage. In 1967, you presented ‘Flowerman’ at The Marquee, which included a performance with flower costumes and stage props. What happened to Chris Squire during one of the mock fights?
Oh that!, I’ve told this story many times… We actually did an opera before that, the gangsters one, which ended up in a pretended fight onstage. I can’t remember what the gangster gang was called, I remember some of the songs, it was all pretty embarrassing. It was written by Andrew Jackman, the keyboard player, and I think Steve Nardelli did some of the lyrics. ‘The Flowerman’ was basically the same idea, except we had different color suits to match the flowers, and then my suit was a yellow, horrible double breasted suit, and still like a kind of gangster suit, you know, from the 1920 Chicago and… I was a buttercup! (laugh). And I don’t know what Chris Squire was, I can’t remember.
That would be green. And we used to bring these gardening tools onstage, you know, and there was a rake and a hoe and a shovel, you know, that kind of thing and it was like: ‘OK, you know, get your guitar and don’t forget your buckets’, you know this kind of thing. And one gig we did, I thing it was somewhere in Southwest of England. I was never quite into it, it was quite a bit childish, strange. But, the fight at the end I used to get into that close always throwing my Rickenbacker on and put it through the ceiling, if there was a low ceiling onstage. And on this particular gig someone, I think it was me, step on a garden rake or a hoe and if you stand on the end of it it hits you in the eye. And I think Andrew Jackman got it with this thing in the eye and he had to go to the hospital and had five or four stitches cause his eye was just like… blood was pumping out of his eye! (laugh). I mean, didn’t he actually got hit in the eye but so close, I mean, he could have lost an eye. I don’t remember the instant too well, we just got a little over-enthusiastic.
I didn’t enjoy the night at all because Syn had to play two sets and we had, you know, a lot of pretty famous people in the audience and we had to come on and do one set, go off, and then come back and do another set, which was a terrible thing to do because everybody certainly didn’t come to see us! Well, a few people did but not many, everybody came to see Jimi Hendrix. So I didn’t find it very enjoyable at all. I think Syn played O.K. and Hendrix was very good. I had already see him play a few times and Jimi was very nervous about the whole thing, he was asking me, you know: ‘Who’s out here?’ (laugh). Because the audience was right after the stage, The Marquee was never a big club, so you could see the first ten rows of people. And you could probably see everybody, you know, The Beatles were there and a lot of guitarists were there…
-Supposedly Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Pete Townshend, Robert Fripp…
For me, it was strange because I was the only other guitar player playing, apart from Hendrix, but actually it didn’t really bother me that much. I think we had played The Marquee Club a few times and really was a bit of a tiresome gig to have to do. It was always very difficult to get in and out of the club because there was no… The Marquee dressing room was always behind to the left of the stage, and it was just a tiny, tiny room, more like a little narrow corridor. And everybody that played would share this room, and if we’d got out from the room we had to go through a big part of the audience if you wanted to the pub next door or even to the toilet. You would have to walk through some of the audience and it was very difficult to walk in and out because it was so full of people. So I remember it being very hard, very sweaty. The Marquee had no air-conditioning at all, it’s amazing that nobody ever died!
-And no bar at first.
No, no bar, not then. And the condensation used to drip off the walls, little water falling off the walls just from the heat of the audience. They had a couple of fans, the couple of ceiling fans but there was no air-conditioning whatsoever so it was always hot and sweaty. You know, that kind of made it… it added to the atmosphere.
-Now that you mention the dressing room, the original Yes logo that you designed, which was used in the band’s first album, it was on it’s walls for many years, before the punk generation scrubbed it. It was you who put it there?
Probably. The Marquee dressing room was tiny, you know, it could hold maybe five people and if you got two bands in there then you had ten or eleven people and it was just crowded.
-In 1967, The Syn went to record the track ‘Grounded’ at The Marquee studios for the B-side of a single. How different was The Marquee Studios from other studios you worked at, such as Advision, Decca and Trident?
Marquee studio was quite basic. I recorded there a few times with other bands as well, it was behind The Marquee Club and it was not much disconnected to The Marquee, I mean there was no window or anything but it was owned by The Marquee and I think it was just four tracks studio.
You know, when once Yes recorded at Advision later, that was more stage-of the arts” recording. But certainly the studio that Decca used was nothing fantastic, I don’t remember it being particularly great. But then, I didn’t know much about studios, I mean, then it was very rare to be in a studio and if you were in a studio the whole idea of any kind of rock band, they wanted to get you in there and out of there very quickly, so you didn’t have time to hang around, they wouldn’t let you stay for the mixing. So often, they wouldn’t let you come into the control room to hear what you’ve had done. Somebody would just say over a loud speaker: ‘That’s fine’. ‘Can I hear it?’, ‘No, no, no. Let’s go into the next song’. And it was always very authoritarian and of course all that changed. In my early days, still being pretty young, it was kind of intimidating cause there would be the engineer and his assistant behind the glass window and they wouldn’t speak to you, they would just tell you ‘Can you do it again?’ or ‘Can you now leave?’. Seems a bit… they were like the old guys!
-I believe it was a similar situation when you first recorded with Yes.
