100 Nights At The 100 Club – Capturing The Spirit Of London Clubland.
Back in the summer of 96′, London was in the midst of a Britpop inspired Mod-revival – After falling out of love with Hip-Hop after it became a bastardise ‘Gangsta & Hoes’ version of what I fell in love with as an 8-year-old – I fell head into it.
I was also a mini-mod, Jam-obsessed kid when I was a nipper, so when the scene came back, I was in my element.
During this time, my friends and I would regularly grab the train to the big smoke and spend Saturday nights sweating, dancing, drinking and trying to chase Fred Perry wearing girls, that where massively out of our league.
One of the main clubs we would go to would be The 100 Club, just off of Oxford Street.
“Everything about the place, the dark sweat covered walls, floorboard drenched in decades of god-knows-what. Forget the super-clubs that would soon take over clubland, with the glitz and glamour, this was seedy and Rock & Roll at its most raw”.
I absolutely loved this place, knowing that acts like I idolised, like The Jam and The Who and trodden the same beer stained walkways as I was doing, gave me a massive thrill.
Now decades later, the smells and the sounds of those very special nights came flooding back, thanks to a book made my two photographers, Darren Russell and Kingsley Davis that have managed to capture so many magic moments within the walls. It’s a tribute to the club, the performers who play it, and the audiences who have kept it alive.
It all began 75 years ago.
Back then it was called Macks, a basement jazz joint where Londoners could forget the traumas of their blitz-scarred city and dance the night away to jazz and swing. It was one of the few places that black American GIs could dance with white women and not have to fear the consequences.
In the 1960s it changed its name and gained the trumpeter sign that’s still, a beacon amid the confusion and chaos of Oxford Street. It’s the 100 Club, and it’s an absolute icon of London nightlife.
You could say that if you haven’t played the 100 Club, you haven’t played London. Over the decades it’s seen musical genres come and go, from swing and jazz to skiffle and rock and roll, psychedelia and reggae, punk and dub and Britpop.
It’s been a mecca for up-and-comers and a place for rock royalty to strip back and return to their roots. It’s where a lucky few have seen stadium-sized acts like The Rolling Stones play just a few feet away.
They’ve been shooting shows at the 100 Club for many years – in Darren’s case all the way back to the late 1980s – and they’ve been at the front during some of the 100 Club’s most legendary recent shows: The White Stripes, Paul Weller, Chuck Berry, Alice Cooper, Guru, Kings of Leon and many, many more.
“It doesn’t matter who you are or what you are, whether you’re a new band or you can pack out a stadium, everybody’s the same at the 100 Club,” says Darren Russell. “Once you stand on that three-foot-high stage you’ve got someone looking up your nostrils – that’s how close you are to your audience.
“I was 15 years old when I first walked down the stairs into the club and I’ve never stopped going back. In the early 90’s Jeff, who runs the club, asked me if I would start taking photos and I jumped at the chance.”
Darren’s archive includes pics of The White Stripes’ first gig in the UK back in 2001 – he was the only professional photographer there, and many of his pics from the night have never been published. The book includes several of his shots, a moment of undeniable London music history.
Kingsley Davis has covered many of the club’s dance, hip-hop and reggae gigs; it’s an underappreciated fact that the 100 Club has been heavily involved with black music and black British culture for decades. “My time shooting at the 100 Club has meant a bunch of priceless moments as well as ringing eardrums.” Amongst his images in the book are those from a breakfast gig by all-female rock band Savages, plying a sweat-soaked gig while the rest of London was ordering its first coffee of the day.
“I have also photographed jazz, blues, punk and ‘indie’ bands too, as well as the annual International Women’s Day event. The true diversity of this venue should be celebrated, and I think these images do that.”
We have been working on this project for more than 3 years and this has now lead to working with Unbound to publish 100 Nights at the 100 Club, a 300-page celebration of one of London’s most iconic music venues.
The book features 100 nights at the club captured by the two house photographers – Darren Russell and myself. They include many previously unpublished photographs of acts such as the White Stripes (at their first UK gig), Guru’s Jazzmatazz, Joe Strummer, Marva Whitney (JB’s), Queens of the Stone Age, Alice Cooper, Chuck Berry, Paul Weller and Run the Jewels. It’s a truly fantastic archive.
The campaign has now started and music lovers are pledging to buy this fantastic tribute, they will help bring the book to life and also help pay tribute to one of London’s most enduring venues.
For more details and to support the cause find out more here.