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London Calling

London Gigs

Article from One Two Testing, March 1986

London crawling made impossibly easy

Getting gigs on the Capital circuit isn't impossible when you know how. And here's how. Not to mention where, who and why. Our man with the A to Z and the smarmy telephone manner: Tim Glynne-Jones.

My mate, Damian, reckons he's the best white singer since Elvis Presley and I'm inclined to agree with him. However, Damian's getting frustrated. Every time he exercises his vast vocal ability in public he opens his eyes between songs to see the same 10 people and the same dog gazing enthusiastically back at him. You see, Damian wants to reach a wider audience.

It's the story of untold numbers of aspiring superstars. One day you're watching Top of the Pops and you realise that you've been saying "what a load of Brookside" about every song that's been on. You know that you could do better so you get a band together and, sure enough, you're brilliant. You become the hottest act ever to grace the stage at the Praise the Lord Spiritualist Church Hall and a loyal band of friends and relations follows you from youth club to youth club, learning your songs and telling you you're great. Suddenly the relative obscurity of the Holy Circuit becomes frustrating and you decide it's time to hit the mighty London circuit and get your name in the papers.

The first step is to record a good quality demo tape. Almost every venue I approached and most booking agents asked for a demo tape before anything else, so get one done and run off several copies while you're about it. The next step is to select the most suitable venues for your band to play.

This depends largely on the size of your following. The best bet seems to be to get a regular slot at a small venue and build up a following of about 60 odd people who would travel around London to see you at the bigger venues. Your big venue proprietor isn't going to put on a band unless they attract an audience whose entrance money and beer money covers his overheads. Once you've built up this following you progress to the bigger, more popular venues and add an extra layer to your snowballing audience. In these bigger venues you should now attract the attention of the press which will consequently increase the size of your audience yet more and you can just keep playing and watch the snowball grow.

With a reasonable representation of the band down on tape I reached stage two, choosing the most suitable venues in which to show off my singing friend, and the results are listed below.


The Bass Clef in Coronet Street, N1 specialises in African, Latin and Jazz and they take no other style of music. They ask a lot of questions to pinpoint the exact style of your band and to weed out impostors. If you make it through the inquisition you'll be asked to send a tape and press material to: Dominique, (Contact Details).


The bookings at Le Beat Route are handled by an agent, Amber, who can be contacted on (Contact Details). Amber will listen to anything except heavy metal and she asks you to send a tape and biography of the band, including day and evening phone numbers, to: Action Preview, Le Beat Route, (Contact Details).


The bookings at the Bull and Gate are divided into two groups. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday are handled by an agent called Tony (Contact Details). Tony books bands with a following of at least 100 for Thursdays and at least 200 for Fridays and Saturdays but he takes smaller bands on Sundays. I asked about getting a support slot for the 'big' nights and apparently the headline bands provide their own support so it might be a good idea to get in with a popular band and steal their audience. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are handled by the landlord and these nights are occupied by smaller bands although it must be said that the capacity is over 200 and the punters don't flood in to see unknown bands. I suggest you get in touch with either the landlord or Tony over the phone and discuss the details with them before you submit a tape. The landlord can be contacted on (Contact Details).


The Carnarvon Castle response was enthusiastic and unfussy, asking only that you drop a tape in or send it to: Carnarvon Castle, (Contact Details).


The Clarendon is one of the more prestigious venues on the London circuit. The bookings are managed by Tim Parry on (Contact Details). He'll listen to any kind of music and as far as a following goes, he simply said, "it helps". He sometimes books support bands so send a tape plus any information and photo you might have to: Tim Parry, (Contact Details).


Crazy Larry's will take any kind of music provided it's good enough of course and they like to know a bit about the band as well so send a tape and information about the band, including a photo if you have one, to: Belinda, (Contact Details).


Another venue using a booking agent and in this case the method is quite intricate. I got in touch with the agent on (Contact Details) and discovered that the band's name began with the wrong letter. It seems that these agents deal with a number of venues and they use an alphabetical system to decide which of their bands play where and when. Because of this I found that I'd come along at the wrong time to get a booking at the Cricketers but Angela was dealing with 'S' bands so we might get one somewhere else. Strange but true. Perhaps more importantly they pointed out that you need a following of about 60 if you want to play the Cricketers.


If you're looking for a booking at Dingwalls then you wanna get in touch with the Boss. He asks no questions about your band and he'll listen to anything once. All he wants is your tape and then you'll be judged purely on the music. Send your tape to: The Boss, (Contact Details).


No agents here. This seems like a good venue for small bands to make a start. Again, all they want is to hear a tape of the band, no info required, and the address is: Dublin Castle, (Contact Details).