Eddie (Offord), we used to call him “Fast Eddie” ’cause he was always rushing around. Ah, no, no, no, no. That was making the first Yes album, in other Advision studio, the original Advision studio was in Bond St., in West End London. There was an engineer, I think called Gerald or Gerard, and we used to call him “the weasel”, ’cause he was a little guy and he knew nothing whatsoever about how to record a rock band. And he kept saying: ‘Can you turn it down? It’s too loud, it’s too loud!’. And he was totally unenthusiastic and uninterested in what Yes were trying to do. He took no interest whatsoever. And all he kept doing was turning everything down, you know, because we were always asking him to put the headphones mix out loud. I know it was a really kind of amateurish situation. I think halfway through making the album, I think Bill (Bruford) sometime realized that he could have a separated mix in his headphones! He didn’t know that! And we had problems trying to get a Hammond organ to sound O.K. and we spent two or three days with this hired Hammond organ. The sound was horrible and it sounded like a fairground, you know it sounded like something of the merry-go-round, you know. And we were told to make an album and we were trying our best. This guy Gerrard wasn’t helpful at all and the guy producing the album, I forgot his name…
Paul Clay, yeah, I mean… he had never produced a rock band before. He did some TV series, I think he worked on ‘The Saint’ or something like that and he was used to record orchestras, I don’t know how the hell we ended up with that. And there was another guy who was going to produce us, a guy called John Anthony, who was a DJ at The Speakeasy club and we were worried about that because John Anthony… I think he produced the second Genesis album. And I don’t think he produced any other band, so we would be worried about that. We desperately wanted to get Paul McCartney, that’s what we tried for and we did an audition for Apple Records, which we recorded the stuff and nobody ever found that, and Peter Asher was the producer and he used to be all of the time reading the newspaper and he kind of walked out, to hell with that! So, the Apple thing never happened. I mean, it would have been great. It might have been great! With Paul McCartney would have been great, yes. But the first album was just lots and lots of problems. And I don’t think any of us were happy with the finished result. Of course now, I think half of the songs are O.K.
-I have a question for you about a certain show at The Marquee Club which some people claim never happened. It was in February ’67, and supposedly the Syn supported Cat Stevens that night. Can you confirm this?
I remember Cat Stevens very well and he was lovely. Cat Stevens, before he had a couple of hits, you know, singles going to the Top 10 in England, before that he was very much on the scene and he used to live near Soho, because his father had a restaurant and he was kind of a glamorous character, because he seemed to know everybody. You know, he’d talk to the guy who run The Marquee and he would probably get us a few more gigs at The Marquee. So we knew him quite well and we would hang out in cafe bars and pubs. He was one of those very likable guys who used to hang out in Soho and seemed to know everybody. I can remember him playing between bands and just play acoustic guitar and sing two or three songs and he would do that anytime. He was very professional and never nervous. Everybody used to think: ‘This guy is really good!’ but we never realized he would get quite famous and he would write some pretty good pop music.
-In December ’67, you returned to The Marquee with a new band called Mabel Greer’s Toyshop. Do you remember if the atmosphere was any different at the club from The Syn shows?
Well, it was probably different for me! It’s a different band! Mabel Greer’s Toyshop was two guitars, bass and drums, and a very different sound. We were looser, a lot looser. We didn’t have the keyboards and we didn’t quite have the same kind of discipline, so the guitar solos would run long. I was never particularly happy playing with another guitar player and the other guitar player, Clive Bailey, was also the singer and wrote quite lot of the material, so we still had the three piece vocals with me and Chris (Squire) singing harmony vocals. The Marquee seemed different then because I would sound different and I was listening to a different kind of music, and getting a little more with music and living by day, more in the center of London, hanging out with different people, just that kind of thing. It was different probably because of my perception, and I was becoming more professional, a little more relaxed about playing.
-For a couple of nights, you supported The Nice at The Marquee. I believe they were an important musical reference for you, at the time. How was your relationship with them?
Well, I knew them all obviously and then with Yes we did a few gigs together. And I was an admirer of Keith (Emerson)’s playing who was playing with a band called Gary Farr, and I used to watch Keith’s playing. He was a very good Hammond organ player, he was very visual and I would pick up some of the things that Keith used to play, some of the musical little tricks like quoting over other songs in a solo, like quoting from another pieces of music, and I picked up that on guitar very quickly and I was doing similar things. So after watching him I started playing little keyboard flicks, which is quite unusual cause usually guitar players are doing what other guitar players are doing, and all the guitar players were becoming more and more bluesy and everybody had a thing about (Eric) Clapton and about Hendrix. I was listening to more jazzy things.
Actually The Nice were great, we would know each other pretty well, and I particularly admired The Nice when David O’List was with The Nice. I was very jealous of David O’List, I was: ‘I should be the guitar player on that band’. But David at the time was quite a big influence on my style because there was a certain wildness about the way he played and unpredictability. So I used to think at the time that David actually had planned it and he played kind of the wrong notes. And I used to think that was a deliberate thing, I thought it was pretty avant-garde. Listening back, I realized actually were wrong notes! He was very erratic.
-He was very much influenced by Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck, wasn’t he?
Yeah, but David was more erratic. And I remember one night he played two beats and then walked off, he became a lot more erratic as a player and as a person. I got to know David quite quite well, particularly after The Nice got rid of them, and then I realized David was, trying to put this discretely, quite eccentric and a little crazy and that kind of came out on his playing. I gradually became to realize that that wasn’t so great for me. At his best, David, when he was playing with The Nice, was terrific and he did sound like no other guitar player in the world and would do very peculiar things, which now I realize would be mostly mistakes, it wasn’t all properly. But I used to think: ‘Wow! this is pretty strange’. David and Syd Barrett were kind of similar kind of people. The worst was the amount of drugs involved, you know, people in Yes we were doing that kind and during The Syn days.
-Did you ever have acid on stage?
No, I don’t think I ever did, only once in Munich, in Germany. I had a headache and somebody gave me a Coca-cola with a couple of pills and I thought it was aspirin and I had the worst trip I’ve ever had and it came when I was on stage with the band and after the gig I was curled up in the corner of the dressing room on the floor and I was thinking I was going to die. It was very, very, very bad. That’s the only time that ever ever happened. No, I would never take that onstage. Certainly I did drugs, yes, but never acid on a gig, not myself, but I’d often played when was a bit drunk in the Yes days, and so did the other guys.
-The last appearance of Mabel Greer’s Toyshop at The Marquee was on the 2nd of May 1967, supporting The Nice. Do you remember if this was the same night when Jon Anderson joined onstage for the cover of Wilson Pickett’s ‘In The Midnight Hour’?
