The Marquee Club - A tribute site dedicated to the history of the legendary Marquee club at London's 90 Wardour street.

Interview - Jeremy Fletcher

Jeremy Fletcher
Picture courtesy of Jeremy Fletcher

Jeremy Fletcher is one of the witnesses of the Marquee club's days in the 60's that captured with his camera the essence of the emerging swinging London. Fletcher started his career in London in 1959 aged 17, working as a photographic assistant in a studio that specialized in furniture and lingerie photography. In 1963, he set himself up as a freelance photographer operating from his flat in Notting Hill Gate under the moniker of Julian Hann.

One of Jeremy's popular images from this period is the portrait of the famous groupie Jenny Fabian, author of the book "Groupie". In 1964, Jeremy Fletcher was commissioned to work in the promotional photographs for Manfred Mann and soon began working regularly for the popular weekly magazine "Fabulous". After being introduced to the reputed manager and producer Giorgio Gomelsky, Fletcher shot some of Britain's most popular emerging artists, including the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, the Pretty Things, the Hollies, the Searchers, the Swinging Blue Jeans, the Fortunes, Peter & Gordon, Georgie Fame, Chris Farlowe, Zoot Money, Cilla Black, Michael Crawford and also legendary bluesmen such as Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon. Durinf this period he laso portraited a large number of celebrities and movie stars such as Richard Attenborough, Richard Harris, Mohammed Ali, Britt Ekland, Twiggy and Suzanna York.

By the late 60's, Jeremy started stepping into other spheres of photography and in the early 70's he quit photography to become a farmer in Wiltshire until moving to Melbourne, Australia. Jeremy Fletcher has exhibited his photography work in Australia and a selection of his photographs can be viewed on this site and are available for purchase as signed original prints.

-What is the first image that springs to your mind when you hear the words Marquee Club?

First image that springs to mind is Paul Jones belting out an R&B number and bringing the crowd to a frenzy of excitement. He really was (and still is) a consumate entertainer. I've seen him perform a couple of times in Melbourne over the last few years and he's lost none of his magic. In fact he's even better. He really knows how to work an audience.  Another image is of a girl who seemed always to be at the club and who I either knew to be (or assumed to be) a 'groupie'. One evening I had to go back to my flat in Notting Hill Gate to fetch something, a lens or more film, can't remember exactly. She decided to accompany me.  I got very excited and nervous in anticipation of being seduced!  I must admit I was quite shockingly innocent then. Well it didn't happen - perhaps she didn't like the colour of my linen - or more likely she realised I wasn't going to be much of a lay. Anyway I've always regretted that she didn't take advantage of me! Funnily enough about 20 years later I was driving along a street behind Park Lane and a taxi passed going in the opposite direction. Sitting in the back was that same girl. A fleeting look of recognition crossed her face though I doubt she could remember quite where or when we'd met. So if she should happen to read this, I'd like her to know I've never forgotten her!

-Well, I guess that's what psychologists call "selective memory", but can you remember the very first time you ever visited the Marquee club?

The first time I visited the club, now that I think of it, must have been when a reception for the performers in the 1963 American Folk Blues Festival was held there. It is unlikely that I had ever heard of the club before then.

-After 4 years working as a photographic assistant in a London studio specialised in furniture and lingerie photography, in 1963 you started working as a freelance photographer. What was your first work related with the world of pop music?

First work related to the world of pop music was in fact the same 1963 American Folk Blues Festival, held at Fairfield Hall, Croydon. I don't think this was really work though.  It was probably suggested that I go along by Hamish Grimes, Giorgio Gomelsky's right hand man, Giorgio being the Yardbirds' manager and Hamish my sister's boyfriend. I doubt that I was paid for it. It would have been a labour of love anyway as I felt at the time that black blues artists were the 'real thing' and white English guys merely pale imitations. I really didn't have much of a clue as to how to take pictures at this sort of occasion. I didn't have any decent camera equipment and I was so in awe of those guys that all I really wanted to do was watch and listen. A few reasonable shots came out of it but there should have been many many more. A missed opportunity.

-Talking about a decent equipement, what kind of equipment did you use for your work at the time?

Most of my pictures of that time were shot on a Mamiyaflex twin  lens 2 1/4 sq camera.  I still have it.  I also used a Pentax 35mm  but never really liked it much.

-In 1964, you were commissioned to photograph Manfred Mann for the band's promotion. How was your relationship with the band?

My relationship with Manfred Mann was very good as far as I can remember. You couldn't say we were 'mates' but we were all much the same age, starting out in our respective careers and I think there was a common bond. I probably did at least six sessions with them and I was even asked to photograph Manfred Mann's wife.

Manfred Mann

Manfred Mann at the back of the Marquee club in Richmond Mews, 1964.
Picture © Jeremy Fletcher

-You shot a set of pictures of Manfred Mann at the back street of the Marquee club in Richmond Mews in 1964. Why did you choose that scenery for the photo session?

