The full story of Pub Rock can be read in Will Birch’s excellent book No Sleep Till Canvey Island (Virgin).
In it, the former Kursaal Flyers drummer recounts how an American band called Eggs Over Easy blagged themselves a gig at the Tally Ho pub, a former jazz club on Fortress Road in Kentish Town, London (sadly now demolished to make way for apartments) that so impressed local musicians – including Nick Lowe – that they decided to have a go themselves.
One thing led to another and before you could say “mine’s a pint”, there were similar bands springing up all over London and an eager audience queuing to see them. Before long, a ‘movement’ was born.
Initially the scene revolved around a handful of London bands with odd names like Brinsley Schwarz (pictured above left), Bees Make Honey, Ducks Deluxe, Kilburn & The High Roads and Chilli Willi & The Red Hot Peppers. In half a dozen hostelries dotted around North London they revived the roots of rock.
While the charts were chock-full of pomp, glitter and glam, these bands took to the tiny pub stages – with the bare minimum of equipment – and stripped music back to its basics and gave it a modern makeover.
Pub Rock was primarily a live thing and you had to be there with a pint in your hand to fully appreciate the magic of it.
In fact during the golden age of Pub Rock between 1972 and 1975, the entire scene produced just one Top 20 single (How Long? by Ace) and all the Pub Rock bands combined probably sold less than 150,000 albums.
Bands from the Pub Rock scene provided a great training ground: Kilburn & The High Roads featured Ian Dury, Flip City boasted Elvis Costello (when he was still Declan McManus), The 101’ers featured Joe Strummer, Brinsley Schwarz were fronted by Nick Lowe, and Ace featured Paul Carrack, who later sang the lead vocal on the Squeeze hit, Tempted.
Without Pub Rock there would have been no punk rock in Britain. And for that alone, these bands deserve their place in Rock & Roll history.
“Before pub rock people used to think the ideal gig was somewhere like Guildford Civic where you could sit cross-legged and watch King Crimson pan across the stereo. But with the Ducks, the Eggs and the Brinsleys, instead of sitting there reverently impressed, you could get f-in’ legless and have a good time!”