I don’t remember this. I think I had left the band by then and I was in Neat Change, but this is my perception. And somebody has said that Bill (Bruford) was playing drums, I don’t even remember that gig. I do remember playing somewhere, certainly not The Marquee, where some guy came up onstage and I think it was Jon, but I hadn’t been introduced to him and I think it was some university in London, and that’s all I remember.
-During the Mabel Greer’s Toyshop days, you also joined another band called Neat Change, playing at The Marquee for several weeks. How different was your experience playing at The Marquee for a skinhead audience in opposition to play for mod and hippy kind of audience?
Certainly different. Neat Change already had a reputation and a following. They had this shaved head thing, kind of the original skinhead thing, this is not the one that later came on, it was the original thing, and the skinheads are not pleasant people. The other band used to have this skinhead image. You know, the band called Ambrose Slade, they had big boots, they were all tough guys from Birmingham with the shaved heads, a very aggressive kind of image. We changed to a little different because we didn’t actually play that kind of music. Particularly when I joined we started doing… we did classic covers of West Coast American band and we used to listen a lot to The Lemon Pipers and The Love and that kind of stuff. And Moby Grape. It was a really skinhead kind of thing and I refused to get my hair cut cause I didn’t like the look, I had pretty long hair by then. I didn’t perform with the image of the band. I think I was still wearing kind of mod suits, you know, high button jackets, very narrow trousers and I was probably still wearing velvets (laugh). And eventually they got rid of me on my 21st birthday.
-Just a few days after you were fired from Neat Change, on the 5th of August 1968, you were playing the debut of Yes at The Marquee, which was the band’s second gig. What can you remember from that particular evening?
I don’t remember. I think there was a feeling when we did that gig that there was a general feeling of ‘Well, we got through that, O.K.’. As typical with that band, probably we would immediately come back the next day and started rehearsing and we would have probably argued about what it was bad about it. The kind of intensity of those early rehearsals, which continued through most of my time with the band, was… nobody really had anything nice to say to each other, we would always concentrate on what was wrong, you know: ‘Why did you play that?’, ‘That was too loud!’, ‘Why did you do this?’, you know, this kind of thing. Mostly negative criticism. Which actually worked with us. I mean, Bill (Bruford) was always the biggest complainer. He though it was going to be a pop band and Bill was thrilled for the fact that the three of us (Chris, Jon and I) were singing three part harmonies pretty well. And Bill was thrilled by it, he was ‘Wow!, you sound like The Beach Boys, we’re gonna be famous’. There was also the attitude that if we’d spend any time learning backing vocals then the other guys in the band get very bored very quickly, and they’d say: ‘Come on, come on, come on, this is boring! Can’t you do this some other time?’, so there was this kind of pushing and pulling.
-Before Yes, Jon Anderson used to work at the bar in The Marquee, and La Chasse club where he was introduced to Chris Squire by Jack Barrie. Do you remember knowing Jon from these places before Yes?
Yes, I remember because… one big reason was they had a big jukebox in there and his records, horrible records, I thought called ‘Never My Love’, a big kind of ballet thing. He had the single, Hans Christian Anderson in the jukebox, and he was always playing the bloody thing and he’d be running around, this little guy, just kind of helping out and cleaning the tables, that kind of thing. He was a friend of Jack Barrie, who was running the club, and Jon was always very quick to tell everybody: ‘It’s my record on the jukebox’. We regarded him as a little bit eccentric only because the Soho scene was such a small scene, maybe a couple of hundred musicians, and most of us at the time we were from the suburbs of London. But Jon was totally Northern and he was from Accrington. So he had this Northern accent and he was kind of a bit open and kind of naive and enthusiastic in a way that we were far too cold to behave, ’cause we’d been in Soho, you know, we were kind of used to the scene, whereas Jon I guess was more a newcomer to it. And we would keep putting this damned record on and we thought it was a bit of a pain that he would keep doing that.
-On the 17th of December 1968, Yes supported the Who in their last gig at The Marquee. It was announced as “The Who’s Xmas Party and Introducing A Great New Group”. Can you remember this particular evening?
No, but it was probably good. I always tried to play a lot better whenever I was supporting The Who. I always tried to do the show as if it was the last show I’d ever do. That’s how I used to feel generally and I used to put everything in every gig, no matter where it was. And I have to say that a lot of the Marquee gigs were not my favourite gigs, because often we would play to the same people that had seen us play over and over again and there was no element of surprise.
-Do you think it was always the same audience coming, I mean, did you really remember their faces and so?
Yeah! I did go through a period of actually almost despising the audience because it was like ‘here we are again’, particularly when we had a weekly residency and I used to look forward to but, eventually like everything is, when you’re actually up there onstage doing it sometimes the magic doesn’t happen and I realized later, many years later, that this is all part of becoming a professional musician. You have to make each gig something special, no matter how where it is, how many people there are, or how few people there are. You have to make it an unique event to yourself and of course when you’re very young, in your 18 or early 20, it’s difficult sometimes to put that effort.
So a lot of Marquee gigs I probably didn’t appreciate it as much as I should have done because I just felt like always playing for the same people the same show, you know, over and over again. And often The Marquee audience were not the most enthusiastic people, which is general of London. I mean, we’d go and play in the North of England or play in Germany and we would go down incredibly well, the audiences used to be incredible. And The Marquee used to be a little more predictable. But I see now with hindsight that’s supposed to go through and we were lucky to have that because most bands don’t have that kind of experience playing a regular gig and playing with supporting bands that were incredible musicians. So I was lucky to go though that and I think this made me, not a better person, but certainly a better player. Now when I do gigs I always remember that: every gig could be my last gig. So I’ll make of that a really good experience for me and the audience.
