There are certain moments in history when a club emerges and manages to perfectly capture the mood of the time; nurturing a nascent scene and helping it explode across a city. Liverpool’s Eric’s Club did just that when it first started putting on shows forty years ago today.
Roger Eagle and Ken Testi had decided to open a venue together - a club for people who didn’t usually go to clubs. They found the perfect location on Mathew Street, which had been left barren after The Beatles departed, but there was a sense that something was beginning to emerge again.
In 1974, Peter O’Halligan had bought a warehouse just down the road. Inspired by Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung’s famous dream about Liverpool in which he saw a ‘pool of life’, O’Halligan sought to create a hub of free-thinking, with his building, the Liverpool School Of Language, Music, Dream & Pun housing Aunt Twacky’s - Liverpool’s answer to Kensington market - and a little later, Martin Cooper’s Armadillo Tea Rooms. Geoff Davis had also set up another of his Probe Records close by.
So the groundwork was already in place when Eric’s opened. “I’ve always said there’s a holy trinity between the Armadillo Tea Rooms, Eric’s and Probe Records,” explains Bernie Connor, a regular face on the scene. “What I liked about it was the absolute acceptance of it all.”
Despite the fact they were only a stone’s throw from The Cavern, and were letting their building from the man who once owned it, Eric’s felt completely separated from The Beatles. Roger Eagle famously discouraged young musicians in Liverpool from listening to or mentioning them. “You’d never write a thing if you were comparing yourself to The Beatles,” explains Jayne Casey, who became a close friend of Eagle’s after he visited her Aunt Twacky’s stall and encouraged her to bring along her entourage to the first Eric’s show, with The Stranglers.
Eric’s quickly put Liverpool on the map again as a place touring bands visited. “The Runaways’ tour was an outstanding success and we were the smallest venue on it,” explains Ken Testi. “Everything else on the date sheet was a big theatre so every agent in the country was calling us, to make their date sheet look good.” Once they had brought the maelstrom of The Clash’s epic live show to Eric’s in May 1977, the music scene really crystallised again in Liverpool.
Eric’s also helped nurture a new crop of bands via its Saturday morning sessions, borrowing Deaf School’s PA system. At the centre was the super-group in reverse, Big In Japan, whose members went on to have no less than 8 UK #1 singles, 35 Top 30 chart singles, 2 UK #1 albums and 30 chart albums between them.
The matinee shows played another important role, enabling an under-18 audience to witness life-changing gigs. It was the matinee kids who were the most profoundly affected by the venue shutting in March 1980 and they took to the streets in protest.
The venue had been raided by the police but had found itself in a terrible financial situation for some time so was forced to close straight away. It was true that the matinee kids might not have had a place to go for a while but when Eric’s closed it wasn’t like when The Beatles left. The musicians who emerged out of that scene and rose to international fame had seen the ghost town they inherited and wanted to leave something behind for the next generation, that’s why the punk, DIY ethos born out of 1970s Mathew Street still reverberates around Liverpool’s counterculture to this day.
Written by Josh Ray
The following playlist includes tracks from artists who played memorable shows at Eric’s Club - and tracks from artists who emerged out of the Eric’s scene:
Stranglers - No More Heroes
The Clash - Police & Thieves
Tapper Zukie - Jah Is I Guiding Star
Joy Division - Transmission
Big In Japan – Your’re A Girl, I’m A Boy
Teardrop Explodes - Sleeping Gas
Echo & The Bunnymen - Killing Moon
Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark - Electricity
Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Two Tribes - Annihilation
Read more about Eric's over on Super Weird Substance www.superweirdsubstance.com/the-liverpool-dream