Down at the Embassy Club they choose all the bands themselves and that goes for support bands as well. As far as having a following is concerned they just say that it helps and the more the merrier but if you're good enough then it's not essential. They do ask to hear a tape, of course, and this should be sent to: Mark Fuller, The Embassy Club, (Contact Details).


The Fridge is another exclusive one and they're very good at politely and jovially slamming the door in your face. They don't have support bands — "they kill the evening" which means you have to be part of the "happening London scene" and you've got to have a following of 1000 people to boot. Consequently, it doesn't seem worth sending a demo tape because if they want you they'll probably know you already but if you want to give them a try then here's the number: (Contact Details).


The Greyhound is another of the more prestigious venues on the circuit and as a result, the bands they take on are well supported. However, I received a very friendly and helpful response and was encouraged to play some smaller venues and build up a following, get some press and get the name about. When you've achieved this status send them a tape and enclose a biography and a photo of the band to: Tracey Lee, (Contact Details).


The Half Moon leaves the bookings to an agent called Mike Mellor. I once sent him a tape and it came back with only 10 seconds of the first song listened to and no note to say it was no good so it's advisable to get him to listen to the tape while you're there or, failing that, put some kind of audio 'Blipvert' at the start of your tape. Here's where to find him: (Contact Details).


Unlike their Herne Hill namesakes, the Half Moon in Putney handles their bookings directly: Send your tape with some information on the band to: The Half Moon, (Contact Details).


Heaven don't take many bands to do full gigs. They have quite a few PAs and at other times the place is hired out by promoters to put their bands on. However, they do have the occasional band on so you can send a tape and as much information as possible to: Bob Stewart, Heaven, (Contact Details).


The agent for the Kings Head is Bill Knox who can be contacted on (Contact Details). He recommends that you have a following of at least 50 if you want to headline but support bands are also booked by him so you don't have to be well known. The majority of his bookings are R&B and soul but he says he listens to a wide variety. Just send him a tape c/o The Kings Head, (Contact Details).


The Marquee Club deals with several agents and you can obtain a list of these agents from the Marquee at: (Contact Details).


The Mean Fiddler has a very clear and definite system. You need a minimum of 60 in your audience. When you get the booking you pay a deposit of £50. Once you've sold your 60 tickets you get your deposit back and you keep all the takings. They make their money behind the bar. In order to apply for an engagement send a tape, some information and a photo to: David Phillip, (Contact Details).


The agent in this case is Howard (Contact Details). Howard is more interested in seeing you play than hearing you on tape. This has it's advantages and it's disadvantages. If you're no good and you were planning to cover up the cracks with the polyfilla of studio production then it's bad news. If, however, you pride yourselves on your live act (which you should, otherwise you're wasting your time) then it has to be a good thing plus the fact that you can save on the expense of the demo tape routine. So if you're playing somewhere where Howard can come and see you drop him a line.


This is a punk club run by Pete. You've got to be alternative if you want to play there any day except Sunday when the ordinary folk get their chance. Don't be put off by the 'alternative' banner, you might fit in to that category with your Val Doonican medleys for all you know so send a tape to Pete anyway. If you want to settle for a Sunday night slot contact Barry after 6pm. Pete and Barry can both be contacted at The Plough and Harrow, (Contact Details).


Short and to the point. Send your tape to: Sean MacDonald (Contact Details), The Rock Garden, (Contact Details). Not very helpful at all so I can only assume that he'll listen to anything and he doesn't care what you look like.


This one is handled by the same agents as the Cricketers in Kennington so the same alphabetical system applies.

100 CLUB

You've got to be a headline band to fill the 100 Club and the support bands are always provided by the headline band to avoid argument so this is definitely not the place for the newcomers. (Contact Details).

When you send your tapes and biographies and photos off, remember to enclose a SAE if you want it all back and also to enclose a telephone number so that you can be contacted when necessary.

All these agents receive a large number of applications so your tape will have to stand out if you want it to make an impression on the agent. It's just like any other competitor,: you need to have something which will make your entry stand out from all the others. Also, recognition plays a big part in selection processes so it's a good idea to pester the agent until he knows who you are and what the name of your band is so that when he comes across your tape there will be added curiosity, if only subconscious. Push yourselves as far as you can. Exaggerate your good points and play down your faults. First impressions are very important. You've got to get your client interested in your product before he samples it. Lie if necessary. Actually getting the gig is the hardest part. Once you're there it's too late for them to change their minds.

Finally, make all the contacts you can and use them. If you know a band with a good following ask if you can support them. This will get you into some of the bigger venues, bypassing the preliminary stages. However, if you want to be a success then you've got to have a good act. Luck can only take you so far.

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Premier Snare Drums

Publisher: One Two Testing - IPC Magazines Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.

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One Two Testing - Mar 1986



Feature by Tim Glynne-Jones

Previous article in this issue:

> Fostex A-8 Retrospective

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> Premier Snare Drums

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