I was always pleased to play on the same building as The Who and actually I was such a fan of Who that I was intimidated by the band. When I used to go and see them play, because there was a regular crowd and sometimes there were too many people in the crowd, and occasionally Pete Townshend would kind of nod at me, and I didn’t nod back , I felt too shy. I kind of knew Keith Moon, but once again I was in the same pub as him but I never said much to him. But I was such a big fan of the whole band. Actually I didn’t meet Townshend until Yes played a club in Mayfair. A horrible, typical late 60’s after club, snobbish ‘in’ club called The Revolution. This might be before that Who gig, but I’m not sure. I remember The Revolution gig because I had seen two or three times the person running the club asked us to turn down and… it was a disco! You know? it was a swinging London disco, with all the guys all dressed up terribly, this kind of after middle class guy wearing velvet and ties. We just thought they were a lot of idiots, we hated playing there! And I remember this particularly well because we were kind of embarrassed to be there, it was a bad booking, so we were supposed to be kind of background and here we are doing ‘Something’s Coming’ from West Side Story and doing Beatles’ ‘Every Little Thing’, incredibly fast and incredibly loud, and I hated them.
And at the end of the first set I remember walking downstairs to get a drink at the bar and somebody hit me very hard over the head and when I turned around to hit the person back thinking ‘Who’s the fuck?’ and it was Pete Townshend! And he said: ‘You guys are fucking great, come and have a drink!’ And I was just amazed cause I didn’t even know he was there for a start and he said: ‘Why are you playing here? This place is horrible!’ So we had a couple of drinks together and he was raving about how much he liked the band, particularly about my guitar playing, and I was very flattered.
The outcome of that it was that we got to do some gigs with Who at some universities and we were the support band, and a couple of times Townshend would come on and say: ‘Right, you’re all gonna watch the support band now and if you don’t like them we’re not gonna come on to play’ and he would announce us and say: ‘This is the best band I’ve heard for a long time’. And he would say: ‘Watch out the guitar player, he’s very good’ (laugh). Of course I loved this, ’cause I was still playing the Rickenbacker and the early days I used to throw the thing around in the air and catch it and all that kind of stuff. So that was great! For me particularly, one of my real heroes saying how much he liked my playing, that was quite something.
-In the recordings of Yes at the BBC from the album ‘Something’s Coming’, which you produced, there are some of the great classical instrumental improvisations from the early days. Did you use to perform long guitar solos also at The Marquee?
Yes, probably. It used to depend on how long the set was. Sometimes at The Marquee, we might be doing a short set which may end up being 45 minutes and I can’t remember exactly how long our set was. I think if it was a short set we would cut a lot of that and of course what happened is once I started doing the guitar solo, which was 80% improvised, and usually would be me and Bill (Bruford), then Chris (Squire) wanted to do one. So we would do this song called ‘It’s Love’ by The Young Rascals and Chris would do the bass solo. So the sets became longer and I used to loved doing ‘I See You’ and I used to throw everything I could into the performance. And to me it was, kind of selfishly, I used to judge the set on how good it was or how bad it was by what kind of performance I would give in that piece. It was complete musical freedom really and kind of anarchy.
That’s a good question. Tony (Kaye) never lived there, Tony always had his own place. Chris (Squire) wasn’t there for long cause living with Chris was always a problem. Well, we had a road crew by then. We certainly didn’t keep equipment at the flat. We would just show up at The Marquee and usually have a sound check and we didn’t all travel together. So we wouldn’t all leave the flat and then get a bus or a cab to The Marquee. We would just arrange what time we would be there and and then we would meet on time, I mean, we didn’t spend so much time together actually because we saw so much of each other and the period that we all lived together probably wasn’t for very long, it was probably less than a year. But we didn’t always go out drinking together or shopping together. I think Tony and I we were the two guys, if there was a party happening after a show, Tony and I would always want to go. But Bill (Bruford) would never want to go. Jon (Anderson)… Jon would go often with his girlfriend which became his wife, Jenny, and Jon had his own little crowd of people. Chris would be in his own world as always, so… No, but in any other gigs outside London we would be traveling together in the same car. We had a Volvo car which we got from our manager Roy Flynn and we did travelled in a van at the beginning, that was awful because I’ve spent years traveling in a transit full of equipment. And particularly The Syn… Syn used to travel a lot and went to Europe a few times in this transit van sitting with the equipment without a heater in the freezing cold, you know, and I’ve done that with most bands, like The Syndicats, they never played The Marquee.
-During the 38 shows Yes played at The Marquee Club…
-That’s right. So… there were many great bands supporting you, such as Van Der Graaf Generator, Caravan, Octopus, The Eyes of Blue, Killing Joke, Clouds, Pegasus… Which bands you remember liking especially?
We played a lot of gigs with Van Der Graaf Generator.
-But not in The Marquee, as far as I know you just played there with them a couple of times.
Yeah, I tell you, wherever Yes played anywhere and there were two or three bands it was always seem to be Van Der Graaf Generator and Family. Always. And occasionally Fleetwood Mac. And it was a very good feeling because all bands were totally different, none of the bands had anything in common at all. I mean, the term was “progressive” but it was never really a term that we used. Some journalist pop in with that name. Although we certainly grabbed on to that title: ‘O.K., we’re “progressive”, O.K., that’s what we are’. I always liked the idea about Yes because it was about breaking boundaries and we thought that we could do anything we wanted and particularly covering other people’s material and we would take something that may not seem like such a good idea but make it sound really cool and really hip. And no bands do that now, I don’t understand why. One time I would love to put together a kind of ‘covers’ band, but not in the sense of playing Holiday Inn, in the sense of just taking music and twisting around and putting a new spin on it making the sound totally unique and fresh.
-But you know what you’d need for that, you need people who actually play onstage. Because today, the scene onstage it’s pretty much lost, and there is not a stage-school anymore. And that’s what The Marquee Club used to be about.