I imagine I shot Manfred Mann in Richmond Mews because it was there! I was probably asked to turn up at the club and Richmond Mews seemed very handy. We also went to a square just down the road from the club,  can't remember the name of it. There may have been a shortage of time so we had to shoot in the immediate area.

-In 1964, you started working regularly for the popular weekly magazine "Fabulous" and you did several photo reports at the Marquee, including Donovan and the T-Bones. Where you aware at the moment that you were capturing an important part of the history of the culture of the 60's?

Tragically I had no sense that I was capturing an important part of the history and culture of the 1960s. If that had been the case, I would certainly have been a great deal more pro-active in terms of seeing and photographing as many bands as I could. Basically what I was actually doing was enjoying the precious moment and going along for the ride. I was in my early twenties and extremely naive with it. There was no awareness that this particular time was somehow hugely different or deeply significant. I didn't take what I was doing in any way seriously (more's the pity) and I had no goal or life-plan.

What happened, happened and I went along with it. It really was pure accident that I not only went into photography in the first place but also that for a short period I became a music photographer. I wasn't drawn to the music. In fact I really wasn't that interested in it. Black blues artists were my heroes but the music I bought and listened to in those days was either classical or jazz. I don't remember ever having bought an album of British pop or R&B in those days. I enjoyed a lot of the live music I heard but not to the point when I felt the need to go out and buy albums.

Fabulous Posters

A set of posters from "Fabulous" magazine by Jeremy Fletcher featuring the Yardbirds, Manfred Mann and the Kinks

 -At the time you used to work in black and white. Was it a personal preference or a requirement?

I love black & white and have never been particularly interested in colour. But I think black & white was probably the requirement as far as the bands I photographed were concerned. Most of the 'Fabulous' material was shot in colour.

-Since you were photographing the artists, did you have the chance to meet any of them off stage and know them better?

No, I didn't  get to know any of the artists that well. It was basically a business relationship though much fun was often had.  I didn't see them outside the confines of either the gig or the photographic session. But I felt I knew some of the guys reasonably well, particularly Zoot Money and his band. Had a lot of laughs with them.

-John Gee used to be the manager of the Marquee club at the moment. How was your relationship with him?

Don't remember ever having met John Gee.

Donovan at the Marquee club

Donovan at the Marquee club captured by Jeremy Fletcher circa 1964
Picture © Jeremy Fletcher

-As a member of the audience, which gigs at the Marquee do you remember enjoying especially?

Don't remember any particular gigs at the Marquee but I absolutely loved Chris Farlowe and Long John Baldry and thought they were huge talents.

-You also did wonderful photographs of other important clubs from the 60's such as the Flamingo. What is your personal memory of the London's Soho scene during the 60's?

Personal memories of Soho life? Not sure I was ever much involved in Soho life apart from visiting and working in and around it's two most famous clubs. Georgie Fame's 21st birthday party was held at his manager, Rik Gunnell's office in Denmark Street, I think. I was there and that was fun. But there must have been a huge amount going on in Soho at the time which passed me by totally. If I hadn't been involved professionally, especially in respect of Manfred Mann and Zoot Money, it is doubtful I'd ever have set foot in Soho except perhaps to go to the theatre or see a film. I know Marianne Faithfull lived on a wall in Soho for a year or two. I wish I'd known that at the time.

-So probably you were not one of those people who would spend hours drinking and socialising at the Ship pub, the place where all the artists would meet during those days?

I don't remember going to the Ship pub. Where was that? Went to the pub down the road from the Marquee (on the opposite side of Wardour Street) a few times.  Had my first cigarette there.

-What did you think when you heard about the demolishing of the original building at 90 Wardour street in the 90's?

I'm sorry to say I didn't hear about the demolition of the original Marquee in the 90's but if I had, I would have been very saddened by it. The Marquee was, in it's way, as important to the London music scene as The Cavern was to Liverpool's. The building should have been preserved at all cost.

-Now you live in Melborne, Australia. Have you ever visited Wardour street again?

Yes I have visited Wardour Street again since coming to Australia. I took an Australian friend there 4-5 years ago and showed him both the Marquee site and the Flamingo. Very nostalgic. I'm sure I told my first two children about the club.  They were both born in the 60's. My third (born in 1991) will get to hear about it one of these days when next we visit London.  

-If you had to define the effect that the Marquee club had in your life or in your musical career, how would you put it into words?

The Marquee will always hold a very special place in my heart. It is synonymous with a period of my life when I felt completely free. The Marquee certainly influenced that feeling. It had a central role in my life's journey at the time, both professionally and privately. I loved the excitement of the place. It had an electric buzz that made me feel brilliantly alive. It energised me. The club attracted the best bands around. It WAS an amazing place and an amazing time.

Interview by K. Barroso, April 2006.
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More info and original photographs on sale at Jeremy Fletcher's web site