“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.” Hunter S. Thompson.
The Cure ”â The Damned ”â Madness ”â Joy Division ”â The Pretenders ”â The Ruts ”â The Undertones ”â The Pop Group ”â Crass ”â Steel Pulse ”â Alexis Corner.- All bands I saw at Eric’s and quite a roll call when you consider I only really caught the last eighteen months of it’s existence .I started going in late 1978 when I was sixteen and had found it to be everything I had expected. Going to town on Saturdays is part of every teenagers growing up and I found myself drawn to the area now referred to as the ‘Cavern Quarter’ (Yack). In those days it consisted of Probe on Button Street, (the greatest record shop that has ever existed) ”âthe Tea Rooms on Mathew Street, ”âlater known as The Armadillo and opposite that was Eric’s.
It’s hard to believe it was all there , now that our lovely dirty old town has turned into a haven for night time revellers of a very different kind. In the late 70’s this area was awash with characters and individuals who never followed the pack but formed their own, no one looked the same, it was about freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom to have a good time, in fact just freedom.
The benevolent characters that orchestrated/gave license, for us to express ourselves in such a wholesome way and formed the back bone of Liverpool’s first mighty wave since the one fifteen/twenty years before, were Geoff Davies (who started the Probe shop) and Roger Eagle (who started the live venue Eric’s).The two, as with the Tea rooms, where inextricably linked, the bands that played in Eric’s had their records for sale in Probe , the local miss-fits and would besuper stars ,would sit for hours in the Tea Rooms opposite, over pots of tea and cigarettes and plan the next revolution.
Everyone has his or her own particular views and memories of this essential time in not just our city’s evolution ”âbut eventually it’s effect on a global scale. It was a time that was heaving and pulsing and nothing was going to halt it’s progress. I know the first time I took that walk down the steps into the loud and musty depths of Eric’s I never felt intimidated in any way, I felt at home here where people were the likes of me, people who had no place else to go, but had no reason to go else where ”â it was ALL here. Anyone who felt different could go to Eric’s and find unity with everyone else. Not everyone was dressed up like dark Christmas trees either, some were, but it was the variety of people that elevated this club from the mere status of aPunk Club and in to something much larger and broader .You only need to look at the Eric’s flyers (that I had collected for two years before I could get in !) to see it’s incredibly open policy for artists ”â Prince Far I next to Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee – Jonathan Richman next to The Ramones ”â Rockin’ Dopsie and the Cajun Twisters next to Throbbing Gristle , and on it went.
In all the times I went to Eric’s I never saw any trouble ”âthere was no real drugs scene down there of any significance either, it was people who were essentially into music that made this a safe environment, Doreen and the doormen (not a band) were characters too and although they probably knew I wasn’t of a legal age to enter, they turned a blind eye .
The Eric’s DJ’s played heavy Dub reggae alongside the latest British and American releases, I can still hear the opening notes of Girl On The Run by Honey Bane stripping the paint off the walls. Roger Eagle even took to putting the main bands on first so that people could catch the last bus home.
I have some cherished memories of the bands I saw down there, Steel Pulse stand out playing Ku Klux Klan in hooded white robes -scary, ”â Ian Curtis falling into the drum kit during a possessed performance by Joy Division , Crass projecting super 8 movies on to the back drop and playing Screaming Babies. The Cramps figure pretty high up on the list of occasions, their gig still stands as the dirtiest Rock ‘n’ Roll show I have witnessed, with Brian Gregory flipping cigarettes round his mouth and then spitting them in to the crowd, Poison Ivy standing, twanging , a sultry New York statuette ,Nick Knox pounding away on the drums the heart beat of Rock-ability, and Lux Interior gradually undressing down to a writhing , rolling mess on the stage floor in red underpants and black winkle pickers. -What a night and I met them all later on and still own the piece of paper that Lux scrawled on : ‘ To Mike ,who taught me everything I know, Lux Interior ‘.
I was at St. Helens Art College in 1980 when I decided to book Eric’s for our Christmas Party. ‘Neuklon’- crazed, synth-punks from Huyton would play with ‘The Go -Thongs’ ”âa Dovecot surf band. I went to see Roger Eagle and we sorted a night out – got the tickets printed up and we were away. The Go -Thongs were formed by Carl and Fitzy with a love of the Beach Boys- (Carl was a founder member of their fan club at the tender age of twelve), Jan and Dean and the Beserkley label from San Francisco who released heartfelt, acoustic songs by Jonathan Richman and the classic pop of the Rubinoos. I painted a surfboard for them, which they stood up behind the primitive beat machine that sat in between them on stage. They had such songs as ‘Surfin’ New Brighton’ -‘dodging oil and glass’ and ‘Missin’ You’ ”âwhich started with the immortal lines:
‘Jim Morrison and Mama Cass are dead,
James Dean, Marc Bolan too,
Glen Miller’s still missing,
And Baby”Â¦”Â¦”Â¦”Â¦I’m missing you!’.
Neuklon had Lloyd on Synth /vocals, Sevo on drums, and Robbie on keyboard , armed with such tunes as : ‘Someone’s Gotta Hear Me’ ”âsomeone’s gonna run ”âYeah! and ‘Schizophrenic’ ,they were power ”âand could only have come from the Bluebell Estate . Roger Eagle later said that they were ‘ the future of Rock ‘n’ Roll ‘. – It never turned out that way for the three piece from Huyton. Carl Davies from the Go- Thongs later went on to compile and release The Secret Liverpool LP, ”âwhich for the most part remained a secret. (the first track was three minutes of complete silence ”âno one got it).
The night Eric’s was raided by the police and shut down I was not there , but a friend was ”âFred from Croxteth, known affectionately as Fred the Punk who was a soft hearted ,fun loving guy who ended up taking a swipe at someone who had decked him during the raid ”âit had turned out to be a plain clothed police officer and he ended up getting nine months inside for that moment of what he had considered to be self defence .Ironical that this was the only violent act I know of in the club and it had been provoked by police action. Carl wrote a song about the injustice -about them taking away Fred’s name and giving him a number instead, but it meant nothing in the scheme of things.
We went on the march one sunny afternoon to protest at the shutting down of this essentially peaceful, vibrant venue but it added up to nothing ”âI suppose it had served it’s purpose and time had to move on. It morphed in to a kind of son of Eric’s – Brady’s for a while and I saw some fine live bands there too, such as: The Stray Cats and a hot and sweaty evening with Janet and The Icebergs (who were Siouxsie and the Banshees under a different name.) But that only lasted a short while and soon it was all gone and only Probe was left standing to man the fort.
Maybe the most fascinating thing about that whole late seventies /early eighties scene was it’s complete defiance, The Clash had stated ‘No more Beatles or the Rolling Stones’ and for me as an impressionable young teenager this was law. Like Pol Pot’s day one : we only had the future, the greatest musical phenomenon that had ever occurred had happened literally on the other side of Mathew Street, in another underground cave, and it meant absolutely nothing to most of us going down to Eric’s.
There are great monumental occasions that happen in life that you are blissfully unaware of when you are part of it all and it is only with the benefit of hindsight that you can see it in it’s entirety. Like in Zurich during World War One, -on one side of the street there was artists performing phonetic sound poetry in the Cabaret Voltaire, reinventing themselves, – inventing Modern Art, as a reaction to the madness that ruled Europe, – whilst on the other side of the street, at exactly the same time, sat Lenin in a small room, unaware of it all, forming what was to be the East’s future great ideology .
Mike Badger (Extract taken from Subculture)