It all began 75 years ago.
Back then it was called Macks, a basement jazz joint where Londoners could forget the traumas of their blitz-scarred city and dance the night away to jazz and swing. It was one of the few places that black American GIs could dance with white women and not have to fear the consequences.
In the 1960s it changed its name, and gained the trumpeter sign that’s still, a beacon amid the confusion and chaos of Oxford Street. It’s the 100 Club, and it’s an absolute icon of London nightlife.
You could say that if you haven’t played the 100 Club, you haven’t played London. Over the decades it’s seen musical genres come and go, from swing and jazz to skiffle and rock and roll, psychedelia and reggae, punk and dub and Britpop. It’s been a mecca for up-and-comers and a place for rock royalty to strip back and return to their roots. It’s where a lucky few have seen stadium-sized acts like The Rolling Stones play just a few feet away.
‘100 Nights at the 100 Club’ is a tribute to the club, the performers who play it, and the audiences who have kept it alive, seen through the lenses of photographers Darren Russell and Kingsley Davis.
They’ve been shooting shows at the 100 Club for many years – in Darren’s case all the way back to the late 1980s – and they’ve been at the front during some of the 100 Club’s most legendary recent shows: The White Stripes, Paul Weller, Chuck Berry, Alice Cooper, Guru, Kings of Leon and many, many more.
“It doesn’t matter who you are or what you are, whether you’re a new band or you can pack out a stadium, everybody's the same at the 100 Club,” says Darren Russell. “Once you stand on that three-foot-high stage you’ve got someone looking up your nostrils – that’s how close you are to your audience.
“I was 15 years old when I first walked down the stairs into the club and I’ve never stopped going back. In the early 90’s Jeff, who runs the club, asked me if I would start taking photos and I jumped at the chance.”
Darren’s archive includes pics of The White Stripes’ first gig in the UK back in 2001 – he was the only professional photographer there, and many of his pics from the night have never been published. The book includes several of his shots, a moment of undeniable London music history.
Kingsley Davis has covered many of the club’s dance, hip-hop and reggae gigs; it’s an underappreciated fact that the 100 Club has been heavily involved with black music and black British culture for decades. “My time shooting at the 100 Club has meant a bunch of priceless moments as well as ringing ear drums." Amongst his images in the book are those from a breakfast gig by all-female rock band Savages, plying a sweat-soaked gig while the rest of London was ordering its first coffee of the day.
“I have also photographed jazz, blues, punk and 'indie' bands too, as well as the annual International Women's Day event. The true diversity of this venue should be celebrated, and I think these images do that.”
This is a must-have book for anyone who has descended those stairs into the unique atmosphere of the 100 Club. More than 300 pages of music history, showing the magic of the club in a way that's never been captured before.
It's almost like being there.
These people are helping to fund 100 Nights at the 100 Club.