Jeff Horton - 100 Club
The 100 Club is Britain’s oldest independent live music venue and holds a special place in British popular culture. With the demise of CBGB’s in New York, it is arguably the most significant music venue in the world. Fiercely independent, and family run, it survives on the sheer will power of the Horton family and the devotion of loyal music fans. In the first of our interview series, we thought it was fitting to ask them so questions we had always wondered about...
The 100 Club has always be renowned for its progressive music policy. Have commercial realities ever made you re-consider this stance?
No. Never. This club has been in my family for three generations, and this is what we do. We're about real bands and musicians putting their talent on the line and playing what they love and believe in. I've no interest in the commercial and corporate way that live music is heading and hate its increasing influence. The creators of pop idol etc. should be shot.
What is the best gig that you have personally witnessed at the club?
Too many to mention. Primal Scream last year was fantastic. Trigger, the Primals tour manager, came over to me at the end of the show and said. 'Jeff, can you come back stage, Bobby wants to speak to you'. I say back stage, well... anyone who knows the club knows it’s not up to much. Bobby approaches me and gently shakes my hand and says, 'Jeff, it's been a real honour to play here at last. You have to keep this place going, it's so important'. That moment was right up there with meeting my hero Joe Strummer here in 2000. I've also met Steve Marriott and Paul Weller after brilliant shows they did here, both are people I have an enormous amount of respect for. Paul Weller is a great friend of the club and his shows are always special. We've no right to have had him back as often as we have, but he loves it here and I always look forward to a cup of tea and a chat with him. Steve was my first hero. The black and white footage of them on TOTP playing Tin Soldier was a seminal moment for me. The look, the sound, the sheer coolness of it was very exciting to a young, 6 year old boy. Other highlights include Oasis, the maddest most mental show I've witnessed anywhere, Queens Of The Stone Age and Kings of Leon who both played recently, the Real People, Shack, Terry Callier, Gutter Brothers, The Libertines, White Stripes, Desmond Dekker, You am I, Alabama 3... I could go on forever. My favorite if pushed, would probably be the Mescaleros with Joe. I only saw the Clash once (at Bournemouth Winter Gardens) and it was the single most euphoric experience in my musical education ever. People say you shouldn't meet your heroes. Joe was everything I thought and hoped he would be and that night in this tiny, sweaty club his stage presence, his aura, his genius were incredible.
You obviously can't make every gig - what is the one that you have kicked yourself that you have missed?
I was in Corfu when the Stones played here in 1986. The Rolling Stones office had called the club just before I left to say they wanted to do a memorial concert for Ian Stewart who had died a couple of weeks beforehand. They said Ian's other band Blues'n'Trouble would be on the bill and that the Stones would come down to pay their respects. A week later in Corfu, I got on my bike to the local taverna to get breakfast and there, in front of me was the previous day's Sun newspaper and on the front page was a picture of Mick Jagger with the 100 logo in the background. I couldn't speak. I was genuinely dumbstruck. The Stones had decided to play a 2 hour show in tribute to Ian with Jeff Beck, Pete Townsend, and Eric Clapton all stepping onto the stage as guests at some point, and I'd bloody missed it! My brother Richard was here and took the photos that still hang on the clubs walls today. I wish I'd been around for the Punk festival in 76 too. I also wish I'd seen Chuck Berry a couple of weeks back but couldn't due to personal reasons.
A lot of famous people love the club and regularly visit. Who is the most unusual guest you have ever had at the 100?
Princess Anne just walked into the club one night to see Humphrey Lyttelton. Paid on the door and everything. She had a couple of halves of Guinness and a '100 Club' Lasagna and salad. She had royal constabulary with her, of course, but they were totally unobtrusive. One of her security approached me and asked me to have a word with anyone who may start bending her ear, but the opposite happened. As soon as she sat down with her husband, the people around her did a double take and stated to slowly shift away from her as if in fear. She was wonderful. Brian Johnson and Angus Young used to come down with Robert Plant to see the Big Town Playboys. David Bowie and Mick Jagger came down to see James 'Blood' Ulmer an American blues guitarist and left pretty soon after the show started because the promoter got so excited, he kept whipping the ashtray off the table they were sitting at and replacing it with a new one every time Bowie flicked his fag ash into it. I did warn him... I became good mates with Mick Avory, the Kinks drummer who used to come down every Friday night, and now Fearne Cotton, Edith Bowman and Samantha Morton come along now and again to get their Rock'n'Roll fix along with an off duty Oasis member or Arctic Monkey.
Out of any music artist who hasn't played the 100 - who would you like to play the the famous stage and why
I would love to have seen Bowie circa 71- 79 and of course, Johnny Cash, The Specials and Nirvana. The Stone Roses and Radiohead wouldn't be turned away either!! I'd love to see the Foo Fighters and Green Day too. We nearly had Green Day a couple of years back and I know they're fans of the club so you never know...
Looking at the amazing images that will be featured in the Exhibition - does it make you really proud as to what you and your family have achieved over the last 60 years?
The time for reflection will be when I'm in my 60s and on a beach somewhere. I'll think about what we have or have not achieved then. Until then I only look forward. I'm only interested in how we can add to the legacy we are trying to build here. The book isn't finished yet and I'm sure there are a lot of twists and turns left.
Your regular Jazz sessions still attract people who were coming down since the second world war. Any idea how long your oldest punter has been visiting the club?
Harry Gold, a famous British Jazz saxophonist had his 92nd birthday party here... and played the gig! That's pretty impressive. Harry had been playing here since it first opened as the Feldman Club in 1942. I know he'd been in a band since the 1920's. He died in 2003 aged 99.
Who do you rate on the current new music scene?
To be honest, I think it's pretty dull at the moment. I think we're going through a phase like we did in 96/97 when quantity rather than quality is being signed up. Everyone seems to want to be the Libertines and as a result it all sounds the same. There's not a lot of originality out there. We haven't really kicked on since the Arctic Monkeys. It says everything about where we are at, that a group of 30 somethings, Radiohead, have made far and away the best album of the last year. Well, that and the fact they are frighteningly talented.
Three generations of the Horton family have now run the legendary club. Any chance of a fourth generation picking up the baton and get the club to its 100th birthday?
I'd like them to get a proper career! Both of my children love music and the 100 Club especially. Ruby came with me to see Queens Of The Stone Age last May aged 11 and loved it. She also came to the sound check for the Sugarbabes with her friend previously and met them all and was blown away. The girls were fabulous to them both. She thinks I've got the most glamorous job ever!! It's all Jack, my son, ever talks about when you ask him what he thinks he'll do when he's older. That and play for Spurs. So who knows? He'll probably need to do both if he's serious.