Yeah. I’m lucky to have plenty of experience and certainly playing with Yes at The Marquee I gained more confidence. Now with Harmony In Diversity I have enough confidence and I can go onstage with a bass player and a drummer who don’t really know what’s gonna happen. And that’s a really nice feeling too, we know all is not going to sound good. Some of it may sound terrible, but the worthy moments would sound completely sublime and just wonderful, so that’s nice. Which is completely opposite to what Yes was, but Yes had a lot of freedom, I mean we did have parts in most of the songs that we could extend, you know, just by looking at each other. We were very lucky because we had great bass and drums, you know, always good. So it gave quite a lot of freedom. Except for the thing that I didn’t really know what was going on! (laugh).
-The Marquee Club and Yes are legends now, but some people may not realise how poor you used to be at the time. I think you would get paid 17 pounds per show at The Marquee. You once said: ‘If it hadn’t been for the Marquee and the Speakeasy we would have starved’. What is your memory about it?
Oh yeah! Not literally but I remember saying that. I meant it in the sense that we never certainly really got rich playing The Marquee or Speakeasy, but there was a period when we always used to go to the Speakeasy after we met Roy Flynn. And Roy Flynn saw us playing and said he wanted to manage the band. And Roy had never managed a band before and he kind of took us on and then the whole world of the Speakeasy opened up (laugh). It was a great club, I mean, it was a wonderful club, it used to close at 4 AM and we would not only rehearse there, we would play there some nights, and of course after a gig if we were playing within, let’s say 150 miles from London, we would rush and go to the Speakeasy and eat there, and most of the meals were completely free. So for about a year I ate pretty good. Most of the evenings I ate there. Because that was the life style, we would be in the Speakeasy after 3 AM and the kitchen still would be opened and the food was not fantastic but thanks to Roy Flynn we would get free food and quite a lot of few drinks as well.
The most Yes ever did at The Marquee was probably £ 100. But we didn’t do it for the money, we did it for the prestige and the sheer out of it.
But actually, making money, I can’t remember what we got at The Marquee but sometimes when we were supporting the whole band would get something around 16 pounds or 20 pounds for the whole band, not each. I think the most Yes ever made… you know who you should ask? Bill Bruford knows exactly, he wrote down all the money and has records of the finances. I would imagine the most we ever did at The Marquee was probably 100 pounds. But we didn’t do it for the money, we did it for the prestige and the sheer out of it, although sometimes I used to hate playing there. There was a time in Flash, when they offered us a residency, so the other guys in the band were ‘Oh, fantastic!’ and I just said ‘No, I’m not doing it’. And I think we did two or three gigs at The Marquee and I said: ‘No, no, no, no. I’ve had five or six residencies here, no more’. It’s a shame because now it’s gone. I know there was a place in Leicester Square but is not the same.
-In May ’69, King Crimson played their ‘Marquee debut’ and apparently their show provoked a big impact on Yes. Can you remember that particular show?
It wasn’t at The Marquee, it was at the Speakeasy (April, 9th, 1969). I think their first ever gig was at the Speakeasy.
-Yes, thats right.
And I know I was there and Bill (Bruford) was there. I don’t think Chris (Squire) was there. And I remember standing at the bar of the Speakeasy, which was a tiny little club, I mean, it was basically a restaurant with a bar and a tiny, tiny stage. Which actually Yes, when the Speakeasy re-opened after they had a fire, I think we went to play at The Speakeasy on the opening night and we actually helped to paint the stage ’cause Roy Flynn was saying: ‘Come on, come on’ you know, running late and I remember us picking up the paint brush and Jon (Anderson) was going ‘We are painting stages’ and we had to play later that night.
With Crimson, I met Fripp a few times, he used to come to see Yes at The Marquee. And I didn’t know Fripp was a guitar player, I didn’t know much about him. He used to come and he was always wearing a cape, like a cloak with a hood, like a monk. And he had little glasses on, like John Lennon, and he was very tense and he always talked to me after the show and we would talk about guitar strings and guitars, all that kind of stuff. And he was quite nice but seemed a little eccentric and I didn’t know much about Crimson, but I do knew that we was putting some sort of band together, I didn’t know much more about it than that. And they had very secretive rehearsals. I’ve known Greg (Lake), ’cause he was with a band from Bournemouth called The Gods. Chris (Squire) and I knew Greg. I think that was the very first gig King Crimson ever did, certainly the first night I saw them, and it was absolutely amazing! And I was standing at the bar with a drink and I never touch my drink throughout the whole set, I just stood there in total amazement. Bill (Bruford) was standing next to me, I think, and we just stood there kind of open mouthed and… I think all of us were there. And we just watched them and immediately we were just amazed about how tight they were, and how good they were, and how good the composition was, and how original they sounded, and we just realized immediately… We thought that we were the best band around, and we probably were. We were pretty confident, as far as London bands went, that Yes were the one. We thought that nobody else was better than us. Crimson tore all that apart. I think we actually said that night we needed to rehearse a lot more.
Yes, exactly, and I think we may have cancelled some gigs, I’m not sure about it, but we went into pretty intensive London rehearsals. At that time we were rehearsing at Roy Flynn’s basement, at the place he used to live in Putney and we kind of turn it into, not exactly a studio, but we could keep the equipment set up. And we became very critical, we became our worst critics because it really shocked us. You know: ‘Why are we not this good?’. And it would cause arguments and we started re-arranging things, writing more stuff and all that kind of thing.
-And Robert Fripp ended up living with you in the same flat in Fulham where you used to live with Yes before. Is that right?
Yes, when Flash we were rehearsing in ’72. That was a strange thing when Robert Fripp moved in because Bill (Bruford) was the last one who moved out and that was a little bit strange because Bill and I we were still sharing this flat along with his girlfriend and my girlfriend, and I actually got fired from Yes, and it was a bit of a strange thing. Because they all still said that they didn’t know I’d been fired until that day. And we did a gig and then I was told I had to leave. So for Bill and I would be very difficult, particularly because we would share the kitchen and the bathroom and I wouldn’t talk to him at all, and that was for several months! (laugh). And then of course, when Fripp moved in, Fripp had just recruited Bill and they were working in ‘Lark’s Tongues In Aspic’ with John Wetton, and Fripp would ask me how were the rehearsals with Flash, if it was a good day and that. But I never asked Fripp how rehearsals were because I didn’t want to start talking about Bill, I had still a big grievance about why I was got rid of. It wasn’t until Flash became quite successful and toured America that I felt a bit better about the whole thing. All of that was a bit strange.
