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

Interview with Trevor Williams of Audience

Trevor Williams

Bass player Trevor Williams is witness and protagonist of the progressive scene at The Marquee Club during the early 70's. Specially as a member of Audience, one of the most reputed bands from Charisma Label at the time, which was supported at the club by reputed bands like Queen and America. At The Marquee, Williams jammed with Jackson Heights and Van Der Graaf Generator and he also played as a member of Jonathan Kelly?s Outside.

Trevor Williams remembers about The Marquee Club and Charisma Label.


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

John Gee, the manager I knew throughout the time we played there.

-What's your memory about him?

Simply that he seemed a slightly incongruous figure. A real music enthusiast -not so much King Crimson as Frank Sinatra in reality- but someone who obviously enjoyed what we did yet visually was far less hippy than accountant! A man who would have seemed to be in the wrong job to anyone who didn't know how much he loved the club and what it portrayed. But I say this without having known him for more than the occasions we played there for him or went backstage to meet other bands. He was always supportive.

-What about Jack Barrie? Did you get to know him?

I remember the name, but nothing else.

-Audience played at The Marquee club for the first time in April 1969, supporting Gilbert and George. Do you remember that particular evening?

I certainly do. Gilbert and George were a real eye-opener. Very funny and very ordinary backstage. We felt playing The Marquee was a major step.

-Did you ever visit the club before that show?

Yes, but not all that often. I didn't live in London until a year before Audience was born and I tended to visit the more obviously psychedelic clubs like The Electirc Garden, Midlde Earth, UFO etc. I did a couple of auditions there in the years before.

-What was the main difference between clubs such the ones you mentioned and The Marquee?

I would say The Marquee still had more of a blues and soul ethic and the others were almost entirely 'prog-gish', although there was still a blues presence. If I wanted to see Peter Green or Graham Bond I'd expect to go to The Marquee but Tomorrow, Dantalions Chariot, Fairport Convention, Tyrannasourus Rex I'd more likely be at Middle Earth.

-Some of the most important bands that Audience supported at The Marquee were King Crimson, Colosseum, Genesis, Family, and Atomic Rooster. Do you have any particular memory about any of these bands?

Crimson were on the beginning of a roll and were quite astonishing in their power and complexity. They were all friendly, apart from Greg Lake who seemed to be somewhere else. Colosseum were always superb and Family were probably our biggest influence. I don't actually recall playing there with Genesis or (Atomic) Rooster but very well remember the first time we met Genesis was when they came along to see us and we talked to a couple of them, including Phil Collins, backstage. I think it might have been there that Collins suggested he would like to join us if Tony Connor left because he didn't have a lot of faith in Genesis getting anywhere.

-And what happened finally?

Phil Collins became a millionaire and Genesis a major band! Nothing happened. We were perfectly happy with Tony. I think it was simply that Genesis had only just joined Charisma Label and were in limbo. It's something we would never have remembered if it hadn't been for their later success.

-Apart from Genesis, some other bands under the Charisma wing were Van Der Graaf Generator, Rare Bird, Lindisfarne and Jackson Heights. What kind of relationship you used to have with the members from these other bands?

Audience

We tended to take the piss out of Van Der Graaf Generator members quite a bit because they were a bit deadly serious, but we toured with them very amicably on several occasions. We were much closer to Lindisfarne and Jackson Heights as they both supported us in their early days and they were good lads and a lot of fun. I only recall playing alongside Rare Bird once, at an Oxford or Cambridge May Ball, and don't recall having much contact. Howard (Werth) chummed up with one of them -Dave Kaffinetti, I think- when he moved out to L.A. after being invited to join The Doors. We jammed with Jackson and Van Der Graaf Generator at The Marquee one night as an encore, which was pretty riotous.

-Your residency coincided with the "Marquee Sunday Special Nights" organized by Charisma Label's Tony Stratton-Smith. What's your memory about him?

Strat was a tremendous, massively charismatic man with total belief and a supportive attitude in and towards his artists. All of us liked him a lot. Oddly enough, one of the many visions I have of him in the past was propping up the bar at The Marquee and bestowing alcohol on anyone who came near him. A real one-off.

-Yes, I've heard that he would spend many hours with Jack Barrie at the bar of The Marquee.(1)

Yes, I think you're right, but I still can't put a face to that name.

-Do you remember Tony Stratton-Smith as an influential figure in the Marquee and in the music scene at the time?

