The 100 Club is a punk institution on Europe’s busiest shopping street. Owner Jeff Horton looks back on his 34 years at London’s most legendary gig venue…
‘I was born in north London, but I had my big musical awakening in Dorset in 1978. I was at this really shit under-18s disco in Bournemouth for the Royal British Legion. The DJ was shocking, but then he put on “Anarchy in the UK” by the Sex Pistols and my life changed. It was like the world suddenly turned to colour, and I knew that I wanted to work in music.
I moved back to London in 1984, after the British Aerospace facility where I had been working shut down. I remember my dad calling me up and saying, “Well, you’ve got no work now – you might as well come and work for me.”
My dad had sold his jazz record shop in the ’60s to take over a club, which he named the 100 Club based on its address: 100 Oxford Street. The club had always mostly booked jazz musicians, but my dad wanted to change the music policy: he branched out to include rock, R&B and northern soul nights.
When I joined my dad at the club, it was still playing jazz four nights a week, but had also started to show more punk and rock music. I took that and ran with it.
Over the years, I’ve seen all the people who meant so much to me as a kid. I’ve seen Paul Weller here eight times. He says he still misses the Chinese takeaway we had inside the club in the ’70s, between the ladies’ and gents’ toilets.
The club has also been a home for new scenes like Britpop. Oasis played a legendary gig here in 1994. I remember them kicking the back door in, running down the stairs and booting a football around. I thought to myself: They’re gonna be great, because they’ve got absolutely no respect whatsoever. At the show, I don’t think we even had any security, and there were so many people there that I kept thinking: If anyone from the authorities turns up, we’re gonna be bang to rights.
In 2010, the club was headed into the abyss. The rents were skyrocketing, and I knew if I kept trading I could put my family at risk. So I made the decision that September to close the club at the end of the year. Suddenly we were packed full every night. Paul McCartney did a show, and it was really quite emotional. At the end, he said into the mic: “Mr 100, you have to keep this place going, because it’s really, really cool.”
Before we shut, I got a call from a man representing Converse. He said, “Look, I was in a punk band back in the ’80s and I cannot watch this club just disappear.” They sorted us with a sponsorship for six years, and we’ve since joined forces with Fred Perry. That’s how we’ve been able to keep the club alive.
Economically, we’re in a very bad place in London right now. There’s no consideration for our heritage anymore. My family’s been involved with the club since my grandmother bought shares in 1958. I’ve got a daughter who absolutely loves this place and wants to carry it on, but I just don’t know if Oxford Street is the sort of place where it can thrive. Places like this are needed now more than ever before, but the landlords just want more money. They don’t care what’s lost as a result.’
The book ‘100 Club Stories’ is available now, published by Ditto.
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