-In the late 60’s everyone would meet at La Chasse, but later the drinking club was closed. But, where did you socialize during the early 70’s?
At the Speakeasy. It was a kind of musicians club. At the weekends it used to be a bit different because it used to be more kind of people dressed up and dancing, more a businessmen club. There were still about three or four clubs, but usually The Speakeasy would be the one, that was the coolest place and we would get in for nothing. Chris Welch (journalist) would often be there and I would go down with Chris and the Melody Maker photographer Barry Wentzel, the three of us would go down and you could see Vivian Stanshall, Keith Moon, you know really crazy heavy drinkers and kind of wild crowd of people. When we had an evening off we would usually go to The Ship, and then pop in to The Marquee next door, just to see who was playing, and then go to the pub, and then go to La Chasse and when it closed at 12.30 we would all end up in The Speakeasy.
Everybody used to go to The Ship, which is a tiny pub, so if you wanted to know who was going to play at The Marquee that night you just had to look in The Ship and see who was standing up at the bar!
-What about The Ship pub in Wardour Street?
The Ship is still there! I think I would see Jimi Hendrix in there, I mean, everybody was in there. When The Marquee didn’t have a bar, there was only La Chasse, which actually started as a gay club. Gay in a sense that most of the clients there were over 40 and it wasn’t a place for the musicians to go. But then it kind of changed because they realized that The Marquee didn’t have a bar, so Jack Barrie was running La Chasse and then he was also running The Marquee. He made the policy a little different so eventually that became more a musicians bar. But before that, everybody used to go to The Ship, which is a tiny, tiny pub, so if you wanted to know who was going to play at The Marquee that night you just had to look in The Ship and see who was standing up at the bar! (laugh).
-During the very first days of Yes, Jack Barrie managed the band. How important you think was his roll on the career of the group?
He didn’t manage us, he helped us get equipment and Jon (Anderson) had a friend (John Roberts) who lent us some money to get the P.A. and I think Jack Barrie kind of helped out so we would get another equipment. But he didn’t manage the band, he may have wanted to, but he didn’t get to really manage us.
-Did you keep in touch with people from the club after Flash?
I saw Jack Barrie last December! I was very surprised. He was coming to see the Yes documentary.
-Does he still live in London?
Yeah, he’s still around. I didn’t actually recognize him and he was waiting. We were in this tiny local recording studio and the room was full of people who were doing the film and I saw someone standing outside through the glass door. And it comes out it was Jack Barrie waiting to do an interview. I hadn’t seen him for… 20 years? But, yeah, he’s still around!
-What about John Gee and Harold Pendleton? Do you remember them?
Well, they’re still around! John Gee was like the “headmaster” of The Marquee. Harold Pendleton, we didn’t see much. He was a complete gentleman. He didn’t completely like our kind of music, ’cause it was too loud to him. I don’t think I had many conversations with him. He was like the boss. I would occasionally walk by and if I talked to him I would probably call him properly ‘Mr. Pendleton’. He was more like a business man, but very professional and extremely courteous at the wife. I don’t think I ever met him in the street or at a club. I think I once had a meal with him. But John Gee was like the head-teacher, he would tell everyone to be quiet, you know, you had to respect John Gee. I know many stories about him. John Gee used to wear a toupee, he used to think maybe he’d look exactly like Frank Sinatra. He was totally into Frank Sinatra. And, in the early days, the way we would get rebooked at The Marquee, what we really had to do… the tradition was that you would go and have an Indian meal and invite John Gee.
-Are you kidding?
No. An then, over the dessert, somebody in the band would say ‘Well, is there any chances to have us playing next week or next month?’, over the meal, and John Gee would be like: ‘Well, I don’t know… we have Spencer Davis playing, and then this, I don’t know, maybe I can’t’, you know, and it was kind of like a little game. And I particularly remember Cat Stevens being around him a lot. The worst punishment of all really was, it was usually two of us, we’d never go alone, we would go to his little apartment, which was always inmaculate, and then John Gee would play the Frank Sinatra records and get out the brandy and whiskey and then he would say: ‘Of course, this is real music. The stuff you do it’s just a fashion, it’s like The Beatles, you know, it will never last’. Well, I have to say that John Gee was gay, but very discreet. if John liked the looks of a couple of people in the band it would be helpful to get booked, you know, it was more important the professionalism of the band but it was a way to have a couple of chances. But he would never do any comment, he was always very discreet. And we didn’t want to upset him because if you did he had a terrible temper.
-He was very strict with the timing, was he?
Also, yeah. If we were five minutes late, he would yell and scream at us. Go red in the face. And we were just, you know… I remember him telling me off. In those days we certainly were way too loud and he yelled and screamed at me: ‘How dare you ruin the reputation of the club by playing that awful music?’, yeah, this kind of thing. Usually I would have felt bad, but I just kind of at a loss for words! Pretty scary!
John Gee would have this nervous habit of adjusting his tie, and he would stand onstage and say: ‘Well, I’m not going speak to any of you until you are quiet’.
-He would make you feel like school boys, wouldn’t he?
