Eric's club is celebrated as being the place where such bands as Blondie, Buzzcocks, The Clash, Elvis Costello, The Slits, Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Jam, Joy Division, The Police, The Sex Pistols, Generation X, The Rich Kids, The Stranglers and many more all played their earliest gigs. The regular club goers wanted in on the action fairly rapidly and hurriedly formed bands and out came the likes of ....Wah! Heat, Pink Military,The Teardrop Explodes, Echo & The Bunnymen and Orchestra Manoeuvres In The Dark, and later Frankie Goes To Hollywood.
Francesco Mellini, an Italian photographer and Manager of Pete Burns Nightmares In Wax, at the time, managed to capture some of those bands and the very essence of not only Liverpool’s music and club scene but inside Eric’s.
A book about the history of the club was published in April 2009 [which features a short section by myself] Eric's: All The Best Clubs Are Downstairs, Everyone Knows That – extensive research went into the making of the book, featuring many interviews and photos from people who were Eric’s regulars. This excellent book was written by Jaki Florek and Paul Whelan, and comes highly recommended.
The club was forced to close its doors in March 1980 when it was busted for drugs during a performance by the Psychedelic Furs, with support by Pete Wylie’s band Wah! Heat, it later re opened as Brady's and lasted 12 months. It just wasn’t the same anymore.
I was seventeen when I made my first visit to Eric's to see a band called the Spitfire Boys [Paul Rutherford on vocals later joined Frankie Goes To Hollywood]with support by another local band Radio Blank [featuring Dave Balfe and Alan Gill - one of only 15 gigs they ever played] on July 16th 1977. From then on, it became a regular haunt to see bands for the next two years, mixing with many of the clientèle who were to form their own bands. I’ve spouted so many times about spending my teenage years within those dark, sweat dripping, black & red walls, that an invite to check out the renovations was an offer that was far too good to miss. So, with excitement, trepidation and thoughts about what others opinions on the re-opening might be we headed into Liverpool to form our own views.
The first part of the club we saw took me completely by surprise, and I couldn’t quite fathom how from the original entrance we had a small club which is fitted in rather a high tech style. Ethan Allen [the music director and also a musician - pictured below] explained to us that this will be open during both day and night, as a bar. We could see the street from the room’s low windows and I am presuming, now given it some thought that this is what were once the toilets, but maybe I am wrong? It feels so strange to be calling it Eric’s once again, although Ethan [too young to visit the original Eric’s] says to his critics that it would be insanity to call it anything else.
The cellar which was the original Eric’s is barely recognisable, as many structural changes have been made, but it is half finished, plus as Ethan states they are not trying to recreate the club as it was, but putting a new slant on it, as it has to pass health and safety measures. Eric's would never have passed safety laws in today's stringent legislations, it didn’t even have any air conditioning, which the new club will be required to have – currently it has a large gaping hole in the ceiling which led to outside, giving us a nice breeze. I asked Ethan will they be recreating the missing Eric's sign [no one knows where it disappeared to]. Ethan told us that it would be something similar.
I tried to remember the café along the far wall, for a second I remembered Griff [Spitfire Boys] and Paul Rutherford sharing a burger with us. The stage [which had to be totally rebuilt as the old one was just made from pallets] is still in the same place, the black beams of the cellar were the originals, and in the dressing room you could still see some old graffiti, remnants of posters, and membership applications. I stood alone and silent, for a few moments in there, hoping to feel something from the past, the ghosts of Erics, meeting Joe Strummer, Mick Jones and the rest of the crew, swooning and chatting to Billy Idol here in a heightened state of giddiness, besides many others we met and whom sadly some are no longer with us. The memories of happy, carefree times, wild youths, drunken nights wobbling down the spiral staircase, the exuberantly dressed, and entertaining creatures of the night, which were mainly Holly Johnson, Jayne Casey, Pete Burns and Lynne. Sadly the seated room with its red leather seating area has now gone, and the bar is being moved into the room opposite the stage, which used to be the dance floor, where we danced around to Uptown Top-ranking and various other reggae and punk tunes. Here is my short video of my walkabout around the club.
We began to chat to Ethan, I switched on the video camera and conducted a little impromptu interview, much to the surprise of Phil interviewing ad hoc style.
The opening night for Eric’s will be Saturday 10th September and the band booked to grace the first night is OMD, who were known as Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark back in their heyday. They played their very first gig at Eric's in 1978. Although to be quite frank I was a tad surprised as I expected and hoped it might have been Deaf School. Unfortunately I am unable to attend as I will be away, but I am reliably assured that we are going to have someone cover it for us. OMD are “over the moon” to be playing once again in Eric’s. Ethan is excited about the future of Eric’s, he views it as a new beginning for Eric’s, not a return to the old, he mentioned that we often view things with “rose coloured glasses” when reminiscing the past [but they were great times]. Eric’s will not only be a venue for new unsigned acts, but also well known bands, who will be flying in from as far as America. Ethan expects that 5% will be the old Eric’s crowd but the majority will be a new and younger crowd of club goers.
Ethan told us when they first went into the cellar, it was being used as a storage for the club upstairs Bonkers, and it was littered with debris, filled with water, dead cats and rats. They have put an incredible amount of work into the shaping of this new club and if effort is anything to go by then I am sure it will be a rip roaring success.
Whilst admittedly I longed to see a return to the Eric’s I knew and loved, it is with a heavy heart that I open my mind to a venue which is going to showcase new bands, and once again Eric's will hopefully blossom once more, which can only be a good thing in the long run. Manchester has for a long time had the upper hand when it comes to cherry picking bands and maybe, Eric’s is what Liverpool needs right now to bring it in line with the wonderful things Manchester are doing. What do other people think?
Check out the line up which is currently being previewed:
Saturday 17th September: CHRIS THILE & MICHAEL DAVES / THE TOY HEARTS £12.50
Tickets can be purchased @ - www.ticketweb.co.uk
We are even going to have a bit of comedy as Eric’s book their first comedy gig: Richard Herring - Sunday 25th March 2012
Lets take a trip with Pete Burns…one last time!