NOT many peo­ple can say they have re­ceived a text mes­sage from David Bowie, and even fewer can say they played an in­flu­en­tial role in the history of rock. But for the pro­moter of a Bucks club this is just the start of a fas­ci­nat­ing mu­si­cal ret­ro­spec­tive.

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE -

WHEN it comes to rock mu­sic, mar­ket towns in the home coun­ties are prob­a­bly not most peo­ple’s first point of call.

But it may come as a sur­prise to some to learn that Bucks has a unique mu­si­cal history, in part down to its lo­ca­tion roughly half­way be­tween Birm­ing­ham and Lon­don.

As pro­moter of the Fri­ars Club since 1969, a mu­sic club based in Ayles­bury, David Stopps has seen leg­endary bands and artists per­form here over the past 46 years.

Along with be­ing the first place David Bowie per­formed his fa­mous Ziggy Star­dust per­sona, other bands to have taken the stage un­der his guid­ance in­clude Ge­n­e­sis, The Jam, The Clash, The Ra­mones, Howard Jones, Mar­il­lion, Toyah Wil­cox, The Vel­vet Un­der­ground and Roxy Mu­sic. Mr Stopps said: “The club was in­ter­na­tional be­cause bands would come over from Amer­ica, play the Fri­ars then Lon­don and then go back.

“It was Bowie who re­ally put us on the map be­cause he de­buted Ziggy Star­dust live for the first time at the Fri­ars.

“It was in­cred­i­ble. It re­ally did be­come the place to play.”

ThThe The FFri­arsi Fri­ars ClClubb Club hhas has hhad had d three venues since the start.

Phase One saw gigs put on at the New Fri­arage Hall, a 400 ca­pac­ity venue on Wal­ton Street which ran un­til July 6 1970.

Shut down briefly for a pe­riod of nine months, it re­opened at a big­ger, 800 ca­pac­ity venue on April 17 1971 at the Bor­ough Assem­bly Hall on Mar­ket Square, and con­tin­ued to be there un­til Septem­ber 1975, when the night was moved to Maxwell Hall, a 1,250 per­son venue on Mar­ket Square.

This ran un­til 1985 when Mar­il­lion and John Ot­way played the Fri­ars’ last ever con­cert, un­til it again re­opened, this time 25 years later at the same venue in 2009.

Mr Stopps said: “It was great, I thor­oughly en­joyed it. I had a re­ally great time.”

He added: “The great thing about Fri­ars is the at­mos­phere. It very much came back in 2009 and since then we have put on Paul Weller and The Spe­cials, which sold out in a day. We also put the Buz­zcocks on.”

“I’ve got so many amaz­ing sto­ries. The best was a par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est­ing one where Ray Davies asked me to build a cat­walk into the hall from the stage.”

“The punk era was cer­tainly ex­treme though.”

And although there were no cars in swimming pools or tele­vi­sions thrown out of win­dows, Mr Stopps did re­call the stars let­ting loose back­stage.

He said: “There was al­ways a party back­stage af­ter ev­ery gig.

“We never had a dress­ing room smashed up, apart from Steel­eye Span, but they were a folk group, none of the rock and rollers did,” he re­mem­bered with a laugh.

SEE­ING DOU­BLE: County Musuem ex­hi­bi­tion cu­ra­tor David Ersk­ine and David Stopps with Mike Rutherford's guitar

Photo by Mark Jor­dan

CUL­TURE CLASH: Iconic band The Clash on stage at the Fri­ars Club

Ge­of­frey Tyrell

NEW YORK’S FINIEST: The Ra­mones per­form­ing at the Fri­ars Club, Ayles­bury

Photo by Mick Rock


CON­TROL: David Bowie per­form­ing at the Fri­ars Club

FAB­U­LOUS FRI­ARS: David Bowie per­form­ing at the club and, left, at tweet from the star to David Stopps

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