Ahead of the exciting LIMF commission, Getintothis’ Denise Hodgkinson takes a closer look at From Eric’s To EVOL’s curator Marc Jones, and the legacy he is a part of.
Marc Jones, best known as the founder and DJ of the Medication nightclub, which has been a fixture in the city for over twenty years, is behind the celebration of the last forty years of Liverpool’s alternative and punk scene, From Eric’s to EVOL as part of this year’s Liverpool International Music Festival. He wanted to not only celebrate the 40th anniversary of punk but also to reflect on the music scene in Liverpool since then and the influence of those early days on the current scene.
His starting point and inspiration came from reading about the history of punk and he cites two books in particular: England’s Dreaming by Jon Savage and Punk Rock: An Oral History by John Robb.
The former, published in 1991, is considered to be the definitive history of punk music and remains the single most comprehensive analysis of the phenomenon. Robb’s book, on the other hand, is less academic and more about people’s memories and stories from the time. “Just the bands and fans talking”, as Marc puts it.
There is a companion Facebook page for the event which enables sharing of stories and photos from Eric’s, Planet X, The Warehouse in the oral history tradition of which Marc is so keen on. He also mentions the book dedicated to the Eric’s legacy by Jaki Florek and Paul Whelan.
Marc is, however, particularly interested in the reminiscences of the audience and club members and how their musical adventures have subsequently influenced their lives. Everyone has their own memories and Marc wants to hear from all of them. The ‘Eric’s diaspora’ includes much more than music, encompassing writers, artists, designers and journalists. Such people’s lives are still being influenced by what they experienced in the late 70s.
Marc’s musical journey began when he started going to Eric’s club in the 70s. Nothing could replace the initial excitement of the early punk gigs but when Eric’s closed down in 1980 and became Brady’s, Marc was hooked and continued to go to as many gigs as he could. The Warehouse became a favourite venue, with gigs most nights of the week.
In the early 80s Marc and his brother Jason became devotees of Planet X, run by Liverpool legend Doreen Allen, who had also worked at Eric’s. Doreen treated her clientele more like her own children than punters, even laying on a ‘tunnel bus’ so that those who lived over the water (including Marc and Jason) could get home safely. This was a necessity given the outrageous garb of most Planet X punters.
It was much more than a ‘goth’ club. It was also a popular venue and an influence on fashion, with photographers and club-goers from London regularly checking it out to see what was going on there.
‘The Jones Boys’ as Doreen fondly refers to them, became such a fixture at the Planet that they began working there. This was where Marc first started DJing, the start of a long career which he still enjoys and continues to this day. Doreen is collaborating with Marc and Jason on the From Eric’s to EVOL event and this includes chairing a discussion panel of various musicians and journalists, the object of which is to try to make sense of the unique aspects of the legacy of punk and its influence on Liverpool’s cultural scene.
Marc has always been fascinated by the concept of things being underground – as in the aforementioned book about Eric’s, which is subtitled “All the best clubs are downstairs, everyone knows that…”. He identifies with the character of Orpheus in the Underworld. He considers the underground to be a downtrodden place which has to exist for creativity to thrive.
The underground scene in Liverpool in the 80s was small but influential. There was a time when it broke through to the mainstream with such bands as The Teardrop Explodes, Echo and the Bunnymen, China Crisis, Dead or Alive, and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. For a while, Liverpool was at the forefront of music and fashion in the UK but it all went underground again after the 80s boom.
However, the 90s saw a resurgence again when a weekly night at Nation evolved into the now legendary Cream. Marc, influenced by this, started his own Medication club night, a night so beloved by the city’s students, which continue to this day. The loss of the venues in Wolstenholme Square is undoubtedly a blow, but Marc is confident that there are still exciting times ahead, with plenty of independent venues coming up, such as The Magnet, District, Bumper and the Arts Club, and the blossoming of the Baltic Triangle, where all kinds of creativity is thriving.
Marc’s journey to the modern day also includes running and DJing at various clubs, including Liquidation, Le Bateau, The Krazyhouse, The Lomax, Korova and The Kazimier, as well as promoting gigs.
Many people who were musicians and club-goers from the Eric’s days are still around, but the inter-generational influences have given rise to a new generation of bands such as Sugarmen and Feral Love, who are appearing at From Eric’s to Evol, along with punk and indie legends including Buzzcocks and The Lightning Seeds.
According to Marc, punk was basic and things had to develop, but it has left a lasting legacy in the DIY ethic which gives people the confidence to try anything or be anything. Some of those people are still out there DIYing it. There is always a lot going on in Liverpool, people are active and interested and there are exciting times ahead. Marc’s enthusiasm is palpable and he will undoubtedly continue to be a positive influence on the music scene.
Marc appears to be amassing plenty of material for his own oral history book in the future via the From Eric’s to EVOL Facebook page. There are some fascinating stories there but always room for more.