When Bands had to play small venues. Bit of Local History

We went last night to a talk by Gordon Buchanan, the wildlife film maker. Very interesting.

It was in the Malvern Forum Theatre, once known as the Winter Gardens and was a well known gig venue in the 60s. 70s, and 80, in particular. I remember seeing Bands there in the 70s. Someone had produced a small wall display featuring some of the gigs from years ago. A reminder that in those days there were few if any big venues.

I took a photo of it, some serious bands imho.

I also found a website listing over 500 gigs at the venue. Many I had forgotten about.


looking at it again, I think I only saw 5 of these bands in any venue. Bit sad really.


My total is also 5 - Pink Floyd, Robert Plant, Fairport Convention, King Crimson and The Stranglers.

Prefer yours. Mine were Dr Feelgood, John Otway, The Damned, Tom Robinson, and Chicken Shack.

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Hawkwind, Yes, Thin Lizzy, Caravan, Elvis Costello, Stiff Litfle Fingers and Wishbone Ash for me.


The ones I can definitely remember are Pink Floyd, Uriah Heep, Wishbone Ash, Strawbs and Fairport a few times in more recent years and the Bonzos in 2005 as a friend of one of the band who is now 90!
Unfortunately, after a few pints the years 1969 to 1973 are a bit of a blur so not sure about 3 or 4 other groups which I possibly saw. Saw Peter Green but not with Fleetwood Mac.

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I can manage 14 from that list, but none of them in Malvern, which I thought was lovely when I visited a few years ago.

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I can tick off 14 as well, mostly split between Southampton & Manchester.

What saddens me though, is the number in that list that I didn’t get to see!

Two of my 14 I never wanted to see, but had to suffer them as support acts for the bands I actually went to see.

I’ve only seen 15 from that list (all of which were by choice). Some others I’d have liked to see, and some I’d never have wanted to see. But I didn’t see any in Malvern.

As for the thread title, “when bands had to play small venues” to me reads better as simply “when bands played small venues”, which personally I very much preferred (prefer) to large. My favourite venue was the original Marquee Club i. London’s Wardour Street, which despite a capacity of only around 400 did feature big names (sometimes under pseudonyms). A few hundred to maybe a thousand or two is ideal. 3-10k tolerable. Anything larger (e.g stadium size) is not worth going to other than when it adds a festival atmosphere with freedom to move and find a good position. Based on experience I simply can’t be bothered to go to a huge venue where I can only see the artists courtesy of TV screens, and with sound out of sync because of the distance. That they charge more for big venues simply adds insult to injury.


One of the best gigs I’ve been to in my life was at the Marquee Club (It Bites, 1986).


Yes, that was my favourite haunt back in the 90’s.

I’ve seen around 15 on the list all at other venues.
Another classic venue was West Runton Pavillion in Norfolk.
The list of bands who played there is astonishing.
I still have a The Jam tour poster from when they played there circa 1976.

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In the late 60s, I was lucky enough to live near the Toby Jug in Tolworth (a boring SW London suburb). John Mayall and Chickenshack seemed to almost be the house bands. Most crowded gig I’ve ever been to was Led Zeppelin, about 10 days after the release of their first album (contractual obligation, I guess). The venue was also a stop-off for many US blues artists: at the time I didn’t realise just how legendary some of them were!


Some awesome gigs there in the 80s. Guns n Roses first ever 2 UK gigs , and plenty more.

Technically not the original Marquee (think that was on Oxford Street), but for many (me😀) Wardour Street was the best. Almost impossible to work out which building it was, if you’re ever walking that way


During the 70’s I saw 21 of the bands on the list, some of them quite a few times, mostly at the tiny Croydon Greyhound, fewer at the Fairfield Halls, Hammersmith Odeon, Empire Pool Wembley and Charlton Football Ground for the 1974 Who show which included Lou Reed and Lindisfarne.


18 from that list but some of them were in larger venues.
Saw U2 as a support to The Photos in the Marquee. They played about half an hour and got an encore. They sheepishly said they didn’t have any more songs so played 11 o’clock tick tock again.

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I discovered It Bites in Newport where they were supporting Robert Plant. They were promoting their first album and ended their set with You’ll Never Go To Heaven. After that, Percy didn’t stand a chance, not even with Robbie Blunt playing Slow Dancer. I later saw It Bites at the Bierkeller in Bristol. That experience was for me much like yours at the Marquee. A smallish venue, where they lifted the roof off. Astonishing musicianship too. There’s a DVD of the band live in Japan which is really worth getting.

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I have seen 15 on the list but sadly not in the epic years listed on the cassettes.

My local venue The Leas Cliff Hall in Folkestone and a number of long gone clubs in Folkestone were host to the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones back in the day.

But nowadays I see the Leas is a venue for Led Zeppelin, Elvis Presley, Fleetwood Mac, ELO and Marti Pellow.

My figure of 15 was wrong - I’d forgotten one. And I didn’t clarify that notall were in small venues.