A club that rocked when punk was in its prime Sep 16 2003

By Chris Brown Daily Post Staff

 



WITH its low ceilings and sweat dripping off the walls, it was acclaimed as the best club in the country.
Hundreds would pack into the hot and humid venue night after night to see the best punk bands.

And from these humble origins, a whole new Liverpool music scene grew, filling the charts for the first time since Merseybeat.
More than 23 years after Eric's on Mathew Street closed, it is to be the subject of a new radio programme.

Liverpool-born presenter and DJ Craig Charles yesterday revisited the club where he played with his first band.

In Slap My Plaque, for digital radio station BBC 6, he is spending a week in Liverpool looking at some of the city's forgotten musical landmarks.

Yesterday he was outside the former club with Eric's director Ken Testi.

Now just a red door on Mathew Street, the venue was the home for Echo And The Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes and The Mighty Wah!

Mr Charles, 39, said: "I remember Eric's well. I played there when I was young. I was old enough to play but not old enough to drink.

"We were called What For and we were absolutely terrible. It was from the time when there were 14 local bands in the charts so everyone was coming to Liverpool to sign bands. I mean A Flock of Seagulls got signed and we still didn't and they were just a group of hairdressers."

"I played keyboards, but it was only a mono-synthesizer so you can only play one note at a time. I also had a bright green afro, trilby and a green feather earring. I thought I looked great but it was just total student style."

Eric's finally closed in March 1980 but it played host to bands such as Echo and the Bunnymen, Joy Division and The Clash.

Mr Charles said: "What you've got to remember is that I'm nearly 40. We are the generation that was abandoned by The Beatles so for us Eric's was the important place. There was Wah!, Echo and the Bunnymen and if I remember rightly I was there the night that Sting knocked himself out by hitting his head because the ceiling was so low.

"I would love to see it come back but things have to move on. Ken Testi, chairman of the club, said: "When we started there was no local music scene at all. We brought in a lot of bands that would normally never visit Liverpool.

"We were the only the club that has had The Clash, The Damned and The Sex Pistols play."

VENUE WITH 7,000 MEMBERS

ERIC'S grew out of the New Cavern and the Revolution Club.

It started off in October 1976 when Roger Eagle and Ken Testi started hiring the venue for the occasional concert.

It quickly developed a reputation as a punk venue even though all sorts of new music was played there. At its peak the members-only venue had 7,000 people on its books.

By the end of 1977, NME magazine had already labelled Eric's, "club of the year." The Sex Pistols and The Damned played concerts as well as a fledgling Duran Duran and Joy Division. The venue was also home to local talent like Echo and The Bunnymen, Elvis Costello, The Teardrop Explodes, and Wah!

In March 1980, difficulties with Merseyside Police had taken their toll. A raid finally knocked the final nail in the coffin when eleven people were arrested for a range of offences including drug possession, assault and obstructing a police officer,

Wet hair day in real punk place IT WAS always raining when we went to Eric's.

It would wet our mohicans or other strange gravity-defying hairstyles of the day held up by masses of spray and sugared water.

This was early punk, we were making our first tentative steps towards what we called individuality and needed to feel the part and be a part of what was growing on the streets.

And all the real punk bands played Eric's.

The alley leading to the venue had been home I believe to the Cavern but that meant nothing now, that was eclipsed by the Undertones, or the Upstarts or whoever was playing at the time. The Beatles were, as they say, "Yesterday".

Slipping down the rainsoaked, smoke-filled stairs into the bowels of Eric's would make your eyes water.

First the smoke would hit, by the heat, then the noise boomed out.
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