Yes, yes, exactly. And also he would tell the audience to be quiet. He would come onstage, he always had a very smart suit on. Always. And he would have this nervous habit of adjusting his tie, and he would stand onstage and say: ‘Well, I’m not going speak to any of you until you are quiet’. And then he would start saying who’s playing next week and all that. And then he would say: ‘Right, boys, someone’s gonna come on now and if you don’t enjoy them, probably they’re never gonna play again’. But he would say it in a way that would make everybody feel like very serious. I remember him in the punk times when all this was just beginning to happen and I remember John at The Marquee and it was horrible for him, I think he quit by then. Jack Barrie started with the job. He commanded a lot of respect. A lot of the audience would giggle, people who had never been there before. ‘Why is he so outrageous?’ what they didn’t realize is that he wanted to be like Frank Sinatra. He demanded respect! A very unusual character, John Gee. I never really got to know much about his life. Occasionally he’d go back to his little flat. But he was always very tired and very immaculate. I never really got to know him. I never saw him in the street, never saw him on a taxi or on a bus, because he belonged to The Marquee. I used to think he owned it! He was the voice of the club! And when The Who used to smash their equipment John Gee hated that.
-Well, I’ve heard about this incident with The Who when they played at the National Jazz & Blues Festival and Roger Daltrey broke a few stage-lights, I’ve heard that Barbara Pendleton got really pissed off.(1)
I was certainly there and I was probably playing that night. Three days, I think. But yeah, I remember that. The Who had a great gig and I remember chatting with Pete (Townshend) before they went on and he was really angry about something I can’t remember, he was just pissed off about something and Roger (Daltrey) kicked the footlights, and probably Pete and Roger were arguing, but they used to do that all of the time. I mean, the band was always on the verge of breaking up. And Keith (Moon) would always join in making it worst saying: ‘Go on, hit him!’. You know, the only who just kept out of it was John Entwistle. I think that’s all that it was and apparently The Marquee management was just outraged by this. This was their equipment at the time. It was a big deal with them.
-Talking about the National Jazz & Blues Festival, how important was the career of Yes to play there?
It was very, very, very important. That was one of the first festivals in this country and certainly, of course, one of these called ‘rock specials’, I don’t know what it was called, but anybody that was anybody would say: Did you get Traffic and The Nice and The Who and Yes and earlier scene?’ it was the kind of showcase that anybody played. They used to have a pretty straight rules. You had to have played The Marquee Club and all the press, and when I say ‘the press’ I mean just the music thing, and then I think they were like at least 3 or 4 nationals musical newspapers: The Melody Maker, New Musical Express, one called Sounds, Disc and maybe a couple more. they would always attend the festival and whoever was the hit of the festival. But you would almost guarantee you’d get your photo. Of course, Syn never made any impression on anybody. Syn was playing at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. But Yes’ first performance there, it got a double page on the Melody Maker. I think maybe it was Chris Welch who wrote about it and we would be the best newcomers for whatever year was and for Yes was very important. You were under the pressure to perform really well in conditions that nobody was used to play before. It was all very amateurish, the lighting was pretty primitive, not like it is today. But you had to play and it was very very competitive for the bands.
-Your first solo album ‘Two Sides of Peter Banks’ featured some of the most talented musicians at the time: Jan Akkerman, Phil Collins, Steve Hackett, John Wetton… Did you see any of them performing at The Marquee?
I don’t think Focus ever played The Marquee. (Note: Focus played 2 shows at The Marquee in 1972) I became very friendly with Jan when Flash supported Focus in Holland, and Focus were unknown in England. And then I saw Jan playing and I was just amazed, in a way similar to myself but in a way much better than me at that time, I mean technically.
I’d seen Phil Collins at The Marquee of course! He played there with Genesis and of course he used to come and see Yes playing and I met Phil… the first time I met him was probably at The Marquee. But I remember he used to come round at my flat and certainly he would hang out together. He used to sleep on my sofa! So we knew each other. And I knew Phil’s girlfriend at that time.
-And you were offered to join Genesis after the departure of Anthony Phillips, right?
Yeah, I think he might have. But I can’t remember when. And Steve Hackett… Tony Stratton Smith, who was running a record company called Charisma Label Records, they were looking for a new guitar player and I think I mentioned Steve Hackett to Phil (Collins) or Peter (Gabriel), I can’t remember: ‘I know this guy is the best’. But I think somebody said I could do it if I wanted to and I said no, because Yes was certainly a better band at the time, so I don’t know.
-And you also offered Phil Collins to join your band Flash, isn’t it?
I asked Phil, yeah, this is true. So just think about it: Genesis were going through some changes and Phil told me about it. Flash and Genesis… the road crew used to hang together along and often Genesis would borrow Flash’s P.A. system ’cause we had an enormous P.A. system, exactly the same kind of system that King Crimson had. And it was a very big, sophisticated, set up. And actually, when Flash wasn’t gigging, we would find that Genesis was using some of that crew and some of the equipment too. That was fine! And I remember Phil wouldn’t be happy cause Peter (Gabriel) was not happy with the band and he was thinking of leaving. And at the time with Flash, I think we’d done a couple of American shows with the band. We had a couple of problems with Michael (Hough), the tempo wasn’t particularly comfortable and during one Flash session Phil had to come down to the studio and tune up Michael’s kit, I think it was at Advision actually. That was nice of Phil, very kind of Phil to do that! He was always very easy going about that. We did everything we could, we just couldn’t get a proper sound of the bass drum particularly sounding horrible. And Phil came along and helped tuning up and ten minutes later it was sounding fine. And I almost then I thought: ‘It might sound awful but I wish you were playing drums there too’.
Anyway, I was firstly thinking maybe Mike would have to go and I was not happy about that at all, but I thought it would be interesting so I was telling Phil all the problems I’d have with Flash and he’d talk about the problems he had with Genesis. And I think about two weeks later he said: ‘No, everything is fine’. That was a fine change. I even regret it now! (laugh).
In the early 90’s, one night late the phone went and Jon Anderson was on the phone. He was talking about doing two weeks at The Marquee. ‘Why don’t we book The Marquee for two or three weeks and fill it up every night?’.
-Is true that Jon Anderson contacted you with the idea of reforming the original Yes to go back to The Marquee to perform the band’s early material, coinciding with the 30th anniversary of Yes?
