||Sweaty, smelly Marquee Club gets £4m designer makeover
Angelique Chrisafis, arts correspondent
Tuesday May 14, 2002
Not even the pungent underbelly of rock music is safe from designer makeovers. The Marquee Club, the cramped and sweat-drenched Soho dive that launched the careers of the Rolling Stones, the Who, and the Small Faces, is being relaunched as a £4m dining and concert complex.
The Wardour Street venue in central London, which closed in 1996, was known for its "eau de beer and old clothes" and a collective sweat so intense that Jimi Hendrix's guitar kept going out of tune when he stood on stage. Bob Geldof once likened it to an outside toilet.
After opening in 1958 as a jazz club, then introducing rhythm and blues to London, the club attracted a who's who of rock and roll - including the Yardbirds, the Sex Pistols, David Bowie, and later REM and U2.
The club's brand name now belongs to Dave Stewart, the former Eurythmics musician, and Mark Fuller, the entrepreneur behind London's Sugar Reef and Embassy club. In July, they will reopen the Marquee as a 1,000-capacity club and restaurant with a Michelin-starred chef and "concrete and chandeliers" decor in an upmarket Islington shopping development featuring Gap and Borders bookshop.
The club will have the biggest dance floor in London, some of the best acoustics and lighting rigs in the city, production and editing facilities, and a VIP viewing gallery so stars will no longer get their feet soaked in warm beer among the plebs. It will boast dressing rooms with "full kitchen amenities", and a lift for roadies.
Stewart, who used to go to the Marquee once or twice a week to see Thin Lizzy, Bowie, and the Clash before eventually playing there himself, said: "You'd walk in and stop in your tracks, because your feet were stuck to the floor with beer and chewing gum. But the point was that they had a proper stage for live music. Our philosophy is to create a new venue designed by musicians for musicians."
The club's decor would be "industrial Moulin Rouge", with distressed leather chairs and polished concrete floors replacing Wardour Street's tattered carpet. Fuller said: "We want to provide a piece of history. There will be images from the original Marquee days on the walls."
Asked whether the club's gritty history could be re-created in a mall, Fuller said: "Once you're in, you're in, the outside world is miles away."