Sunday, January 29, 2006

Been there, ton that...

For one of London's legendary venues, the 100 Club doesn't sit in quite the most atmospheric or awesome of environments.
Famous name it may be, but then, so are Top Man, Virgin Megastore and, er, Shoe Express, but no one would claim these near-neighbours were these days exactly the stuff of rock'n'roll rebelry (sorry, Sir Richard...)
Yet the 100 Club, the name just resonates, even for those who - like me, until yesterday - knew the place vaguely from clocking the insubstantial street sign while bustling with the best of the Saturday morning shopping tourists, but more vividly from a collection of superlative late-70s/early-80s live recordings by the likes of The Jam and The Clash.
So it was that I half-expected my first actual visit to the echtness of the 100 Club to be punctuated by occasional yelps by the introductory, irritating Robert Elms, but thankfully the world has moved on since those dim, distant days (when I was barely a toddler, yet have tried to reclaim such heady, halcyon days of musical beauty before the post-punk, noo-Romantic-ushering-in Eighties which Franz Ferdinand and Simon Goddard have now ill-advisedly resurrected...)
I was full of trepidation, though, last night, upon entering. The 100 Club as I've heard of it, has been made legendary by the Pistols, the noo-wavers, then the 90s indie upstarts such as Suede, the Auteurs, Oasis, Blur and a reclaimed Paul Weller.
Yet on further research (ie. Googling - wherever would we be without it?), I found the place had much more, er, rootsier roots in jazz and various offshoots of the musical genre which I've tried, oh yes, I've tried, to tolerate - but always end up subscribing to the Rich Hall/'Otis Lee Crenshaw verdict that "Jazz ain't nothin' but the sound of a blues quartet falling down a long flight of stairs..."
Or, alternatively... a brand of music which consists mainly of a group of men, with their eyes tightly shut, and taking turns to stand up...
I was sort-of-pleasant pacified, though, by the starring role last night of Ben Waters and his Boogie-Woogie band, an expert collection of plonky piano, shimmering strings and just-about-bearable honking saxophones, on songs many of which sounded suspiciously similar to each other - but the inclusion of a leisurely-yet-seductively-loose 'You Never Can Tell' helped mop up most moaning...
And 'tis a lovely venue. Plenty of tables and chairs, neither too fetching nor too fulsome, but if you could nab a spot in front of stage, early doors, you'd be best advised to stick to it like students' spilled Stella, for not just the live performances but the hours of taped James Brown too.
We just about missed out on the last seats but found a centre-located wall upon which to studiously prop ourselves, occasionally nodding and bopping in time to the groove, and casting sardonic eyes over the swing-dancing, peroxide-Purdey-cut couples cavorting in any square-half-metre of dancefloor that occasionally happened to appear...
I was a little disappointed by the scarcity of headwear, probably because an impeccably-dapper older gentleman strolled insouciantly across our path barely minutes after arriving, an ever-darker black tape caressing his pork pie hat all the way around and somehow suggesting at least a few dancefloor dashes were inevitable before the night was through.
Yet, instead, he merely smoothed his dusky salt-and-pepper goatee. And again. Then several times more. Unfurled a beady, penetrative gaze across the room, nodded almost-imperceptibly to himself, and then silently sneaked off towards destination unknown.
Of course, like buses, thence followed a succession of Bugsy-borrowing, pork-pie-plonked wannabe jazzsters, but after Ben and his saxy, sassy (well, sort of... some of them... almost...) boogie-woogie-icians (not really, purely jazz, I'm delighted to report), had strode off the stage, through the audience, and back to their bevy of gruesome groupies (well, I mean...), the place almost-emptied rather sharpish and it was left to us few devoted stragglers to enjoy, and indluge in, and happily smirk at the 'disco' selection of such as 'Poison Ivy' by the Paramounts and 'Expressway To Your Heart' by the Amen Corner.
And as those latters almost sang elsewhere:

If paradise is half as nice ... well, it'll do.

4 comments:

Mike said...

My grandparents were only telling me the other day that they used to go to the 100 Club in the 60s. They mostly went to see jazz sessions I think, which gave me the pleasing image of Grandad saying 'hmmm, nice' in the style of the Fast Show Jazz Club presenter.

Do you think your new relationship would survive a Chas and Dave gig at this early stage?

Clarajean said...

Chas and Dave! Oh NO! Please tell me that you are NOT a fan!
I was tortured by my work mates all Christmas by their Chas and Dave Xmas CD. Eventually I managed to pass it off on to one of the many homeless guys who walks around the store I work in. He looked pleased. I was even happier....

overnighteditor said...

Last went there about 10 years ago.

Drunk, fell asleep by the loudspeakers.

Next morning, ears started weeping... weeks before I could hear properly again... probable permanent damage. It was LOUD.

But hey, I had a great time!

OE

Aidan said...

Ah, the Chas and Dave Christmas album! How could anyone fail to love the double-CD delights of the rockney duo - and Salvation Army band, natch - cor-blimey-crooning along to your favourite Christmas carols: 'Mary woz vat muvvah mild...' is worth the cost of the album itself (£1.99 or less, should be available in all good discount bins or charity shops...) Then slamming on the old Joanna for a bonus CD of party favourites. Most of which come back somehow or other to quickfire repetition of the word 'rabbit'...

I think I might try a fiendish combination of the 'Hmm, nice' and the drunk-slumped-by-the-loudspeakers approaches, and see how such an experiment might end up...
As well as single again, that is...