I can’t remember when it was, it might have been back in the early 90’s, but one night late, very late, the phone went and Jon was on the phone. It could have been at least three or four years that we hadn’t been in touch, ’cause none of us keep in touch at all really, and yes, he talked about this idea that he had. It was a long conversation and it went on to at least two hours probably, as long as this conversation is doing, and he was talking about doing two weeks at The Marquee, that was the whole thing. You know: ‘It should be like the old days, why don’t we book The Marquee for two or three weeks and fill it up every night?, let’s do something of the old material’. Actually it sounded O.K. to me. And ‘How do we do this?’ ‘Are there gonna be problems?’, ‘Who would we have?’ That whole kind of thing. In never heard from him again. And about a month later I tried to get hold of him and he had changed his phone number and so, so I think it was just a ‘Jon’ thing. I don’t know, I think maybe he just felt nostalgic, I mean, he sounded perfectly sober. I think it was just occasional nostalgia and I was quite keen! You know, actually I had some reservations obviously but I thought: ‘Yeah, it could work!’. And The Marquee was still going. It might have been a success, I mean, I don’t know but you’d never be able to try that.
-Is there any particular anecdote from The Marquee that always makes you laugh?
I think when I was in Syn and in Neat Change, I’m not sure, I had a Marshall stack, this was quite an unusual thing to have, I remember (Pete) Townshend had one and Hendrix had one. I was one of the first. My parents had bought it. I mean, it didn’t go out by cash, but they would be taking care of the monthly payments. I don’t know what you call it, I mean, we didn’t have credit cards in those days, this was back in ’66. And I had defaulted on the payments and it was something like 2 pounds and I think what happened is that my parents had got it for me at the payment department. And when I got it I thought I was about 18! It was like ‘Wow! I can’t believe I got this thing! What do I do with this?’ I was lucky because I was working clubs in London and I had quite a few different bands for quite a few years… They came! We were having a sound-check, we were supporting The Nice, I know this for a fact, and we were having a kind of checking in the afternoon and maybe a little bit of rehearsal. And the two guys came in through the loading door of the back where the equipment used to come in and they went: ‘Is Peter there?’ and I went: ‘Yes’. ‘Are you Peter Banks?’. I just went ‘Yeah, yeah, I’m playing’. And they put a piece of paper out and the took my Marshall stack for wash! (laugh)
It always seemed to be me and Chris Squire getting little electric shocks on the microphones. You’d catch your lips in the microphone and you would jump back about two feet.
It was very bad! The guys from The Nice were sitting around, David O’List was there, and they walked out with it. And I was just like shocked because the payments hadn’t been cashed up, it was actually my fault and they took it away. Put it on the van and it’s gone! And a few people were laughing about it and I was very, very, very embarrassed. And luckily David O’List said: ‘You can use my equipment’, cause David had a Marshall stack as well. I think that night I had to play in the wrong side of the stage, cause I always play stage left and David was stage right. That’s the most embarrassing thing, ’cause we were in the middle of a rehearsal! And these two big guys came to take the equipment away!
There were always amusing things, I mean, there were people falling over. I remember Chris Squire falling over at The Marquee at least twice, you know, going down with a big crash. I can’t remember anything going terribly wrong. I remember it always seemed to be me and Chris getting little electric shocks on the microphones. You’d catch your lips in the microphone and you would jump back about two feet, that kind of thing. It was always dangerous to play The Marquee because their electricity supply was not grounded. It’s amazing that nobody have ever died there!
-I know a story about Jon Blackmore of Wild Turkey and he was really close to that.
Yeah, I’ve heard that story. I think the lighting and the amplification ran off of the same circuit, I don’t think it was isolated and you’d always get a, specially guitar players, we’d always get a loud buzz on your amplifier and you’d often have to do a set not to touch a mike stand or anything metal, and that was always uncomfortable. Specially when it was really hot and sweaty. I used to lose weight when I played The Marquee, ’cause it was always hot. The lighting was hot, when it was crowded your strings used to go out of tune very quickly. I can remember forgetting songs, I mean that can happen to guitar players too often. You can just maybe not have any mind of what you’re doing, I mean, something like: ‘Oh my God! what am I playing, what key is it?’ That kind of thing. That would happen occasionally. But has always happened and it’s amusing for everyone else.
I’ve never played there when there would be a power cut, you know, everything goes dark. that usually angers people more than anything. When they didn’t have a bar, we used to have to hide all our drinks, and bring them in and hide them somewhere. That was sometimes quite amusing cause you had to stash it away behind the equipment, you couldn’t leave it in the dressing room cause somebody else would take it. So that was kind of amusing, like kind of school kids.
-What did you think when you heard about the demolishing of the original building at 90 Wardour street in the 90’s?
I didn’t know, I was living in Los Angeles. I didn’t know and I remember when I got back I was just walking around Soho, you know, it’s always nice to be back in London, and I hadn’t been back for a few years and I realized The Marquee was not there and it was kind of a building site, and now there is a restaurant there. And The Marquee, that area, I think is an apartment now. The one in Charing Cross Road it would be opened, kind of Marquee 3, I suppose. And I went there a couple of times, actually I went with Chris Welch, but it wasn’t quite the same. I think a lot of it was the “era” and it happened in the right time and in the right place.
I can tell you what I remember from The Marquee. The first thing that you’d notice when you walked in is the heat and the high humidity and there’s no air, you know, breathing in other people’s air. The second thing you notice is that your feet are sticking to the floor and that’s because of chewing gum and the Coca-cola. They used to have a Coca-cola bar, but no alcohol, at the back, and the people used just to throw the paper cups on the floor. So it was not the cleanest of places, and your feet would stick, and you would have rubber soles on your shoes. You know, when you were out of the club, everything would still be sticky. So, that’s the first thing you’d notice, it’s hot, smelly and sticky (laugh). And the walls were all black, black and white stripes.