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

Interview with Mark Bannister of The Larks

Mark Bannister of The Larks

Guitarist Mark Bannister played several times at The Marquee Club between 1985 and 1987 as a member of The Larks.


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

The Marquee logo on the wall behind the stage! Bands would be charged a substantial fee if they wanted to hang their own banner in front of it. Not many did, it was cooler to have the Marquee logo in the background anyway.
Excellent branding. Think about it. Had the Wardour Street club survived, that logo would now be as ubiquitous on T-shirts, etc., as the CBGB logo is.

Do you remember the very first time you ever visited the club?

Yes, The Cure in early 1979. I'd seen them once before in an empty pub in Oxford so I was surprised they were even playing The Marquee and even more surprised that anybody showed up to see them. I still have Robert Smith's handwritten set list somewhere.
The DJ played "Roxanne" by The Police before and after The Cure played. It sounded great but I didn't know what the song was called or who it was by until it was re-released later that year.

Can you remember the first time you ever played at The Marquee Club?

Yes, sort of. We played there six or seven times in quite a short period of time so it's all a bit of a blur now. I do remember being aware whilst sound-checking the first time we played there that we were following in the footsteps of The Who, Hendrix, Pink Floyd, etc. and feeling momentarily awestruck. We were all acting as nonchalant as hell but it was a big thrill to play there.

As a member of the audience at The Marquee Club, is there any band that you remember especially?

Johnny Thunders in August 1984. He did a week's residency. It was billed as The Heartbreakers but it was just Johnny, Jerry Nolan and Billy Rath. No Walter Lure. Patti Palladin came out for a couple of songs. I went to quite a few of the gigs. One night it was really hot and Johnny could hardly be bothered to play. He did about half an hour then said, "Come back tomorrow". I did and he was absolutely superb.

Which was your most memorable night at The Marquee Club?

The night we sold the place out. April 1986? Keith Altham, the legendary old-school press officer who'd worked with The Stones, The Who, Slade, T. Rex etc. etc., said we were the best live band he'd seen since The Faces and took us on. I went home with a smile on my face.

Can you remember who got you the residency at the club?

I assume our booking agent got us the gigs. I seem to remember that the door-split was generous and you could make quite a lot of money if you filled the place up.

Did you also write your name on the wall?

All I remember is that it was so cramped and horrible in there, we'd spend only the minimum possible time backstage. Wish we'd thought to have our photo taken in there though.

Is there any particular anecdote from The Marquee that always makes you laugh?

The night the lighting guy played a prank on us. After a particularly hot and sweaty gig, he confessed to us that he'd pulled a fast one. He told us that most bands started to wilt if he cranked the lighting up any more than halfway. We were still going strong so he'd added more and more lighting to see how much we could take. All in the interests of science, presumably. Eventually, he had the entire lighting rig trained on us. We were still leaping about and giving an energetic performance, as usual. Everybody and everything was drenched in sweat. You couldn't breathe! Our trumpet player passed out in the dressing room between encores but we'd soldiered on anyway. The lighting guy congratulated us, saying he'd never come across another band like us!

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

Gutted. I get very sentimental about historical landmarks. To be honest, I've avoided Wardour Street since 1988.

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?

Just playing there gave you a tangible sense of achievement in itself. Selling the place out, getting four encores etc. etc. was icing on the cake.
The Larks played other notable venues like Dingwalls, Hammersmith Odeon, The Astoria (currently under threat of demolition itself), The Town and Country Club, etc. etc., each with its own illustrious history but no other venue has or had the same cachet as The Marquee. I can't put my finger on it, it was the best place to see a band and the best place to play if you were in a band. Maybe that had something to do with it.

Interview by K. Barroso, December 2007.
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