This weekend marks 35 years since Eric’s closed its doors, Getintothis’ Bernie Connor relives his wonderfully misspent youth and recalls the renowned jukebox with a special mixtape.
One of the seemingly most influential nightspots in the city’s long and chequered history had its doors closed for the final time, against its will, at the behest of the coppers on March 14 1980, thirty five years ago this weekend.
Eric’s was a ramshackle sewer extension on Matthew Street that served the city during punk and its idiot children, becoming the focal point of the incredible advancement of music during the three and a half years it was open.
The club and its incredibly important legacy are well documented, books have been written, TV shows made about how it connected with a disaffected youth, spurred on by the antics of Johnny Rotten and Joe Strummer, to radically alter the musical landscape of the entire country given time.
And so it goes……
I’m not exactly sure when, but sometime in the summer of 1979 Eric’s underwent a refurb. The cloakroom was moved upstairs, the dressing room was swapped to the other side of the stage, and a lounge of sorts constructed in the space vacated. The club’s promoter, Roger Eagle installed a jukebox in there during the summer of 1979. It was the beginning of being amazed by music from outer space. Bright lights, thumping bass and that ethereal sound of stylus on vinyl mesmerised the yout’ that force fed it 50p pieces on an industrial scale.
But it would have been just another jukebox had it not been for the music therein. The music was an education to bright eyed youngsters like myself with fertile minds. A huge celebration of the previous 25 years of music, rhythm ‘n’ blues on labels like Chess of Chicago, King of Cincinnati, Ohio, Sue Records via New York City. Jazz singles on Stateside and London plus rare, crackly Jamaican music, pressed onto the most appallingly shoddy vinyl that hissed and bumped on even brand new copies.
In the summer 0f 1979 there was an all out mod-revival going on, and even for those who didn’t want to dress like Paul Weller and worship The Jam, there was still enough interest in all things modernist, particularly the music which Roger catered to enormously.
His position as one of the great r ‘n’ b/soul disc jockeys the previous decade well placed him to be an authority on what the yout’ were vaguely grasping on to. It was a candy store for those about to take music -and whatever it did- into another dimension, all presided over by the hulking, imposing figure of Roger Eagle.
He rightly has a legendary status now, Roger but in 1979 he could be a terrifying figure to an 18 year old from Speke, and I always got the impression he didn’t like me. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, he was a massive influence on the way I consume music and indeed, the music I have consumed.
The legacy of the jukebox is that it exposed a whole raft of people my age to music we didn’t hear in our bedrooms, black music that existed before Motown; zydeco, Cajun twist, ska that sounded a million miles from the punkish off-beat of The Specials and Selecter. It was a grounding in music that I’m proud of and amazed by, it took me to somewhere else. And I don’t think I ever came back.
Here I’ve created 50 cuts from the Eric’s jukebox, an opportunity for a contemporary audience to get a brief whiff of that wonderful time in Liverpool’s musical history, where everything stank and there really was no future.