VENUE FOCUS: 100 CLUB
November 21, 2017
Nestled in the gritty bosom of central London, nearby Oxford Circus tube and a MacDonalds, hangs one of the finest adornments to the capital’s entertainment apparel.
An establishment that has been in place for 75 years, bearing witness to musical seachanges from the swing revolution to the punk insurgency, and (so far at least) stands unblinking in the face of insidious developers.
We’re talking, of course, about the 100 Club.
In 1942 the venue was a restaurant, Macks, hired out every Sunday evening from 24th October by Robert Feldman to host the Feldman Swing Club. Popular with American GIs, introducing the otherwise-banned jitterbug, the club saw performances from jazz greats including Ronnie Scott, Art Pepper and eventually Louis Armstrong.
Having changed its name to the 100 club in 1964, the 1970s saw the venue back in the musical fray, this time kicking down the doors as the burgeoning punk scene made its way – for better or worse – from the undergroud to the mainstream. In 1976 the club hosted the first ever international punk festival, with a mind blowing line up including the Sex Pistols, Sioxsie and the Banshees, The Clash, Buzzcocks, The Jam, The Stranglers and The Damned.
The ’80s saw hardcore punk royalty like Black Flag, Discharge and GBH join the club’s alumni, but the jazz connection was nevertheless maintained, with the likes of Sonny Stitt and Archie Shepp also stopping by.
In ’82 The Rolling Stones played an unannounced warm-up show for their European tour, and in ’86 the band returned to play a tribute show for their pianist Ian Stewart, who died at the end of 1985.
Although the club announced plans to close at the end of 2010 due to ongoing losses, it was saved by a public campaign back by heavy hitters like Sir Paul McCartney and new commercial partnerships.
Today the club hosts upcoming acts, secret shows for big bands on world tours, and blues, soul and folk showcases. It’s home to live comedy, music festivals and the longest running Northern Soul All Nighter anywhere.
And it continues to be an international music institution.