With space on no other road than Oxford Street in London, The 100 Club is some real primetime real estate meat to sink your music-loving teeth into. It's hosted everyone from BB King to Kings of Leon via The Sex Pistols, evidence of which you can see in photographs nailed up all around the dingy, hallowed walls.
Now, it continues to carry the torch of independence, rebellion and mischief, even as it now resides next to an Ann Summers. In honour of Independent Venue Week, we caught up with 100 Club owner Jeff Horton and asked him about the very best gigs he's witnessed in his own gaff. Ready?
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Jeff Horton: Amazing show. In his words, "we’ve not brought the guillotine we’re just gonna do a pedal to the metal rock’n’roll show. I do have the snake though…it’s in that basket in your office, under the desk.” Cue mass panic from Jenny Pierce, who runs the 100 Club diary, and was venue manager at that time, and was sitting a foot from it.
JH: First time round was 1992. When the NME came out a day or two after the show the first ten pages or so were dedicated to the 100 Club show with Suede, accompanied with the front page headline, ‘The Night Music Changed Forever’.
JH: Incredible. To have a legend like that play here? He was old and in his words, his fingers didn’t any longer go where he wanted them to on his fretboard, but even so, one of the standout 100 Club nights.
JH: Absolute legend of a man. Someone must have pointed to me and told him who I was, as he walked up to me hand out, shook it warmly and said, “I’m ever so nervous tonight Jeff…” I replied, “Serious? You’re bigger than the Simpsons!” He said, “But look at all the legends on your wall staring down at me. I’d feel much better if you unscrewed them all, turned them round and put them back up again,” laughing as he said it. Two days later there was a knock at the door. It was Hugh. He was holding a large box. “There were seven of you working here for my gig weren’t there?” Me, “Sorry Hugh, I have no idea.” Hugh, “Yes there were. I counted them.” He then pulled out a smaller box that contained a bottle of 35 year old top quality malt whiskey and two tumblers. “There’s one of these for you and each of your staff that worked on the night of my show. I just want to thank you all for a night I will never, ever forget and to tell you what a wonderful bunch of people you are…” And he had remembered everyone.
JH: Jack walks in with his guitar in one hand and his amp in the other. I walk over and introduce myself like I do most times here and get chatting, finishing with, “it’s great to have you here, had you heard of the 100 Club?” He smiled and said that when he was growing up in Detroit he had an album that he played for hours and hours on end called John the Revelator by Son House that was recorded here at the 100 Club in about 1967. He told me that without that album the White Stripes may not have existed. “So this was always going to be the first place we played once we started gigging outside the US.” That’s why a photo of Jack and the John the Revolator album cover sit side by side on the wall behind the stage.
JH: My hero. And one of my favourite gigs of all time. I’ve never been so nervous about meeting someone. I’d seen the Clash once in 1977 and it remains up there with this show as one of the greatest ever. The band all pile in for soundcheck and Joe turns and starts walking away from the stage towards the toilets and towards me. I was so scared I just looked to the floor and let him walk past. I then thought, “Jeff, if you don’t say hello, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.” I waited for him to walk out of the toilets towards the stage and held my hand out to say hello and mumbled something inane in all probability, but within five minutes of introducing myself I felt like I’d known him 20 years. That was Joe. Anyone who’s ever met him says exactly the same thing.
JH: Hottest gig ever. They were amazing. It was 104 degrees in the kitchen and I remember all the old tar from cigarettes smoked in the 50s and 60s started melting and dripping off the ceiling and on to people below. We got people out pretty sharpish that night! Also had one of the more stranger requests from a member of the band that night. “Jeff," says Pete, “do you mind if I smoke my crack pipe in the dressing room mate…"
“erm...no Pete, sorry….” and he respected the decision!
JH: Brilliant gig. Lovely people. Great sound. Great night.
JH: When I saw their first back to back shows here in 2014 I thought they were just amazing. Like nothing I’d ever seen before. I thought Jason’s use of modern, urban language angrily hitting out at the injustices of the world accompanied by Andrew’s incredible beats was completely intoxicating. And more importantly, I still do. I’ve got to meet them a few times now and told them both that seeing them for the first time had the same effect on me as seeing the Clash in 1977. I’m not sure if bands like them, Idles and the grime artists like being compared to the punks of 76/77 but to me they are just as important. To me punk and that ethos has never just been about a haircut and a three chord guitar riff.
Independent Venue Week runs from Monday 27 January to Sunday 2 February 2020. You can find out more information here.