Spotlight on Eric's club
26 August to 21 November 2004
This exhibition has now closed
On 1 October 1976 a new club opened on Mathew Street in Liverpool city centre. Despite closing its doors just four years later, its impact on the Merseyside music scene is legendary.
Eric's, like the Cavern Club before, provided a stage for talented local groups to explore their musical abilities and interests with like-minded people. The club staged music rarely heard in other city centre venues - everything from jazz, reggae and folk music to performance art and poetry, and especially punk.
Who ran Eric's?
Roger Eagle, Ken Testi and Pete Fulwell were the co-owners of Eric's. The trio, who had strong local music ties, bought out New Cavern Enterprises and The Revolution bar, renamed it Eric's, and the club became a permanent venue. Ken chose the Eric's name, wanting a simple Anglo Saxon title as opposed to other 'pretentious' club names like Tiffany's and Samantha's.
The three had an open door policy on the acts that played at the club, encouraging bands to form and perform. They also started a record company under the Eric's name, and produced the Last Trumpet fanzine. Another Eric's magazine, More or Less, offered practical advice to musicians.
Who played Eric's?
The list of groups who played Eric's reads like a Who's Who of punk/rock music, from Blondie and The Clash to The Jam and Ultravox. Little known groups like The Police and The Sex Pistols played Eric's on their way to stardom, with The Stranglers featuring on Eric's opening night. Such groups would later return to Liverpool, playing larger venues under the Eric's promotion.
Eric's greatest influence was on local groups. OMD, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes and Wah! Heat all played their first gigs there. Big in Japan were an Eric's success story who still influence today's music scene. Often described as a reverse supergroup, band members later had links with The Lightning Seeds, Frankie goes to Hollywood, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the KLF and the Cream nightclub.
When Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys formed OMD it was for a one-off show at Eric's. Pete Fulwell had other ideas. He introduced them to contacts at Manchester record label The Factory and a successful 18-year career ensued. Andy later went on to run Motor Museum Studios, creating chart toppers Atomic Kitten and working with up and coming local groups.
"OMD only existed because Eric’s existed."
Photograph @ Jonathon Hodgson
Roger in Eric's. Photograph © Bob Letsche - Eric's manager
Roger Eagle, Ken Testi and Pete Fulwell were the co-owners of Eric's.
Sadly Roger died in 1999. A man whose interest in music spanned most styles and cultures, he was widely acknowledged as the driving force behind the club's music policy. Of Roger, Pete said:
"He studied music and bands, the way a gambler studies racing form"
Photograph courtesy of Christine Clarke-Cairn
Christine Cairn-Clark (on the right in this photograph) was a regular at Eric's;
"I lived and breathed Eric's. At two o'clock I would cry"
From the start Eric's was a members club, entitling it to a special licence which allowed it to stay open until 2am. At its peak the club had approximately 5,000 members, with about 100 hard-core regulars who showed up every week.
Recognisable regulars included Pete Burns in amazing make-up, his wife Lin with her kettle handbag, Jayne Casey with a lampshade hat on her shaved head, Holly Johnson and Margi Clark.
"Eric's was like home, you lived there, you lived for Eric's ...there was nothing like it on the planet" Christine Clarke-Cairn
At a time when unemployment was high, people could see bands like XTC or Dead or Alive for £1.50. On busy nights people would queue along the length of Mathew Street. Eric's also staged matinee shows. For 50p teenagers could see the headline band from the later show. Initially this was a way of encouraging groups to come to Eric's - they would be paid for two gigs, making it worth travelling to the North West.
"Eric's was like going to a scary movie! You never knew what was gonna happen. Every night was a surprise, you never got bored with the place." Christine Clarke-Cairn
Photograph © Bob Letsche - Eric's manager
Clem Fisher (in the centre of this photograph) ran the small bar until Eric’s closed in 1980.
Protest against the closure of Eric's
Photograph © Gary Stubbs
The late 1970s saw an increase in clubland violence in Liverpool. Although Eric’s had managed to avoid involvement it was raided in March 1980. After some minor arrests the club was closed for the rest of the evening.
However, Eric’s had mounting debts and nervous investors and this was the last straw. Eric’s did not reopen.
"I don't think the police intended to close the club down. Eric's was always in a precarious situation."
- Thank you to everyone who contributed to the 'Spotlight on Eric's Club' display
- Special thanks go to Paul Whelan