Audience

I think Strat's reputation and general open bonhomie made him both an attractive social target as well as someone you would really hope would notice your band. When he took an interest in Audience we couldn't have hoped for a bigger break. Being part of the Charisma stable was massive kudos. Playing The Marquee as part of the Charisma stable was doubly great, because we liked playing to smaller, more educated audiences such as you would expect at The Marquee and even though the money might have been less at the club than at larger venues, we'd sooner the vibe and honor of The Marquee and the knowledge the punters expected quality and hopefully we could provide it.

-In April 1970, Audience started a Sunday residency at the club. How much do you think that helped to the career of the band?

I think that gig and a residency at Ronnie Scott's were the two most important boosts, both to our confidence and for the exposure we got in the music press.

-In January 1971, you were supported at The Marquee by Queen and America. Did you like their show?

Do you know I can't actually remember either of them? Isn't that a let down?

-That's too bad! I hope they can remember you.

Apparently Brian May has mentioned us somewhere in recent years, and Freddie (Mercury)'s predecessor, who I think was present at the time of that gig rather than Freddie, was a loose member of a band I was with later Jonathan Kelly's Outside. His name's Tim Staffell. Still around somewhere I think, and he remembered us very well.

-After the success of your 3rd album "House on the Hill", released in April 1971, do you remember feeling like being more popular when you played at The Marquee?

I certainly do recall feeling we'd got well ahead after 'House on the Hill'. But I'd say we were always welcome at the club.

-Audience played for the last time at The Marquee in August 1972. Can you remember that particular evening?

Yes. I didn't like it at all. It was the last line-up -without Keith (Gemmell)- and almost our last gig of all. We were crumbling, rambling and not at all inspiring. I'm fairly sure we didn't go down too well. That was certainly the pattern for most of the final gigs.

-In January 1974, you returned to play The Marquee after having joined Jonathan Kelly?s Outside. How different was the experience at the club from the Audience's days?

Kelly was the attraction rather than the band. I think we did O.K. but I had the impression of a kind of mini-Dylan moment with some people being stroppy about Kelly going electric. I'm sure I enjoyed the club no less than usual but it wasn't my thing this time, it was somebody else's and I never had the same buzz as with Audience. Guess that's always been the story actually.

-You later went to tour the US with The Faces. Did you ever see them perform at The Marquee before that?

No. Never saw Small Faces either, although I did see Rod (Stewart) with Jeff Beck at the Windsor Jazz Festival, which I think was a Marquee promotion if memory serves.

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

Actually, my favorite anecdote, if it had actually happened, would have been the fact that Van Der Graaf Generator, Jackson Heights and ourselves had planned to play Chirpy 'Chirpy Cheep Cheep' on that mass encore at The Marquee I mentioned earlier. That would have been the coolest of uncool blasts, but we chickened out!

-What cooled you off?

I think some of the more serious musos -and I suspect we're back to Van Der Graaf- were the nervy ones. In the event we played 'Lucille' and 'Johnny Be Good' -real power versions- but still a cop-out. I'd have loved to play something so uncool at the coolest club in town!

-In 1975, you retired from the music business temporarily to found a wildlife charity organization. Did you ever visited the Marquee club or keep in touch with people from the club after that?

I went to The Marquee to see bands and occasionally met up with Strat or old friends/musos but I didn't stay in touch with anyone much. I didn't actually start the charity until 1990, there were quite a few ventures in between, a few of them musical but nothing professional.

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

Always sad to see an icon go. Wherever the dumped the bricks, I'll bet they're still resonating from all that great music.

-A clerk from the restaurant at the site where The Marquee used to be told me once that some people says they can hear ghost instruments playing, like getting tuned... so who knows...

Well I hope they can hear our dressing room run through of 'Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep'. That would be epitaph enough for me!

- 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?

I would have to say playing The Marquee was up there with playing The Cavern, The Two I's Coffee Bar, The Festival Hall... Not all of them led to great things but it's great to know I played on those stages. It made you feel like you were treading in the footsteps of The Shadows, The Beatles, The Who and that you were one of them. Musically, playing gigs with such a reputation drove you to perform better and to strive to be good enough to satisfy the cream of audiences.

Notes:
(1) Ray H, May 2007, interviewed by TheMarqueeClub.net

Interview by K. Barroso, March 2007.
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